11:04 a.m. - September 02, 2014
This is what I say to the universe, to the bogey-man, to that overwhelming tide of fears that swamped the boat: I triumphed. You did not win. I did not yield to oblivion.
I made it through the dark and found my footing.
It turns out that I like people after all, and when given a chance, some of them like me as well. Iím invited to parties. Friends stop by and we head out for an unplanned beer or gelato because they saw my lights on. But more than this, I have opened my home. Do you understand? My one safe place in the universe, where I could control all variables and ensure minimal triggering, the place with triple locks on the door and lights left on at night, not my castle but my refuge, the space into which I rarely allowed people entry - that too has changed. I have friends over every week now, and laughter fills this loft of mine. I invite people for extended stays and they come. Friends come and sit around the table and we drink great wine and talk about books, politics, the economy, ideas grand and trivial, and we laugh and laugh. And when they go, Iím not drained or worried one has stayed behind to do me harm, and I close the door and look forward to next time. I wonder about this change and when it occurred, as if one moment it was dark and the next it wasnít thanks to a light switch on the wall. It was baby steps, it was plodding, it was me taking a series of long jumps, and now I wouldnít have it any other way. I have people around me, Iím connected, Iím not cut off. There is a hand when I reach out, and Iíve learned to trust that a hand is there even when I canít see it at first.
Iím not on the other side of the aquarium wall looking out at life.
And then thereís Robert, the man who calls me brave, who whispers ďweíre in this togetherĒ when intimacy triggers unpleasant childhood flashbacks. He touches me and I donít flinch but touch him back. He looks at me and I smile, and he runs his hands across my body and I donít feel fear but love. In my late 30s Iím finally learning what intimacy is like, how it feels, how deeply it binds people together. It is not something to fear, but something to marvel over. I canít get enough of him. No fear, no shame, no panic attacks when he is on top of me and I canít quickly move away, no crying because I feel helpless and powerless and dirty and taken advantage of the way I was when I was a child. The greatest gift is that I can sleep by his side and in all this time, not once - NOT ONCE - have I had a night terror. I sleep the sleep of contentment, of knowing to my core he will not harm me. I sleep through the night now, whether he is with me or not. The nightmares and night terrors have stopped. I canít remember the last time I woke up screaming or crying and panicking, reliving memories that made me vomit or want to find a place to hide until the sun rises. There are times when I dream about the closet and can feel the anxiety rising like a cloud of locusts, sense the familiar terror of being discovered but not saved and the creepy, skin-crawl of his laugh, but my dream self looks straight ahead at the closet doors and wins the battle of wills. Each time, the bogey-man diminishes and some day, will be nothing more than a minor annoyance.
But this is a lesson Iíve learned. For much of my life, I was angry at the bogey-man for having stolen my childhood and placing me onto this path lined with mile markers like Youíre Fucked Up or Thereís No Escape or This Is Your Lot in Life, heading only to that land of nevermore. I felt indelibly marked - ruined, maybe - and my failed attempts at forging substantial relationships with women or men emphasized to me how broken I was, which only made the feeling of being ruined by the bogey-man worse. I would scream my frustration about having my life - MY life - dictated and decided upon by another, and I couldnít get past that.
And then one night, while sitting around talking with G. and R., R. mentioned that he had been sexually abused as a child. And then G. revealed that he, too, had gone through the same. And then I spoke up, and all that shame that had been dragging me down lightened up just a bit. Little by little Iíve been assessing my life and recognizing I donít have to be some filthy, dirty, broken, unwanted, fucked up guy. I donít have to hide away from life out of fear thereís a bogey-man in everybody just waiting to pounce on me again. I donít have to be afraid of people finding out my secrets if Iím the one who owns them.
And you know what? The more I talk about them the less power those secrets have and the more Iím free.
Really, itís been messy, and Iím not cuing up the sappy soundtrack to go along with this update just yet, but it all comes down to this: Love didnít fix me. It was me fixing myself that opened the door for love to happen. Had to love myself first, and that is no trite, over-played Facebook meme, because itís the simple truth.
Robert and I have started talking about him moving in. I welcome this development. Iím excited for the future and catching up on lost time.
Last thing - In every place Iíve ever lived since I was 8 years old, the very first thing I did was remove closet doors so I could never be taken again or have to be reminded. The thing is, the absence of doors simply highlighted the reason why they werenít there in the first place. Denying and ignoring the past only made it shine harder in the present.
Before Robert moves in, Iím buying closet doors. Iím proud of myself for getting to this place.
And in other news, my sister came out and married a woman, and they live in London. My mom and her partner are considering marriage. Iím introducing Robert to my mom in a few weeks. I still write. I teach. I drive too fast and sing off-key. I travel and visit friends all across the US and around the world. I take long walks with my partner along the harbor and we laugh and laugh, come home, make love, and laugh, laugh some more.
Itís about time.