Violence and Mental Illness

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As many of you know, we have mental illness in our family lineage. The details don’t matter in this case, I think. But it is important for people who know nothing about it to know that mental illness can be in any family and violence is not directly correlated with it. Despair and lack of hope, maybe. Many things come together, mental health being just one of them, to create a situation where a person does a violent act.

My brother in law was a mostly gentle person in my experience. Of course I wasn’t married to him and my sister is gone, but from our lived experiences I believe she would agree. Verbal abuse is something that did occur which was painful to be a child in their household. But my sister struggled with verbal anger too, a legacy from my father.

We were verbally abused most of our lives into adulthood up until his death.

When we asked Holly if she was comfortable with Paul having a gun in their home, she said she was because he kept it in a safe. I am sure she was thinking a child wouldn’t stumble on it, don’t we all think that about guns at home? Keep them away from the kids. She was offered a restraining order during the divorce which she declined. She did not believe he was violent in that way.

But he murdered her. He took his gun, did some target practice (we didn’t know this until afterward from the police), tricked his way into Holly’s home, laid in wait upstairs and then killed her.

I have many sleepless nights thinking about that. Of course, we could have said something. We just listened, when more than a year before her murder when she told us about the gun. Paul was not a violent person. It was shocking to us that he thought he needed a gun in a suburban neighborhood of Seattle. But we just listened. At that point I didn’t know my brother in law very well. He was depressed for many years through out their seventeen years of marriage. A few times I tried to help.

“There’s no shame in seeking help. Antidepressants do change you. They don’t feel good. I am struggling with that myself, for much of my adult life. I don’t like how they make me unable to feel much. But they also help me out of the passive suicidality of major depression.”

Our situation is unique. But aren’t they all and I suppose that’s my point. The people that are out there killing, who have mental illness of some sort in their history, are unique humans. Their upbringing, their financial situation, their lack of healthy relationships, their solitude, their access to mental health support, joblessness, access to medicine, therapy, doctors all create a moment of time where anything is possible. And being poor, to get help almost impossible to resolve.

It is more difficult to get mental health support in this country than to buy a gun.

Psychology Today

Mental health support needs to be continuous, it is very dependant on the person’s access to help as well as all the things I listed above.

For many years we fought the system to get our daughter help and when we in our most despondent, when all we could think of was to take her to the ER, we were told she has to be a direct threat to herself (actively suicidal) or to others. Do you know how hard that is to prove? Much less wanting to declare that about your loved one.

Mental health and violence to yourself or others is an impenetrable labyrinth.

What Is a Good Life?

For months the words have toiled and churned inside me.
The black letters absent from the page.
A heavy, nagging problem. A writer’s liability.
Rather than anguishing over this loss I have lived.

Then with an intimate slow unfurling
I deliberate on these first scarce stanzas.
I feel their drumming.
Echoes in the chambers of my heart.

Still I have a constant awareness.

Sufferings, anxieties and troubles have come to be our life.
Both waking and sleeping.
Still delight and joy are wondrously present.
Each day’s lesson cracks me open bringing a Spirit-filled reliance.

To live, to love, to be, to give, to fear, to hold, to weep, to laugh,
to wait, to hope, to doubt, to accept.
The silence teaches.
Life is lived in the moments in between.
And all together this is a Good Life.

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A Mother’s Lament {You cannot stop this train. Save yourself.}

These words have leaked out of me, like tears trickling down the crevices of my heart. 

It’s been an all-consuming few weeks. I owe friends updates, but it feels as if there’s no space for conversation when I’m taking in heaving breaths of air just to survive and dodging sorrow’s persistent arrows.

At the same time. 

Time is in such a hurry, glaring at me as it rushes by. Other’s opinions are strong; swift and sharp like missiles: and advice flows so easily, that supposedly isn’t personal. Then a trustworthy and brilliant doctor tells me that I don’t have to be perfect. Of course I am not perfect, I think to myself. But it’s nice to hear a professional say that “you can stop trying so hard” and acknowledge that we cannot fix anything anyhow. It’s nice to know that I can stop but I’d like to see him try to get off this train.

1.

I’m a home-grown perfectionist partly from a critical upbringing. (That is no surprise to regular readers.) This has shaped me and made me who I am.

All my life I believed that if I tried harder, sweltered and burned through the workout of life, ran harder and tougher, perspiring and aching with my heavy burdens, then I Would Find God’s love, Feel It Finally.

