Like a growing number of Americans, I am a lapsed Catholic. It’s not that I ever lost my basic Christian faith. Rather, I hit an invisible wall of sorts around the time I turned 18. For whatever reason, I could no longer face the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s not that I had cataclysmic sins I needed to confess. I could no longer imagine that there was a priest who could truly listen to my sins. The more time that passed, the more it seemed impossible to do a true inventory of my conscience; the sacrament would not be valid on the grounds that I couldn’t possibly confess all the sins. And without reconciliation and penance, there could be no Communion.
Until today, I’d been stuck in place since the early 90’s. I’d attend Mass very occasionally and think of going to confession so I could take Communion the during the next Mass. From time to time, I’d consider joining a Protestant church to circumvent this issue entirely, but then I wouldn’t go to a different church for fear that I’d be betraying the Catholic church by doing so.
Today I finally attended services at our neighborhood Methodist church. My daughter bought a Bible with her birthday money last month, and she has been reading it almost daily. I decided it would be better for us to attend any Christian church at all rather than remain stuck over the sacraments in the Catholic church.
I had such a positive experience at the Methodist church. The communion service had a portion in which forgiveness of sins was offered to the repentant, and the sacrament itself was “open table” and offered to all baptized believers. This solved my decades-long problem, and it was a relief to feel the grace of that sacrament again.
I hope that all of my readers are having a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Lately I’ve been contending with another bout of depression, a state of mind that does not lend itself easily to gratitude. Still, I figure that a recognition that my life does contain matter worthy of gratitude could be therapeutic.
I am thankful that I recently discovered the truth of why I am vulnerable to depression and chronic pain. I’d guess that this a rare privilege. Most often the mystery of why depression and pain return time and again is fodder for more rumination, a journey of blame in darkness. I am this way because I am a victim of so-and-so or because I am weak. And then there a million details to be found in that darkness that seems to support such self- or other-blaming theories of suffering, and this very exercise feeds the depression and pain.
In my case, there is no ground at all for blaming myself or anyone else. Through a brain MRI and its review with my neurologist, I have learned that I have old lesions from a childhood head injury and that such lesions are strongly associated with a clinical picture of migraine and major depression. Though the scan itself cannot date said injury, there is a head injury in my past that is the likely culprit. I can remember that spring afternoon in 1982, when I hit a rock with my bicycle and flew over the handle bars and landed head first on the street. I can recall the sound of screen doors slamming as adults ran out of their houses to carry me home. Then I remember nothing else of that afternoon but darkness and sentence fragments.
So the matter is quite simple really. My pain and depression are artifacts of an accident. I can’t change the past, but I can alter how I react to my down times. When my depression flares up, it arises from a damaged part of my brain that can’t possibly speak the truth. Its voice is like static between radio stations. This damage also lends itself to pain that is out of proportion to its cause or reality. The less I reflect on the pain, the faster it goes away.
I am grateful to know this truth.
I am grateful for my family, my home, and my job. Lately I’ve considered too often how little security is certain in our times. On Thanksgiving, I reflect that what matters most is today. I can depend on myself and the company of those I love today. Tomorrow is not promised, and that is a basic reality of the human condition.
I had hoped to capture more of the garden before heavy frost forced its end for the year. Alas, an early snowfall surprised us all this week. Maybe “surprise” is not the correct modifier in this case. Here in west central Ohio we live under the threat of early snowfall from Halloween to Thanksgiving, but snow seldom becomes a reality early in November.
The peak of leaf season is upon us. We’ve had entirely too many rainy days this week. I took advantage of the sunny skies this morning and took a walk through a local park that is heavy on sugar maples. Alas, there is too much to do this weekend or else I’d devote the entire day to capturing local scenery.
Does anyone else suddenly go cold at the thought of narrating one’s life? This happens to me from time to time, and it is not a good thing when one has a personal blog. It’s not that things are so bad that I’m better off not writing about them. Actually, matters have improved greatly since earlier in the year. I’m in less pain. My daughter seems to be enjoying school. Still, I haven’t felt inclined to write about the day to day.
I do have yet another bit of medical drama, but I don’t think the matter is anything serious. I’ve had periodic migraines since I was ten years old, but I had a migraine with aura for the very first time last month. My neurologist ordered a brain MRI. My appointment for the MRI review won’t happen until later this week, but I did get a disc copy of it per the ordering doctor’s request. Of course, I had to find a way to view the images on that disc before my appointment. Now that I’ve viewed those pictures, I feel like I’ve partaken of a forbidden fruit. The physical contents of one’s head are far from beautiful, to say the least.
And now I will close with more photos from this morning’s walk:
The frost advisories of fall have begun, so there may not be much time left for this year’s garden. I’ve purged all but one of the containers because most had become partial casualties of repeated late summer and early fall heat waves. What is left is more stalwart, petunias planted in flower beds and echinacea that offered a surprise late blooming.
The nights have gotten chilly. I may need to turn on the heat in the house this week. I am ready for the cold, as long as it doesn’t get too harsh. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and felt chilled enough for a second blanket. I have longed to be just a little cold, as if I need that chill to settle into my bones for just a little while.