Thursday, May 24, 2007

Learning How To Live

I am glad to have taken a few days since my last post. For those I left hanging, the rest of the story was pretty simple. I arrived home at 12:30 PM. Carrie had assumed that I would have shown the good taste of an earlier arrival. She was pissed. I was chastened. We have moved on.

Today my therapist made an interesting comment. Now this is my therapist since the fall, no Johnny come lately to the scene. Bob pointed out that he understands Carrie – a person he has never met but has heard much about. But he still does not understand me. The explanation is really quite simple. Carrie understands Carrie and that comes through in my stories. I do not understand Nate. Yes, there are all the pieces, a giant jigsaw puzzle, but I remain unable to create the cohesive picture I desire.

Bob asks what I want and the answer is easy: everything. We do live in the land of “a dollar and a dream”, my state’s lottery tag line. I can dream. Bob comments on wanting the trappings of a family and I disagree: it is not the trappings that torture me. The trappings are nice and I am not complaining, but it is the specifics that torture me. Simply put it is not the thought of not living with a woman and family. It is the thought of not living with Carrie and my children that leave my head spinning.

Carrie and I talk. We do not have any answers; lord knows if we did we would implement them. My therapist suggests that he speak to her therapist. I am happy with the suggestion but point out that Carrie will ask what the purpose is. With a smile he points out that maybe the fact that we both feel to be in purgatory? Works for me. Carrie later agrees, let the therapists talk, let them see if there is a purpose for our meeting together with one of our therapists.

We will never be in the place where we once were and maybe the next step will be from the basement to an apartment. But in spite of the massive damage that I have inflicted, I am just not ready to throw in the towel. Some will tell me to get with the program and move on, others will say keep battling. Personally, the competing voices in my own head have me reeling without the judgments of the rest of the world.

There is one thing I believe tonight: that I need to step back and get some perspective. The answer to the question of what I really want is not going to be found in actions. Actions will tell me I love my wife and that she remains my best friend. Actions will tell me that I am gay and enjoy sex with men. There are many truths in all of this, none of which alone will bring me to my own truth.

Part of stepping back is taking a little rest from these pages which have served me so well. I am sure this is not my last post and we all know the book is far from over. But like any good author, it is time to do my “research”. To continue to restate the same chapter over and over in different ways is getting old for all of us.

To my friends out there, feel free to e-mail: I am not entering a convent. To all, Thank you for being there for the last seventeen months.

They say the best is still yet to come
But the taste of you is still on my tongue.
I can't forget and I won't even try
To erase your image
And the way you made me cry.
I'm learning how to live.
Lucinda Williams

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I have written many posts this weekend, some building on others, some replacing and some probably contradicting. These posts, like most, are written in my head, waiting for the opportunity to sit at a keyboard and allow them to grow. And as I thought today I realized that I desire sharing none of them and desire sharing all and am truly not sure where to even start.

This weekend really started in a decision made a week ago. Carrie had mentioned getting together with some friends, maybe Saturday. I had already had some e-mails about the weekend with a gay couple I had seen once before. Phil and Stan suggest a beach trip if the weather holds. Sunday was booked with family and Saturday seemed good. Anyway given a choice between being home Friday or Saturday, Friday seemed the day. It was our anniversary, a perfect day for a dinner with family and friends, a perfect way to acknowledge without actually celebrating.

It was a good plan, grounded in some logic: so I knew it would be trouble. And trouble it was when Carrie had an unexpectedly busy day on Friday and first started to prep, cook, and organize at 3:30 that afternoon. The panic bordering on hyperventilation was clear in her voice and I knew enough to come home early.

It ended up being a good evening with Carrie, as usual, pulling it all together – a beautiful table, bountiful food, and lots of good noise. The anniversary went mostly unnoticed, kindness on our guests’ part. Things do seem to go well before the wheels come off.

Saturday, cold and wet, is not a beach day and my friends call – they have an out of town friend they think I would like and would like me. They suggest I join them at Stan’s home in the burbs, have dinner and head to some parties in the City. Phil has an apartment with enough space for us to crash for the night. Seems like a plan and when Carrie asks if I will be coming home that night - she assumes not - I confirm I will not be home that night.

As Phil and I discuss the details of the evening, yet another decision for Nate, yet another opportunity for poor choices. They are driving into the City, not my usual train routine, and I can drive in with them – the four of us – and they will in my honor get back to the burbs by noon, plenty of time before the family afternoon. Or I could drive myself in, park near the apartment and then meet up. It is rainy, I am tired, and the choice seems easy enough. Deep down I know it will be trouble.

Now I could write a post about Saturday night. I could write a post about my new friend Vic, about the drive into town, about the back seat of a car. I could write a post about the first party – a paying affair, empty at first, but music and crowds pulsating by the end. I could write about the dancing and kissing, the bumping and grinding. I could write a post about our second stop – a leather bar, people packed together, men without shirts getting boots shined by men with barely underpants. Nothing really to write, nothing you cannot imagine.

We go back to Phil’s apartment. We are on gay time; it is well after 3 AM, far beyond my preferred 10:15 tuck in. Again, I will leave things for the imagination. Let’s just say, my friends don’t realize there is any debate about my gayness. And yes, the Holy Grail, curling up for sleep with a man’s arm draped over me. But sleep does not come. I am overtired, maybe a bit too much too drink, but most of all a problem that has bedeviled me my entire life, an inordinate need to take a leak, seemingly every few minutes.

Sleep is spotty but I get a few hours in along the way. I wake at 8:30, as I have done most every hour of this night. Sleep is elusive and I consider there is a railroad, there are cabs that take people home from the station, I do know where my car is. My friends are sleeping soundly. I silently dress, find a pencil, scrawl a note on a paper towel and stand by the door. I waver. Tiredness washes over me, I know by the time I get home it will already be late morning, I sense my friends will read the note and think me disturbed. I wonder is it yet another flight, flight from the gayness, flight from the fear.

With the same stealth I showed in pulling my clothes on, I pull them off. I quietly slip back into bed. A thought again crosses my mind: I would never do it, I love myself and my children too much, but a fifteenth floor apartment with the window open: the insurance would never be questioned. And I realize that such a thought, even in the most abstract of fashions, is still severely disturbing.

A few minutes after I lie back down, Vic shifts and his hand is lying in mine, our knees gently touching: we lay there both hazing. Holding hands at that moment was the salve I needed, the connection to humanity, a connection to myself.

There is more to say, I did forewarn you of many posts competing. But it is getting late, I am tired. But most importantly, I need to do some more writing in my head, to try to understand better what I have already shared and figure out how to tell the rest.

Friday, May 18, 2007


We have long joked about the Gods of Music – that moment when a song comes up that could never have been planned and the phrase has had spinoffs - those various “Gods” that inhabit our lives. But I have just encountered a new one – the Gods of Word of you would. I am in my office and have plenty to do, but my mind is reeling from the last few days, from the reality that is starting to sink in. So for the first time in months I turn to my writing while at work and open a password protected file, one that I use as a scratch pad for drafting posts. And I am confronted with words, words written many months ago:

The past week or so felt like a war in my being, sadness bordered on depression, I reached a level of fear, almost paralyzing, and I whined like I have not done in a long time.

I feel better now.

I go on to describe a dinner – a date – with a man, a man who was introduced in my last post as Jay. I continue with a discussion of the comfortable place Carrie and I have found and I discuss the minor price for this all:
Respecting each other in ways big and small, respecting each other by being honest, honest in our thoughts and actions, and honest as to who we are.

And then my concluding paragraph:
So it is time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself, it is time for me to stop making believe that I am some person other than myself, it is time to stop protesting to Carrie that meeting someone for dinner and a bar scene on a Saturday night is not a date. It is time to embrace: embrace my love for my family and for Carrie, embrace the fact that I am a gay man and enjoying my new found self.

I am strangely glad I have happened upon these words because they fit so well with the theme of the day, the reason I wanted to write in the first place. The simple fact is that these “Aha!” moments (as Sis calls them) have become old, they have become repetitive, they have become disrespectful of Carrie who has endured so much and has done so with grace. Most importantly they have become so harmful to whoever I am. It is our anniversary and today I grasped how far I have come from where this all started and how impossible it is to live where I am. I have crossed the border and am crawling around some mythical DMZ and then wondering why there are bullets flying from both sides.

So I want to categorically state: I do NOT feel better now. And that is good because every time I announce I feel better it is code, code for getting back on my personal road of denial. Whoever said that mourning and grieving should feel good? It should hurt like hell and only then will it be time to move on.

So I will go on with my weekend, keep my dates, even have fun, but it is with the sadness of realizing that it is time to move on, that being on either side of the border is safer, and saner, then trying to walk a tightrope.

