Thursday, April 30, 2009

Teacher

Yesterday in class I presented a speech explaining why I want to be a teacher:


"There once was a girl. In preschool she came home one day and said proudly, “I’ll never be a teacher.” Completing first grade, second grade, she still did not want to be a teacher. In third grade she wanted to be a lawyer, because she heard they were good at arguing and her Mom said that she was too. By fourth grade she wanted to be a fire woman and save people from burning buildings. By fifth grade she considered joining the WNBA and playing professional basketball, but that didn’t last long, because she found out quickly, she’d never be 6’3. Floating from passion to passion, she didn’t know what she wanted to be, but she definitely didn’t want to be a teacher.

She was spunky and alive, young and happy. She grew up in a loving family and went to good schools. By the time high school came around, the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” seemed to be replaced with, “How cool are you?” So the profession discussion was stunted, slightly.

But even without the question looming overhead, the lessons kept coming.

Mr. Beans her high school volleyball coach, began to change her perspective on teachers. He was indeed the athletic director, but he also taught government, health, and life. She would sit in his office for hours, just to soak up a little more wisdom that seemed to pour from his mouth. He would ask things like, “What is your purpose in life?” or “Why do teenagers date?” He challenged her to think deeper and bigger. Mr. Beans taught her wisdom.

Her Bible teacher in high school turned out to be a young and truly relevant addition to the school. His name was Benjie Maxson. He illustrated a new way to look at God and spirituality, church and relationships, heaven and purpose. Maxson would talk openly about his marriage, drinking, sex, or mistakes he had made. It blew her mind that a teacher could be so interesting and brutally honest. Maxson taught her transparency.

As graduation approached, the question came back, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Anything but a teacher,” she’d say. She was already sick and tired of school.

Going on to college, she met another teacher, Mr. Blake. Now this guy really broke the mold. He was exciting, introspective, fun, interesting, and genuinely concerned with every single student. Between the insights he gave in class and his advice on rainy afternoons in his office, she gained a whole new perspective on God.

With all these lessons acquired like a life-time supply of food, she took a year off and traveled to Cambodia. Apparently, she would be teaching, but she figured she could endure anything for a year, even if she’d never do it again.

Cambodia taught her more than any teacher ever could. No class or textbook can drag a person through the heat and stench of an outdoor market or the frustration and exhaustion of a Cambodian classroom. During her time there people would ask, “What are you studying in school? Do you want to be a teacher?”

She would reply, “I’m studying Cambodia and no, teaching again is the last thing I’d ever do!”

So upon leaving the country, she came back knowing she was going back to college, but had no idea what for.

Mid-way through her first semester back in college, she was missing something. It wasn’t the humidity of the dusty Cambodian air, it wasn’t the dead animals hanging on hooks at the market, in all honesty, it wasn’t even completely, her students. With the struggles of adjusting to the United States, but realizing she didn’t want to be back in Cambodia, the reality hit her one day like a bucket of ice water: she missed feeling needed.

Americans have life figured out, supposedly. They don’t need people, they don’t need family, they are independent and self-sufficient to the core. Being another body in another desk in another school at another college in another country, just wasn’t fulfilling anymore.

So with the very vital question still haunting her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer wasn’t necessarily teaching, the answer was, “I want to be necessary to someone.”

So as she thought seriously about the last time she felt necessary and fulfilled, it was in the classroom, surrounded by 27 sweaty bodies and construction workers drilling next door. It was teaching English to students who needed her and needed their education to survive.

I realize that feeling necessary to the students we teach, might come about once a year. But when I thought back to the last time in my life when I felt like I was doing what I was meant to do, I was taken back to the connections I made with the students I taught last year.

Every day was not rewarding. In fact, I’d say 80% of the days were exhausting and tough. But if I can somehow capture Mr. Beans’ wisdom, Benjie Maxson’s honesty, Mr. Blake’s spirituality, and a large handful of other teacher’s who have completely changed my life, then it will all be worth it.

I want to be a teacher.

I want to be a teacher to change lives and make the world even a tiny bit better.

Through this class I’ve learned about the mechanics, the paperwork, and the potential politics and pitfalls of the classroom. I know the formula for a lesson plan and all the Bloom’s taxonomy I can handle.

Through observations I’ve learned about leading a balanced life as a teacher, bringing out the best in each student, and the trials that come with trying to make a difference when the students and administration might not share your views.

I anticipate challenges, mostly because every time I think I have life figured out, I fall on my butt and realize, I have so much left to learn. There will be struggles. I will yell. I will forget things. I will judge wrongly and have to apologize. I will be insufficient at times and inconsiderate in others. I will stub my toe, trip and fall, and probably teach entire lessons with poppy seeds stuck in my teeth. Either way, I’ll learn, that’s what school is for.

That preschooler had a lot left to learn and still does. And while she swore she’d never be a teacher, she might be right. The student in me still has much to learn, but I just might graduate in a few years, call it an education degree, then stand up in front of other students, and share what I’ve learned. If that’s teaching, then that’s what I want to be."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Greece

I'm struggling to live in a world of pain and suffering and not crumble under its weight. Overwhelmed by child prostitutes, abuse, and poverty, the weight of the world is heavy and too often unnoticed. As I grapple with what I can do, never enough, I stagger at the size of the burden and still wonder, Does anyone see me staggering? What am I doing to show my outrage, my disapproval, my broken heart?

