This was actually very difficult for me. I enjoy interacting on Facebook, responding to comments and posting inane or poignant things throughout the day. My absence from it was palpable to me, although I doubt it was noticed much by others. I thought about how frustrating it was to want to say things but feel like I couldn’t. To want to express myself but resists the urge to because it would break the vow of silence I made to myself.
I thought about what it was like when I lived in the closet. How terrified I was to share my true thoughts and feelings with people because I was afraid that I would be the subject of harassment and, worse yet, lose the people in my life I cared about, friends and family members alike. When I finally did come out, I vowed never to hide my sexuality again, no matter the cost. I have remained true to that vow to this day.
However, in my contemplation of silence, forced or self imposed, I came to a realization: I may have become a vanguard of openness in my sexuality in my circle and community, but I still carried a certain form of self-imposed silence into my life. I would stand tall and proud and announce I was gay and happy about it to anyone, but in almost every other aspect of my life, I have continued to bury my thoughts and feelings for fear people would either not like me or reject me. I have allowed others to influence, coerce and manipulate me into silence and compliance, holding their friendship as blackmail to maintain my compliance. In the few instances I allowed myself to share my honest thoughts and feelings to friends, they rejected me without batting an eye and let me know in no uncertain terms I was wrong, irrational, overly emotional, etc etc., and these friendships came to an end. All because, in the long span of time we were friends, in all the times I bent over backwards to support them, show my love and care for them, do for them as I could and be the best friend I knew how, I dared to speak up a single time when I needed or wanted something or when my needs weren’t being met or when I had insecurity and needed reassurance. And the price I paid was total and complete rejection. Because of these experiences and my natural proclivity to be a people pleaser, I have continued to place others needs or decisions or comfort or happiness above and/or in place of my own as a general rule. I still carry that fear that, if I stand firm and be honest about what I want and need, how I feel, what I believe, I will lose the people I care about in my life.
I can’t do that anymore. I am tired of the fear and guilt and anger and self-loathing.
I am tired of the silence.
My choices and my life are mine to make and I am finally willing to risk everyone and everything in my life to live as honestly and authentically as I can, not just as an openly gay man, but as a sensitive man and a fierce and loyal friend who requires the same level of devotion, respect, support and concern in my relationships that I give. If you pass judgment on me or if you try to make me solely responsible for the problems we have in our relationship; if you don’t like where I live or what I do or how I act or what I believe; if you don’t approve of the choices I make in my relationship or my life, what I write on my blog or how I spend my time; if you don’t like how I look, what I say, how I act or the things I support or boycott; if you don’t like my politics, support organizations that subjugate me and my kind or feel somehow your opinions on my life should have more bearing than my own; if you can’t give me love, respect and support in my life, then, quite frankly, you have no place in it. Because if you make me feel bad, ashamed, sad or guilty, if you try to manipulate me or abuse our friendship, if you disrespect me and expect more than you’re willing to give, you are not a friend and I am no longer afraid of losing you. I am done with that.
In a month’s time, I will be 40 and starting a new adventure in a new home with the only 2 beings who have always supported and loved me unconditionally: my husband and my dog. I am finally realizing that I am a lovable and worthy human being, friend, partner, tenant, neighbor and employee. I am attractive, decent, honest, fair, loyal and strong. I am these things and I am no longer afraid to admit them, embrace them and reject anyone who either doesn’t recognize those qualities in me or tries to convince me they don’t exist.
I have made my decisions and I am at peace with them. I am surrounding myself with people who add to my life, not subtract from it. I am letting go of all the past angst and hurt and anger and “what ifs” and accepting that some doors are closed, some bridges burned and that the things that went wrong were not my fault and that I did the best I could do and made the best decisions I could at the time. If that wasn’t good enough for anyone, that’s their problem, not mine and they have lost someone who would have been a great friend, but I have only lost someone who would have dragged me down and continued to abuse me for their own wants and needs. No big loss.
So look at that guy up there at the top of this post. Understand he’s human, he has wants and needs, he’s not perfect but he’s deserving of good people and friends in his life and then make the decision: be one of those people and stay in his life or don’t and go. Do what you like. But the door mat and the people pleaser is gone for good.
If you don’t recognize me, it’s because I’ve grown a backbone, put on on some confidence and made a decision: it’s my life, my time. If you don’t like the way I spend it; if you don’t like and accept me as I am, there’s the door.
The only one I am responsible for pleasing and making happy anymore is me!