Friday, June 27, 2014

I Get So Emotional, Baby

By now my proclivity for tears has become a bit of a joke. My son and one of my Angel friends have called me out for crying "because the sun came up today." I roll with it. At least they're giving me the attention I so deserve desperately crave.

Just your typical day for "feelers" like me!
If you want to label me a bit more accurately, I'm not strictly a crier. I think a better word might be "feeler." I experience a range of emotions in a really deep way. It's as if all the nerves that trigger emotions lie too close to the surface. As a result, tears and laughter come in equally easy measure. The same movie might elicit both, and if you're with me, you may be embarrassed by how freely I share them. If the reaction of strangers is of concern to you, I'll understand if you want to sit a few rows behind me. I should also warn you that I can get physical when frightened. Rob still has the scars of childbirth. Let's just say I held on to his hand really tightly.

In addition to those experiences that evoke a physical reaction, I also can feel overwhelming emotion in life's everyday moments. The daily news or a walk down the street can trigger heartache. The beauty of nature can hit me like a ton of bricks. Even my rare bouts with being content or peaceful are acute, nearly palpable.

Sometimes I think I possess some strange genetic disposition that causes me to observe and absorb more from the world than most people. Except I guess it's not genetic, because I'm pretty sure I'm the only one in my family built this way. My sister tries to avoid unpleasant feelings at all cost, and Abby seems immune to emotional distress. She may be the only person in America who didn't cry at The Fault in Our Stars, though she did confess that her eyes welled up a couple of times. I'm not going to see that movie, at least not in the theaters. Don't want to drown out the audio with my sobbing.

Given my tendency toward free-flowing tears or raucous laughter, one might think that I'd avoid situations that are likely to result in a total breakdown or complete hysteria. But here's the thing: I kind of like the depth of emotions that I experience. While I often will pass on books or movies that I know will cause me distress, when I stumble upon something that touches me, I embrace it rather than fight it. I don't see my emotions as a curse, but rather as a blessing. What a wonderful gift to be so alive and in touch with the world around me!

Having said all that, I should add that the level of emotion of which I speak, even when it's sadness, should not be confused with clinical depression, with which I also have plenty of experience. Perhaps those of us who struggle with this disease also tend to feel things more deeply than others, but they are not one in the same. Depression is a weight that drags you down, making your heart feel heavy regardless of the book you're reading, the movie you're watching or the evening news. In fact, one of the most frustrating things about it is how it settles in regardless of the reality of our lives. When you're suffering with depression, there's nothing worse than hearing "you have nothing to be unhappy about." Be assured that I know my life is nearly perfect, and I already feel badly about feeling bad for no logical reason.

Personally, I'm in a pretty good place these days. I'm lucky to have found a combination of things that work for me, including medication, exercise, wine and quiet time. And I'm happy to say that the antidepressants I take allow me to feel those range of emotions that I've described. If you're on meds that leave you feeling nothing--no highs or lows--I urge you to see your doctor, or a different doctor. There are ways to make the pain go away without shutting down all the feelings--good and bad--that make life worth living.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Case of Righteous Indigestion

Have you ever felt unmoored, adrift, insecure and uncertain? Maybe your bedrock has been shaken as a result of job loss, divorce or the death of a loved one? Unstable ground is a lousy place to stand, and I'd wager a bet that my recent breakouts, sleep issues, and increasing bouts of anger and frustration are being triggered by the cracks in my foundation. Seems like a good time to call on one of my civil engineering professors. They're good with structural issues.

While I wish I could be fixed with a new and improved form of concrete, unfortunately, the problems are in my head and my heart. I'd say my soul is also taking a beating these days, which makes sense given that my church (MPC) is currently the piece of my foundation most in need of bolstering. In the past year, MPC has experienced remarkable upheaval, leaving its members to work through various stages of grief and a range of emotions, combined with an uncomfortable level of change (at least for some of us), and uncertainty about the future. While all of that has played a significant part in the weakening of this pillar in my life, I have come to recognize that my attitude, stubbornness and need to always be right has contributed to the hurt and bitterness I feel. I have a case of what I'm calling "righteous indigestion."

Let me back up a bit to put things in perspective for those of you who don't know the story. A year ago, MPC lost its senior pastor as a result of poor choices made on his part. When it was time for him to go, there was serious debate over how to manage certain aspects of his leaving. And though I had lived most of my life in shades of gray, for me, these matters were black and white. I experienced an unusually clear sense of right and wrong in the decisions that needed to be made. The problem? I wasn't just in the minority in my thinking, I was alone. The only one coming down on the other side of the issue. Uncomfortable? Not really. I guess my conviction provided me with the feistiness I needed to carry on (literally and figuratively). Fortunately, I didn't stand alone for long, and in fact, the minority became the majority.

I have to confess that my experience leading the revolution charge left me with a heady feeling. I liked knowing that others saw me as a pillar of strength in the sands of spinelessness someone who would stand up for what was right, someone who would put words to what others were thinking, someone who would "speak truth." I became drunk on my own power. Okay, that's a little over the top, but you get what I'm saying.

As the year progressed, the divisions within the church slowly faded and we refocused on what made MPC special, including our commitment to mission, ministry to children and youth, and the amazing love we have for one another as the body of Christ. There was no need for an underground opposition movement and hence, no work left for the activist in me. We were chugging along, and just before Christmas our interim pastor came on board. As pastors are prone free to do, he made a number of substantive changes over the past six months, focusing primarily on our worship service. Those changes didn't sit well.

As the weeks went on, I began to feel spiritually empty and increasingly disconnected from the church. And being completely self-absorbed, I assumed that if I was feeling this way, surely everyone else was too. It was time to hoist myself up on my soapbox and prepare to lead the fight! So, last month, I spoke out about my concerns, and lo and behold, the reaction from those in attendance was...crickets. There was no applause for my candor, insight, and willingness to stand up and complain say what needed to be said. In fact, there wasn't widespread agreement with my assessment.  I was, again, in the minority, but this time, I don't foresee the tide turning in my direction. Nor does it need to. If our church members are happy and their spiritual needs are being met, who am I to raise a red flag? Instead, given my level of emotional and spiritual maturity, I have vowed I will not return to worship for the foreseeable future. I recognize that it seems childish, but in all honesty, Sunday morning had become an emotionally draining experience for me, and that's just not what I'm looking for when I come to worship.

Nearly a month after making this little speech, I further distanced myself this week when I left a meeting in anger and frustration when it was more than 30 minutes late in starting. Driving home with a taste of bitterness in my mouth, I thought, "How dare they disrespect me and my valuable time?"

Clearly I slept through those sermons on grace and forgiveness.

Sometimes I suck at this Christian thing.

Two months ago, I thought my church family would be the primary reason for my staying in the area despite wanting to move south in about 10 years. How could I possibly say goodbye? Now, I'm feeling rudderless, disconnected and distant, and I imagine the fault is mostly mine. Still, I can't bring myself to return on Sunday morning. I'm not sure what comes next or where the answer lies, but I do know one thing:

I'm going to need a serious supply of Tums for this miserable case of righteous indigestion.