Tell Me About My Chris

My friend, Chris Churchill, filmed a documentary about his mom. It’s about his whole family, really, Tell Me About My Mother.

It’s compelling. Hard to watch in places. Private. Heartbreaking. Bare-to-the-bones revealing. Honest. Touching.

This documentary challenges my idea of what a doc should be. And that’s okay! Chris is seen, on camera, part of the story, asking questions. But, because of the subject matter, because of his inclusion in the events, because of his expertise in these realms, his participation is certainly needed and wanted.

The film is edited well and contains original music. Those elements of pictures, interviews, soundtrack and special effects all contribute to one’s understanding of Chris’ heart and mind during/after such a chaotic time.

Chris’ mother is a funny, charming, sweet, old lady. Like anyone’s mom. But we hear early evidence to contradict that initial image. Having had a parent with mental illness, I feel compassion and empathy for Mother and Chris from the first moments of the film.

It’s 3:33 am. I woke up with so many questions, Chris.

Q: It seems almost impossible that your mother would leave her small town for Chicago. She left to attend Salvation Army training. Both of your parents were officers in the Salvation Army, at one time. In the movie, we see an inattention from SA to help the very families serving them, much like the US military branches. Did that lack of sympathy from SA disturb your spiritual life? Did you struggle with Christianity and God? Where are you spiritually?

A: When I was young, I was extremely religious. At first, I was extremely and specifically into the Salvation Army because it was all I knew. But also, because it was…connecting with my parents in a way I knew they’d be constant. As I got older, I began to notice and question the less loving and accepting parts of the Bible and, in particular, our church’s interpretation of it. I wanted to love everyone as they were, but it seemed like the God I was being taught about wasn’t like that. I was also lucky enough to be able to see that what people said God was didn’t seem to match up with what they all said God did or felt. So I began that lifelong search for a spiritual truth that works for me and isn’t reliant on what authority figures insist I believe. To be fair, the Salvation Army has evolved on a lot of issues over the years, too. But I can’t see myself ever returning to…any church services regularly. I know what it’s there for and I don’t need or want that. No disrespect to those who go and are satisfied with their experience and who actively love all of humanity. I also understand that getting wrapped up in the minutiae of any religion diminishes the overriding point of it all. And if the point isn’t as simple as love thy neighbor as thyself, then it’s missing the point. All that came from being immersed in a faith that had the tendency to overlook the primary importance of love over laws. To quote The Thompson Twins, “Love IS the law”. That’s where I am now. Love is the point. Everyone is equally important, even the people who are your purported enemies. I believe in God as the fabric of the universe that connects us all. The information I was raised with that makes the most sense to me involves compassion and mercy and love. I believe God, that thing that creates, heals, teaches and connects us all, is love. And love is both a noun and a verb. To be with God, you have to love. To love more and more deeply is to be more and more deeply with God. To love less is to be less with God.

Q: Your dad seems very unsympathetic at times. He is currently a minister. Do you feel that his lack of compassion toward your mother is a Christian ideal?

A: It’s interesting that you say that about him because I’ve heard people say the opposite as well. Some people see him as a man whose calling was to lead a flock in a church his whole life. He certainly sees that. He did the best he could for us but he was always split in his duties between us and the church. And, yeah, the church will always win. It seems “un-Christian” of him but my dad was also serious about serving others which is very “Christian” of him. You could look at it both ways and you’d be right both ways.

Q: Do you think he was having an affair?

A: I believe him when he says he wasn’t at the time that this movie covers. I’m not sure, however, if during the time they were separated, but before they were divorced, that he wasn’t in a relationship with my first stepmother. I know why you’d ask and why anyone would wonder. He’s still extremely flirty. But I’ll tell you, he’s been married to my second and final stepmother for 38 years. So, I’d say that generally, in terms of flirting, his bark was always far worse than his bite.

Q: Being Salvation Army officers, your parents made some strict choices, but also, some not-so-strict choices. Some very non-SA choices, I would venture to say. It seems demanding that your father would expect your mother to attend SA training and become an officer, but also sleep with her outside of marriage. Do you resent this seemingly arbitrary thinking?

