Dec 15, 2020
And so I. I felt like when people were able to say to me, you're not just like something to be fixed, but we can actually learn from what you're going through and what you have to offer as someone who is suffering is valuable and actually may be central to our human experience, is not marginal in something that we just put on the aisles.
My guest today is Liuan Huska. Liuan is the speaker and the author of a tremendous book, just released this month by IVP Press called Hurting Yet Whole, Reconciling Body and Spirit in Chronic Pain and Illness. Today, she is going to talk with us about living with chronic illness and the turn that life took for her in her early twenties, upending what she thought about the world and faith and the body. Our conversation is far reaching, Liuan is Chinese American, we dive into intersectionality, the dark side of capitalism, and why weakness invites us deeper into our shared humanity.
But first, a little bit more about Liuan. Liuan lives in West Chicago with her family.
Is my husband and our three kids, and we just adopted a couple of feral cats who live outside to get rid of our mouse problem.
How has that gone as you hoped it would go?
So far we've only had like one or two mice since they've been outside catching mice for us. So I think it's going in a good direction.
Liuan’s children are 1, almost 4, and almost 7. During COVID, finding outlets for fun has been complicated, so Liuan and her brood have started to forage.
So we started going I made a point to try to go to least one new forest preserve every couple of weeks. And we picked up what we downloaded an app for plant identification. I also picked up a book from the library about foraging, and that became just this lovely adventure that we had over the summer of identifying all these new things out in the woods and some of them even edible. So we really enjoyed that.
Yeah. It's just a great way to pay attention. Right. Like we're so caught up in the the macro level of what's going on in our world and it can feel really disorienting.
But I read an article about how like naming and paying attention to what it's like their local flora and fauna is a way of loving, like what's right in front of you. So the foraging was like my way of doing that was saying I'm here and yes, I'm present to this world right here, right now. I can love this place in a really attuned way.
So one of my the books I read most recently, one of my favorites was called An Elegant Defense, and it's a New York Times science writer who basically looks at the immune system and all the new developments around the research of how the immune system works.
But he tries it in four different people, stories who have autoimmune disorders or have different experiences related to like cancer or things like that. So that was just really fascinating to me. And it's something I try to do in my book as well.
Mm hmm. Well, and I hear in that. Connections to your own story and your journey with pain and the embodied experience,
would you set up for me what your life felt like in in college, in your early 20s and then.
Then the moment when things started to change and you had the first like a, you know, flickering of what would become a much larger part of your story.
Yeah, well, I come from a Chinese immigrant family, and my family has always been kind of like we get things done. I think of that Hamilton quote, like immigrants, they get they get the job done. That's totally my family. So my parents owned a Chinese restaurant when I was growing up. And I, I also had two younger siblings that I took care of a lot while, you know, doing school and extracurriculars and working at the restaurant.
So a lot of my growing up years was just kind of plowing through everything that needed to get done and felt like was my responsibility. And I felt pretty good about that. Like I felt like I was a very capable and responsible and competent person and I'm going to be in college. I definitely carried that, um, that sense of self with me.
Liuan moved across the country to attend Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school in the suburbs of Chicago. I am also a Wheaton grad, and we overlapped by a few years, sharing space on the leafy campus. As an aggregate, our college was a driven bunch of young adults.
You know, Wheaton is a pretty type A community. I think I've I've heard someone say that.
He's like a psychologist who had been with Wheaton students say that these are like Wheaton students are some of the most like angsty students I've ever met under the surface. And I think I probably I'm lucky because I resonate as a graduate as much as we could try to relax. We're still trying.
Yes, exactly right. It's always pushing, pushing, whatever it is.
It's funny because somebody just told me I posted a question on Facebook about what are the what are the most unhelpful things that people have told you when it comes to responding to pain or illness. And somebody said. You don't try it, you're try it, you're not trying or you're trying too hard, you just need to relax and then God will, like, go in there and take care of it for you.
It was the same idea, right, that if you're not going to try hard, you're going to. Try to not try hard the same thing, apply your world to relaxing.
Yes, yes, I know that is true about our shared learning community.
