Wednesday, January 26, 2022

when you begin to feel again

 

When life is overwhelming,

our wise bodies sometimes

take an overdue break

and our obedient hearts

and minds

follow suit.


Maybe it feels like

fatigue

or illness

or depression

or apathy.

Everything

just

shuts

down.


It all felt like too much,

and it was.

You were never meant

to carry so much alone.


And then, some time,

there’s a little crack.

Maybe it was sparked by

a good memory

a child climbing into your lap

a particular song

a dragonfly’s wing

the sunlight coming through the clouds

a roly poly between the sidewalk and the grass

the touch of a loved one

or the presence of someone

who is companioning you

on your healing journey—

a therapist, spiritual director,

sponsor, or friend.


Beneath the hard, shiny surface

that was protecting you so well, 

you might catch a glimpse

of your tender, beating heart.


I’m alive

I’m alive

I’m alive

it says.

I am hurting,

but I’m still here.


When you begin to feel again, 

you enter the holy ground of vulnerability

because feelings are wild things

that were meant to be allowed,

not controlled.

Your body might panic—

it hasn’t yet learned whether

you can tolerate the intensity—

but the intensity is just a mail carrier

delivering its messages.


And oh, Beloved, here’s the good news:

it’s not just the pain that’s been on hold.

When you begin to feel again,

Joy and Wonder and Curiosity 

and Excitement and Gratitude

and Compassion 

and Tenderness and Belonging

are close on the heels of your sorrow.


When Sadness gains access to 

your softening heart again,

she will let the others know

that it’s safe to come back home.

Monday, January 24, 2022

sisterhood of the sacred dance: afraid & free

 

Sisterhood of the Sacred Dance: Afraid & Free

Something they don’t tell you about freedom
is that it can feel scary as hell, at first.
Even as you celebrate the broken shackles,
the lightness of your limbs feels unnatural,

like you have become untethered

and might just float away.


When you wake up to the wide open space

available for running around,

romping and playing and jumping 

and making noise,

or sitting quietly just to feel 

the warmth of the sun

and the cool of the breeze on your face…


one little part of you will gaze back

to the door through which you ran

as soon as you finally saw it

and gathered up the courage to leave.


Okay, maybe you were speed walking,

and maybe there were fits and starts,

and maybe you got stuck in the doorway once

while concerned onlookers 

tried to pull you back,

but eventually, you made it out.


Your eyes squinted

as they adjusted to the light.

How could you prepare yourself 

for brilliant sunlight

and soft green grass

and endless blue skies

and intimate bird songs

when all your senses have known is 

deceptive fluorescent lighting

and cold linoleum floors

and glass ceilings

and noise blaring from amplifiers?


Yet, you felt in the very marrow of your bones,

a sense of coming home.

You were made for this freedom,

but some days, you might find yourself

huddled against the concrete wall

in a corner of shade provided by the building

that once held you captive.

You can faintly hear the voices

coming from inside,

comforting in their familiarity,

singing the song of the insider language.


It was

so nice,

so nice

so nice

to belong…


You are startled awake from your reverie

by the coo of a dove perched in a tree nearby.

She gently calls you back,

reminding you that you belong here,

despite the allure of your captor.


When you look up,

you see a familiar face—

someone you knew from Before.

She straddles the doorway awkwardly,

looking back over her shoulder one minute,

and then squinting in the sunlight the next.

She looks afraid and injured,

like you were once.


You leave the corner 

where you were huddled, stretch your legs, 

and reach into your back pocket.


“Here,” you say,

handing her a pair of spare sunglasses.

“You’ll need these here.”

You smile and her face relaxes

as she puts them on.


“I used to watch you from the window,” 

she says. “I thought I saw you… dancing?”


“Yes,” you say, remembering.

“I was so scared and free.”


“And now?” she asks.


“Sometimes I find myself

inching over to the doorway,

out of habit, I guess.”

She nods.

“But I can never go back there.

Just this morning, the dove reminded me 

of my beautiful, wild, terrifying freedom.

So now, I guess,

I am a little afraid

and so very free

and a little less alone.”


The two of you sit together in silence,

your bodies remembering everything

your souls have endured.


After a while, she stands up.

“I think I’m ready to dance.”

You smile.

“Lead the way, my friend.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Anxiety Dance



Anxiety Dance


I used to think anxiety was a moral failure,

a personal flaw,

an indication of a lack of faith.

I thought if I tried hard enough and prayed often enough,

I could send her away,

her departure the reward for my spiritual growth.


Then, do you know,

the more I tried to get rid of her,

the louder she yelled.

My body began to bear the scars

of her violence against me.


She was just like my toddler who,

when I’d walk away as she threw a tantrum,

would stop, get up, follow me to the next room,

and plunk herself down in front of me

before she resumed her carrying on,

demanding to be dealt with.

Sometimes the best thing to do

was gather her up in my arms, 

hoist her onto my hip,

and bring her along everywhere I went,

knowing it would be less efficient,

but better for all parties involved, in the end.


That’s just what Anxiety did.

“You will deal with me!” she yelled through panic attacks.

“WE DO NOT FEEL SAFE!”

Bewildered, I wondered, 

what about this moment is unsafe?!

She was just as irrational and unpredictable

as my toddler.


It occurred to me that maybe

she had something to say.

I began to listen with compassionate,

curious

attention.


When my stomach flipped and I felt the impulse to run,

my brain tried in vain to appeal to reason, saying,

“You’re fine! You’re safe! There’s no danger here!”

but my body—ever the realist—remembered otherwise.

When my jaw tightened and I became restless,

I stopped allowing my heart to shame me with

“Why are you like this, after all this time? O ye, of little faith!”


Instead, I knelt down with Anxiety

so we could be face to face.

I asked questions

and thanked her for protecting me.

I invited her to come along

instead of shooing her out the door.


Sometimes when you’re dancing, you take a step back,

not due to incompetence or regression or resignation,

but because it’s just one step in the dance,

one part of the way two partners move together.


When Anxiety alerts my body that all is not well,

I step back and let her have her say.

I hold her close, 

remembering that I am myself,

and she is herself,

and we are not each other;

we are simply dance partners.


And then, as we dance,

we consent to each other’s presence,

to being in relationship.

I listen deeply to her wisdom

before gathering her up in my arms,

hoisting her onto my hip,

and bringing her along with me.


Sometimes she takes up a lot of room,

and carrying her around is terribly inefficient,

but she doesn’t scream quite so loudly now.

I find that whenever she gets the attention she needs,

after a while, I can set her down

and she’ll run along and play.

Friday, January 14, 2022

a prayer for women OR a blessing for dissident daughters




a prayer for women
or
a blessing for dissident daughters

Today I’m holding women close in my heart. I have a prayer to share for us all but would also be honored to pray for you specifically if you would like. Just comment or send a DM. A prayer for us all:

God our Mother, hold and tend to us all. Nurture us and fill our emptiness. Be the midwife to the beauty we are birthing. Show us what we should do and how we can do it together. Let us find joy, rest, and beauty in creating.

Help us to see ourselves in You and You in us and in each other. Be with us as we experience the growing pains of expanding & help us delight in the beauty of the stretch marks—ours and each other’s.

Let us laugh and learn to dance with our anxiety and give compassionate attention to our pain. Tend to our wounds so that we may keep our hearts as soft as they are strong. Bless our mothers, sisters, aunties, and daughters.
We are so tired. Let us find rest and refreshing in body, mind, and spirit. Heal us & let us be agents of healing, for the flourishing of us all. Amen. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

stuck.



Dear friend,
Sometimes, feeling “stuck”
is a holy invitation to get still 
& quiet as you surrender & allow 
the birth of something beautiful.
- 🖤-
L.L.O.



Three and a half weeks before my firstborn child was due to arrive, I spent the day on the couch. We were deep into the month of July in one of the hottest Texas summers on record. I had finished up my last year of teaching, knowing I would not return in the fall, and had nothing to do but prepare for this baby.

Lazy, I thought. Why am I so lazy today? 

I couldn’t seem to make my body get up to get anything done. Little did I know, my body was doing plenty as I lounged on the couch that hot summer day. It was preparing to give birth that very night to our miracle baby, the one the doctor had said I had miscarried just over six months before.

I’m slowly learning that as a woman, the natural rhythms in my physical body carry wisdom. If wisdom involves practical application of knowledge, my body applies divine mysteries long before my head can catch on to what is happening. I find it interesting that the personification of wisdom is feminine.

Our Creator made us in the Divine image, and we are like our Maker when we create. Sometimes, in the process of creating, we get stuck, for any number of reasons. Sometimes we find ways to get unstuck, but other times, we must simply allow a thing to be birthed according to its own natural timeline. I don’t mean to negate the mundane, hard work that is necessary in the process of creating. However, sometimes a lack of energy and motivation for productivity might actually be a gentle invitation to surrender and allow the birth of something beautiful that already exists, wholly in its own right. If we will allow, it may even use us as its conduit.

If you find yourself lying on the couch—literally or metaphorically—and wondering why you are feeling so tired and unproductive, let yourself get quiet and still. Watch for signs of coming birth pangs and prepare to behold the mystery of new life.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

postpartum depression

CW: Postpartum Depression & Anxiety 

“Did you ever think you could love something this much?” 

Sometimes the most innocent words spoken at a particular moment can pierce your heart and expose the shame that scurries to the shadows, trying to remain unseen. My smile felt awkward and unconvincing. How could I tell the pediatrician—a wonderful, gentle elderly man whom I loved and respected—that my brain knew the right response but my body was crumpling into itself from the shame of how I really felt? I held my newborn for her one week check up, anxious for the topic of conversation to turn away from me and onto her. If we could just get through this appointment…

When I was pregnant, I had heard a friend’s husband warn my husband to be on the lookout for postpartum depression. I had had an almost visceral reaction to the idea that I, of all people, would ever struggle with depression. That was something that happened to other people. Not me.

It came anyway, although I didn’t know “depression” was the word for what was happening to me. I thought becoming a mother had fundamentally changed who I was, and I didn’t like the new Lindsay. She was anxious and on edge, desperate for help but incapable of entrusting the baby to anyone else’s care. The days and nights rolled together in a months-long haze of trying to get my baby to eat and to sleep, often to no avail. I tried to force myself into the joy and gratitude I knew I was supposed to be feeling. I can’t imagine that has ever worked for anyone, but I had to try rather than face the fact that I felt, deep down, that I was Not a Good Mother.


This is what depression looks like.
The worst moment was ten years ago, and I still think about it. I was rocking my colicky, sleepless baby while she cried, and I began to cry, too. An insidious thought crept into my mind: She would be better off with a different mother. The thought scared me, and through my tears, I began to sing the most desperate plea through halting gasps, “Jesus loves me… this I know…” I was trying to mother myself while I held my baby girl. I was unable to console her, or myself, again. Still. If attachment forms through cycles of distress and relief, how do you develop a healthy attachment to an inconsolable baby? All I could do was remain present, but often, it didn’t seem to make a difference. 

When I summoned up the courage to mention that my mental health was not great at my six week postpartum check up, the doctor dismissed my concerns with a flippant, “Oh, that’s just the baby blues. Everyone feels that way.” What I took in was the message that motherhood made people feel this way, it was normal, and there was nothing I could do about it.

I got better, slowly and gradually. I didn’t realize how bad it had been until about a year later, when I started to feel like myself again. I was relieved that I could be a mother and still feel like me. When my second daughter was born, I was at least less surprised by the experience. I knew better what to expect, and that it would eventually get better. I felt more sure of myself as a mother.

The new doctor who had delivered my second daughter took one look at me at my six week postpartum appointment and said she wanted to give me the the screening for depression. When she left me alone in the room to fill it out, I felt almost smug. I knew I was doing significantly better this time around than the first time. I couldn’t possibly be diagnosed with depression this time. I approached it like a high school math test I had been studying for for weeks, sure that I would ace it.

After she scored it, she said the words I’ve learned to dread hearing from doctors: This is not normal. She said it wasn’t “the worst she had seen,” but that it wasn’t normal, and she offered me a prescription for an antidepressant. Once again, I realized how dire the state of my mental health was the first time I had postpartum depression, by comparison, if what I was experiencing now still warranted a diagnosis.

