Counting blessings…

There are times when I feel like a salmon trying to get upstream, pushing against vigorous, if not overwhelming, currents of emotion and circumstance that seem determined to leave me stranded and dying where I sit. It’s too easy to look at the negatives and to become entrapped in hopelessness and despair, or at least despondancy.

Counting blessings may seem like Pollyanna’s game, but it is a decent antidote. I know it from experience.

One of my journals, a couple of years ago, I began with the sole intention of recording daily blessings. It was a bad patch, my nerves were raw… I felt about to go under for the third time. Then I watched through my bedroom window as a bluebird lighted on the ground outside. The sunlight catching the blue and rose of his breast and face gave me a momentary sense of being transported beyond myself —

I felt as if God were sending me a brief message of cheer and hope.

I realized that there are many such moments in each day, certainly each week, that I owed Him to pay attention to. I began jotting them down:

The bluebird. A small herd of deer in my yard when I returned from choir practice. The cloud arrangements. The smell of fresh-plowed earth; the smell of same earth with raindrops penetrating it. The butterflies flocking around the buddleia. The quail I watched for over an hour from the kitchen window – positioned under the front-yard dogwood, thrusting his little chest and chin out as he called “Bob-WHITE!” The Canadian geese honking overhead as they approached Hawthorne’s pond. The hawk circling the field. A hug from a friend. The fragrance of incense during Mass…

So many ways God tells us He loves us and has not abandoned us!

and Life AFTER


Discovering your husband or ex-husband is gay really isn’t the end of the world. It only feels that way for a substantial period of time.

We all deal with it in our own way (some ways healthier than others). I remarried after eleven years, an event I wish I could delete from my history as much for its brevity as for its horrific wrongness. But at least he was straight! (which is one of two reasons I got involved with him in the first place, the other being that he really enjoyed talking to me)

I’ve had relationships with men that were far from healthy, but thankfully, with only one exception, an integrity was maintained throughout that allows us to still be friends in varying degrees.

I learned something in that process — no I learned a lot of things, beginning with

1) I really like being a woman, and I’m glad God made me one.
2) I really like being me!
3) Mom was right: I didn’t amount to a hill of beans. I amounted, am amounting, to a great deal more.
4) Dan was right: I am a “trophy.”
5) My own instincts are most of the time spot on, worth paying attention to — at the very least investigating.
6) God brings dignity and beauty to each of our lives – and if we keep an inner ear tuned to learn His voice, we will see His gifts to us.
7) Before we can be honest with others, we have to have the courage to be fundamentally honest with ourselves.
8) Anger is part of the process. It’s not the defining part, or the terminal part. It just sometimes feels that way.
9) Soul companionship is more memorable, more re-live-able, than the most mind-blowing sex.
10) I’m just getting started.

Let it be known…

I got an email a little while ago from a friend down under — that’s Australia, by the way — urging me to be gentler in my treatment of Dan. He may not have had the choice, she said…

I believe the beautiful boy I used to love was denied his choice by age 14 when the selfish bastard seduced him. Maybe there was even a selfish bastard before the one I knew about.

Just what culpability Dan faces for his homosexuality is known only to God, Who is a just God as well as a merciful One, Who alone has the true and full knowledge and perfect understanding of all the factors that cause us to do the things we do.

I don’t believe Dan will get off scott free simply because of some verbal assent of Who Jesus Is; salvation requires more of us in return to His sacrifice. But I trust God to be fair — to Dan, and to me.

I do blame Dan for what has happened since. Maybe that’s uncharitable, maybe it’s unfair. But it’s the way I see it, and it’s the way I’m calling it.

Hey, Dan — an open letter to the Ex-

Dear Dan,
Since Beth has so graciously published me in the Greensboring blog (where do people hang out, if they think Greensboro is boring? They ought to move further south!) I have some hopes that you might recognize and check this blog out. If you do —

I am ready to file for the ecclesiastical nullity procedure in the Church. I was Confirmed in November, 2002 — my conversion story is very early in the archives of this blog. You and I discussed this nullity idea several years ago, when I first began exploring converting, I think you’ll remember, and you offered no objections at that time. I need a current address for you, so the Tribunal can contact you and offer you the opportunity to participate in the proceedings.

