Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pitchforks At Dawn

They say that men hunt and women nest.

I’ve never understood that, frankly. All I do is nest. I’m absolutely happiest when in a familiar room filled with familiar books around me on all sides, with toys and records and anything else filling up whatever space is left, so that I am cocooned inside a place very like the inside of my own mind.

I’d just as well someone else do the hunting. Unless we’re talking about a rare CD or something.

Whenever I’m going to be away from home for any period of time, I feel better bringing along some sort of talisman to remind me of who I am and where I live. It can be a book or some music, anything that assures me that home was not a dream and that I’ll eventually get back again.

Otherwise, I feel too lost and alone. Without something that confirms for me that the world as I know it is still stable, I can quickly and easily tailspin into despair, into the belief that the world is cold and hostile and without mercy.

The parameters of my reality are delicate ones. I don’t survive very long outside them and it’s still far too easy for them to be blown away by the simplest things.

I’ve created, to the best of my ability, a world I can live in, and it has very little to do with 98 percent of the reality we share. It’s a birdcage of my own design, but it allows me to sing in safety.

You get the idea. I’m a delicate little hothouse flower.

I know all this now. But I didn’t when I entered Bible Memorization Camp. That’s what it was going to teach me.

Now I was never what you would call a “country boy.” I would have eventually freaked out in any camp after about 20 minutes. It was situated in a cozy alcove in the woods, with a mess hall and sleeping quarters and a nearby lake. On the simplest level, I’d been kicked out of the nest and thrown into the jungle, the bucolic world of the hunt. The loss of my space and its protective buffer zones, the abundance of strangers, and the absence of any familiar identification markers made me feel as if I were slipping off the edge of the world.

But the Bible angle put a particularly vicious spin on it. There were morning prayers, afternoon Bible meetings during which the importance of being washed in the blood of the lamb was impressed upon us, and nightly Bible readings before bed. There were no discussions about the possible virtues of other faiths here. There was “one way.”

Slowly, the walls were closing in and, somewhere inside me, I began to be absolutely terrified. I didn’t even realize how terrified I was. I might as well have been on Mars without my glasses and yet, I acted for all intents and purposes as if everything were normal, as if I were normal.

And I’ve learned through painful trial and error that the greatest mistake I can ever make, in any situation, is to pretend that I am normal.

I was bluffing my way through it, smiling, nodding my head. I had no other choice.

I’d lay on the bunk at night feeling claustrophobic, unable to breathe. In some ways, it felt like the first stirrings of the anxiety and panic disorder that would begin to plague me in the years to come. All I knew at the time was that I desperately needed to remove myself from where I was and that that was completely impossible.

Lying in the dark, the same words kept running through my mind: What have I done? How did I allow this to happen? I am allergic to this place, mind, body, and soul. I don’t belong here. I can’t breathe here.

Someone help me. Save me from the abyss!

Please, God, Jesus, help me!

March, 2005: Los Angeles. I’m overheated as hell and don’t think I can make the walk back to the hotel. I wish I were anywhere but here. This was a mistake, the biggest one I’ve ever made. A shiver of fear travels down my back and into my stomach. I start to cramp and double over on the sidewalk. The black hole begins to open.

Somebody help me!

Back at the camp, just as I feel as if I can’t bear any more suffering, the horror reaches a crescendo in the dark and seems to crest, revealing a placid landscape of peace and contentment.

I was saved!

Through the sacrifice of my Lord Jesus Christ, I was saved!

Next: Panic In Year Zero, or: The Last Man On Earth


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