I went to bed last night depressed, and woke up depressed this morning (worship at CtK Lutheran this morning helped lift the fog -- when I say that I go to worship to avoid losing my sanity, it is not hyperbole). This has become more and more frequently my experience. Only now, it seems, am I realizing the enormity of what I lost when I lost Debbie. I am currently dating a new girl … I think that dating someone dredges up a lot of negative feelings about missing Debbie. I do my best not to compare, but it is hard not to feel like my life has taken a huge step downward and backwards.
I suppose economic insecurity adds a lot to my anxiety and depression. It seems like that has been my lot for my whole life. For the last 2 or 3 years, all of my energy and effort has gone into my work, and trying to make it work. I am almost there, but there is still no security. They can take away my classes on a moment’s notice and give them to full-time or tenured faculty. Nevertheless, teaching is one of the few truly bright spots in my life and gives me what little sense of meaningfulness I have in my current situation.
I also feel like a keep on losing friends. Phil recently married and is moving to Palm Beach Gardens. Amanda is moving to North Carolina. Evelyn is hit-and-miss regarding her availability. Most of my other friends were based on salsa dancing, or academia, and now that I no longer have time or desire to dance salsa and have finished my PhD, they have moved on. My married Christian friends (local) distanced themselves from me after Debbie died. It was hurtful at first, but it is what it is, and it is a normal experience that most widow(ers) go through. Now that I am no longer involved in “ministry” or ACM, many of those relationships are growing distant (thank God for the reader’s group!). My kids are great and love me, but they are all gradually moving off into their own lives. I cannot expect them to continue to orbit around me.
An additional thing that I woke up thinking about this morning is my repeated pattern of making a significant “break” with my worldview and social networks. I was raised in a fundamentalist “holiness” context, but broke with that at age 17/18 and became a hippy, leaving behind many of the fundamentalist Christian friends I grew up with. At age 23, I made another break, after becoming involved with Debbie. I forsook my radical-secular-hippie countercultural perspective and came to faith in the context of the Discipleship movement (which at the time, seemed very avant-guard and innovative to me). Again, I left secular and liberal friends behind and moved on into a different social and ideological environment.
My time in the covenant-discipleship movement stretched out over almost 30 years, most of my adult life and most of my life with Debbie. I defined myself by my missiological and ministry commitments and as a faithful married man. After I started into academic studies (2004), I came back into contact with secular (and often liberal) people and began thinking more critically about the assumptions of my peer group. My friendship with Dr. Sam taught me to look for reciprocity in relationships and commitments, which was not always forthcoming in my ministry circle. All of this led to a growing list of incongruities and anomalies that became apparent to me in my ideological and social context. Eventually, under the increasing pressure of Debbie’s condition I was forced to reexamine my priorities under the duress of terminal illness. This led to my third major “break” with my primary social group in 2007 and a gradual break with my theological worldview thereafter.
The theological and ideological fallout of that break has taken another nine years to process. When Debbie went into the grave, it felt like everything else that defined me also went into the grave along with her (ministry, friendships, worldview), but it took me a couple of years to realize it. Once I started to slow down from my frenetic partying, salsa dancing and drinking, the pain set in and has not left.
After several years of deconstruction of my belief system, only this past year have I felt my worldview and faith being reconstructed in a way which is both theologically orthodox but also “modern” (a "generous orthodoxy"?) and myself being reconnected to the body of Christ in a liturgical context. Thankfully, I have been able to hold on to a handful of life-long friends through that daunting process, although all of them are geographically distant from me.
Now, my depression is more constant and pervasive (although less sharp or intense) than it was at any time during her illness or immediately after it. Monday through Friday is not bad because of a highly structured work week (thank God for my work which I love!). However, many weekends I find myself setting alone on my patio for countless hours, grading, prepping classes and smoking cigars, and feeling quite depressed.
How shall I view this? Has my constant moving on into new ideational horizons, breaking with past social and ideological structures been a good thing or a bad thing? Has it been personal growth, or confusion? Is this just a part of normal life? Another way to ask the question is, am I a pioneer? Or just unstable? Sometimes the loss of fellowship and the necessity of reprocessing my beliefs “one more time” leaves me feeling like I am losing my sanity. But on the other hand, I am SO glad that I am not a ‘holiness’ fundamentalist living on a farm in Ohio. By the same token, I am glad that I am not a secular or liberal radical with no spiritual commitments or sense of mystery.
Before the Buddha experienced enlightenment, he grappled with the terrible suffering of the world and a sustained demonic attack for a month. Jesus wandered in a desert for 40 days and again before he went to the cross he sweat drops of blood in the garden and felt abandoned by God. If there is something good on the other side of these seemingly unending wanderings in the desert? Or am I just fucked? I guess I will find out one way or the other.
There is more I could write about my life-long tendency to live with a positive vision for the future, and a hopeful “project” to work towards (perhaps another self-medicating drug?). I have not had that since Debbie died, I learned to dance salsa, and I finished my PhD. So, I end up feeling adrift, just living a succession of days without a direction towards something. I have some ideas about how to remedy that, but I’ll save that for another journal entry.
I would love to send this to someone to share my feelings with, but to who? My mentors and older brothers, such as Frank Dawson, Dow Robinson or Michael Cook are mostly gone. There are others who might try to “instruct” or fix me like Job’s friends rather than just sitting with me in empathetic silence or sharing the pain. I don’t know anyone who has gone ahead of me on this same path.
So... there is really no one to share this with. I am walking this path alone (I know, my dear hypothetical reader, that you will say that Christ is with me. I understand that “theologically.” I pray St. Patrick’s prayer almost daily (Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beneath me….), but experientially, I am alone. To quote Jesus: My god, my god, why have you forsaken me? (don't answer that, you might have good reasons! ja ja).