There is a quiet place, a secret place, that is yours for restoration. There is a realness in the stillness. Go there, when you can; when you need to. It's safe. For me, it is the Other Side of the Trees.
I’ve been in a forest. A metaphorical, thick, forest; trees so tall. A forest where some of you have been. Moonlight struggles to get through the overlapping, entangled, limbs and boughs. The sun does not always waste it’s time on a wounded, weathered, soul, in an unforgiving wood. Perception can be mutinous.
“Why have I spent time in that forest?”
“Because it’s where I am supposed to be.”
Mutinous perception. More accurately, a lie. It’s not where I belong. Hmmm … I must remember that. “Where am I supposed to be?” Maybe we know where we are supposed to be. Or, not. Maybe it is more about vision; honorable longings; redemptive passion. To follow, and walk out, the vision. To release that which is good, the passion that speaks of who we are.
Paris fighter jets hammering Raqqa with bombs. 7 darkened souls tracked down in Belgium. Suicide bombers being identified. There is still loss in Paris. I am haunted and humbled. My day: get up on time, make it to church. Pick up kiddos, 2:30, after weekend youth retreat. Walmart prescription. Home; laundry; wood in for the stove because some snow’s coming; get the fire going, get the kiddos dinner. Be a good husband; be a good dad; try to make something out of this old, weathered, life, that will hold some redemptive value. Then I think about Paris: hellishness-trauma-loss-violence-fear. I was driving east down Bowles in 1999 April 20th in Littleton, CO. and saw a SWAT unit, not one not two but three, and so many police cruisers-different counties … I turned on the radio: there was a massacre going on at Columbine High School about 10 minutes away, just off Bowles. In 2001, September the 11th I was at work, Denver Rescue Mission, watching on the two massive TV screens in the auditorium, two planes crash into the towers. A report came in, as I stood by Jon Gettings, that the fourth plane had been hijacked. Jon slowly looked at me …“It’s still going on.” Yes, It is still going on. Different ways, different places, different times, but loss follows, and fear, and confusion, pain, anger. I pray, I grieve, I hope, and … I don’t know what else to do. I still have to work. I continue to love my wife, my kids; and I continue to go out and get three or four trips of wood for the stove. God help me, to not get numb, desensitized. And help me to do what I need to do. And help the good guys wipe out the bad guys.
I am doing a re-write of a post, from another blog, about an issue I am immensely passionate about. Passion, a strange thing, reminds me of anger. Anger reminds me of a quote about anger, one I heard from my dad.
“Anger is like a sword without a handle: you have to hold it by the blade.”
Passion is sort of like anger (righteous and unrighteous). Passion can be used for good. There are times, unfortunately, when passion is not so good. My anger about this particular issue is passionate. And, as I live and breathe, as I write this post, I hold my sword-like passion and anger by the blade: carefully.
My heart truly goes out to the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of those specific Catholic priests / nuns who are sex offenders. My heart goes out, additionally, to the countless goodhearted, wise, godly, Catholics … angry and saddened … for their fellow-Catholics sexually abused by Catholic priests / nuns. The excerpt below from a recent story in the news, regarding victims of sexual abuse, perpetrated upon by Catholic priests, in Seattle, v a l i d a t e s the reality of such violence … a violence that many have attempted to hide for countless generations.
These words, in particular, from this man – – – Pope Francis – – – stir up my anguish:
“The Catholic Church had to take a stronger stand on a sexual abuse crisis that has disgraced it for more than two decades.”
Sexual abuse … happening in the Catholic Church since … the 1950’s (if not before then?) … And the Catholic Church is now recently expressing this profound observation … that there needs to be more action taken regarding the priests and nuns who are sex offenders. Why the sudden observation? Pope Francis’ words refer to the Catholic Church being “disgraced”. My reading of this article led me to consider this question: “Is the Catholic Church leadership more concerned about how the Catholic Church is viewed, rather than the hearts / minds / souls of their victims of sexual abuse?” Another question came up, for me: “If the sexual abuse was not exposed to the American public, would the Catholic Church still have been disgraced?”
