Tag Archives: life

Things that made me hard

Get your mind out of the gutter – that’s not what I’m talking about here.

On second thought, don’t – I like your mind in the gutter.  This is a pretty sinful website, after all, isn’t it?

Anyway – that really isn’t what I’m wanting to talk about today.

There have been a number of events in my life that affected me and the way that I interact with the world.  These are things that have shaped who I am and how I interact with people, places, and things – but most importantly, people.  These are the things that made me a hard man, that gave me an edge, that continue to give me the gravitas and presence that caused one of my former subs to remark, “you read as DOMINANT from about 1000 paces… I kind of went o.O GAH the first time I saw your photo… and you do the Dom voice.”

The funny thing is, I’m kind of moving away from that nowadays, by choice.

For much of my adult life, I’ve been hard like a brick.  I was strong, with edges that were mostly sharp.  But the thing about a brick is that while it’s very strong, if you pound on it long enough or hard enough, it shatters.

I had a real brick-shattering event a few years back, and it left me broken for awhile, but I learned from it, and with some minor stumbles here and there, I’ve come back stronger than I was before.

It sounds a bit arrogant to my ears, but I’d prefer to think that I’m more like water now.  I seamlessly mold myself to my environment, I resist blunt force, and given time I even tear down mountains.

But it took me a long time to get here.

I grew up in a mostly boring home.  I’m caucasian and have lived in California for my entire life.  My father is an attorney and my mother was a stay-at-home housewife.  We lived in the country, on a horse ranch.  My family always seemed to have minor money troubles. My father had a very feast or famine income stream and he did none of the things that one should do to even out such things, so there were always lean times to contend with, but my biggest worries as a young child were never about the necessities of life.  I was fed, clothed, housed, and had adequate medical care.

And yet, I suffered a bit from the problems that are endemic to that sort of life.  My father was absent most of the time.  Even when he was physically present, the power imbalance and lack of communication between my parents made him emotionally distant and my mother lived with a siege mentality.  Her livelihood depended absolutely on this man who was extremely cold, mostly absent, and who derived more enjoyment from his relationships outside of the marriage than with my mother and it terrified her.  She lived in a constant state of fear that he would leave her, and assumed that every relationship that he had with any other woman was a sign of infidelity.  While I don’t know that was ever actually the case, he did eventually leave her, so I could go off on a tangent on the topic of whether or not that was causal or predictive, but I don’t have enough information to talk about it and don’t really care.

I have a sister, and while my strategy to deal with early life hazards and isolation was to take up the family banner and try to show the world that we were a successful family unit – she took the opposite approach, as one might expect.

To borrow from psychology, in the dysfunctional family archetypes, I was the Hero, and she was the Scapegoat.  I did my best to excel in everything, and I achieved most of my goals.  She refused to compete and drew all of the attention she could by acting out and getting into trouble.

And, as the popular adage goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” and she was certainly a great deal more squeaky than I was.  Despite my accomplishments, within the family I tried to stay mostly invisible, but one can never completely hide from family (or relationship) dysfunction.

On the eve of my first wedding, my father met with me one-on-one and told me that I was a mistake – my mother was not meant to become pregnant when she did, and I was responsible for the misery that followed my father for the rest of his life.  I forced him to abandon his dreams and to instead do the responsible thing and ‘settle down.’

As if this were not enough of a blow on its own, I further led the discussion into tones of denigration when I asked him why he gave so much more attention to my sister than he did to me, and his response was roughly, “You have such a bloated ego of your own, I figured you didn’t need any praise from me.”

Perhaps I can forgive him for failing to recognize how my outward appearance was compensating for a lack of true personal confidence, but to use diction like that with your own child seems to be pretty inexcusable to me.  When he told me, “…you didn’t need any praise from me,” what I heard was, “you don’t deserve any praise from me.”  This is a notion that I do still have trouble with even today, but being aware of it takes most of the strong away.

Parents out there – do not make this mistake, please.  I strive to be certain that I encourage my own children without turning them into narcissists, but I also try very hard to remember that even as young children, the face that they show to the world, the face that they sometimes show even to me, does not always represent their true emotional state.  Children are much better at developing and showing these false fronts than even adults can be.  Love is the currency that they trade in, not dollars.

My father told me that I was a mistake and an egotist and that I didn’t need him so he didn’t either want or need me.  This wasn’t exactly a revelation – after all, he’d been showing me this same behavior for my entire life, making me hard, but that act was the kiln that fired the brick that was my personality.

He repeatedly told me, throughout my youth, that I was doing things wrong, and he seemed to want to compete with me ex post facto for all of my academic and athletic achievements.  Everything that I did was compared to something that he did better.  Every time that I would show initiative or innovation, I was told that I was doing things wrong, if only because I didn’t do them his way.

My mother was only slightly better.  She was effusive with her praise of my accomplishments, but she used my success as a lever against the mothers of the children in my peer group.  For every success that one of my friends would have, something that their parents would show pride in, she would rattle off five things that I had done which were superior.  I knew that she loved me, but I felt that love was always conditional.  I had to continue to succeed or I would lose my vaunted place on the pedestal of achievement.

I was loved, as long as I remained ubermensch.

So I learned that love was dependent upon my supremacy.  I could depend on none but myself.  My place in the world was tenuous, apart, aloof, alone, dependent upon factors that I could not directly control, but oh, how I did try to control them anyway…

I was an arrogant prick in the extreme.  I simply refused to acknowledge any event that did not show my superiority.  I would not even try to do something that I didn’t know I would dominate.  I was hard, but brittle, and my need to dominate things was established, for only through controlling every aspect of every interaction could I be certain that I would not need to depend on anyone but myself, and while I was absolutely certain of my ability to handle a small subset of possible interactions, I was completely incapable of handling anything else at all.

Eventually I came to understand how this was affecting my relationships with others.  I had a few sycophant friends who would follow in my wake, lauding me for my superiority in the things that I chose to take part in, as my ego demanded, but I was completely incapable of forming lasting and meaningful relationships with anyone who refused to admit my rightful place at the top of the order.

Is this my version of 50 Shades of Fucked Up?

No, of course not.  That whole notion is a logical fallacy and merely a straw man argument put forward by a woman who does not even really understand the dynamic that she was trying to portray.  I do not share the bilious contempt for her work that many of my peers do, and while I have suffered events in my past that instilled coping mechanisms in me that are not always the most efficient or beneficial, I am also a reasonable and rational human being who can learn from his mistakes, and I do not think that to be a superhuman feat or that it requires finding a naive virginal personality to fix me.

I choose this lifestyle because it is something that works for me, not because I am trying to compensate for some lack of affection in my youth.  The affection may have been lacking, but I’m not trying to solve the problems of my past any longer.  I look to the future and I look to the things that make me happy.  I look to fulfilling my genuine desires, and while those may have been informed by my past, they are not defined by it.

Of course, I am also motivated by my fears or repeating patterns that did not work for me in the past, even when I am rationally assured that the current reality does not match that old situation, and so, life is a learning process.

I’m still building my circle of friends.  People who respect me for who I am and who I want to be, not people who pity me for who I once was or who want to exploit me to achieve their own goals.

And while I may be more malleable than I was in the past, I am stronger for it, and I can accept the adulation and love that I am worthy of receiving.

I’m still hard, but I’m hard in a way that lends strength rather than projects it.  I am secure in myself and I offer that understanding and security to those that I choose to admit into my life.  Together we are so much more than the sum of our parts.  I don’t need people to be complete, but I can offer much to those that wish to join me.

This world has become hard.  In many ways, the world at large is harder and more brick-like than I ever was.  Just the other day I was walking through a mall and I could not help but notice how people treated each other, how strangers reacted to each other.. each unintentional bump was met with extreme vitriol, each interaction between strangers was tense.  As the population increases, and the economic status of individuals continue to stratify, and the stresses on each person increase, the tension that I can feel emanating from people increases dramatically.

Those in this lifestyle who still react to stresses as I once did, those who feel the need to assert their Dominance in every situation… they are becoming more and more obsolete.

I do not think that this is a sea change, and I do not think that I have all of the perfect answers, but I do think that there is strength in malleability.  There is strength in knowing when to remain silent.  There is strength in seeking harmony.

