When Passion Isn’t Permitted

I feel like I’m becoming a little obsessed…

I’ve been dealing with bipolar disorder “officially” for a couple of years now, been taking the lovely little pills that help me achieve a bit of emotional balance, and that was pretty much it. I never really explored it – just accepted that this is something I have to deal with, complied with treatment, saw decent results, and trotted along on my merry way.

Until…

I finally wrote about it. Talked about it in public. Accepted the fact that although most people would say, ” ‘Taint no big thang,” and some would say, “Alright – that helps explain a few things,” there would be a tiny few who would think in their heart of hearts, “Mental illness! Danger, Will Robinson!!!”

I haven’t met any of them, for the record. And that’s okey dokey with meesa.

(Jar Jar Binks – Cowboy Poet)

But as I’ve been writing through what it means to deal with bipolar, or what it feels like to have bipolar disorder, I’ve been identifying the points in day to day life where I see it and how it shapes my world around it. The depressive part of the gig, well, I was already pretty familiar with that. Way too familiar, to tell the truth. But bipolar has a second side – thus the “bi” in bipolar.

Captain Cal – putting the “bi” in Bipolar since 2011.

Somehow, that doesn’t dance off the tongue. Cancel the business cards.

Anyway, the other end of the spectrum is mania, or manic behavior. It can show up as giddiness, uncontrolled or obsessive excitement, even anger or frustration, and like the other end of the spectrum, can slam in like a freight train.

I was familiar with the depression thing, but the mania? Not so much. So I began looking at my behavior, my emotions, and my thoughts to see if there were any patterns or signs when I was headed down that path.

Like I said, I’m feeling a little obsessed. And perhaps am spending a little too much time in introspection, looking at all this poopy and trying to see a pattern in it.

(Like looking at the tea cup in Divination, all ye Harry Potter fans… Dang – the Grim again.)

I’ve noticed where mania shows up, what it looks like in me, and am learning to see the signs so I can be aware and careful at those times. Just as I do with the depression – learning behaviors and techniques to rein things in.

For me, excessive passion or joy can be dangerous, just as excessive sadness or darkness can be. My bubble can move slightly either direction, but can’t be allowed to slap over to either side.

(“You can always tell a man’s on the level when his bubble’s in the middle.”  Can I get an amen, guys dealing with middle-age spread?

Get ye down. Amen.)

So here’s the challenge – how does one get used to living in a place where passion isn’t permitted? Where excessive emotion is thin ice? How do you give your whole heart to something when you aren’t allowed the luxury of giving your whole heart?

Even to God?

I gave my whole heart, once upon a time, to a job I loved dearly. And when it was yanked out from under me, a piece of my heart went with it and never came back. So I’m not all that keen or eager to give it away again.

(“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart. The very next day, you gave it away.” 

So I tracked you down, yanked yours out, and stomped it into the dirt.

Now THAT’S the way that song should go…)

Our Pastor, while preaching through First Peter, talked about passion – zeal, deep commitment, intensity. (I’m sure I ostifagled some of his words and thoughts… the Proofreader might actually put a link here to the sermon I’m misquoting…

Pastor Craig Swanson, 4-14-2013

’cause she’s fancy like that.)

(I’m not sure I ever tried writing the word “ostifagled” before. So I have no idea if the spelling is close. I’ve only heard the word pronounced, and that third-hand.

But I use it anyway. I’m fancy like that.)

The question I came away with is, “How can one have that deep passion for life in Christ when passion isn’t permitted?” I really need to go out for coffee with him, so we can talk about it.

And drink coffee.

Did I mention the coffee? I did? Good.

Pastor said, and I totally agree, that sometimes we’re a little too calm, a little too controlled. We should explode sometimes in our life of faith – there’s a time to sit quietly, and a time to cut loose.

“Footloose. Kick off your Sunday shoes.”

Who’s Louise, anyway?

Our congregation, while of different backgrounds, makeups, and political agendas, is heavily influenced by Swedish heritage, a people well-known for their excessive displays of excitement, emotion, and passion…

Said nobody, ever.

(And before you load up the catapult, to fling all kinds of crapola in my direction, bear in mind two things…

1) I’m a full quarter Norwegian and, like our Swedish neighbors, the ice isn’t the only thing that’s frozen up there.

2) I have an unlimited supply of material for return fire – BekaV makes more every day. Just sayin’.)

So yes, there is certainly a time when we should be less controlled – when we should dive in with every part of our being to live, to love, to celebrate Jesus.

But what happens when passion isn’t permitted?

How do I find that level of being all-in for Jesus, without the luxury of emotional expression? Deep response in worship – being profoundly moved – seems to be out of grasp for me, or at least kept at arm’s length. A heart response feels more like a head response to me, controlled by the twin towers – awareness and medications. Nothing rings to my very core and being, because those deep responses, emotional responses, are muted and chained.

Vulcan am I not. But my emotions definitely have anchors.

Maybe I have to learn to perceive passion differently – not as emotional investment, but rather as wholehearted commitment. Sometimes, we don’t feel all bouncy, bright, and shiny when dragging our soggy selves into church way w-a-a-y early on a Sunday morning. And yet, regardless of how we feel, God shows up as He always does, and He meets us there. We faithfully (albeit groggily and sometimes draggingly) show up, He faithfully joins us, and the act of obedience and submission to Him turns into worship and blessing.

And yes, I hear some of you muttering (loudly) about how that’s the way it’s supposed to be – response to God’s voice isn’t or shouldn’t be all emotional response, just going wherever our hearts lead us without any foundation or structure for our life of faith.

Yup. Got that.

But a big ol’ building looks pretty ugly without any walls or exterior finishing. Just a bunch of rusty steel, concrete, and rebar. The structure, the foundation is essential, but it’s not complete.

Love God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength – all of it, every part, seems pretty important to God.

My heart is His – but it never feels like it.

My soul is His – but there’s silence when there aren’t a lot of ways to feel a response.

My mind is His – but without a confirmation that rings through my whole being, the mind can get confused. And I’m not exactly working with an optimally tuned system here, folks…

My strength is His – and it’ll have to be, because it’ll take that strength to figure out how the “new normal” works.

Kind of like I’ve had to learn to deal with only 4 senses instead of 5, I guess I need to learn how to live faith as life with my bubble in the middle. It’s alright, God is good, and He doesn’t put anything out there that we can’t deal with.

(For the record, ’cause I know some folks are wondering, the sense I’m missing is NOT common sense.

OK – I am missing that, but it’s not one of the big five…

I don’t have a sense of smell. Lost it years ago. A skunk can do the hokey pokey on my right foot, and I’ll have no idea. And yes, I have tested that statement and proven it. Twice. Really.)

But it takes time to work around something that’s missing. And a bit of awareness. And trusting Him when my awareness turns to obsession, so He can gently rein me in.

I’m a little obsessed.

Be patient with me (I know He is!) – I’ll get it figured out so that I can live the “new normal” without having to look so hard at myself that my eyes cross. He’s got this handled, ’cause He’s fancy like that.

“Whoa there, big fella. Easy now. Good horse.”

(Insert the sound of a horse raspberry here… and the sound of me wiping off my screen ’cause I actually made that noise and splattered it all over.)

(You’re welcome for that lovely mental image. I’m fancy like that.)

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