Signs of a Delusional Mind
These are the chronicles of the esoteric . . .
I am now able to walk.
Well, I can hobble, limp and shuffle at least - but I am no longer bound to swing in between two crutches. Yes!, I am free from the cages of the aluminum legs that kept me so confined - free from the hindrance of metal ape-arms that sometimes made me angry. While I do still have to wear the knee brace, the stops have been removed; the time has now come for me to begin reminding the joint how it feels to be used. And it is starting to remember despite the weakness, soreness and my inability to stand for extended periods of time - additionally, the area where the ligament is located does still hurt when bent too many degrees. Still, if all goes well, in one more week I should be able to throw the knee brace into storage along with the crutches. It is a very exciting time.
The day before my appointment with the physiotherapist found me a tad despondent and decidedly disconnected. The previous several days (which were spent in one spot on the sofa) had been swelling up inside me, suffocating my life-ability and draining me of all my worth. Fortunately, it was only for a day - although this side of me did rear its head on occasion throughout the two weeks - for it was not that great of a time for all those involved (right down to Lyra, the cat, whom, to my shame, was treated with a bit of hostility). I was irritable, angry, helpless and annoyed - frustrated beyond words, pent up in various aspects of my being - and I no longer felt like the person I knew myself to be.
As I lay in bed, quietly staring at the ceiling, I found that somehow I had lost my self, my sense of being. Who I was, I realised, was somehow tied to my mobility. Who I was, for some unknown reason, had become dependent upon my ability to not simply move but move my self. Had my legs actually become such an integral ingredient to my identity? Could I truly not be my self if I could not walk?/p>
Am I defined by my capacity to locomote?
These were slightly perturbing enquiries as I had never once thought of myself in such terms, and therefore they caused me to question who I was - and more nebulously what existence is. What is life and what does it mean? Is life sacrifice and tragedy? Is it happiness and peace? Is life sorrow and joy? Love and injury? Is it letting go and receiving? Is life a growing, a becoming? Is it what we make of ourselves? Is life how we move? What we do?
Is it enough to simply be..?
I had no idea how to answer any of these questions - least of all those of existence - but I did have a vague idea where to begin concerning my identity.
While there are many ideas and concepts of which I am comfortable enough to say I understand, the one most pertinent here is that happiness is based on the temporal, the unstable. That is, our state of being happy is birthed from that which is non-eternal, that which comes and goes, that which is limited - and therefore we swing from highs to lows. Our favourite foods make us happy; our favourite songs make us happy; our favourite books make us happy - but none of these are lasting. Thus, happiness is contingent for it depends on moments or objects that are in passing and eventually transitions into another state of being, such as unhappiness or frustration.1
I was not happy. I was stripped of what seemed to be everything that brought me to that state. Certainly, I did have positive moments - like when my fiancee showed up and we were able to spend time together, or like when my dad would pick me up to take me out for lunch - but then it would be time do something that would remind me of how unable I was, of how imprisoned I was. I was defeated; I was frustrated; I was lost. I kept my mind busy in books, games, and work, but the unhappiness I was feeling blinded me to the pleasures that these things, in other circumstances, would bring. The truth of the situation was that I was stuck in one spot for days, unable to accomplish anything - even the most menial of tasks - by my own power and this utter incapacitation was murderous. I could not do anything - I could not be anything.
I started to wonder whether it was not that I was unable to walk or that I was unable to move my self but perhaps, instead, it was that I quite literally could not do anything and therefore could not assert my being. On some subconscious level, I felt that my cagedness was disallowing me to declare my reality. Sitting there I was silent, barely a blip on the radar; sitting there I could not make a mark on anybody's history; sitting there I was barred from interacting with any world outside the four walls of my house, save for the one of she who was forced to do everything for me.
I had been reduced to nothing - at most a burden.
Or so it was how I felt.
Normally, my first thought upon seeing my reflection is a wonder at how my fiancée - or anyone else - could ever label me attractive. My second thought usually varies, but at the moment, in my post-crutches state, I have been thinking about how I am not merely somebody - not simply anybody - but I am and always have been me. While the consequences of my injury - namely, my immobility - may have removed from me the feeling of humanness, it did not in fact remove from me my humanity. My definition goes beyond two apendages that enable me to move about freely - no matter how masked I was by anger to see that.
Yet, deep within me I feel that what I am is what I do. Said differently, for me to do nothing is to become nothing. For instance, in returning to work I have begun feeling much more 'alive' as a result of being more contributive, not only in bringing home a paycheque but also in helping get something done. This of course is not to say that I don't enjoy relaxing with nothing to do for I have been known to find pleasure in quietness and stillness - but it is something else entirely to be forced into awakened comatose. My problem, however, was not my physical condition - my problem was my spiritual and emotional one. My perspective was too far skewed by my state of unhappiness to see who I was; my anger and frustration had blinded me to the fact that even from the place I sat for two weeks straight I was in reality making a mark.
My meaning is rooted in the fact that there are others insofar as my identity is formed by the absorption of and the interaction with an other - not by my ability to walk. I am a son because my parents had me; I am a brother because my parents had other children; I am a friend because there are guys who welcome me; I am a student because I accept teaching; I am a fiancé because some beautiful girl said Yes.2 I am saved because Yahweh has given His grace. I have all this only because He has given it to me and absolutely none of these things that make up who I am were compromised by my injury. My being is far more than merely legs.
I was being made even while I sat there - and in being made I was making; my history was forged even in my static location. My fiancée sat with me, cared for me, chatted with me - took my mind off things with movies, games, her help and quite simply her presence; my family brought me food, took me out, welcomed me to rest in their home. And so I began to see, to remember how my value is not perpetuated by my own actions but that instead my value is given; that is, my character is formed through experiences and these are gifts, not made by our walking but given to us regardless of our ability - after all, experiences happen even when we are not moving. And through each of these experiences was an interaction where I was not only made further into my role, but I fulfilled the purpose of someone else (i.e., I satisfied my brother's role by being a brother) - and in this exchange made a difference. Indeed, while I lacked the capacity to function at my full physical potential, I still meant something to someone - in fact, I meant something to a lot of people - and this was not self-created but allowed and provided; I did not form my meaning, but instead it was made for me by my being given purpose.
My greatest compliment - or at least one of my greatest compliments - came from a grocery manager I had for three weeks (a grocery manager so abrasive and utterly un-personable that I almost quit) who pulled me aside one day and said, 'You must be a Christian - I can tell by the way you speak, act and compose yourself.' That is who I am - that is how I want to be known, to be seen, to be defined. I am His before I am anything else - even as part of a couple, We are His before We are anything else. God makes us and expects us to live up to whom He has formed of us and I was fulfilling my purpose even while I sat there immobile, even while I sat there frustrated and angry. I was filling my God-given role as fiancé, brother, son and friend because they came to me - because God sent them to me; I was fulfilling my purpose because I was made for it and no injury could stop me from being those things.3 Indeed, I was loving and being loved - and loving only because I have been loved.4 I was seeking Him, learning Him, praising Him - talking with and to Him - even when I could barely make it to the bathroom. I was trusting Him to provide, trusting Him to heal, and trusting Him to hold me. And He has done all these things despite my impatience and lack of vision - and He has done it through the people He has made which in turn He uses to make me.
Hence, quite literally, I am nothing without the Lord for everything I am and have is because He has given it - I only have being because He is the ground of all being.5 It is the passivity that asserts our being; it is the receptivity that declares our reality. I am getting married because He has given me a wife; I am a brother because He has given me siblings; I can eat and have clothes because He gives me a job... I search and He gives; I ask and He answers; I get lost and He finds me; I come to need and He comes to provide; I give up and He gives a way out; I fall and He picks me up; I scream and He listens; I smile and He laughs. There is nothing of which I have been or had that has not come from His hands - not one thing - and my identity is rooted in this, even though I have neglected to acknowledge it for some time. While I regain my mobility, I also, as a result, re-set my footing.
And maybe that's why I was stuck on this couch for two weeks: I needed a reminder. He struck my knee to jar me into remembering who I am. No limb can give or take away my freedom, my salvation - His grace. Who I am is a child of God because He has said so - not because of what I've done, but because of what He has done and no attempt to assert myself will ever grant me merit - I cannot bring about good for it is given to me; I cannot make for myself a life for it is provided for me. I cannot be anything without being made into it. Try as I may, I cannot define myself for my identity belongs in Him, my being is rooted in Him and therefore nothing else can identify me but God. Perhaps this is what it's all about. What we do makes us, but who we are is what we're made into. I am blessed simply because I am - and I am simply because I am His.
1. Joy of course comes from transcending the temporal and holding on through all the ebbs and flows of unpredictability, of existence - through all the waves of life's waters. Joy is not bound by moments in time but is in fact built throughout and between them; joy takes root in the depths of our being and allows us to make it through the hard times to create new good ones. Joy, like true love, is everlasting for it is birthed by that which is eternal, that which is intangible, that which is immutable. Joy is even when we don't feel it - such as in the state of unhappiness.
2. Love, as I have mentioned before, is creative - that is, I am a lover because I am loved.
3. Psalm 16:5
4. 1 John 4:7-12
5. John 1:3; Acts 17:28