Jumping without a net

Wow…what a couple of days I’ve had…Ferris Bueller said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  Boy was he right…Life does move pretty fast.

I woke up Saturday morning early but happy for whatever sleep God allowed after the detonation.  I needed to go to the gym.  When I got back she was ready for us to have a discussion with the children.  We had agreed on Friday night that there was no reason for us to “keep up appearances.”  This doesn’t mean we’re headed to the court of Big D immediately.  There’s a tax code to take advantage of for God’s sake and divorce is really only relevant if either of us wants to remarry.  Not really an option for me and not for her today either.  But we’re not going to pretend to have a conventional marriage.  So we told the children.  More tears, more laughter when we could muster it (think the scene in Talladega Nights where the kids scream “TWO CHRISTMASES” when they’re told of the divorce), and lots of talking.  And they know the whole story.  The details of this conversation will remain private but I’ll say again that I have the most amazing wife and kids on the planet.

Later that day I sat down with my mother and brought her into the dirty little secret.

Finally, it was time to go see my brother and his wife.  For all of my life when people talked about us, I was the smart one and he was the jock.  Well, I may be the smart one but he’s the wise one.  He asks, probes, seeks the deeper answers.  And he’s challenging me on my claim that Steven was not the catalyst to my big reveal.  He told me it’s against human nature to jump without a net.  Trade in the stability of a traditional marriage with some great kids for the chance to live authentically with the acute knowledge that may mean living alone?  He’s not buying it.  Now I’ve written about defying gravity before and isn’t that what jumping without a net really is?  The chance to truly defy gravity.  But gravity is a fundamental law of the universe.  So maybe he’s right.  Maybe down the road this will be another reality I can face.  Maybe it was the realization that without going nuclear I had to continue to live my life with Steven off the radar and that was the actual thought that put me over the edge.  Who knows?

Yesterday felt like the last day of summer for my clan.  On the water until almost dark and then to Dairy Queen for burgers and Blizzards.  The four of us had a great day.  Mostly laughs and enjoying each other like we used to.  At some point, and I can’t even remember the comment that led him to say it, my son said “life is weird.”  Without missing a beat my wife and I said in unison “you have no idea!’  The four of us belly laughed together.  I’m a blessed man.

My old motto was Let it Be.  Well it is.  My new motto is “my life is in chaos and I’ve never felt more at peace.”  Lots of change on the horizon.  Lots of tears to fall.  I’m sure there will be pain in the unraveling of 20 years spent together.  But I wouldn’t change a thing.  She’s an amazing woman and I want her to be happy again.  My kids are amazing and I want them to be well-adjusted.  I’m a decent guy and deserve my own happiness.  And I know that on the other side of this chasm, I’ll be a better “best friend” to my wife and an even better father to the two best kids in the world.

I hope all of you traveling a similar journey find the same peace on the “other side” as I have found and that you’re surrounded by a support system a tenth as good as mine has been so far.

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A new dividing line

So there’s a new dividing line on my calendar.  August 19, 2011.  Put a fork in this one.  It’s done.  If there was an easy way to change the name of my blog, I’d have to do it.  My travel out is now past tense.  I mean once she knows, there’s not much more “out” to travel to, is there?

The week is a blur because I’ve known it was coming all week.  We had a bit of a row on Sunday evening when I got back from Atlanta and then had the beginning of the discussion on Monday night.  I thought about talking then but I had too much anger and that had no place in my talking with her.  She had too much and while she’s entitled to be angry I didn’t want the conversation to start with her being angry.  But Monday certainly set the stage.  I told her I felt some depression coming on.  True.  I told her that there was nothing she had done to bring it on.  True.  I told her I just had a lot I was dealing with and thought I needed a therapist.  Understatement.

So Friday evening we have a nice dinner, pleasant boat ride, a little TV and then get the kids in bed.  She gets in bed and I’m still getting myself ready.  Lights are off and I climb into bed and simply say “I need to finish my discussion from Monday night.  I know where my depression is coming from.”  Pregnant pause.  “My sexual confusion has nothing to do with the abuse as a child.  I’m gay.”  And her first response was “Tell me about your relationship with Steven.”  These women are so smart.  And so I did.  And for those of you who have written to say what a mistake I had made by introducing him to her as a friend rather than waiting and introducing him to her as a Friend were wrong.  She likes him.  She’s liked him since the day she met him.  And through the tears last night she told me that if a committed relationship with him is what makes me happy, she supports it.

So there were tears, lots of them.  Laughter.  Talking.  And, once again, all roads lead to here.  Her mind immediately went into the logistics of life post-disclosure.  And it’s moving quickly.  More quickly than I’m comfortable with but I don’t get to set those rules.  I’m sure the weekend will hold untold goodies as this all unfolds.  But that’s life.  I’ve written before about this being a hand of Texas Hold ’em.  These are the cards I’ve been dealt.  All of our chips are on the table, the dealer has revealed everything.  Now it’s our turn to each show our full hands and see what happens.

I’ll keep you posted.

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A new perspective on my old home town

Between school and my career in Atlanta, I’ve spent nearly half of my life in that city.  Thought I knew it.  Didn’t think there was anything new to see.  But after last weekend there, I’ll never view it the same again.

We planned a long weekend getaway and Atlanta was the natural city to visit.  We’re in a recession and all and I know how to do that place on the cheap.  Have friends in the hospitality industry who can get me rooms for next to nothing.  One of my closest friends owns a wine shop and she’s always happy to share a bottle of her latest find for me to take to dinner.  I may not be important but I know people.

Wednesday night we head to the grocery store for road snacks and we’re two peas in a pod.  We hadn’t talked in advance about what each other likes for road snacks but it turns out to be the same things.  Starburst, Reeses cups, cashews and almonds, and two six packs of sodas because we cannot stand to pay $2 from the machine.  Cheap bastards.

We hit the road Thursday afternoon and it’s a magical trip from the outset.  Once we get through rush hour traffic here,  I set the cruise control and we’re off.  Talking about everything and nothing at all.  Enjoying the music and each other’s company.  Holding his hand, him reaching out to rub my shoulder or simply pat my let.  Life is good.

We got to the hotel and for as long as I’ve considered it, the thought of walking up to the desk and checking in with a man at my side has scared me to death.  But my fear vanished and my confidence arrived as I walked through the door.  With Steven standing at my side I confirmed the reservation for a king bed.  She could have cared less.

I slept better that night than I have in months.  Falling asleep knowing he was right there…I’ve never felt more secure.  Reaching out in the night just to touch him was all I’ve ever hoped for and to have him reach out and simply put his hand on my shoulder in the night told me everything I needed to know.

Friday morning comes and we head to Starbucks for our usual breakfast and then head out to see my old home place.  None of the details are relevant.  You just need to know it was a great day.  For dinner Friday I take him to one of my favorite restaurants in all of the world.  And it’s as wonderful as I could have hoped.  No one pays attention to the guys on a date.  We sit and talk and eat for about 3 hours.   Our waiter pinged and I think he was jealous as he was clearly taking care of two love-struck fools.  It was without question the best date of my life.

On Saturday, we went back out into the city.  He wanted to see my campus and I was anxious to show him.  It underwent radical change for the ’96 Olympic Games but I still knew my way around and was able to show him old and new.  From there we did a little shopping but the mall was crazy and the weather was nice.  We quickly decided that the pool was a better place to be.  Spent a few hours there, got cleaned up, and headed to dinner and a movie.  We saw The Help.  As two sons of the south, we could both relate to that movie.  I’m about a half generation younger than the group of women portrayed in the movie but I still had my Aibileen.  The woman that raised me had raised my mother before me.  The difference is that by the time I was born, things had changed enough so that own mother actually took part in my life.

Sunday morning came and it was time to go.  The post-trip blues set in before we even walked out of the room.  The drive home was utterly depressing.  As much as we tried to not let it cloud the memories of the weekend, we were both in a funk.  It was an amazing trip, one I’ll always remember.  I’ll never look at Atlanta the same again.

