Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Loss Demands to be Felt

I went and visited the street where my sister's fate was decided today. I guess I was feeling something, loss, fear, grief? And I just wanted to see it. It's hard to avoid a single street you've lived no more than 20 minutes from for 26 years but some how I had managed it.

Today I stopped avoiding it. I parked my car, got out and stood right there, right in the middle of that deadly street.

You know what's amazing? Even 20+ years later I could stand there for 10 minutes without a single car passing. How does a thing like this happen? How does a little girl die, where I can stand without interruption? How is that even possible? It should not be possible on a street like this. A perfectly ordinary one-way-street in a smallish town. Does anyone who lives here still remember?

Could you be any more ordinary?

Despite my desire not to remember I walked right to the final spot where she stood on her own two feet. There was no marker there. I looked disbelieving at the pavement. How did I remember? How did I know? I expected there to be something there, some clue, or memorial, to see blood still marking the pavement. I'm not sure why I expected the earth to hold some marker for this lost soul. But nothing was there. The ground betrayed the loss in its normalcy. Just as this quiet street had betrayed life. Only in my mind was that spot irrevocably marked. Where she had stood before the impact, the place where I remember her body laying on the pavement. It was as clear as the day it happened. But only for me. No one else would remember, other than the driver, no one else was there. What was she thinking? How long was she aware? Where is the driver now? What did he carry through his life?

Reflexively I picture my own blissfully little ignorant bouncy six year old. She's about the same size now as my sister was when breath left her body. Unimaginable.

I looked up from Blair's spot and instinctively looked to where I had been standing, an 8 year old witnessing the unthinkable. It was as if her gaze was holding mine. I took my place in the story. My feet cemented there on the ground now as they had been so many years ago, as unmovable now as then. As helpless now as then. The view was the exact same, nothing had changed.
Our ordinary home, still there.

It is simply ludicrous. How many minutes have I been standing on this same street, in these same places without so much as a cyclist, let alone a car passing? 

Loss has no logic. It refuses reason. It can be buried, or memorialized, but it will be felt. Time will pass, but it is a lie that it heals. Nothing changes. It will demand to be felt whenever it chooses. 

Blair, I still see you. In my daughter's sass, walk, when she dons her leotard and attempts cartwheels in the middle of the living room, in her love of animals and on Granada Ave. You are not forgotten.

Monday, September 5, 2016

My Non Political Inspiration

If you have talked with me at any length you probably know that politics aren't really my thing. I have opinions because, well, hello, it's me. But largely I try to keep a wide berth between me and the political realm. I have some very good reasons for this, centering around where I believe our real hope and trust should be rooted. But unless you're using a pulpit to preach politics (in which case, shut up, your pulpit is for Jesus) I'm probably not going to have much to say about your political opinions.

But there's something going on about which I need to speak up. This is such an unpopular opinion I hesitate to say it out loud.

Hillary Clinton's nomination has done absolutely nothing to inspire me as a woman.

Maybe perhaps it will have some inspirational effect on my daughter or step-daughter. If so, great but I don't know. I'm not them. Will they believe in their ability to do anything as women more, because they grew up in the age of a female president? I doubt it. I feel like I'm a bad woman for admitting that, like somehow I have betrayed my entire gender. I don't mean to really, it's just not that big of a deal for me personally.

I probably find it less inspirational than the average woman because in most all of my vocational pursuits I have been the only woman in the room.

I have been repeatedly told that I would never get a job because I'm a woman.

I have been told that pursuing higher education in my field is a fool's errand and I was getting myself further into debt for no reason.

I have even been told that my pursuit of a male-dominated field was irresponsible of me as a mother.

I have had people lie about what I was going to school for because it was more palatable (for them) to say therapist than to say pastor.




And a long time ago I just stopped listening to any of it. I figured whatever I was supposed to do with my life, whatever I felt like I was being called to had nothing to do with other people's opinions. I knew I wasn't in charge of the outcome, it was just my job to stay true to the path. So, I kept going, through my bachelor's and then my master's and now on to who knows what.  But this isn't about me. It's about Hillary.

And frankly, I look at her as a woman and feel, well nothing. Nada. She's just one more likely corrupt politician who made her way to the top. That's not incredibly surprising for me. Of course she did. She had the money backing her, the political system and her cheating husband. Sounds like a normal day in politics to me.

I'm happy for her on a human level, I guess. As happy as anyone can be for someone who's ideals are so vastly different than mine. As happy as I can be for a woman who has stayed married to a man who's treatment of women I find abhorrent.  By association I find her acceptance of him to be a repulsive form of tolerance of how he treats women. But nonetheless, she is a human and this appears to be her dream, to be president so, "Yay, Hillary," you got the nom. But also, no, not yay for me. Not yay for women, at least not this one. The things you have tolerated in your marriage is not an example I want others to follow. You have achieved a lot politically, but at a cost I wouldn't want my daughter to pay.

