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.

 

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Lists & Affirmations

It’s funny when I have lots of ideas of what to post, and what feels most pressing is just to talk about the ordinary.  For the ordinary describes the whole.  The ordinary describes the mystery & all the inconsistencies of my life.

Walks & talks with friends old & new.

Waking up late & rushing to work.

Babysitting Cash, my roommate’s dog.  Visiting a few different parks.

Not setting an alarm & letting the sun wake me up.

Inconsistently practicing qi gong this week to Motown.  Great combo, by the way!

Drinking pomegranate tea in the morning.

Finishing up the semester with my students & giving assessments throughout most of the day.

Doing breath work with a friend over a lunch break.

Binging on NY style pizza & cookie dough while watching 13 Reasons Why.

Going on adventures & driving to new places on mornings off.

Indulging in my desire to rest & read.

Planning a summer vacation for myself.

Listening to my fatigue & choosing not to do much this weekend.

Having good days & having days where my allergies flare & my brain feels like mush.

I’ve written a lot this winter & spring.  So much is healing and shifting.  Fatigue and energy come and go.  I’m adding in new foods & taking red meat out of my diet.  I’m finishing out the first two semesters of teaching with my own business.  And I’m leaning into summer, with all its abundance and ordinary-ness.

I’m leaning into my own abundance, my own flexibility and spontaneity.  I’m catching myself when I shame myself for things I can’t do.  I’m practicing coming back to the present moment, being thankful for this body, this breath, even the fatigue, when it lingers longer than I want it to.

I’m reminding myself of how much better I’m doing than last summer.  I’m lingering in the gratefulness that this summer, I will not be moving or starting a new job.  I can trust my body; I can trust what it’s telling me, even if I don’t want to hear it.  I know that intense allergies are a sign of imbalance–yet I don’t have to let that discourage me, or lead me down a path of feeling powerless.

I can trust my body’s subtle signals that remind me that I must rest more than a lot of people do.  I can rest in the fact that my lack of “production” does not make me less valuable.  I can trust my own self-care and reach out for help or say no.  I can just be…things are important and urgent, and I can still just be.

I’m looking to nature to understand what summer is.  It’s indulgent.  It’s restful.  It simply enjoys its fullness and its transformation.

I’m watching for when I overdue it, for when summer’s nice weather is an excuse to push harder and to do more.  I want to come back to my fullness and simply enjoy what is.  This moment where I can just be.

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.

Magic of Right Now

 

When my EMDR therapist and I had the conversation that I was close to being done with therapy, we revisited the question, she asked me in our very first session.

“How do you know when you are done?”

“I more fully accept myself,” is what I had said.

But then I asked her, “How is it supposed to feel in your body?”

“Like you are flying.”

That’s all she had to say, and I smiled.  I wanted to feel like that.  I know I wouldn’t feel that way all the time, but I did want a glimpse of it.

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May has usually been the month I start to get a little nervous.  I love the warmer weather and being outside, however historically it’s the time my allergies set in and the mold from the humid weather starts to make itself known in Indiana.

It’s the month where I want to be inside and rest because I’m so exhausted, yet my body wants to be outside.  I want to revel in the abundance of nature with everyone else without having to worry how my body feels so much of the time.

Spiritually, my body has experienced so much dissonance during summer, especially over the last few years.  It has been so difficult to embrace being and abundance when my body has been highly reactive, exhausted, and fatigued.

I do realize that it’s perfectly fine to be experiencing something different than the symbolism of a specific season, and yet because of my environmental illness, I felt like I was teaching my body to avoid the goodness that is nature–and I didn’t like this habit that was forming.

It didn’t seem like I had any other choice though, so I felt powerless.  I felt highly reactive, frustrated, and sad.  Going through the same cycle again and again.  Health deteriorating.  Needing to move.  Needing to switch jobs.

Last summer, I had reached my limit.  I didn’t want to keep doing this.  I learned what I could from my exhausted state, living at my parents’ and at a friends’ for weeks at a time, packing my apartment, and trying to figure out how to detox, even though I was reacting to mold.  I had so much help in starting my tutoring business and moving to the northern suburbs of Indy.

