All about Adam (Synchroblog)

Today is a pretty special day.  I’m joining several other bloggers in a “synchroblog.”  We’re talking about ways to bridge the gap between the Church and the gay community (something I’m sure you know I’m pretty passionate about since I identify as both Christian and gay).  Feel free to head over to New Direction Ministry’s blogging page to read other folks who are writing about similar themes . . .

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Once upon a time, I was one of those “ex-gays” you read so much about.  And a pretty good one too (so I thought).  I was actually helping to lead an online youth ministry geared towards those “struggling with unwanted same sex attractions.”  Our group was very tight-knit.  To this day, some of the folks I met in the ministry are like brothers and sisters to me.  We bared our souls to one another, and shared things that we had never fathomed to utter to another human being.  Those years were transformative . . . we all learned so much, regardless of the paths we ultimately chose.

But there was one particular friend that I remember hurting very badly. His name was Adam.  Adam was really questioning a lot of things at the time: his life, his spirituality, his sexuality.  And I – his brother in Christ – did nothing to aid him.  Don’t get me wrong, I thought I was being very helpful by pointing out how sinful he was to be questioning these sorts of things, and to not stand on the Word as he should. 

It wasn’t until months later, however, when I gained access to an “advanced” section of that particular group that I read some discussions that Adam had about me behind my back (since he had access to the advanced boards long before I did).  I can’t recount his exact words.  I just remember reading them broken-hearted.  He shared with some others how painful and stressful it was to be having to deal with me (and a couple of other people who were hard on him) on top of all of these other things he was questioning. 

That day changed my life.  That day I realized how much my words, my persuasion, could be utterly malevolent.  And I was forced to inspect my own soul.  How could I have done this?  How could I have hurt a friend so?  And in the name of Christ to boot! 

FEAR.

It was my fear.  Deep down, I was afraid of Adam and what his doubts represented.  I was afraid that if he questioned those things, then I might have to question them too.  That was simply too scary for me.  My entire notion of the universe, God, and my whole self were wrapped up in a particular reading and understanding of Scripture.  If one thing unraveled, the whole ball would fall limp to the floor – tattered shreds of yarn.  Useless.

I couldn’t have my whole world crumble.  So I did what so many Christians do in those times: I tried to coax Adam out of doubt, and into safe certainty.  And by so doing, I nearly ruined a friendship – causing undue emotional trauma to a wonderful human being.

How much does FEAR get in the way of effective communication?  How much do we need God and life to be some certain way in order for our world to make sense and feel safe?  How long will we allow fear to dominate conversation, such that we prove ourselves right, and everyone to the contrary wrong?  How long will we allow our rightness to exist at the expense of loving others in the way that Christ did – in that open, inclusive, messy, precarious, undaunted, unfaltering, expansive, and beautiful way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  And please feel free to read other bloggers on this synchroblog!

DJ

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Mixed Hope and Fear . . .

What an interesting mix of emotions I have right now!

First, the most notable emotions regarding the election of Barack Obama.  I am SO amazed!  As my boy and I were driving to dinner, I began to think about how I’d feel when I got the news.  And suddenly, reality began to dawn.  This would be the FIRST Black President of the United States!  I could feel tears welling up even then.  But then . . . then when I finally got the news.  I was amazed, overwhelmed, and simultaneously incredulous.  I couldn’t believe it.  Tears just ran down my face.  I can’t even describe the pride I feel as an African-American.  I’m not sure anyone can fully appreciate how this must truly feel to my community, and I’m not sure words are adept enough to make their meaning known.  But it’s BIG.  SO BIG!

I’ve cried no fewer than 4 times today as I’ve stopped to reflect on the import of it all.

Yet, I found it hard to sleep last night.  Part of it was just being very hot in my room, but I also know that California’s Proposition 8 was heavily on my mind.  The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to check the tally.  Only 87% of the precints had been counted at that point, but it wasn’t looking good.  I’m very, very sad that Prop 8 passed.  It was really not a good night at all for gays and lesbians.  The joy of the fruition of racial equality was smoothly blunted by the sorrows of sexual and romantic inequality that continues to arise across the nation

And then, I got into work, and in my message box was something good.  My research project from my residency is close to being accepted by the journal Pharmacotherapy!  There were apparently 3 reviewers.  I only got comments from the first 2 though.  The second guy ripped my project up!  That butthead recommended the study not be published!  (I have a strong suspicion that this person works for – or gets a significant paycheck from – one of the bigger Drug Industry companies.)  But the first guy was a lot more reasonable, and I’m pretty sure that I can respond adequately to his concerns.  So this is looking very good right now.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed! 

