You do not have to be Wonder Woman. Or Superman.

Y’all know I’m a from-the-get (as in all 20 years) fan of SVU, right? And that my woman crush is forever and always Mariska Hargitay/Olivia Benson, right? And that if I ever actually meet her, I’m confident it will be so embarrassing because I’ll promptly burst into tears and be unable to speak, right?

Right. Ok, well, with that made clear…

Everything I love about her is really being explored in this 20th season of SVU. In particular how it is that she manages being a full-time single mom and the head of Manhattan’s Special Victims Unit. And how she does both these things as her body ages.

An episode a couple weeks back really dove into this stuff, as Olivia’s son Noah gave her typical kid-who-has-been-through-a lot sass, and as she got winded chasing a perp down a busy city street and as a result did not catch him before he harmed someone else, and as she sits at her desk, alone, wondering who she is beyond mom and cop–as if those two things alone are not fierce forces of nature or “enough.”

Her faithful comrade Fin Tutuola comes in to check on her, and as she vents her fear and frustration he says to her, “Liv, nobody is expecting you to be Wonder Woman.”

She looks up at him, steels her face says, “I do.”

“I do.”

Oh Liv…preach, sister. 

This last week has been a lesson in “I actually cannot do everything and be everything to everyone at once,” for me. A lesson I need reminding of often. Yesterday, especially, I struggled with this. The expectation is all mine–no one else’s, but still, this innate desire I have always had to want to be present for, in any way I am able, the people I love best and whatever work it is I have been called to.

I am not Olivia Benson, but her desire to be both the best mom and the best professional she can be resonates with me deeply, and I’d even add, “also the best friend or partner.” And I know what it’s like to feel as if you’ve not measured up in one capacity or another, that sinking feeling that maybe you actually can’t do it all, and what that does to your sense of self.

Nobody expects me to be Wonder Woman.

But I do. 

Ok, two things here…

One, I am tempted to say, “Raise your hand, ladies, if you feel me here,” because I think women are especially susceptible to this “I must be all things to all people,” way of thinking. But I also know men–good, caring, amazing men–who struggle to feel as if they are holding up their end of things, as if they are managing it all–work, home, kids, bills, etc.

Second, it isn’t that my priorities (or yours) are not straight. I am fully committed, at the end of the day, to the truth that my daughter is the single most important job I have. But I have other important relationships too. And I career I really value and often feel has been pushed to the side. And writing I want to do. And home projects. And…and…and….

Y’all get it. I know you do. 

And so this morning, this is for you–all the tired, stressed, overworked, too busy, and feeling-less-than-amazing moms, dads, caregivers, twenty-somethings learning the art of the hustle, grandparents managing retirement and their grandchildren…whoever you are…if, right now, you feel like you have to be Wonder Woman (or Superman)… Hear. This. (as I repeat it firmly to myself):

You do not have to be Wonder Woman (but it’s fine to wear kicky red boots if you want, just because…).

You do not have to be Superman (although, again, if a cape helps…have at it).

No one is expecting this of you. I swear. 

You are YOU, and I bet you are probably doing your best. And if you are thinking to yourself, “I wish I had it all together like that one person (whoever that person is)…” let me let you in on a little secret…that person does not have it all together. I promise you. Something in their life is lacking attention.

This life, it is a delicate balance, a tricky dance we do to manage it all, and I have finally and blessedly learned that the cobwebs in my lampshades do not matter anywhere near as much as the relationships that give me life, and that keep me whole, and that I give the majority of my spare time to. I’m okay with the lampshades lacking attention as a result.

You do not have to be a superhero (even as their stories have a lot to teach us about how to be human). You do not need a giant house. Or the corner suite. Or a fancy vacation to an all-inclusive resort over the weekend just like those other people. Some days what you need is to know that it is okay if your best is simply putting one foot in front of the other, because forward movement is forward movement, even if it feels slow as those proverbial molasses.

Look, y’all, the desire to keep up, to fit in, to excel, to be on our way up somewhere (even if we don’t know where that somewhere is) is so strong. I get it. But what I also know is that I am not, in fact, Wonder Woman, or even Olivia Benson. What I know is that I am not perfect. And neither are you. And in our imperfection we all have this God-shaped hole in our hearts that longs more than anything to be loved and to belong.

