It was a winter day when I first remember Joe. Pretty sure I’d met him before, that’s just the day that comes to mind. The day I’d had enough of the darkness — was done trying to stay alive. The day I didn’t care anymore, gathered my 15 year old bulimic suicidal hair pulling self, boots and long black coat, and headed toward the freeway in hopes some crazy trucker would pick me up and I’d end up anywhere — I couldn’t kill myself, maybe somebody would help me out. Shaking with the self loathing of the thing, I stepped through heavy glass doors of the girls dorm out into the darkness of the evening. No one in sight, I hurried through campus winds toward the road. I don’t remember how it happened but there was a giant man coming toward me from the road — looked down so wouldn’t have to answer any questions as was pretty sure it was a teacher or staff of the school… he asked them anyway… “Young lady, where you going?” I don’t remember the rest. I’m sure I was tongue tied — tears, I don’t know. Never was any good at lying. All I know is that Joe took me across the street to his house to spend the night with his family. Remember nothing of that night except that I slept in sleeping bag on carpeted floor of their library just off living room. Remember being taken to counseling a few days later. Remember getting a job at the library that his wife Donna ran. After that night, I was always welcome in their home.
So many memories. Reading Pat McManus books in their living room. All of us laughing till our sides hurt. Joe rattling off math facts, hoping I’d pick up a few facts myself. Sorry, Joe, the math facts never stuck. Donna talking me into doing aerobics with her and a bunch of old ladies — (they were all in their 20’s and 30’s:) Donna inviting me to help her linseed oil their getaway cabin in mystic land of wilderness. The hours out in Joe’s automotive shop, hanging there when I had nowhere else to go. When the money ran out for me to stay at the school, having to call a dozen or so strangers — ‘Can you sponsor me to stay at Mount Ellis’ I wanted the floor to swallow me up, but then Joe said, come on, you can do this. And so I did. I got all the support I needed to keep going. I remember the stress of an audition for choir. Out in shop, Joe would tell me to try it. In the library Donna would tell me I would do fine. I did. Would hear me sing the song during choir tour — he drove bus, they would always tell me I did great.
Joe — the bus driver. He was the Abominable Snowman. Snow was not a problem to him. It was a challenge, kind of the way he took on the rest of life. Once the windshield wipers broke while we were barreling down the road. (I would stand up front as I’d get very nauseated back of bus.) Since I was up there anyway, he asked me to pull a level back and forth that he’d rigged up — keeping the glass clear so he could keep schedule and get another busload of kids to the next concert.
Joe was gruff and large and bearded and dark eyed. Not a guy I’d ever feel comfortable around… except that under the gruff was a guy who cared. A human being. And besides, Joe had his exact opposite, a wife who was as approachable as a meadow of happy flowers. She invited me to help her paint her brick brown fireplace all lovely white. Our work produced a fine looking makeover. I helped her wallpaper, do housework, organize library cards. She taught me things, and also shared hard things in her life. Told me about the day she and Joe, her boys and two of their friends went camping. About the tree that came down middle of night — right through the little boys tent. Her boys lived. The two brothers in the middle didn’t. How the other family lost all their children at one gust of surly wind. Tree that robbed them all of the feeling that life is safe.
Tree did it again, a number of years ago, when it hurt Joe bad, in the back. And this week, tree took Joe away. Joe, the rough-round-the-edges, who cared deeply.
Joe, Donna’s life.
Joe, Dad to three kids.
Joe, Grandpa of more.
The guy who helped random kids find better footing –
sent them out for catching strays
in world of surly wind and hopelessness.
Too many kids to count.
And that, no tree can take.
Thanks Jaunathan Gagnon, for the photo.
The way we treat our bodies in this culture is the way a Narcissist treats everyone. Like something to use. Narcissistic people are motivated by one thing. Will this benefit me?
Let’s say I’m a Narc and I’m deciding whether I should say hello to you or not. The thought process is simple.
Will talking to you benefit me?
Will talking to you make me look better?
Will talking to you give me more power, or make me look smarter?
Will taking my time with you give me an edge in any way?
