I’ve always hated the saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” I view that statement as a filler sentence. It’s something for people to say when they don’t know what else to say. To clarify, I hate the saying because it’s overused in situations that are very serious and very sad. You miss your train, but find a $100 bill on the next train, hey everything happens for a reason. It works there. When you’re dealing with more serious topics, it’s offensive. I’m just as guilty of saying it at inappropriate times.
Recently I took another look at this saying when I was thinking about life when things don’t go exactly as we planned. I can’t think of one person who hasn’t found themselves in this situation.
Growing up we all had some picturesque vision for ourselves. We picked up beliefs that we assumed would play out as we grew up. We thought we’d be married at a certain age, to a certain type of person, living a certain type of life, with a certain amount of money, with a certain type of family and you’d look a certain way. It’s probably the reason the wedding business is booming. Everyone is working to live out their own fairy tale they created in their head.
But as we get older, we start to see that many of us aren’t exactly where we thought we’d be. Maybe the perfect marriage with the perfect person has ended in divorce. You never thought you’d be that person, divorced so young. Or maybe the perfect family you planned for yourself hasn’t happened because you’re dealing with infertility. All those years of practicing safe sex and praying you weren’t pregnant in college all seems so silly now. Maybe you were let go from your dream job and you can’t seem to get your footing in a career. Now your straight A’s in high school feel like a waste of time. Maybe you lost a parent or sibling way too soon and the world feels a little dimmer without them. You never in your worst nightmares envisioned this; yet, you’re living with the grief daily. And maybe you look at yourself in the mirror and can’t believe you’ve put on so much weight as you’ve aged. Or you find it hard to believe you still can’t lose the weight because each and every diet you started didn’t go as planned.
Recently I found myself in a conversation with 2 divorced young women. Both beautiful, smart and successful. Both living a very happy current life, better than before. They are happier than they’ve ever been. If you’re a consistent reader of my transparent blog, you know I’ve suffered from multiple pregnancy losses. I’m a very happy person and life keeps getting happier for me. It feels uncomfortable to say that though. I’m self conscious as I type these words for you to read. It makes it seem like, everything happens for a reason because we are happy. But that’s not the case.
The girls aren’t happy they are divorced. It still hurts them everyday. And for me, saying “everything happens for a reason” after losing something as big as a pregnancy, doesn’t feel right. The reason being happiness.
It’s better to say, life didn’t go as planned, but I’m still going to live the upside and mourn the downside. As I suffered my losses, I threw myself into a career I love, traveled to lots of countries, decided to go back to school and fell even more in love with my husband (didn’t think that was possible, but it is). All things I may not have done if I didn’t suffer. And it hurts to think I found happiness from tragedy. It feels like survivor’s guilt. But it’s a choice to live this way. We can all curl up in a ball, cry and eat. It’s easy to do that. Sadly, it’s what we want to do and feel like we should be doing. It’s hard to stand up and say I’m still happy and I’m going to choose happiness. I’m going to be the reason my happiness happened.
Life is never going to go as planned. We have all been dealt a few bad hands. And when that happens, Oreos will always be there to soften the blow. A takeout order of General Tsos with an extra order of fried egg rolls can always fill the void of loss. A bag of gummy bears can soak up tears of rejection better than any friend can. A perfectly soft chocolate chip cookie can supplement any of our imperfections. And although, for a split second, when you’re checking out at Shop Rite with food minutes away from your mouth, you feel happy… but it’s not happiness that’s going to last. It’s going to take you even further from your fairy tale path.
Saying, “Everything happens for a reason” is like living our lives writing with a black Sharpie. Let’s start writing in pencil again, knowing that we may have to erase some of the life we envisioned for ourselves and re-write the future. Remember, we’ll never be erasing who we are, or what we suffered. After all, there’s a reason the eraser leaves a little residue, but still gives us the chance to draw a new picture.