Fighting Insecurity

When Whitney Houston died, it was revealed that, as talented as she was, she didn’t feel like she was “enough.”

I know that feeling.

How in the world does it happen that people who are so deeply and richly talented, live in the grip of insecurity? Where in the world does that come from?

Let me be a tad personal here.  I’m smart. I’ve gone to the best schools. I’ve done some good work in my life, and yet, I have been my own worst enemy. I have held myself back. I will not and have not advocated for myself. I have felt “less than” so many people, and have been afraid to move forward and up into what I have been sent to this world to do. I am shy to a fault.

Where does that come from? 

It is exasperating to see people I know moving forward, and see myself sitting still. It is maddening to see people use opportunities to their benefit, while others, like me, let them pass by because of this dratted feeling of not being “enough.” And it is scary to think that I might leave this earth without pushing through this wall.

I would bet that my mother, long deceased, and who said that being depressed is selfish, would say that being insecure is selfish, too.  Is it?

I am better than I was …but I’m not good enough, I mean, not strong enough, yet. I am still behind the wall of insecurity.  Every day, I say, “OK, God gave me one more day…” and I move a little. But I need to move A LOT!

I am fighting for my life. The wall of insecurity is a killer, as deadly as any illness of the body. Insecurity is an illness of the spirit, and it is an illness I would like to disappear. I wish there was an easy way to get out of it. There is not. You simply have to recognize it, face it, stare it down …and push through.

I don’t normally write really personal stuff on this blog, but this is a battle that I think I need to put out on Front Street so that it can be cast into the sea and be gone forever.

A candid…and very personal … observation …

 

 

Mental Illness and Our Fear of It

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the latest mass shooting in this nation at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. has come the usual spate of debates about gun control and the reasons these mass shootings continue to occur. Frankly, the discussion over gun control, whether or not to have it or to make people get background checks, is annoying. It is clear that in terms of policy this nation’s lawmakers are deeply divided. Gun control and background checks are seen by far too many as just another intrusion of government into the private lives and affairs of American citizens. There exists this absolutely maddening opinion that more guns, not fewer, are the answer to mass shootings.

In the debate, however, mental illness continually comes up as a root cause for the mass shootings. After Sandy Hook, there was extended discussion about it, and today, revelations about the mental health of Aaron Alexis are steadily coming to light.  That Alexis was mentally ill is clear. What is also clear is that American society is sorely inept at dealing with it.

I heard a TED talk where the presenter said something that is a no-brainer:  if we diagnosed and treated mental illnesses early on, we would have less severe mental illness in people overall. He used as a comparison point that in all diseases where diagnosis and treatment begins early, the seriousness of those diseases diminishes and in some cases, the given illness can disappear altogether.

Not so with mental illness. It seems that we are deathly afraid of it. Children who have mental illness are too often labeled as “bad” or behavior problems, and kind of banned to the fringes of society.  These sick children grow into sick adults, who now also carry a fair amount of anger and resentment over how they have been treated due to their illness. And …they grow up believing they are deficient and bad and not worthy of a good life. That cannot be good for any psyche, much less for a psyche made tender by mental illness.

People do not want to admit that they are mentally ill because of the stigma, and in hospital waiting rooms, I am told they are often totally disrespected while they wait for treatment. A young woman shared with me that she was having a crisis and went to an emergency room. She was relegated to a chair in the waiting room, and later, to a gurney in the emergency room. She sat in that waiting room for 23 hours, without seeing a doctor all that time. While she was there, nurses, she said, hollered to her from nurses’ stations: “Are you suicidal? Are you having hallucinations? Are you hearing voices?” This young woman felt humiliated, disrespected, and angry. People began to look at her with fear in their eyes, she said.  It was like I was a nothing, a nobody, she said, just because I have a mental illness.

WIth that kind of treatment, it is no wonder people do not talk about it, and do not get treated.  I was prescribed Cymbalta to be taken because the drug does something to treat a condition I have called neurocardiogenic syncope. That’s a fancy way of saying I get dizzy, and the Cymbalta, taken with another drug, helps control it. When I listed my drugs on an application to participate in the Susan G. Komen  3-day walk to raise money for breast cancer research, walk officials, looking at my meds,  decided I had depression and would not let me participate! I had raised thousands of dollars (which still went toward the research, thankfully) but because I was taking that drug, I was no longer considered a viable walker. My doctor wrote the walk officials to let them know that that’s why I was taking the drug, but they would not budge. And now, I’ve changed my health insurance, and the company will not cover the drug at all. So, illogically, I guess they would rather risk me getting dizzy at the wheel of a car and crashing and damn near killing myself or someone else, rather than covering that drug so that I can handle my dizziness . I will never attempt to walk in the 3-Day Walk for cancer again.

