Monday, January 29, 2007

Acceptance

It is strange, almost a month post Chicago; post the trauma of going, the pleasure of being and the pain of returning. Since then I have gone to a married bi/gay support group: I have written of that long evening, the group, the camaraderie, and yes, the bar afterwards.

Since then I have had lunch with Sam, lunch as in a table, a sandwich and talking from the heart. Since then we have met a few other times, met as friends.

Since then I have had dinner with a man I met in my group, a dinner in a restaurant filled with other gay men, a dinner followed by some clubs. Lots of conversation and yes some groping and kissing: but they were add-ons, not the core of the evening. A night of shared friendship, of shared growth, but not of shared bodies, not of a shared bed.

Since Chicago I have not had sex: not with a man and no, not with a woman. Not a moral issue, not a change of heart. But I wonder about it – me, Mr. Horny – me, the man who has defined his sexual orientation using my dick as a compass, looking for a mythical magnetic North.

Since Chicago I have not had sex – I will soon I am sure – but still for a month I have not. It is surely not fear – I am out to my wife, to my family and friends. I am living in the basement, in my own space where I happily type at this too late hour. It is not a lack of desire – I am always ready, my hand remains familiar, and now that I have my computer in a private space, in my bedroom, well the things you find on the Net.

Since Chicago I have grudgingly – not easily, not without some heel digging – inexorably come to accept that I am Gay: that I am not going back, that there is only forward. I have come to accept that my desire to be with men, to interact with them goes beyond a blowjob. At one point Saturday night I was in a corner settee, watching the crowd and I settled into my friend’s arms and at one point we kissed, and we sipped our drinks, and we watched the crowd ebb and flow. And it all felt right.

Does part of me want the famed “slut” phase that those who newly discover their sexuality talk about – yes, and I suspect in time I will. That may need to wait, maybe for an apartment or maybe for Carrie and I to be further along in the concept of sharing a house. But I am not worried about that tonight.

It has taken sixteen months – maybe a lifetime in actuality. But I finally get yet another thing that many have tried to tell me. This post had its genesis in Flip posting on a comment left by Spider, a discussion of “it’s all about acceptance from other men...” Seven words. Yes, for me also “it’s all about acceptance from other men.”

And I’m thinking that understanding those simple words make the interactions better, make me more comfortable in my own skin, will lead to healthier relationships - with men and at home - and yes will lead to some wonderful sex.

All of this will not come to pass overnight, will not come without work and faith, but it will come. And it will be good.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"You'll Get Used To It"

Recently as I settled into my new home, the much discussed basement, I found myself using a laptop computer. My coordination is limited on a good day and those little keyboards and my adult fingers just do not play well. More time on the backspacing than the actual typing: a tricky situation as my mind forges ahead in spite of the fingers lagging behind.

A few moments ago as I walked by my friend’s office and noticed him typing away, fingers on that laptop, I confessed. I told him of my recent laptop usage (no, not the why) and my difficulty with typing on it. He simply said “You’ll get used to it”.

I equally simply pointed out that I had obtained a full size keyboard, that as the human I had adjusted my environment to suit me.

And it struck me how much that little exchange revealed. Life is of course compromises, particularly at home, with a family, wife and children. And while humans do adjust the environment to suit them – why else have thermostats and the like – equally importantly adults do learn to adjust to their environments, man’s fabled adaptability.

In some way that feels so central – where in my new life is there a reasonable taking charge of my own existence and where is it a refusal to adapt to those that I love: as has been asked in less words, when does “authentic” becomes “selfish”?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Reflections

After weeks of anticipation, on January 5th my one year blog anniversary arrived. Strangely enough it was the day I reached 15,000 hits and the same day I left for my much anticipated, and debated, weekend in Chicago. And after weeks of waiting, I let the occasion pass unsaid. Somehow celebrating did not seem in order: my heart was just not in it.

And now another milestone: my 200th post. The other night I told Carrie of running out of things to say, but she laughed, scoffed, she knows me too well. And she is right, there is much more to say – and do, and feel. Some is written in my head already and much is yet to be thought, yet to be imagined.

It is hard to imagine how much has changed since a moment never noted on any calendar, a moment circa September 2005, a moment late at night in a darkened bedroom. A moment of basking in the sexual pleasure, a homo-erotic real life dream and then a moment of being told to “do what I have to do”. Carrie imagined it would be a moment, a quick hook-up, an anonymous encounter, and recharged like the ever-ready bunny, back to the marital bed. Who imagined the bunny would someday morph into a rabbit (which by the way just eats those ever-ready bunnies – the price for real fire power).

For those who have joined this journey midstream, a brief moment of history. Going on Craig’s List, getting up the nerve and sending an e-mail. A motel rendezvous, and then the problem: I liked it; I wanted to try it again. And again I liked it. So a pattern began and true to the don’t ask, don’t tell of her request, Carrie never knew. I went to work, I came home. I used to know discretion.

Then this blog, a new world, a few false starts and then eureka: discovery of a whole world of bi/gay men, many married, a mirror but with depth. Once again a little more time on the computer, but Carrie was not watching, she had a life to lead, a house to run and kids to raise.

And then a Saturday night, late January 2006, a year ago give or take a few days, dinner out. Funny, this is the true anniversary and it has taken me six paragraphs to even realize it: lord, I am dense at times. Anyway, this dinner was going to be with another couple, but a babysitter crisis, last minute cancellation and there - Carrie and I, glasses of wine in hand, an old fashioned date.

Now I had nothing planned, no secret agenda: we were supposed to be with another couple. But sitting there sipping red wine, looking at the love of my life, comfortably chatting, I said something. Words I do not exactly remember, but Carrie remembers them for me: “I am bi-sexual.” We talked, ate, we paid the bill and drove. We parked in a lover’s lane setting and talked some more, car running, heat blowing, but still a chill if not in the car, in our hearts.

I did not that night know one of my current mantras: what has been said can never be unsaid. I would like to tell you of the rainbow that appeared on the horizon, the honesty dissolving into a tearful embrace, sex with fireworks. In the year that has elapsed we have had those moments, but to tout those moments as if a Ron Howard movie would be wrong. Yes those moments, but many other darker moments. It has been a year of Dickens, a year of wanting to oft times quote the best of times and the worst of times.

What happiness is there in looking back at the pain I have caused, in going down to my basement room at night, in missing being in Carrie’s arms? Yet there is the other side, learning acceptance of who I am, making new friends albeit mostly on line, coming out to those close with me and feeling honesty. The thing is that honesty while ultimately the only way to live a life, can bring pain – both to those we love and to ourselves.


Last Saturday night Carrie went out, dinner with a friend, and I had a wonderful “Daddy” evening. This Saturday night Carrie will stay home, a “Mommy” evening and I will get on a train. I will meet a man for dinner. We are not lovers, are not looking to be. His wife has asked for a divorce and he has found a sublet, a place to hang his hat, a diving board for a new life. We will eat, share our tales, the similarities, the differences, and then drinks at a bar, drinking from glasses and drinking with our eyes, drinking in this new world. Eventually a train, home to my basement, wake up with my family.


So a year later I straddle two worlds. And I wonder going forward, where the intersection lies, where the comfort level will be. Carrie and I hope to share a home in our separated state, raise our children and avoid any more financial pain. But as I get ready for my Saturday night out, as we discuss whether I will wake up with my family or if it will be a train ride home lit with the sun of another day, we realize the trickiness of this path. One friend tells me of seven months in the other bedroom and then an apartment. As I sit here on my computer, as I sometimes log onto cruising sites, pure sex sites, as I plan my Saturday night out, I wonder if that apartment is not in my future also.

As with much of life, an answer will become apparent, an answer I do not know: Water finding its own level. There is only one rule for finding that answer and that is to start to live, live my life, my new life and my old. Continue to respect those around me, continue the therapy and introspection, but also continue the journey.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"And He Should Have"

An extraordinary weekend: Friday night out – really “out” and Saturday a lesson in acceptance: weekend enough for any man, even me. But the weekend did continue. Saturday night Carrie had her night out and I had a wonderful Daddy evening. Sunday, an impromptu family gathering and a moment standing in a circle, eight adults watching a toddler bounce like a silver ball in a pinball machine. Oh, did I mention that five of the eight were gay.

But little could I imagine what was next up on my dance card. Now I need to digress, just for a moment. It was back in December that I wrote of an episode of Cold Case, the story of two gay cops, one married and one dead, executed. Back then I wrote of the
last scene:

The show always ends the same way, an image of the dead person alive again. Jimmy, an old man, a sad man walks back to their spot. There is Cooper and there is their love and then Cooper fades and Jimmy is alone.

But I left out the background music to the scene, The Byrd’s doing My Back Pages, the familiar lyric “I was so much younger then, I’m older than that now.” Haunting music for a haunted scene.

So back to this weekend, driving in the car, iPod shuffling along and the song and the lyric. One daughter listens and asks how it could be – if you are older how can you be younger? I hit pause and try to explain. Then I ask if they remember hearing the music in a TV show and they respond in unison: Cold Case.

I explain how Jimmy, though an old man at the end, was really younger as he thought about how he might have lived his life differently. With the music playing in the background, a lull in the conversation and then a voice from the rear - a soft voice, a child’s voice: “And he should have.” And in those four words I hear her: He should have lived his life differently; he should have taken his journey, where ever it may lead.

“And he should have”



Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.
Bob Dylan

Sunday, January 21, 2007

That Long Walk

I have never been one for dates – yes, my birthday, anniversary, but not one for marking milestones. Maybe philosophical and maybe something as simple as poor memory; so it is with this background that I share the marking of January 19th on my mental calendar.

You see on January 19th I headed downtown – not for sex, not on this night. There are more important things. Dinner to start - five people I had never met – and then what Springsteen once called “the long walk”: a few blocks to The Center, a hub of New York’s GBLT community. I walked through those doors – a much anticipated moment -and into the other world. I spent the next three hours in a room, a bakers dozen of married gay/bi men, a monthly gathering of a support group.

What is shocking is not that I found myself there: what is shocking is that virtually a year elapsed before I took that step – I once would have called it a leap, but it was only a step. I will not write of those three hours except to say they flew by, it was – is – an amazing group of men and I now understand support groups, whether this or AA, in a whole different light. The depth of the trust in that room was new to me, eye opening and respecting such a bond comes very easily.

Our three hours drawn to a close, we huddled in small groups - a wind swept street, the light snow on the ground - and the decision is made: which bar, gay bar, to head to and head we do, a loose caravan on the streets of the West Village. A drink or two: some conversation with this one and with that. Time to gaze around at the sights and time to soak in the ambience. Time to allow another three hours to pass and time for a late – very late train back home. I who loses attention with friends at the three or four hour mark, spent eight hours on this adventure of an evening, and if not for a suburban train schedule would have spent longer..

So far there has been nothing written which would warrant marking the date. I was too busy being to consider what any of it might mean. I awake, four hours later, a long day ahead, and see Carrie in the kitchen. She of course asks how my evening was and I tell her of the meeting – not specifics, but an overview. A word crosses my lips and I do not even notice but the second time it struck even me: “They”. I was telling her about them – those other guys, those gay guys. And after the second time I stopped my self, stopped almost mid-word and said “We”.

And in that moment I realized that on some level I went out for the evening, walked into The Center, sat with these men, as a form of learning who I was, a Chicago like evening of “playing” gay, taking it out for a test ride. And in that moment I realized the truth, that I was one of them, one of a group of gay men sharing an evening, sharing our souls.

It is strange how in these posts I have shared my coming out to a wife, friends and children. I have even shared my coming out to myself: but coming out to oneself does not self acceptance make.

I will share one thing from the meeting because it was my moment and one that will not surprise those who have joined me on this journey. Shame has always been my problem, not guilt as afflicts so many others, but shame. I expressed this last night. But today as I look back at my evening – dinner, the meeting and the time spent in a gay bar, I feel no shame, no shame at what I did (which was not much), no shame in the men I was with, no shame in my gayness.

One night does not change a lifetime and I will have many missteps ahead of me, too many I am afraid, but as I type at this late hour, my mind numbed from a long day piled on a short night, I realize the fundamental nature of things. I am separated from my wife for a very simple reason: I am gay. I need to continue to grow beyond the safety of the cyber world, to develop gay friends. I need to start to live.

While glancing at my last post, I read: “Tonight is time for a bit of self acceptance, only a bit I realize.” It was a good thought, a good thought for then. But tonight it is time to edit that line, to remove “a bit”. For tonight I realize that every time I write “a bit”, every time I find another modifier, it is one more instance of “them”. Tonight it is time for “us”, to mark the calendar: “Acceptance Day”.




Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride ain't free
And I know you're lonely for words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken
Bruce Springsteen
Thunderroad

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

One Answer

Of late my listening skills have been called into question – for good reason. For many months a concept has been bandied about: my blogging as a greater issue in my marriage than sex with other men. This line of reasoning has baffled me. I mean how can one compare the significance of sitting alone at a keyboard in the blue monitor glow with, well you can imagine what can occur in the company of another, a fellow traveler in my sad world.

On Sunday I wrote of some changes – the basics relating to proper respect for Carrie and that is going well. I also wrote of less sex – sex with men - and less blogging. These were never set in stone rules – only the acceptance of therapy and the respect for Carrie are bedrock. The celibacy, while being honored, I have come to realize is not an issue. Now that I am in the basement, not sharing a bed, the issue is not sex; the issue is an element of discretion which speaks of respect. The thing is that the celibacy will not last, but it is not pressing in on me, I do not lie in bed at night and plan my next dalliance.

The same cannot be said for blogging. Since Sunday morning I have written many words, albeit in my head, but the words, the thoughts are there all the same. Some are comforting, some distressing, a few disheartening and in the last few days, more words of hope. And these words trail me with a greater persistence than the new puppy (who is cute but a mite energetic).

And as I think of all the words, write posts in my head, I finally start to understand. Carrie points out that sex gives me the adoration of one, blogging the adoration of many. I want to deny this: it is not about the adoration, the numbers. Yet I can tell you that I have reached 16,000 hits, last week I had consecutive days of 111 and 100 guests. But who’s counting.

So I realize that while the sex is significant, the blogging is the real immersion into a culture, a community and it does have real meaning to me. It is the writing, it is the introspection, but it is more: I can just keep a private journal. I do not. Tonight I choose not to worry about the why – the need for acceptance and approval, a form of exhibitionism. There will be a time for that, part of therapy, part of the non-TGT therapy I suspect.

Tonight is time for a bit of self acceptance, only bit I realize. But at least it is time to accept that being with men and maintaining my blog – my connection with all of you – are part of me. These need to be balanced with the rest of my life:
respect for Carrie and myself must remain paramount. But there are enough battles to fight, mountains to climb with out creating false pretenses.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Growth

I do not know who Nate is anymore. As Carrie’s depression lifts, mine descends, a new emotion, a new feeling. The joy of being the center of ones universe is that one is by definition centered, no need to be depressed. But I find myself off center now – and that is ultimately good because my being centered was destroying those around me. I find myself making decisions based on previous poor decisions, a towering house of cards, a house on the verge of collapse, a house swaying in the breeze of every comment I read, every thought I have.

My gayness may mean that my marriage is over and it may be that Carrie and I will find our place in other ways. Maybe we will be the exception that does end up together. But to run into gayness while ignoring everything else which is wrong will only ensure that my ability for unhealthy relationships with women will translate into unhealthy relationships with men.

Carrie and I had a “non-date” date Friday night, our first, and in spite of some rough moments, it was good. We spoke, spoke honestly and when the evening drew to a close we both knew we could easily make love, real love, and we both knew that would be the death knell for rebuilding. What I learned that night was how much else was wrong before TGT reared its head and how much of what was wrong stemmed from me, from the force of my personality in the relationship and from my own incredible self absorption. I mean why bring flowers when you are supplying good orgasms. It is embarrassing to write the last sentence, but it is true.

Spider left me a comment a month ago – I cannot find it, but the essence has remained with me. At the time I quietly thought how could someone so wise ask of me something so silly. He suggested that while I was living in this home, sharing Carrie’s life, I should not be going out, having sex, ”finding” a gay lifestyle. I should respect her, our family and my surroundings. The day I move out, feel free to have the proverbial party.

I read his comment and said how can I possibly expect to have a journey of discovery in my head, I need to DO, I need to do NOW. It is good for Carrie because the sooner I find my way, the sooner we can all move on. Luckily Carrie is finding her way and now it is my turn to catch up.

It has been a week since my return from Chicago and time enough to start to gain a little perspective, on me, on my trip, on Spider’s wisdom. I do realize that there is pain in transition and I do realize the fear. But there should also be a feeling of anticipation, expectation, not one of early onset clinical depression.

Last night I sat at this keyboard and wrote to Carrie. There is no need for her to read it for this morning I spoke it, a preferred delivery system. The essence is simple enough. I need to reacquaint myself with Nate before I make more decisions, good or bad. I need to worry about personal growth more than my next blowjob. I need to accept that anything I do going forward must be for me – respectful of Carrie, but for me. The goal cannot be getting back together, moving out, anything at all other than discovering who I am.

Spider wrote recently:
Nate - this ain't your first time at the rodeo... it is time to grow up, take a stand and do what is right... right now, the only person in your life who is really coming out on the good side of your actions is YOU - not your family, your "boyfriend" or anyone else... and that is not exactly fair...


He was right, is right. So as the clock struck 5, long before dawns early light, I made the following choices – my stand if you would, my message to Carrie (and to Nate):

· I am in no way pressing to return to the bedroom. Having our own spaces is healthy and if we are ever going to be truly back together – as friends, spouses, anything, it will only be through our “journeys”
· The next part of my journey involves Bob (my therapist) and Nate, not Sam or Jerry
· My goal tomorrow is to spend some time at this keyboard writing for Bob which is writing for me. I will share the writing with you because it will be an attempt to create a therapy starting point – the issues that we have come upon in our talks and the issues you have noticed as you have worked with your therapist
· While I will try to create a starting point – a non TGT starting point for Bob, I will accept that the therapy will have its own life, for better or for worse
· There is no need to tell anymore people than already know of our circumstances, of our struggle. My desire for honesty has become a form of exhibitionism..
· If I want to write, there are letters to you, there are e-mails to the few actual friends I have made. There can be a private journal and there is the fledgling Temple writing group where maybe I will learn to write of all the other things in my world
· As tempting as it is, I will not hit delete on my blog. It smacks of grandstanding and would not mean anything.
· However I will self impose limits on blogging – the world does not have to share every shift, every nuance of our lives. While not sure what is the “proper” limit, it strikes me that once a week is more than reasonable, not bordering on once a day as it has become.
· I will keep things zipped mainly for me but also out of respect for you. I need to zip it now to find out what that means. If in a week or a month or two, I am unable to maintain it, it is only fair to both of us that we learn that now.
· I will not deny the fact that I have my gay side, quite a strong gay side – at least not to us
· I will go to the married bi/gay men’s group on Friday – once again trying to learn honest emotions and reactions in a healthy environment

As I told Carrie these items she said the most extraordinary thing – she misunderstood my goal to blog more responsibly as meaning stopping, disappearing. She pointed out that many people are sharing this journey, look up to me, to us, and that there is a responsibility to them. She is, as you all have come to see, an extraordinary human being.

So maybe in a few years, Carrie and I will be at our traditional seats at our table or maybe we will have our separate lives and she will invite me and a boyfriend to partake in her good cooking. It does not matter. The only thing that counts is trying to learn who I am and to be able to show respect – for her, for our family and to myself while I continue down this road.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What You Call Defeat

A HOW brother and I were sharing some music and the closing song on his CD reached out, grabbed me, shook me, held me. All of it, each word, written for me. But one verse:

Time to get scared - time to change plan
Dont know how to treat a lady, dont know how to be a man
Time to admit - what you call defeat
'Cause there's women running past you now
And you just drag your feet



An e-mail to Sis and a question back: What is it that so resonates with me. There is the obvious:
"Time to get scared" just reeks of the fear that has me shivering to the core. "Time to change plan" - the change which will bring that proverbial hard rain.


But what really resonates is the subtelty of "Time to admit - what you call defeat". Not "time to admit defeat"-actual defeat. The words are "time to admit what you call defeat". To me it speaks of my feelings of shame and inadequacy when admitting to being gay.

The song is twenty-five years old and I wonder, does it resonate with me because I am stuck in time, twenty-five years late to the party. Then I remember how my niece came out to her parents maybe half a dozen years back. A long night, in and out of their sight, lurking around their house. And then, after 11 PM, a late hour, she comes into their bedroom and tells them, tears freely flowing: "I am Gay." Yes, time to admit...

There is a sadness in those words, but it also holds out hope, hope that it is not really a defeat because I can drop the "what you call". That is of course the work that lies ahead, to reach a level where I no longer define it as a defeat.

So besides loving the music, the piano and overall imagery, it resonates deeply to someone being forced - by himself, by his wife, by reality - to admit what at the moment feels like defeat.



I happened upon the video while searching for the lyrics and never really watched with my full attention - listened very well, watched with half an eye. This post is from the imagery in my brain. Last night I wanted Carrie to hear the song: not having the CD handy, I played the video and actually watched it, watched the men, the interaction between the players and then watched, for the first time, the end: the suicide.

And I was disheartned, disheartned because Carrie will always associate the songs with images of a director instead of images of the mind. And I am rocked by the change in message. At the end of the video, it truly was defeat and at the end of my "book", with all the pain and troubles ahead, it will truly be a victory, a victory in being authentic with myself and still maintaining my family, those I cherish, in ways that go beyond the marital bed.

There is much work ahead, but last night I saw the "wrong" ending.

And there is hope embedded in fear.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Birth

Today I was blessed with being able to be a reader, a reader of incredible, touching, moving writing. Sis sent me an e-mail, with a link:

I know you’re scared, and with good reason. But do you ever read Always Aroused Girl’s blog? She had a great post the other day that I thought reflected on your situation. BIRTH This is your chance to be reborn.
Better late than never.


I read the post, and read it again. Then I realized that Carrie deserved – no, needed – to share in this and I forwarded her the e-mail from Sis. Later that day Carrie wrote Sis back, and copied me:

Hi Sis,
Thank you for sharing that post with Nate. He forwarded it to me. Her words touched me because they are the ones I have been trying to get him to hear. It is so hard to love someone and yet know you must push them out of the nest. It is not unlike sending a child off to college. When the time comes, you have to know you've done your best and hope you have given enough of a base for them to succeed. I have no doubt that when Nate has to fly he will, but he will hang onto the last branch as long as he can.
Thanks again,
Carrie

I read her words, and read them again and was struck by the imagery of flight for it was driving back from the airport Sunday, driving home, that I was struck by the lyrics from If This Is Goodbye

Your bright shining sun
Would light up the way before me
You were the one
Made me feel I could fly
And I love you
Whatever is waiting for me
If this is goodbye
If this is goodbye
Mark Knopfler

It's A Hard

It’s A Hard
Part 2 – The Feelings

As I re-read what I wrote on the plane, I realized there was a flow, a natural breaking point. Again I offer the transcription, not edited, not reflective of the days since my return. There will be time for that, but for now:


I am ahead of schedule, standby on an earlier flight. You might wonder, so much invested in a weekend, why not squeeze it for every last hour. The reason is simple enough, explained in a comment, one not solicited, one with no thought.

I go to the ticket agent for an earlier flight, inquire about standby. She nods, asks if I am on a connecting flight. Without thought I volunteer “I am going home”; and as I write these words again, my eyes are filled with tears. “I am going home” My sexuality has come to define my life and maybe that is what must be. But id does not feel good, it does not feel just or right.

Can I walk in the door and say, honey I really am straight. I think not. Would it have been a lot fairer if the life I have built was consistent with all of my sexual orientations, absolutely.

But given a choice between incredible sex with a man or chatting quietly with Carrie, young ones scampering about, I would need but an instant to respond.


[I lied, I cannot let what I have written stand without comment through my eyes today. The last sentence fascinated me then and now. My pad indicates the next paragraph started, moved and finally abandoned. The sentence says I would need only an instant to respond, but the response is not actually stated. And what is clear through many of the conversations this week is that if you make a “minor” change to the sentence – replace “incredible sex with a man” with “an emotional bond with a man”, well you see where this is going. Back to the regularly scheduled programming.]

Way back when, I raised the sister questions – what I want and who I am. The answers seem strangely clear to me this late afternoon. I want to spend my days and my nights with Carrie, with my family. I am a queer floating around the sexual continuum north of the mythical three on the scales.

Strange knowing what I want and who I am seems so simple and so impossible to implement.

There is the question of Carrie and her wants and needs and it is time for me to respect them. There may have been a point where a celibate queer would have been fine with her, and maybe there will be a time for that in the future.

But for now it is time to accede to her wishes, her reality, to live in the basement and devote myself to being the best friend, “husband”, father that I can imagine. It is a time to speak through deeds.

It must have been forty years ago when Dylan wrote:
It’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain that’s gonna fall


Maybe, just maybe the rain will wash away the tears and the pain and maybe, maybe there will be a rainbow somewhere on the other side of this all.



I wrote this and do not retract my words, I never really do, but I understand them better now. I wrote of “celibate queer” – celibate in sex, celibate in love: easy to write hours after receiving sexual and emotional gratification, but really. I once asked Sam how many months he thought I could be celibate and he just laughed – he was thinking in weeks, at best.

More to understand, other posts to explore with; but if re-reading my words has left me with any one edit, it would be the wish that the rain wash away the greatest of all my obstacles, the fear I am first beginning to acknowledge.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rorschach Moments

I wrote on the plane home from Chicago, thoughts pouring onto paper, no backspace key, no time to edit. Thoughts still fresh, unfiltered by time, unaffected by my friends. There is a desire to edit them now, to cleanse them for you, for me. But that has never been my style so here, as written on that pad, part 1 of my plane trip home.


It’s a Hard
Part 1 – The Facts

I had told myself I would not yet again write a post or letter on the plane from Chicago: one titled “From 35,000 Feet” seemed enough for a lifetime. Yet I find myself again pen in hand scrawling away. Last time it was a letter to Carrie: This time it is for everyone and at the same time for no one but me.

Much was made of this trip – iconic before I ever left for the airport. Much was debated – well maybe debate is not the word for an uprising by so many, all saying “Do Not Go.”

I thought this morning of that outpouring and why I ignored it. Strangely for a philanderer I am a man of my word and my word I did give. That included my word to Carrie to try to move forward, to try to allow her to grieve and grow, to try to answer that gnawing question of what Nate wants because without that there can be no true forward progress. As I sit here preparing to write of my weekend, I realize they are sister questions: what does Nate want and who Nate is.

The trip was never about sex – there are gay men in New York, there is the internet and I already have a regular squeeze. To those who want a bone I will say yes, I had sex in Chicago, yes I enjoyed it and no, in and of itself it was probably not worth the price. The trip was always cultural – stepping into another world, seeing how it felt – the size, the fabric. My friend was kinder than he could have imagined – I found myself at a veritable smorgasbord of gay life.

Saturday was our day out, a nine hour journey through “gay” Chicago. Boystown – Mecca to some, but a quiet Saturday afternoon to me, stores selling every imaginable item with a rainbow stamped on it. I could have as easily been with Carrie passing through the West Village.

Then onto main event number one: Chi-Town Square Dancing. Jerry had signed on and this was week one for the beginners. It seems this is a nationwide group – gay square dancing. Upstairs in the Church, maybe twenty beginners, a matching number of veterans, five and ten year pins blazing: All gay. It is a club to dance, but it is also a club – a social outlet, an afternoon out.

Now I need to digress for a moment. Nate does not do clubs, and if he did it would be a club based on a deeply held interest. But for an afternoon I put aside that bias, I pay my $7 and I dance, follow the directions, and remember my left and my right. If only following right was so easy the rest of the time.

As I dance, as I mingle, my eyes dart from person to person. Am I one of them, would I want to be their friends, if I lived in Chicago would I go back next week. The answers are not that hard. To a great degree this is a lonely hearts club and I do not feel any connection. Some of the guys are sort of cute, many do nothing for me.

So I dance, I dosado and at the end of my first true entrée to gay culture, well we do love our hugs. A few minutes to stroll around the North Side and on to our final destination for the evening: an epiphany party, the official end to the holiday season, a fitting name for my journey.

Things get both clearer and murkier here. A nicely appointed apartment, a gay couple – Ted and Mark: I am told that Ted has been married once, a daughter judging from the pictures and now, Mark. Other couples arrive – gay couples I assume. Some red wine, people – men – mill about chatting in small groups.

Now at the square dance there was little doubt, a gay event: one did not need highly tuned gaydar to connect the dots. But here things are different. If someone walked up to me and said the wives were in the next room, a veritable knitting circle, I would have accepted that without batting an eye. Well maybe a few seemed gayer than others, but the overwhelming impression was, excuse the word, normal. It was a gathering of men who happen to be gay as opposed to a gay gathering. A gathering of men where if asked what I do the answer would be “accountant”, not “men”, a gathering of peers.

Now about the only area where Nate does worse than clubs are gatherings of strangers. A bar, well that is the ultimate gathering of strangers and my discomfort in that environment should be legendary by now. A party of strangers is normally next on that list. Can you spell “wall flower.”

I surprise myself – I have a few conversations. I wonder if it is the novelty factor, the mysterious out of towner with a thick foreign accent, or as foreign as New York can be in Chicago. Maybe it is the liberation of knowing I will never see these people again.

Maybe it is that they are gay, my usual fears of not being “man enough” suspended among fellow travelers. This is of course the wild card entry, the one requiring thought, not writing. A few hours, a few conversation, and time to head back to Jerry’s.


There is more from the plane, dots to connect, emotions to share, but transcribing is hard and facing what comes next is even harder. Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dear Friends

Dear Friends,
I did go to Chicago, yes against the outcry, a decision that I do not overly regret. The only thing that seems to hurt Carrie more than what I do is the constant changing of the playing fields – going / staying, bi / gay / queer (a term which I am finally coming to appreciate in all its, well, queerness).

On the plane home, I again picked up pen and wrote, six plus pages, facts and feelings. I came home and Carrie and I talked, a victory in its own right, and this morning we talked some more. And what would all this be without a few e-mails to Sis. So I have been busy, many things on my mind.

There are many posts to this trip, the ones from the plane which I will transcribe and share, ones from the return which need to be written – in my mind and on my keyboard. So you may be wondering where I am going with this post: simple. I am in awe of the number of people who through comments and / or e-mails care about us and have chosen to come along for the ride. And I am guessing there are some who are wondering if I went to Chicago – I did, if I returned, for sure, and if my belongings were possibly deservedly on the front lawn – they were not.

I learned much in Chicago but there are no magic answers, no silver bullets anymore. I came home as aware as ever of my gay side and I came home again wanting – not doing, but wanting – to beg my way back into the bedroom, back to my family. But I realize that I have my family with the price of admission remaining unchanged, accept a quite lovely basement and stop “hitting” on Carrie, hitting on her to open any more doors. Showing respect, what many of you have oft times suggested, should be simple enough.

To those who are noting the sparse word count today, fasten your seat belts; I still have much to say.

Written with love and humility to those who have spent a year trying to do the impossible, to get me to listen

Nate

Friday, January 05, 2007

Yards

In the middle of the night I found myself up, again, with the puppy and while she went out back and rollicked I read some e-mails on my HOW group. Dark room, no glasses, squinting inches from the monitor, another on a common thread: love wife, gay, want it all. And in bold a response: “I don’t care how beautiful your damned yard is” : The coda to a paragraph on not going back into the closet.

I hit reply, save that one line and type:
“God, what I am willing to give up for that “yard” – Love the image.”

Maybe there is value to exhaustion, to not having the strength for denial and facades. When I typed “Love the image” it was the writer in me, such an evocative sentence, nine words painting a portrait. But immediately I realized the double entendre: I may love the imagery but I also love the image, the image my life presents from that beautiful yard. And I realize how much I am motivated by that image. A friend of Carries, slightly older, very “fifties” in outlook points out that Carrie is my “skirt” – a woman a gay man can hide behind. It is the same image – a skirt, a yard: maybe the better word is crutch.

I would of course argue it is more than image I want to hold on to – it is tucking in my children, being part of a family, hanging with my best friend. Much more than an image. But I have been offered all of those things. Carrie is happy for me to remain in our house, to share in our family. All she has asked is the tangible of my leaving the bedroom, which I have done, and the intangible of respecting her as my best friend and respecting her by accepting she is no longer my lover. Ah, those intangibles are so hard to grasp on to.

We have agreed on joint counseling but until yesterday I fear it would have been a waste: my going to resurrect what once was and her going to build a new model for the future. She is right, something I have always known, but every time I accept that it means I have to accept myself. And it means I have to be ready for the day when the gate to the yard is thrown open, the closet doors kicked down, and I accept the current reality.

The same man who wrote of the yard ended the e-mail “I hope you can have it all”. The thing is that I can once I accept the meaning of "all". When I can accept who I am and when I can accept the totality of my wife’s loving friendship, and when I can accept that what once was, is now gone, then (and only then) can we be Will and Grace, and frankly that seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

From Carrie

Normally I might hesitate sharing this, but it is addressed to all of us - an e-mailed letter from Carrie. And it does seem only appropriate that it be shared, in honor of all of you who have taken this ride and taken the time to share your thoughts. It is also only fair that Carrie, whose voice has been so recently found, has a chance to weigh in on what is her life also.

Nate,
This note is to you and your blog friends. This has been one of the hardest years of my life. You have put me through more than anyone should be asked to endure. However, I do not believe it was malicious. If I did, this would have been over a long time ago.

I understand that “Chicago” has become larger than the reality. What you and your friends need to realize is that the damage was done months ago when you announced the trip. More damage was done today when we had to discuss it again. Whether you go or not no longer has any major impact on me. My tears were shed this week for a marriage gone and both a past year of hell and a future year of uncertainty.

The cruelty lies in not being honest with yourself and expecting me to be your conscience and decision maker. I am not your mother. If by going to Chicago you begin to understand both what you are looking for and what you are giving up in exchange, then it will be a worthwhile trip. Under no circumstance will I take you back into my bed until we can both be honest with who we are and what we are looking for in a marriage.

That being said, make no mistake at the pain, anger and grieving I am going through. The fact that you are surprised with my emotions shows your total inability to view this situation from any perspective other than your own. If you want to continue to be my friend, then you must treat me with the same respect I have shown you.

I am happy to go into couples’ counseling at any time to help us through these difficult times. You suggested last night that I must tell you when you are acting inappropriately. I actually thought I had been trying to do that all along to no avail. Your “Sis” has the right idea. Her marriage may or may not work out, but counseling was sought out very early on and continues. You never really felt you (we) needed that.

If I could give advice to just one person reading your blog who has not yet come out to their spouse, it would be to get counseling privately or through groups like HOW before you say the words. Words once said, can never be unsaid. As a friend we want to help you through this process. As your spouse it’s a whole other situation. It is hard to know that the person you are lying next to is fantasying about something you can never be. Fantasies should be private. When you feel you need to act on them, be sure you are ready for the consequences. And above all else, show the person you have chosen to share your life with and who may have born your children the same kindness you would expect someone to show your mother. Respect the fact that for as long as we are able to live in your closet, our self esteem and frequently our health will suffer.

This is a terribly complex problem. I hope that when it is over you will find peace within yourself. Of course I hope we remain together as the soul mates we have always been.

With heartfelt love,

Carrie

Defending Your Life

Last night the old movie Defending Your Life crossed my mind. Albert Brooks dies in a car accident and finds himself in a way station between heaven and earth. There each person goes in front of three judges and views snippets of their life, the goal being to determine if they move on to heaven or back to earth to try again, to try and get it “right”. And of course you have an opportunity to defend yourself.

When I get to that way station I wonder if they will show me January 2, 2007, a rather long tape with many characters. Yesterday was “Chicago” day, the genesis really a day earlier as blog comments appeared but yesterday they piled high and in the middle an appointment with Bob, my therapist. By the afternoon I was reeling and needed another therapy appointment.

Bob not being readily available, I called on my primary therapist – Sis. Now you should know that in almost a year of almost daily e-mails, we have actually spoken – picked up a phone, heard each others voices – only twice. Yesterday I picked up the phone. Her opening comment, a gentle smile in her voice, said it all: “Nate, you’re a mess.” And she was right.

It seems that yesterday was a discussion of the lives of two people – Nate and Carrie: yet Carrie was strangely absent from the debate. She had surrogates I suppose, surrogates who while truly caring had never met her. Even Bob’s advice strangely left her out: “Tell her you are not going to Chicago, no further discussion, no favors expected or accepted.” Not bad advice but for better or worse Carrie and I have spoken – maybe too much – of everything.

I take Bob’s advice, I tell her. End of story. I also tell her of starting couples counseling. Bob wants to counsel us on how to stay together – as a couple, as lovers; Carrie wants counseling on how to stay together – as friends, as Will & Grace. The table set, I step away, having strangely done the opposite of what everyone envisioned.

So I talk with Sis and she makes a simple enough suggestion – ask Carrie how she felt when the announcement – no, pronouncement is the better word – was made: include her in a decision, a dialogue about her own life. So ask I do and answer she does: she felt nothing, no relief, no joy, nada.

Dinner, homework, life goes on, but we eventually have our moment to re-visit, continue a dialogue. It is more than feeling nothing. Carrie points out I am the king of one step forward and two steps back. She points out she was formerly the queen of one step forward and four steps back. No more. I hesitate and point out she is now two steps forward and one step back, with me being the one pulling her back that one step: a wistful smile, how true.

There was one thing yesterday that was universally accepted, phrased best by the Pooh-Bah of my HOW group:

I guess what I am really asking is, "Do you really know what Nate wants? If so, what are you doing to correct it?"
Phrased well by one but echoed by all.

Carrie and I discuss this question, not for the first time, in light of Chicago, in light of the debate. Carrie points out this weekend is not the issue – a years worth of history, when I booked the flight, so many other moments are the issue. And cancelling the trip is not a positive: to her it is a negative, one more delay, one more “two steps back”, one more tug on life’s yo-yo.

What we once had is gone and until I can answer the question, the question as to what Nate wants there can be no true progress, not reasonable resolution. Bob may feel that in the cloistered environment of his office that question can be answered, and there is a level of truth to that, but there are limitations, limits to answers that can be divined by looking inward.

Carrie knows – and is willing to say it; Nate knows – and is terrified of all it may mean: at some point the answers must be found in real life. Will one weekend magically answer everything: of course not. But even if only a baby step on the journey, it is a step all the same.

Someday I will look at the footage of these days – just past and just about to come – in that way station. Hopefully the defense will have an easy job, history will treat me kindly. For the footage will show my going to Chicago.



The post ended naturally but an addendum is in order. Without the comments, the e-mails, the therapy, it would appear that I would have been in the same place as I am: going to Chicago (assuming my cold does not trump all). But that would be so untrue. I am in a different place for I have been forced to think, to question, to face my demons and to speak with (not at, but with) Carrie. And for all of that my gratitude is again boundless.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy? New Year

Ours was a small gathering, Carrie and me, the twins, Bill and Anna, and another couple, we’ll call them Mark and Janet. Quite the little crew: Bill and Anna are back from their trip, the resort vacation dubbed their “(Gag) honeymoon”, a trip that was to be their honeymoon until those pesky pictures surfaced. The ring fingers are unadorned but the pictures, the tans, the smiles, all scream honeymoon. Our dreams of Bill going quiet into the night are dashed.

Mark dates back to high school and Janet joined him twenty five years ago. They stuck with Carrie and I two decades ago when we were each going through divorces, when most others fled the carnage. They have been fixtures ever since – friends long enough to know each others quirks and faults and friends long enough to accept.

Everyone knows: Nate resides in the basement, even if the twins do not know why. It should be easier this way, tough situations still, but the dreaded façade does lie shattered at our feet. A shattered façade, but also shattered lives, but I get ahead of myself.

Time for a late dinner, we take our places, me at one end and 112” away Carrie at the other. It is an imposing sight: China and Crystal, platters of meat, homemade “designer” salad, the works. We pour the champagne and all eyes on Nate, time for the traditional toast. Do I go banal or do I acknowledge the difficulties of the year behind, and yes the year ahead. I have become many things but hopefully not banal so I toast: acknowledge a year of difficulties, nod towards a more peaceful year ahead, and am grateful for those who have graced our table so many times in the past.


A little early for New Years so game time: imagine-iff, a game where a roll of the die determines the next victim and a card is drawn. At Thanksgiving we had the card: imagine-iff Nate was a girl’s name. Only a few of us saw the humor then. This time Anna gives a lesson – a practice round. I am the guinea pig and she draws the first card: imagine-iff Nate is a first date. All of us can see the humor now, black gallows humor, but at least no longer an inside joke.


The day had started well enough, Carrie and I share the house, co-exist, Will and Grace have nothing on us. But as the New Year approaches the cracks are showing. I am looking ahead and see an adventure and she, well who can argue, is staring at an abyss. Carrie is in the kitchen and I join her – just the two of us. She asks what I expect, how should she feel. She adds her new refrain: her hope that I find whatever it is I am looking for. We sit again for desert, same places but now the table has grown: 112” can now be measured in miles.

Finally, time to gather in the den, a minute or two to go, the TV blaring, little ones with the noisemakers. We watch the ball descend, we count down, five, four… 2007. I approach Carrie; she pulls away, no hugs, no kiss: only tears. She and Janet hug, they wander to another room, a private cry. Later Anna will comfort her mother. Carrie will head up a staircase, I will head down. We will not talk again this evening.


It is early now, a New Year, a fittingly bleak rainy day. The house sleeps but you have all met Calli, our Christmas puppy. She likes company, or else she likes to bark, so I sit with the dogs so the house can sleep. It is not a bad thing: Time to consider the day, consider the year.

I suppose the year past is best summed up by my not being prepared for the ending. There really was no surprise. Carrie has endured arguably the worst year of her life and in less than a week her husband is off to Chicago to revel in gayness. Quite the start of her new year, a year of a king sized bed occupied only by a Queen, a year of watching her soul mate walk out the door knowing it is to “interview” her replacement, a year of no longer extending a foot, a soft invitation to making love.

I know all of this, describe it in fitting words, yet I forge ahead. She stands there with tears filling her eyes, dampening her cheeks and I stand there, saddened and chastened – chasten but not willing to be chaste. Mine are not the red eyes and she knows that, we both know that.

I still cling to this fantasy: I will go to Chicago and realize that it’s only about the sex, that the rest is window dressing. I will come home and say give me back our bedroom fantasies and I will no longer stray. The problem is not only do neither of us expect that, I am not sure Carrie would even accept the offer. Too much pain, too much heartbreak, and I fear, too much reality.