I assume you likely will prefer not to participate; however, if you tell the tribunal rep that, yes, you’re gay, you’re out, and it’s not something we discussed before we were married, then that’s the end of it, I’m free in the eyes of the Church to date, marry, get on with my life. If you choose not to participate or to cooperate with the tribunal rep, then they’ll come back to me asking for witnesses: family, friends, anyone who can give a statement about our marriage, our lives now, etc. I’d have to name your parents, your siblings, others… and I’d rather not — not so much to protect you as to protect them. I know Richard and Lila are elderly and have been plagued with poor health in recent years. Remembering Lila, I dare say it would upset her terribly, and she’d come back and harp at you about it.

I hope you’ll be willing to cooperate. I really, really want this.

Our older daughter told me next to last time I saw her that you’re living with a partner now. I hope the life you have chosen for yourself is everything you were promised it would be. My life is quiet and I am happy, really, in just about every way imaginable.

Give the girls my love. Remember to keep a generous portion for yourself. I get angry, resentful (I am adept at understatement, you see)… but I do remember, don’t forget, the boy I used to love… who was my hero in defending me against Mother… who held me and cried with me when I had the miscarriage… who held me and shared the awe (despite the brutal nausea) of my being pregnant… who helped me get through difficult and frightening labors… who helped me first to know the Lord and so paved the way for the Faith I now find such joy in… my friend.

There are some people, friends, from the old days you might want updates on if you want to contact me.

You know how to reach me — the email address Judy had for you is now closed, of course (as I suspect you know) — I still am at the same address and phone number I’ve been at for 12+ years now. Email is the most consistent way to reach me, though. Judy can give that to you, of course. I have no contact with Deann and won’t use her as an intermediary.

Take care.
Laura

Hey, Beth —

Thanks for the heads-up in the Greensboro gay blog. Now I might be able to track Dan and let him know I need him for the nullity process — either him, personally, or a bunch of family and friends witnesses. I don’t think he wants that.

I miss the charming, lovely, affable boy I used to know. The fellow who used to be such a wonderful and companionable friend. If you know what happened to him along the way, I hope you’ll pop in and tell me where I can find him. The snide, snarky, deceitful, selfrighteous contemptuous buzzard I knew in later years is no fun at all.

Oh, and while you’re so busy being so pleased with yourself for joining the Fairy Prince in blaming me for everything (do queens bear no responsibility for their choices and the hurt subsequent and consequent to thosse choices?), perhaps it will interest you that I continued with my therapy- until Dan cashed the insurance check instead of turning it over to the therapist like he was supposed to do. He, on the other hand, told one therapist, “I know a marriage takes a lot of work, I just don’t want to be bothered,” and the other he just quit coming, always had something “better” and “more important” to do.

Both counselors (both women, by the way — how come you haven’t commented on the idea that homosexuality is fundamentally misogynistic at its core?) still remember him. Less than fondly.

Yet grace abounds…

I began the questionaire for the nullity petition for the Diocese of Raleigh before I was hired at OLA, and the questions brought about such an intense re-living of the experiences, the loneliness, the memories of Dan’s hostilities, that I hadn’t finished the petition in four years.

But I want to celebrate the many ways God demonstrated grace to me and helped me along.

First was my church. I wasn’t Catholic in those days, didn’t even dream I ever would become one. I was a fervent evangelical, member of evangelical churches, and those churches, and the people in them, were great support to me even while they didn’t know I was experiencing all the other, ugly stuff.

I realize now that even in the 70s, when Dan made his first announcement to me that things were more complicated and painful than he’d let me know before, I could have gone to our pastor, a lovely man named Dale Brister, who would have been fully supportive and helped me see my way through the crisis. There were men and women in subsequent churches, too. But everybody loved Dan, and it was such a horrible thing to accuse him of… and there was that horrible burden of being wholly unable to talk about some things, back in those days.

But the emotional and spiritual support was there, and the grace.

The man who’d very much wanted to have an affair with me was, in a strange and convoluted way, another gift of grace. There was something comforting about being found desirable, adorable, by a man, even a man not my husband. And Bernard was responsible for re-awakening my love of reading and a hunger for reading things far more substantial than I’d known up until meeting him. He was really responsible for getting me to read C.S. Lewis’ meatier works, and Watchman Nee, and excerpts from other theologians. Bernard was enchanted by my mind, when Dan thought I was stupid.

Then I got to go to Guilford College. It was my first academic success, and I was discovering abilities and loves I’d not dreamed myself possible of. I was encouraged and applauded by brilliant men and women whose credentials I couldn’t dismiss as I had been able to minimalize Bernard’s admiration. One professor, the one I was accused of having the affair with, who had something of a reputation for being impossible to get along with, told one of his colleagues, and it got back to me, that I was “one of the most brilliant students to come down the pike in (his) entire career.”

That one remark did more to awaken me to my own value and merit than anything else I had encountered. It was easy not to take the commendations of other professors quite so seriously; they were warm, affirming men and women, “nice” people, which made their enthusiasm for my developing abilities easy to dismiss from serious consideration.

Still, had it not been for those men and women — Beth and Mel, Joe and Ellen, Carol and John, Becky, Ann, Jeff… — I don’t think I could have finished college, no matter how startling Rudy’s praise had been. They were my community, my family, my support as my marriage to Dan was falling apart and as I was going through the nightmare of discovering he is gay.

More recently, other friends have come onto the scene as instruments of mercy, healing and grace. There was Jim, my former boss, who discussed intellectual and spiritual issues with me between legal cases, and who inadvertently started the ball rolling toward my falling in love with the Church. There have been other teachers, colleagues, bosses, who have brought about degrees of healing and restoration over the years.

And now, there is the Church, the Sacraments, to hold on to, giving me literally Jesus Our Lord, Himself, in tangible and concrete ways.

I have to say that the real test of God’s goodness to me is that I can say with all earnestness, I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on my worst enemy… but I also wouldn’t take a million dollars for it. I like this woman I’m becoming. Right now I’m in the midst of a major paradigm shift (more on that later?) and I am excited about my present and my future as I’ve never been before.

Such beauty on the horizon!

It’s not just gay men who make terrible husbands; other men with serious psychological issues are nightmares, too. And not only gay men are misogynists. But homosexuality is a particular sort of misogyny — dispising the feminine on such a deep level that the man has only contempt for a woman’s body as well as her mind and soul.

Dan and I were part of the same circle of friends throughout high school. Then, during our senior year, Dan was hired by the same variety store I worked at, so we were spending even more time together. After we graduated, we’d go out, sometimes with a couple of friends, sometimes just the two of us, after work, hang out together until almost 11:00 (my weeknight curfew)… it was late August, immediately after one of our friend’s wedding, that we had the great revelation that we were wanting to spend all our time together, had become immensely important to one another.

While we were dating, Dan was companionable, good-humored, loads of fun. He was always the life and heart of our gang, anyway, and I basked in his intelligence and sense of fun and adventure. He never pushed about sex, and, since I’d been wracked with guilt about a prior, unchaste relationship, I thought Dan was noble, self-disciplined. After all, he’d been instrumental in the formation of my Christian discipleship for more than two years; he’d been an exemplary (if sometimes overzealous) Christian youth.

We’d sit and talk for hours, building our dream castles, yes, but also grounded in various realities in our lives. He was a staunch defender against my mother, who could be so cruelly critical.

Actually, we both had issues we were running away from. I loved my parents and wanted to be close to them, but they had made it clear that if I ever left home without their approval, I’d be cutting myself off. I had to get out, my mother was mentally ill (I didn’t know it then, but she wasn’t in the hospital for headaches – Daddy felt it was in my best interests to “protect” me from knowing too much).

I didn’t know it then, but Dan had issues and fears he was running away from, too. He’d been seduced, at age 14, by the adult relative of another of our friends; it had left him scarred, afraid of his own sexual inclinations. It wasn’t self-control that had kept him from trying to score with me.

Then, after we were married, he immediately became distant, uncommunicative, unaffectionate. I’m an affectionate woman, and even the most casual of one-armed hugs, or a hand resting on his arm or shoulder, would bring about a violent reaction: he’d jerk away from me as if scalded, make a snorting noise, and say, “Don’t! You know that annoys me!”

After we moved to Greensboro in ’82, he began working at the YMCA, where he met whole new groups of people. Some of them became his friends. He began, every couple of months, announcing that he was feeling restless and that he was going to go visit some of his friends. They never called the house, never were named, never were met. I had no friends that he didn’t know — most were from Church — and even the good people we knew from our church, he became unreasonably critical of. He even seemed hostile toward some of them.

I became desparately lonely. A therapist from Focus on the Family, whom I had written in near-desparation, called me on the telephone, and as I described my situation, he warned me that he was concerned, advised me to seek out local counselling. “You’re at extremely high, frighteningly high, risk for an affair,” he warned me.

I had the opportunity. We had a friend from church who thought I was beautiful, witty, intelligent, and very desirable. I wasn’t interested. I wholly believed that, if I’d just follow the rules and be faithful, God would give me a miracle. It didn’t come the way I wanted it to.

It has to have been horrible for Dan. Son and grandson of Baptist preachers, highly idealistic… He had a lot to risk if his worst fears were grounded in reality. I believe he thought that getting married, functioning sexually with a woman, perhaps fathering children, would be all the barometer he’d need to assure himself of his “normalcy.”

I think that’s the way it was, anyway. He won’t discuss it with me now. Or wouldn’t, last time I talked with him about it. This was more than ten years ago — he’d come out to our daughters, and according to them, to his parents and siblings. I asked him, how do you reconcile the contradictions between your strong Christian commitment and this lifestyle you’ve adopted? His answer was distressing, even in those days before I ever attended my first Catholic Mass: so long as he believed and acknowledged Jesus Christ as the Son of God and his personal savior, his salvation was assured.

He was already attending the Metropolitan Community Church.

If only he’d been straightforward with me, said something along the lines of, “Laura, I’m so sorry, I’ve really tried, but…” and owned some degree of responsibility, even attempted some empathy for the agony I was going through, it might have made the present more bearable. But he never has been, and has only lied, deceived, and manipulated. Whatever his choices have been, they are all my fault.

Now that I have your attention…

Okay. I’ve just “outed” myself as the ex-wife of a queen, and already I’ve gotten an email from a woman who saw the post and wanted to let me know I’m not alone — she has a friend going through a divorce after some 20 years of marriage and three children… same issue.

That’s probably why I decided to go ahead and lance this latest emotional absess in public — to try to offer, however limited my ability might be, some support for other women who are discovering themselves to be caught in this nasty trap of ultimate misogyny. One summer, when I was working for a lawyer, a little more than ten years ago, we had no less than four women clients who had discovered their husbands’ treacheries. I suspect the problem is far more widespread than most people have ever considered.

We need a support group. There are support groups for every other wacko disorder coming down the pike — why can’t there be a support group for women recovering from emotional and spiritual exploitation and abandonment by men who prefer other men?

We all have frightening similarities. One of my friends pointed out that gay men who marry tend to pick “trophy wives” for themselves. At first I snorted in disbelief; I’ve always thought of myself as very plain and ordinary. But then I went back into the box of mementos and dug out my high school senior photo — and saw a really lovely girl smiling out of that picture — clear green eyes, long hair, sweet smile… (Thanks, Pal — for seeing me with fresh eyes and shocking me into seeing myself anew.)

We also were idealistic, trusting, perhaps gullible. All five of us were very religious; we had picked me with strong religious ideals, also. We had married with great hopes and expectations only to be confronted during our honeymoons with strangers who did not enjoy intimacy with us, who began to withhold affection and attention and conversation from us, who always had a plausible excuse for same… We all suffered unbearable loneliness and a downright neurotic response of trying to be perfect so we could be worthy of the love of men who so obviously despised us. Most of us had become humiliated by the necessity of always initiating sex (and most of us, being loving and passionate women, were attempting to initiate often).

We gave up lives of our own, in most cases — interests, hobbies, friends — because our husbands demonstrated resentment of anything that distracted us from them. Also, we were hopelessly optimistic that someday, somehow, our husbands would come out of their trance and want our company, our affection… and we wanted to be on hand when the moment finally arrived.

For me, the breaking point was my success in college. After years, first from my mother and then from Dan, of being told I was dumb and that I’d never amount to anything, that I was only tolerated out of pity, I was discovering my intelligence, my love of learning, the value of my intuitions, at Guilford College. I made Dean’s List — something no one would have believed possible before I enrolled there. I was the happiest I’d ever been, and I think it drove Dan crazy that I could be appreciated, supported, validated by anyone who discredited his contemptuous opinions of me. It was the first day of Finals Week, Fall Semester of my third year at Guilford, when he announced that he was leaving me.

Oh, he was magnanimous, as always — it wasn’t me he intended to leave, only our “dump” of an apartment (cinder blocks on a concrete slab, built in the late 40s); I could come with him or not, as I chose. Basically — he put it in such a way that, if I chose not to leave college, not to come with him, the divorce became solely my fault. But I knew that if I ever moved from that apartment (which rented for $90 a month in a day when the going rate for 2-bedroom apartments was closer to $500) I’d have to give up school, success… and myself. I let him move on his own.

Of course, I wouldn’t know about his gay friends and the double life he’d been leading for several more months, but the pathology of our relationship was beginning to lose its grip on my soul.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

I can’t find Dan, my first husband. I have the paperwork ready to file for my nullity petition with the Diocese of Charlotte, and when I tried to call and let him know he’s going to be contacted about it, the old number I had for him has been disconnected, and I’ve since learned he’s no longer with the employer I last knew of. We had promised one another, long ago, that for our daughters’ sake we would always be able to stay in touch with one another. Evidently he has changed his mind and forgotten to tell me about it?

This is not the first time he’s made a major change and “forgotten” to tell me. Some five months after we separated, he had oral surgery. This was the first time he’d had any kind of medical need in the entire time I’d known him (more than fifteen years, at that point), and since we were supposed to be working on reconciling, it seemed only right to me that I should be with him for this crisis. But, no, he had already arranged another friend to take him to the oral surgeon’s and to be with him as he recovered: his friend Randy. I was welcome to stop by his apartment after I got off work, of course, and when I did, and when I met Randy and saw him and my handsome husband together, all the other problems we had had over the years suddenly made sickening sense to me: they were in love with each other.

Dan had tried to tell me of his homosexuality a couple of years after we were married. We’d been having trouble since the honeymoon — arguments over lack of communication, Dan’s sudden intolerance for physical affection and companionship. He’d cracked a joke after our honeymoon, that after we’d consummated our marriage his only thought was, That’s what all the fuss is about? We’d not been intimate before, and I’d admired his self-control; it turned out he just wasn’t interested.

Then after one particularly ugly quarrel, in which I’d pointedly asked him if he wanted a divorce since he obviously did not like being married, he broke down and began to weep. He told me a story he now vehemently denies: of being seduced by the older relative of one of our friends, at the age of 14. It was a mutual masturbation scenario, as he told me of it then, but it had left him strongly marked. “I’ve always been afraid, if you hadn’t fallen in love with me and married me, that’s where I would have ended up,” he said.

This was the mid- to late-’70s, when nice people still didn’t discuss some things. There was no one I could trust with the burden placed upon me, and it was terrifying. I was physically sick for three days, then I pushed the conversation and all its attending risks and revelations back into the depths of my memories… until meeting Randy popped the cork and let it all come spewing, spurting, geysering out.

A couple of my friends have been wanting me to blog about this for a while, and it’s not something that can be done once for all. Discovering that one’s most intimate life partner is gay is a devastating experience, but for me there was also a mercy: for years, Dan had tried to turn everything into being MY FAULT, and because Dan was wonderful, smart, likeable, and my parents’ favorite, he had to be right; now I knew that if I’d been perfect it would not have been good enough.

What I don’t understand is how he has been able to face our daughters all these years and tell them, repeatedly, that his homosexuality had NOTHING to do with our divorce, continuing the theme of “It’s all your mother’s fault.” He even invented an adulterous relationship for me (greatly exaggerating a very benign “mutual admiration society” with one of my professors to fit his needs for self-justification)… and my daughers believe him.

This one is going to develop over a while. There are too many of us in the world, women who have been betrayed by this ultimate misogyny, this rejection of ourselves for our very womanhood, to remain silent any longer. I’ve been paying for this man’s deceits for thirty years. It’s time I found my voice, and this blog is where I’m going to sing.

TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT!

Tune in to your computer, at http://www.theclassicalstation.org — click on “Listen Online” and stream the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, featuring the North Carolina Master Chorale, performing Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, the “Resurrection.” I’ve written about this elsewhere.

Oh, do, please listen in!

8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The concert will be re-broadcast later in the month, but I forget that schedule right now. You will see it on WCPE’s web page.

oh! and do please let me know what you think!