I Sing the Body Electric, Poetry

Disperse the Qi

We wave our arms,
stretching, our hands circling

As we stand on the
painted floor and practice.

Next to me
stands  a tall slim figure

Whose graceful
fingers seem made for this,

Stroking the air
with love.


We draw energy into
our bodies,

Embracing the world,
or even the universe,

Stretching out to
bring in stardust,

To bring in some of
what we are already.


wrists,  knees and ankles revolve

drawing energy to
the center

The place where my
hands rest

One on the other,


I watch them as they
circle away and back

As they expand an
imaginary ball–

Although I close my
eyes and see the colors

Changing from purple
to black.


My fingers, short
and plump, move through the air

The light seems to
come through them.

They move and draw
in and push out

Perhaps with their
own grace,

as I disperse the Qi.

1 Cor, I Sing the Body Electric

Things I Don’t Like About Paul, Part 103

(thinking about 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only
one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to
receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the
air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to
others I myself should not be disqualified.

Yeah. That's one of them. The athletic reference is a metaphor, encouraging us to press on toward the victory of an imperishable wreath (yes, I'm quoting Philippians, which happens to be a favorite metaphorical passage).

But is the body stuff a metaphor for his spiritual discipline? It may well be, but for some reason people hear the metaphor in the first two verses, but make the end of this passage a literal one.

Maybe it's not Paul's fault, except in the sense that he forgot people tend to be bloody literal-minded. Maybe it's us, or not you and me, but other people too inclined to make his word unimaginative and anti-literary.

The body stuff bothers me because for so many centuries we've extended it to include the earth and earth's creatures, enslaving them, using them for whatever might forward our agenda, whether spiritual or military or material. It's a usage mentality, a beating myself or you or whoever into submission sort of dominant-over-matter mindset.

And there are still people putting forward an anti-body agenda, or perhaps a better word would be unembodied or postembodied, asking us to focus like mad on the apocalyptic arrival of Jesus. I guess there have always been pockets of those people, people enamored with the idea of leaving these bodies behind for something celestial. 

But I am becoming convinced that living into these bodies is part of the experience to which God calls us. Why else embody us in the first place? And I don't buy the enslaving image, for body or spirit. Jesus came to set us free from those bonds, not to command us to cinch them tighter.

So whether it's our interpretation or Paul's personal neuroses at fault here, I reject the idea of enslaving the body as a path to the imperishable wreath.


Don't Let's Call It a Diet, I Sing the Body Electric, Mothering, Poetry

Elliptically Speaking…

The paddles on the exercise machine
like snowshoes in the woods
ease my progress…

Occasionally used heavily, but
other times for hanging towels,
it fills a place…

Actual sweat runs down my neck,
constituting moderate exertion,
lights show fat burn…

The greater efforts of many years
have been poured into children
being mother…

You cannot calculate the effectiveness
of parenting in the same way,
clearly measured…

You only hope if someone stops
to track the progress you will have
seemed to matter…

The revolutions, the level of resistance,
the elevated beating of your heart,
the things that hurt…

Don't Let's Call It a Diet, I Sing the Body Electric, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Roomy Toe Boxes, The Inner Landscape

“Martha posted Desire on Typepad”

I've linked my Facebook account to my blog, and when I post here, a little note appears on my Facebook Wall. After my last post, it skipped part of the title and announced, "Martha posted Desire on Typepad."

And it occurs to me that I gave a pretty contained review of a book that in fact roiled me.

I can relate to Susan Cheever's desire, in my own way.

I'm not a drinker, although I've been known to enjoy an anniversary Cosmopolitan or a few glasses of champagne at the Big Event. But when the rheumatologist informed me that my RA medication would not go well with alcohol, I didn't have a problem with the news.

I'm definitely not a gambler. Okay, I gambled once, when Pure Luck and I spent 24 hours in Las Vegas. He gave me a roll of quarters and I promptly lost it in the slot machines. He was more successful. When the last quarter went in, he kept his winnings and walked away with $14.

My experience with any sort of illegal substances is limited to one substance, one time, and I think that makes me pretty innocent for someone my age.

You and I know where my weakness lies. When I feel that sort of empty that has nothing to do with being hungry, I eat. Reading the addiction book opens up concerns I've had throughout the weight loss process. Weight Watchers roots its plans in a moderation approach. I've written before about my own resistance to abstinence. Cheever quotes someone who says abstinence for food addicts is like taking the tiger out of the cage three times a day. You cannot give food up completely.

I've written about how abstinence terrifies me:

Probably other times, too. I think it's possible that a person who thinks about it as much as I have may need to consider it. It might turn out to be simpler than trying to figure out some way to snack without going overboard.

"Martha posted Desire on Typepad."

Over the last year, more and more people who know me in real life, and through church, read my blog, and as I look back over the old posts from Set Free about taking better care of myself, I realize I wrote more emotionally, more openly. That stopped when I became ill last spring, so that ironically my effort to get out of the birdcage and begin something new led to very careful management of how I communicated my feelings. I didn't do it to protect my readers. I sheltered myself.

It's difficult to be clear about your feelings when you cushion them in bubble wrap, whether that means the shielding of sadness or the padding of pudding. Rheumatoid Arthritis appeared to have dashed my desires of a year ago like a piece of china flung to the floor.

Some of those inclinations and wishes seem funny now. I'll never wear high heels again, but how often had I worn them anyway? I actually like a lot of the shoes with Roomy Toe Boxes.

Others feel like a real loss. It's hard to imagine ever having the energy to hike a whole mountain again; when I think of my feeling of accomplishment and joy to be able to do that in the fall of 2007, and how I assumed there would be plenty more of it to come–well, I guess it's understandable I grieved.

Or that I feel aggrieved.

But as Snowman likes to say, "I don't want to be that guy." Or that bird. I want to be the one who figures out how to live in the new situation and makes the best of it. So perhaps that sometimes makes me too eager to skip a step, or too hard on myself for having gone through a phase in which I resorted to familiar coping techniques.


I know from experience that getting clean around food, whether you follow a plan of moderation or abstinence, opens up caves I would prefer to remain sealed. I know it. My fear of RA-related deformities ties right into my fear of abandonment, with a special twist of "my mother didn't like to see people who looked different in any way."

She didn't like to see me look fat, either.

"Martha posted Desire on Typepad."

What I desired a year ago seems pretty innocent and wholesome for the most part: to keep losing weight until I reached my goal, to wear clothes that looked flattering, to hike with my husband, to feel alive, to do my work well, to support and enjoy my children. I still have all those desires.

I guess this bird's work in 2009 will be figuring out whether RA will really prevent any of those, or whether it's my feelings about RA creating the barrier.

I Sing the Body Electric, Ministry, Mothering, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Roomy Toe Boxes

Idle Hands

Last year, on January 1, 2008, I wrote:

This year, I hope to find more time to simply be where I am, to listen
to what is around me, to let my hands be, at least for short periods,
idle, and my heart open to what comes next.

I got my hope, in a way I never expected. Because I could not use them, I sat with my hands in my lap. I felt, and could not avoid feeling it, disappointment and sadness. I saw my efforts at self-care in terms of diet and exercise supplanted by medication and side effects.

I grieved.

In the midst of it, I got up every day and went to work. I wrote sermons. I wrote things other than sermons. I visited parishioners. I ran and attended meetings, meetings, meetings. I read books and I read scripture. I slept more than I have in years, even naps.

I managed to knit, but much less than I would have liked.

I learned to live with pain, and I learned to ask for help when I really needed it, even if I didn’t want to ask.

I learned to trust the people I love to love me in return even when I couldn’t do all the things for them I wanted to, and even when I tried to do those things and failed. I believed in their love, mostly.

After a tough spring and summer, I looked up one day in the fall and realized that although I face challenges related to RA, I’m not unhappy. I’m not unhappy.

