As someone who serves in an unofficial capacity as a spiritual advisor, I’m supposed to have these answers. To tell you the truth, I don’t have these answers completely. Nobody does. That’s the bottom line with anything concerning the nature of the universe, the spirit and why things are the way they are – none of us are truly going to know the truth until we leave these bodies. That doesn’t mean we don’t have some ideas as to why such things happen. I’ve spent a lot of time considering the implications of seemingly good people being assaulted with bad things in their lives mostly due to the fact that I was born a quadriplegic. People born with these kinds of things tend to ask, “Why?” all the time.
Sometimes I see people talk about how they must have done some really bad things in past lives and that’s why bad things are happening to them now, as if they have to repay some kind of karmic debt. I don’t necessarily see karma in those black and white terms. Bear with me on this because I don’t always have a clear way to explain it, but to me, it goes something like this. Being punished for doing bad things is not typically a direct impact from the universal life force, God, whatever you want to call it. Punishment, much more often than not, is self-inflicted. It’s not so much, “I did this bad thing in a past life, so now I have to be punished for it in this life,” as it is, “I did this bad thing in a past life, so now I have to learn why it was bad and I’m going to walk a similar path to teach myself not to repeat those mistakes.”
It is my personal belief that the universe and the way we interact with the universe is much more in our own control than it is something inflicted on us. Yes, there are checks and balances in the universe. There are elements in the universe that push us in this or that direction, but for the most part, fate or destiny or whatever you want to call it is largely in our own hands. That’s the great test of life. I do believe that the big obstacles and challenges are usually preplanned before we were born into this lifetime or even preplanned several lifetimes ago, but the real test is in how we react to those obstacles and challenges. Sometimes there are clear right and wrong choices. Sometimes there’s a little bit more of a gray area and neither choice is completely right nor completely wrong, but each choice will take you into a different life path. Obstacles like diseases, disabilities, identity issues, sexuality issues, self-worth problems, financial challenges, interpersonal relationship problems, and so on and so forth, are all possibilities that can be preplanned, but how you react to those things will determine the success or failure or indifference of a lifetime.
Sometimes the take charge attitude of “I’m in control of my own destiny” can be taken too far, however. I don’t believe it should override any personal religious or spiritual system. The ideas of being proactive in your own destiny and having faith in a higher power can and do coexist for a lot of people. If you use the similarity of a parent/child relationship, a person will look to the parent for guidance, love, support, and so forth, but still maintain individuality as well. A domineering parent/child relationship of “do as I say and it doesn’t matter why” is never healthy, nor is it healthy to blindly follow any particular spiritual path that demands total compliance without your own individuality.
I went through many, many years of being angry with Christianity and Catholicism to the point of completely turning my back on those faiths because I felt it was a domineering parent/child relationship. In many ways, I became agnostic. I really didn’t know what I believed for a long time. I drifted from one religious inclination to another and even questioned the existence of anything spiritual altogether. The anger came from a place of, “Why are these bad things happening to me?” My father left me when I was little girl. I’m a survivor of sexual molestation. I had an abusive long term relationship. I miscarried a child. And as if any of that wasn’t enough to make me question what I did before that was so bad to make me deserve everything bad now, I had to go through all of these things while being a quadriplegic and an intuitive on top of it. I considered myself a freak enough for being a quadriplegic. Apparently, according to the bullies in school, being an intuitive was much more freakish and deserving of name-calling and abuse. As things piled on top of each other, I really didn’t see a point in my existence, to be quite honest, and I developed a drinking problem as well as a dependency on prescription painkillers. None of this is secret. I have been quite open about my struggles of my life if only to help other people overcome their own struggles. I wasn’t always in such a position to want to help other people but I am now.
So why did all of those bad things happen to me?
In my case, the answer is quite simple. All of those things happened to me in order to force me to recognize who I am, where I’m going, and to learn what it means to have a take no prisoners attitude in life. If I don’t go through struggles like that, I don’t develop ambition. I don’t develop coping skills. I don’t develop a need to kick ass first and take names later. Everything I have endured, although nearly impossible to overcome at the time, has made me who I am today.
So when people come to me asking why bad things happen to them, I usually turn the tables. I want people to think about how, yes, these are terrible things happening to you, but what are you going to do change it? What are you going to do to learn from it? People who get buried in their own depression and hopelessness usually have unnatural defeatist attitude that they don’t even recognize. It’s impossible to see things objectively from within the black hole of depression and hopelessness. Life is hard and bad things happen. The idea that they’re happening to you because you’ve done something bad before doesn’t really change the fact that it’s still happening now. So bad things are happening to you. What can you do with those bad things to teach yourself survival skills? What can you do to teach other people survival skills? How can you evolve your negative momentum into positive momentum?
You are very much in charge of your own destiny at this very moment.
Sometimes I give people this exercise. Think of a problem in your life. Now get a piece of paper and a pen, and write down three steps you can take to resolve that problem. No matter what the steps are, do something every day that will push you toward accomplishing one of those steps. Eventually, before you know it, you will have resolved that problem plaguing you and it will have taught you so much about yourself and the world around you. It’s about being proactive in your own life. Don’t focus on the bad things happening to you. Focus on what you are going to do to those bad things.
For me personally, I am very much plagued right now by a disease affecting a few friends of mine. Someone I love very much is suffering a great deal. Someone else I love very much is going to experimental medical treatments barely a year after getting married. These are not things I can fix. I want to because that’s what I do — I fix everything hurting people I love — but I can’t stop this. The helplessness that comes with knowing people I love are suffering and don’t deserve it creates a level of depression I haven’t experienced in a long time. Oddly enough, I found myself turning to something higher for comfort. The religious faith of one person in particular, despite the suffering, has inspired me to seek comfort in prayer again. Prayer, truthfully, is just another form of meditation but I have begun doing it again. I went through a lot of anger for many years toward Christianity and Catholicism because of how I was treated by the churches for being a medium. My anger has cooled and I’ve learned to separate God from what the modern churches are now. I don’t identify as any particular religion though. God and I are learning to get along again. I consider God to be one of many, so that might make me pagan. I think I’m a little bit of everything. I have been told by those in the know that I fit into the Spiritism category (not Spiritualism – they are different). I’m a “let it be” kind of girl, to borrow from Paul McCartney.
Perhaps the suffering of people I love are planting seeds of lessons about faith. Faith in ritual, faith in humanity, faith in love, and faith in the idea that not everything is about crime and punishment, but teaching and truth.
What are you learning from your obstacles, challenges and suffering? What are you learning from the obstacles, challenges and suffering of others?