Er, right.

I had a lengthy debate once, with the hubster and one of his friends.  We were talking about ‘rights’.

I said there was no such thing, that human beings don’t have any rights at all.  That rights are a construct we have built to make us feel that things are fairer. But they are not fair. Ask the child suffering from malnourishment, whose parents have both died of AIDS, if they understand their rights and they will look at you with blank confusion. Yet here in the West, we make sure everyone in the hospital gets a brochure so they know what their rights are. We protest against the inequities of life in an attempt to right the balance.  We talk about right to life, and right to shelter.  We are deeply offended when our rights are breached. Because they are our rightful expectation, right?  Hubster’s mate was outraged by my perspective. He found it ridiculous, which didn’t offend me, because I’m not that righteous about my view on rights. I’d love to know your opinion on the matter. Here’s mine, for what it’s worth.

We are all, in any given moment, subject to the kinds of events that render the socio-political construct of ‘rights’ useless. What rights did the victims of the Beirut bombings get to exercise last week?  The Chinese flood victims? People struck down with illnesses? Mothers who can’t conceive? Children born drug addicted? Victims of sexual abuse? Are the rights we cling to so idealistically, only for the lucky people?  Is our attachment to our ‘rights’ what causes us pain when our circumstances ignore them?

I listened to an interview with Dan Carter on Newstalk ZB the other day. The sportscaster was asking him about his stunning final game with the All Blacks in this year’s World Cup. He made this comment:
“Well, Dan, you deserve to go out on a high after the stellar career you’ve had…”
Dan interrupted him: “-Um, no. It doesn’t work like that.  People say I deserve this or that, but the truth is, sport doesn’t care if it’s your last game.  Your opposition don’t decide to be kind so you can go out on a high. Injuries happen, losses happen.  It’s just part of the territory.  I keep smiling about that game because it could have been so different.” I am paraphrasing, but that was the gist.

It struck a chord with me, because I’ve noticed it myself a lot lately.  When people hear about what has been happening with my health, and with my new work as a plus size model, the most common reaction is “Oh Rach, that’s great!  You deserve it after all you’ve been through!”  The human race loves fairness, doesn’t it?  We love it when hardship is repaid with success. We love it when difficulty is answered with a time of ease. It suits our inner justice-o-meters.

But I don’t deserve wellness any more than the next person.  It’s a gift. For every one of me, there are thousands of people suffering with Dysautonomia who are struggling every. single. moment. of. every. single. day.  They’re not less deserving. It’s not like the universe has weighed us on a massive scale and decided that I get to experience feeling well because I deserve it more than them. Just like being a western middle class citizen of the world isn’t an inalienable sign that I am entitled to have ‘rights’.  Some things, some life things, are just pure chance, pure kismet, absolute, joyous, happy luck. A gift.  At this time in history, in this body I got, I get to live a life full of benefits. I’m not more worthy.

I’m fortunate.

So my question is, if you have also been gifted with health, either just recently, or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to have it your whole life… have you been making the most of it?  Are you throwing yourself into things and enjoying the gift of chance that enables you to live with freedom?  Don’t waste it. Spend it well.  Do it for all the people out there who can’t.
Take the chances you have been given.
Be bold. Step up.  Step forward.  Speak out.  Stand tall.

XXX

This is a picture of the most stunning, hand-lettered poster my friend Tracey Hassell sent me from Perth.  She asked me for my favourite quote, and then this appeared in the mail. I love this quote so much, because for me it is a reminder of my purpose. I will never forget the lessons I have learned over seven years of illness. I will never forget that people are still suffering while I am not. And that is a greater gift than feeling well. I feel deeply privileged to have walked that road alongside some very beautiful souls.  There’s something in experiencing all that which feels more right than most things.  I get it. I have no rights. I am alive, I feel well.  I am stupendously fortunate.

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10 thoughts on “Er, right.”

  1. Dear Rachel, I have never thought about rights before. Some of us Americans are so blessed to have health, shelter, food, etc that I think we get spoiled and think that we have a right for this and for that. Look we even have a “Bill of Rights ” in this country. How lucky are we? So this is why Americans think that they have rights. It is a bill with plenty of them. Look at the “right to bear arms .” That is causing an uproar and very political. Who’s right on that matter? I could go on but a very good article to think about. Take care Rachel and have a great weekend and Thanksgiving day. It is not a right but privilege! XOXO Randy

  2. I think sometimes we can be the words we choose to describe situations are perhaps not quite appropriate. Perhaps we use the word ‘rights’ to readily – maybe we are trying to justify our ‘wants’ by turning them into ‘rights’. Maybe we use the word ‘deserve’ when we are really trying to say ‘that’s a nice thing to happen after all you’ve been through/the effort you put in etc’. But I do think we all deserve to feel safe, to be loved by at least one person, to have shelter, to have food in our bellies so that we do not suffer from hunger. Without these basics how can we live a life? We are condemned to physical and emotional death. But I certainly agree we should never take anything for granted and whilst we have good health and love from those around us, we should treasure and make the most of what these things allow us to experience.

    1. Carolyn, I wholeheartedly agree with you that human beings should have love, safety, shelter and food. I just think we have forgotten that if we have these things, we are profoundly fortunate. I think too that some people think because they have these things they are more worthy than those who do not. Nothing on this planet is a given. The person with the perfect life could lose it all in an instant. I just think we have become so comfortable in the idea of what is ‘rightfully’ ours. And I wonder, you know, if our expectations need a paradigm shift. X Like you say, not taking anything for granted.

  3. Love the thoughts and expressions Rach. We are all so fortunate and unfortunate in many ways, and a lot of that is down to the whim and fancy of nature and the universe. How fortunate we are to each, in our own individual ways, experience life. In all its chaotic and fanciful glory. xxx

  4. Love this article Rach, it has a deep underlying message of gratitude. It’s not easy to find reasons to be grateful when you are in the midst of so many things you would rather be not grateful for; but it is so important for our ‘survival’ to feel blessed more than we deserve; to seek that one iota or reason to be thankful for and with that, move forward one step at a time.

    1. Hi Victor, I remember you!
      yes, gratitude and a sense of humility… of just how tiny we are in the scheme of things, it’s so important isn’t it? Keeping it all in perspective is one of the hardest things. One step at a time is sometimes the only way forward, but it is still forward.
      Arohanui Victor.

      1. Hi Rach, I’m happy to have read a few of your blogs, and I’m struck by the courage you have to bare your thoughts; to go out on a limb to share your knowlegde with people whom you don’t know and not know how they will react. It’s a frightening prospect for me. But I think while it helps you put your thoughts into their proper perspectives, it also helps readers like myself to become a little more real and kind to ourselves. Your beautiful, simple honesty is empowering as it is contagious.
        Big love!

        1. aw, thanks Victor. You need to get writing! I promise it is not as scary as it seems. Truly, get blogging, it is a wonderful thing and I would love to read your thoughts!

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