Thank goodness 2014 is done.
Years ending in 4 have turned out to be particularly challenging. 1994, 2004 and now 2014.
Even 1984 was bad. I got kicked out of class for the first time. My super tall teacher was an imposing man. His fedora added another 30cm that made him seem like an oversized gangster.
Despite trying to win over his students with a vast sticker collection for good behaviour, teacher man was scary. And mean.
Being a sweet child, I hardly deserved to be kicked out of the classroom just because I took another student’s chair. The details of how the chair was removed are forgotten, and my friend didn’t mind. She even laughed. Maybe.
Challenge means growth and growth is rarely pleasant. But even in 1984, I grew and learned that taking someone else’s chair meant having to go sit in the hall. It’s cold and lonely on the other side of the classroom door.
2014 Lesson – Life is not fair.
In 2014, challenges attacked at random moments but growth came scampering after. The cheering squad included Mrs. Teeth Grinder, Miss Tantrum, Queen Complaint Letters and the twins, Princess Cupcake and Princess Chocolate Truffle.
The main lesson overpowering 2014 was: Life is not fair.
I don’t blame you if you guffaw and no, I am not 12.
Of course, I knew, know and will always know that life is not fair. But something changed last year when this lesson presented itself yet again. Instead of fighting against injustices, I wilted. I bent like bamboo in a typhoon. I fell over and even accepted, in a tiny way, that unfairness happens and it’s okay. Well, not all unfairness is okay but my reaction can focus on solutions, as per normal, minus the high blood pressure and stomping dance.
2014’s lesson started with parking our car 80cm from an alley entrance.
The car is not usually driven during the week so it sat and sat and sat and acquired parking ticket after parking ticket after parking ticket until the day my recently wrecked knee felt strong enough to take baby-chan for a walk in the stroller. The stroller lived in the trunk of the car. The car lived on the street. Or did it?
New mothers discover that useful memory evaporates approximately 7.3 seconds after giving birth. Maybe the car was parked on a different street. Maybe the car was parked in a different city. Maybe we didn’t even own a car!
Obviously, our car had to have been stolen. But why? We drive a very boring, very blue, compact, family sedan.
While the obvious was obvious, it was important to confirm that there wasn’t a 0.01% chance that the car had been towed by the sometimes vigilant parking authority. A phone call was next.
Success! Our car was not stolen! It had been towed. But why?
“The series of parking tickets state that you parked within 150cm of an alley entrance,” replied the friendly representative at the impound lot.
“You can submit an appeal,” she finished with after hearing sobbing. (Honest mothers reveal that wailing in moments of panic and frustration due to sleep deprivation is normal.)
A tear-filled call to hubby shared my pain, explained the grave and shocking injustice, and could he please pick up our car from the impound lot after work.
With car-chan safely back on the street and more than 150cm away from any alley entrance, the real work began. Writing as tiny as possible to cram in all five reasons plus a diagram as to why the tickets and towing fees totalling around $300 should be scrapped, I was convinced we would win.
Conviction, determination and logic meant nothing to the officer who reviewed our appeal. It was a sad day when the official two-page response to our half-page appeal arrived in the mailbox.
Not one to give up, a call to the parking authority was required. The critical question was to confirm if citizens were expected to carry 150cm tape measures in their vehicles.
Life is not fair, still
Losing the appeal was hard.
Paying the tickets was embarrassing.
Seeing car after car parked less than 150cm from alley entrances in our neighbourhood and none getting ticketed was hard. I thought about reporting the offending vehicles every single day, but I didn’t.
Life is not fair and it’s okay. We broke a bylaw we didn’t know existed. We got caught by an eagle-eyed patrolling officer. And I get to wake up every day in a safe, warm bed with the privilege to steam over parking infractions outside my window. But it’s not my problem. It can’t be my problem.
And life goes on
2014 was a horrid year for shocking violence, tragedy, setbacks in human justice, nonsensical fighting, pain, grief and agony around the world.
The state of media and information dissemination allows me to know what is going on anywhere that reports it, if I choose to read the headlines. And I do. Every day I feel sadness and defeat. I feel loss of hope for humanity and the environment.
“And life goes on” can be a trite and flippant statement to toss around when someone has experienced tragedy. But it’s true. If you are alive, life continues. And life is absolutely not fair.
Becoming a mother, I knew that I had to have hope for the future of my child. But I didn’t. In fact, I had decided in my 20s that I would not have children. Life was too depressing and I couldn’t bring a child into a world I saw as one full of pain and unfairness.
Something has changed though. Within the trivial experience of a parking infraction, the lesson of “life is not fair” shifted deeply held beliefs about injustice and hope. Before, injustice meant anger and determination to fix it now or despair when I couldn’t or something was beyond my control. It also meant that every circumstance seemed to get equal drama.
Now, a new approach can be tried. How big is in the injustice? Can empathy knock on the door? Can hope be summoned for change, if it’s necessary? And what can I do now to push for change and create hope? How can I be an example of inner strength, integrity and action for my child and for me?
Life is not fair and I am not perfect in my attempts to change. But I want to try.
Have you had a similar experience where something small turned into a big change?