Taking a Sick Day

I woke up, barely having slept at all Monday night.  My head burned and throbbed and I was congested.  Yes, welcome to the beginning of school year cold in the middle of August.  Most of my life I just pushed through a simple cold, sucked on lemon cough drops, took a short nap, but still maintained life as usual.  There was too much going on to pause.

But last Tuesday I took a sick day.  Not because I couldn’t get out of bed.  Yet because I’ve learned enough to listen to my body-and I needed to protect myself from feeling worse.  So I made breakfast, took a bath, completed a small house project, and napped for 3 hours all while running the diffuser constantly.

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The sick day helped me to slow down.  To remember that my health takes a precedence over work.  To remember that I miss mid-morning walks and writing daily.  To remember that the goal isn’t to push through any more but to listen to my body.  To remember that a simple change of pace changes my perspective drastically. To remember that I’ve grown; I’m no longer who I used to be.  To remember that it’s my job to forget about students for the day and take care of myself.

I made the right decision and I didn’t feel any guilt.  I took a sick day on the third week of school.  I reminded myself that I manage a chronic illness daily and that pushing through is not my job description anymore.  I took a day off and could truly rest.

What do you learn about yourself when you take a day off?

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Spiritual Direction

Next month,  I will start a class on spiritual direction in Indy.  Since signing up, I’ve felt tentative.

Why did I sign up?

I’m not prepared enough.

What is spiritual direction anyway?

Why do I feel a sense in me that I just need to ‘find out more?’

As I’ve started delving into my reading, preparing for this first class, I’ve paused at these sentences that author Susan Phillips uses to describe her work as a spiritual director in her book Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction:

“I listen for the depths of humanity, believing that in those storied, embodied, sensate, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual depths lies the presence of God. An encounter with God is not achieved by stripping us of our human nature, but rather entering into it honestly, as Jesus did. As a new relationship begins, I listen for the ways God encounters the real person and how the person prays from the depths of his or her heart.”

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I discovered spiritual direction by attending a few solitude retreats at Sustainable Faith Indy and talking to the hosts, who so graciously welcomed me into their home for quiet reflection in the midst of an undiagnosis and unrelenting fatigue.  I left their home thinking “I want to become like them.”  So at their home for 5 weekends this next year, with a small cohort, we will learn together about spiritual direction and what it means to be a spiritual director.  And over the course of this year, I know I will be changed.  I hope I become a person for can embrace stillness and rest even more fully, enter into conversation more attentively, and see the stirrings of God more acutely in myself and others.

As I come home from work and read, I find myself crying, reflecting, and knowing that  this is my most weighty adventure this year.  I can’t wait to tell all of you more over the coming year.

What adventures are you taking over the coming year? 

How do you wish to learn and grow?

Paleo Biscuits

This is my new favorite recipe and I thought I’d share.  It makes one dozen, good for dinner, and the leftovers the next morning with a cup of coffee.

1/3 cup coconut flour

5 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, softened (Butter is better!)

4 eggs

2 Tbsp honey

dash of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes.  Enjoy!

 

Spiritual Friendship

I read this short, yet poignant book this week.  I urge you to take time to read it.

Wesley Hill tackles the theology and historical perspective of friendship, while analyzing why friendship seems to be a lost art in modern culture.  What is most beautiful about Hill’s writing is that he doesn’t compromise his theology, while writing honestly from his perspective as a gay celibate Christian, and how his orientation affects his view of friendship.

He asks honestly what celibate gay Christians are to do with their longings for love and their fear of loneliness.  Is there a place for love in honest relationship within the church?  Hill says, yes, in friendship.

Spiritual Friendship

I subscribe to a blog called Spiritual Friendship, where Hill is a co-editor, and I’ve been challenged over the past 18 months by his writing.  Hill has helped me see the need for friendship in my own life-that it is a holy longing to know and be known by someone else, and the longing doesn’t have to be sexual in nature.

Why I am encouraged and challenged by a gay Christian, when I myself am not gay?  

Well, for several reasons.  First, I respect Hill’s upholding that marriage is between one man and one woman-and that his calling on his life is celibacy.  I respect his honest personal narrative, while still showing immense love for the homosexual community as a whole, even when he might disagree.

