Friday, January 25, 2008

Hard

About 6 weeks from now I'll mark the one year anniversary of beginning this blog. Lately I've been hearing from some folks, whose comments I don't publish at their request. These folks are closeted pastors and their friends and partners. Their comments and questions tend to fall within the scope of two very broad categories. One I would label, "I have been hurt by a closeted pastor." And the other I would label "Relationships are hard." Obviously, there is some crossover within these categories.

Today, I'd like to talk about that second category. Relationships are hard. Relationships in which one person is closeted are particularly hard. And it may be that relationships with closeted persons who, in their public role, do some measure of interpreting the Word of God, whether by word or deed... these might well be the hardest to pull off.

I don't talk a lot here about the intricacies and intimacies of my life with Beloved. Part of that is because every couple deserves their privacy. Another part of that is because I'm not convinced of the general interest or applicability of our particular problems. And still another part of that is that I fear, perhaps, the kind of feedback I might get. What if people say things like, "That's a terrible thing to say/ do" about something one of us said or did? What if someone says, "I wouldn't put up with that"? What if exposing our problems doesn't help but instead makes it harder? So I don't tend to talk about these things.

But the point of a blog seems to be openness, and willingness to engage in a particular type of community. So, in the interest of being more real, I will share with you one of the issues currently at play. I blogged two posts ago about our difficult sleeping arrangements. That is one of our problems. Another is my weight. I am not at a healthy weight, and Beloved worries about me... she fears for me. Her fears are reasonable, but it has never been my experience that nagging ever helped anyone to deal with making significant changes in lifestyle and health choices. It has to come within. But Beloved is concerned. Most of the time she holds back, but occasionally (for instance, yesterday morning at 6 AM) she needs to let it out: she is scared. She wants me to be healthy so that I'll be around for a long, long time. This is both endearing and very, very hard.

When I am nagged about my weight I tend to rebel. I tend to want to retain sole possession and ownership of my body. I was not sexually abused as a child. But I was subjected to rather humiliating forms of control and intervention. I tend not to want anyone to have sovereignty over me, but me.

[Sovereignty is an interesting word. As a minister, it certainly rings a bell. And perhaps there is a way in which I might consider letting someone else-- Someone Else-- have sovereignty over my body, in the interests of making better choices to care for it. ]

I'm getting off track. Beloved and I have some struggles. They tend to originate both in our particular personalities and in our (sometimes badly expressed) desire to care for one another. Sometimes, they bounce off my closetedness in a particular way. For instance: as long as I am at an unhealthy weight, I can live a life in which people in the church community, both at the level of the congregation and in the larger judicatory, don't think it odd that I'm not in a relationship. That's the way for women of a certain size. No one expects you to be partnered. So, in a sense, it's easier to dodge the whole question. Is that why I deliberately make unhealthy choices? Of course not. But all sorts of motivations come into play. In largeness there is a certain invisibility. Invisibility can only be helpful for me, right?

I will not get to any conclusions this morning. I simply wanted to share one struggle, and I will share more: such as, loving an atheist. Now that's an interesting conundrum for a closeted lesbian pastor.

9 comments:

more cows than people said...

(o)

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, C. I can see your point about invisibility--people are funny that way! But even if your congregation sees you as asexual, it is almost certainly in the context of a straight woman (the kids, you know). Even if you slim down to a sparrow, most of them will not change this view of you. In fact they might suspect you of having affairs with the men, if anything.

I know all about the negotiations for time and place. We lived in the closet for a long time. Every other Friday was the best we could manage for YEARS. Then we stumbled into the sunlight, bought a house, moved in. What a difference! I ahve never known such joy as when we exchanged rings, making our private vows to each other, alone in our house.

I think the only person who doesn't know is BP's priest. (She's RC). The choir are totally cool with it. Such big closets in a church.

But I digress. One thing I learned in the coming out process, and in making a relationship that was out and open, rather than a hidden affair with a frisson of excitement and risk, was the need to compromise endlessly, to work much harder at it.

Together all the time, small annoyances etc no longer can be hidden by the 2 week lag between visits. We always had the agreement to be honest with each other, but I find that the relationship takes more effort now that we are an "us", rather than IT and BP having an affair. We are consciously crafting something not just between us, but greater than the sum. It is hard work, but so very, very worth it.



IT

Mary Sue said...

Another aspect of 'relationships are hard' is the one where I'm sure you didn't think that by starting this blog to talk about some of your issues and frustrations you would form a type of community, nu?

Bet you never thought about this kind of ministry in seminary!

Of course, part of being in a community that's rather open with its sharing is that community is also disporportionately open with its... um, let's see, what's a nice way to put this... Ah! Yes! With its unsolicited opinions (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa). It's a delicate balance between editing and sharing, taking comments with a grain of salt and taking them with a shot of adrenaline.

On another note, one of the vaugely interesting social issues I've had to deal with since I started attending a predominantly African American church is the fact that I'm not seen as undesireable just because I'm larger. Which means every time I bring a male friend to church (and most of my friends are male), oy! The questions we both have to put up with!

Anonymous said...

Try exercising both with aerobics and with weights. Physical activity has more of an influence on longevity than body weight. Be a Buff Big Woman!

A side effect of increasing muscle mass (that's the weight lifting) is that you may lose weight faster from a combo of aerobic exercise and diet. Diet should be concentrated on balanced nutrition - American Diabetics Association cookbook used to give good guidelines applicable to everyone, not just diabetics. Don't expect or plan to lose weight fast, the point is, to establish a habit of exercise and of healthy eating. Then think about weight loss. Or don't.

NancyP

Jan said...

thank you for your openness and honesty. Relationships are hard. I find a healthy weight also difficult. I'm thinking of you.

Anita said...

Cecilia,

I've followed your blog for months now but this is my first time to post. I'm among those clergy who are out (though I had to switch denominations and return to seminary for that to be the case). I've certainly known a handful of closeted clergy colleagues over the years and can't begin to imagine the difficulties associated with that choice and so reading your blog has certainly helped in catching small glimpses of that.

You mentioned a few reasons why you sometimes hold back on sharing the particulars of your life with Beloved but I'd like to add one more. Rather than getting feedback that has people saying things like "That's a terrible thing to do or say!" you might get more people saying "You'll never know what a relief it is to know I'm not the only who ________." Sometimes exposing our problems and humanity allows people the space and safety to not only share theirs but to perhaps not judge themselves so harshly since they aren't doing/saying something that others haven't said or done.

Now, shifting to the weight thing. I get it. From your side and from Beloveds. I was morbidly obese from adolescence until my early 40's, reaching a high of 325. Since that time I've lost 140 pounds and am, for the first time in my life a relatively normal weight and more importantly, very healthy. So...I know how it is to have people, nearly always out of love, encourage me to lose weight, express concern over my weight, weep and gnash their teeth over my weight and it hasn't been all that long that I don't remember the responses that all set off on me. Let's just say, the numbers on the scale went incrementally higher. And the invisibility...whew...get that totally. Even more so now that I'm not invisible and people actually seem to be seeing me.

And on the other side, someone I desperately love has gained a significant amount of weight and I know the fears that Beloved is expressing to you, that sometimes erupt out of her at odd times like 6:00 a.m. because I've done the same thing to the one I adore. And like Beloved, I know it doesn't help but that knowledge doesn't always stop me when the fear is up in my throat. So I have no answer. I'm only saying I understand and I know it's hard. On both sides.

I'm going to say one more thing and then I'm out of here. I think you might want to re-think that whole notion that church people naturally assume because someone's overweight they aren't partnered. You just have to look around, and no where more so than in the church, to see a whole lot of really heavy people, male and female, who are married, partnered or whatever. I really do think that anymore people, at least the educated ones, understand that obese people are still human with desires for sex and for relationship.

Kate said...

I have been morbidly obese, and not all that long ago. About 23 years ago, I weighed in the neighbourhood of 300 pounds, at 5'2". I don't know exactly, because I didn't like seeing 285 pounds on the scale, so I stopped weighing myself.

My experience of that, and the experience of others I know, is that it didn't matter what anyone who loved me said. I already knew. I already felt weak, ashamed, embarrassed and/or horrified. Anything, no matter how kind or loving, that anyone said, just intensified that. The message I HEARD was "We'll love you when you're thin enough." Thin = good.

I became diabetic, was unable to stop eating the way I did, and developed heart disease as a complication. At 47 I was scheduled for bypass, then told my health condition wouldn't permit surgery. Fortunately, they found a specialist specialist who was successful with angioplasty.

Since then, something happened, and I've had a miraculous healing. I weigh, my diabetologist says, 2kg (less than 5 pounds) more than the chart says I should. I no longer take any daily medication for my diabetes. He said I'm hardly diabetic at all any more.

In my case, there's inner change that's greater than the outer. There would have had to be. I'm so grateful for what I've been given. And I wish there was a lover ...

Anonymous said...

C. I enjoy reading your blog and I've only made it this far, so I know that this was almost a year ago, but I wanted to start from the beginning. I am struggling with a call to the ministry myself and I have a similar issue to you in loving a nonbeliever. He's not an atheist, so much as God just isn't all that important to him. But sometimes it hurts when the thing in life that's most important to me isn't something he really takes seriously. He sits in church one to two times a month, but he doesn't really pray or have a relationship with God of any sorts. When I was younger, I didn't think it was possible to find a man who both loved and care about God and who wasn't sexist in his attitudes towards women. I'm sure gay people struggle even more to find spiritual partners.

angrylilazngrl said...

hm. i also love an atheist. hm.