Savoring Chaos

Life is a series of disastrous moments, painful moments, unexpected moments, and things that will break your heart. And in between those moments, that’s when you savor, savor, savor — Sandra Bullock

Twice in the last three years I have lost my left contact lens.

I was rubbing my eyes, something you shouldn’t do with contacts, and the little gas-permeable disk shot right out and dissolved seemingly in the air. The first time, I was in my office. I removed the furniture and the dog and scoured the carpet for an an hour. I ran my fingers along my chair and desk legs and every surface I could think of.

I shook myself and my clothes out in the shower.


The second time, we were in the parking lot of a community college, about to see a friend’s play. I sat in the driver’s seat while my partner searched around me. We took flashlights (it was evening) and hoped to catch the shine of the material on the carpet or the seat or on the console.

Again, gone, blip, vanished.

It doesn’t make any sense that I couldn’t find those two contacts. They were in controlled environments I know well, where I’ve lost and found other contacts before. But sometimes life doesn’t make sense in any way: people die unexpectedly, people fall in and out of love, you are in the best shape of your life and are diagnosed with cancer.

A lot of analysis (at least on my part) goes into dissecting why these events happened, that is, what I could do better, or how I can avoid such situations completely in the future. For my contacts, I’ve avoided rubbing my eyes as much as possible, and I’ve also ordered spare contacts so that if it does happen again, I am not up the creek for two weeks with only one contact.

Still, there are times in life in which living is completely out of our control. Our airplanes have state-of-the-art navigation systems, but they can’t predict when a bird (ironically, with its own internal state-of-the-art navigation system) will cross its path, get sucked into the engine.

On the surface, we accept these outliers as the cost of doing business, as living. If you are like I am, however, your emotions employ the stingiest scientific method ever. We may “accept” that bad things happen to us, that a string of bad things have happened to us, that we were treated poorly by someone about whom we care a great deal, that our bodies have betrayed us, despite our painstaking care. But they still don’t make sense; they defy logic, gravity, basic math.

It’s strange how our emotional self, with ruler and scale in hand, is always subconsciously measuring rooms, like in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, that are bigger than houses.

Some people believe in God. Or they believe in the law of attraction, or karma. I have always believed in the facts, that 2 + 2 always equals 4. Which is why it has been so incredibly hard to let go, to move on, when it doesn’t equal 4 (how is that possible?), particularly after a bad year.

Such and such should not have happened, I think.

But it did.

So and so should not have acted that way. But they did.

How can I reconcile the results with my actions, to be the best person I can to myself, the universe, and others? The truth to which I’ve aligned myself all these years feels false.

The Greeks, forward thinkers they were on everything, had their own God for this false truth. They called him or her, Chaos, the origin of everything, a state of lifelesness, darkness, upheaval.

From Chaos came Gaea, who created the physical world as we know it: the sky, the earth, and everything contained within: mountains, earth, seas, and rivers.

It’s an interesting concept, that a terrible void is at the heart of everything. But maybe it’s true, and you are your own Gaea, capable of creating the earth under your reality, the sky over your head. Maybe the real truth is that at the basic level of chaos you are not owed love, happiness, to have everything go your way. Maybe you will die when you are twenty of leukemia. Maybe your entire family will die in a car accident.

Did you deserve it? Does it make sense? Can you accept it?

Look at it this way: Not accepting what has happened will not change what has happened, and even if you plan ahead and buy a spare set of contacts, your house might burn down because your neighbor left a candle burning and everything you once owned is gone, contacts included. You must accept that it is all (mostly) out of your control, and it might not ever make sense. That you have emerged from Chaos, and she reserves the right to pull you back into the abyss at any time.

You will always be playing with house money, and you will never be allowed to walk away from the table, even when you are ahead. But you always have an Ace: your emotional autonomy. You can be happy now, love yourself now, work as if things are going your way, regardless of what’s unfolding in the cards in front of you.

Only when you play knowing you cannot win or lose, that things will sometimes be clear, sometimes be blurry, can you really savor the game.

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