Week 47: Fair Enough


At 6 a.m. Thursday morning, in a card that was halfway slid into an opening parking spot about a block from my house, hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I thought about how un-freaking-fair life is. The universe was throwing me too many little disappointments that, I felt, were unwarranted.

Twenty minutes earlier, I had left my house in anticipation of spending a 12-hour day at a video shoot for work in the suburbs. I went to a nearby Starbucks before I got started on my journey, sort of looking forward to the morning drive of coffee and NPR, but before I got out of the car I noticed that my wallet wasn’t in my purse. I called E in a panic, hoping I had left it on a table in our apartment, but he couldn’t find it. I drove back home, put my flashers on in a tow zone and ran upstairs for 10 minutes. I came back down to the car with no wallet and a parking ticket for $200 stuffed under the windshield wiper. And, I was going to be late to the shoot.

My bad luck in the moment seemed really unfair and part of a bigger set of circumstances in which I was on the losing end. This week, I received several writing contest rejections and passes from literary agents, including one that had been interested in my work and asked to see the whole manuscript. I had put my writing out in the world, and the world was pushing it back to me.

The “why me” song played again this morning when I was out for a run, a small three miles. Most of the runners out on the Lake Shore Path this morning looked to be in marathon training, with team jerseys and water belts for long runs. I also came across a staging area for Sunday’s triathlon, as fit people hauled bikes to and from the transition spot. My hip tinged with pain and I knew I needed to turn my casual, non-training run around and head for home. My breakfast didn’t feel earned

Why can’t my hip not be torn so I can participate in endurance events like marathons and triathlons? Why can’t my writing be chosen to be published and celebrated? Why did I have to get a ticket when other cars are parked in the tow zones for hours without receiving so much as a hand slap?

When I am my unhappiest in life it’s usually because I am wishing for things to be what they are not. I am pissed at the universe for dealing me a shitty card and longing for what others have. I want everything to be perfect, and when I don’t get my way I get sad and sulky.

But, this attitude isn’t really working out for me. Over the last several months, a general malaise has hunger over my days. I feel stuck, uninspired, not particularly happy. I daydream about making changes – location, career, lifestyle – hoping one of them will be a quick fix. The problem, though, is that this feeling is not new. I can pinpoint these exact emotions to other times in my life: right out of college when I was living in Idaho and working at a newspaper; the year I lived in Sioux Falls and was running The Post; in Lesotho, most days; and during those short months in D.C. I moved around, changed jobs, and tried to yoga, run and zen my way out of my feelings. What I never did was stay and work through that shit.

In these moments when unfair creeps into my vocabulary, I started to try to imagine that I chose this specific set of circumstances. I decided to lose my wallet, tear my labral, collect rejection letters and an acquire a $200 fine from the great City of Chicago. This is exactly what my life needs to be right now.

Then, I like to remember all the good things surrounding the unfairness, such as how I was able to locate my wallet at an ice cream parlor and it was returned to me with everything, all the funds in my accounts, in tact. Or, how someone I love was going through some health issues and all results came back clear. And, how a good friend came to visit me for a few days and we had a great time exploring Chicago together and catching up. Also, that my life is full of good people and places, and when it comes down to it, I can pay that fine, I still love writing, and even three miles of running brings me immense joy.

Yeah, life isn’t fair, but that’s a fact and I am tired of wasting energy in not accepting it as so. Things get hard, but then they change and are easy for a bit. I don’t have everything I want in life, but I have everything I need now.

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