“Things happen for a reason”. Really?

It is not very often that my Mom and I disagree on life’s basic daily issues, beliefs, and general opinions. Yes, hard to believe for some, but my Mom and I almost always agree.

Yet, yesterday, we had a conversation about a relative’s poor health. She had a kidney transplant and a life expectancy of 5 years (average). Ten years later, she is alive and kicking, among her loved ones and watching her children and grandchildren grow up. My mom then said, “God puts us in a place and a time and we must be grateful”.

This brought to mind the very cliche phrase “Things happen for a reason”.  I have to admit, at one point in my life I used both of these phrases, supported by nothing but blind faith. However, as I have grown and matured , I have being exposed to more “out of the bubble” events.  My life during my first 28 years in Mexico, was rather protected and comfortable. Rare were the occasions in which I crossed my path with a devastating event, loss, and never – fortunately- financial desperation.

Moving out from home, ironically to a First World Country, has made me more aware of the world’s catastrophes, conflict, disease. More keen to other’s beliefs and non-beliefs. While I grew up among friends with very similar social and economic backgrounds, I know find myself being friends with a victim of domestic violence, my own housekeeper,  a Mom that can’t afford a single trip to a theme park, or a very close friend who is fighting Cancer.

I have seen parents lose jobs, lose homes, having to relocate under the pressure of “Unaffordable California”. I have seen more children than I’d like in wheelchairs or with severe learning disabilities.  I have learned to respect and understand followers of other faiths- or no faith at all.

The heterogeneous society in which I live now, has given me the priceless opportunity to learn and grow in ways that no school or faith could have taught me.

In my very personal opinion, living in a little world that is almost perfect (because it is easy to ignore or shut out the ugly, sad  or inconvenient facts) limits one’s potential of thinking deep thoughts, creating to improve, feeling to understand pain, and to reach out to help.

Never in my life have I felt so much pleasure in giving, in helping, in offering before even being asked.  Never did I imagine that being a mother of two and a working mom, I would still find some time to do a little extra, and the only reason I can think of is because I have seen, I have heard, I have felt a little bit of what is happening out there: in friend’s homes, in other countries, or even in my son’s heavy heart when he gets sad. I just realized this sounds somewhat pretentious, but that is exactly how I feel today.

So back to my Mom’s comment, after hearing her out yesterday, I said, “I am sorry Mom, but I don’t agree”.

I explained that what I do believe is that every simple decision that we make -every day- has a consequence, whether it be small like where to eat today or huge like which career path to select or who to marry, it all has a consequence sooner or later. Some have a snowball effect, some bring life changing situations.  I see it like a huge puzzle or web in which every piece takes us into a slightly different way, one piece at a time.

I used to say to my husband “We are so lucky that we have jobs ” and he would disagree stating that it had nothing to do with luck but hard work and drive. So, little by little I have been changing my views towards what some people refer to as “Destiny”.

My mother had a stroke when she was only 27 or so. She was in great health with no history of drinking or smoking. A good friend lost her 5 year old son while he was playing outside , on his own driveway. My son was born with a Life threatening allergy that he will never overcome, which makes me worried sick…forever.

And now, one of my best friends is fighting Cancer.

So, no! I don’t believe things happen for a reason. And I certainly do not believe God makes everything happen as it does. I doubt He wanted any children dead, or paralyzed,  or my Mom with a stroke at such a young age.

I believe they just happen. Illnesses and diseases are a bitch. Period. Specially when we haven’t found a cure (or so they say…).

Accidents happen and God has nothing to do with it. We can pray for consolation and comfort and peaceful rest for those souls that leave this earth.

Even at an early age, I have found it important to teach my children about consequences after their own choices, and about taking responsibility for their actions. I am sure it will make a difference. It has to. 🙂

The longest 20 minutes of my life.

