Sunday, September 27, 2009


This evening, I returned to church at Church of the Ascension. It's only been three months since my last visit, but this summer has seen enough change that it felt like an eon. The Gospel tonight was Jesus’ advice to the disciples that they should “cut off” any part of them that causes them to stumble, whether an eye, a hand or a foot. It spoke to me about how important it is to Jesus that we learn to shed that which holds us back in our journey. There’s a real ruthlessness about that in the Gospel; he tells us to leave our possessions behind, take only the one cloak and walking stick, and “hate” our own families in order to follow him completely.

I used to mock the Catholic fasting during Lent: I felt that if something was worth giving up for Lent, then why not give it up permanently? However, there’s something to their practice of sacrifice. We can’t be everything to everyone. And I do wonder what it is that might be holding me back from being completely loyal to my faith. If there was one thing I wish I could cut off, it would be my own anxiety and worry, which I believe causes me to stumble in my faith.

“Be still and know that I am God,” I have heard, and I repeat that advice so often to myself when I am troubled. If I could cut off or shed any one thing, it would be that anxiety, and tendency towards easy distraction. I would pray that in learning to be still, I would find myself talking to God less and hearing Him more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Faith in troubling times

I seem to be dropping off the mark recently. I apologize if this blog is turning into more of a diary, but I don't think it was my objective here to just be talking about faith issues in some academic/abstract sense. I meant to engage the stuff of staying alive in our faith, and living our lives with the strength and grace of God in us. So I consider my difficulties in doing that as important as my insights.

I seem to be in a bit of a draining situation right now, where the job that I have satisfies me little and my home situation is rather isolated and often tense. I've worked since March at TeleNoticias, a Spanish-language PR firm, and I moved home to Hastings, initially in prep to leave the city for an internship in San Francisco. After realizing I had to turn that internship down because of its low stipend, I found myself in the uncomfortable situation of living at home with no sense of when I'd be out, while being at a job I wanted to leave.

Since then, I've gotten significantly more depressed and tense, especially after my sister suffered another manic episode and was rehospitalized for the fourth time for her bipolar disorder. Since her release, my family's often been a battlefield between her need to be treated like an adult at 23, and my parents' desire to make sure she's not going to do herself any damage through excessive drinking or drugs. I've been in the middle of it, trying to be on everyone's side, which is kind of tough.

Where is God in this? I reached out to NYU's Episcopal chaplain John Merz last Friday and we spoke about it. He's actually been in a similar situation in his own family: his older sister is bipolar and his anger/pain with her and his parents is very similar to my own, and more intense than mine. Merz suggested the important thing for me to do was to find a way to move out of my home. That's actually the same suggestion given by my priest, and my boss.

I'm doing what I can in that regard, and in the meantime, trying to make sure I'm not getting fired from my job. It's very isolated work for me, being in an office all day by myself. My boss is helpful, but I can see he's growing frustrated with me as my questions are often vague. I think I'm giving him the impression that I don't understand very well what I'm doing, and that's often very true.

Today, he told me that I needed to become more of a self-starter and if I see projects going on, not only ask if I can help, but know the details of projects from the checklists I've got and ask where he is on steps A,B,C and whether I can help on them or steps D,E,F. David very much wants detailed questions and detailed informed offers to support him. It's stressful for me, but I'll work to get better.

I think God comes in forgiving myself for not being perfect, for being stressed, for being frustrated, and perhaps unprepared. God comes in helping me see that my work performance does not reflect my value as a man, and in remembering that my tense state of mind does not have to take over my soul as well. It's a damn tough thing to find balance when both work and home have the potential to drive you crazy, but I'm working at it. And I know that every glimmer of strength that comes through me is a gift from God.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Trials and troubles

Ever feel like you're just beset on all sides? That's how I'm feeling recently. My sister has been released from a mental hospital for the fourth time. My mother continues to be one of the most difficult people I have to deal with, especially because of her bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses I do not have the strength to go into here. My father suffers from depression, and now in the midst of my sister's illness and my mother's illness, and his own relative lack of work, he has been sinking. And I am only a man, able to do only so much without cracking.

Now as my loans from grad school begin to mount up and I see the damage that I have done to myself, the debt I've accrued, I feel increasingly trapped. I will no longer be able to afford my health care that I just got, because thankfully my boss seems willing to increase my hours. Meanwhile, I'm not sure I can afford moving out of my parents' house because of the payments I have to make for my lonas, plus whatever health care I'll need to get. And even if I can move out, I don't think I'll be able to save too much money.

Meanwhile, the job still sucks and I am sick right now, though it's just a minor head cold brought on by excess stress, lack of sleep, and bad air quality in my room.

It is so difficult for me to move through the ordeals with any sense of peace. It is more like I try to escape the ordeals, get a momentary reprieve, and then feel like I'm right back in hell again. I so want to feel free, but living at home, working a job I don't like, and being in debt makes me feel so trapped.

Every time I stop to pray, I don't feel like I'm doing it right. Or rather I feel it's not enough. And I honestly feel so overwhelmed by the burdens that I don't believe faith is enough. For I feel I lack some kind of wisdom about the world and how it works, and have made too many mistakes.

Yet I'm only 30 years old. I wish I was feeling like my life was just getting started. I do not feel that sense of possibility and potential. I am more living in a state of regret, resentment, anger and pain, and I wish I could find relief.