Steady On

Ironic that after my last post was about how I missed writing, I again missed several days. I try to give myself grace about it, especially since it’s usually other very needed things, like sleeping all day. My body still needs rest. But I realized today that I’m at risk of losing this important part of rehab.

Because I do think that it’s rehab. The working on walking endurance is important, the strength and range of motion is important, sure the food is important, the sleep is important, being outside is important, and some where in there, yeah, school needs to get done. But also, I need to keep looking inwards. This is really important, and I really believe that, and I can’t let myself forget that.

It takes work to come up follow through with changes, even little ones, like “the expectation is, you’ll be outside as much as possible.” This shouldn’t be hard, and yet the temptation is to stay inside where the computer can be used most easily for things like school work and bill paying and other chores. I brought a chair out to the shade, and I’m doing fine, but it was a conscious effort to get out here in the sun and wind and birds and fresh air and the sound of leaves–and it shouldn’t be.

I find myself worrying a little even about my food–how will I eat better when summer classes are over and I’m back with my family? They don’t keep so many vegetables around. They eat pasta all the time, and so many sweets and baked goods. And I find myself dreaming–dreaming, literally!–about baked goods myself, which unnerves me, because it’s only been a week, and I really didn’t think I would notice or miss them being gone, because I really didn’t think I ate them that often. When did I become dependent on sweets? I guess probably when I used them as a way to compensate myself for rough days. But I still didn’t think I’d be dreaming about brownies with cherry sauce, compulsively eating them even though I knew I wasn’t done with my six weeks yet. It’s not the lack of sweets that has me disturbed, it’s the psychological impact that sugary things apparently have in my life.

Somehow, I’ve gotten on to a new kick of thinking about what my life will be like “after.” As though I can just blip over the remaining hard year of rotations, which will not be easy no matter which way I cut it. I try to remind myself of all the things that are not going to magically go away just because I’m done with school–dysfunctional family relationships, car problems, loneliness, lack of direction in life, fear of living my whole life without a family of my own, leaving behind the friendships I did make while I was up here–but still, I am happy, so happy, at the thought of being done with school. Never mind passing my boards. Never mind that my loans will go into repayment, and that I might not be able to find a job. I would be done with school!

And I can’t quite shake the feeling that, though my conscious won’t fess up to it, my subconscious is banking on starting a family after school. Not that there’s any plausibility in that right now, but just because, well, that’s what happens next, right? And because I want it, of course, but that goes without saying. I just get this sneaking suspicion that somehow, I am not just counting on “this chapter” being over, but also counting on what I must be inherently assuming is “the next chapter.” And I’m afraid that “this chapter” will end, but that “next chapter” is nothing like I assume it will be, and that after “this chapter” ends, instead of being happy and relieved and relatively unburdened, I’ll find myself sinking into disappointment, depression and a lack of hope for the future.

Other times I find myself thinking, “Well, if that were to happen, what would you do now to get ready?” And I can’t decide to myself which of these thought patterns is more healthy. Or least unhealthy. There’s a part of me that wants to say, “chose hope.” That I’m sure there will be plenty of things to get all in a tizzy about along the way and afterward, but one doesn’t need to get in a tizzy early, and in fact, are explicitly told not too. But being told not to worry is different than being told you’ll get everything you want in the here and now, so go right ahead and count on that.Wouldn’t all that hoping just make me more sad at a later date?

I go back and forth on this all the time, until it wears me out. I don’t know. How am I supposed to know? People keep telling me to live in the moment, and it gets me so frustrated. At some point, I do have to make decisions about this Fall. And the decisions we make now do shape what our future might be. I can’t figure it all out, no, but to pretend the future has no bearing on the present seems ridiculously, well, pretentious. Like if you pretend it isn’t there, it will go away.

Other people say, just enjoy yourself now. But again, enjoying yourself now can lead to misery later. Sometimes you have to be uncomfortable in the present for a much longer duration of happiness. And unfortunately, I just catch myself think, “I’ve put my time in.” I’ve done my stint of being miserable and exhausted and stressed, and telling myself I’m investing in my future and that this in normal, and what you have to expect out of life. I’m not expecting a bed of roses, and I realize I have been pretty well taken care of up to this point, but for lack of a better phrase, I’m ready for my luck to change. I’m ready for — what? Things to go my way? As though they haven’t been? I don’t even really know what I mean. I guess I mean that I’m done with plan B, and I’m ready for plan A already. It’s been put off long enough. I want “real life” and by “real life” I mean a husband, a house and some land of our own, and kids. That was all I ever expected to get out of life, and guess what? I still want it.

I waited around a while, trying to figure out what to do. I’ve take this seven, working on eight, year diversion of revolting amounts of schooling. Gosh, it was probably about five years of spinning my wheels and now seven years of school, and isn’t that enough? And I want God to relent, and say, oh, okay–and now, for what you’ve been waiting for all along: ta-da!

I want Him to a really lot. But the fear is, well, if He hasn’t relented in the first 13 years, who’s to say He ever will? And I want to protest–but I have changed and grown and matured in the last seven years. I really have. I can take it now. I’m ready now. Yeah, that’s what they all say. It really isn’t a matter of “deserving,” although it is hard not to look around and smart when you see all the people who have what you think you want. What have they got that I don’t?

But if it’s not about deserving, or earning, then what is about? Random luck? People say, “God’s got plans for you!” Well, great. I wish He’d share some of them with me. All I’ve got right now are different shades of pipe dreams, I think. The “raise a family” pipe dream. The “serve the needy” pipe dream. The “scribble calculations on the back of a scrap of paper” pipe dream, the one that tries to find a way to not let money make my life be miserable.

I mean, at one time I was all hypothetical about going to school, too. That came to pass. Why can’t this other stuff? Apparently, going to school was God’s will, because He opened doors I didn’t even know where there. But how about this stuff? Do I get doors opened, or am I going to go back into the years of spinning my wheels? I guess what I mean is, I did my time spinning my wheels; I did my time navigating over really rough and exhausting terrain. Can I please now have the part where we go for a little bit of a scenic ride, and just have a really good time? There will be another chapter after that. I know I’ll have to gear up again. And I know that there will be plenty of challenges even there. But can we go there? Please? Can that be the direction we’re headed, and can I actually be excited about it, and can it be right and true and good?

Advertisements

I missed two days of writing, and I felt it. My insides are getting churned up. But at the same time, I sit down and I’m not quite sure what to write. So this one is probably going to be all over the place.

I caught a glimpse of myself this morning, and thought that I appeared to be a woman–noteworthy only because I look so young for my age (and often feel younger than I am), that I’ve been mistaken as being 7 years younger than I am. Well, that lead to thinking of all that has happened in the last seven years, and what I’ve learned, and how I’ve changed, and how it feels like it has been an exceedingly long seven years that would just never end.

But then this afternoon, I caught a glimpse of myself again, reflected in glass windows, and all I could think about was what an unattractive individual I was. This is so common it’s almost cliche, but it bugged me a lot because I’d spent a good part of the afternoon getting distracted by how beautiful so many of my classmates were, each in their own way. That’s probably also cliche, but that’s okay; it’s the truth.

Eventually I came around to realizing that really all I know is that I’m unattractive to me. And being attracted to oneself is generally called narcissism, and is greatly frowned upon. So, you know, it’s not all bad.

But it’s just that I realized the first reaction to feeling unattractive is to try to figure out how to “fix” it. Like before I’ll have any worth, I have to run around fixing things and improving things and making things better, and then . . .then I’ll be ready. For stuff. Things. Life. As though life would be somehow inherently better if only I were better.

And that’s the sad thing. That we sometimes feel like we have to “fix” ourselves before we can start enjoying or participating in life, and that until then, we’re sub-par. And my brain knows that’s not true. But I didn’t feel great leaving campus anyhow. With all of those thoughts running through my head about being invisible, being an object of derision, one more statistic. I don’t really feel like changing–I know who I am, and I am being me. But feeling bummed that who I am is someone people take note of.

I know this is stupid. Hormones, probably, even. Just today when my teacher was checking to see if I had to drop out of her class for health reasons, she got all excited when she found out I could stay, and went on and on about how I ask good questions, etc. And so she notices, right? But it’s different. It’s not someone liking you, the real you. Immediately I thought of all the friends who’ve bailed me out and taken care of me over the last semester. But they weren’t anyone from school.

Maybe that’s part of it. That I’ve never really felt comfortable with any of my classmates, always trying to win their friendship instead of falling into that easy friendship that you don’t have to try for. The friendships that I thought were made on campus have been greatly strained over the last semester, and I don’t think those friendships were what I had hoped they were. Two years, and they still feel awkward and complicated and polite on a certain level. And I watch my classmates, and most of them look like they belong here, that the campus is their natural habitat. And they interact easily with each other.

And this is not the first time I’ve felt myself standing on the outside looking in. I’ve done it many times; and you’d think the smarting would wear off. Instead it takes on a mocking tone: yes, still. Always. It’s you, of course, so you’ll always be standing outside and looking in.

And it always makes me wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t seem to enter circles. “Everyone” else can, why not me? I used to wonder if it was my upbringing. Or perhaps there was something “wrong” with me, like an autism-spectrum type of malfunctioning. I’m beginning to suspect that I’m just different, for all the good and the bad that implies. One of my brothers used to complain he hated being fake to make people like him. I indignantly replied that I wasn’t being fake with people, and he allowed I was just more of a people person than him.

I’m finally starting to see what he was saying. I mean, I can chat people up. I can be friendly in the grocery store. But being “friendly” doesn’t help me out over the two-year long haul, and I can’t fake that I like sitting outside looking at our phones together or talking endlessly about someone’s pet cat and I can’t pretend I like drinking or short haircuts or yoga or trashy attitudes. I can’t squeal over instagram posts, or swear about job situations.

So I’m on the outside looking in because, really, I don’t want to go in. Sometimes I find people who are also on the outside, and sometimes we become fast friends in a way that makes me wonder how two people can just know with the most minor interaction that they’ll stick together. But that’s rare, and for the most part, that’s ok. I can’t handle too many people–I’m a small groups or one-on-one kinda person.

But other times, I look around, and it seems like everyone else has got theirs. Their friends, their significant others, their multiple social circles. And I just feel like, hey–what about me? Why doesn’t anyone want me?

They do. It’s not like I’m totally alone. But I am the stranger on the outside looking in. The polite stranger. The cheerful stranger. The people-person stranger.

I could spin it that it was the price to pay for being independent and unique and brilliant. Maybe, in some shade, some of that is true. I do think it’s not a sign of something be “wrong” with me any more, even when sometimes it feels that way.

But I guess I’ve spent a certain amount of time, wishing people or someone would “discover” me. When you realize mostly that no one is looking for you because you aren’t something they want, it kinda smarts. But having hashed it all out, I almost begin to think that it’s more like I belong to some kind of secret society, and that we recognize each other when we find each other. And there’s not very many of us, but we do have something that others don’t. What? Je na sais pas. One has to assume there are many of these secret societies out there, each with their own “thing.”

