There is probably a medical term for what I am about to describe that I do not know. But for now, I will call it “the pinball effect.”
It’s been years since I’ve played a game of pinball. I enjoyed the game because it was physical, visually stimulating, and exciting with all of the lights, bells, and whistles. There was something gratifying about pulling the lever, watching the ball project through the machine, hitting particular points along the way to increase my score, and then hitting ball to keep it in play. Sometimes during a game, the ball would get caught between two boundaries and get knocked back and forth repeatedly - the “pinball effect.” One could potentially score a lot of points when this happens, or not. However, it’s not the points that I’m concerned with here. It’s the ball - the ball that’s getting knocked back and forth in a very tight space.
For the past several weeks I have been experiencing “the pinball effect,” and the two boundaries are extreme emotional highs and extreme emotional lows. The space between the emotional experience can be understood as time. Said differently, there is very little time between each experience of immense joy and gripping pain and trauma. I imagine that some of you may be experiencing “the pinball effect” (p.e.) as well.
Here is an example of how p.e. unfolds for one person - me:
It is graduation season, Mother's and Father's Day, Summer Solstice, BBQ's, and vacations (joy, happiness), and yet, all around us traumatizing events are happening (anguish, grief, pain). Going from one extreme to the other is shocking and deeply stressful to the body and soul. The body and the mind do not know how to respond or what to feel, so they enter into a holding pattern. The anger, fear, sadness, and yes, guilt further exacerbate p.e. to the degree that tears and laughter become a struggle. I've never felt this inability to laugh or cry - and here I am. It is a strange, liminal ball of dough stuck in the middle of my chest. Maybe the body is in defense mode from all of the jarring emotions and the brain has shut down some of its emotional capacity? I don’t know yet. But I do know at some point, the emotional dam will break.
In the meantime, I will be gentle with myself. I will eat well. I will read and listen to what feels good in my soul. I will drink plenty of cool water. I will exercise and meditate. I will vote. I will pray and preach the Good News. I will lean into my community. I will resist.
My hope and prayer is that for all who are experiencing p.e. you will practice soul nurturing care until release comes. Until change comes.
In spite of COVID-19 and all that has transpired in the year 2020, even in spite of myself, Holistic Gathering is making moves, growing, and expanding. We were recently interviewed by VoyageATL. In the article, I share what has inspired this beautiful community and how I came to transition from one career to another.
I also spent some time chatting with Jessica Love, Marketing and communication Specialist of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in the United Methodist Church. Jessica and I had a beautiful time discussing what it means to be a Black woman in academia and why it is so important for BIPOC to have dedicated spaces for our voices. Here is the link to our conversation.
Apart from being surprised by these wonderful opportunities, I am deeply grateful to share with others my hope for better health for everyone. And most of all, I am grateful for family, friends, mentors and colleagues. Our lives together are tapestries of holistic gatherings.
Back in March, which seems so far away now, I decided that I would settle in to the quarantine with the intention to improve myself. With this intention, I also wanted to motivate my 2 teenage sons to do something with their free time, other than play on the dreaded electronic black box (DEBB) which shall remain nameless. I do not have anything against the DEBB, after all, it provides a way through which the boys can communicate and play with their friends. However, I do believe that it can become a major distraction and has the potential to sucks up a lot of valuable time (kind of like social media). I digress.
My oldest son is a cross country runner. However, because of COVID-19 all of the meets were cancelled, and he started spending way too much time with the DEBB. So, I thought what a wonderful opportunity for him to transfer the skills he's acquired to me. I become the recipient of his highly motivational youthful energy; and he gets to try his hand at training his mother. The perfect match. A win-win. Lance reveled in his new position as my trainer. He loved telling me what to do, how to do, and when to do (what teen wouldn't). I get to see another side of this beautiful human being I call son, witness him flourish as a motivator, and lose a few pounds in the process.
What Lance did not know is that I became a certified trainer long before he was a twinkle in my eye, long before I met my partner, his father. Later on I became a certified health partner through a cohort at Emory University Hospital in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology. I know all of the elements of what it takes to get fit and become stronger. I can design a diet plan; I can teach proper form; I am also trained to sit with and support individuals in crisis. Listing my abilities and accomplishments gives me a sense of pride. I have worked hard. I mean, by most standards, I am a well educated woman. I am capable and well-able to do just about anything I want to do. So, when Lance did not bother to take any of my measurements and did not even make me get on the scale, I thought "AH, this is a good teaching moment. Let me train the trainer."
With only a hint of smugness, (because, honestly, I did not actually want to get on the scale), I reminded Lance that we didn't ask me to get on the scale. To which he very calmly responded, "Don't worry about the scale. If you do what I say, you will get stronger. That's the whole point." You could have knocked me over with a feather. In that one small statement, my 15 year old son enlarged my perspective on fitness, wellness, and even what it means to be accomplished. For years, my focus has been on the numbers, the accomplishments, achieving the set goal, making the grade, and getting the paper - whether it's the paper degree or the paper money. There is nothing inherently wrong with those things. The danger, however, of focusing on the accomplishment is missing the opportunity to hone the practice of discipline.
The practice of discipline is the established, regulated process by which one achieves a goal. This rather simple definition suggests that each goal one sets for themselves may require a different process. For example, whether I want to become more fit or complete my dissertation, both of these require discipline. However, the process by which I go about achieving these goals is quite different. Moreover, my attitude towards getting more fit and my attitude towards writing may be different as well. In fact, they are different. I look forward to getting up every morning to workout. It energizes me and gets my day started. Writing, on the other hand, requires me to sit down, settle into my thoughts, and write - totally different kind of energy. If I get stuck on a word or sentence, I am apt to move on to something else that has nothing to do with what I am writing. Yes, sometimes it is necessary to move on and re-group in order to get beyond writer's block. But when deadlines are involved, too many deviations get in the way of the goal. I believe deviations may also be manifestations of unacknowledged fear. I'll talk about that in another post.
Among all of the challenges and revelations of COVID-19, chief among them is the clarion call to live differently. Our ways of being by default have changed for the foreseeable future. It is extremely difficult to work from home with 2 energetic teenagers, and the luxury of sitting in coffee shops or my school's library when I need a quiet place to write, as far as I am concerned, is gone. I believe in social distancing and wearing a mask. I believe in staying home unless I need to go out for essential items. These are practices require discipline, and the goal is obvious - keep my family safe and healthy. When we do not continuously attend to our practices of discipline the consequences are potentially devastating.
Lance has it right. His philosophy of "do what I say, you will get stronger" says to us, do the work, be consistent. Do not focus on the numbers. Focus on improving. Focus on fitness. Focus on being.
By the way, I have no idea how much I weigh. However, my body is stronger. I have more energy, and I feel absolutely wonderful!
Next to the Gospel of John, the Book of Psalms is my favorite book of the Bible. Even more, Psalms 8 and 24 are powerful representations of how I experience God.