Bumps on the parallel highway

So the highway of life on this team is pretty much parallel to the highway I’ve been on my whole life.  Bumps, cracks, chasms even, exist along the way.  The only differences are the catalysts that cause them.  I’ll tell you up front I’m begging for feedback from you as you complete your read of the post.

First, I’ll get the good news out of the way.  My kids spent a decent portion of their summer break with me and it was great.  I was worried about feeling like the “Disneyland Dad” but we had a brief family meeting when they got here and expectations were set regarding them helping take care of their home here and all went well.  They remembered how to use the washing machine and dishwasher.  If anyone has suggestions on getting kids to not put empty boxes back into the pantry, I’ll take them.  Nothing like being blamed for not keeping cereal on hand when there were two, yes two, empty boxes staring at me when I looked into the pantry.  Who knew?

They continue to be very comfortable around Steven and he is very comfortable around them.  It made me happy to fix dinner for my entire brood several nights while they were here.

Now for the first set of bumps in the road…the divorce is exponentially worse than I ever expected it could get.  Quite frankly, it never occurred to me that she could create as much hate in her heart as now exists.  If you haven’t been down this path before or have never stood by a good friend who has, I’ve got to set up a little legalese for you.  She filed first and served me with the paperwork that laid out her grounds for wanting the big D.  That was all well and good; simply said the marriage was broken and she saw no ability to repair it.  My return of serve included my “discovery”, a legal term asking for various and sundry items.  In my case, 100% of my discovery was economically related so we can adequately complete the child support worksheets required by the State.  Her attorney did one of two things.  She either failed completely to explain that proof of financial status is required to complete the worksheet or spun her up and told her that we didn’t need near what had been requested.  Don’t know which and it doesn’t really matter.  This flipped the hate switch and it’s been downhill since then.  She then got to serve me with her discovery and included in it a document called “First and Continuing Interrogatories”.  This is where she got to ask whatever came into her head.  And boy did some things come into her head.  For starters, she suggested my affair with Steven went back to 2005!  If all of the machinations that I would have had to create to make that a reality weren’t so outrageous this would have been truly offensive.  She then asked me to list the name, address, and phone number of every person I have had sex with since she and I got married, and it gets better, the names of any persons present who might have watched!  Then there’s the list of acts that constitute the sexual activity in question.  I’ve tried my best to keep this blog PG-13 at worst so I can’t list them but use the most carnal parts of your imagination and I bet she covered it.   Those two questions were at the top of the list of surprises but for brevity I won’t go further.  You get the picture.  So that’s where we are in the divorce process.  I’ve answered all of those questions, provided her with the 10 years of emails she asked for.  18 months of phone records that Ma Bell keeps.  Surprising to her, not to me, there’s nothing in either of those that shows an interaction with Steven before last year.  For those of you already through the D, please tell me this does get better at some point.

But here’s the part of the story where I really need help and feedback.  I’ve said it before and, sadly, I still find it true.  I still usually feel like a stranger in a strange land, no passport, no visa yet issued, barely speak the language.  But one of the things I’ve known for a long time and still struggle with is the disconnect in the gay world between sex and love and intimacy.  And, unfortunately, I’m having to come to terms with that.

For all of my life, once you entered a committed relationship, sex with others was off the table, unless you lived “the lifestyle”.  It’s just one of the things you give up for the “stability” of a relationship.  That doesn’t quite seem to be the norm for this team.  “Sex is just sex”.  I’m having a little trouble getting my head around this one.  Paranoia is taking root just a bit.  But am I the crazy one?  Is it possible to go on a business trip, find some other horny guy to get your rocks off with and not risk the relationship you claim to cherish back home?  I don’t know the answer and I don’t know how I come to deal with one of the accepted norms of the gayborhood.  This is where I’m asking for feedback.  I’ve had plenty of people tell me so far that Sex does not equal Intimacy does not equal Love. Sex is an act, love is state of being.  So what say you friends?

Posted in coming out, gay, married | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The same kind of different

Checking in…not much has changed.

The legal process has ratcheted up a notch or two.  Not pretty.  I continually remind myself that (a) I started this nuclear reaction, (b) love and hate are really on the same side of the coin, and (c) this, too, shall pass.  I’ve also learned that taking the high road is NEVER the wrong decision.  If I can impart a singular nugget of wisdom to any of you contemplating this same general voyage, it’s that.  Always take the high road, turn the other cheek, forgive your enemy – however you want to phrase it.  I ventured into the gutter once, and only once, and regretted it as soon as I got there.  Enough said on that topic.

My son spent his spring break with me and it was a simply glorious week.  My daughter went with her friends to the beach and while I missed having her with us, it was all good.  She deserved the opportunity to be with her friends and we both genuinely were OK with it.  The weather here was perfect and we had the chance to do lots of fun outdoor stuff.   I took it as a good sign each night he fell into bed exhausted with no coaxing from me and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.  I hope my kids never seem too old for me to watch them fall asleep.

The item that has me writing again is something many of you may have already seen this week.  There’s a blogger a few years younger than me who found himself in the same boat.  He’s been blogging for quite some time and was/is a staple in the “dad blogs” world.  It was apparently quite newsworthy this week when he posted his coming out story on his blog.  Picked up by CNN.com, HLNTV.com, and HuffPo.  Newsworthy for a variety of reasons, many of which totally lost on him (I get it).  I’ve added a link to his blog to my own.  For those of you who haven’t read it yet, get over there and, at least, read the posts on his coming out and his talk with his daughter about his orientation.  I’ve known I’m neither alone nor unique in this situation.  I’ve known I started on my path without intending to cause pain and suffering.  And I’ve believed since it happened that it was the right thing for me to do.  To have a complete stranger write about a journey and process so very similar to my own has lifted my spirits this week.  And then to read his post about his discussion with his daughter made me know that I did the right thing being honest with my own children sooner rather than later.  Again, if you need an uplifting read this week, check out http://didactic-pirate.blogspot.com/2012/04/honesty.html.

So that’s my “news” for now.  It’s really not news at all.  My normal not so different than your normal.

Posted in coming out, gay, married | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Alice Calls Again

“Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Thanks so much to those of you who have reached out over the last couple of months to inquire if I was (a) still breathing, (b) still fighting, or (c) (and I’m not making this up) still gay.  The answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes.

On the questions in the first category, things in my world are surprisingly good on most fronts.   My job continues to provide me with the challenge and financial rewards I seek from that part of my life.  My kids continue to be my pride and joy and I couldn’t be prouder of the way they are working through all of the changes.  And my relationship with Steven continues to flourish.  One year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed I would be where I am now.  I just walked long enough without knowing where I was headed.

On the questions in the second category, that’s the one area of my world that’s not so good right now.   I’ve said on many occasions that my upbringing requires me to use my manners at times and this is one of those times.  I’ll close this part of the report only by saying that it is my opinion that there’s a significant difference between being angry and being hateful and she’s crossed that line multiple times.  Whether we’ll ever return to being one of those ex-couples who can find a new normal based on the things we originally liked about each other remains to be seen.  The legal process is unfolding and it’s every bit as difficult as I imagined.

In the third category I can report that I am most definitely still gay and why that question was raised by more than one person boggles my mind.  Trust me on this one…it’s not a choice.  I’m learning to embrace the new me.  Steven and I went to a holiday party where the entertainment was three guys in drag who sang (very well).  While no regular, I have explored the gay part of my town.  And little by little it is becoming apparent to all around me (without having to ask) that I’ve switched teams.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading.  I’ve read the Steve Jobs autobiography and, more importantly, I’ve just finished reading a book called Finally Out by Loren Olson, M.D. (available on Amazon, BTW).  Like many of us, he didn’t come to terms with his sexuality until he was in his 40’s and is a shrink to boot.  When I first saw it I thought “if the head doc didn’t see it coming, I might not be as crazy as I think I am”.  It’s a thoughtful, funny read and provides amazing insight that has certainly helped guide me through my first half year on the other side.  If you’re struggling with the “how could I not have known” questions from yourself or those around you, pick this book up.