So yeah, a mixed bag there.  Anywho, I’m bouncing!

Loneliness . . .

Yes, loneliness.  I can’t say that it’s the FULL answer to the question that arose in my last post (i.e., “What the fuck is wrong with me?”).  But it’s a big part of it.

You see, I can’t remember the last time I felt lonely.  Traditionally, anytime that emotion showed the slightest sign of its desire to accompany me on my journey, I would suppress it.  And when it protested my feeble attempts, I would find some way of distracting myself from it – perhaps by diving into work, or maybe visiting a good friend for the weekend in someplace not-like-home.  And when its voice barked even beyond these attempts, I went to my last (but perhaps favorite) resort: pornography.  I drowned myself in it.  Afterall, if you can’t have real intimacy (i.e., “it’s a sin to be gay”), simply lose yourself in fake intimacy.

And why?  Why not just feel lonely, even for a single night?  Quite simply because of fear.  I have long felt that if loneliness had its way with me, it would destroy me.  A good friend emailed me today expressing a similar ethos regarding her own struggle with undesired emotions.  She asked me how I tend to articulate it beyond the simple “I feel like it’s going to destroy me.”  Here is another situation where I feel words simply fail me.  They just aren’t enough to describe how contrary – how utterly averse – I feel towards allowing myself to feel lonely.  Nor do they even begin to explain why I feel that way.  As loneliness grows inside my soul, it’s as if it crushes me, and squeezes every ounce of breath out of my chest.  So I resist it, and its grip on me tightens . . .until a suitable enough “intimacy” comes along to loosen its death grip.

But the cycle always continues.  And having my boy away for 6 weeks?  Well, it’s almost too much to bear.

My counselor (I’m sure you all remember Lance!) has been trying to convince me for YEARS to simply let the feeling of loneliness wash over me . . . to let it have its way with me, and see what happens.  I have failed at every attempt thus far, for my fear of loneliness, and my fear of the unknown (i.e., not knowing what reality would look like if I let loneliness have its way with me) significantly outweighed my fear of remaining in that self-defeating spiral of resistance.

But last Tuesday night was different.  After spending most of the day projecting outward, trying to find a reason for the wounding I felt, I promised myself before the evening was over, to investigate this theory that maybe I was simply lonely.

After working out, getting a shower, and having a few minutes of quintessential “Darren time,” it didn’t take long for the emotions to rise to the surface.  It wanted to overtake me.  I let it.  And I felt . . . horrible. Awful.  At the lowest of low.  And the worst part?  I couldn’t feel God, hear God, or comprehend why He would leave me be at such an inopportune time. 

As I sat there sobbing and mourning for what seemed like a decade (it was – in actuality – more like about 10 minutes, I suppose), the thought began to dawn on me: “I’m not dead”.  This feeling had not destroyed me yet, and it somehow seemed as if this was the best it had to offer.  And then I also realized . . . it wasn’t going to be this way forever.  It could only last so long.  I’d be seeing my special guy soon.  And I had friends and other things to invest in meanwhile.  Another 5 minutes or so of crying, and I felt the benefit of the cathartic act.  I felt immensely better.  It was as if a 2 ton weight had been lifted from me.  Since then, I’ve felt more like “me” than I have in ages.  Years, perhaps.

I wish I could say I was “healed” or something now.  But I’m not.  I struggle with this loneliness . . . but in a different way this week than every other week of my life.  Now, I don’t feel like I’m afraid of it.  And this appears to have loosened its powerful stronghold over my life.  I have loads of other baggage to sort through here:  self-esteem issues, dependence on unhealthy coping mechanisms, a willingness to lose myself in another, etc.  Yet, I have a better grasp on this thing called Hope.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

Misery . . .

I can’t remember the last time I felt this way.  It’s been so long.  But the hole in my gut is ever-widening.  This familar wound that has reared its ugly head again.  I don’t know what it is exactly.  I just feel . . .raw. 

The pain is so indescribable.  It’s like, my heart has been perpetually throbbing for the last 48 hours, and my stomach is in knots.  Fortunately, I was able to sleep last night (unlike the previous night), but I still managed to eke out my remaining stores of saline.  And the crying sometimes seems uncontrollable.  I’ve had to keep my office door closed while at work, for fear that someone will walk in when the next wave of anxiety and depression washes over me.

