Call it fate, Karma, destiny, or Murphy’s Law. It’s all one thing.
No project goes exactly as planned. No vacation is perfect. Some part of the meal won’t be ready when dinner is served.
Guests come early, stay late or leave too soon. Or not soon enough. Complications, delays, bumps in the road are the companions to everything we do. We cope. Like, we have a choice?
Many things almost happen. When I was newly back from Israel, I took a three-day weekend from my new job to visit friends in San Diego. I bought a carry-on bag (I love luggage). Got tickets to San Diego — not easy because most cross-country flights out of Boston go to Oakland, SF, or LA — none of which are close to San Diego.
I got to La Guardia airport, but the plane didn’t. I had a connecting flight in Salt Lake City. Four hours later, the plane was MIA. I demanded my money back
The perky young thing at the ticket counter explained, “These are non-refundable tickets. See? It says so right here. We can get you on a flight to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. How’s that?”
I was not feeling perky. More like an Arnold Schwarzenegger about to do serious damage to an airport.
“I took a three-day weekend from work. I won’t get those hours back. I’m not interested in Los Angeles. It’s more than 3 hours drive from San Diego and I don’t have a car. By the time I got there — if I got there — I’d have to turn right around. I’ve had to spend money on taxis, lost my holiday time. All I got is a long afternoon in a waiting room. I want a plane to San Diego. Direct, nonstop because I already missed my connecting flight — or my money back. Now.”
I got the money. Took a taxi home. Spent the weekend feeling sorry for myself. Never made it San Diego or saw those friends. Eventually, I lost touch with those friends entirely.
Our fondest illusion is control. We are proud to be the designers of our destiny. It’s the greatest promise we get as kids, and the biggest lie of all, that if we do “life” right, we can get what we want. You just have to keep trying.
You can try all you want, but some stuff will permanently elude you.
We know — because everyone told us so — that good work will be rewarded. Kindness will be returned. If we eat right, keep fit, exercise, avoid drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, we’ll be healthy forever. The bad things won’t happen to us. We will live happily ever after.
From little stuff that goes wrong — flights cancelled, vacations rained out — to failed marriages and jobs lost, we get stripped of illusions. Injustice comes in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny indignities to incomprehensible calamities. No one is immune.
Sooner or later, it becomes clear. We are passengers on the bus that is life. We aren’t driving. We don’t even know what road we’re on, and have no idea of our destination. After a lifetime of trying to wrestle the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands, I get it. The bus is going where it’s going. It is what it is.
Life is not about where you end up. It’s about the journey. We might as well enjoy it.