Did you ever play NBA Jam for Super Nintendo as a kid? As a rule, I’m pretty terrible at sports-based video games, but there honestly wasn’t much to that one. While I’d have preferred MarioKart (because if your brother asks you what game you’d like to play, the answer is always MarioKart), I wasn’t always the one choosing and on occasion, it was NBA Jam. My favorite part of that game was when I ended up “on fire” — I don’t know how many baskets in a row qualified you, but you basically couldn’t miss after that and the ball was literally on fire. Loved that!
All that for me to point out that when it comes to blogging I’M ON FIIIIIIRRRREEEEE!! Four in a row! She’s un-stopp-a-ble!!
At least for now. As I said: good– loudly, clearly, always. Four in a row or four in a month. Got to give myself a bit of grace.
So, after a lovely Friday evening (Seth and I, as I said, went for a fish fry, complete with wine (which you generally can’t get in a church basement) and then drove by all the lovely animals at Wildwood Zoo on our way home– super fun!) here I am relaxing on Saturday (waffles, waffles, waffles!!) and ready to reflect again, one more day of Lent. And our days of Lent are almost gone, after all. Got to really make the most of what’s left!
Today marks 3/4 of the way– conversation #30.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” –John 3:6
“What does it mean to be ‘born of the flesh’ and ‘born of the spirit’ and in the end does it really make any difference? So much in me ‘born of the flesh’ — done to satisfy my appetites — has in the end changed by spirit. And many times for the good. And those things in me ‘born of the spirit’ — meant to be idealistic, ‘spiritual’ — have just as many times been corrupting. I was a ‘good Catholic’ and so became disdainful of those who weren’t Catholic. How unholy can a person be? So now I suspect the separation of flesh and spirit and am open to both. That way, perhaps someday holiness will sneak in when I’m not looking.” –Joan Chittister
Here’s what I like best:
That way, perhaps someday holiness will sneak in when I’m not looking.
I like the idea of holiness just sneaking in. Me, just going along, doing my best, day after day, and somewhere along the way, maybe in my late 70s (because late 70s seems reasonable), holiness just sneaks in through a crack left unattended.
Think it might happen? Maybe if I don’t worry so much about it… maybe if I just do the best I can, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, one minute at a time, one second at a time. Perhaps holiness will find its way in whether I search desperately or not. I like that. Hey, self, stop trying so dang hard!
So then, to Joan’s question, does the distinction of flesh vs. spirit really matter? Maybe not. She talks of separation, but ultimately, we are both. I would cease to exist as myself without either one or the other. Therefore, it seems impossible that, as Joan describes, one shouldn’t impact the other.
When I was in Memphis last November for the Call To Action conference (progressive Catholicism, if you’ll recall), I stopped at a booth representing the Church Health Center. Based in Memphis, TN, the Church Health Center “seeks to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and our spirits.” I loved that idea and I picked up a couple of books while I was there, including God, Health and Happiness.
It spoke so soundly to this point, the inability to separate body and soul, the fact that both matter to overall health and wellness. Such a good read and I’ve bought the Church Health Center premise hook, line, and sinker.
It make so much sense, doesn’t it? The notion that all of these flesh-based and spirit-based facets of our lives contribute to our overall health and well-being. I especially love that each one is given an equal piece of the pie. (Mmmm… pie.)
While there may be separation of thing of the flesh and things of the spirit, I firmly believe that Joan is right– one can affect the other, and we are often unable to predict when or how or why. So we do the best we can at making the slices of the pie equal in size and deliciousness and hope that holiness sneaks in in the process.
I’m not pregnant. Again. And I’m sad about it. Yesterday was pretty rough. Today I am sad, but my friend Marie made me smile (hugely and genuinely) and my sister has a ridiculously cute new hair color that I’m in love with and my friend Kristin liked the cookies I brought her and my husband and I are taking his parents out for dinner at a (central-Wisconsin-style) fancy place in Point tonight… and overall, I have a million and one reasons to be happy. So I’m not sinking. I’m not drowning. I am dealing.
