Don’t mistake intent
With misunderstood purpose
Your will versus fate
While searching for your purpose
Is losing all grace
Don’t mistake intent
With misunderstood purpose
Your will versus fate
While searching for your purpose
Is losing all grace
It’s compelling. Hard to watch in places. Private. Heartbreaking. Bare-to-the-bones revealing. Honest. Touching.
This documentary challenges my idea of what a doc should be. And that’s okay! Chris is seen, on camera, part of the story, asking questions. But, because of the subject matter, because of his inclusion in the events, because of his expertise in these realms, his participation is certainly needed and wanted.
The film is edited well and contains original music. Those elements of pictures, interviews, soundtrack and special effects all contribute to one’s understanding of Chris’ heart and mind during/after such a chaotic time.
Chris’ mother is a funny, charming, sweet, old lady. Like anyone’s mom. But we hear early evidence to contradict that initial image. Having had a parent with mental illness, I feel compassion and empathy for Mother and Chris from the first moments of the film.
It’s 3:33 am. I woke up with so many questions, Chris.
Q: It seems almost impossible that your mother would leave her small town for Chicago. She left to attend Salvation Army training. Both of your parents were officers in the Salvation Army, at one time. In the movie, we see an inattention from SA to help the very families serving them, much like the US military branches. Did that lack of sympathy from SA disturb your spiritual life? Did you struggle with Christianity and God? Where are you spiritually?
A: When I was young, I was extremely religious. At first, I was extremely and specifically into the Salvation Army because it was all I knew. But also, because it was…connecting with my parents in a way I knew they’d be constant. As I got older, I began to notice and question the less loving and accepting parts of the Bible and, in particular, our church’s interpretation of it. I wanted to love everyone as they were, but it seemed like the God I was being taught about wasn’t like that. I was also lucky enough to be able to see that what people said God was didn’t seem to match up with what they all said God did or felt. So I began that lifelong search for a spiritual truth that works for me and isn’t reliant on what authority figures insist I believe. To be fair, the Salvation Army has evolved on a lot of issues over the years, too. But I can’t see myself ever returning to…any church services regularly. I know what it’s there for and I don’t need or want that. No disrespect to those who go and are satisfied with their experience and who actively love all of humanity. I also understand that getting wrapped up in the minutiae of any religion diminishes the overriding point of it all. And if the point isn’t as simple as love thy neighbor as thyself, then it’s missing the point. All that came from being immersed in a faith that had the tendency to overlook the primary importance of love over laws. To quote The Thompson Twins, “Love IS the law”. That’s where I am now. Love is the point. Everyone is equally important, even the people who are your purported enemies. I believe in God as the fabric of the universe that connects us all. The information I was raised with that makes the most sense to me involves compassion and mercy and love. I believe God, that thing that creates, heals, teaches and connects us all, is love. And love is both a noun and a verb. To be with God, you have to love. To love more and more deeply is to be more and more deeply with God. To love less is to be less with God.
Q: Your dad seems very unsympathetic at times. He is currently a minister. Do you feel that his lack of compassion toward your mother is a Christian ideal?
A: It’s interesting that you say that about him because I’ve heard people say the opposite as well. Some people see him as a man whose calling was to lead a flock in a church his whole life. He certainly sees that. He did the best he could for us but he was always split in his duties between us and the church. And, yeah, the church will always win. It seems “un-Christian” of him but my dad was also serious about serving others which is very “Christian” of him. You could look at it both ways and you’d be right both ways.
Q: Do you think he was having an affair?
A: I believe him when he says he wasn’t at the time that this movie covers. I’m not sure, however, if during the time they were separated, but before they were divorced, that he wasn’t in a relationship with my first stepmother. I know why you’d ask and why anyone would wonder. He’s still extremely flirty. But I’ll tell you, he’s been married to my second and final stepmother for 38 years. So, I’d say that generally, in terms of flirting, his bark was always far worse than his bite.
