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.

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Whiteness & Autoimmunity Part 2

I learned the drill when I walked into a doctor’s office.  I would name my symptoms, discuss my family history, answer questions about my diet and exercise routine, and they would send me off to get blood work.

I always thought it was kinda funny that was the only information they thought they needed.

I would come back with everything in range–and they would look at me and say, “You’re an athlete, you don’t need to lose weight, your blood pressure and pulse are excellent.”

Then they would give me the look like, “Why are you here?”

As my blood tests kept coming back “normal” and I kept reporting increasing pain and fatigue–the doctors threw out the “catch-all” prescriptions: anti-anxiety medication and birth control.

Before I continue: let me say that I don’t have a problem with these in and of themselves.  Even as a teenager though, I knew what I had a problem with: being given something when the doctor had no idea what was going on with me.

I said no time and time again–and to this day I’m really glad for how stubborn I was.

“No, I’m not taking something when you have no idea what is going on with me.  Would you like to read off the list of side-effects?”

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Whiteness includes a deep mistrust of the body & the Western medical establishment capitalizes off this mistrust.

I’d be very glad to have a Western  model of medicine in an emergency, however not for preventative medicine.  Not for illnesses that affect every major system in your body.

I listened to my body to know that something was wrong.  That I wanted help.  And yet the extent to which I paid attention to myself and my own intuition never went beyond just stating that something was wrong.  The answer would come from a doctor, or so I had been told.

Well, when I went to doctors and they told me that nothing was wrong, I started to doubt myself at an even deeper level.  They told me I was making things up.  Things couldn’t really be that bad.

The cognitive dissonance started to get really intense.  My body was saying, “something is wrong.  pay attention!” and the expert doctor was telling me I was making things up.  Who do I trust?

The body doesn’t lie.  I knew that I felt what I felt, but what started to seep in was this enormous sense of self questioning and self-doubt.

“What if whatever-I-have isn’t as bad as I think it is?”

“What if no one believes me?  Then what?”

“If the blood test doesn’t show anything, then am I going crazy?”

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These questions were only the beginning.  Because I was told I was “fine,” I still pushed myself to the limit.  I tried to keep up with friends, even though I didn’t have the energy.

By my sophomore year in college, I created this life that was pretty routine or I couldn’t make it through the day.  I tried to keep my schedule as full as possible so I couldn’t truly feel how exhausted I was, until I crashed at 10pm, had a good night sleep, and started over again.

To be awake and engaged with the world was so difficult & I was so sad.

I was sad because I faked it all day.  I didn’t have energy, but I pretended like I did, day after day after day.  I was sad because I was becoming a shell of my former self.

One day in college I admitted, “No one believes me, not even myself.”

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Whiteness shows up in the health realm as the binary completely healthy/completely sick.  We don’t talk about a continuum, even though, “Of course, there is a continuum.”

At any given moment, I am feeling a little bit different in my body, if given the tools of how to pay attention, how to listen to cues, how to genuinely love my body and not just be looking for disease.

I wonder what stories I would have connected earlier if I had been asked about my anxiety, rather than just my family history of disease.  Maybe I would have told stories of being so nervous before track meets that I would throw up before I ran.  How I heaped tremendous pressure on myself to keep improving, and my anxiety just increased with it.  Maybe I would have talked about how running 40-45 miles per week at 14 was too much on my body.  That I was actually burning muscle as I ran, causing tremendous pain.

That maybe there was more to health than just being a runner and 105 pounds.

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As a kid, I didn’t have big wordy language–but I knew things were interconnected.  I would spend hours looking up at the sky.  I would take walks at night with my dad and look up at the moon.  I would always see the faces the moon was making at me.  I was fascinated by the way the moon changed and how it seemed to be in a different shape.  I was sad at the new moon, when I couldn’t see it and I thought it had disappeared.

I loved when I learned the names of different constellations and I would try to find them in the sky.  The first time I found the Big Dipper all by myself: pure joy.  I didn’t know how or why, but I felt connected to nature, to the moon and the stars.

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Sometimes we say that we have to fight for our health.  I believe this is true on many levels–and the more multiple oppressions affect one’s life–the more that statement rings true.

And if health is about connection–to oneself, one’s body, mind & soul, to nature, to community, to the Divine-then health is also natural.  Not always a fight.  Sometimes seamless.

