The Shape of Things

In the 1980’s people in the healthcare industry began to notice obesity as a growing problem, but it has taken several decades for the public to catch up. According to Barry (2009), “the emergence of obesity onto the political agenda was catalyzed in part by a surgeon general’s report (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2001) on the topic and the extensive media coverage of the issue that followed” (p. 11). Though the problem has now saturated the public consciousness, solutions have been scattershot and increasingly polarized. On one side are people who say that weight is the problem of lazy people, and if those people would just get up off of the couch and go to the gym they would stop being a national eyesore and financial drain on society. On the other side are people who have dealt so long with body shame that they have begun campaigns toward “body positivity” which, in some cases avoids healthy solutions by saying there is no problem. Undoing the stigmatization of obesity and creating solutions which address society as a whole would lead to healthier outcomes for people who are currently obese, or in danger of becoming so…. Continue reading “The Shape of Things”

Chemical Topographies

I’ve come out of the woods and into a clearing of sorts, though I still stand on the edges.

A year and a half ago I wrote a post about taking antidepressants. It was the beginning, and I had promised to document the ongoing journey. I have not written about it since then, even in a private journal, but I have shared it with close friends. My desire to share now has to do with the realization that, miraculously, I am experiencing this thing I have hoped for a very long time. Relief.woods
The right kind and combination of meds took a year to find. The list goes something like, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Abilify, Topamax, Lexipro. Prozac made me unbearably sleepy, Wellbutrin kept me anxious (with higher blood pressure), Abilify made me angry (I told the psych nurse curtly that I refused to continue taking it), and Topamax (used as an appetite suppressant) made me lethargic. Lamictal and Lexipro seem to be, literally, my happy place… Continue reading “Chemical Topographies”

Until Morale Improves

Tenderness:
1. sensitivity to pain
2. gentleness, and kindness; feeling deep affection; devotion

~ ~ ~

There is very little silence here. I won’t let there be. Silence is too loud. I know it must be heard, heard and sorted, but it’s hard. I do let small moments leak through leaving blind spots, like those burned into the retina by something on fire. But it’s getting better, and I have more grace with myself. It takes a long time to really grow, a long time to let myself be as broken as I am, and then heal.  And begin to heal. But it’s happening.

I began seeing a therapist at the beginning of this year, and about a month ago I realized that I trust her. The main reason it has taken me so long to find some kind of counselor is the rawness of these things that burn. I’ve spent so long being hard on myself that letting someone I barely know hear about my issues, and then advise me has been too difficult. Like someone poking an open wound, even though no one has ever been as mean to me as I’ve been to myself.

So I’m extremely grateful for this little hispanic woman who is more encouraging than corrective. It turns out what I’ve needed all along was tenderness upon tenderness. And mostly from myself.

How are things with you?

Do Not Be Afraid

Fear leads us to hurt, or to reject other people. John said, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Because I grew up in the church, it’s easy for me to point the finger that direction, and say that the church often carries an “us and them” mentality. These are the rules, and we know who’s in and who’s out by who follows these rules. But why does this matter at all? Why do you have to know who’s in and who is out? What if you just lived in a house with a bunch of people from varying faiths, and with various morals, and you worked together like a family? How could it work, unless you loved, unless you didn’t fear what their otherness might do to you?

What will their otherness do to you?

When I was growing up, there was a pressure to not be close friends with Unbelievers. It probably says somewhere in Proverbs that “bad company corrupts good character,” but I’m beginning to realize that I am already the worst kind of company. We’re very, very afraid of becoming monsters, of being thrown out of the family, of becoming unacceptable, and unloveable, and this actually leads us to throw other people out first.

What if I’m friends with a gay person? What if (even worse in our current world) my neighbor has opposing political beliefs? What if I want to get drunk or have sex outside of marriage? How can we stop the world from becoming tainted by The Other’s ugly, wrong, oppressive, horrible view? How can we keep ourselves safe from tyranny, or keep ourselves from becoming tyrants?

