Friday, January 20, 2006

Dealing With A Dark Night of the Soul.

Everywhere I look, I see futility, confusion and dreariness. This is no time for friends to come in to give a pep talk. One of the good things I know, even it the depths of this valley is how my friends would rally, if asked. That is a gift of boundless value. No, this is a time for CyberGal to meet with and face herself. A time to forge traits of: faith, courage, endurance, perseverance and patience. A time to work on getting used to needing to lean of God in ways yet new to me.

I told God over a year ago that, with His help I would work to invent a screen reader for the totally blind. My first tentative steps in that direction were guided by an assumption that I would be adding to already-existing technology. As I gathered more information, it is very clear to me, that what I need to do is invent an entirely different method of translating text from a device, into speech. On the face of it, I'm totally out of my mind!

The reason I'm floundering around in the pit of discouragement is I lack the trust in my God to believe that the promptings He continues to give me, will pan out. This is yet another example of my need for something called patience. A trait I usually only visit when circumstances hog-tie me down! This is when I learned not to argue with my back.

In November of 1985, I was hit by a car, crossing a poorly lit, badly marked intersection, in the pouring rain. I pulled the driver's mirror off the car with my leg and got a bad concussion. Strangely, I had no back problems at all. I mis-labeled and mis-dated things for months, but my back was fine. At the time, I was doing heavy duty janitorial work in the building I lived in. They got a clean building and I got very low rent. I was also in college, working part time, reading to blind students. Two weeks before the end of the semester, in June, I discovered I could not bend over at all. I actually had to have a neighbor tie my shoes for me, as I absolutely couldn't do it. I was in a kind of pain I can't even describe, but I went off to class.

My first hour on campus was with one of my students. I was reading an algebra text to her and assisting her in comprehending the material. I was reading a column of figures for her, when I noticed that the nines and sixes were spinning! I couldn't tell which was which. My student could hear the pain in my voice and I was sent off to get an emergency "incomplete" for the rest of the semester. I got home and began a series of emergency Chiropractic appointments.

I was in such bad shape, the woman opened up on a Sunday, to continue daily treatments, trying to get my spasms to stop. I spent hours on ice packs. Every time I moved the air would be crushed out of my lungs and another agonizing spasm, involving the entire left side of my back, was in progress. Whatever position I was in, I was stuck that way, until the spasm settled down. Open weeping in public became a normal event. My apartment manager took a terrible risk by offering me illegal drugs for the pain! (How can I turn the guy in?) No, I get too crazy on grass, I'll just hang on to this door jam, until I can move again and then I'll be able to stop crying.

I actually was stupid enough to try and continue my janitorial duties! One little turn of that industrial mop and I was seeing the room spinning around me. Reluctantly, I bid the job and money good-bye, retiring to my room to lie around and curse my back. I was in this critical state for almost six months. I'd rest and be good for a few days. Then I'd get a crazy notion, that it was over and I could, oh, say, sit at my desk and read a book. WRONG! Down again for another few days. I have learned a kind of patience from that ordeal. I have absolutely learned, that when my back has something to tell me, I listen!

The challenge before me now is with my internal willingness and openness. My external life has radically changed, but old internal thinking patterns still linger. Am I willing to really accept a successful life, friendships, a business and or invention? At first I want to laugh. I may be stubborn, but not that stupid! Sure, bring it on: off Social Security, out of poverty, into a new circle of friends and back into the Middle Class I was raised in. It is not that easy.

There is a familiarity to despair, futility and hopelessness. It may be a bad smell, but I'm used to it. After all, if I make no effort, I don't have to be responsible for my actions, right? I am still accountable to God for what I do with the life He's given me. My body may be disabled, but my mind has been healed and restored. I have a purpose in God's world and nowhere in scripture do I find an escape clause for having a disability.

There is also a steep re-learning curve I must tackle. When I choose to take charge of my life and tackle a project, those around me, who have not taken charge of their lives begin acting strangely. Basically, they do everything in their power to rip my dream out from under me. I have been sad for days over the reality that some of the folks I know can not, or will not support, or root for my new life. This isn't a conscious thing, just a component of other's unresolved despair over the failings in their own lives. I have to say good-bye to the small child thinking: "We'll all get into the sand box and play nice together." I have to grow up. I have to learn to protect my valuable life and goals. I have to think before I speak. (ooh, that sounds like some real work.)

Leaving old relationships implies a bit of pain, loss and sadness. Again, real work. Am I willing to really try trusting God? I realize my valley started last Saturday, after trusting an immature individual with some pieces of my hoped-for-invention-plans. He gave me information all right and a piece of advice guaranteed to sink my soaring hopes. He told me I had to get a degree in Computer Science. I could go back to The Department of Rehabilitation for help. There is enough grief work contained within returning to either school and or especially, The Department of Rehabilitation, to keep me in Kleenex for years! This was the beginning of the "crashing and burning" I confided to a friend, later this week.

Tuesday was a watershed time for me. I had gotten so down, I wasn't sure I even wanted to recover. It somehow felt familiar and a little safe. I could just admit that I wasn't up to this (or any other challenge), go to bed, pull the covers over my head and wait out the rest of my life in despair. I was seriously toying with this option, sitting right here at my beautiful computer, having a host of new friends, opportunities and options literally a few mouse clicks away!

I've been here before. I knew I had forgotten something, oh yeah! I had asked God to helpme. In this swamp of misery, I'd forgotten I was not, then, or now, alone. I had run out of good ideas, but maybe God had something to add to my situation. I made a conscious decision to at least talk to Him.

"God, I feel really shitty, and it feels totally hopeless to me. You know all the reasons why. Right now, I'm not sure I want to get better, but I know I don't want to sleep for three days to duck this depression. What do I do now? I'm stuck in Real Basic, and (at the moment) have no intention of even trying to figure it out. I'm afraid I'm getting too disabled to continue as a housekeeper, but I have to learn Real Basic to sell programs. That's on me. Will you help me find the will to at least want to try? I have a goal of reading through my 43 print news feeds, every day. Even though I feel crappy, I'll do it, and at least I'll have that and my blog post to show for this terrible day. By-the-way, thank you that it isn't worse. My health is excellent, my friends love me, and I have my needs met."

The last part is something they teach at church. It is okay to acknowledge you are going through something, but always remember, it could be far worse. I could be a vegetable in a coma somewhere. I could die from a stroke. All kinds of "worse" is always kept away from us by God. Sometimes I say it through clenched teeth, but I agree with the idea and I do say it.

Trying to concentrate on reading my normally beloved news feeds felt like I was trying to swim through tar. My thinking was murky and I had to slow way down to actually get the information into my mind. I worked on keeping my breathing deep and relaxed and pictured God beside me, reading and enjoying the information with me. The worst of the pain was beginning to break up. By no means, was it over, but I was doing something constructive against it. Maybe this is a type of resisting the devil and his temptations. I was a bit irked, that I wasn't getting a spiritual cookie for being so noble. At an earlier spot in my relationship with God, He did reward me, but I was older and tougher. I caught my negative thought and pulled my mind back to the news. Then I got a text message signal.

Earlier I had posted my latest blog piece, an upbeat bit about good food and a great hotel. My first in a series: A Ministry Unawares. One of my friends had read it and was reacting. This wasn't a message, but a short speech! I'd never seen my friend text message like this before. I know enough about this person to know that they don't waste time in fake anything. This was amazing! They liked the post, and then went on to discuss my qualities as a person. I literally read with my mouth open in surprise. The joy of being acknowledged by someone I respect is more then I can describe. It is very new to me. I have to ask God to help me accept this changed state of affairs.

I told the truth, that I was having a bad time, but had remembered to pray. Again, my friend entered a small pamphlet in response. I now was thanking God for this unexpected bit of hope cascading through my soul. I then told my friend, how this communication was helping me, get through a tough place, and that I hoped I could return the favor. The response really threw me. I have already done that, "just by being there." I was so blown away, I typed my immediate reaction. I believed they meant it, didn't totally understand how that helped, but I accepted it. I also prayed God would help me accept this entire episode.

After we signed off, I copied the message into my notes file. I wanted to be able to re-read this communication. One of the more twisted habits I've gotten into, is to deny positive reality (later), when I again feel down. Not on this conversation! Wednesday, yesterday, I spent a lot of time in prayer and slept. I'd had too much coffee Monday night, at dinner and messed up my normal sleep patterns.

Today my morass was back. It was a little easier to fight, as I had made up my mind to fight. But I really didn't start to come out of it, until I began this post. I promise to all of you: I will document the good, the bad and even the ugly, as I go for the brass ring of a "normal" life. I hate admitting some of this, but somebody out there will be relieved and heartened to know they aren't some freak of nature, when all their other friends, groups and reading sources deny the less then attractive parts of recovery. It is a back-and-forth kind of thing.

I realize now, that I have to be willing to be open to new things, scary things, even difficult things to achieve what we all think of as "a normal life". Actually, I have to embrace something better then normal. I have to embrace becoming a leader. A CEO of a company, an inventor, a trail blazer and maybe a fall-on-my-face failure, to pursue creating a better text-to-speech system. I refuse to give in to the nay-sayers. I refuse to give up on a hope that I can make a serious difference. I'm 52 now and probably, God willing, will live to 75 or 80. I can leave a trail of documentation of what I've learned and tried. I can make a beginning. With God's help, I might actually come up with the theory that others can build into what I hope will be the iPod of speech technology.

1 comment:

steven edward streight said...

The iPod of speeched text tech is a wonderful goal.

I am so tired I can't sit up straight...I had so much more to say.

Will return. Darn.