Things don’t always happen for a reason.Sometimes bad luck is just bad luck. A partner dies.  A child dies. You lose your money.  You get a bad disease. Sometimes bad luck is just bad luck and nothing more.   Looking for a reason for a tragedy can be just or more stressful than the tragedy itself.

    In a culture that has strived to find an alternative to “why me?” we have gone full circle in an attempt to make every experience a meaningful one. If  I read one more article entitled. “cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me,” I think I”ll puke.  In those articles every partner is there 100%. Give me a break. Every doctor is a version of Marcus Welby (the super tv doctor of the 1970’s). Give me a break. Every friend is totally committed to helping. Give me a break. People always recover. Give me a break. And then after the recovery that happens despite unbelievable odds, every day is a  meaningful one. Give me a break.

     If somebody can overcome a trauma and find pleasure and meaning in life, that is wonderful. And if in addition, a person can feel that  “if I’ve gotten through this, I can get through anything,” that is also wonderful. But that is not the same as feeling a need to feel good about a tragedy because it has enhanced the rest of your life.

     I guess what I’m saying is that if something bad happens it is ok to feel angry.  It is even ok to feel sorry for yourself. And it is ok to mourn.  In our action oriented society we no longer can find a place to feel “pissed” unless it is in the context of a technique that will give meaning to our bad experience and that will ensure us that it will never happen again. There are so many books on the market that insist that we have brought on our own bad luck, but that with a change in our thinking, that won’t need to happen again.  The last time I looked “sad” and “mad” were still in the dictionary.  Apparently Webster still believes that they have a place in our lives.

    However, while we shouldn’t push ourselves to feel that there is a value in trauma, that also doesn’t mean that we need to stay reved up and distraught when some horrible thing happens.  If a tragedy occurs and when you are ready, not when others define a time for readiness, looking for a place of calm can be worthwhile.  Sometimes if there are decisions that need to be made, they can be thought through more easily if tension and anxiety are minimized. Or sometimes a tragedy can leave a space for new possibilities.  Often we hold on to  things, jobs, people that we feel ambivalent about. When something occurs that forces an ending, it can leave room for new possibilities and new people.

  Sometimes we hang on to a relationship, not because it is making us happy but bcause we are afraid to be alone.  That places us in a bind that makes us feel trapped. Afraid to leave and disappointed  in what we find when we stay. So if something unexpected imposes a change, at times that can precipitate room to draw on resources that we didn’t know were available. If we have been dealt lemons, we can make lemonade.  Finding strength that we didn’t know we had is empowering even if it wasn”t our plan.

People don’t understand how painful it is to end a relationship, even when the relationship no longer has any positive meaning .  As humans, we are bound by our interpersonal connections, and even when those connections are no longer positive, an end is always painful, particularly when there is no immediate replacement. I remember how painful it was to watch my mother at the end of her life when what she feared most was happening- a compromised existence. I thought her death would be a relief- a relief to her because her compromise would be over and a relief to me  because I couldn’t find a  way to tolerate seeing my mother who had always been a powerhouse in diapers.Not true, an end is an end, no matter where that end starts from. Relationships that have meant something to us take a long time to recover from when they are over.  I think it is best to understand how long the end will take and be generous to ourselves as we mourn and heal.

My daughter just started college this fall. So the SAT’s, college essays, interviews and college visits are fresh in my mind. Not to fail to mention the obsessive discussions with otherparents about the merits and downsides of College A vs. College B. Frankly, I had very similar discussions when we were looking at preschools. This is parenting in the 21st century.  When I was a child nobody went to preschool. We all went to the local public school, and when it came to college, my choices were between Brooklyn College and City.  With these comparisons, it is hard to know which method of upbringing is better. Or maybe it is a response tothe times and out of our control.  And to make a complicated situation even more complicated, I just read that Steve Jobs and Matt Damon are college dropouts.