Eleven years ago today, on a muggy Wednesday morning – much like this one I’m writing on – I was diagnosed with leukaemia. I was 31. I was on my honeymoon. It was a lightning bolt out of the crazy blue. It was my thief in the night.
For the first few hours after hearing the news, I started blaming myself. I tried to find answers. Was it something I did? Didn’t do? Ate? Exposed myself to? Was it stress? Weakness?
Later that day I met with my doctors at the hospital. First thing they said was “random”. My disease was completely random. They told me not to ask why it happened, because I would never find the answer. It would waste my precious energy, and I needed energy to fight the disease. So that’s what I did.
When I finished chemo and was home again I started thinking about it some more. I’ve thought about it for 11 years now. Random is a hard thing to get your head around, you know?
Especially because there’s this popular belief out there called karma. What comes around goes around. While karma has it’s appeal, I don’t think it can explain everything. Karma doesn’t explain random. Until you’ve experienced random firsthand, you can’t begin to explain the complexities of the unexplainable.
The thing about karma is there seems to be implied fault. Your actions will come back to bite you. In a positive light, they will also come back to bless you. But random has a way of neutralising it all. People who don’t deserve bad things get bad things sometimes. Take for example a child born into poverty, or a child born with a disease. Did they deserve it? Of course not. The list goes on of possible scenarios. Accidents. Natural disasters. There’s nothing fair about random. Random just is.
A year after my diagnosis 230,000 people died in the deadliest tsunami our modern world has ever seen. Random.
Over the years people tried to tell me about the law of attraction. Positive thoughts yield positive outcomes. There was even a famous book that got everyone talking about “thinking positive” and how it could create our own wealth, health and happiness. Problem is, if you follow this theory to it’s logical conclusion it means the woman in Africa carrying heavy loads on her back all day to help her family mustn’t be thinking positively enough to create her own prosperity. It means everyone battling depression mustn’t be positive enough. It means all those people killed in the tsunami were somehow responsible for their fate. It means that every person fighting cancer only has themselves to blame. Get it? No. I don’t get it. It makes a mockery of all who suffer at the hands of random.
Sometimes we need to stop trying to explain why things happen and just get on with living. Being positive isn’t the answer to everything. It certainly can have benefits. But for some people being positive isn’t as easy as making a choice. Life is acutely more complicated than that.
The upside of random is that bad luck rarely repeats itself. The odds are good things can and will happen. You learn to live in hope and take nothing for granted. You celebrate the sweetness of life. Random changes you. For the better.
We hang precariously in the balance between a cruel and beautiful world. We may be able to predict some things. We may even grow to expect a regular pattern. But none of it is entirely in our control.
Beware of sitting cosy. Beware the lightning bolt out of the crazy blue.