How do you define “anxiety,” and how does your anxiety define you?
Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, if I’m honest, it’s how it FEELS. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow it’s potential.
I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life.
It feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise.
The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.”
Feeding the doom is an old skill I honed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me. It hasn’t served me in years.
It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and outdated.”
I do not wish to take it to recycling anymore, which is what it’s like to expect anxiety to be repurposed.
No. Every day, I give it up and hope God takes it to the dump. He always does, but I always seem to have a fresh supply the next day.
He is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape.
Today, I hand in my anxiety yet again, so that my hands are free for joy and potential. And my heart is free to reject a diagnosis of doom.
This morning, I woke up early in the great state of Georgia.
Two of my dearest friends in the world accompanied me to a conference that addressed a faith reconstructed. It was incredible. The teachings were what so many evangelicals (and I was one for most of my life,) would consider utterly scandalous.
Y’all, LOVE that rich, pure, and bounteous SHOULD be scandalous. The most passionate love stories always are.
I didn’t move for a while when I woke, because I simply couldn’t. (If you don’t already think I’m nutty, you might now. And I’m okay with that)
I was pinned in place but this momentous, ridiculously extravagant sensation of love.
It was so thick in the air, it felt womb-ish, like a swim in calm ocean, flowing and bobbing. Or being swaddled like a baby, feeling nurtured and safe.
I didn’t fight it, like so tend to do. I didn’t negate it with my usual self-loathing talk. I always feel “powerless” against my own thoughts. My insecurities are members of a terrorist organization of sorts. During my (literal) “come to Jesus,” I discovered that I don’t have to negotiate with terrorists. I get to choose.
No, instead of fighting and fretting against the swell of love, I just rested in it. It was overwhelming, glorious, and unlike any experience I’ve had in a half-century of Christian fundamentalism. There was not even a trace of shame involved. I was fresh out of bothers for a spell.
At some point, I “feel” God say something to the effect of: “Please don’t talk and think mean thoughts about my little girl. I love her so much.” Wait WHAT!?
“You heard,” says gentle but firm Holy Spirit, her voice strong and convincing.
That little girl is me.
This weekend was like a speed-dating session with my true identity. Lots of uncomfortable moments. Lots of connecting. Lots of nerves. The result is this radical, rich, ridiculous grace for others.
I MUST share what I experienced in the wee hours of the morning with you. I have to. Because it’s LIFE.
Love is life.
Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t come like a lightning strike, dramatic and jarring. It’s not always signs and wonders that the church proper chases for a dopamine hit and considers evidence of a Being of pure Love.
No, sometimes it’s a soul hug first thing in the morning. Supernatural revelation can be realizing you aren’t a cosmic mistake; that you have belonged to Source since before the formation of the Universe. That He belongs to US. I know it sounds strange. But I’m okay with that too.
I welcome the chance to tell you how incredibly loved you are this day.
I don’t want to convert you.
I have no ulterior motives.
I don’t want to change you.
I have no agenda.
I don’t want to push religiousity. Matter of fact, religion is the whole problem. It has almost nothing to do with the actual Trinity, which invites us to a beautiful dance that includes us all.
And as a result of this Great Forgetting , the church can be stingy with the very thing it’s attempting to sell: Love. Purpose. Being.
This weekend, I feel like I had a heart transplant, and I couldn’t be happier.
My prayer today is that you wrap your arms around yourself and hug. Don’t rush it. Really hug yourself tight. Consider it a hug from me.
And so much better – it will be a hug from Papa God. He is wild about you.
May you come to the overwhelming realization of who you really are, and that the opposite of Love is fear. I learned that I don’t have to rent Fear a room in my head. Evict that sucker.
May your awareness of the supernatural be increased so that you can recognize when God “winks” at you.
May you come to know and (this is the hard part) ACCEPT the TRUTH about your inherent value, which is priceless.
I bought three little flowering plants for the steps of our front porch several months ago. I cannot tell you the name of the flowers – I’m just winging it with the plant thing. I love that plants are a big deal again, harkening back to the ’70s, when having flora and fauna (and keeping it alive,) was popular.
“You may want to throw those out,” suggested my husband one day, who – upon seeing the three little withering plants – suggested logic. And it was logical. All three looked brown and barren. He is excellent at logic, whereas I consider it largely a nuisance.
“I don’t know,” said I. “I feel like maybe they have some life left in them.”
So I moved the little plants up onto the front porch, where they sat disintegrating for weeks before my eyes. Every day, when I walk out to the mailbox, there they are – sad little things trying to beat the odds. I typically say hello to them, and I always feel silly when I do.
“Wassup?” I ask them.
“Well, we are dying here, soooo…..” I imagine they’d say. Or, “Oy vey! This heat!”
So I got them out of the direct sun, because it’s too intense. Life itself has been ridiculously intense over the past couple of years. The summer heat makes life unfit for man, beast, and – apparently – plants. There they sit on the porch, looking like a lost cause. (Even when I water them, which happens when I remember they exist.)
