In late November 2010, I wrote a blog post in which I shared seven lessons or realizations I had come to as I tried to make sense of the choices I had made in my life. Further to yesterday's post, here is the second (edited) part of that post:
"Third Lesson: Being married and having children forced out issues stemming back to childhood abuse and abandonment.
"I did not come to grips with my mother’s abuse and father’s abandonment until almost 10 years into my marriage. I had trained myself so well to absolve my parents of any guilt that it took an almost complete breakdown for me to finally see what for so long I had tried to hide from myself. I never would have reached that point, I don’t think, but for the fact that my 'buttons' were constantly being pushed, day in and day out, by the demands of marriage and parenthood. The situations I found myself in as an adult started the playing of 'tapes' from deep within me, ghostly situations from my own childhood that were buried so deeply in my subconscious that I could not recognize what was going on. This breakdown, along with the subsequent counseling I went through, helped me to crack – for the first time in my adult life – the false persona that had encased me for so many years.
"Fourth Lesson: Even though my false persona had finally been cracked, I continued to have low self-esteem and poor self-knowledge.
"For most of my marriage, I have been co-dependent on my wife. I felt like I needed her, and the thought of separation and divorce scared the hell out of me. I was willing to go to great lengths to preserve our marriage, and I did so. I was not emotionally healthy enough to assert myself, to feel good about myself as a heterosexual, let along as a homosexual.
"Fifth Lesson: The serious marital problems that my wife and I have had during the past several years prepared me for where I am today.
The problems that my wife and I have had in our marriage during the past several years forced me to confront half-hidden legacies from my dysfunctional childhood, to face some unpleasant things about both myself and my wife, to go through the counseling I have received, and to break out of co-dependent behavior. In the process, my knowledge of self greatly increased and my self-esteem was enhanced. I can clearly see that these challenges prepared the way for me to finally embrace my sexuality.
"A major turning point in this regard came this past summer when I had a sort of epiphany in which I suddenly realized that there could and would be life after divorce, if that is what it came to. In fact, life might even be better. This experience strengthened me and helped me to move past codependency. As my more recent therapist told me, 'You need to be a position where you can say to your wife, "I choose you – not because I need you, but because I want you."' My revelatory experience helped me to move past needing to choosing, thus preparing me for the possibility that my wife might not choose me or that, ultimately, I might not choose her.
"Sixth Lesson: My marriage has given me wonderful children.
"I am grateful for my children, and I am grateful that recent events in my life have helped me to see and relate to them in a healthier way. I know intuitively that my relationship with my children will continue to grow more authentic as I grow more authentic. For too long, our relationships have been governed by external mandates rather than internal, authentic love and caring. I have already worked to change that and will continue to do so.
"Seventh Lesson: Everything I have gone through in my life has prepared me for this season of my life.
"Because I know that I am gay, I suppose it is inevitable that I wonder what my life would have been like had I come out years ago, rather than now. I particularly regret the passage of my youth, masquerading as a heterosexual, hiding in fear behind a mask. However, wishing something “don’t make it so.” And if I were to be honest with myself, as I have tried to be in what I’ve written above, I would admit that I was not in a position – emotionally, psychologically and religiously – to come out before this point in my life.
"So, even though a part of me mourns what might have been, an older, wiser part (not the emotional part, and definitely not the sexual part) of me tells me that I should be grateful for the years I spent in the closet. They prepared me, brought me to knowledge of myself, and gave me my children.
"For all of this, I am grateful. And as part of an ongoing effort to learn to love and forgive and accept myself, I must let go of the regrets, and go forward. I’m not so naïve as to think that this will not happen overnight. But I have begun the journey."
(I'm working on a memoir about the year I came out. This is one of a ongoing series of posts based on the blog - entitled "Invictus Pilgrim" - that I kept during that year.)