Thoughts about Writing

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

writing has always been how i process, how i make sense of the world, how i just write in my journal like i’m talking to a friend.

writing is how i’ve learned to be a friend to myself.

writing is how i learned to tell the truth. and gave me courage to actually speak it out loud. and i continue to learn truth-telling and courage daily.

writing will always be there.

writing can happen anywhere. i just wrote while eating breakfast at a favorite local spot and i got stared at like “why are you alone and why are you writing?” to which my inward reply was, “why wouldn’t i be writing?”

writing allows me to be disorganized. this enneagram 1 needs a few spaces that are messy and completely disorganized. my journal is one of those places.

writing need not be published to have value.

i teach writing to students who hate writing and i think that’s funny. and i don’t tell them that they need to like writing.

i have enjoyed not blogging as much this year. but i’ve probably written more. i’ve almost finished my second journal of the year already.

writing helps me to cultivate my interior depth. and i’m learning to love this about myself more and more.

writing allows me to be petty or silly. or both.

writing reminds me not to take myself so seriously, and also to take myself seriously. writing can hold all that ambiguity.

writing is a companion through all the emotions.

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Diagnosis Day

On February 3, 2015 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. That day changed my life in many ways, and it was also ordinary.

After the 2 hour long appointment, I took a nap, and read all this literature about changing my diet. Yet, that was the starting point.

I’ve learned so much these last 4 years–and I keep learning. There’s been deep inner work, there’s been healing, and yet an ongoing realization that I don’t just exist on this earth to produce things. I exist just to be. To be myself. To be in loving relationship. To love myself.

So healing for me hasn’t been about “getting my life back.” The life I had before my diagnosis was pretty empty. I thought belonging was about fitting in and being able to do what I saw my friends doing.

It’s not. Healing is about knowing myself, knowing others, knowing the Divine.

My illness has led me to this place; and at this point I count it as a gift. I would never wish this illness on anyone, and to those who have it, I would say, “maybe the invitation is to find who you really are.”

No more over-extending. No more not speaking my truth.

Sure, I will make mistakes and lose my way. But I trust myself to find my lane again. And that makes all the difference.

Oh-and please check out The Nap Ministry.

And please check out Rest for Resistance.

Below is the ending of a poem I wrote to commemorate this year’s Diagnosis Day. My illness is speaking to me.

I am a lonely companion, taking you to peer at this shifty shadow. But I am near, and you will grow. Yes, slow. Yes, risk. Yes, joy. Yes, help. Yes, you are stronger than you ever dare know.

Taking Deep Breaths

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

I saw the doctor yesterday. It was a good appointment. I went on a few new supplements (after going off almost all of them last spring because I was doing so much better!) to help with the ongoing GI infection that affects the absorption of nutrients.

I was reminded that I am sick.

This feels like an unusual statement even to write. Of course, I know, and yet as healing happens, it can be difficult to actually grasp how much I am doing right now–and how much rest I still need and want to engage in, because of all that I’m doing.

I was reminded in a simple way that as life goes on and I meet new people, that each person knows a piece. That’s how life is.

My doctor told me that I needed to slow down, needed to simplify, needed to go back to eating less inflammatory foods, while I continue to heal my GI tract. Yes, I needed that reminder.

Healing is fluid. Sometimes healing means doing more. Sometimes doing less. It requires a receptive posture and a deep trust in one’s intuition to know the difference.

Sometimes it means accepting & heeding warnings from others, and sometimes it means simply knowing that they don’t truly understand and their advice is coming from their own discomfort. Trusting myself, while still being deeply connected in relationship.

I also just started seeing an amazing chiropractor. I’m thankful. I’ve been having increasing low back & neck pain. He just told me yesterday that my body has a difficult time truly resting; sinking into my parasympathetic nervous system. And I said, “Yep, that sounds about right!” The every day task of healing from an autoimmune disease, and living with it. And connecting with this phenomenon on a spiritual plane and knowing this is also connected to ancestry and whiteness. I carry a lot in my body and healing is my task in this lifetime.

