Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Get Along Without You Very Well. Of Course I Do.

I get along without you very well, of course I do.

I never think of that night back in college when I held you for hours in complete silence, when we just stared into each others eyes. I don't remember that they were the most intimate moments of my life. Of course I don't. I don't remember the disappointing end when I ended things because I thought a supernatural deity was jealous of my love for you.

I never think of that New Years Eve when I kissed you for the first time, a first for me. I don't remember that your dog ate all my Christmas chocolates, or how you dumped me two days later.

I get along without you very well, of course I do.

I never think of that day walking along the beach in my hometown when you decided I truly needed to learn how to kiss, or how great of a damn kisser you really were. I don't remember a tumultuous end.

I never think of what could have been with you, but wasn't because I was too scared.

I get along without you very well, of course I do.

I never think of just how goddamn drop-dead gorgeous you were or how I fell for you hard. I don't remember that your Mom couldn't stand that we were together because I wasn't of the same faith as you. I can hardly recollect that sexier-than-all-hell night when we grabbed a bottle of wine and lit those candles and how wickedly perfect it was as we made out to Nina Simone's "Nearer Blessed Lord." Of course I don't remember riding away from you on a train on another continent after things ended on the vacation from hell.

And I never think of you, the one who things seemed so synchronous with from almost the beginning, or the sheepish crush I had on you before we even started. I don't remember you driving away.

I get along without you very well.

Of course I do.

Mark Nouwen

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hello, Again...A (Re?) Introduction To Me

Perhaps the face accompanying this post that you're reading is a familiar one, perhaps it is not. It could be the case that it's an older version of a face which you haven't seen in quite a long time. Whatever may be the case, welcome to my little article.

I am guilty as charged for being "one of those." By one of those, I mean, someone who has, fairly regularly, dilly-dallied with his online presence, most overtly through my adding and then subtracting people from my Facebook friends list. There have been times where I have hovered around the 500 mark; currently I am somewhere around 130. There is more to this than just having a love/hate relationship with Facebook. For a long time, not weeks, not months, but years, I have been highly decompartmentalized. Due to various circumstances in my life - some incurred upon me, and some by me - I have more than often led quite a fractured life; I haven't been able to integrate well.

I have lived with mental illness/complications for most of my life - this may or may not be a surprise to you. I sort of think that none of us are completely healthy, rather, we are on a sliding scale when it comes to our mental and emotional health. My mental illnesses, are caused by several factors - this is the case with most people who live with mental illnesses. There are environmental factors, chemical factors, social factors. Some of these can be prevented, some cannot.

One of the ways that I have dealt, or attempted to deal with traumatic events from my past, has been to decompartmentalize. If I shove something, or an entire section of my life into a box and place it into a dark corner of a dark, cobwebbed room, then I don't have to think about the trauma that took place during that period of my life.

I have a few boxes that I didn't touch for quite a long time. Among them are:

1) The Burwell Box - I grew up in a small village of 1000 people, called Port Burwell, in southwestern Ontario. There have been times when it seems like a dream - and one that I'd rather wake up from and quickly forget. This may come as a surprise to some who may be reading this and are thinking, "Wait, he always seemed pretty happy. He was kind of goofy, liked playing on the baseball team, etc." But, you see, sometimes when other, hidden, dark things are also happening, in my case emotional and verbal abuse, then some of us take on black or white thinking. Rather than trying to examine what was positive and helpful from a particular area in life, from what was traumatic, can be just too painful, especially when you try to do so without the help of a good therapist. Thus it was much easier - and likely a helpful defence mechanism at the time, to tuck everything from my childhood into a box and place it in that dark room.

Slowly, I have been dusting off that box and taking things out and looking at them; this is part of the re-integration process. I last visited Port Burwell this past summer, and it was an incredible healing experience, like a warm blanket being placed on you after you come in out of the frigid cold.

2) The Christian Box (For the sake of time, this will include The High School Box and The Bible College Box) - From the time I was born until my mid-twenties, my entire identity was solidly encompassed within fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity. There was us (the saved Christians) and them (the unsaved people around us, and it as our job to try our best to influence them to become like us Christians. This was my understanding. From as far back as I can remember, I went to Sunday School, church services, youth Bible studies, youth activity nights. When I entered high school in Aylmer, Ontario, I was highly involved in the Christian Students Network. During this period of time, I was also involved in music leadership at churches that I was involved in. Skipping ahead, I moved to Kitchener, Ontario to attend Bible college. I made a lot of good friends, and again was involved in leadership (again on music teams, on a missions committee, and as a dorm resident advisor.) However, two things happened during my time at Bible college that would radically change my entire worldview, and just as importantly, my view of myself. Due to hideous false guilt, followed by a questioning of most of the core tenets of fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity, I came to reject Christianity altogether. I left Bible college without graduating. What followed for several years was what I call "my teenaged rebellious years, just a decade late." Late-nights filled with angsty, navel-gazing vodka-filled writing ensued; I was quite miserable for the most part. I was uncertain of many things, except for one: I wanted nothing to do with Christianity. Period. I remained friends with several Christians, but let others fall by the wayside. Looking back, part of this was, again, a kind of defense mechanism. I felt hurt (and admittedly still do to varying degrees) by the brand of Christianity that I had lived under for all of my life, and it was easier to just not be around people who still espoused the beliefs that I no longer believed in. However, in taking responsibility, I let some important friends down. In the intervening years, I wrote many a blogpost railing against that form of religion, and I got a thrill going toe-to-toe with people on meaningless Facebook debates.

I am fairly certain that I will always, at least periodically, speak out against certain aspects of fundamentalist Christianity, since there are ways that living within it impacted me very harmfully, but really, when all you can speak about is what you do not believe, that says something in itself. I know that I alienated quite a few people by my tirades.

It's getting a little later on in the night, and the wick on my oil lamp here in St. Thomas, Ontario is dying out, so I'll briefly conclude. For just over a decade, I remained in Kitchener, Ontario, and I made very little progress, in several areas of my life, including treating my mental and emotional illnesses. I hopped from one therapist to another, one prescribing doctor to another. I stayed at a job that payed the bills, but one that I was not passionate about, which I have learned can be pretty close to soul-killing; however, again, I met some great friends where I worked, and they were particularly gracious to me. In addition, I did have highly positive experiences working on the executive of the local NDP riding association. Undoubtedly what I miss the most about Kitchener is my Unitarian congregation. They are like my family and I miss them on almost a daily basis,

Mentally and emotionally, I have my good days and my horrible days. In September of 2013, I relocated to the county where I grew up; I live in St. Thomas, about forty kilometers from where I grew up. I am taking the time for both one-on-one and group therapy, and to concentrate on my continuing healing process (much of which includes re-integration and taking those boxes out of the dark room, which still has quite a ways to go - do we ever stop?) I am happy to be volunteering at my local hospital, and still love to read (mostly on spirituality and religion) and to write.

In closing, I suppose this article is my way of walking back into a conversation and re-introducing (or in some cases introducing) myself. I suspect that I have hurt some people by my actions (or inaction) or words. There are bridges to be mended, in time. I guess for now, I'm just saying, Hi, I'm Mark Andrew Nouwen, how are you?

I can be reached on Facebook. Please feel free to Facebook "Share" this article if you think we have mutual acquaintances.