WEIGHT A MINUTE: A confession at 250 miles

Fitbit badges

In late September I bought a Fitbit personal exercise tracker and started challenging myself to shake a leg more intentionally and frequently, as I shared in WEIGHT A MINUTE: A 30-pound love note from my soul.

I have a confession to make. I specified that this initiative was aimed at feeling better. I said, and I quote: I am not weighing or measuring myself, counting calories or measuring portions. The first part of that idealistic statement ended up being untrue.

Here’s how the process unfolded. I felt proud of myself as I set up the Fitbit goals. I didn’t want this to be some crazy, unachievable or hard-driving effort I would soon drop in discouragement. Accordingly, I lowered the suggested daily goal from 10,000 steps to 8,000 and told myself that would be plenty good enough for starters. I found out by gentle experience that on the days when I did no intentional walking, my daily steps were as low as 3,000. Rationalizing from that baseline, my goal seemed a significant improvement over the sedentary sluggishness of the last few years—progress without being punitive.

As I was setting up the Fitbit software program, I came to the section in which I was asked to input my current weight and my goal. I put in the somewhat alarming (to me) figure from the last time I’d weighed myself, and then entered a goal to lose 33 pounds because I liked the number. All this seemed quite theoretical…just filling in the blanks to get started toward my overarching intention to get back into better condition and start feeling more fit and energetic.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I started having lots of fun feedback right away. How beautiful that my body responded to such a modest investment! My resting heart rate lowered. My zest came zipping back. The step-tracking strategy did indeed motivate me to get out on the street even after dark so as to meet the day’s target. Wow!

And then…and then…well, I succumbed to the urge to get on the scale and see what kind of progress I’d made. Shit! I weighed more than the estimate I’d entered into the Fitbit program weeks earlier. Even though my body and mind felt much better, the scale screamed F-A-I-L in a loud and mocking voice.

Because I’d written a blog post about my lofty intentions to avoid weighing and measuring my body, I felt as if I was secretly letting all of you down. But that didn’t stop me from weighing myself compulsively a couple weeks later! The figure was exactly the same!!!!!

This seems nearly impossible and more like an object lesson from my higher self than anything, as if the scale conspired to send me back to the refuge of my original, beautiful intention: to not hate, reject, or punitively try to control any part of myself, but to instead be filled with a deep and radiant desire to be my best self.

I choose again and again—as many times as necessary—to trust how I feel over what scales and measuring tapes might indicate. I feel SO much better physically! I feel stronger and more lithe, lighter on my feet and lighter of heart, both physically and emotionally.

Although I am over 250 miles down the road, in some ways I am back where I started, returning home to the goal of learning to love and accept myself with honesty and compassion. Confessing my frailty is part of that, so thanks for listening!






God made a little Gentian—It tried—to be a Rose: A love letter to heterocentric Christians

Dear heterocentric persons of faith and good will (which includes most of my dear family of origin):

I want you to know first of all that I can intellectually and compassionately understand both your consternation and some of the vehemence with which you defend doctrines on sexuality and marriage. Can we start there? Can we begin with me saying with love that I hear you and I see where you are coming from? Because I do.

Like you, I have been culturally conditioned since birth to accept heterosexuality as the prevailing paradigm and the normative ethic, both socially and religiously. I can certainly understand why those for whom attraction to the opposite sex is as natural and unquestioned a behavior as breathing would assume that any deviation from the norm is, well…abnormal, and perhaps even a willful rebellion against what’s natural.

My personal experience, starting from a very young age in this same milieu—specifically in the 1970s in the Church of the Nazarene—I’m guessing was exactly the opposite of yours, and for me, equally natural, unfolding softly like a wildflower. I did try to meet the cultural expectations, but those attempts in high school and college were strange, awkward and felt like a fraud. In 56 years of life, I have never fallen in love with a member of the opposite sex. Not once.

To be clear, this is not because I dislike men or have been damaged by a man. In fact, I love and appreciate men very much, starting with my Dad, grandfathers, and brother, all of whom were unusually loving, gentle, kind and approachable. I hung out with boys a lot during my teen years and they mostly treated me like one of the guys, which made me feel safe and comfortable, a pal. Secretly, of course, what we had in common was our attraction to the girls.

I never once said, oh, I think I’ll squelch my heterosexual identity and give myself over to lust for my own kind in defiance of the Church’s teachings. As far as I can tell, I only ever went with the flow of my own innate selfhood. I was a Marva. And even as it became clear that I would face disapproval and rejection, I did not consider twisting myself to fit cultural and religious expectations because I felt purposeful as I was and courageous enough to stay that way. I knew somehow in a very deep place—seemingly against the odds—that I was unique and beautiful and loved by my Maker, who is famous for moving in mysterious ways.

The fact that I have always felt this unexpectedly deep confidence in the face of pressure to conform to the norm, remains my single most powerful and self-evident argument against the moral depravity judgment. If I am an abomination or a mis-creation, why do I feel so confident in my holy birthright? Why would I take a path so painful, rocky and counter-cultural simply for the sake of rebellion, and if it were a phase, wouldn’t it eventually end? And why, if the way I am is a deep perversion subject to the wrath of God, do I manifest in my daily life so many of the fruits of the Spirit? How can I be the happiest and most peaceful person I know?

That’s all I have to offer, my own story, my own sweet certainty of the sacred validity of my personhood exactly as I am, and these heartful inquiries. If you would be willing to sit prayerfully with those questions, I would be so grateful. For the moment, I would love it if we could we drop our defenses and simply see each other face to face, and heart to heart, without scriptural interpretations and a church manual as wedges between us.