I have believed for as long as I have had breath in these lungs that the right woman could do the job of running our country. Her nomination didn't change that already held belief. What I have struggled to believe is that our close-minded voting population will ever put a female in office. Her nomination has done nothing to convince me that isn't true. If she were elected, would I be more proud as a woman? Would I stand taller and say "Look, see, she did that! So can I!" No, I doubt it. I already know I could do it, or at least a woman with money, my fortitude and a better grasp on the political/economic/justice system could.

As a woman I find my inspiration in the real women in my life who do the things that people say they can't. I find my inspiration in the women in my life who are deans of colleges, who I know personally and are no less female, no less fantastic in their role than the guy down the hall.  I'm inspired by the female pastors I know who love their congregations enough to set boundaries with them. Who will say "no" and aren't afraid to because they're a woman and someone might not like that. When I see women stand up to their abusers and say no more, that makes my heart beat fast with pride. The women who I am friends with who push me to step out of my own self-doubt and self-flagellation. They make me proud to be a woman. They model what is like to have one another's backs and not descend into cattiness. THAT inspires me! My little girl inspires me when she decides she likes to watch race cars and paint her nails; tough if that's not what girls are supposed to do. My step-daughter inspires me when she stands up against bullies and won't tolerate her friends being treated poorly, when she doesn't keep quiet because she's a girl. That inspires me.

I find my inspiration everywhere, but mostly I find it right in front of my face. Will I still be surprised if I slay some of the giant goals I have before me in my life, "as a woman"? Yes, I must be honest, I'll be surprised. After all, I'm just a woman right? I have to mother, do the laundry, make the meals, and buy the groceries. But that is when I betray women. When I begin to believe that things aren't possible for me because I am a woman and I have to give up being me in order to be a mother or partner, daughter or friend, that is when I fail. I only have a shot a being an inspiration or being inspired when I live out the fullness of who I am.  That's the only shot anyone has at being worthy of being called an inspiration, male or female. This is ESPECIALLY true when, who I am makes other people uncomfortable. When I embrace this false timidity that tells me to be quiet and just do the dishes, I stop being a female I want my children to emulate. When I don't speak my mind in a room full of men because they weren't looking for my opinion, they just wanted a token female, then I betray women. I lose my right to their honor. I am not representing them as I should be. When I vary the standards to which I hold my children based upon their gender I am failing to be anything close to inspirational. When I don't speak up to a man or even a male child because he's just a guy and he won't get it I fail both women and the male in front of me.

But when I go hard in the directions of my dreams even when it means my kids eat frozen pizza two nights in a week, I model something I hope they replicate in their own lives. When I say no to someone I love because it's the right thing to do, I inspire others to be more honest and truthful. When I am vulnerable with those I love, showing them both my softness and my strength, I teach them that being a woman isn't being one particular thing.

So no, Hillary hasn't done much for me as a woman. But so many of you, who I already know are doing so much for me to help me believe that being a woman is an amazing thing. Thank you so much for that.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Open Your Mouth

I despise when I find upon waking that the insecurities which plagued me in the night have followed me to the morning. The discomfort has not vanished before my morning cup of coffee. The steam warms my face, anxiety still just below the surface. I look out over my backyard, listening for the birds, crickets, traffic, the morning sounds, and I long for a reset button. I see the dew on the grass, everything looks fresh and washed. I want to be washed, for soap and water to have the power to make my discomfort dissipate. I want the solution to stopping the feelings to be simplistic, rudimentary even. Take this pill, pet this dog, get 8 hours of sleep, say this prayer and voila, "Look! They're gone. All better." My insecurities have a nasty habit of sticking around.

It seems that so much of the ick of life requires talking to get rid of it.

You have needs? You're going to have to tell someone. Ugh, needs. Who wants to need anything from anyone? Not sure why but other people suck at guessing that shit.

Feeling scared? You're going to have to tell someone. You may need to ask someone to be with you in it. Gross! Who wants to do that?!

Isolation, inadequacy, vulnerability, hurt feelings, the solution always seems to lie in opening one's mouth.

For someone as highly private as me, that's problematic.

My ego has warned me about what a terrible idea opening my mouth is. It has cautioned me against speaking. I have listened.

My ego knows (hell my mind does too) that we are *****this**** close to ceasing to exist if we share those nasty parts of ourselves with other people. Those less than palatable parts of us that we don't even like, need not be mentioned. No one else needs to be burdened with them. If we tell other people about them, well you might as well go crawl in a hole now, because no one else is going to put up with that shit. Certainly, no one will want to be around you anymore.

So, I don't do it. I don't talk. Why would I? I hate talking about me. Ideas, yes! Theology, yes! My kids, yes! Goals, dreams, fitness, yes! My emotions, fuck you, back up! Who do you think you are? I'm pretty sure, my "fuck you, back up" vibe is always on level 10. People are pretty aware of that and since they like their heads to remain on their shoulders they don't ask. They back up. And if you don't ask me; I promise I'm not going to voluntarily tell you. All of this further perpetuates my ability not to talk, and increases my isolation.

