Monday, October 13, 2008

Healthy New Year

This year during the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I got dozens of cards, texts and emails from friends and family wishing me a "Happy and Healthy New Year." Of course, the messages were all sent with nothing but good intentions, but they had an unintended outcome: making me contemplate my religious beliefs.

I've never been an overly religious guy. More than anything, I like the traditions and culture of my religion. However, like most people, I occasionally struggle with questions such as whether God exists. This year, the High Holidays took on a new meaning for me. This year, I wondered why I had not been given a healthy year and who was to blame.

Last Rosh Hashana, I was a 23 year old kid just starting a new life for myself in Colorado. I had a great job, wonderful friends, a rich social life, and my health. Things were good. I prayed for my life to continue the way it was. My prayers did not get answered.

This Rosh Hashana, I am a 24 year old man living life with MS. I have to regularly go in for doctor's appointments, experience some severe symptoms of the disease, take injectable medication 3x a week, take 2 medications twice a day and another pill before I go to sleep at night. Clearly, whatever prayers I uttered last year were not good enough for the Big Man to grant me a healthy year.

This year, as I sat in services for Neilah, the service which marks the end of Yom Kippur, I closed my eyes and prayed. I didn't pray in Hebrew. I didn't read the words from a book. I simply opened my heart and prayed. Maybe to God. Maybe to the energy that fuels the world. I don't quite know to whom I was talking.

Then, as if a light went on in my head - it hit me. I was praying to me.

Only I have the power to make the next year as happy and healthy as I can. I have the power to change things in my life I am not happy with and improve my quality of life. I will set goals this year. Some I will accomplish and others I will not. I can only hold myself accountable for the things that happen in my life.

Whether God exists or not is something that I will continue to struggle with for the remainder of my life. But I can't blame somebody/something else for my problems. Nor do I need to assign any blame at all. It is what it is. Shit happens. Now I have to move forward and live my life. I have to surround myself with positive things and positive people that will continue to make my life great. Sitting around and blaming God for my problems doesn't fix anything. And, when I think about it, I did have a healthy year - I lived for another year. That's really what counts - that I'm still here - breathing, sweating, loving and living.

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