One of the catalysts to my decision to come out after more than two decades of marriage to a woman was the loss of my sister in April, 2001, after a truly heroic battle against cancer. She was a remarkable person and all too often, in my view, put her own life an hold in order to meet the expectations of others. Sadly, it was only in her last years that she seemed to be finally coming into her own only to have her life cut short. Her death was frightening to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the nightmare quality for my family. In addition, for me, there was the recognition that I was living my life much as she had done: living to meet the expectations of others and societal stereotypes. I was suddenly faced with the reality that, if I did not do something, I would never really live my life authentically and not as an actor on a stage. In the aftermath of my coming out to key family members thereafter and with the encouragement of my therapist, I launched this blog as I struggled to survive my coming out journey, my subsequent firing from a large Virginia Beach based law firm for being gay, and the resulting financial and emotional nightmare. Was it worth it? Most definitely, although admittedly, at times I questioned if this was true. Recently, a piece in UpLift looks at the regrets of those faced with impending death. Here are excerpts:
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Reading this article made me think of many friends who have continued to live in the closet, putting their lives on hold until parents or other family members have passed away. The problem is than none of us know how much time we may be allotted. My sister, while straight,is but example of one who put her life on hold in some ways only to find out too late that her time was very limited. Parents will pass on and we find ourselves left alone. Why throw away your future to satisfy others who do not want to have to rethink their views or let go of their prejudices? To all readers in the closet and struggling to decide what to do, ask yourself if you want to have regrets like those noted above.
For myself, I know first hand that being who you really are and throwing aside self-hate and self-loathing (most religious and societal based) is truly liberating and makes every single day of one's life so much more fulfilling. .