Social Media…Farewell???

I am old.

Well, not really that old, but old enough to remember the days when I didn’t have a cell phone attached to my hand. If I wanted to talk to friends at night I had to sit with my coiled-wire Snoopy phone to my ear. I memorized the numbers of my closest pals because I dialed those digits so often, and even now I can still recall pressing the familiar “455” in order to speak with my best Pearl City pals.

Now I have an iPhone, albeit a beaten up iPhone 5, but it’s still a smart phone that enables me to contact friends from around the globe through my Facebook app. This same phone has it set so that I don’t need to memorize numbers to talk with people–all I need to do is press their name on my contact list. With this great technology, and it is pretty remarkable because I can now Google map how to get to a certain location without the stress of unfurling and refolding a paper map, is the sad fact that I can use my phone for good (checking movie times online instantaneously) but also easily get caught up with social media and all the distractions it brings.

For the past week, well, almost a week, I have refrained from posting videos of me squatting, benching, or deadlifting because I noticed that those activities were starting to define who I am. Namely, I didn’t (and still don’t) want my identity to be “that small girl that lifts a lot of weights.” Instead of immediately putting up a shot of my legs flexing when I pulled sumo or my triceps bulging as I attempted a bench PR, I have instead been putting up images on IG that show what I believe to be important–my family and God.

The first day I decided to refrain from showing the social media world my training for that day, I felt a bit off. Normally after I was done with lifting, I’d collapse in a sweaty heap on the floor, pick a video that I had of me lifting, add a quirky or cute caption, and then press share. But now, without having that normalized action in the cards, what would I do? I started to stretch more, which was nice, but then I just ended up going home early. And WOW. What a difference that made. I didn’t realize that I spent so long lounging in a sweaty heap, oggling over IG and FB. It was then that God spoke to me: Limit your phone usage. Don’t go online so much. Use your time to devote to me and your family.

At first I thought refraining from opening up my IG app would be a piece of cake, but then my lazy quiet time before bed hit, the time I normally would turn to social media to unwind. And I had to put my phone aside. Let me tell you, it was a challenge. I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but there are many times at night, when I’m so mentally and physically drained that I would veg out scrolling through Stefi Cohen’s videos rather than play cars with Shogun. Or I could not move myself from the supine position on the living room carpet to play Shopkins with Misha, and instead chose to read up on Powerlifting Women on Facebook. It’s a sad tale, when the people I care most about, my children and husband, took a backseat to checking my online accounts.

So what did I do when faced that challenge? I hid my phone. Yes, you read that right. I put it out of view, still plugged in and charging to the wall outlet so my morning alarm would ring, but nowhere in immediate hand range. Keeping that device out of sight made it so that I was fully engaged with my children, whether it be rolling on the ground and tickling my daughter or putting together number and letter puzzles with the little boy. And what happened if the phone was in reach and I checked the screen to see my notifications? I immediately opened up my Bible app, and turned to a verse that I was meditating on that day.

It’s amazing that the longer I have been away from social media, the more I don’t really miss it. I am beginning to realize that I am not a person cut for moderation, whether it be with my phone, exercise, food, or, well, life. When I was in the throes of anorexia, I would either eat only a Subway sandwich a day and that was it, or if I ate more than that (oh, the horror!) I would end up drinking only diet soda and munching on carrots the following day to balance out the calories. One mile running was never enough–it was either 10 miles or nothing. In that same way, I can’t merely state that I’ll check my Facebook “just for a little bit.” I have to either set a time restriction for myself or not go on at all.

Similarly, my mind becomes very caught up in the images I see on social media. I admire women like Morghan King and Stefi Cohen, gals that are my height (yes, five feet and one inch tall!) and can lift way more than twice their body weight. But in reality, that will never be me. I’m learning to accept that fact, that God didn’t make me to deadlift over 400 pounds. And that’s ok. In my quest to rediscover who I am in Christ, Jesus has shown me that those females I loved watching on IG and FB are NOT me. Yes, I can have lifting goals. Yes, I can hit the platform because it’s fun to load up a barbell and see what I can do. But I’m not going to break world records because that is not the plan God would have for me. He designed me for something more, and although I’m not quite sure even what that looks like, I do know that my hope and identity is not in how much weight I can squat, bench, or deadlift. This revelation doesn’t mean I will stop going to the gym, but I am now training for a different purpose. I used to want to be Morghan or Stefi. I wanted to earn titles and accolades, to be first place in everything that I did. But those medals, they are not the reason I was placed on this earth.

One example of this is my recent decision to make a concerted effort to get up in weight. My RP coach wants me at least 107-109 pounds. My husband thinks 115 pounds is more reasonable. When those two first approached me about being those numbers, to be honest, I initially balked. Why? Because I could compete in the 97 pound weight class and qualify for a national competition. Given the numbers required to qualify, I could easily hit that now. But for what? Aren’t I in this sport to challenge myself? To see myself grow as an athlete and individual? Isn’t part of the draw to powerlifting putting in hard work in order to show that perseverence is a key to success? Shouldn’t I want to test myself and go beyond my comfort level? If so, then staying at 102 pounds would be ridiculous. I need to gain weight in order to actually do some “hard work” on the platform.

And so I am at the place now where I am eating to be heavier–107, 109, 110, 115 pounds–because I know that that additional weight makes me stronger physically as well as mentally and spiritually. I can’t engage in the sport of powerlifting whole-heartedly if I am not at a weight that allows me to push myself and see what physical strength God has blessed me with. Similarly, I am also going to continue to refrain from looking at my Facebook and Instagram for extreme amounts of time, save for a random five minutes or so while lying in bed before falling asleep. And while I do miss seeing hilarious memes and reading even more hilarious threads, I am enjoying the moments I actually get to spend with my family. God is showing me more about Him in the weight gain and social media restriction process, and it leaves me in awe at how He has been able to use scripture to do so (more about that in a later post). But for now, I think I’ve spent enough time on technology. It’s time to put away the device, play with my kids, and live life.

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Ramblings and Revelations

I can blame it on genetics, since my mother weighed less than 100 pounds on her wedding day and my father entered the army after high school measuring in at a hefty 115 pounds. I can say that I have a small boned frame as I am half Japanese and half Okinawan. I can also claim that my body is just made to be “small”, as even when pregnant I never weighed more than a whopping 125 pounds. But the fact of the matter is, I am still in need of putting on some pounds.

This is not a crazy revelation to anyone that has been around me, oh, for the past year or two. After giving birth to my son in July 2015, the act of nursing plus working full time plus being a mommy to my daughter plus keeping the house in somewhat clean shape whittled my weight down to a whopping 100 pounds. During this time I was still hitting the platform to clean and jerk and snatch, and while I could heft my bodyweight (and even a little more) overhead, I wanted to add more plates to the barbell. I saw Mattie Rodgers’ biceps bulging while maintaining her wide-armed front rack position, and I ogled Morghan King’s meaty thighs as she exploded out of her high bar squats. Basically, I wanted to be stronger, more thick, just MORE. But in order to do so, I needed to gain weight.

So I tried doing a variety of options—I went back to seeing my old eating disorder dietitian but that didn’t work out. I enrolled in our gym’s Transformation Challenge (muscle gain category, mind you) in order to keep myself accountable to gaining weight, and sure enough, I saw the scale move up five pounds in a span of 12 weeks. I felt victorious, as weighing 105 pounds awarded me first place in the female muscle gain category, yet fast forward a few months, and I was once again back down to 100 pounds. Well, more like 102. Regardless, I was not where I needed to be. I knew I needed some kind of eating regimen to follow, and Paul Salter with Renaissance Periodization gave me a wonderful template. He started me off on maintenance, meaning I first needed to just get used to eating regularly throughout the day a certain amount of fats, carbs, and proteins. Maintenance agreed with me, and I was soon heading off into massing land.

This is where the rubber met the road, and where I am still struggling. I would gain a pound or two or three, and then internally freak out. Why should my heart be filled with fear when what I wanted was to get stronger and the only way to do so was to gain weight? Paul is great in that he basically told me that by not following the template he provided, I was throwing my money down the drain. His statement was true, and so every time I was faced with having to eat another bite of peanut butter or chicken, I thought about my hard earned paycheck, and how NOT scooping myself another mound of rice was akin to a check being chewed up by the garbage disposal.

And yet, I cut corners. I would save up my allotted fat and carb servings for the end of the day because I was fearful that I’d crave them at night and then overeat. But by the time my bedtime snack was ready to be eaten, I felt physically full and couldn’t stomach the thought of adding cereal or nuts to my already dense mound of casein pudding with peanut butter, almonds, and banana (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). Every Monday and Thursday when I’d report to Paul on my eating consistency and weight, I’d feel this huge letdown—I imagined him opening up my email, already expecting to see that I was missing a fat serving on my food log and stagnating in weight gain. I felt like a failure on multiple levels.

During this time I was still lifting weights, and in fact competed in a powerlifting meet where I weighed in at 45kg. My daily training was taxing as heavy deadlifts and squats will take its toll on the nervous system, especially on a system that is being under nourished. I still looked forward to putting on my knee sleeves for leg workouts or wrapping up my wrists to bench, but I was beginning to feel a sense of monotony. I can’t quite explain it, but I felt stagnant, in my lifts and in my mind and spirit. I’d bench up to 100#, and then feel like that was it. I had no more to give. I’d squat 135#, and anything above that felt like arduous work.

A few weeks ago I was prompted by D’Lissa to meditate on scripture like it was medicine, so I opened up Psalm 23 multiple times throughout the day. Reading about Jesus as the shepherd opened my eyes, yet it was a recent conversation I had with a friend in California when God spoke loudly and clearly. The morning started out like any other, as I had just gone through Psalm 23 during my quiet time. The one line about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, however, leaped out from the page. Mind you, I am nowhere near dying, as my heart is beating well and I can function at work and home. But there are signs that my spirit is ill. How do I know that is so? It’s because I feel gray. My heart bursts with unspeakable joy when I see Shogun smile or hear Misha sing, but I don’t have the capacity to connect the joy in my heart to the joy I know I am missing in my spirit. My emotional mothering side can feel, but my spirit side cannot. The passage reaffirmed this revelation, and so I mentioned this to my California friend immediately after putting down my Bible. I described to her that it is like when I have a cold and my head feels disconnected to my body. That is my situation from when I wake up to the moment my head hits the pillow at night–fuzzy, unclear, and BLAH. My California pal said that I should pray on it more, but that maybe separating the identity I have in God from my athletic achievements will clear the fogginess.

