Thorns, Surrender & Coming Out – UPDATED

The Recent Mrs. Chins

Two of my brothers are gay, and both of them found that coming out afforded them great peace and freedom. No longer needing to hide a portion of themselves, unconstricted by fear and having escaped the deceptive “safety” of their hiding place, they became more at ease in themselves – easier to be around in general – and more fully the men whom God had created them to be. They also discovered that their coming out did not make them less lovable or beloved.

So, their honesty brought freedom. Truth tends to make freedom.

In the post below, we talk a little about things being “hidden” and “brought to light.” We all of us make instinctive moves to hide those parts of ourselves of which we disapprove, or which we fear others might hate. Hating ourselves, we project that hatred onto others, and then assume the worst: that people will be ungenerous, rather than generous, hateful rather than accepting (I do not use the overused-unto-meaningless word, “tolerant.”)

And sometimes, I think, even more than our fear of being hated – because some people are simply enthralled to their hate, so they’re not worth worrying about – we try to hide ourselves because we don’t want to disappoint the people who love us. We assume that our self-revelation will hurt them, and they will stop loving us.

And that is difficult. I know I hate to disappoint people, and when I do, it stings. Fortunately, the people I have disappointed in my life have – for the most part – continued to love me. The ones who did not usually had other issues working inside them, issues my revealed-disappointments then triggered.

This is one of the reasons why I think it is so important for people, particularly leaders in social, political and religious venues, to be able to maintain a sense of detachment. The desire to be loved is natural, but it if is an insatiable appetite – if one absolutely needs to be loved – it can distort many things, and disorder priorities, policies and penances.

Attachment and detachment are very spiritual values, and it is wise to take our inventories from time to time – examine what we are either too attached to, or too detached from, and adjust ourselves according, if we can.

Why am I writing this?

Well, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s Lent. And the Hound of Heaven drives me nuts, because He keeps taking me at my word. Last year, I was praying for a fruitful Lent and it became an excruciating exposition of just how hurtful I have been to others, and how vulnerability – and our fear of it – drives us.

This Lent arrived as I was finding myself, again and again, directed to look at issues of Trust. I vaguely remember praying about trust, and asking to be taught about trust, to be moved to trust more.

I have told you guys over and over again: be careful what you pray for. You end up getting it. In spades.

The other reason is because the earlier also talked about “what is hidden being revealed” and that – thank you incredibly nagging Holy Spirit – rang a bell that’s been swaying back in forth in my mind for the last few weeks, an issue where my need to “hide” has caused me to treat someone else unfairly. And I can’t really do that, anymore.

I’ve written in the past that I struggle with weight. I think I have alluded to my “Irish hips” (very wide), my “chubster thighs”. The truth is I go up and down the scale like Oprah. I have referred to my size as “between the tonnage of Rosie O’ Donnell and Michael Moore,” and that is not really an exaggeration. I’m like Totie Fields (if you admit to knowing who she is, you’re dating yourself) but with a better voice.

I’ve referred to myself as having one of those doughy Irish faces that is made for radio, and that’s true. But I have a doughy body, too. I have clothes in my closet ranging from size 14 – actually, I have a wishful-thinking size 10 red dress in there that I’ll never wear – to size CT (Circus Tent). Currently I am at the CT side of the closet.

So, yeah, I’m fat. I know all the yo-yoing is not good for me; I’d likely be healthier if I would just pick a size and stay there, stick to an exercise regime and so forth, but – you know – I’m an American suburban woman with eating and weight issues, and I mostly delude myself that I am the only one.

I’ve been afraid to “come out” as a fat person, not because I feared the people who will hate me; the people who hate me will hate me whether I am fat or thin, and if their eternal adolescence drives them to call me “fatty-fat-fat” well, I can’t help that. If they weren’t calling me “fatty-fat-fat” they’d be calling me something else. It’s the nature of the adolescent. (And by the way, those sorts exist both on the “tolerant” and “compassionate” left – where I read all sorts of heinous nastiness about Rush Limbaugh’s “bulk” – and on the “Christian” and “loving” right, where I read the most awful things about Oprah and Rosie and Michael Moore. Fat people are easy targets, because they’re so big, I guess.)

I was afraid to talk about being fat, though, because I did not want to disappoint the people who like me. Without pictures, it’s easy to create a pleasing image in your mind, and – although I do have a not-flattering but at-the-time accurate picture of myself up in the “about” section (I took it about a year ago, and have seen it photoshopped with a dancing condom and and in a nun’s habit, so far), I’ve preferred to let you imagine me however you’ve wanted to.

So, it pains me, now, to have to reveal myself not at my Rosie-size, but in my Jabba-Incarnation, but it must be done – otherwise, I will only continue to delude myself that I can conduct an honest business relationship with someone while simultaneously ducking myself; that I can work with someone, and get some satisfaction out of that experience, while not giving him the advantage of my sometimes-useful pulpit.

And that I can keep yo-yoing forever, too.

The thing is, yer girl’s been on tv, and not telling you.

