Monday, February 20, 2017

When It's Not Comeback Time

This undefeated stuff is hard. The last couple weeks have felt like a perfect storm, and I’m not sure I’m in the clear yet. I tend to write when I’m in the learning place, where lots of exciting connections are happening and ideas are bubbling up and life seems to be in an upward spiral. It’s like three quarters of the way through a movie - when music plays and you watch the person exercising and doing hobbies they always wished to do and just getting better. I LOVE that part. It goes fast and you can see improvement. I love it in my life too.

I’m less in love with the rest of life. The slow part. The part where you do what you thought was good, but it backfires. The part where you do the good and it doesn’t stack up to any obvious results. Or the part where you just can’t do the good you want to for whatever reason. For me that looks like my kids’ school friends talking about my napping, and a panic attack after trying a new work out, and reading a book to get out of my head and then being so engrossed in it, I’d rather my family didn’t bother me. Oh, and also, my sweet husband trying to make vegan mac ‘n cheese for me to eat at a Super Bowl party, only to not finish it in time and leave the kitchen a food-processing disaster.

Last week the shame gremlins (Brene Brown’s words) crowded around me. Why couldn’t I just be present and happy? Why didn’t I care what my daughter was trying to tell me? Why do I take naps when the rest of the world is working their butts off? If this is so hard, then change something! Just fix it!

It makes it hard to breathe deeply even now.

I fought those shame gremlins. I did. I told myself it was okay to be embarrassed and frustrated and even feel a little defeated. It was a S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E and it went on and on. It doesn’t feel like I won, even now when I’m pretty sure the clouds are going to break soonish.

The point of all this is, I judge times like this. I mark them, “BAD,” and want to hand them off. If it can’t be easy or at least rewarding, like a Hollywood comeback, you can keep it. At best, they seem like worthless space between the good times, necessary to endure. But guess what?

Cadence and I had a conversation one evening last week. Brian and Chandler were somewhere else, so it was just her and me in the living room. She talked and I listened and asked questions. It felt like time stood still. When I think back to last week, it stands out as a shining moment, like my greatest accomplishment and my greatest treasure. I’m a little shocked that something so brilliant could happen during that week. The one I’d written off as bad. The one I thought I was doing so poorly.

It makes me want to trust more. Trust in the mystery of good weeks and bad weeks and the way they change on a dime. I want to trust good gifts to come, even in hard times. Mostly, I want to trust that God and I are okay - that my struggle is not a barometer of the love between us. 

I hope you're week is off to a wonderful start. I hope you feel like you're kicking ass and taking names, but if not, it's not a waste. 

That's a lie. 

I'm not gonna say we can enjoy it all, but none of it's wasted. 


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Undefeated

Elizabeth Gilbert tells about her efforts toward becoming a published writer. Each time she received a rejection letter, she would mail her work to another publisher. She calls it an attitude of stubborn gladness. It seems there are people who take set-backs very seriously, and those who take them less seriously. I’ve tended towards the former, feeling set-backs are meaningful (See? You weren’t cut out for this.) and foreshadowing (This dream will not pan out.) They seemed like hard, cold facts. Evidence even.
But then there’s Liz and other optimists. If they can respond so differently to obstacles, and sometimes find fulfillment, then perhaps it isn’t evidence at all. Perhaps it’s just the road to giving up verses the road to a chance for success. The first approach boasts, “I’ll outsmart fate by not dreaming or trusting the odds. I can avoid disappointment entirely.” The problem is, you’re disappointed from the start. We're built for dreaming and seeing dreams come true, so by cutting that possibility out of our lives, we’re already gutted.
So what’s the alternative? Trust the odds. Or not just the odds, trust the universe, the larger plan, your purpose, God. Believe there’s more to life than what people esteem and more to our purpose than what our cohorts consider purposeful. Gilbert decided from the beginning never to expect her writing to support her. She promised to support it. She also knew she would write til the day she died even if she was never published. She believed her writing/her creativity had existential value and she did it for love of it. Unconditional love of it.
When rejection letters arrived, one after the other, they didn’t stand a chance of dashing Liz's hopes. They couldn’t convince her she was wasting her time. They were, on some level, superfluous to what she was doing. So while her track record could have been 0 in 300, she was undefeated.
Stubbornly optimistic.
Stubborn gladness.

