4.10.20

I combed my hair today. I got dressed in jeans and put on socks and shoes.

Yesterday I did not. I couldn’t. I managed to get out of bed, and I cried a lot.

When I am depressed there is a real temptation to disconnect from my body. My body feels like a weight I am dragging around. I chose to ignore the signals of hunger and thirst, and then because I am still embodied I feel sick.

I wrote in a journal more than a decade ago that I thought the hardest part of the greatest commandment was “the love your neighbor as yourself.Self love seemed so impossibly hard to come by, but as I have aged I can grasp more its need.

There is a sacred simplicity in the act of combing hair. When I was a hairdresser I suspected that the reason that near strangers would share intimate details with me was that in a world of loneliness, I was one person that they let in—mere fractions of an inch from their face.

So I combed my hair today, not because the heaviness of yesterday is gone, but to love my body, to acknowledge that is from my body that I can love others. I don’t mentally feel warm emotions yet, but I could comb my hair again tomorrow.

4.3.20

Well I had all the best intentions, I wrote another draft on the 1st, but in some twist of fate the draft did not save–April Fool joke on myself, perhaps? Maybe its best it was a half baked thought, that was leading down to no true end and a lot more questions.

Yesterday I met with a psychiatrist for the first time in years, a wonder of telemedicine that I could be on the comfort of my couch and drink coffee while recounting my history of medications that have worked and the others that failed and my symptoms that have followed me around since at late grade school. It wrapped up hopefully, with a new medication addition and reminder from another professional that navigating the world on fire with additional support is good care of my self.

Since the disappearing draft I have been contemplating the crooked path of symbols of sacredness. Items that are both means of grace, but have sorted pasts of their own. I told my wife, “we often quote that God lead God’s people to ‘a land with vineyards that you did not plant,’ but if someone else planted the vineyard–that means that there are people who planted and are now displaced.” Displaced planters, those who broke up rocky soil and drew the lines, who pruned and grafted and watered and cared–these are the plans of those that wish to see it through. Yet another drinks deep.

Wine is in a lot of sacred spaces, Passover Dinners and Communion, gifts of libations at temples, feasts to celebrate weddings and it crosses trembling lips with a promise of warm calm for a moment. Song of Songs praises the Loved as being a goblet of wine. I have participated in some of these moments, I have held for a moment on my tongue the work of another. What is it to see the Divine in the glass and still to know that justice may seem off for another? Who am I to receive what the other has labored for?

I don’t have a great answer, after all the justice of food is a complicated one in our world. I know that I can make choices on what to buy and what to do without. I can hear the echos of sermons past that grace at all is given through the suffering Christ, who offers his body to feed those that did not labor, and his blood to quench the thirst of those that did not care for the vines. Sacred is not unencumbered by the complexity of our world–if anything it is a reflection of how joy and grief are not opposites but cooccurring realities–there is bitterness and comfort in every sip. So I will grieve and I will praise.

What sacred things do you find most complicated?

2.15.19 Dance

I think one of the most distressing questions I have heard over my whole life is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” or its sister statement, “do what makes you happy.” You see I find “happy” to be a very wild emotion to hold onto, let alone crawl inside and live there, for more of my adulthood then I would like to admit my companion emotion has been the gray muddled emotion that seems best captured by the word ‘melancholy’.

Melancholy is not quite sad, but there is a discomfort at the current conditions. Melancholy is anxious, sort of, it allows worry and doubt to dance along the daily thoughts. Melancholy sometimes is inexplicable tired and makes the tasks of life mundane and appear to drag on. I have always been ashamed of my melancholy bend, my propensity to see the world as glass with the dredges left in the bottom, especially when I fell in love with The One that sees the world as a jewel colored ocean begging to have you jump in and taste and see all that is wonderful and good.

Being next to her is a spark in the inky night and I began to wonder if being next to me was a bit like sitting next to pile of wet wood that should be your campfire. In some of my darker moments I wonder if I need to just snap out of it, find a way to be bright and warm before I smother the good that she is, in her brightest moments she warms me enough to believe that a fire is starting in the wet kindling of my being.

It is cliché to compare us to the great opposites attract tropes–we are not close to Paula and a cartoon cat. We make good partners. We are good friends. Our natural bends twirl around each other as she swings toward the light and I sway to the shadow.

When I shared my thoughts with her on my melancholy she smiled with her knowing grin–the one that comes with the empathy eyebrows and told me, “I have melancholy too. Whenever I see a sunrise or beauty in the grey–I still feel a little sad in those moments, because I know for every place that I saw beauty, I still have missed so much.”

 

March 31, 2020

I will just start by saying that I assume there are other minds much more qualified to discuss what sacred practice looks like during shelter-in-place orders. I am not reading any of those great mind’s work. I am just trying to get this mind to work.

I have Major Depressive Disorder.

I have not had a job since October.

There is a pandemic.

Those are not cause and effect.

The choice to end my job was related to making a move to another state, and taking care of my kids, but then…one month stretched into many more and then into a pandemic.

The thing about MDD is that when I am structured, intellectually stimulated and more or less well rested, my meds can take me the rest of the way to nearly normal functioning. When I am stressed by change, inactivity and lack of sleep, well– all bets are off and I may spend the day on the verge of tears crying because I believe I am failing my wife, our kids, and the good Lord above.

