For a couple years back in the mid-nineties I lived in a small town an hour north of New York City. It was one of those towns on Highway 9 along the Hudson River that you pass through on your way to Poughkeepsie. There was a gas station and a post office, but no traffic lights, stop signs, or grocery stores, so you may not even realize you’ve passed through it until you hit Cold Springs further up the road. It’s just a blip on the map.
The most beautiful blip I’ve ever seen.
I have very fond memories of my time in New York even though I associate that time of my life with great sadness and confusion, with loneliness and contemplation, with longing and desperation.
New York is where I lost myself, but in the losing I found the joy of solitude.
While living there I drove a 1987 white Camero with T-tops. The car belonged to my boyfriend who was in rehab at the time.
That’s whole other story.
The car kicked ass, which was a dream for a girl who liked burning it up on the highway. I was a paradox driving it, though, as at the time I was going through a hippy Birkenstock prairie skirt kind of phase – something more in line with a Volkswagen.
One dark night I was on my way home from church with Jars of Clay rattling my windows from the inside, when my tape deck began to act up. It did that thing most car tape decks do eventually, where they flip from one side to the other at random times, sometimes going back and forth continually.
Flip… flip… flip… flip…
Jars of Clay had been my soundtrack that year. I obsessed over it. So when my tape deck interrupted the aura of my solitude I smashed the stereo with my fists until I felt pain and release.
Looking back, I see that my rage came from a place of idolatry. I was my own god and wanted everything to bend to my will. I couldn’t make the stereo work, I couldn’t stop it from flipping, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. My efforts to control my universe were the definition of Insanity – pushing the same button over and over and over and over expecting the stupid thing to work.
The insanity of my efforts blew me apart and I raged against the stereo, still trying to bend it to my will – only this time through intimidation.
I made a connection this week.
I saw Ruthie as my little car stereo, flipping at will in defiance against me. I saw myself raging against her, intimidating her to bend to my will. My rage, again, was coming from a place of idolatry, rather than from a heart that leads her to God.
I have entered into Recovery. I have stepped into a circle of women like me who are mastered by their own undoing. Together we find hope that God has the power to change us, that we can over come that which has mastered us.
This has been my secret, and now I tell the world: My name is Jen Zug, and I am controlled by my rage.