The soul lets go

As may be obvious by the fact that I have already once shared a music video on this blog, I love music.  I love words and poetry.  One band that I particularly enjoy is Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers.  They just released a new album on the 11th, and I have been listening to it quite addictively the past two weeks.

One song that I have really been enjoying is called “Song for Lovers”.  I like Stephen Kellogg’s folk-rock sound and the honesty in his lyrics.  I wanted to share the lyrics to this particular song and talk about my reaction to them.

The lyrics:

As we lay there in the dark, you said you could hear my heart. 
And then you started to cry, ’cause one day I’m gonna die. 

When the body slows, what the heart just knows, 
Is that the soul lets go, where does it go? Oh, I don’t know. 

Now I don’t believe in Jesus, as anything but a man. 
I worry that religion is doing less good than bad. 
And I know that makes a lot of good people mad. 

But what the heart just knows, you feel it in your bones. 
Is that the soul lets go, where does it go? Oh, I don’t know. 

And I’m scared, that when they call me up, 
Will I have done enough? I cannot see how. 
But as we lay there in the dark, darlin’ I could hear your heart pound. 
And I know without that sound, mine would probably give out. 

When the body slows, what the heart just knows 
Is that the soul lets go, where does it go? 

And I could get down on my knees, but I don’t know. 
And you don’t know. 
And no one knows. 
And no one knows. 
And as we lay there in the dark, you said you could hear my heart. 
And I could get down on my knees, but I don’t know. 
I just don’t know. 
And I don’t know.

Now, you might be a bit confused by my interest in this song.  Perhaps for a second there you thought you had the wrong blog.  “Warrior Hippie…” you may be thinking, “…I thought you were very strongly tied to the Christian faith?”  You are correct.  I am.  What that means for me is that I love God with all of my heart and love my neighbor (as best I can).  Who is my neighbor?  Anyone breathing.

This song strikes me as a prime example of the way many people who do not live a life of faith may feel about the concept of dying.  Death is scary to all of us; even those of us who hope for an everlasting life on the other side.  So for those of you who just don’t know, I’m sure it is something you don’t like to think about too carefully.

This song, as well as many songs on this album, is very real and honest.  Very personal.  One line that I wanted to comment on is the line about Jesus.  He says he doesn’t believe that Jesus was anything other than a mere man.  That religion causes tension and bad circumstances at times.  And he feels that this makes people mad.  I find that intriguing, because as a woman of faith I will tell you those thoughts do not make me angry.  Anger is not even an emotion I would have thought to feel.  I lean more toward sadness.  I’m heartbroken that the world’s view of the church has been twisted by the few who think being judgmental and holier-than-thou is the way to win people to the faith.  It almost makes me weep to think that many can accept Christ’s humanity but not his divinity.  By the same token, many believers have a hard time getting their minds around his humanity.  I believe that Jesus Christ was both divine and human.  The Incarnation is a hard thing to wrap one’s head around, but if you believe it, it is beautiful.

The point of Christianity is that God loved all of us so much he came down to us.  We don’t have to work to get to Him.  Mine is not a faith of toiling and fighting to do “enough” to earn my way in.  It is about a loving and faithful Father who ran to me so I didn’t have to climb to Him.  Which brings me to Kellogg’s line in the song –

And I’m scared, that when they call me up, 
Will I have done enough? I cannot see how. 

It breaks my heart as well.  I want to smile at all those who feel this way and say “It isn’t about doing enough.  It’s just about trust.  Love.”  This song admits to the fact that we are bodies with souls.  So, I wish to ask what that means to the nonbeliever.  What is your soul?  Do you believe in something so ethereal?  Where is the proof of it?  Do you feel it in your bones?

I think the singer/poet here is closer to belief than he thinks.  He is questioning.  He is not sure of anything.  He mentions he could get down on his knees, but he just doesn’t know.

I adore this song and its honesty.  It is very powerful for someone like me, because it helps me to understand how those without a relationship with God feel.  It gives me a free pass into their world of doubt.

