Y’all, I’m going to ask for your forgiveness in advance. I have been shooting out responses to emails, and writing my group of Warriors…I’m not reading back over my blog-posts before posting another one to see if I’m repeating myself, which probably I should because probably I am. I’m just trying to write without thinking too hard, but I feel like I keep saying a lot of the same things. In fact, I think I already apologized once for sounding redundant. In the coming days, I’m going to talk more specifically about things I’m learning about health and God and Life. I’m going to introduce this at the end of this post; for now, thanks for following the journey.
When I got sober in 2006, I asked the Lord to use all of it. All of my story, for His Glory. (Think there’s an IHOP song out now with these lyrics…) I promised Him He could do that, asking Him that not one shred of any poor choice I’ve made – or good choices, for that matter – be in vain. Every mistake I have made and right thing I’ve done, every time I have thought or acted like an alcoholic even when I wasn’t drinking, every lesson I have learned, even when –especially when- it’s one I’ve learned over and over and over again. (DEAR GOD, PLEASE DON’T LET THOSE HAVE BEEN FOR NAUGHT.) Every time I’ve gone around my elbow to get to my thumb, let there be no evidence of a life lived dishonestly or without integrity of a broken girl who just loves Jesus.
Everything God has done in my life, shown me or taught me or I’ve sensed Him speaking, I want ALL OF IT to point to Jesus. On days I have doubted or struggled or just didn’t believe, on days I feel like a crazy person or have sat still in my depression, I don’t want any part of it to be wasted. For every time I have laughed too hard or talked too loud or cried real tears, for all the moments that have been shared in sacred spaces in real time that just cannot be re-captured but hearts know, I am just. so. thankful. I paid the price to understand and receive His Grace for my life, and I will not count the cost.* I can’t. All I can do is offer myself up in return as a minister of Grace and Love, that my story would be heard within the context of others’ own life experiences.
*I know there is not one thing I did to earn or receive it and the only reason there is Grace at all is because the Cross of Christ. Nothing at all to do with me or you, EVERYTHING to do with Him.
This is why I share. This is why I tell my stories. It’s not for me. One day at a time, it’s for me. I’m learning not to over-share, that it’s a codependent mechanism. I’m a scapegoat in some circles because it’s easy to point to the girl who makes everyone uncomfortable because she’s so comfortable talking about things that some others would rather keep secret. In AA, we say, “You’re only as sick as your secrets”, and I don’t want to be sick. Mind you, I have a lot more discretion and I have a list of guidelines to which I try to adhere before I tell a story, especially when it comes to including other characters in the romedy that is my life. But sometimes when I’m asking myself, “Am I saying too much?” I usually err on the side of saying it all, anyway. However inappropriate or just too much it is, I have to think it might be the very thing that God uses to point someone to Jesus. Or for those who don’t believe, that they would experience humanity on a level that communicates, “You’re normal and not alone.” I don’t believe in lying bleeding and dying for all to see with all my guts hanging out. If I’m not emotionally attached to an experience, and I try not to share here until I get to that point, then use it, God.
Therapy and AA teach me to speak in “I” language, not “you” language. I can only tell my story, not yours. It makes me uncomfortable sometimes because I feel like I’m just exposing myself, even though I know I’m not the only one going through some of the things I’ve experienced. Also, I feel like it sounds like I’m super into myself, and I’m just not. I promise. Rather, maybe I have been especially over the last year or two, but only because I lived from this place of complete and utter striving, trying to keep my head above water and not from a place of trust. While certainly I was living on the side of pride, it was from a place of fear and scarcity, not ego and arrogance. It was the kind of pride that others would ask me, “Are you okay?” and I would cry and then they would hug and hold and pray for me, instead of judging my bad attitude. I’m sure –I know- there were some of those, too, and I hate that my hurt places might have caused hurt places in someone else. On the other hand, to keep it right-sized, I’m really not that powerful and it’s not my business what other people think of me and everyone has a bad day. But the ones who know and love me knew before I did that I just haven’t been myself in the last few years (not on a regular basis, anyway) those are the ones who have checked on me without my asking. I’m learning to breathe again, and to be fully present. Being me isn’t hard work when I’m living from the inside out, from my spirit, instead of working so hard to please and perfect and prove myself to the world.
