Where I Am

After what happened with Boyd Conley, I was faced with a physical and moral dilemma. He had made my body aware of the pleasures of desire, and I wanted to replicate that feeling, but I didn’t want to replicate the fiasco of falling for another loser. 

I dabbled in the surreal world of online dating for a time in 2000, skulking about in Yahoo chat rooms, finding people to talk to. Most of them were disgusting or obnoxious. 

One of them, whom I will call C, became a friend and we talked on instant messenger or email just about every day. We even wrote some actual letters to each other. He read and supportively critiqued my writing, and I enjoyed his virtual company. Then one day, we realised we were falling in love with each other, and I found myself immersed into a heady ocean of emotion. He even wrote to my father asking his permission to court me.

My father never saw that letter, though. 

What happened around that time was that C had been talking about a place near him where he wanted us to spend our wedding night. He wrote me a flowery fantasy about homey mornings together afterwards eating English muffins. It all made my heart ache, and I didn’t know why. I do know that one morning I sat in a corner of our bathroom, the only lockable room in our apartment where I could sit and think, and I hugged my knees to myself and thought about all C wanted to offer me, and I think I actually felt my heart going cold. It wasn’t anything he had done. It was just me, panicking about giving myself to someone and thereby risking losing myself, wondering if I could ever trust any man ever again. So I broke off with C, rather abruptly (he was very angry and accused me viciously of playing games with him, which only solidified my terror). How could I explain to him these feelings and fears I didn’t understand myself? 

For years I longed for men, for a fulfilling and healthy relationship, while also keeping my distance because they scared me. The first time my husband put his arm around me, on our second or third date, and kissed the top of my head, I went rigid in fear. I liked him so much, but I couldn’t get it out of my head that he too would just use me and go on his merry way without me, and so I hesitated. (For the record, he has proved a very devoted and wonderful man over the last ten years, and I am glad I found him.)

I write of all the above to provide context for this: I’ve been struggling over the last five months with an issue that I never dreamed I’d have. It blindsided me completely. It involves a person in whom I had reposed implicit trust, a musician of whom I have spoken lovingly and respectfully in the story I have told here. What happened is so at odds with the person I thought I knew that I’m still struggling to come to grips with it. I’m not going to say specifically what happened, because it’s not the concern of the entire internet, but let’s just say that it involved Assumptions and Undue Exercise of Church Authority about an issue that was not really an issue, which he would have known if he ever actually, yanno, TALKED to me about it first.

The entire situation plunged me into distress on two levels. First, there was the personal level of betrayal; second was the broader reminder of what happened in Kentucky. Nobody talked to me there, either. The Ministry judged me as a rebel, a dangerous influence to the holiness of their young people, because I chose to stick up for what I believed (that musical instruments were not forbidden by God) instead of lie before God and the church and say that I believed they were just to become a member and be in good standing. They never talked to me. Only to my dad.

Now, 17 years later, certain leaders in a church whom I have served with devotion and dedication for at least seven years tried to get me booted from a leadership position of my own. I am happy to say it backfired on them big time, because the pastor and at least two other elders weren’t having any of it and staunchly supported me, and I found out what was happening and called them out on it before they had a chance to finish whatever their underhanded Final Deposition Plan was. We have had A Talk, but nothing has been solved, not really. I feel like we are in an armed truce, both sticking to our guns and not firing.

I was so shaken by the entire experience that I went and attended another church for about a month. See me, needing to have a family emergency or serious illness to miss fulfilling my church duties, escaping to a non-toxic environment where more people greeted and talked to me on my first Sabbath there than have done the same in the eight years I have attended my own church. And then remembered me and did the same the next week, and the next, and the next. I felt so loved and so safe.

But I had obligations to fulfill, so I went back to my own church. I couldn’t decide what to do (do I abandon ship? do I remain at my post?), and finally I decided that if I was not asked to continue in my Sabbath school teacher position (every October is a new church year), I would take that as God giving me permission to leave.

But I was asked to continue in my role as teacher, so I’m staying, and I am struggling to learn how to move forward from here. My absolute trust is a fragile thing, given sparingly, and when it is betrayed, my reaction is to simply shut down.

What that has entailed most notably in my life: the music is gone, again. I actually have been physically unable to listen to Christopher Parkening and other classical guitar pieces that I loved. I still love music generally, but I find myself listening to different kinds now. I’ve thought of quietly removing this site, but the story I tell on it is still truth even if time has changed my views on certain players in it, and I just can’t delete it as if it doesn’t matter. Because it does.

I am not back in the closet, though. I am very busy with other endeavours, channelling my creativity in other ways. I’m taking an art class. I’m writing a book.

The music is still there, and Éiden is a patient harp. She will be here all through my night, and she will be there when my heart wakes up in the morning.

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4 comments on “Where I Am

  1. Emily says:

    Praying for you, Jael, my dear friend…

  2. Emily says:

    We should talk sometime.

  3. Charles Smith says:

    Dear Jael, First of all, please pardon my long delay in writing to you in response to your August post “Where I Am.” I have read and reread and read again each word of your post. You are probably the most creative and amazing person I know. Am so sorry to hear that the music is gone for the moment — I’m waiting for the day when it (and your harp) returns. And equally sorry to hear that you have been so deeply hurt once again with trust issues. Reading about your early years, I just hope that Charles or I didn’t say things that were hurtful to you or brought memories to the forefront that you wanted to remain packed away.

    Have just one question: Regarding the group that was at your home when we visited you a few weeks ago, which church group were they from? They seemed lively and loving! Hope that has been your experience.

    Please know Jael that you are in our prayers and that we have deep respect and appreciation for you. Glad to hear in your post that Dan has been such a support. I still clearly remember that Sabbath at Repell’s house when Dan came to “court” you!!

    Do keep writing your blog/post, please. I enjoy hearing what you’re up to! And if there is EVER anything I/we can do for you, do let us know. Please give our warm greetings to Dan and your precious daughters.

    With love, Lois

    On Sun, Aug 13, 2017 at 8:16 AM, The Harp in the Closet wrote:

    > JB posted: “After what happened with Boyd Conley, I was faced with a > physical and moral dilemma. He had made my body aware of the pleasures of > desire, and I wanted to replicate that feeling, but I didn’t want to > replicate the fiasco of falling for another loser.” >

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