And this is what matters most.

Be kind to yourself today. Take a deep breath. List five people/things/situations in your life you are grateful for and whisper a prayer of thanks for those people/things/situations. Hug someone you love. Eat something you really enjoy. Just…breathe. And remember that you are loved. And that you belong.

I promise, I’ll do all these things today, too. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

When the kids sing…

Yesterday morning I attended a special service at a local school for Veterans Day. I did so to stand with and be present for a vet I care for deeply and of whom I am really proud. But, as one might suspect, it gave me space and time to reflect on other veterans I’ve known and cared for, including my own grandfathers’ World War II service and my cousin, currently serving in the Middle East. My heart swelled. My eyes welled with tears. Simply from gratitude and pride–and the sadness I also feel that any of them have had to go to war at all and what it has cost them.

An hour later, back home, and flipping through my phone, I found myself in tears again, spilling over this time, as I read about the Thousand Oaks shooting, especially as I read that the shooter had been identified as Marine. A veteran.

My heart simply could not handle the ugly dichotomy of the honor and gratitude I had just seen expressed that morning for veterans, and the utter heartbreak of what I was reading about another veteran.

Still, today, I am raw from it.

And this is only one way that the world has broken my heart this week.

One. Way.

I’m weary of such heartbreak. We all are. It’s obvious everywhere. We’re scared and sad and tired, and that gets manifested in myriad ways–some especially beautiful, like helpers and heroes doing what they do; and some especially harmful, like the way social media erupts into something nasty and dehumanizing and altogether painful when crises emerge.

It is completely pathetic that I faltered, just for a second, before walking into Kroger yesterday–not the same Kroger, but a mile from it, where a couple weeks back two shoppers were gunned down in a violent expression of hate.

It is completely pathetic that the doors to my daughter’s school stay locked–even during a production of the school musical when proud parents and families are streaming in–because the threat of other such violence is so real. I’m so grateful for the extreme safety precautions. And so horrified they have to be put in place to begin with.

I do not have time for such fear. I do not have room in my heart for such hate. And I do not want to hear another word about whose fault it all is.

I want it to stop. I want us to be the country I know we can be. I want peace and freedom and equality and justice and love and wholeness for every. single. one. of. us.

This was my frame of mind as I took my favorite budding actress to opening night of Disney’s Little Mermaid, Jr. last night.

Last night she played a sea creature, tonight she will play one of the lead roles–Flounder–and we’re bursting with excitement and stage nerves over it. I’m so thrilled for her…and yet…last night, my heart hurt so much I could barely sit still, could barely concentrate, as I finished my volunteer usher responsibilities and snuck in just as the curtain rose on the first scene.

I don’t remember much about the beginning–I was antsy, distracted.

But then…then…Under the Sea. Music cued. Brightly colored costumes lit up the stage. The student actors broke into smiles and gave themselves over the music, swaying and dancing. Sea creatures came pouring in through the side doors and the audience lit up at the novelty of the creatures sashaying and twirling down the aisles. I watched Curly Girl-turned-bright-pink-fish go spinning across part of the stage, her joy in doing it absolutely shining.

I was so taken by the beauty of this amateur production’s energy and fun that I even forgot my stewing irritation at the theater-goers using their phones to record the moment despite specific instructions not to do so (I’m kidding. Sort of. Okay, not really…).

I thought to myself–as I always do when I watch my girl and her peers do their thing–you know, when the kids sing, suddenly everything feels like it might one day be okay again.

When the kids sing, room for hope begins to carve itself out in my heart.

When the kids sing, it is possible to remember beauty. 

When the kids sing, it is impossible not to smile and be thankful. 

When the kids swing, my heart is at rest, even if just for a moment, and I can remember that all is not lost. 

Their singing does not make the ugly and painful go away–not by a long shot. But it does come up alongside the ugly and painful, even if quietly, and say, “But also this.”

But also this.

Because damn, the world is making it hard to hope.

But damn, they make it so easy.

We have to do better for them, y’all. We have to nurture and protect their precious hearts and minds, even as we let them grow and become.

