In Praise of Lilacs, Blue Sky and Rain

“…Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see…”
(“Blue Skies,” Irving Berlin (1926) via

But that’s not literally true.

We had blue skies with clouds Monday through Wednesday.

Then it rained part of Wednesday night, pretty much all Thursday and part of Thursday night.

So maybe this is more appropriate. Or was, until Friday’s bright blue skies and sunshine.

“I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling I’m happy again…”
(“Singin’ in the Rain,” Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown (1928 or 1929))

Even so, the first bit of “Blue Skies” has been on my mind’s ‘top 20’ hit parade this week.

Good news, Not-So-Good News

Sauk Centre's Our Lady of the Angels church on Ash Street South.
(Looking north from my driveway on Sauk Centre’s Ash Street South. (May 22, 2021))

I’ve been hearing “blue skies” in my mind’s ear — if that wasn’t an expression before, it is now — most of this week. So how come I’ve been feeling less than perky?

Backing up a bit, I’ve been living with clinical/major depression at least since I was 12.

Then, in 2006 or thereabouts, my wife told me that maybe I should see a psychiatrist.

I agreed, and that’s when I learned that I’d been dealing with recurrent major depressive disorder. Clinical depression. Depression.

Whatever it’s called, it’s a mood disorder. Which is emphatically not just experiencing a blue mood or having a down day. It’s not fun. At all.

The good news is that my “recurrent major depressive disorder” is “in partial remission.”

No-so-good news? It isn’t something I’ll get over. But on the ‘up’ side, industrial-strength antidepressants let me think without fighting my mental machinery.

Controlling Destiny With My Mind

Sauk Centre's Ash Street South.
(Looking south from my driveway (May 22, 2021))

Whether depression led to my other psychiatric issues, or they helped launch depression is a good question. An unanswered one.

In any case, when I learned why light and color had subjectively drained from the universe, back in 1963, I began learning of my other oddities.

Seems that I’ve been dealing with generalized anxiety disorder, cluster A personality disorder and persistent depressive disorder. That last, I gather, is a sort of variation on the recurrent major depressive disorder theme.

Let’s face it. I’m a mess.

But I’ve been a more-or-less functional mess. Having an internal playlist of songs like “Singin’ in the Rain” helps.

“Life is a Song Worth Singing” has helped, too, although my mind’s disk jockey hadn’t selected it for this week’s playlist.

“…Life is a song worth singing
Why don’t you?
Sing It!
“You hold the key in the palm of your hand
Use it!
Don’t blame your life on a master plan
Change it!
Only you generate the power
To decide what to do with your life
Your a fool if you think you’re helpless
You control what you do with your life…
“…Don’t like the way you’re living
Too bad!
Can’t change your life because it’s out of your hand
So sad!
So you sit on your pants and holler
Cause the world ain’t been treating you right
Don’t you know you contain the power
To control destiny with your mind….”
(“Life is a Song Worth Singing;” written by Thom Bell, Linda Creed; first performed by Johnny Mathis (1973))

(Limited) Control

(Saturday afternoon lilacs and sunshine. (May 22, 2021))

I haven’t seen “Life is a Song Worth Singing” billed as a “Christian” song.

But I think it makes a good point or two. Like this:

“…Don’t you know you contain the power
To control destiny with your mind….”

Let’s take that one thing at a time. Starting with a definition:

  • Destiny (Cambridge Dictionary)
    1. the things that will happen in the future
    2. the force that some people think controls what happens in the future, and is outside human control

If I believed I could control all future events, my psychiatric inventory might include narcissistic personality disorder. A psychiatrist and I looked at the possibility.

It made sense, since I’ve had trouble regulating emotions, and can be impatient or angry when I don’t get special treatment. But emotional control problems come with many psychiatric glitches, and I can get impatient or angry over pretty much anything.

If I believed I had no control over my future, and was saved or damned simply because God says so, then maybe I’d get along with Christians of the Holy Willie persuasion.

Provided that I thought I was “saved.”

If I believed I was damned, no matter what I do, then the way I feel sometimes would fit my faith. But I couldn’t be a Catholic. Not a Catholic who understands our faith, at any rate.

