Do you wonder how I feel?
I want to curl up in a ball.
Go to sleep and never wake up,
Except I don’t live in a vacuum.
There are family and friends,
My wife, of course,
At the top of the list.
If I left the state of things
Would be grim, full of sin,
You look so thin!
You look so nothing,
So drab, so flat.
You look like you’re losing
All your fat!
You are mine and I am yours.
Made for each other
In heaven, by George.
We’ll go out together
Or maybe you first.
That’s the way you want it,
I don’t know what I’d do
Wrestle dust balls from the shelf.
There’s much to look forward to
In this life.
But I can’t remember
Any but strife.
There’s much to hope for,
Much to dream,
But all I want to do
We’ll make it.
Don’t you worry.
There’ll be lots of fun and flurry.
We will gather all around.
We won’t stop for any sound.
Come with me to the holy gate.
Promise I won’t be irate.
We’ll enjoy your company.
We’ll be sure to bend our knees,
Jumping off the side of the boat,
In the castle’s shallow moat.
Miles of smiles cramp my style.
I sing because I’m drunk, I say.
Nothing to worry about.
The same old message, coming clean.
The same old, same old everything.
Can you tell I’d rather be there?
Can you see the when and the where?
I care about her much,
All her loved ones and such.
I am just not in synch.
I’m trailing badly. That’s what I think.
If you’ve got a bit of luck,
You can help me get unstuck.
If you think that there is hope
I’ll be gliding down a slope.
I will trust the good God’s keeping.
You won’t catch me if I’m weeping.
I’ll make sure there is a gift.
It’s such a thrill. My face will lift.
We’ll provide a settlement.
Would you like a candy spearmint?
And sinking feelings
Got me caught up
In a sea of sadness.
I wish she knew,
Only a good friend
Tells the truth,
Even when you
Don’t want to hear it,
Even when you
Don’t believe it.
Someone who cares
Doesn’t lie to your face
Just to make you feel good.
It’s hard to be that
Kind of friend,
Because you risk
But if you lie,
There’s no friendship
Moving towards you, in a roundabout
Sort of way. I feel the weight of my fear.
No, Mom and Dad didn’t tell me how to
Speak confidently, converse about things
Like interests and hobbies, to discuss the
Issues of the day. So, what is important
To you? I want to know, so true.
Sometimes I freak when I go to church. When you step into a church somehow you feel like you should be on your best behavior. That’s not really a Godly feeling or sentiment, since I believe that God accepts us exactly as we are, wherever we are, but that is how I was raised. In fact, growing up, my mother was ruthless in spurring me and my brother to get ready and stop goofing around on Sunday morning. What was important was looking good by being on time, behaving well, answering questions intelligently and in a spiritual way—basically, putting on a front. Lord knows my family was falling apart at the seams in every way, with my grandmother passing away, my parents’ separation and eventual divorce, and my mother’s undiagnosed mental illness. All was not well in the Bowman household. And those feelings come back to me today as I step through the doors of a church, any church, even one as positive, inclusive and accepting as mine. I wonder what deviant thoughts people suspect me of (well, actually, I am quite the skeptic), what deviant acts I am guilty of that separate me from other Christians and from God, what rebellion I am in that alienates me from the same. Going to church is something I want to do, but at the same time, I do struggle with these things every time, and it compromises my experience on the whole.
Sometimes I freak when I try to pray. Yes, God and I are not on the best of terms—haven’t been for a long time. In fact, except for when I pray with others—my wife at the dinner table and the occasional attempt at a weekly prayer partnership, my male prayer partner, something I initiated this year as an attempt to get closer to God because of my lack of an intimate relationship, and the occasional prayer with my Sunday School class and with the congregation in the sanctuary—I am not on speaking terms with God. I know after that enumeration of instances it doesn’t sound bad, but I guess I am a perfectionist, and I realize how far I am from any kind of daily routine which would bring me into any kind of genuine intimacy with God. Being alone with God is a frightening experience for me. Feelings of emotional and physical abuse from childhood along with visions of an angry Yahweh of the Old Testament conjure a being to be faced that is not the loving, caring Jesus that spoke to the disciples in the upper room that fateful night and told them that when we see him we have seen the Father, because he and the Father are one. When it’s just me and God (and I have to admit it is always the vengeful Father that I envision in my mind, not the gentle Jesus), I just freeze up. Gone are the soothing thoughts of “come to me ye who are weary, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Instead it is a booming God that stares down at me and demands to know every sin I have committed and has come to punish me for them in some crazy sadistic way that makes me cringe and from which I yearn to escape. Not a great relationship, obviously.
Sometimes I freak when I open the Bible. I’ll admit, it’s intimidating. Yes, there is a lot of wisdom there. Yes, I believe it is divinely inspired. Yes, I believe there is potential for healing, instruction, direction, inspiration, grace, forgiveness—all that. But you know what else there is? God. He is there, waiting, behind those words. For what? I don’t know. But the potential scares me. I have read the entire Bible many times over, and if there is one thing I know for sure, there is power behind those words. And the thought of being overpowered, perhaps in a scary way, is what keeps me from those words. I have been overpowered, many times, in absolute terror, and I have run from figures of authority, figures who were supposed to be trustworthy caretakers, symbols of love and support, that have turned on me like a viper lunging for its prey. Is God like that? My intellect tells me no, but my heart, and my body, are not so sure. After all, if humans, blood, family, can be tyrannical, how much more can God? And there is something else—God is all powerful. Do I want to surrender myself to an all powerful tyrant? Do I want his thoughts to be my thoughts? No, not by a long shot.
