That Whole “Choose Joy” Thing

There was a year in my early fifties when joy did not come easily to me. You know that whole “choose joy” thing? Yeah, speaking as someone who went through a year when joy wasn’t something I felt I could choose, let me assure you that to tell someone who’s struggling with depression that she just needs to “choose joy” isn’t going to be very helpful to that person. To tell someone that you love her, that she has purpose, that she’s needed, to ask her to go on walks with you, and to listen to her without judgment and condemnation – but with unconditional love – these are all helpful things. But to tell her to “choose joy”? Not so much.

Karen

“If Christian healing is abused by mere smatterers in Science, it becomes a tedious mischief-maker. Instead of scientifically effecting a cure, it starts a petty crossfire over every cripple and invalid, buffeting them with the superficial and cold assertion, ‘Nothing ails you.'”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Advertisements

“You never know what the tide will bring in…”

One night during the depression, I got an encouraging call from my youngest brother, David, who had heard I was struggling. Near the end of our conversation, he said something that has stayed with me in the years since then. “Karen, did you ever see that movie with Tom Hanks where he gets stuck on the island?” Yes, I told him, I’d seen that movie. “For four years he was trying to get off that island,” my brother said, ”and then one day the tide brought in that piece of metal that he could use for a sail. He wasn’t expecting it. He couldn’t have known it was going to come in with the tide. But it saved him. You never know what the tide will bring in that will save you.”

And, man, ain’t that the truth? Just as I have found that there’s no way I can predict what form help and “salvation” will take for me, I have found that, if I just keep my thought open to all the good that God offers us, every moment, I’ll find everything I need to get me off my mental “island.”

(Excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book.)

The_Madcap_Christian_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

 

“Graciously Preparing Me”

“God had been graciously preparing me during many years…”
– Mary Baker Eddy

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes that “God had been graciously  preparing” her for many years for her discovery of spiritual healing. How did God “graciously prepare” Mary Baker Eddy? Well, let’s see… she lost a beloved brother at a young age; she was widowed shortly after she married her first husband; she was separated from her only son when he was just four years-old, and he was taken across the continent and raised by others; she was challenged with chronic health problems; and endured a failed marriage… for starters.

I’m grateful to say that nine years ago God “graciously prepared” me, too, for future challenges that I couldn’t foresee at the time. Nine years ago I began my journey through a massive depression. At the time I was going through the depression I didn’t see an end to it – I feared I would spend the rest of my life in mental agony. I felt hopeless, helpless, guilty, and fearful. I contemplated ending my life, lost my appetite, and felt like I’d lost myself, too. My struggles turned me to God, Love, in a way I’d never before turned to God. I clung to Love like a drowning man clings to a board on a stormy sea. In time, I learned not to battle the waves, but to surf on top of them. I learned that if I could love I had a reason to live. I learned I could be happy even when I was sad. I learned to focus on now and move from moment-to-moment, step-by-step. And when, in a year, I came out the other side into the light, I recognized my own strength, and the tender love God has for me, and for all Her creation. I came out of the depression with a fearlessness that I hadn’t had going into it. I felt reborn.

The other day I realized that I needed that experience in my life – it helped prepared me for the challenges my world is facing right now. At the time it seemed like the worst thing I’d ever experienced. Now, looking back, I realize it was a wonderful blessing.

 Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart…
– Psalms 10: 17

(Click here to behold a way cool rendition of Godspell’s Prepare Ye the Way that I found on youtubeThis’ll get you in the Christmas spirit. 🙂 )

Forum Friendships

When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts.
– Mary Baker Eddy

Nine years ago, as I was entering a challenging period in my life, I clicked on a button at the bottom of my book’s page on Amazon and found myself in a zany world of Christians, atheists, Buddhists, pagans, and other assorted folks engaged in dialogue about religion. I was fascinated by what I saw there. I laughed out loud. At times my mouth literally fell open in disbelief. I was moved. I was inspired. I was disturbed. I was informed.

I tentatively put my toe in the forum waters and soon found myself sucked into the current and pulled into a rollicking, outrageous, epic verbal adventure. Ohmygosh! It was an amazing trip! As I was thrown here and there by the currents, bouncing around ad hominem boulders, I reached up to a raft going by, and the folks in the raft reached down and pulled me into their daring, laughing midst. Without further ado, they handed me an oar and made me one of their crew. They became my friends.

I was the only Christian Scientist in the crew. My crew mates were atheists, Christians, Buddhists, wiccans – some believed in a god, some did not. But they all had a couple things in common that, for me, were more important than whether they believed in a god or not – they all had the ability to laugh at themselves; and they were all enlisted in battling self-righteous busybody bullying and meanness.

Soon after I got on the forum I got it into my head to start my own religion. I named it Humoristianity. Here are the tenets of my faith:

1) You must be able to laugh at yourself.

2) You must be able to recognize how ludicrous your beliefs might appear to others.

3) You must want nothing but good for everyone, everywhere in the universe.

4) You must have a natural aversion to meetings, committees, and scheduled events (as we will be having none of those).

5) You must enjoy the humor of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Tom Lehrer, and Jerry Seinfeld (if you’re a Jerry Lewis kind of guy, you might want to think about starting your own religion – although we wish you nothing but good).

My friends soon joined me in the Humoristian temple. We gave each other grandiose titles and set forth to conquer the world with humor. The conquering-the-world thing never really came to pass. But we did get a book out of it: The Humoristian Chronicles: A Most Unusual Fellowship.

For me, the most amazing things to come out of that time on the forum were the incredible and lasting friendships that were made there. In some ways these friends knew me better than my off-line friends because we had talked with each other about things that people rarely talk about in normal, polite conversation – we’d talked about our most deeply-held beliefs about God and life and the universe. We’d shared our doubts and our fears and our triumphs with each other. We got to know each other through our thoughts and words before we got to know each other in the person. It was a rare and beautiful opportunity.

During my time on the forum I was also working my way through a terrible depression – something I’d never experienced before. When I clicked into the forum I was allowed to escape, for a time, from the world of depression, and into a world of laughter – into a world where people actually wanted to hear what I had to say, and listened, and responded with kindness. Later, when I was telling a psychologist about my experience on the forum – suggesting to her that I might have actually been addicted to it – she told me, no, it looked like I had instinctively done something really healthy for myself; I had found something that was helpful to me and helped me cope.

Through the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of my forum friends in the person. I have never been disappointed by the people they are in “real” life. They have been a blessing to me.

Yesterday my husband (who has met several of my forum friends with me) and I met my forum friend, Craig, and his wife, for lunch. Craig and his wife are from Jamaica, but they are currently living in Dubai. The last month they’ve been vacationing in the USA – traveling up the west coast – and, happily, I live on their route. Craig and his wife are WONDERFUL people. His wife is smart and beautiful and accomplished – a high school chemistry teacher. And Craig is as kind and funny in the person as he was on the forum.

Afterwards I asked my husband: “Weren’t they great?!” And he said, yes, they were. “Didn’t I meet cool people on the forum?”

Without hesitation, he answered “Yes, you did! Very cool people!”

Humoristian friends

 

The Middle Book

Yeah, I think what we’ve got here is a case of “middle child syndrome.” My middle child of books, The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book, has been a little over-looked lately. So maybe it’s time to give her some attention. 🙂 Here are some excerpts…

But this is one of his clouded times and
He’ll out of ‘em enough to shake the tree
Of life itself and bring down fruit unheard of…

– Edwin Arlington Robinson

***

My son and I recently talked about my previous book, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist. I told him that book was true for the person I was then, and I’m glad I wrote it, but I couldn’t write the same book now. Andrew told me I should write another book then, for this time in my life. I told him that my recent life experience has been kind of dark. He said I should write about that then, and he started talking about trilogies – how almost every life story has three parts – the first book is usually happy and innocent, the second one is dark and challenging, and the last book is the triumph book. Andrew said it was time for me to write “the middle book.” He assures me the book about the golden years will come, but he says that book can’t come until the middle book gets written.

So what you see here is me sucking it up and writing The Middle Book…

***

At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it.

Eckhart Tolle tells us: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” He asks, “How do you know this is the experience you need? Because,” he says, “this is the experience you are having at this moment.” I really like how he puts that. My thought is that something is only a challenge to us when there’s a lesson to learn from it. Two people, in other words, might find themselves in identical situations – and one of those people might coast through the situation, and the other might stumble through it – depending on where each individual is in her spiritual progress.

If somebody had tried to talk to me about mental illness before I’d had this experience, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were going on about. Mental illness was something that happened to “other” people.  Mental illness was not something a madcap Christian Scientist would ever know anything about, right?

Yeesh.

Here’s some of what I gained during this time: a new understanding and appreciation of love; a greater sense of gratitude for the power of a moment, and of a good, deep breath; a greater appreciation for choice; renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; greater humility, empathy and compassion; and a greater commitment to my own spiritual journey.  I’d entered The Year of Insanity an untested “youth” – gliding through life’s challenges on a kind of cavalier, simple joy, without really having to put much work or effort into my mental frame of mind. By the time I exited that year I had a much deeper understanding of God, and who I am, as God’s expression.

The_Madcap_Christian_Cover_for_Kindle (2)