And if the Catholic Church had not been disgraced, then would their really be a problem in their eyes? “Hush Money” (the term) has been used in articles / news referring to funds for victims of sexual abuse … to be quiet … about their abuse. “Hush Money”, therefore, is for keeping the Catholic Church from disgrace. Did the sexual abuse victims feel “disgraced” after they had been sexually abused? I think anyone would feel disgrace after being violated in a sexually abusive way. Many victims kept silent for a long time. Why? Shame? Fear of reprisal? Concern that no one would believe them? “Disgrace”? And yet, the Catholic Church communicates their concern, more about the Catholic Church’s disgrace, than with the victims of the sexual abuse from Catholic priests. For the cases that have been exposed, it was no longer “Hush Money” … but now, it is more of a pitiful rationalization, my paraphrase: “If we pay you this money, then its all settled. You go your way, and we will continue to do what we do (what does that mean?).”
The Church (globally) in America calls people to live with integrity, to be safe, to be honorable, to be virtuous. Some good news in all of this is that … the “Hush Money” is exposed; sex offender priests / nuns are being exposed; the numbers (settlements and victims) are being made known. All of this stands up against the secrets continuing.
Is a predominant theme …
In the depravity / violence of …
Sex offenders …
And the fear / shame of …
When the secrets are told, the secrets lose power.
Here are some numbers, some of many, that are staggering.
*Roman Catholics spent $615 million on sex abuse cases in 2007, alone. *$85 million in September of 2003 (just that month). *$100 million in 2005, January.
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said in a statement on Tuesday (6/24/14), according to the Seattle Times newspaper,
“Our hope is that this settlement will bring them closure and allow them to continue the process of healing.”
REALITY CHECK, people. Let’s not be so naive as to think that there is going to be significant healing for allof these men and women who have been victimized. For some, yes there will be healing. For others, no: there will be little or no healing. And its possible that some individuals are hearing Sartain say … my paraphrase …
“Hey, here’s the money; and its a lot of money; so, since we are paying out a lot of money, then we expect for there to be a lot of healing, and then we won’t feel so bad. And we don’t want to hear anymore about this. Now, get out of here.”
Now, I know; I know, I know, I know … that those were not the words from the archbishop from Seattle … but if I was a victim of sexual abuse from the Catholic Church, I might just think that way about what Sartain is saying.
The money … d o e s n o t c h a n g e … what happened. The money … d o e s n o t g u a r a n t e e … full healing …
The money does not guarantee that the sexual abuse will stop. So, healing for everyone? No. It doesn’t work that way.
So much written about R.W. Thus, Solomon’s piece, at the core of my writing: “It’s all been said before.”
Here some thoughts of a disc-jockey in “Good Morning, Vietnam”, a professor in “Dead Poets Society”, Mrs.Doubtfire, Teddy Roosevelt in “Night at the Museum”, Ramon the penguin in “Happy Feet”, Maxwell “Wizard” Wallace in “August Rush” … Those are a few parts of Robin Williams.
And here are a few parts of who I was, and how I was blessed, and impacted, by Robin Williams, and his art. I was the class comedian, high school; a joke for anyone and everyone. The rush of making people laugh was amazing. I studied the great comedians: Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Jerry Seinfield, Steve Martin. Out of these mentioned, and those I have not mentioned, Robin Williams was … at times … present: where I was, what I was doing. I read a magazine interview with Robin Williams, and among the many things I read I remember something that wasn’t so cool. I paraphrase: Williams said that at times, when he was not doing well, he had to go somewhere by himself.
I was blown away by his prolific spontaneity linked up with priceless humor. I also couldn’t shake the idea that there was a dichotomy happening: humor / laughter with melancholy / depression. The mixture of these two forces haunted me a bit … and it was because I wanted my depression that I had struggled with since I was a child to be separate from everyone. I wanted to go to Robin Williams for robust laughter, and I did not want to know that the man who made me laugh struggled with depression like I did. Incidentally, I didn’t know, when I was a child, that it was depression. I didn’t learn that it was depression until I was in graduate school (my late thirties) … Sounds crazy. Robin Williams, to a large degree helped me to release some of my “crazy”, and to be able to sit with all of this, and to laugh through this.
If I could have a discussion with R.W., it might include some of these comments …
“Bro, just to make this clear, suicide, yes, I agree, is wrong.
Just as important, please know that there is no is condemnation coming from me, nor from my God. And, I’ve got no judgment for you.
