#029 Maybe Karma is the B**** After All

I did a tarot reading back in early November, and it very clearly said I was ending a major karmic cycle and starting a new one. I kept waiting around for that new karmic cycle to start, but it never seemed to, or at least, things were taking awhile.

Then, Dylan died in December, and right before it happened, I had the thought or the feeling that I’d survive his death. It was one of those situations where I didn’t know it was coming, but I also knew it was coming. He’d had chronic illnesses for years, and losing him had always been an unthinkable prospect for me, but, one day, when nothing particularly scary or bad was happening, it became thinkable. I thought he had at least a few more months ahead of him, but it suddenly occurred to me that when the time came, I’d manage it. A week later he was gone (after about two hours of warning).

That happened with leaving Japan, too. For years, it’d felt unthinkable to move for various reasons. One reason was that I was afraid of how the move would impact Dylan’s health. Then, one day, my mind shifted, and I started to accept the potential risks of moving, and, within two weeks, the opportunity to move came.

I’ve had a lot of similar experiences throughout my life, and I’ve taken it to mean that the universe follows some sort of order. I’m not going to pretend to know what that order is or that it’s even a fair one, but I’ve always found the idea of order alone to be a little reassuring. It suggests that things happen for a reason. A random universe is completely out of control. It’s senseless.

Lately, though, I’ve been craving a random universe. In the past year and half, my husband and I have had “a lot of bad luck.” Well, that’s his summary, anyway. Mine isn’t so simple.

I went for a hike the other day and saw a snake stretched out across the trail. I stopped. I was afraid to move. I was not afraid of the snake. I was afraid for him. He seemed so vulnerable there with that long thin body and all that exposed skin on a trail with mountain bikers on it. I thought about using a stick to scare him back into the brush, but there were no sticks around, and I’m always afraid that interfering with a wild animal will cause more harm than good, so I moved on.

Here’s the snake, completely oblivious to the insanity of the world

I felt so much like that snake; in dire need of some tall bushes. The months leading up to Dylan’s death were so harrowing that there was no way for me to adequately communicate how much distress I was in, and I haven’t been able to adequately express how I’ve been since his death, either. Even before this past year and a half, I could’ve pointed to a lot of extremely hard times in my life.

In other words, fate has not been my friend, and I actually grew to expect to be in crisis mode for the rest of my life because of one unforeseeable bad event after another. I stopped worrying about bad luck and started worrying about bad design.

I could’ve shifted my perspective in a reasonable way, like recounting all the ways I’ve been extraordinarily lucky, but instead, I’ve been obsessing over the question of whether the universe is ordered in a way that I just don’t understand or if it’s truly random.

(When I say “ordered,” I don’t mean in the Newtonian sense that the physical world follows particular system of rules. We know that. I mean it colloquially. Do things happen for a reason? If so, what is it?)

I’ve been circling around this question like a spider around a drain for the past couple of months. I use that clunky metaphor because that’s what it feels like: I was minding my own business in my web, completely unaware that I’d built my home in the corner of someone’s shower, and then WHAM! (HOT WATER EVERY WHERE! AAAAH!)

I believe it’s both random and ordered. I’ll just say that now to get it out of the way. I won’t go into depth because it’s all very abstract and unformed, and you’re just trying to read your email and have a cup of coffee or whatever.

I’ve been wanting to write about this for weeks, but I didn’t feel like I could until universe and I had come to some sort of understanding. Maybe it’s the way my mind works—I can’t make sense of the middle until I know the end. Maybe it’s simpler than that—I couldn’t think of anything new to say. It’s not exactly breaking news that the world is an unpredictable place.

None of that matters, though. It’s not actually my job to understand the nature of the universe, nor would understanding it give me any greater control over what happens next. All the universe has ever asked of me was one thing: live here.

It never said I had to understand it, be happy with it, or comfortable in it. It never told me I had to be productive or significant. I got those expectations from other people. The universe just gave me a body and said, “Life is through there. Have at it.” It made no promises about what I might encounter out here.

I don’t know if my tarot cards foretold a new karmic cycle or not. If I actually sat down and counted all the bad things that have happened to me in recent years, I have a feeling it’d look suspiciously normal, especially for someone who just moved halfway around the world.

The major lesson I took from that reading is that human beings are cyclical. We constantly churn through layers and layers of cycles. Something is always beginning. Something is always ending. Something is always in the thick of it.

Sometimes, I feel like a spider circling a drain or an oblivious snake on a trail. I’m really sensitive. Life gets really uncomfortable for me, sometimes, but that’s ok. Sometimes, it goes pretty well, too. The wheel keeps turning. The cycles keep happening.

As I move through it, I try to keep in mind what the Buddha said about suffering and impermanence and what the great sage, Ferris Bueller, once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”


Marginally related links:

Dan Levy on Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso. I’ve admired his writing ever since Schitt’s Creek, and his movie Good Grief was one of the best written movies I’ve seen in a long time. He talks about all sorts of things, but there’s a lot about his process and dealing with his feelings of insecurity as an artist.

Here’s an episode of Cracked about why Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was actually terrifying.

You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)