A bad day at work. That guy more interested in your friend than you. How hard it is to lose weight or…of course….cancer. It's almost pathetically easy to view life as not fair, both in minute situations and in entire realms of our existence. I’ve bounced into it’s territory many times, telling myself that the consequences of life after cancer aren’t fair after all I've already been through for it. I’ve willingly, enthusiastically stepped into that mindset, with statements like ‘it’s not fair that it takes this long to get my hair back’ and ‘it’s not fair that I now have to deal with depression and people feeling sorry for me after cancer’. And every time I do, I quickly remember how unfulfilling and unhelpful the perspective of ‘fairness’ is. As graceful as a slap across the face from reality herself, I'm not so gently reminded that fairness, ironically, works on an unbalanced scale, believing that circumstances balance out across all of us in the exact same way. But that’s not how life works, nature works, or anything else. ‘Fairness’ can be a trap that keeps miracles from happening to us, because we’re so confined by the belief that something that’s already happening shouldn’t be happening, and we end up wasting our precious time and energy focused on why it shouldn’t be like it already is - ruminating on the job we didn’t get or just how much harder we have to work to lose weight than our friends - rather than staying open to the lessons we might otherwise learn from simple and profound acceptance.
To be sure, in the midst of hurt and pain is a very hard place to let go of all the rewards that saying ‘it’s not fair’ gives us, because believing something to be ‘not fair’ relinquishes me of fault or responsibility. It's not my fault it's not fair, and it's not my responsibility to fix it's mess. But that childish view only works for so long, and when I can’t move out of my anger and disappointment over what I thought should be ‘fair’, it’s time to take another approach. Another path and outcome via another perspective is always available.
What is there to learn in this?
What is there to see? What is there to discover? What possible positive outcomes might come out of this, how might it benefit you and how might the hard work of this situation actually make you bigger, better, brighter and more equipped for the future? It’s a simple perspective shift from anger into gratitude and awareness.
What do I need to let go of here?
Sometimes how we wanted things to turn out is the hardest thing to release. But if it’s not turning out the way you’d hoped, it might indeed be the outcome you have to relinquish. Fair or not, life is a game of surprises. And though the future might not turn out how you planned or wanted, it might not turn out so badly either. I had never planned to get sick as a teen, I had never hoped for cancer, and while it meant I had to surrender the safe, healthy and perfect future I had dreamed up all childhood, it brought about a soul-shattering awakening to how beautiful every un-promised moment is, even those in a hospital bed sitting beside my mother while she told me stories and read me magazines, a moment I’d have missed if everything turned out how I thought it ‘should’ and if I hadn’t let go of that so-called perfect future.
Adaptability Beats Preparedness
What a beautiful and mysterious miracle that we live in a natural world where evolution occurs on it’s own, where plants and trees bloom every single spring right on time in perfect repetition, and yet no matter how perfectly we plan for our lives, disruption still comes along to change absolutely everything. Surprises can still come along, happy and sad ones, no matter how much we prepare. But you are resilient; when your finger is cut it heals. You were once a tiny bundle of joy and now you’re a woman, all because you adapted more often than you clung to what you used to be - a small baby. And again today, you can adapt to anything.
….But I can Accept It.
It’s not fair, but ok. Ok I’m hurting. Ok I’m disappointed. Ok I wanted something else, but here it is, a conclusion I didn’t want and an ending I didn’t plan for. But ok. There is a simple and incredible power in just acknowledging your own hurt, disappointment, fear, anger, and every other emotion because the moment you acknowledge those feelings are the moment they go from emotions you’re acting from to emotions that you’re simply feeling, being aware of, and consciously allowing to pass. When you ignore the feelings behind the message ‘it’s not fair’, they’ll continue to plague you and badger you like a hurt child. But when you simply allow yourself to feel what you’re already feeling, those feelings come to the forefront and then are released. With all apologies for the buzz-wordiness, this practice of allowing ourselves feeling what we already feel should absolutely be included in our understanding of self-care. What you feel is valid, real, and worthy of your attention. What you feel has worth, even the not-so-pleasant feelings. Allowing yourself to feel your way through life, to express your feelings in healthy ways, to deal with your emotions in the experience of your life is necessary and yes, you deserve that. Taking care of yourself includes respecting how you actually feel about things, going through those feelings and allowing yourself to let go of them so they don’t stay bottled up and rot and, inevitably, turn into resentment. So go ahead, crawl in bed for a few hours, feel the hurt, let it out through tears or poetry or whatever it is you need, and let it be ok that you’re hurt. Once you’ve allowed yourself to see the mess, the pain, or whatever is in there, you’ll be able to make a plan to move on from it, but you’ve got to understand what to move on from first.