From Pinterest to Promise

Recently I was approached by the group facilitator of our church’s Divorce Care support group. She asked me to speak about some of the proactive steps I had taken over the years.  It’s hard to believe three years ago I went to my first Divorce Care meeting and once it was over I promptly handed back the workbook and told the facilitator that this wasn’t for me, that I wasn’t ready.  Five months or so later, I went again and it was the start of exactly what I needed for my recovery.  Being in a community of folks that had gone or were going through what I was going through helped. I firmly believe we are not meant to do life alone. The notion of self-reliance and self-sufficiency is so misconstrued and misinterpreted. We need each other.

With the group, I shared that one of the things I did during the craziness was to spend time searching through Pinterest.  My sole (soul) purpose was searching for words of encouragement, something in which I could believe.  I found some good ones – some that I still to this day recall and either sigh or smile when I read them. However, it struck me that while these words of encouragement existed, they weren’t alive.  I don’t know that I can pinpoint exactly when I started to seek out the promises of God in my Bible but I know that as I searched for words of encouragement I found them. Eventually, I compiled a handful and I  would stand in front of my bathroom mirror and say, “Cast all your cares upon the Lord for He cares for you (Psalm 55:22). You are clothed with strength and dignity and laugh without fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25). That the Lord is your shepherd; you shall not want (Psalm 23:1).” After awhile, I began to internalize them and began to really believe them. “Cast all my cares upon God, for He cares for me. I am clothed with strength and dignity and I laugh without fear of my future. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  Most recently, I used these promises to remind myself that He knows the plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11). So while the diagnosis of MS (let’s be real and include everything: foreclosure, bankruptcy, losing everything in Arizona, infidelity, divorce, suicide, and sickness) took me by surprise, it didn’t catch my God off guard.

Today, I got an email letting me know that a woman I fully respect and honor has received a diagnosis of cancer.  I don’t love hearing this – in fact, I hate hearing this. But C is a remarkable woman who finds peace in the midst of every situation because she is confident that God was not surprised by the phone call she received.  C doesn’t need Pinterest to carry her through this next stage in her life, but some of us that love her might – I still struggle this side of life in understanding why we are asked to walk the path we are given.  Have I gone through my own health battles to remind her and others that there is hope? Am I here to remind her that it never occurs to any of us that one day we’d wake up sick and never get better? Will I still turn to Pinterest to find words of encouragement to grace the cards I will send reminding her that she is loved?   Probably.

But I will also search for promises in my Bible because I know that is the life that is needed right now.  And I am reminded that it’s my responsibility in this “tribe” of life that I am meant to offer encouragement, and support, and to not let her feel like she needs to be anything other than selfish about her own self-care right now.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2Corinthians 1:3-4).

So to C, and CM, and AS: I’m rooting for each of you and the challenges that life has brought to your doorstep. You’re not alone.

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We Need to Talk

One thing I love about where I live is the amount of opportunities I have to enjoy community events on topics that I both know little about and find interesting or that I know lots about and already love.

Last night, our local Friends of the Library hosted Celeste Headlee who spoke about communication and her book “We Need to Talk.” One of the points she referenced was a study that reported that there is less than half-a-second between the time a speaker finishes a sentence and the listener responds.  She shared that we tune into a conversation for about ten seconds, immediately formulate a response, and then wait for the other person to stop so that we can start.

She shared a study that reported that since the year 2000 there has been a decline in empathy among young people and while there was no definitive reason as to why (yet), she offered her opinion that technology, specifically smart phone technology, could be the driving force.  That it was much easier to send a quick text than to make a call, that feelings are conveyed not with words but with emojis.

When I was going through “The Craziness“, a night did not pass that a friend wasn’t calling to check on me, there was not a day that my family didn’t hear the same story over and over, and there was not a time that I could not pour my emotions into a keyboard and find a kindred spirit in blogland.

I believe in times of crisis, we generally do a good job of communicating with each other. We see this over and over with natural disasters and sadly, unnatural ones. We are a tribe, we are a hive, we are unified, we synchronize, we move as one — it truly is when one hurts we all hurt. Brené Brown shares that vulnerability can transform and move us towards great things and that the most vulnerable in a crisis situation is not necessarily the weakest one.  It is the person who risks their own life to rescue those in danger, the one who speaks up when they see wrong, or the one takes a moment to call and verbally convey the words “I care.”  It is those that choose to dare greatly knowing they are most at risk for loss.

Personally, I don’t want to wait for a crisis to wake up and look out from behind selfies and passive aggressive 40-character tweets to see that people are not the titles they carry at work, the labels that they wear, or the roles they have been assigned. They are the people behind that job title, the person behind that responsibility, the individual just wanting to be heard.

We do need to talk. And it might be, as Celeste shared, we need to talk about why we’re not talking. Or it might be that we just need to talk because it’s time for our inner voice to see the light of day again.  I am not a job title, or a label, or a role, I am just someone that wants not only to be heard but I dare greatly in putting myself out there hoping that someone listens.

A Choice to Be…

I recently shared with my therapist that I wished I had a photo of myself from my first session with her so that I could compare it with myself now. I know that I did not get here overnight and I certainly didn’t get here without a lot of help and support. I also don’t want to sell myself short… I’ve worked hard, really hard.  I spent many a night pouring out my soul in blog posts. My mind alone raced more than a marathon runner.