The Dean of my seminary who is also my Boss’ Boss and therefore my Boss, too, sat down in my office one day a few months ago. Like a good and kind father, he just wanted to check in with me, full of so much compassion and encouragement. He didn’t say so, but I knew he could tell. I saw him just a moment ago, actually, and was able to tell him about my health-stuff, and how God is using it. Gosh, I love that man.
Depression and scarcity were –are- a trap. I would listen to people out of Christian duty and because it’s part of my job -not to mention, it’s a lot who I am- but because there was such a deficit of my soul, I just wasn’t a very good listener. I didn’t mean to be selfish, but I realize on this side I was so concerned with what I needed to do next or later or just, you know, simply breathing, that I was a little bit distracted from the Love of My Life, who are People. Well, Jesus first. Then people. Actually, Jesus first, then me now, and then people.
When I sat down in my first AA meeting of the summer and opened up my Big Book, I saw a note I had written to myself when I first got sober: Self-care is not selfish. Well. There you go. Intellectually I knew this. I remember learning it when I went to family rehab when my dad went to Hazelden. But there are a couple of things that are dropping deep these days, and this is one of them. The others I will share in coming days.
My Summer of Self-Care is making me more self-aware and less self-absorbed. I reach out more now. I call people. I answer phone calls. I ask how my friends are doing because I genuinely want to know how my friends are doing. I want to see people again because I have more space to hold for them. I’m doing a lot of things, but they’re all good-for-me things. I don’t actually feel busy or tired and nothing feels like work right now. I’m making an investment, and as a result my time is maximized better. I really feel like I have more free time, even though I’m not sure I actually do.
My schedule isn’t going to change in the fall. It will be busier because the students will return, but the changes I am making now I know will determine my longevity. I want to be around for a long time, so I want to make healthy, positive choices now. I’m making lifestyle changes that I don’t plan to abandon. They feel good and are good for me.
I didn’t mean to start anything with my Summer of Self-Care. And, actually maybe I didn’t. Maybe it’s more God on the move than me falling apart, and isn’t that usually the case? I ran into my friends the Pogue’s yesterday and told them about all of this. They said they know a lot of people whom the Lord has called into a season like this, so apparently it’s a thing. Several of my friends (and by “several”, I mean, like, “two”) have said they are now inspired to start their own season of self-care, which means I AM NOT ALONE HALLELUJAH. It also means that we get to share with each other what we are learning. It appears as though I got started a few days in advance, so I’ve been answering some questions the way my Butterknife has been answering mine. I’m mainly just reading a lot and learning all of it as I go. I am fully committed, completely invested into learning all I can. Not in a religious or addictive way, but because it matters. Because I matter. And you matter.
One thing that has been really huge for me has been to accept that I am worth the investment. I am worthy of taking care of myself. I’m worthy because I’m a child of God and, in plain terms, I’m worthy because I’m a human being. (I really apologize, y’all, I don’t remember if I said that in an email or here somewhere. I trust someone new might need to hear it, or hear it again.) This is EVERYTHING, this shift of perspective. It completely motivates and drives this ship of how I view myself and what I’m doing to tend to the temple. I’ll share more on this later, because there are some funny stories attached to it. But I can’t forget to say it here, now. Hear me when I say this: HAVING A SENSE OF WORTHINESS IS EVERYTHING. If you are trying to take care of yourself because you think you suck as a person and deserve punishment and so you deprive or push yourself too hard, you will only wear yourself out. This happened to me. I AM WORTHY AND YOU ARE WORTHY OF A LIFE THAT’S GOOD. THERE’S NO OTHER WAY. IT’S THE ONLY WAY OF GOD.
So I thought I would offer you a short list of the steps I have taken. All of them are a priority for me. I have done any combination, if not all, of these things every day now for the last month. In the coming days, I will expound on each of them. What that looks like, I don’t know because they are all integrated. What I learn with my Wellness Coach tremendously impacts what God does through my counseling. What I put in my body determines immediately how my brain is going to function for the next few hours. Waking up and going to AA every morning before work sets the tone for the rest of my entire day. In no particular order, just things I’m doing differently:
Therapy (weekly for now)
Wellness Coaching (also weekly)
Yoga (class once a week at school, then a video twice a week)
Running (2-4, sometimes 6, miles at least 3 days a week)
Gluten & Soy-Free (entirely – WOAH. Can’t wait to share what this has done for me. I still don’t even know completely.)
