I am a part of a running group that chooses a cause or charity every month as their focus. Everyone in the group donates towards that cause. We get a ticket in a raffle for every mile, or 20 minutes worth of exercise we do each day. At the end of the month, the tickets are drawn for raffle prizes. It is called “good running” because we are using our running to work towards bettering our world.
Everything I do is an attempt at improving the world around me, and this is just one way.
I volunteer for Hospice. I share my triumphs and my struggles. I express my gratitude and apologize for my mistakes. My main goal in life is for the world to be a better place because I am/was in it.
Many people don’t realize this, but my self-care is an integral part of my effort to have a positive impact on the world around me. I believe is was Rumi who said, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise so I am changing myself.” This has become my philosophy. In order to be of any use to anyone else, I must first address my needs. Also, I AM changing the world, by starting with myself. Believe it or not, I have seen that have a HUGE impact on those around me.
This week’s celebrity suicides have brought to the forefront of our minds the issues of mental health, suicide, stigma, and survival. It just so happens, that this month’s cause in my Good Running group is mental health. As someone in recovery from addiction and an eating disorder, and as someone who struggles with the affects of a mood disorder, and the lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, these issues are always in the forefront of my mind. This is my every day battle. This is why I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and get plenty of rest. This is why I wake up each morning and make my bed. Why I organize and take my meds religiously. Why I try my darnedest to eat a balanced diet and practice moderate, regular exercise. Why I go to AA meetings, a psychiatrist, a therapist, a dietitian, and work diligently as both a sponsor and a sponsee. This is my life. This is my every day. Even when the suicidal thoughts aren’t present, I am working tirelessly to make sure they don’t have the environment they need to appear or grow or fester in my mind. My mind is like a garden that I tend to each day. And my body and spirit are just as important, in keeping my mind a healthy place. They are all intricately connected. It is hard, constant work, but it is so amazingly worth it.
Words cannot convey how worth it, it is. But let me tell you this… if you’ve ever seen the change of the light in someone’s eyes, when they finally grasp and really begin to pursue recovery, you’ll know. Something changes. It is just as palpable as a corpse once the spirit has departed. Only this is the opposite of that. It is like, for the first time, someone is finally ALIVE!
I have so much love in my life! I cannot REALLY look around at the people who surround me and not start to get choked up. Runners, artists, teachers, caretakers, addicts in recovery, patients who devoted their lives to becoming the counselors, survivors of sexual violence, those who’ve conquered their eating disorders, those who’ve taken back their power, and declared victory over their lives. I’m surrounded by them. Supporters. And when I struggle, a single post on Facebook sends them the battle cry. And they step up. They always step up. They are always there. To run with me. To go to a meeting with me. To combat ed’s voice with me. To remind me to keep going when I just want to sleep. To ask me if I’ve taken my meds, or written recently, or called my sponsor, or had a hug. I’m blessed.
And the exciting thing is… THEY. ARE. EVERYWHERE. And they will help you too. Because that’s what they do. They’re helpers. And when they’re the ones in need, and you’re the one who is able, you return the favor. You can’t keep what you’ve got unless you give it away. That’s how this works.
This is community.
There is a wealth of hope and resources and people ready and willing to tell you how much you matter, and how worth the fight you are. And you are. There are so many just waiting to offer a hand, to lift you up and walk with you into hope. So, don’t give up. Let’s figure out a way to surround you with these kinds of people too. Because life can actually be so fucking incredible. I promise.
I’ve been going back and reading old posts, which I never do. My mind has been revisiting the things I used to feel, and I happened to be led there. It might not be a good idea, but it is a good reminder from where I came. I’ve been reading a lot of my posts about suicide, and my attempts. One, which I wrote on the anniversary of one of my attempts, I intended on adding another poem to, but it seems I did not. So, I want to add it now.
The Poem I Did Not Write
I see my life in seasons
unfolding behind me
rolling hills with greenery,
the brilliant colors of trees in fall,
or sunsets over water
in my rearview mirror as I drive away,
and it is gone.