Maybe I need to pick a battle. I can't do it all. I can't save everyone, but where is the line between content laziness and defeated activist, disinterested consumer and unproductive temper tantrum, ignorant, rich snob and bitterly tired missionary? There must be balance here. There must be, because I don't want any of the extremes.

Thoughts, ideas, situations, and decisions overwhelm me often to near paralysis. Like an old, faulty computer pleading mercy to the incoming data, I just can't take much more. There must be balance.

Between classes that confine me to a sad, tired student buried in textbooks, and emails from Cambodia that make me feel guilty for ever leaving them, there is balance.

Between identities as friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend, student, and leader, there is balance.

Between possibilities at camp, at Southern, at Union, in Cambodia, in Africa, in the future, there is balance.

Between making decisions, making music, making do, and making amends, there is balance.

Between perfect, pretty, passive...skinny, skanky, scattered...hungry, hasty, and hell-bent, there is balance.

Between finding God, finding purpose, finding myself, finding peace, finding true joy, and shoes to match, there is balance.

For if there is no balance, then this isn't worth it at all. If there is not middle ground, no happy medium, and no slightly lumpy place to lay my head at the end of the day, then forget it. Let's all move to the Greek isles, drink raspberry lemonade, build sandcastles, sleep all day, and dance all night. I mean if the happy medium, the gray, ceases to exist, then who cares about ethics, trustworthiness, and purpose right? We can just live to extremes since everyone else is anyway.

But there must be balance. I've seen it in a young, married couple seeking change as best they can. I've seen it in wise voices with silvery gray hair. I've seen it in playful children, who at their very core, are everything they're supposed to be, themselves.

Should I go to Southern or Union?

Am I a Christian? Do I believe in this?

What will I do that matters?

Is secondary English education my thing?

Will the title always read, "Heather Bohlender, ED"?

What if I can't pay my bills on time, regularly pluck my eyebrows, understand the check engine light, read every amazing book, find all my library books, eat all my antioxidants, update my blog, avoid skin cancer, recite the Declaration of Human Rights, and learn to crochet socks for children in Yugoslavia?

There must be balance, because if I'm wrong, I'd like to know now, I hear Greece is nice this time of year.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gandhi

I'm one of those people who cares about what's going on in the world. I know, it's obnoxious right, why does every one seem to care about starving children and recycling and stuff? Why should I take an interest especially considering I'm just fine? (Note: if you are reading this blog and actually agree with the last two sentences I wrote, please, KEEP READING!)

After returning from Cambodia almost a year ago, I have a new found interest in the global community. Those aren't just kids on TV anymore, those are my kids. That isn't sex trafficking in their country, that's sex trafficking on my earth.

I might have the habit of going to they gym at 3pm, because Oprah Winfrey is on. Whatever your beliefs are about Oprah, put them aside, she's doing good things and very well might be a personal hero of mine. But that's a whole 'nother blog, that is unless, she is reading and in that case I'd like to say, Yes, yes, you are a personal hero of mine! Yes, I would adore having afternoon tea in your garden, and yes, you can send money to Cambodia. I digress.

So in watching Oprah, I've learned a few things. Monday she did a show about child pornography in the United States, tracking them, and catching them. Yes, yes, child pornography again. We're immune to it, we've heard it. An 18 year-old boy was arrested last week for downloading, spreading, and filming child porn. The videos could not be shown on TV and even Oprah could not even see them, that would only further the crime. But before the cop began describing the videos he said, "What I'm about to describe is sexually explicit and if you don't want to hear it, you might want to leave the room."

Oprah jumped in, like the hero that she is, and said, "No, don't leave the room. This is supposed to sicken and enrage us. We need to hear this because nothing is being done, nobody cares enough. It's not our children."

He continued. For example, one video involved a 4 year-old girl, wrists duct taped to her ankles, screaming and crying, as she is raped by a male adult. Another video showed an 8 year-old girl being forced to suck on a dog's genitals.

I stopped pedaling. My cardio machine could go no further. I cried. Why aren't we talking about this? What is wrong with the world? I left sick to my stomach and I can't stop thinking about it. By seeing we become changed. By feeling we become enraged.

Today's show featured Jacque Cousteau's grandson talking about our oceans: the pollution, the junk, the irresponsibility.

"Currently, scientists believe the world's largest garbage dump isn't on land…it's in the Pacific Ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches from the coast of California to Japan, and it's estimated to be twice the size of Texas.

In some places, the floating debris—estimated to be about 90 percent plastic—goes 90 feet deep. Elsewhere, there are six times more pieces of plastic than plankton, the main food source for many sea animals.

Where did this trash come from? Marine biologists estimate that about 80 percent of the litter is from land, either dumped directly into waterways or blown into rivers and streams from states as far away as Iowa."

