Day 56 #powerrehab: The test.

The last week of #powerrehab, everything was a total disaster.  The contents of my house were tossed in heaps, the red head was infested with lice, people were vomiting and urinating on all the freshly sanitized bedding, and we were trapped at home by threat of rain and the rules of good citizenship.

This rite of passage followed several weeks of undoing and disruption to our schedule with house guests, growth spurts, teething, changing sleep schedules, and unending allergies.  All of this is added up to the inevitable, fiercely resisted Change of Season. (That should be printed in the blood dripping, horror movie type face.)

I had been panicking off and on over the last few weeks, grabbing at the remains of #powerrehab as they slipped through my fingers.  The once vast expanse of my 5am writing time disappeared into the needy full body embrace of my almost 15 month old. My long trail walks dissolved into the pounding, relentless rain.  The babysitting hours were spent in long, luxurious waits at the doctor’s office.

The rhythms and routines we so meticulously crafted to support my mental and physical healing were crushed, every system broken down beyond repair.

And yet, here I am.

All good training programs end with a week that exposes the strength they have been systematically building.  If the program was worth anything and you have put in the work, when you step up to the bar in that last week, loaded with more weight than you have ever picked up before, you will pick it up.  Just like that.  Though thoroughly unplanned, it is fitting that #powerrehab end with such a test.

Last week, as I stood under the bright lights in my kitchen, on the third hour of combing through tiny sections of wild, curly hair, carefully examining each wiry strand, it occurred to me that I did not hurt.  I scanned my body looking for pain and found only the outline of sensation around my sciatic nerve.  My back was strong and straight, my spine and shoulders right where they should be.  My body, which could not even put on a backpack 56 days ago, tackled ten loads of laundry, eight bedding changes, vacuumed a two story house, all the furniture, beds, and the car seats, and successfully stood up and deloused three little girls all in 24 hours.

While I marveled at this ridiculous improvement in strength, it struck me as very silly that my latest PR came not with a steel barbell, but a steel lice comb and I started to giggle.  And there it was, more impressive than core strength holding a wounded spine in place, a mind holding itself together.  My mind, which could not handle the noise and stress of a single family meal seven weeks ago, was cheerfully nitpicking shrieking baby heads for the second day in a row.

All of my grumbling, the uninspiring work outs and painful, rose-filled walks, the life rules, the tongue biting, pill swallowing, and hashtag regret of the eight weeks of #powerrehab fell away as I stood there, calmly smiling down at hands full of knotted hair, a baby rubbing snot and string cheese from my knees to my ankles, in a kitchen washed in glitter, serenaded by the washer, dryer, and dishwasher all chirping simultaneously, and Frozen blaring through the iPad.   Truly a weight I could not pick up two months ago.  But there I was, being so insanely hardcore, picking it up.

Today #powerrehab is complete. Every box is checked from Holy Week through Pentecost. Ordinary time begins today, and there is no new notebook set up, no charts or graphs ready to receive gold stars, no fresh system in place to hold up my precious goals as a sane writer/mother person with a functioning spine and reasonably clean home. I do not know what happens next, other than more laundry, more rain, and a very long nap.

I’m wandering into this new season without a plan, or at least not one that I’ve been allowed to see.  I trust that there is one, since there are still plenty of good adventures to navigate in the days immediately ahead — moods and medications to wrestle, school years to end and begin, a career change that is still significantly changing us, and the care and maintenance of all of these bodies.  Yes, I trust that there is one, and that if I can just stay thankful that I have been given the gift of wandering, on my own two feet, without whimpering in pain, with the freedom to pick real bugs out of my kids hair instead of hallucinating them crawling across my desk, then it is a very, very good plan.

Encouragement.

On a day you cannot move forward, you do not feel in love, you do not feel proud, you do not feel inspired, you do not want to find the energy, the effort to press, press, push.  On a day when the shores are too far gone and you have no choice but to float, to glide, to wait until one or the other becomes an option.  On a day that comes right in a string of days that lack reward, that do not fool you into believing you are doing it.  When you are not thriving, winning, moving with the current to carve the landscape.  On a day when you have not changed.

What do you do?

Do you draw circles on the page in your favorite ink just to feel your hand move on the page like a child rocking themselves to sleep?  Like a smoker chewing gum?  Not real, but better than nothing.

Better than nothing days.  I know better than to think they won’t come, and thankfully I am wise enough to know they will go. They grate on me, the minutes scraping by, every one of them trying to convince me that I am standing still, waiting.  Not working.  Not blowing anyones mind.  Not feeling the electric current of inspiration coursing through my being.  Not living up to my expectations.

Yes, that is my expectation. The electric current of the universe coursing through my being.

What do I do on the days that aren’t like that?

First, I throw a fit and panic.  I get myself so worked up in the doom of it all that I cannot possibly be a pleasant member of the Saturday morning breakfast table conversation with the tacos and the coloring books and the family I am clearly failing.  I sit at my desk, face down in my notebook, begging it to please swallow my head. I very dramatically sob because the universe has very dramatically abandoned me. My husband leaves me to it because after ten years of marriage there is grace and there is wisdom.  And because what I do next, often enough that I am still here, still writing these words, still moving this body, still married to this man — I get up.

With no electricity or enthusiasm, I climb onto the rails of the day.  I set the table, I chew the food, I admire the exquisite Crayola masterpieces.  I clear the table, I find the leotards, I braid the hair.  We gymnastic.  And the day goes on like this, with me on the train that is moving despite the empty sack of inspiration I’m dragging along behind it.  Without fail I make it to bedtime grateful that my doing did not match my feeling.

As a person who regularly lists ZEAL (always all caps) in her top three core values, accepting that my own boredom is not a symptom of failure and irrelevant to others, continues to be one of my most formidable adulthood challenges.

My family does not require zealously scrambled eggs.  My daughters do not require zealously applauded cartwheels.  The milk flows freely from my breast regardless of how excited I am about it, and when I sit my body down on the couch, my family gathers around its automatically warmed 98.6 degrees and is mostly content just to have me there.  Just to have me there.

So I offer this to you today, creator who found no inspiration waiting for them this morning, mother who woke up to mess, noise, and no help, anyone on psychiatric medication, and every other already tired human being who got up anyway: today, your boring, uninspired presence is doing work.  You are on the train and the train is moving.  You are in the river and the river is flowing.  You are all the wonderful mixed metaphors that say breathing today is better than nothing.

Growing.

Three times this week my rhythm has been ruined by sleep.  Harriet, my 14 month old, is doing that awful thing that children do where they grow suddenly, violently in the night.  This involves a great deal of thrashing and sideways nursing and sitting on my head at 4:10am.  It does not involve my eyes opening magically at 5:21, the way they always do, eager to inch their way over to my desk and adjust to the blue-white glare of the book light on my notebook while she happily sleeps for another hour.

Instead, I have stumbled, red eyed and kind of angry, with her, bright eyed and bigger than yesterday, into the already bright morning around 6:30 with my 4 and 7 year olds, in full princess regalia, primping loudly (why is primping so loud?) in the full length mirror in my bedroom.IMG_3512As someone with bipolar disorder, particularly seasonally affected, rapid cycling bipolar disorder, I find that I am especially sensitive to routine, rhythm, order, and prone to rigid habit formation, system building, and addiction. I grab hold of the things that I perceive to be good and I do not let go without significant force.  Most of the time, I use this power for good — a steady schedule, taking into account the needs of my whole family, keeps me healthy and blesses us all.  When I get momentum going, I have iron clad will power, conviction, and determination.  But when I cannot get the ball rolling, when it meets one too many turns, all those good things turn sharp.  I become intractable, controlling, and harsh.

Why God saw fit to allow me a personality like this and three daughters, I will ever understand this side of Glory.  The volume and depth of their drama will only grow louder and more complicated in time. What I do understand is that I have to spend 90% of my therapy hours figuring out how to soften the sharpest edges of my mind and tongue before that redhead meets puberty.IMG_3493

Day 38 #powerrehab: Yes, Coach.

I run in circles.  Big circles that take years to finish, small circles that close before lunch.  Round and round, passing the same landmarks again and again, almost never noticing anything further than my own feet.  Every now and again I am fortunate to have my loops interrupted by people who love me, people who will lift my head, shake me by the shoulders, give me a firm smack across the face.

After lamenting cupcakes and wine yesterday, I received an email from a dear friend who I had the privilege of coaching several years ago.  The message began, “This is not to be mean but because sometimes the coach needs a coach and it is ironic that we know things and forget them and need to remember.” I confess that I instantly closed my computer and started deep breathing to stave off a panic attack because who doesn’t love a message that begins with “This is not to be mean”!?  But I remembered the sender and her heart, and knew she could only be “not mean” in love, so I went back in.

The voice that met me was indeed love, but it was not my friend’s, it was my own.  She had forwarded me a string of messages we exchanged when she was wrestling with ketosis while battling depression and I was the one interrupting her circles.  And because coaching questions never, ever expire, email never really disappears, and truth is extremely loud, the voice still works:

“Life without sugar and bread feels more like surviving than thriving.”

