Why not me? – coping with chaos

It seems that my blog has mostly become a medium for me to write about revelations from troubling events I endured a few years ago. This was not intentional, but little in my life has ever gone according to any semblance of a plan. Therefore, I suppose my best strategy is to just roll with it, so I'm going to take a page from the Nike handbook and Just do it.

There are any number of catastrophes that can plague an individual over the course of his life. Job loss, betrayal, a disabling or terminal diagnosis. Life is full of chaos, and you can be sure that at some point said chaos will swing by to say hi. It's unavoidable. If you haven't encountered a significant challenge yet, count yourself lucky. And then get ready. Buddha himself said it best: “Life is suffering.” You can't run from it, so you might as well embrace it.

And over the last few years, much of my suffering has stemmed from grief due to loss.

People often wrongly assume that the stages of grief are linear and that they lead to a predictable path out of tragedy. Despite the fact that people can fluctuate in and out of each stage, I've yet to hear a convincing claim that the stages themselves are bogus.

If you're unfamiliar, the five stages of grief are as follows:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I'm no grief scholar, but I think it's safe to say that one can exhibit denial in a number of ways. One can say something like: “I'm not here. This isn't happening.”

Or one may say: “Everything would be better if she were still here,” when any sane person knows she can't come back.

And then there's always the fundamental question of “Why me?”

And that's where I found myself a few years ago. When one asks “Why me?”, there's also the implied question “What did I do to deserve this?” or maybe “What could I have done differently?”

These questions aren't inherently bad to ask. Sometimes it can be beneficial to ask these questions if you're willing to have some honest and sincere reflection. For example, if every relationship you have ends in a fiery mess, maybe you're not a good friend or partner. In this situation, there is one constant in each of the failed relationships, and that constant is you.

On the flip side, there are situations over which you had no control. For an example, look no further than one of my early posts. If you want a TL;DR, here you go:

Both of my parents were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011 and died 6 weeks apart. And my stepdad suddenly passed away in 2014.

I know my situation was not the most unique, and there are undoubtedly others who have experienced worse. But I think it's safe to say that my experience was hardly typical. And in my own way, I did find myself asking “Why me?”

I had great difficulty finding the answer before I ultimately realized that I was looking at the situation wrong and was therefore asking the wrong question. When something truly bothers me, I can get a bit obsessive with finding an answer or solution. In the short-term, this is a negative because I can't let things go. But in the long-term, it's a positive because when I find an answer, it's usually a damn good one, so in the long run, I ultimately find a lasting peace.

Some people say everything happens for a reason, and I myself will even mutter those words at times. But when you get down to it, I believe that the world is full of randomness—some of which works in your favor and some that doesn't—and that we attribute our own meaning to experiences and events. I am not saying that our actions do not matter at all; our decisions do have an impact, but we are still at the mercy of the universe and all its disorder and chaos.

And so when I was looking through this lens, I rationalized with myself that if I were to be spared of my pain, then that pain would have to become someone else's burden. I asked myself, Whom would I wish this upon? The answer was pretty obvious and came quickly: No one. Because I couldn't say that anyone deserved the pain. When I was finally able to put the rest of the world on a playing field level with me, I asked myself why I was deserving of an exemption from this randomness. I couldn't think of a good answer.

When I accepted these truths, I was finally able to ask a new question: Why not me? I could not convincingly answer this question either, but this time, that failure actually opened the door to acceptance. It opened the door only a crack, but it was an important step which has gradually allowed me to push the door more and more.

I am just an individual on this earth. In many ways, I have been very fortunate. And I can't say that I'm any more deserving of my good fortunes than I am of my bad fortunes. I can take credit for some of the events that got me where I am, but I also have to accept the influence of randomness in my life. And I have to accept both sides of the double-edged sword. And so when I find myself in a situation that leads me to ask Why me?, I try to immediately follow it up with Why not me?

In some strange way, it helps me to make sense of the world just a little bit better. I'll never figure out every nuance of the universe and its lessons, so when you get down to it, that's about as good as it can get.

Tags: #grief

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