Letting Energy Flow

As I keep engaging with a regular breath work practice (about 3x/week for me), I’m noticing how my thoughts are shifting.  When I first started, I had to understand everything.

Why are my fingers tingling?  Why did my hand clench up?  Why am I crying?

I had to know the answers.  My brain wanted so desperately to be in control and to create immediate meaning.

Part of learning to trust my body, and let my intuition speak, is to just trust that any sensation is just energy needing to move.  I don’t have to know why in that moment, and yet a commitment to acknowledge the sensations and emotions, and to work with them through a practice to move stuck energy is extremely helpful!

Of course, my mind still wants to know.  That doesn’t go away overnight.  The mind’s job is to think thoughts, and it surely does this!  The results of the breath work practice show up in my active life.

I’m less anxious about my health.

Why is this?  I do have more supports in place.  If I have a reaction to mold, I know what to do.  Of course, all of this helps.  And yet breath work and my work in therapy, have helped to get at the stuck trauma in my body of feeling powerless and alone.  Powerless in getting a diagnosis.  Powerless in having a doctor take me seriously.  Fearful in wondering if healing was even possible.  Fearful to dream, because I didn’t want these good things taken away.

I’m finding my voice.

I’m writing a lot more, in general.  It doesn’t take as long to put words on a page.  I know that writing for me, at this time, also means writing for other people.  So I’m writing more on my blog, and I’m also plugging away at my memoir.  Writing can be both relaxing and intimidating–and sometimes I feel this within the span of 2 minutes!  Engaging this creative process has brought deep joy.

I’m seeing change as an invitation to transformation, rather than a painful journey.

A lot has happened in the past 6 months.  A lot of unraveling.  A lot of finding the common threads throughout my life.  A lot of reading, resting, and going inward.  Yet, so traveling too, and meeting new friends.  Laughter and tears.  Fights and acceptance.  New commitments and new completions.  All a part of the journey, each showing up to teach me something new.

I know what my energy feels like.

I’ve come to understand at a much deeper level, what it feels like to be in my body as an empath.  How I need to set firmer boundaries, in some areas.  How I need to sustain myself in a helping profession when I am giving of my energy most of the day.  How dishonest it feels to take on someone’s energy, when that’s not my job.  I’m learning, and I’m growing.

I know that bits of truth can be found anywhere; and that one person, place, institution cannot hold the whole picture.

Throughout my healing journey, people, trying to be helpful, have given me advice or told me what to try next.  At some point in our lives, we all think that we “have the answer.”   It’s been beautiful to turn inward, to gain confidence, to heal and be standing on firmer ground, and to know that bits of healing are everywhere.  Healing can come from a conversation with a stranger, or watching buds bloom on the tree.  Healing can be a qigong practice or an IV.  Healing can be drinking tea or watching TV.  The important thing is to regularly ask myself, “What do I need?” and to listen to the answer.  I will need different things at different times, and so I must listen.

May you today be graced with a pause, to notice the healing in you and around you.

 

Photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash

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Chronic Illness, Asexuality & Spirituality cont.

 

It took me awhile to come out as an asexual.  Couple a Christian, conservative upbringing where the options really are only gay or straight, and gay=bad and a chronic illness.

As my health started to improve, I started to do some deeper questioning, research and I found AVEN.  After several days of perusing the website here and there, claiming the label asexual just felt right to me.  It made sense and I felt a little more at ease.

I told a few individual people about my asexuality and that was helpful, but in general I was not open about it because in general I am straight-passing, and with that comes a lot of assumptions can just be maintained.  I had to recognize how deeply I identify with the privilege that straightness provides.  I also just wasn’t ready yet.

Yet, as I started the New Year as delved more deeply into breath work and writing, as well as new friendships and healing practices emerging in my life, I knew that I was hiding a deep, vital part of myself that ultimately wasn’t that healthy for me.

That for me, for speak more freely about being an asexual would lead to greater wholeness.  That to write about asexuality would allow me to reveal a huge aspect of my life, and speak to a part of my identity that could easily be overlooked or misunderstood.

Again my illness, asexuality, and spirituality intersect and inform one another in beautiful ways.

