Friday, January 29, 2010

Just a Taste of Teresa, Ken, and Mair

Hello lovies,

Today I was thinking about Sankofa. It's a symbol that's very important to me, and if you've read Zora and Nicky, you'll know it was featured as a key to Nicky's healing, as well as to Zora's finding her identity.

Writer, heal thyself! I'm realizing in a very personal way how so much of our healing requires us to explore within, including examining our pasts, and the deepest secrets hidden in our souls. I wrote about this a bit in God Alone is Enough.
Here's a little sample of yummy goodness from the book, complete with an illustration done by my husband, fabulous (except for when it comes to bringing Hostess products in the house) Ken Burney. The quotes that begins this excerpt is from Teresa of Avila:

“We can say beginners in prayer are those who draw water from the well. As I said, this is a lot of work on their part. They must wear themselves out trying to recollect their senses. Since they’re so used to being distracted, it takes a lot of effort. They need to get used to not caring about what they see and hear while they’re spending time in prayer. Instead, in solitude they should reflect on their past. Everyone needs to do this, often. But the extent to which each person must do it varies. In the beginning, this kind of reflection is painful.”

Were you expecting her to say that? I wasn’t. Not everyone enjoys looking back, especially at aspects of life that are painful. “What good will dredging up all that stuff do?” you may ask.

Teresa felt so strongly about self-knowledge that she insisted we never abandon it. “On this journey there are no giant souls without a need to return often to the stage of a suckling infant.” Self-knowledge nourishes the soul. If you’re still not convinced, she states it even more explicitly: “Along this path, self-knowledge and the thought of one’s sins is the bread all palates must be fed with, no matter how delicate they are. They cannot be sustained without this bread.

I have no problem partaking of the bread of life, but the bread of knowledge of , including my sinfulness, does not sound like a tasty morsel I’d want to consume on a regular basis. Obviously Teresa is not expecting us to choke on examinations of our lives, but she does find it important enough to emphasize.

The wisdom of this teaching can be found in other places as well. One of the languages of the Akan culture of Ghana is made entirely of symbols, called Adinkra symbols. My favorite, Sankofa, is pictured below.

The Sankofa symbol is most traditionally illustrated as a bird standing with feet forward and neck twisted around behind. In the bird’s beak is an egg, representing the essence of its culture. In the Akan alphabet, Sankofa stands as a symbol harking us to “go back and fetch it.” The broader understanding of this symbol is that it is our duty in life to stop in our tracks, turn, and look back at our lives and history; claim the essence of who we are based on that history; and then turn and walk with grace, strength, and power into the present and the future.

Right now I'm stopping in my tracks and trying to just be quiet. I can't even begin to look within and at my past (that box of grief!) until I get quiet before the Lord. I just want to pray. I can't do this journey without being saturated in prayer.

This weekend I am finally finishing the Exorsistah 3, and boy am I relieved. But before, during, and after the hard work of writing a novel, I will be taking brief repasts to be quiet.

Just quiet.

mair -francis, who is looking back at the past (the portrait below, circa 1996), and seeing she was not bad lookin' at all!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Epiphany

So, I go to the doctor today. I weigh seven lbs more than my loving, kind, generous, and remarkably dishonest scale says. My scale says 194. The doctor's office scale says 202. And I know I've lost weight! Don't make me think about what I must have weighed last week.


But honestly, I ain't mad at 202. 202 is just a number. It isn't who I am. It's what I weigh today on this journey. It just is, and I can judge it or love it. I choose to love it, because I know what it took to get there. I honor that experience. I'm tired of fighting it. Besides, I don't plan on staying at 202 long.

It's funny, when I was looking for images for 202 I came across this Zazzle t-shirt:

Hearting my 202 is so much better than crying about it. The first time I saw that number was on a doctor's scale in Michigan. I cried when I came home. I felt way bummed out this time, but I didn't cry. I call that progress, and that time, back in Michigan, it was 202.5!

While I was at the doctor's office waiting for him to get my prescriptions, the woman who may be my sponsor called. I told her that I didn't think I was as ready to get busy as I would liked to have thought I was. I still wanted to keep the box of grief hidden. I did not know at the time we had this conversation that I didn't want to give Jesus the box, not just because I was afraid of the pain it would unleash, but I was angry at my Beloved for allowing me to go through all that mess. It was he who told me, as I sat in the meeting tonight listening to stories that I was angry at him.  Often he speaks to me in questions, but today he simply stated, "You're mad at me." And he was right.

I didn't know I was mad at him before that. It was an epiphany.

I mean it was an epiphany in more than one way. Like the wise men who sought him, it was epiphany of a Christ that I'd not seen before. It was a moment of sudden insight, and it was a revelation of a divine or a supernatural being, because as sure as the incarnation, Christ came to me tonight, sitting at that meeting. He came as a small still voice in my soul. He bore witness to the truth. He shared the good news really: you were mad at me. It is good news, because seeing that changes everything.

After being stunned by his voice, in my mind I allowed myself to thrash, and accused, and beat on his chest. "Where were you?" my sad little woman/child shouted. I knew he was there all along, but I was still angry, and I still had to ask, no demand, "WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I WAS STARVING!?! WHERE WHERE YOU WHEN HE WAS HURTING ME!?!" He didn't have to tell me he was there, weeping as I wasted away. I knew. He just wanted me to ask him. They'll be no giving him a box of grief I don't trust him with, and if I trust him, I'm safe to say, "Why did you forsake me?" even if I know he didn't do that at all.  But that little woman/child believed it. And her feelings had to come to light. After all. She is me.

Jesus let me rage, and all of this took place quietly on the inside of me as I listened. This inner storm went on until my inner 89 lb woman/child was good and tired, and my anger spent.

"Are you done?" he said.

"I'm not sure."

And lovies, that is the truth.

