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Posts Tagged ‘breakdown’

How open are you?    With your spouse or significant other?  With your kids?  Your boss?  Your parents?  On a blog?

It’s an interesting question.  How authentic, how personal do you get?  Obviously these questions arise particularly on journal type blogs like mine, which by their very nature are intimate, and yet distant.  Even though I’m trying to be anonymous-y to the search engines (at least you’d have to know me or look for me), I remain committed to the idea that true communication happens only when we are willing to be vulnerable.  I’ve been around long enough to know that there is truly no privacy in cyberspace, and precious little IRL.  It’s all out there, so you better be OK with who you are.  Or at least I used to think so.

Then I went to “group” for three months.  “Group” is the euphemism we used at the psychiatric hospital for the severe mood disorders program.  “I’m going to group,” I’d say and head out the door in the morning.  Sounded a lot better than “I’m going to brain treatment” or “Behavioral Health Care”.  Group was really very interesting.  There was a wide range of ages, races, men and women, from body-pierced punk 19 year olds to an elderly Indian gentleman doctor, with plenty of housewives, students, a barista or two, a sheriff, and me, the pastor.  We were black and white, hispanic and asian.  It wasn’t a group of people who would ever meet socially in real life, and yet there was a closeness there that is hard to describe.  We all had been through it.  Depression, or bi-polar, anxiety disorders, all severe enough that normal life had become untenable, at least for a while.

I learned a lot about behavioural-cognitive theory, and talked some, and listened more.  We talked about our need to find places to express how we were feeling, and I was surprised at the number of people who said that they didn’t even have one person they could honestly talk to.  Not a single person in their life that they trusted that completely.  We had a long discussion about setting boundaries of who was safe, and who was not, to tell our stories.  I just recently started seeing a new therapist, and she’s one of the good ones.   I just got that vibe… she’s real.  She get’s it.  But isn’t always easy to tell, and being let down happens.  How do you know when someone is safe to share with?  Can be trusted?  Will be loving even if they disagree or disapprove or are disappointed by you?

I’ve been so blessed in having Flash with me through this all.  It has meant a lot to have my best friend and husband willing to walk this precarious path with me.  And on days like today, when I’m struggling to cope with normal routines through waves of panic attacks, it means a lot to have him by my side. 

I’ve always been somewhat of an over-sharer.  If you’ve ever heard me preach, you know that applying the scripture to my everyday life is the lens through which I see God.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.    I let it all out and trust that others will be honest and upfront with me in return.  Now that I’m middle-aged, I no longer expect that everyone will respond.   Some people simply find it frightening, to hear truth spoken by anyone.  To put aside unnecessary pleasantries for depth.  But I can say that for the most part the people I truly care about are willing to try authenticity. 

But now, like never before, I’m wounded.  And so, carefully, carefully, I’m trusting.  I had a wonderful lunch this morning with a dear colleague and gave her the whole story of the past two years of stress that brought me to the brink, far more than I will post publically.  I really want to focus here on the future, how I’m changing, what I’m becoming.   I’m carefully selecting how I post links to my blog on Facebook (not everyone sees them) and who I go into more detail with.  If you are one of those who is safe, who gets it, please come back.  Listen.  Respond.  If you aren’t, then… hey, look, squirrel!  Over there!  Now delete that link…

The technology is enticing.  There is possibility here.  Be authentic.  Speak your truth, but never have to see the face look back in disappointment or anger.  I finally get the whole blog thing.  I need it.  On days like today.

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It has not escaped my attention that my recent transition from seeming emotional stability to my new status as a wreck is happening at the age of 40.  It seems almost too classic to be coincidental, right?  Midlife crisis, meet RevMommy.  She’s ripe for the picking.

So I find myself faced with both the opportunity to do something new, go into uncharted water–a good thing.  And a bout of severe depression that often prevents me from doing anything at all beyond rolling over and going back to sleep–this is not so good.  Part of me wants to face the second half of life with enthusiasm and excitement.  I like to think this is the real me.  Another part of me is feeling at sea because for the first time in my life, I’m not defined by my job.  This is my scared part.  Really, really scared.

We live in a culture in which we are defined by what we do for a living.  When you meet someone for the first time, most people ask “What do you do?”  They don’t mean knitting, or collecting comics, they want to know where you work.  Flash has faced this disability for many years as a Stay-At-Home-Dad.  Only in the last few years has SAHD even become a thing, one that you can admit to. (An aside about Flash:   He’s an awesome dad, as shown by the way he spent his afternoon coaxing our terrified and resistant son into having his blood drawn.   Flash not only spent 45 minutes trying to calm a hysterical child with Asperger’s, but even had them draw his own blood just to show it was safe.  He so rocks.)   I love to shake up personal introductions by asking questions like “What is your favorite book?” or “Where did you grow up?”, if not “What is your first memory of being in a kitchen?”  That’s a great one.

