Thursday, November 26, 2015

10 Things on Thursday: Thanksgiving Edition

Ten thoughts about Thanksgiving 2015:

1.  I still grieve that hysterical illness has stolen from me the ability to make a feast and create a holiday tradition for myself and my family.

2.  In the renewed awareness of racial tensions in the United States, there is some talk about the racist origins of the Thanksgiving narratives.  I wonder, however, if anyone even thinks about those stories once graduating from kindergarten and those hand-tracing turkeys.  America absolutely needs to recognize our inherently racist society and our genocidal history (and current events) but I doubt if Thanksgiving is the best, or even a particularly relevant, talking point.

3. Black Friday has eclipsed too many Thanksgiving traditions and I think that is a spiritual loss.

4.  With the expansion of Halloween from a simple children's holiday in the local neighborhood and the ever earlier Christmas creep, Thanksgiving has become merely a pre-Christmas, food bonanza to calorie up for the last mad, month-long, shopping sprint.

5. I miss when the televised Macy's parade was actually a parade and not pan-shots of balloons in between song and dance numbers from a variety of non-parade locations.

6. My oldest kid went off to college and this is my first year to get excited about family coming home for the holiday. She came home Tuesday night and I'm still not sure how I feel about that.

7. Our menu has only one vegetable and it's strictly a concession to my irrational love for green bean casserole with fried onions.  Both the nutritionist and the chef in me are wincing.

8. Thanksgiving is the one time I do like living in Arizona because it's always nice weather to eat dinner with the windows and doors wide open and the sunshine streaming in.  Sometimes we're even motivated enough to build a fire outside in the evening and sit around drinking and burning jacaranda deadfall.  Mmmm, I love that smell.

9. Whenever I see A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, I wonder why all the white kids are seated together on one side of the table and the lone black kid is by himself on the other.

10. I pray for enough community and compassion in the world today that everyone could have abundant food, shelter, security, and friendship to celebrate.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

10 Things on Thursday: Reintroduction

It's been years since I kept this blog up regularly.  Crises in physical and mental health developed both for me and for family members and posting didn't seem important.  Or possible.

In the spirit of new beginnings, here are ten things to introduce myself to new, returning, or long-time readers:

1.  My hysterical illness finally got a few official and semi-official diagnoses, including Myalgic Encephalomyelitis,  Migraine and several other kinds of headaches, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia, Thyromegaly,  traumatic brain injury, Temporal-Mandibular Joint Syndrome, PTSD, and Dissociative Disorder.  There are probably a few others that have got overlooked.  For example, I'm fairly certain I have Sjrogren's Syndrome, Dysautonomia, and an autoimmune thyroid disorder.

2.  Medical professionals, conventional and holistic, have been uniformly unhelpful at best and downright damaging far too often. I've lost count of how many and what kinds of doctors I've seen.  I found the NAET therapist extremely helpful until we uncovered some deep trauma layers in my psyche and abruptly we were outside the therapist's comfort zone, although he refused to admit any such thing.  I stayed with him for months longer than I should have.  The Doctor of Oriental Medicine, who used acupuncture, reiki, and other energy modalities, did the most good, not especially curative but kept me alive and functioning while I slowly found my own healing protocols.  She was useful for acute care as well and I stayed with her for three years, only recently moving on. Her business partner, a chiropractor, was enormously helpful as well but less for her chiropractic than for her weird energy work--the name of which I never can remember.  Through her work, the bones in my skull and face shifted significantly, allowing some healing of nearly fifty year old injuries, and reducing TMJ and migraine symptoms a great deal.  I don't see her regularly anymore, only a few times a year for "tune-ups." My yoga teacher also facilitated a lot of healing simply by the kind of environment she created during Restorative and Yin classes.

3.  Surrendering to the illness rather than fighting against it has been an important and ongoing aspect of creating health, if not curing any disease.  Taking to my bed and staying there, admitting to myself and others when "normal" was beyond my capacity, learning to accept and live within the new limits allows me actually to accomplish a few things in a way that wasting all my energy on trying to be who and what I used to be could never do. Submitting to illness as a teacher, an agent of grace, rather than a demon to be destroyed, changes the whole paradigm.

4. Therapies and therapeutics that have produced real and sustainable curative results for me include shamanic journeying, homeopathic adrenal supplementation, constitutional homeopathy (self-prescribed, practitioners were not helpful), Low Dose Naltrexone, the Fuck It Diet, aggressive resting and following a heart-rate based exertion program, meditation and chanting, and Restorative and Nidra yoga.

5.  I am still committed to finding a place in the Christian community.  I still think in Christian.  Christian metaphor still resonates in my soul in a way no other tradition's stories or vocabulary does.  I will never be a conventional Christian, being a heretic is as much a part of me as being a Christian, maybe more.  I am, however, determined to forge or find a space to bring together the ancient traditions of Christianity with modern applications. We needn't be syncretic with Buddhism or neopaganism (such syncretism isn't wrong but isn't necessary) to find meditation, magic, mysticism, contemplation, or apotheosis.

6. To that end, between relapses last year, I began facilitating a chant class at my yoga studio.  I had to drop it last spring but I hope to revive it locally and in person as my health permits, online in podcasts or Skype groups if it does not (and even if it does).  Ideally, I'd like to be able to facilitate chant groups in hospitals and VA centers for the very ill, the disabled, the traumatized.  I see its importance for spiritual healing far outweighing its utility for the trendy yoga studio seeker.

7.  My kids have grown up since my earlier writing.  I'm no longer homeschooling except in the most legal and supervisory definition.  My older daughter chose to attend public high school, graduated with honors and moved across the country to go to a private liberal arts college where she continues to swim competitively and aims eventually to physical therapy school.  My younger daughter attends community college and is dual enrolled at cosmetology school.  I still supervise her registration, sign her enrollment forms, and help as requested with papers (dyslexia is still a challenge), but I am no longer directly involved.  She's also been a professional actor for several years.  It still seems strange to think that what was such a huge part of my life is now over, but I also heave a sigh of relief to be finished.  I don't regret it for an instant--and, thankfully, neither of my kids does either--but it was a lot of work for which I'm glad no longer to be responsible.

8.  Due to injury and illness,  I can no longer read books.  At least 95% of my reading is through the Kindle app on my iPhone.  While I am deeply grateful to have that option, since I dislike audio books, I miss the smell, the look, the feel of holding a book in my hands.  I miss shopping at used bookstores and trolling library stacks.  And I really hate paying the digital prices for books.  I thought I spent a lot of money on books until I started buying ebooks at retail prices--criminey!

9.  Chronic illness is isolating and annihilating.  Even for persons not housebound or confined to bed as I usually am, illness forces an identity change.  It demands consideration of existential questions of meaning, individual value, community, and purpose. Whether one faces these questions head on or ducks continuously to the side of them, they change a person. Chronic illness means facing one's death in a society that spends a great deal of effort to deny death.

10.  Writing this post taxed me so much, I can't even think of a number ten.  I'll just hit publish and have a little lie-down.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cast All Your Votes for Dancing

I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.

I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.


Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.

You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours ...
bring freedom
And Love.


O keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter

And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Now, sweet one,
Be wise.
Cast all your votes for Dancing!


A few weeks ago, I logged into the Chronicles to revisit the path I'd traveled and remind myself of the person I used to be.  I found this Hafiz poem I posted four years ago, the first summer I spent in my bed.  I've abridged it here from the version I previously quoted to highlight what sprang at me as I read again.  

After eight years of hysterical illness, four of them mostly in bed, I thought I would have learned to accommodate my disability, would have accepted the redrawn boundaries of my life. But the voice of depression still breathes her siren song from my own lungs, whispering seduction in my inner ear.

I still rebel against her, against my very frailty, by accepting that counterfeit coin, those invitations to indulge in habits of normal life so far beyond my capacity.  Make a pot of soup.  Shower and go to a therapy appointment in the same day. Have an argument. Simultaneously watch a documentary and knit a scarf. That's far more than a week's worth of energy.  

And then I'm dragging ass for days like a broken man behind the farting camel.  Life stinks. 

Because I have forgotten to indulge most in those actions that bring freedom and love.  Forgot that what I can still do is what is most valuable.  I can still pray. There is still music.  Sharing laughter with a child or a partner or a friend.  These are the coins of value in life.  With these coins, I buy freedom.  I can squeeze drops of the Sun, the source of life itself, from them.  

And I can even find life and freedom in the most insignificant movements that my body is still able to make.  I can still dance with life, with love.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Silent Too Long

A poem by Penny Smith:

I speak for those who cannot speak
For those whose secrets are locked too deep

I speak for those who are still in pain
For those who are suffocating in shame

I speak for the little girl with hurting eyes
For the little boy who never, ever cries

I speak for those whose smiles are hiding
The hurt that is beyond confiding

I speak for the wife--the girlfriend
Bearing bruises from the men they defend

I speak for the confused, adolescent boy
Who has somehow become the coach's toy

I speak for those whom no one sees 
For those who feel they are diseased

I speak for those whose tongues are stilled
For those with no hope of ever being healed

I speak for those who have endured unspeakable things
For those who never see the hope that dawn brings

I speak for those who have no voice
For tiny babies never given a choice

I speak for those whose lives are living hell
For those wishing they had someone to tell

I speak for those with innocence taken
Who pray for the day they never awaken

I speak for you whose spirits have flown
To let you know--you are not alone

I speak for you, I feel your pain
I will not be silent while evils remain

I speak for you and-- I speak for me
I speak for the world to hear and see

I speak for those with no will to fight
To bring the secrets and darkness to light

I speak because I was silent too long
I speak because I did no wrong

I speak though there are those who would silence me
I speak because abuse should never be allowed to 'be'