As I get older I appreciate more and more how orderly I am in my thoughts. How I have carved events of my life out of its stream and did my best to put them where they belonged.
Somethings are best kept in chronological order, yes, but others have such a striking identity that they belong to other blocks with the same identity.
Yes, I’m weird.
But that’s the whole point of my life. The extent to which I am weird.
Organizing my life this way – by subject matter, I guess you could say – has given me a way of understanding how I fit into reality.
Look, I can say to myself, this is just like that. And here it is again and again and again. Why would it keep reappearing in my life if it didn’t have a real meaning?
Now I don’t need any deep analysis to recognize certain behaviors that I have.
God says to me, This Is Who You Are, and I turn my back and walk away.
It appears that this began when I was a teenager. I could say it began after my call vision: Come and do your work, he said, standing at the end of my bed as real as anything else in the room, except he was not. But in truth I began turning my back on God soon after the death of my brother.
With that event, I felt that I was in over my head. And I didn’t like the sensation. So I began looking for ways to “exit” God.
I tried soon after this event to actually walk away, from my home. Fell down to Boston. Became a human pinball, finding surfaces to bounce off of.
One thing I learned during those years is that, without God, I had no identity that I could put my finger on.
I was overwhelmed and in turmoil with God, but without him, I was nothing.
This part of my journey began its ending in a hospital where I was told that I was having a panic attack. Breathing too deeply and too slowly.
What was I sighing about?
Go see a shrink.
I had been studying at the San Francisco Conservatory, playing the piano. And when I was at home practicing and intense emotion was roused in me, I had shooting pains go up my arms.
What was the pain about?
Go see a shrink.
So I did. I chose a Roman Catholic Jungian psychiatrist.
Roman Catholic so he could spit on my mystical experiences. Jungian so I wouldn’t have to sit there and listen to how I really wanted to be a boy when I grew up.
I just wanted him to explain to me who I was.
Give me an identity.
My own identity.
Tell me that what I experienced growing up is just a bad dream. Or the result of a leak in my liver. Or even that I am mad.
After some time I received my diagnosis: I had an issue with my father, and my visions were benign and beneficial.
I passed the insanity test. I was not.
It was too bad that I was so poor at remembering my dreams. (Jungian psychology is based in the interpretation of dreams.)
That was it.
I think, in all sincerity, I would have preferred to have been packed off to an insane asylum where I could spend the rest of my days looking out a window.
But I am so old now that I realize that God would have found me even there. That one night the gates would have magically opened and I would have walked out the door and back into my life, only to start looking for another escape hatch.
I am, all-in-all, a very boring and limited person. Were I to write my autobiography it would have just a few words: Get me out of here.
Or, away from here.
Or, please make it stop.
After my marriage ended I was so done with God that I worked very hard pulling down the curtains, locking the doors, and turning off all the lights in my life.
Perhaps he won’t find me. Perhaps if I just stay still, don’t move, don’t think, perhaps even die.
But, no, I couldn’t even accomplish that.
It was during this time I was given a few months to live, but I think I was so accustomed to playing with death – defying all doctor’s orders to the contrary – that my body, my soul, my whatever got stirred up and I lived.
So slowly I crawled back to a standing position and faced God.
Only to have Heaven’s ceiling fall on me.
Here’s the command I have been giving you your whole life. It’s time to come and do your work.
How can I say, “no,” now?
Where have I left to go?
I had backed myself into a corner and there was no way but forward.
So forward I went.
Or, at least, didn’t reach the goal God had set for me.
Which sometimes is the whole point of the challenge.
But something very quiet happened during that time.
All my life I have been “under” God. My visions came from him, I did my best to follow them (when I was functioning), my strongest ability was obedience to him.
Then in the whirlpool that has been this most recent assignment, I ceased being “under” God.
Like a bird who has grown too large to stay in the nest any longer, I was nudged out.
I am on my own. (Which I find highly unlikely, to be honest. But it’s a nice illusion.)
I was told I was on a journey. That it was time for me to find out what I care about.
Who I Am.
There is something I have learned: I Hate Who I Am.
It is the opposite of an old woman, sitting in a comfortable chair with a cat on her lap, a cup of tea on the arm, and a book in her hand.
It is the opposite of an old woman who bakes cakes for the social hour at church.
It is the opposite of an old woman who sits at café tables with friends for the sole purpose of discussing grandchildren.
Everything I do, every minute of the day, I am considering Who I Am.
It is an obsessive self-interest that I have longed to shed since I was a young adult.
But it is, it seems, part of Who I Am.
A growing awareness. That is accompanied by a growing ache. A growing choking.
As though the more I go forward, the deeper I sink into the mystery of God.
I can no longer go back.
Or up or down.
My only option is forward.
Perhaps I am just a modern version of the Prodigal Son, wiping off the pig shit that clings to my clothing, trying to get the wrench out of my back from squatting here for so long, and determined to go home.
Except I don’t know where that is.