uncertainty

A chaplain's doubt...

A chaplain's doubt...

SOMETIMES I THINK IT IS MY MISSION TO BRING FAITH TO THE FAITHLESS, AND DOUBT TO THE FAITHFUL ― PAUL TILLICH

Rambling. I do it when I feel vulnerable. Doubt makes me feel vulnerable. I like people to think I have my shit together, that I know something about something. I like to feel competent and trustworthy. But in the world of chaplaincy, of caring for the spirit in the throes of crisis and loss, it would seem my doubt and disbelief are gifts. It isn't that I disbelieve in a *fill in the blank with a typical, evangelical Christian adjective* God. It's that I don't mind questions. I hate not knowing, but I don't mind the questions that come out of the not knowing.

Incredulous...

Incredulous...

I don't know who came up with the idea that questioning God, God's motives, or God's actions (or inactions) is wrong, but I'd like to meet him (just roll with me on the gender assumption). If I had that chance, I'd point out David, Thomas, Job, even Paul. There are probably more biblical characters who dared question God. I'd ask why he thought it was wrong to hold God accountable for the ways in which God does and does not act in the world.

Ambiguity of death...

Ambiguity of death...

When I was growing up, I remember countless funerals where people would remark on the current state of the person being mourned. "She's with her Savior." "God called her home." "She's not in pain anymore." "It was her time." Back then, blanket statements used to bring me comfort. When your grandmother was one of fifteen siblings, and the generation before had almost as many, you went to a lot of funerals. Back then, I didn't ask questions.

Lent 15: Attitude check...

Lent 15: Attitude check...

There are days I think I know everything. I'm the kind of person who inherently loves to learn, whether it's about deep, theological issues or the process of making single malt scotch. But I have a bad habit: when someone asks me a question about a particular topic, I have this tendency to pretend as if I know the answer, as if I have a clue what they're talking about. It's usually simple questions that evoke this response from me: Have you seen this movie or TV show, read this book, heard of this author, been to this place, etc. I don't like not knowing the answer. I don't like not knowing what's going on around me.

Blockage...

I've been hiding behind a routine lately, behind manageable tasks which allow me to go through my day without feeling much. I've been detaching from almost everyone around me because, if I start feeling too much, the grief hits in an almost unbearable fashion. Even just last night, after setting up the new printer, we decided it was time to replace my old land line phone with the newer cordless that we brought home from Nanny's house. I didn't think that, after 2 months, something so seemingly small would have such a jarring effect. Looks like I was wrong. I spent the majority of the rest of the evening detaching, listening to music through my headphones, playing guitar in the bedroom. Folding a good chunk of the laundry, waiting for my Benadryl to kick in so I could just drift off to sleep with no serious breakdowns. That's been my routine lately. Get up, do my day, outline Wesley, spend too much time on the internet, lay down on the couch and read some new fiction on my Nook, fill my calendar with meetings or volunteer opportunities, come home to more TV, take my sleeping pills, and pass out.

I still don't feel like myself. If you've ever seen the movie Surrogates, that's how my life feels. I see myself holed up in a locked bedroom, laying down controlling my body and life from the safety and comfort of my own home. The person that's out in the real world is guarded, impenetrable... a facade. Some people get to see the real me, but for the most part, everyone else gets the dumbed down, less real answers. The ones they want to hear. The ones that don't put them on the line for either comforting me or getting too reminded of their own issues.

I don't know how to go back to living, or what that would look like if I did. I'm still scared of moving on, of continuing to build my life when one of the most important people is no longer there. It was always different, losing great aunts or uncles, losing acquaintances... I did not expect to lose her this soon, this quickly. I still had wedding plans to talk about, faith issues to discuss. It hurt to realize that the vast majority of spiritual growth that's happened this summer did so after she passed. She hasn't been there to talk with, to bounce ideas off of, to cry with.

Two things I miss the most are her voice and her eyes. The way just talking with her, hearing about her day, made my life better. How I know I could call her at any time of day or night. And her eyes - I've never seen kinder eyes, more loving, more gentle than any others I've seen. She never looked at me with judgment or contempt. Even if I was pushing her buttons, she still looked at me with nothing but love. Her eyes were always a visual hug for me, seeing them led to the real thing.

Unfortunately, still, I have to go on... I just wish I knew how...

Finality...

I feel as if lately, I've been hiding behind a routine. I've been looking for more and more "things" to occupy my time with. My interactions with most people, save a select few, feel superficial, forced. When asked how I'm doing, I've resorted to simple answers like "fine", or "I'm hangin' in there." Someone I don't know very well the other night made a remark sugggesting that I shouldn't still be grieving, and despite the fact that I know they were wrong and didn't know me or my relationship with Nanny well enough to make such a remark, part of me felt like they were right. Like I should start moving on. A good friend calls this complicated grief. I'm scared to move on, because moving on sounds so much like letting go, and that is the one thing I refuse to do. If I let go of Nanny, I would let go of so much of me that nothing would be left. I already feel the presence of a gaping hole inside myself so deeply that, most days, I just want to curl up. Instead, I hide myself within outling Wesley sermons, reading books, watching TV, or most recently, opting to try Weight Watchers to get back down to a healthy weight. Nothing like having family members at the funeral tell me that, what I lost in hair I gained in belly fat.

Saturday, we went to the post office where I reluctantly turned in the life insurance claims paperwork for the policies Nanny made out for me. I literally waited until the moment before we stepped up to the counter to seal the envelopes. As I did so, my hands trembled and my heart rate spiked. I thought I had felt pain before, but nothing has ever hurt like this, so deeply and relentlessly. Nothing has ever made me more aware of my own mortality or the temporal nature of this existence.

Any time I see a TV show or a movie with a car accident, I almost lose it. I think about that split second where she didn't know what was coming, and most likely, felt nothing. Yet in my mind, I can't get past the traumatic violent crash of the van hitting her side of the car, her body trembling, her mind losing function. I know this all seems to vulgar to put into words, but it's what's been bothering me. It's something I need to release and let go of, but I don't know how.

We've been without our back deck that past couple of weeks as they rebuild it, so smoking has either happened all the way downstairs or out the bathroom window. Either way, any time I light up while at home, I think about one of the last conversations we had while I was down visiting her. I was making excuses for continuing the bad habit, and she called me out on it, even with a smile on her face. She knew that, unless I was ready, quitting would most likely be in vain. Now that she's gone, I'm most certainly not ready.

Just a few moments ago, while smoking out the bathroom window, I remembered that conversation. I remember her smile, the way she challenged me without passing judgment. The way she knew how deeply I wanted, needed her love, her approval, and how willingly and unconditionally she gave it. Sure I had bad habits, sure she didn't understand everything about my identity and life choices, but she loved me, apparently more deeeply, more proudly, more fully than I would have, could have ever imagined.

I'm hurting bad today, and I've only been awake for less than two hours. I'm scared of what the rest of the day holds, scared of trying to keep my composure during the walk from the train to my therapist's office. I feel as if I don't deserve any of the good things in my life, like somehow, her being taken was my fault. I feel guilt for not calling her that Thursday after I returned home. I feel remorse for not getting married to Suzy so that Nanny would get to hold her great-grandchild in her arms, see the child's resemblance to me, and remark on how beautiful they were.

I know the title of this post barely matches the content, but it does describe the state of mind I'm in right now, feeling the finality of my time with her, the weight of the loss I've suffered. I remember how she looked at Frankie, how she smiled despite any discomfort. How she hugged him when we left from visiting at Christmas, even how she hugged him nightly as she would hug me.

I don't know how to keep going, what to do, how to live. I don't know how to honor her death because I don't know how I managed to honor her in life. I don't know what it was about me that made her so proud, made her love me so much. I don't think I deserved someone as wonderful as her. I certainly didn't deserve the kindness and pride she gave to and took in me.

I'm just really, very tired...

Changes...

I've always had a hard time with change, or more so, with the fantasies running around inside my head about them. All of the changes in my life lately have been, or are going to be, positive changes. Leaving my job. Starting school. Thinking about my eating habits. Moving in with F. All of these things are moves in a forward direction. All that aside, I'm scared. Scared that I could crack under pressure. That I will not be as good in school as I used to be. That what has been a blissfully happy relationship thus far will be irrevocably changed by sharing a full-time living space. That I will go back to smoking full time (the stress lately has led me to smoke maybe 1 or 2 a day, no more thankfully). That I will be so unwise with my finances that I dig myself into a grave so deep that escaping is not an option.

I can't cry right now. I don't know why, but so much of it seems blocked up inside of me. I just want enough of a catharsis to be able to make the transition smoothly. I want to be able to have my faith, in word, thought, and deed, feel whole again. I want to know that, even in my own head, I'm being successful, and that has always been a hard truth to accept.

I want to know that people see Christ in me, in my life. That somehow, I help them feel loved, even if only for the brief moments they cross my path. I want to be a good husband, a good partner. F. and I both share fears of fighting, of conflict. We're scared of how we may (will) hurt each other. Of sharing finances. Of being more emotionally vulnerable. Or seeing more scars or baggage than we already have of each other.

All of this is illogical, irrational. I want to be able to hold on to the concrete facts: that my faith is strongly developing, that I will be good in school, that I can not have to rely on cigarettes to ease my stress, that I am a good representation of Jesus, that I am a good man who loves his partner and tries to put him first.

So for any who read this, just offer up a prayer (or in Peter Pan language, a happy thought). For myself and my schooling and my career and my finances. For my witness. For my relationship. For those with whom I interact. For my heart.

In His Arms, M.