A Word on Darkness

It’s lurking. I can feel it hovering at the corners of my mind, of my spirit. It’s moving towards me, but this time I am not being caught unaware. This time, I see it coming. And I can do something about it.

It’s like being in the Berkeley Hills, looking out towards San Francisco as the fog rolls in. You can see it and feel it coming. It takes over. As the sun goes down the darkness and fog become one. I’m not afraid of it, per se. I’m afraid of not being strong enough to not get lost in it.

Fog rolling in

A year ago I stopped taking my medication. I had been on meds for a few years prior and I wasn’t stopping just because I felt better. I wanted to stop to see if I could do life without a dependency on drugs. It might sound silly or presumptuous, but I wanted to see if I had what it took – though I’m not even sure what that means – to live life without a regular dosage of a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). I am a supporter of medication and recognize that depression is not just a feeling but is a biological reality that has chemical implications. I am clear now that I am not one who can just pray, exercise, eat and sleep my way through dealing with my depression. Continue reading

A Word on Breath

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As I took the train home tonight, I had a hard time catching my breath. Tears fell from my eyes as I thought about all that has happened in the past week. Here’s the thing – at any given time in our world, trauma and death and suffering occur. It’s not lost on me that so many of our global community suffers and we turn a blind eye, ear and heart away from them. But this week…this week, has been too much. It has hit so close to home. It has become home.

I am an anxious person. I took medication for anxiety for a few years and now only take it as needed. Today, for the first time in a while, I felt like I needed my anti-anxiety medication. The symptoms I was experiencing reminded me of my last panic attack. It was the only time I’ve ever felt like I was going to die. My heart raced. The world around me was spinning out of control. My palms were sweaty. My head pounded and my lungs constricted to the point of me wheezing out, “I can’t breathe. I can’t catch my breath.” I thought I was dying. I think this is how Eric Garner felt  in the moments preceding his death.

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A Word on Jamal Bryant and Shit

I have come to a place where I fully embrace my shit. I’m not talking about metaphorical shit  – I’ll get to that later. Right now, I’m talking about actual shit.

I’ve had stomach issues my whole life. It wasn’t until early adulthood that I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and realized that my issues with shit were connected to my physical, mental and emotional health. Anyone who is in my intimate circle knows that I’ve struggled much of my life with managing this part of my health. There are plenty of stories of Roze running to find a restroom in public places or having to pull over on the side of the road. My brother affectionately refers to my issues as insane bowel syndrome, because in his words, “That shit’s insane!” You are probably learning more than you ever wanted to learn about me but all will soon be revealed… As someone who has had lifelong issues with shit, I’m not embarrassed to talk about it and have spent a lot of time thinking about it.

In prepping for this post, I reached out to a doctor friend of mine to get some facts. I learned that we have to shit or else we will die of sepsis. If our bodies do not expel waste, the shit will literally enter our bloodstream and infection will occur leading to multi organ failure and eventually, death. How about that shit?

I’ve also learned that there is a correlation between how bad our shit stinks and our diet. Because it’s waste, shit will always stink, but there are some of us whose shit (and farts) can literally clear a room. This is caused by bacteria that is present in our waste. The odor however is exacerbated by our diets. The worse our diets, the worse the smell. What we put into ourselves, the things we ingest, will literally show their true colors AND smell when we expel it.

Enough about actual shit. Let’s talk about metaphorical shit.

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A Word on Violence – Part 1

 

“Any act of violence is a negation of life and humanity.” – Rev. Ken Wheeler

quote-chicago-dispatch

I live in the city of Chicago. Anyone who pays even the slightest attention to news headlines knows that Chicago has a problem with violence. A Google search on gun violence in the city will return a link to Huffington Post that lists a variety of stories on violence in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune also has a page dedicated to Chicago crime statistics and interactive maps to help residents figure out what crimes happen in various communities.  Now that the weather is warmer and young people will be out of school for the summer, many of us lament the fact that there will be an increase in violence. It’s a fact – warmer weather = more death in Chicago.

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Grief Space Part 1

griefSunday was a day – you know one of those days when the emotions bubble up and over.

