Some people confuse faith and religion. Just like they confuse religion and spirituality. They all can exist together, but they can also function independently. I don't have to be religious to have faith - but if that's the case, then what does faith really mean?
Well, I know I don't have much of it. So that's a start. Over the years I have grown more and more pessimistic. Whether this has to do with getting older, dealing with more disappointments and sorrows, or having more responsibilities, I'm not sure. But I could guess that it's all of those things.
You might ask, how is it possible to have hope in a world like this? Where strife is on the daily news, and things have a tendency to suck. A lot. More than often.
Or you might say, having faith is for idiots who aren't in tune with reality - who just want to ignore the inevitable. To maintain a fabricated, lovely world for themselves.
And maybe you have had faith before, and in turn been disappointed. And now you're angry, hurt, and believe that the only way to prepare yourself for the future is by assuming nothing can go right. That way, you don't get hurt.
Well, it took me awhile to realize that even though I might catastrophize every single possibility, even if I assume that things are going to be terrible, even if I try to pretend that it won't occur, if something sucky happens....guess what?
It still fucking sucks.
But now it sucks even more so, because instead of being happy for days, weeks, even months beforehand, not bothering to WORRY or be ANXIOUS about what the future might bring, you were miserable.
So who really wins?
Bottom line is the universe/life/God/Satan/Spaghetti monster/Nature/Essence/Buddha - whatever the hell you want to call it - is gonna do what it's gonna do. Shit happens, and sometimes it doesn't matter how you prepare, how you push back, how angry or happy you get, because it's not going to change the course of nature. Living things die. The weather, moods, jobs, relationships, feelings, and fads change - constantly. You don't get what you want, while some people do. Some of that may be in your power to fix; but when it's not, what choice do you have?
Therein lies my problem. I tend to conveniently forget that there are some things I don't have the power to change. I admit, that's a little egotistical. When you're a child, it's normal for you to be the center of your own universe, as that's all you know. But as a 25 year old woman, I must understand that there are things beyond my control, that have no personal connection to me whatsoever. Yet, I continue to personalize EVERYTHING.
This was particularly my issue this passed year, when a series of awful things seemed to be happening in succession:
- First my email was hacked.
- Then my credit card was stolen.
- My loans increased.
- I had surgery on my appendix.
My second thought was "Of course this would happen to me." PLAYING VICTIM ---> Depression set in.
My third thought was "What am I doing to do? I can't deal with this." ANXIETY ---> Worry after worry.
And then finally, from my hospital bed, I said, "You win." ---> ACCEPTANCE.
Don't get me wrong; fighting my own feelings of dread while stuck in the hospital with an inflame urethra and bladder bordering on explosion was the biggest obstacle of all. I kept thinking, "I can't get through this. This is going to kill me."
But I'm still here. Somehow, I survived.
I go through this cycle every single day. And I'm still alive - so far.
And I don't think I'm the only one. Never once when I was going through this ordeal, or any other for that matter, did I think to bypass the ANGER and the PLAYING VICTIM and the WORRY to get straight to the ACCEPTANCE: this is what is happening; how can I cope with this now.
For some reason, the universe put me through this. Yes, reality is chaos and there are most likely no Greek gods playing chess with our lives up in the heavens. But I do believe there is a thru-line that connects everyone and everything, and that there is a reason (or a reason to be found) for what we go through. Sometimes the only way to learn something is by getting a slap in the face by old Spaghetti Monster himself.
So, where the hell does faith come in, now that I've gone off on this ridiculously long philosophical tangent?
Keep your shirt on.
I believe that faith is what can keep us all sane during these times when life gets hard. Faith that there is light at the end of the tunnel. That you will survive. And most of all, faith that the universe will lead you in the right direction.
I'm not saying it won't suck. Because sometimes, it will suck majorly. But you will be stronger and happier if you have that faith, rather than the anger, fear and anxiety (which will only serve to feed more negative energy), to guide you through these challenging times.
I like to give myself credit for this Zen-like metaphor I thought up for my guest blog on Cyan Years, to describe this state of paralysis I often find myself in when confronted by challenge (if only I would quit thinking up fucking metaphors and just follow my own damn advice):
You’re holding onto a flimsy branch to avoid being swept away by the fierce rapids of a fast-moving river. Of course you’re afraid to lose your grip – you could be trapped in the current for days, hit a rock, be lost over the threshold of a waterfall. But if you stay clutching the branch, you will never budge from that spot. The only way to move on, the only way to break free, is to let go….and see where the river takes you.