A: I see the premarital sex as a mistake or a “sin” in the eyes of that church at that time, but I don’t really see it as a “sin” in general. My dad explained to me 25 years ago when I was living with the young lady who I would ultimately marry that he didn’t consider it a “sin” because the Bible never describes any specific ceremony that determines that you’re married. It’s in your heart. The decision to be committed to another person is a marriage. That’s why you should never judge anyone. The love and the “sin” all happen in people’s hearts and minds where we can’t see it.

Q: Or do you see it simply as two young people unable to reconcile their belief system with natural, biological urges?

A: I would agree with the latter, but it’s also none of my business.

Q: Do you think your father was too demanding of your mentally-ill mother?

A: I think, like most people who have never experienced a mental illness themselves, he didn’t have a good idea of what she was going through or why. He certainly only had the tools he was raised with to help. Those tools were based on a strict sense of duty to the church.

Q: Even if his upbringing was different, do you feel a more compassionate person would have left SA and not been resentful? I personally believe your father, as a man of God, had a responsibility to put his family first. Even above SA. Not above God, but SA. Because SA is just an institution, not God. Do you think if your father could have prioritized the family and helped your mother, things would have turned out differently?

A: It seems like it, at first glimpse, but here’s the real issue. My mother’s illness would have probably manifested to this extent even if he had been the world’s most attentive husband. Part of her illness was (and still is) the compulsion to push the ones they are closest to the edge. I think that’s part of the definition of a borderline personality disorder. I think. And I’m pretty sure that’s one of her issues.

Q: Do you feel that your home life represented a contradiction or the hypocrisy of the SA lifestyle/rules? It sounded like SA swept much under the rug, er–cross.

A: Kind of. But it’s not that Dad treated us poorly or that mom was choosing to hurt us. It was Dad doing what he thought was right and mom was doing the best she could in light of her condition.

Q: How does your dad reconcile the continued family crisis under his belief system? The film doesn’t really address his deep understanding of her mental illness. Does he understand from a spiritual standpoint?

A: He understands better now than he did then. He’s a good man. He just didn’t know how to make both halves of his world work together back then.

Q: I have much anxiety about your accident. Does it concern you or cause you anxiety to think about what could have been? It was a miracle that you weren’t more seriously or gravely injured. Do you resent your siblings or mother because of the accident? Or making you wear that horrible bandage at the dinner table? (LOL)

A: I don’t remember any of it. I have anxiety about a lot of other things, but that isn’t one of them. I never think of what could have been because my earliest memories…are of me with a big scar on my head. I hold only deep appreciation of the fact that they themselves cared enough about me to be traumatized at the thought of seeing me so severely injured or of losing me.

Q: Do you think you have trust issues with people as a result of your familial relationships?

A: Yep. I only recently started internalizing the feeling that people love me. Even those closest to me. I couldn’t take it in. Which means that even when you’re surrounded by people, you’re still lonely and you don’t understand why.

Q: Do you feel that your mother’s early childhood abuse played a part in her mental illness?

A: I think it might have played the biggest part (except maybe a physiologic tendency towards mental illness).

Q: Many members of your family seemed dissociated from that time. Understandably. Do you think they are aware of that?

A: Each of them are aware to varying extents. It’s hard to be aware of your own biases and weaknesses. I was probably the least aware, though. Which is why I’m the only one who’s been hospitalized for mental illness.

Q: In light of modern day approaches to psychotherapy, it’s sad to see that your mother was treated harshly in the mental healthcare arena. It’s horrific that she was subjected to ECT and a padded cell, but that seems typical treatment of those patients from that time. How frustrating is that for you?

A: She and I have talked extensively about it. I have had plenty of time to process it so it’s not frustrating to me. It’s just a reality. I suppose it would have been more frustrating if she were to spring it on me now for the first time. But then again, it’s so long ago—I don’t know.