The assumption was that life is hard.  But I sought perfection in adversity. I’d become the perfect person for my husband and for my kids and for my siblings and for my mother. And for my dead Father, and for God, I’d finally Become Worthy. And then I’d feel Good Enough. Truth is, though there is no If,Then kind of promise from God or Life. A promise not really spoken by anyone anywhere, a false hope that a child of a raging parent needs, to believe—if I do this, he will … what?? —Stop yelling. —Stop raging. —Stop his anxious, relentless criticism. —Be happy with mamma, be happy with my sisters, and be happy— with me. Or simply be happy? He was a good Dad; He was bad I wrote long ago.  If that’s the case then I am too. Both Good and Bad. My aim was always perfection.

Put your oxygen mask on first should be the advice given to every new parent in those first days when you’re learning the art of diapers and tight swaddling. Save yourself.

2.

The trustworthy and brilliant doctor asked “how are you both doing” and at the same time, same song with different notes, I answered Terrible and he replied Good.  Our therapist laughed a little, allowing Tom to go on.  But like a great therapist, he circled back around to my Terrible. I looked away from his piercing eyes, because I haven’t said that out loud in a while.

And I’m afraid if I give it space, a crack in the universe will open and, my grief will come screaming out. I’m in control, but holding in that Terrible makes me numb. I’m doing the job of motherhood and dying of pain inside. I’m not supposed to show my weakness and it’s indulgent to let others know how much I hurt when the others are children. Or school professionals and doctors wanting to help our family cope. Hold it in, if you can.

How are you? I’m asked dozens of times a week and the answer must be fine. I’m holding it all in and then the trustworthy and brilliant doctor looked me in the eye.

Skirting his gaze that is boring into me, I focus on his strange lamp—a clarinet turned into something that no longer makes music—how sad, a clarinet that no longer croons.  Wretched, both, the instrument turned lamp and I.

I’m heavy with despondency. My cheeks burn red with heat, the toll of trying to control my emotions. My tears disobey my order slowly dripping down my cheeks.  I’m staring at the wall and the sad clarinet that no longer sings.

3.

A person with anxiety or depression, they sometimes get that way from trying to control too much. Believing they can control outcomes, control people, control themselves and circumstances enough to make all the things work out, but real life isn’t like that. Controlling all that is a mind numbing mess. And the more you try the harder it is to feel anything.

Then a trustworthy and brilliant doctor, he said, “It’s alright you don’t have to do anything. There’s no magic answer. There’s no perfect choice nor will “enough” perfect choices make you all healthy and thriving.”

4.

Recently I attended Pulse, a conference for artists, at my church.  I felt honored to have been asked to write a poem for the program. It’s here.

I should not have gone to Pulse.  Even in the midst of the ache of our circumstances it was a calendared reminder that we were in this crisis two years ago at the last Pulse.  And this tidal wave of events hasn’t stopped for a moment; it has been relentless and crushing for all those months, hours, minutes.

I went heart aching, sleep deprived, hurting, spirit crushed and of course feeling critical.  Not a great formula.  Not a great day.  There were no momentous one-on-one conversations or amazing-prophetic-just-for-me-words spoken, only more lonesomeness and sadness in a crowd. But one must choose to keep on living even though you’re experiencing the hardest times of your life. You have to keep pretending you are alive, and it’s not cheating. Be open to healing. Keep going, heartbroken.

5.

Day after day, my depressed brain says lay down. So I get up, again.  Night after night, I pop the right combination of prescribed medication to sleep, waking daily at 5:40 am to foggy and desolate despair before I get up again. Get up.  Keep moving.  But don’t pretend that the casual “Hi, how are you?” is an opening to tell your problems.

Perhaps it is only here, where people are a captive audience, I can let the words and heartache flow. Most people cannot enter into the darkness of our lives now and I’m not totally not sure why.  In the improvised dogmas of other’s lives, our anguish is too much.  In a way, I get it. I’ve been there knowing people’s heartache and not having the courage to follow-up.  I get it. I keep moving too.

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6.

I’m not living in the Light but I’m watching for glimpses of it every day. The gift of quiet solitude is time to see the shadows moving across the wall and capturing a moment, beautiful but never to be seen again. My philosophy is see the beauty in a light filled moment, quickly. Before another call from another so-called expert comes.  And I lie down again and see in the window, a twinkling that is different from the one moments before.  Holding on to these seconds of tranquility, then I get up again, pick up the phone and make another call. Always searching for answers. Then the trustworthy and brilliant doctor says finally, in that quiet hour with just us two, that we can both stop striving so hard for answers. There’s no fix. There’s no answer, perfect or otherwise. A final fixing when we’ll suddenly be done. That’s the heavy grief and the answer for now. And, help yourself and in doing so you’ll become the parent your kids need.