My identity in Christ? What? Don’t I already know what that is?

I like to think that I do, but in fact, I am still grappling with it. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, considering I just talked about identity at one of our school’s Christian Emphasis Week seminars. But I am falling back into relying on a title more than Jesus to define who I am.

Remember when I said I was always small? Being the “small but strong girl” is a title that I didn’t realize I clung to until I sat down this morning after my conversation with my California friend. I like other people recognizing that I am slight of build but can move around weights that are massive in comparison to my size. Since I look for that athletic validation from friends (“Wow!!! You lifted that? How much do you weigh again?”), there is fear in what will happen when I do gain weight. What if my squats still feel heavy and I don’t add on weight to my bench? What if friends and family make comments about my suddenly burgeoning stomach, legs, and arms? I know what I can do as a 102# lifter, and it actually is pretty remarkable to be able to handle the weights I currently do given the stressful schedule I have as a mother, wife, and teacher.

But what can I do at a higher weight? It’s unknown, and that lack of knowledge leaves fear in my spirit. My coach and Paul say that at a higher body weight my lifts will definitely improve, which is somewhat comforting. Heck, even my husband who has no experience in powerlifting says the same thing. Yet I’m still fearful because gaining weight will make me lose my title. What title will I then have?

I know I can title myself as a “child of God” or “a person made in God’s image.” But that is hard to describe and feel. I am very right-brained, so I want the facts and figures, the numbers and black and white outline, to tell me what my title is. But in reality, do I even NEED a title??? Why do I feel the desire to have to label myself? Is it so that I can get validation from other people so that immediately upon seeing my title, they will accept and “know me”?

Maybe. I am still praying through all of this, so excuse this long-winded post, as it’s basically everything that’s in my head erupting on the computer. I definitely need more time to process this all, as even thinking about being made in God’s image is mystifying. God is so many things: a Father, a lover of my soul, a comforter, a provided, a healer, a king. The list goes on and on, so how do I even begin to come to terms that I am made in that image?? It literally leaves me in awestruck wonder. I will return to this blog and document more about my processing of this identity issue.

The challenging part about processing is being bombarded with images on Instagram and Facebook. I see powerlifters, short gals with thick thighs, tall women with lanky legs, and I compare. And so for a week, yes, just a week, I am challenging myself not to add to those barrage of pictures and videos of deadlifting females. Instead, I am refraining from putting up any athletic-centered posts. This challenge may not seem grand to the normal person, but my husband (and many of my friends and family) know that I put up a lot of lifting shots on my IG page. A. LOT. I love going on Instagram to zone out on pictures (Look! A cute dog! Look! Food!), but if all my feed produces are videos of my squatting, benching, and deadlifting, then something is amiss because the Big 3 are not my life. God is. My family is. My friends are.

Anyway, that is the plan for now. Refrain from posting on social media all of my normal gym stuff. That, and really following the plan Paul has set for me TO THE TEE. I don’t need an accountability partner, as that is what I am enlisting Paul’s help for and I am an adult who knows what I need to do. But I need to just take that leap of faith. Become bigger, not just so that I can lift heavier weights, but to break the title, the label, that says I am the “small girl.” Because in reality, didn’t God make me for a wondrous and glorious purpose, and NOT just to be looked at as “the tiny girl who benchs a lot”?

If you lasted this long reading this post, thank you. ☺ I will surely update you all on the new revelations God is giving.

I Shall Not Want

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

Those are two sentences I’ve repeated over and over again, so much so, that they are emblazoned on my heart and in my brain. But in reality, do I really think about what those words mean?

No. I don’t. Prior to this Fall Break, my prayer and quiet time life was in a solid rut. I still read my Bible every morning and shouted out a few “Amens!” on the way to school with Misha and Shogun. But the “thank yous” and “please watch overs” were becoming rote. Monotonous. So much so, that with glazed eyes, staring off out of the car window at 6:30am every morning, even Misha was imitating my lacksidasical “…and please watch over mommy and daddy and Shogun and Puna and Papa and Grandma and Grandpa and amen.”

Eek.

So when D’Lissa from Breath of Life Ministries suggested that I spend time throughout the day meditating on scripture to heal my fractured, stressed, and overworked spirit, I immediately felt a pull to start reading His word. Now. For the past week I’ve looked at Psalm 23, one of the most well known passages and one that my mother dearly loved. When dealing with the possibility of cancer taking over her life, my mom clung to this psalm and found extreme comfort in David’s words. I still remember her furrowed brow relaxing into a content smile as she read and reread the six lines over and over again.

And so on a quiet Monday morning last week, when the husband and kids were still nestled in their Kauai hotel room beds, I stared at the first verse. And read it. And stared. And read it again.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

“What are you saying, Jesus? What exactly should I ‘get’ out of you being my shepherd?” The thoughts roamed in my head and the more I stared at those black printed lines, the revelation came to me.

I want many things in life. Achievements in work, achievements in the gym, achievements with my family. I want to come home and not feel the uncomfortableness that I have a zillion problems and issues to deal with, but rather, I want to be perfectly at peace and to let the worries fall off my shoulders like a waterfall cascading down worn and weathered rocks. I want to feel loved and accepted even when I’m awkward and fail. There are so many things that I “want” and if I were to dwell over each of these items (Did I achieve all of the goals I set out for myself? Am I being the best mother, teacher, wife, and friend I can be?), I’d be a BIG MESS.

