Friday, December 19, 2008

Just Thoughts

nice to be back in blog :)

First, while I find it a nice idea to write four posts on the issues dividing TEC as I suggest belwow, all I can offer when I do get to those is my own opinion. It is a real goal in my life to get an actual graduate theological education, but in the meantime, I can do nothing but offer personal thought processes. Even then, it may take me a year to write the posts, and this blog has always been more about the private than the public (I couldn't even find it in google today). Maybe writing those posts will serve more to orient me than to reach anyone else. Who knows.

Second, reading at Sandalstraps again has been wonderful. What a heart that man has. I find discernment, right now, to be emotionally taxing. Maybe it shouldn't be or doesn't have to be, but when I felt the desire/call to begin work in the Episcopal community at this convention, I hadn't even been in a great spiritual place before that weekend. I was letting my doubt side dominate my faith side. Still practicing my faith, but so stymied by the biological realities of being human (random death and suffering) that I was spiritually stuck, stagnant. Then, out of nowhere, all this talk about discernment among the people I was with all weekend (perhaps because I turned the all on to the Lagavulin 16) and then even more out of nowhere, that urge to "use my gifts in this community." That strikingly powerful Eucharist the final day. I don't think I have even told that story here. If not I will.

But lately, reading at scribere orare est (another great blog; lately it has been both personal and rather like wonderful reality Christian television as Jared takes his Orders) I find myself stranded considering the role of priests, the nature of priesthood. Just what the hell am I getting into anyway? Whatever it is, I have to be able to my real self; it has to be an expression of who I actually am.

I know from my last conversation with my priest the Evangelical model still dominates in my mind: gifted teaching as the center, the Pastor/Priest as the personality holding much of the community together. I don't think that is the usual liturgical model. And then I wondered about just what priests can and cannot do. I think of a story a good friend told me, a spiritual person but not necessarily a Christian (though I don't know). His father attended seminary when he was beginning college and my friend asked a priest whether he should pursue engineering or social work. The priest told him engineering. He is now a social worker and fantastic in his field. He shared that story as if it was a spiritually significant event. Sighs. I always think: specialism matters. If I want therapy, I find a good and experienced therapist; if I want my car worked on, I find a good mechanic; so what should/do priests get sought out for? What is their specialty?

To add to the complexity: it is no secret on this blog I suffered from major depressions, anxiety and OCD. I am relatively depression free, certainly the serious deep stuff (and this is a story I have never told in detail here; I just have not wanted to go back and remember those years, but let me tell you all, they were dramatic, explosive, hellish, and grim). I am also generally free of clinical obsession. I need more therapy, I have decided, to work on myself emotionally. But how did I get healed from that deep, deep sickness in my mind, heart, soul? Did God or a priest heal me? No. I say in all fairness, skeptic that I am, that on one or two occasions God indeed seemed to intervene, and he may have been involved more than that. But I was healed by no magic. A tenacious committment to therapy did it. Years of therapy. One of my therapists was a Christian, one wasn't (I don't count the one that took my wife...but he was a Christian too). Whatever priests are, they aren't Gandalf, magicians, seers, magical healers. They aren't therapists. Therapy itself, the thing that has completely changed me, uses technology not explicitly found in the bible. I have a lot to sift, you see.

And I find all that frustrating, painful, even (technically) depressing. I am evaluated at my teaching job, now that I have tenure, every 3 years. I always expect my evals to be awful, I go in ready for the criticism. This year, as last time also, no recommendations for improvement at all. Even my Dean, work-ethiced boy scout that he is (and I love him) had nothing but admiration for my student evals. But so far, I have not found my ministerial niche in my own parish. (Or maybe I have and don't know it). Besides reading and chalice bearing, both of which I love...the little marriage class my wife and I have been hosting has kind of fallen apart, partly because I've been too busy with the job that actually pays me to schedule the meetings far enough in advance. Maybe not that, who knows. But I am used to teaching in a very structured environment, with certain expectations and settings. Translating that to parish life; confusion and dismay. I don't know. I knew my discernment would take a long time. I hope I'm not too old for my diocese already. Bottom line is I'm scared.

I need to talk to more people. My priest, yes, but more people. People in the field, people who walk spiritual journeys as a vocation. Cause right now, if God did "call" me, I'd have to tell him: you sure you're not mistaken? Maybe it was the guy behind me in the communion line. Lots of fear.

Of course, I was afraid to get married, am afraid to fly still, am afraid of being close, afraid of people's anger, afraid of criticism, afraid of failure, afraid to trust. Plenty of things I am afraid of are good things. I remind myself of that.

Pray for me, those who pray.

We'll be out of town two weeks and likely not in the blog. As we always used to say when I was in grade school, the day before winter break, "see you next year."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Handel and Reaching Out

Using my napster subscription to listen to Handel's Messiah, a yearly Advent ritual. What glorious music; what outstanding poetry put to music. The words of Luke, Isaiah, Micah..."and he shall purify the sons of Levi..." According to our faith, he has, with the righteousness of another, Jesus. We, all Christians, we are the purified sons of Levi. What a cosmic honor beyond belief.

I have been thinking, and reading online (often to dismay) about/within the split in the The Episcopal Church. It's big news, maybe bigger headlines in the secular press than it needs to be: four diocese and some parishes have realigned themselves as Anglican, renounced membership in TEC. Why? Well, the installation in 2003 of Gene Robinson, the gay N.H. Bishop, seems to be the most common thread. But also, ordination of women comes up, views on the Bible, and views of the Atonement. There are disagreements among those who have split on these issues (the ordination of women, for sure), but these are the issues/reasons I see raised as I read in the blogs and sites of those who have left.

I find it sad, truly. TEC has been, since its long and rocky inception, committed to accommodating different Christian belief structures and to maintaining openness on issues. Granted, the original issues it united over under Elizabeth I, the Protestant/Catholic tensions, are not what is splitting it now. We have managed, for the most part, to be high church and low church and maintain the communion for centuries.

However, I would like to address each of the above four issues, homosexuality, the Bible, women priests, and the atonement, from a compassionate and understanding position (unlike what I usually do on this blog, which is sort things out for myself and rant, often without counter discussion of any substance). As one who is staying in TEC. As one who has been impressed by some of those he has spoken with who disagree.

And on that note: let me say that the radical margin does not interest me. The blog I ran across yesterday that calls PB Shori the "witch-bishop." The blogs I have found full of blatantly racist, sexist, xenophobic, gay-hating voices on both sides of the Ocean. Those voices are out there. To those people I have nothing to say except this: you had better read the gospels a bit closer, and God help you as you do. I may still be an ass at times, but there was a time I was a great deal of ass; God's mercy changes me. But it can be one hell of a rough process.

In contrast to the extreme voices, many people I read or speak with who have split or who hold conservative positions on the above issues express themselves in responsible, even gentle, terms. And I can appreciate much of what they say: most of this conflict comes back to how we understand/read/apply the Biblical writings, and as all vessels which communicate the Sacred to us, from the person to the ritual to the written word to the bread and wine: it is naturally human that we elevate these to supra natural status. It happens in many, if not all, world religions. Sitting here, listening to Handel, I am shaken by those verses from Micah, for example, as redolent with meaning as they are for Christians. It is very easy to go from that place to asserting everything in Micah is God's voice for the modern world. But I get ahead of myself.

I don't know how long it will take me to write these four essays. Nor do I think I am an expert in any of them. But I see this as reaching out: if even one struggling Christian in TEC or out of it finds a morsel...then good. I think I would like to start with the atonement as it is the easiest to address of the four from my perspective.

But not today, friends. I have grading to do, lots, and will be out of town for 2 weeks after. Whether I will be blogging on the 4 before then or not I don't know. But in the meantime, my love to all.

"For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

There are few moments that great in ANY poetry, secular or sacred. When the Christian gospel complements it, then truly, light shines in the darkness.

Happy Advent to all. And if you have time, by all means, get a copy of Handel's Messiah on your ipod and listen in :)

Love to all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent 3 (the satan)

It is snowing. It has been cold, below freezing, for a few days and lightly snowing most of that time. Not much has accumulated, less than a foot, but winter wonderland is back. I am typing on our sectional, with a big window looking out into our front yard behind me, and a big shelf of snow just fell off the roof; it took about twenty seconds. For that time I was looking through nothing but that wispy white sheet. For twenty seconds, I was inside an avalanche. It is all very, very lovely.

Reading (interminably) N.T. Wright again last night. I find I like to take him a section at a time. While I finished NTPG, I have been reading JVG for a couple of years, in pieces. I think it's because he is explicating the gospels and each section is like a sermon or homily. I find I need time to reflect. Also, of course, his take on apocalyptic is different from all I was taught as a young person and that kind of realignment takes time.

Last night I read the section on "the satan." A brief discussion of the Temptation narratives. Wright notes the story shows up in Mark and Q, and while he considers the possibility earlier in the book (dare I say, smiling, tome) that none of the solutions to the synoptic problem are conclusive because there may be far more strands in the gospel records than we can ever identify (a historically reasonable solution, in my view) here Wright argues for the historicity of some foundation in the temp narrs using the most plausible solution to the synoptics we have: Mark came first, but another document of Jesus' sayings called Q was incorporated into Matthew and Luke. There are problem with this, and he describes them well earlier, but if that explanation is accepted, then the temp narrative is indeed old.

And what does it mean? I personally do not know if a personal being, an evil spiritual being, Satan, exists. I do not know if demons are real. NTW doesn't seem to argue either way here in any depth; he mostly posits that Jesus must have had some kind of struggle-experience after his baptism, at the beginning of his ministry. For me, that could have been spiritual, psychological, or both. The things Jesus is offered by the satan, the adversary, represent conventional Jewish kingdom expectations which Jesus, typically for Wright, overturns. It is a good analysis.

