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.

Advertisements

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.

 

Honesty Is a Good Way to Start the Year!

 

 

 

 

I’ve been considering this post for about a year and a half.

In the spirit of starting 2018 being more honest with myself and the world, it’s time to write this post.

I’m asexual.

Yep, it’s the A in LGBTQIA.

Being asexual simply means that I do not experience sexual attraction towards anyone.  That being said, I do experience romantic attraction towards men.

This post is not going to be a Q and A or what asexuality is or isn’t (but you can check out AVEN if you are interested!)

This post is about acceptance and visibility.  I’m going to reveal the questions I asked myself as I considered if I wanted to come out publicly.

I considered for awhile, “Why add another label?”

It took my awhile to realize that this wasn’t really my deepest question; it reflected what I thought other people might ask me.  Especially because this was true when I started speaking up and writing about chronic illness.

When I first started owning the fact that I indeed had a chronic illness, and started speaking that way, I inevitably faced the question, “Why do you so closely identify with your illness?”

For those who were Christians asking this question, it was in the context of “Why do you put your identity in your illness rather than in Christ?”

Simply stated, I needed to identify with an unknown illness, then to be Hashimoto’s, so I could integrate it into my being.  Acceptance could not come without integration.  But not to identify with it in some way, meant to ignore this part of myself.  It also meant leaving people to assume that I was a healthy, vibrant mid-20-something when I wasn’t.  I needed a label to say “I am sick, and this is lifelong.  I may manage it well, but it’s something I do manage every day.”

Also, notice how odd it would sound if I started asking people, “Why do you so closely identify with your health?”

A label simply says, “I experience life differently than you and both of our experiences are valid.” 

However, those with illness navigating living in a world of health, which can often feel foreign to us.  We want our experience validated as we live on the margins in a society that glorifies health and young able bodies.

Ok, back to sexuality.  Asexuals comprise 1% of the population and most people don’t accurately know what asexuality is.

So why a label?

Because I experience sexuality differently than most people.  And that’s okay. And it’s valid.

Labels have to do more with “the majority” (and that can mean many things depending on the context) accepting diversity which means changes in language to depict that diversity.

Another question I thought for awhile about was, “Why come out when you can pass as a straight person?”

Deciding that I needed to come out publicly is a personal decision related to my own emotional health.  I felt like I was hiding a vital piece of who I am, which was just breeding shame and self-contempt.

Also, for celebrating my uniqueness.  For visibility. To challenge assumptions. For a more complete acceptance of myself.

I experience my life as a white cisgender asexual woman, living with chronic illness.  I could add other identity markers like Christian, middle class, American. These are all true.

Labels can be seen as over-kill or they can be seen as an incomplete, yet important way to talk about how we experience the world differently based upon race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, religious affiliation, health.

For we all have labels if we bring them out.

A white cisgender heterosexual Christian male born into an upper-middle class family are all labels too.  We are just taught that this is the norm.

Here’s to 2018: more honesty, more listening to the perspectives of others, more love, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness.

Advent, Healing Justice, & Cake

Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent yesterday and I’m sitting in an Episcopal church in Carmel, Indiana.  98% White.  Scripted prayers (not bad, but scripted nonetheless) and out of this formal setting, the first reading:

“They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.  For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense…”

We sit there, respectfully following along in our bulletins.

And I ask myself, “Who are they?”

The image in my mind as the passage is read is my POC brothers and sisters who lament and know what systemic oppression looks and feels like.  Who keep on lamenting, trusting, and hoping in community because that’s the only thing that brings dignity in daily life.

Who clings to the faith of their ancestors, who survived slavery and lynching, and still believed in Jesus, in their desperation.  Who believed that they were the crucified ones.  That maybe if Christ could say, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” they could have the courage to forgive those behind their daily experience of multiple oppressions.  That they could find their voice even in the midst of white supremacy.

We in white culture like to sanitize the Christmas story.  We like to make sure Jesus’ skin tone was white and that all the animals were behaving in the stable and that kids look cute in their choir concert.  Truth is, Mary and Joseph were poor and they had a dangerous journey to Bethlehem.  Mary had to have her baby outside (no health insurance).  Jesus was a refugee who barely escaped genocide.  (Good thing Joseph believed the angels in a dream!)

