Things have never come easily to me. I mean that in the most “first world problems” way possible; I’m not disenfranchised, I’m not disadvantaged, and my days are free of racism, both blatant and institutional. There may be challenges I face being a woman, but even those are rarely noticeable enough to pose a problem.
But aside from that, things in my life never work out quite right. I’ve never been the best at anything and I’ve rarely gotten through things easily. Until a few years ago, I struggled with an envy so ugly it colored everything in my life. In high school, my best friend’s father bought her a car and I was so jealous I cried. I fancied myself a writer and lamented the fact that I was only good “for my age” yet a friend of mine, two years my junior, was being published in Harvard publications. I resented the new-relationship glow of coupled-up friends. I struggled with others won choir solos when I never stood a fighting chance. I could go on, but my laundry list of failures isn’t the point. The point is, I was never a graceful loser. Sure, I could hide it – it wasn’t as though I attacked people for getting what I wanted. No one was the wiser; all my pathetic teenage suffering was on the inside.
People would suggest what they thought were novel ideas – “why don’t you try being happy for that person?” OH GEE, I hadn’t thought of that! I wasn’t that I was too stupid to understand that I should be happy for others’ successes. I just… couldn’t do it. I could fake it well, but I couldn’t feel it. No fake it til you make it here.
And then I grew up a little and learned to ignore the sting of envy. I focused on other things and stopped having to fake my happiness for others.
Enter BRCA. When I finally got over being pissed off that I had this mutated gene where most people have a perfectly normal, functional tumor supressor, everything seemed fine. I would deal with it, I thought. I would be fine.
But lately, the beast is rearing its ugly head again. It’s like I’m seventeen in all the worst ways. I chose to have surgery and it didn’t work out as planned. I shouldn’t complain: I’m alive, I’m healthy, I’m pain-free. My issues are largely cosmetic. But when I hear about other women whose surgeries go off without a hitch? I can barely deal with it. I know I should be happy for them; none of us asked for this and we’re all muddling through the best we can. Solidarity, yo. But sometimes I just can’t.
I want to be the one saying I’m so happy I chose surgery. I want to be the one saying everything is perfect, that I couldn’t be more thrilled, that everything went exactly how it should. Better, even. Instead I feel like I’m relegated to the corner, the misfit for whom everyone feels nothing but pity. I imagine people thinking, “Oh, it’s really too bad it was so terrible for you. Thank God I didn’t end up like you!”
Maybe it’s because I know I’d be thinking the same thing. And maybe it all makes me a terrible person. I don’t wish that anyone else would suffer. I don’t want them to have the experience I did… but I don’t want myself to have had it, either.
And that’s what it’s always come down to. It was never that I wanted someone else to fail. I just wanted better for myself. I wanted things to turn out differently. I read a quote once, attributed to Anne Lamott, that said forgiveness is accepting that the past didn’t turn out how you would’ve liked (the actual quote, thanks to some internet research, is “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past”).
I don’t have anyone to forgive for any of this, but there’s also nothing I can do to change it. It’s not the fault of anyone who had the perfect experience. It’s not as if there are only so many complication-free situations to go around and I missed out because someone else took mine. It doesn’t work that way (I hope). The past just didn’t turn out the way I wanted; it doesn’t mean all is lost for the future.
It’s just another thing that didn’t come easily to me, and hopefully, someday I can learn to deal with it.