My Body is My Home

Originally published by So Worth Loving, June 2018

Sometimes I wake up bursting with love, wrapped tightly in blankets, with the sun streaming through the blinds and my pup at the foot of the bed. 

And those feelings sometimes last through the day. But even if a day may start well, at any moment my skin can start talking, telling me that everything feels tight. Even the hair on my head feels tight, like a baseball cap that’s too small. And that illogical observation is what I'm grasping on to, to tell me that this constructed reality is not true. 

You're hair doesn't shrink around your head. It just doesn't work like that.

But my jeans, shirt, bra, underwear, socks, shoes, and jewelry feel tighter than normal, like someone stuck me with a bike pump, and filled me with air.

I want to rip this skin off, let the air come out, and get into a smaller skin suit. But I know that I wouldn’t be able to fit into the skin suit I want; it wouldn't be able to zip no matter how hard I sucked in. 

The frustrating thing is that just this morning my clothes felt soft and roomy, maybe even cute. But it just takes one hurtful, frustrating, or triggering thing to make the fabric shrink around my body.

The problem is that I’m not even sure what my actual skin suit looks like. Even during those sunny mornings, I’m not truly certain. Maybe it looks fine. I know my eyes are not able to see myself correctly; the reverse of the Emperor's new clothes. I’m wearing invisible skin that my mind picked out of my Eating Disorder’s closet. And even though I’m in recovery, these dysmorphic glasses are really hard to take off.

Will I ever know if I’m seeing my actual self? Will my eyes ever adjust to 20/20 vision? Or will my body always be a mystery, a guessing game where I depend on photographs, mirrors that lie, and friends to provide the data. But I’ll never know if the data is accurate. 

I feel like a sixth grade science fair project gone bad, where the results aren't accurate and the baking soda volcano didn’t erupt because something went wrong along the way. But its confusing and I can’t find the error no matter how many times I repeat the procedures.

As the judges walk around my tri-fold board, I don't receive a ribbon because the data is skewed. On my board there’s a cutout of my body, alongside bar graphs and flow charts; and the judge is looking at it, shaking his head asking, “where’s the evidence? You need to start over”. 

But then with a deep breath I waltz out of the gymnasium, passing volcanos and bean sprouts and tooth pick roller coasters; leaving because I don’t want to be a science fair project. I don’t want my body to be defined by bar graphs, flow-charts, gluesticks, and poster boards. 

I don’t want my body to be defined by my mind that is reaching for wholeness but who’s eyes just aren’t there yet. They mean well, they just aren't seeing my body for who she truly is; what she truly looks like.

I was made to sleep under stars and tell secrets with friends around campfires and hike mountain tops, where the wind can play with my hair. In those moments my body is at peace and my skin suit doesn't feel tight but like a little sister: slightly irritating but so lovable. I’m made to innovate and create and believe the impossible. And right now the impossible I’m believing that I’m ok, and I’m not wearing a suit that is put on and taken off everyday, but what i’m wearing is my home. A home that deserves love and belonging, no matter how I feel about it. A home that is safe and full of kindness. 

And that “ok” is truth and good enough for now. 

The Art of Vulnerability

Originally published by So Worth Loving, April 2018

I don't have a Sam's club card, and sometimes, if I want to go, I'll show up to the warehouse, find a family and squeeze myself in by walking closely and confidently behind them, pretending to be a part. It always works and I end up inside, wandering around aisles of twenty-four packs of toilet paper and free samples. I feel like I do this a lot in my life, except I'm not pretending to be a part of families, but actually welcomed into their lives of eating and loving and laughing. 

Three summers ago, after dinner with my tribe, my friend Trent encouraged all of us to jump into the lake. It was pitch black and freezing and the waves towered over our heads like black ghosts whipping back and forth. I struggled staying above the water at times. My bones were in shock over the temperature and my friend Meredith was making me laugh, and in the midst of panic and sputtering I became overwhelmed at where I was. Just a few years before, I was content with hiding in my room, which was lovingly nicknamed "the cave", contrasting drastically with my current condition: freezing, out of breath, and feeling fully loved in the midst of an ice cold lake, under thousands of stars, treading water alongside people who loved me and genuinely wanted to know me. I never want to tread water alone again.

