Why Not Me?

Why would a loving God create a world full of pain? I first found myself asking this question in 2014 when my cousin and my little sister’s best friend (who was basically my second little sister) both passed away from cancer within a 24-hour period. Both had been diagnosed less that one year prior, and both seemed at peace with their fate. I struggled, through. It didn’t seem fair.

Three months later, I would develop a serious lung infection that left me bed-bound with a uncontrollable fever, rattling cough, and immense muscle weakness. Over the course of a month, my feverish body dropped into severely underweight territory and several rounds of antibiotics didn’t make a dent. Eventually, I was diagnosed with a fungal lung infection and was told my body should recover on it’s own.

It’s been eight year now. While there have been bright spots and good days, my body has not recovered on it’s own.

The proximity of my illness to untimely deaths led to me continually minimize my experience. A fellow blogger, Wynne, recently wrote about comparative suffering and it resonated because I continually find myself comparing my moderate-to-severe symptoms to the sufferings of those individuals facing the end of their lives. What right do I have to complain?

A friend recently shared with me a short clip from spoken word poet, Andrea Gibson, where she asks, “why to terrible things happen to good people?” As she navigates cancer and treatment, she’s facing the difficult questions. But also an answer. To paraphrase Eckhart Tolle, “Life is difficult. But it stops being so difficult when we expect it’s going to be difficult.” The answer: acceptance.

After several years of denial and battling my body, I final gave in. I accepted that life would be difficult for me, at least for a season. I shifted my focus from considering how I can suffer less to how I can suffer better. I continually consider what lesson the current moment is trying to teach me. I’m constantly flipping the storm clouds inside out in search of the silver lining.

“What would it be like if I could accept life–accept this moment–exactly as it is?”

Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

What would my life look like if I were to accept every moment as if I had chosen it–as if I hand-picked this life and this lesson? I am learning to be grateful for what is good in my life, and letting go of the rest. Acceptance. Non-attachment. Observing what happens and meeting the experience in the way that I choose. Expanding my capacity to see beauty, feel joy, and experience love.

Why did this happen to me? Why has my bio-mechanical shell failed me?

Lately, I’ve instead been asking myself: why not?

The last eight years have shown me that I am capable of anything. I can survive ridicule, betrayal, lost relationships, and diminished abilities. I can be stripped of everything that once gave me a sense of pride, and I can still stand tall and proud for who I am independent of my accomplishments.

While this isn’t the path I would have knowingly chosen for myself, I wouldn’t go back in time and trade it for normalcy. Would I have achieved this exponential growth of humility, empathy, and understanding had I taken a left at the fork instead? I don’t think so. Would I have tamed my inner-perfectionist and learned to prioritize my well-being over external productivity? Probably not.

In some ways, I’m better for it. In some ways, suffering has been a gift. An armored Trojan horse filled with party balloons and a chorus of “surprise!” Or something like that.

Why not me?

I have survived, and I am capable of continuing to do so. And when I finally emerge from this forest of tangled thorns, maybe I will be better-equipped to light the way for others.

When I look back on my cousin and little-sister-by-extension, I often wonder how they were able to move so quickly through the stages of grief. Knowing their time was short, how did they come to terms with what surely lay ahead? How did they release their dreams for the future and learn to live so acutely in the now, despite the tubes, phantom limbs, and persistent nausea?

I think they knew that, as young people leaving their loved ones too soon, they had to accept their fate in order to give their parents, sibling, friends, and relatives permission to do the same. How I can suffer better? How can I be an example for others?

After a brief glimpse at wellness, I’ve found my body dslowly backsliding into the unspeakable place where I once resided. Cliffside. Quicksand. Undertoe. Frankly, I am terrified. And, yet, I have collected and curate a set of tools and tactics and mantras over years. Joy has been my lifeboat through life’s rapids. Whatever the future holds, I’m ready for it.

I long ago accepted that I may never regain my health, so the recent good days and any yet to come are a bonus in my book.

So, why not me?

26 thoughts on “Why Not Me?

  1. “In some ways, suffering has been a gift.” Oh…that’s a powerful statement in so few words. I see that and feel it for you…but it doesn’t relieve my overarching hope that you will continue to journey forward, with the abundance of knowledge, hard won, at your fingertips. Keep us posted. Sending love. 💓💓💓

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    1. Had you me told me a decade ago I would *ever* think/say/believe that suffering could be a gift, I would have scoffed. While I was familiar with the concept of “we can’t our circumstances, only only our reaction to those circumstances,” I hadn’t really been put to the test. I was born with rose-colored glasses so the change in perspective, albeit painful, was necessary for me to keep moving forward. Every day, I’m tweaking and observing my habits, so I’m feeling hopefully. Thank you so much for your kindness and friendship, Vicki! 💓💓💓


  2. “How can I suffer better?” Wow! Your post reminds me of Viktor Frankyl’s writings (I usually spell his name wrong, so forgive me if I do), which is so powerful. I love that you’re finding meaning through the suffering, Erin. Like Vicki, I’m hoping for complete wellness for you!! I think this mentality can help facilitate that. And it’s also beautiful!! ❤️

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    1. Wow, what a compliment! Thank you, Kendra. 💓 If I’m being perfectly honest, after a few years of illness I no longer had the energy for worry or self-pity and they slipped away almost without me realizing it. However, that taste of freedom (from the perception of suffering and her associates) is something I now consciously strive for. Sending a big hug your way! ❤️

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  3. I’m sorry about your loved ones passing from cancer. My condolences ❤️ And it’s interesting and inspiring that now you would not have chosen any other way. It definitely sounds like adversity has helped you grow into a wonderful person. As for your first question: was it a hypothetical?

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    1. Thank you, my dear. ❤️ It’s so interesting–and I don’t know whether it’s more an appreciation for the growth stemming from adversity, or fear of the unknown alternative. As for the first question, it was hypothetical, but I would be curious if you you have thoughts or an answer. 😊

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      1. Well, for what it’s worth, in my faith God didn’t create a world full of pain. He created the opposite, but humans messed it up (the fall of Adam and Eve). And the Bible is pretty much a very long account of God trying to get us on the right path and bring us back to a perfect world (Heaven) 😊 But, I won’t lie, I’ve struggled with a similar question, which is “why does God allow such suffering in the world?” so I definitely get where you’re coming from. Definitely a valid question, that’s for sure!

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      2. Thank you for this, Panda! I was brought up Catholic and, while I’ve fallen away from it and my belief wavers a bit, the fundamental foundation still there. “Humans messed it up.” The reason I left the church is people I cared for being abused by church leaders, followed by the highers-up sweeping it under the rug. “Humans messed it up.” I washed my hands of the whole gamut, but this makes me want to go revisit the Bible. There are so many wonderful and surprisingly relevant stories and relevant lessons. 😊

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      3. I’m really sorry to hear that. When that happens, it’s definitely time to leave that church. And it makes me so happy to hear you want to revisit the Bible! 😊❤️ I really hope you do and that God’s Word enriches your life 🥰

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  4. “shown me that I am capable of anything. I can survive ridicule, betrayal, lost relationships, and diminished abilities. I can be stripped of everything that once gave me a sense of pride, and I’m still stand tall and proud for who I am independent of my accomplishments.

    While this isn’t the path I would have knowingly chosen for myself, I wouldn’t go back in time and trade it for normalcy.”

    When we look at God through the lens of religion, we can come up short, feeling let down by a God who allows suffering.

    Yet, when we look through a more spiritual lens, that we choose our lives and our troubles before coming into this life so that we can develop the skills and the traits our characters and spirits need, that wouldn’t be developed any other way except by passing through those difficult times, it makes sense.

    It’s still difficult to go through, but at least it makes sense.

    I would not have learned what I learned nor healed my spirit in the ways I have, had I not gone through the experiences I have.

    Blessings to you as you go through this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tamara, I absolutely adore your explanation of suffering through a spiritual lens. I am coming to believe that–we selected our destination before coming into this life, and path to get there unfolds before us. So beautiful. Thank you! ❤️

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      1. My pleasure! Years ago I had 4 psychics approach me, letting me know that they had a message to tell me, which was exactly that: we choose our troubles before we come into this life. It was very radical for me to hear having come from a fundamental church, but once I saw the universe kept sending me people to give me the message, I looked into it and what it meant for me.

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      2. Yes, I always found that to be amazing! I was told by the 4th that was because I was supposed to write about the lessons I learned to be able to help people. I hadn’t really considered writing about that before, and even when I started I was using the teeniest tiniest notebook I could find to jot down my ideas, as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, and when I was asked what I was constantly scribbling down, they laughed at me when I said I was writing a book! 🤓

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  5. Wow, this is a powerful post, Erin. The same sentence that jumped out at Kendra, also jumped out at me “I shifted my focus from considering how I can suffer less to how I can suffer better.” Amazing. Your ability to flip things inside out, to find joy, to discover the meaning – incredible tools and the key to your amazing resilience. Thank you for sharing all of this brave and wise learning with us!

    Wishing you many good days ahead!! ❤

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  6. I personally could never see suffering as a gift. I admire folks who open their third eye to see it this way. The only thing I know is that if we are still here we have a mission to accomplish. What mission? you ask. I have no clue. When I was still in college, my friend’s sister was knocked down at a traffic light by the car with with a banner: God Bless You! When I learned what happened, I asked God: Why not me? I asked You so many times and You just let me be. Why not me? Fortunately or unfortunately we can’t decide what happens to ourselves or our loved ones. The only answer I got is: Accept what you got and make peace with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is challenging and, at least for me, the suffering was so bad that attempting it see some positive in it was my only hope for some relief. Yes, I think accepting and making peace with what life presents us with really is the best answer. Thank you, Milena! ❤️

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