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A Powerful Force

Sometimes I wonder if I’m making it all up. Sometimes I think you wonder that too.

My biology conspires against me. Stress generates anxiety. Anxiety leads to OCD. OCD inevitably concedes to depression, my inability to create perfection spiraling me down into a state of futility.

You look at me as if trying to witness my biology firsthand. Can it really override the intelligent, seemingly reasonable mind you believe exists behind the angled spectacles?

Nature and nurture merge into a powerful force, overriding my reason, drowning the word “no” before it can even rise from my throat. I take a machete to my life, hacking at commitments. But for each one I sever, two more spring up in its place.

For years there I was, so proud to have conquered my genetics. Resisted the booze, the tobacco, the food.

“Well, what happens, Amanda, is that when we grow up in a stressful environment, our bodies adjust to accommodate the stress. So you get to a point where your body actually craves the chemicals produced by the stress, because that’s what feels normal to you.”

I want to tell her that I’ve never felt normal. That I wouldn’t know normal even if it bit me in the ass.

Instead I recall a recurring dream I have, where I’m driving a car from the passenger’s seat. Somehow the car never crashes, although each moment I think it might. I fear losing control, but I also feel free.

24 responses to “A Powerful Force”

  1. Jesse Star Jesse Star says:

    Powerful forces are challenging to deny, and it's not always about logic. Thought provoking.

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      For me, the most powerful forces in my life have been anything but logical. I think that's part of the reason I get frustrated, because I know that I'm being irrational, but I feel powerless to do anything about it. Part of the problem with the OCD is that I place such a high premium on perfection. OCD, although it gives the illusion of control and logic, is the exact opposite.
      However, I'm learning to be more forgiving and less judgmental with myself, and being committed to this process makes all the difference for me.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! :0)

  2. Yep, had that dream. Except I was trying to drive from the back seat and my arms weren't quite long enough to reach the steering wheel.
    That, your teeth falling out, and being late for the final exam you didn't study for are the big-three of anxiety dreams.
    Interesting that you get a feeling of freedom from your dream when I only feel dread.

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      Glad to hear I'm not the only one who has had that dream. I think I've been in the backseat in it before, but I'm usually in the passenger seat. And I've definitely had the teeth falling out dream before. Now, that one always terrifies me–I wake up and always check to make sure they're still there! :0)
      In many ways, my feelings with this dream echo my spiritual struggle. I know that God is in control, and no matter how much I screw up, He's always willing to forgive me and will never abandon me. That's what makes me feel free. Granted, this isn't cart blanche to do as I please, but I take comfort in knowing that when I inevitably do screw up, I'm not going to be struck down by lightning or something.
      But at the same time, I'm terrified of letting God be in control. Sometimes I'm so determined to "pull myself up by my bootstraps" that I forget that not only can I rely on Him, He wants me to rely on Him. It makes me think of one of my favorite songs a Christian musician named Josh Wilson, "Savior, Please." The chorus says, "I try to be so tough / But I'm just not strong enough. / I can't do this alone, God I need you to hold onto me. / I try to be good enough, / but I'm nothing without your love. / Savior, please, keep saving me." Every day I'm learning more and more what Jesus meant when he said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). So contrary to the way we often think, that there is strength in weakness. But that's God for you–He takes everything we think we know and turns it on its head.
      Huh, I think this comment turned out to be longed than the actual post! Guess I had some additional thoughts on the matter. :0)
      Thanks for your comments!

      • Somewhat related: Is it wrong that it makes me nervous as a passenger when the driver crosses themselves before driving? Sure, they may be trusting in God, but I'm trusting my safety to them.

        • acb123 acb123 says:

          I'm not sure if I'm supposed to find humor in your comment or not, but I just keep thinking of the saying, "Trust God, but wear your seat belt." :0)
          I can't say whereas I've ever crossed myself before driving, but I think those who do cross themselves in those situations often do it more as a force of habit. One of my devout Catholic friends (not an oxymoron, if you can believe it) always crosses herself before her plane takes off. For her, it's not only a reminder that her safety is in God's hands, but it's also a comfort to her to know that, if anything does happen to her, she knows where she's going.
          If it makes you feel better, one way you could look at it is that the person values you, and therefore wants to implore God to grant you a safe trip. And I know that I'd rather be in the car with someone who's crossing himself/herself than getting road rage. :0)

  3. Avatar Belinda says:

    Say it ain't so! Stress chemicals as an addiction? Can't I just stick to a nice martini? Or even better, a nap!

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      Hey, I never thought I'd see you type anything remotely close to something Sarah Palin said. ;0)
      There's actually a book I saw yesterday called "Addicted to Stress." Apparently, this problem is more prevalent–esp. among women–than I knew. Just goes to show you how screwed up our priorities are in this country, that we have pretty much normalized stress.
      I think the best remedy is a martini or two, followed by a nap. That's always a sure-fire stress buster! :0)

  4. Avatar andrea8979 says:

    "my inability to create perfection spiraling me down into state of futility"
    Beautiful phrasing. I'm always in awe of transparency like this.

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      Thank you for your kind words. It was challenging for me to find a way to describe the process in a succinct way that also presents an accurate portrayal. Glad that I seem to have met with some modicum of success. :0)
      Having grown up in a family shrouded in secrets and lies, I've learned that being transparent is liberating. By living and revealing my truth, I cannot be bound by it.

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      Andrea, btw, your comment made me realize I left out the article "a" before "state of futility." Some editor I am…
      But now it's fixed–thanks for inadvertently drawing it to my attention! :0)

  5. Kail Kail says:

    I have two recurring car dreams that frighten the hell out of me, even though they sometimes become lucid dreams and I start to drive faster, knowing it doesn't matter!
    In one I drive off the road into marsh and slowly sink. In the other I'm driving on impossibly narrow, sky-high, twisting, diving, climbing highways clearly designed by Dali.
    I don't know why I have these dreams…I love driving and have no fear of marshes or heights. Or Dali.
    I'm a formerly devout Catholic who never crosses himself but rather knocks on wood. Meaning, my head. Jokingly. But for real, too.
    Great piece. You are at the very least in the driver's seat of your pen. Or keyboard.

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      Unlike you, I pretty much hate driving, which is why it doesn't surprise me that I'm terrified in these dreams. But ti does surprise me that I feel any sense of peace from it.
      I might be afraid of Dali though, so your dream would definitely freak me out. :0)
      It's interesting that you refer to yourself as "a formerly devout Catholic." There are probably just as many, if not more of you, than practicing Catholics. I've often wondered exactly what it is that causes that falling away.
      Most of the friends that I have that are no longer Catholic (most of them no longer Catholic, and most are now atheists) say that it's because they had religion shoved down their throats their whole lives. But I know many people (my husband and his siblings, for example), who were also taken to church and Sunday School by their parents, yet sustained that belief and relationship with God.
      I appreciate your compliment, and I'm glad that all of those years spent typing and scribbling away weren't for naught (and I have the unattractive calluses on my writing hand as evidence of the time I put it!). Thanks for taking the time to read, and I'm glad you liked the piece. :0)

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      Well, I'm quite vexed, as the somewhat lengthy reply I crafted for you is lost in cyberspace! >:0{ Here's an abbreviated version of my thoughts:
      — I hate driving, so it surprises me that I feel at ease in these dreams.
      — I might fear Dali, so your dream would probably terrify me. :0)
      — Knowing a lot of former Catholics who are now non-practicing/agnostic/atheist, I can't help but wonder why that happens (as one who was raised pagan and became Christian as a young adult, perhaps I'll never get it).
      Thank you for the compliment. When it write, it's one of the few times in my life when I actually do feel lucid and in control.

  6. Avatar llxt says:

    "…your body actually craves the chemicals produced by the stress, because that’s what feels normal to you.” so, so true… but oh how i wish it wasn't so!
    this entire piece is really form + content hand in hand. the anxiety is visceral and compels us to read hurredly, just to see if we will make it. then, the abrupt ending. and we feel sort of like you…control-less, free. excellent piece, acb!

  7. acb123 acb123 says:

    For all the time I've spent trying to understand my biology/psychology, I confess that I was oblivious to stress addiction's existence. Maybe I was in denial or something, because knowing it's a legitimate problem means I can then do something about it.
    Your comment regarding the form and content intrigues me. I wish I was clever enough to have done it on purpose! :0) At any rate, your words are much appreciated.

  8. Avatar Jules (that Jules) says:

    I loved reading this after a long day at work. Interestingly enough, I only recently realized that I'm totally neurotic (surprise!). For me, it's more the desire to feel on the brink of disaster (skydiving, performing, dirtbiking, etc.). If i can pull it all together right before everything goes to hell, then I'm totally in control, right? RIGHT?! *Sigh*, I suppose that my recurring dreams of losing teeth say otherwise 😉

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      You, neurotic? No way! :0) Although thinking of it, with both of us being neurotic, it's a wonder we didn't kill each other during those three years. We must just be neurotic in different, somehow compatible ways.
      I wouldn't be surprised if there's a correlation between addiction to stress and addiction to adrenaline. I think I recall reading that they produce the same chemical reaction in the brain. So you throw yourself off cliffs, I throw myself into every opportunity that comes my way.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment–it really means a lot.
      xo, the p.b.

  9. Avatar Jules (that Jules) says:

    I have always loved your work, and its a pleasure to read.
    I think I'm neurotic about proving that I'm not neurotic. Given that, it is a serious miracle that we didn't kill each other (I still leave my socks everywhere, and now it makes Sarah insane).
    xo, Jules

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      Ha! Well, thanks to you conditioning me to be oblivious to such things, I have now developed a tendency to leave clothes lying around, which makes Greg insane! So even though I've become less neurotic in certain ways, it seems that those ways are the ones my spouse wishes I would have retained. Oh well. Neurotic is as neurotic does. ;0)
      xo, pb

  10. Avatar Gloria says:

    like how you wrote "I take a machete to my life, hacking at commitments. But for each one I sever, two more spring up in its place."

  11. Avatar The Tailor says:

    Amanda, this is great, I was kind of disappointed at the brevity of it, I wanted more when it was finished, but thinking on it, it makes sense that it's not drawn out or anything.

    • acb123 acb123 says:

      To The Tailor,
      I tend to be long-winded, so writing shorter pieces is more of a challenge for me. Resisting my compulsion to go on and on, you see. :0)
      Guess your wanting more is a good sign though. I appreciate your comments, and I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.

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acbauch123 About acbauch123

Amanda C. Bauch, writer, editor, and teacher, has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and is currently working on a young adult novel and a memoir. In her “free” time, she works as a freelance dissertation editor and formerly served as Assistant Editor for Relief: A Christian Literary Expression. Her short fiction has appeared in Tattoo Highway, Bent Pin Quarterly, The Hiss Quarterly, and nonfiction pieces have been published in Writer Advice, Empowerment4Women, as well as two print anthologies, Tainted Mirror and MOTIF: Writing By Ear. She also won an honorable mention in the 2007 Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Memoir Contest and second place in the 2006 Lantern Books Essay Contest. Her viewpoint often derives from her dysfunctional family history, relationships, Christianity and spiritual issues, and random nonsense.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2010
November 2010
On My Honor
October 2010
Witch Hunt
September 2010
If, Then.
May 2010
Small Crimes
April 2010
February 2010
"It's Complicated"
January 2010