Monday, February 27, 2017

Rare Disease Day ... Shining a Light on Adrenal Insufficiency

Friends....February 28th is rare disease day.  I'm posting this because it could save someone's life (including mine). When it comes to rare conditions, ER docs don't always know how to recognize unusual symptoms. They mean well, but they aren't always familiar with those of us that are unusual cases. 

So here's the information I want to share: if you come across someone wearing an "Adrenal Insufficiency" bracelet and if they have been in an accident or if they passed out, know that you're dealing with what could be a life threatening condition. Just like an epipen for anaphylaxis, those of us with adrenal insufficiency carry an emergency injection at all times to be administered by first responders on the way to the hospital.  The person might be confused.  Look in their bag for instructions to go with their bracelet when you call 911.

A delay in treatment of 15 to 30 min could be life threatening. I've personally experienced the delay in treatment while docs said "this doesn't look like adrenal insufficiency." It's happened to both my sister and I in the ER on multiple occasions. We now carry instructions for immediate administration of IV hydrocortisone, as a delay can be deadly.

So notice the medical bracelets worn by others. And if I'm ever in an accident and you are with me,  make sure I get that shot!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

We are meant to take up space

"Taking up space in your life means being willing to claim your space in the world. It means that you recognize that you have a voice, an opinion, needs, wants and desires that all matter equal to that of anyone else in this world.  Unfortunately, I hear this thinking too often:
•    I don’t want to be a burden.
•    I don’t want to trouble anyone.
•    I don’t want to upset anyone.
•    I don’t want to cause conflict.
•    I don’t want to inconvenience anyone.

Underneath that thinking there is often the underlying fear – “I am afraid that I am too much.” The inverse of that fear is the opposite – “I am afraid that I am not enough.” But in my book, they are born of the same place. It’s a fear that there is something wrong with us, and so we shrink ourselves, our bodies and our desires, lest we reveal to the world that which we fear may be defective.

Well, I’m here to ask you, what is too much anyway? What is not enough? Who defines these things? Does an objective truth for this measure even exist?

Our lives – our needs and our bodies - are meant to take up space."

Walk Gently

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed"

As i have discussed before,  i live with dysautonomia and adrenal insufficiency after a traumatic brain injury in 2011. I blog about many topics....and living with this chronic condition is one of the topics i explore.

After a marathon dental appointment, which exacerbates dysautonomia and adrenal insufficiency, my doctor gave me extra steroids and iv fluids. It's working! I might actually drive my daughter to deliver neighborhood girl scout  cookies on her way to horse lessons... and I just got the badges on her girl scout vest. These are huge accomplishments when walking SLOWLY out of a crash. 

If you have never experienced the level of fatigue where you can't even do basic grateful!  Think of it like the worst flu you've ever had.....but it just keeps going. and. still have to parent your child,  cook meals, get groceries, etc.  The world keeps going in spite of illness. 

I remember one day when i was married, sick with stomach flu, alone with my daughter, wondering how single parents do it. Well...Now I've learned that you just do it.  And you live amongst a chosen tribe of amazing people that step in to help when you just CAN'T.  My tribe is among the greatest blessings in life.  And you find a warrior within that's so much stronger than my old CEO/Keynote speaking self...she's the woman that moves mountains and does the impossible every day...humbly...quietly. 

So don't judge the mom on her phone, or shame the mom that packs lunchables one day,  or think less of the woman that "has let herself go" by gaining some extra weight or not wearing makeup......because she might just be holding the world together one step at a time.

Walk gently in the lives of others.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Iv Hydration....Life with Dysautonomia and Adrenal Insufficiency

Life with Dysautonomia and Adrenal Insufficiency means IV hydration is so important and vascular access is very difficult.  It took an hour but we got the IV in and hopefully this will help me feel better for the next couple of days.  It's important to bring these invisible things out of the shadows because we all have areas of suffering and difficulty. It's the mess of life that unites us all.. it's something we all have in common.... and it is where God meets us with grace.
How many people can say they can SEE their body change before their eyes?  With each walk to the restroom i looked in the mirror and noticed more fluid in my face and neck. This is steroids mixed with hydration. And it's needed right now.  

Why am I sharing about this?  Because I'll start hiding if I don't...see...I've learned that it's easier to just be open. If I'm not, I start hiding....and that doesn't serve anyone. I choose not to live in isolation. I believe in love. Even if it means having the badass courage to love myself when I don't always recognize the person looking back at me. I'm learning to look deeper. My eyes never change no matter what my body goes through. For that I'm grateful.

And at the end of the day (quite literally) I had enough energy to get a horse hug from my big warhorse/physical therapist/service animal Harvey. And that makes it all worth it!  Horse Hugs Heal.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Invisible Illness - Balancing Mind, Body and Spirit

I live with two invisible illnesses, both of which arose in the wake of the concussion in 2011. I am approaching that 6 year anniversary. It has taken me years to learn about these conditions - and I am still learning. But for now, I am writing about it, because some have asked and also because it is important to illuminate the invisible things that doctors often miss.