I am reminded again that while I believe NTW to be very brilliant, he is by no means the only gospel historian writing now who is highly intelligent. I think what makes his book most readable for me (for it is not clear, concise style) is his very, very ambitious attempt to avoid what should be called "the Schweitzer fallacy." Schweitzer is still famous for undermining earlier attempts to find the historical Jesus, illustrating how many of those Jesuses were only reflections of the social or political agendas of the author/period. NTW, conversely, tries to climb into the mind of a first century self-proclaimed prophetic Jew. I love it. Not just because it provides a kind of (neo) neo-orthodoxy, but because it is the only responsible way to proceed historically. Everyone has biases, Wright included, and his show from time to time. The criticism which could most be leveled against him, I think, is that he is a Christian: the gospels are the documents which support and illustrate his faith-core. But as I have long said, and everyone who has looked at NT studies has said: no one is neutral; no one is objective. But Wright's strength is that he is methodically, painstakingly trying to be ancient. Once, after a gospel reading in a service, my son, about 13 at the time, turned and looked at me and said, with utter heartfelt integrity, "he was weird," meaning Jesus. That struck me as a better assessment, a better critical reaction, to the gospel record than I find in many professional scholars.

This post (and a stack of papers waits to be scored) was not supposed to about NTW at all. Or only briefly. It is supposed to be about my own struggle with the satan as I step out, tentative and searching, into my own ministry.

For while I have been active in my parish almost since I got there, as lector, as warden on vestry, I have not (ever) thought of my life in terms of converting it into a life of ministry. Well, not since my early 20's anyway, and I had no idea what the hell I was talking about then. But since my "call" about a month ago (and reading Genesis, I love to see how Abraham got several calls, not just one to get him to where he needed to be; bring on more, God) I have opened my heart and mind to the idea of serving in the priesthood. I still almost chuckle when I say it. I have thought about it for several years, mostly because others mentioned the idea, but I have a good tenured job and while I think I have some of the gifts priest need to have, much in me must be shaped and distilled. My call came as a desire to work in the community of the church full time. I still like that idea, but I look at my self and life in very new ways as I proceed.

Now, for the satan. I found myself Sunday, in church, not passing the chalice but just attending, thinking how much I struggle in my parish. My second meeting with my priest went very well. I saw more of his personality than I have in eight years. He is opening up, yes, but also, entering discernment has put us on a different footing. I like it. He is an intelligent and good man; I see it more every time we talk. But he is also, most of the time, inside himself, a very private and shy person. As he is our only clergy person, that can be tough. In some ways, he reminds me of my father, though my dad was much more withdrawn and much more chaotic beneath that withdrawal. Also, my church is small, mostly older people, still without a choir. There is much I like about our traditional service; the music isn't one of those things.

But how odd, after all this time, to be standing there and looking so critically at the small numbers, the age of the people. I may well need a larger community, but as I have said, I have to stay connected to this parish while I am in discernment or start all over. Of course, it's true I just entered discernment! But my wife and I seem to take just enough to keep us in the parish, and its location has always been the selling point.

Then, last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, from a dream, thinking, "man is only a material being; he has no spiritual component." Now, I am fully willing to admit man is only matter and mental phenomenon; that latter, the utterly complex set of sensation, thought, will, and emotion I call me. I don't think man has to have a spirit. But as I enter discernment, predictably, the tension I have long allowed (struggled with, suffered under?) in my own mind: God and my faith are real/God and my faith are not real; that conflict has to be worked out more fully.

I swear, I feel like someone brought into a college football team because he throws a football once, for the first time, well. He has natural aptitude, maybe, for throwing the ball. But he doesn't know much about football or playing on a football team or strategy or plays or clock management, etc. In short, I have to learn much and grow much more if I am ever going to wear a collar. The exciting thing, for me, is that that process itself may show me God in a way I have not known. God may have revealed himself to Abraham a piece at at time (same with Isaac, same with Moses) but what if at the first theophany Abraham (or Moses) said: forget it. Nope. Not budging. God might have pulled a Jonah on them; no way to say (and as I write of these persons, of course, I see them through the thick myth/literary/historic lens). Had they rejected their first theophanies/calls, their lives might have been completely different. If Moses had heard I AM in the burning bush and then hustled it back down the hill to check on his sheep and his wife, he would never have stood on Sinai/Horeb.

The thing this most reminds me of, the process in my own experience closest to this, was my own recovery. As some who read here know (and really, no more than "some" have ever read here: hah!) I had some very bad depressions, major depressions, in the early 90's; and I had anxiety, and OCD, since childhood. Climbing out from beneath mental illness is the crowning achievement of my life. I forget that, often. But I have not had serious depression, even briefly, in well over a decade. And I have been free (almost) of clinical obsessions and pathologic anxiety for a two or three years, maybe, with a gradual decrease before that during the years I saw Sharon, my last therapist (though, as my doctor notes, I really should get another therapist, even for occasional visits, as a sort of second string bench-resource should I need it). I still struggle with vestiges of fear, anger, what I would consider normal everyday human neurotic stuff. Even there, I gradually heal, uncover new serenity and intimacy. But the violence of my depressions, the dominance of my daily OCD. Not a part of my life. I take no meds.

When I began recovery (1990) all I could see was a dim, I want to say liminal, path ahead. Recovery, now, was painful as hell. Discernment can't be that bad! But the feeling, as my brain works through issues of faith and community, is similar.

I told a good friend I had entered discernment, an older (of course) guy at my church who, with his wonderful wife, was one of the key people who brought me to this place. We didn't have much time to talk, but he said something like, "this is going to be good for you." He could not have said a better thing. It was exactly what I needed to hear. "This is going to be good for you." What a glorious thought. Discernment is meant to be good for you, however it turns out. The church canons, my own priest, show a deep respect and concern for anyone crazy enough to begin exploring. You see, I can only hope and pray, it may well be God himself who gives me what I need to make the journey. And now, if I was wearing shoes and not wool socks, I'd take my shoes off. For to make such a claim, that the Holy Spirit would support and nurture a single person on this globe of suffering and death...that is walking on to holy ground. May God continue to let me walk there.

For if my life and faith were put together enough to enter ministry while I am solidly in "mid life," what a gift. If not, I am going to grow in one direction or other! Such exploration can only produce growth. But if God is genuinely calling me, or will genuinely respond to my awkward and human progression...what a thing that will be.

***

I know evangelical friends who might tell me Satan (not the satan) is already opposing my new inquiry, maybe. I know recovery friends, many of whom I have not seen in years, who would tell me God has been protecting, preserving, healing me all along. He didn't wait for discernment! Maybe. But whatever lies ahead, it will be more genuine, vital and authentic than much of what lies behind. May God bring me into his kingdom as he wishes me to be.

"By him, with him, and in him." Amen.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Advent 2

I think this is the week of Advent 2; last Sunday was Advent 2....just what kind of Episcopalian am I?

Tomorrow is my second meeting with my priest, and my real job has kept me so busy I haven't had much time for spiritual reflection or introspection; I even missed my last walk. Several things are on my mind, and as this blog, even though I think it needs to consider audience more when I express theological opinions....this blog is still about me. Weblog. Etc.

Going into my second meeting I haven't lost my interest in ministry, but questions about money remain. Again, not big money, but financial security. And paying for seminary, hah, when my wife just finished grad school with a small to middle sized stack of loans. Also, my doubt issues surface a bit, as always; not a crises of faith, but the thoughts of the modern person.

I heard a very good interview on NPR this morning with Frank Schaeffer, son of the famous Francis. I think of the role of apologetics in the evangelical community I once inhabited, maybe in most Christian communities. For me, then, for us...someone who could argue the faith, who could present a rational bridge to Christian Theism; that person held saint status. It's funny to me how in my evangelical days we didn't think much about extra biblical characters who had gone before, traditional saints, but those who could argue the faith, who could give us, or at least me, reason for the hope within: they were revered. As if we were the prisoners in Plato's cave and they had seen the Light and returned to testify that it was in fact true; as if the great apologist was the perfection of Christian virtue, accomplishment, vision. The apologist had seen through the veil...reading them was like putting my hand through the dark mirror if only for a moment and feeling the heat of God's real being.

Now (and oh I have had a long day and am tired) now I don't think Christianity can be proven. I don't think theism, belief in a God who is concerned with humans, that cannot be proved because of the problem of biologically random suffering. How few, how few, of humans born into this world even have even reached adult age and been able to speculate on spiritual matters. How many innocents have suffered, children with cancer, all of it. I said a few words on this at Sandalstraps' blog the other day; I have not had the time to go back and read them.

That said, existence remains the great puzzle. For the order and beauty of this world, the aspirations of our spirituality, the meaning in ritual...the DNA strand alone; these beg the question of design. I don't care if it all evolved; that does absolutely nothing in my view to undermine design. It is only the brutal components of evolution, from animals eating each other to viruses and mortality; these remain the problem. In short, I do not think Christianity can be proved though I admire the work of those who try and think that work is often helpful to many who have faith; nor do I think Christianity or theism can be disproved.

And in the middle of it all we have the gospels. I am no innerrantist, but the religious brilliance of the biblical books is remarkable, at least to me. Likewise, the force of the personality who moves through the pages of the gospels (and whose phrase it that, I read it) is undeniable. My sheep hear my voice. That really does seem to be how it works.

While I still admire apologetics, I question the great number of American Christians I meet who think that on the rational level, the God question is settled. Far from it, in my view. I also question, at least as much, atheists who likewise think the question is settled on the rational level. Even more, I dislike any subjugation of faith and religious experience, prayer, ritual, worship...the encounter with the sacred; I much hate how that is considered secondary to reason by agnostics. Reason is over here, it's much better; there, you can have faith...but reason is implied to be the greater gift.

Are we so sure about that? Might not faith mean more, be greater than, have more lasting value, than human reason? Surely, if it connects us with the divine (and that is a big if; this is reflection, not apologetics :) ) faith and piety are of infinitely greater value than human reason. I am a fan of reason and logic; I have taught written argument, and tenaciously, for more than a decade. But might not faith belong with that set of traits we sometimes call inner beauty: mercy, compassion, optimism, humor, courage, love, hope, and faith. Is not faith a character trait which leads to humility, while knowledge, including religious or apologetic knowledge, tempt us to a false, secure pride?

I do not know. I am glad Frank S. is now in a liturgical tradition, the Greek Orthodox (as I have said before to friends who are "emerging" from the evangelical world: welcome to the liturgy...it's been here for an awfully long time. And any branch of our faith which can embrace reason, revelation, and experience but also embrace paradox and mystery...now that is a great strength of Episcopalianism.

Which brings me to my last: I am very sad to see churches splitting from TEC and forming another Anglican branch, or trying. The priest who brought my wife and I into the E church, the one who married us, and the priest who was rector in our first parish: both have left the E church, mostly over the Robinson issue. I don't know much about this, but I found it odd that in the founding documents released from the convention in Wheaton, I believe women will be ordained by the new break away group (I wonder if all parishes/diocese will follow this) but homosexuals, no way.

Oh: Lewis said it some time ago: those who cannot read a book written for grown up should not try. I do not know what view he would take on this issue were he alive today, but the way scripture is used to marginalize a group and not another (divorced hets, women priests) when there are texts which could allow such is simply beyond me.

But now I am much off topic. I've read Genesis and am halfway through Exodus; part of my discernment you know. More on that later.

love to all.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent 1

I had the fortune of going to two services for this Sunday, the first in Advent. One, last night at the cathedral some distance from my house (wife and I were out of town for a play) and then this morning, at my own little parish. Both were nice.

There is no doubt entering discernment has raised my anxiety level. Not to painful or pathological levels, but the uncertainty is always with me. I am finding one of my very oldest tools still works: exercise. As my back/tendon injury still heals according to geologic time, I find walking both helps and can do nothing to strain it. So, considering the beauty of where I live I don't know why I haven't done it more....I am walking a few times a week. Walking and talking to, of all people, God. Also sorting out my own anxieties and concerns with myself.

Fact is, while discernment sounds like and should be a positive process no matter what the outcome; while my "call" the final day of convention felt as real as my (re)conversion to Christianity in March 2000; while the idea of trotting off to live in an intentional community of believers and study my faith in a graduate setting sounds AS COOL AS HOGWART'S (and always has)...and frankly, while I feel about freaking blasted with grading a few hundred freshman essays each term and wince when I think of at least twenty more years of grading (also, the trend these days seems to be to make community college teaching more and more like high school teaching: only we get to sleep in and are on campus less...more on this another time). While all this is true (and yes, that string of dependent clause fragments joined by semicolons was intention :) ) two things, right now, two unknowns, are scaring the pee out of me (well, not quite the pee, but close).

I know I can find out answers to both these unknowns over the next few months. That is one of the great things my therapist Sharon (may she Retire In Peace...but live on in my caring memory) taught me: I can effect real world solutions to many internal anxieties. Information and action matter.

Question One: what is working in a parish actually like? There is much I know here: I've been senior warden two years (a very funny term considering the average age of my parish :) ); I am a Eucharistic minister; I've been on a couple other committees or at least visited them. I think I've been to 3 diocesan conventions now. I have certainly been behind the curtain. But I have more questions, and my parish is representative of only one type of parish (and, I reflect at this point, perhaps not the environment I'd thrive in most as priest...can never take the City, or at least the suburbs, completely out of the boy).

But what is a priest's life/job really like? I plan to look, interview, and learn as I can. The more priests I talk to the better.

And Question two, even scarier because it's much more unknown: what about money? Benefits. Especially retirement. I have a great retirement with my district and my wife and I are depending on it. But if I switch careers after, say 12 or 13 years of service, how will that play out? My diocese has a retirement. But what if I only get 20 years in it? You see? Switching careers tends to hurt retirement plans like these. I can find the answer to this question by talking to someone from my district and by talking, somewhat delicately, to someone who understands benefits and retirement in my diocese. But while my wife and I are generally responsible with money, we haven't put much extra aside for retirement as we've put her through grad school. If I stay in the teaching biz and she someday becomes a successful therapist (which I believe she will) we will do fine. No silver spoons, but we'll do fine. But if I shift into the priesthood? That is very scary. I hate to sound mercantile; I didn't go into teaching to get rich either! But I don't know specifics about compensation, benefits, and retirement for priests in my diocese. This is not the first thing one brings up when one is "called," but I have a family, it's not me and my books sitting here, and these things matter.

Ah. I feel better already. Journaling: writing: my OLDEST tool of all!

Much love to all, and my thanks for listening :)

In the imitation of Christ

Friday, November 28, 2008

First Step and the Consiliari

Wife and son have the bug and went out late to the midnight after thanksgiving sales...best of luck. I am far too old for that madness.

I had my first meeting with my priest and formally announced my intention to enter discernment. Or, in the lingo, "articulated my call." I really don't like the "call" term. I mean, St. Paul, blinded for three days in Luke's account; now that's a call. Surely, Peter, fishing when Jesus shows up and says follow me; that's a call. My own complex process of discernment? Not sure if the term fits.

I said a long time ago, right here on this blog, that I'd only enter ministry if 1) I had the desire 2) others had the desire for me and 3) circumstances permitted. I actually think number 2 has been the case, quietly the case, around me at my parish for some time; I'm sure I'll get the chance to explore that more deeply. Right now number 1 is pretty much still the case for me. I am trying to be very careful, analyze my self and my motivations skeptically as I go. I am good at doing that.

Number 3 will not become known for a long, long time. And the really important, the critical piece, of 2 is the same. Meaning, the Bishop and the Diocesan Committee on Ministry and a therapist and a doctor and a psychiatrist and the Standing Committee and I don't know who else. The leaders of the Diocese and professionals at sifting people: they will have to agree. I actually think it might be less work to become a naval officer on a submarine. Or it is something along those lines.

Now, for the consiliari. I have no idea if that word is spelled right and no desire to look it up at the moment. I laid around sick recently for a day and watched all 3 Godfather movies in one day. There, the consiliari (that may be the singular don't speak italian) were advisors to the godfather. Funny, I know. But since I ended my relationship with my therapist; well, since she retired and I haven't yet found the need to get another one...I have 3 consiliari, not counting my wife. Let's say, C1, C2, and C3. These are all men in whom I confide and have known for years. I have a C4...have not told him about this yet.

C one through three are all spiritual men of different hue. One, evangelical, one, contemplative/recovery, one, recovery spiritual in ways I still don't know fully. But each of these men know me very well.

One, when told, said: congratulations, fantastic, I think you'd make a great priest...that was nice to hear; I respect this man's viewpoint very much.

Another said: something positive, great, good for you; I work with this one and I think he does not want me to leave my job but he understands my yearning for deeper meaning in work. He understands how community college keeps you so busy there is little room for any real intellectual growth.

The third said: whoa; be careful. And he had a very provocative suggestion. Since my call finalized, centered, cemented maybe after Diocesan convention, after the energy of a few hundred episcopals in one place, he told me I should leave my little, struggling country parish and drive a bit do a much larger, thriving one. Do work there, lay ministry in a community that size, then see. This is a powerful idea.

For now that my priest and I must meet regularly over months, not that, get this, I must read every book in the bible as part of my initial discernment; my priest and I will be spending some time together. His initial recommendation, and I hate to go on with mafia imagery, is deeply important. He must get to know me and my qualifications, strengths and weaknesses, in every area, before he recommends me to the Bishop. And perhaps someplace in this conversation I may have to tell him: while we have made friends and experienced real growth in our little church, it has slowly shrunk, mostly from deaths, since we got there. I was put into vestry very quickly really. We've tried hard to get it to grow but for a number of reasons, new members have come very slowly. And the oldsters are locals, mountain bred people. Nice enough, but very different from my wife and I who were raised in the very big city and always enjoy visits back. We went pretty far to one extreme moving out to where we are; our next home will likely be something in between the woods and the urban desert we grew up in.

So. C3 makes a good point. Now, I don't really know if that would do it for me; if my call to priesthood, which I still feel, would be satisfied by lay ministry alone. If lay ministry would really utilize all my gifts to their fullest. It is very complicated in that a parish must launch a candidate. The rector must recommend you, but also the parish commmission on ministry and the vestry. In short, a parish and its leader present the candidate to the Bishop after a year or two of active service and discernment in the parish.

Now seems like an awfully bad time to leave. And I don't know, I don't think, our rector understands where the challenges have been for my wife and I. It has not been all bad! When it comes to theology my priest and I have similar views on many things. The two priests who got my wife and I into the E church, from two different parishes some distance apart...both have left the ECUSA and started "Anglican" branches over the installation of Gene Robinson. In brief, both these men ministered to my wife and I very much but I am glad as hell we don't go to either of their churches.

I will just have to take this one step at a time. I am about halfway through Genesis (I read most of the bible for EFM a couple years back) and see my rector again in a couple of weeks. Always careful about serious decisions, I don't mind a longer discernment. If it takes a year to send the Bishop a letter, I'm okay with that. For it's true the high energy of convention may not match parish work at all. Even in a larger and vibrant church. And I can go to seminary for a degree in NT without the ordination track. Oh, my decisions why I entered discernment are so complex...I will share them another time.

Thanks to all who read. And happy thanksgiving to all as well. Much love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Anonymity....

It hasn't taken me long to realize it will be very hard to remove all traces of my former quasi-anonymous self; even the url of this blog, which I cannot change, is a dead give away to anyone local. I will think on this.....

In Fear and Trembling

I don't have the time to discuss the reasons why, but I have made my wish known to enter formal discernment for ordination into the priesthood of the Episcopal Church. This blog is one of the very first people I have told besides my priest.

It's a long and even grueling process, culminating in a three year and very expensive seminary degree. I know I have ten years in my school retirement, a good income (finally) but it is just something I feel I need to explore. Right now, I feel it is the work I should be doing, a work much more vital than this work. I will have a chance to learn much more as I go along.

I am taking my first name off this blog and making it as absolutely anonymous as I possibly can so that I can describe my discernment process here, truly anonymously. I would like to start another, public blog, and will link it to my facebook when I do. For now, love to all and hope for prayers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Boo

okay, late for Halloween, but I haven't posted here in so long...right now I do feel the need.

I joined facebook as many of you who read here know. Not sure what to make of it so far but I am using it; as KMJ put it: it's blogging in reverse, all the comments and no posts. I, of course, want to do actual posts, but as the field of friends has grown dramatically fast, some people I know very well some I hardly knew when I knew them twenty years ago, I'm not so soure what I'll do with facebook. If you read here or used to and want to be added, just send me an email; I don't mind.

A lot is on my mind, more than I have time or energy to blog about. I live depression free and (almost) obsession free and have for some time. Oh, I have my issues, but then so does every living person I know. No, the things that occupy me right now are different things.

I am happy Obama won. I don't know how well he'll do, but as a teacher who works in a state funded community college, whose wife works with kids mostly from medi-cal families, those communities are the ones that I want to see given help and opportunity. I don't really care much about the expansion of the upper classes. And, I hate the Iraq war, think O is a much more intelligent than McCain..., yes, I am glad though I am no political expert.

I am very sad to see Prop 8 win in California. 8 makes same sex marriage illegal. I am astounded and embarrassed by this proposition and by the attitudes which allowed it to pass. It is even more frustrating to me that many years ago I too thought sexual orientation was a choice, like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, to use recent examples offered to me by a close friend in an argument over 8. Where can I even begin?

I can't. I don't have the time or energy to write a full post on this and the writing has already been done by others better and more educated on this issue than I. Let me say that everything I know and hear from gay friends is that orientation is a deep seated part of who the person is (as it is for me, a hetero male); they do not talk about their behavior and desires anything like smokers and alcoholics talk about their addictions. And to me, whether orientation is a product of genetics or environment or both or neither, it does not matter. Allowing those couples the same legal protection, the same public moral committment, seems a clear civil rights issue to me in and out of the Christian world. Loving my neighbor as myself is the only argument I need.

I also believe that the fundamental issue, for Christians, is how we read the bible. Surely proof texts can be found against men having sex with men in Leviticus and there is a description of the behavior as unnatural in Romans, though Paul does not seem to be talking about loving couples; he may not have known one. I sat at a friend's house recently and picked up a book on parenting which had some good content and then a couple of chapters on "the rod," or spanking children...when the author related stories where parents said they liked the rest of his approach but wanted to suspend the spanking part, use time outs or something instead, the author said something like: doing that is disobeying God; God tells you to spank your children and you must do so or you are disobedient to your Creator. The author, of course, is drawing on two passages in Proverbs (and if Solomon wrote those parables, look at his kids).

Give me a break.

The fact is there was a time when I could not imagine questioning the bible, when I thought I had to believe every word of it, that it functioned as a sort of cure all guidebook to life. I absolutely do not believe this any more. Why? Because I read it. The books in the bible must be understood for what each is and the human authors and historical and social realities which affect the writing acknowledged. Our view of God has changed over the last few millenia.

The fact is, as I've said here before, while liberals like myself are sometimes described as "cherry picking" because we set aside some parts of the bible and use others, the fact is every mainstream fundamentalist I know does the same. (Jesus seems to have done the same thing himself). Head coverings in Paul are cultural, his attitudes towards homosexuality divinely inspired. His occasional words to the Corinthians on women submitting to husbands quoted endlessly, his naming of female leaders (perhaps even an apostle?) in the church conveniently ignored as are the rest of his comments on equality of sex in Christ (Luke Johnson is very good here). I would not care about all this except that slavish reliance on biblical proof-text wounds a lot of people: women, gays, children, the kind of oppressed people who get so much attention in the gospels and prophets (in my opinion I can include gays as they are marginalized in our society and denied fundamental rights by the ruling, and straight, majority).

If we err at all, we must err in love. Love truly must explain all things, reveal all things, guide us in all. Without love we are lost. I am sorry; there is no divine and perfect book I have read on this earth. I think evangelicals (really descended from the puritans) emphasize biblical proof-text so much for a handful of important reasons, but their loss of the centrality of eucharist and ritual symbol, the Mystery, is not least among them in my view. The bible came to the forefront of the common experience of our faith in the reformation period, and sadly, become an idol like the "idols" which the puritans too eagerly stripped from the service.

I am not saying the bible is not important, even critical to our faith, or that it is not used by God uniquely. But it has silver and dross, and we must continually strive to use love to seperate the two. It really does take a textual critic to understand chunks of its content. Why didn't God give us a perfect book? I have no idea. One would think He would. I'd think He would get rid of cancer too but that remains. We live by faith. He gave his Son. That must be enough.

Regardless of my tone in spots here, love to all. This weekend S and I go to Redding for the Episcopal Convention. Pray for wisdom. There are times I despair that it exists on this planet.

t

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Home Alone, Too

One thing I'll note about my post below, about sailing the SF Bay. It is indeed technical sailing; there is the risk of collision above all, with other boats or land, but the adage: if you can sail SF Bay you can sail anywhere is simply not true. Sea swell is usually easy to manage, but the thing I do not want to ever have to do is ride out a storm at sea. Boats, even relatively small sail boats, can do that, and experts vary on which of the handful of methods of riding out a gale or storm is best...but it is the waves, not the wind, that can flip a keelboat over. Specifically, breaking waves, steep waves that the boat loses control of going down (or up) the face...any boat can capsize in bad enough wave activity. The bigger ones are just safer because of size (paraphrasing Nigel Calder in his monumental book).

The thing about ocean sailing is that, unless one is in a storm or some bad swell, the waves and swell are generally easy to manage (though seasickness is an issue for many, including me). While the Bay, because of its wind and traffic, can be pretty technical almost any day! Especially in the summer. And heck, I still think docking in a marina under power is harder than anything I've had to do while on the water.

So, that said, a quick share.

My wife is out of town for a few days for a conference related to her profession. She is actually only an hour plus from here, but with our son still not driving by himself, I sort of had to stay and hold down the fort. And the first night she is away I never sleep well. I went to bed at five, had to take our son to school around 8:30...went back to sleep. A lousy, lousy day. Drank too much (limoncello is a lot stronger than it tastes, as I work my way thorough our first bottle) was in second life WAY too much last night as our son slept...had fun there, sure, but really needed the sleep. Work meetings begin day after tomorrow, and the Friday meeting will likely have some pretty significant issues, even votes, on things I have worked on for a long, long time. That is part of my stress. But why I just don't let myself feel whatever feelings I am dodging when S is gone the first night of every trip, I don't know. I would never drink and play sl to escape any other kind of trauma (let's hope). I mean, a bad day at work may deserve a good martini when I get home, but nothing like last night. Somehow, the feelings I have when she is absent are so subtle I don't notice them except as I find myself acting out, on my computer at 3 a.m., feeling wide awake.

Damn, I am tired today.

Also, I have totally let exercise slip these last few months. I have worked out some, but not enough and surely not enough cardio at all. It's hard, living as far as we do. Sure, I could hike, but that is hard (how funny, after all those years I hiked, I have nearly stopped while living in the mountains); I could go the gym, but that is nearly 30 mins. away...as each season goes by, S and I know more and more we need to go down the hill. At least half the distance to my work, 30 mins. or less, and we'd be close to all the shopping we would need, really. Close to a gym. A Costco! Hah! The Sierra experience has been great, but as I have often said here, lonely. I have gotten better at managing the lonely piece, but I know I am a social person and do best in a social community. Also, not in a parish all too often much like the one in the hilarious Vicar of Dibley. If we moved, we would surely change churches.

And I am considering changing colleges, even, out of my district to get near the coast (oh, this is my deepest wish and prayer). We left the coast in so cal, but would settle happily for anything near enough the nor cal waters to get the breezes and cooler summers. To do that, I'm going to have to get another job at a different school; S will likewise have to establish a practice in a new area, and things have opened up for her so well since she graduated in May, she is scared to do the move, I know. Though one summer in the inferno of the central valley might motivate us both to do more. We will see. We won't move this year because our son cannot yet drive alone. But next year, when he will be a senior with a license and car...we could. Surely, the year after when he goes to college.

That is all gang. Feel crappy. Can't get motivated to clean or do laundry, my usual occupations. Haven't even had lunch yet. I'll feel better tomorrow; the campus meetings (they begin tomorrow, I note, not the day after) will center my head in the world of the real.

Love to all. My Thanks to all who read. This blog will never die, and may one day truly rise again :)

t

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sailing Bay and the Sea-Father

More than twenty years ago, I sat in a small bleacher in one of the gymnasiums at CSULB, first day orientation for a sailing class; just curiosity. The instructor, maybe in his fifties, went into his spiel: "All the stuff you see and hear and read about the myth of sailing boats...the blue blazer and white trousers, the captain's hat, the ascot, dinners at the yacht club...the skipper quietly smoking a pipe while staring out to see...the first thing we have to do is clear all that up; I want you to know that all that stuff is totally and completely true."

We all laughed. It was quite a few years later before my first time on a small sailboat, a very funny story I wrote about here a couple years back. But I did not really sail or learn to sail until about four years ago when my wife said a group was going from her work, mostly nurses, that one of the ICU nurses was a skipper, and that we could sail on San Francisco Bay for the day for about sixty or seventy bucks a piece, maybe less. That was expensive, and a bit of a drive, but we decided to try it. I talked to the skipper on the phone; I was told to call the ICU and ask for "Captain Diego." I did, and to my surprise, someone got on the line and gave me directions to a sailing club in the Berkeley marina. I was told when I got there to just go to the desk, and again, ask for Captain Diego. I thought that was half joke, but my wife and I found the club...a large building (as sailing clubs go) at the end of a dry dock boat yard and when we approached the two young (and very sailing myth looking) guys at the desk and asked for Captain Diego, they sent us right to his boat.

I have told other stories about sailing here, and sailing with the man I came to know, and still call, skipper. Nobody wore a blue blazer or white trousers on any of those sails, I'd note. None of the sailing class orientation myth was part of these sails or even part of my experience at other sailing clubs, except when jokes are made (though when I arrived the first time after dark, I found my skipper at the Berkeley marina entrance, wearing a black watch cap and a dark blue wool pea coat, talking about the wind direction as though he were savoring a wine).

The fact is, on those early sails I was too dumb to be scared, even when things were getting a bit scary. I found sailing absolutely entrancing. Sleeping on the boat (when there were not many of us...with six snoring guys, it's much less romantic). The interior wood and designs of the boats themselves. Pounding upwind, close hauled, in the slot between the Gate and Berkeley in 30 knots of wind, practicing man overboard drills with a lifejacket in conditions nearly that bad, the jib sheets banging on the dodger, or plastic boat windshield, so hard it broke. As I have said here before, a dozen or so days on the Bay led me to sailing classes in Santa Cruz, my own "skipper" license (just to charter boats; we're not talking Coast Guard Captain for sailboats here; such a thing exists, and it takes a year on the water and very tough exams). I did my first two days of skippering with two friends from work in Santa Cruz in 06. Then, I began grappling, and a guy who now describes himself as professional cage fighter (four and one) snapped some tendon in my back when we weren't even sparring, just drilling. The next time I tried to sail, the pain was just too much.

Now, the pain is much less. It is not all better; I do not know if it will ever be all better, but it gets better, very slowly, month by month. Enough that I took the step of joining my own sailing club, out of Sausalito, on the recommendation of my Santa Cruz sailing colleague (and because their monthly dues are the cheapest I found...and the people who work in the tiny square building so far very cool). It is more down to earth (and I did mention cheaper) than my skipper's club (he left the country to work with Doctors Without Borders for two years and quit his club). Since I joined, I have done one club day sail with a skipper on board, retaken my own bareboat class, or final class in the series to get one's charter license (two nights at anchor in the Bay, night sailing...things we did not do in SC). Called the next weekend to bring my wife on a club sail and ended up being the skipper myself on a boat I did not know with only one other person who knew even the basics of sailing; then, yesterday, another day sail with my colleague from work. I want to tell the story of my first skipper day in detail; it was quite something (I realized, coming back into Sausalito, that I had never piloted into the club slips before and had no idea where they were).

What I am going to write about first though is the emotional. For the early days of sailing with James (Captain Diego, a self moniker quite silly for a man of his Buddhist sincerity) are in my past now. You see, I have skippered. I can skipper. And the difference between going along for a boat ride in the Bay, aware of one or two or three things that are actually going on with the boat and wind, and skippering, or even being on a boat with the knowledge of a skipper...these are very different. I feel I have lost a father. That is it. I am not ready to go from son to father. There. Touch that and feel it.

I will say my instructor for my bareboat class at Sausalito could slip into the sea-father role very well. I would love to sail with him again in any capacity, but it is not likely I will do so much, if ever (my first day skippering, again, with my wife and two strangers aboard, I had trouble backing out...I don't have much experience in marinas under power and was getting stuck, backing slowly towards boats behind me: my new sea-father happened to be in a boat with a class right behind me...he told me what to do, and I motored out). I have come to know that part of my love of sailing was working under a skipper with so much more knowledge than I...no matter what happened, and in the SF Bay, shit happens every time one sails, I knew sea-father, either James or my latest instructor (whose name I withold for his privacy) would get us out of it. Tanker traffic, fog, squall lines, 35 or 40 knot winds, a broken boat, a person overboard (very, very rare, that last one...the rest, normal to varying degree)...whatever it was, skipper would know. Skipper could get us all home alive.

Now, I am turning skipper.

Yesterday we had twelve people on a large and well maintained boat. We had moderate winds for the summer in SF Bay (20-25 knots) a typical strong flood, or incoming current, only two tankers come by in the lanes when were were around, and a very competent captain, my friend (too much of a friend, maybe, to be a sea-father, though time will tell...he sails constantly, and there moments he was at least older brother). Besides myself, the newbie wonder, there were two other skippers on board, on very experienced in chartering all over the world. And I enjoyed myself. But I find now that when sailing I am facing fears in a new way. My appetite for adventure has dipped a bit past 40 maybe (read, fear has increased a pinch in some areas) and if there is one thing sailing the Bay is not, it is not the myth I began this post with. Well, that is there, at the expensive yacht clubs, on boats that go out 3 or 4 times a year. But the true sailors and racers on the Bay know the truth: it is one of the world's most challenging places to sail. The famous saying is if you can sail the Bay, you can sail anywhere in the world. I do not believe that. The Bay does not get sea swell or breaking waves of any height (though it can get choppy, and waves can break there, they are not large); try Point Conception, or any other of many places around the world that are just downright dangerous.

Still, all in all, the Bay has everything else that makes sailing challenging: for starts, hammering wind in the summer as the valley heats up to 100 degrees and the air lifts inland and the sea air, and often sea fog, is sucked right through the venturi of the Gate. Again, 20 knots is an easy average; 25 common in the afternoon, even 30 and more. I have been out in 35 when you have to yell to be heard. The Bay has many days like that, and wind like that without the kinds of seas one would get offshore in that kind of wind are what makes the Bay a world famous sailing destination. There are also shipping lines running all over the Bay, going to Richmond, Oakland, Alameda, Benicia...tankers and freight ships that cannot stop except in miles. They and their rugs run round the clock, every day of the week. And there is very much boat traffic of the smaller kind: fishing fleets, the ferries that crisscross the bay like rabbits in a field, and often scores of sailboats, with full scale races common. Oh, and lots of land to run into: Angel Island, Tiburon, SF itself, and many points and even a few smaller rocks. And current...as the tide rises and falls, ripping current moves in and out of the Gate. It is possible to be stuck under the Gate (happened to my first skipper, not me) in a decent sized boat (say 36 feet) sailing full speed and not moving at all because the water under the boat is tearing out to sea at 5 knots. Better than getting sucked out to sea and dying as happened to a couple of windsurfers a few years ago. Lastly, the water is cold. As cold as water off the coast of Washington or Oregon....in the fifties generally. A body can last in water like that an hour or two, less or more, depending on several factors. But the fact is, if you go over in the Bay, and your recovery mismanaged or delayed, you can die.

So you see, friends, when I first went out sailing, I did not know about any of this. All in all, the Bay is safe as many things are done to assure the safety of those who play on its water. The Coast Guard runs a helicopter out of SF Airport and has cutters and small rescue boats which seem to appear hauling ass out of nowhere every time something goes really wrong. I carry a radio, a gps, wear a top of the line life jacket with a strobe inside it and a built in harness so I can clip in if I need to (haven't had to yet, now that I have it...will, though). But a sea-boy, someone just discovering the love of the wind and water...knows none or little of this. He has the sea-father to guide him, watch over him, explain and instruct.

I could spend months at sea, maybe a year or two, with a sea-father. That, I know, is not likely. I will have other trips I go on with instructors or those much more experienced than me; one or two may have the charisma to hold me the way James and my recent instructor do. They are each more than just sailors, and of course older. But to spit out a metaphor not fresh since Tennyson, I have crossed that bar. I know too much; and only time and experience will free me of the fear I feel just below the surface now every time I go out...fears amplified, quite literally, a hundred times when I am myself the skipper. There is no way past it but experience.

This would be much easier, I know, in Southern California, or off Catalina (very calm places to sail most of the year...up here, sailors will chuckle when they meet someone who has sailed, say, out of San Diego for years but never even set a reef or shortened sail). Well, it might be easier. Because what is happening now on that Bay is that I am facing my Core Fear. Left alone to figure out the chaos of my childhood most of the time, with a mother who freaked the apocalyptic fuck out every time the slightest thing was wrong and a father with many of his own fears, I have quite an apprehensive nature. This causes me to prepare, sure, but the only thing I've found that works with fear is to face it, to do whatever it is that scares the shit out of me. I do not have to rush myself into skippering (there is no compensation at all for taking the extra emotional and financial risks) but I am surely going to be doing it again, and eventually, doing it more often than not. And I will continue to sail the extreme waters of the Bay, I know: at 11:00, in front of the Gate, freezing wind and fog and dark gray cover rolling overhead...an utterly black green sea with bare white caps forming...at 2:00 behind Tiburon, hella sun and plenty of room to dogdge the tankers (and their large navigation buoys)...at 5 or 6, when the Valley is really hot, wicked chop and 30 knots of solid wind with gusts to 35. Boats, many of them large and powered, moving around all the time. Yep, that's the Bay. Never the same.

***

Behind all of this is something else. I miss Sharon. These are the kinds of things would talk to her about (my ex therapist). I would share these stories, these feeings, these fears, and we would talk them through. Is it Kubler Ross (sp) who has the famous (and I hear, unproven) 5 stages of grief? If so, I am moving from denial, where I genuinely was...I did not feel her loss yet, to anger (don't know if that's next on the list, but it is for me). And sorrow. And of course fear. I am not losing myself in clinical obsessions so I am holding off finding another therapist. But I still am fairly intense, emotionally, sometimes quite intense, and I must find a way to manage that! Exercise is infrequent. Talking, writing like I am writing now, not frequent enough. Sharon was my sea-mother, in a way. Of course we never sailed, but she always helped me to think in rational terms...she would say that over time, these fears will diminish; that if I got in trouble the coast guard would come, that fatal accidents inside the Bay are very rare (I don't know the last one). That I am growing as person; that she is proud of me, maybe she would say that, or I would sense it anyway. That this is something S and I can do together. That even with the fear, there is much pleasure I derive, and something else: utter distance from the other stressors in my life. In that way, it's like scuba. Being on the Bay is so consuming (and by now, dear friends, you know it is not the tropical thing at all: girls in bikinis, a blender below making mai tais, bare feet on teak decks and steel drums and tans....most of us sail encased in rubber or something like it...but what I am doing can lead to the tropical adventure! and will). Sharon would tell me all that. And after 50 minutes, I would feel more centered, less terrified at some deep level.

Well, that is what I am doing here. You, all who read, are my silent sea-parents. At least, listening, even if you have never sailed.

Sailing, for me, is still recreation, but it's also very difficult personal growth work and that is just how it is right now. The day I skippered on my little 32 foot boat with a crew who could not really sail, I actually did not eat or drink anything for the seven hours we were on the boat. I was too focused on every little thing. S has known me 12 years and said she has never seen me like that before. So, you see, though I take so much from sailing, love so much about it...the wind, the adventure, the friendships, the boats, sleeping below...all of that; I am still scared spitless. I am learning to ski on a black diamond slope. Hah. And now guiding other beginners myself! That analogy works, for wind is to sailing what straight down (vertical slope) is to skiiing or snowboarding.

Thanks, all, for listening. I am logging off, let's say. I have this crazy belief that I could be a good writer, but good writers rewrite and strive for craft and access this part of their brain, the creative part...all I'm doing here is sharing. So, whatever good writing I might be capable of (or not) this is not it; this is just sharing (without even rereading for edits). But my sincere thanks to all who read here...you are few, I know (I should get a counter, though) and some of you I barely know; some of you I know more; one or two I care about much. But I appreciate every single person who has gotten this far in my narrative.

And hey, if you're ever in Nor Cal....you know, shoot me an email. Because I'll take you on a day sail. And I am grinning, and serious as I say it.

Much love.

Troy

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Rare Check In

Last night I had bad dreams. I don't have a therapist anymore (and am generally doing okay with that) but need a place to process the feelings. So, here I am.

Estella was in the dreams. I still have to write the final chapter or two of her story, and mean to. I am finally emotionally strong enough to do it. But she was in the dream, as was R, the therapist who pulled her from me, even if our marriage sucked, we had a real friendship, and usurped her for himself.

There are only two things I remember from the dreams though the emotions were so, so strong. One: I have been watering the vinca on our "lawn" (and I don't know any real lawns at our altitude)...trying to get the vinca, which is supposed to choke out anything and take over as ground cover (and is not that name related to "conquer" in Latin). Anyway, as the vinca fights with some hella tough clover, every weed known to man, and oregano I think, it surely needs water. So I ran the sprinkler in a couple spots much of yesterday afternoon and evening to soak the earth.

And in the dream, I was looking out my window and the yard was buried in water. Like, the whole left half there was no vinca, only several inches of water and large clods of dirt (which somehow seemed important, like they had killed the vinca). Not a green strand to be seen (vinca looks kind of like an ivy). I do not remember what the other half of the lawn looked like...but it was flooded too, the vinca gone or buried in water. Somehow, I felt like I had ruined the lawn.

And then, somehow connected to this, my current family was actually on a trip with R, my ex therapist, Estella's current husband. Like, a day trip or short vacation. All I remember is that I felt very angry, but he had this powerful guru sort of personality (which he sort of does, or did) and I could not tell him what I really wanted to say, or, in the dream, do what I wanted to do, which was probably hit him (we're talking dream now). He just kept talking as we went from place to place, and I was walking around near him with my head down, my face flushed, unable to really confront him. At least, that's what I think. Or maybe eventually, I did, and he had his own perspective. If so, I do not remember.

But there was just a tough of the Longing. I used to have dreams, for the first few years after Estella left me, several years, even after I had moved to the mountains, I had a few, at that was eight years after she left me with the note on the mirror and the little pink shavers in the shower (everything else, except the lingerie she got for the wedding, she took). I would have dreams where she and I would be talking, and all of a sudden, everything was okay. We were friends again. Never lovers in the dream, just suddenly close once again, talking, I could feel her presence, something I think I have to admit I have missed horribly at times, or did, those early years. Why so many of those dreams? What we had, even as friends, was not all that spectacular. We were critical of others, clinging to each other, very afraid, but somehow felt related like family. Anyway, last night, a bit more of that Longing...after all these years.

I do not know, I will never know perhaps, why I clung to Estella with such tenacity over the 8 or so years I knew her. For cling I did. Letting other women, a fair handful as I was in a popular social group in college and had lovely women all around, letting other women slip past me (sometimes with E's subtle, but skillful, interventions, sometimes not). Watching E and I draw together, then push apart in our anger and fear. I had two prior, rather serious for teenage years, relationships before E. Both involved physical release. Both women were committed to me and we had somewhat normal relationships. But not so with E. She was, truly, we were, truly, like something out of Fitzgerald. My Daisy. Dear God. The crazy thing is that we sort of managed the savage ground of our very late teens and early twenties and actually change and grow as people, even in the same direction. It was marriage, her suddenly flaring up incest issues and my utter incapacity to understand our sexual problems...it was her fear of anger, her own anger, and my depression and anger...the closer we got, the more destructive we were for each other. In the last letter she ever wrote to me, just before the divorce was final, she said "we were not good for each other, Troy." And I have to admit, she was right. I wish we had never met, in fact, certainly never dated.

But why, why, did I continue to fight to keep that thing alive? Sexless as it was from the beginning...precarious as it was. My brother used the very good word aloof: Estella was so aloof much of the years I knew her, even if we were sleeping together in the fold out bed in my mother's house when she worked night shifts (without doing anything, even kissing). We formed some kind of brother sister bond, but beneath that was always the Promise of something enormous. She was the Golden Girl. Sometimes, especially in college, I'd find flaws to push her away (oh, she's put on weight...man, was I distorted in my perspectives, but then I still struggle with that problem though much, much less) but mostly I saw the relationship, ragged and consuming and enmeshed and even addictive or obsessive as it was, in utterly glowing terms. We'd have arguments where I'd point out all that was good and great (whatever I said I don't even remember) and she'd refute me. I am sure it went the other way other times.

But much of this story I've told. The boyfriend she had not long before she and I became a "real" couple and got engaged. That was, perhaps, a relationship that gave her some sexual optimism but I do not know as it did not last long and I think that poor guy, the one time he and I talked about it, was having some experience like me (he said, on the phone, "sometimes I feel like I'm on solid ground and sometimes I feel like I'm hanging, clutching at a weed on a cliff").

What drove me to hang on to her so tenaciously no matter what? I actually still do not have that answer. Why did I turn down so many girls/women who would have made me a good wife? I think of one who lived in PV, short dark hair, lovely wide hips, who really like me. But when E showed back up on my doorstep I never even called her back. Why?

I still don't know. It was like some kind of chemical thing. Like naturalism in fiction, beyond my control. Until R came along, saw all for what it was, and made his own fucking choices. And E too. I finally wrote R my long letter, told him to fuck off, basically, in the final lines, and it was deeply, deeply healing to finally confront him with my anger after all these years. But my brother is right: I have found anger against R, but never fully been angry with Estella. Oh, I'm getting some of that now, getting closer to the rage she genuinely deserves from me (part of me continues to see her as a victim too, but after all these years....) I know I asked for the divorce, I know R was pulling strings with both E and I; I know, above all, that as Sharon, my last therapist said, something had to end that relationship because it was so bad for both E and I! Something dramatic did. A friend of ours, a woman I talked to not long ago, said something like "don't you think E needed that to feel safe, that she finally felt safe?" Yes. Her therapist built a trusting relationship, allowed her to feel safe, but then used it for romance. For that, he should never practice again. She should have gone out into the real world (even sans me) and found that with someone else. But she is not complete victim. My brother talks about "what they did to you" and I guess I am still reaching that level of awareness. And I am embarrassed to say she left me, uh, it will be 16 years this November. Twice the time I knew her, or she was in my life one way or another. And I am still healing.

I long ago quit trying to write well in posts like this up here. This is just one long share, as if I'm talking. It takes so much energy to do this, maybe, I don't want to put energy into the other. But whatever the enormous failings of that relationship, I still get the Longing; I can feel it, faintly inside, even now. Though I know if we saw each other...she would be very angry, I think; if she were not...I probably would. That was how it went, mostly. Mostly, if I saw her, I would see how she has aged (my brother says dramatically as he saw her at a theme park, and I only put that here as I know she could not possibly read this blog...even now, I would not hurt her over something as natural as age)...but I would see her age, hear her talk, know she is nowhere near the girl I knew when she was in her late teens and twenties. In fact, I might not like her at all. Or we might 'click' again, but considering she is married to R, well, would not be much of a click.

And I end on another odd note: in my current relationship, my marriage (12 years now we have been lovers, married 8) I have a woman who really does love me. Oh, we face it all: her graduate school, her new full time job (as a therapist, can you believe that lovely karma, truly) the house cleaning, the budget, the issues with our teenage son, the fatigue, too much television, not enough saved for retirement, not enough exercise for either of us (though let me say, we're not in serious debt trouble, never borrowed against our house, etc.) The struggle I do not understand to manage a love life after a dozen years when two of us have full time careers. Even there, it happens, but we are a shadow of the couple we were in the early years. All of the above is relatively normal...we will find solutions when and as we can as we grow together, and older together. But from the very beginning (and this is where I was trying to head) I have found faults with her. Where Estella was the Golden Girl without issue, the Daisy from Gatsby, the One (in my very, very young mind) I have always struggled with obsessing (often, literally, though not so much of late) with S's perceived "flaws." Oh, my wife has this or that wrong with her personality, she gets angry too easily, she can be dominant in her interaction, her body changed, from childbirth at a young age, rather genuinely; I long wrestled with that, though if you met her, all who meet her, tell me she is utterly striking and I know that to be true. And I have spent days and weeks obsessing over those flaws. In fact, I spent six years in therapy with Sharon working mostly on that. And thank God, literally, most of that is gone. But it is so odd to me that Estella, who was the complete wrong person for me from the beginning (issues with sex and anger and intimacy and nurturing), got the soft lens glow treatment, and S, my current loving wife who has stayed close to me since the very beginning, has gotten my Mother's critical glare on the stage of my mind since the first dates. I used to keep a list in my journal of all the things "wrong" with the two of us. And the odds of us working out (started at 20 to 1). The problems became less, the issues, many of them, resolved, but I still focused on other "issues" in my own anxious mind. S, who deserves it more than any other, has not gotten the "soft lens" treatment until perhaps recently, when I could let myself feel the way most men in love feel about their wives. I have learned to bracket off the unimportant things, focus on the soul, the gem, within.

What a tale this is. Drawn like a moth to the inferno of Estella for a decade, still missing what little we had in dreams (and I guess there was a real friendship there) still unable to get fully angry with her; while pushing away, fault-finding, critically observing a woman who has loved me without qualification for a dozen years.

Whew.

Damn, that was a post. I wanted to talk about the dream, but talked about something much more profound. I have to (really) close by saying: my work with Sharon cut my obsessive anxiety over S's "flaws" by a very high percentage. Some days I say 90, some days I say more (some a little less). S and I are settling into normal middle life with mostly normal middle life problems.

Still, I will continue to wonder why I so put E on a pedestal, so denigrated poor S for everything "wrong" with her. Enough for now. My damned dog is on the cable outside barking like I am his butler and why the hell haven't I let him in yet.

My love to all. Thanks for letting me get so raw. Feel a bit naked, but I know a few souls I can trust still check in here from time to time. I don't write often, so it may be a long time, but that is okay. To some of you, Happy Halloween...maybe even Merry Christmas :) Can't blame you, I never write.

Love and peace.

t

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Sincere Thanks

to those who commented below, and others whom I am sure read who did not comment, but stood alongside me, and even stand alongside me, during this time. I'll take this time to update...

I saw my therapist, Sharon, for the last time Tuesday morning. She had been off Monday for the holiday and it was her last week in practice after many years of seeing clients. I know she had a long stack of people, some she had not seen in years, waiting to get in to say goodbye. My heart goes out to her, actually, during this week.

And the parting was wonderful. It really was. I can look back on six years and say that she acted in my best interest at every turn; that she never lied to me or acted in an insidious manner. In short, she did her job as a therapist and a human being. May God, in whatever form she understands God, walk with her the rest of her life. I was lucky to know her. The sad thing is that she was only a therapist, of course, not a family member, can I even say a parent. But history, and the past, and the hell-mess I grew up in cannot be dissolved; it can only be addressed.

As I said, I saw her once a week, most weeks, for six years. That is a long time. In defense, let me say that OCD is a very tricky disorder and that my past abuses in therapy certainly do slow down my ability to progress, tragic as that is. We worked on all of it. My fears in my marriage, my struggle to communicate with my wife, my chronic anxieties, my lingering depression, my family of origin issues, the therapists that betrayed me, and the obsessions. Always, always, retooling my brain in the face of the ocd. I cannot explain ocd, and I'm not at the place where I want to, not yet. That is the better way to put it: I do not want to explain it here yet, describe it in detail. But I will say it is a thought disorder with many components, driven by powerful underlying emotions and always by fear...strong fear. It involves the "loop," that chronic and persistent thought or action that oftentimes disturbs, even torments, the sufferer; but it also involves other things: catastrophic thinking, over focus on some thing that is wrong or out of place, hypervigilance...those patterns run so deep it takes me a long time just to see them. And the very hardest time not to obsess is when faced with the phobic object, whatever that is, and even more so, more importantly, when strong negative emotion is present.

Now I have come a long, long way. And I must say that I accomplished a set of remarkable goals: a master's degree with highest honors (the outstanding graduate in my discipline for my year); and even more remarkable, a tenured community college job...getting one of those in my discipline is incredibly difficult: when I got my job, 175 people applied for 2 positions. A family. A home in the mountains. I did all this while still suffering with my disorder, before I even understand I had it really. I did not start using the term ocd, as I recall, until Sharon. That is rather sad, for knowing my disease has helped me make progress with it. It is not the same thing as depression or other forms of "acting out." It is related, but not identical.

But back to strong negative emotion: the last two days since our goodbye I have been grieving. Genuinely and actively grieving. This is a great accomplishment for me. The fact that I have such a hard time staying in my feelings, purely, should remind me, the rest of my life, of the futility of egotism. I began to lose that center and obsess just a little, get anxious, yesterday afternoon, but I distracted myself, did other things, and continued to feel, just not as intensely. But before that, genuine and normal grief. Writing, here and now, I feel it again. Good for me. When someone has lived with those kinds of feelings shut off, or managed in abnormal ways (better) it is a victory to be in them and not be obsessing. Oh, I've felt pain in the past, plenty, plenty. But it was always controlled, kept at a distance, with powerful obsessions. I felt, at some level I think, that I had to do that to survive. Maybe or maybe not. But I have survived, and healed.

When I began to see Sharon, long ago, I was going through some hard feelings those first couple of years. She let me pick a cuddly, a little stuffed animal, to hold. I have not held that little guy, nor seen him, in at least three years. He is a little striped tiger. But the last time I saw her she said she had a gift for me, and tiger was it (I don't think I have ever named him). What a beautiful memento of our time together. A stuffed animal I can keep for the rest of my life. I am deeply grateful. My thanks, Sharon.

In return I gave her this blog address. She tells me she is not computer literate, does not know how to even go online...it may be she will not check this for years, if ever. But all my major life events, at least, are registered here. If I ever move this, I would post the link here. So I feel this blog has given me another unexpected gift: a chance to let her remain informed, over the years, should she so choose.

I will also note that today, waking up, the pain was much less. The fact that I only see her for an hour a week, that it is one sided and not mutual like a normal relationship...that lessens the intensity of the grief. During those two days I was thinking: dear god, how do people lose spouses and go on? I don't know, though I lost one once and did, I'd note, in a way worse than death. But if one say one's spouse only an hour a week over the years...well, there it is. It is good that I can take so much from Sharon, but in such a safe way. I will continue to grieve. I have to face my future without a therapist (for now, I have names...) and make decisions about my current situation and need, or lack of need, for more therapy at this time. I will miss her. I will be talking, sharing, with those I know more (and likely blogging more, too). But I want to stretch my mental legs a bit...see how I feel, one day and week at a time, without that formal support. If I need to find another one in two weeks, fine. I expect I likely will want to see someone, intermittently, as I continue to recover. As I have said and say again: ocd is an insidious, deeply rooted, powerful thought disorder. It responds to some therapies very quickly, like exposure work; but it has other components, and it has impacts, which take much longer to resolve, in the individual and the family, sadly.

Other than that: my wife graduated with her master's, is now a therapist herself working with kids (how cool is that) and we had a huge party. I am glad that is in the past, for it was very hard for us as a family. She was gone all the time, busy and stressed the rest of the time, for several years. That is done. Now she is working full time (plus, actually, just a bit) and I am playing Mr. Mom, waiting for my summer class to start, and enjoying my own summer break...even if it means laundry, shopping, cooking...at least there are no papers to grade.

My faith again is in a strange place. I do not have time or energy in this post to discuss this, but listening to an excellent teaching company series on religions of the "axial age" (Karl Jasper's term)...learning about the roots of Hinduism and Buddhism...their belief systems...I am not going to convert to either in any full sense; they are utterly diverse, anyway...that is not it. But as someone who does not believe the Christian bible dropped from the sky but is in fact a human record of interactions with the divine (of varying authenticity, I'd add) it is amazing to see the connections. It may well be God is speaking, has spoken, through or to Zarathustra (Zoroaster) or through Hindu practice, for example. And I am ashamed at my own church's history of doctrinal manias, violence, etc. One would think that the presence of the Holy Spirit would make our faith stand out, not leave the church with (some) of the history it has). But then the organizational church is not the church...just because someone holds or has held a position of influence and power in Christianity does not mean that person is in Christ. Jesus talks about that all the time...good trees bear good fruit...the rest of you claiming to work for God, who aren't aligning with the values of God....look out. Anyway, I am reading the gospels again, closely, as a critical academic more than a seeking believer. I am convinced, again, that there is no one single way to understand or experience the gospel: that the Eucharistic Mystery holds more interest to me than any idea or systematic belief set; that the loving gesture, the slow crawl towards love, remains the center of the Christian life, not some special, and of course "correct," distilling of the Biblical books. But that is me. Some find the heart of the gospel in how they understand predestination, say. Fine. I am as far from that as I could ever be. But it seems to me different understandings of Jesus are necessary for different human beings. We continue to try to find the center, sure. But for some, it's individual experience; for others, the Book; for others, the liturgy and mystery...and mixes of all. For some, it is music. If it is true there is a God, and if it is true he loves us, that is the single greatest philosophical, metaphysical, epistemological fact in the universe. The problem of suffering remains. Other problems remain. But I cannot deny the strength of that idea, nor its Christian originality.

But I am drifting again....

Very nice to be here. Thanks for letting me share. I go out into the larger world now...I will keep you all posted. Love to all.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Heavys

Hello to all who read here. This is a personal post, a support post; I am reaching out, even in the blogsphere here where I rarely journal anymore. There are a few things I need to say and I have a prayer request or two. Considering I rarely ask, I figure this is okay :)

One.

I have talked about my therapist retiring at the end of the month. That is a fact I have to accept. My winter and spring have been good, good enough that I would have cut down on my visit frequency, I think, if she were not retiring. My time with S has been very, very helpful, though it was me who brought in Foa's awesome book on OCD two years into my therapy! My therapist had heard of those tools, but I take credit for bringing them exposure work into that relationship. S was very good with seeing the interpersonal, emotional fuel that feeds the OCD fire, my struggles with intimacy and fear or anger and criticism; it has been a good six years.

Yeah, six freaking years.

Today I got up the courage to call my insurance company and say that while I didn't think I needed long term weekly work, I surely still needed some contact with a therapist. I was surprised how cool they were; I was very afraid they'd tell me I couldn't keep going, etc. But in California, land of much regulation and law, there is one truly astounding law; the finest law I can think of at the moment: parity. Parity means that people with mental health issues should have their services covered by insurance just the same as people with bad kidneys or diabetes, etc. It sounds common sensical when I describe it, but in America, the land of the bottom line, it is a remarkable piece of legislation. That law allows me to have weekly therapy visits for my usual office co-pay: currently, ten bucks. I paid for therapy for years and years, to those who deserved to be paid and those who didn't, and that when I had little or no money. What a wonderful benefit of my job to have Healthnet, to have parity. It has completely enriched my life and done much to ease my suffering without putting financial strain on my family.

So, they sort of HAD to help me as OCD is a parity diagnosis. But still, the fears ran high. But after just a few minutes I had the names of five female therapists, all probably closer to my house than my current therapist, and three who say they have experience with OCD. We will see. Tools have changed much since my current therapist came on the scene: EMDR, CBT and specialized therapies for OCD. I know, lots of acronyms, but I am pleased. Five names to begin with is a lot! And none even in the city where S is now, a good half hour from my house. My plan is to phone interview, maybe meet a couple (will have to pay out of pocket for that) and then pick one...see her maybe six week in a row, or a month, and shoot for every other week (but all that I will play by ear).

Heavy thing two.

I mailed a letter to my perpetrator therapist Friday. Finally, after more than a dozen years, I mailed a very direct, descriptive, and clear letter...even an angry letter in places! detailing what I think he did to me.

I don't think I've told that story on this blog. Not in detail. It is the end of the Estella story, and I stalled when I got to this part a long time ago. Considering how depressed, self-blaming, and in pain I was all day Friday, the day I mailed the letter, I know why I have taken to so long to get around to it. S's retirement sort of forced it. It was one of my top goals when I came to S six years ago: I want to send a letter to this guy...it took me six years of work to be strong enough to even do it.

Because here are the facts: the first therapist I really connected with, many years ago, Keith, I had to quit seeing (just after I went back to him after my first Major Depression...suicidal thoughts running over me like mice) because he got sexually involved with a client. That was completely horrifying for me. And so I found another therapist and limped into his office in a completely awful state. I cannot even think back to those days yet to really write about them. They say, and I know, depression is often rage turned inward as a result of self hatred. I KNOW that was my story. And I had LOT of rage and a LOT of self hatred. I was utterly and completely falling apart when I began seeing R, the second therapist. He was as appalled by the Keith fiasco as anybody would be, and I began seeing him twice a week, then once a week, for four and a half years.

But my fledgling marriage to Estella (which I have written about, some) had never been happy. It was surely a trigger for the major depression I had in 90. And so after a couple years of me seeing R, I agreed to let Estella see him too, or meet with him to talk about seeing him. Her last therapist was so incompetent she actually feel asleep during a session. I was very nervous about letting E go into therapy with R...I wonder why so nervous...but I did it, truly, to save my marriage.

Dear. God. In. Heaven.

A few months after she began seeing him she left me. There are more details than that, and I need to write them when I am ready. But she left me with a note on the mirror. And part of her conditions was no contact, phone or face to face...she did not even want me to know where she lived for a long time; ostensibly because she was afraid I would physically hurt her. I have no doubt she was afraid of that, but that is also the most lameass excuse I have heard...I never laid a FINGER on E or any other woman or man (outside martial arts sparring). Well, as months went by, there was no contact; nothing got better. She filed for a legal separation at the six month mark. Still, she would not talk to me. Then I began having crushes where I was working (by this point, I had been separated four or five months; had not made love in quite a bit longer than that). And here is where R, our therapist, comes in. He began to suggest I date. After some time, I went out once. He then suggested I see the same girl again, rather than a rotating set of friendly dates like I had in mind. And then he suggested, both directly and indirectly, that I have sex with the rather crazy girl I was seeing. Then he suggested I ask for a divorce. All that is the bloody truth of it.

And so nearly a year after Estella left me, I did take a lover; reluctantly, but soon the unbelievable relief of having sex, finally, did its work. My lover was not a safe or stable person, but there you go. R even met her. Anyway, I asked for a divorce, E did not fight much over it, and while I think we both had doubts, at least I did, we finally were divorced...about 8 months after my crazy girlfriend left me to hump other guys. That whole relationship lasted about 8 months, I think.

Yes, I asked for a divorce; even told her when she wasn't filing (but was not talking to me about ANY of it either or even trying to talk) that I was in love with said crazy girlfriend. I probably was, or thought I was. I do remember I was very, very conflicted about saying that, but that R said "it was a good letter." Yeah.

Anyway, I tried to get back with Estella before the divorce was final. She said there had been a "window of opportunity" before, but that was past...I have asked myself a lot of times just what that window was, and when, and how was I to know about it. She NEVER ONCE SAID she wanted to get back together. NEVER ONE TIME. In fact, she told me the opposite: she wanted to leave and not come back. But I was the one who had to get his sheets dirty, I guess, to provide the christian legal cause.

Fuck me man.

Anyway, our divorce was final; she called me to say she has quit seeing R, that she was done with therapy. I found that remarkable. Then R told me he had "befriended" Estella and I needed to find another therapist...my divorce was final in December and I was out of his office by July. By that fall, I forget the black month, I found out the truth: they were a couple. They have been married now more than 10 years (according to his website where I had to go to get his address) and have a couple kids that I know of. R has always wanted to be a guru, and continues his extended courtship with the media. The problem is he does not like to work hard at it and his ideas and talent are marginal. But whatever he says, there is some dark personality disorder at work, and guru he believes he is.

To me, he is a weak, lustful predator who showed no concern at all for my well-being, mental health, or even survival.

And I told him that, over and over, in about six pages.

Why did I do that? Why write and stir that enormous wound up again?

Because I did not want him to think my silence was ANY SORT of acquiescence. You know, nothing from me after a dozen and more years, must mean I was okay with it, got over it, understood what he did. NOTHING could be farther from the truth, and my letter lets him know that.

And also because I still do believe, despite all the power of cognitive therapy, exposure work for OCD, that you "feel it to heal it." I really do believe that every time I work through old pain, and sometimes that pain can still be very strong, I grow as a person. My capacity for intimacy and self-care go up just a smidgen each time. I need more of both in my life. So, I went back and wrote the letter and mailed it Friday.

It was much, much harder to do that I thought it would be! Friday was a day almost like the days of years ago. The good thing is, as I was told a long time ago, the time one spends there shortens each time. So I felt like total shit for one day, took care of myself as best I could, but had a decent weekend with my family. Now I can feel myself going back into the pain a bit, but I do not have to be owned by it as I once was; I have a strength I did not have in the 90's, a self, and tools of several varieties to cope. In short, I am going to be okay.

I am going to be okay. I am going to be okay.

But I do request prayer as I seek for another therapist. Did I pray when I was looking for Robert? I don't know. But it can't hurt to pray now. I am not desperate; my ass is not falling off as we used to say in program. I face continued challenges, yes, but I continue to grow. I just don't think I am ready to be without any therapist support at all! And it cannot hurt me to have someone to help me do continued OCD work as well as heal the past. I need to find deeper resources in my life outside of therapy, I know, but I do have some connections and their depth grows.

The story I told here was told without ornament of any kind. I remember a post at Romy's site where she included dialogue, heart wrenching dialogue not far from what I knew with Estella, from the break up of her marriage. But I have not done that. Someday, maybe. But it has been tough to even write this. And this semester I have 3 long days home alone where I work...my wife is still in school some nights. Those long lonely days are hard. I get stuff done, but they are hard anyway. Today was one of those days.

My sincere and heartfelt love to all. It has done me good to write here. I promise to update my new therapist search with you all. I do not expect R to try to contact me (there was no return address, but this is the modern age) nor even Estella if she somehow finds out about the letter (she may well not). Still, I am very afraid he will try to contact me. I will surely write about it here if he does, but I do not expect it.

This world is often far from fair. Times like this I pray for karma, for Christian justice "God is not mocked." All that. But I can control none of that. All I can control is my own continuing improvement as a person. My own growth. It will be tough this summer with S working full time now and me home every day alone, my son home less and less. I will have to find people to hang out with; they do exist, even in the middle of the woods.

Oh, and may I say, the Sierra spring is stunning beyond description. After the long cold winter, it is like recovering from an illness, waking the first day after a fever or bronchitis has cleared; it is like the good feeling that comes after heavy emotional pain moves through.

I am very afraid, of course, I will find another therapist who is insane. I use only women, since Robert. But the odds are very long, and I do not think I would EVER give anyone the power I gave him, and I have two good female therapists since him (D and S...God knows who you are).

Love to all.