Affirmations for the Chronically Ill (or, self-resentment doesn’t work)

By: Jana Greene

So, here’s the backstory: I have chronic pain and illness on a multitude of health fronts. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome results from a genetic anomaly that affects the collagen my body makes and stores. It’s basically like every cell in my body is held together with bubble gum instead of gorilla glue. I have autoimmune issues, which results in pretty much ALWAYS being sick. I pick up every bug and and – in turn – a secondary infection usually follows. But wait! There’s MORE … which I will spare you in this post, on account of it’s a long ass list and the purpose of me writing this is simply to flip the script on how I typically handle living every day with sickness and pain.

Because you see, I am hard on myself. You are probably harder on yourself than YOU should be, too. Over the past 10 years of never-ending health drama, I have come to hate my own body. 

I blame it for keeping me from doing things. 

I am constantly resentful of it that it HURTS all the time.

I chastise it for holding me back.

This morning, as I write this, I am sick again. I must have picked up some new, exotic virus in Charlotte last week, when we evacuated due to Hurricane Dorian. I envision my crappy immune system seizing upon the opportunity to allow me to catch something exciting and new, instead of just “local crud.” “Hey, look!” It said. “She hasn’t had THIS bug before! Let’s stand down and not do a damn thing while she suffers!”

So, as a result, I have been sick as a dog for five days, and have not left my bed. There were times in my life where the “luxury” of lying in bed and “relaxing” for five days sounded like a DREAM. But I can assure you, it is it’s own special hell. Times like these, I ESPECIALLY hate my own body. 

My constant thoughts can be summed up in this one analogy: “I hate driving this clunker.” My body is like an old car that is falling apart on piece at a time, and all the while, I’m supposed to keep up on the Autobahn with everyone else. When I am trying to do normal things, the brakes fail and I dislocate a joint. When I push through pain to go to the grocery store, OOPS, there goes the bumper! As I maneuver my clunker about on the daily, I wonder if people who can lift heavy grocery bags without subluxation really appreciate what they can do.

Chronic illness is fertile ground for depression to sprout and spread like kudzu. Anxiety is a natural by-product of that depression.

This morning – on day five of this particular virus – I got up to use the bathroom and my hip tried it’s level best to slip out of the socket, which is about as much fun as it sounds. I turned my head this morning to talk to my husband, and because my lymph nodes are like golf balls, it hurt like hell. This kind of stuff WEARS on a person. No wonder I hate my own body!

BUT….

So far, hating my own self has not proven effective in dealing with this life. I know in my innermost being that our bodies are just our “earth suits;” they house our spirits and good or bad, they are not the most important component of who we are. What if instead of spending so much time resenting the body that houses my illnesses, I treated it like I would any other sick or injured person’s body? 

I would NEVER talk down to another human being the way I do to myself. I would never say things like…

You never do anything right.

Why are you so defective?

Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else?

Why can’t you do the simplest things without pain?

You are a piece of crap. A genetic nightmare.

You will never get better, so why do you even try?

So this morning, I had a jolting thoughts, and they were so poignant, I almost cried…. 

My body is hella strong to keep on keepin’ on!

My lymph nodes are so swollen. Oh my God, they must be working SO HARD to get me well!

My joints slipped out of place again. Holy shit! They work so hard with the materials they have been given. Amazing!

I’m so exhausted, because my immune system is trying with all it’s might to FIGHT. How strong it is to keep fighting!

I hurt so much, but it’s because my earth suit refuses to GIVE UP!

We all love the idea of affirmations, but we rarely employ them, I think. We hold Oprah and Brene Brown in high esteem because they are not afraid to pep talk themselves and not dwell in suffering. I’m going to try to work on this, because the status quo is not working for me. Resenting my own body – or illnesses, or pain – is simply stoking the fire of depression and anxiety.

So today, I can tell you that I am wicked STRONG. 

I am sick, but it is not what defines me.

I’m in pain, but I overcome every single day.

When I need rest, it’s to help this “clunker” get back on the road again.

DAMN, girl! You are a survivor!

I’ll be kinder to myself if YOU will. I think we chronic illness sufferers deserve at least as much grace as we give others. 

Let’s make a conscious effort to appreciate how very hard our bodies work to get through what normies do in the course of every day. 

Let’s do that cornball thing where we stand in front of the actual mirror and give our bodies an “atta girl!” and a “thank you!” every day. 

Our souls can only benefit from it!

Because we are FIGHTERS, through and through.

The Grace Gospel Poem

img_7854

By: Jana Greene

What if you were already “right with the Lord,”

And didn’t have to live by the sword,

And battle every single day

With what you do or what you say?

What if you embraced your human-ness,

And didn’t have to strive and stress,

And earn your way into His good graces,

Would you then lean into wide open spaces

Of redemption and love, unconditionally given.

Would you then be so afraid of living?

If we believe what we claim to believe

Could our weary hearts gain a reprieve?

What if His love is totally free.

What, then, would would you open up to be?

What if you could truly rest,

Would you be less exhausted and less of a mess?

Does “it is finished” ring true to you,

Or are you still giving the devil his due?

We try so hard to earn His grace

When really if we seek his face,

We are already there

It is finished and done,

We are one with the Father

And one with the Son,

And Holy Spirit will guide us through;

If you trusted completion,

Tell me, what would you do?

 

When Depression Makes Landfall

grayscale photo of woman covering her mouth using her hands
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Hi, Dear Readers.

Can I keep it real today?

I was going to title this piece, “When it’s too much,” but then I asked myself to be more specific….WHAT is “too much?” What exactly is it that is TOO MUCH for me to handle right now? The answer is simply YES.

Everything.

I’m feeling so defeated and sad today. I was doing pretty well with water aerobics, which I’ve been enjoying since February – it’s the only exercise my joints can handle. A week ago in class, I tore a muscle in my right hip doing underwater side kicks.

By the way, not one single 80 + year old woman in the whole class had trouble with that maneuver. Yet such a simple movement took me down. I’m looking at yet MORE physical therapy now and I can’t do the class for the foreseeable future.

This injury is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, er….hip.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, along with a half dozen other debilitating, exhausting, painful conditions. And it’s driving my depression into this hurricane-force thing that is spiraling in my spirit. The outer bands are making landfall today, and I can feel the intensity whipping up.

EDS is a progressive thing, meaning all of the cells in my body have mutated collagen, and I’m not going to get better.I do not – can not – take narcotics for my chronic pain because I’m an alcoholic in recovery 18 years and I still don’t trust myself to go that route.

I am literally wearing out. It’s getting to where I can hardly move my body some days, and when I do, each movement sounds like a bone cracking. In addition to being annoying, it’s painful. And embarrasing.

It’s TOO MUCH.

Yes, I know by the Stripes of Jesus, I am healed. I have had every deliverance ministry method prayed over me. People have told me that if I ‘just believe more’, I’d be healed.

To which I say, STOP TELLING SICK PEOPLE THESE THINGS. When they don’t get healed Binny Hinn-style, it adds insult to injury. Not only are you in sick and experiencing chronic pain, but NOW you doubt your faith and feel inferior and less-than a “good Christian.”

My genes are still mutated. God knows about it. He and I are square, after many years of me being bitter and angry. He knew my joints would held together with bubble gum instead of gorilla glue, so to speak. He isn’t angry with me. He isn’t punishing me. It just falls under the header of “shit happens,” and it happens to everyone in one capacity or another.

Better to just encourage and love on the chronically ill. That’s what we need.

Because I have anxiety and depression under normal circumstances, but there have been several times in my life when I couldn’t push through it…when I went from being sad and low-grade anxious, to I CANNOT GET OUT OF BED.

Not “I really FEEL like staying in bed” … no. I literally – as the Millennials say – I CAN NOT EVEN.

Can not even laugh.

Can not even cry.

