Thursday, August 7, 2014

Free to be

I was up this morning way before I normally am. I couldn’t sleep because I’m still waiting to hear back from my short-term disability on whether or not they’ve accepted my claim. Yesterday I had to run to Caldwell simply to sign a document allowing my OBGYN share my medical information (which in this case I don’t see the relevance since my claim has to do with my mental capabilities, not my physical ones). I was a little annoyed because they have been handling my case for weeks and only last minute realized they needed this. Little errands such as these—normally “normal” annoyances that come with life—have the effect of making me feel like a live wire. Anything that touches me gets a small shock, and each shock has the effect of increasing the voltage.

Other than the normal inconveniences that come from life, I have slowed myself waaaay down to almost a halt. My extra-curricular activities are at a bare minimum and most of my time is spent at home either resting or cleaning. Jose has to take the baby fairly frequently. Usually it works out that in the morning I have the most ambition, cooking, cleaning, taking care of Aurelio, but in the evening I have to let everything go and slink upstairs to watch t.v. or sleep. I then get a second burst of energy and use it by cleaning, and then bed.

Anyway, I didn’t write this to share my new routine, which I realize has to be fascinating, but to share some of my more recent personal insights. Maybe it’s ironic but I wanted to share how too much of my life over the last few years has been open to sharing. Or maybe a more accurate description is that I feel like too much of my life has been available to something or someone else besides myself.

Examples: Working 40 plus hours a week, trying to maintain a crippled social life, spending quality time with my husband and my child, the stress of a disorganized household, worrying about other people’s various troubles. All these things have been energy expounded outwards. Some of them are now considered “fillers” in that they have the effect of making me feel complete, but when you add more to your plate than you can carry, I’ve learned that even the good can become burdens that drain you.

Now I find that I have time for activities that used to take energy for me to push through. Praying has more become like an act of breathing, something I came to doubt was possible over the years. I didn’t suspect that I was spending so much time confined to actions that *had* to be done that my mind/heart weren’t free to just be.

As I’ve mentioned before, cleaning is another activity that used to be a drain but has now turned therapeutic. Almost daily I am able to not only keep up on the usual required tasks but am able to complete a major task that I have been pushing off for weeks, months or years. As I watch my space become more organized I feel myself breath.

Pets are another. I have always loved having them, but the responsibility attached would drive me crazy with its endlessness. Poop, food, a clean habitat; rarely were these were items I could maintain consistently, even though I wanted so badly to have them around. Now I have added two new ones to my growing menagerie and love nurturing their little existences.

Overall I think this time is a gift from my hormones, forcing me to evaluate what is truly important in my life. What are my priorities? What do I want to spend time doing and what is only a drain? We all have responsibilities that we have to be mindful of, but for some of us we take on the world like it is expected of us. I hope at the end of this all I will have developed a resolve toward investing myself in what is actually expected of me.

I do hope to someday be better enough so that every bump in the road doesn’t have the effect of jarring my entire system, but in the meantime I will watch and learn from this experience, and try to be brave. After all, it is a very scary thing to have to tell the world “no” while you simply try to exist.

Friday, July 18, 2014


This week I was officially diagnosed with episodic major depression and severe anxiety. There were telling signs: Crying every other day, driving 20 minutes to the nearest Chik Fil A four nights a week because it calmed my nerves, avoiding any kind of real work that might require an attention span longer than a handful of minutes. At first I thought I was experiencing a physical condition relating to my pregnancy so I saw my OBGYN, but I found no solace there.

This is just pregnancy, there isn’t much I can do for you
But I can’t even drive 10 minutes without feeling like I’ll end up in an accident because I can’t keep my eyes open!


I walked away from that appointment furious and spent. I was looking for much needed rest and, while I understand that pregnancy in and of itself isn’t a disability, I felt disabled. Broken and finished, it seemed my only escape was to quit my job and help my husband find some part-time work while he completed his phlebotomy training. All of the burdens I had been (mostly) skillfully carrying were getting tossed left and right, and the bulk of the financial responsibilities were now going on my spouse’s shoulders even though it would likely put us back on welfare for a season.

When someone close to me brought up depression the light went off and I scheduled another appointment, but my hopes were small. This time, however, I sat in front of someone who understood and validated my feelings and it was the most liberating feeling in the world. Yes, she could help me qualify for disability benefits. She also wanted to see me weekly to work through my feelings. My boss’ reaction was equally surprising and relieving: Tillamook cheese and yogurt coupons were thrust at me along with multiple assurances that whatever I needed, they would do what they could to help me.

I had my freedom.

So now I spend most of my time recovering from small mishaps that I use to shake off with ease. Where once I thought it was only my job plus pregnancy that had me overwhelmed, I can now clearly see that my chemistry is just “off”. A change in my schedule has me sulking for hours. A disagreement with my husband has me bawling and yelling with arms waving. There is more to this too that has to do with achieving balance and my penchant for taking on more of the world than is mine to conquer but… We will get to that later. For now, I felt like being transparent about where I was and what I am doing about it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I Didn't Watch the Nye/Ham Debate, and What Could I Possibly Have to Say About It (Part 2)

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.” Tim Keller

Standing beside my Goliath, all I had at my disposal were the same two weapons: a curious (but limited) intellect, and prayer.

I remember during one of my periods of turmoil being at work, trying to distract myself with my duties, and finally crying out to God in my mind, “Please help me figure this out, I don’t know what to do! I don’t want to be scared all the time, but that’s what it feels like right now, how do I escape?”

The thought came to me that I needed to seek. And not just seek out those who I knew already agreed with me, but seek out the roughest, toughest, bunch of skeptics I could find so that I would know, really know, that I had at least tried to understand what the “other side” was about. I couldn’t try to protect myself with selective listening, because I knew I would only be burying myself deeper in denial and distancing myself from the world, and that is not the kind of faith that was authentic to me.

So I read, and read, and found websites or books that presented one position, then found what I thought was a well-constructed argument against it. And I spent a lot of time thinking. I didn’t always make big changes in my beliefs in a single setting; usually it was some small detail that I later had to circle back to years later to re-explore, adapt or rearrange. Mostly it wasn’t that a new element was added, but a room was made bigger for ideas to better flow through. The biggest alterations were walls that were taken out that I had come to decide didn’t belong in the first place.

Ultimately the architecture of my faith has not only remained, but been improved by facing my Goliath, who I no longer identify as a single entity such as “atheism” or “science,” but by his real name: Fear.


There are so many points I wanted to make with this post that it has been hard for me to narrow myself down to a conclusion. Chastise believers because I think they’ve alienated an entire community by defending a very specific, predetermined perspective? Challenge the atheist community who likes to use this specific position as a straw man to undermine all of theism?

How about neither? At least one of my points is that we need to quit accusing large groups of people based on a label, because what you believe shouldn’t define how you believe. The more I interact with thinkers different than myself, the more I realize that we stop hearing each other as soon as we think we know the why behind someone believing what they do (because admit it, it usually isn’t a sterling motive we’re assigning them).  

On the flip side, in the aftermath of debates between figures like Bill Nye and Ken Ham, men who embody two very specific belief systems, I saw this debate used an opportunity to protect what we think we already know instead of keeping an open mind to learning what maybe we don’t. And since I do not consider that a debate, but a stage for a melodrama, that is why I chose not to watch.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why I Didn't Watch the Nye/Ham Debate, and What Could I Possibly Have to Say About It (Part 1)

No, I did not watch the debate last night.  I did,  however,  watch my news feed as others reacted TO the debate.  Familiar nouns like "faith", "science", "Bible", "facts", "Spirit of God" got thrown around like verbs. "I'm going to science that Bible until it cries!" or "Those sciencers need to get their faiths checked out", that kind of thing.*

I shared a blog post from the Huffington Post ( alongside all the curfuffle that I thought made the good argument that the entire discussion was needless,  we're trying to compare apples to oranges. Simplistic  but I believe it made a good point: There is often a rocky history behind our ingrained sentiments,  and I think the church and the scientific community might benefit from exploring the relevance of that history as they interact so that they can genuinely hear each other. 

But all these observations aside,  the debate had the additional effect of propeling me forward to share why I am where I am in the scuffle and how I arrived.  I will undercut some of the suspense and share that I definitely do not have every question answered, either spiritually or scientifically. Really what has changed is how I see myself in relation to the questions, and how I allow myself to react as they are asked.


Ten years ago I was on the cusp of giving my life to Christ. My heart was in a bad way due to rough personal circumstances and a close Christian friend was there trying to help me work through the mess.  She had her (loving!) agenda,  but the fact was I already had a building desire for God and felt drawn to Christianity specifically. For the first time it seemed a tangible experience I could grasp. Although it was intuitive for me to immediately reach for it, another part of myself needed to test my instincts before I could "let go" of everything else.

So I read and I prayed (because really,  what could it hurt?).  I read anything and everything I thought was relevant at the time.  Why not become a Buddhist,  or Hindu... or nothing at all? I read one side and then the other,  trying to find their best arguments so that I could make sure I wasn't only believing something because I wanted to. Toward the end of this period I remember stumbling on the controversy of evolution. Because atheism wasn't really a belief I considered likely,  I felt comfortable letting the matter go and figured I'd circle back around later if I had to.

Like many of us,  once I became comfortable in my new faith I was, well,  comfortable. Life was great.  Not as in every-detail-was-all-I-hoped-it-would-be great,  but I had a purpose. It happened that God seemed to use me to explain/teach spiritual things to people, and that He was interacting and reshaping my self in real and unexpected ways. Christianity was both "more than" and "exactly what" I thought it would be.

But peace is for a season,  and I eventually had disquieting feelings of uncertainty. Like what if everything I thought I knew was only a emotional bubble I created to evade truth? What if all my Christian relationships only served to make this bubble more resilient,  shielding me from reality? Atheism/evolution/mainstream science became the Goliath representing these doubts and everything about my faith I didn't understand. After all,  the atheists I encountered seemed so confident and to never struggle at all.

Goliath's whisper became a predictable companion every couple of years even though I tried pushing it off,  praying it away to find peace. Anxiety built up inside and suffocated me with fear instead. Apparently, there was only one way out and that was through my fear. If there was a God He was forcing me to confront Goliath and use my intellect as the weapon of choice.

...and how small my stone was compared to this giant!

*a terrible, but more humorous, rendition of what was actually said by the way