Very soon, and I mean VERY SOON, I’m going to be having my 50th birthday. It’s so hard for me to believe, because I certainly don’t feel fifty years old. Although, I guess I can’t really say that I know what fifty feels like. I’m guessing it’s not unlike forty nine, or forty eight for that matter. I have, in my life thus far, experienced a lot. A lot of good things, a lot of bad things, and a lot of days that were just……days. It’s funny how when you get a little older, the “just” days start to feel a bit like a waste of time. Nothing good to make a memory of, nothing bad to mark the significance of another day passing. Just a day, that didn’t amount to much but time slipping away. Pretty soon, you start to wish you’d taken better advantage of those days. I mean, I’d rather be able to look back and say I did SOMETHING, right or wrong. Made a memory, or a mistake, either one. Having had a day so mediocre that I don’t even remember it at all seems like such a waste.
I tend to look back a lot lately, and I think it’s because I have so much in my life right now that I want to learn how to keep so many “just” days from cluttering it up. I’m experiencing something new, something that has changed the way I feel about those days, and the ones ahead of me. I’ve said “I love you” thousands of times over the last 49 years. Sometimes I thought I meant it, thought I knew what it meant. Other times, I knew I didn’t, but felt obligated to say it. I took the word for granted, because it’s meaning was lost to me.
It’s a tough thing to admit that you’ve been emotionally screwed up almost all your life. But without a doubt, I have been. I grew up in a community where “gay” wasn’t discussed, in a home where “gay” was most assuredly not acceptable, and in a time where there really wasn’t any support available for a kid growing up gay in a straight world. That’s how I looked at myself growing up. I was an outsider, different, somehow less than everyone else. My experience at home told me that being gay was dangerous, and would change my relationship with my family forever. My experience at school told me that being gay would get you bullied, shunned, and tormented. My experience in the world at that time told me that being gay was some kind of illness that made you immoral and in some way wicked in the eyes of the world.
So I learned early on, to hide my real feelings. Growing up like that taught me to bury my feelings, and just follow my friends as they began to explore their heterosexual puberty and adolescence. I married my high school best guy friend. Learned how to hide my thoughts and my feelings from him as well. I learned fast too. I got very, very good at it. Later in life, when I was exposed to more gay people and began to realize that I wasn’t unique, it was too late. I had already formed a behavior that just became a part of me. I assumed that every relationship, even the gay ones, needed restraint and careful manipulation of the seriousness that I allowed to develop. It was safe to stay casual, and to keep things on a sexual basis, then end it abruptly if someone began to demand entry into other parts of my life. I never let anyone in, ever. Not my husband. Not the women that followed. It became my primary coping mechanism. Never let anyone in. I honestly didn’t even know how. Panic would set in at the first sign of emotion, and I was gone!
Now I find myself facing something I simply never expected. Someone who makes me want to bring that wall that my emotions have always hidden behind down. But, learned behaviors are hard, especially when they were what you used to protect yourself. I didn’t realize that letting this wall down was going let loose all the pain and fears that were attached to all those repressed wants, needs, feelings, and desires. That sharing the memories that tormented me when I was young, would be so painful even now. I guess I really did believe that if I didn’t acknowledge them, I would never have to deal with them.
How amazing it is to me, that someone is willing to look past the fact that I am so damaged, so afraid to share. Someone who looks at me with eyes that tell me that it’s okay, that who I am now doesn’t forever have to be a cold emotionless little girl who doesn’t understand the difference between sex and love. She brings to the surface a feeling in me that I am so unfamiliar with that it takes my breath away sometimes. I find myself nervous, and shaking when she touches me. Every fiber in my body is telling me that I’m not safe, I’m exposed, vulnerable. My heart and my soul, they just keep screaming “More!”
I used to think I had it all figured out, that I knew it all. I believed that skating through life with many casual relationships was the safest I could ever hope to be. That even a long term relationship had to have limits to trust and sharing. I may have been right, it might be safer, but it’s not living and it certainly isn’t loving. This feeling is more than I ever imagined it could be. It makes me think that while I may have thought I knew it all, I really didn’t understand anything. Certainly not myself. I have found someone who makes me want to look inside and drag everything out into the open, because I know she will look at me the same way even then. Where do people like her hide all your life? How is it even possible for someone to look into your soul and see beauty where even you can’t?
I’m not a fool, I know a million things can go wrong, and that letting my guard down means that someone can hurt me. But what I’ve learned through experiencing this person, this beautiful person, is that sometimes pain is the price you pay for a chance at something incredible. I’d rather risk it all for a chance at that, something incredible, than live behind these walls and have “just” days from now on.