Let's start with the most recent one - Adrenal Insufficiency. This is NOT the same as the naturopathic version of Adrenal Fatigue or Adrenal Exhaustion; rather, it is a clinical condition where the body doesn't produce enough cortisol to do basic things. Cortisol is necessary to stay alive. In the event of illness or an accident, a person with AI will die if they cannot produce a "burst" of cortisol. So, steroids are used to replace cortisol in the body. Illness or stress requires "stress dosing." In the event of an accident, a person with AI needs an injection of IV Hydrocortisone immediately. We wear bracelets and carry injection kits with us at all times for that reason. AI can be caused by many different things. It can be primary or secondary. Regardless of the cause, though, the symptoms of AI can be debilitating. Imagine like food poisoning mixed with bone crushing fatigue, and you have a starting point for this condition. My acute abdominal pain in the ER over the holidays was AI. Ironically, the doctor was informed that it could be AI, and he chose to ignore it. This is all too common with this diagnosis.

Dysautonomia is different, although it often runs hand in hand with AI. This neurological condition is a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system. Note that the autonomic nervous system includes EVERYTHING that we do subconsciously - sleep, breathe, digest, regulate blood flow, and so much more. There are more than 200 different conditions that act as underlying causes, although sometimes it's idiopathic. In my case, I have it because of low blood pressure mixed withr AI. For me, my sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive all the time trying to address these underlying problems. My parasympathetic system has trouble slowing me back down. Ironically, instead of feeling energetic all the time, this lack of balance causes terrible fatigue - like running an ultramarathon every day, day after day. Beyond fatigue, symptoms span the entire spectrum of autonomic function. It's fascinating to learn about. And very few physicians understand it.

In both AI and Dysautonomia, balance is essential - and it is a moving target - and it is very difficult to find. I am grateful that I have some of the best doctors in the country right here in Seattle managing my road to healing. That said, it is a slow and steady walk in a culture that often fails to understand those living with invisible conditions. In my case, the walk is one that forms the cornerstone of my ministry - as living a life balanced in mind, body and spirit is among the most radical individual acts that a single person can engage in her lifetime.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I still believe in LOVE

I still believe in Love. Even after all of the suffering, the pain, the broken moments and the times I have had to crawl out of the darkness again and again, I know that Love is ever present. It is constantly transforming, changing, cleansing, and urging me into a truer version of myself. It may take the often expected form of contentment and joy, or it may manifest as a feeling of being held precariously above an abyss so great and incomprehensible that it can only be described as Mystery. Sometimes it feels like a soulful cry; a yearning; a sudden push of momentum; or a painful burning away of the cartilage surrounding old wounds from the past.

Love is not for the faint of heart. Love is courageous. It brings me into alignment along a path that is tumultuous, scoured with the sandy granules that the Divine uses to shape me into my Calling.
This is Love.

But I didn’t always understand what Love meant. In fact, I still find myself wondering if I am even capable of comprehending the meaning of the word. Still, I know that there is an innate knowing of Love within me. It is within all of us. It is a gift that was given to me before I emerged alive with tears from my mother’s womb, yet I have spent a lifetime trying to find a Love that would simply stay. What kind of Love is that?

Art - Expansion, by Paige Bradley

New Art!

Part of a new series rooted in the systematic study of Angelology
Original art by Heather Thompson Blue Phoenix Art

"Fire Wave Horse"
"Waterfall Rising"

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New Art!

Part of a new series rooted in the systematic study of Angelology
Original art by Heather Thompson Blue Phoenix Art

"Green Fire Wave"

Friday, February 17, 2017

VIDEO: Surrender to Fluidity

Watch me paint my most recent fluid art in timelapse photography here! 

"Fluidity is the way to an empty mind. You must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying."
Bruce Lee

A timelapse video showing the fluid painting process of Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art.

Original Art by Blue Phoenix Art
Music by Fuel - Shimmer

Awakening is Painful

Spirituality means Waking Up
By Fr. Anthony De Mello, Jesuit and Author

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don't know it, are asleep. They're born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know, all mystics -Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion -- are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.

Last year on Spanish television I heard a story about this gentleman who knocks on his son's door. "Jaime," he says, "wake up!" Jaime answers, "I don't want to get up, Papa." The father shouts, "Get up, you have to go to school." Jaime says, "I don't want to go to school." "Why not?" asks the father. "Three reasons," says Jaime. "First, because it's so dull; second, the kids tease me; and third, I hate school." And the father says, "Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is your duty; second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the headmaster." Wake up, wake up! You've grown up. You're too big to be asleep. Wake up! Stop playing with your toys.

Most people tell you they want to get out of kindergarten, but don't believe them. Don't believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys. "Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success." This is what they want; they want their toys replaced. That's all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don't really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.

Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It's irritating to be woken up. That's the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I'm going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, "Wake up!" My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it, fine; if you don't, too bad! As the Arabs say, "The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens."

Original art by Heather Thompson Blue Phoenix Art
"I Rise"

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Art - And a New View

I'm in a relationship with myself right now. After getting over the pain of a recent break up, I now feel a sense of stepping into the unknown yet again. It's reflected in my art with an angel flying. There is always that feeling of dizzying uncertainty when moving into a new phase of life. So I have decided to approach it with curiosity.

What would happen if I no longer looked at myself through the lens of a man?

It's hard to explain this to men, because it is a lens that fits naturally onto male eyes...all I shall say is that women spend much of our lives being conditioned on what is and is not acceptable to men in our culture. It is so deeply ingrained in us that it becomes difficult to know what is feminine without the influence of male opinion. This is especially true for straight women - I cannot speak for my LGBTQIA+ loved ones, as that is a road I do not walk.

Quantum physics has taught us that the lens of the observer affects actual molecular movement in space and time. In other words, reality is directly influenced by the lens by which we view it. Our default lens is masculine. One only has to look at images of God as the Father, Him, He, and so on.

