Rest and Advent

Sickness and forced rest continue to teach me a lot.  Over Thanksgiving break, I got sick with a cold.  I was fighting it off for several days, then Thanksgiving afternoon the sore throat hit, and I was on the couch, not really paying attention to much.  But Friday just meant watching 6 hours of Gilmore Girls, eating leftovers and drinking lots of tea, coughing and blowing my nose, and sleeping.

Even though I felt awful, I came back to the thought, “It’s good to just completely rest”.  I’m a lot better at resting than I used to be. I set aside time to read, to write, to just watch TV.  I make sure that I don’t have too much going on.  I can say “no” when I need to.  However, being sick is an invitation to just care for your body, and not really worry about much else.

This time of year in the midst of Christmas-everything, nature is telling us to rest.  The days keep getting shorter, and ironically we try to get more done.  There’s the shopping, the baking, the traveling, the attending of parties, the decorating. But what if this Advent we listened to nature a little bit more?  What if we took a walk in the crisp winter air instead of congregating in shopping malls?  What if nature actually helped us prepare for Advent?

The season of Advent contains longing, desire, and waiting.  I know that when I rest, I become aware of my deepest longing and desires.  As I rest, I can grow a larger “holding tank” for all that I hope for and feel.  I’m not trying to escape or to hide my desires.  And as a pattern of rest continues, I’ve found that I desire to rest in community.

Rest takes on a particular necessity to those who experience intense suffering.  Or for those who feels that they cannot rest, they long for it deeply.  We all as humans, long for a reprieve in the midst of suffering.  We want a pause button.  We long for a meaningful conversation, appropriate touch, eye contact, for time to slow down, to share a meal with someone else.  We want to be seen, not ignored or forgotten.

As we rest, we have the reserve to reach out to those in need of rest.  Our emotions, no longer deadened, can view a person’s suffering from a compassionate heart.  We comfort those, as someone else helped to comfort us.  As we experience Advent this year, we can take comfort in Christ as vulnerable, needy baby. He had limits as we do.

Rest allows us to embrace our limitations, and to find a communal life among the suffering.  I’m certain that Christ must be in our midst with a teary eye.

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(Rest can also be your roommate laying on the ground with her dog after putting up the Christmas tree 🙂

Thankful

This following post, I read at The Dwelling Place, as I reflected about this year and the small moments that have cultivated gratefulness in me.

 

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One of those notes from a difficult student that you hold onto! 

 

This time last year, I had just quit another job and I was starting another one. I was tired and fearful and yet trying to believe that there was a job out there that I didn’t have to quit after three months. I was new to Dwelling Place, just starting my job at the Dyslexia Institute, and just getting new treatments from a new doctor. There was a lot of new to juggle, and I was exhausted of new and transition.

 

Yet this year has been about small glimpses of beauty, hope and goodness. In the midst of continuing to learn what a healthy lifestyle means for me with a chronic illness, I’ve journeyed through a year of spiritual direction training, a course to grow my skills in teaching dyslexia. I’ve gone from working four hours per week to 35 hours. I’ve recently just accepted a literacy coach position at ACE Prep, a new charter school in South Broad Ripple.

 

I have a doctor who believes me and works hard to help me be as whole as possible. I’m apart of the most supportive communities I’ve ever been a part of in my life. I meet with a spiritual director who continually reminds me that God is much more kind and gentle than I ever thought. I’ve made really good food, and I’ve had awesome help moving, not once but twice.

 

Many of you have listened to my story and have responded graciously. I have wonderful friends who are walking this journey with me.

 

I’ve had moments of my journey where I couldn’t imagine a future of health. I didn’t even know what getting better would feel like. And yet, I’m living this journey where getting better is slowly becoming a reality.   There are still really bad days, flare ups and days when I want to quit. Yet I’m thankful that I now can be thankful for smaller and smaller moments. Small moments of healing have made this year a good one, even amidst the struggle.

When a Flare Comes and Goes

A few weeks ago, I was experiencing an autoimmune flare.  Physically, I couldn’t see where the energy from the day was coming from.  I powered through the day exhausted, but was not sleeping well.  Emotionally, I was either on edge or panicking.  It took longer to do simple tasks, and I started worrying about the future because I never felt rested.

It truly is difficult to find the root cause when dozens of symptoms are swirling around in your brain.

So I went back to the basics.  Breathe. Gentle yoga. Short walks.  No sugar.  No caffeine. Lots of meat, veggies, avocados and sun-butter.  Resting and saying no to lots of commitments. Simple visits with friends.

