The side-of-the-road experience
We are engaged, not yet married. Her white Honda civic climbs the pass between the Angeles National and San Bernardino National Forests.
Making our way to a weekend in Las Vegas.
Something feels wrong.
“It’s stopping, the car, stopping.”
“I can’t use the gas. I have no gas.”
“OK, I’ll push,” I say as I unbuckle. “Just steer the car until we get on the shoulder.”
Cars woosh by until a giant black semi shields us from getting hit.
We are safe. Off the freeway. I wave towards the truck. He toots two quick toots.
Jane, “I’m ok, I’m ok, I need to put the car in park, I’m ok, I’m ok.”
To ease her tension and my anxiety, I joke, “Well, sweetheart, that was exciting.”
“And, fortunately,” I say as though everything is fine, “there’s a call box right here.”
Under the tow vehicle’s flashing lights we both remark about my calm in the storm.
And, then, something changes.
My legs buckle.
I’m on all fours on the side of the road throwing up all the terror I had shoved down.
Jiddu Krishnamurti, a late-20th century sage, wrote:
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
A person should not feel well adjusted in an abusive relationship. Or spiritually abusive religion.
A person should not feel well adjusted if minorities are hunted.
A person should not feel well adjusted to consumerism.
A person should not feel well adjusted during a global pandemic.
Dialogue with myself
“How are you?”
“No, you’re not.”
“OK, I’m pandemic fine…Well enough, I mean, I’m OK…How about this: I’m not not OK.”
“You’re not OK. You’re on the side of the road, thinking you are fine. You aren’t. It’s not likely that you’re fine. Brian. A few months ago your world was normal. A few weeks ago? Enter Twilight Zone. Routines disrupted. Summer plans? Cancelled. Permanent staycation. You aren’t fine. Magic camp is cancelled, for God’s sake. You aren’t OK. You don’t know how many more people will die. You don’t know if you’ll see your mother again, alive. You are not ‘well enough.’ It’s a fucking global pandemic and you want me to believe you are well adjusted?”
“Fair. Fair. Let me say this: I’m doing ‘well, under the circumstances.’”
“Sounds like deflection. Which is OK. Maybe you need to wait until there is greater certainty (the tow truck) until you can relax enough to deal with your trauma. That’s cool.”
“Well, if I’m being honest, It’s been rough… we hit some pockets of turbulence. It’s scary. I mean, there are moments I’m scared.”
“I hear you. I get scared. We all do. And, being scared is unpleasant. And, thank goodness the sensation is unpleasant. If fear were pleasant, we might run towards danger!”
“This global shift is the biggest set of uncontrollable changes in my life so far. Of course all the uncertainty scares me. I have a right to my not-well-adjusted experience of it.”
Loved in the our vulnerable places
B.C. (Before Covid) I went for tea with Ron, a minister friend in Portland. He referred casually to Luther’s theology of the cross. He spoke as though it was something I knew.
“Can you explain it simply?” I asked. “We Jews don’t learn a lot about Luther except what a flaming anti-semite he was.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“So let’s trade. What’s Theology of the Cross?
“Luther’s idea, simply, beautifully, is this: God meets us and loves us in our most vulnerable places.”
“That is simple. And beautiful. God loves us especially in those places we need the most love.”
“Luther was an antisemite?!”
“Yeah, wrote tons, books!, about how Jews could be fairly hunted and killed.
“I like what you shared better.”
Let them be like God
It’s hard to imagine being loved in our vulnerable places. They are vulnerable places, after all.
That’s why Luther equated it with God’s love.
Healing is holy. Miraculous.
We step towards healing when we are at our most honest. Not at our most well-adjusted.
And, when we offer another our humanity to witness, we give them them chance to be holy and love us.
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