Sunday, January 8, 2012

A story about Karma


This is a little story about karma and the universe that I’ve been waiting to tell until I could do so without any anger or smugness popping up… it’s long, but aren’t the best tales?

Just after I got married six years ago, I got a new car. I decided to sell my old Chevy Corsica myself because a car lot would’ve given me roughly $4 for it. To make a long story short, I was approached by a random girl whose nickname was Karma… yes, Karma. Karma was down on her luck, her own car had just died an untimely death. She needed a vehicle, mine was perfect, and please oh please, could she make payments on it?

I’ve learned a thing or two since then, most importantly how to spot a fake bitch and how to say “no.” Those were two things I did not know at 23. I was hesitant, but this girl was a professional pathological liar who convinced me she was trustworthy.

I drew up a contract, we signed it and had it notarized, and I told her $200 per month would be just fine. She was grateful and gave a huge speech about how I was really helping her get back on her feet. Of course, everything went to shit right away and I had to hound her and hunt her down for every payment. She became hostile. And when she finally killed the car (she blew up the radiator), she still owed me $700. She quit paying me. I took her to court, and I won, but turns out you can’t garnish someone’s wages when they get paid in cash (Karma, it turns out, was a stripper and a drug dealer, evidently not successful at either by her since she couldn't pay her bills). So I was in the right, morally and legally, but that lying little snatch ended up with my car and the money.

It was my first time being screwed over by someone on that level, but Russ had been around that block a time or two. He assured me that one day Karma would get her karma. And I believed him. But I was so angry. I was furious that she’d spit in my face when I truly was trying to help her. I was pissed that she took away my ability to trust other people. Of course time heals everything and I’ve learned to trust in the kindness of strangers again, but I could never fully let it go. I was permanently pissed off.

A few months ago, completely out of nowhere and for the first time in years, Karma came to mind. I was on Facebook at the time and looked up her name out of sheer curiosity. To my shock, I found her right away. Her profile was completely public and I noticed she hadn’t made any updates since July. Reading the comments, a slow smile of realization spread across my face.

I Googled her name, “Spokane”, and “arrest”. Turns out Karma hadn’t updated her Facebook because she was in jail.

Apparently Karma and her boyfriend (whose Facebook profile I also found and who lists his job as “Broke” and his hobbies as “drinking alcohol” and “smoking blunts”) broke into a car and stole a woman’s purse, then hit up a bar the next night and racked up a $117 tab on the stolen debit card. When the card was declined, the happy couple said they’d go over to the motel they were staying at to get cash for the tab. When they didn’t come back, the bartender called the cops. The cops ran the name on the card, realized it was stolen and tracked Karma down. At the motel she was staying at. That she’d booked with the stolen card. Smart!

You may think it can’t get better, but it does. When the cops found Karma’s room, she opened the door drunk and stoned. Mr. Alcohol and Blunts was nowhere to be found. At first, she pretended to be the owner of the debit card. Then she swore to the cops she had a prescription for the weed and invited them in to search her stuff. Of course they found no medical card, but they did find her actual driver’s license, the woman’s purse and a shitload of stolen mail.

The more I got to know the girl, the more I realized she was a pathological liar and a terrible one at that. I have no doubt she was so drunk and high she was convinced she did have a medical card for the weed—or perhaps she figured that if she invited the cops in, they’d assume she must be telling the truth, pat her on her head and tell her to have a wonderful night. A Rhodes Scholar she is not.

I sat open-mouthed in front of my laptop for awhile. Then I called my friend V, who’d been with me through it all (she ever served Karma with the court papers). We laughed until we cried. We made a ton of karma jokes. Then I felt guilty for feeling happy for someone’s suffering, so I called my good friend G who told me to feel whatever I wanted because “she’s a bad person and she hurt you and you are allowed to feel this way.” So I allowed myself to feel giddy and smug for awhile. I don’t regret it. It felt great.

When Mr. W arrived home, I was dancing an interpretive victory dance in the living room. I told him the story with glee.

“Should we send a ‘Thinking of You’ card?” he asked.

I barely had time to bask in my delight, though, when another Google search about a month later told me Karma’s fate. She pled guilty to everything, but she’d only been given 62 days for her crimes, which is exactly how many she’d served. She only had six months’ probation and the restitution she had to pay was small. I knew exactly what had happened. The judge had fallen for her wide-eyed crocodile tears and bullshit, the same way I did six years ago.

