Posted in life, Recovery, self-discovery, spirituality, wellness

“Wilt thou be made whole?”

“After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:1-6 KJV, italics mine).

I came across this story from John recently, and again (as I usually am) was a little confused by Jesus’ question to this sick man. What does he mean, will you be made well? If you heal him, Jesus, then yes he will be! Duh…
But I came to really understand it when I read again through the filter of my own ongoing health struggles. Jesus is asking him, “Do you WANT to be well?” (After Googling the verse, I realize other versions are translated as such…)

And it hit me what Jesus is really asking here. Do you want to be well? Do you want to give up your identity around being sick? Do you want to give up your excuses? The man at the pool gave Jesus all kinds of reasons why he was still sick: no one was there to lift him into the water, someone always shoved ahead of him, etc. (Or maybe yours looks more like, I can’t afford that treatment; I don’t want to give up those foods; What if I get well enough to try something new and I fail?…)
When we aren’t truly ready to give up our illness (let’s face it — even sickness can feel familiarly soothing in its own way), we will come up with an array of excuses/reasons why we can’t get better.
So, what Jesus is asking him is, are you really ready to give up your excuses and your identity of 38 years (that number is not lost on me, at age 38 in the midst of my own long-term illness!)?
Giving up the things (and people and beliefs) that make and keep us sick is not easy by any means. It comes with its own kinds of grief and pain. But, the payoff is wellness. It is being able to pick up your mat, get up, and carry about your business and tell people about your recovery.

Coincidentally (divinely placed), I read a similar quote attributed to Hippocrates a few weeks ago that really started me on this whole line of thinking before I even came across the passage from John. It read, “Before you heal someone, ask him if he’s willing to give up the things that made him sick.”
And now that I read the story of the man by the pool, I see how important it was that Jesus asked him what he did. He could’ve sen the man in his illness and simply healed him, as Jesus does. Poof. Up he could go, with his mat under his arm, and…then I wonder, would the wellness have lasted? Would the man have healed INSIDE himself if Jesus had not asked him. Granted, we don’t read a response from him before Jesus acted. But I have to imagine, Jesus’ words echoed in his mind the way that Hippocrates quote has been in mine for the past couple of months. It is in that question that I have been honestly asking myself questions about what I am willing to give up in exchange for what I want to gain. Am I willing to give up pizza and ice cream indefinitely for a relief from this gut havoc? (Am I willing to let go of the decades-long engrained emotional connection that pizza and ice cream equaled Friday night meals with my family, and the pretense of happiness and togetherness?) Am I willing to have uncomfortable conversations to mend relationships? Am I willing to do the things I don’t want to do?
Am I willing to look at the excuses I’ve made for staying stuck and sick, and calling them what they are (fear – of unknown, of failure, of disappointment)?

What I’m learning through all this is that no one can get well by doing the things that made them sick. Old habits, old excuses, old ways of being, old beliefs — they all keep you where you are. You can’t have anything new until you give up the old. So, take up your mat, and walk toward the new.

 

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Posted in life

Setting Holistic Goals

I quit setting New Years resolutions years ago; I found it to be a quick way to disappoint myself for “failing.” I generally opt, instead, for goal setting in a holistic sense.

This year, I’m encouraging my family –and you too!– to set a goal for yourself in multiple areas of your being. For example: spiritual, mental, physical, social, creative, etc.

Here are my goals for 2019 (I may add more to this list as time goes on, or as I accomplish these goals) to help you get started:

*MENTAL: read 25 books and read poetry daily

*SPIRITUAL: Daily meditation practice

*SOCIAL: go out with a friend at least once/week

*PHYSICAL: Get back into habit of daily walks

*CREATIVE: Consistent blog posts (once/week)

Perhaps these will inspire and motivate you — but you may feel free to categorize your goals however you choose. I just feel like one goal in multiple categories is much more attainable than setting one huge goal that may leave me feeling overwhelmed or is so general that it sets me up for confusion or self judgment  (like, “lose 40 pounds” or “be more outgoing”).

The idea is to set realistic yet attainable goals that will leave you feeling balanced and proud of yourself when 2020 rolls around.

Posted in Holidays, life

Goodbye, 2018!

I promised myself if would post one more time before the end of the year. So what if this is half-assed, last minute, off the cuff. The important thing is the follow-through, right?

