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.
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.
“Holiday, coming. Are you heading southward, to see your folks? You have some older brothers, there as well, eh? And your parents?”
“Parents and my two brothers (a nod), down there, east of Dallas.”
Both men sat in the logged house, a small place, in chairs made of gnarled pine posts, smoothed from years of use and exposure to the wood stove heat. Words were suspended in the air, transformed into vapor and memory.
“I am not going back . . . “
“It is a drive, isn’t it …. What, about 1200 miles? Twenty-two hours?”
“If I drive straight through, its only about eighteen hours. And, around 120o.”
“Boy, that is a bear of a trip. So you’re not going to make it this year.”
“Naw. I’m not going back. Its one thing to pack up, load up, head out on a 1200 mile trip… (pause) But, the trip … or the thought of the trip … is a metaphor for the struggle I’ve had for years: ‘going back’ to the lies I bought into, the l mistakes I’ve made in my life. In that sense, I’m not going back, or backwards. ”
“So, why is it that we want to … ‘go back’?”
“For me, I think I go back to my past because it is easy, a path of processing that has very little resistance. I know those apparitions. I know my past. I think that I can change it by going there. As for what is ahead, I don’t know it because I’ve never been there. But I plan on going there, soon.”
“Yeah. Me, too. There is good stuff happening there.”
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?”.
No, no. No-no-no-no-no-no. You are where you are at, and I am where I am at. And believe me: I wouldn’t want to be where you are at.
How’s the view up there? Up above guys like me who don’t have it together like you?
(Pause) What are you were asking me? And, I’m kind of in a hurry, okay? So, tell me what you need, and I will try to help.
I was asking you … how we … “I” … arrived here, at this place.
Our relationship? Fading. I have become isolated. My addictions, like work; like books; like fast food. And, life – – – I do not enjoy life as much. That’s a picture of what I am talking about.
Okay. (Pause) I have to get going, need to be somewhere. Take care of yourself.
You asked me about “this place” I am in, I told you, and I thought we were going to talk about it. But, you … are just leaving, now.
(Pause) I am sorry about your confusion. I can’t help you. I don’t do well with others’ shame. I don’t do well with addictions. Your isolation is something you have chosen; your relationships evaporating didn’t suddenly happen. It’s been in the works for a while. And your enjoyment of life? Not happening? I don’t want to have anything to do … with that. (Pause) On top of all that, you wouldn’t even hear what I have to say.
Why would I not want to hear what you have to say?
Because you are right where you want to be. And if you are right were you want to be, why talk about how you arrived at this place? If you wanted to change all that, you would. But, there is no change.
(Pause with some hesitation) Uhhhh, maybe.
You’ve got me all wrong.
‘Doesn’t matter. This is your party, not mine.
The dialog, above, is like a metaphor, representing some of the relational pain / disappointment that happens … on some level … in the human soul. Our hearts, our minds … bring about different dynamics of expectations (realistic and / or unrealistic), an arcane blend of intimacy (healthy and / or unhealthy, whether it be physical or emotional or both). The relationship and dialog happening up above is somewhat of a composite derived from my years working as a psychotherapist with married folks. Lastly, the nuances / verbal clues accentuate the factors / themes we deal with in our society, and our relationships:
“I don’t have the time to have this conversation …”
“Don’t blame me for you problems …”
“I don’t have any compassion for you, now …”
True, this is a rather cold exchange happening between two people. My hope is that one can see their thankfulness for being able to transcend such unhappiness, such insensitivity. We all need help, at different times, and in different ways. Here is a truth that is disruptive to many, and this truth applies to the “composite” dialog at the beginning of this post:
This post is not about me. But if it was, I wouldn’t tell you. It’s about a man. That’s all that matters.
An angry man. Not something I say out loud to anyone.
People, both good people and the other kind, are able to translate, equate, restate, with differing degrees of inaccuracy. Example: “anger” misunderstood with “danger”. It is like that one exchange between folks that has been going on for centuries:
“This is what you said.”
“No, that is not what I said.”
“Well, that is what I heard you say.”
“Yes, I believe you. But those were not my words, were they?”
“(Long pause) No, but that is what you meant.”
“No, that is not what I meant. It is what you wanted to hear, maybe. It is what you wanted to believe.”
You have the basic idea, yes? Maybe you’ve had that dialog with different words.
Returning to the track, my thinking out loud about anger, I again acknowledge that I am angry. Fortunately, the anger has not permanent residence, here. It blows in, like a sneaky wind missing the normal comfort of a cool breeze on a hot day. My anger is inward, and shows up on the outside with slight sarcasm, or less-than-kind comment, or an occasional scream of anguish … “AAAAUUUUUUGHHHHH!!”
“It’s not the big things that send a man to the mad house. Not a death in the family (one example). No, it’s the small things: the snap of the shoelace when there is no more time.”
Quote from Time Magazine I remember from about thirty years ago.
Anger rides my heart and soul about my depression that is always close by, but not always at sitting across from me. This anger steals my joy for a while, until I rally up and fight it off. This anger distorts my thinking / perception, long enough to take me off the path for a bit. There has been a tragedy; and maybe I would say that is a small tragedy. By the way: is that an oxymoron? ‘Never liked that word: the word “ox” combined with the word “moron”. Both have negative connotations, for me at least.
This tragedy … it happened a long time ago (thirty years or so?) Like the depression, I fight this tragedy’s threat to derail my life. It was the tragedy of minimizing hope; embracing more isolation than what was healthy; forsaking visions and dreams. Fortunately, the older I become I experience the piercing awareness that I have to fight it, and that I don’t have to settle for it. There is far more to this life than the psychological hoodlums lurking outside. I am a fighter, just like you. I have to tap that truth, and live with the hide of a Rhino, and the heart of a dove.
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?)
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?
Story Series: “An Extraordinary Conflict and a Profound Victory”
Notes: A great joy, storytelling, comes with a great privilege: to release my craft of storytelling in the midst of a fairly large group of willing listeners, two to three times each year. After telling a fellow blogger, prior to the most recent storytelling session (12/1/13), that I would be telling one of my stories in front of a crowd, I was fortunate to have this good man / blogger express his interest. He suggested that I bring the story to the blog realm. Here are some “safety tips”, if you choose to read“An Extraordinary Conflict and a Profound Victory”:
Time and setting: 1779; a young America is at war with England.
American Patriots are severely outnumbered and out-trained.
This story is not about the United Kingdom being “The Bad Guys”.
This story is about the reality that we all have battles to fight.
Our battles are interlinked with our own individual, unique stories.
Our battles are harsh, and ugly, and we will get nicked, wounded, clobbered, dazed, knocked down, discouraged, and at times we will forget what is it we are fighting for.
We are not fighting alone; we need vision, hope and courage; we do not give up; we need to knowwe are fighting our battles for something worth fighting for; and this will help us see why we do not give up, why we keep fighting.
The Story: An Extraordinary Conflict and a Profound Victory Part 1
The year is 1779. We are at war with England. We are patriots. We are Americans. We are a young country, and therefore, we are a young America. We are thirteen colonies. And, in the eyes of England, out of the mouths of the British, we are fools and rebels.
Rebels? Yes. We are rebels. We rebel against tyranny, oppression, excessive taxation, and “The Quartering Act”. Fancy wording, eh? “The Quartering Act”: it means “Home Invasion”, British soldiers living in our homes, against our will. Rebels? Yes. Fools? No. We are not fools.
Right: picture of George Washington, made possible from sccoec.edublogs.org.
The British Monarchy and King George III’s perspective goes something like this:
“I don’t care if you live in America, Russia, Jamaica, or on Mars. It makes no difference. The British Monarchy and I, own you … the Patriots.
We will tax you heavily, you will pay dearly.
We will take what we want, when we want.
You will fear us because we are so powerful, you will be thankful to be servants of the British Monarchy.
You will LIKE it, you will not complain. You will be silent, say nothing.
This is the way it is, this is the way it will always be.”
The Patriots’ perspective is, as you might imagine, quite different from that of King George III’s. Picture yourself sitting with King George III. The discussion might go something like this:
“Your Majesty … Let me stop there and confess my confusion. This word “majesty” means dignity, and grandeur, supreme greatness. And then, there is you: a “majesty“; a little man, a large amount of greed, and an addict’s desire for control and respect; but you will not give freedom, and you will not give respect.
Anyway,Georgie, that’s not why I came. There has been a misunderstanding. You and your people have expressed that we will“LIKE” your oppression and tyranny and excessive taxation; that we will be thankful for our servitude to the British Monarchy; that we will not speak; that we will accept this as it is, and as it will always be.
Here isthe truth: we do not like “it”, and never will. We will not settle for this. We will not take this lying down. George, we have made efforts to work this out with you and your people. But it looks like you want a war. If it is a war you want, it is a war you will get. I’ll close with this, sir. Read my lips, I know I do not speak very loud:
WE … ARE NOT … VICTIMS.
WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS.
In 1775, British troops marched into Lexington and Concord with two objectives:
To seize the armory of the Patriots: their ammunition, artillery, and supplies;
To capture two Patriot leaders, John Adams and John Hancock.
The British failed with both objectives, thanks to an American spy ring, successful in obtaining invaluable intelligence data: the British plans to march into Lexington and Concord, and their objectives. The Patriots moved their armory / supplies ahead of time to a safe place; and the Patriots moved John Adams and John Hancock to locations where the British would never find them.
Below:General. Gage, Commander of the British Army and Military Governor of Massachusetts, from www.landofthebrave.info.
There is a rumor . . .
that the intelligence data came from Mrs. Thomas Gage, the wife of the General Thomas Gage, Commander of the British Army and Military Governor of Massachusetts.
True, all sources indicate that this was never proven. However, General Gage sent his wife away, back to England in 1775, shortly after the battles at Lexington and Concord.
British troops marched into Lexington and Concord. A 500 man militia of Patriots were waiting, armed and very much pumped up. The Patriots gave the British a run for their money: key word “run“. They retreated all the way back to Boston. These two battles, Lexington and Concord, marked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. It was a long, and ugly, war. The Patriots did not win every battle. But they did win the war.
This is a good perspective: we will lose some battles; but we will win the war. We are called to fight with honor, for what is good. We are called out to live with passion and vision, even when the cards are stacked against us. We have an opportunity to leave behind us a powerful legacy.