We in white culture have a hard time sitting with the Christmas story as one of multiple oppressions.  Then we have to take seriously the fact that we oppress, directly or through silence.

I believe that people of color will repair the ruined cities.  They have the persistence that I don’t yet have.  They know that lament and joy are always intertwined.  Healing must be grassroots work and be collaborative.  I believe that people of color are finding ways to practice healing justice, to find ways to heal the devastations of many generations, while still taking care of themselves and their community.

A big part of my job is to get out of the way.  To amplify the voices of color and learn from them.  To take an honest look at my life and see ways that I oppress.  (A big shout out goes out to Faith Matters Network and Mystic Soul Project for the work that you are doing.  Thank you for allowing me to see faith from a different vantage point.)

———————————————————————————————-

I also wanted to write about ways I’m smiling and laughing this Advent.  I’m waiting for my smile to return and I’m doing small things to recharge this month, rather than scurry around like crazy.  Yesterday, I made a cake, along with the help of my roommate.  If you have food allergies, you know how hard it is for cake not to taste like cardboard.  Well, this 6 layer-cake with layers of an Oreo cookie crust, chocolate cake, and chocolate mousse did not disappoint! It’s also gluten and nut-free, so if you want the recipes let me know!

Letting James Cone Speak

“Such personal suffering challenges faith, but social suffering which comes from human hate , challenges it even more.  White supremacy tears the heart to pieces and turns the heart away from God.  The more I believed in God, the harder it became to sustain any faith.  White supremacy was so pervasive that everywhere I went, it was there staring me in the face -in the North as well as the South.  If God loves black people, why then do we suffer so much?  That was my question as a child; that is still my question.”

-James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree

 

There’s not much I want to say in this post; this quote speaks for itself.  I want to be quiet enough, so I can let it sink in.  As a white person, I’m wanting to pay more attention to how I’ve read the Advent story in a sanitized way.  How I’ve been encouraged every Christmas since I can remember how I could respond like Mary, like Joseph, like Elizabeth, like the shepherds, like the wise men.  How we haven’t considered deeply that unless we, the white church, are willing to give up our power, we are Herod.  We are continuing to harm Christ Himself, in the form of our marginalized brothers and sisters, who are banding together to humbly lead us if we are willing to follow. And likely lose our life as we know it, so we can actually find it.

The Waiting of Advent

 

My melancholy side naturally resonates with Advent on the Christian church calendar.  Waiting.  Longing. Questioning.  How long? Sitting in pain without knowing when it will stop.

If I make it more personal and actually ask myself the question,

“What are you waiting for?” there are so many answers I could come up with.

All would be valid.  None would be wrong.

I want healing for my body, for our nation, for division to stop, for pain to end, for all those who feel forgotten would be welcome, for the lonely to find meaningful community and friendships.  The list could go on and on.

What is at the top of my list though is:

Silliness.  Laughter.  Adventures. My smile.

I miss these parts of myself that have been suffocated by grief.  I miss the parts of my personality that have changed drastically in the process of illness.

You see, when I was 14, I was the happy-go-lucky kid.  It’s hard to believe that now.  I was silly.  I smiled and laughed all the time.  Yes, I was young and not so rooted in the world’s pain, and yet I miss her.  I miss the part of me that wasn’t so acquainted with grief, with pain, with fatigue.  I miss the girl who was always trying to make someone’s day just a bit brighter.

I know she’s still there, trying to emerge.

Some people today compliment me for my smile-and say, “I never would have known that you live with a chronic illness.  You make it look easy.”

I take this compliment for what it is, and yet in the back of my head I’m also thinking, “I miss my old smile.”

My smile now isn’t forced, but it’s weightier.  I can actually feel my jaw using more effort.  There’s more resistance now.  It doesn’t come quite so naturally.

One day (hopefully in the near future), I will write a book with a title something like this:  When Your Personality Changes Overnight: Chronic Illness in Your Teens and Twenties.  I will talk about that weighty smile and the laughter that seems to come with a small hesitation.

