When Bad Things Happen, we humans look for a reason. Which God did we piss off today? What horrid thing did we do in a past life to warrant such a travesty in this one? Maybe this whole thing is a present from a sadistic Teacher-In-The-Sky who simply wants us to learn a lesson. Then again, it could all be a series of unfortunate events.
And then again, it could be aliens.
We just don’t know.
It’s natural to want to find a cause for the trauma–particularly when it seems so random. We want to find a source because we as Homo Sapiens are natural problem solvers. Without claws, fur, or superior physical senses, we needed to be the best problem-solvers in the animal kingdom to keep from getting eaten by Saber-Tooth tigers. This may translate to the fascination with slasher films: we want to know how to defeat psychotic creatures lurking in the attic. Likewise, when trouble finds us, we look to its source to know how to solve it. When we can’t find a source, we look to the Gods or ourselves as sources of blame.
Time and again I’ve sat with Coveners, community members, friends, or clients who ask the same question, “Why? What have I done to deserve this? What am I supposed to be learning?” The answer breaks down into what I call the 33% rule, which I’ve detailed below.
The frustrating part: We are the only ones who can tell which category these fall into and we really won’t know until the situation is far behind us.
33% of the time, Bad Things Happen as a result of our previous actions. I stumbled through nearly a decade of terribly painful romantic relationships. During one night of naked kitchen-floor-crying after yet another screaming-breakup on an East Village sidewalk, I begged a friend to help me understand why the Gods were punishing me with a string of liars, cheaters, and drunks (she’d answered my panicked 3:00 a.m. text while I was finally stripping for bed, hence the naked part of the floor-crying). She didn’t respond, probably because I was standing too close to my own problems to hear the truth. In time, I came to understand that Bad Romantic Things Happened to me because I consistently pursued anyone who reeked of liar, cheater, and heavy-drinker. There was probably something in there about wanting to change or save these people (another blog, another time) but in the end, this was my fault. The Gods weren’t punishing me with these men any more than the dairy companies were punishing me with curded cream in my coffee when I ignored an expiration date. I was, consciously or not, setting up my own series of disasters by not paying attention to red flags and warning signs. A good portion of the time, Bad Things Happen because we are chasing after the Bad Things. The same goes for a wasted person getting behind the wheel. If they wreck, it’s not because of the Gods or a Lesson-Meant-To-Be-Learned. It’s most certainly because they made a poor decision.
33% of the time, Bad Things Happen to get us in line with our true calling. In these situations, the Bad Thing may not really be bad, but may only feel bad in the moment. When I first moved to New York, I was let go from my job after only five months–the job I moved across the country to do. With so little time in the state, I did not qualify for unemployment. This led to a series of terrible waitress jobs and the loss of two sublets. I ended up living in a single room in a rambling Connecticut mansion, overlooking the sea. It sounded idyllic and in many ways, it was. But over the winter months I became the poster girl for a remake of “The
Shining.” While I loved the scenery and the woman I worked for, it was seriously all work, little play, and desperate levels of loneliness. Again, I wondered what I had done to deserve such a locked-away existence. Scenery or not, It was like the Gods sent me to New England Prison. But in looking back over the chain of events…those few lonely months led me to meet two of my Elders in the Craft…which led me to start my Coven…which showed me my love for Spiritual Writing…which led to the seat where I am, now. I do believe I was meant to suffer 24 excruciating months of loss and loneliness to force me into my true calling. At the time, I felt lost, punished, and hurt. There was no way, at the time, to see the necessity of my stumble.
33% of the time, Bad Things Just Happen. No rhyme. No reason. No lessons-meant-to-be-learned. I do believe we have the opportunity to learn from each tough situation, but I do not believe children are abused, people raped, or homes lost to fire or natural disaster as part of the Gods’ plan to teach, empower, or strengthen. Sure, some will argue that child abuse happens because the abuser was abused…rape and murder happen in cultures that foster those things…..and those arguments may be right. But still, it should not be assumed that the recipients of said actions are receiving Karmic payback, or that these things are aligned with some great plan of the Gods. If that be so, I’m off to find some new Gods. Tornadoes are becoming more intense because of climate change, but they don’t level one block and leave the other unscathed for any other purpose than that’s simply where the wind came together and brought down the cyclone. It is unfair to label “Karma” or offer “There’s a reason!” to the person who just lost their home.
We live in a chaotic, confusing world that leaves plenty of room for pain, trauma, and accident. Not all painful things happen to us by design or recourse.
One may ask if the Gods care then why don’t they prevent these things from happening, but sometimes I wonder if they are even able to. Once while in the park, I came across a baby bird who had fallen from its nest. I did not know where the nest was and I had been taught that if I touched the baby, the mother would reject it. I wanted so to help, but believed I would do more harm if I did. Maybe the baby bird saw me and wondered why I wouldn’t help it “If I really cared…” I couldn’t reach out and interfere, but I could stand back and watch for cats or mean kids and at least ward those off. This I did until the mother returned and collected her baby. I then wondered if this is what the Gods do. Maybe accidents or trauma befall us and They have nothing to do with it, nor can They prevent it. But maybe They stand with us while we navigate the situation and hold back additional harm we could not imagine, as I did for the little bird. (This doesn’t make me a Goddess to birds, btw…it’s only a metaphor and it’s the best one I’ve got for now!)
That makes 99% of the time. Which means there’s 1% unaccounted for. 1% of the time, Bad Things Happen for some other reason all together. Like Aliens.
When rough stuff occurs, I just tell people it could be Aliens.That makes them laugh. Then I tell them the next story.
When I was a little girl, my dad drove the family across Mt. Hood. For hours, I could see the mountain in the distance, but it suddenly disappeared. I asked my dad why I could no longer see the mountain and he said, “We’re too close to it, so we can’t see it.” I’ve embraced this is a metaphor for how we navigate understanding of how/why things have happened to us.
Sometimes, there’s a reason. Sometimes, there’s no reason at all. But, like the mountain, we can’t see the true shape of our problems–or their source–when we’re crushed up against them. It’s only when we have a safe distance from them that we can see their identity, clearly.
When we stand in times of trauma, we waste our efforts by making our first question “Why?” Let’s make our first question, “How?” How to get out…how to stop things…how to fix things…how to walk away when something can’t be fixed. In time, when we can give our trauma a safe distance, then we can ask “Why?” and by then, the trauma can give us a little more explanation.
Besides, there’s always the possibility that it’s Aliens.
Happy New Moon, Everyone! I’d like to give special praise to Tamrha, the first Priestess I’ve crowned, who through her journey to Priestesshood has survived many a spiritual mountain of her own. Blessed Be and Congratulations, Tamrha!