Injustice And The Third Way

It isn’t fair and I don’t like that. On some level, most of us have had to face the harsh reality that doesn’t feel fair. But is it?

No. There is no Pixar ending.

Sitting in the old counselling office one rainy day this truth began to open up wider for me. I began to see threads, real or imagined, in many of the stories of pain and trauma that funnelled their way through my door and sometimes my life. It may be that this cognitive distortion, this need for life to “make sense”, has been responsible for a larger slice of misery than at least I ever imagined.

The stories are similar. Depression or anxiety brought on by trauma or heartbreak with a sense of cruel incongruity. We have been wronged and something needs to be put right. We simply cannot accept that there is no payback. It’s so… unfair.

As the good book says, and I proceed to steal and compare myself, albeit tongue-in-cheek, to the great Apostle Paul, “I do not come to you as one who has attained. Nonetheless I press on.” Like you I wonder why good people seem to suffer and total jerks continue to prosper. She left and it hurt and she never came back. I know that feeling. It’s bad. He died without ever getting his “just desserts”. Some of those Nazis escaped to Argentina and lived off the rewards of their raping and pillaging and genocide. As I consumed Martin Davidson’s book, The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather’s Secret Past, it was apparent that the author never was able to see his grandfather pay for his heinous crimes. There is no glass slipper ending. Gru doesn’t really adopt the cute little girls – they get thrown into the social welfare system and spend their childhood in Foster Care. They became sexually active early. Chances are they have issues with addiction and end up marrying poorly. That’s the real world and it is many things, but it is not fair.

But here’s the problem. I am DNA’d to believe in fairness. I cannot seem to get it through my dense skull that reality cares very little about my sense of injustice. It is up to me alone to move forward, and it’s very, very, hard. Years.

There are three ways, I think. There is the way I want, the way I don’t want… and the way I don’t know yet.

I have a friend, a real friend who I see in the real world, who has been working on her stuff for years. Not too long ago she came to me and uttered, “Five years. It’s been five years and I’m still not fixed.” It was heartbreaking, because she is a rock star.

As I wrote in my last post, some people go through things that are beyond coping. There isn’t a toolbox in the world that prepares you for the loss of a child. As I’ve said even recently, you get a free pass for that. I would go crazy. I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would be ok if I lost one of my kids. It’s simply not reasonable to imagine, yet in ways that are beyond my meagre understanding, some people keep going.

I just finished rereading Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants. He’s a storyteller. I like stories. In that book he points again and again to average people who, when faced with insurmountable odds, found a third way. He doesn’t call it that, but he seems to understand. Mennonites who have learned that vengeance sometimes creates more pain than it heals, even when your baby is defiled. Huguenots who stood up to the scariest dictatorship we have known and said, “We have Jews, come and get them”. Poor people and zealots and losers who came to understand that they have only one life; and the need for justice was ruining what little they had left.

There is the way I want, the way I don’t want… and the way I don’t know yet.

Five years of reading, learning, letting go, and moving forward against impossible odds. No one comes to a counsellor to sign up for that program. Most of us who are in process would happily abandon it at any time for a magic pill or a glass of good tequila.

Like most of us, it started with a broken toolbox of coping mechanisms. Imprints from childhood and generations of dysfunction, broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Death had robbed her of a piece of her life. Choices. No role models who were not also broken. That ugliness inside. So much pain and hurt it was overwhelming. Some of you have been there… are there.

It’s hard to believe that you might be a success story. There is no pink cloud, no happy ending, no days of bliss without Xanax. But on some deep levels, people can fundamentally change. She still reads everyday because, if nothing else, she has learned that there are no shortcuts to wisdom. She needed to get started. There were days and months and years when it didn’t seem that there would ever be a good day again, but she was wrong. She knows that now. I don’t talk to her like a counsellor anymore, we just exchange information, sometimes everyday. There has to be a good reason to work this hard or I couldn’t live with myself and do what I do for a living. I’ve seen too many people find a third way to believe that my life is hopeless anymore. There must be a way from where you are to where you need to be or I quit.

