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Earthquake Thoughts from 2011

Excitement, perhaps I can be valuable.

Irritation at the person panicking. How do I calm them down?

How? Should I calm them down?

How serious is it really? The street has been painted red with shattered bricks. The people… There must be people who have died in this one. Aftershock. I seem to have cut my face on the computer case. It’s like the time I was in the car crash and couldn’t figure out how I cut my knee when there was nothing sharp in front of it and I wasn’t going so fast. There is confusion as to whether or not we should evacuate.

Finally the order has been given to leave. It’s easy to get up and leave. The feeling is the same as riding the roller coasters. I’m still excited, my heart is beating hard against my chest. I want to tell the hysterical woman to get a grip but I understand she is anxious and say nothing. We exit and the stree is flooding. Liquefaction, sewerage maybe. Pigeons flying, their homes against the sides of the buildings lost. Nowhere to go. It’s quiet but for muttering and whimpering. I left my things upstairs, I don’t suppose I’ll get them back? Do I go left or right? Home to family or home to love? I’m told not to take the car. It will be chaos. I leave it, forget my friends, go for love via the safest route away away from buildings still standing and down the street to where people are milling in confusion like mindless livestock unsure which way to go.

Shout Out

To the ones who fill my heart the most:

Stuart – For loving me the way you do. I don’t know where I’d be without you in my life but I’m sure it would not be in a place as bright as this.

Jerry – For putting up with me in the strange hours when the rest of the world can’t help me.

Tim – For being sweet, for listening and sharing with me.

Chris – For so many reasons but most of all because you are you.

It’s seems strange that I don’t have more people to add to this list currently. Yes, I have other friends, and I have many acquaintances, but my deep connections right now are few. There aren’t many people I can fully open up to, but I feel like I can tell you four anything at all that’s on my heart. Sorry that there aren’t more of you to share that burden!

Anxiety

Just because I manage to go out and get places and do things and fulfill my responsibilities these days in a way that makes it seem like I have my life sorted, I still have anxiety.

Today we went to an art show and it was nice but I was completely visually overwhelmed to the point that I couldn’t even look at some of the artworks without feeling sick.

We then went to the mall where we bought some lovely food, but because of timing we ended up sitting in a corner of the coffee shop where I felt that the people at the next table were too close to me and I felt paranoid that they were staring at me and listening to me, so I stopped talking or looking at Stuart because I didn’t want to feel like these strangers were in on the conversation.

As soon as I got home I started to prepare for the next day because if I don’t anticipate and make lists and have a plan it all feels like too much.

When variables creep in – new ideas, trying to fit things in a small car, trying to accommodate or say no to people wanting rides – it’s nobody’s fault but after I’ve already had a difficult day I just shut down. If anything or anyone tries to get my attention when I’m shut down, I panic and cry and just turn into a mess. I swear that my brain doesn’t work during this time, not even a little bit. It’s rocking back and forth territory, I just feel like my entire world is out of control and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Now, I’m still doing better than I ever did before because these days I can usually recover within an hour of reaching breaking point and at least keep going, when not so long ago it would just send me into a deep depression and I would ignore the world for whole weeks at a time. (And people would give me advice like, “don’t isolate yourself, it’s better for you if you see people,” but any effort would be so tiring and overwhelming it was actually worse for me to think about.)

Please remember that I am a person who does struggle, and if I’m spending time with you it’s because my time and energy is actually valuable and I want to spend it on the people I love the most.

Bad Week

Things were going so well, and then on Sunday I woke up paranoid and anxious. It’s now Thursday and I have still done nothing with my life except the really important jobs like driving kids (not mine) to school or driving sick kids (not mine) home. So, this is officially now a Bad Week.

I figure this must be when my background cycle, behind the lithium that allows me to at least continue a semblance of normality at the extremes of the day, would be at the mixed or perhaps depressed state. I would have thought that being forced to get up each day and do at least one job would give me the momentum to continue on and do other things and just, you know, do what normal people do and push through it. It hasn’t worked, I just get completely tired, completely unmotivated, and any attempt to push through results in my brain ceasing to function properly. I come up with all sorts of ways to avoid responsibility, from finding distraction that’s strong enough to cover up the guilt for a while, or falling back into bed and sleeping the rest of the day away. I have still taken business calls and orders, still done the banking, paid bills, a couple of those kinds of things, but really important stuff? I feel like I’ve been using all my energy on other people first and I’m back to having nothing left for myself and my family.