2018 challenged me in ways I never imagined and broke me in ways I didn’t foresee. I found my voice for speaking up for myself to doctors and conquered my phone phobia. I finally got rid of the H Pylori infection that ruined that past (nearly) three years of my life. I grew in my knowledge and acceptance of myself. But the year also tested my patience, strength, and ability to hold space for myself and my needs. It brought me relationship challenges and new milestones as a parent (particularly as parent of a lgbtq/trans teenager). I am grateful for all that I learned this year, but I will gladly bid the year adieu! Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, 2018!

Happy new year to my readers. Happy new slate. Happy 365 more chcances to get it right, keep trying, and keep moving forward. Happy “tomorrow can always be better.” Happy “together, we got this.”

Posted in life, wellness

Heal Thyself

About three years ago (toward the start of my H Pylori battle), I began researching herbs and natural remedies. I quit using over-the-counter medicines and prescription pills. For nearly any ailment a human (or pet!) can encounter, there’s a natural treatment. I have come to rely on herbs, tinctures, and teas instead of pills and syrups. And I feel so much better using them than I do chemical, synthetic remedies; my body feels cleaner and less toxic. I don’t want to come across as the kind of person who would push this decision on everyone (although that would be my ideal!). Coming to this decision was a conscious effort. It came about from being mindful of myself, my body, and what did and did not work for me. I became aware of how toxic and sluggish my body felt when ingesting prescription antibiotics and the like; I noticed how foggy and drained I would feel after using pain relievers and cold medicines. When I began to research natural alternatives, I found that I was I nowhere near the only person who has felt this way! And I knew, for me, this was the best decision to make. It wasn’t easy at first. Most of us (in the US anyway) are raised taking aspirin for pains and cough medicine for colds. It’s just what we do. We like the convenience of popping a pill, and our modern medical providers gladly prescribe them to us. I made the decision and the effort to transition to natural healing, and while I don’t regret it, like I said – I had to be willing to give up the idea of convenience. Let’s face it – researching herbs, collecting them, brewing them into a tea…not as convenient as slurping down a cap full of cold medicine. Grinding up roots, assembling them inside a capsule – not as quick as cracking open a pain reliever bottle. But the rewards, I feel, are far greater.

When I transitioned to this way of healing, I developed a greater sense of body mindfulness. I began to learn a patient respect for the process of healing. I am learning relationships with the plants, and not just a quick fix from a mass-produced product. I am learning that trust works in direct correlation with the trust I have in my own body to heal itself. And I don’t think I would ever have learned that if I continued in the ways I used to. Again, this may not be for everyone; I’m simply sharing my experience and why I feel natural treatment is so beneficial. Thee are many people out there who would frown upon this lifestyle – people who swear by their “traditional” ways. And I suppose that’s okay…for them. For me, I will continue the path that I knows works. I will continue to take comfort in the gifts the earth gives me for healing; and I will take pride in my growing, expanding little herbal apothecary shelf with its little brown jars with the wonky labels.

Posted in life, self-discovery

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Wow! I knew I had been neglecting this blog for awhile, but hadn’t realized it is six months to the date today!

I could make excuses (“I’ve been busy,” “I didn’t know what to write about,” or even “I got bored with it”…), but I have to be brutally honest instead (have you ever known me to be anything else?):

I got scared. I mustered a lot of courage and vulnerability to post my previous post, and it scared me away. Maybe I’m not alone in this – vulnerability often sends me retreating back into the safety of myself. Courage allows me to be temporarily transparent, but then self-doubt and shame drive me back into hiding. I suppose that is a part of the learning process – or rather, UNlearning process of unlearning all the sneaky ways shame keeps me from fully sharing myself with the world. This is how we shine light into the corners of our shame, our stories that keep us stuck – we keep getting real with ourselves about the patterns we carry out, the thoughts we replay in our heads when no one else is around, the little lies we tell ourselves.

I thought I was brave enough to post something really vulnerable and be okay with it. And I was. Retreating doesn’t negate that. But the consequence was different than I imagined. It led me here, six months down the road, making yet another realization about the deceitfulness of shame and vulnerability. It led me to another understanding that I have not failed because I stepped away, but rather I am succeeding in facing my truth and stepping back into my journey of owning my authenticity.

They say “fake it til you make it”…maybe the goal is actually to “Face it til you make it” –Keep coming back to your truth until the hesitation recedes.