I have insulated myself against vulnerability. I have cast myself as a resilient individual. I tell bits and pieces of my life story so that people know I am one thing, and that thing is strong. I weave the story so at the end the conclusion they draw about me lies far away from my possible emotional response to anything that ever happened. Why would we talk about that anyway? I make sure they land in this place of awe, where the hearer has only one possible conclusion. "Shannon must be a beast, she's unbeatable. No way I could have survived what she has."

Because if the hearer is convinced that the predominant thing I am is strong, than they don't ever have to consider how sad I must have been. If they're overwhelmed by my power, than they never need consider how weak and afraid I could be.

I have lived these years thinking I am one thing, striving to be that thing, because being that thing meant surviving. That was the path: be strong, stoic, unshakable.

Now there's this awareness on the edges of my consciousness that I'm not nearly as stoic as I think I am. I have far more emotions than I would like to admit. I am even quite possibly, (still not ready to admit this, ***take a breath Shannon*** whew) sensitive. I deplore sensitivity in myself! I hate being that way! I deliberately avoided ever being friends with females because I knew their capacity to wound me emotionally was far greater than my male friends. If I didn't talk to them, they couldn't hurt me. And if they didn't hurt me than I wouldn't end up crying in my bedroom about someone's comment about my house, my butt, my kids or my cooking. <~ All of which I still think is stupid and a waste of time, when I could be being a productive member of society.

But emotions have come for me, like it or not. I was very comfortable 10 years ago with my emotional map. I only ever felt two things: happy, or angry. I knew how to control and channel those emotions and where to put them. Now all this freaking spiritual work, all this therapy and step work, has me experiencing emotions for which I barely have names. This part of my personality, this sensitive little flower wants to be heard now. God, she annoys the shit out of me. Getting all offended when she gets ignored. Unsure if she should talk to that group of people because she doesn't fit in. If you yell at her, she's probably going to cry. If she thinks you were going to yell at her, she will definitely cry. This little flower part of my personality has more emotions than my daughter has dress up accessories. And I have no idea what to do with her. I have tried shutting her up. It doesn't work. I have tried returning to the two emotional map I had previously, but my awareness has increased to the point where that is no longer possible. I have tried placating her with running, lifting, chocolate, alone time. She just cries, gawd it's irritating! She's there when I go to bed at night feeling scared and less than, she's still there when I wake up in the morning wondering if she'll be loved today.  I find her irritating, and completely unlovable. I'm convinced that she's the part of me that makes me weak. She's the part of me that will lead to my love, my kids, my friends to rejecting me. She is the crack in the facade of my strength and I'm scrambling to figure out how to fill that crack.

Wisdom tells me that filling the crack is not the path. The crack is how the light gets in. Wisdom tells me that although it feels like these emotions are going to make me break into 1000 minuscule pieces never to be whole again, that only by breaking will I ever be whole. Wisdom tells me that the delicate little flower part of me isn't trying to destroy me (IT STILL FEELS LIKE IT!) but rather she's trying to expand my capacity to love. But I have always believed that annoying people are the ones who need things. My role is to be the helper, to support those needy little fucks. Which led me to never needing anything myself. I'm supposed to give, not to take. Especially when I have no idea what I need and taking doesn't even make any sense to me. This little flower part of me has taken warrior Shannon by the hand and is trying to show her the way. Warrior Shannon is throwing an epic 3 year old level tantrum about it.

Somehow after all of my years on this planet, the most terrifying thing I could do is open my mouth and share something uncomfortable I'm feeling. That is still the place where I feel more at risk for danger than anywhere else. The little flower is promising me it'll be worth it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pushed out of the Comfort Zone

Often when we think of God we have this image of the one who protects, hides me in the shadow of his wings kind of God. We want our God to be the one who makes us safe. Our protector, our provider, our parent. This world is terrifying with all its violence and uncertainty. It leaves us constantly wondering. Will we be safe, will those we love, where there be enough, will my job be there tomorrow or will there even be a job for me? What happens next is never a guarantee and we want our God to shelter us from all of that. We long for his comfort and I believe he gives it. He reassures us that yes, this world is chaotic but he is constant. This world cannot be trusted, but he will be here. But I have found something else present in my relationship with God. 

He will not leave me in the cleft of the rock hiding forever. God does not believe that it is in my best interests to be constantly sheltered, hidden, and not fully present in this world. Let me just tell you, I find that infuriating! I like the shelter. I want to hide. I would much rather be a child with God, protected, easily provided for, with a to do list that leads to my betterment each day. I have not found that to be the way God works in my life. 

I have found God is the one out in front of me pushing me to become, a more whole version of me. He has no time to pander to my fears, reassuring me and making me complacent behind some white picket fence life. God wants the best for me. He wants me to be the most whole version of me. 

At some point, the foundation of my relationship with God became solid. I trusted him. I have found now that trust is there for me, he is ready to get to work. His work looks mostly like him being the one that's pushing out from behind the shelter of wings. He is done pandering to my fears. He's ready for me to live a whole life as a whole person and he doesn't want to waste his time working with half of an available Shannon. Can you blame him? He wants me to become all of me. 

I'm not so sure about this. 

I'm rather used to my masks, my insecurities, my ego. I'm rather comfortable hiding behind the labels life, others and I have placed upon myself. I'm not to sure about risk still. It doesn't seem like a good idea. After all, I have small children for whom I need to provide. I'm comfortable enough here. Doesn't God know that now's the time when the salaries and the 401-ks need to roll in. After all, I'm running out of time. I'm getting older, I need to plan and such.  

Yes, he knows. He knows exactly how much time I am or am not running out of. So understandably he doesn't have time to play dancing around my insecurities any longer. SMH, this is highly frustrating. 

I know that God knows me. I know that he shields and protects me in ways that are still completely unseen by me. But God also seems to have this plan for me that I just can't see at all. That darkly lit glass we're supposed to be seeing through? It's not even darkly lit for me, it's just completely dark. I have no idea where this path God is pushing me on is taking me. None of this seems like a good idea to me. He hasn't given me a 7 step outline, he hasn't given me anything but a single massive, uncomfortable, terrifying step to take. The risks associated, seem enormous. Mostly in the form of my certainty that I will fail and that it will put the final sword through the heart of my dying ego. Maybe that's his design? Who knows. He hasn't shared that with me.

What I do know is God has never been a comfort zone God. Not for me or for anyone else who has faithfully recorded following him. Check out the biblical prophets. He might put you behind the shelter of his wings for a time. But if you want to continue following him, if you're willing to trust him at all, eventually you're going to find him to be the one who is pushing you forward more fervently than anyone else. And it's going to FEEL like he's pushing you right off of a cliff! God has no interest in your limits or mine. Your insecurities or masks do not serve you, nor does my pride and ego serve me. My ability to look like I have my shit together to the outside world is not a fallacy God cares about leaving intact for me. He has no use for such nonsense. But I do, watch me cling to it! To safety and comfort and certainty, while God is pushing me toward, wholeness, love, unity and peace. He is pushing me to discover who I am a deeper level. But I am not sure I want what he's offering.  

Be careful what you trade when you avoid taking the risks God is inviting you to. It's far more costly than being the child making mud pies in the ghetto who's offered a holiday on the beach and says no thanks. The cost of not taking the risk God is offering to you could be the cost of never truly knowing yourself.

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

God already knows how powerful we are, are you willing to take the risk that he might be right about you?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I wonder.

There have been a rash of horrific things in the news over the last few weeks. Sickening sentences for horrific crimes. Mass murder. The insensible loss of life of a small child. None of these things make an iota of sense to me. I have experienced a wide range of emotions simply trying to take in all of this information. I will not attempt to explain why any of these things happen. The world is imbalanced. We all have our ideas of how to fix the imbalance. But historians and authors tell us the world has never been any other way. The tragedies of today are merely echoes of those of yesterday, and last year, and 1,000 years ago.

But as I age, grow, and hopefully learn, I am more prone to wonder. While I feel overwhelmed trying to process 49 people killed by one man in one evening, that is as it should be. That should not be logically digestible information. I wonder why there is so much here and now that is not as it should be. I'm not looking for a solution, gun control, stricter laws for sentencing, dead alligators and gorillas. Ultimately, those are physical solutions that are not full proof and will do nothing in the face of a spiritual problem. We are all bankrupt at some level. History has shown us, mass murders occurred long before machine guns. My own family's history shows us you don't need a vicious animal to senselessly kill a small child, a car and negligent driver will do just fine. Life does not make sense. Evil exists on this planet. Justice and fairness are things we attempt to strive for but that humanity has never once and will never attain. 

Does that make all of this meaningless? Should we simply surrender to the madness? Arm ourselves to the teeth and lock our children inside? Is that the solution? 

Or will we give ourselves enough time to pause? We will process our grief, our profound disappointment at the world we inhabit? Will we allow ourselves to admit that maybe we don't really know the solution? Is it simply okay to be horrified and really sorry for those affected by these tragedies?

What do we get out of racing for a solution? What do we get out of the rhetoric? What does the blame game that imperfect parents suffer under profit us? Does it help me to have them hear my criticism and have to live with those words for the rest of their lives while grieving the loss of their child?


What we get is an excuse to stop feeling. We no longer have to feel impotent in the face of tragedy. We don't have to worry for the safety of our own loved ones. We don't have to feel culpable in the face of a broken (in)justice system. The rhetoric, the relentless digestion of articles allows us to fully engage our brains without touching the heart level discomfort. 

I wonder, if there is a middle way? Perhaps it's okay to sit in the wake of all of this horror and just be. Be scared. Be silent. Be angry. Be concerned. Be confused. Be sympathetic. Can we allow ourselves that luxury? Because by not allowing it we only ever are able to listen with our heads. And from what I have seen our heads aren't going to get us out of any of this. We have to stop being so consumed by the endless flood of information. It sickens us. It limits our own creative thinking. It absolutely shuts down our ability be, to process, to stop. How do we teach our children to live in a world, when all we are modeling is the digestion of material?