I’m back in therapy right now reprocessing trauma, helping my neural networks to find another route in my brain besides fear.  That seems to be the route most traveled.  Because of the length of my illness, and several traumas piled on top of each other, I’m spending this Advent season coming to accept the fact that I have a minor form of PTSD.

Living with PTSD is a humbling experience.  Learning to heal from PTSD is a stretching experience.  It’s taking all of my drive to go even deeper, to heal just a little bit more.  To be patient and kind to myself, as I mess up, as I cry (yet again!), as I long so deeply to be well, that I think I just can’t take any more pain.

Simple things make me profoundly happy.  A card.  A compliment.  An unexpected text. A drive down Meridian to see my sister.  On Saturday, we went to Winterlights at the IMA and it was wonderful.

Lightshows.  Bantering about why we hate taking pictures.  Going the wrong way into the Lilly House and being told we had to go around.  Watching kids run and teenagers dance to the Nutcracker.  Trying to find a place to park.  Deciding that we didn’t want $4 Swiss Miss and going to The Best Chocolate in Town 10 minutes before it closed to get Ghiradelli in our hot chocolate instead.  Laughing about how we should have brought in bags of our own marshmallows to sell so we could have made money for all those people wanting the perfect Christmas outing roasting smores at the IMA.

My night was a whole lot lighter because of laughter.  That’s what I’m waiting for this Advent.

Thankfulness and Apple Pie

I had a very restful, beautiful Thanksgiving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Vignette #2

This is my second post about my sexual assault by a doctor.  The posts do not necessarily go in chronological order, but it’s helpful if you first read my post on healing and then Vignette #1.  

The hard part about being a new patient at a chronic illness clinic is that many treatments are not well known. There is a steep learning curve to understand the treatment themselves and how they are meant to help you.

There’s also a lot of lifestyle changes involved as well. So I was changing my diet, I was making sure my deodorant, shampoo and other personal care items didn’t have any gluten or chemicals.

I made the drive up to the suburbs for an amino acid injection every 3 weeks, even though I couldn’t tell what difference it was making. I was just told it would take time and that this was stopping my autoimmune attack on my body. I had to believe them. I didn’t know where else to go for help. I mean this doctor had finally diagnosed me after 11 years of health struggles. What else was I supposed to do except “trust the process?”

You the reader can see where the vulnerability sets in. Here I am, a patient just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. My health was so bad I had to quit my job. I was sleeping 2-3 hours per night. I felt like a shell of my former self. I was gaining weight, my hair was falling out, and my skin felt scaly. I was desperate. I would do anything to get better. I wanted my life back.

What a perfect place to work if you wanted to abuse patients?

They are chronically ill. Conventional medicine has failed them. Many times these patients have searched for years for a doctor who understood what was going on. They are dependent on your expertise.

These patients often come into the clinic very fatigued and with a low sense of self, a natural outflow of being sick for years. They are vulnerable and must trust the doctor for their wellbeing.

Culturally, doctors are held in high esteem and hold tremendous amounts of power. They are virtually unquestioned.

The head doctor of the clinic believes you are one of the best physical therapists in the state.

Your referrals are all “in house” and you have the backing of the medical board and the head doctor.

And when you work, you get to close the door.

Practices Towards Non-violence

Today I am going to a spiritual direction appointment.  This is a time for me to reflect on the past month, a time for centering.  I’ve come to love this precious time and am glad that spiritual direction has become a rhythm in my life the last 1 1/2 years.  This practice helps me to be aware of my own life, to notice spiritual themes, and pay attention to invitations I may be receiving.  Through spiritual direction, I know myself better.

I have kept going to yoga four times per week.  My body is getting stronger.  I’m getting more flexible, day by day.  I’m learning to be more mindful.  And listening to my breath. My mind is more clear.  I am more aware of where I can push myself, and where I must limit myself.

