On this episode, Amy and Miriam speak with three of our contributors from our Fall 2021 issue of The Canadian Journal of Theology, Mental Health and Disability: Susan Smadych, Tori Mullin, and Larry Schneider. To read these pieces, go to https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/cjtmhd/issue/view/2302
Susan: A Psychological Exegesis of Job through Conceptualizations of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Moral Injury. This paper proposes that the results of a psychological exegesis of Job through a lens of current conceptualizations of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury (MI), and based on evidence of his behaviour, may be leveraged to: 1) enhance the scholarly understanding of the impact of trauma on Job; 2) inform pastoral care of people who live with the same psychological condition(s) as Job; and 3) contribute to discourse on the relevance, applicability and limitations of psychological exegesis. This paper will overview the historical and recent utilization of psychological exegesis, including its anticipated benefits and relevance, and how concerns about its methodology have been mitigated by modern scholars; provide conceptual definitions of PTSD and MI, as the ‘lens’ through which to conduct a psychological exegesis of Job; briefly describe an existing psychological exegetical framework, and how it was leveraged; and summarize psychological exegetical findings of Job and their implications.
Tori: A Wish (poem). As someone with depression who grew up in an Evangelical Christian community I have struggled to accept how my brain was created. Today I am able to say that I am a sensitive human being that processes her experiences in a way that is different from others. But, for so long, I labelled my “mental health struggles” as a lack of faith, as human weakness. As I grew from a teenager into an adult I found it easier to accept my sexuality and gender than my physical or mental impairments. My body was a source of deeper pain and hurt than my sexuality or gender identity could ever be. Perhaps this is because, even in "progressive" Christian communities, we still struggle with a stigma around mental health. It has been through learning about my deceased mother’s history with mental health that I’ve found a way to begin accepting this part of myself. However, this has also brought a new edge to my grief as I mourn the knowledge and compassion she would have been able to offer me from her own lived experience. My mother and I were incredibly similar, and more than anything I wish I could tell her about my pain, my struggles, about what has worked and what has not. Some part of myself believes in her story I might have found the secret to my own.
Larry: Musings on a Turbulent Time (a poem). A poetic exploration of the extreme emotions and situations that people are finding themsevles experiecing during the pandemic, highlighting personal and spiritual challenges being faced, and that which we seek from God and from within our own beings in order to survive and thrive
Welcome to the Mad and Crip Theology Podcast, hosted by Miriam Spies and Amy Panton, which comes out of the Canadian Journal of Theology, Mental Health and Disability. We both live and work lands that have been homes and remain homes to the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Huron Wendat, the Neutral; and the Ojibway/Chippewa peoples and other peoples who have cared for the land. We are grateful for the opportunity to live and work on this land and are mindful of the need to repair broken covenants. This podcast is an opportunity to model how faith communities can engage in theological and spiritual conversations around madness and cripness. If you need a full transcript you can find videos on our Youtube channel. We want to say before we begin that topics and conversations we are raising throughout our time together are often hard! They are hard for mad and crip people ourselves and hard for our families and loved ones. So, do what you need to do to take care of yourselves, your bodies, minds, and hearts. And now, here is our episode.
Welcome to this episode of the Mad and Crip Theology podcast. We're delighted to have you listen or watch today and we're delighted to have three of our contributors from our Fall 2020 2021 (I forgot the year) issue of our journal.
So Amy. Yes it's that confusing time of year we are not quite sure what year it is so I totally understand. I think usually by March April we we fluent what year it is so I totally I feel you Miriam. Um so welcome we're so glad to have we have three guests today which is very cool. It's our first time having three people on so we will do our best to manage the chaos so to speak as we're all here together and what we're hoping we could do is start off with introductions from the three of you uh if you wouldn't mind just letting us know your name and your pronouns and then just your connection to the journal how we know you and finally if you could just describe what you look like for our listeners we would really appreciate that. So I think I’ll just invite invite you one at a time so Tori would you mind starting us off? Sure so my name is Tori Mullin, my pronouns are she and her, and I’m based in Northwestern Ontario in a little tiny town called Marathon that has way too many United Church moderators too many. Um yeah but I found out about the journal on Facebook in the United Church Facebook universe which is very full of many posts um but I have had a secret theological crush on Miriam for a really long time so
so it's pretty exciting to meet you Amy as well uh you seem lovely so to Susan and Larry. Um yeah and to describe myself uh so I’m a white non-binary individual um I’ve got short blonde cropped hair and horn rimmed glasses I think I balance the kind of like chic but also cute look if I was gonna you know put a word to it. Definitely very chic and cute, thank you Tori. And uh Susan can I invite you to introduce yourself please? Sure thanks Amy and hi everyone my name is Susan Smandych, I go with pronouns she and her as well I am a postulate which means I’m a priest in training with the Anglican Church of Canada. I just finished my MDiv with Trinity College back in August last year. And a couple years ago I wrote a paper about Job and one of my professors said I should like consider putting it forward for an article for a journal and that was a nice idea I didn't really think much of it at the time and then I think I also found out about this journal uh through Facebook I think it was through probably the Toronto School of Theology Facebook site and yeah that's how I came to know or know at least virtually Miriam and Amy and a pleasure to meet Tori and Larry today. Um what else um my connection kind to mental health is that I have a lived experience of PTSD and moral injury and in terms of describing myself I am also white female um I also short kind of brownish hair I’m a little bit messy today that's the cold with the COVID hair or when I’m working at home it doesn't really matter um usually. I wear glasses but not right now um yeah and I said to uh Amy and Miriam and the folks I might have my cat Clifford joining us at some point during this podcast so if there's meowing it's not me it's him. Thank you. We are very excited to meet Clifford at some point and Tori what's your kitty's name who we can see behind you? This is Ravi or Ravioli MulIin full name, a very distinguished gentleman and theologian. Yes yes amazing okay and uh Larry would you please introduce yourself? Sure I’m I’m Larry Schneider um I think I’ll start collecting old age security in about four months or so which is going to be a shocking experience. I’m I’m short uh uh with white hair or white goatee and dark rimmed glasses I heard about this again through the United Church website or Facebook I don't exactly recall um I have known uh Miriam for 11 years already we started our journey in the Masters of Divinity program at Emmanuel in 2011 in a a large class I think we're at the start 18 of us in the group which really surprI provided a very strong you know support network. Um so I was ordained uh in 2015 worked in full-time ministry in Dorchester, Ontario for two years and then my congregation came to me and said "There's something wrong with you Larry, you need to stop," and I did and I didn't know but I had a benign growth in my brain um and it was called white matter, it took over like really that's the rear half of my brain um resulting in you know significant brain damage at the time I was suffering from abdominal pains and illnesses and had sought answers didn't get any so before just before I went into hospital and had a biopsy of my brain then I was diagnosed with stage four liver disease which resulted in bloating my brain being you know sorry for marinated in toxins um until exactly three years ago in February 2019. I had a liver life-saving liver transplant because I called the family and said things are not looking so good here so I consider the fact that I’m alive a miracle. My mind knowledge skills so on we're decimated enough we could talk maybe more about that some time later so at present um and part of my emotional state is I’m not allowed to work. I’m on long-term disability which the church thinks is that they're doing me a favour um giving me a pension to not work. You know within months after the uh transplant I wanted to work I was sure I was going back to ministry um, I didn't have any language, I couldn't talk, I couldn't swallow, I couldn't walk but I’m here as and uh Miriam I were chatting earlier and I feel amazing and I pinch myself everyday to see that I’m here. So it's a pleasure to meet all of you and to to have read the pieces the others have written and to be here thank you.
Well thank you Larry we're so glad that you're here today thank you yes so I think Miriam's got the first question for us today yeah and this question is for Tori. So in your author's note you talk about the connection your faith community made between mental health struggles and lack of faith. Can you expand on this and how your understanding has transformed from that theodicy and when
after that can you read us your poem?
Yeah thanks for the question. Um so folks who know me know that I grew up in an evangelical Christian community, I was actually a Mennonite Brethren community in Nova Scotia and the interesting thing about that particular group is they experienced a lot of miraculous healing within the community and in the poem um I allude to but don't specifically say until the author's note, my mom died when I was a teenager and she was the first person in that community who really didn't experience a miraculous healing and it was quite devastating for them, it was about 16 years of that church plant existing and people being like truly miraculously healed of all kinds of of minor to quite major life threatening conditions, so it feels very natural to say you know okay a strong faith community a strong prayer life, healing is the solution. And I love how as my faith is grown um you know we talk a lot about like healing versus cure so it was a very curative kind of faith that any kind of bodily illness, any kind of mental health illness was seen as part of the fallen world, part of you know sin embodied around us and um there was also just this really clear sense that like if you could just, if you could just aren't those the famous last words?, if you could just believe hard enough, pray hard enough, read the right things, talk to the right people you'd be fine. Um and of course I I I think as many people with depression I hit puberty and experience an incredible amount of emotional and existential angst which sometimes when people are younger it's like well is this just growing pains, is this a phase, it's really hard to put a name to it and we know that depression in teenagers is really complicated, um but I remember trying to express those feelings to this faith community and having like trusted adults say things like "Oh you use the word depression, don't use that word, that's a really that's a really big word and like you shouldn't use it." Um yeah so it took a really long time for me to even get to a space where I could envision like that it would be okay to be depressed and be Christian and exactly the same thing as with my sexuality, it wasn't until I saw people ahead of me in their life who were queer and out and Christian and were depressed and out and Christian and they just fully accepted their full selves um. And it's amazing I didn't know until last spring that my mom had a serotonin deficiency and that's when I wrote this poem which is really a um letter to her and to myself like a piece of grief work of, I don't know if when I was 14 if we could have sat down and said, "I love Jesus and I’m also depressed and apparently so are you," and been able to have that not just the experience of seeing someone ahead of me but someone who like is is so much like me, I I am made in the image of my mom people stop me on the street and say hey are you Susan Mullin's daughter? I went to university with her back in the 90s or in the 80s like oh my gosh okay like my face is her face and so just that idea of being able to sit with her uh and and share these experiences like you know there's always that that wonder of could I have gotten into a safer place faster could my healing have started sooner, maybe I wouldn't even have to heal from some of these things that have hurt me because I would have just gotten there and it's hilarious that it was easier to come out and it was easier you know to tell my family that I’m queer or to come out as non-binary than it was to publicly say I live with depression, currently I take medication for it and it's been life-changing and I regret that I hadn't done it sooner but even that step right like okay I’m depressed and I see a therapist and then you have to wait a little bit like okay I’m depressed and maybe I can talk about it and then you go another step and say oh okay I’m depressed and maybe I’ll take medication um like it's like a continual coming out over and over again. Yeah.
