Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tear Gas and Life's Choices

Service in the military runs deep in my family.  After my great grandfather proved his worth as a war hero in the Mexican Revolution my mother's family has felt a draw toward patriotism and a deep love of country.  This sentiment led my older brother to the torturous endurance of basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina fresh out of high school.  

It was near the end of their instruction on a freezing east coast night that my brother and his buddy found themselves shivering in a foxhole while their drill sergeants lounged in a warming tent and relative luxury.  The privates had been instructed that this tent was only for the instructors and proved thoroughly off limits to those unfortunates waiting out the bitter hours of the morning.  Experience had also taught my brother that "if a drill sergeant is being nice, there is something wrong."  In the coldest hours before dawn a D.S. approached and invited all the recruits into the warming tent.  He seemed sincere enough and the night was becoming unbearable.  Joe warned his buddy to stay put but to no avail.  His buddy glanced from him to the warming tent, then back at him and finally stood up and headed toward the beckoning haven of heat.  

Joe was one of the only who refrained and a moment later, one of the instructors came to beckon him again toward the promise of heat and respite.  He asked, "What's the matter, Smith?  Ain't you cold?"

My brother responded through chattering teeth, "No, I'm pretty warm, drill sergeant."

"Heh, heh.  I bet."  The wicked expression told Joe he had made a very wise decision and the D.S. sauntered back toward the now private packed tent. 

Coming from either side simultaneously two sergeants quickly zipped closed the only entrances of the tent, trapping the suddenly terrified inmates and one threw a bomb of tear gas underneath and into the panicking crowd.  My brother watched as those inside desperately tried to pull up the stakes which held the tent in place and the entire structure shook from the many people attempting to release themselves from this unexpected and suddenly brutal situation.  My brother's buddy eventually returned to the foxhole covered in tears, mucus and heaven only knows what else.  I'm not sure if Joe rendered him an "I told you so" but I gather he probably didn't need to.

Isn't life like that?  Sometimes we know what the best course of action is.  We have heard it repeatedly; we have seen others transgress and witnessed the pain of their downfall.  And yet...sometimes we crumble.  We know the wisdom of God in commandments He gives us.  And then we see others engage in immorality unscathed for a while and perhaps we think, "Well yes, I know better but maybe just this once it will be different...."  When we feel inclined to break the rules and act against our true selves and better judgment, let us ever remember the parable of the warming tent.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Committing Suicide

My mind drifted backward in time as my car sped toward the office and I recounted the story that transpired some months ago near that area.  A man, driven to distraction by heaven knows what drove his car straight into a tree and, finding that the collision had not killed him, pulled out a gun and finished the job.  My coworkers refrained from telling me for fear of upsetting my already trauma ridden nerves.  It was considerate of them, though in truth while my nerves are easily upset by things like viewing domestic abuse I am quite comfortably in my element when confronted by ordinary violence and especially suicide.  

After my high speed accident with a semi, my lawyer insisted I see a psychologist.  Among other things I recounted to the doctor how I had suffered from severe depression for 16 years and had been suicidal for eight of them.  He looked at me amazed and told me that it was clinically impossible to break through the chains of depression for good, and yet here I was, quite obviously what my father has come to call "the eternal optimist."  God can change our weaknesses into our strengths.  The good doctor also requested I write a book recounting how this transformation came about that others might learn and be healed.  Perhaps one day I will, but for the moment I would like to address those who like myself and this unfortunate man find themselves contemplating the destruction of their own lives.

I want you to know that I care about you.  True it is that I do not know you by name but in all sincerity I do not have to just yet.  I know that the sadness is so deep that it torments every shred of your soul and body.  I know that the pain wracks you so deeply that it aches and makes it sometimes impossible to pull yourself out of bed.  I know that your mind feels disheveled and you feel that no one understands at all or cares enough.  I know it feels that no matter what you try to do or say you can't get people to quite understand what you are going through and that they just don't get it.  I know you feel it would be a relief to be destructive to yourself or to other things.  I know you feel it would release the tension that is continually and unbearably within you.  But I also know that this mode of thinking is a spinning circle of pain that won't come to an end if a wrench isn't thrown into it.  You hold that wrench in your hand.  You hold the power to stop the pain, not through suicide but through exerting all the strength you have and then some over and over and over again in reaching for the light.  Where is the light?  You will find it on your knees - maybe not much at first, and maybe it will take years of prayer but then you will see a small speck that slowly and painfully leads to a free, open meadow of overwhelming joy.  It is possible, I promise.  I know you are looking for a friendly hand to pull you out of the anguish in which you find yourself.  Take mine and know that you will find a friend and not a judge.  My prayers go out to you and may you soon find yourself on your way to that healing of spiritual light you so desperately need.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Real Fifty Shades of Grey

I have spent quite a lot of time counseling couples and individuals about their marriages.  Allow me to tell you about one couple I have seen and with which I have worked.  The man grew up surrounded by pornography.  He was well learned in the field when he met a young, innocent, virgin.  His mind filled with the lessons from his childhood and cemented throughout his relatively short adulthood he felt that he could lie to this young lady and everyone else around him in order to bully her into marriage.  Descending to the lowest levels of dishonesty he succeeded.  As she related to me, her wedding night was the most miserable night of her life.  What should have been a loving, tender, passionate evening was a vile, evil ridden, abusive slap in the face in which she could feel more powerfully than ever the fact that to him she was only a body without a soul, that her relationship was void of respect or humanity, and she could feel the underlying hatred he had for God and himself in a truly horrifying way.  As an innocent minded woman she knew she would never seek an extramarital affair and thus this was going to be the measure of her love life forever. 

The relationship turned to one of continual sexual abuse with the husband continually telling the wife how inferior her body was, how he wished she could look like other women, and forcing her into the position of a worthless, despised entertainer who was never good enough to fully please him in bed.  I do not know that there was ever any idea in his mind that she was a human being and was capable of wanting a fulfilling relationship and happy life.  If any action was not calculated to gratify him, he considered it not only worthless but a dangerous threat.  His temper kept her silenced and fear became her dominant emotion toward him.  He tried to force on this young innocent bestiality, homosexuality et cetera and eventually angrily treated her like the dirt beneath his feet because she had the horrid audacity to be a woman and not an animal.  

I will dispense with how their relationship finally ended.  Suffice it to say, the result was not desirable.  Pornography warps and distorts the mind.  It creates false ideas of what women and men are and ought to be.  It destroys any sense of love and humanity.  As depicted in the movie and also very true to life, this is a process that spirals downward in faster and faster circles until the people involved lose themselves to a vulgarity they never could have imagined.  I hear people say that pornography is a victimless crime.  As I have counseled with exotic dancers, abused women and many pornography addicts I have learned a very important truth.  Porn is an infectious disease that destroys everything and everyone that it touches. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Redefining Valentine's Day

I have a right to rethink Valentine's Day.  V Day and I go way back and have meet at variances for quite some time.  After spending two consecutive February 14ths in the emergency room, being hit by a semi on the freeway on the day of love, and enduring other traumatic events which, ironically enough, center around the holiday, I decided this day and I know each other so well that I can get a little unusually up close and personal. But you know what?  It's your life too and I give you permission to do the same!

I love a quote out of this month's Bon Appetit magazine.  "It doesn't have to be fancy.  It just has to be fun."  Another quote from the same issue proclaims, "Rule number one about gift giving is that there are no rules."  There you have it!  Feel free to do whatever you please with the day and recognize that you are not by any standard obligated to buy roses, heart shaped boxes of chocolates, or teddy bears.  Make the day whatever it means to you and hold your head high as you do it.

Now, there are some of us who are single.  No problem.  It has been my habit in the last few years to gear up for the somewhat dreaded V Day by writing notes of appreciation to all the single women I knew.  I planned service projects around Valentine's Day and made it a day of general appreciation, good feeling and gratitude.  Fighting as I was, post traumatic stress connected with the day it helped to scatter general rainfall of kindness to others and uplifting vibes.  So make the day whatever it means to you.  It may be a day of appreciation to others, it may be a day of gratitude and communing with God, or it may be the day that you take extra fun and care in spoiling and showing love to yourself.  However you chose to define it, make February 14th a day of peace, happiness, and stress free bliss!