I have written a lot, over the past few months, about discovery and recovering identity. I have reflected upon and analyzed what happened to me as a child due to abuse, what happened to me when I joined the Church and what happened to me when I got married. (I wrote about this here, here and here.)
I feel that each one of these events served to submerge my true identity, my real self. I have written, during the past several months, about trying to discover/recover that identity. But of course, this was largely a purely theoretical exercise: I could only come out of the closet so far; there was only so much I could do to explore my gay-ness and figure out what it means to me; my efforts were restricted to take down and unpack the boxes where I had long ago packed bits and pieces of my Self; and I was limited in my efforts to forge new and authentic connections with my children that were my own relationships, not shared or dominated by my wife or tainted by expectations from the Church or anyone or anything else.
These past few days, I have begun to put theory into practice, and I have sensed that these exercises I have just described are my tasks for the weeks and months ahead.
I started the process of forging new relationships with my children on Saturday, the day after I moved out. I took the younger children to the zoo on Saturday afternoon, then took my teenage daughter out for dinner and a movie that evening. I also brought each of these children over to my new place to see where I live and to meet my housemate. Then, on Sunday morning, I took my teenage boys to Music and the Spoken Word (for a school assignment), then bought them donuts and took them over to my new place. My housemate is great with kids and did me a great service in engaging with all my children, but particularly my boys. They are now looking forward to coming over in a few weeks for an overnight, which is HUGE for me.
Then, last night, I took my oldest son out for Chinese food and a movie at the dollar theatre. Before doing so, we went over to my place, and my housemate again was great as he engaged my son in conversation.
These are just first steps, but I am laying a new foundation that I feel good about.
As to venturing further out of the closet and figuring out what it means to me to be gay, I felt some disorientation over the weekend which surprised me and temporarily concerned me. Upon reflection and after discussing this phenomenon with a good friend, I realized that it’s ok to feel disoriented and confused, as well as other things. Like I said earlier, I’ve been pretty much limited to theory for the past few months; now, however, I’m starting to figure out how all of the theory works out in practice.
The same applies to other aspects of my identity. There were times during these past few days when I asked myself, “Who the hell am I?” No one answered. Duh. Which made me realize that a new phase of my journey has begun which, although a bit scary, offers the promise of rich rewards.
As I contemplated these things over the past few days, a realization and a resolve grew in me: For the first time in my life, I am not simply responding to demands of situations and others’ expectations. For the first time in my life, I am not willing to simply submerge who I am in order to comply with the others’ perceived or actual wishes and demands; for the first time in my life, I am not trying to force myself to do and be.
I am done trying to force life. I am done trying to force myself to be someone I’m not, to act like someone I’m not, to perceive myself as someone I’m not. I’m also done trying to force myself to recover what was lost, to force better relationships with my children and to be someone else’s idea of what “gay” is. I have decided to let go and let life come to me, which I believe it will, that it will “without compulsory means flow unto me,” hopefully forever and ever – or least for the rest of my mortal life.
Course, all this is theory. The rub is that I have to actually put it into practice.