I am left wondering - what happens if we broaden the observer to be something more than male? Perhaps reality can shift.

Awakening begins with the individual. Thus, I ask myself what happens if I let go of the male lens? It feels terrifying. Will I be alone? Will men no longer find me desirable? Asking such bold questions leaves me feeling like I have no ground to stand on - non-being. I feel like I am aware of the 70,000 fathoms that Kierkegaard talked about. And yet, I know deep down that I can let go.....I can let go of the opinions of those that I have dated or may date in the future; that I can let go of the statements made by the one I was married to and now divorced; I can let go of the male image of God that no longer suits my emerging theology; I can chose to view myself through the eyes of LOVE.
I believe this is how God sees me. Perhaps I can learn to see myself that way.

Below I have included a new painting. It emerged as I contemplated Angels. I have had angels appear in my art in the past. But this is the first time the angel has been in flight. Perhaps that is why I feel unsteady - perhaps I am developing my wings.

Blue Angel Wings
Original Art by Heather Thompson
Blue Phoenix Art
48 x 60
Acrylic on Canvas

Monday, February 13, 2017

Living with Chronic Illness

I never understood what a chronic illness was until I had the Concussion...until I was diagnosed with Hyperadergenic POTS Dysautonomia...until I learned that I had Adrenal Insufficiency. My sister struggled with life post brain tumor, and I just didn't get it. Believe me, I tried. But as an able bodied person with endless energy, you can't grasp what it is like to be limited until it happens to you. That's like trying to explain childbirth to a person that hasn't FELT the ring of fire. Or explaining war to someone who isn't a veteran. Empathy can only go so far.

But we must learn to notice those around us that are living with limitations...not because of their limits...but because even with the limits, life is still BEAUTIFUL and humans are still VALUABLE. I am thinking of all of my friends that live outside as I write those words....tears fill my eyes....

We must learn not to pass judgement on journeys that we cannot understand. No one WANTS to be limited. There are no bootstraps (believe me, I have been the queen of bootstraps). There is simply a slow, steady pace toward a new normal that has yet to be defined and is always changing.

Before he recently passed, Ben Banks taught me what it looked like to be authentic and almost outrageously open about certain things. I don't share about everything. But I have come to realize with the help of my Spiritual Director that part of my ministry is simply walking authentically on a path that integrates mind, body and spirit. We are so out of balance in our culture. My health issues keep me on a short leash. Coming to love my body - instead of forcing it into compliance - is an entirely new BADASS way of living. It is completely counter cultural. And so, I shall courageously walk one step at a time with transparency and authenticity because there is nothing to hide.

Here is a great article on life with Chronic Illness written by a physician. Take a it...


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thoughts on Bellies - A Little more....

I am deeply disturbed by the way our society views women's midsections. As I have grown older, I am feeling even more confidence in the strength of my voice to speak out against the cultural sickness that we all have come to accept as normal.

The image above formed the basis of my last blog post discussing the "pot belly" or "pooch" references that were made in the wake of Lady Gaga's BADASS superbowl performance.  Let's pause there for a moment to acknowledge that a STRONG woman carried the stage on her own, without lip syncing, for 100 Million+ people, daring to be fully empowered, fully sexualized, fully female, fully HERSELF in a time of great political and sociological turmoil...and still......they body shamed her. I feel compelled to acknowledge the ways that these shamings are pervasive throughout our culture, as if we must have a masculine shredded set of abs in order to be taken seriously. Moreover, I dare any man with shredded abs to wear skin tight hipster shorts while singing/dancing all over a stage WITHOUT a little lip of skin coming over the top. It's HUMAN.

Aside from the above general comment though, and building on my last discussion of the importance of the layer of fat that covers a woman's tummy...I want to now explore the organs that are within a woman's midsection.  We have the small intestine, mesentery, and large intestine - all of which are a part of our enteric nervous system. Some people  have more intestines than others - did you know that? Furthermore, women's tummies contain the entire reproductive system, including our uterus and ovaries, which form the womb of life.  A man doesn't have this in his midsection. It seems silly to say that, but it needs saying - especially since women's bellies are often the source of such criticism. Lastly, we have the omentum - which is a fascinating organ that deserves an entire blog post on it's own!  The role that the omentum plays in the overall lymphatic system is fascinating - and it covers the abdominal muscles.

Now I am going to connect the dots. When we are told to make our midsections as small as possible - from more modern shredded abs to corseted images throughout history - we are essentially making the womb of life as small as possible.  When we turn to the side in front of the bedroom mirror, we want to see ourselves as thin as possible - why do we wish to disappear? When we are raped, the violent thrust into our very core reminds us that the womb of life is vulnerable to even the most horrific intrusions, and we begin to feel that we - our vaginas, our reproductive systems, our pussies, our womb, and ultimately the tummy that contains ALL OF IT - are some how wrong, shameful, or in need of taming or restriction.  We exert control. We bring chaos. We do anything we can to avoid LOVING what is there. The entire time we do so, we are denying ourselves.

What would it look like to live in harmony with our bellies?  They come in all shapes and sizes. A full belly is no better or worse than a thin belly.  A belly with more intestines might appear a little larger than a belly with less intestines. A pregnant belly definitely looks different than a belly that has never birthed a baby.  A belly that has welcomed new life into the world may show signs of the skin stretching, whereas others will not. Is there any wrong way to have a belly? I wonder what it would look like if we simply awakened to the miracle that is contained within our tummies and chose to LOVE all that is there with radical acceptance and full embodiment.