I’ve also seen parallels and the immense need for friendship in sickness.  Loneliness seems to outweigh any other reality at times, yet I feel as though I have love to give, but wonder, “To whom do I show my love?”  And the answer for me has been in mutual friendships.  Those that seek to understand and to be honest themselves.  Those that seek to learn and are patient.  Those that can accept mystery and seeming contradictions.  Those who can be in the moment, not always striving for more.  Those who can sit and be still.  These people are my friends.

Read Wesley Hill, and let yourself be challenged.  Read his story and be thankful.

Why is friendship so important in our culture? 

What are some roadblocks to friendships deepening? 

What helps friendships grow?

Back to Work Rhythms

Re-entry back to work overall has been good.  I’m really tired, but I knew that I would be.  I fall asleep before 9pm, and wake up to my grounding morning rhythms of reading, journaling, yoga, and making breakfast before walking across the street to school.

Currently, during professional development, we have an hour off for lunch so Chels and I walk back to our apartment and eat lunch before going back to school for the afternoon.

We love that our apartment is clean, calming, and relaxing to come home to.  The last week it has provided a set amount of time to process the morning and mentally prepare for the afternoon, while eating a meal slowly.

After work includes lifting weights together, making dinner, reading or a small apartment project that still isn’t done.  Our goal is to have everything hung on the wall and all furniture put together by next weekend before school starts.

I see glimpses of what I’ve internalized in being sick.  I care more about my life outside of work.  I know my lifestyle needs to be sustainable.  I enjoy the simple aspects of everyday life.  My life has simplified in so many ways.  In short: I know who I am, I know my limits, and I’ve learned to enjoy the healthy things I need to do so I can be as healthy as possible.

In many ways, I’m proud of that last statement.  Because I used to despise all the healthy things I had to do in order to function well, while everyone else didn’t have to think about what they ate or conserving energy.  Now, it’s a lot easier to accept what my life has become.  And I’m a much healthier person because of it, even if I have to say no to many other things.

 

Celebrating Part II

Getting a job and moving bumped right up next to each other.  Chels and I moved this past week and quickly got settled in because professional development starts today!  There’s lots of new in both of our lives-but we love coming home-to our place.  Two years ago the Triple A Indy Indians old baseball stadium was renovated into apartments.  We just happen to have a first floor apartment that has a backyard patio on the baseball field.  We are excited for our patio furniture to be delivered.

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Chels and I didn’t actually think we would be roommates.  So part of moving in, even in the busyness of it all, is just stopping and saying, “I’m really glad I get to be your roommate.”

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We are both tired.  It’s been a busy week.  But we’re glad that this past weekend has meant naps, Saturday night movies, filling up our fridge and hanging pictures. And Monday morning just means a walk across the street to school.

Thanks for celebrating with us.  This move largely means a new start for both of us and we are excited.

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Celebrating

Last week, I wrote about landing a job interview.  Well, actually I had two.  And I accepted a job as an interventionist at Vision Academy, a charter school just northwest of downtown Indy.  It still feels surreal, especially because professional development starts in one week!

Six months ago, I couldn’t imagine being in this position.  I couldn’t imagine working.  I couldn’t imagine being back at a charter school.  I have my natural worries of going back to work after an 8 month hiatus, but nothing too out of the ordinary.  Instead, I’ve been able to be excited and celebrate.  Chels took me out to lunch and I got a bison burger over a really yummy salad and she splurged in getting me a pint of coconut milk ice cream.

VisionAcademy

There are bittersweet feelings in this news too.  Saying yes to Vision Academy means saying no to the Oaks.  A few weeks ago, I tested positive for internal mold and I continue to learn about everyday mold exposure along with chemical sensitivities I have.  I believe subbing at the Oaks two months ago made me exhausted because of mold exposure.  I’m glad that Vision Academy is a new construction and when I toured the building, I felt fine afterwards!  The Oaks was a school I hoped to stay at for the longterm, yet because of health reasons, that isn’t the case anymore.

Celebrating means taking note in everyday tasks that I am feeling better.  Not every day, not all the time, but significantly better.  I can think more clearly, organize information efficiently, have greater energy hanging out in a bigger group of people, not have to lay down mid-day everyday, have energy to cook (and clean up!), have energy to research new things to implement to improve my health even more.  Taking this job is a good risk, a thoughtful and joyful risk.  I am ready to go back to work.

