Archive for the ‘Decisions’ Tag

Reasons

I’ve been having a hard time at work for a while now.  Well over a year, by my loose estimation. The reasons have diversified over that time, but the impact is the same: I’m stressed, not sleeping well, and generally unhappy and demotivated.

Lots of street-corner philosophers and internet meme wisdom would have me believe that (1) nothing and no one is responsible for my happiness or unhappiness, other than myself, and that (2) no one can “make” me feel anything, rather I choose how I feel about and respond to any situation or stimulus.

My gut and brain tell me that’s reductive BS, that, as with so much in life, the truth is a mix and somewhere in the middle.  I might have control over whether I rage and storm and become offended by innocuous and inconsequential things, but there is truth that humans have natural, predictable reactions to certain stimuli and blaming the person who reacts in those expected ways for feeling those things, naming those reactions a ‘choice’ as a derogation of their self-control, is emotional blackmail.  My intellect and rational brain tell me that feeling bad or overwhelmed or anxious or stressed when impacted by bad, overwhelming, anxiety-inducing and stressful stimuli is natural and rational and, in some ways, healthy and that I should not feel shame or guilt or failure because of these feelings.

But my heart, that thing so affected by emotion and anxiety and illogic, takes this so-called wisdom and views my reactions, in the context of my current turmoil, and turns this would-be motivational message into a cudgel to pulverize my already fragile confidence, making me question my own judgment and defeating any momentum for change that the stress and struggle may have produced. Almost as if from an outside vantage point, I see these contradicting forces at work, recognize that the turmoil is happening. But I seem powerless to overcome the internal saboteur, unable to center logic and reason over emotion and insecurity. The sludge rises and coats my reason with fear, miring my volition in inertia.

In an attempt to break the hold of anxiety’s inertia, I resorted to an old stand-by trick that has helped me overcome test anxiety, stage fright, writer’s block, and bouts of impostor syndrome from the time I started school all the way through my last birthday: making lists. By listing issues and risks and possible solutions and available resources and missing pieces and reasons for or against any given situation, I have learned to impose order on chaotic thoughts and calm the inner storm. This has helped me more times than I can count over the course of my life.

When I hit a saturation point a couple of weeks ago, when a particularly rank pile of workplace political horse manure landed on my desk, I decided I had had enough. It was the closest I’ve come in over twenty years to simply walking out of my office and never coming back.  But I’m not a quitter; I have a fundamental moral aversion to quitting before I’ve tried absolutely every possible alternative. And I don’t typically give in to rash impulses. So, instead of screaming “I quit” and walking out, I decided to make a list, two lists, actually: Reasons to Go, and Reasons to Stay, at my job.

On an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of graph paper, I listed the Reasons to Stay on the left-hand side.  There were 8 items on that list after spending an entire afternoon thinking about it and intentionally striving to add everything I could think of that would induce me to stay.  On the right-hand side of the page I listed the Reasons to Go.  It only took 15 minutes to fill the entire length of the page with 22 separate items, some with sub-parts. I bet if I let myself, I could add even more.

Now, in something so weighty and consequential as a decision to quit a high-paying job with professional prestige, sheer numbers of reasons listed in the midst of emotional upheaval shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.  I acknowledge this.  I also acknowledge that these thoughts, generated amidst emotional stress or not, are valid and shouldn’t be discounted simply because they’re items in a list.  The quality and consequence of the reasons matter and should be taken into account, too.

Here are my lists:

