Today I find myself in a place I’ve successfully avoided for quite a while now, in the deepest parts of my heart where I’m fully aware of my vulnerabilities. Fear of hurting keeps me out of this place, but several things have happened in the last two days that make being here unavoidable. I’m facing, once again, the agony of hope.
Things kicked up for me yesterday when I met with the director of an organization in Baltimore that provides support to women involved in prostitution. My heart breaks for these women. I’ve had to wrestle with my own prejudices about why or how women end up in prostitution. I could go on about that one issue, but there’s more that I need to say, so I’ll flesh that out at another time. Suffice it to say that I’m filled with tremendous compassion for these women. And fear. I’m afraid of what is lurking in my heart. I’m afraid of leading the upcoming focus group with them. I don’t understand their situation. And, while I know that the vast majority of these women (100% according to the director) are survivors, I’m not sure how our stories are similar. And, I’m even more afraid that they aren’t very different. And there’s more…
I’ve worked with sex workers before, in DC. In my mind, there was a personal distance between them and me and my story. A cushion of sorts that I don’t have in Baltimore. At the risk of revealing more of my story in this forum than many may think is appropriate: my husband once informed me that he could, “get a blowjob on any corner of Baltimore city for $20”. I’ll refrain from explicitly stating whether or not he admitted to ever availing himself of the opportunity, but, you can imagine that there’s only one reason for me to be bringing it up. So, can you imagine my emotions entering a room with these ladies, with their stories intersecting with mine in more ways than I care to admit? And there I will be, to serve them, to inform them of the availability of civil legal services for sexual assault survivors (ie., to help them sue, divorce, get restraining orders against, get compensation from, gain immigration status in spite of their attackers.) How does this happen? Is this irony? Fate?
And then, last night, I am talking to a friend who was telling me how heartbroken he was for his cousin and his wife because they are separated and only the cousin feels like fighting for the marriage. His words were so filled with hope for what could be if both were willing to fight. I almost wrote him off as naive and idealistic, since he’s never been married, but I could really see that he believes the power of forgiveness, and in forever. That conversation, coupled with Tania’s post yesterday haunted me. I feel this poking at my stone cold heart. I hear a voice cajoling, “You want to hope. You want to believe. You know you do.” And I’m afraid the voice is right. Here’s what I want, if I should dare to be so foolish as to put it in writing: companionship, intimacy, amazing sex and a partner for life (thanks India!). Forever! I just finished telling a friend who’s wrapping up his divorce how I don’t believe in forever, that there’s no point in ever trying again. Today, I so want to be wrong about that.
And then there’s the church. Another institution I’ve practically given up on. (By the way, for those who don’t know me personally, I was married for 7 years to a man I pastored a church with for 9.) I’m so angry, disgusted and disappointed with “Christians” I could spit nails. I’ve been blogging rather irregularly about my journey with that on Unpacking Faith. Well, today I listened to my friend Kwesi’s audioblog of his experiences in New Orleans. He’s there on a missions trip. He shares my disappointment with the church, but unlike me, he is still actively engaged. His experience has called me to hope, even for the church. And sometimes this is even harder than hoping for companionship, intimacy, great sex and a partner for life (ideally in one person!). Sorry, I needed to fulfill my insatiable need to be irreverent at least once a day.
Anyway, I’m a mess today. I feel my heart again. It’s there. It’s still beating. It still hurts some, aches from longing, bleeds with compassion, and agonizes over my abundant flaws.
I’m so glad I have so many people around me who love me through this all.