I’ve been feeling untethered recently. There’s no way else to describe the disconnect and chaos that I feel. I have been struggling to identify where these feelings come from.

Life is pretty good. I’m enjoying my work.

I’ve been proactive about my mental health, seeing my therapist weekly and staying on top of my medications.

My visions have returned. In my major depressed states, I don’t have the capacity to hear from God and my gift of visioning is hindered. That hasn’t been the case recently. My visions have returned, almost to the point of being overwhelming. The creative energy is flowing and ideas are racing through my mind faster than I can account for them.

I’m nervous about the winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder is something that I deal with and being in a new city where cold, long winters are a norm scares me, but I’ve been proactive about dealing with this reality.

But there is still this feeling…this persistent, nagging emotion that something’s off.

I have been having a few days like today in succession recently and that scares me. I don’t like days like this because they remind me that the darkness is ever present. But something else happened today. I chose to reveal myself instead of hide. I reached out instead of staying in. I opened up instead of shutting down.

It began with church this morning. I’ve been feeling so guilty for not going to church. I am a leader in God’s church and I don’t belong to a regular worshipping community. I worship with many different communities as I travel, but I don’t have one community that I call home. Many have told me that I need to cut myself some slack because of the demands that my work in this season of my life make of me. But that doesn’t help ease the guilt. It doesn’t change the fact that I am disconnected from community. So today, on a rare occasion that I was in town and that I wasn’t exhausted, I went to church.

I cried most of the way there and I can’t  even tell you why. The tears just flowed. I got to worship late but I still went. This is a BIG DEAL. The anxiety of walking into places late is often times debilitating, but I decided to push through it and enter into a space that I knew God was calling me to be. It’s funny because I had these great expectations of worship this morning and they didn’t come to pass. But I realized as I left the service that me attending and getting out of my house was the first step.

From there I met with a dear friend who happens to be a pastor. I warned him before lunch that I was a complete mess and sure enough, over the course of our meal, the tears flowed. I still couldn’t explain exactly why I was so emotional but he let me babble on incoherently as I tried to make sense of the the emotions that I couldn’t seem to name. Our time together ended up being cathartic and I realized that if I hadn’t gone to church this morning, I wouldn’t have had lunch with him. I left our conversation extremely grateful for our time together.

As I drove home from lunch I kept playing the rest of my day over in my head. All I wanted to do was go home and bury myself under my covers. But I kept thinking that I needed to be out of my house. I needed to be around other people, even if I wasn’t directly engaging them. I needed to get outside of my head. And quite frankly, the thought of going home and being in my space by myself scared me. So I headed to a local coffee shop and began reading a book that I’ve been meaning to get to.

I sat there for an hour or so and still felt unsettled. At this point, I was getting tired of myself. I have no patience with myself and often wonder why things seem to be so difficult for me. I get tired of the tears. I get tired of the anxiety. I get tired of the sadness. I just get tired. In these moments I can’t imagine why anyone would want anything to do with me. I don’t want anything to do with me.

As I was having these thoughts I decided to reach out to a friend of mine who has profoundly shaped how I understand myself, my gifts and my call. It just so happened that she was available to talk. What happened over the next hour helped me understand what I was feeling and what I needed. Our conversation led me to realize that I am inhabiting what I am calling grief space. And it’s time to deal with it…

Part 2 to be published on Friday.

Planning Hope

The Rev. John Clausen was the father of my dear friend Sarah who died after a battle with Cancer in 2012. John was a writer and I thought this poem was very appropriate for anyone who struggles and feels like they are alone. These words give me hope and hopefully they’ll do the same for you. Thank you John.

Love,

Me

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You know the plans

Oh, Lord of life

You touch beyond
The pain and strife
You give the hope
Oh, God of love

In midst of doubt
You carry me
You bring me home

You are the plans
New life bestow
You are beyond
What I can know
You are the hope
Oh, God of love

In midst of doubt
You carry me
You bring me home

(Ref Jeremiah 29:11-14)

-Written by John Clausen

Photo by Linnea Clausen

YOU ARE.

i-am-powerfulYou are brilliant.

You are kind.

You are funny.

You are powerful.

You are loved.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday, September 8-14, 2013 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2013. The theme this year is: Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.