This is my own personal struggle. And so, I begin the journey of loving my belly. Will you join me?

Thoughts on Bellies

When you search "Lady Gaga Superbowl Pot Belly" you get this image along with a discussion of the "pooch" that she was showing.  This is worthy of exploration because it exemplifies the cultural sickness of what we expect of women.  In fact, it is so significant that I am going to dedicate a series to my thoughts on "bellies." 

Let's begin with a brief acknowledgement that Lady Gaga has survived Bulimia.  I have buried two friends from eating disorders, one of which was only 18 when she died in her sleep from Bulimia.  I have also suffered from an eating disorder. They are deadly. She has recovered. But the shaming that she endured over this image is enough to make me furious - it exemplifies what is wrong about our culture.

Onto the actual anatomy of a woman. The layer of tissue that they are calling a "pot belly" is actually healthy for a woman to have. Perhaps not everyone knows this? I certainly didn't know that when i first saw Janet Jackson with her shredded abs in the 90's.

In order to menstruate, women need to have a certain level of body fat. This means that unless she has been surgically modified in specific areas, her body will contain a smooth layer that will inhibit the appearance of "shredded abs." It is healthy to maintain a level of body fat above 18%. I got down to 14% body fat to get my shredded abs in my 20s. I didn't menstruate for 12 years. That's a problem. And that's also an eating disorder. The body pays for it later.

We have a cultural sickness where we expect women to look like men (ripped stomachs). But we are NOT men. To achieve these ideals, women must either undergo surgery OR reduce bodyfat to the point that menstruation stops. And THEN, we are expected to keep it that way. And THEN, we are expected to get this ideal back after we have our babies.

This is the cultural sickness. Female bodies are made as the very crucible of life. I am choosing to say NO to anything that requires disembodiment.
Being human means having a body. I will no longer deny this body that God gave me. I choose embodiment.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Awakening requires no permission.

This is for all of the lovelies in my life...this is for my daughter who was told that "Girls can't change the world" by a boy at school...this is for every woman who feels the need to play small so that others don't think she's getting "too big for her britches"...for every woman who's been called "pushy" for stepping into uncharted waters...for those of us who know the suffering of being brutalized emotionally, sexually, physically and spiritually simply because we have a vagina and that is perceived as WEAK.

Awakening requires no permission.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Looking back 6 Years ago Today.....

Incarnation is fragile. That was impossible for others to communicate to me when I was younger. But then my life changed.

I remember exactly when it happened - Some would say it was the head injury. Some would say it was the divorce. But no, it began with a heartfelt intention in the form of a prayer.....

It was exactly 6 years ago on Superbowl Weekend and I was at the Prestigious Home Care 100. I had just finished facilitating the NAHC Strategic Planning Retreat. I stood on that stage and had a moment where I felt like I had finally made it. I was finally sitting at the "big boy table."

The Home Care 100 was at the Ritz Carlton at Laguna Beach. The who's who was gathered all in one place. I was dressed for success. I had to be - it was a part of my brand. Stilettos and structured dresses met with perfect make up and flat-ironed hair. I was so proud of myself for being there and all that I had accomplished as a business strategist (my CEO life was very fulfilling), yet I was deeply aware of the sadness that had infiltrated my life.

It is a terrible feeling to have the sense that you MUST achieve unprecedented success in order to simply stay alive. My marriage had been struggling ever since my father in law passed. Our finances were in terrible shape in the wake of shuttering my ex-husband's commercial real estate brokerage the year before. Paying off the losses of his business meant that my income stream had to be HUGE just to barely make it every month. And I was a mom to a new baby girl.

While I mingled in the bar (attempting to look bulletproof in my steel grey dress), I crumbled when one of my colleagues asked me if I was pregnant. I was in recovery from an eating disorder. She didn't know. In fact, she asked because I was no longer the emaciated version of myself that had shown up at the NAHC Annual Meeting 6 months earlier. Instead, I was finally eating again (after having my gall bladder removed) and I my body showed new curves that weren't there before. She said I was glowing. I couldn't hear the compliment through my horror at the idea that someone thought I looked pregnant.

People say the darndest things. But here's the truth - there is no way of knowing the struggles faced by others. My colleagues had no idea what my life was like at the time. Heck, I didn't even want to face what my life was like, because that would have meant incomprehensible change.

Deep down, though, I yearned for the path that God wanted for me. I knew that I cared far too much about what other people thought of me, and it was keeping me locked in a constant pattern of self harm. I knew that I wanted a different life - one that was finally in harmony with God's will. And so I placed my feet in the warm sand and said, "God, I want a simpler and more abundant life."

Everything changed from that day forward. Within 6 weeks I was bed bound with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that ended my career. Within 6 months I discovered that I was an acquired savant artist with an insatiable curiosity for theology. Within a year I was on my way toward divorce. Now it's been six years and I live on a beautiful farm with my daughter, goats, horse, cats,'s the life of my dreams.