And I want to talk about Susan's stuff so bad but I’m going to wait cuz really resonated. Thank you and we wondered if you might read your poem for us. Yeah let me pull it up, so I wrote this poem in the spring of 2021 and it's called A Wish
I’m learning about you from the shadows you left on my bones lines and arcs I didn't even know were there until I peeled skin back to see what pulsing hurt was gripping me. If I had known when it began when you were still alive I might have asked to sit side by side comparing pulling back inch by inch the soft flesh covering us to see deeper into who we are. Instead I felt ashamed and covered this aching body with molding leaves banishing myself from a garden of self-love. Instead I punished myself for being weak for being human. I had no idea that other feet had walked before me down this same packed earth aiding every inch of flesh and scratching at their skin scraping back the dermis to see what aching hurt held humanity in common. I so wish I could see your bones white and stark against pulsing muscle and veins to touch to see how it hurts like my own gentle body, to feel the bare grip of your arms around my torso the wet trail of your tears down my skin held in a hug I’ll never have again, whispering questions and holding breath for their answers.
Instead these shadows on my bones their reasoning is kept concealed. I am impatient and desperate for the doling out of our common history a spoonful at a time family secrets kept tucked away in tins like expensive treats. And I so wish I so wish I could ask to sit side by side comparing to see clearly your echo in the shadows on my bones.
Wow such a powerful piece Tori and I wonder how you feel about that poem now and how how you felt about sharing sharing that grief with a wider audience?
Yeah it's funny when I submitted the poem to the journal um I didn't want my dad to read it and yet I was willing to submit it to a journal and it's not to say it's a comment about your readership but I did kind of have to get to a place of saying like would I be okay with people from my church you know I minister in a small congregation but they're capable of googling um would I be okay if they read it and how would that make me feel? And uh yeah I mean it's
the there's such a vulnerability in talking about your mental health struggles especially when your profession you know especially when it has to do with your profession and I think Larry will likely talk a little bit about that later on but you know as especially because I’m ministry personnel I want to be open, I want to model vulnerability, I want to model like just God's grace in the midst of our humanity but then the stigma is so real and the anxiety and fear is so real but I’ve gotten a really incredible like response from people and I think especially with COVID so many people are accessing mental health services, are taking medication, are realizing that like they were in a situation that was sustainable, but not good, and with the pandemic it's no longer sustainable and they're kind of coming face to face with that fact, so maybe it's just the environment like the stigma's certainly there but people are so receptive right now. Um but I don't think I’d read this poem to my grandmother because I you know like they're still, it's complicated especially with family history stuff like that line about the tin of treats I’m sure many of you have a memory of like the tin of treats your grandmother would bring down and like dole out the one quality street candy um some of my family history feels a lot like that so it's complicated.
Well Tori we're so we feel like your poem was such a gift so thank you so much that that you shared that with us and with our readers and thank you for reading it. I love listening to people read their work it's just so beautiful so thank you. We wanted to um ask Susan some questions about the paper that she wrote for um for the journal and this was about Job um for those who haven't had a chance to take a take a look and Job Job has always fascinated me um and when we saw your paper come in Susan we were very excited to see that you were doing this work. So we wanted to ask you first of all why did you pick Job? What was it about him that you um maybe found some resonance with or some connections and you wanted to dig deeper?
Well thank you for that question. It's um, it was kind of an interesting timing so I was taking a course on Wisdom Literature at Trinity in the Spring of 2019 and of course Job is part of the Wisdom Literature and I was kind of like well I guess I’ll have to get through it I was always always kind of I think avoided Job because I found it so dismal and I found it quite depressing and it's like oh do I have to do that book again like so it's kind of like not looking forward to. Um but then the big focus of the course was on Job we had to basically read the whole thing analyze it, do different exegesis of it, so on and so forth, and I had to sort of, I don't use the word epiphany but kind of an epiphany of like oh my goodness there is a lot in this book that is hitting me! Um in March of that year so about two months before I took the course I had been diagnosed with PTSD and kind of suspected to have um kind of moral injury as well and as I was reading the book of Job and like reading it in detail and going back and forth on the chapters there was a lot of kind of like almost like suspected I’m like oh maybe Job had PTSD from all of his adverse experiences in terms of losing his livelihood, losing his family, and physical injury and so forth and it really started to kind of resonate with me thinking and I it kind of links to Tori's point like if you know if you know somebody even either in person or somebody kind of a biblical character or another figure that's gone before you on a path, then you can kind of go yeah it's not just me I’m not the only person that has experienced these kind of emotions and situations, and oh yeah like he did make it out the other end and yeah it wasn't a very pleasant trip or a pleasant journey that he followed um but it really started to inspire me and kind of resonate with, oh my experience is not like a one-off other people have experienced similar things, obviously I didn't experience what he did but like kind of the similar kind of behaviour actions uh implications. And it kind of started to give me like a glimmer of hope and I thought like if you're doing a paper, I’m very kind of type a so I like to like analyze things, my background's actually in engineering so I like to kind of get into like a book and analyze it do like a nice exegesis and I found by like almost by doing that exegesis of Job I could externalize and kind of study PTSD from the inside looking out, like if somebody else has I’ll study Job and analyze him and analyze the book and I could start to understand PTSD in real terms, so to externalize to understand and then that kind of helped me to almost find like a safe space to like start to internalize it saying okay that's Job and PTSD how about me and PTSD, what does it mean to me, what is my lived experience, and then to kind of almost kind of like kick-start the healing process. So yeah it was kind of a weird kind of timeline part of my life but yeah I kind of brought kind of a resonance and kind of start to kind of start on the kind of road towards healing. Yeah and for for listeners of ours who may not know the book of Job or may have heard his name before but aren't quite sure what his deal is so what what happened to Job, can you just nut shell it for us um so people would understand why you think he would be a candidate for PTSD and moral injury? Yes so he experienced a lot of trauma so a lot of bad things happened to him it was kind of like a bet that Satan made with God saying well let's just test this guy to see how much he can take um so like he lost his children, he lost like all of his kind of assets, he started getting sores, he was physically ill so basically anything dismal and dire and desperate kind of happened to Job. Um a lot of the book actually is about a couple of his friends three of his friends basically saying to him well Job like maybe you did some sin like maybe you did some bad things and you deserve this and he's like no no no I haven't I haven't it was like him defending himself. Um so you know there's trauma like physically that he was you know physical and like cultural and in terms of his material possessions a lot of trauma of loss. But I think the moral injury part comes into it in terms of his friends basically assuming that he's done bad and he deserved what he got and him having to continually kind of defend himself and kind of push back and I think that's sort of you know he he knew he hadn't done bad and he didn't he didn't think he was being um punished for his or his apparent sins but it's this kind of constant dialogue of kind of not being good enough, not having strong enough faith, and therefore um he was being punished and I think I kind of when you're saying Tori in your in your kind of introduction about about your mom like not having enough faith therefore therefore you know that caused depression or therefore she passed away and it's like people make that assumption of as a Christian if you don't have enough faith you don't have enough prayer in your life then you have these dire results and I think Job just the book of Job just kind of calls that whole issue to the forefront and actually shows um how kind of long story short it actually deepened his relationship with God and that it also kind of opened up yeah other conversations with his friends about how they consider like who God is and that God is not a kind of a punitive God basically, so that was a longer prior response than you wanted I’m sorry. Oh no that was perfect and it's not easy to like a nutshell the book of Job it's quite a it's an epic book um so we wanted to ask you to in your mind what difference does it make if we understand Job as having PTSD, um like why is it important for you to to explore this idea?
I think it's really a lot to do what but again what Tori's saying in her introduction is that if you know somebody or you know somebody that you know real or fictional or otherwise that's gone down a path it almost like validates or verifies or makes like your like makes your situation like legitimate and kind it helped me to kind of recognize first the situation I was in and kind of come to terms with it and to be able to speak about it in practical terms and saying I know he experienced this, I’m experiencing something similar, so it's to me it's like if we can recognize it in somebody else then you can I think start to accept it in yourself, and that you don't feel like I part of my kind of trauma that the reason for my PTSD is a very long story but I felt very isolated and I felt like I was the only person on the face of this earth that was going through this horrible experience um obviously my experience is different than Job's but if you're feeling that isolated and kind of being an isolated and also being Christian you feel like you don't belong to the Christian kind of Body of Christ anymore, but I think having that you know even as a biblical character someone I could relate to kind of gave me um kind of led me to a path of acceptance and also kind of gave my let me give myself permission to be who I was and to feel those feelings I was having without having to kind of stuff them deep inside or ignore them or try to like justify them to other people.
Thanks Susan, yeah Job offers the grace to be be who
who you are so thank you for that and now we'll turn to Larry. And Larry, in your author's note after your poem, you write that "we are victims to the loss of hope" because of the pandemic and Amy and I found this as a provocative statement so and we were wondering how might we as communities and societies, as churches and individuals gain hope back and like Tori we wondered if you could read your poem for our audience?
Okay, thank you Miriam. I apologize for my uh excess of smiley now. I’m I’m zooming in, we're in transit from our home southwest of London, we're at our grandson and son and daughter's home now and I have a an eight-month-old baby in front of me over top of my screen uh rolling around with his mummy and uh and so on so there may be a little chatter uh from him but uh plea I apologize. Yeah so.