I still have bad days. Sometimes, really bad days – days where I still feel an incredible emptiness inside. There are still sleepless nights and sometimes nightmares. At my last acupuncture appointment I said, “I’m really having a hard time right now, and I’m counting on you and everyone else to keep me together.” I’m not quite sure what I wanted him to do, but I relished in the fact that I could say out loud that I needed help; something that for so many years I held in confidence due to pride.   You should know that both my acupuncturist and my massage therapist play jedi-mind tricks –they seem to know where and when I’m hurting, both physically and emotionally, and it always makes me laugh when they ask a question that I’m sure they already know the answer to.

After my most recent post people asked questions about what I had done or was doing. So much of it now is a part of who I am that it’s hard for me to remember all the subtle changes over time. Hence me wishing that I had that picture of the first day “on the couch.”  After some searching I was able to find a photo of myself from August 2014. It was a staff photo, so it was one in which I made a conscience effort to do my makeup, hair, and wardrobe. And on my birthday, I had snapped a selfie of myself – August 2017.  I was able to place them side by side and see just how much had changed in three years.

Putting the weight-loss aside, there is something different about my eyes, my skin-tone, my smile. In the former, I looked sickly and pale and if anyone cared to look in my eyes, they would have seen right to my soul.  And when I looked at my birthday picture… of me… on my 47th (!)  birthday, there is light in my eyes and color in my cheeks, and my smile seems brighter.  Yes, bad days still happen, but man, there are so many more good days now.

It was just one simple thing – one choice that started it all. And over time, that one simple thing has changed and evolved. What once started as just remembering to exhale, to not concentrate on replaying the events with M, or trying to define what happened, is now choosing to make sure I have a healthful diet, choosing to be truly thankful and grateful for this life I have been given, and to unashamedly accept a face full of doggy kisses upon demand.

So I guess I would ask those of you that asked me what I am doing…. “what are YOU willing to do for you?”  Just start with one choice– make it real, make it your own.  Sometimes, it’s just enough to get out of bed and call that success. Or it might be remembering that what you eat in secret, you wear in public- so choose to make a better food choice. It might be embracing what my pastor’s wife taught me all those years ago, No Thank You is a complete sentence. It might be capturing that negative thought and choosing to give it to the Lord. And it might be just remembering to take your vitamins.

What do I do?  I work at it and I remember that it didn’t happen overnight.  I make a million little choices each day. I choose to remember what C reminded me, that I am worth it. But on the bigger scale, I choose to still faithfully take my Juice Plus, I choose to speak life to myself each morning, I choose to treat myself kindly with services that help my overall well-being, and I choose to remember that one day I just might wake up with only the things I thanked God for yesterday… and for that reason, I’m always thankful for those in my life that have carried me this far.

My M.S. Update

How are you?  You feeling OK?

I answer these two questions constantly. Most often asked by folks I don’t see on a regular basis. And since my job includes a group of 1,400 people, the rotation of folks that I don’t see on a regular basis, is well, regular.

It’s been awhile since I updated on my health.  I still have MS – it doesn’t go away but my symptoms are manageable. I’m still following a primarily plant-based diet and still practice self-care by speaking life to myself each day, and trying to keep my stress level low(er), as well as doing things that allow “me” time, such as massages and manicures.

I think the biggest thing is that I’m super, almost hyper, sensitive to every nuance in my body and how I feel. I swear that during stressful times I can feel each strand of hair on my head move. I try hard to remember that each day is just a day and that a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. A bad food decision doesn’t ruin a day; it’s just a bad decision.  The problem with that last one though is that I’ve given myself a lot of grace…and I mean a LOT of grace. I can’t really explain it except to say that maybe I’ve been so successful that I feel like I can’t fail? And that’s a hard mindset (for me) to overcome. Maybe it’s because for the past few years, people allowed me to live by excuses… if I was angry, I had right to be; if I was sad, I had a right to be; if I was snippy or rude, I had a right to be; if I needed a night of binge eating following by laziness, I had a right to be.

The reality is that it’s a privilege to be surrounded by friends that understand that there will be days that I’m still angry, sad, rude or snippy. But they are excuses, and I don’t have the right to keep using what happened to me to still control me and allow me to get away with the lack of common courtesy. It’s the same with MS. Yea, it sucks to think that I have something that will forever be a part of my life. But Lord, help me to remember that it’s a part of my life – it’s not my life.  It’s forever going to guide me, but I don’t want to give it so much control that it leads me.

So, right now, I’m struggling mentally with accepting the limitations of what I should eat. It’s easy to have and experience success short term, like I did from August to December last year. I have medical evidence that the plan I am following does work for me. But now, I’m feeling the weight of having to do this every day for the rest of my life.  I’m not angry that this is my life. I accept the story that is mine knowing that somewhere, somehow there is a plan and a purpose. This body is just a shell – just a physical manifestation of a life that I believe I will have for eternity. And in the end, no matter the emotional, mental, physical struggle that each day brings me I know one thing to be absolutely true….

I may not have signed up for this life but I’m damn sure going to show up for it.