Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vegan

Oprah did an entire show this week devoted to the protection and humane treatment of dogs, as well as the closing of unlicensed puppy mills.

She reported that a breeder’s farm in Pennsylvania was inspected by authorities and told to take some of his 80 dogs to get treated for fleas. Instead of paying the money to treat the dogs, he walked down the kennel rows one-by-one and shot every single dog.

He admitted to shooting the dogs. End of story. Nothing will be done because there are no laws in place against shooting animals. If there were we’d all be vegan.
I started thinking about the hierarchy of the animal kingdom. Who put dogs at the top of the “food” chain? Because while it’s easy to be outraged by the horrible treatment and massacre of little puppies, why not cows, chickens, pigs, and fish?

I would make the local news and be labeled as a sick person; if I treated dogs like slaughterhouses treat their animals. What if puppies were hung by their ankles by the thousands and had their heads drug their electrocuted water? What if I threw hundreds of puppies every hour into boiling hot water and watched them squirm? What if I skinned the skin off of their bodies while they were still conscious and yapping in pain?

Paul McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian.” It’s gruesome, but it’s true. I can do better.

It has me thinking very strongly if I can possibly call myself an “environmentalist” or “spiritual” if I continue funding this industry.

We could feed a lot more people around the world on a vegetarian diet, because so much of our grain and water go to raising the meat we eat. It’s very selfish.
If Adam and Eve were vegan in the Garden of Eden and we’ll be vegan in heaven, why not be vegan now?

I think the behaviors in the consumption of meat have completely changed from how they used to be. We never used to have killing factories like we do now. Farmers haven’t always injected the animals with hormones, drugs, and antibiotics.
Is there such a thing as humane slaughter? Is there a nice way to kill a living breathing thing? Come on. Think of the two words separate: “humane”, “slaughter”. They are complete opposites. There is no such thing as humane murder and that’s what I believe it is.

What animal would look forward to being slit in the neck or shot in the head? What animal loves living in a cramped cage, getting its udders milked relentlessly more than is usually possible, or dying just so I can eat it? I can save the lives of 90 animals every year for the rest of my life by going vegan. That’s at least 5,400 animals that will live because I’m choosing not to eat them.

Several studies have indicated that, Hello, animals have feelings! That’s why you can play with your excited puppy or anger a feisty Rottweiler. That’s why cats get jumpy or we describe them as moody. It’s been proven that chickens actually have better memory and more emotions than monkeys.

So in the final moments of life the stress hormone cortisol is released into the animal’s system as the knife grows ever closer. Animals feel anger, fear, and pain. So if you are what you eat, I am eating anger, fear, and pain, as well as, antibiotics and hormones.

These are just a few things spinning around in my head recently. I can’t stop thinking about it. How could I have avoided this for so long?

This is personal. These are my beliefs right now. I’m not saying everyone who eats animal products is evil, because then I’m evil. I’m not pledging to be vegan till the day that I die. It’s just something I’ve been considering recently.

What harm would it do me to go vegan? Would I feel healthier? Would my arthritis get better? Might my allergies improve? Will I have more energy? I’m not sure. But I’m willing to give it a go, not cold-turkey or anything, but more like flexi-vegan.

My own food issues make going vegan tricky. So as I talked to my dietician yesterday, she surprised me in saying, “I trust you. If you want to give it a try, go for it. But keep in mind that you can always eat whatever you want. Don’t turn this into a game of what you can and cannot eat.”

She’s got a point. I’m approaching it slowly with a different consciousness of where my food is coming from and what I’m willing to put into my body. This, among other things, has started me towards reconsidering a lot of the decisions I’ve made my whole life without giving them much thought.

I’m thinking about how often I can drive places instead of walking.
I’m thinking about where my soap and cleaners go once they’re down the drain.
I’m thinking about how much trash I produce, how much I recycle.
I’m thinking about organic foods and how pesticides, or poisons, may very well be causing a lot of health problems.
I’m thinking about the plastic bags I use, wearing sunscreen, and air drying my clothes.

It’s not about proving anything. It’s about the daily reminder that I am not the only one living on this planet and I better start living like it.



If you want to learn more go to goveg.com

Or watch this eye opening video: youtube.com, search "15+ reasons to become a vegetarian"

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Extreme

Recently, Jeremy and I wandered through the REI flagship store in Denver, Colorado. REI feels like one of those McDonalds play areas for adults. Well, the don't have a ball pit, but it's pretty darn fun.

Jeremy looked at knives and backpacks, while I'm always enthralled by little things like water bottles or those backpacking dehydrated meals. Chicken a'la King, just add water? Brilliant.

I'm a people watcher. So more interesting to me than the products at REI are the people who shop there.

Everyone who shops at REI is good looking, and a bit rugged. They are all wearing North Face "something" "somewhere" on their bodies. All look like they've had a few sunburns and crazy adventures climbing fourteeners and kayaking around glaciers. The women are naturally gorgeous, skinny, and wear very little make-up. There is a lot of long hair and gray hair, they're going au naturel. Some wear something knit or funky jewelry they probably bought at an antique shop in the middle of nowhere.

You don't see poor people in REI because everything is so gosh darn expensive! These are luxuries not everyone can afford. It's funny because they're probably thinking the same of me, but I can't really afford it at all. Talking to Jeremy about it he said, "Well, you could afford it, you just choose not to."

He's right. I'm in the richest percentage of people in the world, it's just easy to forget. My kids in Cambodia have never gone rock climbing or white water rafting. They don't go camping or go hiking just for fun.

"Extreme sports" are an American invention. There is no real purpose to snowboarding down a mountain or re-discovering already-discovered caves. We do so much for pleasure.

REI is filled with gear we "need" to enjoy our luxuries. We "need" these products to endure the great outdoors that we willingly thrust ourselves into.

Can you imagine how much an Arabian trader trudging across the Ethiopian desert could use a Camel Back backpack?

Wouldn't families in Nigeria just be thrilled to have our nifty little water filters we put over the top of Nalgene waterbottles?

Picture a sherpa in Pakistan decked out with a pick axe, hand warmers, Cliff bars, head lamp, and polartec technology long underwear.

We use our top of the line equipment to endure the elements which we enjoy on the weekends, when we feel like it. While real people, living in the elements every single day, make do with so little.

Overwhelmed by the feeling that I wanted and needed a pair of Phrana yoga pants for $60, I exhuastedly plopped down in the book section of REI. I found a book about a group of women who wanted to rock climb in Ethiopia.

The local people thought they were crazy. Why did they fly half-way around the world to climb on the rocks at the edge of our village? Because they could.

One Ethipian who had lived in the United States for a short time said, "I couldn't live there. I craved the reality of life, the truly extreme. People run faster, bike harder, skydive, and rock climb to call themselves extreme. I had to come back to my people living with AIDs to be reminded what extreme is all about. Life is real here."

Help me to remember life is not real here. Life can be difficult here, but our extremes are quite different. Complaining about a "brutal" 10 page paper in West and the World that just might "kill" me, just doesn't stack up.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Home

This morning I went for a walk behind my house that leads towards the foothills. Approaching the dirt road and heading up the hill, I'm greeted by an icy pond reflecting the beautiful mountains. Colorado is a sunny place, so winter isn't all doom and gloom.

A chill picks at my face as I walk further away from home. Still the sun shines.

Two months from today, I took this same walk on a much warmer October afternoon. It was sabbath. I'd just purged again and needed some air to clear my thoughts. I met a neighbor, we talked, no we really talked. Not like, "Hey, how ya doin? Good. See ya." We heard eachother. We shared what was hurting us. That was the last time I've purged. Not to say I never will again. But it sure makes it hard when I'm so dang public about this and I have so many loving, supportive people cheering me on. It's a good thing.

Four months from today I was angry with God, if there was one. I'm still working on it. I'm learning to listen and see Spirit in places I had stopped looking. Four months from today I was starting to work on my book and slowly seeing parts of my experience in Cambodia that I'd just never seen before. Were my prayers answers? Could I have been missing something right in front of my face? I'm still learning.

Almost 6 months from today, my plane landed in Denver arriving from Cambodia (well, Los Angeles, but you get it). I was anxious, worried, scared, yet relieved to be going home. The wheels hit the runway and I started to cry. For the first time the reality hit me that "something" brought me safely home and it had nothing to do with me.

Exactly 9 months ago, I sat alone on a train riding towards Sidney, Australia. I really wondered if it would be so bad if I ended my life. Would it make much difference? I was low and hurting. The thought terrified me. I shook my own shoulders, walked off the train, and headed for the Opera house.

A year ago today, I was riding an elephant in Koh Chang, Thailand. My parents had come to visit me in Cambodia and indeed whisked me away to a more peaceful place where I could catch my breath, Thailand was it. Christmas is just different on a beach, but I'm not complaining. The best Christmas gift I got last year was my parents.

This year, the best Christmas gift I've received is a little healthy perspective. I'm far from perfect, far from healed, and incredibly far from normal, but I'm glad for where I'm at.

The family is on their way here, aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins. Soon the house will be full of commotion and laughing, things I really longed for last year. So snuggled indoors near the fireplace, with my slippers, and good people around, it's still, still good to be home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Childhood

I think I might have slight hypochondriac tendencies. It all made sense to me after I saw Marsha, my counselor, yesterday.