Why should this be a comforting thought? I suppose because it is a thought of “belonging” and it is the sense of “not belonging” that weighs me down. It is not so very much that there is a certain individual I wish would notice me or a clique I want to join. It’s the sense of feeling alienated and isolated that I just stew in all day at school that wears me out. Two years with the same group of people, and still on the outside of it. It’s not going to change in these final five weeks.

The fearful thing, of course, is that it will never change. And since it’s a secret society, you can’t look up the membership list, so you never know how long it will be between chance meetings that lead to real friendship. I go through a rather lot, I think.

I don’t want a people that I belong to; I want people that belong to me. I doubt very much that phrase makes sense to anyone other than me, but it does make sense to me.

Cravings

I’m craving sugar and caffeine and I’m angry at the world. Possibly, these two things are related.

The rheumatologist today told me (in the sweetest way possible; he was a really nice guy–but, still) that I wasn’t his problem, and probably if I waited it would all go away.

That made me mad, although I recognize it’s not his fault I don’t have a problem that he can fix. I’m just mad to be defied (yet again) answers, solutions, plans or assistance. And while I’ve heard that both sugar and caffeine can be addicting, my guess is that currently it has more to do like feeling like I “deserve it.” I had a rough morning; no news from the long awaited, greatly anticipated specialist visit, a cranky list of errands. And I was basically told that as far as my health goes, I’m on my own.

Which I think part of me already knew, but since I’m a loan suffering brave soul, clearly I’m in need of compensation. Clearly. And binge eating on chocolate and drinking coffee sounds like a good place to start.

And I tell myself that’s precisely why I shouldn’t eat it. Because I’m not saying, “I’m hungry, get me some carbs.” And I’m not even really saying, “I’m tired”–although I am — “get me some coffee.” I’m saying, “I’m grouchy and pouting and I don’t like all of the things, and someone should make me HAPPY!”

I didn’t enter into this diet lightly; in entered into it because I figured out in some part of me that as far as actually getting better, I was pretty much on my own. I’m not abstaining from sugar and caffeine because I’m all holier-than-thou; I’m putting myself on a 6-week course of “medication.” Eating the cheap chocolate I happen to know is sitting in the drawer beside me — or drinking that awesome chilled coffee I have yet to properly dump from the fridge (maybe I just like the idea that it’s there?) — sounds like a really good idea in the short term. Like, right NOW. But I’ve just spent 3 months in “relative” agony, and no one is going to help me. If my last ditch to regain some function involves not eating a few things for a mere 50 days or so, am I really going to chose another 6 months or more of agony over the temptation of cheap chocolate?

I mean, it’s Day 2. Anything could happen.

But I want the answer to be, no, of course not, stupid. No, of course not; you act as though I don’t even have a modicum of self-restraint, like I’m an immoral person, a base animal. But the truth is, I’m not sure if I do have a modicum of self-restraint, and I think perhaps I am a base animal. And what’s to be done about that, hmm?

I just think that a big part of all of this is considering the “why’s”. Why don’t I have any self-restraint when it comes to irrational anger or irrational eating habits? What’s my problem really, because I do believe it is something deeper than, oh, disappointment over no new news, or an environmental conditioning to sugar consumption. People bristle at the idea of us acting as base animals, because they want to feel good, and being described as a base animal doesn’t feel good. But there’s a good lesson to be learned from wound care, which is, sure, you can just slap a bandage on it and pretend it isn’t there. But if anything is going to heal, it needs to be confronted, exposed, cleaned, observed and regularly attended to. Saying we aren’t acting in very base ways is usually just a lie we tell ourselves because we don’t want to attend to the stinking, oozing wound that is screaming, “problem! Problem!! PEOPLE, WE GOT A PROBLEM OVER HERE!!!!”

I get that part of the reason why I’m craving sugar and caffeine is precisely because I told myself I couldn’t have it. The forbidden fruit always has such a dreamy aroma. But more than that, I think I just want to exert my own importance. Life sucks, but I’M THE QUEEN! My to-do list scares me till my stomach knots up, but I got da shuga! I have no control over my limited function, and the doctors are no use to me, but at least I’m full and happy! Everything is going wrong, so what is one way in which everything can be safe and all right? Good food.

The thing is, um, guess what. No, actually, you aren’t the queen. I don’t mean it to be rude; but it would be better to figure out how to live in your lowly appointment than to continue going around with delusions of grandeur. I mean, in the US of A, we tend to take things like out-stepping your authority pretty lightly–or applaud it, even. Places who take these things more literally, delusions of grandeur can get you killed. And my gut instinct is, like sugar, declaring you’re the queen feels good in the short run and kills you in the long run.

What’s the cure? I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking, if I’ve been abusing sugar like that (for goodness knows how long), it’s probably really good for me to take a break from it, regardless of it’s impact on my health. My hair may or may not get shiner, my teeth whiter, and my health ratchet up several brackets of stardom, but mentally, emotionally, psychologically, it’s probably time to step away from the sugar. So if the sugar problem is just an extension of the queen problem, then it’s probably. . .time to start practicing being small?

I will be bluntly clear that I don’t really know how. And that it probably isn’t fun. I’m not going to paint smiley rainbows over this. It really stinks that I can’t fix my health on my time frame, e.g. NOW. And it really stinks, the school work and the errands.

But. . .

This is the day that THE LORD has made.

Not the day that I made.

And the “I will rejoice and be glad,” sounds a whole lot more like submission, and a whole lot less like being the queen.

