When I Need A Pick Me Up, by my friend Ryan King

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Crossroads

So the thing I've been dreading and not even blogging about has come upon me. In the most cinematic way. As in, "written by an author for maximum viewer impact."

Of course, I will explain. Grizzbabe will understand best, but you guys will be able to catch up quickly, I'm sure.

Back when I was 16, I joined a very, very, VERY strict church. And I was a total part of that church up until I was 27, when my mother died of cancer and I went off to a religious pilgrimage to join the ministry. Honest injun. At the time, I was convinced it was the Voice of God sending me. I'm still not convinced today that it wasn't. But Lord knows, literally, that I'm no longer following that inclination.

I've blogged a few times about my adventures in Missouri, but I've rarely detailed about my life from 16-27, while I was Holy Joe Christian. I have, however, mentioned that it was a total haven of sanctimonious living that helped me successfully avoid all attempts at sex, which was perfect for me since I was (unbeknownst to me) such a damaged set of goods.

Whelp, from 16-27, I had lots of good friends in church. I had crushes on girls and I had crushes on boys. Naturally, in church, you only act on the girl-crushes when you're a boy. So I did. I had gone as far as to get my heart crushed by the girl I feel that I was in love with as she told me "I need a man, not a boy" and proceeded to marry the organ player. No worries, she was bad news. She and he got along like a mountain lioness and a pit bull. They divorced some years later. It was a sad tale for them and a bullet that I totally dodged. Later on, I got engaged to another girl who was head over heels in love with me. The tender, dear heart. I still think of her with a sweet fondness. And she was fine, too. Once when driving her back from one of our first dates, she fell asleep while we drove on the Palisades Pkwy, and I gazed at her and felt like taking her right then and there on the side of the road. It was a triumphant day for my testosterone. I'm sure I sprouted my first few chest hairs then. Needless to say, we never got married. It was my decision and my fault.

One of the boy-crushes I had is more aptly called a "man-crush". I've already exploded my take on man-crushes ad nauseum, but here I call them "boy-crushes" because I was a boy then. But there was this big, brusque, panther of a friend I had who was showing me just what it meant to be a player. He was a smouldering operator that almost all of the ladies loved. And I navigated in his shadow. He too came to a sloppy end. See, in a church as strict as ours, his behavior was highly frowned upon. His personality won everyone's hearts but his actions were atrociously normal. So after a highly Scarlet Letter-like pregnancy scare from one of his groupies, he was ousted from the church.

His father, however, had been my friend and father figure from way before I had met The Player. His father lived in the same apartments that I did, and seemed to care for me before I even knew I needed caring for. Childhood Bud would know this man (since Childhood Bud lived on the same side of our apartments as he did). In my early days, I'd ride to church with this man, and wish dearly to be his son. Until his real son moved in (The Player). And his other son. And his other one.

I was soon squeezed out of the me-time I had with him and had to share him with his children (he had daughters too), not to mention all my other guy-peers who saw him similarly as a father figure. We were a lot of fatherless dudes in that church and this man was a rare commodity. But being who I am, I got tired of sharing and withdrew my affections to a tolerable level. I found others to fill the gap. And eventually I moved to Missouri.

Well, what I didn't realize was that this man always retained his affection for me. Through all his children and all the other fatherless boys vieing for his attention, he still cared for me. I was one of his "sons" and he knew how to love his children.

I discovered this yesterday, when after 14 years of distance and scattered occasional "hellos," we ran into each other a block from Central Park.

I was walking my usual route back from the center when he got my attention. He was sitting in his livery vehicle (quite an upscale affair) preparing to meet a fare in the neighborhood when he had looked up from a puzzle and saw me walking. Like the gasp from a blow to the solar plexus, he barked my name.

When I saw him, there was no holy light outlining the moment. At least not for me. But for him, in the half hour following, I learned that the appointment was no less than Divine. For the past 14 years, he'd been asking God how I was doing and when he would ever see me again. He would not -- had not accepted that I was gone. Church people can be like that, and this man even moreso. He had known and cared for me from before I had even started going to the church. In his heart, he had adopted me.

I realize I had done him a disservice by leaving without keeping contact.

Now.

I am very, very different than I was when he last knew me. And he is still very connected to the church I once went to. The very, very, VERY strict church. Through him I learned that the very, very, VERY strict pastor is still running the joint. The pastor that I have been staying away from.

So this man and I have exchanged numbers and he wants to get together to catch up on my life in a few Saturdays.

What do I tell this man? How much of my utter apostasy do I reveal?

I want to tell him everything. EVERYTHING.

What do you, dear readers, think I should do?

10 comments:

Eliel Mamousette said...

You probably know what I'm going to say, but let me say it: To me, the true measure of a person's love for someone else is not measured in the ability to admire the things you like and agree with, but in one's ability to respect and attempt to understand the places where you differ.

The truth doesn't set us free, but it does free our minds from having to juggle the incessant "have I told this person about that yet" shuffle that we human beings seem to do so much of...

GrizzBabe said...

Eliel gave some very good advice, advice that I do not follow myself.

I have revealed to most of my holy roller, fundamentalist friends where I go to church now. I have not, however, revealed how much my theology has changed. I am still trying to find myself, religiously speaking, and I'm not ready to get into a sparring match, or to suffer their disapproving glares over doctrine that I consider non-essential. I want the time and space to discover/redefine who I am spirtually without having to beat back those who may not agree. (Although I have stepped out a little bit.I got into a polite disagreement with a fundie friend over the infallibility of scripture.)

That being said, I think you should be honest with your friend if he asks about your spiritual state. Sometimes people surprise us and are more loving and accepting than we give them credit.

GrizzBabe said...

I just realized my comment above is very "Do as I say, not as I do". Sorry. I have hope that the honesty approach will work for you even though I fear it may not work for me.

Alan said...

Eliel you know who I'm talking about, right? E-mail me his name if you remember it, or give me a call.
Thing is, I think of him fondly, but I really don't fear his disapproval. Not anymore anyway. I've honestly grown past that particular need in my life. At least, from him in particular. He's as dear a man as he ever was, but I was a simpering attention sponge when he "adopted" me and I didn't want to share. So while everyone was calling him "Dad" I refused. I preferred to call him "Brother" and made myself an equal so I wouldn't pine after him while he spread the love and wisdom among my peers. I was a haughty little bastage. During this reunion, he bearhugged me three times. It's so strange. Bad as I was craving hugs those weeks ago, here was this man, and there was those hugs. And all I could think of was "He still loves me. He loves me lots. This is not going to end well."
Yeah, I feel worse for him than I do myself. I'm going to break his dear heart. I seem to always do that.

Grizz, if you could hear me in the therapist's chair counseling a one half of a married couple on how to love and keep the other half--or performing therapy for the attractive (stunningly so) single New Yorker who wants to know how to meet the opposite sex and succeed--then you would not be too harsh on yourself. Thing is, we know the answers that work, and we encourage the ones for whom it applies, but for ourselves?

Well, we need someone to give us the same help we're giving--the same someone to encourage us through the thing we're suffering from. I told another client of mine, who has a Master's in Psychology, that a heart surgeon can't perform a triple bypass on themselves.

I value every word you say to me Grizz. Please don't ever stop.

Tera said...

One thing I can say is you are who you are, regardless of how people view that, and ultimately, you are the one who has to deal with it. I'm not good at giving advice in these situations, I have always been the one who speaks my mind and be straightforward regardless of the consequences, and sometimes, it has bitten me in the ass...I hope it all works out!

Scott said...

You can't live your life trying to please everyone else, and the truth is all there really is. A relationship with this man sustained by a lie will be no relationship at all. You basically have nothing to lose by telling him what is really going on in your life. My suspicion is that he will accept you for who you are. You haven't become anyone. You are still the same old boy you used to be, only now in different circumstances.

Alan said...

Tera, I think you did fine. I thought I always spoke my mind as well, but I must have done a runner when I saw this man on Wednesday. I'd been dreading that day the moment I stepped back on eastern seaboard soil and consciously made the decision not to return to that church. It will work out, as all things do. But I think this one will work out like a gallstone. Excruciatingly painful, but once gone it'll be an amazing relief. :-)

Scott, you know, you're totally on point here. I am the same boy. The changed circumstance is that I'm not lying to myself anymore about it. I'm not pursuing something anymore to conform to other people's standards.

I am curious to see this man's reaction to me in these different circumstances, but like in a clinical detached way--as though I were observing someone else's life. I'm sure it's a defense-mechanism to make sure I'm protected in case he rejects me utterly and condemns me without pity. But Scott, I like your suspicion. After all, I've seen him live through his own real life son (The Player) getting kicked out of the church and rejected by our pastor, and of course he never stopped loving him. Maybe he'll afford me the same courtesy, but if he doesn't, again, you're spot on. I've lost nothing. I hadn't spoken to him in 10 years at least. In fact, I'll have gained the resolution of a door that I've kept opened in the back of my mind way, way too long.

Scott, this is why you're the friend I'd have with the shoulder to cry on. You think a lot like MFTD, but you feel like me.

A Shade Of Scorpio said...

I say baby steps during the event. Say a bit, see where it goes, say what feels ok to say next, see where it goes, etc. Maybe that's just my incredibly *safe* non boat rocking mentality. And maybe that's not right seeing as a person should like/love/care about you no matter what damage you are a piece of. Or maybe you would just give him ammo to pray high noon and night for your soul. =) I have a born again uncle, he's so very cool and I'm glad he's family, but I do squirm when he reminds me that my body is my temple and not to misuse it. Um, Awkward. Especially at age 38.

The Neighbor said...

My own experience with conservative religion came as an adult - a flirt-to-convert situation, I suppose. Anyhow, during that time, I was being mentored by one of the pastors. In that circumstance, I allowed my beliefs to be clouded and overshadowed by the collective, and eventually, it was untenable and I left everything behind - the church and the girl and the pastor.

He was a special guy to me - no matter how much I look back at those three years with confusion and dismay at how far I bent, at the same time, this man really did guide me through a legitimate spiritual awakening. I was, quite literally born again.

Apostasy and I are old friends, however, and while I may apply Christian principles to the way I approach the world, the Golden Rule of reciprocity is really my foundation.

That pastor moved away, and I miss him. He was wise, calm, patient, charmingly naive in some ways. If he were to see me now - the sex, drinking, drugs, the life of crime - I know he'd love me for who I am, not what I'm doing with myself. Pastors are incredible for their compassion and understanding.

My experience with what I call 'crazy church,' as I said, lasted about three years, so it's limited. But it really scared me. I found two main dichotomies - the Christians who were accepting and encouraging, and those who were judging, condemning, rebuking, correcting type of Christians.

Anyhow, the parallels to your situation are what drove me to unload here in the comments. You made me wonder what I'd do if I saw Pastor Johnny walking down the street today. The idea makes me feel a flash of hot shame. I don't know what you should do, Alan, but I really hope it goes ok.

Alan said...

Dawn, I feel like I've been the King of Safe. I started taking the meds to open up the doors to a little risk. (Although I have a post to put up about the meds shortly).

Ned, that's the thing, isn't it? These kind of men make us feel very safe and very loved, for a long time I'd do anything to keep that coming. Unfortunately, we were the judgmental condemning kind of Christian. We sneered, ridiculed, and consigned those who did not believe like us to the Pit. And when I tell you conservative, I do mean no pants, makeup, jewelry or cutting of hair for the women and no long hair, shorts for the men. And no 'mixed bathing' for anybody--in other words, no swimming where opposite sexes are in their bathing suits doing the same. The pastor came up from Tennesee, where this type of strictness is more common.)

Maybe it serves me right to be condemned by the same people who I used to stand shoulder to shoulder with, condemning the rest of the world. In my defense though, I was much more interested in saving the world than condemning it.

But it's definitely time to get this thing done and move on. I can't keep living beholden to a group of people who I haven't even associated with in 10 years.

And as for God ...

well, yeah.

I don't know at the moment.

But I heard He's patient. :-)