A friend this week asked me if I believed in the simplistic version of karma, where good things happen to good people and bad people should expect negative returns.
I gave this idea some thought as I’ve been overly philosophical this week approaching my 40th birthday.
I’ve been looking over my life, the expectations I’ve had for myself by the time I reached this milestone age and lessons learned along the way.
And I considered this idea of controlling our fates by our actions — a cosmic, or divine, reward system. I’m not sure it’s that straightforward.
I totaled my first vehicle when I was 13. I was driving a truck, pulling a two-horse trailer when I rounded a corner too fast on a dirt road. I hit the brakes, but the force of the trailer propelled me forward, striking a fallen tree that had been pushed to the side of the road.
In a tangle of leaves and branches, I finally skidded to halt. Not sure what to do, I hit the gas, plowing the tree forward, dragging it into the road before the truck broke loose.
I drove nearly 10 more miles home with a tire scraping the crumpled fender and smoke billowing from under the hood.
As scared as I was from the wreck, I was even more scared to see my dad.
But instead of getting mad at me, he comforted me.
“It’s not your fault,” he told me.
He took the blame himself.
“I put too much responsibility on you,” he said.
He explained the demands of the ranching business were harsh and sometimes unforgiving. We’d all have to do more than we were capable of doing, which meant there would be failure, he said. But, sometimes, everything would work out just right.
I think life is like that.
We’d prefer to think our own “goodness” could ensure a life of ease, free of pain and struggle. But it doesn’t work that way.
Life will always demand of us more than we have to give, requiring a greater knowledge than what we have.
But that’s what makes it good. That’s how we expand our limitations.
And that’s where we find the true beauty life has to offer.
When my dad died this summer, I felt like it was too much to bear, that, again, too much responsibility was placed on me. But because my dad had demanded much of me, I knew from those demands came greater growth and understanding.
There’s a kind of magic in accomplishing the impossible.
So as I enter this new decade, I will try to be my best self, to put good things into the universe. Not to avoid bad things, but to see the value in them. And to feel true gratitude for the good things. Because that’s when life is really magnificent — and that’s so much better than easy.
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.