Thursday, 20 September 2012

What goes around .... does it for a reason

I had a bad boss a few years ago, and one of my friends used to ask me at least once a week if I’d heard anything from my friends who still work with him. A previous victim of bullying in the workplace herself, she keeps hoping he’ll be smitten by a bolt of lightning, or at least lose his job.

I told her to quit thinking about it. If I spent time worrying about karma paying back everyone who I ever felt mistreated me, I wouldn’t have time to live a life of my own. I’m not convinced that what goes around does always come around, so why waste energy looking for it? 
If you know me, you know that I believe there is some sort of omnipresent form in the universe, whatever you choose to call it. So I believe that things do happen for a reason, even if we don’t necessarily ever understand it, and it’s just a bonus – a blessing, if you’re comfortable with that language – when we do get to see the positive result of what happens to us.

When one of my daughters was a pre-teen, she started hanging around with a girl from a group home a few blocks from our house. I didn’t know why the kids there were in the home, if they were one step away from juvenile hall or what.

I was still dithering (one of my specialities) about whether or not to intercede when a family friend I respected who worked at the group home stopped me one day to say, “You have no idea how happy we are to see Jaime with a friend like Amy. It does her so much good to see how a normal family lives.”

As I learned more, I found that Jaime (not her real name) had come from a home where she was horrifically abused in almost every way possible.  

After I got over the shock of someone describing our family as normal, I thought about what our friend had said to me.  It made me feel a bit ashamed, that I’d been so worried about what might affect my child, and assuming it was negative, without ever thinking about the benefit my child might be offering to someone else. Besides opening my mind, it was a bonus, to understand the reason the universe had placed my daughter in that place at that time.
 ...if we’re lucky enough to find out 
that reason, then we should be grateful.

Our family went through a really rough time early in our marriage. Although totally unplanned, we became a resource for farm families in trouble who would phone us all the time, as much for a sympathetic ear as for advice because their neighbours were still in denial that there was a systemic problem.

I look back now and see those years as a big black section of my life, even though two of our children were born during it and lots of other good things happened. But several years later, when my husband and I had started selling real estate as a method of paying off farm debts,  I went to a real estate seminar about 60 miles from where we lived.

Another woman came in late, after we’d all written our names on our little pieces of folded cardboard, and at the break she sought me out. After verifying that I was indeed the same woman she’d spoken to on the phone, she said to me, “You probably don’t even remember me, but you saved my life.”

Wow. Suddenly the horrendous long distance bills (long before the days of long distance plans!) and the pure hell that our family had endured had a reason – we saved this woman’s life, by providing her comfort when her livelihood, her marriage and what seemed like her entire life were falling apart around her.

That’s a bonus. All those phone conversations and articles I wrote probably helped other people, to greater or lesser extents, but they were invisible to me. This person was standing there, real, telling me I had saved her life as surely as if I’d pulled her out of a flooding river.

What goes around may not always come around. But it’s going around for a reason, and if we’re lucky enough to find out that reason, then we should be grateful. It might be as simple as the friend who was afraid the lower number of entrants in a marathon might mean she’d come in last. I told her if she did, to think about how good she made the person ahead of her feel. Sometimes it is just that simple, and just that powerful.

Have you ever realized that something that seemed bad to you was good for someone else?

P.S.  For another family member's viewpoint on this topic, read my daughter's blog at

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Morning fog, nerves and possibilities

This morning we put our youngest on a plane for Toronto where he’ll finish off his master’s program.

I’ve been trying to avoid the madness that is Staples for the past two weeks.

The nights  are nippier, even here in Lotusland. There’s fog in the low spots and dew on the windshields in the morning. 

It’s officially fall.

And even though I’m not doing any back-to-school shopping (thank God!), and I won’t spend the next week or two filling out forms and sending in cheques for yet another cost for kids’ activities, there’s still a special feeling about the beginning of September.

Remember when all your pencils were sharpened to the same point, and the smell of the shavings from sharpening them yourself? The scribblers were all neat, no dog-eared corners, no smudges or crossed-out notes, and you were determined that this year you would keep them looking like that all year long.

Even though I was likely to be getting on the bus with almost the exact same group of students as in years past, walk into a classroom with all the same kids I sat with last year, and get a teacher I’d already heard all about from my two older brothers, there was still a sense of possibility.

Maybe someone moved to the area over the summer, and I would make a new friend. Maybe the kids who were mean last year would have had an epiphany over the summer and would be nice this year. Maybe I wouldn’t have to sit in front of the kid on the bus who always pulled my hair or my toque, depending on the season.

More often than not, none of the above came true. If I was lucky, the teacher would be one who didn’t make references to family members (a wise move considering a few of those teachers had taught some of my classmates’ parents, too!). I wouldn’t be compared to cousins or brothers.

It was bad enough just having to be me, in a small town where the reputation you formed in grade one (probably kindergarten now, but they didn’t have it then) was the one you would live with until you died of old age, regardless of what you did or where you moved in your life.

In spite of the inevitable disappointments, year after year fall still raised my expectations. Each year did bring new knowledge, whether of books or human nature, learned relatively easily or through bruises and hurt feelings.

And then the September I started college – where no one knew me or my family. I met all sorts of new people the first morning at registration. When they all decided to go to the pub for the afternoon, I went, too, without mentioning that I hadn’t yet turned 18 and wasn’t really legal.

These were people who would judge me on who I was and what I did, and the impression I made was completely up to me. Some of them are still friends today.

Fall. Possibilities. I can feel them in the air.