When something bad happens to you, you often look around for an explanation. There’s a lot of “this isn’t your fault” talk in the cancer community but as someone who strives to understand the why of the universe, that kind of thinking can feel dismissive. I mean, okay maybe it’s not YOUR fault, random person I follow on Instagram, but it sure feels like I did something wrong somewhere along the way to end up on this journey,
Lately, I’ve been finding myself waking up in the middle of the night, flashes of past mistakes and bad behaviors coming to me, tormenting me. Did I get cancer because in sixth grade, I succumbed to peer pressure and helped damage a classmate’s science fair project? Did I get cancer because I kissed a boy despite knowing it would hurt a good friend of mine (truth be told, I did that more that once and alcohol can only be blamed for so many mistakes)? Did I get cancer because I insisted on going to a college I knew my parents couldn’t afford? This kind of thinking is so damaging but once it starts, these little snippets from my past play on a loop and it is so hard to get them to stop. I try to remind myself that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people (HOW IS DONALD TRUMP STILL AROUND?!, a thought that occupies a fair amount of space in my brain). Not everything can be explained away, some things just are and we have to accept them, deal with them, process them, instead of trying to unravel them and get to the why.
Maybe that’s why faith provides people in my situation some comfort. Maybe having a God-type figure can give you something to hang your hat on. I find myself going back and forth on God these days; I find the rituals of faith comforting since they were such a critical part of my childhood. I’m reading a book right now about turning to your faith when life disappoints you. It was a gift from a friend’s mom. I feel like I’m reading it with one eyebrow raised, suspicious of its attempt to provide me with comfort. Probably not the facial expression the author is going for, but my expressive face cannot be contained. I will keep at it though, keep trying to find ways to let go of this feeling that I’m being punished, whether by the God I believe in, by my body, or some other karmic force. I think doing this work, of letting go this narrative of blame, is crucial. If only so I don’t wake up in the middle of the night, flashing back to elementary school. It is very hard to go back to sleep once I remember my bangs from those days.