My heart is still hurting today, this is true. But alongside the ache is reality of all that keeps me going in this life, all that beckons us to remember why life is so sacred. So beautiful. So worth it.

When the kids sing…they shine enough light that I suspect, if we’d let it, it could show us through the darkness. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Owe Each Other

So if you’ve been following along you know we’ve been on a mini-binge over here through season 2 of The Good Place on Netflix–I know, I know…I’m a season behind some of you, but I know some other folks just now catching on to this gem of a show and so promise to avoid crucial spoilers if at all possible.

But y’all! Omigod. The Michael-invokes-Sam Malone scene on the season 2 finale! Gah! So perfect, bar towel slung over his shoulder and all!

And also y’all–the question he poses to jacked up/endearing Eleanor, as she’s musing on moral particularities and what’s right and wrong and how to be good and what she deserves or doesn’t deserve…it’s all classic drunk-and-troubled-patron-at-the-bar talk on the one hand, but on the other, that one little scene gets to the crux of the whole show (IMHO), which is to echo/paraphrase Michael and say that one of the central questions of what it means to be a human is in asking the question, “What is it that we owe each other?”

Look, I’m no philosopher, but I do know that determining what the next right thing is (h/t Glennon Doyle again!) can be extraordinarily difficult. Especially in this time of constant division and hate we find ourselves in. Especially when we are hurt or scared or sad or angry. Especially when a situation is complicated (and what situation isn’t?!?). Especially when we feel alone in our efforts, or, even worse, feel as if we are actually pushed back against. Especially when we feel as if doing good is an uphill battle that might never actually pay off, making us wonder why it really matters in the first place.

Because does it? Really matter?

Every day it seems we tilt closer to complete chaos. Every day it seems another child has been lost to abuse or neglect. Another relationship has shattered. Another salacious news cycle has distracted us from the things that really deserve our attention. Another horrible thing has happened, somehow and somewhere to someone or some many people who do not deserve it, did not ask for it, and have had their lives irrevocably changed by it.

And how we find our way forward in the midst of all this is some days more than I have the brain power or soul energy to determine. 

I had a long conversation last night with one of my most favorite and most trusted people in the world–one of those conversations that happens when you least expect it but that makes all the difference after it’s been had. And part of what we talked about is how it can so often seem as if the good guys never win. As if it is only the selfish and the power-hungry and manipulative and the downright awful folks that somehow rise to the top, at least from an outside perspective.

We talked, too, about the long road from heartache to some form of recovery and hope again–and how it can be so difficult to believe that happiness and joy might be yours again when so much has been lost or destroyed and you feel so very broken.

And, we talked about how knowing that someone has your back, that you are not alone, is maybe the best thing of all, the most helpful thing, when it comes to making the journey forward, even if you have to be dragged along by that person, scruff-of-your-neck style.

As we talked, I thought about a couple of things to which I hold fast and true. The first is that I really do believe most people are good (yep, just like Luke Bryan sings). And the second, of course, is that I believe we are never alone (yep, just like Liverpool FC fans scream-sing at every game and Rodgers and Hammerstein fans know by heart).

And, this, I believe, is what we owe each other–the willingness to search for the goodness inherent to our humanity and the commitment to being with one another on the journey. 

Not because anyone is keeping score (keeping score in relationships is never a winning strategy). Not because there is some actual debt on account that must be paid by a certain date. Not because there’s an actual moral dessert at stake…but because, good Lord, y’all…we are in this together.

How many times must we hear this before we get it?

We. Are. In. This. Together. 

And when we forget that–when we retreat into ideological tribes or our social media snark and supposed hot takes or our silos of individual experience–we fail…we utterly fail..at being the human beings we were created to be.

You  may not feel, and perhaps even with good reason, that you owe the world anything at all. Perhaps this world has been very cruel to you, as it has to many people. You may not feel as if you have anything to offer anyway, so why bother. You may not feel as if your life is one that matters at all in the great scheme of things…especially when that great scheme so often seems so very, very wrong.

But what I believe, even if some days more than others, is that what we owe each other our is lives, lived together on this madly spinning planet as best we can.

And if we could re-frame how we live and move and have being in light of that, it  would be, in fact, the very best game-changer of all. 

 

 

 

 

 

magic wands and silver bullets.

