Keeping Things Simple

 

This healing journey of mine remains deeply wonderful–and very fulfilling.  It also is strange and new everyday.  I can explain my illness in themes, predict what my fatigue levels may be at, and I’m usually pretty accurate.

I can choose to take in others’ opinions of how I’m going (or not going) about healing.  I can listen to healers who believe that I should just think of myself “as not having a chronic illness” and what I think will manifest in reality.  I will be “healed.”

Euro-centric models of healing focus only on the physical body & the elimination of symptoms.  Healing physically is a wonderful thing & there’s so much more.

My emotional & spiritual healing occur alongside my physical healing (of course!).  Lately, with my first two weeks of fall tutoring underway, I shifted into more anxiety and a mental focus of “what I should do.”  And these thoughts were largely separated from my intuition, my imagination & my dreams.

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One of the most simple, and yet profound gifts from Hashimoto’s has been learning to take care of myself & listen to my body.  And to realize that this reality is not divorced from asking for help from other people.

I still remember days when I laid in bed all day.

I remember when I would grocery shop, come home, and lay down for 3 hours, before I was able to do anything else active.

I remember when I would wake up and do gentle stretching, and then get back in bed.

I remember learning to make bone broth.

I remember when I was so weak that I could barely stand in the shower.  I remember when my hand would shake as I tried to lift my arm up high enough to reach for the shampoo.

These memories used to hold a lot of trauma, because they were so frequent, so routine, and they felt so isolating.  I was stuck in my past pain, unable to move forward.

I’ve moved forward now-and the memories still linger.  The body doesn’t discriminate.  I still hold my complete healing journey in my body.

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When I woke up yesterday on the full moon, I read Chani Nicholas’ horoscope for Capricorn.  At the end it stated:

“Stay with what is concise.

Truth needs no embellishment. Your purpose is profound, but need not be overly complex. Keeping things as simple as possible will allow you to experience the deepest aspects of your calling and the most important yearnings to attune yourself to.”

And it stopped me in my tracks.  I knew that my own anxiety and being in my head was getting in the way.  And I also know that I must bring all the learning, all the lessons, all the deep, simple realities from illness forward again.

Everything in chronic illness becomes simple.  It has to be this way.  Listening to the body becomes a means of survival.  Just listening to the rational mind, not only is not enough–it’s incredibly damaging.  The body is just simply more wise, more tender, more understanding, more loving.

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Tears are surfacing as I write this.  This reality that is so simple and so controversial.  But I believe it with my entire being.

“No one is disposable.”

We make conscious and unconscious decisions every day about who is “worth it” and who isn’t.  And here I’m not talking about the healthy need for boundaries and hard conversations, and maybe the need to have someone not be part of our lives anymore.  I’m not talking about growing out of certain relationships and moving on.

I’m saying that at a core level, we are all worthy of love.  We all desire to give and receive love and  the disposable nature of relationships has extremely damaging effects.

In documenting my own healing journey in the first draft of my book that I finished this summer, I found many memories coming up of everyone who showed up.  Sometimes just once, sometimes many times.  These people had different capacities, different things they were saying “no” to, so that they could care for me in their own unique way.  They had their own struggles, their own traumas, their own beautiful life.

They showed me that I wasn’t disposable.  I was fighting to believe this on my own–and I never would have gotten there on my own.

I needed to hear over and over again—

You are important.

You are valuable.

You are worthy.

You are loved.

You are brave.

You are a fighter.

You are tender.

I ran out of stamina on my own.  I could generate that for about an hour a day, and then I needed other people to step in.  Of course I did: I was fighting for my sanity, my health, my life.  That was and is never meant to do alone.

And one of my deepest desires is to show up in deep reciprocity and gratitude for all the people who taught me to believe with every part of me–that I was worth fighting for.  That I was still seen.  That I was not disposable.

There’s a lot of mystery around how this shows up for me in everyday life.  It shows up all the time–and I’m to stay in the flow and direction of Spirit.  Less in my head.  Less forcing.  More back to the basics of the deep truths that I believe.  And this starts with me.

I am not disposable.

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Whiteness & Autoimmunity Part 2

I learned the drill when I walked into a doctor’s office.  I would name my symptoms, discuss my family history, answer questions about my diet and exercise routine, and they would send me off to get blood work.

I always thought it was kinda funny that was the only information they thought they needed.

I would come back with everything in range–and they would look at me and say, “You’re an athlete, you don’t need to lose weight, your blood pressure and pulse are excellent.”

Then they would give me the look like, “Why are you here?”

As my blood tests kept coming back “normal” and I kept reporting increasing pain and fatigue–the doctors threw out the “catch-all” prescriptions: anti-anxiety medication and birth control.

Before I continue: let me say that I don’t have a problem with these in and of themselves.  Even as a teenager though, I knew what I had a problem with: being given something when the doctor had no idea what was going on with me.

I said no time and time again–and to this day I’m really glad for how stubborn I was.

