Whenever I’m waiting to hear about something big I typically hear the same phrase over and over: “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” It closes almost every conversation, as if that’s the solution, and people lean back with a sympathetic smile as if it’s some great comfort. If it happens, it was destined. If it doesn’t, it’s still okay because the universe is an ordered place where important things will go according to some universal plan. People mean it to be kind and comforting, and I appreciate their intention. However, I can’t agree.
Last week TheScott and I applied for specific children that matched our parenting profile, and we’re currently waiting to hear if we’ve been selected by the children’s caseworker to be the adoptive parents. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the “meant to be” line in the past six days. Each time it feels unintentionally ironic. If the universe worked in such an ordered fashion, no children would be in the foster system. If a child is “meant” to come into my home this way, does that imply she was “meant” to be abused? Or did the universe originally screw up? Was I supposed to be the mother of that soul, but Whoops! the universe gave her to a drugged out asshole on accident? And now it’s righting the plan in a vast machination involving me not being able to conceive and an overworked and understaffed government agency?
No. We always stop “meant to be” in some place that makes the universe seem ordered. “Meant to be” means the right children will arrive on my doorstep. The ones TheScott and I are meant to have. But that’s where this mythical “meant to be” begins and ends. The history that led up to TheScott and I choosing to foster/adopt and the children being yanked into the foster system was all chance or human error. But that natural state of chaos will no longer exist when it comes to children arriving at my home. That selection and arrival will somehow happen exactly as it should, creating the best situation for everyone.
I don’t believe that.
Right now some woman (most caseworkers are female) is sitting in a cramped office with maybe 100 stacks of applications in front of her, trying to figure out from a few pictures and the answers to a few questions which people would make the best parents for her charges. She comes to the desk with her own prejudices and ideas (like we all have). She will look around at the far-too-many other cases on her plate and think about her own children and how she promised them she’d be home for dinner tonight. And she’ll do the best she can. Just like every other caseworker making the same painful decision right now.
Fate is not in all of their offices guiding all of their hands, and TheScott and I are not so special that fate is making a particular visit to ensure our case, out of the thousands passing over desks right now, goes perfectly. A decision will be made, for better or for worse, and life will go on. If it doesn’t happen, it was as much happenstance as anything else. If it does, it was our caseworker’s hard work combined with a large dose of good luck.*
The idea that there is some grand “meant to be” has always made me angry at the universe for forcing so much of life down our throats. Was this soldier meant to die from an IED and his wife meant to be a widow? Was that woman meant to get raped and impregnated? What plan does that fulfill? None. It just happened. The person maybe could’ve done something that would’ve prevented it (preparation), but maybe not (luck). On the flip side, what about a person that made an Olympic team. Was she meant to while the other competitors weren’t? Or was she born with talent (luck) that she honed over a lifetime of hard work (preparation) and then performed at her maximum when it counted (preparation and luck)? What about next year’s winner of the Grammy’s? Is that already set no matter what musicians and producers do over the next year? No. Life is a combination of preparation and luck. Not a map of events that are meant to be that we’re forced to follow.
For me, this is comforting. Not the randomness of it; that’s slightly terrifying. But the idea that there is no arbitrary plan for my life worked out in advance. What I do matters. The choices I make have an effect–not the only one and not the final one, but some vital contribution to the outcome. And maybe, maybe, if I’m very special one or two things in my life will happen for a reason. But most likely, things will just happen–or not–and it’s up to me to make sense of them afterwards.
There is no meant to be. If we don’t get the children we’re hoping for, it’s not because the universe hates us nor is it because the universe has a better plan for us in mind. It’s not even because the people who do get the children will be better parents. It’s a decision made by a group of people in a different city based on snippets of the life TheScott and I have built, my caseworker’s ability to show us off, and the qualities of the other people in the stack of applicants. My job as an active participant in my own life is to take what comes my way and do the best I can with it.
I mean no disrespect to those who’ve wished me peace with some variation on, “If you get the children it will be wonderful. If not, it wasn’t meant to be.” I know it was meant as comfort and, as I said above, I do appreciate their intention. But Realm, I confess to you that I don’t find it comforting. I wish more people would simply say, “Gee, that sucks waiting to see how the cards fall.” To that, I can laugh and agree wholeheartedly.
What do you think, Realm? Do you believe in fate?
* This isn’t to say I don’t think prayers or magic or hamingja (luck) have any effect. On the contrary, because I believe fate is not fixed and the outcome of most decisions are at least partially random, I very much believe theses things can have an effect. Not that they entirely decide an outcome, but I do believe they weigh in the equation. I have a harder time understanding how somebody who believes there is order in the universe also believes in the power of prayer. If the universe has an agenda, how would one person speaking out change it? I don’t ask this to be snarky; I honestly don’t understand. If anybody can explain this point of view, I’d appreciate it!
+ Fetaured Image: The Fates Gathering the Stars by Elihu Vedder