Making Space Takes Time

madewithOverFinishing another school year and relaxing into summer was my plan. Ongoing doctor’s appointments, updating the house, digging through files and closed up boxes, closets and rooms one by one was NOT part of my plan. It was hard work. It felt like it would take forever, and I didn’t like it. I felt stuck and slow like a weight was on my chest, making it hard to breathe. All I wanted was an escape route, especially since I needed rest. Thankfully, Brian was the leader in this, unstoppable until it was completed, gently reminding me we (still) had more work to do. Focused for weeks, this job was not a quick fix.

It takes time to weed out the old to make space.

And I was surprised at some of the old we found as we sat on the floor at the top of the stairs going through long closed up boxes: 90’s mix tapes, receipts from Christmas over a decade ago, elementary school yearbooks, bank checks from life in another state, and other things that once were important. But we laughed at pictures, sang along with those mix tapes (Wham’s Wake me up before you go-go/ ‘Cause I’m not planning on going solo) and were shocked at all we’d held onto for so long (I’m starting with the man in the mirror/ I’m asking him to change his ways–yep, GREAT mix tape).

In some ways it was quite the visit into the past; still, we quickly made decisions on what required holding onto and letting go. And I noticed I tossed our soon to be donations into the car with finality, as if I couldn’t wait to get them off my hands. And now, I can barely remember what we gave away!

All I’ve wanted was a vacation, to clear my mind and to escape the work of dealing with hard things after a long school year — renovating the house, mentally preparing for the possibility of moving, a list of autoimmune issues and advocating for myself to do what I need to do to heal (and that is unpopular at times).

I remembered we need SPACE to grow and breathe and thrive, just like flowers. Choked by all the weeds that take up our lives, we won’t grow into our fullness. But pulling those weeds takes time and persistence, since one pops up soon after all the others have been cleared away. There just might be something enjoyable in the process.

And you know what? After I gave into this day after day after day and kept at it, I am breathing more fully, and my mind is clearer. I am settling into the mystery and possibility of the days ahead. And now for that vacation….

 

 

Night Ravings

Life has turned upside down for me these days. I ran my 5K in January, and it seems it went downhill  medical tests prove there was more than I thought brewing in the background. You see, I went from being ecstatic that I finished (really, that is huge, since I had heel trouble and zero energy for a long time), but I felt as if I ran a marathon and couldn’t quite recover. Symptoms I viewed as separate oddities over a span of eight years or so (and have been treating for a while) have compounded and flared up since then in an autoimmune sort of way. I’ve been to two doctors this week without a diagnosis; I guess that’s why Brian calls me a medical mystery.

The thing is, I am tired of being mysterious.

So, a few nights ago Brian and I were reading in bed, and I felt a wild need to pray about this stuff. Sometimes, as we hold hands under the sheets, our prayers are calmly spoken, and other times require nothing less than a relentless pursuit of answers. I heard my voice match my desperate, frustrated, ALL CAPS words.

My night raving went a little like this:

OKAY GOD,

I AM TIRED OF THIS! EVERYTHING IS UP IN THE AIR, AND I’M TIRED OF HURTING! WHAT IS GOING ON?

THERE ARE THINGS WE WANT TO DO TO OUR HOUSE–UPGRADING THE KITCHEN AND BATHROOM, CUTTING DOWN TREES IN THE BACKYARD, OUR DRYER NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. WE’VE SPENT TONS OF MONEY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME OVER THE PAST YEAR, AND THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE! WE HAVE BILLS TO PAY, AND I WANT A VACATION! I WANT TO GO TO FRANCE. WE’RE TRYING TO SELL THIS HOUSE, BUT NOTHING IS HAPPENING!

WILL YOU HELP US?!?

I WANT AN ADVENTURE. I WANT SOMETHING FUN FOR A CHANGE. I WANT TO FEEL BETTER! I WANT TO BE HAPPY WITHOUT THE WEIGHT OF ALL OF THIS.

AND IF MY STRATEGY IS ALL WRONG, FINE. MAYBE I SHOULD STOP DICTATING TO YOU HOW ALL THIS NEEDS TO TURN OUT. I’LL TAKE any VACATION… TO FRANCE, NIGER (peeking through my eyelashes at Brian just to see his expression because that idea does not AT ALL appeal to him), COLORADO, ANYWHERE… EXCEPT IN THE SOUTH BECAUSE THAT WOULDN’T BE A VACATION. WE NEED SOME FUN! SERIOUSLY, JUST TELL US ALREADY! WHAT’S THE DEAL? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? AND HOW SHOULD WE SPEND OUR MONEY?

…(after a deep breath and more calmly) And thank you for Brian and the pups and our jobs and friends and family.

Amen.

And after all those words, I looked over at my Lovey, who had a touchingly sweet grin on his face. “That’s the best prayer I’ve ever heard you pray,” he said. 

–Jen

How do you feel about questioning God when things don’t make sense?

On (Emotional) Strength Training

Be thankful for each new challenge because it will build strength and character.                                                                          ~Author unknown

“Shush!” I told my barking dogs, holding their leashes until my knuckles turned white. The three of us stood in the dark of the early morning, directly across the street from the staring coyote. Practically dragging my heavy dogs towards home, I hoped my past workouts made a difference so I wouldn’t let go. The coyote kept its distance but followed us, and my heart pumped out of my chest until we were safe inside the house.

Days later, I came home and let the dogs in the backyard. As I glanced out the window, Journey and Glory were suspiciously staring at the grass. I ran-walked out there, not sure I was ready for what I would find. “Did Glory teach you to eat poop?!” I asked Journey, who had something brown in his mouth (gross, I know, but HE doesn’t like that kind of snack). When he dropped it, I picked it up with my bagged hand, you know, the way only dog owners pick up these things. It squished, I screamed, threw it down and shuffled those animals inside the house, completely disgusted. When I went back, I saw a very slobbery and very dead mouse.

I called Brian and gushed about the sheer grossness. “Get the shovel and get rid of it.” He said, calmly. It took a while, but I launched it over the fence into the woods.

mouseA week later, when I opened the door to let the dogs out one last time before bed, I saw something scurry by me. I whipped around, and a little brown lizard was hanging out on the wall right inside the door. So, I called Brian (who usually dealt with these things) at work and told him what was creeping around our home. “You can wait for me to get home if you want.” Hmmm...what if it went into our bedroom?!

I even took a picture so he could see why I was terrified.

I must have been shaking, and I’m sure it was bigger in real life.

If others saw me spring into action, they might have thought something was seriously wrong (with me). I don’t know how long it took, but I was sweating by the time I trapped the lizard in my Fit & Fresh lunch container with lid. Journey hung out right next to me the whole time, despite my wild screaming, praying and positive self-talk.

By now, you’re probably thinking…she’s a dramatic, weak, silly girl. Well, after these situations, I was thinking that, too, and wondering when did that start? When did I start being afraid of little things? I lived alone before marrying Brian and took care of myself. I have handled a lot in my life, as a strong, brave woman. What was my deal?

I don’t know. Maybe I’d gotten comfortable. Maybe God thought I needed some courage and strength training.

Apparently, I needed to start with three pound weights and work up to the heavy stuff like: ongoing health issues and tests that showed more problems (nothing like cancer but still frustrating), trying to get pregnant (or even ovulate, for that matter), and times when I am just so tired of STILL healing from sexual abuse (I believe this hard work is never done). Oh, yes, and trying to sell our house.

Those things aren’t easy. Then, sometimes when there’s so much uncertainty, I get irritable, bossy and controlling, and that doesn’t help my marriage.

Then, I read something powerful by Anne Lamott.

When God is going to do something wonderful, he or she starts with a hardship. When God is going to do something amazing, he or she starts with an impossibility.

In the middle of these sometimes impossible situations, I’m grateful for the little things that have (re)built my courage. Seriously, though. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to bulk up from all this strength training. I’m ready for something amazing.

Surprises

I think this is the key. Ready for something profoundly laughable (because it is)?

Change never ends.

It doesn’t.

Without checking back every now and then and re-assessing and making necessary adjustments, life moves on and takes us for the ride or just leaves us in a mess. And sometimes, there are absolute surprises, like 30 food sensitivities that have caused all kinds of issues in my body…after I thought everything was under control.

I’ve needed some time, from blogging and tomatoes and pineapple and soy and…

Weeks ago, spring burst forth all around me. The sun breathed warmth, the blooms brought color, and pollen left its heavy yellow blanket over everything. As I looked at the wisteria trees in my backyard–the ones I wrote about with certain hate last year–I noticed even they were celebrating new life with their pale purple blooms. During the colder months, it’s been easy to forget about those vines that literally squeeze the life out of those around them if not drastically pruned each year (and yard work is our 194,350th favorite thing, so it not happening). But when I walked outside the other day to take a picture of those wisteria flowers, I was surprised to find they had already shriveled up and died. Now the vines look drab and lifeless, as they did leading up to the first few weeks of spring. But they are different just the same.

I love that seasons bring change. Some changes we can’t help but notice and others can only be viewed by searching eyes: a deep red cardinal in a mess of leafless brambles or hawks soaring above the tallest trees swaying in the wind. There’s just something about new growth on the trees against a backdrop of the deepest blue sky.

fatbird
Look closely. See that splash of red? It’s a Scarlet Tanager (Google is so handy) hanging out in my backyard.

I’m not sure how it all happened, but there is beauty here. Awake. Pleading to be discovered and soaked up by eyes just waiting to see it as it flashes past. In the midst of challenges, there is joy to be discovered each day–if we are open to it.

Life is good. As it goes on without skipping a beat, there is BEAUTY in the changes we live through, too. If we focus on the surprising challenges we think mess up our lives, we might miss those moments and see only sameness staring back. But there is no doubt even when we can’t see it, we are different.

Life is a journey, right?

And it continues.

Healing From the Inside Out

Sometimes you just know something isn’t right.

The second year of my full-time graduate program in 2010, I juggled a counseling internship at one school and a part-time teaching job at another. Night sweats, constant bloating and fatigue, brain fog, as well as headaches and dizziness were some of the worst symptoms I struggled with during that time. The several doctors I went to asked me if I was stressed. Um, yes, of course I am! I wanted to scream. Get some rest, work out, eat right–those words were my prescriptions, but they made no difference.

I went to three medical doctors and left frustrated every single time because no one seemed to really know what was going on, and I didn’t feel like anyone heard me. Anxiety? Stress? And the best of all…(no joke) PMS? Do you know what PMS is?  I really wanted to slap that nurse in the face. Um, thanks, but I’ve been having periods for decades.

Finally, an amazingly kind doctor listened (she listened!) and tested my hormones, finding that my progesterone was low. Immediately I went into research mode and bought Dr. Lee’s What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause. I felt like the book was all about me (reading about “premenopause” freaked me out a little bit, since I was in my mid-thirties and did not have children). I read that practically any crisis situation during our lives can cause some of these issues later, which made sense, but the tears flowed when  sexual abuse was listed as a potential culprit.

That was the beginning.

Things seemed to clear up a little after using bioidentical progesterone cream for a few months, as Dr. Lee suggested in his book. The off-and-on dizziness remained, as well as a full-body aching that didn’t easily subside. Thinking that I needed to work out more to relieve stress, I continued to go to yoga classes, strength training and cardio. What I found though, was that I actually felt worse after working out–not it in the usual sore kind of way. I had shooting pain down my legs, my hips ached, and I had headaches that only went away with sleep. You wouldn’t think I had been getting chiropractic adjustments practically every week. I was bewildered when I had to walk out of a yoga class because my leg pain was too intense to continue. Really? Yoga is even too much?!?

In May of 2011, I began juicing and started a detox regimen. For years,  I had reactions from dairy, so I cut most of that out of my diet. During that time, I kept a food diary of everything I ate each day, and I noticed I still had some adverse reactions. At Brian’s request, I agreed to have allergy testing done. Through that, I found I am sensitive to chicken, beef and dairy among other things like vinegar and mushrooms. So, essentially, my entire way of eating changed that summer, and now I am vegetarian (ovo pescaterian to be exact, since I eat eggs and fish). The hardest thing to let go of was dairy–cheese…no more chicken nachos smothered with queso or our weekly pizza. What I miss the least? Chicken and beef, without a doubt. I also removed gluten from my diet and I found that with a meals of mainly fruits and vegetables, my symptoms–all of them–subsided.

My first 25 pounds of carrots for juicing
My first 25 pounds of carrots for juicing

As you can probably guess, changing my eating habits has changed my life. Not only am I a healthier person, I feel better, think better and have more energy. Looking back, I honestly don’t know if the hormone issue came first and caused the problems with food, or vice versa. Without a doubt, the crises in my life and resulting unforgiveness in my heart created years of constant and underlying stress (all the normal stress from other areas of my life just made it all worse). I was on the fast road to disease. No medical professional has confirmed that, and you know what? I don’t need confirmation.

I believe it with all that is in me, and that is why my healing journey continues.

(I wish I had impressive before and after pictures, but they would look practically the same. My changes have been made from the inside out. And clearly, I am not a medical professional but simply sharing my experience.)