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There was a woman I knew long ago, a cook in a holding tank for lost children named Louisa, except she talked funny and added “er” to everything, so her name was actually  Louiser. She was very old, long gone now I’m sure, but very wise.

She once told me that I had better learn how to schedule a proper nervous breakdown or else I was going to have a heart attack before I was 20. I was quite a stoic child, emotionally detached and always watching people. It disturbed her and she called me Spooky, but with some affection.

Life is hard, she told me, nervous breakdowns must be scheduled and planned so as to relieve the pressure. I had the impression she had seen a lot of sorrow in her life so she was a big fan of wailing walls, sack cloth and ashes, and renting your clothing. “Don’t delay these things or your heart will burst and you’ll be dead before you’re 20,” she flat out told me.

“Have a nervous breakdown with the Holy Spirit, He can make it fun,” she whispered to me one day. “Make an appointment.”

I’ve never forgotten those words or the way a low wage cook in the back of an institution, who insisted on wearing house slippers to work, helped me more than all the experts, more than all the psychologists, lawyers, and therapists put together. Most of them were actually quite stupid, but Louiser, she was wise.

I took her words to heart and they probably saved my life. Allow yourself to break, don’t try to hold it all together, don’t be strong, don’t try to be tough, let your heart shatter and your brain break. Life is bigger and badder than we are and it will throw you curve balls. Don’t try to catch them, you don’t even have a mitt.

She was right about how the Holy Spirit can make a nervous breakdown fun, about how He can have you singing in prison, laughing in the face of persecution, giving  you strength that is so clearly not your own.

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