I revisit these places
that once were home.
Each previous address.
The walls, they do speak.
The men that came and went;
The labor it takes to remove the smell
of vomit-drenched carpet;
The ghosts that waved good-bye
when it wasn’t my time.
The echoing of sobs.
I am making this journey in solitude,
but aren’t we all?
At the end of the day,
it is only ourselves
And those who drop in for a visit
once in a while.
I’ve spent years wondering
if my wails will rattle these walls
long after I am gone.
Will I haunt this place
like it still haunts me?
When I was 12, I wrote a poem
in which I stated
“I was meant to die by my own hand.”
I have not forgotten the line,
it rings loudly in my mind
like a catchy tune
that you cannot shake.
And the only way to ease the urge
is to listen to it
one more time.
When I was 31,
a medium told me
that I would not wed,
and those words too,
they will not leave me,
though everyone else has.
I never realized until now
That each morning is the clean slate
I was searching for
That each sunrise is my chance to try again.
Each face I meet, I memorize
inside my heart,
appreciating its beauty,
savoring its presence
before it is gone.
Though I am not sure
whether the recalling
either harms or heals.
And this is where I’ve found myself
stopped along the road.
The joy, my God,
It is infectious.
Vibrant and healing!
And I come alive.
It soothes me in the waiting.
It holds me in the dark.
My loveliest companion.
And even so,
I still have times
when I can hear the darkness whisper,
calling me back.
And despite my knowing
how deeply it aches
I find myself tempted
to revisit it as well.
Running is hard. It requires endurance, and movement, and dedication. I naturally have an inclination for laziness, and depression often causes me to feel incredibly unmotivated. So, when I started running, I invited God in the process, because I knew I could not do it without Him. I’m notorious for being unable to maintain anything long term, however, my recovery and my relationship with God have shown me that it can be done. I have had both of these for nearly 7 years now.
When I started running, I immediately found myself having times when I wanted to quit. I felt like I couldn’t get through the discomfort, or I couldn’t find it in me to get out and do it at all. It was too hot, or too cold, or too hard, or I was too sleepy; but I did it. Three times a week, I woke up early, and got out there and ran. When I had moments that I felt I couldn’t finish because it was too excruciating, I prayed. Each time, I prayed that God would end it. I pray the ending was close. In the process, I quickly discovered that God didn’t want me to pray for it to end. He wanted to pray for His help to get through it, despite the discomfort or difficulty. That was when I realized my running was a metaphor for my life. Often, I’ve found myself praying for the pain to end. “Make this situation go away or stop” or “take me God, end my life, please!” I always begged for the finish line, but sometimes, finish lines are far away, and though God could pick it up and move it for you, you need to learn that you can get through it. There is an important lesson after a finish line. I can do it. It can be done. I can get through it. Even when things are hard, I will survive and I will overcome.
I did this every time I ran. I’ve learned to listen to my body now. If it gets excruciating, I can slow down. I can pace myself. If I am experiencing pain, it is okay to pause. And I’ve learned that when I feel like I’m having moments when I want to give up or quit because it is just too effin hard, I can ask God for the strength to get through it. And I realized, I can do this in life. Do I have moments when I ask for Him to end it sometimes? Yes. But I always, eventually remember to ask for strength instead. And while I make the mistake of begging for an end, I can always feel God waiting patiently for me to realize my error. And when I have asked for the strength, God ALWAYS answers the prayer. And As soon as I get through it, I praise God for answering it.
And again and again He answers it. Every time I run, God answers it. I pray for the strength to get out of bed. I pray for the strength to get through the hard moments, and I pray for strength to finish.
It is for this reason that I love to run my longest runs Sunday mornings, before church. Because I do this, I always come to church in a state of praise and worship for all that God has already accomplished in my day and in my life. And I revel in God’s faithfulness. Faithfulness in my running process and in my life.
Last Sunday, God showed up in an incredible way. When I reflected on the run, I realized there was a poignant message there that I must share.
I’ve gotten more used to my Sunday runs, and I am excited to accomplish them and see God show up, so getting out of bed has become easier. When I got out there Sunday, I was wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt, with a jacket over it. I didn’t pay the forecast of rain much mind as I usually find that to be wrong, or the rain to be light. All I knew is that it was going to be 55 degrees in February, and I was excited for shorts running weather. When the run started, I was feeling good. The previous week, I had been so exhausted that I kicked my own ankles the entire time. My ankles were bruised and had open wounds from the constant kicking. It definitely hurt. I was throwing around the massive cuss words, ALL OF THEM, by the end. This Sunday, I was better equipped. I had gone to bed earlier and had my coffee. I was doing well. Around two miles, my friend noticed it get darker and mentioned “uh oh, its about to rain.” I was feeling so good, I hadn’t even noticed. When we turned the corner, I could see a downpour up ahead pretty quickly. That’s when my “uh oh” moment happened. I am used to light rain while running, but I don’t have a lot of experience with rains like that. I got nervous. I knew I was going to be cold. As soon as we crossed the street, we were hit with a wall of rain. The winds became violent as well. When the first gust came through, it was so strong, it made a whistling sound that made me very nervous. I come from North Carolina and have been through my share of tornadoes, and they often start with winds like that. We were also close to Lake Erie, and there is a small chance that water spouts can come onto land. I was certain either was about to happen. I looked for ditches to lie in and there were none and I thought “omg we’re screwed.” As we crossed an open wind, the sideways walls of rain assaulted us. The winds blew so hard at us, that I was reminded of the winds suffocating me when I skydived. I struggled to breathe. At points, I had to close my eyes, for fear my contacts would either get too soaked to see through or blow right out of my eyes completely. I was freezing, and my fingers and toes were going numb. My friend offered an extra shirt to stay warm. At that same moment, we hit a hill to run up. Looking back, I find that hilarious. It was so much like obstacles in life, it had literally taken on the the phrase, “when it rains, it pours.” That was epitome of a moment that I had to ask for the strength to get through.
Once we passed through the storm, I felt more relieved that I have ever felt during a run for getting through a challenge. I thanked God for the strength. As I tried to catch my breath, my friend informed me there was another open area up ahead where winds might be difficult. I began to mentally prepare for a repeat of that experience. I became increasingly nervous as we neared that area. Once we got to that, I was surprised and delighted to find that these were entirely different circumstances. The ran was nice and light. The wind was strong, but this time, it had become a tailwind. I found the wind propelled me. It basically picked me up and pushed me further. I loved it! It made running so easy! I wanted it to last forever! Haha That too, I found poignant. Sometimes when we expect challenges, we find ourselves finding benefits instead. Sometimes challenges turn out to help us in incredible ways. They carry us farther, faster than we are able to do on our own. Once that moment passed, again I found myself praising God for giving me the wings.
These experiences were so beautiful, I found myself smiling for the rest of the morning. I also found myself so grateful for the lesson there, because it was so clear to me. Once I was nearing the finish line, again the tailwinds picked up, launching me forward!
God is so cool, y’all. He is faithful, and wonderful. God is shows up to help every time, and all you have to do for the assistance is ask. Jesus said we have not because we ask not. And it is true. God is eager to help you get through anything. He is waiting for your call. God is excited to hear from you. The truth is, finish lines can’t be moved, but God can get you through any race. Any obstacle you face, God is willing to give you the strength. If you are going through ANYTHING that you feel like you cannot withstand, God wants to help you overcome that, and come out the other side. I have seen this to be true. Again and again, I have seen this. I have experienced this. God will show up every time you ask. Even if you don’t believe, or think you aren’t a good person. Even if you doubt. You feel like God is angry or vengeful, or or wants to punish you? These misconceptions are not true. God wants you desperately to ask, but God has boundaries, and will not come into any situation without being invited. God is not one to impose. But if you ask, like clockwork, He will show up. I promise. With everything I have, I promise you that.
This Valentine’s Day, I held the heart of a guinea hen in my hand. Organs are slippery, y’all. *insert gaggy-type emoji here*
Today, I had the opportunity to be a part of the slaughtering process on a friend’s farm. It was such a strange invitation for Valentine’s Day, I had to accept.
THIS is my life. Welcome. Pull up a chair.
Sometime last year, I was flooded with a scary bout of depression that very briefly threatened my life, and gave me a reminder of our mortality, especially mine, with the history that I have. I decided from that experience that this life is far too short to say “no” to ANY opportunities that come my way. I decided to say “yes” from now on, no matter what, no matter how scared I might be. Actually, I decided to say “yes” ESPECIALLY in spite of how scared I might be. (This is real life, y’all. Live it!) The time that has followed since has included, zip lining, paragliding, sky diving, fearlessly diving into dating, and many other endless adventures. When the new year started, I decided to take it a step further and try something new EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Today, I assisted in the animal slaughtering process.
To be honest, I’ve been teetering on the edge of vegetarianism for some time now. With the spiritual growth I’ve experienced in the past 6 months, I struggled with the consumption of animals that were hurt and traumatized prior to death. I believe that energy affects their bodies, and what we consume affects our bodies and our spirits. I believe that trauma most certainly has some impact upon us. I’ve also struggled with the environmental costs that come with meat consumption. My goal in this life is to positively contribute to the world in everything I do. I want this place to be better because I was/am here. I’ve also been squeamish about meat for several years now, which has made me wonder if I should give it up entirely. I figured today would be a good opportunity to confront what exactly it means to consume meat.
Today’s opportunity gave me plenty of time to reflect quietly. The farm I was on gives these animals a full, free life. The animals are treated luxuriously, and the slaughtering process is probably a hundred times more gentle than it would be in a factory setting. The lives these animals lived and the methods of their deaths CANNOT be compared to that of commercial farms. Let me be very clear about that. Today was an excellent chance for me to give that some honest thought. So, aside from the ethical question of whether or not to eat meat, I was allowed a chance to also consider carefully from where I source my meat.
I had friends who asked about pictures from today, but the entire process was treated very reverently, which felt entirely appropriate. I had come from visiting a Hospice patient, and to be honest, when I saw the first guinea hen die, I got choked up. It felt very similarly to when my first patient died. Someone asked me a question, and it was hard to talk clearly without my voice cracking. It is hard not to see death in any instance as a spiritual experience. Death is intense and powerful, and at the same time, it has never been something that I shied away from. If I were uncomfortable with death, I wouldn’t work for Hospice.
I was welcomed to help in any part of the process that I felt comfortable with. I helped with a few parts of cleaning after the death. I do not think that I could, at any time, become comfortable with actually killing the animal. NO part of the process felt comfortable. I started with what seemed easiest. A lot of it is a very delicate and careful process, that I feel too crippled by self doubt to try and approach. I’m not generally terribly enthused about trying anything with too much room for error.
The entire process was quite draining and overwhelming. I am still reflecting upon the experience, but I am grateful to have had it. It actually seemed like a very meaningful way to spend Valentine’s Day. I am grateful to the family that allowed me to be there, and participate at my comfort level. How I will approach meat consumption moving forward is still up for debate, and I will require more time to ponder, meditate, and probably write about the experience, so that I can see further into it and its meaning, and process how exactly it made me feel.
Where your food is coming from, and what exactly it takes to get to your table is something we all need to spend some time considering carefully. Food is not only nourishing our bodies, but also impacting us and our world in ways which we remain comfortably unaware. I’ve learned in eating disorder recovery that food is so important. It is never “good” or “bad.” It is something our bodies and our minds need, and it is equally important to consider how food might be nourishing or harming our souls as well. This world needs us to be intentional about every choice we make right now. Just some food for thought moving forward. Take some time to chew on that. 😉