I am not completely pre-occupied with the fear of my failing health, but I tend to fear the worst when it comes to health, because in the past, I've been right.

Between 2002 and 2004 I had seven different surgeries for different things, ranging from a scope surgery on my wrist to a tonsillectomy to several surgeries to remove a tumor growing in my middle ear.

My freshman year of high school I made the varsity basketball team. I was thrilled. High school is a bumpy time for anyone, but I was making friends, life seemed to be going well. Then a few games into the season, we went in for a routine check up on my ear and I heard "tumor". I heard "surgery". I heard "don't worry too much", so I did. I knew other people who had tumors and died.

Over the course of the next two years the clausteotoma, or benign tumor, continued growing back each time after they supposedly took it out.

My sister stayed home for college to be with me. I was anointed at the hospital. Friends came to visit, brought cards, and casseroles. These were all things people did when someone was dying. I had no idea what "benign tumor" meant. I thought I was dying. I thought this could very well be the end of me and I never said anything. We never talked about it. I put on a positive face, but inside I thought I was dying.

Obviously after a few years of "not" dying, I realized I was going to be okay. But going through the health issues I did in high school, whether it was surgeries to remove the tumor, hearing loss, arthritis, broken bones, it was a constant reminder to me that life is short.

Some people heal from cancer and are filled with a new zest to be grateful for the small things and appreciate the little things. I got through my surgeries and was filled with this constant urgency to get things right the first time, never make mistakes, be logical, don't have fun, there was not enough time. I spent most of high school believing I would die young and I would die tragically. I've been filled with this urgency that I'm going to run out of time for the last 7 years.

This explains my need for control that led me into the arms of anorexia.

This explains why I just couldn't come home from Cambodia, I didn't want to be a failure.

This explains my perfectionism, I didn't have time to screw things up.

This explains my lack of dating, drinking, and partying in high school, that didn't make sense. I didn't have time.

This explains why I missed out on a lot of fun and silliness, it served no purpose to me.

This explains why I could talk easier with adults and spent a lot of weekends with my parents and their friends, this made sense to me. I was too logical for mindless fun.

I've always, always felt older than I really am. When answering the question, "If you didn't know how old you are, how old would you be?" I'd say 27, at least.

I've been surrounding myself with fun people lately. People who don't "act their age" whatever that means. I'm learning to take it easy, to schedule fun into my day, and to take deep breaths.

I'm not running out of time. I don't have to fear life itself. There is balance. There is hope for me yet.

I'm reclaiming that dang childhood I feel like I zoomed right through. So now at 21, I want to learn how to be a kid, again.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pubescent Teenagers

I have been going to the Chilson Recreation Center in Colorado since I was 12ish. I didn't really grasp "working out" or "exercise" at that age, but it was a fun place to hang out, go swimming, play basketball, and mess around on the treadmills until we got kicked off.

Today I ran my little heart out on the treadmill and was feeling like a rock star. Just as I hung out at the gym in 6th grade and throughout high school, there is a new generation there now. These girls have perfectly placed, platinum blonde hair, waists the size of one of my thighs, and the tightest wardrobe money can buy. They scurried about in clumps of 3 or 4 and giggled obnoxiously.

Watching them I realized, I need to officially mourn the death of my body in high school. I need to mourn and move on with what I have now. Women are not meant to be 103 pounds and easily broken over someone's knee like a brittle stick. I will never again be a size 4. Nope, not gonna happen.

I have cellulite and no, a quarter will never fit between my thighs, well at least not placed the wide way, like model's do to check before hitting the run ways.So today, as I watched the mid-pubescent youngsters meandering about in their awkward bodies and even more awkward interactions, I was truly thankful to be done with that stage in my life.

I've said it before and I might say it again, but I've never felt more beautiful than I did my senior year of high school when I was starving myself thin. For the first time in my entire life I felt good about how I looked. Keeping up appearances came with it's consequences, many I'm still living with, but at least I was pretty, right? I got more compliments and more attention from males, but inside I was dying, I was hollow, I had very little spirit left in me.

I don't go into much detail about what living with an eating disorder actually looks like, because I know that I learned how to be anorexic from reading women's magazines and hearing other girl's stories. How sick is that? I don't want to contribute to the problem.

I'm happier these days, for many reasons. I've lived through and continue learning from an eating disorder that challenges me to live better, instead of the alternative. I ran away for a year to Cambodia and as painful as it was, I was stretched and challenged, that mindset continues with me today. I've stopped putting Spirit on my time line and under my terms. I'm learning to let things go. I'm dating a guy who truly believes I am enough as I am right now, priceless. I'm living in a country that is familiar to me, with amazingly supportive people whom I love dearly, dearly.

I've lived a good, long life. Yes, I'm only 21-years-old, but it's been an eventful 21 that's for sure and most days I feel more like 27, but that's a whole 'nother blog.

So, as I watched the flippant, cursing teenagers at the gym today, their eyes darted nervously around, attempting to look confident and all put together. As they tried to hide how uncomfortable and lost they really feel, I felt ok. My legs are strong. I could take most of those kids in a fight. I grew some hips last year in Cambodia and I think I like 'em. I see some definition forming in my arms. I feel strong in plenty of ways you may not see in muscle definition. Where looking beautiful used to be a pretty sad life goal, it's been replaced now with living an authentic, balanced, healthful life, one I feel very hopeful and grateful to have the opportunity of living.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Pursuit of Happy

"I'm not sure why I never assume I could use a break. I never stop long enough to think, Huh, I deserve to take it easy."

I'm listening to my friend Katelyn at the Mill. She goes on, "I was just talking to my dad about taking on full case loads after I graduate on Wednesday. He told me I should take it easy and just ease it into it slowly instead of jumping right in. Why can't I do that for myself without someone suggesting it?"

One of the best books I've ever read is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. In it she writes about American advertising that encourages us that we "deserve" to take a break, that we've "earned" it. She writes:

"Such advertising campaigns would probably not be as effective in the Italian culture, where people already know that they are entitled to enjoyment in this life. The reply in “You Deserve a Break Today” would probably be, Yeah, no duh. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon to go over to your house and sleep with your wife."

The word "entitled" really jumped out at me. Well, the part about sleeping with someone else's wife kinda hit me too, but that's besides the point. Entitled.

I've never, ever believed I was "entitled" to enjoy my life. I thought that joy, happiness, leisure, and pleasure were all things I'd have to spend my entire life "earning". Maybe I should move to Italy, or just stay here and pretend I like I live in Italy.

What if I lived my life believing I was entitled to the enjoyment of it? What if I spent my days doing things I thoroughly enjoyed instead of those that I should just to get done? What if instead of scheduling all the appointments and tests and responsibilities, I scheduled in joy?

Dancing. Climbing trees. Reading. Yoga. Drawing. Cooking. Learning something new.

Ahh, yes, I remember. If I were actually to schedule joy into my day, I would end up feeling guilty about it. That's the problem.

This morning I woke up with a sore throat, a stuffy nose, and an aching body. I've had a nasty sinus head ache all day long and every time I stand up, I get dizzy. I didn't do the best job at giving myself a break, there are after all some things that just have to get done, like studying for my Psychology of Religion exam.

But tonight, without apologies, I went and crashed on Jeremy's couch and did nothing at all. I drifted in and out of sleep while he watched the Cowboys game on TV. That was exactly what I needed to do, so I did it. I didn't feel guilty for not studying, for not working on my book which is due Wednesday, and I didn't feel guilty for not being especially fun, sociable, or necessarily at my best. I just was. Article 24 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights goes like this: "Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."

I have a right to rest and leisure. This is not something I have to earn. Rest is not something I have to work for to hopefully deserve it someday. It just is. It is my right.

I realized something pretty amazing a month or two ago: I'm happy. I haven't been genuinely happy in a long time, at least 2 years. Part of me starts over thinking: first of all, Why am I happy? then, Well, it probably won't last.

Sick isn't it?

I'm happy. I have my hunches. But resisting all urges to analyze exactly why, I realize I can't guarantee happiness or joy or pleasure every day for the rest of my life. I'll just keep showing up with what I've got from where I'm at. I'll do my balanced best and give myself a break at my less than graceful fumbles along the way.

After all, it is my right.

Elizabeth Gilbert, "Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prayer

Spirit,
You know what's on my mind. You know what makes me cry. You know my future and how it's all going to turn out.
I trust you.
I don't want to twist the arm of the universe to do what I want. I am not in control. I am so small.
Begging won't help and there is nothing I can tell you that you don't already know. This isn't like a toy store where if I beg long and hard and obnoxiously enough, you'll cave and give me what I want. That isn't how this works and I don't want it to.
This morning I am reminded, "The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is worry."
Please give me peace. Help me see that it's all going to work out, because it will, like it always does.
I trust you. I trust that you have a plan. I trust that everything is going to be okay. I refuse to spend my days crying and complaining. That isn't going to solve anything.
I have final exams to take, which won't kill me. My book deadline is in 6 days and it's going to be okay. Surrounding myself with great people may be the best thing I can do.
I am okay. Things will be sorted out soon and if they aren't, I'm just going to keep living and breathing and showing up, because that's all I can do.
Spirit, I'm not seeking answers, a blueprint, or a game plan; I'm praying for peace.
Get me through.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Boycott

Little girls wear pink dresses.
Little girls talk sweetly and play with dolls.
Little girls are "cute" and "pretty".
Little girls learn early on everything they are supposed to do to fit in, I know I did.

