#real

I do not understand #100happydays.

It represents (to me) a fundamental problem
Of trying to make permanent that which isn’t sustainable
That which was never intended to be.

Happy. Oh, happy. Happiness is not the truth.
It’s an emotion, the very nature & promise of which guarantees it is temporary.
You cannot change that even if you choose to, and I would venture that you shouldn’t try.

I have read what appears to be the central landing page of this hashtag heavy challenge, and it does a nice job of saying “this is for you!” “You’ll be more positive” and the like. It argues that it is a remedy to an overly busy culture. But what does happiness have to do with busyness? What if a bursting at the seams schedule does release euphoria in some?

Slowing down and being happy are not synonymous, in other words. The connotation of the hashtag/movement is non sequitur with it’s supposed goal. #100daysofhappy connotes AND denotes feeling good as an ultimate goal, and that isn’t realistic or wise.

Choose to be hopeful from the midst of your despair, choose to see beauty from ashes, choose a myriad of realistic cliches* born from truth to cling to, but please, please, don’t think happiness is the end.

You are choosing a life of constant disappointment if you do.
You are deciding to chase a fix no less addictive and elusive as the next high from a potent drug if you seek to make it (happy) your status quo.
*Cliches in a literal sense here. Not a negative connotation ;)

Graduate

561183_638344965174_757750421_n

Accepted! Graduate school! I’ll be a Master!

Course load. Navigate it. Online/residential combined. So many students, who’s my advisor?

Advocate for myself.

Work.

Work hard.

Work harder.

(Breathe)

Take the sub job; keep my foot in the door, my name top of mind!

Take the writing job; sock money away, the collectors are hungry, I’ve got to!

What’s my homework this week?

Something due Tuesday, something due Wednesday, due Sunday for the rest.

Reading, writing, find another teacher to observe, find all the schools, all the grade levels.

Advocate for myself.

The phone’s ringing again – take the sub job!

Discussion board posts, lesson plans, original sources? Which library has those?

The client’s emailing again – get writing!

Laundry, dishes, cook, scrub, repeat. (Thank you, babe, for cooking again!)

Ouch. Toothache. Tooth break. Funds to the dentist, always the dentist.

1% chance of this procedure failing? That’s me! See you 8 times a year, dentist.

Time to go, time to travel – two weeks on campus.

Oh how time flies (thank God, this is torture)

Prep coursework, more sub jobs, keep running, stay fit!

Travel east (thank you family for coming along with)

Classes and adventure and it’s over so soon -

Or has it only just begun? What’s wrong with these bug bites?

Break from classes for two exams with a twist

(That’s how you order a drink with Lyme, right?)

Get it together, House, fight the lethargy, fight the disease, no rest for the weary-

Ring, ring!

Classes back in session.

Subbing back in session.

A new job, steady, fun.

Work hard.

Work harder.

(Breathe)

Juggle the deadlines, chain myself to the computer

Which university department screwed up now?

Advocate for myself

Online for classes, online for work, eyes hurt.

Winter in Virginia

(Avoid the great outdoors)

Icy weather anyway, kindness of strangers saves the day

Student teach! Full time hours, no pay.

Full time hours for the first time in almost 4 years.

No pay, no rest.

Hives.

Clients still email – answer them!

Work to grade, plans to create, stay in shape, House.

Stay on top of it.

Hives.

Glasses! Get them! Headaches scratched off the list; at least that’s one thing.

Loan confusion – should be in deferment!

Advocate for myself.

Hives.

Tally the days but they’re all a blur.

Log my hours, all three spots every week.

Discussion boards, portfolio. Homeworkneverends.

Work on work emails at the gym.

Piles of laundry and traceable dust, sorry babe can you cook again?

May? May! Time has come…

What do I do?

It’s all done.

10323163_767354514004_1878190167_n

I’ve learned a lot these past 18 months – far beyond the psychology, philosophy, and pedagogy of education although those clearly made up a bulk of it. And thank goodness, as this is the degree I have obtained and paid for, after all.

I can confidently say that I’ve learned that I was in need of refining far greater than I was aware of, and this time of graduate studying has (painfully at times) brought me to a place where I could receive it.

1056412_696584602474_891143100_o

I’ve learned that we can finish what we start, and we can finish strong. My final course of grad school somehow resulted in the highest grade you can get (that of 11 points over the maximum allowed). Does it make sense? Nope, but I know that if I can finish strong, so can you. This goes in hand with my simultaneous love of running and getting tattoos; it’s the same lesson. Yep, it hurts. Yep, there might be battle wounds. But keep going. Push through it. 9 times out of 10 I find myself thankful for whatever irritated me about a daunting task in the first place, so shut up and move.

