This Work

Previously published on my Tumblr page,

I have no fear of drowning / It’s the breathing / That’s taking all this work

-lyrics from “Work” by Jars of Clay

The fact that I’m thinking about this particular song after all these years is plenty evidence of my state of mind. I wasn’t sure why this song, produced by an openly Christian band, and yet having no overt Christian tones, spoke to me so much in my days of a devotion. It was a song about desperation. The chorus asks a question.

Do you know what I mean when I say I don’t want to be alone?

Well, I can’t hear your answer to that question, but I’m sure that if you’re going through what I’m going through, you definitely do. I’m guessing that the writer of this song probably found solace in his faith and his spiritual connection to God, but that is just an assumption and is not actually addressed in the lyrics. The song talks about wanting to run away, being tired, being “on the brink of destruction” and being forced to live up to people’s worst expectations.

(I’m just going to rant a little.) The truth is, nobody can really prepare you for how difficult life can really be. Nobody prepares you for the reality that sometimes, everything you think you’ll never be becomes everything that you are. Sometimes, you will discover that there are no easy answers or solutions.

For most of my teenage years I was very enthralled by fantasy literature. My heart still has a place for it, but that place has grown smaller to make room for my non-fiction treasures. It was exciting to watch heroes grow and develop as they conquered hardships and ousted villains. There was usually some sage or helpful “mentor” to guide them along, and they almost always were able to call upon their “hidden magic/talent/power” just when they needed it. They might doubt themselves, but there was usually always someone to reassure them and they overwhelmingly would win out in the end.

Fantasy with its often clear-cut divide between good and evil, is sometimes not very good at representing the real world. You might say, “Well duh, that’s why it’s called fantasy” but I heard an author note that good fiction literature can shape our perspective on real world issues, like war.

I guess what it doesn’t always teach us is how isolating and lonely choosing the right path can be. it doesn’t always teach us that even when we’re outwardly expressing courage, we can be filled with incredible self-doubt.

In my life, I’m not completely alone. I do have people that I can speak to and confide in. Right now, though, church is my main social outlet and I’m trying to work towards changing that, but I’m really overwhelmed with where to start. I have a sense that I’ve lost my way a little bit. Part of me wonders if I had known that taking this journey would afford me so many restless nights, if I would’ve still chosen to go ahead with it. I feel like I exhaust some of my friends with my midnight contemplations.

I think “growing pains” is an appropriate term to describe what I’m going through. My everyday life is already challenging, with work, classes, and dealing with my mental illness. Adding this extra layer of identity crisis on top is literally painful at times. My bipolar depression starts to take on a sort of religious flavor. “You’re doomed, look what you’ve done, look how content they are with their religion and you’re left out. You may NEVER have the peace of mind you’re searching for and what then?”

What then, indeed. I’m exhausted. Just utterly, completely, and totally exhausted. This is work and I need a break but I can’t seem to stop.


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