Maybe if there's anything constructive we can do in this moment it is to feel, to be with one another. No solutions, no politics or blame. Just be there, knowing that as humans, most of us are really sorry that any of this happened. Maybe what we need most is one another. Especially when the temptation is to sit in our respective "camps" divisively arguing over "solutions." I have nothing profound to say to the families of the victims in Orlando except, I am so so sorry. I can not condemn imperfect parents, I am one. I would much rather cry with/for them. And when I think over the abhorrent (in)justice system with its latest debauchery, all I can think about is my culpability as a citizen in this country. I feel sorrow, regret and impotency. But I can be here. I can feel the things and not run from them. I hope some of you can do the same. The invitation to a full life is never through our head, it always begins in our heart. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Being angry about Brock Turner's verdict is fine, but what are you going to do about it?

I don't know about you but I'm about sick of seeing Brock Turner's face on my phone. I'm sick of the feeling I get in my stomach when I see him. When I think about his "bright future." Or his abhorrent father's endorsement of his son. I'm sick of thinking about rape being called 20 minutes of action. It's not doing anything for me but getting me angrier.  Maybe it's making me disproportionately angry.

This week I got to watch the sentencing of a man who sexually assaulted and raped me for almost 10 years. I never had the courage to press charges but another one of his victims did. And as I sat in that courtroom I had a bunch of emotions, but not one of them was vindication. Because his final sentence after all the things he had done to that woman is 2 months time already served and 5 years probation. He sexually assaulted her, broke into her house, assaulted her, and raped her, two separate times. But the best our justice system could do with the tools they had at their disposal was 2 months time already served and 5 years probation. He's not even on the sexual offender's registry, although his long list of victims will tell you that's exactly where he belongs. He still has partial custody of our children, and there's nothing the justice system will do about that. And we wonder why victims don't come forward. Brock Turner is not an isolated incident.

So I'm sick of being angry.  I'm sick of this broken ineffective justice system.  I'm sick of the futility of coming forward and saying you were assaulted or raped only to watch NOTHING HAPPEN. I have lost count of the friends that didn't receive justice when they did that. Maybe just by chance you're sick of the futility of all of this too.  Maybe it's beyond time for YOU, US, ME, OUR COUNTRY to do something about this! Change these laws, change the lawmakers, change the statutes that cover how long we have to come forward after being assaulted, change this "right to face your accuser" crap that terrifies rape victims and re-victimizes them. I, for one, am sick of doing nothing. I'm sick of just being enraged by the injustice of our justice system.  So I'm going to make some phone calls, probably a lot of them. I'm going to write some letters, probably even more of those. I'm going to keep calling and keep writing until those in positions of power do something! And if you think for one moment me doing all of this excuses you from making calls, writing letters and PROTESTING the abhorrence of this system then you're on the side of the rapists. There are no bystanders in this, you're either with the abusers or the on the side of the victims. Your silence does not serve those who are hurting, it only serves the Brock Turners of this world. Make no mistake, I'm sure that's offensive, it's meant to be. But I have no time for complacency anymore.  I'm done, are you?

United States Senate Directory:
http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

United States House of Representatives:
http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Self Hate would be Gentler. This is Contempt.

I was standing in my bathroom getting ready for church, doing my normal stand in front of the mirror routine: body shaming.  "God Shannon, why can't you get it together.  Can you even see yourself?  This is what other people see when they look at you.  It's a wonder they're not visibly disgusted.  If you would just have some motherfucking discipline already, your abs, your arms, your back, gross"  And so on.  You see, like many/most/all of you I hate what I see when I look in the mirror.  I hate how I feel in my body.  As I sit here, right this moment, in this chair, I hate how I feel in my skin.  I literally am uncomfortable in my skin and wish I could shed it.  I just want out of this version of me.  I want a better version.  A trade in model.  Something I could design and create.  This version of me is fundamentally flawed.  I hate it.

Don't get me wrong, I actively do things to try and change (I would say to take care of but that would be disingenuous) this body I inhabit.  I drink green smoothies like it's a job, I ran 10 miles yesterday for the first time ever.  I consistently set new goals for myself physically, and I'm a regular at the gym.  So, I do my part.  Yes, I could do better.  I could never eat sugar, or fast food and stick to a strict calorie regime and maybe I'd get closer to the body I'd like, but I'd never really get there.  Because at my core I believe that there is something wrong with my body and therefore me.

As I peruse the internet, I see other women, some friends or family members, some strangers and I idolize how they look.  I see them and I think "man, if I could just look like that then I'd be happy/attractive/worthy."  This is a fallacy.  I envy, deeply envy, the petite woman, the perfectly shaped, the amazingly fit, the perfect body parts, airbrushing is ignored, filters deemed irrelevant.  They are what's "good" and I am what's "wrong."  I am the non-example.  I look at my friends after they've achieved amazingly awesome physical goals and all I can think is - - - if only I could look like that, be like that.  Celebrating with them is secondary to my self loathing.

