Tag Archives: reflection

Thoughts for Thursday

Depression is difficult. This is my story.

It’s insidious. It breaks things and hurts people and lives can be pulled apart by it. When I heard the news about Robin Williams on Monday night I was filled with a great sadness. Sadness, and a longing to have been there, to have helped. To cradle this beloved person in my arms and cry and listen and be there. That’s a bizarre feeling to have for someone I knew through a screen, with whom I never had any personal interaction with.

But that’s who I am at my core. I want to help, I want to be there, I want to serve. And one of the hardest lessons I had to learn is that as much as I want to fix things and make everything alright–it’s not just up to me and sometimes there’s nothing I can do besides pray.

I got married young and at the time my husband was not depressed. He had told me that he had clinical depression but hadn’t had an episode in a while. I didn’t really know what that meant–my experience of depression were those times I had “the blues”.. the kind of thing that going for a run or sitting on a rock by a stream or talking to God could help. In a day or two I’d be back to myself.

But this thing just crept in. It took hold in him and I didn’t know what to do. So, naturally, I read articles and books and watched movies and youtube clips and did anything I could to educate myself. We’ll fix this!  I thought, oh-so-naively. Therapy sessions booked, medications prescribed, and it’s all okay right?

Nope.

Fights began. Irrational, ugly, mean fights in which unloving things were said that hurt us both. They usually ended in both of us in tears, apologizing–but these fights will wear you down. I didn’t understand, although I tried so hard. I wanted to. It took me a long time to figure out that this is not just an episode–this is life. And when you’re that young and you have all kinds of bright eyed hopes for what your life is going to be, and then realize that in this current situation that life is impossible, it will break you. It broke me.

Things Fall Apart.

I tried. I tried for a long, long time. Therapy sessions fizzled. Medications were not refilled. Other, more harmful methods of self medication were taken. I numbed myself to the ups and downs to the point where it just didn’t effect me anymore.

I prayeda lot.

My husband was not a religious man and this ended up being a really difficult thing to overcome, especially in how we dealt with this depression. I turned to God and trusted that it would be okay. I frequently admitted that I cannot do this on my own and relied on my faith and my community to lift me up. He did not. If I could have gone to therapy and taken his medications for him, I would have. If I could have finished up those last semesters of college for him, I would have. I felt helpless and powerless and I can’t even begin to imagine all the things he was feeling and going through.

I’m not saying I did everything right. I’m not saying that you can’t help someone who is depressed–you can love and encourage and listen and be there. It’s hard. It will change your relationship to that person. He stopped wanting to change and get better and in order for me to live the life that I believe I am called to live, we had to separate.

It sucked. But it was also a good thing for both of us.

I don’t have much contact with him. I know he is re-married and they have a baby girl. I wish them health and happiness and I sincerely hope he has found it. I pray for him and hope he has peace in his life.

That’s all I can do, now.

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Thousand Word Fridays: Fire on the Mountain

Jason Sierra (2014, Collage)

Jason Sierra (2014, Collage)

I see fire – Ed Sheeran

C.S. Lewis, Maps, Theology… and me

C.S. Lewis is one of my very favorite authors, partially because of his wonderful allegorical fiction and partially because of his thoughtful and thought provoking non-fiction. (Also he had cool friends..) His language can be a bit hard to get into but I find that once I get my brain thinking like the way he writes (in my head I just hear an old British guy.. that seems to help) I understand what he’s getting at.

His apology of Christianity, Mere Christianity, is a book I both love and sometimes find myself disagreeing with. There are points at which I’m like, yeah. You’re definitely an old white British guy in the mid twentieth century. But putting his work in that context helps me understand his perspective, and I think there are many things he has written that are timeless.

Today’s TfT from Mere Christianity is one of my favorite passages. I’ve met people like that old RAF officer and I myself have had some of those same feelings. Mountaintop experiences in nature that bring me to tears and to my knees, holy moments with God where I see Him, feel Him, even hear Him in the birdsong and babbling brooks. I admit to sometimes getting a bit bored in services, mind wandering to lunch plans and things that need to happen to get ready for the week ahead. Wishing I could be on that mountaintop, FEELING things and EXPERIENCING God.

In the book he goes on to say that Theology is like a map; doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map–but one that is based on the experiences of hundreds of people who were really in touch with God. If you want to get any further you  must use the map–you must use the Theology and Doctrines developed and argued about and debated and discussed for centuries. What happened on that mountaintop or in the desert or in that nature path may have been real but where does it lead? If you stop there then that’s all you have. And in his usual dry wit, “But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.”

And when I use Theology and Doctrine and Tradition, Scripture, and Reason to delve into that mountaintop experience, I find something more. I find a connection with other people, an understanding and a peace that I can carry with me. Saying the Nicene Creed aloud with my fellow Episcopalians every Sunday takes on a new light having been explored in a different way, from that mountaintop view.

Confession, and a reflection on choices

It’s January, a brand new year, and I want to get this off my chest:

I kind of don’t like the Road Not Taken poem by Robert Frost.

I know, I know, I posted it as the Thoughts for Thursday for today. Maybe I’m harboring ill favor towards it because of the forced dissection of it in high school. (and college. ugh. let it go, y’all) But I think it also has to do with what I perceive as a missed interpretation of this poem.

Most people think it’s about being different, taking the path few have trodden before, being independent and cool. (Robert Frost as the original hipster? hm…) And that’s fine and dandy, I’m all for that, forge ahead wayward pilgrims.

This poem, though, is about choices.

(I really want to go off on a tangent right now about parallel universes and how there is a universe out there wherein Robert Frost takes the other path, but I digress……)

In this poem, our boy Rob does something we all do every day: he makes a choice. He doesn’t really base it on much, seems like it was a grassier path, but that choice made all the difference. What difference? Who knows. It made some difference to him though, and so it is with the choices we make in our day to day lives.

Our choices are what make us who we are. There are ten zillion quotes and word picture memes about making choices (trust me, I googled it to see if I could find something good for TfT). They all have basically that same point: choices, not circumstances, make us who we are.

I like to think I make the big choices with intention, like what charity I’m going to donate my money to, or where to dedicate my time and full self. Other things are based, like the choice of that grassy path, on a whim. Is that can of beans on sale? Two for 67 cents? sold!

I think the biggest choice that I intentionally make, though, is the choice to be a Christian. I choose to follow Christ, to try and live as He did and be what I feel I am called to be. I choose to be kind and compassionate even to the lady that cussed me out on the phone because I couldn’t get her the appointment time she wanted. I choose to let the car out in front of me. I choose. My choice. 

Our choices have consequences though, as our friend Robert laments– I took the one less traveled… but I’ve always wondered where that other path went. I can see him old and grey, reclining by a hearth and telling his grandchildren about that fateful day, and sighing that he always meant to go back and find out where that other path went.

I hope and pray that you, dear reader, make choices you are proud of, that you can stand by. Make the choices that put a smile on baby Jesus’ face. Even if it seems trivial–like choosing one path over another due to its grass and leaf content–it could make all the difference.

Success

success

 

Success is hardly the neutral definition provided in the dictionary, especially in these United States. Success is loaded with all kinds of connotations of material gain or notoriety, impact or well roundedness, but the most invisible and perhaps most powerful connotation of success is failure. If we do not succeed we fail. Check out this amazing interview by Alain de Botton about how the American desire to crown a winner has created an equally powerful need to punish a loser.

Our faith of course calls us to turn all of this on its head, to crown the loser and send the winner to the back of the line. Or does it? In Jesus’ time were we really talking about winners and losers or were we talking about the fortunate and the unfortunate, those who had (through no fault of their own) and those who did not. This is a very different thing. Perhaps Jesus wasn’t talking about redistribution or even equal distribution, but about lack of ownership altogether of wealth and power and relationships and hope. Only then do you really see the end of the vicious cycle of winners and losers.

As the year begins to wind down and you are tempted to give thanks for your successes and lament your failures, I hope you’ll take some time to reframe, to reconsider, and to redefine the ideas you have about what success means and whether you can ever really have or want it. What else does God call us to value to give meaning to our lives? What does God value?