2014 New Year’s Resolution… Failed Already

I guess it’s good to get these things out of the way early.  Heh!

I had a plan.  It was a good plan.  A great plan even.  If I do say so myself.  And I do.  Because if I don’t…  who will?

As demanded by my nephew, age 2 1/2.
As demanded by my nephew, age 2 1/2. My sister has a strict rule against pictures of her children appearing on the internet, but I’m pretty sure a photo of the indistinguishable knees of her only male child would be considered harmless enough to not cause offense, if she even knew this website existed.

You see, it’s like this.  Back in April, after I was offered the short-lived disaster of a job I had this year, and negotiated a start date that would allow me to take a much over-due trip to visit my sister and her family, including four children (my nieces and nephew), two of whom I had never seen in person, I decided that it was the opportunity and excuse I needed to invest in a fancy new 35 mm digital camera.  I’ve always been interested in photography and wanted to learn more about it and with a digital camera I’d be able to see the immediate results of my attempts to improve on technique and composition.  I bought the camera and took it with me on the trip, and of course, as soon as I took the camera out on the first day, the children started being children and wanted to take pictures themselves, and tell me what pictures I should take (my nephew kept saying, “take a picture of mine’s knees”), and insisted on seeing the pictures the instant they were taken.  Very few pictures were actually taken on that trip because the camera posed such a distraction and any hope of getting some candid, true life photos was dashed on the first day.

Over the summer, I decided to take a photography class at the local community college.  I knew from other’s experiences that this class would teach me not only how to compose a good quality, artistic photograph, but also, how to use editing software to make the picture look even better.  A few days after I registered for the photography class, I decided to register for the first level, beginning swimming class and soon after decided that both classes were too much to do all at once, at the time.  Ultimately, I decided that the swimming class was a higher priority because I wanted to be able to find a place to go to swim for exercise and once I had that covered I could be swimming for exercise while I learned to take and edit good quality photographs in a later semester.  That is still the plan, although when classes start up again in a couple of weeks, I’ll be taking the next swimming class with the hope of getting more effective and confident in that skill.  Photography will wait until Summer or Fall Semesters.  The camera sits in its case for weeks or months at a time without getting used and I’ve never finished reading the owner’s manual, or the “Photography for Dummies” book that I purchased and lugged all the way to New York and back with me, without ever cracking the spine.

During my most recent previous stint of unemployment, I began participating in a “photo-a-day” program run by the author of another blog, using just my iPhone and an Instagram account I haven’t even looked at in months.  When I started working, I found myself far too busy and far to pre-occupied to keep up with it and I let it drop.

Recently, my urge to learn to properly use my camera has returned, as has my desire to practice and build my skill.  I have also wanted to get back to more regular posting here on this site, and not have everything be all gloom and doom and woe is me as the last several months have been.

And then it hit me!  The great idea!  The perfect “solution”!  “Photo-A-Day” meets “posting 365” (or whatever the hell they called it) meets new inspiration for both more and better photography AND more and more cheerful writing…  I decided I would pull out the photography books and read a little bit of them each day, and I would combine that with the photo-a-day prompts from Fat Mum Slim and everyday, I would take a picture that is prompted by the Photo-A-Day prompt and post it on this here bloggy thingy.  I would write a post about the photo if the spirit moved me, or I would just post the picture with a minimal explanation/caption and let it stand on its own.  Every day.  For 365 days.

I’ve already failed.

I wasn’t going to get too bogged down in the details of actually starting the plan on January 1st.  It’s already 2:00 in the morning on January 2nd, so you see how well that worked out.  But I was going to do a post for every picture and a picture for every day…

I worked last night.  For the first time in more years than I can remember, I worked on New Year’s Eve.  I would far rather have been out celebrating somewhere, preferably somewhere far away, like Las Vegas, or Sidney Harbor, but I need the money, and New Year’s Eve seemed like a good opportunity to earn a lot of tips.  (It could have been a lot better than it was, but the whole experience is a separate story for another post.)  I didn’t get off work until 1:45 AM.  One of the other bar tenders who happens to live right down the street from me and I rode BART home from the city together and I gave her a ride from the station to her house.  She invited me in and we had a two plus hours over-due celebratory glass of champagne and chatted for a little while before I went home.  I arrived at home around 4:00 AM at which time I took a shower.  I’ve never been able to go straight to bed after either arriving home, or taking a shower.  I need time to settle in first.  Plus, I had “nerd things” to do with my tip money.  I briefly entertained the idea that I just wouldn’t sleep until bedtime on January 1st, because I knew that what happened, would happen…  By 6:00 AM I was exhausted, could barely keep my eyes open and had no idea what I was seeing on the Netflix DVD I was watching.  I gave up and went to bed, slept until noon and have not had the slightest inclination to sleep again.  This is a scenario I do not want to make into a habit

When I woke up I was hungry and didn’t have time for “what should I cook for lunch”.  I needed to eat immediately, so failing all other options (or rational consideration thereof) I ended up eating a couple of Eggo toaster waffles.  Once the waffles were gone and the dish was washed off and in the sink (the dishwasher is full of clean dishes and I haven’t put forth the effort to put them away yet) I went to the living room and sat down.  It was only then that I pulled up the schedule of prompts for the photo-a-day program and saw today’s prompt:  lunch.  I couldn’t even think of a viable and reasonable way to cheat.

Sometimes it’s good to set the bar low right up front so you only have one way to go from there…

The No Good, Very Bad, Terrible, Awful Night, That Turned Out Pretty Okay

Once I finally got out of the house yesterday, things went less than smoothly at first.  I started out in bad shape because the only thing I had to eat all day, up to then, was two pieces of toast with peanut butter and honey at about 11:30 in the morning.  I was pretty hungry by the time I left the house and my head was starting to hurt.  I sent Michelle a text to verify my suspicions, saying, “Would it be safe to assume that there won’t really be food for a while?”  Historically, I show up “on time” for these events and they’re still thinking about preparing to start getting ready to start making food.  It is what it is, and because I wasn’t feeling great I knew I had to take measures to accommodate that.  Michelle never answered my text but I took that as a yes.

I went to the Pet Store to get the cat food with little incident and I went from there to BevMo.  I know Monique, I know what she likes, and I knew that a “small” bottle of Patron tequila would make for a great gift.  The parking lot at the shopping center where the BevMo is located is way too small for the number and types of stores that are in it and people tend to be really selfish and rude there.  I was cut off several times just trying to get into the parking lot and into a space.

I left there and went around the corner to Target.  By that time, I was cranky and my head really hurt, so the first thing I did was go to the snack bar.  Only there were about 12 people in line and there was one employee behind the counter who was in no hurry to get anything done.  I walked away from the snack bar with a different plan.  I would buy a small Lunchable which would tide me over until I got to the party and food was ready.  I grabbed a cart and started rushing down the fist aisle of the store, but there were two individuals who were meandering along.  More than once they made like they were going to turn out from in front of me and as I’d move to go around them they would turn back out into the aisle.  Finally the guy pulled the girl aside and as I rushed past them, I heard him say in a disgruntled tone, “Let’s move so this guy can finally go around us.”  I sped on down the way, and around the corner to cut across the back aisle to the grocery department where I stopped to stock up on Diet Pepsi, both for home and for work (they had a good price on both, cans for home, bottles for work.)

Next I grabbed my Lunchable and headed over to Healthy & Beauty to get mouthwash and some pre-brush, whitening rinse (this stuff must work because every time I go to my dentist he asks me if I bleach my teeth.)  Then I headed over to the appliances for my “semi-significant (to me – and probably only to me) purchase.  I made up my mind that I was going to get a Keurig machine and I went to compare models and prices and determine which one to get.  No sooner did I stop in front of the machines than the two people from the first aisle came around the corner into the coffee maker aisle and the woman was loudly telling the man a story about a work conflict.  She was agitated just telling the story, and she used a number of curse words in the process of the telling.  They just stood in the aisle, about five feet from me as she told her friend her story, and she was so loud I couldn’t even think. So I just stood there, staring at the machines and waiting for them to get what they came for and leave.

Finally, she changed subjects and started talking about a coffee maker.  The guy said something about, “but it only makes one cup!”

She said, “Um, hello.  How many people live in my apartment?”

