Shared journeys…

We had a lovely evening last night with Si and Sue Smith, who are up here on holiday at the moment. Above is a picture of Si by his son Jonah- who is obviously following in his talented father’s footsteps…

Si works as an illustrator/artist/all round creative person, and was responsible for the ’40’ images that I wrote some meditations for (See here.)

Last night however, we shared stories of faith journeys- through churches, experiments with new forms of church, leaving church, alternative worship groups and our concerns about our kids in all of this. It was a good conversation, because in many ways our stories are similar. And there is something about the path that we have found ourselves on that at times makes us think that we are alone.

I think the truth is that we are very far from alone- there are many of us who have been ‘activists’ within the church who have found that the institution form of organised faith has become simply impossible to remain within- and so we have set out alone- at least for now.

That is not to say that community and connections with others with whom we can share life is not important- in fact it is all the more so, hence the deep goodness of conversations like last night…

(Happy anniversary to Si and Sue by the way!)

23 thoughts on “Shared journeys…

  1. Oh Chris, Chris, Chris,
    How I would long to have such a conversation.
    How I would long to feel a member of a group, almost any group, just a group.
    How I long to even have the thought that being outside of the group might be better.
    My path IS alone. I am desperate to feel association with anyone, in any way.
    I am so glad you confirm in my mind that community and connections with others IS IMPORTANT.
    Such is my state of affairs that I CANNOT FIND connection, sharing, community. I CANNOT FIND IT. It’s not that begin to doubt that it’s there somewhere. I DO DOUBT IT.
    You confirm that it is right for me to NEED to share.
    I NEED to share. I WANT to share. I LOVE to share. Sharing gives meaning. I’ve lost the meaning in life. I have really lost it, it’s gone and keeps on going further away.
    For whatever reasons, people are deying me opportunities to SHARE. I actually experience them being offered then firmly disappearing. From those who can share. From those I love and who continue to love me, but that doesn’t alter the fact that they are disappearing. And I question my assumed right to SHARE.
    You confirm it is right. So I will perhaps continue my seemingly impossible struggle to find people who can and are able. But how many YEARS will it be? Will I lose the will to continue meaninglessly?

    Carl

  2. (sorry)
    I just so much want to share.
    I so much feel that people, for many good reasons I’m sure, just cannot give me that opportunity. And I am behaving desperately.
    I just so much want it.
    I just so much feel it is the right of everyone to feel that they belong.
    I want to belong.
    I need to belong.
    I cry to belong.
    I cry, cry, cry.

  3. (I’m so sorry about this continued personal rant) (I’ve just got NOWHERE else to express it) (and I NEED to express it)(I NEED to share it)

    I cannot DO without feeling I belong. I don’t ignore others, I don’t demand of others, I don’t ask of others. I just express my inner needs. Those same inner needs that I think you confirm. Yet which others seem incapable of fulfilling. How much longer will this aching, desperate longing go on for? How much longer will I suffer the torture of seeing others experience ‘sharing’ and yet myself be seemingly actively denied it?

    I become paranoid, that there is no-one out there who is for-me. No-one who is either prepared to ‘be’ with me, or who ‘can’ ‘be’ with me and share with me. Either on an intellectual level, or a social level, or on any level.

    I understand that some others can or could find me difficult. I understand that some others can or could find their circumstances in antagonism with a desire to share with me. But is there NO-ONE at all who can share? And that doesn’t alter the fact that those basic needs don’t go away. They are still there to be met. They still make demands not of me, but of others. And I don’t know how to control them and I don’t know if I should want to or need to. Or if they are part of my (and everybody’s) make up and by denying them I deny my humanity.

    Is there nobody anywhere out there who can share with me?

    Is it right for me to seek (professional) help when it seems that it is the lack of the ability of ‘others’ to provide me with a basic human need? Shouldn’t it be these others that seek the help?

    Is it right for me to take the tablets that dull the pain, of OTHER PEOPLE’S inadequacies?

    What is wrong with me? What is wrong with other people?

    Am I paranoid, or is it just everybody else who’s got it wrong!

    HELP!
    Carl
    (sorry again) (I feel a long rant of dispair coming on, but I have really got nowhere else to go)

  4. (me again)(so, so sorry for making a mess of your blog)
    Yes it is a long rant. It is the rant of a desperate soul. Someone who has persisted at being ‘conformant’ because that is in his nature anyway. Someone who finds it hard to be otherwise, who finds it goes against his better judgement to be otherwise. Someone who finds it not rational to be otherwise. Someone who finds himself at the end. After several years of trying and it not actually working. Rationality loses the battle. Self-control loses the battle and raw vulgar animal instinct takes over. Even if it does go against the grain. Even if it cannot be rationally seen how it could be of benefit. Self-control has lost. Animal instinct takes over, whatever the cost.

    I now understand why (some) people behave irrationally.

    I now understand how it is that I can behave in a manner which cannot seemingly be those of someone desirous of improvement in his life. Rationality has gone. AND I HATE IT. I hate the predicament I find myself in. I hate the discovery that those I love cannot, for whatever reason, just cannot…

    Carl

  5. (the sorries are sincere)
    Imagine that you had had some major trauma in your life. Perhaps it might be a serious brain injury that affects how you can cope. I leave it to your imagination as to the details. That’s quite band isn’t it?

    But not just one thing then let’s make it two. Imagine you then lost your wife (of 20 years). That support structure which should be there to be called upon when in need.

    No, let’s try 3 things. Add to this the loss of your job (of 20 years) and the respect shown to you by your superiors and others and its source of colleagues and friends.

    How about 4? Then all the friends that you had, you suddenly find that they were really your wife’s friends and they went with her. So you have none now.

    Even 5? Your house and ALL finance. All gone.

    For someone who suddenly has no friends to find that he finds it hard to make friends and just when he NEEDS them. HE CAN’T COPE.

    Carl

  6. Have to write this because it seemed quite witty and clever and I’m sooooo conceited about that:

    I need to share the very fact that I can’t share!

    Carl

  7. Final “imagine”

    After all this, you finally start to find a friend with whom you can share. Someone with whom you can feel a very deep connection or a broadly common understanding. Someone with whom you find affinity to the extent that differences don’t really matter. Someone who holds a passion for G-d and G-d’s will on earth. Someone who not only ‘believes’ but acts out their belief and makes it a spoken truth that they do so. Here is a friend like you’ve never had before.

    At last, you finally think you are on the road to recovery. But no, because there is one more ‘imagine’ thing to come. This friend is not capable of continuing with the friendship. You are too much for them. This sixth and final ‘imagine’ is the one which tells you that you are not worthwhile. Of all the possible people to tell you this, the person who had appeared just when they did and spoke like they did, finds it unavoidable to have to put you back into a position of despair deeper than that when you met them. A deep lonely, isolated despair which says you are not wanted, not capable of being loved, not capable of being a friend of even those who believe with all their heart that you should be.

    That’s a bad imagine isn’t it?

    Carl

    • Hi Carl

      There is little I can say that might be an adequate response. I can only hope and pray that things might start to change again for you.

      There are some things that I might tentatively say however to some of the things you said-

      Firstly, medication is rarely the whole answer but sometimes it can be part of the answer- or may provide some kind of relief that allows time to adventure again.

      Secondly- after terrible loss, it is entirely understandable to look back- and measure who/what we have against what we were. But staying in this place will eventually become a destructive full stop. Sooner or later we have to start living in the present.

      Thirdly- people will always let us down. Particularly when our need of them is more than they can meet, but perhaps too just because people are like us- fallible. And unfortunately, the pain we bear as a result of these encounters is almost always as much about our fallibility as it is about theirs.

      I don’t know the answers to the terrible situation you find yourself in Carl- I suspect there are no simple glib ones anyway. I also suspect that the answers are not to be found wrapped up in a person.

      All we can hope for is that we find the strength again for the journey- because then we can encounter things that may change things again.

      And whilst this sounds glib- I have a lot of evidence of hope. I have seen a lot of people who have come through terrible times similar to those you describe.

      Find someone you trust who can help Carl. Professional help is great- it rather suggests that people might have expertise that you can benefit from, as long as you can let go of some of the things you need to let go…

      All the very best for the journey

      Chris

  8. Hi Chris,
    Your humble response is appreciated. Whatever its content, just the effort put into it shows that somebody cares, and that is a nice feeling. I sometimes wonder that if everybody I know (not very many) was able to express such care, and if this continued then it might reach a day when they didn’t show that care any more and I didn’t notice! Just a thought.

    Some of what you say may give food for thought. I’ll talk with the psycho about it perhaps. But there are one or two things that drove me to question you a little further if I may. You say that you expect that the answers are not to be found wrapped up in a person. Were you referring to yourself and your feeling of inadequacy (a feeling I have myself!)?

    “The pain we bear is almost always as much about our fallibility as it is theirs” that was a good bit because I didn’t get it! Sure I admit I’m weak and fallible. It really takes no effort on my part to do so. What you are saying seems to be the reverse point; that I may have some weakness still there that I need to address. I get lost now, because I feel the weakest I could do, but but is there some inherent invisible area that I’m missing which is saying “I am strong and nothing can break me” (and this would then be a weakness)? My starting point is that no there isn’t. I feel as completely broken as I think anything possibly could be. There are times when in my absolute brokenness I do act in a desperate manner; like I’ve completely lost it. There are times when I wonder if I should take some serious drastic action to make people sit up and notice me (slashed wrists and stuff like that). These thoughts would be the thoughts of someone with nothing left to cling to and with no feelings of inner strength left wouldn’t they?

    So I just can’t find a fallibility to examine. Is my will to continue a fallibility? Too many questions.

    Carl

    • Hi Carl

      I can not presume to have real answers- both because we have not met, and because I need to pull the log from my eye first- but by way of tentative answers to your questions…

      Inadequacy. It has often been my companion- but it has become a familiar (even welcome) companion for the most part. Sure it often makes me awkward and vulnerable, but it also makes me sensitive and creative. It is who I am, and rather than trying to become someone I can never be, I hope and pray that negatives may become positive. This, I think, is the work of the Spirit- not to magic away all the difficult hard stuff (even though we might wish it) but rather to bring transformation- sometimes quickly, most slowly, two steps forward, two steps back.

      Fallibility. I was not meaning this as the opposite of strength- rather in this context, I was alluding to the lens through which we see the world- which shapes how we see, how we’ look’, how we anticipate and how we consciously and unconsciously shape the ‘story’ of our lives, and the actions and presumed intent of those around us.

      What we discover is that we often play out life in cycles, that can become feedback loops. Sometimes these can become destructive, through no fault of our own- perhaps because coping strategies that were working fine in relatively good times no longer are following crisis. At such times, the things we do to try to make things OK often become part of the problem- be that use of alcohol, or the need for constant positive feedback/reassurance through to more obscure things like obsessive routines.

      Working all this out is the work of several lifetimes for most of us- and as we only have one, then we have to accept that we will never get it all sorted. I am not sure that this will make a whole lot of sense at the moment.

      Your comments about suicidal thoughts worry me Carl- not because I am surprised, but more because they show something of how desperate you are feeling. In my working life I have met hundreds of people who have been at that point. Almost every one however has been able to look back at those terrible times after a return of that fleeting and dangerous thing- HOPE. Because as bad as things are- they will not stay as bad as they are. And most people who have been to the depths (as it sounds like you have) have an appreciation of the life that others never get to experience.

      I am glad you are seeing someone. Take no big steps- just focus on the little ones. There will come times when you feel like making a desperate step- defer the decision. Then defer it again.

      There are some resources here that might help- http://www.mind.org.uk/help

      All the best

      Chris

  9. Ah yes (fallibility)
    I tell the story of it (me) being rather like waking up one day and finding myself at the controls of a large, but deserted ship. I’ve never driven a ship before and worse than this, after much testing the controls seem to work in an unpredictable manner.

    The ship is everyone around me. No-one seems to be hearing me or doing what I expect they would do… and so on.

    DON’T TELL ME NOT TO NEED POSITIVE FEEDBACK! 🙂

    DON’T HIT THAT BUTTON! 🙂

    (too late)
    I give it to others, I would like a bit. It would be an expression of love wouldn’t it? Isn’t it something I should expect? And if I don’t receive it then I forgive, but that doesn’t alter the fact that expecting it came first and was the measure against which I could see that forgiveness was needed.

    I love +ve feedback. I give +ve feedback; it helps people, encourages them, makes them feel good, it makes life better, it makes one have a feeling of acceptance. If (justified) +ve feedback was always the 1st thing on peoples’ minds when talking with someone… (what is this person saying that is good? how has this person been good? always searching for the +ve to re-inforce, and ignoring the negative…). Damn it, damn it, that’s what it is. But it’s so nice to receive it and so nice to give. I can’t give that up it’s something that could make the world better and it takes such little effort.

    I know, I know; you’re going to say CONSTANT +ve feedback.

    Carl
    (therapist tomorrow. that’s good I might get some +ve feedback!)

    • The +ive feedback example was not meant to suggest that this was your particular issue Carl- I am clearly not in a position to know this. Also, we all need it of course, but of course being over dependent on external validation is probably not a good thing (I am sure you would agree.)

      Hope all goes well tomorrow…
      C

  10. It is probably not intentional, but this is the second time I have come back from the therapist feeling more confirmed in my opinions or in something. As if the experience has legitimised me. It is early days yet of course – the therapy has much further to go. These feelings may just be an early symptom of nothing really important. Or they could be a sign that all I actually need (which I’ve thought for a while) is that somebody actually just listens to me. By listening they legitimise me, they tell me I’m worthwhile listening to.

    I once had a series of visits from some other therapist offering some psycho help following my brain injury. They carried out the usual survey at the end to record my impressions for statistical use, but the most difficult question to answer was this: What aspect of the therapy was of most use? The answer I couldn’t tell them was that it was simply the regular weekly visits that someone was making just out of their good will and just for my benefit. I was worth something to someone.

    He suggested to me today that my life was isolated and community-less. I was living a life like the hermit in the cave but who didn’t actually want to be there. That is very much something I’ve thought about. You see if, as some people have suggested, I relax and quietly accept my lot as hermit-in-the-cave. So that as people pass they talk amongst themselves about how I’m the solitary excluded one. But since I’m quiet and don’t upset anyone then they just leave me alone to do my solitude thing. That is not a good solution. I do not want people to see me as resigned to this pathetic situation. By accepting it myself how will they come to see me as someone with anything other than quiet resignation to offer? I HAVE to not accept it. So we had a talk about what we could and couldn’t accept.

    We also talked of how it was building in strength in his mind (the psycho) that I had/was experiencing some kind of a re-birth following my accident. I was having to re-learn what society I was in, how the people in it inter-related, how they seemed to have a goal, so I’m noticing that goals seem important, so perhaps I should have one as well. All these very basic questions that for anyone else have just gradually been posed and then answered subconsciously, but for me seem to be being asked anew. To others this questioning appears childlike. To others the inter-personal relationships testing appears juvenile. To me they are all just normal tests I need to do in order to find out who I am, or who I want to be.

    Outside of the psycho’s I cry that these tests I carry out are not understood. That they are not accepted and even seen as anti-social. It does me no good to hear that I can’t control the ship – I damn well know that. What I want to hear is how TO control the ship.

    These confirmations of my feelings may not be having the best effect (I don’t know). They give me an energy which I feel the need to dissipate somehow, hence these ramblings which I know will just go into cyber-space. But at least they go somewhere. THERE IS NOWHERE ELSE for them to go. NOBODY CARES to legitimise my person by giving me the grace to listen. JUST LISTEN.

    Well, that filled me with even more energy that I do not know how to dissipate. I have no-one to talk to, no-one to complain to. No-one to listen. I completely understand why it is that those people in 24 hour A&E (BBC telly) last night were just contriving incidents just so that they could have somebody attend to them and RECOGNISE THEIR EXISTENCE. That is all I want/need. And in return I have so much to offer them and the world. So much, but do they really care?

    When they talk of the terrible people they see all around, why don’t they then feel motivated to do something about it? It IS possible. I have seen the way. But they obviously prefer to just feel angry about it all and not do anything. Why won’t anyone just listen to me? Why won’t they tell me where I’m wrong? How on earth can they express such emotion but then not listen to HOW things could change? HOW, HOW, HOW?

    Carl

  11. Mr Angry shouts – “All these riots and rioters, they are doing no good. They are a sign of the deterioration of society. All is bad and getting worse, worse, worse”.

    I reply – “But I can show you how to change things Mr Angry. I can show you something that will eventually change things for the better, so much will be improved. Come and listen.”

    “Bah, waste of time. Nothing will ever change. I am Mr Angry for a reason. I’ve grown to like it. That’s what society expects of me and I perform the role well. DO NOT take that away from me. That is MY legitimacy”.

    Carl

  12. But of course people don’t listen to you if you just talk, talk, talk like that at them. They can’t take all of that in. You have to be gentle and understanding. Can’t you see that Mr Carl?

    Yes, yes, I don’t do that normally. I’m just doing it now. Normally I do it another way. I do it another way do I? So I do do something? But what is it I do then? How on earth am I ever going to find out if they (the recipient of whatever I hand out) can’t stand the heat and leaves without telling me? What hope are they giving me?

    How am I going to find out if the psycho himself thinks I actually present well? Everybody present thinks I’m ok. Everybody gone has gone so we can’t ask them. I NEED THE HELP OF OTHERS TO FIND OUT WHAT IT IS I NEED HELP ABOUT.

    Carl

  13. The pain of lack of sharing is actually, in the very real sense of the word, debilitating. I can do nothing else other than ponder the emptiness of it.

    • HI Carl

      I hope the trip to the psych was useful- it sounds like it went into some interesting issues.

      I am so sorry to hear about how lonely you are feeling, and hope that it things will start to change soon…

      Cheers

      C

  14. This is wrong.

    It goes against the natural order of things.

    It goes against humanity.

    It goes against everything.

    What is wrong? I’m a nice person. I present well when people meet me. I get on well with them. I can laugh and joke. I can make dinner parties – I love cooking and entertaining. And in turn I like being entertained.

    So why, why, why do I have to suffer the hopeless, interminable, excruciating agony that I do. In stark contrast to those next door (metaphorically) who can’t share, can’t give, can’t love, can’t be human?

    Please, please, please, please help. I’m shouting to the world to help. I’m shouting to the world to show me what it is that’s wrong with me. I’m shouting, crying for help.

    Carl

  15. Hi Chris,
    Looks like our messages crossed. Thank you for your acknowledgement of me (you will tire of it).

    The psycho was early-days-yet. We talk of a, believe it or not, shared journey, which even he doesn’t know where it’s heading, but he is willing to accompany me.

    Carl

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