Slip Through the Fingers

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One of a handful; a bucket collecting water from a spring drizzle. There’s a hole and a crease in the hand. People slip through like grains of sand these days.

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Perception

It has taken a long time for me to realize that I can’t control anybody but myself. And sometimes even that’s not true.

Along with the small list of ailments and disorders that I get to have fun with every day of my life, I also have to deal with sort of a generalized anxiety. This acts either as background noise to my day and makes me a little high strung or it acts as an electric hum that sort of sits in the top of my stomach and makes me extremely high strung and nervous about, well, everything. I’ve been given medication to manage it which is really great because it actually doesn’t have any adverse affects other than it calms me down and allows me to think calmly and usually much clearer. It slows me down without slowing me down if that makes any sense.

But, anyway, we were talking about anxiety. It really comes into play with people because, as friendly as I may be, I don’t think I’m the greatest in dealing with people sometimes. I often feel I’m really bad when it comes to meeting new people because, to be honest, I spent a lot of time growing up as a loner. I’m an introvert with some extroverted tendencies. I can engage in conversation but when it comes to meeting people or introducing myself to someone new there’s this buzz in my gut that starts asking questions about how I’ll be perceived and if they’ll think I’m weird. They’ll be polite and then they’ll walk away wondering what my problem is.

I’m getting help for this. My first appointment is today, actually. But what I’ve been trying to learn or teaching myself is that I can’t control the reactions of other people. I’m kind of an odd bird. I read a lot of books and use big words in when I talk and usually the person has to stand back or I there’s a chance I’ll hit them while gesticulating, especially when I get passionate or excited. Yeah, sure, some may perceive that as a bit strange but it’s not really my objective to manage the perceptions of others. It’s a lot easier for me to be myself and let people see me for who I am then to try and make them comfortable.

I have this problem a lot at work. I had a supervisor who wanted me to go around to the members of my team and ask them what their perception of me was. I stared at him blankly for a minute, acted like I was going to do it, then proceeded to go back to my desk and do my job. It’s easy to do this at work because I have talked to everyone in my department at least once and have talked to probably everyone in every one of our call centers at least once. They all know how I operate, they know how I do my job and they know I’m good at it. You don’t need any more of a perception than that. So, needless to say, I ignored the request of my supervisor.

This does not translate well to the real world. My anxiety is much higher in places filled with people I don’t now. At my very small Bible College I have managed to become friends with a small number of people. But there is a slew of new students that I just don’t understand. With anxiety it’s really easy to fall into the trap that you don’t belong especially when you’re eight years older than the people you’re around. But even with some of the people, especially the staff, I wonder what they think of me and sometimes I get real concerned whether or not they take me seriously.

I have to remember that I can’t control the perceptions of anyone around me. I know who I am and that should be sufficient for me to communicate with others with my own personal flair and tone.

Sometimes, that’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Ecclesia

August 12, 2012

I stepped into church for the first time in two months today.

There was probably a time where if you would have asked me whether or not I would have missed that much church ever I probably would have told you there would be no way. Well, I did. For the reason of sleep I missed two months worth of church services at my home church that’s not 3 miles from my house.

In a strange way I didn’t miss it.

I think I missed it for all the wrong reasons. These are things that are somewhat important but maybe not the only reason to go to church. I have a lot of friends there and I have quite a bit of history there in the three or so years I’ve been attending. So, there were people there I missed seeing since I didn’t see them outside of church. Just like anywhere that you establish a network of friends you are going to be missed and, if your life is as bereft of social activity as mine, it’s about the only place outside of work I get to see people that aren’t my family.

I missed being cared about on a large scale like that. So many people whom I hadn’t seen since the last time I was there came up to me or said “hi”. My church isn’t that big so it’s hard for people to not know who you are and what’s going on in your life. It also doesn’t help that the pastor is one of your best friends.

I’ve got a lot of moms at my church. Not necessarily older women but people who have kids of their own who are my friends but can’t help but mother hen me just a little bit. Being a bit of a mama’s boy, having someone treat you like their kid is welcome every now and again. There are also men who are there like fathers. One of our elders is usually out greeting and he didn’t wait for me to get to the door. He walked out to me and, foregoing our usual firm handshake, he gave me a hug and told me it was good to see me.

Maybe it’s not the wrong reasons. Maybe it’s the right reasons for today.

I don’t remember what the sermon was about except there was something in there about delighting in Christ and the passage was out of James. I honestly didn’t miss the sermon or the worship so much. I realize I’ve spent the last two months either tired or miserable and almost all that time by myself it made me realize that today was probably supposed to be more about the people and the friendships and actually being relational at a level I haven’t been in a long time.

And now I wonder to myself if my hiatus from people, my fast and short trip through hell with (legal) drug withdrawals weren’t meant to sort of reset the part of me that gauges my social activity and adjust my energy level accordingly. I don’t know. There have been so many questions since I stopped taking Seroquel that every facet of my life I newly approach elicits one or two new questions.

Someday, I’ll get answers.

Trip the trigger

August 6, 2012

Professionals will tell you that mood swings in Bipolar II patients are set off by some sort of trigger. One of my professors, a counselor by trade, described it as an overreaction to emotional stimuli. Most of the time, I would have to agree with that description.

But I have yet to find a trigger for my depression.

Lately, I’ve been feeling more and more down and a lot of it has to do with my depression. One particular night I was feeling down and was extremely tired. Someone very dear to me was kind enough to call me rather than our usual texts (though the reason escapes me as I was feeling somewhat level at that point). But as the conversation grew it became more and more apparent that i was breaking down.

I tried to be strong but she’s very perceptive, even over the phone.

She noticed a shift in my breathing and asked me if I was okay. This just sent everything into overdrive. I can distinctly remember a point in the conversation where I was just staring at the ceiling in such emotional agony that I didn’t think the moment would ever end. That’s the great lie of depression, you know? That the misery, the sadness, the pain will never end. It takes time.

And sometimes it just takes talking about it with someone.

But I’m a seasoned veteran with this kind of thing. I’ve talked to a lot of people about my depression and how deep it can get and some have even been there for it. They never looked at me or talked to me the same. So, I’m often wary about letting people know that I’m hurting even if I trust them because I’m afraid it’ll burden them and their lives, they’ll never understand, they’ll never treat me the same again or they’ll just never want to talk to me again.

But God bless her, she’s stuck with me. And I hope she knows how much that means to me because I’m not sure that I can put it into words, at least not adequately enough to put here. Blessed are those who don’t try to fix that which is meant to be broken.

In Search of a Better Story

I work in a call center. It’s an interesting place to work in though I only recommend it for the thick-skinned. It is a demoralizing, dehumanizing and identity stripping environment if you do not guard your heart from all the negativity around you. To give you some idea of what I have hear sometimes I’ll just give you a list of the few epithets that don’t involve swear words because at least these people were creative in treating me like a trained animal. But I would be remiss if I didn’t give you the context of the business I work in because some of these don’t make sense unless you know what I’m talking to these people about.

The company I work for handles pharmacy benefits for a lot of insurance companies and contracts out mail order pharmacy services to an even greater number of companies. So, we deal with two things that are very dear to people 1) money and 2) pharmaceuticals. With that context in mind, here is a list of names that readily come to mind when I think of names I’ve been called that don’t involve swear words.

1. Killer
2. Contract Killer (my personal favorite)
3. Thief
4. Liar
5. Worthless
6. Puppet
7. Mindless
8. Heartless

OK, so not as long a list as I had originally thought but then I remembered that I was omitting the ones with cursing. The list gets many times longer as you can imagine. It’s difficult not to take this kind of stuff to heart when you’ve been doing my job or jobs like it for almost 7 years like I have. The trick is to remember is that, most of the time, they’re not really mad at you but at the system or at policies. Sometimes, though, they’re mad at you because you are the voice telling them things that don’t fit their line of thinking. But I think if I were to reflect on the terrible and nasty things that have been said to me over the years I think there is one statement that sticks out more than anything else. I’ll give you no context because it doesn’t matter.

Once, I was told I was going to hell because I’m white.

I’m not joking. Remove your palms from your faces.

We’re not done.

The upside to working in an environment like that is the people you tend to work with. At the entry level you don’t tend to get a lot of super… I don’t want to use the word normal because that’s such a subjective term… I guess I will say that it is a very colorful environment with a lot of different cultural, social and economic expressions. I’m presently laughing at myself for such a presentation but there it is. So, there’s a lot of diversity which I really like. Though, if I’m honest, I still stick out like a sore thumb even in that setting.

But it’s not just appearances that set me apart there. There are a lot of stories of different walks of life just from the people around me. Just recently I’ve really started to get to know the people who sit in my general vicinity and I have marveled to myself at the stories that I’ve been told. There was the woman who told me how she swore up and down she’d never have children. Then she was telling me how she had a kid and it changed her life. But she also told me how she was thinking about getting a divorce and my heart broke for her. I was saddened even more when she left the company.

Recently, I’ve been talking to this guy who sits near me. He has recently become a father and likes to talk about martial arts and being in the army. But we got to talking about relationships and his views on women are far different from mine. He doesn’t mind entertaining a different woman every week and doesn’t really have any love for the mother of his child. In fact, he was telling me about how happy he was that he was moving and she wasn’t coming with. Some things I just don’t understand. But he asked me for relationship advice the other day. My shift was up before we got to finish the conversation and he got a phone call as I was about to leave.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with a woman at work because she and I had talked enough that she felt comfortable coming to me for advice. I did as I always do in these situations and I listened. I told her what I thought (which is not pertinent to our conversation here) and then something happened that has not happened to me in a long time. What started out as a fairly surface level chat somehow turned into this very deep and probing conversation. I don’t ever know how it happens but people end up telling me about themselves at levels they’re not normally comfortable sharing with people they don’t know that well, typically. It’s times like these I wonder how deep my analytical skills go.

If you really try, can you exegete people?

One of the benefits of being God in the flesh was that Jesus could see into the minds and the hearts of other people. This ability was displayed powerfully at a well in Sychar which was inhabited by Samaritans. This is an interesting social dynamic because the Samaritans weren’t like much by Jews because they didn’t have enough Jewishness. Jesus chills at a well in this area while his disciples are off doing disciple business of some sort. He is met by a woman who is drawing water at noon by herself.

Does something seem a little off?

It’s noon in 1st century Palestine and this woman chooses to go out to the well and draw water from it. I’d imagine it was pretty warm. Jesus seemed to think so he asked for a drink. This blows up the woman’s paradigm and a conversation regarding water and spiritual things ensues. But what really strikes me about this story is that Jesus tells her to get her husband. That seems simple enough in a patriarchal society and pretty rational considering the context. The woman says she has no husband which is true and Jesus affirms the fact that she has no husband now but reveals the fact that he knows that she’s gone through 5 husbands and is currently shacking up with a dude who isn’t her husband. She didn’t lie to Jesus.

Jesus still knew the truth. And he told her a better story. But

He saw

right

through

her.

There was a rich guy who wanted what Jesus was talking about, eternal life. I wonder if he was like any of the rich kids I knew back in the day who would follow whatever was big at the time. Or maybe he thought he had everything until he found out he didn’t have eternal life and just had to have it. In any case, he asked what it would take to obtain this eternal life Jesus was talking about. Jesus tells him five things which happen to be five of the 10 words or commandments which are near the very heart of Jewish law. This “ruler” as he’s referred to in the text says that’s kept all of those since he was young. One wonders what everyone around him was thinking when he said that. The judgemental part of me calls shenanigans when I read that.

But Jesus does a much better job of getting to the heart of this man.

His response is so fantastic:

“One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22 ESV)

Jesus wants to connect him to a story better than anything he possesses.

And the rich man just

walks

away.

The woman I work with who I had that really deep conversation with told me some things she said she doesn’t normally tell other people. I don’t know what I did or said to evoke that information from her but I saw her heart and told her what I saw. She devoted a lot of her time to making other people happy. Things that are as simple as buying drinks and paying the check for other people and even going as far as doing shoe drives. She has made it clear she can’t buy into God at least in the way she understands him. It’s understandable, I guess, having grown up on the very buckle of the Bible Belt and growing up hearing Jesus is the answer when things got rough and no other helpful words, I can understand how God could seem like a very distant and cold idea. And some of the details she shared with me that I won’t air here just broke my heart but it helped me see her. Deep down, she can’t not be in control. She would literally dig her fingers into her hands, nearly drawing blood when I told her what I saw.

She has to make everyone around her happy so that they don’t have to hear her heartbreaking story.

I want her to hear a better story.

Just like the dude I work with who treats women like drive in restaurants and doesn’t seem to understand that sex is more about love and less about getting what he feels is his.

And the woman who doesn’t work with me anymore who is going through a divorce and will have to deal with custody battles. I gave her the information to my church and I desperately hope she shows up some day out of the blue because I want her to know that there are real people out there just like her who are searching for a better story and they fail at times too.

Just like the man who had a view of YHWH so unbelievably skewed and seemed to have been battered so hard by a system that told him that God was the reason the white man was better than the black man.

And me. I want to tell a better story and be better part of the story that brought me here. I want to be able to see the things in people that Jesus sees and to help them turn that into a story that has anguish, pain and suffering but a story that shows that there is an end to it all. I want them to know that while the story may never end in the grand scheme of things, that we will go on to see eternity, but in the short view the things that they are doing, have had done to them and are thinking about doing will ultimately stop somehow and that Jesus has written a better story for them.

They don’t have to live like this.

They don’t have to hide behind a smile. They don’t have to seek themselves to be happy. They don’t have to be scared of what people think. They don’t have to constantly be picking up the pieces.

They don’t have to live like this.

You don’t have to live like this. You, like them, have the chance to write a better story.

Just

ask

how