I wrote before about the lament Psalms, and how we have been studying them in my Old Testament class, but I left out what comes after the lament Psalms (otherwise known as the Psalms of disorientation). What comes next, you see, is the Psalms of Reorientation. But the key thing about them is that they are not merely a return to your life the way it was before it got dumped on its face in the mud; they are a new orientation, in a new place. I can’t help but thinking how ironic it is that the word orientation is used here, when that in and of itself is exactly what i am trying to adjust to… a new sexual orientation, or at least a new realization of it. But it’s my personal opinion that this book about the Psalms oversimplifies things by breaking them down into three specific categories: orientation, disorientation, and reorientation…particularly when it defines them as songs of praise, songs of lament, and even more songs of praise. I personally, in my own period of reorientation, have been singing songs of praise, sure, but that’s certainly not all. There have also been songs of anger and panic and depression and hopelessness, and foot stomping, and surrender, and hope and… well, you get the idea.

So here is where my theology classes end and my psychology classes begin (my integration professor would not be pleased to hear me speaking like this): Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood, DSM IV code 309.28. That’s my current self-diagnosis, and I would venture to say that I am not alone in this. I have yet to meet a person who has gone through the coming out process without dealing with some form of depression or anxiety, or a combination of the two. And it is on these grounds that I would like to argue, at least in the case of gay and lesbian Christians, that a period of reorientation is not just marked by songs of praise. It is marked by a swirling, dizzying mixture of reactions, both predictable and utterly unexpected, to a world and to a self that we are just beginning to recognize, both again and for the very first time.

I have been trying, though, to make this a time of praise. Not just because that’s what my theology professor seems to think it should be, but because it is spring, and I have always had such a soft place in my heart for spring. It seems that each year around this time, I throw away whatever darkness has been accumulating in my soul over the winter, and throw myself into the celebration of new life. And so this year has been no exception. I even went so far as to go and buy arm loads full of potted daffodils and tulips, and scatter them around a room I had already decorated only the week before with a brightly flowered bedspread, and blown-up photos I had taken of spring-times past.

It was a noble effort, but a bit of a failed one… because the excitement I feel from seeing the red and yellow blooms that fill my tiny corner of our less than spacious apartment is tempered by the anxiety I experience every time a flower wilts and dies. Did I over water it? Underwater it? Is there too much light, or perhaps too little? Is that a plant eating insect right there on its leaf, that somehow made its way into our second story apartment? Will they ever recover from that time my girlfriend’s cat ate their leaves? Is my little dog peeing on them in my absence? The options for worry are limitless, and I begin to suspect that in this area, as in many others, there is still something standing between me and embracing the new dawn of spring…

My therapist suggests it is the fact that I am angry, and that I generally do a shitty job of expressing it, or even really recognizing. When he first said this, I agreed politely, seethed internally that he could make such an assumption about me, and then promptly sunk into despair that I had failed yet again, and anxiety that I would never improve. And then I cried. Because the equation goes something like this: anger, unexpressed and unrecognized = anger turned inward = depression + anxiety. Shit. Shit shit shit. This all starting to feel a little bit familiar.

And so for lent I am practicing anger. Well, that’s not the full story… I am also practicing solitude and meditation… but I am definately practicing anger. After all, Jesus himself never hesitated to express an angry righteous indignation whenever he saw religion used for people’s own selfish purposes instead of in a way that honors God and the entirety of God’s creation. And so, I am angry… I am angry about the in group/out group dynamics that keep a few overtly moral straight upper-middle class folks at the center of God’s will and toss a whole slew of minorities to the fringes where they are repeatedly thrown against a brick wall by the sheer centrifugal force of all this incessant spinning in circles that’s been going on lately. And I am angry about my inability to do anything about it. And I am angry that I don’t know how to come out to my parents. And I am angry that my best friend would rather invite the boyfriend of a coworker to her wedding than my own girlfriend, even though I am her bridesmaid. I am angry that I have so much to learn about being in a relationship, and that I have so few models to look to. And, well, you get the idea…

So as spring pokes up its hopeful head all around me, I committed this year not just to embracing the rebirth of new life, but the cycles of life in their entirely… because even today, as I was noticing all the wealthy gardens filled with newly purchased flowers… I was also noticing men and women who were living on the streets, pushing their entire lives around in shopping carts that held all their earthly belongings, headed towards homes they haven’t yet found. And even as we face presidential elections that speak the language of hope and change and a brighter future, most of the world (and myself included) looks on in a confusing combination of wanting so badly to hope, and also being paralyzed with fear that it is too soon to hope that the global winds might really be changing. And even as I settle into a rich network of support and healing, there are still days when I am afraid I will not remember how to breathe.

But today, just for today, I could breathe just fine.. and so I plucked a dandelion from the ground and blew with all my strength, making a wish that for all of us… for those of you I know, and those I have yet to meet, that it will all be just a little less painful this spring.

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