He said, “OK, so are you gonna get it?”

She answered, “No, I’m not gonna get it! I’m fucking broke!”

And then they walked away empty-handed, but as they did, I heard her say, “That dude is just standing there, staring at the coffee makers.”

Um, yeah!  ‘Cause I couldn’t hear myself think!!!

Finally, I decided which one I wanted and selected a box.  They have labels on the boxes saying when they were packed, which I assumed was relevant because they come with a sample pack of K-Cups so I wanted the freshest one.  I saw a box that said it was packed in January of 2012 so I grabbed that one.

The last thing I did before going to the check stand was look for a gift bag and tissue paper for Monique’s present and a card.

At last I made my way to the check stand.  My head was splitting, I was getting jittery and I was hungry.  Plus it was nearly 6:30 and while I knew the party wouldn’t be in full swing yet, it was supposed to have started at 5:30.  I had two gift cards in my wallet that I intended to use toward the coffee maker and the balance was going on my Target credit card (5% off with the card).  The other items I would purchase with my regular debit card.  The cashier rang up the coffee maker and it came up $15.00 more expensive than the tag on the shelf said.  He started to call for a price check and I glanced at the box again and realized I had put the wrong machine in my cart.  I wanted the one that makes three different size cups and I had the one that makes five different sizes.  I told him my mistake and asked if someone could go and get the right one.  They were maybe 30 feet away.  It shouldn’t have been a big issue.

The customer service manager came over and after telling her what I wanted she started calling into the radio for someone to bring up the right coffee maker, only she didn’t know what I was talking about, and whoever was on the other end of her radio didn’t know what I was talking about and I was getting flustered because I could feel that my blood sugar was getting low AND the cashier was doing a ridiculous job of bagging my items.  He rang up the birthday card and put it on the counter in front of me and then put the gift bag and tissue in a bag before lying the mouthwash and whitening rinse on top of them.  He wasn’t going to bag my six packs of bottles of Diet Pepsi until I asked him to do so,  but then he put the Lunchable into one of those bags while putting the two cold bottles of Diet Pepsi I bought, on the counter in front of me.  (I always show up at Michelle’s families house with my own beverages because I never know what they’re going to have.)

Finally, I told them to forget the coffee maker, there was just too much going on, and I proceeded to stand there and rebag my items as he was ringing them up.  After I paid for the stuff, I was heading away from the check-stand, very agitated over the experience and the Customer Service Manager, who was between there and the door, stopped me and she apologized for the confusion.  I pulled her aside and I said,”Actually I wanted to talk to you. I have to tell you, I’m a fan of Target.  I shop at Target all the time, and at a number of different stores depending on where I happen to be at the time.  This is the only store I’ve ever been to that consistently has a ridiculous line, in the snack bar, and one lone worker behind the counter taking their jolly sweet time.”  I then told her about the way the cashier was bagging my items and I told her, “I know he was disabled, I saw his crutch.  I’m not complaining that he didn’t move.  I’m not complaining that he was slow.  I get that, and it’s fine.  I’m complaining because he clearly doesn’t know how to bag stuff.  I was a cashier in high school and I was taught how to do this properly.”

She nodded her head and acknowledged what I was saying all along, and at that point she said, “I was too, and you’re right, he clearly needs some training.  I’ll talk to him.”

And it was at that point that I suddenly saw myself from the outside and realized what was happening.  I told her, “I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to be yelling at you,” (I wasn’t actually yelling) “I’m just running late, my blood sugar is low, which is why I bought the Lunchable in the first place.  I’m not normally like this, and I apologize.”  Then I said, “I actually do want the coffee maker.  Is it OK if I just leave my cart up here, I’ll go get the right one and just go through the express line?”

She said, “I understand.  I’ve had these crashes before, too.  Go sit down and eat your snack.  I’ll go get the coffee maker and bring it up to Guest Services for you.”

I must say that once I ate the Lunchable, I started to feel a little better, but what I really appreciated out of this exchange was, when I got to Guest Services to buy the coffee maker, she had told the cashier to give me 10% off.  I don’t particularly feel like I deserved the discount, but I was grateful none the less.

