Yesterday my son tried to open a banana, a skill he still to this day has not mastered, by ripping at the top with his hands all willy-nilly like. When the banana split in half he got frustrated and said, “My bad juju” and laughed. I opened the banana for him and reminded him that “bad juju” is not a real thing. He smiled and said, “I know, Mommy. It’s just a way for people to not take responsibility for their actions.” Then we talked about all the ways he could have opened the banana, or asked for help, or watched a YouTube video on how to open bananas (his suggestion) and so on. So, my 10-year-old can’t open a banana by himself, but he has mastered a way of thinking that many adults are still grasping for. I’m calling this a win.
“Bad juju” is what people in our family say when things go wrong in life. Say for instance your driver’s license is expired because you “haven’t had the time to get it renewed” (read: you haven’t made it a priority), so you take a chance and drive around for a few weeks with it expired. Then you speed, and you get caught, and you get an extra ticket for having an expired license. You bitch and complain to everyone who will listen that you didn’t have time, all the work you do, your meany-mean boss won’t let you leave early, all the time you spend volunteering and helping everyone else (sidebar: playing the victim is also really popular in my family), you just couldn’t make it to the DMV. Poor you! So you chalk it up to “Bad Juju”.
Le sigh. Believe me, I have been tempted to blame “Bad Goodnight Juju” once or twice. I’m sure we all have. Whether you call it “Bad Karma” or a streak of “Bad luck” or “Down in the Dumps”. We’ve all thought it, or said it, or tried, just once, to blame our poor decisions on something else. I’ve done it a million times. Tried to rationalize with myself. It wasn’t my fault. The universe is out to get me. It was payback for that time I (insert sinful thing here). All these things run through our minds. And it is okay. And normal for that to happen. But if you spend a few minutes digging deeper, if you realize you too (gasp!) can be at fault for something, then you will discover what is really happening.
There was a period in our lives when it felt like everything was going wrong. Jerimiah had just lost his job. The company just up and folded one day, still owing him a month or two salary. Then Jackson got very sick. Like had to be life-flighted to the children’s hospital sick. That’s when we found out he had asthma. Then the house we were living in had mold, so we had to move quickly. You get my drift here. With each “thing” that happened we got deeper and deeper into the pit of despair. Finally we looked at each other one night and said, “What the actual hell?! Is this bad juju?” The answer: No. We were making sketchy decisions and paying the price. Jerimiah had taken a job with people he knew weren’t the most honest, respectable people in the biz, and he got burned. We had moved hastily to a new house because I was mad at the owner of our previous house. We refused to see how sick our child was for two days leading up to his transport to the hospital, because we were on vacation and taking him to the doctor in a different state was inconvenient at the time.
From that moment forward we decided to change the way we thought. The risks we took. The way we looked at challenges. We decided to take responsibly for our actions and decisions. We decided to take the natural consequences (Love and Logic right there!) and move forward with the new lessons that those consequences taught us. And from that day forward our lives have been infinitely better. Now, I’m not saying we haven’t had trying times in the last seven years or so, but they feel like little bumps in the road, not major, detrimental, life-changing catastrophes like before. And maybe to some they would be, but when you learn to take responsibility for your actions and decisions. When you decide to be honest and open with others. When you learn which risks are safe risks, and which are not, a million wonderful things infiltrate your life like you wouldn’t believe. And it’s sort of amazing.
This has all been on my mind lately as we gear up for our trip to Louisiana. I have spent way too much time trying to decide what to leave on Marie Laveau’s grave this time, because well, you remember what happened when I didn’t. If not, get up to speed here: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/03/08/bourbon-and-canal-the-finale/ And no, I don’t whole-heartedly believe in this dark magic. And no, I don’t think the members of our family who blame “juju” for their mistakes do either. I think they just refuse to admit when they have messed up. Refuse to openly confess fault. And I used to let them do it. I used to be okay with it. But when my child thinks maybe, just maybe, his family has a curse on them of some kind that he might fall victim to, or he learns you can try to abate judgement by blaming “bad juju” then uhh, no we done with that nonsense.
Now, can we get to the root of the real problem here: What do I leave as a sacrifice on the grave of the best damn Voodoo Queen of New Orleans?