Passive Awareness of the Body

A series of unfortunate events at the turn of the new year led me to take up strength training two mornings a week with a personal trainer. It has been a surreal experience, I’m shocked how much I’m enjoying it, and I’m becoming incredibly aware of my body in aways I wasn’t before. I’m aware of more of it at once.

When I was in Christian Science, I was passively aware of my body. It was there, but not hugely important. When I hurt myself or was ill, I downplayed my injuries or illness — they weren’t really part of me, they didn’t need to impact my day-to-day. Anything too extreme warranted a call to a CS practitioner, who would tell me that 2+2=4 and God is Love, and I am God’s Spiritual Idea and therefore I am Perfect, so whatever I thought was wrong, was just that, an erroneous thought that needed to be fixed. The human body is really good at fixing itself, so most of the time I recovered in a reasonable amount of time, but sometimes the passive awareness (and flat-out ignoring the problems) was more problematic.

Passive awareness led to a mildly infected cuticle, it was a minor pain, nothing to worry about, until it spread down the length of the entire finger. It hurt to bend my finger, it hurt to move my hand. The nail was pushed out of place. My mother called the local CS Nurse, I soaked my hand in warm water with epsom salts and put a bandaid over the error. Eventually the puss ruptured out the side of my finger, the nail falls off, and the school nurse is horrified when I showed up one day needing a bigger bandage. A friend whose father was a doctor went with me, she’s freaked out about the infection spreading and the possible loss of the finger. I find the pain and her freaking out mildly annoying. Thanks to religious exemption laws, there wasn’t much (anything?) the school nurse could do. I got a new bandaid, the trip to the nurses office also means I get to meant out out on running the mile in PE. It was a win-win situation. Later I realized just how lucky I was it didn’t get worse.

Passive awareness leads to “walking off” the hard fall-and-slide down an icy hill. Downplaying the fact I can’t really walk properly, but I also can’t get back up the hill because it has iced over, so you may as well walk to class. Really, it hurts a bit, but it isn’t that bad. I’ve had worse, even if I can’t remember when. Get up, walk. Eventually I sort-of forget about it until you see the giant bruise in the shower, but that’s not real, neither is the pain of sitting, with the fabric of my pants pressed up against it. Ms. Eddy had her fall on the ice and found Christian Science, the least I can do is go to class. Totally ignore that MBE was in bed for a few days and claimed to be near death after her incident — she hadn’t found Christian Science yet.

 Anatomy declares man to be structural. Physiology. Man not structural continues this explanation, measuring human strength by bones and sinews, and human life by material law. Man is spiritual, individual, and eternal; material structure is mortal. Science & Health p. 173:17-21

Passive awareness of my body didn’t help things when I started birth control for the fist time. I didn’t have the language to communicate with the Planned Parenthood staff about my concerns and needs. I was terrified of becoming pregnant, and part of me thought stating the issues I had out loud would make them real. I used birth control for a year, faked okay-ness though the side effects, and promptly quit as soon as my prescription expired because I didn’t want to have to try and find a new doctor or go back and talk to the ones I’d worked with before. In my mind, on some level, I knew turning from Christian Science is what caused all these problems, if I’d prayed about it and continued to only use the barrier methods (or better yet, abstain from sex entirely, it is a distraction) it wouldn’t have been a problem. Really.

Passive awareness caught me off guard when my wisdom tooth came in awkwardly and promptly got infected. I didn’t know what was going on, I sort of knew things felt “a bit strange” and then one morning I woke up in extreme pain and realized I had to find a dentist who could do an extraction ASAP.  As if the combination of pain and dental issues wasn’t enough, the codeine they gave me to help with the pain after the procedure made me hallucinate.

Passive awareness of my body really snowballed when I got pregnant. I was suddenly very aware of different sections of my body. The way I couldn’t eat bananas or handle raw meat. The massive uncomfortable expansion of my breasts. The awkward pelvic exams. The aches and pains I didn’t realize were problems so I never spoke up about them until I ended up with an emergency c-section at 35-weeks. God is Love. 2+2=4. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. My terror brought this down on me.

Question. What is man?

