A Rock Feels No Pain

In despero , obscurum ; In Diligo , Lux lucis. (In despair, darkness; In Love, Light). -Me

Mission: Dominican

Mission: Impossible

Mission: San Marcos

Well. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, and longer still of any substance; and this one, too, is delayed, but I am still processing, still trying to think of all that went on, that I learned and felt and the times we shared.

So, practical things first. A couple of weeks ago, on the 28th of June, 21 people set out at the crack of dawn. Sixteen kids, from 14-18, and five adults, from some age to 47. We met at 0-dark’thirty, at the Church, and boarded a chartered school bus. We rode said bus, to the Newark, NJ, airport, and got off at terminal C. (It would have been silly to get off anywhere else, because that’s the terminal the flight was departing from, you see. I know you were worried about why we chose that terminal, and now you know).

Anyway, we herded and corralled, and counted heads a lot, and worked 21 people through security, immigration, boarding-pass checks, and onto the plane. A few (short!?!?!?) hours later, about 1230, we disembarked at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and began a great adventure in hard work, sharing, laughter, tears; in working, building, sweating, bleeding; in short, we started a week of mission work to the San Marco area of the Diocese of The Dominican Republic.

I can’t tell you, how proud of those kids, I am. Sixteen teenagers, working in dirt, shoveling, carrying concrete, heaving buckets of water (“Mas Agua! Mas Agua!”). We dug, we sweat, we panted; we sang, we laughed. We made friends, even across the language barriers. We learned that in this country, in our cozy little tiny-village lives (Yeah, small- the population of the “bigger” village, where our church is located, is estimated at 6663, as of 2007; the hamlet I live in, next to that village, is so tiny they don’t measure population separately from the surrounding areas), just how blessed we are, how fortunate.

We spent that week working, on a building site that will eventually become a Church, School and shelter for single- moms. Our little band turned out to be the first group in. The Padre we worked with had never had a mission group to work with before, and indeed, we were the ground breakers for the entire project.

Not to minimize the physical, for the kids did an incredible job, considering- 250′ of trench for a foundation, 18” deep and wide; concreted mixed, barrowed and poured that length, and cinderblock wall to about 4′, for most of that length, using hand tools like hoes, shovels and picks; some of our young ladies are almost five feet tall, and might weigh 100 lbs, and they worked without a serious complaint, for a week, in temperatures that approached 100, with 90% plus humidity. Not a single one of us were seriously hurt; as the designated first-aide guy, I had to flush two kid’s eyes, one for a bit of rock chip, and one for sunscreen dripping, but other than that my primary concern was blisters, hydration, and sunblock. (After all, I had to bring ’em back in the same shape I took ’em from moms and dads, right?).

So, the upshot, was a lot of hard physical labor.

But-

The most wonderful parts, had nothing to do with that. As great as they were at work, the gang of kids were even better, at mission and outreach, at connecting and friendships. Each one, in their own way, joined hands with neighbors and friends that we hadn’t met yet. Smiles, laughter, little ditties in Spanish, little ditties in English, clapping to the beat of songs we didn’t know, couldn’t recognize, set the stage for a deeper relationship. (I wish I could remember some of the little movements and words, to a little thing we learned from a 14 year-old gal, that first night; we have video, but I don’t have it here, but oh Lordy, we laughed!).

Some of the things that stand out, with crystal clarity-

  • The Dominican workers refusing lunch until we, the “guests”, had eaten; and, on the last day, when they realized they’d not purchased enough food for the entire week- watching them eat ketchup sandwiches; some of which, were cut in half, so each would get something.
  • The grandmother of one of the little girls opening her home, humble as it was, so we could use her bathroom- and, although clearly impoverished, offering me a cup of cafe, as if she had gallons to spare. (I know she didn’t, because 1. I could see her supply of coffee, and it wasn’t much, and 2. All water had to come from bottles, you’d no more brew gallons of coffee than you’d water plants with your drinking water).
  • The look on a couple of our teenager’s faces, when they realized, in horror, that one of the workers was barefoot not by choice, but because he didn’t own a pair of shoes. The look on those same faces, as well as the worker’s, as they took him to the little peddler’s cart and bought him a pair of shoes.
  • Later, the gratitude on Joan’s (Pronounced jo-ahn, and it’s a male name- we kept wanting to call him Yohann, lol) face, too, when he received a pair of shoes from the feet of one of the boys. (Does it count that I did bring some of ’em home shoe-less, albeit healthy?)
  • The gentle kindness of the Padre, as he bent to speak to the little girls that flocked around us, after we started our days with a prayer service in the teeny shed that acted as the church, for now, explaining why they couldn’t wheel the wheel barrows full of sacks of concrete up the street for us.

There’s so much more, so many little things that I can’t recount, I can’t express some of it yet, I’m still processing the whole trip, the whole community we formed to go, and expanded while we were there; the welcome we were given to join that far-off group, the love we all held, and showed.

Why, today, am I writing this? Well, cuz we had a follow-up meeting with the ‘gang’, today, after Church. We managed, it seems, to raise a substantial amount more than we needed, and the kids decided it would be appropriate to give it back to our parish, who had contributed so much to the trip; but, they also decided, on their own, that they needed to continue this connection, and all we heard for an hour, was how they could do more for the people of San Marcos.

Yeah.

It costs $300.00 (US), per year, to send a child to school, up through high-school. That includes tuition, uniform, books, etc. So our gang, today? They figure that if each of the twenty of us did just a little bit, per month, that we probably wouldn’t even miss, well; “Pauloa, Joan, Roberto… they could go to school!”

Yeah

Proud, I am, so proud of that gang.

And I love ’em all, each one.

Advertisements

Filed under: blessings, friends, friendship, God, musings, spirituality, , , , , , ,

Friends, Thank you!

The last few posts I’ve done here, have been back and forth, and not particularly spelled out; but, I have to say this: despite some knocking, despite some attempts by that ol’ black thing, to sneak back around-

You beat it back.

Yes, I know, “I” did it- but dammit, you all were here, even when I didn’t answer your comments, even when I’ve been so bad about commenting on your blogs (I do read, promise!)- and I’m grateful, for that.

Even now, you’re there, you’re here, and I can feel it. It is a wonderful feeling, to me, to have people that care. In so many ways, this is a new feeling to me; I was commenting just the other day, to a dear friend, that the old tagline of my blog (in it’s first iteration) was “I Am The Invisible Man”.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am, to each of you, that I no longer feel invisible; so, thank you- all of you:
Craig
melissa
imetam
redheadeditor
buttafly32681
emily
phyllis
lb
db
sb
ms

I wanted to say that, and also to let you all know, including the folks that inquired via email or IM- I’m okay. I’m okay, and doing better than ever, and the light is shining far above, spreading it’s warmth.

Thank you again & God bless all of you-
Dave

Filed under: "mental illness", depression, emotions, friends, friendship, God, invisibility

David and the terrible-awful-no-good-day

Today, March 13th, is a terrible-awful-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day.

But not for me, anyway. Today, for me, is a day like any other day. I got up, went to work, did some research, put together some analysis, had lunch- really, just a day.

But I feel great. The only thing I can point to, is simply related to the last few posts.

I’m alive.

I have God.

I have family.

I have friends.

So I’m feeling happy and content and at peace, at the moment.

I hope YOUR Friday, is just as nice in it’s own way, for you.

Filed under: "mental illness", emotions, family, friends, friendship, God

One flew into the Cuckoo’s nest

I know, the title of the book is “One flew OVER…” but, I didn’t. I flew into the cuckoo’s nest.

Flew into a brick wall, as well, or that’s what it felt like.

I’ve just returned from a few days in what I refer to as the nut-hut, because I had a major depressive episode on Sunday night. Looking at Lynn’s face and the expression in her eyes, as she was watching me, convinced me that the best thing to do was to remove myself to a safe place, but one where my own loved ones didn’t have to take on the responsibility of keeping me from hurting myself.

Not the easiest thing to do, because despite all of my knowledge and intellectual understanding, there’s still the underlying resistance to needing help for a mental illness. I can tell myself over and over that it’s just another part of the body that gets sick sometimes; and most of the time, I even believe it. But it’s still not the greatest feeling to know that your brain isn’t working right, and needs to have something just in order to do what normal people do without thinking about it.

So, a mixed week around here. Bad, in that it’s never fun when the black thing rears up, and this was a nasty vicious attack; but good, too, because I was able to ask for the help I needed, when I needed it.

I also realized, over the days, how much I love and value the friends I’ve been making lately. Many of them are online but I find that a pretty neat thing all by itself- it’s easy to talk here, and easy to share thoughts that would be much slower in coming, if there were more of the social conventions to be followed first.

I was struck again, by how loving my family is; Lynn was there, twice a day, for the full hour allowed, just to talk, to bring coffee that isn’t slop, and clean undies- and whatever else was needed, just to hear her tell me that she wasn’t going to let me come between us, was so fundamentally needed I can’t express it all.

I have so many things that I want to write about, observations that struck me, while I was there, but can’t yet articulate; so, if you read here regularly, you’ll have to put up with that for a while, I suspect.

Filed under: "cuckoos nest", "mental illness", depression, family, friends, friendship, love

Meanderings and Thanksgiving

Some random meanders

So I wonder, if I’m ever going to be a grown-up. I used to think being grown-up meant that you had your shit together; you were responsible; that you knew how to take care of your family and your kids; you were reasonably able to provide for them, or do your part if that’s what it needed; the emotional tailspins of being a kid, being a teenager, were over with, that you no longer felt alone, that you (or me, actually) felt as if things were at least moving along toward whatever your future would hold.

Apparently, I’m either:
A. Not a grown up yet
B. That’s not what it means
C. I’m nuts

I’ve found that, instead: I never seem to get my shit together; responsibility is a dirty word; I have no idea what to do for my family, or if I’m meeting their needs; I can work my ass off, and it’s never quite enough; and my emotions are probably more mixed up and roller-coaster-ey than they were when I was a teenager.

So unless my definition of being a grown-up needs revising, perhaps into something like: one who is usually confused, often discouraged, feeling inadequate for his family, emotional and not sure what’s happening next. If that’s the definition, then I’m doing okay.

My fear, is that that’s not quite how it works though, that I don’t get to modify the definitions to fit me.


It’s so great, to sit around the kitchen table at dinner time, and have the whole gang here. JT arrived yesterday for the long weekend, and all six of us had dinner together. There’s something so wonderful, so right, about having us all together, where they belong; even if he goes out, which he does a lot, he’s “home” at night- and I love that feeling.


Lynn said something about using the camera the other night, just conversation. I said, “whatever”, and she said something about “just telling me”. I don’t get it- and told her so. I don’t understand what more I can give, and she wont or cant say herself… I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this information, cheer? It’s not as if I didn’t already know she hadn’t come to bed until four, or that she was trying to do something with the headsets, and all- cuz they’re out on the desk, and weren’t before. So if the deal is that I don’t need to know, then why bother to tell me?


Thanksgiving, since we’ve moved to New York, has been an all over the place holiday. We’ve spent it with strangers in Brooklyn; in Palm Springs, in Connecticut, in New Jersey. We have very seldom spent it here, though, or that’s what it seems like to me. This year, we’ll be heading to Jersey, to a nephew’s house, with their little guy and his wife. Such a nice little boy he is, and cute as cute can be- should be a great day.

This year, I am especially thankful for friends, new and old. I haven’t had friends, good friends, in a long long time, and I’m grateful for those that I’ve met and made over the past year- for showing me that I can be, and can have, friends.

Filed under: family, friends, meanderings, relationship, thanksgiving

I’m thinking of heaven

One of the good things about traveling, at least if the travel is for business, is that I can spend some time alone, just to sit and think. The last two weeks, I’ve been away (although home on the weekend, yeah!) and been incredibly busy. Nothing like putting in 12-14 hour days, and then lock yourself in a hotel room.

On the nights we didn’t work that long, I found myself thinking a lot, particularly as I tucked in to try to sleep. Reflecting, looking back at different things that have happened in my life, different attitudes and thought patterns that I can see developing as I’ve gotten older.

Perhaps, as I’ve been accused of, I’m an introspective kook, who thinks too much. But, I rather think that looking at what motivates me to do certain things, examining the whys and wherefores of choices that have been made, is not a bad thing. I don’t always like the conclusions I come to, because sometimes it’s hard to look at myself and see just how inept I’ve been, at some facets of this thing called living a life. No, some things, I wish would just go away, so I don’t have to have the retrospective embarrassment that sometimes occurs, when I think of a particularly stupid or boneheaded move.

But the flipside of that, is that I can look back at some incredibly good things, as well. Some choices, some acts, are so clearly indicating that God has something in mind for me, that I can’t imagine how I thought I could fight it off for as long as I did. Maybe the biggest goof-up is that I wouldn’t listen for so long, despite the not-so-infrequent hints? I don’t know… Perhaps, as has been said in different conversations, I wouldn’t have heard until I’m ready anyway, so there’s little point in worrying about it.

I can look at four wonderful, healthy and well-adjusted and polite kids, and think “I had a hand in that, I helped to teach them manners, helped them to know right from wrong, to be polite and respectful.”

I can look at my family, my two brothers, my sister and my dad, and although not as close as some, I know that if I needed them, any of them, they’d be here in a heartbeat. I know, deep down, that they can feel that from me, too, and that’s pretty special on it’s own.

I have even made some friends, in the last year- which, for me, is pretty amazing. But they’re in my life, to one degree or another, some online only, some I’ve talked too, some are even in-person-friends; I’ve shared stories with them, we’ve cried and laughed and shared hugs, we’ve told each other dreams and nightmares- and a few of them, even come back for more! (Hmmm, what’s wrong with ‘em?)

So, I don’t think that some time to think is a bad thing, overall. But now, sitting here in my big ol’ leather recliner, with Lynn over there >>>>, the kids arriving home from school, well- that’s what I call heaven, really.

Filed under: family, friends, friendship, God, life, love, meanderings

I don’t like myself

Ever done something so stupid, you look at it and say, “What the f— was I thinking? Or, not thinking?”

I’m not generally a stupid person, overall, I’m reasonably intelligent, fairly articulate, a college graduate with a job that isn’t done by dummies. Sometimes that’s not enough, apparently, to keep me from doing really dumb things. Not even a minor, “pretty dumb thing”, or a tongue in cheek laugh, but a full-out all court press to win an award, for being an ass.

Over the past fifteen months, as I’ve tried to come to terms with and deal properly with depression, and then adding in the troubles that we’ve had in our marriage, I thought I was getting reasonably competent at expressing myself, at talking when I need to, or dumping here if I felt compelled to do so. Yet there are things that I still would hold back, and keep in reserve. A lot of these things, I was not sharing with Lynn, because it upset her to hear them, or made her sad, or feel guilty or blame herself; and certainly it’s not her fault, that I’m a fine candidate for the nut-hut. We often seem to do that, as each of us try to keep the other from being hurt, or sad, or whatever the case may be- to our detriment, as we’ve been struggling to learn.

Anyway, I hang out on some support websites, and read blogs, and chat with people here and there about things and life and love and depression. But, I made a friend, who began to share her own struggles, reactions to Zoloft and her relationship of six years that was crumbling, and shared with her my struggles with Lexapro and Wellbutrin and all, and some of what Lynn and I have been trying to cope with.

Nothing wrong with that, until I started to talk to her more than I should, and not tell Lynn that I was; no, I started doing exactly what I was so upset about, not telling Lynn who and what I was talking about, and not letting her know how often or how much we were talking.

See? Stupid. Even knowing better, even as I felt hurt and distant, I was doing precisely the opposite of what I should have been doing.

I don’t like myself, very much.

Filed under: depression, friends, relationship, stupidity

Post Secret Friday night

Secrets, Secrets, and more Secrets. I spent the evening learning secrets, and it was fascinating. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones, that arrived at Ramapo College early enough to get a seat, at the PostSecret event that was held here Friday evening.

I don’t know the seating capacity, but the school enforces a capacity code, and some unknown number of people were unable to get in. Frank Warren, the creator and artist responsible for the whole PostSecret phenomenon is a great speaker, with stories and insights of his own, but truly, the secrets do speak for themselves.

It’s a mind-opening experience, to sit and listen to him speak, and share with the world his reasons for starting the whole project, and his reasons for continuing it. The hall was full of people, many carrying copies of one, two or even all three of the PostSecret books, but I truly think everyone there was fascinated by thinking that, however briefly and indirectly, their own secret might be shown to the world.

I know for me, the project, the first book, and Frank’s work with the art and 1-800-suicide have had a major impact on me. It was the first book, which had that number printed in it, and the website, which I had been reading often enough to remind me that the number was available, that saved my life one summer day last year.

Funny, about that- I did call the number, and it was answered- but, I really never spoke to the person on the phone, at all. I was so emotionally, spiritually, wrecked, I think I just said something like “Oh god, I have to go.” But, that was enough, for the moment. The simple little phone call, the person on the other end, just saying “Hi, what’s going on with you today?”… was enough to keep my hands from turning the wheel any further, and the bridge stanchion didn’t get to claim a life that time.

This was the second time I’ve gone to see the presentation, actually- the first time, I went into New York, with Lynn, and watched. I bought both books two and three that night, and we stood in line to have them signed, and to speak to Frank. In the end, I asked him to sign them, said something about the first book saving my life, and started to feel so overwhelmed with emotion I couldn’t speak. We left the store, and I’m not really sure if we were both in tears, or if it was just me; but I was so profoundly grateful for the acts of God that took place during that summer, that led me to being able to go and say thank you to a man I’d never met.

And now, when I think of secrets- why we love them so, why we cling to them as if they’ve become part of us, I imagine that we all have this box that lives in us, and sometime we should let them go. I know that sometimes, keeping a secret is just plain easier on the status quo, and sometimes, clutching it in ourselves might be the lesser of two evils. At least, we think so sometimes.

I made a friend last night, too, which was unexpected. I was walking in, and there was a woman who was also looking for the event, who had driven over from Connecticut. We chatted, as we looked for the room, and after the event had coffee and chatted some more. Very interesting, to realize how many, many people also feel this connection to the secrets, and the different ways that we both viewed and imagined the story behind some of the individual secrets.

She told me she’d sent in a secret, just a few days ago, and that it did feel good, to let go of it, to pass it on and give it away. Similar to how some of us use our blogs, I imagine- for me, I know that a big reason I write and post here, is to get rid of some of the baggage and thoughts and emotions that swirl around in my head and heart. (Of course, what I didn’t know, is that I’d start to meet and connect with other bloggers, and form interesting friendships that way- but I’m thinking it’s a wonderful part of it).

Pretty great evening, all in all- a fun way to start the weekend.

Filed under: depression, frank warren, friends, postsecret, suicide

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4 other followers

Ancient History