Yet, I felt like I was holding years and years of exhaustion in my body.  My grief and powerlessness felt overwhelming & my flashbacks came back with abandon.

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In my last session with my therapist, we went over my intake form and how I had told her about my sleep patterns: that I often woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep through the night due to mold exposure during the day.

This doesn’t happen anymore.  “What connection do you see?” she asked me. I told her how EMDR has helped resolve my grief; it has been part of my work around moving stuck energy in the body.  This has helped to calm down my immune system and I’m reacting less to mold in an environment.  I’m sleeping through the night.  I continue to detox in a variety of ways, including running an air purifier at night.

This summer, I’m excited.  I don’t expect my health to be perfect; I think that’s unrealistic.  But I do expect myself to delight in being outside, simply thankful that my body can handle so much more than it has in a long time.

I’m thankful that my brain doesn’t have to equate summer, mold, extreme brain fog, and being unable to be a part of a 10 minute conversation.  I’m glad that I’ve been able to untangle my negative emotions and beliefs–so that I can simply be, and accept what is.  Today I choose to be hopeful about what summer will bring.

 

Photo by Irina Kostenich on Unsplash

Embracing Aloneness

For Lent this year, I gave up conformity.  I didn’t really know how this would play out.  All that kept coming out of my therapy sessions was that I’ve spent my life conforming–and I was exhausted, and done.  I needed to be done to reclaim my health & my worth.

One particular moment has kept coming to my mind off and on for the last month.  I was 8 years old, and I was in my room, probably writing at my desk.  My dad comes to ask me if I wanted to run at the State Track Championship, and I said no, even though I had just won all my races at a pretty big meet.

It was my last big intuitive moment I remember as a kid.  I knew that competitions made me anxious; I didn’t really like them.  I loved running and I loved practice, but I could do without the competition.

I said no, because I knew that I wanted time.  Time to be free.  Time to be a kid. Time to play outside in the woods, barefoot.  Time to take walks and look at the stars.  Time to shoot baskets.  Time to write.  Time to jump on the trampoline. Time to run around with my dog.

I was a kid who needed spacious time.  I was a kid who needed time alone.  Just because.  Because I was worthy of that space.  Because I needed spaciousness to be my best self.  Because I always really resonated with that kind of silence and solitude.

The next year, I said yes to my dad’s request.  I decided to become a very competitive runner.  I attended the National Championships at age 9 for the long jump, and missed a National Medal by a 1/4 inch.  At age 10, I won a National Medal in the long jump down in Orlando.  These things weren’t bad in and of themselves. I made good friends.  I got to see different parts of the State and the country.  However, I did suppress the creative, intuitive part of myself.  I became overly responsible, dedicated, hard-working—all to achieve this dream of returning to the National Track Championships year after year.  For all of this, I received a lot of affirmation.

I didn’t play outside as much in the summer heat, because I had to reserve my energy for practice later that day.  I ate in particular ways and at particular times because of my practice schedule.  I was only 9 years old.

I didn’t know what was happening as a kid, but I do now.  That part of me that was shy and dream-like thrived in solitude.  I needed that precious time to imagine, to have no agenda, to just get lost in whatever I wanted to.  I liked being with others (or bossing my sister around!), but I also liked being alone.

I’m reclaiming this aloneness now.  I crave it, and I need it.  Being alone in silence gives me great refreshment & joy, and up until recently, I’ve buried that part of me.

Why?

I didn’t believe that I was worth it.  There are sneaky lies that creep up, both within myself, and the cultural structures around–that state in a myriad of ways that time for yourself is a selfish act.  That to invest in my own healing and self-care is isolationist and arrogant.

Especially as a woman.

For as a compassionate, intutive-empath, others knew that I was loyal.  That I would show up.  That I was true to my word.  That compassion though was not extended as much to myself, as I extended it to others.  And it became overbearing and exhausting.  But I didn’t know who I would be if I said no.

