Of Downfalls and Updrafts

The young woman rushed along the street in a fit of desperate emotion. Life was over for her! What dreadful future predictions played out in her mind as she headed for the Clifton bridge? Was the weather as dismal as Sarah’s spirits that day? Surely you wouldn’t start out in the bright sunshine to fling yourself off a bridge?

Yet that’s exactly what Sarah was about to do. She’d just received a letter from her fiancé breaking their engagement. She’d never hold her head up again. Back in 1885 this rejection would have seemed like the end of the world to the heart-broken young miss and she was going to end it all. Leave all the heartaches of Earth behind.

A nagging voice in her head — we all know it, that voice of “all hope lost” — drove her on. “Love is lost forever. There’s nothing ahead for you but a long and dreary spinsterhood. You can’t live without him. And the shame! Jump, by all means. Jump.”

Sarah walked onto the bridge and looked down through her tears to where the river wound through the gorge 245 feet below. Another wave of despair swept over her and she climbed over the railings and onto the parapet. One last sob and she leaped into the emptiness.

But air isn’t empty. And in this case a draft of wind, coupled with her volumnious petticoats, considerably impeded her descent. To Sarah, the fall must have felt like slow motion, as the wind caught and swelled her wide skirt and crinoline. Down she drifted, not into the water below, but onto the riverbank where she sank deep into the soft mud that prevented her serious injury.

Astounded watchers below rushed to the spot and pulled her out, shocked but unharmed.

Sarah later married and lived to be 85.

Wikki tells us:

Sarah Ann Henley was a barmaid from Easton, Bristol, who became famous in 1885 for surviving an attempted suicide by jumping from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a fall of almost 75 metres.

And poet William E. Heasell wrote a verse about the event:

An Early Parachute Descent in Bristol

Once in Victoria’s golden age
When crinolines were all the rage
A dame in fashionable attire
Would change her life for one up higher
So up to Clifton Bridge she went
And made a parachute descent
But though, ’twas not the lady’s wish
A boatman hooked her like a fish
And thus a slave to fashion’s laws
Was snatched from out of Death’s hungry jaws
This story’s true I’d have you know
And thus it only goes to show.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My response to today’s writing prompts:

Fandango: LEAVE
Word of the Day: DISMAL
Ragtag Daily Prompt: WALK

A Cloud of Oppression

I was lost in a dark cloud one day years ago. As I thought of the future, the scene looked so bleak. I thought of my brothers and sisters in the Lord – and of myself as well – how full of faults we all tended to be. Yes, we wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings, but temptations came and we so often had to confess that we’d entertained thoughts, said words, done things a Christian shouldn’t. If our lives up to this point had been so full of failings, how could the future hold any hope for better things?

I had many ideals of Christian life and behaviour that I couldn’t seem to live up to — and neither could others. But lowering my standards didn’t feel like the right answer, either. God does hold us to a perfect standard. We can’t say, “If we’re mostly good, the rest will get by.” I couldn’t pass off my failings with, “Oh, well, I’m just human.” The Lord asks us to obey his direction. When we don’t, we are doing wrong.

But I am so human! We all are. Often we don’t fail a little, either; we fail Big Time. Someone does something that irritates us and we tell that person off in no uncertain terms. We forget that “Charity is patient and is kind, thinks no evil, hopes all things, endures all things…”

We want — may even take — things that aren’t ours and violate the “Thou shalt not covet.” The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” Next thing I know, here I am, wanting stuff again. I see my Christian sisters wanting stuff, too. God says “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and here I am skirting around the truth to avoid criticism for something I said or did.

That day, as I viewed my own past track record – and that of others in our church – the dark cloud towered over me, suffocating me in despair.

My husband and I were driving to a neighbouring town to do some business so I began to tell him how I was feeling. As I was explaining, a little voice dropped a clear thought into my mind: “Your problem isn’t with the past, it’s with an evil spirit.”

One of those falling diamonds from heaven that clunks you on the head when it lands — and makes perfect sense when you examine it. This thought pierced that dark cloud like a laser beam, blasting it to pieces.

I immediately repeated the thought to my husband and something amazing happened. It’s like my eyes were opened and I could see it so clearly. This “blue mood” was actually a tormenting spirit. It would come to me every time my thoughts went back to the past, and it highlighted all my imperfections. It shadowed every thing I’d done with dark tones of failure – which was why I had a hard time thinking about the past at all without getting depressed.

As soon as I recognized it for what it was, it was gone! That whole dark shadow was gone and I could look at the past in a brighter light. Things were not nearly as bad as I had been seeing them. Why, we had all behaved as normal people! Sure, we had failed, but the blood of Christ covers all our failings. God forgives us, not because we’re improving with time, but because His Son paid the price to redeem us.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve wandered into that same dark cloud and felt that oppression. I’ve heard again that voice lamenting the blackness of my sins and/or the errors of other Christians. I’ve tried to fight it myself, to pull myself out of that mood, but positive thinking never gets me very far. Thankfully the voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me that I can be forgiven; I don’t have to let myself be browbeaten by those accusations.

Over time the only effective solution I’ve found is to cry out to God for help. “This spirit is tormenting me again, Lord. Please make it go away.” It’s amazing how those dark tones can be zapped and life can become bright and cheerful again. So many times He sends me a thought, a verse, a song, that lifts me out of the sea of despair and sets me on the right path again. Praise the Lord!

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”
I John 4:1

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Ephesians 6:12

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16

A Carful of Puzzles

A Bit of Local News

This week, just for fun, I planned a Puzzle Exchange evening at Silverwood Villa retirement home. Spring isn’t the best time for jigsaw puzzle exchanges, with folks starting to think of yard work, but the event gave the residents a chance to enjoy some evening company. I had a number of jigsaw puzzles I wanted to give away and I knew quite a few have been collecting at the Villa, done and put in storage. So I planned the event for yesterday evening and invited everyone who wanted to come.

The invitation was to bring puzzles to exchange, to give away, or just come and get free puzzles. I took a few of my African violets to give away as well. (They seem to multiply so rapidly at my house.) To top off the affair nicely, my books finally came.

On Jan 26th I ordered the first twelve print copies of Silver Morning Song, from Amazon. They were shipped — and never arrived. After a month of eager waiting, I wrote to the company and they said, “Sorry about that. We’ll send replacements.” So they shipped twelve more — and THEY never arrived.

I was getting rather discouraged and beginning to wonder if I should just abandon the project. I notified the company again and they were very good about it. They refunded my purchase price and the agent also instructed me to order again, requesting the fastest shipping, and he’d waive the extra charge for that. So I ordered forty books at the beginning of April — and was beginning to wonder why these weren’t coming, either.

I had an answer on Monday: they hadn’t been shipped yet. On Monday Amazon notified me that they’d shipped my books from Baltimore, using the DHL shipping company. They arrived in four days — pretty fast! So now I can tell the world, my book is AVAILABLE in a print edition and I have copies to sell. 🙂

Or you can order a copy of Silver Morning Song from Amazon.com, and e-books from either Amazon or Kobo.

Back to the puzzle exchange. I brought my puzzles; some other folks brought theirs; one Villa resident’s family contributed forty-some that he’s already done. We had the dining room whole table full, stacked several deep! But there wasn’t a large turnout; three local couples, three ladies, three Villa residents, plus ourselves.

Several people took home a few puzzles each and about half a dozen stayed at the Villa. As to the rest, we have about six boxes and a couple of bags in our car at the moment. I have an appointment in the city today, so will drop these off at Value Village. In addition I sold six books and five of my African violets found new homes.

A good visit was had by all who attended. 🙂

Personal Note:

For the past while I’ve been thinking of giving up blogging — maybe even giving up writing — for a time. Lately I’ve been drowning in a sea of recriminations. It’s taken me awhile to even identify what I’m feeling, but this is how I can best explain it. And I realize it’s nothing new; maybe it just goes with the terrain of OCD my mind is so often bouncing over?

Feels like being crushed under an mountainous “To-Do” list — or rather a mountain of “This should have been done last week, last month, last year, and wasn’t. How undisciplined! Never accomplish anything!” I’m supposed to be editing my book for teens, but stalled after Chapter 4. For sure I have no time to waste writing, so much other stuff must be finished first. Yet that doesn’t happen, either, when you’re feeling suffocated. Do any of you other readers have spells like that?

Anyway, I decided to just do simple blog posts until this dark cloud passes. I trust it will in time. First thing this morning I was contemplating all my failings in general when the line of a song came to me. “Jesus paid it all…” ALL can be forgiven. Precious thought! Like a lifesaver to a drowning person. I grabbed that thought and want to hang onto it. 🙂

Enlightening Book On Depression

BOOK REVIEW:

How Hard It Really Is: A Short Honest Book About Depression
by J. S. Park

This book was written for folks who are seeking answers about this major problem. it’s for those wrestling with depression themselves and for those who want to understand what the sufferer is going through.

Pastor Park isn’t preachy; he offers no pat answers. No “Trust God, have more faith, count your blessings.” No “Think positive, just cheer up.”  No “This vitamin formula, yoga position, or new drug on the market will cure you in no time.” In fact, these pat answers make him angry because they tend to add yet more mental anguish to the sufferer. He knows. He’s been there.

“My hope here is to give a voice to those who have been depressed so they can share in their own words what they have found helpful and what they have definitely not.”

You’ll read about others — even doctors — who’ve been in, or are in, the same battle. Knowing you’re not alone can give you courage. Knowing that winning is possible is empowering. Seeing how others have climbed out of the darkness can give you courage to keep trying.

If you have a loved one who is dealing with this issue and you want a little better picture of the enemy, this book will definitely clarify some muddy waters.

The best thing we can offer each other is…our set of experiences, our voices, our ears, so that the tunnel is less intimidating and the light is not as distant as it was… It’s in sharing what we go through that we are empowered to make it through together.

The first few chapters contain a lot of basic facts; I found it rather heavy reading. This is where the writer discusses some theories behind depression, past and present, and different approaches that have been adopted in treating it.

I found the later chapters the most engaging, where he shares his own experience of being knocked for a loop, the treatments he tried, the help he found, the friends who stood beside him and made a difference, the way he finally managed to climb back out of the deep well he was in.

Sometimes there are obvious social and economic factors that trigger depression, but the writer also tells how suddenly it can hit a person:

“(It can be) …a simple punch in the face with no complex reasons, no social complexities, no biological build-up — just a sudden shock to the system. Depression can occur by a crisis event or situation and, like a face-punch, will spin you around and leave you surprised and reeling.”

He discusses the role culture plays in how we talk about and deal with this affliction. Is depression only “the white man’s disease” as some cultures say?

The section I’m Here gives some valuable tips on how we can reach out to a friend who’s struggling with depression. It’s a lot easier than you think. One thought that really impressed me: we don’t need to grab a microphone and make a rousing speech or say just the right thing to get this person through the darkness. Rather we need to give the depressed person the mike and listen. Let him share what he’s going through and how he feels. To be there is often the best gift a friend can give.

“Something powerful happens when we reach across the dark…
Fear starts to shrivel the moment it is exposed.”

The section, Who Am I Without You? deals with being so dependent on the approval of others that we crash at the smallest hint of rejection. The writer urges us to get to know ourselves, our own likes and wants. How necessary it is to stop being a people-pleaser — needing, clinging, then devastated when they feel suffocated and walk away. He tells how he learned to love others more and need them less.

In the last chapter, Elijah, By Bread and Water, he relates the account of the Biblical prophet Elijah, who had his greatest victory on Mount Carmel — followed by a vicious threat to his life that knocked him right into the cesspool of depression. Pastor Park shows us the gentle method God used to pick Elijah up and set him on his feet again, an inspiring story.

“(God) is bigger than your situation and closer than your deepest hurt. He’s not mad. He is cheering for you and rooting for you this very second. He’s okay about all the things before. He sent His Son for that very reason.”

The book’s Appendix lists different treatments for depression and hot-lines readers can call to get help or a listening ear when needed.

Amazon US Link

☆☆☆☆☆
5 stars from me.

Overheard

Friday Fiction chimes again in Promptland and dings in my InBox, aided by the sweet purple Tinklebell, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Many thanks to her for presiding over this notorious party-line and to J Hardy Carroll for contributing the picture that nudges our creativity this week.

It took some doing to squeeze my contribution into 100 words but I made it. The seed for this tale was planted when I worked with a fellow who peddled drugs on the side. Being on the opposite side of the spectrum from me, he was hostile and would have been delighted to see me quit, but thankfully no plotting like the type in my story.

Photo © J Hardy Carroll

“Yeah, he hates me, but I never thought he’d go this far. And he’ll have planted enough so I’m nailed for trafficking, not just possession. You saved my life, pal!”

“I’m blown away! Sure, I recognized your coworker, but hearing your name, then ‘One call to the RCMP and she’ll be in for years.’ What’s chances I’d be right there to catch that?”

“I’ll head for the nearest police station, tell them what you overheard and ask them to search my car — before they come looking for me.”

“I’d call this one amazing happenstance!”

“I’d call it a miracle.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve been away from writing for awhile, wandering through the DropBox Thousand file-lands to gather material for my upcoming book of poems and short stories. I need a better filing system! I’ve made ten sections in my book and putting each item in the right section has involved a lot of shuffling since some stories would work in several sections.

Once the manuscript was ready to be formatted, I converted it from Word Perfect to MS Word — and the fun began! My first plan (four years ago) was for a print book so I (misguidedly) purchased a number of graphics. Now I added them to my e-book file and the switch from WP to Word has thrown things out of sync big time. I don’t have Word myself, so I must take my file to our son-in-law’s computer when I want to open and read it. Which I did and was rather dismayed…

I’ve decided to do an e-book format only — but you rarely see e-books with graphics. So I’ve a question for you seasoned writers: Would you add small box graphics to illustrate an e-book of poems and (mostly) short tales?

I’ve also been beta-reading a book for Florida Pastor JS Park, who’s writing about depression with an aim to helping both those who suffer and those who want to empathize. He hopes to help readers find a better understanding and ability to cope. The book is live on Amazon.com now; you can find it here: How Bad It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression.

Troy’s Wake-Up Call

A writing prompt I did one time. We were to give someone a weird day in an alternate universe. I decided on a successful businessman suddenly stuck in a body that won’t move.

WHAM!

As a reward for our recent hard work, our sales team had chosen to spend a few days at a resort renowned for its golf greens. I was flying in with my small plane and everything was A-okay. Visibility was great; the tarmac stretched out invitingly; my landing gear was unfolding as it should.

It would have been a perfect landing — if only those crazy birds had stayed put.

In my descent I could see the hotel and fairway on my left in the distance. I also took note of the winding stream below as I brought my small plane down, focused on the strip of asphalt ahead. I never saw the two birds they say rose up from the river below. I only felt a violent jerk as something hit the prop and I lost control.

I woke up flat out on a bed, hearing blimps and bleeps from machines and soft voices. Definitely hospital sounds. I tried to open my eyes or turn my head, but my body was like stone. I couldn’t stay awake.

I came to later, hearing familiar voices right near my bed. My wife, Lacey, my mom and dad. They were murmuring, talking about the crash of a small plane, a bird in the prop. Some memory started coming back to me. I tried to open my eyes, to make some noise. I tried moving my hand, my foot — anything to let them know I was awake — but my body refused to cooperate. I couldn’t even tell that I even had arms or legs. Maybe I didn’t? Had they been amputated? That thought scared the living daylights out of me.

“How long do you think it will be until he comes out of this?” I could hear the fear in Lacey’s voice.

Another voice, professional, yet kind. “We can never be sure. A lot of patients with similar injuries come to within a week or two. Some don’t.”

NO! I don’t want to lie here another week or two, I want to get up, move around. Then his last words buzzed around in my brain, torturing me. Some don’t. Ever.

“What are the chances that Troy will live a normal life?” Dad’s voice.

“That’s impossible to determine until he wakes up and we assess how much neurological damage has been done. But we really shouldn’t be discussing this here. Some patients do hear even if they can’t respond.”

Hours passed — or was it days? I came to many times and tried to move, but it was like someone had set me in concrete. What I wouldn’t give to at least say a few words, find out what was going on! When the doctor was in the room I tried my hardest to scream, but not even a squeak came out.

I lived for the visits of my family. Lacey brought Kyle and Tianna. They were full of questions “Why can’t Daddy open his eyes?” Lacey explained, “Daddy’s in a coma. It’s like he’s asleep. But maybe he can hear us, so talk to him.”

“How long will he have to stay there?” Poor kids. They didn’t understand, but they tried.

Lacey urged them to tell me things about their day, so Kyle told me about school. Tianna told me about the new girl on our street. Their voices were like a lifesaver to a drowning sailor. If only I could communicate just how much those visits meant to me.

I made a vow. When I come out of this, I’m going to tell them every day how sweet their voices sound.

Even the medical people brightened my dark world. How I wish I could tell them that! I knew from the few comments the nurses made right by my bed that they were moving me, washing me, but I felt nothing. Much as I hated to be so helpless, their snatches of gossip as they worked with me reassured me that I was still in the land of the living.

Then came that marvelous day when my eyes opened.

If you only knew what it’s like to live in a dark shadow for days — or was it even weeks? — and then one day be able to see light and color and living, moving people. Wonderful is far too small a word. It’s like saying the Grand Canyon is large. And to see the faces of Lacey, the kids, my parents, standing around me with great big grins. To see the hope shining in their eyes when I said my first words.

The only thing better was the day I took my first shuffling steps. This was the first step of my new life as a husband, a father, a son. Thank God for second chances!