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Babylon

There’s an awful lot of noise in my world these days. Everyone speaking their own language of need that I am supposed to understand.  Work has gotten a little crazy. I’m starting this post from seat 13c of a tiny plane taking me to NYC for the week. (Who gets to fly on the big jets anymore?). My family is here and starting to get settled. Most of the work on the new-to-us house us finished although she’s already plotting the next renovation and we’ll probably be unpacking boxes in 2012. The kids are starting to feel like they’re now at home. Football practice starts for my son on Monday and he’s been wearing his helmet through the house at all times. My daughter has morphed quickly from a mall-hopping Juicy Couture girl to a true lake teen comfortable in her bathing suit and coverup as long as the JetSki is near. What could make me more proud. But, again, all this activity produces noise.

So it’s unbelievably comforting to have him in my life. He brings order. He brings stability. I’ve found my rock. I mentioned him almost as a punchline to my last post and I remain amazed at the circumstances that brought us together. But I suspect if we examine most if our important relationships we could easily craft a set of odd coincidences that brought each of us together. I chalk it up to, you guessed it, angels at work in the universe. “All roads lead to here” as another of my important friends likes to say.

I’ll tell the story because it always fascinates me to ponder the apparent randomness. I simply can’t accept that something so profound is just a coincidence. In late May, we had several important showings of the old house as well as some due diligence inspections on an offer we received. Add to that the fact that I was missing my pups. So I decide to bring them back with me for a week. There’s this cool little place not too far that has “doggie day care” and I’d get to spend some time with them in the evenings. So I get home, get changed, go get them and off we head to the dog park. And there they were. Steven (the guy) and Conner (the dog), his golden that could be brothers with my own older golden. Naturally the dogs wanted to play. So off the leashes mine go and an instant trio of friendship between the dogs was established. (In my next life I want to be a Golden Retriever but I’m afraid I’m not good enough in this one to merit such a jump up the ladder.) Steven looks at me and says “wouldn’t it be great if all friendships could be established so easily?” After what I’ve been through in the search for friends I thought to myself “you simply have no idea.” So we introduce ourselves to each other and strike up an easy and natural conversation that continues to this day. Talk about our town, our jobs, etc., and I guess just sort of pinged on each other.

I could see eyes cutting occasionally to my ring so I just nipped it in the bud. “Oh. OK.”. No judgement, no passive/aggressive comments. Just “OK”. We exchanged numbers and business cards both sensing we had just met someone important. Took our pups and headed our separate ways.

I got a message from him the next day saying nothing much more than nice to meet you, hope we can spend time together sometime. And it’s grown from there. Slowly, steadily, patiently.

I realized by the end of June I had fallen in love with him. And I knew his feelings for me were far more than a casual friend. He’s met my family and they think he’s great although they think only that he’s my friend from the dog park.

So the big talk came earlier this week. I needed to pull the boat and ski out of the water and my wife isn’t crazy about either of the jobs involved in doing that. So I asked him to come help. She suggested he stay for dinner. Not long after getting to the house, a summer storm blew up and the rain started. Nothing happening on the lake that day. So we opened a bottle of wine with dinner. Had a fantastic meal and great conversation. (I kept waiting for the Party of Five thing to freak me out but it never did.). After dinner she has to take my son to the park for a quick football meeting so I clean up the kitchen. Standing at the sink, looking out at the water and thinking about how unbelievably lucky I am when he comes up behind me, puts his arms around me and whispers “just so you know, I’ve fallen in love with you.” The rest is history and all roads lead to here.

Now I’m certainly not foolish enough to think that life is about to get easier. I know it’s not. But I also know that even before meeting him my brain was becoming less and less able to handle my dual existence. And he’s an honorable and decent man and was none too happy to play the villain in my story. But I’ve convinced him that my day of reckoning was coming whether I knew him or not. There’s no schedule for “the talk”. I’ve read enough of my fellow bloggers to know that trying to mark a specific day on a calendar only adds anxiety to a life already filled with plenty of that. Steven isn’t pressing for it anyway. But I’ll keep you posted.

So in the land of Babylon with its confusing languages and noises, I’ve got my guy; my Northern Star.  And as David Gray writes in his song:

If you want it
Come and get it
Crying out loud
The love that I was
Giving you was
Never in doubt
Let go your heart
Let go your head
And feel it now

Babylon
Babylon

And hearing him tell me “I love you” tonight as I settled into my hotel room needed no translation.  No filter.  I heard, and understood, that one loud and clear.

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I’ll have the shit salad with extra dressing please

I’ve got to veer slightly off topic but it still deals with my version of crazy so it’s not totally in the weeds. Really more of a message to everyone that I’m all full up on crazy – no need to try and add to it.

I’ve mentioned before that my parents divorced. Happened when I was pretty young. Started when I was six and the divorce is still going strong. Their cross, not mine. I got a couple of half-siblings out of the deal and while we were pretty close when I was younger, we sort of lost contact (I’ll spare the details) after I graduated from college. One of them I never thought I’d see again because he remained close with my dad.

Well, once again angels are at work in the universe. Out of the blue he calls my brother earlier this week after them not seeing each other for over 2 years and wants to talk. And he wants to talk about coming to the same conclusion my brother and I have already come to – our father is a miserable old man who is evil to the core. So they talk for a couple of hours on the phone, clear the air, my brother welcomes him to the world of liberation. Then he call back the next day saying “I’ve got more to talk about but I can’t do it over the phone, can I come over?”. I get word of this convo and immediately think “the family secrets are about to spill out a la The Prince of Tides”.

Since nearly my first session in therapy, my doctor had strongly voiced his belief that both of my brothers had been molested as I had been and I was fairly certain this is what the face to face was all about. But I wasn’t about to crash that party. So I knocked off work early, picked up my son, and we hit the lake for an afternoon of fishing.

So about two hours into my outing with my son I get a text from my wife: “came by your brother’s to pick up “daughter” and guess who I got to meet?”. “Excuse me, waiter, I need a martini.”. I honestly didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. Then about 5 minutes after that I get a text from my sister-in-law: “come over”. “Uh, can you make it a double?”

So after a few back and forth with her about the state of the situation, off we head. The fish weren’t biting and he was getting bored anyway. We get to his dock, get the boat tied off and my son races up the yard to play with his cousins. I, on the other hand, step right into a pair of well fitting concrete boots. This is simply not what I needed at the end of my first week here with my crew in tow. But I remind myself of all the cliches I believe about all things happening for a reason. And I head up the yard too. And I get to the deck where they’re sitting and all of my dread melts away. I cannot believe how happy I am to see him. And he seems genuinely happy to see me too.  So the discussions begin.  He catches us up on what’s brought him to his current state.  Yep…been there, done that.  Tells us he’s conflicted about how he now feels about the old man.  Check.  Know that feeling too.  Says he’s not even sure he’ll tell him he was out here with us.  Know all about keeping secrets from him too.

And then I have my turn to try and tell him that he’ll survive this.  Our father has abandoned each of us in his own way and once you come to terms with the fact that these were his actions, not ours, you’ll start your healing.  But I get, completely, where he is right now.  I know the exact stages of grief this loss follows.

And then I freaked myself out.  With my brother’s wife and my own joining us at the table I almost blurted out “ready for the next family secret?”   I swear I was this close.  But caught myself at the last moment…this is certainly not the time or place although the need to come clean is starting to feel overwhelming at times.  I’ll certainly keep you posted.

So we continued the chat-fest into the evening and didn’t leave my brother’s until 11 with two complaining kids.   I heard the next day that my brother, half-brother, and sister-in-law kept the discussion going until 3AM.  Not sure I have that much to talk about.

And by the way, dessert for this dinner of shit salad, I’ve fallen in love. More on that later.

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A New Perspective

“They” say that self-awareness is what separates us from the other animals on the planet but I believe perspective is actually the greatest gift God gave to us.  Of course some people could argue they’re one in the same.

But I bring it up because I got the healthiest dose of it I’ve ever gotten last weekend.  The Atlanta real estate transaction happened on Friday morning so I had driven down on Thursday afternoon.  The movers were there all day Thursday and my wife was going to wrap up with them on Friday morning and I was going to go to the closing.  By the way, my wife is an absolute saint.  In a matter of about three and a half weeks, she managed to pack up our house, keep the kids occupied, keep her mother and mother-in-law at bay while they pleaded to come help (would not actually have been helpful), and lie to me daily that “everything was fine”.  She did all of this with grace that I can hardly imagine.

The movers wrapped up later than expected on Friday afternoon and we watched the truck full of nearly all of our worldly possessions lumber up the street.  It’s a strange feeling if you’ve never experienced it.  Not terribly emotional but it’s different.  I think this is how people viewed Columbus when they were sure the world was flat and he was certain it was not.  He told them they would see him again but they really weren’t sure about that.

Saturday morning was my first small dose of things to come.  I got up early, went back over to the house by myself to start the cleaning project.  I put my phone on my small speaker dock to have some music while I worked and chose the wrong playlist.  It didn’t seem wrong at the time but as song after song spilled out and echoed through the empty house the words took on different meanings than I’d ever experienced.  Once again, as I’ve said in my writing, angels at work in the universe.  I go into my daughter’s empty room as Melissa Etheridge’s “I Take You With Me” comes on and that’s when I loose it for the first time.  This is the room I’ve watched her grow up in.  She’s blossomed from a shy child not yet in kindergarten to a beautiful young woman ready to take on the world.  The emotion simply built from there and I’ll spare you the details.

So the big dose of perspective comes Saturday night.  Her car is loaded for the transport and mine is full of all the stuff they won’t pack on the moving truck so there’s no room for all of us to go to dinner together.  My best friend in the ‘hood is going with us and my mother so we get him to meet us at her house where we’re staying.  Guys go in his car, ladies in my mom’s car.  And as we head out we notice that a storm has fairly quickly blown up.  We initially start talking about hoping we get to the restaurant before the rain starts.  The route to the restaurant takes us through this stretch of Georgia pine trees that I’ve noticed the entire time I’ve lived in Atlanta.  I’ve thought to myself many times that I don’t want to be stuck on this road in a storm.  And as we approach, we comment on the leaves and pine needles that are being stripped from the trees and blown around.  I’ve learned that’s a sign that the weather gods are angry.  And it happened.  As we start across the bridge, a pine tree we subsequently learned was over 100 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter at the base topples towards us.  My friend slams on his brakes and then through the branches the van appears.  The driver of the van has swerved to miss the tree and finds us offset head on instead.  The car bounces around on the bridge, two right wheels up on the curb and the front of the car fully entombed in the top of the tree that has fallen.  I can still play out the entire sequence of events.  My brain has not gone into protection mode to block it out.  I realize I’m OK, not bleeding anywhere, everything moves and I turn to make sure my son is OK.  It seemed like an eternity for our eyes to meet.  I ask him if he’s OK and he immediately starts crying and telling me that he’s not.  I jump out of the car, and fling open the back door and he can turn to hug me.  And that’s when I see the burn on his neck.  When the seat belt tightened, it grabbed the skin of his neck and it looks like a carpet burn.  But he sensed the fear in my eyes and became certain that something bad was wrong with him and bawled like I’ve never seen him bawl his entire life.  My friend gets out of the car and the pain of being thrown around sets in on all three of us.  Emergency services have been called, the driver of the other car gets out and he’s walking around bloody and limping and we all just sort of look at each other and realize just how much worse it might have been.

The ambulance arrives and they load us up, do some quick checks and advise taking us to the ER for the neuro-docs to have a look.  My son is still much more concerned about the pain from the burn on his neck but the back of the ambulance is fascinating and the EMT was amazing to watch.  We get to the hospital and the neurologist examines each of us and goes through the process of ruling out needing X-Rays or any sort of scan.

