Dear Church of The Holy Abstraction:
For me, anxiety seems to always be located in my ribcage. It is a shivering bird locked directly underneath the sternum. I often find myself running a finger or two over it, surprised at how lumpy the bone itself is. I guess I imagine that a sternum should be smooth, like a planed cedar plank, and so even regarding my own anatomy, I think that something is off, worrying that I’ve made things rougher than they need to be.
Recently, I was back inside one of your sets of walls. To be honest, I was surprised how uncomfortable it felt. I understand that at some point, chronic guilt has to be a projection–some perceived failure about myself that runs so deep, I’ve started to believe that it is pouring in, rather than emanating out. Have I mistaken a deep, leaking crack for standing in the rain?
Even still, the words of the pastor felt like bricks being laid at my feet, cordoning me off from the truth that he continually referred to as a joyous, gracious thing. But where was that joy? Can one take joy in placing barbs into the bones of others? Again, I get the whole ‘make them jealous by making them see your joy’ but this felt almost spiteful–a showing off of that joy and grace, rather than what I perceive a true response to grace is, when trying to explain it to others: a humbled, tripping over of one’s words in dumbfounded awe.
In other words, why be a salesman, when the Thing sells itself?
And again: that shivering bird rattles the shelled marrow.
It’s hard to write it. To feel like I’m one numb cell against a heritage of bodies. But at least when I try and explain it, it feels like I’m in attendance, placing sweat-drenched coins in the coffer, and echoing the prayers of the people whose suffering is cauterized by searing joy. And maybe that’s closer to it: that I find kinship in joy that has arisen from pain, rather than a urethaned smile that is sold to a person under the pretense that one’s pain is first a cause for guilt before it can be grin-slapped.
I’ve always felt that my sternum was cracked, and though it’s jagged and worn, it is, God bless it, fused.