These days restlessness and dissatisfaction seem to stalk me. To be honest, I haven't dealt with it very well. I am all too familiar with the very real difference between being made miserable and making myself miserable. Lately, it's been the latter. In some ways, this is worse misery than that which emanates from external sources. Hopefully, I write this without self-pity but it seems during times like these I am built for unhappiness.
Life really isn't enjoyable when I feel impatient and irritable. I want to be left alone but that seems to make things worse, meaning I don't really want to be left alone. I am feeling better today than I have for a while. Good enough to type the two paragraphs above. I feel good enough to express gratitude to two wonderful women who persist with me in dark times and help me through dark times, shining light in the darkness.
The first of these two is my wife, who not only experiences me at my worst first-hand but who, frankly, bears the brunt of it. I was tempted to add "of course" after the word "two" in the previous sentence. In thinking about it that would be to take her for granted. There are a lot of people, perhaps most, who wouldn't or couldn't hang in there with me when things get bad. Not only does she stick with me, but she does it with patience and grace while doing a good job of setting her own boundaries.
The second person is a friend I've known for decades but with whom I'd lost touch until about 11 years ago. It amazes me that there are people who've experienced my low ebbs and still love me anyway. Because of her own experiences, she's able to be empathetic. An important aspect of the support of these wonderful people is they don't simply indulge me. Indulgence is not support. Support requires threading a needle. It takes enough care to engage with the required patience.
A third thing was listening to a two-part Encountering Silence podcast featuring Pastor (Dr.) Sarah Griffith Lund. Pastor Sarah, who was a guest on the same podcast last year, is someone who manages to speak to me right where I'm at (for the first part of the podcast click here). Her book Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and Marriage is going to be the first of my Lenten books this year.
To bring these together, one of the things Pastor Sarah is adamant about is that for those of us who suffer, you can't make it alone. I know this. Again, if it weren't for the love and support I receive I simply wouldn't be here. It's really as simple as that.
A fourth thing is that I am nearing the end of Brother David Steindl-Rast's Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer. This is a book, like John O'Donohue's Anam Cara, I will read again. His chapters on faith, hope, and love are magnificent. One of the main themes of O'Donohue's writing is our deep need to belong. In his chapter on love, Steindl-Rast covers this territory as well.
Brother David's chapter on love is called "Love: A 'Yes' to Belonging." For those who share struggles similar to mine, it's not always easy to say yes to belonging. Sometimes I don't want to belong or maybe it's just that I find very difficult to belong. Mental health is important, too. Don't neglect it.
I can't think of a better traditio for today than the title track off Leonard Cohen's final album: You Want It Darker.