It is also becoming clear to me that this concept that I will live in the basement for the next seven years is not grounded in reality, that I will need to consider other arrangements, not tomorrow, but it is time to start planting seeds.

Earlier today Sis e-mailed me:
You’ve spent too much time trying to believe that you could make it all go away with a wave of your hand and an apology. So now you have to play catch-up.

As I was responding my fingers did their own thing and wrote: Part of my desire to both talk of the separation (as painful as it is) and to come out is that I know that will force me further out on the limb and maybe once I crawl out far enough I will realize I am just on the branches of another tree.

Time to trust my fingers, and my friends.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


There has been so many thoughts running through my mind of late – each day has a sense of adventure – will Nate be happy, sad, depressed or just be? There are themes to it all: questions of going forward that keep colliding. On Tuesday I had my married gay group – round three of a scheduled six rounder. This week was Jay’s turn. Jay is around sixty five, has had his own bedroom for a decade, and is not interested in living with anyone because of the compromise inherent in relationships. And yes, Jay is suffering depression. Shocker. Jay’s wife was kind enough to suggest he renew his relationship with his therapist.

His story deeply affected me because as I listened to the compromises he forged, compromises I truly understood, I realized that the definitions he has chosen to live under could have no possible outcome but the depression and loneliness with which he constantly struggles. He is friends with his wife, but it sounds strained. He has children he loves, but as any of us with adult children know they have their own day to day existences.

I had met Jay before, we had dinner, a date if you would. And I like Jay, we talked, we held hands, we kissed. And I looked up to Jay as a possible role model, a man finding that compromise of what was, what is and what could be. But as I watch him more and as I sat there Tuesday night I saw the “was” and the “is” but also realized the utter lack of “could be.”

Another night last week I was reading blogs, something I am embarrassed to say that I do not do often enough. In one of the blogs was a comment from another blogger, one who used to occasionally comment on my posts, one who I had some e-mails with and one I greatly respect. I thought he dropped out so to speak, but there he was kindly encouraging another. I was hurt at first – the old fears of rejection, of not being good enough. Then I was strong – who really cares, I write for me. But driving home today I thought about it some more and I am neither hurt nor am I strong.

I am sad because I understand what happened. This person who had been so supportive of me as I struggled to move forward had thrown in the towel. How many times can you give the same advice before it gets old? He has been where I am and he has moved forward, with great pain I am sure and at great sacrifice in many ways, but he has moved forward.

Tomorrow night is an occasion of sorts, an anniversary – seventeen years. I asked Carrie earlier what is the etiquette? It is a real day, an anniversary of a marriage that is still technically on the books, but not the day we once would have anticipated. We acknowledge it, but there will be no exchange of gifts, no quickie (duh) before dinner with some friends. And after Friday night comes Saturday night and I will not be home. Life is changed.

The word that came to mind on Tuesday sitting with my fellow married men was “resolve”: the resolve that if I do not force myself to move forward, there will be no chance for either Carrie or me. We will unwittingly fall into lives of quiet desperation, good nights and bad. Sure it is okay to watch TV on occasion as any friends might do, but once lovers, I am not sure one can ever be just friends in the same way that might have been otherwise.

I am not looking for an apartment this weekend and I am savoring tucking my kids in every night. But I am also cognizant that I will probably need to make some choices much earlier than I ever anticipated. My friend who used to leave me comments once told me he lived seven months in the spare bedroom before lighting out on his own. He shared this as I was contemplating the basement and I could not understand why the hurry. I understand now.

I took a break as I contemplated how to bring this post to a graceful conclusion – tucked in the kids, let the dogs out and visited Carrie. And as usual she brings more grace to the table than I could ever imagine. She correctly points out that she is okay with my being here, okay with my Saturday night out, okay with herself.

She also correctly points out that I am the one who is not okay, who is conflicted and tormented. And it is clear to me that I will need to emotionally move on and if that can be done with the basement as central command, fine. But if I need to create a new outpost I will, hopefully with a dignity that those around me deserve. Either way it is time to continue taking the baby steps that will move me forward.

Time again for some ambient induced slumber. I do appreciate all of you, on line and in person, who are patient with me. It must not be easy.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


A topic of late has centered on telling people that we are separated – co-workers and neighbors. It is not that we have a pressing need, but particularly at work there is a strangeness to answering: “Yes, Carrie and I had a great weekend – life is just great.” So it is time to practice a little honesty, if not on being gay at least on the fact that it is a very nice basement, thank you very much.

