December 12, 2013 by NowhereButPop
“And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, shine on until tomorrow, let it be”
-The Beatles, “Let It Be”
As much as it is possible for there to be a “bad” number, besides 666, the distinction of “worst number” goes to 13. In many western cultures the number 13 is considered to be unlucky, or in some cases evil in nature. Some of the reasoning behind the taboo of the number 13 comes from religion, astrology, mythology, and science, but in all cases the conclusion is the same-13 is an unwelcomed and woeful number. Theories as to how 13 received the designation of being unlucky and wicked range from the fact that there were 13 members at the Last Supper, to the omission of a 13th law in Hammurabi’s code, to the ancient belief that menstruating more than 12 times (once every month) a year was a harbinger of bad news. Regardless of their validity, I don’t think any one of these reasons can explain why 2013 was such a terrible year.
It seemed like everywhere I turned, maladies such as cancer, strokes, anxiety, depression, and death were attacking myself, my loved ones, and others I knew. From personal events all the way to finding out via Facebook, it seemed like 2013 was unkind to everyone. How could it be that one year, this year, was universally painful for so many people I know?
Now, I know what I’m doing is pulling an event from one person’s life and then pulling another event from somebody else’s and then adding them all together. But the fact that I can add them all up in the first place is pretty harrowing as is. I can list off five people who this year either were diagnosed with cancer, or had a cancer scare. Loved ones have had strokes and intestinal problems on top of anxiety and depression. From Facebook I’ve seen people have had to endure losing a loved one or a loved one having an aneruism or a heart attack. Maybe the interconnectedness of the world just makes these things more visible, or maybe there really is something wicked about 2013. It just seemed that everyone was suffering at one point during the year.
Since I’ve graduated high school, there’ve been a fair amount of deaths from people I used to go to school with. Some of these kids I didn’t know, some I knew of, and others I was friendly enough with to say “hi” to them in passing or hangout with them in a large group of people. More often than not though, the cause of death was a car accident. The only thing I could think of whenever I heard the news was “How could this happen?” We’re young and we have our whole lives ahead of us, and for some of us it’s tragically cut short in the blink of an eye. For myself and others who I’ve seen plagued by circumstance or sickness, the one repeating thought is that we’re too young for this to happen. 22 is far too young to develop cancer or to pass away from cancer. 22 is far too young to almost lose a parent. 22 is far too young to have intestinal problems. 22 is far too young to develop anxiety or depression. 22 is far too young to die. But these things are happening, and it would appear that they happened too often and too deliberately in 2013.
Personally speaking there’s been deaths, strokes, discovered genetic disorders, anxiety, and sickness that have been attacking people in my life. From what I’ve seen or heard from other people these same things have been wrecking havoc upon their lives and loved ones as well. The lingering question is why does it seem that all of these maladies are occurring now, over the course of this year? Part of it is life, and experiencing the tragedies thereof, but for myself, it just seemed overwhelming.
Throughout my life and while growing up, I’d been to funerals, lost relatives, and have been befallen by other troubles. But over the past year or so, I guess I either saw or realized the darkest avenue possible for how bad things could get. Maybe I had been to skeptical or naïve to the severity or even possibility of something like cancer hitting close to home, but when it did, it shook me. And the more I found out that things like cancer or overdoses or death were making their presence known the more it shook me to my core. It made me think that there would, from now until forever, be something sinister lurking in the corner, waiting to strike.
But the thing, the most important thing, that I had forgotten is that where there is death, there is also life, when there is despair is also hope; from sorrow comes joy, and from fear comes action, the action to put an end to the fear. From a life threatening stroke with an uncertain chance of recovery, a full recovery was made in short time. Biopsies revealed that tumors or growths were benign and non life-threatening, while those with cancer were treated quickly enough to send the cancer into remission. A mother who feared she might have a genetic pre-disposition to pancreatic and breast cancer that her children might inherent from her discovered that she didn’t in fact have such a genetic pre-disposition. Anxiety became mitigated and depression finally seemed escapable for others. From all of these tragedies, there’s been a cathartic road to recovery that’s seemed to triumph over the initial negative trigger.
Even for those who have passed this year, there’s been nothing but love and commemoration for them as we’ve chosen to celebrate their life and the essence of who they were, instead of embittering ourselves by dwelling on the passing. There’s nothing that can take the pain away, but we can make it easier to live with.
When we’re hit by something like depression or finding out a friend has cancer, or fearing for a parent’s life, all we can do in those instances is react. In most cases there’s no way to be 100% proactive; this is life and we are humans, unfortunately that means that terrible can and will happen. What we do in response often has greater ramifications on our lives than the initial devastation. It’s something akin to an earthquake, wherein there’s the primary shock that you can’t brace for; it just strikes. But it’s the aftershocks, the fallout, that you can brace yourself for, and incidentally enough, it’s actually the aftershocks of an earthquake that causes the most damage and devastation. By mitigating the fear and uncertainties surrounding a cancer scare or a friend telling you they might need to have invasive surgery, you’re controlling the fallout of the aftershock, and preventing the damage of the news from being worse than it already is.
As I hinted before, fear inhibits action; it constricts and stifles to the point of inaction. Fear is boundless; it is unfathomable, and it is unlimited. We only fear as much as we allow ourselves to fear, but when it gets to an overwhelming point, that’s when you can’t really respond because you’re too caught up in being fearful of something. You can’t prepare for those emotional aftershocks and so you let yourself crumble in the aftershocks of fear, generated by these maladies. When the fear is constantly being fed into, you can’t untangle and reign in the fear as there’s just more fuel provided to keep it growing endlessly. But once you accept the fear for what it actually is, you can get past it by focusing on the actions that try to limit the damage that that fear or malady brought in the first place.
When people fear the number 13, more often than not it’s just something for them to fear. They don’t know why they should fear it, so their mind makes up a reason to fear it, or they try and justify it by drawing similar harrowing correlations. Even if I’ve seemed to have done that, I can’t escape the fact that it appears that too many people have suffered in 2013. The darkness of 2013 fades and the shining light of 2014 is just beyond the horizon. Be gone 2013, we have no more use for you or the suffering you’ve wrought upon us.