How did I end up back in this position? I was being so careful to pace myself and not accept things unless they were something I really wanted in my life. Instead, it started with doing a favour for one person, then a favour for another person, then committing to a few other little things. Now every little thing is too overwhelming and if It’s not something I have to do already then I can’t even think about it.

Last week I was doing great. I was taking people to work, kids to school, visiting the studio every day, doing odd jobs for people, planning exciting new ventures, getting new customers in my business and filling exciting orders, organising things with my accountants, housesitting, looking after my pets, and looking after my husband all without blinking. Now I’m… I don’t know… flailing about and feeling horrible about myself. I guess this is just that normal phase I’m used to but all a lot more toned down than usual. It’s just annoying that this still happens.  At least it will pass.

Foo Fighters in Christchurch

Yesterday I went to the Christchurch Foo Fighters concert.

This concert made the local news for having 6000 people still stuck outside trying to get in when the show started.  I was not one of those people.

I went early so that I could be there in time to see Rise Against, another of my favourite bands, play the opening act.

I had huge anxiety before the concert, to the point of tears. Less than 4 hours before the gates were supposed to open I realised I hadn’t even organised how I was going to get to the venue. Luckily my supportive husband checked if my dad next door would take me and he said he was happy to.

So I made it through the cattle-yard entrance before it was crowded and picked out a nice spot on the grass, then decided to move to the front in the mosh pit to really experience Rise Against. I picked a spot beside two other Asian women who were just as short as I was, and we were standing right behind a group of really tall teenaged boys.  One of them jumped so hard during the act that a dollar in change fell out of his pocket, but I was too afraid to pick it up, and everyone else just walked over it too.

After Rise Against I went back around to the entrance and found a free water station where there were large tumblers and filtered water on offer. With my water, I went back to the grass and sat in the sun until the opening chord announced the Foo Fighters were on stage!  I picked a spot where I couldn’t really see the stage but I wasn’t confident enough to push my way back into the mosh pit, and instead I stood at the fence surrounding the cameras in the centre of the field, on top of a wire covering which made me a few centimetres taller, and contented myself with being able to clearly see, with nobody else in front of me, the giant screens on either side of the main stage.

What I didn’t realise until later in the show, is that I was actually standing at the end of the right side of the extended stage, and the security guards were not just guarding cameras but rather a part of the stage where Dave Grohl came out to, a mere once in the entire almost 3-hour show.  However, he did come to the centre of the stage end a couple of times and I got a good view of him singing Skin and Bones, and Wheels, and where he promised that the next time he came to Christchurch he’d throw a free concert somewhere open in the city like a park or a beach. Even better, I got free refills of water in my tumbler by guys who were walking around with weed sprayers full of water on their backs.

I don’t even know if I made sense in that last paragraph, I don’t think I could really describe the whole experience. It was the first big concert I have ever been to in my life and I’m over 30 now, so it was really something for me to spend $185 on a ticket, but to be able to be right up the front and close just the once made it really worth it. The amazing thing about the Foo Fighters is just how perfect they sound all the way through their concert, almost like watching the DVD except for being able to see them when they stop and just have a jam in the middle of a song and prove they are phenomenal. Skin and Bones was even accompanied by accordian!

I was able to shuffle out with the crowd and get to my pick-up point just in time as I arrived when my ride was being told to move away from the service station car park, and then I was safely transported home thanks to my husband’s best friend, Dave. My only injury other than sore calves was when my ankle became the landing site for some drunk punk’s heel when he fell into me, and he was twice my size. The rest of the time the crowd was wonderful, and fairly tame compared to my imaginings of how bad it might be. Vbase who were running the event escorted a few intoxicated people out of the stadium in front of me during the night so it seems they were keeping an eye on things. Unfortunately, the smell of weed being smoked is always to be expected and was an unpleasant extra for me.

