Lost futures…

A dear friend of mine’s wife is critically ill in hospital right now. She’s 85. My friend is 82. He and his wife has been married just shy of 50 years. We visited with the both of them only 2 weeks ago. Mary seemed tired and said she was suffering from an infection of some sort. A week later, she had a stroke, followed by another shortly after. As of today, she’s in the hospital, dimly hanging on. Bill knows that she’s dying. He’s preparing himself for that.

When Bill and I spoke, he said to me, “You know, Timothy, when I saw her lying there today, I saw almost 50 years of my life about to disappear. I’ve always been able to look forward to the future, but now at my age, the future isn’t there anymore….all that there is now is today.”

Bill is a retired United Church minister, and Real Estate Agent. In an ardent attempt to cheer him up, I said,  “So Bill, perhaps it’s time now to consider yourself a Buddhist!”. He laughed  and then asked why. “Because Buddhists only recognize and live in today, in the present moment. They believe that today is all that there is…so congratulations, you have reached Nirvana! The goal of all Buddhist’s! To achieve pure living in the present moment.”

He quickly changed the subject, but before our chat ended thanked me for helping him to feel a little better about things and ended by saying, “So I guess I’ll have to think like a Buddhist now”. This time we both laughed, and I bid him well.

This story is not about what a great guy I am by cheering up my dear friend. Rather, after our conversation it made me think about how religious or philisophical views can influence our lives. Bill, a lifetime devout Christian, has lived most of his life looking forward to tomorrow. And for good reason; Christians have been “looking forward” to the return of Jesus for 2000 years, living each day in hope of his return.

Can you see how this religious-based forward-looking thinking can transfer over into the rest of a persons daily life? Bill has been living in this way for 82 years. Now, with the prospect of losing his wife after almost 50 of those years, and with a fresh stark realization of his own age and mortality, he feels that he has little, if anything left to look forward to. He’s right of course. Yes, being the devout Christian that he is, he can still look forward to the return of Jesus, and if his wife dies, of joining her in Heaven. But, something tells me that Bill doesn’t really feel that way today.

But this essay is also not meant to be a criticism of Christianity. Instead, I’m merely trying to point out how strongly our attitudes and beliefs can affect the outlook of our lives. If Bill were a Buddhist, would he be feeling any different today? I’m going to say “Yes”, but with a hint of trepidation, because it seems that no matter how strong or “valid” a belief might be, in the end the core, or fundamental reality of the human psyche and spirit will most often push the beliefs away leaving only our basic, instinctual feelings to rule; stuff like in Bill’s case, a fear for his survival and loss of hope for tomorrow. His “Faith” may or may not bring him out of that. “May or may not”. Therein lies the true reality, the “Isness” of Bill’s life today and, I suspect, most of the human race, living faintly day by day in this thing that we call “Life”. Indeed, this is it.

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Social Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Zoloft, and Christmas.

Yes, what could these three things have in common? Me! Sort of… When I was young, I suffered terrible “Social Anxiety Disorder”. That means, I was at home–at home, but in the most horrible part of whatever the worst part of the world was, during the rest of the time, I wasn’t. No, I was not Agoraphobic….I was just terrified to be singled-out, when I was out in public. Let’s call that “Public-aphobic”. That was me, to the tee—then.

In later life, as an “Adult” I suffered terrible depression and anxiety, especially after the break-up of my marriage and seperation from my kids. I tried every and all anti-depressants during that time, including Zoloft. The “SSRI’s” like Zoloft, Paxil and Effexor are very, very effective at addressing those suffering from Social Anxiety and/or Depression. I ended up taking Paxil for about 6 years, rather than Zoloft. Zoloft’s immediate side-effects didn’t agree with me, but I hear that it works just about as well for many others as Paxil did for me. For the last few years I have been taking “Remeron”, which has worked quite well with both my Depression and Anxiety…quite well, but not totally.

Nothing, however, could replace, cover-up or “fix” the pain that I felt in my heart and soul as a result of my seperation from my children…my experience anyway.

These days, I’m “Philoso-phobic”. I no longer fear the outside world. Times passing has worked it’s magic for the worst of the depression and anxiety problems (for the most part). NOW I fear what the REST of the world are experiencing in THEIR outside world….ascribing to this or that philosophy….believing in it so much that they kill people, or even worse, as torture, deny or don’t care about those people who are outside of their “mini-brain”, narrow lines of thought.

But this is Christmas! This is supposed to be my first Christmas…..no, lets call this my first “Trans-Christmas” gem of thought, isn’t it?

Indeed. The Christmas that most of us celebrate here in North America is a watered-down version of Christainity. Watered-down, however, for good reason; Christians have been waiting for over 2000…that’s TWO THOUSAND years for Jesus Christ to make good on his word. Even his closest disciples thought that what he said was going to transpire within their life-times. WRONG! I dunno, but if I was Jesus—who professed to be God (indirectly at least)—I don’t think I would make myself in any way VAGUE…if I was certain that I would return very soon, I wouldn’t make my best friends wait TWO THOUSAND YEARS! If I had I friend like that, by now I would say that he was either very mistaken in his calcualation…or very rude, or at worst, totally deceived in his own thinking!!!

As for me, I’m not waiting for Jesus to return before I enjoy my Turkey dinner, are you??? If you are, I hope your enjoy the next TWO THOUSAND years, cause that amount of time is way too long for any sane human to wait. Come on….isn’t it? I can see you wavering….digging up the latest theological reason for this guy’s horrible truancy! Come on…

Nevertheless…I still recognize the “Uniqueness of Jesus”….as so beautifully described in a little booklet publish by the organization, “Campus Crusade for Christ”, written by its founder, Bill Bright. But as much as I recognize that, 30 years later, I stand somewhat disappointed, because I have not seen in my own life any evidence all of those so beautiful claims and promises that Jesus apparently made. I am these days, therefore, a reluctant skeptic. Prove me wrong!!! I welcome your input!!!

IN THE MEANTIME:  On behalf the the ever-absent Jesus Christ in my life….I would like to welcome all of those who are alive in THIS present time and age to still enjoy at least the kernal of what Jesus left us after all these years…to enjoy the spirit of giving, more so of compassion that he showed to us, however brief his time was, and to NOW connect with a “REAL LIVE PERSON”….who, I’m sorry to admit, will probably only live another half century—at most—but in the absense of you know who….I would be happy to connect with you…to give you any and all encouragement that I can, to keep on keeping on in this very, very long “Jesus-waiting-line”….but rather in this thing that I just call “Life”…which is as it is….so sorry to disappoint you…but by simply accepting the TRUTH of the matter (something Jesus spoke highly of, until he ‘ascended’, leaving the rest of us ‘descended’) but which, if seen from a slightly different angle, can still be GLORIOUS.

That’s my CHRISTmas wish, and New Years dream….to be able to put here on this simple blog…something for you that will enflame your heart and spirit and hopefully nourish your soul.

I wish you all the very best that could happen…that might happen…that could still happen on this beautiful Xmas Eve of 2008. We just have to have an open heart and open mind to let it, to let LIFE be…as it is. Let life be as it is. Don’t try to make it what you think it should be….just let it BE, AS IT IS. If you do that, I PROMISE you….more peace and happiness is in your future than you can imagine.

Much love to you all,

Tim
P.S. If you would like to hear more about my years of Anti-depressant and Anti-Anxiety drugs and experiences, pleast let me know.

Life’s little blessings

Just as I’m celebrating the long-time coming birth of this blog, another REAL birth-to-be, presents itself–literally.

Indeed, within minutes of writing my first blog entry I checked my email. There, was a message from my son, announcing that I’m going to be a grand-father, now for the second time . Their first child, beautiful “Aria”, now 4 years ago, made me a grand-father for the first time. That was an incredible experience, feeling my life suddenly extended beyond my own children. One of my own children was having one of his own. In the process I took on the additional role/tile of being more than just a father, becoming a “Grand-father” (although it’s probably quite debatable just how “grand” I’ve really been…..)

This time, with the soon-to-arrive birth of my second grand-child, the feeling is a little bit different. I’m not acquiring a new role or title this time; once a grand-father, always a grand-father, regardless of the number of grand-children. Instead, I feel like—lets call it the “Chain of Life”, has been extended from me by yet another link. That knowledge, that feeling, is certainly as much rewarding as the first time around. It’s certainly made my day, if not my month, and perhaps my year. In fact, I’m counting it as one of “Life’s little blessings”, thank you to my son and daughter-in-law, Jeremy and Robyn.

“Life’s little blessings”, don’t come around very often. That’s why we call them “Blessings”. Blessings, although originally a religious term, have in common day culture and parlance become simply representative of really good things happening to us, regardless of the source. Credit can be given officially to “God” for the religious folks, or more commonly today for the not-so-religious, given just about as officially to, “The Universe”.

Wherever they come from, they are blessings because they make us quite happy. We really enjoy having them! Perhaps their rarity gives them their uniqueness. Whatever their source or nature, they are certainly “blessed” to have and—I will now challenge the reader—even more blessed to give!