Sunday, October 21, 2007

Just a Long Catch Up Post to Dear Friends

I wanted all to know I am doing okay, some days better than okay.

My marriage is growing stronger in spite of the current ridiculous pressure my wife's graduate school puts on my wife and I. Though I am the laundry man, the dish man, and in general the housecleaning and take our son everywhere he has to be man...and do that in addition to my career, somehow she and I have managed to grow and not disintegrate into chaos. We have days that simmer or when I sink into exhaustion, but the overall trend, the line graph of our love, is on the upswing and has been for the last few years. Considering the challenges our childhoods present us, as well as her education and my portfolio of emotional/mental issues, I am pretty damned glad to be able to say this. Some days, I admit, it still feels like the house is on fire and we're glaring at each other through the smoke; but less and less. We are beginning a ten session marriage class at our church, and it was so freeing to hear couples share at the first preliminary meeting. Lo and behold, most people have messy houses, isses between them, and strained budgets and take little time for deep communication; S and I fit right in. I can't wait to hear what comes out when the actual class begins! For surely, I do not know what normal is, as the ACA problem said many years ago, and it is always deeply comforting and reassuring to see my struggles are not that different from others'.

I am still in therapy, though my therapist retires in May next year (and I feel like Mr. Monk...I don't just work my way through therapists but through therapists' careers). I am growing there, though very slowly, but without doubt, growing. The huge stones of OCD are moving. I have entire days now where I dwell on normal problems, real world problems. I am so thankful for that my eyes tear. I do get stuck in the shit, yes; but so far, I keep shovelling out, and each time I stand just a bit higher.

While I have not posted my final post or two on Estella, on the dramatic destruction of my first marriage, I am thinking about that dark time quite a bit. Working in therapy on it, sometimes hard. The feelings I have even after all these years are still strong; the work is always painful, as she and I held such a strong dream, or at least I held one; but reality is always good (how often the gut-core feeling-work of therapy reminds me of weight lifting or any hard exercise...I feel like I can't take it, can't do it, am overwhelmed...and then it passes and the glowing glory of growth-sense takes its place; are there many better feelings in life than the afterwards of these two things...) Even writing now, I feel the heat beneath my skin, the anger and hurt that still remain as I sort my head around what happened. The greatest barrier to my moving on remains self blame, and I spend quite a bit of time talking to my therapist and others trying to come to a reasonable cognitive position on what REALLY happened to me (my brother, who knew Estella since she was 18, is better than any with this). That final post is coming, but how freeing to continue to heal that wound. It is a direct part of my growing contentment (ah, that word, in a post from me?) in my marriage now.

Spiritually, my situation remains complex.

The truth is, I spend less and less and even less time in second life, if for no other reason than that I have no time! Housework and schoolwork and family work fill my days (why do I find laundry or cooking stressful?) and I trot off to SL, infrequently, for relaxation the way most people watch tv (and I still think it's better to be in my own story than watch most of what is on television). But second life has detatched me, as I've said more than once here, from some of my first life spiritual reflection, and I am glad to see that changing in myself as I once again begin to wrestle. I find the war continues in my mind between the ponderous zeitgheist of my age, the pressing-stone of skeptical agnostic empiricism whose great weakness and strength is its narrow empirical method, and my faith in the Jesus of the gospels (though he appears a bit different in each). It is an odd place to live, but there it is. I continue to view much of what I believe skeptically at least some, if not most, of the time, and thereby deny myself the nurturance faith is supposed to provide us wish-fulfillers who believe. And yet, there are moments. Events. Times I know I am called to serve in the church in some capacity the way a younger man is the obvious choice to lift the refrigerator at the yard sale (and that analogy is fraught with weakness, as I am also fraught with weakness, I know). Times a theological question I am wrestling with moves forward. Often, I wish I had attended an NT studies program in my twenties, but the fundamentalist colleges I knew then would never do now and would not do then. I wish I had been raised an Episcopalian, returned to it in my twenties, and gone to graduate school for NT studies. But life is often tricky, and I cannot deny I enjoy what I do now.

And as I said, I still get moments. Heck, maybe as many as some NT professors :)

As I noted in a post below, I have a new job at church; I began serving as what the Episcopal Church calls a Eucharistic Minister, the old title being chalice bearer. I bring the wine to those at the communion rail about once a month, following behind the priest who gives the bread. For some, I tip the cup to their lips and say the ancient words....."The Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation;" others either dip the wafer themselves or have me dip it, and then I say, "May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in eternal life." This is what I say, by direction, by genuinely ancient tradition.

Let me tell you all, that is something to experience. I am not good at lying; I am not good at hypocrisy, at least when I know I am being a hypocrite, and serving at the altar forces me to dig deep into who I am, who God is, and what my role on this planet should be.

For there are people who are nearly trembling, are trembling, to hear the words and receive the elements. Some are old and know death, that horrible and anxious absence, will come for them soon; some are wrestling with the pains and challenges of mid-life and family as I am, of money, children, housework, monogamy; almost all come forward genuinely desperate to meet God. To be, paraphrasing our liturgy, "restored in Your Image." Walking the rail is like praying with every person who comes forward; it actually is that! What a gift to be able to do so. The power of it has nothing to do with doctrines about the elements, or whether one stands or kneels or dips or sips...the power of it is God meeting people in need. That miracle happens over and over each time. What a vision. May I never take it for granted.

***

What else? Oh, saw the 25th Hour last night...fantastic film. And have been driving to work listening to Luke Johnson's Great Lecture series on Paul. That has truly moved me. It has been a long, long time since I have read or heard something I wished I had written! His final two lectures on Paul's letters, for me, hit the nail directly. This is a human author writing who has had a resurrection experience, an encounter with the risen Christ, but these letters are surely not divinely written! Of course, LTJ says it better. And he has opened up an appreciation for Paul I did not have before. Grand.

Well, I must run. But sincere hellos to all