My Body, Healing

The poetry sharing continues this week!  Here’s another poem I wrote this spring about various lessons learned as I’ve committed to my health being top priority.

 

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My Body, Healing

 

It’s a process-an imperfect one.

I take food out, put it back in,

then binge on sugar.

Nice try. Start over.

 

Go back to work at a fourth school.

Admit you want to write instead.

 

Attend a concert until midnight.

Just know that you’ll need a day alone tomorrow.

 

Tag along to a hockey game.

Leave because there’s too much noise.

 

Visit the dentist.

Let her know that X-rays are harmful to you.

 

Plan a trip.

Communicate how tired you’ll get.

 

Go to a restaurant.

Is there a gluten-free menu?

 

Spend a day alone.

Let others deal with their shit without you.

Conversation Around Poetry

Hi friends,

Today I’m going to post my first poem in a set of poems I started this Lent, with the theme of my relationship to my body.

These poems started out of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences of my body throughout my life, but especially when I was really sick.  And then I kept writing and found that my body had some things to say to me!  It has been the start of a beautiful conversation-one that I want to start sharing with others.

This year during Lent I found myself hunkering down in my apartment and reading some feminist theology.  This reading sparked many questions.

  • How does my body fit into my theology?
  • How does my body impact my relationship with God?
  • What does my body want to say to God?

These questions set me on my journey to write, and I fully intend to keep adding to this set.  Enjoy!

 

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My Body, My Prison

I stare numbly at the ceiling

with fire-cracker-like shooting

pain up and down my legs.

I read a humorous Billy Collins’

poem about counting all the

sheep in the world that only

insomniacs would understand.

I watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix,

wondering what guy Lorelai will

end up with next.  I reach over

to the bedside table to a glass of

water and a hanful of pills.

I lather my body with soap

for ten minutes then step out of

the shower and stare at this pale

face in the mirror.

I dream about my next-life, where my

brain can think and I don’t have

to leave a party early.

Yet as I sip on lukewarm broth

my joints creak like the floors

of this hundred year old house.

A Celebration

On Saturday afternoon I completed Year 1 of my spiritual direction training.  What a beautiful nine months these have been for me!  There has been lots of reading, of practicing spiritual direction on “guinea pigs”, of writing, of discussion and camaraderie in our cohort as we listen to the Lord’s work in our own lives and in others’.

We were given an hour to reflect on the major take-a-ways of this year, pieces we want to hold onto and not forget.  As I lean into this ministry of spiritual direction, however this looks in the future, I want to always come back to the fact that God is speaking and that in each person is the face of Christ.

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How thankful I am for meeting these people, and hopefully continuing to journey with them, whether near or far away.

Writing My Story

On Monday, I shared a poem on exhaustion.  I needed this poem last week.  In some ways, I’m trying to lengthen time between treatment, and I needed to wait a week for a vitamin IV, when I really needed it that very moment.

I laid on the couch.  I tried to read, but could not focus.  My allergies seemed to ramp up.  I couldn’t come up with coherent thoughts, and I was brought back to what so many days last year, beauty mixed with sorrow.  While I don’t wish for those days when my body doesn’t cooperate with me, there is a hidden beauty in relinquishing expectations, canceling plans, and watching TV.  There’s much I continue to learn when I admit that I need rest.

Thanks for reading and joining me on this healing journey.

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I wanted to let you know that I’ve been working on several poems on the theme of body.  It’s a collection of poems both of me speaking about my body and my body speaking about me.  It’s been healing for me to write, to process healing, being sick, and to reinforce that I have a sacred relationship with my body.  I need to listen to my body, to know how and when it speaks.

I will be sharing a few of these poems on the blog over the next several weeks.  I would love your thoughts and feedback in the comments section!

For One Who Is Exhausted

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When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,

Time takes on the strain until it breaks;

Then all the unattended stress falls in

On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

 

The light in the mind becomes dim.

Things you could take in your stride before

Now become laborsome events of will.

 

Weariness invades your spirit.

Gravity begins falling inside you,

Dragging down every bone.

 

The tide you never valued has gone out.

And you are marooned on unsure ground.

Something within you has closed down;

And you cannot push yourself back to life.

 

You have been forced to enter empty time.

The desire that drove you has relinquished.

There is nothing else to do now but rest

And patiently learn to receive the self

You have forsaken in the race of days.

 

At first your thinking will darken

And sadness take over like listless weather.

The flow on unwept tears will frighten you.

 

You have traveled too fast over false ground;

Now your soul has come to take you back.

 

Take refuge in your senses, open up

To all the small miracles you rushed through.

 

Become inclined to watch the way of rain

When it falls slow and free.

 

Imitate the habit of twilight,

Taking time to open the well of color

That fostered the brightness of day.

 

Draw alongside the silence of stone

Until its calmness can claim you.

Be excessively gentle with yourself.

 

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.

Learn to linger around someone of ease

Who feels they have all the time in the world.

 

Gradually, you will return to yourself,

Having learned a new respect for your heart

And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

 

-David Whyte, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

What I Need

May is a full month for me, and I say that in a good way.  My body is now able to handle more time at events, more conversations, more people, more small talk.  I get to celebrate some endings with friends and family.  I get to experience and celebrate finishing my first year in spiritual direction.  Yet I’m realizing that even in the richness of spring, I need to make time to grieve.

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Grief is surprising, and new with each experience.  You can’t handle grief or put it in a category.  It’s an emotion that needs to be experienced.  In our culture, too, we feel the pressure to “get over it” quickly.  It is still difficult to be sad in public.  It’s an uncomfortable emotion for all involved.

One morning this week, I alternated between eating, writing, crying, reading.  I have some experiences buried in my past that I need to cry about.  I’m glad I made the time to enter into this experience.  What I really needed to do was cry, not distract myself with a movie or a conversation.  I needed to be alone and I needed to cry.

For the past few months, I’ve relished in noticing small movements of healing.  They are to be seen, celebrated, and spoken.  Yet I feel like I need to take a turn, and to feel the harder emotions more poignantly.  As I grieve, I allow myself to be changed.  I allow myself to acknowledge that I am darkness and light.  I allow myself to acknowledge that I am human and brave. 

In his recent On Being Interview, David Whyte stated,

“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability. How we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance.  Our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully.  Or conversely as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”

I want to inhabit my vulnerability and my grief, even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient.

What do you need right now? 

What’s Next?

We like this question in our culture.  We start asking this question seriously around high school graduation, as 18 year olds go out to college to fulfill their dreams and change the world.  Growing up, I was told I could be anyone that I wanted to be.

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Then at college graduation, this question holds more force.  “What’s next?” or “What are you going to do after graduation?” It’s not a bad question, but somehow in the focus on the future, we miss the present.  Not only that, but we believe that if we work hard enough we can manipulate circumstances and people to our own advantage.

Even in the midst of chronic fatigue, I went to inner city Memphis to teach.  Little did I realize what was more important was honoring my limitations, than trying to be an effective teacher in an urban environment.

I can answer the question, “What’s next?” I am going to be tutoring throughout the summer with my students from this semester. I’m going to be working at a dyslexia camp.  I’m taking a few short trips this summer.  I’m going to be making new recipes and eating meals with people. I’m going to be moving!

What if we starting asking questions like

  • What are you noticing right now?
  • What are you taking delight in? What is difficult right now?
  • How are you being formed or shaped right now?

They are scarier questions.  They require looking inward. They require slowly down and paying attention rather than just making plans.

As May ushers in the glories of spring, beautiful beginnings like weddings, and endings like graduation, take some time to wonder about what you need.  Care for yourself, and ask for help from others for what you need.  Resist the desire to be frantic, and let yourself be.

On Friday, I will be writing about what I need in the month of May.  I’d love to hear about what you need in the comments, or about how you experienced asking yourself deeper questions.