THAT'S LIFE: When the ‘why me’ question comes up

Saturday November 18 2017


“This wasn’t supposed to happen to me,” my friend repeated quietly when I visited her in hospital, as she recuperated from surgery. PHOTO | FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

“This wasn’t supposed to happen to me,” my friend repeated quietly when I visited her in hospital, as she recuperated from surgery.

She had done everything right, as far as we could see. She drank more than five glasses of water a day, exercised, ran marathons and ate healthy.

She religiously did her medicals on every birthday, and it was thanks in part to her diligence that the doctors had discovered the lump in her breast. I wondered what to say, and realised that in such moments, just being present would have to do.

As I left the hospital, I shook my head at the sheer injustice of it all. “Why, God, why? Why her? Why now?” Just several years ago, she had met and married the love of her life, and they had two toddlers.

Life had been good. And then this. The heavens were silent.

The thing is that everyone will encounter some bumps on the road of life. The question is not if, but when. So why do we get so surprised when it happens to us?

We want to know what we did that brought about the misfortune. What if nothing in your control is responsible for what you are going through right now?

A drunk driver hits you on your way home. Your company closes and lays everyone off. A loved one dies. A spouse leaves. You find a suspicious lump.

The fact is, you could be doing everything right, as far as you are concerned but stuff still happens.

Well beating your head against a wall, ruminating about all the reasons why you deserve more or better, will not do.


The one thing that works when life gives you one of those “This wasn’t supposed to happen to me” experiences, is acceptance. Accept that while life is generally good and beautiful, there are moments when things can go horribly wrong.

Accept that loss is a part of life. Loss of vitality, loss of loved ones and loss of things. Accept that you won’t always know and you won’t always be in control. Accept the human condition with all its frailties.

My friend is teaching me what acceptance looks like. After her initial reaction, she refused to live in denial and instead accepted the diagnosis for what it is. She then assembled a team around her to help her put up a good fight.

“I’ll beat this thing,” she says bravely. “And if I don’t, I’m going down fighting!” she adds pragmatically.

When we are together, she insists that we focus on what we have going for us, not what we feel has been taken away. Has stuff been taken away?

You bet. Life as she knew it has changed. Priorities have been re-arranged. Money has been diverted to health care. Doctors and needles have become a way of life. In all this though, she has gained perspective.

She has found a strength she did not know she had. She has reached out to people she would never have sought before. And most amazing of all, she has become more giving and compassionate. “There is a blessing in the storm,” she often tells me, her new mantra from a song by Kirk Franklin by same title.

Whatever challenges you may be currently facing, it is helpful to look for the blessing in the storm. It is tempting to give up, or give in, to feel victimised or personally targeted for disaster by God or fate.

It is tempting to ask, “Why me?” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Usually, the thing we think we can not do, is to proceed, forward, one step at a time, through the jungle or the rain. Even when we can not see our way. It is to try when our efforts seem futile.

As you begin to accept your new normal, and the new role you must know play, keep in mind that storms come to an end. This too, shall pass.