The Old is New, Again and Again

unnamed (1)We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple-tree

~T.S. Eliot “Little Gidding”

My list of all the places I want to see is far longer than the list of what I am actually going to see in my lifetime, and I have had the privilege of seeing some incredible views already. But I have come to find that my favorite views are in the land that is already mine. I claim any land as my own that is public and that I can get to, enjoy, and return from in 1 day. Fortunately for me, that includes coastline, urban parks, riversides, and diverse forestland.

How, when I’ve gazed down at the Grand Canyon and hiked 14ers in Colorado, could Hunstville State Forest and Brazoria Wildlife Refuge be my favorites? I found that answer in this poem. I never cease to explore, but at the end of my exploring, I always find myself back where I started. I am stunned to find that even if I have been to a place 100 times, if I get quiet and look with care, it is always like getting to know the place for the first time.

This is a beautiful picture of my cyclical life. History constantly repeating itself. When my shortcomings get repetitive, I can become scornful of my own heart. But we are all repetitive – with our histories and personalities and fears and habits. What if, when I find myself at a familiar crossing (or a familiar patch of mud where I face planted), I could get quiet and see the place as if for the first time? It is never the same, because even though my stumbles are familiar, I am always new – hopefully more steeped in love and grace!

IMG_0929RootedIMG_8068I certainly enjoy the spectacular and the new, but I love the subtle changes of places like my trail along Spring Creek as the seasons change and the years slide by. These places have infused bits of themselves into my soul and remind me that being my regular old self is enough. Some people might be like the Tetons or Niagara Falls. I’m good with being the neighborhood hiking trail, hopefully just as accessible – a comforting place for the other regular folks around me. woodduckportaflightIMG_1188IMG_0802 12-10-53-394

Kinder Light

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Kinder Light

Pale silver blue

Light from the smaller globe

Birthed from the ancient earth

Broken off, by fire and force perfected

If slightly lopsided like my mind

At rest reflecting


The ebbs and flows lit from within

Death follows life and life follows death


Not weak or less — only other

Strong in softness, because of softness

Sourced waves move tight in formation

Hugging the curves

Boring deep into places where

The wide red waves skip by

We see the forest clear-eyed

When there is time and quiet for

Eyes and soul to adjust

To still




Exposing the path without

Blinding the wild imagination



Pain and joy

Despair and hope

Groaning and laughter

The kinder light of the moon

Shines without burning

Grace Gives Us Gills

IMG_1685I imagine myself treading water. I am alone in the middle of the vast ocean of life. It surrounds me on all sides, as far as I can see. My struggling, panicked body has deep scars running down both sides from where life has cut me, from where I have cut myself.  

I finally lose the fight, let go, and slip into the wet darkness. But then, to my astonishment and extraordinary delight, my ugly scars immediately transform into gills that allow me breathe underwater.

“I feel like one who has had his violin out of tune with the orchestra and at last is in harmony with the music of the universe.” ~Frank Laubach, Letters By a Modern Mystic

This is what it feels like to swim free, no longer afraid of drowning. 

Grace gives us gills, transforming our wounds into windows for love – and the love gives us life.

“Suffering opens the channel through which all of Life flows and by which all creation breathes, and I still do not know why. Yet it is somehow beautiful, even if it is a sad and tragic beauty.” ~Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water

OMG – My Daughter Dropped an AP Class!

IMG_1433.jpgI have been trying to write a book filled with the things I want to teach my kids, but lately I’ve been wondering if I should ditch it and write a book about the things my kids teach me.

I have talked a good game to other parents about having perspective about the mind-numbing game of college entrance. The top 10% rule is toast at UT and A&M. UT announced that it is now top 6%. Will it be 5%, 4% in 2 years? Who knows? The latest I heard about A&M is that they are going to be exempt from this rule – or that they are allowed to restrict it to 30 percent of their admissions. Either way, it’s changing.

