Monday, June 6, 2011

Where I'm At: Riptide

It happens when I least expect it. Days, weeks, even months go by; then, out of nowhere, it comes, and I suddenly feel myself being pulled out to open sea. I can no longer feel the ocean floor beneath my feet; I cannot see where I’m headed. My world is turned upside down.

That’s what it feels like when, after moving confidently forward into my brave new gay world, something happens that totally upsets my equilibrium and I’m pulled out into a sea of self-doubt, questioning everything.

This time – on my very first Pride Weekend of all times (WTF!?) – I think was initially grabbed me by the ankles and knocked me over was a conversation I had the other day with my wife. We were talking about our daughter.  (Paradoxically, it was a discussion last October about this same daughter that resulted in me coming out to my wife.) She is spending the summer away from home, and there have been some developments in her life that are a “bolt out of the blue.”

This led to a discussion of how President Packer’s talk at last October’s conference had been a bolt out of the blue for me. Prior to hearing that talk, I had had absolutely no intention of coming out; I had never given it serious consideration in all the years we were married. Even when our marriage ran into very heavy weather in the last several years, I had never – not even once – given any thought to living life as a gay man.

Then, in the space of just a few minutes, my world was turned upside down. As I have written before, something shifted deep inside of me, and I knew I would never, could never, be the same again.

But things have been better lately between me and my wife, and either she or I – I can’t remember who – made the comment, “Just think … If President Packer hadn’t given that talk, we’d likely still be together.”  That probably sounds bizarre.  Does it?

We then talked about our marriage. We were saying things and venturing into territory that hadn’t been entered since we made our decision to separate last December. She was saying that she had no regrets: she feels we were meant to get married, meant to have our children. I couldn’t disagree:  how can I regret?  Which child would I not have had?

I told her the only regrets I have are the effects of the conflict I felt deep inside of myself all of those years. I could see the manifestations of the conflict, but I didn’t understand the source of the unhappiness or the link between this conflict and its outward manifestations. 

But then, I know I could not possibly have done any better. I gave it my all, and that wasn’t good enough. And, in quiet moments, I can almost contemplate forgiving myself. Is there something on the other side of regret? Self-acceptance? Letting go … giving it away … 

My wife then said something that she has never said before, and this was what rushed past my legs, knocking me off my feet and pulling me away from the shore:  “I sometimes wish we could go back to the way things were … but I know we can’t.”


Thereafter followed, during the course of the ensuing days, other things that caused me to question my identity, to wonder – again – what the hell it is I am doing. Things about gay life that I don’t particularly like. Trying to forge my own identity within the gay world. Wondering about my relationships with my children. Trying to navigate the foreign territory of coming out in middle age. Coming late to the party. Resenting what I never had as a younger man. Feeling very, very alone and more than a little bit foolish at times.

All of this is normal, the little voice tells me.  Yet, that is little comfort when I sense that old feeling of spiraling downward; the fear that comes from not knowing when I’ll find a solid footing again. 

A friend assures me that it will be ok.  He tells me that this is what coming out is all about:  forging a new identity; reviewing the past, sorting and discarding if necessary.  Rebirth.  Let go.  Trust. 

Separation is painful at times, but oh so necessary.  And so it goes …

Postscript:  I wrote this post on Saturday night.  Yesterday was Pride Sunday here in Salt Lake, my first.  It was an incredible, wonderful day.  I plan to publish a post about it tomorrow, which will probably be entitled “Recovery and Affirmation.” 


  1. I have found myself having the exact same emotions in regard to coming out. I haven't gone as far as you have because I have weighed the current life that I have and would be giving up for the some unknown benefit, if any. I am older than you but still have a lot of the same feelings about what if I had known sooner in life. At this point I can't sacrifice my wife's and family's love for some intangible. All I really desire at this point is for the people that I love to understand what makes me tick. Gay and bisexual people are so completely misunderstood by the mainstream. People can't help their attractions.

    I don't usually give advice to people but seeing as our life situations are so similar except that I have a few years on you, I am going to try here.

    If you never had the urge to come out until President Packers talk offended you as it did many of us, then I would advise you not to get carried away. If you love your wife and children as much as I love mine, try to go back to the way things were as your wife wished. See how it goes. Of course, she knows now "what you are" and but she also knows "what you have always been", which of course changes the situation some. But she obviously loves you.

    I have always maintained that I was directed to the woman that I married by the spirit. It was not happenstance. I do have feelings sometimes of "what if" but I also know that the "what if " could turn out to be a horror show! The grass is not usually greener on the other side of the fence.

    The odds of finding another person who loves me the way that my wife does, whether they be male or female, are next to nill in my mind. I think is probably the same for you.

  2. With all due respect to Adon, I can't help but think of Lewis Carroll, "I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then."

    All we can do is continue forward and meet life as we find it.

    Perhaps, one day, you and your wife will find that your paths again cross in a special way, but they'll cross because you are moving forward with your life affirmatively, not fleeing from your future to some ephemeral memory of your past.

    Have faith in yourself and have faith in the Lord and you will find your footsteps will be guided and your feelings will resolve themselves in a way that will ultimately bring you peace.

  3. Life and experiences frequently come as package deals. Both in how we reflect on the past and how we choose going forward, it is usually not within our power to select only what we wish and reject the unsavory.

    I look forward to your post about the Pride Parade. It was my first as well.

  4. I really wish there was a rule book on how to be a gay christian, but there is not. One of the struggles that I continue to have is separating my spirituality from my old religion. Its this separation that is really scary for I once thought spirituality and religion were the same.

  5. IP,

    It must be tough, for you and your wife, wistfully wondering if you could go back. There is something good about knowing the absolute predictability of your marriage after so many years, when faced with the uncertainties of making your ways into new relationships.

    But you have to do what is best for both of you, and that is separation with all the ups and downs it entails. After the riptide is finished with you, you will wash into shore so just be patient.

    I think you have it right - the other side of regret is giving it up and moving to self-acceptance. Not easy, but I am on that path too. Good luck!