Q: Do you feel that most of your family holds your mother responsible for the dissolution of the marriage? Or do they see it as a complex situation? Some family members seem to point the finger mainly at your mother. Am I just being defensive of Mom? You know them more intimately.

A: l certainly appreciate anyone being defensive of my mom. So thank you. But I think we all understand it to have been a complex situation. Of course we were all kids then and incapable of seeing it that way at the time.

Q: It took me years to come to terms with my father’s mental illness. To demystify and unmonstrify (is that a word? it is now!) him. Did you ever blame your mother for her inability to care for you or hold the family together? Or were you too young to remember?

A: I always knew she had problems. I was never mad at her, but I was frequently scared by her. Again, this movie only covers up to when I start to have memories. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I dealt with later and some when it was just me in the house with her. No dad or siblings around to help.

Q: As the youngest, I think I do the most question-asking and memory-sharing with my mother. Is that true for you? Why do you think you ask the most questions? Do other family members like to forget that time?

A: I ask the most because I understood the least. Everyone else saw these things take place when they were old enough to consciously deal with them. Much of my neglect and abuse happened when I was too young to have episodic memory or an ability to understand the meaning of what was going on. Which is why I became the one with the biggest psych problems. Primitive neglect is what they call what happened to me. So I try to find out why I feel how I do or panic or get depressed the way I do. It’s because of all the stuff I should have learned about feelings as a baby and young child but I didn’t.

Did you already receive an award for the film? (He has already received two!)

Silver Spotlight Award at Spotlight Documentary Film Awards and Exceptional Merit in Human Spirit at the Docs Without Borders Film Festival


You can purchase the DVD on Amazon. Find out more at IMDB as well. It is so personal, yet a comprehensive view of what it’s like to live with someone who is trapped in severe mental illness. It’s profound, cathartic and so informative. Thanks, Chris. For answering these questions and sharing your story. It’s important!

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God Loves/God Saves

2 Cor 12:9 NASB “…power is perfected in weakness.”


God loves the worst of sinners. Me.


Jesus came to save the world. Not judge it.
I can, at least, love it.


God doesn’t need anyone who’s perfect. Thank God.


You can’t argue with lies. Repeat the truth. And the devil will disappear.

Promise

ok. take all ur hopes, dreams and wishes and.

throw them out the window.

start over and ask God what he wants for u.

ask him to show it to u. be patient. look for it. be brave.

when u put God first, u start wanting things u didn’t even know were possible, things that he’s set aside just for u.

it looks weird. it feels weird. but I promise, God promises, that it will be magical, supernatural and unbelievably good.

he has promised to prosper us and not harm us.

my husband looked at me one day and wondered, “how we can we be in such a good place right now?” (after bankruptcy and foreclosure, cancer, medical debt, heart failure)

and I think it’s because we finally straightened out our priorities. we stopped wishing for better and started being better.

he gives us good things when we put him first. u can’t wish for a boat/motorcycle/bigger house/pool/money and pretend like that’s ur prayer to God. those things won’t make it better.

u can’t ask for a better kid/spouse/life until YOU become a better kid/spouse/person.

give it up and hand it over, u’ll be surprised. promise.

Thoughts and Prayers

I offer my thoughts and prayers.


God, please watch over and protect our children. Every. Day.

BUT. ALSO.

God, please help us to have common sense and protect our own children by enacting reasonable gun laws to keep military-style weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. Please, help us to love our children more than guns. Please, help us trust you more and our ability to protect ourselves less. Help us to trust love instead of fear. Please, help us see the error of our ways and practice modesty, humility and peacefulness instead of looking for a fight. Please, help us reach out for those kids who need help. Not rebuke the misfits. Please, restore our country to the great nation it can be with loving instead of arming, shouting and hating. Please, God, bless our ailing, failing country. We have forsaken the love you sacrificed on the cross for Facebook, status, celebrities and guns. Help us.

AND. PLEASE.

Keep the NRA out of Washington pockets.

A-BOLDFACE-men.

I ask all of these things in all seriousness and fervor. I ask these things in your son’s holy name. We should all sacrifice what we love the most for the sake of healing the world as you did with your son. Please, help us see that.