Here’s the last thing I’ll say about this here. I didn’t have a clue what the third way was for years. I thought, many times, that I had this covered, but I was very wrong. I knew what I knew and I was willing to die for the cause, but the cause was flawed. No one could tell me that because I was right.

But one day I realized I wasn’t. Letting go of what I knew to be fact was exceedingly difficult.

Realizing that I had to work on this stuff every day for the rest of my life was at first disheartening, then exciting. It sure didn’t start out “exciting”. It was horrible. How do you stop believing what you have known to be true all your life? How do you “fake it until you make it” when you feel like you are lying to yourself? How do you hope again when you have been proven wrong in hundreds of ways?

Those are very good questions and this isn’t Sunday School and we have to figure this out for ourselves (with a little help). I can’t give you a slick closing sentence to make you or I feel any better. As I have often been counselled, I need to be relentless in my desire for change. There is only one game in town.

16 thoughts on “Injustice And The Third Way

  1. You wrote ‘I have a friend, a real friend who I see in the real world, who has been working on her stuff for years. Not too long ago she came to me and uttered, “Five years. It’s been five years and I’m still not fixed.” It was heartbreaking, because she is a rock star.’ Does anyone tell her she’s a rockstar? Does anyone say my heart breaks because you don’t know you’re a rockstar? Does anyone say my heart breaks that you think that you still need to come sit for an hour in an office with someone you pay, who so far has not equipped you to see that you are a rockstar? Why does she think she still needs to be fixed after five years? Does her therapist just take her money and let her talk? For how long, another five years? Ten? Sometimes drinking the Kool Aid is accepting that everyone in America is in therapy for years and years ’cause they all need so much fixing. They are hooked on the damned IDEA of eventually being FIXED. Guess what, life isn’t perfect and people aren’t perfect. Has anyone told her that no one is EVER FIXED? After five years someone of rockstar caliber in a friend’s eyes, should have equipped herself with tools enough to stand at the edge of the nest. And the therapist has to have the integrity enough to push her off and tell her she needs to develop relationships with family and friends to talk her troubles over with, exchange ideas with, grow with, change with, lean on, and love. A therapist will never tell her she’s fixed. Friends will. Family will. Only then will she see that it is true, when she stops leaning on the therapist for perfection.

    1. Fair enough. Few facts that would be public record – no money changes hands. She comes to hang out, she doesn’t need me and she knows it. Who would want to be in counselling all their life? yuk.

  2. My world collapsed yet again yesterday and you came as a blessing and a light.I will not stop looking for the third way.Thank you.

  3. Life is not fair. This is 100% true.
    Acceptance with joy has been a key for me. Changing what I can, letting go of what I can’t.
    And not needing to know can be hard to let go of at first, but once you get in the zone of it, whoa! You become free, it’s an awesome adventure, and you learn to travel light… Because if you don’t know where you’re going then you don’t need to pack.
    Of course this is not to make light of all the awful, unfair and tragic circumstances I deal with everyday in my job also. I acknowledge that there is a grieving process that is long and hard, and I’ve been there.
    I can say, my circumstances have not changed, but rather, have gotten worst, but I’ve changed. And in the end that’s all I could do.

  4. Great post. I had always struggled with the concept of fair as well until one day when I was complaining to a friend that someone’s treatment of me wasn’t fair and she said, “Fair is a place where pigs go to win ribbons.” I try to remember that. 😉

  5. This is tying in so rightly to where I am right now. I don’t think I ever believed in fair. I know life isn’t fair. However, I’ve struggled with the “way I don’t know yet.” I hate not knowing. Not knowing was always a trap. I need to look at it differently.

  6. Oh, this is all so very poignant and true. Thank you. I am finally seeing a counselor who is a specialist in trauma and abuse. I just got home from my weekly appointment, and with tear stained cheeks, I am so grateful for her, and for you, and for all of us who are “in it,” determined to find that third way. Xo

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