Bless their hearts.
Today I went out to the mailbox and saw this poignant little sign not to give up. One lone, pink flower found its way to life again somehow. Just the one little plant, scrappy and determined.
I know it’s crazy to have your day made by a flower, but it made me a little giddy to see new life. I could use some new life. One little bud gave me hope today. It spurred what – in my evangelical days – I would call a “God wink.” God LOVES winking at us, sending little reminders that he is willing and able to make life bearable – wonderful, even.
I forget that a lot. Things seem to be getting worse by the day in this crazy world. Everything seems browner, lifeless, and bleak. It’s enough to make you believe that we are goners.
But the truth is:
We get buried, and we rise.
Our spirits get scorched, but not incinerated.
We feel dead, but God…
THIS (*gestures wildly*) is quite the season we are having, ya’ll. We all feel brown and crispy. Dry and done-for.
We feel like sad little things trying to beat the odds, because we are.
But we are also magnificently resilient beings, fully capable of blooming again.
Here’s to blossoming against the odds, friends.
Here’s to blooming where we’re planted, scrappy and determined.
It’s technically a float spa, but I call it a “God Pod.” I haven’t been here to float in nearly a year, and my soul needed it today.
I’m naturally very claustrophobic, but I’ve never felt so during a float. Its warm and womb-like in that sucker.
The salt water, the pitch darkness and utter silence. At first my mind was like…
“But what about THIS problem,” “Or THAT problem?” “… I need to go home after this and maybe clean the bathrooms.” I’ve got a medical procedure tomorrow, ANOTHER one…what if the results are bad?”
Then the peace and stillness started to set in, but my brain was not having it.
“I think we are out of half and half….need to pick some up on the way home so My Beloved has some for his coffee tomorrow…” “Oh, and don’t forget Tide pods…”
On and on it went until I realized that I am having thoughts pummel me – most of the worrisome, or completely mundane, because that’s how I roll. That may always be my default.
So I am allowed to have all the feelings, but I’m also allowed to spike them like a volleyball to send them back over the “net.” I don’t know why I had that vision manifest, but I did.
It’s been a hell of a time the last couple of months. I’ve had plenty of time and reason to get discouraged; even despondent at times. Hope has come to me in fits and starts.
We are allowed to pummel negative thoughts, right back from whence they came. I don’t have to catch them and carry them around. They aren’t trophies…there is no award for whoever has the most “balls.” Pardon the analogy.
I spiked many volleys (is that the right term? I don’t know sports…) and the more I shifted my focus on the spiritual, the fewer came at me over the net at all.
I need to figure out how to reject negative thoughts when NOT floating like I’m in outer space. That’s the tricky thing.
Forgive me, Fathter, I have sinned. It has been about 23 minutes since my last food confession.
I heard that Oreos make gluten free cookies, and the next thing I know, I’m covered in cookie dust and “double stuff,” wondering where it all went wrong.
As penance, I shall layeth here like a giant slug and zap myself with the diabetes monitor until I pass out in a sugar coma, or reach critical mass of guilt and cry about it, whichever comes first (maybe both. I don’t know….I’m not Catholic.)
Lord, give me this day my daily Metformin, and forgive me my gluttony, as I will forgive Nabisco for making damn gluten free Oreos eventually (but probably not until I polish off the box.)
Jesus take the wheel, as I’m too bloated to fit behind the steering column presently.
In conclusion, I will say six “holy cows,” because DAMN milk would have been SO good with these, but all I have is Oat Milk, because, well you know, I’m a health nut and all…
Dream 1: In a stadium of some kind. Decide in my dream that this is odd for someone who hates sports. Reckon that it must (obviously) be The Pigeon Olympics. Hey, Look! The clouds are raining birdseed! I wonder where the toilets are in this joint? *Spends remainder of weird dream ambling around The Clockwork Orange Stadium looking for a bathroom. Finds a street parade, box of Lucky Charms, and a single boot. No potty, though. *Queue anxiety attack.*
Dream 2: I am at college, which is weird because I never went to college. Lose the combination to my locker, which is weird because do you even have lockers in college (!?) Continue nightmare by individually try to open all 100 lockers on the hallway wall with increasingly full bladder. See high school crush, realize I’m wearing pantaloons and nothing else. Now I can’t find the bathroom. Every door I knock on is a classroom full of farm animals. Bless them, I’m distracting them from the studies, and doesn’t every donkey in America deserve a quality education? End up ducking into in a closet out of desperation that is housing a tractor, but still can not empty bladder. Too worried about rusting important farm equipment.
