Thoughts: Uncomfortably Numb


I am sitting in my favorite diner. Pink Floyd is on the stereo. “Comfortably Numb.” I have a really good cup of coffee steaming next to my laptop.

“It is the melancholy season.” That’s how my poem this morning (the post below this one.) began.  That is and isn’t true. I suffer depression try, but it is not the seasonal kind. Still, the winter season for me often feels like the season of loss. I lost my parents in the winter. My mother early in March. My father in January.  I have had two major relationships in my life unravel, (or at least I became aware of the unraveling) in winter.
Twice in my life I was laid off. Both in winter. For some reason this winter more than most, in my work as a pastor and as a hospice worker, too many people have died. I’ve done too many funerals, seen too many families in tears.

Coincidence, I am sure. I don’t think God had any plan to pile on the loss in Winter. It’s a beautiful season, like all his seasons, full of magic and wonder and beauty. But at times the baggage piles up and suddenly you realize the weight is too much.

For me, today, it hit me as I drove to my favorite diner. A brief stab of loss, sharp and deep.  No real reason for it. It just snuck in, as grief often does. A sharp knife in the heart.  Unexpected tears.

I don’t mind tears. They have a purpose.

Pink Floyd plans on the stereo. There is no comfortably numb for me. I am slow to process emotions. At times that slow processing, that tendency to become overwhelmed by them can come across as if I don’t have any. That can be useful, like in an emergency. It allows me to act when things are coming unraveled, and come undone later. I am terribly shy when it comes to meeting new people, but I can do it, and the nerves kick in later. Despite the fact that I speak to groups all the time, and have very real stage fright, I manage to do my talks and programs just fine. It’s only later I get the shakes.

So it’s useful at times, but mostly, not so much. There are times spontaneous emotion is called for. It’s the norm. And I suck at it.

It could be worse. There was a time, many years ago, that I often did not have feelings, or rather, I had vague ones. I had trouble naming them. I was so damaged that my poor slow-processing brain could not handle what I was feeling.

I was numb, but nothing was comfortable about it.

I worked my way back. A good therapist. A wonderful pastor. A few good friends. Time and work.

So today, when emotion swells, even a sad, melancholy emotion, I am strangely grateful. Just to feel. In the moment feel. It’s a gift. When I am doing something as simple as talking with my wife and love swells. It’s a gift. When I feel pride, in the moment, for something my kids have done (and I feel that a lot), it is a gift. Hurt is a gift. Sadness is a gift. Anger is a gift, even when I hate feeling it.

It means I am alive again. And I don’t take that for granted anymore.  Hopefully, I never will.

This morning, the melancholy of past loss washed over me. It was temporary. It always is.  It was powerful. Tears washed down my face as I thought of my parents, of my journey, broken parts and all.  It washed over me as I drove under grey skies with snow covering the landscape,  Mostly, the feelings were only remnants by the time I got to the diner.

Comfortably numb? Not this boy. Never again.

Be well. Travel wisely,




  1. Tom,
    Again I love your diner updates. Bless you my friend,I often feel God touches those that serve in his own way to provide a real experience to be shared and worked through for His glory. You are one of those chosen servants. I pray for continued strength for you on your journey.
    Live ya Brother

  2. I agree with Kelly. I can identify with the not so uncomfortably numb…..and I am happy to say the pins and needles finally came back through sickness to where I could feel again and am learning to embrace it.

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