Speaking of the good Lord, I have been deconstructing and reconstructing my faith for a bit here, and with winter and moving and MDD and vicious viruses (suggested emoji–>🦠 (this looks more like an ameba)) I have been in a bit of a lull on feeling the closeness of the Divine walking with me. I know from the touch points in my past that these are the moments that standing stones, memories of when the goodness of God was so tangible I could taste it like honey and drink it like communion wine, are of invaluable hope. It lets me pray, “I can’t feel you, but I trust that you remember me as I remember you.”

I am here to remember, to rest and to confess. I am here to share in the communion of memory, the baptism through boredom, the bowed head of grief, and ultimately for the resurrection from the weary. I am here to listen for the small voice that isn’t the asshole in my brain. I am looking for moments of sacredness and hopefully sanity in the midst of all of this that we are going through.

I have never been good at disciplines (ask my dentist and my running shoes), but with no intension, the malaise that rolls in extinguishes my will and steals my joy. But I am not promising to do great big things everyday–this isn’t a story about bootstraps–but I am setting my intention to look for the ebenezers that are in my house, my lawn, in my Love’s eyes, and in eating bread (because God didn’t limit carbs, so neither am I).

See you tomorrow.

 

3.24.18 Lament to Levity

“When all the world appears to be in a tumult, and nature itself is feeling the assault of climate change, the seasons retain their essential rhythm. Yes, fall gives us a premonition of winter, but then, winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.”                                    Madeleine M. Kunin

I often hear people say that they continue to live in the upper prairie states because, “I love being where there are four seasons.” The fact that this is easy to argue against–on March 24th we got like 6 inches of snow and I have spent more Easters in flannel and fleece than pastel dresses. We may have 2 seasons–a hot one and a cold one, but I don’t live here for the weather anyway. I live here because I have people here I could not really thrive without (and for some reason we haven’t just all made a pact to move to temperate places together). It was on back-to-back weekends with some of these important people that I stumbled across seeing the edges on one of my own seasons–book ends.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life–the first time I was medicated was in seventh grade–but the last half of my twenties and the first half of my thirties have been some of the darkest and deepest dives into the black pit. In the midst of the darkness faith has still been a constant. I believe that some of the perspective on the matter that I now have has been because of God’s consistent and unwavering love for me throughout depression.

So dread and sorrow and disappointment and anger and sadness have been emotions that I have gotten really used to feeling while in the pit–and these are not the emotions that “good Christian girls” feel. We are supposed to count all things as joy and rejoice–again I say rejoice! (why does that still sound like it is through gritted teeth in my head?) There is this pervasive thought that because of what Christ did, humans are supposed to be filled with gratitude and be happy (dammit!). Well if you have ever tried to will yourself any other emotion than the one you are feeling you know this goes one of two ways: instead of the emotion you are trying to tamp down–say, sadness, it pops out as anger (or eating an entire bag of mini peanut butter cups), or you get good at shutting down emotions and you are just numb.

I don’t think God wants numb over tears. I don’t think God wants happy masks over sorrow–I think God wants us to be fully alive, free from unhealthy social expectations and  fully to be a beautiful broken and mended us. Mending and healing take time, and God was kind not to demand my tears stop in one instant and here is where my first bookend of this journey began: Lament. Lament (as I know it) is the spiritual practice of telling God that the current circumstances failed to meet your expectations and that you are expecting something different. Lament as spiritual practice can feel foreign to us, as we have been told that our joy is equal to how saved we feel, but this is biblical. Below is a favorite lament of mine, Psalm 13:1-4

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Here the poem is short but direct–I feel forgotten. I feel like I am fighting within myself. I am in the dark, and no one, not even you God seems to know. Now if your internal response to my last statement is, No, you can’t say that! God is always with you and always knows! don’t stop reading–and lean into that discomfort. Laments are honest prayers written from the place of the pit–and God seems OK with the feelings as Jesus quoted another lament psalm from the cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1a). God showed me through lament that my darkness did not scare God, instead God could hold all of my feelings and sit with me in the darkness.

And there was plenty of darkness.

Until there was a little more light,

then a little more,

and then some more still.

Until my lament could start to turn and I could pray with full feeling the last two verses of Psalm 13:

 

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

 

When you have spent years blinking in the darkness you don’t always know what to do in the sun–you don’t always know how to be in spaces where you used to cry and mourn and slog your way through. And that is where I was two Fridays ago. Sitting in a chapel, with a small grin on my face and a question in my head, “what do I do in these spaces now that I am not feeling dread or sorrow or disappointment or anger or sadness? What do I do when lament isn’t quite fitting? And I heard in my head, “Learn Levity.” And just like that I was introduced to the closing of this season of depression–my other bookend.

Levity–lightness or humor, if you go to extremes it is irreverent and fickleness, but in that moment what I heard in it was, “I taught you lament, now I am going to teach you to be light.” God again is not scared of our feelings–either ones that are full of weight or of those that are feather light. And I imagine that it may take God another decade to love me to an understanding of how light life can be as well.

I am happy to close the bookends on this space in my life, to move on toward the “soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.”

He has Risen. Let the world be filled with the Light.

Like the bookends pictured? You can get them here. I do not receive any compensation for the link and I am not trying to promote their products, I am just grateful for the use of their picture.