As I look back, I wouldn't change a thing. Yes, I walk a difficult road, but It's the path of descent that prunes that which we no longer need and helps us to move toward the path that God has set before us. This letting go is often confused with suffering. But make no mistake - even in the midst of my latest health challenge, I am NOT suffering. The only time I have ever felt as if I was truly suffering was exactly 6 years ago, when I was reaching out to God in the face of an unbalanced life, terrified of what other people thought of me, fearful of losing everything that I had built, and asking that He hear my prayer.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Final Discussion: Soren Kierkegaard and the Fractal Pattern of Descent

Original Research Paper By Heather Thompson
Blue Phoenix Art, MDIV Student at Seattle University
Copywrite 2017

How does one begin to express the complex fractal pattern of descent embedded throughout Kierkegaard’s writings? How does a person walk alongside others in slowly unveiling the paradox of invitation and offense with the same multi-dimensionality as Kierkegaard? It is my belief that color and creative language acts as a powerful vehicle to accomplish this challenging task. Stepping into the unknown of a blank canvas and allowing my subconscious to communicate directly to the viewer through complex images, the pattern of emergence in the present moment becomes evident. Furthermore, with the willingness to destroy a painting in the forward motion of artistic expression, the path of descent is symbolically represented. Finally, all of this artistic expression occurs in the context of feminine Mystery, which is beyond gender and humanity into the realm of darkness and the unknown. This section focuses on the path of descent through the lens of Theopoetics, including discussion of the fractal pattern, the value of language beyond words, and the irony of “the poet.”

The Fractal Pattern of Descent

The fractal pattern of descent can be observed throughout Kierkegaard’s theology. It goes by many names - the inverse, the invitation/halt, the offense, the absurd, and more. Ultimately, he is describing a repeating pattern – a fractal – that is the pattern of the inviter/prototype/Jesus Christ.

“…and in order to believe in him we have to begin with the abasement.”[1] – Soren Kierkegaard

“Thus, his life was a retrogression instead of a progression, the opposite of what the human mentality naturally thinks and desires.”[2]-Soren Kierkegaard

“He does not say that God is greater than the most loving human being but that he is greater than the heart that condemns itself. In this way, God and the human being thus resemble each other only inversely. Not by steps of direct resemblance – great, greater, greatest – do you arrive at the possibility of comparison; it is only possible inversely.”[3] – Soren Kierkegaard

“So then the Way has now become something else, not the one in the New Testament: in abasement, hated, abandoned, persecuted, and cursed to suffer in this world – No, the Way is: admired, applauded, honored and knighted to make a brilliant career! And just as the Way has become something else, indeed, the opposite, so also the interpretation of Scripture.”[4] – Soren Kierkegaard

A fractal is a never-ending pattern that is infinitely complex.[5] Fractals can occur in mathematics, but they can also be observed throughout the entirety of Creation. Although Kierkegaard did not speak of fractals, he spoke at length about repetition. Perhaps most poignantly, he stated: “The main point is that everything takes place at the right time. Everything has its time in youth, and what has had its time then has it again later in life.”[6] Thus, from the seasons of human life to the cycles of the natural world, we are a universe steeped in repetition.

Even when the moment seems to diverge entirely from the expected and into the absurd, this remains a repetition because the very lack of consistency is being repeated. Through the lens of Kierkegaard, life is unpredictable – thereby making it essentially predictable. As an example, he stated: “The only repetition was the impossibility of a repetition.”[7] He goes on to say, “…for I had discovered that there simply is no repetition and had verified it by having it repeated in every possible way.”[8] Finally, he discussed the uncertainty that exists within the context of this moment by moment repetition, on the one hand referring to it as the “fullness of time,”[9] and on the other hand observing that any moment could bring a collapse of everything meaningful in a person’s life.[10] These statements reflect Kierkegaard’s willingness to experience the paradox of the present moment (immanence), while stepping back to observe repetitive patterns (transcendence).

As I stated in the introduction, it is my belief that the fractal path of descent is a feminine journey. To cultivate this point further, I need to incorporate the concept of Yin as described in Chinese Medicine and the Tao (an essential lens that I incorporate into my Christian perspective).

The feminine path is Yin – it is the walk into darkness where ego is challenged and true self emerges. At the intersection of Yin and Yang lies the element of water – it is fluid, fear-generating, and the path to opening one’s awareness of God’s call. It is only through this path of Yin that one can authentically reach Yang – the masculine path that produces visible action. Absent Yin, the rising of Yang cannot be considered authentic. (Note the similarity to the authentic path described by Kierkegaard.) At the intersection of Yang and Yin lies the element of Fire – it burns with both joy and destruction as the cycle moves back into Yin. Although Kierkegaard didn’t speak specifically of Yin and Yang, feminine and masculine, he described an authentic path that begins with the abasement in an inverted journey where one must go down to go up. The similarities to Yin and Yang are noticeable and applicable in the context of understanding my argument that the downward path is distinctly feminine.

Furthermore, Kierkegaard spoke of Mystery as the unknown depths. He was mindful of the greatness of the unsayable that we call “God,” and the formlessness that accompanies awareness of the abyss:

“Spiritual existence, especially the religious, is not easy; the believer continually lies out on the deep, has 70,000 fathoms of water beneath him. However long he lies out there, this still does not mean that he will gradually end up lying and relaxing onshore. He can become more calm, more experienced, find a confidence that loves jest and a cheerful temperament--but until the very last he lies out on 70,000 fathoms of water.”

While I don’t believe that Kierkegaard intentionally incorporated the feminine abyss into the above quote, I feel compelled to draw attention to his innate awareness of it through the lens of water, instability, darkness – all elements of Yin – which lie at the core of Kierkegaard’s inverted path.

From the birth of stars to the birth of human beings – Kierkegaard seemed to embrace the suffering that accompanies emergence. This is the path of descent. Although it is evident throughout his writings, it is perhaps most apparent in the actual life of Jesus Christ as the prototype. According to Kierkegaard:

“Christ came to the world with the purpose of saving the world, also with the purpose – this in turn is implicit in his first purpose – of being the prototype, leaving footprints for the person who wanted to join him, who then might become an imitator, this indeed corresponds to ‘footprints.’ That is why he let himself be born into lowliness and thereupon lived poor, abandoned, despised, abased – yes, no human being has lived so abased as he. By comparing the conditions of his life with Christ’s, even the otherwise lowliest person would have to come to the conclusion that his own life, humanly speaking, is far preferable in comparison with the conditions of Christ’s life.”[11]

But why? Why did Christ – the Inviter – necessarily live a life of suffering and abasement? This is where Kierkegaard distinguishes between the imitator and the admirer:

“See, that is why Christ was born and lived in abasement. Not one, unconditionally not one person contemporary with him, lived so abased; no human being has ever lived so abased. It was, therefore, unconditionally impossible for anyone to sneak away from the prototype with excuse and evasion on the basis that the prototype, after all, possessed earthly and worldly advantages that he did not have. In that sense, to admire Christ is the untrue invention of a later age, aided by ‘loftiness.’ Understood in that way, there was unconditionally nothing to admire, unless one wanted to admire poverty, misery, contempt, etc. He was not even exempted from the worst – being pitied, a pitiable object of sympathy. No, there was truly not the least thing to admire.”[12]

Thus, admiration was not only a fallacy – as there is nothing to admire except suffering – but it leaves room for detachment in Kierkegaard’s view, where the admirer does not need to strive to be what he admires.[13] It is the imitator that strives to walk in the way of Jesus. This path must begin anew with each generation, yet another fractal. As stated by Kierkegaard, “Christ freely willed to be the lowly one, and although his purpose was to save mankind, yet he also wanted to express what the truth would have to suffer and what the truth must suffer in every generation.”[14] It is a fractal awareness that embraces the painful journey required by each generation from birth unto death, an awareness that often leaves people in a place of no words.

A Divergent Path Beyond Words - Theopoetics

“Thinking about Abraham is another matter, however; then I am shattered. I am constantly aware of the prodigious paradox that is the content of Abraham’s life, I am constantly repelled, and, despite all its passion, my thought cannot penetrate it, cannot get ahead by a hairsbreadth. I stretch every muscle to get a perspective, and at the very same instant I become paralyzed.”[15]

Kierkegaard invites his readers into the paradox of Mystery and the fractal path of descent when he discusses the story of Abraham - a story in which a father suffers with the awareness that he has been asked to kill his own son. He invites his audience to consider the tortuous moments leading up to the events on Mt. Moriah. With each step – over the course of three days – the reader is asked to consider the feelings associated with such a walk into the unknown. It is a story of absolute faith in the face of Mystery that exceeds the human capacity for comprehension; it is a story that places Kierkegaard himself in a place of no words.[16] Thus, the experience of a lack of words can occur at both ends of the spectrum, where one is speechless in the midst of suffering and one can be speechless in the face of the greatness that is the unsayable Mystery of God.

Kierkegaard argues that the walk into suffering is to be embraced, even as it results in abandonment by others and even if it occurs at the hands of the people. He says, “What is decisive in Christian suffering is the voluntariness and the possibility of offense for the one who suffers.”[17] Kierkegaard then goes on to say, “What Christianity wants is: imitation. What the human being does not want is to suffer, least of all the kind of suffering that is authentically Christian, to suffer at the hands of the people. So he discards the imitation and thereby suffering, the distinctly Christian suffering.”[18] Suffering – especially this kind of voluntary suffering– is therefore countercultural.

Whether it be physical pain, disability, sickness, economic struggle, persecution, or any other form of human suffering, suffering pushes people to the margins especially when there is a speechlessness that comes with the struggle. Lacking the ability to express themselves in socially appropriate language and living into the mess of the path of descent, those that are suffering are often at a loss for words. It is in this light that Theopoetics – art, poetry, music, color, intuition, and contemplation – provides a valuable method of theological discourse and expression, especially on the fractal path of descent. It is a method that honors the simultaneous nature of both immanence and transcendence. As stated by Kate Common, Editor of Theopoetics Journal: “Theopoetics illuminates the inherent blind spots of rational-only discourse....It is not enough for me to say that women and other marginalized voices have been silenced...I must also insist that poetic practices and ways of KNOWING have also been silenced.”[19] This is where the paradoxes of suffering and Mystery, descent and resurrection, immanence and transcendence can be communicated within the complex creativity of the divinely inspired human mind.

Although Kierkegaard spent thousands of pages attempting to use words to describe that which is inherently unknowable, he was clearly in touch with the line between language and the frontier of Mystery. The quote at the beginning of this section illustrates his own comprehension of paralysis. Furthermore, he went so far as to suggest silence as preferable to sermons, as evidenced in the following quote: 

“Take certain passages from the New Testament and require the pastors to read them aloud before the congregation. Naturally I would have to make one reservation, that after having read such a passage from the New Testament the pastor does not, as is customary, lay aside the New Testament to “interpret” what was read. No thanks! No, what I could be tempted to propose is the following divine worship service: the congregation is assembled, a prayer is prayed at the church door, a hymn is sung, then the pastor ascends the pulpit, picks up the New Testament, pronounces God’s name, and then reads before the congregation the specified passage loudly and clearly – after that he must be silent and remain standing silent in the pulpit for five minutes, and then he may go. This I would regard as extremely beneficial.”[20]

While it would be a leap to suggest that Kierkegaard would embrace Theopoetics, I believe he is mindful of the limits of human language in the Christian journey.

