Failure to thrive is a really mysterious diagnosis. We actually have hospice patients who are diagnosed with Adult Failure to Thrive. Basically, a person who has no specific disease diagnosis… no Heart Failure, Malignant Neoplasm of the ________, COPD, Parkinson’s, ALS, MS… a person can be disease-free, taking in a normal number of calories, and yet, be wasting away.
Like the physical diagnosis “Adult Failure to Thrive,” I believe there’s a really mysterious thing that occurs spiritually and emotionally that’s almost exactly the same thing. I’ve seen it in myself and the people around me. I’ve seen myself and others do all sorts of crazy things to try to fix it. Shasta got a personal trainer and learned to play the violin. I took up yoga and volunteered at an animal shelter. Amy took a sabbatical from work and traveled. But it’s never the things we do to try to make it better that actually make it better.
I really wasn’t well a year or so ago. I knew I wasn’t well, but nothing I did seemed to make it better.
However, as much as I want to understand what went on, because I want to be able to keep myself from wasting away like that in the future, I don’t understand.
I am doing well now. And I find the weirdest things making a huge difference in whether I’m thriving or not. So, I thought I’d take a bit of time to write about the things that are turning it around for me.
10. I started new projects. I really hadn’t been able to write at all while I wasn’t thriving. I kept writing, but it wasn’t good. It was just writing to keep the blog from dying. I certainly wasn’t able to put emotional and creative energy into my manuscript, but I’m not the type who does well with nothing to work on. I need to constantly be trying to improve something: my spiritual life, my house, a friendship, my race pace… So I decided to become a Vegetarian and lose weight. That sense of incremental achievement helped.
9. Roommate Kendra moved to Phoenix. I adore Roommate Kendra. She is the best roommate I’ve ever had, but I think my thriving needed complete privacy. I think my thriving needed to know that whatever Katie was, no one would see and have an opinion of it. It’s not that I was afraid Kendra would have a negative opinion. It’s just that if I’d had a roommate who was home and saw me regularly, she would have an opinion, and sometimes, a person needs to know that no one is watching. The hardest thing in the world is to run your own pace when you know someone is watching – Scott Jurek.
8. I watched TV. I’m generally not good at watching tv. It’s too inactive for me. I can usually make it through a 20-minute show, but beyond that, I feel the need to get up and cook something or vacuum or go for a run or read a book or chop down the Oleanders in my yard. This is fine most of the time, but I think sometimes thriving requires a still, gentle nap on the couch to exist. I think it requires the brain to stop turning and the body to rest. Sometimes, it requires the inaction of a good, long tv show.
7. I backed up on friendships. This could truly be its own post, so I’ll try to keep it simple. I generally believe that it’s not okay to give up on people, so I felt a really strong tension between that belief and some friends who had been my constant critics. The situation I found myself in was that I was living one of the low moments of life and my friends were relentlessly kicking me while I was down. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt an underlying judgment and unkindness in how they interacted with me, but it was the first time I realized I deserved better. Everyone’s friends mess up from time-to-time. Friends are flawed and human, and that’s okay. This wasn’t that. First, I tried to talk with the people who’d hurt me, but when they’d ignored and refused my attempts at reconciliation, I just backed away slowly and moved on. From my side of things, we are at peace, but we aren’t close. It’s the first time I feel I’ve really stood up for myself with those friends.
6. I got a dog. Moose is so important in my life. 🙂
5. I found something I can be good at, but isn’t easy. Volunteering for Victim Services feeds so many parts of me. It is part ministry, part community, part adventure… It’s challenging, but manageable. It’s the things my job isn’t.
4. A comic shop opened a branch in Northwest Tucson. I know this sounds stupid, but it really somehow brought me joy to be able to stop at the comic shop after work. I hate ordering comics from online, because comic shops seem like this last bastion of the local book shop. They are nostalgic and remind me of a time when people went to Blockbuster to browse, when movies and books weren’t quite so accessible as to be just a click away. I want comic shops to have my money, because I want them to hold out against Amazon, but it also seems stupid for me to drive for 35 minutes, browse and buy for 10 minutes, and then drive home for 35 minutes. Also, there is something really beautiful about the comic shop in how it provides a place of belonging and hope for people who don’t quite belong. So… now the geeky and nostalgic parts of me can be fulfilled simultaneously with a quick trip down to Fantasy Comics.
3. I exercised. I never really stopped exercising when I wasn’t thriving, but I was training for marathons rather than kick boxing. It’s a different kind of exercise.
2. I prayed. Like exercise, I never exactly stop praying, but I sometimes close off and pray obligatory prayers. I pray for things that matter like the world, others, and the glory of God. However, I thrive when I pray for the most minuscule, mundane things. I thrive when I pray for sleep and rain and weight loss. I thrive when there isn’t any part of my life that I hold as too personal or insignificant for God’s mighty hand.
1.Brandon offered to help me build a table. Brandon and Kira are a couple who I’ve actually known for something like 5 years. With the slowness that is my nature in friendship-building, I had probably only considered them to be my church friends until pretty recently. However, there was this sort of exquisite moment when I was admiring a table that Brandon had built, and I had said that I might try to copy him and build my own, and he said something like, “I’d love to help you with that.” I’d actually already pictured myself building that table and I was always alone. And it occurred to me in that moment that I could let Brandon and Kira help me. Brandon hadn’t offered because he felt he was going to earn points with God. He genuinely seemed to think it would be a fun project. So, I’m still imagining myself building that table, but I’m also imagining the help I might have in doing it. And I’m thinking that one of the absolute keys for me in thriving is having a strong sense of community. A sense that people are there for me because they want to be… I don’t struggle to be happy when I’m alone. I don’t feel a strong drive to be around people, but I’m realizing that I do feel a strong drive toward family, and that I truly thrive when the church takes on the role of family in my life.
There have been a few setbacks recently in my heart… things that shook me and ache, but, by the grace of God, those things haven’t knocked me off my horse yet, and I’m still in the land of thriving.