Because the thing is–my compassion and intuition are strong strengths of mine–and they are beautiful.  And they need to be balanced out with my strength and my boundary-setting.

I have given my own energy, way past what most people were giving in situations.  I have also taken on others’ energy as my own, for most of my life.

These last months of solitude for me have been about claiming my story, my version.  Not the version that someone else is telling.

It’s been about seeing the acts of caring for myself, as incredibly generous both towards myself and everyone around me.  See-we really are connected!

Me healing from my trauma in EMDR, is healing for everyone else that I come into contact with.

You see, I am healing for me–which of course affects everything.

I see clearly now, that to call self-care a selfish act is to believe that I am separate from everyone else when I take time for myself.  This simply isn’t true.

I may just be able to see myself and everyone else more clearly, when I ground myself in the present moment and let go.

The Flu and Thoughts on Letting Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter 2018 Health Update & What’s Saving My Life Right Now

I haven’t shared a “formal” update of how I’ve been doing health-wise, so I thought I would update everyone.

The winter has been incredible for me.  There have been quite a number breakthroughs in my health in ways that I can’t entirely explain.  Winter has been a season of trying new things, diving into friendships, feeling more established in my business.  There has been both hard work & joy, challenging, yet simple decisions that needed to be made.

The season of winter has accelerated my healing in the last few years, and so I’ve learned to take intentional steps to slow down, and make sure that my body is responding appropriately to nature’s signals.  That meant that the Christmas season had a much slower pace, and I just said no to lots of things.  Joining Wayfinding’s conversations and practices around a simpler holiday season were life-giving and grounding for me.

I took a 4 week Christmas break because I could!  At the end of those 4 weeks, I attended the Mystic Soul Conference, where I was encouraged to breathe in community.  I was challenged and encouraged.

I’ve been meeting with an EMDR therapist since October, and our work together has been very fruitful.  She’s helped to guide me back to my body’s knowledge–that I hadn’t lost my voice, it was just buried under heaps of trauma.

I decided not to join a yoga studio, but instead to learn Qigong at the Indy Healing Center.  Qigong is an energy practice, and the movements, have not only helped me continue to connect with my own body, but my own energy, in a very deep way.  I’m excavating my own limiting beliefs through this practice and becoming more and more aware of how my mind has been affected by illness.  I’m learning about the organ systems, and what it means to be out of balance.  This practice has been a huge part of the transformational work I’m doing right now!

I’ve been breathing!  Deeply and in healing ways.  I start my morning with a breath work practice, reminding myself of my own powerful life force, and I transition from breathing into writing for 20 minutes before I start my day. I participated in several group breath work classes this winter as well.

I’m choosing to believe that my narrative is so much more important than my health stats & numbers.  My latest food allergy test revealed that I have healed a lot of my food allergies, although my candida still remains stubborn.  I’m starting to wonder/believe/hope that I can heal my candida through energy work, rather than loads of supplements & medicines.

My qigong teacher stated as a side comment in class, “Thyroid issues start to show up when a person is no longer able to express their purpose.” That statement was meant for me.  For I’m discovering that the more I speak my truth in public (not just in my journal!), the healthier I feel.  After years of processing and grief (and generally being stuck and too much in my head), I finally connected to the Energy needed to forgive.  And I will need this to keep on forgiving, myself included.

I’m working a full-time job, and I’m doing well.  I’m learning how to conserve my energy, how to guide my students daily, and yet how to regain that energy that I gave while teaching for several hours per day.   It’s amazing.  I had no idea if full-time was even possible or what it would look like–but it’s here and it’s good.  My smile is coming back.

I found my way to a new church, St. Christopher’s Episcopal.  There is this energetic draw to the Christian church that I’m trying to find words for.  And I’m a millennial, quite aware of the issues at hand, and that more and more people are leaving the church in droves.  I think I’m asking “Why am I here?” while I keep on attending.  More questions than answers, and that’s quite alright.

What is saving my life right now?

