Friday, January 21, 2011

Need to Know WHY

Why do bad things happen to good people?

We ask this question all the time, whether for ourselves or for others. But, really, why do bad things happen at all? And why are we so obsessed with why?

Its either imbedded deep into our genetics or a product of our society--we need to know why.

One of the first questions a toddler learns to ask is, "why?" Son, do this. Why, mommy? We teach our children to ask. We want them to desire explanation.

Why is what drives not only everything we do, but also our emotional reactions to everything that happens to us. Imagine how quickly your frustration at encountering that traffic jam on your way home from work would turn into horror if, as you passed the accident that caused it, you caught a glimpse of a mangled corpse lying beside a totaled car. Or how easily the irritation you’d feel at being told you have to work an extra shift at work each week for the next two months might turn into a willingness to contribute when you learn the reason is that one of your colleagues was just diagnosed with cancer and needs to spend that time getting chemotherapy.

We’re simply far more likely to accept a change if we understand the reason for it. Interestingly, our acceptance seems to hinge less on how much we like the reason and more on how much sense the reason makes to us. Even if the change fails to benefit us—even if it causes us harm in some way—if our sense of fairness is satisfied, we’re far more likely to accept and even embrace it.

But what about when there is no answer?

If you have survived a tragic, horrible event, chances are, you didn't deserve it. No one does. Bad things happen to all people. I think its more comforting to not ask why.

After my last surgery, I got stuck in a funk (as previously mentioned). Most of the anxiety and hurt was born from the daunting question: Why? Why me? Why my family? What did I do to deserve this again?

Now, please let me clarify that I do not, nor have I ever, classified my disease as a tragic, horrible affliction on my life. There are far worse tragedies that I have yet to meet.

But I have come to discover that, like most things in life, there is no answer. We could sit here for hours and try to hash this thing out, but its unnecessary. The healing process, whether physical or emotional, is simply not conducive to why. Why moves you in the wrong direction; its in opposition to progression. If we can move beyond the why and focus on the how, we have become productive.

Forget why this happened to me, to my family. How am I going to make this work? How am I going to continue living an involved, full life?

It is hard, though, to move beyond the why. Especially because its been embedded into our psyche to wonder and because everyone surrounding us in support is wondering why, too.

Can we just be okay with never knowing? Its a scary thought. Part of us wants to believe that in knowing why, we can fix or prevent. I just can't believe that those unaswerable circumstances aren't that way for a reason. This is not to say that "everything happens for a reason," but that maybe we aren't supposed to know. Maybe knowing is worse than not knowing. Maybe knowing opens a world of doors that are harder to pass than the door we are at now.

Last Saturday I participated in my first ever group run for the 1/2 marathon I'm running with Emily's Power for a Cure. First, let me say, it was awesome! I love to run and talk. There were about 8 of us and I just got to bounce around and have conversation with different people. 6 miles went really fast. With that much conversation, and with that many opinions, I've been lost in thought all week. Someone just had to ask, "Why?"

"Do they know why....?"

No, they don't. And they may never. And maybe, after there is time to settle in to this life-altering shift, they will be more at peace in not knowing.

Is there really an answer that would satisfy anyone? Not me. I don't want to know. I don't want to even begin to think of all the reasons that something so bad could happen to people who are so thoroughly good. I have been there. I've seen, at close range, what a loss like that can do to wreck a family, good people, when they get caught up in the many layers of why. And I've also seen what moving beyond why can do to strengthen these people.

My 2 year old cousin and 24 year old cousin died in their sleep. Why? Does it matter? What does matter goes far beyond why. The emotional and physical strain it took from my aunts and uncles to stay in the here-and-now for their children. The confusion of a child who lost the one person they were promised to grow old with.

One of my very best friends lost someone close to him. He was her care-taker, her friend, her cousin, and the one person that understood her best. And there's no reason for it. It happened too quickly, with no answers.

No one, good or bad, deserves it. Bad things happen to all people. If you go through life and nothing bad ever happens to you, well, you're one lucky SOB.

But here's the moral to this lesson: Just do right. It may not be expedient. It may not be profitable. But it will satisfy your soul. You make your own choices.

And by profitable, I mean to say that the shit could still hit the fan no matter how right or good you are. You keep treking along the path of right regardless of why the bad happened.