“No, I’m not taking something when you have no idea what is going on with me.  Would you like to read off the list of side-effects?”

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Whiteness includes a deep mistrust of the body & the Western medical establishment capitalizes off this mistrust.

I’d be very glad to have a Western  model of medicine in an emergency, however not for preventative medicine.  Not for illnesses that affect every major system in your body.

I listened to my body to know that something was wrong.  That I wanted help.  And yet the extent to which I paid attention to myself and my own intuition never went beyond just stating that something was wrong.  The answer would come from a doctor, or so I had been told.

Well, when I went to doctors and they told me that nothing was wrong, I started to doubt myself at an even deeper level.  They told me I was making things up.  Things couldn’t really be that bad.

The cognitive dissonance started to get really intense.  My body was saying, “something is wrong.  pay attention!” and the expert doctor was telling me I was making things up.  Who do I trust?

The body doesn’t lie.  I knew that I felt what I felt, but what started to seep in was this enormous sense of self questioning and self-doubt.

“What if whatever-I-have isn’t as bad as I think it is?”

“What if no one believes me?  Then what?”

“If the blood test doesn’t show anything, then am I going crazy?”

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These questions were only the beginning.  Because I was told I was “fine,” I still pushed myself to the limit.  I tried to keep up with friends, even though I didn’t have the energy.

By my sophomore year in college, I created this life that was pretty routine or I couldn’t make it through the day.  I tried to keep my schedule as full as possible so I couldn’t truly feel how exhausted I was, until I crashed at 10pm, had a good night sleep, and started over again.

To be awake and engaged with the world was so difficult & I was so sad.

I was sad because I faked it all day.  I didn’t have energy, but I pretended like I did, day after day after day.  I was sad because I was becoming a shell of my former self.

One day in college I admitted, “No one believes me, not even myself.”

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Whiteness shows up in the health realm as the binary completely healthy/completely sick.  We don’t talk about a continuum, even though, “Of course, there is a continuum.”

At any given moment, I am feeling a little bit different in my body, if given the tools of how to pay attention, how to listen to cues, how to genuinely love my body and not just be looking for disease.

I wonder what stories I would have connected earlier if I had been asked about my anxiety, rather than just my family history of disease.  Maybe I would have told stories of being so nervous before track meets that I would throw up before I ran.  How I heaped tremendous pressure on myself to keep improving, and my anxiety just increased with it.  Maybe I would have talked about how running 40-45 miles per week at 14 was too much on my body.  That I was actually burning muscle as I ran, causing tremendous pain.

That maybe there was more to health than just being a runner and 105 pounds.

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As a kid, I didn’t have big wordy language–but I knew things were interconnected.  I would spend hours looking up at the sky.  I would take walks at night with my dad and look up at the moon.  I would always see the faces the moon was making at me.  I was fascinated by the way the moon changed and how it seemed to be in a different shape.  I was sad at the new moon, when I couldn’t see it and I thought it had disappeared.

I loved when I learned the names of different constellations and I would try to find them in the sky.  The first time I found the Big Dipper all by myself: pure joy.  I didn’t know how or why, but I felt connected to nature, to the moon and the stars.

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Sometimes we say that we have to fight for our health.  I believe this is true on many levels–and the more multiple oppressions affect one’s life–the more that statement rings true.

And if health is about connection–to oneself, one’s body, mind & soul, to nature, to community, to the Divine-then health is also natural.  Not always a fight.  Sometimes seamless.

There were signs that my body was not well years and years before I ever stepped foot in a doctor’s office.  I don’t blame myself, and at the same time, I do wish that I knew how to trust myself, to ask “What’s going on here?”  “How do I get help?”  “What resources do I have?”  “What resources do others have?”

I suffered a lot of pain and illness in my life–because I was told to push through.  I thought I had no other choice.

You see, whiteness is terrified of rest.  For in rest transformation is possible.

More later, people!

What is Mine to Do?

I feel really grounded after my vacation.  I’ve also been taking these past few days really slow, even though I had a lot of tasks to get done to prep for starting the tutoring semester next week.

It’s been slowly adjusting back home: to meditation & qigong when I wake up, making my own food, to taking walks, to rearranging the altar in my room.  It’s been calling the doctor, replacing a headlight, making copies.  In a few days it will be back to lesson planning.  I also know that with the new moon and partial solar eclipse coming up on Saturday, my body is just tired.  I’m letting myself move more slowly.

My intention for this New Moon & in starting the school year in general is to live with these two questions: What is mine to do?  What is NOT mine to do? 

It is in my nature to see things that need to be “fixed.”  Used with discernment and wisdom, this is a very healthy trait that allows anger to surface and to channel that anger constructively towards change.  Used without wisdom, this way of thinking is lethal.  It makes being and presence impossible, and completely sabotages the present moment with judging thoughts of what could be “better.”

