Transitions

freeway      I’m in a season of change. Of course, on one level, what makes that all that different from the other seasons? Things change so often. But these changes are big and gradual
School ended. Sort of. The program in which I teach is set up as an adult degree completion program in cohorts, so I teach in cycles that don’t match semesters. Turns out, though, that after being engaged non-stop in study and lecture and grading since January, now I have nothing to do until June.
I’ll use the time to do a little bit of lesson prep. Read The Developing Mind and The Absorbent Mind for school and work my way through The Book Thief for fun.
Really I’m excited about writing more. This happens every time a class or series of classes ends; my soul comes alive and the story bursts back into full color in my mind. I can actually enter the story world, engage in it, find my narrative voice and the personalities of the characters. I might even have time to do more than proof read old work; I might get to a point of being able to write new material.
This transition is from dormant to active creativity.
My new job started. I went to orientation, got keys, picked a schedule, met my future colleagues, started saying good-bye to some old ones. In this transition, I leave the comfort and security of a community mental health setting and venture out into the world of private practice.
Of course there are qualifiers (community mental health is oppressively stressful because everyone is overworked and underpaid) and (the new job isn’t technically private practice because it’s with a company).
As I muddle through this transition, I’m having a good bit of culture shock. Community mental health to (almost) private practice. Non-profit to commercial. Hawthorne District to East Portland. Fluorescent lights to warm lights. Cubicles to my own office.
I’m excited to have more control over my schedule and my case load. I’m scared to lose community. I’m actually a little scared that my new work will be boring. I’ve been working all this time with clients who can’t afford anything and now I’ll be working with people who can. I wonder if they’ll be as interesting.
This transition is from a work culture where I have achieved all I can achieve to a work culture where I am facing an undetermined amount of potential.
Depending on which behavioral item I assess, I have anywhere from almost two to almost three years clean in my recovery process. This means I am moving from the Action Stage of Change into Maintenance. Actually, technically, Maintenance starts at 6 months of sustained behavior. So where I’m at now is the netherworld of Extended Maintenance.
Life is weird here. With new behaviors came a new quality of life and relationship that I like and for which I’m tremendously grateful. But I still miss elements of how things were. Sometimes I even catch myself wishing I’d gone farther with a particular fantasy, if only because that would be fun, entertaining and stimulating.
The dark side of stability is that it gets boring.
I love my wife. I adore my son. I deeply appreciate the men and women in my community who support me and my family in our healing processes. I am so grateful for the work and ministry opportunities that arise because of wise choices I made a few years back. I don’t want to fuck these things up.
But what they don’t always emphasize is that, in recovery, when recovery actually happens, your whole reality shifts. You do different things for fun, rest and nurture. You react to stress and crisis differently. You love and conflict with your partner differently. You have to make different choices about personal safety and health. Some venues for friendship and entertainment become unavailable. You speak a different language. You’re on guard against things you chose not to care about before.
You have to keep working.IMG_2995
Recovery isn’t like planting a cactus out in the desert where you can leave it for a hundred years and come back to find it thriving on its own. Recovery is more like an orchid that requires the most precisely perfect conditions and meticulous nurture and (at times even obsessive) consistent attention.
This transition is about moving away from the broken and confused person I was to a person who still doesn’t have it all together but knows more and knows enough to know better and how to keep himself safe and be responsible.
My birthday is in three months. I’ll be thirty-three. Landmark age. The whole impetus for the Christ Year.
All this time, I’ve felt like a kid. An overgrown boy. A mature boy, exceedingly gifted, but still quite young, at least at heart.
But men my age have families and careers and ministries and histories. They have causes and communities, or else have left a string of devastations behind them. Throughout history, a few men have changed the world by my age.
That’s not the work of children.
I’m taking this year to more intentionally pursue understanding of Christ by reading through the Gospels continuously for a year. My anticipation…my desperate hope…is that I’ll come away from this long exercise with a deeper understanding of my Lord and Savior.
But one thing I’m already seeing fairly clearly in the Gospels is that everything about Jesus comes at a price. Grace cost Him everything. Following Him costs me everything.
That’s not to be taken lightly.
One of my aspirations for this year is to take a retreat or two, take a couple days by myself, maybe in the woods, specifically to read and pray and think.
If I do these things, I can’t pretend to be a kid anymore. I have to stand with the grown-ups as one of them, worthy of them.
That feels weird.
The other thing that happens, the more closely I lean into Christ is that I see my own imperfections even more. Part of me thought that the closer I got to Christ, the better I would feel. You know…maybe feel encouraged, comforted, joyful. Feel that excitement and passion that those radical Christians talk about.
Instead, I find myself getting more depressed and irritated. Like I see who Christ is, how wonderful He is, how brave were the people who followed Him, and I start seeing myself in a whole new way.
Over indulgent. Prideful. Drunk on my privilege and education. Controlling. Irritable. Lonely, yet fearing connection. Distracted by all the pretty things of the world. Doing things that I think matter and trying to write them off as coming from a place of compassion when really I’m seething with anger at the world.
Christ Year.
Who am I to be on this journey?
This transition is about emerging from blindness into seeing and understanding.

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