There are few things that mother-daughter talks, Catholic school theology classes, and my Co-Star horoscope app have in common. Each source of guidance has its own nuance, yet all of them advocate with equal fervor that things happen for a reason. I think I’ve heard this adage recited more than any other throughout my life, and lately, it feels like it’s been queued on repeat, the only thing I’m able to listen to.
I’ve wrestled with this saying for a while. It’s a nice sentiment, a soft promise that any hitch in my plans is actually a small stitch in the embroidered fabric of my life, something I’ll point to later — maybe even laugh about — as I analyze my past. But it’s also thoroughly insufficient in the moment, leaving me with an uncomfortable dissonance settled in my chest. Whenever I hear that things happen for a reason (or any other comparable counsel), my inner child wants to whine, “But what am I supposed to do about it now?”
I should clarify. I really do believe that whatever is meant to be will be. I buy into the idea that there’s something larger happening beneath the surface of our lives. My inner romantic believes that if we were privy to it, we’d lose the magic and mystery of growing up and improving from our mishaps and losses. But I’m also an impatient perfectionist, wishing that everything in my life would be lined up without flaws.
Of course, this is utterly impossible, so I’ve been trying to be comfortable with the discomfort, living in the gap between the thing and the larger, mystical “reason” why it happened.
Earlier this week, I was running on the indoor track, listening to a podcast to kill the time before calling my mom to catch up. It was one of those days I don’t have too often anymore since the semester’s workload has kicked in: I had a ridiculous amount of energy. It wasn’t being released by running around and around in circles; something about the whole thing felt strangely metaphorical.
I felt stuck. I needed to move, and I never really feel that way. In a split-second decision, I turned my soft jog into a hard sprint, acutely aware of my legs stretching out farther than they had in a while and my body moving through space at a quicker speed, a pace I ardently welcomed. I hadn’t experienced that kind of adrenaline rush from running since I quit track. Strangely content, I generated wind to hit my face and a pounding sensation in my chest to remind me of my capabilities. When my mom called me, I slowed down into a walk, feeling the gap in my chest close just a bit.
I’ve discovered that coffee has the same effect. I enjoy the feeling of warmth traveling down into my chest and spreading throughout my body. I take sips mindfully, feeling the flavors and heat settle in my mouth for just a second before swallowing, replacing tension with warmth. Holding the cup close to my chest comforts me. My hands have something to do.
Singing in the car works, too. There’s a distinct sensation that comes with driving off campus, some amalgam of escape, freedom, and power. I could be going to Kroger and I’d still feel at peace blasting whatever my favorite song is at the moment, singing loudly (quite horribly, too) but giving myself a little release.
We’re all stumbling through our incongruous gaps right now, wading through unclear waters as we try to decipher why things — be they good, bad, or somewhere in between — are happening as they are. It’s easy to focus on the big things, living from noteworthy event to event. But tiny stitches are at work right now in our in-between spaces. Appreciating the small things, like coffee, music, movement, and laughs with friends, illuminates the tiny breadcrumb trail we’ll follow until we’re far enough removed to learn the reasons behind our things. I don’t have any of the answers, so I still read Co-Star every morning with diligence and absorb parental advice.
I’ll be hokey and add my own take on “things happen for a reason”: time will reveal what we’re supposed to know, so we might as well get comfortable with where we are.