It was 16 years ago that I lost my father to suicide and 14 since my mother passed from a heart attack. In many ways, my life wasn’t easy before that. I was merely 28 when I lost my father and barely 30 when Mom had her heart attack. I still remember both those days as if they were only yesterday. Yes, it does sound cliche, but when you lose a loved one, it really does always stick with you.
In those days, I was a rebellious child. It started when I was in my teens and continues on. I’m still waiting to outgrow it. Perhaps one day? I’ve never done anything the easy way. It used to drive my mother crazy, but when my father died, she confided in me that I was really much like her. It was probably the reason we had fought so bitterly from time to time. She told me that if she had not married my father, she might very well have traveled her whole life. She claimed that I had “wanderlust” and it was inherited from her. We were a lot alike. I always wanted to do everything my way, even when it was harder and it made no sense to other people; it made sense to me. I am one of those people that finds perfection in all the imperfections in this world. I hate injustice, but I rarely hate people. I detest it when people are quick to judge others and I try not to do it. I don’t like being judged, especially when people really don’t know me or my motives. How can you? I barely know them myself and I am still learning.
In 1983 AIDS had come to be the cover story of every major publication and if you were gay, then you were to blame for the epidemic. The religious right wing was blaming the disease on gays and saying it was God’s way of getting rid of us. As usual, they were wrong, but that didn’t stop the hate crimes and the slurs. It was not the time for someone so young and with no gay role models to come out of the closet. I remained in hiding and I grew bitter and resentful to my very core. I wasn’t sure who I should be angry at. I was just mad at everyone, especially my parents. They made me, they turned me loose in a world that was hateful and prejudiced. The world was a lonely and cold place for me, as I saw it back then. My memories of those days come back to me like they are in black and white photos, indicative of the dismal gray I felt at the time. Even memories of my childhood flood back to me from time to time, when something happens that triggers a memory. I have memories of being only three years old and biting my nails until they bled. I’d hide under the covers so I wouldn’t be screamed at for it, as I knew my mother would. When I was older, I’d pretend to read the newspaper and hide behind it so I could bite my nails. I was always nervous with the world, always full of anxiety. I always felt something wasn’t right, with me or my place in the world.
By the time I was a teenager, I’d made up my mind that I really didn’t want to be part of the majority because the majority made no sense to me. I fancied myself a non-conformist and bucking the system seemed to be what I was best at, so I rolled with that. At 19, I came out and it was an ugly experience for me. I don’t regret it though, because it really does get better. It was a freedom worth fighting for and I’d not change a thing. Well, maybe I’d change one thing…I’d have done it sooner if I could go back.
Through my 20’s I lived with various people, a drug addict girlfriend, a Wiccan girlfriend who claimed she saw trolls, a long term relationship with a recovering cocaine addict and I had a male room mate who turned out to be a pedophile. I moved. Fast. The 90’s were a time of change for me and for the world. Suddenly, it was almost “cool” to be gay or have a gay friend. I resented that too. People wanted to be like me but they hadn’t paid the same price I did. People wanted to be my friend because they thought that there was something about being different that was “cool”. They didn’t know me, didn’t know the inner struggles and the turmoils my life had been all about. In my rage and anger, I began to self-direct much of it and my life took a turn towards self-destruction.
I went for a time sleeping in my car and bathing in rest areas. I spent time sleeping on the couches of friends. All the while I had a mother who kept saying, “come back home” and I refused. My father never had much to say about any of it. He always let me be who I was. My mother lectured and constantly tried to change me. She was the main reason I wouldn’t have ever gone back to live at home. Once I was out, I didn’t want to go back. My freedom meant more to me than anything else in the world…even if I was just free to wander. “Not all who wander are lost” – one of my favorite quotes. I like to say “I’m not wandering aimlessly, I am experiencing endlessly.”
When my parents died, some things slowly began to become clear in my mind. Hurt is inevitable. We hurt and we sometimes hurt others. It is only through hurt that we grow. We can choose to wallow in our pain and our grief and never move on, or we can become something else. I believe in evolution, as I have watched myself evolve over the years. Life is a process. The ‘process’ is feeling everything in your life as it touches you; be it pain, joy, sorrow, bitterness, anger, love and happiness. Out of bitterness can come happiness and out of pain can come love. Sometimes love brings pain, but that pain is worth the feeling of love, even if it is fleeting.
I’ve made a life of wandering and experiencing. I’ve made a lifetime of memories in the process. I’ve hurt some people along the way. It is purely inevitable that you will hurt someone from time to time, even when you don’t mean to and it is the furthest thing from your mind. Sometimes just walking out of someone’s life is a hurt, but as the Indigo Girl’s song says, “Honey, all I know to do … is go.”
I think we all seek acceptance. Whether it is a grown man who still seeks acceptance from a mother he never really knew, or a gay person who just wants someone to believe her when she says that she knows that God made her this way. I was born who I am. If you have never walked in my shoes, how dare you condemn me or try to ‘fix me’. If you believe in God and use that as your means to judge me, how dare you believe that your God made some kind of a mistake when He made me. I’m special. I’m not like you and I have a keen understanding of the world around me that you will never have as I do. I’m lucky to be me and for those of you who judge me and think there is something wrong with me, well…I actually feel sorry for you. You misunderstand God. I will no more go to hell for being gay than you will for eating pork. Don’t use passages against me or say that you fear accepting me or my lifestyle when you are not without sin yourself. Don’t say that your sins are forgiven and mine are not, because frankly you don’t know that. You do not know God any more than the men who wrote the bible. It is written and interpreted by man. The bible has been translated from ancient Hebrew into thousands and thousands of different languages. Each time, part of the translation and meaning have been lost. The original form is almost nothing like what you read today. It isn’t a law…it’s a novel that was written by people who were nothing more than writers of their time. The Epic of Gilgamesh was written long before the bible and many of the stories (parables) are the same. It is virtually a copy.