7.

I can feel my heart heavy and tight in my chest. Then it comes to me, the thought that Jesus on the Cross experienced everything real to us humans, including mental illnesses like anxiety and depression and bipolar and all. On the cross, that’s what Jesus did. Jesus took it for us all.

8.

No, I cannot join you in the happiness of Light, enjoying casual encounters or live music, feeling the anticipation of love or joy of birthday milestones, no laughing hard at jokes, or knowing the thrill of spiritual mountaintops – I cannot join you there.  I listen, I am physically present, and I might even laugh but I don’t feel it. Even laughter tastes bitter on my tongue. I am living in the shadow lands of unremitting lonesomeness and I sit here.  I am waiting for it all to end. But that’s just it.  I have to learn that finding my oxygen mask is to save myself and in doing so it will save them.

When the trustworthy and brilliant doctor said it, something resisted. Our lives are on a careening train but I’m supposed to jump off, save myself and watch the crash? No.

“You cannot stop this train. Save yourself,” he said.  And,“The only way you can help your child is to save yourself.” And later, “Know that no one around you is going through what you are: no one, none of your neighbors or friends, can possibly understand nor will they ever have any idea of the depth of this sorrow you carry.”

9.

And so I go on. Watching for patterns in the sunshine and shadows, for lessons, for language, for hope, for rhythms that show me God’s order in the midst of this unrelenting sting. Light beckons the heart toward hope.

If Winter is Dying, then Writing is Life

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This isn’t my usual type of post. I have some thoughts ruminating into a slow boil. Aching about justice & the Stand Your Ground law and being white and privileged. A response. But I need more time to mull.

I finished the article on loving a drunk for Today’s Christian WomanAhem, I know. I’m not a likely writer for them. I don’t read resources written just for women (much). Nor do I like ministries just for women which I’ve written about.  The issue is about addiction and when they asked, I started to think about how little this topic is discussed in the Church. I think this topic needs attention.  

Still, it was one of the hardest things to write in my life.  That’s no exaggeration. I thought this piece for SheLoves was vulnerable because it was to such a “big” audience.  Well just leapt larger than life here with being published on a Christianity Today website.  My stomach curls in on itself just thinking about it. So I try not to think.

But more than that, it’s just hard to go back there, where I cannot remember. I had to interview Tom about those Falling Down Drunk years. Yes, I had to interview my husband as weird as that sounds. Tell me about that time when I barfed all over the car.

As you can imagine those monster enemies of Shame and Regret hovered around, clouding everything I did for days. Remembering what I put him through feels like hell but I’m hopeful that this will help people.  Or I would write it. The mind blowing thing was the good that came out of the sweating blood of this writing. I got to see how he loved me in such a long-suffering and courageous way. How awesome to feel, stone cold sober the love of my husband after twenty years. I’m smitten all over again. just thinking about his sacrifice and love for me.

I blasted out a poem for my church’s Pulse Conference on Worship & the Arts. I didn’t have time to over think. It came fast and I loved it. I am learning to have more confidence in my Voice. And like I mentioned before when things are printed-and-official I usually get the heebie jeebies and completely freak out; telling myself how unworthy I am to be writing a poem for “Artists.” I didn’t go there this time. (Phew, deep exhalation.) I am evolving.

I found a Psychiatrist, meaning—after having the number for five months I finally picked up the phone—I scheduled an appointment. Sometimes it’s the little things that feel unbearable with depression. I have a list of those things collecting Shame.  I look at the phone a lot, I mean a lot. Then my chest hurts with anxiety and starts burning. More deep breathing helps. 

I feel like I should wear a warning sign these days: KEEP CLEAR of me.

The good news is I like this doctor and today I feel a burst of hope that together we can figure out a better cocktail (of medications). What I take now makes me feel flat like a faded old piece of paper. Everyone else seems to be living in 3D and I’m one dimensional. The current medications got me out of the troth of not wanting to be alive (Which is different than suicidal—an important clarification.) But I’d like to shoot for something a tad higher than flat and undead.  Perhaps happy. I’d also be satisfied with sociable.

“My world is so small right now.” I found myself confessing to the doctor.  This made me even sadder and I wanted to cry. Crying not something I can do currently, another side effect, but as I said I’m hopeful with a change of medication that crying will come back.

