In Gratitude for Mel Gardner

I just learned that my EMDR therapist died in early May.

Without using this language directly in therapy (although if therapy moved in this direction, by white therapists, that would be fantastic!): I started to learn of the harmful affects of white supremacy and internalized sexism on my body. I started to learn that complex PTSD was not really about the cumulative effects of my individual mistakes–but the systems in operation in and around me.

In our first session I was asked, “How do you know when you are done with therapy?”

My answer: “When I accept myself more fully.”

We often talked about the deep aptitude I have for solitude, how I long for it. And how terrified I was of being alone in my body. How terrified I was for seeing myself clearly, because then I have the choice to enjoy and take responsibility for my life.

Through EMDR’s contemplative & stream of consciousness processing, I experienced how my trauma blocked my own truth-telling, my own self-definition, my own intuition. I was scared to be seen for fear of being abandoned. I saw my own unhealthy relationship with white men, having been raised to be independent, yes–but also to be suspect of my desires and to feel vulnerable without their protection. To maintain the status quo as a white person–namely white supremacy, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy.

I felt a deep disgust and ache in my gut for the ways not trusting my intuition left me complicit. Left me doubting and second-guessing myself constantly. Not truly able to show up for myself or anyone else in an authentic way.

Mel held space for me to say yes to myself. To my desires. To my rest. To my own pleasure and love. Mel had faith that the best parts of myself would emerge over time, when I didn’t know if I had the perseverance anymore.

I entered therapy with an urgency. I didn’t have much money; I really didn’t know how long I could afford therapy. What I didn’t know was that I finished my time with her 3 months before she got cancer. I met her just in time.

Mel Gardner was direct, affirming, and held space for my own rage and agency. She believed on a spiritual level that waiting could be anxiety and trauma in disguise. She believed in healthy anger to propel confidence and intuition. She believed in the ability of the brain and body to heal–but not in a complete, linear way devoid of the unknown. She knew that we need to co-create our reality; that we need to speak to our inner child gently, over and over again. To be in community that affirms our existence, our thriving, our gifts.

“Know that when you drift, there’s time to find your way back to yourself.”

Rest well, Mel. And thank you, thank you, thank you.

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The White Card & the Abortion Ban

I just finished reading the play “The White Card” by Claudia Rankine. In her introduction, she states that the play took shape after a white man asked her, a black woman, a question at her poetry reading. He asked, “What can I do for you? How can I help you?”

To which she answered, “I think the question you should be asking is what you can do for you.”

The play explores theme of white saviorism and the many ways liberal white people may read all the “right books” and know all the “right terms” and yet what prevails is this dominant need for white people to “be right” and to imagine black people as always having needs that white people can heal.

We often don’t ask, “What is my need as a white person?” Not as a way to center in a conversation, but as an internal excavation. We often don’t ask this question in racial terms.

As I’ve seen the abortion vote occur in Alabama & Georgia–the focus is mainly on the cis white men who voted for the bill, but not on the white woman who sponsored the bill and the white female governor who signed it into law.

White women in particular want gender to be visible, but not whiteness. White women would like to present the fact that the women’s movement is united across race, when it isn’t.

Take time to notice the differences between the Guardian article and The Root article. The first is calling out Republican white men, the second white people as a whole.

May we follow the lead of black women who have been organizing around reproductive justice-and donate to their work! (Alicia Garza suggests Arc-Southeast, SPARK, Women’s Feminist Health Care Center.)

What is my need as a white person? I keep sitting with this question. It’s to know that if an immediate “What can I do?” question surfaces out of urgency, I need to ground and remember that black, indigenous & people of color have been doing this work forever. My urgency & lack of education does not help. It’s to know that I often lack historical grounding, and I need to educate myself. I can donate to local, grassroots organizations. I can follow the lead of people of color leading this work and discern my gifting and my limits. I can ask myself, “Is this work mine to do?” I can speak openly, I can direct others to these BIPOC orgs doing the work, I can speak with those in my spheres. I can stay in my lane. I can admit that I don’t know.

This work is both political & spiritual. Justice cannot be extracted from the spiritual realm.

So what can I do for me?

