Tuesday, April 04, 2006

How I "lost my swing" at the Baptist church


Rannulph Junnah: Now, the question on the table is how drunk is drunk enough? And the answer is that it's all a matter of brain cells.
Hardy Greaves: Brain cells?
Rannulph Junnah: That's right, Hardy. You see every drink of liquor you take kills a thousand brain cells. Now that doesn't much matter 'cos we got billions more. And first the sadness cells die so you smile real big. And then the quiet cells go so you just say everything real loud for no reason at all. That's okay, that's okay, because the stupid cells go next, so everything you say is real smart. And finally, come the memory cells. These are tough sons of bitches to kill.

How I "Lost My Swing" at the Baptist Church, by Mary Madonna

Like Matt Damon's character Rannulph Junah in the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, I remember the day, the hour and the minute I "lost my swing." Junah was standing in the middle of a battlefield full of fallen soldiers. I was standing in a Baptist church.

I was eighteen years old at the time — a very young age at which to lose one's swing. My grasp on life up to that point was tentative at best. My mother was an almost nonexistent presence, other than to rule my life. There was no encouragement from her to do something positive. She criticized freely any attempt I made to better myself. I grew up hearing her say she never would have had me if my father had had other children before he married her. I was always in her way.

At seventeen I began dating a man four years my senior. Mother hated him, which made him all the more attractive to me. We married exactly 30 days after my high school graduation. I knew, even before that day, I did not want to get married. I realized this about a month before our wedding. But the wedding date was set, the flowers and cake were ordered, the announcement was in the paper, and I was scared to back out. I knew Mother wouldn't have it. She was ready to have me out of the way. I remember riding to the church in the limousine. Cars were pulling off to the side of the road like there was a funeral procession going by. This should have been an omen of what was to come.

We arrived at the church and I was terrified. Standing in the back of the church with Daddy, I wanted to run back to the limousine. As I was walking down the aisle on my father’s arm, I saw a young man who lived down the street from me. As I looked into his eyes I wanted to scream, "Get me out of here!" But I walked down the aisle and vowed to spend the rest of my life with someone I didn’t really love. Nine months later, he was dating someone else. I found out and left.

Prior to my marriage, I had spent the previous five years playing the piano at a Baptist church in Georgia. I was very active in the youth group. We toured the state performing Christian musicals. I loved the church and felt good about using my talent for God. When Bobby and I married, I was no longer a part of the youth group. Up to that point, Bobby had gone to church with me. Once married, he decided he didn’t want to go to church anymore.

The youth director said I should stay at home with him and try to encourage him to come to church. When my marriage ended, I went to the youth director to talk to him. Much to my surprise, I was advised that since I was divorced, I could no longer serve in the church. God could not use me ever again.

Standing in the chapel of the church I had loved for five years, I lost my swing. I had never been more devastated in my life. How could God not love me anymore? What about forgiveness? Had I committed some unpardonable sin? How could God not forgive me for my mistake? Life changed drastically for me that day. Forward momentum ceased to be.

Junah turned away from friends and those he loved. He drank. He drank a lot. I tried that for a while. Fortunately, alcohol doesn’t agree with me. More than one glass of wine and I’m done for the night. When asked, "how drunk is drunk enough?," Junah went on to describe the downward spiral of alcohol abuse. He said the memory cells were the hardest to kill. How do you kill the memory of surviving in a battlefield when all of your comrades have died? How do you kill the memory of being told you have lost the love of God?

My self-esteem at this point was non-existent. This lack of self-respect would follow me into my next marriage. My second husband was a perfectionist. He planned everything. My unexpected pregnancy after just five months of marriage was the beginning of the end. He hardly spoke to me the entire time I was pregnant. He took a business trip for a week when I was five months pregnant and didn’t call home the entire time he was gone.

At this point, not only had I lost my swing, I couldn’t even pick up the club. I took his lack of communication in our relationship as a lack of love and respect. I filed for divorce when our son was four. I blamed every problem we ever had on my ex. I realize now that was not true. My lack of communication skills, lack of confidence and self-respect played a very large part in our demise.

I never truly found my swing again. I fumbled through the next 20 years trying to find my way. I put myself through college. The day I graduated I almost felt like there was hope for me again.

But the words of that youth minister still haunted me. I would never again be good enough. Will I ever find the forgiveness and acceptance I had lost? What can undo the cruel words of a mother who never wanted a child and a preacher who talks to God?

— Mary Madonna
Daughter of a Widow's Son, and a childhood friend of this site's "Widow's Son"

Part One of a continuing series....

The Widow's Son adds: "Bagger Vance" and "R. Junah" are representations of Bhagavan (Krishna) and Arjuna, from the Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita. The lessons learned by Rannulph are loosely based on those Krishna teaches to Arjuna while masquerading as his lowly chariot driver.

We welcome Mary Madonna as a new Sacred Fem writer!

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So, what's your take on this whole sacred feminine marketing surge going on?
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