20 June 2008

Through A Screen, Darkly

I'm sitting in a chair... in a circle of chairs... on a beige linoleum floor... in a church basement.

The woman to my left is talking, with profound satisfaction, about her collection.

She collects other women's husbands, for the sheer pleasure of soiling their marriages, for no other reason than that... because she can.

It is assumed that she does this because she thinks poorly of herself, and because nobody has ever loved her enough.

It is assumed that, if everyone in the room just loves her enough, for long enough, she'll just stop doing this all by herself, effortlessly, in one inspired instant, without even wrinkling her brow, without even breaking a sweat, cold or otherwise.

Interestingly, nothing is said about any children these men might have, or the possible impact on them. Nothing is said about the wives, except that any woman who is fool enough to marry deserves to find out just what a fool she is.

Even more interestingly, when one woman does speak tentatively of the impact this behavior has on the wives and children, she is...not exactly shouted down, but most definitely silenced. We must not be negative, she is told. We must not be critical. We must not be judgemental. We must be loving. We must be kind. I form, unbidden, a mental image of this woman being suffocated by pink pillows.

Then I replay, in my memory, the vicious gloating just past, and can find nothing loving or kind within a lightyear of it. I begin to wonder, too, if the lady would be quite so devoted to her hobby if we weren't here, on the beige linoleum, for her to boast to.

A much younger woman is talking now. About the current man in her life, who, it devolves, drinks - and drugs - and cheats. On her. [With my neighbor to the left? I wonder.]

So she did something to get back at him. She vandalized his car.

Ten months ago, the previous man in her life treated her similarly; she broke all the windows in his apartment.

A year before that... the man before that... came home to find his business suits a smoldering heap in the bathtub.

This young lady has quite a rap sheet, at this point. Yet she has no difficulty finding new men... who will drink, take drugs, and cheat on her.

She comes here, confesses, and cries. And goes away, and does it all again. And comes back, confesses, and cries...

And nobody dares question her actions, nobody dares to say "self-destructive" or "impulse control" or "repetition compulsion". We must be gentle, and loving, and kind, for if we just do all these things perfectly, she will be miraculously healed.

I am speaking. I speak of the grief of losing my loved ones, one after another, to horrible, degenerative illnesses; the lack of support or respite services for primary caregivers, the utter, unremitting exhaustion of balancing the demands of terminal care with full time employment, and the ghastly guilt I feel when I realize, as I walk from the graveside for the third and final time, that I might, possibly, sleep through the night for the first time in five years.

I speak of the sickening hollowness of realizing that, because I have spent every moment of free time tending dying loved ones for half a decade, I have co-workers but no colleagues, fellow worshippers but no fellowship, and not another soul on the planet now cares if I live or die.

I speak of exogenous depression, of feeling as though all the light has gone out of the world at the same time that my 'burdens' were lifted, because I loved those 'burdens' despite the exhaustion, and it utterly destroys me, still, that all the love I had, body, mind, and soul, was not enough to save, not enough to make them well again.

I am amazed at the indifference with which this is received. The veiled hostility. The implication that I've come here seeking sympathy, from unhealthy motives, for unethical purposes.

When we break for coffee, I step out of the room, and I don't return.

Much later, I realize. I did not have the 'right' kind of problem. My loved ones became ill, and dwindled, and died. There was a beginning, a middle, an end to their pain. My loss will be lifelong, but it will, eventually, become manageable. And that, by the grace of God, overwhelms for a season, but does not enmesh... so I wouldn't be sitting, year after year, on the beige linoleum.

I did not belong. This was not a Healing Circle. It was only a Circle, and a circle has no end.


Blogger Katherine Gunn said...


What a picture of the superficial self-serving 'help' offered by so many churches. (Not all, I know, but I have yet to find one that has the guts to tackle the real issues.)

Hmm... the pain of rejection by the church when asking for help is one of the worst there is, I think.


21 June, 2008 03:21  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Katherine, I agree completely.

Thank God, the events in this post happened a long time ago - but they left a lasting impression. I've condensed the story into a single episode, but it unfolded over a period of several weeks.

I now see this as a prime example of both 'pseudorecovery' and 'addiction to the cure'. The group dynamic, throughout the time I was there, was entirely about enabling and denial, packaged and sold as "love" and "acceptance".

To me, the most ironic aspect at the time was that this group had been highly recommended to me by a pastoral counselor at the church in question. I did go back and gently probe a bit, after this experience, and discovered that the person who referred me there had never actually been there himself...

... that happens frequently, I think.

Hugs right back,


21 June, 2008 17:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Through your terrible pain and loss has emerged a wisdom and light which has been invaluable to me and my family. We will never be able to give you back what you lost, but please receive our thanks and love for all of the great comfort you have offered us.


23 June, 2008 20:42  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Meg, you might be amazed to discover just exactly what you have given me, just now.

As I read your words, and heard the love in them, I was suddenly given a very tender memory from a much earlier time in my life. Words to a cherished song, unheard now for years. And those words have an entirely new meaning for me today.

When I hear them now, they sound like a hymn of promise, an expression of faith in God's goodness. Hear them with me, and imagine that these words are addressed to God:

"It's not the way that you say it
When you do those things to me
It's more the way that you mean it
When you tell me what will be

And when you stop and think about it
You won't believe it's true
That all the love you've been giving
Has all been meant for you

I'm looking for someone to change my life
I'm looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it's done to me
To lose the the love I knew
Could safely lead me through

Between the silence of the mountains
And the crashing of the sea
There lies a land I once lived in
And he's waiting there for me.

But in the grey of the morning
My mind becomes confused
Between the dead and the sleeping
And the road that I must choose

I'm looking for someone to change my life
I'm looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it's done to me
To lose the the love I knew
Could safely lead me to
The land that I once knew
To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our souls

It's not the way that you say it
When you do those things to me
It's more the way you really mean it
When you tell me what will be...."

Nothing good is ever truly lost. I live, and feel, and think, and see, and wait, and trust. Because... between the silence of the mountains and the crashing of the sea, there lies a land I will live in... and they're waiting there for me.

Thank you for a gift of praise and wonder, Meg. Thank you for opening this memory from my heart and making it a blessing to me again, in an entirely new way.

God bless you.

[The words are from the Moody Blues... their title tune on the album, "A Question of Balance".]

23 June, 2008 21:06  

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