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.”