Reasons to Stay: Reasons to Go:
Paycheck Savings Enough for Months-Long Job Search
Loyalty No Loyalty in Return
Protect My Staff Can’t Protect if I’m a Lame Duck
I’m Not a Quitter I’m Not a Masochist, Either
Sense of Obligation – Don’t Leave in a Lurch Can’t Carry Obligation for Someone Who Doesn’t Want Me
Hassle to Find New Job I’m Unhappy
Age – Harder to Get New Job Out of Control Stress
Inertia Sleeplessness
  Don’t Feel I’m Adding Value Anymore When My Efforts Are Unappreciated
  I Can Find a Place to Add Value and be Appreciated
  Opportunity to Change Direction – Personal and Professional
  Chance to Re-Set and Re-Order My Life
  Take Time for Hobbies
  Take Time to Travel and See Friends
  Time to Write
  Chance to Work on Personal Growth
  Time to do Home Chores and Projects
  Relief from Pressure, Stress, Anxiety
  Distance from Boss’ Fits of Rage
  Change is Refreshing – New People, Places, Challenges
  Chance to Cultivate Peace and Tranquility in My Life
  I’m Not Irreplaceable – the Company and My Team Will Be Fine Without Me

What I take from the flat comparison of the two lists is that there are more numerous and weighty reasons to leave than to stay.  Assessing for depth, I can’t see that there is any urgency left within me anymore to continue fighting the anxiety, to endure the demoralizing disregard and mistreatment from my colleagues, or to achieve any specific professional objectives, that add up to a reason to stay. But I can see a lot of yearning to be free from the negativity, stress and emotional upheaval that is constantly generated by the people I work with.

Because it’s not the job, it’s the people. If I were to look for a new job (and I have been looking quite a lot), I’d still look for a similar position – I still love being an attorney for a company doing good things. I just don’t want to have to endure the toxicity that currently surrounds me in this company.

One of my frequent commentors on this blog said something recently about me being in a constantly toxic environment and continuing to expect to not be poisoned. That thought has been stinging the inside of my skull ever since I read it. At first, I was a little hurt to think they viewed me as naive and irrational for feeling so keenly the hurts from this job. But the more I think about it, the comment and my situation, the more I come to understand that what I’m feeling is grief over having finally reached the end of my creativity and ingenuity for inventing paths to resolution. I’m grieving over not being able to fix a problem that I didn’t create. I’m grieving a failure not of my making. I’m grieving the end of an era of my professional life that didn’t culminate in triumph, but in apathy.

One of those internet memes of wisdom I’ve seen a lot of lately advises not to hold onto a mistake simply because you spent a long time making it. Similarly, I’ve been advised by the interwebs that I can’t reach for something new if my hands are full of old junk.  While pithy, maybe even trite, and certainly oversimplified, these bits of advice hold a kernel of true wisdom: letting go of past mistakes gives you the opportunity to move on…hopefully to avoid making the same mistakes later.

My boss has been giving me little pep talks lately, taking pains to complement me and apologize for all his temper tantrums and the stress he adds to my life, and making a point of assuring me that the chief agitator causing the bulk of the drama is on a plan that has them retiring in 18 months or less.  He tells me all the time to just hang on for a little over a year and the main source of all our grief will be gone.

That’s so, so tempting.  By that time, I’ll have surpassed the 20-year mark with this company, a nice, round, milestone achievement.  Also by that time, my bonus for this year’s achievements will have been paid (if all the gates are met). And with the horizon free of the Senior Butthead and Top Drama Maker, I could see myself finishing out my career with this company.

But the rational voice still living in my head, however muted and small, still shouts that whomever replaces that jerk may not be any better and, besides, 18 months is a LOOOOOOOONG time in which much stress and turmoil can occur and in which they may change their plans and not retire at all.

So, since the present is all the time any of us has, should I waste my opportunity to take back my happiness on a hope for someone else’s decision to retire or not? Do I have it in me to stay another year and half while that plays out, enduring the continued toxicity and risking panic attacks and remaining unhappy – is the milestone and the potential bonus and the hoped-for relief solid enough of a benefit to make sucking it up worth it?

No answers, yet.  I’ve told myself, and even one friend who I trust, that I’ve already decided that I’m out.  But I don’t have another job, yet, so I’m not making any rash moves.  Will inertia win? I’ll just have to keep thinking and working on my courage to make a change, I guess.

 

Trapped

Ever have that feeling where someone you care about has given you a gift and is so excited for your reaction, because they *just know* you’ll love it and be so trilled to have it. Only you don’t really like it. You stopped liking that thing years ago and haven’t even spoken about it in so long you don’t remember the last time. And now this person you care for is looking at you with glowing eyes, a huge smile and sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for you to explode with joy and gratitude. Ever have that feeling?

