What We Deserve

We live so much of our lives talking and thinking about what we deserve, what the people we love deserve, what our enemies deserve.  No matter one’s religious or cultural background, there seems to be a consensus — maybe I’m wrong — that good people deserve good things and that bad people deserve some comeuppance.  We can never decide who’s bad or who’s good.  The wise amongst us will often agree that we are all a little bit bad and a little bit good and that as long as we intend to DO GOOD, to actively love and share kindnesses, to share our resources and wealth whatever those may be, we will one day receive love, kindness, resources, wealth (and not necessarily the material kind) in due time.

I have lived my life believing this, but I am struggling with it now.  DOING good brings with it a certain kind of joy, yes, but it does not often bring great blessings.  Kindness and love have the potential to be mutual, but they are not sure investments.  We can feel good about ourselves for meeting our personal standards of what it means to be a worthwhile human being and we can perhaps rest well at night knowing that we have not done great harm.  Perhaps in giving love and kindness we do create webs of affection that are only visible to us when we are our greatest need…whatever the measure of “greatest need” is. 

My mother was one of the kindest, most selfless, most reliable, warm, and loving women I can imagine.  People flocked to her and told her their secrets.  She touched many lives — perhaps more than she ever knew — and she collected one “best friend” after another.  That is, she was the “best friend” of so many people.  Yet she was also the most disappointed, lonely, and aggrieved woman I ever knew.  She deserved great devotion and love.  She deserved ease and blessings.  But circumstances never really went in her favor.  I wonder what she would say was the best thing that ever happened to her?  The first, I would guess, would be that she had a daughter.  The last, I think, would be that she died peacefully. 

What happened?  Why didn’t she get what she deserved?  Or did she?

I’m beginning to believe that DOING good is only part of the equation.  Perhaps SEEING good or ENVISIONING good is just as — if not more — important.  The happiest people I know, the ones who seem especially blessed, are ones who are grateful for the smallest pleasures, who cultivate a positive attitude even under dark circumstances.  They don’t just keep going; they keep going and believe the best is yet to come.  What’s more, they expect the best for themselves, rather than allowing others to lay down the terms of their happiness. 

I don’t believe happiness is necessarily joy.  Truly, I wonder if it isn’t just an ability feel love — not from anyone in particular, but from and for everything, whatever it or she or he is.

My mother deserved happiness.  She deserved all good things.  She deserved more than she got.  I feel I will always mourn this.  Yet I also feel that I cannot settle in the mourning and that I must do right by her by not living like she did.  Will I get what I deserve?  If I deserve to be happy, then it is is up to me to make it so.



On being a man.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

And so I am trying to be a man. Sure, I first came across this poem in an adapted version on Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, but I’ll take it anyway. Call it a magical incantation. Primed to grow chest-hair…right….now.