Since those far off days of childhood, I have from time to time had to face the reality – namely that the “Valley of Baca” experience is by no means unknown in this present day and age. It may be a painful loss such as a time of redundancy or retirement. Or it might be the ending of a long and valued relationship; or the loss of a friend or dear one by death; or indeed of one’s own health with the onset of life-threatening illness. And you might be surprised to know just how many people do ‘darkly’ hint (and some outrightly admit to) at least a momentary ‘flirtation’ with the inclination to quite simply discontinue life’s journey (if you see what I mean). Others may opt for the route of distraction and/or other alternatives; maybe a ‘beefed up’ social diary or recourse to alcohol or drugs, or some other momentary solution or distraction. Their hope, presumably, is that by ignoring or avoiding the problem, i.e. in the sense of not facing up to it, its worst and most painful features might simply go away. And many there are who just ‘grind’ on day-by-day, with resignation and the hope of “greener pastures” yet to come.
On the other hand: should it be that any one, or combination, of whatever coping strategy/ies seem(s) to be working for you, then (so long as it/they are not detrimental to health and continuing well-being) maybe you should just ‘stick with it’. This would also, of course, further assume that you are experiencing at most, no more than very occasional and fleeting thoughts about discontinuance. In the event of the persistence of such thoughts and inclinations, you really must without delay disclose this to a confidante and, either through (or together with) them, to a member of your healthcare team.
There is sound evidence-based reason for concluding that the most effective and productive way of responding to the question, “Why should this happen to me”, is to attempt to somehow discover both a meaningful and purposeful way forward. Viewed in this manner, the question “why?” will be by no means ignored; but rather transposed into, “how?” Not why did it happen? The fact is that it has happened. No amount of questioning or soul-searching can or will change or somehow spirit it away. No amount of wishing, or to use Hardy’s line· “Hoping it might be so” (or in this case, “might not be so”) will change what is.
Not “why?” then, so much as “how?” Simply put; how can I begin to take the very first, all-be-they faltering steps away from the perception of a parched, barren, infertile and altogether pointless and meaningless wilderness; of being a helpless victim, i.e. of “why?” toward a more meaningful and fruitful perception of the higher and more purposeful ground of “how?” That was what – tentatively at first, but with increasing boldness – my young breast cancer patient embarked upon. My 60-year-old patient, who unquestionably was, and understandably, at first lost in a thicket of painfully contorted and negative thinking, did also at length begin to make similar progress. And there is simply no doubt that Moira was enabled to somehow transmute her arid and barren valley into a spring of meaning and productivity in the rehabilitation of her son.
As to the possible hazards and difficulties ahead, who can say? That difficult and painful choices will continue to arise is by no means unlikely. On the other hand – both on the basis of first hand experience and of what I have witnessed from time to time in others – I neither know nor can suggest a more effective way forward. By this means the terrifying gloom of blighted expectation and paralysing seeming injustice may be lifted. How is it done? Well, that in reality is what each blog posted on this website is, each in its way, attempting to explore and – hopefully, to some degree of acceptance and satisfaction – explain and achieve.
- · “The Oxen”, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928).