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Subject: Whither healing? From: email@example.com (Bryan Erik Slatner) Date: 1997/02/25 Message-Id: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Newsgroups: alt.religion.christian.boston-church [More Headers]
Oh, dear me. Such thoughts are going through my head. Scary shit, let me tell you. Very scary...
Special thanks going out to the lovely Ms. email@example.com, who said some very wise things to me tonight which, apparently, have helped me unleash a torrent of venting. I've been venting for 2 hours now, and I'm going to vent some more. Someone remind me to change the air filter, please.
Please bear with me. I'm exhausted. If my chair were more comfortable, I'd probably go to sleep right now. Instead, I think I need to call my chiropracter tomorrow.
Joy. <insert silly cackling giggle here>
I've not been hanging around the newsgroup much the past couple of months, in spite of my "Triumphant Comeback" posting a few months ago. This is due, in part, to the fact that I am very busy and, in part, because I simply have not wanted to be here.
Don't get me wrong. I miss a lot of you a great deal. I just haven't been able to bring myself to read the group. Frankly, just thinking about the ICC makes me weary and makes me depressed.
So, why, on a Monday night at about midnight, did I click on over to the ICC's web site? What posessed me to want to know what the ICC was up to? And why was I not surprised to discover that nothing had changed? It boggles the mind.
Despite great effort on my part to get the ICC out of my life, this obstreperous group keeps poking its way into my mind, and into my heart. Frankly, it's fucking up my emotional well-being (pardon the expletive; rest assured: more follow). It's like one of those nasty little worms that burrows its way into your skin and, if you try to pull it out too hard, it breaks and the rest of it slides way down into your flesh. It goes away on the surface, but it's still buried there, infecting you and eating you.
Boy, oh boy. Today was SUCH a bad day. My girlfriend is currently living 320 miles away from me, and I had to put her on a train to go home. On top of that, I'm doing the work of 7 highly-skilled programmers, and I'm getting paid the salary of about 1/2 of one (for you net savvy folks out there, I'm currently faced with the daunting challenge of writing an SMTP server that can half a million pieces of incoming and outgoing mail per hour). Oh, and did I mention I'm broke? It just keeps getting better and better <wry grin> <insert pathetic violin music here. Pity party! Pity party! Grab your hats and noise makers! Rah rah rah!>
So why, of all nights, when I was already depressed, did my little brain pipe up and yell "YO! BRYAN! THINK ABOUT THE ICC!!!! IT REALLY STINKS, DOESN'T IT!?!?! IT REALLY MESSED UP YOUR LIFE, DIDN'T IT!!?!? HAHAHAHAHAHAH! YOU SUCK! LOOK AT HOW PATHETIC YOU WERE! LOOK AT HOW PATHETIC YOU *ARE*!"
You would think that my brain would be looking out for my own best interests, but apparently it's being vengeful because I've been making it work overtime on work-related stuff (I've been dreaming about Windows NT at night. I'm surprised I haven't woken up screaming, yet). It wants a vacation, but is it willing to put forth the effort to figure out where to get the MONEY for that? Nooooo. It would rather think about the ICC. Go figure.
The sad part of this is that my experience was MILD compared to those of some others.
When I left the ICC 10 months ago, on Easter Sunday, I thought I was free. I felt as if this great weight had been taken off my back, and that I was free, once again, to pursue my life. I was grateful that I'd finally shuffled off that tyranical coil, and that I was my own man again.
How could I have been so naive as to think that? If I could go back and talk to myself at that time, I'd laugh at me for being an idiot. Then I'd poke me in the chest and stick my tongue out. Neener neener neener.
As it turns out, the ICC hangs around like the odor of beer vomit on mildew-eaten animal-soiled carpet. No, actually, that's wrong: that imagery isn't anywhere NEARLY disgusting enough.
Oh, yes, the ICC hangs on. You think you're free, but you are dead wrong. It's purely illusory. It keeps coming back. Your mother warned you not to feed the stray kitty cat, but you did anyway, and now you're stuck with it.