In case you wonder, I am writing because I have this wild, idealistic notion that it’s possible to befriend and heal the misunderstood pink elephants of shame that have been standing in the shadowy corners of so many good Christian living rooms for so long. These elephants are the unspoken plights of our children and grandchildren, cousins and nephews, mothers and fathers.

One of the motivations that spurs me onward now is the desire to heal my own hidden hurt by bringing it out into the light. I didn’t even realize how potent it was until I heard last week’s announcement of the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality and found myself ducking and bracing as if I’d just heard the unmistakable freight-train-roar of a tornado bearing down. Or of thousands of pink elephants crashing out into the public square.

While millions of happy people of all proclivities and nationalities joined in celebrating a step forward in human rights, I took a step back and felt inexplicably sorrowful, in part because I knew how many of you would feel about the announcement. I’ve made the mistake of reading too many condemnatory articles and offensive comments. I’ve stepped away in despair from many unfruitful and unfinished conversations over the last 30 years.

I am also inspired to speak because of my desire to encourage others to not give up on living authentically. I am convinced we all have a purpose in the beautiful spectrum of being—simply because we exist—just as we are.

And finally, the deepest driver of all—the most potent of motivators—the craving for wholehearted love and acceptance—not the confusing contradiction of I love you, but, or the poison razor of love the sinner, hate the sin—but love without condition, in the manner of Christ.

I am convinced this unconditional love is abundantly available to me from my Creator. I feel it purposefully and joyfully in every cell of my body and every particle of the cosmic consciousness in which I am an avid participant. I don’t need any religious institution to validate my spiritual passport; I have traveled a great distance without external approval.

What would be lovely, however, would be to feel that my fellow humans, especially my own extended family, did not condemn me for being myself. I am totally coming out of the closet as a Marva. I can do no less if I wish to be free and whole. Perhaps my heart can be a bridge. I offer it freely as a gift to the troubled waters.

Much Love, Marva


How are you? (don’t tell me)

The other day a friend of mine posted this meme on her Facebook page. I realized immediately that it kicked up dust from an issue sitting quietly in the shadows on my emotional shelf. Part of me understood the deep wish that someone pay attention so closely and know me well enough to offer comfort at that level. Another part of me got squeamish and felt a little buzz of anxiety.

meme for post

To tell the truth. After I sat with my discomfort for a while, I left a comment: I would also love it if you’d look me in the eye and tell me when you’re having a hard time! 

After a little more thought, I added an explanation: I grew up in a family where I had my radar on all the time trying to figure out how everyone was feeling and what I needed to do about it. It made me pretty unhealthy! So I really appreciate openness among friends who can say how they are feeling and ask for what they need. That feels healthier for me.

Someone else replied: When people ask me it is just easier to say I’m okay than tell the truth. This is a big truth.

How are you? is one of our culture’s most frequently asked questions. It is perhaps one of the most loaded questions, buried under a cargo of invisible rules and preferences, assumptions and expectations. We often ask it as a form of greeting with an accidental question-mark at the end. We ask it and promptly stop listening.

Dying. Years ago I read about a graduate student who conducted a field study. When people asked “how are you?” she answered with a word that sounds similar to what we’re trained to reply. Instead of saying “fine,” she said “dying.” I don’t remember the percentages, but a shocking number of persons said some version of “oh, good…me too.”

A few days after our Facebook interchange, my friend Michelle and I saw each other in person. We are still in the getting-to-know-you phase of relationship and I asked her a few questions so we could find common ground and dig in.

We talked about our secret suspicion that people might not really want to know how we’re doing. She shared that sometimes she withholds the truth because she feels it would be an emotional burden.

I talked about my desire for authentic connection and honest answers. I clarified that I’ve learned it’s not healthy for me to guess at how people are feeling. She pointed out that telling the truth can sometime result in unwanted care-taking; people jump in to try to solve our problems when all we really need is to feel heard.

Sometimes all we really need is to feel heard.

Isn’t this a gloriously fertile and confusing field of inquiry? What a gift it is to a relationship to choose to get real. I believe it takes trust, understanding and even courage to answer this frequently asked question with greater authenticity. And it takes patience and practice to listen attentively without needing to take on our loved ones’ or friends’ feelings as a personal burden or leaping into problem-solving mode.

A place to start. My friend Bill and I both enjoy practicing the power of positive thinking and conscious language choice. When I ask him how he’s doing, he usually says “excellent” or “outstanding.” He chooses to see the bright side. He sometimes chooses, I assume, to state his highest aspiration rather than an actual assessment of his temporal condition in the moment. I take a similar approach most days.

This may seem falsely positive or pollyannish to some, but I try not to say anything I don’t mean from my heart. Even when circumstances are challenging, I can honestly say “it is well with my soul.” I do, however, strive to be real if things are not so great. Yesterday morning I heard some really sad news about a dear friend of mine whose health is rapidly declining. If someone had asked “how are you?” yesterday morning, I would have said, “I am feeling really sad.” That, I hope, would have been a gift instead of a burden.

I do believe how are you? has the potential to be a more meaningful social ritual. How can that happen? It starts with me caring about your answer. It continues with us taking time to lay a foundation of trust so you can feel comfortable giving me an authentic answer. On that foundation we can choose to build a new vocabulary of caring.

Who is with me? Shall we begin? This will help keep me from relapsing into the unhealthy habit of using my empathy to try to guess at your feelings. Instead, I’ll save my empathy for listening to you when you tell me how you’re really doing.