Like the word love, sanity is a tough term to define. Most dictionaries say something like “mental health, soundness of judgment or reason, lucidity ….” A law encyclopedia defines the term as “reasonable understanding, possessing mental faculties that are capable of distinguishing right from wrong so as to bear legal responsibility for one’s choices.”
Currently, those definitions no longer describe my mental state.
Just when I was juggling the bowling balls of Frank’s illness, medical bills, Medicare’s recent unpleasant changes, a dispute with Walton County (long story), my house insurance company is canceling my coverage over a tree.
Their nastygram came while Frank was in the hospital in a coma. As I never left him, the mail piled up, so I missed the SHORT NOTICE I got about cutting the tree limbs over the roof line. Since I’ve been contending with home insurance companies for over a year now, I’m almost insane from re-wiring, re-plumbing, re-framing the attic, and getting rid of the diving board.
Mind you, none of these “fixes” needed fixing. The legion of house inspectors who show up frequently on my doorstep have now become scared of me whenever I threaten to run them off with my broom. They stammer something about how it’s not their fault that a former governor of ours has turned Florida’s house insurance into a nightmare for home owners.
But this isn’t really about house insurance. I just needed to vent for a paragraph or so.
I used to be a nice person — sane, logical, and committed to common sense.
But as Dr. Phil says, “How’s that working for ya?”
It wasn’t. So, I’ve decided to embrace my insanity as it helps me deal with all the so-called “sane” people out there.
One particular role model is William Cowper, an 18th century poet who knew all about being insane. He was comforted only by the thought that his craziness frightened Satan enough that “Hell keeps her ever-hungry mouths all closed up against me.”
During the peak of his dementia, he wrote some of the most moving hymns ever sung.
Inspired by his contemporary John Newton (“Amazing Grace”), Cowper wrote “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” “Sometimes a Light Surprises,” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform.” His songs are testimonies to his belief in God’s never-failing grace in the midst of mental pain.
Once upon a time, there was a woman washing dishes when she was suddenly overwhelmed by a wonderful feeling of delight. In that happy moment, she realized that all the people in the world are actually the same person. With the same sorrows and same joys. It was such an incredibly beautiful experience that she gathered her family and told them what had happened to her. Alarmed, they put her in the car and took her to the hospital. After all, how many people have such an epiphany while washing the dishes?
While she was in the hospital, she continued to appreciate her discovery more each day. She no longer saw the walls that separate people and make them suspicious and antagonistic. Instead, she saw a world of people held together by their common need for love and understanding. She repeatedly told her doctors she never felt better in her life. Her new-found compassion for all humanity was like being young again or being re-born.
Everyday, the medical staff would bring her out of her room and ask, “What is your opinion of the state of humanity?” She would answer, “We are all one under the same Creator. And since we are one, selfishness has no place. Can’t you see it? I feel wonderful, I feel like dancing.” But each time, she told them of the peace she now had, they would lock her up again.
She wasn’t obnoxious about it. She wasn’t confrontational. She quietly told people what had happened to her. Until one day, she finally got their message.
After that, when she was asked how she felt, she would respond, “I feel terrible; this world is a hopeless mess.” Within a week of her seemingly changed attitude, the doctors said, “You’re cured. You can go home now.” She still held the conviction that we are all brothers and sisters, deserving of mutual love and respect, but she had learned to keep quiet about it.
The Apostle Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may do the will of God….” If you follow St. Paul’s advice, three things will happen: you will be happy, extremely courageous, and constantly in trouble (maybe even locked up).
Nevertheless, may we all have the conviction to resist the world’s definition of sanity.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.