The Leftovers

You’ve heard of the cycle of birth and death, of karma, of the endless return. Some call it reincarnation. Others, the transmigration of the soul. I call it the endless wash cycle. We’re all in this infinitely-sized, frontload washing machine that alternates between rinse and spin, either hosing off the remains of the last life or spinning in the next one. We come back to do the laundry because we’ve left something behind, or at least we think we have.

According to this ancient idea of return, everyone born comes back because they believe they’ll find something here. We’re trying to complete our unfinished business, to fulfill the terms of a bargain made long ago. Maybe we don’t believe we’ve fully performed our end of a contract. Some call that karma. Or maybe we think we weren’t given what we were promised last time around. Whatever the reason, the idea is that we’re all here because we have unfinished business. We think we owe something, or that we’re owed. So, the next time you walk down the street, look around you. Everyone you see is here because they’re looking for something. Then, go home and, all alone, look in the mirror. Why have you come? What’s your unfinished business?

We’re in the world searching, searching for something the world can’t give because the unfinished business is in ourselves, and the world is an outside place. Everything you see isn’t so much your unfinished business as it is a reflection of it. Every set of eyes you look into mirror back your unmetabolized want. And you reflect their unfinished business back to them, too.

They’ll keep showing up. The same kind of jerk, the same shitstorms will keep repeating. You may feel like you’re a victim of it all until you realize that others may be locking you out, but you hold the key. It may feel like they’re the ones keeping you outside the door, but that’s only half the story. The other half’s in your own hands. You can’t do it without them. And they can’t free themselves without you. We deeply choose everyone with whom we tangle, just as much as those with whom we tango.

Everything that happens is part of this dance, too.  Your problems may seem to be locking the doors against your happiness, while you knock and bang outside in the cold, begging to be let in, some cruel locksmith changing the lock every time you come back with a different key. What’s happening may seem the exact opposite of what you think you’re looking for. But you chose it, as much as it chose you.

If you’re afraid, you get what you fear. If you’re angry, you secretly attract the very thing, the type of person who makes you angry. If you lack something, by focusing on the deficit, you reproduce more of it. The world’s just a mirror, and it reflects back the object of your focus.  It seems strange to say that you look for the opposite of what you really want, but when you acknowledge that the opposite of what you want is what you have, then that’s what you have. What you resist persists. It concedes energy to the force resisted. So, when they’re holding you down, the only solution is to let go.

Letting go isn’t laying on the mat and taking anything life hands out. It’s just to accept a situation, to let an overbearing asshole be just as they are. And that means without trying to change them or it. Even when I need to change something, I have to first accept it as it is.

A hole you may want to avoid, a hole in the street that I’ve fallen into. Don’t resign yourself to the people and things you don’t like. Accept them instead. Resignation is just holding your breath. Resignation may look like acceptance on the outside, but it’s just the bad penny, imitating the gold coin. Acceptance lets things happen. It doesn’t try to make things happen. You’ll know the difference by how you feel once you’ve finally let go. Acceptance leads to a sense of relief, to peace. Resignation is a form of bargaining which just leads to more frustration. When I try to accept something just so I can move past it and get what I really want, I still have an agenda. I haven’t accepted anything.

When I let go, and completely accept whatever is, whatever’s left is what’s there for me to work on. It’s the remains of grace. It’s the leftovers. It’s what remains after I surrender. It’s what I came here to learn.

I need to lay down my agenda, and not worry about or anticipate what I may get out of my acceptance, about what might happen next. The thing I think I want may come, or it may not. The door I’ve been knocking on may open now, or it may open later. If it never opens at all, it may be because I’m waiting before the wrong door. I may be at the wrong house, on the wrong block, maybe even on the wrong street.

If I would’ve made a list of everything I wanted when I was 23, I would’ve sold myself short. Way short. Youth is wasted on the young because they lack perspective (sorry if you’re under 30 and reading this). Most of what I wanted back then involved short-term gain. I can’t guarantee you that acceptance will get you the thing you think you want. But I can promise you that if you truly accept your current life, you’ll be happy because you’ll get what you’re entitled to instead of what you think you should have. What we think we should get is almost always less than what life intends for us. Because to surrender is to recognize that I don’t operate on complete information, and that I don’t always have my own best interests at heart. The universe is ultimately much more benign and generous than we could ever expect or imagine, no matter how cruel or indifferent it may seem sometimes. I’ll only let go when I trust that its outworking is better for me than what I think is best for me.

When I surrender to the people, places and things that are in front of me right now, accepting them as they are without wanting to change them, I’m in the moment that is, not in the moment I think should’ve been or the one that I hope is coming right around the corner. The past is often about what I wanted but didn’t get. That’s my unfinished business. The future is usually about fear, fear of not getting what I think I want and didn’t get in the past. In this moment, there’s always joy waiting for me. My job is to see it, to pierce the obscurity the world tries to hide that joy under. That’s what’s behind the door. And the door of this moment is always open.

© 2022 by Michael C. Just

You can purchase the book through this website. Or go straight to amazon at

Mike’s other titles, including The Crippy, The Mind Altar, and Canyon Calls, are available through this website or through Amazon at

Four of his short stories have recently been published online:

Lies, Ltd. has been published by The Mystery Tribune @ Lies, Ltd.: Literary Short Fiction by Michael C. Just (

The Obligate Carnivore has been published by the Scarlet Leaf Review @ Category: MICHAEL JUST – SCARLET LEAF REVIEW

I See You, Too has been published by the 96th of October @ I See You, Too – 96th of October

Offload, a short story about a man who can heal any disease, is now live and can be read at The Worlds Within at Offload – The Worlds Within