The Day Before the Day Before Christmas: Spiritual and Physical

Spiritual Things Today was the last Sunday in Advent, and I am a bit ashamed to say that I didn’t make it to church one time during my second favorite season in the liturgical calendar. I’ve been using my Sundays to catch up on grading and the like since school started this year, and apparently the impending coming of the Christ child really didn’t make enough of an impact on me for me to change my ways in anticipation. Unwittingly, I’ve become one of those Gen-Xers who just doesn’t have time for a child, even a holy one. Sadly, I think I’m becoming a Gen-Xer who doesn’t have time for anyone; I’m so focused on career-oriented trivialities that it seems as if many of my relationships aren’t what they could be, or should be, or used to be.  Maybe my posting of this quote on Facebook was some sort of wake-up call to myself: “There comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.” Barbara Brown Taylor is hands down my favorite theologian/preacher, and her words remind me that I need to get my spiritual shit together. My spiritual life doesn’t look like anyone else’s, because it is mine. My body, my physicality, my experiences and how they’ve shaped me, like it or not, are my soul’s address. The scars and the decorations are all a part of who I’ve become in Christ. My soul’s address, unfortunately, looks a bit more tattered and torn than some of yours.

Physical Things The newest goal I’ve set for myself is to complete a Half Ironman. There’s a race here in Muncie on July 13, just a week before my 39th birthday. My friend Teresa has already signed up for the race, and I plan to sign up for it in January. That being said, I’ve got a long way to go in seven months to be able to complete it. I’d love to complete it in some sort of respectable time as well. I am pretty sure the running will be the most difficult for me and the swimming will be the easiest. I’m still hoping to finish a trail marathon before I’m 40, but I think this goal takes precedence over the 26.2 mile jog. All of this means I really need to step up the exercise regimen f0r the next seven months, including adding some strength training to the running, biking, and swimming. I really wish the morning swim was an option, but I just can’t deal with the grumpy ancient ones, so I’ll deal instead with the master’s swim team who works out at night. Yay.

Strange, then, with all this thinking about my body and exercise that I can’t seem to kick my addiction to sugar. I feel so much better when I am not eating sugar, but unleash me on some fudge and watch me go! I have devoured nearly a whole recipe of eggnog white chocolate fudge this week: that’s THREE cups of straight-up white sugar in one week, which doesn’t even include all the other candies I’ve eaten. Wow. I’m going to try another round of this Whole 30 business starting on January 7. A friend of mine who’s been quite successful with her Whole 30 adventures is willing, yet again, to have me tag along. I made it 16 days the last round and then ate some ice cream. This time I am going to have plenty of legal fruit on hand for those nights when ice cream seems like the thing that will cure all of my ills. Fruit and water seems like a legitimate replacement for ice cream, right? I just need to keep reassuring myself with the words of Violet Beauregard’s mother from the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: “Eyes on the prize, Violet. Eyes on the prize.” Perhaps if I remind myself in such a way not to eat sugar, it’ll happen. And, hey, I’ve got this pesky 40 pounds I’d like to lose before lugging it around for 70.3 unnecessary miles.

Unnerving Things I have been trying to avoid thinking about the stuff in Connecticut, but in trying to avoid it, I think my mind just keeps returning to it. Sometimes not thinking about something, failing to deal with it, really becomes the means by which the thing haunts you. My God-daughter is 6 and in kindergarten. My grandchildren will one day go to public school. My President broke down in tears. I cannot even imagine the terror in the hearts of the parents whose children attend Sandy Hook. I cannot imagine the giant holes torn in the fabric of the hearts of the parents whose children died in those classrooms. I can, however, imagine the last fleeting thoughts of the teachers in those rooms, because they are the same as the thoughts I’d have in that situation. They are the same thought that any teacher of any type of worth would have: I must help these children. I must save them. I must do something, though I feel as if I can only do nothing. I feel helpless in the face of this.

In a similar vein, I feel helpless in the face of the sadness experienced on a daily basis by so many of the teenagers I work with. I am Facebook friends with many of my students through a teacher-only account I’ve set up for this school year, and I can scroll back through previous posts and just sense this overwhelming sadness. Is it cultural? Is it spiritual? Is it emotional? Who’s to blame? The parents? The teachers? The students? Politics? So many of my students just appear to seem so hopeless. When I was sixteen, I thought I would change the world. Were we more naive then? I just don’t get it. I feel helpless, but not hopeless.

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