There were signs that my body was not well years and years before I ever stepped foot in a doctor’s office.  I don’t blame myself, and at the same time, I do wish that I knew how to trust myself, to ask “What’s going on here?”  “How do I get help?”  “What resources do I have?”  “What resources do others have?”

I suffered a lot of pain and illness in my life–because I was told to push through.  I thought I had no other choice.

You see, whiteness is terrified of rest.  For in rest transformation is possible.

More later, people!

What is Mine to Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Solo Vacation & Self Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will someone else be joining you?”

“What are you here for?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So this week has been many things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And my time isn’t even up yet!

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

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

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

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

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

 

Whiteness & Autoimmunity

Sometimes creativity & clarity just come.  You weren’t prepared, caught off guard even.  And there is this deep peace, this deep knowing in your body.

Yesterday I had this experience while making breakfast, and then while drinking coffee outside.  Simple everyday moments.  Making coffee.  Cooking a pork patty & cutting an avocado.  (yep, that really was my breakfast!)

I had gotten almost 9 hours of sleep the night before, and had spent the morning finishing up a book on whiteness.

I had just finished the first draft of my book manuscript 5 days before.  And while writing this draft I knew that there was this invitation for me: to compassionately notice how personal and collective healing must be intertwined.  How my healing journey has also included a spiritual and racial awakenings. To dig even deeper into my longings and desires and stories.

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I started having significant issues with my health at age 14.  Blood draws.  Heart monitors.  Stress tests.  Surgeries.  MRI’s.  All these became a pretty regular part of my life.

What’s also important to say is that both my parents are white.  They both worked for a chemical company as engineers.  They both had excellent health insurance.  They had already paid off our house.  They had access to excellent doctors (and therefore so did I) and had flexible enough schedules with enough paid vacation so they could take me to these numerous appointments without having to worry if they would lose their jobs.  They had friends with power & privilege to ask for referrals and get me into certain doctor’s offices.

I grew up in a town that was 97% white.  I had white parents, white teachers, white friends, white doctors, white dentists, white pastors, white coaches…..and was told from a young age that I could trust authority.  Not only that, but that I should respect and listen to authority at all costs.

And then starting at 14, I was in and out of doctor’s offices repeating my symptoms—and being told that I was fine.  Over and over again.  Already 2 years later, I started editing my story, hoping that I would have a better chance of being heard, of being believed, of being diagnosed, of being treated.

I was interrogating whiteness and I didn’t know it.  I didn’t have the words, the constructs, the setting, the relationships to realize what was happening.

I knew that to be heard I had to be rational.  I had to be objective.  I couldn’t cry or show any emotion related to frustration or anger.

That’s the language that the white male doctor spoke.  And I had to learn to speak it if I was going to survive the medical system.

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Even as I moved, and I had doctors of differing races–the language still dripped of whiteness.  The medical schools, the Western thought & training–couldn’t be ignored.

The numbers & data was believed over personal experience, by everyone.  We all, to some degree or another, had internalized this belief that the doctor is the one with external healing power.  They must be right, and I must be wrong. They can heal and I am the one in need of healing.  This binary of doctor/patient had to be adhered to–or the whole construct would come tumbling down.

I had a white female endocrinologist at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago throughout college.  She was willing to put me on medication even though I couldn’t prove with the blood tests to date that I had a thyroid disorder.  We had a good working relationship until it just wasn’t anymore.  She started nit-picking at my weight, looking at the scale and shaming me that losing weight was so difficult.  She criticized me when I only worked out 5 times per week instead of 6.

I walked out of that appointment at 21 years old–and I knew what was happening.  I was being blamed in any way possible, because she didn’t know how to help me.  Her inability to “fix” me made her angry–especially as she worked at Northwestern and had numerous credentials.

I saw another painful aspect of whiteness at work: emotionally shutting down and/or becoming angry from a place of not being in control anymore.

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I was a deeply imaginative, empathetic, intuitive child—and I shut down a good portion of this creative part of myself–in exchange for becoming a competitive track athlete.  But, of course, it didn’t go away altogether.

I spent my summers running in meets in Detroit, Lansing, Battle Creek.  In those early years at 9 and 10 years old, I had experiences of what it felt like to be the only white sprinter, and I am deeply grateful for this part of my childhood.

And I remember what I noticed as I went down to Detroit, and then drove back up to Midland, MI over and over again over several years.

Even as a young kid, I knew that I had access to resources that my black track friends in Detroit didn’t have.  I never wondered if I could find starting blocks to practice my starts, or if there would be a rake for the sand in the long jump pit.  I knew that my city would have money to have the track re-surfaced.  I knew that the high school track I practiced on was of higher quality than some of the cinder tracks I ran on in Detroit.  I knew that in the off-season I had facilities to run on, whether indoor or outdoor.  I knew that my parents would just pay for my uniform and that as a track club, we wouldn’t have to put on a fundraiser to buy what we needed during the season.

But at 9 years old-I already knew the power of silence.  The only comments I heard adults saying were complaining about why Detroit hosted meets if they didn’t have enough volunteers, or a reliable clock, or enough resources, according to their standards.

I knew that the adults felt that the meets they put together in Midland were exceptional because we had a press box and made announcements quickly, because the meet ran on time, and all the volunteers knew what their role was during the day.  “Our” meet was better because it was efficient.

I kept all these observations inside.  I already had internalized that I shouldn’t question the status quo, that white authority figures are to be trusted at all times.

Because of my sensitive nature, this created a deep guilt for having everything that I had.  A deep guilt around being white.  And also a deep aloneness in feeling like I couldn’t talk to anyone else.

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Growing up white without a sense of racial identity, and feeling the heightened sense of guilt because of my racial disparity observations–I felt like I only had two options.  Be overly kind to people of color and/or try to help them.

Another aspect of whiteness at work: Dealing with difficult emotions is troublesome and uncomfortable.  Let’s find a way to still be in control and yet serve.  This makes me more comfortable and looks “Christian.”

Growing up in evangelical Christianity as an intuitive, sensitive white girl was heavy.  I was to deny myself, serve, & suffer.  That’s how I knew I was a Christian.  God loved me, but he was also angry at me for all my sin.  Jesus forgave me, and all, and yet I was still invited into a life of suffering.

So what was encouraged from the all white male leadership from the pulpit? To go where there is deep suffering–and share the gospel.  (aka: this would help with my white guilt, still putting me in a position of power & yet service).

That rhetoric influenced my life deeply–both in body & soul.  Jesus, as the White Savior, was who I was to emulate.  The white evangelical church encouraged my white guilt complex and my white savior complex all at the same time.

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There are many, many more stories.  And I will share over time.  And yet while making breakfast & drinking coffee yesterday, I sank into the reality of how “whiteness as the air I breathe” connects with autoimmune disorders, connects with my life with Hashimoto’s.

Yes, people of all races have chronic illnesses.  And, I believe that while the symptoms might manifest similarly, the path of healing necessarily looks a lot different.

People of color since the beginning of United States’ history have experienced genocide, colonization, slavery, Jim Crow, deportation, and racist policy after racist policy to this day.  The amount of stress this places POC in every day life is enormous and can lead to chronic illness.

And, I’m also asking the question, “Why do so many white people have autoimmune issues today?  And why does the number keep growing?”  (The occurrences of autoimmune disorders are larger than cancer now.)

I cannot answer this question alone.  This question will lead to conversation after conversation after conversation.

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Recently, my mom told me that thyroid issues go back to my great-great grandmother.  I wasn’t aware that thyroid issues had affected my great-grandmother’s mother.

That piece of information made me relax a little, and it connected me more deeply in a very small way to an ancestor I never knew.

I also took a breath and could name that my healing journey is much greater than me.  I’m connecting to the trauma of my ancestors that also lives in my body, that is connected to whiteness and a genuine mistrust of the body.

So, I’m learning to trust my body more and more every day.  I’m trusting nature’s rhythms, and letting myself rest.  I’m letting myself be creative, and letting my words just flow.  I’m confronting various ways I have internalized that “keeping with the status quo” encompassed my life’s purpose.  I’m taking deep breaths and asking my body what it needs. And I’m reaching out for other people to be on this journey with me.

I’m letting my healing journey reveal all that needs to be revealed.  And I’m learning to say YES to all of it.

Stay tuned for more, friends!

 

Musings on Spring

 

Last fall I felt guilty moving to Westfield, Indiana.