There’s a Baptist pastor I know, just down the road in Lexington, who has over his desk a picture of a broken wand, and underneath the picture are printed these words, “My magic wand is broken.”

So’s mine. And I’ve yet to find any shop that can fix it. Not even in our quirkiest shopping districts here in Louisville, not even in the oddities and trinkets I found wandering the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy this past summer in NYC.

Nothing remotely like Ollivanders to be found. Anywhere.

So basically I’m giving up on ever getting that magic wand fixed.

Which is sort of the whole point. And exactly why that Baptist pastor friend of mine has that damn sign up in his office anyway. Because the things that are discussed in that office–the shattered hopes and broken lives and crisis points and destroyed dreams that bring people there–they can’t be waved over and made perfectly well in an instant anyway.

Not even with Hermione’s very best and most well-intended spell. Not by a long shot.

And this is how it is with most things in our lives that are really worth making whole again, or living through so that we thrive again, or working on so that we can be better versions of ourselves–it cannot be done in an instant.

You cannot heal the pain and destruction that leads to divorce by signing a few documents and moving into two separate homes and calling it a day.

You cannot heal the trauma of abuse or assault, be it emotional or physical or otherwise, by making a choice to pretend it did not happen. Or even by simply reporting it and hoping for justice. That second option might be a great first step–but it will not take away what has happened to you.

You cannot right failing systems–whether local or national or global–by finally getting YOUR guy or gal in political office or by writing a big enough check or exerting more might than anyone else or by making a fiery speech or issuing the hot take of the day (well stylized in snark font of course) on social media.

You cannot ease grief by shoving it down so far inside you that it cannot be felt, or by masking it with alcohol or drugs or toxic relationships or exacting your pain on others or by simply bucking up and moving on.

There is no magic wand (and no silver bullet either) for the greatest problems of our individual lives or our workplaces or the communities around us. There is only the slow, hard, sometimes gut-wrenching, but always worth it, work of putting one foot in front of the other and doing, as Glennon Doyle says, “the next right thing,” whatever that thing may be in any given moment.

And I think, perhaps, the “next right thing,” is sometimes recognizing that when  people or situations are broken, there is a tremendous difference between “fixing,” (which is rarely helpful) and instead seeking to just be present–just present–on the road to wholeness.

We carry the pain of our lifetimes with us at all times–and there is no “fixing” that. And in our work and in our communities we carry with us all that has come before and all that is currently happening–there is no “fixing” that, either.

There is, however, in our personal lives, feeling whole again, and that 1) takes time, 2) cannot be done in isolation, 3) has no points A through B to mark the way clearly and 4) often includes setbacks/bad days/moments of stuckness. And, there is, in our work and our communities, righting the system, and, (repeat 1-4 from “our personal lives”).

I was once given an electronic key finder by someone who could not understand why I was always losing my keys.

Spoiler alert: I still lose my keys. Every damn day at some point. And I lost that key finder long ago. I will always have trouble finding my keys. Always. There’s no fixing it. There’s only meeting me where I’m at with that and accepting all of me–lost key crisis every morning and all.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting that magic wand. Or seeking that silver bullet. I have a long, long, long list of things I would “fix” if I had access to either of those things. Sometimes things are just hard and there is no shame in wishing for a clearly visible, clearly measurable, and clearly (and quickly) attainable solution.

But what I know for sure (yes, just like Oprah)…is that quick magic fixes are not the stuff life is made of. Not when what matters most is at stake. There is only “the next right thing.” And listening well. And loving hard and then even harder. And asking forgiveness and offering grace. And seeking the joy that is to be found, sometimes even in the midst of our greatest pain, in the life we have been given and the opportunity we have to enter into it together.

Okay?

Okay.

Now…get to it…but y’all for real…if you DO come across a secret passage into Ollivanders…hook a girl up, m’kay? Thanks.

 

 

 

Heartsick.

“Heartsick at the ‘right’ and the ‘left.’ Politics has become the thinnest of veneers over human brokenness. The vast majority of us don’t want to live this way. It is left to each of us, where we live, to start having the conversations we want to be hearing and grow this culture up.” — Krista Tippett, via Twitter, 9.28.18

Two weeks ago I almost killed my Twitter feed–I could not stand the level of cruelty, snark and dehumanization I was reading. Thank the baby Jesus for “Thoughts of a Dog” (@dog_feelings) or I might have given up on everything altogether.

Thankfully, I held on long enough to read what Ms. Tippett wrote, and I thought, “Yes. That. A million times over.”

I am heartsick. At the right and the left. And I do not want to live this way as a nation. We have allowed politics and leadership and government for and by the people become a power and money driven sham and I am sick to death of it.

“The thinnest of veneers over human brokenness….” Yep. And a crappy veneer at that. One you find on the discount shelf at a big box hardware store because they know it isn’t any good anyway. Y’all, we are so jacked. Our penchant for partisan politics, and allowing our elected officials to dictate what side we’re on and how that defines us and who we’re supposed to root for or against…it is nothing short of insanity and not at all what is best and good and true about this country–a country I am profoundly grateful to have been born in and that I love with my whole heart. We’ve drenched our own brokenness as people, as communities, in this shady veneer, sacrificing everything that’s best about us as a nation to the altar of Who is Right and Who is Wrong and Who can Win.

Meanwhile…public school systems flounder under the weight of massive expense and massive need and there is not nearly enough support for the men and women who Teach. Our. Children.

Meanwhile…women are assaulted at alarming rates, as they always have been. And we (as in left and right–neither is innocent in this game) use this as a deftly exacted political tool to take down whoever we’re against, meanwhile those same women are left to try to put back together their broken lives and shattered trust.

Meanwhile…an opioid epidemic continues to rage. Because that’s what happens when entire societies are in pain, anxious, stressed and overworked and too busy. We self-medicate. With whatever we can find, and the travesty of a healthcare system we have includes drug companies all too happy to profit off our despair.

Meanwhile…working families, many of them single-parent homes just trying to survive, struggle with all they’ve got to stay afloat financially, never-mind actually get ahead. This struggle–so real–knows no partisan lines. And it is terrifying for those who are one illness or job loss or life change away from financial crisis. When you aren’t sure how you are going to pay several thousand dollars in medical bills, or how you will send your kid to college, never mind pay for summer camps, sleep is hard to come by and blood pressure hard to regulate.

Do you see how ridiculous this is, friends? Do you see that we’ve let an entire and completely dysfunctional system sustain itself at our expense? Do you see how our children are being shown a government that fails to put them first? Do you see how our fighting and misinformation and social media manipulation and finger-pointing and blaming is quite literally destroying us?

I am heartsick. And still I believe, with everything I am, that there has to be a better way. And still I believe, with everything I am, its up to you and me to find that better way. To recover decency and respect. To be civil. To recognize the inherent equality of all men and women and children. To set aside our biases based on color or socioeconomic status or political party affiliation and freaking Have. A. Conversation. with each other.

Last Sunday evening, I listened to a woman who is Muslim share her faith with a group of Jewish and Christian folks. She is from Turkey, an educator, and has been in the United States for 12 years. She spoke of her love for this country, how free she feels to be herself here, how thankful she is that she and her family are here, even as they sometimes miss their homeland. She expressed her son’s confusion when he sometimes hears things about Muslims that are not true of their particular family or faith community, but at the same time made clear that the negative things have not defined her experience as an American.

Her words struck me to the core–because the United States she spoke of–that’s the United States I love. The one I hold dear. But more importantly? I believe that’s the United States most of us hold dear. Whatever political party we claim, I really believe that’s what we’re after. We don’t want to live in this bipartisan nightmare and warring ideologies anymore.

We cannot continue to let ourselves be defined by power or riches or party or might. We cannot continue to live like this. Show me a leader who focuses first on what it means to be in community, who focuses first on what it means to sacrifice for the greater good, who focuses first on kindness…and I’ll be that leader’s biggest fan. Better yet, maybe we just become those leaders when and where we are able.

Such leaders have come before us. Such leaders will rise again. I believe that, too. These dark, difficult days are not the last days. But as these days rage–we’ve got to do as Ms. Tippett suggests…start at home. Start in our neighborhoods. Start with each other. Talking. Listening. Holding hands if we need too.

Because it is long past time for us to right this ship and see each other safely home.

 

 

 

Lacrimosa (or, as Eleanor Shellstrop says, “We’re all just a little bit sad all the time.”)

Latin: Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem.
Amen.

English: Mournful that day.
When from the ashes shall rise
a guilty man to be judged.
Lord, have mercy on him.
Gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest.
Amen. 

(Lacrimosa, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

I have not heard someone play Lacrimosa in more years than I can remember. Perhaps since I was 12, at the height of any decency I once had as a pianist, and was challenged to learn an appropriate arrangement of it for the spring recital. I fell in love with the melody of this mourning song, and can still feel the way my fingers flew over the keys and my heart sang along the words as I played.

I heard it today. It was the prelude for the funeral service for the mother of a dear friend. As soon as I heard the pianist’s fingers strike the first phrase, I remembered, and my seat mate, a longtime colleague, smiled out of the corner of his eyes as my fingers tapped out the rhythm against my knees and my mouth formed the lyrics, still in my memory after all this time.

Lacrimosa. Mourning.

And though it perhaps seems an odd pairing, I immediately remembered words from an episode of The Good Place my favorite and I watched last night. (We’re just beginning Season 2, so for the love of all that is holy, do NOT spoil it for me!) In this particular episode, Eleanor Shellstrop, the show’s questionable heroine, is talking about humans and death–how we humans know that death is part of the deal. The end result of being alive. “And, so,” she says, “we’re all a little bit sad…all the time.”

We’re all a little bit sad all the time.

Yes.

Because dear God in heaven sometimes life hurts. And dear God in heaven sometimes it is beautiful. And in between are days we want to remember and days we want to forget…making up our lives, such as they might be.

The risk of birth, after all, is the certainty of death.

I think we’re all a little bit sad all the time these days for lots of reasons, not just death, but I was keenly aware today, sitting in those old church pews, the vaulted ceiling above me and windows letting in filtered midday light, that every funeral or memorial service I attend is cause to remember every other I’ve ever attended. Cause to remember the pain this life can mete out. Cause to remember the joy of loving and being loved, even as it cannot ever last forever…because we are, in the end, mere mortals.

I sang Amazing Grace during this funeral today, a request I was happy to honor for the family–they are, as I’ve said, dear to me. I made it through the first two verses perfectly fine. But I got to that third verse, the one about the dangers and snares we’ve already been through, and how it is grace that has sustained us, and how grace, in the end, leads us home… And y’all. Whew.

I thought my heart was going to explode with the truth of the words. I know my voice broke, terribly, with the rush of it, and I’ve no idea how I powered through (or if I did at all) the fourth and final verse successfully.

It’s grace that’s brought us this far. And grace that will lead us home.

Such is grace. Such is the truth of this life we live together. Together. Not a one of us able to live in isolation if we really want to have life at all.

And still…yes…I think perhaps we’re all just a little sad all the time, a little lacrimosa–for the could have beens. For the might have happeneds. For the longings of what might yet be, even still. For the things desperately hoped for. For the sacredness of this life and how we so often forget that. And some days…it can all seem too much, this business of living.

And so let me say it one more time–louder for the folks in the back or any new readers–I believe with all that I am that our God did not create us simply to forsake us. I believe with all that I am that God created us for love and relationship. I believe with all that I am that God loves every single one of us, no exceptions, no matter what. I believe that our lives matter. And…most of all…I believe with all that I am that we are not alone. Not ever. And this is, I believe, where our great hope, and perhaps even great joy, is to be found, even when we mourn.

And because of all this, I believe these things, too: that our darkest days–as a people, as a country, as a world–do not have to be our last days. I believe love and light win. Somehow. Always and eventually.

Even when it seems impossible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone stole my gluten….

Two years ago this fall, in the middle of some really, really difficult days, I requested a full physical from my doctor. The result of that physical has been two years of figuring out why I have ongoing acute anemia–despite giving up my vegetarian diet and 5 iron infusions over the course of 18 months.

Those two years have included many days where I felt like utter crap physically. I gave up running. I never felt rested. I paid close attention to what foods/activity made me feel good and what didn’t. I spent many hours and many dollars in the offices of specialists.

Spoiler alert: I’m fine. Totally fine.

