Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I am in pain.

Constant, present, pain.

This is not an analogy, my words do not represent.  I speak literally.  For years, I have lived with pain.

This year, I did something about it.  Not because I wanted to.  Not because I chose myself.  But because someone I love asked me to.  That, and, I keep fainting inexplicably.  (Oh yea, there is that....)

I could give you the long history.  I could detail the chain of events in an attempt to unravel them, to find the source, to know where to attack the issue.  But honestly, that story's been told before.  Not here, perhaps, but elsewhere.  In doctor's offices all over Austin (at this point I've seen two neurologists, two cardiologists, two OB's, one psychiatrist, one physical therapy team, and one primary care physician), I have spoken and they have listened.  Granted, with varying degrees of success, but they have at least tried to hear me.

The source?  No one knows.  The cardiologists say it's neurological.  The neurologists say it's psychological. The PCP, PT and OB have no idea.  Lovely.  Aren't these people supposed to help?

Really, I can't blame them.  For one, I waited fifteen years before seeing anyone.  In the meantime, the first issue created a second issue which created a third, and so on.  Second, the body is a mystery.  We aren't the Creator, so I shouldn't expect "us" to be able to magically understand every mystery our bodies present.  Third...well, honestly, I believe this is both spiritual and physical (and emotional, and psychological, and intellectual).  I believe that as I achieve alignment, order, peace in one area, health will spill over into others.

For the record, I do not believe I can heal myself.  I am not a humanist.  But I do believe I can engage the process - the process of becoming whole, perfect (as in, complete), healthy.  I know I can partner with the Healer.

This is a huge leap for me.  As I've alluded to, for many years I avoided my body.  I ignored it.  I didn't pay much attention to how I dressed, rarely worked out, certainly didn't acknowledge the pain that was happening inside of it.

Instead I spent years focusing on the heart - peeling back layers of lies and unbelief to change my mind and heal my heart.  I prayed, went to therapy, laughed, cried - in short, worked through a lot.  I felt everything, but I also felt nothing.  Nothing physical, that is.  I refused to.  Until I could no longer resist.

Last spring the neck pain became unbearable.

Last summer the fainting returned (the doctors had previously thought it was pregnancy-induced neuro-cardiogenic syncopy...guess what?  I wasn't pregnant when I began fainting again!).

This fall, I am still in pain.  But something is different now.  I have engaged the process, I no longer deny my body's voice.  As I began giving legitimacy to its pain - attacking the voices in my head - I began to realize how much I've devalued myself by ignoring myself.  (You know the voices...mine say things like, "you're a hypochondriac", "quit complaining", "you're so dramatic", "you're making this all up", "why are you always so negative?"  I could now tell you exactly where and when all of these voices entered my head.  For the record, they didn't come from God.)  I listened to lies and accusations instead of choosing to love the physical part of myself as much as the emotional or intellectual or spiritual. 

In so doing, I created an imbalance.  I also made myself Lord.  Who am I to decide that my body doesn't matter?  Who am I to place one part of my being - a being designed to be whole - over another?  There is only one Head, and I am not it.  He calls us to "love one another as you love yourselves".  We are called to self-love, self-love, not love of one part of oneself.

So I'm trying to repent.  I'm trying to act as though my body matters as much as the rest of me.  I give it time, attention, love.  I listen when it speaks.  I seek help when it needs it.

I still feel uncomfortable as I do this.  As if I'm being self-indulgent.  Another lie, I suppose, but it's hard for me to believe that it's okay to give my body this much attention.

I press in.  I act in spite of my discomfort, knowing that what I do is more important than the unhealthy way I feel about it at present.

I work out regularly.  I eat better (still working on this).  I go to doctors and therapists and do what they say.

And I learn from my body.  I learn how twisted I have viewed things (quite literally - my neck is completely twisted up).  I learn that I am very tense (again, literally - this is the diagnosis for my pain...the tension in my nerves and muscles has created pain (and other issues)...this tension, at the cellular level, has effectively been a form of self-protection.  My muscles have tensed in order to hold unstable, misaligned parts of me in place).  I learn that stress and anxiety happen at all levels, not just in the soul space. 

I learn that the tighter I hold on to my coping mechanisms, the worse I feel.  I learn that letting go - releasing - is a slow process.  If I try to power through pain and "just get better", my body re-doubles its efforts at self-protection.  The message I send it when I power through: I have not cared for it.  I have not shown it that I will withdraw one stabilizing system only when another, better one is in place.  I have not shown it that I will not put it in danger, in other words, not get rid of unhealth only to leave it with nothing.  I have not been trustworthy.

It is when I slowly, methodically, make the transition from old to new that my body responds well.  If my therapist feels a tight spot, she doesn't cram her thumb into it, hell-bent on getting that knot to release whether it wants to or not.  No.  She moves deeper as my body allows her to, gently applying more pressure when the body gives in to the first amount applied.  She works the supporting tissue to give the released muscle a place to move.  With her fingers she listens, speaks, listens more, responds to what she hears.  In short, she respects my body's voice.

I owe it that same respect.  It has been sinful of me to honor the other parts of my being - mind, heart, soul - and not honor my body.  God made all of me.  I dishonor Him by dishonoring that.

I'm excited about this process.  As you know, I am most definitely still in a lot of pain.  But I am also making progress.  Slowly.  Methodically.  But progress, nonetheless.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Letter to My Computer, dated 9-16-2010

dedicated to Courtney and all others who know the agony of staring down a blank "page" to wrestle the words from within

Dear Machine,

I will face you. 
I will stare you down. 
You will not get the best of me. 

I always win staring wars. 

You are not my nemisis. 
That demon lives within. 

You are not my obstacle. 
I create that on a whim.

You are not my focus.
I live because I write.

You have not that power.
I now will end this fight.

I always win staring wars.
I always win staring wars.
I always win---

Yours Faithfully,

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Tonight I want us to take a break from following the transformational process I've been blogging about.  I have a blog entry prepared.  It expounds upon the experiences I've had which have led to the choices I'm making which have led to the reflections I'm writing.  Blah, blah, blah.  Not that it's not important.  I wouldn't be spending time on it if it weren't important.  We'll get back to that.  Instead, I feel that we have to pause - to take a breath, even a selah - and pay attention to the news.  I invite you to read, reflect, respond.  Here are my thoughts.  I look forward to reading yours. 

"As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious protesters thereof, and I know of no other business government has to do therewith." - Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776.)

"The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.'' - James Madison (Original wording of the First Amendment; Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789).)

Every man "ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." - George Washington (Letter to the United Baptist Churches in Virginia in May, 1789)

With Pastor Terry Jones virtually monopolizing the news this week, I felt it would be irresponsible not to engage in the conversation.  I am a firm believer that democracy is a gift and a responsibility.  That I not only get to receive the benefits of living in a free society, but that I also need to contribute to it - whether by voting, volunteering, or even by simply adding my voice to the national conversation of the moment.  I mean - truly - what would have happened if Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, George Washington, James Madison chose apathy, remained silent, decided that the bigger-picture decisions being made by a government far away did not bear the same need for action as the daily demands of a farm (for example)?  They each had a voice, and they chose to use it.

Here's my voice.

Today, Pastor Terry Jones decided not to burn the Quran on Saturday after his planned event erupted a firestorm of criticism world-wide (ANTONIO GONZALEZ, Associated Press, 9/9/10 7:45 p.m. yahoo.com online news).

"President Barack Obama urged him to listen to 'those better angels' and give up his 'stunt,' saying it would endanger U.S. troops and give Islamic terrorists a recruiting tool.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates took the extraordinary step of calling Jones personally" to ask him to reconsider (ANTONIO GONZALEZ, Associated Press, 9/9/10 7:45 p.m. yahoo.com online news).  The list goes on.  Every time I've turned on the news or listened to the radio, it's been Terry Jones, Terry Jones, Terry Jones.  People are, rightly so, concerned.

