Fair’s Fare


If things were *really* fair, I'd get both cups.  Oh avarice, how I offend thee!
If things were *really* fair, I’d get both cups. Oh avarice and sugar gods, how I offend thee!


I’d see those guys every day.  I’d be waiting for the bus at the station, beat from my 12-hr work day, I’d pray that the bus would lumber up in the snow soon and swoop me into a nice heated seat.  When the bus finally pulled in, I would then watch the guys sneaking in off the street, using the salt-stained vehicle as a cover, running into the station as if they were part of the other fare-paying customer corral coming off the bus.

Heathens!  Malcontents! Artichokes! Phylloxera! Iconoclasts! (Clearly I’ve read too much TinTin in my life…thank you Captain Haddock).  What angered me was that it was just so unfair. Why should I have to pay while those cats get to just stroll in, unencumbered by the weight of paying for their ride? Why do I feel like such a shmuck standing there just allowing them to break the law freely?  Did it even matter?

Here’s a tweet of mine from the other day:

Tweet Paul

So it isn’t fair, is it Pauly?  Well, of course it isn’t.  Guess what – life isn’t fair.  Huh?  I know – that’s something that everyone knows.  Or is supposed to know.  You see, at the age of 43, I am just getting this. Just.  Now. About thirty five years too late.  This is something that was probably taught to me in grade school, but was probably in the boy’s loo when that part of the lesson was handed out (ironically, I was probably hiding from the bullies who were treating me unfairly, don’t you know?)

The idea that there were people out there who are going to get fame, fortune and all of that, treat people poorly and somehow still find a way to have others adore them and die not knowing the pain they brought onto others was something that brought me a lot of grief.  On the flip side, some beautiful, generous and kind people would live horrible, poverty- and violence-laden lives, to die alone, perhaps savagely, with nothing on their feet or in their bellies.  To think that this would continue to happen long after I leave this mortal Slinky-like coil drove me bonkers.

I'm doing this before I die...for realies. Can't stop this runaway train, kids.
I’m doing this before I die…for realies. Can’t stop this runaway train, kids.

So what does this have to do with anything? I mean, we all understand that life is not about justice or who deserves what.  I mention all of this because I have been thinking a lot about gratitude, and the power that lies within it.  I have been thinking about how I have been my entire life, and about my recent life. I have been thinking about how I think too much and how I have been coming across as of late.  I have been allowing things to sink in…something that doesn’t happen often enough for my liking.  Sometimes my mind resembles a colander, clogged with yesterday’s mashed potato remnants. Ewwwww.

Gratitude.  We speak of it often in meetings.  It’s bandied about in recovery and spirituality circles.  It’s tagged in plaques and posters and inspirational / motivational declarations.  Get grateful you ingrate!  Or die!  (Okay, maybe bad examples, but you know what I mean).  Gratitude is a broad topic, and can branch out into many areas.  But what I want to  share is that the idea of life being “unfair” or “fair” is matched evenly by how I view gratitude and the perspective it gives me.

When I think about how things are unfair to me (and as an alcoholic, it’s almost always about me, of course), I lose sight of the big picture.  I lose sight of where I stand in the grand scheme of things.  When I get into the sickly head space of “why why why me?”, I am blocking the light of things that are already serving me.  Because in the end, life is unfair.  And I don’t say that with a sneer or a metric tonne of irony (unlike the Starbucks baristas making your latte this morning), but in a very matter-of-factly way.  In a way that actually brings me to a place of acceptance.

Don't forget the snarky attitude and foam-drawing finesse
Don’t forget the snarky attitude and foam-drawing finesse

When I feel that things are unfair to me, what I am really saying is that I am more deserving than others for some things.  I am putting myself and my needs about others.  I am putting my well-being (my slanted view of) above others.  It says that I know best in regards to what people should and should not get.  It harbours jealousy and envy and all sorts of malicious ways of thinking.  When I look at someone and point and cry out “Unfair!” I am really speaking out of wounded pride and ego.

So what does “fair” look like then?  What is fair?

There is no real thing as “fair”.  There are similar words such as “just”, “equitable”, “unbiased”, “neutral”, or “non0partisan”.  They shed their own light in more specific ways, but in terms of what people “deserve”, that’s a cheesecake of a different flavour.  What’s fair to me isn’t fair to you.  So I can only focus on myself – the only thing I can change in my realm of being.  (Note: I am not talking social justice or anything like that, where societal conscious can be influenced by healthy resistance and other ways of protest and declarations of change.  I am not talking about corporations raking in millions while children starve to death in unbearable conditions.  This is about things at a more personal level.)

