Friday, July 29, 2011

Secondary Trauma

When I worked at the children's hospital I learned about secondary trauma--the trauma undergone by those who hear about or witness the AFTERMATH of a traumatic situation. Secondary trauma can lead to PTSD symptoms (and PTSD) in those who are subject to it.

I found this to be true as I worked with and witnessed to the various diseases, disasters and deaths that peppered each and every work day. Sleeplessness, flash backs (for a solid year I could taste blood in my mouth every time I thought of a particular day at work), and other symptoms were fairly common for me.

Now I am several years out from these traumas--yet, having had the experience of such tangible and immediate and obviously traumatic situations, I wonder...

Does the mere act of reading/watching the news lead to secondary trauma for the general population--and the attendant possibility of PTSD? Because, I find that if I read news of awful things happening to children, it affects my sleep and my mood. In fact, reading the google newsfeed can make me feel much as I did when I was witnessing the deaths of children day in and day out. I also find that the degree of graphic detail often shared in the news/radio/blog (can't speak to television, don't have one hooked up) can be nauseating.

Methinks that this can't be healthy--for anyone. Do we really need to know the gruesome details? Do we need to have such immediate access to the "train wreck" as it were? What do you think? How do you think this level of detail and connectedness affects/effects you and yours in your day to day life?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Here and the Now

Little (growing bigger by the second) H is asleep. A thunderstorm rolled in around 3:45am and the rolling booms, pouring rain, and strobe like lightning show flashing beyond my eyelids has had me up since.

"Boom, boom, boom, Mr. Brown is a wonder. Boom, boom, boom, Mr. Brown makes thunder."

Thank you, Mr. Brown. the rain soaked here and now. The front door is open onto the screened porch, the better to hear the rain now that I've given up on sleep. A cup of coffee, milky with a touch of maple syrup, has been poured and sits on the table next to the Revised Common Lectionary; my beloved's journal of H's life thus far; and a personality test that she took for work.

Apparently, I am equally lion and otter. Not so much golden retriever and beaver.

On the lion side of things...My strengths: takes charge; problem solver; competitive; enjoys change; confrontational.
My weaknesses: too direct or impatient; too busy; cold blooded; impulsive or takes big risks; insensitive to others.

The busy beaver says, strengths: optimistic; energetic; motivators; future oriented. The weaknesses in this beaver's dam: unrealistic; impatient or over bearing; manipulative or pushy; avoids details or lacks follow through.

Okay, so fundamentally I am a impatient, take charge kind of gal who dreams big and drags those lucky enough to be in her wake along for the ride (*lucky*). "Ooooh, ooohhh, (waves hand frantically in the air) I have a GREAT idea (bounces up and down in chair)" . So, wanna hang out?

The rain is still pouring. My running buddy is picking me up at 7:45am for a short (for her) painful (for me) run along the Mississippi (which at this rate may mean two streets over...geez, this is a lot of rain!).

Time for more coffee...this cup has grown chill.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Proper 11, Year A, Jacob, Harry Potter and the Gnashing of Teeth

I have not seen any of the Harry Potter films. Apart from a preview or two, here and there, my eyes have not witnessed the on screen phenomena that seems to have gripped a good chunk of this country.

This, however, is not to say that I have not read the books. I have, multiple times. Even now, more than a decade after the initial release of the first book I still find myself reaching for my well thumbed copy of the first book.

But, I have avoided the films...largely because I want my own visions, my own imaginings of the "Potterverse" to remain untainted by someone else's interpretation. I want to close my eyes and see for myself without being told or shown another person's version of the story. I want it to remain MY encounter with the marvelous.

And, in some ways, as I reflect on this coming Sunday's propers I find myself drawn into scripture in much the way I am drawn into the work of J.K. Rowling. Yes, you read that right--I just compared my emotional reaction to scripture to my reaction to Harry Potter. As I read of Jacob: I can imagine the ascent of the ladder; I can hear within my heart the words of God; I can feel the stone beneath my head. The scripture draws me in for an encounter with God. And, in this encounter the gate of heaven stands open and we can gaze beyond to the promise of God's presence in our midst. We can ask ourselves where we have found God in our lives and we can imagine how it may be that God is calling us back into God's presence.

