Life is not fair.
Three different people recently said that to me in one day. These people don't know one another, or even the existence of each other, but all were experiencing unusually difficult life challenges. These conversations led me to give a lot of thought to the notion of fairness, and while I don't have an explanation of why some lives seem charmed and others difficult, I have begun to think about fairness differently.
One of the people who expressed the unfairness of life is my 85-year-old widowed aunt who is nearly completely blind due to macular degeneration. Her daughter, Laurie, was born five days after me, and the two of us grew up together on the same street. We were both happy, playful children and then adulthood set in, which for Laurie brought extreme depression and emotional pain. Last month, after decades of fighting her demons, Laurie committed suicide. A few days later, my wonderful aunt buried her eldest child. Unfair indeed.
At my aunt's house after the funeral, I was taken aback by the photos in a hinged double picture frame on her piano. There was Laurie's and my high school graduation pictures side by side, taken when we were seventeen years old. I was smiling in my photo, while Laurie wore a serious expression. Was that a hint of things to come? We'll never know.
Laurie did not marry or have children, so the person whose life is most changed is my aunt. Laurie's siblings are distraught, but they have families of their own and very busy lives. As stoic and strong as my aunt is, her life is forever impaired; she has gracefully learned to live with being almost totally blind, which will prove far easier than living with her daughter's death.
What did I learn from this tragedy?
1. Use the term "unfair" sparingly. I am the first to joke that it is unfair that Heidi Klum's legs are taller than my whole body, which is probably true but hardly worth fretting about.
2. Want what you have rather than yearn for what is missing. I am grateful to have a healthy body, including my un-Heidi Klum legs that carry me around all day.
3. Don't assume you know about someone's life. We look at the Heidi Klums of the world and see a beautiful woman who seems to have it all--famous husband, cute kids, successful career, lots of money. We know nothing about her private life. As a coach, I can tell you with certainty that many, many people have struggles that are not obvious to the public.
4. Be clear on what "having it all" means. We may envy or admire people for particular traits or lot in life, but would you want to trade places with them if you could? Remember, trading places means giving up all that you are and value, including the people you love.
Bad things happen to good people. There is no rhyme or reason for it. There are no satisfying explanations. There are no road maps for how to cope. All we can do is our best to move on, to relish the joyous moments and somehow learn to smile again.
So, hug your loved ones. Take a walk outside and be awed by nature. Listen to your favorite music. Watch a funny movie. That's all any of us can do. Actually, that's all we need to do.