I can speak to the necessity for a spirituality that is grounded in justice as a spiritual director. I can read books, watch films, listen to music created by BIPOC. I can re-learn history from BIPOC historians. I can give my white students books to read that do not center their racial imagination & we can talk about it together. I can talk to other white people. I can accept that my own growth and unfolding is mysterious; it’s in giving up control. It’s about always changing and evolving. I can know that healing happens when my needs are not centered.

I can linger in this question when I don’t have any “answers” at all. I can regulate in my nervous system, be in my body, rest & experience pleasure.

And for all those who have been triggered deeply this past week, so much love. May pleasure and healing be yours.

To Rest & Grieve

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

I’m tired and I’m grieving.

And given these circumstances, I’ve been writing less lately. Which is okay for a short time, but writing is such a creative and therapeutic process for me, that when I step away for too long, everything in me is trying to find a way to return.

Interesting thoughts have come to me lately, almost like I could write about this or that. I graduated from college 7 years ago! What?! I moved to Indy 5 years ago. About 2 years ago, I moved to Westfield and my life re-started in many ways. It’s just been a time when a lot of memories keep popping up.

What I am learning year after year, especially as I pay closer attention to the seasons–is that I have my strongest environmental reactions in May and June.

These are months I deeply appreciate for the warmer weather, for the spring turning into summer. And I experience environmental reactions in buildings as the weather warms up, but the air conditioning hasn’t been turned on yet. My body can still feel the mustiness, the lurking mold in buildings.

It feels like my body fighting to return to this deep patience within myself. A patience that accepts what is happening. A patience that can still cling to gratitude, somehow, even in the midst of a brain struggling to make coherent sense of the thoughts moving too quickly to process. A patience that resists my brain telling my body about how active I “should be” (Should is a huge warning word!!!) especially since the weather is warmer.

A thought came to me while driving in the car this week–my body still associates May/June with intense performance, whether it was big track meets growing up, exams and finishing school, graduations, moving. There is this intense feeling of needing to improve, that I’m learning to sit with more gently.

As I’ve taken time to just be with myself, to observe all that is swirling around, it’s also clear that my body is trying to be distracted (even though I wasn’t truly conscious of this until today) from the fact that I was sexually assaulted by a doctor 4 years ago. At the end of May. The urge to disassociate feels really strong right now. And generally I just feel distracted.

I’ve felt like I needed a lot of alone time; and simultaneously like I didn’t know how to be with myself.

I just finished reading The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel. In this second chapter he says, “Out of the days through which we fight and from whose ugliness we ache, we look to the Sabbath as our homeland, as our source and destination. It is a day in which we abandon our plebeian pursuits and reclaim our authentic state, in which we may partake of a blessedness in which we are what we are…”

So far May has felt like accepting how I feel, and also showing up to my life in ways that I can. Showing up in the lives of friends. Being gentle with myself and my limits, and accepting that showing up often can’t mean “in person.” It’s meant watching those protest Millions Missing, in hopes for more government funding for ME/CFS. It’s meant showing up at a local school board meeting. It’s meant offering a spiritual direction session between tutoring sessions. To grieve the loss of some beautiful white ancestors: Rachel Held Evans and Jean Vanier. And to grieve Sandra Bland’s arrest & death as more footage has been made available.

It’s meant realizing how much rest I need, even with fatigue it feels like the rest I need feels extremely elusive, like that need is never going to be met. And yet the longing to rest, to be in my own unique authentic state is there. So I’m giving myself space to grieve and hold joy. Giving myself space to realize what I need and to rest. To rest from the reactions I have from buildings and to recover.

And not to recover just so I can go work really hard again and collapse. And repeat that cycle again and again. Heschel states in the first chapter: “To the biblical mind, however, labor is the means toward an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work…The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays, the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.”

So this summer, I’m going to keep leaning into rest and pleasure, not just as a thought process, but to embody them in new ways. For the sake of life.

I finished out my tutoring week, by reading this piece with my student honoring Jean Vanier’s life and work. As my student was giving supporting details about Vanier’s legacy, he said, “It seems important that laughter and play were important parts of Vanier’s life and calling.”

Yes, I most certainly agree.

Springtime

Photo by Gariele Wright on Unsplash

A big part of my continued healing journey is syncing my lifestyle with the seasons.

I really do love winter, in ways I haven’t come to love until recently. My birthday is in January, so is Christmas. I love staying inside, watching shows and reading. I do a vast amount of my reading for the year in the winter. And the energy that I preserve in the winter, I draw upon for the rest of the year.