It feels like being trapped.

You don’t want to hurt or disappoint them. After all, they love you and went out of their way for you, perhaps spent money on you, and are excited to make you happy.

Only you aren’t happy with that gift, or thought, or gesture, or whatever it is they’re physically or mentally or emotionally holding out to you so hopefully. It doesn’t fit you, your life, your personality, your identity. It is dissonant, awkward, out if joint. Broken.

If you said any of that to this loving hopeful, it would no doubt hurt them. Maybe even crush them, depending on the subject of the ‘gift’. And because you love them, you avoid doing hurtful, crushing things.

Of course, when its a cow print pin cushion, or a Brittany Spears CD, you can pretty easily smile and say thank you for their thoughtfulness and find a new home for it as quick as you can. With something relatively trivial, you might even risk letting them know, tactfully, that its not to your taste.

But what about when its something more significant? What about when the ‘gift’ of this person is more fundamental, esoteric, yet deeply important? What about when their constant companionship and care becomes a burden, rather than a boon? When that presence, which you’ve relied on as a fortress of belonging, suddenly feels like a prison?

What a miserable choice: (a) continue as is, swallowing your own preferences, wants and needs; (b) live a double life and risk hurting them all the more when it inevitably is discovered; or (c) let them know how you feel and risk destroying the beautiful, loving relationship you still value.

I’ve heard it said, and witnessed myself, that all change is disruptive to one degree or another. That’s its fundamental nature. People learn to adapt to the change or they don’t. I get that. What I’m struggling with is the piercing pain of knowing that the change I intentionally bring about, this disruption that I cause, is the source of intense pain and discomfort to the people I love the most.

Again, if its something that can be compromised, discussed, negotiated, approached logically or formulaically, I can handle it. This restaurant or that one? No problem. Spend thousands of dollars to replace windows in the house, or wait until next year? Easy discussion. Sell the house and move to Bosnia? Sure, lets chat.

All of those things affect not just me, but also those I live with or who are otherwise part of the discussion. When the decision is about balancing risks, weighing the competing interests of multiple players and finding a reasonable compromise is right in my wheel house. I put the ol’ lawyer hat on and go to town sorting the problem.

But when the change is all about me, my feelings, my preferences, my needs, its much harder to deal with. That guilt I’ve written about in prior posts rears its head again. When I begin to think about making changes that are really all about me, the guilt jumps up and does a happy dance in my head. That’s when my inner saboteur starts shouting: “How selfish!” “It’s always all about you, isn’t it?” “What makes you think you deserve that?” “How dare you put yourself, your selfish desires, over everyone else.”

I fight this inner battle between being the selfless, responsible, conscientious person I was raised to be and the selfish, hedonistic, lazy person I was raised to believe myself to be if I walked any path other than the narrow, binary, societally-defined path set before me at an early age.

The weird thing is that I can easily refute the charges of hedonistic and lazy. I have no delusions that my work ethic and sense of solemn responsibility are in tact and functioning well. The saboteur’s tricks in that regard are wasted.

But selfishness, in all it’s myriad forms, is a stab to my heart. I have worked so hard all my life to live up to a standard of excellence defined, in large part, by how well I serve others’ needs. Love measured in service is a core tenet of the faith in which I was raised. And loving, honoring family above all others was at the heart of my parents’ every lesson. So, I have grown to equate selfishness as a sin above nearly all other possible sins.

So, on days when this journey of self discovery and the path out of the closet lead me to the brink of a decision or choice between my personal preferences, wants and needs, and those of my family and close friends, the dissonance spikes and I tend to retreat into my head a bit. I can find every reason under the sun (some reasonable and based in logic and fact, some wildly speculative) for not carrying on with this process, every argument that leads me away from the direction I’ve chosen. But the white noise of fear, uncertainty, doubt and dread in my brain seems to screen out the reasons, the arguments that support my chosen direction.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a nice, neat bow to wrap this post up in, leaving me and all of you with a warm, fuzzy feeling of happy ever after. Instead, I’m left feeling stuck, mired in doubt and hemmed in by the demands and expectations of my family and closest friends.

