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.

 

 

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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.

 

Pausing to Remember

This upcoming weekend I will remember that 3 years ago I was assaulted by a female doctor in the greater Indy community.

I’ve been gentle with myself as I know that the anniversary is marked in my body in some way.  I’m not engaging in reliving the trauma, yet I will simply make space to acknowledge it.  I’m hanging out with a dear friend on Saturday, which helps a great deal.

I’m writing to acknowledge my own power, my own agency, and all the healing that has occurred.

When I wrote about my story last summer, (see Post #1Post #2Post #3Post #4), the Larry Nassar case was gaining traction, yet was not headline news.  He had not yet been charged with any crime.  The brave women’s impact statements were not readily available.  I wrote following my body’s intuition, that the time was right to share my story.  I felt stuck; and I wanted to tell the truth.

Yet, I was following the Nassar story, and these women were given me courage.  Our stories were all too similar.  And I knew that my own healing meant speaking up.  Speaking up knowing that nothing judicially may come of the situation.  But I knew that my silence was eating me up inside; the shame from being publicly quiet was harming me, and I didn’t deserve to be harmed anymore.  And so I spoke up.

Of course speaking up means that I’ve gotten a lot of questions.  Whether it’s, “Why don’t you publish her name?” or “What kind of doctor was she really?” or “Are you sure that’s what really happened?”

Of course speaking up means that there’s plenty who have decided not to believe me.  There’s also numerous people who do; and for that I’m deeply grateful.

Of course speaking up has meant entering into a more complex situation.  The pressure to keep quiet is strong.  The pressure not to critique the medical profession, even stronger.

Several months ago, a friend asked me, “Why speak up when you are pretty sure that you won’t be taken seriously?”  It’s a good question.  One I’ve thought a lot about.  It’s ultimately about my healing & me believing myself.  Believing my story and what I know to be true.  It’s about trusting my intuition and believing that my body knows how to heal.  Voicing my truth is a huge part of healing.

When I formally reported her to the medical board this past December, there was this sense of closure.  I had done my part.  I couldn’t control the rest.  She is still a practicing doctor in the Indy area, and I still drive past her office 4 times per week.

Most mornings I simply pray, “I hope nothing bad happens in that office today.” Sometimes I just scream in my car, letting that excess energy find expression.

I write this in gratitude of the numerous people who have helped me heal, through conversations over coffee, texts I received after reading my blog, healers who listened, took me seriously, and who have taught me how to feel safe both in my own body, and in healing spaces in general again.

Because I no longer participate in yoga classes and have flashbacks or be on constant alert in healing spaces or question the motives of women in authority.  This healing wasn’t instantaneous.  I have experienced healing because dozens of people created safe space for me–and left room for me to come home to my body, to myself.  Created room for anger and tears and fear to be witnessed.  Created enough space so I could sit with a female therapist again and process all the varying and interconnected ways, I have experienced powerlessness, to feel the anxiety in my body, to tell a story that was once jumbled, and now can be told in a linear fashion.

To let go and still be in control—the paradox in therapy that I learned again and again as I plumbed the depths of my story, in the room of a female healer that I had learned to trust.  That I respect deeply.

I am here today in a really good place.  A place full of gratitude-not for what happened to me-but for living into the reality of how much healing truly is possible.

Lists & Affirmations

It’s funny when I have lots of ideas of what to post, and what feels most pressing is just to talk about the ordinary.  For the ordinary describes the whole.  The ordinary describes the mystery & all the inconsistencies of my life.

Walks & talks with friends old & new.

Waking up late & rushing to work.

Babysitting Cash, my roommate’s dog.  Visiting a few different parks.

Not setting an alarm & letting the sun wake me up.

Inconsistently practicing qi gong this week to Motown.  Great combo, by the way!

Drinking pomegranate tea in the morning.

Finishing up the semester with my students & giving assessments throughout most of the day.

Doing breath work with a friend over a lunch break.

Binging on NY style pizza & cookie dough while watching 13 Reasons Why.

Going on adventures & driving to new places on mornings off.

Indulging in my desire to rest & read.

Planning a summer vacation for myself.

Listening to my fatigue & choosing not to do much this weekend.

Having good days & having days where my allergies flare & my brain feels like mush.

I’ve written a lot this winter & spring.  So much is healing and shifting.  Fatigue and energy come and go.  I’m adding in new foods & taking red meat out of my diet.  I’m finishing out the first two semesters of teaching with my own business.  And I’m leaning into summer, with all its abundance and ordinary-ness.

I’m leaning into my own abundance, my own flexibility and spontaneity.  I’m catching myself when I shame myself for things I can’t do.  I’m practicing coming back to the present moment, being thankful for this body, this breath, even the fatigue, when it lingers longer than I want it to.

I’m reminding myself of how much better I’m doing than last summer.  I’m lingering in the gratefulness that this summer, I will not be moving or starting a new job.  I can trust my body; I can trust what it’s telling me, even if I don’t want to hear it.  I know that intense allergies are a sign of imbalance–yet I don’t have to let that discourage me, or lead me down a path of feeling powerless.

I can trust my body’s subtle signals that remind me that I must rest more than a lot of people do.  I can rest in the fact that my lack of “production” does not make me less valuable.  I can trust my own self-care and reach out for help or say no.  I can just be…things are important and urgent, and I can still just be.

I’m looking to nature to understand what summer is.  It’s indulgent.  It’s restful.  It simply enjoys its fullness and its transformation.

I’m watching for when I overdue it, for when summer’s nice weather is an excuse to push harder and to do more.  I want to come back to my fullness and simply enjoy what is.  This moment where I can just be.

When Spirit Slows Time Down

 

Last Friday night, my mom and I spent some time together, and then I dropped her off at home–and met some neighbors that were talking to my dad in the front yard.

Within a minute, I knew there was this deep connection, and as I listened to stories, I quickly knew why.

Health journeys.  Unbelief from doctors, friends, family.  Youthful optimism, yet shouldering a huge weight.  Wanting someone just to “get it.”

As I looked at this high school girl–who appeared healthy and athletic–I could still see fear of the unknown behind her eyes.  Doctors’ appointments.  Lacrosse tournaments.  End of the year exams.  Exhaustion.  The “What-if?” questions. The wisdom beyond her years that hard times bring.

My parents had already shared with this family some of my story, my symptoms, how it started in high school, how no one really knew what was wrong.

She told me about going to see a cardiologist next week and doing a tilt table test.  I said, “I’ve done that.  It’s kinda weird.”  She wanted to know all the details and what to expect.

She told me about finally passing out in front of the doctor, and being so relieved that the doctor saw this happen, so that now he would believe her.

I made a quick comment about gender bias in medicine.

I went on to tell her my fainting symptoms and heart palpitations in high school–and that I was a female athlete, who could still compete fairly well under pressure, even with my health issues.

And then I stopped, and took a pause.  ‘I’m here, and I also know that helpful advice or stories, or research can often be unhelpful.  Just know that we have similar symptoms & I know a ton, yet I also know that each body is unique and complex.  I can listen or I can share, or I can do both.  Whatever is most helpful to you at any given time.”

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As we were talking, time slowed down.  I thought back to the hundreds of times I heard, “Well, there must be some reason you are going through this–your illness will be immensely helpful to others some day.”

Of course, on one level, these people were right.

And yet, as a kid, with this statement cloaked in a conservative Christian framework, I couldn’t help but feel like the “only purpose” of my illness was to help other people.  That people already had chosen my purpose for me–even though the illness wasn’t theirs.  I felt like my story, my wandering, my questioning, anger and pain, was quickly given a purpose without the journey.  This statement also felt inauthentic–and it was.

Largely because my illness is/was for me.  For my own healing.  To come home to myself.  Without my inner work, how I engage in showing up for others is more destructive than helpful.  And growing up, I didn’t really have models of someone being vulnerable in their grief, moving through their grief and engaging the world in a new way.

And as I fell down and got back up-I learned that to a large extent, grief is personal.  No one could know the inner landscape of my soul, as I sought to heal.  However, a community could come alongside and hold space.

Ironically though, this was a moment, where I could come back to a phrase that felt so trite at the time, “Your illness will be extremely valuable to others one day’ and knew deep in my body, that this was what they meant.

I’ve journeyed along with others and their illnesses for several years now.  Several of my friends have a long and complex health story.  And yet this girl, reminded me so much of myself.  Same age when my symptoms were surfacing.  Same age when I finally decided to quit the track team.  Crazy tests at secluded wings of the hospital.

Spirit had meaning infused into every detail of that evening.  The fact that the history walking tour that my mom and I were doing went longer than I thought. The fact that my mom had surgery and so I was driving her home.  That we pulled into the driveway as this family was in my parents’ front yard.

I don’t want to overlook those small details.

I’m sure dozens of stories will be shared in the future.  I will listen, share my wisdom, most importantly hold space.  I will show up, having done my inner work, and will keep doing my inner work.  It’s not about helping; it’s about being together, and gleaning from our collective wisdom.

Here’s to more stories shared.  For space to laugh, cry & connect.  For others to not feel so alone.

