Reserving and Expanding

It’s a season of reserving: my energy, my resources, my health.  My own body thinks it feels counter-intuitive to rest more in the summer.  People are swimming, going to sporting events and concerts. The sun is out and typically people feel more free.

Again, I’m learning to sink my patterns to my own body, rather than mainstream culture.  And I’m wondering about new ways that I might be able to be more active in the winter, when others decide to stay inside.

One of the early lessons to learn in chronic illness is to reserve your energy, to use it on the things or people most important to you before you run out of energy for the day.  It’s a hard reality to keep coming back to-especially in my 20’s.

But after years of learning to reserve my energy-it’s all bottled up.  And yes, I have given to others in these past several years, and yet there’s more.  There’s more I want to say, do, experience.  I feel that my youth does not match the severity of my illness.

And that lends itself to these awkward growing pains.   The tension of letting myself dream and asking myself questions like, “What do you want?” and also being willing to let go. And let go again. And let go again. And still having the courage to wake up in the morning wanting to have fun, not just manage an illness.

Yet, it’s also a season of expanding. Of a new job. Soon to be a new home. Of investing time in new friendships. Learning more about mold toxicity and what I need to be aware of. Letting others help me.  Empowering others so that they can begin to understand what I’m going through.

What I continue to be amazed about, even in these days of fatigue and nausea from detox reactions is that my body tells me all I need to know.  Of course I need help from doctors and friends-but my body tells me all I need to know.

The key is to listen–and have the courage to listen to those quiet whispers day after day after day. Your body tells you that you’re reaching your limit or that it’s time to take a risk.  It tells you if you need to reserve or expand.

The truth is: My body doesn’t lie. And on the hard days of chronic illness it would feel better to be ignorant of this fact.  But the more I learn to lean into the tension, I more I learn to appreciate all my body has to say.

Those years of severe inflammation was the communication of an autoimmune disorder.  My body was trying to alert me to the fact that my body was beginning to attack itself. My brain fog alerts me of chemicals and mold. My fatigue was a result of severely depleted thyroid and adrenal glands.  All this was hard information to swallow-yet my body doesn’t lie.

Yet, so much gratitude exists in a clear mind, a strong body, sleeping eight hours per night and waking up rested.  My body is communicating, “You are on your way toward health. Be thankful for each moment. Pay attention. Beautiful things are happening right now.”

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In order to listen we must be still.  In order to be still, we must accept ourselves.  As we accept ourselves, we have the capacity to build this self-awareness.  And out of this self-awareness and love comes compassion.

Be compassionate towards your body-in all it’s resilience and limitation. As we accept all that our body has to say, we will be able to listen to others.  We will be able to accept them as they are- in all their resilience and limitation.

We will learn to reserve and expand together, honoring each others needs and celebrating the milestones.  This kind of relating is hard work and yet I think it’s possible.

But first we must be still.  We cannot relate authentically if we do not first do the hard work of listening to and accepting ourselves. I’m learning to do this better and better every day.  Some days get pretty ugly, yet the outcome is worth it.

Health Update-Summer 2017

I just saw the doctor last week for my 6 month check-up and here are the take-aways for those of you who are following my story:

  • I have been exposed to toxic mold and water damaged buildings and this mold toxicity is derailing my healing right now. Because of this, my body is having a difficult time detoxifying.
  • Indiana’s humid summers are pretty difficult for me.  There also are a lot of older, damp buildings that I’m just having to leave.  In order for me to heal, the first step is limiting my exposure to buildings with mold or poor indoor air quality.  This is the reason for me leaving my job at Fortune Academy and for another move coming up this fall.
  • The yeast overgrowth I still am dealing with is connected with my mold toxicity.  I’m being put on another anti-fungal to try and get rid of my candida a little faster.
  • A lot of my healing right now is focused on environmental factors such as indoor air quality and allowing my body to detoxify by being in safer environments.  For the next several months, I’m going to be experimenting with air filters and infrared saunas.

Thanks to many of you who know how hard I must fight for my health, who know that this journey is anything but linear!

What can become overwhelming on certain days is all the change that must happen for my health.  This too poses great opportunities, and yet the number of job changes and moves has been tiring.  I will be starting my own tutoring business and moving this fall in order to give myself access to better environments, all for the sake of my health.

As I am learning and internalize that I’m living with both a chronic illness and environmental illness-it takes a great deal of money to start making these lifestyle changes.  So I also may be looking into replacing furniture, my mattress and comforter, sheets, blankets, and pillows.  As I get closer to moving, I may be asking for help in replacing some of these items.

Again, I’m very thankful to those of you who are tracking my story with me, who desire my well-being and flourishing.

The Summer of Damp Buildings

I go into a damp building, and then I leave three minutes later. My head already clogged, my emotions dampened, even though the exposure was slight. As I walk back to the car, I have a decision to make—do I let go or do I cling to the emotion of disappointment?

Learning about the complexities of my illness is an every day endeavor. Nothing gives the invitation of self-awareness quite like chronic illness does. My emotions laid raw, because my life is indeed changing. I so want to hold onto this activist life of my past, but I can’t go into many of the building where the poor or the marginalized inhabit. Many churches, schools, and non-profits are housed in buildings that are often older and ones that I unfortunately cannot tolerate. What do I do?

