Sloping down and then back up, like a speeding truck, I am searching for your love. Transubstantiate, lift then push, then go all out, a mystery solved, doubts soothed, memories calmed, nightmares called what they are. Do you dream at night? I do. I fly through the sky on my back, steering with my feet. Trial size.
Most are fond
Even with pain
Perhaps one would
Alter a thing or two.
But we agitate
Of the present
And we seek
The coming day.
Strange that we
Cannot be tranquil
Towards so much.
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…)
Deep down, I dig to the bottom.
What lies in this hidden depth?
Fear, grief, rage, confusion…
It rocks my reason, clouds my vision.
But what is the answer?
Where is the road out of this darkened wood?
Is it faith? Trust? Logic? Courage? Peace?
Is Love the answer? Where will it take me?
Right now everything is scary.
I feel caught in a cage,
In chains, buried deep underneath
Miles of ground, isolated by time,
Place, and no relationships that bring
Relief, connection, revelation, peace.
Anxiety rules the roost, it conquers all.
Fear is my father, abandonment is my mother.
Rage is my brother, grief is my sister.
This is my family. My friends are shadows,
Ghosts in a mist that only evaporate in my
Hands when I reach out to hold their hands.
I am lost in my mirrors, erroring in my program,
Nothing makes sense, nothing works.
What is the truth? Who is my savior?
From where does my salvation come?