After nearly three months of bite-sized reading, I finally finished Gerald May’s excellent work, Addiction and Grace. This book is among the best I’ve read on describing the human condition and why we behave the way we do. It took a great deal of time to work my way through because the subject matter is so weighty, and I found myself needing to be in the right mood to partake.
May describes addictive behavior as our almost unconscious cellular response to pain. The problem is that we have all become accustomed to believing that pain and discomfort must always be a sign that something is wrong with us. Often times, pain is just a symptom of our design. I’m not talking about the emotional pain brought on by trauma or abuse; I am speaking of the pain that we experience as a part of the void within us all. There is a deep ache we experience whenever we sense the vast spaciousness that is part of our creation. Because our reaction to discomfort is always to attempt to solve it, we tend to cram the void – this haunting if you will – full of activity and noise and addictive behaviors.
May explains the necessity that we eventually learn to embrace the spaciousness within us, learning to celebrate it as part of what makes us human. This idea makes me think of all the writing that I read and that I do – how so much of it is fueled by that void within us. I read this sort of writing all the time by many of you on WordPress. Thank God for the desert space, so beautiful.
The book goes on to describe what happens to us in rare moments, when we find ourselves entering the emptiness without the pretense of who we think we are supposed to be – times when we just are. These moments are unusual indeed – easier for children and become more difficult to find our way back to as we age. I had such a moment the other day, as I was trying to pack my things for the family’s trip to Disney World.
Before I go further, I need to get a little naked for my readers. For several months, I have been struggling with intense anxiety over just about everything. Things are extremely challenging at work and home; I stress. I’m experiencing confusion and indecision with what I’m doing at church; I stress. Worse still, when things are great – when my boss loves me, and my family is blessed during these tough times, when my son is the smartest one in his class, then I am most anxious of all, for fear that the axe is set to fall upon me and for fear that nobody deserves to have such good things – I unconsciously choose anxiety over enjoyment.
So I was packing for Disney, feeling anxious because I really need the break, and I couldn’t help but worry that I would spoil the time, forget to live in the moments and the memories, and a week later I would be back in the thick of my daily battles, more exhausted than ever.
My four-year-old walked into the room as I was digging for spare underwear. I had Pandora streaming, and the song “I’m Gonna Be” by The Proclaimers came on. Within seconds of the song starting, I was in one of those moments. Of course, it is in the nature of these moments of reprieve, that we cannot identify them as they are happening – this is what makes them what they are. Below is my description, as best as I’m able to make it after the fact.
happens without purpose
without planning, without hope
It just happens, but never so
accidentally, as it seems
Nonsense choruses blare
I smile; he smiles – I forget –
wonder if a guy like me is
supposed to smile or sing
unexpectedly, I forget enough
who I was – I forget I don’t dance
250 pounds of ridiculous
rattling the furnishings – he laughs
so I laugh – I haven’t a reason not to
This space is so fine
and we’ve got 2:16 left
Let’s make it count
Dance with me, son
Let’s forget to think
Let’s forget to be cool
Let’s forget to remember
a little longer, please