Maundy Thursday, 2015
Famous words uttered by Bette Davis in the movie All About Eve (1950): "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night." It's now been over a year since I was a full-time parish priest. I think about this today because we are on the edge of the Triduum, the Great Three Days from sunset on Maundy Thursday to sunset on Easter Day. This will be my second year not presiding over the many rites of those 72 hours. This used to be the heart of my life, my spirit, and I worked hard to convert others to this vision.
From one Triduum to the next, 2014 to 2015, it has indeed been a bumpy night, and it is far from over. Last year we celebrated the liturgies quietly, at home, including the Easter Vigil. It looks like we are headed for that again, because of the allergic-like reaction I have developed to church. Thinking of it, being in it, I can barely breathe. The ghost of stress lies in the walls, even of places to which I have never been. The only spiritual exercise I can muster is an intensely focused effort to keep my anxiety from overwhelming me completely.
Bi-polar folks, of which I am one, have a strong tendency toward addiction as a coping mechanism to the roller-coaster life we live. This was somewhat true for me with alcohol, but I gave that up pretty quickly when I knew it was negatively impacting my health seven years ago. But that was never my true addiction. If anything, it was an addiction trying to cover over an addiction.
I was, am, addicted to church, although that is not an entirely fair statement either, because the truth is even deeper. I am addicted to others to approve of me, and afraid, almost always, of disapproval. Given the dynamics of being priest in community it is a wonder that I lasted as long as I did. Various people's need either to put me on a pedestal or knock me off it, or both simultaneously, fed into my own needs. A stew is created that is sometimes exhilarating, sometimes humiliating, oftentimes maddening, and always exhausting.
Part of my bumpy night over the past year has been the knowledge that I have to let go and my terror of what is on the other side. On any given day I run the gamut of hope, guilt, relief, and a sense of abject despair over my failure. My therapist says I will not always be caught in this polar vertex of the psyche and soul, but I am having trouble believing that is true.
Others tell me I am courageous in dealing with this illness head-on. It helps to hear this even though I don't put much stock in it. "You have to take care of yourself first," is often said. Really? That's not what they taught in seminary.
Thank God for John (my husband) and Lucy (our companion dachshund) who I know are absolutely committed to walking with me no matter what. Even this I sometimes cannot quite believe and one of them has to remind me that it really is true. And thank God for the Pension Fund that is allowing me this time to live through the bumpy night without knowing what glory shall be revealed.