Room for the Holy Spirit

originally published: 2012-05-08

Saturday April 5

I woke up early for shul, and did some stuff on the computer until it was time to leave and I was worried I’d be late. I arrived at the shul at 09:01. Shortly thereafter Graham texted me to tell me he’d be late, and to expect him around 09:45. Meanwhile I waited outside the shul, and waited, and waited. I’m not sure what happened with who was supposed to open the shul, but someone showed up around ten to ten. I’d left my stuff up on the porch – which included my stretching mat I’d finally gotten back from Holly, but never had time to use it. I told someone to tuck it inside for me, and went down to the corner to meet Graham’s busWhen Graham got off the bus, he was seriously overloaded since he was carrying most of his camping stuff, as well as overnight stuff and stuff for Church the next day. At least he remembered the kippah, that was really all I cared about.

Subsequently, Services started quite late. They were quite wonderful, as it was mostly Reb. Laura and Charles again. Eventually we got to the point where we brought out the Torah, and then we did the New Members Alliyah, out of about ten new members the only other person to show up was a queer man named Danny I’d seen around, but hadn’t talked to much before. Both of us were quite relieved that at least one other person had shown up. Leah loaned me her tallit, and Danny and I hugged while we went through the Alliyah. We started by touching our talliots to the scroll, but then had to do it all over again because it turned out we were in the wrong place.

I didn’t really know Danny before – but I guess we have an unique connection now – something like alliyah brothers, if there is such a thing. We get to be the only two people ‘sworn in’ as new members at Or Shalom for 2012 (5772). At the end of the alliyah, Reb. Laura said some very nice things to us, and then we were allowed to scurry back to our seats. I burrowed into Graham a bit – surprised to find myself embarrassed. I tried to explain something to him, but was only able to make the point clear the next day. At every important milestone in my life (or most of them), something strange and quirky goes wrong. When I proposed to Dave – the Champaign bottle broke and the cork got stuck, and we had a heck of a time getting it uncorked. When I married Robin, I got a large blackberry cane tangled in my tulle skirts. I graduated university, and got fired in Japan. The thing is I don’t consider these bad things, they are simply in keeping with the pattern. When something goes strangely sideways, I know He is listening and telling me I’m on book.

Graham hugged me for a bit after that, and I made a good decision to pull away once I was better. Shortly it was time for the last healing alliyah, and Graham and I went up for it, and we side-hugged and I prayed for his people, as well as mine.

Charles chose the neshama [soul aspect/breath – that which G-d breathes into you] song with which to close the healing alliyah:

The neshama is Yours,
The body is Yours,
Be gracious, please, to Your creatures.

It’s a beautiful hymn, and the alliyah participants naturally broke into a round after a few repetitions. Graham joined in, as it’s just those three lines repeated over and over.

After the healing alliyah, the Torah was put away, and Mourner’s Kaddish was said again, Graham indicated he appreciated being able to say it for the two knights in his Council who have died recently. At last we came to the Adon Olam. I had made up my mind beforehand, that if they chose to do it to the waltz tune again, I would implore Graham to waltz with me. They did indeed choose a waltz tune, and I hauled Graham to his feet.

It took a bit to get going, and I was basically passively leading, but we danced very well together, despite somehow drifting quite a bit. We looked into each other’s eyes as best as we could, and held on for dear life. Graham said afterwards he was having trouble figuring out how to focus on me through his glasses at quite that close range.

The Services were over, and we sat a few minutes and talked to Leah while people cleared out. I snuck over to Reb. Laura and thanked her again for the lovely Service, and the New Members Alliyah.

We threaded our way downstairs, and Danny and I together held the Kiddush cup for the wine blessing, and then we did the Challah blessing. The lunch was sponsored in honour of the new members and looked quite lovely. Graham and I sat on pews together, and Danny sat with us. I wound up in quite an animated conversation with Danny about queer and poly, and Graham wound up talking to someone else. For part of it, Graham and I had our backs to each other talking to different people. I think it was good we had the opportunity to talk to other people.

At one point, Leah came back to us, and a few people started gathering around, and Graham got up and rather surreptitiously managed to make a small chair circle around me. Once I noticed – I thanked him for it. I told him that I often feel that I sit somewhere, and people just go and sit elsewhere, and so he seems to have deliberately set people up around me, part of his clever plan to force me to integrate myself more, I think. I mentioned again that I sometimes do think I’m quite shy – because I’m only gregarious in situations where I feel absolutely safe, and that it takes me a really long time to feel safe anywhere new. I mean, it took me 15 years to feel safe enough to be a part of Or Shalom.