I was reminded how light it feels to ask for help. To accept help from humans, but also from nature, from the Divine. To accept help from friends, from scientists, from plants, from myself, from doctors, from family, from my ancestors.

I sat down with a friend for lunch today, who also lives with chronic illness, and just explained how difficult it is to be working full time and finishing out my spiritual direction certification right now. We talked about pacing-about the dance of adding things in, needing to cut them out, and knowing the right time for each. Trusting the wisdom of the body. Taking ourselves seriously and be willing to accept what we need. Taking ourselves lightly, and knowing that whatever we are saying “no” to isn’t us “missing out” but it’s a gateway for permission to say yes for what we really need in the moment. Everything will be okay without us, even if being absent stings a little bit.

I said “no” to being present for a presentation that I helped plan for a few months. And I moved on, accepting that the no was the right thing for me.

In the midst of all these personal decisions, Nathan Phillips sang in the midst of racist acts by the Covington Catholic white boys, and Martin Luther King was honored in some places, and white-washed in others.

I’m talking with my students, teaching, guiding, laughing–pushing back against “love & light” MLK quotes, talking about the Covington Catholic white boys’ racism–pushing back against white silence.

Then there’s resting. And detaching myself from outcomes. And accepting that I’m not in control. And breathing deeply. 2019 is bringing deeper acceptance of this quiet work. It’s already helping me create a new container around what is mine to do.

I’m in my Saturn return year! And I’m excited to see what changes, where I expand and grow and heal. And also, everything is intense (And this Capricorn season kinda felt terrible!) And I’m claiming what belongs, and learning to see what I need to let go of, where I need to become softer.

A Day to Practice

The practice of reflection and setting goals in the New Year is a funny one to me. The mind can dream big and it can play small. We can express lofty hopes or hide behind our fears.

This practice isn’t “bad”; I engage in it myself. And yet the good-bad binary doesn’t get us very far. What struck me today, as it does most days, is that my body has far more to say than my mind. I’ve been socialized to see what my mind has to say as more valid, more important, more urgent, more in need of attention, love & care. This is what colonization does; elevate the mind to the detriment of everything else—mind, soul & spirit.

I slept well last night, even though I went to bed past midnight. But I woke up exhausted, sad even. I engaged in my morning rituals and practices, and felt a little more energized. But by the time I got out of the shower, I was exhausted again. I felt tender, and just let the tears come.

My mind had all sorts of things to say.

“Push through; there’s stuff you wanted to do today.”

“It’s the New Year, you’re not supposed to feel sad.”

“Maybe tweaking what you eat for lunch will make you less tired.”

I’ve had lots of practice not pushing through. Of resting. Of cancelling. Of saying no. These phrases were old tapes, yes. But also just not as nourishing as accepting the tears as they came. The tears doing all the expression of disappointment without my mind needing to rush all over the place.

Yes, it’s New Years. And it’s just another day to practice. It’s a day to validate my emotions, validate how my body feels, and let my feelings and sensations lead the way. Validating how I actually feel, rather than how I want to feel. Taking the time to be in the moment with myself. The invitation is always there.

The invitation to receive, to be vulnerable, to rest, to feel how I feel. This invitation can be painful, and yet as I cried today, I knew it to be a gift. A gift to let my day be reorganized based on what my body can do, what it needs. And to smile towards myself for listening.

It’s Been Awhile…

It’s good to sit down to write a blog post. It’s been awhile.

I’m gonna keep it short, and kinda reflective, since it’s New Year’s Eve after all.

Right now it’s raining, and I’m writing to the rhythm of the rain falling on my windows. It’s wonderful.

I don’t write resolutions. I’m a type #1 on the Enneagram, and I never need extra encouragement to work harder and reach for a goal! Ha. I do this enough every day as it is.

Instead, I sink into longings, into dreams, into rest. This year over Thanksgiving break, I wrote out my longings for 2019; these become my prayers and an ordinary piece of paper I return to as a reminder if I am choosing what I truly desire, or if I am hiding out of fear.

2019 looks like a lot of creativity! Of sinking even deeper roots, and to operate out of a foundation of gratitude.

Photo by Leonard von Bibra on Unsplash

2018 was a lot of letting go, and making room for new. It was a year about expression and asking questions about home. I came out as asexual, I got confirmed (what!?) in the Episcopal church, I learned qigong, I went back to Michigan, I did EMDR, I built my business to full-capacity, started my second year of spiritual direction training, & wrote my first draft of my . healing journey.

I made new friends, and I laughed a lot. My natural smile came back. I took myself more seriously. And more lightly. I came home to myself.

And I also spent more time alone & outside. And I loved it! And I learned that it’s not just about being an introvert, but about being serious about what I want and need. And that I can give myself permission to that time, while not neglecting community.

In 2018, I asked myself these questions, and they are ones I will keep asking.

What do I need?

What do I want?

What do I crave?

I often find myself needing and wanting rest so badly, and there are ways that I sabotage the rest that is right in front of me. This awareness is painful and yet I’ve done deep work to discover my right-sized capacity and also coming back to the question, “What is mine to do?”

2018 has been joy and grief. Loss and newness. Risk-taking and slowing down. Making mistakes and getting back up. Finding my power in the quiet places. Being a witness to my own life. Being a witness to the lives of others.

And as fatigue seemed to be all encompassing and overwhelming this December, I’m ending the year slowing down, coming back to simple eating, energy practices, spending lots of time in my sauna, sleeping. Spending less time asking the question, “What went wrong?” and instead trusting that my body knows how to heal itself.

May 2019 be a year of risk-taking, truth-telling, and joy. You deserve it.

A Love Letter From My Body

My dear,

It’s been a year!  You are tired–but a different kind of tired.  

You are tired because you’ve cared for yourself well.  You are tired because the shifts to care for yourself well have been great.  And completely necessary.

It’s been a year of claiming yourself. Defining yourself. Taking seriously your gifts and limits. A year of saying yes to your own healing in even deeper ways.

Thank you. For breathing. For doing EMDR, for committing to practices that serve you best.

Keep on letting go–while noticing your tendency to want to fill the void.  Let the void stay though-this is the place where magic happens.

Be aware that your own tendency to over-exert, over-work, over-schedule comes from your own personal trauma patterns.

And of course these are linked to capitalism, white supremacy, and ableism.  It’s the air you breathe. It’s in your DNA. It’s in your ancestry.

And even with your illness-you still find yourself reverting.  Feeling like you need to be perfect to be seen and loved. Or at least that showing up takes a certain visible form.

Many messages you’ve internalized from justice spaces have been harmful.  

It’s time to let those go. Not to let the work go. But approach it differently in a way that works for you. And not apologize for that.

You see, urgency for you must take the form of slow, committed, behind the scenes work.  This isn’t you hiding-this is you thriving. For there’s always a way you see the small wins lurking in the shadows…of your own life too.

Part of accepting your illness is to know what is happening in your body.  Hashimoto’s is characterized by a hyper-vigilant fight or flight state where the body starts attacking its own tissue.  It’s okay to know that justice spaces operate off this hypervigilance. That’s not something you can sustain-not in that way.  You would have a flare and be off the grid for awhile.

And part of healing is the reality that this hypervigilance lessons.  Your body can now move more easily into homeostasis. It’s not always on guard, protecting, defensive.

And what you learning is that as your hypervigilance lessens-your body seems confused. “What, this open, spacious, free space to live. I don’t know how to live here. It’s not comfortable.” So you return to what is toxic for your body because that’s what you know.

Let’s work together and stop doing that.

Let’s keep the dark voids, the open spaces.

Let’s continually believe we are worthy of love. Always.

Let’s trust our own inner wisdom, while still being teachable.

Let’s take deep breaths and rest.

You’ve already journeyed a good way in understanding rest. And you are learning it from a new place. You are not completely crashed and lying in bed all day.  You are running a business, being a friend, companioning people in deep ways. And you must learn again. You must teach me again, until I know on a cellular level what it means to take a full, deep breath and believe that this spaciousness has always been my birthright.

For you know that solidarity is having your privilege and co-dependency in check.  Solidarity is having a deep, strong sense of self, so you aren’t looking for approval or needing recognition.

This is deep, internal work. For white supremacy has formed white people, including yourself, to position yourselves as “white savior”-and to undo this creates a sense of “loss of self.” And there is grief and anger. And yet it’s an opportunity to find out who you really are.  You’ve just been lulled to sleep.

So take time to rest.  To discover your power. To discover yourself. And smile and laugh. Life is beautiful–and so are you.  

Keep listening. You are right where you are supposed to be. So be all there.

14 Lessons from 14 Years

 

In November of 2004, I started seeing all kinds of doctors–family doctors, cardiologists, nerve conduction doctors and pain management doctors.

I was passing out or collapsing while running, and I wanted to know why.  This was the beginning of what has been a long and grueling 14 years in Western medicine.

I do think of my life as before I started seeing doctors all the time, and after.

This November has felt deeply grounding–and I’ve needed to move through the world more slowly than I usually do.  Figuring out “why” hasn’t been the point, and yet one day, I just thought, “I’ve been ‘sick’ for half my life.”

That moment felt significant.  Because these last 14 years have been intense.  And because I  want my next 14 years to feel different.

Labels are helpful and labels are limiting.  I believe both to be true.  I also believe healing is a journey and we never “arrive,” and yet also believe the journey is the destination itself.  Paradoxes abound, and language is limiting.  And that’s okay.

However, I do refer to myself as someone who navigates chronic illness–even if my illness has morphed, changed, and in many ways, I have healed.

This post is honoring this second half of my life so far–what I have learned, and what I desire to pass on to others.

Anxiety grows in secrecy.  

My sophomore year in high school, I became really depressed.  I didn’t know what was going on in my body–the symptoms kept worsening and it was getting harder to get through cross country practice.  I was put on a medication that made me really anxious, and I didn’t know how to talk about any of it, so I bottled it up.  And not talking about it, just made me even more anxious.

I remember the day I chose to quit the track team.  I was done performing, done pretending like I was okay when I wasn’t.  Quitting was the beginning of my healing.

The body is always speaking.

I spent years pushing through what my body was saying.  And I don’t mean just ignoring my body’s signals–but actually recognizing them and choosing to push past them anyway.  So all the collapsing, passing out, high heart rates, leg pain, menstrual pain, extreme fatigue, and anxiety–I pushed right through it.

What I missed in all those years of pushing through was hearing,

“Slow down, please.  Rest.  You don’t even know how much you deserve it.  I wish you did.”

It took me pushing, and going from one intense thing to the next, for my body to truly shut down.  I just couldn’t live like this anymore.

When I finally listened and responded with, “Okay, I’m listening now” the real work began.

My truth doesn’t have to be yours.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life people-pleasing, shrinking, hiding who I really am.  I was terrified of my own difference.  Terrified of disagreeing with those in authority, particularly white men.

Wanting so deeply to live into my purpose and yet unable to trust my own intuition and gut instincts.

Terrified of my internalized racism, sexism, homophobia. Unable to sit with my own discomfort and let it transform me.

As a contemplative spiritual practice grounded me enough to be able to see my own strength and my own complicity, I could more freely stand in my own truth. I could trust what my body was communicating.

I could see my own privilege and my own marginalization–and know that I’m both ally and allied simultaneously.

No one can truly tell me what’s mine to do–and yet to distance myself from community is both unwise and unhealthy.

Finding one’s truth just isn’t as linear as we would like to believe.

Ancestor connection is vital. 

I am more connected to my lineage, my purpose, my truth as I connect to my ancestors.  As I connect to what particularly needs healing in my family line, I stand in the world more grounded, needing less affirmation or understanding from the world.

Accept mystery & let go of needing to understand everything cognitively.

Easier said than done.  Also, just not much more to say here.

You are not making up your illness AND unexpressed emotions are the underbelly of disease.  

