‘It’s not fair,’ a friend cried into my earbuds. ‘Life’s not fair! Why is life doing this to me?!’
I listened to her breaking voice, my eyes caressing the outlines of the trees in the dusk. She was an adult, a mother of two. But her words were that of a helpless baby screaming bloody murder because her nappies hadn’t been changed in time.
Someone’s forgotten to take care of me! Life’s not fair!
Unsure what to say, I wondered how to respond to such anguish. What would help? At first, my mind offered the well-worn toothless platitudes… That’s just how life is. Life’s not supposed to be fair.
Yuck. Like hearing that ever made anyone feel better.
When my mouth finally opened to form words into the microphone, I surprised myself by saying something with actual teeth.
’Don’t blame your life for your attitude, dear. Life just is. Only you decide what is fair or not. You choose how you see your life.’
Ouch? Inside my head I added: You’re not a child anymore. You can wipe your own butt.
In case of my friend, no-one had done anything terribly ‘wrong’ or ‘unfair’. She was simply feeling terrible as her tired, exhausted mind had run out of simple solutions and decided that she had been wronged by life.
Harsh? Perhaps. Recently, I’ve noticed myself getting less tolerant towards all kinds of blame games. I’m less nice with people who think they’re owed something from others or from God. Perhaps it’s my inner cynic rearing her weary head. Perhaps it’s the war in Ukraine. Perhaps I’m just getting wiser.
As if she was entitled to a different one. As if somehow we’re supposed to have another life somewhere else which is somehow better. As if pigs should be able to fly.
We only have the one life. The one body ticking away towards death. There is no other and never will be (at least not in this lifetime). We have a life and a body in time. Immutable, objective facts.
The way we experience this combination is determined by our choice of attitude. We can keep ourselves smeared with the stinky muck of past experiences, or rise up, rinse it off and choose a different approach, different view of engagement.
Our attitude towards life determines our altitude.
After finishing the call, I whispered a soft blessing of gratitude to my friend for making me think about life and fairness. Then I sat in silence. It was dark now and I could barely make out the fact that there were trees outside my window. I had to trust they were still there.
‘What is life?’ I asked the trees and the silence.
Not sure who heard me, but something offered an answer.
‘It’s your time.’
My life is my time. A structure for noticing patterns of infinite causes and effects; circumstances and situations that I may judgmentally observe and fill with meaning. My attitude, the story I tell myself, determines how I perceive this life. Fair or unfair – my choice.
Then I pictured my life as a timeline. A succession of minutes spent in a biological vehicle that was deliberately engineered to stop functioning at any moment. Possibly with no warning.
There were the hours I’ve spent agonising over my appearance or image; over what someone had said or not said. There were the days of eating-too-much-cake. The desperation of failing to meet the standards and expectations set by others (some of who were already dead). The inner rage against time, against standards and stupidity and violence and ignorance; against culture and silly circumstance. My own blame games with the unfairness of society and the horrors of the ongoing war.
It was all life. My life. Precious seconds in a failing vehicle. My body. My responsibility and my freedom to choose how I engage with it.
Seven days to my birthday. What will I choose to do with the time my life still has to offer?
Will I fight it? Will I fear it? Run from it? Accept it? Love it? Fly with it? Play with it? Wonder? Admire? Marvel? Relax? Bless? Protect? Create? Drop dead? Cake?
I have no idea yet. Isn’t that exciting?