Posted in Longreads and Essays, Musings and Reflections

Depression 1.6 – Tough Enough To Talk About It

(From November 9, 2011)

Recently my wife asked me what book I was reading.

“I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, somewhat taken aback. “I was just curious . . .” Her voice trailed off.

“I Don’t . . .” I started to repeat, then I smiled. “That is actually the title, it’s a book about depression.”

We both had a good laugh.

We can laugh about it now although that wasn’t always the case. I am on medication, reading books like the one with the title above, and actually, I DO want to talk about it. Or actually, talk more openly and honestly about it. As I look back over my journals, I realize that I have been talking about it. But I was talking mostly to myself and resisting what was staring me in the face.

I was depressed.

And wonder of wonders I am not alone. According to psychotherapist Terrence Real, the author of I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, depression among men is a silent epidemic that we don’t want to talk about or deal with because it isn’t “manly.” He differentiates between overt depression and covert depression, the different symptoms of both, and how both can destroy lives and relationships if not acknowledged and healed.

While I have found the book generally very helpful, there are a couple of things in particular that have jumped out at me so far. Early on, the author describes his learned understanding of men as “wounded wounders.” I resonate with this idea. In a sense I have been very adept at recognizing and dealing with my pain. My plethora of writings reflect this. However, it is only recently that I have begun to move from the narcissism that such inner work can lead to and into the more transformative power of letting my vulnerability out, through the same power of writing.

Real also describes the relationship between depression and violence, namely the violence men perpetrate on other men, especially as boys. I understand this as well. I was a smart and sensitive boy, gifted with near sightedness and thick glasses. My peers teased me mercilessly about my lack of manhood whatever that means. I was called Gay and Queer as if those terms make one any less of a man. At that time it still hurt deeply. One guy even told me something like I might get good grades but he got the girls. Typical misguided macho stuff. But I believed it. It was only later when I looked back from the relatively safe vantage point of adulthood that I realized that girls and women were attracted to me mainly because I was a man that they felt safe with and could trust.

There were worse things done to me which for now will stay between me and my Maker. Suffice it to say that I have received more trauma than I have given. But I am not innocent. I have seen the monster within. I wrestle with him daily while at the same time comforting the boy who still cowers in pain nearby. It is a struggle but I must do so if I am to survive and be healed.

It seems that the only way left open for men and boys to prove their manhood is through violence. But we are not made to be this way. Depression arises out of the helplessness we felt when we were victimized by other men. It also arises out of the guilt we feel from when we victimize(d) someone else, man or woman.

But there was One who did not walk this way. He took the pain perpetrated upon him by other men; their abuse, their torture, their injustice, their hate, and He did not respond in kind. Even more astounding, He transformed it into new life, a way of love that encompasses everyone and everything.

That, my friend, is HOPE. I have never found a Man tougher or more tender. It takes a real man to face his pain, not throw it back in someone’s face, and come out on the other side striving to be a better son, brother, father, husband, and friend.

So Man Up. I mean, really. You, your loved ones, and the world deserve it. It’s time we made this crazy orb a safe place for everyone, especially other men.

Man Up Campaign

Man Up Ministry

The Meaning of Man Up

Posted in Musings and Reflections

Wagon Tongue by Elmer Kelton

I like Westerns.

I like audiobooks.

I like Western audiobooks.

For Black History Month, I’ve been listening to Wagon Tongue by Elmer Kelton. The main character is Isaac Jefford, a former slave who is his former master’s right hand man, but he still has to navigate the blatant discrimination of the era.

“The life of a Texas cowboy is tough–especially if he is a black man like Isaac Jefford. Though he is the best at what he does, Isaac is careful not to step “over the line”–until his boss hires a vicious Southerner filled with a burning hatred. Now the time for crossing the line has come.

Take a listen to discover the significance of the book title as well as how Isaac survives and even triumphs in the end.

Posted in The Sunday Driver: Life in the Slow Lane

Reader Ship

reader-ship-by-kmls

Rainy Monday.

Drops land in staccato rhythm upon the AC in time to children voices reading,
soft and loud, but listening to the librarian’s request for gentleness
(with each other and the books).
The energy of good books elicits the energy of young readers.

Puzzle books are popular, little fingers trace crooked paths.
So too bright thoughts in figuring minds . . . growing!
Familiar trails (and books) are sought out; Space, Princesses . . .
books are the ships that will take them to faraway places.

I, a humble Captain, guide as best as I can,
making sure the books are safely harbored to sail from shelf-coves into the hands that need to travel with them and the circles around which these small sailors gather to discuss them.

All the while the rain falls and the oceans outside and within fill up with wondrous watery thoughts.

Written while volunteering in the library of my daughter’s elementary school.

Posted in Prayers and the Sacred

Between the Lines

image

You are a good book.

Every morning you turn to a new page.
Some things are already written there,
but there is plenty of space between the lines for you to fill in.

The emptiness and the scrolling script are gifts.

Posted in Stories and Fiction

Weekly Serial Book 6 Chapter 4: Styx

Brother closed his sweat-blurred eyes for a moment and opened them to see another corpse float into view, caught in the bloody light of the setting sun, moving like a supine shadow on the scarlet stream.

Brother knew. Before he saw the blue of the dress gathered loosely around her thin frame. Before he glimpsed the tangled strands of brown hair spread out around her head like a mass of seaweed. Before he saw her pale face, still lovely, slack-jawed and frozen in death.

Brother found himself standing, the pike in his hands, reaching for a final time out into the river. He hooked a fold of her dress and tenderly guided her to the shore. He wrestled her up the bank and gazed into her sightless eyes. Life flickered like a wind-blown candle there in the brown depths and Brother felt a surge of hope rise for a moment in his chest. But it was only the reflection of his face that shone in the dark of her irises, glowing before a dying sun.

Brother gathered the girl gently in his arms and hoisted her to his shoulder. He felt the blisters on his hands burst from the exertion and water began to weep from the wounds. His eyes were dry, but his hands mourned. Then, with his fingers dripping their salty tears upon his precious burden, Brother turned his back on the river with his pike imbedded in the shallows, and carried his sister home.

Written May 24, 1996

Posted in Stories and Fiction

Weekly Serial Book 6 Chapter 3: Styx

When the face was not a face, Brother used the pike to lift a rigid arm from the wake. His eyes would search the dripping, swollen fingers for the telltale glint of gold or gemstones until he was satisfied that the hand was not hers. Then he let that corpse too continue on its grisly way.

The pike was heavy, and as the day progressed, Brother’s arms began to ache with the strain of his work. Still he labored on, stretching out again and again to touch the endless epidermia until the pain lay like a fiery blanket across his rippling back. It was only when his throbbing muscles refused to obey the nerve firings in his brain that Brother reluctantly dropped the pike and sat down on the bank beside it to rest.

His hands felt different, bigger, and Brother looked down to find that new blisters had formed over the old ones of yesterday. Tonight, while he tossed and turned in fitful slumber before black-papered windows, the skin would harden in time to meet the hazy dawn when Brother would take up the pike again.

Posted in Stories and Fiction

Weekly Serial Book 6 Chapter 2: Styx

The faces were seldom complete. The violence of their demise, etched in every bullet hole and shrapnel scar, added to the speed with which they decomposed before the relentless onslaught of bacteria and fish. Sometimes, a meaty skull with dark pits for eyes turned its ghastly leer towards Brother, and his mind, prompted by the tattered skin of the cheeks, remembered the way the canvases hung in shreds from the war-ravaged walls of the city museum.

Brother was the caretaker of the museum. Cowering in the cramped shelter in the basement, he had wept uncontrollably when the first bombs fell upon the precious works he had so lovingly cared for over the years. He had cowered many days since and gradually the tears had ceased to flow down the cracks and creases of his countenance.

Posted in Stories and Fiction

Weekly Serial Book 6 Chapter 1: Styx

Brother sat beside the river, staring intently at the muddy water. It was Spring and along the twisting bank the flowering trees and perennials were in bloom. But Brother had no eyes for the kaleidoscope of color exploding around him. His burning gaze saw only the bodies floating like fleshy boats in the river.

On the crumbling loam beside him lay a long wooden shaft sharpened to a point and fitted with a steel hook at one end. Occasionally, Brother would take the pike into his callused hands and reach out into the current of corpses to poke and probe, turning a body ever so slowly like a pig on a spit. Only when another stranger’s face rolled before him, glaringly white against the brown waves, would Brother remove the pike and allow the cadaver to continue on its soulless journey.

Posted in Longreads and Essays

Not My Inheritance

Imagine my joy when my library informed me that Inheritance, the final book in The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, was available for me to check out. I quickly downloaded and transferred the audio book to my mp3 player and put in the earbuds.

Man, was I disappointed.

The book begins immediately with a battle with detailed descriptions of graphic blood and gore. So what, you say, Eragon, Saphira, and the forces of good are engaged in a war to overthrow the evil Galbatorix. That’s what happens.

I beg to differ.

Paolini is an excellent author, but he, like most, if not all, fantasy authors still subscribes to the Myth of Redemptive Violence, namely that good triumphs over evil through violence.

I have not finished the book (and I will do so), but let me go out on a limb and predict how the book will end.

Eragon will continue to train, there will be some questions about how bad violence is, but alas, the characters will have no choice. There will be several more battles, culminating in a major fight between Eragon/Saphira versus Galbatorix/Shruikan. It will be a tough struggle, but wonder of wonders, Eragon will kill Galbatorix, probably with his sword Brisingr.

Tada! Another happy, bloody ending.

I have no problem with the triumph of good over evil. My faith leads me to believe that this is what ultimately will happen. Even in the present, “all things work out for the good . . .” But I serve a Divinity who chose to suffer, to receive violence rather than call upon legions of angels to fight, and transformed death into life and restored lives. What a powerful concept!

So where are the stories that reflect this Third Way?

I am disappointed by the continuing proliferation of stories that perpetuate the myth that violence solves problems. The only difference between the good guys and the bad guys is not their war mongering methods, it is who comes out on top.

I am disappointed by the continuing equation of evil with darkness or blackness and goodness with white or light in much of fantasy literature, which quite frankly is racist and is a disservice to my black sisters and brothers.

I am disappointed by the lack of  true wisdom, not about ancient weapon-wielding tactics, but about the Third Way, that narrow space that exists between all conflict and brings all into the realm of peace.

I am disappointed that we continue to demonize some and place others beyond redemption as a way to continue to bring war and rumors of war to the world without and to the world within our minds, wherein such ideas germinate and become policy.

You see, I too created a fantasy trilogy when I was 15. And while I do not claim to be a good author, as I have matured and continued to write, I have seen the stories shaped to address the disappointments I list above. I hope someday for them to be published and perhaps even be successful.

But in the meantime, I will continue to call modern day fantasy authors to move beyond what has become a rather tired and worn out plot outline.

So writer, I don’t care how crafty a wordsmith you are, how complex your plot, how exciting your climax, or how beautiful your prose, it is past time for you to evolve beyond the Myth of Redemptive Violence.

Are you up to the challenge?