It's Not Fair

“Can cats open doors?” Ocean wanted to know this morning, as she watched a neighborhood stray preening on our deck.

“No,” I told her. “They can’t.”

“Why not?”

“For a lot of reasons – they’re not tall or strong enough, they don’t have hands, and they’re not very smart.”

“Oooh!” she said in dismay. “It’s not fair.”

She’s been saying this a lot. I’m not sure where she picked it up.

So I asked, “Where did you get this concept of fairness?”

“At the store.”

“Oh, really? You got it at the store?”

“Yeah. I got it at Target.”

I know, I know — we’re back to Target. Eventually someone is going to accuse me of being on the payroll at this place. But, I swear, for some reason it has invaded my daughter’s consciousness. And mine, for that matter. Congratulations to the Target marketing team!

Our early conversation got me to thinking about the concept of fairness. And it reminded me about the dismay I recently felt watching “60 Minutes.” A while ago, I abandoned watching television news – the news jingles, the flashing logos, the arguing, the idiot pundits. I can’t bare it. There was a palpable moment where I realized I needed to get my news another way. I was on the treadmill, pregnant and watching CNN, filled with such rage at whatever happened to be on the screen at the time, that I thought, “This can’t be healthy.” I started reading my news and I’ve been much calmer, possibly a bit less informed because reading takes more time than watching.

But occasionally I get roped into one of the news magazine shows by the catchy promos, or just the fact that it’s on the DVR because my husband set it to record. On this particular episode, there was a segment about an American town crumbling as a corporate giant closed its doors, peace in the Middle East seems less attainable than ever as the “Two-State Solution” falls apart, and a new drug called Resveratol looks like it might slow the onset of the illnesses common to old age, extending life.

When it was over, I felt awash in worry. I was overcome by an anxiety that big business is crushing the world; when profits fall, hard working people pay the price. I was afraid that people are so inured in hatred and estranged from compassion that they can’t find space for each other in the world they share. And I couldn’t help but wonder: Who will be able to afford this life-extending drug, when and if it’s approved? Will wealthy people be able to buy it, stay younger, healthier, live longer? Will others, who can’t afford to feed their families because the company that employed their whole town left, be denied access to a drug like Resveratol because they can’t afford it? Or will we live longer, some only to hold grudges longer, to fight longer, to hate each other longer?

I suppose you’ll think I worry too much. And perhaps you’re right. Perhaps I’ve always worried too much. In fact, I suppose this explains why I write, to metabolize the chaos I perceive in the world, to understand the terrible unfairness of it all, to order it in my way, if only in the pages of a book. And it explains why I shouldn’t watch television news broadcasts.

In order to allay the anxiety I feel after watching television – or when just the day-to-day stress of life starts to bring me down – I try to return to a place of gratitude, to actively focus my thoughts on the blessings in my life. I start with the basics, such as, “I am grateful that I can draw breath into my lungs.” Then I work my way up to the specifics of my life. And then I try to remember that the only thing I control is the way I live, how I treat others, and how hard I work at being a good mother, a good wife, a good writer, and a good person. It generally works. Though I suppose it would be faster to have a glass of wine (hint: that’s where they’re getting the resveratol from – red wine). So make it two.

I wish “fairness” was something we could purchase at Target. I wish, for Ocean’s sake only, that cats could open doors. But when she gets a little older I’ll tell her what I truly believe — that life is, if not fair, then balanced. For every tragedy, there is a miracle. For every ugly deed, there is an act of kindness. For every person who acts out of pain and fear, there is one who acts out of love and compassion. And if that’s not fair, I don’t know what is.


  1. Lisa Kessler on February 17, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I have just finished reading “Beautiful Lies”. The book was so good I read it in two days; which was not easy. I stayed up late and got up early just to read it. As soon as I put my son on the bus I was back to reading. What a wonderful book, and I’m sure I will be looking for more of your titles on my next visit to the book store.