Finally, I got to Monique’s house for the party and the place was packed.  Music was blaring, people were shouting to be heard over the sound of the music and over the sound of other people shouting to be heard.  My head was still hurting a lot.  I was the grouch at the party.  I was torn.  I wanted to celebrate with my friends, but I also wanted to leave, but I also didn’t want to be the party-pooper who left.  Every where I stood, I was in someone’s way.  Finally, I sat on a stool and made up my mind not to move.  But then I took some Ibuprofen.  And then I ate some food.  And I had a drink.  And a friend stood there and talked to me.  And I started to feel better.

Not long after the cake was cut 2/3 of the people cleared out and it was just the core group.  I don’t know when it happened, but my headache was gone, my blood sugar had stabilized, my mood had improved…and I was having fun.

And then the most ordinary, amazing thing happened.  I had a lovely, involved, heart to heart conversation with one of the people there.  One of the extended family members, Amanda, who is eight years younger than I, (which means nothing now, but meant everything 14 years ago when I met her), has been in a relationship with her girlfriend for more than six years.   Amanda and I, talked about her relationship and her family and her experience of coming out to them.  We talked about their nebulous plans to go to New York, when the spirit moves them and the opportunity presents itself, so that they can get married.  We talked about the ludicrousness of the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legal on a national level and the status of the Prop 8 case in the legal system.  And we talked about my family, and my experience and what things are like now.

And we connected, with no awkwardness, no discomfort, no nervousness, just open, honest, loving communication between two friends who really understood where the other was coming from.  And it was nice.

And I’m so glad I stayed.

Possibly the Droids– Er the Post You Have Been Looking For

I had planned to include a disclaimer here, that this is going to be a long post and to be prepared…  But when aren’t they long?  So–  Yeah.

I’ve written here, a lot, I think, about my family dynamic and how much I feared coming out to my mother and sister particularly.  Lots of people have expressed, rightly so, that coming out to my family would be a big relief.  A number of you have also expressed that you can’t imagine a mother not loving her son no matter what.  While I wanted to believe that, I have had multiple opportunities over my lifetime to be clearly informed that “unconditional love and acceptance is too much to ask for.”  I’ve lived a lifetime of being afraid to tell my mother I was gay, because I knew she would not be OK with it, and the possibility that she might turn her back on me was, at least in my estimation, very real.

It wasn’t until very recently that I was able to come to grips with the idea that I could live without my family if I had to, but I couldn’t continue to live with the burden of having to keep a significant fact of my life a secret.  I could not continue to censor myself and actively work to prevent certain things from being revealed to members of my family.  It was only after coming to this realization that I was able to write and send the e-mail I spoke of here.

My sister’s response was about what I expected:

Ok, I wish I could say I am shocked, but I can’t. I have suspected as much for some time now. I just haven’t wanted to ask.

You already how I feel about the subject, so I don’t need to tell you. My attitude is one of hate the sin, love the sinner. So while I see your choice (and yes I do see it as a choice) as a sin, I still love you. I will continue to do so regardless. I will still talk to you, harass you, pray for you, and love you. I wish I thought you would get as much from mom, but it will surprise me if you do. At best I think you will get a big lecture.

As far as guardianship is concerned, we are still undecided. Since we don’t currently have much to send with them, there is temptation to choose someone who we know would have the means to take care of them. But there is also something to be said for the love of family. At any rate, this revelation is merely confirmation of my suspicions, so I will add it to the pile of considerations.

So, I don’t know what you were expecting my reaction to be, but there you have it. No I don’t approve, no I don’t agree, but no I don’t hate you. We can agree to disagree and I will just pray that if I am not wrong God will convince you that I am right so that we see each other in heaven.

Not an ideal response, but about what I would have expected from her.  My mother took longer.  When I first sent the e-mail I dreaded her reaction, or rather how she’d convey it.  I didn’t want her to call me, or try to initiate an instant message conversation with me, just to start preaching at me.  But then there was no acknowledgement whatsoever for seven whole days.  I went from dreading any direct interaction with her to being somewhat angry that she hadn’t acknowledged me at all.  Would it have been so hard to send a simple e-mail that says, “I’ve received your e-mail.  I’m not ready to talk about it, but yes I still love you.” or “I don’t love you anymore.” whichever.

