Sunday, August 31, 2014

One Shade of Gray

For the last four or five years I've walked in a dark grey fog. It was not the deep, black hole I had been spiraling into since my teen years that Prozac lifted me out of twenty years ago. It has been more an obscuring, dank, and oppressive mist that had no substance enough to grasp on to and wrestle with.  I know the difference between despondency and despair.  Joylessness is not suicidal, it is just, well, joyless with glimpses of diffused light out of the corner of your eye.

I knew my way well enough around my landscape: church, family, children, work, public image, to sleepwalk for the most part without falling off the edge, hitting the brick wall or doing irreparable damage to myself or others (that I know of). I lived by the braille of non-debilitating depression: memory, habit and behind the protection of a well rehearsed and finely crafted facade.

Self-medication, avoidance, abbreviated encounters, non-engagement, silence, superficial connections, false conversations, diversionary quips, misleading humor, inscrutability, all are the commerce of despondency. They became my repertoire for muddling through a day, and the next day and the next years. The consequences of choosing one over the other were irrelevant, they all worked for muddling. It drives one to desire death but does not provide the guts to die.

So the fog is slowly dissipating these days. The light breaks through, I see the outline of the sun through the heavy mist. In the shadows cast I see the prints of footsteps past and, though they are few, they are going, for the most part, in one direction.

These days, avoidance is not the first and visceral reaction but a calculated one. There is substance and purpose to conversations and encounters when chosen. Oblivion is not the preferred state, though it is still medicinal after purposefully entering the arena.

It is good to see the contours of life emerging from the murky shadows once again.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

On Turning 62

62 is the "18" of late life. At 18 you aren't 21 yet when all the REALLY big privileges kick in, but there were some new horizons. At 18 I could vote, buy cigarettes and Playboy at Circle K, but not beer, and adults regarded me as one of them, kind of. At 62, I could retire and start cashing in retirement accounts penalty free (if I had any...), eat off the senior menus at most restaurants, but 65 is still the magic age. And, kids call me "sir".

In between 18 and 62, on the round numbered birthdays, 30, 40, 50, there is something that shifts existentially and the demons we faced in the previous decade tag out and new ones enter the arena of the coming years. Over the years our aspirations slowly align more with our fragile mortality and true gifts. The tsunami of regrets begin pounding our shore from our ill conceived or unintentional seismic shifts in life from the distant past. Death looms ever larger, the abyss of darkness casts a light into the deep caverns of our soul and reveals all the unthinkable, unchangeable, inevitable, and unspeakable things we were able to avoid and ignore because of the reality-debilitating delusions of youth. If we continue much past 40 to cling to youthfulness and immortality we will be a caricature badly drawn, and fools by fifty.

Looking back at 30, 40, 50, and in the early years of 60-something, I can say without pride that I have fought the good fight, I have kept my faith. The "good fight" was not always fair, nor was it always pretty. I was knocked down, punch drunk, hit below the belt, sucker punched a few times and laid on the mat for a nine count a few times. I still have a few rounds to go. At this point in life, I have no illusions that the fight becomes easier. If anything it has gotten harder because I am nearly exhausted. The early rounds were full of fresh strength and confidence. These final rounds are about endurance and just plain being still standing when the bell rings. 

"Faith" is now more like real faith than a crafted, reasoned resignation to its metaphysical, philosophical, and emotional alternatives. I am content to believe "just because" rather than "believe because". I don't need to justify my heart's compass to anyone.  There is a fine line between a fool and a saint. I've been a fool for things far less worthy than sainthood and sacrificed more for my selfishness and ego than for God. I've been off the path, but my compass still points me to the way I've chosen to walk.

My children and grandchildren (most of them) will be at our house for my birthday tonight. We spent the earlier part of this week with some of the others on a family vacation. All of them will all be here in spirit. I know I am very blessed to love and be loved by my children, step-children, and grandchildren. All of them have reasons to despise me if they were so inclined, so I know their love and respect is a gift.

This morning as I fixed my coffee and peanut butter toast in the house I raised my children in, that I share with my beloved as our years spin out their final pages, I was overwhelmed with a sense of contentment with my life.

I've read this Psalm for over 40 years. I have heard it with the hearing of the ear, today I have heard it with my heart.

When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,
Your children like olive plants around your table.
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.…
Psalm 128:3,4