Clearly, there is a problem. Chances are that everyone has some level of mental illness, but for those who have serious mental illness, there is really nobody who can say “it’ll be all right if you admit it and get treated.” Real-life experiences do not support that kind of support or encouragement.

My prayer is that the stigma against mental illness will begin to lift and that mental illness will be respected as an illness that needs to be treated, not run from. Those who are suffering from it deserve better. And those who would be victims because a mentally ill person finally unwinds deserve better as well.

A candid observation …

 

Black mothers, wailing …

This weekend, I realized anew that the work of justice … never ends.

It is what I thought as I observed the parents, relatives and friends of a young black man, Kendrick Johnson, who gathered to show solidarity and a resolve to fight to bring to justice the people whom they believed murdered him.

Even as the anger and angst over the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin simmers in this country, the shooting and killing of black youth  continues to balloon with very little attention given to this growing crisis.

Early this year, 17-year old Kendrick Johnson was found dead, rolled up in a wrestling mat in Valdosta, Georgia.  An early report said that he had died of asphyxiation while trying to retrieve a shoe from that mat.

Johnson’s parents, however, never bought the story and in June, had his body exhumed and a second autopsy performed. The results of that autopsy said that the youth died from “non-accidental blunt force trauma.”  They are seeking justice for their son, and have asked the United States Justice Department to re-open the investigation into Kendrick’s death. So far, they say, the answer to their request has been “no.”

Johnson’s parents are looking for support and assistance as they seek justice for their son, much like the parents of Trayvon Martin have done. To that end, they have called veteran civil rights activist Ruby Sales, founder and director of Spirit House, to help raise awareness and action on their son’s behalf.

Sales sees an alarming trend of black youth being killed under suspicious circumstances, and law enforcement either being involved in the killings or turning a deaf ear to the cries of the parents of the youth for justice. She gets calls on almost a daily basis from distressed parents whose children, mostly sons, have been killed and have not been able to get assistance or answers from law enforcement or local government.

Sales and the co-director of Spirit House, Cheryl Blankenship, went to Valdosta, Georgia this week for a rally that the community held for Kendrick. I was there as well, to record what was going on. Similar rallies have been being held consistently in Georgia since the results of the second Johnson autopsy were made public. Even as they stood in the hot sun at Johnson’s rallies, other mothers, hearing of SpiritHouse Project’s work, came to Sales. Many had tears in their eyes; all had stories that were hard to stomach. “Since this all happened,” said a young mother whose son was shot by police officers in Florida and left on the side of the road for three hours, “I have developed seizures. But I can’t stop. That’s my baby. I can’t stop.”

Her son did not die in spite of being left, but has been detained in a jail for the past 17 months. He has been unable to get needed medical care, stemming from his gunshot wounds, which he and his family requested, and was not allowed to complete his schoolwork so that he could graduate with his class this spring. Before being shot, he was a good student and promising athlete. He planned to go to college.  Now, said his distraught mother, he doesn’t even know when he’ll have a trial, much less get out of jail.

Many of the parents of the dead youth do not have financial resources to hire attorneys. Some have public defenders who, they say, have shown little to no interest in their sons’ cases.

Sales hopes that by getting the stories out about these suspicious deaths that not only will be the public be made aware, but will be mobilized to push for justice and also be inspired to offer resources that the parents themselves may not have. 

“These are no more and no less than lynchings,” Sales says. “It’s got to stop.”

Part of Sales’ vision and plan is to train the parents on how to effectively advocate for themselves and for others. “There’s no power in one or two sets of parents complaining about injustice,” she says, “but there is an enormous amount of power in numbers of parents coming together. (Policy makers) might be able to ignore the coffin of one young person; it would be virtually impossible for them to ignore, say, 35 coffins of young people, killed under suspicious circumstances.”

As Sales and Blankenship gather stories from parents, they are planning their next steps, one of which is to get the parents of these youth to Washington, D.C. to make a statement to their lawmakers and the nation about what’s going on.