My heart goes out to your family. I can only imagine that their pain is immeasurable. And its been said that there is no pain up in Heaven. But, I know your heart is good, Bro; and surely you feel some of their pain … But, I don’t know, because I don’t know much about Heaven. And by the way, I hope there are people making you laugh … I’m sure there was pressure, through most of your days, to make people laugh. I know that there are no excuses for ending your life; but there are definitely factors that contributed to your decisions. Our pain, our struggles, our failures, our shame, we are driven passionately away from all of that … toward something that relieves our suffering. And the relief is always temporary. When the performance is over, the Black Dog, depression, remains.”
Robin Williams messed up when he took his own life. I should have permission to tell my close friends when / if they messed up. And my closest friends have permission to tell me when / if I messed up. We can do that without condemnation. Do I condemn Robin Williams for taking his life? NO. Am I angry with Williams? NO, not so much angry, but sad. So, maybe the takeaway is this. We all need to “do” self-care. We need to take care of ourselves; and in turn, we can bless our families. If we are wounded, and we are not doing our own work, then how can we be our best with those we love?
This post is a continuation of an earlier post, “How Did We Get Here? (#1). The following dialog is a picture of what it might look to take “relationship stuckness” to the next level, regardless of what the outcome will be. Both of these dialogs are “composites”, based on my counseling work with married folks for the last 17 years. The setting, below, is a counseling office. The two people from the dialog in the earlier post, “How Did We Get Here?” have agreed to meet for counseling: one hoping for their relationship to continue; the other hoping to make this place and time a context for closure so that the relationship will be dissolved. Incidentally, this is an excerpt from the first counseling session, possibly the last. The “formalities” of beginning a counseling session have already been accomplished …
(T) / Therapist:
Sam, what do you want to happen?
Sam / Husband:
I want to keep our marriage. I want Jules to give me a chance to change, so I can prove to be a better husband who loves her well.
Then, look at Jules and tell her that.
Jules, I want us to keep our marriage. Give me a chance to change, so I can prove to be a better husband. I want to love you well.
Jules, what do you want to happen?
I want to do closure, here. Our marriage is over. We need to move on. The sooner, the better.
Then, look at Jules and tell him that.
I want to do closure, here. Our marriage is over. We need to move on. The sooner, the better.
(Addressing therapist) Now, what?
I don’t know, Sam. What now?
(Talking to Jules) Jules, I can make things better. I can’t fix it; what has happened has hurt you. I am sorry. But I want to know what I need to do to save our marriage. And, I will do it.
I’ve never heard you say that you cannot fix “it” (words couched in sarcasm and anger). And tell me, Sam, what has happened that has hurt me?
I have put work in front of you many, many, times. And when I am home, I have often checked out, going to my books, or my laptop, or spending time with my friends, instead of spending time with you.
It is too late for you to save our marriage. I’m done.
We are almost out of time. Jules, for the sake of your own hope, for your own marriage … because this is your marriage, as well, for the sake of saving something that could be one of the best things that has ever happened to you, I need you to come back again, in one week, and meet with me and this man sitting next to you … not to do closure, but to sit in your pain with this selfish man who loves you, a man quite insensitive at times. I’ve sat with folks before, with similar wounds. Please do not be unwise, and throw away something that could become better than it ever was before. So, you’ll be back next week, and we will continue. Sam? Any problem with that? Good. Jules? Any problem with that? Good. See you next week.
Part of my writing style is, for both fiction and non-fiction, to leave things hanging a bit in limbo. My motive is not to be cruel but to accentuate reality. Reality is … that life has jagged edges. Things are not always smooth. And in this scenario above, I attempted to accentuate that healing does not always happen quickly. In the words of a psychotherapists I admired for her wisdom, “This might take a while.” We live in a fast-paced society, saturated with short-term gratification. But when relational wounds emerge, chances are they have developed over time. With that being said, the healing process can take a bit longer than a few weeks. It’s important to acknowledge that the future of Sam and Jules is unknown. Perhaps one of the more important truths, here, is that Sam is making an effort to save the marriage; and to some degree Jules is also making an effort to save the marriage. But we don’t know what is going to happen. In fact, it is a good way to end this two-part series “How Did We Get Here?”.
Judi Tench: amazing. Judi Tench plays the role of Philomena. It is one thing to read a book, or watch a movie, and walk away with “Yeah, I liked it.” It is another thing entirely when you watch an excellent movie, and find out at the very end that … this is a true story. It makes to you, I hope, that as I am writing this, I will avoid giving any information away that could possibly spoil this movie, for those of you who have not yet seen the movie. As for Steve Coogan, I really cannot imagine a better actor for that part.
So, here are some themes, words, that may encourage you to see this move:
Portrait of a courageous woman with priceless inner strength and profound resilience;
Disruption that will bring out the bewilderment in you … the bewilderment about how this injustice could happen;
Beauty in a great woman’s character;
This movie will be worth your while, unless you only watch the “action / adventure” movies (Bruce Willis / Die Hard … Do you know what I mean?)
‘Learned about a woman, today, who wants to be Barbie. Being a guy who lives at 8800 feet in the mountains, chops wood, snow blows, a family man, psychotherapist … I have no interest in Barbie, never have. My daughter does not even like Barbie!
This story was surprisingly disturbing; my heart heavy, beyond measure for this woman. This story is a vivid, disruptive, metaphor for a fear of authenticity; and one’s fear of intimacy. Check out the title of the article, published in the Huffington Post:
“Blondie Bennett, Barbie-Obsessed Woman, Uses Hypnotherapy To Make Herself Brainless”
A California woman who describes herself as Barbie-obsessed says she uses hypnotherapy sessions in the hopes that it will decrease her IQ.
“I just want to be the ultimate Barbie. I actually want to be brainless,” Blondie Bennett, 38, told Barcroft TV. “I don’t like being human, if that makes sense… Natural is boring… I would love to be like, completely plastic.”
Bennett … five breast augmentations … other procedures in the hopes of attaining her goal. But now … undergoing hypnotherapy sessions two-to-three times a week in order to dumb down her thoughts.
She says it’s working.
“I’ve had 20 sessions and I’m already starting to feel ditzy and confused all the time,” Bennett told the Daily Mail.
She … loves her looks, (but) her plastic features tend to turn off a lot of people … friends and family don’t approve of her lifestyle.
I am not able to get past my belief that this story is about a woman who had / has great pain, not so much physical, but emotional … psychological … possibly traumatic. We can all agree that life is intense, and at times some of us want to hide. At other times our hiding is found in joining the crowd. To be so passionate about removing your pain to the point that you don’t want to think, anymore, about anything … It feels tragic to me. This story is a jagged picture of the deep desires to self-medicate.
The desperate longing to be someone other than who you are … Why? Because of the pain. And when it comes to pain, your pain is your pain. I have NOT walked in your shoes, I do not know what it feels like for you. And yet, because of my own journey, I feel some of your pain.
This was meant to go out a couple of days ago, but a case of “brain-freeze” got the best of me. I recently emerged from the hellish cerebral blizzard.
4.6 (degrees) … farenheit … below the ZERO mark. I’m low on mercury. Snow blower earlier in the day, to get out. With 4.6 degrees riding below the big zero, my thoughts froze up; for a moment I had no idea where I was. Then, from somewhere toward the back wall of my brain, I heard a distant motor of the snow blower. The sound became louder, gradually, and louder, and louder. Then the heat from the handles mixed with the rude awakening of my rotors hitting a rock brought me back to some level of winterized coherency.
I love Winter, and I hate Winter; and I love Winter. I like Winter, at times. At other times I don’t like it. Outside with audacious, sharp, wind, there is some measure of invigoration: AWAKEN O SLEEPER ! Tree green, accentuated with snow; long, long icycles hanging on for dear life from the edges of the roof. Ambivalence is strong when mercury is low, snow is deep. Maybe it is more about this season in particular.
Tree green and snow
There has been loss, and everyone experiences loss at one time or another. In some cases loss is more of a bite. This compilation, psychologically vicious. I am moving, constantly moving, into the next step, into the next bend. But I don’t think I am moving fast enough. Healing is happening, some days. Other days, its all frozen up, as if I had stopped moving in sub-zero temperature, and I stand in the cold, for what seems like years but may be only ten to fifteen minutes, and just listen. I don’t know what I am listening for: maybe an answer; maybe a question that will get me closer to an answer; maybe for an idea that will bring some thaw, that will get me moving again, past the cold, the isolation, the pain of knowing that things didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.
The good news, for ALL of us, is that we still hope, even if some things don’t turn out the way we wanted. Why wouldn’t we?