Alright, so let’s talk rebar. We know concrete cracks under too much tension, moisture, or pressure, but bridges and freeways and interstates are not just made of concrete. They are reinforced with rebar, and rebar is awesome.
Rebars have been used in construction since at least the 18th Century; for example, rebars were used to form the carcass of the Leaning Tower of Nevyansk in Russia, built on the orders of the industrialist Akinfiy Demidov. The cast iron used for the rebars was of high quality, and there is no corrosion in them to this day (Wikipedia).
Wikipedia continues to report that the heavier the load the structure will bear, the more rebar is required. Primary reinforcement supports the structure as a whole; secondary reinforcement supports the aesthetics. i would say most of us need both primary and secondary reinforcement . . .
Just like rebar reinforces concrete, I have a certain reinforcement that’s been built into me, that I continue to work on, that I am even currently installing. So, what is it inside of you that holds the structure and the aesthetics of who you are together? Do you know?
Unfortunately, and fortunately, having Bipolar 1 Disorder as severely as I do, I didn’t have a choice but to install rebar, or watch my whole self come crashing down. I would love to say that my first piece of rebar was my faith, but it wasn’t. I was angry at God for years, so angry I couldn’t even talk to Him, so angry I spent a lot of time looking at the ground because just seeing his glory in the sky made me sick.
Everything–at 21–was ruined, and I was a wreck. I inhabited the same body as the girl I had known before my illness, but I wasn’t smart or good or pretty or sweet anymore. I was tolerated, derived from pity. I wasn’t what anyone would have looked up to or admired. I chain smoked and ate sugar from the bowl. I slept every hour I wasn’t working. I threw enormous fits in public, ruined almost every get together my family invited me to. I couldn’t count, and customers would literally ask me, “Are you stupid?” I remember thinking, I didn’t used to be. But maybe I am now. Is this all I’m ever going to be?
I’ve been reading Kay Jamison’s Night Falls Fast. I have to mete out my readings, because they are so close to me and mirror back to me so many painful truths that it is impossible to absorb it all at once. I stopped short when I read this passage: Patients who do well socially and academically when they are young and who then are hit by devastating illnesses such as schizophrenia or manic-depression seem particularly vulnerable to the spectre of their own mental disintegration and the terror of becoming a mental patient. For them and many others there is a terrible loss of dreams, and inescapable damage to friends, family, and self . . . (pg. 84).
For myself, this was the case. I wrote one piece depicting myself as a harbor filled with sunken ships, upon them every one I had loved and every dream I had believed I would live into. Reconstruction seemed ludicrously impossible. I was a shadow, a ghost of the person I had been. But, if I were to live instead of kill myself, grow instead of rot, I had to dream a new dream.
My first therapist, Phyllis, who saved my life in a hundred different ways, sponsored my attendance to a workshop she was leading during this time. My memories are foggy–as was my reality–but there was one exercise I still ponder almost daily. We were told to rip pictures from magazines of whatever image spoke to us. We weren’t supposed to stop and question why each image was attractive. Instead, we were advised to ignore our inner critics and just keep ripping. Afterwards, we were asked to build a mural out of those images.
As I assembled that collage, I began to understand the deepest yearnings of my heart. I had made peace with the idea that I may never be an intellectual giant; I couldn’t read. I may not be a senator or even a high school religion teacher. But I had to be a mother. If I did one thing in this entire world, it would be to love a gaggle of my own. If I were to die and they were to sum me up in one word, “Mama” had to be it.
I carted my collage home, and Jack hung it on the wall in our bedroom like it was a Picasso. And I decided that every day, every cross roads, my criteria for doing or not doing, living or rotting, would be, “Is this preparing me for motherhood?” I started by making myself put my coat in the closet every day when I came home. That was all I could do before I went to bed. But it was something. And I grew in hope, as I decided to empty the dishwasher in the mornings as the coffee brewed. I started to believe when I could go to work on time and make it through a shift without having a panic attack. I started to believe.
So, my dream became the first piece of rebar in the new-fashioned Taylor. A dream that won’t die can sustain all of us through the darkest of days. And the funny thing about a dream like mine is that in the chasing, other dreams were born. I was a chaplain. I earned my degree, graduating with honors. I was a Religion teacher and a graduate student. I’m writing.
One piece of rebar is all you need to build a brand new life. And between you and me? This Taylor is so much better and happier and grounded and full than the one I mourned all those years ago. I like her. She’s fought like hell to be her.
So, I don’t expect that everybody out there wants to be a mama like I did. But you have a core, and it’s screaming to be reinvented and rediscovered. Find it. Claim it. And rebuild one hell of a fantastic life.
Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907–1991), wrote:
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
I fell in love, and it decided everything. Choose to fall, and you, too, will have an everything.
Life is not over.