Life has rules. They just may not be the ones you think.
I want to help you pull back the veil and see the rules that truly govern your life and the lives of those around you. No fairy tales. No psychobabble. No spin. An understanding of the real rules of life is meant to empower you to be more honest with yourself and authentic in the way you are living. Understanding how life really is, coming to terms with and overcoming adversity, living in the light of life’s true blessings, and embracing the enormity – this is the path now before you.
Real rule 1: Life is not fair; it’s more than fair
For most of my life, I lived under the assumption that life was essentially fair. The majority of us operate under this same principle, whether we know it or not. If we work hard to attain our dreams, we assume we’ll be able to achieve them. If we have children, we assume they will grow up into upstanding adults. If we put our hearts and souls into our work, we assume we’re going to get ahead. If we buy a house, we assume we’re going to pay off our mortgage in 30 years. Then, something happens. A husband betrays us. We’re fired from our dream job. Our wife walks out the door and doesn’t come back. A child gets strung out on drugs. A dear friend becomes ill. At some point, we all come face to face with the stark and naked truth: life isn’t fair at all.
Up until my daughter Jenna’s death in a bus crash in India, in 1996, I was living under the false assumption that my daughters would always be protected; that nothing bad could happen to them. I felt magically entitled to a long and happy life for Jenna and Stefie. And for myself. It was as if by doing all the right things – having a nice home, living in an affluent community, striving to be a good parent – I had struck a deal with life. And life, being essentially fair, would honor that deal.
But, as I learned that night in 1996, life isn’t fair. It’s never been fair, and it never will be.
Things happen. Or do they?
We’ve all heard the sayings, ‘Things happen.’ And ‘Things happen for a reason.’ After Jenna died, I heard them a lot. In their attempt to make sense of her death, people attributed it to everything from bad luck to God’s will. Someone even told me, ‘Everything works out for the
best. God must have needed her in heaven.’ Then there were the folks who attributed her death to karma. ‘It’s all a part of the master plan,’ they explained. ‘Jenna was meant to die. It was her destiny.’
The truth of my daughter’s sudden, violent death, like many things, is unknowable, and it would have resonated with me if someone had just said so. It’s our choice to believe what we wish and render our best guesses about why bad things happen, but every explanation of why this happened was completely unhelpful and unsatisfying to me.
We don’t get to know with any certainty whether life is random. There are some wonderful arguments for a higher intelligence. A plan. An order. A direction this is all going in. And there are some equally wonderful arguments to the contrary. What I’m saying is: it’s beyond our capacity to know for sure what precise factors determine how things unfold in our lives. And why we die when we do. Or if there is even anything to be made sense of in matters like these.
However, that awareness should never stop us from feeling our way in the dark, from contemplating and/or investigating the ‘whys’ of life. It’s only natural that we want to know – to intuitively, spiritually, and even scientifically understand more and more about the secrets of the universe. Surely, a deeper, richer understanding of life and death could be helpful to any one of us in the long run, even if it shakes up our world at first.
Of course, there are certain questions that all the scientific research in the world is unlikely to explain. For example: what happens to us when we die?
Part of the mystery of death was revealed to me, as it often is, during the time I spent with my daughter’s ‘remains.’ Getting Jenna’s body home from India was an arduous, difficult process, in the end only made possible by the help of President and Mrs. Clinton and their staff. Her body arrived from India the day before her funeral, and I went to be with her one last time before the burial.
Nothing I have ever experienced comes close to the unspeakable pain of holding my daughter’s lifeless body in my arms. I needed to kiss and talk to her, to brush her hair from her eyes. I found myself searching for signs of life. But Jenna was no longer in her body. I had the distinct feeling that her spirit had moved on, and as I held her in my arms, I knew it.
When your child dies, all the theories you once had about life – the ‘Things happen’ vs. ‘There’s a higher power’ debate – go from being an elective credit to the curriculum. You need to know where your child is!
It’s not very different than the questions you used to ask as a concerned parent – ‘Where are the kids tonight? What time are they going to be home?’ When your child dies, you don’t stop asking, ‘Where is my child?’ Or scanning the universe for ‘signs’ of their whereabouts.
Sometimes, on birthdays or holidays, I go to the cemetery where Jenna is buried. And I can hear her telling me, ‘Dad, what are you doing here? That grave with my name and picture on it? That’s not me. You want to be with me? Then be with me. But I’m not here.’
It’s easy to get lost in theories about life and death. And humbled in our search for truth. We’ve all wondered: Is life a string of random events? Or is there a just and loving God overseeing all of this? Are we human beings having a spiritual experience, or spiritual beings having a human experience?
I don’t have the answer to these questions. All I can say is, I don’t know with any real certainty what death is. I can only bet my faith. Anyone who says they know for certain may be missing out on one of life’s most fundamental and divine elements – its sense of mystery. Death can be an ugly and horrifying mystery, but the end of life can also be beautifully mystical and profound.
Getting Real – ‘The Duality of Life’s Mystery’
The unbearable pain of loss and heartbreak can often make us ask, ‘Why?’ Yet we can also ask ‘Why?’ for the blessings and gifts in our lives. The truth is that it’s all mystery. We have no way of knowing why sometimes our hearts are torn asunder, and other times, they’re ﬁlled to overﬂowing.
Life is a package deal. Only when I open myself to life’s cruel and brutal unfairness and its miraculous fairness can I begin to make peace with life as it really is.
From The Real Rules of Life, © 2013 by Ken Druck, published by Hay House.