The Body

A kindergarten teacher once asked her students what the purpose of their body was. The classroom’s consensus and precious reply was this: “It’s used to hold our head up.”

Oh, the irony of that perspective. The profound simplicity.

When I was in nursing school (far too long ago) I had to take anatomy and physiology. I straight up consumed every lecture like it was as good as air. I loved it so much I swear I’d go back right now and take it again. I was fascinated by the genius of the machine that our bodies are on a cellular level. (I mean, can I please get a quick shout out for the Krebs Cycle or what?!) Like many of my fellow colleagues, I held several different positions as an RN. In my former glory years, I worked in Pediatrics, Obstetrics, Surgical Intensive Care and Trauma Nursing. I had the fortune to see the body function, heal and sustain mind blowing injuries. I saw countless babies inhale their first breath. In my Trauma days, I saw a man live to tell about the horror of falling thirty feet from a building onto a bar of rebar that impaled itself straight through his skull. I saw the inside of a chest cavity more times than I can count. I can do CPR in my sleep like a BOSS. I’ve seen patients return to an alert state of mind after being comatose for two whole months or more. Our bodies are incredible and they’re forever seeking a state of whole homeostasis (stable equilibrium).

If we stopped for a quick ponder, no doubt, we would all agree that our bodies are intelligent and globally mesmerizing. In the light of my knowledge, experience and education why then did I allow my mind to reduce the sole purpose of my body to: appear “thin”? Why did I lose the respect and wonder of its actual functions and endless abilities? At what turn did I begin to believe the shallow societal notion that our size and shape are our vehicle for securing other people’s opinion of us? That’s such a slap in the face to the wonderment of the body’s near indescribable capabilities.

I’ve lived with a (self-limiting) narrative that I’m as good, desirable, acceptable and respectable as I am thin. As if “thinness” is the showcase for my worth; the strength of my internal locus of control; or the reflection of my self discipline. As if “thinness” equals beauty somehow and suggests that my body is all that and then some. As if “thinness” somehow secures my seat at the table of life one row ahead of where I’d be otherwise. I can hardly get over how shallow that sounds. I can barely stomach how narrow that perspective is and the realization that it ruled my life for decades.

We have to fight a little bit. We have to wrestle a lot a bit. We have to subscribe again and again and AGAIN to the truth that we are so much more valuable than our size or shape. I have two daughters and two sons. When I think of how beautiful and priceless they are I want to protect them and filter any influence over their belief system in their worth like a raging caged animal. I want to stand at the gates of their thoughts and arrest anything that will mess with their sense of how precious they are. I would fight to the death to protect them. I would need massive restraint as I’d nearly rip the throat out of anything that spoke crap over them. FACT: I am worth that same level of intensity. How can I convince my children of something I don’t believe for my own self? I have learned repeatedly that kids can smell a fake from a mile away.

People- please hear me. There’s nothing easy about going against the grain of society. I think we all know that full well. I let my mind be water boarded by shallow lies for sooooo damn long. There is no time like the present to stand up for myself and to get vigilant about protecting what thoughts I believe to be true about my value. I have children to model authentic self confidence for. I have WHOLE people to care for. My body, in full view, is a total machine y’all. It is working around the clock for me. In the same way that our bodies are infinitely more complex than simply holding our heads up, our worth is tied to so much more than our size and appearance. There genuinely is NO room to believe otherwise.

I believe in US.

 

 

 

Suffering, Struggles and Trials

I’ve just finished reading Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s a harrowing account of the atrocities suffered by himself and millions of others in concentration camps. I have to say, that I tread lightly when even sharing my perspective on this read. The suffering described in these pages is epic, and unjust to say the very least. The pure, unending horror suffered by these precious individuals is more than my heart can bear. I literally hate that the experiences described in this book were suffered by any human on the planet in anyone’s lifetime. Sorrow bypasses my soul and grips my spirit. I cannot fathom the ripping of a man’s soul that took place as they were treated day after day after year lower than the value of animals.

I am enamored by many phrases throughout this book, but one that struck my core was this:

“The prisoner who had lost his faith in the future- his future- was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future he also lost in his spiritual hold; he let himself decline to mental and physical decay” (Frankl, page 74).

Do not lose the will to overcome and to power through your obstacles. Sometimes life and its unexpected tragedies and trials seems to attempt to swallow us whole. They mount before us like a mountain to climb and they call to our will to conquer them. I think of my friends who have lost a child through tragedy or illness or miscarriage. I think of the many friends who have experienced the brokenness of a marriage they thought would last forever. I think of a friend who has lost not one, but two loving partners in her lifetime before she was even forty years old. I think of the friend who after years of dedication decided to quit her job in search of deeper meaning only to find herself perpetually unemployed and the despair that has stirred for her. I think of the woman in me that has battled an all-consuming eating disorder and absolute mental turmoil for decades. I think of a woman I know who was raped, carried a baby to term, only to have him murdered by her fiancé through his anger while she was away. I think of a woman who was beaten repeatedly by a man who swore his love to her until death did them part. I think of the many patients I cared for as a Trauma Nurse back in the day. I think of my career as a sexual assault nurse and I remember the hundreds of times I was called to work to complete an exam. I think of so many things that people have suffered and my heart wants to break wide open with tears that rival Niagara Falls. Suffering in this lifetime is inherently unavoidable.

That said, may I tenderly suggest this: Please, do not lose courage. Do not quiet the small inner voice that wants to tell you that you are strong and worthy and wise for the way forward. Turn up that volume. Your life holds deep meaning and you matter to the people of this world. It would not be the same without you. Your suffering matters. It matters deep and wide and there is room enough for your tears and disappointment. Do not, under any circumstance, lose hope in the fact that you matter. There are people in your life that are better off for having you in it. There are people in your life that feel comfort because of your presence. There are people, like me, who simply sit and ponder what you have overcome and genuinely feel a surge of hope stir when I choose to face my own mountain. Believe vehemently in your future as a survivor.

He who has a “why” to live can bear with almost any “how”. -Victor Frankl

I believe in us, our worth and the power to overcome our suffering.

 

The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

This is a road traveled by many. So many that my mind floods with examples…. and empathy. From failed marriages, to the loss of a loved one, paralyzation, disease, miscarriage, loss of a job, and so on. Life can be so cruel and dark and lonely at times. Life can bring great joy, but it also serves us with tear-jerking, soul-wringing, gut-wrenching pain and trauma. We wonder how we survive at all sometimes.

I think of the heartache we encounter. And I can’t help but weep. I think of our response to it all. I think of our process through it all. How do we get from Point A to Point B when the bottom has simply dropped out? I don’t even feel like I have the authority to answer that question. So, I won’t. But, I do know what deep, dark places feel like. I know what the vultures of our joy sound like over head. I know what starvation for saving and a longing for hope’s rescue to come feels like. There’s a crazed desperation inside. A cavern so deep that it simply can’t be filled with one wave of the wand. The valley…. is a valley. It’s a deep dip in life’s surface that carves you out hollow. It’s cold and vacant and void of life at every turn. It’s a dark pace and you long so deeply to see a bright red exit sign. Only, there’s no exit sign, just a dimly lit path ahead. A  path that must be taken.

The valley of the shadow of death is real. So real.  There’s an accompanying white knuckle grip that circumstantial change will come. That a miracle will occur and life will begin again… whole and untouched by adversity. Why does a God so great and kind stir such torrential desperate waters in our soul? How does a God so powerful and all-knowing allow such ailments to visit us? Again, I don’t know the full answer to this, but I do know what resilience and hope looks like. It looks hot like a fire in a desert that warms your coldest places. It tastes sweet and bitter simultaneously. And the cry inside for rescue raises an octave or two as we throw our hands in surrender admitting our weakness to prevail. Adversity brings us to our knees, to the end of ourselves.

How do we begin again out of the hollow places where hope has been deferred?

We choose.

We choose to take the next, best, right step forward down that dimly lit path. We choose to believe in our worth and we anchor strong in our destiny. We sometimes get a tattoo or six to remind us who we are. We brand our hearts with truth that no matter how deep the valley we can RISE. In one, small step at a time forward we can find ourselves through the valley and at the base of a mountain ready to climb. We are weakened by tragedy, but ready to climb because we know now what surrender feels like and what slow motion looks like.

We choose.

We choose to believe in the power that resides within us to write our own story. To turn the page when the time is right. To put pen to paper and script our way forward. To write our way out. Hope is a powerful driver for the way forward. Hope in ourselves. Hope in a God that’s orchestrating all things for our good. Hope in our neighbor and friend and even enemy. Hope that the view on the top of that mountain to climb was worth every second in the valley of death.

Hope is the path forward. It’s a cold and broken hallelujah. With HOPE we can choose to rise. Be stirred today. The path may be dimly lit, but take one, small step forward at a time. You are WORTH the rising. The sun is coming for you. The mountain top is waiting for you. There are beautiful things to see just ahead for you. There is a filling of joy and peace and resolve and strength coming to fill the hollow places. Stir your hope today. This world is a better place so long as you are in it.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” -Proverbs 13:12

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