Life in Relief

Life in Relief December 19, 2007

The following is pretty personal . . . it’s one of those entries you probably don’t want to read if you like to think the pastor is all shiny and perfect.  But if you’re okay with the preacher as a human being, well, then, you might be okay reading this.  It’s comforting that I’m not the only one out there who struggles with this.  I know this time of year is hard for a lot of people.  So, I offer this as my own reflection.

life-in-relief.jpgSome people think that life moves along at a pretty happy pace, pockets of sadness here and there, a swift dunking under cold water from time to time . . . then inevitable resurfacing and eventual acclamation to the water temperature. Then, life continues, like that horrible song they made us sing in elementary school choir . . . “we’re moving along, singing our song, side by side.”

Give me a break.

It’s never quite been that way for me. And it’s not that my life doesn’t have a lot of happy things in it.  But along for the ride is someone I never invited who insists on jumping in from time to time.  I don’t always know when he’s coming but at this point along the journey I’ve learned to recognize when he comes knocking at the door. By “he” I mean . . . well, whatever you want to call the personification of the feeling of a heavy, water-soaked woolen blanket thrown over your head, making breathing just about all you can muster.

Elizabeth Gilbert says she has two: twin goons called depression and loneliness, which I maintain could be just one really, really big one. At least in my experience. But she’s ahead of me, as I’ve just learned to recognize him . . . I do everything I can to keep him at bay but I haven’t gotten around to naming him yet.

Name or no, there he is, knocking at the door, turning life situations that would ordinarily merit one determined burst into “we’re moving along, singing our song, side by side” into desperate squeezes of the heart, panting moments of pain where taking the next breath seems like the hardest task I could ever hope to master.

Is this just me, or does anybody else know what I am talking about?

I had an experience recently where that guy was knocking on my door and, even when I refused to answer he came right in and made himself at home.

When this happens I know it’s going to be hard to breathe.  See, when he’s around he sits right next to me all the time. He plants doubt where hope was just about to bloom. He makes my heart squeeze . . . I mean, like really, really contract in a way that hurts, hurts, hurts.  And so I think about what it will take to breathe, knowing in the best part of who I am that the world he creates in his whispers is not a world I recognize at all . . . that the heavy draping of his presence might just be hiding something really, really wonderful.

These were my thoughts the other day when I came upon a scene that broke through my reverie.  I watched a shaft of sunlight fall on the face of one of my sleeping children. His eyes were closed, long eyelashes laying against a cheek that has not lived long enough to know about the hope-sucking darkness. 

Yet. 

And I notice on that beautiful cheek not just the light but also a shadow . . . darkness falling into the light, life in relief.

Is that what he’s going to have to learn about life?  Light and darkness?  Contrast and opposing realities?  Light and dark?

Life in relief?

I’m afraid so. 

But, please, make the life in relief my children live a little softer than mine, would you? Gray, fuzzy edges instead of stark, cutting black lines?  Gradual transitions instead of large, intimidating musclemen breaking down doors? 

So that soft little cheek won’t have to bear so many tears?

Please?

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  • Holleyanne

    Those who see the shades of gray more than the black & white don’t know how blessed they are, do they?

    There is so much grace hidden in those grays, in seeing the light even as the darkness encroaches, that I would give anything to be able to see naturally.

    What for you is the wet-blanket “he”, for me is brain vs. mind. The chemical changes within my head vs whatever willpower I can muster. The sheer helplessness of feeling the brain make me ill as willpower abandons me.

    I’ve learned to cling to the friends I have who see the shades of gray best — those who see mostly light don’t come near enough my reality to understand, while those who also see the dark most clearly help me spiral further down. The greatest grace and blessing is in those who focus on the grays, who see the “this too shall past” beyond the current misery but understand that darkness enough to not discount it. My little handful of friends whom I love and trust enough that when they metaphorically shake me and say “it’s not THAT bad”, no matter how much it frustrates me, no matter how much I want to show them the black I see — an hour later, a day later, theirs is the voice sticking with me saying, “it’s really not THAT bad,” with a quiet voice following behind saying, “you trust this person, they know you, they know your life, listen” until I too can vaguely see the grays, feel that blanket lift at least a little.

    I know I received the blessing you ask for your children; no matter how black & white my world feels, it’s far more gray than the world my mother sees, but I still join in your prayer that any children I may have, and for that matter any children I know, may find a world of gradual grays. When I am in the light, I’m higher than most, but I’d live eternally in the grays if it would keep that pitch black at bay.

    Thank you for being willing to share, and to take the risk once again of revealing that the pastor isn’t perfect. I happen to think that a pastor who understands a world like the one I live in is far more appealing than one who lives in the ideals that aren’t yet our reality. Thank you for having the courage to be real.

