I Resolve…

2017 was a rough year.  Most of us can agree on that.  And yet 2017 did have white evangelicals having to make a decision if we were going to wake up or not.

What’s hard for us white people to come to grips with is that Trump, in many ways is the white, heterosexual, patriarchal, evangelical consciousness.  He reveals our sickness, our evil, our complicity.  And just patting our backs and thinking, “I didn’t vote for Trump” isn’t going to cut it.

For much of my life, I’ve been pretty ignorant.  And yet, I cannot be anymore.

There’s too many people of color hurting and dying.  There’s too many sermons about the Good Samaritan without it having any effect in the streets. And I am among the guilty.

On Wednesday, I leave for Chicago to attend the Mystic Soul Conference.  It’s a POC-centered conference bringing to life what the Christian contemplative tradition and healing justice looks like, led by those who have been silenced again and again.  Yet their voices are dynamic and strong; and I know that I will be richly blessed by them, as they ask me to follow, not to lead.  As a white person, I’ve been invited to attend to learn, and to continue to let go of the many layers of white supremacy and patriarchy that infiltrate my being.  I will definitely write more about the conference when I get back.

 

In 2018, I resolve…

  • To follow the lead of black women (make sure to watch the video)
  • To lean into difficult conversations, rather than shy away from them.
  • To support local POC-led organizations financially
  • To make steps to figure out how my business can reach those without access to high-quality dyslexia resources.
  • To call out racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, religious discrimination, etc when I see it.  To confront it in myself.

I want to dig into the question more, “What do I do with my privilege?”  I’m grateful that I’m on this healing journey-and yet I’m also very aware that it’s possible because of my privilege.

And having just moved to Westfield, I’m aware that I’m grateful that living in this apartment has caused greater healing for myself.  I’m also aware that I live in a town that’s 91% white, and I live down the street from the 6th best high school in Indiana.

In 2018, I resolve to be aware, to question, to be myself in the present moment.  And out of this awareness, hopefully come a little bit closer to loving my neighbor as myself.

 

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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.

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.

Theological Musings on “Body”

What if Christ came to earth in a body, so that we actually could let our bodies lead us spiritually?

What if Christ healed on the Sabbath, so that those who were sick or blind or paralyzed could actually experience rest for the first time in their lives?

What if we knew “I and the Father are One” because we tuned into our bodies to let us know if we were disconnected or in harmony?

What if Christ spoke the Sermon on the Mount in nature because those in the temple would not hear what he had to say?

What if Christ rose “still wounded”, so that those with chronic illness, mental illness, and lifelong disability could still find hope that woundedness is simply an invitation to transformation?

What if a weak body was celebrated in the church?

What if a disabled woman was a pastor?

What if we actually lived like we believed that “those who are weak are strong?”

What if the church actually listened to traumatized bodies: those marginalized by sexual orientation, race, gender identity, etc?

What if the church listened to people of color and have them reshape Christian spirituality–because most definitely that would lead to a more embodied faith?

What if the white church realized that striving for power and influence, (instead of turning to lament in solidarity with marginalized people), is not what Jesus is about at all?

What if the the church actually admitted that we don’t know much about the Holy Spirit (the breath of God) because we don’t pay attention to our own breathing?

What if we had spiritual practices in the church, which let us tap into our unconscious, so we can actually start to heal and change?

What if the church could be reborn so that it includes a feminine consciousness in balance with a masculine one?

A Return to Rest

I need days of solitude.  I took a complete day off in solitude and silence this past weekend for the first time in 7 months.  Note to self: 7 months is too long.

I could feel my off-centeredness.  My body was aching from all the transition of my job, of moving, of my body reacting badly to this Indiana summer.

I needed silence.  Silence to feel what I needed to feel in a safe space.  To discern the questions that I’m asking in this season of my life. To dream and laugh, but to do so from stillness.

I needed community.  I’m realizing that as I continue to practice contemplative spirituality, it is not just a desire, but an actual need that I experience sacred silence with other people.  My soul longs for this, and I would be unwise to block this cry.

I needed to listen more intentionally.  I needed to block out other voices to listen to the voice that truly matters.  I needed to see all the ways I yearn for control and external affirmation.

In living with a chronic illness, I feel more connected to the Divine in a community of silence and stillness.  Why?  I feel like my body is welcome to feel however it feels.  My entire life with God can come to the forefront; my interior life with God matters.

To be honest, in my experience thus far, my female body in its illness, has been left outside the church.  I come back to this reality often, as my old ways of doing faith have been stripped away.

