Tag Archives: memories

Musings on Torn. A Kindred Spirit.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been reading Justin Lee’s book, “Torn:  Rescuing the Gospel From the Gays vs. Christians Debate.”  I have a little less than 100 pages (out of the total 259 pages) to read.  While there are some things in Justin’s book that I take issue with — such as his tendency to fall into the trap of focusing on showings how Christianity stands out from all other religions — there is much in the book that I like.

In truth, there’s much in the book that I can identify with.  I can relate to the whole concept of being “God Boy” (though no one called me that and I don’t think I was quite as outspoken as he was) and “having a secret” while growing up.  I resonated greatly when he started talking about his initial reactions when he first started discovering his feelings for other boys.  Justin puts it thus:

At first I had ignored the feelings.  Puberty is a confusing time, after all, so I assumed these attractions to guys were just some sort of weird phase I had to pass through as I matured.  I’d heard Christian authorities such as radio host Dr. James Dobson say that young teenagers sometimes went through a period of sexual confusion, and this seemed to be the proof.

I too remember telling myself that I was just going through a phase when my sexual feelings for other boys first started surfacing.  And yes, I seem to recall various religious experts — most likely including James Dobson — saying things to encourage that kind of thinking.

In some ways, I can also related to his awakening to the realization that he had no sexual interest in girls as a teenager.  Justin writes:

As teenagers, my guy friends had become interested in girls in a different way, and they talked eagerly about their eyes and lips and breasts and legs.  I avoided these conversations, telling myself that the reason I didn’t lust after women was that I was a good Christian boy.  Lust was a sin, so I convinced myself I just didn’t objectify women the way some of my friends did.  That wouldn’t have been Christlike, after all.

I remember a couple of boys in my class that began talking about girls’ anatomy and “humping” them (I’m sure that latter part was all talk) as early as the fourth grade.  And at the time I took my failure to have any interest in such things — like Justin — as simply a matter that “good Christian boys” didn’t think about such things.  (In some ways, I still feel that was true, given just how young we were at that time.)

However, as time went by, I became more keenly aware of just how uninterested I was in girls and just how bizarre this really was.  I remember one night when I was in high school, I lay in my bed and actually tried imagining kissing the female classmate that I was allegedly interested in (in fairness, I did think she was a great person and would have loved to spend more time with her as a friend).  Not only could I not imagine doing so, the thought left me feeling cold and a little bit disturbed.  And that realization left me feeling even more disturbed.
I think that was one of the first times when I really began to wonder what was “wrong” with me.

So in many ways, while there are some things that I don’t agree with Justin on — and there are one or two things I’m still waiting to see how they play out in the rest of the book before I express concerns — there are many ways in which I find myself nodding along as he recounts his experiences.

In many ways, I think that’s a good thing.  One of the central themes of his story seems to be that no one was there who understood, and that’s a theme I can relate to.  I think that’s a theme that many LGBT people — and especially those who grew up within evangelical Christianity — can relate to.  In many ways, Justin’s book is a way of letting those who may now be going through those experiences know that they are not the first and there are those who can relate and understand.

I’m not sure whether Justin’s goal of rescuing the gospel from the “gays vs. Christians” debate will be met, but that sense of offering understanding and camaraderie to those who came after both of us strikes me as something that makes his book priceless.

Considering Peretti books for analysis

After some thought, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a deconstruction — if you can still call it a deconstruction if you find more about the book that you like than you dislike — of another book by Frank Peretti.

I’ve read a total of five Peretti books.  Each one of them is slightly different in some way.  This Present Darkness is about the war between angels and demons as it plays out in a small town.  Piercing the Darkness, its sequel, is also about angels battling demons, but this time the main focus is the battle over a particular soul (though it did have a swipe at the public education system, which was a popular topic at the time I was reading it due tot he emergence of outcomes based education).

The third book that I read was Prophet, which was not about angels and demons but about a journalist who found himself living a “prophetic” (in the terms of warning others of the consequences of their misdeeds) vocation.  The book mostly focused on the evils of the (liberal, of course) media and abortion.

The fourth book that I read was The Oath.  It was a strange book in that it was far more a Horror book than the others.  While it got preachy about the nature of sin, there was also no clear connections to actual spiritual movements (at least not that I’m aware of) like the first three were.  I often joked that The Oath seemed more like Peretti contracted Stephen King to write a book for him in comparison to the others I had read.

I should note that I read these four books when I was in high school, when I still considered myself a fundamentalist Christian.  As such, I read them as a member of Peretti’s target audience.

I didn’t read my fifth book, The Visitation until I was in my late twenties or early thirties, long after I became a witch and devotee of Freyja.  In many ways, I suppose that’s why i liked the book.  In this book, Peretti turned his critical eye away from “outsiders” and turned it upon his own religious subculture.  As a former member of that same subculture, I appreciated his look.

I’ve decided that I want to do an in-depth analysis of The Visitation.  As I said, I’m not sure I can call it a deconstruction, as many of the parts that I will be exploring are places where I actually identify and agree with Peretti’s thoughts.  However, given the nature of the main plot, which I wasn’t as impressed with, I don’t expect my comments to be entirely glowing, either.

I’m also hoping that it might be interesting to compare this book with This Present Darkness.  Who knows, maybe it’ll even spark up some sort of discussion between Yamikuronue and myself as we compare our experiences of our respective Peretti books.

Remembrance

Given that this is the season to honor and remember loved ones who have passed from this world, I thought I would make today’s blog post a more personal one and talk about a beloved relative, my paternal grandmother.

I forget my exact age, by Grandma Harris passed away when I was very young, before I began school, if memory serves.  The past several years of her life, she battled cancer.  I vaguely remember many nights where my sister and I would sit in the hospital waiting room with one of my parents while the other one would go upstairs to visit Grandma during her latest hospitalization.  I cannot think of Grandma without thinking of memories of her failing health because I never knew her before her battle began.

I am told that Grandma was a caring and strong woman all of her life.  I’m inclined to believe that because of the strength, grace, and dignity with which she faced her fading health in her final years.  Anyone can be strong and loving in the best of times.  However, it takes a special person — like Grandma Harris — to be strong in sir darkest hours.

One of my most cherished memories is of a day I spent alone with my grandparents.  Grandma Harris gave me a peanut butter cookie1 and I laid on one of the couches in my grandparents’ single-wide trailer munching on it.  Now, like any preschooler, I was a messy eater.  And peanut butter cookies are prone to leaving lots of crumbs.  By the time I was done, both I and the couch were covered in crumbs.  My grandparents saw it.

Grandpa Harris — who had a much harder edge than his wife — started to get upset and critical.  But Grandma Harris calmed him and told him that these things happens.  Besides, Grandma Harris had a solution.  She told Grandpa to go get the old vacuum cleaner.  He did and Grandmother began to vacuum up all the crumbs, both those on the couch and those on me.  Grandma Harris was a rather practical woman.2

When I think about the kind of person I want to be, I often think of Grandma Harris.  If I manage to embody half the love, strength, and no-nonsense approach to living that she did, I think I’ll have done a great job.  And I’d like to think she’d be pleased with the man that little boy grew up to be.

[1] Grandma Harris loved making peanut butter cookies, and they are forever intwined with memories of her in my mind.  If you asked me for an honest evaluation of which cookies I thought tasted the best, I would likely say chocolate chip cookies.  But if you ask me what my favorite cookie is, I will still tell you “peanut butter” cookies more than three decades later.  It’s not about how they taste, it’s about the fact that they are the cookies Grandma Harris used to make.

[2]  Plus it gave me countless opportunities to watch people’s reactions whenever I mention in passing that I got hovered by my own grandmother.

Music, Memories, and Emotions

The other day, I was listening to the radio while driving, and “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith came on.  I absolutely love that song and want to include it here.  So thanks to YouTube, enjoy a nice rendition with lyrics, no less:

I actually have an emotional history associated with this song.  The song was quite popular on the radio back in 1998, thanks to Armageddon.  At the time, I was also involved with a young man name Zech.  It was actually my first relationship, providing you don’t count the friend I experimented with in high school.  The song meant a lot to me back then.  Every time I heard it, I thought of Zech.

The other day when I heard the same song, it made me think of another guy.  I’ll call this guy D (until he tells me he’s ready for me to talk about him by name.  D and I have been talking, hanging out, and otherwise enjoying each other’s company.  We’re not actually dating, though I hope that changes some day in the not-too-distant future.

What I find interesting is that while similar, the reaction the song evokes in me regarding D now and the reaction I had back when I was involved with Zech.  In both cases, the theme of the song — the desire to be with that special someone as much as possible — resonated deeply with me.  However, the emotional undercurrents are worlds apart.

As I mentioned, Zech was my first boyfriend (though come to think of it, we never officially dated).  We were both young and immature, and I was only recently out (I had only finally accepted my sexuality two years earlier).  This meant that I was going through a lot of emotional turmoil, and tended to cling to Zech in a sense of desperation.  And that desperation came through back then as I’d listen to the song.  I didn’t want to miss a thing, because I was terrified that things would end.  Part of me wanted to squeeze as much out of the relationship before the horrible ending came, and part of me foolishly believed that simply by being ever-present, ever-vigilant, and ever-suffocating, I could actually prevent the horrible ending from coming.

I’ve grown up a great deal in the intervening twelve years, and I now listen to that song again with a new guy in mind.  And once again, I find myself nodding along with the song.  But rather than a nagging sense of desperation, my heart is filled with a sense of peace and contentment.

The funny thing is, there area  few parallels.  There’s no guarantee that things will work out between D and I.  (Is there ever really any such guarantee?)  I don’t know how long I have with him or even if we’ll ever become a couple like I’m hoping for.  I think it’s likely though.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter.  I have this time now, and I want to make the most of it.  Not out of fear or desperation, but out of hope and joy.

People often talk about how music can evoke powerful emotions and we can associate specific memories and feelings with a song.  However, I sometimes think that people forget that new connections and associations can be made with old songs that replace or overpower the old ones.  I know from personal experience that this is true, because I enjoy “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” far more today than I did back in 1998.

In fact, I think I’m going to go listen to it again.

A Bad Leadership Fit

I remember how frustrated Diane, our old IVCF staff worker, used to get with me my sophomore year in college.  I had decided to get involved in IVCF leadership that year and had taken a position on the chapter’s executive board.  It quickly became apparent that I was not well suited or that kind of leadership.  My outlook was simply more relational.

The scene played out several times, varying only in details.  The day of a meeting would roll around, and I’d be talking to someone.  The conversation would be deep and personal, as I was never good at small talk and people tend to spill their guts around me anyway.  I’d note the time and decide that continuing the conversation was important than getting to my meeting on time.  Often, I wouldn’t make it to the meeting at all.  This would frustrate Diane to no end, adn she’d try to get me to understand that while relationships were important, always breaking my other commitments for the sake of a conversation wasn’t entirely right either.  I don’t think she ever got very far with me on that score.  Eventualy, we agreed to muddle through the rest of the year.  We also agreed that I’d take a role the following year that would be better suited to my nature.

I’ve grown a lot in the fifteen years that have passed since then.  As a more mature person, I can now more readily see Diane’s point more clearly.  And I’m more likely to judge a relational need more carefully these days, taking into account how immediate the need is, how serious my other commitments are, and other such factors.  Today, there’s a real possibility that I’ll say, “This is important.  I care and I want to be there for you.  But can we talk about it in a couple of hours?”

But I’m still mainly relationally oriented.  I’ll keep my commitments to activities like meetings to a minimum.  The difference, however, is that I’m less likely to take on sucha  commitment in the first place, rather than taking it on and then breakign it later.  Because I’d rather have my time free so I can listen to people.  I understand that now.  And I allow for that preference reponsibly.

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Facing the Plunge

Tonight, I wrote the next chapter in Journey, the one that talks about my first attempt at love, or something that I thought resembled love at the time. Surprisingly, it was a pretty easy piece to write. Of course, it helps that I’ve written about that relationship elsewhere before. (In fact, I may dig up those old diary entries and look into supplementing what I wrote tonigh with some of their content.)

Of course, this marks a point in my story that has me somewhat afraid. This is the point where I start talking about my experiences prior to 1996. It’s time to delve back into some of those emotionally trying times, and the things my psyche did to survive my youth. And it’s appropriate that I start writing about these things at this juncture. After all, it was towards the end of my relationship with “Chris” that some of those things started coming back to my conscious attention. Indeed, they contributed to the rapid decline of our relationship, as I was forced to deal with emotional wounds I had hidden for years.

I find myself in an interesting position. I want to go there, yet part of me dreads it. I’m not entirely sure why. I suppose it’s in part because I’m afraid of what pain I might still find there. Will I be fortunate and only find the kind of “ghost emotions” I experienced when I wrote about the weekend I came out? Or will I find something more difficult to deal with?

Of course, there’s also the fact that I’ll be sharing some deeply personal things. And a much as I feel I need and want to do so, I have to admit the idea still scares me in some way. I won’t let that stop me, as I feel it’s right to press on. But perhaps a bit of tenderness towards myself as I work through this part of the story is in store, all the same.

The power of memories

Earlier tonight (before it became tomorrow), I took the time to write about the weekend I decided to come out and the emotional crisis that led up to it. It surprised me how easily much of the emotion I felt that weekend came back to me. In some ways, writing about it meant reliving it, and it was a strange experience.

Of course, this time around, the feelings weren’t nearly as strong. Instead, they were more a ghost of events and feelings long gone. Back then, I was afraid that all of the feelings were going to consume and destroy me. Tonight, the worst they will do is chase a smile from my face until I get some much needed sleep.

And in some way, I find the return of these emotions comforting. Not because I have any desire to return to the constant torment I felt back then, but because it means that I’m still connected to that person I was. I can still identify so completely with my past that I can draw on it for strength, insight, an even wisdom without becoming lost in it or controlled by it. And that is a wonderful feeling.

I’m beginning to realize that this writing project is meant to serve a dual purpose. So far, I’ve been focused on how it might help others who are going through many of the same things — or even just similar things — that I did. But now I also see that it’s also a chance for me to again connect to my past, understand how it led me to the presence, and discover just how I’ve grown from it all. And perhaps that’s something I need right now, too.