Sometimes I freak when I walk into a room because I know I will be in that room for the next 8 hours and be faced with tasks with impossible deadlines and impossible expectations for how those tasks are to be done. Yes, I’m talking about my job. I am an indexer and an administrative assistant. Well, I can handle the latter easier than I can handle the former sometimes. As an indexer, I create complex reference material for legal material that is published by my company. The only problem is that most of the time either the job comes to me already late or, if it is on time, it still must be done yesterday because we don’t have enough people in our indexing department to handle all the work that comes from two or three times as many editors and is proofread by twice as many proofreaders. Yeah, we indexers are the red-headed step-children of the Supplement Department. And as far as the administrative assistant duties, well those have to be kept to the minimum, despite my boss’s duties which are enough for three or four people, her being the Indexing Supervisor, Deputy Director of the Supplement Department, and serving practically full-time as a regular indexer, just to keep our inventory moving for those impossible deadlines. And let’s not forget the impossible expectations. No mistakes. This, despite jobs that come to us full of mistakes and in styles that vary almost as much as the thousands of customers we have. It’s fun stuff, really.
Sometimes I freak when I go to a party. “Why?” you ask. “Parties are fun!” Well, they are partly fun for me, but it is very inwardly forced. First of all, remember that I am an introvert. Second of all, did I mention that I am bipolar? Well, if I’m in a good mood and manic, it’s cool. I can move with the masses. But if I’m depressed, anxious, or in a mixed episode of manic-depression, meaning I’m depressed, excitable, anxious, sad with racing thoughts and intense energy—not a good recipe for party-going. And I really can’t control how I’m going to be. I don’t like crowds, and I don’t like pretending to be happy when I’m not, which is exactly what people expect of you at parties. Otherwise, you get lots of questions like “Are you okay?” and “What’s wrong with you?” More fun stuff, I assure you.
Sometimes I freak when I visit family. And this goes for blood-relatives just as much or more than in-laws. Visiting family is really a mixed bag for me because I live pretty far away from my blood-relatives so I have to use annual leave, and either have to drive a long distance (from North Florida to South Florida) or fly on a plane (San Rafael, California for my aunt, uncle and grandmother or Rochester, New York for my brother and his family). So I’m taking a vacation to see people I want to see because they are my family, but who I don’t want to see because they are my family. Wouldn’t it be fun to take a cruise, just my wife and I? Or travel to the Grand Canyon or something by ourselves? The last three big vacations I took were all with family: San Rafael, Davie (for my dad) and Miami (for my mom), and then a while back there was the big trip to Disney World with my wife’s whole family. In between, I did go to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival which was headed by Pearl Jam (I’m a big fan), but there was the fact that we stayed with my friend’s family and spent some time visiting other family members—always got to be some family in there. That was okay, of course, because my friend is like family to me, and her whole family is so gracious and welcoming that you feel like one of their family, but then again…they are family. There just seems to be no escaping it.
(To be continued…)
Well, let me say first off that I do have a long religious background. I was raised in the United Methodist Church in Miami, Florida. The interesting thing is, being raised in this church did not interfere whatsoever in me keeping an open mind and resisting stereotypes and prejudice, as is possibly the case in some places. After all, Miami is a metropolitan city and a virtual melting pot of ethnicities and an international gateway to people from all parts of the world.
Although I was a child, and like a child, I took part in teasing, cruel jokes, and other immaturity typical of children all the way through adolescence and even young adulthood (and some for the rest of their life), I have learned to think for myself on most subjects, simply by intellectualism, reading a wealth and variety of literature, and by meeting a variety of people from all walks of life, all of whom usually dispel any stereotypes I held onto, even if just a little bit in the back of my mind.
I think we all have prejudices and stereotypes. In some ways, it is a survival instinct. We try to separate the “good” from the “bad” and those who are in “our group” from those who are not in “our group”. It gives us a sense of safety and security, even if this sense is mostly a delusion. I think all minorities and groups who are persecuted by society benefit from “circling the wagons”, so to speak, in order to get support from those who are of like minds, hearts, and bodies, and gaining power from being in a group.
Now, I say all this right off because I really think that, although religious groups can do these things, and maybe some of them do, I don’t think they are really any different than any other group in as far as whether or not they are religious. Now that’s not to say that if they are made up of people who are already very prejudiced and stereotypical, that they won’t reflect those traits in their religious group, but the prejudice and stereotypes do not originate from the religion.
Coming from a religious background as I have, I must say I have learned a lot of very good lessons through the church. I’ve learned to care for the hungry, the homeless, disaster victims, those who suffer from the ravages of war, those who are persecuted because of their race, sex, religion, etc. And yes, discrimination does still exist in our world, and in the church, and this problem is mostly due to one thing: reverence for the canon of scripture.
Scripture contains some pretty harsh things said against homosexuals, and even worse, these things have been blown way out of proportion by our culture in America and across the world. Homophobia is rampant everywhere. That is a challenge for today’s society that still must be overcome.
I want to end with the greatest thing that religion, my religion, has taught me. The man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the greatest man that ever lived. Anyone that has any doubts should read the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books will give four different, sometimes overlapping, perspectives on who Jesus was, who he claimed to be, and what he means to Christians. I can tell you in short that Christians believe Jesus to be the Prince of Peace, Holy Lamb of God, Son of God, sitting at the Father’s Right Hand in Power and in Truth. Christians believe that in dying on the Cross in complete innocence, Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sins of the world, thus enabling us all to attain everlasting grace and peace. Salvation is something that is hard to comprehend without faith, but basically it is the attainment of forgiveness for guilt and condemnation that we earn by falling short each and every day of what we could be, what we were born to be, what God created us to be. With salvation and God’s grace and forgiveness, we can come a little closer to becoming his vision for our lives.