“Out” in the First Person

It’s Pride weekend in Vancouver. I heard one of the organizers talk about how the event has evolved and that ‘Pride’ can now extend beyond just sexual orientation. We all can have a reason to walk in the parade.

I remember back in University walking after class with a young woman. She asked me “Rory, are you out as a gay man?”. I had to think about my answer as “no, I’m not” just wouldn’t cut it. “I’m not gay” I finally said. “Are you sure?” was her response. “Pretty sure” was the first thing that came to mind.

If I am not ‘out’ as a gay man, then what am I ‘out’ as? What flag would, or should, I fly this weekend? Given all the potential consequences that come with being identified, what am I willing to risk for?

Living out loud is a willingness to live dangerously. It means abandoning the safety of the harbour and heading out into potentially rough water.

In the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the kids have climbed through the wardrobe and are wandering in Narnia. They have heard about a fierce lion, Aslan. In conversation with a couple of beavers one of them asks “Is he safe?” to which Mr. Beaver replies, “Oh no, he’s not safe, but he’s good”.

So much has been done to keep a lid on living openly and fully, that the Gay Community has had to create an event especially for those who are trying. Why is it that it’s the exception and not the rule?

I want to live a good, but unsafe, life. I want to be out as someone who is willing to risk myself for myself. I want to be the bold protagonist of my own story.

 

First Person Sex

This week I am trying something different, a series of short essays on what it means to live openly and authentically.  It’s an attempt at what the poet David Whyte would call ‘the courageous conversation’.  

I really love sex, but I am not such a fan of the orgasm.

No, no, let me explain. At that point of just after, there is a recoiling, a pulling back of all that had been laid bare. No wonder the French call it ‘la petite mort’ – the small death. All of a sudden the spell is broken, filters can come back on and I don’t see or feel things quite as openly or vulnerably – for at least about 20 minutes or so.

This isn’t about the facsimile sex found in the movies, or on the internet. No, this is the unpolished, unrehearsed, uninhibited, exposing kind that puts all of who we are in front of the person we love. The kind that offers the other the unique opportunity to become completely open and vulnerable, to let both of us receive and give at the deepest human level. Yah, that kind.

It’s funny, but we really don’t talk about it that much, it’s kept quiet and secret – much like our true selves. I am wondering if part of being turned on isn’t really our desire to be known. No wonder the typical place is behind closed doors, under sheets, with the lights off – there can be such a fear of being really seen.

I read once about a couples therapist who would encourage his clients to keep their eyes open when making love, especially at climax, to really look at each other. His point was about honesty, and being right there, in the moment. Funny that that has to be prescribed as a technique.

So, is there a version of being ‘horny’ about life? Is it possible to live like we do when we are naked and unafraid? To stay just this side of the ‘little death’ even while we have our clothes on?

Life in the First Person

This week I am trying something different, a series of short essays on what it means to live openly and authentically.  It’s an attempt at what the poet David Whyte would call ‘the courageous conversation’.  

I once wrote a poem about my dad. It had an image of me at a ship’s wheel while my dead father, the Captain, was asleep below. I was afraid he would wake to find I’d taken the ship off course. Thinking it was some great breakthrough, I shared it with my therapist.

“Who’s the Captain?” she asked. “Who else could it be?” I replied, somewhat bothered by her questioning. “Read it again, slowly”, she suggested.

It is easy to blame my old man, to make him responsible when, in fact, I am both the helmsman and the captain of my life. I’m steering things, but oh so critical of how I am doing it.

Just recently I was talking with someone and they were praising me, lots of very kind words and insights. I interrupted them and said “I am waiting for the ‘but’!” He asked, “did you take in any of what I said?” “no.”

Now I know I am a good guy. I am generous, friendly, and can grow potatoes. But, I also know that I have a hard time admitting even that. Living openly, and vulnerably, means embracing both – the bad, and the good.

I abandon myself when I ditch those kind words of my friend, when I don’t realize that in fact, I am a good sailor and I know how to get the boat where it needs to go, and most of the time, enjoy doing it. (anchoring, on the other hand, is a topic for a different day).