Though I know very little now, I do know that one road that won’t work is the road of fear. Fear will lead us much more directly into suffering and monsterhood.

What defensive actions are we taking based on fear? How are those actions harming us, and those around us? What would it look like if what John said was true- that perfect love casts out fear? How would our daily lives be different?

Darkness, My Old Friend

Wednesday I visited the doctor and was given a prescription for an antidepressant. In spite of struggling with depression for over twenty years, this is the first time I’ve been open to the option.

Although I’ve struggled with/against/under/inside depression since the age of 16, it only recently dawned on me that anxiety plays a huge role in that depression. It is why I am often overwhelmed in large groups, or when there are sounds in competition with each other, in logistical meetings, or in crises when I must make a decision,  just sitting around thinking about intense things. Feeling overwhelmed then leads to a powerless/hopeless feeling that is what many consider to be depression. It all started with a sudden fall into despair and hopelessness as a teenager, and has aged with me, and probably shaped me in ways I cannot name.

The question of being medicated has been around since I first reached out for help (about a year after the problem began), but I always put it off, wanting to seek other avenues. Depression is very difficult to conquer, for the reason that it disables the part of a person that knows how to ask for help. Depression sinks itself in with perpetuating behaviors, and enervates the muscles necessary for getting out. Thus, my attempts to seek professional help were few and far between. When I needed it most, I was least capable of asking. When the attempts I made failed, I became further crippled from trying again. One dismissive psychiatrist, and too many hoops (including that unscalable wall of things that cost a lot of money) kept me at home seeking other remedies. This search has led me to discover many healthy outlets/helps. I don’t name anything as a Cure, but there are many worthy management tools… Continue reading “Darkness, My Old Friend”

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

I’ve decided to act like a grownup for Christmas this year. I should have done this long before age 39, but you must understand that I didn’t realize I’ve been acting like a child until some time in the mid morning of today.

When you’re a kid, your parents make holidays- from scratch out of love, and special parent magic. When you leave the house, you transition through stages: holidays with friend’s families, holidays with just friends, one horrible New Years Eve spent alone, several happily solitary Thanksgivings. And you enjoy the freedom, thinking that one year, not long from now, you will begin your own family; you will start your own traditions. You will tap into the parent magic for yourself and start building holidays as a gift to your own children.  Your heart will be made of chocolate and your spouse will know just where (and how) to hang the stockings.

That is, unless you remain (mostly) single and (mostly) childless. If this happens,  you will one day get an email from your boss asking you to work more in December, you may briefly compare yourself to Lucy Eleanor Moderatz from While You Were Sleeping, and then start sobbing in the middle of some house you are cleaning in Bellevue… Continue reading “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”

Motorhome Shock

Just recently (the beginning of July) I moved into a motorhome. For several months I used it like a spare room at a friend’s house- using their bathroom, and often eating meals with them. Two weeks ago I moved to a rented spot, so that I could plug in all of the things, and live in it like a tiny house.

It’s really a rubber meets road situation. Some of it feels a bit like culture shock (which is now called culture stress by many, but I like the word shock better because it includes that sense of disorientation that’s present in the struggle to accept a foreign environment). I always feel a little bit damp, and I worry constantly about the integrity of my plywood structure. I have a heater, but I’m tentative in using it, because I’m unsure how the cost of heating will accumulate. The towel I use after my shower never fully dries, and if my clothes get wet (from rain) there are few places to hang them. I hate the smell of propane, so I only turn it on to shower, do dishes, or cook on my stove… Continue reading “Motorhome Shock”

The Ones That Love You

I used to feel superior to road ragers.  I was like, hey man, calm down, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. You know, pretty zen about taking as long as it takes, and navigating the insane maze of the freeway.