My body knows when springtime is coming, not just because of the warmer weather. My body feels the dampness, the humidity, the pollen in the air, the invisible mold particles in ways other bodies do not.

Spring is the season of newness and renewal, and also the toughest season on my body. There’s a lot of practices that I adopt, particularly in the spring–whether it’s showering at night, taking quercetin to help with my histamine reactions to food, eating lower histamine foods, using a netti pot, more epsom salt baths to help clear my brain, more walks in parks and by creeks.

Spring means rest too, although the rest looks differently than winter. I take time out of my schedule to recover from environmental reactions–whether it be perfume, humid weather, a damp building. I have less reactions than I used to, and for this I’m very thankful. And I’m also glad for the shifts in belief as I heal. I love my body much more than a year ago.

I really don’t need to be more productive. So I’m going at my own pace. I finish my training in spiritual direction in just 6 weeks and I’m preparing now to launch a new website sometime this summer. These feel like big moments for my body, because setting up times to have new pictures done and having people help me with my website is very welcome help–and yet, it’s more appointments to fit in, and depending on the day, my body may or may not have energy for those.

Some days I come home from work, eat dinner and get in bed. That’s all I can do.

I’ve been haunted in a good way from the question, “What does it mean to get well, to be healed?” When that question is posed by doctors, it’s like my answer should fit into this ableist world –something to the effect of, “I can work a 60 hour/week job, run around after work with friends or family, thrive on 5 hours of sleep, and drink lots of coffee without having it affect my work or health.” That’s not my reality–and it’s not a reality I want.

Even though I have more energy than 5 years ago–I’m still tired. A lot. I still have work days that I barely get through. A lot of my free time is still spent resting, recovering, saving up energy to go to bigger events. I have free time that is spent at the doctor, at the chiropractor, in spiritual direction myself.

My tired body has asked me to make really clear what I have energy for and what I don’t. What I prioritize making time for, and what I don’t. My body lets me know when my actions are out of step with my values because extra fatigue will surface.

I still spent a lot of time in my bed. This can surprise people, because I can show up to more things than I used to. But so much writing, so much reading, listening to podcasts & music, watching movies and shows happens in bed. And these are all things I really enjoy. My bed feels like home. And the solitude that I exist in & have helped create feels beautiful.

Last weekend, I spent a lot of time by myself. I needed to rest. I needed to be in a really low-stimulation environment in order to gain some equilibrium back. And I read Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice-the entire book in less than 24 hours. Time slowed down, I breathed deeper. I’ve been longing to learn about the history and origin story of disability justice for awhile, and it was a joy to learn, to be. I will be writing more in later posts!

For now I’m returning to the quiet, when I need it, because as astrologer Shaunga Tagore said in my birth chart reading, “There’s so much life in the quiet.”

I need the quiet as I embrace what is unfolding this springtime, even as I rest. Even as I undo the belief that “Warmer weather means that I need to be busier.” Even as I anticipate the change that is coming.

Who I’ve Been Reading/Listening To in Bed Regarding Disability Justice!

Agender

My healing journey has taken me back to my younger self, to ask for wisdom.  To see what I was like, to see how I’ve distanced from aspects of myself that I want to reunite again.  To remember and to ask new questions. 

I loved being alone.

I loved to be in nature.

I loved to create and be in imaginary worlds.

I loved the stars.

I loved walks.

I loved to be reflective, to listen to my mind’s inner workings. 

I was shy. 

I’m returning to this wisdom.  Through returning, I keep learning to access this intuitive wisdom, my empathic nature. 

This fundamental draw towards friendship with humans, with the earth, with animals speaks to my nature—and one that I pushed aside for so long for the sake of productivity. 

I’m returning because what I do stems from who I am.

And I’m returning to speak about gender.

I know that gender has always felt ambiguous to me. 

Not ambiguous like it doesn’t matter. 

More like, whenever a situation presented itself as “masculine” or “feminine” I felt like I needed to shift a part of myself to “fit in.”

I didn’t really have language for this though.  I’ve never been into hair, make-up and dressing up.  EVER. 

It wasn’t even like I wanted to care that much about it though.  I just didn’t. 

I felt really uncomfortable because the only option it seemed like when I didn’t care about the things many women care about is that I was repressed. 

