Comic by MiniandEunice.com
Honestly, folks, I’m having a hard time with gratitude this year. I’ve dubbed 2019 my “Trial by Fire” year – professing to all who will listen to my sob stories that if I survive it, I’ll be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. It feels like as soon as January rolled over, all hell broke loose…and it’s pretty much been rollin’ into a slow, suffocating "‘eff Brittany" blaze ever since.
Just when I think the coals are smoldering and I can breathe a little (maybe even pat myself on the back for being a bad bitch and handling things like a boss – yet again), what do we have? Another friggin’ flame. You get to the point where the next crisis is almost laughable because it’s practically predictable. Like, “Yes, of course this would happen to me.”
In this week’s episode of The Crappy Chronicles, some punk side-swiped my car and drove off while I was home sick. So, now I’m working the old-school vigilante angle trying to track them down. I actually made a flyer for details of the vehicle that struck me (from what my amateur sleuth skills could deduce from the damage, of course) and sent it out to a bunch of body shops in my area – because my chubby gut tells me that the likelihood it’s someone in the surrounding jungle is pretty high.
I encouraged the recipient of the flyer to join forces with me in finding the person who did this, trying to appeal to their sympathetic nature (while also referring to the miscreant as a POS – sorry, not sorry). I fervently check the driver’s side front bumper, light and door of all the red cars I come across. I post (somewhat humorous) passive-aggressive signs in the window calling out the garbage human who has robbed me of hundreds of dollars of my hard-earned money.
I’ve gotten cordial condolences from friends and family. People supporting my signage and sharing my outrage (even though, yes, this kind of dumb driving stuff happens all the time). My mom wisely told me to look at the bright side – I have the money saved and don’t have to put it on a credit card. And yep, that’s true. Good point. But ya know what? I’m still angry. I’m still aggrieved that I have to shell out my own clams for someone else’s shitty choice when I’ve paid for my own and then some.
So, where do I put this anger? Where are strong emotions supposed to go? I’m fine for hours, my senses distracted by the daily grind, and then it slips back in. I think about what happened and it swells up again, like an undercurrent anticipating a riptide. I want to fume and bellow about how tired I am of these trials and tribulations. The way every time I get ahead, something drags me back. And in this particular case, I want the right person to pay. I want justice, goddammit.
I say all of this to verbosely segue into the topic of this post, which is that today is World Gratitude Day and International Day of Peace. Now, the peace that is fundamentally referred to here is more like the kind that encourages you to commit to peaceful interactions with others, and consciously contribute to a culture of peace despite differences. Love thy neighbor and such. Unfortunately, it seems like a large chunk of the world is really struggling with this concept right now, huh?
And as you’ve probably caught onto by this point (because you’re smart cookies), I’m personally struggling with finding a sense of peace in this hit-and-run situation that I’m facing. Perhaps if this was only one of a few inconvenient violations on my life (and happiness) thus far in this hell year, I might not want to go all Office Space on the person who dealt this blow – literally. But it’s not (and I kinda do). However, despite the storms brewing inside of me at any given moment, I still conduct myself harmoniously with people that I come into contact with because I’m not a total monster – unless I find myself face-to-face with my most recent violator in a dark alley. I kid, I kid. I’m a lover, not a fighter.
Truly, I’m still homing in on what peace actually means to me, and how I’m supposed to experience it. How to understand it, especially during a slew of allegorical rainy days. How to summon it when I want to karate chop some jackhole in the throat. But seriously, sometimes I envy people who appear to be so Zen-like; especially when it’s, like, sustainable Zen. What’s the secret for longevity? Everything I’ve tried is temporary. The feeling of letting it go and accepting “it is what it is”. At least until it runs its course – and I want to move on faster. Because, well, it’s uncomfortable and irritating.
An insightful Cherokee story (and beautiful life philosophy) that I was directed towards years ago still resonates with me when I’m feeling these intense unpleasant emotions; and I’m bright enough to comprehend the lesson, but it’s still hard sometimes. Yes, it helps reign me in and reflect rationally, or have a cathartic ugly cry like I’ve been doing while writing this post, but the choice is what I battle with when presented with a difficult situation of transgression – which is, like, several times a month at this rate.
There are probably various renditions floating around, but here’s the gist. The boy in the story is upset because another kid has done him some injustice. Sound familiar? It should since this whole post is me complaining about that exact thing. His grandfather sits him down and precedes to lay that OG spiritual wisdom on him, as follows:
The old Cherokee chief said to his grandson,
“I too, at times, have felt a great hatred for those who have taken so much with no sorrow for what they do. Hatred wears you down, and hatred does not hurt your enemy. Hatred is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these emotions many times.
It’s as though a fight is continuously going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf is good and does no harm. He is filled with joy, humility and kindness. He lives in harmony with everyone around, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
The other wolf is full of anger, envy, regret, greed and self-pity. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone all the time, and for no reason. When blinded by his anger and hatred, he does not have a sound mind. It is helpless anger, because his anger will change nothing.
It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me. These two wolves are constantly fighting to control my spirit. Young man, the same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person on this earth.”
The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win inside you, grandpa?”
The old Cherokee chief smiled and replied, “The one I feed.”
I know that I have to choose to feed the right wolf, and forgive the lack of integrity in others, and that’s a challenge when I’m faced with a nonstop barrage of frustrating life bombs that I can’t control. Again, I possess the intelligence to recognize that reality isn’t all party confetti shooting out of unicorn’s asses, but how do you maintain a peaceful state, inwardly and outwardly, when you’re stuck in the gravitational suck of perpetual misfortune? I guess that’s a rhetorical question, unless you feel compelled to divulge what keeps you compos mentis. I’m all ears.
My genuine hope is that there really is more good than bad in this world; and that most folks are at peace with their circumstances and grateful for the blessings the Universe has bestowed upon them – no matter how minimal they may seem at times. Thankfully, I witness acts of love, tolerance, and acceptance within my orbit (and even globally), which I believe has a ripple effect. It helps me acknowledge that this micro year is a blip on the macro radar of life, and that my current discomfort is a temporary, fluctuating state of being. I mean, my survival rate thus far is 100% – and that ain’t no small thang.
I do have a lot to be grateful for and there are (albeit fleeting) moments of ceasefire that keep me tethered to my wits – sometimes by a thread, but I haven’t completely unraveled yet. I’m growing accustomed to the hard-knock life, and this has made me bloom into a stronger person despite being metaphorically punched in the face more times than I care to count. I still get up every day, get my shit together, and get in survival gear. Because that’s all I can do – persevere. That and read (and re-read, re-read, re-read) the magnet message on my fridge that has become my mantra:
Thank you, sincerely, for letting me get this off my chest and release its hold on me. Gratitude is a daily practice, much like anything that requires routine maintenance, and it’s something that I’m still learning. It’s easy to be grateful when things are easy, but that’s not the way it works. Peace also takes practice, and patience, especially in the face of adversity. But that’s when it’s needed most, and when it makes the most impact.
Be a positive ripple, friends, because that is what this world needs more of – not non-driving asshats.