Category Archives: normal

On healing and normalcy

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On healing and normalcy

“You can’t patch a wounded soul with a Band-Aid.” ― Michael Connelly

Over the summer, my housemates and I took many trips to the coastal New England beaches. New England is not known for many areas of intense waves or dangerous waters, except for the occasional beaches where sharks are known (which we just don’t venture to). There’s something about having a rough week or day and then sitting out on the beach, feeling the sand, smelling the ocean, and seeing the vastness that reminds me about how big the world is, especially when my world feels small and lonely.

One particular weekend, the waves were the biggest I have ever seen in Massachusetts. We grabbed our boogie boards and run right in. After taking hit after hit of waves, I walked out within 5 minutes with a bruised and bleeding leg. I couldn’t withstand the pressure. I wanted so bad to enjoy the waves, knowing this was a rarity in Massachusetts, but I couldn’t.

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” ― Susan Pease Banitt

Our bodies are made so magnificently and intricately. They are not designed to take hits, wave after wave. Eventually our bodies will go numb. That’s the thing about PTSD as well, our bodies are not made to withstand the events of trauma continually nor the heightened affects of it indefinitely.

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”

Atrocities refuse to be buried. The desire of the mind to deny the atrocities are just as forceful. In this subconscious war, the body takes wave after wave of blows, suffering in the areas of digestion, autoimmunity, and within the nervous system.

The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.

Often in my journey to heal from trauma and PTSD I am tempted to plunge in, to take on far more than I am capable of handling and processing alone. There’s been pressure from the outside to move through it quicker, to understand more, to go to more classes, more therapy, more support. There’s pressure from within me, demanding I “get back to” normal life, look like everyone else, find a way to understand the world in order to fit into the world.

Because I don’t feel normal. I don’t understand things typically. I feel lost much of the time. And it’s a lonely walk.

The pressure gets to me often, as if I could only attain “normalcy” and then I would be all set, I’d fit in the social club of life. Only, so often normalcy and healing get confused.

For the sake of “normalcy” I try to find support groups, more therapy, a job. I want to exercise more, lead bible studies, be a pursuer through engaging others relationally. I want to be involved in committees and on non profit boards. I want to have a 9-5 career, a house, a newer car.

“Some people’s lives seem to flow in a narrative; mine had many stops and starts. That’s what trauma does. It interrupts the plot. You can’t process it because it doesn’t fit with what came before or what comes afterwards.”

But for the sake of “healing” I see a therapist. I take a couple of slow walks around the neighborhood a week. I stepped down from a local non-profit board. I go to a bible study and allow myself to be a member. I stay committed to the few people I feel responsible to and for, and I focus on loving them well. I coach a sport team, which allows me to have a tiny pay check, but also is a good use of my giftedness in supporting others to grow in a unique way. For the sake of “healing” I say “no” to a lot.

And for the sake of “healing” I scrapbook. I watch loads of netflix. I make dinner for my housemates. I visit friends out of the city at least monthly. I stay in bed when the physical illnesses I have are too intense. I ride the waves of PTSD and trauma when they arise, but I do not go seeking it. I do not jump in head first and hope to conquer it. I know that type of attitude is not only futile, but dangerous.

Because the waves are strong and are sometimes meant to be understood of their beauty from afar, not from a futile battle within.

Write 31 Days

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Sometimes waiting is the hardest thing

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Sometimes waiting is the hardest thing

New England Autumn is like none other. As a child, I was accustomed to the temperamental northeast weather. I paid little attention to it. I did not notice when the leaves changed. I enjoy crunching the them underneath my shoes and I also enjoyed crunching ice underneath as the frost and cold temperatures froze water. Spring meant a lot of work. Green. It’s what spring is all about…clearing the yard and preparing the garden, “spring” cleaning, mowing, hanging clothes to dry outside. You all would have thought we lived on a farm. I did not enjoy spring. And summer had one appeal to me: swimming.

Now as I am older, I have recently found myself having a hard time focusing on conversations if I am outdoors as these Autumn colors are grabbing at my attention, demanding I drink it all in, consume it. Bright pinks and stunning yellows. Mahogany’s and sunset oranges. I tried to wax leaves this year, as a way to preserve the colors to remember them by, but it doesn’t do the color justice. They are just so stunning.