Answer. Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter isn not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be sound like Spirit. Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science.  Science & Health p. 475:5-12

The week in the hospital was somewhat a turning point in bodily awareness. I had to answer questions about my vision, pain levels, and any number of other things that all felt so foreign to me. It was frustrating, I couldn’t answer their questions, and when I tried to explain, I felt I wasn’t being listened to, and I felt I was losing my mind.

It has been a little over nine years since those days in the hospital. I’m still struggling with passive awareness, and appropriate responses. I can be acutely aware of the tension headache, and do nothing to alleviate it. I can be aware of the near-debilitating mensural cramps, but the thought of taking a midol or some ibuprofen is not the first thing that springs to mind.

So where does that leave me with strength training? After my first session I was incredibly aware of every last muscle that I’d used. My trainer has encouraged me to be open about any injuries, strains, and stresses, that might impact my performance and over all wellbeing. He asks how I’m doing and how the last session was. He has me rate the difficulty on a scale of 1-10 mid exercise. He makes sure things are properly aligned so I don’t hurt myself. I’m learning to speak up and ask questions. “Is my body supposed to be reacting this way?” Sometimes the answer is “yes” sometimes the answer is “you need to put your elbows down.”

I’m working on finding the words. The other day I shared that “my hip hurt” and he had questions: Was it muscular? How did it feel? etc. I looked at him blankly. Apparently “it hurts” isn’t really enough of an answer, and to further frustrate, I was unable to figure out how I had hurt it. My range of motion and ability to do the workout were not impacted, but I’ve made a mental note to take better mental notes.

I have selective bodily awareness. I can go into detail on the finer points of breast tenderness related to my mensural cycle (I’ll spare you the details), but straining a muscle? Not so much. How many aches and pains do I talk about? The ones that go away, the ones that linger? The tension headache from trying to deal with two kids and dinner, or the strained lower back muscles from carrying an upset child up the stairs? I suppose this will be an ongoing learning for both of us.

When I share these stories with my fellow ex-Christian Scientists, they nod knowingly. They also cringe because they have similar stories to share. Sometimes they share their stories too. It helps to know we weren’t the only ones. When we share these stories with outsiders, they look horrified. It is easier not to share the stories with outsiders, and sometimes we really should.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Francisco de Zurbaran - Madonna and Child - Google Art Project

In honor of Mother’s Day, some posts pertaining to Mothers.

 

By Francisco de Zurbaran (1598 – 1664) – painter (Spanish)Born in Seville, Spain. Details of artist on Google Art Project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
      And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
      When I put out to sea,
   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
      Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
      Turns again home.
   Twilight and evening bell,
      And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
      When I embark;
   For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
      The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
      When I have crost the bar.

Why do young adults disengage with CS communities? HOW IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION!?

I recently received an email from a CS-affiliated group that was holding a local gathering/discussion forum for Christian Scientists. It read, in part:
These discussions will be exploring questions like:
  • What are ways that your Christian Science community has supported you?
  • What are some things you would like to see in your CS communities?
  • What role do organizations that serve Christian Scientists play in supporting young adult community and connections?
  • Why do young adults disengage with CS communities?

Would you have any interest in joining a discussion on these topics? [Redacted] is trying to connect with a broad audience – whether you attend church or not, there is a discussion for you!

The last question, Why do young adults disengage with CS communities? hit a nerve. A better question is how are young adults staying in CS in 2017?

If they want to know why people are leaving Christian Science they should do a quick read of this blog (or any of the other blogs), support sites, published memoirs, or skim a few pages of CHILD’s website. This is not a difficult question.

It is a little late for hand-wringing over what went wrong. The stories are horrifyingly similar: my aging parent/friend/relative is in CS and dying a horrible slow death. As a child I was denied appropriate medical care. I have life long emotional, psychological, physical scars from my CS upbringing. Take your pick, sometimes it is all of the above.

 

Rogue Feels

For those who care, this post contains Rogue One spoilers, and many feels


A few days after the passing of General Leia Organa, my husband and I went and saw Rogue One. When it was all over, I found that was hit with a lot of unexpected feels. It wasn’t just the CGI Carrie Fisher accepting the disk (too soon), or the way Jyn and Cassian held each other as they were annihilated (all the feels), what hit me the hardest was when my husband suggested we go back and watch all the other Star Wars movies.

The Star Wars movies bring up feels. Unresolved feels. Guilty feels. What-if feels. Rogue feels. I’ve been blessed with geeky friends, so I’ve seen IV, V, and VI several times each. I’ve  seen I, II, and VII once. I’ve never actually seen more than a few moments of III (the official site for easier reference), and I left the room pretty quickly. Thanks feels.

In The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher writes about her fans:

The Star Wars films touched them in some incredibly profound or significant way. They remember everything about the day they first saw Star Wars one, two, and three (which were officially, of course, IV, V, and VI): where they were, who they were with, what obstacles they had to overcome…. How, that day, things for them ceased to be in any way the same from then to forever after.

Star Wars didn’t really impact me until later, I was still unassimilated stardust when Star Wars:  A New Hope premiered. It wasn’t until the late 1990s, early 2000s that Star Wars really came full force into my life. The new Star Wars movies were coming out, and my friend William*, being the lovable geek that he was, collected every last Star Wars Pepsi and Mt. Dew can (unopened), as well as large cardboard cutouts of Obi-Wan and Yoda, leftover from the grocery store displays where he worked. He grew his hair out like young Obi-Wan, and generally immersed himself in all things Star Wars both the original three movies, and the new ones that were coming out.

The enthusiasm was hard not to pick up on. Together with my other geeky friends, we had a Star Wars marathon, they saw to it I was fully immersed. William and I had a somewhat geeky Sunday School teacher who wanted to keep the kids engaged, we were able to talk about themes of the force in relation to Christian Science, and tie it all together.

William identified with Ewan McGregor’s character of young Obi-Wan from The Phantom Menace (and styled his hair to match), while I related him more to Anakin’s character in Attack of the Clones. He saw himself as the Noble Jedi, I saw him as the angsty troubled teen (even more so after the seizures). I think we may have both been right.

The sudden, unexpected death of a close friend just entering their early twenties is difficult to handle, add the extra layer of Christian Science, and nearly fifteen years later, I’ve still got emotional work to do. Since William’s passing, watching Star Wars movies feels like ripping a scab off wound that refuses to fully heal, hauling up emotions to process. Not every time, there is no consistency in this. Sometimes a wave of rogue feels hits, and sometimes I just enjoy the soap-opera nature of what may have also been called Daddy Issues In Space (parts 1-8). 

Taking deep breaths. Crying. Guilt. Ice cream, the Christian Science cure-all.

I survived my Christian Science childhood. I’m happily married, yet I miss him terribly. Do I miss him, or some idealized version of him? This thought haunts me. Would I still like him now? Would we even be friends? I’m in a very different place than I was when he was still alive. I moved across the country. I have shifted my political views. I am married. I have children. William would’ve been an uncle by now, with several nieces and nephews, some of whom like Star Wars, though not quite as much as he did. His siblings have left Christian Science, their children get medical care, I’m certain his death played a large role in those decisions.

Feels aside, I’m going to keep watching, and enjoying (and having all the feels about), Star Wars movies, and maybe one day, I’ll watch Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.   — YODA, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith


* names have been changed to protect the innocent

New Spiritual Paths

excs header

ExChristianScience.com is starting 2017 with a series of posts about people who have left Christian Science for a new spiritual path. If you have found a new path, and would like to share your journey, please email them at exchristianscientist@gmail.com

ZOMBIES, CHILDREN & RELIGION: GRUESOME AND VERY FRIGHTENING AFFAIRS

Previously published on October 26, 2014, a few musings on Halloween, sin, disease and death. For other truly terrifying Halloween-related issues, see my October 31, 2012 post on the Protestant Reformation


We recently received the following e-mail from Kid1’s teacher:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I am suggesting that you avoid downtown this Saturday. The now annual Zombie Walk Contest and Race is happening throughout most of the day and into the night. It is a gruesome and very frightening affair for young children. I do not want these awful images living in your children, or coming into the classroom.

