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.

Pray the Prayer

When I initially started writing this blog, I was suffering.

Physically, I had lost weight, and my gaunt face, lackluster hair, and thin legs showed that the few pounds that had disappeared from my body caused my normally sunny countenance to grey into one of fatigue and frailty.  Granted I was nowhere near a full-blown relapse from anorexia like those that I had experienced in years past, but the amount of training I was doing in the gym, the hectic life I was leading as a full time teacher and mother of two, and the lack of sleep and good nutrition I should have been receiving left me winded and in dire need of rest.

Mentally, I was fried.  The end of the school year was near, and while the students (especially the seniors) were already dreaming of spending their summer days sunning at the beach, I was making a galliant effort to drum up their enthusiasm to find comma splice and pronoun/antecedent agreement errors in preparation for the spring final exam.  It was a Herculian task, and I wracked my brain attempting to find SOMETHING that would curb the students from daydreaming about their summer freedom to instead focus in on grammar lessons.  All of this brain-wracking, however, was for naught as all it did was lead me to having a persistent dull ache in my temples and restless sleep where I’d wake up at 2am every morning, unable to go back to bed.

Spiritually, I felt empty.  I knew the Holy Spirit still lived in me, and that I loved Jesus with all of my heart.  I prayed in the mornings, mostly prayers to bless my children, students, family, and friends hurriedly repeated on the drive in to school, but the words I recited felt flat and rehearsed.  I read scripture because the verse of the day popped up on my Bible App with a “ding!” every morning at 6am, but my eyes just glazed over the words.  Sadly, as much as I loved Jesus and knew Him to be my Savior, I felt distanced from God.

It was during this empty time when I turned to God and asked Him for freedom:  freedom from disordered eating, freedom from negative thought patterns and behaviors, and freedom to be who He wanted me to be.  And low and behold, God answered my prayers immediately, and prompted me to write–write about the physical challenges I was facing, the emotional turmoil going on in my spirit, and how by God’s grace and the power of prayer, He was able to turn my whole being inside out.  Since starting this blog, I’ve found a way to communicate how my past demonstrates the awesomeness of Jesus, and how He truly has the power to heal a person externally and internally.

It would be quite easy to say that since the inception of this blog, I have not been tempted to over-indulge in exercise or skip out on eating a full meal.  Not so.  Yes, I have found amazing freedom when I put my faith in Jesus to heal me, yet the enemy is tricky–I mean, his main purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy.  And so there have been moments, specifically when I am extremely tired or overwhelmed by other events like preparing my daughter for her first day of summer school, when I hear that eating disorder voice trying to find a foothold back in to my thoughts.  It is times like those when I feel off balance, when my life is not nicely planned out and plotted, when the temptation to gain some semblance of control (and mostly through the means of exercise and eating) occur. But that is where the beauty of God comes in.  Rather than let that sinister voice berate my thoughts or lead me down a slippery slop of diet and obsessive exercise, I instead call upon the power of God to help me.

A few weeks ago at church, one of our friends who also happens to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with my husband, spoke about his life-altering encounter with God, and how Jesus’s miraculous healing power is relevant and real even today.  As I listened to Pastor RK speak about how shriveled hands became full of working muscle and tendons, how men were set free from drug abuse and addiction, and how numerous individuals’ bodily pains and aches were erased after he prayed for them, I found myself nodding in agreement.  Yes, true healing can be found through Jesus.  But then Pastor RK spoke more about HOW to pray for these types of healings, and what he said was an eye opener:  Pray straight to the point and with intention.  In the Gospels, Jesus directly spoke to pain and commanded healing to occur.  He did not spend hours upon hours chanting or saying words just to say them.  He knew His authority, and spoke life to those in need.  It was at that point that I realized I needed to mimic those same types of prayers.  If I was confident in Jesus’s healing power, why not just command infirmities and addictions to leave?  Why did I feel the need to talk and talk and talk and use more words and more words and more words when I prayed for healing?  Essentially, I was worried that Jesus wouldn’t hear me, and that if I continued to speak to Him, even if they were only with filler words, then and only then would He hear my prayers and grant me complete freedom from whatever physical and mental ailments I suffered from.

Maybe my insecurities about being heard stemmed from the fact that growing up I was told by my mother to not speak until spoken to.  With that kind of mentality, I was quite a shy child, barely saying a whisper to aunts and uncles at gatherings.  I never fully believed that what I had to say, my views and opinions, were of value.  My demure and quiet nature also made it difficult for me to make new friends in intermediate and high school.  Rather than introduce myself to girls that I thought would make good pals, I instead hung around their area with bated breath, attempting to make eye contact with a girl or two, waiting for the one kind soul to say to me, “Hey, Lauren, want to join us at lunch?”  As a result, when I did talk to these individuals, I always felt that I had to say something GRAND and HILARIOUS and INSIGHTFUL, otherwise they would think me to be a boring person, not worthy to spend time around.

Needless to say, I had quite a depressing complex about who I was.

And so when it came time to pray, I constantly felt the need to talk to God and rationalize to Him why I needed His healing hand in my life.  I would gab on and on, but sadly, all of those words didn’t feel like anything special.  They just felt, well, like words.  Empty words.

