Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Amplius: a wider view of Michael's life


I am the product of dysfunctional immediate and extended families.  My mother and father divorced when I was forty-two months old.  After that point in their relationship I never once saw my mother and father together in the same place, or even heard them speak to each other by telephone.  All but one of my Aunts, Uncles, Nieces and Nephews were divorced; most of them more than once.   


By the time I was born my mother had already raised four of her five siblings born before I was.  Her two youngest brothers were born after I was born, making a total of seven siblings in her family.  In addition to the confusion of knowing no father in my young life, my mother was a strict disciplinarian, at times to the point of cruelty.  She was frequently angry with me, and I was often held in isolation of my room, trying to figure out what I had done to deserve the frequent slaps on my face which were often her punishment of choice.  But whenever I was ill or needed consolation she was there with tender care and concern.  Her extremes of response and reaction to her confused and insecure son found me in utter confusion.  I suspect this is why I have struggled with many developmental challenges, including not only my tendency toward a lack of self-confidence resulting from the absence of a father-figure in my life, but also a tendency toward confusion and insecurity in relating to women. 


I saw my father on but few occasions during my childhood.  Until I reached age ten, I was raised primarily by my working mother, and frequently cared for by members of her support network comprised of her grandmother (my Great-Grandmother), her Mother (my Grandmother), one or two of her sisters, and a few other women engaged to ‘babysit’ me.  


When I reached ten years old my mother remarried.  Her husband paid little attention to me as long as I didn’t make myself a nuisance.  When I reached age eleven mother gave birth to their son.  She paid minimal attention to me after that.  I left home at age eighteen and went to work in retail just so I could pay my way.  I shared living expenses with a couple of friends and lived basically the same way, hand-to-mouth, for years after that until I went to work for 'the County' fifteen years ago.


During my youth and adolescence I experienced the same curiosity about other boys that I guess most young boys experience.  Having had no one to explain what to expect, the onset of puberty took me by complete surprise.  I was shocked, and I became intensely curious about what I was experiencing compared to other boys, and about the obvious differences between boys and men, as I had observed in the swimming-pool locker-room at the local city college.  


During my high school years I had two girlfriends, two years apart.   I believed that I was in love with each of these young women, but they had other plans.  I was left behind, confused and lonely.  With little self-confidence, with no one to talk to about what was happening in my heart and no examples to follow, I sort of withdrew from the idea of initiating contact with women after that . . . but my desire for intimacy was strong, and none-the-less difficult to manage . . . Before long I learned about gay bars, and then discovered gay bath-houses.  As time went by I experienced little fulfillment in male-male relationships, beyond the initial fascination.  


I experienced varying degrees of loneliness off and on as the years passed.  Such feelings lead me to errors of judgment, especially with minimal training as to how to make the kind of rational judgments that an adult man would make.  More often than not, my judgments were made based upon my "feelings".  


At about age thirty I met a woman at the World’s Largest Office Party in San Francisco.  I "felt" a strong attraction to her from the beginning, based upon what my eyes told me.  As I got to know more about her, I began to have very strong, romantic feelings based upon what my heart told me.  Sometimes the things we like about someone carry a good deal more weight than the things we prefer to overlook.  We got to know each other and eventually moved in together.  


There were, of course, things I learned about her in the course of daily life, such as that she was basically a good person and that she responded positively to the efforts I made with her pleasure and happiness in mind.  I also came to understand that she was a ‘modern woman’ with a liberal approach to the politics of being human, despite the fact that she was a Protestant Pastor's daughter from Ohio, and that her first husband had left her without even discussing the issues that lead up to his departure.  Somehow, we never got around to discussing the politics of politics, but after all, she lived just blocks from the U. C. Berkeley campus and seemed quite at-home in the area.  


Meanwhile, I had been trapped in arrested development, and I had given little thought to the politics of being human.  She helped me understand her strong preference for continuing our relationship as ‘room-mates’ with a sexual component in our relationship.  Today I believe this is referred to as "friends with benefits," but limited responsibility when things got complicated.  I felt a strong desire to get closer to her, and even considered a proposal of marriage, but when I hinted around the subject, she made it clear that she wasn’t interested.  I moved back into the City and in time I began the cycle of male-male relationships just to avoid loneliness.  That’s when I met the man I have shared a home with to this day.  


The man who has been my brother in Christ for nearly fifteen years, and I, began our relationship as “lovers” for the first dozen years or so.  I was terribly insecure, and although he had made an inappropriate lifestyle choice, he was confident and of strong character.  While I felt security by my proximity to his strength, I never felt anything close to that sense of "rightness" that I felt with a woman.  Then, years later, one day as we passed in the hallway at home, we caught each other's eyes and we knew in that instant that our choices had been “wrong”.  We agreed that neither of us wanted to continue in the kind of relationship we had known up to that time.  At the same time he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, and he returned to the faith of his youth. 


Shortly thereafter, as the result of a few visits with his family during which I was exposed to Bible-study and prayer among sincerely loving Christian people who cared about me, I received Jesus Christ as my own Savior and LORD.  Their son and I have lived as Brothers in Christ since then.


I have longed for a loving relationship with a woman all of my adult life, but it seems there are forces at work to prevent it from happening.  Since I entered adulthood ill-prepared to function as the head of a family, it may be a blessing that I did not actually marry.  I can hear the arguments about having chosen a lifestyle/relationship, then deciding it was inappropriate, but then having failed to move on, to cut the ties to that relationship identified as inappropriate, and having failed to leave the relationship behind.  Many people would likely assert that I/we will never change our lives if I/we fail to turn away from the lifestyle I/we no longer embrace.  It must appear that we don’t want to live another way if we don’t free ourselves up to let it happen.  It IS complicated.


I have imagined that there must be a woman out there who understands how our lives came to be what they are . . . perhaps there is a woman who may have had her own struggles in this regard, but who knows which way the Earth turns on its axis, who knows the emptiness and futility of struggling against the current of the river of Life . . . I have relinquished it to the hands of the One Who upholds all things, Whose perfect will is to be preferred before all others.


I am thankful for the Love that my faith has brought into my life.  Still, I am at times very lonely, which can be difficult to cope with.  The most profound part of this story is that I ASKED the Lord to relieve me of my misguided fascination with men.  I turned my heart over to Him.  I AM healed of that burden, and I am so blessed to have been blessed with a strong desire to know the TRUTH of the Word of God.  And still, I am tested, and I know how easily I could go back that way.  I remember the fruit of such endeavors, and the emptiness of the aftermath.  These fifteen years of celibacy have been by His Grace alone.






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