Monday, November 29, 2010

Hoping Like a Fist on Your Sternum

It's sort of a joke. I like to play the curmudgeon because, well, I just think it's funny and fun. I've been called Eeyore and have the plush animal someone gave me to prove. My internal self-image, however, is really rather hopeful. Mostly.

2010 has not been kind to me, at least not emotionally. From a significant death early on to the impending loss of a job at the end of the year, with some heartbreak in between, it's fair to say that I earned my Eeyore plush and maybe more.

It all seems rather incongruous, really, when I look back over the year professionally. I've expanded my freelance writing from regional to national. I'm especially proud that I've landed bylines in both The Christian Century and The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, all in one calendar year. I've read both periodicals for years and some people I very much respect have appeared in both. It's kind of a thrill to see my name on the same contents page as Andrew Holleran.

Which all goes to show that accomplishments aren't necessarily the source of all joy. They're the source of some joy, but not all.

Some years ago, an image I used for hope, especially when you're feeling hopeless, is a hand reaching into your chest, grabbing hold of your sternum, and pulling you into the future. It's an image that has come back to me this year. Sometimes, to make it into the future, we need someone to be that forceful with us, that rough. When all you want to do is curl up and stay where you are, in the sad feelings (which do have, I admit, an addictive quality), making it to tomorrow can feel like a violent attack.

And praise be to God for it.

I've never been diagnosed for depression and after reading Kathleen Norris' Acedia and Me, I realized that I'm probably more guilty of the sin of acedia than a victim of depression. They are not mutually exclusive, of course, as Norris notes, but seeing as how I seem to be climbing out of the pit without use of prescription drugs suggests that I'm not depressed in the clinical sense.

So I'm being pulled into the future by a hand that has invaded my chest and grabbed my sternum. It's pulling me forward, out of a past that I can't have anymore, into a future I cannot see. Psalms help. Community helps. The small joys of accomplishment help. But they are all tools supplied by the owner of the hand.

Sometimes hope comes as a rainbow after a flood. Sometimes it's a little less pretty. But hope comes. Thanks be to God.

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