I was recently reduced to this by one I thought once loved me: You are nothing but a user, a taker, a fraud. You have lived a lie your entire life.
When a family redefines itself, many ugly words are spoken… from all angles. There is pain and grief and loss, and the jagged edges create dangerous, rocky terrains where soft landings once existed. Some words and actions hurt more than others. It stung, this accusation, this generalization. It was a hard slap on tender skin. It was a minimization of my existence… all the nuances, the moments, the experiences.
Those words were a cruel and lazy attempt to tie up a story that could not be easily contained. It is akin to the assumption that the demise of my 22-year marriage is solely due to my sexuality.
Loves, know this: There is always more. Nothing is ever that simple. There are always multiple, complex, misunderstood sides to every story.
Under the surface of the sea, an entire hidden world exists. Under the surface of our external lives, the same.
When the sting of that accusation subsided, I was left to sort through my truths, my own realities. And I uncovered these…
It is not a lie to not know, to question, to hide.
It is not a lie to choose the easy and expected route in response to your Catholic upbringing, to your community, to your family.
It is not a lie to rest in the cocoon of heterosexual privilege. Especially when – in support of your LGBTQ friends – you change your Facebook profile picture to a rainbow background, and a family member comments on how far you’ve strayed from your conservative upbringing, how much your soul needs prayer and redemption.
It is not a lie to love as hard and as well as you could for 28 years even though it wasn’t the kind of love either of you truly needed.
It is not a lie to give birth to and raise four incredible human beings. It is not a regret. It is not a falsehood. It is the greatest gift you’ve even been given.
It is not a lie to fall in love, unexpectedly, wholly.
It is not a lie to look in her eyes and feel kindness, comfort, equality, safety, warmth.
To feel home.
To those of you who might be hiding, questioning, afraid… It’s okay to be you. You should be nothing else but you. You are unique… the one and only. Those who don’t see, who don’t understand – they don’t matter. But you do. You matter. You and your big, brave heart. Do not stand silent with an angry foot on your throat. Sing your song, tell your story, hold the hand of the one you love. You are not this part or that part… you are the sum of all your beautiful, broken parts – the good and the bad – stitched together in perfection.
I just received feedback from my amazing editor, Peter, on my memoir-in-progress, Hurricane Lessons.
The prologue outlines the story burning inside me, the one I have lived and experienced and maneuvered for forty-seven years. The one that might speak to you, too.
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“And isn’t it a kind of madness to be living by a code of silence when you’ve really got a lot to say.” ~ Billy Joel, Code of Silence
I did not form my own identity. I let it be formed for me. For forty-five years, I allowed circumstance and inertia and expectations mold me into the girl I thought the world wanted me to be. It was important for me to be accepted by the masses, to be identified as the good girl, to acquiesce.
Until it no longer was.
In retrospect, there was always a storm brewing right under the surface, a bubbling that had been there since birth, rolling clouds, dark skies, the ominous inevitable. A wall of thunderstorms surrounding my calm middle, the eye of the hurricane waiting patiently for the atmospheric shift, for the undoing.
Sexual abuse, sexual violence, sexual identity.
All tucked into the corners of my life, neatly, quietly, until the corners no longer held.
A story of unraveling, a reclamation.
A story of a birth, four and a half decades after my first.
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It is not a lie when the story you began telling ends differently.
There is great beauty in the unexpected.
The truth – even when traversing its darkest, most painful corners – really does set you free. The sunshine is right there, around that turn, waiting to warm your face. Keep going. Do you see it? That tiny, golden sliver of light? It’s yours. All yours. Bask in it.