Who hasn't wailed: "Why does this happen to me?" Walking into dog poop when you're in a hurry. Technical difficulties that just won't let you connect. Getting jilted - again. Failure and loss.
A good friend recently provided an incredible new perspective for me as I bemoaned what I saw as yet another bout of disappointments that I was sure the Universe was purposely lobbing my way. He said: "It's not happening to you; it's just happening."
Really? You mean it's not about me? I am not a victim of repeated misfortune? I could have sworn...
No. You are not that special. The Universe is not reserving all its hurt and practical jokes for you alone. You are just a speck in the vast web of humanity that, in this life, experiences pain and disappointment as well as joy and growth.
That day when my friend made me see the amazing difference between what I think happens to me and what just happens, I realized that when we hurt, it certainly feels like it is all about us. Bad things were done to us, against us, and repeatedly. But, his simple and wise words highlighted that sh*t happens, to everyone, all the time. It is the way of the world. How we make sense of what happens is the difference between feeling powerless and suffering a little less.
When we believe things happen to us, we are victims. We feel targeted, unfairly made to suffer, and without recourse. We may even feel like we must have contributed to the situation that is making us suffer, adding self-blame to the wound. From this position, it is difficult to recognize that we are likely not alone, and that we do have ways to meet our challenges that make them easier to bear. By practicing a little bit of radical acceptance, we can move out of the prison of victimhood and begin to heal. We can more readily uncover the ability to observe that things just happen, and that our freedom lies in how we respond. Pain and disappointment still abound. Sometimes very terrible things do happen. Yet when we can see them as something that "just is" and not something that was tailor-made to destroy our day, or life, it gets a little lighter. Now there's room to focus on moving past the hurt, seeing it as a result of so many other factors -- others' needs, fears, insecurities; carelessness; our choices; forces of nature; a lesson that needs our attention; our human vulnerability -- instead of another random act of suffering with our name on it.
Sh*t happens. Sometimes often, frequently, incredibly. If we believe it happens to us, we can get stuck in self-pity or resentment or guilt. If we can observe that it just happens, we can look up and ask: now what am I going to do about this/learn from this/discover from this? I think it is a more useful and compassionate way to live.