This concept has ridden into my life like a hero on a white horse. I needed this anyway, but so much more with the mood of our country now. I hesitate to go on social media because I feel wiped after three minutes. How do I stay aware and ready to act without feeling sucked under? How do I enjoy life's blessings while others go without? I guess this has always been the case, but right now it feels the only acceptable response is grief, anger, disillusionment and shame for the security we enjoy. But here's the problem.

In yoga, there's talk about vibrations (low verses high). This all sounds pretty hokey and unscientific to the average westerner, but think about it. Anger and fear are low vibration, while joy is high. When you're in a place of low vibration (or low energy), you can't think up brilliant ideas or problem solve. When I get overwhelmed, even simple solutions elude me. We just aren't much help to anyone when we go there. 

However, high vibration or joy, is a place of strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength. How likely are you to fall off the wagon if the wagon is the most fun you've ever had? When we're in joy, we can stand strong and do good. Big good.

So I'm flexing my muscles. I'm painting paintings and listening to music and yoga-ing my heart out. It may look irreverent, but I'm keeping my vibration high so I will be ready. 

Ready to love my neighbor if it becomes illegal.

Ready to play the trickster to anything or anyone targeting people in the margins.


Stubborn gladness. 

When it seems impossible or even inappropriate, maybe that's when it's needed most. Tuesday, Brian and I sat in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant eating amazing food. People came and went: a man with a man-bun, a new mamma, an academic and a businessman. Different cultures, different genders, different orientations and certainly different world views. All of us together, peaceful and happy, appreciating the presence of the other.

I thought, "Look at us. We're doing this." It's so freakin' beautiful. I wanted to memorize it, appreciate it more deeply for the realization that it's fragile. If one thing's good about this moment, it's that many of us have decided to be guardians of good in a more conscious way than we ever have before.


Let's do so with stubborn gladness and we'll not be defeated.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Be Polite to Yourself


Once again, my mind has been blown by a book. This tiny book with the big title, has shifted me like a planet who's axis was off by a lot of degrees, but just got twenty closer to straight. It's Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. But more on that later.

Have you ever read a completely inspiring book? One that made you laugh and read bits out loud to anyone who made the mistake of being next to you? One that put sparkles in your eyes when you talked about it? Or if someone mentions they loved it, you gasp and try not to say, "I had no idea we were kindred spirits!" 

Have you also ruined it for yourself? I started to, multiple times with Big Magic. I'll tell you what I mean.

Once I was halfway through Big Magic, I'd feel elated after each reading. Joy mixed with excitement at all the possibilities and definitely, the brightness of hope. I dared to believe I could break free from the rule of my ego, to create with reckless abandon. I felt expansive, like I'd just taken a breath til my lungs filled to the tippy-top or I was a balloon getting light enough to take flight. 

Then a cloud would cover my soul's sun, because I'd have these thoughts. "You are fundamentally different from Liz (the author) in these ways: you are susceptible to pity parties, you tire easily, you give yourself a free pass sometimes but never know whether it was appropriate or not, guilt clobbers you. Basically, you don't know how the hell to manage yourself." 

To which the old me would try to argue logically against all the untruths presented. But this time, following Liz's example, I tried something new. I said, "Hello my friend, Fear. I'm aware you will freak out any time I'm about to take flight and you may have your moment, but that is all I'll allow of your sun-blocking tirade. I like how the sun feels. I'm curious where I'll end up if I let myself go. I believe I was made for this by virtue of BEING ALIVE and HUMAN and I also happen to believe it's exactly HOW I will learn to manage myself. I'm sure we'll have many more talks like this because I intend to continue to ascend." 

