Do Not Be Afraid

Fear leads us to hurt, or to reject other people. John said, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Because I grew up in the church, it’s easy for me to point the finger that direction, and say that the church often carries an “us and them” mentality. These are the rules, and we know who’s in and who’s out by who follows these rules. But why does this matter at all? Why do you have to know who’s in and who is out? What if you just lived in a house with a bunch of people from varying faiths, and with various morals, and you worked together like a family? How could it work, unless you loved, unless you didn’t fear what their otherness might do to you?

What will their otherness do to you?

When I was growing up, there was a pressure to not be close friends with Unbelievers. It probably says somewhere in Proverbs that “bad company corrupts good character,” but I’m beginning to realize that I am already the worst kind of company. We’re very, very afraid of becoming monsters, of being thrown out of the family, of becoming unacceptable, and unloveable, and this actually leads us to throw other people out first.

What if I’m friends with a gay person? What if (even worse in our current world) my neighbor has opposing political beliefs? What if I want to get drunk or have sex outside of marriage? How can we stop the world from becoming tainted by The Other’s ugly, wrong, oppressive, horrible view? How can we keep ourselves safe from tyranny, or keep ourselves from becoming tyrants?

Though I know very little now, I do know that one road that won’t work is the road of fear. Fear will lead us much more directly into suffering and monsterhood.

What defensive actions are we taking based on fear? How are those actions harming us, and those around us? What would it look like if what John said was true- that perfect love casts out fear? How would our daily lives be different?

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Darkness, My Old Friend

Wednesday I visited the doctor and was given a prescription for an antidepressant. In spite of struggling with depression for over twenty years, this is the first time I’ve been open to the option.

Although I’ve struggled with/against/under/inside depression since the age of 16, it only recently dawned on me that anxiety plays a huge role in that depression. It is why I am often overwhelmed in large groups, or when there are sounds in competition with each other, in logistical meetings, or in crises when I must make a decision,  just sitting around thinking about intense things. Feeling overwhelmed then leads to a powerless/hopeless feeling that is what many consider to be depression. It all started with a sudden fall into despair and hopelessness as a teenager, and has aged with me, and probably shaped me in ways I cannot name.

The question of being medicated has been around since I first reached out for help (about a year after the problem began), but I always put it off, wanting to seek other avenues. Depression is very difficult to conquer, for the reason that it disables the part of a person that knows how to ask for help. Depression sinks itself in with perpetuating behaviors, and enervates the muscles necessary for getting out. Thus, my attempts to seek professional help were few and far between. When I needed it most, I was least capable of asking. When the attempts I made failed, I became further crippled from trying again. One dismissive psychiatrist, and too many hoops (including that unscalable wall of things that cost a lot of money) kept me at home seeking other remedies. This search has led me to discover many healthy outlets/helps. I don’t name anything as a Cure, but there are many worthy management tools…

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You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

I‘ve decided to act like a grownup for Christmas this year. I should have done this long before age 39, but you must understand that I didn’t realize I’ve been acting like a child until some time in the mid morning of today.

When you’re a kid, your parents make holidays- from scratch out of love, and special parent magic. When you leave the house, you transition through stages: holidays with friend’s families, holidays with just friends, one horrible New Years Eve spent alone, several happily solitary Thanksgivings. And you enjoy the freedom, thinking that one year, not long from now, you will begin your own family; you will start your own traditions. You will tap into the parent magic for yourself and start building holidays as a gift to your own children.  Your heart will be made of chocolate and your spouse will know just where (and how) to hang the stockings.

That is, unless you remain (mostly) single and (mostly) childless. If this happens,  you will one day get an email from your boss asking you to work more in December, you may briefly compare yourself to Lucy Eleanor Moderatz from While You Were Sleeping, and then start sobbing in the middle of some house you are cleaning in Bellevue…

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Motorhome Shock

Just recently (the beginning of July) I moved into a motorhome. For several months I used it like a spare room at a friend’s house- using their bathroom, and often eating meals with them. Two weeks ago I moved to a rented spot, so that I could plug in all of the things, and live in it like a tiny house.

It’s really a rubber meets road situation. Some of it feels a bit like culture shock (which is now called culture stress by many, but I like the word shock better because it includes that sense of disorientation that’s present in the struggle to accept a foreign environment). I always feel a little bit damp, and I worry constantly about the integrity of my plywood structure. I have a heater, but I’m tentative in using it, because I’m unsure how the cost of heating will accumulate. The towel I use after my shower never fully dries, and if my clothes get wet (from rain) there are few places to hang them. I hate the smell of propane, so I only turn it on to shower, do dishes, or cook on my stove…

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The Ones That Love You

I used to feel superior to road ragers.  I was like, hey man, calm down, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. You know, pretty zen about taking as long as it takes, and navigating the insane maze of the freeway.

This was before I became a regular commuter. Now that I drive to and from Seattle four times a week, I am prone to driving angry even when I’m out in the country (I live out in the country). A few weeks ago I was driving down Highway 20 to meet a friend for a mountain loop hike. In between nowheres, I found myself stuck behind three RVs going about 10 miles under the speed limit. I did not remain calm. I wasn’t traffic, they were, and I just wanted to have a day off from slugging along in my car behind people.

When I was younger (I mean, until a few years ago) I thought that as I got older, I would become calmer and wiser, I would work through my issues and be a really kind old lady some day. The older I get, the more I dig inside to clean things out, the more I find that deep down I’m basically a selfish asshole…

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Letters From The Void

In my current state of wrestling with expressions of faith, I may, at times, sound quite bitter. Not here, not on the blog, because I haven’t been writing much, but in person, I’m struggling a lot with an ambivalence which borders on hostility. I think these negative emotions are heavily stacked up around what I would call Religious Identity. That thing we use to comfort the fears we all feel about our humanity and mortality. I’m not talking about God himself here, I’m talking about all of our pet activities and thought patterns which we use to tell ourselves We Are OK.

