Faith, Hope and Love

Confession: I’m vaguely embarrassed at how much time I’ve spent in the past two weeks thinking and writing about a man. I’ve been pretty decent at making daily time for writing these past two weeks. Not all of it is writing for the blog – sometimes it’s an article I’m working on, or a policy piece. But every day, the first thing that pops in my head is, “Do I need to write about him today?” Not want; need. That’s … weird to me.

While part of my sense of urgency is the girlish infatuation at which I have excelled since I was a girl, there’s a deeper level to what’s happening here. After so many relationships where I’ve been hurt – and so many terrible narratives I’ve constructed about what is wrong with me that causes me to keep getting hurt – having romantic feelings for someone isn’t fun anymore. It’s awful. It’s just become something to fear, something where I wait to see what new emotional trauma is on the horizon. I feel hope and joy for like, a day or two; almost everything after that is spirit-crushing doubt and despair.

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Inertia.

An object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. I try to stay in motion, because sometimes I’m afraid if I stop, I won’t have the energy to move again.

Today was a day of running around a lot: between events, to and from the train station. It’s also been a lot of people time, which isn’t always easy for an introvert. When my colleague and I finished our meeting this evening to prepare for tomorrow’s training, I made the mistake of sitting down on a comfortable couch in the house where I’m staying. There’s a non-zero possibility of me just sleeping here so I don’t have to exert the extra effort of going upstairs to the bedroom.

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Making space

I’m always trying to figure out how to be “disciplined with my time.”

There’s real value in this. I’ve been realizing over the past several months that I’m always talking about wanting to have time to do the things that keep me healthy, but saying that I can’t find the time. And then I realize: well, I just spent two hours browsing Facebook. I’m pretty sure I could have used that time to write, or exercise, or cook, or any of the things I’m always saying I don’t have time for.

So when I got back from my leadership retreat last week, I was very serious about calendaring. I was very rigorous about allocating time to the things I kept saying were important: for prayer, for writing, for spending time with family and friends, for sleep. It felt a little weird to schedule my sleep and my chill time, but it also felt comforting to know that I had actually set aside that time and that I wasn’t just leaving those things to the whims of however my day went.

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Keening

I never really understood what this was – until this past week.

Of course, I’d heard of the practice: people crying, wailing, making all manner of sounds to vocalize their pain and grief. I understood that it often was a cultural practice at funerals. But that’s how I understood it: as some anthropological note about what other people do with their grief. It was academic, and wholly disconnected from my middle class American existence.

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For Colored Girls / When the World is So F*d Up That You Seriously Can’t Figure Out What to Do with Yourself

First off, THANK YOU to all of you who are following my blog during this experiment. It gives me a particular sense of joy to know that such wonderful people will be reading what I write. And the accountability is working – I didn’t want to get to tomorrow morning and have any of you ask me when my first RWR blog post was going to show up.

For those of you who haven’t been connected to me on Facebook: I finally reached that moment where the utility of the platform for sharing and discussing ideas was far outweighed by its soul-crushing, hope-devouring effects. One of my friends shared an article about the Trump campaign’s use of big data that made me feel like I needed to delete all my posts and take a shower. I want to still engage with people about how we live together in this world; I need to still engage with people if I’m going to survive this period we’ve entered into. But I was swimming in a miasma of toxicity, and I was putting back into that environment what I was absorbing from it. I want to bring joy and hope as well as righteous anger to my social media life. And while I’m so glad that the Lord was able to use the things I posted on Facebook to speak to people, I need to find a different way to go about this.

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Be ye transformed

​Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 NIV

Additional election reflection: I just had an insight into why this election result, while disgusting me in the extreme, is neither all that surprising nor traumatizing. Many people on my feed are writing about feeling like this isn’t their country, like they can’t believe they live in a nation this racist/xenophobic/misogynistic, like they don’t know how to live in a nation where this is true, etc. Those reactions sounded oddly familiar, and it occurred to me that I already had that moment for myself and my nation: two years ago, after Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson. I said these exact things in a sobbing phone conversation with my mother, as I sat in my front yard in Somerville trying to figure out how I could continue getting up and going to work and living life like the world hadn’t just exploded.

My pro-tips:

  1. It’s OK to be devastated. I was barely functional at work for the latter half of August 2014, trying to deal with the trauma. Don’t try to act like nothing has happened. Breathe, grieve, and give yourself some grace.
  2. Let yourself be angry, but not forever, and not so that it toxifies you. I’ve spent the better part of the last two years in a seething rage. It’s not that I was wrong to be angry; but it was an impotent rage that I had a hard time channeling into productive outlets. I wish I had spent more time processing my emotions through relational and spiritual spaces that allowed me to express what I was feeling, but then begin to heal and refocus on my purpose. Try to find (or create) those spaces for yourself. SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT YOUR FRIEND IN THIS REGARD!
  3. Let it change your life. Ferguson was the moment that changed everything for me. Within four months, I quit my job and moved from the place I thought I’d live forever to an area of the country I swore I wouldn’t return to unless a family member was dying. I spent 16 months away from full-time, 9-to-5 work, and instead spent most of that period caring for family members. (NOTE: none of those family members were dying, although both my parents gave us some good scares that I’ll thank them not to repeat!! 😛 ❤) That transition was EVERYTHING: it reoriented my priorities and opened up opportunities I could never have conceived, let alone planned for. The vision I had for my future and life’s work is becoming a reality that I’m walking in daily because of that move. Paradoxically, despite the election, today was an absolutely magnificent day for me because I am in the midst of this moment where so many amazing things are blooming for me that I can barely keep track of them all. That trauma was a real trauma – but it was also the doorway to blessings beyond measure.

There is no more business as usual. But the thing is, there never was. Live into that reality, because that’s where all the amazing shit becomes possible.

I’m glad I can laugh at myself!

Here’s a fun update: I’m currently clocking in at a svelte 212 lbs! While losing five pounds since the last time I posted about this may not seem like such a big deal, it becomes more impressive when you know that almost immediately after that post, I gained ten pounds and had to work my way down from there. It was an inauspicious, disheartening beginning; but I’m thankful that better things were yet to come.

Hilariously, I achieved my unusually successful weight loss by keeping rigorous track of what I ate and generally making sure that I expend more calories than I consume. 🙂 When I realized that I was just following really basic weight loss advice, it cracked me up. But hey, I never said I wasn’t incredibly hard-headed and terrible at listening to what other people tell me!

The key for me was finding tools that made the tracking fun and interesting instead of duty and drudgery. I got a Samsung Galaxy S6 this spring, and discovered that it came with this fitness tracker (S Health) pre-installed. I was curious and started playing around with it, and all the charts and analysis made it more like a game for me, as well as tying into my competitive mobile gaming side (wanting to beat my previous “scores”/get new achievements). I started to see that I was walking more and even getting other things like my blood pressure and blood sugar to go down a bit, but I was frustrated at not seeing more consistent weight results because I thought I was eating OK. So I decided to test my assumption about my own consumption using the app’s food tracker.

Turns out I was eating good food most of the time but really indulging in some crap at other times, and generally eating WAY too much (i.e., 3,000 calories) for my level of activity. So I set myself a goal of staying under 2,500 calories, which I seemed to be able to do most of the time, and then later tried staying under 2,000 calories, at which I was less successful. Slowly but surely, I started to see that when I kept to my steps goal and my calorie goal, the changes (albeit small ones) would show up on the scale. Those small wins, combined with the “gaming” perspective, kept me going as I tried to figure out how to move my progress along a little more quickly.

Oddly, it was the frustrations I experienced with S Health’s functionality that moved me to the next level. The food tracker database wasn’t very extensive, and I found myself constantly having to look up nutrition information on other websites for food I needed to log in S Health. That was when I discovered MyFitnessPal, the food log site I found myself turning to over and over. My other issue was with the step counter: because it was on my phone, I constantly had to be carrying my phone to count my steps; and since I don’t always wear outfits with pockets, that felt very inconvenient (not to mention upsetting my competitive side when I didn’t make a goal because all my steps weren’t being counted!). Enter the search for a wearable step counter.

It seemed a little ridiculous to buy yet another gadget after I’d just purchased a new phone and laptop; the fact that my shiny new phone wasn’t also functioning perfectly as a wearable fitness tracker is such a #firstworldproblem that it’s a little embarrassing to write about it. That said, I’m so grateful to my sister for my birthday gift of a Fitbit Charge HR, because it the difference it has made in successfully moving toward my weight and health goals is nothing short of stunning for me.

I’m counting my steps and tracking my food rigorously almost every day, managing my activity and calorie consumption goals with the benefit of the the seamless integration between Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. I’m engaging in challenges with my cadre of Fitbit buddies, which helps to push me on those days when I’d rather not get all my steps in. I’m even tracking my sleep, along with still monitoring my blood sugar and blood pressure through S Health. And I can see the results so clearly: my weight is down, my sugar is consistently in the target zone, and my blood pressure, while still high, is markedly down from where it was. My energy is up, I can move more quickly and more easily, and I generally want to eat less.

Plus, I feel more in control of my weight (rather than it having control of me) because I see very directly how my body responds to a low-activity or high-calorie day – both of which I still totally have. There’s no specific food or activity plan: no special diet (although I have to watch how much I eat food out, as the calories in those meals are generally crazy), no series of workouts beyond my daily step target. But I feel like the information I get from my trackers empowers me to make activity and food intake decisions that affect my weight and overall health in a way that is dynamic, natural, and sustainable.

And really, that’s the underlying change, which is a gift of God and not any work of my own. He slowly and patiently brought me to the place where I could look at those health metrics as tools to use in pursuing the things He is prompting me to do, rather than judgments on my worth and character. That sermon I mentioned in my previous post was a turning point, where the Lord helped me to stop using insecurity and fear of failure as excuses and crutches. He prepared my heart and then spoke the right word to me at the time when I could hear it. And He led me to ways of managing my health that are responsive to my real life instead of some imagined ideal. So this is one of my testimonies to the things the Lord has been doing in me this beautiful year – and it is only one of many!

In summary, here’s to discovering the obvious; having my weaknesses (competitiveness and technology obsession) turned into strengths; and the overwhelmingly impossible becoming completely doable. I’m still at the beginning, and there will be setbacks along with successes – but I know that I’m moving forward instead of backwards, and I am rejoicing at the transformation.