I’ve taken the time to educate myself because my mother taught me something about books. She said to me as a child, “Books can take you to far away places and teach you about the world. Even if you can never afford to see those places, books can take you there. Books are worth more than gold because they can give you a knowledge that no one can ever take away from you.” I took her words to heart, and then I used them against her in my battle for independence and the right to be who I was. Eventually I won that battle and we reconciled all our differences. I have not with my brothers and I realize the difference between them and I. My mother bought them things. She gave and gave to them, from her purse. What my mother gave me was the ability to reason and a thirst for reading that led to a self-education that my brothers will never have. That led me to seek out education in colleges and I still take classes. I seek knowledge in a way that some people seek out water to quench a thirst.
I’m not interested in writing things that are above general people. I don’t strive to use words that common people don’t use every day. I want people to FEEL my words. I want people to know that each and every word I type at my computer is heartfelt. I don’t write for my own benefit, though it is cathartic. I find writing to be cleansing on a spiritual level. I write so that you can benefit from some of my pain and see the world around you in a different light. Think outside your box. Grow in this lifetime, as a person and allow your soul to extend beyond the normal boundaries of a closed minded individual. When you open your mind and your heart, you allow your soul to soar. When you dare to dream, you open your mind. When you actually begin taking steps to achieve those dreams, you allow your soul to soar to heights unknown. This brings you happiness. This brings you closer to yourself.
Inside us all is a child who seeks peace and harmony, love and acceptance… and often cannot find it in this crazy world in which we live. The key, I have found, is to seek happiness within. The smallest thing can bring joy…such as getting up early enough to watch the sunrise and know that another miracle has happened…the world made one more revolution around the sun, and I survived it.
I have lived to see another day, and so have you if you are reading this. Today, I choose to find happiness in the sunrise that I watched this morning, in the puppies sleeping contently in the chair next to me, or in the old dog sleeping on the floor at my feet. He who has been my companion and truest friend now for 12 years. I choose to ignore the bitter cold that creeps into my bare fingers as I type and the arthritis that makes itself known to me in my back, knees and neck. They are simply reminders that I am alive and that I have earned my stripes. I didn’t live my life the way my parents would have wanted, nor how others would have told me I should. I’ve lived it the way I wanted, with all the hurts, all the pain and the glaring mistakes that remind me that I am human. I am proud to be alive, proud to have survived loss through suicide, proud to be gay because it makes me understand the human condition in a way that I know I would not if life had come easier for me and I had been straight.
I forgive everyone who ever hurt me in in any way, because I refuse to hold onto hurts that destroy me and eat away at my soul. Also, I forgive because I understand fully that your soul is also on a journey in this lifetime and you are simply doing the best you can. If I ever told you that I loved you, I still do…because that is simply who I am. I never give up on people in my heart of hearts. I hope that people forgive me for my imperfections and my belligerence and stubbornness. I can be hard-headed sometimes, but with it comes a soft heart. We only speak out of anger when we are hurt the most. When I have reacted in anger, it is because I have allowed myself to be wounded. I like to think that I always try to do the right thing, I try to be a good friend and a good person. I don’t always succeed, I make mistakes in judgment and I allow myself to be hurt too easily sometimes, but those are things that make me human and therefore I am thankful that I have the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them.
If my parents had not died when I was relatively young, I am quite certain that I would not be the person that I am today. I don’t think I would be as open to change, as bold and daring as I have become. The life I lead is far from easy, yet I feel I am living my dream. I have simplified my life. True, I have no running water yet, nor do I have power. I basically camp full-time. I use an extension cord from the neighbor’s house to run a light and my computer. Another neighbor has wireless internet access that I can use. My life is difficult sometimes, but it is so much more simple that I find myself very happy to be back to basics. I have learned how to earn an income by writing. It isn’t glorious. I write advertisements and search engine optimization articles for companies who have products they want to get people reading about and then clicking to their websites. It pays my bills. I’m working on other writing projects that bring me joy.
I am very happy with my life as it is now. This may be the first time ever, that I have been so content and yet it is quite possible that I have less physical comfort than ever before. A testament to the fact that money cannot buy you happiness. In fact, only you can make you happy. Putting too much faith in other people will only let you down, because in the end they will choose themselves. That is life. Selfless people who constantly do for others are actually doing that for themselves, by the way. They have a low self-esteem and get great satisfaction from feeling needed by others. Doing things constantly for other people elevates them to a higher sense of self-worth, even though it is false. In reality, the false feeling will only create a bigger hole in you that you constantly need to fill. So you will do for your children, your grandchildren, your parents…until one day they are all gone, moved away or passed away. Suddenly no one needs you and now who are you? Do you even know? Don’t fall into this trap of placating those around you and giving up what is important to you. Those around you will move on to follow their dreams and leave you one day looking back and wishing you had followed yours.
We all have bad times, we all suffer…make the most of your suffering, just as you would your joys and your life will be different. Experience all that life has to offer and know that each and everything that happens is a learning experience, for we are all the students and life the teacher. Be thankful for the aches and pains, the suffering and the grief because they are your guides to happiness and joys, loves and triumphs. May this day bring you fulfillment the likes of which you have never felt and true happiness that fills your soul from the chalice of knowledge that only life can give.