  • Holleyanne

    Those who see the shades of gray more than the black & white don’t know how blessed they are, do they?

    There is so much grace hidden in those grays, in seeing the light even as the darkness encroaches, that I would give anything to be able to see naturally.

    What for you is the wet-blanket “he”, for me is brain vs. mind. The chemical changes within my head vs whatever willpower I can muster. The sheer helplessness of feeling the brain make me ill as willpower abandons me.

    I’ve learned to cling to the friends I have who see the shades of gray best — those who see mostly light don’t come near enough my reality to understand, while those who also see the dark most clearly help me spiral further down. The greatest grace and blessing is in those who focus on the grays, who see the “this too shall past” beyond the current misery but understand that darkness enough to not discount it. My little handful of friends whom I love and trust enough that when they metaphorically shake me and say “it’s not THAT bad”, no matter how much it frustrates me, no matter how much I want to show them the black I see — an hour later, a day later, theirs is the voice sticking with me saying, “it’s really not THAT bad,” with a quiet voice following behind saying, “you trust this person, they know you, they know your life, listen” until I too can vaguely see the grays, feel that blanket lift at least a little.

    I know I received the blessing you ask for your children; no matter how black & white my world feels, it’s far more gray than the world my mother sees, but I still join in your prayer that any children I may have, and for that matter any children I know, may find a world of gradual grays. When I am in the light, I’m higher than most, but I’d live eternally in the grays if it would keep that pitch black at bay.

    Thank you for being willing to share, and to take the risk once again of revealing that the pastor isn’t perfect. I happen to think that a pastor who understands a world like the one I live in is far more appealing than one who lives in the ideals that aren’t yet our reality. Thank you for having the courage to be real.

  • Hi

    Yes. Yes.When I find something down the road. We’ll just have to wait until the day to get here. Where I large question just borning away. Unable to get the answer.

    Today I started off nice quite. I did my job. It was a little slow coming to the holiday. Got two of the three finish. Saving the last for Friday on my day off or until the person I need to call get back to work. 3:00pm came an I was looking to work at the copy center. Then my coworker said I don’t have to work a the copy center you can go to your home office. I said why. He said that there something I my have trouble with if I work there.

    TROUBLE!!!! I can’t say in word. But trouble is close. TROUBLE. I work with the public for thirdteen years. There no trouble. I think some the trying to trip me. I contact my acting supervisor to get more info.

    But I have to wait until after Christmas. The hard thing is not knowing what going to happen. It like a huck draging throw me. I’ll forget until Friday night And pick it up day after Christmas. I hope it dues not mess up my holy holiday. I’ll keep on going but I will not like it until I get the answer.

    You’re Friend

    Will Short

  • Hi

    Yes. Yes.When I find something down the road. We’ll just have to wait until the day to get here. Where I large question just borning away. Unable to get the answer.

    Today I started off nice quite. I did my job. It was a little slow coming to the holiday. Got two of the three finish. Saving the last for Friday on my day off or until the person I need to call get back to work. 3:00pm came an I was looking to work at the copy center. Then my coworker said I don’t have to work a the copy center you can go to your home office. I said why. He said that there something I my have trouble with if I work there.

    TROUBLE!!!! I can’t say in word. But trouble is close. TROUBLE. I work with the public for thirdteen years. There no trouble. I think some the trying to trip me. I contact my acting supervisor to get more info.

    But I have to wait until after Christmas. The hard thing is not knowing what going to happen. It like a huck draging throw me. I’ll forget until Friday night And pick it up day after Christmas. I hope it dues not mess up my holy holiday. I’ll keep on going but I will not like it until I get the answer.

    You’re Friend

    Will Short

  • carol

    my woolen blanket squeezes a bit lower than the heart, in the pit of my stomach, which twists as soon as i wake up every morning with dread because i did something wrong the day before, or didn’t do enough, or didn’t do quite right. there’s lots and lots of pain out there in the world. yes, it’s exhausting.

  • carol

    my woolen blanket squeezes a bit lower than the heart, in the pit of my stomach, which twists as soon as i wake up every morning with dread because i did something wrong the day before, or didn’t do enough, or didn’t do quite right. there’s lots and lots of pain out there in the world. yes, it’s exhausting.

  • I know exactly what you mean. Thank you for sharing your heart so openly with us. Sometimes I wonder how differently my pilgrimage in the faith would have been if pastors and other spiritual leaders had been as open-hearted with me as you have been here. Thank you.

  • I know exactly what you mean. Thank you for sharing your heart so openly with us. Sometimes I wonder how differently my pilgrimage in the faith would have been if pastors and other spiritual leaders had been as open-hearted with me as you have been here. Thank you.

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