Finally seven days after she received my coming out letter, she sent me this reply:

Dear Kevin –

Thank you for being honest with me.

If you think this takes me by surprise, you’re wrong.  God talks to me about my children.  I’ve been expecting this for a while now.

If you think it means I’ll stop loving you, you’re wrong.  You’re my son, and I love you.  Nothing will ever change that.

If, however, you think that means I will give you an “oh-honey-that’s-ok” pat on the head and release you with my blessing to pursue a lifestyle that is degrading and dangerous for you and dishonoring to the God we serve, you’re very wrong about that.

If you think you will ever find lasting peace and fulfillment in that lifestyle, you could not possibly be more wrong about anything.

You are not a homosexual.  You’re wrong about that, too.  What you are is deceived.  It was as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise.  You distanced yourself from the people and the things and the teaching of the Word of God and planted yourself smack in the middle of a hotbed of satanic deceit.  You made yourself a sitting duck, and now you’ve been picked off and turned into yet another mounted head on the devil’s trophy room wall.  He loves to pervert the image of God in human beings, and it gives him particular pleasure to do it in someone who has been marked since before conception for the covenant blessings of God.  He thinks he’s won a big victory, here.  He is very, very wrong about that.  This is not nearly over.  He doesn’t get to hold my children captive.

Fortunately for you, being right with God does not depend on anything you do or don’t do.  Being right with God depends on the finished work of Jesus Christ, who suffered and bled and died a horrible death to redeem you from sin and all of its side effects, and who gives that redemption freely to anyone who will receive it – which you did.  I remember it well.  You were four, maybe five years old, and I will never forget the look of pure-hearted joy and excitement on your face as you ran down the hallway toward me from that children’s meeting.  “Mommy!  I asked Jesus into my heart!” The price He paid has made you right with God.  So, no, you won’t go to hell, although it is a shabby and wasteful thing, indeed, to relegate Him merely to the position of Eternal Fire Escape.  You will never experience the blessing and fulfillment He means for you to have in this world, as long as you live a life that disregards His truth and disrespects His holiness.  But yes, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has made you “right with God” as far as your eternal destiny is concerned.

So, here’s how this is going to go down.  I’m not going to preach to you – at least not with any regularity – because your born-again spirit already knows the truth, even as you seek to override it.  And you’re not going to flaunt this in my face.  I’ll have nothing to do with anybody or anything that places Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category; and I will not have my son, whom I love, dishonoring my God, Whom I worship and adore, in my hearing, in my presence, or in my line of sight.  Quite simply, I cannot bear to watch that going on.  You don’t get to argue your case with me or try to justify yourself to me.  You just leave me out of it.  This is not negotiable.  My bond with God my Father, with my precious Savior, with His sweet Holy Spirit, and with His holy, living, unchangeable, life-giving Word – these are not simply things I believe.  They are the very essence of my being.  They are not going to change, and you don’t get to mess with them.  You certainly have the ability to break my heart, but there’s nothing you can say or do that will change it.

We’ll go on as we have since you left here.  You can ignore me and distance yourself from me, as you have already done, only more so.  Or we can interact without reference to this mess.

And, finally:  Yes, I am angry, but not at you.

I love you very much.

Again, I was not surprised by much of her reaction but the more I thought about it the more I realized how much it doesn’t say.  Lots of words, but not much meaning.

And then I thought about it even more, and I became a bit angry.  She contradicts herself, “thanks for being honest with me, now don’t do it anymore” and “I’ll have nothing to do with anyone or anything that puts Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category”, except, I’m the one doing it.

I didn’t want to react hastily.  I was unsure how to formulate my thoughts and feelings and I wanted to be careful.  I sat with her letter for nearly two weeks and finally I sent her this:

I’ve been trying to figure out how best to answer your letter.  I have to admit to being more than a little surprised by what you’ve had to say, which I did not expect.

I’m also somewhat confused by your response and the contradictions that lay within.  You start by thanking me for being honest with you and then you end the letter by essentially telling me not to be honest with you anymore.  You want to pretend, and for me to pretend, that I didn’t tell you I’m gay, that you don’t know it after all.  I have to tell you, I’ve lived that way for many years and I won’t do it anymore.  That’s why I told you in the first place; because being honest with you is important to me.

