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.

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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.

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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?

Summer Smoothie

So, now that I can eat more fruit, smoothies are a lot more enticing!  And just in time for summer…

Here’s the recipe of the smoothie I concoct most mornings:

-Handful of kale or spinach

-1/2 an avocado

-1/4 granny smith apple

-6-8 blackberries (substitute other berries if desired).

-Plenty of coconut milk

 

Happy Summer!

On the Front Porch

So, I’ve moved again.  I’m staying with a family from church, who live close to Redeemer and just north of downtown.  And the best part about this neighborhood: there’s a front porch culture.  And I love it.  So one of my new rhythms is “Mornings on the Porch.”  They probably won’t look the same, yet every day will probably include a smoothie and some reading or writing.

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This particular morning included reading the Ascension Sunday prayer and scriptures from the Book of Common Prayer, praying through my longings for this year, filling out my weekly health journal for the doctor, reading some Sunday school material on Christian Identity and Calling, buying meat online from a local farm, talking to a neighbor who came to say ‘hi’, writing this blog post, and editing a poem for my last poetry class.  Quite the morning.

I’m a person who thrives on structure and consistency, yet I also love adventures and changing up my rhythms for different seasons.  I’m getting better, yet my health still takes a lot of time in the beginning stages of healing.  Rhythms are important for me to rejuvenate, learning healthy habits and routines that I naturally enjoy. So on the porch swing, I will keep digging into healthy routines this summer.

A few of my other summer rhythms include:

-Weekly visits to Eagle Creek park (best city park in Indy!)

-Weekly farmer’s market trips (with a friend preferred)

-Neighborhood Walks-various neighborhoods, close and maybe a little far away.

-Frequent 1 coffee shop all summer & walk there (and drink tea 🙂

-Consistent patterns of making bone broth and fermenting vegetables

-Find 2 summer pen pals & get back to letter writing

-Tutoring one of my former students

-Outdoor concert at least every other week

 

What are your summer rhythms? 

How do you plan to cultivate rest and delight this summer, rather than frantic busyness?

Hurry

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store

and the gas station and the green market and

Hurry up honey, I say, hurry hurry,

as she runs along two or three steps behind me

her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.

 

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?

To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?

 

Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,

Honey I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry-

you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.

 

And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking

back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,

hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.

 

-Marie Howe from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time

Tension

Last week, I gave my testimony at church.  I shared my story of chronic illness, of being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and the emotional and spiritual effects of being sick.  If you want to listen to my testimony in its entirety, you can access it here. (Entitled Storrs Testimony 4.26.15)  I started my testimony by opening with this quote by Kat Duff, author of The Alchemy of Illness:

“There is, perhaps rightly so, an invisible rope that separates the sick from the well, so that each is repelled by the other, like magnets reversed. The well venture forth to accomplish great deeds in the world, while the sick turn back onto themselves and commune with the dead, neither can face the other very comfortably, without intrusions of envy, resentment, fear, or horror. Frankly, from the viewpoint of illness, healthy people seem ridiculous, even a touch dangerous, in their blinded busyness, marching like soldiers to the drumbeat of duty and desire.”

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And by the end of my testimony, I said that I disagreed with this quote, even though her precise words give profound insight to the “different worlds” the sick and the well tend to inhabit.  The sick and the well shouldn’t be separate.  If we are the church, we should still do relationship together, learning, struggling, celebrating and mourning together.  And that’s hard work, and it’s extremely uncomfortable.  The sick can tend to be jealous and bitter towards everything the person who is healthy can do.  And the healthy person, who can have more relationships and activities can think the sick person is lazy, lacking willpower, and is ignorant to the daily mental battle.

The tension is worth it though, it leads to change in both people.  It leads to a willingness to understand someone who is different, a willingness to explore difficult emotions.  Yet tension in relationship should be more of the norm.  Healthy relationships are hard work-especially if differences multiply.  Yet as time slows down, and we listen to one another, truer, deeper friendships emerge.

Do we as the church just gather those people who are similar to us?  

How much do we appreciate diversity of all forms?

What healthy tensions exist in your friendships?

Longings

A few years back, I wrote out longings instead of goals for the year.  After the first year, I decided that this would be a good yearly practice.  When I think about longings instead of goals, I tend to be more relationship-driven, more focused on my character and my emotions.  I care about self-care, friendships, maturity, and learning rather than projects that need a deadline.  It’s less about self-improvement and re-inventing myself, and more about what I hope and dream about.

I wrote mine in early January, and it was hard to write.  Christmas break dragged on, as I laid in bed, feeling so fatigued and helpless, unsure of what to do to help myself.  Dreaming when I felt like shit seemed like an impossible task, yet I made myself, with the encouragement of a few friends.  My wrinkled paper of longings resides on my bedside table, and I read them weekly.

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One of my longings is: Indy feels like home, with strong and growing roots.

Currently, this is happening in small ways.  I recently became a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.  I have taken a few writing classes with the Indiana Writer’s Center this winter and spring.  The Indy Winter’s Farmer’s Market and a yoga class was a winter Saturday morning rhythm.  I buy meat and vegetables from local farmers.  I have found an excellent doctor, who has me on a treatment plan that is working.  My nutritionist responds to any food question I have promptly.  Friendships are deepening with a few.  I have favorite parks, walking routes, coffee shops, bookstores, neighborhoods, restaurants, grocery stores.  Last week I ran into a friend at a coffee shop and felt like a local.

One of my hopes for the near future is for an AutoImmune Paleo dinner club where several of us can eat everything that is on the table, rather than saying “No” to 85% of what is served.  I’ll keep you posted.

What are your longings?  What does “home” feel like to you?

Back and Forth

This post is a collaborative effort between my friend Chels and me.  Together we want to share about the back and forth of health and illness and how we make friendship work in the midst of this.  Chels started chemo in November and I started getting amino acid injections for Hashimoto’s in February.  Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about long distance friendship in sickness-and we’re stronger friends for doing this journey together.

We became friends largely because we were honest about our lives.  Then by the fall, both of us were really sick, and that drew us closer together really quickly.  Yet, currently we are learning the dance of back and forth, of changing expectations as I get better and Chels gets worse, as she continues dealing with the affects of chemo and radiation.  Our relationship is changing and we have doubts.  Chels has to harness her strength to work and recover.  And as I continue to gain more of a semblance of health,  I can think more about my future.  Tension builds, and yet we cling to our friendship.

 

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Chels stated to me in a conversation during this trip to Memphis, “I have to remember that you love me and want to talk to me.  I don’t exactly know how bad I’m getting, but I know that talking to me is hard.”

My doubts look like this: “What do I tell her and not tell her?  Do I hide the fact that I’m getting better?  What information is going to hurt her? Help her?”

We make mistakes.  Lots of them.  Sometimes I disclose too much, and sometimes Chels doubts that I love her.  But we do the day to day well.  We do the back and forth well.  Sometimes that looks like lots of movies or HGTV, naps, and short walks.  Other days we have longer conversations and can plan adventures. And we’ve learned to just let each day stand on its own.

Neither of us know what the future holds.  In honesty, none of us do.  But we will enjoy today; our friendship is too important not to.

What is the glue in your friendships?  What back-and-forths exist with your friends?