How mindless can I be? The pesticides that we spray on our dandelions runs off into the oceans and ends up in the food chain, which ends up back on our plates. It's a closed system. Everything's connected. We're all connected with the planet in very fundamental ways. How have we avoided this for so long?

On the treadmill, watching in disbelief to another issue that overwhelms and frustrates me, I thought, again, Why don't people care about this? Am I the only one?

As soon as the thought left it's...ummm...."thought area"....and drifted to my...."comprehension area", I realized something.

If I claim to be so interested in water shortages in Africa, sex trafficking in Thailand, child pornography in the U.S, climate change, recycling, sustainable living, GLBT rights, and responsible media:

WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING ABOUT IT?

Nothing. I'm doing nothing. I'm talking about it. I'm writing a blog about it. I am angered by it. I get frustrated by it, but I'm doing absolutely nothing about it. And before I go blaming everyone else for the crap in the world, I have to be doing my part. Gandhi had it right, Oh Gandhi, how did you know?

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

I'm seeking possibilities. I'm probing for solutions. I want to be seen as an individual for change, not just talk. I want to hear about the issues facing our world and be glad to know I'm doing what I can. But not yet, oh no, not yet.

I'm just getting started.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Other People's Glances

Laying on my back in the silence and warmth of yoga class this morning, I heard Liz say, "Now here in this stillness, are you letting the earth just hold you?" Having been here, palms up, toes draped to the outside, face relaxed, for several minutes, it was amazing to me how, as soon as she said, "Are you letting the earth hold you?" I was able to relax even further. My shoulder blades touched the mat beneath me, my eyebrows unfurled, my heart beat slower.

Learning to be, to breathe, and to be calm amidst, well, less than calm, is a lesson I'm still learning and will continue to much of my life I'm sure. Laying there this morning, you know what I was thinking about? Put on few pounds, yup, you did. Ate those cookies, you fat slob.

Coming back to the presence of a safe, calm room, I decided, yes, decided, that those thoughts were not welcome here. Instead I thought, What would a normal person be thinking right now? If I pretended that I wasn't healing from an eating disorder, and I was just a normal 21-year old girl (yeah, woman sounds weird) how would that change today?

I realized that if I was just a normal 21-year-old girl, I would not be beating myself up for what I ate, how less-than-flat my abs were compared to the woman next to me, or how tired I was of fighting this horribly selfish disease. So, considering what a normal girl might be thinking right then, I decided that I'd give it a try too. Fighting all urges to dissect and analyze every thought passing through my head, I stopped. I let it go. I just let the earth hold me.

Oprah magazine, you bring me joy. An article entitled "Other People's Glances" was a much needed breath of fresh air today.

The author, Noelle Oxenhandler, writes about seeing a picture of herself on a friend's kitchen bulletin board. The photograph shows her outside, in the sun, eyes crinkled tight, and cheeks about to burst into a fit of laughter. "Why on earth do you have to display that hideous picture of me?" she asked. Irrational as it was, I honestly thought my friend was trying to humiliate me.

"It isn't hideous," she said, sounding hurt. "When you laugh, you have a way of losing yourself in the laughter. And that's something I've always loved about you."

In blurting out my dislike of the photograph, I had rejected a gesture of affection. That photograph represented a friendship deepened. Suddenly it struck me that several of my close friends kept, somewhere in their houses, an image of me dissolving in laughter. I've always preferred a rather wistful, pensive image of myself. I let it sink it that maybe my friends appreciated something about me that didn't penetrate my self-critical radar."

Another friend, "When my father died ten years ago, it was such a surprise to see the photograph that he'd kept in his wallet. A photograph of me at age 11, just before I became anorexic, so round and smiling."

Another conversation, "One friend told me that, on her refrigerator, she kept a photograph of herself at her absolute thinnest, taken after her trip to India where she got dysentery that lasted three months."

Saddest of all, "...a friend who showed me her favorite photograph of herself, thin as a rake and leaning against a tall, oak tree. Remembering the context, I gasped, "But that's when you nearly died of heartbreak! Pale and fragile, we had to feed you like a baby bird: soups, pudding." Anything that would make it past the giant lump in her throat. I actually felt betrayed that she could possible admire the photograph that was evidence of such a desperate time."

Reading that last line, I am reminded of my favorite picture of myself. Graduation weekend my senior year of high school. Saturday night was class night, when we got all dressed up, reminisced of the last 4 years, and said goodbye before graduation the next day. Short, straight, blond hair, perfect skin, thin and thinning body, boney arms, behind a black, elegant, shimmery, floor-length gown, big smile...so hungry.

Oxenhandler finishes, "We say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' but what would it mean to look at ourselves as though we really believed this were true? The Tibetans have a saying: Who looks not with compassion sees not what the eyes of compassion see. Today, when the suspicious stranger looks into the mirror at her own reflection, I'm going to remind her of that. And who knows? If she can summon enough compassion to let go of her critical gaze, maybe she'll catch a glimpse of a woman dissolving in laughter--and see with the eyes of a friend."


Thursday, April 16, 2009

There are few things better than...