I think about the magic in letting myself be loved by others, and that love shoots life through all of my tree limbs, like instant photosynthesis; receiving divine light, roots planted deep, not just a lone tree but a forest; a tribe of trees rooted and gazing upward. I grew up in the suburbs, alone in a crowded concrete maze of houses, but now I am part of a forest, surrounded by trees that are cheering for me, willing my limbs to grow longer, healing me by placing their palms on my bark, and causing my tree rings to multiply. 

If I could pick the biggest change I've experienced in my life-journey towards wholeness, it would be that I've fallen in love with people. Me falling in love with people feels just as miraculous as being able to wake up and breathe every day. I used to believe there was power in independence; that I was strong and spiritual when I isolated myself, but it was just an act to hide hurt, to hide the fact that I failed at making and keeping relationships, that I was afraid of being known. 

In 2013 I moved to Alabama and lived with twenty other people on a beautiful vineyard, while attending a spiritual school there. Slowly throughout that season, I fell in love with people. I didn't have a drastic awakening, but simply observed some of the most loving people in action, and as they moved and breathed out love, the attraction for that kind of lifestyle became overwhelming. I became jealous of their ability to pursue and know people despite behaviors I found inexcusable and irritating. I slowly opened myself up. I was taught how to live in community. 

Two years later I found myself living on a beautiful lake, working at the ministry that opened me up and taught me to love people. However, while working there, I became silent again. I stopped letting people in, even though I knew they could heal me. I went back to keeping things inside, because vulnerability puts you at risk for hurt, even though I knew that opening my mouth would begin the process of healing, to be wrapped in safe arms. 

I don't really know what was going on inside of me, except problems from the previous fall had followed me to Alabama, like unwanted visitors. I kept stuffing anxiety, my ocd, and an eating disorder deep into my pockets, but they kept falling out one by one until I couldn’t stop tripping over them. Rocks were piled up on my heart and my tree limbs had curled inward, keeping relationships to formalities. I would long to have someone sit and listen to me, to share my burden, but instead I would punish myself by keeping my mouth shut. 

Eventually I heard someone share something that hit me in the belly, changing everything in that moment. My friend John asked a group of us if we had ever seen the meat head guys that could lift and throw cars and trains. He said that vulnerability is the switch to that kind of power; that vulnerability gives you superhuman strength. I wanted to throw cars and move mountains. 

I left my friends that night knowing that I would have to find courage to somehow spill what was going on. It took a few more months, but I did. I told people that were my new next door neighbors but, for some reason, felt extremely safe, like a magnet was drawing me to them. And that cool spring night I was met with unbelievable understanding, empathy, and love. My friends looked at me and said, “Rach, We didn’t think it was possible to love and respect you more than we already do, but hearing your heart and secrets are causing us to love you even more deeply”. They asked me what I needed in the moment, and followed through. Vulnerability gave me the gift of depth in relationships; it gave both parties the ability to love and be loved unconditionally. Those early moments of vulnerability gave way to the most beautiful, trusting relationships, where I felt fully known and safe. 

In late summer I had those same friends pull me aside, sit me in view of the sunset and lake and a fan blowing our hair, and told me the truth that I needed to hear. Truth that said while I was honest and powerful, I was also broken and may be reaching a point where I needed professional help. Vulnerability is healing but sometimes you need special people walking you through the dark caves and forests of your mind, the bramble bushes that make up a confusing array of emotions and the roller coaster that happened to be mine. Over the course of the summer my anxiety and destructive coping mechanisms had been increasing at a pretty steady rate. 

I felt like a little girl who is overtired but won’t admit it, and instead tantrums and cries and refuses to sleep. Then her family picks her up and firmly gives her what she needs: to go to bed. That night, through love I was held strong and given the strength to say, "yes, I need help". Because I wasn't created to have such extreme mood swings. Because I can be brave and powerful and admit that I might have some problems; because it’s not normal to want to die all the time. 

Truth spoken in love is powerful.This was the first of many times I had beautiful people reveal the truth to me. To have someone sympathize with you and try to understand is a treasure. To be welcomed into homes is healing, but sometimes not enough. It took months to finally make some progress, and even in the progress there were still weeks of backwards steps. But any progress is good and throughout that beautiful autumn, my Alabama family loved me thoroughly, enough to propel me forward, enough to receive the help I needed. 

If I held a magnifying glass against my skin, I would see thousands of fingerprints of people who touched my life, people who, with gentle hands, lifted me up to my feet, spoon fed me food that nourished and healed, and whispered words that championed me. Raised by mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters; many colors, sizes, and ages, leaving their thumbprints on my skin and words that built a home. Raised by the world into something other worldly. Led by forests and tribes, light and textures, shades and hues, tastes and smells.

So, collectively, my tribe carries me around in her mouth, like a mother cat carries around her kittens. So often I struggle and then someone picks me up in his or her mouth and carries me (sometimes drags me) along. I'll take it; movement is movement. Mother cat nourishes me and loves me and moves me and sometimes all I can do is just receive. I'm okay with that. Warmth, food, peace, love, movement; what else do we need? All I can do is receive this cat-love and be vulnerable with people who are willing sit next to me on my roller coaster. 

Being terribly close is hard but it sucks out all infections and replaces them with the potpourri of being fully loved and known. So that winter I went and ate dark chocolate and drank egg nog and had shared secrets with all of my mother cats and I could smell the potpourri smells stronger than ever. 

just a few recovery haikus

While taking some time to take care of myself and walk towards wholeness, I started to (very randomly) write haikus about my process. Feel free to share with others, just put me as the source :)

 

Vulnerability

rip open your chest

let truth spill out of your mouth

and flowers will grow

 

Adventure

rushing through your bones

adventure is not a place

but mountains in you

 

Food

made to climb mountains

and sleep under stars

for they will feed you

 

Process

let trust embrace you

open hands receive healing

you are made for more

 

Giraffe

stretch above the trees

and see the wonder pass by

the sky is now home

 

Moon

i am a moon child

a goddess of space and time

body full of stars

 

Feelings

we are meant to feel

so let the emotion flow

a full heart’s a gift

 

Callie

I’m walking bravely

the lions will not eat me

i’ll eat them first

 

Flexibility

turning back and forth

either way is fine with me

a choices are paths

 

Change

the seasons change too

and aren't you made of earth

wind blows and also you

 

Pride

feeling proud is now

and this is the beginning

roses pushing up

 

Fear

tell the wolves i’m home

my nightmares could not catch me

i’m safe in my pack

 

Garden

deep roots and rich soil

vines spreading, stalks growing tall

this garden is me

 

Self

the mountains are me

rivers flow on through my veins

healing wind blows by

 

A Song to my Neck

you hold my head high

but banished under a veil

why do I hide you

 

giraffes are not shy

they move amongst the clouds

thriving with the trees

 

Recovery

hidden fearlessness

lion heart, strong hands, wise mind

draw your sword and fight

 

Worth

stars are inside you

constellations in your blood

please know you’re magic

 

Transformation

a caterpillar

does not know when it happens

but then wings break through

 

Safe

wrapped, safe, covered and

it will all be okay now

you know what to do

 

Fear

fear grabs my hand and

tries to interlock fingers

but i let his go

 

and he reaches out

but with hands in my pockets

i walk towards the mountains

 

fear is still right there

and i avoid his hands by

picking up flowers

 

Family

blood is thicker than

water but we all drink from

the same golden cup

 

Girls

girls carry life in

the center of their being

a secret garden

 

Mirrors

standing in front of

glass that i give the power

dictate love and hate

 

my body stands there

pinching, squeezing my skin suit

but this suit loves me

 

so i say thank you

she does so much for me and

deserves all the love

 

Pick One

isnt it something

shame is debilitating

sadness is movement

 

OCD

talons squeezing my brain

whispering and convincing

now is saying no

 

Better

know life gets better

every day you welcome it

so say good morning

 

Alone

hiding, avoiding

feral house cat was my life

now wolf in a pack

 

Courage

courage is standing

in front of the mirror and

saying i love you