It might sound strange, but Muppets are necessary for me at this time in my life, because they remind me there is hope. You see, there are places in my mind and heart – doorways really – full of such sorrow that I do not want to enter. Yet these doors get blown open over and over again with each trauma, whether it is personal, national or global. Our relentless erosion of life, in all its forms, such as in Aleppo, Standing Rock, our President-elect, my own wounds – all point to this wearing away of life, and right now wearing away my ability to be hopeful.
How interesting that a frog, pig, a couple of old geezers, a foul-smelling talking green monster in a garbage can, an 8-foot yellow bird, a falsetto voiced ball of red fur, and a myriad of other strange creatures can lead me to ponder and write about some of the most important, yet uncertain, things in life
In their own childlike manner, the Muppets invite me to connect to life, help me make meaning of my life. They remind me that there is some measure of comfort, safety and certainty in the world, when what I see is cold, uncaring and destructive.
Over the decades, I have vacillated many times between joy and despair. In the times of despair, too overwhelmed by deeper layers of wounds to understand my world, I have been able to find resilience, faith and courage to return to the life. Each time I have returned to a place I can call home – me.
The Unforeseen Roll Call of Fallout
Then one day in February this year I found myself smack in the middle of ICU for a week, no longer able to breathe on my own. That ordinary, involuntary mechanism of the nose, mouth and lungs had been taken away. It’s that breathing you do when you first come into this world when you no longer use your amniotic sac for life. The kind of breathing you never think you will abdicate or have to learn how to do all over again.
As the months have ticked by, the ongoing roll call of past traumas has marched through my life. Experiences and memories have surfaced, triggered by this event – times when I could not breathe, was not allowed to breathe – and I have lost my balance. I have become unable to see the beauty and disaster, the joys AND the sufferings that had always earmarked my life as my wholeness.
Now I wonder sometimes if what I am immersed in, the fallout as I call it, is the time my resiliency meter will finally register zero. Back in March, as I emerged from the hospital after almost three weeks, my “self’ as I had know her was gone. I had become accustomed to knowing there always this tiny piece of perseverance, my foundation – the SELF. It had been my rock to stand on through traumas, accidents, addiction, deaths and great loss in life. Psychologically we need to be able to negotiate life conditions and navigate challenges with this “self” and I discovered that what I had known of “me” was no longer.
Becoming the Dark
I find myself thrown into major depression – not being in the dark, but becoming the dark. I had always thought of myself as tough, like one of those people who could survive anything. Now I’m not so sure. Everything there is to do seems like hard work. When I see a voicemail on my phone, all I can think is that there is something else to take care of, to manage. And I have nothing left.
It’s tough to describe… I am watching a movie of myself. The woman I had known and thought I was, left several months back, and what is before me now is devoid of content. Or sometimes I think, “It’s lunchtime, so I should make some food, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it feels like the Stations of the Cross.”
I know this sounds ridiculous to many. I know most everyone has no problem listening to messages and returning calls. Most people manage to eat lunch and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door to work, to run simple errands and it’s not a big deal, and yet I am unable to figure out any way around it. And so I feel myself thinking less and feeling less. It’s a kind of nullity.
It’s as if a vicious predator came to my home a few months ago and took my breath, didn’t ask me. This demon penetrated its way into me, and now all I am is a troubled stranger lingering between hope and desperation. Lingering on a fragile rope that spans a bottomless, dark ravine and I am suspended too far from either side to see anything with clarity.
I feel afraid and lost in my own backyard. I remember during active addiction, using was really a slow march to death. I think this is like a slower way of being dead. But I stay alive. I had the choice back in February to leave… I even went and checked out the other side, but some part of me decided to stay. It’s like a funeral in the brain, as Emily Dickinson puts it.
The Hallelujah of My Muppet People
I have been thrust into a powerful crisis within myself, and I can’t turn it off. A dear friend listening to me simply said, “You need to let yourself die. That is what is happening for you. And now you need to let a hospital help you too.” Of course, that brought on a resounding “NO WAY!” I can’t begin to tell you hard it can be to see all the creative ways of transforming depression. And that is the Hallelujah of Thanksgiving – take the gift of healing being offered you in any given moment. Hallelujah means “praise.” Specifically, “praise the Lord,” but ultimately it is praise of what is holy, it is the ultimate expression of thanksgiving – however it presents itself.
I have a psychiatrist, therapist, a few friends, and family members who check on me regularly, who help me find my way, who listen even when they know they can’t understand. These are the “muppet people” in my world. Muppets are all different voices and colors, with idiosyncrasies, talents, frustrations and silly ways, yet they each have no doubt WHATSOEVER they belong to each other. AND they need each other for every kooky, crazy, scary adventure in life.
My “muppet people” remind me that while I may not always know WHO I am, I can know WHOSE I am. To ask “Whose am I?” is to extend beyond my world and wonder who needs me? Whom do I love and who loves me? With every word and action, whose life is altered? Who calls on me and whom do I call upon? Whose trust is placed in me? Whose lives am I entwined with?
Basically – I am me, because of you. No way around it. I have that covenant with all. My muppet people remind me to trust the pattern of life they see, even when I can’t see it. They tell me life still wants something from me. They echo a familiar voice, by mirroring back my own powerful, life-giving storytelling. Each of their voices reverberate inside, telling me that their life matters because my life matters.
It’s in gentle, quiet ways – cooking me a meal, sending a text, making jokes about mental illness when needed, and basically sharing their own stories, reminding me of our common humanity. Often times it is done silently – with their simple presence.
I don’t know what comes next, what comes now or what will be required of me as I continue to touch the dark ooze of my psyche and my heart. What I do know is that if nothing is wasted in nature, then the same must be true for me, for you, for all our lives – nothing is wasted.
Today, my Hallelujah Thanksgiving is remembering I am not falling apart for no good reason, but rather, dying so that the pieces that need to come back together will, and the new pieces that have yet to be born can be birthed, stronger than I can ever imagine, in my broken open places.
One day I hope I can say to another, “I have been this way and there is a way through.” In the meantime, I sing the “Hallelujah” words from Leonard Cohen:
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
I give thanks for my “Muppet People.” May you give thanks for yours. Let us sing Hallelujah so each can know the “praise of what is holy,” which is their own holiness and WHOSE they are. Blessings!