Over the past year, I’ve tried to take seriously what it means to rest.  My body is learning to adjust to how much I need to rest on the weekend, after adding in more work hours during the week.  Weekends are a time for sleeping in, for cooking, for yoga, for writing, for time with friends.  Weekends are a time for play and rejuvenation and not for work.

brand_bio_bio_martin-luther-king-jr-mini-biography_0_172243_sf_hd_768x432-16x9

For me, these must be the foundation for non-violence.  If I live a greater percentage of my life from a centered place, I am observant, yet not reactive.  I may have the courage to name an injustice I see, yet I may see more clearly how I should respond, from a place of knowing myself.  From this calm, self-aware place, I am more willing to embrace another, than build up artificial barriers.

If I choose busyness and running myself ragged, I am choosing to be violent towards myself, and that, no doubt, will be violent towards others as well, whether it surfaces in the form of ignoring, of poor listening, of constant talking, of fighting or simply not expressing that another has value.  If I choose busyness and constant distraction, I am not choosing time for hospitality, for paying attention to nature, for tending to my own health.  I am not choosing what is best. I am not choosing to listen to my life of the lives of others.

Yet, these personal practices, should not just be limited to myself.  These practices actually lead to an outward focus, with increasing desires for justice and peace in this world.  These practices allow me to see suffering (rather than ignore it), and lament.  These allow me to listen, without my own agenda getting in the way.

Martin Luther King Jr’s first two principles of non-violence were:

  1. Non-violence is a way of life for courageous people.
  2. Non-violence seeks to win friendship and understanding.

These words were timely then, and most needed now.

May you walk through your day with ease, even while being observant to injustice that lurks in power-hungry institutions and lonely corners.

What are some non-violent practices in your own life?  

How do these help you know yourself more deeply?   

Birthday Blessing

My birthday (January 3rd) has always been caught between the just-after-Christmas and New Year’s resolutions craze.  Many years, people go back to work or school on my birthday.  People are still sluggish, yet being pushed back into routine.  Talk of dieting and actually working out repeat year after year.  I try to make room, for yet another celebration, after all the celebrations seem to be over.

I read this blessing in John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings last year.  It’s simple and beautiful.  It’s a reminder to me that the greatest gifts are to be found on the journey-the good with the bad.  They are all invitations: to savor, to grieve, to delight, to play, to be silent.  Many many people have made my journey beautiful.  This year I’m especially grateful for those old and new friendships who have journeyed the past 3 years with me, the hardest years so far.

I’ve experienced living in a culture that does not have a category for chronic illness.  A culture that does not have rituals for grieving, like they do for celebration.  A culture in which friendships are more disposable than treasured. A culture in which I am seen more as broken, than having inherent gifts, even when I couldn’t be productive.

Even living in this reality, I have found many safe spaces and safe people.  I am thankful for the cultivation of friendship, for letting go of a 40 hour work week, for finding contemplative spirituality in a round about way, for giving myself permission to be quiet, not loud. For allowing myself to heal and take my time.

And to all those people who have witnessed and are witnessing my recovery, thanks for choosing to see and thanks for believing in me. May you be blessed.

wallup.net

 

For Your Birthday 

by John O’Donohue

Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day

The blueprint of your life

Would begin to glow on earth,

Illuminating all the faces and voices

That would arrive to invite

Your soul to growth.

Praised be your father and mother,

Who loved you before you were,

And trusted to call you here

With no idea who you would be.

Blessed be those who have loved you

Into becoming who you were meant to be,

Blessed be those who have crossed your life

With dark gifts of hurt and loss

That have helped to school your mind

In the art of disappointment.

When desolation surrounded you,

Blessed be those who looked for you

And found you, their kind hands

Urgent to open a blue window

In the gray wall formed around you.

Blessed be the gifts you never notice,

Your health, eyes to behold the world,

Thoughts to countenance the unknown,

Memory to harvest vanished days,

Your heart to feel the world’s waves,

Your breath to breathe the nourishment

Of distance made intimate by earth.

On the echoing-day of your birth,

May you open the gift of solitude

In order to receive your soul;

Enter the generosity of silence

To hear your hidden heart;

Know the serenity of stillness

To be enfolded anew

By the miracle of your being.