Posted in Eating Disorder, food, life, self-discovery, wellness

Enough is a Feast

I started writing this back in November, intending it as a Thanksgiving-related post. I lost my nerve then (hello, shame). I revisited it today with resolve and I present it to you now – courage steeling my spine and a desire for freedom (yours and my own) in my throat…

“‘Enough’ is a feast” (Buddhist proverb)

Truth be told, I live in a nearly-constant state of worry over whether I have enough – money, mostly. Food, frequently. I grew up poor, often wondering if we were going to have enough to eat. We scraped by. We ate what we had, whether it was what we wanted or not. One of the most vivid memories of lack I have from childhood is sitting at the dinner table with my family, our last meal on the table: one pot of kidney beans and one bowl of plain macaroni – for seven hungry people. I don’t remember the conversation; I don’t remember if anyone spoke much at all. But I remember the blandness in my mouth (metallic kidney beans and butterless noodles) and the fear, heavy in the air. Even at the age of six, I was aware that this could truly be our last meal; those beans and noodles were literally the last items in our pantry, and there was no hope in sight. I’d love to say this was the only time I experienced that kind of lack; sadly, there were numerous other times that echoed this one. I grew up thinking I was worthless because there was never enough (I must not be enough”). Though not impossible, it’s a hard feeling to shake, once it’s been engrained. When you live for nearly two decades being afraid of whether your basic necessities will be met, it is difficult to convince yourself you are safe and fulfilled. I struggle everyday to remind myself I have enough…I do enough…I am enough…

My whole life, I’ve struggled to balance the desire for more and the knowledge that I only need enough to survive. But what IS enough? Sometimes I wonder if I just settle, never truly believing I am worth more – fearing I may be branded as ungrateful or greedy. When I was a kid, my dad would sometimes respond to our complaints of hunger with: “Have a glass of water and tighten your belt.” If we complained about what we did have to eat, he would say: “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye!” None of these sayings made sense to the mind of a hungry child, and did nothing more than to reinforce a belief of worthlessness. No matter what I buy, I monologue in my mind whether I “really need it” or I’m just being excessive. I feel like I never know what I truly need or deserve, because I lived so long never getting what I needed, deserved, or (god forbid) wanted.

I am thirty-seven years old, standing in my kitchen today, making myself kidney beans as part of my meal. Not because I can’t afford anything else, but because I am currently limited by dietary restrictions and an unhealthy digestive system. It’s hard not to feel the slow creep of shame in the pit of my stomach upon seeing those shiny red beans on my plate. It’s no stretch of the mind to see how my hungry childhood, years of bulimia, and current gut sickness are all intertwined.  One of the greatest breakthroughs I made in the earlier years of my eating disorder treatment was the realization that through bingeing and purging I was, for the first time in my life, the one controlling what and how much I ate. At some point, I quit bingeing and purging, but I didn’t learn to process the emotions I had cyclically stuffed and emptied for years. Even once I had “recovered,” whenever I ate, I ate my sadness, shame, and anger along with the food – and it fermented and decayed inside me and made me sick.

When I cook this food I know will help heal my body, I am taking control in a different way. And when I change the narrative in my head, I am taking control. The difference between childhood and today, is that what I have really is enough. My basic needs are met. I live in a home my husband and I own, its rooms are warm, and the lights and water are always available. The food I eat may not be what my taste buds crave right now, but it is what I need to be well; I have enough and exactly what I need to feed a healing body… And I have enough and exactly what I need within me to heal myself emotionally. I can choose to feed myself garbage (“I am worthless,” “I am nothing,” “I don’t deserve anything good”…) or I can feed myself the medicine of truth.

Truth says: I have enough…I do enough…I AM enough. I am worthy of being here in this skin. I am worthy of being on this planet. My words and my talents are the gifts I give the world and myself. Maybe at least for now, at this point in my journey, that really is enough. To know that I matter, and my words of truth will fill my belly.

Posted in poetry

Companion

Companion//An original poem by Christine Anderson//

Belly like a warm,

Jiggling water balloon;

Or, a fuzz-padded peach

Full of gurgles and purrs.

 

Nose like frog skin:

Cool and damp;

Tongue like terry cloth

In a liquid bath:

Bumps and ridges

Cleaning invisible filth

From his fur.

 

Little lion’s paws

Roughened a bit by

Dry winter’s air:

Kneading into me

As he nuzzles and chews at my hair.

 

Inside that downy muzzle:

Rows of teeth,

Breath like forgotten takeout–

A devious little smile hides there.