There are few things better than my Ultimate frisbee class. No, it's not like Ultimate "tossing-a-frisbee-back-and-forth-with-your-uncle-at-the-park". It's actually a sport and it's a darn good time. With 60 degree weather, some energetic college students, and a big, grassy, open field, there is fun to be had. It was intense and competitive, I'd like to think I well represented womankind being the only female, and worked up a good sweat. Vitamin D and I get along well. Ahhh.

There are few things better than helping a friend and knowing they appreciated it. I came upon a frazzled and overwhelmed friend of mine, Dan, who had called me earlier in the day to ask where to find sources in the library for a huge paper due tomorrow. Now this 15-page term paper was assigned the first day of class, over 3 months ago. The expectations were clear. In all honesty, it is painfully difficult for me to help chronic procrastinators who didn't get started when they should have. But seeing the dark circles under his eyes and tired exterior, I said, "Hey, I think I can help you out." I showed him where to get started on one big project due tomorrow, taking him to the reference section and showed him several books to use. Then, I helped him on several worksheets due tomorrow. Seeing the relief and hope on his face was all worth it, which leads me to believe that there really no "completely" unselfish deeds, because frankly, his face was all the reward I wanted.

There are few things better than getting random, wonderful, text messages and words of encouragement from my best friend Rachael. She really is one of the most beautiful people I've ever met, which is why I claim her as mine. Witty and wise, gorgeous, genius, silly and sporty, ahhh Rachael. Today she text, "You're beautiful inside and out," just because she could, just because she is great like that.

There are few things better than sweet potatoes. No really, so good, little brown sugar. Yuummmy.

There are few things better than calling Jeremy, my boyfriend, and feeling instantly filled, enough, taken care of, heard, understood, delighted in, and cared for. I really like this guy, the long-distance thing? not so much. Sometimes I call him just to complain about seeing happy couples, prancing across campus, holding hands. I didn't realize how badly I wanted that until I started dating Jeremy and realized what this whole dating thing is about, and to be honest, it's blowing my mind. I am amazed at how much I like one single person and would do almost anything for him. We'll work together at camp this summer, something I'm very much looking forward to. Yaiy! Can't wait.

There are few things better than looking someone in the eyes and realizing, "I get you." Today welcoming back the IRR (international rescue and relief) team from Honduras where they've been the last 3 months, I was able to re-live some of their experiences. It wasn't as though any of my good friends went, but I wanted to be available and excited right along with them, because I know what it feels like to come back and feel like no one really cares. I listened, I smiled, I asked questions, they talked and talked and talked. They are these tan, bright-eyed, vessels just bursting with stories and experiences to share, but they walk onto a campus of overwhelmed, tired, disinterested, students who have never been out of the country and aren't entirely interested in hearing about it. I hope they felt understood.

There are few things better than recovery. Not as though every stage of it has been wonderful and anything to look gush about, but it's been more than a week since I even thought about throwing up, well, that is, until now, cause I just did. But I've been doing really well. Day-by-day, blog-by-blog, feeling stronger, more balanced and less frantic, more whole and less scattered.

There are few things better than being physically worn out and achy from a good time. It is much too frequently that I am tired, exhuasted, and grumpy from loads of homework, or overwhelmed with deadlines. I can thoroughly wear myself out running on a treadmill for an hour, but it's different when I've gotten to play hard or work hard to earn that work out. It is a beautiful thing to wake up sore and slightly achy from the exhuastion of a life well-lived.

There are few things better than feeling the strength, energy, and joy, that enables me to write a blog like this. Because tomorrow or 6 months from now, when I'm somewhere else, feeling something else, I will read my words, and remember

yes, there is healing,

yes, there is joy,

and yes, there is ALWAYS hope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Flat Tires

On this day in history, well, a year ago at least, I wrote in my journal from a train in Australia.

"Another day. Who am I today? Today I am tired, cold-sick/stomach-sick, weak, and a bit defeated. Today I am depressed, feeling hopeless, isolated, forgotten, and far from home.

Why is it that I have never heard of a student missionary story even similar to mine? Do I think too much? Am I too uptight? Do I over analyze? Do I need serious help? Am I a nutcase? Do I ask way too many questions?

I am that girl with issues. I am that girl who throws up what she eats. I am that girl who is existing in her own life. I am that girl that you look at and feel sorry for because not even she can see how great she is. If I can write it, why can't I believe it?

At this point in my life I totally understand why a person would use drugs. Suicide is extreme and pointless, but drugs would be temporary relief from this unexplainable pain from the loneliness, the regret, the self-hatred, and exhaustion. I don't want drugs. But I can relate to someone on the verge of using them. I want to be numb. The women in magazines seem so far removed from the reality I wake up to everyday. When was the last time I woke-up exctited to be alive?

This is who I am. I am that girl, right now. The psychological effects of this experience are taking its toll. I am cultured out. I am exhausted. I am homeless. I am far from home and it shows. I do not recognize the face that glared at me in the mirror this morning. What have I turned into? Am I monster at heart that no one has ever met?Is this real? Am I the perfect character for the next upcoming psychological thriller? I am scaring myself. I am that sad girl, sitting on the city train to Sydney, wearing mostly black, numb to the world around her.

