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.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mini-Epiphany

I like to think that I get mini-epiphanys often. I like to think that my eyes are open wide enough to see what life is trying to teach me.

The summary of my last blog was: I feel useless, I want to feel fulfilled, and this isn't it.

So, how long am I going to wait before I start living? Because I feel like I have been waiting 20 years for the conditions to be just perfect before taking off. I have potential. I am not a useless glob of slime.

It is the perfectionist in me that has actually caused a lot of problems in my life, this being one of them.

I often say, "I'll be fulfilled once I kick this eating disorder"
"I'll be happy once I am in a relationship"
"I'll be ready to start living once I get my health all figured out"
"I"ll be grateful when I have more friends"
"I'll be content once I figure out my spirituality and God"
Basically, I'll be happy once life is perfect.

This hit me today, when I realized that my usual response to the question, "How are you?" is almost always, "Ok". I don't say "great" or "wonderful" or "splendiferous" because there are these obnoxious, unresolved issues in the back of my mind, saying, "You can't be 'great' until I say we are!"

I act as though I am constantly on the verge of a breakdown. I am not. I'm doing quite well.

Granted, my answer will not always be, "I'm great". But I am seriously considering why it couldn't have been today.

I went for a freezing cold, but exhilarating bike ride to the Sunken gardens this morning. I did squats till I could hardly walk. I had cereal, my favorite meal ever, for breakfast. I laughed so hard with a friend that I snorted. I went to my classes, which were more bearable than usual. I interviewed little kids about God. I went to drawing class and completely lost myself in it. I talked to a student from the Phillipines and felt I could relate to her own culture shock. I talked about deep, wonderful things with Pastor Rich. I watched Oprah, played tennis with Rachael, comforted a friend, and sit here with a cup of hot chai.

While you may not have wanted the full rundown if my day, heck you're still reading! The point is, it was a great day. No, my ED, boy, health, friend, future, God, purpose, stuff wasn't worked out. But I'm beginning to realize that the journey through all of that is life. It may not be ideal, or wonderful, or perfect, but a real life is far from those things. This is it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Watch out! She's getting ready to spew

For the first time in my life I've been thinking, "What if I dropped out of school?"

Never fear. I am far from actually doing it, but I must admit, the thought has crossed my mind more than once today.

I don't feel needed. Maybe feeling needed is a luxury. Maybe this isn't something I should even consider having. But, by the end of my time in Cambodia I felt needed. If I hadn't gone to Cambodia to teach those kids English, who would have? There is no waiting list. The need is great. The standards are low. I knew I was doing something important.

Being back in college feels like regression. I went alone to Cambodia, lived alone, bought my food, worked as a teacher, traveled alone. Now, I have a curfew, worship credits, and homework I just don't want to do. Teaching in Cambodia, I got a taste of what life could be like if I knew that what I was doing mattered. But coming back to Union, I am expected to go back and be a student. Inside I'm thinking, "If I could feel needed without an education, what am I doing here?"

I came back from having a taste of the adult world, to being treated more like a kid. It feels like the equivalent of someone working in a presidential position in a business, than opting to go back, start back at dishwasher and get the basics.

I felt that teaching was fulfilling a purpose. But what purpose am I fulfilling by being the 37th student in Developmental Psychology? What difference does it make whether I can create a newsletter using Microsoft Word 2007? What purpose am I serving by being able to correctly use apostrophes in sentences? What is the point in all of this?

Last night I had a dream that somehow I was able to visit my kids in Cambodia. I saw them sitting in their desks in the new school. I surprised them and we all started crying. I saved up money to help them and create better lives for them. I saved them.Then, I woke up here, and went to Editing class. I went to work. Later, I'm going to do more homework, for classes I don't enjoy.

I'm not saying the only work worth doing is overseas. But I am struggling to find purpose in what I'm doing here. I'm not blind. I realize I didn't feel important, needed, or fulfilled for 9 of the 10 months I was overseas. I see now with perspective. I'm willing to stick this out. I'm not giving up. But it is not going to be easy.

I bumped into Alissa, an SM who went to India. As I talked to her seeking some insight she could give me, she said, "Those feelings of unimportance don't go away. It takes a long time before living in the States becomes easier." Thanks.

I've continued reading my blogs. Very interesting.

I started praying some big prayer requests of God exactly a year ago. I prayed for a friend, purpose in what I was doing there, and healing from the eating disorder.

Now that I sit here, I see that I did get a friend, but not when I wanted it.
I found purpose, but not when I wanted it.
I haven't found healing from ED, but I'm working on it, and if I'm following patterns, that probably won't be on my time line either.

If God had shown himself to me when I asked, how long would that spiritual high have lasted until it became a vague memory? Is that really what I needed?

I want to believe, but I feel the distance.

I feel the absence of God when I want to do something about the suffering around me: malnutrition affecting 9% of the world's children or a friend dealing with a painful break-up. I want to say, "I'll pray for you", but I don't want to lie either. So I say, "I'll be thinking about you."

