Dealing with several things all at once:
–1: The death of a dear friend of 30 years, the one in my College Memoirs whom I called “Pearl,” my confidante. It happened two months ago. But us college friends, the old roommies and InterVarsity people, the group who shared “Journal” e-mails until Facebook arose–we weren’t told.
One of us got re-married in mid-October. I went to the wedding, disappointed to see that Pearl was not there.
She died later that week.
We last were on her page in September, when she posted about her child.
The Journal group found out around November 18, when somebody went to Pearl’s FB page and then posted what she discovered.
But that day, I was dealing with all sorts of headaches regarding publishing my books, and wasn’t on FB at all. So I didn’t find out until a week ago Saturday, when I went to her FB to see what she was up to lately.
It took a moment to process the posts about her death, and once I did, I was just–stunned. Heartbroken.
We were just coming off COVID quarantine when this happened. (We’re all vaccinated, so COVID was just a bit of a cold that made the Hubby lose his sense of smell for a couple of weeks.) I’d hoped to go back to church the following day, only to find this late Saturday night. Instead, I was basically catatonic.
There was a day of deep grief. Since then I’ve been hit with this intense midlife crisis, the sense of everyone getting older and older even though I could swear we were twenty just a couple of weeks ago, the sense of impending Death. Same thing happened after my dad died in 2016; this and COVID have intensified it. I’ll be fine during the day, then get hit with it in the middle of the night, or when I watch a 30-year-old TV show or look at a recent picture of someone from college.
And through it all I miss Pearl, who just isn’t there anymore.
And I wonder what happened. The family was vague, just said she had health problems and died in her sleep. I knew about the rheumatoid arthritis; she had that in college. But all these years, she’d managed, she’d survived various health scares. I wonder if it was COVID. She was vaxxed, but there was the RA. There are also the full ICU beds because of COVID anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers selfishly refusing to take the needs of their neighbors into account. Did she die of COVID? Did she die because she couldn’t get needed care because COVID is overwhelming health providers? Did COVID take yet another friend/family member? Or was it something else entirely?
Farewell, sweet Pearl….
–2: This part is a bit more lighthearted. While I was away from church pre-vaccine, we somehow acquired a large group of converts. They were attracted through studying the church intellectually–the same way I was. But on Sunday I sat with them and discovered a strong sense of Convertitis and Orthodox Triumphalism.
It’s very familiar. I suffered from it myself 15 years ago, and shared it with Richard, until I began to discover that people in my new church were human, too.
Until my priest said that River of Fire was too polemic and should focus on what’s good in Orthodoxy and not what’s bad in the other churches.
Until I heard somebody yelling at a parish General Assembly.
Until I saw that most people don’t follow the fast strictly, or care about the organ and pews, or even know a lot about their own theology that the converts find so attractive.
Until I began to see the drawbacks even in following the church that claims to be unchanged since the days of the Apostles.
We have our spats and flirting; we don’t just sit all coffee hour opining about the Filioque or hating on other churches. You’re more likely to talk about gardening or kids or the next fundraiser.
Our new converts praised the church for being so welcoming, while I remember a time when people said the opposite.
My BFF and I are more likely to wear a Prussian uniform (him–this actually happened) or a Gothy top (me) than a prayer rope or a headscarf.
Part of staying Orthodox after the honeymoon period, is accepting that the people are not perfect.
Nowadays when I talk about problems in other churches, it focuses on harm being done by bad theology, or grifters, or abuse–things like that. It’s about harm being done to the entire Christian body by certain attitudes. I came to Orthodoxy not to be better than other people, but to stop worrying that nearly everyone alive was destined to end up in Hell. I came to find a loving God. I can recognize the good in other churches that are not Orthodox. I can also recognize that various churches–including Orthodox–can be so obsessed with doctrinal purity that they don’t accept science or life experiences that prove some of their attitudes are wrong.
–3: I’m facing a writing club Christmas party today. Normally I get into these biannual parties. The conversation used to be interesting. But lately, it seems like everyone who shows up is retired and I have nothing in common with them, so we sit and talk about very little of interest, if anything, before the food finally comes. Well, there’s writing, but nobody talks about that, and half the people are spouses who don’t write.
We have liberal members, but we also have a bunch of people who are right-wing religious and/or Trumpers. Our club party in July ended with a bunch of people getting into an argument about things like CRT, right-wing talking points being flung around, and me hearing a certain loved one’s disturbing attitudes on cultural issues.
I finally got up and walked out of the house. I was shaken and upset for days, wondering if any of these relationships could survive. I was finally able to put it out of my head and move on.
I don’t want a repeat of this.
Then last week, after a club meeting, somebody brought up a transgender issue and I became very uncomfortable. Frickin’ politics ruining frickin’ EVERYTHING. It makes you not want to leave the house, except even there it isn’t safe.
–4: Over the past several years, since we got Hulu, I’ve been rewatching Buffy and Angel, which I hadn’t seen since one pass of re-runs after they went off the air years ago.
Last night, I got to THAT EPISODE of Buffy. I was so disturbed that I had to google and see if I was the only one to feel this way: Spike trying to rape Buffy was NOT AT ALL in his character.
Apparently that scene was one of the writers exorcising her own demons, because Joss wanted her to do so. But it just wasn’t something that Spike would’ve done to Buffy. Another thing that disturbed me was how Buffy had treated him for the past couple of seasons, especially during Season 6. I guess the writers wanted us to hate Spike, but instead I was upset with Buffy for abusing Spike. Spike was hardly a saint, doing his own abuse, but she’d punch him, she’d sleep with him and then say he disgusted her and she can’t love him, etc. etc. Meanwhile, she’s letting her friends say bad things about him, too.
And yes, other people have indeed noticed this. I found articles written by women complaining that Buffy had become an abuser. For example: Defending Spike Part 1 and Kristen Smirnov’s Domestic Abuse and Gender Role Reversal in Season 6: My Letter to Mutant Enemy.
The writers were so intent on making us hate Spike, because he was an evil soulless thing, that they did this rape scene–
when the whole time they’d been showing us Spike on a redemption arc even without a soul. We saw Buffy falling in love with him. We sympathized with Spike because we saw that he was in love with Buffy and that it was turning him away from evil.
But after showing us this, the writers got mad at the viewers for seeing it clearly, and accused us of being the type to write love letters to serial killers. It was gaslighting. Them having Spike try to rape Buffy was like them abusing US now, along with Spike’s character. They wanted us to think that Xander’s constant snipes at Spike were Xander seeing the situation properly. They wanted us to agree that Buffy’s self-righteous abuse of Spike was how Good and Decent People™ behave.
While reading “Defending Spike” last night, I realized that Buffy treated Spike exactly the same as Shawn treated me back in college. And there in black and white, I saw somebody else confirm that yes, this is extremely abusive behavior. The writer saw it as abusive when a woman does it, and pointed out that a man doing it is clearly seen as an abuser. And well, Shawn was male. So hey. That explains why I always sympathized with Spike here.
Abusers can so get into your head that for years afterward you wonder if you were the actual abuser. Shawn and Phil (also in college) both did this to me, as did the so-called “friends” who abused me a decade ago, Richard and Tracy. That’s part of the reason for my memoirs on both college and Richard/Tracy, to try to get into what really happened and sort it out. It’s a lot of work and reflection. And the conclusion is that I’m not the abuser at all. But they can make you think you are, even 30 years later, even when intellectually you know that you were the victim.
And that’s my very-long catchall catchup post.