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relapse, indeed (part 1)

It has been two years since I have written…two years, two towns, fifty pounds, and far more disappointment and depression than I can count. So, yes, I relapsed. But, what is relapse?

Google defines it as “a deterioration in someone’s state of health after a temporary improvement.” Yet, the work that I had put in over those long years — all of the therapy, all of the tears, all of the work outs, the journaling, writing, crying, screaming — was far from temporary. In my core, I am still the same Jen.

So what makes today different? Well, I woke today and prayed. I decided to take this Summer off to break out of the “Tex-a-coma”. The last three Summers have been filled with moving and studying and moving again. In three years I have seen three Cities (all vastly different), the death of a beloved fur-baby; and multiple waistlines.

It is really easy to tell when I am not doing well emotionally and spiritually: I gain weight. I mean, that’s what happens to a compulsive overeater who doesn’t purge, right? Yet, today was different. Tuesday, well that’s a different story.  I had an emotional reaction to stress and instead of praying and journaling about it — I binged on both food and television… ultimate avoidance behavior.

We’re either working on recovery OR we’re working on relapse. source

Yet, today I went to the table determined to tell God about it. (Not that He isn’t aware… insert sarcastic tone of voice here). So, I sat down to my journal and I prayed for freedom…day two of that prayer.

And just as I was thanking God for His provision, I received an email that guarantees extra income (a huge stress reliever). And I wept. I wept because I don’t deserve the blessings that seem to shower me on a daily basis. So, in gratitude I worked my way through my check-list for the day… and had the most productive day without television and without binging.

The day isn’t over, but I am grateful for productivity and peace. (They seem to go hand and hand for me). It isn’t that the work saves me, it is that I work because I feel safe… safe from anxiety, depression, loneliness, and fear.

Today I chose to work not toward relapse but toward remission.


the war within

two selvesI literally fell on my butt in spin class yesterday. SIDE NOTE: It’s really difficult to psych yourself up to workout after a hiatus and weight gain. I moved back to Texas 10 months ago. I left behind a sense of home and belonging, only to gain perspective and fifteen pounds. They say everything is bigger in Texas, but I didn’t think that would be my butt. Speaking of, I fell flat on it yesterday because Healthy Jen felt at home there and hoisted her leg up to the top of the bike. Dysfunctional Jen has twenty pounds of fear and anger in her way, and therefore teetered until she created a not-so-graceful and slightly dramatic scene.

No, I’m not bi-polar nor do I have multiple personalities. But, I’ve always seen myself with two sides. The Chinese philosophers would call this ‘yin and yang’, we Christians call this the Spirit and the Self. The major difference is … well, we’ll leave that for a discussion over coffee or vino (your choice). I like to call mine “Healthy/Dysfunctional Jen”.

Don’t get me wrong, I can accomplish things no matter the state of mind I am currently in. But, Healthy Jen (HJ) is a lot more loving, understanding, and all-around fun to be around. She is the best version of myself. She doesn’t get in the way or shut down when things get too hard. She is fully alive, living out the ‘indeed’ life that’s vivacious no matter how mundane it may be. (SIDE NOTE: Being an adult can be so damn boring sometimes). Dysfunctional Jen (DJ) is in the fetal position, both physically and mentally, on most days. She avoids thinking about the mundane and avoids living. She’s dreaming of the ‘indeed’ life instead of living it.

The sad thing is that I, like most people, let this battle tear me apart. I let my circumstances stop me from living fully. Starting over has been hard for this thirty-seven year old. DJ believes that she will never get to retire and that she will still be struggling to be a novice in her field. HJ realizes that everyone struggles the first few years and that things will be better next year. DJ hates building friendships from the bottom again. HJ looks challenges in the eye and says, “Hi!”

So with that, I say adieu. I’m going to a new bible study. I’m nervous, because DJ and HJ are still at odds with each other. But, today I will hold my head high and say, “Hi! My name is Jen. What is yours?”

wisdom in the wilderness

It’s been a heck of a journey over the last two years. It all started last October. I was living in Park Slope, Brooklyn (infamous for its cafes and restaurants and notoriously small housing). My apartment was cute and convenient, but had the world’s smallest bathroom. The bathtub was 1/3 the size of a normal bath, and so when I fainted while showering one morning, I hit my head and went into a tailspin of sorts.

I won’t get into all of the gory details, but I will say this: five staples are no fun without drugs. I spiraled into a season of mistrust and anger on that day. In my selfishness, I was furious that God wasn’t giving me the life (and health) that I thought I deserved. So, God started to move things around and welcomed me into a season in the wilderness – that space in between blessing and effectiveness.