So what about that woman who steals your ideas as her own and gets a raise or promotion because of that?  What about the sleazy, slovenly flat mate of yours who gets the girl you’ve had an eye on for a while? Unfair, isn’t it?  Yeah, it is.  But who’s to say that these things weren’t meant to be? Perhaps it isn’t luck or fairness at play here, but perhaps this is what those people need so that they can grow in some way.  We often grow most when we are in tough situations or uncomfortable ones.  Those folks, while it may seem that they have “won” the day with their ill-found booty (no pun intended), who’s to say that they aren’t struggling in a way we don’t see?

You're on your own on this one, Etienne.
I was going to have a caption about a “growth spurt” with this picture, but…you know…gross.

I used to rail against people who coasted through life, who prospered off others, who took advantage of others.  I work hard for what I have, so how fair is that??  That’s how I used to think.  I don’t fly off the handle much more now when I encounter them.  Why?  It’s because I see that they, like everyone else on this planet, are fuelled by fears.  They may not even know they are afraid, but they are.  Perhaps that is the only way they know how to be.  Perhaps they aren’t being malicious after all, but just unaware.  So who am I to judge?  I have done a TON of clueless, malicious and non-malicious damage.  I have coasted through life myself at times – drunk and self-pitying.  Spiritually, I was on the side of the road, cap in hand.

Have I been completely honest my life?  Not at all.  Have I taken what is not mine at some points?  Absolutely.  Have I been a cheat, a liar, a thief.  Yes, yes and yes.  Have I walked away from situations where I should have been horse-whipped and shown to all as an example.  Sure.  So who am I to tell others what is best for them?  Who am I to say what is “fair” and what isn’t?  I’ve had my share of hoodwinking others.  Emotionally scamming. So being the arbitrator of other people’s lives is worthy of a hearty laugh! (or guffaw, if you prefer.)

So perspective is what keeps the over-reactive ego at bay.  Understanding that it’s really none of my business what happens to others allows me to walk away with a certain detachment that keeps me in a more peaceful place.  Sure I still might find myself annoyed, but it’s a far cry from the unhealthy and debilitating resentments that used to keep me frozen in my mind.  Perspective frees me from the bondage of self and allows me to see things from a different point-of-view.

Yeah well, too late for that advice.  I guess that explains the double secret probation.
Yeah well, too late for that advice. But it does explain the double secret probation.

Those people who sneak into the subway?  I am sure they aren’t happy to be doing it.  I am sure they are full of fear – fear of getting caught, fear of being judged by others (like me), etc.  I am sure that if they need to cheat the transit system, they probably need the money more than the company does.  I know a guy that works for me who has to sneak onto the train sometimes because he can’t afford the $6 each day.  I don’t judge him, and I don’t lecture him.  It’s his deal, not mine.  He knows it’s wrong, and he feels bad, but that is where he is right now in his life.  Who can honestly say that they would never resort to that?  Anyone?  Bueller? Bueller?

When I tweeted about the cruelty of life with my little twist of my ankle there, I was clearly over-reacting.  My wife, who was behind me when I hurt myself, said “Wow, something out there reallllyyyyy doesn’t want you running.”.  And that is what brought me to a dark place – why me, God?  I finally find something I love and brings me peace and joy and a healthy body and it’s taken away!! Why?  (Picture me on my knees, in the rain, at night, screaming this out for full dramatic effect. Yeah, pretty silly.)  It’s an injury.  Runners get them all the time.  Someone told me recently that they had to cancel six marathons because of injuries.

Oh, okay.  So….um, I guess it’s not that bad then.  And oh, I went to physio yesterday and she said that things are healing and I should be able to get back to long runs in July.  Oh okay, so…um, I guess it’s not that bad then.  I had to learn, in short time, to detach myself from the idea that I would be running a marathon in October.  That it’s not the end of the world.  Let my ego know that it’s wrong in how it sees things.  Perspective.

This guy doesn't want me running either.  Go ahead, YOU tell him otherwise.  I double dare you.
This guy doesn’t want me running either. Go ahead, YOU tell him otherwise. I double dutch Doogie Howser dare you.

I thought of my sober blogging friend Kristina at Sober and Awkward who recently started serving a six-month jail sentence for a drinking and driving charge. Here I am bemoaning a sore leg and she’s having to wait a week to get enough money to buy shampoo at the commissary. Perspective.  I could have easily been in her situation, as you know.  So perhaps God has a different idea of what “fair” is for me and her and those in our lives.  And things could have been worse for Kristina (and me) – someone or some people could have died.  Today we’re alive and sober and no one got hurt.  Sounds pretty “fair” to me, in the end, doesn’t it?

When I feel that I am getting the short end of the stick, it’s usually because my perspective is warped or I am not seeing the opportunity for growth and love and acceptance.  Acceptance is the key.  Acceptance and perspective give me the tools to see things in a different light, to lighten the emotional load, to come at things in a new way.  I may not “like” it, but I learn to let things go and eventually I experience things with greater clarity which helps me later down the line.

Fairness is a concept, not often a reality.  My mind can barely deal with the minutiae of my day let alone lofty ideals such as what is best for me or others.  So I stick to doing the next right thing in front of me.  Not worry about others and what side they are in the cosmic ledger.  It’s just easier that way for an alcoholic like me who likes to complicate things.

Seems fair to me.

Oh Mr. Horse, just tell us how you really feel.
Oh Mr. Horse, just tell us how you really feel.


Please check out Kristina’s pages here and here to get more information on how to get updates on her and how to send her letters and even cash to help her out during this tough time.  There is an email address that you can get updates from her boyfriend, D, who will pass on specifics about how to send funds and how to send letters of support. I am sure she would appreciate her sober friends spreading a little sunshine into her world!  (She has handled this whole thing with grace and dignity, and I am humbled by her own perspective on things.)


25 Comments Add yours

  1. Tracy says:

    I’ve been in your shoes Paul….still am at times!!!! The school of hard knocks seems to be my place in life lately. Is it fair?????? No!!!!!! But is it what I need or what I learn from and hopeful be a better person because of? Yes…most of the time:-) Especially when I get off the pity potty…and realize it is what it is. It’s life. Thanks for the great read today. As always struck a cord with me!!!!

    1. Thanks for this, Tracy! I imagine that this won’t be my first round with this topic in my life. For all the serenity I throw at it, and others, sometimes it will sneak up on me and bite me on the behind. Sometimes adapting the vague “it is what it is” catch phrase does serve me best 🙂

      Great comments – thank you 🙂


  2. Paul says:

    Solid message, well presented Paul. I’ve always thought that grace is one of the critical charateristics necessary for peace.

    1. Thank you Paul – means a lot to hear that from you, kind sir. I like what you said about grace being a critical characteristic for peace…groovy stuff.


  3. What a thoughtful piece, Paul. I encounter people everyday in my work who tells me life isn’t fair. I ask them what exactly do they think is fair, and this seems to stump them. Fair, like Beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and you are right, it definitely has self-arrogance associated with it. I just believe that things could be a lot worse (so eloquently put by your statements on perspective) and that what goes around, comes around. 🙂 Great post!

    1. Thank you, Doctor 🙂

      I like that little stumping question you have there – we are good at making wild accusations about the fairness of things, but when it comes down to the brass tacks of it all, we suddenly become vague or unsure of ourselves. Talk about taking the wind out of our sails. I would like to think that we get a sort of come-uppance, but do I *really* think that, or is that some kind of way of putting things in balance? not sure. But certainly there are times I wish I could serve up someone’s “just desserts” 🙂

      Thanks for the wonderful comments 🙂


  4. One day at a time says:

    A beautiful piece and food for thought.

    1. Thanks – and thanks for being here…means a lot to me 🙂

  5. lucy2610 says:

    So true Paul xx

    1. I hope so! Ha ha…thanks Lucy for stopping by! Always great seeing you here!


  6. byebyebeer says:

    Hey, I’m sorry to hear you wrenched your ankle. And I’m glad you shared the links to Kristina’s blog, which was new to me. Just finished reading a newspaper section about a drunk driving trial with a full page liquor store ad on the back. Powerful stories, warnings, everywhere.

  7. Were you thinking of me when you wrote this? Ha! This was just what I needed to read today, as I was having some seriously “that’s not fair” moments with all the whining and insufferable-ness that goes with it. Thanks for the post and the perspective.

    1. Hope you’re well, Rebecca

  8. You are singing my tune again, Paul. Injustice has always been one of those “things” for me… of course, injustice as I’ve determined. This piece is an eye opener, and one I’ll be reading again when I’m feeling all churned up inside.

