Monday, December 15, 2014

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: Loss and Laughter

Yesterday was a mixed up, topsy turvy day for me emotionally.  I was on a roller coaster of emotions.  Belly laughter at several points; feelings of loss at others.

What brought on this extreme mixture of conflicting emotions?

I went to my grandchildren's Sunday morning church service for their Christmas pageant.  One grandson was Joseph; the other a shepherd.

No problem with that, is there?

No, there's not.  It was the location.  A church.

A little over a year ago after struggling with my church for more than a year regarding my need for help and support during an extremely difficult time: the death of my mom plus the on-going "altered abilities" caused by the psychiatric injury I suffered in the workplace, the pastor finally asked me to leave.  In his own way.  In a way, he could deny.  He told me that if I found a church that met all my needs, I was free to go there.

His words hurt me to the quick.  I left in tears.  Before I left, someone who had been mentoring me since shortly after I started attending that church had come past the conversation and asked me if I was OK.  I blurted out:  "He's just asked me to leave the church!"  My poor mentor/friend scurried off.  Yet, the pastor knew from my words (if he was listening with both his ears and his heart) that that was how I'd taken his words.

The assembled nativity - angels, shepherds, Mary, a turkey.  What?  A turkey?!?
 I've been in a few church services since that time, but not regularly.  I just can't do it.  Not again.  I can't spent six or seven years of my life building up relationships, tithing, supporting, praying for others, etc. only to have it end drastically - again.  Because. People. i.e. Pastor People. Just. Don't. Get. It.  They understand cancer.  They more or less understand grief.  But they don't understand trauma.  It's invisible.  Unless you spend time learning about it or walking with someone who has it, the normal person is not going to understand how it affects the person.

So, as I drove to my daughter's church for this pageant, I felt a great heaviness.  At that point, I didn't really understand it.  But it kept getting worse.  By the time, I was seated with my daughter in a pew and the carols had begun, I was so down-hearted that I couldn't focus - or sing (and I love to sing even if it's off key.)

Eventually I realized that I was feeling the loss of my former church.  The loss of community most of all.  All around me were people who knew who other, greeting friends.  My eyes kept playing tricks on me and I kept seeing resemblances of the faces around me to people I knew in my previous church.  I felt so very much alone in that pew.  Even though my son in law was on one side of me and my daughter on the other.  Even though she kept touching me to reassure me.

Fortunately, my daughter loves me.  And understands.  And I had my camera with me.  So I did what I always do - the one thing that helps keep me focused and in the moment:  I took pictures.

My daughter stayed with me like glue, reassuring me.  At one point, a man came towards us and I started to panic, fearing that he was going to tell me I was doing something wrong - like taking pictures.  But he walked past us with a smile.  My daughter kept saying "Hey!  This is (the name of the church).  It's Ok to be different.  It's OK not to be perfect.  We have needy people here.  People with diagnosed mental diseases who talk to themselves.  And look! we have a turkey in the pageant!  Because this little guy wanted to dress up like a turkey instead of a sheep - and that was OK.  It was OK to have a turkey in the pageant along with the sheep, angels, shepherds, kings, Mary and Joseph.  It's OK to march to your own drummer.  It's OK.  (One year they even had a polar bear among the sheep - my youngest grandson - and until yesterday they were still talking about the time they had a polar bear in the pageant).  It's more important to them that people be there and be comfortable than that they fit a certain image.

And that is where the hilarity started.

It's hard for two year olds to stay still.  They're inquisitive little people.  And this little one in his turkey outfit was very inquisitive.  He wasn't content to stay with the sheep.  I guess he's not a follower.

He was there at the birth of Jesus.

He was there rolling on the floor when the angels visited the shepherds.

He was fascinated with the baby in the manger.  So fascinated that he actually stole the baby and carried him proudly to the front where he joined the other children in a song.

 He was there when the Star led the Kings to the manager.

 And walked away with the star.

At that point, he not only stole the star, but he stole the show.  The congregation erupted with laughter.  Even me.  Standing at the back.  Letting go with a belly laugh.

It was a strange feeling, to be able to laugh like that, so hard that I almost cried, while feeling this acute sense of loss.

Recovery at times is a mixture of paradoxes.  Laughter and loss.  Both strong feelings.  Both co-existing in the same place at the same time.

Later yesterday, when I was starting to be able to think through things, I realized that it's time to start looking forward, not back.  The term looking forward entails anticipation.  Looking for something to happen.

Perhaps like the Jewish people were anticipating the birth of a saviour all those centuries ago ....

Until tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Suzanne: I was so moved by this blog. I have been though rough spots in my life: my mother's bipolar disease, her suicide when I was only 18, my guilt at being unable to help her led me to trying to help a drug addict who abused me, my escape from him when I was 20, finding my husband at 22, learning to trust, 13 years of infertility -- then a devastating miscarriage -- I almost took my life that night. Three years later, my daughter was born. She was there, in that church, singing. I am so glad you found a chance to laugh, too. Thank you for reminding me to look PAST my daughter (oh, it is so hard.. she makes me so happy!) Your blog is beautiful. Thank you thank you. (My girl is the one in the feather boa halo with the wings) I am so glad you came! May you find more cause for laughter soon. Sincerely, Cyndi MacMilllan