Thankfulness and Apple Pie

I had a very restful, beautiful Thanksgiving.

The healthiest I’ve felt in a long time, even though fatigue came and went.

I was able to share cooking with my mom and I cooked for half the day on Wednesday and enjoyed eating and playing games on Thursday.

This Thanksgiving was more quiet.  I read a book on Native American wisdom this year and was outside more appreciating the land where I live, and grieving the exploitation of many.

And this year, Larry Nassar pled guilty for molesting young female athletes. I felt glad that in this long case, there have been glimpses of hope and justice.  And yet I grieve the fact that as a woman, assault is so rampant, and that so many women had to come forward for it to seem “believable.”

It’s a both/and world of thankfulness and grief.  I suppose you can’t truly be grateful unless you’ve grieved, or at least be grateful in a way that goes down deep.

As I’ve reflected on the past year, and all I’m grateful for–the list is long.  There are many people, and places, and lessons learned, and decisions made.  There have been new practices, new travels, new friendships.  Yet at the top of the list–I’m thankful that I’m discovering my voice.

I like what I hear and I’m discovering the rough edges that I need to integrate into my being and not suppress any longer.

You see, when you’re a victim of sexual assault, you start to distrust your body.  And if you can’t trust your body, you can’t trust your voice.  But that’s not the only piece of the story.

I’m also unraveling layers of being a woman in this culture and all the messages I’ve taken in about being too sensitive, too smart, too athletic, too intimidating, etc.  I don’t want to fit into the box of the “I can do it all-woman but still appear quiet and servant-hearted when the situation calls for it.”  I’m breaking those rules.  I’m learning to forge my own path and not just be in solidarity with a group, although that feels more comfortable.

I recognize how difficult it was to navigate the medical system as a teenager, when I had symptoms but nothing to show on lab tests.  I wanted a doctor who would believe that my body wasn’t lying–who would listen to me over science.  That’s hard to come by.  I internalized that I must edit my story to be believed, that I must fight to be seen.  These beliefs have wreaked havoc in my life–and yet I’m aware of them, and I’m learning just to be.

I’m thankful for yoga, for helping me believe in my body’s messages again.

I’m thankful for other body workers who believe that energy work changes lives.  It has changed mine.

I’m thankful for how my theology has expanded and grown–where the body must be in the picture now-or the belief is too narrow, too abstract, too ungrounded for me.

I’m thankful for a retreat in Omaha where I learned how to hold difference in silence and stillness.

I’m thankful that I started a business, even though it’s changed a lot of how my life looks.  I’m learning as I go 🙂

I’m thankful to connect with female small business owners who thrive on collaborating, on mutual sharing, and on wanting everyone to succeed.

I’m thankful for this journey of fighting for my health, of meeting others along the journey and letting our limitations enrich our friendship.

I’m thankful that I live in an apartment where I’m not reacting to mold.

I’m thankful for being able to eat apple pie.

 

 

Advertisements

For Those Women Who Keep Speaking Up

I first started tracking the Larry Nassar’s case last summer.  The story reminded me of my own; the details were all too similar.

Switch out gymnastics doctor for a physical therapist and OBGYN, specializing in chronic illness patients.

Switch out young, vulnerable female athletes with vulnerable, “I’m in the worst health I’ve ever been in” patients.

The abuse of power is there.

The city of Indianapolis covering up abuse cases is there.

Victims being silenced when they sought out help is there.

The statement, “You should feel honored that you are receiving treatment from one of the best….” is there.

USA Gymnastics poor handling of sexual abuse complaints and Indiana’s poor rating in terms of how it protects its patients is there.

So, as I watched Aly Raisman tell her story on 60 Minutes last night, there existed both sadness and hope.  Hope that justice may be served.  Hope that telling my own story is part of my liberation, but is also part of the liberation of the millions of women around the world who are sexually assaulted.  And their liberation is mine.  We really need each other as we pick up the pieces and muster up our courage to seek wholeness day after day.

For most of us, the courts are not going to turn in our favor.  Many, many criminals still roam free.  And yet, women are speaking out and challenging the institutions and questioning the “respectable” positions of power that have gone unchecked for far too long.  We are finding our voices–and actually see that they are strong.  They are loud and we know exactly what we want to say.

Abuse can happen by anyone.  Anywhere. This is wrong.  And this must stop.