Now, these understandings, these wonderings and questionings are not scripted by anyone else. My own encounter with this text has not been televised or interpreted by another (apart from the inherent interpretation which occurs in the translation of scripture from the Hebrew); it is my own understanding--an understanding gained through my own contexts. Indeed, through the application of tradition and reason I can enter the world of scripture. And, it is a world of drama; intrigue; miracle and murder. A place, much like the world in which we live--evil and grace dwell together and we witness to folk wrestling with the reality of both in their lives.

Now, back to Harry Potter...
The plight of young Harry draws me in--his coming of age, developing friendships, curiosity, bravery and his repeated confrontations with forces of evil are compelling.

And, what I find most interesting is the simple truth at the center of much of the plot--people are neither wholly good nor wholly evil. The good people make mistakes; seemingly bad people are found to have love in their hearts...and this, is indeed true to our lives in the here and the now. Good and evil occupy the same hearts--and whilst I may seek to discern the good I am sometimes drawn into the evil. This is a truth we encounter in the Gospel for this coming the weeds and the good wheat grow together. Nourished by the same sun, rain and loamy soil...good and bad rise together. Yet, rather than pull up the weeds willy nilly, the farmer speaks a truth--if the weeds are pulled the wheat goes with it. The good is lost along with the bad and the wheat does not stand a chance.

Now, we have recently moved into a new home with a well established garden. However, the garden has been let go a bit and the perennials are in sore need of dividing and large and seemingly misplaced plants are thriving in the midst of what are clearly cultivated perennials. Yet, I have done very little weeding. Largely because I am not sure which are weeds and which are flowers. So, I bide my time and wait. Once the plants are full grown it will be clearer and I can then sort and order and divide.

We are not to pull up the weeds, we are not to destroy--because when we do so we lose the ability to seek and nourish the good. Both within ourselves and within others.

To flip things over on their we wrestle with the problem of evil in the world do we lose sight of the good that is in with the bad? Can we leave the judgment to the power of God's redeeming love and see the goodness in our midst? Nothing and no one is either all good or all bad. The role of confession in our liturgy is a weekly reminder of this truth. We have good and bad within our own hearts. This Gospel is not about others, it is about ourselves...are we willing to allow God's love to draw forth our goodness and leave behind the evil?

Back, again, to Harry would the books, and indeed the movies, have been different if the love that Snape felt had been nourished? If rather than childhood bullying and exclusion he had experienced gentleness and love?

Still...he says, still.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Long Time No See

Change...big changes, have been afoot in the Reverend Joy household for a bit now.

And, it's all my fault!

When our boykins was about 3 months old I did a wedding in another state (a wonderful privilege and honor to join two of the most delightful women I know!). It was an idyllic time of long walks along the river, some of the best sleep we'd had (oh little did we know) as mamas of a newborn and we found ourselves connecting with tons of youngish professionals with whom we had much in common.

Then we went back to Ohio--to our small town full of retired folk; about an hour from good friends who we never actually saw; the state where we not only couldn't legally marry (altho' when God and your mother-in-law consider you married who are you going to argue with!) but could not both be legal parents to our son.

So, I got mad, then I got to thinking. What did we need to do for our happiness? Not for success, not according to rules of church, of society or even the wishes of friends...for happiness. And, thankfully I'm married to a doer...someone who makes firm decisions and then handles the details to make those big picture crazy dreams I've dreamt come true.

Which is how we've found ourselves living in a much more progressive city; having downsized our carbon footprint; cut down immensely on work hours and spending much more time together as a family. Oh, and altho' legal marriage for same sex couple is going to be hotly contested here in the next couple of years, second parent adoption IS in fact legal. So, legal protection for our boy and amending that birth certificate that just looks SO wrong...well that will be in the near future!

So, what is it that you need for happiness? What are you dreaming? What are your hopes?