Friday, November 23, 2007

or is it just me?

Does anyone else ever have this completely irrational thought?

That there's a fixed amount of bad luck in this world and that, on the whole, it's better if you're the one who draws the short straw, because someone else might not be able to cope with loss and sorrow as well as you can.


Edited to add: As Amelie suggests, I want to make clear that this musing isn't inspired by any particular piece of bad news. I was just ordering Christmas presents for my stepbrothers and their families (they're Christian, though I'm not) and thinking that if any of them had lost one of their children, their lives would have been truly destroyed. But maybe I underestimate them.

40 comments:

Bon said...

i also have part a of that same thought. however part b - we part ways. i get angry with other people for NOT having to deal...for sucking up the good luck, as it were.

frumiousb said...

I actually have a friend who says that she thinks that this explains my life-- I've been giving the sorrow because I'm able to cope. This thought makes me angry with God.

slouching mom said...

You've expressed this belief before. I don't share it. I find it either a) heartbreakingly self-annihilating on your part; or b) astoundingly generous (Mother Teresa-generous, Gandhi-generous) of you. I can't decide which.

Maybe both?

C. said...

I do feel that there is a fixed amount of bad luck, yes. The funny thing for me is that I always thought luck was on my side, that the short straw was often dealt to someone else. I know now that I can be dealt it just a swiftly as anyone else and I'm not so sure I like it. I know I can cope, but I don't want to.

Amelie said...

I hope you'll add a line saying that this is just a theory, not inspired by recent sad news. I'm not sure you will, though.

Coggy said...

I often wonder if that's what's going on but I think it's irrational too.

Sara said...

Yes.

Lisa b said...

I'm not sure if the amount is fixed because it just seems to keep coming. The way it is parceled out is definitely not fair though. I don't feel like being able to cope is an excuse to heap it upon someone, nor do I think it necessarily keeps someone else from getting another short straw.
The thought does enter my head as a coping mechanism, a way of accepting that I can deal with what I get.
Though I don't see anything 'better' at all about you having to draw the short straw.
The people who cope poorly just tend to get more help.

thailandchani said...

I don't think it can be quantified, weighed or measured. Life is suffering. That's just a fundamental fact.

Everyone suffers.

ms. G said...

Yes and no. Quite frankly, I used to believe I was one of those people who couldn't cope. Now I know that isn't true, so it must also not be true for people I think that of, like the example of your brothers for instance.

I know you can hear me... said...

Sometimes I wonder that. But really I think that bad things happen...and they happen to everyone. So why should I be any different and not have the bad things and the hard things happen to me? It shouldn't be 'why me' but 'why not me'...bad things happen to everyone.

Amelie said...

Thanks -- that's already the second request of mine you granted today :)
Regarding the coping, I think it only becomes apparent how well one can cope when the situation arises, and it is hard to tell beforehand. I'm not a psychologist, though -- perhaps others can. Not that this made being dealt a short straw any better...

akeeyu said...

The thing is, I think we either under- or overestimate what 'truly destroyed' looks like.

I mean, hey, I look and sound pretty normal to people, but really, not so much. Eventually, you just start faking it so people will stop asking so many questions.

red pen mama said...

After we lost our son, more than 4 years ago, I remember saying to my husband, "If we had to go through this so that no one else we love has to, then it's almost worth it." And I still believe that. Since I lost mine, I want everyone else to have hers (theirs). Of course, I would like to have mine too, still, but that's not going to happen.

rpm

Tash said...

On the one hand, frankly, I think anyone could do this. I rather hate it when people say stupid shit like "you're so strong," because I'm not. It's just that the universe laid this on me, and now I have to deal. You could to, you just haven't had to. But I guess like you said, it's rather HOW they cope. And what I hate (someone upthread said this) is the ONGOING bad luck -- in its myriad of forms. Some of us are making for some damn perfect lives elsewhere, if this is zero sum. Can we let them know? I'm not strong enough to order Christmas presents for other babies, that's for damn sure. Their parents are probably getting food.

Elizabeth said...

That's a tough one... not sure. When we were kids, I used to ask my mom to punish me instead of my little sister sometimes because I just felt so sorry for her when she got in trouble. I tend to take on other people's sorrows and feel broken by them even though they're not my own. Maybe I think the universe should send more bad luck my way in order to spare others, but not because I'm good at coping - I just feel a constant, vague, generalized guilt and believe I should be suffering.

Julie Pippert said...

I don't know. I've run through so many theories about why it seems some people have a lot more challenges to bear. I've definitely given it thought as I bear my own. And when I see others apparently glide through.

I hate it when I see others suffering as we have and do, but in a demented way it's a sort of validation: oh it's not me, I don't DESERVE bad things...they just happen. That makes me feel terrible.

But sometimes I feel quite childishly selfish and bitter when I feel the weight of my burden compared to others who are burden-free.

Julie
Using My Words

Which Box said...

