There are things I have today that I did not have a week ago: a car, car insurance, a motorcycle license, dental insurance, and no apartment in my name. When I was driving to Connecticut to see the car it occurred to me that I could just keep driving, to Rhode Island and Vermont and up into Maine and Canada. I didn’t, as I am currently engaged in a monthlong freelance project, but the thought that I would be able to soon enough made me feel, well, a bit conflicted. This week is propelling me into the future and I haven’t had much time to linger on the events of the week before, and along with the excitement of new possibility comes the sadness of a dream slipping away in the morning, a feeling like that of watching footsteps disappear in the snow.
My trouble with the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is that it gets the order wrong. Things don’t happen for reasons; reasons are the stories we graft on ex post facto to keep from being overwhelmed by the senselessness of life. A more accurate bumper sticker would read: Everything happens.
It used to surprise me, when hearing friends talk about problems with their bosses at work, and about fights or breakups with people they were dating, how grounded and sensible these friends seemed and how neither grounded nor sensible the other parties seemed. I’ve come to realize these friend-happenings have already been churned for meaning, with all the elision and distortion this implies, and that this outcome of the process is wholly unique to the individual. The story you’re telling yourself about why you and your ex broke up isn’t necessarily the story they are telling themself, even if the split is congenial. Everyone comes away with their own butter.
This attempt at meaning-making is constant, a part of our condition as human beings. But the nature of human relationships of any kind requires individual meanings to rub against each other. That sounds kind of dirty but what I’m getting at is this: conflict occurs when one person tries to impose the meaning that they have found for themselves onto the other person, rather than accepting that the other will find it – and likely a wholly different it – on their own. And maybe our most successful relationships, or the most successful moments in our relationships, are merely the ones when the two people come away from a shared experience with a similar-enough understanding of just what the hell happened.