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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Best friends

Tuesday the rains finally stopped and the storms began again, and this blog has (temporarily, I assure you) become a much more personal diary of journey than is its norm.
You'd think the sky would run out of water,
but it won't; it just keeps coming down. I need someone
to marvel at the breath escaping from me.
Do you have a natural resource you prefer to exploit?
Does someone think of you and turn the channel?
How would you ever know? 
   - Todd Colby, from You'd Think the Sky Would Run Out of Water
Yesterday the sun warmed our well-watered part of the world in full spring wattage. Yet while the sun glowed down from bright blue skies the storms gathered again and broke inside. And Facebook outed me all over again, despite its very clear assurances to the contrary; my change in relationship status ('it's complicated') was posted to my wall. Damn!, but fair, I suppose.

I didn't sleep much last night. I'm up at 4:00, making yerba mate, reading, and writing.

This is how you work through the painful process of converting a very happy and solid 35-year long marriage into not-a-marriage, while looking to preserve the best and deepest friendship you have ever known (or will likely ever know).
Tuesday when you opened your eyes your
Room was a cold disaster. Arranged
Around you, its own disorderly life 
Took stock of you like a crazy pendulum
Swung over your head like a demonstration
In a science museum, your hands were numb, 
   - V. R. Lang, From "Poems to Preserve the Years at Home"
So this is the hard part of coming out at age 55: collateral damage. I think I may have been the last person standing to realize that you cannot be both a gay man and also married to a wife. Not if either of you want a fulfilling life moving forward. Yesterday, both Melissa and I realized that together, after a series of very difficult and honest conversations. We had previously talked about various possible future configurations, but yesterday was a breakthrough day in terms of really understanding that our futures will necessarily lie in bifurcation. To use the word that is ever so much harder to acknowledge: divorce.

Its not a bad thing, in the end. We aren't coming apart because we don't love each other, we're coming apart because we do. Our futures will remain connected in friendship and mutual support, and we're very much committed to preserving that as a necessary part of both our lives moving forward.

We're not rushing our fences, as this isn't anything that has to happen quickly. There are no current partners-in-waiting, no second lives to take up at this point. Its just that we both now know where we are going in our suddenly much-changed personal world.

The what-if question I keep coming back to is whether, knowing all of this, I would have had the courage to "come out." I don't think I could have stopped my initial and accidental "stumbling out" over lunch with my son that day, but I could have chosen to stop there.  Rather than moving forward and telling Melissa I could have circled back to Tristan and asked him to just forget what I had said and let it go. I certainly stared into that possibility yesterday as Melissa and I talked. Is it too late to just stop this process and go back to denying who I am in order to preserve our relationship? I would, if we could.

As I contemplated what that would be like, having now tasted freedom from all those oppressive years of constantly denying who I am, though, I found myself staring back into an abyss of hopelessness that was so visceral it quite literally almost made my knees buckle. The notions of abyss and vertigo are often tied together, and for good reason. It must have shown in my eyes because Melissa felt it, too. It became our break-through moment of truth, painful as it was.

For all of this, we are now at peace with our future. We don't have it all figured out, we don't have any clear timeline, and there are going to be many complicated details yet to work through. What we do have is a clear vision of how we want to preserve our friendship, stay a significant part of each others lives, and hold hands through this process.
There is a joy in the journey,
There's a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
And freedom for those who obey. 
   - Michael Card, Joy In The Journey
When I first started reading others' accounts of life after coming out (while married) I was frustrated that there were no success stories that didn't involve eventual separation and subsequent friendship (unless you count "open" marriages). OK, now I understand why and also see the value of setting each other free to experience fulfilling lives while still holding on to the deep friendship already forged by time together. I don't think I could possibly have understood that without having been through these last several weeks, nor could I have ever envisioned our journey leading to this.

It helps, of course, to have been married to one of the most amazing women I have ever known. My coming out process has been hers as well, and these out-of-the-ordinary blog entries represent a shared story. Melissa has been reviewing them before I post, since electing to share this mutually-experienced process with others has to be a mutual decision. A mutual decision by two very-best friends.
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