Underneath my yellow skin

The injustice of grief

When I was a kid, whenever I used to complain about something, my mother would tell me, “Life isn’t fair!” Even as a young child, this filled me with instant rage and I would retort, “Well, it should be!” At six or seven, I couldn’t articulate why that phrase filled me with such fury, but I’ve given it plenty of thought since then. First of all, I know life is not fair. You’re not telling me anything new with that statement. Secondly, it’s shrugging your shoulders and giving up. In other words, it’s a copout. Yes, we know the world is not fair, but we don’t have to contribute to it. We’re not automatons who just unthinkingly do whatever the world tells us to do. We can make decisions for ourselves and one of those decisions could be to make the world better for one person. We can make that decision every day!

If we all had that mindset, there wouldn’t have been the Civil Rights movement or women’s suffragette movement. Or more recently, the #MeToo movement. Or trans rights coming to the forefront of our collective consciousness. Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr. looked at the inequality around him and said, “Well, that’s just how it is. Life is unfair!” Or Gandhi. Or Rosa Park. None of the major societal improvements would have happened if someone hadn’t stood up and said, “This ain’t right. What’s’ more, I’m going to do something about it.” We need the disrupters who are willing to put their lives on the line to be the change they want to see in the world.

On a smaller scale, that’s what many marginalized creative people do with their works. They don’t see what they want to see out there, so they create it. I do that with my writing. I make my protags bisexual Taiwanese American woman-shaped people with black cats. Is it limiting? A bit, but it’s better than writing about boring and bland straight white dudes. Honestly, if I never read another book with a straight white dude protagonist (or watch such a movie), it’ll be too soon. I was in college when I first made the decision to only ready women of color (preferably Asian women) in my free time. In the mystery genre, that wasn’t possible in the ’09s, so I widened it to white women as well. I did read white dudes once in a great while, but it had to be someone highly recommended by someone I respected. A white dude once said to me in a tone of high dudgeon, “Isn’t that just as discriminatory as not reading minority authors?” I looked at him in disdain and said, “I bet I’ve read way more white straight dudes than you have women of color.” He had nothing to say to that because I was speaking the truth.

This post isn’t about societal equality, though I just needed to get that off my chest. This is more about the true unfairness of life. When I first woke up in the hospital, I had more than one person ask me if I ever asked, “Why me?” as to what happened to me. I said no because why not me? I didn’t take the best care of myself and I have dealt with bronchial issues all my life. I get bronchitis on the regular, well, at least before COVID times. I hadn’t had it since, which was one bright spot during the pandemic, but the fact that pneumonia is what kicked off all the drama isn’t surprising. Well, it is, but only because of what followed. The fact that I had (non-COVID-related) pneumonia is not a surprise in and of itself. Well, except how did I catch it? I barely went anywhere because of the pandemic.

So, yeah. I’m not wasting any headspace on why did this ordeal happen to me. What does get to me, however, is why I won the lottery when it comes to my recovery? Why did I get to come back, mostly intact, with no need for rehab after leaving the hospital? I cannot emphasize how lucky that is. I was given a 10% chance to live at all, and the doctors were talking about brain damage, months of rehab, and how hard the return to ‘normal’ was going to be if I woke up at all. My brother told me all this the first or second day I was awake, which was a lot to absorb. I appreciated it, though, because I wanted to know what I was facing.

Imagine my surprise when after talking with the various therapists, they concluded that I did not need any rehab. Not speech, not occupational, and not physical. In fact, when I met with the physical therapist the second time, we walked down the hallway together with her watching me. When we returned to my room, she said there was nothing else she could do for me and lifted all restrictions on me. She said I was free to walk by myself, which astounded me. This was less than a week after I woke up.

One week after I woke up in the hospital, which was two weeks after I collapsed in my front hallway, I was on my way home .That’s the part that does my head in and I feel somewhat guilty about it. As my brother has reminded me, I should be dead. The fact that I’m not has a lot to do with luck, which I have a hard time grasping. I can deal with life being unfair if it’s unfair to me in a negative way. I don’t like it, but I’ve accepted it as part of life. When it’s unfair in my favor, however, then I become uncomfortable.

Someone in the hospital mentioned survivor’s guilt, which is a concept I know well. I feel that about me coming back to life twice. That’s when I ask, “Why me?” when there are more deserving people than me. Two of my close friends had someone they love die in the last week. I know this is not the way life works, but I hate that they have to go through that now, especially after dealing me me being on death’s door for a week. I know that going through one terrible experience isn’t an inoculation from experiencing other terrible things. One of my friends has actually had two deaths in the last week or so, one of them closer than the other.

Because I want the best for my friends, I struggle with the fact that they went through pure hell because of me. Intellectually, I know that it wasn’t my fault, per se, but I still hate that they went through it because of me. I know I should probably find a therapist to deal with the residual guilt, but I am not up for it at this point.


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