Q: Being Salvation Army officers, your parents made some strict choices, but also, some not-so-strict choices. Some very non-SA choices, I would venture to say. It seems demanding that your father would expect your mother to attend SA training and become an officer, but also sleep with her outside of marriage. Do you resent this seemingly arbitrary thinking?
A: I see the premarital sex as a mistake or a “sin” in the eyes of that church at that time, but I don’t really see it as a “sin” in general. My dad explained to me 25 years ago when I was living with the young lady who I would ultimately marry that he didn’t consider it a “sin” because the Bible never describes any specific ceremony that determines that you’re married. It’s in your heart. The decision to be committed to another person is a marriage. That’s why you should never judge anyone. The love and the “sin” all happen in people’s hearts and minds where we can’t see it.
Q: Or do you see it simply as two young people unable to reconcile their belief system with natural, biological urges?
A: I would agree with the latter, but it’s also none of my business.
Q: Do you think your father was too demanding of your mentally-ill mother?
A: I think, like most people who have never experienced a mental illness themselves, he didn’t have a good idea of what she was going through or why. He certainly only had the tools he was raised with to help. Those tools were based on a strict sense of duty to the church.
Q: Even if his upbringing was different, do you feel a more compassionate person would have left SA and not been resentful? I personally believe your father, as a man of God, had a responsibility to put his family first. Even above SA. Not above God, but SA. Because SA is just an institution, not God. Do you think if your father could have prioritized the family and helped your mother, things would have turned out differently?
A: It seems like it, at first glimpse, but here’s the real issue. My mother’s illness would have probably manifested to this extent even if he had been the world’s most attentive husband. Part of her illness was (and still is) the compulsion to push the ones they are closest to the edge. I think that’s part of the definition of a borderline personality disorder. I think. And I’m pretty sure that’s one of her issues.
Q: Do you feel that your home life represented a contradiction or the hypocrisy of the SA lifestyle/rules? It sounded like SA swept much under the rug, er–cross.
A: Kind of. But it’s not that Dad treated us poorly or that mom was choosing to hurt us. It was Dad doing what he thought was right and mom was doing the best she could in light of her condition.
Q: How does your dad reconcile the continued family crisis under his belief system? The film doesn’t really address his deep understanding of her mental illness. Does he understand from a spiritual standpoint?
A: He understands better now than he did then. He’s a good man. He just didn’t know how to make both halves of his world work together back then.
Q: I have much anxiety about your accident. Does it concern you or cause you anxiety to think about what could have been? It was a miracle that you weren’t more seriously or gravely injured. Do you resent your siblings or mother because of the accident? Or making you wear that horrible bandage at the dinner table? (LOL)
A: I don’t remember any of it. I have anxiety about a lot of other things, but that isn’t one of them. I never think of what could have been because my earliest memories…are of me with a big scar on my head. I hold only deep appreciation of the fact that they themselves cared enough about me to be traumatized at the thought of seeing me so severely injured or of losing me.
Q: Do you think you have trust issues with people as a result of your familial relationships?
A: Yep. I only recently started internalizing the feeling that people love me. Even those closest to me. I couldn’t take it in. Which means that even when you’re surrounded by people, you’re still lonely and you don’t understand why.
Q: Do you feel that your mother’s early childhood abuse played a part in her mental illness?
A: I think it might have played the biggest part (except maybe a physiologic tendency towards mental illness).
Q: Many members of your family seemed dissociated from that time. Understandably. Do you think they are aware of that?
A: Each of them are aware to varying extents. It’s hard to be aware of your own biases and weaknesses. I was probably the least aware, though. Which is why I’m the only one who’s been hospitalized for mental illness.
Q: In light of modern day approaches to psychotherapy, it’s sad to see that your mother was treated harshly in the mental healthcare arena. It’s horrific that she was subjected to ECT and a padded cell, but that seems typical treatment of those patients from that time. How frustrating is that for you?