Dream 3: I’m at Disney World in Epcot partaking in French Fries of the World, which is kind of like when Epcot hosts that event where you walk around the “countries” sampling international wines, except not at all like that. I am carrying around two things: A glittery plastic packet of ketsup, and a roll of toilet paper, in case the unimaginable happens and a bathroom at Disney is out of toilet paper. Every sample location features a majestic, roaring waterfall. Holy cow, I need to pee. Ask costumed, licensed Disney Character where the bathroom is. They perform a weird skit pantomiming pulling down their invisible pants and squatting over a “toilet,” which is really just a manhole, so yeah, thanks a lot, Donald and Daisy. Sheesh. Everyone knows y’all don’t even WEAR pants. Experience inter-dream panic attack because surely I’m going to pee my pants in the Happiest Place on Earth, and I bet they don’t let people with wet pants ride to the top of the giant golf ball.
Okay, I’m REALLY awake now with extremely full bladder. Hobble to the real, actual bathroom wondering if this TOO is yet another dream and I’m about to pee in a potted plant or something. Peeing in actuality is a huge relief, but can I be honest? Pretty anti-climactic after all my adventures in dreaming.
Welcome to mid-life: You ALWAYS have to pee. Sleeping is impossible. Every single dream feels like the result of eating a whole bag of nacho Doritos before bed; and every dream features the quest for a bathroom, and ends with an an anxiety attack. It’s a real swell time.
Take one lifetime of Old Time Religion. Stir in two cups of Fear-Based Theology. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of unintentional judginess, three tbsp of Obviously I’m Right, work through dough. Add additional The Bible CLEARLY Says! to taste.
While religious “dough” is trying to rise, but just kind of petering out, prepare in a shofar – I mean BOWL:
Two cups each of Chronic Pain and Debilitating Illness powder that has been sifted through a “name it and claim it” sieve for 40 years, but it’s still lumpy.
Add 4 tbsp frustration, and a dash of Must Not Be Worthy of Healing. Stir in a packet of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think. Cry about this step for approximately three more years.
Check ingredients in first bowl to make sure dough is indeed rising. But nope. It’s just sitting there in a big glop.
In yet another bowl, add one adult child who has come out as bisexual, which was NOT in the original recipe, so sayeth the Expectations Set Forth by the Church. Add a smidge of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think (if you have any left, which is doubtful. We go through it like gangbusters around here!)
Decide to add many dollups of Mother Love anyway (heck, dump in however much you have,) and set the kitchen timer to two more years on the “acceptance” setting. This is a wet ingredient, so thinning it out will just make it easier to spread. Use liberally.
Open up the pantry and see what else you have that might somehow make it more palatable.
Aww, shucks. All you have is a Costco-sized box a bag of Everything Else Life Can Throw At You. That stuff is SPICY. Always check the label…let’s see…it contains Mental Health Challenges, Losing Mobility, Family Estrangements, Crippling Anxiety, Bouts of Financial Struggle, Alcoholism, Codependency, Childhood Trauma, and 1000 grams of pure Shame Concentrate.
Going back to the bowl, taste the batter. See that it is bad. Mix all ingredients. See that it is WORSE.
While waiting for the timer, it’s important to assume that the Master Chef is angry and frustrated with you. Kind of like an astral Gordon Ramsey or something.
Assure yourself the whole Universe is against you, as is everyone you know and love who is following directions from a 2,000 year old book of recipes that several hundred fallible human people contributed to. Kind of like Gramma’s recipe box that had a hundred food-stained index recipe cards from her friends shoved into between the pages. Make sure to take everything out of context for best results.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and when timer sounds, decide on how much savory Self-Doubt to use. Seasonings come in “I’m a Worthless Sinner,” and “Searing Disappointment” flavors.
Ask yourself WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Am I just a shitty cook, or so I just have so few ingredients to work with, I’m having a hard time accepting the result?
And what if I’ve been forgetting the Main Ingredient all along?
Next (scary) step:
Decide you’re tired of fear-based faith, dust off your hands, open your heart, ask the Universe to help you see what is Truth, battle-weary, heavy-hearted, and feeling raw inside like dough that won’t rise.
Decide to put all judgement and Christian-ese down the garbage disposal. The Expectations of Other People went bad a long time ago and is really stinking up the place.
Decide to fold Unconditional Love into every single recipe. Never run out! Keep it on the top of every list so you always have enough.
Follow the example set by Jesus always…He is always cooking up something GOOD.
Next, march all three containers used previously out your back door. Gently set down all three, and leave them outside to think about what they’ve done.
Now – this is important – turn off the oven. Nobody is burning on my new watch!
You are not alone, Chef Self.
So join a “cooking” club – one that is comprised of other Seekers with open hearts who want to get at the meat of the Truth, and offer you endless sugar.
Flip the script. Read the instructions anew.
Take one bowl – the most chipped and beat up one you got, and butter it with kindness.
Then invite all your friends over to help you create a masterpiece.
All you will need is:
8 cups HOPE – brimming. Five tbsp of self-forgiveness. A heaping scoop of Studying what the Cookbook Really Calls For – reading between the lines. A tbsp of of Learning to Love Yourself Too will hold it all together when you want to throw in the towel.
And last, but MOST importantly, add All the Jesus You Have, all day every day. All of it. Tip it over and smack the bottom of the box for every molecule of Jesus it’s got. Really pile it in on. Study his ways in the context given, and leave room for Holy Spirit in every dish.
Oh, and tell your friends that All the Jesus is just another measurement of LOVE. Get to know HIS way around the kitchen together.
These few ingredients are all you need, Junior Chef, to mix up a reconstruction of faith for the ages. And keep in mind:
If you feel like you have to keep Fear on hand “just in case,” know that God is not the store where you purchased Fear. That stuff is very in-organic.
If you’re grieving the losses of this hard life, pull up a chair and come sit by me. There is always plenty of room at Christ’s table. And mine. *Pulls out chair and pats the seat in a welcoming invitation.*
If you’re ambling around aimlesssly, your chef hat askew, join me. I’ll be celebrating that I finally understand, “It is for freedom you were set free.”
And if you’re deconstructing your faith, and If you’re being called “deceived,” “fallen” – or (and I’m okay with this one) – “ex-evangelical,” remind yourself that the Word of God is an actual person. As Master Chef, he wants to see you succeed.
If you were enticed to read this piece because the title sounds low-key fetishist, move along. I mean, nothing would surprise me anymore. This is no kinky boots I’m talking about…hardy har har.
I’m referring to the oft-quoted, stoic-to-a-fault narrative that when you’re hurting. You know – the old adage: “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps requires you handle it yourself. That’s the whole point of having bootstraps…self-sufficiency. Two little loops are supposed to save you from whatever mayhem you may be facing.
I was thinking about this yesterday because having a pity party is a very lonely experience. It necessitates solitude for proper misery. But as the only attendee, I got pretty sick of myself.
Which is exactly why I texted my dear friend. It was a high-pain day. I had been more or less bed-bound for four days previous. I still am, actually.
My therapist has taught me to consider my “days off” (days when I have no proverbial “spoons” – Google “Spoon Theory…”) as true days of rest. She encourages me to take that time to write, read, even binge watch something to take my mind off of things.
It’s a great idea and it was working great until yesterday. Yesterday was the day I was going to feel better and do better. Except that my body decided NOPE, it wasn’t the day.
The thing about chronic illness is that the world keeps going. You may have the best support circle, and still feel lonely sometimes. I’m losing myself in a days-long pajama binge of watching TikToks and writing mid-grade poetry. Everyone else is out doing All The Things. I’m happy that everyone else is doing All The Things. I just sometimes want to do them too, and resent having this lifestyle “forced” on me.
So rather than sink into a deeper funk, as I said, I finally texted my friend.
I think I said something like, “I’m not doing so well.” And she replied, “Need a hug? I’ll be right over.” This, as it turns out, was the perfect thing to say.
Usually, I rebuff my friends’ offers to come wallow with me. But I was in just the right mood to accept help, I guess.
Usually, I say “No, it’s okay. I’ll be alright.”
Usually, I would honestly rather isolate, because it takes too much mental and emotional energy to engage with another human.
Usually, I don’t reach out at all.
Usually, I pull myself up by my bootstraps (or just kick ’em off and run around barefoot.)
But not yesterday.
I called out to my Bootstrap Buddy and she took time out of doing All The Things in her busy life to come sit with me, hold me, and listen to my blathering about not being able to do All The Things, too.
The origin of the expression “pull yourself up by your bootstratps” is: To improve one’s situation through hard work and self-determination, rather than getting assistance from someone else. But upon researching the beginnings of the term – which seems to have become popular in the turn of the 20th century, it seems it was often made tongue-in-cheek; the idea being that pulling oneself up off the ground by one’s own bootstraps is actually a physical impossibility.
The original verbiage meant to “elevate” oneself. To literally leave the physical ground. It was a smart-ass comment about doing for oneself what is is only possible to do with help.
I don’t always have it in me to put in “hard work” and “self determination.” Sometimes I’m empty. in those times, it cannot be done; although we can fall on our faces trying, blinded by pride.
We all need that one person – or several people – who will get into the muck and mire to help pull our boots up, out of the mud. I’m fortunate to be married to one. But I also have friends willing to hold space for me in that place.
All the self-reliance and pride in the world cannot compete with being held and listened to when we are at a low point. There are times when lifting ourselves is a physical (or mental) impossibility.
Thank you for elevating me, and picking me up off the ground, my precious Buddies.
It was 2005. The girls were barely 9 and 12. I had to leave my ex husband. We left nearly everything; I took my kids and the clothes we had on our backs, and just enough belongings – a very small storage unit – to start a new life.
I left heirlooms and photo albums, boxes of childhood stuff, meaningful – all of it. I went from stay at home mom to working four jobs at once just to feed and house my girls. I had no help of any kind, financially or emotionally.
I worked one of the jobs so that Lexi could take Hula lessons and Ash could pursue her interests. I fed them a lot of chicken nuggets, ramen noodles, and instant mashed potatoes, and happy meals. I myself lived on cigarettes and Diet Coke, and lost 80 pounds in a short amount of time.
I was so frazzled and scared, and had only four years sober at the time. It is by the grace of God I didn’t pick up a drink; I know this because I am not that strong – I had supernatural help.
The pics from this time period came up in my memories and punched me in the gut, but almost in a good way. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I have memories of crying myself to sleep, but I also have the best memories of the times represented by these pictures.
It was so hard. But those precious girls! This is one reason my daughters and I are so close. We’ve been through some sh*t together. I wasn’t sure we’d survive it. But we did.
I’m writing this because I have so many friends going through single motherhood.
Mamas, you are doing an awesome %#@&$ job. You’re slaying it.
Even though you worry about your babies constantly.
Even though you feel like you’re missing the mark.
It tasted like loving myself. At the time, at least.
This might not be a big deal, but you see, my diabetes is severe and my kidneys are slowly failing.
Why did I do it? That’s a good question.
I ate the first one because my sugar was tanked after neglecting to fuel my body consistently the right way throughout the day.
They were sour coated gummy worms, and I guess that’s why I ate the next one.
And then I had a visit from an old friend called “WTF” (those are it’s initials…I don’t like to use it’s whole name in polite company.)
A brilliant conversationalist, WTF has a lot to say.
WTF says what difference does it make?
WTF makes sense. I’m making all these lifestyle changes to little avail. Even when I eat perfectly, my kidneys are still tanking.
This things gonna get you anyway, it says.
So WTF. Eat the rest of the bag. Go out in a blaze of Trolli limited-time-novelty-candy glory.
WTF reminds me that I FELL BETTER in my soul with sugar on my tongue. So I keep putting more candy on my tongue, because cause and affect are a real thing.
As it melts in my mouth salaciously, I love myself a little. And hate myself a little, too.
So in other words… it hits me RIGHT in the childhood.
WTF is very persuasive. The more I guiltily stuff worms in my face, the more I feel I deserve to eat worms. “You lazy jerk,” WTF whispers. “See? You can’t control yourself. Guess you may as well eat the whole bag.”
But ironically, as long as I am eating the candy, I can hush the scolding for the time being. It’s a bit of an “I’ll show you” display of mid-grade rebellion. With every candy, I am sticking to The Man (except if I’m honest with myself, at this stage, The Man is really only me)
I am in a frenzy of sour-coated, sweet and tangy bliss. My inner child has a full belly and a blue tongue.
And I crumple the empty bag and stick it in the trash, under some other trash. Which is what I feel like now…trash.
This is hard.
And it’s extra hard because WTF and I go way back. We have a history.
I remember it best from my drinking days. And that’s why we broke up on January 3, 2001. I wasn’t expecting the shady bastard to show up on my doorstep again.
WTF. It likes to tell me things like “Everybody drinks wine.”
WTF. “You drank last night and it made you feel while and complete. Drink again.”
WTF. “It doesn’t matter anyway. You’ll never get it right.”
WTF is kind of a live-in-the-moment guy, which is what makes it dangerous. Impulsive, it encourages me to be impulsive – something I have a penchant for anyway.
WTF says, “If it makes your soul feel satiated, why not do it? Don’t think of tomorrow, or next week, or even when the sugar crash will start.”
WTF says that now is the time. Now is always the time.
Even though last night’s bender was just in candy, it was still a Bender. It’s poison to my body in my condition, just as alcohol became poison to me, mind, body, and soul.
I am not a healthy girl. I can not afford to take poison.
So I am writing this at 4 o’clock in the morning, feeling sick and befuddled, knowing I’m going to feel worse tomorrow.
And I’ll have the added weight of knowing I chose – in however small a way – self sabotage over self-care.
WTF comes under the guise of a nanny of sorts. It encourages me to take care of my inner child by giving her what she THINKS she wants…not what she needs.
All I can do is tell WTF to eff off, take Little Me under my own wings, and care for her the right way.
And write about it. Because it’s the only way I know to purge these feelings. And maybe make someone else feel less alone.
I will choose self care for the rest of today. Join me?
It’s (still) Ehlers Danlos Awareness Month. I thought I would share some interesting things from growing up with it undiagnosed, in letter format, from the prospective of what I know now:
Dear Kindergarten-2nd grade teachers: We have been trying to correct the way I hold my pencil for a couple of years now. There’s nothing wrong with my handwriting – I just hold my pencil with pretzel fingers overlapped because that’s what feels natural and comfortable. Please stop trying to make “holding the pencil correctly” happen. It’s never gonna happen.
Dear OBs: There’s a reason why I keep going into preterm labor. It’s called “incompetent cervix” and is pretty much what it sounds like. I don’t have enough collagen to stabilize my womb. My babies will come FAST, and with life-threatening complications for me and them. Both of my babies had to be resuscitated at birth and I nearly died, both times. Knowing what was wrong with my body may have helped me have safer pregnancies.
Dear PE Teachers (every single last one of you…): I’m not faking the sprains and dislocations. I’m not sure how one would “fake” a dislocation, as you can clearly see my shoulder rolled in an awkward, unnatural position. Nothing like being forced to run the mile on the track when your hip has subluxed out of place! And also….When my mom writes me notes excusing me from PE, it’s because I get injured incredibly easy and I AM IN PAIN. Not “owie” pain….No. We are talking grown-ass man-would-cry PAIN. No, I don’t care about your class, because I dread EVERY morning having to participate in things that hurt me, and hurt me badly. I admit to having a bit of a disdain for PE teachers. Between getting yelled at because of injuries and given “F’s” in class, I’m not a fan.
Dear Fitness People: It’s not normal for my heart-rate to go up to 200 on moderate exercise. Being pushed to work harder and go faster is a recipe for disaster. I pass out. Everyone cannot do what you can do.
Dear Childhood friends: I cannot hold my fork like you do – it’s not bad manners, I promise. It’s the only way I can keep a grip on my fork.
Dear Healthcare workers: Just because you are not familiar with a syndrome or disease doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or isn’t profound. That is why me – and those like me – are so determined to spread awareness. People don’t know. People need to know.
Dear “Every Doctor I saw before I was 40”: Please do not hastily slap the “fibromyalgia” label on every sick person. While it is a very real thing, other illnesses can masquerade for it – conditions that require treatments. It took me almost 20 years to get a correct diagnosis.
EVERY SINGLE THING I experienced health-wise my whole life makes SENSE since the diagnosis. By the time I met Bob, I was at the END of my rope. I wasn’t sure what was happening to me, and half the doctors insinuated I was just crazy, which adds insult to injury. Please, doctors…PLEASE. Listen to your patients and pay attention to the symptoms.
If I still had no idea what was wrong with me, I don’t know where I’d be, ya’ll.
Because after decades of your shit dislocating and experiencing debilitating fatigue and repeated injuries, stroke-level blood pressure, a crappy immune system that refuses to cooperate consistently, horrible migraines that take you down for days…..you lose hope.
I was absolutely losing hope, and honestly, it made me want to drink. I only came out of this thing with sobriety intact because of the love of my good husband and the care of an incredible doctor.
At least I know what’s happening when I sublux or dislocate, or experience high pain. I am so fortunate to know, so that I know how to best deal with my chronic illness.
I wish the same for every person with a chronic illness.
Thank you for making me a mom – it’s been my greatest and most challenging role.
When each of you were first born, you wouldn’t cry on your own. Because of my condition, your births were unsafely fast. Neonatal doctors were called in to resuscitate you, and it was then I had my first taste of sheer terror and first fervent Mama prayer.
Your cries were the sweetest sound.
When you were babies, I nursed you for what may be considered a “long” time, and I wore you in baby slings all the time.
We co-slept because it felt natural – it WAS natural – and I didn’t take one second for granted. “Remember this,” I would say to myself all the time. “Remember the way the nape I’d get neck smells. Remember how she plays with your hair while you’re breastfeeding. Remember these peals of laughter that sound like a thousand angels playing bells.”
When you were in your terrible twos (and then threes,) it became so apparent that you were your OWN people, not extensions of me at all (and boy am I glad of that!)
Peeling you off the floor of the grocery store, where you’d decided to tantrum hard core over God only knows what minor disappointment, I told myself to remember that, too. “Someday, you’ll look back in this and laugh,” I said to me. And without fail, when your tears were dry, you’d crawl up in my lap and say “I love you, Mommy.” And all was right with the world.
In your elementary school years, you were all about learning. Some of our best times were going to museums, and art festivals (and of COURSE cultural fairs!) Witnessing the unfolding of your minds was one of the greatest pleasures of my life. So bright! So eager to learn about the world.
Then you became ‘tweens and Lord have Mercy, Katie bar the door! All of the sudden, my mom confidence plummeted.
I no longer felt like I knew what I was doing at all, but I faked that I did.
You were morphing into beautiful, opinionated beings of light with penchants for drama.
And even in the midst of arguments, I still told myself, “Remember this…” When the squalls passed over, we were all three right as rain again.
These were the years I welcomed my Bonus Daughter, not by birth, but by grand design. I’m grateful. God must really love me or something.
In the blink of an eye, you girls were in high school. My babies not so much babies, but spitfires unafraid to assert themselves and their ideas.
Your ideas were certainly not my ideas, nor my beliefs yours. But oh my God how proud I was that you had that crazy zeal for life, and in your quest to figure it all out, we became actual friends.
There have been many moments of sheer terror in being a parent. And many, many more fervent prayers. And I still try not to take one moment for granted, even though we don’t always see eye-to-eye.
I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.
Always my babies, now you are almost 26 and 29.
You’ve given me stretch marks and gray hair, and the greatest joy I’ve ever known.
When we spend time together, there is still a piece of my mama heart whispering, “Remember this.
Remember laughing so hard that we peed a little.
Remember her face when she accomplished that goal that she worked to hard to achieve.
Remember all of the difficult times, but especially remember the beautiful breakthroughs.”
I’ve been looking through old pics because Mother’s Day makes me melancholy.
