Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair...

My nine-year-old son and I are currently reading the book Everything for A Dog by Ann M. Martin (of Babysitter's Club fame). We're big fans of animal stories and Martin tells a good one. I'm pissed, though, because one of the characters, after losing his older brother in an accident, loses his dog when a hunter accidentally shoots it. Stop, I want to scream (though that would freak out my son). This is fiction. You can control the level of pain any one character has to face. Losing a brother and watching his parents crumble is enough. Don't make the damn dog die, too. That's just not fair
My notion of fairness is something that has kept me pretty comfy for most of my life. Because my childhood sucked (alcoholic mother and father, suicide attempts by mother, mother's long-term stay in psych ward and all the various daily humiliations that life with alcoholic parents entails), I had decided that I'd paid my dues. Every now and again, I'd get uncomfortable at the reality that others had lost their entire families in the Holocaust, for example, or been raped and and murdered. But I tried not to think of the fact that those people's lives sucked more than mine and that, therefore, there might be more suckage to come in my own life. And instead, assured myself that my pain allotment had been used up and I could now look forward to a life of bliss and joy. Factor in my years of therapy, which I was sure all but guaranteed success: a great marriage to a guy who was NOT an alcoholic, three wonderful kids with a mom (me!!) who would NOT become an alcoholic and screw up their own childhoods. I had broken the cycle! Yeah for me.
And then...
Then I found out that my NON-alcoholic husband had another little addiction he was hiding. One that I'd never even considered, indeed didn't know existed. Sex. And he'd been hiding it my entire, otherwise perfect married life.
But that's not fair, I screamed. I've had my pain. I've endured having other people screw up my life. I was doing everything right, I thought. I had earned my happiness.
And while I was crumbling as quickly as my marriage built of cards, my career, at which I'd enjoyed considerable (and relatively easy) success, was also falling apart. As a writer, I need to actually show up to the page. I can't fake it. Either I've written something compelling by the end of the day...or I haven't. It's hard to write when you can't see the page through your tears.
And while I was working hard to remain upright for the better part of the day, the publishing underwent a seismic shift when the economy crashed. Magazines I worked for folded. TV production companies, which were wooing me for work, stopped buying new shows.
I loathe a pity party. I've spent my life desperately viewing the glass as half full (at least I have all my limbs! at least my father isn't George Bush! at least I'm not homeless!), even if I've had to really squint to see it that way. But every now and then, like today when I just got more bad news regarding a book project, I want to curl up in a ball and whisper, Enough.


  1. I thought I was the only one who thought like that. But then again, because The Giver is one of my favorite books (ever since childhood) I've also come to believe that there are just some people in the world whose place it is to carry more than their fair share of pain and heartache because other, lesser people would crumble under the weight. We are the Atlases of our generations. I try to find comfort in that the Universe deems me strong enough to bear it.

  2. Me too. I actually spoke to my husband about it this weekend telling him that I thought I experienced enough pain in my life that I didn't deserve to feel the pain of being betrayed. I like your analogy of being the Atlases of our generation. It's important to remember life isn't fair and that we don't always see or know about the pain that others have to bear.

  3. On your recommendation, Tabulous, I'm reading The Giver. What an incredible story. Thanks so much for pointing me that direction!

    And yes, I think betrayal robs us of our notion of fairness...but, perhaps, replaces it with a deeper appreciation of what we can be grateful for. Peaks and valleys...peaks and valleys.



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