Basically, I have free will. I can decide to act, or not act. Believe, or not believe. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1730-1784, 1989, pp. 430432, 482)

My salvation depends on Jesus and God’s grace, but I can say ‘thanks but no thanks.’ (Catechism, 1020-1041, 1987-2005; pp. 266272, 481266486)

That’d be a daft decision, but it’s an option.

Feelings and Free Will, Presumption and Despair

Vincent van Gogh's 
Sorrowing Old Man' or 'At Eternity's Gate.' (1890)Feelings happen. They’re part of being human. So is thinking, or should be. (Catechism, 154-159, 1763-1764; pp. 42-43, 436)

I can decide that I’ll act on whatever impulse pops up — I’ve got free will, so not thinking is an option. But forming and using my conscience involves thinking. So that’s what I’d better do.

I think predestination is real. (Catechism, 2012, p. 488)

I also think despair and presumption — abandoning hope or assuming that either I’m sufficiently Saintly on my own or that God will drag me into Heaven no matter what —

What was I saying? Right. I think despair and presumption are bad ideas, so I shouldn’t do either. (Catechism, 2091-2092; p. 507)

About predestination, Catholic style, that’s a can of worms I haven’t opened in some time.

Predestination and Viewpoints

Thomas Cole's 'The Voyage of Life, Youth;' detail. (1840)Predestination, in 25 words or less, is what free will looks like from God’s viewpoint.

I’d show the Catechism’s “predestination” glossary entry, but there isn’t one.

So I’ll pull together what the Catechism does say about where I’m going.

I’ve got free will, so I decide what I do. So I can, when I have my particular judgment, tell Jesus that I prefer Hell to Heaven. It’s a daft option, but it’s an option. I talked about that before.

“God predestines no one to go to hell….” Seriously. If I’m going to be damned, it’s up to me to commit a mortal sin; then avoid both repentance and God’s mercy. (Catechism, 1037, p. 270-271)

Again, that doesn’t makes sense. Not to me.

So what’s “predestined” about where I spend eternity? The Catholic view, basically, is that I’m “predestined” because God knows what I’ll decide.

That’s because God is there, at the moment of my death, and therefore knows what I decide. Will decide. But I don’t, because I’m not there yet.

God is immediately present in every place and every time. (Catechism, 600, p. 155)

I’d explain how that works, and how it looks from God’s perspective. But God’s God and I’m not. For which we should all be grateful, and that’s another topic. Topics.

Filling Out Forms

Lilacs in Sauk Centre's south side.
(Saturday afternoon sunshine at ‘the big yellow house on the corner.’ (May 22, 2021))

I had a medical checkup May 18. As usual, for me, it included filling out a PHQ-9 and a GAD-7. That’s medicalese for Patient Health Questionnaire and Generalized Anxiety Disorder Screening.

I could — free will, remember? — decide that the alphabet-soup forms are a violation of privacy, a tool of the medical-industrial establishment, or maybe even part of a conspiracy.

I could, but I won’t.

I’m not nearly on the same page as contemporary “privacy” enthusiasts.

As for believing that ‘they’ are out to get me: I’m crazy, by some reasonable definitions. But I’m not that crazy. Certainly not crazy in that way. Or is it “in those ways?” Never mind.

I’ll get back to that. Sort of.

Pew Cushions: Finally!

Pew cushions in Our Lady of the Angels, Sauk Centre. (May 23, 2021)
(Another Sunday morning at Our Lady of the Angels. (May 23, 2021))

Sunday, March 7, I noticed pew cushions in Our Lady of the Angels church. At least, that’s when I jotted a note to myself that I’d seen them. And learned that they were supposed to have been in place for Thanksgiving, 2020.

That didn’t happen. Thanks, I gather, to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m not sure whether we had health concerns regarding the fabric, or if there had been a supply SNAFU. Another pandemic-related supply SNAFU. There’s been a bunch of them, and that’s yet another topic.

I’d have mentioned the pews before. Not because they’re important, but because they’re something new at the parish church. And I rather like them. They’re comfortable and aren’t particularly slippery.

Like I said, I’d have mentioned them before, but I also wanted to have a photo of them. And didn’t remember to bring a camera until last Sunday. The picture’s a bit fuzzy, but it’ll do.