I said you know we're all victims to the loss of hope and I have empathized with the story of Job. Many of my religious and non-religious friends call me Job. My name is Larry John Schneider so I’ve been teased I should really be Larry Job Schneider. So my I think my four major episodes of PTSD, when I was a kid um I grew up on the idyllic existence on a farm in southwestern Ontario, and one day the farm was sold, we had a sale, all of our goods were gone, many of my possessions were burned, and my my favourite puppy, my German Shepherd dog was killed because she could not move to where we were going. My father had developed ALS lou gehrig disease which as you know is an absolutely horrific um disintegration of your ability to control your body and your muscles so dad died when I was 16. I was a very very young, angry young man because I didn't understand, nobody told me he was dying until the day that he actually died, so I was in shock um I think family thought they were protecting me, um but it had actually the opposite result, I I resented the loss of a farming career, of what happened to my dog this was my father who shot her um.
Fast forward to 1996 I had a horrific car accident so everything from here including my head and face all my ribs on the right side and my foot and so we're shattered so I had multiple orthopaedic surgeries including having my right ankle fused um just over a year ago after which I fell and broke my arms so I had my own little quarantine going on there. And then as I mentioned in 201- 2017 I had the growth of my brain and then concurrently the liver disease with the transplant. I lost hope. You know I was ordained, I’d only begun my second career, my plan was to be at least time in ministry for for a decade for 10 years or so which would have taken me to the age of 68, um but the damage was very significant as I think I mentioned I was so keen to get back to work but of course I was I was not as capable as I dreamed that I was. Um I’d lost all my memory and I did what to me seemed a good thing to do I wrote a letter published in just a little small whole town paper saying hey I don't know who I was, I had like absolute uh amnesia but who I was, what I’d done, what I’d meant to people's lives, I so I knew I’d lived a life of service. I was a high school English teacher and then vice principal, principal, supply minister through all of that time supporting folks in all of my communities and so on but that was all gone and the worst part of the uh the toxins was I went into an unconscious state some other part of my limbic system took over and that was a really ugly horrible man, so I lost my relationships with my family, I lost my memory, I lost the ability to move all of my muscles attribute, I was so sick I just laid in a hospital bed for months. And then like Job the the the hits didn't stop so the day I was supposed to leave the hospital after the transplant I was diagnosed with shingles, not much fun, and because I have a suppressed immune system I catch everything so I have had lyme disease and west nile um I don't know scientifically but I suddenly um developed arthritis in all my joints, I’m a guitar player that is Miriam's heard me play the guitar and sing I’m a singer with no choirs to sing in now I can't entertain myself at home by playing and if I sing a cappella my wife goes "Who stepped on the cat's tail?" so um yeah. So I was very depressed, I became very suicidal and uh I had no hope. What did I have to hope for? And uh there was one shining star in that firmament is that as I was going through all of this our first grandson was born so I I say he he's he is the star and he now has a younger sister who just turned one and they have a cousin who's a young fellow that I’m just uh seeing now over top of the uh of the screen. Um we all have lost hope during the pandemic. We have all lost hope when we are damaged, when we've suffered huge loss in our life. I meet every two weeks with an amazing group of people, it's the our local acquired brain injury group and it's run through our local health center. They get it. They know that a nobody understands what you're going through they don't know what your life is. I say it's like I was going down the road and a freight train hit me and my sense of reality gone. I I cannot do numbers, I cannot tell time, I can't tell you you know how if I saw Miriam today, in three days I may think well that was like a year ago that I saw her, um which for social and not that there's much social adventures right now, but with the family you know trying to share memories. Um I remember being in a dinner situation before the pandemic and the topic turns travels on the east coast and everybody's chatting a way. I know I’ve been to the east coast on three occasions staying for long stretches of time I couldn't say a thing so I that was a loss too the inability to to share and so on um I write a uh meditation and prayer every month for the online Casa group, um Casa being you know the Spanish for home, um so it's our home church and it's a variety of contributors from across North America so I contribute on the 16th of every month so usually I write uh some prose or more and more poetry so this is was the genesis of this uh poem.
People don't want to hear about loss of hope, they don't want to talk about it, they don't want to talk about PTSD. I know my wife and my family all suffer from PTSD and it's just occurred to me like as we've been talking just now, my family went through pretty much the same thing I went through and then I went through it again when I was 14 15 16.
And in the last five years. Um how can we gain hope back? That's tough because you know the big things that I would hope to do I can't do but I’m very busy right now and this is the first so last Sunday I preached my first full service in front of a live audience, very small because the people are on streaming, in five years. I’m going to do so again sun on on Sunday, tomorrow Saturday we're on the road I’m going to do my aunt's funeral and so on. So being given the opportunity to do something in your limited fashion. Our classmates have been at the manual have been amazing so Lawrence whose birthday it is today Miriam um is at a church in Brantford so he when he was on holiday he invited me so I did the zoom sermon I didn't have to do somebody else did the service I came in. Our friend Cheryl Bolton um she invited me to come and we did a skit together live in her church before the pandemic. So the support of the community the prayers the people who prayed for me was a was amazing that all of this you know gives me. My faith although it was bludgeoned and battered has never wait I don't think it waned and it certainly hasn't gone um and I wouldn't say I’ve clung to it, I’ve just had comfort at all times even at my most down and depressed that God was there with me. My friends all say well Larry you know God was not done with you and you're still here for a purpose, so I’m rediscovering the purpose. So one of the things I’m doing is I’m writing I’m writing a lot, and I’ve got two columns right for our local paper and it's all about rebuilding hope rebuilding a community um the next piece is a two-parter on gratitude so I made it my task to rebuild our community. And the second column is about the local business we have set six new local uh business owners in our villages. The reaction because people don't know anywhere, they haven't seen anyone, they haven't done anything. If you don't have that social connection as human being you should so step baby step by baby step, hope can be renewed or rebuilt. Thank you Larry, could you read your poem for us? Sure.
My camera here with it. I called it musings uh musings is one of my favourite words, it's just you know sort of random thoughts that bubble bubble up uh my wife thinks that they about too many ideas bubble up and I verbalize them. Musings on a turbulent time: A Poem. Contortions, exasperation, anxiety, fears, prayer, isolation, rejection, masking my face, thoughts, worries, and losses, stillness both willed and enforced, smiling unseen, crying unknown, pleading unanswered, indecision, misinformation, falsities. How can I persist, resist, exist? Seeking a calm place. Introspection, meditation. Speculation, realization, acceptance that I am not unique or unloved or alone God loves me, us, we my neighbours in the midst of calamity loss and confusion always, in all ways, in unending ways forever. This too shall pass and we are charged with remaking love.
Community, our wounded selves and others, countering fear, prejudice, poverty of every iteration, forgiveness of ourselves, others, our communal failings. To strengthen hope, peace, trust, love to wreak kindle joy in every healing heart immersed in the wholeness that is God.
Thank you so much so much Larry. We felt when we received your poem just as when we received Tori's poem that it was a beautiful gift so thank you. And uh now we've come to the point in the podcast where it's it's I think it's our favourite part where we get to ask you all to talk to one another about each other's work. So what I think we might do is maybe we could invite Tori to start first and if you have any reflections or questions that you'd like to ask Susan or Larry uh please do. Yeah um I have to say I’m not sure how to pronounce the author's name it's Grimmell or Grimmell.
I don't know either, actually I just call it Grimmell. Okay so in in Susan's piece there was this fantastic quote from Grimmell and I’ll just read it uh for you it says, "Connected to a timeless community of warriors," Susan suggests that those who suffer might benefit from that. And I’ve been thinking a lot because a really powerful image for me in my grief work with my mother is an image that a mentor offered me of thinking about my prayers rising like incense to join with those of the saints and so it was this idea of my mom still although physically not present being a timeless part of my life and especially as I’m on this new journey around my mental health um you know, which is also like a journey I’m on with her although she's not bodily here, I just was so struck Susan by that image of that timeless community, and I loved um some of the stuff you brought out in your reflection uh just about being able to see those those images of people before you finding the Jobs, finding the, um I’m often struck by uh Naomi in particular from Ruth and her journey of you know despair to joy.
Yeah it's interesting, I really like Grimmell's work. It's quite challenging like he's very technical in terms of how he writes but uh yeah the whole idea like it kind of continued the continuum of the community like the Body of Christ. I actually preached that in November on All Saints' Day and it was interesting because there's a guy who was baptized that day as well and it was just so so beautiful. Even this whole like crazy pandemic time just to realize who's gone before us who's with us now and also know that there's the eternal hope as well so that continue I think we can hold on to that and see like Larry's point like it's also like what can give us, what can give us kind of hope is that we are part of that continuum we can look backwards for examples of role models who have you know gone on a journey and also in our own lives in, our own healing and our recovery and just being so open about our situations, I hope and pray that we can be that kind of source of inspiration or source of like connectivity or interconnectedness or whatever you want to call it with people during this time as well.
Thanks so much and Tori do you do you have any other reflections or anything else that you want to offer um to anyone here or was that the that was the um the main one that you wanted to share. I mean that was the the main thing that stuck out. I will say that uh Larry in your piece and and maybe it's because I was listening to it this morning while doing a discernment collage, which uh which had kind of like one side you know had had a lot of like blues and purples and the other one had lots of like vibrant reds and oranges and greens and I was feeling like as, because I use um uh an accessibility uh feature on on my computer to read me text so I was listening to sirI read your poem to me this morning, and I was feeling this like tug back and forth back and forth it felt very visceral. Yeah. Um I’m not sure if that was intentional on your part but it certainly I had a very bodily uh response to it and I just wanted to thank you for that. Oh thank you, yeah every day as we know is a it's a journey all on its own and each day has the highs and lows you know you there are lows you wake up depressed and frozen with the arthritis and stuff and then you convince it everything they get moving you know I’ve got a series of stretches that I do both for my body and for my mind and uh it takes sometimes first thing and I have a good day and other days ... but there are fewer of those days now thanks.
Thank you Larry and uh Susan I wonder if you have any reflections or questions you might want to offer Larry or Tori. A lot of things kind of sparked and kind of just got my attention in both the poems and um I guess for yours Tori um I found it was like I read it a few times last night and this morning and then hearing you read it to us is profoundly intimate, and I feel like we have like a little glimpse into your soul so thank you for being so so candid about your situation and and the journey you're on. I also had a visceral reaction to it and I like it was when I read it and then I got the chills and when you read it to us I got like more like much more deeper kind of chills on my back but the phrasing you had around scratching up the skin and scraping back the dermis," it actually reminded me quite a lot of Job. Job like scraping at his sores. And I just felt it's just it's almost like that sense of like desperation and a sense of like self-punishment or that kind of a desire to kind of rid oneself of what we perceive as unpure or that society you know perceives as unpure or unhealthy or, and then the words used around like shadow and whispering and concealed and shamed and covered, like it just, you're so eloquent in terms of describing in different terms like the stigmatization of mental health and I think that's such a rewarding and kind of such an interesting way to kind of frame it for people, and that people can kind of relate to that darkness and relate to those imagery. And I think the last one that really caught my attention was the phrase "the new edge of my grief," and I think that somehow that's sort of you know inspiring me the wrong word but it just to me it's just an acknowledgement that um grief or depression is it's not like a one-and-done like you grieve your mother's death and then that you know then then it's Tuesday and you're all over it, that's not how it is and I think even just acknowledging that grief and healing and recovery their journeys there's not like a it's not a one-time thing you can kind of check it off your list. I think that's really important for those of us who live with PTSD, and like maybe Larry can relate to this too, is that it's an ongoing kind of situation you found yourself in you might have been triggered some days different things like I know a lot of my triggers I know how to kind of respond to them but then I get like triggered by something else it's a whole new experience a whole new thing I have to try to process and come to terms with so that new edge is quite sharp sometimes but the fact that you pull it out and acknowledge it was like really powerful for me when I read it, especially when you when you read it to us. Thank you. And it's it's interesting because just thinking about um sort of your your perception of the poem and and where I was uh when I was reading it I’ve also just been thinking Susan while I read your piece, my partner lives with PTSD and he was diagnosed a number of years ago, so I’ve been on my healing journey with the depression you know since I was probably 12 or 13 and PTSD has brought a lot of new mental health struggles for him and something that we talk a lot about and I even feel like maybe when I was stagnating a little bit in my grief work because he's doing this work, which is its own type of grief work, that that's been propelling me forward. And there's so much interesting stuff around like I think of the word concealment you know in the lines that you were pulling out like this continual uncovering and it's it's like deeply painful um to do but like it's also this like necessary thing you know what I mean like and it can feel so violent and it's like this weird mixture of and Larry's you know that draw back and forth between like hope and um and oh I think about desolation and consolation, let's just bring the Jesuits in here, uh you know those highs and those lows um yeah so I really appreciate the the stuff you've brought out.
Tori, I had the same emotional response to to your poem your your turns of phrase and your imagery are like perfect and powerful. You know shadows on your bones yeah like talk about like an ongoing permanent wound you can't nobody can see it you can't see it but you you feel it. Pulsing hurt was gripping me, yeah that's that's pain it's it's there it's you know un relenting and of course we punish ourselves. Um part of what we all need to fight for is perspective so you had initially you had no idea that other feet had walked before me, well that's very universal the commonality of it all when I read your note then I realized and I felt that this was someone very uh very close to you but yeah we have you know the humanity in in commons and I I wrote who is you, you know who are you talking about there I wish I could see your bones white and and stark um. And I I love this sequence I’m impatient and desperate for the dolling out of common history not a spoonful of time that reminds me of Macbeth you know tail is told by an idiot you all know that and that again the shadows on my bone so thank you, that that was a gorgeous gorgeous piece. And and Susan um I was as most very familiar with PTSD. Moral injury that's the first time I’ve heard that uh terminology and it certainly uh resonates with me you know that sense of anger and and alienation and and self-loathing, um I I was fortunate that I didn't have that and I I never blamed God, I never blamed myself for what had happened because my liver disease was nash which means non-alcoholic, I had had a wonderful diet and so on, but that alienation I sort of felt like the corporate church was saying Larry you are you are broken and bent and you don't fit into that, you're round now and you don't fit into that square hole or vice vice versa and they were right but not I don't maybe they weren't as right as I I uh I think I am but uh I I must admit I I skimmed the latter half but I want to go back and read it more because as I said I have this huge uh affinity with Job so thank you for unlocking so much of his uh journey.
Yeah it's a bit of a read so I felt like I got the easy end of the stick readings short but incredibly powerful poems and uh in turn I have like about a 20 page article so I hope it didn't uh didn't take too much of your time. Um in terms of your poem Larry just this whole concealment masking like it kind of it was kind of a link between like Tori's poem and your poem about this like stigmatization. The word masking has almost become like it's a verb now right because it's a very common saying we have like are you masked?, are you not masked?, or anti-mask?, all that kind of stuff but when I read the word mask in your poem it was like I always think masking is a physical thing you're masking your face your mask whatever but it's like masking like you said like your thoughts, your worries, your losses and I was like it's a whole different dimension for me and it was um I I’ve been thinking of it as like a physical protection but now I’m seeing how like masking is also like a kind of mental health protection like keeping it inside, concealing it to protect myself and it just kind of caused me to pause and ponder like how much of a facade have I put on you know? And it goes back to the point you made earlier Tori like as a minister to be hoping to be you know God willing ordained as a priest like how much of a thought are we expected to have in that kind of vocational in a ministry like you want to be vulnerable and genuine into your congregation but there's also like a balance of self-disclosure as well right and I was like fine to share my article no problems with that but then when I think Amy said well can you do like a little um like a brief about yourself I was like oh my goodness I’m like that's a that took me I think for longer to write than even editing the article like in terms of actually being open about about my situation. Um and then when I when you turn the near the end of your poem everybody says we are charged with remaking love just the phrase like remaking love it just it gives me like kind of the flutters as well, there's so much potential and invitation for hope and even though it's been such a long pandemic and so much angst and so much tension and so forth, there's also this huge opportunity I think and I think that that phrase I think will stick in my mind and my heart for some time.