My health was deteriorating quickly, and a friend looked me in the eyes, about to give really good advice to someone like me who struggles with environmental illness.

“You need to move north.”

North meant the suburbs.  Moving north because the buildings are newer and have less mold meant that I have the privilege to do so.  And so I moved.

For several months, I asked the question, “Why Westfield?”

The answers did not come quickly.  In fact, the glimpses are still coming, more and more every day.

It took moving to the suburbs after 10 years of living in various cities (Chicago, Memphis & Indy), to realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in a negation.  I was a white person who didn’t live in the suburbs.

How our identities form is so extremely nuanced and complex.  It’s crazy how many beliefs take hold without even realizing it.

Well, now I live in the suburbs.  And after living here for 8 months, I’ve experienced culture shock, and also a love of the quiet, of parks that surround me.  It’s been a place of rest in the midst of starting my life over in terms of work, home, and faith community.

It’s been a place where re-imagining has taken place.

It’s been a place to take deep breaths.

It’s been a place to become a pedestrian again.

It’s been a place to dig into intentionality.

It’s been a place that has brought back beautiful place memories of my childhood.

It’s been a place to lean into the history of the land.  I live on the land taken from the Miami people, and “founded” by Quaker abolitionists.  I’m learning to feel that deep complexity in my body, and not run from the pain that surfaces.

I’ve been asking deep questions about my work.  About sustainability in a healing profession.  And I’m discovering that working with majority white students gives me a unique opportunity.  Together, we are developing a language and a conversation around limitations, which to me, seems more and more central to our liberation.

I’m learning how to provide a safe space for my students to come into contact with their own resistance with reading, with writing, with their learning difference.  Being a dyslexia and autism tutor is just a container for students to fail in a safe way, and together we build this stamina that failure does not define them, that it’s okay to take risks, that they don’t have to lean into their perfectionism.  That what makes my students so amazing is that they are learning to hold their weaknesses lightly.  They can mess up & laugh about it.

And as a recovering perfectionist, I learn from them every day!

In order for me to hold that space, I’ve needed to dig into my own healing, even deeper.  My work is lovely, and it can wear me out.

I’ve leaned into my qigong practice, my breathwork practice, my writing, finishing out EMDR with my therapist.  I’ve leaned into new friendships and old ones.  I fall away from my practices, and then need to come back to them.

As summer arrived suddenly in Indiana, I found myself reacting viscerally to all kinds of allergies.  I quickly felt very overcommitted and ungrounded.

Spring was a season of deep growth & transformation–and I entered into early summer enthusiastically, yet in doing a lot of outward work, and neglecting my spiritual practices.  I needed to return to my breath & to the earth, where Spirit is so present, if I would just pay attention and bring intention.

Spring brought about some deep “yeses.”  As I spent time at my computer working almost the whole day Saturday, I also was able to reflect on the year, as I sent next year’s calendar to my families.

My business survived the first year!  And I made money!

I joined the Episcopal church, 8 minutes from my apartment.  It’s environmentally friendly to my allergies.  The sanctuary is all tile!  There’s other reasons for joining, that I’ve already written about.  And I’ve joined the anti-racism team.  I will soon be trained to be a Lay Eucharistic Minister, serving communion to those who cannot leave their home.  As someone who has been confined to my bed, there’s no greater gift, than to find a reciprocal way to give back to those who have visited me.

I committed to finishing up my second year of spiritual direction training.  Who knows where this will lead, but I’m excited and the timing is right!

As I’ve said yes to my spiritual practice of qigong, my energy reserve just continues to build in my body, to the point where my food allergies are starting to disappear.  I’m no longer needing most of my medication.  I’m healing in deep ways every single day.  I had no idea this was possible, even though several people told me it was–I was just too skeptical to believe it at the time.

I helped to create a resource list for chronic fatigue advocacy in Indiana, and am learning to dive into conversations about the need for awareness and funding around chronic illness AND also ground inward and know that true healing is always inward, that no one doctor is the “savior.”  Validation is important, and healing from the trauma around not being believed even more important.

Spring has brought a deep yes, to be in contact with the Westfield police department about the over-policing I have witnessed working at the library, as students of color would walk over from the middle school and high school.