Someone asks: Do you want to get together? (Blank marshmallow filled space in my brain and then panic.)  Feel like coffee? a text  (I feel nothing if I were to be honest.)  Want to go to that concert with me? (No.) You could listen to them online. You’ll like them. They’re really great. (No, definitely no. Milwaukee. It’s too much effort.) Can you host Christmas? (… birds chirping …     hell no!)  Don’t forget life group is tonight. ( … I don’t think I can go. Two hours of not talking in a group of talking people makes me feel dead and I don’t think I can speak. If I have to give another update saying things are still … bad.  I’m so tired of my life updates being so [insert pejorative].)

I’ve been so tired of feeling like this daily for months and months.

But I’ve been making myself do a few things out of the conviction that I cannot sit in my chair alone all winter. Besides motherhood, which doesn’t stop ever.

I’m attending the Festival of Faith and Writing in April. When I made the reservation I thought I’d never be able to go, not in a million years. My brain won’t even compute navigating the drive, let alone attending a conference alone. But somehow, things have been improving.  Writing this and asking for help went a long way. I know I’m not alone.  And now a break from life sounds damn good. It has been the most awful winter that I can recall EVER and I’m not talking just about the weather.

2796253209_98caa0e57e_o “The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable, they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” – Ernest Hemingway

Remember the hot days of summer, when I was working on an essay on PRAYER and feeling really skeptical about whether I even believe in prayer? That essay is now published in the book Disquiet Time. You can pre-order it here published by Jericho Books in October, 2014. So that’s very cool.  

Did I even tell you that I have two poems in the book Not Afraid: Stories of Confronting Fear which is available here.

Lastly, WordPress is telling me I have been blogging six years sending their congratulations. Looking back, I see that my first post was 2008/10/07. That means I’ve been sober six and a half years.  Six years of blogging! Wow.

In that time, I’ve gathered TO MY UTTER AMAZEMENT 1,751 subscribed email readers. Not sure how that happened but I can only thank you, for when you pass along my writing. It helps me build traction and readers which helps me imagine one day I’ll be published. So, I’m grateful that Spring is coming.

I leave you with thoughts of summer, which I am longing for — running in flip flops, or curled up with a book in grass, or squinting at the sun by the lake.

As always, thanks for reading,

Melody

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As The Winter Is Long [a NEW Poem]

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In the dreary midwinter
time is never-ending and merciless.

I chase the shadow’s
bright reflections, brittle patterns
on the silvery snow.

This distracts me from the echoing lament
I woke with today.
Melancholy sits dismally on my chest, like a lethargic cat
As I consider what’s gone wrong with me.
There’s always something and I’m as tired as the winter is long.

I chase the shadows.
Somehow, they hold hope
when I’ve got none.

“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of god is glue. — Eugene O’Neill

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p>Ever conscious of the grace of God. As I think and pray about, and write the details of my addiction story, it is heavy.  The weight of mistakes, the shame of walking backwards trudging through the broken ways my addiction hurt my family; It’s heavy to carry it.  Thanks for your prayers as I finish up an essay on How to Love an Addict. 

The Dust Bunnies and the Broken Hearts of Mental Illness

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I say the things aloud. It is an effort.
I want to make them come true.
“I will clean today.
I will cook dinner.
I will go to the bank.”
Even as I speak the words I know how unlikely it is that I will be able to do
more than sit here.

Breathing under water
is life threatening.

Looking around the house
I see the relics of our months of chaos and disorder.
How long has this constant been going on?
I count 35 months of circling and spinning at dizzying speeds or
churning, sticky  slow moments that seem to l—–a—–s—–t.
Strung together for days.
Sitting here now I recall
our cyclone of shock as we have watched our child suffer, would rather die. As the life killing anxiety and depression threatens to smother
the life
out
of
the little child we
know, we knew. Oh, how we remember.
We are fighting for her.

We are fighting each other.
We hold on tight, we weep, we pray small whispered cries
sometimes full of doubt and
sometimes swept up with outrageous
Hope. Most often throttled by our anguish, at times held by unimaginable peace.

We confess and repent as we scour the past for clues, pulling apart our parenting until it is a skeleton hanging bereft of blood and sinew,

something dead.  We resist giving up,
we acquiesce to today, we contemplate our future. Answers don’t come
as doctors, the so called experts keep changing their “plans.”
Outcomes are suggested, how do we know if they are good or bad?
The long and short of it all is that we must let go
of “normal.” We must come to understand that this,

our life now, might be[come] our forever.

Breathing under water
is life threatening.

When someone is mentally ill there are no promises or guarantees, only
Heartache,
Acceptance,
Disbelief,
Resistance,
Fury,
Fear and
[Days and months of] Solitude.
The secrets of the mentally ill
create wide, scorched throbbing universes of heartache, misunderstanding and pain.
We’re so broken apart, crushed down
we don’t even hold on to one another anymore, consumed
we binge on Netflix and ice-creams.
Outcomes seem inevitable.

Breathing under water
is life threatening.

Dust bunnies, in all corners and on the stairs collecting overnight, as if no one lives in this house of relentless pain.

The ghosts of activity –an unread book, the youngest’s week old work left unread after
the bribe—“If you bathe, you can stop reading for now.”

Reading vs. Bathing.
Who knew it could come to this? Only when you’re exhausted by breathing.

The question of why he dislikes reading presses into me like a fork shapes a raw peanut butter cookie.  An indent of
memory symbolizing something far greater, as if

it’s an indication that all of life is
Awry.

Breathing under water
is life threatening.

Please tell me there’s no one at the door, when the little fury of a dog growls
to a supposed intruder.  My heart rate speeds up, just like it does recurrently
nowadays.  Almost everything makes that muscle race.

And even as I lament the loneliness
I am glad it was just a passerby and that they kept walking.
Others are going somewhere
as I look out the window

desk bound and writing.
Breathing under water, alone.

Full disclosure: I borrowed the phrase of “Breathing Under Water” from the title of Richard Rohr’s book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps which is sitting on my side table. I have not read the book but the phrase leaps out at me today.  The book was recommended by an old friend. 

{My Silence, Depression’s Lies, and Faith}

me eye

I LIVE

depression is a liar wailing. it hates you as much as

you

hate

it.  and
you know, you fear
eventually
the battle will be won.
you may not be

the victor.
still you will fight 

the raging storm inside your brain.
to stop would be suicide.

life goes on, you cannot stop
for Love remains. those that depend.

it’s on you
to hold on.

now it’s not always

that bad, and why people get confused. i thought
you were depressed? you look so good. 
i thought you were depressed? you’re joking around.
i thought you were depressed? then

you pull back the curtain,
to give them a glance at the snarling beast and they’re quiet, momentarily.

to hold on means to be misunderstood.

flat doesn’t mean you’ve stopped loving.

though you’re so weak most days you cannot pull your leaden limbs out of bed this doesn’t mean you’re lazy.

afraid of people, sometimes terrified yes but this doesn’t mean you want them to go away.

depression is a snarling threatening beast.
weakening,
lying,
pestering,
oppressing.
today and every day

still i want you to know i welcome life even with depression.
I want to Live.

It has been a while since I wrote. Over the summer I was working on an essay for inclusion in a book. I’m really excited about it and do hope for its acceptance. I was studying like crazy, learning about PRAYER, which is something that I have been decidedly agnostic about. Full admission I’m not sure I really believed in the idea of changing God’s mind. This thought has eaten at me over the decades that I have believed and the years that I have attempted to live this life of following Jesus. That is a bit of what my submission is about and what I learned.  Prayer for me is this leaning, keening toward a loving waiting God. If it isn’t published I’ll show it here.

I realized recently that I’ve slipped. Depression, something that I’ve wrestled with for the twelve years I’ve been not working outside the home. There were moments and even years when I was free of it. And after a full year depression free I went off my medication, feeling strongly that this might be what had caused my inability to cry.  Thinking I was ready.

Imagine, nearly two decades of no tears.

I was a crybaby once, super sensitive to the nuances of other’s emotions (still am that to be honest) But I hated about myself the falling to pieces at a stern look especially from my father. I’ve always perceived crying as weak. This became something that I learned to control. And I got so good at it that when I went on Effexor many years ago tears completely stopped. I became incapable of them. It was a different kind of flat, and eventually I longed to cry.

I’ve written about that dam opening up, sometimes embarrassing me in public but I relished it.

My heart changed shape, from a stone to something more resembling human.

Recently, I realized that I must start again on medication because I’ve slipped down into a pit, a quagmire of dark that I’m unable to pull out of on my own. Not exercise, not diet, not prayer of others, not encouragement and support of my husband, not a new amazing therapist nor a kind loving community of friends could convince my psyche to shake this off.

It felt like failure, it felt like defeat, it felt like a huge lack of faith in my life, but I knew it was bad, and I feared what might happen if I didn’t do something and quickly. God only knows where things would evolve to and considering that this has been the most challenging two years in our twenty years of life together, Tom and I, as parents and for Tom as a business owner, I just knew.

