Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Letter from Exile

Dear God,

Yeah, it's me again. 

It's quarter to twelve, and as is usual in late winter, I can't sleep. We've met each other hereabouts before. It's just you, me, a blanket, the rush of central heating, the stars. Hey, how's it going, good to see you. Where have you been?

God, I don't know if I should be talking to you. It's late, and I'm scared, and so many times I've sworn off you for good. I've tried praying to everything else - a Goddess, a patron saint, my Grandpere. I think I'm done with you, because I'm a rational person with critical thinking skills and a solid grasp on all the science I believe in but don't fully understand. I'm done with you because I left my church and my martini afternoons behind. 

I tell people - by the way, this is how I phrase it - I tell people that believing in you was a hell of a lot harder after seeing my Grandpere's illness and death. If I'm in a slightly more honest mood, I tell people that my connection with you was mostly severed through my diagnosis and medications. No mixed mania, no conversations with the divine. 

But at the root of it all is me at eighteen. I was young. I didn't know if I could really afford college - hell, I had no idea how to handle living on my own. I needed to get away from the way I'd been brought up and my incredible loneliness. I was just a kid, and there was affection and there was incredible loss. And in all of that you decided to back out and let me handle this stuff without your spider webbing of grace. I was stupid and bipolar and I wanted something I had never felt before. 


Maybe your love. 

Maybe not. 

I don't know how to believe in you, anymore. And it hurts me and it terrifies me that I still ask you for help when I'm in bed and feel eighteen and so completely lost. It's been ten years, and in those ten years life has unfolded - death, births, marriages, separations, reunions. I know there's a lot more to come. I'm twenty-eight and all I can think is God damn, I'm still a kid. 

What questions should I be asking you? What should I be praying about?

If I could imagine or believe in what your grace, your true presence, would do for me, it wouldn't be lying in bed, sleepless and furious. It would be so much more than that. Because I've felt you most in impossible situations, like standing on a mountain or singing in a pub in Ireland, or holding my baby sister, or making love, or dancing in a nightclub, or reading Shakespeare. I've felt you in the bitter dregs of my coffee and in the way light catches the crystal on my dining room table. You are the smell of pine in the fireplace and the pounding rain of Baltimore in the spring. You are the promise of life which begins, ends, and begins again. 

Where have you been all this time? Please, just answer back. I keep looking for you, even though I say I'm not. 

I see you in all the ugly parts of life, too, but I keep being told that all you are is beautiful. 

I want to escape the prison of your perfection. 

I just want you to hold me. 

I am angry with you, God, and I grind my teeth and I try to make things work. I try not to be too young, eighteen and lonely, and I try not to be too old, resigned. And I just keep being here, in bed, or on the couch, under blankets, naked, and I keep asking for you to tell me one damned thing you like about me. I keep hoping you'll give me your grace. Even if, most of the time, I'm not sure I can bring myself to really believe in you again. 

Oh, God. Just say something. Don't leave me here like this. 

It's a February morning, and as usual, I'm going to crawl back into bed and will probably fall asleep within an hour. If you're real, you'll be there while I'm awake and while I dream, and if you're not, I won't necessarily know the difference. But I do long for you, and in the frightened-child center of me I believe that you're there, here, somewhere. 

Because as angry as I am, I have the quick breath of summer on my neck. I have jazz and glam rock and I have buffalo mozzarella and basil. I have ridiculous recipes and I have all the damned rules for every board game there's ever been. I have a black and white cat who sleeps on my porch when it's raining and I have bonfires in my back yard. And I really, really hate you sometimes, but I see you within the beats of Yeats's poetry and Mozart's genius, precise madness. 

If you have any grace to give, just help me to see all that, appreciate it. Just let me live in love and never be numbed to it. Just hold me in your hand and cradle me at night and whisper, it's all good. 

Dear God, I'm still here. I'm twenty eight and I don't always know how to live without you. 

I'm doing my best.