Thursday, June 12, 2008

Let the Negotiations Begin

I had a visit on Tuesday night from some people from my church. You all know I am a believer, but also that my idea of The Big Guy does not necessarily take the same form as the Almighty God taught in church, so we don't need to get into a major theological discussion about whether or not He exists. I choose to believe, you don't, all is well. No, I thought maybe we could get into some actual CHURCH bashing, because I don't know, it just doesn't seem like a lot of churches actually have anything to do with, you know, God.

Anyway. I had this visit, and all day I was thinking about it, stewing about it, worrying. Because I might talk tough here on the old blog, and amongst my friends, but deep inside, I cringe from most kinds of confrontations (unless they have to do with my kids; I am good at that). I am brave and strong when thinking about the different possibilities regarding how any particular incident will go, but then when I am faced with any type of "authority" figure, I find myself immediately reverting back to that scuffling, lurking, subservient person that they expect me to be. I have gotten very good at blowing them off by saying all of the things I know they WANT me to say, but I just can't come right and say, "This is what is going on." Which is why I was worried about the prospect of a visit.

But something happened-and since I AM a believer, I choose to say that it was God-and I felt suddenly very powerful. It was, for me, exceedingly strange; we were talking and they asked me how I was doing and suddenly it ALL came spilling out. That I am, in fact, not doing well at all. That the reason I don't go to church is that I am so tired of having every lesson, every class, every freaking song, point out to me all that is lacking in my life. I am a single woman-not by choice. My ex-husband and now Steve did and have done some really, really awful things (the ex did things far worse than Steve, though, and Steve's biggest issues really don't have anything to do with me, but I am of course affected by them), yet I am the one who is left with the stigma of being a single parent. I am tired of the belief-verbalized or not-that we are not a family because there is no father/husband. I told them that they have no idea what it is like to go to a church event and have no one talk to me. Of going to a Scout event and having one person sit with me, a MAN who is married and technically isn't even supposed to talk to me, much less sit down with my kids and I, and feeling grateful that he had enough guts to buck the system. Much, much more was said, too much to go into detail here, but suffice it to say that by the end of the evening, I had both of these grown men crying. That makes me happy, because it means that for a brief moment in time, they both listened. They heard, and they felt, if only for a few minutes, exactly what my life is like. I am not egotistical enough to believe that anything is going to change, but I also hope that by my speaking up, they might choose to hear more often.

They offered to help me, though, which had my back up almost immediately. Not because I don't need help, mind you, but because any offer of help comes with conditions. I said this, too. I said "No, as much as I need help, I don't want your help, because it requires a commitment form me that I am not willing or able to fulfill." I talked about my belief that we are supposed to help everyone without expectation of gain of any kind, and we are supposed to help without taking into account where, or IF, someone goes to church. They both nodded their heads, said you are right, etc...but of course did not offer again.

However: when I got home from work last night, there was a message from one of them asking if I would please call, he had a couple of things to work out with me. The tone of his voice piqued my curiosity, so of course I called back, and that is when the negotiations started. The offer he put on the table to start was that they would provide groceries for a few months, as well as some counseling (hm, clearly he thinks I am just a typical hysterical woman who is losing her mind, right?), in exchange for my presence at church, with my kids, three times a month. I countered with groceries for one month and attendance at my leisure, with or without kids. I mean, Sam is already very active in Scouts, Hannah is in the YW and is also participating in a huge event in August, and Eli has gone hiking, trekking, etc...with them all as well, so it isn't as if I am keeping THEM from participating. At the end of the conversation, we were both satisfied: groceries and counseling for an indefinite time period, in exchange for one church attendance a month, with kids. I was firm about not going on Mother's or Father's Day, though. No way.

In some ways, I think I should feel a little bit guilty. I mean, this isn't a business deal, right? So should I feel guilty for somehow taking advantage of them by accepting their help and knowing that the one weekend a month (kind of like the Army Reserves) is not going to be enough to suddenly make me want to leap into the aisles and start shouting Hallelujah! (though, okay, this is SO not that kind of a church.)? Somehow, I know that I should, but I somehow don't. It's like feeling guilty, once removed. I am not an avaricious person by nature, am not particularly out for whatever I can get. I think what I am is practical. Yes, I need some help right now. And God knows I need counseling (which was really the deal-clincher for me), and he also knows I can't afford it. And I guess I also-whether it is fair or not-think that maybe, after all that they put me through during the divorce and the advent of Owen (illegitimate bastard that he was. What.The.Fuck.Ever.), they owe me. Is that wrong? Yes, I am sure it is.

But I am going to take it, because I know that the God I believe in has nothing to do with whether or not I go to church, and my best friend (in my mind only, but still) Anne Lamott says something like "God loves you exactly the way you are and He loves you too much to let you stay like this. " This is a way for me to get the help I need, because I am really not coping at well with things, and I have to find a way to fix myself. I have to find a way to deal with the shit that is my life, so that I can find me again, that woman who I used to love and cherish and be so proud of. Too much has happened and she is buried, but still, under the rubble, there is a small pocket of air and a little water and light; I just have to have help digging her the rest of the way out.


Julie@My5monkeys said...

I hate taking hand out too and even with guideline toos. I would have done everything you did too. But I'm stubborn in even asking for help. I so relate and I'm married. Hugs from my part of the world to you.

hugabug1 said...

I don't think I'll get into the way I feel about this church.....I'll just say Way to go!! I am so proud of you for standing up for yourself and letting them know exactly what was going on. Maybe they'll at least change their attitude towards you a little. I'm so glad you are going to have some help with the things you need. Yes, it's difficult to accept, but you totally deserve to have a little peace of mind.

Martin said...

wow, a few things strike me here.

-The pressure to get you to the Church, I find that uncomfortable personally.

-In another way, they want you there, for whatever reason, they are willing to negotiate with you to get you there, they value your presence there.
That MUST mean something. Maybe it's one of these 'mysterious ways' we keep hearing about.

-Seriously woman, where are you living that people would treat a single mother as a fucking outcast, I know no where is perfect and you will always get a few people looking down their noses at you but I can't really comprehend what you describe at all.

-That was really well written.

Tara R. said...

I hate that you just can't live in peace and not have to negotiate for basic needs. I so wish you lived near me. I'm proud of you for sticking up for yourself. That's huge. Good for you!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a religious person so I will avoid any comment on the creepy vibe I get from them practically bribing you to attend services....

BUT, I think it is a good thing that you can take the offered help. I too am the sort of person who doesn't like to take handouts, but, you know, it's not about you. Not really. They're offering to help with groceries that means food for your kids... that also means that you don't have to find a second job to afford groceries which means more time for and with your kids. I also think that it is wonderful that you will be able to get some counseling. Again, a happy mom makes for happier kids. So, don't think of it as taking handouts for you. You're just doing what you need to do to be the mom you want to be.

AND... I think it's wonderful that you were able to stand up for yourself and that you were able to make the people you previously thought would never understand your situation have, even if only briefly, a glimpse into your life. How unfairly you have been treated by the congregation. Go you for making them LISTEN TO YOU!

I think I say this at least once a week, but honestly, Kori, with each post you write, I admire you more.

Lynn said...

As a fellow single parent, I hear what you are saying about church. It can be really hard to find a place where you feel you fit in. It made me stop going. But how awesome that you spoke your mind!! Good for you. And accepting help is not a bad thing. I hope it eases some of your stresses. Hugs to you!

Florinda said...

I just wanted to say you had me right here:

"I thought maybe we could get into some actual CHURCH bashing, because I don't know, it just doesn't seem like a lot of churches actually have anything to do with, you know, God."

And that is why I'm rarely seen in a church, and I'm actually OK with that.

Momo Fali said...

I believe that everything happens for a reason. You have no reason to feel guilty.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to feel bad about taking a hand out. ;-) Often that is God's grade and we shouldn't let pride get in the way.

April said...

I think you did a great job of telling them how you feel, what your life is, and I know it wasn't easy with them in particular. Do the deal for as long as it works for you. The moment it becomes too great a cost (emotionally, whatever), stop. You'll know, and what's better is you'll be able to stand tall and say so.

Mama Smurf said...

Good for you! We believe in the same God, btw! I consider myself a spiratual person but NOT a religious person. We left the Catholic religion 5 years ago when the priest that was suppose to baptise my daughter was prosecuted for child pornography charges. Haven't been back there since. I wish you and your FAMILY much luck and happiness!

FreedomFirst said...

Don't feel bad. I think they are the ones who should feel guilty about demanding an attendance from you in exchange for help. I'm glad they are offering you something, though.

I'm glad you were able to say what was on your mind. It always makes me even more bitter when I have to talk to someone I have a problem with, and I don't find the balls to actually open up and tell them what I think. I just come away hating them even more for not seeing that I want nothing to do with them.

And like April said, you're not signing a contract. If you get sick of it just tell them you're done.

Anonymous said...

I know first hand how hard it is to suck it up and accept help, even with negotiations on how that help is received. Especially from church groups that have strings attached to everything. You have to do what you have to do to get by, but at least you are somewhat able to do it on your own terms. I too wish you lived closer by, it would be so much easier to help you find all the places that don't hold something over your head to get by.

Jen W said...

I'm going to echo Xbox4NappyRash's comment about your location. In no way should you be made to feel like an outcast just because of your marital status (or lack thereof).

IMHO, In some ways a church is like a great pair of shoes. They should feel comfortable and you should look forward to putting your feet in them. Perhaps if you don't feel that way at the church you mention, maybe it's just not the right church for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that when Jesus was doling out the help (feeding and clothing the poor, healing the sick), he didn't put any conditions on what he gave.

I'm sure sure what type of church this is, but this doesn't sound like true Christian love and generosity.

(But I AM glad for you that you're getting the help!)