Jesus nodded, and waited, the box sitting between us. But I didn't lash out anymore, I just stood there wishing he would take me in his arms. Of course he did. He held me, and soothed me, and he's still holding me now. And I can make it through the night.



 Grace to you,
mair-francis, who really needs to do something about her hair!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Day After...

Gail called it right. I have been here, reading your comments, letting your love cover me like a quilt. I don't have much to say. I think I'll just take in all that love in for awhile. Then again, I don't know. Life is full of surprises and grace, and who knows where I may find myself soaring off too, thinking I have wings, and finding it's just all of your hands holding me up.


I'm tired. I took this picture lying down. NO MAKE UP!!! I walked today, in the snow this time! Ate like I had some sense. Worked to finish a tight copyediting deadline, and then started blazing through X3. I'm going to sleep now, and hey, it's only a little after 10 o'clock, so look at me! Whoo hoo!  I'm still doing it. It'll be all right. The box will keep another day. Jesus is still here. So are you. So am I. There's much to be said about that.

mair-francis

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Box of Crushing Grief

I haven't given you the prologue to Take This and Eat yet. I pretty much know what I want to say, but it's not here for a reason.

Every day I walk. I never take a day off. Most of this week was spent fending off headaches because my sugar intake fell of so sharply, but by the end of this week, five pounds were gone. Really gone. Already my clothes are looser. Lisa said my face is a little leaner. You could say I'm doing this. I'm doing something. Right?

But I find it interesting that I'm only taking sips from the deep well of spirituality I'm finding is available on this path I'm journeying on. Oh sure, every Wednesday and Sunday I show up at the feast, partaking of the tender lamb of God who takes away the sins of the whole world, and every time I eat of him, he nourishes me. This is the truth. But I've found that God always asks me to give him a little more than I want to. I rarely giving all I can, but I want to.

The thing Jesus seems to be wanting from me now is a box I've stored away so deep within myself, I almost convinced myself it wasn't there. But it is, and the effects it has on me, body and soul, have been toxic to say the least. Within this box are four terrible years, in which I was abused in ways I find unimaginable, and cannot bear to write about, nor even think about. I've bound the box with chains. I've locked it with locks. Spray painted a skull and crossbones on it to indicate to anyone who might stumble upon it, this is poison. Do not touch.

And now he wants it, this Lover of my soul. He's wanted it for a long time, but I kept making excuses. "I don't know exactly where I put it." Or, "It's hard to get to." Or my favorite, "What box?" And he's been very patient, as he seems to be with me.

I'm going to be as honest as I can with you, because that's part of my recovery. I know where the box is. And I still don't want to touch it. Last night I was talking to my sissie, Carly, and she said something sobering. "You didn't have all these eating problems before Raphael. And now it's critical that you deal with this stuff. You left him so he wouldn't kill you. Don't let him kill you twenty years later." He beat me, fractured my bones, starved me, and choked me until I collapsed in a heap on the floor several times, but I lived. Am I going to let the eating habits I developed during that time destroy this life God has so kindly given me?

The box.

Right.

Before we get to that one day, I'm going to share a little bit more than I'm comfortable with. I'm scared, so bear with me. Okay?

This is what I looked like in 1981 or so. That's me at the bottom on the left.


Oh my gosh. What was I wearing??? Is that a tie? And Lawd, Lawd, Lawd! Could my hair be any worse? Not to mention I look I'm trying to make the photography burst into flames with my mind. Be that as it may, I was not an eating disordered person. I was small, a mere 98 lbs, and that weight stayed consistent despite being able to eat like a typical active teenager. Back then I never worried about food. I never hoarded it. I never binged or purged. Food was just food. It was energy. Not comfort or shield.

The only reason I can show you that is because a friend posted it on Facebook. I don't have any pictures of me from this time, or my childhood. There isn't a single baby picture of me in my home. I'm not sure why this is. I think I some part of me was trying to erase my entire past. I guess I put more in that box than I intended to. Or maybe my childhood has it's own box. Sigh. We'll just take this thing one box at a time, if it's all the same to you. And that isn't the box Jesus is asking for. Not right now.

I may not have pictures from my childhood and teen years, but I do have a few from the time that I was abused. Raphael took lots of pictures, especially of himself flexing his muscles. He took pictures of the children, too. But I tried to stay away from cameras. You'll see why in a few moments.


This is me at 25 or so. Raphael didn't take this one.  I'd left him, because of his constant abuse, and stayed in a friends house in Cass Corridor in Detroit. I think I weighed 93 pounds here. My friend was in labor that day, having a home birth. The photographer wanted to take my picture, but notice I didn't look at her, but at my sweet baby boy. 93 pounds. Raphael thought I was too heavy, even though I'd just had a baby less than a year before. The dress is too big. He always made me wear clothes that were too big because he didn't want me to look good. No that he ever thought I looked good. He was never pleased with me, no matter what. I didn't end up staying with my friend long. She asked me to leave because Raphael would call and harass me several times a day. It brought chaos to her home. I went back to him shortly after this picture was taken. I thought it was my duty to keep my family together despite the pain he was inflicting on me. I thought I should be love's martyr, until I realized he wasn't worth dying for. But that was a long time coming. I stayed with him three more years.


This is me at 28.


I weighed 89 lbs. Raphael used to tell me my perfect weight would be 87, but I couldn't lose those other two pounds to literally save my life. I think he wanted my body to look like a prepubescent girl's. I was breastfeeding that fat pretty girl on my lap. I breastfeed the boy, too, but he was done (mostly) by that time. Every day Raphael weighed me. Every damned day. I wish that was all he did every day. It doesn't even scratch the surface of the horrors.