Working with a Naturopath (just met with her for the first time last week, on behalf of my thyroid/adrenal/body shutting down situation; had bloodwork done this week for anemia and thyroid; she’s starting me on supplements, which will hopefully be waiting for me when I get home)
Saying “Yes” to FUN (this is HUGE.)
Saying “Yes” to Quiet Time (also HUGE.)
Saying, “I’m sorry, this won’t work for me” (or simply, “No”)
Completely RAW diet, or as raw as I can possibly make it
Detox/Cleanse (I have actually been doing a cleansing/detox diet for the last month. This is not a quick or easy or one-step process)
AA (every morning. Reminds me of my first home group in my hometown, and I don’t mean Bible Study. I seriously wish people would go become drunks just so they could go to AA. Everyone needs it. I don’t really wish that. Just kind of I do. More later. So much more later.)
KEEP EVERYTHING SIMPLE. STAY IN THE DAY. LIVE AND LET LIVE. (And every other AA-adage because THEY ALL WORK.) STAY IN GRACE. SPEAK KINDNESS. RELAX.
I’m also listening to my body a lot more. It’s one thing to be tired for not getting enough sleep. In those times, I still work out. But I am actually fatigued A LOT due to my body shutting down, and slowly rebuilding my immune system again. So, I rest when my body says it needs to rest. It didn’t happen overnight that my body fell apart. It can take up to two years to recover from severe adrenal fatigue. TWO YEARS. I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m not looking for a quick fix or a speedy recovery.
I don’t punish myself anymore. People who know they are worthy of wellness don’t have to. There is always enough time, and I always have the resources I need. Believe me, this is all very new to me. Again, I’ve know it all in my brain and I know it is true for other people, but it is all finally becoming real for me, too. The Big Deal about all of this is that I’m more engaged, more fully aware of the people in my life. That’s what I’m created for, moments with my people. I’m available to life as an active participant, partnering with God again, and allowing the day to happen with an open invitation to all who enter.
Unless it’s someone who “I’m sorry, this doesn’t work for me” and then I can kindly and gently draw a boundary, perhaps without even using words except when necessary.
All of this becomes a different ball of wax during week three of a woman’s month, too. A time when perhaps some extra, extra self-care care is necessary. (THANK YOU, Stasi Eldredge for explaining this so well in Becoming Myself.) EVIDENTLY I’M IN WEEK THREE because I’ve already had to take a walk outside this morning. SEE HOW WELL I’M TAKING CARE OF MYSELF?
Also, y’all…seriously. Who has the time anymore? I’ll be 37 on my next birthday. I’m not 22 anymore, or 28, or even 30. 40 is my next milestone. Just trying to keep everything as simple as I can, without entertaining anyone else’s crazy or becoming involved in their drama. People have had to draw boundaries with me at different points in my crazy. I have permission to do the same. I can be loving and kind, listen for a few minutes, help if I am able. But I do not have to – God has not asked and it is really a sin to – martyr myself anymore. My new counselor told me she used to tell rehab clients, “I will not work harder than you.” My job is to take care of my temple. The enemy’s ultimate goal is to take us out. If I’m not taking care of myself, and evidently I wasn’t, then this will happen. I’m not going to let him win, which means I’m going to stop fighting now.
I’ll go into greater detail about what each of these things is teaching me in an (unofficial, nothing fancy or too planned) series. I sent a friend of mine back home (one of the two who is taking this journey now, too) a couple of tips I’ve already learned. This is what I told her:
Remember to be VERY KIND to yourself. Take naps when you need to, or a mental break. I’m realizing, tho, even when I am (enjoying) taking the time to cook right or go to the gym, it’s work but it relaxes and/or energizes me to do other things. But I can love myself enough to stop or take a walk or a break when I need to, even if I don’t “deserve” it. This isn’t about discipline (and, therefore, punishment), but about loving myself better.
Also, one (or two or three, whatever you can handle) thing at a time is fine. Don’t push yourself to make ALL of these changes ALL at once. We are making lifestyle changes, not jumping on a trend. Take the time it takes to read up on and research what you’re doing, or the change you need or want to make next.
One more thing: there are A LOT of things that would be “good for us”, but may still not be right for us or our lifestyle or even necessary changes for us to make. (For example, I can’t drink alcohol, but not everyone is allergic to it. I am gluten intolerant, bordering celiac, but plenty of people can eat a sandwich and not go into a brain fog for days or break out for a whole year or stay puffy and perpetually bloated.)
Just things I’m learning. You’re doing great! We’re in this together!