“then you must take up your well-shaped oar and go on a journey until you come where there are men living who know nothing of the sea, and who eat food that is not mixed with salt, who never have known ships whose cheeks are painted purple, who never have known-well-shaped oars, which act for ships as wings do.” The Odyssey – Homer
By any measure Odysseus had a tough life. His original journey tore him away from his beloved wife and into a bloody war. His return journey was fraught with so much adversity that most back home figured he must dead, but he made it home (just in time to fight off a horde suitors vying for his wife). Time for a rest … nope … he had one more unexpected journey. Peace could not come until he could let go of his past. (adapted thought from Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life )
You might be thinking that this is another attempt at explaining my continuing spiritual reconstruction project. While that was an unexpected journey, that is not the one I want to talk about. A new path is revealed due to the lifting of the haze that has obscured my vision for most of my life. As the years have passed the fog thickened along my path. It was not until my friend Anne blogged about her experience with the “Brain Fog“, which, she thought was due to an early “change of life”. I chalked mine up to a midlife kind of thing. Both of us found out later that our bodies were playing tricks on us.
Check out Anne‘s blog to follow her unexpected journey as she learns to cling to the Savior and trust him as she battles her own monster named Fibromyalgia. If you suffer from chronic pain or deteriorating health issues, take some time and be encouraged by her journey.
Journey in the Mist
My original murky journey led me down a path of uncompleted tasks, failed attempts, and unfulfilled dreams. Although my life was full of love and joy, there was always a sense that my I had been squandering my gifts. I knew that I had so much more to give, but it seemed that I was running into walls of my own creation.
As long as I can remember I believed I could do just about anything. My parents always believed in me, so it is natural that I would believe in myself. I was moderately successful at most things I attempted with very little effort.
In middle school I was first chair trumpet player, started every inning of every baseball game and maintained a high batting average, started both ways in football, maintained high grades in school, and advanced rapidly in Boy Scouts; all with very little sustained effort. I worked hard in spurts … until the newness and praise dwindled.
High school came along just in time to give me some new challenges and a new burst of energy. As a small person, maximum effort would be the only way I could be successful in sports. Football … that was not going to happen, baseball … I was catcher and size and strength are pretty important (not to mention my eye sight was deteriorating) I let band take a bake seat and I gave up Boy Scouts. Academics would have been fine if I did not have to read and turn in homework so I squeaked through. I took up 2 new sports; track and my real love … wrestling. Four years was just about my limit.
Off to college. No really new challenges to sustain my effort and didn’t even make it a full semester. Most of my adult life I have claimed that it was the injury that killed my college career … that is a lie. It was my inability to maintain a consistent work ethic and accompanying embarrassment that finished my college career. It was not that I was lazy and did not want to work hard. I actually loved working hard. I just could not maintain focus for any length of time. I can only see that now, back then I just made excuses.
Onward to adulthood which brought many an unexpected journey. Worked jobs that I were “beneath” my abilities … failed. Started a family (and then got married), not the ideal start. Joined the Navy … mostly because I knew that I could not just quit and my family needed me to provide. It was new and challenging so I did pretty well for the first 5 or six years, but nuclear power requires one to “study unceasingly”. That was a skill that was not in my tool bag. Fortunately, I an a gifted encourager, teacher, and coach so I developed outstanding sailors that were under my charge. Since leaving the Navy many of you have heard me say that I got out because I had three girls entering their teenage years and they needed me home … that is a lie (well at least a half truth). My inability to advance made continuing my career difficult, so I served out my time and moved on to civilian life hoping a new challenge would bring about a change in fortune.
Since leaving the Navy 19 years ago, life has brought much of the same. I took up many hobbies and activities, but even these were only short-term successes and ran the same course as my professional life. I Running a marathon was a temporary relief, but it did not fill the void. All of my jobs, hobbies, and projects that started out like gangbusters and ended in failure or at least an incomplete. In a last-ditch effort to arrest the death that was occurring within, I trained for and completed a marathon. I had finally completed something, but it was not enough to rekindle the fire.
Bend in the Road
About 8 years ago, overcome by embarrassment, disappointment, and a longing for a clear success, the haze of depression fell heavily on my heart. Moving forward seemed pointless, so I began to shut it down and rolled to a halt. Despair took root.
My family saw it. They knew something was wrong, but could do nothing but love me. When you have failed to follow through with promises and commitments, friends are hard to come by. I had no outlet for my grief. Grief? Yes … I grieved for the loss of my dreams, I grieved for the end of hope, and I grieved for death of the Chuck that I thought was inside. I only went on because of my family. Going through the motions was all I muster.
My annual physical went pretty well other than a minor adjustment to my thyroid medication. As got up to leave the doctor asked if I had any other concerns. I stopped told my emotional atmospheric condition. After another half an hour of questions, she was concerned enough to prescribe me an anti-depressant. Within a couple of weeks, I was moving again. I don’t know if it was forward motion, but it was motion.
I don’t hate my job, but I struggle to stay engaged. This is nothing new, it is my MO. Start something new … throw myself headlong into it, advance, get bored, lose focus, disengage, performance drops off. Here we go again! I see it happening and yet feel powerless to stop it. No process or practice seems to phase my ability to re-engage my job.
So I am discussing this with my daughter Dorothy and she mentions that her husband was struggling as well and he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD).
hmmm … interesting.
This was never something I imagined. It never occurred to me that I suffered from mental illness. Healthy and intelligent there was no way that my brain chemistry could be jacked! Through the years my health has slowly deteriorated (Asthma, thyroid, cholesterol). The symptom that was there all along went undiagnosed for 54 years.
I don’t know if things would have been, but that journey is over. I am grateful for the opportunity to start this new an unexpected journey. Even if the changes are minor, for the first time in a long time I feel like I can “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”
Today was my first day on medication. I have sat for three hours reading, researching and writing. Yesterday, I would not have thought this possible.
If you are struggling … talk to someone. Pray that God will send the right person. Maybe all you need is friend, but maybe your struggle deeper than a friend can touch. Whether it is physical or emotional, don’t go it alone and don’t turn down help.
Remember there are many more like me out there. Look along the side of the road, they are there I assure you. Please don’t pass by on the other side of the road. Don’t fail to carry your oil and wine. You are the one who can bind up wounds and care for the broken and oppressed.
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. – Luke 10:34
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods