Lap of Luxury

Blow through my soul to rekindle an unquenchable fire

That burns higher than the flames of shame and blame

Because I belong to you in a sweet surrender so tender

Which the very angels long to remember in the heavens

Leavened with grace and love from above that descends

Into your tender heart in which I take my forever-part

As I lay my weary head to bed in your valley to be fed

So graciously by your tree of life to be so young and free

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You Found Me, Bound Me

Held in captivity by the creativity of your love

In utter passivity as you wrap your arms around me

And hold me spellbound by the sound of your beating heart

For the better part of the night with delight from the stars above

With love untold in this world from heaven’s trove in the grove of gods

And you sing to me such a sweet melody incredibly pleasant

For such a peasant as I have been till finding you

And binding myself to your smooth chest

Like amulet freely worn now to adorn

Crazy Life: Doing What’s Best, Saying Farewell

For about 24 hours now the conversations with invisible others and the maniacal laughter has been almost incessant. My housemate seems to be going off the deep-end and there’s nothing I can do about it. Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea for her to leave the group home after all, something at least one mental health technician (MHT) told me at the time. How was I to know, though? She seemed so … well, okay.

Having lived with Mary in close quarters for 14 months in the Samson Group Home, I figured I knew her well enough. Yes, I knew she talked to her “boyfriend” every day. I even knew she believed he somehow lived inside her, but it never seemed to make that much difference. I mean, all in all, she was not only functional, but she became a good friend. So I guess I allowed myself to believe I could “handle” her “eccentricities.”

More recently, however, she has been talking to “people” about dark rings in the bathtub, someone being “blind as a bat,” ladybugs, whether to drink beer or Coke cola… She’s even been talking about me while I’m present, as if I’m no where around! And with all of this ongoing, convoluted conversation has been the constant, maniacal laughter … very loud, very insane, like something out of a dark movie.

Well, this has caused me to take a step back, and take a good hard look at Mary’s situation here, and I’ve had to conclude that it’s not been healthy for her for quite awhile now. Since leaving the group home, she’s devolved into basically sleeping irradicably, drinking mass quantities of coffee, and smoking up towards two pack of cigarettes a day. No real exercise, no reading, and the only good meals being the ones I prepare for her.

All in all, I simply am not able to provide the kind of stability and structure she evidently needs. I hate it, too, because I feel like a failure … and, in some sense, I feel like a traitor. I spoke with her this morning and encouraged her to please call her case worker to see if there was an opening at one of the four group homes in the area. I did my dead-level best to be kind and loving, to explain why … but, of course, she was hurt.

More than this, though, our landlord, who also happens to be a lifelong friend of mine, has really been strained by some troubling tendencies anyway, such as: Throwing hot ashes in the kitchen waste-can, urinating in the bed without cleaning the mattress (at least without being told), and not doing laundry on a regular basis, which leaves an odor in her part of the house. He is a kind soul, who wants what is best for her, but…

At any rate, my friend certainly agrees with me that dear Mary will, in all likelihood, be much better off in the more stable and secure environment of a group home. This still does nothing to alleviate my sadness. Hopefully one day, maybe sooner than later, she will be able to see that this was best. I pray so … but even if she never can, even if she never forgives me, this is for the best. Period.

Right now she’s out on the back porch holding a multi-person conversation, and frequently laughing maniacally. And this comes after being up all through the night last night… Now I believe I know better than ever why good, healthy group homes with dedicated MHTs, nurses, counsellors, psychiatrists, etc. are so very necessary. And just to think, we’ve been gutting mental health funding in this country for decades! (Perhaps another article for another time…) 

Toward Understanding and Harmony: One Way Forward

While looking back on previously published poetry for inclusion in (possibly) another printed collection, I ran across this one that seems appropriate, not only at the beginning of this New Year, but also for the current political climate here in the U. S.! (Who knows? Perhaps POTUS will read it and be transformed into something of a real human being! LOL) Ah, but here it is, from back in August of 2015:

So often it’s so easy to misunderstand and reprimand
When there’s really no reason for words out of season;
We assume and fume and leave no room for the benefit
Of doubt; never consider we may be wrong, agony prolong
So unnecessarily because we’ve failed to give charity
And beckon clarity for sake of peace instead of caprice
In broken harmony as we release anger and animosity
From paucity of heart; we can be so small when we should
Stand tall in character and integrity with better dignity;
And so much strife would fade in play of fife and flute
Of happier days and higher ways, in serenity and amenity;
Would not this be better than bitter rancor and soul canker?
Perhaps we begin with open ears to hear and eyes to see
In the other our true sister, brother, father, and mother
Rather than unsuspecting foe ready to deal death blow…
Oh, how suspicious we can be when we’re not free
To live and love without attrition of suspicion of ill-will!

Phantasy of a Phantom Lover

It was something about having three kids instead of two, so-and-so having the ace of spades rather than the ace of clubs, hot-air balloons, and how very much “Jill” has always liked working on hot-air balloons. And then I heard my friend, “Jane Doe,” say to “John,” her boyfriend, that she really wanted to spend at least two years together before having a family and taking on more responsibilities.

All through this “conversation,” her boyfriend seemed to answer, or at least Jane was, at times, evidently responding to John. None of this really surprised me, because I’d lived with my friend in a group home for 14 months already and, thus, was quite used to her strange and  quirky “conversations,” and none of this is really unusual for schizophrenics. But Jane’s case is indicative of another condition, called “phantom-lover syndrome.”

Phantom-lover syndrome is “a type of erotic delusion elaborated around a person who in fact does not exist,”[1] yet for Jane her boyfriend (and fiancée, for that matter) is very real, indeed. In fact, he is said to be an older man, veteran of the Korean War, spiritual leader and Bible teacher, who is so close to the Lord that they communicate directly on a day-to-day basis. But this case of phantom love goes even further with Jane.

Asked where he lives, she usually answers, “up in Alaska.” Asked about how and when they communicate, (because no one has ever noticed her on the phone with John), she responds that they communicate “spiritually.” You see, John really lives inside of Jane, not in Alaska. She shared her secret with me, and explained that she doesn’t tell this to others because they would think she is crazy. (Well, that is, perhaps, quite understandable!)

And why does John live inside of Jane? Because, unfortunately, he currently has no body of his own. He will rectify this one day, finding a suitable body of his own to inhabit, and then John will come to fetch Jane away to be his wife, and the date for this is always December 31st of whatever year… Of course, many years have passed now and, obviously, John has never come to whisk her away, yet Jane continues to believe John, never suspecting that he might be lying to her or, better yet, that he might simply be an illusion.

Obviously, John inhabiting Jane’s body, (without kicking her out, mind you) sounds like some form of possession, although not malevolent, which in turn points toward some kind of dissociative disorder.[2] But possession may not be the best descriptive, as Jane experiences no apparent loss of control over herself, nor does she obviously enter into any kind of trance.[3] On the other hand, John exercises some control over her life, i.e. how she thinks and feels, what she wants and does not want, what she will and will not do, etc.

For example, although Jane presents herself as a staunchly conservative, evangelical Christian, she is apparently not allowed to attend church. As the reason for this prohibition, she claims that she and her boyfriend only like and/or appreciate “house churches.” When asked, in other words, she will simply say, “My boyfriend and I don’t go to regular churches. We don’t like organized religion. We only go to house churches.”

Of course, one could easily charge that Jane is merely using her “boyfriend” as an easy excuse for not attending church, which is something she would otherwise feel obligated to do, given her background and present beliefs. Perhaps, then, a better example would be her promise to an older friend that, after a year or so of marriage, she and her husband will bring her into their home and take care of her. Why? Because her boyfriend said so … but during their first year of marriage, of course, they have a lot of business to which they must attend.

Perhaps all of this is common with phantom lovers, I don’t know, but one fact is certain: There is no convincing Jane that her boyfriend is really illusory. I have not made the attempt, but know others who have, and Jane’s reaction is very predictable: She becomes upset, if not angry, and simply cuts off any relationship with that person. So … how would a counsellor/therapist address this problem? How can it be constructively addressed? Of course, she is on medication — she receives a shot once-a-month — but the medicine does nothing to alleviate her suffering … or so it seems to me.

Then again, maybe she’s not suffering? This is a distinct possibility, I suppose. After all, she appears to be happy, or at least content, most of the time. Maybe, then, John is more of a welcome addition to her life? I guess this is possible. Sometimes (oftentimes?) real reality can be like a living hell, which is why not a few people try somehow to escape as much as they can. And who among us has not built some fantastical world for ourselves? I know I have Point in fact, I still do, just without communicating with some phantasy lover/companion.