Spring has brought a school shooting 13 minutes from my home.  It’s meant texting my families who live in Noblesville, and checking in to make sure they are okay.  It’s been watching middle school students in a very conservative county protest the gun shop that opened that day after a school shooting in their hometown, and say, “Yes, this!”

Spring means walking to the tiny farmer’s market, and smiling.  It means talking to local business owners and sensing a spirit of camaraderie, not competition.  It means talking to the local bee farmer about honey & allergies, and how bees raise the vibration of the planet.  It means to committing to visit the bee farm, to draw closer to the Earth in my own vicinity.

As we draw near to the Summer Solstice, may there be abundance.  May their be joy and rootedness and hope.  May nature teach us about patience.  For everything there is a time.

 

Pausing to Remember

This upcoming weekend I will remember that 3 years ago I was assaulted by a female doctor in the greater Indy community.

I’ve been gentle with myself as I know that the anniversary is marked in my body in some way.  I’m not engaging in reliving the trauma, yet I will simply make space to acknowledge it.  I’m hanging out with a dear friend on Saturday, which helps a great deal.

I’m writing to acknowledge my own power, my own agency, and all the healing that has occurred.

When I wrote about my story last summer, (see Post #1Post #2Post #3Post #4), the Larry Nassar case was gaining traction, yet was not headline news.  He had not yet been charged with any crime.  The brave women’s impact statements were not readily available.  I wrote following my body’s intuition, that the time was right to share my story.  I felt stuck; and I wanted to tell the truth.

Yet, I was following the Nassar story, and these women were given me courage.  Our stories were all too similar.  And I knew that my own healing meant speaking up.  Speaking up knowing that nothing judicially may come of the situation.  But I knew that my silence was eating me up inside; the shame from being publicly quiet was harming me, and I didn’t deserve to be harmed anymore.  And so I spoke up.

Of course speaking up means that I’ve gotten a lot of questions.  Whether it’s, “Why don’t you publish her name?” or “What kind of doctor was she really?” or “Are you sure that’s what really happened?”

Of course speaking up means that there’s plenty who have decided not to believe me.  There’s also numerous people who do; and for that I’m deeply grateful.

Of course speaking up has meant entering into a more complex situation.  The pressure to keep quiet is strong.  The pressure not to critique the medical profession, even stronger.

Several months ago, a friend asked me, “Why speak up when you are pretty sure that you won’t be taken seriously?”  It’s a good question.  One I’ve thought a lot about.  It’s ultimately about my healing & me believing myself.  Believing my story and what I know to be true.  It’s about trusting my intuition and believing that my body knows how to heal.  Voicing my truth is a huge part of healing.

When I formally reported her to the medical board this past December, there was this sense of closure.  I had done my part.  I couldn’t control the rest.  She is still a practicing doctor in the Indy area, and I still drive past her office 4 times per week.

Most mornings I simply pray, “I hope nothing bad happens in that office today.” Sometimes I just scream in my car, letting that excess energy find expression.

I write this in gratitude of the numerous people who have helped me heal, through conversations over coffee, texts I received after reading my blog, healers who listened, took me seriously, and who have taught me how to feel safe both in my own body, and in healing spaces in general again.

Because I no longer participate in yoga classes and have flashbacks or be on constant alert in healing spaces or question the motives of women in authority.  This healing wasn’t instantaneous.  I have experienced healing because dozens of people created safe space for me–and left room for me to come home to my body, to myself.  Created room for anger and tears and fear to be witnessed.  Created enough space so I could sit with a female therapist again and process all the varying and interconnected ways, I have experienced powerlessness, to feel the anxiety in my body, to tell a story that was once jumbled, and now can be told in a linear fashion.

To let go and still be in control—the paradox in therapy that I learned again and again as I plumbed the depths of my story, in the room of a female healer that I had learned to trust.  That I respect deeply.

I am here today in a really good place.  A place full of gratitude-not for what happened to me-but for living into the reality of how much healing truly is possible.

Health & Ancestry

 

This past Easter weekend, when at my parents’ home, I took some time to look through a book, detailing the Storrs’ ancestry.  As I flipped through its contents reading name after name–some themes began to emerge.

Doctors.  Lawyers.  Clergy.  Yale.

I saw the status that comes with these roles, the “rulers” of society.  There was no mention of the land they took, or the indigenous peoples they colonized or killed with their diseases.  No longer mentioning their names.  With their power, they got to tell the story, and leave out their shadow, what put them in a monstrous light.

