Wow! What a difference a year makes. Exactly one year ago last week my memoir Switching Teams was released. Without sounding like a jerk, it was one of the finest moments for me and my family. It marked the beginning of a journey which has been everything, and nothing, like I imagined.
The excitement surrounding the release was energizing and terrifying. My story was out there. Intimate details about my life and experience after divorcing and coming out later in life are forever on display for all to see. Publishing Switching Teams was brave.
It has taken me a year to realize the degree of courage required to open up and write about such a deeply personal experience. I get it now. My understanding, like many things in my life, seems to happen later rather than sooner. My theory is well tested and I often wonder if others feel likewise about their own learning curve.
Is life designed to teach from behind? Do we always learn more in arrears? If so, why? Does it even matter? Lately, I have more questions than answers. The last time I felt like this was when I came out. Gay Ja Vu anyone? Since then, some questions have been answered yet others are on a continual loop which recycles and changes depending on a variety of circumstances.
My mission in life has been to question. Everything. All the time. Ask my parents. I was taught that the only dumb questions are the ones that are not asked. Sounded good to me and I took full advantage. Questioning my sexual orientation was a big one. The interrogation was internal, yet there. I searched and gathered evidence for many years before I could definitively answer. Yes, it was later, but better than never.
The questioning has not ceased for the past six years. Big things, little things, stupid things. All things. The past few weeks have taught when answers are few, questions will try to fill the space left by the unknown. Depending on the moment, mental, emotional, and spiritual states of mind can vacillate between peace to full blown fear.
There is a stark contrast between how last year looked compared to this one. It has been a rough month for our family. My wife was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, which was missed at her last screening, and will soon be scheduled for double mastectomy. “How did they miss this?” My step mom entered hospice care after her two year battle with lung, colon, and ovarian cancer. “Why is this happening to such an awesome human being?”
Either on their own is bad enough, but we have both happening at the same time. Our family is a tough bunch, however we are all struggling to balance the normal flow of life with the gravity of everything. There are tears and laughter. Anger and sadness. Fear and fortitude. Everything and nothing.
We are all at the mercy of questions without answers with no definitive path forward. Our patience muscles are getting a high intensity workout that is taxing our energy reserves. We are all affected yet rallying around one another during this shit storm. We are winging it just like we did six years ago when everything changed.
Once again, there is no manual for how to successfully navigate the emotions, logistics, and unknowns in the situation. It is like coming out all over again with one exception. Cancer is not taboo or deviant. It does not elicit judgement or warrant a debate about “The Lifestyle.” Finally, we landed on a socially and morally acceptable affliction.
The reactions to my wife having breast cancer have been overwhelming, supportive, and kind. Offers of prayers and good thoughts have been extended across the board. Every well wish has been received with great appreciation and gratitude however we were shocked to hear from some who dropped off the radar after we came out.
More questions. Why reach out now? What changed? The real questions in both of our minds was “Where have you been for the last six years?” and “Why do you care?” Our first reaction was anger and hurt. Ah. Cancer reaches across the gay aisle. Trigger warning blaring.
We are not proud of it, but it happened. Our memory of feeling set aside and dismissed simply because we were lesbians is long and is still a wound that has yet to heal. The not fully healed coming out wounds are still vulnerable to being bumped and re-injured, even after six years.
The challenges we face as a lesbian couple are real and always in focus. A cancer diagnosis means doctor appointments and finding out if our relationship is going to be an obstacle to receiving the best health care possible. Like it or not, there are doctors who are not accepting of a same sex couple.
Fortunately, the nurse who began coordinating her treatment plan referred us to the surgeon she knew would not have an issue with us over another who was closer to our area. We have learned to flat out ask “Is being gay going to be a problem for you?” often. Finding an editor and publisher willing work with me because of the “subject matter” of my memoir was necessary as well.
The reminder of how far the LGBTQ community has progressed is tempered with how far we have to go in order to feel safe, secure, and normal. What is normal anyway? You get the idea. Embracing uncertainty follows suit with the themes of change, fear, and embracing love and kindness found throughout Switching Teams.
Given all of the uncertainty in life, one thing is certain. Maneuvering through the last year has been sketchy at times. Saying yes to the “should I write this book?” question was life changing. Hundreds of women have reached out and shared their later in life coming out stories with me because of my book. I am honored and humbled.
Just last night I received a message which could not have come at a better time. “Choking back tears as I’m reading your book, as my story is quite similar. I’m still in the middle of the storm and really struggling. I can’t thank you enough for this book, just knowing there is another person out there like me is so comforting.”
When the answerless moments are plentiful, if I am not careful my mind wants to wander to a dark place where the questioning becomes an assault on myself. This is not acceptable. Ever. How do you stop this?
Regroup. Remember the truth that you are enough and that this too shall pass. Take care of yourself and fight the urge to fill the unknown space with negativity. Be grateful. For all of it. The fantastic, the shit, and the neutral.
Despite how heavy life may feel in this moment, I am grateful. Gratitude makes the unknown feel bearable and shifts the focus outside of myself. Whatever you may be facing in your own life, I encourage you to ask the right questions and listen for the answers. They may not be what you expected or hoped for but they will be exactly what you need to keep moving forward with love.