I guess having my boy gone for 6 weeks was bound to leave me enough time for all of my old wounds to rise to the surface yet again.  I feel like such a loser right now.  So embarrassed, so ashamed of myself.  I have this sense that something is definitely wrong inside, but I don’t know what it is.  It’s my inextinguishable desperation for companionship, love, value, meaning, and purpose.  Yet those things seem so very far away right now.  I have the distinct impression that this is much, much deeper than “my love is gone for awhile.”  But I don’t know how to fix this . . . this . . . whatever it is.  What the fuck is wrong with me?

Paradoxical Depression . . .

Last night was the evening of the 2007 Baltimore Area Residency Banquet, celebrating the completion of various residencies at the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, VA Hospital, Union Memorial Hospital, and St. Agnes Hospital.

 

Here we are, having completed not ONLY 8 years of  advanced education, but even more specialized, clinical training.  I’d like to say that it was a surreal experience.  I’d like to say that the electricity in the air was intoxicating.  He’ll, I’d like to say that the free wine we got was intoxicating!  But it wasn’t.  All I could feel was this heaviness in my gut.

It dawned on me at some point in the evening that I had been here before.  It was so familiar.  Wasn’t I in the same place 2 years ago after graduating from pharmacy school?

I began to seriously question why these times of merriment, celebration, and festivities always seemed to only drown me in melancholy.  I know why this caged bird mourns: I am alone.

These times – the greatest accomplishments of my life, are times that I wish I could share with that special guy. 

And what about these huge transitions, and all the decisions that have to be made?  Where will I work?  Where will I live?  What new things can I afford to furnish this brand new life?

I just wish I could share these huge questions with someone. I wish I could lean on them for support, and get advice, and some good ol’ fashioned nurturing. 

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that my friends aren’t helpful.  They totally are!  I’m blessed beyond measure with some really awesome friends!  And it’s not that I can’t get support from them either.  It’s simply that there’s a HUGE difference between having the ear of a friend, and having the heart of that someone special.  And that’s what I miss so much.  That’s what tears me up inside.  That’s what keeps me yearning for him so much . . . and it hurts that there’s so much distance b/w us right now   Sometimes it’s practically unbearable. 

But I go on.  I survive.  I tell myself “yes, you want that right now, but you can’t have it, no matter how much you want it”, and then I have a good cry about it . . .and for about half an hour, my heart is settled.  Cycle. Rinse.  Repeat.

God, its got to get better than this, right?  RIGHT?!?

Labyrinth . . .

My heart is heavy.  Big surprise, right?  I mean, seriously, how many of my posts start in this very same way? 

But at the same time, I feel OK.  Some really groovy things are shaping up right now   I got a good lead on a place I might like to move into in a couple months.  The job at Spring Grove is pretty much mine (I applied last Thursday).  And I’ve been getting my summer “vacation” plans all lined up.

I’m taking the month of July off before I start working full-time.  I need to recuperate, find my center, and get my heart in order.  Not to mention have a friggin’ good time!

I’ve been reconnecting w/ old friends.  My buddy Joel and I have been hanging out a lot.  It’s been good for my soul.  I don’t know why, but I just really enjoy spending time w/ this kid.  Somehow, he convinced me to spend an ASSLOAD at a swanky hotel in NYC.  So we’ll be heading up there in mid-July. 

Also, I’m officially heading out to LA at the end of June for a conference, some good ol’ documentary film-making (yes, I’m serious . . . I’m gonna be in a Canadian documentary), and reuniting w/ dear friends like Jo(h)n and Burke

In many ways, I feel as though my “vacation” has already begun.  As bad as things are for me right now (emotionally), I’m amazed at how well I’m coping with life.  God’s been speaking quite a bit lately.  Maybe that’s because I’ve given Him more space to do that.

I’ll admit it: I fucked up.  I grabbed life by the reigns, and started living it out my way.  Not in a defiant way, though.  I mean, I really thought God was behind me . . . I really thought he was on-board w/ my plans.  But I see I probably should have taken a HUGE step back post-France, and gotten on-board w/ God’s plans. 

But I think it’s all getting worked out just fine right now.  Amidst all the sadness and grief, there’s been a steady stream of his pacific voice in my life.  Whenever I start to feel the anxiety rising, I take some time out, and just pray, and remember all the things He’s been speaking into my life these past 2 years, and suddenly I find myself at ease with the goings on of the world. 

Like Friday.  After finishing up business at Springfield Hospital, I took the rest of the afternoon off, and headed to the Bon Secours Spiritual Center (the same place my church has traditionally held its Contemplative Retreats, and where I had this life-changing experience last summer).  I spent some time at the prayer labyrinth, finding God’s voice amidst the throng of other voices plaguing my mind. 

I also attempted to spend some time praying at the chapel, but as soon as I got in there, I was overwhelmed by memories of my last chapel experience, which brought me to tears, and next thing you know, I was sleeping in the pew.  LOL.  It was peaceful in it’s own way though.  God’s presence was still quite strong.

So yeah, things are going fairly well.  I feel like God’s walking beside me on some treachorous roads, but it’s somehow OK.  I’m still walking, still moving, still growing, still hoping.  I know this will be all right . . . he gives  comfort and assurance, even when the world gives me every reason to believe the contrary.

Shalom,

D.J.

By the way, if you’ve never practiced contemplative prayer through a prayer labyrinth, you do NOT know what you’re missing out on!

Memorial Day Weekend, Pt. 2 . . .

Wow.  So Memorial Day Weekend wasn’t too shabby   I had my doubts about my ability to enjoy myself, but my heart proved to be not nearly so fucked up as I imagined it would be.

 

I wasn’t sure what to make of this “date” on Saturday – it wasn’t very well planned.  (Still not even sure I should call it a date, though, there seemed to be some palpable chemistry building up throughout the evening). 

 

I feared a rocky start, as Michael arrived here late.  I was thinking “gosh, should I be worried?”  But after getting here, we embraced warmly, and I was instantly calmed from that point forward.  We ended up having a fantastic time!

 

After a quick tour of the apartment, I took him to my favorite Thai restaurant, where we talked for a good 2 hours, then we went off to Rita’s for some gelati (mmmmm ).  We caught a movie (“28 Weeks Later”: not nearly as good as its predecessor, but if you like gore, knock yourself out), and then tried this hookah bar in Towson that I’ve been meaning to get to.  It was a pretty chill atmosphere – complete w/ black light, and some nice hip-hop music (a strange, but welcome departure from the Arabic music I’m used to hearing over hookah).  This place has a BYOB policy, so I went across the street and got us some Smirnoff Twisted green apple, which aptly accompanied our strawberry/kiwi hookah, as we sat on the plush couches and shared heartaches, joy, pain, and laughter until 1 in the morning.  Wow.  Definitely a great first date!

 

And that wasn’t the end!  Michael mentioned that he wanted to check out Cedar Ridge, since he’s read some of Brian’s books, so I picked him up Sunday morning.  I was a little sad to drop him off back at home, but as soon as we pulled into his driveway, we noticed his parents right on our trail.  It was an awkward meeting, because I wasn’t sure how much they knew about me.  But his mom’s warm, gleeful smile instantly put me at ease . . . up until she asked me to stay for lunch!  Um, yeeeeahhh . . . I mean, was I just begging for an afternoon of awkwardness?  But at the same time, how could I find any polite excuse to turn them down?  So I made a bold move, and stayed.

 

They really embraced me though.  We talked about all sorts of things, from the mundane (“American Idol”) to the serious (my struggle with the presence of the Kingdom in my daily life).  Heck, I even found out that the church my parents first started going to when they became Christians is where his parents went when they too began their serious walk w/ God!  Our families were there for probably a good 3 years together!  What a friggin small world!

 

It was really awesome to sit down and have a leisurely lunch with this beautiful family.  It was this sweet picture of how the future could look like – being a part of a really great guy’s life.  It’s my first experience in that realm, but it showed me just how much this . . . this is what I want.  Simply beautiful.

 

So, Michael and I went our separate ways.  It was a bittersweet goodbye, for me at least.  But it seemed to be somewhat mutual.  He should be comfortably home in Chicago now, much to my chagrin.  He’s definitely the kind of guy I’d love to go out with, and get to know a bit better, but I’m soooo not into the LDR thing, so I guess that’s that . . . for now at least.

 

I guess I’m just really greatful that God gave me this little glimpse into the possibilities – and that I was able to open my heart enough to actually receive it.  So yeah, I stand by my decree that I’m a terribly fucked up individual, but perhaps there’s some hope for me afterall

 

And now, you’ll have to excuse me.  I’m up at the buttcrack of dawn, b/c I’m heading down to the beach w/ some friends!  Woohoo!


Holla!

 

D.J.