Quickly, my circadian rhythm returned and I was sleeping 8-9 hours a night without waking up. I knew that it was a good sign when I started falling asleep at 8:30pm on the couch (even though I missed the Cubs’ win!).

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One of the most difficult things about a flare, is that you are still expected to live in the “land of the well.”  I have a job to do, errands to run, food to make, and commitments to attend to.  But once a flare hits, you feel this immediate desire to return to the “land of the sick.”

Why?

Because that world matches how you feel.

Because your health has been bad enough that you know what a flare could turn into.

Because people who are sick can empathize to a greater degree.

Because you don’t want to feel like you have to defend your actions.

Because you want people to know that your job performance may not look like it’s suffering, but you are saving every ounce of energy, just to get out of bed and go to work.

Because you wished you looked sick, because then people might understand a little better.

 

And yet, I’m also learning that the initial desire to “hide” from the healthy world may be essential for the short term, depending on how intense the flare up.  However, it’s also detrimental in the long run.

Though they may be few, there are  healthy people, who truly do want to understand what it’s like to live with a chronic illness.  So, I’m learning to be honest, with the small, mundane details of being sick, because ultimately this is more healing for me than hiding.  More than anything, I need to know that people still care.  I need to feel believed that my intuition is correct about how my body is reacting, even if I look healthy from the outside.

What flares teach me more than anything, is that healing is still happening.  The steps are small, but they are not insignificant.  I’m still learning to trust other people, even as I trust what my body is telling me.  As I continue to trust other people with my story, I’m choosing to lean into my messy past, and face into when doctors and friends didn’t believe me.

Flares remind me that I’m limited, and that my health is a gift.  My own decisions affect my health, and I don’t just want my health to be limited to the food I eat.  It includes the people on the journey with me.

Those brave people who are willing to say, “I’m walking this journey with you.”

Something’s Missing

The election is tomorrow, and honestly I am glad.  I’m tired of the rhetoric on both sides, and how the lens in which people view the world changes in drastic measures.  I’ve seen a lot of ugliness in how people talk with or against one another.   I want to lean into the Thanksgiving season because I need some reprieve.

However, in this election season I do find something striking.  We fixate on the powerful.  We hang by their every word.  We check out the fact checker after debates and look at their stances on issues throughout the decades.  None of these things are wrong, and yet our moods and vision are affected  by what these powerful people say.

I’ve kept a question close by these last several months:

How would we change if we listened to the weak, the vulnerable, the marginalized?

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A homeless person will never become president.  Neither will a sick person (that is unless you watch West Wing!). Neither will someone with autism or down syndrome.  Neither will a paralyzed person. Neither will an illiterate person. The list could go on.

The marginalized see the world with different eyes.  They know what it feels like to be left out, forgotten and ignored.  They feel like neither presidential candidate knows anything about their life, because it’s true.  They live their lives hoping someone will look them in the eyes with compassion.

What if we learned about the world through their eyes? What if we held onto just a sliver of their will to live, to fight and persist in a world that pretends like they don’t exist? What if we, the powerful, quieted our shouting voices, so the vulnerable could summon enough courage to speak?

We would be better people. We would know compassion and empathy speaks more powerfully than any conclusion in a debate.

We in our country are proud of our freedom of speech.  But do we really want to hear everyone speak?

What’s Saving My Life This Fall

I’m an avid reader of this blogger, who seasonally will list what’s saving her life.  And every time I read these posts, I think, “What a wonderful habit.”

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So here’s my attempt at recounting what’s saving my life:

  • Walks around downtown Zionsville, watching the trees change color
  • Friday smoothies involving dates, blueberries, flax milk, avocado and almond butter
  • The smell of Thieves essential oil in my homemade cleaner
  • Yoga most mornings or an occasional Friday afternoon class
  • Making pizza on Friday nights
  • Listening to Penny and Sparrow while putting dishes away and making breakfast
  • Leaving the work checklist behind for a moment and take time to watch the miracle of students coming out of their shell
  • Meaningful conversations over a cup of tea
  • Doctors who are helping with medication switches
  • Walks with a friend at Eagle Creek
  • Watching Gilmore Girls religiously, even though I’m hating Season 7
  • Reading healing affirmations on the walls of my apartment, for example, “You are doing a good job.”
  • Trying to remain centered even with the cultural frenzy of the election
  • Cedarwood essential oil making my room smell like autumn
  • Honeycrisp apples with sunbutter
  • Local adventures, like finding this discount food store: Under the Sun
  • Finding bits of time to write
  • Reading fairy tales with my students

 

What is saving your life right now?