Print Story Things we will not talk about...
By ana (Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 05:07:18 PM EST) all the griefs that are my life (all tags)
...have consequences we cannot cope with. 

 This diary is, in part, an indictment of the church. Though the principle holds for any other organization or relationship that promises aid to those in need. Comments congruent to "yeah, well, religion is stupid anyway" are not welcome here.

Things are changing, with astonishing rapidity, in the western world. It's no surprise that the church, though it does change, can't keep up. However, comma.

Half of marriages end in divorce. I pray you will never experience this, but it's like Mitt Romney opened the window on an airplane in flight because he smelled smoke (ok, cheap shot), and there's a rapid depressurization and you can't breathe. It's one of those crises where you learn who your friends are. And who talks a good line but isn't available when the need is there.

So a couple weeks after I became de facto single again, while I was still in the phase of sitting at my desk trying to breathe, trying to remember to breathe, there was the choir season kickoff. It's a small group, and we had a small pot-luck dinner, just to get reacquainted. So I went. I forget what I brought, but it might have been an apple-cranberry pie; I've done that from time to time.

"How are you doing?" asked the director. One other person was present. I'm punctual to a fault. It's a character flaw.

So I told him. Faces fell, one word condolences extended. Silence. I had sucked the air out of the room. That happens a lot around me. It did, anyway.

Oddly, 2 or 3 weeks later, a woman who's hired to sing with the choir came in in tears, because her husband had left her. Same director was all sympathy and offering to help, to be available any time day or night if she wanted to call, needed to talk. The contrast was astonishing. He helped her pull herself together enough to sing (she's a professional, which means the show must go on, and she's good at it).

For me? Continued silence.

We do not talk about divorce, and it has consequences we cannot deal with.

Naturally enough, a couple weeks later one guy who served as organizer of ushers, who's very social but somewhat socially inept, if that combination makes sense... Anyway. J asked where toxicfur was. She had stopped coming to church, though I'd made it clear she was welcome if she wanted to come. So I told him. He apologized, said he should not have brought it up. Said he'd been left once, and knew how much it hurts.

Same guy, J, the following summer bought an inn in southwest NH, an hour's drive away. Sometimes I think about booking a room for a day or two, going up there, getting away. Change of scenery. Anyway, he and his wife were visiting the church last week, and I told him this, and he said, "Come in the winter. We'll have time to sit and talk." And... I'm not sure I want to talk to him. About this, or much of anything else of consequence.

Anyway. The breakup, as attentive readers will know, is a consequence of queer sexual identities, which ultimately failed to match. She's gay, not bi; and I'm not actually female. End of tale.

But the church (this parish, at least) carefully doesn't mention homosexuality. Much less transsexuality or any other kind of genderqueerness or gender fluidity. And we, who are queer, learn not to bring it up. It's a kind of don't ask, don't tell. We got through pre-marital counseling answering the questions honestly but leaving out the queer stuff.

Things we will not talk about have consequences we cannot cope with.

And so the one counseling session that I did go in for, come December of 2010, 3 months in, was not entirely useful. The rector is... not pastoral, shall we say. I'm not sure what his role is, besides managing things. But then I've never understood what kinds of problems the pastoral counseling role of the clergy can handle. One would think if they were not competent to deal with a situation, they'd refer to someone who is. Unless, of course, it violates their notions of how the world works. Perhaps this is such a case. The curate means well, is very sincere, and I'm sure he's good at ministering to young families, people like himself. He has a tin ear for the half of the pledging congregation who are singles and not couples (at least for economic purposes with respect to the church).

Time goes on. It does heal wounds. I rarely forget to breathe. I feel pretty good most of the time. Never great, but sometimes good enough. As a metaphor, I sometimes notice mid-afternoon that my back hurts, and at the same time notice that I'm hunched over the keyboard in gnome posture. If I get up and stretch and walk around the place a bit, it helps with both of those problems.

So one of the curate's things is that people in the church should be involved in small groups that meet every week or two, maybe study a book or the Bible, and talk about their lives. In the fall of 2011, I went to the kick-off for that program (oh, hey, the invite had that insidious text, "where two or three are gathered together..." which, if you're not careful, simply erases solitary people and their prayers). And I was invited to join one of the suburban groups, both in the homes of young, recently married, people.

Now divorce is, to some extent, contagious. Not that it's a communicable disease, but in some cases relationships that are not good can be ended by the simple expedient of one partner seeing an example of somebody who more or less successfully got out of theirs. About this time it happened to a friend. So, yeah. Besides the fact that it was inconvenient to drive to Salem every week, and that the one in Somerville often conflicted with choir rehearsals, I was not about to visit my extremely cynical attitudes about marriage in general, and for queer people in particular, upon these happy, conventional, unexamined, lives. Turns out the coordinators are, in one case a priest who's doing graduate study, and in the other case a PhD with a masters' in Divinity (but who hasn't sought ordination). So they could probably have dealt.