Of course there are spiritualized versions of this.
Will talking to you be worthy of my time? My time really belongs to God, and after all, you didn’t listen the last time I told you what to do.
When relationally oriented (non-narc) types makes a decision, ‘Will this benefit me?’ is one of the considerations, but it is generally only one of many. What primarily motivates a relationally oriented person is, you guessed it – relationship. Relationship to ourselves, to others and the world around us, which leads us to ask different questions.
Will talking to you make us both grow in our understanding of an idea?
Will talking to you make me late, which might harm another relationship?
Will talking to you honor you, honor myself, and honor God?
Will talking to you give you the feeling of belonging?
Now consider the way we treat our bodies. Very fickle, and Narc-like, I say. Body sometimes offers something that benefits me. There have been times Body has been strong, and brown, cute, and just the right and shape and size for fitting into a nice pair of jeans. There are times Body has made me look beautiful, brought me a bit of power, and given me advantages. These are the times I’ve treated Body nice. I’ve regarded it. I’ve rested it. I’ve attended to it’s needs, dress it up, stretched it and ran tracks and stairs and mountain trails with it, all friendly like.
And then something happens. Body breaks. It can’t do what it once did. Just looking at Body makes me sick. The swollen face, thinning hair, pasty and hunched. Body that doesn’t benefit me the way I’ve wanted it to. In fact it’s an embarrassment. Total rejection and repulsion is what I feel toward a body that once benefitted me.
Such narcissism. Such objectification. What if I treated my body relationally? What if I sought to let my body know it’s value? What if I attempted to receive the kindness my not perfect body has attempted to extend to me day after day? Might I learn to speak blessings to my body? Wouldn’t Body feel more beautiful if I made an attempt to welcome its presence? Would the things I think and say to myself allow me to be more comfortable in my own skin?
Some confuse narcissism as obsession with self rather than what it actually is, an obsession with a fantasy of self. Because the true self is made up of a real human being. A human whose body sometimes gives and sometimes needs to be given to. Using another for my benefit is a terribly ugly thing. So is using my own body, and distancing myself from it when it can’t be for me what I expect. Body has value – it’s value stands alone despite not always being what I’ve wanted. It’s time I treat it that way.
This past couple years disrespect of women has become more public than in the recent past.
The Stanford Rape Case – girl gets left like garbage out on on the ground and swim jock rapist get community service.
Bill Cosby – 60 women destroyed and he calling it “casual sex”, admits to using sedative hypnotic methaqualone with the women – admits knowing that giving it to another person is illegal, but won’t call it rape.
Mark Driscoll the lead pastor of Mars Hill is off’d his mountaintop for a variety of reasons – I’m sure his graphic sexualized prophecies and hyper-fixation on teaching women in the church to provide certain kinds of sex to headship husband lest they neglect their Christian wifely duty have added to the list of reasons why.
Seventh day Adventist Church: Women’s Ordination.
Donald Trump. Lets see, strip clubs, objectifying his own daughter. Filth spoken to his buddies long ago, (‘We all do it’, quip the supporters. No, many of us have never had thoughts like the words that came out of his mouth, or ever heard such words. And needed a shower after hearing such words. No, we don’t all act like that and talk like that.). Reports that he raped a 13 year old girl (read the reports. Yes she dropped charges after her life was threatened. This was a group effort, the other man accused, Jeffrey Epstein, Trumps buddy, is a registered sex offender and payed the girl off for his part.)
This is the year it became impossible to talk about the happenings in the news round the dinner table. The year we couldn’t have our kids involved in the election process as it became X-rated and revolting. The year an old family entertainer we all love and who made us laugh was found to be too violent and grotesque in his secret life to be funny at all anymore.
Today I ran across a short little video about a single Dad who started classes in his community to teach other Dad’s how to do their daughter’s hair. This Dad says knowing how to care for his daughter’s hair became one of the challenges for him and as he figured out what to do, he decided to share what he learned with other Dads. Thirty-four classes later and 800 plus guys through the program, he reminds the guys it’s not a gender thing “Even a messy braid is still time spent together. It’s not about the braid, it’s about the bond”.
I ran across a story about a woman who went to her husband’s work because he had been working late. She found him sound asleep in his chair, feet up on desk, holding a little two year old on his chest. This man works for Child and Family Services, the baby had been taken, and was between placements. A big kind-hearted guy sound asleep on duty, helping the little one during this terribly painful time of transition.
There are the abusers. The selfish. The toxic and manipulative. Liars and users. There are monsters. The types who say words with a smile, but words that cut holes in the souls of those around them. There are people all about power over. There are small types who have to talk filth to feel big. Small ones who drive giant trucks, suck up gas and burn tires to prove how important they are. The people who do not care the scars they carve into those who trust them.
And then there are the others. Not perfect, and still day after day he goes to work, brings home all that he has been earned, rarely uses money just for himself. The guy who grocery shops. He cooks. The one who still tell bedtime stories, he doesn’t do it all just right, but cares deeply for the people in his life. The guy who doesn’t spend his life angry because he is hamstrung by the old lady and a couple-a snot nosed dependents. No, a guy who loves and adores his wife, still finds her hot despite the way they’ve both aged… the marks grooved deep into her being, stretched lines telling a story about their love and their love babies. A guy who doesn’t want the plastic of porn. It’s his wife he desires. Not just her body, but her friendship.
This year I hope to collect stories of respect given by men to women and women to men. Men and women to children. Not tales about why it’s so important for women to respect men and why women don’t need respect but love. The church has contributed to the abuse by ideas that we have propagated. The Bible is crammed packed with why respect and love are important for all. Male headship, leading and following. Balderdash. He who is greatest must be servant of all. Jesus, God himself, says he calls us FRIENDS. Men and women are all in this together, we either all contribute to love or to destruction. We all need each other. I am collecting stories of mutual care and love given between equals. Help me collect the stories. I look forward to each one.
P.S. Happy Birthday Adored Husband. Thank you for the little ways you remind me every day that not all guys are like the horrific males who make the news. The kids and I are blessed.
I had a doctor once, slight of stature, brown kind eyes, practical wash and wear hair, nothing fancy about her, and the one who sifted through mountains of charts – two separate charts belonging to one giant medical system. One chart spelled with an “e”, the other spelled correctly without. Both charts mine – and she found them. Bent over her desk. Diligent she was.
Discovered, out of dozens of notes that I have 2 MTHFR gene mutations. This information was not found where one might expect. She found it anyway, because she worked on my case. From this information she realized I must not take Tamoxifen, a medicine used for breast cancer patients who are found to be estrogen positive. A medicine that can cause a stroke for those with my gene mutation. She suggested I not take it. Diligent hunt. Diligent follow-through.
I had 6 miscarriages before the gene mutation was looked for and identified.
The gene mutation that caused the miscarriages.
A number of doctors did not check, though they knew my history.
Brown kind eyes he had, too.
And Butterfly was born perfect and alive.
“Miscarriages are not unusual.
They are nature’s way of discarding what is flawed”
say lazy doctors everywhere,
brown and blue eyed alike.
Those doctors who do not see the value in learning the cause of a problem
before using one-liner’s to shush up the likes of me.
My PCP, always respectful of me, when I mentioned how heavy my sheets felt on my neck at night while laying on my back, immediately stepped out of the tiny examining room, hurried down the hall and ordered an ultrasound. There it was, thyroid cancer. My endocrinologist who hand checked my neck each and every visit paid no attention when I told him the same story. One doctor listened. On doctor didn’t. Taking little stock in what the person that lives inside the body might know about herself.
After the thyroid cancer diagnosis, my husband and I asked my oncologist if thyroid cancer might have been related to the breast cancer I had months before. She said “no”. The next visit, the same oncologist brought in research showing us she had been wrong. Said that it very well might have been related.
She didn’t have to tell.
Didn’t have to admit she had been wrong.
There are doctors who are sloppy, lazy, don’t read the fine print.
Make mistakes because they don’t listen,
And then there are the doctor’s who do.
Thank God for the gene testing doctor’s of the world.
Doctor’s who don’t take it upon themselves to social engineer other people’s lives.
Doctor’s who don’t minimize another person’s need when it causes them inconvenience.
For doctor’s that hunt and read and listen.
The doctor’s who set aside ego, and act accordingly.
I am alive because of some good ‘work hard for another’s sake’ sort-of doctor’s.
a mix of them all.
Each of these good doctors have more in common with each other than language and country of origin. Hard-working kindness is a culture of it’s own. A race of kind hearts, and kind eyes.
I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Sitting in church, I’m pretty sure I got a point that wasn’t meant to be the main one. The sermon was an overview of the book of Nehemiah, and the dung gate was mentioned. Names were listed of people who’d helped rebuild the wall, and the guy who worked on the dung gate was noted. I had an ADHD moment (well, hour or so) and the bit of random information sent me on a long exhaustive examination on the topic.
Today I thought about extreme fumes, and what it all means. The kind that burns eyes and makes them run. Like the time I had an hour long interview with a patient who literally lives in bed most of his life, such depression he had not bathed in over a year. Flat and colorless, except for a hint of blue eyes, skin breakdown, soul breakdown. Sweating profusely, his agoraphobia made the interview terrifying for him. Much of the time he saw no one for months but the familiar mother he lives with. His story is slow in coming, as he fight his nerves. His depression has nearly defeated him. So many attempts at shock treatment, medication, more medication, hospitalizations, attempted suicides, of course a long history of loss and abuse early on, and a lifetime of trying to survive inside the catacomb of depression. I remember the challenge staying in the room and completing the interview. My eyes ran, the tissue I had stepped out to get when fumes hit, now soaked as I tried to prevent him from seeing that I was reacting to the powerful odor coming from his terribly sick body. As soon as the interview was over, I tried not to rush from the room in escape, but know I was feeling that way.
I’m thinking of the frail old lady brought in by Aid Car, at request of police, found in house, laying on floor, herself and carpet covered in human feces, broken wine bottles, rotting food and cat messes throughout. The broken down skin, malnutritioned, demented. The concerned Officer tells me of the squalor she lives in. Begging me in so many words to find a way to get this lady placed where she will be cared for, as so many loopholes could make it easy for us to send her back and just make the referral call required to make, and leave it at that.
The drunks that come in, covered in sickness from too much alcohol intake. The suicidal patients matted hair and hung over, that have had to use the charcoal, dried around mouth, down chin, it blackens the teeth, ashamed and trying to tell me how they got to this place.
This sounds crazy, I know, but stench is holy. It is the place from which most clearly the dignity and value of a person is seen. A place from which God is magnified. The same with darkness. I like to use black to matte my color pictures. Darkness intensifies color and beauty when it surrounds it. The polished, bathed, made over; they took the time and effort to clean themselves up. They deserve the clout they receive. When absolutely nothing can cover the shame and disgust of an individual, and still, the dignity and value of that person is there, that is Jesus in the room, and I am talking to his child.
I have never been in a third world country, but have heard the smells can overwhelm those of us sheltered and fancy. I wonder how many of us say “no thanks” to Gods Call to missions and ministry and people care because of our inability to tolerate filth.
As a mom, I have always hoped for my kids to grow up and one day become a teacher or doctor, engineer or lawyer. Never have I encouraged them to become a garbage man, run a septic company, or manage waste of any kind. Our son is working as a nurse’s aid in a memory care unit. Yes, it involves cleaning up filth, even the bodies of patients he’d become fond of and cared so carefully for, before they passed. These are hideous jobs, and yet, they are holy tasks. He is studying to be an engineer, and yes, I know that is a calling as well, but I will never be as proud of him as I am now, doing the hardest task of his life, caring and loving for confused, difficult, fragile and needy patients. Cleaning up messes no one even wants to think of.
God bless the man who rebuilt the Dung Gate. And now the service is over. I’m on my way to a day of fun and friends and living large. And I ask myself, am I up to the task of holiness today? I hope so.