I know I'm one of those weirdos that take things too seriously and think too hard about stuff other people don't bother contemplating so, I guess I'm saying, bear with me Reader. Because, see, this sign has caused me a lot of grief. I've thought and thought and thought on it for the better part of a year but I still haven't come to any ultimate conclusion, until now.
Never mind the sly consumerist ploy to undermine my own ability to decide whether I want outdoor sports gear or not. I get that in this culture when you've got a product to sell, you might have to mess with people's heads to do it. Fair enough. But what's been more difficult for me to swallow is the suggestion that any of us really choose our lives at all.
Did my brother and sister-in-law CHOOSE to get sick and die too young? Did my nieces and nephew CHOOSE to lose their parents? Did I CHOOSE to be born to a man with a host of mental illnesses? Did I CHOOSE to be sexually abused during my childhood? I could go on and on. None of us-- not you either, Reader, I know-- have chosen those unimaginably difficult things in our lives.
I'm not a total non-believer in the concept that we manifest our own destinies. Despite how easy it is to make fun of, I know for sure that "The Secret" really works in some powerful ways. I even do believe that much of the negative in our lives is junk we have mostly manifested ourselves (even if we didn't intent to and even if it felt like we didn't have a choice). Notice that I did not ask if my parents both chose to die of cardiac arrest. I did not ask if I chose to have to file bankruptcy. I did not ask if I chose to gain twenty pounds this year. These things are all the manifestation of consciously-made poor choices and any alert person should realize we own those choices. But the reality of this life is that sometimes the universe just chooses for us. The reality is that life is much more like poker than chess. In chess, everyone begins with an equal chance and it's all about making smart choices. But in poker, you get the cards you get and you do the best you can with them. You don't choose the cards you get. You can only choose what you do with them (Ya, I know that's an old metaphor but it's a good one).
This has been an especially important revelation for me because I decided early on that I simply refused to play the game. The cards I got dealt weren't nearly as shitty as a lot of folks but in some ways, they were shitty enough. For many years, I wouldn't even look at those cards. I got up from the table and simply walked-- more like ran-- away. I played all the other games instead. Until eventually some of the cards being dealt to me and other members of my family were simply too powerful to ignore. I became a mother. I started to really understand what it meant to love people (long after my divorce, mind you). My brother got sick. My mom divorced my dad in her late 60s but still refused to separate from him. These forces were too compelling and I came back to the table. I came back home. That was a choice. Even though I wasn't 100% sure why I was making that choice, I made it nonetheless.
I spent the first nine or ten years back home still only daring to peek from time to time at those cards. Still filled with the arrogant idea that I could lay them down on the table any time I wanted and walk right back out the door, if I chose. But in that time, I also slowly discovered that I held an Ace or two. Lake Michigan. Frankfort, MI. The feeling that I am home somewhere. My family, the people I did not choose but love so fiercely anyway. My own mind. My commitment to doing work that I feel is important, is helping others. Love. So much love. More love than I am still capable of believing I deserve (but don't worry, I'm working on that!).
I want to answer that sign succinctly: I am living the life that I choose every day by, first and foremost, accepting and embracing the life that chose me. At this point, I believe that is pretty much the major rule of this game. There is no such thing as the life you chose -- not completely. And there is something wonderful -- even if you can't see it yet -- in the life that chose you.
But what do I mean by "embracing" all those unimaginably shitty cards the Universe tosses across the table? Certainly we shouldn't just lay down and accept that bad things just happen. Actually, ya. Ya, that's it exactly. Really shitty things happen. They happen to everybody, all the time. The only thing we can do is hold those cards until we can let them go. If we're lucky and smart, having those cards in our hand somehow makes us stronger, more resilient, wiser, more amazing people. And while we're still holding them, we need to keep our eyes on all the other good cards -- especially the Aces-- in our hand. THOSE cards, we should hold close, always.
Ultimately, the game is rigged. We all know the Universe is going to win in the end. That fact provides yet another opportunity for acceptance. And no amount of fun outdoor sports gear or anything else we can buy is going to change THAT rule of the game. Holding our Aces close makes facing that endpoint possible and sometimes even bearable.
Play your cards with love, teamies!
And if you've left the table, please come back and play. We miss you.