Friday, March 27, 2009

The corrosiveness of anger, yet seeking the balm of forgiveness

I am not a Christian. I periodically have to remind my beloved wife of this, because she doesn't understand why I can't move on from the Prop8 stuff. She is a truly remarkable woman, a profoundly loving Christian, with a deep ability to forgive. (Have I mentioned lately that she is far, far too good for the likes of me?)

This whole Prop 8 aftermath has left me seared and very angry. One of my colleagues stopped me in the hall the other day, and asked if everything was okay. He told me I had been looking very tired. I assured him that it was nothing to do with work, but then went to my office and thought about what had changed in my life that would make me look and feel so tired and worn out. I have no patience left for anything, even the usual frustrations of work and commute. Yet nothing in that has changed.

And all I can come up with is Prop8, and the anger and bitterness that it has left behind it. It's as though I have an instinctive fight response activated every time it is mentioned. Tears are never far from the surface (I'm not generally a crier), and I feel wary and untrusting of everyone, a veritable misanthrope.

BP is Catholic, as you know, and loves her friends on the folk choir. They are the big reason, I think, that she can't just leave the RCs and go Episcopalian full time. She is out to them, and most of them are huge supporters of us both and were enthusiastic participants at our wedding. (Liberal Roman Catholics all exist in a world of "don't ask, don't tell" with respect to their church, I've decided.)

One couple however was not happy about us. They are conservatives. They were active "Yes on 8" supporters, and of course did not come to our wedding. I told BP I don't understand how she can see them every week at rehearsal and be friendly with them. "They have nothing personal against us," she told me. "They think we're wrong, is all." To which I responded that it IS personal, that these people chose to vote to hurt us, very deliberately despite knowing us. Or rather, knowing her; I have only met them a couple of times.

This sums up a major difference between us. BP is the bigger person. She can forgive, find common ground with this couple, and move on. I can't. I am angry at this couple and all those who voted to hurt me, without me ever doing anything to injure them. And I can't figure out how to get past it.


JCF said...

Have I mentioned lately that she is far, far too good for the likes of me?

Sweetie, we never had any doubt! [On the other hand, I'm sure BP is "far, far too good for the likes of" ALL of us! ;-)]

If I may provide a word of (Judeo-)Christian commentary:

You're in the wilderness is all.

Think about it: starting last June, and esp. at your wedding in October, you "crossed the Red Sea on dry land". O Happy Day.

Now, you're lost, hungry, thirsty, and bitter: "were there no graves in Egypt?"

It hurts MORE, because you tasted True Freedom (w/ love and plenty) for that short time.

On the one hand, you're NOT back in Egypt: you're free, you're married, and show every sign of staying that way...

...and yet that Wilderness doesn't let you experience that freedom much. The Hostiles are still out there, attacking (if in vain in your case)---and who wouldn't feel bitter w/ Tax Day approaching? (the day in which you and BP are ORDERED to declare yourselves "single". &%$&#!!!)

But you remember your Confirmation class, right? You know what happens: those Wilderness Wanderers DO reach the Promised Land.

FWIW: I don't think it will take 40 years.

Hang in there, IT! {{{hugs}}}

Cany said...

Oh, IT. This really does break my heart.

I am tired of this entire matter too because it seems so ridiculously obvious that EVERYONE should, under secular law, have equal rights which is why Starr's arguments before the court were so stinging to me, personally.

The problem remains religion for the most part. Bishop Robinson addresses this in the interview I posted today on my blog. His point is a bullseye, imho.

The fact that TEC is taking up this issue at convention is good, though I honestly don't know what the forecast is for success. All I can say about THAT is that this Episcopalian is not attending church again (until) TEC treats people equally... period (I have not been attending for a while, now, and while I miss it I just cannot go anymore and feel okay about it and I won't go to another church). I don't tolerate this limbo for other people well especially since my views on secular law are entirely devoid of religious ideology and sanctimony.

You know we here love and respect you, IT and I am certain that everyone hurts for you and others in your position. It angers me, too, and like JCF said, BP is better than a lot of us (and most certainly me). I fall more into your camp.

But, also, as Bishop Gene says, we have to harden up and continue to fight. Had the great Dr. MLK acted only in anger or walked away (how could he?) out of frustration and fatigue, I shudder to think where we might be today.

Work being done behind the scenes to help equality is important to winning this eventually. I hope that eventually is sooner than later.

One thing I have learned in 35 years of activism is that one must NOT let anger and fatigue cause burn out. If you need to hit pause and refresh once in a while, that is not only normal, it is healthy and will ensure that you remain in the fight.

You just have no idea how badly this whole thing makes me feel, IT, not only for you but for everyone in your position. I have absolutely nothing consoling enough to pen that might help you other than to say... every American has an obligation to ensure freedom for all and many of us take that seriously.

(((((Hugs))))), IT.

David G. said...

Time to move to New Hampshire!

Paul M said...

IT, I am so sorry for what you are going through. When I was living in Mississippi, I had many of the same types of interactions. It was a small town, and we didn’t have the luxury of a liberal church and a conservative church, or a white church and a black church, or any other segregation to make us more comfortable. We were all lumped in together.
I met some wonderful people there. At one point, with my family out of town, I drove myself to the hospital for what turned out to be a kidney stone. A nurse called the church for me and one kind, older gentleman volunteered to pick me up and get me home. He also insisted on driving me around to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy. I later heard that same gentleman make a snide remark about our new woman presiding bishop. After all he had done for me, I wasn’t able to feel any anger for that remark, only sadness. The man wasn’t evil, he wasn’t out to get me, he was just at another place in his own faith journey. And considering the generosity he had shown me, maybe was is in a better place than I was.
The comment, “Its’ not personal” speaks volumes. Of course, for you, it is personal. As a straight man, I have the option of viewing this as some abstract, intellectual issue, and I think that is part of the problem. I decided a long time ago that the Christian faith was not an abstract intellectual issue. It is a matter of responding to human beings with human needs in a compassionate way. I believe that is what Jesus taught us to do. Once we let abstract principles become more important than human beings, we have started down the wrong path. People are more important than ideas or principles.
The struggle is to get your conservative couple to see this as personal, rather than abstract. And you have to see them the same way. It is so easy to see a human being as a member of “the other side” or as a representation of “everything we are fighting against”. That’s a trap. We aren’t “sides”, we are people, made in the image of God, with faults and virtues combined into one package. No matter how much we separate ourselves into different denominations, different provinces, different political parties, we are all on this earth together and we need to find some way to live together without destroying each other in the process. Your very presence in that congregation will continue to be a thorn in that couple’s side, urging them to see the issue in a different way. We aren’t going to make any progress here without moving outside of our comfort zones.

TheraP said...

IT, I speak with the benefit of going on 42 years of marriage. I think couples often split the reactions to things. BP can be forgiving partly "because" you're angry as heck. And you are free to feel all this rage "because" she is able to forgive. If you think of the two of you as truly "one flesh" and you look across your relationship, you will see that often what happens is that people "split" the reactions to things and thereby as couple find a kind of balance - even if painful - between the two of you. BP can continue relating to people you'd give up on and avoid. And you can (sometimes) avoid situations where she might end up feeling hurt. And the kids benefit from these two coping styles.

It's a "law" of relationships I think. Just like morning persons versus night persons. And those who squeeze the toothpaste any old way versus the ones who need the tube to look neat. Or the ones who like it cooler versus warmer and so on. The two of you are microcosm of the macrocosm. Such is life....

it's margaret said...

Your wife sounds like a beautiful person IT.

And I grieve for you both, and pray that you will one day soon find the equality and civil rights you should have.

I will not, for your sake and for the sake of others whom I love dearly, give up the fight.

I pray for peace of heart for you.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

It´s very late here, IT! I just tried to read your comment but I couldn´t really concentrate...however, I´m moved to say it is EXHAUSTING to be persecuted endlessly...suffering injustice, or seeing injustice inflicted on others, is a very draining thing...sometimes I think my lesson is just to shut the fu*k up BUT then I´m quickly reminded, especially in my x-drunken case, to SPEAK UP and become the person that I was created to instincts always tell me that the moment my feelings of well being are ripe it is time to carry that same message to another person, who may be like me, or not, who needs to know they are FINE, they are WELL and the religious right predators can´t harm us anymore! It´s true. I almost believed them myself. I was almost void of compassion for me and people like me...they almost pushed me over the edge to the ¨falling off place¨ of my life...well, that didn´t work out, God didn´t like that it seemed to me...I got well, I became stronger and in my emotional and spiritual good health (they hate that the most) I started saying no to their filthy fantasies about people like me (you know the ones they dwell on instead of mentioning THE heterosexual perverts)...I will not dress up the vileness that is inflicted on other LGBT people by religious misfits who have twisted themselves into believing they can vote on my LOVE and on my BELOVED TO BE...they are out of their minds and I WILL MAKE NO MORE EXCUSES for´s time to say no and stop the abuse...that is exhausting and furthermore it requires bravery and´ve earned your frustration/exhaustion with those who pry into your heart and would damn your Soul...however, remember, we are dealing with people who have no idea regarding ¨what they do.¨

David |Dah • veed| said...

No Te Tomas Nada Personalmente
Lo que los demas dicen y hacen es una proyeccion de su propia realidad, de su propio sueño. Cuando seas inmune a las opiniones y los actos de los demas, dejaras de ser la victima de un sufrimiento innecesario.

Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don Miguel Ruiz
Los Cuatro Acuerdos
The Four Agreements

NancyP said...

Activism fatigue and depression after a serious setback is real, and you find out that a lot of people who may be polite to your face still don't class you as OK. I suspect you have to write off the ones that won't support you and didn't think twice as not worth brain space. There is no law that you have to respect people who don't respect you. Try to ignore them. It is realistic to have low expectations of casual acquaintances or of work colleagues.

I recognize the tiredness and lack of patience - I am pretty frustrated and p-o-ed most of the time. A lot of people ARE fools, and a lot of them are your bosses or affect your life in some way. Just reflect that you have BP, in which you have a relationship better than most people manage to have.

IT said...

Everyone is kind and I thank them, but

NancyP, I want to give you a hug and I wish you can find a love like BP


Glenn Ingersoll said...

I, too, frequently find myself enraged.

Is your sweetie a bigger person than you? I don't think so.

But those people who cheerleaded Prop 8 -- they are far far smaller. They are mean, ugly people who push to create difficulties for you & me & other strangers (& relations, I'd bet). They are people who wish suffering on others. They need to be prosecuted for theft because they have entered a conspiracy to purposely & knowingly steal a thing of great value -- they attacked me & stole my family rights.

See what I mean? Mad as hell.

Kisses to you!

David G. said...

I LOVE all of you sooooo much, BUT it's just NOT enough!!
I KNOW you can't understand where I'm coming from,...but that is not important!!

Anonymous said...

Take care of yourself, DavidG!


Leonardo Ricardo said...

Exactly...take care of yourself David G...what is wrong, name it all, say it all, what is it that has given you such incomprehensible emotional pain? What do you see that tormenting you know?

You are loved, you´ve never been alone here. I´ve known you here and at Jakes for years...we are your friends.

NancyP said...

David G., your cats need you, not your 20# food (well, they need that too, particularly at 4:00 AM in the middle of your sleep cycle). Your people need you too. Go get help. Something as "simple" as medication may be a huge help in making problems manageable. (personal bias, since I finally hit on a decent combo).

IT, when the Nat'l Gay and Lesbian Task Force annual conference was in St. Louis in mid-November 2004, I attended an "activist burnout" session, as did some of the more dedicated marriage activists - MO had just become the first state in the recent rash of anti-marriage amendments. The speaker was a lesbian clinical psychologist from Colorado who had interviewed activists during and after the Colorado amendment 2 campaign, the result of which was invalidated by the SCOTUS. A lot of people experienced a period of anger against the public and against people they had hoped would have been allies. The anger faded for most, with time and new activity.

Anonymous said...

I hope so, NancyP. Meanwhile, I continue in my grumpy mood.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...



David said...

What Margaret said about not giving's why I won't give up supporting IT and my other LGBT friends either.

JCF said...

Off-topic but fascinating (in a horrifying way): the RCC knew about priests abusing children DECADES ago! (as early as the 1950s)

Recently unsealed correspondence proves it: read the story by the NCR here (and be sure to download the pdf of the letters themselves, to get the straight dope, in its time) Hat-tip, Episcopal Cafe/The Lead.