You know the guy (or gal, I’m just thinking of the phrase here, not the gender presentation). I didn’t want to be that guy. I didn’t want to be the one who took off. I made the vows. I promised to love. I promised to honor. Because of my religion at the time, I even promised to obey. (Oh yeah, there’s that involuntary eyeroll). I promised to do all of these things until death would us part.
I promised. God was paying attention. The federal government was too. So were the attended hundred and fifty or so people who came to hear me say it, in my white dress.
And I meant it. I wasn’t faking. I swear I wasn’t. To the very best of my ability at the time, I made a lifelong promise.
So when the cracks started showing, I worked at repairing them, I worked at fixing them. I was fortunate that I hadn’t thrown in my lot with an abusive creature, just another regular human being who deserved to be treated with regular human respect and caring. The numbers of self-help and relationship help books on the shelf grew. The difference between the desire for introspection, the capacity for appeasement, and the occasional flicker of realization that this wasn’t necessarily going to last a lifetime, tugged at me.
It took a long time to realize the main reason why the cracks were there, so wide, so unfathomable, so unfixable, so uncrossable. And as soon as I realized that I’m not a cantankerous or boneheaded partner, I’m just a lesbian, things felt better.
But years and years of living as if there were something seriously wrong with me took their toll, and still take their toll. This went back before that pledge before God and the government. It went back to those earliest years when if I could only do right I could have a peaceful existence – but doing right depended on gaining the salvation of a vengeful God while appeasing the ever-changing rules of a life situation that simply wasn’t ever going to make real sense.
Part of making sense of my adult life consisted in being, well, consistent. And the capacity for being consistent meant I could stick it out when things were really unstickable. I could live in a situation that looked pretty wonderful from the outside, but that wasn’t anything like wonderful on the inside, even though for so long I couldn’t name the reason it wasn’t wonderful.
And isn’t this the plaint of many long-term relationships chosen in early adulthood? The desire to be grown up and to work it out, in the midst of the realization that the whole thing has somehow gone off the rails specifically while you were working on keeping it on the rails. The realization that the harder you worked, the harder it hurt. And that, in my case, I SHOULD be grateful. A life filled with economic stability, surrounded by people who all did their best to live their best, a life filled with normal. Why not grow up, grow mature, grow old, in a life filled with normal? Why not?
But I was just so gay. And so I had to go. And I took my time, I took so much longer than most of my friends thought I should. I made sure everyone was taken care of. I made sure the children were not just OK but really really really REALLY OK. I made sure I knew the current limits of my ability to fly and not hit the net of angry opposition from those who might have legal recourse to oppose me.
And when things got really horrible from one quarter of the family, I kept going. One foot in front of the other, kept living out, kept on toward my full independence, kept acting as close as I could to – normal.
But I lost a huge part of myself that I had only just found. I lost it again. I lost my feeling of trust in my intuition. I lost my connection to my body. I lost my sense that if I dreamed it I could, maybe, live it. I lost my belief that I could expend any energy whatsoever doing anything other than survive.
And now, here I am, independent, in a new life, with the fabric of my old life rewoven into this new life in a new way, but still I left. I was that guy. I was the guy who left. I was the guy who couldn’t figure out how to make that lifetime commitment work. I was the guy who couldn’t even, in the first place, figure myself out enough to determine that a lifetime commitment of the kind I chose was completely untenable for me.
So now, here, I’m afraid to choose. I’m afraid to commit. I’m afraid to dream. I’m afraid to determine, to discover, to give my all. Because I don’t want to be that guy again. I don’t want to be the guy who says yes and then says good bye.
Part of this may be sheer ego, sheer puffed up self importance. I get that. And part of this may be just old, old wounds surfacing – and a renewed look at the fears that both kept me in a life that didn’t fit while keeping me feeling somewhat stuck as I move out in my new life. But part of this is that I want another chance. I want to allow myself to feel overwhelmed with love for another human being and I want to believe that that’s OK. I want to take the risk. I want to decide that who I am is just, already, and finally, good. I want to believe that, looking back, and allowing for human foibles, that what I offered to all those I loved has been essentially good. I want to believe that even leaving constituted an act of love. That’s a hard one to contemplate because I don’t really want to give much emotional energy to that part of my past anymore. But I want to live out of love. I want to overflow with it.
I’m just afraid I’ll frighten away those I love, now. I’m afraid that there won’t be enough room in my life for what I want to give, who I want to be, how I want to live. And so I cover it up with friendliness, joking, platitudes – all of which, at the end of the day, are offered with great fervency, as if in code. As if to say, “Do you understand? Do you get it?”
I didn’t like that my life hurt people. If the people were assholes, too bad. For the few that were psychos, well, I have therapy to figure that one out. But for the good ones, the ones who take enough charge of themselves to work through it anyway and who don’t need me to feel bad over them, for them I do feel bad.
I guess I was honest. I guess I was honest in the sense that as I slowly understood myself, I slowly stepped out, and out, and out, and out… and it was a twisty, turny, curvy road.
But the thing I don’t want to screw up again, now, going forward, in the remaining years of my life, is love. I don’t want to call what I offer, what I give, what I share, love – while not understanding that instead I caused hurt. I want discernment behind what I offer, behind who I am. And I want to believe that what I can offer matters enough that I should get to practice offering it clumsily, awkwardly, and uncertainly, from the deepest inner sense of myself that I can find in any given moment.
I didn’t want to be that guy who left. At the end of the day, I don’t want to be the guy who leaves myself locked in a closet because I can’t handle who I am. I don’t want to be that guy who can’t choose, can’t decide, can’t commit, can’t find a way to live.
I want to be that guy who can love no matter what, live as long as life allows, and believe that at the end, what I have offered has left a legacy of love.
I left. In a big way. I want to come back. Not to my old way of life, my old understanding of myself. No. But I want to come back to all the parts of me that scare me the most. And I want to live there. I want to love, honor, and obey the parts of me that make me feel the worst. I want to believe that my brain is telling me, loudly, that I don’t deserve THIS or THAT because, in fact, I do. I want to make decisions about myself and about how I conduct my life from that deep inner place where the little scared self suddenly gets to say “I want THAT” and finally gets taken seriously.
I’ve been afraid of going into a state of unaware profound mental disarray. But I’m gonna go talk to the scared kid in there and let her whisper the truth. That’s the guy I want to be.
This ole’ country song has everything in it but the train and the jail (though both are probably implied, if you listen carefully). But the chorus does something to me every time. “If the sun comes up tomorrow, let her be…” Yes. This version is one of those wild illegal concert videos done on someone’s phone, but I think I love it more than some of the more polished versions. I love how Darius Rucker’s voice keeps getting better, and the story keeps getting stronger through the years of singing the song.