So here I am. The black dog is nipping again at my feet, I’ve got helium in my brain and sand in my veins, which is a trip. I’m hoping that I’m gonna be okay.

Stigma with mental illness is one of the main reasons I believe that most depressed people don’t get help. I’ve experienced it even as many people affirm my courage to speak out about my experience. What will it mean for future employment? If I’m honest how does this stigma change people’s willingness to have me serve at church?  What are people really thinking?  These are just some of my fears. But that voice is a part of the lie and I cannot worry about what people think of me.

I know that God made me a truth teller, made me a writer, and made me the way I am for a reason though I cannot perceive it at this time. And I live every day believing, hoping and praying that I will one day be healthy – er.

But, my true admission is that if this never changes, if I struggle with this Achilles heel to my death, God loves me. This acceptance of myself is important and I’m longing to receive it fully.

Thanks for being a reader, for following this path with me if vicariously through the written word. And in my “real life”, those that have told me they read, I thank you for loving me, anyway.

Melody

I’ve written tons about this topic.  See the tab at the top of this page for more of my story.

{Just Like Me: Being Introverted in the Church}

dylan 2If I could have demanded anything

for my shy and wary child,
would I have begged God

make him less cautious?

Would I have wasted
a wish, a prayer, even a thought
on that part of my personality that I hate

and have come to
tolerate.

Make him less afraid.

Make him less

like me: petrified, wooden, shaken, sick to my stomach
terrified.

Though I hate it about myself,

could I possibly hate this

in

my son?

How is this conceivable?
My baby, my flesh, my skin and bones
always crawling away from people

just like me.

I have learned, when the extroverted-overjoyed-inner-glowing-pastor says almost gleefully to
turn to our neighbor, I don’t immediately
run. I have learned.

Still, the bathroom is a cool, echoing, quiet and comforting place just then;
and I can hear
my heart exploding inside me.  Blood pumping, rushing to all extremities.
The fear rushes about me, like pixies dancing, mocking,
Silencing me.

When extroverted-overjoyed-inner- glowing-pastor says:

this is love

I think
I may puke, not because I want to puke
mind you. (What kind of fool would want to throw up in church?)

But.
seriously

when will church life be easier for introverts?  And how to tell my kid,
that forcing him to attend Church events is virtuous?

It’s for your own good.

How? I’m thinking.
How? He’s asking.

This isn’t faith, I know. This isn’t my religion.

What’s an introverted mom to do?

Teach him to run?

The answer lies somewhere in between.  Even
with programs bent on making you
fit

your circle shaped heart into their

square pegged hole of a program.

Still, love wins
when you risk.  And for us introverts, some days that’s

just showing up.

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An Ode To Joy: When Chasing Significance, Ministry, Motherhood, & Alcohol Isn’t Enough

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My daughter thinks she Knows My Dreams, she pushed hard recently trying to get me to admit them. Telling me “Go to seminary and be a pastor that writes, mom. That’s what you want. Just do it.” It’s so easy for her to say, I think to myself, with my incessant dissatisfaction and oh so many fears.

I think to myself: I’m stuck. I’m not worthy. I’ll never Be.

First came sin.

I mean we’re all sinners for sure, but the home I grew up in, I never met Jesus. I never knew Grace.

I didn’t know Jesus who is the Lord of the Universe and Hope for the world, that my Dad was always talking about.  I couldn’t believe, not for decades, that I was loved and that if I were the only Blessed Sinner on Planet Earth, Jesus would have died that grizzly death, for me. No Way.

Work Harder.

I have lived day by day, believing that if I could just be A Better Person.  If I accomplished that much more than other people, worked harder, worked longer, worked better, then, I’d be okay. And so for years that’s what I did. I worked and worked and worked, and I lived a lie.

I was never okay. I was always terrified.

I was a mess inside, deep down where you cannot admit working at a Christian organization that you’re not sure that you ever believed.

Motherhood.

So I quit all that, thinking Being a Mother is noble (enough) and even a very good thing to do.  I mean, who doesn’t find meaning in motherhood?

Never mind that I just wasn’t ready to be at home.

Too Broken Up Inside, Not Even Knowing Jesus and With a Hole in my Heart, I quit work in ministry for all the wrong reasons.

Then came Despair on a Colossal Level.

Was I ever unprepared for the depth of my anguish. For the loss of meaning without Work. The hole in my soul was frantic with fear, day after day, still.

I thought to myself I must miss My Important Work!  All those years of Chasing Significance and Feeling Important, all that had made life meaningful in the past was gone.

Stripped Naked, the rug pulled out from under me, I fell hard; I fell flat.

