Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the scoop, part five

Sorry about that time lapse. I kind of forgot about me for a minute there.

Let's continue.

For the last eight years, my work has mostly revolved around counseling as well as training and mentoring volunteer counselors at my church. It's work that I have sincerely loved for the most part, but I noticed over time that I seemed less able to do it. I was tired. I was easily hurt and discouraged. I felt vulnerable. I can't even really say specifically why I was feeling these things. I had the sense that something had worn down inside of me, like I lost my emotional skin and now everything that touched me was sharp and painful. When Lorraine began to decline, I felt like I was trapped in a helping role from which there was no escape. The role followed me everywhere, always tugging on my sleeve and demanding my attention. In fact, I was gradually becoming less human as I absorbed the drip, drip, drip of the demands on me.

Just when I thought I was going to crack up, I got some news that was very exciting to me. The church approached me to see if I would be willing to collaborate with the senior pastor (a close friend of mine) to write a book on simplicity. This felt to me like an opportunity directly from heaven. They allowed me to take about half of every week away from the office to write, and they handed off parts of my job temporarily to give me extra space. If all went well, they promised that they would find a way to make writing a permanent part of my job. Seriously, what could be better than that? So I started researching and writing about simplicity, and that's when things got really complicated.

It turns out (shocker!) that my life was not at all simple. Not even close. I won't go into the gory details, but let's just say that I suddenly felt like I had been asked to write a book about quantum mechanics or calculus...I had no idea what this concept even was supposed to mean. This created a ton of incongruence in me. I couldn't, in good conscience, write about something that I had so little actual experience with. I felt really stuck.

But there was another element of this material that sent me into a tailspin. There's a strain of the writing on simplicity that is fairly radical and is concerned with the dwindling resources on this planet, and the greed and mindlessness of western culture that is using up what ought to be shared. The math of this reasoning goes something like this:

1) Every person on earth has a little more than four bio-productive acres of land for their use.
2) Most of us in the United States use about sixty or more acres because of things like the amount of meat we eat, ecological practices involved in the mass-production of food, large homes that require lots of energy to run, lack of sharing, etc.
3) If we don't correct this radically we're all going to hell in a hand basket.

I don't have enough information to be able to rationally argue about the finer points of this reasoning, and I'm not even saying that it's not true, but I do know this much: it made me more than a little crazy. I felt like I was having a 24/7 panic attack. In order for me to use only my four acres of bio-productive land I would have had to make some lifestyle changes that I couldn't even begin to imagine, especially given that I share my home with others who are not exactly on board with this program. AND even if I were to make all of the changes this line of reasoning suggests, I couldn't see many people around me making these kinds of choices. Was it my job to write about these things and convince the church to follow suit? I started doing my best to keep up with everything, but I felt like I was sinking into a tar pit. The earth was doomed and it was pretty much my fault!

Way. not. simple.

So the project that I imagined being a creative break ended up launching me into a deeper depression than I've experienced in a very long time. I hit a brick wall and could not write a word.

That was when breathing became a problem.

But we'll get to that next time.


  1. Wow, Terri . . . that sounds horrible. That sort of incongruity . . . just wow. Don't know what else to say except that I'm still with you, still sitting, still here.

  2. yep. pretty horrible. thanks for keeping me company sarah.

  3. I've now typed 5 sentences in this comment and deleted them all...maybe I just have nothing to say?! Am listening, taking it in. {hug}

  4. Wow.


    I'm just trying to take this in.

    I can so imagine your mind opening more and more to these facts, and your mind then making all the connections to your own life, and then your heart going KER-SPLAT! trying to contain it all.

    I'm sorry that happened.

    Except that I don't know how the story ends, so I'm not sure I'm sorry it happened, really. Maybe it was all as it was meant to be, in order to bring you where you were meant to go. That happens sometimes. Or rather, a lot of the time.

    But in the moment, it sounds like it was horrible. And I am sorry you experienced the horribleness of that time.


  5. cheryl: so i'm not the only one who does that? no worries. thanks for listening.

    christianne: oh my. i can't believe you had the energy to post this thoughtful response when you were so tired. thank you for the way you enter in. you're exactly right. ker-splat! (but don't get your hopes up too much for an ending...i'm afraid this story is still in progess.)

  6. thanks for not telling the world that i was one of your reluctant partners during that time. although partner seems to intimate that i was on board, which, to a large degree, i was not.

    but you loved me anyhow.

    thanks . . .

  7. dave: who wouldn't love you? (even if you do eat too much meat, you carnivore.) :)

    i love that we're opposites in so many ways and we still love each other like mad.

  8. Whoa dang. Sitting here taking this in too -- facing the reality of the drip, drip, drip of what's happening at home with Lorraine and then coming face-to-face with the kind of incongruence you're talking about ... sure, I'll write about simplicity, but ...


    I'm sorry this led to such anxiety and panic. You must have felt like the bottom was falling out.

    And then realizing that what had sounded like a dream (getting paid to write!!) turns into a 24/7 waking nightmare.

    Speaking of incongruence ...

    I'm listening, waiting to hear just how you got to here from there.


  9. PS -- I eat too much meat too. My baby is ravenous carnivore.

    Sure, sure ... blame it on the baby!!


  10. kirsten: yes, you have the sound effects down pretty nicely. between you and christianne, you could probably pretty accurately write the screenplay. (not that this would make an interesting movie, but you guys have it nailed.)

    love you.

    and i'll cut you some slack while you're pregnant and maybe when you're nursing but after that the survival of the planet kind of depends on your shunning meat from that point on. thus sayeth terri. don't make me smite you.


  11. I'm sorry to hear that you're going through this. Sending you a hug. You'll find your way back/forward/out.

  12. hi mary ann. thanks for the hug and the vote of confidence. :) good to hear your voice here again...

  13. your hymn to the (previous)silence.
    miss you. and envious.

  14. marcell: i love it when you peek in and leave behind your haiku comments. :) love you.