Mm hmm. I mean, there were some I did experience and in my first year at Wheaton I was a transplant to the evangelical community and I experienced a lot of culture shock and had a hard time making friends to begin with.
But I was eventually able to get plugged into this group of people that I really felt like I could be vulnerable with. And so there was it was it all just pushing, pushing for sure, but that was the overall feel of that community.
And when I graduated from Wheaton, I expected that I would go on to graduate school, I wanted to travel around the world. I wanted to write books. And I just sort of felt invincible like that.
My body was just something I was using to get to my goals, but, um, that I didn't really pay too much attention to as far as like the signals and maybe ways that my body was saying, hey, you should slow down or this isn't feeling good.
And let me dig a little bit deeper what you talk about, "maybe I wasn't paying attention to the signals". As you look back when I fill that in for me a little bit more. What were some of those signals that you would say you were experiencing, OK?
Yeah, well, when I finished we in I started a nonprofit job and it was again, I applied that same just barrel through.
And there's a psychologist, therapist whose book I really enjoyed. Her name is andI Kolber. I don't know if you've heard of her. Her book is called Try Softer, but she uses the phrase white knuckling. And that's what I, I feel like I've done so much in my life. Is white knuckle my way through anything that's hard instead of just like maybe realizing I could take a break instead of, like, pushing through?
So I had I got this really stressful job doing conference planning and it was a Christian organization. And that layer of the Christian mission over my work made it harder because it made me feel like I really couldn't stop. Like I was like maybe letting people down that needed this ministry if I somehow didn't, like, fulfill all of the expectations that our the director was putting on me. So I was just kind of just doing everything and saying, yes, we'll do that.
And I did try with another co-worker to kind of push back, but. You know, I just had I think I was like not as well equipped as I am now with the kind of knowledge and confidence and ability to honor my body that I was then.
So I just kept going and. We did the conference, it was in June, which would have been a year after I graduated from college, and I remember after that conference, my husband met me at the conference location and we took a two week vacation and my my brain was just like in a complete fog.
So that was one of those, like, signals of something's not quite right. Or like I, I pressed the override button too many times on my body, and that was the biggest one.
And also just like really easily triggered emotions and tears, really trivial things or what seemed maybe it was trivial on the surface, but it was just the tip of the iceberg of a lot of the bigger issues that I was wrestling with.
Yeah, and that summer was when I started having some minor pain in my ankle and I didn't think too much of it at first.
It was just. I thought, oh, it's just like some kind of weird sprain and it didn't happen out of any kind of injury, so that was what was sort of strange about it. But I thought, OK, it'll go away in a couple of weeks and I'll just go back to normal, which normal means just, you know, assuming that I could do everything that I put my mind to and I could make my body fit into my agenda.
Mhm. So yeah. Yeah. Just continuing to chug on through.
And boy you gave voice to of the the nonprofit like whether it's Christian or not, trap of the mission driven organizations that can't compensate you on pay but can definitely drive you on a mission to continue to give more is absolutely a real dynamic of anybody who has worked for very long in that world.
So yes. And it's so hard when you're relying on donations. Right. So you think, man, I really have to.
Make these people's money count. So it seems like almost impossible to say I need to use your donations to pay for my health care or take care of myself. That seems like that's not what they were intended for. But that really misses the point of, you know, what what what the mission of being taking care of other people are doing good in the world is that it has to incorporate the people who do it to not just the people who receive it.
Right. And like you said, I mean, asking for any degree of rest or release can be construed as like you are taking resources away from, you know, homeless youth in Chicago or starving, you know, entrepreneurial mothers in Bangladesh. That's horrible of you, which has its own psychological pressure.
So you're feeling you're beginning to feel this pain in your ankle. You are hoping that it can go away so you can get back to performing and executing in a way that feels good. Incongruent to you. What happened?
Yes, so it didn't go away, it just kept spreading, so within a few months, you know, I was limping and I was using crutches or using a walking boot and that just translated everything that was going on my ankle up through the rest of my skeleton so that my knee started hurting and my hip started hurting and my lower back started hurting and my neck started hurting.