For me, the ICC started popping up again *very* shortly after I left. I was still living with three ICC members, which didn't help much but, for the most part, I managed to ignore them. I even let them hold Bible talks in my basement and have parties. They let me be me, I let them be them. I thought it would be a pretty decent arrangement. How silly of me.
One night, about a month after I left the church, one of my roommates knocked on my door. I was sleeping at the time. "Bryan?" he said. He never called me "bro" or "brother" anymore. It was funny to watch him, at first, because he would start to call me one of these things and would stop himself.
I grunted at him that I was asleep, and was very content to stay that way.
"Bryan?" he said again, "are you awake?"
I indicated that I was, indeed, awake, but that I was not at all happy about it.
"We need to talk to you," he said through the closed door.
"Can't it wait until morning?" I asked.
"No," he said, "we want to get this resolved now."
I knew, of course, what he was talking about. Almost anyone who's ever been in the ICC knows, at this point, what he was talking about. I was honestly surprised that they hadn't had this conversation with me earlier.
Groggily, I went into the living room and sat down on the couch. The roommates were arranged in a semi-circle in front of me. I felt, for just a moment, like I was about to be sentenced.
"Bryan," said Dave, the self-appointed spokesman for the group of them, "we've done some studying, and sought some advice, and we've come to the conclusion that it's just not right for us to live here with you anymore."
I don't honestly recall how I responded to this. Dave and the others indicated that they didn't want to argue with me about it. I didn't want to argue with them, either. What would be the point? Still, if Dave hadn't felt some strange need to justify himself to me further (there's something telling in that, methinks), the conversation would have ended there. Instead, it ended almost an hour later.
I had been under the initial impression that they were going to move out and I was going to stay where I was. Dave had other ideas. He wanted ME to move out as well. I couldn't understand why. Doing so made no sense, from my point of view, especially since I was planning on leaving Colorado after cashing in some stock options January. Dave explained though, that he wanted me to leave as well because he didn't want me talking to his father about the ICC. His father was our landlord. I guess Dave had seen my copy of "Combatting Cult Mind Control" lying around and was scared that I might prevent his father from ever joining the church. I should have known.
I promised Dave that I had no interest in talking to his father. He seemed skeptical, but there wasn't any way he was going to force me out, so he dropped the subject.
As I got up to go back to bed, Kevin, the only roommate, at the time, who I had any respect for at all, said to me "Thanks, bro" (he was the only one in the church who still called me that), "I knew you would be a gentleman about this." I just said, "You're welcome, Kev." I might have been less nice about it if I hadn't heard my bed calling sweet lullabies to me in the background.
They had told me that they were going to out of the house by the end of the month. That gave them about ten days to pack up their stuff and go. Not that they even had a lot to pack: most of the furniture, except for what was in their bedrooms, was mine or belonged to the landlord.
The end of the month (May) came and went. They still weren't gone. Still, they weren't giving me any money for the rent and utilities. Many of my friends and loved ones, at the time, urged me to just throw them out, but I refrained from doing so in the hopes that, if I kept my mouth shut, they would be out of my life, peacefully, very soon.
Of course, as with all things ICC, this was not to be. About the middle of the next month (June), they still weren't gone and, in fact, didn't look like they were going to be any time soon. Apparently, the leader of the Colorado Springs church had given them an ultimatum: out by the end of June. I was content to wait that long.
Then, one day near the end of June, I came home from work. I had the following conversation with Dave.
"Uh, Bryan, guess what's in the spare bedroom?" he asked.
"Ummmmm," I replied, "My books and exercise equipment?" Had I given this answer at 7:00am that morning, the answer would have been correct.
"No," said Dave, "Selvan [another single man in the church] is in there. He moved in today."
I was, frankly, flabbergasted. This was MY house, in MY name, and MY name only. They hadn't asked me if they could do this. They hadn't even mentioned they were THINKING about doing this. Had they ASKED me, I probably would have said "Yes, he can stay here for a little while," but they hadn't done that. According to Dave, it was a very sudden decision and they hadn't been able to reach me at work to consult with me.