Standing in the hot sun in Valdosta at the Johnson rally, Sales remembered “Ella’s Song.” Written and composed by Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of “Sweet Honey in the Rock,” the song says:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest;

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons,

Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons …

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.

“This is important work,” Sales said. “We cannot rest.”

 

I’ll be tagging along with Sales and Blankenship, recording and writing what we hear and learn.  Any murder is tragic. However, however the growing murder of young Black people represents both a crisis for the Black community as well as for the nation.  As if this is not enough of a travesty, police and coroners dismiss these brutal   lynchings, shootings and beatings as suicides, accidents or acts of self-defense by police or individual vigilantes.

Black mothers crying for their children emit a wail that cannot be ignored. The wailing of Black mothers in this nation is getting louder and louder.

Perhaps we are at another turning point, or perhaps the move to get the stories of these killings out will change the heart of the nation from indifference to action. Perhaps, people of all colors in the nation will realize that none of us can rest until justice is a reality for everyone.

A candid observation … 

Grief, Uninvited

Grief is such a rude visitor.

It comes uninvited and too often, unannounced, and it outstays its welcome.

Emily Dickinson‘s poem, “Death,” describes well the rudeness of death, but death’s companion, grief, is much more pesky. It teases and taunts us, making us feel like we are getting better (and perhaps we are), but then it pulls the rugs from under our feet, and we find ourselves falling down into that empty hole that death left behind.

I thought about that as I listened to a person describe how horrible it has been for her since her husband died. It has only been two years, I think, as she speaks. Grief usually stays much longer than that …but this woman wanted grief to go away, and stay away, so that she could get herself together. Grief was not obliging her request and desire, and she shared that she was sinking into a deep depression.

“My soul aches,” she said. “It’s like my soul wants to vomit something up…but there is nothing there. It’s like I wretch and wretch but nothing comes up, and the wretching won’t stop.”

Were that there were an easy way to get rid of grief. Unfortunately, it is a process that takes a good bit of time to be eliminated to a point where we can function. Even after that huge block of time, grief remains a scar on our souls; there are scars there which belie a wound that was once gaping and ugly and at times, infected with anger and fear and confusion about how death or some other tragedy could have come and wreaked such havoc in our lives.

The only thing we can do in grief is to respect it – give it room to do whatever it is doing as it lingers within us – but then breathe good, deep, cleansing breaths when it takes a reprieve. We find that we go from living moment to moment, to living hour by hour, then day to day…sometimes slipping back to the moment-to-moment or hour-to hour mode, but consistently coming out of such a haphazard way of living to something more like we remember “normal” being.

I think that when our souls ache from grief, we should let them ache. We should “go with the flow” as our souls wretch with this unspeakable pain that is obviously trying to come out…because sooner or later (probably later,) the retching will stop. The acute parts of grief will have been gotten rid of, and we will be in a position to begin the healing process. We might as well go with it, because we certainly cannot direct or control the process.

When the retching finally stops, we know that we are at least getting to the possibility of putting the tragedy or loss in a place where we can see it and not have a violent reaction.

I guess that’s called life.

A candid observation …

 

Shy to a Fault

All my life, I have been shy to a fault.

People don’t realize it; when I share it in workshops or in places where I speak, people literally laugh and say they don’t believe me. I am so animated when I speak or present, it’s hard for people to believe that when I am done, I crawl into a shell.

I have always done it.

While there is nothing wrong with being shy, I write this to ask any of you who are shy not to let it compromise your life and your possibilities, as I have.

I have not made friends with people as a rule. I have not fostered and cultivated professional relationships. I have not mingled with people of my profession much, getting to know them, and allowing them to know me.

For the years I was a pastor, I basically went to church, did my “church work,” and go home. Oh…I did raise my children, and did quite well at that, I am pleased to say. But I did not build relationships. I did not diversify the palette of my life.

My therapist ( yes, I see one regularly) said that I made my world too small. Isn’t that a wonderful description of what being shy does?

Where in the world does the shyness come from? Is saying I am shy another way of saying I am insecure, or not confident?

I can remember once I went somewhere to preach. I got there early, with a friend, and was led into a roomful of women I didn’t know. I looked around, and the woman was whisking my friend to another area of the building. I wanted to die! There were all these women whom I did not know. They were well-dressed and articulate …and it felt like their heads were blowing up into huge balloons right in front of me; it felt like the balloons were coming toward me! I could not run out. I told myself that …and so I made myself walk to the balloons and, in talking, was able to stick a pin in them so that the big heads shrunk down to normal. I found that I could talk with these women; I found out that I had much to say and that they listened, but I will never forget the terror of those few moments.