To make a long story even longer, eventually my evident pain was picked up by 3 or 4 of my friends in the choir (which now has only one evening rehearsal every month or so, and very little time to talk... it's no longer a community, but only a working organization. We're effectively isolated from each other.) This led to putting together another small group, out of the people from the choir, and some friends, and some other people; it grew to perhaps a dozen people, not all of whom ever show up on any given Wednesday. And being intellectuals, we study books. And don't talk about our lives.

They're good folks, and it's good to get to know some of the people in the church a little. But only a little. We negotiated contentiously over the choice of another book. Nothing controversial. Don't want to read Novels (delivered with a sniff of contempt). Those Other Small Groups are an exercise in Christian patience (because, horrors, they talk about their lives). So we settled on Chesterton's Orthodoxy, which I have yet to read carefully, but a skim indicates it's another upper-crust Englishman scattering classist contempt like daisies on the breeze. I'm sure I'm selling him very short.

But meanwhile it's time for the annual fund raising (ahem, 'stewardship') drive. And one of my friends who helped organize our group is on the committee (there are good reasons I don't run for the vestry...). So the curate and treasurer put together a study guide on the subject they want to use this week. B circulated it for comment, and I failed to respond. So R asked, point blank, if I had opinions on the matter.

Apparently I shrug rather eloquently. "Yes," I said, at last.

And so I put together a couple paragraphs on the subject I'm discussing here: why do I keep putting myself through these things at all? And if I'm going to get out of what amounts to an abusive relationship, why should I pledge to fund them next year?

But I need more friends, not fewer. And I am a Christian, even though perhaps this parish in particular is not a good fit. But several of my closest friends are there, and among them, most of the real-life people I know who were helpful getting me to breathe again.

What we will not talk about has consequences we cannot cope with.

So I should bring these concerns to the group. And be prepared to walk out the door and not look back.

Is there no end to the griefs that are my life?

< On the passing of torches | Remember The Alamo >
Things we will not talk about... | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden)
i think it's helpful in situations like these by the mariner (3.00 / 1) #1 Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 06:14:07 PM EST
to consider what the likely outcomes of your plan would be. if among the top three you see situations so awkward you'd have to leave and not look back, then you probably don't want to try it. i've tried taking the plunge before and it sucks when it doesn't go right. also consider that if you're thinking it's your ticket out of a bad situation (isolation or whatever), you tend to misjudge the probabilities involved in your favor. 

seems to me churchgoers are probably the last place to look for sympathy re: your situation. also, commenters on prior diaries who said it's best not to dwell on things and find distractions are very correct. activities that draw attention back to things obviously don't count as distractions.

I have only one comment... by belldandi (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 06:16:40 PM EST
Need to find more like minded individuals. Look up the website link I mentioned earlier; even if the shoe doesn't completely fit, it may be a start to not feeling so out of it. And if you ever want to attend any events in the DC area, ana you are more than welcome to come for a visit. As long as you can stand possibly being around 2 kinda silly kids :).


I struggle. by clock (4.00 / 4) #3 Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 06:35:48 PM EST
I've read your entries on this topic and I always stop short in replying. That's because I don't have an answer. Hell, I don't even have a good idea. However.

This isn't working for you. That's clear. It hasn't worked for some time. It seems that you know this but maybe have trouble being mindful of that fact. Again, I don't know.

I have to imagine that there is a church that is more your speed somewhere in the area. It is worth it. Find it. Go to it. Church is something that you need.

Good luck. We are here. We are listening. We are your friends. I can't imagine that will change.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

You're dealing with good people by theboz (4.00 / 3) #4 Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 07:28:18 PM EST
The problem is that most people out there are good, but it doesn't make them understanding of you or your friends.  Given how you started off about not bashing religion, have you considered that it's your specific church?  Perhaps the key is to find a church with people who you could be friends with?  The only way to do that is to explore around and hope for the best.
- - - - -
That's what I always say about you, boz, you have a good memory for random facts about pussy. -- joh3n
This probably ought to be its own diary... by toxicfur (4.00 / 2) #5 Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 08:22:15 PM EST
because I have a lot to say about your church.

First off, though: the reasons I stopped going there had nothing at all to do with you, but rather with a lot of the issues you bring up here.

There were a lot of people at the Advent who I liked (many I still like, and I've kept in touch with A, at least, and I see a lot of others on facebook). But.