Health & Ancestry

 

This past Easter weekend, when at my parents’ home, I took some time to look through a book, detailing the Storrs’ ancestry.  As I flipped through its contents reading name after name–some themes began to emerge.

Doctors.  Lawyers.  Clergy.  Yale.

I saw the status that comes with these roles, the “rulers” of society.  There was no mention of the land they took, or the indigenous peoples they colonized or killed with their diseases.  No longer mentioning their names.  With their power, they got to tell the story, and leave out their shadow, what put them in a monstrous light.

I wonder if my ancestors wondered about how their domination would affect their ancestors.  Did they even question how their lifestyle, their beliefs and practices was affecting them?

As I flipped through a multi-hundred page book, I didn’t see many healers mentioned.  There were a select few who held anti-slavery views and aligned their life with their beliefs.

Richard Salter Storrs, Charles Backus Storrs, George Storrs.

One woman in particular caught my attention: Lucinda Howe Storrs.

She was described as having a rare strength and tenderness, keeping a detailed diary, and attending to the concerns of the soul.  Maybe what we would call a mystic today.

I’m glad I know a few names of people in my lineage who had the courage to say, “This isn’t right.  We must be in this world in a new way, even though we carry with us this history of oppression.  And we must carry our spirituality with us into this work.”

And yet, I have the drivenness and perfectionism and domination in my body of my ancestors.  And I have this strong intuitive part of myself that has felt this dissonance, as I have sought to wander my way into the truth.

I wonder if ancestral trauma plays a considerable role in my chronic illness.  Because my healing journey isn’t just about me–it’s about the effects on other people because I’m healing.  It’s about strongly saying, “The dysfunction stops here.  The silence.  The lies.  The lop-sided incorrect view of history.  The ending where white people always win.”

During my breath work practice over the past several months, this strong, yet simple message has come through: “You are here to heal.  Healing yourself is also about healing your family line.”

To be honest, I don’t really know what this means.  And yet I’m learning that I don’t need to.  Showing up to myself, to my practice, to people–this is all I need to know.

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As a sensitive person, my body reacts strongly to the changing of the seasons.  This has always been true–I’m just now tuning into this.  As the warmer weather made known that it was here to stay in Indiana, this message came too: “It’s time to slow down and write.”

It’s time to stop worrying and wondering how all the pieces are going to come together and just live.  To be in touch with my longings and desires and live out of these-no matter how that looks each day.

It’s time for me to lean more deeply into natural law and the symbolism of nature.  Summer is abundance!

For so many years summer has felt like deprivation.  But summer gives greatly.  Part of healing is healing my relationship with nature.

So this summer, I am going to receive in abundance.

The sun.  The beach. Parks.  The flowers.  Rest.  Naps.  Books.  Sunsets.  Concerts in the park. Sitting by the apartment pool.  Getting in the pool and swimming.  Friends. Walks.  Wine tasting.  BBQ.

There is such a strong perfectionism in my DNA, that I must rest.

As I dig into my ancestral roots, I’m discovering deeper purposes for my illness.  I needed to wake up to this deeper work.  As a highly driven perfectionist, I needed something as severe as my illness to wake me up.  To stop and rest.  A chance to breathe deeply and learn to come home to myself.

To understand where my impulses come from.  To tap back into my deeply spiritual nature that doesn’t need an organization structure to fuel it.  To realize that at my essence, I am worthy-and I express this worthiness best in the world by being a healer and a writer.

Instead of just viewing my illness as a curse, and needing to fix it, I’m seeing glimpses of its greater purpose.

And I know deeply in my body that my healing is for myself and for everyone else.

I didn’t use to believe this.  I had internalized that my self-care was selfish, that my healing journey was navel-gazing, that it was just another stint of my perfectionism.

I had never before considered that at my core, I am a healer-and in order to be one, I needed to focus on my own.  And by engaging this process, I am actually stepping into who I really am.

That this process was quite literally saving my life.  Because I was and am coming home to myself.

Surely, many of my ancestors did not want to be doctors, lawyers & clergy.  Surely something ached in many of them for something more (although nothing is inherently bad about these professions!).  Surely clinging to all that power and ignoring their shadow, wiping out entire peoples & stories, cultures, and rituals, while they “started” a country with “law and order.”

That psychological heaviness is deep.  And I’m sure it weighed on generation after generation.  And it weighs on me.

Maybe I needed to go through an intense powerlessness of chronic illness to know that in giving up power is where I find life.  That in mutual friendships, I find delight.  That there’s something mysterious at play.  That joy and sadness can co-exist and must for the creativity to surface.

Healing starts with me–in all of my privilege, in all of my pain.  I will keep on healing.