There have already been protests to Pastor Jones' planned protest.  According to the AP, "in Afghanistan, hundreds of angry Afghans burned an American flag and chanted 'Death to the Christians' to protest the planned Quran burning" (ANTONIO GONZALEZ, 9/9/10 7:45 p.m. yahoo.com online news).  There have also been demonstrations, some violent, in Indonesia (http://www.cbsnews.com/8300-503543_162-503543.html?keyword=Terry+Jones).  U.S. embassies around the world remain at a heightened state of alert, even though Pastor Jones announced that he had called off the burning of the Qurans.

For those of you who have lived in a media bubble, let me break it down for you:

On the one hand, many people - world leaders, media spokespeople, corporate business leaders - have called on Pastor Jones not to inflame U.S./Muslim relations and fuel Islamic extremism. 

On the other hand, some people - relatively few - have wondered out loud whether or not we should even be reporting (or reading about) Pastor Jones' plan.  Those folks say we are all giving fuel to a fire that needs to simply die out.

I want to say up front that I agree with both of these 'voices'.  I agree that Pastor Jones' protest does not help anyone - Muslims, Christians, U.S. Troops, U.S/Muslim relations.  I think what Pastor Jones proposes to do is ignorant, offensive, disrespectful and annoying (for the record, I'm a Christian).  I understand (as much as I can, being a white woman living in the middle of the United States) how Islamic extremists perceive this move, how they will use it to prove their point, how many out there will believe their rhetoric and join their cause because of it.   

I also understand the logic of the silent treatment.  Don't respond.  Don't encourage him.  If you give it oxygen, it will breathe.  If you put it in a vacuum, it will die.  The moment General David Petraeus asked Pastor Jones not to burn the Quran, the international media pounced on it and - well, it became a story.  We gave it life.

So why didn't General Petraeus keep his mouth shut?  Why did he, President Obama, Secretary Gates get involved in something that is so clearly not within their purview?  As citizens, they are welcome to, entitled to, their opinions.  They are free to express them (heck, I even agree with their opinions!).  As politicians, however, they represent the government.  They are the government.  And it is decidedly not the government's role to engage in coercion of any kind, but especially coercion which involves infringing on the right of a U.S. citizen to express his beliefs. 

I believe that Pastor Jones' planned action fell under both the freedom of speech and freedom of religion principles our country was founded on.  I absolutely do not agree with him.  I do not think it's right to burn any holy book and I don't want our troops to be in danger. 

However, I also firmly believe that those troops would be in greater danger if we begin to blur the lines between government and the rights of every American citizen to freely express him or herself.  That the minute we begin justifying governmental involvement in blocking a person's right to express is the minute we begin to corrode the very foundation we stand on.  The costs of Pastor Jones' annoucement are high, the impact is real, but the cost of controlling his actions is much, much higher (or even attempting to control them).  He has the right to offend.  As offensive as that is, it's also foundational and, therefore, critical to the success of this experiment called the United States of America.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Tonight we're taking our kids to Back-to-School Night at their new preschool.  My son, who is 2 1/2 years old, has been anticipating this for weeks.  He's so excited he literally can't stop talking about it.  And yet, today, he told me that I would drop him off in his new classroom and he would cry.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I will," he said.

Oh, that clears that up.

I've been thinking about his words as I sit down to write today.  I'm staring down a blank screenplay that is due on Monday (for a contest - no, I haven't sold anything yet!), an article I need to revise before submitting, and a collection of poems I need to edit and submit.  In addition, I'm still recovering from the first round of rejections of my children's storybook series.  It's time to pick myself up and try again.

Like my son, I'm full of anticipation as I start this new season, so very excited to savor all of the new and novel.  And yet, beginnings are challenging.  The uncertainty can be overwhelming to the point that the only response is a good cry.  Let the swirling emotions out; give them space to see the light.  The faster you do, the more able you'll be to engage the transition and move forward.

And I desperately want to move forward.

Once again I find myself appreciating my young son's wisdom.  He gives me perspective.  The blank pages of my screenplay - like my son's empty classroom - both beckon and repel.  Like my son, I will choose to enter in to that space and leave my mark.  Sometimes I will cry, no doubt, but sometimes I will laugh. 

Here's to a good, hearty round of whichever comes first.