Without my chronic illness, I would not have slowed down.  Most likely, I would have kept pressing harder and harder, without much reflection, conforming to gain others’ acceptance.  I probably would have been successful, yet extremely hollow inside.  I would have traded in substance for superficial acceptance.

Slowing down actually was an avenue for exploring, for creating a new normal.  Of course sometimes this new life caused so much grief, and I was wondering about what I was missing out on.  Yet on some days, I actually adored the silence.  During those seasons of unemployment, time would slowly go by, but I would go on a walk, go grocery shopping, make meals, shower, and read.  I made it my goal to meaningfully interact with at least one person a day, either in person or on the phone.  Yet on some days, I wouldn’t really talk to anyone all day.  There was a unique loneliness to that season and yet, I was learning to sink deeply into myself.  I could keep myself company; and some days I preferred it.

A new spiritual ground was being laid for me, and I didn’t even know it.  I relished rest, gentle exercise, steady friendship, lighting a candle.  My prayer life was simple, short phrases like “Help me.”  “I’m tired again” or “I hope today is better than yesterday.”  I was especially aware that without gratitude,  I would shrivel up.  My journals from this time highlight a list of 10 things I was grateful for each day, that I would fill out before I went to bed.

I had a new awareness of life; it was like I was becoming a child again.  I paid attention to everything: the pace at which people walked, if they made eye contact, if they actually enjoyed the food they were eating.  I was grateful for the air, the flannel sheets, being able to stand up in the shower without getting tired.  Today, I look at those journals and weep in gladness–for my illness and my re-emerging gratitude for life–absolutely saved my life.

During this time, was also the first time I read Kathleen Norris.  I absolutely loved her.  I read Acedia & Me during Lent, and I relished her description of the monastic world.  I let myself wonder why I resonated so deeply with silence and contemplation. And also during this time I  told myself, “I could be single in this life, meet all of my own needs, and be happy.”  (I don’t think it’s ironic that I said this when I was deeply sick either…)  After Acedia & Me, I read Amazing Grace–and I said, “I don’t want to be a nun–but why do I think that I could be?

Side note: Celibacy & asexuality are not the same thing!  Asexuality simply means that the experience of sexual attraction does not exist, where celibacy is a choice.

Yet, my longings were surfacing for a deep liturgy, a spiritual experience marked by contemplation in community.  As I started reading some of the white female contemplatives of the medieval church, I noticed a correlation between their spiritual practice and most of them had chronic illnesses.  Their work deeply resonated with me.  I had found some companions on this inner journey of solitude, and reckoning with what my longings actually were.

 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

 

Sources of Resilience

On an episode of Healing Justice Podcast, I was encouraged to think about what my sources of resilience have been and are.  In this time of my life that feels like deep grounding, yet deep transition all at the same time, I want to pause and honor those places, people & internal wells of wisdom that have brought me to this place.

–I want to honor Detroit, my summer childhood running home, and my friends across difference, especially Ramzee and Whitney.

–Running, you taught me about sinking my breath with movement and my first lessons in internal affirmations.  You taught me the nuance between perseverance and knowing when to stop.

–Hashimoto’s, there will be lifelong wisdom from you, my friend.  You taught me to listen to my body, to trust it, to continue to seek healing, even when it seemed like all options were exhausted.  You keep teaching me that my body is my friend, not my enemy.  You teach me daily that I am not what I do.  That there always exists within my body the invitation to rest.

–Therapy-so much therapy in my 20’s!  I’ve learned that with a skilled therapist, your trauma can transform into your teacher.  With an unskilled one, your trauma becomes your ever-increasing nightmare.

–Safe healers-Lesley, Kelsey, Beth, Dina, Mel, Erica, Melissa (x2), Charlie, and so many more.  You save more lives than you realize.

–My voice-learning to speak the cold truth without sugar-coating.  Knowing that the truth will offend some.  But it always has.  Those in power often play deaf to the truth.

–Memphis.  The place where I saw racism up close, not in covert ways in the north.  Where I passed KKK statues in the park.  Where so many questions were asked, and so much anger was sparked.

–My breath.  This powerful source has power to release grief, anger, frustration, powerlessness-all for free!  Breathing deeply helps me create internal and external spaciousness.

–Poetry.  Writing it.  Reading it.  Knowing when something was written just for you.

–Friendships.  My community pushing me forward & encouraging my rest.

& so many more that I could name.