A: She and I have talked extensively about it. I have had plenty of time to process it so it’s not frustrating to me. It’s just a reality. I suppose it would have been more frustrating if she were to spring it on me now for the first time. But then again, it’s so long ago—I don’t know.
Q: Do you feel that most of your family holds your mother responsible for the dissolution of the marriage? Or do they see it as a complex situation? Some family members seem to point the finger mainly at your mother. Am I just being defensive of Mom? You know them more intimately.
A: l certainly appreciate anyone being defensive of my mom. So thank you. But I think we all understand it to have been a complex situation. Of course we were all kids then and incapable of seeing it that way at the time.
Q: It took me years to come to terms with my father’s mental illness. To demystify and unmonstrify (is that a word? it is now!) him. Did you ever blame your mother for her inability to care for you or hold the family together? Or were you too young to remember?
A: I always knew she had problems. I was never mad at her, but I was frequently scared by her. Again, this movie only covers up to when I start to have memories. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I dealt with later and some when it was just me in the house with her. No dad or siblings around to help.
Q: As the youngest, I think I do the most question-asking and memory-sharing with my mother. Is that true for you? Why do you think you ask the most questions? Do other family members like to forget that time?
A: I ask the most because I understood the least. Everyone else saw these things take place when they were old enough to consciously deal with them. Much of my neglect and abuse happened when I was too young to have episodic memory or an ability to understand the meaning of what was going on. Which is why I became the one with the biggest psych problems. Primitive neglect is what they call what happened to me. So I try to find out why I feel how I do or panic or get depressed the way I do. It’s because of all the stuff I should have learned about feelings as a baby and young child but I didn’t.
Did you already receive an award for the film? (He has already received two!)
You can purchase the DVD on Amazon. Find out more at IMDB as well. It is so personal, yet a comprehensive view of what it’s like to live with someone who is trapped in severe mental illness. It’s profound, cathartic and so informative. Thanks, Chris. For answering these questions and sharing your story. It’s important!
I’m your confessional
You unburden yourself
With apology’s song
I don’t need sorry
I require peace
Where fear will cease
Just remember me
When you stand accused
You won’t stand
For feeling abused
Put down your throwing rock
Throw away that scoring chalk
Turn back the ticking clock
Rattle the key and turn the lock
Open the door when you hear me knock
Let me off this prison block
Listen as much as you talk
Take my shoes and walk
Dating is a didactic panic,
Tragic and manic
The sinking Titanic
Marriage is tantric
This is my daughter’s art work. Sharing here because this is one of my favorites. I’m your biggest fan, Pencil Princess! That’s her logo in the featured pic. Click on the link below to see the full design! Thanks for checking her out.
A spirit in the shadows, or just a trick of the light? I’ll leave that up to you. 😉
“I’m a loser, baby! So, why dontcha kill me…”–Beck 😉
I submitted my audio collection of poems and prose to a contest and didn’t win. Oh well! Here are the entries. Best thing about losing is–I can have my material back to post on my very own blog! Always something to be thankful for. Please listen and let me know your thoughts! Thanks, Dear Readers. Thanks for getting me. :*
The families impacted by the mass shooter in Texas should sue the irresponsible gun owner who did not store his weapons carefully enough to prevent mass murder.
Sue their guns off.
The next gun owner who is careless enough to let a family member or friend gain access or possession of their firearms should be prosecuted for accessory to murder or criminal negligence.
The NRA shouldn’t have a problem with responsible gun ownership.
I love this photo of my grandparents. Young and newly married. They look serious and somber, but handsome.
I only knew my grandmother as an old woman, but here she looks full of thoughts and feelings.
I think this frame is a perfect fit. Does my grandpa look like Ralph Fiennes?? To me, yes. LOL
Here’s to you, Gram and Gramps. To a lifetime of love and loyalty.
Featured pic is their home in Missouri during the depression and war.