And that’s a huge step for me. A yo-yo-er.
Next illustrative story…
One afternoon this week, at work, I got prank called by an endocrinologist. He put on a fake accent, called from another physician’s office, and pretended to be someone he was not and then laughed hysterically at himself as I got my footing back underneath me when he told me who he really was. I was literally taking notes for this “new” physician who wanted my help…
It was super weird. And super funny. We both cracked up.
And then we talked for a while for seriously about the importance of perspective when considering clinical data related to false-negative rates for thyroid biopsy in the context of nodules larger than 4 cm in size.
A far cry from the former formality of all my emails that began, “Dear Dr. So and So… lots of professional words… Thank you for your time, Me Me Me, PhD.” Followed by nearly incessant joking with my office mates (I needed an outlet!).
Tuesday’s conversation with the endocrinologist? That’s moderation. Funny. Serious. Everything in between.
Final illustrative story…
The weather this week has been absolutely lovely and sunny and cool and I’ve gone for several (incident free!) jogs. During one such jog this week, I took THREE puppy petting breaks. Three.
It was wonderful, but not the point.
The point is that I did NOT stop my RunKeeper (it’s my app for distance and time and I love it so much– I love making it map me while I mow the lawn, back and forth and back and forth, it’s hilarious) even once during a puppy petting or photo taking break. It just ran. The clock kept ticking while my feet stopped moving and it made my time slower… and yet. The time and the distance are not the point.
End illustrative stories… now, the point.
I have generally not tended to live my life that way. I’m usually at one end of the spectrum or the other– filled with hope or in complete and total despair. Too many jokes or too much seriousness. So much running that I crap my pants or no running at all for fear I’ll crap my pants. But this moderation thing, it’s so much better.
With respect to the big things, my mental health, my physical health, my work, these are places where yo-yo-ing from up to down, one end of the spectrum to the other, has never been good for me– yet it’s always been my default. That’s where I find moderation to be most key (key-est???), and where it’s often hardest (most hard???) to find.
Don’t get me wrong, living life on the end of yo-yo, with the ups and downs, fits and spurts, can be awesome for things like canning (pickle/tomato/apple marathon– ready go!) or sewing (it’s almost winter– time to go pick out some new fabric!!). Turning that yo-yo into a gently swaying, much more even keel, pendulum-style instrument is much more valuable in some arenas though. And I’m getting there.
I’m getting there with mental health. Yes, part of it is biochemical control (better living through chemistry) and part of it is therapy (with a therapist I didn’t want to like, but do), but honestly, most of it is time and experience and patience with myself…
I’ve spent over two years trying to start a family and every month so far has ended in sadness. Sadness coupled with a headache and cramps and discomfort that all seems so unfair. Life’s not fair though. That’s not part of the terms and conditions. Life is life and it’s weird and circuitous and out of our control for the most part. And that out of control thing is key when it comes to staying off the yo-yo. I can’t be in despair when I have no control. I know that I’m doing everything that I can do, and that’s literally all that I can do (short of illegal things like stealing babies or black-mailing my sister into sending me one of hers– chimps do that, you know, I read about it in National Geographic). I can be sad. I can be hopeful. I can be both simultaneously… a little more of one or the other at times is ok, but I don’t need to go all the way over the top in either direction.
I’m also getting there professionally. I know more people, I am more comfortable with more people, I am more comfortable with myself…
At work, I was nothing but a ball of nerves for about a year or so… especially around physicians. Turns out, I was basically just being a total Dorothy to the Great and Powerful Oz– it was just a man behind a curtain. Some physicians still seem to prefer the “Dear Dr. So and So” deal, but more often, they seem to prefer when I behave like myself– sometimes silly, sometimes serious. Exclamation points and winky faces and jokes in emails, book recommendations in both directions, hugs at Cattails when I see my most favorite residents, cookies and recipes and Valentine’s day gifts. All of that with good writing, prompt service (as much as possible), and a willingness to be as helpful as I can be. I’m good at my job, and (hopefully) likable and personable at the same time.
And finally, I’m getting there with my physical health…
I’ve been a runner since I was young– maybe sixth grade. My first 5K was maybe the Belleville Strawberry Festival or the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run with my friend Kelly and co. (Where “and co.” = Emily and Danielle and Christin, most likely, but I’m fuzzy on that, so we’re going to go with and co.)
My friend Kelly sent this super old photo on one throwback Thursday. I’m in love with us as baby runners. So cute.
Since then, I’ve always always always stressed over time and distance and intensity and frequency and when I couldn’t live up to my own expectations… I stopped. Stopped entirely. Most recently, I couldn’t run my favorite distance on my favorite route without have GI issues, so I stopped. Turns out, though, if I’m careful about what I eat, run at a comfortable pace without pushing myself too hard, and make planned loops with a quick escape route to my house every three-quarters of a mile or so, I can go pretty far/pretty long… and get this: I can even enjoy it!
And here’s something really crazy: by being patient with myself and super experimental, I have even learned to enjoy many vegetables! No, not onions. But lots of other vegetables… and that’s a big deal. I don’t have to force myself to eat an iceberg lettuce-based salad drenched in ranch dressing (yuck), but I looove pretty much any green preceded by “baby” or “mixed” with some chia seeds and an Asian-style dressing.
Patience and time, when it really matters. Yo-yo when it’s just for funsies. This is why, for me, I’ll take my thirties over my twenties any day. So much more time, experience, patience. It’s good.
Speaking of fun yo-yos… in sewing, yo-yos are these little dealies:
Growing up, my cousin Mary, me, my cousin Ashlee, and my sister Abby were all relatively close in age and we passed clothes, especially cute little dresses, down and down and down amongst the four of us. In their infinite wisdom, my mom and Auntie Pam kept all those little dresses thinking they’d be great for making quilts some day. My mom spent last summer making all those little dresses into yo-yos (even the velvet and corduroy ones! dang!) and then turned those yo-yos into four quilts– one for each of us.
Look at how amazing this quilt is:
It’s so ridiculously and unbelievably beautiful and meaningful and I love it so much. My mom is incredible. This is the kind of thing that makes me continue to hope for that family– so that someday I can do something like this for my sister’s girls and their cousins, my kids. My someday babies 🙂
I started writing this V-themed blog post in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, August 21st on a chartered bus heading from LAX to San Diego after a very long day of traveling.
V… vacation… values… it popped into my head, I started writing (and then got very bus-sick, so put it away), and it’s been writing itself in my brain since that day. More and more and more. Time to get it on the screen and then out into the ether.
Since that super late night/very early morning bus trip in California, I visited friends and got an opportunity to see their new house and ridiculously adorable new puppy.
I boarded a cruise ship with my husband and said friends (plus some new ones!) and cruised down the coast of California from Long Beach to Ensenada and back.
I got on a plane, came home to Wisconsin, weathered an eczema flare and a bit of a head cold, and welcomed my sister, her husband, and their two ridiculously cute little girls into my home.
And now here I am, back and ready to tell you about my vacation– with and from my values.
We’ve talked about all kinds of values in this space– some explicitly, more often implicitly. But based merely on that word cloud that pops up on the right, I think we can get a pretty good picture of the things that are important to me: family, friends, kindness, love, health… Harry Potter. These are things that I value and I try to live my life accordingly.
Except when I don’t.
When it comes to kindness and health, I spent some time on vacation with and from both. With was where it’s at. Trust me. Let’s talk about that.
Getting to our friends’ house in San Marcos was quite trying. I’ll spare you the details, but you’ve all traveled by air, you know what it’s like to miss your connecting flight… Long story short: 12 exhausted passengers (including three from first class and one mom with two young children) were waiting at the closed gate when the agent came back from sending off our flight without us. That’s a recipe for a very angry party. And that gate agent? She was a very easy target.