1006604_693188717854_881717889_o

I have learned that there’s a difference between multi-tasking and multiple responsibilities. Multi-tasking really can be counter productive, but juggling multiple hats (student, teacher, assistant, elder, wife, friend, etc.) is possible. The thing is…be present. In whatever moment you are in, in whatever role you find yourself, be fully in it. I have seen the effects of hanging out with a loved one while writing a paper in my head or thinking about the emails that I need to answer. It’s horrible. It’s unkind to the person I am with, and I have learned that if it means spending less time with my friends because I have work or school to finish by a deadline, that’s what it means. BUT that also means that when I do have time for them – I really do have time, and instead of offering a distracted Emily, I can give the best of me. It’s what you all deserve.

This journey has taught me that we are capable of far more than we can imagine. That very good things have very high price tags. That, as a clearly repeated theme stated, if we are going to succeed we must be advocates for ourselves. Be educated on what you need for your particular situation and take responsibility to ensure things fall into place. I’m a big believer in faith, but I save that for God and gravity, not organizations and procedures.

1070268_702840725154_660537696_o

I’ve made the mistake of too much self-reliance during this journey, and for that I apologize. I took friendships for granted and I deeply thank you who have stuck by my side and come to my rescue. Inward processing has its place, but too much is lethal. I’m not going any further down that road. I am so grateful for all of you who have stuck by and supported me through this journey – it’s not just my graduation day we’re celebrating.

It’s done. 36 credit hours in 18 months. The fastest 18 months of my life — I’m ready to slow down and enjoy life a little bit more. Join me?


From Philippians 3:

Focused on the Goal

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-19 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

 

Rainy Day Love

Rainy days are my happy days

Calmed. Soothed.

White noise that effectively cancels out my frantic thoughts, replacing them with whispers of “it’ll be alright” heard in the cadence of the pitter patter of rain drops

No harsh sunlight forcing me to squint my eyes, they’re wide open, shielded by long lashes meeting their purpose

No bright sun burning skin so pale from generations of lives born under Scottish skies

Rainy spring days shield the grass from sunlight, too. Emerald green, unbleached by long hours of light exposure

Blossoms out, drinking their fill

Alive. Fulfilled. Peace.

 

photo1 (2)

Iowa City: A post for memory’s sake & for eating disorder awareness

I believe that memories are held within our bodies, in a way. Walking down the halls of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and I feel those memories stir. Here with my mom and step dad for her next round of tests, and it’s startling how memories trigger from that bend of the hallway or this elevator. Did you know that I lived here for 35 days? 10 years ago exactly, as a matter of fact. I think, selfishly, this is part of my reason for coming today on my last day of spring break. The ten year anniversary of life saving eating disorder treatment is a big deal.
It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Something about this ten year mark seems significant. The treatment, the disorder and the battle to recover, no longer seem like yesterday. They don’t haunt me anymore, and they don’t identify me anymore. This is good, I suppose; this is part of recovery. I think it means that I made it into the third of anorexics that fully recover (as opposed to the third that cycles through their whole lives or the third that, frankly, dies). But I don’t want to forget. I’m a little scared of forgetting. It was major. I nearly died. 87 pounds. Slow, slow heart. Numb. Despair. Darkness. Fear. The events leading up to treatment were hell. The first day of treatment wasn’t that different.

“I don’t belong here.” A security door like I’d never seen. Through the rectangular window, chicken wire in glass, bodies moving around. More like zombies than friendly souls. Sharon, a large woman prone to uttering loud moans, would become comical to me later. A wiry, crazy (a word I came to despise) haired man. Scary. More chicken wire glass separating the central nurses station from them/us. Lockers. They open my bags, pull out paraphernalia. Spiral bound notebooks are a no, they can be used for self harm. Self what? So much to learn. No razors, we’ll loan you one if you need it. A smoking room off a lounge area that looks much like any waiting room in any hospital. A cafeteria with a meeting room adjacent, in there for my evaluation. A round table. A group of white lab coats. Questions, questions, “My, your cognitive ability is surprising!” (You shouldn’t be alive). To my room. One to myself, but no refuge yet. Have to pee? All EDOs go at the same time, leave the door cracked, no trust. You haven’t earned it. My first meal, Melisa’s too, she’s also new. I was ready to heal and move on, but it was so small and bland; remember the soldiers and the concentration camp victims. No candy bars, the system can’t handle it. Wiped my mouth with a napkin, but that got me scolded. “Too much pasta sauce on the napkin, could be trying to eat less.” Don’t these people understand that I am here because I want to gain weight?

