Months ago, as I was ironing, my beloved iron sputtered and died. After trying various ways to revive it, I grumbled, “Ugh, now something else is broken. I’m so tired of this happening.” Then the light bulb in my head flashed on to remind me that “s**t happens” because that’s the way of the world—always was, always will be—and our wish that life would simply roll merrily along without a hitch is merely self-serving foolishness.
Objects break or get lost, people and animals get sick and die, deals fall through, plans turn to disaster, weather trumps plans, and if things can go wrong they almost surely will. We know this on some level, don’t we? We experience the process ourselves and see it happen to others every day—and yet we still cling to the fantasy that we’ll have predictable, perfect lives. If random stuff happening weren’t so difficult to bear, it would be kind of funny how we continue to insist we’re in the driver’s seat.
The more we fret and fume about “s**t” happening, the worse we feel. Because almost every day something doesn’t go our way and if we rail against it too often, we start to take it personally. “Why does this stuff happen to me?” we huff. The answer of course is (in unison, please), “because it happens to everyone.” It’s part of the human condition to want desperately to have control over our lives while we actually have very little.
Because no one can escape this human paradox, what can we do about it? The only answer, obviously, is to accept it. Yes, that means to not work yourself into a tizzy when plans fall through, to be okay with the fact that everything (including ourselves) has an expiration date, to allow that others will make mistakes and so will we, to acknowledge that the world doesn’t rotate on our timetable (nor anyone else’s), and to view life as more of an adventure than a destination excursion.
The more flexibility we cultivate, the better we’ll survive this random life. It’s okay to hope things will work out because the thought brings you comfort. It’s fine as long as you also recognize that you’re choosing comforting thoughts because life’s randomness is a lot to take in and don’t care to fall into feeling helpless or hopeless. My point is for you to come to a full stop and accept that life will, to greater or lesser extent, give us a run for our money and to not be shocked when it does—even repeatedly and excessively.
The ironic symbolism of my iron, which is made to smooth wrinkles out of clothes, breaking down is not lost on me. It more or less sums up what I’m trying to say here. So, I’m giving thanks to my departed iron for its years of daily service and going out to look for another one (which will someday follow its predecessor) to take its place.