Now, back to whatever it was I was talking about. Writing about. You know what I mean.

Life, Disorders, Hope — and Flowers

Lilacs. Sauk Centre.
(Sunday afternoon: more lilacs. (May 23, 2021))

Where was I?

“Blue Skies.”

“Singin’ in the Rain.”

Depression, cluster A personality disorder, generalized anxiety disorder.

There’s more, including “alcohol use disorder, mild, in sustained remission” — so it’s not all bad news.

On the other hand, it’s not exactly good news. But we’re learning more about how our minds and brains work, so again — it’s not all bad news either.

One of these days maybe I’ll talk about personality disorders and all that. But not today.

Other than responding to this subsection of cluster A personality disorders, from Personality Disorders/Overview, Mayo Clinic:

  • Schizotypal personality disorder
    • Peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs, speech or behavior
    • Odd perceptual experiences, such as hearing a voice whisper your name
    • Flat emotions or inappropriate emotional responses
    • Social anxiety and a lack of or discomfort with close relationships
    • Indifferent, inappropriate or suspicious response to others
    • “Magical thinking” — believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts
    • Belief that certain casual incidents or events have hidden messages meant only for you

Growing up where and when I did, I balk at words like “schizotypal” being applied to me.

After all, I don’t hear voices whispering in my ear. Or think that I can change reality with my thoughts: no more than anyone else, at any rate. And that’s yet again another topic.

That first point, though — “peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs, speech or behavior?”

Waving My Freak Flag — and Loving It

Lilacs. Blue Sky. Sauk Centre.
(A bright and sunny Sunday afternoon: blue sky and lilacs. (May 23, 2021))

Me, Brian H. Gill, on St. Patrick's Day. (2021)The other day, my oldest daughter noted that I wave my freak flag enthusiastically.

I’ll grant that it looks like that sometimes. Often, maybe.

But that’s not how it seems to me.

I’m not trying to exhibit “peculiar … speech or behavior.”

That’s just what happens when I relax.

Which I can when I’m with family: virtually or otherwise.

And for that I count myself greatly blessed.

So I may feel a twinge from my cultural roots, a mangled metaphor but never mind, thinking that I match some points of schizotypal personality disorder.

But I can’t reasonably argue against it.

I think there’s nothing wrong with “normal” and the 50th percentile. I also realize that I’m not all there. That didn’t come out right. Or maybe it did.

Perfect, No; And That’s Okay

(Marigolds from my granddaughter. (May 25, 2021))

There’s more, much more, to say about all of the above. I’d planned on saying some of it.

But I’m running out of time. So most of it will wait. Except for a few points.

First, how come I’m not either wracked with guilt over having disorders, or saying that faith is stupid because I’m a Catholic and my life isn’t all peaches and cream?

Questions like that are good for at least a couple books. Basically, it’s the Silaom thing. And nobody said this was going to be easy.

Second, why have I shared photos of flowers and blue sky? And at least tacitly admitted that I like both? Isn’t that “worldly?”

If I believed that flowers mattered more than anything or anyone else, then I’d have problems. I don’t, so I don’t see a problem with appreciating the beauty and wonders of God’s world.

Third, what about my PHQ-9 and GAD-7 scores? This time around they were both higher than they’d ever been. Which isn’t good news.

I wasn’t surprised.

Feeling bad about myself — down, depressed or hopeless — comes and goes.

Every time I’d filled out those forms before, I was near the top of my irregular cycle. This time I was near the bottom.

More than a year of experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t helped. But I don’t need dreadful news to feel awful. It’s something that happens anyway.

And it’s something that doesn’t last.

Experiencing Emotion, Remembering Hope

Reid Wiseman's photo of sunrise, seen from the International Space Station. (October 29, 2014) via NASA, used w/o permissionNow, about hope.

Sometimes I don’t feel hopeful.

But even then, I can be hopeful: remembering that feelings, emotions, aren’t all there is to reality. And that I have very good reason to think that hope makes sense.

Remembering flowers and blue skies helps, too.

I’ve talked about most of this before:

About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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2 Responses to In Praise of Lilacs, Blue Sky and Rain

  1. Thank you for the time you devote to this blog.

    God bless.

Thanks for taking time to comment!