Oct 3, 2008


Readers dear, I'd like to apologize to you for not writing as much as usual lately. And, I'd like to offer an explanation that I hope makes sense, as I'm still making sense of it all myself. You see, few things put us at a loss for words more than having the proverbial pink elephant in the room and trying to avoid mentioning it. Admittedly uncharacteristically, I've not been mentioning much about a particular pink elephant, but I'd like to, and I'll explain why I have avoided it.

Indulge me, this is a monologue.

People don't like to talk about sick things or dead things. And people (I'm talking generally, here) don't like to talk to people who are talking about sick things or dead things. So, maybe it was very early exposure to death, or excellent parental reaction/explanation of such matters, or that I tend to be rather empathetic by nature, or perhaps a combination of all these things, but I accept that sickness and death are parts of life and have never felt avoidant of either, or depressed by either, per se. They are just as they are. I also accept that the universe is largely incomprehensible, and often we never know or see the things manifested in people's lives as a result of situations that arise, and there is, I'll admit, something miraculous about that. Correction, to me, that is what is miraculous in the world. Tiny, unseen things that ripple out in all direction and influence people in unimaginable ways, ways that perhaps people at the situation's core will never know or see. Totally miraculous.


People are funny about sickness and death. Right.

It seems like a lot of people I know have someone in their family or immediate circle who is sick, dying, or else, a loved one has recently passed. For whatever reason, it's been concentrated lately. I know there is always suffering in the world, but it's in high proportion on my radar right now, and I notice it, is all I'm saying. Almost everyone I know is either fretting on some level for someone, grieving for someone, or are themselves ill. I notice that.

As a few of you know, but perhaps most of you do not until now, while I was out on my big Scaventour adventure, a contest for which I am still waiting to announce winners, a very teeny tiny member of my family was diagnosed with cancer, too.

Now, as some of you may also know, I'm a runner, and as a runner, I have this expression that I don't pick my next race, life picks my next race, meaning that most races are linked with charities, and I tend to learn about most events only after becoming acquainted with a given cause, or upon developing a different perspective on a given cause. Anyway, obviously, I am running in the St. Jude Children's Marathon and Half-Marathon (I'm not going to lie, I would love for you each to consider donating even a small amount to the cause; St. Jude's, as I've learned, is a excellent hospital and no child is ever turned away regardless of the family's ability to pay). The race is in early December in Memphis and I started a team for her and a few of us are going to run it for her. Anyway, that's just a side note, really.

As I was saying...

As a long-time believer that everything in life carries an opportunity to do good or learn a lesson, and as a steadfast believer that even death is a natural part of life, though it should be taken as it is and not dolled-up though it can carry with it some beautiful moments on occasion, and that fully processing grief in a healthy manner is essential and as much as I accept that people are bound to be sick and that death is a natural part of life and that sometimes people are sick and they recover and can live as if nothing ever happened and blah blah blah... what I have trouble processing is suffering, and really the only response to suffering is to optimize the situation for the person who is suffering and wait it out and get down to the bottom of it and keep waiting.

Granted, I've seen some bitter, self-involved people suffer terribly and emerge renewed and changed for the better. But, what about when already-good people are sick and suffer? When their caretakers suffer with fret and feelings of helplessness? And, when people die, then, the suffering is then passed to their loved ones, who then suffer on behalf of their suffering? What about a small child having to suffer? This is where I begin to falter a bit. Because I often exist in "accept there is a purpose for this, one I might never know, even if it looks nonsensically awful" mode, I tend to do the next logical thing and wonder about where those ripples right spread and where goodness or growth may emerge for people I probably do not even know as a result of a given situation. But suffering? It's hard to parse. And, as I heard it said perfectly not long ago, the suffering becomes a specter of sorts. Being around suffering doesn't depress us per se, we can't ignore it, we have no choice but be patient with it; it's just there, unnerving and mysterious and we can only speculate, but not know, what comes next.

Anyway, that specter has kept me a little quiet, kept me thinking hard, and kept me a tad philosophical lately. Let's be clear: I'm not suffering, I'm seeing suffering, some close by, some a degree away, but there in any case, and I see it and don't have the stomach to ignore any of it. But, I'm around, I'm here, I'm not not writing, I'm not not going to blog. Until I spoke up, though, I knew most attempts at posts would feel off somehow, so I thought an explanation was in order.


Bubs said...

"As a long-time believer that everything in life carries an opportunity to do good or learn a lesson..."

I think that is a tremendous source of strength for you.

I deliberately try not to think of suffering, of its nature, because it overwhelms me, especially the suffering of people who are good or blameless. The only way I deal with the suffering of others is by trying to ease it, without really stopping to contemplate its nature.

I'm about 2/3 through a new book called "The Book of Calamaties: 5 questions about suffering and its meaning" and it's a fascinating read. The author is Peter Trachtenberg. No answers yet, just fascinating (and a bit harrowing) reading.

holly said...

Give hugs...lots and lots of hugs...

Sometimes there are no good words and sometimes there is no understanding within our realms of reality - but there are always hugs.

Not a very deep comment, but just one I've always found to be true.

Sizzle said...

I have found myself posting what I consider drivel because really all I've been seeing lately around me is suffering. . . in the form of people really struggling to get by. In light of my recent promotion, I feel humbled.

I am sorry that so many around you are in that place. My heart goes out to them.

therapydoc said...

Well, that feels better.

G'mar tov, love.

Anonymous said...

sometimes the curtain flutters open to the other side and eases the fear from the disconnect we have with so many of life's processes. If the little one can talk, you might let him/her speak if no one else will. Linda