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.
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.
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.