Have you ever read a book to your kids (or yourself) called Zen Shorts? It’s, uh, a Buddhist picture book, for lack of a better explanation. It’s amazing and beautiful and will probably make you cry unless you’re a robot, and even if you are a robot you’ll cry, but it will be oil and then you’ll slip and fall. Where was I going with this?
Oh. Yes. Zen Shorts. In the book, there are little stories that teach ways to be zen. You know, be cool. Be at peace. That kind of hippie dippie thing.
There’s one story that I thought was kind of stupid (what? I’m allowed my opinions), but now it’s my favorite. It’s called, “The Farmer’s Luck,” and it’s about a little farmer who has a horse run away. His neighbors say, “Oh no! What bad luck!” and the farmer says, “Maybe.” The next day, the horse returns with a bunch of wild horses, and they neighbors proclaim the farmer’s good luck. The farmer replies again, “Maybe.” The farmer’s son rides one of the wild horses and gets bucked off, breaking his leg. The neighbors proclaim the bad luck, the farmer refuses to commit. The army comes to town to draft young sons, and seeing the farmer’s son with a broken leg, they skip over him. Et cetera.
I used to roll my eyes at it because things aren’t that clear in real life. Are they? I used to think I was super unlucky because I was so ugly and disgusting that no boy wanted to date me. I told my entire family I was never getting married because the institution of marriage was archaic and backwards and anti-feminist. I was nineteen, so of course I used a cerebral excuse to hide my insecurities, instead of saying, “I’m never getting married because no one will have me.”
And then I started to realize that the girls who dated a lot thought they were super ugly and disgusting and used boys to make themselves feel better. Huh. I thought they were the lucky ones, and I was the unlucky one. Then I met Gregg.
I used to think God hated me because I was sexually abused when I was so young. Why would anyone have that happen if there wasn’t some kind of cosmic vendetta against my soul? Maybe I was Genghis Khan in a past life and I was being given my punishment in this one. Many, many, many years later, I saw how strong it made me. If I could handle that when I was five, then this will be easy. This is nothing.
It’s not quite bad luck and good luck, but in some ways, being hurt was a gift that helped me grow and see the world differently. I know that everyone is going through something painful. Everyone. It’s not an excuse, but it helps. It rounds someone’s hard edges.
I’m a better person because of all the badness that I held inside. I have so much more compassion and consideration to call upon. Maybe that person cut me off because they’re worried about being late to pick up their kid, who is having a freak-out right now on the steps of her elementary school. Don’t hold anything in anger toward the driver.
I used to have a terrible temper. I was so angry at the world. I was angry at everything and everyone. All through high school, all through college, and even in those newborn years of my children’s lives, I was so, so angry. I yelled too much. I hurt people too much. And I thought, “God, please just take it away from me,” but it wasn’t taken away. It was softened, but it still peeks out once in a while during a frustrating moment, and it gives me a moment to say sorry. It helps me be humble, to be totally imperfect.
I hate that I can’t get pregnant easily. I’m on miscarriage number four at this point, and I’m almost ready to give up. I’m not sure. I’m not at the point where I see this bad luck as good luck, but I know there’s something in this, too.
I’m sometimes angry that it’s so difficult to break into writing. I’ve been trying to get an agent, be a published novelist, on and off for years. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and understand why I’m not there yet, but I used to get so frustrated with God. I’d make threats. “If this book doesn’t get published, that’s IT. I’m DONE. FOREVER.” I couldn’t see any of the bad luck as good luck.
I just realized, this very moment while I was writing this post though: if I hadn’t been struggling last year, cursing my bad luck, I never would have started this blog. I’d have about a quarter as many friends. I’d be so much less courageous and open. I would be less me. This blog has given me a home to show me that all those horrible traits I hide away are things that other people might love about me, or at least things I can laugh at myself about. It’s given me not only friendships, but perspective, and understanding, and hope. So, yes, it would be nice to have been a published, successful novelist at the age of 23 because of the grand plans I had laid out in my head. But if it weren’t for that bad luck, I wouldn’t have this good luck on the other side of the computer monitor. I think, maybe, God might know what she’s doing after all.