I don’t want to wonder what that noise was after I drop my daughter at school.

from 2016

i know some people question God. God is cruel, they say. or “where is God?” i think the question should be more, “is God fair and just?” and to this i say, yes. God is perfectly just. no action can go without consequence, our actions and/or other people’s actions. those are the rules whether u believe in God or not. those are the rules whether God exists or not. the choice of our will radiates out in never-ending ripples of consequence. we drop a stone, that is our choice, and it has repercussions, good or bad, forever. if we make a series of good choices, life gets easier. but only until someone else’s will runs up against ours. is that God’s fault?

God allows free will and therefore, allows man to have his way. how much more just can an all-powerful being be? if He does indeed exist. how patient He is. it would be much easier to just take over and start again. i don’t see God as cruel. i see Him as ever-so merciful and gracious to give me several chances at life even though i destroy my body. and He also offers me infinite redemption, love, grace and forgiveness so long as i acknowledge that He is the one to grant those things.

i have no problem in doing that. i am grateful for that. it is a welcome respite from a cruel world.

Conviction

We are not convicted by pastors and preachers. We are not convinced by bible-thumping, church-going and rule-following. We are introduced to the power of Christ over our dinner tables, in our bedrooms, on the street corners. We are tugged at by common images we see over and over that we know and feel deep down are against God’s love. The little girl who is abused, the old man who is cold and alone, the adult who has been abandoned and misguided. We are convicted by hand-holding, grace-giving and life-living. We are not motivated by anger or fear, we are pushed forward by compassion and understanding. We are compelled by the Holy Spirit. His presence in our lives is only possible if we make a home for him. If we clear out the clutter of the world and prepare a place for him to dwell.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

Mark 1:3 New Living Translation
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!'”

This can be a metaphor for our lives. Clear the mind, body and soul for him to do his work through us. As Jesus moved through the crowd to perform miracles in his time, he does that now as well. He moves through us, from person to person, performing miracles through the kindness of outreach. His presence is here. His presence is love. We need only open our eyes to it.

Jesus was table-flipping mad.

if we are to prepare a space for the living God (holy spirit), then we shall have to turn the tables as Jesus did in the temple. when he saw the mess and corruption, he didn’t go find a bucket of suds or the latest swiffer mop, he went radical, he went nuclear. we are the temple. our bodies and minds are compared to the temple. more accurately, we are the tabernacle (worship tent). the portable home for God to dwell. Jesus didn’t neatly put everything away: sort, keep, donate, trash. he violently flipped the tables aside and cleared the space for God to come in. he showed them the error of their thinking immediately and required a change. stop tidying up and start flipping out!

This is Evil

peacepeAce
does not feaR men or guns.

time will have its perFect results of heaven.
our God will not abIde craven idolatry:
murderous sacrifice oF our innocent children,
worship of weapons insTead of His power on high,
grEed,
thEft,
a complete abadonmeNt of morals or wisdom.
keep your thoughtS and prayers alive

with actionS of this body
stalk and storm Halls of justice
with your powerful autOmatic voices of reason
attack vaUlts of law
where this Love of guns
is stored and protecteD by evil money and favor

oust and roust, Bust virtue out
kill the silencE of idling hands

demand safer lives wIth cautious liberty.
turn over the tables of destiny by eLecting those who should die for you
rather than kiLl in your names.
in thE name
of God,
peAce
should never be down the dark barreL of a privately-purchased democracy.


AR-FIFTEENS SHOULD BE ILLEGAL.

This is an acrostic poem, aligned in the center.
The center column has an equal number of letters on either side in each line.
The power in this country rests in the hands of those with guns and money.
It should rest on the peaceful people.


If you need a gun to protect what you have?
You don’t have what you need.


AR-15s should not be made legally available to murder 15 yos.


Every gun ever made was forged to kill a being.
Every gun ever made has or will kill a living thing. Or multiple living things.
Guns were made for no other purpose.
Only man could make killing so easy.
Karma will call and collect her damages.

Back the F up.

My favorite saying is:

E’erbody bettah back the *F* up off me. Except I don’t use *F*. Well. I use the F and 3 more letters immediately following. 😀

I say it jokingly. Except when I don’t. Or I like this phrase as well. Check yourself, before you wreck yourself. I say it sassy with a few snaps and head whips. Followed by an “MM-hm!” It’s a power move. Sometimes it’s funny.

But. It’s offensive. It can be ugly. I can be ugly. Depends on the mood and reception of the audience.

I do it to protect myself. I do many things to protect myself. I lose my temper from time to time when I can’t cope with life in general any more. Tuesday night, I snapped. And not just my fingers.


I served at Tuesday’s special election in my county. It was interesting, humbling and an incredibly long day. I was at the poll for 14 hours and change.

I got up at 4 am (not something I normally do) to be at the poll at 6 am sharp. I had to drive for 30 minutes just to get to the location. Hopefully, the next election will be closer, in my own precinct or near it. Administration said it would be.

I served all day, had a small break for lunch, and 2-3 shorter breaks here and there. The steady flow of voters didn’t allow much downtime. By the time I finished, I was exhausted. Plus, I spent the day with older women who had all the time in the world to complain, moan and lecture me about the way voting should change or how I was not properly allocating ballots.

“I’m going to work the floor!” A job that most of the older women loathed. Standing (I had a chair to sit in if there were no voters on the floor), addressing the parting voters, checking the booths for left items, and repetitively explaining the tabulator/ballot box procedure (Slide your ballot over the green arrow, over the gray, under the black, wait for the waving American flag to tell you “Thank you for voting!” and then I would say, “Yay! You voted! Yay democracy!” and that would illicit usually a laugh, smile or a thank you.) But I gladly worked my tiny corner of isolation to get away from the bitching bitties.

“Oy! My back!”
“Why do you have to stay 5 feet away from the ballot box?”
“Don’t forget…!”
“OH! You did that wrong!”
“Martha, do this…”
“Martha, do that…”

Most of the older women were racist. Or bigoted. Or just clueless to etiquette, correct terminology, or considerate behavior.

“That guy who came in with the two Oriental kids.”

WTF??

“You mean Asian?” is what I wanted to say, but I just let it go.

Finally, before I left, one of the women was bossing me around, biting my neck (she had been hateful most of the day and specifically to me at times) and I finally bit back.

“Martha, put these away! You know where they go.”

My 5 o’clock whistle blew. Except it was 6:57 pm. “(Bitch), I will put them away when we close the poll!” (Her name has been changed to Bitch to protect the guilty.)

She thought the poll had closed, but we were still a few minutes from shutting the doors. “Oh, I thought we had closed. Sorry.” But Bitch said “sorry” like your husband on your period. “Saw-ree!” Like the inflective (not a word!) equivalent of “Sheesh!”

I was silent. Everyone should worry when I’m silent.

After the poll closed, I turned to Bitch and said, “I’ve never put this away before, I don’t know where they go, but I assume they go in this envelope. Is that correct, (Bitch)?” And I said it firmly, politely, but with that edge of “I will cut a Bitch.” One raised eyebrow.

One quiet, schooled, submissive “Yes.”

“Thank you!”

I heard no more from Bitch.

Needless to say, I was on edge after my husband picked me up.

On the way home, we got into an argument. It doesn’t matter why, but he did something that always triggers me. Always. We’ve had many discussions about the behavior, but he continues to do said shenanigans. After being triggered by the horrible woman at the poll for 14!!! hours, I was weak, vulnerable, tired, hungry, in a really bad place. I was not grumpy. I was not taking out my frustration on my family. I was talking about the day and my frustration with the woman, but I don’t think I was berating my family. I wasn’t. My husband and daughter had asked about my day and I had simply told them all the various good and bad aspects of working an election. Procedures, attitudes, expectations. They were interested because none of us had ever worked an election before. Overall, it was gratifying. But any 14-hour day doing anything is going to be taxing. Gratifying or not.