So it became like this sort of whole body thing and.
Really, though, the hardest part, I think, for me was I had this expectation that it would go back to normal pretty soon, and when it didn't, I it was just a lot of psychological turmoil because my expectation didn't match up with the reality. So I just wasn't able to accept what was happening.
Tell me a little bit more about the particular messages that are going on in your mind at that time, the things that is you maybe even still presently like what are what are the statements or conclusions that are being offered to you as you're trying to make sense of this? Hmm.
Well, um, within the Christian community, there's I think there might be this assumption. That our bodies, God created our bodies as perfect and then. You know, whatever pain or disease or suffering that we're experiencing is the result of Adam and Eve eating the apple or whatever fruit you think it was and the fall and sin coming into the world.
So there was this narrative going on in my mind that my pain is somehow connected to. Sin and not necessarily my own, although I definitely had question that what did I do to to make this happen?
But it was even just more generally, I think it's it goes beyond just that people that believe that you can claim your your healing and you'll have it. I think there's a really subtle variations of that within a lot of different Christian communities. And and does that feel then like. I I need to work harder to get to the bottom of the medical causes or I need to understand better, is there an element of I need to be trying to do something better to get me healthier?
Yeah, I kind of went on this like a seesaw between. Oh, you just need to trust God and wait, and you're not trusting God enough by seeking out kind of frantically seeking out all these different possible medical treatments.
Liuan saw an orthopedic doctor who told her to take some Tylenol. But the pain was still there. She went in for an MRI,
In my book, I write about how it was like I felt like I was like offering myself up, like, you know, to like a priest, like on a table, you know, as like a sacrifice or something, because it just felt like this. Oh, I'm just waiting for, like.
The oracle to speak and then and then once you know the magical interior images, we are right out like seeing through and like, you know, the power of science. So but then it didn't come back with anything conclusive.
Like I said, there was something about a swollen navicular bone, which I still don't really know what that is. But the prescription was just more Tylenol and more walking. Puzzo I really was hoping that I would be able to get some kind of surgery and that would be it.
But that was not the case.
So I just kept going to different doctors and sometimes I would take breaks because it's just really exhausting to tell your story over and over again. Different medical professionals and nobody's talking to each other like, you know, the osteopathic doctor that just like natural medicine is in talking to, like, the guy that checks your hormone levels and the guy that looks at your bone.
So it's it was really challenging to be like a medical advocate for myself. Yeah.
And having to put together the almost mosaic of different pieces of insight and trying to make sense of it.
Well, and I imagine in the midst of that, I mean, you're just living the dailiness of chronic pain. And I think for for people who haven't gone through that, it can seem kind of amorphous, like, well, it sounds painful, but
could you tell me what what a bad day looks like for you in your journey with chronic pain as you're walking with it?
So I should say this is part of my journey. Is that because you say what a bad day looks like?
I, I have way less pain than I used to. And we can talk we can get into like what happened like several years down the road when I got pregnant with my first child. But whenever I do have a point, a pain flare up. I just can't walk that far, and that is actually one of the really hard things for me, being someone who loves to be active and out in nature and being out in nature is such a powerful way for me to find meaning and just feel alive.
So whenever in the worst of the pain, I know I wasn't able to walk more than a couple of blocks and that sense of like, I'm so stuck in my own body and like I there's, you know, when when something traumatic happens, like there's this fight or flight reaction, you want to somehow get rid of the threat or like by, you know, killing the predator or running away from it.
And there are so many times in my in the worst of my pain that I just wanted to get out of my body.
I just wanted to run. And that was like the thing I couldn't do, was run. I wasn't able to kind of like process that the sense of like trauma and being like having my life being derailed. I wasn't able to integrate that into my body very well at the beginning at least, you know, I was just kind of keeping it in in my head for so long.
We will return, in just a minute, to my conversation with Liuan. But I want to take a moment to tell you about our sponsor, Handle with Care Consulting. 2020 has been full of disruption: COVID, an election, murder hornets, rising unemployment, a national reckoning with pervasive racism. Empathy is THE leadership skill in the midst of these upsider down times, and it is how you will ensure that you don’t just survive as an organization but that you stabilize and thrive. Handle with Care Consulting can help, with interactive keynotes, certificate programs, and coaching cohorts, we give you the skills you need to build a consistent culture of care.