But I don't want to be that girl. I want to be someone else. I am tired of this existence. I want to be this girl:
-comfortable just being
-at peace
-content with life as it is
-passionate about living, dancing, people, doing dishes, whatever! Alive would be nice.
-still learning and growing
-able to see food as necessary nourishment and possibly even enjoy it
-honest

I need hope."

WOW. That is painful to read. Aye carumba! That girl isn't so far removed that I don't recognize her, I just haven't seen her in awhile.

That girl has had a hell of a year, traveled half-way around the globe and found herself, somehow, sitting amazingly upright, amazingly peaceful, amazingly all those things she'd wished and hoped for a year ago on a train in Australia.

Every part of me wants to dissect and analyze every piece of life: the "why"s and "how"s that make life fluid, vibrant, and mysterious. I want to understand better so I can come up with a formula, a tried and true method of making life consistent, predictable, and attainable. But "the only constant is change," and as much as I hate hearing that, I see it in my journals, my blogs, pictures, friendships, and experiences.

When I read about wars, I want to come up with solutions so history does not repeat itself or when I listen to my grandpa, I want to capture an ounce of the joy he tells stories of. Sitting in education classes, I'm reminded of the fluidity or constant movement of the human race and how amazingly, even upon bestowing our precious planet to the next generation of what was once those "reckless, irresponsible" teenagers, time passes, governments form, churches maintain attendance, and life goes on, almost seamlessly.

I have not at all mastered my wish list from the train and maybe I never will. It's a journey. It's a road trip full of detours, scenic routes, dead ends, and broken engines. There will be flat tires, flat hair, flat lands, and flattened egos, but either way, it's a trip that's bound to be a wild adventure.

That said, ask me tomorrow.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Onward

Stillness eludes me often. Hard to find and harder to keep, I crave peaceful silence like a drink of cool water.

Today was a long one. It really began last night, a binge I was half-expecting, tried to prevent, then didn't. Discomfort finds me attempting wholeness with food, much like others use drugs or alcohol. The numbing effect is very real and too often desperately needed, to avoid feeling when it hurts too much. So indeed I left...filled to the brim, but not satisfied at all.

Recovering today left me full, bloated, sick, tight, uncomfortable, anxious, only half-present, and irritated mostly with myself throughout a day I'll never get back. Again? Really?

Still, it was probably one of the best post-binge days ever. I was reminded of that after reading journal entries of entirely paralyzing experiences in the past. Sure, it sucks. I hate it. But I'm okay.

I hit the reset button by burning 663 calories at the gym and avoiding food. I went to my sister, napping at home on a Friday afternoon. Crawling into bed with her, we laid in her bed and breathed in tune: bellies up and down, up and down, under the coziness of the thick, heavy blankets. For a long while, we stared at the ceiling, until she said, "Can you turn up the volume on those thoughts for me?" She's a good sister.

"Spirit,
I am not good at this, whatever this is. Am I doing this right? Am I completely off-track, lost, out-of-touch? Am I building myself a God that does what I want? I don't know what I believe and I wish I did.
Process. Journey. Growth. Sweet time.
I don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going. Decisions. Opportunities. Too much. My "dissect, understand, analyze"-self, wants to hit pause, and figure it all out, yet, the clock keeps ticking, keeps moving, and I fear that I won't move along with it.
Life changes. People change. Times change. The only constant is change. I feel like I'm fighting change and I won't want to, I don't need to. I need help. This is too much for me.
I still don't know what causes days like today. After 3 years with an eating disorder, you'd think I'd have a handle on triggers, reasons, and recovery. But life is fluid and keeps changing so much that, once I gain confidence in one area, with certain people and situations, it changes again. I don't adapt gracefully to change, but I want to. I read this week, "Having an eating disorder is not a sin, but not giving it to God is."
I can't do this on my own. I know that. I feel like "rock bottom" is a place we like to think exists, so that there is an end to our misery. But "rock bottom" just seems to drop lower and lower to where I'm just hurting in new ways I never imagined were possible.
I cannot do this on my own. I need you. Whatever the "you" is in that sentence, I need it. I need purpose, protection, wholeness, healing. I need a lot of things I just can't attain on my own.
Help please."

Onward.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

People

She looked weary, tired, down. Sauntering towards me I could tell it had been a hard day. It did'nt take long before we were talking. "How", "are", and "you" continue to be some wonderfully powerful words, when people know that you mean it.

"Low," she said. Silence. "Couldn't help myself. Didn't want to. I threw up again," she stated flatly staring straight at her hands.

Reaching for her cold fingers, I said, "I'm so sorry."

We haven't known each other very long. But as soon as we knew we had similar struggles, we just got each other. Whenever I see her, I like knowing we can talk. She's never talked to another girl about it like we do. It didn't take long last night before we were laughing and joking about how weird we are and the strange lives we lead.

"I don't even taste food anymore," I tell her. "When someone asks me what foods I don't like, I can't think of any."

"Ha! Me neither. When someone says they don't like a certain food, all I'm thinking is, 'Sure it's a little bitter or salty, but, heck, it's edible. It numbs the pain. What more do you need out of a food?" she half-chuckled, relief slowly releasing her tense shoulders.

The pain didn't disappear because we were laughing, the pain just had company. I told her about blogging about the ED, meeting and dating Jeremy with him knowing full-well what he was getting himself into, and promising myself to tell people and write a blog if I throw up again.

"It seems like telling other people is a huge part of recovery huh?"

"Absolutely," I said, "for me." Sensing her discomfort that the overwhelming thought of spilling her guts to anyone, I said, "You're doing it right now. It takes one big leap of faith and you've already done that. You're sitting here talking to me."

I like her. She's a fabulous thinker, dreamer, writer. She has so much to look forward to in her life. I see it pushing, begging for freedom within her.

-----

Sitting in the cafeteria, near the end, avoiding people, head in a textbook. Yup, that's me. This is my existence, currently. This is my academic identity, the one I loathe and seems to be completely necessary for any type of success in the world.

He approached me as I hesitated even looking up. "Hey Heather."

Knowing I had so much to do and hardly enough time, I greeted him and waited for him to tell me what he needed. Very quickly disappointed in myself for putting work before people, again, I relaxed and started listening. We feel similarly about school, writing, book stores, spirituality, the weather, blogging, and nifty, crafty things. We ended up talking for close to an hour.

I'm excellent at getting things done at any price. I can bury myself in books and do what I need to do, but a social life? Umm, no. Things like a social life, fun, and play are not a priority in my life. Correction: a social life, fun, and play are not currently a priority in my life. I'm working on it.

He's helping. Good guy. Grateful for his random "sit down, talk it out, listen, laugh" get together with me. Thanks.

-----

Shyly paying for her tapioca pudding, she dared look me in the eyes and quickly looked back at her purse of coins. "Hi there. That will be 75 cents," I tell her.

Digging with her finger, sorting through metal coins, clinking against eachother, "Umm, this one, how much?" she asked, holding up a dime.

"That is 10 cents. Do you have more coins?"

Searching further she pulled out 6 pennies. "Seventy five?" she asked hopefully.

"These coins are worth 1 cent. So together you have 16 cents."

Working together to sort out enough coins to equal 75 cents, I asked, "Where are you from?"

"Thailand. You know?"

"Yes, I know where Thailand is. I visited Bangkok last year and the island of Puhket."

Beaming widely, excitement in her otherwise whispery voice, "Really? You know Thailand?"

"Well, I spent last year in Cambodia teaching English, but I visited Thailand. It is a beautiful country. I like Thailand."

I could've been complimenting her personally because she looked shyly at the counter obviously recollecting her home so far from Nebraska as she smiled. Apparently she has been here in the States for 2 months and leaves in 2 weeks. As she left, she turned around again, "Oh what your name?"

"My name is Heather. It's so nice to meet you. What is your name?"

"Bo," she said and walked away.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eleven minutes

As a human being of planet earth, I have an annoying, frustrating habit of acknowledging all the negatives in my life. I want to become more aware of the good. And so now, all the good I can fit into eleven minutes.

I'm glad I woke up this morning...

-because I haven't binged and been tempted to purge in awhile. Waking up hungry is so cool. Waking up hungry for nourishment, hungry for opportunities, hungry for people, hungry for life. Never gets old. Nope, not at all.

-because last night on the phone Jeremy and I talked, as usual, thus constituting a long-distance relationship. We did some dreaming. We dreamt about jetting around the world, finding an island to call our own, spearing fish (his contribution, not mine), cooking over a fire, and sleeping under the stars. I'll admit my dream would more likely involve India, Africa, or Greece, but we'll start here. He'll come around.

-to stretch, breathe deeply, do a few Sun Salutations to start the day, and a bit of Shamatha-Vipashyana meditation, compliments of Pema Chodron's book, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. Recent truth, "Develop softness and compassion towards yourself. Anything that comes up is okay in the area of meditation. The point is you can see it honestly and make friends with it." Hmmm, truth...

-because it is bound to be 58 degrees according to theweatherchannel.com and we could all use a little sunshine.

-because I have legs, arms, all five senses, hair, teeth, skin, freckles, lungs, a wonderfully performing heart, liver, kidneys, all the incredible contributions that keep me alive and I hardly give second thought to.

-because tomorrow I get to attend the Amnesty banquet at UNL. Yippeee. More on that later, I'm sure.

-because water came gushing out of my faucet and I never had to hold my breath, just hoping it would.

-because I'm getting a grasp on classes now that there are 4 weeks left in school and as much as I've complained this semester in school has not killed me and won't any time soon. M.J. Sclerosis went out of his way to come and make a joke with me today, OUT OF HIS WAY! He's trying. Oh yes, he is. There's a little human buried in there somewhere. I'm sure of it. Today, he mentioned his daughter and I wouldn't let him off the topic: "Where is your daughter? Do you have other children? This all must imply that you have a heart then right?" Too far. I know.

-because a guy a barely know, whom has no interest in me at all said, "Heather, you always look...nice." I like knowing I'm not the girl on campus who tries to show as much as possible to get attention.