In my case, I’ve been in a pastoral role my entire adult life.  I went to seminary right out of college at the age of 21, worked as a youth director, was a missionary, and was ordained and in a church at 25.  I remember one elderly lady in the first church I served asking my age, then replying, “Honey, I’ve got shoes older than you.”  So while I may not have grown up in the church, I have certainly become the woman I am in the church.   Being a pastor never stops.  People I don’t know often want to tell me how horrible religion is, or contrariwise they suddenly stop saying fuck and act as if I’m going to slap them with a ruler.  Or they just close down and move out of the conversation.  On the other hand, there are the folks that jump right in to theology, or the story of their personal crisis, or ask me to pray.  Once the words, “I’m a pastor” are out of my mouth, I become a stand-in for their entire personal relationship with God, however bad or good that has been.  And after a while, I started to see myself that way as well.  Who I was was what I did. 

Tonight I met with an old friend (old, in the sense that now she’s an adult woman in her late 20s and I remember her at age 13 in church youth group) to talk about my exploring the possibility of my becoming a doula.  A doula, if you are not a parent or became a parent before they became popular, is a childbirth attendant.  A woman who professionally supports the woman in labor, as opposed to a midwife whose focus is on the baby.  

We met in a totally cool coffeehouse, so cool that it is definitely not near where I live.  Funky couches, art, nothing matching or blah–we sat on a bright green Victorian style couch.  The customers were all young, hip, and busily working on their laptops.   I want to live there.

Anyhow, my friend is not only a doula, she’s currently expecting her first baby.  I’m a total childbirth geek, I loved being pregnant and being in labor, and using a doula was a big part of that.  I have oodles of experience in hospitals, and it would be nice to be there to celebrate the beginning of life rather than my usual role.  Don’t get all excited, I’m honestly just trying it on for size.   I don’t really know which way God is calling me right now, but it feels odd to even think about taking off my virtual “I’m A Pastor–Tell Me Your Problems” button.  In a way it could be so refreshing.

So the “Rev” part of “RevMommy” has suddenly become nebulous.  However, as Mothers’ Day reminded me, the “Mommy” part is still right on target.  If I define myself by anything, it is being a Mom.  One thing I know I want is to continue to have the family oriented and centered lifestyle that we do.  I want to spend as much time as possible, do as much as possible, with my children before they move up and out.  I’m not satisfied with a couple of hours a day of interaction with my biological offspring.  I want to be part of raising them.  Not a helicopter mom, hovering overhead; not a Tiger mom, demanding perfection: I want to be a cheetah mom, protecting them when they are helpless, teaching them to hunt by my side as they grow, then letting them go knowing I gave them myself 100%.   Hence homeschooling.  Scheduling my work life so that I can do as much as I can during their sleeping hours.  Spending my free time playing board games and going on family field trips and watching family movies.  Living a child-centered life in a culture that really rejects that sort of thinking.  Being a mom is my rock right now.  

Belated happy Mothers’ Day to all you moms out there.   It really is the best part of my life.  And while I’m still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up, for now I’m happy just being a mom.

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I wanted to change the world.
But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself. 
–Aldous Huxley
 
I’ve always been the stable one.  The level-headed, reliable, succesful doer.  I kept on going despite the odds, despite grief, despite tragedy, despite a full-time job and two needy kids and a career that demands perfection while paying lip service to forgiveness.  And this past February it all came crashing down on me.  All it took were a few emotional kicks from some angry people, and I dropped to my knees and broke.  Suddenly I couldn’t face the responsibilities of life that I’d been plugging through for the past 20 years.  My shell cracked and inside I found an overwhelming sadness that almost led me to take my life.
 
But I didn’t.  I reached out to my wonderful husband (we’ll call him Flash), and I was quickly in a treatment program, sitting in a room with people who had life stories that were far beyond my experience.  But I listened, and I learned, and it soon became clear that most of my problem was centered in the barrel of “should”s I carried around each day.  I should own a house by now.  I should spend more time with my family; no, more time on my career; no, family! 
 
Three months later, I’m on a new road.  Or soon will be.  I’ve taken a leave of absence from my job, and Flash and I and our two young sons–we’ll call them Entropy and Kinesis–are selling out or packing up everything in our four bedroom house to drive cross-country and focus on relationship with each other and reconnecting with grandparents and others.  And so I chose my blog title:  Ad Meliora.  To better things.  That’s where I hope I’m headed.
 
I’m RevMommy.  After almost 2o years as a pastor I’m changing direction.  It may bring me right back where I started.  But I suspect the journey is going to be interesting.
 

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