I’m entering a year where my health is allowing me to do so much more, and I’m deeply grateful.  And it’s a year where I will have less free time, and in my downtime I will need to rest.

While I’m doing really well health-wise, this and this was still a year ago.  My body is still rebounding, day by day.  Knowing my body really well, also means scheduling enough rest.  Letting my body recharge for the healing work I do every day, and thanking my body for the ability to do it.

Even with all this self-awareness, sometimes I still think I can and should do more.  Sometimes that’s true.  Most of the time it’s not!

With the way my brain works, sometimes it’s just more helpful to ask, “What’s not mine to do?”, list a few things, and move on.  That usually settles down my over-thinking mind.

What I do long for as this school year starts up is more presence.  A heightened awareness of the unique conversations that can happen when two people gather and the courage to have those conversations.

A deep centering in my purpose for this moment, taking a deep breath and letting it all go.

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At the worst of my illness, about 3.5 years ago, I spent a lot of time lying in bed.  Not only was I experiencing physical pain and deep fatigue, but I was learning to interrogate the thoughts and I emotions I had when I was no longer productive.

I came to also know that this culture of non-stop performance and the need to always be busy was also making me sick.

I didn’t know how to be alone and worthy of love.  I wasn’t “doing” anything except learning how to love and care for myself.  What I didn’t know was that this felt like the hardest job of all.

Those days of learning to prepare healing food, of walks, gentle yoga, and short times of meditation set the foundation of where I’m at today.  These simple ways of care come much more naturally to me now.

I am worth all the love, care, and nurture, no matter how I’m feeling.

So what is mine to do?  It is to show up to the present moment, and accept the unknown and the adventure that presents itself.  Yes, of course, there are a ton of responsibilities that I carry, but the most important is to show up when my intuition says “yes” whether out of excitement or even nervousness, and to rest when my body says “no.”

Ever so simple, and ever so elusive at times, when I cease to pay attention.  And what I must come back to, again and again.

A Solo Vacation & Self Love

So much can be said about self-love.  Believe me-I’ve heard most of the things.

“No one can really love themselves apart from community.”

“You have to learn to love yourself, before you will ever be able to love someone else.”

“You need to love other people as you love yourself.”

“It’s selfish and arrogant to assume that you can love yourself in a vacuum.”

So before I move into the bulk of this post–let’s talk about not just what self-love is, but how it can manifest itself.

I will be the first to say that love doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  We all need love from people.  We can seek love from animals, nature.  AND most of us haven’t been taught to love ourselves.  Most of what we do is project our pain & trauma.  We assume that other people exist solely to love us without ever asking if there are ways we are sabotaging the love all around us-and in us.

I suppose we could say that the path of healing and love is narrow and few find it.

I’m also going to make a distinction between care and love, although they share some similarities.

Care may be practical actions I take to simply care for myself.  Insert the ever-so-popular terminology of self-care right now.

Love is much more intuitive than that.  Love is checking in with myself.  It’s asking myself, “What do I need?  What do I desire?  What do I crave?”

Love isn’t being afraid of my passions.  Love is acknowledging my desires and naming them as mine.  Love, for me, means being cognizant of my energy, and not taking on others.  Love is noticing when things shift: whether emotions, needs, wants.  Love is first and foremost acknowledging that I’m human and that my passions, my energies, my needs and wants are not only completely valid, but completely good.

On this vacation of mine, the question that has been surfacing is: “How do I love myself well when I’m alone?”

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There’s nothing like a vacation alone for people to start asking questions.

“Will someone else be joining you?”

“What are you here for?”

“Well, you must be meeting up with someone else, right?”

The message was clear even if the people asking me these questions were unaware of it:

It’s not okay to be alone.  You must be uncomfortable. You are not enough, just you.  You are not worthy.

And these messages aren’t just from these few people.  It’s cultural.  And they are messages I internalized at a young age.

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This week has been one where these messages have been exposed.  Where I’ve needed to see how these messages have affected me & what I’ve done with them.

You see, I’ve desired a solo vacation for several years–and I’m just now taking one.  There’s many reasons for this, including health & money, and yet what also held me back was the belief that I didn’t deserve what I wanted.

That somehow my vacations had to look busy, with lots of people,…..and I wanted none of that.

I wanted quiet, to connect with nature and myself.  I knew parts would be joyous, and parts uncomfortable (like it always is when you practice spending time with yourself!), and yet I wanted all of it!

Intuitively I knew that my soul needed space.  I needed space where I didn’t need to be at certain places at certain times.  I needed space where I wasn’t coordinating plans with other people.  I specifically needed time close to where I lived, to remember, to ground into my history, to be grateful, and to leave the things that no longer serve me.

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So this week has been many things.

It’s been walking on the beach, walking to a lighthouse along a pier, swimming in Lake Michigan, and lingering long enough to watch the sunset.

It’s been so much hiking, including walking a trail that I ran over and over again in high school.  My body still knew the route by heart.  I still knew when the slopes were coming, where the bridges were.  I remembered doing line runs (group of 5-6 people run in a line, and the leader switches every 2 minutes, setting the pace for everyone else) training together as a cross country team, and what a practice in mutuality that was.

It’s been walking along the rivers I grew up around.  It’s been lamenting the history of erasure of the Chippewa indigenous people, both literally and in the telling of history.  I walked into the Nature Center’s visitor center, and the white-washed history was the same one I received as a kid, the same one that is being shared across white families and in schools.

It’s been driving in Bay City & Saginaw, noticing the obvious segregation, and seeing the affects of redlining, still apparent today.

It’s been discovering a new beach, I didn’t know was that close to me growing up.  The Saginaw Bay is pretty great!

It’s been reading, writing, farmer’s markets (Michigan blueberries & cherries!), buying flowers, coffee, fancy dinners and so much ice cream.

And my time isn’t even up yet!

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I can already tell that deep grounding has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen.

Noticing, paying attention, & naming the environment and forces that shaped me has been vital.

Experiencing my childhood home, without family, partner, or children–is still important.  Seeing the helpful and the harmful, and letting them both go.

Even in central Michigan, where I was taught that I needed to exist for someone else, that it was incredibly spiritual to deny myself–I came back, as I grow more and more into my personal power, and aware to the ravaging affects of systemic racism all around my childhood home.  There is power to give up as well.

Paradoxes of course–stepping into and giving up power.  Michigan-I’ll be back!

 

In Being Surprised

I pulled out several journals from my closet yesterday.  They are all kept in this basic 64 gallon storage bin, and have moved with me from place to place over the last 10 years.  I’m not a person who keeps a lot of stuff–however, these journals are what I have not parted with since childhood.

Writing has been my way of making sense of the world, for awhile now.  I’ve journaled routinely since I was 12, and before then I loved learning cursive, and practicing different signatures over and over again.  I wrote letters, and had several pen pals.  Collecting gel pens and different colors of paper and stationery made me excited.

Now, I don’t think I care to pull out what I wrote when I was 12 years old.  I’m sure I will part with these before too long.  But as I reached into the bin and sorted through the journals, I pulled out the ones from the last 5 years.

The ones that kept me sane through the worst parts of my illness.

The writing that saw me through all my pain and fatigue, confusion and questioning.

Those pages that existed to help me sort through my shame, guilt, anger, sadness & despair.  The pages that helped me to feel intensely, who told me that I must move through these emotions, rather than to bypass them.

My journals are a mess-as my sister likes to say.  I’m a pretty structured and organized person and my journals are a place for me not to be organized.  So in those pages are letters that I’ve received, grocery lists, poems, prayers, impressions, hopes, longings, outlines for books, gratitude prompts.

Those pages contain business ideas, to-do lists, and in the worst of my illness, lists upon lists of things I needed to do, written down just so I wouldn’t forget.

My writing is a live record, not just of my growth, in a vague, broad sense.  I believe they contain subtle shifts, cues, directions, themes.  They point to shifts in awareness, discernment through small and big decisions, relational quality, how I’m processing my emotions.  They highlight my honesty, or lack of it, how my view of the Divine shifts from day to day.

These 5 years of journals are going to be my companions for the next month or so.  Some of these words will make it into my next draft of my manuscript, adding authenticity & clarity.

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When I met with my spiritual director on Monday, I spoke to her of these journals, of my upcoming vacation to Michigan, this strong rootedness I’m feeling towards the past right now.

She asked me how I felt when thinking about reading through these journals.  “Even though I’ve dug into my story deeply, and know it well–I think I’m going to be surprised.  I think I’m going to see clues everywhere of how Spirit was present and I didn’t even know it.  I’m going to see things that worked out that I had forgotten about, deep pain that has lessened in its intensity.”

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I’m taking these next few weeks pretty slow.  I’m finishing up with my students for the summer.  I’m leaving on vacation in less than two weeks.

I’m letting myself say yes to things and people who give me joy, stretch me, that place me in a position of learning and listening and receiving.  I’m saying yes to theatre, to music, to nature, to writing, to political engagement.  I’m saying yes to being with people, and I’m still saying yes and going places alone.

This summer has already been more than I’ve expected in so many ways–and I haven’t even gone on vacation yet!   What I’m most thankful for is the ability to be outside for so much longer.  Yes, I still get tired, but tired just like everyone else, rather than extra-extra-extra tired, where I’m recovering for several days afterwards.

I’m thankful that I haven’t had huge reactions to mold in buildings.  I’m thankful I didn’t have to move my tutoring locations for the summer, which I thought I might have to do.

I’m thankful for this deep centering I feel, which has come from my own inner journey and solitude, yet surrounded by many supportive friendships.  I’m calling summer this deep time of integration, where I’m learning how to step into my gifting, where I’m learning what my strong “yes” feels like, where I don’t feel guilty for saying no to most things, where I know that my hard-won inner wisdom must align with my purpose in the world, or illness will come knocking again.