I remember begging my mom to let me shave my legs. That's what girls do. When I was 10 years old I started using anti-wrinkle cream. When I was 12 I started drinking my mom's Slim-fast and following diet cookbooks. I figured I was getting ahead of the game in a race I was expected to run the rest of my life.

I started dying my hair, wearing make-up, and buying trendy clothes, all supposed marks of womanhood, or so I thought.

By my freshman year of high school, I quickly realized that to succeed in high school I didn't have to be smart, funny, or talented. I just had to be thin and pretty, so I was.

Obviously the striving for beauty and thinness led me down a long road I'm still walking. But it's a journey I continue learning from, so it has been 100% worth it.

Our entire culture breeds behaviors in us we are often completely unaware of. It's not just girls either. Growing up little boys wear blue. They are told to be tough and strong.They are told not to be sissy's or pansy's and god-forbid, never, ever cry. They have their own set of standards they are supposed to uphold. If they do anything remotely feminine such as, appreciate the beauty of a flower or take an interest in something artistic, they are picked on endlessly. I know, I've seen it.

From the female perspective, I'm living much differently now.

I refuse to purchase women's magazines anymore, except for Oprah or Self, both soul-nourishing. Instead of magazines that tear me apart with cellulite busting diet tips and the top 10 ways to be hotter, sexier, and all around better.

I will never again set foot in a tanning salon. What a useless waste of money. Is the shade of my skin so darn important?

I will not set foot in Abercrombie and Fitch among other stores because they use sex to sell their products and I do not want to support that. I will never look like their models and I'm ok with that.

I spent most of my teenage years straightening my natural and insanely curly hair. I'm done fighing it. This is what it is. And as much as hollywood fails to represent any movie stars with hair quite like mine, I'm ok with that too.

I've started deciding which clothes to purchase based not on the brand name or sex appeal, but on their ability to let me sit cross legged on the ground or say, climb a tree. Ya know, just in case. I want to be comfortable.

What's the deal with high heels? They are one of the most ridiculous inventions of all time. Why does elevating my heel a couple inches make me any sexier? They are donwright dangerous to walk in! Too many sprained ankles and hurt feet. Have you ever heard a girl say, "Oh I love these high heels, they are as comfortable as slippers!" No, they take them off as soon as they get to church. This is a 95% boycott because sometimes, I have to, but I don't do it happily dangit.

I wear significantly less make up than I did in high school. What exactly am I supposed to be hiding anyway? Me?

I've vowed to never ever get Botox or plastic surgery, denying my right to age only supports the idea that we are not supposed to. Why is that the golden years of 20-30 are supposed to be held onto desperately the rest of our lives? This is silly.

I don't always feel so confident and recovering from an eating disorder has brought me many places. Some times I look in the mirror and think, Are you kidding me? This is what I'm stuck with? I'm disgusting.

But that is exactly what the culture has raised me to believe: I will never be enough.

I may spend the rest of my life boycotting this particular aspect of our culture, but that's a battle I'm very willing to fight.





Friday, December 5, 2008

For Today

Running errands today I nearly cried each time I hit a red light, yeah, it's just been one of those days. Ya know, the kind when it seems the slightest things set you off and then compound into an all around crummy day? Walking through the mall was especially difficult, it always is. Can we please, please use real women as models and manikins larger than a size 0? What are they trying to prove anyway? Who are they catering to that actually looks at those models and thinks, Wow I feel good about myself because I'm sure no one else notices I will never look like her. Men I suppose.

I've been feeding an anxious mind for the last few days. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I went up to see my sister between classes and it all came gushing out. She asked innocently enough, "How are you?" And of course, can't lie, "Ehh, I'm ok." Not more than 3 minutes later, I am in tears I just wasn't expecting to come out.

I'm overwhelmed.

-I have exams next week in classes I am neither passionate about nor interested in.
-I lack a consistent group of friends I can turn to and the friends I do have, I feel I've been neglecting.
-I miss my kids in Cambodia. I miss Fay. I miss feeling like I had even a slight purpose. I'm just another exhausted college student now.
-My book deadline is speeding towards me like a tsunami and I fear it's going to crush me and I'm going to drown in the aftermath. I don't love this book. I feel like it is lacking. I am not a writer and I am really disappointed in myself for how writing this book has taken back seat to a lot of other things. Working on 'the book' is what I should be doing right now, but, I'm not, again. I may never get another opportunity such as this and I feel like I've blown it.
-I have too many interests and hobbies. I want to sing, write music, learn guitar, read more books, train for a bike race, write more, play basketball, write for the newspaper, be in Amnesty International...and on and on. The problem comes when I try to do it all and really end up doing nothing at all, then just getting mad at myself because I'm not.
-My health is less than great. I get sick after every meal I eat because of the crum in my intestines I brought back from Cambodia. I'm on another round of antibiotics. I'm sick and I'm tired. I'm not getting enough sleep. I'm not eating well. It shows.

For some reason making lists of my stresses makes me feel better. Not because I enjoy this overwhelmed-ness, but, I don't know why.

Pema Chodron, an ordained Buddhist nun, has a lot of wisdom, yes she does. She talks about sitting with the pain in our lives instead of running from it. She says the pain is the one thing we might have in common with all of humanity, it is pain that connects us all.

Sometimes that makes me feel better, but today, I do want to sit with the pain, but probably not how Pema was talking about. I want to sit here on my sister's couch, skip all the upbeat music that comes on itunes, and just cry.

Yeah, it's just one of those days, and I'm sharing to connect with humanity I suppose, if anything else, just to prove, yup people hurt, including me, at least for today.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why it Matters

"Ha, ha, wouldn't it be so funny if you got like so depressed you shot yourself? The anti-depressants just stopped working I guess!"

As I sat in class I glanced at a guy in class whom I know is on anti-depressants and his head sunk low. Because I know what depression feels like and I had suicidal thoughts last year, this was painful to hear.


"Yeah, you better walk her home, she might get raped right here on Union's campus!"

After I walked back in the dorm in the dark, I had awful nightmares about being sexually assaulted, again. I woke up in exhaustion and tears.


"Did you see the Patriots game? They really got raped."

I cringe at the flippancy of the word 'rape'. If there daughter or mother was raped, I doubt they'd use that word.


"...it was that guy we saw on the street today, the one in the wife beater."

Because women are getting beaten to a pulp all over the world, I can't laugh at this and I really don't see how anyone can.


Words matter. It matters to me when someone uses the word 'rape' in a joke. It's not funny to me, it hurts. If we aren't using words for what they really mean, than why say them at all?

I didn't break down in tears or throw a fit because these things were said to me. I imagine my beliefs as items I carry around in a backpack. So, in reality, if someone attacks my beliefs, they are not really attacking me. They don't know any better. It is ignorance we are dealing with. People know what they are saying, but they are clueless as to who it might be affecting.

There is this assumption world wide that if it doesn't hurt you, it doesn't hurt. Ignorance at its best. So while I may not get angry and start throwing rocks at people who say ignorant things, I am quick to start a conversation about what they really meant.

Plato says, "Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle".

You might not see their battles on the outside, because as we all know, you can't always see cancer. You can't see the recent death of your co-worker's father. You can't see a porn addiction. You can't see a persons self-hate they carry around every day like an overwhelming load of bricks wishing for the day it will all come to an end.

You can't see those things, but they are there whether you choose to see them or not.

I'm 100% positive that I have deeply hurt people in my life because of my own ignorance, I'm not claiming otherwise.

I just think we could all do better.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unofficial List of Beliefs

I believe in the power of the human touch.

I believe that if we all talked openly about our struggles, a lot of them would cease to exist. Silence is pain's best friend.

I believe pain is necessary because it jolts us out of comfort into reliance and growth and change.

I believe there is evil in this world.

I believe there is it's opposite good. I may call it something other than you do, but it's the same idea, the same something that I believe puts the breathe in my body every morning, and I can't explain it. Something other than myself has kept me alive for 21 years. Thanks.

I believe that listening is one of the best things I can do for someone.

I believe that yoga can be prayer, journaling can be prayer, walking can be prayer, this blog can be prayer.

I believe that we overuse advances in technology and we are actually now communicating less.

I believe in wearing my seat belt.

I believe that each day I am at my best because 'my best' changes from day to day. I can't promise the same Heather that was yesterday, but I can promise you the best of myself given the situation I'm dealt with. I'm always at my best.

I believe that "perfect" and "should" are two of the worst words in the English language. Yes, even above those four letter words and phrases you're afraid to say in front of your grandmother.

I believe I have a responsibility to fulfill and I might spend my whole life trying to figure out what it is, but I'm willing to search for it.

I believe that water, food, a home, community, and education are luxuries. I am in the richest 8% of the world's population and I never want to forget that.

I believe in music, it's influence, healing abilities, and power to bring people together.

I believe it was never meant to be the way it is. Families are not supposed to be separated like this, reduced to phone conversations. Life was never meant to be this overwhelming, stressful, and jam packed, we were meant to breathe and live for so much more. We would live in smaller communities where it would be impossible to just disappear.

I believe we could all do more to remember we live on planet earth, not planet America. We are part of India and Russia and Brazil. What if we acted like it? What if lived with international pride?

