First Report from the Ark: Taking the TURMOIL ME! Sign Off My Back

Day One

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Hanging behind the Ark couch.

First light, Monday, June 17, 2013 at Camp Lutherlyn in Prospect, Pennsylvania. I’m here with four other Lutheran pastors to teach 7th through 9th graders the catechism, go to campfires, and conduct a postmortem of each day back here in the Ark, a comfortable two-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin that’s relentlessly arky. Valances, rug, wall-hangings, placemats, cookie jar, and trinkets are all about pairs of animals, Noah, rainbows, and the big boat. Thankfully, the toilet paper isn’t a spool of two-by-two giraffes and gazelles.

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An Arky valance.

IMG_0772Last night, our conversation was leavened with Maywine, “Light Wine flavored [sic] with Woodruff.” Imagine a Riesling, minus the tang, plus an undertow of a musty mystery herb. The maker is Leonard Kreusch, who tells us that Maywine is “a rite of spring, appearing in conjunction with the bloom of Sweet Woodruff in early May. Traditionally, produced with this herb, which was dried and steeped in the wine overnight.” This wine snob is reluctant to say so, but I enjoyed a couple splashes, though the experience was like trying to recall the name of an old high school classmate—the name (or flavor) was familiar, but I couldn’t identify it.

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Noah, looking like a bald Santa, says, “Have a cookie.”

After a full-on-drool siesta yesterday afternoon (no teaching; just show up and go to campfire) and a decent night’s sleep, I’m trying not to stare at Noah on the cookie jar lid and hoping to settle into a new life. For ten years I’ve army crawled so often through my days that now I have to learn how to walk upright and quit anticipating the next ambush. Both daughter Elena and son Micah worked through unnerving, occasionally life-threatening problems, some of which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. We’re not out of the woods yet, as the saying goes, but it’s time to stop functioning as if I have a TURMOIL ME! sign taped to my back. Just as a person torched in romance needs to learn to love again, I have to figure out how to trust life again.

Day Two

4:44 p.m., Tuesday, June 18, 2013, in Lyndora, Pennsylvania’s Panera Bread. Tired as I was at 2:30 this afternoon, I couldn’t fall asleep. My bedroom in the Ark was quiet, my old K-Mart box fan had cool air moving, and the courtesy pillow was perfect. The trouble: a dull ache behind my right ear nagged just enough to keep my awareness above sleep’s surface. I may have gone under for ten minutes—not sure.

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Mac-Snot-Book Air

After a stop for pinot noir and a bottle of ibuprofen, I’ve landed at Panera, only because there’s no Starbucks nearby. My Mac-Snot-Book Air, which I normally love, also refuses to let me hook up with the camp’s Wi-Fi. Mac-Snot-Book grabs the signal + I’ve got the password = 0. So here I am, drinking a wimpishly acceptable iced decaf latte and fighting off disappointment that at the moment what I have to say about napping and sanity seems to be stuck in orbit around my own neurotic navel.

I want to write about how Swainson’s thrush naps in flight and how decision fatigue makes fools of us all. Dozens of newsworthy nappers—other than Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, whom I’ve already profiled—wait for me to tell their stories. I don’t intend to whine indefinitely, but siesta news of interest will have to wait until I can wiggle outside of myself. May it be soon.

In short, my twitchiness is as strong as ever. Yesterday I missed a phone call from Micah, followed by this text message: “Please call when u get this.” I tried to return the call, but no answer. During the twenty minutes I sat in prayer, the familiar anxiety buzzed in my chest. Did something go wrong at work? Did he get bad news about the blood tests he had done recently? My answer arrived with a text message beep. It was a “Microsoft Support Code,” which meant that Micah was having trouble getting his X-Box to cooperate with our television. I forwarded him the number, which prompted this response: “Thanx sry just xbox live bullshit again.” I asked him about his doctor’s appointment: “Everything ok?” I got back this: “Yupp.” Worrying over nothing gets tiring, hence my compulsive napping.

I told my friend Kim the story as we sat on a bench watching kids play Tip Frisbee (if you tip the Frisbee and a teammate catches it, your team gets a point). She responded with four letters: “PTSD.”

“Really? You think I could have that?” I said, implying I hadn’t thought the same thing myself many times.

“Oh, yeah, absolutely.”

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Omaha Beach wounded soldiers. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

But I don’t feel entitled. People who get their knees blown off in Afghanistan or are beaten by their husbands earn their post-traumatic stress disorder, not me. Still, I suppose you don’t get to choose what disorders take up residence in your navel. I figured once my kids’ lives calmed down, I’d float along with a light heart. Not that I’m complaining. I much prefer where the Coleman family is now compared to where it was a year ago. I just hadn’t thought jangled nerves would be part of the healing process.

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View from the worrier’s swing on the Ark’s porch.

Stay tuned for another report or two from the Ark in the days ahead.

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5 thoughts on “First Report from the Ark: Taking the TURMOIL ME! Sign Off My Back

  1. Pastor John, still riding the waves with my son. Thanks for the hope of things to come. If ya see my namesake/niece…give her a big hug for me!

    • May the waves roll gently. I should see your namesake Saturday if not before. Will deliver hug. Peace, John

  2. Having just read this latest post, and having read several more of the older editions of “A Napper’s Companion”, and having read “About”, I have most of the questions posed to you in an email sent several days ago. Thanks, John, for your musings. Just this aside - Usually mine are 20 minutes of “power napping”. This usually works for an old and retired garden-variety clergyman. It’s been an interesting life.

    Ray Sistek

    P.S. Again, please do not feel it necessary to reply. Your writing stimulates thought processes and is much appreciated.

    ________________________________

  3. “Worrying over nothing gets tiring…” Doesn’t it? Sometimes I feel as if that’s the story of my life. There a quote from Calvin Coolidge (of all people) that I try to remember: “If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.”

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