Sunday, July 31, 2011

Knight in Shining Armor

Okay, I promise someday soon to stop writing so much about Lyme. I feel like I'll be ready to move on soon; it will still be a part of my life, but I won't need to think about it so much. However, in the meantime, something I've been pondering.

Over a year ago when I first started meeting with my counselor, she had me draw a diagram of my extended family, describing each person in a few brief words. She was struck that I described myself as "burdened." I had no idea at the time how significant that word was when applied to me.

I was always the girl who had it all together. I was perfect. I followed the rules. I was smart, funny, capable, understanding. A good listener, encouraging, always had the right word at the right time. I was a good writer and a talented musician. I took care of kids like a pro and adults loved me. I could solve problems. I never lost my temper. I was mature, responsible. I was everything to everyone. I didn't complain about sickness or sorrow. I fit into the landscape so well that I might as well not have been there.

I was so busy helping other people with their lives that there was no time, no energy for my own life. And I was so stubborn, so tough, so committed to remaining this girl everyone could rely on, that I would have continued living this empty life indefinitely - probably until I died. I knew somewhere deep inside that if I failed, if I let things fall apart, certain people in my life would be angry and disappointed with me.

You don't think of God rescuing you with suffering. It almost seems obscene to say it. But if I hadn't gotten so sick and depressed that I literally couldn't function anymore, I would never have given up. I wouldn't have paused long enough to see the lie I was living, the horrible emptiness of it, the desperate settling for scraps of happiness.

I had to abandon the me that had created that life. To live something better, I had to let God remake me from the ground up. And He did. He's pretty awesome that way.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It Is Not Real

Somewhere on the continuum between doubt and trust, I have discovered a place where truth has taken root deep inside and begun to grow toward the surface - but doubt, like old layers of skin, still clings to the outside. It is weakened and thinned out, but still there, a shell that covers me.

I still react to life in the old ways. When I have a bad encounter with someone, a voice inside my head still tells me I'm worthless and talks destruction into my ears. I'm cagey with people I'm just learning to trust, welcoming them one minute and putting up walls the next. On some days I feel a darkness leaning on my shoulders. I want to give up, quit fighting.

When you don't have any reason to hope, these reactions make perfect sense. I would never tell someone who was in a place of real doubt and fear that they just have to hold on, believe, stay strong. I was at that place for many years. The right thing, at that time, was to admit exactly how terrified I was and do whatever was necessary to protect myself from life and God. And God took care of His side of things, began the discussion, came and reasoned with me, told me stories and worked miracles, spoke my language and showed me love.

So now the evidence all points to something very different from the evil universe in which I previously existed. I truly believe in something and Someone better. Gradually that fragile belief is becoming stronger. I have a sense that I'm crossing a great divide, that I'll never go back.

But in the meantime, I'm still crossing. And I'm learning to carry myself through the old emotions. I'm realizing that even if I feel afraid or circumstances are repeating horrifyingly familiar patterns, that doesn't mean the story is going to end badly. I can't stop the emotions, but I can identify the truth that I know and I can believe it, even if I don't feel like it is true.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Know How This Guy Feels

"Our conversation turned to the supernatural and Dr. Gottlieb was saying, '. . . a man of my age knows that events have a logic of their own. Above all, they are the product of causality. Your mystics feel insulted if things happen in what we call a natural way. But to me the greatest and most wonderful miracle is what Spinoza called the order of things. When I lose my glasses and then find them in a drawer which I thought I hadn't opened in two years, I know I must have put them there myself and that they were not hidden by your demons or imps. I also know that no matter how many incantations I might have recited to retrieve them, the eyeglasses would have stayed in the drawer forever. As you know, I am a great admirer of Kant, but to me causality is more than a category of pure reason. It is the very essence of creation. You may even call it the thing in itself.'

"'Who made the causality?' I asked, just to say something.

"'No one, and therein is its beauty.'"

~ "The Missing Line," Isaac Bashevis Singer

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Timeless

People tell you to "live in the present," but I've never been able to - not from lack of trying. My present was often a painful attempt to retreat into the past or launch into the future. It was exhausting. Finally I gave up, stopped making plans or dreaming or even making wise decisions, because it didn't seem to matter, but that meant I had no hope.

I'm discovering that living time-bound is all about balance. Aiming toward the future is important. Having dreams and goals (the more precisely expressed, the better) gives me movement and direction, and it seems like God can't do much with a life that isn't moving in some direction. A lot of times I don't get to where I planned, but at least I get somewhere and that's a whole lot better than staying stuck.

But it's also important to have a life that's livable now. I have friends who are always saying, "As soon as this happens" or "As soon as I do this." Usually these people are pretty miserable in the present, but they're convinced that doesn't matter because eventually things are going to be perfect. I had a pastor once who was always talking about how great heaven was going to be and that's how we could get through our troubles on earth, and I would think, "That's great, let's go there now." One of the worst things about being a Christian is when other Christians tell you to just hold on till you get to heaven, and all you can think is, why is God making you go through this crap in the meantime? What kind of God is that?

What I'm seeing now, just from the way my life has gone, is that how I feel about my life in the present really does matter. God isn't a sadist who wants us to suffer without remedy. So if my wonderful future plans are causing me misery in the present, or if I'm using the future to distract myself from the present, then it's time to do some repair work on the everyday. With the right balance, my view of the future can enrich my present, and my present can give me the strength to push toward the future.

This is an unforgivably long post, but allow me some random closing thoughts. I just unclogged two sink drains all by myself (generations of women have had this master bathroom before me), and would you believe I found a safety pin and one of those plastic covers for a razor cartridge in one of them. Thanks to my previous landlord for giving me painstaking instructions in the art of drain clearing. Two blogs I strongly recommend: Don Miller is incredibly hard hitting and thought provoking, pretty much the sanest and most balanced voice that I know of in Christianity today; Kelly at A Restless Heart has been blogging about Lyme recovery and she's verbalizing many thoughts that express my own experience, but the words are so difficult for me to find. I've been reading Isaac Bashevis Singer; he grows on you until you're almost dependent on him - I'm reading a collection of his short stories literally straight through, with the same what-happens-next anticipation that I felt when I first discovered novels as a child.