I feel the absence of God when I can almost touch evil around me or truly believe demons are at work in the world. If there is evil, there must be it's opposite "good", somewhere. Right?

I feel the absence of God when I want explanations for things that just happen: seasons, stars in perfect patterns, sunrises, the spirituality of children, and the magnificence of the Rocky Mountains.

I feel the absence of God when wonderful, beautiful things happen and I want someone to thank.

I feel the absence of God when my worries and tears no longer find resolution in some sort of hope, and instead I just move on, because I have to.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A lot of "IF"s

"Oh, God of Israel, you are one. God of light and God of darkness."

A few nights ago I watched the movie, And Then She Found Me. Ash and Ben watched it with me. I may get all the facts wrong, but the message I got is completely personal, so therefore, it's correct.

Helen Hunt plays the character of a woman named April who has been through a lot. Her husband left her, her job was stressful, her mother died, her birth-mother contacts and her and wants a relationship, but she's a loony liar. She has a good relationship with a new guy, then betrays him and feels awful. She wants children. She wants a lot of things. She is a Jew and the movie shows several Jewish rituals throughout.

She decides to undergo aritificial insimination. She is sitting on the hospital bed about to start, when her birth-mother says, almost giddily, "You wanna pray?" April says, "No". The mother doesn't give up but keeps prodding for the answer why at such an important time, the daughter doesn't want to pray. April says, "Well, at this point, I don't want to give the chance of my having a baby to...to...". The trust is gone. "I lost the faith", she says. She felt betrayed and let down by God. This part of the movie seemed all to familiar.

I am not hurting more than any other individual trying to find their place on planet earth. I have been blessed with many things in my life. I could have it so much worse, I realize that. Yet still, I feel like I have asked things from God, I've begged for answers, I've searched high and low, to find...nothing. Or atleast, not the something I wanted.

I haven't thought much recently about God the father. I am more often reminded of God the ruler of the universe, God the beginning and end, God the... whatever, but never very personal. It is God the father I feel I have always better understood. So what happened?

I am blessed with a wonderful dad, not everyone is. During my time in Cambodia, there were days and weeks and months that my parents wanted to bring me home, safe into their arms. They hurt with me, cried with me, and prayed for me. Never once did they say, "Heather, get your butt on the next plane, you're coming home!" They wanted to. Other people told them to, but they didn't. It wasn't their job to rescue me from pain anymore. It was their job to support me.

So, I'm reminded of the similar way in which God may be waiting for me to think this through, to figure things out on my own. He isn't playing superhero, because IF He did, what would that accomplish? Where is the free will, the choice to believe?

I can write this now because I'm not living in Cambodia.
I can write this now because I'm not so painfully lonely.
I can write this now becuase I feel better supported and safe.
I can write this now becuase I haven't purged in several weeks.
I can write this now because I'm comfortable.

So if, IF, God exists, if, IF He knows what he is doing, then; what am I supposed to be learning from all of this? If not, it would all be wasted on me. What have these experiences taught me and how will I be different as a result? How can I use the pain to grow and change?

IF God is a father of love, He doesn't want me to feel unsafe, lost, inadequate, not good enough, undateable, ugly, and worthless.
IF...

What IF I was as honest with God as I am with my friends? What IF I told Him I was angry and confused and frustrated? What IF I sat with the pain and frustration long enough to see that maybe God is as hurt and frustrated with my situation as I am?

The night we watched that movie, I couldn't sleep, the thoughts were taking over my mind. I made a list of a few more IFs I could add, as IF there aren't enough IF's already.

IF I were a Christian, I wouldn't have to believe or agree with everything I'm told a Christian "should" believe in.

IF I were a Christian, I wouldn't attend vespers, Sabbath school, church, potluck, the nursing home, and Sabbath vespers, all in 24 hours, to be considered spiritual. Have you ever looked up "spritual" in the dictionary?

IF I were a Christian, I wouldn't have to sing every song. Those are prayers I'm not always comfortable saying to "look" alright.

IF I were a Christian, I wouldn't have to help with every ministry, every opportunity to get involved. Most Sabbaths I'm left exhuasted. What happened to a day of rest?

IF I were a Christian, I wouldn't use guilt to persuade people into doing things.

IF I were a Christian, I'd stop complaining about things "the church" does, especially if they are things I've never even witnessed first hand. There are a lot of frustrated young adults looking for someone to blame and "the church" is an easy one. What if we confronted that person or group and made a change?

IF I were a Christian, I'd do church a whole lot differently. What if we all showed up every week, in a small casual setting and sang and talked and were left inspired and motivated to change ourselves and our world, every week? What if everything wasn't scripted? What if there was no plan? Impromptu church, hmmmmm...

IF I were a Christian, I wouldn't have to go along with ideas or keep my mouth shut about what I feel. Honesty should be encouraged. I thought that was what made us human.

IF I were a Christian, these are the rules I'd keep. And IF those aren't options, then I don't want it.