I hope I don’t go another 3 months without checking in but I simply haven’t had much to say recently.  Some days are a struggle and others breeze right by.  Some days are red-letter on the calendar and others I can’t remember a single valuable detail.  With the exception of my divorce  (details will not be published) my life is fairly mundane.  Steven and I live a domestic life not unlike the straight couples in the other houses on my street.  I cook dinner, he cleans up.  We do housework together, go to the gym, do our grocery shopping and have dinner out with friends occasionally.  We’re just not that exciting.  And that’s the dream I’ve had since recognizing my truth – I just want to feel normal.

Posted in coming out, gay, married | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Checking in

I’ve been pretty quiet recently.  And it’s not that nothing has been going on, it’s just I don’t think I’ve really had anything to say.  Like Richard in “My Trip Out”, I’ve been catching up on other bloggers and agree with him when he writes about most of these blogs starting with some sort of message and then the reality of life simply setting in.  I told myself when I started writing that this wasn’t a journal.  For starters, my life isn’t that interesting.  And then there’s the fact that I’m not an exhibitionist.  So the back and forth between me and my soon-to-be ex is just not for consumption.  Suffice it to say we’re moving towards a better place.  My kids are fine and we’re figuring out the “new normal”.  My relationship with Steven continues to strengthen and I’m realizing just how lucky I am.

I did have a new experience over the weekend.

I’ve had my first visit to a bona fide gay bar.  And it was actually a lot of fun.  I’ll admit to being nervous as I walked to the door…kept having these thoughts of running into someone from my “prior life” who might have been as surprised to see me there as I would have been to see him.  But as is usually my nature, I seem to worry about things before they happen and they usually don’t happen. Not a soul there I recognized.  But at the same time I recognized the full cast of characters from the gayborhood.  There was a lurker who kept at the fringes of the bar and in the shadows when he could.  He was much better suited for the cruisy park or an interstate rest stop.  There were the guys who thought they were the alpha males of the whole place.  The swishy queens who kept parading through to make sure we all saw just how fabulous they were.  The big bears in their flannel.  A few bikers for good measure.  A healthy dose of college twinks.  And then there I stood with Steven.  Jeans and a stylish, but not quite metro, button shirt untucked.  The music was great and provided more confirmation of my orientation as it was similar to a secret playlist I would have never let see the light of day a year ago.  What struck me most as I stood there and watched the evening unfold safe with the knowledge of who I was going home with was how it was actually just like the scenes playing out a couple of blocks over in the straight nightclubs.  People sizing each other up, drinking to excess for courage, and seeing what could happen.  Mostly rejection just like at any other club I’ve ever been in, a few love connections unfolding, but mostly just a group of people out to see what was going on.  Steven and I had a couple of drinks, talked to a few people he knew and decided we had seen and been seen all we needed.  Headed out and that’s now checked off of my list.

For those of you who have been following me since this time last year, you’ll be pleased to know that my holiday gloom has descended right on schedule – 6 weeks out from Christmas.  It started when the light pole decorations went up in my town way too early.  Hit me like the wrecking ball – here we go again.  And, of course, this year will be dramatically different.  But I’m making the most of it.  Volunteering at the Mission on Thanksgiving morning serving the homeless.  I’ve wanted to do this for years so I can see just how thankful I need to be.  Spending the afternoon with some family and then Thanksgiving night with Steven after he gets back from his own family obligations.  Christmas plans are not underway yet but I’m sure there will be drama there as well.  There always is.  No need for this year to be different.  I hope your holiday season is unfolding as you want it to.