-because I wrote a song this week, called...umm...called....I'll work on that and get back to you. Its goes something like this.
"What scares me the most, is not the thunder.
What scares me the most, is not the dark.
What scares me the most, is not a war.
What scares me the most, is me."

It's a good start. We'll see how it finishes since I'm singing it Friday night. Ha.

-because I could've been put with a boring, uninspiring teacher for my observation hours, but instead I get to spend time each week with an young, intentional, exciting English nerd at Northeast. We tell grammar jokes. Yup, it's good.

-because I don't have a ton of friends, but I have a few wonderful, pursposeful, fun, insightful friends.

-because the summer is near, I can smell the lemonade.

-to continue learning grace, peace, contentment, intentionality, love and all the things that make my day worth living.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

SM Guarantee

Before a student is shipped off to be a missionary, they must attend the class, Intro to Student Missions. It's quite hilarious actually because, how could you ever be fully prepared? Not possible. It's like having a class called, Intro to Life, just too much to cover, plus, every teacher would teach it completely differently. Still, when Pastor Rich asked me to come and speak to his class about my experience, I decided to give it a shot. Put more honestly: I could hardly wait, I was excited to tell my story, and thrilled that they had to sit there and listen to it.

I remember many a time last year thinking, Would I recommend this to someone? What would've been nice to know ahead of time? How could I have prepared more? What should people have told me?

All of these questions danced around my head as I walked up the stairs to the classroom. I didn't prepare any notes. No need. It all just sort of comes gushing out of me.

I showed pictures. I told my story. I looked at their shocked and discouraged faces and interjected, "Oh wait. No, it's a good thing. Go be a missionary. You're experience might be completely different. You will have a whole 'nother experience." It was at this moment that I realized why other SM's hadn't granted me the information before I left: No one wants to be a downer. There are expectations. Who wants to be the SM who didn't love it?

Well, I didn't want to be that either, but I am. I didn't love my SM experience. As I told them, "I love having been through the experience. I love being on this side of it. No, I wouldn't do it again, at least not exactly the same way. I would do it again very differently. It was the most painful year of my life, but absolutely the most important."

Here is the advice I gave:
-Research: Find out as much as you can about where you are going. Interview people who are there currently and people who have been there in the past. You are moving there for a year, you have every right to know what you're getting yourself into.

-Take a friend: Either take a friend, an acquaintance, or someone, anyone who you can guess you might be able to get along with or tolerate. Even one person who is familiar will make the experience easier. Maybe you know a friend of a friend who lives there, that's good too.

-Examine your baggage: Ask yourself, truly, honestly, "Why am I going as an SM?" If you are running from something, as I was, it's only going to get uglier and harder once it catches up with you. An eating disorder doesn't heal itself when you skip the country and separate yourself from counselors, dieticians, friends, family, and familiarity. Don't avoid SMing because you have baggage, just be prepared for the results.

-Go with open eyes, open heart, open mind: You'll be smacked around by a lot of new-ness that might be hard to swallow. Accept that things will be done differently, people might mistreat you, it's gonna be hot, and you might not love every minute of it. Don't go with false expectations that it's going to be the best year of your life. It very well might be, but just in case it isn't, be flexible, adaptable, open.

-Opportunity for change: You are leaving for a year. People expect you to change. So how do you want to change? I wanted to learn to love better, find God, wear less makeup, spend less on clothes and extras, and live more simply. If you want to become a better listener, lose your gum chewing habit, or make devotions a daily kinda thing, do it. People don't really raise too many eyebrows. Heck, you left the country for a year, become whatever you want without the judgment of those around you, who expect you to be who you've always been.

I advised the girls to get pepper spray and dress modestly, for their own good. I recommended that everyone take items that make home, home: pictures, music, etc. I advised them not to get giardea, worms, amoebas, parasites, and yeast, but didn't really offer any ways of doing that, because I have no idea. They looked really scared at that point.

I talked for more than 40 minutes: sharing, answering questions, telling stories. I thought I'd run out of things to say and still I'm sitting here thinking, I didn't warn them about mosquitos. I should've mentioned language learning. And I get it, I cannot possibly tell them everything they need to know. And even if I could, they'd all forget it anyway.

They need to live it, breathe it, see it, be saturated by it, soak it up, and spit it out before they'll understand half of what I'm saying. Either way, I feel glad that I told them my story. I shared what I wish someone would've told me. It's not all fun and games. There is no "30-day trial, love it or your money back" SM guarantee.

It might be painful. It might test you on every level possible. But it will be important, worth it, and you'll never be the same.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Flashbacks

Thursday night, Fay called (as in Fay whom I lived with in Cambodia). We talked about my life now and all the incredible things I've learned since I went to Cambodia. She asked about the eating disorder, my health, school, God, Jeremy. I'm doing well, that she was glad to hear. I could hear the motos grumbling outside the internet shop, the men yelling on the street, and the thick, dust of Phnom Penh nearly seeped into my dorm room through my cell phone. Life is different there.

I feel like the whole experience never happened. I never went to Cambodia. A few weeks ago, someone asked me where I went as a student missionary. I said, "Um...Africa," and then to ensure looking like a complete liar and flake I said, "Oh wait, Cambodia. I went to Cambodia. Yeah."

