I’m going to vent a little bit. This may be a bit more tediously personal than normal. I won’t be offended if you skip it (or if you watch the video without reading the blog post).
It has been the case repeatedly over the years that I will be at a summer AIM event, feeling the best and most relaxed I feel all year, and all of a sudden I’ll experience negative emotions for no reason, a stupid reason, or something that’s obviously not the real reason.
I have never been able to explain this completely. Part of it may be that I feel safer and more relaxed at an AIM camp than I do anywhere else, and stuff bubbles to the surface. I just don’t know.
I had a minor such moment during my Kaleidoscope week, at the end of the day when I felt kind of like a fifth wheel in the Kaleidoscope program. But I had a major one this week – on Friday night, of all times, after what had been otherwise a fantastic week – a successful creative writing workshop, a fun camp experience, and what have you.
At our Friday evening worship, Betsy Galbraith, this year’s AIM director, had a tremendous message challenging us to take the qualities of service and evangelism we’d displayed during the week back with us “to the valley below,” as the Mountain T.O.P. song phrases it. It was a fine message, and I sat there agreeing with it.
And yet, as the worship ended, and Betsy challenged us to seek out someone in the community who’d brought light to our experience over the course of the week, I suddenly felt … depressed. I wanted to be alone. I suddenly didn’t feel like I was capable of taking my Mountain T.O.P. experience to the valley below – exactly the opposite. I’m great at being Mister Christian Community when Christian community is laid out for me on brightly-colored copy paper schedules and when I’m surrounded by well-wishers. In the outside world? Not so much. Many of my problems with finances, weight, career, and socialization have been caused by and/or contributed to my self-centeredness. I sit here in my little cocoon, typing on the keyboard, with the TV cranked up loud enough to drown out my thoughts.
I suddenly felt a sense of guilt – and, in a sort of vicious cycle, that guilt drove me further into myself. I didn’t seek anyone out. One person hugged me (as much as she could, since I remained seated) and then I bolted from the AIM pavilion into the darkness. I eventually found myself sitting alone in the dark on the Friends cabin porch, crying for no reason but my own stupid self pity. Eventually, I went to bed – and even then, instead of using the door that leads from the porch into the lobby, where my friends were happily reminiscing about the week, I snuck around to a side entrance where I wouldn’t be noticed.
To make matters worse, some allergies (I think) which had bothered me a little on Wednesday night and Thursday hit full-force on Friday, and my throat was scratchy and my eyes were burning.
When I woke up Saturday morning, I was still in the feedback loop, still in a foul mood. We’d been asked to load up our cars prior to breakfast, and when I got mine loaded at 6:15 a.m. I got into it, put the keys into the ignition, and drove out of camp. I made it all the way to Altamont, several miles away, before thinking better of it and turning around. Once I was in company again, at breakfast, morning devotion, evaluations and our cleaning of camp, I was a little less moody, but still somewhat subdued – and, after closing circle, I slipped quickly away rather than make the rounds of hugging people goodbye.
At sharing Friday night, maybe an hour before my breakdown, I told the assembled crowd how delighted I was at having rediscovered the summer AIM experience, and how it had been a bright spot in what’s been a difficult and depressing 12 months. I still think so – and maybe that was what I was really emotional about. Maybe I just didn’t want to return home to the career I hate, the resources I’ve squandered, the drab little cocoon I’ve fashioned for myself.
I need a radical change, and I’ve known it for some time. I just don’t know exactly what it is or how to accomplish it.