I used to believe in a myth of "Getting Life Right the First Time." I believed somehow that every kind of success and health ought to be achievable without trial and error, without back-tracking and redoing, and that life, in fact, ought to be problem-free. That was my default perspective (emphasis on the fault) on life for a long time, that I ought to be in perfect shape -- bodily, emotionally, amorously, financially, spiritually -- all the time.
Some of this is culturally rooted: I grew up white, male, safe, protected, indulged, and well provided for in the full bloom of the American dream: As a nation we have plenty, and everything is possible for everyone.
The shadow side of that magical thinking was my belief that if life didn't unfold like that, if something was out of place, then I must have misplayed the game, done life "wrong." Screwed up. Operator error.
Of late I have been using osteopath as my primary health provider. At age 51, my body responds differently than it used to. Over the course of a half-century, I've accumulated my share of scars and aches. My osteopath helps me through them (often to my amazement) and reminds me I am actually healthy.
But if I'm healthy, why does my damn shoulder hurt?
Health doesn't mean mythical, magical perfection. Health doesn't mean immortality either. Health is a present quality, a component to life. It's possible for me to have that scar on my ankle and that ache in my shoulder and still have health, be healthy. In fact, that's normal. I will still have health in the split-second before I eventually die.
Recently, someone quoted to me the words of a Queer teenager, struggling with addiction, who wondered, "How can I focus on my sobriety, when I have no spiritual worth?”
Culturally, Queer people are 'set up' to feel as if we have taken a wrong turn somewhere, that we are guilty of operator error in our lives. We don't fit the [mythical!!!!] norm, and even in the progressive wonderland of 2011 America (where, despite the powerful Queer-hatred and ignorance that are still out there, I believe Queer folks have never had it so good), we encounter unsettling teachings about our spiritual waywardness. You can't leave your house without bumping into it somewhere (and I live in San Francisco, for crying out loud). The world remains structured to instill in us a disproportionate amount of spiritual doubt, to cause us inappropriately to question our spiritual worth.
Spiritual doubt is a fact of life. There is no logical reason to think that we'll live perpetually in easy certainty of our place in the universe, our connection with God. But we have spiritual health, and we have a relationship with God, even if we don't feel it in the moment.
I am grateful to those teachings that remind me of my spiritual health, the same way I'm really grateful of my osteopath for reminding me of my physical health and teaching me to see beyond the pain.
I have health and I have pain. The two are not mutually exclusive. Most importantly, my pain does not nullify my health.
We all have doubt and we all have God. Maintaining spiritual focus is a challenge, but our spiritual doubt in no way imperils our spiritual health or denotes some lack of spiritual worth.
Go ahead, acknowledge and celebrate your persistent spiritual health and spiritual worth.
"God, the soul/breath/spirit/life that you have generously placed within me is pure."
(from the traditional Jewish morning blessings)