I wasn’t going to do it. When Deacon Greg – who is the News Director for the Diocese of Brooklyn – contacted me, laughing uproariously, because his Diocesan Vicar of Communications had memoe’d him about trying to get me for a televised panel discussion group, I laughed too.

But the thing is – that Hound of Heaven. I’d been praying about trust and about other, more private, things. The good Deacon’s call seemed like one of those God-Being-Funny “you shouldn’t have asked” moments. So, I prayed about it.

I wasn’t going to do it. No way. I am unphotogenic and fat. And even when I am thinner, I am an imbecile. I have a stammer. And I hate being looked at. I have always preferred being backstage with the script to being onstage with the microphone.

“Pray about it,” Deacon Greg said.

“Pray about it,” said my husband, “it sounds like a challenge.”

“I wouldn’t,” said Elder Son, who is rather like me, “being public sounds horrible.”

“You should do it,” said Buster, who hasn’t a shy bone in his body, “it sounds like fun.”

I prayed about it, and had decided not to do it. So much for trusting and being open.

Then I was at Sunday mass and The Dreadful Catholic Choir was singing a song I’d never heard before. I don’t know what the words were. What I heard was, “will you move out of your comfort zone and let yourself be humiliated if it is for my sake?”

And I rolled my eyes and said, “this is why no one likes you, God. Oh, fine, okay, crap. I’ll do it.”

I would have liked to have said, “make me thin first, because you know, then the sting will be milder.”

But fat or thin, this would always be a humiliation for me, and I had to accept that.

Still…I tried.

“Make me thin. Give me like a tapeworm or something. A mild illness?”

“Nah,” said God. “Paul had his thorn in the flesh; are you better than Paul?”

“I’m fleshier than Paul,” I answered.

“More of you to love!” said God, “and umm…more room for thorns. I ain’t done with you, yet.”

God’s not done with any of us, yet.
And often what is good for us does not always seem so, at the time. As I wrote in a different post, this morning:

Sometimes we do not recognise the answers we seek, because they seem to be enshrouded in storms, and disguised as clouds.

I love God. And because I do, I went ahead and did the show, and exposed myself in a thousand ways I never, ever dreamed I would.

And because I love God I can say this, and know he’ll understand it: Freaking God!

My husband said to me, “I am so proud of you. I know how difficult that was. I know this is never what you wanted.”

Buster said, “Mom, I’m so proud of you.”

Elder Son and his Sweet Girlfriend said, “you’re really stupid, you know that? So what, you’re fat, so what you stammer. Who cares what anyone else thinks? You need permission from others to live your life?”

Deacon Greg said, “come back next week. Sooner or later, you might even have fun.”

So…without further ado. Go here, to Deacon Greg’s business establishment and where it says “Select a Program” click on “In the Arena“. And in the second and third parts, you can watch me sit next to the very nice Jane Hanson, who weighs approximately 80 pounds, and make a blithering fool of myself.

Sooner or later, you were going to see it, and I prefer to have at least the illusion that I have any control over anything.

And the truth is – the topic under discussion is so much more important than all of my little hidings.

The good news is…once you see yourself on tv, it’s much easier to say “no, thank you” to the pasta. The stammer, that’s another issue, entirely.

All for Jesus. And for my family, who love me.

And I’m only showing it to you because I have to. I hate to disappoint you.

The second hardest thing I have ever done.

Meanwhile, I am learning about trust. And detachment.

Freaking God.

Lent. When you’re living in it, you’re definitely living in interesting times.

UPDATE: You know, when I posted this, I played with the idea of turning off comments, but I didn’t want to be too cowardly to read negative responses. Now I am wondering if I am too cowardly to read the positive ones! I have always said that I have the best – and most thoughtful – readers (left and right) on the ‘net, but you guys are being too kind, and I’m not sure what to say and I don’t want to admit how many times you’ve made me cry in the comments. But you’ve made me laugh too, and – most importantly – you have made me think. And that’s maybe the best thing about this place – for all my blathering, I learn so much from all of you. I thank you for your kindness, and I admit I am a little uneasy with all the praise. It feels sooo…”Obama-ish.” ;-) Thankfully, Deacon Greg sent me some critical mail from the show; “that woman writes better than she speaks!” Guilty as charged. Also, the picture above? My Li’l Bro Thom says “you look like Natalie on The Facts of Life.” I can always count on him to set me straight!

Actually you put a grey, curly wig on me, and I look just like Great Grandmother Emilia, but I hear she was kind of mean.

Can we go be snarky about the president, now?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • invernessie

    Dear Lizzie (I’ll always thing of Pride and Prejudice with this intro):

    Very often when I deal with work colleagues and internet correspondents I form a picture of what I think they may they look like. As it happens, I am wrong in most cases. With regard to your “About” picture, which I have never sought out until you mentioned it, it turns out to be very close to my mental picture.

    As to Mrs. Chins. May I join the club? I travel on business every week, and the longer my tenure, the greater my girth. As I have a major birth milestone upcoming (cough, cough), I keep telling myself that I need to achieve a certain objective by that date. Well, I’ll state for the record, it’s not happening “this year”.

    We are of an age and similar upbringing (I’m a middle girl child from an Irish family – so you know how that goes). So many incidents you have documented from your life can be instantly transported into my biography. Coming from a large family, you have not only your own inner critic, but also those criticisms you attribute to your family members, whether verbalized or not.

    I, as everyone has stated here, enjoy your insights. Rather than dwell in our imperfections, it is important to be reminded to think how a change in perspective, or an offering up to the Lord will make a great difference in our lives. Whenever a petty annoyance (such as “road rage”) appears to be driving me over the edge, I tell myself how insignificant this complaint is in comparison with what our Men and Women in service have to deal with, so I tell myself to “grow up”. I am a work in progress in this and i many other areas.

    Keep up the good work. Your ruminations give us all food for thought, and the inspiration to adjust our approach to life.

  • dellbabe68

    So many things to say!

    First, I already knew what you looked like since your picture exists somewhere in or around your book on dying with dignity (sorry, just now I forget the title). I’ve always thought you were nice looking and infact I picture that picture when I read your posts.

    Here’s what else I want to say:

    That I agree with so many of the sentiments here I forget the online names now to post them all.

    That you look too young to have grown sons. (I’ve always been so touched by the happy and loving way you have raised your kids – and I think that’s come out in scads of ways but my favorite is the homemade Halloween costumes and in particular the 2 1/2 of Hearts!)

    That you are a beautiful person (inside and out — what happy Irish eyes you have!), who’s a committed Christian and Catholic, who has steered me in many good directions, given me many good insights and whole branches of new authors to read and stuff to consider.

    That you are a thoughtful person, both on behalf of other people and because you are a thinker. You offer excellent analysis and aren’t afraid to say when your thoughts have evolved and why.

    That you lovingly consider how people might feel and have helped to elevate the consideration we all have of people in religious communities. I support one monthly now and am looking to add a second soon. If not for you, I wouldn’t know about them and they add a lot to my life (like you).

    That I now almost exclusively drink coffee made by monks in Wyoming that I never even knew existed. I love telling people I get it shipped from a coffee brewer in Cody, Wyoming, and then they say “who?!” and I say “this little order of monks!” I get a kick out of their now having to distill that info into what they know, of me, and of monks.

    That you have a GREAT sense of humor, the sense to deliver it appropriately – always, and though this will seem paradoxical, I have always had the sense you are a comfortable and happy Catholic and it’s nice to know others are out there. A lot of us, in fact, it seems! I say paradoxical because to be conscience and active in our faith (as well as other Christian groups, I realize) means to constantly be working on oneself, and realizing we have a long way to go to perfection but it’s a worthy journey and God helps us along the way.

    And finally, that I have a closet of clothes that range three sizes!

    Be easier on yourself and know you are loved.

  • Elizabeth Anne

    From one Lizzie to ‘nother,
    I think you’re absolutely lovely.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    Well, here I am, having to dispute and disagree with you yet again!!

    You look quite lovely.

    And, of course, even if you did not by worldly standards, true beauty radiates outward from within, being from the Light of Love and Truth that is God. And that Light clearly radiates from you. So, fret not, worry not.

    (Besides, if you want someone who can’t take a picture, take a look at Bender, who has no chin and is all neck (too much of the French in me).)

  • Barbara

    I am VERY late coming in, but I put my timing (off or on) to how God made me. I haven’t watched the video but will in a minute.

    S’ far as the weight problems of the nation, I blame the liberal left. (Hoping that made you laugh.)

    I have taken to praying for persons I think carry extra weight. Just asking God to bless them. Trying not to show pride in my behavior, but it is a prayer that works for me. Hoping that my physical imperfections draw prayer from others, too.

    Loving your blog, admiring your work, blessing you no matter how you look.

  • Barbara

    Your hair is lovely.

    Loved your clothes, too – esp the scarf, but that doesn’t count for much of a compliment ’cause I am fashion-challenged.

    As for nice-and-does-a-good-job Jane – 80? – perhaps soaking wet. Your hair is nicer and she looked older, too.

    Didnt hear ANY stammering, and if we are talking how people look on camera, ol’ Ed looked slumped and wiggled his knees too much.

    Thanks for trusting us and doing the show, A.

    Thanks for all you do.

    I cannot imagine myself doing a videoed interview – I will be carefully phrasing MY prayers to our Freaking-Knows-Us-Better-Than-Ourselves-God in hopes he does not put that before me.

  • jenniferf

    Umm. OK. I just had one of those “HI THIS IS GOD AND I AM TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING” moments. I was just looking at a picture of me that’s on the cover of this week’s National Catholic Register, and wondered if I should have perhaps chosen an, umm, more accurate photo instead of digging up the most flattering picture ever taken of me (where I happened to be 25 lbs. lighter as well). The next thing I clicked on was this post. I think that answers my question. :)

    Anyway, thanks so much for your honesty. This post is so helpful to so many of us. You’re an inspiring example.