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.

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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.

My Thoughts Before Confirmation

My new hair cut also feels like a parallel to joining the Episcopal Church. A new step into embracing the both/and of life.  Tomorrow I will be confirmed & I wanted to share some thoughts.

Part of the reason I am joining the Episcopal Church is that it is affirming of women and LGBTQIA identities.  It feels like a place where I could more fully step into my gifts, and encourage my wholeness.  I am part of a parish, that recognizes that racism must be condemned in all its forms, and there is dialogue happening.

Part of the reason I am joining the Episcopal Church is ancestral.  My ancestors from my dad’s side came to America in the 1600’s and settled in Connecticut and Massachusetts, some with the congregational church, some with the Church of England.  I both resonate with the solitude that the Episcopal church enacts (and in this way I feel like I connect to my ancestors) & to not do the deep work of lamenting colonization, stripping the indigenous peoples of their land and culture feels like a spiritual bypass for me.

Part of the reason I am joining the Episcopal church is accountability.  I could easily become a Buddhist, for so much of my being resonates with the deeply contemplative aspects of Buddhism.  If I made that decision, it wouldn’t be bad or wrong.  However, there would be a disconnect for me when it comes to ancestral healing-when it comes to healing from the shame of being white, of having ancestors that were colonizers & slave-holders, and had religious reasons for these actions.  To heal from this ancestral trauma and pain, it intuitively feels right for me to be in a similar tradition.  To be able to appreciate and critique/challenge is a both/and I know that I must be able to lean into.

Part of the reason I am joining the Episcopal church, particular to the Diocese of Indianapolis, is that I am saying a wholehearted “yes” to being under the leadership of a black female bishop.  I didn’t know if I was going to join the Episcopal church, until the bishop visited my parish in February.  The wisdom, strength, passion & love of Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows inspires me.

Part of the reason I am joining the Episcopal church is that I still have a lot of questions.  And I must live into these questions, continuing to accept myself, and seeing how this acceptance of self translates into dignifying friendship and service.

My body & intuition have played a much bigger role  in this decision for me than my mind.  I did attend an Inquirier’s class & had to do a lot of reading!  But it’s more about intuitively knowing that I must lean into the tension of both/and.  To say yes, and commit to a beautiful & yet flawed institution, with my doubts and questions.  To be one of the few young, unmarried persons in a suburban parish.  To maybe have the courage to start something new.  To enter into formal prayers that I may or may not believe wholeheartedly.  To say yes to helping and paying attention to the sick, to the older members of the congregation.  To bridge relationships across age.  To not need to know how everything fits together. All will be well.

 

Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash

My New Look

So last week, I got my hair cut.  Well, I should say that the right side of my head got shaved, and the left side of my hair just got a quick trim.

I was nervous, but it took 20 minutes and then it was over.  I looked in the mirror & absolutely loved it.

A friend who regularly asks me deeper questions, saw me this past week and truly wanted to know why I cut my hair.

I gave a simple answer like, “It was just time.  I wanted something different.”

Which is true.  And yet, something much deeper is also going on inside me.  So I’m seeking to revisit her question and to find words for this deeper place.

My hair is an outward sign of what it feels like on the inside, a deeper coming home to myself.  A deeper acceptance of my sexuality, an expansion of my curiosity, the capacity to hold deep nuance within my body.

My hair right now is also a symbol of learning to have more capacity to hold onto what is good about the old, and know that the new is exciting and it also means starting over.  I’m not the same person I was a month ago, even a day ago, yet I must not neglect my past either.  I must have deep compassion and love for all of me–at all times of my life.

Shaving my head is a lot about letting go–of the scripts I was told to follow, of who I was told I was, of my deep & cyclical self-doubt and questioning, of just listening to my head, to the neglect of my heart & body.  Shaving my head is about imagining something new.

Keeping some of my hair is about deep self-love, for choosing not to just throw my past away, but know that it has shaped me in deep ways.  It reminds me of all the times, I have cut my hair short, then let it grow out.  But the length it is now has always been my favorite.

In the present, having long hair and short hair, encourages me to see both/and.  Our stories, individual and collective, are complex, nuanced & beautiful.  Our thinking brain likes to separate into good/bad, facts & data & analysis.  Yet if our intuition spoke, if our bodies spoke more loudly than our minds and we listened, we would speak in narrative much more often.  First remembering our own.  That we are darkness & light, maybe even perhaps not so stark.  Maybe a room at dusk, with the sun setting, yet still shining in.

Maybe in witnessing our own in-between-ness, we will see this in others & show up in all our conviction, passion, empathy & groundedness and listen.

My hair is helping me witness my own in-between-ness, my own parts of myself that I can’t quite put into words.  Because mystery is a large part of this whole dance too.

Magic of Right Now

 

When my EMDR therapist and I had the conversation that I was close to being done with therapy, we revisited the question, she asked me in our very first session.

“How do you know when you are done?”

“I more fully accept myself,” is what I had said.

But then I asked her, “How is it supposed to feel in your body?”

“Like you are flying.”

That’s all she had to say, and I smiled.  I wanted to feel like that.  I know I wouldn’t feel that way all the time, but I did want a glimpse of it.

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May has usually been the month I start to get a little nervous.  I love the warmer weather and being outside, however historically it’s the time my allergies set in and the mold from the humid weather starts to make itself known in Indiana.

It’s the month where I want to be inside and rest because I’m so exhausted, yet my body wants to be outside.  I want to revel in the abundance of nature with everyone else without having to worry how my body feels so much of the time.

Spiritually, my body has experienced so much dissonance during summer, especially over the last few years.  It has been so difficult to embrace being and abundance when my body has been highly reactive, exhausted, and fatigued.

I do realize that it’s perfectly fine to be experiencing something different than the symbolism of a specific season, and yet because of my environmental illness, I felt like I was teaching my body to avoid the goodness that is nature–and I didn’t like this habit that was forming.

It didn’t seem like I had any other choice though, so I felt powerless.  I felt highly reactive, frustrated, and sad.  Going through the same cycle again and again.  Health deteriorating.  Needing to move.  Needing to switch jobs.

Last summer, I had reached my limit.  I didn’t want to keep doing this.  I learned what I could from my exhausted state, living at my parents’ and at a friends’ for weeks at a time, packing my apartment, and trying to figure out how to detox, even though I was reacting to mold.  I had so much help in starting my tutoring business and moving to the northern suburbs of Indy.

Yet, I felt like I was holding years and years of exhaustion in my body.  My grief and powerlessness felt overwhelming & my flashbacks came back with abandon.

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In my last session with my therapist, we went over my intake form and how I had told her about my sleep patterns: that I often woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep through the night due to mold exposure during the day.

This doesn’t happen anymore.  “What connection do you see?” she asked me. I told her how EMDR has helped resolve my grief; it has been part of my work around moving stuck energy in the body.  This has helped to calm down my immune system and I’m reacting less to mold in an environment.  I’m sleeping through the night.  I continue to detox in a variety of ways, including running an air purifier at night.

This summer, I’m excited.  I don’t expect my health to be perfect; I think that’s unrealistic.  But I do expect myself to delight in being outside, simply thankful that my body can handle so much more than it has in a long time.

I’m thankful that my brain doesn’t have to equate summer, mold, extreme brain fog, and being unable to be a part of a 10 minute conversation.  I’m glad that I’ve been able to untangle my negative emotions and beliefs–so that I can simply be, and accept what is.  Today I choose to be hopeful about what summer will bring.

 

Photo by Irina Kostenich on Unsplash