You spoke earlier about being Chinese American and this this capacity to push through and get the job done. How did that particular orientation affect your view towards yourself? And I don't know if at this time you were surrounded by many other Chinese Americans, but even in your family, how did that affect maybe how they were able to come alongside you or not in your pain?
Mm hmm. Um, so the main, um, person who in my life at that time who kind of brought our Chinese background into my life was my mom. She lived in a different state. But I I was definitely in contact with her a lot, telling her what was going on. And so my mom is one of those people that is like super like. Kind of paranoid about everything and really anxious, like as a mother, mothers are towards things that are going on with their children.
But also she when I was growing up, she would tell me a lot. If you don't have your health, you don't have anything. And because she grew up in Mao era China, where. It was a pretty materialistic perspective right there. There's no like nothing exists outside of, like, the material stuff in front of us. So if if there's nothing else but our bodies, then if our bodies are not working as we want them to, that means, like, what are we supposed to do like that?
Like signals, like bad things for our future and our moneymaking ability and our ability to provide for retirement and everything. So unfortunately, like that sort of really like. First perspective wasn't always helpful because it infused more anxiety into, like the way I was approaching it as sort of like, this is all I have, my body is all I have.
But on the other hand, my like my Christian communities were saying, like. It doesn't matter what's happening in your body as long as you're spiritually well, so there's like this opposite push towards well.
The spirit is the most important, so you can just sort of like, ignore and transcend your body in order to just do what God is calling you to do. So my book really came out of that wrestling with the one pole and the other of,
OK, we are our bodies and that's all we are, or we're more than our bodies. And we're actually our bodies are not essential to who we are. And I think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle and that's that.
And it's really, you know, it's a mystery to be able to hold both of those things together. But I think there's something really valuable that we can learn from just holding those two tensions together. And that's what I'm trying to do with the book, is hold those two things together.
And you are you're both telling your own story in the book. You also are an aggregator and collector of some other people's stories of how they have worked with pain, whether from your own story or those that you talked to. You know, you talked about like a specific thing that your mom said. What or some other things that you heard or that doing research for your book. Other people heard that you would say this is just don't don't do this.
This is not helpful to people who are going through pain in their bodies. Hmm.
Yeah. Well, you know, you were asking me about how my particular cultural background shaped my experiences, and it's something that I write about my book.
But one of the other things that really shaped my experience was being a woman. And interestingly, like most of the people, all but one of the people that I interviewed, whether that's because I connected better with women, I think. But partly I think it has some grounding in the statistics to all.
But one of the people I interviewed was a woman I met were women. So there's only one man that I interviewed and. What I heard a lot from from people who are sharing their stories with me was. A lot of dismissal, just like, oh, fibromyalgia, that's a fake illness, right? Or one woman who was kind of my is my age and was at an editing job at the time, told me that she just started getting her fibromyalgia symptoms as she was doing this job, taking care of three children.
And she she would ask for days off and the the dad and the family would say, OK, can you just come anyways? Like you're you're still like you're sick, but you can still work. Right.
So there was a lot of frustration over the ways that pain is dismissed or seen as in in our head or seen as just women being overreactive to like kind of like too emotional about what's going on.
Hmm. Well, and I hear how that touches on aspects of intersectionality of like, you're missing me in my lived experience.
And I'm experiencing a dismissiveness that to be female in the world also like just yields up to my experience again and again in a way that is painful. Yeah.
And the word intersectionality is something that I didn't really come into contact with until a couple of years ago. One of my friends is a therapist who works at that with people who have intersectional identities, which is just more than one marginalized identity. So she works particularly with Asian-American men and women. But when you have more than one aspect of your identity that is marginalized by society or kind of seen as lesser than all of those things affect our health, like just being in in a society that is not structured with our unique interests and needs in mind is a source of constant stress.
