Archive for the ‘struggle’ Tag

Hope Is Brutal   2 comments

I’m on furlough over spring break and it’s been difficult.  A fixed schedule helps my depression–simple requirements at set times take much less energy to commence.  That easy on-ramp is a big plus for me because my psychological crud poisons initiative, so whatever keeps my wheels turning, even slowly, keeps me alive.  When my schedule is wide open, just making decisions increases my load.  How much energy do I have?  How much energy will it take?  What is priority? How will Kimberly feel?  How long can I put it off before it breaks or blocks up the works or breeds flies?  Procrastination is a serious survival strategy.

I could rouse myself to do something invigorating if I were sure of a pick-me-up, but more often than not I put in the work and get nothing out of it but tired.  When I use up the little energy I have and find myself no better off, I feel hopeless and helpless and powerless.  And the more I try and fail, the more lost I feel, till I give up in despair.

But against my resistance, a little hope sneaks back in, maybe because I can’t live without it or maybe because it never fully leaves in spite of our countless beatings.  It grimaces and drags me back into the ring to get pummeled again by life.  Apparently I have a masochistic addiction to hope, like battered person syndrome.  Emotional resilience against my better judgment.  Is it a blessing or curse?

Posted March 13, 2014 by janathangrace in Life

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Cursing My Way to Empathy   6 comments

Yesterday I applied for a groundskeeper position at Lynchburg College because it’s a full-time job and my current library position is part-time… and I enjoy yard work… and I’ve been thinking about starting an M.A. in counseling (free credits with full time work). Then I took Mazie for a walk as my agitation slowly crescendoed over my creaking joints, “What the blankety-blank am I doing?! My body can’t stand up under all that physical labor,” I griped as I limped along with a leg that’s been bothering me for… well… on and off for over a year.  “Why the blankety-blank are you going to study counseling?  One more degree to stack against the other useless ones after you discover you don’t like the work?”  This was just the latest on a life piled high with dead-end schemes, so I walked faster to drive out my perturbation… which just made my calf hurt more.

I was a couple miles down the trail, and as I’d left behind the other strollers, I was emboldened to turn my muttering into short, loud exclamations of woe.  Then I started singing a spontaneous dirge.  “I hate life on this wretched earth; full of misery, without mirth. What the heck were you thinking, God?  This is worse than a filthy clod.”  Hey, don’t criticize, I had to make up each line on the spot in 4/4 time.  I would tell you the chorus, but it was a pounding four-letter word, and some of my readers might be offended.  I swept other unfortunates into my lyrics, singing for all of us, and that curved around to lines of empathy for them and my wish to be supportive of them in their struggles.  And finally I came full circle to seeing God as understanding and empathizing, as being one of the wounded rather than the wounder.  That’s not a typical Christian approach: cursing my way back to faith.  But then, I’m not very typical.

Posted March 6, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal

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Some Kinds of Depression Are Better Than Others   6 comments

My latest bout of bruising depression that stomped in two weeks ago seems to be slipping away.  I don’t know why it came, I don’t know why it is pulling out.  For two or three days I have had a precarious emotional detente.  I can see the shadowy figures outside casing the place, but they haven’t broken in again. Their brooding distance doesn’t make for peace… or even recovery, but it gives relief.  I think if I keep steady, the marauders will draw back.  Those with experience know that depression includes more than awful feelings.  Even when the black lifts, the gray fog continues to deaden and debilitate, but I’d rather be under a cloud than under assault.fog

Posted February 10, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal

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Saving Trust   1 comment

My achievement demon was finally beaten (as I posted), but it was a double-team effort, not a solo act.  Berly deserves special praise for her unusual trust and courage to stand with me in this battle as she lived out our fundamental commitment to support one another’s personal struggles.  It is a long story, a good story, one well worth telling, but too big for a blog.  The only way for me to escape my work-driven value system was to resist its demands, which meant choosing a job which was good for my soul but bad for my pocket.  I have been employed part-time and seasonally for 40 months as our savings slowly dwindled.  I have looked for other employment, but not aggressively, taking it at the pace my spirit has needed.  

Imagine how much trust and courage this has required of Kimberly and how badly I needed this trust when struggling with my own self doubt.  She has said many times, “we may lose our home, but we must not lose our souls,” and so we have continued to make the hard choice of trusting God to keep us afloat financially while we take the steps we have both needed to make room for our weary hearts.  Think how much Kimberly must trust me not to be selfish, not to take the easy way, not to use my struggle as an excuse to slack off, and to instead accept that I am doing all that I can within the sphere of my emotional strength, making the best choices I know how in harmony with my spirit.  We have built this mutual trust by sharing honestly, often, about our deepest heart issues.  We trust one another not to use our neediness to get an advantage over the other.

My win over this perverse accomplishment-based value system is not full or final.  I cannot suddenly begin to live as though I’m now free of its influence. as though this lifelong weight can no longer distort my self perception.  Don’t look for miracles here or you will be disappointed.  I am in recovery mode, and it will be a long, slow rehabilitation.  It will take whatever time it takes, and trying to hurry it would undermine the process.  But you can be sure that Kimberly and I will stay faithful to the path before us.

Posted January 22, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal

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So Life Goes On… Unfortunately   16 comments

At the time of my last post, I was finishing up my work for the school year at Lynchburg College library.  I get furloughed during the summer months, which punches holes in our finances.  Even when I am working, I don’t make quite enough to cover our basic expenses, so our savings are slowly dwindling.  I applied for numerous summer jobs, but no one was interested.  Three years ago I started a lawn service to try to cover the summer deficit, but I discovered that putting out flyers got me very few customers.  Though I really enjoy yard work, I hate–really hate–sales, and in order to get customers I have to sell myself (the most loathsome form of  marketing to me).

Being depressed gives me no energy for that kind of entrepreneur activity… or for most other things that are needed in this world to sustain life.  I enjoy my library work, and it gives me a distraction from depression.  Now I wake up every morning miserable, and though it doesn’t improve my feelings, I have fallen into the habit of doing house projects to distract myself.  Hey, if there’s nothing I can do to make myself feel better, I may as well get stuff done.

But for the last few days, it all seems so pointless.  Why should I pull the weeds or repair the rocker or wheelbarrow when neither the work nor the results give me pleasure?  My active depression actually pushed me to work on projects just to help me get through the day, but for the last three mornings, I have not woken unhappy.  So I still have very little energy, but now even less incentive… not that it matters.  Nothing really matters.  When life is reduced to simply finding the least painful way to survive each day, what is the point?

Posted June 4, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

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Life is Hard   Leave a comment

From Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow:

Human lives are hard, even those of health and privilege, and don’t make much sense.  This is the message of the Book of Job:  Any snappy explanation of suffering you come up with will be horseshit.  God tells Job, who wants an explanation for all his troubles, ‘You wouldn’t understand.’

And we don’t understand a lot of things.  But we learn that people are very disappointing, and that they break our hearts, and that very sweet people will be bullied, and that we will be called to survive unsurvivable losses, and that we will realize with enormous pain how much of our lives we’ve already wasted with obsessive work or pleasing people or dieting.  We will see and read about deprivation and barbarity beyond our ability to understand, much less process.  Side by side with all that, we will witness transformation, people finding out who they were born to be, before their parents pretzelized them into high achievers and addicts and charming, wired robots.

But where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening?  We start where we are. We find God in our human lives, and that includes the suffering.  I get thirsty people glasses of water, even if that thirsty person is just me.

Posted April 17, 2013 by janathangrace in Reading

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Tailwind   2 comments

Since I work till 2 a.m., Kimberly and I keep different sleep schedules, even on the weekend.  Being the only one awake late at night can be very lonely, and feeling a bit lost tonight, I flipped through some TV shows—a little basketball, a bit of news, the tale end of 48 Hours, a CSPAN symposium of legal experts pontificating on Dr. Seuss (the ethics of Whoville, surprisingly interesting)… channel-surfing to try to ride out my negative energy.  I wandered into the kitchen, looking in the frig and cupboards for something to fill my soul.  But I came up empty.

Then I took a desperate measure… I opened Anne Lamott.  For me, reading without a smidgen of positive energy is like trying to get a plane off the runway at 30  mph.  Apparently God puffed a tail-wind, a penny miracle to aid  my shaky effort to break free of gravity.  This one time my sputtering spirit settled into a quiet purr of reflection.  My life seems to be more stagger and flop than gliding, but I’m grateful for tonight.  May each of you find a little breeze of grace today.

Posted March 24, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal

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