Sunday, December 31, 2006

Family Systems

Family Systems theory, developed by Dr. Murray Bowen of Georgetown Univ., actually comes from physics, so I understand, from field theory. Things aren't just independent but connected in a field, a web of relationships. That's the way life is.

It is odd when so many things within families seem to happen at the same time. Bowen theory says that when one member of a family system seeks to change, the whole system will react to bring that person back to where he or she was. Really, the system is seeking some kind of equilibrium, be it the old balance or something new.

As I seek to differentiate myself, I do not seek to leave the system (indeed, one can't, even if you think you do) but to become who I am, a gay man, while staying connected. Of course, most of the system has no idea. No word has been spoken to parents, siblings, etc. And yet, the spirits move. The systems reacts. The emotional energy surges and blows where it will. It seems that we know not whence it comes, nor whither it goes.

I am coming out, separating from my wife, beginning to commence to get started on a new life. We are looking at my moving out after the first of the year. SO, this Christmas, for the first time EVER, my brothers from far away gathered to have Christmas with my 83 yr. old father and stepmother. My father lives closest to me (about 130 miles away). We (wife, kids, me) planned to gather with them all.

And to top it all off, while I am with my father and two older brothers, things go crazy. My dad has been to the ER three times in the last week. Retaining fluid, pneumonia, unable to urinate. So, they put a catheter in. He had to go back to the ER on the 27th for a "follow up evaluation" which was really totally unnecessary. So, on the 27th, I spent about 7 hours sitting in the ER with my father and stepmother. Not nearly the time to visit with my brothers that I had hoped for.

I came out to them and told them about plans for the future. They took it all well enough, I suppose. They were supportive and loving.

Then, it was off to anther city for visiting with in-laws and helping them move. My sister-in-law and her family (who live in that city) were there, too. Everyone together. At least their bunch isn't as, um. . . interesting as mine.

Systems always seek equilibrium, homeostasis, balance. To remain strong, non-anxious, and kind; to reduce the emotional reactivity, this is the task. And I am making it. I have never felt adult, like a man. God it feels good, too.

Though some may whine and complain "In the midst of life, we are in death," I am able to hold fast and rejoice that "In the midst of death, I am in Life!" (homage to Martin Luther).

So, as I go into the new year, I pray for shalom for us all.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry, Messy, Real

The story is old and well known. We've heard it thousands of times in word, play, song, and picture. Mary birthed Jesus in a stable, wrapped the babe in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.

Christmas has become a neatly arranged, squeaky clean, all-too-cute story. It's sweet and pretty. It's "merry." But really, it was messy. Very messy.

But, if we read carefully, we see that it was neither neat nor clean. It was all too real.

An unwed teenage girl is pregnant. She and her fiance leave town. (Was it really because of some census? Or was it because of the shame that they had to leave their home town? Was there "no room in the inn" because of a heavy tourist trade? Or was it because none of Joseph's relatives would take them in? Hmm).

So, a cattle barn will have to do. Have you ever been in a cattle barn? Or around farm animals? Have you ever seen cows or donkeys snort and drool? Not a pretty sight. Is a stable a clean and sanitary environment? The smell is. . . .um. . . .well. . . "strong" to say the least. A manger is not some cute, folksy ornament picked up on sale at K-Mart. It is a feeding trough. Just the place those animals have been snorting and snotting and drooling. Lovely.

Have you ever witnessed the birth of a child? Even in today's sterile, hospital environments, there is blood, body fluids, goo, etc. And birth with no anesthesia? We are talking pain. Screams. Sweat. Terror. Yes, the birth of a child is a marvelous, joyous, miraculous occasion. I was present at the birth of my two children. The exhilaration is impossible to describe. But it is a messy situation, even with sterile gowns and attendant physicians, nurses, and technicians.

Shepherds were low lifes. The bottom end. Had they been drinking something to keep them warm as they "watched their flocks by night?" After talk of visions of angels, did folk wonder what kind of mushrooms were growing in that field? Who would take seriously the word of a shepherd?" A bunch of ignorant day laborers.

The story of God coming into the world as a human being is not a "pretty" story. It is rough, smelly, and messy, to say the very least. We've just heard it too much to catch just how messy. Into the smell of animals, manure, fungus-laden straw, and shifty characters, an out-of-wedlock teenage girl gives birth in pain and terror. And we think we have problems.

God-become-human happened in the middle of a really shitty situation. Can we have anything any shittier? If God can show up there, I believe God will show up anywhere. Even for us, and with us, and to us.

There is no word or legend that says the stable was miraculously cleaned up and sterilized. We are the ones who've done that. God comes in the shit, and lives in the shit.

So, no matter what our shit may be, God shows up. God lives with us in the midst of it. God-with-us.

To know, to realize that God is not what so many would make God out to be: the One who comes and cleans us up to make us just like everyone else. God does not come to make us into any image other than God's own.

There is no evidence that that image looks like middle-class, white, Protestant, straight America. Even though many would like everyone to look and be that way, God comes to us all, and each.

In the middle of broken dreams, shattered lives, shitty situations, and smelly messes, God comes. God-with-us.

A Messy Christmas is a Merry Christmas, dears.

Cheers, Joe.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holy Week at Christmas

Even though it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, I'm feeling more like Holy Week.

This is my last Christmas with my family. It seems that living separately may come very soon after the first of the year. Possibility of "job transfer" is looking good. It would be close enough, yet separate.

I am mourning the loss of my family and things the way they "have been." And yet, I do not fear the future as much as I might. Yes, there is fear there. There will be a lot of unknowns. But there is hope.

It is like living through Holy Week: the week before Easter Day. The week that leads up to Good Friday and being placed in the tomb. People thing that Holy Week ends with Easter and resurrection. Actually, Holy Week simply ends with death and the tomb.

Yes, we "know" Easter will come. We believe that resurrection will happen. But first we must make last journeys, east last meals, and then die.

Life as I have known it, the closet as I have furnished it is dying. While there is rejoicing in leaving the closet, there is fear of the unknown to come, and sadness of leaving the Known behind.

Mixed feelings. Sadness and Hope. Endings that await a new beginning.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards
Bethlehem to be born

Wm. Butler Yeats

Monday, December 18, 2006

Help me out here

I have had lots of comments on my last post. Some supportive, some instructive, some directive.

Michael (of Someone is Rocking My Dreamboat), though our ages are the same, you have had far more years of experience being out than I have. And from your comments, perhaps you've shown far more courage than I have yet to show. So, you have garnered more experience and more wisdom that I have. Our journeys are not the same.

When I generalize my personal experience, assuming it should be the same as everyone else's, it becomes easier to dismiss others. Judgment is easier than kindness.
Cheers, Joe.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Prayerfully pissed

Over a month ago, Presbyterian Pastor Brent Dugan committed suicide. I didn't know him at all. Never heard of him. Till now. But I am praying for the repose of his soul.

Apparently a television station was going to air some "expose'" on him. Somehow, they had information (maybe some footage?) of him in an "adult bookstore." It seems that maybe he was, as am I, gay, and in the closet. And they were going to expose him. I guess he felt all was lost, no where to turn. Nothing to do. Would the whole of his ministry be down the drain?

He killed himself. Sadly, that may be the thing for which he will be remembered. SO many of us know what that darkness feels like. No way out. Only abject humiliation and ruin. And we cannot bear to see all we have worked for, done, achieved, prayed, and wept over going down in ruin with our "reputations." It is a lonely place. No light, at all.

I am so angry right now I could spit. I am angry at the religious abuse that the Church puts on so many. And I am angry at those who sit by and let it pass. Too many good men and women, and youth have found no way to face into a darkness created by others, not by God.

This all tests my faith in the Church, that's fer damn sure. But it does not really shake my faith in God, who is so far beyond "the Church." Maybe farther and further than ever, these days. Not distant from us, but just from the damn institutions that presume to speak in God's name.

I am pissed, but not at Brent Dugan. I weep and pray for him. Requiescat in pace, dear brother. Rest in the arms of the One who loves you.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Twilight Zone

Time marches on. And so do the events of my life, leading toward the closet door -- opening outward, that is. It seems that the opportunity of a job transfer to a nearby town is a real possibility. Nothing definite, but things are looking gracefully good. I'm not counting any chickens, yet, but I am doing what I can to help it happen.

My part in this opportunity is to update resume' and the "industry deployment form" that is used for my "company." It is, of course, a rather outdated version of computer dating. A real booger of a program that is NOT user friendly. Ah, the wonders of the not-for-profit world.

My wife is being more supportive and helpful than I could ever have hoped or imagined. She did career counseling for a time, and she's quite good with resume' writing. So, here she is, helping me prepare the tools so I can leave her. And, she is doing it with such grace and kindness. What a woman! I am so thankful for her, really.

This is all so much like life in the Twilight Zone! [Cue eerie music - enter Rod Serling]. It is hard for me to fathom that all this is really happening. Even though there is a big part of me that rejoices in the prospect of being able to live the truth of who I am, there is still a huge draw to returning to the "normalcy" of what was. It sure looked good, even though it was killing me on the inside.

Of course, even when the move comes (sooner or later) I will have to remain a bit "closeted." I cannot come out in the open completely because of the job. So what if someone flat-out asks me, "Well, are you gay?" I'm not sure how I will dodge the question. God knows, I don't want to. But I will probably have to find some innocuous enough answer that will hearken back to "don't ask, don't tell." You know, it wasn't the Clinton administration that thought that up, it was the Church - centuries ago!

Now we plunge toward Christmas. Happy Holidays, everyone! Arrrggghhh. Christmas has always been a difficult holiday for me; last year was better than most. And, this year feels rather good, so far. Except for the fact that I know it will be my last one with my family in its present configuration.

What will the future be like? Sticking to the present seems a better tack, right now. Preparing as I can, but living as I am.

Cheers, dears. Posted by Picasa