Wednesday, November 28, 2007

where the rubber hits the road...

remember last week when i said that sitting with empty wasn't the hardest thing i had done and that i figured it was going to get a bit more difficult. well... it has.

i have lost my five pounds of comfort/safety fat and am feeling sexual and feminine again AND (and this is a HUGE AND) my son buck is starting to show signs of something being REALLY WRONG with him physically.

i have always known how blessed we are to have healthy kids. i have watched good friends sit with their own when they are not well and i have regularly counted myself in the "lucky" column on this front. but for the past couple of weeks i have watched as my son adds to the list of symptoms that culminated last night with me scratching his back and feeling his spine and his ribs through his shirt. i had noticed his face had thinned out a lot recently, but chalked it up to a height shift that moves the weight around. it's winter, his clothes are fuller and i honestly can't say that i noticed anything other than that until last night. he's nine. he's growing. but last night i realized when i felt his back that he was loosing weight and not gaining height. i sent him to the scale with directions to call me if his weight was below his marker. 7 lbs! gasp. nine year old boys don't loose seven pounds unless there is something wrong.

i said last week that his uptake in fluids made me concerned as my father is type I diabetic, and it is hereditary (skipping every other generation) - liam brushed me off and i knew that if it was true it wouldn't be the only symptom. the weight loss shows me i'm probably on the right track. liam still thinks i'm making something out of nothing. i know in my heart of hearts i'm not.

these past few nights have been hard not to let my imagination go down some really ugly paths and to stop my anxiety from overtaking my serenity. it's not that diabetes would be the end of the world. i know leaps and bounds have been made in treatment and it is a truly manageable disease. it's the lack of doctors here in this corner of canada that really has me bothered.

buck is the most responsible 9 year old i've ever known. he rarely needs reminded to do anything that he is asked. he is self aware and incredibly confident in asking for what he needs, identifying boundaries that are crossed and explaining himself. i have no doubt that this will be something he can live with and live well with. i just have a concern that he won't get the medical care he will need to face this here.

it is truly my only complaint about living here. this isn't a social medicine thing. i have had the best medical care of my life in canadian hospitals and from canadian doctors. it is a location thing. there just aren't enough doctors. the only one taking patients at this point is incompetent and i refuse to endure her inadequate care for such a large diagnosis and maintenance regime that is necessary for juvenile diabetes.

so today i am going to begin to change the thing i can change. i am contacting the established doctors in our community who would be capable of treating buck to see if they can find the grace to open their practice to let our family into their care.

it's not my favorite thing in the world to do, but i am up to it. but empty and facing this is going to be a true test of my daily commitment to this new abstinence. just for today, right? just for today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

when the light turns on

i spent many years at our last church teaching a sunday morning class to middle schoolers. up until the point that i did it was a dry, dreary, confirmation-type class. the kids hated it and the teachers resented the duty they felt having to be strapped with the obligation to cram these heads full of the information they needed to grow up. i committed to the class only when i got full reign of what i was able to teach and how i planned on doing it.

it became 4 years of real joy. i found a groove with those kids that we all loved. i treated them like they had brains and wanted to learn and they gave me a place to begin to verbalize big thoughts and deep theology in a way that we both could understand it and grow. i loved those kids and they loved me. many stayed in my class once middle school was done because they enjoyed it so much. it wasn't the most popular class, but the kids who came really wanted to learn and knew that i could teach them.

it's one of the only things i truly miss about our last church. i knew i left those kids prepared to own their own faith, ask difficult questions and be okay with answers that weren't all about their heads and not their hearts. i still keep in touch with many of them to this day.

upon the entrance of my very own pink into middle school this year i realized that she was the age of the girls that started in my class years ago. i knew there really wasn't the kind of class that would help she and her friends prepare to own their faith in a real way that would help them navigate through their teen years. liam and i volunteered to do the middle school youth group on wednesday nights and i volunteered to teach sundays for the month of november.