Part of it is the necessarily severed relationship with my own mother, and partly because my kids’ childhoods were a time I actually felt competent in a way I haven’t since.
When they were littles:
I could make their food with my body (for 4 1/2 years out of my life between the two of them. I was virtually the Dairy Queen!) It was the purest experience of my life.
I could hit up every library in Raleigh so they didn’t miss one single “Toddler Time” program in town.
I could teach them how to read and to ride their bikes.
I got endless snuggles.
I could wipe every year and kiss every booboo.
I got to choose their friends.
And celebrate their every accomplishment and victory.
But best of all, I got to see the world through their eyes.
And my arms were always full with children.
I figure the picture I’ve chosen for this blog is probably the most accurate candid shot, and utterly relatable to other moms who are willing to say the truth: Parenting is not easy.
All we see on social media is Insta-worthy, misty watercolored perfection. We use filters. We want the world to see how perfect our kids are; how stellar we are parenting.
The problem with that is that they aren’t perfect, and I’m not a perfect mother. (PS…perfection – even filtered – is an illusion.
I remember this picture because my friend was taking pictures at the preschool that morning and she snapped this one. I hated it at first. But now I kind of love it.
A harried, overwhelmed mother of two littles, trying to pick up one child from preschool while running late for the other’s dentist appointment.
I wish I could go back in time and tell myself it will all be ok. I wish I could tell this young mom that one day she will be able to handle the chaos and unpredictability without alcohol. I wish I could tell her YOUR BABIES WILL BE OK. They will not escape childhood unscathed. And YOU will not escape it unscathed.
So I’m telling YOU, Mama. Your babies will be okay.
Y’all, what an odd time to be alive. We want to be seen in our best light all the time, and social media has set this expectation in stone.
But here’s the thing, Moms…
You ARE the light.
You’re doing a great job.
I know my kids have some unpleasant memories. After all, you never know what they’ll remember from childhood. They could recall in detail the time Mommy burnt Thanksgiving dinner and lay on the kitchen floor crying in a heap. Or when she yelled at them for the 10th time in a day. They may remember those near-perfect days in Disneyworld when they breakfasted with Snow White and got to pull the sorcerer’s stone out of Merlin’s rock outside the carousel, ride Big Thunder Mountain twice in a row, and eat churros while perusing Epcot.
It’s a crap shoot, really…. the memories they take away.
I still routinely find myself with the expression of the young mother I once was. Life is confounding and overwhelming.
But look what I have in my arms! Having them is having EVERYTHING. Big kids = big problems. But we still all hold on to each other.
I still celebrate all of their accomplishments and victories. I still hug them every chance I get.
I am still seeing the world through their eyes. They teach me as much as I ever taught them.
So tonight, I have wicked bad painsomnia. That’s (obviously) when you are in too much pain to sleep. In the past couple of weeks, I got some bad news, health-wise. It’s been intense. So I decided to share a little story with my readers, because I can’t sleep and maybe you can’t too. Or maybe in this hostile, uber-political, divisive world climate, you need an uplifting human interest story. I know I do.
Last week, I had to get my second Covid vaccine, and had to go two counties over to get it.
The town I went to has a small little Health Department. They take you in a room and give you the shot, and then they take you to another waiting room, where you are required to wait 20 minutes to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction. You are shuffled into a large room with other people who are also doing their 20 minutes.
The others were strangers to me, of course. About 10 people total in this space. Two of them were having a “private” conversation behind me ( you couldn’t miss it – they were on the loud side, and it was silent otherwise.) The exchange turned to God, and miracles, and answered prayers.
Where I was sitting, I shot my own hand up to the sky. Just couldn’t help it. I felt the Spirit in the room and it only seemed right to acknowledge it. I don’t know if it was years of Pentecostal churching or what, but I couldn’t control my hands. They just raised. And behind me, a torrent of hollering and praising began, until several ladies joined in.
It was such a beautiful thing. I miss that about corporate worship. Finally, being ever-awkward, I simply stated, “God is GOOD!” To which a glorious, unanimous refrain came from every mouth in the room: “ALL THE TIME. “After a minute solid, the love in that room was palpable.
We were not denominations, or affiliations. Ages and races. Republicans and Democrats. Just a bunch of women with sore arms managing to raise them anyway to give God the glory for low-key miracles and ordinary, answered prayers. And I think that’s what Heaven will be like.
God is good ALL THE TIME. Even when our organs are failing and our hearts are breaking. I’m also convinced that a group of strangers finding out that they are actually “family” and sharing it together in a dingy, gray government building is LOVE.
I’m horrible at holding cards close to my chest. I’m awful at stoically handling things “on my own,” privately. I get on my own nerves with my oversharing tendencies sometimes, but I don’t know any other way to get through this life without sharing experiences and gleaning the hope of others’ experiences.
When I was drinking, I was a closeted everything. I had secrets to keep. Nobody knew any of my business because I was protecting my right to cope the only way I knew how. When I got sober 20 years ago, I had to change my ways. I had to seek out others who were battling the same demons, and we held one another up. I never looked back from that lesson – that in order to live in the light, I must live communally.
So that’s why I’m sharing my life with all of you. I pray something I might say will make you feel less alone. This is particularly important in recovery…staying alcohol-free is not a solitary endeavor. I learn so very much from the people who share their journeys with me, and there’s no way I would have survived my circumstances alone.
So I’m going to be sharing a couple of new facets of my journey with ya’ll, dear readers.
Some of you know that I’ve undergone a faith renovation in the past five years or so; one which came about as a result of my dealing with chronic illness and pain. I’ve done some rigorous soul-searching and come away with my fundamentalism in tatters, but my love for Jesus astounding. So I will still be writing about that aspect and all the feelings, musings, and observations that entails.
But I am very recently having to deal with another pretty tremendous blow, and I need to write about my thoughts and fears don’t become a toxic sludge. I don’t know why sharing helps. It just does.
Without going through the litany of health issues I have – which are legion – the latest news is that my kidneys are failing. Failing. I hate that word….failing.
I feel like I am failing at a number of things lately, so it figures. I cannot undo the permanent damage, but I can possibly keep it from getting worse. There are a number of things that led up to this predicament, namely crazy bad diabetes. But there are several genetic factors contributing as well. It’s kind of a perfect storm.
I am having to change the way I do most everything, especially eat and exercise. Eating is my coping mechanism. Or it was.
It’s all connected. All of the systems in our bodies. Every part affects every other. Our faith walk, as it relates to our physical bodies. Connected.
Just like we are all connected.
So welcome to my raw, gaping wound. In the span of a week since I found out about this latest crisis, I have run the entire acceptance gamut. It’s still sore and upsetting. The only way I know for it to heal is to invite others to join me in making huge changes, venting my frustration, and getting by like I always do; with a little help from my friends.
Okay….maybe a lot of help.
I’ll be writing raw. I’ll be hashing this out with words as I try to figure things out.
If you’ve stuck with me for all these years as a faithful reader, I cannot thank you enough.
It’s the stone-cold middle of the night, or rather the wee hours of the morning. I’ve had a migraine for three days now, you see. It’s making sleep very difficult.
Last week was full of wonders and worries. I received some scary health news and it’s been difficult to digest. It’s given me a fresh excuse to entertain anxiety, and man oh man, am I anxious tonight.
On tap for this evening’s show is General Anxiety, hosted by Exhaustion. Primal Fear makes a cameo as well. Special guests include Low-Simmering Anger, and special guests Frustration and Depression threaten to make an appearance. All from the comfort of my own bed!
No wonder I can’t sleep.
I tell God about my worries. There is much mental hand-wringing and emotional gnashing of teeth. He already knows how I’m feeling but he is patient in listening to my ramblings. To him all my ramblings are valid, because I’m his child.
I would quiet my mind and try to meditate, only to hear the clamor of anxiety approach. I am hearing the far-away cacophony coming closer – all noise and discombobulated chaos. Horns, whistles, drums….all at once. And all on me.
I consider how very much my mental health IS like a one-man band. I’m handling several random instruments at once, playing none of them well, and oy vey! What a racket!
Music, I think to myself. I need music to calm my mind.
So, I popped in my earbuds and started with Tibetan “singing bowls” on Spotify. When I couldn’t get my Zen on with that, I listened to some chill music featuring sounds of nature. You know, like a massage therapist might play to help you relax.
But no. I was too wound to enjoy it.
I know! Georgian chants! My husband got me music at a little monastery outside of Atlanta years ago of monks reciting Georgian chants. Surely that will help get me out of my head and calm the savage migraine beast.
I tried. I gave it a good, long try. But still couldn’t disengage my mind.
So still, I felt yucky. I felt sick from worrying about my family and my health and my diagnosis. And a global pandemic. A world upside down,
“Why aren’t you soothing me, Lord?”
It was an honest question.
But by being with me, he IS soothing me.
I think he wants to BE with me, more than make it al about my obsessions and problems.
I want him to conjure up those pink clouds of blessed assurance. I want to feel delivered. But Instead of having immediate calm and zen fuzzies, I could feel him take my hand and hold it in his, where we sat and sat with each other, quiet as church mice.
And slowly, anti-climactically, I sense a peace come over me. But it’s not the peace of mended bodies, fixed families, answers, or dramatic miracles. Not the kind of peace you get from having crystal-clear resolution.
Nope, it’s a MUCH better peace.
It’s the peace of knowing my God – Creator of the cosmos – will come sit with me in my yuckiness. That’s the place he meets us.
And sometimes that has to be enough.
I can feel the Spirit over the din of the one-man band, and it’s comforting to know I’m not alone.
No chanting of monks, no singing bowls. Just the absolute assurance he is with me and in me and for me. He wants to sit with me in my funk, and he will lift me up out of it in due time.
You’re not alone either.
I pray God himself will come sit with you in the yuckiness, until that dramatic miracle comes.