If I can compose a list of 10 life lessons I learned in 10 years I’m sure my grandmother who is turning 85 next week has a much more impressive list. She said something really interesting to me about how the Lord (she is the most catholic person you’ve ever met. Jesus is hard reppin’ in this household) does not give us suffering we cannot endure.
So my mother, the nurse, who has seen death under the most horrific circumstances, think critically ill babies in 3rd world public hospitals and trauma rooms full of gun violence in America in the 80’s, once told me about how there are generally 3 categories of cancer patients 1) will to live- has the fight, wont give up 2) at peace with death- doing their shit. 3) “why me?”.
Let’s talk about number 3 “Why me?”. She used to say to me that when she heard these patient lamentations she would think to herself “well why not you?”. Why do you think you’re so special that you don’t deserve to die like everyone else? And yeah cancer doesn’t really care how much money or status you have. It’s true. Harsh basket but true. Maybe it was my ethnic upbringing. I don’t question why bad things happen. I accept this is the situation and think, work the problem. What needs to be done? It’s after the practicality of the moment you’re looking at this fucking mess in your hands thinking, fuck this feels bad like it might be ripping my god damn soul in half. There, my love. Is the root of suffering.
Why me? What have I done? Karma is kinda fucking bullshit and has been adopted into this faux western idea of if I do good then good things will come. If I do bad then bad things will come. I also don’t think that was Buddha’s vibe but hey I haven’t read their doctrine. No comment. Wtf is that? Looking at you life’s suffering as some penance to your past deeds is Xanax invoking. And you don’t feel bad or guilty cause you did something that was “wrong”, you feel bad because you are being punished by an omnipotent force. Nah bro. Nah.
Back to suffering. Although I wasn’t raised to ask ‘why me’?… I did ask my grandmother why is the world such a bad place? And she said, “You’ll make yourself crazy thinking about it. No point. You’re cutting those beans too big”. Thank you to the lady who grew up with war. I guess when Japanese soldiers machete infants in front of you, you don’t have the time to contemplate senseless violence. So I try again “I can’t handle the suffering”. Are you ready? She says “You’re sensitive, it’s from growing up without anyone to talk to, too much time alone. You are not given suffering that you cannot endure. The Lord is testing you”. This is probably the most comforting thing that anyone has ever said to me, take the religious connotations as you wish, I really like this idea of being made to suffer to your limitations.
It’s easy to look at other people’s lives who seem to have it “easy” (cause their insta is lit #couplegoals #blessed #emporerhasnewclothes #basicavocado) but let’s flip it and reverse it. Stay with me. So my cousin’s wife: 5 kids, her brother and husband murdered. Gunned down. Property disputes. Hospital debts. Poverty. Can we send her a piece of birthday cake for her human suffering? Fuck me. So I look at Jennifer and I don’t feel sorry for her. Pity is a non-productive emotion. I want to help her, for sure, and that’s coming from a place of practicality. But I look at her situation and I think “nup, no no no”. That would break me. Her ability to suffer is great. But she wouldn’t be suffering to that extent if she couldn’t handle it. And she’s fucking handling it. I don’t know if there’s enough religion in me to endure. I was not given her suffering because I couldn’t bear it. I was given my suffering because I CAN bear it. The religious shit follows on with your reward is equal to your suffering but whatever, i think that that’s like a little carrot in front of the donkey to motivate it to not give up. When you are suffering, you are just grateful for respite. you are not looking towards greater reward. Trust.
I think I found my silver lining. I have to be able to handle this shit or it wouldn’t be happening. And this is the first time in over 6 months where I feel like there might actually be fight in me. Like I need to get the fuck up again and remember that I am capable of suffering. It’s easy to live a good life. Is it easy to suffer? No. I think one should be proud of their ability to suffer, embrace it, seek solace in it. It is what makes me special. It might not seem like a gift but maybe it is. And what is death? In the way that I am trying to understand it, at least. Milan, you died because you reached your capacity to suffer and that’s a tragedy. But I respect and admire you fiercely for getting that far cause no one fucking knows. Not even me, how bad it was for you. Before, I’d think “things can always get worse” cause they always fucking did. And that perspective helped me enough to live day to day but I wasn’t good. I always felt like I was bracing for something bad to happen. Now, I think. “This is going to be fine because I have not reached the limitations of my suffering”. It’s almost a double negative that becomes positive…or the reverse of how current people view themselves. So you think you’re fucking really special and you’re destined for great shit cause you inherently “know” and you live out your life in disappointment because you expected more. No babe, you don’t deserve shit. Humanity is tied together by our ability to suffer. We suffer famine, drought, illness, war and each other. Suffering is the great leveller. I think I am beginning to recover from the injury of universal suffering by admiring the ability of the human spirit to do so.
To Reagan, may you rest in peace. PS. Thanks for not dying on my birthday.