Day 24 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.
On the third day at a workshop on trauma I had a major mental collapse. I didn’t know that is what happened. I just thought I was emotional. At lunchtime on the fourth day our group therapist said “the director (of the workshops) would like to talk with you.” Ok. I didn’t know what to expec but I certainly wasn’t expecting what was behind door number three.
I knocked on the director’s door. A warm smile and pretty face answered the door. However, this woman had about 20 long acupuncture needles stuck in her face and ears and acted like this was completely normal . (Apparently she was relieving her tension. Most people settle for a chocolate bar, Netflix and a glass of wine.) I wanted to point out the needles out to her, just in case she had forgotten them but I was afraid she would face-palm and kill her damn self. Say something pithy to remind her? “Don’t worry about losing your dart game.”
We embarked on a very serious conversation about my mental health, based on some “regressions” they had seen. My regressions? “Hey Lady! You have 20 needles. IN. YOUR. HEAD.”
At one point she picked up the phone to answer it and FORGOT (Momentarily. I’ll give her a 7 on the landing.) to take the needles out of her ear before putting the ear piece up to her head. Wait. WHAT? Dear freaky therapist lady. Step away from the phone! The irony. She was the one who was about to make her brain into a pin cushion and I’m the one who needed help?
I did try acupuncture. Apparently I’m too toxic. The needles kept “jumping out.” They didn’t want to be there anymore than I did. The only thing acupuncture did for me was get me to sit still and shut up for 10 minutes and give me 15 minutes of comic relief.
It was all very sitcom comical and odd. The right decision was made and I became a patient of the hospital. I just hope she found her Zen and that it didn’t call her on the phone.
Day 12 of 100, intentional, reflective steps.
I visited a place where I felt so much “less weird” than I had ever felt. It was an odd mixture of acceptance and challenge for growth. It was real world, in the sense that everybody had baggage and “stuff” and willingly seemed to accept that fact. We were all hurting and in need.
It felt honest. For instance, If somebody was having a bad day not only was it permissible to let it show (anger, tears, sullen faces etc.) it was also ok to not have to fix everybody else’s bad day. No, platitudes or placating, just a simple “Sorry, you’re having a bad day,” “Sorry, life is hard right now,” or even better, a nod and walk away. In my 43 years old I have never been in an environment so accepting and dizzyingly communal.
I think everybody should have an experience like this. It reminded me of how emotionally depraved we have become. So often we act as if communities should be homogenous. Enforcing conformity makes us feel normal. However, even in the most ‘welcoming” communities there are collective rules of dress, actions, vocabulary . . Sameness.
Many people think they have found that idyllic community, until the bottom drops out of their lives. All the sudden people who were unsure how to love them stampeded out of their lives, trampling the soul. Their lives no longer fit within the Stepford standards. It reminds me of a missionary story from South East Asia. A new pastor was surveying their new place of ministry. He looked out a window and was pondering the beautiful lush grass. The only such lawn in miles. All the sudden a dog ran across the lawn. Curiously, the yard began to roll up and down with the dogs every leap. The lawn was growing on the top of three stories of raw liquid sewage. As a general rule – we don’t want to acknowledge, let alone dig into, the sewage in one another’s lives; especially in the western world. We like the green grass.
My visit, though very very difficult stands as an oasis of generosity in a desert of perceived judgment. On more than one occasion I was struck by the thought that this climate, this attitude of mutual investment and giving of gracious space should be what church community should feel like. But I’m not talking about the church. It was in a psychiatric institution where I most clearly saw grace in action in the midst of the darkness.
Here’s the thing. My friends from the hospital knew their ailments and addiction and were talking about it; working through it. They knew they are like everybody else, except they were actively working to get healthy. They loved in spite of labels, some of which were worn right on our name tags; addict, victim, abuser, killer. From my experience people in churches don’t feel the same way. Wearing your depravity and need openly only warrants suspicion and pity, not welcome and inclusion. I fear that as a rule my friends would not find the church a welcome place. I get it but I resist it. We can do better.