The thing is that people have an image of separation – voices raised, plates flying, an anger that is palpable. People separate for a reason – personal dislike, disagreements on child rearing: anything you can imagine but always – ALWAYS – a reason. A good reason, a bad reason, but a reason all the same.

Yet we talk at work and it is frequently quite an accurate answer in some strange way: “Carrie and I had a good weekend. We had dinner with friends, we had the big kids over: we are fixing up this or that in the house.” Separating couples do not typically spend an afternoon looking at new kitchen cabinets.

When I tell these friends that Carrie and I are separated, they suffer cognitive dissonance. Without knowing the gay, they cannot really comprehend the picture. Accept it on faith: yes, but really understand, no. Now I am somewhat okay with this. I do not have a responsibility to defend my life and the gay thing will come out sooner than later.

Today I realized that the cognitive dissonance is real, a very tangible problem. But the thing is that the problem is not co-workers or neighbors. The problem is ours: Carrie and mine. We are treading on such undefined ground. If we want to practice for a divorce, there are role models, on TV, in books, down the block. Hell, we have both been there, lived with the screaming, the lawyers, the loathing.

We joke about Will and Grace, but Carrie points out that Will and Grace were never married. They have no children and ultimately do not have a lot of – if any – sexual history. So on a day like today – Mother’s Day – what is the etiquette? (I brought flowers and we had a family day.) When is it appropriate to nod, to do a semi-low five or just to give a little hug? When is it appropriate to share with your best friend and when is that an imposition, sharing morphing into a reminder of all of the pain. Last week after my night of personal hell I called Carrie and she was there for me. But it also hurt her – being called on to listen to me feel bad about the pain I brought on both of us.

So yes, there is tremendous dissonance between our hearts and our heads, between the life of being separated and the life of sharing a home. And I do use the word “home” advisably – we are not living as college style roommates, I am no mere boarder. I go to work and all that I reap is shared and I come home and partake of whatever was made for dinner. Ozzie and Harriet on LSD.

I do not want to change it – living as a family, interacting with my children without the imposition of set times. And with luck we will pull it off. But is an ongoing act of creation as we both learn every day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

One Week Later

Seven days ago I sat in a hotel room in Chicago, reeling from the evening and wallowing in my life. I lost my balance that evening, doubting all that the last year and a half has meant – good and bad. Since then I have continued to stumble, listing first one way and then another.

Tonight was another long planned evening: two tickets to a concert, a small venue, a performer I liked even though I only knew two of her songs – the “hits”. Carrie demurred on joining me a while ago and suggested I find a friend, a presumably gay friend, as if that would be a mere snap of the fingers: my turn to demur.

My son likes music, albeit not necessarily my music, and accepted an invitation to join me. He does not live with me so the answer is not as automatic as it may seem: he took various trains and probably spent three hours in transit. We grabbed a burger, talked away and headed to the show. A wonderful time before the festivities even began.

Music is my thing and I have seen a few shows in my day. Tonight was Michelle Shocked backed up by Uncle Moon, a space where folk rock, blues, and rockabilly met. Simply put one of the best shows I have seen in a long time. At one point she did one of her hits – Come A Long Way – and digressed about love, the joys and the pains, the love she has now and the pain of a thirteen year bad marriage ended in a blissful divorce. I was by this point in my own bliss, considering how long ago last Friday felt. And then she said something that moved me to near tears: "It is not about happiness, it is about growth."A familiar theme that I tend to forget.

So I head off to bed – should have done that when I first came home – finally feeling that there is some balance back in my being. Still a long road ahead, but it is hard to walk that road when one can’t even walk a straight line.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Its been a while since we have gone on a road trip but one is in order. For those of you who have read these pages for a while, you may remember that the first Friday of May, 2006 has become a totemic evening in my life – a milestone. It generated two posts – From 35,000 Feet and Accede To Reality, but for those who are new here, and still have a life beyond reading blogs, the facts are simple enough:

Nate goes to Chicago on his annual conference and in advance puts a post on CL looking for a friend for dinner and maybe more. Nate has an e-mail correspondence with Jerry and eventually spends Friday night with him – fifteen hours, fifteen perfect hours: it is hard to go home and make believe I am still the straight guy with a passing penchant for giving head. Especially after Carrie accidentally reads the second post, the post on how much I enjoyed the time, the post on how Jerry and I spooned in bed.

