Friday, January 28, 2011

Facts, Frustration, and Fear

I haven't been posting consistently on this blog since late December, 2010. I'm not entirely sure why: but I've got pretty good idea of what's going on. I'll get to that in a bit.

This post, by the way, will be more about me than most.

Which is a little odd, considering that this blog's description is "Following Catholic beliefs and practices in America: One man's experience." One might expect this to be more about the contemporary trinity of 'I, Me, and Myself' than it is. Or maybe not.

Anyway, A Catholic Citizen in America often focuses on something going on in the Universal Church that caught my attention.

Christmas: What a Bummer

I like Christmas, and make an effort to tune in for televised coverage of the New York City Times Square New Year's Eve bash. Which is about as close to a wild night out as I get. That and the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade coverage. Which is another topic, sort of.

Where was I? Christmas, 'bah, humbug' and all that. Except that I haven't gotten to the Dickens reference yet. You've probably seen the movies, but I recommend reading what Mr. Dickens wrote. Although it's an example of why someone quipped that an analysis of Dickens' work suggests that he was paid by the word. Readers in the 19th century seem to have wanted their money's worth of verbiage when they bought a book - which is yet another topic.
It's my opinion that the Muppet Christmas Carol is the movie which follows the original most faithfully - and that's yet again another topic.
Holiday Stress and Murder
As I said, I like Christmas. But it's a stressful season. That's not a particularly original observation. There's no paucity of material on how to deal with holiday stress - and news about folks who snapped around that time of year. Sad. Here's a sample of what I'm talking about:
The all-too-familiar family murder-suicide could be taken as proof that all men are murderers as well rapists and male chauvinist pigs. Or that the holiday season is stressful. I think some folks snap around Christmas because of stress - but I'm a man, and 'everybody knows' what they're like. Still another topic. I've written about this sort of thing before. (August 3, 2010, May 8, 2010, March 27, 2009)

Anyway, I think these murder-suicides are more about holiday-related stress, than all men (or women) being guilty of crimes against humanity. Maybe that's being 'simplistic.' The point is, my being a bit - sometimes more than a bit - anxious during the end of December is hardly a unique experience.

Before moving on, a few things I believe. I'd better believe them, since I'm a practicing Catholic:
No wonder some folks think the Catholic Church doesn't want us to have any fun - there are so many rules against stuff. And that's - another topic, too. (June 18, 2010)

'There's a Hole in My Mind'

Babylon 5: The Gathering (1993) includes this line: "There is a hole in your mind." ( The assertion refers to a gap in the memory of Babylon 5's commander, foreshadows a major development - which oddly enough isn't the old Oedipus Rex thing - and struck a resonant chord in my mind.

Not because I think I'm a character in a science fiction story: but because there are gaping holes in my memory. Each within a year of the other.

I've mentioned that my mother had a stroke. (September 19, 2009) It happened around Christmas when my parents and I were living in Minnesota's Twin Cities.

And I have no memory of what happened. Or of that Christmas and New Year's. Which is notable, since I'm told that I was there when my mother had the stroke. I'm pretty sure that more than events are missing. It's only recently that I've been able to see - in my mind's eye - a particular part of the dining room of the house we were living in.

All of which isn't all that remarkable. There's even a phrase for this sort of thing.
The latter resource says that the condition is uncommon - likely enough, soap opera conventions notwithstanding. And there's this reassuring assertion:
"This is uncommon...."

"...Most commonly, important personal information is forgotten, and the recall of events during a circumscribed period fails. This often bears relation to a traumatic episode, i.e. a car accident.

"Less commonly a generalised amnesia is present and the patient is unable to recall anything about his or her past.

"During the period of memory loss cognitive skills are entirely intact.

"Recovery is usually complete with no residual memory impairment (typically within 48 hours), and reccurrence is rare...."
(General Practice Notebook)
More than four and a half decades later, I still don't have access to memories of the day my mother had that stroke: or of that Christmas season. There's no reason to believe that I experience physical trauma during that period, so I'm assuming that something happened that encouraged my mind to purge indexing for memories of that period.

The memories are probably - almost certainly - still there. I just don't know how to get at them.

It's sort of like living in a huge building and hearing someone screaming - but not being able to find hallways, stairs, or doors leading to the source of the sound.

Facts, Frustration, and Fear

My wife's assured me that I don't need the memories.

I think she's right: but it's a tad frustrating.

I know what happened, how I was involved: but it's the sort of knowledge a person has of distant events. It's the same sort of knowledge I have of what happened when the ship my father was on stopped in mid-ocean and lowered a loading ramp so the crew could enjoy a swim: interesting, moderately detailed, but not personal experience.

There's a difference between facts learned second-hand, and memories of one's own experiences.

At Mass one Sunday this Christmas season, I started - not so much remembering what happened, as realizing that I'd found a path to the memories. I felt a sort of horror that was quite unpleasant: and didn't follow the path. Under the circumstances, that may be just as well.

Maybe I'll get another crack at those memories, next year around the same time. Between (finally) getting major depression and ADHD-inattentive treated, I have to fight the controls of my brain a great deal less now. (November 11, 2010)

Almost getting access to scary memories may not seem like a good excuse for a month-long lapse in regular posting. But I had a lot to think about: you might say I was distracted.

Suicide is Not an Option

I take the subject of suicide personally. I briefly considered killing myself, while in my teens. I decided against it. No great virtue involved: besides, I didn't have access to Catholic teachings on the subject at that time. What made me decide to stick with the program was a recognition that I'm stubborn - and could probably out-endure any of the awkward situations I faced at the time.

Turns out, I was right.
Passive Suicide?
Maybe I read the term 'passive suicide' somewhere. The idea is that someone can commit suicide - not by some direct action, but by neglecting some routine. Self-starvation is an extreme example.

I'm seeing a counselor regularly - trying to sort out decades of accumulated glitches in the way I act and think. My wife comes along, too - which is a good idea, since she's often in a better position to 'see' me than I am.

Anyway, last month the idea came up that my lack of attention to health could be interpreted as passive suicide.

That got my attention. Big time.

I'm very overweight, diabetic, and have not been physically active for a very long time. That last is changing a bit - long-overdue hip replacement surgery helped enormously. (September 16, 2010)

I didn't think I was seriously trying to kill myself - but I couldn't prove the contrary, either. Major depression undiagnosed for decades, remember?

My wife has assured me that she doesn't think I'm trying to kill myself by neglecting my health. That's good news: but there's still the matter of what I've been eating and the activities I haven't been doing.

So, after a rather scary review of my motives and attitudes, I've decided that it's high time that I get quite a lot stricter about what I eat. And, more to the point, that I do something about that determination.

Regular moderate exercise is a more elusive goal - but not an unattainable one. Another goal - sleeping at night and being awake during the day - is much closer.

Finding the right dosage of methylin - a generic form of Ritalin - has, I think, helped a lot. (November 11, 2010)

What?! A Christian man putting his faith in the worldly things, rather than 'letting go and letting God,' or whatever phrase is popular these days?

You bet: I also put on a jacket before going outside today, and rely on the furnace to keep the house warm in winter.

Like I've said before: "...We're called to holiness - not stupidity." (May 19, 2010)

Not-entirely-unrelated posts, about:


Brigid said...

This is an awkward sentence: "And, more to the point, done something about that determination."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Agreed. I cleaned up a few more - awkward - spots while I was at it. Thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.