Maybe because I was raised in a church that went counter to nearly everything I believe about God. Maybe because inside, I'm a rebellious toddler who doesn't want to be told what to do, or maybe just because I haven't found a church that really suits my religious beliefs enough, I haven't often felt like I've needed to go to a church to get my spiritual needs met.

So church for me is more about the connection-with-others aspect, of being in a place where I'm accepted for the flawed but striving human I am. Except that I never felt like I got that from your church.

I was always Other. At first, I thought it was because I was new, but if anything, it got worse the longer I was there. Unless I was ushering, it rarely seemed to matter to anyone if I was there. And always, always, I was Other. It would be pretty easy to say that it's because of the queerness, but I think that was only a part of it.

The larger issue in that church is classism, I think. They are very nearly all comfortable, white, wealthy people, and in typical white upper-class fashion, they tend to avoid any topic which makes them in the least uncomfortable. And they tend to believe that everyone is either like them or should be like them. People who don't fit vanish from sight. I felt there like I did when I was 13 and the poorest kid in my school, the one who didn't know  the rules of upper-middle-class behavior, the one who didn't have the good clothes and the expensive haircut. The one who was weird.

The difference between then and now is that adult me has no desire to fit in. I don't want to remove my piercings and cover my tattoos. I don't want to shop on Newbury Street (except for Fluevogs, of course). I've been thinking about this a lot since you and I last talked about it, and I think I know when I first really noticed the sort of attitude I'm talking about. I was in the adult confirmation class, years ago, whenever that was, and the priest leading the class made some sort of offhand and snide comment about Gene Robinson's then-recent confirmation as bishop.

As politely as I could, I unleashed: "What's that supposed to mean? It's not as if a group of people sneaked away in the dark of the night to make him bishop. He went through all the confirmation processes as any other bishop. He was found worthy of that position, and I don't really understand why  people feel like this is some radical deviation -- he was treated like everyone else."

Even among people who I know support gay rights/gay people, there was a look of shock and a sense that I'd seriously crossed a line. I had questioned a priest to his face. I had called someone out on an uncomfortable and controversial topic. I'd already felt like an outsider, that I couldn't be wholly myself there; that experience just kind of solidified it.

I stuck it out, hoping it would get better. Softball helped to a degree, but again, I felt like I was being used in a sense -- I was the one woman particularly in the later years who knew how to play. And then, after you and I separated, I was treated as if I had an embarrassing disease, and I started to think that maybe people had been kind to me only because they liked and respected you. It just wasn't worth it to keep going back.

Recently, I've been thinking I should find another church, for reasons that have to do with forming a real-life social network outside of work. I like Episcopalian churches, and I know there are some who really do practice radical hospitality. The greater Boston area has a bazillion churches. There's certainly got to be one that will work for me, and I do hope that you can find something that works for you, too, either at your current church or elsewhere. It's obvious you have a hole in your life with regards to a church that meets your needs.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin

Q: by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 11:57:26 PM EST
And I ask with a much sensitivity as I can muster - do you pursue non-ecclesiastical friendships? Do you see them as counter- productive to your Christianity? I just get the feeling that it's the only type you seek and you seem to get burned pretty often by these types. You seem pretty down about this topic.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Friends by Gedvondur (4.00 / 3) #7 Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 09:27:12 AM EST
I can't comment on the spiritual matters, I have no experience with church.

What I can tell you is that you are my friend and that I'm sorry I am not physically closer to enable us to talk more.

"So I will be hitting the snatch hard, I think, tonight." - gzt
Below. by MrMole (2.00 / 0) #8 Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 10:33:26 PM EST
I'm probably not the ideal person to talk to but if you want to chat I'm free. 

You seem like a good understanding person and hope all things work out for you.

I've hit rock bottom number of times myself and know it's a terrible feeling.  Time helps and trying to be positive even when everything seems black.


Gender politics by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #9 Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 02:21:14 PM EST
Reading this, I wonder if there's some gender issues that caused what you saw in the reaction to your announcement and that of the other woman.  Men in this society are supposed to be stoic and overenthusiastic displays of sympathy make a lot of people uncomfortable.  The reaction you saw may have more to do with that than with how people view you as an individual or your situation.

Unfortunately, a lot of the social processess people follow are based on gender stereotypes more than individuals.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

That, and... by ana (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 02:24:56 PM EST
the employment situation. For those few hours a week, he's her supervisor.

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Your title and intro by curmudgeon (4.00 / 1) #11 Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 03:47:25 PM EST

Ring so very true to me.

Get over it.
Things we will not talk about... | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden)