Thursday, September 24, 2009

Marathon Updates

Hear all about my experiences in Maui during my first marathon to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS on the upcoming episode of All the Way IN

Title of show: Who Would Have Thought: Part Three.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Vanderbilt Principles

My father, Vanderbilt Lake, taught me how to love myself, love my country, respect others, honor my family, and never submit to the expectations of others. He has been dead for 18 years, but I still can hear his warm tenor voice telling me to let the words of my foes roll away from me like water from a duck's back.He was the first person in my life to show how to endure the times when the world seemed determined to destroy me.

As a young man in his early 20's living in Georgia, my father witnessed the torture and lynching of several close family members. He then had to flea the state of Georgia for his life because the lynch mob wanted to kill everyone who was a Lake. My father went on to become a WWI and WWII veteran, loving husband, wonderful father, creative entrepreneur, and passionate patriot.

The Vanderbilt Principles (formally the 12 Principles for Living All the Way IN Life) are based on the clear and poignant wisdom that my father taught me. His life lessons still comfort me in difficult times and inform me when making important decisions.Sharing what I know through the Vanderbilt Principles is my way of honoring my father while helping all who follow these principles.

Are you in a cycle of destructive behavior?

Do you feel that you are stuck trying to fix the same problem in your life?

The Vanderbilt Principles teaches how to recognize self-defeating behavior and put distance between you and the harmful people in your life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Second Principle to Living All the Way IN Your Life

Know who you are, prepare to meet the real you. Accept there are things about you that you don't understand or recognize.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First Principle to Living All the Way In Your Life. No Plan B

Decide what you want.

Running to Life: Fear Sinks. Faith Floats

10 weeks into my AIDS Marathon training, and much of what I have to share with you so far can be summarized in 4 words. Fear sinks. Faith floats. Or, to accomplish goals that seem impossible, we must starve the fear and feed the faith. A few days ago, I completed 14 miles toward my ultimate goal of 26.2. This means that I passed the halfway mark in training. In crossing this milestone, one that I could not have imagined for myself just 6 months ago, I now see training as an act of labor. I labor to free myself from a stifling cocoon of fear created by doubt and insecurity. To be successful, I need to recognize and understand where fear stops me and faith propels me. I need to know when to starve fear and when to feed faith.

Understanding how fear is fed comes when we examine our actions and motivations. An action can illustrate a fear and motivation can define that fear. For instance, many of us are afraid of being alone. Our actions illustrate this fear. We constantly seek the acceptance of others even when we are hurt in the process. Our motivation defines the fear. We seek acceptance to ease our feelings of loneliness and worthlessness rather than to exchange ideas or socialize with people we care about and who care about us. I identify feeding fear through failure, refusal, and avoidance. We feed fear when we fail to claim our strength. We feed fear when we refuse to honor who we are. We feed fear when we avoid asking for help. These are fears I have fed.

There were times when I believed that I needed to belong. I connected inclusion by others to the level of my success. All the while, I seldom recognized the fact that my success or failure depended on my ability to claim my strength unapologetically. Training for this marathon shows that my actions—constantly seeking out a place, group, or organization to include me even when inclusion was not good for me—reveals a fear. I am afraid to claim my own strength.

At the start of training, we were placed in running groups according to the time it took to finish 3 miles. My group was the slowest and the smallest. The second time that we ran together, my 'group' ran too fast for me. I fell behind and finished alone and sad. Feeling sorry for myself, I went home and complained to my partner that I had no group. I had just finished a major accomplishment—completed 4 miles for the first time in my life—yet, I felt defeated. To go on with the training and keep my promise to myself, I had to process why having a group was so important to me. I had to understand why being alone meant exclusion. I had to grasp the reason why solitude equaled failure in my mind. Self-realization is a difficult, and necessary life-long process. Now, I run alone and I enjoy the gift of solitude. In addition, I find it easy to claim the strength that I find with each new milestone, because it is obvious that my success comes through my efforts and with the help of God.

Many times I have put my needs and expectations behind everyone else. I spent little time examining what I expected from others, and who I wanted in my life. I often would try to do what anyone asked me to do without discerning whether or not my best interest would be served. Being a minister enabled me to neglect myself in the service of others. Training for this marathon helps me see that my actions—consistently putting myself last—reveals a fear. I am afraid to respect and honor the person God created me to be.

Around the time I was completing my 6th mile run, I suddenly hit 'the wall'. My body simply could not run any longer. I felt weaker than I have ever felt in my life, and I have given birth to 4 children. With great difficulty, I managed to complete the miles, and while talking with my coach afterwards, learned that my weakness came from not eating. I did not honor myself enough to give my body what it needed. At this point, I started examining other places in life when I did not respect and honor myself. The more I examined, the more I realized that some things still needed to change. Often we seek respect and honor from strangers all while we fail at self-respect and self-honor. Now, I listen to my body and take the time to learn what I need and when. Overall, I honor who I am more, and my actions illustrate this.

Until training, I would do almost anything to avoid asking for help. Asking for help, in my mind, meant revealing a weakness that could be used against me by others. In fact, I was so focused on not needing anyone that I became blind to the help that was freely given. Soliciting donations as I train has forced me to acknowledge that my actions—avoiding asking for help and taking the help I have for granted—reveals a fear. I am afraid to show my vulnerability.

When I decided to run a marathon, I thought about having to ask people for donations. I tried to think of a way to pay the pledge rather than ask others. The fact that I made a promise to myself to follow the entire process, meant that I could not avoid asking for help in fulfilling my pledge. Processing why this part of the marathon experience was so difficult helped me see where I was refusing to acknowledge my vulnerability, thereby alienating potential networks of support. The very need that we hide from others is, many times, the boulder that separates us from success. Now, it is still uncomfortable to ask for donations, but with every request the discomfort lessens. In addition, I identify new networks of support and connection with each round of solicitations.

As I feed fear less, I find that I feed faith more. Many of us talk about having faith. We talk about being faithful. We describe the characteristics of the faithful. Seldom have I heard people say they feed faith, which made me think about what this means. We feed faith by having open, curious minds and grateful, humble spirits. Our minds are open to new ideas and possibilities. Our spirits are open to who and what God is sending our way. We are curious about other people. We are curious about ourselves. Instead of waiting for a miracle to part the sea, we are grateful for the small blessings. We wonder about what motivates us to act, and are humble enough to admit when our motivation defines a fear. We examine why particular people are drawn to us, and why we are drawn to them.

At about 7.5 toward the 14 mile mark, I was not sure if I could go on. I was only half finished and the thought of going another 7 miles seemed impossible. In my uncertainty, I leaned—I dared not sit for fear of not getting up for hours— against a tree and tried to determine if I should stop or go on. Out of breath, hot, salty, thirsty, nauseous, and happy to have a tree to hug, I thought about Matthew 14:25-34. The disciples are in a boat in the middle of a storm. They look out over the rough water and are astonished to see Jesus walking toward them. When Peter saw this, he responded by challenging Jesus to let him walk on water as well. Jesus told him to step out on the water and his faith would not let him sink. At first, Peter stood on water. Then, he became afraid and sank.

There have been many times when I challenged Jesus to help me walk on water. When I came out after over 15 years of marriage and four daughters, I walked on water. I had no idea what would happen to me, but I knew that my life was over the minute I stepped out of the safe boat of heterosexuality and onto the stormy water of same gender love. When I decided to go to Union Theological Seminary in New York at an age when most people were solid in their chosen careers, I walked on water. I had no way of knowing how a degree from Union would change me as I stepped out of the predictable boat of religious dogma and onto the uncertain water of interfaith spirituality.

Standing at the halfway point, between stopping at 7 miles or going on to 14, halfway between feeding fear or feeding faith, I let my thoughts and memories wash over me. I wondered what would have happened if Peter had fed his faith more than his fear. I remembered the times that I fed my faith in the past. I thought about my last year in seminary when mice threatened to overtake my apartment. The building had an ongoing battle with mice, and after 2 years, the mice were winning. In desperation, I gave God a challenge. I told God that I was either going to finish the year and graduate or fight the mice and fail. I could not do both and God had to make the choice for me. The next day the mice were gone. I went on to graduate. On to walk on water. Yes, I remembered. Then, I found and claimed new strength, let go of the tree, and finished the 14 miles.

I walked on water, again.

©2009Deborah E. Lake. All rights reserved.
Make donations at All donations are tax deductible and go directly to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Care in Context

The human psyche is amazing.If the human brain is the primary organ of human adaptation, then the psyche is the accumulated effect of each individual person's adaptation to the human and physical environment.It's the brain that allows human beings to be able to build societies in a vast range of environments that offer many different kinds of challenges. Our brains, and their function - our psyches-adapt, build relationships and communities, rituals and governments that make it possible for us to live effective and satisfying lives in environments as distinct as dust storms and ice storms, rain forests and mountain ranges.

We know that human psyche can adapt, can find a balance in all sorts of circumstances, can create all sorts of societies and relationships that keep us functioning on an even keel, eating, hunting or raising food, building shelters, finding mates, raising children, caring for the old. But there are conditions, physical and human, that overwhelm the human psyche. and when the human psyche is overwhelmed (in the words of Bessel Van der Kolk) we talk about trauma.Why write about trauma in a newsletter about caring for people with HIV?Because trauma - overwhelming, protracted or unrelenting fear, hurt or danger-is common in the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS -more so than in the general population (reviewed in Whetten et all 2008) .

Because psychosocial factors like having a trauma history (along with depression and other mental illnesses), are known barriers to the ability of people living with HIV/AIDS adhering to ART regimens. Because people who have experienced multiple traumatic events - abuse, sexual assault, homelessness - are at higher risk for a host of negative health outcomes (the ACE study). There is even some evidence emerging that people who have experienced traumatic stress experience more rapid decrease in CD4+/CD8+ cell ratios than those without trauma histories.