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  • Writer's pictureClinton

Resiliency, Strangers In The Night, and Hope


Reframing trauma: empowering change


Please be advised. This post contains details of a traumatic event that may be a trigger to some. Before that section begins there is a line of red asterixis. *************** . The conclusion of that section is again marked with another line of red asterixis. ***************


Discovering My Inner Resiliency:

Jane Goodall in, “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times,[1] speaks about the important strength held within the indominable human spirit and how this adds to the process of healing. She states that, “Hope [is] a survival trait…..When we face adversity, it is hope that gives us the confidence to rally our indominable Spirit to overcome it…..” Hope, accordingly, goes far beyond a whimsical fairytale. Hope is built upon resiliency, and key to that resiliency is the ability to adapt. If one is to not only survive but thrive, they must have the ability and willingness to adapt to changing life circumstances.[2]

To help set the scene as to how this blog began to take shape, it was late one night in October of 2020, amid the worst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, when the bedside clock read around 1:00 AM and unable to sleep, with sharp pain in my back and a racing mind, I crawled from bed, quiet as possible trying not to wake the dogs or others in the household, and made my way to the den where looking at a bookcase containing an array of DVDs, I removed one from the shelf; Field of Dreams[3]. I carefully made my way down the hallway and into the family room, plans simply of playing a movie I was familiar with, where I would rest in my recliner, hoping beyond hope that my mind would slow and the fireball in my lower back would ease, so I might nap to the sounds of a film I thought I knew well. That was my plan, to catch some more shuteye. Yet, it’s one thing to have plans, and something completely different to have those plans reveal themselves in any semblance of the previously imagined.

What unfolded instead led me to watch Field of Dreams three times in two weeks, and begin to read for the second time in my life, Shoeless Joe[4]. Characters seemingly less important than others to me in the past, caught my attention in a manner on that restless night, simultaneously soothing my mind and filling it with excitement, in such intensity my back pain faded into the background, leaving one to wonder if the phenomenon was Divinely inspired, driven by sleep depravity, or a fateful combination of the two. I began adding words to the laptop screen before me, with only a meager sense of the direction they might take. I exceedingly felt an overwhelming sense of urgency, I’m willing to suggest Divine inspiration led the way, even if the lack of sleep added to the potency of the experience. Potentially, it was drawn forth by the “energy force” Jane Goodall speaks about as she integrates her understanding of ‘spirit’ and science. She states that for her it is an, “inner strength that comes from my sense that I am connected to the great spiritual power that I feel so strongly—especially when I’m in nature.”[5]

Part way into Field of Dreams, the character Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, heads to Minnesota in search of an old ball player, Moonlight Graham—his nickname incurred during his short-lived professional baseball career. What Costner discovers is that Moonlight Graham, having played only half an inning in the majors, finds he is at the end of his professional baseball career. So, he “hangs them up,” and heads back to medical school, thereafter, serving the small town of Chism, MN for many years before his ultimate retirement. As Costner engages Graham in this mystical conversation, he asks “Doc Graham,” what it was like to end his professional career after only half of one inning and make a deliberate decision to completely change the trajectory of his life based on the circumstances present at that time. Doc Graham responds, even in gratitude for his lifelong career as a doctor, that it is important to pay attention to every moment in our life. To see what we may take away or learn. Graham says to Kinsella, Costner’s character, regarding that half-inning, “It was like coming this close to your dreams [holding his index finger and thumb closely together] and then watch them brush past you like a stranger in the crowd. At the time you don’t think much of it. You know we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘well there’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that that was the only day."

I may be an ordained clergyperson, but first and foremost, I’m just another person, one of seven billion sentinel beings, as the Dali Lama would say[6], born in the image of God, as many of my fellow theists would suggest, with gifts and talents, as well as challenges and struggles. Some I have used and continue to use as I move forward in life. While others I have ignored, shelved, or wavered regarding the value they may hold for me. Gift or challenge, talent, or struggle, they have all been present in both positive and negative ways.

I was married for seventeen years before going through a divorce. As my divorce was finalized, which of course was not part of my self-predicted life experience, I swore off ever loving or trusting another individual again with the deepest concerns of my heart, or the most vulnerable thoughts of my mind. I had my mind set on living out the rest of my days as a Protestant Monastic, ministering to and caring for others, all the while living a personal life of simplicity and depravity.

True to the laws of nature, creation, providence, or whatever it is that governs how life unfolds, my plans as I imagined, wouldn’t be followed with any sense of strict adherence. Instead, my plans, MY PLANS, were consistently upended, overturned, or utterly ignored. Now, in my mid-forties, I am about to marry a beautiful, compassionate, highly intelligent, and creative woman. I have learned about love in ways that I would have never even known to hope for, even as I grieved the loss of my first marriage, now affectionately dubbed “Act I.” Further, since March of 2019, I no longer serve in active ministry, granted disability by the denomination I grew up in, served in, and upon taking my ordination vows, became under their “jurisdiction,” adhering to my denomination’s governance. The irony being that the tradition in which I was raised, educated, ordained, and served in, by means of a nearly “tongue-in-cheek” theological assertion, has a love for life’s events to occur “decently and in order.”

I drive a pickup truck (currently as little as possible), which seemed to stick out in the inner city, but now blends in with the others, ever since I began living in rural Northeast Pennsylvania. While serving my last faith community before being considered disabled, I lived in the home they owned, located in a neighborhood where social justice concerns and issues of inequality began to move to the forefront as poverty, homelessness, drug activity, as well as related crime sharply rose. This occurred as public services, and access to needed assistance, including to quality mental healthcare, plummeted. I could list more concerns, and likely will in later posts, but for now, hopefully you understand the dire breaking point the local community was teetering on.


***************


Strangers In the Night:

It’s probably important to note that while living there, as my “Act I” was still underway, I experienced a home invasion in 2015 during the middle of the night, that of a violent repeat offender. As the alarm sounded, my previous spouse and I made our way down the back steps from the second floor toward the kitchen, the sensor that had been triggered, assuming it was malfunctioning, that is until I opened the door into the kitchen to find a man standing there, covered in blood, severely cut from the broken glass that had made up the door’s window.

As he began to move toward me, with a confused look on his face—a look I was too familiar with from my days working in mental health, I stood there in my robe, with my former spouse still in the stairwell, when suddenly I was given a gift. The gift was simply words, but words that, nonetheless, may have very well saved our lives. “I am in my robe. Why don’t you have a seat at the kitchen table, and I’ll go get dressed so we can discuss what you need.” As I spoke these words, there appeared on the man’s face some ability to reason, and he further moved in my direction, which also happened to be that of the table.

My then spouse was on the phone with 911. As I turned my back and closed the stairwell door to the kitchen, I said quietly, but with extreme urgency, “Go!” and we headed back up the stairs to the second floor, along the main hallway, down the “grander” front stairwell, and exited the house, heading in the direction of a local business down the hill, and of increasing importance, heading toward a wide-open space where I could see if we were being pursued.

The man was arrested at gunpoint in the master bedroom, blood was strewn on walls, floors, nightstands, and even on my former spouse’s wedding band. Blood I personally cleaned up. Even though the home underwent significant renovation at any potential access point, designed to portray a still inviting exterior, yet structurally, hospitality was merely an illusion, and fortification became the reality.


***************



Empowered Change and Expansive Hope


The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light., John 1:5 (CEB)[7]


For the most part, I haven’t slept well since that fateful night. I have been diagnosed and am undergoing treatment for PTSD and treatment-resistant depression which is considered both severe and recurrent. I am easily startled by the slightest sound, which will cause me to rise from a deep sleep, fists clenched, even as I am a pacifist. As the sun sets, and the evening light fades to the darkness of night, my anxiety skyrockets. I visually check the locks on the house before going to bed, even though I can see through an app on my phone that they are, in fact, locked. With the third-party monitored alarm set, I will do my best to try and fall asleep. You might be wondering why on earth I would write about such personal life circumstances, and further, share them publicly on a blog.

I believe my desire to share my experience goes back to two points. The first is to recognize that every single moment in life counts, even the very difficult ones. Whether the trauma of a home invasion, a divorce, or an ongoing struggle with subsequent depression, anxiety, and PTSD, there is something to be learned. There is an opportunity, one that may not occur again. An opportunity that should not be allowed to just slip by like a “stranger in the night.” Further, is the realization of my own resiliency, of the indominable human spirit, as Jane Goodall asserts. In writing about, and reframing these traumatic experiences, I am adapting, changing, and growing. While the trauma can’t be easily dismissed, and in some way may always have an ongoing impact on me, I can also seek within that trauma opportunities to grow, even a sense of calling. Potentially of the greatest excitement, while continuing to experience growth, I am blessed with an increasingly expansive sense of Hope.

So, even as I consider this blog to be part of my personal process of healing, I believe it is even more important that concerns, such as mental health, which is so often spoken of in a hushed tone, receive the open and productive attention that is so desperately needed. Even now, as recent events have brought to the forefront social justice issues regarding mental health care, this much-needed dialogue, and further action, is actively being silenced by institutions, principalities, and powers, that seem to hold a greater interest in the almighty dollar than in the wellbeing of humanity. It is time for the “if we don’t talk about it, it will simply go away,” approach to addressing mental health and mental illness to be discarded. It is time for discussions of mental health to become increasingly mainstream and destigmatized. Even more so, we are far beyond the point, where true recognition needs to be given to the fact that mental health, mental wellbeing, and even mental illness can and does impact us all.


Again, life itself is a precious gift. So how we decide to care for ourselves, as well as others, has tremendous implications for our well-being, sense of joy, and that of future generations. Until next time!

Grace and Peace,

Clinton

[1] Goodall, J., Abrams, D. C., & Hudson, G. (2022). The book of hope: A survival guide for trying times. Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company

[2] Ibid, pp. 84-85.

[3] Field of dreams. (1989). [DVD].

[4] Kinsella, W. P. (2014). Shoeless Joe. RosettaBooks.

[5] Goodall, J., Abrams, D. C., & Hudson, G. (2022). The book of hope: A survival guide for trying times (p. 143). Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company

[6] Abrams, Douglas Carlton, Bstan-'dzin-rgya-mtsho, Lama, Dalai, & Tutu, Desmund. (2016). The book of joy: Lasting happiness in a Changing World. Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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