Emotions – (PART I).

This is the second day in a row that I’ve set down with the intention of reading or doing something other than write on this topic. To be honest, I find it more than a little daunting to write on such a sensitive subject. I use the word ‘sensitive’ not to be clever, but because I think it’s appropriate in respect to the subject matter I’m about to try and make sense of.

First, before starting this series of posts, I want to acknowledge that people fall on a vast spectrum of positive or negative associations to the sight of the word emotions. It’s my prayer that regardless of where you find yourself in comfort (or discomfort) level when talking about emotions that you’d keep reading. I hope to address why I believe God made emotions part of the human experience and what we are supposed to do with them. It is my prayer and whole- hearted desire that you’d find encouragement here. If you’ve ever prayed prayers, asked questions, or said things like:

“LORD, please take this (emotion) away.”

“But that was then, what does it matter now?”

“I know/think I shouldn’t be feeling this way because x,y,z, but I still struggle with a,b,c.”

“It’s not that big a deal, but I just can’t get over it.”

Then these posts may be for you. If it isn’t wisdom or hope you find here, then at the very least I hope you would find food for thought in the words that follow today and in the days to come.

I believe it prudent to state – if it wasn’t evident already – that I am not a professional of psychiatry or related fields nor do I claim to be. I think that perhaps this may be to some advantage because if there is wisdom to be found here, you know we are on equal ground and that wisdom is the LORD’s. That is to say: if you wish to have wisdom in this subject matter, it is yours to have. You need only ask Him as I have for many years.

I believe it prudent to also acknowledge that there are some individuals who will claim that due to my personality typing (INFJ), type of intelligence (intrapersonal), education (psychology), and whatever other excuse that can be mustered, that I am somehow more invulnerable to fits of negative emotion and the consequences that come with leaving them unchecked. I used to believe that, too. This could not be further from the truth. Even though I am (seemingly) naturally inclined to understand why and how negative emotions affect people including myself, I am no more capable to overcome them and deal with the underlying issues that cause them. But I know Someone who enables me to.

Should there be someone who still feels like I’m “naturally blessed” with any of the wisdom I’m hoping and praying will be in these posts, I just want to say.. you’re wrong, but also, so what? If I speak about something that convicts you, helps you to understand, helps you to problem solve, aren’t you glad that you’ve figured out something and found a new perspective? If life could be better for you, do you really care how it comes about? Can’t we be grateful and rejoice together as family would that obstacles are being overcome? I may be a mouth piece He uses to help, but make no mistake, He saves. He does all the growing and blessing and answering. I’m just hoping to point you in the right direction.

Now that all of that is said and out of the way, a few last things.

I (and other close comrades) are praying these posts are helpful. The experiences and reflections on said experiences are my own, as well as that of many other individuals who I’ve known, talked to, and observed in my short life. That being said, my reflections are my reflections and please test and research for yourself things I deduce before taking them as truth. You may find error, or you may find you begin to understand other related topics and truths even more in depth. Either way, it is to your benefit to do your research as I feel I have. As stated before: It is my prayer and whole- hearted desire that you’d find encouragement here. And if not wisdom or hope then at the very least you would find food for thought in these words today and in the days to come.

 

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an odyssey: year 6, day 174.

Ther was no question in my mind that I had changed. The timeline was fuzzy as it always seemed to be to me, but somewhere in transition I had changed from being one person to another. I think it was pretransplant… or post? I knew that I would be different and that surgery seemed to mark a passing from one way of being to another. Hard to know, and far harder to comprehend. Thinking back I knew even before I had seen the diagnostic images that something was wrong and missing in me.

Something in me had always gravitated to You since the first time I met You. Come to think of it, now that You were in my life always I couldn’t really remember a time when You didn’t really exist. When I look back now at my little self, even then as a small child I knew something of Your caring. It’s just that, back then, I had no words.

Now older, I still don’t feel as though I have nearly adequate ones. I’ve just come to realize that You don’t mind. We’re Your children first after all, and no Father expects His children to run before they can walk. Even if they’ve had to relearn how to walk because life took the legs out from under them.

I woke up to my alarm going off beside my cot. With a groan and a blind sweeping search of my hand I managed to find that infernal device. Which You were holding in Your hand. I froze and unburied my face from my pillow to look up at You with glazey eyes and hair in a sort of nest-like structure that a squirrel would be proud to call home.

“It’s important to not miss check ups, little one.”

I face planted back into my pillow. “Can we just skip today? Really, the scar is healing again and I feel better and we just had a checkup yesterday and I just -“, big yawn before I could get out the rest of my pillow muffled sentence. When I heard silence for a few seconds, I slowly rolled my head to look at You only to find my alarm exactly where I had set it on my cot’s side table the day before, my door closed, and no You.

[patient log status; completed.]

[archived.]

 

an odyssey: year 6, day 168.

Six months it had been been since my roommate’s incident and since I had a check up exam. Six months it had been, and I can still remember You and I talking through my conditions.

I still remember staring down at my feet dangling over the side of the examination table as You waited for the news to sink in. My mind was racing trying to make sense of it all. Being a human being meant being a finite and infinite being at the same time. That had felt like a whole lot of state of “being” that my mind was trying desperately to wrap itself around without much success. Yes, one day my heart would stop. Yes, it didn’t look good in the images we just looked at, but You and only You could offer me a new one. One that was healthy – minus the the claw looking tumour that had embedded itself into one half and was causing my heart to bleed with every beat.

“Does every person have this?”

You had watched me with a sad gaze and nodded. “Every single one that has ever walked the earth.”

I remember turning my attention from Your face back to the screen, looking numbly at the image of my heart. It was a wonder to me that I could live with such a grotesque and alien looking form embedded in a vital organ.

“Is there a cure?” My whole body was tingling as the numbness in my chest spread to the rest of me. If I hadn’t been distracted by the image and how weightless I felt in that moment, I probably would have been terrified and had a lot more difficulty asking that question.

“Yes. It was bought at the highest price, but it is free to any who would have it.”

Not so sure I would be able to understand that sort of math at the moment, I just dumbly nodded, eyes fixed on the screen in front of us.

Still observing, I had asked when my transplant would be scheduled. My voice sounded like it was from a distance off to my own ears, but my concentration was fixated elsewhere so I did no more than note it.

“The cure is yours whenever you want it.”

“Today.”

You had leaned back against the counter, crossed Your arms, and studied me. You mentioned how having a new heart might take a life time to get used to. How there might be some difficulties adjusting. How my finite self would eventually still perish, but not my infinite. Slowly prying my eyes from the disturbing image on the screen, I met Your gaze. Totally deadpan I repeated, “today.”

After a few moments more of studying me, You nodded Your head and confirmed my appointment.

“Consider it done.”

[patient log status; completed.]

[archived.]

[impending log – unknown]

Strangers on a Train.

You may not remember me, but I will always remember you.

All my life it’s been walking, buses, trains, what have you. Most of the time two hours a day or more to get to and from school for about a decade and a half. But having a passenger like you seated alongside me definitely was the most memorable for all the most humbling and heart provoking reasons.

It was the usual quick shuffle up and on to the train I’d taken the past four years to get to university. Finally on my way home after one of my final weeks of class I thought I’d retire to my usual aisle seat and flick on some tunes. Maybe watch the beautiful forests and farmer fields zoom by my window. Maybe take a long assessment of the back of my eyelids until the announcement that “we’ve arrived” comes through the intercom to wake me up, collect my things, and do the shuffle back off.

I had just found my seat and was juggling stuff into the overhead compartment when you tentatively cleared your throat and apologetically informed me that you may have to get past me to the aisle part way through our journey. I assured you that’d be no problem, sir, don’t worry about it. You nodded quickly and apologized for the inconvenience and returned to the window. I noticed in my peripheral, now more obviously because you’d introduced yourself, that ever since entering my line of vision you seemed to never sit quite still.

A shoulder tap again. Saying a quick prayer for an awareness of His heart for you, I settled into my seat, looked out the window at the beautiful forests and fields like always, and waited.

“I’m so sorry to bug you. I don’t really remember if I told you or not because I’m feeling out of sorts right now but did I mention that I might need to get by you?”

I assured you that you had, and that again, it would be no problem.

You apologized again, and turned to look out the window, shuffling your feet around.

Again I waited.

“I’m sorry, maybe you don’t like to talk. I don’t want to bug you, just are you going to school where you got on? You don’t have to answer.”

Stepping around the apology, I confirmed that yes, I did. Psychology. And then inevitably followed some ambigious mention of how I never really felt cut out for the program or university in general. And how it had been a very long haul with very little if anything to show for it or to feel proud of.

You mentioned how you had sometimes needed what the studies and psychologists in your life had to offer. To make you better and to understand some hard things. To help you through things. How it was a helpful field. And how on the really bad days, you would remind yourself how lucky you were for having a family who supported you and your professional arts career. You stopped halfway and apologized for taking up my time with your banter. How we had never met and here you were discussing all this stuff that I might not want to. How I could listen to music or read instead of talk to you. I waited, and then asked you more about your career and the journey to it. You said how lucky you were after depicting the journey for me. You said it again and again. How lucky you were. Most times it sounded in a way like you were saying it to yourself rather than to me, trying to convince yourself. You said it was the thing that made you feel the most alive, and kept you that way.

We talked a little more about your passion for your career. Honestly, I was impressed to say the very least. I talked about how I regretted not really being able to pursue art. How I wished I had fought more for it, and how I felt especially burdened now that I had wasted four years in something I barely felt proud of. But I said how it made me really appreciate art now when I was able to partake. How I appreciated it so much more than I ever had because it was such an uphill battle to follow and pursue and cultivate passions.

We talked music. We talked poetry. That’s when you pulled your well loved and definitely worn copy of Robert Service from the seat pocket in front of you. You were about to show me a poem when again, your energy and agitation overwhelmed you to another apology of being the silly stranger who wouldn’t shut up. You apologized and said how I didn’t have to pretend to be interested. That you had had seat partners in the past that plain just told you to shut up, some who had kind of nodded half hearted affirmation to be polite and not be abruptly dismissive. Some who had just thrown music on and shut you out completely. And, I waited. And listened.

I asked you what your favourite poem was. You snapped back out of your agitated state and excitedly flipped through the pages. It was so refreshing to see someone so excited about poetry and so personally attached as well. So inspired by art of people past. I asked you if you’d been to plays. You said you hadn’t really been able with your schedule. I said if you ever got a chance, there was a beautiful place in the city where you could sit in a forested amphitheater, picnic, and then enjoy a night of Shakespeare. You excitedly mentioned some of his pieces that most inspired you. How the rhythms of poetry were so soothing to you in times of agitation. How fascinating — and then you relapsed. You couldn’t find the word and it bothered you. Your already intermittent twitching turned into tapping your forehead, emphatic gesturing with your hands, trying with all your might to physically summon the word that evaded your memory. You stuttered but couldn’t find the word, becoming increasingly more flustered by the moment. You started to berate yourself for how could you be so stupid for not remembering.

Seeing your distress, I offered, “iambic pentameter?”

“YES! That’s it! Thank you, I can’t believe I couldn’t remember that.” I smiled and asked if I could read your copy of Robert Service. You excitedly obliged and handed it to me.

It’s about that time you pulled out a copy of King Lear, and we read quietly side by side, the white noise of the train on the tracks our background soundtrack. Sometimes you’d pipe up and mention another poem. And then apologize because you didn’t want to interrupt my reading. I chuckled, asked which one it was. Told you I had the rest of the train ride, and that I’d read it next.

And we read. And for the first time all trip, you seemed peaceful beside me. Quietly, and a little bashfully, you commented how you’d never had a seat partner as attentive or kind as me.

I know you couldn’t know. I know you couldn’t know that for always as a young girl and even still I struggled so hard to convey myself to peers. I know you couldn’t know that all my life I have loved peers intensely but struggled so hard to show them and convey it for fear of them not reciprocating, for fear of coming off intense, or for fear of flat out rejection. I know you couldn’t know how I had felt like such an inconvenience to people around me. How when I was bullied I would be told to shut up, be “politely” dismissed,  have people shut me out. I know you couldn’t know that from the moment I met you to the time I was sitting here now trying to hide choking on my thank you to your compliment, that I was seeing a whole lot of hurting and broken me in you. I was trying to not show tears because I realized that Jesus had enabled me somehow without me fully being aware to be the person to you that I had needed for quite some time. Good LORD Almighty.

I could basically hear the lies and belittling internal dialogue that you’d been subjected to for decades. I knew it way too well myself. We were very much kindred spirits in our woes. Though the specifics were vastly different, the struggle was the same.

And you couldn’t have known, but I knew that He loved you. I knew that the LORD marvelled at you, loved you all the way through your existence and before when He was making you. And then I realized that the way I was awestruck, fascinated, inspired, and in marvel of you despite your hardships, that that’s how He viewed me through my years of muck and mire.

good heavens.

That just about did me in. Seeing in real time how the LORD sees us despite our junk, shortcomings, broken parts, shameful parts, troubling parts. Despite our years of habit. Despite years of entrenched lies. Despite years of illness and struggle.

If you knew. God, if only you knew that it was ME who was so grateful for YOU being placed in my life.

That it was me in awe of you despite all obstacles you faced that you felt prevented you from being okay. Despite the things you’ve lost or felt like you compromised.

I just. Damn.

Seeing how the LORD loves people and that He loves me just as much has wrecked my life.

I can’t help but live a totally different life from the one I used to after knowing personally that kind of love. The way I see things including myself, other people, my struggles, my triumphs, my relationships.. you name it.

All different because of how He’s loved me. All so much more hopeful and beautiful because of how He’s loved me. DESPITE myself. Because I haven’t loved myself despite my best efforts. Some days, it’s really freaking hard to. But He’s right in there with me helping me through that. And I know that I’m loved at my worst even when I’m tapping out. Isn’t that what any of us ever wanted and needed? Someone to love us beyond whatever we could imagine, regardless or circumstance or trial?

Well that’s Jesus. That’s Him. That’s my whole hearted Father, Saviour, Friend.

Never have I stepped off a train feeling like I just came out of a divine appointment. But man, if ever, that was definitely it.

You may have thought I was a God-sent, but God sure sent Himself for you and me in His ongoing love and pursuit of us both and just, whoa. How He loves.

 

 

 

an odyssey: year 5, day 364.

One of my favourite past times while sitting up in my cot was playing with the early morning light on my hands that snuck through the slats of my blind. I played and cast shadows as my mind wandered. My roommate gave a cough. She was another friend on the mend who’d recently arrived and been mended after a nasty relationship left gaping claw marks in her chest. She resettled and I went back to playing with the light, my mind wandering to thoughts of You and how far my journey had unfolded since I’d arrived.

After years now, I’d had the chance to observe You in various harrowing scenarios. I’d had the chance also to build my own history with You.

Oh in those days how I didn’t know what to make of You. I was always keen on having people figured out, but You I just couldn’t unpuzzle. I scoff at my skepticism of Your intentions now. Not for a moment in all these years – never once – has Your character faltered.

No matter the amount of times I tried to catch You

trip You up

screamed at and became combative with You when I was in a state of pain and despair and delusion..

No matter the amount of times I watched You warily as You approached my bed side with a treatment

No matter how many times You found me wandering down the middle of city streets at 4 in the morning..

You stayed gentle, spoke the truth of my conditions softly with me. When I hurt You, You were quick to forgive me when I apologized. You spoke kindly to me, and didn’t hold my relapses against me.

Another cough from my roommate, this time wet and crackly. I snapped out of my memories and swung my feet out of bed and into my slippers on the floor by the side of my cot. I made haste to her bedside where now she had started to choke in her sleep. I ripped back the covers and could see a deep crimson stain spreading across the front of her night gown in the faint morning light. I bolted across the room to the blind and flung it wide to let the sun in.

“LORD, Come quick!!”

You were already by her side by the time I turned back around from the window. After some minutes of Your working over her, she quietly resettled and resumed her sleep as if never perturbed. You pulled her blankets back over her after reassessing Your work, tucking them in around her. Looking up and catching my gaze, You offered Your hand to me and I took it. We stepped out into the hall and You linked my arm through Yours as You pulled the door closed behind us with a soft click. We proceeded silently down the sun lit corridor to the examination rooms.

There was not a soul that sought Your sanctuary that You would turn away. You would take every wounded that managed to clamber or get carried to Your front door. Sometimes, You would go out and come back in carrying someone.

Regardless of who that someone was, all the people here would respond to You differently at first. Each had been badly wounded by different life circumstances, and it was fascinating and sometimes quite sad to see how the patients would treat each other. But still, You’d mend them and watch over them. I think about a year into recovery I realized the way You watched over them wasn’t just to mind they’re progress, but You genuinely loved each one. It was mind boggling. Especially since always at some point in the relationship that patient had to choose to fully trust that You were who You said You were. That part was always difficult to observe as a bystander. I wanted to shake the people who didn’t know You like I did when they would turn Your care that they desperately needed away. But You would never force them to stay. A sanctuary was a place of peace and protection for those who desired to stay, but I realized over time that if people were not here by their own accord it would be more like a prison. So strange that a place of such beauty like this could be considered a prison. But then I remembered how terrified I was when I was in fits of pain and delusion.

I’d learned over the years that there’s some mysterious aspects to Your nature, but it’s people who throw me into confusion about who You are. I’ve had to learn to be careful.

I used to know about You from others, but what my heart really longed for was to know You. Personally. Intimately. You are the best authority on Your own character after all.

[patient log status; completed.]

[archived.]

[impending log – 03/25/2017]

 

 

an odyssey: year 5, day 363.

I’m realizing that Your hospital isn’t such a daunting and clinical place. After the years I’ve stayed here, I’m starting to realize it’s actually more akin to a sanctuary. It’s when I venture back out into the world without You, forgetting and abandoning what I’ve known of Your character, that I run into trouble. But inevitably evil wounds me in such a way that leads me to remember You and Your loving skill with mending.

You’re not cold, clinical, and distant like they portrayed You to be. I once vehemently believed You were. I think often people forget that our story started with me despising, resenting and running from You. But in my time with You I had the opportunities to watch You work on others, pouring all Your concentration into the patients in distress on the table in front of You. That grimace on Your face that I once confused with a grimace of disdain and disgust now has context and is better understood from an onlooker’s perspective. It wasn’t disdain and disgust, it was a grimace of genuine concern – one that knew that this work You were doing would be the deciding factor between life and death. And You knew that in their disoriented state, these patients were combative because they thought the pain You were causing was torture instead of resetting bone, removing shrapnel, stitching up gaping wounds and dealing with ravaged tissue. You knew they might not understand for a long time, but still You saved their lives anyways.

Maybe I would’ve seen it more clearly if I hadn’t been trying to claw and beat Your hands away when You were tending to my wounds on the table for the first time. I’d just been through the worst thing possible to my mind and after snippets of stories about You, I had known only fear of You. At one time I thought kindly of You, but I couldn’t reconcile what I had been through with my unknowingly shallow understanding of who I thought You were. Still as my hands clawed through the air searching for Your face, You skillfully dodged and kept working. You knew that I didn’t know what I was doing. You forgave me anyways.

I was comatose for a few months. I knew somewhere in my consciousness that I wasn’t alone in my room. Somehow I felt You there. I sometimes heard other patients too. You’d come visit me, check in on how I was doing. You always knew exactly what we all needed and exactly what pace we all would mend at. You were always patient, always kind. Always long suffering. Even though I could tell I was slowly but surely healing I would still shy away from Your hand when You reached for me. It was very confusing. I trusted Your ability to heal me from whatever was coming my way, that You’d help me overcome the obstacles. But I also in my heart believed that it was because of You that I was in need of You to begin with.

When I would come to, You’d ask me about the distrustfulness in my eyes when I looked at You. At first tentatively but soon increasingly with a degree of defiance I would retort with the aforementioned reasoning. You’d calmly listen. You seemed sad, but not surprised not shaken.

“In time.” You said. And my defiant glare would swivel upwards from where my hands gripped my blanket to Your eyes and the breath would get knocked out of me because I thought Your response was a challenge but the love in Your eyes told a very different story. I’d be internally reeling in confusion but You’d peacefully smile back, smooth my hair, check my vitals, then go attend to other patients.

[patient log status; completed.]

[archived.]

[impending log – 03/24/2017]

 

an odyssey: year 5, day 362.

the relentless furnace of reality has a way of igniting my wishful thinking, sending dreams and misplaced comfort up in smoke.

i know what I said because each moment is carved into my mind. I never tried to chisel them away because I needed the energy to survive, to exist.

i know what it’s like to be without Your presence. The cold and lonesome dark, the knife through my heart as the words “she’s gone” change my life forever.

yes I’m gone, far gone.

irretrievably lost unless You come and save me.

even though I cherished and loved all life long naturally, I was desperate to savour every interaction with anyone as if it were my last. I was desperate to see You, desperate to know there was something or someone who could help me.

always the child fearful of nothing but losing the loved ones she had, I lost my last breath when I heard you died. the thing that I feared most in life was an everyday and every night possibility that I tried desperately to see coming lest the surprise devastate me again. but for these matters, one could never be prepared.

so followed the six years of open heart surgery. so followed many surgical complications.

You had so much hope for me that I didn’t have for myself. I know Youre real, that You love me. I wouldn’t be coming back to life if it weren’t for Your skillful and loving hand.

“I’m not going anywhere,” they would tell me. And another shard of schrapnel would saw at my heart strings as I uncomfortably shifted, reminding me of the precise location it was lodged.

people to this day have always fallen into two categories. the ones that would inevitably leave over time and the ones that would leave despite our mutual passionate desire to stay with each other until the end.

death is so cruel. Jesus help me to not get swallowed by pain and fear of what has been known.

learning to live again post surgery is at times worse that the initial heart failure.

in my experience, as much as tragic things are tragic, what is intensely more difficult to swallow is the aftermath. I don’t know who that girl is in those photos from 6 years ago. she wears my face, but I dont know her. I’m dumbstruck. is it possible to be two totally different people in one lifetime?

ive struggled to remember much of anything accurately in the past six years. I remember her. I remember the summer following. almost everything apart from that is muddled together. almost. must be the anesthesia. time to rest.

[patient log status; completed.]

[archived.]

[impending log – 03/23/2017]