Thank you all so much. We we always ask our contributors since much of this work is
personal, it's not over there, it's in our bodies, it's in our minds and our hearts and so we wonder what gives you energy to do this, to share this work with an audience, with your church, or with
the wider community in the journal and we'll start with Susan, maybe.
That's a really interesting and challenging question, I think for me just like the candidness like being candid and transparent and open but within a kind of a safe space um kind of gives me the confidence to share and I hope that by my sharing other people will share as well and and just know that they're not alone so it's almost like kind of a goes back and kind of community of saints energy about it, like there's an interconnectedness that exists. And sometimes we have to be more sometimes we have to take the first step and be the one to share to try to encourage others to do the same and that kind of gives me energy to like yeah to to go out there and to to be vulnerable basically.
and Tori I wonder about your journey? Yeah um the word energy when I first read the question when you sent it ahead of time I thought oh God do I have energy? Um but I yeah it's interesting I think like part of it is sometimes you do the work so you can survive you know and that has its own kind of almost like feral energy to it, um but then I also have this incredible kid who I look at and I just think like you know and it's like this with like gender and sexuality stuff I just I’m so desperate to create a place where a 13 year old kid who is just like drowning you know and and cannot figure out a way out would would just be able to to find what they need to find a little bit sooner you know um, and again it has that kind of desperate feral energy to, it it's just it's not the like happy-go-lucky energy where you go well I get up you know three hours early every day and I meditate and I do my yoga and that gives me the self-care to do the work uh no my my energy definitely comes from this like um kind of like magnificat you know uh canticle of turning burn it all down like sense and it always feels really good to find, I see heads nodding it feels good to find that communion of saints who are like "Amen." Amen to that for sure. And Larry? Yeah yeah the uh inspire is one of my favourite words I as the english guy who loves language I love to riff on that one because we are ins we inspire that gives us energy God inspires us we expire but we don't really expire because we go to be with God um we you know we re-spire respiration we breathe again again and again and we don't have we don't have any control over that so God has inspired me I don't have any control over that but I love it. And I’ve been I felt like a genie in a bottle you know I went in this bottle the cork was popped on and so five years later all fixed up physically um now mentally and emotionally the cork still mid pandemic has been removed mostly so I can be who I had dreamed of being and between that and the energy from my children and my grandchildren to my spouse and some of my close friends I just I just feed off their energy and uh this burbling inside and I’m happy to be here because I wasn't, I you know this thing here they tell me stopped two times um so um,
so the miracle has happened um and and I just wanted to share this in common with the other speakers that I too know of the cold of northern Ontario, my teaching career started in Chapleau, I’ll be going there to meet the students I started teaching 40 years ago in the summer. But uh yeah today gives me energy speaking with other people um I I love unlike a lot of you I love zooming and facetiming with friends and my sisters and there's nothing better than face timing with your grandkids.
energy abounds we've just I guess lost our connection to it. Amen for babies. Yes. Well thank you so much to all of you for being here today with us, we really appreciate you taking your time out on a Friday to come and be here and we're just wondering if there's any last thoughts that you'd like to share with our listeners?
Is there anything? For for me today as as I commented on on the individual pieces has just reaffirmed the universality of suffering and one of the things that the current situation and our our experiences of harm in our lives is isolated us is the worst thing we can do to ourselves, that's the worst thing we can do to our own society. As a former teacher who's worked with thousands of teenagers over my life I see I hear I feel what this has done to them and children of and adults of all ages so we uh we need to spring forward and spring is coming and hopefully so too will our lives thanks. Thank you Larry and uh Tori and Susan is there anything you'd like to share since we're heading heading off. I just want to share like this I think like I was delighted to like be part and have articulated into the journal I think the journal is quite new and I think it's such an important opportunity to kind of it's an important platform that I don't think has existed to this point in time and just to like look at the intersectionality of mental health and sociology and so forth it's such a critical thing especially at this time. I think it's you know I don't think it's a coincidence that the journal has you know came into being during the pandemic either um has a really important purpose I think and the fact that you're hosting these podcasts I think it just kind of reinforces that interconnectedness that like Larry was kind of alluding to as well, I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be part of the support. Thank you so much Susan and we hope that we're going to be able to continue sort of igniting some of these conversations um and bringing people together to to join in so, and Tori is there anything anything you'd like to add? One of my favourite things to do is invite people to write chapters in my fictitious book which is entitled "Strategic Vulnerability." you are all invited to write a chapter in my fictitious book. Awesome.
Sounds good. Well thank you so much again everyone and we hope that you enjoy your weekends and get a chance to relax. Thank you. Thank you. It's been been my honour yes. Thank you so much, God bless everyone