On any given day, I probably get asked at least once or twice, “how are you?” My answer is always the same, and it is an automatic response, “I’m doin’ ok.” I must confess, for quite a while now, my response has been a lie. I’m not ok. I’m pretty damn far from ok, actually. I’m not lying on purpose. Saying “I’m doin’ ok” is as involuntary as a heartbeat or taking a breath, it just comes out as a nicety. Let’s face it, most people who ask you how you’re doing don’t really want to hear how you’re doing, they are just exchanging pleasantries. If I really answered that question honestly, it wouldn’t take long before nobody would ever ask me how I’m doing again. So, I lie.
The truth is, I haven’t been ok for a few years. I have been under the fog of a low grade depression. Part of it comes from the nature of my work as a public school teacher and all that swirls around that, but the majority of it comes from the general state of our nation. I’m just sick and tired of what’s going on.
I’m weary of being appalled and embarrassed by the words and actions of our national leadership. I am devastated by the fact that our government is actively undoing so much progress we’ve made over the last several decades:
- LGBTQ rights
- women’s rights
- asylum-seeking immigrants’ rights
- the re-emergence of outward racial bigotry
- the rolling back of environmental protections
- the ever-worsening income inequality
- the continued war on public education
All of that has worn on me severely.
But it’s much more than that…much more. The main reason I am not ok these days is that so many of the people I have grown up with and have loved and respected don’t join me in my concern. It would be much easier to face what our government has been up to if our nation was more united against it. But so many of the people with whom I am supposed to share a Christian brother/sisterhood with have no problems with the things that have crippled me emotionally. This has been the hardest thing to bear.
In these recent years, I have begun to feel estranged from many people from my past–people I once held in the highest esteem–people about whom I was once certain of their kind and loving hearts–some of the people from the very community that helped raise me. That is what our current era is destroying; the bond of common experience. That’s a huge loss and it begins to erode one’s emotional health. Everything you once knew to be true is suddenly exposed as ambiguous at best. You begin to question everything and everyone. You constantly ask yourself, have they changed, or have I? Nothing makes much sense anymore and that is a dark and scary place to find yourself.
The only thing keeping my mental health from becoming a crisis is the fact that a new community has emerged. Other people who are suffering the same things I am begin to stagger out of the rubble, and we find one another. We begin to learn that there are more people feeling like we do than we realized. We begin to find encouragement that there are actually more people like us than like those from which we’ve drifted. We seek one another’s comfort and we begin to form a new bond of common experience and it keeps us sane, reasonably sane, anyhow.
I recently had a discussion with a few people who run some of the social media sites that often share my writing. They have declined to share some of my most recent pieces because the nature of them has been aggressively negative toward the more politically conservative Christians who are still supportive of our current government. I understand their concerns about my work. The name of my column at Patheos is Empathy Mining and I am the first to admit that sometimes, when I’m suffering through a particularly “not ok day,” I lose sight of the mission of my own platform. I lash out in anger. I like to think it’s the righteous sort of anger, but that might not be for me to decide. I feel like we are engaged in spiritual warfare right now–like there is a battle for control of the narrative on Jesus Christ’s message–and sometimes I feel like I’m called to go on the attack. Perhaps that does nothing but cause more division. I really don’t know.
But I do know this: the division isn’t good for anyone. There is an aura of mistrust that has divided Christians as much as it has divided the nation at large. It’s tearing us apart.
I pray for discernment on both sides of the divide.
Most of all, I pray for the day when someone asks me how I’m doing and my response of “I’m doin’ ok” is not a lie.
I’ll leave you with this song I wrote. It sums up my feelings. We need a hard and cleansing rain.