But when Pastor RK spoke about the direct prayer, and that since we have the Holy Spirit in us, we too can pray the same way as Jesus did, his words made sense.  Yes.  Of course.  Why try to rationalize and plead and be overly verbose to a God who already knows my needs?  Why should I try to “please” the enemy to leave my thoughts, when he is already underfoot and I have the power of God on my side?  Trying to out talk the voice of the enemy (and in my case, it’s an eating disorder voice) will lead to nowhere because that enemy is the king of deception and lies.  Why not just be straight to the point and direct?

Similarly, I harken these short and powerful prayers to be much like how I interact with my toddler:  straight to the point.  Do I ever rationalize with a crying two-year-old why he can’t pick up mud and fling it in the air and then try to roll around in the mess?  Of course not!  Instead, I just say, “Dirty.  No.” and then lead him away from the mud puddle.  Toddlers aren’t able to mentally plot out the why behind their actions–they’re still in the “yes” and “no” phase of life, and as a parent, it’s my duty to teach my son right from wrong.  The “why” of it all will come later when necessary.  In the same way, the enemy doesn’t need to know my “why”.  When that eating disorder voice starts trying to tempt me to skip a meal or spend thirty more minutes in the gym, rather than try to talk myself down from engaging in said behavior by going over the reasons why I need to eat and how much additional training will only rob me of muscle gain, I instead merely say, “No.  Not good for me.  No.”  And then I continue on with my day.

Here’s a disclaimer for all of you reading this blog:  I was taught CBT to combat the eating disorder voice, and this form of psychological treatment can be wonderfully grand.  I know numerous individuals who have benefitted from this type of treatment, and that is wonderful for those people.  For me, however, attempting to “talk down” the negative thoughts just left me brain dead.  Rationalizing a voice that is screaming at you to run another mile or only eat carrots can take up one’s entire day, which is what ended up happening to me for many years of my life.  Thankfully, God showed me that because of His power in me, I am able to combat even the most demanding and negative of eating disorder voices with a simply powerful, straight to the point prayer:

“Eating disorder voice, leave my thoughts now.”

“Spirit of peace, fill me now.”

“Guide my thoughts, Jesus.”

Simple prayers, no more than a sentence long–it has been these types of utterances I’ve said out loud when the addictive and obsessive thoughts come into mind.  And it has been these types of prayers that have given me the most freedom to live a life fully devoted to God.

As I look back on that defining moment when Jesus filled my spirit with true freedom, I realize that I didn’t drone on and on in my prayer for His freedom.  I asked for faith.  I asked that whatever He wanted for my life, to make it clear to me.  I asked that He remove whatever was not in His plan.  And that was it.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  Amazingly, that is the type of God I serve and love–a God who is so powerful, so awe-inspiring, so aware of what His plans are for me, that all I need to do is utter a few words, and He will be faithful and just to hear those words.

What a freeing and faithful God.

I Could Get Used to This Life

I could get used to this life.

I wake up without an alarm, the room still dark and cool.  My daughter is lying on the floor next to our bed, her waist-long hair splayed out around her head like a dark brown halo.  She has taken to laying out the green and blue patchwork blankets on our bedroom carpet at 7:30pm every night, grabbing her favorite fluffy pillow, and camping out there until I turn off the light and lay on our futon mattress.  I should usher her upstairs to the bunk bed that she and her brother share, but there is something comforting about hearing her deep breaths as she nods off to sleep at night.

I could get used to this life.

I softly walk to the kitchen, take out a cup of cold-brewed Deathwish Coffee (yes, that is actually the name of it), and sip it quietly as I start preparing breakfast for the crew.  Sliced cucumbers and aspargus topped with wasabi sauce, cut up turkey slices, half a banana, and a handful of nuts for me–apple slices or fresh red grapes with peanut butter and jelly toast for the kids laid out on matching pink and blue plastic plates.  Like clockwork, as soon as I am done cutting and arranging said food for the little girl and boy, I hear Shogun jabbering away to himself in the bedroom, which is my cue to head up the two flights of stairs and rescue him from the wooden bunk.

I could get used to this life.

I peek my head into the room he and his sister share, and he is already sitting up in the lower bed, handmade patchwork blanket in hand, a big toothy smile on his face.  “Good Morning!” he jabbers, arms suddenly outstretched to me as I make my way to his bed.  I lift Shogun over the bunk bed barriers, and holding his tiny hand, we make our way down the 14 stairs, counting them one by one.

I could get used to this life.

I let go of Shogun’s hand as soon has his feet hit the living room carpet, and he ambles over to the Paw Patrol pillow situated in the middle of the room.  Sitting on the soft cushion, my little guy remarks to me, “Shi-shi.  Shi-shi.  Poop.”  It’s his cue to tell me, “Hey, mom, diaper!  Change me!”, and so I follow suit.  By this time big sister is awoken because of the noise outside, and she staggers out of the bedroom, hair disheveled and eyes bleary.  Misha sits next to her brother, gives him a big hug, and in an almost inaudible voice, she whispers, “Good Morning, Shogunnie.  I love you.”