Young children trust that the world is true. They take fairy tales to heart in a real way recognizing archetypal truths. A child can be told that something is pretend, then parrot that back to the adult. The truth for them is more that everything they encounter is real and they are in some way part of the encountered things or events.

Please shield your children from this zombie nonsense while they are so young, receptive and imitative.

The last sentence of the e-mail really stood out to me:

Please shield your children from this zombie nonsense while they are so young, receptive and imitative.

You could easily replace zombie with any number of things, as it is not just fairy tales that children take to heart in very real ways. They are quite observant little creatures and you should be mindful of the behavior you are modeling as well as what you say.

The idea of shielding children is not new, they’ve popped up time and time again in parenting books, and in Science and Health, Ms. Eddy reminds us that “children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge (Science & Health, p. 140). If Ms. Eddy was writing the e-mail today, she would likely replace zombie with the Christian Science Trinity of Doom — sin, disease and death — because really, isn’t that what Halloween is all about?*

I am not going to expose my children to the Christian (or Christian Science) notion of sin. The idea that without God they are nothing is harmful, the idea they are born sinners is ridiculous, the complex dogma that has grown around the mythology of a 2000 year old Jewish carpenter who may or may not have existed, and that has been translated and reinterpreted numerous times is not something I plan to expose my children to until they are old enough to realize it is a story, just like the stories of Zeus and Hera in Greek mythology, or the numerous other stories explaining creation.

Disease is a tricky one, there is a line between exposing children to things they are not ready for, and acknowledging that they are not feeling well. I am not going to tell my children about the Ebola outbreak in Africa (that would worry them unnecessarily), but I will comfort them when they are congested and can’t sleep well at night. When the children have questions, I will do my best to answer them in an age-appropriate way: Kid1 saw a photo of some men in hazmat suits cleaning up after some ebola victims and asked what was going on. My husband explained the men were wearing “special suits, like firemen wear” and they were “helping people” — both of these things were true, and Kid1 was satisfied with the answer. I’m sure my answers will change as they grow older, by then I hope to have gained more insight into how to answer difficult questions.

Ms. Eddy goes out of her way to emphasize the unreality of death. There are nearly 100 references to death in Science and Health, and she includes a definition of it in the Glossary. On p. 531, she defines death, as

An illusion, for there is no death; the unreal and untrue; the opposite of God, or Life.

Ms. Eddy goes on to rail about matter, unreality and the flesh, and I lose interest. Ms. Eddy and I live in two very different worlds: Ms. Eddy has returned to the universe, and I am still here. The children have asked a few questions about death, and I have tried to be honest with them. No, [the deceased] is not coming back. We will only see them again in photographs (and possibly on video), we will always have our memories of them, and we can honor their memories by living a full life.

When they are a little older, I will share with them the piece from NPR’s All things Considered: Planning Ahead Can Make a Difference in the End that talks about why you want a physicist to speak at your funeral. I will also share with them the piece by Rev. Michael Dowd, Death: Sacred, Necessary, Real, which beautifully touches on the theme of the positive role of death in the Universe without being creepy.

Young children trust that the world is true.

The children have already been exposed to “zommies” — they’ve watched my husband play Minecraft, but those are very different than zombies walking down Main Street, SmallTown USA. They know the zommies in Minecraft aren’t real, that would be silly, the world is not made of pixelated bricks!

image via http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/zombie-arena-1244230/

This zombie is OBVIOUSLY NOT going to be walking down the street any time soon.  image via http://www.planetminecraft.com/project/zombie-arena-1244230/

Why do they know these things? Mommy and Daddy told them so, and they’ve seen for themselves — they don’t look like Minecraft characters. There is the grey zone, with things like Santa Claus, and angels — I’m still sorting out how to deal with those, but I feel quite strongly that I will not pile upon my children the burden of nonsense that sin, disease, and death are somehow their fault. I will not fill their nightmares with images of zombies, the false idea that sin brings sickness, or the confusing mental gymnastics required to pretend to comprehend unreality of matter.

* I’m being sarcastic there. I don’t have any problems with Halloween, but I do feel it can be a Bit Too Much for small children so we stick with very low-key celebrations.