My Karma Ran Over My Dogma 2020 Version
by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program.
- Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
- Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
- Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
- GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019)
I originally wrote this more than 10 years ago. I have posted it on the blog more than 5 times, the last time in 2017. The current boot camp had a Christmas Day call and the subject of KARMA came up. Not an unusual subject (as you can tell by how many times it’s been posted), but one that takes up much more energy than it should. Here’s 2020’s version:
Many of you would like the ex to “get theirs” or at least not seem so irritatingly happy or non-plussed. First, this is a normal and natural emotion but don’t dwell there. Second, they will get theirs only you don’t know when and you don’t know how and they might not even know it when it happens. Yet, when something bad befalls us, we are quick to judge ourselves as being punished for some small transgression that we just engaged in.
Here’s a newsflash for you: karma doesn’t work any way you’d like it to or think it does. It simply doesn’t. I hate to be the one to break it to you but….
“And in the end
the love you take
is equal to
the love you make.”
When we’ve been hurt by someone who couldn’t really care less that they’ve hurt us, even though they once professed to love us, part of our emotional spectrum is hoping that they get theirs. We blister with rage when they seem to just go on and do whatever while we sit in breakup hell writhing in pain. It seems so unfair and we want something, anything, bad to happen to them. We don’t wish terrible things on them, but we’d love for Life to wipe that smile off their face. We’d like SOMETHING to occur that would tell us they are not just moving on without a hiccup…that it’s not so easy for them.
You don’t want to hear that it might not ever happen. You don’t want to hear that life isn’t fair and it’s not supposed to be fair. But we want someone to pay for our pain and we want to believe that good people get good stuff and bad people get bad stuff. And when it doesn’t work out that way, we hate it and we feel, instinctively, that it’s wrong. And we have trouble handling it. We want to shout, “BUT I WAS GOOD!!!” and even if we were not as good as we think we were, we know damn well we were better than people getting better stuff than us, looking happier than us, having an easier time than us.
An incredibly intuitive and wonderful man, Rabbi Kushner, wrote a book called When Bad Things Happen To Good People and it has been a best seller for 20 years because it attempts to reconcile people’s beliefs in a higher being with the seeming randomness of life. When his own child was stricken with a fatal illness, the good Rabbi worked to sort it all out. His book has been a comfort to many over these many years.
When C.S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed, he was a fairly famous Christian theologian and his wife had died. His grief tested his belief. He called God a lot of names in the book which is essentially his grief process and his reconciliation of his beliefs and his pain. It is a wonderful and difficult book.
Okay so I am neither Rabbi Kushner nor am I CS Lewis. I’m not a theologian or spiritual leader so I’m not going to talk about how to reconcile your spiritual beliefs with your pain because I really don’t know how you do that. But these books have been written because when people get hurt, either intentionally by someone they love, or in the normal course, they instinctively try to figure it all out…
What each of these books do talk about is how to come to terms with the feeling that life is just $hitty sometimes and very much unfair a lot of other times. And books can help you with the randomness of that…and how life just happens and how it’s not fair.
Because it’s not.
But that’s not what we’re talking about with karma. Karma is different. Karma is a pointed “you did a bad thing, bananahead, and now you are going to get yours” gun at their head. And yes it does go bang eventually. But (caveat) not the way you WANT it to and not in YOUR time).
So the question remains: Seriously, do they get theirs in the end?
You know, I think they do. But it’s just not wrapped in the package we’d like it in. Now what about us? We’re the GOOD people! Do we get ours? Are any of these misfortunes (pick one – breakup, pandemic, economic collapse) the result of something WE did?
As for the pandemic, yes, humanity has definitely had its greedy climate changing hand in it, and chances are we are NOT going to learn from it…but, breakups happen and if the ex was an incredibly bad actor, you would hope that he or she doesn’t get to just tra-la-la off , but many times that is EXACTLY what they do.
But how much day-to-day misfortune is karma taking care of US???? Does that thought make you uncomfortable? If so, why? If someone else can have karma take them out, why would karma just leave you the hell alone? Oh, that’s right, because you’ve been GOOD. Never made a mistake? Never needed a comeuppance? Ever? Really?
I AM going to talk about the idea of karma, revenge and getting what they deserve. And how I see it after all these years.
I wanted revenge on my first husband for the longest time. And someone told me what goes around comes around. That was not good enough for me. I wanted him to hurt as I was hurting and I wanted his world to be turned upside down. Not tomorrow, not next week or next year or in 5 years, but NOW…on the days I was hurting, the days I was bleeding.
In other words, I wanted him ZAPPED from somewhere up above where this big finger comes out of the sky, like in a Monty Python skit, and just smote him (whatever that is). That is what I wanted. I wanted the very thing that Rabbi Kushner and CS Lewis say isn’t going to happen.
To me, him getting his was karma. Going around, coming around. He blew up my world and I wanted his blown up. One good blow up deserves another.
And I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited.
And not much happened. .
Then they got married.
And for years they seemed to have the normal, regular life.
But these are two people who started things badly and who completely disregarded absolutely everyone else’s feelings and what was good for my children. For years I asked him to spend time with just his kids. They asked me to ask him and I did, and he ignored my requests even when I said they came from the boys. .
When we were married his family was always around. Sometimes I got upset that there was always this person and that person and another person. When I complained he told me, “Blood is thicker than water.” His loyalty to his family was paramount, according to him. After he married her suddenly water was thicker. And the boys who heard him say, over and over again, that blood was thicker than water, were perplexed. Weren’t they blood? What happened?
So when you go out into life with that attitude or adopting whatever attitude suits you at the time and act out of selfishness things happen and to them they happened.
And then I stopped caring except for the fact that my kids hurt. I would never forgive that and if people had issues with the fact that I hated someone who hurt my children and his wife who was more than complicit in it, well too bad.
The rest of this post used to be something else, but he passed away recently so I’ve changed most that I said. Not because I am rewriting history or wont’ talk ill of the dead (believe me, I will) but out of respect for his family even though I know they don’t read here. We still have a relationship and they are my kids’ family.
They were still together when he passed and, to my knowledge, she did the caregiver thing as I did with Michael. To my knowledge he never cheated on her with anyone but me in the early days, and to my knowledge he never hit her.
To my knowledge he never did a lot of things that absolutely destroyed our marriage and almost destroyed me. He told me that he was young when we were together (yes, all through our teens and 20s) and that he was so torn up about the divorce and so mortified by the restraining order that he LEARNED. As for the cheating, she kept her thumb on his neck 24/7. She knew he was a cheater and she watched him like a hawk. Was that his comeuppance? I think so. He felt as if he HAD to make a second marriage work. He didn’t have the courage to walk away So being a scared little boy stuck in a relationship with a controlling, doesn’t-trust-you-for-a-second second wife was probably his karma…but did he KNOW that? I doubt it.
When he got sick some in his family (including his wife) tried to pull the boys back in and they didn’t want to. But the ex never ever ever said he was sorry. He said he would make things better with them when he got well. And some in his family (the delusional part of his family) are now saying that is what would have happened. Magical thinking. He was promising the boys things would “get better” since they were in junior high. It never got better.
I didn’t really care when I heard he got sick except to not want to see his family (my children’s grandparents) get hurt. But that is the only reason why I care what happens to him. I don’t ever want to see a mother worry about the health of one of her children as my children’s grandmother worried.
His parents hurt when he died. My kids hurt when he died. For my kids, although they were estranged at the time, there was a glint of a possibility that one day he might come around and apologize, or they would get to the place where they could sit down with him and talk about it. My middle son just wanted to know why and he will never know. He had, in the back of his mind, some idea that some day he would ask and it would be answered. Now that opportunity is gone. And I hurt that my kids hurt once again.
But I didn’t see the illness as anything more than people in their 50s get sick. I stopped wishing bad things on him long ago and when I would have cared about it, it didn’t happen. And I lost Michael who was wonderful and neither one of us ever screwed anyone, so bad things do happen to good people and sometimes nothing happens to people who deserve it. That is life. Michael, who was a good and wonderful man who loved everyone that he loved with all his heart, my first husband who was a cheater, a liar and an abuser to me, and the guy I call “Homicidal” on the podcast because he tried, on 3 different occasions, to kill me….all got sick and died in their mid 50s. Was it karma? How could it be? They each lived their life so differently from the other two. One was goodness personified, one was evil personified, and one was somewhere in the middle. Karma? That would be weird.
Meanwhile, back to the beginning of my divorce…the ex tra-la-la’d off…being happy in love and telling everyone how much I sucked…I was in pain…the gift of desperation kicked in and I went everywhere and anywhere to change my life…and I changed it…and things turned out fabulous…better than they could ever be…:)
I healed. I became whole.
Through all my work and all the lonely years, I fixed what was wrong with ME.
I found my soul. I found my voice.
Before he got sick I don’t know what he was doing. Puttering in the yard; tending to his fish tank. I have no idea what it’s like to become sick and owe amends to someone and not make them. I don’t know why he couldn’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Scratch it out on a napkin. Something. But he couldn’t. It would have made a difference to my kids. But all he said was, “I’m going to…” and I knew he wasn’t.
As I said, him getting sick had nothing to do with karma because if it did Michael would not have gotten sick and died. When people say that people get sick and die due to their behavior, I don’t know how they explain all the other people in the world who are well-behaved and die anyway. Who die without a big fat reward for being so good for so long.
I found that letting go of “he’ll get his” was a key to my peace of mind.
I NEEDED TO LET GO OF CARING ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT ANYTHING WAS EVER GOING TO HAPPEN TO HIM FOR ME.
Not for him, but for me. For my own peace of mind I had learned, long ago, that it was ESSENTIAL to my recovery that I stop thinking about him and her and their life and move along with MINE.
It sucks to feel as if someone who hurt us did so and suffered no consequences or escaped relatively unscathed while we suffered and hurt and took a huge hit to our security, our self-esteem, our ability to trust, our capacity for love. It truly sucks, but often there is no comeuppance, there is no “them getting theirs.” And the more we dwell on “WHY NOT?” or “It’s NOT FAIR!” or any other desire for something horrible to go on (nothing major, just some kind of tweak that wrecks their good time), the less we work on ourselves, tend to ourselves and recover from heartache.
Our recovery from heartbreak is undone when we spend time focusing on the ex and questioning WHY anything at all. Our focus needs to be on US.
We need to NOT spend time wondering when they will get theirs. A comment that once spurred a previous post on karma said, “He always lands on his feet.” And that’s a tough thing to come to grips with. It’s a tough thing to accept.
But acceptance is the key to a happy future and healthy healing. You have to accept that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen to them, it’s got to be about YOU and your life and love and happiness. You can’t focus on them and what is or isn’t happening to them.
Each time you get upset, angry or any other emotions because they have “landed on their feet,” you have wasted valuable time in healing yourself and being able to move forward. Conversely any time you spend wondering if bad things are happening to you because you did something “bad” (usually our bad is nothing more than some human mistake we make, not some intentional hurt hurled at someone else) is time wasted. Karma just doesn’t work that way. We don’t know how it works or if it works. We all want it to because we all want the “you’ve been good, so you get presents” and “you’ve been bad, so you get coal in your stocking” to be true. But that’s not either. Life is not “If you’ve been good, you get presents…” no matter how many Christmas songs want to tell you that it is.
Use your affirmations when you start to feel angry that they are not in pain. Use your affirmations to focus on YOU. Say, “I focus on my own healthy healing.” or “Just for today, I focus on healing my pain and moving forward.” The just for today helps you to stay in the day and out of their heads and lives. Try developing affirmations for whenever the unfairness really gets to you. “Life may be unfair but I am fair to me.” or “I focus on me and no one else.” or “Keeping the focus on me keeps me calm and promotes my healing.”
These are just examples, you can come up with your own but please develop some so that when you feel all wound up over their lack of unfairness, you have some soothing thoughts to bring the focus back to you.
In my case, Karma didn’t happen the way I wanted it to happen and certainly didn’t happen WHEN I wanted it to happen (when I still gave a crap if it happened).
The BEST thing about it not happening the way I wanted is that had it happened, my attention would have been focused over THERE but instead of being treated to his life becoming a shit storm and gleefully enjoying it, I had to put my focus on where it needed to be: on my life.
The simplest explanation of karma is that if you are a positive and loving person, you have positive and loving things come into your life and if you are negative, negative things come into your life.
And I think it’s true.
If you put good and positive energy into your life you get good and positive stuff back.
And if you’re a cheating, lying bastard you get whatever codependent is willing to put up with you. You get a controlling second wife who doesn’t trust you but can’t toss you back because you two idiots made such a big deal about getting together. You have face to save. So there you go.
Seriously, it does go around but it probably goes around much slower and in a different form than you would like. In the meantime, work on YOU, work on building your happily ever after NO MATTER WHAT happens to the EX.
And whatever you THINK is going on in someone else’s life is probably not…
And the best revenge is doing well. But to do well you have to have the focus on YOU and nowhere else. Stop worrying about what is or is not happening to someone else and start worrying about how much harm you are doing to yourself by concentrating on someone else’s lack of consequences.
And, oh by the way, the shit that happens to you isn’t karma, it’s just shit that happens. It’s life. Sorry to disappoint you. Life is life and sometimes shit happens and sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people and nothing is even and never will be but if you stop worrying about it, you might have more energy to spend on YOU. Imagine that.
Put the focus on YOU and not only will you heal and be happy, but you will stop caring about what does or does not happen to your ex.
So leave karma to the universe and concentrate on your own life. It will all work out. Seriously it will.
Trust the process. Trust the karma. Do good and be good to you.