It’s here.

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Tomorrow’s the day I’ve been dreading: the winter reunion for the program that I was supposed to take over (see Moving On for background). I got the invitation for it  a month or so ago. It was beyond a slap in the face, and what prompted me to try and get some answers. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t even asked to help with the reunion for the program that I had helped plan the year before. I was completely shut out. Since then, I’ve been faced with two main dilemmas: 1) First, do I go to the reunion? and 2) Do I go to the program over the summer?

Well, number two has almost certainly been decided. As much as it breaks my heart, I’m not going to. I cannot go back to it after this unbelievable snub, and knowing that I’m probably not wanted there. Why should I go back there, where I’m not appreciated, and be expected to just take the way I’ve been treated in stride, no matter how miserable I am? Why should I put myself through that? I love all of the people who attend that program, and it’s killing me knowing that I won’t be back to see them this summer after five years of dedicated attendance, but I have to do what’s best for me at this point.

As for number one…I think I’m going to go for the last hour or so, just to take pictures of/with all of my summer attendees and swap some addresses to write letters with a few of them. The thought of not going to the summer program, and also not going to the reunion, and not seeing any of them probably ever again kills me. I love them too much, and I’m already missing them an unbelievable amount. Tomorrow’s going to be incredibly hard, and made even harder because I cannot tell them that I won’t see them this summer, and that this might be the last time I see them ever. I couldn’t let them know them know the reasons for that anyway, even if I could tell them. I’ll have to just go and pretend to be blissfully happy and carefree and excited to be there, all while my heart is being ripped to pieces knowing that this will be the last time that I see and interact with most of them. I don’t know how I’m going to get through it. But I have to go — the prospect of not seeing everyone one last time is unthinkable and even worse.

This sadness is physical pain. For me, it’s under my sternum, a few inches below my throat. It feels like a tight, watery ball, and makes the rest of my insides feel like glass about to break under pressure. I can’t breathe around it, and I can hardly eat when it decides to put in an appearance. And you can forget sleeping — that tightness doesn’t allow me to get more than a few minutes at a time, and those scant minutes are filled with melancholy dreams. It’s constant pain, lessened as I find ways to distract myself, but back in full force as soon as something reminds me of it’s cause. And let’s not even talk about the emotional and cognitive agony. That’s almost too much to put into words.

I finally broke down today as I was driving home, when I passed the church where the program is housed and where the reunion will be tomorrow. It kind of really hit me then that this was it. I had been thinking about it for weeks, of course, but it was still something vaguely in the future, something not quite real. Now, it’s certainty. Tomorrow, after the reunion is over and I walk out of those church doors, I will never again set foot in there (with the possible sole exception of going back to monthly Saturday sessions of the program, which one or two of the summer attendees frequent. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to bear that now, though. One step at a time, though — let’s get through tomorrow first). That place, while it holds amazing memories of the program for me, also holds too much sadness and bitterness. When I made the decision not to be confirmed in eighth grade, that place was horrible to me. I was made to feel like a total outcast (which, I guess at that point, I technically was, as I had made it clear to the leadership that I did not believe in any god), and the experience of “coming out” was traumatizing. Something that was already painful and shameful to me was made even worse by the way that the leaders responded to it. Since then, I’ve always had some bitterness about it, towards them and the place. But once I started this program, I thought that all that was behind me. I could not forget what happened, but it seemed to me that I was giving that place a second chance, and that it was proving itself worthy. Well now, after all of this, it’ll forever be a place of tears and false hopes for me. My first bad experiences with that church made me bitter, but this second round of emotional trauma has broken my heart.

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2 responses »

  1. I am not sure what the group is. I went back and read “moving on”. I think it’s time you did. I think it’s time you moved on. Completely. It’s 2013. You can find the people you really want to keep in touch with on the interner (can’t you)? Between Facebook, instagram, google+, WordPress…

    It never ceases to amaze me that people just prolong pain. Some how trying to justify it by saying that there might be someone there you are “letting down” sounds, honestly, pathetic. Let them ask WHERE YOU ARE. Maybe they will come to the same conclusion you seem to have put off.

    I’m curious, as I am new to your blog, about your crisis with faith. Are you an atheist or are you a lapsed believer. What happened that made you go back after you said you were “done with it”.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t show up for a reunion. I wouldn’t show up in the summer. Make plans. Go buy some belts tomorrow. Go on a week long trip someplace new.

    • I’m being purposely vague on what the program is due to the fact that there’s always that slim chance that someone I know (who I don’t want to have this much insight into the issue) will find this and know who I am and what I’m talking about. It’s slim, but it’s there, especially with the unique nature of the program. Without some of those key details, this might sound a bit nonsensical, so I’ll clear up one huge thing: while the volunteers are all students, the attendees of this program are individuals with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, profound autism, cerebral palsy, etc.. 99% of them don’t have Facebook accounts or any other form of social media and many live more than a few minutes away and in very protected/sheltered situations, so this program is about the only contact that we get. And they wouldn’t understand the complex reasoning behind why this is all happening, what with the politics behind the situation. In addition, if they did ask (which I know several people will, and loudly), they would be lied to by the leadership, both to protect them and just because the church doesn’t want some things publicized about the nature of their bureaucracy. The fact is that, by not attending, there ARE people who I will be letting down, at least in their minds (and mine); developmentally normal individuals would totally understand the reasoning behind my not attending, but these attendees will not. And the pain is going to be prolonged no matter what, so why not see some of my best friends for one last time, especially since I might be able to find some ways of alternative communication with a few?

      As to the belief question, I am an atheist/anti-theist, and have been my entire life. It was in eighth grade that I “came out” (and was made miserable because of it by this church) and it was in eleventh grade that my parents forced me to try this volunteering program at the same church (they had done something similar when they were in college, and loved it). The return wasn’t really by my choice (if you can even call it a return — my family never stopped going there, and I was forced to attend as well), but it has worked out fine for the past five years, minus a few awkward encounters with those I had to deal with during the confirmation situation. Until now, of course.

      Bottom line is that the reunion had to happen and I’ve already decided that there’s no way the summer program will happen. Belts didn’t happen, but scarves (and giant beanbag chairs) did. There might even be a cupcake or two purchased from the new bakery in town tomorrow. Whatever it takes to improve the day.

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