Lots of people were yelling lots of things at her… demanding managers… using the phrase “first class ticket” over and over again…
But kindness, you know?
Patience and such… catching flies with honey… it’s something Seth and I value. And we made it to San Diego that night. Late, yes. But completely unscathed and super happy to see our friends. No yelling necessary.
But then there were new friends of friends and I got super scared. I was a little Judgey McJudgerson, assuming I wasn’t going to like people… mostly because I assumed they wouldn’t like me. They were all from SoCal and had cool hair, listened to cool music, owned cool companies, wore stylish clothes, and so on and so forth. No way could they have all that and still be nice… except they were. And then I felt like a big ol’ dummy for not giving them the chance I would have wanted them to give me… and that they did give me.
Kindness. It’s something I value. That was a good little lesson about it. Also, I have some new friends (with cool hair and cool jobs and cool music and cool locales– suh-weet!).
I also value my health… and it’s a constant struggle to uphold this value in my daily life on account of all that stuff with weight and food and gastrointestinal issues and such. You’ve read about it if you’ve been reading along.
First, the upholding of the value: I packed weights! In my carry-on bag! That I dragged across the country! And more importantly– I used them every day!! They were just 2.5 lbs a piece, but a 20 min Jillian Michaels-based circuit workout once a day plus some “olympic jogging track” walking with my friend Melissa and I felt awesome, awesome, awesome about getting some physical activity in, even while on vacation. Yes, TSA and I had to chat about the weights, but I joked with them and it was all good. (Oh how I wish I could have gotten a picture of the weights on the xray screen– it was hilarious!)
TSA guy (to other TSA lady): come look at this!
Me: It’s weights!
TSA guy: How much?
Me: Just 2.5 lbs a piece… I’m not very strong!
TSA lady: I only do three [grin].
We all laughed… ahhhh ha ha ha ha! (And Seth just rolled his eyes…)
Except… I decided that since I was on vacation and since it was super hard not to eat gluten while traveling, I was just going to do it. And I did it. On the plane (Biscoff cookies… nom nom nom…), in the airport in Minneapolis (I got the chicken nuggets rather than the sandwich on a bun– a feeble attempt at limiting gluten intake…), a Subway cookie on that crazy bus (because it was my consolation prize!), and by the time we made it to San Diego, my hands were starting to get puffy.
I didn’t eat gluten the rest of the time, but the damage was done. And by the time I got home to Wisconsin, I was in a full blown eczema flare.
Super suck. I beat myself up about it for a while, mostly because my hands freaking HURT.
Then my therapist made a really good point: health is hard, even if you value it. AND… what would I say to my friend Melissa? (I think that’s his new favorite line…) I’d be kind to my friend Melissa, of course, so I gave myself a little break. (A little one.)
The blisters are gone now, all my skin has peeled or flaked or done whatever it’s going to do (I’ve coined the term “handruff” to describe the skin flakes my palms leave behind on pretty much everything I touch until the new stuff grows in), and some new fresh stuff is finally growing in nicely. It was a rough week — definitely not worth the cookies and nuggets, no matter how delicious. (Biscoffs… so delicious!)
Basically, vacations are tough for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love them… they’re awesome. But sometimes I make them harder for myself than I really need to, just because I don’t stay consistent with my own values. I value kindness… I value my health.
The most important thing I think I learned from all of this is that your values are your values, no matter the place, no matter the circumstance…. that’s what makes them a value and not just a passing fad.
(Good news: I also value blogging and the wheels seem to be perpetually turning and turning and turning! I’ve got some words percolating about family and friends of friends that I’m excited to say. WOOOORDS! Yay!)
PS: Harry Potter
Also, real quick, Harry Potter is a value that I never leave behind… and our little cruise vacation was no exception. Melissa, Emily, Christian, and I went to Harry Potter trivia night on the ship. We were late and didn’t get to officially participate, but I can say with absolute confidence that the four of us would have ROCKED IT had we been there the whole time. That ship on a stick would have been ours! Lucky for the other contestants, we were only playing for fun!
Ahhhh… hope. To discuss my thoughts on hope, I really have to start with what I consider the opposite.
Have you ever had a case of the eff-its? It’s a condition to which I am highly susceptible.
Never heard of it? Let me explain.
A case of the eff-its happens when you give up hope and just say EFF IT. So, essentially, it’s the opposite of hope.
I’ve been known to say eff it with respect to eating (ok,especially eating), exercising, cleaning, studying, yard work, cooking, hair styling, grad schooling/experimenting, etc, etc, etc. But if I’m totally honest with myself, as satisfying as screaming EFF IT and diving into some sort of lactose-laced decadence (sans lactaid, because I’m a glutton for punishment when I’m doing it to myself), hope is always better.
In 2013, I was presented with an occasion to choose hope and I hoped harder and more vehemently than I’d ever hoped for anything before. In May, my grandfather fell into a canal in Venice, Italy and took an enormous amount of contaminated water into his lungs. Given his age, lung condition, and long-term history of smoking, the Italian doctors gave him very little chance of survival. But you guys, he pulled through. Against all odds, and perhaps on the strength of hope and love alone. During that time, all I wanted was for my Grandpa to come home again and I hoped for it night and day for the entire month long ordeal. Never once did I feel a sense of despair, never once did I give up hope and say eff it. How could I? The thing I hoped for was worth it.
So perhaps, then, the secret to hope is making sure that the thing you’re hoping for is truly worth it?
When I contract the eff its about diet and exercise, it’s usually because I feel like I’ve eaten something “bad” or failed to work out hard enough, but recently, I embraced the notion of Health At Every Size (HAES) in combination with the idea of living the healthiest life you can enjoy. I can more reasonably hope for a healthy lifestyle and comfort in my own skin than I can hope for a body and/or lifestyle that’s simply not enjoyable for me to maintain.
After 30, I hope for a healthy and enjoyable life.
When I contract the eff its about cleaning, it’s usually because I’m tired and I’ve set unreasonable expectations for myself. I make a mile long to do list and become overwhelmed. But it’s amazing how nice it feels to wake up and make breakfast in a kitchen that’s been tidied up. Just one little thing. And I think I can hope for a basic level of maintenance clean, enough to keep my home a peaceful place for us to live, without feeling the need to edge the carpets and dust the blinds on a weekly basis.
After 30, I hope for a peaceful and comfortable home.
Grad school weakened my mental immune system and I was highly prone to the eff its during that time. In retrospect, I think that’s because the only thing I ever hoped for was to be done. I took no pleasure from the process because it was never the end. And suddenly, the magnet my Aunt Susan gave me during grad school makes so much sense:
Right. Happiness is not defined by getting to the destination, but rather by finding happiness in the moment. I need to hope for happiness rather than the thing I expect to bring it, because if I’ve learned anything in the last 30 years, it’s that happiness can be found in the most unexpected of places.
After 30, I hope for happiness, wherever it may be.
I suppose the place where hope has never really deserted me… no, let me rephrase that. The place where, in my life, I have been least likely to desert hope has been in relationships. There are a lot of people in this world that I love very, very much and as evidenced by the immense hope I held on to while my Grandpa, Grandma, and Aunt suffered through my grandfather’s terrible ordeal in Italy this spring, the hope I can feel for their safety, well-being, and happiness, is truly limitless.
After 30, I will continue to hope for all-things-good-and-faith-and-peace-when-they-are-not for all the people I love.
Hope truly is a thing with feathers and in my first 30 years (or perhaps in the last year of my first 30 years) I’ve learned to appropriately direct it to what truly matters in my life, regardless of the storm. Much like it’s cousin love, hope asks for nothing in return and is not in limited supply. Of course, it can be accompanied by disappointment should the thing you hope for not come to be, but hope for peace or recovery or strength or gratitude can simply take its place.
PS: You know what else was a thing with feathers? Even if only briefly? Dinosaurs. Excellent.