Here’s the thing: We’re not OK. But that isn’t really the most important fact. The most important fact is that God knows, and he chooses us anyway. Christianity makes a really big deal about those who have chosen God and those who haven’t, but our choice is not actually the most important thing happening in the gospel. I’m not saying our choice isn’t important, but it’s not the main event, not by a long shot….

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Peace Like A Metaphor

Yesterday I was finally able to meet with my pastor after being delayed by that roundhouse car accident four weeks ago. On the morning of January 27th, as I drove, I mentally plotted out a sketch of the many things I couldn’t figure out or understand. But so much can happen in a month. The logistical life changes are in progress, and the spiritual dilemmas (at least a few) have had natural moments to untangle. Yesterday morning, sitting safely in Starbucks with Sam, I kind of stabbed at what hasn’t yet been addressed.

I’m usually pretty good at communicating complicated plots, but here I’m a little stumped, so I’ll head back into a metaphor that occurred to me while talking to a friend on the phone last night.

When I became a Christian in 1994, it was after having grown up in church, rebelled for a few years, and come back out of extreme depression. I put on my theology and beliefs like moving into a fully furnished house because I had nowhere else to go. I embraced all of it completely. There were uncomfortable things- paintings I found disturbing, rugs that I couldn’t pick up to clean under, smells I couldn’t eradicate, but it was home. I also added things to the house, but got rid of nothing, opting instead to leave those hard choices for another time, or maybe never. Because of some things that happened over the last few years, all of this became intolerable. It might have been smart to slowly tackle the issues, but what happened instead was total demolition. I was throwing stuff out the front door and lighting things on fire, smashing through walls and spending more and more time outside…

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Underneath

There are a lot of movies out there with a desperately single female protagonist. The woman is usually in her late 20’s and gorgeous, with few real issues, but several endearing quirks. That, or she’s got super ridiculous issues, but she’s so gorgeous that some guy would do anything to be with her.

One of my favorite movies dealing with the aging single woman is called Broken English. It’s more realistic than most, about a woman who is painfully single. She has a string of terrible dates and becomes leery of anyone showing interest, such that she finds it difficult even to be hit on because she feels this deep distrust of men who would be interested in her. It’s quite amazing to want someone to want you, but then distrust anyone who actually does. What’s wrong with them that they’re interested in me? And how quickly are they going to decide I’m not worth their effort?

It’s a mess. At some point the idea of being in a relationship starts to sound like the possibility of becoming an astronaut. You already know how much I fear outer space, but somehow I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a whole imaginary life that I can’t crumple up and throw away. It’s tattooed all over me with invisible ink. I know you think those are freckles covering my nearly-middle-aged skin, but they are actually hopes, and disappointed hopes. Sun kisses, or scars, or maybe notches to record imagined scenarios…

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Arbitrary Designations

The pain scale is possibly the worst way to measure anything. First of all, there is genre to consider; quality, duration, impact. If ten is the highest number, then I have to put childbirth there (something I say from experience), but actually, childbirth didn’t cause me to pass out. So maybe leg amputation, or a gun shot is actually worse. But then I would factor in duration, quality and impact. Giving birth felt like water skiing my undercarriage over sharp metal spikes… but not the whole time, just for a few seconds during each contraction. Actually childbirth is a good example of many genres of pain: burning, aching, sharp, sudden, subtle, dull.

So yeah, if we put childbirth as a ten (winning out over leg amputation based on duration and diversity, sorry to those of you that have experienced both and maybe think differently), then how am I supposed to tell a doctor about my neck pain? Compared to childbirth, in it’s feel at the moment, it is a .02, or something. But then if we add qualifications, it goes up. It’s like the feeling you get between your shoulder blades when you spend too much time reading; like that, but spread out from the top of my spine, to the lower middle of my back. And it’s also like giving someone, who is a little too heavy, a piggy back ride, or like a very small, and constant volt of electricity.

I went bra shopping the other day and did not factor in how exhausting it would be to take my shirt on and off so many times. The store clerk who was helping me didn’t understand my dilemma, and so she started by bringing me one size at a time in these large wooden drawers. After allowing this “customer service” to go on for a while, I finally got fed up with having to take everything on and off, and I just went out into the store and grabbed 7 or 8 different styles and sizes: the thing I should have done from the start.

And don’t get me started on physical therapy…

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Love Affair

It’s Saturday night and I’m just sitting here watching movie trailers. So, the usual. I managed to work in two burritos today, several handfuls of chocolate chips and then a drink with chia seeds to balance out the other things.

I also took this super romantic walk by myself. Well, the dog was kind of with me on the walk. He mostly ran ahead of me and went to the bathroom on stuff. Looking back on that, it’s actually kind of incredible how many times he urinated.

The sky was outrageously complex and emotional. The trees, too, and the yellowed grass edging all of those muddy green fields. Obviously I live in the country. Even living in the country I couldn’t help but resent the signs of life invading all of that beautiful, wild, winter nature. I have this favorite tree, which is crowded by power lines, a mail box, the road, some tacky little spray painted No Trespassing sign. 

When I walk that direction on the road, I look forward to seeing it likes it’s some attractive man I always run into at the grocery store. No, I’m more forward with this tree: I circle it and take photos of it with my cell phone, slowly looking for some angle that captures as much of it’s glory as possible without some ugly man-made object messing things up…

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