Thursday, December 31, 2009

7th Hate of Christmas: Lonely New Year's Eves

The 7th Hate of Christmas According to Heretic Tom:

     I cried myself to sleep tonight, before the clock turned to midnight and people from the Canadian tundra to the Costa Rican jungle cheered joyfully and kissed their romantic others.  I cried myself to sleep for the second New Year's Eve in a row.  Alone.

     The year is now 2004.  It's 2:07 AM.  At least I slept for three hours.  That's more than I've been getting lately.  I can't sleep.  I can't stay awake.  I go through my days in some sort of liminal hell between depressive consciousness and restless shards of dreams.  Most nights, like tonight, I cry myself to sleep.  Alone.

     I spent a few days after Christmas with my family at my sister's house.  There I realized just how sick I am, how endangered I am.

     I was sitting alone, in the sunlight of the living room, listening to the old tape in my head that's been playing for decades.  Over the past eighteen months, since I was ordained a priest, the tape's volume has steadily been growing louder.

     "I'm a loser.  I'm unsalvageable, going to hell.  Nothing I do matters.  I'm a sick faggot: depraved.  I will always be this way, a failure: a homo, a sinner, a person to be used, abused and then thrown away."

     My sister entered the living room and asked me what was wrong.  I couldn't talk.  I just cried, like I am right now, as I stare at the ceiling over my bed.  She hugged me as I sobbed.

     "Uncle Tommy?"

     My two and a half year old nephew, stood before us, his big blue eyes peering out past his straw-blond hair, confused.  I couldn't stop crying, even for his sake.  He ran to my feet, climbed up onto my lap and hugged me and said, "I love you Uncle Tommy."

     I wanted to believe him, but I didn't.  I couldn't believe him.  In my depleted mind, there was only the old tape and its incessant iterations: "Nobody could love you.  Pathetic.  Sinner.  Loser.  Wimp.  Repulsive..."

     In that moment, I realized that I was sick, and that not even the power of my loving nephew's sweet hugs and honest love could penetrate my depression.

     A few days later, I returned to my parish.  I cried all the way from Chicago O'Hare to the rectory in Iowa.  Thankfully, the pastor Fr. Angerer had already vacated the premises, going to Boystown in Chicago for his New Year's festivities.

     Alone, I went through the motions.  I made it through the New Year's Eve Masses celebrating the Feast of Mary the Mother of God.  What bullshit!  I've never bought the whole Marion adoration, the myths, the "infallible" dogmas of the 19th century and their reverse revelation about what really happened two thousand years ago to a supposed virgin, but still I teach it focusing on the spiritual not the historical.  I was ordained to serve the church and to teach what it teaches, not what my depraved intellect discerns.  As with every other teaching with which I disagree in good conscious, I obediently choose to sell a little bit of my integrity, my soul, for the mission of the church.

     But even larger parts of my soul have been whored out to holy mother church.  I'm gay, but publicly in the closet.  In college and seminary, I was sexually exploited and harassed by priests, with whom I now work side by side, acting for the people in the pew like they are the holiest and healthiest priests alive.  I gave up the chance for love in the final months of my seminary life in Baltimore.  I loved!  I was loved in return, and it was holy, good, and real.  But, the man I love, now a vowed celibate like me, has cut me off, rejected me, in the name of god and what is good.  And it is good, our vocations.  We're helping people.  Our sacrifice, our lost love, will flower in their joy.  My celibacy, my pain, and my wounds will water their salvation.

     But nothing is alive anymore.

     I stare at the ceiling depressed, sobbing in the New Year, alone, afraid to act, paralyzed.  Then it hits me, my New Year's resolution: I'm done with fear.  I'm done bowing to the institutionalized homophobia of what "they" say on the other side of the closet.  I'm done fearing myself and beating myself up for not being what the church says god thinks I should be, for who can know the mind of god?  I'm done being afraid of what will happen to my career, my security, my healthcare, my future, and my reputation should I come out to my bishop about being gay and what I've endured at the hands of other priests that were supposed to be helping me be celibate, but only used me for their gratification.

     I don't know it right now, but this will be the last New Year's that I cry myself to sleep.  This will be the year that I conquer the fear.

     I don't fall back to sleep.  I watch 2004's first sunrise through my bedroom widow from frightened eyes, but that's okay.  I enter the fear, embracing it, confronting it, and nothing will ever be the same again.


Gary said...

I know the tape, Tom, been saying it for decades myself -- "Lord, I am not worthy." If they only knew (maybe they do?) what that does for kids, sets them up for a lifetime of Never Good Enough.
I had no idea yours was this bad. Please let us know it's not this bad for you anymore.

Heretic Tom said...

The tape is no longer in service. It took some serious therapy & years of gut wrenching rewritng of the "formation" I endured in the RCC. This New Year's was happy! I kissed SHE at 12!

I still resolve to look fear in the face every year.

Jeepguy said...

Wow, Tom!
What a powerful account of you facing your fear. What a difficult time that must have been for you. It is so amazing what we have to do to untwist the lies and bigotry in order to get to the truth of ourselves and to feel good about who we are. And re-engineering our own self-talk can be the hardest part. Congratulations on finding yourself against such formidable adversaries!
The best to you,

Mrs. Levine said...

This is a beautiful post, more beautiful for knowing that you are past it but beautiful just the same.

Jim said...

I hope you come back to the Church Father. I will say prayers for you.

Heretic Tom said...

Dear, Jim, there's no need to pray for me. There's no way I'm returning to your sick church. Besides, nothing fails like prayer.