Each generation says of the next that cynicism is encroaching on our values and making us hate more, that the great reckoning or the great race war or the great revolution is coming, and the fact that this motif repeats itself from generation to generation without great upheaval makes it easy to dismiss, but just because a thing is commonly misunderstood does not make it entirely false.

The songwriter Nick Lowe wrote a song in the 70’s that has come to encompass many of my feelings on this idea.  The song itself has been covered many, many times by many, many artists in different genres.  It’s a meme that holds true and that we can all agree with if we take a moment to lose the veneer of strength that we’re attempting to project.  ‘What’s so funny about peace and understanding?’

If you are aspiring Dominant and you are reading this, know that compassion is a show of strength and Dominance.  Know that you prove your worth by reasoned interactions and that while you may some day be required to hold the line, there is strength in knowing where that line needs to be drawn, and letting people in and holding compassion can be stronger than holding people at a distance.

I’m every bit as strong as I ever was – in many ways I’m much stronger – but I am nowhere near as hard as I once was, and I neither need nor want to be.

I usually think that quoting song lyrics in a blog makes for an uninteresting read, but I’m going to violate my own policy here.  Think of it as poetry.. courtesy of Nick Lowe:

 

As I walk on through this wicked world,
Searching for light in the darkness of insanity,
I ask myself, Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain, and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

And as I walked on through troubled times,
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes,
So where are the strong?,
And who are the trusted?,
And where is the harmony?,
Sweet harmony

‘Cause each time I feel it slipping away, just makes me wanna cry,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

Pain vs Hurt

Pain is part and parcel of the BDSM lifestyle, but there is a difference of nuance in the meanings of pain and hurt in this context.  As practitioners of this thing that we do, we are no strangers to pain.  As human beings, we are no strangers to hurt, but while those words are synonyms, the English language has different words for similar concepts because those concepts are separated by subtle differences.

For the purposes of this entry, I’m going to define these words according to my own terms.

Both pain and hurt are used as verbs, though the use of pain as a verb is somewhat archaic.  One might say, “my arm pains me” to mean the same thing as, “my arm hurts.”  At the end of that second phrase, there is an implied “me,” but it is not usually explicitly stated in modern language.  Usually pain is a noun – it is a state of being, a thing that is being experienced, while hurt is a verb.. it is an action word and like all action words it requires an actor and intent.

However, while these synonyms can pretty much be used interchangeably if you so choose, I like to think that they have evolved to have subtly different meanings.

When I say that I am in pain, I mean that I am experiencing the physical sensation of pain.  When I say that I don’t want to hurt you, I mean that I don’t want to cause you unintentional distress.  For submissives under my care, I will often say, “I have no desire to hurt you,” and then proceed to slap, smack, spank, flog, whip, bite, and toss them into furniture.  In the absence of a way to properly distinguish my meaning, this would seem to be a case where my actions are not in line with my words, and yet, no one in this position with me has ever given me any indication of being confused on this point.

How is that possible?

I will attempt to elaborate by way of example…

The other day, I was in bed with my girlfriend, post-coitus, and she was expressing some concern about an interaction that we had has previously that day.  I failed to pick up on some of her emotional cues and created a situation where my lack of action caused her emotional turmoil.  I didn’t intend to hurt her in this case.  We do not have a TPE relationship and even if we did, I am not the type of Dominant partner who would ever want to create an emotional rift like that.  So in our discussion of what happened and how to best avoid similar situations in the future, I said to her, “I never wish to hurt you,” and then had to pause and chuckle, following up with, “well, you know what I mean…” and of course she did, but it brought to mind for me the unvocalized nuance that followed with that statement.

The words do not support this notion natively.  We have to imbue them with subtlety of our own.  And yet, because she is a smart woman and because she knows me rather well by this point, she understood my meaning without the need to elaborate significantly.

Hurt is a part of every relationship.. mistakes happen, people will fail to live up to our expectations, especially when those expectations are not vocalized – perhaps because the effort of so doing is extreme.

Pain is not a part of every relationship, and for most people, it really ought not to be.  I’ve said it before and I’m certain that I will say it again, but without consent, what we do is abuse.  For most relationships, there is no desire for pain, there is no discussion of appropriate applications of pain, and without the acknowledgement and discussion, the infliction of Pain is no different at all from Hurt.

