You've got to have faith

Jo Stanley: "When we decided it was time for a sibling for Willow, I went straight for the pond scum."
Jo Stanley: "When we decided it was time for a sibling for Willow, I went straight for the pond scum." Photo: Mike Baker

In my time in the media world, I've had a handful of moments where I've found myself thinking, "Huh, never would have predicted that."

Like the time I stumbled across Justin Bieber's then girlfriend, Selena Gomez, crouching next to my dirty family wagon in our work car park, hiding from some fans who had made it past security. 

Or when Dr Andrew Rochford, the doctor on The Project, challenged my belief in alternative medicine live on national television. He was doing his job and I was doing mine, and healthy debate is the backbone of shows like that. But so is pace, which meant I got all flustered and my argument sounded neither convincing nor informed, especially in the shadow of the good doctor's impressive scientific knowledge.

He quoted stats and studies; I quoted that "Magic happens" bumper sticker.

My problem was that, in all honesty, I had no proof for my belief in the alternative medicine I was defending.

I have regularly attended a traditional Chinese medicine clinic for many years. I see a lovely man who takes my pulse on both wrists, asks to see my tongue, questions me on things I wouldn't share with my husband, and then sends me away with neatly wrapped brown paper packages of what I can only describe as twigs, bark, seeds and dirt, to brew up into a foul-tasting tea that could, in fact, be pond scum.

Don't ask me how any of it works. Generally I just nod politely through any talk of 'liver qi' or 'strengthening my wei qi', and then I start daydreaming about yum cha. After my last appointment I came away with only the knowledge that if I had a band I'd call it Kidney Yin Deficiency.

But I first took the leap of faith because I couldn't get pregnant. It was on the recommendation of a woman who seemed to have a new baby every time I saw her. (I began to wonder if she was hiring them just to irritate me.)

Admittedly, in the gullibility stakes, I was ripe for the picking. After three years of infertility, I would have tried anything. If someone had said to me they'd stood on their head naked on the steps of the Opera House and that seemed to work, I'd have booked my ticket to Sydney that very day.


So I went to my first appointment, then diligently brewed my herbs, held my nose as I scoffed them down morning and night, and the very next month I got pregnant with my beautiful daughter, Willow.

The success was beyond my wildest dreams; I believed I'd stumbled upon a miracle cure. So much so that when we decided it was time for a sibling for Willow, I went straight to the pond scum.

But that was three years ago, and heartbreakingly, we've had no such luck this time around (and not from Western medicine, either, I should add).

So what am I to believe? Is the proof in the success or failure of this ancient tradition? It's impossible to have any certainty. I'm convinced Chinese medicine gave me my longed-for baby, but logic keeps insisting if that were the case, why hasn't it worked the second time?

Herein lies the problem with any belief. You can't apply logic to it. Belief is based on a feeling, a faith, an idea. It doesn't come from facts, but rather from such abstract human conditions as dreams and desires and sadness and joy and love and fear.

To apply logic would be like trying to map the exact trajectory of a leap of faith, and we all know that's impossible. One moment you're flying through the air like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, the next you've hit the deck like Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars. The great thing about belief, though, is that if we have it, we don't need the logic. We, who have faith, know that unprovable isn't the same as non-existent.

For myself, whether it is placebo or panacea, traditional Chinese medicine gives me an intangible sense of feeling better balanced, with more energy, like I'm happier in my body. Western medicine has never made me feel that way, except for the time I had a colonoscopy and they gave me the same sedative Michael Jackson was addicted to. Fabulous for a dreamy afternoon in front of Dr Phil, but not a great lifestyle choice.

Since the beginning of time we have sought external entities to put our faith in, and these days, outside of religion, there are far stranger options than traditional Chinese medicine. The Queen, the Kardashians, Apple, Oprah, Collingwood. I mean, it could be worse; I could be a Belieber. Look where that got Selena Gomez. In a basement car park, cowering like a frightened Smurfette behind my beaten up Vee Dub.

Whatever your choice of beliefs, I think the worst choice would be to have none at all, because a life without unprovable conclusions is a life without hope, and what a bleak world that would be. Put simply, "you gotta have faith".

Now if only I'd thought of that when I was on The Project. Not even Dr Rochford could argue with George Michael.

This article first appeared in Sunday Life.