Moon Gazing

Truthfully Speaking

A safe place for honest and heartfelt reflection

Last Saturday did not go as planned. I was chatting on the phone with a friend while I was out walking and feeling great. I decided to push myself a little and hike up a back trail near my house called "Uli's Stairs.' The stairs were built into the escarpment by an elderly gentleman in the community. They are labelled 'Use at Own Risk," and I've never had any issue.

If this were a movie, the foreshadowing scene happened the day before when I cut across a field on my walk and stepped into a pile of leaves. My foot was sucked into thick wet dirt. I had to yank it out, and it was covered in mud from the ankle down. You never know what lies beneath a pile of leaves.

On Saturday, I was halfway up the stairs when I stepped on something that gave way. It happened quickly and I started sliding. The wet leaves on the ground provided no traction. I fell down a hill yelling into the ear of my friend and landed against a chain-link property fence.

I lay there assessing the damage. I was afraid to look at my leg because of the pain. Meanwhile, my friend kept asking, "Are you ok? Where are you?" She is in PEI and panicking because she couldn't help. I managed to pull myself up. I could see a massive goose egg on my shin pushing through my legging. I called my husband, and he retrieved me and took me home.

After I assessed the damage, I decided I needed to go to the urgent care. My ankle was swelling and I had pain shooting up my leg. And that is where the story begins!

I was checked in at the clinic quite quickly, and I was optimistic about how fast things were moving. I was sent to a room with five other patients to wait for a doctor. I was making the most of the time reading while I waited.

After an hour, I started to get restless. I had yet to see a doctor anywhere. Had they forgotten about us?

Directly across from me was a young woman clearly in pain and not afraid to voice her frustration about the lack of communication. She went to the nurses' station and politely asked if they could give her any idea how long it would be before she saw the doctor. She was curtly told there was only one doctor on call, and they had no idea. (This never happens on Grey's Anatomy.) I was impressed with her taking leadership and asking for what she needed.

Beside her (socially distanced, of course) was a man I would guess was probably in his 40's. When I first noticed him, a little blood was seeping through the gauze wrapped around his finger. A chapter later, I looked up and noticed that the entire wrapping was soaking in blood. I suggested to him that he might want to elevate his hand to see if that helped.

I do not do well in hospitals. I was starting to wonder if I really needed to be there. And bloody finger guy wasn't helping me feel better. About twenty minutes later, he was dripping on the floor and his pants. He got up and got some paper towels, and wrapped them around his hand. Within five minutes, they were soaked in blood and dripping again.

By then, I had to say something. I pointed out the sign that said, 'if your condition worsens, please let the nurse know." I assured him that bleeding on the floor and his clothes warranted advising the nurses. At the very least, they could re-wrap his wound. He responded with, "They are swamped. I don't want to bother them." And there you have it. He would rather bleed out than be an inconvenience.

I have had similar feelings myself with doctors and specialists. I don't want to take up too much of their time. I don't want to bother them. I don't want to put anyone out. I don't want to rock the boat. I don't want to be a pain. I don't want to ask for what I need. I know health care workers are overburdened and understaffed. We hear it every day on the news.

When the doctor finally saw me, he barely looked at me in his hurry to get to the other patients. I firmly told him I had some questions. I asked for what I needed, and even then, I could sense his impatience. I did leave with my answers. The x-ray revealed that nothing was broken. I'm recovering from a sprained ankle. The swelling makes it difficult to know if I have torn ligaments. I'll follow up with my doctor based on how I recover. It could have been a lot worse.

The more important lesson here is that we need to get comfortable being an advocate for ourselves. The truth is if you require treatment for an injury, you are not an inconvenience. There is nothing wrong with asking for assistance. You can't control how other people respond to your request, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for help.

Don't assume that health care workers view you as pain. You are a person who needs help. You are not a burden. If you see people as willing and able to help you, you act differently than if you see yourself as an imposition.

I'd love to hear from any health care workers who read this email. Or send it to a health care worker. I think you can always ask kindly, gently, and firmly for what you need, especially regarding your health and well-being. Don't let your fear or anxiety about how someone will respond keep you from taking care of yourself.

I was talking with a good friend this week. We talk frequently and are pretty comfortable disagreeing, pushing back and questioning each other. Sometimes I disagree with her and realize it is because what she said triggered something in me, and we need to explore it together.

In this particular discussion, she mentioned someone saying, "Don't take it personally." I could feel my insides reacting. She had hit on an expression that bothered me. I don't like it when someone says, "Don't take it personally" or "It's not personal." I can feel myself wanting to challenge the statement.

Of course, it is! Everything is personal. I'm a person. Everything you say to me is personal. I can't separate myself from something that I am experiencing.

When I used to teach managers how to give feedback, I would always be clear that they needed to provide objective feedback based on observable behaviours. Be clear about what you observe, and don't get into judgements and feelings. The unintended message was: Don't make it personal.

And when it came to receiving feedback, I would hand out a Q-Tip as a visual reminder to Quit Taking It Personally. Gah. If only life was that simple. I would never do that now. There is only one way to take your experience, and that is personally!

People-pleasers may have an advantage here because we know and fear upsetting people. We know people take things personally. It's what keeps us from saying what we want to say or locked into doing things we don't want to do. We are afraid to disappoint people or hurt their feelings. We know that each person is a complex system drawing on feelings, thoughts,

personality, behaviour, beliefs and values, to name a few influencing factors in our experiences!

Remember everything is personal when you need to put up a boundary or do something that will impact someone else. You need to do what is right for you and let other people deal with how it affects them. It's not your responsibility. You can do it most kindly or lovingly possible but remember - everything is personal.

Keep the Q-Tips in the bathroom.

Reflections on the slow spiritual healing or life after Evangelicalism.

Today is my 63rd birthday, and in honour of it, I wanted to give you a little glimpse of where I am spiritually at this stage of my life. I no longer consider myself an evangelical Christian. I know that may be disappointing for some of my community, but I've spent enough of my life worrying about how other people feel. Going along with things I didn't believe with my whole heart is part of what kept me (and a lot of people) in the system. We stay even when we have doubts because our family and friends are there. What would happen if we spoke our truth?

Stepping out of that world was difficult. It was like breaking up with a boyfriend I cared about but no longer loved. There was a point when I could no longer avoid the doubts and questions I had about evangelical Christianity. I picture myself at that time standing in a lake holding balls underwater as they tried to push their way to the surface. Each ball represented an issue I was avoiding. I had spent a lot of energy over the years keeping them from surfacing. Over the years, the number and size of the balls increased.

In my story, like so many stories, there was a moment when all the balls got loose at once, and I could no longer hold them under the water. For me, the final ball was tossed by the Board of Elders at our church. When they threw that last orb my way, I tried to pull it in and hold it below the surface, and all the balls shot into the air. Once they saw the light of day and felt the freedom of being set free, I knew I would never be able to hold them underwater again.

It was disorienting and frightening. Without any balls to hold underwater, I had the entire lake to explore. I watched as the balls drifted away, and for a long time, I just hung out on the beach, hoping some of the balls would drift back to shore. It was a sad time for me. I didn't know what I believed, and I knew I didn't have the energy and desire to gather the balls again. It was time to let them go.

Each one of those balls represented an unresolved question. The final question for me that found its way to the surface was, "If Evangelical Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit who is leading and guiding them, how can sincere believers who are seeking wisdom on a topic arrive at such disparate conclusions?"

In the end, I think I got tired of defending God and being out of integrity with what I believed. In my Evangelical indoctrination, any question gets turned around on the believer - you aren't sincere, you aren't praying enough, you should fast more, it's not what God wants for you, etc. Over time, the effect on me was that I started to doubt myself and my desires (even though God gives us the desires of our heart, the heart is wicked and deceitful, it is impossible to know outside of results, whether or not God is leading you.) Fundamentalism is an entire system carefully constructed (systematic theology) to answer all the questions you could have, and if you aren't satisfied, you are the problem.

I spent many years exploring who I am without that belief system. I've learned so much, and I want to share more of that side of myself here, but I've been hesitant for several reasons. In the end, I've decided to write more and more and post it here for those who find it and hopefully relate and find encouragement.

I've been dabbling here and there in Celtic Christianity and Spirituality, finding a home in a belief system that is more earth-based and less dogmatic. Last night I gathered on zoom with a small group of women on a similar journey. Each of us spent most of our lives in the Evangelical world - one in the Southern USA or Bible Belt. All of us have been experimenting with what it looks like to believe in a God of love.

We gathered to celebrate Samhain, a day in the Celtic tradition that represents a thin place where you can connect with your ancestors and the saints who have gone before you through the veil to the otherworld. I've been a little anxious about it. The old messages about what is allowed and what isn't allowed when it comes to my beliefs are still present. Anything with roots in the pagan world would surely have been frowned upon (except Christmas and Easter, but that isn't the topic here.)

We talked about all the messages we have brought with us about gathering for Samhain. We set our intention as a circle of women. We are a safe place to openly discuss and explore the spiritual resources available beyond our evangelical experience.

Someone led us through a guided meditation to meet an ancestor. We listen to a Celtic hymn. We read poems and share prayers. We each share the story of a Saint who has influenced our thinking. We talk about what it means to call on our ancestors when we are in need and the comfort that brings.

I've slowly stepped off the shore and moved into the water. My job isn't to hold the balls below the surface. I lay back and float, feeling the sunshine on my face, knowing that the love of the Divine is holding me. It's taken ten years to get here, and I finally feel free to let the water carry me.