  • My own breath
  • Forgiveness
  • Writing on the question “Who am I & how do I know?”
  • Telling the truth
  • Becoming reacquainted with my strength
  • Gluten-free BBQ chicken pizza from Jan’s Village Pizza (Westfield shout-out!)
  • Laughter about trying to make Paleo frosting that tasted great but looked awful!
  • Playing a well-loved hand-made game of go-fish dyslexia-style, with several of my students.
  • Friday night pizza ritual coming back–can you tell I’ve been missing pizza?!
  • Falling asleep watching the Olympics
  • Brunch, and coffee, and dinner with friends.
  • A London fog at Noble Coffee & Tea, to make lesson planning more bearable.
  • Qigong, particularly the “Dragon Stands Between Heaven & Earth”
  • Impact statements from the Larry Nassar case-such bravery & honesty in the quest of healing.
  • An introduction into ancestral healing at the Mystic Soul Conference

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.

 

 

To Be a Walking Contradiction

Fall is truly here; and I’m glad.  I love the weather changing, the leaves turning.  I can even embrace all the rain and the short nights.  I enjoy the countdowns to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  On my more reflective days, I think about a year ending and another year starting.

I think about how 2017 has been a year of tremendous growth, and yet a year where I’ve seen my own grief erupt and almost overtake me.  It’s been a year of confusion, of decisions I had to make too soon, and continuing to learn that my health fluctuating is my new normal.

I’m back in therapy working with a medical trauma specialist and last session she asked what I was taking away from this session.  My response was, “I can see all the hard work I’ve already put in, and I see that I still have the drive to put in more work and heal.  I want to heal so badly.”

You see, I’m learning to realize the effects of my illness in new ways.  With all of the mold reactions I had this summer, both from my home and my workplace, I suffered some brain damage.  Since it was prolonged enough, new neural networks formed in my brain while I was living in fight-or-flight mode for several months this summer.

I lived in different homes, bought air filters, quit my job, moved, started a business.  My body is still tired–but not just fatigue-tired.  My brain is tired, and I still have days where I don’t remember words or routines or how to get somewhere.  I notice that after I spend 5 hours lesson planning on the weekend, my brain is completely wiped out.  And I just hope on Monday that I’m ready to go, and have enough energy to get me through the day.

The new neural networks that formed were challenging all my beliefs-ones that I have challenged often in this health journey:

  • Do I have what it takes?  How do I find the strength it takes maybe to wake up and not remember much about the day before?
  • Will people still be around?
  • Do I believe that I’m worth it?  Can I find even more grit to trust that every healing step is worth it because I’m worth it?
  • Is joy attainable?
  • If I have to quit my job, where do I go next?
  • Can my pain be transformed into a life that I think is beautiful and fulfilling?

Some days I feel pretty good.  I like my work, I feel confident, and joyful.  Other days it’s hard to get out of bed, and I get through work, crash and hope I have energy to get out of bed the next day.  Both are me.  Both are true.

The hardest negative belief to observe, notice where I feel the tension in my body, and to breath my way through it is, “You are alone in this.”

Here’s the thing.  Intellectually I know that I’m not.  I have friends who struggle with chronic illness.  I have taken meals to hospitals, and made allergy friendly Christmas cookies.  We have talked about doctors not believing us, and the struggle to be seen and heard.

And yet, in those moments where it feels like my brain is firing in all directions, my body feels alone.  My brain and body are fighting with each other.

Part of chronic illness is realizing along the journey, ways I have over-compensated because of being sick.  So when I was physically fatigued, there were many years, where my mind was the strong suit.  I overcompensated intellectually, because while I had to lie in bed for many daylight hours each day, I could still think.

The hard part currently is some days I can’t think.  My brain isn’t always my strong suit anymore.  I have to do everything I can to stop the inflammation from forming in my brain, but I also have to accept what’s happening.

It’s both/and.

And both/and is messy.  There are tears out of nowhere and things that take 3 hours longer and cancelled plans and small moments where I smile at the sunrise and feel like I’m an 85 year old who’s just happy to be alive.

My relationships slowly shift.  I have to say no to things I used to say yes to.  I stop yoga for a time and start therapy.  I learn to listen to my body before my mind (because the mind can only put language to what the body knows anyway).

This both/and world is unpredictable.  It’s both wonderful and scary.  It’s freeing and frightening.  I see both the ugly and beautiful in myself.  It’s a place of kindness towards myself and my limitations and celebrating my strong, persevering stance in the world.

Even writing this post has been emotional, because yesterday I couldn’t do this.  But today I can.  And for that I am glad.  Yet the gladness does not wipe away the sadness of yesterday.  They co-exist and always will.

The more I heal, the more I deeply know that trauma and transformation must live side by side.  There’s really no other way.

My illness has taught me more about humanity than anything else has.  It’s taught me about paradox, about this both/and world.  That’s it’s okay to be in progress.  I’ve learned about structures and powers that do not listen to the weak and about my own anger at injustice the the doubling power of trauma when you stay in the state of victimhood too long.  I’m learning to see myself as a walking contradiction, along with everyone else.

Reserving and Expanding

It’s a season of reserving: my energy, my resources, my health.  My own body thinks it feels counter-intuitive to rest more in the summer.  People are swimming, going to sporting events and concerts. The sun is out and typically people feel more free.

Again, I’m learning to sink my patterns to my own body, rather than mainstream culture.  And I’m wondering about new ways that I might be able to be more active in the winter, when others decide to stay inside.

One of the early lessons to learn in chronic illness is to reserve your energy, to use it on the things or people most important to you before you run out of energy for the day.  It’s a hard reality to keep coming back to-especially in my 20’s.

But after years of learning to reserve my energy-it’s all bottled up.  And yes, I have given to others in these past several years, and yet there’s more.  There’s more I want to say, do, experience.  I feel that my youth does not match the severity of my illness.

And that lends itself to these awkward growing pains.   The tension of letting myself dream and asking myself questions like, “What do you want?” and also being willing to let go. And let go again. And let go again. And still having the courage to wake up in the morning wanting to have fun, not just manage an illness.

Yet, it’s also a season of expanding. Of a new job. Soon to be a new home. Of investing time in new friendships. Learning more about mold toxicity and what I need to be aware of. Letting others help me.  Empowering others so that they can begin to understand what I’m going through.

What I continue to be amazed about, even in these days of fatigue and nausea from detox reactions is that my body tells me all I need to know.  Of course I need help from doctors and friends-but my body tells me all I need to know.

The key is to listen–and have the courage to listen to those quiet whispers day after day after day. Your body tells you that you’re reaching your limit or that it’s time to take a risk.  It tells you if you need to reserve or expand.

The truth is: My body doesn’t lie. And on the hard days of chronic illness it would feel better to be ignorant of this fact.  But the more I learn to lean into the tension, I more I learn to appreciate all my body has to say.

Those years of severe inflammation was the communication of an autoimmune disorder.  My body was trying to alert me to the fact that my body was beginning to attack itself. My brain fog alerts me of chemicals and mold. My fatigue was a result of severely depleted thyroid and adrenal glands.  All this was hard information to swallow-yet my body doesn’t lie.

Yet, so much gratitude exists in a clear mind, a strong body, sleeping eight hours per night and waking up rested.  My body is communicating, “You are on your way toward health. Be thankful for each moment. Pay attention. Beautiful things are happening right now.”

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In order to listen we must be still.  In order to be still, we must accept ourselves.  As we accept ourselves, we have the capacity to build this self-awareness.  And out of this self-awareness and love comes compassion.

Be compassionate towards your body-in all it’s resilience and limitation. As we accept all that our body has to say, we will be able to listen to others.  We will be able to accept them as they are- in all their resilience and limitation.

We will learn to reserve and expand together, honoring each others needs and celebrating the milestones.  This kind of relating is hard work and yet I think it’s possible.

But first we must be still.  We cannot relate authentically if we do not first do the hard work of listening to and accepting ourselves. I’m learning to do this better and better every day.  Some days get pretty ugly, yet the outcome is worth it.