Life is Messy


Every now and then someone relates some of their family history and the crazy things that happen within their family. They present the story as a sort of “see how crazy my family is!”  My response is always the same, “all families are crazy, it’s just a matter of degree.”  By extension, that means all normal families are crazy.  It is just a matter of the details peculiar to that family. But in general, they are just simply crazy.

A few years ago a friend of mine was telling me about a part of her life she was not too proud of.  She had spent a week in jail once.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.  You see, she is someone everyone sees as the all American mom sort.  She is happily married, has two young children, and an MBA degree which helps her to a very substantial income.  When I asked her what she went to jail for, she very nonchalantly said it was for larceny over $200.  It turns out it was actually her boyfriend who had done the theft but she was present when it happened.  She pleaded out and got time served plus two years of probation.  If I were to show you a picture of her today with her husband and kids you would probably say, “no way!”

I had another friend who died about six years ago from lung cancer.   It turns out that his cancer was quite curable but a lack of early treatment, doctor’s fault, caused it to move to other organs.  He sued and won, of course.  I remember saying to him that he must really be angry.  The doctor had served a death sentence upon him.  He told me he was at first and then he came to terms with it.  When I asked him how you come to terms with having your life ended prematurely he said, “life is messy.”  I didn’t get it at first but after a lot of reflection I did.  He had arrived at a point where staying angry served no useful purpose and he wanted to enjoy the time he had left.  He enjoyed it, richly.

I thought about that for a long time, years.  I have come to the conclusion that life, external of human manipulation, is always and ultimately fair.  I hear people say how unfair something is.  A person dies in his 40s from cancer and they say how unfair that is.  But it is fair.  It is not like cancer decides to pick on a particular individual while sparing another.  It doesn’t.  It is not different from the flu.  Some get it, some don’t.  These things can be very sad, but they are always fair.

Most people are good.  They follow the rules, are usually polite, and give when they can.  We all, at one time or another, cross paths with someone who is not good.  They cause us grief and pain.  Sometimes it costs us money, other times health, and other times peace of mind.  These people can cause a serious mess in our lives but if we allow it to be anything more than the messiness of life, then we allow it to have more power over us than is right.

You hear people say “shit happens.”  That is way to negative for me.  I prefer “life happens.”  Some of it is not much fun though.  But I have found that by seeing life as a never-ending series of events, many of which are messy, then it is difficult for life to pitch me a curve ball I can’t handle.

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