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July 6, 2011
When I had almost finished writing my first book, The Art of Getting Well, I was overcome with doubts. Was it any good? Would anyone want to read it? Could I do the promotion and marketing that would be necessary? I didn’t know.
Doubts stopped my writing for weeks. I meditated on it; I worried about it. I studied the market and analyzed where my book might or might not fit in. I realized I had a small publisher who couldn’t do much to help. Perhaps I was just wasting my time.
Finally, a friend did a guided imagery exercise with me that opened my eyes. She had me relax, then meet, in my imagination, with my “Inner Advisor.” An Inner Advisor is a “wise, kind figure who knows you well.” It can come in any form. Many people imagine Jesus, or a wise old ancestor, or an animal. On this day, I got an image of a woman who said she was my great-grandmother, a person I had never met in life.
When I asked my advisor about my problem, her message was simple. I had to have faith. “You can’t know what will happen with your book or with anything else,” she told me. “You just have to have faith that whatever happens will be OK.”
I remembered that message. It enabled me to finish that book, and my diabetes book, and helped me deal with the fears and challenges of chronic illness. I have gone back to that message many times when things seemed difficult with health, work, relationships, finances, when I can’t walk as well, or friends seem distant, or whatever. I have to have faith.
But faith in what? When I ask people what they believe in, many will say God. That clearly works for many. But a homeless poet in San Francisco told me, in rhyme, that faith is not dependent on belief in a particular god or religion or spiritual tradition. Faith is belief in the world, in the future, in yourself, that “even when you don’t know what is going on, things will be all right.” I wish I could remember more of his exact words, because they were beautiful, and from such an unexpected source!
Faith definitely helps me in living with my multiple sclerosis (MS). Every morning I wake up asking myself, “Is this the day my world shrinks further? What have I lost since yesterday?” It’s not until I do my stretches and try to get out of bed that I learn whether I will be able to stand that day. I used to waste energy worrying about such things, but having faith is better. For the last couple of years, I’ve been pretty stable.
I imagine it’s the same with fear of diabetes complications. It’s very scary not to know when or whether your body will give out in some way. When your blood sugar is up, does it make you feel a little bit doomed? Without faith, those situations are harder to deal with.
Sometimes when I look at the world situation — the growing gulf between rich and poor, the endless wars, especially the rapidly heating climate — it challenges my faith. Lately, I’ve been putting more faith in yin and yang, the constantly changing, constantly reversing flow of opposites that make up our world. That concept helps me believe that much of the madness we’re living in can’t last. Just when a situation looks most hopeless is when it can change most radically.
I could see where some people might feel that having faith means not having to do for yourself. “God will take care of it,” like in that story of the man refusing a boat ride in a flood, and drowning. But to me, faith supports self-care efforts. It doesn’t guarantee any results, but I maximize my chances by exercising and eating right.
Or with global warming, I don’t think having faith means “I can drive all I want and God will take care of it.” We still have to do our best. But we also have to believe. Otherwise, why bother?
What about you? Does faith help you deal with complications or fear of complications? Does it help you with managing? How difficult is it to maintain faith when things get hard, and how important is it to do so?
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