Desperately in Love

I remember when I last got baptized; I was thirteen at the time, impressionable and desperately in need of love.  It was a Pentecostal circus of white-clothed enthusiasts with good intentions, but my heart was in the right place.  The service had already begun and I was anxious and excited, scared and tentative of what this public step meant to my family, to me, and to my faith.  But the loud percussion music was laid on thick as molasses and I let the emotions of the fervent parishioners propel me toward the front where the makeshift baptismal pool awaited along with eager church leaders – including my aunt – ready to duck my head under water and bring forth a renewed, better me.

We lined up in the aisles of the crowded, hot church, tightly packed like marshmallows stuffed in a bag.  Hands waved wildly in the air or filled the empty spaces with clapping and tambourine-playing, with singing and shoutings of “Hallelujah” and “Praise-the-Lord” bouncing off the walls.  It was a beautiful chaos of passionate maelstrom and emotional upheaval, everyone waiting in anticipation as the Spirit of the Lord descended on the baptized as He had with Jesus, to shake the Old Man from us, either literally or through manifestations such as dancing, speaking in tongues, or other such displays of rebirth.  And this frightened me the most, the expectation of what I was to do, or not to do, in order to comply with the movement that was taking place.  I distinctly remember focusing on the sea of white clothes in front of me and behind, so many of us ready to be cleansed and purified by a God who forgave those of us who were coming to His waters so stained and soiled.

So as I approached the altar, the music’s crescendo reaching a maddening peak as if the world had lost its balance and we were all falling from its edges, I jumped and danced and smiled and laughed too, like a drunken teen trying so hard to fit in.  And I saw the look of dutiful pride in my aunt’s face as she led me into the pool of warm water, two men at each side, screaming out prayers and praises drowned out by the music, but which I nodded to as if I could hear.  My heart beat faster and louder than the music now, and I was certain everyone could hear it as loud as I could in my head and my chest, bursting forth like a gushing waterfall.  Tears sprung to my eyes as I realized what I was doing: not simply going under the water in hopes of rising a new person.  This was a sacrament of admission and adoption; admitting that I was a hollowed gourd waiting to be filled by love, and then being adopted into the family of God, becoming part of the family but perhaps never truly accepted as such.

I realized this instantly after coming up from the waters and quickly being ushered out of the pool so that someone else could come and take my place.  I looked for immediate acceptance from my aunt, hoping for a hug, a welcoming embrace, but she had moved on without a glance, and while this was a spiritual rebirth for me, parturition does not come without pain.

Years later, sitting on the window sill of a hospital room staring out the window at the parking lot, I realized I had tried too hard but only gotten so far, and then ended up in this place, alone and undone.  And it took years to restore what had been built on loose sands in order to rebuild on firmer ground, no longer a desperate teen, but an accomplished woman whose faith now stands upon the Rock rather than a church, an emotion, or a movement.

 

Written February 2015

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Well-Intentioned Misconceptions

motherdaughter

When I was a teenager, a “well-intentioned” friend of the family told me that my close relationship with my mother would cause me to become a lesbian.  Of course, she did not say it in front of my mother, and now, years later and as an adult, I reflect on her comment and pity the poor woman.  Clearly, I am not a lesbian, and am convinced that there is some perversion to associating the love between a mother and daughter to that of sexual attraction.  But thinking back on this woman’s own children and experiences, I can see how she may have made that “well-intentioned” statement based on her own relationship with her children.  Now I am not saying that I knew her or her children very well, but I do know that she must not have had a close relationship with either of them to not be able to correctly recognize the mutual love and respect between my mother and me.  This leads me to believe that perhaps her “well-intentioned” judgment may have been clouded by her own loneliness and sadness, her own inability to reach her children in a loving and mutually respectful manner, and that despite her impression of wisdom, perhaps it was envy and discontent that led her to tell a young girl that her relationship with her mother would somehow alter her sexuality.  And instead of dredging up bitter memories of that awkward time when, unlike her own children, I was not dating boys (or girls), getting pregnant, and smoking weed, I deeply pity this woman and wonder whether she has been able to finally find what it means to feel deep, filial love with her grandchildren, or whether she still lives in the lonely world of suspicion and “well-intentioned” misconceptions.

(Written in April 2015)

Golden Bengals

It has been too long since I’ve last written. Writing is not like riding a bicycle where once learned, the wheels continue to carry you forth even after they’ve been decommissioned into the back of the garage.  In fact, writing is like a pestering, aging aunt who calls incessantly for a few days before dropping off the face of the earth once again when you haven’t replied.  Only, she resurfaces one day unexpectedly, in the guise of guilt and shame that you’ve ignored her in her old age, in her frail state, in her loneliness.  And then suddenly, you have become the pestering, lonely, aging aunt to someone else who no longer hears you.

Emotions are so deceptive, and, in the last few days, I’ve become convinced that this revelation of its duplicity, in fact, is a truth.  Has my aging body become so faithless that She battles with my mind each premenstrual cycle until She beats it to submission and bleeds out the triumph? Or is it my mind that contends with my spirit for attention now that a healthier She has been pushed to the background of consciousness, no longer medicated or ill, but jealous and contentious? And the spirit of me fights against both as if vowing for superiority and an enlightenment that She can only attain without their pestering interference.

I have always been taught that the former two are unreliable gossips that sensationalize the minimal in order to aggrandize themselves.  The spirit, however, is the sensible peace-keeper, but only if She is in full
control, dominating even the soul, that silent Sister that records the suffering of each in her own heart like tiny slits on her wrists that she hides with golden bengals that glitter beautifully in the sunlight.

It has been too long, but with these words, it has also been a coming home.

bengals