Why Am I Here: A Re-re-conversion Story

[ed. note: the following is an edited email sent my then-love just before we parted ways]
Hello my love,

After I got home I really didn’t want to talk to anyone so I decided to go for a walk. I kind of wanted to walk down Pine Ave to see what was happening and then swing around and spend a little time on the beach writing. It wasn’t very easy when I was on Pine Ave. because there were a lot of couples dining and enjoy the Valentine’s evening (I had to stop a couple of times when I saw some women who reminded me of you). I wasn’t interested in talking to anyone so I had no desire to go to the Blue Cafe or go drinking. I just needed to walk and feel the air.

I spent some time on the beach trying to gather my thoughts about the day. Sometimes when I write about things that happen, because I’m in a “descriptive mode” and I want to capture the moment, it helps me step away enough to look at things like some kind of weird instant replay. So I started to write about what we’d talked about today. Then I grabbed a sandwich at a Quiznos and walked home.

When I got home I was going to throw in a tape from one of my computer shows that I hadn’t watch this week, have my sandwich and continue to write some more. But after a few minutes I decided that I needed to take a break from the writing and computers. So I popped in one the DVDs I’ve been meaning to watch, M. Night’s “Signs,” crank up the 5.1 audio and spend the night watching the movie and having my sandwich.

signsbigThis is the second time that I can remember where I’ve watched a movie and realized afterwards how where I’m at emotionally so strongly influences my feelings about the movie or the story. As a writer I know that there is a definite message or story that the author is trying to get across but it amazes me how strong it can be colored by the feelings or recent experiences of the viewer (in this case me). I mean, I know that some of my friends would get a very different message and impact from the film than I was getting, especially because I found myself reacting so strongly. I’m guessing that you may know that the general story is about a farm family who goes through this crop-circle/alien apocalyptic experience. Needless to say, of late I’ve been a bit emotional, so it was understandable that I’d tear up at the emotional/family in peril scenes. But then I realized that I was really really crying after the last scene and through the credits. At first I thought this had to be because I was just releasing all the feeling that have been building through the day. But it was more than that.

I told you that I felt like I was here with you at this moment for a purpose. And especially in the last couple of months, my focus and feelings have been that I am here to help you go through this whole counseling, rediscovering self thing. Through all of the negative shit I thought that I was here to help you see that there was some positive that could come out of this. And as much as I’ve wanted this part to be over so that we could be together, I’ve known that there are parts of my own life that need attending to if I’m to be the partner that I want to be for you. And when we’ve reached those scary critical, “is it going to happen now” times (is she going to get kicked out/after the holidays times), I’ve had some fears that I’m not ready yet. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but it’s something that I’ve known. I mean, I know that you love me very much as I am, and I want to be the best person that I can be for you, but I know that it’s something more than that.

At the core of tonight’s movie something tragic has happened to the main character before the film begins that has caused him to step away from his faith, and he has to dance around it because everyone around him still sees him and needs him as he once was (a minister … gee, I shouldn’t be able to relate to any of that). And at one point his brother pesters him to explain what it all means (the alien/apocalyptic thing). He tries to say that some people see things happening and hope that it’s a good thing because they believe that someone is looking after them, while others just see it as random chance or good luck. The first group generally come to see that there are no coincidences and it gives them hope while the second group knows that there is no one looking after them, its all up to them and deep inside they are afraid.

I played back some of the scenes. Something rang true to me. Maybe I’m not here just to help you. I knew that I didn’t want to step away and it be this “when my love gets her shit together” sort of thing. I knew that I didn’t want you to feel like I think I’ve got all my shit together and we’re all just sitting around waiting for you. I’d had this gnawing feeling that I need to be prepared too, if we were going to be successful together, but I didn’t know what that meant. When I was watching the movie I realized why I was crying. It wasn’t just some emotional release.

More than fifteen years ago I was unhappy with myself and I knew that a lot of it had to do with the feeling that the person I was discovering myself to be didn’t fit the models I kept seeing as the way Christians are supposed to be. And quite frankly I had a number of non-Christian friends who were so much more at peace with their lives that I knew that there was something wrong with what I was doing. So I chose to learn to accept myself for who I was and see where this would take me. The reason I chose to not call myself a Christian was because I knew that I wanted to understand myself apart from the labels that never seemed to fit anyway. It was never about rejecting Jesus or denying everything that he’d meant to me for those prior fifteen years. I didn’t want the label, but I never rejected what he meant to me. But it put me in this weird middle place where I felt like I needed to rely on myself (in part because a lot of what I’d done before that didn’t work and just complicated things was because I was always hoping that God would rescue me). It was far from perfect but I was more at peace with myself and no one was around to challenge me, in part because I’d always been able to out-think my detractors and my friends had been willing to accept me for who I was.

Then a year ago you and I reconnected, and you made it very clear the first time we met that this wasn’t something that you were comfortable with. And yet, even then you did come to accept and love me. But I knew that sooner or later we were/I was going to have to deal with this.

I remember one time, a while ago, you talked about being in church and feeling really weird because you realized that you really wanted to be there with me. I was touched because I felt like that said something about how much you love me. And I could see that I’d want to be with you in church, holding hands, too. In fact, I’ve had that dream about you and I at least one time. But when I said that I’d go to church with you all those months ago, you were right in that I was thinking more that it was out of respect for your beliefs and a gesture of love than doing anything about my beliefs. But when I told you more recently that I wanted to “re-examine” what my faith meant to me with you, I was beginning to feel like there was something here for me that I could do with you. It wasn’t something that I was going to do just for you. But it was all tangled up with the fact that we’re not supposed to be together and that God could never “approve” of our love.

I don’t know, something in the movie, the main character trying to straddle that line between of how hurt he was losing the love of his life and his faith, I realized that there was a part of me (more important than my beloved guitar) that I was trying to do without. And as much as I don’t want to be without you, I know what I need to do. And when I thought about that I realized that you have been the one person who could influence me like that without having to say a word. Well, you did say a few words, but you communicated more by loving me and letting me imagine what a life with you would be like than anyone has ever been able to do. Because I want that life for you, I also want it for me.

I don’t know what this will look like or exactly how I’m going to do this. I know that I am not the same man that I was 18-years ago and that I will never be a “simple faith” kind of guy like I tried to be back then. I know that this is something that I need to do for myself. And suddenly this time apart from you makes sense to me and I see a purpose in it for me as well as for you (though I wish that I could begin this exploration with you).

I don’t know where it comes from, this sense of hope that I keep getting. It amazes me. It makes me realize that there is a purpose to my tears and that I may have more in my favor than just my good looks (just kidding). I also know that I want to enjoy whatever time I have with you (on the phone) before Tuesday sends us on our separate journeys. I am hopeful that the author of love will see us through this and that one can accept oneself in all our imperfections and still believe that there is more to it than that. The first words that anyone told me when I was a confused and scared 15-year-old was that God has a gift for me and that he loves me just the way I am. I think that’s a pretty good place to start.

I love you sweetheart,
JBB

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