Miss. Manners warns that one should never discuss politics or religion at the dinner table, lest conflict erupt.
However, I’m not at a dinner table.
Let’s hope that no conflict erupts.
I don’t actually want to talk about religion, at least not in the sense of organized divisions of belief systems.
Rather, I’d like to instead just talk about the importance of believing.
Something that is bigger than yourself.
Sometimes organized religion isn’t friendly to people with chronic illness. In addition to hearing about how someone’s Great-Aunt Susie’s best friend Alice’s niece got better with a special blend of vitamins, a large number of us Chronics have been told in some capacity that if only we 1) prayed harder or 2) believed harder, we would be cured of what ails us.
I don’t want to get into that any more than to say that if you are a person who says this to others, STOP IT.
All it does is hurt people’s feelings and create doubt and avoidance where you were hoping to create renewed fervor.
We are all trying just as hard as we possibly can, whatever that looks like in our own situations.
It can be difficult, when you’re lying awake at night, staring at your ceiling, unable to sleep because of pain or hamster-wheel-thoughts or over-exhaustion, to think that any sort of God or Universe or Spiritual Being would ever purposefully do this to you. Because of course, you are a good person, and of course, you haven’t even lived enough of a life yet to have done anything to deserve all this.
It can make believing hard.
It can make believing hurt.
This week it’s Thanksgiving, and the holiday season is right around the corner (unless you listen to Wal-Mart, in which case, it has been here since Halloween). In addition to Black Friday sales and Holiday Wish Lists and whatever new things there are to get, people tend to get a little nostalgic and a little thoughtful, about that whole “Reason for the Season” thing.
I’m not here to tell you any one reason for the season. There are bunches. Please feel free to Choose Your Own Adventure…
What I want to talk about really, is not forgetting to believe in something.
I have been down a lot of roads.
One of them was called “The Universe hates me and wants me to be unhappy.”
I actually used to say that.
I thought it was true. I was sick all the time. It seemed like just when I felt a little bit better, something bigger and scarier and more dangerous was lurking, waiting for me to think I was out of the woods before attacking me and knocking me down once again. It kind of looked like just maybe, the universe was out to get me.
The more I said, “The Universe hates me,” the more I felt hated. The more I said “And it wants me to be unhappy,” the more unhappy I became.
I had an epiphany one day. Yes, it had to do with finding a specific spiritual path, and yes, I’m trying to keep my spiritual path talk “neutral” because I feel like there are 110 ways to get to the same place and not every way works for every person.
So I had this epiphany. It had to do with someone telling me that the Universe did not hate me. It did not want me to go around depressed, feeling bad about myself or my situation any longer. I’m not supposed to be the Victim in my own life story. I’m supposed to be the Victor.
I started reading a lot about spirituality. I started asking myself questions about what is important to me, what my values are, what I have been taught to believe, and what actually feels right to me now. I wrote a million things in a million journals. Eventually I came to a place where I could more or less spell out what I believe in, to myself, for myself.
Coincidentally, that’s when things started looking up for me.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you a magic genie in the sky started granting my wishes once I started asking for the “right” things. I’m not going to pretend that things magically started to go my way all the time just because I work hard to develop my spiritual side.
What really happened is that my attitude shifted. You can try to separate the two- attitude adjustment and personal belief systems, but I’ve found that they really go hand in hand. When I didn’t believe in anything, when I felt like “Is this all there is? Pain and suffering, everywhere, for ever and ever?” I could never keep a positive attitude. When I was nihilistic and felt like “Nothing I do makes a difference so nothing matters,” I wasn’t able to feel happiness. It wasn’t until I decided that I do believe, that I was able to feel things like hope and joy and gladness.
When I think of what I believe in, and how I’d like to explain it to other people, it’s very simple: I believe in love.
(Please cue the Whitney Houston song montage… No really, don’t laugh. It sounds corny, but it’s true! Read on…)
No matter what condition I find myself in, I believe I am always available to love. Even when my heart is physically spastic, it is spiritually capable of opening up, to giving and receiving love. That’s a very powerful thing, because it tells me that absolutely, no matter what, I have value and I have the power to show others that I value them.
When I think about this, and what it means to me, I feel happy. I feel hope. I feel like the Universe loves me and wants me to be happy.
I feel like this picture, which is so beautiful and wonderful and didn’t have an artist credit where I found it, but I’d like to thank them, whoever they are:
A friend once told me that she could tell I was going to be one of those Chronics who aim to get “better, not bitter.” That was a huge compliment, knowing where I have come from, where I have grown from. It’s also an interesting observation. I feel like even when you first meet someone, you can tell just by the way they act if they truly believe in something more than themselves. People who do are secure, confident, and have a calm about them. They may not have all the answers- that’s not what it’s about. They know that it’s ok not to. They strive to be better than they were yesterday, because they know there is always a point to it.
Believing is a deeply personal thing. Like I said, it doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you find something that has meaning to you. If you find yourself feeling insecure in your life, check in with your spiritual side. Examine your beliefs. Does what you’re following truly fit you? Are you trying too hard to make something fit, that just won’t? You’re the only person who knows your insides- are they trying to lead you to something? It doesn’t have to be organized if that doesn’t feel right to you. You can be the only follower of your own unique path if that’s what has to happen. Just know that when you move confidently in the direction of your true thoughts and feelings, the whole universe will open up to you.
Please know that it loves you and wants you to be happy.
I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving and the holiday season, Chronic readers! It brings up a lot of *feelings* for me, sometimes heavy (today’s post), sometimes light (check in on Friday for my Turkey Day review!). I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!