Friday, November 12, 2010

Recurrent themes

This post originally was going to be about something completely different, but the title remains the same.

My junior year of college, I had what many would consider an awful 1st semester. A friend died, a family member died, a friendship went freefalling, I had a million responsibilities, a lot of academic work, and then, as icing on the cake, I sprained my ankle shortly before Halloween. I hated that time, I was mad at myself, I resented the situation, dwelled on the negative, and really let myself get to a bad place. I had found it hard to pray before that had started, but I certainly had no desire to pray after. God was unfair, He was my competition, and I could tell that He wanted me closer to Him, but man did He have another thing coming.

Of course, my desire is to say how foolish I was, how immature, how self-damaging and infantile in my tantrum, and...well, yeah, I was. I hurt myself, I closed up a lot, I hurt others, and everybody felt that energy coming from me. It was so easy to go to that place, and while the loudest voice in me told me to continue in that vein, there was a voice that told me that I had to try. That voice was muted at times, distant, or even without any passion: a monotone radio announcement, a bored mantra. All the easier to shut it out. And man, I shut it out. I didn't give up on school; I put more effort into school, as I was doing well with it and I derived my sense of well-being from it (I also liked my classes a lot...well, mostly. Some classes I was awful in. I'm sorry, Dr. Mc). I worked really hard at Esto Vir. Here's the thing, though: I didn't tell anyone what was bothering me. I didn't pray because it was just that much easier to ignore my need to do so, having had active reasons to rage against God (so I thought).

I am pretty sure that 3 years later, exactly to the day, I found myself once again without the mobility I'm so used to. Slightly different reason than before: This time I dropped a pot of boiling water onto my right heel and got a nice 2nd-degree burn. This is the same foot that got severely sprained 3 years prior. October 28th (day of said injuries) is a special day here in Perú. It commemorates the feast of El Señor de Los Milagros. Years ago, there was a huge earthquake in Lima. The whole city was decimated, save for one mural of Christ Crucified, which stood completely intact amidst the wreckage. It came to be known as El Señor de Los Milagros (Lord of Miracles). Of course, at first I thought it a very ironic occurrence to receive a burn and be confined to rest and a crutch on a day associated with Miracles. It's easy to make a joke about how God needs to resort to physical injury to send me messages or that He just enjoys watching me in pain.

This time, though, I really needed to fight the negativity. Somehow, I put on a fun face for everybody last time and let it eat my core. This time, maybe I won't tell people how hard it is to fight going stir-crazy or to fight my mind's crazy formulations or impulses due to boredom, but I feel more honest and less angry about life. I can't tell you what the differences are between this time and last, but I feel the message is the same: "Trust me, be with me, talk to me, follow me. And Hope!" Last time I was in such pits and so pissed and...wanting the world to give me some recognition and loads of sympathy. I found some. To everybody who interacted with me then: thank you, you have shaved several years off of purgatory, I'm fairly positive.

I've had my moments of frustration, despair, of being brought to tears, of doing stupid things like eating crap in huge amounts due to boredom even though I know it'll drive me crazy because of how unhealthy it is later on and the fact that I can't do exercise that I'd love and want to do. I've allowed myself to go paranoid partially out of boredom, partially out of being so alone and feeling so vulnerable. It's easy to think that people despise you or resent you when you're so worried about having to ask for help or admit you're weak that you inadvertently become self-involved. When forced to grapple with yourself, it's easy to avoid that battle and fall into a spiral of self-pity and frustration because you wish you weren't a burden. I've sat staring at the ceiling at night because I've rested all day and while my mind is exhausted, my body (having done little more that be vegetative and recuperate) is wide awake, ready and reporting for duty.

I've needed to deal with the same things, and I've been able to receive some of the same gifts: Wonderful, genuine people who have care and concern and show me love in a way that is very touching. It's amazing how those small acts, like people asking if they can get you something from the market or bringing you dinner when they come to visit or ask after you whenever they have the chance can be so very powerful in the experience of somebody who is needing to feel assured and embraced and loved.

Bright sides seem easier to find this time. Part of that is being willing to let my girlfriend in, and her willingness to keep me from dwelling (even when I really want to). Part of it is a desire to hope and a knowledge that I can't give in to all of that anger and resentment, all of which stems from...fear and from pride. It's a tough battle at 3 AM when you're wide awake and can't sleep no matter how much you'd like to do so, but it's nice to think that through the grace of God both in my all-too-imperfect openness and in others' love and presence, I'm at least willing to try to see what He might be saying to me. It's a tough thing to do because I hate not having all the answers, knowing what will happen, how it will happen, etc. I like being in control, I like being on top of everything, and to even admit that maybe God's trying to tell me something is to admit an imperfection which is a blow to my pride and sets my anxiety alarm off. I was lucky enough to have a bright side: now I have time to do what I complained I didn't have time to do. I can pray, I can write applications to grad school, and I can rest. And I can keep learning how to believe and have hope.

It's tough to have to admit that you have to learn something. I was too wrapped up in myself 3 years ago to see it. I'm still too wrapped up in myself in some ways to see lessons that I'm sure God's been trying to scream; I hope that continuing in the spirit of surrender I might unclog my ears a little bit and maybe take my fingers out of them, too.

At the end of it, though, this has been a miracle. fitting for me that the only thing that stood in a city with all of its solutions for problems, all of the ways that people look to escape (granted it was the 18th century, so this is my own 21st century spin on things) that you can find in a city, the things that can absorb us entirely, the one thing that remains intact was a mural of the crucifixion. The message "The road of love leads to Calvary" has been on my mind, and the idea of surrendering to that is my (life's) task, but how fitting that the only thing that will stand strong and endure is that paradoxical image of selfless love and perseverance; that, with the eyes of faith and hope, speaks of the resurrection and immortality that lies after the death and the initial pain.

Intellectual processing of this: 78% complete (roughly)
Holistic processing and integration of this: 5% complete. Estimated time remaining: rest of natural life, and perhaps then some.

Have a great Thanksgiving!