The pressure started for my kids in 5th grade. A high school counselor visited my oldest kid’s school during assembly, and he came home in tears because he was sure he was in the wrong math class. He still holds the math against me – even though it all worked out JUST FINE.

Back to my daughter – she plays tennis, which has a fall and spring season and requires her to miss a lot of school in the spring, and she is an amazing artist. She decided this year that taking 6 AP/ Pre-AP classes was ridiculous and would keep her from her art. So, she dropped Pre-AP Computer Science for Money Matters (already proving to be one of the most practical classes in all of high school) and dropped out of AP World History which would have been the biggest time sucker of her year.

She is transformed. Seriously, her shoulders are more relaxed, her skin has cleared up, her mood improved, she is sleeping better, and she is working hard on her art. She feels like she has reclaimed a big chunk of life. Because she is less overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work, her engagement in her classes has jumped. We are having great conversations about Algebra concepts, Fahrenheit 451, 401K’s, and ancient civilizations. We did not do this last year when she was trying to keep her head above water and was constantly sleep deprived.

To be clear, my daughter is a smarty – really smart – but even for the really smart kids, the path they feel obligated to take to be competitive in high school is terribly unhealthy. Are they capable of taking all of these classes and passing their AP tests? Some of them clearly are, but most of them are zombies. Her friends who are at the top of their class are not the happiest kids I know. They look like they live in a pressure cooker – because they do!

School districts, counselors, teachers, parents, and even some Ivy League school admissions counselors have begun the serious discussion about the need to cap the number of AP classes students take in any given year. Without a cap, kids will always be tempted to game the system instead of approaching high school as a way to broaden their horizons and explore their potential.

My son played 4 years of tennis and spent 4 years in choir – 3 in Chorale. Choir was one of the most challenging courses he pursued – the sight reading and all-state music they performed was mind-blowing. But it was not a 6.0 class, so he paid a price. Most students at the top of his class dropped any fine art after their freshman year and many of them also dropped out of sports in order to stack their schedule with 6.0 classes. We did the math upon his graduation to see what would have happened if he had gamed the system a little and given up tennis or choir to stack in the computer science. He would have competed for the top spot in his class! But at what cost? His experiences in tennis and choir were more important for his personal development than any one of his big AP classes.

Back to the second kid… I wish I could tell you I was jumping for joy when my daughter told me she was not going to play the AP game, but honestly, it took me a day to come around to it. I was scared of how it would impact her to be lower in class rank. I got over it. I’m even more over it after seeing the positive impact on her spirit. She is still in 4 6.0 classes, by the way.

The only way we are going to help all of our students pursue more balanced and healthy lives (besides changing our ridiculous school start time) is to place some kind of cap that encourages them to broaden their horizons. Because our school offers an IB program that would give an unfair GPA advantage to IB kids, I would suggest that there be a cap of 4 AP classes for freshman and sophomores. Kids would be more likely to spend another year in the arts or try out for a sport, try an on-level class that is out of their comfort zone, spend time with their families, get more involved in their community, or sleep!

As far as college admissions – this was my observation over the past 2 years of counseling various graduating seniors: Every kid who wanted to go to college is going to college. Many kids got into great universities. Most of them were not guaranteed entrance. I saw several kids gain entrance to A&M who were NOT close to the top 10 percent of their class. Some of them went the Blinn route. Some were required to show up a few weeks early to take a couple summer classes.  Many kids landed in fantastic programs at smaller universities and are already telling me how thankful they are to have smaller class sizes.

I have also seen a Lone Star College trend. Mostly due to the financial crazy of college, many kids who are capable of getting into universities are still deciding to spend a year or 2 taking all of their basic requirements at community college. I know people who teach at Lone Star. I wish my kids could be in their classes. Several kids I know would have struggled to get into the “big 2” TX schools, but they received a scholarship to Lone Star and will enter university as juniors having not spent a penny on tuition.

The point is – your kid can go to college without burning themselves out trying to game the system. There are a handful of kids in each of our Magnolia classes who will be looking at Harvard/MIT/Rice and the like. I’m not writing about them. I’m writing about the other 200 something kids who are making active plans to go to a university. My advice to them? Do your best – but have a life, develop as a human, and know it will all work out.

If you still can’t stand it, I’ll let you in on one more observation. You are better off encouraging your kid to be realistic about coursework and invest a little time and money in solid SAT/ACT tutoring. Most of the universities (including UT and A&M) put as much or more weight on these test scores as they do class rank (not fair, but true). In fact, outside of the guaranteed entrance thing, the colleges my son applied to did not want his weighted GPA. They wanted his real GPA – the one that does not take AP classes into account. His scholarship at LA Tech was based on his straight GPA and his test scores. His AP classes were hugely beneficial, and the teaching was excellent. He learned a lot, improved his SAT/ACT scores, and is very thankful not to be taking those classes all over again in college. I’m all for hard classes and AP, but I’m also for healthy kids!

So, do you homework and understand the system. Know your kid and be willing to advocate for his or her health, even if it means not playing the game. 4 years of exhaustion is a long 4 years. It takes the love out of learning. Our kids are more than numbers. We all know that deep down – now let’s help them put that truth into action.

Defcon 1

After a steady diet of CSI shows and Netflix, most of us know how to set up a bad guy for interrogation: sleep deprivation, isolation, poor diet, bright lights, overstimulation and noise. Then at the beginning of questioning, fill them with fear. Sound familiar?

This is the American lifestyle (my past lifestyle that I am trying hard to change) – sleep deprivation, loneliness, inadequate nutrition, constant exposure to blue light and information from our e-devices, and noise. We are primed and ready, so when the political party of our choice bombards us with tales of terror from the other side, we fold – or more likely explode.

Our lifestyle puts our brain in continuous fight or flight mode, flooded with cortisol. Twitter, Facebook, CNN, and Fox News all lead us to believe we walk out our door in constant danger. Is it any wonder that we feel like we live our entire lives at Defcon 1? We no longer debate, banter or agree to disagree. We instantly scream, curse, hate and burn anything we consider a threat.

Our friends and family who we believe have gone to the dark side are not possessed by evil. They are in fight mode. They are primed by our fast-paced lifestyle and then triggered by the constant assault of information and fear, and they are reacting like any normal human does when filled with cortisol and adrenaline.

Maybe if we can step back and understand the mechanics at work, we can remember that people are not their political party. Most people don’t even fully understand their political party. They only know what has been fed to them by their information faucet of choice, and those sources of information keep them on the hook by reinforcing their fear with every “news” segment.

Stress hormones can be addictive like any other substance. They give us a temporary high and power to overcome dangerous situations. Most of us are probably walking around with cortisol levels far higher than what is healthy. Some of the signs of this? Moodiness, overall fatigue, addiction to coffee, drinking too much alcohol, brain fog (high cortisol shrinks the hippocampus, the part of your brain where you consolidate memory and regulate your emotions), and extra weight around our midsection due to chronically elevated blood sugar levels (so that we can be constantly ready to flood our cells with energy in case of attack).

Most of us need to be actively pursuing lifestyle changes to lower stress hormone levels and break our addiction to the cortisol/adrenaline high, but I’ll save that for another post. The point I wanted to make today is that we need to extend GRACE to each other through understanding. We are not our true selves!

If we understand that our friends and family who have “gone to the dark side” (the dear readers of my blog fall just about equally on both sides!) are set up to be easily triggered, we can see them as more than their politics. If I understand that I am set up to be easily triggered, I can remember to take a deep breath before responding or take the social media apps off my phone.

One side or the other will “win” the election in a couple months. Only one person will be elected president in 2020. We all lose if we let hate rule our hearts and stop seeing each other as fellow human beings.

The power of the people is being decimated by hate and fear, but it can be restored by love and grace. Pollyanna! I know… but I do believe that it’s not too late. We can change our filters, then our minds, and finally our hearts – one family, one friend group, one neighborhood at a time.

A Web Atremble

IMG_6948Humanity is like an enormous spider web, so that if you touch it anywhere, you set the whole thing trembling…The life that I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt. Our lives are linked together.” – Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

2 days ago, I had a delightful conversations with my kids regarding specific teachers in their past. The topic of the week was history class. My middle child made the decision to ditch AP World History for on-level, much to the shock of her brother and sister. Here was the gist of the conversation.

The child making the move had very mature reasons for doing so. She is wise well beyond her years sometimes.

My oldest said he understood, but thought if she had Mr. Parson’s for history, she would love it. He concluded that Mr. Parson’s had not only given him a love of history, but also encouraged him to engage with philosophy and read great books. I would add that I think Mr. Parson’s also gave my kid permission to be his quirky, nerdy self no matter what other kids thought about it.

My youngest chimed in with a story about 2 of her teachers. In 2nd grade, her teacher managed to connect the dots of modern community, ancient civilizations, and dinosaurs into some creative, engaging project that ended with breaking open concrete eggs — or something like that. My kid found a T-Rex toy when she broke open her egg. She said, “T-Rex was my favorite, so I thought it was a sign that I would always want to learn more about history. I was hooked and have been ever since.”

Then she launched into reflections about Mr. Novosad and how she hoped she would one day be able to make kids love history and science the way he made her love history and science. A side note about how deep this love of learning runs with this one – I found her secretly studying her older sister’s AP Human Geography study guide, to which she admitted to stealthily doing at night throughout the summer.

After all of this, my middle child who started it all said, “I’m still going to on-level. Maybe if I’d had a teacher like Ms. Eaton for history when I was younger, I’d love it, too.” Then she went on to explain that Ms. Eaton had changed her life, made her love writing and feel confident about it, and made her want to ask better questions about spiritual things. Wow. I think she is still sneaking back into Ms. Eaton’s classroom to decorate her whiteboard. 

In his beautiful book, Learning the Vocabulary of God (amazing), Frank Charles Laubach asks, “God, what is a man’s best gift to mankind? To be beautiful of soul and then let people see into your soul…” I think that is what these teachers did for my kids.

Maybe all of these teachers know what a huge impact they are having on the world, but I wonder if they have days like me, when they wonder what it’s all about and if it’s worth it. If they had a bigger platform than a single classroom, would the power of their reach grow? I’m not so sure.

In the introduction of Gilbert White’s book The Natural History of Selborne, this caught my attention this morning: “By focusing attention on Selborne alone, White was not limiting the reach of his work but expanding it.” I think it might be the same with teaching, and with parenting and mentoring, too. By focusing our attention on a small group of individuals, the depth of our imprint reaches further than it would if we instead had a diluted influence over many.IMG_6442

I contemplated the math of a teacher’s influence this morning – take the 100’s or maybe 1000’s of students a teacher has over his or her career. Now, let’s be conservative and say that even a great teacher only makes a huge impression on 10 percent of those students, but then those students have children and enter into their own careers. Who will those students then influence? What about their children? Their children’s children? It starts to boggle the mind.

In his book, Prayer, Richard Foster contemplates the age-old conversation concerning the sovereignty of God and the power of the human will. “He invites us into the workshop of his creativity, where we can be co-laborers with him, working together to determine the outcomes of events.” What a wonderful filter for the way we view our work!

Much of what most of us have to offer seems small. I photograph my corner of the world and write my little words. I volunteer and vacuum, clean toilets and grocery shop in order to create a kinder environment for my family. It is easy to write off these simple tasks, but they are important. Who knows what trembles on the web of humanity my small acts of kindness might cause?

French philosopher (as well as Jesuit priest, paleontologist and geologist!) Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things…as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.”

For good of for evil, whether you know it or not, you are changing the world.


I Shall Not Want!

I am mildly anxious much of the time, but there have been periods of my life when anxiety has risen from a simmer to a boil. Once was during a twenty-something transition and who-the-heck-am-I crisis, once when each of my girls was 10 months – hormonal, postpartum craziness that landed me in the hospital the first time for cardio tests, and for reasons that are yet unclear to me, it’s gotten pretty bad in the last 3 months. During these times, I have occasional, debilitating panic attacks out of the blue.

My kids all have big stuff going on. That is usually the case as they are all teenagers, but my ability to handle it with healthy boundaries broke down this week. I don’t let them in on that, but it can trigger me. So, I was sitting in my living room a couple morning’s ago, worry-praying for one of them and stuck in a significant panic attack. It felt like my chest was filled up with cheap polyester stuffed animal filler and it was creeping its way up my throat. My heart pounded, and my brain felt like slime. I couldn’t process or see straight.

I started whispering, “The Lord is my shepherd,” over and over again. That’s a new one for me as I’m not much of a chanter, but it’s what came out. After about the 20th utterance, I went one phrase further and managed a faint, “I shall not want.” And BAM, a light went off – my slime brain returned to its natural sponginess and the polyester filling that threatened to choke me receded.

The “I shall not want” part has always felt like a passive thing to me, but it occured to me that if it was passive, David would have said, “I do not want.” I checked in on the Hebrew (as if I knew what I was doing) and remained convinced that “I shall not want” was indeed his direct intent – he was choosing it, or at least strongly agreeing to it. Remember Gandalf on the bridge in the The Fellowship of the Ring movie? “YOU… SHALL… NOT… PASS!” Worth watching again:

Anyway, that’s the scene that came to mind, so I gathered my inner Gandalf and said out loud, “I SHALL NOT WANT!” It has stuck with me ever since. I keep repeating it in my head every day, over and over again, because the truth is, no matter how many green pastures I lay in or how many quiet pools of water I wander by, I still want. I still want what I want when I want it. I struggle finding contentment in the midst of chaos, especially when that chaos is surrounding my kids.

It’s not that the temporary wanting of peace and prosperity for my kids is a terrible thing – it gets ugly when I elevate that want to the point of worship, when I center my emotional stability and joy around things going well for them. It’s a real problem when my want of temporary victories trumps my want of long-term growth and deeper love for them and for me. The question is not what do I want, but what to I want most? “I SHALL NOT WANT TEMPORARY SUCCESS IN EXCHANGE FOR LEARNING HOW TO LOVE!” Gotta go full-Gandalf on it.

My kids will certainly know the other part of the passage, the valley of death, during their lives – death of people, dreams, security, esteem, jobs and confidence. I will struggle when they find themselves there, but I want them to know that they do not need to fear the evil because God is with them every step of the way, just like he is with me when I panic.

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2     He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside still waters.

3     He restores my soul;

He leads me in paths of righteousness

   for His name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk

   through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

   for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff,

   they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me

   in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

   my cup runs over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

   all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


Jennifer (2)

Beauty Balm


With Krista Wallace, on the drive back from Big Blue Trail, CO, following our 13 mile hike.

There are 2 significant things I have been learning this year – presence and expectancy. I have my continuing struggles and frustrating patterns, but I have come to expect God to meet me in the middle of them. I expect him to work on me and show me things, and I, in turn, try to be agreeable to the process. The “work” I have been called to when it comes to my own healing and growth can be hard at times, but there is a part of it that consistently brings me immense joy. That is the work of paying attention.

Richard Rohr draws a wise connection to these words from the gifted photographer, Ansel Adams, who said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Rohr continues the train of thought, “So the waiting, the preparing of the mind for “chance,” the softening of the heart, the deepening of expectation and desire, the “readiness” to really let go, the recognition that I really do not want to let go, the actual willingness to change is the work of weeks, months, and years of “fear and trembling.”” –Breathing Under Water

I was struck to the core by all of this – It wipes away every bit of the shame of struggle. In fact, it is the struggle itself that allows grace to do its best work!

I have taken some lovely photos the past couple of years. Someone asked me recently, “Why do all of the beautiful things find you?” I was a little taken aback, and as I glanced over my photos, I thought for a moment that there was some truth to it. But I quickly reailzed that’s not really the way it works.

I am astonished at times when beauty finds me, but it is easier for beauty to find me when I pay attention to the urging to get up at 4:30 in the morning, climb out of bed at 2 a.m. to see the stars, listen to the birds and educate myself on their migratory patterns, work on a writing or editing project till 10 p.m. instead of watching T.V. so that I can spend the next morning at the state park, or sacrifice a little physical comfort.

“Softest of mornings, hello. And what will you do today, I wonder, to my heart?” ~Mary Oliver, Devotions

None of these “sacrifices” guarantee that I will find beauty, but I sure give myself a better chance. In all of the photos in the slide show below, I gave up something to get them – I got up early, stayed up late, stood still for a long time, turned off the TV, hiked a long way, got hot, got cold… something kind of hard, or really hard. I did nothing to make the scene beautiful, but I was willing to put myself out there.

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Sometimes working with God means I wake up early, read challenging books, step into tough but necessary conversations, place myself among people who are not like me, vulnerably confess my struggles to a friend, or say I’m sorry, frightened or hurt. None of these things is guaranteed to make me beautiful, but all of these things, in cooperation with a caring God, give beauty a fighting chance.

Job 12:7-12 The Message (MSG)

7-12 “But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you; let the birds tell you what’s going on. Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics. Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories. Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand—Every living soul, yes, every breathing creature?”

Note: It is becoming a trend among some of my favorite authors to use “he or she” every time they reference God. I get it, and, as a “she”, I commend them, but it makes for some very clunky sentences!:) 

The Long Hikes

Thoughts of Colorado dance in my mind this morning. This summer is flying by, and our trip snuck up on me. 10 days till check in!magicmountain

The Crested Butte hikes await. I love the short, steep climb to Meridian Lake, the scramble to the CB peak, Judd Falls, Lower Loop – meandering, photographing birds. These little hikes are the morning walks of Crested Butte. What a treasure!

But there is another kind of hike I want to experience with my kids this summer – the long hike – Copper Lake, Rustler’s Gulch, Aspen to Crested Butte kind of hikes – hikes that push you beyond your current fitness level, that get hard enough at times that you have to force yourself to see the glory that surrounds you.

These hikes are a reminder of the long hikes of life – the ones that involve deep grief or toil. These times take us on a path deep inside ourselves – strenuous, painful, lonely paths. But if we will endure, they lead to these beautiful pools – pools so deep and wide and pure that they have room for the divine to join us for a swim.

As Mary Oliver writes: Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” I would add that if we are brave and willing to do the work, we might find that the unimaginable was there inside our heart all along.

When the divine is invited to swim in our deepest places, we are transformed. We come back to our lives, and the glory of the deep colors everything.


“…but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” ~Romans 5:3-4

Hello, my name is Alyson…

Enlight352 2

My son left for college last fall. He’s not coming home – not really. He has become an occasional visitor, no longer a resident. I’m very excited for him as he’s heading straight from school to a fabulous summer job in NM, but the loss of his presence is hitting me all over again, maybe even harder than it did in September.

He is one of my favorite people and one of my closest friends, and he was woven into the fabric of my daily life for 18 years.

I have been super busy with my girls, my saving graces (also my dear ones), so I have not had much time to sit around and contemplate feeling lonely. But as the emptiness hits me anew this week, I realize that it has been lurking under the surface causing chronic, mild (sometimes not so mild) depression. I have struggled with this sadness in my body, because in order to get through my days, it was not convenient for my body to be sad.

