Sep 042011

compassion is this. your pain- it rushes into my heart, it swirls around and transforms, magically, into love. only then do i offer it back to you.

I’m sick this morning, and so I’m home alone while the rest of the family is off at church.

Although an empty house is usually my favorite thing, this morning I was feeling sad, worried, and a little lonely.


Had I not been home alone this morning, I’d never have been cruising the internet for goodness, and I never would have heard this woman speak.

Church is everywhere. Thanks for the blessing today, Lyme.

Love, G

“There are enemies of compassion. They are pity, moral outrage, and fear.”

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Sep 032011

I just finished this book, which was a disappointment at first. Since the subtitle is The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, I thought it was going to teach me how to get things done without actually doing them. You can imagine my excitement at this prospect, since having to do things is one of my major beefs with life. I dreamt there might be chapters like Vacuuming without Vacuuming, Feeding Children without Feeding Children, Remembering Stuff Without Remembering Stuff, things such as this. But, no. It’s mostly about the effect our unconscious has on our judgments and reactions and decisions, which is actually quite fascinating. Today I’d like to discuss a particular section of the book that’s been swirling around in my head for days.

There is a chapter in the book about improvisational theater. You know, when actors get up on a stage with no script and feed off one another to create a scene and a story on the spur of the moment. My friend Joanna spent years on an improv team in California, and the mere thought of what she did every night in front of hundreds of people terrifies me. I’ve always wondered . . . how do they do that? How do they not pee in their pants every night from fear? How do they make it look so effortless, so natural? How are the actors so confident that all will go well when they have NO idea what’s going to happen next?

Here’s what the book had to say about how they do that:

“One of the most important of the rules that makes improv possible is the idea of agreement, the notion that a very simple way to create a story – or humor- is to have characters accept everything that happens to them….If you’ll stop reading for a moment and think of something you wouldn’t want to have happen to you, or to someone you love, then you’ll have thought of something worth staging or filming….Most of us are very skilled at suppressing action. All the improvisation teacher has to do is to reverse this skill and he creates a very “gifted” improviser.”

And so, of course, I started thinking about how Shakespeare said “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” And how, if this is true, then we’re all improvers . . . because certainly nobody’s handed a script each morning. We never have any clue what the hell is about to happen to us.

And then I thought about how the author said that we are “skilled at suppressing action.”That seems true . . . we are so afraid of action entering our lives…..we don’t want it, we resist it, we reject it. But action, or conflict, is exactly what makes a story or life interesting, worth living, worth telling. Conflict in a story or a life is what changes the person living through it. Conflict is what turns someone into a deeper, better, wholer, person. And that change is what life’s supposed to be about. We are each presented with different conflicts, but the purpose of each of our conflicts is the same . . . change. No conflict, no change.

What hero do you have that wasn’t presented a curve ball by her improv partner – Life – and allowed it to change her for the better?

And that got me thinking about how most of my pain and anger and confusion result from resisting life’s suggestions. Not necessarily from what happens to me, but from my refusal to accept what happens to me. My discomfort stems from the way I hang on white knuckled to what I expected to happen, or to the way things used to be. This resistance is draining, fruitless, wasteful, damaging even . . . like an actor having a temper tantrum on stage because he wanted his partner to take the scene somewhere different. This resistance takes me out of the moment. It cuts off energy, ruins the scene, the whole vibe. And it blockades the road that I was supposed to walk down. The road that was built to change me for the better.

The rule in improv is to accept your partner’s suggestion. You must say yes and respond. Adapt. Allow your ideas and expectations to be fluid. Allow what happens to change the scene and change your character. Improv is about change.

So I thought . . . if life is like improv, would a good rule be to accept life’s suggestions, to say yes and respond? To allow my ideas and expectation about my life to remain fluid? To allow what happens to me to change my life and my heart? Because isn’t life about change, too? Isn’t life about allowing conflict to change me into who I was meant to be?

And then I started thinking about what would happen if I started saying yes, yes, yes to my Lyme instead of hating it, instead of being so pissed off at it and resisting it and waging war against it. It’s not really my personality to wage war, so my Lyme war takes a lot out of me. I wondered if there might be a different approach.

And that got me thinking about how Lyme has changed me.

I don’t think I really knew how to take care of myself before I got Lyme.

A Monkee emailed me recently about how she felt so drained by other people and responsibilities, about feeling like a doormat, about being sucked dry by others and finding no time for herself. And while I read and sympathized and remembered having those feelings in the past, I realized with surprise that I hadn’t experienced those feelings for months.

I haven’t done a single thing I haven’t truly wanted to do for about a year now. I haven’t given away my time or energy to anyone but the people I love. I have done nothing but learn how to nourish my body with good food, nourish my mind with books, nourish my soul with prayer and quiet, care for my family, seek out time with life giving friends, and follow my little dreams. With whatever energy I have left over, I’ve cared for my home and I’ve written. That’s it. When I think about it, it’s actually sort of a wonderful way of life, managing a disease.

Since disease has forced me to slow down and pay attention to myself . . . I am in touch with what I need all the time. I say no thank you to things I don’t want to do and to things I do want to do all the time, and Lyme gives me the excuse not to have an excuse. And I seem to worry a whole lot less about disappointing other people, and what they will think of me when I inevitably do. This makes me wonder if Lyme is changing my character, because I used to worry about that more. I’m fairly certain that worrying about what others think of you stems from pride . . . so maybe my Lyme has tamed my ferocious pride. Nothing else has been able to do that, ever.

Maybe my limited health and energy is a gift, too. You know, when people win the lottery, they always think their lives will be better but often they end up blowing all their gobs of money and losing friends and finding themselves miserable. It’s like God gives us these resources, money and energy and health, but maybe when we have too much of something, it loses its meaning and we get lost in it. We end up giving it all away because it’s not precious to us anymore, and we’re left with nothing. But when our resources are limited, like my energy and health are, we watch how we spend it. We notice it and enjoy it when we have it. We’re grateful for it and we make good decisions about who we give it away to. We quit being wasteful. We make more out of less.

And then I think about the Big Curveballs that have made me who I am – bulimia and addiction. These are diseases that left me healthier and wholer in the end. I’ll go farther, they gave my life meaning. They brought me closer to my faith and my family and my real self. They turned me into a writer. They led me to my vocation. Jesus, they saved me.

There was a price to pay for my addictions and there’s a price to pay for my Lyme. My family pays through the nose, sometimes. Even so, as I‘m writing this I’m thinking that I’d choose them all again. I like who these curveballs are turning me into. I like the change I see in myself.

There have certainly been times in my life when I’ve felt better, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been better.

So. Today I say yes, yes, yes, Lyme. I’m not going to fight with you anymore.

All the world is a stage and my improv partner, Life, has suggested Lyme. So I’ll roll with this. I will listen carefully to you, Lyme, and when you suggest rest I’ll rest and I will learn to care of myself through you and that will, in turn, help me learn how to care for others better.

Through conflict, Life teaches us each differently the same lesson: “Love others as you love yourself.” Implied is that first we love ourselves wildly and carefully and fully too, and Lyme, you are teaching me how. You are a teacher.

*Wait, what’s that, Lyme? What’s that you say? You want us to quit saving for college this year and hire a babysitter several hours a week so I can rest??? Really, Lyme? Okay. Yes. Whatever you say. Yes. Yes. Yes. I say Yes, Sweet Lyme.

Thank you, Lyme. Thank you, God, for my Lyme.

Let me accept it and learn from it and allow it to change me.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

Aug 302011

They’re gone.

All three kids are at school.

I have an hour and a half to sit in a quiet house and write to you. There are other things I might be doing instead. My house is a mess. There is clutter everywhere and unfinished paperwork and grocery shopping and well, you know. I’m ignoring it. That stuff will get done, eventually. But if I don’t sit down and focus, what I had to say today will be gone forever.

A little story for you.

Last week I woke up confused and sad and sick.

I have Lyme disease and sometimes it leaves me alone and I’m fine and other times it just clobbers me. I’m on forty two million pills each week (312 to be exact), so sometimes I can’t tell if it’s the pills or the disease that’s making me feel sick.

Ahh . . . the good old days, when taking drugs was such great fun. Not so much anymore. I love Jesus, but sometimes I believe in Karma a little, too.

Here are my pills.

Lots of those are supplements that are supposed to boost my immune system and help me fight the Lyme . . . I take things like BEE POLLEN and KELP and I eat things like Spirulina Cashew bars for lunch and kale smoothies for breakfast. I exercise several times a week and then sit in the sauna till I can’t take it anymore and then I scrub my skin with loofahs afterwards. All of this is supposed to release Lymie toxins from my skin. It’s all sort of insane. I have got to be the healthiest chronically unhealthy girl on Earth. Jesus, Spirulina?? These sorts of words are second nature to me now . . . a year ago Baked Cheetos were my healthiest choice. Life and Lyme are strange.

Anyway, this one particular day last week, I woke up feeling Lymie and stressed and confused about the adoption. We still have hope, there is hope, and this hope keeps us on edge. But still….nothing keeps happening. Nothing, nothing, and then additionally a little more of nothing for good measure. And so we hold out hope with no real reason to, other than our belief that hope is good. And so I was feeling both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by life.

I walked down the stairs to start the laundry and saw this on my doorstep. I have glass doors, so this gal was peering into my foyer, waiting to be noticed.

Just sitting there.

And I squeezed my eyes shut and then opened them again to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

Amma ran up behind me and yelled “WHAT ON THE HECK?” That’s her new thing.

I stepped outside and found Kristi in the bushes. Back story. Thank you, Bloggess.

I have tried to explain what Beyonce means to me to several people and I can’t seem get it out right. I’ll try again.

Last week at church my minister was serving communion and he held up the bread and explained to us that communion is a sacrament. He said that a sacrament is something visible, that points to something invisible. A sacrament is an earthly reality we create to point to a spiritual reality. It’s something we create, a symbol, that we can look at and touch to help us remember what we believe. Like a wedding ring. Because things we believe are usually invisible, making them trickier to keep believing in. We need to use our senses to help us keep believing. Humans need to see things, to touch things, to understand ideas.

And so that’s when I realized . . . Beyonce is a sacrament.

Stay with me here.

My friend Kristi, who I only met through Momastery, is deeply touched by my writing and yours. This community has gotten to her. She has always believed, deep down, that Love Wins, and that women should take care of each other, and that courage and kindness are what matter . . . but she’s never seen it proven right in front of her like she has here. She is inspired by us and our commitment to goodness and laughter. We help her believe, so she wanted to say thank you in a big way.

And one day she was driving down an old country road and she saw this rooster just sitting there. And she just knew. So she stopped her car and she said, Hey, how much for this chicken? This five foot, jagged edged, one eyed, rainbow rooster? And the lady told her, and she paid the lady. A lot, I think. Then she went to her house and made one of her amazing signs. And she turned the sign into a necklace and drove Beyonce and the sign to my house. Then she pulled Beyonce out of her truck by herself, risking Tetanus and all sorts of other diseases (because Beyonce will CUT YOU!) and she lugged her to my porch. And then she knocked, hid in the bushes and waited.

Kristi is a busy woman. She doesn’t really have time for a wild rooster chase. But it turns out she did have time, actually.

So now, every time I look at Beyonce . . . I think of how people will do crazy things for love. And how even though life is hard and there seems to be lots of nonsensical pain . . . there’s also plenty of nonsensical joy. She also reminds me to follow my God voice…because the God voice is what led me to start this blog . . . and good things have come of it. She reminds me that God uses my writing to move people and to help them laugh and forget some of the urgent things in their lives long enough to remember the important things. Like making each other smile.

I love Beyonce. She makes me smile.

Even so, she is a huge rainbow metal chicken. And we live in a fancy neighborhood in which yard art is not encouraged. So everyday Craig and I wait for our letter from the HOA suggesting that we “KINDLY REMOVE THE METAL ROOSTER FROM THE PORCH.”

But don’t worry. I’ve already prepared my defense. I will argue that Beyonce is an expression of my religious freedom. She is a SACRAMENT. She is a visible reminder of something invisible…of love, hope, joy, friendship. Removing her would be AGAINST my RELIGION. Beyonce and I’ll see ya at the Supreme Court, HOA.

For fun, I went through my house to show you the other sacraments I keep around, to remember what I believe.

I believe these three things.

I believe I have four children.

I believe my fourth is a baby boy. And that he’s in Africa.

I believe in Jesus. Crazy about the guy. Totally worship him.

I believe in Sisterhood. All kinds.

I believe in prayer as an act of love. I believe most everything is a prayer.

This sacrament is my favorite.

It’s a monkee painted on a rock. My mama made it for me last month. I rub it every time I get scared about the adoption or about my Lyme. So, all day. It says to me, your mom believes in you and loves you. Even when you do these crazy things, she believes in you. Even when she doesn’t understand what you’re doing, she believes that you do.

I love you guys. I’ll make you a Monkee rock if you need a reminder that you’re loved. I’m going to ask my mom to teach me.

My time’s up.

Love, G

Oh, one more thing. Great news on the VMAs Sunday nite.

Beyonce, With Child.


Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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