Some questions I got to ask this weekend included:

  • When does the church celebrate and esteem the weak Christ, except at the crucifixion?
  • If a main call on my life is to live gratefully in a weak, vulnerable, limited body-how do I re-engage with the church calendar in a way that resonates with my experience?
  • How do I want to address my experience of patriarchy and the unbalanced masculine?
  • Right now, do I need more solitude or community?
  • What are my deepest raw emotions surrounding the fact that I must choose a worshipping community somewhat based on the building it is in because of my mold sensitivity?
  • What has come of all the things I’ve said no to?  How has this made my spirituality more robust?

Maybe I will write more about these questions in the future.  For now, I’m just grateful I had a full day of spacious time to ask these pressing questions.  And to those of you reading, may you find time, in your own unique way, to ask your questions, even as they differ from the groups you are in.

Reflection on 2017 so far…

 

Last week I completed a 15 question health reflection given by a leading Hashimoto’s author.  It was easy to quickly realize the themes.  One question was about a word to describe 2017 so far.  My word is growth.

With a chronic illness, it’s so easy to feel like your life is putting out fires.  The setbacks can be overwhelming, because you know they aren’t going to end.  You never get a vacation from your illness (even if you go on vacation!)

But what this reflection invited me into was a reflection on my entire year.  This year I’ve committed to a yoga practice, and I’m still far from flexible, but I have a really strong practice.  There’s definition in my calf muscles again!  And I have really strong arm muscles–actually in proportion to my leg strength.  That’s a new thing for me.  In a massage session, my therapist asked me if I was a swimmer in my past life.  I laughed and said, “No a runner.  With big thighs and skinny arms.  Yoga has given me the arms and shoulders that I have now.”  It feels really good to have an athletic outlet again.

This year I visited Omaha, Nebraska and went on a weekend silent retreat that was pivotal in experiencing silence in community.  It was important to me to meet other 20 and 30 somethings that were cultivating a contemplative practice.  And since this weekend, my spiritual practices have grown and shifted.  They are more aligned with who I am, what I need, and how I go back into the world as a healing presence.  And I will be going back on retreat here next year.  Gravity Center facilitates hope and healing–the work they do is beautiful.

I read so much and I love that!  I read 2-3 books/week.  And people ask how I do it.  I don’t know.  I just have to rest a lot–and I prefer reading to watching TV just about any day, so a lot of reading gets done.

I’m moving again for a better environment for my health.  Better air quality.  New.  Less carpet.  No mold.  While this has been stressful, it will feel great once I’m moved in (which is this week!)

I quit two jobs that I needed to.  And I started my own tutoring business!  I haven’t written much about this on the blog yet.  But yes, Staying Power Resources launched this summer.  I continue tutoring students with learning differences, and have a more flexible schedule more myself.

I posted about the female healers in my life, and entering back into massage and acupuncture.  I posted publicly about my assault.

Through my circumstances, in being invited to change directions, I’ve been invited to grow.  By necessity, growth is awkward and clumsy, and in the process I’ve raised so many questions and seen so much doubt.  I was thinking that healing might mean that I enter back as a classroom teacher again.  And I’m learning that’s a dream that will not come to fruition as I saw it in my mind.

I’m learning about the severity of my mold toxicity, and the unpredictability of Indiana weather and which buildings I can go into and which ones I can’t.  I’m going to write much more about this in the future.

While I’ve made great gains, I’ve also been fatigued for a good part of this year.  In the winter, I felt great.  And once the late spring hit, I’ve really been quite exhausted ever since.

So many interesting questions surface when my health is deteriorating, and everything feels like its in transition.  Job. Home. Health.  Future.

Survival questions like:

  • Can I make it?
  • Do I have enough energy not to quit my business as soon as I started it?
  • If this doesn’t work, then what next?
  • To what extent can I heal?

The questions are real.  And yet so is my growth.  So is all the risk of this year, so is all the loss.  A very human adventure.  With many twists and turns, decisions I wasn’t ready to make and yet was thrust in a certain direction anyway.

Here’s to more risk.  More adventure.  More growth.

 

Why I Wrote About My Assault

To be honest, one day I just starting writing different scenes down-and out they came.  None of those posts took a long time to write at all.

I’m learning to lean into my body and my intuition, and my intuition simply told me that it was time to write.  I had been quiet long enough.  And I was ready.

Quite honestly in being publicly quiet for two years, I felt the weight of patriarchy.  I felt that those in power wanted me quiet.  When a lawyer-and a female lawyer at that-wouldn’t take my case, I was faced with the powers that wouldn’t take a case unless they knew they could win.  I was faced with the politics and the money, and the question, “Who will speak for me?”  The answer that became real to me as I healed was that I must speak for myself.

I’ve been following the Larry Nassar case since last fall.  Too many details were the exact same.  And USA Gymnastics’ headquarters are in Indy.  Both of the details mattered to me.  I knew that I lived in a state where a lot of cover-up was happening.

As I engaged in yoga, meditation, and started going to a massage therapist, I was able to be more grounded in the present and let go.  I could write about the assault and not have it scare me so much.  It still was painful, but dealing with trauma and injustice always is.  However, I could separate from the past and present-which was absolutely necessary before I started writing.  I also learned to trust being in a healing space which was actually healing.  I learned to let my body speak and direct me again.

I wrote to heal  myself.  I also wrote for all those who have experienced sexual assault at the hands of a doctor.

Also, I believe that vulnerability encourages vulnerability.  I may never know the effects of sharing my story, but that part doesn’t really matter.  Showing up in our story makes all of us more human.  I wrote because it was time that I show up in my story more fully, to let my intuition guide me, rather than follow culture’s lead of living in my head.

Vignette #4

This is my fourth 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 ,  Vignette #1 , Vignette #2, and Vignette #3.

I went to talk with a female lawyer, based upon a referral.  I sat in a big conference room in her office building in downtown Indianapolis, and waited for her to enter.  With warmth and ease, she greeted me, and told me that I could take my time and she would be taking notes.

She noted every comment of sexual harassment, the assault itself, and any detail about the setting and the doctor’s demeanor that I could remember.  Then came the dreaded question, that I knew was going to be asked, although she pulled it off well.

“Did you tell her to stop?”

“No, I didn’t.  I told her I was in pain, but I didn’t tell her explicitly ‘No’ or ‘Stop.'”

“Why?”

“I knew that she wouldn’t.  Two sessions before, I told her that she was using too much pressure when she massaged my leg, but she ignored my comment and kept using the same amount of pressure. She didn’t seem to have too much consideration for the amount of pain I happened to be in.”

Before I was left, I was told that they would contact the clinic for my medical records, especially from that session, and that I would be getting a letter stating whether or not they would take my case.

I waited several weeks.  No letter.  I knew that the lawyer’s assistant, who was a nurse, had research to do about whether or not what was done to me was a “legitimate” medical procedure.  So I waited some more.

Finally, it came.  About a month later.  She would not take my case.

I remember just staring at the letter for about 5 minutes wondering,

What do I have to do to be believed?

How do you live and heal with a lack of justice?

I felt in my body extreme tension, especially in my jaw and shoulders.

The weight of being a victim.

The weight of feeling powerless.

The weight of knowing that choosing to tell my truth would be an uphill battle.

Vignette #3

This is my third 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 , Vignette #1, and Vignette #2

After I sent my letter into the clinic, the HR person reached out to me and told me that she, the head doctor, and the physical therapist would like to meet with me.  She told me that the physical therapist wanted to apologize for any harm she may have caused, and was sorry that I misconstrued what she was doing.

I took a few deep breaths and told her that I would only come into the clinic if the physical therapist was not in the meeting and that I wouldn’t see her at all in the building. I didn’t want to hear an apology from her.

I went in a few days later to the meeting with an advocate, who mainly just listened, as she could stay more objective than me.

I hated the huge feeling of pressure, that what I said could potentially be used in court, that notes were being taken.  That I was supposed to be objective, but I was still living in trauma.  It was hard to sit in the room I was diagnosed in, to just be back in the building in general.

Honestly, I don’t remember much of the conversation.  That’s also very true of trauma.  Some parts I remember every detail, some parts are hazy, and some parts I remember almost nothing at all.  This meeting fits into the hazy category.

The doctor asked me if there was anything else I wanted to say outside of what I said in the letter.

“I felt violated.  I believe that I was sexually assaulted under the title of medical treatment.”

Then I heard a detailed speech about how intravaginal techniques can be used to treat the pelvic floor and that it was a legitimate medical procedure both in physical therapy and osteopathic medicine.

“Why was she alone?”

No answer.

“Why didn’t she have clear consent? Why did she spring this on me mid-session and not explain what she was going to do? Why didn’t I fully understand how this treatment fit into why I was seeing her?”

I started to cry and I didn’t have any more stamina.  I wanted to try and get through the meeting without crying, but I couldn’t stand to hear her defended again and again.

Once I caught my breath I asked:

“If you don’t believe I was actually sexually assaulted, then do you believe there was sexual harassment occurring?

“I believe that she should have said some things differently. I will make sure I talk to her about the comments she made.”

I was done.  As I kept crying, the head doctor wanted to give me a referral to a therapist.  I said, “I already have one.”

And in my head I thought, “I will never take a referral from you ever again.”

I left knowing that I must leave this clinic and never come back.

Even if that meant I got more sick and had to wait a long time to see another doctor.