A couple of hours later and we’re free to go.  Farewell dinner with my best friend didn’t happen as he had to go back and deal with the car after DOT removed the tree.  But that’s fine…it was only dinner and everyone is  OK.  His car is totaled but everyone is OK.

It was, without question, the most frightening experience of my life.  I feared for my son’s safety, my friend’s safety, and my own.  I read later that evening about another woman who was killed in her car when a large tree fell directly on it in the same storm and realized what could have happened.

So yes, my eyes have new lenses.  It’s the power of perspective.  The realization that life is, indeed, short.  Things that I thought mattered quite a bit don’t seem to matter at all.  The fact that several of my new friends who said they would stick by me after my tribe reassembled have faded back into the woodwork seems trivial.   One continues to try and play games with me but I’m hardened to his games now.  I’ve worried for several weeks about hurting his feelings by telling him to f*^& off.  After my experience of last weekend, that was pretty easy earlier this week.  I have obligations to exactly 4 people on the planet right now…myself, my wife, and two kids.  I’ve said it before “I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game.”

While I don’t recommend a head-on collision while watching a pine tree falling towards you to gain a new perspective, it will certainly give it to you if it happens.  Be safe all.

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Delta 1412, you are cleared for takeoff

Well, we did it.  Sold the albatross in spite of the continued downward spiral of the real estate market.  Of course we had to move on price but it’s gone.  And everytime I open MSNBC.com, I’m thankful that we’re coming to the closing table this month.  And just like our Realtor suggested, the downside on the selling end of the transaction is being made up for to a certain extent on the buying end for our new-to-us house.

So my weekends are filled with a non-stop blur of activity.  Culling, taking shit to the recycling center, packing more shit in boxes for one charitable organzation or the other to come pick up, culling some more, and then packing the shit we think we need into boxes for the movers.  We should move more often.  It’s amazing how much much stuff is collected over a relatively short period of time.  In my next life I want to be one of those minimalists types who can live for years and still get all of their belongings into a VW bug within an hour.

As a family, we’ve committed to each other that we will not live the same way in the new house.  There’s no way we can anyhow…we’ve traded the size and niceties of a 10 year old 4000+ square foot home that we built for a 2200 square foot house built in 1955.  The ONLY power outlets in the bathrooms are, I swear to God, built into the light fixtures over the mirrors.  Not a grounded power outlet in the house.   Get the picture?   But there’s a bonus…waterfront and a dock.  And it’s the lake I grew up on.  My home turf.  Even my daughter has gotten excited about the move.  My son is ready to live in a tent down by the water and fancies himself as some white bread Hiawatha.

But as with all things, the change comes with some trepidation.  I’ve admittedly enjoyed my time as a weekday gay batchelor.  Made some new friends, some more special than others and it’s now time to see how to make life work again.  The clock is ticking.  Movers are scheduled and the flight bringing my brood to me is too.  There are a few of my new friends I’d like to figure out how to “keep”.  Of course, this assumes they want to “keep” me too now that I’m weighted down with some not-unknown but previously unencountered baggage.  I’ve got plausible stories to introduce a couple of them to my crew but I’ve got to make sure first that my friends want to carry on.

I’ve started these conversations with a few of them.  And I didn’t catch them off guard by bringing it up.  My closest friend here has known at just about every step of the way where we were in the selling and buying processes.  But when I broke the news that “it’s done” and asked if he saw himself ever hanging out at our place there was a pregnant pause followed by an “of course”.  And I think he means it but who knows.  He’s closeted too and there’s not much about him that screams homo.  And as I’ve said, I have a more than plausible explanation for knowing him.  The fact of the matter is I really have known his family most of my life.  The details on how we reconnected will stay between us and that will be that.  But I readily admit, it’s one thing to know there’s been a wife and kids 250 miles away.  They’re abstract at that distance.  It’s quite another to have him pull into my driveway and walk up to the front door to be greeted by the “Norman Rockwell 4” when we both know what’s actually gone down between us.  So we’ll see.

The countdown clock is ticking.  Bags are almost packed.  Boarding passes have been printed.  The only constant is change.  Wish me luck.

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