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 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…