the learning curve for mid-high is L.O.N.G. those boys have the attention span of a common house fly and earning the right to be heard with these young hearts was going to be the biggest challenge that i would face. it took me a week to understand that small tables wasn't going to be the best way to keep their attention. week 2 i circled the chairs and brought out 'the paddle of power' (sarcasm necessary) - a ping pong paddle that you needed to hold if you wanted to share your story with the group.

i decided that i might only ever get these four weeks with them, so i needed to pick my topics well. what were the things over 42 years of life that i would die for? what were the things that i believed were the most important.

i realized that giving them tools to help them build their own spiritual lives with god was what i longed for each of them, especially pink, to know. the first week we talked about being still, silence, solitude and even did a short ignatian gospel reading together. it's the most interactive, talkative class and it's like herding cats sometimes, but i know that there were real, live tools that these kids were taking into the future with them.

the second week we talked about the daily examen. highs and lows and what we can learn about ourselves and following god through listening to our best and worst. it was so lovely to sit with those 8th grade boys, new this week, who had no interest in being in the class, begin to share their highs with the class, then they felt safe enough to share their lows, without me even asking, and they unfolded their lives and stories before me. it was a sacred honor.

last week wires got crossed and i was given "relief" (that i really didn't want) but had planned on talking about confession, and following it up this week with forgiveness. so today i talked with them about both. i pray each week for a word picture or story to help me begin each class with. they always come and are so beautiful and rich as they help the kids engage in the process before they've even realize why i am talking about these things. today i brought a garbage can and a recycling bin into the middle of the circle.

they sat there for a few minutes ignoring them until finally one curious girl finally asked "what are these doing here?" we spoke of the gift that god has given us to be able to clean up the messes we make with confession and forgiveness. the garbage can was used in so many different ways to talk about what happens when we ignore our messes, or what happens when someone gives us their garbage to carry by hurting us.

i saw lights turn on in eyes today. bright beautiful lights. in bright, beautiful eyes. what a gift to be able to help these young souls understand the gift that confession and forgiveness bring to their lives.

i had a father come up to me after the class. he's a former pastor who's been through his long, laundry list of abuse by the church, and tell me how much his two kids like having me for a teacher. it's nice to hear from him, but i could see it in their own eyes today. i have missed that light.

years ago i thought that i was given children to teach because others thought i wasn't skilled enough to teach adults. what i found out was that i loved it. those young minds are such a joy.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

seeing the size of the cloth

a reader of this blog and a new friend just sent me this poem - i thought it was so beautiful i should share it here:

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes any sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and send you out in the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shehab Nye

via - tikkun

Thursday, November 22, 2007


for those of you following my empty journey or taking one of your own i give you these words that were given to me this morning.

i have been reading praying with jesus by eugene peterson. i got off track during school so i'm a bit behind. that always seems to have a purpose, and today's entry (which was really november 12th's entry) is well timed. i have had three good days of sitting with empty. being satisfied with my one serving at each meal and not eating anything between meals, and then sitting with the feeling after each meal as the fullness starts to fade and the empty starts to rise, and letting that be that and not panicking and stuffing it. it's not the easiest things i've ever done, but it's not the most difficult thing either.

i know there will be days it will be harder than these past few have been. but i feel like i'm back on the beam a bit more fully than i have been in a while.

the readings have been in john 14 and are very timely as i mentioned. yesterday's was about jesus not leaving us orphaned and promising us the spirit of truth. today's was titled "in". john 14:20-21:

"...I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

"In" is the preposition of intimacy and one of the most important words in the gospel. It is later picked up by Paul and used in his famous formula "in Christ." Jesus sets us in a relationship of intimacy with himself by which we experience the fullness of God.

PRAYER: Jesus, I know that you will not leave me empty or orphaned. I thank you for the promise of your presence. Invade, invigorate, inspire by your Spirit. Amen.

if anyone remembered my angry, angry, angry post you'll know that parent junk and empty junk is a lot of what i'm processing right now. the promise not to be orphaned or empty (linked together) is pretty incredible for me and i hope it might be for you too.

today being an uncelebrated thanksgiving for me (in the usual, lots of family, big turkey dinner sense) seems fitting to my orphaned, empty state. but it isn't driving me to stuff myself. it is helping me to know that those two things are not true, and even if they were i would still be okay. i am really missing my extended family today, but i am thankful for what i do have and for where i am. in.

Monday, November 19, 2007

my new corner of the world

my computer and desk have a new home, it's quiet and lovely. i am enjoying it immensely, but it is really quiet. like i don't know if i can hear the doorbell or the telephone ring quiet.

no television, kids playing noise or anything. i'm almost worried i'll miss something.

but i guess the kids know where i am and so here i sit, under my eaves, at my little desk and type.

i treated myself today. i had some blueberry coffee beans i bought from benbows of bar harbor and enjoyed it in my 2 cats mug, lit my patchouli candle and savored my solitude (my son called home from school sick, but he was far away in his room).

this is definitely a place to find "empty"...

i wrote an email to my therapist and told him that i no longer wanted to make friends with empty. i wanted to hunt it down and beat it with a stick. this is harder than it sounds.

anyway, i leave you with a picture from my new office.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

making friends with the enemy

i saw my therapist today. he's also a friend, one of my pastors and a professor in the program we're doing. it's great because he knows much of my story already so there isn't a lot of time needed to fill him in.

i went to talk about finding better tools to deal with the anger i was feeling so that i didn't become any more destructive to myself or the people around me.

i had two papers due for his counseling class and i used them as opportunities to process some of the stuff i'm going through. i'm sure most of his students don't go so deep or so personal, but i figure if i'm going to do the work i might as well use the process to pull at this tangle of emotions and memories i'm dealing with. it also helped because he knew in advance a lot of what i wanted to talk about.

he's such a gentle, peaceful person. unflappable and even. i really like that about him. his ability to listen and tug at the threads of the story i share really helps me to unravel a lot of the knots.

at one point i talked about how i didn't even care if i ever worked out the anger i had toward my mom because what i really wanted was for it not to push my buttons any more. i said "is it any wonder (after talking about the purging she did to me) that being full is so important to me?"

he listened and then circled back to that place. asking me questions about why full is so important and how empty feels. at first blush i said that empty feels like panic. i know i'll get more from sitting with the word, but right now empty is this place that feels like there won't be enough. that the need will go unmet, so i must fill it myself. that full stops everything from being unmanageable (how we delude ourselves in addiction, eh?) and stops the panic.

he asked if i have ever sat with empty before. he talked of how many addicts find that through their sobriety they find that the thing that was once their enemy becomes their friend - they know that when they begin to feel the emotion/feeling that had set them off before now becomes an indication that their sobriety working, instead of their addiction winning. (i hope this is making sense - it does to me at least). so if i can begin to see empty as something that helps me to know i'm healthy and on the right track, instead of something wrong or broken i might be able to turn it from an enemy into a friend.

that was a tool i had never, ever thought about before. making friends with the enemy...

he also talked about the peace that follows empty - if i can ride out the wave of the panic to the other side, peace waits for me there. i'm not sure i believe him, but he has proven himself to be quite knowledgeable and very trustworthy so i guess i'll give it a try! :)

he also helped me to identify some times in the day when things are the most difficult and begin to make plans to change them. to figure out how to find pleasure in the things i do eat instead of the counterfeit pleasure i have in feeling full (which usually brings with it shame and guilt). to enjoy and savor the things i do eat to their fullest instead of feeling the need to stuff myself full to sate the feeling of empty.

finding something to do that "fills me up" after supper instead of having seconds (or thirds) because i'm so drained and dragged out by that time of the day. creating some space that gives me the ability to read and enjoy myself away from the living room and the television and the chaos that evening usually brings to our home. and maybe directing our family's attention to something more life giving and whole than just sitting and watching that stupid television that steals and stupefies instead of gives and inspires.

anyway, lots to think about and some better tools to work through these part of the tangle.

Friday, November 09, 2007

i'm not sure what this means

Your Aspie score: 117 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 103 of 200
You seem to have both Aspie and neurotypical traits

i'm not exactly sure what this means, but i have wondered about this for some time especially in watching my daughter interact socially and knowing it is so very like myself.... anyone know a bit more about this??


angry, angry, angry

i have been blindsided by anger these past couple of weeks. absolutely blindsided. the murder of my girlfriends daughter by her husband awoke such violence within me. it gave me a face to hate. a face to channel my rage toward. that ugly, mouth-breathing, festering rot of a human being awoke a place in me that i really thought i had worked through. i did deep anger work a couple of years ago - and i'm not naive enough to believe that i wouldn't need to circle back, but dang this has spun me back so fast and so furiously that i can't seem to catch my breath.

i wrote to a blogger friend last night about some other issues i'm dealing with. i'm just going to quote it here because i am crunched for time today.

the deepest places in me want to be stuffed with food to make everything better. i know it's not better, ever with this stupid way of coping, but anything else just seems stupider. hurting and not doing anything about it seems senseless. at least anesthetizing the pain feels like i'm doing something...

i have been so angry and reactionary lately. i did some deep emotional work during the ignatian prayer class and realized that my mom gagged me twice in the bathroom. once because i ate baby aspirin and once because i ate maraschino cherries - both times out of the liquor cabinet - just a kitchen cupboard, but where they stored their booze - and both times because i was too old to take the nap she tried to make me take so she could pass out on the couch, i got bored and when she woke up and saw the empty jars she was ashamed/angry/scared and took it out on me by inducing vomiting with her nasty cigarette stained fingers as she me held over the toilet.

both of these times were right after the rape, in the same bathroom with the same exact motion. i realized that basically i was raped three times that summer, twice by the woman who was in such denial that she didn't protect me the first time and perpetrated it two more times. is it any wonder why feeling full is so important to me? empty means scary, lack of control and violated. full means safe.


i am so angry at her. and at my stupid father for not doing anything about it either, and for talking at his birthday party this summer about that very same party where i was raped with jokes and laughs about how drunk he was and how at the end of the party he and another guy ran down the road to the lake and jumped in and he lost the $200.00 my grandfather had just given him. i sat there and thought "old man, you lost way more than that that day" - he knew too. he knew i was raped that day. we have talked about it before. and then on my own birthday he never even bothered to call. i am so angry. so very angry.

sorry to unload on you, but i just have to get this junk out and now that i've started i just can't stop. i think i'll probably clip some of this into a blog post.

i just keep snapping at liam and the kids. i have no patience at all. i know i need to start therapy again. dang i hate winter. i can feel it creeping in on me already. i don't want to go outside because it's so cold and so i'd rather just isolate myself. i hate it.

i love this community and everything else is going so well. i just really need to get some closure on this junk i've mucked up. i can't do it on my own.
okay, now i have to go and get this day started. thanks for listening.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

don't miss this blog post

thank you sarah louise for linking to this. i laughed until i almost threw up - it hurt i laughed so much:

Strap in, Shut up and Hold on: We're going in

Monday, November 05, 2007

it is well with my soul

have you ever made a really big mistake that costs more money than you can afford? we did last month. it was stupid. innocent, but stupid. it cost us $700 that we just did not have. it put us in debt and broke our hearts. it didn't have to happen. we could have avoided it. but we really went on the best information we thought we had.

public health care in canada is a lovely thing. not as wonderful on the rural, east coast as it is in major urban centres of ontario, but i am still so grateful i don't have to keep a job i hate to keep us insured. supplemental insurance in canada is a wise thing to add - prescriptions, optical & dental can be had as a small extra, private plan. we finally got to the place last spring where we could afford this and started the plan. we had a six month waiting period for dental and optical coverage. we figured that we had waited 2 years, we could wait six more months. and here the big, dumb, innocent, yet dumb mistake happened. we thought the waiting period was over in october and i scheduled the whole family for full optical and dental exams. the co-pays coming all together were a lot, but we finally had coverage - we were going to use it.