And because I grew up in a very conservative Christian environment, it seemed like the only healing path sounded like this:

“You know, it’s really okay to bring attention to yourself.  You should make yourself stand out.  You deserve it.”

I liked sports.  Played sports.  Followed sports.  I had several guy friends and yet I was overcompensating in this “masculine energy” (at least that’s how a lot of people refer to it.)  because that’s how I learned to be recognized and rewarded. 

Be rational. 

Be competitive.

Win.

Protect yourself.

Fight for power.

I never felt like I was in the wrong body.  I never wanted to be a boy.  Over time I realized I needed to let go of needing to overemphasize my masculine energy just to be seen. 

Interacting in this unbalanced way didn’t serve me well.  It didn’t allow me to know myself, know others, let go, receive.

In the holistic health world–this journey could be called balancing the masculine and feminine energy. 

I needed this journey.  I needed to know how much “feminine energy” I hold in my body.  My empathy, my intuition, the way I nurture and cultivate myself and communities. 

These energies are strong within me.  But simply the divide doesn’t make sense to me.

I don’t feel masculine or feminine.  I don’t feel like I belong to either gender.  I don’t feel like these energies are separate and in need of “balancing.”

That’s known as agender–an identity in the non-binary spectrum. 

As I reflect on how this has functioned throughout my life, the common thread has been my natural inclination for minimalism. 

My aesthetic is simple & low maintenance (hair, clothing, make-up, jewelry).  Things for me must be functional–and for me this is not a statement of repression. 

But as a way to tread lightly on the earth, while not ignoring responsibility or personal power. 

This way of being does amplify my spiritual/connection energy and it’s not saying the earth and the body are bad or meaningless. 

It’s simply just a way I move through the world with greater connection, in love with myself and others, the Divine and the Earth. 

The greatest movement towards understanding my gender occurred at the height of my illness when I was simplifying my lifestyle. 

When my energy was so limited that I knew that to heal I would do less, eat less kinds of food, work less, see people less. 

I knew in my body that less could be revolutionary. 

And this movement wasn’t a commitment to minimalism.

It was necessary for my survival first. 

Then my thriving. 

Then my acceptance of myself. 

So I keep on returning to my younger self for wisdom. 

This kid who had a strong connection with nature, with kids, with older people, with the stars. 

This kid who had strong, aggressive energy who loved to run, to be outside.  This kid who both absolutely loved to win, and sometimes didn’t want to compete at all.

This kid who went through phases of dress up and dolls and wearing dresses non-stop because I loved them.  This kid who also became really content with spandex, sweatshirts and sweatpants, and not as a way to hide. 

This kid who spent summers building forts, who wrote letters to everyone, who fell asleep with books all around me in bed. 

This kid who accepted this role of just trying to please.  Who absorbed a lot of the energy of scarcity, even while living amongst privilege. 

There was a scarcity of connection, of deep relational exchange in my family of origin.

And yet I had deep relationships with friends, with nature and I internalized that my depth was something to fear.

I realized that there were gender rules and that i didn’t really fit.  So tomboy just worked for awhile.  It helped me to make sense of myself. 

But in order to make this “work” I suppressed a lot of my “feminine” energy. 

Through oppressive church teachings about what it meant to be a “woman” I lost a huge part of myself. 

I tried to be a tomboy, to be smart & to be good. 

And I stayed in this place for a long time. 

Just trying to please and do what was expected of me.  I didn’t leave a lot of room for wonder or exploration anymore. 

I was overwhelmed with this feeling of being different and being sick. 

But being sick made me look at myself.  And I learned to honor myself, to accept what I could not control and saw that many of the things I repressed in myself were keeping me sick.  

It was from my own physical healing, where emotional and spiritual healing also occured (of course!)

Curiosity, life & wonder returned. 

With that came questions about gender & sexuality–and then wonderings, and then affirmations. 

Alyssa (she/her and they/them)

Thoughts about Writing

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

writing has always been how i process, how i make sense of the world, how i just write in my journal like i’m talking to a friend.

writing is how i’ve learned to be a friend to myself.

writing is how i learned to tell the truth. and gave me courage to actually speak it out loud. and i continue to learn truth-telling and courage daily.

writing will always be there.

writing can happen anywhere. i just wrote while eating breakfast at a favorite local spot and i got stared at like “why are you alone and why are you writing?” to which my inward reply was, “why wouldn’t i be writing?”

writing allows me to be disorganized. this enneagram 1 needs a few spaces that are messy and completely disorganized. my journal is one of those places.

writing need not be published to have value.

i teach writing to students who hate writing and i think that’s funny. and i don’t tell them that they need to like writing.

i have enjoyed not blogging as much this year. but i’ve probably written more. i’ve almost finished my second journal of the year already.

writing helps me to cultivate my interior depth. and i’m learning to love this about myself more and more.

writing allows me to be petty or silly. or both.

writing reminds me not to take myself so seriously, and also to take myself seriously. writing can hold all that ambiguity.

writing is a companion through all the emotions.

“Staying Small to Stay Safe”

This phrase shows up a lot in healing stories and healing spaces. I just read a story that had this exact phrase. And this morning when I read it, my body recoiled.

So as I went about my morning, I let myself be curious. Not to “figure it out” but simply to be with my body’s wisdom. To connect with my passion and my anger, and just let them be with me.

Let me start by saying, in general, what is meant by this phrase seems okay. Because of various identities and realities, we all to some degree, hide in order to stay safe, maybe to very literally survive.

Then the healing narrative takes a turn where someone takes a risk and shows up more fully as themselves, vulnerably and in their power. Don’t get me wrong, I too believe this is a good thing.

And yet, there’s more resistance in me still, because I believe that more nuance can exist. In the spiritual plane I do believe that there is enough to go around when we all show up in our power. There is enough and we are enough.

And. On this physical plane-racism. classism. sexism. homophobia. transphobia. ableism. capitalism. etc. We all hold differing identities, and some of us are more marginalized than others. Some of us will be more protected when we show up BIG in this world (namely, white people).

But, who defines what showing up BIG even means (usually white men)? Sure, each person can define what showing up BIG means for themselves, and yet to pretend that we aren’t influenced by white capitalist patriarchy would be the BIGGEST lie.

So the questions I’m wondering about this morning is: (and this is for my white friends) could staying small actually mean power? could backing up actually be liberatory? could listening transform our outlook? could speaking just mean one voice among many, rather than THE objective voice? could quietness backed by action be revolutionary? could rest mean that we are left to notice the dominance we hold in our bodies, and to ask new questions so that healing can take place?

Simply put, I think “staying small to stay safe” is ableist. I think that “staying small to thrive” can be a deep, robust reality.

I am a white person who lives with a chronic illness & has tons of internalized ableism I work through every day–and will continue to. It’s difficult to conceive of the healing journey other than “getting better”-where someone else external to me has defined what “getting better” means. And usually that means healing for the sake of being more productive, and being less of a drain to people who can be more productive than me, who take on more work.

Being sick for half my life, has meant that I have done deep thinking and acceptance around the reality of limitation. To the point now where my limitations are a source of joy. And because I find joy with limitation, I don’t equate “staying small” with “bad” with “not enough” with “there’s so much more for you.”

Honestly, staying small has transformed my life. It brings me to the present moment of “enough-ness” no matter how I feel. Staying small disrupts the messages of capitalism, even for a moment–and just says, “rest, you deserve it. yes, even if you’ve been resting all day. rest some more.”

I believe my growth so far in this life has been lingering in the smallness, in the hidden spaces, not needing to showcase it, but at various moments sharing freely. And a lot of the time, spiritual transformation businesses and courses are just about capitalism, disguised with “spiritual” language.

Doing more. Showing up more. Extending more. Even being more.

Yes, sometimes these are what is needed. I completely agree. If we are stuck in paralysis and guilt and overwhelm, moving to action is healthy. And sometimes the quiet work is unacknowledged–or assumed that the quiet work needs to have a certain public element at some point. And all I am saying is maybe not. And maybe the quiet work is showing up in how I relate, even if there is no “production value.”

White Fragility & the Nervous System

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

My grandmother, my mom’s mother, died a few years ago. My mom and her spent a lot of time in those final years working on our family’s ancestry. But it wasn’t until my grandma died, and my mom was helping her siblings clean out the house, that she found a box with some papers that she had never seen.

My grandma, in the final year of her life, was asking the tough question: “Did our family own slaves?”

The papers she found showed that our family owned many more acres in central Georgia prior to the Civil War than she thought–pointing to the obvious fact that our family did indeed own slaves.

There was a reason my grandma hid those papers, and did not have this conversation when she was alive. The shame about our legacy is strong and unrelenting.

Robin diAngelo coined the term white fragility describing the defensive moves white people make when even a minimal amount of racial discomfort surfaces. Why? Well, I don’t have time to write about this here, but read Robin’s book!

The past few years of my healing & spiritual journey has been about exploring ancestry, my illness & how it affects my body, racism, white identity development, my creativity & writing.

And when my mom told me that story, I know that there were layers there for me to explore. You see, I’m also the fifth generation who has a thyroid related disease. Mine being the most severe in a low-thyroid autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, and leading to a complete lack of life force by the time I was 19, and almost an inability to get out of bed when I was 24.

There’s a lot of writing about thyroid diseases broken down by gender however there’s only one study I can find breaking it down by race.

It’s far more likely for a white woman to have Hashimoto’s, and far more likely for a black or Asian woman to have Grave’s disease. Both of these are thyroid disorders, however Hashimoto’s consists of an under-activated thryoid gland, while Grave’s consists of an over-activated thyroid gland.

The explanations given are due to genetic factors & environmental triggers, which is my opinion includes about everything! There is much study to be done in this realm, but there are questions that I am asking.

And I want to point out that I’m not a scientist, a historian, or a trauma-specialist. This is not a post, where I claim to be any of that! This is more of a post of my spiritual wonderings and questions, and is still very much in process!

I was in a class about a year ago, when a healer stated, “One usually contracts a thyroid disease when one is silent about their truth when it is time to speak.”

And that phrase gave me pause. Intuitively, it rang with deep truth & yet I was also asking, “What was the truth that I needed to speak when I was 18?”

As I asked that question, over the course of a few months, I realized that question was too isolated. “What is the truth that my family has been silent about over the generations, whose physical manifestation has resulted in sluggish energy & a blocked thyroid?”

Almost as soon as that question formed, the image of my grandma’s hidden box of papers came to my mind. “My family owned slaves. We are ashamed about it, because it was been hidden. It is not a story we have passed down, but have kept that energy in our bodies and our cells. Letting the secret grow, even though no black person would be shocked by this story. We have not chosen to heal, we have not chosen to speak. And it hurts ourselves and people of color every day.”

I’ve been reading the book My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem in community over the past year. In the book, he states, “For America to outgrow the bondage of white-body supremacy, white Americans need to imagine themselves in black bodies and experience what those bodies had to endure. They also need to do the same with the bodies of their own white ancestors. And they need to ask themselves this question: “If we don’t address our ancient historical trauma, what will we pass down to our children, and to their children and grandchildren?”

I can’t help but wonder if the majority of people with Hashimoto’s, including myself, are white–how does the sluggish energy, the unrelenting fatigue, the body start to attack its own tissue, reflect the white ancestral condition? We hurt people of color by not choosing to heal, and we also hurt ourselves. Our nervous systems remain fragile, feeling like any ounce of conflict derails our healing.

I can’t help but wonder if a majority of people with Graves are black because the thyroid must be over-active, hyper-vigilant in order to navigate a racist society. The weathering effect was coined by Arline Geronimus and can be read about here.

As I come to the end of the post, there are no next steps. I think that the question, “What do we do now?” is a disembodied question stemming from guilt and fear, and trying to “get it right.” My practices may be different than yours. My questions may be different than yours. Maybe you hated this whole post. I will say though that developing a relationship with my gut has been key. Healing my gut is a huge piece of healing autoimmune disease, and discovering all the emotions, and questions, and insights that reside there. Check out Tada Hozumi’s work to learn more.

Lastly, to all the people who are white & sick, I see you. We can do this. We can heal. Our idea of healing may need to shift. We need to bring ancestral resources forward that we didn’t know that we had. And we don’t need to take up more room as we do this. And we can be supported. I don’t believe that blaming ourselves for being sick has any place in our community. And I think that while continuing to hope and search and advocate for a cure–is needed and crucial, on multiple levels, I also believe in all the emotional and spiritual resources inside us. It’s time.

Diagnosis Day

On February 3, 2015 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. That day changed my life in many ways, and it was also ordinary.

After the 2 hour long appointment, I took a nap, and read all this literature about changing my diet. Yet, that was the starting point.

I’ve learned so much these last 4 years–and I keep learning. There’s been deep inner work, there’s been healing, and yet an ongoing realization that I don’t just exist on this earth to produce things. I exist just to be. To be myself. To be in loving relationship. To love myself.

So healing for me hasn’t been about “getting my life back.” The life I had before my diagnosis was pretty empty. I thought belonging was about fitting in and being able to do what I saw my friends doing.

It’s not. Healing is about knowing myself, knowing others, knowing the Divine.

My illness has led me to this place; and at this point I count it as a gift. I would never wish this illness on anyone, and to those who have it, I would say, “maybe the invitation is to find who you really are.”

No more over-extending. No more not speaking my truth.

Sure, I will make mistakes and lose my way. But I trust myself to find my lane again. And that makes all the difference.

Oh-and please check out The Nap Ministry.

And please check out Rest for Resistance.

Below is the ending of a poem I wrote to commemorate this year’s Diagnosis Day. My illness is speaking to me.

I am a lonely companion, taking you to peer at this shifty shadow. But I am near, and you will grow. Yes, slow. Yes, risk. Yes, joy. Yes, help. Yes, you are stronger than you ever dare know.

Taking Deep Breaths

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

I saw the doctor yesterday. It was a good appointment. I went on a few new supplements (after going off almost all of them last spring because I was doing so much better!) to help with the ongoing GI infection that affects the absorption of nutrients.

I was reminded that I am sick.

This feels like an unusual statement even to write. Of course, I know, and yet as healing happens, it can be difficult to actually grasp how much I am doing right now–and how much rest I still need and want to engage in, because of all that I’m doing.

I was reminded in a simple way that as life goes on and I meet new people, that each person knows a piece. That’s how life is.

My doctor told me that I needed to slow down, needed to simplify, needed to go back to eating less inflammatory foods, while I continue to heal my GI tract. Yes, I needed that reminder.

Healing is fluid. Sometimes healing means doing more. Sometimes doing less. It requires a receptive posture and a deep trust in one’s intuition to know the difference.

Sometimes it means accepting & heeding warnings from others, and sometimes it means simply knowing that they don’t truly understand and their advice is coming from their own discomfort. Trusting myself, while still being deeply connected in relationship.

I also just started seeing an amazing chiropractor. I’m thankful. I’ve been having increasing low back & neck pain. He just told me yesterday that my body has a difficult time truly resting; sinking into my parasympathetic nervous system. And I said, “Yep, that sounds about right!” The every day task of healing from an autoimmune disease, and living with it. And connecting with this phenomenon on a spiritual plane and knowing this is also connected to ancestry and whiteness. I carry a lot in my body and healing is my task in this lifetime.

I was reminded how light it feels to ask for help. To accept help from humans, but also from nature, from the Divine. To accept help from friends, from scientists, from plants, from myself, from doctors, from family, from my ancestors.

I sat down with a friend for lunch today, who also lives with chronic illness, and just explained how difficult it is to be working full time and finishing out my spiritual direction certification right now. We talked about pacing-about the dance of adding things in, needing to cut them out, and knowing the right time for each. Trusting the wisdom of the body. Taking ourselves seriously and be willing to accept what we need. Taking ourselves lightly, and knowing that whatever we are saying “no” to isn’t us “missing out” but it’s a gateway for permission to say yes for what we really need in the moment. Everything will be okay without us, even if being absent stings a little bit.

I said “no” to being present for a presentation that I helped plan for a few months. And I moved on, accepting that the no was the right thing for me.

In the midst of all these personal decisions, Nathan Phillips sang in the midst of racist acts by the Covington Catholic white boys, and Martin Luther King was honored in some places, and white-washed in others.

I’m talking with my students, teaching, guiding, laughing–pushing back against “love & light” MLK quotes, talking about the Covington Catholic white boys’ racism–pushing back against white silence.

Then there’s resting. And detaching myself from outcomes. And accepting that I’m not in control. And breathing deeply. 2019 is bringing deeper acceptance of this quiet work. It’s already helping me create a new container around what is mine to do.

I’m in my Saturn return year! And I’m excited to see what changes, where I expand and grow and heal. And also, everything is intense (And this Capricorn season kinda felt terrible!) And I’m claiming what belongs, and learning to see what I need to let go of, where I need to become softer.