Eventually we were out of both food and conversation, and started to head home.

Once home, Graham sat down on the couch and, after a bit, I joined him. I snuggled into him, and we dozed a bit. Then something happened – and I’m still trying to really sort out what or why. For a long while I was content to half-doze against him. He is cuddly and comforting, and I truly am very happy with the friendship we have built, and the g-dparent/g-ddaughter roles we have assigned to each other. I had two main thoughts running through my mind – one was something I’ve been thinking about lately, that almost all of my partners have been eldest children. This seemed to connect to my observations about Graham’s protectiveness last week, that I surround myself with eldest siblings, because I enjoy that feeling of protection.

The second thought was significantly more problematic. I realized that I thought I was in love with Graham. I tried to compare my feelings to how I had felt with Paula, and thought that with Paula it was lust because I mostly wanted to have sex with her – with Graham, it seemed to be more the relationship. I don’t even think I particularly want sex with Graham. As this change in my Intention for sitting there affected me, I changed position, and held Graham closer. I also started praying. The question I was asking in my prayer was, “Why? Why would G-d send me someone to love like this, and yet have it be someone I am not allowed to have?” There seemed to be no Answer to this – and it wasn’t until the next day that I understood. At the time though, I realized I seem to find someone to fall in love with every five years – Robin in 2001, Dave in 2006, Graham in 2011. But I got to ‘keep’ the first two. I realized a long time ago that Graham was destined to be the ‘third great love of my life’ and have been grappling with that to varying degrees of success ever since.

Graham pulled a blanket over us. I think he was just getting chilled, but it facilitated me trying to stroke his chest under the blanket, he started and we discussed being ticklish. Like Greg’s fly a million years ago, at my first Summer Defender’s, I don’t even know what I was trying to do. I do know I kept looking up at his face, daring myself to kiss him (though I didn’t). Graham, for his part, kept announcing random things like, “We should get up and stretch,” or, “We should go outside and set up tarps.” At one point I started running my hands through his hair, “Or we can talk about haircuts,” he said. After a minute or two of this, he caught my hand and, with our fingers intertwined it, firmly held it. He sighed heavily,

“I know.” He said.
“Know what?” I said.
“I know your mind is not on tarps.”
“I’m confused.”
“I’m waiting for you to come out of your confusion.”
“And I know you’re too polite to push me away.”
“Do you ever get confused?”
“If I were to allow myself…you could be a very confusing person.”

The spell broke, and I pulled away and started apologizing. I told him what I had just been trying to do was not fair. Graham made a series of noises I’ve come to associate with his version of the Japanese Denial. “I don’t have anything positive to contribute, I’m not comfortable agreeing with a negative, or seeming to uphold your own self-deprecation, so I’ll just make some random noises for a bit and closely examine the wood panelling.”

I said as much to him in short form, and he said something like, “Yeah, basically.”

Somehow, by mutual agreement, we got up to stretch. Both tripping over the other to ask if we each were OK, or needed a moment, or should step into the other room or what. Graham shook himself out, jumping lightly up and down, like a runner preparing for a sprint, or an actor getting himself into character.

We stretched for a bit, and then I decided to head outside to do the sun salutations. Graham followed, but we quickly realized he’d ruin his dress pants in the grass, so he went back inside to change. While he was gone, I folded myself into an upside-down pretzel and stayed that way, quietly meditating until he returned. When he came back, I told him I’d felt the need to fold myself up into a weird shape for a bit. Graham reflexively said he understood, paused, and said that he thought he really did understand.

We finished the sun salutations, and Graham said we should talk, so we went back inside and sat down at the table. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but Graham re-iterated where we stood, I made a bunch of what I considered to be weak excuses for my behaviour, and I cried a bit. He asked me if I can be content with what we have, and I said I didn’t know if I could answer that. I do remember him saying that if this continues it would default to the, “If the right hand doth offend…” by which I gather he means he’d have to walk away. I remember around then saying, “I love you so much – I don’t want to lose you.” He grasped my hand at that. I couldn’t really see him through the tears; I could just feel his hand.

We stayed that way, silent, for a few moments, and I asked if we could say a rosary together. He got up to grab his rosary – it had wound up in his dress pants when he changed earlier. We said a rosary – and I chose an Intention for each decade: Robin, Mariegran who has just died, Leah, my own strength, and the continuation of Graham and my friendship, as it is.

I want to emphasize that in that moment on the couch, I thought I was in love with Graham, now I’m not so sure. I know I don’t desire a sexual relationship with Graham; I don’t think I really desire any other relationship other than the one I have. Yet, I find myself repeatedly pursuing even something I don’t want (If the dog actually caught the car bumper, what would he do with it?)

I should really be the one to walk away – like the proverbial pulling off the band aid, I should cause myself all the pain at once so that I can heal, rather than letting myself bleed like this, but I don’t think that’s much of a solution. On the one hand, I feel like I’m just using Graham for my own goals – the RPG, camping, Faith and prayer, on the other hand I recognize how important those things are, and furthermore how important it is for me to actually deal with the unrequitedness, and to salvage the friendship in spite of it. I’ve been told many times that in life one has to deal with, and learn how to get along with, all types of people. Typically, this has been said in the context of people one doesn’t like, it never occurred to me before that there might still be things one must overcome to get along with someone one does like, or even likes very much.

I need to learn how to just simply like Graham, how to be content with and to take Joy in what we have. I need to stop pushing, and I need to stop making excuses, and acting out. I’m still not quite sure how to accomplish this. Graham says prayer and chanting helps. But I do know I need to take it one day at a time – and to be honest at every step, and to enforce pulling back when I need to.

After the rosary, I closed Shabbat with the Havdalah ritual, then we went out in the back yard and Graham set up the ponchos and we tried some things. I am amazed at the water proofness of the silnylon material. It doesn’t wick through when you touch it at all.

Sunday, April 6

I woke with my alarm and went up to wake Graham, we chatted for a few minutes until he emphasized that he really needed to get up. I went back downstairs, and he joined me once he found pants.

I made us a simple breakfast of hot cocoa for him, tea for me, and a chocolate chip muffin each.

I showered while he packed up the tarps and some of his stuff, then he showered and got ready to go to Mass. We caught the bus expediently, and got to his church for our goal of 09:30. Graham saw me settled, and then went into the sacristy to prepare for his lecturing.

The Mass was quite excellent, I liked the priests analogy about a cut-off limb of a tree bares no fruit, although thinking about it later, some plants do sprout through cuttings – cranberries and blackberries, for example. So, to carry the analogy forward – some limbs require being connected for them to be productive; others require that separation to be productive. Interesting thought.

During the Mass, I found the Answers to my prayer from the day before – I knew now I had received no Answer at the time, because I wouldn’t have listened to it anyway, and because the Answer is self-evident: Graham was sent to me, and I was opened to loving him precisely for this – to more easily and greatly accept my Faith, and to be able to comprehend G-d’s love, through Graham’s loving support. I had come to that on my own previously – I had simply allowed myself to forget that Truth. Graham has also said we can always blame any wandering demons in the area – but in some cases, that would alleviate me from responsibility for my own actions. I need to keep G-d at the forefront of my consciousness, and stop trying to pervert various Truths.

I have to stop trying to cheat with Graham, as I also can’t force Graham to cheat on G-d with me.

I do, however, reject Graham’s suggestion that being polyamourous complicates what would otherwise be the natural rules and consequences. My two marriages are separate and very stable. Even in monogamous relationships, people experience temptation in various forms at various times. In polyamoury (at least how we practice it) it is no more legitimate to pursue and try to force a monogamous person to ‘covert’, and participate in a polyamourous union – than it would be for anyone to try to force a married person to break their vows. I need to start taking both my marital vows and my polyamourous ones more seriously. I don’t spend enough time thinking about the vows I have made – the only one that seemed to matter at the time, was that Robin and I would stick by each other forever, and now with Dave, also.

On the way out of the Church, Graham gave me more KoC CIS (Catholic Information Services) pamphlets – including one on, “How to become a real man of G-d.” The title strikes me as funny, “How to become a Real Fuzzy Green Man of Alpha Centuri,” but I accepted the pamphlet when Graham said, “Maybe it’ll give you some insight into me.”

We walked to Brentwood, and had lunch from my favourite Korean BBQ place. While eating, Graham talked about the dark night of the soul – the idea of despair, and the experience of feeling sure your prayers are going out into a vacuum, and how to move past that. I found the conversation particularly helpful, because of my experience of praying even while I was trying to seduce Graham the day before, and feeling like there was no response. I know now the lack of response was because G-d wanted me to make my own choice. I do feel that ultimately I did make the choice to pull away – but I needed Graham’s help more than I should have. As I said at the time – hopefully, and as long as Graham and I don’t experience both of our defences being low at the same time while camping, we should be able to support each other and pull through it.

I want our camping trips this summer to not only be the fulfillment of our physical accomplishment and exploration goals, but also to facilitate my personal goals – of forcing myself to get over my crush on Graham, by spending an extended period of time with him, and functioning purely as platonic partners. As he said – I need a friend. I need to learn how to have a friend, independent from sexual confusion and tension. It’s not a skill I’ve ever seemed to need to learn before – I have had unrequited crushes, but usually the person in question has drifted out of my life for one reason or another (usually unrelated to the crush) so I’ve never had to deal with someone closely integrated, yet at the same time being someone I shall not have. Graham and I have a lot to offer and to lend to each other’s lives, and as I told him, I need the positive aspects of this friendship, and I need the friendship itself to function, and continue to function as is.

We went to Marg’s bookstore, though she wasn’t working today, and I ordered in a bunch of books – some of them the ones Reb. Laura recommended to me, so I can start working through them before taking her course next fall.

At the bus stop, Graham and I went our separate ways with a friendly hug good-bye.

I got home and went down to nap. I only napped a couple of hours, and then got up and started doing dishes and tidying the house.

Graham showed up, and I shared with him a thought that had occurred to me. In the Gospel, Paul forsakes Jesus three times, and has to say he loves Jesus and repent three times, and then Jesus forgives him three times. Well, I’ve tried to forsake my friendship with Graham three times now: one through the spoken word (at SYGC last year), one through the written word (in my initial email), and once through [attempted] action. Graham has forgiven me three times. So, I have to be done now – it’s Scripture.

After our game, I went to work, and started my first patrol. I found myself humming the Neshama healing song, and decided, at first, to see how long I could keep it up. As I sang it over and over again, I realized I wanted to see if I could keep singing it through the entire patrol – as part penitence, and part healing prayer.

The neshama is Yours,
The body is Yours,
Be gracious, please, to Your creatures.

Those three lines, over and over again. I found that eventually I could go on singing, while thinking about other things in my head, a background balm straightening and strengthening my thoughts. I sang louder in certain parts of the building, and more softly in others. I listened in wonder to the variations in the acoustics of the different wings, like a holy version of a Verizon Wireless commercial, “Can you hear me now, G-d?” “Good.”

I got back to base, started writing this post, and also started reading the Real Man of G-d pamphlet. A few things stuck out, including this passage:

“Saint Joseph is a model of chaste love. His life shows us that the full gift of self toward another does not necessarily have to involve genital relations. He loved Mary and that meant he was willing to dedicate himself to what was best for her and for the divine Son she was carrying. He put all his love and his life at the service of their vocations, and in so doing he fulfilled his own vocation. Chastity is a virtue that helps a person to have self-mastery – to control one’s sexual impulses rather than be controlled by them – so that one can give to others in the way that is best for them. Chastity is what allows man to be a protector of women rather than a predator. In his chaste love of Mary, he learned how to grow as a man, and in her chaste reciprocal love, he was blessed beyond measure.” (Becoming a Real Man of G-d, Landry, pg 12)

I have always thought of chastity as a deliberate removal or withholding of something – pleasure, or experience, similar to fasting, or the kashrut laws restricting eating certain things. I had not thought of it in terms of freeing one to more fully give of the self, without taking the short cut through sex.

This passage links up to some of the ideas concerning Niddah – that being unable to have martial relations at certain points in the month, forces a couple to reiterate their love-bond in ways that are not based in the physical. It had not occurred to me that I can devote myself to my friendship with Graham, and express my love for him, without ever involving genital relations. This was what I meant when I told him I was unused to relationships that were not, ‘progressions’. I did not mean progression in the sense of: first dating; then proposal; then cake; then babies. I meant: first friendship, then love, then sex as the ultimate expression of love and friendship. I honestly didn’t really understand true friends, real friends, are supposed to love without expressing or sharing something sexual. Even though I understand the older fraternal model that, for example, Tolkien comments on with his characters Frodo and Sam, I just assumed that friendship that exists between two people of the correct sex and sexual orientation combination, would always be ultimately elevated by sexual exploration.

Furthermore, I have never seriously tried to control my own sexual impulses, nor really any of my impulses. However, it has only been my sexual impulsives that I’d consider truly, well, impulsive. I’ve never been a drug addict; I’ve never been a compulsive over-eater; I don’t really have an obsessive personality. I don’t have to ‘struggle’ with not taking a third brownie, even though I don’t really want it, or don’t really need another dessert. But I guess what I meant when I introduced myself in my email to Karin with, “Anything that moves is fair game,” is that I’ve always assumed I if I want to play with someone – I can at least get to explore it as far as it goes. If it works out, great, if it doesn’t, great, but at least I get to satisfy my curiosity. At least I’ve gotten to sample one of every type of dessert at the buffet. News to me (Good news?) that some desserts are off limits. News to me that I’m supposed to be responsible (and mature) enough to push back from the table. I guess, if I were Eve in the Garden, I’d have been all over that tree in the first hour, even without the snake. (Climbing! I meant I’d have climbed the tree…N/M)

The second passage was this:

“Although none of the men reading this booklet will be asked by G-d to wed a virgin pregnant with the Son of the Eternal Father, every man is called to be a protector and a provider, whether as a dad, a priest, a teacher, a coach, a diligent employee or a benevolent employer.” (pg. 13)

I told Graham Sunday, although I hadn’t gotten very far into the pamphlet, that it tells Graham he needs a wife to “help him to become fully human…to experience the fullness and the joy of human life.” (pg. 8). But the pamphlet does go on to point out that a man can be a “protector and a provider” in other contexts other than Husband, including as a teacher. I wanted to apologize to Graham for my earlier jest at his solitude, and to point out he does a fine enough job at his duel roles of protector and provider, through teaching and leading others, including myself.

By my second patrol of Sunday night, I was getting very tired, probably to the point of lucidity. Encouraged by my singing on my first patrol, I chose Bar’chi naf shi et Adonai (my soul praises You, The Lord) for my second patrol, deciding that the first patrol had been a prayer for my own healing, and the second patrol would therefore be for praise and thanks:

Bar’chi naf shi
Bar’chi naf shi
Bar’chi naf shi
et Adonai

The tune my shul uses for it is quite haunting, almost a rising wail through the “bar’chi naf shi” lines, dropping lower for the “et adonai”. I started my patrol on the upper floor, and started to notice a strange effect. It was as if the sound of my voice formed a bubble of light around me, keeping something at bay beyond the reach of my voice. I had this sensation that I was walking with a sphere of…goodness, I guess, projected around me.

Once I got to the ground floor, that sensation dissipated, and then things got weirder. I opened a door into one of the rooms, and as I turned the corner, for a brief flash I saw a man sitting there, in profile to me. He was hunched over in the classic ‘The Thinker’ pose, chin resting on his fist, and was wearing gray dress pants, a turquoise blue pull-over and, absurdly, a cream-coloured tilly hat. He had no facial features – just a Caucasian-coloured oval between hat and shirt collar, and his fist was white, also. I was startled enough that I stopped in mid-prayer, but in the next blink he was gone. The chair he had been sitting on was tucked into the desk the other direction.

I continued my patrol and, in another wing, I glanced into a cubicle and found a woman this time, also sitting, facing me. She had a cream-coloured cardigan sweater draped over her shoulders, and she had long, curly brown hair worn lose over her shoulders. Also no facial features, also a Caucasian-coloured oval between the tresses of hair. She was also gone in a double-take, although this time I didn’t break in my chanting. The chair she was sitting on was again tucked into the desk in a different direction, the sweater she had been wearing left hung upon it.

Needless to say, I was somewhat spooked. I don’t really believe in ghosts, I do believe in unexplained things – at least to the extent that we haven’t developed a satisfactory explanation for them. I do know I was very tired, and I’m quite willing to accept that my migraine-induced hallucinations were making a somewhat more substantial stand. One of my pet potentially self-fulfilling prophesies is that I will wind up schizophrenic some day. I told Graham about working at Pac Centre, and I told him about getting screwed up by the lights, and the muzac and taking ‘mental health’ days when the presumably SADs related depression got too bad – but I didn’t tell him my paranoia started to increase, also. That I heard noises, and saw things out of the corners of my eyes. That I stood on top of the roof of the TD bank building, looked the 20-something stories down to the plaza below, and wondered if I stepped off, would I be able to fly? (I didn’t chance it, obviously.) I have experienced genuine paranoia – during that week I was on Allysse. Having the overwhelming feeling that there was a dead body lying in my bathtub, or a ‘bad man’ about to jump out from around the door, but so far I’ve always been able to identify those thoughts as irrational, to know that they are my mind trying to play tricks on me. I don’t relish the thought of the day those thoughts talk me into accepting themselves as truth.

Anyway – the other side of the equation, if there was something or someone sitting in those chairs – were they upset with my praying, or curious about it?

I finished my patrol, but was too tired to continue writing. I tried reading a bit more, as best I could, and finally the shift was over.  After work, I texted Dave to ask him, “What does self-mastery mean?” He responded, “Not what you think it means ;)”

– M is for Monday

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