Can not even do the things I love – like create art, and even just BLOG.

But I know if I don’t get it out in writing and share it with others who might be able to relate, it will only gather strength. So here is a blog post. The one thing I have gotten done today.

I’m tired. I am so tired. There are too many things going on in my home life and (lack of) professional life. Too much change. Too much pain. Just too much.

Most days, I try to be positive, and some days I can even find the humor in things, but when every joint in my body is hurting – and the hip is almost unbearable – it makes it difficult. This is approximately the tenth injury in the last few months. From small rib subluxations to finger dislocations, a sprained wrist, to all the crappy, debilitating POTs symptoms, and constant illness from having a horrible immune system….

I’m TOAST. Ever feel that way?

I know Jesus walks with me. I know he crouches down with me in the dark places. And yes, I know “this too will pass.” But it’s sure as hell not yet in the process of passing right now.

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to realize all of your blessings, but still not be able to pull yourself up out of the sadness.

Hey, thanks for reading my work, ya’ll. In joviality and in sorrow. In celebration and in grieving. Knowing I have so many precious readers who take the time to read my innermost thoughts is both mind-blowing and comforting. We are never, NEVER alone in what we go through!

I hope when this blows over, I can get back to business being snarky and ultra-spiritual (that’s a joke, ha.) But I’m of the mind that when we are in low places, it doesn’t mean we are less-than spiritual. It just means our spirits need a little more help.

God bless us, every one.

Resurrecting the Bakery – a blog revival

Beggars

By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear readers.

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged; the longest span of time in the six year history of The Beggar’s Bakery.  In the interim, I began another blog, “So She Laughed Anyway,” which takes on issues with a humorous bent. I think I’ve only posted three posts to it. It has been a dry season, writing-wise.

But here in a difficult place, I find myself needing to write again. And I think I need to do so often, as writing things down seems to relocate my thoughts to a better, less scary, neighborhood. The challenge to myself is to write a blog post every day, for 60 days. I am prayerful that God gives me material with which to work, but chances are good some of the posts might be drivel. If I go off the rails, please be patient with me. I will get my mojo back at some point.

What has been happening since last we met? A lot. A whole lot.

Over the past two years especially, my heart has been in religion deconstruction mode. In crisis with my health, I came face to face with the issue of trying to relegate the personal Jesus I know with the dogma of the Church Proper, and Jesus came out on top. I questioned everything I’d ever been taught, took a historical and contextual look at the Bible, and prayed that the very Spirit of God would reveal truth to me. I plan on touching on this process in the days to come. Much like any worthwhile endeavor, the process has not been linear. In reconstructing my entire faith, I feel like I might be able to tell others “where to find bread” again. But it won’t be white-washed and it won’t be fundamentalist Christianity. It will be Truth.

The aforementioned illness is a trifecta of health issues that are slowly causing me to lose mobility, and constantly causing me pain. Every day. Pain, in one form or another. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTs, and Mast Cell Activation Disease, severe and recurrent migraines, along with lots of other disorders and diseases. I just call it “Alphabet Soup Disorder” to save time. Lots of acronyms. Some of my genes are mutated, I am only grateful that neither of my children seems to have inherited these issues.

So, suffice to say, I am home a lot. I am by myself a lot. This necessity has proven to be both a benefit and a curse. It’s a sticky wicket, because the more isolated I become, the more depressed I get, and the more depressed I become, the less I want to physically be with my friends, because sick people can be a real drag.

There are two of me these days.  There is the sick me, who seems to be taking over some days. She is whiny, sad, hopeless, and in horrible pain; and there is the REAL me, who loves to laugh, be silly, encourage people, and travel. The real me is clawing her way back, but it seems that each time I gain a little foothold on the side of the wellness cliff, another boulder comes tumbling down. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, it feels dramatic.

It’s been a dramatic year for my family. A very difficult time. Yet I still haven’t taken a drink, and for that I am proud and very grateful.

