This post is written by Andrew Marin, President and Founder of The Marin Foundation
If I’m being honest, a good part of the reason I moved to St. Andrews, Scotland for my PhD is three-fold. First, it was too good of an opportunity, at too great of a university, that I couldn’t pass it up. Second, a PhD will only continue to help the work of The Marin Foundation. And third, I needed to get away for a time. The following is not a sap story, it’s an honest reflection. I’m not looking for a pat on the back or trying to write a woe-is-me post; moreso, a new revelation into my own emotional state.
I needed a time to get away because I was tired, very, very tired of being so many people’s punching bag. Inhabiting the space The Marin Foundation does, two distinct things continued to happen: We got credit for positive things we didn’t do, just because we inhabit the space we do; and we got accused for negative things we didn’t do, also just because we inhabit the space we do. As I have said in previous reflectional posts, there is no nuance with our supporters or our critics–which is quite interesting because our message is one of nuance. But as the profile of The Marin Foundation grew along with the profile of the ever-divisive world of LGBTs and conservatism, the easy-out blaming when partisan activists were at a loss of who else to blame for something, anything, generally landed in my direction; by pretty much any activist or outlet you could think of: Christian, LGBT, secular, mainstream. If there was one thing of equality, it was (is) the equality of hate I received from the various aspects of this disconnect. I could only take it for so many years in so many different contexts that I was on the verge of going nuts. Like, literally. At least it felt like that almost every waking hour. Thank God for my therapist, otherwise I probably would have been committed at some point. I was just praying not to let this happen to me (which it did not, PS). These days however, if you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m in my place of serenity.
In this state over the past few months I have not only been very intentional about facing many of the difficult situations and people that have caused me so much pain over the years, but I have also been very intentional about beginning to let myself feel again. Now I’ve always “felt,” quite intently actually, my whole life. Yet those closest to me would say that the past year and a half in particular, I changed. Emotionally changed. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until a few close family and friends pointed it out to me over a series of months at the end of 2012-beginning of 2013. I just needed to survive until August when I knew I was moving to Scotland. And here I am in my tiny, and I mean tiny, village in Scotland outside of St. Andrews daily meditating in Scripture, relationship, and personhood trying to peel back the layers of very public gunk that has built up over the past few years.
Tonight was a breakthrough for me. Brenda and I were watching the movie Warrior, which just so happened to be on one of the ten channels we actually get. I’ve seen it before, and I love it. I think it’s one of the most genuine expressions of emotional character nuance I’ve come across in a movie. About half way through the movie I was oddly shocked and surprised when I caught myself “feeling.” It was like a preemptive, legitimate emotion that struck me deep in my soul. It felt strange, yet so familiar. I let myself roll with it and the more the movie continued the more I started to shift around in my seat feeling awkward, having genuine anticipatory nervousness for the next scene (even though I knew what was going to happen), and most importantly, I believe, live in real-time in the smaller changes and attempts at connection the characters were sifting through with each other. Then I had a insight.
For the past few years I have been living in a constant state of reactionary emotions. These emotions, which are felt by the individual (me, in this case) as deeply as any other emotion, are not what I would call genuine, per say. They are reactionary; prompted by a random self-judged unattractive (not referencing beauty here) external stimulus. These reactionary emotions are not well thought out, they are not spiritually assessed, and there is no necessity/want/exuberance to reflect. If anything, the only exuberance that is given is invested in the riled-up fullness to the built up of, and the in-the-moment, reaction. Positive or negative; happy or sad; angry or super-pissed. Doesn’t really matter, the process is still the same. That had become my emotional comfort zone (bad label); moreso out of my unconscious necessity to cope with the multiple-times-per-day-emotional-swings of praise and accusation that had come my way for years.
But living in the unique realization of this emotional foreignness I just felt, was the internal trigger of a feeling of great comfort in that moment; something I hadn’t felt or recognized in years. I am now labeling these rational emotions as reflective emotions. Oh how I’ve longed to get a glimpse of them once again, full well knowing that my current reactionary state is not only unhealthy and unbalanced, but fully detrimental to myself and all other genuine relationships in my life. Tonight was the start of me finally realizing the work I have been doing is actually helping me regain the beginning stages of feeling emotionally sane again.
There is still a long way to go. I am still harboring lots of hate and resentment (true story; not pretty, but honest). But for the first time in years I feel I can begin seeing hints of myself being in a healthy emotional state, enough to continue, with just a little more enthusiasm, facing the things I haven’t had the stability to face in recent memory.