And the you know, there's so many stories of like black women having higher rates of, you know, pregnancy related complications. I think, like the statistic is like black women experience like preeclampsia, an early birth at like three to four times the rate of white women. And that is something that I explore in my book, like how those aspects of our identity that aren't accepted as part of like, you know, like fully accepted when we bring ourselves into wider society, how that affects our health.
And it does in so many ways that science is only beginning to document.
Oh, absolutely. I, I resonate with a. A fascination of the growing body of scientific research that supports the reality of the way stress and marginalization is held on a somatic level. And and it's not that it has to be validated by a researcher in a lab, but to begin to have the language. To discuss that in, you know, the science is a part of opening the gateway for that to be in, you know, just more of the commonplace understanding of the lived reality of so many.
And I think it's becoming clear in the pandemic. Right. We always hear the statistics of African-Americans have been dying of COVID at higher rates than other communities and. It just makes you realize, like people are finally asking, like, why are people why are black people sicker than white people? And it can't just be because they make poor choices like something else is going on. So it's I think that statistic made it really clear to me, and I hope it it's like making others ask questions as well.
Right. Well, and it's fascinating. Even the you know, the data points of how stress affects you in utero, you know, before you've even taken a breath, you know, the stress of your parents lived situation, how they are experiencing, you know, marginalization and trauma and how that affects development of just in a way to be taken seriously of. Like there are formational forces that are being imprinted on the body as a result of stress and marginalization.
They have incredibly deep roots. And what does it mean to reckon with that, you know, as society and as individuals?
Yes. And I was just speaking with someone who works in the health insurance industry yesterday. It was really fascinating because we were talking about the way that health care costs have been rising and people are just have such a hard time getting their minds around why things cost so much. Right. Like, why does an MRI cost like ten thousand dollars and why are we paying so much for premiums when we're only getting out like we're only just going to see a doctor for a physical every year,
like we're not getting out what we're putting in is the feeling that a lot of people have. And he was talking about like we as a society, as Americans, we're just so sick and depressed and in bad shape collectively. And I think that just has to do with this drive. That part of it, I think has to do with this drive that has been so ingrained in the American psyche of we we just like produce and we push and we we make it right.
And we're just like the economy needs to keep going and we need to just make things happen, like we can't shut down. So that has affected everyone. And people that are feeling it the most are the people that are the most vulnerable to all the economic shocks.
Well, it's the it's the two-faced aspect of capitalism, right?
You can be whatever you want to be. But also like people are they matter based on their capacity to produce in that brutal expression of that. And especially as that relates to some of the idea of talking about like why did empathy in the workplace matter? There is there is a truth that that runs counter to some of the most foundational grain of capitalism, which is like just keep producing, which is probably a good segue I'm talking about. So you you are living with pain.
You're going to lots of doctors. How is that translating into your work situation? Are you needing to take time off and how is that pain being met by your workplace?
Yeah, so I quit that job that I was mentioning to you that was really stressful, that conference planning job. I felt like I just had to keep going for the sake of the mission. After I finish working on that, it was an annual conference that happened in the summer.
And at that point, as when I started having pain, it still didn't play a huge role into my calculations about what what's feasible for me to do for a job. But I was also planning to apply to graduate school at the time. So I ended up taking a couple of part time jobs while I was applying to graduate school. And thankfully, the one job I had was with a Christian, what's called the Christian century. It's a it's another publication of a magazine.
But they they were actually such a healing place to be after the. The not the Christian non-profit conference planning job that I had, because they gave me the space to say. It was a flexible job and it was based not on the hours that I worked, but on like the I was doing business administrative stuff just like fulfilling the task. But then I was able to go home after I had finished doing what I was supposed to do that was like so surprising to me that they didn't say stay and keep doing more things because like, you know, like we are here and you're a willing worker and, you know, for the sake of the mission.
But I do want to say, going back to just like the the workplace thing and how the the work my workplace has received me as I was figuring out what it meant to live with pain on a on an ongoing basis is that I had the ability to work two part time, really flexible jobs that really probably wouldn't have supported me, like if I if it was just me.
But I was married at the time already and married to someone who wasn't going through health struggles and had a full time job with health insurance, which was a really important and that enabled me to sort of explore different options and put together different combinations of work and school that I know not everybody has a lot of people. They're dealing with these health issues that are coming up, but they don't have like good support networks. And they have to they just have to keep going to work to take care of their families and put food on the table.
So I just want to be like, you know, kind of bring that up that I I was definitely in a place of privilege to be able to have options for how to handle what was going on.
Yeah, that's an important point.
As you think about for yourself, things that people did that made you feel or make you feel especially well supported, even if outside of the workplace in your journey with chronic pain.
What what makes you feel seen and supported one of people done well that's been important for you. Mhm.
So I think that listening is really the best gift that I've been offered, listening in a really nonjudgmental.
Just holding the space sort of a way, you know, um. As a Christian, going through these this health struggle, I just had so many questions about like questions questioning God's goodness to me, questioning whether I was, you know, my life was going according to God's plan and having places where or at least people that I could raise those questions with without feeling like I was being like going off the rails of my faith or becoming heretical gave me the ability to really reckon with the hard things without having to just stuff it, stuff, everything I was feeling into like a tidy Christian narrative.
And and out of that, I was able to like the listening that people have provided me, allowed me to just come to like truth and insights about like who I am as a human being.
And what does it mean to be a human being with limits and vulnerabilities? And how are those things maybe not only just not not necessarily liabilities, but strengths
like all those conclusions that I was able to come to happen because people gave me the space to process and and weren't like trying to push any kind of agenda on what I was processing, but simply being present to the pain and.
I think that it's an important turn of phrase and one I'd like to hear a little bit more about for those people that were, from your perception, pushing an agenda. How did some of those? Because because we translate a lot right in our you I look in the sort of questions we ask in the sort of statements we make. How did those agendas sound to you?
Hmm. And I remember going up to ask for prayer at a church that we were visiting on Sunday and was one of my really desperate moments of like, I really need to be fixed. So I went up for prayer and told the prime minister my story. She was listening very kindly and attentively. And then she asked me, are you harboring any unforgiveness in your heart? And it was just this really odd moment of like, wait, I thought you were like here for me.
But now I feel like something you're asking me to.
Like, it's not and I don't want to say that there's like there's no link between emotional trauma and unresolved wounds from the past to our physical pain, but the way that sometimes people sort of interpret it, they're kind of their view of what was going on and and push that into the ways they were trying to help me. That was really it just felt like I wasn't being seen.
You know, I was I was kind of being put into there what the way they wanted to see the world and the way they wanted to understand how God and healing and bodies work, being maybe processed within a paradigm.
Yeah. Hmm. I would call that persona in some of the work that I do. Aspects of a a Fix It frank, hi. Oh, this is a problem. And even even if she posed it as a question like let's fix this.
Right. Yes. And we all have those tendencies like I, I do too. And I like I was I remember like speaking with a friend who was going through really hard times. And the first thing that came to my mind was actually seeing a counselor have actually seen a physical therapist or she should try this. And then I had to just stop and sit and realize that's not what she's asking of me is a major problem. She's asking for me to listen to her.
That's all I have to do. And that's. Way more helpful to her than what I have to tell her about how she could fix her problems, right?
Well, and sometimes I I tell people who who struggle with that tension, like they feel like they have a lot to give, even to ask the question, like what what would you like of me in this conversation? Are you looking for suggestions or would it be more helpful for me just to listen like I have to do just on a micro level? I do that sometimes with my husband because I can have this very default tendency of like, oh, well, let's talk about solutions and more often than my personality would like.
He says, I just want you to listen. And I think, OK, I can do that. I can table all of these marvelous suggestions that I feel like I have.
Yeah. But I think that's a good point that you bring up, that there are times when people are looking for, like, really practical, like what should I do? Sort of help. And it's it's important to just be sensitive and read read the people for like in their body language and and, you know, know from the history of your relationship together what's needed.
But it's really great to just be direct and say, what do you need? That's like. Right. People like have such a hard time doing that.
They just they just want to, like, jump right in it, especially especially if you're a person who's verbal anyway, bring it back, know genuine listening.
Were there other things that were really helpful to you along the way that people said or did?
I mean, just physical presence too, was another one that. So I tell the story in my book of one night when I was having a panic attack and it related to the pain like it was, you know, pain, kind of like fed into depression and anxiety, which fed into insomnia, which made the pain worse. It's just this vicious cycle that kind of goes on.
And I was I was in the middle of that cycle and I woke my husband up to try to, like, shake me out of it and just talk to somebody.
But he had been woken up so many times in the past months. And this was like just a moment where he.
Felt like he needed to sleep and wake up the next morning and go to work, so he just turned over and said, can we just talk about it tomorrow morning? And I just snapped at that point like it was something just like. Kind of just like, you know, a thread was snapped, snipped and a I went out into the living room and just had this like. I don't know, like frothing at the mouth episode, basically, it's I'm laughing about it now, but it was is pretty bad.
It was just that, like, I want to run and, you know, leave my body, but I can't feeling. Just yelling and I took this jacket that was right next to me and I was just like pounding it, like slapping it on the wooden floor and I just couldn't stop, like, I needed some way to, like, physically do something about how I was feeling. But my husband ended up obviously he was woken up by the whole thing and he came out and he just.
SAT behind me and put his arms around me and just stayed there with me and that physical presence of knowing that someone is with me in my pain and I'm not alone,
I think I needed that, like tactile, like signal of that to like what it's to in order to kind of release the feelings of panic. And so I know that's not always like a appropriate thing in the workplace, but even being present, like without touching and asking, like, can I put my hand on you like.
Yeah, embodied acts of care are so important.
Mhm, yeah, but but then I wanted to say like beyond the on the level of what, what can people like, what are helpful ways that people can come around people, those experiencing life disruptions. Um
another one for me uh that I talk a lot about in my book is. Just like like we were talking about, like we don't want to come at it as you are a problem to be fixed and.
What I realize in in a lot of Christian churches is that the people that, um, kind of have like these things that they're going through that are ongoing and just seem like unresolvable, they're seen as people to be ministered to. And so they're put sort of on the margins. Right, of of the churches like they're in the handicapped, sit in the aisles or they're, um, they're going up for prayer on the sides at the end.
But, um. We don't understand sometimes that those places of of deep suffering are also the places where, like life and creativity and new things happen if we are able to just be present to them enough to let those things happen.
One of my favorite quotes is from Brother Roger of Taizé, who founded the Taizé Communities in France. And it's in the pains, or where or when the wounds where anxiety is seething, creative forces are also being born.
And so I. I felt like when people were able to say to me, you're not just like something to be fixed, but we can actually learn from what you're going through and what you have to offer as someone who is suffering is valuable and actually may be central to our human experience, is not marginal in something that we just put on the aisles.
Like like we want to hear your story and your voice. And that matters like when I was as I started getting opportunities to speak out of that experience and have it be welcomed as as not just something that scary and that needs to be fixed and threatening, but like valuable.
That was really healing for me to be able to integrate my experiences into who I was and who I am today.
Hmm. That's a really I feel like important reflection that I'm going to mull over to think about how how we encounter people, that we would say, oh, they they need something, you know, not not just in a utilitarian sense of fixing them, but also without defaulting to some of like that the trite language of just like gods, God's going to use this. And it's all going to be in striking the right balance of saying whether it's in a Christian or secular environment of like you actually have something to give out of this without pushing people to do it before they're ready, you know, but.
I don't know, almost just to make the space for belief that that they're like and and to have a posture that is ready to receive that when the person is ready to give it. Yes.
And it's also one of the things I note in my book is that the gifts that we receive from people who are whether they're disabled or they've experienced some kind of terrible loss or in pain, they're not always things that people give to us.
Like people in the disability community will talk about how the communities that have that are able to welcome people with disabilities are more peaceful because they've learned to deal with difference better. So they're able to just integrate those differences in ways that don't cause, you know, strife.
But they're also the teachers teach better whenever they have people with disabilities in their community, in their classroom, because they're learning to adjust their the ways they're teaching to their their student with disabilities. But that improves the way they teach to everybody.
People are more grounded when they have people that are different with in their midst, like, you know, like allowing people to go at their own pace, whether that's like a child that's just learning to tie their shoe or or someone that's having trouble walking and just like slowing down to walk with them to the store or to their car like that.
Those are all gifts that we receive from people that are are suffering, whether or maybe not suffering in the case of disability, but. Whatever it is like not conforming to the workplace norm or the societal norm, when we're able to just. You know, be in their presence, that itself is a gift without them having to, like, offer anything to us.
Mmm. That's so good. And it makes me think of an article that I sent out to family members just this morning.
It was a New York Times article, and it was it was talking about just like community, OK? It was called American. Stop being ashamed of weakness. And it was fascinating. It was fascinating on a number of levels. But there was one place in which they were it was quoting a noteworthy anthropologist. I'm not going to say their name because I'm not going to pull it correctly at this point. But this anthropologist was being asked, what would you say are the first signs of human civilization as differentiated from just other high functioning mammalian civilizations?
And was it going to be tools or signs of being Hunter-Gatherer like cultivating the soil? And this anthropologist response was the remains of someone who had been found and they had had a femur that had broken and healed and had for the time. What she said was this is evidence that, you know, like a femur fracture like this would take six weeks to be able to heal at this level. And during this time, that person obviously would have had to have been, you know, had food brought to them and shelter and the care of a community that comes alongside them in that sort of a, you know, prolonged time horizon as really being a marker of, you know, like a particular type of care and civilization that is given.
And and for some reason, I'm I'm reminded of that. Our capacity, actually to care to learn from is making us better. As you said, you know, the data points that show that, but also a marker of something deep and human within us.
Yes. Yeah, I've I thought a lot about that because. Right. Are the ways that our bodies fall apart or just our vulnerability in general. It seems like such a flaw. Right, in the design.
Yes, exactly. People have talked about that. But I've talked with like evolutionary biologists and and people in the field who have who have said what one person told me. She called it a selective advantage for community in that she was giving the example of, like, humans have a really short inner birth spacing. So they tend to have children like one after the other, whereas other primate species, they have like five to eight years between when they have children.
And and that could be considered a design for like why if humans are having this many children, they're not going to be able to give as many resources to children. So there's going to be more deaths. But the ways that human communities have made up, so to speak, for that side flaw is that they share child care and they they co parent and resources are shared among people. So that that's just show to her that, like, the way that we've evolved, if you want to think about it in evolutionary terms, is towards community and towards being able to like.
Integrate our weakest members instead of just leaving them behind so they can just die of their broken femur, right. And this this has been a wide ranging from personal to metal level statistics conversation. I know that you draw a lot of these wisdom and insights and even more into your book, which is due for release in this December of 2020. Congratulations.
And can you tell us a little bit more about your book? We're going to link it in the show notes, but where people can find out more about you and preorder or order your book as well.
Thanks for asking. Yes, my book is called Hurting Yet Whole Reconciling Body and Spirit and Chronic Pain and Illness. And it's published through Intervarsity Press. And it's it's springing up. All of these things that we've just talked about, how my story led me to ask these questions about questioning some of our common assumptions about healing and then coming to the conclusion that are the way to heal is not to overcome our limits and our vulnerabilities, but to learn to embrace them as what it means to be human and what in a way that connects us to other people as as a way to become whole, not just individually whole, but whole in a group with other human beings.
So you could you can get it wherever books are sold on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookseller, the Intervarsity Press website. And then you can also go to my website, which is my name, liuanhuska.com and you'll find an excerpt for the book. And also you can preorder at that on the site as well.
I also have in case readers are interested in a series of meditations that are a companion to the book, that there's for ten minute meditations that kind of takes you through some scriptures and silence and invites us to come home to our bodies and embrace what our bodies are.
This conversation with Liuan sparked so many points of interest for me, and I hope that you do check out her book, there is more info about ordering in the show notes. And here are three key-takeaways to consider:
Find out more about Liuan Huska and her book here: http://liuanhuska.com/