Questions like, “why didn’t I get it the first time, Lord?” “Why me?” “Everyone else seems to be functional and viable, why can’t I?” “What did I do wrong?” “What the [expletive]?” permeate my brain. There is no clarity when I am like this; it just is. Most days I feel useless and incompetent, and seeing that this is not my first wilderness journey I am also very angry.

The wilderness is not, however, a place to wallow. It is a place of wisdom. It is God’s University. Seeing that I am bull-headed, God had to literally move me in order to school me.

The first lesson was that I am loved, lovable, and lovely – not because of what I do, but because of who I am in Christ. I had to move to a city that is less than friendly at times in order to learn this lesson. It took many years and lots of prayer and therapy, but I know that it is true.

The second lesson is still being learned: trust. I’m a control freak, so it is the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn so far. Yet, the rest of my life hangs on its power. How can I truly live out “indeed” without trust? It is in learning to “be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait[ing] for him to act (Psalm 37:7)” that one finds freedom: contentment in the solitude and joy in the sorrow.

I don’t like the wilderness. It is very daunting and lonely here, but it is where you grow and learn, and ultimately, where you find God.

living and dying, indeed

I’m a very fearful person.  I’ve spent most of my life fearing one thing or another.  I’m not talking about the obvious things: snakes and being mauled by tigers (both while in the jungle, obviously), heights and falling… I am talking about the nuances of living: rejection, failure, success, commitment, etc.  It is said that when facing fears that most people respond by either facing their fears and fighting or running and/or hiding from them.  I’m definitely a flee-er.

I mentioned earlier that I have been facing some health issues.  I talk about them regularly with my inner circle, but there are very few people who have seen the bigger picture.

Over the last year and a half I have been fainting.  I have fainted at least three times with differing scenarios and environments.  The only thing that remains constant is that I have a vision right before I go down.  I don’t remember the vision while I am lucid, but I know that it is the same vision — and when it happens I remember it.  Well, back in October I had an episode and I hit my head on the back of the shower.

I was clearly in shock because I actually finished getting ready for work, including blowing my hair dry (with gash in head and all), and was proceeding to walk to the subway.  It wasn’t until my roommate got up and I realized that my head was hurting rather badly.  I asked her to look at my head and the rest is history.  I went to the hospital and was kept over night for observations.

Some answers have been given but some have not.  Which leads to today.  I’ve been waiting for the last two weeks to find out the results of a test to find out if I have epilepsy or am having seizures.  I’m scared.  I know that if that is the case that medicines are available and other preventative measures, but what if it is something worse than that.  What if …

I’m not scared of dying, y’all.  I’m convinced of what that would look like — an eternity with the Big Guy upstairs looks nice.  What I’m scared of is that I haven’t had the chance to truly live.  I have spent so many years fleeing my reality (which is very skewed) that I have not experienced so many things that seem to be so easy for the rest of my friends and family.  I’m also very scared that if this something bigger and scarier that I will have to face it alone.

Some of these fears are rational, some are not.  But, I know that I have to hold on to the truth that God has given me the tools that I need to handle it.  I just wish that He would prompt my doctors to give me an answer soon.  I think not knowing is scaring me more than I let on.  But, with everything that has been going on … I am learning to ask for help.  And thanks to my lovely friends, I have not had to face the scary tests by myself.

Blessed, Indeed

She will kill me for this, but my mentor could kick your mentor’s butt.  My mentor has written for Rolling Stones magazine and has toured with certain unnamed bands and musicians, what has your’s done?

Obviously, a few things have happened in her life between her RS days and now.  She met Jesus (while interviewing someone).  That kind of changes you.  She once said, “my mind is either in the gutter or in heaven, there is nowhere in between.” I can relate to that. I think what I love the most about her is her honesty and transparency.

So when my mentor suggested that we start reading through the Psalms on a consistent basis, I knew there was something to it.  (She doesn’t say things just to hear her own voice, y’all.  She’s not that kind of mentor.)  I am not as consistent in my Psalm reading as I should be, but I always find a nugget of truth when I do.

Today’s passage was from Psalms 84.

… Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

I have to admit that there are days where I just skim these passages.  I’m either in a hurry or just not that interested especially on the days where David is particularly whiney.  (Just read through the Psalms, you’ll know what I mean.)

I’ve read this passage many times before, but today I paused over the phrase “Valley of Baca”.  And like many of you, the first thing I thought was, “What does John Google have to say about this?”  So, I asked him.

According to John, The Valley of Baca is also known as The Valley of Tears.  According to an article that I found, “Those who traveled this valley did not find relief until they reached their final destination.”  Wow!  And David paints this picture of finding an oasis in the middle of this Valley.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in my own Valley of [C]aca.  I’ve been having some health issues, of which I still have no answers.  I took the opportunity this week to have a test done that will hopefully provide a fuller picture of what is wrong.  But, during this test I had to wear a scarf to hide the science experiment on my head (every color of the rainbow in wires, y’all… every color!)