At the Intersections of Chronic Illness, Asexuality & Spirituality

As a kid, I cherished the outdoors and my friendships.  I loved playing in the “woods” behind my house and setting up kickball games in the backyard when my friends would come over.  I ran around every summer in my bare feet and would wear sandals in the winter as soon as the snow had melted and the weather was above freezing.

While I enjoyed playing outside with my sister, I could enjoy being alone.  I would shoot baskets alone.  In middle school and high school, I would go on long runs alone & love it.  Not every time, of course, but I did need those times of solitude.  They were essential for me and I craved them.

(As a side note, but as a teacher, I see now that kids have a real difficulty in being alone without technology.  They don’t know how to be bored and enjoy their own company…and this worries me.)

I’ve also cherished many close friends in my life.  Something I definitely do not take for granted.  Many people over the years have been jealous of my friendships–becoming less jealous when they were dating or finally “found someone.”

I internalized from a young age from our culture that I needed to “find someone”–that to have many strong, close friendships is not the norm.  So I dated a few guys-they were close friends first.  That was the only thing that made sense to me.  I went on blind dates here and there but nothing ever “clicked.”

Then I got very sick, and I wasn’t thinking about romantic relationships.  I could barely get out of bed.  I relied on the love and concern of friends: for coffee and conversation on good days, texts to remind me that I wasn’t forgotten, phone calls to check in.  I had a friend who watched the same episode of Gilmore Girls from a  different part of the country, a friend who let me sit in her office when she worked, just so I could have some semblance of a routine, an old boss who would let me wander into a Wednesday morning chapel service just so I could listen to a group of people singing together.

I dated one guy while I was sick.  It didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t give him that much attention and energy–and honestly I just wasn’t that interested.

And since the beginning of me and Chelsea’s friendship, we’ve been close.  If you go back to the beginning of this blog, you will read about our time together, in what was expected to be the last few months of her life.  I have loved her more deeply than any other friend at this point in my life.

This deep, sacrificial love, without a sexual of romantic component are key descriptors of what being asexual is like for me.  The Divine shows me her/their goodness primarily through friendship: deep committed friendship.

The more that I’ve come home to my sexuality these last several months, the more honest I’m being with myself about how I connect with the Divine.

I connect in deep friendship, in solitude and silence, through breathing/energy work, in paying attention to my dreams, through exercise and movement, through liturgy and ritual, in greeting a stranger, through really incredible food. I connect through story and poetry.

For now, for me to show up as uniquely me in this world-I am apart of the institutional Christian church, the Episcopal church to be precise.  And I’m also in regular conversation with those who are searching, exploring, wandering-and who consider themselves spiritual, but not religious.

For me to show up in this world-as the true me-I make sure that there’s margin to visit the sick.  I make time for my friends with chronic illness who may go through a flare or end up in the ER.

And because I’m a sensitive person, work with students who struggle, and I show up for my friends–I must show up for myself.  I must connect with myself meaningfully, and not just through traditional self-care, but through being aware of how I’m speaking to myself, aware of how much time I’m taking just for me, without needing to defend or justify my choices to anyone.  How much time I let myself off the hook and just be bored.

I connect to Spirit so much more fully in my rest than in my work, though both are needed and necessary.  Stillness and silence have become especially essential the more I understand who I truly am.  Since I am in tune with my own energy, others’ energy, the energy of the earth-I must rest in order that this messaging or downloading can occur.

And above all, my illness, my greatest teacher, has taught me how to rest.  That I must lay down my responsibility down and rest for the good of myself and the world.

For I must show up as my true self in the world.

The deeply spiritual, sensitive, asexual woman that I am.

May we all follow life and love and discover who we really are.

Arrogance or Bravery?

While sitting in meditation last week, I thought of this David Whyte poem.  It was meditation, and so I let the thought go, but then it came back to me later that day.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired

the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone

no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark

where the night has eyes

to recognize its own.

There you can be sure

you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

tonight.

The night will give you a horizon 

further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet

confinement of your aloneness

to learn

anything or anyone 

that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

What struck me is that on a surface level, this poem can seem quite arrogant.  It’s a poem of struggle, retreating into solitude, and realizing that you should only spend time around people that make you come alive.  (Does that make someone smart or extremely avoidant?!)

Upon deeper investigation though, this poem is about letting go.  Being alone in the quiet and seeing what’s left.  It’s about figuring out who you are, when you are willing to rip away all the masks.  It’s about knowing you are deeply loved.  It’s about learning to befriend yourself; and to stay true to yourself.  It’s about knowing what is yours to do and what isn’t.  It’s about knowing who your people are; and what people aren’t.

Somehow aloneness becomes a sweet confinement.  The silence rips away all pretense–and you can no longer be a good version of yourself.  You must be your true self.  You must put away all the good things (especially the good things other people want you to do!)–and only long for the best.

This is a beautiful poem for Lent.  “The world was made to be free in.”

These words have been a great support over the last week, as I’m coming to understand what it means for me to give up conformity for Lent.  For me it means hearing the whispering voice say, “What do you want?”  It’s responding honestly to that question.

It means paying attention to when I feel like I have to make someone else in the room comfortable–and realizing where this impulse is coming from.

It means entering into deep rest, remembering that I don’t exist just to serve other people.  It means knowing that I’m worthy.  Worthy of every good thing.

_____________________________________________________________________

I excelled at a young age, both academically and athletically.  I was smart, yet practical.  I didn’t quite fit the dumb blonde stereotype.  I beat all the boys when we would race at recess.  I remember having a realization while I was still in elementary school that I intimidated people.  I had strong strengths, but I didn’t like the effect this had in a group.  I would either shrink to make people feel comfortable, or avoid certain people if I wanted to act like myself.

I took on other people’s insecurity.  And over time, I didn’t know what was my energy or what was someone else’s.

I didn’t know this dynamic existed while I was still running and was successful.  I started to realize it when my health started deteriorating, when I could no longer hide behind my external achievements.  I knew then that actually my interior life was empty as well; I thought that I was what I could accomplish, but I was very wrong.

Even when I got sick, people would tell me, “You have such a good attitude” or “I don’t know how you persevere the way you do.”  I would smile to be polite and to make them comfortable–because when you are sick, you are very aware of how your existence makes people very uncomfortable.  I would muster some energy that I didn’t really have to say something trite like, “Well, I do the best that I can.”

Deep down in my bones though, I was tired of my over-responsibility, still trying to make other people in the room comfortable even when I was really sick.

Why?  I wanted to feel like I belonged.  I confused conformity with belonging.  I chose to not remember the basic truth that at an elemental level, that we all belong to each other.

So in order to belong, I would do a lot of emotional labor for other people so they would understand my illness.  I short-changed their learning, so that I could feel understood.

I sought support primarily externally (although I did need this), to the neglect of my own internal support & those in my life who had taught me resilience. The harder work is the inner work.

_____________________________________________________

During this Lent, what I felt my body saying was, “No more.”

“Take responsibility for your own emotional wake-but that’s it.”

“Really see who you are in the silence.”

The woman that is emerging from this silence is strong and compassionate.  She knows that her strength and compassion are nestled in her own body.  She is in touch with her intuition, and realizes when anxiety creeps in, that she is out of line with herself.  She gives to others, but also gives abundantly to herself.  She recognizes that the price of discovering oneself is misunderstanding and increased conflict–yet knows that the risk is worth it.  Rather than being afraid of her fatigue, she listens to it, for she knows that in it contains much wisdom.  She takes deep breaths, expressing gratitude for the life source that sustains her.  She knows that her power lies in letting go–only which is hers.

______________________________________________________

Here I am.  In the present, as a strong woman.  Yet this time, one who knows her inherent worth and dignity.  I’m no longer the 8 year old on the playground-although that girl is still in me.

So is it arrogant or brave to step into the silence, with all of my gifts, with all of my hard-won wisdom?  Is it arrogant or brave to rest, both alone and in community, in order to give my best self to the world?

Is it arrogant or brave to leave places or people that do not make me come alive?

Is it arrogant or brave to speak truth to power?

Is it arrogant or brave to wander until you know where you are to put down roots?

I say brave, although of course the flip side is that the ones who feel rejected, say arrogant.  Yet, that’s not mine to worry about, is it?

 

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Five Years of Friendship

Five years ago, I met this dear friend of mine.  It just so happened that she was in my interview group, when she was interviewing for the Memphis Teacher Residency.