So this year I return for my conference – third annual – but things are a little different. I am gay, I am living in the basement, and Jerry has a local boyfriend – a keeper as he likes to say. I am fine, I will have dinner with him and his friend on Saturday night: life goes on.

But I did mention a road trip, more through time than geography. Two years ago, first Friday of May 2005 I was also in Chicago for my conference. I was of course straight back then and as any straight guy would do I found the local sex district and determined which shop had a buddy booth. Friday we have our conference dinner, good food, liquor flowing, old friends. And after dinner I find myself in the hotel bar sitting with four others: one man and three divorced women. It is comfortable and we have a few more drinks. The other man leaves – conveniently just ahead of the bill – and then we all part, me gladly picking up the relatively minor tab.

I can tell you where everyone was sitting, I remember some of the conversation, and I remember how badly I wanted to go upstairs with two of the women. Of course I did not – both respect of my marriage (its okay to chuckle guys) and social ineptitude. Instead I went to the elevators, basically went up and then right back down to the sex store where I was unsuccessful. Back up to the room for my first CL post ever. And finally to bed, alone, thinking of the men I had not met and the women I had.

All of this has resided in my memory, not forgotten but not overly dwelled on either. I came home from the trip and told Carrie of the drinks and the women. I left out my desires – for them and for men. I suppose that in retrospect what I shared with her did not really count for much.

Last night it all came back, with a vengeance, in a torrent. One of the two women I was very interested in was at the conference this year and she and I walked over to the restaurant together. She reminded me that I had missed last year’s dinner and she remembered my excuse – seeing an old kindergarten friend. She smiled as she said it, she smiled with polite disbelief. She had heard me say earlier that I was now separated and she heard me say that I was meeting someone after dinner, someone who ultimately stood me up, but we are getting ahead of the story.

After dinner, Lori and I lead the group (we are thirty plus strong) back to the hotel, we are arm in arm, we are a little drunk, we talk, we hug, we flirt. We end up at the bar of this years hotel, get some more wine in case we had not had enough already and we toast. She refines what she taught me at dinner – the importance of looking in the person’s eyes when you click the glasses, when you say cheers. She now teaches me to first look right eye to right eye and then left to left. She asks what I see. The answer became apparent to me later – it was not what I saw, it was what she saw – right through to my soul, my very tormented soul.

Then she reminded me of our drinks two years ago, how she and her friend would have slept with me that night, how they expected it after all the talk. Then she said something which cut to my core – so much so that I am typing at 7 AM having maybe slept an hour last night. It seems that over the drinks I simply said: “I am lost.” Last year I knew I was lost, this year I am working on finding my way, but two years ago. And as I listened to her I was struck by the fact that she remembered the words and the fact that I undoubtedly uttered them. I tell her I am finding myself and am ready to say much more – the whole truth if you would, but she puts a finger to her lips, nothing needed to be said.

Around then another member of our group comes in to announce they had gone to a club and he had a cab waiting for us outside. He hops in the front and I throw some money on the bar and pile into the back next to Lori. We kiss – kiss deeply – and then we are there. Once inside its noisy and at one point we kiss again, again a real kiss, and then she heads towards the ladies room and then quietly to the exit. She never returns: an early flight and what could have happened two years ago will not happen tonight. Given the opportunity, I am not sure what I would have done – as strange as it may sound, I am married still and while at this point I will gladly fuck my way across America with men, it is still different when it comes to women. (As I have re-read and done my usual editing, I realize that I am again lying to myself: I would like to say I would have done the “right” thing but the truth which we all know is that I would have gone to her room in a heartbeat and just hated myself that much more in the morning.)

So here I am, a gay man, on the second anniversary of being “lost”, on the first anniversary of being “found”, sitting up all night in my hotel room, feeling alone, feeling isolated, eventually crying into my pillow. And maybe in the strangest twist of all waiting for it to be a civilized hour back home in New York so I can call my best friend for comfort and support. Carrie took the call as any best friend would.

I will move forward today – life marches on – I will go to the Art Institute to visit some of the paintings I befriended last year, I will have dinner with Jerry and the keeper, and I will dry the tears. But I will not lie to myself about just how fragile I have become, just how tough the road ahead may be. And I will also not lie to myself about how much I need to continue my journey.