New Year, New Way?

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 

I’m still thinking about my last post, “What’s Wonderful?”, or at least pondering the state of my mind and heart in writing that. There has been so much going on in the last years, I’ve tried to figure out so much in not a lot of time, and sometimes with not a lot of support and not knowing how to balance that by myself. It’s been hard and it’s been good too – I need to address all of the things I have started to look at. It all takes time though, especially when there is little encouragement from important places like my family. Some things I can think about but I find it hard to let myself feel them as well, and to process both all the events of the last years and also the inner changes not just intellectually but also emotionally. It’s hard for me to do that. I’ve grown up suppressing so much of myself, and especially my emotional side – there just wasn’t a space for it, there were very narrow limits set for how much “emotional space” I could take up in my parents’ world. They needed that space. They both had very little “emotional tolerance” for any strong emotions, be it joy or anger or jealousy or fear or whatever, from any of the children because they had such a struggle holding themselves ‘together’ emotionally. I learned to not bother them with what I felt. They couldn’t take it. It was more important that they kept going than that I was dealt with. That’s the facts of life as a child/teenager. I grew up with all kinds of emotional needs staying unmet. And it’s had an impact on me. Now I have to learn how to tell people what I feel, and how to know when that’s necessary. I need to remind myself to deal with my emotional life. When things get stressful, I can see this pattern in me that I push back on whatever I might be feeling, don’t deal, and keep going just to get through to whenever I feel there’s space for me to take a deep breath again, time to sit down and ask myself how I feel, and what I can do for myself to be well. Sure signs? Increase in coffee intake, decrease in the number of hours I sleep, increase in watching TV/films/staring at screens, eating unhealthily. When I sleep at night, when I spend more than 15 minutes cooking a meal for myself in the evening, when I write, when I don’t miss coffee, when I don’t hide behind someone else’s feelings in a film I watch, then I’m generally okay.

I have not emotionally caught up with the fact that I like women. My head deals with it, my emotional self still needs to get there. I can argue for gay rights from morning till night but when it’s about me as a person, suddenly the self-acceptance is not so easy. 

I have not emotionally caught up with the messed up relationships I’ve been in. I have not forgiven myself for having made those decisions. And when a friend told me, “I’ve been there too, don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault”, and I said, “yes it is, I was stupid” – in that moment, I hadn’t just not forgiven myself, but to my friend that also sounded like I thought he was stupid too for having made those same mistakes. I don’t think that at all. I have all the empathy with him that he has with me. I just don’t have it for myself. But other people don’t know that, how could they understand my version of having double standards? And the moment I realise I hurt my friends, it’s a better reason somehow to look at what I do to myself.

Sometimes my head argues for me, and thank God for that. But it’s not enough. I know how to intellectually accept myself, but I don’t know how to love that same aspect in me. I don’t know how. And I am always told that to be in a good relationship you need to love yourself, and I’m sure that’s true. But I do think I need someone to teach me how to do that. So where is the way in? I feel like I’m in a dead-end street with this. Love is not an intellectual achievement.

I spent so much effort this year on discernment about religious vocation. Was that a distraction too? One way of avoiding the part of me that I’m not accepting? Celibacy to solve the issue? It hasn’t worked for many before me, it wouldn’t work for me. I have thought about vocation for many other and better reasons too – but right now, I can’t see how I could go ahead with it, neither into religious life nor into ministry. None of the Communities I have been in touch with seem alive to me, spiritually alive. I have yet to find a joyful Sister who actually seems happy where she is. I have yet to find a religious community where I feel at home. And to be in ministry, I would have to lie to the church to begin with and tell them I accept their stance on homosexuality, and I cannot. I cannot do that to myself. And not just that, I also would make myself take on work with usually quite a bit of emotional strain, and how could I sustain it, without having a family, or even a relationship? I’m not allowed to have either according to the church. When I started looking at the religious life again, I also had that thought in mind, that from belonging in a community I could then sustain a ministry. But that is not working out, it seems. And I will not go ahead and then, if I find someone I love, call that person my “flatmate” or lodger or whatever else that goes under. And maybe a lot of people already manage and are quite open about being in a gay relationship within the church and in ministry, and as long as they don’t say it too loudly, the church doesn’t mind too much. I don’t want to have to worry about how loudly I say it, and given the context, saying it loudly might well be needed. If I’m in love with a woman, if I should ever be so blessed as to find a woman who loves me, I will not stop holding her hand just because we stepped over a church threshold. I will not act any different towards her just because a parishioner has an issue with us loving each other, or because my bishop happens to be anti-gay or because it’s politically unwise at that time for a priest in the church to be visibly gay. I don’t want to have to care about any of that. I have asked God for a relationship for more years than I care to count. I have stopped asking – God knows I still want the same thing. If I find love, I will not hide it.

And maybe that outcome of this year’s discerning is okay, and it’s good I spent time on it, and it’s good that I realise I cannot go ahead in the church. As stressful as I find my current work, I have found myself thinking recently that my ministry might well be exactly where I am already, at least for now, in what I can contribute there for the people around me. I don’t feel like I’m doing the right work. This is not where I will always be. I need creative work, more of it, a lot more. The most balanced my life has ever felt was when I had a creative job, regular hours, a stable team. I knew I was changing, but my confidence was growing, my life felt more settled, more stable, and from that place I could take risks and relax a bit more and enjoy myself.

This is my end-of-the-year thinking… Not quite what I expected, but what do I know. For today and for the beginning of the new year – who knows. There may be wonderful things ahead. Whether or not they will be wonderful, there will be new things. That’s the promise. Whatever it feels like. At least there’s hope that it won’t stay as it is, right…?

This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 

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