Posted in coming out, gay | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Weekend Update

Parts of this update are as funny as Tina Fey and there are parts that make me sad to report.  Such is my world these days but I remain confident that things are going to be better and all four of us will be happy at our core again.

The kids came to the house here last weekend and it was great.  We met at the halfway point and did the baggage swap routine.  I’ve watched those happen for years and now can’t actually believe I’m one of those statistics but, again, here I am.  The good thing was that we could enjoy a nice dinner together before we got both cars back out on the road.  My son had been angling earlier in the week for my wife to come too and spend the weekend but she and I agreed that there was no real reason to delay the inevitable and she did an admirable job convincing him of this.  A few tears all around as the three of us got into my car and she got into hers but soon enough we were talking and laughing and enjoying being together.  My daughter has a knack for finding funny things on YouTube so she kept us laughing as long as we had 3G coverage on the trip.  A quick stop at the grocery as we got back into town and back home.  The dogs were as excited to see the kids as the kids were to see the dogs.  We spent some time sitting and talking and to bed we went.  I was worried about bedtime for my son and, as expected, there were some tears.  He told me he was sad that we weren’t a family living together any more and then verbalized his fear that he, too, might be gay.  I did my best to talk through the idea that it was OK to be sad and that I was too but we needed to figure out ways to not dwell on the sadness.  I also tried to navigate the “gay gene” minefield.  Suggestions on answering that one are welcome.

The next day was just like a normal Saturday.  Breakfast, a quick trip to the gym for me, and then off to the soccer fields to watch the cousins play.  Lunch with my mother and then back home for what was probably our last day on the water for the season.  Steven came over and brought his dog and spent the afternoon with us.  I’m pretty certain my daughter has figured out who he “actually” is to me and that’s OK.  She gets along very well with him and when she’s ready to talk, so am I.  I think my son still sees him as just my friend “Mr. Steve” and that’s perfectly fine too.  We had a great afternoon on the water then got cleaned up and met back up for pizza for dinner.  There’s a saying in the dog training community that a tired dog is a good dog and to a certain extent the same can be said for children.  My son was exhausted and bedtime was a non-event.  No tears, no questions, just the comfort of his bed with his dog beside him.  I’ll close the loop on these next two items later but just keep in mind that my son tried on Steven’s glasses at dinner and Steven is blind as a cave rat.  We also joked with my son about putting him in dance lessons (I can’t even remember how that one came up but it plays later in the story).

Sunday was another great day.  My son wanted to go fishing so we got up really early and went to the water.  Caught one bass and a mess of bluegill and bream.  All catch and release and he had a great time.  Also kept us from watching TV and the non-stop coverage of 9/11.  That’s really an abstract idea for a kid his age and with everything else going on in his world I didn’t really think images of jumbo jets slamming into the WTC were really what he needed.

Then time to pack up and head back to our meeting point.  Quick lunch with my Mom and we’re on the road.  And we get back to the same meeting point and go in for another meal.  Missed communication but it’s not a crisis…I thought I had made our lunch plans with my Mom clear and my wife is wondering why no one is hungry…we’ll figure it out, I say…this is the first time we’ve tried this thing.  But she’s perturbed.  I can’t fix it that my kids aren’t hungry 2 hours after eating a big lunch.  So we’re sitting at the table snacking on bread while she eats and she asks the kids what all we did.  And in the “kids say the darnedest things” category, my son starts talking about “how blind Mr. Steve is”!  So I get daggers while she asks what that means.  And he matter of factly reports on trying his glasses on at dinner.  He then tells the story of us threatening to put him in dance lessons.  More daggers.  OK, guilty as charged.  I should have cleared it with her ahead of time that he was going to be spending part of the time with us.  I get it.   But in my defense I think it’s important for my kids to see that I do, in fact, have friends left here.  I don’t know how my son views Steven at this point and I’m not sure it matters.  They like each other, he respects Steven, and Steven enjoys spending time with him.  Can I ask for more on that one?  And even if my daughter has figured out who he “really” is, is that a bad thing either?  Don’t kids want to know their parents are OK?  So we wrap up and get the bags exchanged again and away they head.   A few more tears but all four of us thankful that we’ve survived the first of these.

I spend some of my free time reading the trials and tribulations of others “like me” but so “unlike me” we would hardly recognize each other.  Men caught in some cruel version of purgatory.  Knowing full well who they are but not knowing what they want out of life.  Some living with a wife who knows or suspects the full story, some in a closet so dark they cannot see their hand in front of their own face much less their own face in the mirror.  Yes, there is pain for the four of us.  Some flashes of anger from her that I have expected and, to a certain extent, have even encouraged.  But I know that grieving the death of our marriage is just like grieving the death of a person and anger is one of those stages.  To ignore the anger stage shortchanges her healing.  I’ve gone through my own anger stage.  My anger was directed at God.  And I realized that God has bigger issues than my orientation and I’ve moved past that.  Healing in my own time.

So that’s my update.  My new normal is just that…normal as can be.  I’m realizing when I’m with Steven just how unfulfilled I have lived.  And I mean that as no disrespect for my wife and children.  I love them, and will always love them, dearly.  But I know who I am, I know who I am meant to be with, and I’ve never felt so content in my entire life.  I love more deeply and expressively than ever before and I’m thankful that God answered my prayers by giving me the courage to live authentically while there’s still time enjoy that life.

Posted in coming out, gay, married | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Bumps in the Road

Surprise, surprise…life was hard enough already, right?  Then I have to go nuclear and make it even harder.  Oh well, this is still the hand I’m playing and I still think I’m doing the right thing.  We’ll make it through this and be stronger on the other side.  A friend of mine on FaceBook who doesn’t even know the story yet posted a quote that said “Life is change.  Growth is optional.” yesterday and I thought that was pretty good.

So while holding fast to the belief that we’ll be OK on the other side, I’m encountering the expected bumps in the road.  My wife and kids are getting settled back in the old neighborhood but that’s bringing its own set of challenges.  The upside is that my son is back with his friends and a couple of them have separated or divorced parents so they are helping him with that.  Our circumstances are different but I think every broken marriage has its own set of unique circumstances.  The downside is that he continues to encounter people he knows who didn’t know they were coming back.  It’s a bit much for a 9 year old to have to tell the story.  The heartbreaker with him is that he’s expressed on more than one occasion a concern that he may also have the “gay gene”.  While he doesn’t harbor any ill will towards me I think he’s right to think “I sure as Hell don’t want to deal with this crap.”  And I’ll admit that it does get confusing for me here too.  While I truly believe my orientation has been with me since birth, I think it’s different than my eye color, hair color, etc.  So just how genetic is this thing?  Anyway, we’re working with him and the school counselor knows what’s going on too.

My daughter seems fine.  She’s totally immersed back in her old school with her old circle of friends and they’re giving her the support she needs.  She sounds just the same when I talk to her on the phone and appears to be taking all of this in stride.

My wife, like me, has good days and bad days with all of this.  Her analytical mind has reared its head and she’s trying to reconcile everything.  She’s going through all of the “typical” emotions that death brings.  She also appears to be asking the same questions that so many wives in her place ask.  I’m trying my best to answer her questions honestly but there are some I cannot even answer to myself so I have no idea how to answer her and I’ve told her that.  We continue to be very supportive of each other and I think she knows how much I do still love her.

As for me, I’m doing OK.  Still relying on medication more than I should but it’s getting better.  I’ve found a therapist and we’re working on getting a normal schedule set up.  I’m carrying a lot of guilt around because of all of this and I need someone to help me process that.  Steven is unbelievable.  He’s been so incredibly supportive and loving through all of this.  I’m thankful for the small bit of “routine” life we are able to establish.  Lunch together a couple of times a week.  Dinners when we can.  And very regular communication.  I can’t ask for more.

