Everything Happens For a Reason

Back in April 2022, I wrote a blog post about Kate Bowler’s book No Cure For Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear). If you missed it, you can click here to read it. 

I recently finished reading Ms. Bowler’s other book Everything Happens For a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved)

(Just so you know – this book was published in 2018, before No Cure For Being Human.) 

I am in awe of Ms. Bowler — the way she blends truth and humor, tenderness and rawness. 

Let me share just some of the passages that earned sticky notes in my copy:

“I have had two perfect moments in my life. The first was running down the aisle with Toban on our wedding day, and we burst through the church doors and stood, breathless, alone as husband and wife, gazing at each other like complete idiots. And the other was when they put Zach in my arms for the first time and we looked at each other like it was a conspiracy of mutual adoration. These are my Impossible Thoughts. These are my Can’t-Live-Withouts. I cannot picture a world where I am not theirs. Where I am simply gone.”

“When we arrived at the hospital, a day into hard labor that wouldn’t progress, the doctor looked me up and down and suggested that we return home again.
“ ‘You don’t have the look of someone in labor,’ she said matter-of-factly.
“  ‘Yeah, well, you’re going to want to check me. I am, unfortunately, amazing at being miserable.’”

“Infertility and disability should have taught me how to surrender, taught me how little I can control the conditions of my own happiness. Instead, that helplessness has only thickened my resolve to salvage what I can from the wreckage.”

“If I never nap. If I never complain. If I stifle my sharp intake of breath when I feel the pain. If I hide the reality, then maybe I’m not sick. So I continue to work full days. I get up at 6:30 am every day — no matter what — so I won’t miss a moment with my son. When I stop taking the medication that minimizes the numb feeling in my hands and feet, because I want to feel every shred of what is happening to me, my friends practically stage an intervention. When will I realize that surrender is not weakness?”

“But most everyone I meet is dying to make me certain. They want me to know, without a doubt, that there is a hidden logic to this seeming chaos. Even when I was still in the hospital, a neighbor came to the door and told my husband that everything happens for a reason.
“ ‘I’d love to hear it,’ he replied.
“ ‘Pardon?’ she said, startled.
“ ‘The reason my wife is dying,’ he said in that sweet and sour way he has, effectively ending the conversation as the neighbor stammered something and handed him a casserole.”

“There is no life in general. Each day has been a collection of trivial details — little intimacies and jokes and screw-ups and realizations. My problems can’t be solved by those formulas — those clichés — when my life was never generic to begin with. God may be universal, but I am not.”

What do I want to give them? I have taken the notebook back out and scribbled a couple of words.
That one is for Zach. I have always wanted to raise a boy who loves the underdog, who stops for snails, who wants to know why the man outside the car window says he will work for food. I want to raise a tough softy. He will know the pain of the world but all will be better for it. He will be brave in the face of heartbreak.”

And Appendix I, titled “Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times: A Short List,” is quite wonderful all on its own. Here are a few gems:

“ ‘Well, at least…’
“Whoa. Hold up there. Were you about to make a comparison? At least it’s not … what? Stage V cancer? Don’t minimize.”

“ ‘God needed an angel.’
“This one takes the cake because (a) it makes God look sadistic and needy and (b) angels are, according to Christian tradition, created from scratch. Not dead people looking for a cameo in Ghost. You see how confusing it is when we just pretend that the deceased return to help you find your car keys or make pottery?”