Pain is a part of most BDSM relationships, but while we can revel in the pain, use the catharsis that follows, have a release of endorphins and emotions, we usually try to avoid Hurt.  Pain is part and parcel of the lifestyle that we choose to lead, but Hurt is abuse.

For my girlfriend, for my friends, even for my family, I try very hard to avoid Hurt.  I have felt Hurt from my family.  From some members of my family, that hurt has never abated.  We so very often hurt those that we love when we are, ourselves, hurt.  But I try very, very hard not to do so intentionally, and for those I love, this is especially true.

If you put yourself under my power, I will cause you pain with intent.  I will willfully bind you so that the bindings are tight enough to cause you pain.  I will willfully flog you with enough force to mark your skin and leave behind reminders of the experience.  I will bite you hard enough to leave a bruise that lasts for weeks.  But I will not intentionally pull the rug out from under you or cause you to question your trust.  I will not intentionally belittle you or put you down unless that is a specifically negotiated arrangement and executed at specifically designated times so that you can understand the difference between my words and my beliefs.

I respect those that I encounter, and even for those that have hurt me in the past or continue to hurt me now – I try to be respectful and forthright, but make no mistake, I will not idly sit by and continue to take the abuse, nor will I suffer it as you apply it to others.  I will at the least ostracize you and may even confront you, depending on the situation.

I have often said that I think I’m more of a masochist than a Sadist, and perhaps that fact is informing my opinions here.  I make no broad statements to say that a majority of Dominants feel as I do, nor do I necessarily think that they should, but this is what works for me, and it is a continuing part of my education and growth in this wonderful and scary world we inhabit.

I’m not sure at what point in my life I started to make this distinction, and I know that I’ve never successfully conveyed the nuance before, but I suspect that this is the kernel that exists behind my personal difficulties in causing pain in those that I love.

When you look back at me and say, “please hurt me,” this is the difficulty through which I have to process before I can act.  Like my grasp of other languages, I have not yet (despite my advanced age and position) been able to completely internalize these things and so I must go through a process of translation and change this to, ‘please render pain unto me,’ in my own particular and rather archaic idiom.

But my life, my experience in BDSM, and my experience in relationships is an ever evolving process and this is yet one more thing that I am refining and will probably further refine again over time.

Expectations and cutting the path

Expectations…

The root of all evil?

I would make the above a statement rather than a query, but this has been a year for change.

In two days, I’ll be 40 years old.

Given that the average life expectancy for men in this country is currently 72 years, and that I have both a family history of heart disease and a medical history of serious injury, including cranial fractures and multiple concussions, my own life expectancy is likely to be less than that, unless medicine advances to the point where those elements change, which is possible, possibly even likely, but it’s not something that I would bet money upon.

So – taking these things into consideration, it’s reasonable to assume that I’ve lived more than half of my life by this point.

This is the sort of thing that makes one look back over his life and wonder what might have happened differently.

This year has brought change, as every year does, but the end result is not unlike the beginning.

I end the year in much the same state that I began it, having picked up experiences, but tangible change still sits in the wings, waiting for something – I know not what.

Early in the year, I stumbled upon a young and brash new submissive who desperately wanted to push her way into the BDSM world, and I took her under my wing, trying to mold her, to prepare her for the experiences that she would encounter, to introduce her gradually to a world that she ended up jumping into with both feet and outgrowing my influence in short order.  I like to believe that my guidance made her transition easier than it might have been; I suppose only time will tell on that count.  But the world is a different place than it was when I was brought in to it, and her experiences at this point in many ways outstrip my own.

At nearly the same time, I shared a spark with Autumn from servingmaster.com and we melded minds on subjects far and wide.  She started me on the path that this blog has taken, committing my memories and experiences to an ever widening audience, which I suppose is a tangible change for the good, but in the face of what else happened, and then un-happened, this blog seems insignificant.  She and I remain friends and in contact, and I hope that she will remain my friend, supporter, and confidant for years to come, but our relationship has cooled and we both have busy lives.  The spark that ignited between us sits in the ether like the Mithras and is unlikely to ever completely die, but with no new fuel, its flame burns cold.

