Monday, August 20, 2007

Blindsided

If you know me or have been reading this blog for a awhile, you already know:
  • I was raised in the Jehovah's Witness (JW) religion, but left 14 years ago when I came out because that religion does not tolerate gays.
  • JWs are told they must discontinue all association with anyone who leaves or is kicked out of the JW religion. This includes immediate family members.
  • I went to therapy and eventually made peace with the loss of my family.
  • My mother has only had a few, rare communications with me to communicate medical emergencies. Zilch for my father and siblings.
  • 2 1/2 years ago my mother scolded me in an email for not visiting my father in the hospital or later inquiring about his health.
  • I replied to her email and told her what was what. For details see my post "Not exactly Mother's Day" on 4/24/05.
  • My non-JW cousin contacted me and last summer we visited for the first time in many years. He lives in CA and only comes to the east coast once a year. For details on this see my post "" on 8/20/06.

This past weekend we tried to set up another visit at his JW mother's house where he is staying. He thought he may be able to get her to agree to the visit, but it did not go well. Here is the email I received from him:

"Mark,

It’s late Sunday evening. Yesterday afternoon I talked with my mom about my wish to have you come for a visit. I knew there was a good chance she’d object, considering the source of anything she might think she knows about you, but I thought she just might be able to rise above that and honor my request, if nothing else.

I was wrong--she flatly refused, saying something to the effect that you don’t consider “us” your family; that you have “other family now,” citing your supposed absence at Nelson’s purported near-death hospital experience as an example. I suggested she might have it backwards—that you’d already been essentially disowned by your entire immediate family well before that.

I was kind of stunned, and more than a little bewildered that she could have things so turned around. I asked who she’d talked to about it. She said it wasn’t Nelson, but she couldn’t remember who told her this (?!).

I hope to talk with her more about the subject, as it bothers me that she is carrying around such a twisted interpretation of the situation. But for the time being, she’s clearly not ready to have me invite you over. Maybe next year.

I’d still like to get together if possible. I hear Tim and Pam have made plans to come here tomorrow evening, and I think we’re hooking up with Stephanie Tuesday, so all I’ve got left is Monday (tomorrow) afternoon. Given the logistics, that’s pretty limiting, unless you could meet us somewhere halfway. And on such short notice, maybe that’s not even realistic.

This is a perennial frustration for me--it seems every time I’m here there are many more things I’d really like to do than I can realistically pull off. (Better planning on my part would help, I know.)

Got any ideas?
Love,
Hilleary"

Honestly, I was not surprised at his mother's reaction, having suspected that my mother had likely told relatives that I never visited my father in the hospital or called to inquire about his condition. It still amazes me that they think they should completely ignore me as long as they are healthy, but then expect to me rush to their sides when one of them has a medical crisis! So I was disappointed but not surprised at my aunt's reaction.

But I was completely blindsided by the emotions that came flooding back to me as I composed a response to my cousin. I really wanted him to understand the context from which my words had been taken, and to assure him that I still considered him and other non-JW relatives as family. As I organized my thoughts and typed them out, I couldn't believe how much this could still hurt me. Its been 14 years. I don't understand how this could still make me cry.

I tell myself I've healed - and thought I had - that its all behind me now. But then something like this happens and it feels like the wound has been ripped wide open again. How can this still have such power over me?

I want to take that power away. I want to feel confident that it won't hurt me anymore. I want to say 'I'm a good and decent person. If you really knew me you'd know that its certainly YOUR loss' and be able to believe it. But then something like this has the power to make me question my own validity and right to happiness. Why? How?

Drag queen name of the day: Tara Cotta

5 comments:

Bugsy (aka Joe) said...

I'm sorry to hear about those old wounds being opened again. I think the pain comes from losing family who disown you, shun you and then expect you to act as if you are family.

They don't realize that such acts hurt them as much as the ones the use it on.

Know that we think you are a wonderful person and its amazing to me that people would push you away.

We love you Mark! -- Joe and Roger

tornwordo said...

That's awful. Family stuff can really suck, especially in your situation. I hope you can take away its power.

Jamie said...

Mark, I would be more worried about you if you didn't have any emotional reaction to this situation. That would mean that you had created an emotional wall and weren't allowing yourself to feel.

These are people that you love, and that have hurt you. It's never not going to hurt. It's OK that it hurts. They have treated you shabbily, and that should hurt.

But, you are doing the best thing - talking to people about how you are feeling. That gives us all the chance to remind you that you are an amazing person, and you make such a big difference in so many lives!

It truly is their loss if they don't want you to be a part of their lives. The sad part is that you lose something too...

But, I am glad you do the honest thing - it's tougher and more painful, but it makes you stronger.

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Jeni C said...

It hurts because it is a perversion of the most natural love there is - that of a parent's love for his/her child. Every time you are reminded that their love is conditional, by choice,it will be just as painful as the last, because it is just as wrong after thirteen years as it was when the decision was made.