Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's Their Fault

Marty and I were in the offices of the Great and Wise the other day when a middle-aged patient came in hacking and coughing. My first reaction was stay away from us, H1N1 is not our friend. The patient was carefully led back to a sub-waiting area where we later saw them lying on a couch still coughing huge coughs.


We later found out that this patient was not a flu case but a patient with emphysema, a chronic respiratory ailment. My first thought about this patient was not sympathetic. My first thought was, well, they probably were a smoker and brought this on themselves. It was their own fault. Then, I caught myself. How could I know anything about this person? How could I have made this leap, this assumption, that basically this person got what they deserved. I was being judgemental, blaming and presumptuous all at the same time. It's a familiar feeling, let's blame someone, preferably the first person we see.


When Marty first got sick I really wanted to blame someone. I really wanted to blame something. I wanted to find fault somewhere. This whole thing needed to be someones fault. Someone or something had to be held accountable. I blamed Marty, I blamed the doctors, the nurses, the hospitals, I blamed God. I was pissed at pretty much everybody and everything, including myself. I still get that way from time to time.


I believe in many ways blame has become almost a cultural more of dealing with completely unacceptable circumstance. We want to blame someone. It's their fault. We want to hold someone accountable even if that gets in the way of sympathy and understanding. Tell me if I'm wrong, when you see the homeless person, it's their fault. Tell me, you really think differently when you see the overweight lady with the oxygen riding on her cart, she did something wrong. Tell me you've never thought, "if they did this, or if they did that then they would not be where they are." Brother, I am there, and too often I find myself wrestling with those same demons. It is all too common that we look at the person with the chronic illness and blame them for it and somewhere in our mind our demons tell us that they are a burden on all of us.


But, here's reality, the hard truth. Marty did many things in her life that helped cardiovascular and respiratory illness become a part of our life. Marty did not exercise, she smoked and she often didn't eat as she should have. Marty made some bad life style choices, but she didn't give herself a stroke. As much as I have sometimes wanted to blame her, it's not her fault. Marty did not want this, did not ask for it and certainly did not deserve to have so much taken from her so young. Marty, in spite of her mistakes, did not do this to herself.


Does this mean we can abdicate responsibility for ourselves? Absolutely not. We all have to realize that how we care for ourselves, how we carry ourselves, how fate treats us impacts a lot of people around us. Going to the gym is not just for yourself, it's for your spouse, your children, your friends. But, we can't go around believing that sick people are bad people, that a person with a chronic illness is somehow less than and not worth as much. People with chronic diseases don't want to be that way. I know Marty hates it every day.


For the most part I have quit blaming Marty, I have quit blaming God, I have quit blaming fate. Not to say that if you get in my way I won't find a way to make you responsible somehow, but that's stupid.

I don't think God had anything to do with Marty getting sick. I think God takes a pretty laissez faire approach to this kind of thing. I think our frailty is how God brands us as humankind. We get sick, we have accidents, we make mistakes, we break. God doesn't break us, God just doesn't stop us from being broken, hopefully God simply helps us pick up the pieces.


Yes, I'm still looking for someone to blame. I'm still looking someplace to place my righteous anger. I do have a better perspective, but from time to time I still feel the need to not just feel angry, but be angry. Now, if I could just find the right place to put that.

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