I’m thankful to say that I’ve found the contemplative path. One that brings me back to this every day decision of letting ego—of seeing my ego for what it is, and letting it go. I’m both needed and not needed, and that is freeing.

My decisions are often simpler now. I’m friends with people who see my gifts and accept my limitations, ones who stick with me when a new symptom appears and I don’t know what to do. I’m friends with people who don’t lather on sunscreen around me, and who will meet in a building that’s suitable for me. I’m friends with people I practice yoga with, because we all are growing in self-awareness together—trying to bring a little more light to this world by going inward.

I eat simply. I rest often. I read poetry and I teach kids who live with a lifelong limitation too, in the form of dyslexia. Mostly I interact with people one-on-one. I read the latest research on Hashimoto’s to take care of myself as best as I can, and try to include others in this process.

The sentence that has seemed to find me these past few weeks is,

“Your greatest work of activism will be in relentlessly caring for yourself.”

I must let go of how I view my external world and how I hoped it would change when I healed enough to venture out of my home. But this vision is coming crashing down. I don’t truly decide if I can hang out in a group, what events I can attend, where an event is held, if I will need to leave once I show up.

My body tells me, and I listen. I take a deep breath and learn to let go.

I’m learning to develop a healing vision that my act of letting go isn’t just about me and my healing. It somehow touches the world. I will never know how me leaving a building before an event even begins to protect my body blesses the world. But that’s not the point.

It has taken years for me to experience that letting go doesn’t have to mean loneliness and isolation. For solitude is not separation. My solitude that I cultivate as I let go invites me to experience Oneness. I don’t have to be physically present at an event to experience connection. The Divine can be found as I let go—as I don’t resist the depths I was made to enter.

And yet, there are many times I resist letting go, and I sense separation. I have created an illusion that I’m on the outside. Sure, that’s how it feels. No doubt about it.

But the more I practice yoga, meditation, and centering prayer, the more I see that letting go in real life becomes a bit easier. I practice daily letting go on my yoga mat and in centering prayer—but the results come in my active life.

My own life that quickly shows me my judgment, anger, and resentment. But there always exists an invitation to perceive differently. That I’m always connected to love. That there are bounds of creativity within me, even when brain fog makes it hard to believe that there is a creative bone in my body.

I will enter plenty of damp buildings in my life. And I will leave, hopefully knowing that I’m not truly alone. Maybe even daring to believe that I can even give love from my absence as well as my presence.

Choosing Small Wins

I’ve started this practice this summer to write down 10 small wins from the previous day when I wake up in the morning.

An author who writes about healing Hashimoto’s encourages this practice in his book.  I’ve found this habit to be met with much resistance, simply because it’s hard.

Summer is the hardest season on my body and mind–so many days I wake up with big losses on my mind, rather than small wins.

However, on the days, I practice this, I do notice a shift in my perception.  Sometimes doing this exercise brings tears to my eyes, which is probably why I try to avoid it.  Sometimes I write phrases like, “I got out of bed today” or “I didn’t get tired driving to work” or “I listened to my body and cancelled hanging out with a friend.”

Sometimes the exercise feels too painful and I skip it altogether.  You see, it’s hard to admit, but sometimes gratefulness brings up this ache that I am indeed sick, and although I can heal, chronic illness is something I manage every day. When I write things like, “I didn’t have a reaction when I stepped into an old building today” I know that my healing is far off-far off from what I want it to be.

The liberating piece, though, is that I claim reality for what it is.  In doing so, I open the door to be compassionate to myself, and in writing my truth, I can be compassionate to others.

The more I am in touch with my body in my illness and in touch with contemplative practice, I live into the obvious-that I am dying.  In Western culture, this seems morbid, something we don’t talk about and avoid.  And yet, I feel this strongly living with Hashimoto’s.  This spring I realized that I desperately needed a spiritual practice that could affirm suffering and also help me detach myself from it, so that my suffering could be the very place where transformation occurs.  Enter centering prayer.

So my mornings look like writing down things I’m grateful for, recording 10 small wins, and sitting for 20 minutes in silence, practicing the art of letting go.  This practice is shaping me.  Although it’s human and messy and ungraceful, it’s a rhythm I’m trying to cultivate.  I’m engaging in the practice and art of learning how to die before I can die.  For in dying to myself, I will learn how to truly live. I will see myself for who I truly am, see the Divine for who he/she truly is. I will see people as human with similar needs, wants and desires as mine, longing for connection and intimacy.

Last week a small win included quitting my job at Fortune Academy, a job I really did like.  A place I hoped that I could step back into the classroom. But I needed to let it go, along with the dreams and hopes I attached on to working there.

The thing about letting go is that is always leads somewhere else–it doesn’t lead to nowhere.

So I’m practicing small wins, sitting in silence, going to yoga, finishing well with my tutoring students this summer, and letting go of dreams, big and small. I am more than my pressing thoughts, emotions, jobs, failures, victories, and the extent of my healing.

I am connected to this expansive, good, and abundant universe and to people who just want to see me thrive. Seeing small wins and learning to let go are daily invitations to a larger and more vibrant perception of myself and the world.  I want to live there.