Friday, August 14, 2015

Waiting for the world to become sane

I keep waiting for the world to become sane and remember that seems similar to wanting to be God. You know, idolatrous, wanting the world to be in my image, not the way it is. Which doesn’t compute, really. Why can’t it be like I want it?

Dad's Bible was always somewhere near one of his many thrones around the house. I got my own Bible for confirmation in 5th grade and still have it with those underlined scriptures, so important to an achingly searching- to-be-okay-with-herself teenager. It was in those texts that spoke of love and kindness and a kind of utopian Kingdom of God that gave voice to what I hungered for.

My own life is anything but a utopian KoG.

Monday before last, with the clinical director out of town, I got a call in the morning from the church administrative assistant: You might want to come in early. A van drove into the side of the building and knocked a hole in the foundation.

Sure enough. Everyone was huddled around the side of the building as the van was being towed and the police were leaving. The building inspector said the building was safe enough. We had power, phones, and water. I leaned over to the administrative assistant and said, “I’ve always told folks that I could counsel from the back of a truck.”

I remembered a picture that I took of a crack in the church parking lot just a few weeks before. Two rogue marigold blooms defied the odds by planting themselves in the ashalt.

I’ve been in worse situations. One counseling job that I had gave me no notice of a problem. The building had been burned overnight and I pulled into the parking lot that morning and wondered why it looked like a fire drill. Building to the left; people on the right side of the parking lot huddled. Next client in a few minutes. Nothing like taking a seriously paranoid schizophrenic to the local McDonalds for coffee and "counseling." 

The fire/arson was related to a recently discharged patient. I was nine days into this particular job. I lasted 10 months at that counseling center before deciding my life was important enough to honor my fear and sleeplessness.

It’s been ten days and the hole is still there with a piece of plywood covering it. Anyone could break in. I found a shoe on the outside steps this week. Staff thought a homeless person had probably been sleeping on the landing and lost their shoe. They kindly placed it nearby, in case the person returned.

This past Monday before leaving for a family funeral, I heard sirens galore near my home. I looked to see if the highway was backed up, but no sign of any problem there. I left the house and drove down the road only to see two police cars and police tape around a popular parking area. A car looked like it had wrecked. I couldn’t make out any people in the car.

A friend texted me soon afterwards and throughout the memorial events. News reports of a possible double homicide – people in the car didn’t die from the “accident.” And, a nearby apartment fire burning out several families was also the home of one of the "accident" victims. It seems likely that the female was murdered by an estranged husband. They were supposed to be signing divorce papers that morning. Other reports surfaced of the male running from the apartment building shortly before the fire.

Relief was my first response when I learned that the victims weren’t on my client roster. This might sound selfish, but I think any reasonable therapist would be worried for their clients. It might be considered one of my worst fears on behalf of my clients.

This week has been a no-radio news and definitely a no-TV news week. I can barely stand the ridiculous political shenanigans while people of all kinds are suffering in ways that are not being addressed in any serious way.

And then there is a weirdness to my own poor timing. Partner and I finally got it together to agree to see Jimmie Carter give one of his famous Sunday School lessons at his church in Plains, GA. I literally booked the flight on the same day it was announced he was having surgery. Since then the news reports indicate he has advanced cancer and is getting treatment. It is highly unlikely he will be giving a Sunday School lesson for the public in September. Sorry Dad. This was a Dad bucket list event that neither of us will get to fulfill.

There was a time I imagined myself a politician or a minister or a lawyer or a social worker or a musician or an artist. Maybe even a teacher or a writer. In all those roles, there seems to have been a desire to create a better world through an idealistic lens. But, I am not sure how sane that would have been. I don't have the juice to save the world anymore, let alone save myself.

But, I seem to be learning a different kind of sanity through the harp as a spiritual practice. It is building on my meditation practice by applying the arts in a way I don’t entirely understand. To be sure, the beautiful and sonorous sound of the harp is a deceptively alluring and challenging partner to master. Do we ever master anything?

In an age where talk is cheap and harsh, I am looking for another way. Perhaps, I am applying the Buddhist concept of the middle way, somewhere between silence and noise: music?

The best part of playing the harp is that talking is optional. Mostly, I let the music speak for itself.

I am feeling more and more like the KoG exists in our heart. I am just one person. Jimmie Carter seems to have mastered many of the things I'd hoped for. (Although, I haven't heard anything about his musical talents.) Dad really struggled with his lessons in failing and failing greatly.  The harp isn’t a substitute for hugs or food or clean water or health or housing or justice. But I can let the harp’s resonant voice sing a song that promotes love and sanity.