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While talking to a friend last week, I said, “I feel like I’m entering into the fall more aligned with my values than I’ve ever been in my life.”

As I said that, I took a breath.  I was surprised at how true that was.  And yet learning to trust my intuition and my body naturally has put me in a position of alignment.  I just wasn’t quite sure how true this was before I said it out loud.

Alignment for me looks like: regular times of spiritual practice and rest, both communal and individual.  Right now this looks like centering prayer, breath work, qigong, walks in nature, quarterly weekend retreats, spiritual direction, massage, sauna sessions, an inter-spiritual practice & discussion group and Sabbath.

Alignment for me looks like: not working before 10am.  And on Wednesdays, having a longer, drawn out morning, and not starting work until 2pm.  Strengthening relationships with families, continuing to press in deeply in conversations regarding limits, scarcity & fear.  Continuing to be aware and interrogate dynamics around power and money.

Alignment for me looks like: starting my last year of spiritual direction training, participating in the anti-racism team at my church, and helping to facilitate/gather white folks to read My Grandmother’s Hands and engage in the healing process around white racialized trauma.

Alignment for me looks like: continuing to write.  And not setting deadlines & timelines.  But writing and pursuing publication and letting go of the rest.

Alignment for me means be willing to be surprised, being open to wonder wherever it may be found.

 

 

Whiteness & Autoimmunity

Sometimes creativity & clarity just come.  You weren’t prepared, caught off guard even.  And there is this deep peace, this deep knowing in your body.

Yesterday I had this experience while making breakfast, and then while drinking coffee outside.  Simple everyday moments.  Making coffee.  Cooking a pork patty & cutting an avocado.  (yep, that really was my breakfast!)

I had gotten almost 9 hours of sleep the night before, and had spent the morning finishing up a book on whiteness.

I had just finished the first draft of my book manuscript 5 days before.  And while writing this draft I knew that there was this invitation for me: to compassionately notice how personal and collective healing must be intertwined.  How my healing journey has also included a spiritual and racial awakenings. To dig even deeper into my longings and desires and stories.

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I started having significant issues with my health at age 14.  Blood draws.  Heart monitors.  Stress tests.  Surgeries.  MRI’s.  All these became a pretty regular part of my life.

What’s also important to say is that both my parents are white.  They both worked for a chemical company as engineers.  They both had excellent health insurance.  They had already paid off our house.  They had access to excellent doctors (and therefore so did I) and had flexible enough schedules with enough paid vacation so they could take me to these numerous appointments without having to worry if they would lose their jobs.  They had friends with power & privilege to ask for referrals and get me into certain doctor’s offices.

I grew up in a town that was 97% white.  I had white parents, white teachers, white friends, white doctors, white dentists, white pastors, white coaches…..and was told from a young age that I could trust authority.  Not only that, but that I should respect and listen to authority at all costs.

And then starting at 14, I was in and out of doctor’s offices repeating my symptoms—and being told that I was fine.  Over and over again.  Already 2 years later, I started editing my story, hoping that I would have a better chance of being heard, of being believed, of being diagnosed, of being treated.

I was interrogating whiteness and I didn’t know it.  I didn’t have the words, the constructs, the setting, the relationships to realize what was happening.

I knew that to be heard I had to be rational.  I had to be objective.  I couldn’t cry or show any emotion related to frustration or anger.

That’s the language that the white male doctor spoke.  And I had to learn to speak it if I was going to survive the medical system.

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Even as I moved, and I had doctors of differing races–the language still dripped of whiteness.  The medical schools, the Western thought & training–couldn’t be ignored.

The numbers & data was believed over personal experience, by everyone.  We all, to some degree or another, had internalized this belief that the doctor is the one with external healing power.  They must be right, and I must be wrong. They can heal and I am the one in need of healing.  This binary of doctor/patient had to be adhered to–or the whole construct would come tumbling down.

I had a white female endocrinologist at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago throughout college.  She was willing to put me on medication even though I couldn’t prove with the blood tests to date that I had a thyroid disorder.  We had a good working relationship until it just wasn’t anymore.  She started nit-picking at my weight, looking at the scale and shaming me that losing weight was so difficult.  She criticized me when I only worked out 5 times per week instead of 6.

I walked out of that appointment at 21 years old–and I knew what was happening.  I was being blamed in any way possible, because she didn’t know how to help me.  Her inability to “fix” me made her angry–especially as she worked at Northwestern and had numerous credentials.

I saw another painful aspect of whiteness at work: emotionally shutting down and/or becoming angry from a place of not being in control anymore.

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I was a deeply imaginative, empathetic, intuitive child—and I shut down a good portion of this creative part of myself–in exchange for becoming a competitive track athlete.  But, of course, it didn’t go away altogether.

I spent my summers running in meets in Detroit, Lansing, Battle Creek.  In those early years at 9 and 10 years old, I had experiences of what it felt like to be the only white sprinter, and I am deeply grateful for this part of my childhood.

And I remember what I noticed as I went down to Detroit, and then drove back up to Midland, MI over and over again over several years.

Even as a young kid, I knew that I had access to resources that my black track friends in Detroit didn’t have.  I never wondered if I could find starting blocks to practice my starts, or if there would be a rake for the sand in the long jump pit.  I knew that my city would have money to have the track re-surfaced.  I knew that the high school track I practiced on was of higher quality than some of the cinder tracks I ran on in Detroit.  I knew that in the off-season I had facilities to run on, whether indoor or outdoor.  I knew that my parents would just pay for my uniform and that as a track club, we wouldn’t have to put on a fundraiser to buy what we needed during the season.

But at 9 years old-I already knew the power of silence.  The only comments I heard adults saying were complaining about why Detroit hosted meets if they didn’t have enough volunteers, or a reliable clock, or enough resources, according to their standards.

I knew that the adults felt that the meets they put together in Midland were exceptional because we had a press box and made announcements quickly, because the meet ran on time, and all the volunteers knew what their role was during the day.  “Our” meet was better because it was efficient.

I kept all these observations inside.  I already had internalized that I shouldn’t question the status quo, that white authority figures are to be trusted at all times.

Because of my sensitive nature, this created a deep guilt for having everything that I had.  A deep guilt around being white.  And also a deep aloneness in feeling like I couldn’t talk to anyone else.

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Growing up white without a sense of racial identity, and feeling the heightened sense of guilt because of my racial disparity observations–I felt like I only had two options.  Be overly kind to people of color and/or try to help them.

Another aspect of whiteness at work: Dealing with difficult emotions is troublesome and uncomfortable.  Let’s find a way to still be in control and yet serve.  This makes me more comfortable and looks “Christian.”

Growing up in evangelical Christianity as an intuitive, sensitive white girl was heavy.  I was to deny myself, serve, & suffer.  That’s how I knew I was a Christian.  God loved me, but he was also angry at me for all my sin.  Jesus forgave me, and all, and yet I was still invited into a life of suffering.

So what was encouraged from the all white male leadership from the pulpit? To go where there is deep suffering–and share the gospel.  (aka: this would help with my white guilt, still putting me in a position of power & yet service).

That rhetoric influenced my life deeply–both in body & soul.  Jesus, as the White Savior, was who I was to emulate.  The white evangelical church encouraged my white guilt complex and my white savior complex all at the same time.

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There are many, many more stories.  And I will share over time.  And yet while making breakfast & drinking coffee yesterday, I sank into the reality of how “whiteness as the air I breathe” connects with autoimmune disorders, connects with my life with Hashimoto’s.

Yes, people of all races have chronic illnesses.  And, I believe that while the symptoms might manifest similarly, the path of healing necessarily looks a lot different.

People of color since the beginning of United States’ history have experienced genocide, colonization, slavery, Jim Crow, deportation, and racist policy after racist policy to this day.  The amount of stress this places POC in every day life is enormous and can lead to chronic illness.

And, I’m also asking the question, “Why do so many white people have autoimmune issues today?  And why does the number keep growing?”  (The occurrences of autoimmune disorders are larger than cancer now.)

I cannot answer this question alone.  This question will lead to conversation after conversation after conversation.

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Recently, my mom told me that thyroid issues go back to my great-great grandmother.  I wasn’t aware that thyroid issues had affected my great-grandmother’s mother.

That piece of information made me relax a little, and it connected me more deeply in a very small way to an ancestor I never knew.

I also took a breath and could name that my healing journey is much greater than me.  I’m connecting to the trauma of my ancestors that also lives in my body, that is connected to whiteness and a genuine mistrust of the body.

So, I’m learning to trust my body more and more every day.  I’m trusting nature’s rhythms, and letting myself rest.  I’m letting myself be creative, and letting my words just flow.  I’m confronting various ways I have internalized that “keeping with the status quo” encompassed my life’s purpose.  I’m taking deep breaths and asking my body what it needs. And I’m reaching out for other people to be on this journey with me.

I’m letting my healing journey reveal all that needs to be revealed.  And I’m learning to say YES to all of it.

Stay tuned for more, friends!

 

Some Time Off

 

For those who have been reading my blog and tracking my story–thank you.

It is a joy to write for myself and for you–hoping that some of my wandering and learning have a trickle-down effect.

Really, ever since I wrote about my sexual assault, last summer–I’ve been writing a lot.  My healing journey, became even more intentional and deep as I started to publicly speak my truth.  I’m thankful for this past year, and everything it has taught me.

I’ve also been pretty public about my healing process.  This has been immensely helpful to me in many ways, and I’m also realizing that right now, I need to pull back somewhat.  Not from writing altogether–but from writing publicly as often.