If you, dear reader, do not consider yourself one of the faithful, I encourage you to at least be open to the idea that there is something mystic abounding.  If you are a Christian, I encourage you to read these lyrics, listen to this song, try to understand those without God in their lives.  We need to understand one another.  We need real and honest conversations; true communication.  I enjoy this song because it helps me to love my neighbor as myself.  And that, my dear hearts, is my calling.

Advertisements

Dolor me cura

Last Monday, October 3rd, I woke up around 5:15 in the morning and began to make my way to the hospital.  No, I was not experiencing an emergency – I was scheduled for surgery that morning.  You see, in the past year I turned my right ankle three times.  Once last May working on a show at the theatre, once in August carrying my laundry (which was actually the worst injury, methinks), and once this June working on another show (exactly a week after I got engaged).  This last time around I decided to visit an orthopedic doctor and get an MRI done, just to check things out.  It wasn’t doing to hot, and I was getting tired of not being able to run or even walk well.

It turns out that I had torn a ligament, and was told that I would need to have surgery to replace it.  Immediately I was very anxious.  I have never had surgery of that sort before.  I had my wisdom teeth taken out, but that was not as invasive.  I also had a very busy month coming up in September: A trip to New Jersey to visit my fiance’s family, a show to stage manage, my birthday, a retreat weekend for engaged couples, and my confirmation on the 30th.  So, I decided to schedule the surgery for the first part of October, hoping that I would not injure my ankle further during all of my busyness.

I made it through the busy month of September unscathed, and October was here.  Once I was finally in the hospital, I felt very calm.  I knew that I had reached the point of no return, and that worrying would get me nowhere.  My fiance and his father (who is also my priest) were with me, and I knew many people who were praying for me.

The surgery went very well; no complications whatsoever.  In fact, once my ankle was opened the doctor noticed I just needed two ligaments repaired, so he did not have to use a cadaver ligament to replace mine.

And now here I am, sitting around the house convalescing.  While doing so, I started thinking about the idea of surgery.  It hurts.  It hurts much more than I think I could explain.  Doctors like to ask about your pain on a 1-10 scale.  That Monday night at 2:00 am I woke up in excruciating pain.  The pain block they had given me before the surgery had worn off, and it seems the medication they prescribed me was not working.  I would say my pain was at a 10 for the rest of the night.  I kept taking my pain medication as prescribed, but it was no help.  The pain level stayed in the 9-10-11 range for most of the day on Tuesday until the doctor prescribed a more powerful medication.  I took that around 1:30 pm and waited for it to kick in.  Count that up: Pretty much 12 hours of the worst physical pain I think I have ever experienced.  It was highly unpleasant.

While going through this, and later as I contemplated it, I was struck by the fact that surgery is technically injury.  While it was done in a hospital under the careful observation of medical staff, the bottom line is that my ankle was cut open and a part of me was moved around and poked.  My body was technically going through trauma.  Trauma to heal.  It seems like an oxymoron.

I recognize that this is the way life is.  In July I did a painting.  I used different shades of reds and browns, and black.  The feeling I had was one of pain, of suffering.  I like to paint.  I do not consider myself an artist, really.  I am just the artistic type who loves the cathartic nature of flinging some paint onto a canvas.  In the end, I did feel better.  I felt a sense of suffering being useful.  The title of that painting is the same as the title of this post: “Dolor me cura”.  In English this translates to “Pain heals me”.  This is shown quite physically through my surgery.  The surgery itself was a form of pain.  The PT will be difficult; trying to bear weight and learn to walk again will be a form of suffering.  And yet I will come out stronger on the other end.

I can think of many times in my life where my discomfort was great.  Grief and pain have been at the 11 level at times.  And yet, through my suffering I was learning.  Growing.  Healing.  Pain/grief/suffering/hard times/sadness – it cures me.  It heals me.  It strengthens me.  It is so disheartening and terrible while you are experiencing it.  In the end, I truly believe that it will heal and help you.  Thanks be to God.

the painting mentioned

This is my story, this is my song.

In order to begin this post, I’m going to have to get something really big out all at once.  This will be similar to ripping a band-aid off of a wound quickly.  I am going to say what I need to say, and then continue.

I suffer from an addiction.  I used to cut myself.

This was a pretty big confession for me to make to you, dear reader.  You may be someone in my closest circle who has known this about me for a long time.  You may be a stranger who just happened across this page.  You may be a family member who is now hurting because you had no idea.  To all of you I say:  Read.  Take in my story, if you want to know my story.

As with many introspective and depressive types, I cannot pinpoint the moment when melancholy set in.  Here at the ripe age of 24 I feel as if it has always been a part of me.  I have certainly always been in my own head a great deal, over-thinking things or simply over analyzing myself.  I feel very blessed to have the mind that I do, though it has gotten me into trouble.

It isn’t that I don’t know how to be happy.  When I take stock of my life I do have numerous happy memories.  However, there is this creeping fog of unease that covers most everything I’ve done and experienced for years.  And that has been exhausting.

Now on to the story of my addiction.  And, yes, I do refer to self harm as an addiction.  At least, the way I have experienced it has been addictive.  It is something I have to actively make the choice not to do.  One day at a time.

I wrote my story out last October.  You see, November 1st, 2010 was the fifth year anniversary of the day I laid this habit down and prayed never pick it back up.  I had a small celebration with a circle of close friends, and I wrote out my story for each of them.  I’d like to share that story here, and perhaps even expand on a few things.

Here it is:

            I can tell you that I don’t remember the exact moment it started.  It wasn’t just a decision that I made one day.  At least, not intentionally or consciously.  Honestly, I’m sure I felt like it was a normal thing to do; it probably just made sense to me.  I guess maybe that’s twisted or odd, but that’s the way it is.  I’m only speaking the truth here.  I started hitting my arms really hard on my computer chair to purposely cause bruises, and I would feel better for a simple fleeting second.  I could not even tell you a “starting date” for what I now have come to realize is an addiction.  I can tell you that I was around thirteen or fourteen years old.

            It slowly escalated from there.  I would punch walls.  I would bite my fingers.  I would pull my hair.  Small things that I felt like weren’t a big deal.  It was a way to cope with all my hang-ups and terrible feelings, and it wasn’t all that bad.  At least, that’s what I told myself.  One day, I decided that all of this was not enough.  I used a broken piece of the computer chair to scratch my right arm on this particularly stressful day.  This was the first time I chose to draw blood, and it felt good.  It truly did.  This was to be my coping strategy from now on.  My weapon of choice was more often than not a safety pin.  To this day I try hard not to have one in my possession.

            During this time, I was depressed.  All the time.  Every day.  The injury was not always an everyday thing;  but hating myself and my life was.  I had friends, and I enjoyed their company.  I loved them.  And I heard them say time and time again that they enjoyed my company and loved me.  I could not believe them.  I didn’t love myself, so thinking of someone else loving me seemed utterly impossible.  I wasn’t usually ever really alone, but I was always lonely. 

            I was, in fact, a Christian then.  At least, I had been raised to, you know, trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture; all that.  And most of the time, I tried so hard to do so.  And, I did believe in God and I said that I trusted Him.  Yet, I hated my life.  To be entirely honest, I don’t remember talking to Him all that much during this time.  I was angry.  Most of my “praying” consisted of screaming at Him to just go ahead and take me out of this world.  Literally screaming.  I was messed up.

            As I said before, this was not a daily thing.  I tried hard not to resort to hurting myself.  Sure, I would feel better for a few seconds afterward, but then the guilt would set in and all of my dreadful feelings would come back.  I also had to try hard to hide it.  I wasn’t “doing it for attention”, which is the explanation everyone gives about cutters.  Maybe some do, but so what?  Clearly, if they have fallen that far, perhaps they need a little attention.  I absolutely did not do it for attention.  I would wear longs sleeved shirts, numerous bracelets, lie to people and tell them a cat had scratched me, or some other weak nonsense.  Looking back, I probably did not fool anyone.  But I thought I was.  Eventually, I started cutting myself on my legs because those injuries were easier to hide.  I almost always wore pants; even in the summer months.  My struggles were hidden and I was sad.

            I was starting to realize what a problem this was.  Clearly, if it was something I felt like I should hide, then it wasn’t normal or healthy.  At the point I truly realized that, I was so far into it.  Quite frankly, I had no idea how else to deal with things in my life.  I’d be okay for a couple weeks, basically just letting things build up, and then my boyfriend would go off to visit his pot smoking buddies and not call, or my parents would get into an argument, and there I would be.  I don’t say these things to put them down.  I am not trying to place blame.  I’m just showing you that they had struggles as well, and I didn’t know how to deal with other peoples’ issues on top of my own.  I was training myself to be numb.  I couldn’t even cry anymore.

            At one point in the midst of this darkness, I wrote a short story.  Writing sometimes helped me to take my mind off of the desire to hurt myself.  I deemed this story “A Modern Day Humpty Dumpty.”  It was about a young woman, who like Humpty, had “had a great fall.”  She didn’t just fall.  She fell in a dark pit.  She fell to pieces.  And some of the King’s horses and men attempted to put her together as well.  But it was always a temporary mend.  Getting her back together was also difficult due to the fact that she became so accustomed to this horrible pit that she even began to break off pieces of herself that had already been mended.  She didn’t know why, but she did anyway.  Others tried to come soothe her, and she appreciated the help, but none could put her back together.  She stayed in the pit for a long time, wondering where the King himself was.

            I tried numerous times to quit this unhealthy and scary habit.  I would do well for awhile.  I once had a six month period of no self-injury.  I felt very proud of myself.  Yet, there was a problem.  I was trying to do it all myself.  I did not have the strength for that.  I could not do it on my own.  I could not do it all alone.

            On the 31st of October in 2005, I attended a Halloween party at a friend’s house.  I planned on staying the night, and brought along some pajamas.  I remember that I had my Pink Panther pajama pants.  So comfortable.  I also had gone into my brother’s room at home and borrowed one of his many pocket knives.  It attended the party with me.  I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t really going to use it, but that was a very blatant and poor lie.  At this point, I was lying to everyone; including myself.  During the party, I walked myself into her bathroom and locked the door behind me.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  I sat there in the floor for a very long time, just thinking.  I don’t really know if I actually thought about all that much.  I just sat there.  Then, at some point, I took out the pocket knife, and I carved an X directly above my left knee.  I immediately felt better.  I also focused my attention on taking care of cleaning the cut.; making yourself busy with a task to be done is, sadly, also a good way of ignoring your emotions.  So, I felt great.  For about thirty seconds.  I came out of that bathroom and decided that enough was enough.  But I could not do it alone.  And then, the King Himself showed up to mend me and pull me out of that pit.

            After the fateful Halloween night, I decided that I needed to trust God, because only He could save me from the darkness.  I knew that I needed to give my life back over to Him, and work to do things that glorify Him.  Self-harm is certainly not something that glorifies anything other than pain.  I gave it all to Him.  Does that mean everything in my life became easier and was immediately better?  Of course not.  That isn’t how it works.  But I wasn’t going it alone anymore.  I opened my eyes, found relief in His life, and put down my knives.  November 1, 2010.  Five years.  Thank you God; all the glory belongs to You.

            If you are reading this, it means that over those five years you have been a part of my story.  Maybe you have been there through it all.  Maybe you haven’t known me very long at all.  Either way, know that you have said something or done something to help me remember that I am valuable; a beautiful and wonderful child of God.  So thank you for being a character in my story.

—————-

There you have it.  A piece of my life.  A story about pain and triumph.  It scares me to share this story on my blog.  It makes me feel very open and vulnerable.  I don’t share these things freely.  I feel led to do it.  I want to use my pain to reach out to others who need hope.  It exists, my friends.  Hope is a wonderful weapon to use against the enemy of despair.  Reader, what are you struggling with?  It may not be something as “serious” as an addiction, but all struggles and all pain are relative.  What takes up your thoughts and causes you to worry?  Let it go.

It is my prayer that everyone who comes across this page finds a piece of hope in this post.  I am praying for all who will read it.  I pray for you.  I hope for you.  Feel free to drop me a line if you need someone to talk to.  I am here.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4