Our things

Every morning, I take a small cream-colored pill. And every night, I take a white one. The cream-colored pill helps me get through my day and the white one, my night.

I have PTSD. And I’ve probably had it most of my life.

I got it from my father, but unlike my hair color and blue eyes and weak chin, it’s not genetic. It’s just something I picked up along the way. How it came to me is a story for another time, maybe not even this place. But it is who I am. It is as much a part of me now, of my personality, as those blue eyes and my loud laugh. It makes me warier than I would probably want to be. It makes me restless and edgy on some days, tired and unfocused on others. But mostly it makes me frustrated.

Frustrated because it is here. Frustrated because I had to explain it to my boyfriend when we “got serious.” Frustrated because there are certain places I don’t go, certain things I don’t eat, certain situations into which I try not to place myself because I just don’t feel safe and certain times of the year when I cannot seem to get it together. The situations and places are probably safe, but my brain no longer registers them as such.

I came to this place, which is actually now a pretty good one, after years of struggle and denial and anger. And like an addict, I had to reach the “rock bottom,” which for me was a particularly embarrassing and volatile encounter with a police officer (yes, I know, the irony) that probably could have resulted in my arrest and subsequent loss of my job. But it didn’t because God’s gracious and my friends were there to help me out and I, praise God, took the hint.

I got some help. I found a therapist. I joined the Orthodox Church and found a priest. I have a psychiatrist and a golden Retriever with the softest ears and most peaceful demeanor God ever bestowed upon a creature.

I don’t know why I am sharing this with you, my five or six (I’m optimistic) loyal readers, tonight. Maybe there’s someone that needs it. Maybe I need to say it. I say it, I tell it, because we all have our things: our PTSD, our loneliness, our alcoholism, our cancer, our cheating spouses, our hideous parents or our difficult kids.

But whatever our things, we have this NOW, this place where our things are with us, and God is with us and our lives are lived. And we have this grace, this tremendous thing God does for us in His love –this provision, this care, these relationships that help carry us across the asphalt (like the turtles).

I want for all of you, and for me, to be well, to be safe and to know that we are all still in His hands. We are all forever in the grip of His grace, regardless of our experiences, our choices and our struggle.

Our souls are safe.

No saint

Happy back-to-eating meat, everybody! Oh, you were still eating meat? My bad. Happy Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul to me!! I had fried chicken for supper.

So tomorrow (tonight liturgically) marks the end of the Apostles’ Fast and the celebration of the lives of the best evangelists (especially for my Protestant friends)–Peter and Paul.

St. Peter always gives me hope. Fr. Andrew again reminded me of why — here’s this obnoxious, occasionally whiny, finger-pointing, temper-losing and Christ-denying dude who becomes a saint. Not just a saint, but one of the big first ones, one who planted churches, wrote Scripture and whatnot.

Today, Fr. Stephen wrote about the saints among us, these people who make the world, the workplace, the home, the Church, better because of their presence. These people who speak no ill of others, who love well, laugh often and generally uplift.

Like St. Nicholas of Zicha, (and South Canaan, PA) who wrote “Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.”

That ain’t me.

My best hope for sainthood is probably what Flannery O’Connor said: “She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.”

Maybe, though, if I keep working out my salvation, keep confessing to Fr. Andrew about how certain people drive me crazy and make me mad and how I let my thoughts become actions and become attitudes, maybe one day after all this. I know I draw my sword too quickly, cutting off ears of those nearby. I know I deny that which I hold dear. I gossip. I malign. I’m just generally a jackass. (or something else, if you like)

Maybe someday, even if not here.

The remembered

I was originally going to write about this on Saturday, but it was so beautiful outside, I couldn’t bring myself to darken the day. But it’s still on my mind, so here we are.

The mother who killed her son and then kept her dead baby in the plastic tub received a 62 year prison sentence Friday. She got a few extra years for beating her older daughter, a beautiful and precocious 10-year-old.

The judge wondered aloud before passing sentence what damage was done to that girl, how ever will she build something resembling a normal life and view of the world. She watched the crime occur. So did two other children.

This was the second case so far this year in which children witnessed their parents killing or beating soon-to-be-dead children.

It’s chilling when you think about it: how their little brains have been rewired before they even start out, opening the door to struggles most of us can’t even begin to imagine. There are those who will condemn them for those struggles, the choices they will make in the future, the lives they will lead and the situations in which they will find themselves. But I am giving them up to God. He knows where they started out and He will see where they end up.

My brain struggled with the contrast, though, on Sunday when we baptized yet another baby. (We’ve had a baby boom of sorts at church, so it’s been nearly every Sunday for the past few months. It’s cute.) This little girl was so happy, so adorable. She sat, mostly naked in her godmother’s arms, chubby hand stuffed in her grinning mouth while Fr. Andrew anointed her with the blessed oil.

So here we have these two stark realities:  a child protected and loved, prayed over from the beginning and hopefully safer within the community of believers of which she is now a part; and then these children in the care of mad people, crazy from anger or drugs or mental illness, who see that which most of us never see and then have to match that reality to the rest of their lives.

I may have to start lighting candles for all these kids. I already light one for my friends on the blog, the ones that fight on. I could turn the back of the church into a forest fire, though, with candles for all the children, living and dead, I’ve written about over my dozen years in this business.

For the ones that died: McKinzie, Jezaih, Ariona, Kweli, Alyssa, Kelsie, the list goes on and on, names I don’t even remember, there have been so many.

For the ones that live: most of those names I never know, the ones that survived, or the siblings of the condemned who saw or heard or knew.

Lord, have mercy.

Turtle crossing

I am becoming increasingly concerned about the turtles. Seriously. Every single time I drive down the highways, I see at least one little turtle standing by the fog line gearing up to cross the road. And with nearly the same frequency, I see little smushed turtles just inside the white line, obviously unsuccessful.

Sometimes I rescue them, carrying them across and trying not to think about how they’re going to want to come back and maybe no one else will be there to provide an asphalt ferry.

(Remind me to tell you about the time I ‘rescued’ a really big turtle on a divided highway. It’s funny. Involves a blind man and heavy traffic. Seriously, no one was harmed. Not even me.)

The other day this little turtle just stood there, head stretched out, looking totally determined. And completely crazy, a one pound creature not known for agility trying to dodge thousands of pounds of speeding steel and rubber.

I thought about the turtles and the theater of the absurd and how we’re all not really any less vulnerable or any less ridiculous the other night when I was changing my car’s battery in a rainstorm in a Bob Evans parking lot about 60 miles from where I wanted to be. (That was a really long sentence, sorry).

Mostly, it seems, I just close my eyes, stretch out my neck and dive into it, hoping for the best while the mortal dangers of financial ruin, disease, crime, broken hearts, and whatever else hurtle by. Sometimes we make it. Sometimes I make it. Other times, we miss the goal, and get flattened by some truck we couldn’t get around. Or never saw coming.

Sometimes people come along and help me get across. Thankfully, my mom and grandma were with me so we were able to go buy the battery after an hour of fruitless jumping. I have a boyfriend, too, who was willing to make the trek to where I was to help (I was fine, thank you).

I’m lucky. You’re probably lucky too.

I need to do a better job of watching out for human turtles, instead of getting mad at them. Like the other day, the welfare mom in front of me, pregnant and with a cart full of snot-nosed kids trying to figure out her food stamps while I just wanted to buy a gallon of milk or something. I was so irritated I’m probably going to have to confess it.

She was just a turtle, really. Trying to do something as ridiculous as get herself food for her kids in a world made more difficult by her choices and the choices of others. So many speeding cars.

Blogger’s note: I realized so many of my posts deal with critters. I’m not a total animal nut, but they make such great little object lessons. And my brain thinks only in metaphor. If only I could have applied that to algebra class…

Searching…

So much is on my mind tonight…I could write about most of it. How I feel about the rising gap between the top 1% of Americans and the rest of us. (Outlaw motorcycle gangs call themselves 1%ers. FWIW.) How another Father’s Day passed with estrangement. How nearly 70 of my colleagues at the Indy Star lost their jobs today, a few months after Gannett’s CEO gave himself a $1.5 million bonus. About how proud I am of my mom because of how hard she fights for her patients.

So much.

What do you want to know?

I want to know about justice. I want to know when this all makes sense. I want to know when I’ll attain theosis and behave the way I’m supposed to, when I will uncover the mirror of that Divine Image within me.

I want to know where my favorite verse in the Protestant Bible — Jeremiah 29: 11-13 — went in the Orthodox Bible. Our Bible has the additional,  original, canonical books and Jeremiah is one  of the books numbered differently, based on the Septuagint.

I’ve been looking for that passage for a week now and cannot find it to save my life.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…”

I hope He does. I’m counting on that. I always have, I guess. Not in some kind of Jesus-is-going-to-pull-my-butt-from-the-fire way, but in an I’m-glad-someone’s-watching way.

All those years, all those different pews I sat in, sermons I listened to.

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you…”

All those times I ran and ducked to avoid trouble in my house as a child. All those fights, all the arguing.

“plans to give you hope and a future.”

All the times I tried to make what I knew about God, all His vast unknown-ness, fit into the little box of what I was taught.

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

All the times I struggle and fall, grow weary and discouraged about the way things are. All the times I forget to pray, ignore study and fill my mind with idle thoughts that tumble out of my idle lips.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”

I’m going to keep looking, I guess. I know it’s in there.

A happy carnivore

I ate meat today. It’s Friday. Happy tummy!

Fort Wayne’s annual Ribfest was today, so I spent way too much money on a fantastic beef brisket and a glass of Fat Tire. And it’s a Friday. For the first time since I’ve been Orthodox, Ribfest fell outside the Apostle’s Fast, a brief, meat-free period in mid-June that gives me pause at cookouts. Because it was the week after Pentacost, there was also no fasting from meat on Wednesday and Friday this week. Gastronomical perfection available to me today. Three cheers for how the calendar worked out this year. Hip-hip-horray!

As I clipped off my I-am-old-enough-and-plan-to-consume-adult-beverages bracelet from the festival, I remembered my old no-drinking, no-movies, no-playing-with-face-card days. And I compared it to my fast-filled word in the Orthodox church. There’s a big hairy-arsed difference.

We fast, I fast, from meat and dairy (when I can) nearly every Wednesday and Friday, about 50 days before Pascha, 40 days before Christmas, about 14 days in August and usually about seven days in June. When you add it up, I’m a vegetarian about half the year. I want to be clear: I like meat. If God didn’t intend us to eat meat, He wouldn’t have put New York strip steaks on cows. Just saying.

I don’t abstain because it earns me points with Jesus or because there is something inherently wrong with meat-eating. I abstain because it is a discipline. It gives me a minute to pause and think about Christ’s betrayal (Wednesdays) or His death (Fridays). It helps me focus on what is important before the big feast days, simplifying my menu and my life.

In my Christian life Before Orthodoxy, way before I even knew of it, we didn’t drink alcohol. We didn’t do a lot of things. We didn’t do these things because they led to other things that were bad (drunkenness, gambling, fun…) But we didn’t replace them with anything. We certainly didn’t get any benefit from such abstinence, that would be “works” coming into our salvation. Can’t have that.

So any indulgence in anything verboten brought nothing but guilt and spiritual navel gazing, at least for me. Is God going to be mad? What if someone sees me? What if it keeps people from being saved?

I do a lot worse things to harm the Kingdom in a thousand different ways throughout the day, other than my consumption of adult beverages. And those are things I should worry about. Refraining from meat, in theory, should cause me to be more aware of those things and put my mind in a more God-centered way.

But on these glorious days, when all is available to me, I feel no guilt. What I feel is a deep gratitude for the gift given me, not just in the wonderful food, but also my salvation. I am still mindful of what happened on a Friday, in part because my normal routine was interrupted.

But I gotta tell you, that brisket was pretty good. So was the sauce.

On wrinkles

So here I am, 24 hours post class reunion. I am, to quote my grandmother, too tired to wiggle. It was a fabulous time, and much too short.

And it’s true. We are who we are back then, only now we have mortgages and 401Ks and maybe a kid or four.

Back in high school, there were six of us girls who ran around together, thick as thieves. We cut up in class, ran wild in the hallways and ran afoul of that Baptist school in a thousand different ways weekly, I am sure.  Five of us made it back to the reunion and we recreated a picture we took on our last day of high school, so many years ago. It was a blast and I’m surprised no one wet their pants.

The classmate who planned the shindig invited us back to his house for a bonfire and adult beverages. After a Ranger IPA and some of the most marvelous tequila (agave juice may be proof of God’s love), I started to get a little (more) sentimental as I looked around the fire and visited with old and still dear friends.

I wonder what we would have done back then, those five girls in that picture, collapsing in giggles, if you told us what was to come. I wonder what all of us would have done that night when we moved our tassels over if the commencement speaker said this is what the next 20 years will bring: suicide, children who die, children with disabilities, spouses who die, divorce, singleness, spouses who cheat, loss of faith, change of faith…

We were all so much lighter back then, weren’t we? Even those of us who had already dealt with some pretty serious stuff, and the statistics say quite a few of us had, we bore it so well. We laughed. We squealed our tires in the parking lot. We recklessly stole second base, the basketball, the quick kiss by the lockers.

I was so concerned about being real the other day that I didn’t notice all the other Velveteen rabbits in the room. At this stage of the game, all of us have had our whiskers loved off, pulled off or missing for some reason. We’re all wrinkled and chubby, going grey or bald.

But our essences remain. That person God made us — the quiet one, the noisy one, the party girl, the serious student, the one-who-hollers-at-people-in-authority (three guesses who that is and the first two don’t count)…these are who we are. This is who we have always been. This is the person God interacts with, the one He is amused by, concerned with and loves. Mostly, I think, we’ve aged pretty well. We’ve improved and mellowed, like fine wines if you’ll pardon the cliche.

With all this time, weight comes (and not just around our middles). These things we’ve done, these struggles we’ve had, the victories won and battles lost, we end up carrying them around. I guess that’s age. And we seem to be bearing that pretty well too, at least in my humble opinion. So much grace. So much…

Hey gang, I love you all. To the quiet ones, thanks for being patient with us, the rowdy and rude ones. To the noisy ones, thanks for keeping everyone from falling asleep. I can’t wait for the next time we all see each other again.

So long ago  My gosh, look at us!

 

 

 

 

 

But I don’t think we’re doing too badly now…

2011