Had a good talk on the phone with my mom tonight. A lot of emotions came flooding back to me as we discussed my situation. I realized, tonight, what a dam I had built up.
Backing up a bit: I sent an e-mail to my parents and my brother and his wife last weekend explaining the fact that yes, I am attracted to members of the same gender, and yes, it's hard sometimes, and yes, I'm OK. It was a long e-mail. Maybe I'll post it here sometime. Their responses probably couldn't have been better. Short, sweet expressions of love and gratitude, followed by, "Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about our upcoming family ski trip..."
Tonight was the first time I've talked with any of them since the e-mail. I've played some phone tag with my bro and his wife, but my mom was the first I've talked to. She's been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster and just wanted to hear my voice. Normally, I would assure her I'm fine and send her on her way to rest easy and go to sleep. I didn't. I did say I'm fine, or OK. I didn't want to go into the nitty gritty with her right away. I don't want to overwhelm her with details or the tougher nuances of what I'm going through.
But something in her tone told me she has been worrying about those nuances for years already, and she confirmed that's true. The news had come as no huge shock to any of them. They've all suspected, of course. I mean, I'm on my way to 30, totally single, disinterested in girls, and hey, I'm not totally hideous or bankrupt personalitywise, so why else would I be so very clinically single? OK, so there are lots of reasons to suspect me.
Anyway, as our conversation unfolded, I surprised myself. Apparently, I have some desire to share myself and my life with my parents, after all. I didn't know I had it in me. I have felt so disconnected in some ways for so long that I thought we had just sort of drifted apart. But as I expounded on my struggles and my perspectives on the whole wretched mess, and as I also tried to assure her that I feel like I'm in a pretty good place, emotionally, right now, I found myself daring to expose myself in a vulnerable way and risked saying things that might upset her a little but trusted in her ability to deal with it. As I told her how Dad's advice about just choosing someone to commit to regardless of shortcomings but based on mutual love and bringing out the best in each other finally made sense to me when directed towards a male friend I felt romantic feelings for over a year ago, I broke down. I couldn't talk for a minute. The sorrow around feeling disallowed from putting my dad's advice to use proved greater than I thought.
She was patient and strong and told me I didn't have to talk about it if I didn't want to but that if I did, she was listening. I gathered my strength and told her how hard it has been to finally realize what that kind of emotional connection feels like only to force it away and how foolish I felt, sometimes, for not having been through this 15 years ago like a "normal" person and how I felt kind of stupid over a recent infatuation that reminded me how little those feelings can really mean but how much I want to experience them together with--or allow them to build to--real, genuine trust and respect and love. I shared my realization that there are deeper aspects to relationships and that I recognize the transience of "chemistry" and infatuation and that a real relationship is built on much more. I shared that recent experiences have helped me remember the importance of tried and tested friendships built on mutual respect, dedication, and selflessness in action. I shared my worries, my dilemas, my hopes, my sorrows... I shared with her without reservation for the first time in as long as I can remember. For once, she was really "Mom" again.
She told me how hard it was for her to see me withdraw as a young teenager, gradually and deeply. It pained her to watch her beautiful, "whole" boy become a withdrawn, fractured teenager. I told her about a recent realization I've been having. In my couple of friendships-turned-romantic, I have caught glimpses of an old me, a tender me, a sensitive and affectionate me I had thought was mostly lost or forgotten. And I've been realizing that as I am bringing the fractured parts of my life back together, the gay and the straight, the friends and the family, the tough and the vulnerable, into one integrated whole, I'm rediscovering myself in some ways. I'm learning that it's not necessarily just romance which brought out the more tender, beautiful parts in me I have shoved so deep. It's the intimacy, the vulnerability, the trust which I have trained myself to withhold so thoroughly unless unleashed by romantic attraction. It's time for some deliberate effort to bring those back and allow it all to meld back together. To not wait for fleeting romance to bring it out but to bring it out by my own choice. It's time to try, at least, to bring back more of the "whole" me.
This doesn't mean I'll be changing my demeanor with everyone. It doesn't mean there's a "new me" everyone will have access to. I don't really know what it means, to be honest, but I just feel something "real" in all of it. I feel like a dam burst, and I was truly vulnerable to my parents, with little to hide, for the first time in my adult life. I remembered that they've lived long lives, themselves, and they've been through the ups and downs, and a little hell, and they've experienced doubt and hope and fear and loneliness and infatuation and confusion and indecision... They don't know exactly what I'm going through, but they know me pretty well, even after all these years of careful compartmentalization. I now have far fewer details of my life to restrict from them. As she said to me, "I don't have all the answers. I can't tell you what to do with all of this. As your mother, I feel a bit helpless. But I believe you're doing the best you know how, and I trust the Lord to help you with it. You've been emotionally withdrawn from us for so long, leaving us to wonder. Now that's all out of the way. You don't have to do it anymore."
I don't. I didn't think it was that big a deal. Now, I realize it was.