This was before I became a regular commuter. Now that I drive to and from Seattle four times a week, I am prone to driving angry even when I’m out in the country (I live out in the country). A few weeks ago I was driving down Highway 20 to meet a friend for a mountain loop hike. In between nowheres, I found myself stuck behind three RVs going about 10 miles under the speed limit. I did not remain calm. I wasn’t traffic, they were, and I just wanted to have a day off from slugging along in my car behind people.

When I was younger (I mean, until a few years ago) I thought that as I got older, I would become calmer and wiser, I would work through my issues and be a really kind old lady some day. The older I get, the more I dig inside to clean things out, the more I find that deep down I’m basically a selfish asshole… Continue reading “The Ones That Love You”

Letters From The Void

In my current state of wrestling with expressions of faith, I may, at times, sound quite bitter. Not here, not on the blog, because I haven’t been writing much, but in person, I’m struggling a lot with an ambivalence which borders on hostility. I think these negative emotions are heavily stacked up around what I would call Religious Identity. That thing we use to comfort the fears we all feel about our humanity and mortality. I’m not talking about God himself here, I’m talking about all of our pet activities and thought patterns which we use to tell ourselves We Are OK.

Here’s the thing: We’re not OK. But that isn’t really the most important fact. The most important fact is that God knows, and he chooses us anyway. Christianity makes a really big deal about those who have chosen God and those who haven’t, but our choice is not actually the most important thing happening in the gospel. I’m not saying our choice isn’t important, but it’s not the main event, not by a long shot…. Continue reading “Letters From The Void”

Underneath

There are a lot of movies out there with a desperately single female protagonist. The woman is usually in her late 20’s and gorgeous, with few real issues, but several endearing quirks. That, or she’s got super ridiculous issues, but she’s so gorgeous that some guy would do anything to be with her.

One of my favorite movies dealing with the aging single woman is called Broken English. It’s more realistic than most, about a woman who is painfully single. She has a string of terrible dates and becomes leery of anyone showing interest, such that she finds it difficult even to be hit on because she feels this deep distrust of men who would be interested in her. It’s quite amazing to want someone to want you, but then distrust anyone who actually does. What’s wrong with them that they’re interested in me? And how quickly are they going to decide I’m not worth their effort?

It’s a mess. At some point the idea of being in a relationship starts to sound like the possibility of becoming an astronaut. You already know how much I fear outer space, but somehow I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a whole imaginary life that I can’t crumple up and throw away. It’s tattooed all over me with invisible ink. I know you think those are freckles covering my nearly-middle-aged skin, but they are actually hopes, and disappointed hopes. Sun kisses, or scars, or maybe notches to record imagined scenarios… Continue reading “Underneath”

Arbitrary Designations

The pain scale is possibly the worst way to measure anything. First of all, there is genre to consider; quality, duration, impact. If ten is the highest number, then I have to put childbirth there (something I say from experience), but actually, childbirth didn’t cause me to pass out. So maybe leg amputation, or a gun shot is actually worse. But then I would factor in duration, quality and impact. Giving birth felt like water skiing my undercarriage over sharp metal spikes… but not the whole time, just for a few seconds during each contraction. Actually childbirth is a good example of many genres of pain: burning, aching, sharp, sudden, subtle, dull.

So yeah, if we put childbirth as a ten (winning out over leg amputation based on duration and diversity, sorry to those of you that have experienced both and maybe think differently), then how am I supposed to tell a doctor about my neck pain? Compared to childbirth, in it’s feel at the moment, it is a .02, or something. But then if we add qualifications, it goes up. It’s like the feeling you get between your shoulder blades when you spend too much time reading; like that, but spread out from the top of my spine, to the lower middle of my back. And it’s also like giving someone, who is a little too heavy, a piggy back ride, or like a very small, and constant volt of electricity.