So, the inevitability of the situation was obvious. My husband spent most of the day pursuing a low-priority goal and neglected some crucial chores. He needed to find a power cord for an item we need to sell, he needed to follow up about a temp job for IT, and he needed to feed our daughter dinner. Or at least communicate with me about dinner coordination. Unfortunately, he waited to pick me up at 8:00 pm in hopes that we could all grab a bite together.

Okay. Not horrible. Mildly thoughtful. I say mildly because we both will use any excuse to eat out at any time and the benefit to our partner is secondary to satisfying our eat-out lust. But our daughter eating dinner after 8 on a school night is a digestive juggernaut. Not unheard of, but normally highly-questioned by my husband. It’s just not ideal. But it’s okay if he says so.

And then, on top of all of that, triggered from 14-hour Bitch, chores neglected and now, engage the boosters on trigger-happy hubby with his self-proclaimed “productive” morning routine of dragging home stereo equipment from a thrift store to transfer old tapes to digital storage and cleaning the stereo equipment on my dining room table! with alcohol.

You may not know this, and I’m not sure that he did either, but alcohol would probably eat the finish off my cheap, not-solid wood table. It would probably at least dull the surface. I would like that not to happen. I just bought the damn thing 3 years ago.

We just can’t have nice things. Sigh. LOL
That, and “I can’t take you anywhere.” LOL

Thankfully, it was fine. He put a towel down, but if it had spilled? No towel is going to help.

My husband trying to clean something is like a 5 yo shouting, “Mommie, look! I washed all your sweaters in the toilet!” LOL Just kidding. It’s not that bad. But close.

It’s just, after the day I had, and one of the first things my husband tells me on the way to dinner is, “I did a thing that we have talked about not to do. I did that and only that while you’ve been gone for 14 hours working for our family to make ends meet because I don’t make enough money any more.”

He didn’t say that. That’s what I heard.

So. I lost it. I got super upset. I was PTSD-ing all over the car. I was shrill. Screamy. Angry. We had a bad fight. But we made it through. It took a while. Lots of talking. (He hates that.) Lots of emotion. (He hates that.) Lots of stress. (We both hate that.)

I don’t like being sassy, but I tend to get that way when I feel attacked. As with Bitch. I tend to get that way with my husband, too. Sassy. Mean. Sarcastic. Hateful. It’s mainly when I feel he isn’t listening. Or understanding. Or trying.

You know, it’s like, what’s the point in behaving if I’m talking to a brick wall? Right? And then out comes the mud.

I don’t want this though. I struggle with changing my approach. I struggle with being sweet or polite or even-tempered when I feel neglected. And my family has just not been paying attention lately. Our Christian approach to life is care for each other. This is what God has intended. That’s our thinking. Except, I care for others, put myself last, and then everyone else cares only for themselves. So I get the poopie end of that stick! Feel me, Ladies? I know I’m not alone.

But. Still. I have to do right, no matter what. I have to control myself. I have to follow God. I have to ask for help not from my husband, family or friends, I have to rely on God’s Holy Spirit. No one, not me, not my husband, not my daughter, not Bitch can give me the fruits of the Spirit. That can only come from God. So I have to remember. Ask. Receive. It’s hard to remember when sin and evil are right on top of you. Biting your neck. I need help to remember to ask for help! LOL

I want to be better. Trigger free. I just know that’s not realistic. So I need to call on God. Pray. Submit. Remember. Practice.

Everyone will let you down. Eventually. I’m not perfect. I let my family, friends and co-workers down every day. We just have to reach for grace. For ourselves. For others. For the people we have vowed to love. As a Christian, that’s a vow with everyone.


God, help me. Fill me with your Spirit today and every day. Help me back that *F* train up. Help me be beautiful on the inside. Let your face be the face that others see when they look at me. Help me show your love to the whole world. Help me be an example of your grace with the help of your Spirit. I can’t do it alone. I will fail. I need you. Without you, I am not whole. I am ugly and weak and imperfect. I need you to complete your work in me: your intention, your purpose, my heart transformation, my life dedication through your providence of the Spirit. Amen.