She got in, and was assigned to spend her residency year at my school.  Then I quit my position right before school started, and she ended up teaching in my classroom (and she wasn’t very happy with me!)

We watched Big 10 basketball together while living in the South, while everyone else was concerned with Ole Miss & Alabama.

When I got very sick, and left Memphis for Indy, I didn’t really think that we would stay in touch.  But we did–and oh, our friendship has been both the best & the hardest thing.

We’ve traveled a lot of hard ground together–more than most friends do in a lifetime.  At times, I’ve been overwhelmed with the grief of it all.  At other times, I rest in my gratitude for a loyal and committed friend who knows me so well.  Of course it’s both/and.

Last night was simply a “Thanks for being my friend” kinda night. At. Ted’s Montana Grill.  Taking occasional glimpses at March Madness scores here and there.

Yet, 2018 is a big year for both us–for different reasons.  Yet, we both still get to be a witness to it all-the good and the bad, our back-and-forth illnesses, new jobs, graduations, baptisms, a book being written, new friendships being made, my confirmation into the Episcopal Church (more on this later!)

It’s been a privilege to be a witness to healing-both mine & Chelsea’s over the last several years.  We are both better, for having been committed friends.

 

EMDR & bell hooks

 

Since October, I’ve been in therapy, targeting specific traumatic memories through the use of EMDR.  EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing.  For 45 minutes, once I’ve brought up a memory with a charged emotion attached, I let my eyes go back and across a light bar that moves at a comfortable pace from the left to the right.  After about 20-30 seconds, it stops, and I report what I thought, felt, or saw in my mind.

At first it seemed haphazard and chaotic–it’s because it was.  Any traumatic event doesn’t lodge in the body in a way that feels coherent.  It’s an entangling of memories, of thoughts and feelings left unsaid, of events that rewired my neural pathways in the brain.

It’s been an empowering process for me to work through unresolved grief, to understand my own patterns that were underneath my own consciousness, to find my voice again, and not feel like a victim.  It’s been an empowering process to see my gifts, to see my beliefs change, and even to see my shortcomings and accept them for the teachers that they are.

It’s been the driver behind my creativity beginning to emerge much more powerfully in my life.  It’s a big part of me being able to write more-and to trust my own voice and creative process.

Yet, EMDR is a tool that exposes everything.  Nothing can be hidden.

I have to face the frightened teenager in the doctor’s office who feels like she can’t win, who feels like she says too little & is dismissed or says too much and is a hypochondriac.

I have to face the girl who starts to edit her story so she doesn’t continue to be humiliated.

I have to face the girl who begins to doubt herself–and who wonders if she’s really crazy, since most professionals think she is.

I have to face the girl who starts to believe incorrect narratives about her life imposed on her by those in authority-because she’s so exhausted from trying to tell the truth.

I have to face the girl and young adult who is resentful, because she has stuffed her own truth into her body.  She has so much to say, and yet is so scared to say it.  And this is the source of so much of her chronic illness.

I learned the rules of our white-heteronormative-patriarchal-Western society.  I would not be heard unless a man in authority believed that I had the right to be heard.  Even when I saw female doctors (which were few and far between), they still acted from a patriarchal perspective, because they benefitted from the medical establishment, and didn’t see the need to examine their own beliefs.

After working with a female endocrinologist in college for 3 years, she started to increase her body-shaming language with me.  The blame just kept getting heaped onto me: “If only you would work out 6 times a week instead of 5…if only you would lose 2 more pounds, then your fatigue would go away.”

I wanted to say, “How many times per week do you work out?” but I kept quiet.

I wanted to say, “Could it be that you have no idea how to help me, and you see me as a challenge and a threat?” but I kept quiet.

I wanted to say, “Stop treating me  like a problem case, where you feel like you have to assert your dominance as a doctor to be deemed as credible” but I kept quiet.

While I didn’t have words for the institutional forces at play, at the time, I knew that something was very wrong.   I knew that I was being treated differently because I was a young female. I knew that I was an easy scapegoat for built-up frustration. I knew that making me question my own body, my own symptoms, my own memory & perception was the only way to make them still feel dominant over me.

Now I know this to be gaslighting, a very effective form of manipulation that quickly increases self-doubt and self-questioning.