You've written this before. I totally agree, and I know it's irrational, and yet it's still there. I don't blog much right now about my loss, but yeah. I definitely pulled the short straw on that one, and because I did, someone else didn't. And my marital problems are definitely associated, even if there are other reasons, too. The pressure of loss impacted our relationship profoundly, as it does with so many others. And because it affected ours, another couple made it through.

I used to believe I was profoundly lucky, though. I guess it all balances out.

Theo said...

Also having lost a child, I have often thought that I have handled it better than anyone I know could. And I also loathe to hear how "strong" how "brave", how, "I could never do that". Because honestly, people do not know how they would handle such things until they are faced with them. As bad as what I have had to deal with, and continue to deal with, has been, I still know it could have been worse. I console myself with the knowledge that when my son died, he was surrounded by love. That he died in my arms and not in terror or pain or at the hand of someone with the intent to harm him. It could always be worse. Where is the limit of what one person can deal with--emotionally, psychologicall--I don't know. None of us knows until we are dealt those cards.

meg said...

I'm tired of people saying how strong I am and how you are only given what you can handle in this life. As far as I'm concerned, I have had the bad luck of a small army. Not just one person.

That being said...I don't want anyone else to ever go through any part of what I've gone through myself. Knowing that things can be o.k. for others, gives me comfort that the world is not entirely cruel and unkind.

Lori said...

Yes. I have had this thought before.

Except that at the time, I didn't see the amount of bad luck as fixed. I saw it as unlimited.

jen said...

i have wondered, but then also wonder if i'd be tough enough to take whatever came my way. the latter scares me more.

Karen said...

sadly, no, it seems to me there is more than enough to go around - though I have had my share of peace and joy, I know not all my life's griefs and sorrows are behind me - though I've had my share of those as well. I hope there is a limitless supply of joy as well as pain, I think there is.

Waiting Amy said...

I have to agree with Slouching Mom (not that this would be the first time). I don't ascribe to this theory. Certainly during rough times I've wondered if the bad luck is limitless. But I do think that this perception that you personally should be the one to bear the disappointments is potentially damaging in some way. On the other hand, wanting to spare others this type of pain is noble.

As others have said, you can never be sure what someone can bear until that card is dealt. And at times I think there are some who make a choice not to cope (but this is rare).

It is time for you to cope with happiness.

tipsymarie said...

I've had similar thoughts, and I never thought about how damaging that is until I read the comments. I'm stopping it now.

sammie said...

I have had that thought after losing one of our twins.. i see certain families and just *know* that it would have destroyed them, their marriage...everything.

Zee said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I'm not as generous as you (and many previous posters) are. Do I think it's better to get the shit end of the stick because I can "take it" better than someone else? Hell no. Maybe at one time I'd have tried to muster up some kind of stubborn pride in this, but now I'm completely over it.

My Reality said...

I do think that there are people who cannot deal with bad things and loss as well as some can. There are people in this world who can't deal with the bad luck they have been dealt. There are people who come completely unglued over the small stuff. I don't know how they would ever deal with the loss of a child.

Grad3 said...

I have that thought all the time, it's part of how I rationalize things.

Eva said...

Well, I think there is unending bad luck, that it's not a finite quantity.

As for your thought processes here, I'm going to think of them as your being positive about your own strength.

Emily R said...

Only all the time.

Pamela Jeanne said...

Like some others here I don't see the amount of bad luck as fixed but I do think that there are some people who would crumble under the weight of loss while others have more stamina. I think Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, had it right: some people are wheat and snap when the storm comes. Others are buckwheat -- they bend but they do not break. I like to think I'm buckwheat.

Christine said...

i'm sort of the opposite--mad at others for having good luck. though i know this is irrational and in the scheme of things i've had good luck i suppose.

Aurelia said...

It's not a tradeoff. I used to believe this happened with Matthew, since the odds of a Trisomy 18 pregnancy happening at my age then were so small.

But it was irrational. I wasn't coping so well, even when I tired to pretend I was, and it isn't inevitable that babies & children have to die. They don't.

There is no gold medal in the Olympics of pain. It's not a competition.

kate said...

Only part a -- i do think there is a fixed amount of bad luck in this world. But i think its distribution is random, and i think most people do find their ways to cope. Not because they are strong, or not -- but simply because survival is a human instinct.

sweetsalty kate said...

I'm going to have to think this one over for about a week.

passingwindows said...

I thought I was the only one who had this thought. It's reassuring to know that I'm not.

SaraS-P said...

It is not just you. I have had similar thoughts when looking at people I know.

Artblog said...

I've heard this one before but it really pisses me of to believe that's why it happened to me and 'them', I never asked to be strong and given the choice I'd rather not be if it means the cushty life they take pleasure in!

Strangely, this analogy doesn't comfort me as much as it should!

Olive Lucy said...

not only have i thought this i have ben told this.

i do think that what ever high power you believe in does not hand you anything you are not strong enough to cope with.