Those who know me well know that it requires a herculean effort to get me angry or upset. Normally, I am a very tolerant, patient man, and I don't get angry unless I feel the situation warrants it (and even then, I usually don't do it. This new wrinkle in my life, though, made me LIVID. I could not believe the AUDACITY of these people!
I had been up until 6:00am the previous night and, on 2 hours sleep, worked a 10-hour day at work. As such, I was way too tired to be angry, so I went to bed.
The next day, I penned a letter to the leader of the Colorado Springs Christian Church pointing out just how incredibly hypocritical it was for him to, on one day, say that it is "just not right" for ICC members to live with me and, on another day, allow an additional one to move into my house. I never got a response, so I faxed a copy of that letter, plus a new letter, to the CSCC's leader's discipler in Denver. I never got a response to that, either.
Around the beginning of July, the roommates all did, eventually, leave. Between the three of them, they owed me about $1,500, but that didn't concern me. I was just glad to be rid of them, at that point.
As the last roommate left the house, I sat back and looked around. Surely, now, I was free. Surely, now I could get on with me life. Surely, now, things would be better.
I astonish myself with my own naivete sometimes. In retrospect, thinking that the ICC, and all the issues that go along with it, were out of my life for good was just plain stupid.
A few months later, I came into work one day (having called in sick the previous day), to find out that my boss wanted to talk to me. I went into his office, whereupon he proceeded to chew me out for a mistake I'd made a couple of days prior. Granted it was a big mistake, it was my fault, and I deserved to be chewed out. I promised him it would never happen again. He agreed with me that it would never happen again and he presented me with a letter informing me that I was suspended for two days while the company "considered [my] future with [them]." I felt that such an action was a little severe and pointed that out.
While I was in the ICC, my job performance suffered a great deal. I found myself going into work tired and weary. I found myself to be unmotivated, largely because I was depressed or angry most of the time. During the year and two months that I was in the ICC, I was chastised a number of times by my boss for missing deadlines and for not getting work done. Strangely, this had never been a complaint BEFORE I joined the ICC, nor had it been a complaint since I'd LEFT the ICC. In general, I thought that my employers were extremely pleased with my recent performance.
Apparently, this was not the case. My boss (my new boss, that is: the original president/founder of the company was retiring) proceeded to detail a number of infractions (missing deadlines, etc.) I'd made when I was in the ICC. This concerned me, because I'd talked to my previous boss about these issues almost immediately after I left the ICC, and I had thought he understood what had been going on in my life. I also thought he had noticed that my performance had improved remarkably since I left the church. Apparently, this was not the case.
I cannot tell you how absolutely humiliated I felt. I was sitting in an office in front of a man I respected a great deal. Before I'd come to work for the company, I knew about this man and his work, and I looked up to him and his work like a child looks up to a father. I started to explain to him what had been happening with me at the time of the previous infractions. To my eternal shame, I actually started to cry. I couldn't help it...too many memories were flooding back into my head, and I was very, very angry that this awful period in my life was coming back to haunt me yet again. After I finished, he said that he would take what I said under advisement. Then he asked me to leave.
I came back to work two days later to find out that they had decided to fire me.
So, once again, my happy life was uprooted and turned completely upside down. I had to move immediately. The money I'd been counting on from my stock options was not going to come. I had limited funds in the bank, and I needed to begin working again as soon as possible. At present, I have the bills of someone making $40,000/year, and I'm making a little more than half that.
These incidents, in and of themselves, are making me extremely depressed, right now. To quote the man who fired me, "I can't believe my life is happening to me." I used to have such a stable, calm life, and now everything is topsy turvy and I find myself struggling very hard to keep my head above the water. At the time I got fired, I kind of put everything I was feeling aside, to concentrate on getting myself on my feet again as soon as possible. Tonight, for some reason, they're finally catching up to me and I am downright pissed off.