Keep me and my family in your prayers, my friends.  We need it.

Posted in coming out, gay, married | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Latest Update

I’ve made it to week two without a nervous breakdown.  Better living through chemistry.  Xanax during the day, Lunesta at night.  Little gay tic tacs.  But it’s really OK. As I’ve said, my new motto is “my life is in chaos and I’ve never felt more at peace.”  The meds aren’t really for my sanity as much as to help me adjust to the lightning speed at which this has all happened.  That was the one aspect of this I NEVER saw coming.

She’s decided, and I fully agree, that the best thing is for them to return to Atlanta.  While they love the water, that, alone, isn’t enough when they have not developed relationships here that will help through the aftermath.  So last Monday morning they headed out to look for housing.  As I write this, I’m thinking that some of you will think “she’s absconding with the kids – he’ll never see them again.”  And nothing could be further from the truth.  We’re closer than we’ve been in months.  Fully engaged with each other, supportive of the paths we’ve embarked on and yet fully aware that there is pain and tears to unfold.  But we’re best friends.  Have been for 20 years and she’s determined that this is not going to undermine that friendship.  I’ve said before on these pages that I’m married to the greatest woman in the world.  If she had the right parts, we’d be set.

So they’ve spent last week looking at housing in the old ‘hood and I’m fully engaged.  Checking the listings online, skyping to get a real time tour of the ones at the top of their list and helping craft and then reviewing the offer on the one they liked best.

The problem is that everyone thinks they’re an expert and feels the need to weigh in on our situation and it’s creating all sorts of noise she’s having to filter out.  The hens are trying to make her play the role of scorned woman and she knows better.  Others in the old neighborhood just roll their eyes when they hear the tale.  But in that neighborhood, dysfunction abounds.  I suspect half of the eye rolling really means “that’s nothing.  You should have heard what I heard yesterday.”

They came back from Atlanta last Friday afternoon.  She dropped the kids off and headed to the grocery.  I got back home before she did.  Tears on both sides when we saw each other for the first time.  But we made it through dinner.  After cleaning up the kitchen, I point blank asked if sharing a bed bothered her.  “Nope.  Does it bother you?”  It doesn’t but I had made arrangement to sleep elsewhere if it did.  But then when it came time to actually climb into the bed, the faucet was turned on.  Uncontrollable sobbing.  I did my best to console her.  We talked for two more hours.  About everything.  Finally gave her one of my night time tic tacs and she was able to sleep.  The days are good.  Saturday was fine but before we went to dinner with my mother, I suggested that it wasn’t a good idea for us to sleep in the same bed and she agreed.  So I sneak away after getting my son in bed and am back before he wakes up in the morning.  I don’t like games at this point in the story but I’m not sure a kid his age would “get” the issue of us sharing a bed when we’re otherwise friendly and engaged.  Sunday and Monday the same.

Today they headed back to Atlanta “for good”.  Although “for good” here is a really a purgatory of sorts.  The house they’re going into wont’ be available until the end of October so they’re staying with friends and will be back here on a regular basis to start moving a few things before the movers really get here.  But they start school there tomorrow and that’s a very good thing.  They’ve missed a week and a half already and that’s simply too much.  My son thrives on a routine and life is anything but orderly right now.

I count my blessings.  I read fellow bloggers who are living in limbo of some sort or another.  Important people in their lives not really knowing them, spouses who don’t know what to do or what they want, inertia ruling their lives.  Not here.  And while I can’t take credit for the decisive action post-disclosure, I’m thankful.  It seems painful right now but we can’t be far from the bottom and once there the climb to happiness for all of us begins.  I can’t imagine standing on the ledge looking into the abyss.

Posted in coming out, gay | Tagged , | 1 Comment