Sunday, November 20, 2016

11-20-16-- Anxiety

Two years ago, when I first saw a psychologist, I said, truthfully, that I am afraid of very little.  This makes sense.  Working with the folks I do, I have to have a boldness that most people don't have.  I have to be willing to take chances that most people aren't willing to take.  And I have to be willing to set aside worries and concerns that would overwhelm me.

I have had periods of time in which I lost sleep because of someone's suffering, because of children on the street.  But I'd say that the big difference between me today and me last year is that anxiety is an everyday event.

Just going to the Red Barn right now makes me sick to my stomach.  The idea of having to meet people makes me nauseous.  It used to be that I couldn't sleep if someone (like a television) is on.  Now I can't sleep unless I have a podcast droning in my ear all night, because if I wake up, I will start worrying and it will keep me awake all night.  If I focus my mind on the subject of, say, a movie review, I can get back to sleep at two in the morning.

I would be able to laugh off conflict and rejection.  Heck, at times in my life I thrived when someone insulted me or threatened my life.  I was overjoyed to be arrested earlier this year.  Now I find myself avoiding conflict.  I have headaches because I have people yelling at me or disgusted with me.  I find myself lapsing into occasional cowardice.

And I wonder if this is the main reason I need to quit, besides it just being my time.  My body can no longer deal with the everyday stresses, stories of suffering, and even everyday conflict.  I have had too much persecution, too much rejection, too much suffering for righteousness sake.

I feel as if my whole life the world has been chipping away at me to help me become the image of Jesus.  Unfortunately, they kept on chipping.  And they always get one side wrong.  I'll never make that image.  Sigh.  The world just isn't a great artist, I guess.

I feel smaller than I used to be.  I suppose that's a good thing.  Teaches us dependence on God, right?  Teaches us humility.

Yep.  But that also means that I am able to do less. I can't accomplish a fraction of what I used to.  And that makes me guilty. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

11-19-16-- Depression

Last year, I wrote about the cycle of adrenaline highs and withdrawals.  Right after that time, I pushed myself into the biggest high of my life.  I started a camp, in opposition to the city's wishes, I protested against another city and got arrested, I helped set up protest camps, I participated in protests, I participated in camp moves and I saved lives.  All excellent, important, even essential work.  It's been a great year.  But I knew it couldn't last.  I would reach the end of my adrenaline being effective, and I would have to slow down.  And when I slowed down, I would go through drug withdrawals, and head into a deep depression.

Withdrawals in my case aren't as bad as withdrawals from heroin or meth.  I get nausea, lack of sleep, difficulty breathing, no energy and severe depression.

So I saw a couple doctors to see what they could do to slow down this process.  Last year, I tried anti-depressants, in the past, I tried testosterone.  But these weren't good answers for me.  Now I'm quitting so I'm heading down a deep, dark spiral of depression.

As is often said, depression isn't about sadness, but a severe lack of energy and a lack of interest in anything.  It puts a veil of darkness over everything, so everything looks unworthy, even disgusting.  The things I could endure are completely unacceptable now.

Because of my slight autism, people, all people, are overwhelming, and I just want to escape.  I have no patience for anyone and the slightest thing can make me upset.   I have many days that I just want to hide under the covers and not come out.

My depression will end. It won't last forever.

But because this depression is associated with a long-term adrenal overload, it might take years to get out of it, even if I don't activate my adrenaline overmuch.  But the chances of me not attending a protest, moving a camp in danger or confronting city workers again are slight.  That's the kind of stuff that will give me that high again.

And then I'll have to start the withdrawals all over again.

Friday, November 18, 2016

11-18-16-- Spiritual Emptiness

When I last met with my spiritual director, she told me that she felt that I was heading into a Dark Night of the Soul.

This is a period of people's lives described in detail by St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross in which a person feels distant from God and doesn't experience the spiritual in their lives.  St. Theresa of Calcutta spent most of her life doing work without a spiritual connection.  It isn't that they believe that God doesn't exist or doubt the existence of the spiritual world.  It is that they cannot connect to it, no matter what they do, no matter how much they do the "right" thing.

I have always had a sense of God leading.  And I felt the same thing a number of weeks ago when my Voice told me to quit.  Since then, nothing.

Stupid prophetic spiritual director.  

I believe in the efficacy of prayer, but not my own prayer.  I have no confidence that my prayers will be heard.  

There is one thing that the Holy Spirit-- God's power to answer prayer-- gives, which is love.  God will grant love to all who ask.  It may take time, but it will happen.  Those who are filled with the Spirit are filled with compassion and mercy.  Those who are in tune with God has their heart flooded with the love of God for those around them who do not deserve it.

I prayed for love.  For years.  I got nothing.

It isn't that I think God answering prayers.  God granted finances when (or just after) we needed it.  God provided help not only for us but for those whom we helped.  God's resources were never-ending.  But the most important prayer, the pursuit of love, the opportunity to feel compassion, not just to give lip service to it.  In this area God failed me. 

Yes, failed.  I really believe that God has a responsibility to give love to those who seek it.  There are many "Christians" who just offer excuses and don't pursue love at all.  They are more interested in karma than mercy.  I don't think they are really pursuing God.  Because God is love, and those who love God are those who benefit those who don't deserve it because that's what God does. 

And my love is like the filthy water at the bottom of a bath drain.  There's nothing left, and what is there is diluted.  God is supposed to open up the flood of water again.  But there's nothing.  And I'm filthy. 

I asked my spiritual director, who went through a period of the dark night of the soul, how one gets out.  Do we pray?  Do we meditate?  Do we seek God?

She said, "You can do that if you want.  But it doesn't work. Do what gives you spiritual comfort.  But in the end, you will feel a desire to get back into spiritual disciplines.  And that's when you will be ready to connect with God again." 

I hate to have people ask me to pray for them right now.  I've got nothing to give.  Someone asked me, "How does a person find God?"  I answered, "I wish I knew." 

I'm living in a Bergman film.  Black and white, and God is distant.  And Death seems like a pretty nice guy.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

11-17-16-- Why I am a Failure

Okay, everyone, slow down!  You two folks need to not be so quick to criticize my titles!

Yes, I understand that I have done a lot of good these past 22 years.  I haven't been a failure all that time.  But I feel like a failure now.  Here's some reasons:

1. I have to quit leadership of the organization I started
As if I'm no good at leading what I started.  Well, some might claim that was always true.  I certainly know some neighbors of Red Barn who think that way. But I think they consider my work good only if I got rid of all homeless people.  That's the only condition under which they will stop complaining, anyway.

But I've led this for 22 years, come up with a lot of ideas and now I'm done.  That just sucks, and I feel horrible about it.  I feel like I've given up on everyone.

St. Francis got fired from the organization he started as well.  What a loser.

2. I nurtured the person who betrayed me
The situation that really overwhelmed me to the breaking point is having a person distribute meth on the property.  This is a person I worked with, prayed for, tried to heal spiritually and emotionally, providing housing and work and finances for.  Worked with to get him on disability.  Fought for.  And he betrays me and the work by distributing the one thing he knows I hate and is a terrible tool of oppression.  He manipulated the situation because he knew what I would do and what I wouldn't do.  And he lied to me repeatedly.

Jesus also supported and discipled his betrayer.  What a failure.

3. The help for the homeless has to reduce
I have fed and provided for the homeless for decades.  Now that will have to reduce.  People will have to figure out their own locations to move, figure out where they will get their own food.  Of course, self-sustenance is always a better answer for the poor all around the world than dependence. My work has always been with an eye to productivity and self-sustenance and helping the homeless take hold of their own solutions.

But this happens through having a place to be, a center of reduced stress so they can create their own solutions.  Now that will happen without me.  I have to move on.

Just like Paul, when he was persecuted, left every town he started a church in and gave the leadership to others.  He had to leave so quickly that sometimes he didn't know who the leaders were!  What a git.

4. I lose my friends
I have always been there.  I have always been available.  I was there every week, even when I was exhausted, even when others had holidays, I didn't.  I was faithful.  Now I don't know who I will see or what will happen.  But one thing for sure, if I am going to heal I need to reduce the number of people I connect with.  Hopefully this will only be for a short time.  But possibly not. I might leave and not come back.  And it will be my choice.  I didn't have a stroke, I didn't collapse in my work.  I didn't die. I am just gone.

I am a failure as a friend.  I am a failure as a person who has always been there.

5. I am not a saint
Like St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, I chose to follow the path of the saint.  I gave away everything I had, I surrendered my job, my home.  I gladly worked with people who disdained me.  I took all the persecution and suffering.  Unfortunately, unlike St. Therese, I didn't die young.  The longer you pursue sainthood, the harder it is to maintain.  Saintliness-- loving your enemy, loving the poor, improving other people's lives but not your own, being wise for everyone but yourself-- takes it's toll over time.  Frankly, it can't be sustained.  If you want to be a saint, be a martyr as well.  Or be sickly.  I'd give a life of saintliness about ten years.  Mind you, that's about the time that you learn some wisdom in your path of saintliness.  For the first ten years you're all gusto and power and looking down your nose at Christians who aren't as saintly as you.  For the second ten years you start to feel the cost and work on burnout.  By the time you reach twenty years (and that's pretty good) you either learn balance or quit.  I never did learn balance.

Jesus had three years of being a saint.  I just learned that in MLK Jr.'s civil rights movement, they gave each person five years of intense work and then recommended that they live a normal life.  Paul ended his life of missionary work in anxiety and feeling rejected by everyone.  Elijah ended his life of prophethood begging for death. Let's face it, sainthood isn't for anyone in the long term.

I really thought I could reach the distance.  Instead, I am bitter and angry and ready to quit.    I prayed to die.  I prayed for a stroke (my wife thinks that this is horrible-- why should she have to take care of me for the rest of my life because I'm tired?)  I have lost the love and passion that drove me on for years.

Yes, we opened a house for the homeless and had dozens of people living here.  Yes, we had a center for the homeless and helped perhaps a thousand people.  And we did all this without asking for funds, depending on God and prayer. Yes, I was a peacemaker for years.  Yes, I loved people whom no one else loved.  But in the end, I couldn't sustain it.

Dammit.  I'm human.  And that really pisses me off.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

11-16-16-- Reasons I'm Quitting

Remember what I said in the last episode of our story.  "The real reason I'm quitting is because my Voice is telling me to."  So below are the less-than-real reasons.  This sounds totally like too much information.  But people around me will list these as the "real" reasons and my Voice as a convenience.  Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

1. Because I am an enemy to the cities I've worked in
Not so much Portland, they are still willing to work with me, but Gresham is really tired of me.  I've been involved in protests in Gresham (which they are not used to) for the homeless, I've organized camps which they don't want, I've confronted their leaders and I've just been successful in winning a trial they held against me.  But most importantly, they believe that I personally am the reason that homeless people still exist in Gresham.  It's not true.  It's the economy of Gresham that causes homelessness.  I help the homeless.  But I guess the city of Gresham isn't too good at cause-and-effect.

Because Gresham dislikes me, I am a target.  They watch what I do and what I am establishing.  Occasionally they take pictures of my Facebook page to find out what's going on. Sounds paranoid, but I've seen their pics. I know that my work at the Red Barn is often targeted and many leaders in Gresham would love to see the Red Barn fold, because I'm helping the "wrong" people. The code department has sent dozens of violation notice over the last couple years and is finally charging us a thousand dollars. So if the work among the homeless is to grow, perhaps it should be done by someone else.  I need to step away and let others do it.

2. Because the Red Barn is compromised
I found out recently that someone is using my church site as a distribution center for meth.

Now, meth is an evil, evil drug.  It causes schizophrenia, making people see and hear what isn't there, but they believe it is real. This person I helped for years and gave him great opportunities, took advantage of those opportunities to give meth to others.  I'll talk more about this later.

The real reason is that I can't figure out how to solve this issue quickly.  Every time I look to the police, or the city, they give me more delays, more limitations to solving this problem.  Possibly, if I stepped away and closed Red Barn permanently, then they would take care of the issue, because it wouldn't be for my church, but for the neighborhood.

3. Because I am Overwhelmed
I am depressed, anxious, and furious.  I can't think well enough to come up with new workable solutions, which has always been my strength in the work.  I am older than I was and it is really time for someone else to take over.

4. Because I struggle to Love
Having the Voice tell me to quit is fine, but I wish that this were the real reason I was quitting.  I can serve food, I can organize volunteers, I can preach a sermon, I can move a camp,  I can give wisdom (on good days).  But I cannot look someone in the eye, let alone care for them.  I can't listen to normal people, let alone difficult people.  If I cannot love, then I should quit this work and figure out how to love.  Because it's all about loving people, caring for them, benefiting them in ways they and I never expected.  But I can't do that right now.  I'm a love cripple.

Jon Forman would say that we are all amateurs at love, but right now, it's worse than that.  I am interested in keeping the ball rolling, but I honestly don't care.  I've done retreats, I've done meditation, I've done prayer, I've done everything we are supposed to do.  It's just not coming back. 

I sound like Barry Manilow singing Tryin' To Get the Feeling.  I'm sorry to put that song in your head.  What?  You've never heard it?  Here:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

11-15-16-- Processing Part 1

Okay, let's just get it over with:

I'm going to quit the career I had for 22 years.

Whew.  That's a relief to say it.  I'm sure both of you reading this are shocked.

Sure, it's a personal milestone, but is there a reason to write a bunch of blog posts about it?  Well, there is for me. I am having many horrible emotional experiences right now, I need to process and figure out what is going on in me.  I am having a hard time writing anything, and I can't take pleasure in the things I would have.  I am struggling to get up and do anything. I am at my wit's end, in that I cannot come up with solutions, which has always been my strength.  And I feel that if I figure out my head, sort out my emotions, perhaps I can make some positive steps.

Also, my "job" (so to speak, as I never got an official salary) has a lot of folks dependent on me and the organization work I do.  This will leave them out in the wind.  This also has me conflicted.

Just to let you know, I am seeing a psychologist, but I can only see him once every few weeks, so I figure I'll spend some time writing to help me know what to do.

For those reading this who have worked with me and it is close to the date I wrote it, this will be a surprise, as I haven't announced my "early retirement".  This writing is part of the process I have to go through in order to write my announcement helpfully.  I'm not giving up on helping homeless people completely, but if I am going to do this correctly, I will need to get a job to, you know, pay bill and such.  So my ability to help will be limited.

I'm not going to limit my writing on this blog.  I need to process, so I'm going for the nation-wide trip.  This will get boring sometimes.  So if you're reading this for entertainment... well, perhaps you'd better re-think that.  If some student of abnormal psychology is assigned this portion of the blog, all I can do is apologize.


Speaking of abnormal psychology, let's talk about my spirituality.

There is only one reason I'm quitting.  Because the voice that told me to start is telling me to quit.  All other reasons I have aren't that big of a deal.  I've had depression and opposition and difficulties for years.

But when I started this work among the homeless, it was because of  a prayer.  I prayed that God would help me work with the poor and not just talk about the poor.

When I quit my job to work full time with the homeless and to have a planned period of homelessness (couch surfing) myself, it was because my Voice told me to.

When I started a church, it was because my Voice told me to, after the church that supported us kicked us out.

Earlier this year, that same Voice told me to rest.  To stop the work, to read, to take it easy.

And a number of weeks ago, that same Voice told me to quit.

In every case, I didn't obey the Voice right away.  I checked with my wife.  I checked with some other counselors I had.  And all agreed that the Voice was correct.

So while I'll be talking about a number of reasons why I am quitting, in reality, it is only one reason: the Voice in my head told me to.

I will call that Voice God.  You may call it something else.  Some deep-seeded logic.  A portion of my brain.  A spiritual being that is something other than God.   Whatever.  All I know is that it is the Voice that I am welcome to question and test and delay, but in the end I obey it.  Because of the Voice I have taken chances that most people wouldn't take and my life is richer for it, and I'd like to think that others' lives are as well.  

And that Voice is telling me to quit.  And I have a number of reasons why that's probably for the best.
I'll go over those in the next few weeks.