In my experience, the sneaky thing about mental illness is the shame attached to it. The anxiety and depression were hard enough to deal with, but the shame lingered long after my mental health began to improve. I had turned it all into a performance, hoping that if I tried hard enough and had enough faith, prayed enough, and did all the right things, I would learn whatever lesson I was supposed to learn and could move on with my life.

At this point in my journey, on the other side of two rounds of postpartum depression as I still live day to day with anxiety disorder punctuated by panic attacks, I would say that the lesson is to let go of the expectation that I can overcome any difficulty and put a bow on it before moving on. Some things are never resolved. Sometimes, we have to keep living, day to day, moment to moment, with really hard things that we can’t control and that may never get easier. 

I’ve learned to stop the seemingly positive self-talk of telling myself how “well” I’m doing on days or in situations when my anxiety is unexpectedly low or absent because I don't want to reinforce the oh-so-tempting belief that my self-worth is tied up in performance. I’m working on noticing and welcoming the moments when the struggle subsides and I can embrace joy and peace with ease and gratitude. When my anxiety is high, I remind myself that I am just as loved in those moments as in any others and that anxiety does not equal failure. God loves all the parts of me—even the squirrelly ones!—so I guess that means that I can, too.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

2021 in Books!



Happy New Year! 2021 was a doozy, but it was a fantastic year in books. I read more books this year than in any previous year! These were my favorites:
1. God Speaks Through Wombs by Drew Jackson
2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
3. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
4. The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman
5. Jesus and Nonviolence by Walter Wink
6. The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
7. Dear White Peacemakers by Osheta Moore
8. I Bring the Voices of My People by Chanequa Walker-Barnes
9. The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper
10. The Journey Toward Wholeness by Suzanne Stabile
11. An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
12. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
13. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
14. The Wild Land Within by Lisa Colón Delay

And here is the complete list, including chapter books I read with my children. They are listed in the order in which I finished reading them:

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman

The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper


Letters to a Birmingham Jail by Bryan Lorritts and others 


10 High School Stories by Bob Nelsonf


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer


Original Blessing by Danielle Shroyer


Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley


Heart and Soul: the Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson


Still Life by Louise Penny 


Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery


Medicine Game by Delby Powless


Do Better by Rachel Ricketts


Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall


Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr


Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler


Faith After Doubt by Brian D. McLaren


A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park


Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne 


Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris


The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw


Living Brave by Shannon Dingle


Pride by Ibi Zoboi


Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman


Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas


I Bring the Voices of My People by Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes


Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile


The Color Purple by Alice Walker


Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong


Letters to Lenora by Leila Tualla


The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson


Dear White Peacemakers by Osheta Moore


The Enneagram: a Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert


The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune


Prince Caspian by CS Lewis


The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton


The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne


The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr


Did God Kill Jesus? by Tony Jones


Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way by Walter Wink


Roots of Violence by Krister Stendahl


The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall


Misreading the Scriptures with Western Eyes by E. Randolf Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien


Hermanas by Natalia Kohn Rivera, Noemi Vega Quiñones, Kristy Garza Robinson


Befriending Your Monsters by Luke Norsworthy


The incorrigible children of Ashton Place by MaryRose Wood


An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor


After Whiteness by Willie James Jennings


The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall 


The Wild Land Within by Lisa Colón Delay


The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell


Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann 


Journey Toward Wholeness by Suzanne Stabile


The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk


Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber


The Vanderbeekers on 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser 


The Deeply Formed Life by Rich Villodas


Welcoming Justice by Charles Marsh and John Perkins


When Momma Speaks by Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder


Calling in Context by Susan L. Maros 


People to Be Loved by Preston Sprinkle


Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans, with Jeff Chu


Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker


God Speaks Through Wombs by Drew Jackson


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis


Waiting, Accepting, Journeying, Birthing by Sarah Bessey


The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben


Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves by Louise Derman-Sparks, Julie Olsen Edwards, and Catherine M. Goins


Race and Place by David P. Leong



And now it's time to decide what's on deck for 2022! I'd love to connect with you on Goodreads. My handle is just my name (Lindsay O'Connor). Come find me!