Monthly Archives: May 2011

Loss and Faith

Last night was hard. I spent the evening at the Piper’s Kilt, a karaoke bar with a bunch of friends. With the holiday weekend, the place was packed. Still, I couldn’t help feeling an absence – my friend Stacy who passed away suddenly three weeks ago. I had been thinking about her earlier in the day, about something she would’ve loved, and she really stayed on my mind the rest of the day.

While at the Kilt, I started looking through some of my old text messages with Stacy. More than most anything, I think this really reminded me of what I lost. Stacy had been my friend, my big sister, and she taught me everything I knew about being a woman. As I watched her progress rapidly with hormone therapy, I felt like I was following in her footsteps but would never quite catch up. Instead, one of the last messages I’d gotten from her was how she felt that HRT was doing wonders for me, too. It was an approval I’ve been seeking for a long time.

Doc was there for me when I lost Stacy. Helping me through the worst of it, she picked me up after work the day I found out Stacy died, then let me stay at her house. She explained to me the Jewish belief of why it is that people leave us young. She said that sometimes, people are put here to accomplish something, and that task can be as simple as a single breath for a baby.

That day, I’m not sure I was really ready to hear that – to me it felt as if we were meant to experience pain as part of life, getting to know someone and grow to love them, to have them torn away from us, and be left to grieve. In this case, it was grieving without the one person who could really get me through it. It also meant that I couldn’t feel anger over her death. There is nothing but some greater plan to blame, and if there truly is that plan and reason, then there is also something better hereafter.

Now, I’ve come to find meaning in that simple statement, something which has helped me find peace with losing Stacy. Stacy meant so much to me in life, and it helps me to know how happy she had finally become as well. It is a tragic loss for me, I will be hurt for a long time realizing that Stacy is out of my reach, that I can’t really talk with her anymore, but she did accomplish something. Not just things for her own life, instead, for my life, and that of so many others as well.

I love you, Stacy, and I miss you, hun.

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An Explanation: My Username

So, my aforementioned “long term ex”, posting here as “Super Secret,” but known as “The XX” in future posts, took her extraordinary skills to my username and in a remarkable display of literary prowess, has dubbed me “jewess-Q,” to be pronounced like the title of the blog, “jewesque.”

While I don’t identify exactly as Queer, though I suppose it does apply, it was far too witty to simply pass up. This is exactly why we get along as well as we do – I dunno, do we get along? We are so seriously on the same wavelength. Much like Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters 1, and the “psychic” woman from his experiments at the beginning of the movie, “I was just about to say ‘Eight o’clock?’ You are a legitimate phenomenon.” She and I routinely finish each others thoughts, or, sometimes, as in these cases, she just has them for me.


My Motto

During a conversation the other day with Doc, I brought up one of my favorite lines from virtually all the movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a short conversation between Abbe Faria (Priest) and Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo (the version with Jesus… err, Jim Caviezel).

Abbe Faria: Here is your final lesson – do not commit the crime for which you now serve the sentence. God said, “Vengeance is mine.”
Edmond Dantes: I don’t believe in God.
Abbe Faria: It doesn’t matter. He believes in you.

Truly, one of the most touching conversations ever written – so simple, and so perfect. Above all, it may be the defining line that made me reconsider G-d.


Faith

Faith:

a  (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to G-d (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion

b  (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust

I think I spent years without true faith – and more than just religious faith – faith that what I was doing was right, and that my actions had any higher meaning. I guess it’s hard to put words to – you just feel an absence in your life. I suppose that this post necessitates a bit of a life story because it is my first, so please, have a look here. Now, pull down on your safety restraints placing them firmly against your chest, keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times, and enjoy the ride.

I identified as an atheist for a long time – I called myself a Recovering Cathoholic, as I was first raised some nutty division of fanatical Christianity in Omaha, NE, followed by Catholicism when I moved to NY. I literally got baptized because “everyone else was doing it,” so I felt like I wanted to be a part of something special. That never really spoke to me, however – I never felt Jesus’ love or whatever it is we’re supposed to experience. In fact, all I ever felt was that the Church wanted to rain down doom and destruction on me, to make me kneel before some terrifying master. Needless to say, how is one to believe in G-d when you don’t believe in the things right in front of you?

Many spiritual years and experiences were lost to me because of the religion I was pushed into, instead of the Faith I should’ve been allowed to find for myself. I blamed all religion for all the evils of the world, and certainly, it is responsible for a great deal of suffering and ills of the world. One might say “some more than others,” and perhaps there’s even a truth there, but in reality, I think it’s mostly a matter of perspective, and of the time period in which you reside (for my Medieval readers out there, just in case you have magic parchment that can read the Internet of the future).

Something in my world has never really added up – I guess I felt a gentle tug at one point or another to come to G-d, and even specifically, Judaism. The first time I really felt it was with, or just before, my first serious girlfriend. After we broke up, maybe I just threw it away as a phase, maybe I didn’t want to believe that I was actually interested not only in G-d, but in a religion. Maybe I just wasn’t mature enough to accept what I felt.

My longest term girlfriend was another Jewish girl, herein referred to as “The XX,” someone who was more observant than my previous ex. We spent the better part of five years together, and during that time, I became exposed to more of the Jewish faith and culture. I saw the first bits of true beauty in it, and I began to appreciate it a little bit. Sadly, I was still a very closed off person, and my ex and I clashed a lot as she was not able to comprehend or deal with my emotional distance, and I wasn’t willing or able to express my hurt to her. Ultimately, it was what drove us apart, though not the cause of our final breakup.

Finally, a number of years later, I began to accept certain things in my life, and I began to open my mind again. I allowed myself the luxury of feelings long since buried, emotions that I had finally found a way to simply turn off. I was Borg, Vulcan, emotionless and unfeeling. Life had presented itself to me, and I finally started inviting it in for tea. I became human again, with all the pain and joy it brings.

Around this time, I met my friend, I’ll call her Doc, because I’m uncertain to what extent she would like to be identified, and her name is rather unique. If you’re not familiar with the story of Doc and me, you should probably read this post here before continuing.

Faith, in my opinion, isn’t something one needs to have throughout their lives. It is, however, something we all need to find to guide us through life to find our higher meaning. I am so grateful I have found mine.

(I think this post is going to be chopped up and reduced to numerous posts, so I apologize for the length of the read. I promise to get it all cleaned up soon, though. Thanks for listening.)


Loyal Soldiers

I am a child abuse survivor. I am a bullying victim. I suffered a great deal in my childhood and many of my teen years as well, if not from one trauma, then from another. Perhaps I never really dealt with a lot of the issues this created, and so for years, I just practiced burying my hurt, hiding from the world in dark places I cannot imagine now. A friend once introduced a term to me, “Loyal Soldiers,” which while sort of defined in the linked post, I feel needs to be clarified more.

As it was originally explained to me, the Loyal Soldier is something that we have inside of us, created to deal with traumas and dark experiences in our lives. All of us probably have these in some form or another, but some of us simply didn’t have the kind of darkness that others do, and for those who were truly hurt, we may never really let those Loyal Soldiers go.

Perhaps Bruce Springsteen can say it better than I ever could, from Darkness on the Edge of Town:

“Well everybody’s got a secret Sonny, somethin’ that they just can’t face. Some folks spend their whole lives tryin’ to keep it, they carry it with them every step that they take, ’til some day, they just cut it loose, cut it loose or let it drag ’em down.”

My point here is that as this friend told me, we have to honor these Loyal Soldiers – they aren’t something to be feared or kept forever. We honor the job that they did for us, trying to protect us, helping us cope with the things that our minds were too fragile for at the time in some way. We honor them, but we lay them to rest. Sometimes this takes therapy, time, and energy to overcome. It means facing the unpleasant feelings that we had buried so long ago. If we are to move on, however, it is something that must be done.


How Katie met Doc

To protect the innocent, some names may have been changed.

Doc and I met at my job about a year and a half ago. To me, she is quite probably one of the most amazing people I’d ever met. A high energy magnetic personality, it was hard not to absolutely revel spending whatever time I could chatting with her and enjoying stories of her life and experiences. In fact, she was really only a handful of years ahead of me in terms of my life, so for me, it felt a little like looking into my own future (though she was far more adventurous than I’d ever been). Oh yeah, and she’s Orthodox, which ended up being in and of itself a blessing.

I felt like I’d bonded with her extremely quickly (I’ve always made friends faster than many people are comfortable with), so in perhaps the first time I dropped in to see her on a purely social visit (I do computer work, and I was working on repairing her system), I let go of what was probably the biggest secret of my life. I’m a trans woman – at the time, I was still not full time, and outside of my immediate friends and two very tight lipped and reliable family members, I had told only one other person, My Michelle.

In a massive relief, she was both curious, and she was very supportive and in a way, happy for me. Relatively quickly, she invited me over to her house for Shabbat. I was nervous, because she insisted that if I were comfortable, I should come dressed as Kathryn, which I really hadn’t done much to places where people knew me yet. Still, she and her husband were so welcoming to me, and I really felt very lucky to have met them.

Until this time, though I saw some beauty in Judaism, I also saw a great deal of restriction and even loss of freedom and choice. Doc showed me that though there was some restriction, there was also a great usefulness and a hidden gift within many of the things I saw as negatives. Shabbat, for example, felt restrictive to me – the inability to do anything, or go anywhere not in walking distance, that was hard for me to accept. Instead, she pointed out to me how she and her husband have such intensely busy lives, that were it not for this mandatory day of rest, she’d never get a day of downtime.

Sitting there with her, playing with her baby girl, and just chatting, enjoying such a genuine person’s company, it was easy for me to see what she meant. I think this was when I was first hooked, when I felt that gentle guide in the right direction.

Over the year or so since I’ve been going to visit her at her home, and since we’ve become, I dare say it, close friends, I’ve seen so much that might otherwise be regarded as private and sacred. I’ve been privileged enough to be able to help her through a period of particular difficulty for her, staying at her home, for her sake, and once, for my own safety. I cannot quite express everything she’s done for or meant to me, but in all honesty – I owe her so much. In large part, I even owe her my new faith and religion.