These are difficult to hold together.  I was told over and over again that I was making up my illness, that I was a hypochondriac who was just depressed and over-exaggerating everything.

I knew that I wouldn’t get help unless I found a doctor who believed me.  That was true, to an extent.  I’m glad for the treatment I received once being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s.

And when I started making the most progress was in my work through yoga, EMDR, qigong, breath work.  I needed to enter my body and allow emotions to come to the surface.  They needed expression so I could heal, so I could let go, and live more freely.

Less attached to “doing things right” or “finding the right doctor” or “living the best lifestyle to keep fatigue at bay.”

Things simply became about accepting and letting go–and of course resistance & expressing all the “difficult” emotions of sadness and anger, shame and guilt.

You can trust yourself and you must.  If you don’t, you will never belong.

Trusting myself didn’t come easily.  It was a lot of hard work honestly.  And it just came down to the question, “Am I going to a live a life respecting myself or am I not?”

And a lot of my fatigue surfaced when I went against my gut instinct.  When I “went along” because I didn’t want to inconvenience people or be “different.”

I also felt paralyzed in taking risks.

“What if I try that and I get more sick?”  “How do I know if I’m well enough to try something new?”

The questions are unending.  And I also was tired of living a life that wasn’t mine.  I had moved so far away from who I really was—and I felt the loneliness in living someone else’s life.

I knew that trusting myself would sometimes bring loneliness and yet if I belonged to myself I also wasn’t truly alone.

There’s a lot of things doctors don’t know.  And I deeply respect them. I just don’t respect them more than I respect myself.  

Doctors aren’t saviors.  They aren’t the ones with this seemingly unreachable external answer that will solve everything.

But I treated them this way for so long.  I was miserable, so exhausted and just wanted an answer.

Once I believed that trusting myself was how I must live–then more difficult questions surfaced.  “What is my body trying to say that I’m ignoring? Pushing through? What will it take to adjust my life and listen?”

I have “answers” too.  The key is sharpening my awareness and acting on what I know.

There’s value in both Western & Eastern-based medicine. 

I’m thankful for and have benefitted from both.  I still go to the pharmacy every month & pick up my prescription.  And I needed to be introduced to older frameworks of understanding health in order to see how my emotional and spiritual state affected my physical health.  Everything belongs.

It takes a lot of energy to run from your purpose because you are scared of being lonely. 

I know my purpose now.  A lot of it entails resting, slowing down, rerouting ancestral patterns of survival and relational and emotional scarcity.  Bringing balance to myself, my lineage and the earth by healing myself.  To cultivate my inner world and my creativity.  To speak the truth.

But for so long I was scared to go inward.  I craved it and was terrified of it.  I didn’t know how to be alone and not be scared.

I settled for trying to be busy to feel important, and to fit in–and I became so tired trying to chase a glimpse of “fulfillment” while being terrible separated from my own desires.

You can show up & choose; and most of life is outside your control.  

Preparing to die before I die feels sacred.  Life is wonderful and beautiful and challenging and downright cruel sometimes.  Joy and pain cannot truly be separated.  And so I want to show up for the present moment.

(Also a hint from someone who really gets chronic fatigue: It’s a HUGE energy waste to try to always be in control!)

You can waste a lot of energy explaining and defending yourself & your existence.  Instead use that energy for yourself.  You are worth it! 

This one goes against a lot of activist circles and activist thought.  I’ve spent a good portion of the past 14 years trying to get others (including doctors!) to believe that I had an illness.

Then what? Well, I received treatment that I’m really grateful for.

Then what? Well, my cycle of relating to people including explaining and proving my existence.  This is unhealthy, unsustainable, and not enjoyable.

Undoing this “putting up a front” because you already assume people are not going to understand you–and they are going to leave you–goes so deep.

The fear of abandonment when dealing with chronic illness is very real.  And makes relationships challenging.

And yet, if you belong to yourself, you will know that people come and go.  Having relationships leave, change, morph or shift can still bring up intense emotions and the question truly is, “Will you be there for yourself? For whatever you need, want, and desire?”

If you have the genes to manifest a disease, you have the genes to heal it. 

Quantum physics!

Rest is yours. Always.

Rest is resistance. And is always available.  We must trust ourselves.  Know what we need.  Create the space to rest.  And not just to fall apart and get back up to live at an unsustainable pace again.  But to rest because nature asks us to mirror our lives with its seasons.  Because liberation means rest and play and celebration.  It means letting our bodies experience what it feels like to be open and receptive.

Here’s to the next 14 years of living, loving and learning.

 

 

Keeping Things Simple

 

This healing journey of mine remains deeply wonderful–and very fulfilling.  It also is strange and new everyday.  I can explain my illness in themes, predict what my fatigue levels may be at, and I’m usually pretty accurate.

I can choose to take in others’ opinions of how I’m going (or not going) about healing.  I can listen to healers who believe that I should just think of myself “as not having a chronic illness” and what I think will manifest in reality.  I will be “healed.”

Euro-centric models of healing focus only on the physical body & the elimination of symptoms.  Healing physically is a wonderful thing & there’s so much more.

My emotional & spiritual healing occur alongside my physical healing (of course!).  Lately, with my first two weeks of fall tutoring underway, I shifted into more anxiety and a mental focus of “what I should do.”  And these thoughts were largely separated from my intuition, my imagination & my dreams.

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One of the most simple, and yet profound gifts from Hashimoto’s has been learning to take care of myself & listen to my body.  And to realize that this reality is not divorced from asking for help from other people.

I still remember days when I laid in bed all day.

I remember when I would grocery shop, come home, and lay down for 3 hours, before I was able to do anything else active.

I remember when I would wake up and do gentle stretching, and then get back in bed.

I remember learning to make bone broth.

I remember when I was so weak that I could barely stand in the shower.  I remember when my hand would shake as I tried to lift my arm up high enough to reach for the shampoo.

These memories used to hold a lot of trauma, because they were so frequent, so routine, and they felt so isolating.  I was stuck in my past pain, unable to move forward.

I’ve moved forward now-and the memories still linger.  The body doesn’t discriminate.  I still hold my complete healing journey in my body.

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When I woke up yesterday on the full moon, I read Chani Nicholas’ horoscope for Capricorn.  At the end it stated:

“Stay with what is concise.

Truth needs no embellishment. Your purpose is profound, but need not be overly complex. Keeping things as simple as possible will allow you to experience the deepest aspects of your calling and the most important yearnings to attune yourself to.”

And it stopped me in my tracks.  I knew that my own anxiety and being in my head was getting in the way.  And I also know that I must bring all the learning, all the lessons, all the deep, simple realities from illness forward again.

Everything in chronic illness becomes simple.  It has to be this way.  Listening to the body becomes a means of survival.  Just listening to the rational mind, not only is not enough–it’s incredibly damaging.  The body is just simply more wise, more tender, more understanding, more loving.

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Tears are surfacing as I write this.  This reality that is so simple and so controversial.  But I believe it with my entire being.

“No one is disposable.”

We make conscious and unconscious decisions every day about who is “worth it” and who isn’t.  And here I’m not talking about the healthy need for boundaries and hard conversations, and maybe the need to have someone not be part of our lives anymore.  I’m not talking about growing out of certain relationships and moving on.

I’m saying that at a core level, we are all worthy of love.  We all desire to give and receive love and  the disposable nature of relationships has extremely damaging effects.

In documenting my own healing journey in the first draft of my book that I finished this summer, I found many memories coming up of everyone who showed up.  Sometimes just once, sometimes many times.  These people had different capacities, different things they were saying “no” to, so that they could care for me in their own unique way.  They had their own struggles, their own traumas, their own beautiful life.

They showed me that I wasn’t disposable.  I was fighting to believe this on my own–and I never would have gotten there on my own.

I needed to hear over and over again—

You are important.

You are valuable.

You are worthy.

You are loved.

You are brave.

You are a fighter.

You are tender.

I ran out of stamina on my own.  I could generate that for about an hour a day, and then I needed other people to step in.  Of course I did: I was fighting for my sanity, my health, my life.  That was and is never meant to do alone.

And one of my deepest desires is to show up in deep reciprocity and gratitude for all the people who taught me to believe with every part of me–that I was worth fighting for.  That I was still seen.  That I was not disposable.

There’s a lot of mystery around how this shows up for me in everyday life.  It shows up all the time–and I’m to stay in the flow and direction of Spirit.  Less in my head.  Less forcing.  More back to the basics of the deep truths that I believe.  And this starts with me.

I am not disposable.

What is Mine to Do?

I feel really grounded after my vacation.  I’ve also been taking these past few days really slow, even though I had a lot of tasks to get done to prep for starting the tutoring semester next week.

It’s been slowly adjusting back home: to meditation & qigong when I wake up, making my own food, to taking walks, to rearranging the altar in my room.  It’s been calling the doctor, replacing a headlight, making copies.  In a few days it will be back to lesson planning.  I also know that with the new moon and partial solar eclipse coming up on Saturday, my body is just tired.  I’m letting myself move more slowly.

My intention for this New Moon & in starting the school year in general is to live with these two questions: What is mine to do?  What is NOT mine to do? 

It is in my nature to see things that need to be “fixed.”  Used with discernment and wisdom, this is a very healthy trait that allows anger to surface and to channel that anger constructively towards change.  Used without wisdom, this way of thinking is lethal.  It makes being and presence impossible, and completely sabotages the present moment with judging thoughts of what could be “better.”

I’m entering a year where my health is allowing me to do so much more, and I’m deeply grateful.  And it’s a year where I will have less free time, and in my downtime I will need to rest.

While I’m doing really well health-wise, this and this was still a year ago.  My body is still rebounding, day by day.  Knowing my body really well, also means scheduling enough rest.  Letting my body recharge for the healing work I do every day, and thanking my body for the ability to do it.

Even with all this self-awareness, sometimes I still think I can and should do more.  Sometimes that’s true.  Most of the time it’s not!

With the way my brain works, sometimes it’s just more helpful to ask, “What’s not mine to do?”, list a few things, and move on.  That usually settles down my over-thinking mind.

What I do long for as this school year starts up is more presence.  A heightened awareness of the unique conversations that can happen when two people gather and the courage to have those conversations.

A deep centering in my purpose for this moment, taking a deep breath and letting it all go.

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At the worst of my illness, about 3.5 years ago, I spent a lot of time lying in bed.  Not only was I experiencing physical pain and deep fatigue, but I was learning to interrogate the thoughts and I emotions I had when I was no longer productive.

I came to also know that this culture of non-stop performance and the need to always be busy was also making me sick.

I didn’t know how to be alone and worthy of love.  I wasn’t “doing” anything except learning how to love and care for myself.  What I didn’t know was that this felt like the hardest job of all.

Those days of learning to prepare healing food, of walks, gentle yoga, and short times of meditation set the foundation of where I’m at today.  These simple ways of care come much more naturally to me now.

I am worth all the love, care, and nurture, no matter how I’m feeling.

So what is mine to do?  It is to show up to the present moment, and accept the unknown and the adventure that presents itself.  Yes, of course, there are a ton of responsibilities that I carry, but the most important is to show up when my intuition says “yes” whether out of excitement or even nervousness, and to rest when my body says “no.”

Ever so simple, and ever so elusive at times, when I cease to pay attention.  And what I must come back to, again and again.

A Solo Vacation & Self Love

So much can be said about self-love.  Believe me-I’ve heard most of the things.

“No one can really love themselves apart from community.”

“You have to learn to love yourself, before you will ever be able to love someone else.”

“You need to love other people as you love yourself.”

“It’s selfish and arrogant to assume that you can love yourself in a vacuum.”

So before I move into the bulk of this post–let’s talk about not just what self-love is, but how it can manifest itself.