Since then, I have been practicing not being shy. Some people from my former church would see me in a crowd, “working the  room,” and would encourage me. That meant a lot. Someone knew I knew this particular weakness of mine, and saw that I was trying to meet it … and, in effect, beat it.

But the bottom line is that I have hurt my life and my career by being so shy. I told/taught my children not to be like me, and thank God, they have listened. I have gone to the best schools, but didn’t connect with people. They, too, have gone to the best schools and have connected with people, have good friends all over the country, and are nurturing the relationships they have made even as they make new connections.

I told you I raised my children well.

I write this because this morning I wept for a few moments as I dealt with seeing myself “face to face.” Sometimes, I like what I see. This morning, I did not.

But the little weeping spell is over. I decided to write because someone else, a young person with lots of gifts and talent, is hiding under a bushel somewhere.

Please come out. The world needs you.

A candid observation …

Sick or Bad?

If we as human beings were not so frightened of mental illness, if we were willing to talk about it and seek treatment for loved ones who seem afflicted with some sort of mental illness – and if the system supported such treatment, maybe we would have fewer tragedies, fewer massacres of innocent people.

I have long been concerned that there are many children, no matter their race or socio-economic status, who have been mentally ill all their lives, but never got treated.  I am especially concerned that many children may be the victims of an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, but who are treated merely as children with behavior problems rather than as children who are sick and who need medical care.

We are so frightened of mental illness. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to admit that more people than not might benefit from visits to a psychologist or therapist or psychiatrist . We don’t want to admit that perhaps we ourselves may need help. What I worry about is that mentally ill parents are trying to raise children, who may themselves be mentally ill or may develop an emotional problem because of the way they are raised …but nobody wants to talk about it.

Who goes into schools and shoots innocent children, or to a shopping mall or dark movie theater and rattles off bullets from a semi-automatic weapon?  Who drowns her own children? It is easy to say “a bad person” does that, but it feels more accurate to say that a sick person does that. “Bad” and “sick” are not the same.

I have said many times from the pulpit that if one is depressed, one ought not be afraid to admit it. Just as we seek (if we can afford it or have health insurance!) medical care if we are physically ill, we ought to run , not walk, to a doctor when we are emotionally distraught or feel like we are at the end of our ropes.

The experiences of life are not for the fainthearted. Even if one has reasonably good coping skills, the trials of life can strain the strongest of us. The biological creative process is miraculous, but not perfect. How else does one account for the babies born with cleft lips and palates, malformed or imperfectly formed organs, no brains, holes in their hearts, with autism?  We are well aware of the fact that there are congenital defects, which need immediate care and attention. Without medical attention, birth defects negatively impact a baby’s possibility for a quality life. Our denial of mental problems, and our refusal and/or reluctance to pursue vigorous treatment of these illnesses is no less harmful and dangerous than is putting a football player with a concussion back in the game, or breaking a bone and not getting it reset and immobilized so that it will heal correctly.

The signs of mental illness may not be there at birth, but certainly as a child grows, parents can see that something is wrong. And yet, many parents slip into denial. Parents who could afford to get their uncomfortable observations looked into often will not and do not…and parents who cannot afford a doctor’s visit, just in general, deny what they see and fall into disciplining, often harshly, a child who is actually mentally ill.

It would seem that the tendency toward denial does not end once a sick child grows up. The young man who shot the children in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary School apparently had problems which people noticed, as did the young man who committed the deadly shootings at Virginia Tech University some years ago. Poet Nikki Giovanni, who had that young man in one of her classes, was reportedly so bothered by what she observed that she asked him not to return to her class.

Our tendency to deny the fact that mental illness lives amongst us – and indeed, within many of us – is going to cost more lives. Putting people in jail who act out of illness is not going to stop the shootings; putting people in jail is just as ineffective – and just as dangerous in the long run – as is denying that mental illness is a reality.

The health care system needs to find a way to improve not only its care but its outreach to people who need help. Employers ought to have something in writing that says “we will not label you ‘crazy’ if you apply for a job with us but are taking an anti-depressive drug.”  Pastors in churches ought to talk about it publicly. You can’t even taste the goodness of God if you are in mental anguish.

I was moved to write this because I looked at the image on television of the young man who shot the people in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado last year. From the first  time I saw that image, I thought he was mentally ill, but even when I heard what he had done, I thought he was mentally ill. The discussion was whether he should be put to death if he is convicted…and I shook my head. America is not getting it. This guy may very well not only be sick but has probably been sick for a long time.

Someone is going to ask what the difference is between sick and bad. I don’t know yet how to clearly argue that question, but it’s coming. All I know is that denying that mental illness is a major problem is a major mistake on the parts of our country, parents, and our health care system.

I have not used the names of the shooters in the tragedies that left 26 people dead in Newtown, Connecticut, or at Virginia Tech or in the mall in Colorado that left Congresswoman Gabby Giffords severely injured or in the shooting that happened in the movie theater in Aurora, or the shootings in Columbine. I have not even begun to address the tragedy that happens in urban areas, where kids are killing other kids by the hundreds.  Some of those kids may be “bad,” but I would bet a whole lot more of them are ill. I I have left the names of the shooters out on purpose…because they all represent mental illness, denied and ignored.

The consequences of us living with our heads in the sand are obvious.

A candid observation …

 

The Power of Re-Calculating

I love my GPS; I use it whenever I am going to a new place and it is extremely funny when I don’t follow directions and it is as if the GPS sighs and murmurs to itself because it has to recalculate a new route. You know. create a new normal.

I have come to understand that “new normals” are a part of  life, even if we do not like them. I read Iyanla Vanzant‘s book, Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get through What you’re Going Through,” and marveled at how many times there has been a “recalculation” in her life and how many times her “normal” has changed.  Another book of hers, The Value in the Valley speaks of the place we find ourselves before we climb up and out of our valleys into a new space…but what is clear is that once in a valley, if we use the valley experience correctly, our lives, upon emerging, will be different. Our inner beings, our personalities, our spirits, will have “recalculated” because our valley experience is meant to be a place where old experiences and thinking patterns and even old relationships are meant to be discarded. There is a better way to get to where we need to be, and it is the valley that we begin to realize that.  We don’t willingly go into valleys. Life takes us there, over and over. It might be a diagnosis of cancer, a death in the family, a divorce, betrayal by a friend, being laid off or being fired …Stuff happens, and when it does, it seems to take us to valleys that we do not want to be in.

So recalculating is always going on in our lives.

I hear that Tony Robbins said that when he had valley experiences in his life, the way he got through them was to pour positive energy – and a lot of it – into work or projects that he believed in.  It is while we are in a valley that we don’t want to do anything – not eat, not read, not even enjoy the beauty of a new day – but when we succumb to the tendency to wallow in the valley, we waste the experience. It is too valuable an experience to be wasted.

Valley experiences are meant to strengthen and encourage us. I have always taught my students the words of Psalm 30: “Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning!” but have added my own two cents’ worth …”and morning always comes!”  No matter how dark and long the night, morning will push through. The goal should be, while we are in a valley, to make sure than when morning comes, we are not the same as we were when dark descended.  It seems that our spirits cry out to us to let them (our spirits) do their work, to let them reshape, reform, retry, recalculate – so that we can live lives that are optimally meaningful for us.

That’s what our spirits yearn to do, I think.

My spirit is in recalculate mode. I think I’m going to let her do her work.

A candid observation …

 

 

African-Americans and PTSD

Sign for "colored" waiting room at a...

Sign for “colored” waiting room at a Greyhound bus terminal in Rome, Georgia, 1943. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In  book that I am writing, I offer the opinion that African-Americans have suffered or do suffer from post traumatic stress disorder due to racism.

Somebody will groan, but the possibility of this being very true is real. Racism, or acts of violence due to racism, have done nothing short of creating terror in the hearts of individuals and the African-American community as a whole.

I can remember my mother telling us to be careful and to be wary of police officers, because they were not “always on the side of African-Americans.” I can remember doing stories as a reporter where individuals had been terrorized, brutalized by police, but were afraid to talk about it.

In earlier times, African-Americans were terrorized by the ever-present possibility of being lynched, with no legal protection against the same. In fact, it very often turned out that those who participated in lynchings or those in the Ku Klux Klan were members of the judicial system, charged to protect all citizens. That “all” did not include African-Americans.

African-Americans have seen loved ones cut down by law enforcement officers and get away with it. Neither the courts nor the jury system have been particularly “safe” these members of American society.

An article I read in The New England Journal of Medicine said that symptoms of PTSD include high anxiety,depression, bouts of anger…maladies which are all too often found in the African-American community in large numbers.

African-Americans have learned to cope and to push through the barriers put in place by institutional and structural racism, but the end-result of having to fight harder than the majority population for a “place” in this society, for decent and right treatment, for civil rights…has been a group of people who have developed a specialized set of coping mechanisms. We are here not because of the U.S. Constitution, and have made gains not because of the Constitution or of democracy, but in spite of those two supposed guarantees.

My musings on this made me think about what America would be like if such a large segment of its population were not working with and through PTSD. Even our children, caught too often in poor public schools in horrible condition that legislators seem to care nothing about, suffer. From the time they come out of the  womb, people who are “pro-life” turn their backs on them and begin to count them as part of the banes of our society, participants in entitlement programs that are considered a waste of American dollars.

I am not sure of the treatment for PTSD, but I do know that when people are traumatized, it causes a change in behavior. What the mind has seen and internalized cannot be extinguished or erased. There are people who have been traumatized in a number of different ways, years ago, who are still suffering as though the trauma happened only yesterday.

If it is (and I think it is) the case that African-Americans suffer from PTSD due to racism, how can it be fixed?  It seems pretty clear to me that if such a large segment of our nation is suffering from a disorder due to the way racism has flourished in this country, that something ought to be done about it so that we do not keep on repeating acts of domestic terrorism, albeit more subtle than before, that adversely affect citizens of our nation.

It seems to be that no nation can be as great as it has been intended to be if any segment of its population is so systematically and consciously terrorized and basically ignored.

Just a candid observation…

Girl Talk: Losing A Friend but Not Really

I don’t even know what to title this piece for us “girls.” I know, though, that this thing, whatever it is, is widespread among us.

I am talking about the situation where two women are friends, and then one of the pair gets a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and the other person in the friendrelationship feels abandoned.

The woman who has the new relationship begins a whole new life with the love of her life …and leaves her friend behind, all the while insisting that nothing has changed.

But the one left behind knows all too well that much has changed. Maybe her friend, now in a relationship, feels the same love for her that she did, but the thing that matters most – the time spent together – has been altogether changed, and the friend left behind …feels left behind.

I had an amazing friend. We did everything together; we talked on the phone several times a day, about nothing. We had always been friends, but then her husband died and our friendship deepened. When her husband died, I was with her as much as I could be, both as friend and pastor. She and her husband had had an amazing relationship, and her pain was beyond belief.

The fun we had! Even while her husband was alive, we really “hung out.” She was there for me when I was divorced. I went into a shell and hid myself in my house. I wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t answer my door, but there she was, outside my house, in her car, patiently waiting. She later told me that she would have sat there all evening until I opened the door.  When I saw that she was not going to leave, I opened the door for her, pissed. She said not a word and was not at all bothered by my  “pissness.” She came in, fixed me some tea, got herself some, and sat down. We said nothing, but she was there …and silently, I was so glad. When my divorce was made final, she was there. We went out to “celebrate” after the pronouncement was made.

She coached me in how to look more “like a pastor.” She had (and has) a great sense of style and gently reminded me that blue jeans and tee shirts probably wouldn’t cut it in the work I was doing. She took care of me and I took care of her. She met my family and became part of my family, as I did hers. She would cook ribs for me (she is an amazing cook) just because she knew I loved them.  As a member of the church, she would not let anyone say anything negative about me, not in her presence. She put up with me, which took a lot.

I am not sure of what I did for her, except “be there” for her when her husband died. I would call her every morning just to see how she was, long after her husband died. When she had a cold, I “tended” to her, making her take meds I deemed necessary for her. We would take road trips together, and I would drive; she was worthless on the road as a driver, but was great company as I drove. We would laugh at her music selections on those road trips. Mellow jazz, I would tell her wryly, is probably NOT the best music to listen to when you’ve been driving 8 hours … She took my jabs with grace.

She traveled with me when I took my daughter to college,settling her into her dorms and getting her out for the summer. She and I laughed together and cried together. She was a protector of me in church; I was the pastor, but she was the guard. I always knew she had my back.

And then she got a boyfriend who took her all over the world, took her to the nicest restaurants, treated her like she deserved to be treated, and I felt left behind and left out.  If I called her, I was not able to get her. From talking every day we went to talking “whenever.”  She was going all over the place: to the Superbowl, to opening nights of plays in New York. She said once that, while in New York, when she and her boyfriend were in some fancy hotel, that she thought of me, knowing I would have LOVED the hotel and the play.

I had to get it into my craw that things had changed. I never doubted she loved or cared for me, but I had to accept that her life was different, and that we would no longer be the “hanging buddies” that we had been. It was immensely painful, but it was the new reality.

We have stayed in touch. We occasionally talk, albeit very briefly. She sends me emails from time to time; I have to admit, I don’t send her many, but I do respond to the emails she sends. She is still very precious to me, and always will be.

We will make our way back to each other, or, rather, I will make my way back to her, with the new reality of her new life smack in front of me. This whole situation is hard because I love her so much and want her to be happy, which she is. I just didn’t like feeling like I had been pushed to the curb. I’m not even sure I WAS pushed to the curb, but I felt like it.

I think a lot of women know this scenario well.

Though I have given myself time to heal, I have not pushed her all the way out of my life. She was and is a real friend. Even now, were I to be in trouble, I know she’d be there, no questions asked. Friends are precious; even as our relationship changed, I would tell her that. And because she will always be a friend, I will never completely let go of her or the friendship.

I don’t have any advice to anyone on this. I just wanted to share. As I get older, I realize even more how precious are friends. There is nothing quite so precious as a friendship.

A candid observation …

Debulk the Congress?

I wonder what America would be like if it were “debulked”  of  its political system, or, more specifically, of its Congress?

I just picked up the term, “debulk,” while reading a review of a book, Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer, by Susan Gubar. The review, written by Elsa Dixler and which appeared in The New York Times Book Review this week, describes debulking as “evisceration or vivisection or disembowelment, but performed on a live human being.”  Gubar, a feminist scholar who describes her bout with ovarian cancer in the reviewed book, underwent surgery to be “debulked” after her cancer was discovered.  This surgery involves trying to get out as much of the cancerous tissue by taking as much of it out as possible, as well as affected organs. The operation, said the article, is thought to extend the life of the cancer patient, but does not cure the disease.

I thought of the term as I listened to a news report about the senate race in Indiana, where veteran Republican Senator Dick Lugar is being challenged by a Tea Party opponent, Richard Mourdock, who is apparently going after Lugar mostly for his ability and record to have “reached across the aisle” to reach compromise in his role as a legislator of this country. Lugar is the nation’s longest-serving Republican senator.

There seems that the lack of desire to compromise is at the core of this nation’s political gut, and it spreads, or has spread, an ugly spirit throughout the nation. If I understand the lessons of my elementary, middle and high school civics classes, the three branches of government were put into place so as to prevent the monopoly of any political party or individual in terms of policy or ideology, thereby assuring a more fair government for “we the people,” as opposed to for “we, some of the people.” Compromise helps that ideal to be realized, right?

The desire for compromise, however, has been viciously opposed.  Reluctance to compromise has  been at our core for a while but it has gotten so much worse since 2008, and the vitriol which has accompanied it has seemingly metastasized in mammoth proportions.  Our nation’s Congress has argued and quibbled over the most basic things, at the expense of the country,and the refusal to compromise and look for common ground has created a rancid atmosphere of political disease which really threatens the very life of this nation.

This diseased body politic is completely impotent to deal with our nation’s issues. All that it has done for the past four years is stirred the pots of its own dysfunction, despite rhetoric that it is concerned with “the American people.” Which American people would that be? The 42 million who live in poverty? The women whose health care needs are being threatened by disastrous policies? The students whose student loan debt is keeping them in perpetual debt?

What if the nation were debulked of its Congress? What if all three branches of government were excised, as it were, and a whole new set of legislators and jurists were put into place, along with a new executive branch? Maybe what has happened is that the Congress has been diseased by members having been in place for too long. Doctors say that much cancer comes from bad diets and lack of exercise. Maybe the Congress became cancerous a while ago, because of inaction and resultant complacency. Maybe the Congress needs to be debulked, and the government needs some political chemotherapy, to rid the nation of any residual ideology which results in such impassivity and rancor.

Like the treatment for ovarian cancer, the debulking will not cure the disease…but it may prolong the life of these United States.

A candid observation…