At least that was the easy part. I did gain weight, and relatively quickly, and it didn’t bother me. I would see girls with thick thighs and strong arms and be jealous. I wanted to look like that, to be normal, to be healthy. To be free of the beast that had held me in it’s grip of deception.
Calling mom on my first night, weeping. Grateful to have my own room, though they took that away the next day. Roommates varied. Switched up a lot. Some joyful, some, like Karen who had chrons disease, a colostomy bag, and little mental ability, were more trying. What was that girl’s name who worked at Whiteys in the quad cities? She was so happy. Stephanie and Sarah M. – just a little older than me, definitely cooler. They were the wise ones, who knew how to get through the program fast. I don’t know that they were the healthiest, but they respected my genuine desire to get well. Jason. So sad, so lonely. He’s dead now. His mom found him in his bed. Cardiac arrest. He’s of that third. Sarah J. Waspy. Desperate. Alive? Melisa will always be in my heart. We started the same day. She was stubborn in the opposite route, she was tubed for a while. I respected that, in a strange way.

Initially, I was too low weight to go do the recreational things. To leave the ward. Little things like drumming fingers or twiddling thumbs were taboo; burned calories. None to spare. Leg crossing was out, as bony knees pinch nerves & circulation. Bony bums are problematic, but the solution was inflatable donuts to sit on. We carried them everywhere. Sitting in the big, vinyl recliner in the tv room. Reading. I received composition notebooks to replace my spiral bounds. I wrote furiously, my life’s story, desperate to find clues to how I wound up here. I remember sharing this with one of the nurses. She was very encouraging.
The nurses. They were the brightest light in that dark place. The doctors were okay, but constantly rotating out and dealing with us much the same as the mood disorder and suicide watch patients we shared the ward with. The nurses were caring. Encouraging. Matter of fact in all the right places. There was a crew of younger ones. I can see them, but I don’t remember their names. The one girl would eat bacon off the trays of the MDO patients. It was cute. The bigger girl, who had read my notebooks, arranged a movie night for us. Dirty Dancing. We laid on yoga mats in the cafeteria floor and ate popcorn. They were good people.
The MDO patients. There was a tall, skinny, crazy haired guy who came in to get off heroin. He was a rock star, I assumed. Wasn’t there long. He gave me a pink plastic hair come before he left. Though our interactions were minimal, he told me I was a light in that place. I know I smiled a lot. I know I cared about the MDO patients a lot. Funny, considering how terrifying and inhuman they were to me at first.

Did you know they still do electric shock therapy? They show those patients a video first, to explain in excruciating detail what it entails. Some still agree. How dark are your thoughts that you willingly subject yourself to this? There was one guy in particular who went. I think I saw him at the dmv when I was there last, actually. His face will always be with me. He wasn’t of many words. His face was tired. His eyes were deep. I was drawing pictures in my free time by this point. I’d draw animals on card stock with colored pencils and give them to my ward-mates. He requested one before he left for the treatment, and I drew it. He was wheeled back in, quite visibly fried. Disappeared into his room for a couple of days. Awful. He did return, if not fully. He recognized and appreciated the drawing, but I missed the pre-shock therapy him.

Group therapy sessions in the cafeteria. Different counselors. Kay, with her long red hair and gypsy skirts, was my favorite and least all at once. She took no bullshit, but she also wasn’t always correct in her assumptions. She was my aftercare psychologist for awhile, but her distrust of my motives disgusted me. I didn’t return after my first visit.

Trips to the library. We could stop at the coffee bar. Get a monster cookie, it has the most calories. “Food is medicine, and the faster you gain, the sooner you get freedom.” Steph and Sarah wisdom. Funnily enough, I never counted calories until then. Never even thought of it.

Bingo night! Always off the ward. Prizes, like beanie babies. We’d win them for one another. It was more fun than you can probably imagine or than I can explain.

Working out was part of the routine, too. Gentle aerobics at a gym. A girl I went to high school with was there once, her husband was our current doc, she was helping. It was strange. There was shyness yet confidence on both sides, I think. We are Facebook friends now. She loves Jesus. That helps.

Water aerobics were interesting. I liked them, and for once didn’t care aboutt being seen in a swimsuit. That environment, where our bodies were clinically objectified in many ways, made me love and appreciate every inch of my skin and all that lies beneath more than ever. We also walked across campus to a weight training barn type place once. That was fun.

The occupational therapist, Michelle, was the coolest person I’d met. Her office was like an apartment, complete with kitchen. A benchmark of inpatient treatment was getting to go meal plan, grocery shop, cook and eat in her office. Sarah M. took charge of planning the meal. I loved it there. We also went to the New Pioneer Co-op and then picnicked with Michelle. Went to a fancy dinner with Kay and Sarah J. to practice not being afraid of menus, I guess. Always happy and educational times. I questioned Michelle thoroughly about her work, learned she also worked with MDO patients, knew that was something I wanted to do. She may be the primary reason I went to undergrad, even though I changed majors.

Easter Sunday service in the hospital. My pastor came to visit, which encouraged me so, so much. I mattered. People wanted me well. Cards came often, and I have them still. A church camp friend whom I hadn’t heard from, got every girl in her dorm to sign a get well poster for me.

Entered inpatient in February but we had a warm March. The first time I went outside again, all of us, was on a patio of the hospital after dark. Fresh air, stars and birds.

By the time outpatient came, 35 days in, walks with Steph and Sarah. One long one into the ped mall. Ice cream to fit the prescription. Living in the Ronald McDonald house. A blessing. Cozy. Rows of kitchens, always fully stocked. Two other EDO patients, from the pediatric unit. A pretty blonde thing and a guy who was only a few months younger than me. I was so attracted to him, it was scary. I had not felt much for months, and suddenly all of the systems were working again, and hormones were working again. It was like being 13 and 30 all at once. I stayed up all night on his last night, and bawled the next morning after he left. We hugged, we sat too close on the couch watching TV, but that was it. I appreciate him, though. And how he made me see what we are supposed to feel.

Aunt Wendie stayed with me a lot during that time. So grateful. She loved me fiercely, and empathetically. She would not put up with BS, and it was nice to have that personality around. Mom stayed most of the time, commuting to work in Des Moines every day. I just learned this morning that her bosses paid her for 8-5, even though she was only there from 10-2. Her ferocious love for me during that time sustained me. She did whatever it took. She fought for her baby girl.

I don’t remember the daily rounds of outpatient as clearly. I can vaguely picture the room. A large one, with tile and cafeteria tables. I’m sure many of the field trips that I remember actually occurred during this phase. I remember the doctors being hell bent convinced that I was constipated due to an overnight weight gain of seven pounds during inpatient. By the time I was in partial we had reached the last straw. A milk and molasses enema. Which is exactly what it sounds like. It was comically disgusting. And ineffective. Either that blockage is still in me, or it never was. Given how much prayer I was throwing out to get through inpatient quickly, I think it was divine weight gain.

Frank was the program director or something similar. He decided to release me from care early. I remember sitting in his office with my parents. He gave me the anorexic thirds statistic. He told me, in his business man-ly way, that he believed I was in the recovery third. That the current docs were pushing people through the program too quickly. That I was a leader of the patients, but they were sucking too much of my energy. That they might pull me down. It was time for me to go. I was ready.

It was relieving to be going, but also scary. During inpatient, I had felt led to live with my grandparents that summer. I knew my home environment wasn’t healthy because of my parents separations and I needed a fresh start. I remember my brother, who was twenty and out of the house at that point, coming to a family therapy session. He cried. He doesn’t, often. It was very affecting. I hate how much hurt was caused by my selfish descent into anorexia. I still think about friendships that were ended that maybe should not have been. But I cannot take it back.

And the changes in me, however destructively begun, were constructively wrought into valuable characteristics. I became much more responsible. Maybe even responsible period. I learned how to advocate for myself, and to know when it really mattered. I became tidier and more appreciative and respectful of my loved ones. I lost a deep selfishness. I became consciously dependent on The Lord. I sought truth and found this creator god who understood flesh and blood. A spirit I could feel and find comfort and strength in. I became disciplined. I lost a wall of us and them and found a lifelong appreciation for those of us with mental issues. I realized without test scores that I was intelligent and capable. I discovered learning, and my love for it.
The treatment process was in many ways a necessary evil, but what I gained from it was so much more than 35 pounds. On this ten year anniversary, as I still find myself wishing for skinnier legs from time to time or a concave tummy, I rejoice in my freedom. My two degrees, my husband, my community, my very life. Without those strange few months ten years ago, a very different, much less grown woman would be sitting here.
Thank you, Jesus.