Trapped.

A Walk Through Flames

Despite some fantastically amazing people and things going on in my life and the fact that I am extremely happy at the moment, I seem to have been in my own head a lot over the last week or so and particularly so today. This post has slowly been clawing its way out of my brain for several weeks and today’s introspection crystallized it to the point where I could finish it.
—————————————–

Always, my path is through fire. How shall I avoid being consumed by the flames?

That thought has been resonating in my head for two decades. It encapsulates my adult life experience so precisely, yet is a constant enigma. What it means shifts from day to day, moment to moment. But, at bottom, the fact remains that my personal life narrative is punctuated by serial baptisms by fire, each one leaving me charred to varying degrees.

In the last two+ years, since I awoke to the dissonance in my life and began this journey of self discovery (the last several months of which are chronicled here in this blog), I have leapt through more figurative flames than I knew it was possible to survive. Yet I did.

And now I feel the next ring of fire looming ahead, searing me with the heat of fear, uncertainty, doubt, and dread.

I’ve acknowledged in earlier posts that discovery or coming out (or both) is inevitable. This truth presses on my heart and brain with the weight of a mountain.

Unavoidable. Inevitable. Uncontrollable. This unholy trinity is a misery to share head-space with.

The obvious solution: take my power back from the unknown, grit my teeth and take the plunge by coming out to those in my daily life.

Come out. Obvious, but not easy. (Yes, I am aware no one ever promised that life would be easy.)

To bring these deep thoughts more into focus in practical terms, I will admit that I have used my family, particularly my brothers and their wives, as substitutes for all other relationships that would have been more fulfilling and assisted me in my journey to authenticity. But I denied myself those connections out of fear and stubborn refusal to see myself for who and what I am: a queer butch woman. So, in absence of friends and lovers who knew and accepted this truth of my identity, I have concentrated all my support structure, care and love on which I rely into my siblings.

This is not wrong and I’m not ashamed to reveal my close relationship with them. But if not wrong, it seems nevertheless to put me at a tactical disadvantage by creating a single point of failure in the emotional scaffold I’ve relied on my entire adult life.

Mine is a military-and fundamentalist-based family structure built on a foundation of Southern conservative Christian upbringing. Again, neither wrong nor bad in itself. But it creates an atmosphere rife with risk when it suddenly dawns on you that you are everything that they are not, and everything that they detest.

By coming out to them (or having them discover my truth in other ways), I put the people in my most significant IRL relationships in the untenable position of having to compromise one of two deeply held core beliefs that now conflict: (1) gay is wrong; and (2) family is paramount to everything. Their choice and my fear, then, comes down to this: When what you love is everything that is wrong, how can you go on loving that thing/person?

That’s the ring of fire I sense looming in my path. A choice between the freedom of authenticity and the comfort of a peaceful, loving family life.

Always my path is through fire. How can I not be consumed by the flames?

Urgent vs. Important

I kicked butt today at work, in part, due to this concept. So, I thought I’d share.

Last week I spent three days in management skills training. My company actually values its employees and does a great job of providing development opportunities. Last week’s sessions were the middle three of a 9-class set designed to develop leaders out of managers. Great concept and, overall, great experience. (Practicing intentional positivity, I’m skipping over the antics of the insufferable loudmouth in my class.)

One of the key takeaways from last week was the concept of urgent vs. important. The theory goes that highly effective leaders only spend energy on those issues that are both urgent & important and know how to appropriately identify those issues and assign them to the right personnel to resolve.

A tool we used in class was a 2 x 2 matrix, with urgent/not urgent as column heads and important/not important as row heads. The tool urged immediate action for items that are both urgent and important, and to punt and run from the items that are both non-urgent and non-important. (For non-urgent/important, schedule the item to be dealt with later. For urgent/non-important, delegate to the person for whom it is both urgent and important.)

This quadrant graph was a good at-a-glance key to help prioritize tasks for a busy corporate leader.

I think it also lends itself to application in personal life issues.

How often have you found yourself in the middle of something and wondered, “Why am I doing this, again? Oh, yeah, because _____ asked me to.” Or found yourself spending time with someone you don’t really like or can’t relate to, just because?

Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m not advocating a clinical analysis of every person, relationship, activity and responsibility in your life. But, for me, time is a precious and rare commodity. Maximizing the hours I have for personal enjoyment is a must for me (both urgent and important).

I’ve wasted years of my youth and adulthood not understanding my own fundamental nature and not following my heart and soul to happiness. I can’t afford to waste any more of my days to apathy, fear, guilt, boredom, or unearned/unwanted obligation.

One way to sift the chaff, excise the unnecessary, is to define what “urgent” and “important” mean for my life and then spend the rest of my time focused on those people, things, emotions and events that fit both definitions simultaneously. Everything else is noise.

Own Your Awesome

[Author’s note: I’m asking your forgiveness up front for what I suspect may be, at best, a rambling, half-coherent post. As i begin to draft, I’m working on about 5 hours sleep in the last 36. But something is clawing its way out of my head into this post, despite my efforts to wait until I’m awake and remember how to edit. You’ve been warned.]

Seems the universe has a message it’s trying to force into my head, make real in my consciousness. Everywhere I turn lately, it seems, I’m confronted by the same theme in a variety of presentations. Some are ‘slap you in the face’ direct messages. Some are indirect ‘see what I mean?’ cosmic snark. But all of them are designed to challenge life-long beliefs, call into question fundamental assumptions that comprise my very being.

That’s all nicely mysterious. But that’s not really what I’m going for. It’s just hard to articulate more clearly.

Ultimately, the message I’m seeing is a mix of: “you is kind, you is smart, you is important” and “own your awesome”.

Depending on what I’m doing/thinking at the time I encounter these little pep-talks, my reactions to them vary widely.

Bear with me as I try to map this out.

First, as I’ve revealed on this blog, I’m in the process of both coming out of the closet and of redefining or discovering who I truly am. All this at the ripe ol’ age of 44; roughly double the age most people tackle these things. So, point #1, I’m a little late to the party and am scrambling to catch up.

Second, and also evident in what I’ve shared on this blog, is that I’ve got what may be politely called a ‘complex’ relationship with my body and outward appearance. As everyone else in the world does, I struggle with remaining positive about something the world tells me daily is only ever negative, bad, wrong. Point #2 is that I have a lot to overcome in my head to feel easy in my own skin from day to day.

And third, beyond my view of my physical person, is the unrelenting socialization I’ve internalized that works against the changes coming about in my life. Lessons in Christian selflessness, down-home humility, Southern obedience, and Midwestern grit, have combined into a powerfully concentrated syrup of self-deprecation that coats my every thought. Point #3 is that it is very hard for me to not only take a compliment gracefully, but also to internalize it, think of myself in those terms without squirming and cringing.

The way these three points intersect has a lot to do with why I struggle so with the decision to come out to my friends and family.

A recent conversation with a friend highlighted one aspect of this particularly well. In telling me (patiently and for the hundredth time) that I deserve to be happy, fulfilled, she asserted that I needed to get “comfortable in asking for what [I] want, acknowledging what [I] want is real, valid and acceptable”.

Her point was that coming out is essential to achieving that happiness. But, even before getting to the monumental coming out decision, this point throws harsh light on a crack in my being that I try to ignore and hide under a veneer of laughing geniality: I’m fundamentally insecure in my right to be happy.

Is there such a thing as a right to happiness? Or is happiness a privilege, a unicorn that comes to some and not others? Do the misfits have as much ‘right’ to happiness as the privileged?

There’s no neat and tidy conclusion to this post answering all of these questions with a happily-ever-after warm fuzzy. My answer to all of those questions at the moment is: I don’t know.