It's the craziest thing! It's been WAY more effective than my old arguments that went back and forth, back and forth, stressing me out and getting me stuck in my head. Nothing ever felt settled and using this weirdly formal, I'm-as-polite-as-can-be-but-I'm-still-the-boss voice, feels final. I haven't had to hash this out since I wrote it January 14th. 

It also feels peaceful and harmonious. I suppose that's because I'm not rejecting the part of me that's feeling Fear. I accept it, make space for it even, because it's natural. Liz suggests the only way to avoid fear is to live the most uninteresting life. Anyway, I'm ready to lavish myself with this charmingly polite voice. While it's very playful, she sometimes sounds like she actually knows how to handle herself. 


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Enoughness is Real

During Christmas break we traveled to Minnesota. The first morning there, we got ready (which is admittedly a task when your kids aren't used to living out of suitcases) and set off for the Mall of America. I've never seen it so busy. The noise and commotion was incredible and the thing about fatigue is, that kind of thing exhausts you. I already had a headache and after a tour through the American Girl store, I told Brian I needed to sit down. I was dizzy when I turned my head and my body felt shaky and weak.

He took my purse and led us to an unoccupied bench. I laid my head on his shoulder and breathed. Here I was, at the beginning of a big fun day, and my body was already done. I felt surprised and disappointed. I kept asking myself, "Don't you want to push through this and make it happen?" But the obvious answer from my body was, "I can't." It was a moment for me, there at the edge of my limitations. I could see my favorite store from where I was sitting and I imagined all the pretty things (which would normally make my heart flutter and give my feet wings). Nothing. I looked at my kids and heard Chandler say he wanted to visit the Lego store. Nothing. Tired put its foot down and there was nothing I could do.

Helpless. Powerless. Those are words I grappled with when I processed this experience in therapy. I asked myself what it meant to be overwhelmed by something. My trauma shouted, "You'll get hurt!" And truly, when something terrible has happened to you, these things are illogically connected: powerlessness and harm. But this isn't always the case. You can be overwhelmed by things that are okay and even good, like falling in love. My need for rest was overwhelming, but I wasn't harmed. So if powerlessness doesn't mean harm is pounding down my door, it's not a reason to panic.

And if it's not a reason to panic, I don't have to ask myself to always rise above everything. I realize I just used a ridiculous amount of superlatives, but that's exactly how ridiculous my expectations have been. I demanded I be strong enough to go toe to toe with any force in the universe and tried to puff myself up so big, they would all just slink away. I cheered myself on with things like, "If you want it badly enough..." fantasizing my desires were so powerful, anything opposing them would shrivel and die.

This has not been my experience, of course, and the discrepancy between how powerful I wish to be and how powerful (or in control) I actually am, tells me I'm not enough. Not even close.

Sitting in therapy, I pictured this (below) while I thought this thought: I am just one of the forces in nature. 



Sometimes I will overcome and sometimes I will be overcome. 

Also, I am human and get tired and need rest. This isn't bad. It's natural. Even my mall meltdown wasn't bad persay - it was a natural result of how hard I'd pushed in the weeks before Christmas and having fatigue. No big.

But it SEEMS big when you take it as proof that when harm comes, you won't have what it takes to ward it off. That's how my trauma translates situations where I encounter my limits. "See? You're like a sitting duck." If you're also a control freak, you may notice we avoid situations where we'll reach our limits and have to deal with the reality that we aren't all-powerful.

But it's okay that I'm not. Why? 

Because there's a force in the universe who is above me and below me and all around me who CAN go toe to toe with any force in the universe and win 

every 

single

time

Damn.

When harm comes, as it will, it can't touch my ultimate safety. God's all around me and no force can get through him to touch the real me. Who I am, everything about me, is hidden in Christ. Come hell or high water or loss or death, I am safe. 

So what does this do for my efforts to orchestrate life? 

I feel like I've been standing at the front of a classroom, and the teacher has just asked me to take my seat so she can get on with things. Oh, I don't have to run this show? 

I sit down in my rightful place and feel the relief. There's instant stress in hustling to be as strong as God. We weren't made for it and we know it. We see how far we fall short and decide we aren't enough.

