The kids are okay. The kids are all right. Despite it all. Despite all my worries and all my fears. And I know I’m not in the end game. There are years of parenting ahead and each year is full of opportunities for things/kids to not be okay. But we’re okay right now and we’ll keep being okay even when things become whatever they are going to be, good or bad.
That’s the whole story when things go badly, when life interrupts our plans. Fantasy has been usurped by reality.
It’s good to have a fantasy of how things will be, or could be, and work towards it, try to make it real.
But when it doesn’t work out, then what?
Then we have to reckon with reality. We have to let go of the fantasy. Realize it’s not going to happen, whatever it is. Maybe it was all your fault or maybe it wasn’t ever possible or (more likely) it’s a combination of factors, known and unknown, some entirely under your control and some very definitely not. You’ll never be able to parse them out completely. If you could, you’d probably see that some of the wisest, best, most loving choices you made ended up contributing directly to the failure of whatever fantasy is going up in flames.
So what would you do if you knew, then, when you made those choices?
Would you go back in time and make a bad choice purposefully and figure that it’s justified?
But you wouldn’t know, even then, the outcome you might get. Maybe you save one fantasy only to collapse another. Maybe you sell your soul to get everything you want.
We don’t get to know the outcome. Not until later, not until the choice is long past.
There’s too much going on.
We’d love to think of life as a series of formulas. Predictable equations, like cosmic recipes for happiness. Put the correct ingredients in, follow the instructions, and get exactly what you expected.
But that’s not how life works, at least not at a level we can grasp.
This is where religion comes in handy. There is relief to be found when you can attribute chaos and crisis and suffering to a bigger plan that will, at some point, be revealed and make it all worthwhile.
If you don’t choose the religious route, you’ll be encountering chaos and crisis and suffering without the idea of a greater good behind it and boy does that get messy. If you don’t find a god to gaze at, you end up staring into the void. And you may come to the jarring conclusion that the void — while perhaps not antagonistic — is also definitely not concerned with the quality of your individual experience.
It’s like asking if the ocean concerns itself with the ongoing fate of a singular drop of saltwater. The ocean isn’t mean; it’s just so big.
Religious or not, there’s little comfort to be had in chasing trails of what-if and what-for and how-come and so on. Learn what you can from your own action or inaction, sure. But find a stopping point. You can’t put the puzzle together without all the pieces, and you’re never going to have all the pieces.
There is a lot of comfort in other places, however. Whatever free will we do have, we can use to direct our attention toward those places. We can take what we learned and spin it forward, spiral it outward.
And maybe every time we do that, we’re a little better at holding our fantasies with lighter hands, releasing them sooner. Maybe we put a little less stock in assumptions and preconceived storylines and a little more stock in how green the light can look on a summer day. Maybe we quit looking for comfort in idealized outcomes and start finding comfort in the ongoing little dance of whatever reality is, right here, right now. We’re okay, we’re all right.
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