I believe my beliefs can change and they probably will and that's ok. But today, this is what I believe.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Grateful

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for a long time. What's not to love? Family, football, and food. Well, a few years ago the "food" part started causing problems in my life.

Thanksgiving 2006 I spent in Branson, Missouri feeling like an understandable freak, pretending I didn't have an eating disorder.

Thanksgiving 2007 I spent in Cambodia teaching all day, throwing up all night. My family called my cell phone after wards and I cried. I went to bed not wanting to get up the next day.

So, needless to say, Thanksgiving was replaced by the Fourth of July as my new favorite holiday. Thanksgiving and I parted ways. I only saw pain in the holiday and wanted nothing to do with an entire day dedicated to food and the consumption of it, as if each day isn't hard enough.

Exactly a year ago today, things were a little different.

Thanksgiving 2008 finds me in Bristol, Tennessee. My family drove out here to be with Mom's side of the family. I don't love traveling. I don't love constantly being surrounded by people. I don't love Thanksgiving, but the holiday sort of redeemed itself today. Or maybe, I redeemed Thanksgiving today. Or maybe Spirit redeemed Thanksgiving for me.

I slept in and went for a run. I watched the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade and played Skip-bo with Nana. I sang "Baby, it's cold outside" with my Dad, even though he doesn't really know the words very well, he tries. I emailed my kids in Cambodia and we went on an adventure to the grocery store. Oh yeah, and some where in there we had Thanksgiving dinner. Fine by me.

I don't hate Thanksgiving anymore. The curse is lifted.

Today I am thankful for all the cliche things you might expect me to say, but might not fully understand unless you've been without them.

I am more grateful for safety than any other time in my life. I have not been violated, stared at, harassed in public, or forced into less than safe situations lately.

I have freedoms in the United States that most of the world has never experienced. I have taken full advantage of my freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to an education, and equal rights quite frequently since I've been home. Frequently, like every single day.

The attrocities, murders, and bribes that go on overseas left me feeling helpless and scared. Here I know that if my car gets stolen or a friend is abused, someone will care, someone will do something. Justice may not always be served flawlessly in the States, but at least it is an option. I will never again take that for granted.

Safety, freedom, and justice. Food, warmth, education, family, friends, Spirit, money, oxygen, health, talents, abilities, I could go on.

It's just more of those every day ordinary things I am more conscious of than any other time in my life, and am so grateful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Because it was that important

I'm still meandering through Anne Lamott's book Traveling Mercies. It is on my top 10 of most important books I've ever read. I don't have an official list, but if I did, it would include: The Case for Christ, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and Mouse Soup (a book I read and loved as a kid).

I read two chapters from Lamott's book yesterday, Thirst in which she describes her battle with alcoholism and then Hunger where she details bulimia. It felt like I was reading words right out of my journal, but since we've done that already, I'll just share a few of her quotes that struck me like a baseball bat to the head. Yeah, pretty powerful, but not too painful I promise. I read in Starbucks yesterday and outloud exclaimed, "Yes!"

Thirst
"Let me put it this way: I didn't love sobriety at first. I thought maybe I could find a few loopholes in the basic premise of abstinence...It turned out there were not going to be any loopholes. The people who seemed to find loopholes were showing signs of failure; for instance, they were shooting themselves in the head. Over time, two of my best sober friends, thinking they'd found loopholes, shot themselves in the head and died. This got my attention...Early on I heard a sober person say, "Religion is for people who are afraid of hell; spirituality is for people who have been there," and all I could hear was an attack on my religion. I couldn't hear that the person was saying that I had already gone to the most terrifying place, to the land of obsessive self-loathing, egomania, and decay, but that now like a battled explorer, I was bravely trying to find my way home."

Hunger
"One week after my father was diagnosed with brain cancer, I discovered bulimia. I felt like I had discovered the secret to life, becuase you could eat yourself into a state of numbness but not gain weight...we are as sick as our secrets...I felt that when I got sober, God had saved me from drowning, but now I was going to get kicked to death on the beach...Awareness is about learning to keep yourself company...But when I feel the fattest and flabbiest and most repulsive, I try to remember that gravity speaks; also, that no one needs that plastic-body perfection from women of age and substance. Also, that I do not live in my thighs of my droopy butt. I live in joy and motion and cover-ups. I live in the nourishment of food and the sun and the warmth of people who love me.
It is finally so wonderful to have learned to eat, to tasted and love what slips down my throat, padding me, filling me up, that I'm not uncomfortable calling it a small miracle. A friend who does not believe in God says, "Maybe not a miracle, but a little improvement," but to that I say, Listen! You must not have heard me right: I couldn't feed myself! So thanks for your input, but I know where I was, and I know where I am now, and you just can't get here from there...So it was either a miracle--or maybe it was more of a gift, one that required assembly. But whatever it was, learning to eat was about learning to live and deciding to live; and is one of the most radical things I've ever done."

Because it deserves repeating, "I know where I was, and I know where I am not, and you just can't get here from there."

When the wheels of my plane touched ground in the United States, I was overwhelmed by the realization that, I could not take credit for my survival through last year, "you just can't get here from there". Still stretching and living with eyes wide open. I'm seeing that, I did not get through last year on my own. I had a lot of help, from friends, from family, and from the 'something' in the universe that wakes me up every morning.

It's not a little improvement, it's a miracle.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I mean it

Straight from my journal, because that's how I like it.

"I feel liberated. I feel good. I feel happy, peaceful, inspired, and a bit, vulnerable, let's be honest.

I just spilled my guts, exposed my dirt, opened that can of worms, whatever it can be called, I did it. I told my story as best as I could in 20 minutes. I told 1,000 people, mostly strangers, those deep, dark parts that can remain hidden if I let them. But no, I'm more than this. I told the truth: eating disorder, spiritual doubt, sexual assault, SM experience, everything. I hope those who heard will do the same, will keep talking.

I've been changed. The V2 talk I gave at Union college called, "Cellulite" is the best summary of the last two years of my short life I could offer and I'm so glad I did.

People can now do what they want with it. Honesty continues to save me. Maybe it's going to be ok.

I am what I am. Slowly, I am learning that maybe that's enough. And maybe, just maybe, someone up there thinks so too.

Spirit. The something I cannot deny. I'm here, sometimes more fully than others, but I'm here. I feel something, a sense of ok-ness. The sense that I'm being protected, nurtured, and that I'm enough. This feels like home. This feels safe. This feels more right than anything I've ever experienced.

I'm afraid to lose this. I want to hold on to this with all my might. But I'm just going to keep living, keep breathing, and take this as it comes. It will come fast and slow, powerfully and violently, or soft and subtle. I'm putting down my armor and opening my eyes.

Let it be. Let it go. Let things happen.

Tomorrow may take me for a ride and next month may just threaten my very existance, but instead of fighting the change, I'm going to breathe. I'm going to dwell in this moment, this time when things feel right and remember it, learn from it, and be changed by it.

And so, to Spirit, God, Jesus, Brahma, Buddha, Sam, G-d, she, mother, or Lord: Thank you.

To whomever or whatever fills my body with life: Thank you.

I'm humbled. I'm in this. I need your help, your guidance, love and so much more than I've realized before. Spirit, do what you will, because I'm willing.

I've made this too hard. I've made you out to be something you're not. I've been angry and bitter. I've been hurt and frustrated. I've been placing the blame in all the wrong places, and now, finally, I see it. Now.

I'm sorry. I was wrong and I might be again. But I pray, and yes, I pray, that you'll not give up on me, keep taking me back each time, cause I'll keep coming.

Please take me and use me. I mean it."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Staying Informed

While I was in Cambodia I wrote a blog to keep family and friends updated. Now, on this side of the globe, I spend a lot of time answering emails to keep my students updated.

This week, I was able to call Kagna and Leeta on Skype. I was so excited to hear their voices and see their beautiful faces on my computer screen. These are my girls. I miss them a lot.

Between Skype calls and emails, here's the latest from Cambodia:
-Polly swears the second year is SO much easier than the first. School is great, the people are getting used to her white skin, she's doing well. Through gritted teeth and a jealous tone I say, "I'm so happy for you."

-Fay got her bumper knocked off by a wreckless tuk-tuk driver. Wait, nevermind, they are ALL wreckless. He kept driving and so did she. She'd lose more money by sticking around. She's so tough. She moves on. Fay and Tim are plugging along, as usual. They are the bravest people I know.

-Cambodia Adventist school is now in operation in the new building that I only got to look at. There 3 levels, regular electiricity, tile floors, it's clean, ahhhhh....Yeah, NOW they are in. Still, I'm glad.

-My students apparently hate their new English teacher, but I know they are just saying that because they don't want me to feel like they don't miss me. I tell them it's ok to like their new teachers. They aren't budging.

-Kagna has been busy with school and keeping a very persistant 30-year-old guy at arms reach. He calls her and texts her and wants to spend time with her. She emailed me last month, "Ms. Bo I need a boyfriend, not an uncle!" Then she told me that Leeta has been sending him mean text messages so, maybe he'll get the hint. She said, "Don't worry, I gave him your cell phone number instead. Maybe you'll like him!"

-Leeta is a senior, anxious, and ready to get out of CAS and change the world, which I'm positive, she will.
"HI MIsS Bo happy birthday!!! i sent you 1 big hug.i miss you alot.HEy if you want a gift from me please come in my dream.if you come in my dream i'll show you a wonderful place that full of grammar and beautiful things...
i wish you will have alot of boyfriends and the most beautiful girl in wherever you go...
That's all that she asks me to write to you..
BYe y dearest.
MAY GOD BE WITH YOU ALWAYS."

-Sear writes me long, wonderful emails about the love of his life, whom I promised to never say her name out loud. He writes, "Ms.Bo, how can I tell her I want to hold her hand? I don't like it when she talks to other boys. I like her a lot." He's coming along.

-Ratana is now in 9th grade and working hard at school, then hard at her job after school. She wrote me an entire email about watching the butterflies in her classroom and how happy she is to feel like she goes to a 'real' school now. Most of the kids have a new found pride in school now that they are put in an environment that tells them they are worth it.

-Dinah is pregnant and moving with Chheangley to Malaysia. Angie and Sockha are getting married next month. JC has a girlfriend that is, "too fat".

-Vandeth got kicked out of school for doing drugs the kids call "ice". He was living in the dorm. He has no family. I have no idea where he is now.

-The boys tell me about a fight at the Cambodia/Thai border. They have been figthing over the Preah Vihear temple, both sides claiming ownership and no one about to back down. Cambodia doesn't need another war. They are just starting to rebuild from the last one. Two Cambodian soldiers have been killed and Thailand says, "We are ready for war". My boys are scared they'll be told to go fight.

-Ross and Kamrong are pregnant with their second child and ready to make the move to Australia.

And here I sit, listening, writing, thinking, and feeling so far from them, for obvious reasons. A large part of me will always remain there.



Saturday, November 8, 2008

Let it Be

This week I cried out to God or whomever else was listening, "I can't do this anymore. You're going to have to stop me from going and throwing up, because I can't. This is no way to live. This isn't what I want. I'm so much more than this. I need some help. Please."

A knock at the door. It was two friends of mine, coming to talk about nothing particularly important. They didn't notice my red eyes and wet face. I'm a good faker when I want to be. They left.

As I laid in bed still debating what to do next, I realized, 6 months ago I was challenging the idea that Spirit uses people and sunsets and smiles to reach me. I figured if the whole idea of a God was some huge conspiracy, then saying that God works in everyday occurances, was a great way to create him. Now I'm not so sure. I sprawled out on my bed thinking, What if Spirit does use people and I'm missing the signs? What if the signs I so desperately seek are right in front of me?

A few months ago, Ben asked me, "If God is in the small and daily things, is that good enough for you?"

I said, "I'm not sure".

I'm still deciding. But Tuesday night brought me one step closer to the idea that Spirit just might be using the day-in and day-out stuff I've been overlooking for a long, long time. Maybe I'm looking at this backwards, too hard, too deeply and I'm missing the point. Maybe Spirit is right under my nose, and I'm pretending not to smell it.

Anne Lamott says, "And I didn't understand why as usual God wouldn't give me a loud or obvious answer, through a megaphone or thunder, skywriting or stigmata. Why does God always use dreams, intuition, memory, phone calls, vogue stirrings in my heart? I would say that this really doesn't work for me at all. Except that it does."

It can't be proven indefinately, but I'm choosing to believe that Spirit used a knock on my door and a little intuition to save me from my self-defeating behaviors.

I don't want to miss out. Are my very thoughts, Spirit? Are my actions, Spirit? Are my feelings of sadness, joy, confusion, and reflection being used by Spirit to reach me?

I can't deny the "something" that I feel some days surrounding me.
I can't deny that I believe in evil, awful things at work in ther world and there must be its opposite out there somewhere, whatever it's actually called.
I can't deny that I am not willing the blood to pump through my veins or the air to flow so effortlessly through my body.
I can't deny that days, seasons, births, and deaths happen so flawlessly around me without any work on my part.

I am less in control of life now more than ever and I think it's working out well. "Let it Be" has been my latest mantra. It's a powerful song and powerful words for me.

My counselor in Colorado tells me that, if I imagine life as a stream, I tend to stand knee deep in it trying to collect, analyze, label, and figure out every single leaf that comes my way. I can hardly enjoy life at all, when I seek so strenuously to figure it out, have reasons, and make sense of it all. I'm slowly learning to just, let it be.

Let it be as the day comes headed my way like a train full of many things.
Let it be when I'm hurting.
Let it be in my joy.
Let it be when the demons threaten the very breath in my body.
Let it be on cloudy days with rain like bullets pelting me on all sides.
Let it be because Spirit leads.

In reading for a class I "stumbled" upon the following passage that continues to challenge me:
"Doubt reveals a mind that asks questions, a humble mind, one that does not presume it's own ideas to be certainties, one that checks its presumptions against the data of God's creation. Indeed, the intellectually honest words belief, faith, and hope acknowledge uncertainty. We do not believe that 3 times 3 = 9, or have faith that what we throw upward will come down, or hope that day will follow night; we know these things with psychological, if not logical certainty. To take the leap of faith is to bet one's life on a presumed truth that makes sense of the universe, that gives meaning to life, that provides hope in the face of adversity and death.

One need not await 100% certainty before risking a thoughtful leap across the chasm of uncertainty. One can choose to marry in the hope of a happy life. One can elect a career believing it will prove satisfying. One can fly across the ocean, having faith in the pilot and plane.

To know that we are prone to error does not negate our capacity to glimpse truth, nor does it rationalize living as a fence straddler. "Sometimes", said novelist Albert Camus, "life calls us to make a 100% commitment to something about which we are 51% sure."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Birthdays and the Blues

The other day, I said, "Mic, have a good day!"
His reply? "Don't tell me what to do!"
He was kidding of course. But I think we forget, that is an imperative sentence, it gives a command. Maybe that's why I feel awkward saying it and hearing it.

"Happy birthday". What does that mean anyway? Is it like "Merry Christmas" that it just means, "Hey it's Christmas, I just want to say that outloud"? How are we supposed to respond to "Merry Christmas" anyway? It's just kinda an awkward phrase. Is "Happy Birthday" supposed to be a greeting or the shortened version of, "I hope you have a good birthday"?

Hopes are different than commands.

Every year I seem to forget, I don't really care for my birthday. It's not the day. It's not the reality of getting another year older. It's a lot of things that I'm about to list and you may read and end up feeling slightly depressed about. I'm warning you.

First of all there seems to be this hanging expectation in the air that my birthday is supposed to be the best day of the year. Actually, it's usually one of the lowest. Why would all of my pre-existing struggles cease to exist just because of the date on the calendar? It's another day.

Today I happen to feel tired, my stomach hurts, class was uninteresting, work is lonely, and people are grumpy and complaining about the elections. I'm not saying I'm doomed to be depressed because of circumstances. But I am saying, my birthday is not destined to be wonderful just becuase I happened to be born at this exact time 21 years earlier.

Random people I don't know say, "Happy Birthday" to me on the sidewalk. We've never spoken before. It feels little less than genuine.

Friends might forget and then feel bad, they didn't say the magic words to me at some point during the day. Remembering or forgetting a date on the calendar does not make me feel more or less loved.

My rant about my birthday is similar to my rant about Valentines day. Getting flowers on Valentine's day isn't half as great as getting flowers on say, June 23rd. Because on Valentines day about a billion other women are getting flowers on V-day, so of course, you might get flowers. It's not quite as special.

I suppose each year on my birthday when I get to spend time with good friends and family, I am reminded, we should make people feel special every day, not just their birthdays. It's like we store up all the good things to say to people for that one day.

I say, "Spread the love."

I'm a bit melancholy on my birthday. It's another day. Usually on my birthday I am reminded of all the things I am not, still.

I see change and growth. But I was tempted this morning to just lay in bed all day and hide. All the attention drawn on birthdays is a bit uncomfortable. Birthdays are not custom fit to every type of person. I don't like random people suddenly noticing me one day of the year and blushing, uncomfortably while they sing that dang song.

Wow, this has turned into quite a rant.

Now for some optimism in case you are now reconsidering that Hallmark e-card you were about to send: I am grateful for the wonderful people in my life. I am glad to be appreciated. I am not anti-birthday, anti-valentine's day, or anti-....anything. I am pro-'daily reminding people they matter'. I am pro-'helping people feel comfortable'. I am pro-'using words carefully'. I am pro-'love', whatever that looks like.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Terminal

Immortality reminds me to keep living.

Randy Pausch became famous as he was about to die from cancer. A professor, father, husband, and friend to many, he gave a, now famous, last lecture to his students www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo . Oprah got word, and as it goes, the rest is history. The lecture talked about all the important things in life as well as how we still have life to live and what he'd do if he did. He wrote a book, traveled all over as the cancer consumed his body and sadly died this summer.

My senior year in high school, my government teacher, Mr. Beans, gave us the assignment to write our own obituaries. I remember realizing for one of the first times, I could really die at any time. I was not invincible.

I assigned the same project for my kids in Cambodia. It's good to think about death. It's good to live in constant awareness that, this could all end, quickly and awfully, and unfortunately.

We are all surrounded by the realities of death everyday. But it seems more often to be AFTER someone dies, AFTER a school shooting, or AFTER the plane crashes that we want to make the changes we might have had a life time to make.

"We are all terminal, some of us are just lucky enough to know it."
-I don't know who said it, but I like it.

What if I really lived as though I was terminally ill?

I'd tell my family how much I love them more often. Though, I doubt they'll ever fully understand, no matter how much I say it.

I'd say more of what's on mind, and that's funny, because I already talk quite a bit.

I'd eat more cheeseburgers.

I'd listen more to my intuition, yeah, the one I've only recently started hearing.

I'd wear brighter colors.

I wouldn't live in the constant fear that I'll never be enough and I'd just spend time with those who've never made me feel like anything less.

I'd talk to strangers.

I'd stop "should"ing myself into spending time with toxic people, doing things I just don't want to do, drinking more water, and exercising every single day.

I'd boldly sing karaoke.

I'd forgive myself for what Cambodia wasn't, take the lessons, and move on.

I'd spend more time doing completely useless, unimportant things, simply because they made me happy.

I'd record a CD.

If I was terminally ill, I'd give myself a break, take a deep breath, and just live. Let go. Let it be.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Citizen of the World

Ashley and Ben have helped me figure out my life...again. Yes, even we joke about the many times we have sat around their table and talked through, "Well, do these classes sound interesting?" or "What about journalism?"

Tonight we talked about college, classes, plans, and the future. As I am usually stressing about my lack of plans and direction as far as a major, Ben said, "Call me crazy..." and just sat there.

"Oh, umm, you're crazy!" I said.

"Well, call me crazy, but, what if you did what you want to do right now and enjoyed the college experience instead of waiting to be happy until you have life all figured out? Because your "ducks-in-a-row-ness" just isn't realistic. What if you were happy now?"

There's an idea. But Ashley added to it.

"What if you just took classes that sounded interesting and you enjoyed now, then decided on a masters program you are really passionate about 3 years from now?"

So instead of feeling like I have to necessarily pick a major and be tied to it, we looked at classes that just happened to look really good, like: Creative writing, Magazine writing, World Literature, Introduction to Teaching, and so on. Huh. So, I guess that means I'm an English Education major and then in 3 years I can be more specific if I even want to. I could change to highschool counseling, or journalism, or social work, or whatever.

For some reason, looking at it this way, made life seem so much easier and gosh darn, exciting.

Ashley and Ben are the two best listeners and communicators I have ever met. They remind me that I am ok, or even great, just how I am. They let me vent and share my struggles, insecurities, and mistakes. They celebrate with me in anything whether it is a successful new recipe or catching a touchdown pass. Ashley and Ben are insightful, open minded, accepting, and hilarious. Sure, our humor might not make anyone else chuckle, but it makes us giggle uncontrollably for hours.

A & B are not your typical married couple. They talk things through. They communicate well. Sometimes I ask them, "What is the hardest thing about being married?" and they answer honestly as if the other person was not in the room, because they've probably already talked about it with them.

Somehow I've never been bad enough, ugly enough, ridiculous enough, or awful enough yet, because I've never felt so much genuine, love directed at me. They actually convince me that I am loveable. Eventhough I often tell them that they must live in some imaginary world where life is much simpler and I make sense, they convince me that maybe I am ok just as I am.

Last time I called Ashley to tell her I had thrown up again, she said, "Yeah, I could already tell from how you've been talking" even before I told her. Ben hugs me and kisses my forehead as if I was his own daughter and I'm convinced he would really inflict a lot of pain to any other male who hurt me. Ashley lets me get my own food when we eat together because she knows it's easier for me that way. Ben jokes with me and is never afraid to tell me the truth as painful as it may be sometimes.

Before I left for Cambodia we sat at there kitchen table and I talked about wanting to be a citizen of the world and what that looked like.

Straight from the website: "A World Citizen is a human being who lives intellectually, morally and physically in the present. A World Citizen accepts the dynamic fact that the planetary human community is interdependent and whole, that humankind is essentially one. A World Citizen is a peaceful and peacemaking individual, both in daily life and contacts with others. As a global person, a World Citizen relates directly to humankind and to all fellow humans spontaneously, generously and openly."

It goes on to other things, but I told them that I had goals for what that meant to me.

As a citizen of the world I told them I wanted a broader worldview that included more cultures than just the American one I've grown up in. I told them I wanted to spend less money on clothes and wear what I really wanted to, not what I thought I should be wearing. I told them I wanted to wear less makeup. I told them I wanted to be a better communicator, be more knowledgeable, and be eating disorder-free.

As I walked out the door tonight, Ashley said, "Ya know, it seems to me you are becoming more and more of the citizen of the world that you want to be."

That is one the best compliments I could ever recieve and I'm convinced that she genuinely meant it.

Installment of Thoughts

Newest installment of recent, random thoughts:

-Has it already been 4 months since I've been back from Cambodia?

-I can hardly believe I am turning 21 soon. How does this happen? Time continues to blow me away at it's speed, fast or slow. A year ago at this time I was just getting back from a vacation to southern Cambodia, approaching November and trying to decide if I was really going to last another week, none the less, another 8 months!

-I voted and am glad to have done so. Sure, it will be nice for the ads to stop running and the media to devote all of their attention some where else, yet still, I kinda like election time. I won't get all patriotic on how I'm being a good citizen, I just think it's really cool that even for a few months I could strike up a conversation with literally anyone, strangers or friends about a topic we both know about. I guess that sorta happens with things like the Olympics or some kind of crazy natural disaster, but rarely does something so big effect so many people at one time. That's why I kinda like it.

-I've been randomly conducting interviews with students on campus asking them, "Do you believe in God?" and "Why?" It's been beyond interesting.

-Can't remember if I wrote this on my blog or not, but I will again: my book got approved! So come, 2011, you will see my book, with my name on it. The topic may be obvious, but just in case, it's about my experiences last year. I want to write a book I can be proud of. I want to write a book about things that aren't being talked about. I want to do something about the hypocrisy, shallowness, and silliness I often complain about, yet have not done much about.Yippee!

-Do I really doubt the existence of God or have I just been angry with God? I almost wrote 'mad', but 'angry' seemed stronger. I have been bitter and angry, confused and frustrated with...something?! But has it been a lack of God or a lack of God being my puppet?

-Next semester I'm taking Secondary Education classes. I'll try this on for size and see if it fits. I need to head, somewhere. Hanging out in college might get boring and costly without some direction.

-I feel like I am being proactive to tell my story, instead of complaining that no one wants to hear it. Why not lock 'em into the church where they can't leave, then talk? I am singing next Friday for vespers and speaking Nov.15th at V2. Writing this book will help me share my story too. This is good.

-I like to live by mantras. I always have some focus or goal that I am breathing for that day. Lately, the best has been, "Learn to live with bumps and imperfections". I am far from perfect. This is a good reminder.

-If it was up to me I'd live on cinnamon rolls, granola, soy chai, PB&J, mac n' cheese, and cookie dough ice cream. I'm not sure how I survived last year.

-I like how music moves people, to think, to dance, to create, to let their guard down, to give.

-I am reading Anne Lammott and I really like it. I think I like it most because she has dread locks and I get the feeling she isn't writing what people just want her to say.

-I've always, always wanted to be a barista at a coffee shop, a writer, a recording artist, or a personal trainer. But I'm trying to decipher between 'interests' and 'career options'.

-I adore Pandora.com. Check it out. Free listening pleasure. My favorite station right now is Sara Bareilles.

-I want to see the east coast. I think I will.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Where We Met

On a cool afternoon in Colorado this weekend, I went for a walk. Feeling defeated, I had gone to clear my eternally busy mind from the clutter that often consumes me. I had on my headphones and was briskly walking my way down the dirt roads that wind before the beautiful Colorado foothills.

About half way to my destination, a petite woman that I recognized as a family friend came walking towards me. Myself overwhelmed with thoughts, I didn't particularly feel like socializing, especially about the small talk that was about to ensue. Still, I knew that I couldn't just walk within 5 feet of her on this empty road and not say anything.

"Hey there! I know you. How are you doing?" I said.

"Ummm, I'm...o...k" she replied slowly, the words sounding forced.

"Oh really. I'm....o...k, too, to be honest. What's on your mind?" I inquired.

"Well," she hesitated, wondering how much she really wanted to tell, then just said it, "I'm still fighting this depression and anxiety that is ruining my life" her voice sounded weak. "But how are you? Home from school I see?" She sounded so tired and beat up.

"Oh, I'm so sorry" I said, knowing there was little else I could say. "Yes, I'm home from Union. But, since we are being honest, let's just say, today is not the best day of my life either. I just threw up, again, and needed to get out of the house to clear my head. It seems every time I'm doing well, I get kicked down again."

She knows about my ED and I figured that since she was willing to share, I would too.

Sadness spread across her already downtrodden face, "Heather, I'm so sorry."

We just sort of looked at each other for awhile, both wanting to cry for the pain that was dominating our lives. I was thinking of a whole life time of opportunities I may have had to actually "talk" to this woman and never really had, when in reality, we both really needed it right now.

So there we stood, along a dirt road, not another soul in sight, talking.

There really is no way I could have said, "Well, see ya later" and continued down the road. So, even though she was headed back home to where I just came, I offered to walk her home.

We talked about her fight with an illness that continues to threaten her life and my own. One situation: depression, compared to an eating disorder, isn't as far fetched as you might think. So I told her that.

"I know we are fighting different demons, but I just want you to know, I think we have a lot in common. I am fighting an illness that no one can see on the outside and it has often been a dirty little secret I felt ashamed of and no one really understood. I feel like I am very alone in this struggle and some days I wake up in the morning wishing I didn't have to live out another day. Some days life feels worthless and so lonely."

"Yes! I feel that way too" her face lighting up.

We reached her home after 30 minutes or so, and I told her how glad I was that me met. She said, "I think it was meant to be."

Neither of us had an answer to fix the other person's problem. I couldn't offer her tips, a doctor, or some new medical breakthrough and she didn't either. Because that is not what either of us needed that afternoon. We needed to be heard and know that someone else was feeling a bit defeated too.

That conversation never would have happened if I had said, "I'm fine" and kept walking. That conversation never would have happened if I myself wasn't struggling with something. We could relate to each other and hear each other. That conversation never would've happened if she wasn't willing to share her struggle with me.

Honesty continues to save me.

No, I don't like talking about throwing up. No, I don't enjoy writing about this, admitting this, or fighting this every day, but I am. No, I don't like going through the drill, post-purge: email dietician, call Ben and Ashley, tell Mom and Dad. I could keep this all a secret. But, every single time I tell those closest to me, because I know I need help and I'll never get it if I don't ask for it.

This is not the life I want to lead. Sometimes I feel like I will always be this way, and can't see the silver lining in any of this. But getting back up after another fall is all I can do.

I may have lost a lot of people's respect in all of this. Exposing what really goes on in my head is not always something I'm proud to do. But I see how I've been changed through it.

I literally picture this is a heavy weight of rocks. And as I share my experiences I hand each person another rock, then I don't have to carry it anymore. In turn, that person usually hands me a rock of their own. It's not that we have this eternally heavy burden to lug around and it never gets any lighter. We build muscle.

I could not lift anything more than a few pounds when I was a child. But with age, I gain strength. What was once an unmanageable burden becomes character.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Unrest

Tonight, I sat at the Art.Music.Justice tour concert with great artists such as Sandra McCracken, Sara Groves, and Derek Webb. There was wonderful music, moving stories, and pleas for support and activism to help solve the world's problems.

I am overwhelmed by what I've seen overseas. I've seen the bumpy roads, the injustice, the garbage infested streets, the fear, and the hopelessness. I've seen the naked children sleeping on the side of the road. I've looked into the eyes of a 12-year-old prostitute and been unable to look away.

The progression from Cambodia to Union college has been stark and unnatural. I'm not sure what the easier or better solution would've been. There are completely different circumstances depending on your part of the globe. I'm still having the hardest time wrapping my mind around how Cambodia and the United States exist at the same time. I don't understand.

I watched pictures flash across the screen tonight of young girls in brothels in India, sick children in Africa, and victims of sex trafficking in Asia. I cried, hard.

I was sad for those people, but I was mostly thinking of what I saw in Cambodia. You see, now it's personal.

I've heard concerts, mission stories, and seen movies like Invisible Children before, but have never been moved the same way I was tonight. As Sara Groves sang "When the Saints", I cried some more. I just kept thinking, Well, this is all well and nice and actually quite inspiring, but how does this song you are singing do anything for Ratanack who sits with his mother at their fruit stand hoping to make enough for food? How does this song keep Kagna safe from the men on the street? How does this song keep Oknha from getting deep into drugs and crime?

It doesn't. So I cried.

I feel so helpless to do anything to protect my kids. The fear of getting some awful email from a student telling me about one of my girls getting raped or her parents forcing her to marry a rich, foreign stranger, tempts me to break all ties with my kids. Then maybe this won't hurt so much.

I want to do something more than go to classes tomorrow. I can't see how I'm going to get through 3 more years of this. But I can't up and leave, hoping to save the world, I already tried that. And as fulfilling as I'd hoped it would be, the reality of being far from home, ED support, and familiarity, left me...broken. I feel like I tried, but maybe I'm just not cut out for the harsh realities of mission work, or else I would've really thrived.

If I'm not meant to work overseas, how can I live with myself knowing I'm doing nothing about it. I want to go, but I'm afraid to go.

Bono said, "God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."

It's 12:30 am in Lincoln, Nebraska, which means it is Friday 12:30 pm in Cambodia. My kids have all been out of school for an hour and are bored trying to figure out how they'll fill their time until Monday morning. They have just finished eating lunch, rice for sure, in their hot, dusty kitchens. Fay is probably braving the dangerous streets headed to the market. Polly is teaching kindergarteners how to read. Sabbath approaches in Cambodia and really, there is never any rest.

I wonder if I'll ever have rest again.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

If I had never gone

As people ask, "So how was Cambodia?" I find my answers getting a little more light hearted. It wasn't any less hard, but I am less anxious because I realize I am not there now. Now I can move on with what I've learned.

I could easily list 10 things that have been negative changes in me the last year, but that's too easy. A good friend asked me recently, "What would you be like if you'd never gone to Cambodia?"

If I had never gone to Cambodia I'd still be secretly living with this eating disorder. I might still be struggling alone, hiding the ugly side of me I was so ashamed to admit to. Now, there is hardly anyone in my life that doesn't know about my struggles. I am more human to the people in my life now. I recommend going halfway around the world to anyone who wants to reveal a secret. If you do it through a blog, you never have to actually say it to anyone's face and deal with their reactions. No, bad advice. Still, it worked for me. I am better supported and understood.

If I had never gone to Cambodia I wouldn't have the friends I do now. I actually gained friends by flying away from them. Once there was distance I was better able to see my true friends who would stay in touch, as well as make new friends. New people came into my life via email as we got to meet each other. It has been so nice to actually start a friendship honestly, knowing each other's faults, so, that aside, we could actually connect and hear each other.

If I had never gone to Cambodia I might still be on the Christian placebo I'd been taking most of my life. It's not that I've never had a spiritual experience and it was all fake, it was just different. The struggles and situations are different now. I've been tested and forced to challenge a lot of ideas I've held as true. I ask a lot more questions about apparent "truths". I may have come to the same conclusions eventually, but being isolated in Cambodia sure sped up that whole process.

If I had never gone to Cambodia I doubt my students would be sitting in the new school building that they are now. CAS moved into the new school that was waiting to be finished because of a huge lack of funds. Friends and family from home stepped up in big ways and helped me raise over $8,000.

If I had never gone to Cambodia I'd be a junior in college, who sat through another year of classes not knowing what I wanted to do. I never would have felt, seen, smelled and experienced another side of the world. It sounds vague, but just having gone makes my worldview much bigger. I see now how my actions directly affect the rest of the world. I better understand how America is viewed by the rest of the world and am both proud and disgusted depending on the subject. I am grateful for my education, opportunities, and community. I am pained by our media, our morals, and our individualist approach to life.

If I had never gone to Cambodia I would have no idea how big and still, small the world really is.

If I had never gone to Cambodia I might be convinced that this is really all there is.

If I had never gone to Cambodia I wouldn't understand how great it feels to be called Ms.Bo by adoring 7th graders.

If I had never gone to Cambodia some of my students wouldn't know how to laugh at themselves, dance the macarena, or communicate better with the people in their lives.

Sara Groves has been giving me more fulfillment in her poetic songwriting than I ever expected. I feel like so many of her songs speak to me right where I'm at, especially, "Less Like Scars".

"It's been a hard year, I'm climbing out of the rubble,
These lessons are hard, healing changes are subtle.
But everyday, less like tearing, more like building,
less like captive, more like willing,
less like breakdown, more like surrender,
less like haunted, more like remember.

And I feel you here and your picking up the pieces, forever faithful.
It's out of my hands and bad situations, you are able.
And in your hands the pain and hurt, look less like scars and more like character.

Less like a prison, more like my room.
Less like a casket, more like a womb.
Less like dying, more like transcending.
Less like fear, less like an ending.

And just a little while a go, I couldn't feel the hope,
I couldn't cope, I couldn't feel a thing.
But just a little while back, I was desperate, broken, laid out, hoping,
you would come.

I need you and I want you here."



Thanks Sara.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I saw her at Walmart

Her eyes darted nervously from side to side, peaking out from underneath her wispy blond bangs. Her size 2 jeans loose around her waist. Wearing a hoody to hide her shape, she pushed the shopping cart that looked difficult for her to maneuver, exhausted and lonely. I could see her hips bones jutted out beneath her clothing. Her translucent skin was a dead giveaway, this girl is not eating, just like Jenny.

Jenny was a woman I met 2 years ago. She died March '07. Jenny lost her battle with anorexia. I hate even saying that. People say it about cancer victims too, that they lost their battle, like they were all failures or something. Jenny lost her life to an eating disorder, but her life was not lost, becuase I am still writing about it. I will never get the image of Jenny out of my mind for as long as I live. I don't want to.

The instant I saw this woman at Walmart yesterday, I thought, Jenny? No, it wasn't her. But this girl is dying too. I just stared at her as she walked away from me. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. Instead I stood in the aisle for about 10 minutes just watching her, my eyes filling with tears. The tricky thing about eating disorders is that, talking to the person sometimes makes it worse if they haven't accepted it themselves.

I remember a teacher telling me how I was getting too skinny and thinking, Ha, at least someone noticed. Success! Disgustingly, I took it as a compliment.

This woman in Walmart is a reminder to me that I am not done fighting this. The universe may be trying to tell me something.

After a particularly depressing weekend, something needed to change. It is so easy for to me to get stuck in a rut of self-pity and frustration over what my life is right now. Sometimes I just need a good shaking. So, I made a list of things that would make this week more fulfilling.

First, I approached both the vespers coordinator and the newspaper editor about the opportunity to speak and write about things that need to be said at Union college. Complaining about a situation does nothing unless I do something to change it.

Second, I called my dietician to help me straighten out my thoughts and gave me strength for another week. The amoebas in my tummy may not go away for another 6 months. They are causing more problems than I'd like to admit.

I'm great, fantastic, marvelous at filling my day with stuff to do and tasks to complete, but rarely do I schedule fun. So, I made a list of people that make me happy and I'm going to make the effort to be around them more often. The friends I already have, matter deeply to me. They continue to fuel me for the journey.

Writing is therapy. So I vowed to write in my journal every day this week and I have.

Atleast 85% + of the time, I've decided to wear clothes I could easily do yoga in or say, climb a tree. Comfortable clothes are a must. I haven't worn high heels in over 2 years and I'm still boycotting them. Ya know, those must've been invented by some sick man who wanted to attack women in dark allies when they tried to outrun him and sprained their ankles wearing his "trendy" shoes. Well, it's just a theory. Either way, high heels are crap.

Today, I went around campus and started interviewing students passing by. "Do you believe in God?" and "Why?".

This weekend I'm getting some friends together to cook Indian food show pictures from Cambodia.

The last thing yet to do on my list is, Consider getting dread locks. This one might take a bit more time.









Sunday, September 28, 2008

Imagine

An Indian woman gave me this poem when I was living in Cambodia. Someday this will be me.

"Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.
A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who believes she is good.
A woman who trusts and respects herself.
Who listens to her needs and desires, meeting them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who has acknowledged the past's influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use precious energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in the circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets."

Discontent

I don't feel like I belong here, at Union college, in Nebraska, in this body, with this state of mind. I don't like the person I am. I don't seem to fit. I am the odd one, or does anybody really like themselves?

I'm living in a state of overall discontent.

I don't want to be in most of my classes. I don't see the point. But here I sit.
I don't want to feel so negative, but I'm honest.
I don't want to be spiritually lost, but I am.
I don't want to look this way, but I do.
I don't want to think like this, but I do.
I don't want to be who I am, but I am.

Yeah, I think I'm discontent.

The aftermath of being an SM last year is showing up a little more each day. I don't feel like a Sophomore in college, I feel 10 years older. Many of my friends have moved on with new friends and it is hard to find things to talk about anymore. I feel like I missed out, but they don't feel like they missed out. It is hard to talk to a lot of my peers in college. Our conversations are different, our priorities, our viewpoints. There is an overall disinterest in where I've been, that I just wasn't expecting. I'm not wanting to be a celebrity, but I'm shocked at how little people care about where I was last year. It seems so irrelevant to them, yet every single day, I'm thinking about my kids.

When I hear friends complaining about their homework or worship credits, I usually just shut my mouth to keep from preaching at them. Most people have no idea they are in the minority of the richest people living on planet earth today, because they've never left the United States to realize there is a big world out there, hurting.

Let's re-emphasize, Cambodia is not where I want to be. I miss my kids, but most of all I miss feeling needed.

My kids keep emailing. Sophea has a boyfriend whom I screened by asking all of her girlfriends what he's like. He's ok, for now. Kagna got her driver's license, though that's a joke because everyone drives without one. Fay got her car bumper knocked off by a tuk-tuk driver a few weeks ago, but he kept driving. It cost her $100. Still no justice. David doesn't want to be at CAS and is horribly lonely.

All my kids want to know, "How is your healthy? Your family, is they good? How your studying, is there any problem? Do you miss me?"

In short, "Yes".

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There is so Much More

There is so Much More
by Brett Dennen

"When I heard the news,
My heart fell on the floor
I was on a plane on my way to Baltimore
In these trouble times it's hard enough as it is
My soul has a known a better life than this

I wonder how so many can be in so much pain,
While others don't seem to feel a thing
Then I curse my whiteness,
And I get so damn depressed,
In a world with suffering,
Why should I be so blessed?

I heard about a women who lives in Colorado,
She built a monument of sorts behind the garage door
Where everyday she prays for all whom are born
And all whose souls have passed on
Sometimes my trouble gets so thick
I can't see how I'm gonna get through it
But then I'd rather be stuck up in a tree
Then be tied to it

There is so much more.

I don't feel comfortable with the way my clothes fit
I can't get used to my body's limits
I got some fancy shoes to try and giggle away these blues
They cost a lot of money but they aren't worth a thing
I wanna free my feet from the broken glass and concrete
I need to get out of this city
Lay upon the ground stare a hole in the sky
Wondering where I go when I die
When I die."

I really fell in love with this song last year. A friend sent it to me while I was overseas. "My soul has known a better life than this..."

The "woman in Colorado" part just fit because, hey, I'm a woman and I'm from Colorado!

I remember listening to it several times as I walked down the streets trying unsuccessfully to ignore the stares. "When I curse my whiteness and I get so damn depressed..."

And alas when I heard these words, I cried: "I do not feel comfortable with the way that my clothes fit, I can't get used to my body's limits". Wait, someone else feels this way too?

People talk about being comfortable in their own skin, loving your body. That's great. Most of the time I wonder if they are really talking to themselves and hoping for the day when it will actually be true. I've never, not in my whole life, met a woman who didn't have a complaint or gripe about her body, no matter how beautiful or perfect I felt they she was. There is no talking women out of this.

Dove launched a Pro-Age campaign encouraging women to feel good about themselves. They even conducted a worldwide survey that asked, "Do you believe you are beautiful?" Two percent of the world's women said, "Yes". Ninety-eight percent said, "No". But Dove still makes Pro-Age, anti-wrinkle cream and smoothing lotions and anything and everything to fix what is wrong about us. Does "pro-age" and "anti-wrinkle" seem contradictory to anyone else?

My eating disorder counsellor often told me, "Heather, stop fixing your body, it was never broken."

But we live in a culture addicted to perfect. Sure, no one can actually achieve it, but we are encouraged to pursue it until, well, we die. Still. Not. Perfect.

I wonder if I look comfortable in my own skin, because, I'm not. I usually look in the mirror each morning and think, "I am just plain odd-looking!" Then I spend the rest of the day trying to pretend like I am more at peace with myself than I really am.

My body has never reflected the person inside of it.

So, instead of focusing on appearance, I made a list of all the things my body can do:
run 10K races
swing dance
walk and usually not trip
stretch
hike mountains
fight illness
live with arthritis
survive Cambodia
travel around the world
heal from 7 different surgeries
do kickboxing
sing
mow the lawn
tell me what it needs
swim and dive
play
grow and change
beat tumors
bike Cambodian streets
take a needle
learn from the past
handle the elements
play lots of sports
rock climb
do yoga
benchpress, curl, squat, lift

Yeah, we done good.

Friday, September 19, 2008

11:01pm

I checked my voice mails. None. I checked my text messages. None. No one I know lingering outside the dorm to talk to. No new emails. My roommate is already asleep. I'm tired, but I know I won't be able to sleep, not until I sort out what's going on in my head (I realize there are much less public ways to do this, but by now I'm used to this).

I can't just keep running. It's like I am searching to find a place where I belong. I want to feel like I fit. But somehow, I end up feeling lonely here too.

Tonight's vespers program was put on by Children of the World, a touring group of orphans from Africa and their sponsors, who sing and give their story in a way that had everyone on their feet applauding by the end of the evening. Inspiring.

I've seen Children of the World before, my freshman year. I remember sitting and watching these awe-inspiring children thinking, "I've gotta go do something about this. I want to help." Coming full circle I found out not all children of the world sing and dance and have bigm sweet smiles. In fact, come children of the world pooped their pants in my class, but that's another story.

Nights like this only add to my discontentment over where I'm at. I know, I know, another one of "these" blogs. But the more SM's I talk to, the more they're feeling the same way. I am obviously just a lot more vocal about it.

I don't want to be in school. I want to be leading a Children of the World group of my own. I want to adopt a kid(s) from Africa. I want to raise awareness about AIDs. I want to talk to victims of sex trafficking and help them tell their stories to change lives. I want to counsel teenagers abusing substances.

I want to do something that matters and I'm having a hard time feeling like antyhing I'm doing right now does.

I'm not making myself out to be some sort of saint, as if I am the only one on planet earth who wants to help other people. I know I am not alone, but I just wonder if I'm in the right place. Getting a taste of helping others in Cambodia got me good. Because now I feel so uncomfortable with my life. It just doesn't seem to fit.

As I read daily emails from my kids in Cambodia or Fay or Polly, I almost think, "I want to go back". Can you believe that? Have I gone completely insane? I spent the last year struggling painfully to get through each day and now I want another round of it?

Being back in the States has offered a great deal of perspective that I just didn't have while I was in Cambodia. I'm glad to be back. But sometimes it feels like every part of me is itching to just run away, I'm not sure where, but away. Antsy-ness I suppose.

So many things in my life right now, from my gym membership to the school newspaper's latest rant about cafeteria food just seems meaningless. How can I thrive in an environment that no longer seems important or fulfilling, without just blending in and forgetting everything I've experienced?

(This is a rhetorical question. Because if anyone knew the answer, I hope they would have already given me the answer.)

Now 11:27pm and still no answers.