Now, this might seem so strange because, Cambodia changed my life, forever. But with not a single person in my life now, who shared the experience with me last year: saw what I saw, felt what I felt, walked where I walked; I end feeling like I am making all of this up and it never actually happened. I never went to Cambodia according to most of the people I come in contact with every day because they just don't understand.

Imagine a time in your life when you went somewhere; college for example. Whatever you were in high school doesn't necessarily matter anymore, especially if you went to a college that none of your high school friends attended. While everyone else is joking with their friends about a prank they pulled sophomore year, you don't really have a sophomore year because you have no one to talk to about it. So even though I was an athlete in high school, I would have to tell people or create a new identity without it. You have no one to joke with, remember stories with, or relate with. So I end up thinking, Oh, that one time in Cambodia... then usually saying nothing at all, because my past ceases to exist when it feels like I'm recalling a dream or telling a tall tale.

"Well, your 8th grade students sure are menaces this year. I don't know what happened," Fay tells me. "And Kagna and Leeta are doing well, ready to graduate. Did I tell you last week our house flooded while Tim was gone? Oh brother, I still need to get to Psa Monaung before Sabbath, mangoes are in season again--," she trails off. This world feels so far away and talking to her on the phone, being taken back to the sounds, the sights, only confuses me further, because I still do not understand how Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Lincoln, Nebraska exist at the same time, on the same planet, without much regard for eachother at all.

Yesterday I headed for class and realizes I was wearing the black skirt I wore nearly every day last year to teach at school. I remember sitting at a picnic table last year, while the 11th graders completed a test. Kagna walked up to me laughing and said, "Ms. Bo, you need to learn how to sit in a skirt!" because apparently cross-legged is not the way to go. That took me awhile.

In Creative Writing class yesterday we sang from songbooks and "He Will Carry You" caught my eye, a song we sang over and over again last year. I can still hear the Laos students nasally voices, belting out the words, as the strum of the guitar echoed off of the stone walls and tile floors.

The Golden Cords vespers was last night. I wasn't anticipating much. The service isn't anything remarkable. How could my 10 months of experiences possibly be signified by connecting dots on a map with string? I was surprised at how important it was for me, most likely because being recognized is nice, but also because so rarely is the subject brought up, it was awesome to be surrounded not by people necessarily, but people speaking on a global level. Powerful. It was the exact same vespers last year that I was the SM who Skyped in to talk to Pastor Rich. I was sitting half-way around the world, in the heat, in the exhuastion, begging for money from the audience who tossed in $20's or $50's and never thought about it again. One year.

It made me proud to have gone as an SM. I remember saying, "I want to be able to say I went as an SM, but actually doing it, well this is painful." So didn't I get what I wanted? I can say it now. I hung my cord. I did it.

It's more than that. It's the aftermath, the working through, the struggle to remember, the hope that I don't forget, the realization that I might, and the journey to continue even when I don't have it all figured out, and maybe never will.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's just been One of these days

It's just been One of these days.

One of these days when you gain a flicker of perspective just by waking up in the morning. One of these days when you can breathe, the anxiety of the past doesn't seem quite as heavy and unbearable, and you try again. One of these days where you vow to just, show up for life, because sometimes, it's all you can do.

So I prayed, "A new day. Thank you."

And I journaled, "Again, without notice, I sprung to life at the beeps of my alarm moving, breathing, living. Yesterday was just one of those days, but today will be one of these days:
-a day of deep, cleansing breaths
-a day of water and nourishment
-a day of gratitude and awareness
-a day of wonderful people and opportunity
-a day of movement, playfulness, and dance
-a day of all the good that does reside inside of me, but too often gets shoved aside by deadlines, tasks, comparing myself to others, and self-hatred."

Arriving in class at 7:30am, M.J. Sclerosis patted me on the shoulder, on the shoulder! Ya know like you would someone you can tolerate, or at the least someone you are warning of things to come, either way. The girl sitting next to me looked shock at his sudden endearment towards me, motioned a 2-thumbs up, and mouthed, He likes you. Then, get this, he moved a large assignment from Friday to Wednesday. Wednesday!

Next class, same teacher, I am informed that the humongous project I have due on Friday, which originally involved a 20-minute Power point presentation and 8-page paper about Ellen White, using at least 7 of her books, has magically been downsized to ONLY the Power point presentation. Ha, easy, shmeezy!

It occurred to me that the weight of the world did not seem to be pounding me into the ground like a tent stake anymore, just from the lightening of my class load. It does not take a high school diploma to realize that, when I am overwhelmed or frustrated by some aspect of life, I immediately start recollecting all the things, even minutely difficult to add to my list of woes. I sort of bury myself in junk to make my seemingly huge problem have some company, or something.

It's been one of these days. The kind of day when you see more clearly, when you forgive yourself more quickly, you feel like time is your friend, and walk slower. It's been one of these days when life looks manageable, I can see the (temporary) end in sight, hope showers on me like a garden hose spray in the summer, breathing takes less effort, and a smile creeps on to my face.

Aww, one of these days.