I went bra shopping the other day and did not factor in how exhausting it would be to take my shirt on and off so many times. The store clerk who was helping me didn’t understand my dilemma, and so she started by bringing me one size at a time in these large wooden drawers. After allowing this “customer service” to go on for a while, I finally got fed up with having to take everything on and off, and I just went out into the store and grabbed 7 or 8 different styles and sizes: the thing I should have done from the start.

And don’t get me started on physical therapy… Continue reading “Arbitrary Designations”

Love Affair

It’s Saturday night and I’m just sitting here watching movie trailers. So, the usual. I managed to work in two burritos today, several handfuls of chocolate chips and then a drink with chia seeds to balance out the other things.

I also took this super romantic walk by myself. Well, the dog was kind of with me on the walk. He mostly ran ahead of me and went to the bathroom on stuff. Looking back on that, it’s actually kind of incredible how many times he urinated.

The sky was outrageously complex and emotional. The trees, too, and the yellowed grass edging all of those muddy green fields. Obviously I live in the country. Even living in the country I couldn’t help but resent the signs of life invading all of that beautiful, wild, winter nature. I have this favorite tree, which is crowded by power lines, a mail box, the road, some tacky little spray painted No Trespassing sign. 

When I walk that direction on the road, I look forward to seeing it likes it’s some attractive man I always run into at the grocery store. No, I’m more forward with this tree: I circle it and take photos of it with my cell phone, slowly looking for some angle that captures as much of it’s glory as possible without some ugly man-made object messing things up… Continue reading “Love Affair”

Detours

I feel a bit sad and overwhelmed today.

Looking for the healthiest actions to take, I thought I could start with that confession and and then maybe some other things that should be said.

I was in a car accident Wednesday morning, on my way to Stanwood to meet with one of my pastors. We were going to talk about my current spiritual crisis and I 

was going to ask for his advice about various other pieces of dissonance within and around me.
But then I crashed. Specifically, while heading south, trying to avoid something going on in the northbound lane, I got my wheel hooked on the side of the road and this got my car swinging wildly out of my control, which sent me flying at a spin into that northbound lane full of cars.

Picturing this now to describe it gives me this achy tightness in my chest… Continue reading “Detours”

Can I Get Back to You?

If you’ve known me for more than a few years, you may have noticed (you imaginary readers, you) that I didn’t write anything on my daughter’s birth/deathday this year.

Here’s what I was doing instead of writing: hanging out with friends, going to church.

For several months now, I have been in this angry-at-religion mode. Not angry at my Christian friends, not angry with God, but angry at all of the trappings, all of the methods and all the ways people use to talk about those methods. It had become reactionary to the extreme. If I thought through the things that set me off, I could identify that they were either really not a big deal, or I could see how I disagreed with them (also not such a big deal). In some cases, identifying something that set me off would cause me to realize I actually agree with that thing. Nevertheless, I was struggling furiously with all of it… Continue reading “Can I Get Back to You?”

It’s Not A Thing

Have you ever noticed babies when they’re first learning to talk? They don’t have real words, but they begin to mimic the sounds adults make… also, they usually do this mimicking while an adult is talking. When the adult stops talking, the child stops, too. They haven’t quite understood that talking is about exchanging something, they seem to think it’s just another human thing to make noise with your mouth, and they remember they want to try this only when others are moving their mouths.

This, then, is how my writing mind is currently behaving. When I’m reading a real book, or listening to an audiobook, there are half phrases and shadowy stories chattering away, mindlessly behind the real words that someone else has written. It’s more of a feeling than of real words- like those babbling babies, who also are not saying real things, but copy-emoting.

When I’m not reading/listening to the writing of others, my brain is like those gloriously desiccated waste lands in a Cormac McCarthy novel. Not only are they void of story, the landscape remains chalked in featureless dust.

And writing about how I’m not writing is as much as I can manage.

Also, I really love the word desiccated. Ubiquitous, superfluous, redacted, entropic.

My English Composition professor said that writer’s block is not a thing: you just have to lower your standards. So I guess I’ll have to get low.