Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Emerging from the Closet - The Struggle to Find a New Identity

In further follow up to yesterday’s post, after moving out of the marital home in an affluent suburban neighborhood, I moved into a two bedroom apartment in an old apartment building in Norfolk’s Ghent section. Having left pretty much all of the furniture in the house my wife continued to live with the children so as to minimize disruption and changes, my apartment looked at first more like early college dorm material than a real home. It’s amazing what you can do with stuff from Value City, Home Depot and Target to make do.
When the marital home was ultimately sold almost two years later in June of 2004, I did get some of the furniture my ex-wife did not want or which did not fit in the smaller house that she purchased. While not glamorous, the apartment was livable and conveniently located where there were numerous restaurants, a movie theater, a fabulous video rental store (with many, many foreign films and even a gay section), and other shops within walking distance. In some ways it was like moving to a small town within the larger city after living in suburbia. Even now, I live only minutes away from the apartment’s location and my office is not far away either.

On the work front, the downtown law firm I was with at the time knew that I was going through a divorce, but I did not elaborate on why the marriage was ending. Fortunately, a couple of the other attorneys had seen prior marriages end and, therefore, it was an issue no one seemed to have much interest in. Eventually, I think office staff and others began to figure it all out – especially after I ran into one employee and her husband at a local bar that I and a number of gay friends I had made by the time frequented some weekends. J, as I will call her, was totally cool about it as was her husband. Nonetheless, I tried to maintain a low profile and had some degree of paranoia about what might happen at the office if word got out. This area after all is not what one would call “gay friendly” to any degree. Not being out certainly greatly added to the level of worry and stress that I did not need on top of everything else. The largest burden at the time was the “Catholic guilt” I felt for having “failed” and allowed my marriage to end. Ultimately putting this misguided sense of guilt behind me - after all, I certainly never chose to be gay - would be among the hardest aspects of coming to accept myself and adjusting to a new life/identity.

Living alone was also a huge change after living in a household with three active children and the coming and goings of their numerous friends. Plus, I withdrew from many of my past activities in straight, GOP dominated Virginia Beach. Eventually, I sublet out the extra bedroom to a other gays (I most certainly did not want a straight roommate), both to cut over all expenses and to also feel less alone. Through them, I did meet more people and increased my sense of acceptance of being a gay man. I also found more ease in going out to venues as a gay man with other similar friends.
Things on the romance front were less than sparkling – nonexistent would be a better term – which only added to my sense of having lost everything, yet found nothing with which to replace it. This was especially true after things ended in my long distance relationship with RH in 2003, in part because he did not want to be “the other man” who ruined my marriage, not that it wasn’t ruined long be fore I ever meet him. Simply chatting with him online and/or talking on the telephone was a lifeline that became sorely missed. Moreover, I truly loved him, and part of me always will. This added layer of grief did not help my over all mindset.

Meanwhile, my therapist worked to get me to believe that I did not need a relationship to define me and that, rather than rush into something, living alone was in fact a viable option. In retrospect, one of my big issues was the belief that I HAD to have something to replace the dysfunctional marriage relationship that I had lost. One of the things that had pushed me to come out was the desire to have an authentic, fulfilling relationship with a guy I loved. As the saying goes, you find love when you are not looking for it. At the time, especially after losing RH, I was looking far too intently for it. Why? Partly, I suspect to convince myself that I was moving forward. I caused myself so much anguish instead of simply enjoying the now and not obsessing over the future. Much of my anguish, was self created. But at the time, I simply could not and/or would not see it.


Java said...

Isn't it quirky how we can create for ourselves a huge web of complications, yet fail to see that it's our own fault.

BostonPobble said...

I wish you and Lithus could have met during this time. Your paths sound remarkably similar.