Friday, September 12, 2008

So Let's Talk About Feelings

In my day-to-day life, I am a bit of an emotional person. I suppose you could say I wear my heart on my sleeve, which isn't to say I tell everyone what's going on. It's just that when I'm down, people know I'm down, and when I'm up, people know I'm up. They may not know the reasons, but they know at least that I'm feeling something.

Of course, the blogosphere doesn't give one the same luxury, so the only way you guys know if I'm feeling anything is if I tell you, and I often have the bad habit of not really letting you guys know if I'm having negative feelings. Call it an over sized ego, or a misguided attempt to be encouraging to others by not showing when I'm hurting.

To be honest, a large problem of mine is that I really dislike feeling emotions, so by extension I don't like sharing them with others when I can help it. For some reason, I see them as a weakness. Not all emotions, of course. Just the ones that I see as "beneath me," whatever that means. I always try to appear to be strong, together, and on top of whatever is thrown my way. In general, I am those things, despite my fluctuating emotional state, so I might as well be a little more transparent about it.

That's right, dear readers, although the blogger you've come to know and love appears to have a perfect handle on this whole "gay and celibate Christian" deal, he really doesn't feel that way all the time. So let's start talking about that...

I can sometimes get really jealous of couples. Straight couples, mostly (because that's what I most often see), but when I see a happy gay couple, then I get really envious. Oh, and when that happy gay couple is my ex and his current boyfriend (who I actually introduced him to for reasons I can no longer recall) then I can just become a big old fuzzball of green energy (and I'm not talking about ethanol here, folks). You see, usually I keep those feelings of jealousy to myself, because I view them as fickle and "beneath me." Turns out, they're pretty normal and expected, and once I realize that and process through them (and actually end up being happy for couples instead of hating them on sight), then I end up being an improved specimen because of it.

I also sometimes become really fearful and paranoid about my future. I know I'll have a nice job and a steady income, and I'll likely be comfortable. However, I fear that I'll lose all my friends. That no one will call on me and that for some reason people will automatically despise me when I'm outside of a college environment. That's right, I fear abandonment and depression, and turning into that guy who chokes on a TV dinner and no one finds his body for a week. Oddly enough, though, I shared this fear with a random friend of mine today, and I was glad I did. Turns out she has the same fears, and this is one of the most social and well-balanced people I know. So I guess fears of loneliness are also pretty ordinary. Not only that, they're also without logic. I have a great many friends and I have a feeling that they'll stick around.

Also, I can sometimes get pretty angry at God. I question why it feels like I've been asked to give up what most other people take for granted. I ask why the kind of relationships I want are the kinds He firmly says "no" to. And I often don't hear answers. So I get mad. I can get really mad. If I'm supposed to be in a relationship with God, you could say that I can get angry enough with Him that I make Him sleep on the couch. And He usually obliges, to the point where I can't feel His presence and I desperately seek Him.

So there you have it. I'm not as together as I always present myself on my blog. I get jealous, I get paranoid, and I get downright angry. And yet through all this, I'm okay. Even when it feels like God isn't anywhere around, and I don't know why I go through the things I do for Him, I still do them. Maybe that's a sign of insanity or something. I really don't know. Either way, I'm tired of putting up the "tough guy" image. I don't think my emotions make me weaker. In fact, I don't think it's wrong I have them. I just have to make sure that I keep them in place and recognize them for what they are: feelings. Feelings that change with every new day. They aren't worthless, and they aren't anything to be ashamed of, but they aren't anything to dictate how I live my life, either.

I hope the image of a guy who has all these feelings and yet still manages to win his spiritual battles (more or less) is a more encouraging one than the image of a guy who's winning without really trying. I think it is, at least, which is why I finally decided to share this baggage here. Hope you're all doing well. I know I am. It feels good to get some stuff off my chest.

12 comments:

Devlin said...

Thanks for being so vulnerable and strong soas to write about your fears.
I know I'm not an ol chum, but I do think the feelings, that you feel are beneath you, may be only part of the picture. You may feel that certain thoughts are also, "beneath you". And also that gay sex is "beneath you". I don't believe God told you to not have gay sex. I believe you told you not to have gay sex, out of free will. Maybe out of habit from past lives in monasteries, I dunno. But the biggest thing? The thing that really made me drop my fork? You have told yourself not to love. And that made me very very sad. And it might have something to do with your anger. My heart dropped out when I realized that it wasn't just one on one sex you deadened, but one on one love. Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow. It really really got me. I now see you instead of evanJay, I see you like any other guy, very fragile in some areas, very strong in others, and very human. Finally.

An old lonely celibate gay man is not the vibrant veracious virile young male I read in these writings. Sorry but I will never hold that vision for you and I don't think you'll go there, because, you're really smart and you totally sizzle man. And that just is.

But more than that, my heart has grown warmer in general since connecting with you and your writings. I've always thought God is only love, and his love is in each of us, seen in each others eyes. I am sorry if you have felt I have tried to belittle you in the past, it was my own fear. Please forgive me. Melting my own anger is really really hard. You have unknowingly helped me work that out. I always learn something when you write from your soul so openly. You have that knack with me. You have softened my heart. Thanks for that College Jay. Your love is there, even when you think it's not.
Devlin Bach

Ophir said...

Hey Jay, this was a very good post and although of course you are under no obligation whatsoever to put your feelings up on a blog (don't feel like you owe it to anyone) I'm sure many people appreciate it. I can understand about not liking to give into emotions or broadcast them (I keep my heart in a hidden pocket, not on my sleeve). I am the same though I think I've perfected the art of emotional ambiguity so that unless I open up and let people, they cannot know how I'm feeling. I don't dislike feeling emotions (even anger and sadness can be cathartic, if one doesn't turn them into a constant state of mind) but I don't like letting others know what I'm really feeling and opening up emotionally is not something natural for me - on occaisons where I do it I feel very awkward.

To be honest, and I mean this in a positive way, I've never thought you had a "perfect handle" on the whole gay and celibate Christian thing. Not because you've indicated any weakness but because it is obviously a very hard struggle, and I can't imagine anyone - certainly at such an early point in life - really feeling resolved and having no doubts. That you are finding it hard and that you are open about it is good. I do not think it is impossible to remain single and still have a rewarding and eventful life as I've seen many people do so. I do however think that self-delusion of having things together and being content and cynically blind acceptance of one's values and decisions without ever questioning them or having doubts do lead to unsatisfied lives and the people who lead them are often unpleasant to be around. It's okay to look at alternative roads while still walking in your chosen path. Perhaps you will come to the conclusion you are on the right path, perhaps you will feel you've gotten lost and need to change directions. Whatever you decide, it's best not to stumble but if you do - don't accept it of course but also don't beat yourself up over it. Everyone stumbles.

Faith is no easy matter. I think at their core all religions demand that the believer overcome his natural urges - the biological mechanisms which makes him no different from any other animal - and rise to a higher level of existence, one of self-awareness, restraint, morality and intelligent questioning. And I think all or most religions have two major "streams": anthropocentric religion - whereby people expect God to intercede with the physical world and serve mankind at the individual and societal level, - at the risk of sounding elitist I think is by far the prevailing stream and theocentric religion - whereby people submit that they cannot influence God, and worship him not due to any good that might come of it but simply because it is right. This view of self-sacrifical and often unrewarding but pure religion can be found beautifully articulated in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes and in the stories of Abraham, particularly the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22).

Because the animalistic sexual urge is so strong, as is the need for companionship, the struggle for gay and lesbian people of faith is not at all easy. It is a great shame that many Jews, Christians and Muslims do not realize this, and view it as what it is - a struggle peculier to a certain set of people, but no different from any other commandment. You for instance seem to have a very good relationship with your parents and therefore probably have little problem honoring them, as commanded. For other people this is much harder. You don't seem to be prone to coveting your neighbor's wife (maybe your neighbor's husband!) but others do, and many succomb. It is a shame they cannot see that the struggle of gays and lesbians is no different. Instead of acknowlding the great tasks and sacrifices for faith these people must endure and strengthening their hand on the arduous journey some - too many - unfortunately adopt a hateful and harmful attitude which only succeeds in making many gay people lose faith. This they do whilst blatanly disobeying God themselves, both in their treatment of gays and in their own private lives.

You're still young (so am I) and you have plenty of time to think things through, to grow, to learn, to change and you will find your way. I never completely understood whether you are now abstaining from any romantic relationship or just from sex. If it is the former, perhaps rethink this. It's true you may stumble. But what value does not stumbling have if you have nothing to stumble from?

You'll do great, I'm sure, and you'll have a good and happy life so don't be so down!

P said...

I always wondered if you were stoic or just wrote as if you were. Thanks for opening up.

MR said...

I used to think that the best way to live was to force myself to do what is right and hide all opposing feelings. That obviously does not work. The only way consistently to do what is right is to love what is right and actually feel it deeply. That is, I need to see that I actually will be happiest when I am wholeheartedly following Jesus Christ.

When I feel opposing emotions such as jealousy, lust, fear, etc, they motivate me to go to God and ask for help. I ask Him to help me see how much better He is than whatever else I crave. I trust Him to change my heart as I obey Him with my actions. When I feel the depth of how much better God is than anything else, I naturally drop the bad stuff. That is going about the business of pursuing my happiness in God!

So, feelings ARE important. Don't stuff them down, take them to God!

Jay, as I said to you privately, we should all have friendships that are deeply emotionally satisfying without sex. I'm sure you agree we all can still experience this even being celibate.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for that post. I have read your blog for a long time, and been inspired by you, and your willingness to share your thoughts.

As I have worked to deal with my identities as both Christian and gay, some of my most difficult times and depressed times are similar to the ones you share. Seeing good looking guys get engaged and married would rip into me, and cause me sorrow that I couldn't understand. Over time, processing it and dealing with times like this became possible. I also spent way too much time worrying about what people would think about me and bottling up my fears, which only caused them to intensify. I know exactly what you mean about paranoia about the future, and anger with God, and so on.

As someone who has just graduated from university, I am now entering the workforce with baggage and uncertainty about how to deal with the two competing realities: gay and Christian. I don't want to become your hypothetical future image of yourself! (I could go on, but this is your blog, not mine!) ;-)

One thing that has taken me a while to realize is that, in all of the confusion and anger I may be in, God's love for me doesn't change. At the same time, some days I would rather just forget about God altogether.

Anyways, from a long time lurker, thanks. A lot. For this post, and many others.

-i.m.

aujaharris said...

Jay,

I have been hesitant to write on your blog for fear of just adding to the whole other host of conflicting voices you probably already hear. I know that you are an RA and work at a UNC System School, so you and I share some common ground. I am an Asst. Director for Residence Life at another UNC System School and supervise hall directors and RA's such as yourself, I am also Gay and Christian.
I have often thought what I would say to you if you came into my office. However after reading this blog entry I just could not hold my tongue another minute. I agree with Devlin I feel like you have decided to "kill off" a significant piece of who you are as a man, a Christian and human being. I am not necessarily talking about the celibacy part but rather more importantly your desire to be single. God does not create us to be alone. He has called us to live in community with each other and to have someone special in our lives. I think if life creates a situation where you are single then I think that is one thing but to deliberately decide to be single and celibate because a white anglo saxon straight male scholar decided that was best-- then I think thats is truly a tragedy! Quite honestly, it makes physically ill to think that is self-inflicted.
I am in a long term relationship with a wonderful guy and we live a very normal life, go to church have a wonderful community! You can have that to should you choose it! I am not asking you to change your mind but please dont resign yourself to this reality.
It may be true that you will be single all your life but dont let it be because you thought God said so. Wishing you all the best!! Peace, Jack

otrolado said...

Feelings are so terribly annoying. Why can't we just turn them off? I suppose the answer is because then we would not be human.

You seem to be wise enough to realize your current state is not where you will always be. We are all constantly evolving.

I will be sure to keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

From the limited interaction we have had you appear to be a quality person and that counts for a lot.

Keep on keepin' on.

kurt_t said...

I don't mean this as a judgment or a criticism, just an observation that you might find useful. This post sounds a lot like an "ex-gay survivor" narrative.

Beyond that, I want to tell you that I went through kind of a similar emotional struggle when I was not too much older than you are now. But my struggle wasn't with religion. My internal monologue went more like this: "I like the idea of having sex with men, but one day in 1982, I picked up the paper and read about this sexually transmitted disease that kills gay men in such a gruesome manner that it sounds like a really really scary science fiction movie. No sex for me. No intimacy for me. No love for me. No other person for me."

I was pretty miserable. And it all felt very unfair. And I felt very envious of others.

If I could go back in time and say something to myself, I'm not sure what I'd say. Maybe "It's temporary. The misery, the envy, the sadness, the loneliness. It's all temporary."

I think that's what I'd say.

wendy said...

Jay - it is a precious gift to expose and share one's vulnerability with others .... some would say it is one of the keys to discovering and embracing our humanity. So my prayer, as you've opened yourself up to perhaps unsolicited advice, is that you will feel vibrantly, fully alive and robustly human .... and in that aliveness you will sense a deep and quiet affirmation that is between only you and your Creator. The beauty of a journey, as challenging as it may be, is that it happens simply one step at a time.
shalom

aujaharris said...

Jay,

I guess its taken me a few days to truly complete my thought--I guess I would finally say is that whatever decision you make with respect to celibacy and not choosing to be in a romantic relationship with a man--- that YOU make that decision --don't allow others to choose that reality for you. You seem like a pretty smart guy and I am sure you will make the right choices. Remember that you are a human being in need of love just like everyone else. I know that our Church families and friends are wonderful companions on the journey, but that is not the same as having that soulmate who knows everything about us and loves for who we are. I guess I am saying that you deserve that in my opinion. Unless you are just absolutely certain that God has called you to a life of being single then I think you need to continue to pray and to listen to that still small voice inside of you. Honestly, it really doesnt matter what I think or really anybody else thinks for that matter. Be prayerful and meditate on how God wants you to live your life. That is where I think you will find the answers.

Razzie said...

Thanks man. I've been journeying down a road of self-hate and anger at God recently stemming from my SSA struggles. I had pretty much decided I was going to leave the church for a little while and seek out some of my gay friends as my main companionship. Then reading your post just really lifted my spirit in realizing that you and others have these same moments and feelings and that they pass and can change constantly. I can't quite explain it since I am horrible with words(thats what those science degrees do to you), but I'm smiling right now...so its a good thing.

Jay said...

Razzie: Wow. You don't really know how encouraging that is for me right now. And no worries about being horrible with words. I'm an English major and even I get tripped up... all the time! God bless you, brother.