    Thanks for the reference manual 🙂

  9. Paul, first I wanted to say I am sorry to hear about your friend, Kristina. When I read those words, my heart dropped for her. But what isn’t fair for one person is completely different from the next. And who are we to judge or make conclusions about what is fair and what is not? I mean, we can complain until our rants justify our anger and frustration but at the end of the day, this way of thinking won’t change anything.
    A couple of things I loved you wrote here… “What’s fair to me isn’t fair to you. So I can only focus on myself – the only thing I can change in my realm of being.” It took me a very long time to see eye to eye with this way of thinking. I am still struggling with it; especially working for multi-millionaires. No matter how hurtful their actions and lack of manners may be sometimes, or how ungrateful and wasteful I think they are can be, this thought process won’t change my situation. If anything, it will only continue to be a handicap for my growth and success because it is simply wasted energy. And more importantly, MY OWN wasted energy. I’d rather use my time to think about how I will be a better person and put some positive energy back out into the universe because some day, my endeavors will be rewarded. These rewards might not be money. But that is OK with me. Presently, when I see a child’s face light up with excitement and enthusiasm for an author visit given by me, this reminds me about how beautiful life really is.. even if it seems unfair at times.
    Even after all of the wasted years I spent loathing in my own egotistical ways and self-pity, I believe the Creator has given me a second chance to do something more meaningful with my life. I try to remind myself that living through his heart and passion will help laminate my own search and numb the unfair thoughts I try to force back down my throat.
    I also loved what you wrote here.. “So perspective is what keeps the over-reactive ego at bay. Understanding that it’s really none of my business what happens to others allows me to walk away with a certain detachment that keeps me in a more peaceful place.”
    As always, Paul, this was beautifully written. We can all learn something from your thoughts=)

    1. Thanks for the kind words and insightful comments, Gina. I think I need to re-read some of this stuff I write, as I tend to forget it quite quickly.

  10. Dear Poet Paul,
    I saw your post when it first published and I saved it. I don’t know why I saved it until today, but I did. And it worked. Not in a “shame-on-you-repent-and-be-grateful” way, but in a “thank you for reminding me to look for blessings on a day that’s been less than great” kind of way.
    I purposefully practice gratitude and actually don’t get hung up much on fairness. BUT, I’m not perfect and today was such a day racked with internal whining, silly tears and dread.
    Thanks to you, I’m sitting at my beautiful mahogany desk, looking out the windows to the flowers I grew from seed, watching the hummingbirds feed at my doorstep and listening to Royals baseball on the radio. The words, “Suck it up Buttercup” keep coming to mind.
    Thank for you this. Just, thank you.

    1. Thanks for the kind words and comment, Michelle. You are too kind, if that is possible. I will probably have to look at my unedited yammering soon to remind myself of these things…I am a forgetter.

      1. A forgetter? Wait, what? What were we talking about again?!?
        Lol! Yes, I’m a bit punchy this morning.
        Thanks for your nice note and for replying over at Kristen’s site. I only speak what’s in my heart and so much of what people write speaks to me. My hubby has actually called me out on it saying that “I’m too nice” or “why are you so over the top?” Like always, I smile and listen and then do what I want 😉
        That said, I hope you know that my kindness is genuine and reserved for people like you who bring me joy. Have a great day Paul!!

  11. mike says:

    Life is about choices.

    I’d like to go into a written diatribe concerning alcoholic addict victimology, but I’ll try to practice restraint of t&p. Do you have a link to a support page for the -true- victim that Kristen smashed into?

  12. stacilys says:

    “You see, at the age of 43, I am just getting this. Just. Now. About thirty five years too late.”
    –Hear you loud an clear here, my friend. What is it about the 40s. You seem to all-of-a-sudden understand such simple things that have been there all along. I guess we silly little humans have to go through tough experiences enough times to finally get it through our thick skulls.
    ” I have been thinking a lot about gratitude, and the power that lies within it.”
    –It’s very powerful. I was listening to a message at church on Sunday. The guy spoke about how he was suffering with chronic depression. Then one day his daughter said to him that maybe it had something to do with his lack of gratitude. She told him that since he got his doctorate he acted as if the world owed him something.
    I also have a friend that said that when she’s tempted to grumble and complain about her tiny little problems in life, she just reads the paper. Then she’s truly thankful.
    “And as an alcoholic, it’s almost always about me, of course”
    –Oh Paul, I think the “it’s almost always about me” syndrome is a human problem. Alcoholics, non-alcolholics, men, women, easterners, westerners, you name it. We’re all selfish individuals. Even the least selfish are still selfish.

    It’s funny because I’ve been thinking lately about how we humans are like these tiny little beings, stuck to this planet earth by gravity and floating around in the universe. We like to think we’re the most important things in the world. The one thing I love though, is that even though we may seem (in the grand scheme of things) to be so tiny and insignificant, we are so very precious and have true meaning and value in the sight of God.

    As always Paul, I love your posts. Good on you, my Canadian bud.

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