From the Board: April 2023

Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme. The theme for March is Resistance. This month’s post is offered by Janna Sperry Sundby. 

As we move from “vulnerability” to “resistance” in our Soul Matters theme for the month of April, I wondered if those two ideas would sit side by side on a shelf, like bookends, and what might be held up between them.

Recently, I’d been sick for a few weeks and was not able to diagnose myself, and I was very resistant to go to my doctor. The resistance was in part because I had done a planned video meeting with her the day I returned from vacation. We were checking on some meds, a new one I started and one I was taking less of, and I said I wasn’t feeling too great but wasn’t sure why.  She said I was likely experiencing “vacation depression,” which is a real thing—Google it.

After two-plus weeks of low-to-no energy, topped with night sweats, stomach, and nausea issues, plus a few bouts of frustrated tears, I called the nurse line, and I spoke with someone who decided I should be tested right away. They frantically looked for an available doctor in the system that was near me, since my doctor was booked for the next three weeks. They found an available appointment the following day. Driving up to the clinic in Chanhassen, my heart started racing and my breathing became labored, as I recalled limping and weaving myself into that same clinic two years ago when I had just badly broke my wrist. I had put that place out of my mind. I felt like driving back home to resist some more, but the mother in me pushed me forward.

I have been considering the reason for my stubborn resistance.  “It will be better tomorrow” was my rationale. When that tomorrow never came, I knew I had to put forth the effort to go someplace unfamiliar and share my strange symptoms with someone I’d never met. To top things off, I knew we’d both be wearing masks so it’s hard to truly see and sometimes hear someone when half their face is covered. 

The young female doctor with three first names listened to me and poked at my organs, then ordered a battery of tests which I couldn’t start until the next day.  Besides being resistant, I also felt very vulnerable because I was alone. My spouse was on a 10-day skiing trip, so I had been holed up in my house, read a lot of books, slept, and had imagined the worst, all while not making any forward progress.

The following afternoon, some of the test results were posted. I received a voicemail with two diagnoses and started two new meds the next day.  It’s not one thing but possibly a series of things and some of the tests are still “in transit.” But if I look at vulnerability and resistance as bookends, what’s between them is “not knowing” and not being sure where to go to get an answer. I also like what our Ministerial Intern Jill said about “not knowing” and how by approaching that with curiosity versus a sense of shame, it can present itself as less of a weakness and more of an adventure in learning. In most cases, not knowing something means you need to look for and reach out to others for help or guidance. That flies in the face of my strong sense of independence and self-sufficiency. After all, my parental mantra is: we’ll know you are an adult when you are self-sufficient and independent.  

If you mix in some fear with the vulnerability, as I did, then you can start to get into your own head. Singular head space can lead to less than clear thinking, which led to a host of other emotions, more resistance, and eventually left me feeling very alone. It’s hard to reach out when you feel alone, or lonely and afraid about what you are thinking. 

I think I’ve learned that between those bookends one can also find knowledge and possibly valuable insights to be shared outside yourself.  When I stopped resisting because I was afraid of the unknown, I was able to take the few small steps to eventually reach someone who could ask the right medical questions. She was very practical and a good listener, so I felt less vulnerable despite not being able to see her face. 

As you’ll hear during the month of April, there are other interpretations of resistance.  Especially when a group or even a community decide they want to make a political statement. There’s a certain amount of vulnerability in those political and social justice scenarios too, because non-violent resistance usually means going against the current power structure and can sometimes lead to consequences like violence from the opposition or imprisonment. 

 My little story is brief and personal, not political or social, but I do appreciate your reading it and hope that when you feel yourself somewhere between resistant and vulnerable, you’ll let the fear flow through you and put on the ”I’m curious to learn” attitude.  Ask someone with some experience if they could set you down a path to learning and help guide you to a possible solution to what you may be grappling with or resisting due to not knowing.

Janna Sperry Sundby

Member, UUCM Board of Trustees

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