I'm finishing my ninth book this week, but I have no words to express this picture makes me feel. It's hard for me to breathe when I see it. I fight to keep from crying, and then I put it away, like I did the box that holds the crushing grief of that time, the box that Jesus is asking for. I wouldn't mind giving it to him, but I know he's going to want to open it. And I can't right now. I just can't. I'm sorry. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to write about it. I wish it never happened. I can't believe I let all that stuff--things too horrible to put words too-- happen to me.

So that's why I'm stalled, and in fact, I want to quit the whole project. I want to curl up somewhere with some SWEETS and eat when I see this. But I can't let him kill me with diabetes. He's done enough.

Enough!

But I will say this, I don't care how fat I am, I DON'T EVER WANT TO LOOK LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!! EVER!!!!!


That's all I got today. Not sure I'll be back her tomorrow, or maybe the next few days. It's really hard to face you after this. Really, really hard.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Not Becoming Weary

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9, NIV


You reap what you sow. I've got this body for a reason, and boy did the whole reap what you sow thing ever feel real to me today. Walking (in the rain! Can a sistah get a break in the weather!) I remembered that in 2004, for the first and only time since becoming a large woman I lost a lot of weight. To tell you the truth, I worked my butt off, literally, because I knew I was going to see him. That guy I wrote about in "I Loved A Boy," which was my very first blog entry here. The last time we'd seen each other I was seventeen-years-old. We'd rekindled our salacious entanglement friendship online and then starting talking on the phone.  This was in the Spring time that year. On the first of September I'd turn 40. I'd planned to see him the first week of August, and there was no way on God's pretty planet earth that the gorgeous specimen who deflowered me was going to see me weighing 187 lbs! And he was still pretty! Prettier than I am!

So, I began to take Slim Fast, but I didn't love it, not enough to keep going. I think I may have lost about eight lbs that way. Then I went to Medical Weight Loss. I found out if you've ever had an eating disorder, none of those popular programs want you. You're too much of a liability. I decided to take matters into my own hands, and cut my portions in half. I walked everywhere, which was easy since we didn't have a car and our Ann Arbor neighborhood had amenities all around. I went to bed hungry a lot. That was all I did. Four months later, I'd gone down to 150 lbs. I continued throughout the fall, and my lowest weight was 143. People say I looked good, but I still felt very fat. It occurs to me now what an accomplishment that was, but I have to admit, it seems like a strange dream, like it never happened. I'm having difficulty remembering that just six years ago, I was a size 12. I am a size 18 on a good day. On a bad day, size 20.

So I'm walking today, thinking that once upon a time, I did it. I did it for him, or for my own vanity, knowing I'd see him. I didn't think about cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes. I wanted him to remember me like I was: young; pretty; small. And I failed, because I was 40. If I was pretty I was the last to know. And I was not as big as I was at 187, but much bigger than the 98 lb waif he knew. What was I thinking? Please, don't answer that!

I didn't want to walk today, though it gives me energy to exercise, and that is no small gift for person with fibromyalgia. I've also found I have less pain, also a remarkable gift. But I didn't think about that as I boogied at a brisk pace down Third Street, umbrella in hand. All I could think about was how forever it's going to take to actually look smaller. This, my friends, shows a profound lack of patience, as well as gratitude. It also shows the tenacity of this disease of complusive eating I have, and the mindset that accompanies it. This isn't about how I look. It's about life, abundant life. That whole, "How do I look?" thing is just a game I play, and in the end, it discourages me. I had to put my mind right.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


Help me, Lord, to not become wearing doing well.

It would be easy for me to give up, and just accept the diabetes that will surely come if I don't change, but every thought of doing so plays like a horror movie in my imagination. I watched one of my favorite aunts have her toes, foot, then leg hacked off, bit by bit, and she didn't even have diabetes; she had another condition she could have averted if she'd changed her lifestyle. She died around Thanksgiving last year. She'd still be alive if she'd had another part of her body amputated, but she didn't want that. Lord, have mercy.

I realized today that weariness comes. I've sown my seeds of change, and each day I hit the streets of downtown Lexington to walk I am tenderly caring for my garden of good health. I don't have to stand there wondering how many days it's going to be until Spring. That would be ridiculous. All I have to do is what every gardener does: tend my garden. At the proper time, if I do what I know to do, the weight will come off. And it will be all for God's glory, and my freedom, not for something as ridiculous as seeing him. Although, ironically, I will be seeing him this Spring. And don't make me think about that right now. For real. Let me just say, it isn't my choice, but I still have to do it.

But I digress.

Here I am bundled up in my walking get up, right about to head out. I just got the fleece jacket. It was on sale for 3 bucks at Target! The hat is from the dollar store. The skull and bones = I'm working out and killing diabetes! Check out the fingerless gloves. I treated myself to them for good behavior. Love 'em! And I love you.


Grace!
mair-francis




Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Five Smooth Stones

So, today as I was taking my walk (in the cold, and rain, but I prefer that to my boring elliptical trainer), I happened to catch a view of myself reflected in a store window. We don't have any full length mirrors in the house, and I was shocked at how big I am. I snatched my cell phone out of my fabulous new All God's Children Need a Cute Purse to Go With Their Traveling Shoes Messenger Bag, and called my husband immediately.

"Ken!?!"

He sighed, likely expecting drama. "Yes?"

"I saw myself reflected in a store window. Did you know my butt is ENORMOUS!?!"

"..."

"Ken, are you there?"

"I'm here."

"Did you know that?"

He hesitated. "Yes."

"And you didn't say nothin'?"

"And catch a beat down?"

"Well, it would have depended on how you said it."

We hung up after that.

I decided it was time to be brave and borrow the ever talented Gywnnie's (Lisa's youngest) tape measure, and after some internet checking, tonight Abbie and I figured out how to take my measurements. Um... I will not share those measurements ever right now, as I am enjoying the delusion that we did it wrong, and surely those evil numbers are not... Well, you can imagine. And then I took a deeply dreaded before picture, which you will not see either. At least not now. But I promise I will show it to you if when I make some progress.

I have to admit. I was discouraged. For a moment I believed I couldn't do this. I must be making progress, because even at that low point I didn't reach for the hostess cupcakes (we still have them, because I'm not stuffing my face with them!), and then I decided to keep going, even if I myself don't believe it today.

Last night at Mass we heard the story of David and Goliath. Nobody believed that little thing was really going to defeat a ginormous life-long warrior, not even the prophet. But David set Saul straight:

"The Lord who rescued me from the claws of lion and bear" David said ‘will rescue me from the power of this Philistine." It was then, and only then, that Saul said, "Go, and the Lord be with you!"

Lovies, the Lord has definitely rescued me from the claws of a lion, and I'll tell you about him later. He's rescued me from a bear, too. But I'm afraid that bear was my own self-destructive tendencies. But David trusted in the Lord. What struck me most was how David set out with God, a big stick, and  five smooth stones tucked in his shepherd's bag (don't get me started on that symbolism).

I may be a big gal, but I'm tiny as I face this task of reducing weight, and trust me, my own body feels like my Goliath, whether or not this is a healthy attitude. It's just the truth of how I feel. I think grace is my big stick, but at Mass, I asked myself what are my five smooth stones, the other weapons I'll take with me to meet my giant. I've come up with these, and I doubt any of them will be a surprise to you.

Smooth stone #1 (and keep in mind, I started out with God): Living a sacramental life. This means I go to Mass to get that whole, "Take this and eat thing down. I can't lose sight of the fact that Jesus wants me to eat. In fact, he wants me to feast! On him! My overeating has been a spiritual matter, and I'll recover by spiritual means, which will in turn affect my body and soul. Mass has every kind of spiritual food, not just the Eucharist, but also the Word. And it has people. They too are bread, sweet and life-giving.

Smooth stone #2: Prayer, in whatever way God moves me to pray. It may be the Liturgy of Hours, the Serenity Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, or praying with paper, scissors, and glue. It could be imaginative prayer, which you'll be seeing more of here. The important thing is that I want to pray, and in no small measure.

Smooth stone #3: Community. I'm not meant to do much alone. God knew this about me. I don't have to drag a village behind me, but I do need at least a faithful few to go in with me on this big ticket item. Three days a week I share meals with the Beloved Community. We are nourished, not just by the delicious, healthy foods we eat, but by the love at the table. Will almost always prays over the food, and he keeps it simple: we give thanks, including for the love around the table, and ask God to bless the food. Amen. The love feeds us as much as the food. I also need the fellowship of Overeaters Anonymous. God had a plan when he sent me there. I had no idea! I'm grateful for his wisdom, because I'm finding astounding love and support. Again, I can't do it alone. And God knew it.

Smooth stone #4: Food and Moving. I'm learning to "let go and let God." I don't have to be all crazy when it comes to food. The problem is, I have been crazy with my eating habits, and it hasn't worked for me. I used to call myself crazy all the time--wore crazy like a badge of honor. I played the fool until I was a fool, and not the good, holy kind. Then I heard Tyler Perry say a line in Madea's Family Reunion. Seriously! He can get deep! He said, as Madea, "It isn't what people call you that's important. It's what you answer to." I realized that I didn't have to answer to crazy. So now I don't. Moving my body is a no-brainer. Walking is bar-none, the easiest form of exercise I've ever done, and the one I've always had success with. So I'm sticking with that. Plus, I love this city. The beautiful sights nourish my soul, even when it is cold. And a few folks about town are cheering me on. I love that.

Smooth stone #5: It's you! Believe it or not, writing all this here helps me keep it before me. It gives me a built in set of accountability partners, who don't judge me. I'll also be journaling in a book, including using art, just for me. I know I have an audience here, and it's not only people I know. So, I need a place that no one sees but me and God, and whoever I invite to take a peek--just a peek! Somethings are just too delicate and precious for the net. But I'll be sharing some things from that journal, because I want to. I love y'all like that. :)

The last thing that stood out to me in Wednesday first reading, was that when David spotted Goliath, the kid ran to meet him. He was eager for victory. I identify with this. I am eager to kick diabetes butt! And that has me running to meet my giant, big, bad circumstance.

"Putting his hand in his bag [the Shepherd's bag], he took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; the stone penetrated his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground."

Only one stone was needed to knock Goliath down. I don't know which stone it will be, so I'm taking them all, and waiting for God to move me, and use my actions to deliver this Philistine into my hands.

"Then David ran and, standing over the Philistine, seized his sword and drew it from the scabbard, and with this he killed him, cutting off his head."



This is a sobering image. I can't help but wonder if I'm not meant to cut off the head of a lifestyle that is killing me, to obtain true freedom in Christ. I mean kill it. No turning back.

Lord, have mercy.
mair-francis



So didn't want to take a picture today. I can't believe I said I'd do that!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Face to Face

So, last night I go to my first face to face OA meeting. This was a much more daunting task than I thought it would be. Online, unless you share your struggles, nobody knows who you are, or what your struggle is. You're a faceless handle on the screen. If you want, you can be "Guest" and sit idly in the chat room soaking it all in. Nobody sees the size of your stomach. But face to face, it's all out there: the body I've felt so ashamed of, with the protruding tummy and wide rear end, and the hair that I never know what to do with. And of course, I bring with me my competitiveness and criticism, and Lord knows I did not want to go in there playing who's fatter or thinner than me, but the possibility that I would loomed over my head. Not all, but many compulsive eaters wear their struggle on their bodies. You may not know the person sitting beside you in your office is an alcoholic, or cocaine addict, but overeaters often look like overeaters. Their waist lines are ruthlessly honest. I didn't want to feel good about myself at the expense of a person who appears to be heavier, nor was I willing to berate myself because there were people in the room much smaller than me. And there were!