Worthy.  At the depth of my body shaming, is a level of self loathing that says because of this body I have I'm unworthy.  Of what?  I don't really know.  Existence?

I'm constantly thinking about what I can do to change my body into what I want it to be.  It occupies so much of my thoughtlife it's beyond absurd.  Sometimes, I can't write for school because I'm so uncomfortable in this body that I'm distracted by it, or I get snippy with my children, or withdraw from others because that is how intense my self hate is.

This might sound pretty typical of most of you, most of us and our stories.  We look in the mirror and we see everything that is wrong with us.  We may think it's less common to see that in someone with a committed fitness regime, but that's also not true, some of the fittest men and women I know are some of the most grievous offenders when it comes to self loathing.

I have been trying, trying to wrap my head around this for sometime.  Not around the solution for me to be as fit as I want, look like I want, etc.  I have 100 solutions to that in my brain, none of them are the panacea to my pain.  None of them will fix what is wrong.  Because what is wrong is that I have placed the wrong level of value on the wrong thing in my life.  Thinness is a god for me.  It is the shrine at which I worship, the altar at which I'm willing to sacrifice my happiness.  I worship those with bodies that prescribe to the standards I want for myself.

I may externally affirm all people, of all sizes, who are doing healthy things for their bodies, because some part of me wants what's best for them.  But secretly, in the darkness of my heart, I still judge them for not fitting the "right" mold, how could I not?   When I look at me, I judge me for not fitting the right mold.  My hypocrisy runs deep.  Outwardly, I affirm myself for my efforts at fitness, doing so much more than I did 5 or 10 years ago, more than was modeled for me.  Inwardly, I tell myself what a fuck up I am for not being like __________ or not being more _______________.  It's cute to think that we're affirming and kind to everyone as they shoot for their goals but internally it's not the truth.  We selfishly want what we want for us and we only wish success for them if we can also have it for ourselves in the formula we find acceptable.

During this morning's body shaming campaign, I kept trying to stop, but I was stuck in front of the mirror.  I even went and put on more clothes so that I could see less of my body in hopes that my brain would just SHUT UP.  It didn't work.  My brain is merciless.  So, I tried to think my way out of this tirade of disapproval and shame.

This occurred to me.  My body is but one manifestation of my personhood on this planet.  It is the easiest to see, it is the first one people encounter but it is still only one part of me.  One part.  It is not the whole of me.  It does not own my existence.  If it would cease to do it's breathing/being thing other parts of me would continue to exist.  It is only one part.  And this one part of me has completely hindered some of the other parts of me at times.  I have held my heart back from loving others because I was uncomfortable in my body.  I have held my mind back from sharing its thoughts with others because my body happened to be female and everyone else in the room had a penis.  I have held back my soul from going to church or gatherings because my body was that of a red headed single mother and I didn't want to be judged.  I have allowed this one manifestation of me, this one part of me to rule the rest.  My brain has been used less, my heart experienced less, my soul engaged less because this house that I inhabit, that I walk around in, didn't subscribe to some standard I imposed on it.

Sure, I could blame society, I could blame the sexification of all women in all public roles, I could blame the men in my life who've made it their mission to teach me I was inadequate, I could blame my parents for not teaching me how to love myself as I am better.  But I know that all of those voices were outside of me and they couldn't touch the level of criticism I have for myself.  Hatred would not be too strong a word.  No scratch that, contempt fits better.

A professor said recently that academics just view their body as a vehicle to get their mind to meetings.   Something clicked for me.  I find it interesting that we can choose how we view our body.  Is our body a vehicle to get us around this planet?  Is it one manifestation of us?  Is it the ultimate manifestation of us? Is part of a whole?  Do our mind, heart, and soul have a symbiotic relationship with our body?  Is it somehow greater than the rest because the body is the most visible?

I know this: I can not work myself into worthiness.

Let that sink in.  There is not a number on the scale.  There is not a clothing size on the rack.  There is not any muscle definition that will make you feel worthy if you believe you're not.

I also know if my children develop this internal monologue I will feel like I failed them.  And that I will unwillingly give them what I believe at my core whether I want to or not.

This is an internal problem, a spiritual one, and it can only be fixed with an internal solution.  I have tried all the typical fixes, befriending your body, positive self talk, reading books that speak truth, smoothies and running and surrounding myself with positive people.  But none of those things have touched it because they did not get at the root of what I believe: that something is wrong with the me.  Being a size six, with store bought boobs and six pack abs is not going to change that root belief.  The only thing that can change it is me.

Furthermore, change is impossible if the truth stays in the dark.  I can work and work and work to change my perspective or be some fit badass but if I do not admit, to myself and to others that the root cause is my fundamental belief that I'm unworthy, then nothing will change.  Untruth festers in the dark, it feeds on it, grows there, like the cancer it is.  If I do not own it in the light, I can not change it.

So, I'm going to try something new, I'm terrified and already thinking of back up plans in case my body gets any worse, (because worse is a thing in my mind), but I'm going to try it anyway.  I'm going to try to see this body as simply a part of me.   It's not a judgment against me.  It does not run my life.  It is simply part of who I am as Shannon.  I'm going to try to pay equal attention to what my soul, mind and heart need, not just what my body needs.  It is a part of me.  My body can still have it's green smoothies, gym workouts and runs, but it does not get those things because it's broken and needs to be fixed, but because by doing those things I contribute to Shannon as whole.

My body is not a statement against me.  It is not the mark of my failure because I'm more of 10/12 than a 4/6.  I might not be able to cherish it yet, but if I could start with abandoning my loathing idolization of it, I might get somewhere.

Disclaimer: I did not want to write this.  In fact there's nothing in me that wanted to.  I have been avoiding it for hours, days, weeks even.  I have a boyfriend who reads this stuff, and close personal friends and family members for God's sake.  But under some, possibly misguided, notion that this isn't really about me, for me, I wrote it anyway.  Be gentle with the vulnerability you've encountered please.  I do not need any more negative in this area of my life.... 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Leaving Shannon

I will always feel just a little bit "left."  

The pattern of leaving Shannon started young.  

My father walked out of my first birthday party, shortly before I took my first steps, and my family unit was over.  June 1, 1981.  My dad was gone.  He didn't want me (and my mom) anymore.  

Fast forward several years, my mom had remarried and they had my little sister, Blair.  Her leaving had a much greater finality to it.  She was hit and killed by a car in front of me, the only eye witness.  May 26, 1989.  I was not quite nine.

After that my mom and step-dad slowly left me emotionally; their grief was all-consuming. They had nothing to give for quite some time.  

A few more years passed and one of my grandfathers suffered a fall, a traumatic brain injury, and died.  This man was a giant in my life, in all of our lives, gone.  July 1996.  

I exited childhood, entered adulthood, found faith, and a calling found me, and eventually found the guy who would become my husband.  I choke on those words.  Husband.  He was anything but that.  His leaving was a daily rejection, visceral and physical in nature.  He clearly communicated to me that I was worthless, on a daily basis.  My presence in his life was a hinderance, a burden and I would never be an acceptable wife, or woman.  His every action communicated that, for nearly ten years.  Until finally I left.  March 2012.

The leavings that occurred after my decision to leave my marriage were staggering.  Friends left 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.  My church told me to leave, 2013.  My aunt, a loving figure in my life, died, 2013.  Ultimately, my best friend of 14 years decided I was selfish, a burden, and she left too, 2014.  My brother's cancer returned and threatened to make him leave as well, 2014.  Thank God he didn't. 

To say being left is written in to my being would be accurate.  A black mark against my existence.  A wound that has affected how I relate with others.  

Despite that, I have continued to move forward in my life.  Committed to the idea that the past is not where I exist.  I continued placing myself in situations where I again could be left.  Enrolling in seminary.  Making new friends.  Dating, developing relationships.  While doing those things I have struggled through the fear of being left, again.  I have steeled myself against risk.  Protecting my heart and soul from rejection by only offering my mind to those relationships, those scenarios.  But as my commitment to growth required me to, I began offering my heart, knowing I could be left again, at a deeper level.  And it has happened.  More have left.  

I have come to the place where I now understand I will always feel just a little bit "left."  

Through no fault of those in my life and no fault necessarily of my own, there is a broken piece of me that will continue to feel those wounds.  There is this desperate little girl inside of me that is willing to do whatever it takes to no longer feel left.  She'll perform any task, dance any jig, climb any mountain just to ensure that no one ever leaves her again.  To silence her is impossible, but what I can do is to help her feel heard.  

People will leave. I will need to leave some of them.  They will be unhealthy or we will be unhealthy for each other and one of us will decide to go.  I'll leave jobs or churches or friendships of my own accord.  And the little girl will scream, she will want the pain to stop.  She just wants to STOP losing PEOPLE.  It hurts.  But that is not real life.  People come and go and it just is.  The problem comes from expecting that to not be.  And from interpreting other actions that are not leaving as rejection.  Every subtly as a mark against you.  

You can't stand in  a group of people without someone there having abandonment issues.  Perhaps everyone there does.  It's written into their story.   Someone left them and they carry that wound with them.  It enters their relationships and how they interact in their workplace.  They're just slightly skittish wondering if there is a landmine somewhere that will result in being left again.  

I forget, we all do, a couple of things when I relate this way.  Most of what everyone else does to me, around me, says to me, has nothing to do with me.  It is them telling their own story.  They are speaking from their own place.  Their actions and words, or lack of words is, about their own needs, fears, inadequacies, selfishness, on display.  But I/we don't see that.  We see their actions as a statement about us.  And when we misinterpret (interpret from a self-centered approach) another's actions we are almost guaranteed to feel badly.  When we forget that the same ego in us that is driving us to think it's all about us, is in them driving them to think only about them, we are destined for pain.  

