No matter what I go through in life, no matter the pain or the joy or the brain chemistry being messed with by PMS, I always feel a solid presence beside me.
I'm wondering if this experience is unusual or if it's what most people feel and maybe label it differently.
I constantly feel a conscious force around me, particularly just to my right side, but it spreads out from there to encompass everything. It doesn't look like anything, and yet it almost has a personality in my mind. I direct a lot of conversation in my thoughts towards it.
Because of this presence I feel self-conscious even when I'm alone in my apartment. I know there is something always listening. Not in a creepy or upsetting way, just in a way that I can see how crazy I'm being because there is a calm and unflappable aura next to me that reflects back to me how I look.
In the past year and a bit as I've mourned the loss of my dear friend, I've been overcome by tears. I tend to cry a lot and it embarrasses me, but I don't feel in control of it at all. However, this crying is huge shaking sobs that I wouldn't want anyone to ever see. I do it in my car or alone in my bed at night. Even then I feel that presence and it looks at me gently, but it knows that grief is temporary, that death is not real, and that these gut-punched, can-barely-breathe sobs that give me headaches are not the ultimate reality.
Never, never, never have I had a time when that feeling of a presence nearby has been gone. I felt it when I was a small child and played by myself for hours and hours. I've always felt it and maybe that's why faith comes as naturally to me as breathing.
I recognized this feeling in Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor* (one of my all time favorite writers). Her character has a different response to it than I do. "[Jesus moves] from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark..." Hazel Motes feels that Jesus is haunting him, a figure in the woods, always just behind him. He is determined to reject this figure that follows him.
On the other hand, I have always felt that presence as comforting, strong, steady, and loving. I don't know what it is or why I feel it, but I give it the name of God and no amount of despair in my heart ever causes it to waver.
*[This book is very complex and cannot really be broken down and analyzed without spending months at it, so I'm skeptical of the summaries and reviews I see of it online, I feel that they are mostly all missing the point. O'Connor is a very unusual writer and her work defies easy description.]