My girlfriend was looking at me the other day and she said something to me that no one had ever said before. She said that I had "a lot of malice and anger in [my] eyes." For a moment, I was nonplussed. I had no idea what she was talking about. Then I realized that I am, in fact, the sort of person, who stuffs his negative feelings deep inside and very rarely lets them out to play. I do this because those sorts of feelings scare the living shit out of me.
So what is it I'm so angry about? I knew that my girlfriend was right almost the instant she said that, but when you stuff a lot of feelings, it's kind of hard to remember just exactly what it IS you've stuffed. And even then, you don't WANT to remember, because what you've essentially created is an emotional Pandora's box, and God help you if you actually look inside.
I couldn't help myself. I took a few peeks inside the box that day, and a whole lot of rage was welling inside me as a result. I didn't show it, but it was there. Most of what I'd seen was ICC-related, and that just made me angrier because I'd thought I'd put all of that garbage behind me. Instead, here it was again, in my face, taunting me.
Here are some of the things I saw inside the box:
A sad-faced red-head saying "Bro, you think too much. Just trust that God knows what's best for your life."
A middle-aged single man saying, "Bryan, do you think maybe your best friend was raped and beaten because God wants her to come back to the church?" I have never in my life come closer to actually killing a person than I did that day.
The collective smiling faces of "God's servants on earth looking" at me with contrived, marionette smiles on their faces while I, with the flu and a 103 degree temperate, set up the sound equipment for a Sunday service because I was the only one who knew how to do it.
The face of a beautiful, vibrant woman turned ugly with sadness and despair because she was forbidden to marry the father of her children.
The text of a lesson plan for a Sunday school class, whose purpose was to make the children trust the ICC implicitly and to follow them no matter what, and to teach them that God punishes those who don't obey their leaders. What's worse is that I actually almost taught that lesson, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. So I read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" aloud, instead.
Have they no shame?
But there were bigger things in the box.
I saw the face of one of my best friends in the world, whom I loved like a father, telling me he was going to throw me out of the church, and cease to associate with me. I saw him, and my church's leader, hammering me for 3 hours with Bible verses at a lunch meeting, trying to get me to reveal the the identity of an anonymous church critic (who, it turns out, was actually me, but that's another story).
I saw that same face, this time in a basement, for another three hours, hammering me for being critical of the church and for trying to teach others to do the same without having to feel guilty about it.
And that's not all. There was a great deal more. A GREAT deal more. And all of it pisses me off. I hate to say it, but if Kip McKean were in my office with me right now, I would probably be beating his head against the wall while screaming "Don't you GET IT?!?!?!?" at the top of my lungs.
Dear God, will this EVER be over? Am I going to have to deal with this bullshit for the rest of my life? Is this going to keep coming back to haunt me over and over again? Is there ANY respite? Is there? Will I ever stop seeing the weeping faces of people whom I genuinely care about telling me that I'm damned for all eternity? Will I ever stop hearing voices deprecating my ability to reason because I refused to accept blatant lies? Will I ever stop hearing the collective voices of congregations raised in song praising THEMSELVES?!?!?
You can probably tell by now that I am a smidgeon upset by all of this. I simply don't know what to do about it. I have forgiven thousands of dollars of debt. I have forgiven hundreds of wrongs against me. I have forgiven those who have caused me to weep. Yet, the box remains, and as I look out on the horizon I see it dotted with people I know, dressed in long black robes. They have red happy faces paint over pursed lips, and they are all whispering to me: "Your soul is in jeopardy." "You think too much." "Trust God." "Your pride is killing you." "You are immoral." "You are bad." "Satan has a hold on your heart." "Trust us." "Come back." "Trust us." "Come back." "Trust us." "Come back." "We are your friends, you can't rely on anyone else, not even yourself." "Trust us." "Come back."
Whither healing, dammit?
Oh, hell, I need a beer.
Bryan Erik Slatner, Home Page Press, firstname.lastname@example.org
My opinions are my own, not those of my employer.
©1997 by Bryan Slatner <email@example.com>. All rights reserved.
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