Tag Archives: relationships
Its a cause for letting go
Your hand no longer fits mine
I’ve lost the sense of comfort
When you call my name
Special connection once so binding
Now severed at its core
Two persons passing
Is all that we are
Shadows in the same room
Crawling up a different wall
Laughter barely a rumble
Replies with a half smile
What we have yet to admit
Is we are broken
Yesterday, I said my last good-bye to Mark Stringer, the minister at First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. He told us six months ago that he was leaving the ministry, and I’ve been grieving ever since.
It’s weird—we never had a private conversation, just exchanged a few words as I shook his hand on Sunday on my way out the door. But in the three years that I’ve been going to First Unitarian, I’ve been able to share enough of my story with him to make a connection.
No, that’s not quite right. I felt connected to him.
From the first service I attended, I knew this guy got it. His sermons seemed like extensions of my therapy sessions, filled with the importance of mindfulness, compassion, acceptance, and awareness of our own realities. He made me laugh and cry—usually at the same time. Finally, after searching for years, I’d found a spiritual home and someone who spoke to the things that mattered to me.
PTSD makes me vulnerable to abandonment-thinking. Bipolar disorder distorts any thinking into darker twists of hopelessness. I knew I needed to work this through or I’d probably never go back to the church once he was gone.
So, I attended every Sunday service (once I was recovered enough from my last bronchial bomb). I cried ( okay, sobbed) through each one of them, Kleenex box clutched tight. I made myself look him in the eye after our hug at the door and thank him for the opportunity to do this work. Some mornings I was too verklempt to say the words, but Mark would hold my watery gaze and say, “I understand.”
While I grieved, I also noted every friend at church who sought me out, every acquaintance who grinned when our eyes met. I forced myself to see that FU (you gotta love a church with those initials) offered me real community and relationships beyond Mark. I made a point of wandering around after services to find people I knew and admired in order to weave another thread into our connection.
Yesterday we held his celebratory Farewell Tour at the performing arts theater of one of the city’s high-end high schools (very lovely). We needed room enough for the whole congregation to honor Mark’s sixteen years of service. He came to us straight from theological school and is moving on to be the Executive Director of the Iowa ACLU.
I wept like everyone else, touched by his words and deeds (he performed the first same-sex marriage in Iowa), amazed at all he and the church had accomplished (doubled the membership and increased FU’s legislative presence on issues of justice). But, my tears were of joy and gratitude, not grief. I spent yesterday talking to my friends, making sure I told the speakers and the choir now much they moved me, and asking questions about the ministerial search process. I did what I set out to do—I said good-bye well.
It might be good for me to get involved in the Search process, since who “ministers” to me is so very important. But, I’m tucking that thought away until I learn more. Will the various committees be able to use a bipolar member who lives an hour away and who may not be able to follow through? Can I allow myself to be that vulnerable? Can I get involved and accept my limitations?
It wouldn’t be an Adventure without some mystery and a little risk.
Here’s the first sermon I heard Mark deliver. Seventeen minutes is an eternity in blogland, but it might be worth your while.
You and your horse. His strength and beauty. Your knowledge and patience and determination and understanding and love. That’s what fuses the two of you onto this marvelous partnership that makes you wonder, “What can heaven…
Today it’s too hard to navigate my marriage, my job, my cat, my house, my bills, and bipolar disorder. Thoughts flash: run! End it! Just cry it out! I start to plan all those things-pack a bag, grab all my medication & head to the bridge, snot all over myself. All this planning started from under the covers well past the time I was supposed to be at work. As I begged for continuous sleep far into the day, I found myself on the couch too soon. I have so many bottles of medication I haven’t taken. Kept promising myself I would turn them into my therapist or my psychiatrist, but secretly wanting the option for days like this.
My marriage is vulnerable right now. I’ve become too much. I no longer enhance this relationship. The words my husband is using today are sharp. Truth behind his pain. Pushed up against the wall he spouts them. Not to hurt me necessarily, but release himself. The burden that I am is heavy. He is strong. Maybe too strong for 18 years. He often tells me that I have no idea how all these episodes of depression, mania, suicide attempts, battles w the bottle affect him. Truly tear at him. Not only because it hurts to see a loved one in pain, but the insurmountable amount of powerlessness that follows for him. Sometimes feeling betrayed as I reach for the liquid courage instead of him. Sometimes confused why I fall into the dark abyss with no warning. Sometimes because emotions are simply too damn hard.
Its funny because on the inside I am proud of myself when I can be “normal” what I think of as a good wife. I wonder if he notices I’m doing well. I just keep on showing him, at least in my mind, how I’m trying to rise. But, its that day my smile isn’t as big. My silence is stronger. My demeanor changed that he notices. Yesterday he asked if I was feel down. At first I denied it and said I was just tired. After all we had a great start to the weekend. He asked me again a little while later and I decided to shake my head yes. His response reminds me how hard the roller coaster is from any seat. He said we will cancel plans for tomorrow because he doesn’t want to get me “started.” Tears. Instant tears. Started? Does this mean he truly doesn’t get me?
As the sun sparkled I went back to bed under the guise of a headache. Physical pain is easier to accept and has a cure in ibuprofen. I laid me down to sleep to escape. Escape disappointment. Escape depression. Escape having to perform.
The evening didn’t end so well. More truth hit the fan and sent daggers around the room. I yelled. He tried to ask me not to yell and I yelled more. Poor poor communication and coping skills. This is not the picture of a good wife. I excused myself back to bed at 7:45 pm hurt feelings in tow.
I think the trigger to all this is loneliness. I have no support system.i have no friends. More truth to pierce my soul. And where am I now? Alone on my couch in the middle of a Tuesday when I should be at work. It fills the room and I cannot breathe. But dammit I will not cancel those plans. Red eyed. Tired. Full of self hatred. I will smile and carry on.
I feel like I am a party of one dancing around the bigger party. I don’t know how to get in. Do I deserve to be in? Can I, we, lay the burden down?
Earlier this week, mixed-state depression settled in like chicory coffee—black, thick, bitter—and I panicked a little over the mental discomfort. Seems like I’ve lost all my stamina—physical and mental—and must remember to be gentle while I rebuild both.
Thrashing around last night, trying to find something to ease the cramped thoughts and emotional acid reflux, I remembered my Pinterest boards—particularly, the board I created for just this situation. Braying Like a Donkey. There are memes and videos that still make me guffaw, plus photos of celebrities and common folk laughing hard—lost urine and milk-squirting-out-the-nose hard. While not everyone shares my sense of humor, I invite you to go look—just in case you need a pick-me-up.
Then, today at my regular Friday therapy session, I asked the staff to make marks in my art journal. I knew they would, even though some consider themselves artistically challenged and prone to perfectionism (it felt sorta good to challenge them for a change). I will take their marks (and the mangled flower one of them used as a paintbrush) and create something that that is ours.
I needed that. I needed to engage with people who unreservedly adore me, who remember who I am when I forget, who ask nothing of me other than to be authentic.
This is stamina-building, finding new ways to beat back the darkness.
I did good today.