I reconnected with the woman who I expected to spend the rest of my life with and over the course of this year we had months of glorious joy, many adventures both big and small, and plans for things both near and far, but ultimately that ended not so very long ago.  Our lives were on different paths for longer than I realized, and when push came to shove, I got out of the way.  This is still fresh and new, and we don’t exactly share the same views of what went wrong and why it couldn’t be fixed, but that is normal in breakups, I think.  I sincerely hope that she finds everything that she wants from life, but ultimately, I was not the one to give it to her.

I have made other friends, touched other lives, had other romantic and play partners over the course of the year, not all of which ended the way I would have liked, some of which remain, and others still exist as smoldering embers sewn into the landscape, waiting to be stoked back to life.  There is one relationship here in particular whose ending I grieve still, but the circumstances of the time left me no other choice, or so I believed, in any case.

I enveloped myself in a new circle of friends, most of whom I severed contact with when my partner and I split.  Since they have known her for far longer than I, and are counted among her support structure, I may never interact with them again in any meaningful way, and that makes me sad, but is understood to be a part of life and love.

I am in roughly the same shape, physically, emotionally, and psychologically as I was when this year began.

The majority of my friends are not kinky, not in the scene, and don’t know about this blog or the aspects of my life that it illustrates.

This is not because I am ashamed, but because they have no curiosity about this part of my life.  They live in the vanilla world and find the concepts of nonmonogamy and risk aware consensual kink to be unfathomable, perhaps even disturbing. They are generally tolerant people – I do not generally get along well with those who are not – but they limit their own experiences and exposure by choice, and it is not my desire to force them from that.

My own social support system has contracted.

But I am not alone.

I am never alone.

I am, however, reduced from what I was at the high points of this year.

And I am not convinced that this is a bad thing.

The grief that I feel in each of these cases comes from expectations met and then dashed.

If there is a pervasive theme to this blog, and indeed to the way that I live my life now in a post-nearly-fatal-car-accident world, it is that.  I am happier and more successful when I can live my life without expectations.

When I was a teenager, I looked to the future.  The year 2000 was looming.  I would be 25 when the odometer of life rolled over.  That seemed like such a distant thing, and yet so close.  I was going to be successful by then.  I was going to be married, own my own home, be on the path towards greater things.  Expectations levied upon me by others for the most part, but that I took to be my own.  Expectations that were unrealistic and different from my actual desires, though I had no idea at the time what those might be.

I achieved all of those things.  By the time I was 21, I had nearly all of those things.  I was married.  I owned my own home.  I was accepted into medical school, and I was on track for meeting, even exceeding, all of those expectations.

And I was miserable.

I was quite possibly the unhappiest I had ever been in my life up to that point.  I had everything that I was expected to have.  I had achieved most of it ahead of schedule.  I was always an overachiever, but none of it ever made me happy.

I ended things there.

I started over.

I went deep into the rabbit hole and learned a few things about myself.

I pulled myself back out and put myself back on what turned out to be a very similar path once more.  For a time I was high on life, I was living what I thought I wanted to be, I was meeting the expectations of others and I was a part of the functional cogwheel of society, producing, living in the suburbs, parenting, and trading my time for a paycheck.

And I was miserable.

I was even more miserable than before.

I was not the one to end that relationship, but it followed a similar trajectory.  I dove into the rabbit hole again, learned some more things about myself, and crawled out.  I wandered in the deep woods for awhile, but eventually I found a path, and I started walking it.

This time, the path was less trodden, it was thin in places, and it diverged from the main road in many ways, but it was still a path that others had taken, the expectations levied upon me were still not entirely my own.

This time, the choice to end things was largely my own once again.

I had a partner.

Our dynamic should have preserved my priority.  It should have let me cut the path, and had I been strong enough, it probably would have.  But I am still a product of this society, and I could not, would not, rigidly enforce my will, so the path diverged from where I wanted to go when I chose to allow the choice of direction to follow expectations not my own.

I take responsibility for those actions, but they were not my Will.