 

Living in the First Person

This week I am trying something different, a series of short essays on what it means to live openly and authentically.  It’s an attempt at what the poet David Whyte would call ‘the courageous conversation’.  I make no claims to having it right, accurate, or correct.  Think of it as two of us talking over coffee or a pint.  What do you think? What have you figured out? Please comment, share, and question. I have a sense that this is an important topic. 

My buddy said, “In a game of rock, paper, scissors, image – image always wins”.

The visceral guts of who I am becomes exposed when I drop that which I believe I have to do, or am shaped to be, by my history, my family, or my society. It just seems so much safer, and more convenient, to maintain the image that keeps people at an appropriate distance from my true self.

There is something terrible, and terribly normal, about not allowing a full expression of all of who I am, of choosing not to live on the outside that which is in.   The thing is I am afraid. If they really knew me, would they like me?

I have a tenuous relationship with my own truth. I’m not even sure I trust me. Maybe that’s the ticket of religion, trade me for a defined self, a better self, or even a non-self.   As it is, I can’t escape the consequences of either hiding, or being in the open. I do know that if I take the easier path and let image win – then it feels like I’m the only one who’s disappointed.

A blog post popped up on my newsfeed recently with a curiosity inducing title “If your relationship is failing, here’s why”. I clicked on it. Turns out it’s not the other person’s fault. The good doctor Margaret Paul suggests that the primary issue in relationships is our own ‘self abandonment’.

It’s the Groucho Marx syndrome – we don’t want to be in relationship with anyone that would have us as a partner. Instead we offer our mate, our friends, our world something we assume is more palatable. But, in replacing myself with a version I think others want to see, one more predictable and protected, I start a spiral that only has one direction.

 

Living in the First Person

This week I am trying something different, a series of short essays on what it means to live openly and authentically.  It’s an attempt at what the poet David Whyte would call ‘the courageous conversation’.  I make no claims to having it right, accurate, or correct.  Think of it as two of us talking over coffee or a pint.  What do you think? What have you figured out? Please comment, share, and question. I have a sense that this is an important topic.

I was talking with a woman who had been very successful in business and writing. I asked her if she’d ever written down her story. “Yes, in fact I submitted a draft last year to my book agent, but she gave it back saying I wasn’t in it.”

I don’t think she’s alone in not writing herself into her own life story. We are meant to live life in the first person, but so often we choose to simply narrate, or lose ourselves in other characters. What about being the protagonist of our own novel, brave enough to do battle and claim our own ground, our own voice? We can’t always or completely control the narrative, but we are certainly the creators of it in the first place.

Maybe it’s about being selfish, in the best possible way. Giving myself more room by reclaiming territory that I surrendered and rediscovering my own footing. Religions all make a point about giving ourselves away, to lose our lives, to let go of desire – and that’s great work if you can get it, and in the purest of circumstance it may be the way, but here in the mess of my day to day life, I’m not so sure.

Maybe it’s not ‘our’ lives that we need to lose, but the interpretation and translation that we have given into and allowed ourselves to become. There are those other words of Jesus “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul”.   Giving myself up for a version of that ‘whole world’ – seemed like a good idea at the time, but then, not so all of a sudden, I don’t know where I am, or even who I am.

“Out” in the First Person

It’s Pride weekend in Vancouver. I heard one of the organizers talk about how the event has evolved and that ‘Pride’ can now extend beyond just sexual orientation. We all can have a reason to walk in the parade.

I remember back in University walking after class with a young woman. She asked me “Rory, are you out as a gay man?”. I had to think about my answer as “no, I’m not” just wouldn’t cut […]

First Person Sex

This week I am trying something different, a series of short essays on what it means to live openly and authentically.  It’s an attempt at what the poet David Whyte would call ‘the courageous conversation’.  

I really love sex, but I am not such a fan of the orgasm.

No, no, let me explain. At that point of just after, there is a recoiling, a pulling back of all that had been laid bare. No wonder the […]

Life in the First Person

This week I am trying something different, a series of short essays on what it means to live openly and authentically.  It’s an attempt at what the poet David Whyte would call ‘the courageous conversation’.  

I once wrote a poem about my dad. It had an image of me at a ship’s wheel while my dead father, the Captain, was asleep below. I was afraid he would wake to find I’d taken the ship off […]