Going Down? pt. 3-ish

Through days of grey made achingly longer just trying to survive there came an increasing intuition about something. In fact, an audible voice (or, if not, something that makes for a better story) stated quite simply, “you’re on the wrong med.” I know, I also thought it a rather banal thing for God to say after all that much more grandiose fare we read in the Bible. Anyway, the growing sense that something was chemically askew had been a recurring thought for months, even years before, but was quickly squelched in favor of my ongoing survival. A truly shitty present had to be better than some unknown, possibly shittier future.

This time was different. The absolute clarity of the idea penetrated my consciousness with a keenness and confidence that demanded my attention. I quite simply, quit. Even the emotional anguish that followed quickly on the heels of this decision I was never once tempted to think that I had made a mistake.

Instead, my tumultuous and tortured mind drifted to cries of desperation. And, in some cases, well, most actually, they were aimed at God. If I had been tormented with “I don’t give a damn” attitude before, it now chimed in with “I don’t give a flying f**k. I don’t care that I don’t give a flying f**k. I don’t care that I don’t care that I don’t give a flying f**k. I don’t care that my readers are subjected to three f**ks, OK, four f**ks…five in a row.” I wondered, perhaps for the first time ever, whether I would ever feel “normal” again. I began to despair even of life. If this was the best it could offer, I wasn’t particularly interested.

It was in such a sorry state of mind that, on Thursday morning, April 29th, 2010 I determined that the best I would be able to manage for work that day would be to climb a 20-foot scaffold and fix the church speakers. For me, it was a day in infamy.

As luck would have it we blew out the horns in not one but both of our church speakers a few weeks earlier at our annual Celtic Praise service. Thank you. Thank you very much. I, too, am proud of this accomplishment. About three weeks later, replacement parts in hand, I climbed our hastily thrown together scaffolding. It was already Thursday, I was very tired and yearned for an uneventful Friday, my Sabbath. When it comes to the unsexy jobs of music ministry, this tops the list, unless you consider cleaning mouse excrement out of organ pipes. As a result, the line up of volunteers eager to assist was…non-existent.

I could add white-hot self-pity and anger to my already fragile emotional palette. I’d love to call it righteous indignation, but apparently God is standing right behind me. I unhappily engaged in the awkward and dangerous process of dismantling our scaffolding just to set it up from scratch a mere 4 steps higher from the sanctuary floor to the chancel; a process I was doing unsupervised over lunch hour…

Going down?…Reflections of the fall

April 29, 2010. For me, a day in infamy. Before I begin a more thorough reveal of my travail, here is the short version. I fell off a 20 ft. scaffold and bounced off a cement floor breaking my pelvis and shattering my left arm in so doing. Perhaps in my earlier years when I was lithe and daring, I would have been more willing to do such things for the inevitable showering of praise from my peers. This was anything but willing, lithe or daring. It was jarring and rather horrifying at first; later, embarrassing; still later, a blessing. Stay with me as I begin to share the tale of woe and the surprising blessings of pain.

In rather dizzying drama, 2010 will be forever my “year of the fall.” However, neither the event itself, nor the injuries sustained, the post-event healing or even the post-recovery return to work are the central, defining landmarks of last year. The deeper discoveries have been far more significant.

I begin.

I feel normal. How I got there is rather less than normal. For the better part of my adult life I have exhibited some particularly vexing emotional demons. Far too easily have I slipped from a relatively safe emotional perch into some quagmire of baffling darkness. This is usually accompanied by generous helpings of self-loathing and profound lack of self-confidence. Where many people might look at new challenges as potential opportunities for advancement or growth, I’ve wilted before them in abject fear and unexplainable trepidation.

Yes, I know, what a catch.

Coping mechanisms for this travail have too often included a host of self-destructive behaviors, which have provided a welcome respite in euphoric escapism but did little in advancing me anywhere close to something one might call “normal.” Besides, as a favorite singer-songwriter, Bruce Cockburn quips, “the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” Good, I’ll avoid it altogether. It is as though I relish living life at the periphery of sanity, swimming in a sea of anguish and self-pity. Actual contentment seemed to be the proverbial carrot dangling from a string before my nose, just out of reach, but plainly visible. It has often been the emotional equivalent of the Chinese water torture.

Albeit fewer than I’d like, in more lucid moments, I’ve at least had sufficient clarity to see my lack of clarity. My combination of DNA, personality wrinkles, emotional disparities and psychological proclivities have too often conspired against me, leaving me a heap of human plasticine. In my groping after the perceived safety of quick fixes this plasticine mess has found all the wrong sculptors. I end up shaped more like a phallic symbol than anything more usable to anybody. Well, actually…oh, never mind. That is, of course, unless I consider further screwing myself to be “usable” in any redemptive sense.

More recently, of the numerous challenges, any one of which could be blamed for exacerbating this dizzying array of dysfunctions, I began to hear God’s voice. To hear God’s voice through a haze of old mental tapes playing, the poorest self-memory ever and the latest chemical concoction for emotional tranquility is truly miraculous. Let’s admit, God’s ridiculous insistence on pestering us with grace is rather impressive.

I noticed (a word I don’t generally associate well with) a deeper than normal malaise; something mostly dealt with by a daily dose of ADD meds. Around the time of the second of two online courses I was taking in Spiritual Direction, I drooped into a level of complacency, which drooped still further in mind-numbing apathy that bordered on despair. It was the spiritual equivalent of shrugging one’s shoulders before punting the cat through the screen door…