Sadly, I was hemming and hawing over these details from the moment my eyes opened to when I laid my head down at night: What if I don’t plan my English lessons perfectly and the students end up not being able to analyze a piece of fiction effectively? What if I miss this set of deadlifts and end up injuring myself? What if I don’t spend enough time reading with Shogun or talking with Misha? Can my relationship with my husband be stronger? What am I doing wrong?

The “what ifs” were killing me, causing my already tired brain to work overtime. It was only when I sat with this first verse from Psalm 23, that I realized that David was feeling the same as me, yet he did the complete opposite of what I was doing. Rather than attempt to handle all the questions himself, he turned to God, the shepherd.

I live in Hawaii and rarely (if at all) do I see sheep, so I had to actually look up what a shepherd’s job entails. Basically, this man guides and directs the flock to where they need to go–sometimes he must ward off predators to ensure the sheeps’ safety and other times he must discipline the sheep so they don’t stray. Either way, the shepherd is there to do the “hard work”, all the steering and rearing. If God is my shepherd, and he will be guiding me to a place of safety with His mighty hand, why SHOULD I “want”? Do sheep worry about wolves coming and attacking them? No. Do sheep worry about where there next meal will come from? No. Why so? Because they have complete and total trust that the shepherd will be there. If sheep can have that kind of trust in their shepherd, why can’t I have that same type of trust in mine?

It’s a process I am still learning and growing in. I am used to wanting to do any and everything on my own terms. Giving control to my shepherd is challenging, especially when it comes to situations that I have no control over but want control in (more on that in another post). But hour by hour, day by day, the more I sit with these two sentences, the more I am leaning on God rather than my own actions and thoughts to bring peace.

One last quick example of Psalm 23 in action: After returning from Kauai, I took the two kiddos to a crazily crowded mall for lunch. By myself. I was at my wit’s end, what with a person stealing a parking spot from me, the toddler whining for juice, and the six-year old saying she wanted pizza RIGHT NOW. Besides being completely overwhelmed with all the noise and stress, I started questioning myself. “What are you doing? You should be more prepared. Why didn’t you bring the juice from home? Your child shouldn’t be crying this much.” But then as soon as that incessant negative voice started its’ tyrannical talk, I thought about the Lord being my shepherd. Yes, the little guy was crying and yes, it totally got my blood boiling when a Mustang swooped in and grabbed the parking spot I was waiting for. But why worry? God was watching over me. He was guiding me. He was protecting from way back when and will continue to help me. So I repeated that first verse over and over, over and over. And you know what? The tension in my head, the knots in my shoulders, the overwhelming urge I had to cry out in frustration dissipated. We found a parking, the boy got some OJ, and the girl got her cheese slice. Jesus provided peace (and food and drink), and although it was for something as small and incidental as a crazy shopping expedition, there is solace in knowing that I DON’T need to “want” because God is truly the only thing I “want” and need.

Fall Break Renewal

Fall Break.

Fall Break.

Fall Break.

Three weeks ago, when I was knee deep reading sophomore essays and writing comments on students’ report card, just the thought of those two words made my heart flutter in whitsful anticipation.  The ending of the quarter was a particularly stressful period, what with grading, planning, parenting, and adulting taking its’ toll.  My stress level got so high that I resorted to finding solace and peace by doing what came naturally to me:  distracting myself with unnecessary things so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the real issue, or issues, at hand.  Obviously, as evidenced by the fact that by the time October 5th rolled around, I still had knots of tension throughout my body, and I felt like I wanted to just sit in a room and do nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  It was at that moment that I knew I needed something, a miraculous God intervention.

Thankfully at just that moment our Fall Break began.  I was ready to kick my feet up and veg out watching reruns of “Entourage”, but of course, the kids kept me occupied.  Spending days running around the park or traversing the Honolulu Zoo with a six and two year old are not the most calming and restful activities to engage in.  So when my husband suggested we go to Kauai for the weekend to visit my cousin and his family, I was excited but also apprehensive.  Traveling with two kids under the age of 10?  Packing for all of us?  Making sure we brought the toy cars for the little guy and enough snacks for the little girl?  It was a stress just thinking about all the preparations.  But I agreed to the trip, knowing that I missed seeing my long-lost Kauai relatives and getting the opportunity to just slow down.  Eventually the big travel day rolled around, and just like that we were off on a forty minute plane ride to the Garden Isle.

And what a vacation it was.  We just returned from a three day stay, and I’ll detail more about the great activities we did at the exquisite Marriott Waiohai (Create your own cupcake!  Temporary tattoo fun!) and the adventures we had with my cousin, his wife, and their two kids (Visiting Kamalani Park!  Eating at all the hot local spots!) in another post.  One highlight of this three day jaunt that I must share about now, however, was attending Breath of Life Ministries for church service the day before our departure.

Normally when we are on vacation we don’t attend church (I know, I know) as it’s too much hustle to get everyone ready for a service before noon.  But on this trip, we wanted to check out Pastor Tom’s service, so we made the quick drive over to Rice Street and listened to an impassioned teaching on the book of Revelations on a very humid Sunday morning.  The worship got my feet tapping, as there was a mix of original songs and a Van Morrison classic being played, but what really spoke to me was a conversation I had with the D’Lissa, the pastor’s wife.  After service was over I approached her to talk about an upcoming small group she was going to run.  It is going to be centered around psychology, and how when the mind is fractured and unhealthy, this spiritual and emotional illness leaks into the body and spirit.

So.  Me.  Right.  Now.

Hearing D’Lissa speak about the different components of the study and how the basis of it will be focused around meditating on God’s word throughout the day, I felt the Holy Spirit opening my heart, saying, “THIS.  THIS is what I want you to hear.”

During moments of stress, I’m akin to resort to my own means of finding peace, whether it’s engaging in another activity to get my mind off what’s really bothering me or yelling and crying in frustration at the challenging situation.  Either way, I never really feel like those actions are things God wants me to do.  I know that I should stop and seek Him in prayer during those trying times, but it’s hard to do so when I’m instead tempted to clean the house or go on social media (distraction, anyone???). Or even worse, I just curl into the fetal position on my bed and bawl and swear and cry. Letting the pent up emotions out isn’t necessarily bad, but after my moaning and crying, I never actually resolve the feelings of frustration that I feel. So when D’Lissa started talking about prayer and meditation being like medicine–a person takes it when she is not feeling well–I felt a pull in my heart that yes, in fact, I need God’s medicine in my life. If I were depressed and the psychiatrist gave me Zoloft to combat my illness, I’d take it everyday at a certain prescribed time. Why not do the same with my prayer life?

And so from that morning, I resolved to focus on a certain passage of scripture every day for one week, and like my medicine or food, I would seek the Holy Spirit to show me what He wants me to find from His word. I started looking at Psalm 23 on Monday, and just from carving out instances throughout the day when I am stopping, reading, praying, and focusing on the Lord as my shepherd, I already am feeling my heart more calm and steady and my tense shoulders releasing.

As the week progresses, I will certainly keep you updated on what God is showing me through His word. Fall Break. It is certainly shaping up to be one of greatest and most renewing vacations to date.

Words of Life

It has been awhile.

How long has it been since I last wrote?  A month?  Two months?  Even more?

Regardless of how long I’ve been away from writing, the good news is that I am back (insert smiley face emoji)!!!  The end of the first quarter is winding down, and I am able to take a momentary break from lecturing on Romantic poetry and literary devices in short stories to instead write a bit about the newest lesson God is teaching me.

And what a lesson it is.

I started off the school year determined.  I was refreshed from spending a summer lounging around with the little guy (no agenda to adhere to–yay!), while big sister had fun swimming, reading, cooking, and drawing at summer school.  My days consisted of dozing off on the living room carpet for an afternoon nap, creating freshly made breakfasts for the kids, and reading my favorite Bible passages in the early mornings.  I was calm.  I was relaxed.  I was so relaxed, in fact, that I didn’t even need to set my alarm to wake up in the morning.  I sufficed on half a cup of coffee a day.  HALF A CUP.

Life was grand.

So when the first week of school got underway, I was pretty confident in my ability to maintain balance with my work life, home duties, spiritual walk, and powerlifting training.

Lets just say, by the end of the first month of school, I was back to chugging down two to three cups of coffee a day and begrudgingly hitting the “5 more minutes” button on my phone alarm.  It wasn’t that I was necessarily too busy or physically tired to keep on going–I still refrained from checking work emails at home, and I still made sure to get to bed when the kids were tucked in–but it was a spiritual feeling of tiredness.  I read my Bible daily and continued to pray to God during those times when I was in need of comfort, but it felt like there was something missing.  My eyes glazed over passages, and it sometimes took me rereading the same scripture three times before I finally knew what the author was saying.  Something was missing.  Only after a chapel talk a few weeks ago (thank you, Mrs. Sim for the wonderful message!) did I realize what that missing “thing” was.

Gratitude.

I was not thanking God for the richness and life He blessed me with, but instead I was resigning myself to complaining about all the things that WEREN’T going well:  the student that didn’t turn in his homework, the car that cut me off on the freeway, the aches and pains my body experienced from training with a new powerlifting coach.

Complaining.  Grumbling.  Whatever you want to call it, I was doing it.  Every.  Single.  Day.  My negative outlook got so bad that at one point I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and my first thought was, “Dang.  It’s so hot.  I’m sweating.  How can it be so hot when it’s already September?!”

Even the beautiful environment outside–who could say anything bad about the vibrant indigo sunrise and chirping birds outside my window?–couldn’t deter my negative attitude.  Rather than thanking God that He provided a sunny day versus one wracked with wind, rain, or hail, I had to rant about the fact that my skin felt sticky from sweat.

Wow.

That morning God showed me how that negative outlook, the whining and complaining I was doing, was causing my spiritual blinders to be put up–and if I wanted those eye shields down and my walk with him to strengthen, I needed to stop and see the goodness He was placing right in front of me.

I tried to justify my rants and raves with the idea that “I just need to get this off my chest!  It’ll be ok after I do!”  That may be a totally justifiable statement, but the danger occurred when I would complain to a co-worker about the crazy comments my students gave about an upcoming homework task, BUT THEN NEVER RESOLVE THE ISSUE.  I still continued to fume over the situation on the way home, complaining once again to my husband and then moaning to friends via text messages.  The negativity did not end when it should have.

No wonder I felt constantly exhausted.

And so I made a vow a few weeks ago, a promise that for one day (just one day!) to speak life to a person or situation when I would normally be tempted to complain.  Needless to say, I have yet to go a full day without saying one negative comment.  Yes, moment of honesty in effect.  Although I am still apt to sprout out my frustrations in the moment without fully thinking about what I’m truly irritated about (Was it the comment from a colleague that enraged me?  Or the fact that I felt like I was being misunderstood?), the amount of times I have automatically grabbed my phone to shoot my husband a “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS JUST HAPPENED!!!” text has greatly diminished.

In fact, so far today, I’ve gone without any negative comment coming out of my mouth.

I am excited to have this day, September 22, 2017, be the first day in a looong time when I have sought God’s peace and presence first before letting the signs of complaining and negativity exit my mouth.  Who knows what the rest of this day holds?  One thing is for sure–I will keep you updated on this situation (and many more situations!) in the upcoming weeks, and I will continue detailing how God is continually shaping and molding me by His freeing faith.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

By faith, I did it.

I couldn’t believe it.  Was I dreaming?  What was I doing?  Was this for real?

Take a journey with me, back to a week ago.  Picture it:  It was a warm summer Saturday night, and the hubby and I were winding down a dinner date where we munched on burgers (venison for me, beet and veggie patty for him), breadfruit fries, and cheesy cauliflower at a local downtown burger and pub-style restaurant.  After the meal, we decided to take a walk around the local shopping area, where there were numerous dessert shops and boutiques.  Maybe it was the two glasses of adult beverage I had at dinner or the fact that I was feeling sublimely relaxed with no motherhood responsibilities (the kids were sleeping over at the in-laws), but either way, I saw it on the shelf in one of the shops we were walking through, picked it up, and bought it.

“It” was a nondescript yoga mat.  Nothing incredibly special, as in this day and age, yoga mats are a dime a dozen.  But purchasing that pale pink-purple rectangular piece of cushion was a signal of some sort.  I was ready to venture back into the yoga routine.

As described in my previous posts, I was an extremely addicted long-distance runner.  Well, “addicted” is one term to describe the hours I spent hitting the pavement, trying to whittle my thighs down through miles or jogging in the beating sun or hailing rain.  “Obsessive” may be a more accurate term to highlight how marathons took over all my thoughts and cognitions, as I owned close to 10 running shoes, scoured “Runner’s World” magazine daily, and spoke about Deena Kastor like she was my best friend.  Eventually I saw the err of my ways in regards to long-distance running, but similar to what many individuals battling eating disorders figure out, they trade the one addiction (restrictive eating, purging, obsessive exercising) for another addiction (alcoholism, cutting, excessive shopping).  Following suit, I decided to turn in my running shoes for a yoga mat.

Ironically, it was at the suggestion of my eating disorder dietitian almost 10+ years ago that I take up a new sport, one that did not require me to be outdoors in running shoes, one that had a definitive beginning and end, one that was in the company of others.  She suggested Bikram Yoga, as doing Hatha yoga postures in a heated room for 90 minutes would conjure up the same type of sweat and euphoria that running for 90 minutes would induce.

Little did she (or I) know that Bikram Yoga would become take the place of long-distance running, and in due time I’d end up doing two classes a day everyday, showing up to the studio at least 30 minutes early to do extra postures before, spend up to 30 minutes after class doing extra postures and crunches, and having a fit if I were unable to make it down to the hot room.  I distinctly remember one such incident, when my husband’s good friends from Japan were in town, and he made last minute dinner plans with them.  My initial reaction?  No, I can’t go because I have to go to yoga.  My second reaction?  Well, maybe I can meet everyone late for dinner after I go to yoga.  It took a lot of argumentative conversation between my husband and I (well, about 30 minutes of him talking and me crying a toddler-like tantrum) before I rescinded into saying that yes, missing one class would not be the end of the world.

My addiction to Bikram Yoga, however, eventually spilled into my eating habits, and I created rules around what I could and could not eat.

I couldn’t eat at least 3 hours before yoga.  And I couldn’t eat anything with fat in it.

I couldn’t drink any liquid of any kind during or after class.

I couldn’t eat anything right after yoga.  I had to wait until I could feel my stomach growling before consuming any type of food.

Needless to say, those rules plus all of the extreme amounts of yoga I was doing made it so that I was doing a heck of a lot of output and barely getting any input.  And so I started to lose weight.  And then I lost more weight.  And then more.  Granted, part of it was probably dehydration as I didn’t drink a lot of liquids before, during, or after class–on weekends, in fact, I would try to not eat the whole day if possible, take a steamy afternoon class, and then have 2 glasses of wine at dinner.  Why 2 glasses?  I’m not sure.  But the fact is, I was already sucked dry from no water plus a heated yoga class, and consuming alcoholic beverages soon thereafter did not help my hydration levels.  It got to a point where the owner of the studio I frequented actually put a hold on my membership, as she and many other individuals noticed my disintegrating weight and compulsivity.