In order to remain true to my Will, I had to make the choice to be partnerless again.  To do otherwise would have required crushing the will of my partner, and that is something that I have always been unwilling to do.

I fight to hold the ideal of non attachment.  I fight to hold to the object of no expectations, but these are not tenable long term options.  If you walk where there is no path, you must cut it yourself, and that means that you will not find anyone else there to walk it with you.

But that is what I am trying to do now.

I don’t know if I will succeed.

I don’t know if I can succeed.

I know that my path will intersect others from time to time, so I’ll never be entirely alone, but I am learning that I need time alone, more than I thought I ever did before.  I need to cut my own path, and while others might follow along behind me, the decisions about where to cut and what directions to move in have to be mine alone.

I have relationships with people still.  People that I care about deeply, but I watch, and I cheer success, support setbacks, offer my own experiences, but I don’t follow.

I can’t know what lies ahead of me because no one has ever walked there before.  There are no guides to this trail because there is no trail to guide me upon.

I may be signing up for a very solitary existence in the long term, but that does not frighten me as it once did.

I may attract followers to walk the path that I cut, but I do not expect them.

I have less than half a life to complete at this point, and while I have made mistakes in the past, and I am guaranteed to make more in the future, I have faith in my ability to get through them.

I grow more open and honest with myself and those around me as I continue my journey.  I don’t say ‘as I walk this path’ any longer, because I’ve gone off the path.  I go where my Will points me, and I see nothing but obstacles in the way.  The smooth path is gone from my sight, and there will be trials, but I believe that I am strong enough to face them.

I will rekindle some relationships that were left to wither.

I will start some relationships that I have not made yet.

I will support relationships that are currently in place, but I will not hold on.

I will live my life without attachment or expectation, to the degree with which I am able, and I will not get down on myself for building attachments or having expectations when I do.  For while they always seem to lead to pain, sometimes the pain is worth it.

I will make goals and walk towards them, but if they vanish, I will keep walking, keep cutting the path myself.

I need time alone, but I need people in my life too.  I have my children.  I have my family.  I have those few friends who would take a bullet for me, just as I would for them, but those are always fewer in number than one might think, and levying expectations upon others is something that I specifically intend not to do.

I crave companions, but I do not require them.

I am perfectly capable of cutting this path alone and letting it close behind me if needs be.

If my wisdom is something that you seek, then you know where to find me.

You are welcome to walk this path with me, but make no mistake, this path is mine.

I am evolving.

I am grieving.

I am meeting the rise of the sun with alacrity and hope.  For that is what this time of the year is really about, and I was born at just the moment of Rebirth for the world.

And though grief comes from loss and loss comes from dashed expectations and I will continue to strive against holding those, I acknowledge that life goes on, and so shall I.

I am Rant.

New beginnings are in the wings, and they terrify and electrify me.

 

Existential Crises

When I was 15 years old, I confronted my first existential crisis. It was not my only one, and it is unlikely to be my last, but as far as crises go, it was pretty profound.

This wasn’t a depressive event, and though I did undergo moments of melancholy when I was a teenager, and this particular event caused me to re-examine almost every aspect of my life, I would not learn what the word depression really meant for another two decades.

You see, I was always a bit more mature and thoughtful than I should have been as a kid and still as a teenager. I was raised in a Roman Catholic family and we went to Church every Sunday. I went to CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes twice a week after school all through elementary school. In Junior High School I was part of the Church’s Youth Group. I was a leader there. I was a ‘perfect’ child. I never received anything less than an ‘A’ in my classes, I was respectful to my elders, I always practiced my piano, I was in team sports (soccer and baseball until Junior High, then I switched to track in the spring, and in High school I added wrestling for the winter,) I was in student government, I was involved in student service groups, I was a Lieutenant Governor in Key Club, I was Editor-in-Chief of the High School newspaper, I was even lead in the school play…

Much of that was actually after the event that I am about to describe, but it’s still descriptive of how I led my life at that time. I was larger than life. I had everything going for me that a person could hope to have at that point in my life. I got my first paying job at the age of 12 (though it wasn’t strictly legal.. I was doing contract technical writing for Broderbund software with a false SSN and an assumed name… people were so much more trusting back then) and by the time I was 16, I’d saved enough money to buy a car, and I did. When I was 16 I got a part time job writing software and I was suddenly cash flow positive in a very big way. I could pay for my gas and car insurance and still have enough left over to be a stupid teenager.

But I wasn’t.

I was an ‘old soul,’ according to my mom.

I identified strongly with the persona of Yama, the Vedic god of Death. He was old before he was young, and so was I. The fact that I even knew who Yama was at the age of 15, growing up in a rural community and a Catholic family in the pre-Internet era is something of an anomaly itself, in retrospect, but that’s not the the thrust of what I’m after here. It would, however, come to color the events that caused me to change so drastically from the Christian Beaver Cleaver overachiever that I was and become something new and different.

When I was eight or nine, I made friends with a boy who was in my CCD classes. We went to Vacation Bible School together in the summer. It was only a day camp, but it was the first camp I’d ever been to, and the only one that I would attend until I finally went away for my one year of sleep away camp when I was a teenager, but that was after the Transformation.

This boy, who I will refer to as Charlie, though that was not really his name, was not my best friend, as I understood such things to be at that time, but he was a good friend. We would play with Transformer and Gobots together. He even had some of the cool Gundam toys, straight from Japan, that you couldn’t get in the States. I’m still not sure how he got them, but he would always let me play with the one that I liked best, so I didn’t really care.

Charlie was a year older than me, and at that age, that’s a big deal. He still liked to play with me and I thought that was cool. Charlie and I would have playdates (a word which means something very different to me now…) and we would meet before camp and before school, and even though he was a little strange and the other boys didn’t like him, he was my friend.

Charlie’s dad was gay, and I didn’t know what that meant, but it did mean that Charlie’s mom and dad no longer lived together and that Charlie’s dad wasn’t allowed to go to our Church. My parents told me that he was a bad man and that he did things that people are not supposed to do, and that is why God hated him and he wasn’t allowed in our Church. I thought that was wrong, because Charlie’s dad was very nice to me and he got the best toys for Charlie and I never saw him be mean to anyone or even say anything unkind, despite the fact that people were very unkind to him while he was not looking. I had always been told that kind of behavior was wrong, but for some reason, whatever it was that Charlie’s dad had done made it okay to be mean to him.

For a couple years this would go on, and I eventually came to understand what it meant to be gay and what the Church’s stance on this was and I was torn.

I was a true believer.

I believed that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and lived and preached and suffered and died on the Cross for our Sins and that was the only way that any of us would ever make it into Heaven.

Over time I lost touch with Charlie. The year of difference in our ages meant that he left our elementary school and moved on to Junior High before I did, and that year apart, coupled with my own struggles as I approached puberty (which I hit earlier than all of my peers) caused us to drift apart. I was becoming more aloof and socially ostracized as a result of my undiagnosed Aspergers Syndrome, but I was still every bit as much of an overachiever. I was still involved in Church Youth Group, and my Faith was becoming stronger and broader. I would stand toe-to-toe with my Atheist friends and debate them on the logic of Faith. I felt like I would win these arguments, but in retrospect I see the same fallacies in my arguments that I came to disdain.

I made my own path, and it was one of Righteous Indignation and I wore the Cloak of Faith and Righteousness in every act in which I engaged. I was a Paladin and I was going to march right up to the Gates of Hell and take the fight to Lucifer himself.

I still saw Charlie from time to time. He and his sister, who was of an age with and friends with my own younger sister, were friends, and he was in the Church Youth Group, though with split custody and his father’s excommunication (and yes, his father was excommunicated for being gay and having the audacity to donate money to the Church) he was not there every week. He and I were no longer close friends, but I never forgot that he was my friend, even if his father was doomed to spend Eternity in Hell for the things he chose to do (note that I no longer believe that he had a choice in the matter – this is reflective of my ignorance at the time – I was only a child, after all.)

I kept on my merry, ignorant path, and could see no reason why I would not remain so as long as I lived.

When I was 13, the Pastor for our Parish, Father Thomas, would retire. In his place, we were assigned Monsignor Heinz, an extremely intolerant and very powerful (within the Church) man who was tasked with ‘turning our backwater Church around.’

