Afraid

When I woke up this morning I was reluctant to get out of bed. I just finished John Bargh’s book Before you know it so I explored my unconscious self to determine what I was feeling in my hidden self. I had to admit that I am afraid of the upcoming trip to Tunisia. What if Ash isn’t there to meet me? To arrive in Tunis at 12:30 am without someone to greet me is a potential nightmare. Frail-looking old white man in hostile Arab country in the middle of the night: easy pickings for the bad guys.

You can see where my head has been at these past few days. I keep dwelling on the scenario of being kidnapped or killed by unknown assailants in a foreign land. Lots of somber faces and gatherings by family and friends that follow the news that I was killed when everyone urged me not to go.

Despite my cocksure attitude as a professional social worker, I’m hopelessly naive when it comes to appraising human activities. I say that I practice due diligence when it comes to assessing situations, but my heart often leads my head into risk ventures. I texted Ash to say that I am nervous. He responded “Why”?

During meditation this morning, I realized that this is the first time I am doing something that has to do with a personal relationship. I know I agonized about taking the big step to get ordained a priest in 1975. Funny, it wasn’t such a big deal going off for a social work degree. But this, venturing half way round the world on a whim that a 28 year old Algerian Muslim and I have something in common — even love and a relationship — is a brand new thing.

I was broken up about Anne in 1973. Broken up, that is, as in being very confused. I had fallen in love, much to my surprise, but I was confronted with the fact that I was sexually more attracted to men than to women. But still, I had strong, deep feelings for Anne. I hadn’t expected to fall in love. I hadn’t expected to hear someone say “I want your body.” My first love, my first sexual experience, well, it really rocked my boat.

And it made the issue of celibacy a real issue. Could I be celibate? Should I be celibate? At that time, in 1975, I came to the conclusion that, as far as Anne was concerned (she being engaged to Ed Ford and all) I could be celibate. I succumbed once in 1978 while drunk with a parishioner’s wife while he was working. An act I quickly regretted and repented.

But it wasn’t until I owned up to being a homosexual in 1982 that the issue of celibacy re-entered my life. My spiritual counselor at Picture Rocks Retreat Center advised me to “have the adolescence I didn’t have the first time.” So, I gave myself permission to engage in sexual activities with men who seemed eager to let me have their way with them.

For the most part, it was fun and I was able to rationalize that celibacy wasn’t compromised since I a) wasn’t having sex with a woman and b) I wasn’t planning on getting married.

But now, here I am, 68 and in dicey health. My will is trying to enjoy the gift of love and friendship with a young man I’ve been in touch with for seven years. From what I gather, he is longing to meet with me. Talk about conflicts! He’s a closeted Muslim. How one can be a confident gay man in that culture beats me.

Is it my will or God’s will in this matter? Either way, I need serenity to accept what I can’t change, and courage to change what I can.

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