I hope to feel better in 2009. I hope to feel well enough to return to my “Don’t Let’s Call It a Diet” self-care, alongside my “Wish I Didn’t Have to Wear Shoes With Roomy Toe Boxes” self-care. I hope to move on to the next ministry job, whatever it might be and whenever it might happen, with energy and enthusiasm

(And I hope whoever is in charge of the hopes I express here is reading the “feel well enough” part.)

A-Croc-Alypse Now, I Sing the Body Electric, Rheumatoid Arthritis

For I Have Sinned

Bless me, Weight Watchers, for I have sinned. It has been three months since my last meeting. While taking prednisone and coping with the various side effects, I attended a meeting after a good week of counting points, but instead of finding the meeting encouraging–although I'm sure it was, really–I found I could not bring myself to follow the point-tracking, mostly because I felt ill unless I ate at certain times and just could not make the whole program work in my typical perfectionist style.

This week I noticed my scale was under the radiator. Not a good sign. After putting so much effort into taking better care of myself, I had given up on doing anything but taking my Rheumatoid Arthritis meds. Getting to my goal weight just felt impossible. And frankly, my lowest weight came in May, at a moment when I was so ill I didn't care about what I was eating and hadn't been counting or tracking and lost weight because I was ill.

I have to say, this is my first time ever having an illness that potentially causes weight *loss.* But naturally the medication took me in the other direction.

My Saturday morning routine for almost a year was not eating a blessed thing until after I weighed in and sat through my meeting. At the moment, with a dish full of pills to take, and not on an empty stomach, that seems like a pretty distant goal, too. But as I've been listening to the economic news and considering what it takes to get the financial house in order, it occured to me that I might feel a bit better if I started tracking both my checkbook and my food intake more carefully.

It's the Weight Watchers secret: Tracking Works. If you have to write it down, you may well choose better. 1/2 a teaspoon of butter on my oatmeal, measured, is half a point. A knife's worth, who knows?

I can't quite bring myself to go to the meeting this week, but I did start the day by moving the Weight Watchers online link back to my toolbar from a Favorites file, and signing in, and tracking my breakfast. I measured everything. I had brown sugar and butter on my oatmeal, for a total of 1 point. I ate a banana.

Some of my stand-bys of weight loss may not work for me now. Salad doesn't always agree with me due to some of the medicine I'm taking, but I'm going to give it a try again.

It feels risky to put this out to the Internets, because I know tomorrow is the Harvest Dinner at church, and I will be facing a point-related challenge in 27 hours! I know how many times I've said, this is it! I'm taking better care of myself! But I am writing in hopes of encouraging myself to stick with it, to take control of something I can control at a time when so much is beyond me. And I share it with you because so many of you encouraged me in Round One. I have 11 pounds to lose to get to what I weighed at the meeting three months ago. That's my first goal.

And maybe next week I'll go to the meeting. We'll see.

Crazy Busy, I Sing the Body Electric, Rheumatoid Arthritis


Before I got sick, I used to love really long days with lots of meetings.

This was one of those days. I had a lot of, lot of meetings. The first one started at 8:30 a.m. The last one ended at 9:20 p.m. or so. In between there were others, and visits, and other business.

I packed a lunch AND a dinner.

I shared a concern with two friends and received their support and later the problem was resolved to the extent possible for today. (Let's just say the church uses a flawed payroll company, and the flaws always seem to come out in my electronic deposits.)

I got home and sat in Pure Luck's lap.

It was too late to see Light Princess; she was already asleep.

Sam and Molly are taking advantage of my late night to get an extra cookie and trip outside.

I'm still pretty keen on long days, I just know they're not so good for me.

Tomorrow will be shorter.

And I have to conclude that I actually must be feeling better, because I got through this day okay and am doing pretty well. This may mean the miserable I felt over the weekend had to do with prednisone withdrawal. Maybe the methotrexate IS working. I'm hopeful.