Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Christmas

My Christmas was both anxious and happy.

That seems to typify my life these days: eagerness matched with fear, restlessness with timidity.

It feels almost superfluous to make the disctinctions, though; it all boils down to anxiety, and anxiety very properly describes where I am right now.

Even before the decorations have come down and the holiday music faded from my head, I find myself impatiently anticipating the start of the spring semester while simultaneously fretting over its logistics: I am registered for classes but am on the waiting list for a resident adviser position and thus have nowhere to live.

With no on-campus housing secured and no way of paying for lodgings even were I granted access to them, I'm left to either hope an RA slot opens up or find an apartment in the Goldlands. That prospect, of working out roommates and rent payments and a budget for food, especially bearing in mind that I can expect no help whatsoever from my parents, is a daunting one. Yet the idea of commuting from Mountain Town five days a week is something I find even more arduous.

I hate the uncertainty of this specific situation but also of this time in general. I'll graduate in a year and am still unsure where I'll be going or what I'll be doing afterward.

I'm conflicted. I'm unsure. Everything is in flux.

I live at home still and despite growing discomfort at not only the practical reality but the abstract notion of being under another's roof as I near the age of twenty-three, I recognize it would be foolhardy of me to attempt striking out now with no degree and no real job prospects.

So I'm stuck, stuck in a house that I increasingly feel is no longer mine as I await and in the same breath fear graduation.

It's all made more confused by the ambiguity of my position: I'm no longer a child or even an adolescent, but really not quite a man.

What am I supposed to be?

My parents and I, for various reasons, have essentially not been speaking for months now, and the stiff silence between us makes me feel like I'm living with two strangers.

I've begun to break that silence, or allow it to be broken, cautiously, but cannot let the space between us be entirely bridged. My trust doesn't extend that far.

If truth be told, the experience of handling my parents has imbued me with a coldness I've never known before. I've discovered this fall a remarkable ability to shut down and shut out, to project an insulation that I've slowly extended to Powell, Anne, and even my grandmother.

I never thought I could be so detached and disconnected.

It's like I can just flick a switch and turn myself off. Even as I'm doing this I recognize its inherent sadness, but I isolate myself from any regret by reflecting on the logical soundness of my decision. Objectively, academically, this gradual withdrawal is good for me.

I think it says something about my deeper emotional state that I'm even capable of it, though, or that it would occur to me at all.

On a level I really do hate my parents for this legacy. For everything.

This is the larger context in which my mind has perceived the holidays, though, and deserves a post of its own.

The actual occasion of Christmas was rather pleasant.

On the afternoon of December 24th I headed over to Mountain Town Episcopal Church, where I've spent the last two months or so as a member of the choir and thus a fairly regular parishioner.

It may surprise many of my readers to know that my religious faith is and has for years been a deeply important part of my life. While I have avoided writing about it, both to guard a private aspect of myself and to forestall the perception that I am proselytizing, it is a major influence on me and guides much of what I do.

The idea of Jesus Christ, the gentle redeemer, the outcast, the seeming weakling who counted as His flock the wretched and rejected of the world, carries a powerful appeal for me that has only grown with time. The Son of God wasn't an athlete or a celebrity or a king. He was a poor man. There's something profound about that.

I arrived for choir practice at four o'clock and at five donned the black and white robes that I often feel make me look like a pious penguin.

For the next hour and a half we led the church in the singing of rousing carols and Christmas hymns, something that I found rather enjoyable.

My parents, Thomas, and Pie were there as well, opting to forego their traditional Methodist service in light of the fact that I was singing right in town. Despite everything that's happened recently, it was nice to see them sitting in the aisles, smiling as I walked past with the rest of the procession, marveling over the little-understood ritual of communion ("I can't believe they let the kids drink wine!" Pie later exclaimed).

I've tried out several churches in my time, but feel that in the Episcopal fold I've found my place, or at least the closest thing to it. No religious body is perfect, of course, being as they are human institutions and thus only as infallible as their creators, but the Episcopal Church satisfies much of what I'm looking for.

To begin with, and this is perhaps most paramount, the church has explicitly opened the door to gays and women, going further than any other major religion to achieve the ideal of universal brotherhood that I believe Jesus stood for.

One of the things that turned me away from both the Orthodox and Catholic branches of Christianity was an inherent sexism that denied half of the congregants the opportunity to fully serve their Lord. The idea that women are somehow "unclean" or less worthy than men to minister in the name of Christ is one that disquiets me to say the least.

Even if we turn out to be wrong on this point, I believe our hearts will at least have been in the right place.

Then of course there is the church's acknolwedgement of homosexuals, those like me, as full members of the communion and of humanity, as imperfect beings no less flawed and no less saved than any other Christian.

I like these people. I like this faith. I feel that joining them would be the best path I could take to Christ.

Christmas Day itself proceeded as most Christmases before it have, though this year without Powell, who spent the holiday with Anne visiting our cousins in Coca Cola City. What's funny is how little his absence affected anything at all; my younger brother has gradually grown coarser and less tolerable, has bit by bit made himself into the kind of person who is not missed. I certainly did not pine for him.

We rose around eight (me haggardly, as I'd been up until one-thirty the night before ensuring that the Chocolate Monster stopped in for Pie) and piled into the sitting room to open presents.

In a tradition we honor on the one day each year that this parlor is used for anything at all, we children took the couch, my father the chair, and my mother the floor as we commenced with the unwrapping.

I didn't receive much: some items of clothing, a package of Axe products, and a few hundred dollars, but sitting there in our pajamas while one of my parents takes haphazard video footage and Thomas and Pie tear through their packages is a ritual I enjoy.

The rest of the day consisted of our assuming hosting duties for Uncle Car Salesman, Aunt Ostentatious, Blonde Cousin, Pretty Hair, Aunt Eighties-Hair, Hick State Cousin, Grand Pa Hick Family, Aunt Lesbian, Aunt Sunshine (Aunt Lesbian's partner), and Aunt Sunshine's teenage daughter.

Finally, after everyone else had left, there arrived a visitor whom we'd all been eagerly anticipating: Beautiful Cousin.

You will likely remember my nineteen-year-old cousin, about whom I've written in the past.

She came to live with us as a high school graduate in the summer of 2009 but left to move into in with her boyfriend, Hick State Guy, just after this Thanksgiving. She was a member of our household for a year and a half, and seeing her again was like being reunited with a departed sister.

I think I've actually missed Beautiful Cousin more than I've missed Powell.

She and Hick State Guy brought a surprise with them: Weya, their new wolf puppy.

We all naturally exclaimed over this beast and pondered aloud how long it would be until the little monster killed our cousin, but she and Hick State Guy assured us that their wolf-owning friends have demonstrated the effectiveness of proper training.

On the day after Christmas Thomas and I left for Grand Ma Normal Family's house, where the dire predictions of a blizzard that would surely leave us snowbound proved to be unfounded.

I've not much enjoyed my stay here; my grandmother is a like a strong heaping of sucrose, enjoyable in small doses placed far apart but a bit sickening in any large amount.

Naturally, none of this has been explicit or open, but I've felt it quite acutely.

We return home tomorrow.

I'm not entirely sure what I'll be doing for New Year's Eve, but I know that shortly thereafter I'm heading up to spent Little Christmas with Anne (that's a tradition I'll have to explain later).

I hope that Christmas has been warm and happy for you all.


laura b. said...

I had a wonderful Christmas, thank you.

I think many of the uncertainties you are feeling, although particular to you and your family, are also somewhat universal to someone your age. That gap between childhood and adulthood is fraught with perilous choices. Try and focus on the fact that they will be YOUR choices...don't be like a lot of us and just allow things to happen to you. That is my advice, for what it's worth.

Pamela said...

Hi there - where did you come from? From Laura? I started reading this post but will have to come back. This is my 'cigarette break' and should get back to work. Very very thoughtful writing and looking forward to reading more.

secret agent woman said...

I'm glad at least there was happy in the mix. Although I had to giggle at the idea of sucrose being stifling. Maybe if you were buried under a ton of the stuff.

Just me said...

I love your writing about your faith! And that is so lovely that your family came to see you, even if you're not that close otherwise.

Keep praying & trusting with regards to your situation for next semester. I'm praying for you.

naturgesetz said...

I'm glad to read that you have a genuine and satisfying faith, and that at least some aspects of Christmas itself were satisfying for you.

The negative feelings about your parents and others in your life might be mitigated if you brought them to the Lord Jesus in prayer, inviting his presence as you recall and describe hurtful incidents. Let him speak to those situations. There are, I gather, many times when you have been hurt, so it will probably take a number of times for you to bring them all to the Lord.

I hope you will get the RA position or at least be able to make a satisfactory and affordable living arrangement.

Finally, I feel that I must try to clarify the Catholic and Orthodox position on female clergy. For us, a priest is not simply a minister and a preacher. A priest is the one who represents Jesus, the bridegroom of the Church, to us, especially at the Last Supper. Despite our age's discomfort at acknowledging difference between the sexes, as if every difference implied inequality, we are convinced that women do not adequately represent the maleness of Jesus, and we believe that the sexes are complementary, rather than identical. Certainly our churches do not consider women "unclean," and when it comes to ministries which do not involve the exclusive work of Jesus, women are capable and welcome — in catechizing, pastoral counseling, and all the other ministries in which women participate in our churches.

God bless you in 2011 and beyond.

Brock - said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.

It would seem we all have our own hurdles to overcome in the holiday season.

I was not aware that there was a branch of christianity that openly accepted homosexuals. I have only recently began a spiritual journey myself and have become somewhat disenchanted with many churches due their severe judgemental nature. It was refreshing to hear that you have found your place, it filled me with hope for my own journey.

Stay strong my friend.