I wonder about what is holding me back.
Then I remember and wonder how long it takes to recover.
In some situations there are no good options. There are no solutions readily available to move you forward in any sort of meaningful way and so you must sit with the ramifications of the decisions that have been made. In this situation I had no other choice but to go through everything with the help of some friends and having to grit my teeth through the pain as I tried with all my might to move on with my life all because of the decision of someone else.
Having absolutely no control over what happens to you in a situation like this is by its very nature one of the most painful things I have ever had to sit and accept in my life. You aren’t the only one who has left me in the dust to accept my fate with no real explanation. Experience, in this case, doesn’t make things any easier to understand or to try and get past. In fact, knowing what it feels like only made things hurt even more.
I’ve come to understand that people are going to do what they feel like, regardless of how it affects anyone else because it’s much easier to look out for number one than any other number you might think of. It’s a lot easier to feed someone nothing but lies than to tell the truth because the truth hurts both parties involved.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is a process. This pain, this heartache only disappears with time and there is no set paradigm or set of steps that will tell me when I have finally passed through the blaze and the downpour to the other side of all of this. I will continue to see you in my dreams where my subconscious tells me you still have control over a good portion of my thought process and all of it is an aching melancholy that I can’t quite escape yet.
Understanding now is the fact that I have not cleansed myself of you completely and that affects me in too many ways. I don’t like it because you don’t deserve the space in my heart and in my head that you still occupy because you obviously didn’t care enough about that in the first place. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here outlining my experiences in hopes of some sort of catharsis.
I’m not looking for a reaction.
I’m just looking for a peace of mind
Something that will make it all stop.
Knowing what I know, I will likely weave my way in and out of everything I’ve already described more than once, over and again. Eventually, it will go away like you did and I’ll be free and unafraid to feel again. But for now, I’ll continue to live my life without a destination in hopes that I’ll truly accept what happened and it will disappear from my thoughts like a dream upon waking.
My hope is to be healed.
And you can’t help me.
“My memory is defying me despite the increasing distance between then and now. I see pictures of her and this new guy and weigh the differences and similarities between us and I feel like I’m boiling from the inside. It’s not jealousy anymore. At least, not that I can put my finger on. It’s like a gap that, maybe a wound that closes near shut only to have the slightest perturbation of my body or state of mind. And only with the sands of time is it supposed to be healed but it’s been so long already and I’m tired of remembering. Does that answer your question?”
“… What question was that?”
“You asked me how I was doing.”
“Oh,” she leaned her head back as a sign of ascent, “yeah, now I remember. So, you’re still struggling with this, are you? We haven’t talked in a while. You haven’t come see me lately. Or I haven’t seen you come this way lately. I figured you had moved on to other things.”
“I guess you could say that. And it’s not all as dramatic as I describe it. At least, not all the time. But there are still moments, little camera flash moments in time when I see that face and balance on the ambivalence of missing it and wanting to destroy it. I got no closure, I got no real explanation. I was just the throw away and every now and again I will revisit that grave, I will mourn that corpse and I will lose my perspective for a moment while my heart drops into my boots. That’s when I have to cut loose and come here. And here is where I always find you. You’re like a ghost. You haunt this place.”
She froze. Not that she was moving much from where she stood but his statement seemed to freeze-frame her body where it was at. She didn’t respond as if in fear of shattering her dipped-in-liquid-nitrogen pose.
A slight breeze rustled the leaves in the tree above, just as it did a few wisps of hair as she stood in front of him, still faceless, still masked by the darkness of the moonless night. Not that they could see the moon anyway. They both looked in opposite directions as if to ignore the space between them, as if any proximity would give up the unexplained tension of the moment and it would snap, lacerating them both like a cable pulled too tight.
They both knew if they stayed in this dual of opposing forces much longer they’d see imminent collapse and so, like a movie taken off pause after a long moment they were able to go back into normal motion again. And they both breathed a breath to give away the fact that both of them were unsure as to how they should proceed. The silence was heavy, despite being carried on both their shoulders, they both looked down to better bear and bolster the weight of it as they listened to the leaves hiss and shudder against that summer breeze. And the quiet between them was a glass pane erected as a wall betwixt their bodies.
Until she broke it.
“I think… I think I need to tell you something.” She said, as she looked at the tips of her toes.
His brow angled towards his nose, he tilted his head. “What?”
“You… You described me as a ghost, that I was haunting this place. That’s not entirely true but there is some truth to it.” She breathed a heavy sigh.
“I don’t believe in ghosts. It was a metaphor.” He looked at her quizzically as best he could at her shadow mask.