So that was my time at the Foo Fighters concert. I’m mostly writing it down for my own memory because I think I’ll forget I even went if I don’t at least write that. I also had video and photos but I’m just too tired right now to save them and upload them. Maybe next time!

I Have Ducks

IMAG0857_1I have ducks!  I bought two Indian Runner Ducks for my backyard, one white and one fawn, I wanted to be able to tell them apart easily. I have not named them and am not yet sure I will. Giving them names wouldn’t be useful anyway since they don’t particularly come when called. They are both girls but are still too young to lay just yet but probably will once they’ve finished moulting, I have duck feathers flying all over the yard at the moment!

They have been with us now for only 3-4 days but I have learned a lot about ducks in that time. There is no such thing as ducks and clean water, they will muddy any fresh water in two seconds flat deliberately by picking up dirt and then swishing it in the water. They don’t really quack a whole lot, I’m more likely to hear them lightly honk (kind of like geese) and even whistle when they’ve found a new source of yummy food. They are eating barley, wheat, rye, chicken pellets, slugs, flies, kale, lettuce, weeds, grass, earwigs, brown rice, stones, mosquito larvae, and plenty of leaf litter from through holes in the fence that I’d rather they didn’t eat! The other side of the fence belongs to a motel and they have a huge flax bush in that corner, so a lot of leaf litter has piled up behind it over the years and they’re picking at it.

These ducks are highly strung, apparently it’s part of the breed for Indian Runner Ducks, but they have already become used to me coming up to them and going about changing their food and water. They won’t let me come closer than about a metre though before they get up and walk away making lots of noise. I haven’t actually touched any of my ducks yet! At some point I may decide to forcibly pick them up regularly just to keep them used to it and do health checks but I do hear they can scratch and cut when cornered. They have sharp claws at the ends of their webbed toes, and their wings aren’t exactly the softest thing either.

I am very excited about them and also very obsessed.  On the first day I kept them confined to the little house my husband helped me make. On the second day we let them leave the kennel and go into a small pen we fenced off for them.  The third day I extended the fencing so they could get to the kiddie pool to swim.  Today I opened up the fencing to allow them to forage in my back yard, but they’d rather just stay between the pool and their house! I tried to chase them out and they just made a big circle back to the pool and then to the house again. This is good, if they’ve decided here is home. We live right next to a river so we don’t want them getting any ideas.

They’re gorgeous to look at have turned out to be good garden ornaments as well as interesting pets. I like that they don’t need a huge amount of affection or attention from me but will tolerate me watching them for hours. I’m finding they suit me quite well overall and in fact I would probably right now choose more ducks over getting any more domestic animals like cats, rats, or dogs. We’ll see how I feel during winter time!

Diagnosis

Why, hello there!  It’s been 8-9 months since I last posted in this journal and a lot of not much has happened.  It might be obvious from my last posts that I was not in a… normal state of mind at the start of the year, going on and on about God and my religious opinions, followed by a very depressed post and then silence.

On the 29th of October I saw a mental health doctor after being referred by my general practitioner and received an official diagnosis:

Bipolar Disorder, type I, most recent episode depressed

In retrospect it all seems so very obvious.  I can point to very distinctive manic episodes followed by depressed periods averaging about 3 months.  It also helps to explain the dismal failure of every anti-depressant I was ever prescribed.  I am now on the lowest dose of bipolar medication and we’ll see how things go from here.

I read on the information pages about Bipolar Disorder that it’s actually common for it to be misdiagnosed as ADHD because the symptoms are similar.  Having the right diagnosis can make such a huge difference to how I tackle solutions, and already Bipolar Disorder seems to fit me better.

Now that Bipolar Disorder has become relevant to me, I am noticing how many other people I know also have it.  It’s been good to hear from them about their experiences and coping strategies.  Please feel free to share yours.

When I’m myself again…

For a while there I was on a spiritual high and running on inspiration.  The problem with that state, and I’ve been there before, is the depression that can come afterwards.  I have just had a really ragged day full of self-deprecating talk (very uncharacteristic of me these days), anxiety, moodiness and tears.  It’s like a reminder that I’m still very much broken even on the days that I feel like I might have finally gotten it all together.

I’m okay with it, though.  It keeps me humble.  It keeps me from being a hypocrite.  It helps me empathise with others on the days I feel stronger.

I would talk more about my financial and emotional stresses here, as I’m not shy about being open about my problems as long as it’s something that I think could encourage others rather than gossip about myself, but it’s midnight and I’m about to go to sleep.  I’ve decided that I’m going to put today behind me and wake up, if not happier, at least ready to continue on and do my best.

The Purpose of God’s Law

Yesterday I posted about my freedom from the Jewish Law and now I want to expand on that.

We are free from condemnation from the law in the Jewish way which requires an offering of sacrifice at a temple (no longer possible!).  Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice which covers all our sins, but we need to accept that sacrifice as the gift that it is.  If we choose not to accept Jesus and his sacrifice, we are rejecting the salvation that he offers.  We are saying to God, “I like doing my own thing, I am not thankful at all, and I certainly don’t need you.”

The moment that you realise there is no amount of guilt or sacrificing you can do to change your situation, the moment you realise that you need Jesus, you are saved by his grace.  Essentially, he has taken your criminal record of sins and destroyed it, it no longer exists, and nobody (in the spiritual realm) who looks for proof of who you were will find it.  They may throw accusations at you, but they no longer have proof, and you are protected by the perfect reputation of Jesus who did not sin and has vouched for you and paid all the fines so you could be free.

The fact is, the law is perfect.  The law is intrinsic, it is written on your hearts and you know it in your mind.  We know what is right and what is wrong but for the most part we stubbornly ignore the guilt and continue to do what we want.  In the book of Matthew it tells the story of a religious leader trying to trick Jesus by asking him to state which Law of Moses (the Jewish Laws) is the most important.  Most Christians know Jesus’ reply well, that we must love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, because this is the greatest commandment.  He then follows it up with a second but equally important commandment, to love our neighbours as ourselves.  He then concludes by stating that the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on those two commandments.

How amazing this is!  The freedom to love God and love each other is an astounding thing.  If you look at The Ten Commandments you will see that the first four commandments dealt with loving God and placing Him above all things, and the other six were about how to love the people around you.  The important thing is that God is first, but equally important, and worthy of over half of The Ten Commandments, is to love each other.

It’s deceptively simple.  You have been freed from the law that was condemning you.  Jesus came, vouched for you, paid the fines, and offered to walk with you on the road to eternal life in his family as an adopted child of God.  But then you always have the choice.  Will you accept the offer and walk with Jesus, or will you choose instead to turn off the path, return to the world you came from, relive your life of crime and create a new criminal record?  Every time that you commit a crime and return to prison you can use your one phonecall to call your new best friend Jesus, and he will always return to vouch for you, pay your fines, and free you again.  But if you think you don’t need him, then you will have to live out your sentence.  How much more we need Jesus because we are all on Death Row!

But Jesus can’t help us if we continually reject him and his offer to join God’s family.  Some Christians don’t realise they do this when they become scared of the law.  They feel so judged by it that they don’t believe they are worthy of being saved.  Why should their best friend Jesus help them out of prison when they obviously belong there?  So when he comes, they refuse to accept his offer of forgiveness or leave their prison of guilt!  They miss out on the full experience of Jesus’ love because they are afraid that when they get home they will only be punished by “Dad”.  How much of a tragedy this fear of the law and fear of being punished creates!

The law, then, is not to be used as a tool to judge and condemn those around us or even ourselves, rather it is a guide with the help of the Holy Spirit which highlights our need for Jesus to lead us to a better relationship with our Father in Heaven.  Our love for God will naturally bring us to the greatest respect for our Creator, and we will desire to do everything we can to be more like Him.  However, under the perfect sacrifice of Jesus we are no longer measured by a law that we could never keep no matter how hard we try.  Loving each other is the way that we show our thankfulness and demonstrate our freedom from the law so that others desire to know the same God we do and in this way the family of God is strengthened.

If you would like to explore this concept further for yourself, I urge you to read the book of Galations in the Bible from beginning to end.  Love to you all.

Freedom from the Jewish Law

Having come from a very strongly doctrinal background, it can be difficult for me to try and explain how I’ve found freedom from the Jewish Law, especially since I don’t want to offend any of my other Christian friends and family who still place a lot of importance on it.  I know what that’s like, and I do admire those efforts but personally I have found it to be a futile exercise and I prefer to instead rely on the grace of Jesus which covers my sins.  Jesus gave us the commandment to love God and love each other and he did away with the sacrifice by becoming the perfect sacrifice for us.  I claim these gifts in my life so I no longer need to worry about the old law and performing sacrifices for my sins.  I’ve listened to the argument that the law is so perfect that it was never done away with and I’m fine with that view, but I reject that I am condemned by it any longer.

It’s come to my attention that there are some Christians who are unwilling to read what I have to say if I don’t quote scripture to back it up, well how about this for scripture…. Read all of it!  Apply all of it!  I cannot define my views in one scripture or several.  Instead, I try to follow the example that Paul spoke of in his letters to live our new life in Christ.  Paul was more than just the letters we have collated into the New Testament, he was a living testimony of the changing grace of an encounter with Jesus.  God has no favourites and none of us are any more or less important than Paul was.  Jesus celebrates when a lost sheep is brought back into the fold, but that doesn’t mean he values the sheep who never left any less or any more.  We are all adopted into God’s family now.  No, I will not quote scripture to back up my statements, go and look for the scriptural backing yourself!  I would rather not grossly misquote such eloquent prose by lifting out the one sentence that suits me just to prove a point.

I say I am no longer bound to the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments.  Does this mean The Ten Commandments don’t matter to me?  Certainly they do matter!  However, I am no longer condemned by The Ten Commandments with a requirement to offer sacrifices at a temple if I worry that I might have sinned.  Instead, I give myself to God as a living sacrifice each day by happily and freely following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and this leads me to naturally do what is right because of my love for God.  We are called to be holy because Jesus was holy.  How have we lost sight of this?  Christianity is supposed to be a practical culture, taught by one person to another and modeled by active love.  Paul writes about freedom from the law and points out that we should not be boastful in Christ nor do we have a right to judge each other!  I am not perfect by any means, and I know in my heart when I am sinning.  However, that is between me and Jesus.  What matters is that I don’t hurt my relationship with other Christians because we all have the same goal of sharing Christ with others.

Even if the tithe was still in effect today, I’d be a recipient of it rather than a giver!  In fact, in some ways I am under a similar system in that the government taxes everybody and gives my family a government benefit.  However, the tithe is not relevant today because we are not growing food to take to a physical storehouse in support of the priests and the poor in the way it was commanded of the Jews.  Instead of feeling condemned when I do not give money to my attending church, I am free to give as much as I want or as little as I can afford, and when I do give it will be to benefit individuals who need it rather than the mission of an institution and in this way I will be able to spread the love of God.  Christians are supposed to be adult enough and close-knit enough as a community that when someone has a lot they can give to those who have less, and those who have little can ask for help from those who have a lot.  Voluntarily communism, what a radical idea!

Here is another example:  Don’t tell me I’m sinning if I take a sip of alcohol.  Even Paul took wine every now and then, even if you want to argue it wasn’t alcoholic.  What would Jesus do?  Apparently Jesus would get the party roaring by supplying the wine for the celebration!  If it offends you, I will not do it in front of you, but whether or not I drink at all, again that is between me and Jesus.  Speak to another Christian out of concern and compassion, not out of judgment!  We have the priestly authority to forgive sins but it seems not every Christian exercises this authority.  This applies to all behaviours which could be considered sinful, not just the consumption of alcohol.  Let’s always look for ways to encourage each other rather than find ways to break each other down.

Does any of this make sense at all?  Christianity is accessible to everyone and it isn’t supposed to be complicated.  I hope that those are words of hope for you.

So for those who are still trapped by the Law, I just want you to take to heart that God loves you no matter what you do, or what you do not do.  The Law does not separate you from God so don’t let it!  When you sin according to the laws that you place importance on, go straight to Jesus who is our High Priest and ask for forgiveness.  Accept his grace.  Nothing more is required and there is no need for guilt offerings any longer because he has already paid the price.  God’s love to you all.