The Power of the Fresca

Last night was the lock-in at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church. We started by playing Jenga with soda fridge-pack boxes, something I’d never thought of and am putting here in the pensieve to steal for later…. As the night went on, the tagline became “the power of the Fresca,” because the boys decided that the Fresca boxes had magical powers. Well, children, when you mix Fresca with sangria, it does. You’re welcome.

No, of course I didn’t really say that out loud. But I know you have to check, right? It is still me after all. I don’t know how my dad came up with the idea, but seriously, it is delcious. Fizzy and perfect and not too alcoholic so great for sitting out by the pool. Maybe it was, as my grandmother would say, “an old commando trick I learned in the Army.” My grandmother was never in the Army. It was just funny.

I came home around midnight as my coughing got worse and worse, so I’m writing this to you from my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard while in bed with the electric blanket on. It’s supposed to get cold, perhaps even snow tomorrow. I am sick enough that I think I’m just going to stay here until I have to go to work on Monday. Nothing repairs me more than sleep, and I never miss a valid excuse to binge Netflix. I will probably spend some time with the Scriptures, tomorrow being Palm/Passion Sunday and all. I think that over time, Palm and Passion Sundays got mixed together because people have stopped taking the time to go to church on Good Friday, so combining the Sundays was a way to make Easter make sense. I personally love Good Friday, after a long battle of not. It is a way to take one day to reflect on my own Good Fridays, so that Easter will come again, brighter and more glorious than before.

Last year was the worst Good Friday I’d ever had in my life, because I broke up my family butt-good, and it will never go back together. I saw some good advice, though, that sometimes you burn bridges to keep from crossing them again. I would add an addendum, though, that things look different after space and time. Sometimes burning a bridge is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and that’s so true you can take it to the bank.

I had to take a long, hard look at how that strategy was working out for me, thus, the Worst. Good Friday. Ever (see Jeff Daniels in the first scene of The Newsroom as to how I want you to read this sentence). I was on my knees in pain and confusion last year, and I think in some respects, I haven’t given myself permission to stand back up. I didn’t give myself permission for redemption, because I didn’t deserve it, at least in my own mind. I’d hurt a friend who’d become dear to me and my wife of seven years. Just blew both relationships out of the water with RPGs designed to hurt. Alas, people who need attantion the most ask for it in the most inappropriate of ways, and I was no exception. In those moments, I needed to be loved more than less, but I could not expect it of them because I was actively pushing them away. I couldn’t expect them to fight against the tide. Cries for help were masked as rage, because I didn’t know how to handle myself. If I was “too much to handle” for Dana, it was nothing compared to how painful it was for me to be with me during that time, and yet, I had no choice. I would say that 90% of recovery from mental issues is learning to love yourself despite them, and the other 10% is learning emotional tools to deal with yourself when these issues pop up. Medication can only do so much. Coping mechanisms are essential.

But I digress.

I had to learn to rely on my own God-piece, the one that tells me I am right and good and yells at me a lot to remember it.

The first time the Rev. Dr. Susan Leo asked me to take over for her at Bridgeport UCC, I walked around with R, M temporarily tattoed on the inside of my palm with a Sharpie Marker for five weeks. That’s because she wrote a beautiful affirmation, and I wanted to make sure that when I got up in front of the congregation to say it, I would get it right:

We are God’s children, wonderfully made…
And as fallible as we are, we are no mistake.

Be Responsible and let go of guilt
Be Mindful, and carry no shame.

Believe the Good News of the Gospel.
You are loved unconditionally by God.

When I hear it in my head, it’s the vooice of a young girl. I took my youth group at Bridgeport on a retreat to the Oregon coast in 2004, and we had worship on that Sunday morning. Hearing those words of affirmation from a teenager is the voice that carries me to this day. Everything looks better through the eyes of a child…. the lens of a faith untampered, unjaded.

Perhapd that is because teenagers turn to the divine to get away from the hell sittin’ on a Ritz that is middle school and high school, no matter how much fun the classes are. For instancce, 7th grade was the best and worst academic year I’d ever had in my life, becuase my classes were amazing and yet, my attention wasn’t on them.

I wrestled with God in an empty austin-stone cathedral, my Good Fridays relentless as I worried about the woman I loved.

I was an atypical tween and teen, so I work with youth to ensure that nothing like that happens to them, or if it does, that they know that they have a safe space to tell. To be received. To get the reassurance that it’s not their fault if they need it. I would never offer these blessings unless asked, but I know what signs to watch for. Not only do I have my own experiences, but I have taken a class on how to keep kids safe, and it resonated with me hardcore.

Last night when I arrived at the lock-in, the kids were talking about the news. They were talking about some court case or another, where when a girl was raped, the lawyer for the defendant said, “did you try closing your legs?” I briefly thought about intervening, telling them that this wasn’t appropriate conversation for a church lock-in, but I realized that I would have been wrong in doing so. The sixth grade class is doing a program right now on sex and sexuality called “Our Whole Lives,” or OWL for short. I am sure that there is a section on abuse, but I am not teaching the class, so I don’t know where they are in it. So I just let them be and listened, watching out for fights and anything major, but otherwise aloof and observant. They were waiting for things to officially start and just sitting on the playground equipment, talking. They were all in agreement that the treatment of the teenage girl was unfair.

Then one of the girls brought up a case by saying that when Hillary Clinton was a lawyer, in one of her cases she said to a 12-year-old girl who’d been raped, “maybe you just like seducing older men.” This is completely unverified, and I don’t know where the girl got the information to be able to talk about it in the first place. I also wondered where I’ve been that this is normal everyday playground talk now.

When I told Susan about this course I’d taken on trying to prevent abuse, she said something like “kids see this shit all over the Internet and think it’s normal behavior.” Well, I suppose it is normal…. to the pedophile. I understand the pathology of pedophiles, that they are children in adult bodies whose minds haven’t aged up so that they think adults are attractive. They still want the girls and/or boys they couldn’t get when they were that age, so they just keep trying. Understanding how it happens does not give me much compassion or forgiveness, but it does put pedophilia in perspective as a valid mental illness that can be managed….. in jail.

My nothing box is pleased that Jared Fogle got the shit beat out of him. My God-self struggles to offer forgiveness to all people, regardless of their fallibilities. Abuse is a dragon to be defeated and I am just one St. George…. but there are plenty of us out here, trying to make a difference.

I’ve wandered down a path into my own mind, so back to the playground. The kids transitioned from talking about rape to playing Jenga seamlessly, as if rape culture was just another thing. Not a gargantuan monster, just a thing that needs to be dealt with. It was astounding, really, just to listen.

My mind was going 3,500 miles a minute but my outward appearance was calm to the point of stoned, thanks to one of the other volunteers who had cough syrup with codeine on her. My cough has progressed to the point where codeine was welcome, as was guafenisen as I polished off a 32-ounce bottle of water. I am grateful that I was sent home at midnight, so I slept comfortably without dreaming. But when I awoke, my mind was on the kids and how to deal with the enormity of their new world.

Maybe a can of Fresca would help?


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