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An Apocalyptic Adam (Part Two)

Obsessions and Compulsions (For the first part of this thrice-segmented series, click here.) “Purer than the sky behind the rain…” Led by my golden goddess’ warm wisdom, my mind was reined in from a locked in dualism only to wander in wonderment at life’s wondrousness. “Falling down all around us, calling out from a boundless read more..

 

Obsessions and Compulsions

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(For the first part of this thrice-segmented series, click here.)

“Purer than the sky behind the rain…” Led by my golden goddess’ warm wisdom, my mind was reined in from a locked in dualism only to wander in wonderment at life’s wondrousness. “Falling down all around us, calling out from a boundless love…” I was heartened by hallowed lyrics in this hauntingly hypnotic hymn to the reflective faith I reflexively shared with the idol of my adolescence. In my wistful overwhelm, I paused the compact disc version of Amy Grant’s Lead Me On that played on a loop on my new CD player, and reflected on the previous night’s dream.

At 15, I was young, and the vision was quite a change from then-typical nocturnal phenomena. No one could sway me from the fierce faithfulness I focused on my Lord, Jesus Christ, amidst a habitual angst at the predictability of the people around me and a moment-to-moment anxiety over the mysteriousness of the innermost Realm. The imagery may have had a foreboding feel, but far from a forewarning of the terror of further trials and tribulations, it felt like a foretelling of a near-at-hand trembling in trepidation in the thick of a coming of age coupled with a turbulent reconciling of an inherited religious tradition and an innate, thinly-veiled sexual character.

On the bus, which would pick me up next to 5960½ McKibben Road for an hour-plus zigzagging in order to drop us off at Delton Kellogg Agricultural School, I wore my anger under a heavy-hearted zealousness, bore like a cross of shame as I was delivered to daily bullying and resigned to weekly beatings. Far from safe from the divulging derisiveness of “faggoty ass” and “fudge packer” to the proudly accepted “Jesus freak” and “Bible banger” – through snot snorted in my eyes and knuckle-punches on the back of my skull – an ongoing struggle was externalized as I hungry-heartedly slouched in my seat, headlong into an unexpressed rage.

At the Church in the Wildwood and sundry other Houses of the Lord, every Sunday morning and evening, and each Wednesday Bible Study and Bible Quiz Team meet and Vacation Bible School (onto burning biblical belly flops at Camp Living Waters), I was told I was a child of promise, but it was apparent I was no heir to my elders’ dreams. My impulse was to reach within myself, but the adults apprehensively imparted that the answers weren’t there. So, horrified at the prospect of Hell and haunted by my brethren’s looks of dismay at the unspoken something in me that controverted our collective worldview, I closed down – and I obeyed.

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But about home, deep in those state game area stomping grounds, I trekked for hours with Tessie, my beloved Labrador, crooning Amy’s discography, track after track. From 1978 to the present day – “Beautiful Music” to “Somewhere Down the Road” – out of tune and in step along those man-made walkways, I would ruminate and daydream, pray and pat my dog. The awaited deliverance seemed so far away, but I ceded to waiting for a healing from this fearful tendency I faithfully contended with. In the routine of a given weekday or a welcomed week’s end, I granted myself this backwoods ritual to wrap my mind around the immensity of the Messiah’s all-inclusive love in light of his Father’s vengeful volatility – all in lieu of the synchronous connecting of the bits of Earth and fits of Heaven I spiritedly, intuitively – conflictingly – felt guided by.

Accompanied by a solemnized sing-along soundtrack of the heavenly and human, I would praise the Almighty through the protection of Amy. And I would direct His love, as demonstrated through Her, while imploring for salvation for my peers and perseverance for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Despite my love’s being infused with the fear of the Lord, I nurtured something intrinsically much deeper so naturally as I lengthened it and laid it upon my family and the sniffing and snorting, smelly and belly-exposed beast beside me. Yes, it was Tessie and me, shaded in the shelter of the trees – a budding me, longing to belong, and seeking comfort in those timelessly timely tunes to the occasional yip and accented yap.

Looking back, I was so pure. Judgment-free and – discounting Sunday school lessons and compulsory confessions – believing wholeheartedly in humanity’s goodness, I honest-to-Yahweh viewed my bullies and buddies, believers and nonbelievers alike as precious counterparts in a grand Protestant plan.

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During spring, summer, and winter breaks starkly spent under the controls of my spiritually hollowed father’s obsessive-compulsive fixations on germs and financial savings and the woes of a world comprised of those he deemed deviously distinctive, I would blister my hands washing dishes in overheated water to his heathen bombasts about disease. Uneasy in my darkened obscurity, I did my best to obstruct another outrage at how I cost dear old dad $40something extra every obligated holiday. But I knew to keep quiet when his son’s gentle nature inspired an outburst on “niggers” or “kikes,” “feminazis” and “dykes.”

Throughout the school year I stayed with a mostly helpless mother whose hesitance of anything not chiseled in stone morphed into a church-fueled dismay for the different and a dread of devilish influence in a fast-falling world. We would seek out signs of the end times – beginning with a moon in a star-scattered-sky’s being blood red to the moles on my skin possibly indicating sun-caused cancer – as she would confide in me her shame over childhood sexual abuse and corroborate a sincere striving for a blameless spiritual salvation out from under a profane past.

I was too innocent to recognize that my very presence reflected, as through a glass darkly, too many of my parents’ heightened fears – yea, too much of their frightened visages – to be anything but on my own. So the three of us separately employed our respective practices to protect us from the unknown. And while they ritualized their lives against the everydayness of dirt and final days-stylized damning, I modeled myself after their misgivings.

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All my father’s idiosyncratic inhibitions and my mother’s religious reservations were made fully manifest in a four-year-old Adam who felt compelled to blink uncontrollably; a seven-year-old boy who counted off holy numbers to infinity, checked the door for that imminent thief in the night, and sniffed random objects with a fear of what would occur if he didn’t and an increased awkwardness at the reactions after he had done so; and that 11-year-old me, whose upcast eyes ached from ensuring his metal frames were indeed even – even to the point of a depressed, “Mom, I feel like crying all the time.” I’d sit upright in bed between my and my step-brother’s bedtimes with the door cracked to let the hallway light shine past the threshold and onto the Book of Revelation and, eyes cast down, orate to the demons in the darkness for fortification from any threat of possession as I was already steering clear of a confrontation with my abominable desire.

Now, having dwelled in this world a full 15 years in a 6,000-year-old universe, as the new millennium was encroaching, and the Tribulation was approaching, I wasn’t confident this many-headed beast inside me allowed for rapture-readiness in my pre-apocalyptic panic. Concerned over cleanliness and godliness, and all that was twofold – evens and odds, virtue and vice, male and female He made them… and compulsions that fought off impending danger and sought to make sense of the obsessions, I felt stranded on some lonesome island and repeatedly implored the Lord to ensure I was one of His elect. In my personal Armageddon I fought private devils – seven Spiritual Creatures, four Living Creatures, and one Antichrist up against the King of Kings and Creator of All – fending off my multi-layered horror in the boondocks of an ambiguous Whore of Babylon. Amidst this private Apocalypse, I sought personal refuge from that troublesome inkling that something was resoundingly unpredictable. That in the twinkling of an eye not just I, but the bulk of mankind could be permanently consumed by perpetual hellfire, rejected by a jealous Jehovah.

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Day after damned day, I would reawaken to an impoverished reality of repetition-rich rituals reenacted in religious intensity. Single-handedly typing lists on my second-hand electric typewriter and handwriting letters with secret notes scripted behind the stamps with Amy in the background while ordering every first and last word of each sentence to contain one, four, seven… 10, 12, 24… characters, I was a typified sign of disordered times and an overall cultural psychosis.

Crippled by my compulsions, I would collapse into Amy’s humble humanness. Enraptured with her harmonious reassurances, she was my sanctioned state of surrender. I would hum along, the four walls of my room closing in with my headphones on, in perfect time with her imperfect rhymes. I’d close my eyes and my quiet heart could sing loudly alongside a simple authenticity that permitted me, for a moment, to be myself. Dubiously approved by my fundamentalist step-father, I would ritualize these sacred indoor sessions with a voiced optimism outside of my household’s vantage point of the holiness implicit in severe parameters. Surely, if Amy Grant was a part of a Heaven-bound body of Christ, then the letter of the law made way for a pliable ruling foremost of love as it was experienced here on Earth.

It was in listening to this Woman of my Apocalypse that I coalesced the pressingly compelling particulars of my little life into the most ecstatic experiences of soul-stirring risk and recompense. In my earnest teenaged yearning, she echoed an acknowledged yielding to uncertainty. If those white plywood walls could speak, they would attest that there once was a young man scared through and through and tempted to the core to capitulate to himself if only his passions hadn’t held the potential to ravage him in possible wrongdoing. Rather than wiping my world away, Amy’s wisdom-fused warmth seemed to signify that my seeming lukewarmness wouldn’t be cause for God to spit my timid, tepid self out in righteous rejection.

”AHA!” I inwardly, gleefully squealed. A divination: “The dream means it’s not as bad as it’s been made out to be!”

My heart would be broken, and my mind would get bent, as the routines of daily life loosened their stranglehold, and an externally enforced flexibility would find the rituals surreptitiously inviting the serendipitous in place of a subscribed-to internal stronghold. Tessie would be put to sleep a year later, and a year after that I’d be pushed into an awakening and come out. And a light-ruptured nighttime sky would again reveal calm in what would transmogrify into rapturous chaos.

(To complete this three-part series, click here.)

Add a Response 20 thoughts on “An Apocalyptic Adam (Part Two)

    • I think so too, Mister Bear! You’ll appreciate her “In Motion: The Remixes” release – put out especially for her big gay following. A big bear hug and a “won’t you won’t you… staaay for a while?…” Adam

  1. So good. You’re inventing a new form of writing – some sort of poetic prose – I love witnessing the evolution. I’m proud and inspired. Keep being the light, just as you always have been. XO

  2. I too went through the “believer’s” ringer growing up in my youthful Holy Roller background. These first two blogs of the three have so many layers, just delineating the boy being forged into the man. I have nothing new to add really, but as others have said, you are so willing to share and bare your soul here. I am so looking forward to reading part 3, you amazing man! I really love that you are always so wonderfully honest with us, Adam, open to us feeling and knowing the very depth of your being!

    • Thank you, “R”! I’m eager for the layers to unfold tomorrow, and await your response. It means so much that you are so inspired. A big hug from the Big Apple! Adam

  3. Oh, Adam: It is so inspirational to read your blog. I never know what I am going to find and this time, you overwhelmed me. Through the boy, I have reached the man, diaphanous and organic. Yes, I understand and I can relate. You have chiseled your personality from a hard and painful stone and a true image springs neat and smooth, unpolluted in spite of the circumstances. At the end, you have found the essence of your own freedom beyond limitations and prejudices. I am looking forward to meet you and give you a big hug and say: thank you. Gil

    • Oh, Gilbert – the essence of freedom… beyond limitations and prejudices… Is there any other way to be awake and alive? 🙂 I’m eager to reconnect as well. Adam

    • Regarding your first comment, Steve, thank you – and you are welcome. 🙂 The universal is in the details, so – yeah – let’s allow one another’s stories to shed light on our own. And the bearded gent is a friend. Only a friend. *Sigh* 😉

  4. i thought for a long time what i should write here. it all comes down to thanks. Thanks for opening your life to your readers. Thanks for sharing your story. Thanks for revealing your experiences so that i can better understand my own.

  5. Adam, your story is so inspirational. There is not enough room to explain how much I relate to your story. Until we meet Adam.
    Thank you for being so open and giving all of us an outlet to reach out to, so we all know we are not alone.

    • We’ll have plenty of time to talk about so much, “L”! You are most welcome. I am thrilled that you enjoy these entries. Adam

  6. All I can say is, well I really can’t. Beyond profound and I like you, thank goodness, I finally knew and had the strength to follow my own true self. So sorry you had to endure this but I guess it is what makes us who we are and for you, You are one amazingly wonderful, wonderful, wonderful man and I am so blessed to have met you and to have had the ability to lay in your loving arms. Again, so proud of you and even myself to have come out the other end of crazy religious upbringing a more loving caring man than my zealot like father. I say it again, Proud Proud Proud to be a midwest Cornholer!! P.S. Now my naughty thoughts, I can wait to taste that amazing ass at months end, it restores me!!!

    • Dennis, can we make “Proud Midwestern Cornholer” shirts and start a movement that flubs? 😉 Strength and surrender, strength and surrender – two sides of the same thing, or just the same blessed thing? I adore you, dear man. Thank you. Adam

  7. First of all, Adam, I think of how all of that–the terror, the bullying, the obsessive rituals (a child’s only weapon), the end time projections–did indeed become the crucible from which you’ve emerged whole and loving. Perhaps it was the presence of your beloved Tessie, who certainly knew something was up! And who comforted and shielded you. How is it so often that a family devoted to Jesus forgets the open arms of love and quakes, remembering, as you put it, only the presence of the Father’s two-fisted revenge. How is it that you, raised under the threat of this, managed to pull from the hellfire narratives, the message your family perhaps had wanted to start with all along–to love one another. It got buried in fear and paranoia in the end. I can only think of the children who survive all the onslaughts of war and strife, and yet can still be seen in photos playing amid the rubble and fire. And there you are, headphones on, Amy and your faithful companion, Tessie beside you, all three of you singing along. Nudging you and loving you into yourself. And a life, it seems, dedicated to love of self and others, that had perhaps, long ago been sought by your parents before dogma, fear, and loathing made them veer wildly off course.

    How many other readers of your blog, identify with you, as I do, the choice we had to make, sometimes kicking and screaming against it. One gift of this blog are the memories you’ve helped me reclaim. Of myself, walking daily, literally to the mountain top behind my Baptist grandmother’s house, and praying and talking with Jesus, and wrestling with the horrendous “other self” who continued to shadow me. How many of us have fought that battle. And how many have, unexpectedly, won. And sadly, how many have lost.

    How grateful I am that you won. You’re inspiring. And–yikes!– make me want to listen to Amy Grant!

    • Oh, Chris – do at least give *Lead Me On* a listen! “1974,” “What About the Love?,” “Say Once More”… and our adolescent selves will be splendiferously, freely giddy and giggly and pensive and pondering in my bedroom in the boondocks, musing and miming along…

      Tessie was about everything to me. She has been gone almost 16 years and I still mourn her passing. I also strive to reclaim that kid who was so present to love that he could bond so fiercely with a furry beast – not tethered to a phone or a goal or a goddamned hour-by-hour agenda. Just feeling the love freely, and returning it effortlessly. That’s what Tessie taught me. I miss smelling like her and having her hair all over my dirty jeans. I’d wear winter boots so we could trudge through the swamps… just – a certain freedom in all that chaos.

      Let’s re-learn what we’ve always known. Peel back those layers… and shine a light on old truths. Consider yourself nudged and loved… Adam

  8. So many similarities to my story, yet so many differences. Your openness is inspiring, especially knowing how you overcame all of that to become the amazing person you are today. I’m so grateful that you’re sharing your story with us.

    And all the Amy Grant stuff just makes me smile. I can’t tell you how many girls I heard sing their own versions of “My Father’s Eyes.” I remember how scandalized the church was with the release of “Unguarded,” which was almost like (shudder) rock and roll. And she was open about her marital struggles! And she eventually got (you have to whisper this next word) divorced. Who would’ve thought I’d ever meet someone with whom I could bond over our shared experiences with Amy Grant?!

    And dare I say it? ONE week. I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve. I cannot wait to see you again.

    • Mike, you would find “Gay Friends of Amy Grant” (a Facebook group I am a loose member of) a hoot! And my friend, Chris, who interviewed me years ago when I was a fellow Michigander interviewed Amy exclusively on behalf of the “gay press” a couple years ago. 🙂 It’s a bit of a different day. “Eyes for love’s compassion, and seeing every pain – knowing what you’re going through, and feeling it the saaame…” Amy was introduced to me as a stocking stuffer on Christmas – a beat-up, $1 cassette tape of *Age to Age* my mother found at a Christian Women’s Retreat. Perhaps I should arrange a stocking stuffer for YOU. 😉 I’m super eager for our reunion this coming Friday. XO Adam

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