In a week or two, the leaves will be no more here in New England. Barren trees and hiking paths and arbor ways. The winters can be painfully isolating. The house is cold. Outside is cold and wet and snowy. People are grumpy. It gets dark b y 4PM. Depression sets in for many people. And to be honest, I am still recovering from a brutal winter last season, a record breaking winter here in Boston.

And just when we think we can’t take it anymore, just as we start to wonder if it will ever become warm again, if winter will ever end, the green forsythia comes out. And it starts to bloom yellow, reminding us that spring is coming. One of the first signs of warmth and life amidst the slumbering winter temperatures. Green: a sign of life and growth and new beginning.

Things can feel awefully painful, even when we know the out come. Even when we are sure of what’s ahead, what is present remains challenging. I find this to be true of heaven and eternity. Even though I know that God is redeeming the brokenness, the sorrow, the grief.. even though I know there will be goodness and togetherness, it does not take away the pain of today, of the now. Life is hard and pain is deep. But right now, I can’t grasp what’s ahead, not in the ways I could at previous points in my life. Right now I’m in the stretch of winter, just trying to make it to spring, half knowing it has to come sometime, half trying to hope it still will, and a smidgen unsure at the moment. And that’s the reality of the roller coaster of my current life, somedays it’s bright pink and orange and blowing my mind, other days it’s green with growth and understanding, but many many days it’s dark and cold and feels bitter, and I just hold on. Waiting.

Because sometimes waiting is the hardest thing one can do.

FiveMinuteFriday: GREEN

31 Days of Writing

10 Things I learned in September

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The What We Learned posts are hosted by Emily Freeman as a “monthly community link-up to share the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred, or small.” Today is my third time joining with

10 Things I Learned in September:

  1. I can do far more physically than I thought: I am coaching a JV girls soccer team. WHAT?! I have not played since I was 13 and injured myself during a non-soccer activity. I could not tell you how many players were on a field or what the position were, let alone how a game runs. But I’m doing it! And I am finding I have incredible power kicks and foot work, even if I had to throw speed out the door years ago.
  2. There’s always beauty in each person I come across, even when it doesn’t fit my perspective of what beauty is.
  3. Shimmery deep red nail polish is NOT a fall color: I got a pedicure recently. It was a late birthday gift. I chose this deep shimmery red thinking it would be like a fall red color. Wrong. I look like a Christmas decoration.
  4. I love bacon, but not on donuts: Tried my first maple bacon donut from the #1 donut shop in Massachussetts. It was good. I just prefer my bacon and donuts separate I think.
  5. A freshly cleaned and made bed is near heavenly: I rarely make my bed. It takes a lot of work. Recently I washed and cleaned it and made it and it is so delightful to get into every night. Who knew how nice crisp sheets are?
  6. Division: Everyone who lives in America (or is Christian for that matter) does not see everything the same. But if you find yourself upset at someone’s outlook…that may need to be the very person you build a relationship with. Division is to be expected when people aren’t developing meaningful relationships with others outside their culture.
  7. Good friends are the spice of life: “You know these are your life friends when you haven’t seen one another in years and can still hold a conversation as valuable as when you said “bye” the last time”: I saw some friends this month that I hadn’t seen in years upon years. It was fantastic. The hope and encouragement and sisterhood I felt with them was so needed.
  8. Cultivating a gentle heart is ridiculously hard.
  9. I need older women in my life: I met with a woman this month, and I must have wept buckets. I did not intend to, I just did. She was so calm and fun, settled in her own skin and grateful to now be thought of as “an older woman”. It’s a title she claimed with honor. That’s the type of person I want to become, someone aged to gentleness, prone to listening, prayerful in speech, quick to laugh.
  10. Ganache & chocolate chip babka: HEAVEN in my mouth!

Half Year Reads Review

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If you’ve known me even in the slightest way, you know I love to watch things grow. I like to be a part of the process. Whether it’s planting a seasonal garden or starting a new facet of ministry, cultivating is ingrained in me, an intense desire and need to work diligently to understand, to know, to grow, and to do my very smallest part to encourage things while they grow.

