Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Picking Up the (Puzzle) Pieces

Sometimes it seems that when one bad thing happens, 6,000 other bad things happen right around the same time. Now, I’m not trying to be dramatic—these can be minor nuisances, not necessarily life changing events. Yet, still, it seems that sometimes life likes to kick you when you’re down. Some people might call this karma. Some might call it coincidence. And some might call it, well, nothing I guess.

I’m not sure what I’d call it, but I do know it happens.

Example: One night last year I was running late to meet some friends for a concert. I decided to take the bus. Got on the bus, realized I only had a 10 dollar bill, and they wouldn’t take change. Got off the bus and realized I’d gotten off way too early. It was dark, and I was nervous to be walking far alone. For some reason, I was wearing heels, and I never wear heels. One block later, it starts pouring down rain. Monsoon style. I am so soaked that it looks like I just jumped in a pool fully clothed. Oddly enough, the storm only lasts for about 20 minutes. Had I left my apartment on time, I would have missed it entirely. Etc. Etc. Later on that evening, after the concert, I end up having a horrific fight with my boyfriend of the time that, admittedly, was very much my fault.

The next day, feeling guilty, embarrassed and stupid, I told myself that the rainstorm was a warning sign: Don’t go to the concert, Alison! Something bad will happen later! Turn right back around and go home! If it was karma, I reckoned, it was psychic.

Then there was the time in high school when, all in the course of a few hours, I found out my boyfriend was really someone else’s boyfriend, my mother’s lung collapsed, and I ran over an animal in my car. Now, when I tell you the animal was a possum, it might seem silly that I’m including in it this string of bad incidents. But I didn’t care. I had killed a living creature. I'd never run over anything before. I was horrified.

Looking back, I can’t remember the order of these bad things—I just know they all happened, one after the other. Obviously I don’t consider running over a possum remotely close to an equivalent of bad incident as my mom’s lung collapsing, but I remember thinking, What else? What else can the universe possibly throw at me today? Why me?

This weekend my car got towed. A minor nuisance in the scheme of life, yeah, but it was the trigger incident—my rainstorm when I’m running late to a concert—in a string of much more upsetting situations. It was the possum to my mom’s lung collapsing. Or whatever. You get what I mean. So in an effort to avoid plastering my personal life all over the interwebs, I’ll just leave it at that. It’s been a bad couple of days.

When bad things are happening, to me at least, my mind begins to play tricks on me. I panic. I think it's never going to be right again. My anxiety makes me unable to function. At one point yesterday, I convinced myself that the only solution was to move back to Indiana. Today that notion seems completely ridiculous. Somehow, I always forget that there have been other times in life when bad things happen. Yet I’ve always gotten through them, maybe not in the way I’d wanted to, but they pass, one way or another. Like my brother told me yesterday, you've just got to take it a step at a time. Not everything can be resolved immediately, but things can improve, little by little, if you'll let them.

He was right. Yesterday evening was a hundred times better than yesterday morning, and this evening was a hundred times better than yesterday evening.

Tonight, after I was finally starting to feel calm again, my cats started chasing each other around the kitchen. Layla jumped on top of the table, causing the completed puzzle I’d left there to slide off, and the top half of the puzzle crashed to the floor. Puzzle pieces were everywhere—on the chairs, under the table, all over the floor. But still, some small sections had stayed stuck together. Layla stared at me, sitting on what was left of the puzzle. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

I knelt down, and started picking the pieces off the floor.


  1. My favorite Christmas present from your brother (What a swell guy!)...


    Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

    As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

    Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

    Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

    Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

    But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself. Especially, do not fiegn affection.

    Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

    You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

    And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

    And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace in your soul.

    With all it's sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

    Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

    If that didn't help, smile because I somehow have created three separate identities for myself, which are all following your blog.