My fault. I know that letting your dog run free in a city park risks a $140 fine, which is why I take Belle to the licensed off-leash park every weekday. But this was the weekend, and we needed a break from the routine. Plus, there was fresh snow on the ground, and while I hate driving on fresh snow, she loves romping in it. So we headed to a closer park, and once there (and determining that there was no one in the vicinity), I dropped her leash and let her scamper and snuff and roll in the white stuff to her heart’s content. She was having a great time.
I honestly don’t know where the policeman came from. He seemed to materialize out of thin air. He was a nice enough fellow – extremely nice, actually, because he only gave me a warning and not a ticket – but he was firm in letting me know that I was breaking the law.
It broke my heart.
My fault. I was breaking the law. I was willingly breaking the law. It didn’t matter that no one was hurt – that’s not the point, I understand that. I understand why the leash law is in place. I agree with it, actually. No, my heart broke over something else.
My karmic bubble had been burst.
I don’t believe in karma per se, and I certainly don’t believe in karma tit-for-tat; doing “x” amount of altruism won’t guarantee the equivalent “x” amount of good luck. I also don’t believe that being a good person means that nothing bad will ever happen. But neither do I believe in simple circumstance in all things at all times; I staunchly believe that if you do good and are good and surround yourself with good people, then good things will come to you.
Because I have gotten to know the limits of what I can expect from Belle (for example, since she cannot be trusted to keep from darting across a busy street in pursuit of a pesky squirrel, she has been taught that she cannot chase one unless given the “okay!” command), and because I am vigilant in ensuring who or what is in our vicinity when we are on park property, I feel – or felt – that dropping her leash and letting her romp on park grounds was okay. And for three years, it was okay. But not last Saturday.
As a result, I’d been taken down a peg and my confidence was shaken. Not only had I been caught, but I had been shamed (not by the officer, but by my own guilt). In assuming it was okay for me to flaunt the law, I had been arrogant, girded by my self-adorned cloak of “I know best” entitlement. (Had my dog been a pit bull and not a golden retriever, and had my skin been of a darker shade, things may have gone far differently, but that’s a different discussion for a different essay.)
And the karma leeching cascaded. The washing machine suddenly would not draw cold water. What seemed like a sound financial decision made years ago suddenly had me in the grips of a no-win situation. A freelance job that my husband had accepted, and which had been scheduled and budgeted for, was inexplicably given to someone else. It seemed like it only snowed when I was committed to providing a familial taxi service (did I mention that I hate driving on newly fallen snow?).
Karma’s a bitch.
Normally I can ignore the very thin ice on which my life is currently situated. After stitching together the strongest safety net available, I try not to dwell on the “what if’s” and the what-may-happens and instead focus on the here-and-now joys and benefits of living the life that’s actually in front of me. But after last Saturday, I found myself dwelling on potential disaster. My joie de vivre ebbed, my confidence waned. Every day life started to appear in the negative, and the stride through which I transversed my life slowed, shortened, and became fearfully tentative.
I was one sad puppy.
Then one morning I found myself driving through the city on yet another substantial dusting of frigid snow – enough to make the roads slick and footing unreliable. I know enough in these cases to slow down, and to give extra time to brake at intersections, to assume an extra amount of slippage when re-engaging after stopping. I also am aware enough to understand that these apply to everyone, not just me. This is Minnesota winter driving at its most basic.
But on one patch of road, when I had to accelerate to make it up a somewhat steep incline, I found my back wheels slipping and the rear end of my car fishtailing a bit. There was no chance of really losing control but I nevertheless felt a jolt of adrenaline – I hate other forces exerting their sudden influence on my car. Still, there was no true danger, never was and never would be as long as I paid attention and responded appropriately. To keep my heart from pounding (for I am a nervous driver), I whispered to myself, “Even the best of drivers is going to slip on the snow sometime, regardless of how careful they are. It’s just part of everything. As long as you know how to respond when you do slip, then everything is going to be fine.”
Then it hit me. Even the best of us are going to slip sometimes. That’s just the way it is. What’s important is how you respond to it. And in the end, everything is going to be fine.
Suddenly, my world settled back into place. I mean, almost literally – I swear I felt it go “ka-chunk!” My karma – or whatever it is that justifies who we are – wasn’t deserting me. It simply had let me know that I had been driving a bit too fast for current conditions. That I needed to slow down a bit, not take so much for granted – but I should still keep driving.
Things are better now. Sure, we had to come up with a workaround for the washer until we have the extra cash to have it looked at and fixed, but we have the means to utilize an adequate workaround. Sure, I still have a no-win financial situation to work out, but there’s time to line up some options. Yes, my husband has an unexpected opening on his schedule, but he also is heading out today to sign a new contract we didn’t have last week. And there’s plenty of snow in our back yard for Belle to go romping in, especially if I go romping with her.
And besides, the weather is getting warmer, at least for a while – no new snow in sight.
Everything’s going to be just fine.