Speechless

I just feel like I’m mad and grouchy and done, and so far it’s only been one day of school. I wonder how I ever made it through the last semester, and I’m scared for the next six weeks. I tell myself things like “just make a list of what you need to do this evening and do it” and “at least you got some time to spend out doors. even if it was napping exhaustedly.” But what I really am is resentful that I’m back in class.

Back where people have the audacity to insist on evaluating if I’m learning. Back with the stress of needing to retain everything, to pass the licensing exam or to be a competent clinician. Back to literally watching the clock and begging to be let out soon. And back to the awkward dynamics of classmates who are friendly, but really won’t be my friends beyond school.

I’m just so tired, and I wish people would stop asking things of me. Even asking me to be sociable. I know it’s not good to isolate myself, and that avoiding all social situations only makes the awkwardness and loneliness worse. But when I feel like snarling and snapping and barring my teeth, I feel like it’s time to go. People seem to think that’s not acceptable behavior, but I just feel like I don’t have the energy for any thing else.

I have been complaining to God that He never seems to show up in the basement of school, where I have all my classes. People say He uses us like paint, uses us as His ministers, that He works through us in ways we don’t understand. But it’s hard to even pretend any of that, when your afternoon consisted of trying to find a way to stay seated for two hours. Not speaking. Not taking notes. Not even, really, learning much. Just trying one position after another in attempt to stay up right, because guess what? Sitting upright takes muscles, and I don’t have much of those left. Really, God? What’s that supposed to mean?

It’s not that I resent hardship. I do resent hardship with no apparent purpose. And maybe the fault there lies in the inability to see “apparent” things, I don’t know. Sometimes I think of Elijah (Elisha?) praying for the eyes of his servant to be opened, so he could see that “more are those that are with us than those that are with them.” The pointlessness and stupidness and unproductive and senseless nature of all of this has bothered me immensely. But just because I can’t see the reason, doesn’t, I suppose, mean there wasn’t one.

I know that on an intellectual level, but on a day to day level, I know I am frustrated and resentful. There’s a long line of errands to do tomorrow, none of them really that hard, and I guess the list really isn’t that long. But it feels that way, because I’m so incapable of handling anything right now. And all those things are going to be so hard tomorrow, and for what? Such a huge investment of energy of all the resources I have, with precious little to show for it. And that makes me made, because if I have to work that hard for it, suffer that long for it, I want to see something come of it. I want to see something.

And tomorrow is just an allegory–a metaphor?–for these next six weeks. Unreasonably hard and trying. Precious little to show for it. No real meaningful point that I can tell. Awkward and lonely and sad. Like the last semester. It’s not exactly that I’m desperate to get better as much as I’m desperate for either (a) less effort or else (b) more meaning. If it’s going to be meaningless, it shouldn’t be this hard. And if it’s going to be this hard, it should be meaningful. This feels more like, I don’t know, being flogged for a crime you didn’t commit.

Funny choice of words, that, since it’s exactly what happened to Jesus. Somehow He went through with it all. But I do feel so directionless, and it seems like Jesus was never directionless. Although it does say He often withdrew to pray. I thought maybe these six weeks could be a time of me withdrawing to pray, but I don’t even know what to pray, or how to listen. I feel like, well, I already said what I wanted to say. And He can answer whatever He wants, any time right now. So. . .what’s left?

That’s not very elegant. I know that. But it is pretty honest. The truth is, I’m like the mouthy son who goes off to work anyhow. I’m complaining, and I’m mad, but I am still trying to be obedient to what was asked of me. Sort of like Job, I’m complaining, look, could things please just make sense? Because none of this makes sense. But God doesn’t seem to answer those prayers. So it feels like maybe we’re not allowed to pray those prayers. But I don’t know what to pray instead. “Please stop hurting me,” comes to mind, but it’s kind of hard for me to get behind it, because I know that compared to the alternatives, I’m being quite protected.

God must have a plan. God does have a plan. But then why is it so far away from me that all I can see is trying to figure out how to sit relatively up-right, and how to go about getting broccoli? I want to be let in on the secret. “There’s a very good reason why you had to wait 3 months to see a specialist; here’s why:. . .” Instead, I feel like all I get is, “No, you can’t quit life. Yes, you really do have to get up tomorrow.”

Well, darn.

What else am I supposed to say?

 

Discipline and Disciple

My first thought is, “Oh my gosh, this is going to take so much discipline.”

To not worry.

To not pack the knapsack the the night before, not double-check the school website, not insist on writing that one last email before bed. To stick to the new diet when it feel so odd and seems to be so expensive. To go to bed with the sun when the to-do list isn’t done. To not panic when I see that class is half an hour earlier than I thought it was.

I apparently have a hair-trigger on panic right now. Everything seems like a crisis. I have to remind myself again and again, “God has a plan. God already knew that. There’s still plenty of time for God.

But my second thought is, “Wait, discipline?” I’ve felt for  a long time that it bodes very ill for my internal state when I catch myself thinking “I’VE worked so hard. . .” I’ve? “I’ve” means my head isn’t screwed on straight. It means I’m still thinking it all depends on me. What does discipline mean? At first blush, I thought it was just a fancier word for “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Come on; be disciplined! Do it!

But I wonder. The word “discipline” and “disciple” are so similar. They both have their root in being taught. I think that is the thing that I need to keep in strong focus. It’s not about what I’m learning, but who I’m learning it from. Going to bed earlier doesn’t do a thing to make me righteous. The act is in no way morally superior.

But to go to bed earlier, I have to trust that the things that weigh on me are smaller than God, and that God is more well pleased by my rest than by my anxiety. It’s not the act that matters. What matters is that it is an act of faith.