actually though the six month waiting period didn't really start until november. we never checked. either of us. we just went on the assumption that we had coverage. $700 later every claim was rejected and our hearts were broken. do you know how far we can stretch $700?? that's a huge amount in our economy. i was angry, so angry with myself and liam that we hadn't checked. it was a stupid mistake and we were heartbroken.

liam called our insurance guy and asked him to plead our case. he half-heartedly tried and said "nothing i can do". i figured that $700 is over a weeks pay if i was to go out and find work, so maybe i could put some effort into being the persistent widow and find out if our insurance company had one just judge among the many. i prayed that i could stay calm and level headed. that i would own my mistake and plead my case as honestly and heartily as i was able.

on friday i got the standard call center response "i'm sorry, we can't waive the waiting period, it's non-negotiable" - i explained to her that i realized that she probably didn't have the power to make a decision like this, but that i knew that there would be someone in her company who might be able to. i thanked her for her time and asked to speak to her supervisor. i received the standard "no one is here who can help you, but i can take your information and they will contact you" line. she was professional, but clearly i was asking far too much. she assured me someone would call me monday to discuss this. i figured this was only the first link in a very long chain i would have to endure to earn the right to be heard by the right person.

at 9:01 this morning the phone rang. i said to liam jokingly "yah, that's the insurance company calling" and you know what? it was. i got on the phone expecting to plead my case again and said "we have made a huge mistake. we feel horrible and we aren't trying to get one over on anyone..." she cut me off. i expected the worst when she said "i was just calling to tell you that the company has decided to pay all of your claims." i'm still tearing up 4 1/2 hours later as i type this. i was shocked. i am not sure, but i don't know if i have ever felt as heard as i felt at that moment. i truly felt heard by god and heard by this company and that mercy and justice had moved to meet our need.

we try so hard to live simply and generously and within our means. this $700 means we are not in debt and are able to celebrate the holidays without that horrible pressure on us. i am so grateful. i wept before god for a good 20 minutes. i am moved again to tears. justice is a beautiful thing.

in one of our classes our professor talked about the difference between the "right answer" and the "beautiful answer" - it would have been right for the insurance company to make us pay for our mistake, but it wouldn't have been beautiful. they clearly could afford to eat this more than we could. it was so kind of them to realize that and step in for us. it is the beautiful answer and i am so grateful.

i have battled insurance companies since my mother's death back in the 80's. i have never had an outcome like this. i couldn't have been more surprised and shocked by this.

i wrote a poem the other night at the sacred writing workshop. he taught us about repetition in poetry and asked us to use a phrase that had been sticking in our heads to engage creatively in this process. still pondering the theme of bread i had been stuck on the line "what father gives a stone when his child asks for bread?" i wrote about six lines feeling the joy of god's provision and then it shifted, right there, in the middle of the room with 20 other people, and i thought about all of the stones i had been given along the way. anger boiled in me. instead of the joy of receiving bread i began to think of all of the rocks. it stuck in my throat and i couldn't write another word. we were then asked to read our psalms out loud. i panicked and realized how much of myself i was going to show to this room of virtual strangers. there was nothing else i could do.

what father gives a stone when his child asks for bread?

i was one of the last to go and the whole time i kept saying to myself, "it's okay, some psalms are angry and full of lament - maybe someone else will connect with this emotion instead of sugary, sweetness" - it was enough to get me to open my mouth. it was over quickly and i tried not to think about it anymore. i figured i could make more of it than anyone else would. afterward a woman i had never met before came up to me and told me that she could tell there was lots of emotion behind my words and that she appreciated them.

today is a day for bread. i am grateful. it is well with my soul.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

To Be a Great Poem

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul--and your very flesh shall be a great poem.

Source: Preface to Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman