December 15, 2021


Sassafras and Sourwood 01 11/11/2021 Oil Paint Rendered — 22-acre Woods, Indian Land, South Carolina
Things are the way they are
because of two things:
The Pain!
Oh, the Pain!
And the Terror!
Oh, the Terror!
The Pain of the Terror!
The Terror of the Pain!

That's it.
Disappear our pain 
and our terror,
and life worldwide transforms

What is the nature of your pain?
What is the nature of your terror?

Don't take one more breath
until you know.

Your life is as it is because
of your pain and your terror.

The same is true for all of us
around the circle,
throughout the world.

I'm going to shift the subject on you,
but not really.

My sister Susan is killing herself.
She has been killing herself
for over two years now. 
We could call it "mental illness,"
and and we would be right about that,

"Mental illness" is just a catch-all phrase
for "too much pain, too much terror."

Susan is brilliant on some levels,
PhD in history,
fluent, at one time, in French,
lived in Paris for a while,
but with no capacity for compromise
or good-natured "give-and-take-ness."
Her social intelligence,
in terms of knowing and doing
what the situation called for
in the flow of life as it was being lived,
was not there,
and she could flash into anger and sarcasm
the way Clark Kent could become Superman,
over what anyone else would call 
"no apparent reason."

She used alcohol and pot as a buffer
against the pain/terror of 
more than she was equipped to deal with,
and it added up over time.

She drifted into social (psychotic) withdrawal,
disorientation, not eating,
and was "saved" by a heart attack
and hospitalization,
which resulted in early retirement
and residency in an assisted living facility,
which slowly disintegrated
into her refusing to eat or take her meds,
which led back to hospitalization
where she is now,
refusing to eat or take her meds,
leading to a nursing home with hospice 
and palliative care.

Because she is not equipped to deal
with her life on her life's terms.
The Pain! The Terror! Is too much!
And, of course, we all do it to ourselves.
We all are "mentally ill" to the extent
that we allow the Pain, the Terror,
to make our choices for us,
and force us in to the life we are living,
because it is easier that way,
and we are getting along there as best we can.

Be aware of your Pain and your Terror,
and stand up to them as best you can.
Live to see if the Pain 
is actually as unbearable
as you are afraid it is.
To see if you have any real reason
to be afraid of what you fear.

We owe it to ourselves to find out.



Sourwood 06 11/09/2021 Oil Paint Rendered — 22-acre Woods, Indian Land, South Carolina
We are a compromise worked out
over the course of our life
between our original nature
and the nature of the time and place--
the conditions/context/circumstances--
of our living.

We would be different
with different parents
and a different point of origin,
and throw in a different century
for our birth date,
and we would be even more different.

Who would Micheal Jordan, or Steph Curry,
or LeBron James have been
if they had been born before basketball?

It is our place to be conscious 
of the compromise we are making,
and make it thoughtfully,
to our original nature
and to the place and time of our living.

Balance and harmony, Kid. Balance and harmony.

We cannot neglect ourselves (our inner nature)
or the terms and conditions of our life in the world.
And we bear consciously the pain of that dichotomy. 
This is our cross,
and I believe it to be the cross
Jesus was talking about 
when he said, "If you are coming with me,
you have to bear your own cross every day."

The cross is the conflict between who we are
and who "the world," "our life," requires us to be.

Jesus could not deny himself
in order to meet the demands
of life in his world,
and he paid the price 
of his own integrity.

We all do,
or pay the price of not paying the price.

And the more conscious we are
of that divide,
the better able we are
to "walk on water"
(As Jesus did in getting by with
what he got by with,
for as long as he could),
and maybe make it to retirement,
or not.

Living knowingly gives us a better chance
of being savvy,
and knowing where to draw the line,
or deliberately cross it,
than living without a clue would offer.

"Know when to hold 'em,
know when to fold 'em,
know when to walk away,
know when to run..."

Be savvy.
Mind how you go.



Baxter Creek Bridge 05 11/07/2007 Oil Paint Rendered — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Big Creek District, Waterville, North Carolina
The times, they sweep down upon us,
with their clashing rocks and crashing waves,
threatening to wreck our world
and carry us away. 

Then's the time for courage
and resolve,
foresight and faith
in our own ability to tread the water
and find a way to the way
that is even there,
as it is everywhere,
waiting for eyes that see
and noble hearts ready
for an adventure like this.

Comes to mind the words of the blind poet Homer,
who put them in the mouth of Ulysses,
having him say,
"I will stay with it and endure 
through suffering hardship, 
and once the heaving sea 
has shaken my raft to pieces, 
then I will swim!"

That's the spirit, I say,
and what's keeping that from being us
in times such as these?

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

4 thoughts on “December 15, 2021

  1. Thanks, Melanie! We all find ourselves in that spot, whether we know it or not. I’m in favor of knowing it, and doing what we can with it, knowingly! While I’m on the subject, I will commend you for being one of the original human beings I know, and I’m glad to know that and tell you that I do. Nice going!


  2. So well said. I am in the middle of figuring it out, ( still). But at least I see the demons in myself when I look in the mirror. And learning fo turn them into lessons and blessings. The hero’s journey. Thank you, Jim, for seeing things, synthesizing information, and sharing your experience. Good on you, brother and Peace

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a lonely burden that we bear together. What if? If only. What would have made a difference? How could this have been avoided? What would it have taken for Susan to have been more like she might have been than she was, or wanted to be? Such an agony. “Life on MY terms or not at all!” When her terms were so nebulous, ill-defined, unknown even to her, coming down mostly to “Not This! Not That! NO! NO! NO!’ Spoken by one who could say “NO!” often but never take it for an answer, no, not once.

      I call Susan a dysfunctional personality for reasons unknown and unknowable. “Some of us are just that way.” And I am sorry for that, for Susan and all the others who “are just that way.” Saddened by it. An ache/anguish that I do not expect to be lessened with time. Such a waste. Such a loss. Such a sigh for all of us.

      So we hold Susan up to the light, and let her go, wishing her well, wishing her peace, wishing her blessings and grace and the best of whatever is on the Other Side.

      I love you El, and David, and look forward to your company as long as life shall last on both sides of the grave. Amen, may it be so! — JD


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