Where do I begin?
Arriving here at echo’s end
Addiction strikes at the hearts of men
Stabs at the particulars of then
Wishing for what wouldn’t have been
Cover my ears at the deafening din
Sickening twinge of crawling skin
Swirling aversion to carnival ride spin
Falling smack on pavement’s grin
Forget the times of remembering when
You were never faithful, Friend
You were plastic and porcelain
Intemperate as the warping wind
I’m tired of taking hits on the chin
The problem lies within, therein
Buttoned-up so you won’t break in
It’s not a matter of who will win
I simply won’t come to this again
I wash my hands of this selfish sin
What I’m about to type is a very conservative, fundamental, controversial viewpoint about the state of confusion in which we find ourselves. If you have factual evidence to contradict me, you can comment peacefully below. Thanks.
We are in the clean-up stages of yet another school shooting. The media is competing for your viewership/readership with breaking details about why this happened. We all know why this happened. A crazy person with a GUN, a crazy person without a fully developed frontal lobe shot multiple other human beings because they lost (or never had) the ability to respect life. And we are responsible. Everyone. Every single person who touched this boy’s life is responsible.
That would include: the media, video game designers, his CHURCH, parents who don’t store their guns properly, gun manufacturers, fellow students, teachers, parents of peers, social media, t-shirt manufacturers, school administration, the girl who let four months of harassment culminate in an explosive humiliation of her peer, anyone who saw something and didn’t say something, magazine manufacturers (publications and bullet-holders), pornography of all kinds, mental health counselors. The whole damn confusing world is responsible for this bullshit.
Oh. Not you?
In a culture that allows women to strip, or pretend to strip, for money? We are responsible. We allow teens, even accidentally, access to guns? Responsible. We do not love others unconditionally? Responsible. We have turned away from modesty, decency, restraint and community? Responsible. We have turned from God or love to love of money, guns or beauty? Responsible.
We teach young men to look at the height of beauty, to desire an image, but we ask them to control their biological impulses. Look, but don’t touch. Unless I want you to. #metoo Confusion!
Magazines today are the cock-tease of the world. Without modesty, we are definitely confusing those males who are underdeveloped and ill-equipped to sort out boundaries. We tease them with beauty, love and acceptance. We sell fantasy. Then reject them. Then we allow them access to a gun.
It’s easy to point to the parents, the teachers in that school district, to guns. But what are we actually doing about loving others? Not tempting our brother? Reaching out for the least of these and not humiliating them, getting them help? How can we pursue our personal freedom if someone else is being shot, struggling to eat, or threatening to end their life or the life of others? What are we teaching our young daughters? How to conduct themselves with modesty and kindness or get what they want at any cost?
Before we crucify another boy for mental illness and murder, should we not ask ourselves what needs to change in addition to stricter gun laws? How can I change what’s happening? How can I conduct myself in a safe, respectable, responsible way to impact the world? If I am continually harassed, what can I do to change that? If I don’t want to be thought of in a certain way, if I want to be honored for something other than my body am I offering the world my mind OR my tits, ass, and latest makeup tips? Am I projecting an image to the world that helps or hurts? What makes girls or women of any age think they receive love for showing their body?
Unfortunately, the people that ask these questions aren’t the ones picking up a gun to solve their problems. The world is lost. We are lost until we are loved. Who loved that boy enough to keep him and others from harm?
You can howl at the government and gun makers to reform, but what about our own God-forsaken communities that allow this shit to happen? It takes a village, right? It takes a village to humiliate a murderer. It takes a village to reject a human being. It takes a village to let another boy slip through the cracks. It takes a village to stop this insanity. It takes a village to save another batch of students from slaughter.
We have sold and sacrificed our youth on the altar of money, lust and greed. And it will keep happening until we love everyone. Even the killers. He wasn’t a killer, until he killed.
It will keep happening as long as we are confused, distracted and obsessed with things/power rather than people. God help us.