I could get used to this life.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are days when this scenario is more “Come-on-stop-crying-go-brush-your-teeth-before-we’re-late” than the picturesque scene I just described.  But more often than not, the morning routine is calm.  It’s (dare I say) relaxing.  It is different than the normally hectic actions that occurred during the regular school year when I was attempting to get Misha into her uniform, grab a pop-tart for Shogun to eat in the car, and getting my iPad and bag together–all at the same time.

Now don’t get me wrong again.  I love my job, I adore my students, and I find inexplicable joy dialoguing with them about literature, writing, and all things books.  But truth be told, I love the simplicity of being a mother.  It’s a bit oxymoronic to say being a mother is simple, but maybe it’s because this summer break is a time when I don’t have to be “on” that I’m finding all the normally stressful duties of the day aren’t as crazily maginified.  Teaching is one of the most mentally and physically exhausting professions, as one is constantly walking around a classroom, drumming up excitement for subjects as enticing as grammar (that was sarcastic, by the way), and rarely finding a spare minute to sit down to drink water and eat a snack.  It’s no wonder that teachers are often times just as excited as the students for vacation days.  By the end of my work day, after meeting with students about papers, lecturing on Edgar Allen Poe and making copies of upcoming assignments for my ninth graders, I was ready to head home, put my feet up on the coffee table, and zone out to “Full House”.  But there was always Misha’s homework to go over, the dinner that needed to be cooked, and the laundry that should be washed.  I rarely got time to take a breath in between school and home duties, and towards the end of this last month, I was starting to feel delinquent in my role as a mother.  I spent hours planning lessons on short stories, grading essays on Thoreau, and designing new curriculum maps for the incoming freshmen.  But when did I have the time to sit with my son and do an alphabet puzzle with him?  When did I have the time to play restaurant with my daughter?

And so when summer break began two weeks ago, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Literally, as soon as I left campus for the last time for the 2016-2017 school year, I let out a huge exhale that mirrored that of my son attempting to blow out candles on his birthday cake (and side note:  he will be two next month!).  Teaching was done.  Now I could focus totally on mothering.

I know I need more balance between work and home, and sadly, the amount of time I spend doing school stuff outside of the campus has drastically decreased throughout the years.  Despite this change, there has secretly been a little inkling of fear in my spirit that was causing me to look down on my own parenting skills.  What was this fear?  It was a fear of being alone with my children because in my perfectionistic mind, I imagined my mothering skills to be less than up to par.  Although I knew that every parent has her own opinions on how to best raise her child, I always felt uncomfortable in my label as “mom”.  I wasn’t one of those snuggly-types of mothers who always wanted hugs and kisses from their child, nor was I a stern-type who showed no emotion at all.  My mother was known as the disciplinarian, and while I do enforce rules, I rarely yell like my mom, and my daughter and son have never gotten a spanking.  I felt uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure what my “style” of parenting was, and since I didn’t know that piece of information, I constantly felt on guard.  Were other people watching me with my children and secretly critiquing the fact that I let my toddler eat ice cream for a snack?  Were other people whispering behind my back because my daughter’s long hair was tangled and not in perfect pigtail braids?

But then I realized that God has blessed me with children for a reason–not to validate my own parenting skills because in the end, He is their true Heavenly Father.  It is my role as a mother to lift my daughter and son up to God each and every morning, bless them with prayers every night before they go to bed, and raise them to seek after Jesus with their whole hearts and bear His light to the world.  In Titus 2:4, the scripture states that mothers are designed to love their husbands and their children–and “loving” another is more than merely making breakfast every morning for the kids or making sure they have clean clothes.  “Loving” another ascertains that a person is emotionally and spiritually there for another, and that individual would also show the same reverence she has for Jesus to another person.  This got me thinking:  Do I love my children the same way I love Jesus?  And vice versa?  How do I show love to my daughter and son?  Do I do the same to God?

When I do actions for my children out of love–cutting their PBJ into cute shapes, gifting them with tiny toys from Target–is it out of compliance to someone else’s expectations or because I WANT to do said actions due to my love for them?  Folding Shogun’s clothes and changing his diaper throughout the day may take on a tiring feel, yet even though those actions are not my favorite, I do it because I WANT to.  I love him and am thus willing to sacrifice sleep or my own desires to bless him.

I think that is the main reason why I am loving this summer so far.  All of the morning routine actions, all of the time I’m getting to spend with my children, are because I WANT to.  I see Jesus in their shinning faces, and no matter how stinky Shogun’s poop is or how much Misha will whine for a cookie, I WANT to be around them.  I am their mother.  I am the person Jesus placed in their lives to grow them into loving children of God.

I still have another twenty-two days with my little girl and little guy before I head back to school.  Twenty-two days to enjoy the early summer mornings, hot afternoons, and calm nights with them before my first teacher meeting.

I still have twenty-two more days to embrace the role of mother, to grow in my knowledge that God will guide me in parenting, and that by loving my kids, I am also showing my love for Jesus.

I could get used to this life.

Love: Wanted. Love: Found.

After writing about my obsession with running this past week, I sat back and thought about all the different types of addictions I had in my short lifetime.  Let me tell you.  Man, the list was LOOONG.  A few highlights here:

  1. Long-distance running (as noted in my previous post), but really any endurance sport became obsessive.  Maybe it’s the nature of the beast, since one has to train hours on end to prepare for a race.
  2. Hot yoga, specifically Bikram yoga (2 classes a days, everyday, anyone?!) because there was something very therapeutic about sweating out all of one’s toxins for 90 minutes.  And in my crazed brain, if one class made me feel tremendous, wouldn’t two classes make me feel beyond awesome?!
  3. Cleaning the house (my fingerprints are literally unrecognizable because I used so many darn Clorox cleaning wipes), which entailed Swiftering daily, vacuuming daily, disinfecting toilets daily…you get the picture.  EVERYTHING daily.
  4. Preparing lesson plans and grading papers in advance. like weeks in advance if applicable.  This may actually not be so negative, since a persevering work ethic at school allowed me more time to do things at home that were NOT English teaching related, yet I ended up causing myself unnecessary mental anguish if the unit plan was not PERFECTLY SO by a certain arbitrary deadline.
  5. And finally…finding true love.

Huh?  Wanting to find true love could be considered an addiction?!  Number five is one that I didn’t really think about as an obsession until just this past week.  What brought it up?  Well, the fact that one of my best friends since high school got engaged.  Yes, she found the man of her dreams and just this past week he “SURPRISE!” proposed to her.  She messaged me the great news the other day while the kids and I were eating sushi, and as soon as I read her text I wanted to jump out of my chair, leap in the air and shriek, “YAYYYYY!!!!”  But instead I calmly went back to eating my salmon nigiri, and as soon as we were out of the restaurant, I called my friend to get the inside scoop on the proposal.

Everyone wants romance, love, and passion–maybe it’s because having that ONE person to share a future with validates something in a girl’s (or guy’s) brain that she (or he) is worthwhile because, hey, someone else is choosing to spend the rest of his/her life with that individual.  For me, I always dreamed of what my significant other would be like and when I’d find him, because I needed to be reassured that someone else (besides my parents) loved me.

Truth was, back in my high school and young adult years, I didn’t really know if I loved myself.  That is not a lie.  I truly was not sure WHO I was, and so how could I be certain that I could love the person God created me to be?  Sure, I was a whiz at writing and could whip up an English essay in an hour flat, but I wasn’t sold on the fact that this character trait was “good.”  People said I was patient, sweet, and fun to be around, but what did that really mean?  Deep inside I secretly thought I wasn’t that “cool”–I didn’t have a hilarious sense of humor, nor was I able to wow friends or acquiantences with my off-the-charts intellect.  I just kind of “was.”  What made me special?  What person  would choose to love a gal like me with no outstanding qualities?

I tried remaking myself to being the girl that all the guys liked.  In high school, that meant I should look “surfer-like”, aka have highlighted hair, wear short denim shorts to show off long tanned legs, and have no blemishes whatsoever on my face.  Uh, that was impossible since I’m only a five feet-something, Japanese female with oily skin.  In college, being the girl that guys liked was very similar to what was presented in high school–but now, there was the added component of being able to go out until all hours and drink the night away.  No bueno.  I didn’t mind nursing a beer or two, but seriously, staying up to 2am (or 3am or 4am) sucking down Bud Light would only make me bloated and zombie-like the next day.  Once I started working, then the ideal girl that guys liked shifted:  Could she cook?  Did she have a stable job?  Did she make her hair nice and wear make-up out?  No.  Kind of.  Heck no.

I was out of luck in the guy department.  Don’t get me wrong–not all guys liked these characteristics in a mate.  But the majority of boys I hung around did, and so I internalized those traits and attempted (to no avail) to implement them in my life.  I highlighted my hair.  I dieted and ran to keep my legs as slender as possible.  I sipped my Bud Lights with the guys.  I did everyhting I assumed a girl “should” do in order to find a man.  But what did I find?  Nada.

Once I hit my mid-twenties, I became very cynical.  Sure, maybe there was a knight in shining armor to sweep me off my feet, but where was he?  How would I find him?  And then the thought came to me.

Jesus.

He was my knight.

He loved me before I was even born.  He loved me when I was going through my awkward braces and glasses stage.  He loved me when I sat in Chemistry with a blank stare on my face.  He loved me when I missed notes during my oboe concerto.  He loved me when I failed miserably and felt like I could do no right.

But Jesus also loved me when I received As on my English essays.  He loved me when I walked across the stage at my high school graduation and was handed my diploma.  He loved me when I was able to travel with the University of Hawaii Wind Ensemble and perform a solo during one of our national performances.  He loved me when my face beamed with pride at what I was able to accomplish in my young adult life.

Jesus was the one that made me special, and He was the one who sacrificed His life so that I could live mine here on earth.  Once I came to that realization, that no other guy regardless of how much he said he would care and love me, could ever compare to the One true God who chose to love me for all eternity.  Similarly, since God created me in His image, how preposterous would it be for me to say that I wasn’t sure if I loved myself.  Did I love Jesus?  Yes!  I sure did.  So, if I loved (and still love) Jesus, and His Holy Spirit was in me, wouldn’t that mean that I was actually loving God since He was a part of me?

Mind.  Blown.

Oddly enough, as soon as I came to that revelation, I met my soon-to-be husband.  It wasn’t love at first sight as I imagined it would be, and in fact, I thought he was cute but that his ears stuck out too much.  But there was no anxiety around our meeting, no hemming and hawing if he was “the one”–because I knew my true love was already deep in my spirit.

Romance, love, passion.  Those are things many people look for because they are signs of intimacy, and who doesn’t want to feel like she is included and belongs?  But there is great joy, a great sense of peace, that the Holy Spirit brings when that individual accepts and loves who God created her to be, because then she can fully love herself and those around her.

 

I Did NOTHING. And I Liked It.

I did nothing.

NOTHING.

And it was glorious.

Since Monday was Memorial Day and the whole Takao clan had a three-day weekend, I initially had grand plans of trekking to Waikiki Saturday night to explore the latest Japanese food court, traversing the crowd at Ala Moana Beach to view the floating lantern presentation, or braving the shopping crowds to see what kind of deals I could get for the kids.

I wanted to do something.  SOMETHING!!!  I didn’t want my children to think to themselves, “Wow, this is boring at home.  Wow, everyone else is going out.  Wow, mommy isn’t fun at all.”

Crazy thoughts, I know.  After much hemming and hawing, I then came to this realization:  rather than schlep an overly talkative six year old and almost-2 year old in their car seats around town, my hubby, kids, and I would instead do the following.

  1.  Wake up WHENEVER we wanted, which was late for our family but still early enough so that the sun was only starting to rise over the mountains
  2. Leisurely lay around the living room sipping coffee (for the hubby and I, not the kids, ha ha) watching, “Paw Patrol” or some other cartoon.
  3. Read a book or two with Shogun while Misha drew extravagant pictures of her friends.
  4. Got ready to go to the gym.
  5. Went to the gym where Misha did BJJ, I got to work on some powerlifting movements, Kyle free rolled or played around with the weights, and Shogun sat in on some of the kiddie conditioning classes.
  6. Food.  Food.  Food.
  7. Nap.  Nap.  Nap.
  8. Woke up from said nap, played cars with Shogun or drew with Misha.
  9. Went out for dinner.
  10. Got back home, laid on the living room carpet with the kids and watched a movie until it was time to go to sleep.

Not a whole lot of excitement.  Granted, we did go out of the house a bit, which is no easy task when one child still needs help in and out of the car and the other child chatters incessantly, always wanting to play a game or look at daddy’s phone.  Despite our frequent excursions, however, there were not a whole lot of (what many folks would label) “educationally stimulating” activities for the kids.  I didn’t hand make play-doh for the little ones using glue, food coloring, and contact solution, nor did we make pancakes into the shape of Mickey Mouse and decorate the breakfast with freshly cut strawberries and whipped cream (something my grandmother did with me).  All our family did was take a break.  It was a break from the daily grind.  It was a time to just be free to do “whatever” and not worry about the productivity of the day.  It was glorious.

We could let be be.

Let be be.

That above line, “Let be be,” is taken from “The Emperor of Ice-Cream”, a lovely Modernist poem by Wallace Stevens.  The basic premise of the writing is to not care what others perceive you as, but instead live life to the fullest and enjoy all the joy and happiness it has to offer.  Upon first reading this piece of literature, I would marvel at how a person COULD merely BE and find fulfillment in that manner.  What did it mean to just sit and not be DOING something?  How could an individual function knowing that she was just taking up space and not contributing to society?

It was this kind of thinking that infiltrated my mind at a young age:  I wasn’t valuable, profitable, or worthwhile if I wasn’t producing something grand.  Being able to sit and rest was akin to slothfulness, and who wants to be known as a person who is lazy?!  Surely, not I!  And so my obsession with continually doing something, whether it be wiping down the counters with Colorx wipes, prepping food for the next day’s lunches, folding laundry, or engaging in some kind of activity similar to those listed above, took over my existence and eventually made me crazy.  It literally drove my so batty that I my heart would jump when I saw Misha drop a cookie crumb on the carpet or if Kyle didn’t wipe up the splotch of toothpaste in the sing.  I was on a stain with cleaner in hand, and pretty soon even my toddler would try “being like mommy” and dusting the sofa with a wet wipe.

My home needed to be spotless.  A clean home meant a happy home.  A happy home meant I was thriving as a mother and wife.  Being an excellent spouse and parent meant I was doing SOMETHING right, when in reality I felt extremely insecure in my capabilities in both realms.  I constantly questioned my parenting and wife skills–why couldn’t I be a “DIY” type of mom who made her children organic PB and J’s cut into shapes of animals?  Why couldn’t I prepare a deliciously homemade vegan dinner–nut cheeses, bean burgers, and hummus from freshly ground beans–for my husband?

And so I thought keeping myself busy, active, and always DOING meant that I was winning in life.  At least if I couldn’t be the model mother and wife, if I at least LOOKED like I was, that was enough, right?  Right?!

No, it wasn’t.  All I ended up doing was obsessing over every flaw I found–I went through the drive-thru to pick up Wendy’s fries for my daughter, there were cobwebs accumulating in the corners of my living room–and soon made myself sick with condemnation.  But then I was reminded of Romans 8:1:  “For there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”

Humph.

Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk the Earth.  Why then was I going mentally, emotionally, and physically insane trying to live up to an expectation (i.e. perfect mother, perfect wife) that I could never fully achieve?  Why try to push away the feelings of guilt and inadequacy by submerging myself in activities that would dilute those feelings (i.e. compulsive exercising and calorie restriction)?  Why equate my worth with what I produced and did, versus looking at my value as a blessed child of the Lord?

In the end, I had to make peace with the fact that just being ME was enough–and since I am a flawed person who is only redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, no amount of DOING will make be a “better” person.  I just needed to let be be.

And so that was what our family did this weekend.  We just “be” (or for you grammatical Nazis out there, we just “were”).  And you know what?  I liked it.  I liked relaxing with my family.  I liked not feeling like I had to vacuum all the hair off the floor or scrub the tub until it was shinning.  I liked that the memories Shogun and Misha will have are the times we read books or sang silly songs together, and that their perceptions of me will not be of a mom that was a fanatical duster and dish washer who couldn’t sit still.

Let be be.

Let be be.

 

 

Breaking Up is Hard To Do

I should be laying supinely on the sofa in baggy sweats, spoon-feeding myself pint after pint of gooey Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, legs draped precariously over the edge of the armrest.

My eyes should be rimmed with tears, almost swollen shut due to continuously crying for minutes, no, hours on end.

It is a grand cliche, but oh so true:  my heart should feel like it is broken in two, split apart, and ripped from my chest.

We just broke up.

We are no longer.

The relationship is over.

Now before you start hyperventilating at the thought of Misha and Shogun being without a mother and father, let me assure you that my husband and I are still happily together. Last night, in fact, we all sat down around our tiny wood table, ate dinner together amidst conversation of the day’s events, and then ended the night curled up watching Nickelodeon (“Full House” is on every weekday at 7pm on that channel, just in case you were wondering).

No, it is not my marriage that has disintegrated–it is actually my relationship with Olympic weightlifting that has taken a substantial hit.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still go to the gym, and I still place a barbell on my back and squat, or lie on a bench and press it with all the strength I can muster.  I still love scrolling through Mattie Roger’s picture perfect videos on IG and fan girl over Morghan King and her monumentally powerful lifts.  But the lure of stepping onto a platform, hearing the resounding STOMP of my Adidas shoes on the wood, dipping and driving under a loaded bar to complete a magnificent jerk–that compulsion, that obsession has vanished.

Within the last few months, my love for Olympic lifting took a turn from fun pastime to addictive activity that took up the majority of my brain power and physical energy.  What caused this switch?  What propelled me to obsess over the fundamentals of the clean and jerk and the intricacies of the snatch so much so, that I woke up thinking about the platform and went to bed dreaming of one day competing as a Master’s athlete?

I could say that it was the people I was surrounded with, and that their enthusiasm for the sport led me to also develop an obsession for weightlifting that (sadly) rivaled the same excitement I had for teaching, reading, and writing.  I could say that the constant barrage of Hookgrip pictures and slow-motion videos of Olympians hefting massive barbells overhead led to this turn (social media at its’ finest!).  But in reality, obsession is in my personality.  Moderation is not in my vocabulary.  I am a black or white, hot or cold, all or nothing type of person, and whether it is with sports, family, friends, or work, it is incredibly challenging for me to live in the “grey” area.  I cannot merely jog a few miles a few times a week–I must train to qualify for Boston.  I cannot take a yoga class every so often–I must do two a day to practice for an asana competition.  It’s black or white.  No grey.

Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), individuals with eating disorders seem to have very addictive, OCD-type personalities.  They fixate on one idea, and then the tunnel vision effect takes over.  Before these people know it, they are so deep into their obsession that what was once normal and healthy (going to the gym three times a week, incorporating fruits and veggies into 3 meals) becomes circumvented to an all-encompassing, mind-numbing addiction.  Hence why anorexics can refuse eating food in a society filled with fast food commercials, convenience store snacks, and soda ads–they are so overwhelmed with needing to consume only XXX amount of calories, that no amount of propaganda will push them towards breaking their rigid good/bad food diet.

When I started Olympic weightlifting, it was actually because I wanted to get better at CrossFit.  After having my daughter, I realized how much muscular strength I didn’t have, and took to circuit-type training to build some mass.  After failing 65 pound cleans and being unable to snatch to save my life, I decided to work with a coach on those skills.  I would get easily frustrated that I couldn’t keep my hips down in the initial pull or that my elbows weren’t whipping forward fast enough in the clean.  As a few months passed, my technique got a bit better–and then I became pregnant with my son.  I stopped stomping on the platform during those nine months, and when Shogun turned four months old I made my shaky return to my trusty Adidas shoes.  For the next year and a half, my interest in Olympic lifting went from, “Wow, this is cool that I’m getting stronger.  Nice.” to “I want to compete as a Master’s athlete.  Soon.”  My “white” view of Olympic lifting switched to a “black” one.  I bypassed the “grey” and soon found myself entrenched in an addictive relationship with the sport.  Given that I have two young children, a full-time job, and husband to tend to, I wound up training in the wee hours of the morning, sacrificing sleep to “get it done.”  To any other gym goer, I was a dedicated lifter.  In my heart, however, I knew that a sport that once made me smile was slowly becoming a chore, something that I HAD to do.  On my drive to the gym I’d hem and haw over that day’s programming, debating whether or not I’d be able to make the percentages and lifts prescribed, and if not, that would be two hours of my life in the gym wasted.  Reading through these thoughts that ran through my head, my heart sinks.  How stressful, how debilitating, how sad I felt, yet on the outside all people saw was the dedicated athlete spending hours trying to perfect her skills.

Yes, you read that right.  My time on the platform transformed from an hour-long session to 2-3 hours each time, sweating under the harsh lights.  And my body felt the effects of my compulsivity and addiction.  My right shoulder would ache when I lifted it, my left trap was significantly (and perpetually) higher than my right, my left IT band yelled in irritation whenever I walked, and my right butt cheek shot daggers of pain when I’d sit.  To any normal person, these physical ailments would signal a day, a week, maybe even a month of rest.  But my obsessive, eating disordered brain wouldn’t have it.  A day off meant weakness.  A day off meant I’d be losing gains.  A day off meant I was not a serious athlete.

It wasn’t until one Saturday morning a few weeks ago, an hour before I was to go to a training session, that I curled up next to my husband and two kids who were laying on the bed watching cartoons, and just laid there next to them.

I don’t want to go.  I don’t want to go.  I don’t want to go.

The words echoed in my head, and it was at that moment I realized how my obsession with Olympic lifting had blinded me to what were the real priorities in my life:  my family, my relationships with others, my health, my joy.  Spending so much time in the gym prevented me from being fully present when my children wanted to ride bikes outside or when my husband wanted to sit and chat.  All I could think about was saving my body for the next training session (can’t run around with the kids too much, it’ll tire out the legs), or that I needed to sleep early to prepare to hit the platform early the next day.

My life revolved around Olympic lifting.  And that obsession not only translated to lost time and energy, but also a loss in weight.  Caloric restriction plus insane caloric output does not equal great health.  It equals “Lauren-is-in-need-of-putting-on-some-much-needed-pounds-because-a-relapse-is-happening.” I wanted to be known as a great athlete.  I wanted to achieve some kind of weightlifting status that I thought obsessive practice could attain, yet my goals were not God’s.  I was trying to rationalize my addictive actions, but to no avail.  In Matthew 6:33, the author states, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Putting the platform before Jesus was definitely not something God intended for my life, and an indication of that was the obsession to train and my ailing body.  Why would He fill my head with anxious and compulsive thoughts about weightlifting when His word clearly states that we should “cast all our anxieties onto Him”?  When I delight in the Lord and seek Him, I feel internally free, and He fills me with what I need:  faith, freedom, and joy.  If I know that to be true, why remain locked into an obsessive pattern of cleaning, jerking, and pulling that was deteriorating my body?

And so on that Saturday morning, I decided that a break up needed to happen.  A splitting of ways was necessary, a departure from a relationship that was once wonderful and lovely but had morphed to an unhealthy addiction was imperative.  I notified my coach that I was no longer going to pursue Olympic lifting, and immediately after that was verbalized, I felt, oddly, lighter.  Not lighter pound-wise, but lighter in my spirit.  That freeing faith, the joyful possibility that I could do anything, that the road of opportunity was waiting for me, was awakened in my soul.

And so we broke-up.  Me and the Olympic lifting barbell.  Me and the obsession with clean and jerks and snatches.  Me and the addiction to analyzing the movements, the addiction to push harder and more until my body be on the verge of collapse.

It was an unhealthy relationship, and just like any person will do after a romantic break-up, I had to distance myself.  I haven’t clean and jerked or snatched since that Saturday, and truthfully, I don’t miss it.  Yes, I still squat, deadlift, and do other powerlifting-type movements, but without the obsession, without the quilt, without the fear.  I do these lifts according to how I feel, and even test that I’m NOT becoming addicted by stopping a workout prematurely and limiting the amount of time I spend with the weights.  I’m cautious about entering a new relationship with a new sport, as I need some time to heal from the past one.  But I know that wherever the Lord will lead me, whatever relationship is on the horizon, I will have to be aware to not let it digress to one of obsession and addiction.  This last break-up was a doozy, but thankfully I have a tub of Ben and Jerry’s to help heal those wounds.

Shopaholic

I am not a shopper.

There was a time, way back when I was a fifth grader with permed hair, plastic rimmed glasses, and colorful braces (hey, it was the late eighties, after all!), when I would stroll around Pearlridge Shopping Center with my mother every Saturday afternoon, fingering the fluorescent tie-dyed shirts and Bongo shorts on the Liberty House mannequins.

I always wanted to look older than I really was, and stores like Contempo Casuals with its’ black and grey decor and Bangles’ tunes flowing out of its’ doors were places I’d meander through, looking for the latest trends and fashion inspiration.  I rarely (if ever) bought any of the neon leggings or puffy socks from those places because my mother didn’t approve of her eleven year old daughter trying to attain a “teen” look, but there was something hypnotic about flipping through stacks of crop tops and high-waisted mom jeans, the scratch and skreek of the hangers against the metallic rods music to my ears.

Nowadays, I only go to the malls if absolutely necessary:  searching for birthday presents for grandmas and grandpas, buying shoes for Shogun’s growing feet, or picking up pizza or plate lunches from the food court on the way home from work.  There are moments when our family will stroll through Pearlridge and ride the escalators up and down–not that we’re looking for anything to buy per se, but we are just in need of an activity we can do that is in air-conditioning and free.

I am not a shopper.  But recently, with the introduction of a meal plan that requires me to eat around the clock and consume Ben and Jerrys, decandent brownies, or some kind of dessert with every meal, my stomach has taken to looking like I’m in the first trimester of a burgeoning pregnancy.

My husband, of course, bless his soul, will emphatically shake his head NO when I ask him if I’m fat or my stomach looks huge.  Good man, ha ha.  Sometimes I believe him, other times not so much.  I’m not even sure why or how this obsession with having a flat stomach began, as I’ve never been overweight and actually grew up running around a soccer field, so I always maintained a relatively athletic figure.  Was it the birth of my children that the desire to “bounce back” from pregnancy spawned an obsession to regain my svelte midsection as soon as possible?  I remember purchasing a waist cincher previous to Misha being born–yes, the device was great at getting my hips back into alignment and shrinking my uterus to its’ normal size, but ultimately, I feared the pitiful looks of friends, fellow gym-goers, and random people I passed on the street if they saw my less than ideal figure.  I didn’t want them to see me, hair disheveled, adorned in baby spit-up sweats, with a flab of stomach fat hanging over the waistband of my yoga pants and think, “Wow, Lauren sure did let herself go.”

Sadly, I care a whole lot about what other people think of me.  It’s an issue I’ve been working on since, oh, forever, and granted, I have gotten considerably better about not second guessing what’s going on in other people’s minds.  I know that I am not perfect and never will be, yet I still strive to present an image of myself that is as close to perfect as possible–and that image is not just one of creating magical English lessons for my students or squatting more than two times my body weight.  Performing to the best of my abilities at work or in the gym contributed to my latest eating disorder relapse–caring too much about attaining a goal others projected onto me caused a great deal of emotional and psychological stress, which resulted in me responding by saying, “Hey, I’m overwhelmed.  Let me get my mind off of this–instead I’ll focus on my weight and food and try to look as put together as possible so no one will know that internally I’m really falling apart.  Distract me, eating disorder!!!”

But how could I, a Punahou School graduate and high school English educator, fall into the inane trap of distracting myself from the reality of life so much, that rather than deal with the issue at hand, I instead scoured articles and tips on how to “get abs”?  In actuality, it wasn’t so much the LOOK of the flat stomach that I craved, but the FEELING and CONNOTATIONS it employed.  Having a six pack requires one to spend hours sweating at the gym and being diligent to avoid the brownies after dinner and glasses of wine with a meal.  Basically, I bought into the misconception that being skinny is equated with having self-discipline, and OF COURSE who doesn’t want to be known as the gal that is able to control her emotions and desires???  And sadly, there was a feeling of pride that emerged when I would see those that had children, their post-partum bellies not as taunt as mine.  I’d compare their soft stomachs to my abdominal muscles, and think to myself, “See?!  You put in the time.  You did it.  You are a ‘fit mom.'”

What a lie.

Having self-discipline in eating disorder recovery means taking care of oneself despite the lure of society to conform to the weight-loss standard promoted on IG, Facebook, television, and film.  Yes, eat the fruits and vegetables like all the health nuts would have you believe, but also enjoy the family time at Chuck E Cheese and eat the pizza with the kids.  Yes, drink water and be sure to hydrate, but don’t be afraid of enjoying happy hour with girlfriends.  Yes, listen to the advice of doctors to get an adequate amount of exercise a day, but don’t spend hours stairclimbing to nowhere.

At this phase in my recovery, I’m learning to have self-discipline.  It’s the self-discipline to eat a package of cheese crackers even though I’m not hungry.  It’s the self-discipline to order the chicken katsu plate from L&L even though I’m fearful of the breaded meat and mac salad going straight to my thighs.  It’s the self-discipline to not touch my stomach after every meal and worry about whether or not it’s ballooning overnight.

I am not going to lie, but this phase of recovery is rough.  And so to combat this challenging period, I started shopping.  Contrary to what you may think, I don’t spend hours patrolling the mall, looking for expensive shoes or bags.  Instead I walk quickly through clothing stores that I know sell cheap dresses–dresses that flow like water and will not cut into my growing tummy area.  I grab a few, hold them up to me to check the length and size, skim the price tag, and if it’s in an affordable range, I buy it.  I buy these dresses because I know that I need to ensure my recovery, and one way to do so is to not be triggered my a tight waistband making indentations around my waist.  Instead, cue the flowy dress.

I am not a shopper.  I am not looking for “abs” or a new body.  I am not looking to compare myself to others, as that is a sign of pride, which is something that only brings destruction and death.  I am not looking for approval from others, for I find my salvation in Jesus Christ.  I am merely learning to be happy with the the body of a normal human being.  It is the body of a person that eats on a daily basis–the stretched out belly button, stomach rolls, and everything else that comes with it.  It is the body of a person that enjoys the life God created for her, and is able to be self-disciplined enough to do whatever is needed to recover from this horrible illness.

I am not a shopper.  But praise God that He has given me the funds to buy a reassuring faith, so that I can find freedom in Him.