Travels and Travails

Driving back up to school, I can see why travelers like to keep journals of their, well, journeys. There’s so much to see, so much you try to just inscribe in your memory.

Right now, I’m pulled over in a little parking area by a river, a small patch of pavement with a fishing access adjacent. I walked down by the river, and remembered the first time I’d driven up to school, the first time I’d stopped at this spot, the first time I’d sat down by this river. I’d cried. Cried with a visceral pain of leaving my family behind. It’s still there, every time I leave, though sometimes it is more raw than other times.

But there was also a feeling of fierce determination and deep conviction that this was needed. That I needed time where it was just me and God, and not my family. As good as my family is, being with them all the time made it really hard to hear my own thoughts, my own convictions, and to really pay attention to what God was trying to say to me. I needed time and space to understand who I was as an individual.

And I was right. Sitting again on the bank, thinking back over the intervening almost two years, I did really need that time and space. I has benefited me. It has allowed me to listen more to who God was calling me to be, who God has created me to be. But sitting on the bank also stirred up a feeling of, well, almost panic, I guess.

I’d fought so hard and long to get to school. To get time and space away from my family. And it has been really hard, and really good. But that time is coming to a close, and I don’t know what comes next, and it’s pretty terrifying.

I like maps. I like seeing the signposts as I pass, letting me know where I am, and I like looking ahead for the next signpost to tell me I’m still on the right track. The problem is, the map is running out. I’m passing the last few signposts I’ve known to look for, and next is: the great unknown. Uncharted territory. Blank paper instead of ink.

I guess some people find that thrilling and exciting and full of possibility and wonder. I just find it scary, and I find myself straining and straining for any sign of my bearings and of which way I should go next. It’s hard to know which are meaningful signs and which are really just deer trails, not meant for me to traverse.

I feel my heart sing while I drive over hills and through farm lands. I feel it sink with growing “civilization.” I feel the tension build with the sound of any motor; I feel it let go with music. I try to pay attention to every little longing and to confront the big longings, hoping there is some direction there. I try to catalog all the things that repulse me, make me sad, leave me feeling drained— in hopes that there is guidance there. I keep trying to tell God that He has to give me more clarity, that I don’t understand, that I’m confused and frustrated and so tired. It feels like I’m moving forward through time faster than there is any revelation of which way I’m going.

I know I need to live a God-centered life, but that seems so hard when it seems like God doesn’t want to reveal Himself or His will.

I was trying to explain to a friend last night that even with all the uncertainty and lack of clarity about how to even get through the next six weeks and the rest of this program, I didn’t really doubt that somehow, some way, I was going to get through it. The really terrifying thing is, what next?

I’ve spent so many years trying to understand myself as an individual, and who God really is in my life; I can’t now go back to living with my family. I love them. I miss them. I want to live near them. But I can’t have my life defined by co-existing with them. I just can’t. But the path to anything else seems non-existent, mostly impossible, and quite far-fetched.

God, I know You don’t give us the full map. You never do; that’s not Your way. But I need the next step. I need to know I’m moving in the right direction, even if I’m not there yet. I don’t need to know All Of The Things; I just need to know You haven’t forgotten me out here. I am just looking for that deep-seated conviction that, even if this is hard, it is right and true and good. That even through the tears, You are here. And I feel like You’ve withdrawn, held Yourself away. I know that is Your right; I know I can’t demand You show Yourself. I know our hope is supposed to be in You alone, not the things down here.

But I just don’t want to be lost. I don’t want to be alone. I want to know that You are God, and that I am Your disciple, and that being called as such means something. I want my life to take shape around You, but I still want it to take shape.

You brought me this far. Don’t leave me here.

It IS about the Journey

It’s so tempting to get hung up on the “product.” On figuring out the “right way” and telling people “how you did it,” or about the perfect plan or getting the best results. It’s tempting to get caught up in data collection and analyzing, goal setting, deciding what it is that has to be done.

But the truth is, it’s really not about “losing weight” or “getting healthy.” It’s really about living. Period.

Being able to take part in the activities you want to take part in. Being happy. Not having to say “no” or “I don’t feel like it” or “I can’t” or “I feel to self-conscious or clumsy.” It’s about looking at yourself in photos or in the mirror and say, “yes, that’s more or less who I meant to be.”

And I don’t want to be the person trying to sell “fitness” or “health” on their facebook, instagram, blog or other website. I don’t want to write that book, and I don’t want to join that clamor. I don’t want to show before and after pictures of how good my behind looks in form fitting clothes now. I just want to be able to climb mountains. I want to be able to work all day in the garden. I want to go on bike rides that last for hours. I want my body mass index to be something remotely close to healthy.

And honestly, the start of all that is, still, why am I not healthy? There’s a rheumotologist appointment finally coming up and then a follow-up with the naturopath. Sure, I want a cure. But to start with, I want someone to tell me why I’m not healthy. What went wrong?

And maybe someone will be able to pin it down to “something.” But at the same time, I know health is not an “event;” it’s a lifestyle. And something isn’t right with what I’ve been doing. Part of it is the stress, I’m sure. Stress is never healthy, but that’s a tough chestnut to crack. What all is making you stressed, and what all are the ways you’re coping?

Coping? Avoidance. Sugar. Coffee. White food. Avoidance. Ok, yes, before, long walks outside, probably the one good habit I had, but usually only on weekends. Sometimes music. Sometimes sleeping, or writing.