The Irony of the Poet

Any discussion of Theopoetics in relationship to Kierkegaard must incorporate the irony of “the poet” as a theme throughout his writings. Specifically, Kierkegaard regarded “the poet” as a person primarily concerned with the aesthetic. This understanding was largely contextual, based upon the romanticism of his day. Thus, like a contemporary film-maker, Kierkegaard’s “poet” could toss out fantastical ideas without being held to the existential standard of living into the truth of the poetry. In this way, poetry became palatable and pleasing, thereby lacking the offense that is so critical to an authentic reading of the New Testament.

It is ironic, therefore, that I am using art, creativity and poetry to interpret Kierkegaard’s writings in direct contradiction of his notion of “the poet.” Perhaps he would find this offensive, or perhaps he would find it appropriate, or perhaps he would feel both simultaneously, which would be very appropriate for Kierkegaard’s feeling of the invitation and the offense. This is especially true given the fact that Kierkegaard utilized language and methods that feel very poetic throughout his writings in the way he approaches the unsayable, his use of metaphor, exploration of paradoxes. He even goes so far as to call himself a poet, even as he speaks against it. “We are, as it is called, a Christian nation – but in such a way that not a single one of us is in the character of the Christianity of the New Testament, no more than I am; I have repeated again and again and repeat once again: I am only a poet.”[21]

While it is natural to be confused by these seemingly contradictory messages regarding “the poet,” it is appropriate for there to be no easy answer. In my reading of Kierkegaard, only one thing is certain – that walking in the midst of disorienting questions is the path of faith. His use of paradoxes, irony and metaphors can be observed by his simultaneous criticism and embrace of “the poet.” In fact, he discusses the fact that he used poetry as a disguise during his writings when he stated, “In the name of being a poet, I advanced some ideal…but these good men did not suspect at all that something was hiding behind this poet – that the method was that of a detective in order to make those in question feel safe – a method police use precisely in order to gain an opportunity to look more deeply into the case.”[22] Ironically, my own theopoetical journey into the writings of Kierkegaard is somewhat similar to this poet in disguise. With an orientation toward the depths of the abyss, creative use of art and poetry affords the opportunity to explore complex, paradoxical and even offensive ideas while remaining aesthetically interesting.


Having articulated the inherent value of communication beyond words, the path of descent and the irony of “the poet,” it is appropriate to now – finally – put the linkage between the art and theology into words. Note that there were so many layers, meanings and interpretations that could have arisen out of the paint, poetry and video offered. I chose, however, to focus on two primary elements: The Feminine Darkness and the Metaphor of Trees.

Darkness as Feminine

The painting process is an experiential walk into the feminine Yin; an empowered choice to step into the depths of the unknown in order to allow the art to emerge from my fingers without any conscious intentionality. In doing so, I am uninhibited with one step into the great abyss of Mystery. This is the darkness, the feminine, the unknown. It is the unseen container – womb - in which the seen can flourish. While it would be easy to focus only on the observable product of the artistic journey, it is essential to begin with an acknowledgement of the unseen crucible in which art (as in life) emerges. In this manner, the method by which my paintings came into being becomes just as important as the paintings themselves.

The accompanying poetry references Mystery in feminine language, much as Kierkegaard used notions of “laboring” and “weaning” to reference the path of descent. The poem deliberately incorporates words in direct reference to the feminine experience: immanence, contraction, darkness, Mystery. Furthermore, the poem describes a crucible/womb that is simultaneously both dark and burning beyond comprehension in the following section:

The vision of the Creator


Within the bounds of a vast womb,

Beyond which lies the dark crucible

Burning beyond comprehension.

Lastly, the song choice for the video – Dance in the Dark – provides an essential context. I could have chosen many songs, including “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog and “Show Me What I am Looking For” by Carolina Liar, but it was this song that resonated most with the artistic project. A contemporary female artist recognizing the suffering path while celebrating/dancing within the feminine darkness, and a woman “poet” living into the opposition of the aesthetic my making her life into performance art. It is through this multi-dimensionality that I hoped to provide a flicker of insight into the darkness of the feminine experience.

The Metaphor of Trees

During the process of creating the paintings, it became clear to me that my hands were creating trees. I found myself pondering the metaphor as I silently morphed one layer into another, then used the remnants of the first painting to create a second. Perhaps best reflected in the changing of the seasons, deciduous trees offer a beautiful example of the path of descent. Some suggest that the natural world is simply another form of scripture, offering insight into the fractal patterns of all of Creation and therefore a brief glimpse into Creator. Others suggest that the natural world is all a part of the eternal Christ/Word of God. I similarly found myself diving into this metaphorical journey in the language of abstract color and poetry.

Paint exploded onto the canvas just as seeds come unraveled under fertile soil. With thoughts of Hildegard of Bingham, green paint became the foundation upon which the tree eventually emerged. Aware of the letting go process associated with the transition of Fall into Winter, I bravely covered a painting in bronze and black – the entire time I was terrified that I was destroying something beautiful, and yet I persisted, only to have the beautiful red burst forth again in colorful glory. Although not a metaphor used by Kierkegaard, the tree metaphor offered an accessible way of interpreting the fractal path of descent in an aesthetically pleasing and comprehensible way. Once again, I will note the irony of this statement given the earlier discussion on “the poet.”


It seems appropriate to end with a question, just as Kierkegaard does not give his audience easy answers. With that in mind…

I wonder what Kierkegaard would have thought of a contemporary woman writing an interpretation of his theological perspective using the aesthetics of art and poetry? Would he have been offended? Would he have noticed that I too was a poet in disguise?

While I will not attempt to answer these questions for Kierkegaard, I will say this – to understand Kierkegaard (if that is even possible) is to grasp that life is to be lived between each person and the Inviter. If my method offends him, perhaps that would be acceptable as his own “halt” on the path of descent…or perhaps not.

Ultimately, his life – and his insistence on communion by a lay person on his deathbed – demonstrates an appreciation for the inverse with the final recognition that we are all alone, individuals, unable to satiate each other (even as we seek their approval), attempting to follow the prototype (yet failing), invited by the Inviter (yet horrified by the reality of Christian life), and standing atop Mystery itself.

And so I shall end with my favorite quote by Soren Kierkegaard…

“And I shall remind myself that every human being is alone. Alone in the infinite world. Yes, in good days, during calm weather when fortune smiles, it does indeed seem as if we live in association with one another. But I shall remind myself that no one can know when news might come to me, news of misfortune, misery, horror, which along with the frightfulness of it would also me make alone or make it evident how alone I am, like every human being, make me alone, deserted by those nearest and dearest to me, misunderstood by my best friend, an object of anxiety that everyone avoids. I shall remind myself of the horrors which indeed no cry of alarm, no tears, no appeals averted, the horrors that have separated a lover from the beloved, a friend from friend, parents from children; and I shall remind myself of how a little misunderstanding, if it then went fatally wrong, sometimes was enough to separate them horridly….”[23]

Works Cited

Darold Treffert, M. (2010). Island of Genius. Philidelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Fractal Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Kierkegaard, S. (1983). Fear and Trembling/Repetition (Vol. VI). (H. a. Hong, Trans.) Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Kierkegaard, S. (1985). Philisophical Fragments (Vol. VII). (H. a. Hong, Trans.) Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Kierkegaard, S. (1991). Practice in Christianity (Vol. XX). (H. a. Hong, Trans.) Princeton , New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Kierkegaard, S. (1998). The Moment and Late Writings (Vol. XXIII). (H. a. Hong, Ed., & H. a. Hong, Trans.) Woodstock, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom: Princeton University Press.

Kierkegaard, S. (2011). Discourses at the Communion on Fridays. (S. Walsh, Trans.) Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

[1] (Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1991, p. 36)

[2] (Kierkegaard, Discourses at the Communion on Fridays, 2011, p. 64)

[3] (Kierkegaard, Discourses at the Communion on Fridays, 2011, p. 79)

[4] (Kierkegaard, The Moment and Late Writings, 1998, p. 22)

[5] (Fractal Foundation, n.d.)

[6] (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling/Repetition, 1983, p. 155)

[7] (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling/Repetition, 1983, p. 170)

[8] (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling/Repetition, 1983, p. 171)

[9] “And now, the moment. A moment such as this is unique. To be sure, it is short and temporal, as them moment is; it is passing, as the moment is, past, as the moment is in the next moment, and yet it is decisive, and yet it is filled with the eternal. A moment such as this must have a special name. Let us call it: the fullness of time.” (Kierkegaard, Philisophical Fragments, 1985, p. 18)

[10] “That even if I were to succeed in having all my wishes fulfilled, in having them brought up into one building-that still no one, no one would be able to guarantee me that just at the same time the whole building would not collapse upon me.” (Kierkegaard, Discourses at the Communion on Fridays, 2011, p. 42)

[11] (Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1991, p. 238)

[12] (Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1991, pp. 240-241)

[13] (Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1991, p. 241)

[14] (Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1991, p. 35)

[15] (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling/Repetition, 1983, p. 33)

[16] (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling/Repetition, 1983)

[17] (Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, 1991, p. 109)

[18] (Kierkegaard, The Moment and Late Writings, 1998, p. 136)

[19] (Common)

[20] (Kierkegaard, The Moment and Late Writings, 1998, p. 132)

[21] (Kierkegaard, The Moment and Late Writings, 1998, p. 36)

[22] (Kierkegaard, The Moment and Late Writings, 1998, pp. 129-130)

[23] (Kierkegaard, Discourses at the Communion on Fridays, 2011, pp. 43-44)

Getting REAL

I am sharing this on my blog because we need more strong voices committed to radical self LOVE. A friend of mine recently passed away of Cancer. His facebook page was REAL and his insights included both the challenges of living with a terminal illness while discussing the perspective one learns from walking such a hard road.

Therefore, I am going to dare to be even MORE REAL on this page and share my journey that includes Dysautonomia, TBI and other health issues....because we are all meant to live as fully integrated human beings.

So here goes - I'm going to be on steroids for a bit. Low dose. Hydrocortisone. I was on steriods last summer for sudden hearing loss, and it was terrible. Now, I've got temporary adrenal insufficiency exacerbated by Dysautonomia and it needs to be treated. This has caused me to be very sick for about 3 months now. I've tried to tough it out but at some point the body NEEDS support. On hydrocortisone, I can finally eat again. I don't need iv fluids every 2 days either.

But it's important that i say something right out of the gates this time....I might swell a little from the steroid (or NOT). No matter what my body looks like (too big or too little or perfect or just right or scary skinny.....I've heard it all)....comments about my body are simply not welcome. I've decided to be grateful for my body. I just lost a dear friend to cancer-I don't have cancer. I'm not dying. That's perspective.

So today, i'm choosing radical love-which means finally loving the body that my soul inhabits.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson