Posted in Longreads & Essays, Musings

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 Longreads & Essays

Freedom and the Fear of Death: Words from Dr. King

Dr. King once said “Until you conquer the fear of death, you don’t know what freedom is!”

I must admit that I am not free and have not been free for a long while. I have allowed Death to keep its sting. On this anniversary of the assassination of this great man, I am reminded that there is still a long way to go in this country and the world before we achieve the Dream. On this day with this faith I commit myself to change beginning with myself and with my fear of death. In other words, in a paraphrase from Gypsy Smith, “If you want to have revival, draw a circle around yourself and have revival in that circle.”

So I am drawing a circle around myself. I am stepping out of my comfort zone beyond talk into places and experiences that make me uncomfortable into an engagement with people different from me. I am not expecting people to come to me. I am not expecting change to knock on my door. I am going to change. I am opening the door to difference and walking out. I am going to face my own mortality and cease to be afraid of what might happen if my changing causes others to change, to be uncomfortable, and so strike back against that change and me.

Who am I to think that I must not suffer when I do anyway if one person in this world is suffering? Who am I to think that I must not hurt when I do anyway because one person in this world is hurting? Who am I to think that I must ignore death when my brothers and sisters the world over are giving their lives day in and day out because they cannot live as I do?

I do not know where this path will take me, but I do know this:
I am not alone and
I will not be afraid.

January 21, 2008

Posted in Stories, Witness Unseen

Weekly Serial Book 1 Chapter 5: Witness Unseen

(Author’s Note: Early on in my blogging, to honor the old pulp magazine serials, I began a weekly serial series of my stories. I have decided to repost those stories in serial form. Each Friday will feature a new chapter until a story ends. Then I will begin a new story. Enjoy!)

Witness Unseen

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5 – The Final Chapter

I reach down with my mind and find him, lying there in the weeds. Thick mud settling, closing over his head. I wrench him free. Caress his tiny blue face and the life-beat throbs again. Rise to the surface with the child and set him free.

The child breaks through the surface of the lake with a rush of water and the father stares in disbelief as his son floats to him and falls into his arms.

Alive.

A life.

Trembling.

Puzzled.

Joy.

Father carries his child up from the lake to the house.

Wonder. And I?

I watch them go and slip back down into the depths.

To sleep.

My birth premature.

Sleep.

I am broken.

Sleep.

I will not awake.

Death.

Sleep.

Joy.

Posted in Stories, Witness Unseen

Weekly Serial Book 1 Chapter 4: Witness Unseen

(Author’s Note: Early on in my blogging, to honor the old pulp magazine serials, I began a weekly serial series of my stories. I have decided to repost those stories in serial form. Each Friday will feature a new chapter until a story ends. Then I will begin a new story. Enjoy!)

Witness Unseen

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Closer.

I am waiting for my revenge.

Face turning blue and eyes wide closing.

I am waiting for my revenge.

Struggle, thrashing in the water about me, then stillness. A twitch.

I am waiting for my revenge.

Heartbeat throbbing and slowing. One beat. Two. Three ragged chords of life. Silence.

I am waiting for my revenge.
And then, a scream, not unlike one I have heard before. Of such pain and agony. Loss of one’s own. Pain. Helpless, hopeless loss and pain.

Scream of a man for his child.

She had cried thus. Scream. Piercing my soul like a thousand needles and ripping from me that unknown emotion. Scream.

And I know.

Posted in Stories, Witness Unseen

Weekly Serial Book 1 Chapter 3: Witness Unseen

(Author’s Note: Early on in my blogging, to honor the old pulp magazine serials, I began a weekly serial series of my stories. I have decided to repost those stories in serial form. Each Friday will feature a new chapter until a story ends. Then I will begin a new story. Enjoy!)

Witness Unseen

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Yet I have sensed a special bond between this man and his child, something which I cannot comprehend. It lies not in me. I know. I have searched many times, but though I have much, I have not this. I long for it, but I will forget all desires save one, vengeance, and push my being to its completion.
Wait. There is a movement nearby.

The child has come to the pond under cover of the dusk, away from his father’s piercing eyes. He moves stealthily down the shore with rope in hand, gazing out with grim determination. Creeping closer. Closer.

“John, where are you!?”

Call of the father cutting through the child knowing his mission must wait.
“I’m down here by the lake.”

“I thought I told you …!!”

“Yes, but I want to show you … aaaah!”

Slip and the child tumbles into the depths,
falling,
falling,
falling
down
to
me.

I am waiting for my revenge.

Posted in Stories, Witness Unseen

Weekly Serial Book 1 Chapter 2: Witness Unseen

(Author’s Note: Early on in my blogging, to honor the old pulp magazine serials, I began a weekly serial series of my stories. I have decided to repost those stories in serial form. Each Friday will feature a new chapter until a story ends. Then I will begin a new story. Enjoy!)

Witness Unseen

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

I awoke from my sleep years ago to screams of a mother in pain.

My mother.

Who had sheltered me through these centuries of fire and ice and in whose warm bosom I had safely slept, awaiting my birth. She, my faithful Keeper, screamed in pain. Wave¬ upon wave of her torment washed over me and I wept with her.

My wail joined hers.

The earth shook with our agony and the treads of the great yellow monster which chewed at her flesh for days and then spat her back out again.

Chewed at my mother.

Until those two-legged ones took the monster away and a black gaping wound remained.

Still we screamed on.

Then the rains came and washed our pain away.
I trembled with rage at my helplessness; that I, one so great, could do nothing while my mother writhed in agony. I, trapped by forces set in motion before my existence.

So I trembled and waited. I wait still.

But soon.

And you see now why I must awake and destroy them who hurt her so.

Posted in Stories, Witness Unseen

Weekly Serial Book 1 Chapter 1: Witness Unseen

(Author’s Note: Early on in my blogging, to honor the old pulp magazine serials, I began a weekly serial series of my stories. I have decided to repost those stories in serial form. Each Friday will feature a new chapter until a story ends. Then I will begin a new story. Enjoy!)

Witness Unseen

Chapter 1

“Hey, Dad! The lake’s got bubbles in it again!”

Cry of a curious child. Boy. Sigh of an overworked man bent over a cluttered desk inside. Click of the pen dropping from his hand. Reluctant groan of an overstuffed chair as he rises and moves tiredly to the door. Slam! The voices outside sifting through these walls.

“John, how many times have I told you to stay away from the lake? It’s too dangerous and …”

“But, Dad, I tell you I saw …”

“No buts! Now you heard me: Stay away!”

Voice rising. Child lost.

“Son?! Are you …?”

“Yeah, I know, Stay away!”

Stay away.

Reverberating down to me in my muddy womb, the conversation and stern warning from father to son, I hear. It has rained much lately and the sides of the lake are slippery, dangerous for a man, deadly to a child.

And so the warning.

I hear, and see and smell and touch this, for all of my senses are one, molded together in complex simplicity through time. And soon, with them in full readiness, I will arise from these dark depths that have been my prison for so long and I will take my revenge.

Ah, your questions. Revenge?

Wait.

Hush.

I will tell the tale.

Posted in Longreads & Essays

Geometric Peace – I Seek to be a Parabola

Mathematically speaking the parabolic curve reflects any beam striking any place on the curve to a focal point. Parabola.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words are worse.”

I have three choices:
A) Receive Pain – no response = bitterness growth, delayed psychotic reaction
B) Receive and Return – “an eye for an eye” – consciously open or subtly, demeanation = broken relationships, friendship alienation
C) Parabola – Receive, Reflect, Focus – acknowledge pain, transform into love action – “a way out is always provided” – attitude adjustment = health, healing, and transformation (inner and outer).

May 21, 1995

Posted in Poems

The Shapers

Last night I dreamed the Shapers came around again.
They dropped by the cottage as we were sitting down to dinner.
I invited them in.

Jesus and I laughed about the first time I gave my life to him down deep inside a sleeping bag trying to make the tears come while my mocking friend pulled the covers back to see what I was doing. It was he who had told me that I could not eat the Lord’s Supper unless I was born again.

A rocky start I guess, but honored nonetheless. Jesus loved me for who I am.
And I began learning
to love myself and everyone around me,
It and I always turning, turning from truth and back again.
Jesus loved me for who I am.
I still do, he said.
My Shapers and I bowed our heads in silence while the Prince of Peace broke the bread.

After grace, I turned to Dr. King.
“I’m Martin to my friends.”
He pointed at his head and then they all showed me the places where the bullets and the nails had gone in.
Loving your enemy is no guarantee he will reciprocate or give love back again.
I used to wonder whether I would go up and out like Martin.

I grew up in Mississippi and I met him though his people,
still getting used to the changes,
showing patience with the foot draggers,
paying no mind to the word daggers, the tut-tutters and finger waggers,
so willing to forgive and forget.
Martin smiled. “I have a dream,” he said.
“And the dream ain’t done being dreamed yet.”

Next I spoke to Gandhi.
“Please pass the Satyagraha.
I need some more spices from the mouth of the Mahatma.”
So we spoke of truth and love, with a dab of philosophy,
how the tooth for tooth just leaves everyone’s mouths empty.
“Did you like Ben Kingsley and the length of the movie?”
“Not bad,” Mohandas smiled. “Though I would have made it shorter with a little less of me.”

My church saw the movie together.
I was young, and it was long, but my life was changed forever.
I remember how I cried,
how it felt to be with the adults outside
at intermission talking peace to the cool Southern night air.
I’m still figuring out how to be salt of the earth and
where.

“How are you, Romero?” I asked.
“I’m well,” he replied.
I told him of the time I spent at the church where he died,
how I wore a black cross around my neck for years in solidarity with his people, who shared their hopes and
fears with a naive college student, how we cried and laughed,
how reading Exodus could make you disappear,
how the soldiers who killed the priests shot up his photograph. “Monsignor, you were more alive dead than
you were before.”
To which he said, “My son, that is the essence of resurrection.”

After that I spoke to Menno and thanked him for my heritage. “I would gladly have been martyred like these,”
he said. “But I did not have the privilege.”
“How does a mortal, fearful man have such courage?” I asked.
“Be faithful. Life is in God’s hands.
Do not take upon yourself what is the Creator’s task.”

After too short a time, it seemed,
they pushed back their chairs to take their leave from my dream.
“We have far to travel yet,” Jesus said. “And many more Shaped to see.”
So I bidst them farewell and thanked them for their lives.
They laughed and laid their hands on me.
“Freely given, child, freely receive.”

When I awoke, I lay still for awhile and listened to her breathe,
this woman whom I’ve known for a short time who is already shaping me with her love, encouragement, and commitment to peace
in our lives together and communities.

I thought of Mom and Dad, my friends and my family,
the shapers I carry inside from their stability,
the learnings and the laughings,
and our shared history.

These are my Shapers, the makers of me,
the famous and the not so well known
who have scribed these patterns on my bones.
There are many, many more unmentioned, and more shapes for me to see,
for I am a grateful man who contains a wonderful
geometry.

September 2003