Archive | December, 2012

The Politics of Loss

27 Dec

The Washington Post had an article today about psychiatrists with ties to drug companies now pushing for the use of anti-depressants for grief. Historically, clinical depression has been looked at as different from the natural grieving process. It has been thought of as normative to feel sad after the death of a loved one or other related loss. Thus, anti-depressants were only prescribed if mourning eventually turned into a clinical depression. But with this shift in perspective (that very well may be financially motivated), the grieving process is being thought of as yet one more thing that needs a pill and instantaneous fix. If after two months a person isn’t feeling better, better prescribe a med.

While medications at times have great value and may provide enough symptom relief to help cope with and process grief, no pill is going to take away the hurt of the human heart. And nothing can rush the healing of deep wounds either. In fact, some wounds never truly heal. We simply learn to manage the symptoms of loss and to suit up and show up despite a heavy heart.

In the old days when someone died, people went into mourning for an entire year. Now we get three days bereavement from our company employer and are told we should be “over it” within a few weeks. Tell that to someone who was married for forty years and just lost her spouse. Tell that to someone who had an abusive childhood. Tell that to someone whose child was just killed in a gun massacre.

I think our culture is the one that is ill.

I Played My Drum for You…

19 Dec

The other day I was involved in a Christmas concert. It was quite the whoop-dee-do. I had no idea. I have only been attending my current church for a little over a year now and last Christmas, I was out of town so went to services elsewhere.

This production was the whole nine yards. Choir, orchestra, classical soloists in evening gowns and tuxedos. There was a bell choir and a children’s choir and an adult choir. Bach’s “Magnificat” and Handel’s “Alleluia Chorus” were performed and the audience sang carols too. And for aesthetics the sanctuary was decorated with little white lights, poinsettias and candles.

I can’t sing to save my life. I will never be in any kind of choir and heaven help any congregation that would have to listen to me sing. However, I geek out on words. I love how they sound, paint images, trigger emotion and evoke meaning. The spoken word is my thing.

I was asked to read Luke 2:8-10. It was only three little lines. But it was my contribution. It was my gift to the King. And saying them felt like my life depended on it – for you see, I bring good news of great joy to all the people!

A beautiful modern rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” was performed right before my little segment of the program. The song was my cue to exit the sanctuary and to enter through the back. I was to sit in the pastor’s seat behind the pulpit until it was my turn to step up to the microphone. The place was packed – for both performances. As the music crescendoed and the soloists’ voices climaxed, my heart started to beat like the little drummer boy’s drum. I almost felt sick to my stomach. Why? I do public speaking all the time in various forms. And yet I felt terrified for I had no true gift for the Lord. So I played my drum. I spoke my three little lines of scripture from the deepest place in my heart. And afterwards, I looked around me – at the musicians and choir people and readers and pastor and audience and I saw a complete ensemble. We had all come before the manger. We were all doing our little bit as a living breathing sacrifice to the Lord.

And it was beautiful.

The Tipping Point

15 Dec

Here is a tragic irony. On Wednesday, in response to the Oregon mall shooting, I posted on my FB page: “Seriously. When will the gun violence in this country abate? I know humans pull the triggers but still. Assault weapons? Seriously. We should be ashamed. I am. Life is not a &*^% Hollywood action film.” Two days later, news breaks out that a gunman opened fire in a Connecticut school massacring twenty-seven people, twenty of whom where children under the age of ten.

As someone who has invested well over twenty years of my personal and professional life to exploring the ramifications of trauma, I know a thing or two about the subject. And trauma is indeed personal and political. It makes no difference whether we’re talking about war, sexual abuse, rape, gun violence, human trafficking, or even natural disasters. The underlying causes and/or responses to events, whether on the individual or collective level, are deeply intertwined.

It has taken a long time for the public to become outraged over gun violence. But perhaps we’re at a tipping point. I certainly hope so. Because ultimately we collude with violence when we sit back passively wringing our hands saying, “People will always be evil.”

As commentary started flying yesterday, a faction on the internet condescendingly rebuked those expressing feelings about the event because – well, shit happens everyday. “Why be so upset over this but not give a fuck about other injustices happening all around the world?” I also saw patronizing statements in response to posts about gun control. “Today is not the day. We need to respect the victims and allow them to grieve. It’s not time to push your political agenda. Show more tact and sensitivity.” I noticed cool disdain towards those expressing righteous indignation, which of course was labeled as “reactive, emotional and not based in reason.” So tell me, is there anything reasonable about trauma – whatever the horror – be it a shooting or otherwise? Trauma does evoke an emotional response even if that response is numbness. It is after all – TRAUMA. Finally, there were the comments inferring that gun violence only occurs at the hands of those mentally ill. But here’s a little factoid folks. Statistically, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crimes vs. perpetrators of ones.

I know that gun control alone will not prevent random (or not so random) acts of violence. There are complex sociological issues at play that need to be addressed just as fervently as gun control. I also know that humans pull the triggers. That guns themselves don’t spontaneously ejaculate.

But people, let’s stop making excuses for our moral laziness. All movements for the well being of society require courage, action, intelligence, legislation, and a deep commitment to a higher vision for all.

Through Mary’s Eyes

3 Dec

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What I didn’t expect while playing Mary for an afternoon was how children would respond to me. I knew they would come up and talk to my character, but I didn’t realize they would actually think I was her. Okay. I wasn’t totally clueless. I know children have a strong willing suspension of disbelief, but nonetheless it still took me by surprise when one little girl spontaneously hugged me and many little ones reached out to touch the infant in my arms. Seeing the sheer awe in their faces made me think of the real Jesus saying, “For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”

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I could have stayed with the children all day and I saw how the baby in my arms was such a magnet for them. Was this what it was like for Mary? Did she know that her son was going to draw people in like this? As I interacted with the children I was deeply touched, but what I perceived on a deeper level was the world’s profound need for light. Watching cars go by and older kids caught up in decorating sugar cookies, I recognized our materialistic madness and disconnectedness juxtaposed with a quiet night long ago in Bethlehem when a star shone in the sky and deep peace descended upon the earth. I look to the sky.

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We talk about Mary most likely being overcome with fear and awe at the task that lay ahead of her. Perhaps she experienced these feelings initially, but I think once she was with child, a light guided her path. For today I was in a funk. I didn’t feel like suiting up and spending most of my day at church. Yet as soon as I arrived, I took on the role. My steps were light as I heard the familiar call, “Come, follow me.”

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