May Day!!!

It’s May 1st, aka “May Day”. For centuries this has been a traditional spring holiday.  The day is celebrated by dances, singing and food. As a child I remember being in a little german village, Leavenworth, WA on May Day. We watched a traditional may pole dance, with girls dancing with long colorful ribbons, weaving them around the pole as they danced. A caution. This pole dancing should not to be confused with the other kind of pole dancing. Very different.

Mayday is also an international distress call. Used in triplicate, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday”, it means the caller is in imminent danger. It originated in 1923 when a radio officer  in London was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress, and could be easily understood over radio communication. He proposed the word “Mayday” from the French “m’aider”, a shortened version of “venez m’aider” (meaning “come and help me”).

Two drastically different definitions for the same word.  One conjurs images of girls dancing in pretty dresses in green grass and the other of ships being tossed about on high roiling seas.

Sometimes I wonder if there is more than one definition of myself. I feel like I am now the 2.0 version and I’m not sure the upgrade was worth the price.  There was the over busy, under medicated and distracted “me” of 2 years ago and the more intentional,  more focused and significantly less busy me of now. Somedays I miss who I was before I knew I was sick. I miss the confidence, the full schedule, the feelings of significance.

However, I am hoping that somewhere down the road I will feel less like my personal definition was hijacked and more like I was evolving into something more beautiful.  Perhaps, as is often the case, the review mirror will give me a more accurate view of myself than the one  currently hanging on my wall.

The point is, we all have those “before that happened” or “after this happened” moments where we know our lives changed for better or worse. Mine was a diagnosis, others may have grief or tragedy. No matter the cause, life changes us. I have been fighting this with everything in me – trying desperately to hang on to what I was when in fact my new definition, who I am becoming, has the potential to be far more fulfilling.

Gimme some fresh air!!!

Squished into an airplane with my outer thigh pressed up against the stranger next to me is invasive and uncomfortable. And, I’m getting an arm cramp because I’ve folded my shoulder bones together, making my cleavage look very impressive, trying not to touch the person next to me. It’s the awkward little airplane dance of mandatory, yet unwelcome physical interaction. The closeness, the touching, the small talk – it’s all enough to make a perfectly sane person think jumping out of airplanes is a grand idea.

But here is the real injustice of airplane travel. Air quality. Am I the only one who hates breathing in hand-me-down air? I feel like an oxygen starved guppy, tempted to put my mouth directly up to that toothpaste top vent, gulping in the moving air, even though I know it is not even fresh. Something about the air moving makes it seem healthier.

However, I have another more serious grievance. Travelers who fart in their sleep. Seriously.  Why do I have to breathe in your pollution! Put a plug in it already. GAH! On my last trip I wanted to wake up the tooting passengers and glare at them through eyes that were watering from the insult to my olfactory. I would point at my eye for emphasis, perhaps with my middle finger.“Look at what you have done to me”! Then, graciously I would offer a breath mint or some gum. “Have a breath mint. May I suggest where you put it?” Maybe minty bubble gum. I don’t care if people want to blow bubbles out their ass as long as they smell good! So, not to be completely callous, I know flatulation is an inevitability whenever people are sleeping, except in my case. I’m pretty sure I have never farted in my sleep, but for most people this is a foregone conclusion. Still, plan ahead folks. No beans for 3 months prior to flying. Unfortunately, when traveling in such close quarters, shared air happens. I will have to adjust.

I have traveled my life with some grand adventurers. So many of my “circle” carry the fragrances of love, grace and hope. However, some are putrid, rigid and carry baggage that smells like the city dump. It used to be a part of my life’s mission and work to travel with the latter, helping them to see, hear, smell what a fresh outlook on life looks like. However, that isn’t the case anymore.

My job now is to care for myself. Heal, learn to love with trust, remember and really live. So, I pick my fellow travelers carefully. Those who give me life, share love, forgive and offer grace; those who inspire those qualities in me. These are the people who I choose to wander with these days.  This is the high quality fresh air I choose to breathe. I am blessed to have access to it. Very blessed.  

Survival of the smartest?

Walking, a skill I thought I had mastered some years ago, has become a pain in my . . . legs. I have shin splints.  A thin fiery, burning muscle, the anterior tibialis (shin) is making me want to cuss and cry while I’m exercising. After a little research I went to the sporting goods stores for some weights to help me stretch it out.  Then I spotted my solution, a plastic tube with handles that weightlifters use for resistance training.  This seemed like a viable, lighter and more portable solution than the ankle weights I was considering. Ima try it.

Feeling creative and smart, I sat down on the weight bench and looped the tube around my extended foot. The goal was to point my toe and then flex it, stretching the shin muscle. The pointing of the toe went great but when I flexed my foot the tubing catapulted off my foot and THWACK,  square in the face. Perhaps a more intelligent soul may have figured out  I was making myself into a human slingshot long before this point. Not me. I aimed that huge rubber band right at my face. I was now holding my head with one hand because it felt like it was exploding and dabbing my swollen watery eye and nose with the other. I tried sneaking a peak through my watery, squinted good eye, to see if anybody was watching. 

There’s more. Since I had my shoe on when I tried it the first time I figured the hard soled shoe, not my brain, was the issue. So, I took my shoe off, looped the tube around my bare foot and DID IT AGAIN with predictably, the same result. Yup I’m just that intelligent. Not everyone can be smarties. Some of us are dum dums.

Pride abolished, I quickly placed the tubing back on the hook and scooted out of the the weight department hoping nobody saw the slingshot Korean hanging out there.  Frankly, let’s hope if Kim Jong-un gets too aggressive with his target practice over there he has the same confusion with trajectory and direction as I do.

Yes. This is a true story.  Dammit.

I’ve been waiting for somebody to give me permission to pursue a different career path than I had previously been on. I called my Pastor a couple of weeks ago, whining. I explained that all these great things were happening for me; writing, publishing, connections etc. but I felt I should still hang on to what was. His simple, wise response was something like “I don’t want to be insensitive but it seems like God is allowing you step into something great – Something many people would love  to have the time and talent to do.”  THWACK right in the face. Ummmm, yes. I’m blessed. I’m fortunate.

I suspect my pride muscle is wounded since I didn’t exactly choose to leave what I loved but perhaps a little gratitude is in order. Here’s what I have decided. Change is hard, unexpected change is horrible but forced change is excruciating. Gratitude for what was, what is and what may be, and releasing control of all of it is the balm my soul needs.

And perhaps a physics lesson or two.   I don’t think the laws of natural selection are in my favor at this point.

It’s all in your head . . . or is it?

A beautiful young, vibrant girl died yesterday. I only knew her casually  but she felt like somebody I had known for a lifetime. Everybody who met her felt that way. She had an ugly aggressive form of brain cancer. From the time she was diagnosed, doctors used the latest technology, medicine, and surgery to try to eradicate or at least slow the effects of the disease.

This is the thing. Nobody told her it was something she imagined or made up. Nobody told her to just read her Bible, find joy in spite of the cancer or just find peace in her faith. She was prayed for by hundreds, maybe thousands. People who believed and lived out their faith cried out to God on her behalf, as did she. She still lived with the effects of her disease and it killed her, in spite of faith.

A local church was asked about starting a support group for people with Complex PTSD, depressive disorders, trauma based mental illness. “It’s not necessary. You should find joy and peace in the Word,” was the answer. “Its the same as you having cancer,” the aspiring group leader said. “What if you were told to just go pray about it and never seek treatment for your disease. People need support. Don’t you think the church is place they should find that?” “We just don’t see it that way,” said the pastor. “That’s something totally different.”

In a world where we talk about our breasts, colon procedures and weight challenges without shame shouldn’t mental illness also be acceptable conversation?  Sadly, it is still met with disbelief and distrust, which frequently turns the corner to blaming the sufferer for lack of  faithfulness, especially in a church  setting. Even worse is the accusation that all mental illness is simply being possessed by evil or demonic spirits.

Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, auto immune disorders . . . The list is endless of lifelong diseases and yet those sufferers are allowed to continue to pray for their healing while accepting treatment, without the stigma of not working out their faith more efficiently. Why? What is it about mental disease that can cause the church to turn a blind and even accusatory eye to those who suffer?

I pray for healing. I accept treatment. I walk out my faith. I live with hope. I am still ill. I rely on family and friends to stand with me and allow me to process frustrations, burdens and setbacks, without shaming me.

The Church will not diminish itself by acknowledging that we pray with hope and without guarantee of the outcome. In fact in a culture in which the relevancy of the church is questioned it has the potential to  provide a place of peace for those who suffer, simply by “seeing” those who live in fear of their mental illness being “found out” . Grace people.  Let’s extend grace.

I don’t fit anymore

A church for everybody?

I join the ranks of singles, gays, artists, doubters, divorcees, addicts, non-english speakers, graveyard shifters and liberals; all misfits within the mainstream evangelical church culture. I’m a sock without a match.  I’ve become an introvert with issues. I’m a church goer without a church.

The church doesn’t work for me right now. My anxiety and inability to handle too much noise automatically makes church a big pile of no. Add the obligatory hand shaking, people greeting, passing of peace and I’m a goner.

This place I have loved for the entirety of my life has become an edifice of challenges that reinforce the feeling that I’m a round peg in a square hole.  “Get over it”, some say. “Work your way back in”, as if just going for a few minutes more each and every week will inoculate me to the symptoms of my mental illness. Or, my personal favorite, the guilt tactic. “The Bible says, don’t give up meeting together”. (Heb. 10:25) So, I am supposed to trigger my anxiety and disease, making me sick for the next week so you don’t feel badly about us not being together? Well, guess what? I didn’t WANT to give up. I didn’t want to quit. I love the church but the system just doesn’t work for me.

The western church has by-in-large become a place where white families with  families and some access to privilege and resources fit the mold. These families can afford to send their kids to camps, have time to drive their children to mid-week church activities and help them with earning their badges and advancements for those activities. They can give in the offering and have time to do Bible Studies midweek. They generally haven’t worked all night so are alert enough to get to church on Sunday Morning. The “misfits” are singles who have no-one to sit with, blue collar workers who are barely making ends meet, outspoken political liberals who are afraid to speak their passion, artists who’s art form is never ever used in worship even though it is how they express their own adoration of God, recovering addicts who dare not celebrate their milestones except in their recovery groups.  All misfits. And me.

For the record. I haven’t given up “meeting together”. I have relationships with friends and family that are still rich and good. And we meet. And we talk about faith. I just don’t meet at “church”.

What, I wonder, would a church that strove to accommodate the misfits, welcomed their quirks with grace, look like? Should the format be changed to accommodate the fringe or should the fringe get over our damn selves and try to blend into the melee of  the extroverted western church?