The Phoenix Zine

Being Fortune’s Fool


Call it fortune, call it fate, call it God; there are still a lot of things we don’t understand about the way the world works and why some people appear to be blessed while others appear to be cursed.  Is it karma?  Do we reap what we sow or is there some divine being calling the shots?  I wish I knew for certain.

What I do know is I hate feeling like I’m being tossed about by unknown forces.  I crave order, stability, reason, logic, predictability and purpose.  Such words and concepts are to me what heroin is to a drug addict.

It’s difficult not to feel like fortune’s fool with a genetic illness.  The randomness of recessive genes being passed down generation after generation, meeting or not meeting other recessives that have made the same long journey is astounding to me.  A pairing of recessive genes can result in something as banal as hair colour to something as serious as cystic fibrosis.

There are times when, as Shakespeare writes in sonnet 29, “I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate.”  During those times when it feels like everything is spinning out of control, I seek to take charge and find out what is in store for me next.

My best friend Ipek is the closest I’ve come to going to a fortune teller.  She is Turkish and is skilled in reading coffee cups.  This past weekend when I was feeling anxious about the potential outcomes of the week ahead, I went to her house for some girl talk and relaxation.  And she read my coffee cup.

The reason I like when Ipek reads my coffee cup is not because she’s accurate.  It’s because of the way she weaves interesting tales about the pictures she sees and what they could mean.  She’s not a professional; she does it for fun and not in a serious or depressing way.  I love just sitting and listening to her, letting my thoughts run wild when she tells of seeing roads or a woman staring out a window.  “I see you thinking four times in this cup,” she told me this time.  “What is all this thinking about Amy?”

She said my heart is full of worry but reassured me that it will soon pass.  And whether she will turn out to be right or not, I feel better because suddenly I can imagine my life without so much anxiety and stress.  My hopes and dreams are awakened in the possibilities she presents and I feel like life is a little less out of control. 

In a similar fashion, I love Chinese fortune cookies and the caps off of Jones soda bottles.  Soon after my heart transplant I received a fortune from a cookie that read, “You have a thrilling time ahead of you.”  I put it up on my bulletin board because I liked the possibility of it.  Reading it makes me wonder what’s going to happen to me next.  Travel?  Romance?  Opportunity?  Anything I can envision and more.  Fortune cookies and bottle caps are hopeful, and I’ve never encountered one that told me I was headed toward a PICC line, a transplant or a hospital stay.

The week I’m facing is packed with the crazy mix that is my life.  On Sunday and Monday, I will be visiting my grandparents and then co-teaching the first class of Assisting Families Dealing With Chronic Illness at Conestoga college.  From Tuesday to Friday I will be having bloodwork, getting a PICC line installed and seeing various members of my medical care team.  And on Saturday I will be attending my second American Sign Language (ASL) class.  I don’t understand how all of these things can take place in the space of a week, such a mixture of highs and lows, but they do.

Which means even when it seems like my fortune is all bad, it isn’t.  I had the good fortune to be born at the right time in history to receive my transplants.  I may be dealing with ongoing illness issues, but this week I’m realising my dream of teaching and I get more opportunities to hang out with my friends and family.  These are the things I try to remind myself of when I’m feeling like fortune’s fool, as well as the endless possibilities of the future. 

Whether it is luck, or randomness or part of a divine plan, the answer to me is not as important as how I live my life in response to everything that has happened.  While sometimes I am overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, hope always manages to make itself known once again.  And that is what I cling to.

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