Monday, May 25, 2009

Where there is love...

Hell in a skin suit.
It's a harsh description of a person.
Looking in the mirror is all the reminder needed to know she's not the only person alive to fit such a name.
It might be kinder to detail the particular reasons why Charlie and I laughed, looked at each other and nodded the first time we heard the phrase... but that would take more than 15 minutes.
She's not a bad person... and despite any writing that might suggest otherwise, she is loved.
Love you choose.
Emotion you don't.
Love isn't a feeling but a choice.
In time, the feelings of affection will return. Of that I am certain.
For now, I just take a deep breath and remind myself that feelings are temporary... how we choose to act will have the greater impact all around.
We choose to act as we would with any nearly 30-year old woman. We expect the words and deeds of an adult. Anything less is not allowed.
Yup, allowed.
Part of being a parent is choosing what you will and will not allow in your life and home, including from your children.

We made a promise before God... and later before the court that we would love and accept her as a daughter. That hasn't changed.

What has changed is the method of showing love.
We love John, Daniel, Rachel, Becka and Krys with the same fierce intensity we loved them before they were born... but we don't show that love in the same way we did when they were infants, toddlers and elementary school kids. Their needs change as they grow and we've learned, often painfully, that if you love an older child as if they are younger, their growth is slowed or even stunted.

I've seen too many homes where the toddler rules to roost... and more than enough homes where the child behaving as a toddler still rules.

So it was in our home. For a time, the behavior of an adult lost in the emotions of a child ruled the family. The rules have changed.

Having finally stepped up to the role of parents to a mentally ill adult child, we're learning to say no, expect responsible choices and allowing ourselves room to heal.

These days the intensity of emotions make it hard to hold to the love that exists. As we heal, that will change. The hope we have for her is real... The capacity to grow exists... but we're realistic enough to accept we can only control our choices.

We're learning.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

We're still laughing after all these years

I've found a seemingly endless amount of fascination in talking with a childhood friend about the years she knew the Crew before we even knew there was a Crew. I guess I've had plenty of time to talk to Charlie about the weirdness of the years we knew something was up but couldn't really talk about it. It's incredible talking to someone who knew them so long before I did.

Jen knew Stephanie, Reese and probably Amelia (nee Roo) by the time she and I were 13 or 14 years old. Jen is the person I called the night I first tied one on. The person who ratted me out the first time I planned suicide. Hers was the kitchen where I had my first bagel, the house where I had the best sleep overs and the sanctuary to which I ran to when I couldn't take it anymore.

She's the person who, ten years ago, when told about the diagnosis responded with "Tell Reese I said Hi."

I still can't come up with words to describe the total shock of hearing those words. WHAT THE HELL? "I only found out her name a few weeks ago! How did you know?"
"Oh come on, you knew... didn't you? It was obvious."

Nice to know, even after, that someone at least did see.

She's also the person who chose Stephanie as the first of five people she'd want on her side in a bar fight. Gotta love Facebook and Living Social. I saw her top five and laughed until I cried. I forget, she's one of the few people online who ever had the opportunity to see Stephanie on the warpath and in the flesh.

As odd as I find it that she was privy to so much in a time of my life I still struggle to remember, it's equally as odd to her that I didn't have an inkling of a clue about the others. Well, there was an inkling. I think about all those years when I did try to explain the world in my head and the voices I heard... but was already so confused and convinced of the label of 'liar' that I didn't believe even myself.

I still have so much to ask about those years.

How strange that it's taken so long to find the strength to voice the questions.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Step 2 cont...

Laughing, "Man, I have missed you SO much"

It's mindboggling how much has changed since I saw him last June... yet his office was largely unchanged. I remember how Lyn used to warn me if she was going to rearrange her office and how silly it seemed to me that people might freak over such things... but I have to admit there was comfort in the sameness of the office. He might have to replace the sofa pillow Reese used to pick at. Seems we aren't the only ones who played hell on those fringes. Beyond the condition of the pillow, even the lack of visible wood on the surface of his desk was the same.

I handed him a copy of this morning's entry and told him it put in a nutshell my reason for calling.

He liked the goals and agreed I've gotten better about making reasonable goals for myself. I've come a long way from the person who honestly thought she could be 'cured' in a year.

His eyes widened but he remained quiet when I told him about the latest adventure in falling off the face of the earth. He betrayed a slight look of surprise when I told him I'd quit writing entirely and had, for at least 9 months, stopped talking to everyone about anything that could even consider breathing near the walls I'd erected to everyone... family included.

He was patient while I detailed the various triggers for the systematic shut down that has lead me to this current place. Most of which are nothing more than allowing myself to return to a line of thinking that came from childhood. Finally, he asked about one in particular, "and you allowed yourself to believe this line of bullshit why?"

That was the gist of most of his questions... "Why?" Not in a way I'd have once taken as accusatory... but with genuine interest in what would compel me to return to life lived in a box. Some of the time I could answer with honesty and the understanding that even then, I knew my reasoning was stupid, delusional and a step backward. Other times, I threw up my hands. I just didn't know. Or at least, couldn't put it into words.

It's amazing how easily one can fall back into a pattern of survival over living... even if the quality of survival sucks.

I put so much energy into keeping the peace for so long that even when my bullshit meter was pegged in the red, I somehow ignored the screaming. It didn't take long to become accustomed to it and learn, again, to pretend away the chaos and convince myself that as no one (who could help put a stop to it) would listen, it would make more sense to stop talking.

Well, the only other one who could have put a stop to it was in the same position I was... keep the peace for the sake of everyone else... it was easier than admitting that we had allowed hell in a skin suit to take over our home.

I didn't have to talk about hell in a skin suit to talk about the effects. That meant so much. 15 minutes a day is my limit. It's all the time she will get, whether it's phone or the crap that's begun spinning around in my head again. 15 minutes is enough to sort out the shit... my stuff from hers... and to keep the limit that she will never again be allowed in even the smallest way to control our time, family or emotions.

That's a start.

In the meantime, it was like going home and talking to an old friend. It was needed. It was good. And in 4 weeks when he asks me "So how are you going on those goals?" I'll be able to tell him, pretty darned good.

Step 2

Seeing Crane today for the first time in a year or so...

Part of the reason is medical. It's been 9 months since I've taken anti-depressants and while I love the lack of annoying side-effects, I often wonder if it's a worthy trade. My gut says yes and I'm inclined to follow my gut. Crane knows me better than any other doctor and can help me sort through the pros and cons of continuing without an SSRI.

With or without an SSRI, I'd very much like an anti-anxiety medication. I've proven myself in the last 7 years not to abuse those things. One of the results of all the running of recent years is I'm scared to death of nearly everything. I'm in a constant state of some degree of panic and no longer have the energy to keep fighting it alone. I'm simply not confident I can get through this without chemical back-up.

I need the accountability Crane has always provided. It's more than wanting someone to talk to. I have that in the friendships I've come to trust as true. It's knowing he knows me well enough to be blunt and to gently steer me into looking at the crap I've developed the habit of avoiding.

I'm taking 4 weeks to decide about the anti-depressants. In those 4 weeks I need to:
create some degree of routine for myself that includes, house, garden, regular meals and exercise.
develop a strategy for dealing with panic that doesn't include hiding in my room.
call and talk to Mum and at least 1 sibling.
write something in this blog at least once every 48 hours.
see Crane again at the end of the 4 weeks.

It's doable... and it will happen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

unChristian

The unChristian series of posts will relate, not to the book of the same title, but to my personal struggle to live as a follower of Jesus in a flock that often forgets what that truly means.

A few months ago, I was invited to a round table discussion between the church pastors, elders, their spouses and the three students attending the first year of Global Missions Training Institute; Charlie, Rachel and Craig.

To start, I was a bit taken aback to find I was the only person given this special invitation and also that the invitation came from three of the four members of leadership. I was strongly urged to attend with the pitch that the subject was of vital importance to our church's ability to effectively minister.

I now realize the invitation came from each source for a specific reason. Charlie and I are the only people Pastors Mac (new senior pastor) and Floyd Jr. have ever seen disagree strongly with Apostle B (longest tenured pastor in the church's 21 years) and not only remain close but stay with the church.

Pastor Mac has been an elder since the church was founded. Stepping from the role of assistant herder to shepherd is a huge change for him. It's the first time he's carried the staff and full weight of responsibility for a flock.

Floyd Jr. is Apostle B's son... so yeah... he's had 50 years of hearing "this is how it is done." so no matter what his position on anything, he knows his dad and the futility of convincing him anyone has greater wisdom or experience this side of Heaven.

Apostle Earl was the other leader at the meeting that night. He's only been a part of the church and leadership for a year and is still learning to navigate our particular pasture's minefield of sheep dip.

Pastor Floyd Jr. knows from our own conversations that Charlie and I are fully aware of Apostle B's tendency to spout his resume (one of the founders of what became the 700 Club) and his 50 years in ministry whenever he runs out of rational or truly biblical arguments.

Pastor Mac saw me challenge the way homosexuality is addressed from the pulpit the night last winter when he and Apostle B came to speak to the youth about the upcoming leadership change. Maybe it would have been wiser on my part to address it privately but I know these kids and their issues... and the timing... well, I still say that was God. When Apostle B opened the door, I strode right through it.

Where Apostle B appeared personally offended at what he considered a public rebuke and abruptly ended the discourse, I saw the tears in Pastor Mac's face when I told them point blank that the choice of words from the pulpit had not only wounded already hurting people but the youth and I all knew people who would never return, nor likely listen to another christian because of what they had heard come from our own pulpit.

Side note: "Love the sinner- hate the sin"and the word "abomination" no longer have a place in Christianity. They have been used and abused until the Body as a whole should no longer be trusted with them until we can truly grasp the Spirit over the letter.
Also, if I hear the words "homosexual" and "agenda" used together again, I'll probably start throwing things.

Anyway...

I say this without malice, bitterness or even gloating... but I think Pastors Mac and Floyd Jr were secretly hoping for the discussion that occurred the night of the round table. I'm sure they were hoping for a less volatile version... but they knew the conversation needed to happen and called on us to make it happen.

Poor Apostle B... I'm fairly certain he and Mrs. Leona thought it would be a forum where they would receive unconditional leadership support when The Feathers ended up needing "correction" in our beliefs about how we are meant to live the example of Jesus.

I know it was never intended to be an "Us & Them" situation but come on. You put the entire leadership of a church on one side of a long, rectangular "round table" and four congregants on the other side, that will happen. Especially if the four congregants are made up of three incredibly strong-willed people and one young man with a heart for real ministry.

Long story short... things went very well despite almost total differences of opinion between the three generations represented. It was understood and accepted by all that the Church as a worldwide Body... and our little part of that need to change in a huge way, or lose yet another generation.

Things went well until Charlie and I brought up the subject we knew in our hearts we were there to address... the attitude that homosexuality is somehow the greatest sin that has ever or will ever exist and that the GLBT community should be treated with a different, less accepting version of the Gospel.

Tempers flared.

In the midst of doctrinal debate, Rachel very bravely shared her struggles and that had Charlie or I given her a choice about attendance when we started back two years ago, she'd have never attended long enough to get past the rhetoric to the Message. Apostle B asked her if he'd ever personally treated her as if he didn't love her. When she didn't answer but sat quietly with tears pouring in rivulets from her chin, he sat back with a self-satisfied "humph".

That was the moment the pile of sheep shit exploded.

At one point in the tornado of words that followed, I pointed out that "in my 50 years of ministry" was no longer a valid or rational preamble to any statement nor an acceptable excuse to malign people you claim to love. After that, I focused primarily on prayer and not allowing the words "arrogant fuck" to escape my lips. Mama Bear had awoken and it was all I could do to keep her from verbally gutting the one who had wounded her cub.

Apostle Earl and Craig did probably the wisest thing possible. They prayed every moment they weren't actually speaking aloud. Apostle Earl, with his hulking frame in one corner of the table and Craig's gentle giantness at the other, next to Rachel, holding her hand, prayed for the entire situation.

When Charlie pushed back his chair and stood up, the so-called debate ended and the long needed frontal attack of the Pharisee mindset began.

I'd love to say the evening ended with lots of hugs, tied up all nice and neat in a comfortable bow for everyone... but in reality... there was a lot of fleece and chunks of ram's horn all over the place. Apostle B was distant for a few weeks and one of his last messages as Pastor addressed the need to respect leadership... but it's gotten better.

It did mark the end of a long, cold, wilderness winter and the dawn of a tentative spring.

I know I have to be patient but the seeds of change we've been hearing so much about have finally begun to sprout. In fits and starts... light, warmth and new growth are appearing all over and for the first time in years, I look to the horizon with hope and expectation.

This might just become a pasture we can live in.

Step 1

Paper journal entry

"Are we happy plastic people under shiny plastic steeples, with walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain..."

Sometimes it just hits like this.
Charlie heard the catch in my breath and asked what was wrong. I said, "It just hit me."
Enough said. He gets it.

For once, I'm trying to allow it. I could find a taped program to watch or plug in my ear buds and get lost in music... even writing by hand on paper could be an escape as the pain it causes provides an easy direction to shift focus.
I can't rip off this band aid quickly or easily, letting my fingers fly over a keyboard... so slow and laborious it is.
write
stop
breathe
rinse
later
repeat
And in between, fight the walls instinct throws up to stop the tears.
I
will
let
them
fall.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Imprimatur

"and I've held out as long as I can. Now I'm letting go and holding out my hand."

It's frustrating to realize in some things, I simply have to start over. There had been the hope that I was past the "I/me/my" stage of blogging... but choices were made and so here I am again. It's not 2 years wasted... the lessons learned in running away may have been a lot more painful than if I had faced the problems... but they're valuable and will serve as a reminder of where I've been.

Nothing to do but accept it and keep moving forward.

Reese once wrote a contract with herself. I can't access it at the moment as it's all on a harddrive Charlie has not had the chance to retrieve. It's probably best... This needs to be mine.

So, today I make these promises to myself:

- I will take responsibility for my choices, emotions and thoughts... and mine alone.
- I will write with freedom... what, when and how I choose. I will do so publicly.
- I will not wall off my heart.
- I will recognize that boundaries and walls are not the same thing. I can love a destructive person without allowing that person to negatively impact my life.
- I will continue to respect the Crew and to seek out the lessons and echoes of each of them in my life.
- I will not be afraid to talk about the Crew. Without them, I'd have never made it this far.
- I will remember that forgiveness is not an emotion.
- I will allow myself to feel anger but will not use it as a weapon or excuse.
- I will be responsible for knowing where to draw the line between reasonable anger and bitterness.
- I will recognize that my choices brought me here and my choices will bring me out.
- I will be true to my God, my Savior, my ethics and myself and will not compromise them for anyone or thing.
- I'll listen to those alarm bells and that wonderful bullshit-o-meter. Ignoring them to 'keep the peace' only delays the inevitable.
- I will speak up.
- I will not be afraid to admit to pain.
- I will allow myself to be vulnerable without expecting an impossible degree of trust.
- I will love... even those it's hard to like.
- I will say no when it needs to be said and believe I have the strength to face the conseqences.
- I will respect my body, listen to what it says and provide for its needs... no matter the momentary wants.
- I will respect that being 'one' and being healed are two entirely different things. There is still a journey to finish and I will do so with honesty and integrity.
- I will not run away again.

Imprimatur

Yeah, I like that.

Saturday, May 16, 2009