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Life in the TB Ward

March 20, 2006


Take me down to the infirmary
lay me down on cotton sheets
Put a damp cloth on my forehead
lay me down and let me sleep

I know the whiskey won’t soothe my soul
and the morphine won’t heal my heart
but if you take me down to the infirmary
I won’t have to sleep or drink alone.

— "Take Me Down to the Infirmary" by David Lowery (Cracker, Kerosene Hat 1990)

Yeah, we’re still half-sick here in the Count’s hang. <coff coff> It’s been this way since  Christmas. As usual, my head explodes on a daily basis when I read the "news", with no sign of abating. The kids keep me sane by forcing me to be silly, with therapeutic side-effects. At least our taxes are done.

Although you can’t see it here on the blog, Lent has been working for me. I am actually reflective in my spare time- so much so, that I don’t have time to write about it. That’s probably a good thing – for me. Not for the blog though. Readership is plummeting.

I realize, as I survey (to the best of my ability) my innermost being, that my life is largely lived in my externals for once. I’m less in my head, more in my body, less worrying about  unfulfilled desires and ambitions, more attending to my responsibilities. I’m reading a book, and enjoying it. Print is good. The big picture is good. Life is good. I haven’t been able to affirm that as often as I would like, even though I would never have come close to the conclusion that my life wasn’t worth my gratitude to God, or that it wasn’t worth living.

Even so, there’s still an emptiness, a mustiness, a coolness where there used to be warmth, life- passionate living. If that room used to have a warm fire burning which cast a soft glow, it’s now out and a small candle burns in it’s place. That room is called ministry. Music played there often, now it is silent. My friends were there, now they are scattered and gone.

I’m not spiritually dead- just sleeping perhaps. Taking a nap. In the infirmary.

I’ve worked hard to get over the bitterness, the feelings of abandonment and betrayal, the sadness and anger… but now- I just get by. I’m going to church, and enjoying it, needing it desperately, especially the Eucharist, but it’s so different than the early days of my faith. I’m not reading the Bible- haven’t in years, really- but now I’m not even feeling very guilty about it. I hear sermons, I hear scripture read in church, it’s in my bones and I can’t forget it. I just can’t find the energy to even feel guilty about it. There’s too much stuff to do.

I’m not proud of this, just describing a mood or phase of life.

I’m resting, after more than a decade of work at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood as a lay worship leader and concert organizer. Back-benching at my newly Anglican church. I feel like like Ray Liotta’s character at the end of Goodfellas: removed from a bad situation, but flat and bored; a junkie who would rather be high again. I long for the days when I will feel committed enough again to dare to connect to a church the way I did at FPCH, but I have a feeling those days are gone forever. They had my 20’s and early 30’s, when I was young, single and idealistic. Then, without thanks, a pink slip for ministry, and no retirement package. Promises made, promises broken. Life goes on.

For a while, it looked like some bitter 40 year old was going to emerge from this wreckage, but I don’t think that’s going to happen either. I’ll just be another Dad who loves his family, gets done what needs to be done and hopefully that’s enough.

At least at that communion rail, I won’t have to drink alone.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rufus T. Flinger (Timmy C) permalink
    March 20, 2006 12:02 pm

    Well written, Count…My one thought is that the first stages of new ground is almost always negative to the “old ground”…including anger at the bad parts of the former “status quo.” I think that this is just how the process works.

    And that can last a while, but is to my way of thinking crucial to the process of finding something better. Maybe even the sense of distance you describe is needed to get a better view of things, and to begin articulating new alternatives, including the one you described well here:

    — Of being faithful to your family, enjoying and engaging with church without having to become emeshed in it, and working to be faithful in day to day things.

  2. Rob Prichard permalink
    March 21, 2006 6:33 pm

    Hey Count,

    I am glad to hear that you are being satisfied by some of the ordinary things in life. When you say,
    “I realize, as I survey (to the best of my ability) my innermost being, that my life is largely lived in my externals for once. I’m less in my head, more in my body, less worrying about unfulfilled desires and ambitions, more attending to my responsibilities. I’m reading a book, and enjoying it. Print is good. The big picture is good. Life is good.”
    …it makes me think of this verse:

    “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15

    Also, I can relate to ” I’m not reading the Bible- haven’t in years, really- but now I’m not even feeling very guilty about it.” Several years ago I was just feeling satisfied in my knowledge of the Bible–with no pressing need to read it because, as you say, “I hear sermons, I hear scripture read in church, it’s in my bones and I can’t forget it.” And besides, I already knew it all, or at least that was how I was feeling. But stuff happens (you start taking your daughter to counseling), crises come (you break your hand punching a hole in your son’s bedroom wall), life comes at you (does my wife love me anymore?), and, honestly, I don’t know any other place to turn. Well, when I have turned elsewhere than to God, its pretty scary…I glimpse the depths of the evil I am capable of, and that always turns me around.
    Gradually, I have been reading the Bible more–but not out of guilt–and I like it.

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