It’s hard to say exactly when the questioning began. It was always there in degrees. The way things were done in the world just didn’t make sense to me as a child. I asked “Why?” a lot, and the answer I was always given was “That’s just the way it is.” That’s it. That answer always came with a shoulder shrug, the mouth turning down slightly at the corners. No one really knew I suppose.
I was raised in the Christian faith. Sunday school and church were a regular weekly occurrence. Each week, I sat in the pew beside my grandmother, my tights itching my legs, and suffering a level of boredom greater than it seemed I could bear. I would mindlessly doodle all over grandmother’s bulletin with those little stubby pencils they put out for marking the donation envelopes.
Even though I was never really listening, the preacher’s words still found their way into my psyche. It always sounded like he was preaching love and morality. Love thy neighbor as thyself and do unto others. These are wonderful messages in and of themselves, but they don’t come alone. There were many other not so nice undercurrents woven through those messages that wiggled their way in also.
Messages that created fear, low self-esteem, and a sense of hopelessness, I am a sinner. I am not worthy. I am an earthly human, with earthly desires and needs, and I will never be able to stand in the presence of God unstained. I will be judged for everything I’ve done wrong, and God sees everything.
For years I worried and fretted over the state of my eternal existence. Every night, I prayed God would forgive me, and hoped I would be good enough to get into heaven. I even asked to be forgiven for the things I did wrong that I didn’t remember or didn’t realize were wrong. It’s exhausting trying to keep your soul unblemished, and since God doesn’t come down and put his hand on your head and tell you it’s okay, you never really know if you’re forgiven. You must have faith that you’ve been heard, and then cross your fingers and hope all will be well in the end.
I was so concerned about my soul, I spent ten years in a very bad relationship because I was afraid I wouldn’t be forgiven for breaking my vows. So upset in fact, I ended up going through several therapy sessions with a pastor from a local church when things did come to an end.
I should mention I had stopped going to church at 18 when I moved out on my own. Sunday attendance was very hit or miss with very long stretches in between. That doesn’t mean I stopped being religious. I read my bible, prayed every day, and pathetically cried, begged, and pleaded for direction and answers to my struggles.
Now, running along side all of this simultaneously, is the fact that I am an extremely rebellious personality. The best way to get me to do something is to tell me not to do it. Every time I would begin to get out of line though, I would be shushed and shamed into submission. I couldn’t stand injustice, and I saw it everywhere. Hypocrisy too. My view of the world was largely colored by archaic church lessons. Passages and stories from the old testament taught me that God was selfish, egotistical, and cruel. When I voiced my opinion about various things that I saw as wrong, twisted, or just plain stupid, I was told “Shush!, Don’t talk like that!”. It was impressed upon me that you don’t question God, and you don’t question adults.
In addition to this, I was experiencing a lot of paranormal phenomena, balls of light, ghostly apparitions,voices, premonitions. All the things I shouldn’t be seeing and hearing. This has been a theme throughout my life. At the age of ten, I had the pleasure of being terrorized by something horrific for several weeks. I don’t suppose playing with a ouija board had anything to do with that.
We lived in a split level home with the main living areas on one floor. On one end was the living room, dining room, and kitchen, and at the other the bedrooms and baths. At two in the morning, without fail, I would be awoken by a high pitched wailing outside my bedroom window. That would stop and then footsteps, that sounded like someone in cowboy boots, would start in the kitchen and work their way back the hallway to stop at my bedroom door. Then the process would start all over. I was also suffering from horrible nightmares of being chased by a black entity. It’s the feeling I remember most, pure evil. I would be enveloped by that kind of fear in which you can’t even scream.
My family looked at every possible explanation for this. Perhaps there was new equipment running on the night shift at the nearby mill. Maybe there’s a bobcat coming around at night. It could be new neighbors that have recently moved in and they’re making noise. No explanation could be found and the episodes continued relentlessly. Out of desperation, I was sent to stay with my great aunt in Buffalo, New York in the hopes that a change of scenery would help.
It didn’t. It followed me there. The nightmares got so bad my aunt would find me sleeping on the bathroom floor. Why there? It was a small bright room and I felt somewhat safe there. And, if I was lucky, I could coax her crazy siamese cat into keeping me company.
One night, really fed up with sleeping in the bathroom, I ventured out on the second floor balcony and lay down on a chaise lounger. I lay there dozing on and off. At one point, I opened my eyes to see the image of a demon face staring down at me. Let me tell you, I lost my shit. No one knows that though. At this point, I had stopped mentioning it. It was too disturbing for the adults.
Believe it or not, the end of this story is really simple and uneventful. Once back from New York, my mother took me to see a therapist. She suggested I change bedrooms. She told me that would fix it. So we took her advice, and it never happened again. Just like that. Power of suggestion? To this day, I have no idea what all of that was about, but I know I never want to experience it again.
Anyway, the point of all of this is, here I am, rebellious, dealing with a level of psychic hoodoo, and religiously indoctrinated. We all know this kind of stuff is frowned upon by the church. (Church and God were synonymous for me at this point.) Can you imagine the internal conflict? So I buried this stuff as far down as I could, and when something happened, I put my hands over my ears and squeezed my eyes shut, and said, “La, la, la, I can’t see you.”
Don’t you suppose, at some point, all of this is going to blow wide open?
To be continued. . .