Major Depression.

Depression hit just as I was starting to meet the Jesus Everyone Knew and Believed in. We were now attending a lovely church that ministered to my Broken-down Heart.   Just as I began to learn and study scripture for myself.  Just as I was learning that no matter what things I did or didn’t do with my life, I was loved and okay.  Just as a little of that truth sank in,

I slid down into the darkest pit of misery and hopelessness and despair. A place So dark, so bleak, so heavy that I was surprised by this new level of unhappiness.  I never knew that people could feel that lost. (I wrote about that in Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression.)

Broken by a life that was bereft of meaning, tired beyond comprehension with three babies in diapers, bored by being at home, dissatisfied with my contribution to the world, rejecting Grace still though I had begun to understand it intellectually, then came drink.  It was a respite in the beginning, an oasis.

Alcoholism.

As the years went by what had been a brief escape, a place to go when all else seemed

Worthless, Hopeless and Endless,

I drank.  And drank. And five years passed, and I was

Work-less, Meaningless, and soon a Fallen Down Drunk. I was addicted.  And working through the Depression and All Of The Above, I finally heard the

Sweet

Whisper

of the Spirit.  By this time I knew a bit more, I believed in the Grace of Jesus and God broke in and confronted my

Cycling Toilet of Shame, the hole in my heart leaking pain all over the floor, and

my F E A R.

An Ode to Joy.

A decade has passed and I’ve been sober almost five years.  I’m still

a colossal addict even sober, who wakes up every day on the verge of an existential crisis.  Deep, DEEP within, I crave significance. I crave making a meaningful contribution to the world. I long for Joy, real Joy.

Even now, listening to the mystical, providential, sweeping Spirit of God who Speaks and Holds me every day and quiets my frantic heart, that says:

{Just Be. And wait and Trust me.}

The surrender daily is bittersweet. Because I still don’t know What I’m Doing with my LIFE.  This poverty of spirit within me breaks my heart; I feel I betray Jesus in every moment that I’m

fearful, restless, dissatisfied, and confused.

Because unlike what my daughter believes, I don’t know what I am to DO, more than

Just Be. And so, I wait.  And in the waiting, I am transformed.

Fear’s Come, Knocking

36-DSC_0013I rise early
As pain wakes me, it is impatient to begin.
It’s burning in my leg. I’m despondent, knowing

Fear’s come, knocking
Licking up my tears, FEAR holds me tight,
Comforts,

As I sit with her.  I know FEAR
Like an old friend.
I’ve never known much else, than this devilish companion.

My heart
Aches, as I attempt just for a moment to fight FEAR
With Gratitude.

Drum, drum, drum, like the pain in my leg she’s persistent.
I have excuses.
Family chaos, family pain. My chaos, my pain.

Only I know, again and again and again how ruthless she is,
Relentless, she’s brilliant, she’s all knowing
FEAR’s come knocking and I have welcomed her in.

I listen and I believe
I relent, because
I trust her.

She whispers chaos into my soul, “I am nothing. What if the only thing
I was ever supposed to do was be a mother.
[To comfort, to believe in, to love, to help

Those small souls (my children)
To help them find Life without Fear.
What if, 

There’s nothing else to ask for,
Nothing for me?”
Mothering should be enough FEAR proclaims.

Stop dabbling, FEAR taunts. You’re nothing special.
Let go.
Just be,

A mother.
Seeing Images, collecting Words, Thinking – all meaningless.
You are nobody

Special.
FEAR soars now, for this
Believing gives her strength and power.

She swirls and floats around me
Delighted,
Knowing

For today,
FEAR’s won.
For today, I quit struggling.

FEAR always comes knocking
And today
I made her welcome.

FEAR holds on to me – Knowing I’ll never be
Without her, this is her domain
My heart.

FEAR
Owns
me.

I traded my dreams
For a moment of relief from the panic.
She knows the grooves

Worn in my soul – she made them.
Swiftly
Filling me like wet concrete poured, I begin

To harden.
FEAR swells, it hurts as she grows and strengthens
Within.

My FEAR
I hope she plans to let me die eventually.
As I let go of hope,

Abandoned dreams collect around me
I am heavy, thick with her.
I watch myself drop deeper and deeper

Into the waters dark with despair.
What if I was never meant
to do anything “important”?

What if the words and images got trapped inside
me, cemented forever?
Surely then FEAR

Would relent, releasing me
She’d fly away from me forever and I’d finally know
Joy. Instead,

We play this slow game together,
An unhurried cruelty,
This daily swim,

Will I finally
Capitulate?
Then I realize FEAR, doesn’t want

me
To relent.
Where’s the fun

In my total surrender?  It is the game
She’s here for
This

Battle,
I call my LIFE,
Cemented in FEAR.