There is one downside in her relationship with John, (maybe more, of course), and that is that he frequently makes her itch all over. Why? She has never given a reason, but if unwanted itching is the only negative she has to put up with in her “relationship” with John, then Jane might be better off than a lot of folks with real lovers! Who knows? But at least she seems fairly happy with the arrangement… It might actually do her worse if a counsellor/therapist somehow managed to disrupt her para-reality. Best, then, to just leave it alone? Maybe so, and who knows? One day I might enjoy having a phantom lover myself!


[1] American Psychological Association, APA Dictionary of Psychology, 694

[2] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), 300.14, although no loss of personal agency or amnesia is evident, 292 – 294; perhaps, instead, 300.15, Other Specified Dissociative Disorder, which “includes identity disturbance associated with less-than-marked discontinuities in sense of self and agency, or alterations of identity or episodes of possession in an individual who reports no dissociative amnesia,” 306

[3] Jonathan Smith and William Scott Green, eds., The Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion, 850

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

It was almost like a Twilight Zone® experience, seeing Angela and my brother-in-law, Charles, for the first time in about three to four months. It was as if I’d been somehow severed from my past life. This was necessary, I believe, in order to begin healing and growing stronger mentally, emotionally, spiritually… Mind you, I was very glad to see my eldest sister and her husband; it’s just that it was like some tidal wave washing over me from my previous existence.

Sitting in the small chapel area of the Samson Group Home on that Saturday morning, I found it somewhat difficult finding anything to say. The ensuing conversation was a bit stilted, but happy nonetheless, and, to my surprise, my sister actually said I looked better … stronger, more relaxed, with good complexion. Her appraisal made me feel good and added to the sense of hope that had been growing inside me over the past weeks in my new residence. Evidently she could see something outwardly that I felt inwardly.

She hadn’t called or visited before in order to give me time to really settle in and begin my psychological recovery. I completely understood. I needed the time in that safe, secure, and structured environment apart from the outside world, and I needed this because, quite frankly, I couldn’t handle “life as usual.” I could no longer shoulder life as it had been — hours upon hours behind closed doors in self-imposed isolation, deep depression, fear, mania, frustration and anger, strained relationships… 

I had been living to write, which was my love and passion, but even this had become an unbearable strain. Consequently, I’d started to keep a journal shortly after I arrived at the group home, but quickly had to leave off on that simply because it caused to much anxiety … or, at least, it was one contributing factor. I’d also loved to read, but after moving into my new residence I found that I just could not bring myself to open a book. Even the very thought of reading felt burdensome … stressful. 

Yes, sitting there in the little chapel area, looking at my dear sister, carrying on an enjoyable (however stilted) conversation … it all felt so surreal. I wish I had words to explain just how detached from the past I’d become. I suppose it was as if I’d entered into some kind of cocoon, and maybe I had; after all, the cocoon is where the beautiful butterfly grows. And in a very real sense, I would eventually emerge from that cocoon, splendidly reborn … heartier, braver, sober-minded and far more tranquil.

Of course, my emergence from the cocoon would come much later. During that first visit with my sister and brother-in-law I couldn’t imagine ever leaving the group home. This is not to say I wanted to stay there for the rest of my life. No, I deeply desired to leave at some point in the future… I just couldn’t conceive of that actually happening. As I sat there looking at my sister’s radiant smile, listening to her encouraging words, it felt like I was looking and listening from across a great ravine … one without a bridge.

After about an hour, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Despite feeling somewhat detached, I was very grateful for the visit, and my spirit felt lifted. All in all, it was a very good (and important) experience. Really and truly, it came at just the right time. Looking back now, I can actually see God’s hand in that event. One might even say it was divinely orchestrated. At the very least, it was a taste of the outside world that I needed then, even if I didn’t consciously realize that at the time.

The next time Angela came, she came alone and took me on an outing, but before getting to that, I’d like to introduce you to some of the precious souls in what really became (in many ways) my new family. Until then, blessings to you and peace.


For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Walk Away

Flowing peace now blowing underneath starlight sky,
Though we said goodbye with heavy sigh in the night
Before I took flight to the sight of hearth and home,
Leaving you behind, blind with tears n’ years of pain
Till it was plain that the love we had was truly insane
And the bane of our existence in an avid persistence
Of insistence that our affection win over an infection
Of cancerous proportions, sick and rotting our souls,
While scrolls of damnation were unrolled which told
Of our lustful communion in union with retribution
By a holy institution denied to an increasing pollution
Of our lives, but did we care? Ah! “Nay, nay!” we say,
And so you know why I walk away and cannot stay,
But I’ve left you with this kiss you will forever miss