Needless to say, much like the obsession with running, I eventually realized that I needed to stop.  Stop yoga, stop the compulsion, stop the insanity (ha ha, throwback to Susan Powter right there), and find balance.  I am a person of extremes, and although now I am much more balanced in my approach to, well, everything, the times when I do swing from one end to another results in my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual demise.  At a recent sermon, the preacher reflected on how what our minds are focused on, that is what our “god” or “God” is.  Thankfully now I do not wake up thinking about yoga postures, nor do I sit in traffic daydreaming about how to perfect my camel posture or headstands.  Yoga is no longer my “god”, but back when I was constantly in the hot room, the 26 Hatha postures WERE.

So how did I stop?  Basically, it was all God.  Philippians 3:15 states, “So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet!”  It could only have been by God’s sovereign hand that I was able to resist packing my towel, mat, and clothes, driving down to the studio, and partaking in a 90 minute session.  Sure, my membership at a studio was put on hold, but I very easily went to another Bikram place, took class, and no one besides me knew that I was “breaking the rules.”  Eating disorders and addictions are very crafty, and they know how to get a person to be stealthily sly and conniving in order to continue growing the obsession.  My husband couldn’t police me during the day, and neither could my family or friends.  In the end, it was only a supernatural God that could have released me from the bondages of compulsivity.

Since that time when I prayed to God to help me overcome my yoga addiction, I had no real compulsion to take a class. Stretch after working out?  Sure.  Try doing some postures with the hubby for fun?  Yeah.  But no formal classes, since the drive to WANT to go to a class wasn’t there.  After a few years of focusing more on weightlifting and getting stronger, the numerous yoga mats I accumulated throughout the years became stained with oil as they were used when my hubby fixed the cars.  One mat was cut in half so that my daughter could use it as an exercise mat in our garage.  I relegated yoga to “that thing I used to do back in the day”–it was in my past, something that I didn’t give a second thought about.

It wasn’t until I started training with a new powerlifting coach, that he recommended that one day a week I focus on stretching.  Internally, I laughed at the idea because I’m naturally hyper-mobile and can touch my toes with straight legs even after not taking a yoga class for the past 5 years.  Stretching?  What for?  And then after working with this coach for the past three weeks (ironically, he pointed out my lack of ankle mobility after our first video conference, which I didn’t realize was an issue when I squatted), it dawned on me why stretching was so important.  Like anything in life, there needs to be balance.  Monday through Friday I work my major muscles HARD, tearing down the fibers in hopes that they grow back stronger, denser, and bigger.  Come Saturday and Sunday, my body wants to recover.  It’s cool to be able to heft gigantic weights overhead or squat way more than my bodyweight, but what good is it if I can barely move after because my knees are stiff and my back aches?  The body needs a chance to recuperate, and what better way to achieve a mind-body balance than yoga?

So I did it.  I bought a yoga mat, and with that purchase, it solidified the fact that I am going to give myself that weekly refreshing and give my body a break from the barbell.  More importantly, it broke a fear I had for numerous years, that if I happened to return to a yoga class, the same compulsivity that haunted me years ago would start to echo in my thoughts, and I’d soon end up living in the yoga studio doing inversions all day.  But therein lies the difference between the yogini I was versus the yogini I am:  I know that while yoga can become competitive because I’m a natural Gumby, yoga is actually a relaxing and calming practice that gets me more in touch with my breath and alignment.  My main purpose in practicing is to feel my muscles lengthening, to be astounded by the wonderful body God created–it’s not for pride to be able to say I can wrap my foot around my head in lotus or bite my toes in a seated forward bend.

Here’s another disclaimer too:  I appreciate all styles of yoga, yet I am a strong Christian, and I don’t believe in the religious aspects of the practice.  I am certified in sports yoga, and know all about the importance of meditation and the definitions of the different limbs and such–but I don’t chant.  I don’t pray to any other god other than Jesus.  And I don’t find my god in yoga.  As much as I know meditating and chanting in yoga are a part of bringing together the spirit, mind, and body, I don’t do it, merely because I don’t believe in it.  I believe in Jesus as Lord, and that His peace transcends all understanding.  Don’t get me wrong–I love savassana as much as the next person, but while laying there on my mat, I’m not thinking about Vishnu.  Instead, I am feeling the breath go in and out of my lungs, and I’m thanking Jesus for the body He gave me and His strength in my being.

So the mat I bought two Saturdays ago?  It was put to use yesterday at a friend’s new hot yoga studio.  And can I just say, I loved it.  My yoga teacher friend is a wonderfully down to earth gal and her classes are always remarkable (look it up–her new studio is R3d Hot Yoga on Kapahulu Ave.), but what I loved more was that I wasn’t competing with anyone in class.  I was breathing.  I was feeling my spine move in ways it hasn’t moved in awhile.  I felt my hamstrings lengthen with each forward fold, and I felt the oxygen rush in and out of my lungs as I moved in and out of camel pose.  It was lovely.  It was peaceful.  And in the final relaxation pose, I thanked God for the health and life He has blessed me with.

I felt no compulsions, no addictive voice trying to pervade my thoughts.  And by faith, I know that finding balance in my training (and in life) is making me a more sound and whole person.