My brain and my heart obviously colluded in my subconscious and decided that a numb body was better than a sad body, and that deep desire to be numb took me straight into my addictive struggles. Instead of picking one single addictive vice and ending up in rehab, I take a more “controlled” approach and engage in moderately addictive behavior across a broad spectrum – eating, drinking, Netflix, and shopping for cool sneakers and sharp t-shirts. 

I don’t eat a sleeve of Oreos in one sitting, but I might eat twice the recommended serving size – and maybe I eat them right before my dinner, so the second piece of dark chocolate after dinner is just a normal dessert as the Oreos can technically be categorized as a snack. I might sip on enough wine to keep me a little relaxed between 6 and 10 while never being tipsy. I can spend 2 hours browsing Marshalls and come out with a $7 t-shirt, but those 2 hours are brainless bliss. 4 or 5 Doctor Who episodes in a sitting? Well, I’m just trying to catch up with my daughter.

With my deft addiction management, I appear socially acceptable, an addict undercover. Any one of my given vices is completely understandable to most people. However, the cumulative effect is quite deadly. I don’t type that phrase that lightly – if I maintain my current course, I will end my life earlier via heart disease and diabetes.

This is a very personal confession, so I hope you stopped reading a while back if it’s TMI, but it’s helpful to me to bring it into the light. It makes it real, and I’m tired of the social media showcase where we all appear to have it all together. Now for the good part…

My past response when coming to grips with deep struggle was to feel shame and self-contempt. There is a generally agreed upon list of responsible, grown-up behaviors, and I somehow cannot manage to follow that list.

A year ago, I would have berated myself as a childish hypocrite, but what I’ve discovered is that my shame response is actually pride in disguise. Hating myself means I think I’m too good to fail. Humbly embracing my whole self brings acceptance of my humanity – my shared humanity. It makes me seek community and support instead of withdraw into my shell and deeper into my addictive cycles.

This morning, while working out (yay me!), I listened to a brief podcast – Krista Tippett on Becoming Wise, was interviewing Matthew Sanford. The subject? Compassion for our bodies. Oh, my goodness. Here is the first sentence of the podcast:

“Grief and gladness, sickness and health, are not separate passages. They’re entwined and grow from and through each other, planting us, if we’ll let them, more profoundly in our bodies, in all their flaws and their grace.”

~Krista Tippett


Now stop reading and listen to this (it’s less than 10 minutes):

There I was huffing away on the stairclimber, and instead of judging my lack of stamina, I chose to notice how well my muscles were still working for me. Yes, my heart rate was higher than it should be and I bench pressed 15 pounds less than I did in September, but my body kept me going through a really hard year! It did not give up on me. And the few extra pounds that have accumulated are the evidence that I have been grieving because I LOVE my kids like crazy. 

I do want to be around for my kids, however. Rejecting shame is how I break free and return to better self care. And taking care of myself is one of the best gifts I can give my family.

As I left the gym this morning, I could feel more keenly how my intake of breath makes the tips of my fingers feel connected to the rest of me, how my ears are more attuned to the joyful birdsongs than they were a year ago, how I really need to get to the eye doctor because I cherish seeing the beauty around me and can’t do that as well as I could a year ago.


Yes, my body is declining, but it’s a good body. My heart has been numbing itself, but it’s good, too. It was simply trying to find a safe place. The more compassion I find for myself exactly as I am right now, the more compassion I automatically extend to every other declining human body and vulnerable heart.

My body will eventually fall apart and stop breathing – might be 40 years from now, might be this afternoon. But while it’s still moving me along, I will live in a more connected way than I did yesterday. And as the other bodies and hearts that I love so dearly leave me over time, and I grieve again and again, I will remember the tender, softer grief of this year and the compassion I felt towards myself. In the future, I will be deeper, kinder, and more present in my grief and remember that it is intricately entwined with my joy.