Deep and Wide

When I was a child, my brothers and I were shuttled to and from a local Baptist church so that my parents could have some alone time. There were a lot of parents who took advantage of the church bus that would come by every Sunday morning, if my memory holds up.

I hated those mornings. I was a shy kid, and my brothers went off to other rooms once we got to the church and I didn't see them again till we left. I didn't know anybody else, I didn't understand a lot of what was going on or why, and some of my longest lasting nightmares are tied to the bible stories we learned there.

What I did like, though, and what still plays in my very strange brain are the hymns we learned. So this morning, when my mind decided to riff into "Deep and Wide" I rolled with it--it's still playing along in my head as I type, an echo of the past that pops up willy-nilly.

Deep and wide
Deep and wide
There's a fountain flowing deep and wide
Deep and wide
Deep and wide
There's a fountain flowing deep and wide

As songs go, there's not much going on there, other than its catchy simplicity, and I can picture trying to teach the kids this and the questions I'd be peppered with.

It's been, oh, 34 years, maybe a little less, since I faced those awkward, painfully uncomfortable Sundays that often left me confused, muddled, and anxious. But the singing was good, even if a little nonsensical.

Was I scarred by those Sundays? No, but I think that it's fair to say they did change me--made me aware of how different I could be from the groups I found myself in, how alone that could make me feel, but it also was the start of me being a watcher, an observer, both of others and my place in relationship to them. At school, I did better because I could do the school work and felt it was my place because of my competence. Church isn't about being the most versed in the bible, the most knowledgeable.

To be comfortable and competent at church is to be social and in the group. And that has never happened for me. No matter what church, no matter how long I attended, I never fit and my outsider status was always painfully obvious to me.

Now that probably has to do with the innate skepticism, the dark humor, and the need to question everything, which can make me a real pain in the ass at times. But it also has to do with my inability to figure out how to participate in small groups. Either I'm the leader or I'm the quiet one who says nothing--there's no middle ground, and it's not because I want to be the leader all the time. I find small talk painfully uncomfortable. If I know you, then that small talk serves a purpose, but if we're strangers never to meet again, I'm content to nod and say hi.

I survived school, not because I really found an in-group I could be a part of, but because I was good at academics. I bounced between groups of kids and in high school was accepted by a band of boys who were into geeky things and had a few girl friends, but I still felt like an outsider. I spent a lot of time in the library or in teacher's classrooms in high school, volunteering to grade papers. I carried books with me and constantly had my nose in one--it was safer that way, less scary.

As I got older, it got where the anxiety was bad enough I'd have to pull over and puke on the side of the road before getting to school, and that lovely tendency followed me when I started working, first in fast food as a teenager, and later as a teacher/professor. Anxiety became my constant companion, and it was often crippling, even when I did my best to keep that aspect hidden from everyone around me.

Deep and wide--that's what my anxiety is like when not tamed by pharmaceuticals. Deep and wide and immeasurable. I scoff at the term generalized anxiety--mine is specific--I know exactly why I'm anxious. It's not nebulous--I have a tendency to see many of the possible pathways and just how bad some of those paths can be--Stephen King bad. No, these are very specific fears and anxieties.

And as Lily gets older and I watch her struggle with the same exact issues that I did, but worse, that anxiety builds. Lily and I are so much alike that my heart breaks for her and her isolation, and to see Rosie right behind her facing the same issues...

I may offer them advice on how to bridge the chasm between them and the other kids, and it's good advice, but the reality is, given the same circumstances, I may know how to build that bridge, but even I wouldn't walk over it. Still.

It's too damned deep and it's too damned wide.


kathleen said...

Yup...((((())))) Sometimes parenting is just so treacherous..we KNOW the way to do things in theory..but trying to help your kid-all the while knowing that there is no way in hell you could do what you are suggesting to them...it really is a quandary.

farmwifetwo said...

I liked church but my Opa helped build it and my age group was full of cousins and others that too had been there always so there were no strangers. Sending eldest to the camp they built for a week this summer. Spent many a week there too... but again it was comfortable and my cousins/church friends were there.

Thanks for the "deep and wide" earworm though :)