This is your brain.
This is your brain on drugs.
[Sizzling sound as an egg gets fried.]
That commercial — which I seem to recall watching while I was growing up — prevented me from using drugs — no matter how bad life got. And it got pretty bad.
I was an appalling maladapted child. I strongly suspect that had Asperger’s syndrome been around back then, someone would have attached the diagnosis to me. I didn’t fit; I didn’t understand the social dynamics of my peer group, and as a result had few friends.
My home life didn’t help, but that’s a story for another time. Mom’s death, when I was a senior in high school, was more or less the coup de grace of any hope I might have had of anything resembling a normal life — though I didn’t know it at the time. Only with 20/20 hindsight can I see how grief, poor parenting, and the demon that inhabited my life, preventing me from connecting in meaningful ways with others, worked together, causing me to stumble and to fall over and over.
I struggled to get through college. Failed in my attempts to find a life partner, a companion for the journey. Lost job after job. But over and over, I picked myself up. Over and over, I put one foot in front of the other. Through it all, I comforted myself with the knowledge that I am an intelligent, creative woman.
I knew I was intelligent because following one of my suicide attempts — there were two — a battery of tests was administered. I learned that my IQ was in the 136-142 range, not freaky smart, but above average. And, I learned that it’s fairly common for bright people to be socially inept. I found comfort in that, and made peace with my inability to connect with others.
I knew I was creative because (a) something in me is driven to create beauty, and (b) I am a published poet and my paintings have been exhibited in public venues.
Because both intelligence and creativity are expressions of mental activity, I have — for the most part — protected my mind, my brain. No drugs and, apart from a couple self-destructive periods in my life, little alcohol. I believed that as long as I could think, I would be OK, because I could find a way to move forward regardless of what happened to me.
When you value the mind, you also value the way the mind works. You value higher level thinking skills and you hone them. You learn to see patterns and to draw conclusions from those patterns. You learn, as the saying goes, to see the writing on the wall.
What the writing on the wall tells me now fills me with grief — and anger. I can’t even pray — not in words, at least. But that precious mind of mine brings comfort, recalling passages of Scripture and lessons I have learned. Chief among them is this: manna in the desert. God provided the Israelites with food to eat one day at a time — he led them with a pillar of fire and fed them — one day at a time.
That’s how I am going to get through the next four years — one day at a time. I have to turn away from the writing on the wall and turn my eyes toward God. Yes, there will be inordinate suffering — how can it be otherwise? — and the odds are that many of those who suffer won’t even realize they brought it on themselves, because they allowed themselves to be programmed with misinformation.
But, I do not have to let the ugliness shape me. I can turn my eyes toward the God who is love, and I can allow his light to fill me. Filled with his light and his love, I can — one day at a time — find small, hopeful, life-giving ways to battle the darkness. I can trust that this darkness is not dark to him (cf. Psalm 139:12), and he will lead me — one day at a time.
Manna in the desert. One day at a time.
Manna in the desert.