I will be the first to say that love doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  We all need love from people.  We can seek love from animals, nature.  AND most of us haven’t been taught to love ourselves.  Most of what we do is project our pain & trauma.  We assume that other people exist solely to love us without ever asking if there are ways we are sabotaging the love all around us-and in us.

I suppose we could say that the path of healing and love is narrow and few find it.

I’m also going to make a distinction between care and love, although they share some similarities.

Care may be practical actions I take to simply care for myself.  Insert the ever-so-popular terminology of self-care right now.

Love is much more intuitive than that.  Love is checking in with myself.  It’s asking myself, “What do I need?  What do I desire?  What do I crave?”

Love isn’t being afraid of my passions.  Love is acknowledging my desires and naming them as mine.  Love, for me, means being cognizant of my energy, and not taking on others.  Love is noticing when things shift: whether emotions, needs, wants.  Love is first and foremost acknowledging that I’m human and that my passions, my energies, my needs and wants are not only completely valid, but completely good.

On this vacation of mine, the question that has been surfacing is: “How do I love myself well when I’m alone?”

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There’s nothing like a vacation alone for people to start asking questions.

“Will someone else be joining you?”

“What are you here for?”

“Well, you must be meeting up with someone else, right?”

The message was clear even if the people asking me these questions were unaware of it:

It’s not okay to be alone.  You must be uncomfortable. You are not enough, just you.  You are not worthy.

And these messages aren’t just from these few people.  It’s cultural.  And they are messages I internalized at a young age.

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This week has been one where these messages have been exposed.  Where I’ve needed to see how these messages have affected me & what I’ve done with them.

You see, I’ve desired a solo vacation for several years–and I’m just now taking one.  There’s many reasons for this, including health & money, and yet what also held me back was the belief that I didn’t deserve what I wanted.

That somehow my vacations had to look busy, with lots of people,…..and I wanted none of that.

I wanted quiet, to connect with nature and myself.  I knew parts would be joyous, and parts uncomfortable (like it always is when you practice spending time with yourself!), and yet I wanted all of it!

Intuitively I knew that my soul needed space.  I needed space where I didn’t need to be at certain places at certain times.  I needed space where I wasn’t coordinating plans with other people.  I specifically needed time close to where I lived, to remember, to ground into my history, to be grateful, and to leave the things that no longer serve me.

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So this week has been many things.

It’s been walking on the beach, walking to a lighthouse along a pier, swimming in Lake Michigan, and lingering long enough to watch the sunset.

It’s been so much hiking, including walking a trail that I ran over and over again in high school.  My body still knew the route by heart.  I still knew when the slopes were coming, where the bridges were.  I remembered doing line runs (group of 5-6 people run in a line, and the leader switches every 2 minutes, setting the pace for everyone else) training together as a cross country team, and what a practice in mutuality that was.

It’s been walking along the rivers I grew up around.  It’s been lamenting the history of erasure of the Chippewa indigenous people, both literally and in the telling of history.  I walked into the Nature Center’s visitor center, and the white-washed history was the same one I received as a kid, the same one that is being shared across white families and in schools.

It’s been driving in Bay City & Saginaw, noticing the obvious segregation, and seeing the affects of redlining, still apparent today.

It’s been discovering a new beach, I didn’t know was that close to me growing up.  The Saginaw Bay is pretty great!

It’s been reading, writing, farmer’s markets (Michigan blueberries & cherries!), buying flowers, coffee, fancy dinners and so much ice cream.

And my time isn’t even up yet!

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I can already tell that deep grounding has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen.

Noticing, paying attention, & naming the environment and forces that shaped me has been vital.

Experiencing my childhood home, without family, partner, or children–is still important.  Seeing the helpful and the harmful, and letting them both go.

Even in central Michigan, where I was taught that I needed to exist for someone else, that it was incredibly spiritual to deny myself–I came back, as I grow more and more into my personal power, and aware to the ravaging affects of systemic racism all around my childhood home.  There is power to give up as well.

Paradoxes of course–stepping into and giving up power.  Michigan-I’ll be back!