This post is from last year this time.
A Beyond Blue reader wrote to me the other day and asked, “How do you know that you are on the right path, and that God approves? Because if He did, why would he make the path so hard?”
I responded with these three words: I don’t know.
I have been asking myself the same question for the last year, ever since the financial situation at home has compromised my ability to do what I think is my vocation and calling: mainly, writing Beyond Blue, and providing an ounce of hope to people suffering mega pain from depression, anxiety, or another crippling mood disorder.
For awhile, everything was peachy. Eric was gainfully employed. We had group health insurance through his company. I was paid a nice wage from Beliefnet so that I could devote 30 to 35 hours a week to composing two to four comprehensive, well-researched, and carefully crafted posts a day. And I received two nice advances from a major publishing house to write books that supplemented that income.
And then the bomb hit.
Eric’s work slowed down and has nearly all but evaporated. We lost the group health care coverage, which means I have to make an additional $40,000 a year to pay for our health care costs. With the sale of Beliefnet, my salary was cut in half. (Which is not an indictment against the owners, as their budget cuts are merely representative of the industry at this time.) And my books did not sell well, which makes it extremely difficult to secure another book contract, or at least one that pays a nice advance.
My list of roadblocks is not meant to elicit pity. I present them merely as a consolation to you that I am there with you. I have heard from enough of you to know that you are really struggling, especially in this economy. I hear your pain and appreciate it, because I’m going through my own. I’m frustrated alongside the reader who asked me why God is making it so hard.
I know what I am supposed to be doing—devoting more time and attention to Beyond Blue, speaking to groups about coping strategies, and answering emails of persons in need—and yet I don’t have the time or resources to do that. Like many of you, I’m handcuffed as I try to pursue my mission and ministry…what I think God created me to do. I’m tired. I’m pissed off at God. I’m confused. And I might even throw out a WTF?
While I don’t have an answer to this reader, I can tell her what prevents me from getting bitter: remembering the collective suffering of human beings everywhere. I can progress to a place of relative peace if I adhere to spiritual author Henri Nouwen’s directive: to move from MY pain to THE pain … to live in solidarity with the hungry, homeless, imprisoned, sick, and dying…with the suffering of all humanity.
I know that sounds awfully dark, but it keeps my perspective in check.
I don’t have to look far to see all the suffering around me. And I have yet to find someone with whom I want to exchange crosses. When I read your emails and your comments on my posts (I do read them all and appreciate them very much), I am humbled by your pain. Everyday I read something from one or more of you that makes me realize how good I have it, even thought it feels hard to me. I empathize, especially, for those of you who live with chronic illnesses, chronic pain, chronic fatigue. Major yuck.
And on the days I don’t log on to read your stories, I am surrounded by hardship of friends and relatives around me. My twin sister has a special-needs child that requires a kind of patience that she didn’t know she had until he came along. A friend of mine just lost her husband to suicide. She has a four-year-old to raise by herself now. Another friend lost her two year old in a boating accident three years ago. I can’t imagine …
I guess these are the times when our faith is tested, when we can interpret that quote from Hebrews in a new light: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Or, as a good friend put it when her husband died unexpectedly, “Faith wouldn’t be faith without a backup plan.”
One other thing I wanted to address before you start your week.
A reader whom I respect and like recently inquired why Beyond Blue isn’t as complete as it used to be. Her comment made me sad, because, on some level, I know it’s true, and I wanted to explain why.
As mentioned above, I used to have 35 hours to devote to my posts, which meant I could afford to publish two to four pieces a day and dig within myself for the good stuff. I try to do that now, of course, but I am much more rushed. I am presently working three jobs, so I have a third of the time as I did in the past to craft and load my posts. So it’s not that I have lost interest in Beyond Blue at all. As I explained to the reader, Beyond Blue will always be my home, even if I publish on other sites. I feel a bond with you all that I just don’t experience on any other site. However, because I don’t have the luxury of more hours, I have been publishing more interviews and excerpting from new books because those posts require less time and don’t demand the soul-searching writing that can’t be hurried.
Her question made me aware that I do need to invest more of myself into Beyond Blue, as I did in the past, and I will try to make a conscious effort to that in future pieces. I am hoping to consolidate my jobs this year. I desperately want to simplify, although I don’t know how that’s going to happen. At any rate, my heart and soul are still very much here, and I have in no way lost interest or passion. I’m just trying to figure out how I can write quality posts and pay for health care at the same time.
And that’s, I suppose, where faith comes into play.