Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pebbles in Still Waters

by Zinta Aistars

I wake in the still dark of a Saturday, the world around me still sound asleep and lost in dreams, perhaps some in nightmares, but I lie in bed musing on the fact that my dreams are sweet enough. Another nightmare averted. Literally a last hour reprieve. And while my life is littered with such last hour, even last minute reprieves, I no longer thrive on such drama. A little more root in the soil beneath me, a little more stability from one day moving into the next, that's what I want now. Call it the aging process. I won't mind.

My male cub had his life pulled potentially in a northern direction, and not by his free will. Life and its nasty obligations, debts to pay just when you thought them long ago erased. "Life isn't fair," he huffed a day ago. His lady Sarah was leaning into him, both of them leaning into the corner of my living room couch, as if they thought leaning into it enough might lose them into its pattern, become a part of the furniture, and perhaps life wouldn't notice... wouldn't keep bothering them quite so much.

"First thing," I said. "Give up the thought that life is fair. Never was. Never will be. Thinking that is even a possibility puts you at a handicap at the starting gate."

He sighed. Knew as much.

The next lesson I had to share was that of luck. No point in counting on that, either. Only losers believe in luck. Those who succeed in life are too busy creating their own luck, and not just in the short term. The older I get, the more I observe this phenomenon, and I resist saying, "Would you like some crackers and cheese with that whine?" Rather than doing something about it, the whiners moan endlessly about how nothing they do matters and it's all just destiny. Oh, poo. Just listening to such tripe makes one want to pull away. No wonder luck itself is repelled. And success finds a home elsewhere.

Granted, some circumstances are tougher than others. But I firmly believe life has a way of balancing things out quite evenly. Advantage here, disadvantage there. All comes out in the wash. Call it God, call it karma, call it the way of the universe. Whatever your belief system, if you feel lucky one day, I promise you... the unlucky one is coming, too. Only it isn't luck. It is life. Life that we begin to build from the very moment of our birth. Not one thing we do isn't without consequence. Not one thing we choose not to do isn't equally without consequence. And sometimes, those consequences are heavy, and long-lived, and build their influence on years of our lives, not just passing moments. Believe in the bible or not, there was something to that verse about seven generations and the sins of our fathers. We so wish those sins could disappear in a quick instant. Especially the bigger ones. Wake up. They don't. At a moment of bad decision, a domino effect of a thousand, a million, a countless infinity of ripples move out from that circle, an effluvium of effect, even long after you yourself have forgotten the pebble you threw into that still water.

The sweeter news is that it works this way for both good and bad deeds. For both good and bad decisions. The good we do ripples out in expanding circles, too. Forever and ever and ever and...

In truth, life is exceedingly fair. Judged by the moment, it may seem to be otherwise. Living in the moment as we so often do, we can get away with calling it luck, good or bad. It does not depend on human memory. It does not depend on forgiveness. It does not depend on subsequent turns of event. Every moment is a living thing, a dynamic set into motion, and all that it sets into motion will move out in its path and travel its journey, and there is no stopping it. We can only create new ripple effects, toss new pebbles into the still waters, and perhaps some of the good that we do will cause ripples that cross those effects we would rather not keep experiencing.

Because we are done with a part of our lives does not mean that part of our lives is done with us. Consider all the many others our actions affect, and the others who are close by to them, and to them, and so on.

"I don't want to go," my cub says, and his voice is quiet and tormented. He doesn't, I know, because he has worked hard to build a new life, right here, among the people he loves and who love him. There is nothing else beyond living in our circles of love. He is old enough to understand that. His lady Sarah draws a warm palm across his cheek in agreement.

In the very next moment, I see a ripple go through him. He gets it. There could very well be no way out of this particular mess. It is a ripple of resolve. Even as...

Even as elsewhere, miles away, his older sister, who has never believed in luck, has rolled up her sleeves to set to work. She knows people. She knows a lot of people. It's called a network. And had she to rely on this moment alone, it would all be of no use, but she has built a conscious life of networking, treating people right along the way, doing favors, expressing kindness, working hard, being fair, doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do. Luck, you say? She calls in a favor. It was a dozen years ago and she but a high school kid then, working in an advanced college prep class and making good impressions. Would she be remembered? She was. A phone call here, a phone call there. Seeking openings in a time when openings are rare.

Lady Sarah and I are resolved, too. We bring out phone books, underline names, work on strategies. My cub nods and jumps in. Everyone's sleeves are rolled up, up past the well-greased elbows.

He resolves to accept what cannot be changed, even as he sets to work to change what just might be. He bustles, he hustles, he rushes, he calls, and he never forgets to say please and thank you.

So it happens. Never mind the details. It's the process.

Sister has jumped in her car and is here. Lady Sarah is here. My son is here. The phone rings the hour before we pack the car for the journey north. Apparently, a position has opened right here, in our own town. What do you know. He doesn't have to go.

Sarah's dark eyes widen. She is exhausted, but she leaps with excitement at the news and hugs her man. "I can't believe it!" she sings. "What luck!"

I smile at both my cubs, son and daughter, both of whom fill my heart with pride, but also with an enduring love like no other. I have made many unwonderful and foolish decisions in my life, and many decades later, no matter how many right things I do now, the ripple effect of the not right is still washing over me. I understand and accept that. Life is, after all, much more fair than we wish it would be. But then, so is the ripple effect of the good. The lessons I taught my cubs when they were so very little, so long ago, not just in words, but in my own position of role model, have set in motion the events of this moment. Sometimes we do right. Sometimes the wash of the warm water of long ago is sweet and ever so refreshing in this faraway day of today.

His wide grin is worth years of tossing pebbles into the still waters. He hugs the three women who love him and tosses in a pebble of his own.

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