I hate the saying ‘The universe only ever gives you what you can handle.’ Like, hate. it. If someone ever says those words to me in my time of need or sorrow, I will have to refrain from punching that person in the throat (not really, but AHHHH!). I think that quote is absolute crap and makes no sense at all. The universe dishes out whatever the hell it wants, to whoever the hell it wants, and when it does, each of us is responsible for how we respond to it.
A few months ago, I was witness to a woman having a full-blown meltdown in a coffee shop. She unleashed her wrath all over the barista because he had the audacity to tell her they were out of bananas – news that apparently had ruined her life. Yeah, a banana. She wanted a smoothie, and when she heard that they were a banana short, she totally lost her shit. The abuse she spewed upon the staff was shocking. I stood there mesmerized and appalled by her relentless tantrum but also felt deeply concerned, for her. I thought to myself, ‘Wow. If this is how she behaves over a banana how is she going to handle a real crisis?’ The universe isn’t going to care when it has a bomb to drop whether she can deal with it or not, it’s just going to drop – she is not exempt simply because she couldn’t keep it together over a stupid banana.
Anway, you get my point. Right?
My ability to maintain my composure and deal with life has been put to the test often, and I am quite frankly of the belief that the universe seriously hates me and has it out for me. I envision that some seriously twisted guy (like Doc from the movie Back to the Future) is in charge of my universe, and is sitting in a glass box with a bird’s eye view looking down on me snickering wildly. And he takes a bite of a Twizzler and rips it viciously out of his mouth with a look of insane satisfaction every time he presses the ‘I am totally going to mess with her right now’ button.
If this is some karmic payback, then hey, I am willing to take my punishment like a champ – I know I have really annoyed some people – but this seems excessive. Dude, I haven’t been this much of a jerk, ENOUGH ALREADY!
He has pressed that button more times than I can count in the past few years, and each time he did, I was left reeling. That son of a bitch was ruthless at times. But, unlike the banana lady, I chose to handle the circumstances that were thrown at me, differently. I made a conscious choice to fight, to find my way back from the paralyzing darkness and to see beauty in tragedy and loss. And I did. It wasn’t easy, but I did. I came out the other side enlightened, inspired and at peace with who I am. I was ready to live the life I had always dreamed of living. I was beginning to fly.
But, just when I was about to soar he pushed that damn button again and clipped my wings.
An ailment is impeding my ability to function at a normal level, and I struggle daily because my body won’t cooperate with my mind. My mind is sharp, committed and ready to reach for the stars, but my body keeps me grounded, discouraged and battling to continue moving forward. No matter what I will my body to do, fatigue and pain won’t allow it to do what I need it to do.
Then that guy, callously set his sights on my family, deciding it wasn’t enough that my stepmom has to fight a disease that will eventually take her, no, he thought it was best for her husband to now fight the same disease right along with her. ‘Why do it alone when you can do it together, amirite?’ that asshole must have thought. He had no regard for how much they were already dealing with, the stress associated with it and what was already weighing them down. Now, not only do they juggle endless appointments for her, but also for him. The worry and uncertainty are staggering, and all of us are still trying to process what the hell is happening.
So, in the past month, the voice inside my head that so often whispers the words ‘just quit‘, has grown louder. And I have begun listening. ‘Just quit‘ it continues whispering, each time nudging me a little closer to giving up. I have struggled to see how it is possible to continue chasing my dreams when I feel the way I do, and awful things keep happening to those around me. This past week, I looked into renting apartments, and instead of writing, I chose to get lost in the world of Hogwarts, wanting to be as far away from my world as possible.
Then, something incredible and unexpected happened.
I met a duck.
The duck, who belongs to the people next door, snuck into the yard of the people I am petsitting for and couldn’t find her way out. The neighbour came and retrieved her, but not before I was able to get a few photos. And as she was leaving to go back home, I was able to give her a little head rub (the duck, not the neighbour), and my heart melted. The joy that little duck brought me is indescribable.
A couple of mornings after that I heard a duck squawking, but really loudly and close to the house. It was 5:45 am, and the ducks are never up that early, so I knew right away one of them must be stuck in the yard again. I ran to the living room and flicked on the light to the backyard and right outside the glass door was the largest raccoon I had ever seen. My first thought was, ‘Oh shit, where is the duck?’ I hit the door to make the raccoon move, and when he turned, I saw the duck and screamed, ‘NOOOOOOO!’ The raccoon had the duck I had met only days earlier by the neck. I hit the door again, and the raccoon released the duck and took off into the field.
My mind was racing. I knew I had to get that duck. I ran outside in my underwear and picked her up, and when I did, she didn’t resist. Blood was oozing out of the wounds on her neck and had painted her back and tail red. I needed to stop the bleeding. I sprinted inside and immediately applied pressure to her neck, while whispering, ‘please don’t die, please don’t die.’ I kept telling her it was going to be ok, unsure if it actually was. I kept waiting for her to fade, to show signs the end was coming, but instead, she just looked at me with her gentle eyes, her composure completely intact, as if to say, ‘it’s going to be ok.’ I couldn’t help but think in the midst of chaos, that her reaction to this horrific situation was remarkable.
After slowing the blood flow, I put her down, quickly dressed, and delivered her bloodied to the neighbours. I apologized profusely for the horror I had bestowed upon them by knocking on their door at 6 am, but they, of course, couldn’t have been more thankful.
I turned and walked away with my head down, bloodied myself and completely disheartened. ‘Did I do the right thing? ‘Is she suffering more now because of me?’ were the two questions I couldn’t stop asking myself. I couldn’t believe what had happened and I couldn’t stop imagining her pain and fear. I felt shattered. I showered and returned to Hogwarts, desperately wishing I could board the train on platform 9 3/4.
The next day I hesitantly approached the neighbour and dared to ask the question, ‘Is she ok?’ I then braced myself for the dreaded words to come. ‘SHE IS GREAT!’ she joyfully exclaimed. ‘WHAT?’ I screamed back. She went on to explain that she wasn’t sure she was going to make it because of the blood loss and the number of wounds, but she did pull through. AND, not only did she pull through, but she had had enough of solitary confinement and was already back with the other ducks. If I had known this woman better, I would have broken down right there. The relief that flooded over me knowing the duck was okay was so powerful it almost knocked me over.
I couldn’t stop smiling and cried tears of joy when I went back inside. For the first time in many days, something went right. Bless her; she was alive.
My mind went back to the moment I was holding her and the way she looked at me, ever so gently. I don’t know if she chose her response to the horror that was unfolding around us, but I like to believe she did. In the face of such adversity, she responded with grace and dignity, even with the knowledge it might not be ok.
I am watching her as I type this. She is in the field – a little worse for wear – but she is alive. Waddling side by side with her family, she has let go of what happened to her and is moving forward. With her resiliency on full display, she reminds me that once again I have a choice to make. To face it, handle it and keep living life with conviction and purpose, or crumble in the face of adversity.
I choose to be like her.
So, with the dignity and grace, she has shown me, I too will continue moving forward, chasing my dreams side by side with my family, facing whatever is to come.