I have always thought that us women have an unfairly big load of physical pains, inconveniences and responsibilities to deal with throughout life: from the early menstruation, the non- acceptable hair on body parts (that I won’t list here) that needs to be  removed or zapped in painful and expensive ways, the tremendous disfigurement that happens during pregnancy, varicose veins, the greying hair that is -in some cultures- not cool or appealing and  the hysterical and hot menopause. And just recently,  I have added to this list the ever present threat of cervical, ovarian or breast cancer. Family history or not, is it always in the back of my mind.  Always causing fear and anguish at the slightest pain or discomfort.
For a couple of years now,  I have experienced some breast pain,  sometimes more than others. The pain hasn’t grown as much as my worry and concern have. So  I decided to take action and dig deep into it with my doctor. After 3 clean mammograms I insisted on an ultrasound to shed some peace of mind. So two weeks ago, with an excruciating headache and sweating hands I went to get it done and over with.
While an X-ray is a total mystery for hours or days before you get actual results,  an ultrasound has the advantage of showing the imaging right there,  live,  a black and white screen that while it is hard to read,  still lets you peek and see what the technician it’s looking at. I found this thrilling and exciting when I saw my babies for the first time on a monitor. Little heads, little hands and feet and if you are lucky you can identify the gender too.  But I felt far from feeling excited that morning. The technician was thorough, took plenty of time with her “digital notes”. I couldn’t help but look at the screen the whole time. So I was quick to notice several black spots on the screen as she pressed down hard on my skin. She carefully took measurements: width and length,  location. I felt sweat on my hands and back even though I was very cold, lying half dressed on the table. As she switched sides, more black spots appeared,  more measurements, more notes. Total silence. No Spa-like chat; the doubts and questions were drowning me and I finally  broke the silence and asked her: “what are those black spots you keep finding and measuring?”. She cordially replied “I need to discuss all your images with the doctor and then we can talk about your results”.
That was like a bucket of ice cold water poured down my naked back,  a slap in the face, a penance for an action I wasn’t even aware of. So she left the room and there I stayed.  In the flimsy half gown, terrified, with nothing but my splitting headache to keep me company. Immediately after she left,  I started thinking of the big WHAT IF.
What if I have breast cancer? A sudden but quick glimpse of my last 20 years started taking the form of a documentary in my mind. Have I done enough? Have I been a good daughter? Mother? Wife?
Have I given back to this sick world some of my gifts,  my time,  my talents? Have I made healthy choices and taught my kids the same?
If I am ill, would I stop working and spend more time with my family? Or would I keep working so I don’t drive myself crazy with fear? Who would I tell? Who would I call?
I started feeling sick to my stomach,  my pillow,  I noticed, was wet with tears, and right at that moment,  all I wanted was my mom. Her comfort, her scent, her “it will be ok”, her slow moving hand stroking my face and my untamed hair.
I snapped out of my daydreaming and conscientiously thought of the millions of women that are diagnosed with some type of cancer every day.  The pain and fear they go through, what their loved ones go through. What brave souls they are,  they have to be. I realized that these women are fighters, and the ones that survive are molded and sculpted into a stronger and more resolved human, with a perspective towards life that some will never share,  or understand.
Those 20 minutes I patiently waited for my results were reflective,  didactic,  intense.
The door finally opened, and the technician’s first words were “sorry for the long wait, you are free to go! “.
Free to go? I was mad! I wanted to talk to someone,  to discuss my dreaded images, those horrible black spots, and here was this lady all smiles while my head was about to burst.
I guess she saw the question marks on my face,  along with the run mascara, so she sat down and explained I had a lot of cysts. All filled with fluids,  nothing to worry about. They come and go- she said.
A considerable decrease in caffeine intake was recommended to avoid breast pain. Other than that, I was left there again to put my clothes back on. After getting dressed I went into the bathroom with an empty bladder, but full tear glands and a headache that erupted in sobs. I let go of the stress and worry that had been eating me up for months. I thanked God for my health and ever since that day I have added to my daily prayers THANK YOU FOR ONE MORE DAY.

Someone very dear  to me is going through Radiation therapy, I see her fear, her sadness, her exhausted eyes, but I also see her optimism, her huge love for her family that seems to be fueling her to keep going- one session at a time.  I admire all cancer fighters tremendously,  even more now.
The 20 minutes I spent thinking of my life under another circumstance shifted something inside of me. For the better.

I now have more people to remember, to pray for and to help whenever I am fortunate enough to make a difference.