I had no idea that there was any trouble, but apparently our Parish had some of the lowest per-capita tithing of any Church in the Diocese. And not only that, but there were apparently some thinly disguised ‘disreputable elements’ in our Parish.

Monsignor Heinz would have none of that.

He conducted interviews with each family individually. He demanded to see tax returns. He set tithes of at least 20% for each family, and when people would complain that they could not afford such exorbitant tithes, he would send Parish accountants to help them file their taxes and make sure that the Church got it’s pound of flesh.

The secondary purpose of these family interviews was to root out the undesirable elements from the Parish.

My own family was found lacking. My father had not been tithing appropriately, and I was ashamed for this. But at least we were found to be morally sound (which I don’t really understand either, but that’s not the subject of this piece.)

Charlie’s family, however, was not. Charlie’s father was excommunicated, and Charlie himself was found to have gay tendencies and was told not to return to the Church.

This did not compute with me.

Charlie was not gay. (He was, and he is, but at the time, I could not comprehend this.) The Church made a mistake.

I didn’t have the normal social constraints that people around me did, so I confronted Monsignor Heinz about this. Charlie must not be expelled from the Church. Excommunicated or not, this would almost certainly mean that Charlie was being sent to Hell, all because Monsignor Heinz had a feeling about him, a feeling which I was certain was incorrect.

Charlie was a good person.

Charlie was my friend.

By this time I’d read The Bible cover to cover at least twice. This is a very unusual thing for a Catholic to do. Monsignor Heinz quoted Scripture at me, and I quoted contradicting Scripture right back at him. Eventually he started quoting things at me that I had not read.

Where was he getting this information? I had to know, so I shifted my arguments and started asking some very pointed questions. Suddenly, my curiosity and conviction were not the Scourge of the Devil, but they were a Path to the Light. Monsignor Heinz was convinced that I was Destined for the Seminary and would be a Beacon for the Faithful. He told me of the Apocrypha and for a short time my ire was deflected.

Ultimately, however, I could not Rationalize how someone as kind and good and pure as Charlie had to be sacrificed and sent to Hell, and someone like myself, who had begun to have some seriously impious urges concerning girls could be a Paragon of the Light.

I could not bring the two things together in my mind, and I realized that I was the Heretic. Charlie was good, the Church was hiding Secrets from people, and I was being driven to think and feel and act in ways that were un-Godly.

The strain of trying to keep these things consistent in my head eventually broke my Faith.

If Charlie deserved Hell, then surely I deserved something much worse than that. I hated myself. I thought to myself: I will someday die, and when I do, what will my legacy be? I have accomplished nothing. I have lived in the shadow of others, reading the writings of men dead for centuries, and blindly accepting what they said, claiming their ideas as my own and extolling the virtues I was handed, with no free thought of my own. I was not a stupid kid – I did get straight A’s and that included A’s in classes like AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics… I knew the power of the Scientific Method, and I’d been turning a blind eye to it in the name of Faith for years. I was afraid to go against the Church because then I, too, would be Destined for Hell. My Faith was broken, and without that, without the love of Jesus, I would perish in a lake of fire, and yet…

And yet… without a testable hypothesis, and without a fair trial, how could I say for certain that any of these things were true. I had Occam’s Razor, and it cut the fabric right out of my Faith, and yet, I was not yet ready to accept the path of Atheism.

This made me easy prey for Jubal McReady and his gang, but that is a story for another day…

When I was 15, I lost my Faith in God and Jesus and the Trinity. I lost my path to Heaven. I Despaired over the fact that when I die, I’m gone. I will simply cease to exist. At first, this notion was terrifying to me. It caused me to lose sleep. I spent days where I could think of nothing else but the fact that the Universe is cruel and careless.

But today… today, this same thought brings me peace.

When I am gone, I will not have to bear any of this any longer. I will not have to try to be Zen. I will not have to try to live without expectation. Nor will I be a prisoner in some theme-park paradise or for better or worse, some Infernal realm of the Underworld. I will just be done. My work will be complete, and History will judge me as it does. I couldn’t care less. I won’t be here to see it.

This was something of a story and perhaps a bit of an admission.

I am Rant, and this is slice of me.

Rant off.