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Life isn’t always fair!

Sometimes, it feels unfair that, here we are in the last years of our lives, and the world situation is so terrible. Many of us have worked hard to finally get to these “golden years,” and now we are having so many difficult things to deal with.

COVID-19 has affected all of us in some way or another, with terrible losses and suffering. We are watching environmental destruction right in front of our eyes, and there is little we can do about it. A terrible war brings horrifying video to us every news cycle and we can’t help but feeling shocked and sad. The cost of living has skyrocketed and is difficult for those of us on fixed incomes. Washington gridlock, increased violence and cruelty, and so many other issues are causing lots of disparity and loss. And now, we’re dealing with the very real possibility of fire in this extremely dry and windy climate.

There is much frustration and disappointment, perhaps within all generations. I remember a safer, more gentle and caring time. Things were respectful between people, slower, cheaper, easier!

What is fairness? What does it mean to be fair? And, what good does it do us to feel like things are unfair?

We are taught as children to be fair. Fairness can mean sameness – everyone gets the same. Fairness can mean deservedness – if you work hard, you get to keep what you earn. Fairness can mean need – those who have more to give should help others. These issues are revealed every day in school systems; should they spend the same amount of money on every child, or allocate greater resources to children with greater needs? Huge arguments, and we all have different opinions.

When we feel like things are unfair, it triggers parts of our brains that control fear, anger and sadness. It can limit our ability to think rationally and respond appropriately. We feel victimized. Life isn’t always fair; every day we have abundant opportunities (especially these days) to recognize injustice in the world, our own lives and lives of people we love.

It seems like it’s not the condition that causes suffering, but the reaction we have to it. We can’t change the tragedies that are happening now on a large scale, but we can do small things to alleviate our suffering.

We can catch ourselves having an emotional response, we can think rationally before we act, and recognize the difference between what we can control and what we can’t. Yes, I sent a small check to UNICEF when I saw those children fleeing their homelands. It may help in some small way, but it can’t change the larger causes of this war. I recycle and cache water for my plants, etc. But the major flooding and droughts and fires and tornadoes need more major global effort. Having compassion and concern for people who are really suffering can help our own emotional state.

As I watch these catastrophic events on the news each night (which, by the way I have greatly limited to protect my heart), I realize it’s important to know what’s happening out there. It’s interesting to watch my reactions and responses. I have learned a lot about myself. It helps me know what I can do, and how much to shield myself.

We must accept what is in our world right now. It is what it is, and not what we want it to be. We’re not in charge, and we must find balance between what we can and can’t do. Can we stay open to the reality of what’s next, and not look away, but also not obsess about it?

Opening to an understanding that this is the way things are is one way to finding our little corners of joy, kindness and love.

Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at mmm@bresnan.net.