When to sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste: Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow, For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night, And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe, And moan the expense of many a vanished sight: Then can I grieve at grievances foregone, And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan, Which I new pay as if not paid before. But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.
Here it is, already the beginning of February of a New Year, and I’m wondering what this year will hold. Time seems more slippery these days, and as this fails to escape my notice, my mind often wanders in & out of the present; summoning up remembrances of the not-so-distant past. Retrospection invites hope — a hope for something more — something radically different.
One pivotal remembrance seems to loom large in my memory — a radical “leaving & cleaving” of Genesis proportions. It was an unsetlling time — a time of consternation involving a sudden falling out with my best mate from college; prompting me to leave the parachurch organization I felt an inextricable part of since 2004. Leaving Australia with loose ends never felt ‘right’ to me. I was left with a daunting ‘hole in my soul’ which pained me every time I pondered the unfortunate loss of significant relationships with my ‘brothers in Christ’ — and especially me mate, the one I left behind.
After arriving on the shores of Aotearoa, with no immediate job prospects, I began to pray in earnest that God would open a door for us to settle into this new land. Soon afterwards, I landed a position with a local hauora (Māori social service). It demanded a great deal in the beginning, not only finding my sea legs with the service, but also suddenly finding myself immersed in the ‘foreign’ culture of Māoridom. The client load quickly became significant once the community heard that a ‘male’ counsellor had joined their ranks. Not long afterwards, I was seconded by the local PHO to initiate a detailed primary mental health care study for the regional District Health Board. In addition, my supervisor cajoled me to create several ‘training’ programmes for the locals, the first pertaining to post-suicide intervention strategies (to assist the Māori wardens); and another programme, focussing on ‘walking with’ young blokes into adulthood (we called our sessions ‘Tuakana/Teina’).
The demands of the workload obviously took its toll – as I soon found myself at the end of my tether. After 19 gruelling months, I couldn’t help but notice my desire for “helping” severely waning. I approached my supervisor and we began exploring the transference/c-transferences at work. After some exploration, he referred me to some CF papers and I began devouring these. It quickly became self-evident that what had hold of me was CF! And I needed to address it as soon as possible. But how?
Many of the therapeuts I’ve sat with over the past eight plus years have included those who have experienced horrific childhoods, perpetuating: addictions, domestic violence, sexual abuse (incest & paedophilia) , rape, murder, mutilation (self harming), PD’s, schizophrenia, eating disorders, even abuse & torture of children. I have always found it very difficult to “distance” myself from their pain-filled dominant discourses. The hardest thing I had to do was leave my employment situation in order to enhance my self-care. But leaving was sadly necessity, as the hauora needed a replacement counsellor and they only had one contract position open.
More importantly, however, his prognosis prompted me to take a deeper look at my inability to self-care and to set appropriate boundaries — and since then, I’ve come to understand that I also struggle with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS); and have all my life. It’s taken me 58 years, many broken relations, heartaches and failed coping mechanisms to finally come to this place of brokenness. It also took completing my MCounsel degree and, more importantly, having a family with an AS son to eventually realize this ‘epiphany’.
As a counselling trainee, and now a seasoned veteran, I’ve always felt we were constantly encouraged to reflect on our own personal lives and on a significant experience — and to “enter into” all aspects of that experience that could be remembered. Likewise, using appropriate paradigms, we were implored to ‘Examen’ and to reflect deeply our discoveries. Ultimately, what I discovered is that these curious inner conversations and recollections resurrected one core theme over & over — that of relationship.
Through this process, I also learnt that the process of spiritual direction involves re-enacting in our lives the act of being. Be-ing begins, in part, in the act of “letting”. The repeated act of “letting go”, plays a transformative role at every turn of the journey. Desire must be there also… as I believe every desire that comes to us, is a desire for the Ultimate.
I learnt through my travails and doubts that accompanied my underemployment, that if I really wanted to know myself in relation to the Divine, I must look at all the things that face me. There may be breaks in my experiences, and I may fall apart. I may be in ‘darkness’, but will try not to identify with it even though I may experience it for awhile. If something seems to threaten me to the point of crippling me, what is most important is making meaning of experience, the existence of something, and it must never be denied. Through the senses of the soul, the fullness of detail in the world can then become extraordinary.
On then, can “All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.“