Well, except for this one little thing: I am currently being treated for (read: living my life as if) I have celiac disease (not the same thing as a gluten allergy–an autoimmune disease that attacks your small intestine, that is triggered by gluten).

One very persistent (and honestly kinda cocky with terrible bedside manner) GI specialist put two and two together on lots of things and finally said to me, “Julie, I suspect you have celiac disease. All our tests and biopsies say so. And I need you to go on a strict gluten-free diet immediately and then in a few months we’ll check your blood work again and I think it will be fine.”

And just like that, I did it. Cold turkey.

Ok, here’s the deal. I am not writing about this for sympathy–and I have a hard and fast rule about personal boundaries and oversharing via social media. But I’ve learned some things in the last few weeks that have mattered a great deal to me, and I think, maybe, they are life lessons in general. So…FWIW:

It is so, so nice to be loved well enough to be known. The first people I told about this celiac thing said to me, “What about bourbon and ice cream?” And, thankyousweetbabyjesus, these two vices of mine are totally fine (barring ice cream with things like pretzels or cookie dough–but those are easily worked around).

I have a much deeper appreciation than I already did for those who have “silent diseases” that require huge life changes and sometimes awkward social conversation. Like my sweet friend Ellen, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes while she was in high school–requiring an instant and massive life adjustment that she has handled with more grace and courage than you can imagine.

I’m annoyed–even more so–by those who are gluten-free because it is (so very oddly, says the Celiac Foundation website) somehow trendy to do that these days. This isn’t a choice for me. Like, at all. I’d never in a million years choose it. I have favorite restaurants I can’t go to easily anymore, favorite beer I cannot drink, and when someone says, “Hey, wanna do dinner this weekend?” I am immediately paralyzed with, “Um, where are we going? Can I eat there?”

Speaking of dinner out…this, for me, is the worst part. I love food. More specifically, I love good food. Being at table with people I love is one of my most favorite things. Some of my best memories are of eating and drinking with the ones I love best, sharing in rich conversation and laughing until our sides hurt. Obviously I can still do this–but it requires more thought and intention than it used to…and I despise feeling like a special case.

Solidarity matters. It means the world when your daughter and your favorite companion help you demolish 2 dozen homemade gluten-free chocolate chip cookies over the course of a week and say, “Just make those from now on…they’re good!” Because I love baking. And I especially love baking for those nearest and dearest to me. Also someone (who doesn’t have to) sharing a gluten-free pizza with you is pretty much gold standard caring and cannot be beat.

And I think, finally, what I am is grateful. Even when I find myself crying in the middle of Paul’s Market because I can’t get my beloved Paul’s BLT on their amazing sourdough bread for lunch anymore. Because what I know is this: it could be so much worse. I am the age my mother was when she had breast cancer, terrifying all of us. And last week, the 45 year old brother of a friend of mine dropped dead from a heart attack, leaving behind two sons and an adoring wife. And…fill in blank. These bodies of ours–they are amazing. But sometimes, they need special care. Sometimes, they fail us. Sometimes, we have to do their bidding in order to live a really full life.

So yea, my gluten’s been stolen. And it is not easy. And it is disorienting. And it requires that I shop, plan, eat, cook and budget differently. But, I’ve had some good help–my sister, some friends near and far, and the ever-loving, so-often-annoying, but-right-now-very-helpful internet have rescued me from utter gluten despair (yes, you can laugh at my drama there!).

And the help reminds me of the truest thing I know–it takes a damn village, people. All the time. Every day. No matter what. I know, I know–I say this all the time, but it is true–we do not traverse this life alone. At least not successfully. Every single one of us is indebted to another. And this is not something to ashamed of; in fact, it is grace. Working its beautiful mercy across our lives and reminding us that we were, at the very core of our beings, built to help each other. Made for relationship. Nothing else works. Not in our families, our social circles, our churches, our communities, our countries…at least, not for long.

This is what I want for all of us. What I find us falling so short of these days. What I say, somehow, in everything I write and every sermon I preach: we are better together. Stronger together. Made to be…together.

Got it?

Okay.

Now…if you’ll excuse me…I’m off to find some coffee. Because, also thankyousweetbabyjesus, that has not been stolen from me after all.