Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jeremy

I rarely blog about my boyfriend, Jeremy. I realized recently that I've not done so because part of me feels guilty for how happy he makes me. Maybe that's my own jealous memories of watching happy couples together that has kept me from talking openly about our relationship. I've been the third wheel for most of my life. I know that feeling. Also, some things just don't need to be blogged. But mostly, we have something good and gosh darnit I want to tell people about it.





Jeremy and I met at Union. I didn't care much for him at all. We didn't interact much. He went to Venezuela second semester and the next year I went to Cambodia. I didn't think about him at all until an email appeared in my inbox part way into my Cambodian experience. As I tell him, at that point, I was desperate for interaction, so I replied. His email mostly said, "Hey, how's Cambodia?" And by now we know how I would've answered that question. I needed a friend. We emailed back and forth throughout the year. Toward the end he said, "We should hang out when you're back at Union." To which I thought, "Yeah right." But he meant it.


When I returned to Union, confused and overwhelmed by what just happened, Jeremy became my friend. It was refreshing to start a relationship knowing each other's dirt. We had talked and he'd read my blog. He knew of my doubts, my eating disorder, everything. When I needed to talk he would listen and say, "I'm sorry. How can I help?" While he could have said, "I don't get it. This is so simple. I'm not sure what the big deal is. Just stop thinking about it." He didn't say that. I wanted to learn more.

His friends adopted me and it was nice to have friends around. More than just nice company though, something intrigued me about this guy. He contradicted much of what I held to be true about myself, about life.


I liked plans, he liked lack-of-plans.
I strove for perfection, he strove for balance.
I was critical and unforgiving of myself, he was accepting and kind.
I wanted to be on-time, he didn't mind being late.
I wanted A's that make the grade, he was okay with C's that get degrees.
I wanted to get up at 5am and work-out, he wanted to sleep in until 9am.
I wanted to eat salads and tofu, he wanted to eat Totino's pizzas and donuts.

I tend to be one extreme, he tends to be the other, but in the end, we balance each other out well.

I help him get work done, he helps me take breaks.
I help him consider other people, he helps me take care of myself.
I encourage him to make a list once in awhile, he encourages me to burn a couple of mine.

We're good for each other.



We started dating right after he graduated from Union with IRR when he left for Southern to get his masters in outdoor education. We've been dating for almost a year now and 80% of that has been long distance. I suppose there are worse times to date someone long distance with cell phones, email, text messages, and Skype, but still, I complain. It's hard. It's not ideal. But he is completely and totally worth it.

In all these differences, we find common ground. We want to help people. We want to travel. We want to live on purpose. We want to have fun. We want to learn. We want to learn to love better. We want to live simple lives. We'd be okay without TV's, cell phones, and the chaos of the city. We want to be intentional. We want to be honest. We want to live well.

He makes me feel beautiful.
He listens.
He hears me.
He doesn't freak out over "girl issues."
He prays.
He welcomes.
He calms my anxious fears.

This is what those love songs are about.
This is what people are talking about.
Ohhhhhhhhhh...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Honesty


Honesty
by Sara Groves

Here in the stillness
where thoughts are born
here in our frailty we're tattered and torn

here in confession
here in our mess
here in the place where we're mostly undressed - mostly

oh honesty, oh honestly, the truth be told for the saving of our soul

here in the corner
where we craft our pain
here in the open we're laying our blame

here in the hallway
here behind doors
here in the places we wage our private wars

oh honesty, oh honestly, the truth be told for the saving of our soul

Only the truth and truthfulness can save us now/ only the truth and truthfulness can save us
Only the truth and truthfulness can save us now/ only the truth and truthfulness can save us
can save us now

Dear God,

I'm restraining myself from blaming you. Why is that always my first reaction? I suppose in a way you are as helpless as anyone else I could write a letter to right now. For some reason, it just makes the most sense to talk to you.

God's will? Ick. What is that? Who decides that? No really. Who? Because it seems to me that who decides God's will is whoever is preaching the loudest. Change happens based on whoever cares enough to speak up the most. I'm not so sure the Bible has much to say about "God's will" besides the fact that God is inherently good and evil is....well, evil. So is God's will that life is always good.

I imagine that if I had kids I would never create scenarios in which bad things happened to them just for the heck of it and if I did, those kids would be taken away from me. It's sick and demented to purposefully inflict pain on someone just so they can learn a lesson and reach for God. When I want to hear from a friend, or when I wish they would meet me half-way because I'm trying to help, I would never, ever wish bad things for them so that in the chaos of trouble they'd turn to me. I don't think you do that either.

I think you started the world and you have to play by your own rules, the rules you put in place. Gravity for example. You are not going to defy gravity so I don't crack my tailbone ice skating. Strapping sharp blades to my feet was my first mistake. I wouldn't expect you to bail me out of that one. Or another rule, like free choice. If I choose to walk that road, lie, steal, cheat; you can't suddenly fix my messes and make it all right. You have to play by your own rules and forcing yourself into my mind and manipulating reality would be going against the free-choice rule, which means you have to sit and watch, half-expecting me to blame you when it's all over.

I don't know that you are really shutting doors and opening windows. I wonder sometimes if you are as amazed and anxious about what's going to come next. Are we all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see how this is going to end? Because if you were playing puppets up there, I have to say I'd be pretty disappointed.

I don't get "God's will". I don't get your will. I feel like people hide behind it when they don't want to make decisions. I feel like people hide behind it when they do want to make decisions. Because either they'll say, "I don't know the answer to that question. I'm waiting for God's will." Or they'll say, "I know God's will and he told me to..." Yeah, either one feel like cop outs to me.

How does anyone really know your will? Can they read your mind and I missed that spiritual gift? How do they really know? I don't think they do. I think they can speculate, but no one could ever know for sure. So, if we can't know, what do we do?

I propose that we keep on living.

I know, revolutionary right? God you aren't calling me on the phone or writing, "Heather, make a right at the next light!" in the clouds. So what's a girl to do? I'm going to keep living. I'm going to keep making the best decisions I can. I'm going to keep seeking advice and encouragement from good people I love and respect. I'm going to be willing to listen. I'm going to try to seek the best options for everyone, avoiding my urge to be selfish. Overall I'm going to seek balance. I'm going to do the best with what I've got and hope, "have faith" if you will, that you want me to use the freedom of choice, the brain that you have given me.

I may be way off. This is where I'm at. I'm not sure there is a "right" or "wrong" answer. So until someone comes along after 2,000+ years and says, "Gadzooks! I've finally figured out God's will!" (which I would doubt them if they did), then I guess I just need to keep on living and seeking balance. Because you are not what I thought you were, and that's okay, because what I thought was not true, and a God of grace and humanity makes much more sense to me.

Heather

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hunger

I hunger for a normal relationship with food.

Just that sentence says a lot.The fact that I have a relationship with food. I'm not sure everyone does. Do people even think about it?

I'm jealous of a lot of guys I know. They eat because they need the energy, it's time, or they feel like it. Food isn't loaded with emotional depth and heaviness. Food is food. Wouldn't that be nice?

I wonder what normal people think when they sit down to a meal. Because I'm thinking, "Ughh, don't make me do it." The nerves rage, the anxiety flares up and I'm left at the table like a stubborn 6 year-old who doesn't want to eat her dinner.

I wonder what it feels like to be full. To eat and stop eating and think nothing of it. I wonder what it feels like to not count the bites that enter my mouth. To not think so hard about each calorie. To let food be food. To eat and move on without thinking continuously about what I ate for the next 2 hours. I wonder what it would be like to not count other people's calories, "Two egg salad sandwiches, Naked juice, pumpkin pie: at least 900 calories." That's not normal.

I know this isn't normal. I know I wish I was different. That point within us that is supposed to be similar in all mammals that says, "I'm full"? Yeah, I don't know where that is. It's like a rackety train, whizzing by, and I'm trying to jump on the "Full" car, the one where I'm supposed to land, but rarely do. Too often, I miss and get crushed underneath the train. Or get tired and watch the train pass on by. Either way it amazes me that for some people the act of eating doesn't involve the risk of jumping on a moving train. They just eat and that's it. No stunts necessary.

I wonder if I even enjoy the taste of food. I wonder what my favorite foods are. I like some things for sure: cereal, pb&j, and mac and cheese. I like kid foods. But often, someone will comment on what I'm eating and ask, "Does that even taste good?" as they turn up their nose. And I've had to say, "I don't know." Food hasn't been a source of enjoyment for me for a long time. Eating is what I do to get through the day.

This morning Liz, my yoga instructor, said, again, yet it still seems to intrigue me, "Trust the earth to hold you." HA! Yeah right. Sure, I can lay on a mat in a warm, safe room and trust the earth to hold me, but I DO NOT trust the universe too much for me outside of that room. I wish I did. It would make a good mantra.

If I trusted the earth to hold me I wouldn't manipulate my body to look how I think it should.
If I trusted the earth to hold me I wouldn't think so hard about food, because well, it's not necessary.
If I trusted the earth to hold me I wouldn't hold the burdens of the world on my shoulders, as if they are mine to fix.
If I trusted the earth to hold me I would relax more, breathe more, laugh more, and sleep more. I would do things just because they are fun.
I would linger a little longer.
I would sleep in.
I would be more present in a life that too often seems to weigh me down and beat me up, the problem is, I'm usually the one doing the beating.

Last night Ben and Ashley helped me sort out my thoughts again. They help me get the gremlins out of my head. If the gremlins stay inside, they do a lot of damage. They need room to run. They need to get out. They need to stay out.

There always seems to be "something" I'm thinking abuot, "something" that is weighing me down, "something" that takes me out of life and into my head, "something" that I can't seem to stop thinking about and can focus on little else. Sometimes it's the eating disorder, sometimes it's my questions about God, lately it's been a lot of anger towards men (a whole 'nother blog), sometimes it's questions about the future. These lingering questions make me uncomfortable and they take me out of living my own life.

Ashley made the preposterous suggestion, like she has before, "What if you didn't have to have the answers to all these questions in order to keep living?"

Why is it so difficult for me to accept that I can't be perfect?
Why can't I say, "I don't know and that's okay"?
Why am I often stuck on "something" that keeps me from living?

I hunger for peace and contentment.

I can make mistakes.
I can do the next right thing.
I can trust my body.
I can enjoy food.
I can ask for help.
I can learn how to eat.
I can learn how to breathe.
I can embrace simplicity.
I can nourish my body, mind, and spirit.
I can pretend I am normal, even when it feels miles away.
I can trust the earth to hold me.

Amen.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dear God,

I'm not sure what to do with you. Dimensions and visualizations fail me. What do you do anyway? I'm lost on "God's will." That will probably always be up for debate; what that really means and all. I figure in the last 2,000+ years if the billions of people that have come before me haven't got you figured out, I probably won't either. It's hard for me to accept that.

It's one of those days when I feel like I'm about to break down. One more idea, burden, or thought to settle down on my shoulders and I'm going to crumble and it's not going to be pretty. I'm not sure it's much to look at now either. I wouldn't classify "getting by day to day" as thriving. It's just, getting by. Maybe my definition of "normal" needs revising. Maybe this is living. I don't know.

God, I'm tired. I'm tired of feeling this way, of being this way. I wish things were different. I wish I was different. Anger doesn't fuel my thoughts as much as exhaustion does. I feel like someone kicked me around in my sleep last night. The "devil" and "Satan" seem mythical and pretend to me. But I can get down with "evil." I see evil around me. Lately, it's been suffocating. Something provokes me to fear and I can't put my finger on it, but I'm scared and confused.

It seems I can't finish one thought or fight one compulsion, before falling head-first into another.
It seems that the weight of the world really is on my shoulders and this imaginary audience (who most likely exist only in my head) sits, holding their breath, expecting for me to fail.
It seems that I'm expecting to be pummeled. To stay down. Because getting up is just too hard.

I want someone to blame. I want to become more violent than I even know how and scream and hit and cry too, until I let it all out, until this makes sense. My wise mind tells me that by the end of my tantrum, I'll probably just be weak and dry, not having made any progress at all.

I want answers. I want a break. I want peace. I'm wondering if any of those things even exist.

Allison Lamon says, "If we seek emotional gratification from God without committing 'for better or for worse,' then we are trying to have the spiritual equivalent of premarital sex with God. A fling. Marriage vows do not read 'as long as our excitement shall last' because than can and will change."

Am I in this 'for better or for worse'? I feel like I'm getting better. I'm much less angry with you than I used to be. That's something. Maybe I need a positive outlet for my anger, because blaming you doesn't actually make me feel better, just more alone.

Thanks for good people.
Thanks for fresh air.
Thanks for book stores.
Thanks for Fridays.

I ask protection for my family and friends.
I ask peace and contentment within myself.
I ask justice for the voiceless, and peace to the hurting.

I think we're all hurting.

I am grateful, I am also in need. Prayer isn't the magic trick I thought it was when I was ten. I thought I could say the "right" words, in the "right" way and then I'd get what I wanted. I'm not expecting answers. I'm expecting this to take time. I'm not sure if prayers means your actually going to do anything at all. Maybe we're both just sitting, watching, waiting to see how this all pans out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dear Twenty-Two,

Well, here we are. I had no idea what this would look like. But this is what it is. This is where I'm at. This is who I am.

I wonder if there will ever come a time in my life when life makes sense. Maybe it's a fleeting few minutes where the planets align, the airs smells of freshly zested lemons, and everyone smiles genuinely when I walk down the sidewalk.

I'm searching for that dang, illusive "Pause" button. Do you think I'll find it? I've heard it said that women and men can be compared like computers. Men open a window, complete the task, close it and move on to the next. Women are checking email, Facebook, chatting with 3 others on Gmail chat, balancing the checkbook on Quicken, while completeting an online quiz.

Another comparison is compartmental male waffles and interwoven female spaghetti. True that.

I constantly have what feels like 43 different windows open on my computer screen. I can't take it one at a time because each window constantly seems to require my attention.I can't leave a conversation unresolved and then put it aside until we can talk again. No, no. I will continue thinking about it, speculating, guessing, pondering.

There are things I want to figure out in my life, but I don't get a grade for them, so they don't get done. No one is really counting on me to explore my spirituality. No one gives me a grade at the end of the semester for healing from an eating disorder. I have questions and things I want to learn and explore and it feels, as of recently, those things will never be done.

I didn't know this is what twenty-two would look like. I'm not taking it back, I don't regret where I'm at, I'm just surprised, I guess. Growing up, and throughout high school twenty-two was older, but not "old." Twenty-two was wiser and had life figured out. Twenty-two was put-together and glamorous. Twenty-two was sucessful and happy. I looked up to people in their twenties and now I wish I could reach back in time to sixteen year-old Heather and say, "Slow down, my dear."

I didn't think we'd have wrinkles already. I didn't think I'd be stressing about money. I didn't think that at twenty-two life would be so complicated, so soon. I thought I'd be stylish and comfortable in my body. I thought I'd shine, radiate with all the life inside of me just waiting to burst out. I thought I'd know for sure that whatever I was in college for would be exactly what I was made to do. I thought I'd be more interesting and more adventuresome. I thought things would be different.

But alas, I'm stuck in college. If I'm chasing another year as if it will definitely hold more than the last, I fear I'll always be disappointed. Recently a friend told me, "It's weird, I guess I struggle with being content." I tried to stifle my laughter, but gave up and said, "I've never met a person who doesn't struggle with being content."

So that's where I'm at. Twenty-two.

Today, I'll smile more than yesterday.
Today, I'll soak up the wisdom of Dr. This and Professor That. They have much to say.
Today, I'll resist filling the planner with more...more...more.
Today, I'll take deep breaths. I'll feel my chest as it expands to fill my lungs with air. I'll follow the air as it comes in through my nose and out again.
Today, I'll play and laugh. Just because I can.
Today, I'll hum a little song, that doesn't have a name.
Today, I'll consider that I'm exactly where I need to be and that's good enough.

Because really, twenty-three cannot be postponed. That's just how it works. Give me 365 days. I want them to matter.

You're a good one twenty-two. I'm keeping you around.
Heather

Monday, November 9, 2009

Life into a Corner

"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life; living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness out of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience."

- Henry David Thoreau


See, I'm not the only person looking for a pause button once in awhile.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Islands

There are meaningul, life-changing experiences to be had wherever you reside. My volunteer experience in Cambodia, may be different or similar in ways to someone who went to an island somwhere. I know. I've heard them. But personally, when I was deciding upon where I wanted to go as an international volunteer, the islands were the first place I didn't want to go. I needed space and I wanted to experience a culture dramatically different from my own. Based on stories from my brother, who went to Palau, and other friends of mine, I decided I needed to go someplace different.

So as Jeremy and I talked this morning he asked, "How would your life be different if you had gone to an island?"

Hmmm...

If I had gone to the islands, my blogs would've read differently. More snorkeling and scuba diving. More suntanning and island hopping. Basically, more fun things to do outdoors.

I I had gone to the islands, I would have been surrounded by possibly 20 other college-aged Americans. I would've had an immediate community, instead of searching high and low for 5 months before I found someone, anyone else who was also far from home.

If I had gone to the islands, I would still be going to church. I would still be going through the motions, doing what was expected to be as a born and raised Seventh-day Adventist Christian.

If I had gone to the islands, I would either be over the eating disorder completely or worse than I am now. This one's tricky.

Let's consider: bulimia found in me in Cambodia. I had never struggled with binging and purging before I left. But bulimia found me because of hard times. It wasn't the country, it was my reaction to it. It could've been tough for me in the islands, but again, a certain place is not guaranteed to trigger an addiction, it's the person and their response.

After returning to the States and sitting down with my dietician, I basically said, "What the heck? How did I swing so dramatically from anorexia to bulimia? Am I going crazy?"

Essentially she said, "Well, we are talking mental illnesses....but, no." She told me that 90% of people with eating disorders will likely swing between anorexia and bulimia, sometimes for the rest of their lives, like a pendulum. But 1/3 of them settle happily somewhere in the middle, regaining their lives and practicing normal, healthy eating and exercise habits.

So, while I am not saying it has to be this way, maybe it did for me. Maybe I had to swing to bulimia, in order to experience the other extreme and create a hunger for the center: health. Maybe if I didn't experience bulimia in the islands, it just would've gone there later in my life.

I don't know what the current state of recovery would have been had I gone to the islands or to Cambodia. But I do know, if I had not gone through what I did, I wouldn't be talking publically about it. I wrote blogs for therapy. I was desperate. I needed help so badly, I knew I had to be honest about my situation. Being plopped into Cambodia forced the honesty out of me. It really felt like my only option and I believe I would've suffered more had I not vocalized the truth in my experience.

If I had gone to the islands, I wouldn't be as close to my parents.
If I had gone to the islands, I wouldn't be dating Jeremy.
If I had gone to the islands, I wouldn't be as close to most of the people I now call "friends."

Because it was through the sharing of our experiences--good, bad, ugly--that served as common ground for relationships to be built. I can't even begin to list the friendships I've made in the States because of my time in Cambodia, because we were able to see each other in a different light: as human.

So with that, if I had gone to the islands, I probably would not have written my book. In July that book will be sent out to readers. I can't control what they make of it or what they think of it. But I can be proud of the fact that I feel like I am addressing things that need to be said. Like:
-It's okay to struggle.
-It's okay to have doubts about God.
-It's okay to be honest about where you're at.
-It's okay to be human.

Above all, I want those messages to be sent out and I hope that they are well-received, not because of the country I went to, but because of the valuable lessons I learned there.

This blog is not at all saying that people who go as SM's to the islands are bound to have fun and merriment every day they are there. Our struggles and frustrations come with us. I know and respect the stories that I've heard from students who served there, but, while I NEVER thought I'd say this: In Cambodia I learned specific and valuable lessons that I doubt I would've learned somewhere else and I'm grateful.

(Ha, never thought I'd be writing that sentence two years ago. "Valuable"? Oh brother, I must be going crazy.)