Inside/Out

Eyes-on-Fire

In my mind everything within my reach is a projectile. I can feel my hands grip tight and push the force of my musculature force through the air with great velocity anything, everything, and watch the opposing force of the unmoving wall cause pieces and parts to scatter like a drop of water against the pavement. There’s a great amount of violence in the sky when it rains. Likewise, there is a great level of violence contained within my body without cause or explanation, at least not one I can put my finger on.

Every once in a while this happens. I start to sink and the anger turned inward that fuels the darkness I feel reemerges from behind my sternum and I want to tear down the world piece by piece. I want to light the match that detonates the earth from its core. I want to breathe out fire and malice and show the world what it means to burn, to immolate internally until there’s no more room for the open flame but outwards. There are small triggers and most of them are people and memories and I have to learn to swallow them because everyone who matters knows those stories and to rehash them would serve no purpose.

Every now and again I turn sour to the idea of people because it’s people who have let me down the most. I’ve long abandoned the idea of fitting in and have decided to focus on myself and try to be happy that way. Friendship means something completely different when you get to be my age. I ask myself what I did to get where I am and it turns out to be a lot of choices that turned out to be bad ones and almost all of them were trusting people and letting them get close. I have broken myself open too many times for people who weren’t worth the mileage and I always got left stranded on the side of the road, lost, helpless, and depressed.

Nobody knows better ways to break you down brick by brick than the wrong person with your story and your heart in their hands.

My therapist keeps pushing me to keep in contact with people and talk to people because having a support system is part of managing my disorder. It’s hard to do that when you don’t trust people anywhere near the foundation that’s propping you up. Part of me knows this is all just grand assumptions I make because of my deep-seated fear of intimacy of any kind but a huge part of me just doesn’t want to deal with it. And then the fire starts and so I annihilate my body on the altar of exercise because the pain and the aggression are the best mix for me to forget I’m alone.

The pain has been more comforting than people have these past few weeks. I embrace it.

The Fire

He threw his phone to his right and onto his bed with his thumb and forefinger, putting it into a flat spin. His eyes were closed as he bowed his head and ran his left hand through his hair and let his right follow suit. He let them both stop at the base of his skull and clinch his hair tight as he pulled it. He couldn’t believe her. He couldn’t believe she would do this to him after everything he did for her, all the good times and wonderful memories they had together. He could feel the heat of sickening saline streak down his cheek as his arms began to shake from the tension, his grip sending earthquakes up his arms and into his shoulders. His nostrils flared as he tried to control the intake of oxygen into his lungs, but knowing that his respiration rate was increasing with every second along with his heart beat.

She had conjured the ghost of his greater fears and let him go.

The best she could do was a text message. But it didn’t matter. The reaction was the same as he saw her face painted as a portrait in his head on a wall where she had sat for over a year. He tried to keep his grip on her but the picture was slowly taken off its hook and washed down river with the tears he was trying (and failing) to hold back. He remembered every other time this had happened. He remembered what it was like to be replaced, to be put on the podium as second place while someone else held the trophy, his arm around the girl and then both of them disappearing in a cloud of smoke. He felt like he would forever receive the consolation prize.

He started to fume. Smoke started unfurling from his eyes and nostrils. He kept his eyes shut.

She said she knew abandonment. What did she really know? He was never the guy to one-up another person but he always remembered a story his father told him and it sounded like silence, an empty palm and pockets full of nothing. The man who was part in his creation packed his bags and never came back which left only the question, “why?” and therapy bills. She couldn’t match that and could never understand why, when he smelled the signs he panicked and actually blamed him for it despite his best efforts to explain. But all she did was blame him. It was his fault. All his fault and this new guy was going to be the answer to all her problems and they could still be friends…

There were women who wrote a similar story with him with subtle variations and it only served to hone his senses to a finer point. So, his gut saw this coming before he did but the message didn’t make it to his brain before she cut the ties and he was left trying not to rip his hair out from the roots while violent sobs rattled him rating unknown levels on the Richter scale. There was a time when he just let it go and hit his knees, wailing and feeling so pathetic in the process because he thought he was stronger than this, so much stronger than this. But, obviously, there were still things that had the ability to revert him back 12 years old when this wound was first fresh. He pounded his fists into the ground to put the pain somewhere else besides inside where it smoldered.

And then his eyes caught fire and flames shot from his brain and through his muscles. Where there was smoke there was now fire licking the air around him like hands slapping faces and everything around him, for a moment, burned.

He picked up a baseball bat he kept for protection and swung it through the screen of his TV. He ravaged the walls and windows, giving no regard to his own possessions or his security deposit. He just wanted it all to burn. He spat lighter fluid and gasoline on the walls, coating everything that reminded him of her. Then he swept everything that she ever gave him and poured lighter fluid from his tear ducts into a box. With the tip of his finger, he ignited the contents of the box and watched pictures and jewelry and shirts turn brown and then blacken. He hurled her, burning in effigy in the form of now worthless shit in a box, towards the wall and watched it ignite with the sound of a roaring devil’s howl and the flames rolled like great, glowing tidal waves spreading to every surface. Smoke roiled and rolled across the ceiling as the heat intensified.

He felt nothing but this rage rattling his rib cage and spine. A crook of a sick smile eased its way up his face as he created his new world, one of fire and flame. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

“Just like us,” he said to himself.

Suddenly, the fire blew out like it would with a breath at the wick of a candle and the smoke disappeared. Reality set back in and he was alone with his sadness and rage once again. He had nowhere to put it and no one to confide in now since she had become his whole world. The one mistake he knew he had made in that moment because he was now all by himself. He let his hands finally drop from his hair and land at his sides as his head remained pointed down. He breathed in deep once and then wondered what he was going to do with himself now that she was gone.

Was he going to be alright?

Exodus to Routine

I’m a slave to routine. There’s really no way of escaping that reality for something else in my life. I have a schedule and I adhere to it pretty strictly and deviation from that routine throws me off not just mentally but physically. This creates a whole lot of interesting stress in my life because I live and die by the clock and the calendar. I’m lost without my phone because it has my entire day outlined. I know when I have to go to bed and when I have to get up, when to take my pills and when to be in class. I have my syllabi loaded into a really handy iPhone app that tells me everything is due this semester. It helps me feel really secure that I have that nailed down.

It’s also really, really boring.

I wonder if my control is only an illusion.

In the book of Exodus the Hebrew people are driven by routine. In Egypt they were treated as slaves because they weren’t Egyptian and therefore weren’t the deity, Pharaoh’s, people. They were forced to make bricks and work really hard for the benefit of someone else, to the point where they cried out and YHWH heard them. He broke them out of that routine after showing Pharaoh who the real God is. You would think that the people would be grateful. Being loosed from bondage under a tyrannical and dehumanizing system should elicit praise from those set free and for a while it does.

But that was not the end of routine for them.

The other day I was driving down the road from my college which is, oddly enough, a gravel road about two miles south of anything resembling a suburban sprawl. I don’t mind it most of the time because my car is beat up anyway so soiling it further with dust or mud is not really a huge concern to me but that day was a little different. I didn’t get very far away from the driveway of the college when, in a split second, I saw a white and blue flash like a strobe light and then flames in a field on the left side of the road. I’ve driven past that farm a million times and it was always calm and tranquil like you would expect a small grazing field for horses would be. But that calm was disrupted by a burst of fire.

I’ll be truthful and tell you I know absolutely nothing about country living. I am a city guy to the bone. But I know it is not uncommon for farmers to burn parts of their field off for various reasons. I don’t know what those reasons are but I know they exist. So, since I hadn’t cognitively thought about what had just happened I drove by and did nothing. But when I replayed the ordeal in my mind I realized a power line over the field had snapped and swept through the dry grass at the base of the poles they were attached to. Those live wires then ignited the brush and grass that it touched and the fire proceeded to spread. That calm field started to smoke. I called 911 and reported the fire and then I realized something

For the first time ever I had just witnessed the start of a grass fire.

Intense.

After surviving the escape from Egypt between two walls of water that was a sea before YHWH parted it and watching the water take out the pursuing Egyptians when he stopped holding up those walls of probably white and foaming sea, the Hebrew people were free to seek the land that was promised to their fathers. They should have been excited and elated that they were finally free. Right?

If you’ve read the Exodus account and on and on through the rest of the Hebrew Bible you know that just isn’t the case. In the Exodus they fall into a perpetual routine of grumbling and whining on and on about their living conditions. God gives them food every day and gives them water out of a rock. There’s that old cliche that you can’t get blood from a stone. That may be true but their elohim, my God, gave them water out a stone. They’re both liquid coming from a solid so it’s all still pretty amazing to me.

After a period of time the Hebrew people fall back into their routine of complaining and dissatisfaction with YHWH and they ask for a king. We have record after record of good kings and bad kings and Israel falls into a routine of building up and then later tearing down the altars to the idols they would continually fall back to until God just becomes so fed up with their unfaithfulness he disperses them. All because they failed to see one crucial thing.

God provided for them.

They wanted more. The control had to be theirs.

When I think about what was going on in the weeks prior to seeing something as crazy as a power line snapping and starting a small fire in a field, I can remember thinking how mundane my life was. Groaning and complaining that I was so tired of routine and college and schedules and how I wish I could quit my job and just focus on school and have fun like the rest of my friends. I realize without the point I’m getting at that being lazy and not working would drive me insane. I don’t really have more than two settings built into me: Stop and Go. So to think that I would really be content if I could go to school without a job is really just me lying to myself.

But then again I wonder if that is the point.

Just like the Israelites, I was discontent with my surroundings, with the people around me and with my life situation. He had already pulled me out of the bondage and slavery that I had to sin and he has continued to provide for me. I have been overwhelmed with what he has done in my life even just recently and to prove to me that it’s not really cliche to say that I am truly blessed. I realize that I am discontent with what my Father has provided for me and the knowledge of that is just so overwhelming that I’ve deleted several attempts at describing it in this paragraph and have given up that endeavor completely. Those sparks flying off that live cable causing combustion and ignition in the grass below them was like a wake up call and I’ve been reeling from it ever since. God has provided and will provide, sustain and encourage. He will rebuke and he will raise up.

He broke my focus from the routine and made me remember that.

If you translate my name in Hebrew it means “YHWH will raise up”.

And he will. More than you can even comprehend.

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Blacksmith’s Psalm

Shoved into the fire
now let the hammer
strike.
Mold.
Shape.
Form.
Back in the fire,
become more familiar with
the hammer as it
strikes.
And strikes again,
the resonating cry from the steel
as it bends to the will
of its aggressor.
And even now,
I can feel your hands
turning me in the fire
only to bring me out
strengthening me to seek
and defend a kingdom
fit for a princess,
a pauper
a loser,
someone worthless like me
I am lost without your anvil and hammer
your testing fires
that help you
to define me for
later tests of strength
for times of war.
Maker, forge me well.
My shell is strong but I
break too easily under pressure.
The contents of myself are
cracking and bowing
at the weakest of blows
these days.
Into the fire goes the steel,
under the hammer
it sustains
blow
after
blow
after
blow.
From the hammer
you sustain me.

Self-Motivation From a Man on Fire

Frustration sits waiting like a small, unlit pilot light in the pit of my heart holder.  What would normally make its way through like a wayward drifter on fire in the night escalates the situation until I feel consumed and I can’t help but react.  I hate walls for their restrictiveness but they also act as a guide and tell me when I’m going in the right direction.  Hasn’t been a path I’ve walked where something didn’t jump in way for me to hurdle.  And the man on fire is always watching, looking for his opportunity to rip me out of my seat in quickanger, teethgrinding, fistclenching.  But, without words, I know this is the path to go.  With the increased difficulty comes more assurance.  No opposition, no value.  The man on fire is my enemy and my friend, he lights my path with passion and lights a blaze beneath me to keep me movin’.

Give me yer best shot, toss me the next wall.  I’ll get past it and move forward with the humility to know that I need help sometimes.  Just like everyone has his man on fire, everyone’s got their fireman.  Drop that walking matchstick with a blast of straightforward, then let him help you up and move forward, man.  You got the steps.  You got it.

Depression: Tested by fire

I have pondered  whether or not it is a good idea for me to have a blog.  I’ve been through a lot of the earlier sites like Livejornal and Xanga, and I’ve never stuck with them long.  I’d lose interest, forget, etc.  But mostly, I’d grow tired of writing about the same things and write about myself over and over again.  For me, depression is not a single scene in my life but an ever-recurring tone, a theme to which I can attribute a lot of my life.  There have been times where it has been crippling, where I would purposely avoid personal contact and hide in my room when I wasn’t at work or school.  I have had to fight through this probably since around age 15 and since then it has been a powerful force in my interactions throughout life.  But having been diagnosed with Bipolar II, I know that is just a portion of my life that I will have to deal with.

Everything is dark, I am miserable, I stare at the walls and nothing can bring me out of it.  Only lately have I seemed to escape this for the most part and I have to attribute it I think to my spiritual health.  I read my Bible, I go to Bible studies, go to church, listen to sermons from other churches via podcast, praying.  Everything just seems to have been much clearer and easier to withstand when there is knowledge that, through suffering, God will do his work.  Before all of this, I would work through depression in a functional manner.  I would essentially ignore this feeling and push through the manners in which it would manifest itself physically.  There have been days when I would tear up for no other reason other than the fact that I was feeling so down on myself and on life.  And there are still days like that and I would be remiss if I didn’t say I was having one of those moments now.  I can’t explain it, I don’t want to try.  I just know that there is something inside me that weights me like an anchor in the moment.  

One of the best explanations I’ve ever heard came from Dr. Joseph Schaaf, my old psychiatrist.  Before he picked up and moved to Wyoming [who does that?] he told me the worst thing about depression is that it roots you in the moment.  It forces you into thinking about nothing more than right here right now.  The trick is to put yourself beyond the moment and find something on the horizon.  Now, I look to the horizon to try and fix my eyes on a wooden cross bereft of a body.  I am trying to constantly realign my thoughts to Jesus who knew that suffering was just part of his job description and he died for the salvation of someone like me.  I didn’t understand this and sometimes I still bang my head against the wall mercilessly trying to understand.  I don’t know that anyone can fully comprehend the entirety of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We don’t have the means to demonstrate the agony of it both physically and spiritually, there is no practical means of accomplishing this.  But the thought that it exceeds my comprehension only gives it that much more validity.  But, I digress… Slightly…

I had posed this question to a few friends who are a bit more knowledgeable about Biblical and spiritual matters because, in a lot of ways, I still feel like I’m still in my spiritual infancy.  In one of my bouts of depression I came across the following:

1 Peter 1:3-8

1 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Reading this now, I can’t really understand why I stumbled so hard over this.  I guess the problem was that I was unsure of how one rejoices in anything when they’re depressed.  The last thing on my mind in those kinds of times is rejoicing.  Bitterness, anger, sadness and even misery are all things that come to forefront, not so much rejoicing.  But reading this over again, I see that even though suffering is to be a natural course of things and trials will come up, there is still the greater love of my Father through his son Jesus.  And that the means in which I suffer are only a measure of the strength of my faith, which is stronger than gold when tested by the burning flames of, for instance, my emotional instability.  That is the point I think I miss and I think perhaps a lot of people overlook.  

There is a sad isolation that can only be experienced through depression.  But we have to remember that Jesus is still at work today, protecting us, guiding us and it’s in those times that we have to remember [to quote John Piper] “God is enough”.

There is a song by Becoming the Archetype that I found as I was searching for things related to this particular topic.  I think I’ll post it here as it so wonderfully summarizes the purpose of what I am talking about.

“Endure”

This life is an open wound that will not heal.
I cry out to God with all of my strength.
Desperately, I reach for Him in the night.
This misery keeps my eyes from closing,
keeps my mouth from being able to speak.
Is this as far as the arm of God extends?
Has the fire burned itself out?
There is no profit in this way of thinking.
I must escape this frame of mind.
And when I think of all He has done,
when I consider all that He is,
I am complete.