I am fed up, frustrated, and so angry that I want to rip the skin off the face of our planet Earth and pummel what is underneath with my bare hands. Don’t tell me, “Oh, Barbara, don’t be so upset, it’s not that bad.” Or, “There are billions of people in the world worse off than you. You’re lucky by comparison.” No pity parties for me either, please. And don’t tell me that talking about my anger is a bad thing, that I should keep it to myself.
I am totally pissed. The worst part is that there’s no one who legitimately deserves my anger at whom I could feel righteous in directing it. Being angry at life in general does me no good. And I am pissed about that, too.
But anger left inside untreated festers and, like sepsis, destroys life. It poisons the soul, spreads to other people, or causes the one with it to numb out all emotions so as not to feel the anger, leading to depression and paralysis. I don’t want to explode. I don’t like being numb. Some days I just want to give up but I don’t even know what giving up would look like. So, I damned well better figure out what to do with this bubbling rage or find some answer that will change my life.
Why am I so angry? Because another straw landed on this camel’s back. I am sick (pun intended) of dealing with an increasing number of health problems. First heart, then lungs, then smog sensitivity. That was bad enough. Now I also have adrenal insufficiency (diagnosed one year ago), periodic vertigo (probably BPPV but diagnosis still pending); and cascading chemical sensitivity (probably triggered by exposure to toxic mold a few years ago and exasperated by air pollution). I bought a cane last week to help me walk safely, I am not driving until I can again walk in a straight line. I am detoxifying my house. Beam me up, Scottie. I am ready to scream.
In Markings, his journal published posthumously, Dag Hammarskjöld’s writes, “We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours. He [sic] who wills adventure will experience it — according to the measure of his courage. He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed — according to the measure of his purity of heart.”
I am not living the frame I would choose, but it is the one I have. I can usually fill it with resilience, love, strength, goodness, courage, joy, faith, and sometimes even inspiration for others. I can’t get rid of the health problems that comprise my frame, but I can choose how to live with them. Right now the colors of my palette are gray and muddy brown. But I am trying — really hard — to clear away the layers of anger, frustration and impotence so I can paint again with the yellow, orange, purple and green of a new day. I will fill my frame again with joy and love, laughter and hope, and goodness beyond myself,
I’m responding in July 2020! My heart and prayers 🙏🏻go out to you. I have health problems but none quite like yours. Be safe and take good care of yourself during these frightening times.
Barbara, you wrote this in Oct. and here it is March, and I would give anything if there were something I could do for you. I’ve had a lot of junk in my frame since early Dec., but nothing like what you’re going through. I pray blessing upon blessing for you. God must have a plan, doesn’t She??? I pray that you have a Holy and blessed Lent and that you know you are loved. Love, Judy
I read two of your blog posts (the one where you walked around the Rose Bowl for the first time in a long while and this one) just before I ran the LA Marathon last Sunday. I had you on my mind during all 26.2 miles. Below is my race recap from Facebook. You’ll need to accept my Facebook friend request to see the ribbon mentioned in my write up or send me your email address. I think I have your postal address so that I can mail you the ribbon.
My Garmin watch data vs official race result. You’ll notice that there is a 5 min 19 sec difference in the finishing time. Why? I paused my Garmin when I had to use a porta potty around mile 13/14. Made the stupid mistake of passing an empty bank of porta potties just after my friend dropped me and a friend off at Dodger Stadium. Then tried frantically to look for one in the gear check area and in the stadium just as security shut the doors. Gave up because I left my gear behind with another friend. Then I had the stupid combination of feeling happy that I was relieved after the porta potty stop and the beginning of calf cramps. Thank you Mile 20 Pasadena Pacer tent for cramp relieving spray and everything else!
The final six miles consisted of a weird mix of being unable to push myself to run faster and the competing scream to run happy. The calming presence was the little ribbon I wore. On it I wrote the name of Dr. Barbara Anderson who served as a pastor at my church. She was forced into retirement at a young age due to congestive heart failure. She wrote two blog posts that left an impression on me. An earlier post was about her walking a loop around the Rose Bowl again after not being able to do so for a long time and a recent post about some health setbacks (see link at the end of the post).
For months I have obsessed over chasing a new record of finishing the LA Marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes. It was all I could think about until I read these two posts and realized that I’m lucky that I have the health to do something as simple to me as walking around the Rose Bowl. I had a nasty case of bronchitis that threw off my training in January and it was hard coming back. However, Barbara lives with a new normal filled with challenges that she handles with self-awareness, humor, and humanity. When the internal screams got loud, I put my hand over the ribbon and chanted her name to match my steps to quiet the screams. Then I could run with clarity and give whatever I had left for her. I’d like to give her the ribbon (after I’ve washed it of course) as a small way to exchange the grays and browns inhabiting her frame.
I hope that you are feeling much better since this post. Your writing fills my frame with so many colors and textures, and I can only hope to do a little something to give you some of that back.
I am so sorry to hear of your increasing health issues.
This prayer has been with me for decades, ever since college when a friend rendered it in cross-stitch, a picture of which it appears I cannot share here.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change…
Courage to change those things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Someone seeing it on my wall once asked me if I was an alcoholic, that the prayer was used by AA. I said truthfully, no, and I didn’t know that. But the prayer seemed so universally applicable.
From a daily devotional, Streams in the Desert, I received following my service as a deacon, I found these words, inspired by Paul (Phil 4:11) particularly comforting:
Others may do a greater work
But you have your part to do
And no one in all God’s family
Can do it as well as you.
Barbara, you have already done much great work and I’m sure you will continue to perform to the limit of your capacity and beyond as dictated by your health. Perhaps at some time soon, you will be able to relocate to a place with cleaner air or whatever you may need to be less agrivating to your conditions.
Best wishes to you and Mark,
Barbara…I remember a time in 2008 when I had the priviledge of working with you during Mark’s sabbatical and watching you manage life with your new diagnosis. Leading a large and challenging church with courage and intelligence, preaching powerful words of wisdom, even traveling to Geneva and walking up and down steep streets above altitude, respecting your condition but not being crushed by it. What a gift that was…and you are still.
I was visited once by violence when I was 22 and the anger that came from it was a bitch. I did not want it, did not deserve it, and did not like it. And yet, when I found healthy ways to express it (writing, pounding pillows), my healing began. You, too, have been visited and been roughed up. And anger comes with that like an unwelcome aunt who stays too long and yet makes fabulous tea and dispenses pearls of wisdom. Perhaps it would help to name your aunt. She can teach us and heal us much like Jesus did.
Hugs, love, and shalom…
Beautifully expressed. Exceedingly encouraging. Thank you, Erin.
Erin, Our working together was one of the true joys of my ministry at PPC-creative, fun, and spiritually enriching. I know you speak from experience and that your wisdom and grace are hard won. Thank you for your beautiful way of expressing them. I have thought of them often since reading your image of the visiting aunt. Great image. Thanks.
i hate your suffering too! Even a kiss won’t take the ache away. For now I send big hugs and hopes for an enlarged refreshing frame!
You are beautiful when you are angry, Barb. Your strength reals out in rage! The analogy to colors may be helpful to many of us as health issues add up with the passing years. I do admire your ability to put the letters to the blog. I tend to shut down, cry through clamped teeth and read books of courage, fear, danger to scare myself silly. Ernest Hemingway is tough while Robert Burns is from another culture of survival. Even his ewe sings a song of regret and leaves instructions upon his death.
You are in my prayers, Barbara!!
I’m sorry about your health problems. You have the righ to be VERY angry. I’m VERY angry
for many reasons, the major one is that my daughter, who has been supporting her husband, who is severly disabled with MS, has been taking a kind of antihistamine that has caused her
to loose her sense of smell and there is nothing they can do about it. It’s such a dangerous condition (sppose there’s a gas leak in her house and not being able to smell it.)
At least you have your blog to vent your anger (and of course a team of supporters in your expanded community). She on the other hand has been suffering in silence (my husband and I are the only ones who know about her situation.)
You will be in my prayers,
Sometimes it’s fun just to paint with the dark colors until you have used them all up.
Cool idea. Maybe that is partly what I was doing in this blog post.
Maybe some tears, too? And please know your courage and purity of heart shine through and are an inspiration and aspiration to me – and I would imagine, plenty of others, too.
It seems to me that a huge step forward is the one you have taken with this “Blog”
You are in my heart and prayers as always
And you are loved & respected!! KHA @ WG
Barbara, I wasn’t sure if this would reach you or land in cyberspace!!! Let me know as I have some health news (old news) to share with you. Hope to hear from you…hugs and love, Susie “Yesterday is just experience, but tomorrow is glistening with purpose – and today is the channel leading from one to the other.” ~ Barbara Johnson