IE Grapevine Updates

Sweeney: When the odds just aren’t in your favor

Growing up in a Catholic/Christian fused home meant a lot of things for me. For one, I was exposed early on to the concept of trying to emulate the love of Jesus Christ. It meant spending some Sundays here and there in a building dedicated to an omnipotent being I was just barely getting acquainted with. And it meant a thick book full of quotes that made sense to me sometimes, and other times not at all.

But more than anything, growing up with this meant that I was constantly seeing those “inspirational words” scrawled over the walls, key chains, and mantras of the people I knew. Terms like hope, love, peace, and faith were always lurking somewhere, reminding me of the sort of ideals that should be visible in my life and my character.

The funny thing about faith is I have seen it a lot more now that I have been encouraged to not have it. I was always raised to be happy, and even more so, thankful. And I always have been conscious of the fact that I was blessed by the good fortune of being born to parents like mine. I have never wanted in the way that has plagued others simply due to a difference as slight as circumstance.

But an integral part of my identity has always been my Father’s incessant battle with terminal illnesses. He has managed to always combat them with the kind of attitude that usually only exists in the campy, inspirational movies he and I always have loved so much.

As I have spent more time these past few weeks wandering the halls of hospitals and learning how to maneuver things like IVs and wheelchairs, I have learned a critical lesson. The faith I learned about when I was little never existed within me until about a month ago.

I was always taught when I was little how important faith is, and believing that God will be there for me in times of strife. And I am not lying when I say that I have always believed that message. But that was just the problem. It was always a phrase that came across as an easy thing to repeat when necessary, but in no way really influenced my day-to-day existence.

Friends of mine have this incredible, unbreakable ability to believe so passionately. And for many years I thought that was the kind of faith that I needed to have. Something that was worth dancing, singing, and exclaiming over. I love people that do that. But I just simply do not have that sort of way about my faith. And I sometimes felt that if I did, the untouchable framework of my life would change. My Dad would get better. My family would live in a way that was not centered around doctor appointments. And I could be the kind of normal I always thought was somehow preferable.

Then today I finally came to the point where I realized I am perfectly OK. I do not have to fit into a mold in order to be loved or acceptable, whether to God or other people. My problems may be difficult, and I have always suffered from the tendency to compare myself in every regard to the experiences of others. My experiences are still valid, regardless of how challenging other people’s hurdles are. They matter, and they are shared in some form or another by other people. They have shifted me towards the paths I needed to tread, which I would not have ventured down if my life had been so refreshingly simple.

Faith is a funny thing. It is different for every person; some people feel it is not for them, and for others it is everything. For me, I have learned that it does not mean being the poster child for kindness and a stream of Biblical knowledge to cushion my tougher endeavors. Instead, it means just kind of going with the flow, but infusing that with a sense of purpose.

It means never accepting less than what I want. It means focusing on my lifelong desire to see my Dad better and my Mom able to take a deep breath out of relief rather than worry. It means spending another afternoon with my family where my Dad can laugh without coughing and be relieved that the worst is behind us. It means accomplishing the goals that have come out of late night Richie’s Diner dinners and moments when my Dad said, “Wouldn’t it be wild if…” It would mean if I ever actually met a man that harbored the desire to spend his life with me, my Dad would walk me down the aisle and someday meet my kids.

As much as I have often said those two last desires in a whisper to the people I trust most, it has finally hit me that there is just no point in being shy about what I want. I have an unknown amount of years, months, or days to accomplish the things on my very long checklist. This is no time to live timidly for fear that I may not accomplish what I want to become, or the uncertainty of what may happen if I do. As much as I am in the dark many days as to what my purpose is, I finally just have to trust that I am at least en route to where I am supposed to go

At the end of the day, the situations that make life tougher are no excuse for forgoing what we want. We have to live bravely, with the mindset that we will achieve what others think is the most impossible, outlandish goal to have. We have to dream bigger, pray with more confidence, and have stronger faith. I believe that things will work out. In fact, I know they will. Life has brought me too far for the earth to crumble beneath me.

As much as the odds are consistently stacked against my favor, that has never stopped me before from seeing things through. The universe has given me every tool that I need to tackle each challenge as it comes, and be successful at it. Sometimes they are obvious to find. Other times, you just have to dig around longer to find the one that works.

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