 

The Knowledge of Wisdom

This past week I attended an AP English workshop, where we 12 teachers sat in a room for 8 hours a day for 4 days straight, discussing Hamlet’s soliloquies, interpreting literary criticisms, and practicing writing answers to the three essay questions students are given for this college entrance exam.  Listening to the presenter describe the intricacies of Graphic Symbols and TP-CASTT was a daunting, mentally exhausting, yet highly eye-opening experience.  Besides learning how I can better teach iambs to students (who doesn’t love iambic pentameter???), more importantly I was able to connect with other English teachers from around the state.  We ranged in age from those fresh out of college to others who were creeping towards retirement, yet all were quite interesting to talk to.  I had lunch most of the days with one such gal from the Big Island, as she participates in BJJ and actually knows of the teachers that instruct at my husband’s school.  We chatted about the sport for a bit in between bites of our sandwiches, but most of our conversation revolved around her introductory year to AP and the fears she has about starting off the course unprepared.

I reassured her that everyone has fears, and no matter how adept one is at creating thematic units and grading papers, teaching truly is a “learn-as-you-go” type of position.  A person can garner much knowledge from college courses, but wisdom about the profession only comes with time.

Knowledge versus wisdom.  Wisdom versus knowledge.

The more we discussed these ideas, I was reminded about our church’s daily reading track, and how this plan had me contemplating and meditating on the book of Proverbs.  During my quiet times, a few questions came to mind:  What constitutes a person having knowledge?  How does one go about gaining wisdom?  Aren’t they both one in the same?

I know I used to use those words interchangeably.  If a person is wise, doesn’t that mean she also has knowledge?  However, I’m beginning to see that there may be a difference.  In Proverbs 1, wisdom is personified as an actual woman, one who shouts out to the crowd to be on the look out for knowledge.  Further on in Proverbs 4, sons are urged to listen to their fathers (because they are wise), and in doing so will reap knowledge.  Interesting.  From these sections (and many other chapters) of this Old Testament book, knowledge is being derived from the wise.  To be wise means that wisdom is INSIDE a person.  It is at his core.  What springs forth from that individual is knowledge, and consequently, when one attains knowledge, he can then walk towards gaining wisdom.

This is no easy feat.

Take the profession of teaching.  I garnered many lesson plan ideas from my colleagues this past week at the workshop (and all of these educators are quite wise, by the way), yet just because I have a digital document of their curriculum maps doesn’t make me any wiser.  I have their knowledge on my flash drive, but until I plan my own lessons, teach it to the students, and see if my kids are able to attain the learning objectives placed before them, I will not truly be “wise”.

One’s past experiences also plays a huge role in differentiating between wisdom and knowledge.  I have sat through many appointments with dietitians, nutritionists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, who have all attempted to help me be “recovered” from an eating disorder.  Although they were able to create a meal plan that provided me with the appropriate amount of calories to eat, critiqued my food logs in order to help me gain weight, and offered up CBT terminology to talk down an anorexic thought, their knowledge about the illness was quite different than the wisdom someone who has gone through an eating disorder will have.  It is that personal experience component that makes me turn to my husband or other females who have gone through the throes of anorexia and compulsive exercise when seeking help.

They get it.

They understand.

They are knowledgeable about what it takes to get better.

They are wise to how the disorder can rear its’ ugly head at any minute.

But more importantly, there is connection and familiarity.  When I confide in my husband how I pulled on a pair of shorts and “felt fat”, he immediately understood that that comment meant I was really feeling sad, disappointed, angry, or some other kind of emotion that ended up being projected as “feeling fat”.  My wonderful mate never had anorexia, but he has seen me at my lowest when I my heart could have stopped beating at any minute.  He has seen me hide running shoes in my car so that I could sneak them out for a run.  He knows firsthand the devastating actions an eating disorder could (and would) propel me to do, and he can even repeat to me what ruminating thoughts a starved mind can have when thinking about food.  As a former MMA fighter who had to cut weight for matches, he would describe how he would daydream about inhaling buckets ice cream and cookies because he had been living off of water, vegetables, and meat to shave off pounds.  Those thoughts he had about Ben and Jerry’s and Chips Ahoy were the same type of crazy-starved-brain talk that ran through my mind when I was at an extremely low weight.

My husband is wise when it comes to eating disorders.  In much the same way, there are many women I chat with that also have this same type of wisdom about weight and exercise.  When I am faced with eating another scoop of peanut butter or handful of nuts because I am on a quest to pack pounds onto my small frame (more on that bit in my next post), but then feel that fear of losing what muscular definition I have (which is a crazy idea, I know), I turn to fellow powerlifting females (or other women that share the same love of weightlifting as me), and tell them what thoughts are going through my brain.  And wonderfully, they get it.  They understand that it takes hard training and hard eating to move more weight on the barbell.  They understand that powerlifters need to have healthy and strong bodies in order to improve in the sport, even if that means shirts don’t fit over lat muscles and wearing jeans is ridiculous because they don’t go over round quads.  Moreso, they are wise as to how our warped society deems we women who WANT bigger thighs and more mass as crazy and odd, and that this type of cultural compartmentalization can make the weight gain process that much harder.

Wisdom.  Knowledge.  Both are necessary in order to live a life of clarity, yet attaining wisdom means that one will have to take risks with the knowledge she has–this individual will have to be confident in the knowledge she has been gifted with and step forward into the unknown, ready to use said understanding to better herself.

This is no easy feat.  Whether it be as a teacher, a patient in eating disorder recovery, or a parent, no one wants to feel inadequate or less than competent in any field.  Thankfully it is by God’s grace we are able to take that first step into the unknown, hold up our shield of faith, and use the knowledge we have to find true wisdom.