Do you ever sit down to have a conversation, and then it takes an unexpected turn? It starts off nice and calm. It’s actually pleasant and enjoyable. Then, without warning, you’re wondering if hell is a real place, and if this is your one way ticket? Maybe you wonder out loud, how the hell did we get onto this topic? Oh, I’m totally doomed.
Yeah, that’s happening to me right now. I’m sitting here, watching a live feed of sharks swimming in the Atlantic ocean. It was labelled a meditative experience, and I could really use a break from life, and a quiet moment to catch my breath. This should do it, hopefully. Maybe. It’s worth a try.
Look at those magnificent creatures, and they’re very docile at the moment. There’s a couple of them floating on the current with barely any effort. The sound of that underwater world is relaxing. The ebb and flow of the fish and seaweed’s mesmerizing.
I take a slow breath in and hold it for a few seconds before blowing it out. One more time, one more cycle, and this time I unclench my jaw. My shoulders are still tense, and they’re rising up toward my ear. If I keep watching and breathing? Well, with my current stress levels, I’m not sure this will take care of everything.
It’s helping, and that’s a good start. A little less tense, a little more time to think, and I whisper, God, you such an ass sometimes. Say what now? That’s not where I thought we were going with this. I’m all about the sharks, waves, tidal calmness and deep breaths. That’s it. That’s all this is supposed to be, but okay, you’re going with: God’s an ass.
In my defence, the last week has been…I’m not sure how to put it into words without giving away too much. My part in the story isn’t important, and I need to respect the confidentiality of everyone involved. It’s not just about respect. I love them too much to say much more. They want privacy so, that’s what they get.
But for me, all of us, it’s been difficult, and I’m struggling to manage my emotions. These are the feelings I usually avoid, or I pretend they don’t exist. I like to playact that I’m too evolved to be inflicted by such harsh emotions. Ah, you puny humans and your icky feelings. I throw my head back and laugh in derision. Har, har, har.
Of course, I’m not a cartoon character from outer space. That delusion gets properly punctured by sharp stabs of emotions and a growing stomach ulcer. There are feelings like fear, desperation, anxiety and a dozen others that I can’t identify. I hate feeling words so much!
One of the worst stressors, among so many others, is the distance and separation that are a part of the pandemic landscape. I’m here, sitting on this couch, and I’d rather be there with them. More than that, I need to do something to help, but there’s literally nothing I can do. Other than wait and pray, I’m at the mercy of God and time. Are those two entities that are capable of mercy?
Time is a big no. It’s a trickster that runs faster than the speed of light and then suddenly stops. The unexpected change in velocity is so drastic that we trip over our feet, turn inside out, and lose our heads. What just happened? I was there, and now I’m here. Everything was moving so fast, and now it feels like it’s not moving fast enough.
Oh, go on then, time. Are you having a laugh at us again? Wonderful, brilliant, now f**k off so I can catch my breath. Time and mercy are not best friends, and I’m not entirely sure they’re compatible. That leaves us with the other one, and it’s a delicate subject.
Is God merciful? Ah, this age-old question has a dozen different reactions. Your background and religious leanings— or lack thereof— will bring out an immediate answer of yay or nay. For me, I’m a hesitant yes because a merciless God would, by my limited theological understanding, be the other guy. The one that laughs maniacally and plays a fiddle while the world burns. He may or may not have horns and be red all over. That guy? Yeah, he doesn’t know the meaning of mercy or compassion.
But what about God? That ass…Stop saying that! The other guy’s going to show up, and I don’t do well in hot places. Heat makes me nauseous and dizzy. Please, please, just shut up.
My reluctance comes from the moments of silence when I really need a response. They’re the times when God is ambivalent to my suffering and cries for help. I beg, pray, and fall to my knees in desperation. Tears stream down my cheeks but, instead of comfort, there’s nothing. There’s only more emptiness, loneliness, an echo of the prayers, but no answer, no mercy.
In these moments, it’s easy to wonder if there is a God at all. And if there is, why are they such an ass. I keep saying it. I can’t help myself. I’m sure some of you are cringing. Are you telling me that can’t I use that language and say that name in this context? Oh, you’re worried about reverence and decorum?
You can’t talk to God like that. Heaven forbid!
I’m not an expert in this area, so feel free to take this with a degree of skepticism. I’m speaking from my experience and my relationship with God. Using this language— calling God an ass— when I’m alone with their ambivalence to my suffering? It’s always felt like a moment of honesty. I’m not putting on a show, pretending to be something I’m not, or trying to say the right thing. My heart is open, God already knows what’s going on, so there’s no point hiding it.
If I’m angry at God? If I feel like they’re ignoring my prayers, or they’ve left me alone when I need them the most? When I’m scared, desperate and frustrated? I let them have it because they can take it. They’re God. I’m not kicking kittens or anything equally vulgar. I’m simply saying what they already know.
It’s not blasphemous. It’s coming from a place of fear, doubt, and desperation. I’m trying to make sense of some horrible things. I don’t know where to take everything I’m feeling so, I take it to God because that’s what I was taught to do it.
Sometimes, it’s all I have.
Then I’m met with deafening silence, and my frustration boils over. I lash out, hoping to get some kind of response. Any response will do. Hello, is this thing on? If I throw the mic really hard, would that elicit some sort of oomf?
No, nothing, you’re just gonna keep to yourself? Brilliant. Wonderful. You’re kind of being a d…Maybe that’s too far?
That’s assuming you believe in God or their many identities. Allah, Jehovah, Mother Nature…Sorry, I’m completely blanking on their other names. Every culture, country, and language has a different one. However, there are too many similarities between all the religions to call it a coincidence. So, I have to wonder, are they all the same, dude?
It doesn’t really matter to me, not today. Today, their seeming indifference makes me want to call them an ass and employ other choice words. I could rev up my engine and really get going, but ambivalence is contagious. If they don’t care? Why should I? Two can play at this game.
Really mature, I know.
I go back to watching the sharks swim off the coast of Cape Fear. The current pushes and pulls their massive bodies. One flowed a little too far astray so, it flicked its tail—tail, fin, point flappy thing?—and reclaimed its position. They aren’t fighting the current, but they aren’t letting it take over. They’re just riding it out. Are they napping? Do sharks nap? Is this the fish equivalent of Netflix and chill? Wait, whales are mammals so are sharks…Holy crap whales have hair follicles.
And this is why I can’t meditate.
I wasn’t trying to meditate, not exactly but, I need to calm myself down. My head has been spinning wildly. It’s jumping to the worst-case scenario and then it goes searching for another. Without warning, it desperately starts flailing around with closed eyes. It tries to grasp on to any glimmer of hope. Is that a sign? Is it good? It has to be good. But what if it’s a mirage? Do I breathe a sigh of relief and unclench my jaw? Uh, no, let’s do some more jumping jacks.
This live feed is relaxing, and for a while it takes my mind off of my life. It stops the mental spin. Or rather, it slows it down. Then it redirects it down an errant Google search, and now I know why whales are mammals and sharks are not. I wasn’t curious before, and I don’t know how to use that information now.
You know what else I don’t know how to do? Channel my anger, frustration, and hopelessness into healthy coping strategies. When these emotions are swirling around, I don’t take them out on innocent service workers, friends, or family. Well, occasionally, the people closest to me feel the sting when there’s emotional seepage. Usually, however, I shove it down to my toes and let it fill me up.
I become even quieter and more withdrawn than I usually am. And I’m a very introverted loner who typically speaks when it can’t be avoided, or I feel incredibly safe, but I rarely feel safe anywhere. When I’m overwhelmed by horrible emotions? I’m one blank stare away from becoming a storefront mannequin.
It’s not healthy or helpful. Anger, fear, and hopelessness can become toxic when they build up in the body. I need to let them out, but I don’t know how to do that. I’m scared that I’ll hurt the people I love, and that’s the last thing I want to do. It’s the one thing I don’t think I could forgive myself for if I did.
But I believe in God, that’s the name I use, and I firmly believe they can handle it. In fact, there’s no reason to keep it from them. They know what I’m thinking, feeling, and what I’m holding back. Even when I don’t know how to articulate it, they know. So, really, there’s no reason to lie or try to put on the airs and graces.
So, I say what’s on my mind and what’s in my heart. It’s not a shock or a slap across the face. I believe in a higher power that is merciful in the purest form. They aren’t vindictive or easily offended. Certainly not in the way we are as mere mortals. They can take it. They want to take on all of our bad tempers, the challenges that overwhelm us, and the moments when we question their existence.
Over the last week, I’ve begged God to help, and I’ve wondered if they’re really listening. I’ve gotten on my knees and cried. I’ve thrown my hands in the air and said, F**k it, you’re being an ass. These rollercoaster emotions have triggered different responses, but at least I have a place to take them. I can let them out in a safe, healthy way so that I can take at least one deep breath in.
For that, I’m extremely grateful.