(Originated: December 19, 2016)
My last three plus years have been deliberate. I’ve pondered a lot of questions about purpose, about making decisions, about who I am and who others are. I contemplated sharing the parts my story, and particularly parts that I believed would trigger judgement, rejection, labelling, and stigma. I feared that in seeing and knowing my past, people would look for it, or “see” it in my present, attach it to who I am, and, detach it from who they are. It’s this. In coming to know others’ lives, and reading about or seeing their truth, I came to this awareness, this sense of a life’s use that I hadn’t before seen or known. And, without the really hard parts, the life in the story couldn’t have reached me. I was initially emotionally moved by the books A Child Called It, The Glass Castle, Life and Death in Shanghai, Recovering from the War, and other biographical and autobiographical life stories. Then while simultaneously immersing myself in community well-being initiatives, I slowly, wittingly, began to move intellectually and physically towards life purpose, my own truth. It was a surrender to the unknown, because of what came to be known. There were other books, biographies and autobiographies which propelled me, stirred my emotion, and launched me to this day by day navigation into the depths of my own story. I was astonished and in awe of the transformed life of Christopher Yuan and his parents, which ended up in a book called Out of a Far Country. The Heavenly Man was of the most courageous accounts in testimony of a life I’ve read to date. Many music artists have opened their lives for the sake of others, and the ones I’ve happened to see are Unspoken, Steven Curtis Chapman, Laura Story, Carrolton, Sidewalk Prophets, Chris Tomlin, Jason Gray, Jonny Diaz, For King and Country, Rend Collective, and Jordan Feliz. The bravery, courage, and selflessness in the experiences of death, terminal illness, divorce, abuse, imprisonment, drugs and promiscuity, hopelessness, and pain, impacted and changed the way I looked at not only my life, but also the life of others. Their lives encouraged me, and they opened my heart. Once I saw my life for what it was, in acceptance, in humility, and in truth, I recognized parts that carried keys to healing, and I’m compelled to share. I believe, and I share, in the hope that my life gives someone else something they can use to live, to have hope, to relate to, to decide, and/or to find an answer.
This “draft” is in the making. It is live because I’m alive and am in the making. It’s visited and revisited, revised and re-revised, added to and expanded on, for the strength of its truth.
This is my life, that longs to deliver its purpose, in God’s story and in His time.
A BEGINNING IN THE MIDDLE:
I started running mid life, at 34. I had no idea then, that it would be the start of new web strands in a journey where old cobwebs still entwined my life. With tendencies towards perfectionism and achieving, insecurities, past hurts, and failure remained buried, hidden, maybe even from myself. Yet, an inward sense of unresolve lingered. I resisted the intricate web of life that is spun by our every choice, interwoven by all of our experiences, all of our relationships, and all of our iniquities. I wanted the strands of the web that were acceptable and good, and wanted to rid of the ones that bound me in embarassment, shame, and failure. Running became a healthy outlet for me. It helped me to both see and begin to repair damaged strands. Running offered me good things and was a rewarding pursuit. It releases endorphins, inducing feelings of pleasure and euphoria, it’s physical exercise, promotes healthy emotional release, and strengthens clarity of thoughts. It’s heart strengthening, and promotes positive social connectivity. It’s true, running is all of these things. And, ultimately, it was a means that lead me to a deeper, greater source for living, and to begin the miraculous, delicate cobweb repair.
I am in awe of the human brain and the physical and social aspects of being a human being. I could ask why until I can’t anymore, and it leads me to the same place……the mysteries, the unexplainable, the
unknowns. In my time here, there are some things from years ago that remain vivid as if they just happened. Why we remember certain things, and forget others is for science to try to explain, but, at least for now, a mystery that tells some story. I have a vivid memory that I kept hidden, a secret, for many years, 26 years to be exact. I was 16 years old. On the outside, from all external vantage points, I was doing great. I went to a good school, was a starting guard on the JV basketball team, had great grades, was “normal” looking, and in good shape. Internally, though, I was fighting. I was all the things I thought I was supposed to be. And, still, inside, almost daily, my intestines were knotted so tight I wanted to reach in and pull them out. I got used to it, keeping up the good work and living with intestinal knots. One night, at 16, in 1988, I had that vivid dream. I was walking down the hall of the second floor of my High School. Other girls were also on either side of the hallway. There was a lot of chatter and the hallway was crowded, as usual when changing classes. It was as if I was in my own “bubble” in the center of the hallway, hearing only muffled chattering and scuffling of shoes. The hallway floors were shiny and a clear path to my locker lead my steps. My periphery view was cloudy, as if a spotlight were on the path to the locker and everyone and everything else was outside the spotlight. When I reached my locker, I opened it and was caught off guard and blinded by what I saw, like looking into the sun. Inside was a blue cross. There were bright yellow rays beaming on the sides and across the top of that cross. The light beams were spilling out into the hallway, blocked only by me and the locker door. Just below the horizontal part of the cross were vivid, clear, and commanding words, “Jesus Follow Me”. I slammed my locker door as fast as I could, hastened, horrified, and afraid. I woke from the dream, equally startled and afraid. It was real.
I grew up Catholic. Catholic, in my experience, was a separate, distinct, devoted order of religious rightness. My image of a person devoted to God in the Catholic life was either a priest or a nun. In school, we learned all of the callings we could have on our life, in particular married life, single life, celibate or religious life. In my case, if I were called to the religious life, I would be called to be a nun. This is how I interpreted the options, not necessarily how they really were. And on that night when I was 16, after that vivid dream, it occurred to me that perhaps this was real, a calling on my life. I told no one. I wanted to crush it, erase it, surely forget it. It would be my secret. I wanted the dream to erase from my memory. Maybe it would, I thought, like so many other silly or weird dreams that I could never recall today. And, yet, it was so vivid, it would not be forgotten, just forced out of my mind, buried, for a long, long time. It did not occur to me at that time, at 16, that this could have meant anything other than the call upon a few, to the mysterious, scary, celibate life of a nun. The thought of wearing a habit, cutting my hair short, wearing a head piece every day, secluded from society, praying and talking about God all the time horrified me. I ran, from the dream, from the idea, from the possibility, and sought after a life I would define and control. I wanted to be “normal”.
I was 42 when I first shared this dream, and when I painted a picture of it. I won’t ever know what this calling was on my life at that time, and what His plan was in that message. I assumed what it meant, that I was called to be a nun. I didn’t contemplate, reflect on , or heed to exploring it. I know it now as a daily invitation to seek and know the Lord and His will in my life; to come to know His way in that message “Jesus Follow Me”. My life is forever changed. None of these re-callings, these experiences, define what it means to live as a nun, priest, or in any other human calling. Only those who live this life, their life, can credibly speak to, share, or express what it is. I’ve shared what my view and my assumptions as a teenager were at that time. Today, I am both inspired and in awe, deeply “wowed” by those genuinely living out the call to openly live for the sole purpose of serving God. Many live with a sole purpose or goal of serving God, I do believe. But fewer live this calling wearing it every day, visibly, exposed as a nun, priest, pastor, or missionary. The maturity, humility, strength, courage, unconditional love, selflessness and surrender it takes to live this out, is unspeakable.
I RAN UNTIL I STARTED RUNNING:
It was wintertime of 2007 when I ran my first mile in several years (and I’d never really run consistently, ever). I had a newborn daughter and an 18 month old son. I was tired, angry inside, and out of shape. My husband ran track in college and had started to run long distance a couple of years earlier. It was either because of his hinting or my competitive nature that got me out to run that first time. Probably both. I ran exactly one mile and it was unpleasant. I was disappointed in how long it took me. I felt exposed and embarrassed, and my pride was stirring feelings of anger. Yet, the after affect, the feeling post run, was enough to get me back out for another, and another, and another. It continued for 10 years. Runners High is real and it is and does all of the good things it claims. It is a release of natural feel good chemicals. Post run made me feel happy, more energized, accomplished, and brought perspective, clarity, and order to my days. I didn’t know at the time where running would lead me. I didn’t know these first running days were the start of reconnecting me with my childhood, my deepest and most authentic nature. In time, over days, months, and years of running, I journeyed also to the darkest places in my life. Running opened my life for inspection, introspection, reveal, and healing. But it wasn’t until I took running to it’s extreme that I came to introspect, to self-examine, to see my accountability in life. In my perfectionism and extremist nature, a “failure” was inevitable, because there was always going to be a next big goal and one that I’d put my all into. In this regard, God had His own, very special plans for me.
Success in running made me feel good about myself and my life, and failure tended to take bigger digs than just coming short of the goal, or missing a physical milestone I’d planned. My past haunted me in my failure. I was angry in failure. My success in running would propel me to keep setting higher bars. My failure would make me angry and leave me feeling inadequate and insecure. But, neither eradicated those cobwebs in my spun pattern. Even so, in realizing I couldn’t change them, there was a sense of unfinished, unfulfilled business about them. They were always there. The acceptance of and surrender to this reality would be the deepest, darkest, most vulnerable and painful process I’d come to endure. It was time to accept all of the strands in my web. There was no other way, and I knew it.
When recognized as a gift, running is life giving. It’s a gift, a nature’s drug, to be received, not sought. Eventually I would learn that there is no failure in running, only self defeating expectations and misperception.
Ten years of running navigated me towards a more authentic life, towards greater self awareness, and towards a personal and most cherished relationship with a God I never really knew. I, for the first time, began to understand this significance between a God I had information about and the God who is available for personal relationship. I began to know the value of suffering, and to begin experiencing what real healing is. In life, without God relationally, I experienced many dead ends, often disappointed at the finish line. Eventually, though, I met a place where I faced the truth about what I was in it, life, for. It took me to a place before I ever existed, the well known combination of a sperm and egg united to cell divide, multiply, transform, develop, beat, breathe. And, it took me back to before I pushed out into a world I came to know as earth, or city, or state, or house, or however else I refer to my physical accommodations. The whole point is in coming to understand just whose life this is, this life of mine that happens to be in this time and space and place.
In 2016, I received endurance running coaching certifications from Road Runners Club of America and USA Track & Field. My interest is in positively contributing to the running journeys of others who endeavor it, and where I am provisioned to do so.
My father, a Marine radio operator, fought in the Vietnam conflict in 1969-1970. Our whole family experienced post traumatic stress in the years following. I don’t include the word “disorder” because it bears emphasis on the individual. “Disorder” has two definitions, a noun and a verb. The noun means “a state of confusion”. The verb means “disrupt the systematic functioning or neat arrangement of”. So, by definition, the noun seems to fit. If any one of us fought front lines in combat, we’d suffer with “post traumatic stress state of confusion” also. The verb offers the opportunity for discussion, exploration, and clarity. The word “disrupt” in the beginning of the definition, and that this is a verb, indicates action; someone is doing something. Where we rely on our service men and women to protect and defend our free country, to endure battle and put themselves in harms way, we choose to allow traumatic stress, to “disrupt”. We have accountability for post traumatic stress. We own the disorder, on some level. My dad didn’t share about his experiences in Vietnam. I have read autobiographies and biographies, and have watched documentaries of the men and women who served, both for America and for the Viet Cong. More men and women who served in combat are sharing their experiences and are revealing the truths in our history. The Vietnam war, while I never heard of my father’s personal experiences growing up, will always live in me as well, as the offspring of a generation bearing the realities of post traumatic stress. I know my dad wanted to shield us from it; from what seemed to have no personal tie to our lives. What I see now, is that it is the experience of post traumatic stress that provides the greatest opportunity both to connect with my past and to navigate purposeful, meaningful steps into the future. It is the most defining worldly impact on my past, and it is the most likely pursuit of a meaningful future, God leading the way.
My mom and dad married in 1970 in Honolulu, Hawaii, during my dad’s R&R in the service. They were young, 20 and 21. Not long after my dad’s service commitment ended, my older sister was on the way. There are three of us kids; my sister, 19 months older than I and my brother, almost 5 years younger. I’m in the middle.
In reflecting on my own personal walk in life, dark valleys, and a struggle for control, I have thought more about veterans, probably because they visit the possibility of death. They have to. Their lives can’t ever return to what they knew before, not entirely, void of the experience. They are forever changed. On the front lines, trauma is inescapable. I visited the possibility of death a few years ago, not in a literal physical way, like being in a serious accident and fighting for my life. I visited death because the circumstances in my life were dark, unwanted, and certainly unexpected. And I visited death not to consider taking my life, but to consider the truth about my life, and in seeking purpose and meaning.
PTS seeped into me. But we never acknowledged or discussed it. It was a “normal” that I learned to live with. When I face my truth, there is no question growing up in a post traumatic stress home is a significant defining piece of my life story. It carries a pain that takes me to the cross over and over, and thus, it is a strong source to the means of veritable healing. I know that you don’t erase post traumatic stress; you accept it and you carry it. And, it, too, can be used to transform lives and for good.
UN-MANIFESTED DEEP HURTS: (ANAD recovery story post)
I was the fat girl. I gained a significant amount of weight somewhere between kindergarten and first grade. I was noticeably fat by the first grade. It was the beginning of a painful, shameful childhood. I bit my nails. I would eat whatever I could get a hold of. I remember a few vivid times being made fun of, called names, and being humiliated by other students, teachers, and nursing staff. The humility was a naked feeling, a sense of being exposed and shamed with nowhere to hide. One particular memory I have is of a grade school softball game. I was the pitcher and we were in a championship game. I was out on the mound and kids from the other team started jeering loudly saying, “oh, look at the pitcher, the ball is going to bounce off of her belly.” My greatest fear in those moments were that others heard what they were saying, including parents. I was the pitcher, and people were going to be looking at me anyway, but I’d have rather been dead than being the source for that kind of attention, others making fun of me. That those kids, and potentially parents, got a laugh off of my being overweight was a piercing hurt and a humiliation that just lingered there, while I was in the center of the field. No one said or did anything. It was an emotional hurt that as a child, there in the open to be exposed, I didn’t know how to process it, to work through it. I’d just bear it, but it hurt so bad.
My parents kept me focused on academics. My mom held education as a high priority for us. My dad worked first, second, and third shifts throughout the years in assembly manufacturing to pay for our school. I learned that good grades, and obedience equated to an easier home life. Whether it was intended, my interpretation about highest home priorities were education and obedience. My parents wanted for me what they didn’t have, college education, freedom of career choice, and greater financial stability (aka, to do better than they did). I thought these were the keys to a good life. And, they do support comfort, bring experiences of happiness, and increase the likelihood of avoiding fear inducing living such as homelessness, joblessness, starvation, drug environments, you fill in the blank. So, these can be smart choices, and better pursuits in life, but I failed to know their place. Without the real keys to life, they aren’t worth much at all.
In seventh grade, all of my friends were noticing and interacting with the boys. I wanted to be noticed and I wanted to be thin; I longed to be thin, and I thought it was the key to a much better life. One day, in seventh grade, I decided I was going to make this happen. My resolution, less food equated to thinness. It was literally overnight that I made this drastic change. I decided to significantly reduce my food intake and restrict myself. It came to be where I could go all day with almost nothing, whatever I could get away with. I was starving, but it was working. In a matter of months, I had become thin. And, I did think I was happier, at the time. I was proud of my self control. I was proud of my accomplishment. I achieved a desire, and life did seem better. I really didn’t care what was going on inside me, physically or emotionally. On the outside, I made myself look “normal” and no one would ever “see” the inside. I escaped the humility and painful lashes taken by the fat girl. I was no longer made fun of for being fat and that removed a torment in my life. In about one year, by eighth grade, my anorexia drifted to bulimia, and I was consumed in the illness. My eating disorder was “active” until my sophomore year in high school. I was confronted, and subsequently hospitalized. As I had the self control to be able to restrict my food intake years prior, I also prided myself in the self control I’d exhibited to end the physical abuse of the eating disorder, at age 16. Like a light switch, I decided to end that physical symptom of my eating disorder. I felt accomplished, proven to be a master of self control. Never again did I binge or purge, physically, with food. But, it would be years to come before real, healthy, genuine, dependable healing would take root. What still remained when I was 16, were the “why’s” and deep seeded emotional wounds and insecurities. I carried them with me, mostly unknowingly. I found other outlets, which were generally accepted and agreeable, at least on the surface. Through it all, my high school academics never suffered, from a grade perspective. Through it all, my athletics were good enough to play high school basketball. I wasn’t aware of what emotions I was feeling and I wasn’t really willing to spend time with them. I wasn’t equipped to deal with authentic feelings. I didn’t recognize what was happening. About this time, after my physical symptoms for the eating disorder ceased, I had that dream. I escaped, resisted, and rebelled.
It is much easier to look back on my life now and see the gaping flaws in those early years. The happiness I found in losing weight and being thin was like a new life I discovered, so it served some temporary newness, some feelings of acceptance and attention that I’d not known before. I suppose this is similar to how someone feels who drinks or does drugs for the first time. It seems harmless to others and it shows you a new world, new social circles, and acceptance. And, when I experienced that new life in thinness, the benefits of the outer experiences trumped the hidden emotional suffering that was occurring. I didn’t know how to be loving and compassionate towards myself. I now know, and see today, that all my life I had the One complete love in me the entire time. My soul was there and God was there to lead me and walk with me. I wasn’t aware of and didn’t recognize His love, His voice, and His way. The gift of this present day is in that knowing. Because today, circumstances still arise in life when I feel isolated, rejected, different, misunderstood. The difference is that I recognize where the fruitful resolution lies. I don’t even need to know specifically what the outcome of circumstances will be. I just need to know that I seek the right source for resolution. When I visit the valleys of today and anticipate those of the future which await my life path, I can seek and find in God. And, He provides. It was there all along, I just didn’t know. Now, I know.
Today, I am fortunate enough to connect with other women as a mentor through a recovery mission driven organization, National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders. ANAD supports women and men struggling with or in active recovery from eating disorders.
In my early years, up until fifth grade, I remember being quiet, uninterested in silly kids games or chatting, and being compliant in school and at home. Good grades came very easily for me. I was the quiet, unattractive, smart, fat girl. I had friends, but longed to be any of them instead of me.
While I didn’t see it this way at the time, when I made the decision in 7th grade to take control of my weight issue, food restriction and eventually binging and purging were projections of my inner hurt and anger. The wounds I felt as a fat girl, in the feelings of isolation, being different, defined (by others) was too much for me to authentically feel and open up to. It was a very long time before I realized what my anger and projected anger were. As a minor, projecting it at myself was the easiest to hide, to control and to protect. Getting to the why would be a journey over the course of a life.
In high school, I moved through a transition from binging/purging to not binging/purging. It can be seen more clearly now, that when you break a habit, for example, that former habit has to be replaced with something else. Ideally, if it was a bad habit, it’s replaced with a new, healthy habit. It didn’t work this way right away for me, replacing a bad habit with a healthy one. I was not aware of, prepared to face, or equipped to open to my authentic feelings and emotional wounds. My hurt and anger would be internalized and projected in other, seemingly “acceptable” ways over the course of several years, physically and behaviorally. Throughout high school, college, and especially in my early career years, it was a rare day that my intestines didn’t feel like they were in knots.
I was angry. And, I kept on “running”.
I believed my anger was justified.