“Like I said, there is some truth to what you said. I’m not really ghost. Think of me as a… projection. I am an apparition of your mind’s creation. I’m not really here. And to save you from people thinking you’re crazy for talking to the air, I only appear when we’re together here.”
“So, you’re saying you’re some sort of delusion or imaginary friend. Crazy people have those. I’m not crazy.” The pitch of his voice increased slightly from the thought. Am I crazy? Was what happened all those months ago the trigger that set me off the edge?
“No, it’s not. See, I am part of you. I know your thoughts but in order for this to work your mind had to create something to substitute for reality. You went through a a lot of emotional states because of her and you needed someone who would listen and could understand your point of view without judgement or derision. I was your brain’s way of taking care of you. I became your confidante and I also had all the characteristics of a woman you’d trust, maybe even be interested in in certain circumstances.” She sat down on the park bench and patted the seat next to him.
“So, why tell me all of this now? I mean, now that I know doesn’t the power inherent in the illusion disappear?” He stared at his hands as he rubbed the spot closest to the knuckle on his right ring finger.
She laughed, “Obviously not, since you’re still talking to me like I’m real.”
He managed a chuckle, “I suppose you’re right. So, now what?”
“Now is the farthest I can take you, unfortunately. You’ve managed to get through the tough stuff without serious problems. Sure, you have your rough days but that’s going to happen to anyone. And you know that because I know that.”
He nodded his head, “Will I ever see you again?”
She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “Oh, I’m sure there will be times when the turmoil becomes difficult. But you have to remember that I’m always here, really.” She tapped him on the head, near his temple.
He stifled a laugh and a bit of sadness and stared at the pavement. He could only nod as he could not think of anything else to say.
“Don’t worry, kid. You’ll do alright.” She leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek which was the most human touch he’d experienced in months because it terrified him so much. He felt the ice inside him melt a little bit. He turned to say something to her.
But she was gone…
Sometimes, music says a lot more than I can. I made this playlist to sort of tell the story of how things have been changing over the last few weeks. I hope you enjoy it.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the next weekly installment of this story I’m trying to tell about the ongoing journey as the intern of a church. So far, life has continue to bleed into this story which is not all that surprising and I will tell you why. What I’ve known from the beginning is that ministry is not a typical 9-5 job where you get to go home and crack open a cold one after you’ve finished your time in the office. But it also means that a lot of what you do while working in that ministry will bleed into other areas of your life without you knowing it. God has worked like that a lot with me lately.
For instance, I have been working with a group of people to keep up a blog that maintains creativity and holds each other accountable to keep writing if at all possible. We got to discussing on the blog the issues of relationships both romantic and personal and I found myself reflecting on that and writing an extensive post on the importance of authenticity in relationships. I also unearthed a deep conviction that healing can really only happen in community. Since these posts are more of a summary of what I’ve been doing and learning I think it’s not the greatest place to unload all of that because it’s pretty lengthy. However, it did stem from a pretty long discussion Ben and I had last week so it was pretty cool to be able to share those ideas somewhat with people outside a meeting. It also helped me as I was able to glean some perspective from the people I’ve been writing with.
Community serves well, once again.
So, this week was consumed with a lot of stress about the Gretna Days parade. I thought we were going to scrap the idea of the signs since we lost so many last week but Ben thought it’d be good to do it any way since we had spots where the signs didn’t get yanked up. So, we put down 7 more signs and we lost all but one. We had to get the float built which didn’t get done until the night before and I wasn’t there. The finished product looked great, though. When Saturday morning came around we definitely didn’t have enough people to do what we had planned so we went with simple and just had people hand out bottles of water and it worked great. It was scorching hot but I didn’t really notice on the walk through the parade.
It was the walk back.
By the time we finished the parade it was almost noon and my brother and I had to walk the entire parade route back plus another half mile at least to get back to my car. The heat was so oppressive it felt like I was in a pressure cooker or something. There are just some stresses to the body I’d like to avoid. Walking a 2-3 mile parade route hefting bags of bottled water and then walking back in a noontime heat is one of them. At least I felt like the parade was a success despite all the hiccups in the plan along the way.
I missed a lot of work this week so I’m pysching myself up for a full week. This coming week I will be working on the worship team. I’m pretty excited about that even though it’s been a good minute since I picked up my guitar.
I didn’t note anything I listened to this week. I saw Maylene & the Sons of Disaster live and it was amazing. That’s what’s been in my head a lot.
Oh, and not to leave you out of the loop but if you’re interested in reading some of the stuff we’ve been bouncing around with the last couple of weeks you can check out The Discursive Collective and see what kind of work we’ve been doing. Outsiders are not allowed to comment, FYI.
I don’t know what anyone else’s senior year of high school was like but when I was getting ready to cut loose from the bonds of state-funded education I remember there being a lot on my to-do list. Aside from the monumental decision of which college to go to and how I was going to pay for it there was the business of getting measured for the cap and gown and getting those fantastically goofy and ridiculous senior pictures taken. Those were especially fun for me because my mom would not let me grow my hair out until those stupid pictures were done so I ended up with this Beatles-esque dome of hair that didn’t go past my ears. I had to look nice for the yearbook, my senior yearbook. That was something else I had to deal with. Our school wanted us to turn in pictures with a quote that best suited us or how we felt.
I don’t remember what was going through my head but I recall thinking how righteous it would be for me to quote something from the Bible because no one would do that, ever. Seriously. It had to be one of the most original thoughts I have ever had. All these other people who were going to be businessmen and women and engineers and doctors and then there was me. I never fit in when I was in school and I really thought I was okay with that. In fact I was going to show all those robots, posers and fakes who jeered me my entire school career by going to college and getting a high paying job. I was smarter than all of them for sure because I had lived a life so much unlike theirs.
So, I was charged with coming up with a small blurb for my senior yearbook and I had decided I wanted something out of the Bible. Seriously, I could have come up with song lyrics or something because music was my life at that point? I don’t know why I decided to pick something from the scriptures because, at that point, I was a nominal Christian at best and very light in my knowledge of… anything, really. But I was entirely convinced that I would be different just like everything else and so I went on the search for something that would say something about me. After some digging – and a little help from my mom I think – I settled on 1 Corinthians 13:11. It’s rendered a little different in the ESV but it’s my Bible o’ choice:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)
Now see if you can read that through the lens of a very cynical 18 year-old boy flooded with teenage angst. I thought this verse was a great big middle-finger to my classmates because I thought I was just so much more of an adult. I had survived high school with my moral high ground of never having done any drugs, drank any alcohol or even been invited to one of the big parties that supposedly went on when I was sitting in the basement of my best friend’s house playing Super Nintendo Friday nights into the wee hours of the morning.
Looking back, I think God has a perfect sense of humor. I think he had me put that verse down just so I could spend the next 7 years eating those words hard. I thought I was so extremely grown up at the age of 18. I thought I was going to hit the world with all the confidence and I was going to show all those people who treated me like I was nothing more than a weird guy who wore black clothes and listened to really weird, loud and heavy music . Yeah, I’m here to tell you that not a whole lot has changed since then. I turned 25 a few weeks ago and I’m still learning to put this kind of childish, prideful nonsense to the wayside.
Growing up is not something you can just jump into. I’ve learned that I am not able to snap my fingers and turn myself into an adult. In fact, I’m still trying to get there. But it’s amazing to see what is different and just how much I have changed in so many and so few years. Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of this change in myself. I’ve gone through a lot in just a month that has grown me (and aged me) in great leaps. I can’t count how many times I’ve reacted in ways I didn’t expect and in a very positive ways at that. All of it stems from the work that is being done in me through the very Godly amount of hammering that I’ve had to endure.
I can tell you with great amount of assurance that I have been humbled severely in the time since I submitted that snippet of scripture to whoever the school. I still feel the pangs of being an outcast in my dealings with people sometimes. But just in the last few days even my mood has been completely different. I’m starting to see after a really long time that all of the garbage that I was tortured by in the last 7 years was all worth it now because I am finally starting to be what I thought I was back before I was even out of high school – an adult. Granted, I still have my problems and fights with myself but I think I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned that you’re never as grown up as you think you are. You’re always going to have the scripts you’ll import from your past until you learn to overcome them and eventually, by the grace of God you do. If you’re an outcast, you’re always going to be an outcast in a sense but you have to learn that people are going to treat you how they do based on their perception so this mistreatment they inflict on you may partially be your fault too. I can tell you that all the hell, grief, pain and sorrow will make you into one of the strongest people in the world if you understand there is a purpose to it all and there is an end in mind. That you don’t know what it is right now cannot be of any consequence. I know Jesus said it best:
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34 ESV)
So, what can we gather from all of this? I don’t know, exactly. I think my biggest point is that God is funny and sometimes he makes us eat our words a letter at a time not to be cruel but to carry out his plan in the course of his time, not ours. Our pride will always get the best of us in the end and irony is one of the hardest things to endure when it’s your life, not some clever plot device in a movie, the fiction we live. And life cannot be contained within some pithy statement or some mis-quoted Bible verse because God’s word is so much bigger than that and so are the things he has planned.
Finally , I know that I am a work in progress. And so are you. And it’s amazing to see things come together one piece at a time. Just watch.