How do you define “surviving”?
How do you define “thriving”?

When you first wrote to me, you described bingeing, “auto-pilot” eating, and “never-ending cycles” of losing and regaining control over the food and drink that went into your body.  How does that behavior fit into surviving vs. thriving?

In that first message, you expressed a longing for God to “heal [your] desires and obedience”.  I invite you to reframe this season of your life — is it one of deprivation or discipline?  Is it punishment or training?

These 30 days are restrictive by your own design.  You are trusting God to use the tools of nutrition to reshape your body, your mind,  and your behavior.  There is a sense in which you are surviving withdrawal, surviving temperance, self-control, and dying to the flesh.  But at the same time, you are thriving in obedience, humility, and hope.

This is a very difficult season for you for many reasons.  Your God knows that, and he has drawn your boundary lines in pleasant places.

What are some ways that you can feel God loving you?
Are there any ways that you are resisting or fighting his affection toward you?
Where are you bristling at his discipline in your life?
How is he inviting you to surrender to his love and strength?

…Rachel

Day 37 #powerrehab: Engineer.

Have you wondered what day we were on?  I had to look it up.  Assuming I put the hashtag to rest when my training log runs out of room for stars, there are 56 days in total (Holy Week to Pentecost).

I thought that my reluctance would have faded by now.  I thought that I would be thrilled by my progress, thankful for the improvement in my pain, sanity, and mobility, impressed by my self-discipline, and pleasantly surprised by the bonus of shedding a few pounds.  But I am still a whiney, whiney, baby, y’all.

I will tell you the truth, because that is what I do here: I kind of hate #powerrehab.  The movement hurts, and it’s boring. I have to do it during my babysitting time because when I try to lay on the floor when my kids are around they sit on me. My diet, though familiar and highly rewarding, involves no wine or cupcakes.  Have you ever had wine and cupcakes and then had to not?  Yeah.

In an attempt to encourage myself, I got dressed in full workout gear last week, complete with thoroughly unnecessary high impact sports bra.  I met up with a friend at the gym during the girls’ class and we sat down to talk.  I tried to look so hard core there in the gym, among my people in my black spandex, but I squirmed in my seat, back and leg throbbing from the stupid reverse lunges I had forced myself through earlier in the day. I was failing at sitting. She noticed, and carefully asked, “Who do you have in your life reminding you to go slow, to not hurt yourself?”

“I am the only one who can do that.  Really.” She smiled, knowingly.

“No one is the boss of me,” I said, laughing. She did not laugh.

Every professional I have consulted has told me something different about the pain and how I should work with it.  There are basically two camps, Camp Avoid It — take drugs and be very still, and Camp Work With It — be smart and do painful things to get stronger.  You can guess which camp I am in.  I am squarely in the camp that makes for the most blogging material and the potential to use the Rocky IV soundtrack.  But the problem with the Camp Work With It is that you have to use “hurt vs. harm” judgement, and I am struggling with this. 

 I wish there were a tiny little engineer expertly monitoring gauges, pulling levers and executing complex maneuvers down at the base of my spine.  But it’s just me in here, being dumb and pressing buttons when they flash and beep.  I’m reading manuals and following instructions, but most of the time they don’t seem to go with the machine I’m building or they’re in a language I don’t know yet.  So I have to go with my gut and do the hardest thing ever — go very, very slow.  And in this slowness remember that my aim is not to rebuild my butt.

I have to remember that my aim is to build a body that lasts a long time.  I am building a body that can hold grandbabies, not just pull my current toddler out from under the couch.  I am building a body that can prance around the Y at 85, not ruin itself because of pride at 35. #powerrehab is not about avoiding screws and and clearing out my pillbox so much as it is prophesying and testifying to my faith that I have a hope and a future, despite pain and a chronic illness that regularly tries to convince me otherwise.

And so, bored and cupcakeless, I carry on, visions of my winkled old self dancing in my head. And now yours.  You’re welcome.

Digging. #powerrehab

Behold today’s most pressing form of “maintenance”.

Somewhere in this stack of medical bills is hidden $732 that I, in my manic administrative hyper vigilance, zealously overpaid.  Now I am tasked with my least favorite activity in the entire world EVER — phone calls.  Phone calls about money.  Ughhhhhhhhh.

I am motivated solely by the notion that $732 could probably buy a girl quite a bit of hole in a wall.