Most of us gathered in the basement of the church were women last night. A few of us shared about avoiding shopping, or hiding inside layers of clothes, or just not feeling beautiful. Me, I avoid taking pictures. I used to like pictures of my face, but I've gained so much weight that I don't even like those now. After we gals had shared, a dear man told us how he loves his wife, who is much heavier than when they got married, more than he ever has, and with tears in his eyes he told us all, every woman in the room, how beautiful we were. He said it with such conviction and sincerity, that his words slipped through the cracks of my self-loathing, and tears filled my own eyes. I believed him, and that lovies, is a triumph.

Before I left, a dear man pressed a pamphlet in my hand about acceptance. It was printed by Abbey Press, a publishing house I eagerly seek out at the International Christian Retail Show every year. They are one of the few Catholic presences, and I can scarcely resist hugging monks when I see them. So this was like a little gift of comfort God gave me. Tucked inside the pamphlet was the Thomas Merton Prayer. The man said, "I thought you'd like Thomas Merton." Ha! I think he's right!

I've posted the prayer a few times here, but what's one more time? Right?

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 
-- From Thoughts in Solitude

You know what else is funny? The woman I sat next to had a booklet in her journal with a huge picture of Thomas Merton on it. Father Louis (Thomas Merton) must be trying to tell me something! Like, I'm totally at the right meeting. Among friends. Maybe even family. Or perhaps he's saying relax. Let go and let God. This pilgrimage of learning to take and eat is all for Jesus. All of it. No, I don't want diabetes, and I do want to lost weight, but I'm mostly in OA, and on this journey, because Jesus whispered in my ear and asked me to try it. And truly, he knows all the ways he's going to heal me. What's best was that he was at the meeting too, shining his love on all of us. It was pretty evident.
 
A few days ago, I began to think about this person God has created--me. I really am fearfully and wonderfully made. I think it's time for me to begin to look at myself--maybe for the first time--and see a hint of what God sees: his creation, loved, and dare I say beautiful. Even, as he said of most of what he created. Good.

Each time I post about this particular pilgrimage, I'm going to do something that makes my stomach churn, but I feel I must. I'm going to post a picture of myself.

OY! I don't wanna! I'm having a fibromyalgia flare, have no make up on, my hair is not combed, and mercy! I'm languishing in bed in my long johns, but I do want to begin to love the me I see, and not be ashamed. So there!



Here is my face. I wish I could see yours. I am grateful for your love, and that you are still reading.
mair-francis

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

An Open Letter to Suzy Q.



Dear Suzy Q,

Here you are, on my nightstand. When I brought you into the room, I hoped no one would see me. I did not sneak you in, but I have to admit, I was relieved no one saw me. It would have embarrassed me, and I'd have made excuses, or just told whoever challenged me, if indeed someone would have, to leave me alone.

It's funny. You are sitting right there above Ken's gazillion snacks, but I don't want any of that stuff. Who binges on dum dums! Admittedly, there are a gazillion lots of those miniature candy bars, and some are my favorites, but I only want you, Suzy, Q. I am thinking about how good and sweet your fluffy white cream filling is, and how much comfort you will bring me. And your chocolately yummy goodness! My, my, my! Hostess sure knows how to kill a sistah softly.

But you're going to make me feel awful if I eat you. I just know it. I already feel guilty about a the extra piece of breaded turkey cutlet braised in olive oil I had after dinner. You know what I noticed tonight? I let myself get really, really stressed. I did waaaaay more than I felt like doing, when just doing when I didn't feel good was enough. I'm doing the junk I do to burn myself out, but I can't let that happen, Suzy Q. Despite your presence here, I want to live.

Today, I went to Third Street Stuff after my walk. I chatted with Henrik, who is utterly gorgeous and flirts with all women me. He said, "What are you up to?" And I told him I was workin' out! He asked me was I trying to put my sexy on, not that I wasn't already sexy! Ha! I said, "No, I'm trying to take diabetes off! But if I happen to get sexy in the process, well, I won't be mad about that."

As soon as I got home I had a good talk with the woman who may be my oa sponsor. And then, I got nervous. It was a barely perceptible nervous then, nebulous, but unsettling. And then I started doing all this stuff. Writing, reading blogs, I did both little girls really thick hair, and then I cooked! A nice dinner of braised turkey parmesan and spaghetti marinara, and as soon as that food hit my mouth I lost control. I sat in here alone, watching television--what, I don't even remember, and it was just a few hours ago! And I stuffed my modest meal down so fast that I'm astounded. And then I went for another piece of turkey that I downed in no time. And while that sits like a stone in my belly, I'm here writing, and thinking about you, and wondering if I'll be able to put you back. And honestly, I don't think so.

Step one. "We admitted our lives were powerless over food--that our lives had become unmanageable."

After double portion of turkey episode, I went to an online oa meeting. I can't tell you what's said in meetings, but I think I can safely say that I was moved by someone's sharing. I'm beginning to see that 12 steppers are all ragamuffins. And they are honest about that. People don't like for me to say I'm a ragamuffin. They've been trying to talk me out of it for five years. But I know I am. It just means needy. I'm deeply in need of God. Apparently, I can't even open a can of whoop butt on a snack cake! But I was impressed enough to get this out of the whole thing. I can't do this without God.

God, help me. Please. Have mercy.

Lord, say the word so I can be healed.

Okay, that's enough. I can only give so much of myself to you.

Goodbye, Suzy Q. I have to do something now.
mair
...

Hi lovies. I put Suzy Q. away. I still feel sad, and anxious. Maybe because Jorge Cruise's book came today, and I know I have to get busy doing some really hard work. Food is BIG in my life, and that's why I'm so big. And darn! I weighed 195 today. I may have messed that up.

Yeah, I know it isn't about the scale, but...

Sigh.

Okay, the wee hours are something I need to give up, too. I'll talk to you later today. Until then...

Prayers appreciated.

mair-francis

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Martin Luther King Day!


I Think I May Have A Working Title

A few weeks ago I wrote that I believed God was going to use the Eucharist, and my beloved community (including you online lovies) to heal me. I still believe that's true. This past week, as you know, my seeking began in earnest, but I didn't tell you about Mass on Wednesday.

Right now, the Samson's and the Burney's attend different parishes. I think not only is it a matter of us having diverse tastes, but also, being at two different parishes expands our network. It's worked so far, but during the Christmas season I went to Mass a few times with Lisa, and then Lisa and I began to go to St. Peter Claver on Wednesday nights together.

I love worshipping with Lisa because she teaches me things. I never went through RCIA, and I often wish I would. The parish I came into the Catholic Church at didn't do certain gestures of worship, and when I saw Lisa do them, I was moved, and wanted to offer my devotion to Christ in such beautiful, physical ways, too. So there we were on our knees, as the priest is preparing the gifts of bread, water, and wine, and at some point, Lisa makes this gesture that I guess is like the sinner who beat his breast and said, "Lord, have mercy." And I did the same, because I need very physical ways to express myself in worship. I'm a Pentecostal, y'all, and once a wild Penty.... Well, you can imagine.

There was another point on our knees, and I wish I could tell you exactly where. I'll have to ask her tomorrow, Lisa held up her hands into a cup shape, as if she were admitting her emptiness and saying, "God, here is my cup. Fill it." My cup feels very empty some days, whether or not it actually is, and this too is a gesture that I found deeply moving, and meaningful. As we stood for communion, we began to sing one of my favorite hymns ever, "Let Us Break Bread Together On Our Knees." I remember being just a girl, singing it in the Methodist Church before I knew what born-again even meant, and my heart would swell, though I had no real idea what the song meant. It must have foreshadowed the life I would lead right now. I am grateful for that. Everything seemed to be pointing to my new life.

I felt so much peace consume me during that Mass. Last Wednesday depression had shrouded me in darkness. And there were slight changes that Fr. Norman made in the way he celebrates Mass that meant so much. Where we usually said, "Jesus, Prince of Peace," oddly, we sang, "Jesus Light of Life, you take a way the sins of the world." And just that little variation meant so much to me. It was that night that I became absolutely certain that, come what may, contract or no, I had to write about all this. And amen!

If you think Wednesday was great for me, yesterday was freakin' awesome. It's not unusual for me to weep after communion, or even just before I receive. But Sunday, on my knees listening to the priest repeat the words of Jesus, I had a tearful, blessed and true epiphany.

Fr. Norman often sings through the offering of the gifts, and you feel like you're in some glorious musical, like Brother Sun, Sister Moon or something, without all the walking in sunny, flower filled meadows. The music is very much contemporary, without being schmaltzy like so many worship songs are today, and Fr. Norman has an amazing voice. So there he is, holding up this single, shining host, singing to us Jesus's words, "Take this, all of you, and EAT it. This is my body, which has been broken for you." Take this, all of you. Take this Mair, and EAT!

Tears streamed down my cheeks. The moment was utterly transformative. I wasn't thinking about cupcakes. I was completely nourished by Jesus. I knew the key was realizing that I can't do anything apart from him. And eating is good, and can be a holy act. He wants me to eat, only of him first. So much of the Gospels centers around meals. He wants me to eat. How have I missed this? I mean, I knew it, but I didn't. I was blind to what was right before me. Water turns into wine. Bread is multiplied. The Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is better than the bread you bake in the oven. Jesus said he was bread: the bread of life. Something to nourish you is all around, and it doesn't have to be cupcakes. Poetry is food. Love is food. You are food, blessed, broken, and given. You are Christ to me. Take me, Jesus asks again and again. Your love nourishes me. Eat! Jesus said. Blessed are they who hunger. He will fill us.


I think I'll call my memoir, Take This and Eat. What do you think? I can be very creative about this since I'm not worried about publishers now, or marketing teams. The best part about this kind of writing is that I can be ruthlessly honest, and even messy, because nobody sees but a few good friends. And some of you are as hungry as I am.

I love you. Thanks for letting me be me.

mair-francis
P.S. Walked again today, me and the Beautiful Good News TheraShoes. And it was raining! Did my first OA meeting online. It felt like home. And I did not have the cake at Sunday dinner. :D
P.S.S. For your Eucharistic pleasure, a poem by the ever fabulous Mary Karr:

Disgraceland

Before my first communion, I clung to doubt

         as Satan spider-like stalked

                the orb of dark surrounding Eden



for a wormhole into paradise.

       God had formed me from gel in my mother’s womb,

                injected by my dad’s smart shoot.



They swapped sighs until

         I came, smaller than a bite of burger.

                Quietly, I grew till my lungs were done



then the Lord sailed a soul

         like a lit arrow to inhabit me.

                Maybe that piercing



made me howl at birth,

         or the masked creatures whose scalpel

                cut a lightning bolt to free me.



I was hoisted by the heels and swatted, fed

         and hauled around. Time-lapse photos show

                my fingers grow past crayon outlines,



my feet come to fill spike heels.

         Eventually, I lurched out

                to kiss the wrong mouths, get stewed,



and sulk around. Christ always stood

         to one side with a glass of water.

                I swatted the sap away.



When my thirst got great enough to ask,

         a clear stream welled up inside,

                some jade wave buoyed me forward,



and I found myself upright

         in the instant, with a garden

                inside my own ribs aflourish.



There, the arbor leafs.

         The vines push out plump grapes.

                You are loved, someone said. Take that



                and eat it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fiercely Determined!

Last week I had a burst of hope and wrote a Facebook status line that got a lot of attention: "Claudia Mair Burney is fiercely determined, and sometimes I am just fierce." I made this collage as a visual to celebrate that sentiment. I wanted it to be the preface to the change of lifestyle I'm embracing. What do you think? It feels good to make visual art again, even though this is so so lowbrow. LOL



Saturday, January 16, 2010

All God's Children Need Travelin' Shoes



"Mama always reminds me that we're only passin' through
The treasures of this world are not for us to hold on to
She says the way we're headed
Will take us where we're bound
And we can not lay our journey down.


Chorus:

Because all god's children need travelin' shoes
To walk the road that's narrow but it's true
We can't stop here we're just passin' through
That's why all god's children need travelin' shoes."


So, I wake up yesterday and I'm all dizzy and weak feeling. I thought it might be prudent to test my blood sugar. While I'm not diabetic, I've been worried about the whole thing since before I left Michigan, and one night, impulsively, I'd ordered a blood glucose monitoring system to give me something else to obsess about.

I ended up fumbling around, wasting test strips doing everything wrong until I finally figured it out. My fasting blood glucose number was 103. I had no idea what this meant until later that evening when I was reading a pretty terrific, hilarious essay in O about a woman's experience with Birkram yoga. Before taking the class she'd had this conversation with Dr. Oz--it was O Magazine! Of course she talked to Dr. Oz--about her fasting blood sugar, which was 99. He said, "If it were over 100 I'd say you were pre-diabetic. You're close."

Oh no! I'm there! But pre-diabetic beats the heck out of diabetic, and I can still turn things around. I hope!

Dr. Oz suggested that she make lifestyle changes immediately. He made the same suggesting to me, though admittedly, vicariously through the article. :) Anyway, one change was that she needed to get 30 minutes worth of exercise EVERY DAY! I'm doomed! So, I decided to break out my brand-spanking-new TheraShoes. Yes, I too was seduced by the everywhere ads for those Skechers Shape Ups, only mami ain't got no hundred bucks for a pair of ugly shoes, I don't care what they do to your butt and abs. Thifty Mair, I found a knock-off reasonably priced alternative for a mere 22 bucks! If I have to wear unattractive kicks, at the very least they should be affordable.

So, provided with my traveling shoes, I set out today on my maiden voyage: to Rite Aide and Dollar Tree. This was a wee bit ambitious, since I hadn't had a really long walk since I injured my foot. And that was kind of a really long for a two hundred pound woman with a bad foot, who was out of practice. I'm happy to announce that I did really well in them. They were really comfortable. That was the freakinest most awesome 22 bucks I ever spent, except for when I'm doing a work of mercy. Hey, maybe the mercy was on my feet! Kamau and Nia Grace went with me, and we had fun. I'm nice and tired now, but happier than I've felt in a long time. There really is something to be said about moving your body.

Not much more to report, except that I've been ODing on videos by Jorge Cruise--it could be that I've been doing it because he's ridiculously cute. And of course I've been watching and reading Dr. Oz. While I don't like to make food enemies, I'm not altogether sure processed sugar is food, and I've had a steady diet of it since the nineties. I'm certain, no matter what else I do, I'm going to kiss that kind of sweetness goodbye, like my dear friend Sharon Ewell Foster did. And honey, she's looking real good these days.

I also started sharing with an online OA group. I found them to be remarkably compassionate and understanding. There isn't a meeting in walking distance in my neighborhood, and I didn't want not having a car to stop me. Ever. I mean, I have access to a car, but I can't make any excuses about not getting online. I really like it, though I'm still pretty fuzzy on what their food plan is. But we shall see. And hey, thank you all for your prayers and kindness.

More soon.
Mwah!
mair-francis

Friday, January 15, 2010

But Only Say the Word and I Shall Be Healed


Every time I go to Mass, at some point, depending on where I'm worshipping, I will find myself on my knees, sitting with my and heart and head bowed, or standing in reverence as I prepare to receive the Eucharist. It's so interesting that I've chosen this spirituality, Roman Catholicism, that has a meal at the heart of it. Me, who's eating is so disordered. Me, who cowering in fear and pain tonight, gave in and ate whatever I wanted to, and in no small measure, and afterward lay the full measure of self-hatred over my obese shoulders.

Just before I partake of the the sacred meal, the Eucharist, I do a little business with God. It's the opposite of the fierce denial and stuffing down pain I experience before a binge. I say, as honestly as I'm capable of, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you." But it's the other part that I'm thinking of in these wee hours, the part in which I say to the Lord, "But only say the word, and I shall be healed."

Most days, like this one, when I'm sick, and sad, and hating myself; when I'm struggling so desperately, and I do mean desperately, and failing, I wish I was the person who Jesus goes, "Daughter, rise up and walk. Your faith has made you whole." And then BLAM! That's it! It's over! No more compulsive eating. No more S.A.D. No more sad. No more fibromylagia. No more bipolar disorder (which happens to be kicking my butt, just in case I led you to believe, like I did myself, that I don't really have that). I want to be that person, so badly, who stands up at Jesus's word and finds herself completely, joyfully, magnificently whole, and then run about telling everyone I know what he's done. I pray, "only say the word and I shall be healed" at every Mass, even when I'm only watching the mass on television! And yet, here I am, with all my issues.

Tonight, I was wondering what it those words really mean. Oh, sure, there's that admission that Christ can do anything, including heal instantly, and supernaturally. But what does they mean to me, still very much aware of these conditions in my body and soul, despite the fact that scriptures say "By His stripes we are healed." Of course I know that scripture! And I know it says, 'are', as in present tense. But...

After my awful binge, I prayed, and I felt the assurance that Jesus indeed, was present, and that everything would be all right. But my mind was wild and restless, and I felt desperate enough to look at Overeaters Anonymous. To tell you the truth, I always thought it was kinda lame. Not that I ever went to a meeting. I thought Al Anon was lame, too, until I went, and learned some tools that may well have saved my life, and possibly Ken's!

Only say the word and I shall be healed, huh? But what if that word to me, in a very personal way, is: "Go to OA." Jesus already told me that he would use food to heal me, and people, and the Eucharist, but the Lord never ruled out counseling, or a twelve step program.

I'm going to call tomorrow. I don't know what is going to happen. All I know is I need help, and I've asked for it in every way I can, and this is my last way of asking. I'm hoping the whole idea really is a God thing, and that he will use it. Really, I'll take anything my sweet Savior wants to do right now. Anything.

I'm going to write about this all. A memoir. I don't know if it can be published. The business is hard right now. But I'll likely start right here. Even if what I write never gets published, I have a feeling I have to write the whole journey, and I'm happy to bring you along with me.

Please pray for me. I'll do the same for you.

mair-francis

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Really Can't Stay! Baby, It's Cold Outside!


I've got to go away!
Baby, it's cold outside.
The evening has been, so very nice.
NOT! It's FREEZING. No, it's BELOW FREEZING!

Brrrr! And hello, lovies! Mercy! Has it been a whole two weeks since I've blogged? Well, I don't have to tell you that I'm too COLD over here in sexi Lexi to blog. Or go places. Or do anything but suffer and count the days til spring. In a deep depression. That hurts my muscles, too!

Oh, lovies, the endless fall, so full Sunday dinners on the deck of Third Street House, until deep in November seduced me, and made me believe that I'd actually have a mild winter. Apparently nobody is having a mild winter. In fact, people who aren't even supposed to have winter at all are having one this year. My poor sister Carly must have been pretty shocked when snow fell in her beloved Daytona Beach, FL, which truly sucks.

Are you keeping warm where you are?

Which reminds me of the song, Baby It's Cold Outside. "I really can't stay. (Baby it's cold outside), but no, I mean I really, really can't stay. I'm just popping in tonight because I was at the computer anyway, wrapping up X3. I know. I've been saying I'm almost done with that book forever, but really. I'm totally almost done. Publishing has brought, once again, a few surprises into my life, like X2 being released in mass market instead of trade paperback. This is good news, especially for broke folks who are already having trouble scoring the cash to buy books, but it does mean the release date is pushed back until the fall. :( So now, I'm hustling big time to finish X3 because I need the moolah, baby! My paycheck got moved to the fall, too! But it's all good. God will provide. He always does.

And speaking of changes that require moolah. I'm moving. No, I'm not being put out, thank you very much, but I'm afraid The Little House isn't the best place for our family right now. Remember the house of hospitality we found that I told you about? Well, the first people who'll receive hospitality there is the Burney family. Yep. We're moving into it, and that's about all I can deal with at the moment. If you would be so kind, please pray that God will make his plans for a house of hospitality for the ladies of the night, or anyone else he'd like for us to receive as him, clear. I can't help but believe he hasn't forgotten this ministry he called us, too. But there are so many delays as he prepares it, and us to carry out his will. Carly isn't here yet. Lisa is doing the tea shop soon, and Ken is busy trying to secure an internship at a local tattoo shop. And we're moving, for the second time in what will be six months. I don't want to plan things to death, but apparently, the ministry isn't ready to be born, and planning for a good delivery seems like a wise thing to do, but first, finish the novel that will provide for my family. Because, after all, I am a writer, too. God has given me the grace to be such a winsome thing, and I probably--hopefully--always will be a gal who has to put it all in words. But I can't say I don't still wrestle with my vocations, often violently pitting them against each other. Social justice, versus penning pretty words. You'd be surprised how vicious the battle can rage in my mind. Pray for me!

Also, the winter blues has hit me. S.A.D. is full blown now, with all it's sorrow, and sleepiness, and aching joints and bones. Well, the aches come from fibromyalgia, but it all feels the same: awful. Everything is a battle. I've been wanting to make art. Can't. Wanting to get focused on the protocol to help me beat fibro, only to find that the plan I'd been getting into has been discredited. I was working on my weight, and even lost five pounds, until Ken bought those orange Hostess cupcakes home, and now, I'm a diet failure. At least I am tonight. But it ain't over! This fat lady ain't singing yet! And tomorrow is another day. At least I'm doing my work, and that says a lot, considering how I'm feeling.

Sometimes, I think I want to write a book about learning this "little way" St. Therese, Dorothy Day, and Mother Theresa spoke so often about. It is a way of doing really micro-moves with great love. It doesn't take a miracle to do a tiny thing. Nor does it take a tremendous amount of will. Just a little mindfulness and consistency. Why is it so hard for me to remember that? Micro move. Love. Keep at it.

Then again, here I am. Blogging because it's important. It's a small thing, but I'm doing it right now, and that beats not doing it. It's only a little after 9 pm. I can still go to bed early, a small thing, but it will make a huge difference in my pain level, and my day tomorrow. I've cleared the elliptical trainer of coats. Five minutes after prayer tomorrow could be the beginning of an exercise practice that can grow from five to ten minutes, to half hour three times a week, that will be enough to change my body. And we don't only have cup cakes. We have blueberries, and strawberries, and honey dew melon, and I can make a better choice for breakfast. We even have Kashi cereal, and lovies, it's starting to look good.

Despite the drop in mood, and pain in my body, my soul feels hopeful. Spring will return, or at least the normal winter temps that are more bearable than like, eleven degrees! And in a month, I'll be moving into a home that will be my very own. I can't help but thing that God has that plan to prosper me and give me hope and a future Jeremiah speaks of, and oddly so many people have reminded me of that scripture lately. I'm going to cling to it, seeing them all as little messengers from the Lord. And since I'm at it, let me be that messenger to you, my dear reader:

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Mwah! Stay warm, and yak at ya soon. When, I don't know.
mair-francis