But as my favorite law professor was fond of saying: “”I don’t know” is a fine, acceptable answer only for a moment and only if followed with furious effort to crush the ‘don’t’ to dust.”

So, I guess it’s boot-strap time again. Here I go, off to crush the ‘don’t’ and learn to own my awesome.

Two Words

They’ve been stuck in my head and throat so long I’m afraid I’ll never get them out. There are times I feel them swelling like a sponge in my mouth, threatening to choke me. Suffocating me.

Why is this so hard? One short sentence. Two tiny, one-syllable words. Perhaps the two most important words that exist for me at the moment, and they defeat me.

“I’m gay.”

So much is wrapped up in those two little words. They encapsulate authenticity, relief, peace, future happiness. But they also carry with them the power to loose a storm of destruction that could level my life, crushing me to powder in a moment. They could be keys that open important doors. Or they could form a grenade with no pin.

If I utter those two words out loud, there’s no un-saying them. Even if no one is there to hear, it’s out there in the universe, ringing like a carillon.

But why not say it? I’ve claimed it in my mind. I’ve admitted it to myself. I even blogged about it here. It’s already out there, isn’t it? It’s already real. Right?

No. It will never be real until it has the color, tone and shape of my voice.

Why is this so hard? Why is this so important? Why is it clawing at my brain, robbing my peace of mind?

Would it matter to anyone else in the universe if I never said it out loud? if I did? Why do I need anyone else to hear it? Am I plaguing myself needlessly? I have lived 44 years without ever saying those two words, that tiny sentence. Is it impossible that I could live the rest of my life happy without ever saying them to another living soul?

I’ve been told it will make me feel better, that I will feel free, real, whole, light. But does that add up to a reason to turn my entire life inside out, invite all sorts of pain and anger from those who will be scalded by the revelation?

No other two words have ever formed such an event horizon in my life. Two words are too few to carry such weight, to bear such importance.

But, right now, in this moment, those two words are my whole future. Because, I am self-aware enough to know that I have passed the point at which I could have reined in, avoided this precipice. Sooner or later, they will force themselves out of my throat, through my lips and into the ears of another person, shoving me head-long off the cliff. Those two words are both anchor and parachute. With them I either plummet or soar.

When will that moment come? I fear it will be a moment not of my choosing. That it will come upon me unaware and I will be found unprepared.

The solution is obvious, of course: take my power back and choose my own moment, my own audience.

Should be so simple. Why isn’t it?

You say it’s your birthday…

Yep, I’m owning my 44 and lovin’ it! After all, getting older beats the heck out of the alternative.

I took today off from work, as is my custom. I slept a tiny bit later than normal and have spent a lazy morning getting ready for the day, in between reading blogs and messin’ around on Twitter. My plans for the weekend are mild and low-key, rather like myself. I’m not a big partier and will likely spend most of my time alone, barring a dinner date with my brother and his wife. But I did give myself a birthday gift last night.

For my 44th birthday I fully came out to myself. I referred to myself in online comments and chats variously as gay or butch, consciously & intentionally, for the first time. I know now, with no doubts, that I am both.

So, internally at least, I’ve taken the step up to authenticity. No hiding from myself anymore. That’s huge and awesome and scary and all the things at one time. It’s got me amped and saying things (anonymously on line) that I’ve never said before, doing things I’ve never done, thinking things that both thrill and terrify me.

I don’t know when or if I’ll take the same steps in my external life, come out to anyone I know in person. That’s so much more complicated. I’ve been kicking the thoughts around for a long time. I even asked some bloggers I respect for an opinion. My thoughts haven’t finished filtering, but I’m working on a post that’ll help bring some order to the chaos, if no concrete answers. The outside life is still a big messy question, then.

But the inside is lining up, for once. It feels good.

What price, peace?

Is peace (or anything) worth an ‘at all costs’ approach? I’m specifically talking about personal and interpersonal peace, rather than resolution of the Middle East Conflict-type peace. Harmony and calm in the home, extended family, workplace, book club, PTA, etc., how much is it worth?

How much of your own opinions, personal expression should be suppressed for this peace? How much of another’s opinion should you allow to be imposed on you? How much of yourself should be sacrificed to the sacred gods of “getting along” and “keeping cool”?

What price, peace?

I’m actually pretty good at suppressing my own thoughts and desires. I’ve had a lot of practice. When you are as conspicuous as I have been all my life, you learn quickly to keep quiet and make yourself as small as possible, so as not to cause trouble. Because that’s how opinions of awkward, ugly, fat, gender nonconforming girls are viewed, as “causing trouble”. Weird girls with opinions are trouble makers, rabble rousers. They don’t engage in spirited, fair debate. They bellow and rant.

But, as with so much in my life lately, I’m rethinking this policy. How much harm am I causing, or at least enabling, by not speaking up when I have a voice?

I’m talking specifically about personal things. Professionally, I’ve always been outspoken and unafraid to challenge anything I felt needed it. But in my personal life…not so much.

There’s no quick answer to any of these questions. This issue doesn’t stand alone. The consequences are intertwined with those of other decisions. The risk is related to other choices yet to be made. But still, I feel there is room for both continued deliberation and near-term action. Taking it slowly, is the adage, I think.

Although I’m not ready yet to challenge all the misconceptions my family have about myself, my identity, I can certainly challenge overt statements of bias, discrimination and intolerance I hear from them. I’ve already started. Over the holidays, I had occasion to object to a “that’s so gay” jab my nephew threw out during a family gathering. Although I was nervous and didn’t fundamentally change his or anyone else’s views on gender or sexual identity, I think the point was received.

Starting small and at home may seem a very safe and easy path to resisting hate, but for me it’s an essential first step in a larger process. If I can’t cultivate a bare minimum of tolerance among those who profess to love me unconditionally, how will I face the larger world when the illusions are stripped away?

This shouldn’t be this hard.

Cowardice

Fear is a lifelong companion. Not a healthy friend, for the most part, but occasionally useful. When danger is real, fear can be life saving. But when danger is imagined, distorted out of proportion, or a reasonable risk, fear is a hindrance to growth.

All very logical and clinical and, in the midst of the battle, utterly useless.

Logic and intellectual knowledge are not proof against the paralysis of fear. The fear of change, rejection, loneliness, loss, powerlessness, emptiness. These seem so much bigger, more important than the speculative benefits of a risky, life-changing decision.

So much safer, easier to keep small, keep quiet, don’t make waves, don’t disrupt the status quo. Even if the status quo is misery, it’s familiar, predictable misery that can be managed to a degree. That fabled freedom, lightness and acceptance that authenticity is supposed to bring seems, at best, gossamer-thin compared to the thick, stinging whips of consequence that follow in its wake.

This isn’t advocacy for succumbing to fear. These are the things I tell myself to rationalize my response to fear. Pathetic, really, but still…

Internally, deep inside where I’ve let no one see, I’ve recognized who and what I am, have always been. The choice isn’t in accepting that truth. The choice is whether to ever say it out loud and make it real.

Two+ decades of adulthood, of experience and education have dropped me off on the doorstep of Decision Making Time. I don’t recall setting a course for this destination, nor do I particularly want to be here right now. But life moves and you either travel with it, or get trampled by it. I’m not into trampling.

So, here’s the options: Continue the journey, find the me life is revealing to me bit by bit, and assume the risks & consequences of the discovery and ultimate disclosure? Or, stifle that inner voice and dig into the stagnant loneliness of lost opportunity?

That’s rhetorical. I’m already on the path, come what may. I’m just steeling myself for the train wreck that’s coming. Months, years, decades from now? Who knows, but if I know anything about my life, I know that every unpleasant thing I’ve ever tried to avoid happened despite (sometimes because of) my efforts to avoid it. So too, I am certain of this: that fear I’m battling? It’s well-founded. The wreckage that will come from owning this discovered self out loud and every day isn’t speculative.

So, being discovered is inevitable. Ok. So, my job now is to learn to confront the reactions I expect to result.

How the heck do I do that?

%d bloggers like this: