Limping Into the New Year — A Christmas Diagnosis

I am limping out of 2014 and into 2015. One week ago today, I had foot surgery, and I’m just now able to put weight on that foot. I’ll be in a boot for several more weeks as the bone that was cut regrows around the pins that should now keep it straight.

I am also limping out of the year spiritually.

This fall, I experienced the worst online attack of my life. Unlike earlier episodes, this one was not about my writing and my ideas, but about my personal life. The internet doesn’t much care if viral items are lies, as long as they’re lurid (cf. Rolling Stone and the University of Virginia). Nor was it any consolation to me that everyone familiar with the situation — those who have the actual facts — assured me that people ultimately prefer the truth to lies, but it will take time.

In spite of those assurances, I suffered. My back went out in what I am sure was a pychosomatic event. For a week, I was in excruciating pain, unable to move, unable even to get to the bathroom. For a month, I was crippled with pain.

I re-engaged with my therapist and became acquainted with Acute Stress Disorder — that’s 308.3 in the DSM-5. She and I are now working through the consequences of what has happened, and I am renewing spiritual practices that will provide me with peace in the midst of stress.

My therapist is fonder of quoting the I Ching and Buddhist wisdom than she is of the Bible, which is fine with me. (I’ve got the Bible knowledge — I need someone with a different perspective.) One of the first things she said to me when I started seeing her again was this: Sometimes you need to sit down in the middle of the road.

I took this to mean that I was doing too much fighting, too much defending of myself. I needed to sit down in the middle of the highway and let the traffic rush past me. Maybe I even needed to let a truck run me over.

I can’t shake the misperceptions and corrupt interpretations of things that happened years ago. I just want to move on with my life, to live in peace, and to celebrate the little life victories. There are plenty of those: one of my kids placed third in a hockey tournament yesterday; another was voted captain of his robotics team; another qualified for nationals in Irish dance. Courtney and I are nearly spellbound in our love for one another. I’ve got my most ambitious book yet coming out in a couple months.

Yet I can’t ignore the pain of my past. It’s something I will carry with me, all the way to the end, I suppose.

And I’ve wondered if maybe America is also suffering from a bout of acute stress disorder. We are on edge.

So for now, maybe we simply need to sit in the middle of the road, to listen to one another, and to try to conjure love even in the midst of acute stress.

I continue to hope and believe that the birth of a child savior, God-enfleshed, is our most likely shot at peace. We may be limping, but at least we’re still on our feet.

Merry Christmas, friends. Here’s the Jones-Perry Christmas card for you:

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

    I wonder if more of us have physical manifestations of stress and don’t even realize it. Glad you are working through it & Merry Christmas to you & your family.

    • Shiphrah99

      And we do it so literally: “I just can’t stomach that” leads to digestive issues. “I wish she’d get off my back” (my personal favorite) has back pain. “I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall” gets headaches.

      • Terri

        Then there’s “this person is a pain in the neck” or “a pain in the butt.”

  • BradC

    Peace of Christ to you and your family.

  • davehuth

    Do you remember that day when not much was going on and we weren’t doing much of anything, but we happened to be standing next to each other and chatted about nothing much? That was a great day for me, because now we’re friends. Grace and peace to you, pal.

  • Chris Estus

    Yet I can’t ignore the pain of my past. It’s something I will carry with me, all the way to the end, I suppose.

    Rob’s show last night relates to this. Also, the 9th Step discussion in recovery literature promises us that: “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how experience can benefit others….”
    I like to say that the process yields the results.

    Also, being a part of a community of people whose core message is “Me, too” has kept me from jumping into moving traffic many times!!

    You are such a great guy and gift to many. Thanks for saying “Me, too” to all of us with anxiety problems in such a public forum.

  • http://www.tamedcynic.org Jason Micheli

    Sorry to hear you went through this, Tony. Here’s hoping 2015 will prove better.

  • http://timothyhawk.com/ Timothy Hawk

    Great transparency, Tony. Merry Christmas and may you experience the peace of Christ during this season!

  • Ric Shewell

    Hey, I just wanted to let you know that your blog has been a place over the years for me to form and workout theology, especially when it comes to reconciling progressive angst and trinitarian conviction. It’s also been a place where I’ve connected with people seeking out pastoral support, especially those seeking healing from abuse over homosexuality. It’s made a real difference in my life, my ministry, and the lives of others. Thanks.

  • S_i_m_o_n

    Read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

  • R Vogel

    Happy Christmas to you and your family, Tony, and best wished for a quick recovery. Thanks for all the great posts this year!

  • Jim Newberry

    T – from my view, this is the best post from you for as long as I can remember. Honesty / humility befriends solidarity and empathy. I hope you know you are loved.

  • Lausten North

    I read this with much sadness. I look forward to more joyful posts in the near future.

  • djfree79

    Tony, really quick note here…which I hope is actually encouraging. When I first read this post, I had not a clue what you were talking about…until this morning when reading a random comment on RHE’s blog, which posted a link to what I’m pretty sure you were referring to in this post.

    Now, I am by no means an unbiased observer (I cherish McLaren and have always admired many folks in your “camp”). But I tried to be really objective reading along, and I have to say that as a mental health worker, there were some things that became blatantly obvious to me. All I could think was “this isn’t adding up.” I think I’m one of those people that prefers the truth to lies… or at least who prefers logic to accusation.

    All that to say, there are LOTS of folks who have better sense than to believe what’s reported just because it’s reported.

    I hope you’re doing better. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to experience that. The whole thing just aches to me, and I’m not even personally involved! So it must have been absolute shit for you. I’m sorry. And I wish nothing but good to you and for you. Peace and Love, friend!