What I didn’t realize is that Raisman is hoping to be a part of the 2020 Olympic team.  When asked if coming forward might jeopardize her chance of making the team, she responded similarly to, “It might.  But being honest and coming forward is worth more than any gold medal ever could.”

I think together we are all saying, “Thanks for speaking for you.  Thanks for speaking for me.”

To Be a Walking Contradiction

Fall is truly here; and I’m glad.  I love the weather changing, the leaves turning.  I can even embrace all the rain and the short nights.  I enjoy the countdowns to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  On my more reflective days, I think about a year ending and another year starting.

I think about how 2017 has been a year of tremendous growth, and yet a year where I’ve seen my own grief erupt and almost overtake me.  It’s been a year of confusion, of decisions I had to make too soon, and continuing to learn that my health fluctuating is my new normal.

I’m back in therapy working with a medical trauma specialist and last session she asked what I was taking away from this session.  My response was, “I can see all the hard work I’ve already put in, and I see that I still have the drive to put in more work and heal.  I want to heal so badly.”

You see, I’m learning to realize the effects of my illness in new ways.  With all of the mold reactions I had this summer, both from my home and my workplace, I suffered some brain damage.  Since it was prolonged enough, new neural networks formed in my brain while I was living in fight-or-flight mode for several months this summer.

I lived in different homes, bought air filters, quit my job, moved, started a business.  My body is still tired–but not just fatigue-tired.  My brain is tired, and I still have days where I don’t remember words or routines or how to get somewhere.  I notice that after I spend 5 hours lesson planning on the weekend, my brain is completely wiped out.  And I just hope on Monday that I’m ready to go, and have enough energy to get me through the day.

The new neural networks that formed were challenging all my beliefs-ones that I have challenged often in this health journey:

  • Do I have what it takes?  How do I find the strength it takes maybe to wake up and not remember much about the day before?
  • Will people still be around?
  • Do I believe that I’m worth it?  Can I find even more grit to trust that every healing step is worth it because I’m worth it?
  • Is joy attainable?
  • If I have to quit my job, where do I go next?
  • Can my pain be transformed into a life that I think is beautiful and fulfilling?

Some days I feel pretty good.  I like my work, I feel confident, and joyful.  Other days it’s hard to get out of bed, and I get through work, crash and hope I have energy to get out of bed the next day.  Both are me.  Both are true.

The hardest negative belief to observe, notice where I feel the tension in my body, and to breath my way through it is, “You are alone in this.”

Here’s the thing.  Intellectually I know that I’m not.  I have friends who struggle with chronic illness.  I have taken meals to hospitals, and made allergy friendly Christmas cookies.  We have talked about doctors not believing us, and the struggle to be seen and heard.

And yet, in those moments where it feels like my brain is firing in all directions, my body feels alone.  My brain and body are fighting with each other.

Part of chronic illness is realizing along the journey, ways I have over-compensated because of being sick.  So when I was physically fatigued, there were many years, where my mind was the strong suit.  I overcompensated intellectually, because while I had to lie in bed for many daylight hours each day, I could still think.

The hard part currently is some days I can’t think.  My brain isn’t always my strong suit anymore.  I have to do everything I can to stop the inflammation from forming in my brain, but I also have to accept what’s happening.

It’s both/and.

And both/and is messy.  There are tears out of nowhere and things that take 3 hours longer and cancelled plans and small moments where I smile at the sunrise and feel like I’m an 85 year old who’s just happy to be alive.

My relationships slowly shift.  I have to say no to things I used to say yes to.  I stop yoga for a time and start therapy.  I learn to listen to my body before my mind (because the mind can only put language to what the body knows anyway).

This both/and world is unpredictable.  It’s both wonderful and scary.  It’s freeing and frightening.  I see both the ugly and beautiful in myself.  It’s a place of kindness towards myself and my limitations and celebrating my strong, persevering stance in the world.

Even writing this post has been emotional, because yesterday I couldn’t do this.  But today I can.  And for that I am glad.  Yet the gladness does not wipe away the sadness of yesterday.  They co-exist and always will.

The more I heal, the more I deeply know that trauma and transformation must live side by side.  There’s really no other way.

My illness has taught me more about humanity than anything else has.  It’s taught me about paradox, about this both/and world.  That’s it’s okay to be in progress.  I’ve learned about structures and powers that do not listen to the weak and about my own anger at injustice the the doubling power of trauma when you stay in the state of victimhood too long.  I’m learning to see myself as a walking contradiction, along with everyone else.