Calm Down and Breathe

039-20120504_0154I’ve learned something profoundly important about myself.  I thrive off difficulties.

It’s a tendency of addictive persons. And though it’s not all bad to have this penchant, it can be bad.  There’s good too, to be into problem solving, endlessly considering three steps ahead, to be that type of person that is wondering about the options, potentials, and liabilities for every scenario.  Not all bad, no, but exhausting.

It’s not all bad except when it takes over life and you find yourself a bit like a chicken with its head cut off running and squawking about the sky falling—it is vulgar and disruptive and fruitless, and it’s erratic.  Hard on everyone around you and utterly unfaithful to a God who is in control of all things.

Yesterday in so many words, we were told by an expert psychologist (one of the best in his field)

to just stop it, already! Calm down and breathe.

Be in

this moment. 

To accept and surrender to right now.

At first I looked at him in disbelief. This guy is supposedly the expert and he’s telling me one of the simplest ideas.  BE PRESENT – with your life, with your kids, with this minute.

This is intense for a doer like me, I’m a problem solver.  I feel calmer exponentially calmer from such a modest and unpretentious idea.   ACCEPT THIS MOMENT.

RIGHT NOW.

For months we’ve had a few big problems in our family that we have been trying to solve.  It’s no secret that I’ve become frustrated, consumed with confusion and anxiety, allowing despair to take hold.  This is who we are, I thought, Tom and especially me. We project out to the future and come back and cannot visualize it working out.

But we cannot project good outcomes.  We cannot resolve it.  We cannot solve it.  We cannot think our way out of it.

Partly this is not trusting God.

Partly this is simply fear.

Partly it is that we believe we have control over the outcomes of our lives, and more importantly no matter how much we say that we don’t think so intellectually, we think we have control over the outcomes of our children’s lives.

Suddenly I see that we cannot control the outcomes of our life even as we work hard to be better people, learn to be better parents, strive to be better community members, even as we do, make, inhabit, create, prepare, plan, teach and attempt to control who our kids become, we are challenged to accept what is.

He said, it’s okay.

No, my mind wanted to say and I did say to it’s a mess, it’s falling apart, it’s out of control.  We’re in big trouble.  We cannot manage.  We don’t have answers.

It’s okay.

He just kept coming back to it.  It’s okay, what is.  This is the state of things. It’s okay.

Our current circumstances are hard, some of the toughest we’ve ever faced.  But right at this moment, still high from the clarity of the simple truth of yesterday, I see.

If we take life minute to minute, moment by moment, I’m fairly certain we can bear it.

Just now, right now.  Only this moment.

Stop projecting three steps ahead, three years ahead … and it’s a sweet surrender!  There’s a sense of less straining, less fear, less need for control and more of getting out of the way for God being God.  I’ve talked a lot of late about surrendering to God but haven’t known how.

We do it right now.  This is the only moment we can surrender and then we’re free.

Ask yourself: What’s going on right now?  What are you accomplishing in this moment by worrying three steps ahead?  Not a thing.  Why not be here?  What’s to be solved by imagining the worst and best outcomes?  What might happen if you just stopped?

I’m Already Drowning

SUN_SLIDES_LYR_MHH_10-11 (96)The noise of him rising wakes me, suddenly
aware of morning.  I must have slept, for I am now fully awake.
Before any awareness of the day
a familiar dread pounds inside, stomach lurching.
Life’s burdens stream in, pooling around as the bed floats.
A Swelling river of tears, and fear and heartache.  I’m already drowning.

He’s rushing to work because work put him to sleep, kept him dreaming
and woke him.

All of life, lately is spent reeling and the current
is upstream, I’m grasping
at some kind of Hope, any kind of goodness,
holding on to the bits of sweetness I can find, anywhere.
Rancorous contemplation engulfs the good I long for, for I’m no good
at holding on to hope,
in fact I’m drowning in grief; not yet awake I’m by now clutching the pillows
as the bed floats around me, surrounded by my dreams
and tears.

In a moment the dreams are prayers, my heart’s Beat and Breath joins
into Knowing.
The Holy One searches us, knowing everything so how
can I persistently go on alone?
In the Holy Book the words are written, all our days are Known.

Before she was inside my womb.  This I cannot comprehend

as I’m drowning.

Still, You Know and now I believe again.

Even one so lost, is not so lost to you.