It’s five days into the start of a new year and a new decade as I’m writing this. For those of us who remember the transition from 1999 to 2000, the semi-panic over Y2K and all that could unravel, 2020 was but a glimmer in our eyes that seemed like a lifetime away, yet held infinite promise. We had 20/20 vision, but didn’t seem to notice the dangers at the shadowy edge of the periphery.
Now 2020 is here and as is our way as evolving homo sapiens, we have managed to royally mess things up not just for our species, but for every other species and for our planet as a whole. (Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom ahead).
Through the destruction of habitats that caused the extinction of unique and seemingly indestructible creatures, to our varied roles in climate change, to the annihilation of our own species who hasn’t yet learned to peacefully co-exist over many thousands of years (despite incredible advances in technology our relatives even one generation ago couldn’t even have fathomed), we find ourselves in this new year.
What is real, what is true, what we see, how we feel, how we think, and how we live is constantly shifting and rearranging to fit our version of reality. It’s a rather delicate house of cards that our minds create one card and experience at a time.
Most of the time, we view the logo side of the card as we build our house, matching all of the others in the deck and creating comfort through familiarity. This is reality as we know and accept it.
But then we get dealt a new card, something as innocuous as a 2 or 3 of Hearts, where we meet a new friend, establish a soft and loving connection, and feel at peace with our little constructed world.
Sometimes we even have a heart-pounding, butterflies-fluttering, extremities-tingling encounter as we are dealt a Queen, King, or Ace of Hearts and not only is all right in the world, but our vision and senses are heightened as we experience living in vivid technicolor, humming with the energy of love and fascination.
What if the next card we pull is a Joker? Maybe the blow dealt by the Joker is so unexpected and so utterly life-altering that we see and experience everything falling in slow motion, the delicate cards fluttering as softly as snowflakes as they come to rest in a heap on the floor. Maybe we collapse with them, falling to our knees from the heaviness of grief and feeling as though we are trapped under a weighted blanket.
When we are able to start to rise, we pull back the blanket just a little bit at a time, feeling the weight shift down our bodies. We try to carefully re-build the foundation of our fragile and ever-changing house of cards, but every time the Joker is pulled, our construction of reality comes crashing back down to the ground and we have to begin again.
Perhaps we can use the sharpness of the Spades and the Diamonds to strengthen our foundation and each level as we re-build. They are facets of our resiliency and resolve, pointing the way to the next right step.
The rounded edges of the Clubs and the Hearts are our emotional support systems, those vital relationships that help us stay grounded and provide a gentle buffering of those unpredictable bumps and bruises life tosses our way.
Now, what can we put into practice using this imagery? “Reality” is not something that is fixed. It is a mental construction in each of our minds, and is not something that someone else can point to to tell us how things are. Reality is not a fact or even a fabrication, its a construction and a projection of our own lived experiences.
So if someone tells you that you’re not living in the real world, that just means you’re not abiding by the rules and architecture they have established in their house of cards. And just as you can draw an unexpected card and impose a disastrous meaning upon it, someone else can draw the same card and have the opposite reaction.
For instance, many people are diagnosed with cancer every day and it’s a death sentence in their minds. Other people state it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them because they finally feel free to live their lives in the ways they’ve always wanted to.
For some people, a new president is exhilarating and the leader they’ve always dreamed of for the country; for other people, the same president is the worst possible thing that could ever happen not just to their country, but to the entire world.
For some people, reality means there will always be war, violence, brutality, and humans wanting to destroy each other. For other people who have seen and studied the core of these beliefs, behaviors, and construction of societies, reality is that healing and peace are not only possible, but the only way to ensure that this species of ours does not cause the planet to implode.
We can choose to lash out with frustration and anger, and we can choose to seek help to understand our reactions and extend forgiveness. We can choose to support violent media, or we can choose to support media that uplifts and heals. We can choose to lock our doors and shut out those we see as others, or we can choose to close the gap of separation and try to understand why we view someone as so different from ourselves.
As I look out at the mountains that surround where I live, I remember that they were formed over 10 million years ago, long before modern-day humans were able to encroach upon their forests, rivers, and animals. I remember to look upon this natural, perfect, and ever-evolving world with wonder and humility.
And so I continue to build my house of cards with gentleness and care, knowing that drawing a Joker is inevitable from time to time. From this knowing, I do not have to assign meaning to it as the utter collapse and destruction of my world and of my being.
It is just a card in this game of life, and I always have the choice to see the other side, draw again, and start rebuilding.