Some of you know that I’m working on a manuscript right now–about my wandering healing journey of Hashimoto’s, and the physical, emotional, and spiritual practices that have been apart of my healing and recovery.

I’m over half way done with this manuscript–and I’m going to take the rest of 2018 to make this my main focus, and to step away from the blog for awhile.  My attention has just been pulled in many directions, and I’m wanting to focus on one.

Happy summer, friends.  Thank you for all the support, encouragement, and love.  May you notice the abundance in and all around, and may we all dig into our creativity and rest to bring more and more justice into this world.

 

Health Update-Summer 2018

 

Twice a year or so, I write an update about my health.  This post is largely for me, to look back at later, and see the progress, remember that each decision I made for my health and putting myself first was worth it.  And it’s also for many of you, who have been following my story for awhile now.

So far, this summer is going very well.  I had some pretty severe symptoms when the weather changed, due to hay fever, however, using some Chinese medicine principles, I’m able to address the sneezing, itching eyes, eye pain, and fatigue.

At this point last year, I was having severe reactions to mold both at my workplace, apartment, & church.  And each reaction just made the next reaction worse.  I was unable to detox and the brain fog that I felt was horrible.

So this year, I am glad that I’m not moving, that I’m not switching jobs and starting a business–that in general, my body is able to detox so much better and the environments that I am in are pretty clean.

And the few days where I’ve had a reaction, and I know that I’ve had a mold exposure or my allergies are bad–I have the option to hop in the sauna or take an epsom salt bath–even sometimes both.

When I met with my doctor on Friday, there wasn’t much to say except, “I’m doing really well.”  We tweaked a few things on my treatment plan, and yet the main question that remained is, “What percentage are you at–from absolute worst to feeling as good as you can?”

85%.  We talked about how I desire even greater stamina, even greater focus and mental cognition.  But I’m almost there.

It’s been quite the journey.  And I’m very glad that I’m doing fairly well during my hardest season of the year.

Thanks to everyone for encouraging my journey in doing what I’ve needed to do to heal: from switching doctors, to IV’s, to supplements, to yoga, to acupuncture, to massage, to therapy, to meditation, to qigong, to diet and reintroducing foods back in, and the list could go on.

It’s been quite the journey.  And having a strong support system has been key in my healing.  Thank you.

On Reading Martin & Malcolm & America

 

On Sunday I left church after hearing a sermon on the Sabbath.  Nothing I hadn’t heard before, and yet I wasn’t really aware of how much rest I needed, even after being off work for a week.  Subconsciously I didn’t realize that I was about to re-enact a rhythm from my childhood: go into my room and either read or take a nap after church.

After going to Hoffa’s to get barbecue (it’s a mistake that I’ve lived in Westfield 8 months, and not gotten bbq yet!), I got in bed to take a nap.  But then that turned into, “I’m going to read until I’m tired enough to nap” to “I’m really liking this book” to “Wow, it’s already 6pm” until I finished the book around 9pm.  I basically read 7 hours straight and finished James Cone’s Martin & Malcolm & America.  

First off, I should say that reading non-fiction comes naturally to me.  Secondly, even though this book is close to 30 years old, Cone and his historical analysis could not be more relevant and pivotal.  Thirdly, I learned a lot, especially about Malcolm’s life & how his childhood shaped his empathy and message to blacks living in the north.

I dog-eared several pages with Malcolm’s quotes that I’m going to include here.  I’m not  going to give commentary.  His words are more than powerful enough.

“Christianity is the white man’s religion.  The Holy Bible in the white man’s hands and his interpretations of it have been the greatest single ideological weapon for enslaving millions of non-white human beings.  Every country the white man has conquered with his guns, he has always paved the way, and salved his conscience by carrying the Bible and interpreting it to call people ‘heathens’ and ‘pagans’; then he sends his guns, then his missionaries behind the guns to mop up.”

“Our slave master gave us a blond, blue-eyed, pale-skinned ‘god’ for us to worship and admire,…the religions of other people make them proud of what they are, but Christianity was designed to make us look down on black and up at white…we are supposed to feel honored while serving the white race of Christians. Christianity was nothing but white supremacy, completely designed to fill (blacks’) hearts with the desire to be white.  A white Jesus.  A white virgin.  White angels.  White everything.  But a black Devil of course.”

“Long before the eruption of the riots in the urban centers of America, Malcolm warned of their coming, pointing his accusing finger at the white liberal as the one to blame.  ‘Actually America’s most dangerous and threatening black man is the one who has been kept sealed up by the Northerner in the black ghettos-the Northern white power structure’s system to keep talking democracy while keeping the black man out of sight somewhere, around the corner.”‘

I’m going to sit with these words for awhile-however long that takes.  For hard emotions to come up.  To sit with them, to move through them, and yet knowing that they will come up again.  Such is the process of learning to sit with uncomfortability.  And I must.  Because I’m worth it, and so is everyone else.

Musings on Spring

 

Last fall I felt guilty moving to Westfield, Indiana.

My health was deteriorating quickly, and a friend looked me in the eyes, about to give really good advice to someone like me who struggles with environmental illness.

“You need to move north.”

North meant the suburbs.  Moving north because the buildings are newer and have less mold meant that I have the privilege to do so.  And so I moved.

For several months, I asked the question, “Why Westfield?”

The answers did not come quickly.  In fact, the glimpses are still coming, more and more every day.

It took moving to the suburbs after 10 years of living in various cities (Chicago, Memphis & Indy), to realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in a negation.  I was a white person who didn’t live in the suburbs.

How our identities form is so extremely nuanced and complex.  It’s crazy how many beliefs take hold without even realizing it.

Well, now I live in the suburbs.  And after living here for 8 months, I’ve experienced culture shock, and also a love of the quiet, of parks that surround me.  It’s been a place of rest in the midst of starting my life over in terms of work, home, and faith community.

It’s been a place where re-imagining has taken place.

It’s been a place to take deep breaths.

It’s been a place to become a pedestrian again.

It’s been a place to dig into intentionality.

It’s been a place that has brought back beautiful place memories of my childhood.

It’s been a place to lean into the history of the land.  I live on the land taken from the Miami people, and “founded” by Quaker abolitionists.  I’m learning to feel that deep complexity in my body, and not run from the pain that surfaces.

I’ve been asking deep questions about my work.  About sustainability in a healing profession.  And I’m discovering that working with majority white students gives me a unique opportunity.  Together, we are developing a language and a conversation around limitations, which to me, seems more and more central to our liberation.

I’m learning how to provide a safe space for my students to come into contact with their own resistance with reading, with writing, with their learning difference.  Being a dyslexia and autism tutor is just a container for students to fail in a safe way, and together we build this stamina that failure does not define them, that it’s okay to take risks, that they don’t have to lean into their perfectionism.  That what makes my students so amazing is that they are learning to hold their weaknesses lightly.  They can mess up & laugh about it.

And as a recovering perfectionist, I learn from them every day!

In order for me to hold that space, I’ve needed to dig into my own healing, even deeper.  My work is lovely, and it can wear me out.

I’ve leaned into my qigong practice, my breathwork practice, my writing, finishing out EMDR with my therapist.  I’ve leaned into new friendships and old ones.  I fall away from my practices, and then need to come back to them.

As summer arrived suddenly in Indiana, I found myself reacting viscerally to all kinds of allergies.  I quickly felt very overcommitted and ungrounded.

Spring was a season of deep growth & transformation–and I entered into early summer enthusiastically, yet in doing a lot of outward work, and neglecting my spiritual practices.  I needed to return to my breath & to the earth, where Spirit is so present, if I would just pay attention and bring intention.

Spring brought about some deep “yeses.”  As I spent time at my computer working almost the whole day Saturday, I also was able to reflect on the year, as I sent next year’s calendar to my families.

My business survived the first year!  And I made money!

I joined the Episcopal church, 8 minutes from my apartment.  It’s environmentally friendly to my allergies.  The sanctuary is all tile!  There’s other reasons for joining, that I’ve already written about.  And I’ve joined the anti-racism team.  I will soon be trained to be a Lay Eucharistic Minister, serving communion to those who cannot leave their home.  As someone who has been confined to my bed, there’s no greater gift, than to find a reciprocal way to give back to those who have visited me.

I committed to finishing up my second year of spiritual direction training.  Who knows where this will lead, but I’m excited and the timing is right!

As I’ve said yes to my spiritual practice of qigong, my energy reserve just continues to build in my body, to the point where my food allergies are starting to disappear.  I’m no longer needing most of my medication.  I’m healing in deep ways every single day.  I had no idea this was possible, even though several people told me it was–I was just too skeptical to believe it at the time.

I helped to create a resource list for chronic fatigue advocacy in Indiana, and am learning to dive into conversations about the need for awareness and funding around chronic illness AND also ground inward and know that true healing is always inward, that no one doctor is the “savior.”  Validation is important, and healing from the trauma around not being believed even more important.

Spring has brought a deep yes, to be in contact with the Westfield police department about the over-policing I have witnessed working at the library, as students of color would walk over from the middle school and high school.

Spring has brought a school shooting 13 minutes from my home.  It’s meant texting my families who live in Noblesville, and checking in to make sure they are okay.  It’s been watching middle school students in a very conservative county protest the gun shop that opened that day after a school shooting in their hometown, and say, “Yes, this!”

Spring means walking to the tiny farmer’s market, and smiling.  It means talking to local business owners and sensing a spirit of camaraderie, not competition.  It means talking to the local bee farmer about honey & allergies, and how bees raise the vibration of the planet.  It means to committing to visit the bee farm, to draw closer to the Earth in my own vicinity.

As we draw near to the Summer Solstice, may there be abundance.  May their be joy and rootedness and hope.  May nature teach us about patience.  For everything there is a time.