But from my desk, I realize no one asked me to be up front or have all the answers. 

I was always supposed to just sit here and learn. I can do that. 

So I'm enough. For real.





Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Why It's a Happy New Year

Last year at this time, I struggled when people wished me a happy new year. Mainly because I was sickno one had been able to help me feel better and we were in enough debt, I didn't feel I could keep looking for a "cure." Hopes that my kids would remember my tired years as a blip on their childhood's panorama were fading. I felt angry and hopeless about it. I've talked about this before, but I want you to know how different I feel here, at the beginning of 2017.

And it's not that I'm feeling awesome. No, I wore myself down doing all the Christmassing and was exhausted my entire vacation. But in the past year, I've seen my body working hard to get better and actually finding some success with my healing diet and therapy. The wrist I couldn't heal is vastly better, though not yet normal. I've lost much of the weight I gained during the stress of other treatments. But mostly, I have my faith back. 

When I was hopeless, I read a book called Medical Medium by Anthony William that reminded me of some important things: God is on my side. I was created to heal. Everything I do helps. 

For the many struggling to face this new year, I'd like to unpack those three things since they're central to hope, no matter what your struggle is. 

God is on my side. Why is this so hard to believe? Because we live within a structure of illusions designed to convince us she isn't. But God, the universe, angels, nature...they're all rooting for us and aiding us toward wellness. Did you know Teddy Roosevelt went into nature to heal his soul after losing his wife and mother within a short period of time? It's why he started the national parks - because nature can minister to our withering hearts. It's all therapy - sunshine, bird song, letting water hold you as you float on it's surface. They're all gifts planned for you, knowing you'd encounter struggle on your path. 

I was made to heal. The struggles we encounter on our path are real and deal heavy blows. Our souls and bodies suffer as a result and the suffering doesn't magically stop when we are physically or chronologically past it. But if we keep walking, we'll find opportunities for healing. When I heard of a small girl who'd been mistreated by her father the way I was, I told her mom she could heal. Redemption isn't just an eternal destiny. It's life blood that can bring life back to all our dead limbs. 

Everything I do helps. The hardest part of hope is believing I can take me where I need to go. Sometimes I don't know how to get there and sometimes I know how, but can't muster the courage or energy or brainpower to do it. But no effort is wasted. Even when we do the wrong things (things that aren't helpful) we are learning what not to do. The universe sees our effort and blesses us in other places. When we take our multivitamin, when we drink more water, when we say no to a commitment we know is too much, it all helps. If we want to have faith and believe in our own momentum, we have to stop looking at all the good things we haven't found our way to do and celebrate all the good things we have managed. 

When I pull these truths in and hold them close, I wonder how I could manage to NOT find my way. We live on a stage of loving kindness, set by the one who doesn't change. The Bible says if we see the sun rise, we just got a fresh scoop of his grace. And it's not the grace that acquits us and walks away. She follows us around with kindnesses that will never, ever stop. 

We are freakin' beloved. 

I am freakin' beloved.

You are freakin' beloved.

Bring it 2017. 

I will bask in this love that is mine.  



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Door Is Open


At one of my EMDR sessions, I came across these questions:

What if I'm a free spirit? What if all my rules and structure are a cage to me? They don't calm me down or help me feel at ease. I feel trapped instead, like someone's holding me under water. 

What if I'm a bird? Then walking isn't my thing. But I thought it was, so I used my short little legs to climb my life-mountain instead of flying to the top. No wonder I'm exhausted. There's a better way to do this. 

What if my cage door is open?

Then I thought about this:

Baby birds leave the nest before they know how to fly. They have to fall and hop around until they find it. They don't want to because it's scary...so much safer to stay close to the ground. But it's not a mistake to do life the way you were created to. So I tried saying the following to myself, to see if it felt true.  

It's safe to be myself.

It's safe to be the way you made me.

I can trust the way you made me. 

I'll find it much easier if I surrender/accept your design (of me).

I've lived my life idealizing one type of person: the focused, practical, strategic person. Brene Brown says we have to come to terms with the differences between who we'd hoped to be and who we actually are. Up until the last year, I was okay holding out hope to be that person and still making efforts to become her. But in the last year, it's become increasingly uncomfortable to alter myself. I used to be okay skewing myself around certain people who I thought needed me to be a certain way. But I just can't. Not anymore. I've never felt such a need to be true, true, true. Anything less is suddenly unpalatable.

It's now, when pretending and hiding become unbearable, that the leap of being myself and putting myself out there doesn't look as bad. Lately I've been taking little baby hops outside my cage. I've been exploring how life can look if I don't take issue with LOTS OF THINGS about me. Sure, I go back and sit in my cage sometimes. But when I remember the door is open, I also remember how good it was when I was carrying on out there, liking myself and all. "This is a comfort rut," I tell myself, "and I don't have to stay here."

Not when happiness is out there. 

Also crazy and unknown and wild. 

But also free and joy

And having tasted it, there are very few days when staying sounds good anymore.




Thursday, November 17, 2016

Health Struggles Called the True Me Home

So last I wrote, I was giving myself permission to be myself again. The girl with less control and more fun, less discipline and more abandon. Well...

It's. Been. Amazing.

It started just before I threw this Halloween party. I'm an ewok, of course.



The party was looming and I was overwhelmed, afraid I'd run out of energy before the finish line.) My mom advised me to go "hog wild" in my party planning. I did and it made all the difference. Some of my energy must have been soaked up just by worrying about when I'd run out of energy. Trying to be too strategic and methodical is a drag for me. I'm all fits and starts and bursts of dazzling, but random, energy. It's not something I was ever meant to mete out. And I have to say, this free-for-all feels pretty damn good.

As with most of my earth-shattering discoveries, it can be found in a book. The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle talks about how we each move through life in a way that's best described by the four elements: earth, water, fire and air. She explains how valuable and purposeful each kind of person is and how as parents, we can support and honor our kids in their natural gifts. This safeguards us from trying to mold them into what we consider the ideal individual - or even to be like us, since we know how that works. Kind of. 

In looking to help my kids, I discovered my energy movement is air. I'm the person who's an idea factory and if you could see my ideas being made, pom poms and glitter and stars would shoot out from time to time. I'm always thinking about new stuff. New ways to do things, new ways to say things, new ways things could look. It's what I'm about. The perfect pairing for my ideas is my positive belief that they are possible. It's an incredible design. And do you know what my greatest need is? Wait for it...fun. 

In junior high, we went to church with a family of boys who lived in the country. They had a pool and they'd go exploring on their property. Once we went to eat lunch at their house after church and their mom came out of her bedroom in shorts and a t-shirt. "I had to get into my cookin' clothes!" I'd fantasize about being a part of their family. It looked like so much fun!

There's a lot more to it, but generally, I've learned that I'm okay. Not even just okay, I'm good. God made me as a gift to the world and he hasn't been wishing he'd done it different every time I get distracted by something pretty. Sometimes people get judgy and poor cold water on people who bubble with enthusiasm, but we don't have to mistake that for God's take on it. There are different ways of going about life. All of them are legitimate, even if someone can't understand why that works for us. 

I'd judged people like myself as vulnerable and that was the last thing I wanted to be. I was willing to betray myself because I didn't know how dangerous that is. My health has been the friend who called my true self home, but it didn't start out that way.

When someone first confirmed I was experiencing abnormal fatigue, I cranked down. I tracked symptoms, followed instructions, tried to be a very, very good student. I cranked down on spending too, feeling more and more stressed by the amounts spent on treatment. I put myself under a microscope and stared at it until my eyes wouldn't come uncrossed.

Six months after that discovery, I was having panic attacks and chest tightness and fits of crying. A year later, I would've given anything to "not know" I had a health problem because I'd felt so much better before.

In the face of a crisis and threat, I became exponentially more the person I thought it was safer to be. But being untrue to myself added a thick layer of stress to my already in stressed body. I had to do life differently. I needed my personality back.


So my health problem showed me the way. 

Yes, it broke me first, but then it showed me how to be whole again.