I’m also still transitioning into my new career.  I have yet to be given full time employment, which will make for 9 years without it.  I have jobs – 3 of them – but none of them are full time. I’m looking an 8 week work sweep in the face without a day off just to get through financially. I’m in a valley.

I may not be able to see it, but the mountain is there. I’m holding onto this promise in Psalm 84 with white knuckles. “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage … They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God…”

May I, and you, go from strength to strength.  But more than that, may we realize the truth in all of this… WE ARE BLESSED!




Wants, Desires, and Faith. Oh, my!

ask1Having lived in New York City for nearly ten years, I have come across some extremely talented people.  At my church alone, I have met Broadway actors, award winning musicians, and literal legends. (I know an actual Raelette!) This does not count the ex-coworkers who are also working actors and I have been seen in nationally syndicated commercials (“I am Michael Jordan“), as regulars on Nurse Betty and 30 Rock, and friends who seem to find their way on every game show in the biz.  I also know someone who wrote for Rolling Stone back in the day and actually toured with “The Boss!”

My friends are so talented that I find myself with frequent talent crushes.  You know, the kind that could be confused with a real crush (I have do so on many occasions) if it weren’t for the complete lack of chemistry.  I mean, have you actually tried to have a conversation with a talent crush?  I have, and it is painful!

Case in point, I recently had a conversation with such a friend.  I have had a talent crush on this man for years!  YEARS!  I haven’t just e-stalked him, I have actually shown up at his gigs in hopes that the crush could be real.  I have had more than my share of awkward conversations with this man.  Awkward in the sense of I know practically everything I need to know about him, because I have done my research (concert dates, tour dates and towns, album releases, family, ex-girlfriends, you name it).  But, divulging that I know said information would make me look like the stalker that I am.  Very tricky!

Well, a few weeks ago, we were talking about his new project.  During the course of our discourse, I was asked the ever poignant question, “Are you working on any projects for your own music?”  To which I had  to answer like always, “Um, no!”

True, I have finally left a day job that I have been trying to leave for YEARS.  True, I am able to use my musicianship and creativity as a teacher.  But no, I am not currently working on my own projects.  And yes, it is in fact a dream of mine to be able to do just that.  Yet, somewhere down the road the dream was killed in the search of money and stability.

I’m not about to admit that this is even an option on the menu as of late.  I barely have enough time or energy to do laundry.  I’m not sure what that life would look like.  But, I know that my faith must increase in order to move forward in this journey.

There is a saying, “You do not have because you do not ask.”  Yet, I think that there’s a deeper issue here.  I do not have because I’m too scared to ask myself a few simple questions:

  • What would it take to truly believe that all things are, indeed, possible?
  • When will I learn to trust that God is for me?
  • Why is it so hard to believe that I am loved?

I don’t have the answers, but just merely having the questions is a start.

Self Care, Indeed

ImageOctober was horrendous.  Horr-end-ous!  It started like any other month, and then it happened.  I was flattened out like a pancake.  Almost literally.

You see, I have this bad habit of not really taking care of myself.  I will go and go and go until I can’t go any more… and then I sit and lick my wounds for a few days… and then I get up and start to run again.  I, like so many other NYers, have bought into the lie that I must have fourteen ongoing projects and a hand in each of them.  I have started a new job (a part time teaching gig and an Elementary School) and a new business (a private vocal studio that specializes in auditioning for Arts High Schools in NYC).  I had been running on nothing but caffeine and adrenaline for days, and then I fainted. in my shower. and gave myself an inch long gash on the back of my head.  

I was forced to take a look at the way that I live my life – a hard look.  I, like so many people like me, find it very difficult to take care of myself.  It is amazing how productive I can actually be with very little attention to my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  Yet, I am simply unable to keep it up without crashing and burning somewhere along the way.  

I know that I must take care of myself in order to be available to take care of others in my life.  I must go for three to five long walks a week.  I must do Yoga and meditate.  I must pray and read scriptures.  And yet, sometimes the lusts start to overshadow the musts and I get overwhelmed.  I lust after a bigger apartment… a better wardrobe… more time to read and relax… a steadier income and security… the newest attractive man to catch my eye (until I find out that he’s married or gay)… more money and less work… a vacation that includes a fruity drink with an umbrella in it… heck, just a vacation.

I am reminded, however, that sometimes living – true living – can be found in simplification.  Learning to be content with simple pleasures in between the laps of this rat race.  One of those simple pleasures is carving out a little time to write.  Oh, how I’ve missed it.  

I know that I must restructure and simplify my life.  Where should I start?  Maybe I’ll start by giving myself credit where it is due and learning to delegate.  Nah!  I think I’ll start by asking God to teach me how to love myself – really love myself.  That is when the self care becomes easier.  Who’s with me?