In the eighteen years I’ve been married, I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve been drunk and have fingers left to spare. Last night, I counted another finger, and—trust me—I’m such a light weight three shots of whiskey did the job. I’d be a cheap date if I still dated.
I don’t think I realized how much I was affected having been turned down from several PhD programs. Or at least not until yesterday. Tuesday I was angry. Wednesday I got over it. Yesterday I went to church.
Well, sort of church. Having grown up Catholic, converted full-force charismatic evangelical, brief stint with the Methodist Church there for a while, gone back to the Catholic Church, moved into fundamental non-denominational. For a while, thought I was called to plant a church, and since we moved from Wyoming to New Hampshire ten months have passed since I found a church I liked, that I thought was worth my time. And, it’s Unitarian. I say Unitarian in a kind of hushed embarrassed whisper. I’ve attended two services now, and they are a shadow of Christianity. They somehow know a god exists, but they don’t place that god inside a box, and that is exactly where I am at in my own spirituality—grasping for the inexplicable.
When I was in the Vineyard Christian Church, people laid hands upon me and prayed over me, and sometimes they would be so dead on about my life, where I was at, what I was going through, that the Christian-flavored god had to be so incredibly true, because He was speaking through these people to communicate with me personally. Moments existed in church where I thought the pastors’ sermons were wholly for me, that God inspired the church leaders’ message because I needed that particular piece of wisdom. The same experience, I believe, happened for others. The Unitarian Church, which I still do not know much about, because I personally feel it is a bad mimeograph with the blue ink smeared across the page and smudged, barely readable to the naked idea, I expected not to feel anything in this church, reveled in the idea that maybe there is no god, or if there is a god the personal one-on-one Christian relationship never truly existed, a creation of the inner workings of my mind.
I was up until two-thirty in the morning Sunday. Brushed my teeth and stumbled into bed. I have been binge watching Netflix. When I get sad, that is what I seem to do—Netflix and chocolate chip cookies or donuts and pizza. I had planned on attending church, but getting to bed so late, I wasn’t sure if I would wake in time, and I was okay if I slept through. I woke at eight without the alarm, showered and shaved, went through the Burger King drive-thru for coffee, forgot my wallet, doubled back home for cash, got lost, and fifteen minutes late for church. The usher told me I couldn’t bring beverages into the sanctuary, so I lost my coffee and the Greek Revival styled building is 192 years old, and I respect architecture and history but was still upset I lost my hiding place. The coffee worked as a barrier between me and the rest of the world—or in that moment, the rest of the congregation at least.
Reverand Chris Holton Jablonski pointed to a photo of a sculpture on the church bulletin.
The piece by Paige Bradley titled Expansion depicts light breaking through. I am particularly impressed by the level of detail in the sculpture, the arm muscles defined and strong, the neck stretched upwards. How pieces of the broken body float together. In a story by Alice Yoo, Bradley says, “I took a perfectly good wax sculpture – a piece I had sculpted with precision over several months – an image of a woman meditating in the lotus position, and just dropped it on the floor. I destroyed what I made. I was letting it all go. It was scary. It shattered into so many pieces. My first feeling was, ‘What have I done!?!’ Then, I trusted it would all come together like I envisioned.'”
Jablonski then told the story of Post-It Note creator Spencer Silver who in 1968 tried to invent a super strong adhesive and instead created “an incredibly weak, pressure sensitive adhesive.” An accident turned into a new beginning. And by this time, sitting in the very back pew, I am holding back tears. Jablonski is talking to me directly, and I’m not sure he knows it.
This is also the same message I’ve been hearing from a lot of people lately.
“You don’t need a PhD.”
“Something good will come along.”
“Some of the most important people in the humanities are not caught up in the traditional career path.”
An older couple sitting in front of me turn around and ask me if I’m okay. I so lie. “I’m fine. I’m fine,” I say. And I don’t even wait for postlude to end. I run out of that church and back to my car and suck down a cigarette and buy a dozen donuts, get home, slam the donuts down on the kitchen table, eat four of them, and take an online Microsoft Word and Excel assessment test for summer temp work. Take a nap. I don’t want to think about anything.
As I drift to sleep, finally, turning off my brain, my wife walks in to join me for her own nap. She opens the window, and I bolt up.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she says.
“I’m so tired,” I say. “I just want to sleep and not think cause I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to think anymore.”
She leaves, and I am left awake, sitting in the bed. She takes our son to the park. I get dressed, put on boots, go out into the yard and dig in the dirt. Lay brickwork for the beginnings of my vegetable garden. Plant carrots. Prep the ground for the tomatoes and peppers that are waiting inside the house. I plant thirty-seven sunflower seeds in the front lawn.
I do not know what to do anymore. I get drunk. Watch Jessica Jones. Think about church. Tweet obscene lines from Ginsberg’s ‘Howl.’ And somewhere in the middle I realize I am still fresh with the blue ink, the intoxicating methanol and isopropanol, the warm paper against my nose.
And Thursday, look for my post on comma splices, if you’re into that kind of thing.