I’ve begun a new hobby recently that has been a stepping stone to writing again. I’ve discovered abstract art, and the therapy of painting. A pretty good gauge of my mental health is the amount of paint on my person. The days I am up to my elbows in acrylics are the days that I started off sad and scared, and in some degree of physical and mental pain – and ended up creating something colorful that cheers me.

So, I am setting a goal to blog every day for two months, but I’m not going to set it in stone. I am fantastic at setting unrealistic expectations of myself. I’m going to try to write here or at SoSheLaughedAnyway.com each day, even when nothing I have to say is earth-shattering. I need to get back in the habit, even if not one single person reads my stuff.

There will be “brain droppings” (as the late, great George Carlin called random musings) about recovery, chronic illness, spiritual growth, and the general absurdity of life; and literally God only knows what else.

There will be posts with what some might consider controversial subject matter. There will be potty words. There will be transparency about my relationship with God, which looks almost nothing like it used to, but in a good way. There will be randomness.

Oh, so much randomness.

If you’re one of the 1,950 subscribers to The Beggar’s Bakery, I am so grateful for you. Thanks for sticking around. ❤ Please consider following “So She Laughed Anyway” on WordPress as well.

If you’re new, welcome to the jungle!

My goal is simple: Do life honestly, and share the journey.

God bless us, every one.

 

Immigration Consideration – one Christian’s thoughts on loving strangers

By: Jana Greene

Hello, Dear Reader.

I hesitated to write this blog post; not because I don’t feel passionate about the subject matter, but because I’m allergic to conflict – it makes me break out in insecurity.

The nastiest comment I have received in the six years of writing The Beggar’s Bakery was from a Christian woman (go figure) who reamed me a new one because I didn’t care for Trump. “He is sent by GOD!” She wrote. “As according to PROPHESY!!!!” There were many expletives in the comment as well, basically assuring me of my place in Hell because I didn’t like the president.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I responded. But what I wanted to say was, “LADY? YOU JUST PROVED MY ENTIRE POINT.”

That being said, I feel like the time is now to say my piece on this – my little corner of the internet. I’m not posting this as a Republican or a Democrat. I’m posting it as a human, as a mother, as a Christian, because I’m sick and tired of watching what’s going on be defended by people who purport to love Christ. I know this is a wide swath of my friend base, and I love you all. But please hear me out.

I don’t care what your political leanings are, it shouldn’t matter which side you lean toward. Children being treated like animals should piss you off. Parents separated from their kids should piss you off. SHOULD. We are all so busy being elephants and donkeys that we forgot how to be human.

If you want to defend the actions of our president, please leave God out of it. I used to be conservative (and still am on some fronts,) but there is no way to justify what he is letting happen. And I’m just gonna spit this out here, because it’s been bugging me and I’m trying to play nice-nice with everyone, but what with children in cages, I think it’s time for a nice-nice reprieve.

How in the name of Davy Jones do you reckon Trump is getting so much of the evangelical support? Because he prays publicly sometimes in office? Because he is pro-life and claims to believe “all life is sacred”? I’m calling bullshit. I’m pro-life, but that means, um…pro-LIFE. That means being just as bothered by human beings being washed up on shores as being ripped from there womb. I’m pretty sure Christ was more concerned with children suffering than national security. Of ALL demographics of people, WHY is Trump getting the “Christian” support? The phenomenon makes no sense.

Jesus is not looking to exclusively bless just the white, middle-class, church-going, law-abiding demographic, which is essentially – if we are honest – what many of us have come to expect. Neither big on law OR homogenized populations, Jesus made it exceedingly clear that he values compassion over all else. He loved the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the marginalized, the disadvantaged just as much. Do you think he is up there cheering when another Mexican drowns in the Rio Grande? Or when those from war-torn countries are turned away from our ridiculously blessed nation? Do you think he thinks it’s okay to rip parents away from little children, and deprive those children of basic necessities?

Jesus was about INCLUSION, not SEPARATION. He was very clear about the “us vs. them” mentality having no place in the Kingdom or God. But boy, we humans LOVE that shit. It allows some of us to feel superior to others and we just eat that right up!

How can you tell one is a Christian? Nope, not by their bumper stickers or angelic demeanor. Not by the KLOVE blasting from their car radios. Not by their instant recall of scripture, or their political stance. By their LOVE, manifested in the fruits of the spirit.

“You will know they are mine by their ‘fruit,” said Jesus. Fruits of the spirit are often recognized as joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and so on. WTF is up with Trump’s fruit? Is anyone inspecting it? (Ew.) Because upon closer inspection, that low hanging “fruit”appears to be pretty wormy.

Another Jesus-ism? “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Since when did it become “Christian” to treat other human beings the way he is treating immigrants? Peeps, YOUR ancestors were immigrants. If you need to justify what’s happening as it relates to YOU personally, there’s your fact.

I won’t go as far as to say that trump uses faith-talk to manipulate people…(if the toupee fits…) but his fruit stinks and he treats women and foreigners like crap – basically anyone who isn’t just like him. All for what? A WALL?!

How do you justify the following with being a disciple of Christ and leading in a Christ-like way? Tweeting a thousand immature and inane nasty words to the people on the opposite side of his politics (will someone PLEASE take The Twitter away from The Donald? ) His history of treating women like objects (at best) shouldn’t be brushed under the rug either.

He is un-apologetically polarizing. But children being treated sub-human should NOT be polarizing and frankly, I’m having a hard time understanding WHY it is so for anyone.

Jesus was a unifier.

Jesus was a radical.

Jesus tore down walls.

Jesus loves the underdog.

How a billionaire who spent a lifetime haughtily thinking he is superior to everyone else and talked about women in such nasty ways on the regular (50% of voters are women, roughly; so riddle me that…) came to run the most powerful nation on earth, I will never understand.

If you read this far, thanks. And please continue to pray for our nation. We desperately need divine help. If you still need proof via scripture, please see below. Thanks so much for your readership.

“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” – Jesus. Matt 25:35

“You shall love the Lord God with all of your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

“Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers.” Romans 12:13

“In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew…barbarian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels unaware. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortutured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13:1-3

“…therefore we must support such people, so that they may become co-workers with the truth.” 3 John 1:5

 

Christ in the Rubble – Prayers for Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame
Jesus is not offended by our mess. He is present in our ash and rubble.

By: Jana Greene

Yesterday, the Cathedral at Notre Dome burned down for the most part. The building is said to be counted as a near total loss. It is physically painful to look at the images coming from Paris.

You’ve probably seen the picture making the rounds of the golden cross and altar still standing at Notre Dame. Somehow, some way.

I’m not one of those people to ascribe to the following line of dogma: Betty Jo died in a horrific car accident, and only the Bible in her back seat survived completely unharmed! I used to think that was big guns, until I acknowledged the niggling question in my soul, “Yeah, but what about Betty Jo? Surely God cares more for her than a book!”

And he does. I know he does.

As humans, we like to equate beautiful with holy. It seems natural, doesn’t it? We like signs and wonders, and when possible, like to make our own and wait for God to admire our handiwork.

On a trip to New York City many years ago, I visited Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. A more beautiful place I have never seen. As my group toured, there was respectful silence, but for me, there were tears. I couldn’t bear it. Even years later, I skip a breath in considering the majesty.

My prevailing thought is now what it was then, “If puny men can make something so beautiful, Oh my GOD, what can YOU do?”

Notre Dame was stunningly beautiful. I am sorry I’ve never seen it in person, but the pictures alone make me skip a breath just like St. Patrick’s Cathedral. That a place so radiantly stunning could be built by human hands is astonishing. That a place so beautiful could be leveled with flame is heart-breaking.

As Paris mourns, there still is God.

In the muck and mire, soot and ash.

I’m not sure that God saved the Cross at Notre Dame as a sign or a wonder. I see signs and wonders in a lot of innocuous things.  I like to think he did, but I also don’t believe he is a God of destruction, or had anything to do with it burning in the first place….

Still, it’s a stunning visual, isn’t it?  It speaks to my heart today, as dramatically as the walls that cloistered it. I find that rubble is so relatable. No matter how majestic, things crumble. I crumble, too.

Yet, when I crumble, there is Christ.

Wherever ivory towers fall, there is Christ.

Wherever beautiful things lie in rubble, there is Christ.

There is Christ, always, in the midst.

A million stained glass windows cannot outshine him. No stone foundation is more steady.

Be reminded of this as you wade through whatever rubble is breaking your gait and tripping you up. And no power in heaven or earth can keep him from lifting you out.

Praying for you, Paris.

Praying for all of us, world.

 

Making Peace With Un-Togetherness, (and receiving a little happiness in return)

By- Jana Greene

Let’s talk about the illusion of having it all together, because so many of us think so many others of us have accomplished this THING – “having it all together”….

I received this PM on Instagram yesterday and it kind of blew my mind. I thought it was a joke. It made me want to look behind me in cyber-space and see who the hell she is talking about. She doesn’t know me, obviously.

But I cannot tell you how many times I have told Bob, “So-and-So really has her sh*t together,” or “why can’t I just get it together!?” In my mind, so many of you just have your lives on point.

You aren’t 50 freaking years old and have no idea what you are doing with your life. I envy that, because I never really had a career. I very literally have NO idea what I am doing with my life right now. Awaiting orders from God, I guess? Not sure if he is sending me my destiny via Pony Express or what….

So many of you seem to have perfect children, clean houses, self-respect. You read the Bible every day, sometimes even first thing in the morning! Some of you even have daily vlogs to encourage your Christian friends. OMG, there’s a part of me that SO wishes I were more like you!

In this world of “having it together,” I assume nobody else had had a pair of underwear from the laundry fall out of the leg of her jeans while walking in the mall.

People who have it together aren’t obsessed with food. They take walks in their smart, sassy, spandex workout clothes (clothes made just for working out! What a concept!) while I am lucky to schlep to the mailbox with use of my cane, taking care to wear something that looks like clothing but is really just pajamas, because I don’t have the energy to get dressed.

Together people don’t show up for a doctor’s appointment on the wrong day. With the wrong doctor. Their closets have organizers. Their cats never poop outside the box. Their homes smell like lavender. Theirs skin smells like essential oils. I’m doing good to remember deodorant.

When you “have it together,” I don’t think you have blowouts with your adult children on occasion. I’m pretty sure a together person doesn’t wring her hands with anxiety when in the produce section of the grocery store, because STRAWBERRIES or APPLES? I. DON’T. KNOW. A together person would be confident about fruit, for crying out loud. And also about making great – even bigger! – life choices. Like buying chocolate.

They don’t apologize when other people run into them, have to use fingers and toes to count on brain foggy days, or eat their feelings because they are having the third Nervy-b of the week.

Together people can SIP wine, I hear tell! (As a recovering alcoholic, I’ll never understand that one. I thought wine that cane in a box was the best, most enabling invention ever.)

But here’s the thing – as I get to know some of you more, your humanness starts to show, and it’s glorious. I am glad that you don’t have it all together.

Because quirkiness if gift, dammit. Unwrap that thing! You are actually more endearing to me if your life is not in pristine order. So why do I feel like my own life should be quirk-Free?

Happiness escapees me at times, too, But when I accept that having it all together is a myth anyway, it frees me up to receive happiness again.

Maybe NONE of us have it all together. And maybe that’s a really good thing. I don’t know. I just felt like maybe comparison is a thief of joy and needed to be called out.

So,…

Dear Lady who PM’d me on Instagram to admire my ‘together’ life,

Bless your heart. I pray that you and I both let go the concept of having it all together. Because it’s a big, fat lie and illusion. You have it together more than you think!

Signed,

The Hot Mess Express Conductor. All aboard!