Tag Archives: Fr. T

Today I told my confessor that I’d rather not talk about homosexuality every single time I’m in the confessional. If I say I looked too long at an attractive person, he doesn’t need to ask whether it was a woman or a man. A sin is a sin, and the gay ones aren’t special.

I said it gently and I hope I said it humbly, but my stomach still turned over slightly at the feeling of telling a priest his job, telling him: No thank you, it’s fine, I don’t want your help. Yes, it’s a cross; No, you don’t have to tell me that there are therapies available.

I vastly prefer the approach of Father T, who first asked me in the Confessional, fifteen years ago — not “Are you seeing a therapist” or “Have you ever dated a woman” — but just: Do you want to talk about it?

Oh boy, I sure did, then. Now, I’d rather think about more important things. That has always been the point.

Note: Occasionally, as below, I lift a post from an email to a reader. I never do this without the reader’s explicit permission. Thank you for writing, B., and for being willing to share this.

Dear B.,

I know what you mean about depression. I think we always expect suffering to be different from the way it actually is, whether that suffering is interior (like depression) or exterior (like betrayal, or physical disease, or somebody’s death). When we’re inside it, it’s no longer obvious that it’s a Trial, or a Test, or a Purging, or whatever: it’s just something that hurts, and all of our usual defenses seem to be gone.

There was a point during one of my darkest times — a time when I went through an intense 9-month depression — when I had what I think is a very important realization: that if God is allowing me to pass through something, then I don’t have to understand it in order for his purpose to be accomplished by it.

To be clearer: I used to feel like I always had to be looking for the “meaning” behind my depression, or looking really hard to see what “lesson” God was trying to teach me through it. And I felt like, if I didn’t find that “lesson”, then the depression would be wasted and I wouldn’t learn anything.

But I don’t think that’s how it works. If I was capable of understanding what the lesson was trying to teach me, then I wouldn’t need the lesson at all. And if God allowed me to go through the pain, but didn’t allow me to see what I was supposed to be getting out of it, it’s because he knew that the pain itself would be a kind of teacher for me.

The crucial thing in all of this is to maintain contact with God in whatever ways you can. This means being faithful to daily prayer, weekly Mass, and confession as often as you can (within reason). This way, we keep the lines open, even if we don’t understand why, and even if we no longer feel that we’re “doing it right” or “getting something out of it” or any of that stuff. The important thing is to stay the course. My spiritual director has frequently told me that some of the time, or maybe most of the time, the only thing God asks of us is that we keep showing up — even when our heart isn’t in it.

Peace & prayers,
Joey

Dear Readers,

I’m just writing to say hi. I hope you’re well. Sorry it’s been a while. I don’t have any grand themes to expound upon, so maybe writing this post like a letter makes the most sense.

I just got back from an extended weekend trip with my Kung Fu school, who I keep referring to as my “Kung Fu family”, because that is how I keep feeling about them. You know that Decemberists song, I think it’s off Picaresque: “Here in our hovel / We fused like a family”? I kept thinking of that, although the beach house we rented was no hovel. We trained hard all three days, and when we weren’t training, we were cooking, eating, playing video games, or soaking in the hot tub. We even jumped in the ocean, which even in Virginia was the worst February idea ever.

So that’s why I didn’t write to you last week.

I’m on the bus now to visit a good friend and fellow blogger in Maryland. My social life seems to be feast-or-fast; either I’m on the go several weekends in a row, or I’m up in my room, plugged in and sealed off, watching Netflix while other people do exciting things.

I haven’t been on a bus in a long time. It makes me think of earlier days: I used to enjoy thinking of myself as a rootless vagabond, and would jaunt off every summer I could, to visit people around the country. Once I spent two days on an Amtrak, heading for Dallas. I chatted with a metal musician who was in mid-detox and haunted by visions of demons — I gave him a miraculous medal to wear — and drank bad, expensive beer with a lawyer named Cain.

It’s harder to pretend I’m a vagabond now, what with the cell phone and kindle and laptop and all; and, whether because I’m more closed in on myself now or just because I’m older and a little less romantic, I’m keeping to myself. Besides, I have writing to do.

You ask me how come I’m not so lonesome and desperate anymore, and why depression isn’t such a big part of my life, barely a part at all. I wish I had a simple answer for you. Father T always used to tell me that there was no magic pill, no moment when you suddenly Find Yourself. You never find yourself, he insisted: you build yourself. Molecule by molecule, like stalactites.

Never give up, I guess. Find somebody to talk to, and keep talking as long as they’ll let you. Find your fears and confront them, but take it slow and be merciful to yourself.

Pray, pray, pray. Go to the Blessed Sacrament over and over; soak in His rays like you’re sunbathing, and never stop. The nice thing about being in front of the Blessed Sacrament: there’s no wrong way to do it. There are better ways and worse ways, but spending time at the feet of Jesus is never going to hurt you.

Find yourself a good therapist, and meanwhile fire the bad ones quickly, because they’re assholes and they don’t deserve your money or your time or your secrets. Consider getting some good meds. Write to me if I can help.

Okey doke, I think we’re approaching Hartford.

Peace and prayers,
Joey

roerich-order-of-rigden-jyepo

Clean Of Heart

I’m on day 30 of Clean Of Heart, which is cool. Father T. is my official accountability partner, but as I’m not willing to ask him to give me time every single day to talk about the silly, petty mechanics of my lust, even though he’d never put it that way; and, knowing what a thorough and generous shepherd he is to his flock, I doubt he’d have time anyway. So we only talk once a week or so. But imagine my delight when somebody else in my life decided to start using the program and asked me to be their partner! Now we both get one.

Side B

Speaking of partners, it turns out that there is some kind of trend among some gay Christian folk to have some sort of unclassifiable relationship that isn’t marriage, exactly, and isn’t pointing towards marriage, either, because it is celibate; but isn’t friendship, exactly, either, because it involves a kind of exclusivity that friendship doesn’t. I presume it involves an amount of cuddling that friendship doesn’t usually involve, either.

I don’t know what to think about all that. Maybe it depends on which side you approach it from. It would be a terrible idea for me to enter into a kind of relationship like that, because it’d be a movement away from my commitment to celibacy, even if it wouldn’t by itself constitute a rejection of celibacy.

On the other hand, it would obviously be a good thing if two gay men who had previously been sexually active with each other decided to make their relationship celibate; good in the same sense that Benedict XVI famously, and misconstruedly, said that for a male prostitute to start using condoms, after having not used them, would be step in the right direction; even though the best thing would be for him not to be a prostitute at all. But, you know, baby steps.

The Ache

Speaking of cuddling, I recently read a particularly heartwrenching blog entry from a reader. Excerpt:

I can tell you about the hundreds of times I have felt the need to cuddle, embrace, hold, and kiss another man. I know the ache of wanting a hand to hold and a partner to love. It is such a strong desire at times that I feel as though my heart is about to rip out of my chest. I feel the desire streaming through my veins, and in every fiber of my being. It is a burning ache that yearns to be satisfied and is begging to be quenched.

I know what he means. At the same time, I don’t believe this is something that simply needs to be accepted as a permanent feature of his day-to-day existence. It has to be accepted and offered up right now, yes, and doing so will get him further along the road that he needs to travel.

But this kind of heartwrench doesn’t only point to the fact that he’s celibate and would rather not be; because this isn’t the way that straight, single people express themselves. This kind of heartwrench is what comes to people, gay or straight, who have deep wounds that badly need tending.

A gay guy that aches for touch that badly isn’t going to find healing in getting a boyfriend who will touch him, because such an ache that intense is indicative of something else. But, the point is, a straight guy that aches for touch that badly isn’t going to find healing in getting a girlfriend who will touch him, either. In both cases, it’s a bandaid rather than a cure.

Social Media

Yesterday I set up a Facebook page. I also put some social-media links on the navigation bar, up yonder, and some liking-and-sharing buttons at the end of every post. You won’t hurt my feelings if you ignore them.

Realer Than Real

The cover photo on the Facebook page, by the way, is Nicholas Roerich’s Bridge of Glory. Miniature version below. Click to embiggen.

roerich-bridge-of-glory

His landscapes always seem alive, his earth less an expanse of dead dirt and more the hide of some huge, slumbering animal. In that way he reminds me of Charles Burchfield, who was a pantheist and, well, it shows:

burchfield-road-and-sky

Roerich’s landscapes are often visited by gods, who always seem larger than life, not only in dimension but in quality: in that way they remind me of the creatures of Ray Harryhausen. Cf. Roerich’s Order Of Rigden Jyepo:
roerich-order-of-rigden-jyepo

For Burchfield, on the other hand, God, or a god,1 is rarely visible, but he suffuses the landscape, or maybe waits just outside the frame — cf. his Autumnal Fantasy:

burchfield-autumnal-fantasy

I like painters who make things look realer than real — not because reality isn’t enough by itself, but because if our doors of perception were cleansed, then I imagine the world would look a lot more like Roerich and Burchfield than it does. As it is, we’re bound to trudge along with foggy eyes for the time being, but it’s good to have a reminder of what we’re trudging towards.

1 For the regexp-inclined among you, that’d be /(a\s)?[gG]od/.

Look, Matisyahu, I don’t know what your deal is, or why the Reggae and not something less awful,1 or what that accent is, exactly,2 or why you decided to shave your beard or how I feel about that, but I do like that one song that was on the radio forever ago, because damn, how many times has a love song aimed directly at God gotten that much radio play?

Not since the heyday of U2, probably, I mean Joshua Tree era stuff, when God was all they wrote about even while pretending it was women, before they traded it in for all this Paolo-Coelho-style dime-store aw-gawrsh-feel-goody quasi-mysticism.

Where was I? Yeah, Matisyahu. I was thinking about him because I was thinking about addiction and suddenly remembered his song Youth, which may be totally forgettable but does have that one line about

beer and cigarettes
To fill the hole in they chest!

which is pretty good.

I don’t know what addiction is like — I mean, I’ve never lived in that black hell of staggering from fix to fix with just enough self-consciousness to be able to glimpse what a wreck you’re making of everything. The closest thing I’ve got is cigarettes and gayness.

But gayness-as-an-addiction I never really got into, for whatever reason: as Fr. T said a long time ago, as a homosexual, I’m a total failure. Because I don’t do the sleeping with men thing, and I don’t do the dating men thing, and I almost don’t do the porn thing; I mean in theory I don’t at all, only nobody is perfect, are they?

And I’ve never done the truck stop thing or the Craigslist thing. Those are life-ruiners as surely as anything you can smoke or mainline; I heard one story from a dude in one of my groups about this guy that he almost ran off to Wyoming to go stay with, but decided not to at the last minute, and then it turned out later that the guy in question was a real live serial killer. Neat!

Cigarettes I was big into for about twelve years, before giving them up last May. I miss them a little but not much.

But I understand addiction the most whenever I suddenly, chest-piercingly, miss all the cigarettes I ever smoked, and all the boyfriends I never cuddled and sex I never had. That moment when, Oh God, what does the next moment look like, and the moment after that? What can I put into myself, or what can I put myself into? All that space in me, all of a sudden, it’s like a warehouse in there, a whole abandoned factory, it’s a planet-sized emptiness.

Occasionally I’ll get a moment like this, maybe while driving down the highway. Good Lord, I will say to myself suddenly, here I am in this moment and here I keep on being, with nothing to do and nothing to regard.

I try switching on the radio but that just populates the void with anxiety. I try focusing on the landscape, penetrating it with my gratitude-vision — thank you Lord for the trees, thank you for their intricate leaves — but it is just boring, boring. How could anything not be boring?

Should I call a friend? But who will I call? I have nothing to say, any time, ever, to anyone. I do not like anything and I do not feel anything, and all of the things and people that I used to pretend interested me are useless.

But it is a fit, and it passes. What is that? Is it just the real-life version of the Total Perspective Vortex? Is it a glimpse of my own utter contingency, the total poverty of what it means to be anything that is not God?

And if so, if that’s what it feels like to see straight, how can anybody stand it? Why isn’t everybody smoking crack every second of every day? I think there are only two possible answers. Everything depends on which one you find and cling to.

The first answer is to become more and more skilled at forgetting that you are nothing — sex, drugs, rock and roll, political activism, religiosity, science, whatever does it for you, man. When one well dries up, find another, on the run till you die. One form of noise after another; anything to drown out the crying of the wind.

The second answer is to learn, finally, that you are the beloved one of God, the one he would give up everything for, sell his blood for; and that therefore, after all, beyond all logic — like the clay the potter picked out of the mud by the river and turned into something beautiful, but less than that because unlike the clay you didn’t used to be anything at all, and more than that because you are destined for deification — you are, after all, something.

1 I like Reggae perfectly well! It’s just that it’s a single, perfectly competent song posing as an entire genre.
2 Jewmaican?

To my relief, I wake up too late for Mass this morning. More sleep means less surliness, and less effort spent ignoring my resentment at the priest who sings off-key and the parishioners who ad-lib the responses to make them just a little bit more feminist.

I’m trailing a cloud of melancholy from bad dreams: something to do with wounds, accusations, betrayal of trust. I know from long experience that the daily routine washes these things away. This was my salvation as a teacher: no matter how dark things were in the morning, five minutes into Algebra II and I’d forget whatever was gnawing at me, buoyed up by the energy flowing between me and my students, buoyed up also by the chapel that adjoined my morning classroom.

Some years ago, on New Year’s Day in Father T.’s private chapel, I asked the Lord how I could make things different this year, how I could keep from going round in endless circles, steer clear of the trap of quiet desperation that had always terrified me.

He told me to give him half an hour a day, which I have been doing — more or less — ever since.

At first that meant silent prayer, sitting in the dark in my bedroom at home, in an easy chair no less, trying to keep my mind clear and see where the Lord would take me: which resulted variously in tears, boredom, anger, joy, astonishment, emptiness, or just a solid half hour of trying not to think about sex too much.

Sometimes I’d spend the half hour before the Blessed Sacrament; one of my first tasks, whenever I’ve moved to a new town, has been to find an Adoration chapel.

I’ve made adjustments to our contract (covenant?) since then, but kept the basics. Silent prayer can be traded for daily Mass; and either, if I’m not feeling up to meeting the Lord’s gaze quite so directly, can be traded for spiritual reading, journaling — even sometimes blogging.

Missing Mass this morning meant making up for it this evening. I procrastinate a bit, pay some bills, and retire to my Writing Cave in the attic. I take out my Bible, my Josef Pieper, my journal.

My goodness, it’s the last page. I look at the first one: how old is this journal? How far have I come? The first entry is dated June 26, 2011. It’s too maudlin to reproduce here, but it’s full of a quiet complaint: I am lonely; I have been lonely so long; when will I stop being lonely? Are others so lonely? Is there something wrong with me, that I’m so lonely? Is there anything ahead but more loneliness?

I’m astonished to find that things are not like that now. I write in my journal a record of gratitude, looking around my mental landscape to see how many people I love, how many love me: Thank you, Lord, for J and B and A and B and M and J and C and N; Thank you for Father T; Thank you for my family.

Now my question is different. Do others have so many to love, so many who love them? Why have I been given so much? Why doesn’t everyone have a Father T, someone to call at any hour? Why doesn’t everyone have friends around them who surprise them with more welcome and understanding than they can believe?

I don’t understand my own heart. In the midst of gratitude I still feel the ache of the old grudge: if I’m done for the moment being angry at Him for seeming to abandon me, now I complain that He gives me too much, and not enough to the so-many others who need help so badly.

O Lord our God, says the antiphon from Monday’s Compline, Unwearied is your love for us.

It’s a good thing, too.

[ This story started here and continued here. ]

IV: LEAVING VENUS

I’m almost home from DC, and I stop to text Father T: Nearly there. Stopping by chapel for half hour. If all goes well in prayer, is it okay to tell them tonight?

I hate having to ask about miniscule things like this, but by now I don’t trust myself to see straight. Father T. texts back: Yes. It’s tempting to take his terseness as a sign of impatience instead of firmness — like maybe he’s thinking Geez, Steve, you gonna ask permission to take a leak, too? — but this asinine thought doesn’t gain any traction. He is, after all, Father T.

Which is not to say that he’s not impatient (though he wouldn’t let me know if he was), but that I don’t care if he’s impatient, because he’s my friend and I need help. Good, I text back, thanks. I want to get this done.

You could describe what I do at the chapel as praying, because I’m sitting in front of Jesus, but really we are just kind of looking at each other, feeling awkward. And to be honest, I am a little pissed off at Him. The decision to move out looks small from the outside, but it’s huge to me, and I ask him questions that don’t have answers: How come I couldn’t be strong enough? Why did you let me get so close if I just have to leave again? I feel like Odysseus, coming in sight of Ithaka only to be blown further off course than ever.

And, unlike with other big decisions in my life, my gut won’t guide me. This time, someone else’s advice has to be enough.

But S. is out of town when I get back — for a week, I learn — and I vacillate for a few days, looking for another way out. Finally one night C. and I are chatting over dinner. I feel pretty collected, more or less at peace. I get up to put my plate in the sink and say I have some bad news. “What is it?” he says. “I’m moving out,” I say, and burst into tears.

Crap, I only thought I was collected. Oh well. If there’s one thing I can say about the last two months, it’s cured me of being ashamed to cry in front of my friends. C. is clearly baffled; we’re not terribly close, and since I am pretty good at being cheerful when I’m not by myself, he didn’t know I was going through anything at all.

I explain about the depression, about Fr. T.’s advice, how I don’t want to leave but I know I’ve got to be by myself for a while. He is compassionate, offers his prayers, asks me to do whatever is best for me, and doesn’t push further. When I finally say goodnight he grips my shoulder. “You’re a tough guy, Steve,” he says. “You’ll get through this.”

So why don’t I feel any better about it? I make plans to tell S. when he comes back; it’s not the kind of thing you want to do over the phone. But I eventually realize I can’t wait a week, so Sunday evening after dinner I say a prayer to the Holy Spirit, light up a smoke, and give him a call. I’m actually shaking.

His reaction is, I’m embarrassed to say, gratifying: “WHAT!?” he yells. “Why?” I know it’s selfish to be glad that he’s upset, but I can’t help it: the old wound, the part of me that always suspects I’m not wanted, can never be salved enough, not even by so much friendship as S. has offered.

I give him the same account I gave C. but with a little more detail, since I’ve already confided in him about my SSA and since he already knows the last two months have not been easy. And he is as gracious as C. was: prayers, encouragement, understanding, and all manner of well-wishing.

How do I always end up surrounded by such good people?

I hang up, cry maybe just a little — Lord, how did I get to be such a cryer — and breathe deep. Well: it’s early yet. The coffee shop will still be open, and it’s a nice night for walking.

I’m halfway there before I realize I’m singing, loudly, an old Beck song:

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy…
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier
With nothing to shoot, and nowhere to lose
This bottle of blues.

That’s odd, I’m grinning; at the aptness of the words, and also because they are not apt at all; at the fact that, corny as it sounds, the sky literally seems clearer than usual, more open, as if I can sense the depth behind it; the world smells more fragrant, more like spring. I’m like somebody in love.

I’m so used to sadness that comes from nowhere and disappears the same way. So often, getting happy again has meant buckling down, sticking to the routine, waiting for it to pass. I’m not used to this simple, objective stuff, where the sadness has a cause, where the removal of the cause means you feel better.

I know it’s not over yet, because there’s still the wait, the search for someone to take my place at the house, the whole lengthy ordeal of moving. I know no feeling lasts forever, and that in fact I will probably be sad tomorrow out of plain habit. Who knows, I could be sad all week, or all month. But there’s an end in sight. For the moment I’m sane enough to keep from self-analysis, to keep from asking myself, like some tiresome, sanctimonious schoolmaster: Now what did we learn from this?

Okay, so maybe I learned something. It’s this: if I ever traveled to Venus, I’d probably take off my helmet and try to breathe the formaldehyde. “Idiot, what are you doing?” my fellow astronauts would be yelling. “People can’t breathe that stuff!” And I’d yell back, “Don’t worry! It hurts now, but it’ll make my lungs stronger in the end! I’m IMPROVING myself!” Then I’d keel over and die, a perfectly preserved monument to virtue and self-improvement.

Screw self-improvement. Forget facing terror and misery, except when I have to. Sometimes there’s a good reason to be miserable: that’s how it feels when you’re not where you’re supposed to be.

A quick excerpt, heavily paraphrased, from my phone conversation with Fr. T. the other night.

You think this is coming from yourself, but it’s not. What would you do if you were at work and someone came up to you and said, “You’re no good at your job. You’re a disaster as a web developer. Your code is crap. They ought to fire you right now.” Would you burst into tears and run home?

No, you’d fight back, because you know that’s all bullshit. So how come you believe it when the enemy tells you all kinds of lies about yourself?

So when the lies come, fight back. Take a break, go off by yourself, and reject the lies, out loud. Bind them to the foot of the Cross, where they can do no harm, out loud. And embrace the opposite truth, out loud. Don’t let them get a foothold.

See, everybody needs a Father T…but for you who don’t have one, the best I can do is pass this stuff along.

So happy Lent. Remember: we are at war.

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?1

It was bad, dear readers, very bad. I spent last night in the lowest parts of the pit, and all day today the black dog gnawed at my leg, and only gnawed harder when I tried to kick his face in. That’ll teach me to boast about how well I’m doing, how fine I am, and how out I’ve got everything figured.2

Crying didn’t help, and neither did yelling. Talking to myself, talking to God; I didn’t have any answers, and neither did he. Came home, cried some more, tried not to punch anything. Finally settled down, after Compline, enough to be able to write something. I won’t even look at it today, just going to delete the whole thing. You think you know maudlin? Baby, you ain’t seen maudlin ’till you’ve seen me blog in the middle of a good old-fashioned funk.

A good night’s sleep didn’t clear it up, so tonight after the gym and a quick dinner, I got out the cigarettes and the kleenex and called Father T. I told him about my frustration, my anger, my depression. My feeling that I had failed, again, to be the man I wanted to be. How I don’t usually feel this bad but I never feel all that good, either; how feeling bad was a kind of relief, because at least I was feeling something, and maybe that something was closer to the truth.

Answer me, tell me I’m doing something wrong; tell me I feel this way because I’m living the wrong way. Tell me that everything is okay, and that I just can’t see it because I’m not wise enough, tell me that everything will be fine, and that I just can’t get there because I’m not strong enough. Tell me, tell me. I can take it.

That wasn’t what he told me.

FT: What you want is something real. We’re all wired for it. It’s just that your wires are pointing in the wrong direction.
SG: Yes…
FT: We’re all meant for love and for fulfillment. It’s the fulfillment that a man finds in marriage.
SG: Yes…
FT: Do you get what I’m saying?
SG: Yes, yes, I get it. Sure. But what I don’t get is why I’m meant for something that I never get to have.
FT: Yes.
SG:
FT: I don’t have an answer. I wish I had an answer. There is no answer.

That was the right answer.

Fr. T, if you had told me that I was wrong to feel how I feel, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had told me that God was good and the world was beautiful, I might have believed you, but I would have hung up.

Instead, you gave me the truth that so many people think is too hard for me and for those like me. You respected me and trusted me, as they do not. You told me that I am called to a kind of martyrdom. That the world is difficult, and that there is no answer, not here, to the question of man’s woundedness. That my SSA is not fair, any more than Down Syndrome is fair, or poverty is fair.

That those who cry “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace, are lying. I am not okay, the world is not okay, none of us is okay. If you’ve never noticed it, then you’re not paying attention.

Being a secularist means believing that there is nothing wrong with the world or with us — or anyway, nothing that can’t be fixed by politics and technology. Thank God I’m a Christian. We don’t lie to ourselves; we know the world is broken, and all of us are broken with it. We know evil is real. And we know where to take it. We take it to the cross, we take it to the altar.

So I’m not okay, not today. But you’d be surprised how good I feel about it.

1 The whole thing is here.
2 Here in the writing business we call that “parallelism.” Not to be confused with its close cousin, “poor sentence construction.”

[The first of a proposed series.]

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.1

I was sixteen the first time I told anybody. I went to confession to Fr. T, who’s known our family for years. I don’t think I went in there planning to spill the beans, but it came out anyway: I’m gay. He said, Do you want to talk about it?

So we did, once every week or so over the next I-don’t-know-how-many years. I learned so much. I learned how angry I was, for one thing: so angry that I had no idea I was angry, like a fish doesn’t know it’s wet. Angry at God, at my father, at myself. I learned how hurt I was, too. Same deal there. Fr. T would ask me how I felt about something and I’d respond with some elaborate logical answer — not what he was asking. I think I still remember the first time I was able to say: fucking awful. It felt good to say.

Talking to Fr. T helped me learn that I could talk to other people, too. In college I learned to let down my guard a little bit, and opened up to a roommate about feeling lonely. I opened up to a couple of friends about my SSA, and then to my older brother. Eventually I was able to open up to the rest of my family.

The more you open up, the easier it is. The more times you experience the compassion and love of friends and family, the more possible it becomes to believe that there’s nothing inside you so shameful that someone won’t understand. Eventually you stop thinking about it as shameful at all.

You start to see yourself as your friends see you, and as God sees you: wounded and struggling, yes, but always beautiful, always worthwhile.

1 William Blake. The Poison Tree.