Through the work of EMDR, I’ve been able to take my story back into my own hands, away from those who taught me to question myself because my disease couldn’t be “proven.” I now have the chance to see my bravery, my strength, my perseverance that seemed to elude me when I just felt like a burden or the problem.  I finally get to see myself as the hero of my own story-with great successes and many faults, like every other human being.

I’ve been able to see how my perseverance has been found in my commitment to my own self-care, to setting boundaries, to trying new things when everything seems to fall apart.  In my perseverance, I’ve seen an openness to new people, new ideas, new writers.  I’ve felt a strong sense of self emerge, originating in the greatest place of energy in the sacral chakra.

Being able to spend time alone, as a woman, and truly enjoy my own company has been the greatest gift of my own perseverance.  And it’s intimidating to many–but I’m learning not to apologize for this.  I’m not forsaking community to nurture myself.

Last week I read feminism is for everybody by bell hooks.  Such a lovely, thought-provoking read about intersectional feminism.  In the introduction she writes,

Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction.  Imagine living in a world where we can all be who we are, a world of peace and possibility.  Feminist revolution alone will not create such a world; we need to end racism, class elitism, imperialism.  But it will make it possible for us to be fully self-actualized females and males able to create beloved community, to live together, realizing our dreams of freedom and justice, living the truth that we are all ‘created equal.'”

Self-actualization must necessarily include the work of the individual in community.  In in the process of taking responsibility for my own life, so that I show up in community differently.  So that I’m more flexible, and willing to learn, and yet not doubting my own significance or story.

I’m thankful for the people in my life who remind me of my significance and worth, through words and actions–and remind me that I don’t have to prove it to anyone.  I’m thankful for those who help me to see my own assumptions, and who encourage me to imagine another way-a way forward with more inclusion and joy.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Congratulations!

Last week, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor.  I have these appointments 3-4 times per year to gauge my progress and continue to tweak my treatment plan to best serve me and my healing.

The nurse leads me into the room and asks me what my dominant symptoms are to tell the doctor, before he comes in to meet with me.  I smiled as I told her, “I don’t have any dominant symptoms.  I’m feeling really good.”

She smiled back at me, took her time to really look at me, and replied, “That’s so good to hear.”

The doctor and I talked about my most recent lab results, how I’ve responded the last several months to new medicines, new IV’s, and adding in new foods.  We talked about how this summer with the high humidity should be different than last year, and yet I told him that I feel like I can tell how much difference these medicines have made by the time summer hits.

The entire 1/2 hour conversation was mostly about how I’m feeling–not what my test results say.  And as we were talking, this calmness came over me.  I was having a collaborative conversation with my doctor, where we were talking about my “subjective” feelings and they were validated over a number on a lab.  We talked about how I can adjust some medicines based on how I feel, because I know how to honor and listen to my body.

As I was leaving the room to go wait for the doctor’s notes in the lobby, he said, “Congratulations!”

The images that flooded my mind as he said that were of the dozens, even hundreds of people who have been a part of this healing journey with me.  From friends & family, to healing professionals, to strangers–it truly does take a village.

And, I have worked really hard.  Sometimes I shy away from saying that because I’ve been conditioned to feel like that’s arrogant.  But it’s not.

And sometimes guilt sets in because I am a young privileged white woman with access to resources that many people cannot even fathom.

Yet, I’m learning to sit with those feelings and just observe them.  And still say, “I’m healing & I’m worth it.”  And I have persevered and persevered and persevered.  And I deserve to feel good.

Hearing “congratulations!” from my doctor at first felt a little out of place. But then I paused, took a deep breath, and let the impact of his words sink in.

When he first saw me, I was on the brink of quitting my job.  I had just been sexually assaulted by a doctor.  I was exhausted and barely making it.  He has seen me through unemployment and multiple moves and black mold exposure and starting my own business.

So “congratulations!” meant “You’re making it!” but not only that, “You’re beginning to thrive!”

And he’s right.  I’ve not only gone through a lot of external changes, but I’ve done a lot of inner work–and the combination of a lot of hard work over the last several years–is a greater level of health and wellness.

I’m grateful for how my inner and outer work has changed my life, for my people who have journeyed with me, for simple encouragements that stop me in my tracks, cause me to take a deep breath and smile.