Yet, as I meant with my spiritual director yesterday, we talked about the seasons of life.  How intense loneliness and waiting is now bearing fruit.  How the longing to be settled and rooted runs deep within me. How this season is going to be more busy, and yet solitude in the midst of activity is essential.

As I re-enter the work world, I want to do so differently.  I want working to reflect that I’ve taken 8 months off because of sickness.  That my students know the importance of rest, thinking deeply, that I’ve created a nurturing environment for them to work and fail and succeed.  That I will speak to them more quietly, in a gentler tone, and with greater compassion and love.

Check In

I’m back.  I’ve taken a blogging break and I’ve needed to.

It’s been a period of lament and celebration.  A time of tears. A time of desiring to be comforted and defended.  A time of self-care.

In this break:

-My best friend, Chels went into remission. She got a job and moved to Indy.  We are going to be roommates and are looking for apartments.  (Crazy? I know, right!)

-I spent some time writing, specifically submitting articles to a chronic illness online support group.

-I purchased a 2 week yoga pass and went to several classes.

-I landed a job interview! (more details later…)

-I hosted a dear friend from Chicago.

-I decided on a spiritual director to meet with at least for the next year.

-I ate at yummy restaurants and shopped at farmer’s markets.

-I house-hunted.

-I cancelled plans.

-I laid in bed for a few days straight without a definite reason

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It’s been a full month.  I’ve felt overwhelmed and defensive at times, and at other times incredibly thankful for the present moment. There have been times of rich enjoyment and suffocating sadness. Many moments I’ve felt like I’m drowning, but I wasn’t.  I’m just learning not to be anxious about tomorrow.

As you step into your calling this summer, but particularly tomorrow, may you feel deeply, enjoying life to the fullest, yet grieving at wrongs committed.  May you choose to see what is true, to discern your heart’s wanderings, to laugh.

May your life be preserved as you journey in feeling deeply, as you pray your deepest longings.

 

What emotions resonate most deeply with you now?

How are you growing in feeling deeply?

 

Psalm 22

For he has not despised or abhorred

the affliction of the afflicted,

and he has not hidden his face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation…

-Psalm 22:24-25

Redeemer Pres

My True Self

Two weeks ago, I took a risk.  I was a substitute teacher at my old school for a half day.  Many parts were joyful: the kids, teaching math in a small group, remembering my teacher voice, getting to put a little note on my friend’s desk.  But I was fatigued and the aftermath of subbing for 4 hours was four days of lying in bed for at least half the day.

Bottom line: I’m not ready to go back to work. And I don’t have answers yet to why I crashed.

I had to adjust my future mindset from hopeful to realistic really quickly, focusing my attention on the everyday: walks, food, reading, writing.  These healthy rhythms sustain me, and yet there are days I detest them. The question clamoring in my mind was, “I’m pursuing health for what? To what end?”  I want all my hard work to be worth it; I crave a tangible reward for the hard work I do every day.  And a job would be nice.  But when I sat down on the front porch with my breakfast and journal, and had time to reflect, I saw the endless performance driven desires that I’m constantly drawn back to.  Then I had to face the question, “Who am I made to be? Someone who is constantly striving or longs to be in deeper relationships” 

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Enjoying a “small victories” Indy Art Fair outing with my sister

I want my identity to be defined by the groups I’m in, the job I work, who my friends are.  I desire status, control, power, recognition, praise.  But as I put a pen to paper and kept writing, I came up with a list of “When I’m at my Best.”  Writing out this list allowed me to see myself more clearly, that the baby steps forward in sickness, truly do change me. Here’s my list:

When I’m at my Best, I’m:

-available

-reflective

-writing and reading regularly

-a friend who listens, a friend who shares

-taking time to rest

-limited, but participate to my fullest ability

-recognize anxiety, worry, and comparing early

-rooted, not grasping for accomplishment, for more, for better

-relationship focused, NOT performance focused

-savoring time as a gift, not as something to “fill”

-speaking plainly, committing to a yes or a no

-telling my story honestly without defensiveness

-regularly setting (or changing) appropriate boundaries

-asking good questions, listening attentively

-validating who people are, where they are at

-asking for help, accepting help as a gift

-hopeful about the future, realistic about my limits

-thankful about small victories

-persevering without self-pity, especially when I’m alone

-speaking kindly and gently to myself

-patient with the process

-learning to be still and observe

-spending lots of time outside, daily walks preferable

When are you at your best? What hinders you from you being your true self?