We also forget that leaving isn't always a bad thing.  Sometimes people have left me and months or years later I have been grateful because the pain has lessened and I see that their leaving was the best thing for me.  Sometimes we have left people knowing we were doing so out of good motivations on our own part.  I have ended some friendships where I know the other person was wondering why, possibly feeling rejected, but ultimately it was the best thing for both of us. 

It's hard to carry that wounded little girl around inside of me.  Sometimes I wish she would just grow up or move on, get over herself already.  So selfish and self-centered, god, it's annoying.  I don't usually treat her with kindness.  I want to squelch her and shut her up.  Usually I'm the least kind to myself.  Shutting her up doesn't make her go away, it just prolongs the pain.  The path to health is compassion, a willingness to listen to how much it still hurts.  Understanding that the pain from some of those wounds is deep and really hard to heal.  The path to healing probably means I need to abandon the phrase I repeat to myself "just don't cry."   As if crying is a sign of weakness, or maybe more accurately crying means the pain is real, and if I don't cry I can still deny feeling it.  

There are still broken parts of me.   But rather than seeing those pieces as hinderances to overcome, maybe they are gifts that create in me an awareness of how better to interact with others.  Perhaps I spend so much time trying to squelch the pain that I forget to use the pain as a tool to be more authentically me and in so doing give the gift of my whole self to those I love.  I fail to see my broken parts as gifts, I want to be shiny and new and whole.  But the only time I have truly been able to sit with another person and help them hold their pain was when I was willing to acknowledge my own.  That I had been there too.  Hell sometimes I was still there in that moment. I may always feel a little bit "left."  There might not be this place of illusionary complete security on this planet for me.  But if there's not, then that wound is still with me because it is useful.  God wastes nothing.  Not even broken little girls.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Is God Safe?

Dan asked me recently if there is anything more secure than God.

It didn't sit well with me because my immediately, albeit internal reaction, was that there is nothing secure about God!  God is good and God is holy but he is also dangerous, wild, risky and prone to commanding his followers to do a wide range of risk inducing scenarios.  You don't get credit for being a safe and secure Being if it is in your practice to knock up teenage girls in a culture that regularly stones women for adultery in order to get your son to the planet.  It certainly wasn't the safest thing he could have done for Mary.

This of course doesn't negate God's inherent goodness nor does it mean that we should spend any less time fully devoted to the path he is guiding us toward.  It just means that path in no way guarantees our safety or security.

I think that's one of the reasons that every time God prompts me to do something I get a little skittish.  I know what following God has cost me thus far and that column stacks pretty high.  I further know that following him won't be the path to financial security, it won't necessarily have anything to do with my desire for world travel.  It won't even be necessarily the "best thing" for my children.  The life I could create on this planet by my own hand would have a lot more secure elements to it than the one he has for me.  Basically as I see it following him means completely being uninterested in what I want out of this life and I'm selfish so I'm not sure that's the best idea for me.

I can think of a lot of things that "feel" more secure than God.  I can think of a lot of things that sound less risky than doing the will of my always mysterious, sometimes dangerous Father.  I just have no desire to make a life of my own creation.  It appeals to me not at all.  If I'm not in the middle of where I feel God has called me to be than I want to be fighting my way back to that center.  Ludicrous, given the costs I have paid to be there, staggering financial debt, the scorn of many of my former friends and some family members, being mocked by those who supposedly love me and overall the complete abandonment of a "safe little life."

My life with God doesn't feel safe.  He makes those security alarm bells within me go off like fire alarms at times, times like right freaking now!  No, my God is not safe or secure.  What he calls me to doesn't feel like the best thing for me.  My family and those who care for me would love for me to just get a freaking plan already.  But this life I have chosen to have with him is not one of my own making and there is no charted course that I can see.  It is one of trust, it requires obeying, it looks unconventional, but the rewards?  They are far beyond any cost I have paid.

I might grow old and not have seen Italy.  I might never live at the beach.  I might never have more than enough to barely pay my bills each month.  But this life with God means that I will not live a quietly desperate life and die with my song still in me.  Because the song that God has placed within my heart is required for each moment of monumentous faith where I step outside the plan I would have made for me and into the one he has for me.  God did not feel safe to Abraham as he was guiding Isaac to what he believed would be his death.  God did not feel safe to Mary when she had to tell Joseph she was pregnant.  God didn't feel safe to David before Goliath.  And God did not feel safe to Jesus in Gethsemane.

God is not here in our lives to coddle our egos and only put us in positions where we can accomplish things by our own power.  When we are quivering and afraid yet still speaking his truth, when he must show up or we will fail, when everything in us wants to run the other way because we know we can't do this thing he is asking of us, then he has a chance to show us just how faithful he is.  He gets to show up for us.  He gets to remind us that we don't place our faith in him for nothing.  No one loves like this God I serve.  No one enjoys showing up for his children more than he does.  No one loves creating masterpieces out of would be disaster more than him.  And no one is better at that than he is.

I am quivering.

I am afraid.

I am inadequate.

I am walking toward him anyway.