Sunday, February 05, 2017

2/5/17-- Changes

There is a shift happening in my world, a ‘click’ in my mind, recognizing that something is going to be different.  Not just a season of difference, but after this nothing will be the same.

Today is the last day of Forgotten Realms.  But the camp is as it always was.  Too few people in the camp helping, ready to do the work necessary.  Too few advocates ready to help, many making promises that no one delivers on.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Tomorrow, or the next day, advocates will condemn the camp, without ever having understood the work that myself and especially the leadership of the camp put into it.

Tomorrow I will begin work as a cleaner.  I don’t see this work as an end, but as a means to an end.  I will have time to explore my mind, to see where I am and where I should be. 

In a year and a half I will be preparing to move to a different place.  We will put our house on the market and I expect it to sell well.  At this point, a good chunk of the money will go for charity, housing people who otherwise cannot be housed.  And Diane and I will establish a place for her and I to live outside of community, with space for our children to visit or live, as necessary.

I wonder who I will be in a year.  I wonder if I will have learned humility at that point.  I wonder if I will still see myself as the smartest person in the room, or I will accept my fate as an older man who has done his work but can no longer keep up with the times.

I wonder if the world is a bit more compassionate because of my work.  I wonder if I have really accomplished anything.  So much that I began it seems to have fallen apart.  And the work I have done has finally caught up with me.

I have PTSD that isn’t associated with a place or an experience, but certain people.  I don’t hate these people, and I do what I can to help them, to love them, I pray for them, but every time I see them my chest tightens and I fight an urge to run.  Because if I don’t run, I will yell or scream in their face because they have hurt me so deeply.  They have torn apart the work that I associated with my being.
I wonder if after I get some rest if I would be able to forget these pains, to leave them behind.  I wonder if I would be able to meet these men, shake their hand and honestly ask how they are without the parade of emotions behind my eyes.

I would love to have my self of twenty years ago (ambitious, energetic, passionate), my current self (exhausted, weary, ready to give up), and my future self (who is a mystery), sit us all down at a table and have a conversation.  Perhaps my daughter could host a conversation between us:

“Older Steves, what would you wish the younger Steve to have done differently?”

“Young Steve, do you approve of the changes the older Steves made?”

“Youngest and Oldest Steve, do you feel the middle Steve to be a coward? A weakling? Too easy to give up? Or do you think he is brave in some way?”

“Middle Steve, do you resent the younger Steve?  Do you admire the oldest Steve?  Or the other way around?”

Perhaps all three of us would end up in some pacifist fistfight.  

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Lessons I Have Learned (2016)

When I am exhausted and I cannot endure a moment’s more compassion, a moment’s more mercy, a moment’s more sacrifice, somehow, I find a moment more.  That must come from God, for I have often come to the end of myself.

True obedience to God always leads to love.  If we do not love, our obedience is mistaken.
When I have truly loved, there is someone who will hate me for it.  I know when someone hates me that I must be loving the one who really needs it.

Love is often confused with desire.  True love looks at the undesirable and we become beautiful, majestic.  Once true love has touched, only then will others see our worth.  But love always comes first.

I often speak to a person what I see they will become, rather than who they are.  I speak the truth that I wish to be a prophecy.   They might say to me, “You don’t know who I am.”  But I do.  I know the seed that hides deep within them.

Those who only look at someone’s past and judge them by that does not know the human being.  Because human beings never stay the same.  We should judge a person by who they will be, not who they were.  Who a person will be depends upon their hope.

Some people hate themselves because they belong to a group of the hated.  We need to open their eyes to show them the love of God, who holds the hated and restores them.  The outcast should never believe society.  But society’s lies strike the heart, and beat it.

When I was young my zeal for God that I prayed, “Squeeze out my life like juice from pulp.”  When God answered my prayer I realized I had nothing left.  Then God stared to use me.

The people who tell you to slow down, to be wise, to be cautious are fools.  Unless we jump into action, we will never do anything. 

It is almost always better to ask forgiveness than permission.  (But don’t tell my kids that.)

Silence is my garden and gardens nurture my soul.  It wasn’t until I had vanquished my youthful energy that I understood this.

One of the greatest loves I have been able to give is to look into the eyes of a grieving person, listen to her sorrow and say, “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry this had to happen to you.”  Yes, she will weep.  But I know it is the beginning of healing.

I am an arrogant son of a bitch (sorry, mom).  I manipulate people because I think I know what’s better for them than they do.  I am full of pride.  But I also really care about people.  I don’t know, in any given moment, if I am blessed or damned.  Probably somewhere in the middle.

I gave the poorest of the poor more than I had.  I probably gave to my children less than they deserved. I know that I often had nothing left to give to my wife.  Some call me a saint.  It is my wife who is the saint.  I’m just working.

The Cost of Freedom

I remember when Fred was staying in our house.

It was his deepest desire to just meditate and read scripture and focus on God.  He is the most natural monk I've ever known. Even today, he spends time in his room, reading the same passage, day after day, atoning for sins that only he knows.

Fred's problem is that his schizophrenia demands that he stop eating and drinking in atonement for his sins.  Not like a meal fast, or a three day fast.  His mental illness convinces him that he will recover from his mental illness if he stops eating completely.

I was able to convince his caretakers to not jump the gun, but to give Fred what he wanted.  That if he would drink and eat daily, they would allow him to not take his medication, to not force him to be committed.  Again.  But if he became ill from his lack of nutrition, then he would be committed and have to be locked up and forced to take medication.

Fred is the nicest person in the world.  Kind, extremely gentle.  But when his mental health deteriorates, he spirals.  He would strip his clothes off and walk around the house in the nude.  As the father of two daughters, I didn't care for that one.  He would walk around the block, spinning multiple times at each corner.  He would touch his Bible, then again, then again, before he would open it.

Later, he would stay out in the rain all night, soaking wet, wrapped in a blanket.  It was summer, but it didn't look healthy.  Fred, however, was content, making loud grunts with a smile on his face.  Not in a nasty way.  But we could see in his eyes that he was spiraling.

Like I said, Fred is the nicest person in the world.  Everyone loves Fred.  So when he started to lose it, others couldn't bear to see him suffer.  Mind you, Fred didn't think of his life as suffering.  Suffering was being forced to take medication.  Fred was joyful in his freedom.  But he wasn't the same.

I was screamed at by housemates for allowing Fred to spiral this far.  But I knew what the alternative was.  Still, he wasn't healthy.

For one, he wasn't sleeping.  And, it turns out, we would watch him eat and drink.  But he would go outside and spit his nutrition in the dirt.  Took a week to figure that one out.  I would threaten him with being committed and then he would eat and drink.  But he ate like a bird for forty days.  Longer perhaps.  Barely drank anything.

The point was to give freedom until freedom cost him living.  And that time came, and we called the social worker.  We all agreed that I would drive him to the hospital and have him checked in, where he would be committed.

We waited for three hours in the emergency room, where I had to convince Fred every few minutes to remain and wait.  When they saw him, they didn't believe there was anything really wrong.  Until they saw his medical record.  Then they committed him immediately.

I saw him checked into the ward.  Professional, kind people who took no backtalk.  Fred was checked into his room and offered his medicine.  He refused.  They offered again.  He refused.  So they prepared an injection, and security guards were called in and forced him down while they gave him the injection.

To see this kind man, this gentle, thin, bare man screaming as they held him down, forcing him to take medicine that he knew would destroy his soul...

It took another eight months, but a suitable place with the proper incentives were found for him to take his medicine willingly.

When I come to visit him, he is polite, but he is clear that he really wants to get back to his prayer, his scripture.  He is a content monk.