Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More on Dirty Stories

Last post I talked about stories like coals--dark stories that leave soot and ashes on my hands. I think you get the picture. I'm not thrilled about telling these stories, not so much because they shouldn't be told, or that they'd hurt someone else in the telling. No, I'm way too self-absorbed to think about others when I write. I don't want to live them again, one in particular.

I've told it before. It was my very first blog entry here. I called it, I Loved a Boy, and out of everything that I wrote, it is what readers told me that they remembered most. By far my dirtiest story, it's about my first love and the moment that I gave myself--against God's prodding--to him completely. I didn't know that in brief encounter--and it was brief, beloved--that the axis to my life would shift, and that I would never be the same. Of all the moments that make up this ragamuffin diva's life, it was one of the most formative, for better or for worse.

I can't really write a ragamuffin diva memoir without mentioning when the world changed and my sexuality was irreparably damaged now could I? (This would be a very good time for you to say, "Sure you can! Don't worry about it. We won't miss it.) I know I'm reaching. I know I have to tell it, but I how I hate to.

Tonight I sat in bed reading books about writing spiritual memoirs. These terrible, demanding books are chock full of examples, all of which drive me to believe that telling my I Loved a Boy story is about as important as flossing my teeth. If I don't do it, it will be to my own peril.

I hate that.

So, I'm reading, and being driven and tormented, and each story somehow propels me back to that room in the empty house. I'm sitting on the dusty bare mattress on the floor. My life is about to be altered forever, and I feel--more than twenty years later as I read--all the hope, and fear and longing that I did that July day. And it feels like I will die if I don't make it stop. The seventeen year old me, and the forty-one year-old me fight it out until both of us--while I thrash about in my bed--cry out, "Oh, God. Don't make me do it." Write the story, that is, and not the terrible pun "do it," when I'm talking about losing my virginity. See what thinking about all this reduces me to? Really bad puns.

Not long ago NavPress sent me a copy of the cover of my book, Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man. I sent this out to so many people. I felt awfully proud, seeing my baby right there, and my it's a beautiful cover. I made the mistake of sending it to Joe. The residual affect of my once loving him when I was young and love was a bright green shoot, ripe with the possibility of flowering, and of having an emotional affair with him many, many years later, is that I still have moments when I crave him. Seeing my cover was one of those moments. I wanted him to see it. I wanted to think, somewhere in this world is Joe, and he is proud of me, even if we can never, ever be together. In fact, I'd cut off all communication with him with the express intent of not experiencing such moments for the rest of my life.

I sent this e-mail with butterflies in my stomach. I wondered if he'd reply. I should tell you that I am completely retarded when it comes to him. I take huge, developmental leaps backward, and feelings pour out of me like I'm a sieve. I hate feeling this way. I hate how out of control it makes me feel. Some days, if I didn't think it would damn me straight to hell with a handle on my rear end, I am tempted to hate Joe. But it probably wouldn't work, and hating him would mean I'm still thinking about him, carrying him close.

He replied. I hate that he replied, and there I went, feelings pouring out of my finger tips, being electronically transmitted as soon as I hit the send button. Oh, they weren't anything big. Just a little something that was my way of saying, even if I never see you again, you will always be a part of me. And then I felt foolish and juvenile, acting like the teenaged girl that any contact him reduces me to. Hey, if there's anyone out there that would be so kind... please remind me that I must never tell Joe that he will always be a part of me. Please. Help a sistah out.

Oh, God. Don't make me do it.

Why do we tell our stories? Why did so many women tell me they cried when they read I Loved a Boy? Why did some of you say that you read it to your youth group, or gave it to your daughter, or printed it out, and read it, and kept in under your bed, hardpressed to let it go? Why did some of you quote it back to me, when I got discouraged? Why do we share our blood, so much sometimes, that readers walk away looking like Carrie at the prom. My friend Mary told me that's how she felt after reading my blog. It is by far, the funniest thing anyone has ever said to me about my work.

I have thought so many times that I was healed of this peculiar infirmity called first love, but it remains a labyrinth in my soul, and I experience this painful revelation--not again, Mair--when I least expect it. I walk all of these paths, trying to find my center where love is perfect, and Godly, without obsession and not stained by sin. I'm still bumping into walls, moving in directions that look promising, but end up backing me up against a wall.

Oh, God. Don't make me do it.

Don't you hate when God doesn't do what you want Him, too?

Maybe I will tell this story, once again--and in far more detail. Fear not. It won't be lurid. And maybe it will help me find that elusive center of my soul. Maybe it will help someone else find their own circle of perfection at the end of the journey, or at the very least, find the courage to realize that they are in the maze, and to souldier on knowing that there is indeed and center, and it will be a shining, beautiful place.

But this will cost me. Our best stories always cost, and tonight, I don't feel like I have enough funds to pay. So, again, I ask for your prayers. Ask Jesus to help me remember that I'm always safe with Him, even when there are walls to slam into, and blood, and dark stories soiling my hands before I make it to the light.


Thanks for listening,


renee altson said...

dear friend,
as someone who wrote one of those dirty memoirs, (and who never could find the words to respond to your email about it) this lingers long past the story once told. For once it's written, then it is on bookshelves and in people's homes, and your story becomes, well, "their" story -- and "our" story.

but it's the best thing I've ever done. truly. even through the ongoing fear, terror, and sometimes delight.

much much love and prayers, friend.

Barbarajoe said...

Hi Claudia,

I just decided to check your blog today, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that you posted today. Well, I believe that I understand what you're going through and my advice is the same advice that you gave me not too long ago "pray on it." I'll simply add a few words of my own by saying, "stay strong my sister." Love ya...

Bonnie Calhoun said...

you need to pray about it, and God will show you the way...I'll pray that the Holy Spirit helps you!

Camy Tang said...

Poetic as always, Mair. You got my prayers.

Kristine said...

Graceful Mair,
Your burden sounds heavy. God will help you carry this load and reveal your story with His grace. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I admire you.

Eudoxia, a lover of the Lord said...

my beloved writer sister (and pained of heart), I wish I could join in the chorus -- write, write, you can do it. Alas, for me, I still carry a similar story, and I choose not to write it, because it has not completed its work in me. Perhaps, however, writing it would complete the work, and perhaps I am holding on to it because I need its memory in some strange way. I have approached it many times -- I even have numerous attempts in my "to be looked at again" binder. And I do -- look at it, I mean. And I let it stay in the binder.

Know, sister, that there are ways and there are ways -- we each deal with our vulnerabilities, and in our own ways. Whatever your decision, keep yourself well with it, and if you must carry it longer, so be it.

I once had a friend who gave me the greatest gift ever -- she let me leave my three kids alone with her for a weekend, but most importantly she let me leave my guilt with her. She carried it for me, took good care of it, and gave it back to me when I returned on Sunday night. By then, I was used to the lightness of my step without it, and threw it away on my own!

Burdens can sometimes be shared and lifted, and sometimes be shared and weigh us down even more.

We all love you. Never despair of that.

Connie said...

My dark stories are boring. That's the long and the short of it. My questions are:
What will be purged by the telling of this tale? Will you be freer from pain? Will you feel a deeper acceptance from God, a warmer, kinder sense of self? Will the telling be a kind of expiation? Will the story help you move on?

wilsonian said...

I have a real sense that in the revisiting of this story, you will find that very little of it has to do with him. The things that make you feel giddy still, aren't about him; rather they are about you, younger and in a different place. You didn't risk so much 20 years ago for him, you risked for you.

I have a real sense that in the revisiting of this story, you will learn a lot about the beautiful parts of you shed along the way. You will not be gathering charcoal. You will be gathering things of tremendous beauty.

frjames-c-rho said...

Dear Mair,

We were blessed to have you do part of Good Friday with us, and gratified that you shared on the blog site about it. We have about 10 African-American and Caribbean households, and would like to have more. Less restrained than you might think, but again, you could help us. We dance at our 9:00 am service during Easter for the offertory.

Thank you for this posting, and may God bless your calling.
in christ's love,
-the rev. james c. rhodenhiser