Under pressure

I knew a guy who had a girlfriend who lived many hours away. They met at camp, and dated long distance for many years. He pressured her to have sex with him, and she did, reluctantly.

Problem was that they were Pentecostal, and they weren’t married. This is a huge sin in the eyes of that church. It is considered a sin to many Christian denominations, but some just turn a blind eye. There is no wiggle room on this issue in this church.

He then expected to have sex with her every time he came to visit. She thought he would drop her as a girlfriend if she didn’t. So she had sex with him every time he came to visit.

Until she got pregnant.

They prayed for forgiveness. They prayed for a way out of it. They prayed, crying and wailing. She didn’t have the money for an abortion, and that would have only complicated matters. Sex before marriage is considered a sin, but so is abortion. There was no good way out.

God granted them mercy. She had a miscarriage. Fortunately she already had problems with her periods so it just looked like an extra difficult time of the month to her parents. They dodged the bullet that time. I remember him crying about how grateful he was for that act of mercy from God.

Then he went for another visit and expected to have sex again. Somebody had to be the adult, and he wasn’t it. Deep down, she knew there wouldn’t be another free break.

So every time he came to visit, she was “having her period.” He found periods disgusting, so they didn’t have sex. He kept asking, and she kept saying she was having her period. She was lying every time. She was lying so that they wouldn’t have sex. She was lying so she wouldn’t get pregnant again.

I’m stunned that they eventually married. His behavior was reprehensible.

I’m glad that she stood her ground and didn’t have sex with him again until they got married. I’m upset that he thought it was ok to ask after that bit of mercy. Maybe he’d forgotten. We all tend to forget our midnight promises to God when the dawn comes and everything looks better. But to ask her again after that is a sign of a lack of respect for her, and a sign that he thinks he can get away with anything. This does not bode well.

Perhaps she married him anyway because she actually loved him. Perhaps she felt she was “damaged goods” anyway, so it was better to stay with him. Not being a virgin is a big deal. It is safer to stick with the person who made you that way than have to fess up to someone new.

It isn’t fair to be a woman. We are expected to please, to put ourselves second, to humble ourselves. We are expected to let the man be in charge. Yet if we have sex and become pregnant, we have no guarantee that he will “do the honorable thing.” He can leave. We can’t. We have the most to lose.

When I was in college guys would expect to have sex with me just because we went on a date. Let us see – movie, $10. Dinner, $30. That would make me a $40 whore. There is no other way to say it. If they thought I was expected to have sex with them just because he paid for the date, then that is prostitution. They didn’t think of it that way, of course. They thought they were just going on a date, and they might “get lucky”. I’m sure they thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. They were wrong.

I figured out early on that I’d rather be seen as a prude than become a single mother. I couldn’t afford it. I’d have to quit school. My entire life would change and get a lot harder. Sex wasn’t worth that. The risk factor was way too high. It wasn’t fair that I had to stand my ground. It wasn’t fair that they kept insisting. I’d break up with one and the next one would be the same.

It is time for parents to raise their sons to respect women. I don’t even mean that they need to understand that “no means no.” I mean that it is time for them to stop even asking the question.

“Do no harm” – on grocery stores and the American diet.

There is a grocery store near my house that has a health food section. All the healthy options are put together in one little area. This section is to the far left of the entrance, tucked behind the pharmacy. The ceiling is low, the walls are dark, and the lighting is bad. It would be easy to never even notice there was a healthy-option section. When you do notice it, it isn’t inviting.

In one way it is good to have a separate section. All the different healthy options that you might want are put together. You don’t have to go all over the store to find them. In another way it is bad. Regular shoppers won’t know of these options when they are shopping. They won’t be able to discover a different brand of toothpaste or compare prices or ingredients on juice or breakfast cereals.

Why are healthy options marginalized? When they are mixed in with everything else they are often on the bottom shelf where they will not be noticed. All the popular options are at eye or at least chest height. They have bright colors and clever marketing. The healthy options sit quietly, gathering dust.

Grocery stores should stop getting bigger and start getting better. They should stop selling fourteen different brands of cheesy poofs for starters. In fact, stop selling cheesy poofs altogether. It doesn’t matter that people want them. Perhaps grocery stores should adopt the “do no harm” oath that doctors have to take. But then again, we see how well that has done us. Treat the symptom, not the disease.

One of my coworkers was told by her nutritionist that she needed to skip everything that was in the center of the store. Skip everything that is prepackaged and filled with preservatives, and buy fresh real food. Let’s add to that. Skip everything that has labels on it with ingredients you can’t understand and can’t pronounce. Skip everything with an ingredient list that is longer than the “food” item itself.

Convenience foods are killing us.

Fast food equals a slow death.

I understand. We live busy lives. Who has time to bake their own bread? Who has time to grow their own food? Cooking takes time, time we think we don’t have. Yet we have time to check Facebook and Twitter and time to watch reality TV and talk shows.

The old adage is true. We are what we eat. And we are eating junk.

The perspective of pain.

I’d forgotten how exhausting pain is. Perhaps I never really knew. This experience is giving me a whole new perspective on compassion and empathy.

Remember how you are supposed to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand them? What if it hurts too much to even bend over to put on those shoes? That too is a teacher. That too is a way in.

I’ve decided to bring back the term “lumbago”. I love it. It is so poetic. It is an old fashioned way of talking about lower back pain. Not many people use this term any more. I envision some old guy in a plaid shirt and brown pants hitched up a little too high. He’s got both arms held akimbo, hands a little further back, palms flat over his kidney area. He’s leaning back a little. “Ooh, my lumbago!” he moans to anyone who will listen.

“Lumbago” sounds so much better. The pain is still the same, but the word is better. Lumbago kind of sounds like a dance, but dancing is the last thing you want to do.

So. My lumbago. I don’t want to identify with it, but I do want to learn from it. I don’t want it to limit me, but I still want to be mindful.

I’d written a lot last night while sitting at my computer. It turns out this wasn’t the smartest move. I’d not made time to write enough yesterday and I’ve learned that writing helps my head quite a bit. It is creative and cleansing at the same time. So I needed to write, but sitting there for over an hour wasn’t the best idea. I’ve been doing a lot better, but it still has only been a week since I slipped a disc. I hurt quite a bit, and it took a long time to relax enough to go to bed.

This is a whole new experience for me. I’m not sure how to navigate this new territory. I’ve entered into this country without a phrase book or a pocket guide. So I forget every now and then that things are different, and I need to act differently.

Some things I’ve learned from my chiropractor. I’m heartened by how many people I know who go to him and trust him. I’ve heard such disparaging things about chiropractors all my life that I didn’t want to go last week, but now I knew I made the right choice. He is also a certified nutritionist, so I’m learning all sorts of useful tips in addition to getting my back adjusted.

I’ve learned from him that if you want to lessen inflammation, eat a vegetarian diet. I’ve learned that omega 6 increases inflammation, while omega 3 is healing. I’ve learned that a homeopathic muscle relaxer is more useful than a prescription one because it doesn’t make me have brain fog. It is also used for anxiety.

I’m meditating on that – do we tense up because we are anxious, or are we anxious because our muscles are tense? I’ve already written on this a little, and I think it is a key point.

I’ve learned things on my own as well. Pain shows up in ways other than pain. Sometimes the body tries to shield us from pain and so we don’t know we are hurting. The adrenal system is a great thing up to a point, but it can handle only so much. I’m learning it is important to recognize the signs of the adrenal system trying to take over and masking the pain before things get out of hand.

Pain makes me hungry. I crave salty snacks a lot right now. I’m hungry when I shouldn’t be hungry. I suspect this is a lot like when I realized the connection between PMS and cramps many years ago. Yield to the cravings and have terrible cramps. Notice them, but don’t succumb, and have a pain free time. I’m trying to do this now but the pain induced craving is really sneaky.

Funny how my body is trying to get me to eat the very things that will actually make things worse. Salt causes inflammation. Inflammation causes pain.

Our bodies don’t always know what is best for us, so it is up to us to use our minds. The bad part is that we don’t always know we are being misled. We think we are legitimately craving something we need, and we don’t. Our minds have to be the drivers, but sometimes our bodies carjack us.

Pain makes me tired. I never knew how exhausting pain is. I was absolutely wiped out last Tuesday. I was really bored being at home by myself. I’d been home from work for five days and I hadn’t been alone all of that, but enough that it was getting old. I went to eat at a buffet and it was very hard. It was hard to get there. It hurt to sit. I’m starting to think the Roman idea of reclining to eat has a lot of merit. When I was done I went to my car and just drove home. I’d had other small errands to do but I didn’t have the energy to do them.

This morning I was trying to write while sitting at the computer and I had the same problem I had last night. My lumbago was getting worse, and the pain was spreading to my side. I got up to lay down in the living room and nearly blacked out.

I’ve recently learned that too is part of the adrenal system. When I was at the chiropractor’s, the assistant took my blood pressure while I was sitting, and again while I was standing. The first number should be 10 points higher when standing. It was just 2.

I took a “body scan” of myself at that time and analyzed how I felt. Anxious. Unsettled. Nervous. A little dizzy and spacey in my head. Turns out that is the adrenal system covering pain. I felt pain and didn’t even realize how bad it was because my body was covering up for it.

Meanwhile the pain kept going on and I kept not getting relief for it. I didn’t know I needed relief. I didn’t know I was in pain.

How many people do we encounter who are in pain and they don’t even know it? They are irritable and difficult to deal with and they don’t even realize why? Whether the pain is physical or emotional makes no difference. Pain is pain, whatever the source. I’m of the opinion that the line between mental and physical is blurry at best.

I think I’ve found the tip of the iceberg. I think I’ve found a piece of the puzzle. I think I’ve found part of my calling, part of what I was created for.

I’m grateful for this pain, this experience, this lumbago. I’m grateful for the lesson this pain is teaching me. It took laying on my back to see things in a whole new way.