 

Photo courtesy of Serge Estege on Unsplash

The Flu and Thoughts on Letting Go

I got the flu last week.  The 24 hour kind, where I woke up and thought I was fine, until I was sweating one moment and freezing and next, and then I had the sudden urge to get to the bathroom as fast as I could.

I texted all my clients and told them that I needed to cancel.  I didn’t go to my last Qigong group.  I read an entire book, and listened to several podcasts.  I would throw up occasionally, then take a nap.

The details aren’t that interesting (ha!), and yet a few things hit me last Wednesday.

First, I know how to rest.  It’s like my body just let myself throw up.  It let me know when I was ready to try a cracker, to try a pretzel and see how my body did.  My body guided me to equilibrium and I trusted it the entire time.  Having the flu didn’t feel like an inconvenience, but just a time to slow down and have my body instruct me in how to get well.  Quite honestly, over the past several years, I had to learn how to rest.  I had traveled way too far over false ground.  The fact that resting came naturally, and I didn’t fight it, just means that I’m much closer to living in line with who I am.

On top of that, I was on my period!  Through vomiting and bleeding, I was getting a double message of letting myself let go of what I no longer needed.  Since last summer, I’ve transitioned in so many ways.  My health moved me into these decisions quickly–and yet now I can see that my health was nudging me in different directions that I’ve needed to go.

New job.  New home. New church.  New self-care routines.

I understood none of this while it was happening–we normally don’t!

More questions emerged that I’ve just let be questions:

  • Why do I live in Westfield?
  • What kind of church am I looking for?  Why?  Or am I looking for a church at all?
  • How can my self-care sustain these longer work hours?
  • How can I make Orton-Gilllingham more accessible to more people, while still caring for myself?
  • Who am I accountable to in this time?  And how to do I know?
  • Who am I and how do I know?

Deep questions usually surface in the new.  And they have.  And I’ve been pushed to lean into these questions.  I needed to let go of two jobs, that I liked at one point but were no longer working.  I needed to let go of a home that was close and convenient to everything, but was damaging my health.  I needed to let go of a church, where I had found community, and yet because of several factors I needed to say goodbye.

There are always new opportunities behind the grief.  Once my eyes were fully opened, no longer filled with exhaustion and tears–I saw my life for what it was.  Although I built a business feeling at about 15% myself–I am at capacity now, and I’m making plans for how I want to expand my services when there is a wait list.

Living in Westfield has been a place of rest, with a lot more country driving!  I had this strong sense when I was preparing to move that although busier in several years, that this was a season of rest.  It’s quieter.  I can see the stars.  I can easily walk down the street.  And my health has most definitely improved living here.

I’ve moved to more gentle self-care routines.  I engage in breathwork, in Qigong, in daily creativity through writing.  I can do these at home or with a group.  In fact, I see that I need both.  I’ve let everything that felt vigorous fall away.  This wasn’t the plan, but it just happened.  No more vinyasa yoga.  No more regular trips to the yoga studio.

As far as church goes, coming into the Episcopal church has felt like a homecoming to me.  I started going to an Anglican church in Memphis 4 years ago during the Epiphany season.  The liturgy truly was healing to my sick body. I didn’t realize how much I longed for that liturgy again, until I stepped through St. Christopher’s doors.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to come out as an asexual, until I looked on their website and read “You are welcome here. You are welcome if you are rich or poor, gay or straight, single or married, Democrat, Republican or something else.”

I wept when I was researching Episcopal churches in the area and I saw that they had a Lay Eucharistic Minister ministry where a volunteer would bring  the Eucharist to your home if you were homebound.  I thought of how many Sundays I didn’t go to church because of how sick I felt, or knowing that I would react to mold.  How over time that made me feel disconnected and isolated.  It was comforting to know that if I needed to stay home, I could just give the church a call and someone would come and visit me.

I let tears fall from my eyes when there were prayers for the sick imbedded into the liturgy.  I felt seen and represented.  I felt encouraged that there was an anti-racism work group, that the assistant rector was a woman and the bishop of the Diocese is a strong black woman.

Saying goodbye to those things last summer opened up space for my practices to align more with who I am, to give me excitement and hope for where I might be headed.

Last month, in my spiritual direction session, my director reflected back to me, that I speaking about themes that all began with c: community, courage, collaboration, construction, creativity, claiming, curiosity, contentment.  She encouraged me to see this time not necessarily as de-construction, but actually construction.  “You are constructing a beautiful life,” she said.

We also talked about how St. Christophers begins with a c.  My director said, “It would be interesting to look at what patron saint Christopher is.”  A few days later I did some research and found that St. Christopher is the patron saint of children and travel.

That seemed too fitting.  The last several years have been an adventure, with so much literal travel, but also a deep traveling inward.  I’ve been on a crazy adventure, oftentimes one that doesn’t make sense.  But then there are those moments, where time feels like it just stands still, and for a moment you know in your body that you are right where you are supposed to be.

I suppose you could say, that instead of fighting the flu, and being frustrated that I had to miss work, I simply took it as an opportunity to say, “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

Bringing My Female-ness Into Lent

Credit given to YogaDivinity

 

Ntokaze Shange coined:

i found god in myself

and i loved her

i loved her fiercely.

She penned these words in her play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.”

This is becoming my mantra for Lent.  A Lent in which I am desiring to hold onto the best of tradition, yet being open up for the new–the parts of myself that need an overhaul, as I pray for my country, which also needs massive overhauls.

Yet, I must start with me.  And I must bring my Female-ness into Lent.  And one of the biggest ways I have done harm to myself & to others is in the act of conforming.  So, I am giving up conforming for Lent.

I have spent a good 3 years since my diagnosis going inward.  Healing.  Questioning.  Becoming more embodied.  Recognizing the impact of trauma on my mind, body, & soul.  Doing less, in order to realize who I am so I ultimately can “do” more.  Not “do” in the traditional sense.  Doing in the sense that who I am and what I do are one in the same.  That my beliefs and my social practices become more aligned.

What has happened as I’ve gone inward, yet apart of various communities of people in this process?  I have found God; the God who has strong feminine qualities, as well as masculine.  The God always urging me to lean into who I already am.  Because only in healing myself, can I actually help others heal.

Part of who I am is that I have a strong voice.  And this has been an aspect that has needed profound healing in my life.  I have used my voice again and again in my life and have been silenced, have been told, “it’s all in your head, or “you’re hysterical” or some other version of this.  Being told once is painful, but you keep going.  And yet, I was told this for about a decade, while I sought healing for myself.  This produced in me a self-doubt and self-questioning that began to dominate my life.

From the place I’m at now, I know that while my physical illness has brought immense pain, it hasn’t been worse than feeling like your voice was taken from you.  And at the end of that decade, when I finally received a diagnosis, I was sexually assaulted 3 months later.  And I used my voice to confront this situation right away, only to be silenced again, told to see a therapist & that I should be glad I received treatment from one of the best physical therapists in Indiana.

That was the last straw for me.  I was tired of using my voice and not being heard.  I was tired of systems that kept perpetuating violence & evil.  I was worn down, confused, and angry.

This fierce God met me with silence, which at first seemed downright wrong & uncaring.  Little did I know that I needed the contemplative path to let Mystery sit with me for awhile.  To expose my anger & pain and let silence, ritual & friendship slowly heal my worn out soul.

I needed a fierce-motherly God.  Not the fierce-judging God, I was exposed to in my childhood.  I needed a God that said, “Rest here for awhile, while I fight for you.”

But I also needed a God that said, “While I fight for you, you will re-learn how to fight for yourself.  How to use your voice again in a non-violent & powerful way.”

Ever since I was young, seeing pain & suffering broke me open.  I am a person who sees injustice & when I see it, I can’t unsee it.  I am filled with grief and anger by the injustice I see.  I am an intuitive empath and I am a woman with a strong voice.  And yet, as of late, I’ve compromised my strong voice, because I became disillusioned.  It didn’t seem like my voice mattered.  I had reached a place of despair where I thought, “Why speak if no one is listening?”

I am giving up conforming for Lent, because the healing that needs to happen in me, is for me to continue to become more integrated.  That my strength is in a dance with my compassion.  That my truth is not compromised for the momentary desire to fit in with a certain group.  That my unique inward journey is not compromised to fit the dogma of institutionalized religion.  That my anger can surface and can transform into forgiveness.

This fierce god in me-I do love her fiercely, even as I learn to love myself fiercely.