But then I thought about what I’d done for the sixty two days she’d been locked up. I thought of all the afternoons I spent soaking up the sun at Alki, enjoying my new city, tasting wine on a limo tour of wine country and hanging out on Whidbey Island. I thought of the time I spent with friends, the fun I’d gotten to have and the food I’d gotten to eat while she spent her days peeing in front of other people and eating mechanically separated chicken and mystery loaf. And I thought of how awful it would’ve been to lose even that much time in your life to a tiny cell.

I can honestly say that I hope she learned her lesson and left jail a changed woman. My friend who works at a prison in California tells me this probably won’t be the case. Once you’re in, she says, it’s hard to stay out. So though I truly don’t wish it for her (once my smugness faded I realized wishing bad things on anyone just hurts everyone), it will be incredibly hard for her to escape that life.

And during my limited Facebook stalking, I noticed she’s now back in a relationship with Mr. Alcohol and Blunts and she's working part-time at Burger King to support them both. And I realized I shouldn’t hate this girl. I should pity her. She doesn’t even have the intelligence to walk away from her shitty life, to go to school or strive for anything better. I am so damn grateful that, while I'm far from a scholar myself, I’m not that person. And that realization is worth far more than $700. It’s priceless.

What goes around comes around. Sometimes it just takes awhile.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: Live the questions



I believe in a lot of crazy things, so it’s no surprise that I believe this: New Year’s Eve tends to set the tone for the entire following year. I realize that belief puts an enormous amount of stress on a person to have a great effing time on that particular day, but previous experience has led me to believe there’s something to it.

I think back on the weirdest New Year’s Eve of my life and realize just how incredibly bizarre the following year was. I think of my best New Year’s Eve and what followed was the best year of my life. And I think of last New Year’s Eve, which was an absolute roller coaster from beginning to end. And that’s exactly what 2011 was for me: a roller coaster from the first day to the last day.

2011 was a beautiful, terrifying, rewarding, disappointing, joyful, fast-paced, all around crazy year. I spent a lot of time laughing with pure joy and a lot of time sobbing hysterically in a fetal position on my bathroom floor. Sometimes these things happened on the same day. I finally came to accept the roller coaster and make peace with the fact that every morning I’d wake up not knowing what kind of day I was going to have. Eventually it stopped being scary and just started being a part of life.

2011 was a lot more than a move. My priorities, my outlook and my very core belief system shifted dramatically. I was brought up to believe that you finish school, you get one job, you buy a house and you stay in it for the rest of your life. And it took that damn road trip for me to realize that I am not that person at all. Not even close. I am grateful that I managed to escape that mindset and come to that realization while I was still in my twenties, but it wasn’t without some bumps in the road. Some hardcore bumps. Huge bumps with spikes on them.

But looking back on every terrifying moment, I’ve realized that every major thing we needed to fall into place did… and just in the nick of time. As I reflect, I see that every time we truly needed something to happen, it did. Even the bad things that happened could’ve been so much worse. Despite all the crap, I’ve realized just how blessed Mr. W and I really are. And that makes any terrifying moment I have now a little easier to deal with. I’ve learned to let go of expectations and just go with it, whatever “it” may be.

More than anything else, I’ve learned I have some real, true, amazing friends that I can count on in good times and bad. That’s hard to come by in life and I’m so grateful. And if this New Year’s Eve and the few days that have followed are any indication of the year to come, I’m in for an amazing 12 months. There’s been music, dancing, kisses, beach walks, mojitos, sushi, holding babies and catching up with old and new friends. And love. So much love.

This is a milestone year, and not just for the ancient Mayans. I’m about to turn 30 and that’s just the beginning. It’s almost as if the last year and its ups and downs were preparing me for this one. And I’m starting to realize that that’s the way life works. Each experience we endure, good and bad, tends to prepare us for what’s to come. And good or bad, I can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store for me and everyone I love.

I started 2011 feeling so lost. And as I start 2012, I’m so relieved because I don’t feel lost anymore. And that doesn’t mean I’ve figured it all out—quite the opposite, actually. I haven’t figured out a damned thing but I’ve realized that’s okay. I don’t know what I’ll want in the future, but I know what I want now. It’s taken me my entire life to start doing what I always tell others to do: live the questions.

Live the questions in 2012. Don’t worry when things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes they’ll go better. Sometimes they won’t go well at all. And if you let yourself just live them, you really will end up stronger no matter what.


 
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