After a spring semester-long sabbatical this year, I am back to campus and to teaching. I was effectively off from January to August and the timing could not have been better. After my dad’s death last July (2021), my world was turned upside down. One of the things that happened with his death was a deep realization that he had a lot to do with my sense of grounding. I wrote about this in a previous post, but I hadn’t quite realized how much he was a source of affirmation and grounding for me, an external one—his death was a catalyst for me to learn how to access that grounding more fully for myself, from within.
Having been on sabbatical, then, was helpful in terms of regaining my brain for research and writing, which was its objective, but also for giving me the time and mental space to work on the grounding aspect of my internal life. A few things came together for me during this time. Leading up to the sabbatical and overlapping with it, I got to participate in the Latinas in Leadership (LIL) program with the Hispanic Theological Initiative – a program designed to strengthen the professional development of the Latina women participants.
In the first in-person gathering of the LIL program, we had a session during which we reflected using the prompt, “Where am I right now?” and were to also create a corresponding drawing. We were told to start the drawing with a basic shape; my drawing started with a triangle that eventually developed into a diamond shape, as if reaching down to root. It reflected well where I felt myself to be, in need of re-rooting, but also in hope of new life. As I kept drawing, “life” began to develop around the shape – leaves and buds and lots of green.
I am a grieving person – in the midst of healing,9/18/21
and developing new practices – feeling precarious,
afraid to lose my grip.
Banking on slow and steady
Banking on slow and steady turned out to be spot on. The slow and steady was about the development of new habits, integrating new practices into my life.
During that same gathering, one of the “sages” of the program presented “MEDS”—the foundation upon which one can then build the rest of the “house”—the house being one’s values, habits and goals. MEDS is an acronym for: Mindfulness, Exercise, Diet, and Sleep. Another way of saying this is to say that foundational to our overall well-being is the need to attend to our mind, our body, our nutrition, and, yes, our sleep – the necessary rest our body nightly needs to function well.
This image of the house and its need for a strong foundation in order to be able to build upon it, really resonated with me because I was feeling so disoriented and ungrounded after my papa died—and I went all in. I have been able to integrate some good basic MEDS to my daily rhythm and it has made all the difference. I start my mornings with a green smoothie that I make myself; I meditate daily; I also have my FAR ritual of sharing the day’s post on Facebook and Twitter; and I started hiking, walking, and taking karate classes (Tang Soo Do). I also took a three-month period of total abstention from drinking alcohol and now only drink very occasionally – maybe two drinks in a month for special occasions – otherwise it’s non-alcoholic beer for me; they are pretty good actually!
From here, the difference I’ve noticed in myself is my increased focus and commitment to work on what is next for me to build, which is my research and writing. When entering the LIL program, one of the things I knew I was not doing well but was something I loved and wished I could be more disciplined about was my research and writing. I love teaching and have definitely developed my pedagogy over these first seven years of full-time teaching. In part because it is easier to attend to my teaching due to the built-in accountability—you see and face your students week to week. Research and writing don’t have the same kind of built-in external motivator. And for me, there it is again, my external vs. my internal grounding.
That is what my MEDS have helped me start to develop, the grounding out of which I am starting to be more self-directed. This past year has really been a season of laying down new roots. Being in the LIL program at the same time as being on sabbatical, especially after my dad’s death, was so helpful as I struggled to regain my footing – a footing that started with MEDS. They are increasingly allowing me to build on my values and keep me moving toward my goals. I’ll share more about my research goals and the writing I am currently doing in a future post, but for now, I am grateful for where I am, for the time and space I had to get here, and the community that has supported me.
When I reflected more recently on “where am I now?” – I wrote:
I am a grieving person – in the midst of healing,8/5/22
integrating new practices – feeling stronger,
coming to trust my grip.
I am supported, loved, and increasingly grounded.
Banking on slow and steady,
I’ll strengthen my voice and my scholarship,
and get to share.
I’m still on the journey, and growth is hard, but I am so grateful.
Xochitl Alvizo, loves all things feminist, womanist, and decolonial. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill. She teaches in the area of Women and Religion, and the Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, at California State University, Northridge. Along with Gina Messina, she is co-editor of the volume Women Religion Revolution (FSR Books, 2017). She most recently co-edited The Emerging Church, Millennials, and Religion: Volume 2 (Cascade Books, 2022) with Terry Shoemaker and Rachel C. Schneider. She lives in Los Angeles, CA where she was also born and raised.
6 thoughts on “My Daily MEDS by Xochitl Alvizo”
According to Angeles Arrien’s book Signs of Life, the triangle represents goals and sacred mountains. The attached reversed triangle could possibly represent the yoni symbol (although a slit was not placed to make it so) that celebrates the creative power of women. I see you reaching for a goal and using your creativity to do so.
I love this HER Story of your recovery…. you nail every issue that is important for optimal physical and spiritual health. I learned these lessons over my life time… and now at almost 77 I find that if even one aspect is missing I am out of sorts. In the summer it is sleep that is the problem – too much noise. I go off into the forest to off set lack of sleep – often becoming sleepy under masses of trees! Gosh balance is hard to achieve! But you are surely on the right track – attention to mind body nutrition and sleep could help solve the world’s problems as well as our own! Thanks for this CLEAR outlining of what anyone can do to live sanely and healthily. Bless you dear Oxchitl… gosh it’s good to have you back.
Wow wow wow. I’m glad you’re “in the midst of healing.” And “feeling stronger” because you’re integrating lots of new practices in your life. You’ve done a lot for yourself. Good for you! This is a terrific and honest story. I can hear everybody cheering for you. Hooray hooray hooray. Bright blessings to you and your new life and all those amazing things you’ve done and are still doing.
Thank you for this honest and inspiring essay! I’m so glad you’ve been able to incorporate all those elements into your life and that they are helping you be stronger and where you need to be, doing what you need to do! I’m really impressed by the video of you splitting the wood, too! Wow! Coming to trust yourself and being grateful for the support you have is so essential and so hard for so many people. I have learned a lot from you over the years, and that continues with this journey you are on! I can’t wait to find out more about your scholarship.
Hi Xochitl —
I’m glad to hear from you again. I agree with the other crones (above) that balance is a difficult thing to find in these United States in 2022. Meditation, exercise, diet, and sleep are foundational. (Unfortunately for this crone, good sleep seems to be elusive, and that really keeps everything else from balance). But if you don’t take care of your body (which all of the MEDS are focussed on), then you don’t have any energy, etc. to work with. I was glad to see values as well as goals (and habits) in your “house.” It wouldn’t be in many people’s. But for all of us here on FAR, I think our values come first and out of them grow our goals. I can’t wait to hear more about your writing goals when you have the time.
Thank you for this, Xochitl.