I’m heading out hopefully to move the bulk of my stuff today. My driver flaked out on me at the last minute yesterday because he had to work, so I’m counting on someone I don’t know that well. Wish me luck…
It’s cold again today, but we really can’t complain, it’s been a mild winter here with very little, if any snow. Two-three weeks and I’ll be whistling my way to work, watching the leaves make a comeback, my dick getting hard at yet another promise of spring.
Now watch us get a record snowstorm two weeks from now! LOL
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Life Ain’t Always Fair
I’m working with a young woman who just got out of a ten-year prison sentence. Her crime? She beat her husband to within an inch of his life. Actually, she thought he was dead and that’s the only reason she stopped beating on him. Her husband had systematically abused her for about fifteen years, almost from the time she had known him. Throughout those years, she suffered broken bones, bruises, humiliation, and emotional and psychological abuse. Through it all, she managed to get a college degree and several good jobs in the financial sector.
Then one day she couldn’t take it anymore and she snapped. She’s thirty years of age, but she looks like she’s fourteen. She’s very pretty, petite, soft-spoken, articulate. I wonder how all that rage could’ve been contained in such a small form. She’s been having a tough go at it, because she can’t find a job. We call it the “collateral consequences” of incarceration: having to pay for your crime even after having served your sentence. Millions of people will never be able to vote, for example. We call that disenfranchisement.
She was crying the other day in my office, telling me that life isn’t fair. She can’t get a job because she has a criminal record. Sometimes I sit with her and I think to myself that she’s right. As far as I’m concerned, she shouldn’t have gone to jail in the first place.
People, mostly people ignorant of the term, like to use the word karma as if it meant retribution. It doesn’t. The Buddha called the workings of karma one of the “four unconjecturables.” We could drive ourselves crazy speculating on how it will play out, he said (Anguttara Nikaya 4.77). But I won’t get into karma today; I’ll leave that for tomorrow.
The fact remains that life is not always fair. Neither are people, ourselves included. Sometimes we are taken advantage of. Sometimes we do all the right things and still wind up on the short end of the proverbial stick. Sometimes we’re hurt though we may have acted cautiously. Others may be generous to us and yet we take advantage of their kindness. Or we act with good intentions toward others and our efforts go unappreciated or misrepresented.
That life is unfair is a given. It’s a fact of life that challenges us to do the psychological work to grieve for the losses associated with unfairness. It also challenges us to do the spiritual work necessary so as not to become vindictive. Both of these together equal the unconditional acceptance to the unalterable fact that things aren’t always fair: you win some, you lose some.
It’s easy to be “spiritual” and forgiving, wise when things are going right or when you’re dealing with easy-going, caring people. Anyone, even an asshole, can do that. The real challenge is to meet our losses with an open heart, with a commitment to act and think compassionately toward others, especially when they test our patience or willfully hurt us. Some people, lacking self-love mistake what I’m saying. Being open and cultivating compassion when faced with cruelty does not mean we allow ourselves to become victims of abuse. It means we simply allow ourselves to be what we are when we are most loving – vulnerable. Any relationship can have deeply painful moments in it. A mature person knows that closing off and building false walls is dangerous to their sensitivity and that remaining too open is dangerous to their boundaries. A psycho-spiritual maturity allows us to walk the middle path where a willingness to be open is tempered by a healthy maintenance of boundaries. We can seek amends when others treat us unfairly, ask for redress, and if that doesn’t work, we let go and our hearts do not close. Letting go has the effect of opening the heart.
It is also a given that human beings live on the default setting of retaliation. It takes a conscious effort to override this default setting. We have to customize our factory settings. Our ego’s favorite sport is retaliation, but if I accept you as you are without protest or blame, I am then not driven to get back at you as your judge and executioner. My client is one of the more powerful teachers of this given of life’s unfairness. Though she has been abused by individuals and society, her heart remains open. Just recently, I have been able to take her out of a dangerous city shelter, living with other women in a transitional home. And though she has no money, is faced with stigma and can’t get a job, she comes to my office and accompanies me when I go to speaking engagements. She uses her pain and suffering for the benefit of others and her life is infinitely richer because of it. Knowing what she’s gone through, I don’t know if I would have the spiritual dignity to act as she does, with an open heart.
I do know her example takes away all my excuses and that’s the power of the teaching she embodies. What about you? What’s your excuse?