Wounds are like shadows on our spirits

“You know, your hands can tell people if you are gay or straight”

It was a conversation started at the lunch table. I tucked my hands tightly under my legs pretending I was a bit chilled. I had no idea what she was going to say next, but I did not want my hands to be on display while she said it. Some of the girls didn’t believe her, some asked what she was going to say, and as a person always desiring to be the center of attention, she continued with or without the interest of the whole table.

“Let me show you,” she said.

She asked one of our friends to simply look at her own nails. Apparently, it was decided based on how you look at your nails; whether you turned your hand inward and curled your fingers OR you turned your hand outward and flat, determined your sexuality. The logic of fourteen year olds…

Regardless of how painfully silly such a comment and thought could be, it was just another reason I felt myself confused in an environment unwilling to be anything but small town, conservative USA. I was so grateful I wasn’t asked because I would have failed. I never cared about nails and furthermore, I shamefully chew them (even now) when I am nervous or thinking. So had I been asked, I would have curled my fingers toward me and looked at them.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe my sexuality was determined by this irrational “logic” of how I looked at my nails as a fourteen year old. But it walked with me. I actually went home and began practicing looking at my nails the so-called “correct” way. I’d never do it wrong again in public. Despite how irrational it was, it was my reality. It was my world. It was my new wound.

I think a lot of us look at thoughts or emotions and believe they don’t matter because they are as irrational as my fear of looking at my nails incorrectly. But if they are how you feel, regardless if it’s rational or not, they do matter. You can be utterly understanding of the irrationality you are feeling and still be fully loved inside that irrationality. Having feelings to process is never the problem. Never. Do you hear me? Your emotions are never a problem. The problem is when we take that irrationality out on those that care for us, or project them onto someone like they are guilty of a crime they never committed. That’s when it gets out of hand.

Never believe your emotions aren’t ok.

Never let someone say your value is less because your vision is unclear.

Part of finding ourselves and coming into our own is going through all emotions – the good, the bad, and yes, maybe even the crazy. I truly believe part of the reason my journey has been emotionally hard is because I felt like I was not allowed to feel. I felt like I had to be perfectly put together and empty of emotions. When I experienced jealously over my friends so easily falling for guys or when it was physically taxing for me to pretend, I had convinced myself I wasn’t allowed to hurt. I told myself I was being irrational. I believed feeling those things was acknowledging I was weak and that I was incapable of taking care of myself.  I punished myself by creating a void inside me. I called myself strong, but really I was just barren.

There are a hundred different ways people do this to themselves (and others) every day. Some people carry a wound so deeply everywhere they go, it affects every word that comes from inside their mouth. I believe, more than I can express in words, that we often carry wounds far longer than we should because we never allowed ourselves to actually feel them. We say the hurt, or the mistake, or the break up, or the abuse, or the cruelty, or the bad joke, or the shitty comment towards us was our fault, our bad karma, or something we had coming to us.

That is so not the case.

And even if there was a small chance you helped create the hurt that took a swing at your heart, it never ever means you aren’t allowed to feel it.  In fact, in many ways, you are feeding that evil or hurt by allowing it to fester. Wounds are like shadows on our spirits. If you don’t pour light on them, if you don’t expose them, and feel them, and allow them to heal they will remain…lurking… always threatening to invade beautiful moments.

Today’s confession is:I used to be a walking example of festering wounds and broken promises. I used to believe I could fix myself by voiding myself of real emotion and dodging the ability to get hurt. In many ways, this is a participant in what created the commit-a-phobia that lurks around the outskirts of my heart. I used to believe the absence of feelings was rational, but I realize it is arrogant. I was arrogant to believe I was bigger and better than that. Eventually it caught up to me. I broke. And that break was the best thing that could have happened to me. That break saved me.

You don’t have to walk through this alone; you don’t have to pretend you don’t feel. Write poetry, find a journal, grab a friend, or seek a counselor. Do whatever you need to do, but please don’t create a void that will take years to heal. I promise it’s not worth it.

 

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“How can you justify being a lesbian to God?”

Book Confession #5

 

When I realized I was attracted to another female for the first time, I was scared out of my mind. I was also young enough to be intrigued and somehow even gutsy enough to make a move, but in the light of day and in the movements of my daily existence, the “natural” response I had was to lie; to put on a mask and pretend that intense feeling in the gut of my stomach didn’t exist.

And this “natural” response grew and matured as life aged me. My ability to play make believe only excelled as I grew older. While others grew out of it and grew into the life they were meant to live, my fantasy world was “real” life. My expressions and emotions became as plastic as they were practiced. I was numb on the outside because I told myself I wasn’t allowed to feel on the inside.

I have this question plaguing my thoughts,

“Why was it easier to lie?”

It was easier to lie because the family consequences were great. It was easier to lie because frankly that’s how I was going to survive. Even in the mid-90’s when I hit puberty and found myself to be another casualty of the middle-school awkward phase, I knew that the secret planted deep inside me could not take root and flourish. I had to continue to keep it in check by trimming away feelings and expression in order to remain as barren as possible. It would be the only way I would blend in and survive.

This is the message of my childhood and adolescence years that I’ve carried into adulthood… that life is about surviving. No wonder I’ve gone through deep waves of depression in adulthood. No wonder I have times where I have no idea who I am, or what I’m doing, or where I’m going. I’ve been living as a shell of a human being, depriving myself of real emotion and connection.

I got a DM on twitter the other day wondering (very kindly I might add) how I could justify being a lesbian to God. And I’d love to answer that here today. There are hundreds of misconceptions about Christians – some created outside the faith, but most created inside. There is this blind assumption that once we are Christians struggle and hardship deplete – that’s just not the case. But what is the case for me and hundreds out there like me, is that in the midst of my struggle I had a rock to hold onto.

God pours His grace on me hourly every day and calls me loved regardless of anything and everything. It is in that understanding of love and grace (that I have not earned, yet am loved without limit anyway) that has allowed me to be more open with who I am. And that’s how I justify being a lesbian to God…. I simply don’t have to justify it at all. God doesn’t call me to be perfect, straight, plastic, and without free will. God calls me to be me and He calls me His, regardless of my criteria.

I think it was easier for me to lie, and it’s easier for so many of us to lie, because that’s what we believe we have to do to belong. We want to be included. We want to have worth. We want to be seen. And if whatever we say could damage that, could take away our belonging, or value, or whatever it is, it terrifies us. And we protect this “belonging” no matter how broken it may be.

What I’ve come to realize (and my faith has deeply helped me in this) is that I want to belong in a real way. I want to have real worth and real value, and I want to be seen and heard for who I really am. I don’t want to be a half person and I don’t want to belong by the standards of other people. That’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m growing a voice.

Today’s confession is: my entire life I’ve merely just survived and called it “belonging”. I’ve fought my whole life to be accepted as a half person. I’ve worked myself into depression, exhaustion, and heartache in order to belong to something that rejects most of my secrets. I want my life message to change. I want my worth to come from who I am fully, not what part I can play well. I no longer want to survive a plastic belonging, but I want to find and even help create a belonging that is whole and real. Everyone deserves to belong…

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Confession #14

There’s this moment that happens… these days it happens more and more.

I can be standing in a room full of people, fully focused on something completely different and my hands will start to sweat. I’ll feel this moment creeping into my veins, pressing itself into my thoughts, and will ultimate block out any other moment happening around me. My heart pounds so loud that it echo’s in my ears, often times I look around hoping no one can hear the clamoring.

This moment, the one that happens without warning, is what a lot of people call panic. For me I know it as the moment I feel claustrophobic inside the well-designed closet I’ve found myself accustom to. It happens when people ask me when I’ll settle down which is both because A) I know they are asking me about settling down with a man which sounds like death wrapped up in a migraine served with a side of prison time. And B) because I am terrified of talking about the future. I don’t know why, it’s not my most flattering feature but I think it has to do with the fact I’ve never seen a relationship function properly long term… I’ve seen them blow up, I’ve seen them fake it, and I’ve seen them get by… but I don’t call any of that functioning. Plus I’m a closest romantic stuck with commit-a-phobic tendencies. I’m a ticking bomb waiting to happen. I run and I hide and very rarely play fair.

The claustrophobic head spins happen in less controlled situations as well. Like when I’m in the middle of teaching and while I’m physically saying a sentence with my voice, a different voice inside my head haunts me with a question of, “will they still listen when they know all of me?”  It plagues my very core. Sometimes it takes several moments to know where I am in a message and to get back on track. Every time I’m scared someone notices, but no one has ever said anything to me.

Sometimes I can be in the middle of hearing about my sister’s relationship successes and I’ll start to feel the air leave the room. I’ll chock wondering if anyone else feels the oxygen draining around us but I realize it’s my chest that has tightened not hers. I think this happens because she is brave and I’m a coward. In everything she does, regardless of the responses or repercussions or even feelings of others she plows forward and gives everything she has.  I care too much… I care about the hearts of others, I care about their needs from me, I care about how they will feel, I care if I hurt them. She isn’t vulgar and she isn’t cruel… she’s just brave and I am a much weaker animal.

A shrink would tell me it’s panic; I just call it my daytime nightmare. It’s my inability to be fully me and I’m terrified everyone knows I’m only partially present. I’m not fake I’m just absent of full emotional participation. My compassion, my aspirations, my joys, and my heartbeat for people is real. Vibrantly real. It is the most important part of me; it is my livelihood and my greatest need… to love others… to let them know they are needed and wanted and cared for. But while I ask them to invest fully I keep parts of me back; the part of me that deeply and passionately love women and the one that has known since I was thirteen that the reality of marrying a man wasn’t one… it was a mirage of pretending I could pull it off. I can only partially invest, but I hypocritically ask them to fully engage.

Today’s confession is my wholeness is what I desire more than anything and what I fear even more than that. I’ve lived partially for so long that I keep wondering who am I really as a whole person? If I become whole will that cause people in relationships with me to have to be less… because I have been less in the past? How will my wholeness affect our oneness? I am scared of finding my wholeness, but I am incapable of stopping the search now. Today’s confession is it scares me how little control I have over my need to seek this out….