But I guess. . .maybe. . .partly what I am trying to get at is, we all have rough spots. Some days are hard. But what are you doing to really take care of yourself? I’ve noticed a few things I’ve tried to change. Like no phone or screen with food. It’s tempting, especially when you’re eating alone. It makes you feel less alone. But it also makes it so you don’t really remember what you ate, or what the morning was like, or the sunrise, or the sunset. And then you don’t go out and sit on the steps while you eat lunch. So I told myself, “the expectation is, no screens at meals.”

And that was good. It was really a lot more of an improvement than I thought. Show up for your own life, right? But it also made me think, what horrible things am I doing and over looking? Maybe horrible is too strong of a word. Maybe it’s not. Things sneak up on us. We don’t know, because once – or twice, maybe three times – nothing really makes a big difference. It’s the habit of it all. Like sugar. Like internet. Like sitting. None of those things gob-smacks you up the head the instant you do it, and gives you such a horrible experience you decide to never do that again. But the end result of the habit is devastating.

So what do I need to take seriously? Going to bed with the sun? Introspection, even if the sun is down? Timing how much time I spend outside? Being with people without an agenda – just visiting, for visiting’s sake? I mean, I know this isn’t a “puzzle-game” where if you slide all the right pieces in place, pop! your life is wonderful. But where are my blindsides? Where are the places where I’ve written myself so many excuse slips I’ve forgotten I even need them?

I know, I know. They wouldn’t be blindspots if we could see them. But maybe it’s time to go looking.

The Emperor Has No Clothes. . .And Is Overweight

Let’s be frank. There’s a lot of hellabaloo over “body shaming” and “body acceptance” and “all sizes are beautiful” and what have you. But that doesn’t change what we know.

We know we make judgements every day about what we see, from “that chair doesn’t look safe to sit on” to “this person appears to be in charge.” Pretending we don’t see things, or that things have no data attached to them, is silly.

Yes, we are overweight. No, that’s not always a sign of a body crisis or a psychological disorder or an obsession with a number. It’s the frank truth that we know and perceive that we’re carrying more weight than is health for us – for our internal organs, for our joints, for our function, for our ability to sleep, for thousands of things. Let’s not pretend that’s not the truth. It IS the truth.

The question I think we (those of us who are overweight, and I am) want to know is, what does that mean about us? How many times have we put “fat” and “lazy” together — that fat, lazy cat, etc. So when we realize that we are, indeed, fat (e.g. carrying more adipose tissue than is healthy for us), it is not just a realization of our physical condition. It automatically prompts a mini-crisis about our moral standing. Are we lazy? My gosh, it sure feels like I’m working hard enough. Are we undisciplined? Are we gluttons? Do we have poor work ethics? Do we make poor choices? Do we just not care what happens to our bodies? Are we stupid? Do we just not get cause and effect? Do we not value health? Do we live only for pleasure?

I could make arguments about all that. Mostly societal arguments, that says as a culture we’ve moved further and further away from authenticity, and we have to fight culture more and more to in order to live in a healthy manner. But the fact remains, regardless, that here we are. Now what?

And it’s easy for people to start throwing out diet suggestions and work out routines, but again, let’s be frank: the first question is really what do we do with the motions and self-evaluations? Hide from them? Wallow in them? Or, if we dare, wade into them and sort them out and see which ones we can learn from?

One little thing I’ve managed to grasp or gnaw at is that I view my body and my health as a given (or I did, prior to the bubonic plague). Sure, it would be nice to take extra good care of it; everyone knows exercise is good and that you should probably only have one brownie. But essentially, I deserve to have a body that is functioning well, and generally speaking, that’s the body I will have.

Now this is subconscious. Not conscious. Trust me. I’ve cared for enough elderly people on the way out the door, helped enough people out of bed who can barely make it to the chair. I “know” death and sickness happens to us all. Just this modus operandi of “my body works for me, and I’ve got stuff to do, so body care is just going to take last priority while I put out all of these other fires, and ‘someday’ I’ll return to dutiful body care.”

This seemed like it made sense. Prioritize emergencies first. Once “the scene is safe,” then attend to sundry things. Problem is, by my count, I my “state of emergency” has lasted almost 7 years now. Little wonder, to me, that stuff has finally hit the fan (whether you agree with my declaration of a spiritual problem or if you insist on one-dimensional theories of physics, biology and chemistry). And the fact is, even if I “get better” — even if this isn’t a chronic condition that will follow me throughout my life — there’s no going back to what those 7 years were like, because those were seven years of burning my body like fuel on a fire. Something has to change, so I have to take that painful look at what the heck went wrong.

And this is the thing, I think–well, one of the things. It’s that the god of achievement leaves no room for that think called “maintenance,” or even better, “tender, loving care.” People, there is STUFF that NEEDS to be DONE! Do the things, so you can do the things, so you can do the things, so you can ACHIEVE!

I have to go to school, so I can pass my classes, so I can complete the program, so I can get a job, so I can get a life. In this line of thinking, it some how seems to make sense to drag your sick body to school, barely able to interact with anyone or even keep yourself propped up in the chair, because Deadlines. Stupid? Not in the moment. Rational. Have to pass classes. Have to complete program. Seven years of this insanity, in one form or another.

And the opposite, unfortunately, rings irrational to the ear. Trash my understanding of the course material to make it to a gym? Skip class to day dream and write? Make a priority out of going for a hike instead of turning in an assignment?

Oh, I am such a sucker for the phrase “the expectation.” Whether the expectation is that I’ll come in for work regardless of illness or the expectation is that since I’m a graduate student I’ll never miss a minute of class, that insinuation hooks right in to my sense of guilt and duty and obligation, and drags me along like a senseless being. I’m “expected” to show up, so I will, because no one has given me permission to not. Do I belong here? Heck, I’m here only because one said I could go! Please, please, please give me permission to Not Show Up.

Nobody ever gives you that permission, not even while they’re saying “your health comes first” and “take care of yourself.” They always finish up with “just do what you can do.” People, we don’t really know what all it is we can do till we die in the process. Is that really how you want me to approach this?

And then people tell you you’re fat because you’re lazy. I’m not lazy. I just poured myself out on the wrong stuff, is all. I think maybe, because part of me is still hooked on guilt and is trying to say, “look, sometimes you have to make sacrifices.” Yeah, but sacrifices to what? The god of Achievement? How’s that workin’ out for you? How about sacrificing the god of Achievement on, gosh, I don’t know, nearly any other altar, or just straight up killing the god and getting on with your life without that kind of guilt and bondage?

Easier said than done. I had to enter in my work and academic history today. I felt a little bad anytime I saw an A- next to all the A’s and A+’s and noticed the thought flitting by in my head — why couldn’t I have just tried a little harder? What went wrong that I couldn’t get those few extra points?

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME THAT I CARE ABOUT A LITTLE DASH OF BLACK INK ON A STUPID PIECE OF PAPER?

That’s my problem. Not an insatiable desire for food. Not an abhorrence to exercise. Not a desire to sit in front of a screen instead of go outside. Not a lack of curiosity about the world. My problem is, faced with the “expectations” of others and my own good common sense, I fold to the “expectations.” My problem is, I have convictions in theory, and fling them on the side of the road when faced with the “threat” of “failure.” My problem is, I know darn well what is good for me, and pretend I have no other choice, because I’m afraid to defy the established norms of what I perceive to be my responsibility. I “have” to, and so I “can’t” do otherwise.

It’s hard to admit to myself that I’m a coward.

But that’s the only way to go looking for courage.

And if courage is what it takes to get out of the spiral of destruction of the last 7 years, then I guess courage is what I need.

 

Deserved Opinions

Lately I have been hearing people talk about “deserving to be here.” And I’ve struggled to relate. I am where I am. It just is, it’s not a question of deserving or not deserving. But I find that I don’t actually feel like I “deserve” to state what I do or do not value.

I mean, I can state things that make me angry or upset. I can toss out casual preferences. But in terms of really holding that the things that I think are important, ARE important–if only to me, but it is me only that things need to be important. Not in a self-absorbed sort of way, but in the honest fact that the only person in the universe who is me, is me, and it is me that I have to be, and ought to be, and am–regardless of how hard I might at times try to mute that.

I often struggle with this in terms of things I haven’t tried yet. Who am I to say I shouldn’t want to pursue things that “people” say would be good for me? Who am I to declare that I want to pursue things that “people” say would not benefit me?

I know part of this reason is that I have a strong negative reaction to, well, people who have strong negative reactions. People adamantly make declarations of the worth of things they’ve never experienced. But that’s not the whole picture, and I feel like it’s time to poke at that part of me a bit.

Because I feel like it partly has to do with trying too hard. Because the times when I most find myself enjoying myself and excelling are in things I’ve nearly stumbled into by accident or haven’t attempted to schedule, plan, discipline, scheme, goal-set or achieve. One might think that is because the scheduling, etc., becomes itself a burden, but one would be quite wrong. I enjoy scheduling and planning and scheming.

I think it’s because I drink too much from the well of “ought.” Of other peoples’ ideas promulgated regarding success, and the worth of measuring things. Of the religion of hard work and discipline accomplishing all things. It’s a powerful idea, because it promotes the glorification of self. But mixed in with that is the idea that, you know, it’s allowed to be unpleasant, because that’s part of hard work and discipline. Sacrificing yourself for your goals is indeed part of the process.

So when I say, “yeah, but I don’t want to,” I immediately feel guilty. Shirking the valuable experiences that would shape me into a better person. If I was disciplined, if I didn’t avoid pain that made me grow, if I was willing to be challenged. . .if, if, if. But why can’t I simply value that I don’t want to?

Why is that something that is supposed to be smooshed, instead of acknowledged as part of my person? Why is it not okay for me to simply accept that some people do some things and other people do other things, and this is simply not something I want to choose to do? Instead, I feel this guilt to somehow conform and perform, instead of assert the authenticity of who I am, including: Not That. And including: Yes, That. Both halves.

Because, I don’t know, it seems rude to assert you aren’t something when you’ve not yet tried it. Because it seems like a value judgement on other people. By refusing what other people say is important, it feels like disputing their value. And also sometimes, feeling as though I have to justify what I feel is important by demonstrating it’s value in terms that other people can understand.

Yet I know I am my most valuable when I am most myself. And I am not most myself when I am acting from a place of fear, insecurity or people-pleasing (and there is a fine but very important line between serving people and pleasing people). All things that I am continually acting out of.

But one does have to say “no” before one can say “yes,” and I am pathetically poor at saying “no,” especially to fear, insecurity or people-pleasing.

Last night I was looking at books that claim to help you do just that, and just feeling so frustrated. It doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing that you should actually have to read a book about, and it nearly doesn’t seem like a thing that reading a book would help. I do know I need to say “no;” what will more words help? And yet at the same time, if “knowing” is enough, why, for years on end, have I not said “no”? (There is some reflection there of the inadequacy of discipline and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps as being effective means of actually solving problems.)

But that in and of itself is part of the problem: saying, “part of who I authentically am is someone who is struggling to say no to things she knows she should say no to; and part of who I authentically am is someone who sometimes finds benefits in hearing other people talk through the same problem.” That is an exceptionally true statement, but yet I’m–for lack of a better word–afraid of what people would think of me with things that are frequently labeled self-help (ironic, in the sense that by the time you are trying to see what other people have to say in the matter, you have actually already moved beyond “self” help).

It is one thing to say it is valid to be yourself. But it’s another to actually act on that. I’m here, because I’m here. I’m sick, because I’m sick. But what do I say “no” to, and what do I still pursue?

And some people like to say, “How you respond to your circumstances in your control!” But I don’t think that’s fair or complete, and I think it’s terribly misleading, and I think it’s barely true on the superficial level. I am who I am. But part of “choosing” is choosing to honor who I already am. I don’t think change involves struggling to be a different person. I think change involves reconciling who I really am with who it is I am acting in, resolving conflict rather than causing it. Some people think that growth only comes through hard things and that resolving conflict rather than fighting to overcome conflict is taking the easy way out. But they’re only half-right. Resolving conflict is nearly always more difficult than fighting through conflict, and the rewards are almost always far greater.

But I still feel like I’m only saying what I “know,” and I’m still very much doubting my ability to respond with the appropriate action.

 

 

Wilderness

I never used to understand why there were so many people writing online about their “health journeys.” I understand better, now, I think. It’s not so much about wanting others to hear, but about trying to process things yourself. And maybe a little about wanting to be heard, actually; being sick can be very isolating and make you feel very lonely and misunderstood. Do we want sympathy? Maybe; what human doesn’t want a little sympathy?

But, for one certain thing, it’s not because I think it’s in any way interesting to anyone else. It’s not. Nor will it be scientific or instructional or informative. It’s venting, that’s all, and trying so straighten out one’s ability to meet it head on.

It’s a bit peculiar, I suppose, but I’ve always felt like this was a spiritual problem more than a physical problem. I mean, yes, my body is physically affected. But when I first started getting sick, I though, “well, here we go; you knew this was coming.” I mean, I knew I couldn’t let go of school, knew I couldn’t let go of perfectionism, or try-hardism, or trying to prove myself as good enough. There were warning signs that was a lesson I needed to learn, and I tried to learn it, but I couldn’t. I knew it would take something more drastic, and isn’t this just?

And I’ve always felt resigned going to the doctors. I’ve never felt like they could really fix anything. Just hoops I have to jump through. But really, I’m not going to get better until I learn. I mean, I’ve cried out for mercy, and for wisdom for the doctors. But I’ve just never been able to really convince myself that my REAL problem is my perplexing health issues.

I’ve schemed a little about “rehab,” about fixing my problems. But they’ve been flat on the lips. I’ve tried data collection, which “seems” smart, but for me seemed pointless. Collecting physical data on what you know to be a spiritual problem is not going to be particularly helpful.

I don’t mean that in the sense of “my problem does not involve physical atoms or biology.” I mean, I don’t know – I think we have a pretty poor imagination regarding how the spiritual world and the physical world interact. But I think the point of it is, the real point of it, is that I do need to learn something that is very hard for me to learn.

People talk about making “accountability” pacts with each other, but that still doesn’t ring true to me. I don’t really think we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, discipline ourselves into being “better” or “more spiritual.” I think all we can really do is recognize our lack and seek God. And when I think about how to do that, I don’t think it’s about devotionals or the proper frame of mind or attitude (gratitude, guilt, etc). What I think of is Jesus: withdrawing to the wilderness to pray.

It is tempting to think that changing my diet and aggressively sticking to an exercise regimen will be helpful in alleviating my symptoms. But if it’s not of faith, what will it profit? To me, this is not about saying “everything is of faith, so never mind the action.” The point is like what James says: faith leads to action. Words (or actions) without faith profits little, and “faith” without action profits little.

I do think I can’t just keep sitting around moping. I just think that it has to be in a conscience choice to chose things as more valuable than school, not in a desperate attempt to selvedge school. I just think the point can’t be in hoping that an AIP diet or fasting or whatever is going to “fix” me. It has to be about, for lack of a better explanation, about withdrawing to the wilderness.

Into the quietness. Away from the people who tell you what you are supposed to be all about, about what is approved. And into the presence of God, who so much more often speaks in a still, small voice rather than the whirlwind or earthquake.

And I guess this is a slightly lengthy introduction to part of that for me, which is writing. I write a lot all the time, but I have a lot on my plate right now, and a lot to think about. I guess I just want to set aside this place to remind myself carefully (over the next 6 weeks, at least), that this is not about the “doing” but rather the “being.” To spend time looking at my thoughts and heart, and to try to seek and listen and pay attention to what God is doing.

I really want to commit to trying to taking care of my body, a temple long neglected. I really do think that exercising and giving my digestive system a break would be good steps. But I want to stay focused on the fact that those things are not enough, and aren’t the point. That they’re ancillary to the fact that I need to seek God. But that claiming to be “seeking” without really putting anything on the line is just faking it. It’s one thing to say, “Oh, I know this happened to me to get me to chose something other than being good enough in school. I know this happened to get me to listen to God.” But if you don’t actually make the chose to do the other, to say, oh well, school, I’m going to attend this temple–of what use are all those “knows” to you?

That I have to do, yes, but that it really, really matters why and how. And that I need to stop obsessing with the raw desperation to do and attend deliberately to the why and how. And I, personally, cannot do that without writing.  I need to do–I need to not kinda, sorta, a little bit plan on doing. I need to commit, I need to follow through, I need to do. But it cannot be divorced from the other, and I need to do both or it will turn terribly bitter and wasted.

Lord, be with me.