In 2014 I had to nearly halt one of the ways I grow the most, from reading. It was hard and painful. I felt a bit envious and jealous at times because I was physically unable to read much, while others seemed to do it with endless ease. It was as if I was disconnected from one of the prominent ways God speaks to me and from a place that once brought me much joy. My eyes were injured from a condition that had developed that year and I had some severe temporary vision loss, but also some minor permanent loss.

And my eyes didn’t focus often. I lived nearly an entire year not knowing that one of the major issues was that my eyes were not able to focus, so I was taking in far too much light and exposure and details (like words or small objects on the floor) were often blurred. My eyes were dilated too much. A few weeks ago I had a minor procedure that helped to correct some of this. And alas! I can read better.

So here’s to reading some good books the last few weeks and to ending this first half of the year with a few good books under my belt and in my heart (and the ones that I’m half way through…):

Beyond books, articles and blog posts have been especially meaningful to me.

“The Gift of Friendship”

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I am currently reading this book. I enjoy Wesley’s writing and his thoughts on community and friendship. Regardless of our sexual orientation and gender, such thoughts are needed. I’m so grateful for a voice that can string together words so intimately and thoughtfully. Check it. It’s a challenge to look at and grow out of what we’ve known and into a new, but a more full, life.

Spiritual Friendship

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Some of you will know already that I have a new book that’s just been released. It’s called Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian, and I’m very happy (and a bit nervous, too, truth be told!) that it’s now out in the world and finding its way to readers.

Today, over at my publisher’s blog, I’ve got a guest post that explains how I came to write the book and that gives a bit of teaser-taste of its contents. Here’s an excerpt:

Being gay and celibate can leave you wondering whether you’re left out in the cold when it comes to committed, stable, intimate relationships. Watching many of your friends pair up and get married, you wonder if you have to settle for something less than that—for relationships that always end with separation or distance. And sometimes friendship, which is all too fleeting…

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Struggling between the crux of what I knew I could do and how little I was noticed for it

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I’ve always been a little more on the quiet side. Maybe it’s part personality, maybe part upbringing. I am an observer. I am a natural leader, but only when I feel there is no one better (and this isn’t a feeling I often have) will I assert myself into that title. I’d much prefer to train someone in an area that I am gifted in than to assume a position more permanently myself. I wait and I watch people. All the time.

I used to wonder why I was like this, why my personality is hyper aware and sensitive and observant. Why I was so cautious. I used to become easily frustrated at my tendency to wait and watch. It can be a struggle to be so mindful. Sometimes I miss out on events or in relationships. My ideas and thoughts are not always noticed or valued because of my more cautious personality. I wouldn’t assert my opinion or wants or needs. I’d wait. I’d pray. I’d hope someone would see my diligence and hard work, my thoughtfulness and care and giftedness.

I waited and watched for years, struggling between the crux of what I knew I could do and how little I was noticed for my potential in many capacities. I flourished in college as a leader. I am good at many things. I have an assortment of gifts and skills. My truest personality came out of a long season of waiting. In the last couple of years as well, my personality has come out even more. I am a bit silly and playful. I can be loud and speak off the cuff. It’s as if it’s taken such long seasons of quietly waiting to build a bit of internal security within my own soul. I’ve learned that it’s also true that I am more cautious, more slow to open up, and I wait and observe in relationships with others before I engage or I pursue. Waiting has long since been a natural part of my life. I wanted to have a more charismatic personality. I wanted to be a charming orator. I am, in many ways, but not in the ways I would have imagined.

Waiting, long stretches and seasons full of waiting, has nurtured and birthed some of the truest, most authentic parts of my heart and focus in life. And it is those parts that I am starting to focus most on, those specific pieces of my personality and gifts that have been given uniquely to me. Waiting has matured an area inside of my once restless heart that has set me free to be who I am and not who others need me to be and not what the pressures around me communicate I should be. Waiting has stilled my heart enough to allow me to hear that still, small voice calling me into that very next thing, whatever it happens to be.

 FMF Linkup: Wait