I wonder if my ancestors wondered about how their domination would affect their ancestors.  Did they even question how their lifestyle, their beliefs and practices was affecting them?

As I flipped through a multi-hundred page book, I didn’t see many healers mentioned.  There were a select few who held anti-slavery views and aligned their life with their beliefs.

Richard Salter Storrs, Charles Backus Storrs, George Storrs.

One woman in particular caught my attention: Lucinda Howe Storrs.

She was described as having a rare strength and tenderness, keeping a detailed diary, and attending to the concerns of the soul.  Maybe what we would call a mystic today.

I’m glad I know a few names of people in my lineage who had the courage to say, “This isn’t right.  We must be in this world in a new way, even though we carry with us this history of oppression.  And we must carry our spirituality with us into this work.”

And yet, I have the drivenness and perfectionism and domination in my body of my ancestors.  And I have this strong intuitive part of myself that has felt this dissonance, as I have sought to wander my way into the truth.

I wonder if ancestral trauma plays a considerable role in my chronic illness.  Because my healing journey isn’t just about me–it’s about the effects on other people because I’m healing.  It’s about strongly saying, “The dysfunction stops here.  The silence.  The lies.  The lop-sided incorrect view of history.  The ending where white people always win.”

During my breath work practice over the past several months, this strong, yet simple message has come through: “You are here to heal.  Healing yourself is also about healing your family line.”

To be honest, I don’t really know what this means.  And yet I’m learning that I don’t need to.  Showing up to myself, to my practice, to people–this is all I need to know.

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As a sensitive person, my body reacts strongly to the changing of the seasons.  This has always been true–I’m just now tuning into this.  As the warmer weather made known that it was here to stay in Indiana, this message came too: “It’s time to slow down and write.”

It’s time to stop worrying and wondering how all the pieces are going to come together and just live.  To be in touch with my longings and desires and live out of these-no matter how that looks each day.

It’s time for me to lean more deeply into natural law and the symbolism of nature.  Summer is abundance!

For so many years summer has felt like deprivation.  But summer gives greatly.  Part of healing is healing my relationship with nature.

So this summer, I am going to receive in abundance.

The sun.  The beach. Parks.  The flowers.  Rest.  Naps.  Books.  Sunsets.  Concerts in the park. Sitting by the apartment pool.  Getting in the pool and swimming.  Friends. Walks.  Wine tasting.  BBQ.

There is such a strong perfectionism in my DNA, that I must rest.

As I dig into my ancestral roots, I’m discovering deeper purposes for my illness.  I needed to wake up to this deeper work.  As a highly driven perfectionist, I needed something as severe as my illness to wake me up.  To stop and rest.  A chance to breathe deeply and learn to come home to myself.

To understand where my impulses come from.  To tap back into my deeply spiritual nature that doesn’t need an organization structure to fuel it.  To realize that at my essence, I am worthy-and I express this worthiness best in the world by being a healer and a writer.

Instead of just viewing my illness as a curse, and needing to fix it, I’m seeing glimpses of its greater purpose.

And I know deeply in my body that my healing is for myself and for everyone else.

I didn’t use to believe this.  I had internalized that my self-care was selfish, that my healing journey was navel-gazing, that it was just another stint of my perfectionism.

I had never before considered that at my core, I am a healer-and in order to be one, I needed to focus on my own.  And by engaging this process, I am actually stepping into who I really am.

That this process was quite literally saving my life.  Because I was and am coming home to myself.

Surely, many of my ancestors did not want to be doctors, lawyers & clergy.  Surely something ached in many of them for something more (although nothing is inherently bad about these professions!).  Surely clinging to all that power and ignoring their shadow, wiping out entire peoples & stories, cultures, and rituals, while they “started” a country with “law and order.”

That psychological heaviness is deep.  And I’m sure it weighed on generation after generation.  And it weighs on me.

Maybe I needed to go through an intense powerlessness of chronic illness to know that in giving up power is where I find life.  That in mutual friendships, I find delight.  That there’s something mysterious at play.  That joy and sadness can co-exist and must for the creativity to surface.

Healing starts with me–in all of my privilege, in all of my pain.  I will keep on healing.

My Thoughts Before Confirmation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash

My New Look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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