Interestingly, we are in agreement about something.  I am a child of God, He loves me and I am going to heaven when I die.  Honestly, that was the one thing that was hardest for me to accept; the idea that you would look at me and believe I was going to Hell.  That was the part it took me so long to come to terms with.  I knew that not to be true, but I was certain you would see it differently and I had to come to a place of being able to disagree with you openly before I could share the truth with you.

I’m not sure what “flaunt[ing] this in [your] face” would look like to you, but I never had any intention of flaunting it in your face.  The fact is we don’t talk about relationships in our family.  There’s no reason why that would change now.  But having our own relationship means being able to be truthful with each other, not actively working to protect parts of ourselves, and that is all I wanted to accomplish by telling you the truth.

That does not mean I’m willing to accept things going on as they have, worrying at every turn how you will react to things if they were to come to your attention.  I don’t expect you to be proud of, or even happy about, everything I say or do, but I think it’s better to know the truth and not like it all, then to only know the pieces that you find acceptable, therefore not really knowing me at all.

I appreciate that you don’t intend to “preach to me”.  At the end of the day, I know what I believe and it’s not what you believe.  I don’t expect to convince you that I’m right and I would expect the same courtesy from you.  We disagree.  It happens.  We have to accept that and move on.  I know what you believe, so there’s no sense in you telling me again and again.  By the same token, I know I’m not going to convince you.  I had no intention of even trying.  I guess that would be my line in the sand, just as it is yours.

A lot of what you had to say came as no surprise to me, but there are two things from your letter about which I’m not happy.  The first is the healthy dose of guilt you tried to heap on me and the second is the untenable ultimatum you set, which places me in the position of being the jerk, no matter what I choose.

“You can ignore me and distance yourself from me, as you have already done, only more so,” you said.  It takes a lot of nerve to make a statement like that when you consider your own relationship with your mother and the relationship between all of our family members.  None of us talk frequently.  None of us interact on a regular basis, and in fact, I have interacted with you with more frequency than anyone else in the family.  And let us not forget who it was, that dropped everything and spent two weeks taking care of you after your heart attack and surgery, never once complaining, expecting anything in return, or even doubting the decision to go.  Don’t forget who helped you with your computer problems, or who came to you with the opportunity to purchase a new television for a good price.  Let’s not forget all the times I’ve been here when you’ve needed someone.  Maybe more than I should have.  How dare you suggest that I have ignored you for the last fourteen years when that has been patently untrue?

Perhaps there has been “distance” between us, but that is because I have been protecting this part of my life from you for quite some time.  Can you not see that as the reason for my telling you the truth now?

I do not appreciate the guilt trip and I do not accept the guilt.

As for your ultimatum, you left me with three choices:

1.        Never mention this again.  Never post anything on Facebook that could even potentially be construed as being a reference to my sexuality.  Never tell you about friends or outings or any kind of activity that gives you insight into my life if it also alludes to my sexuality.  Perhaps that works for you, but it’s not fair to either one of us, really, and it is unacceptable to me.

2.       I actively choose to cut you out of my life.  Never acknowledging you.  Never giving you the chance to acknowledge me.  Never giving you any opportunity to know me at all.  In essence being cast in the role of the ungrateful son who “turned his back on his hardworking single mother who sacrificed everything for him.”  It might make you feel better to see it that way, but it wouldn’t be the truth.

3.       My last option is to disregard your letter and continue to be honest with you.  To “flaunt it in [your] face” as it were, thus being the jerk for being so “confrontational and flagrantly offensive” when all I really want is to be real and open.

Clearly, this doesn’t leave me with any good options.

There’s something I don’t understand.  You said, “I’ll have nothing to do with anybody or anything that places Kevin Riggs and homosexuality in the same category…”, only this was in response to me, Kevin Riggs, telling you that I am gay.  Therefore, I am putting the two in the same category.  Will you have nothing to do with me?  I don’t believe that’s really what you want, but correct me if I’m wrong.

It’s not difficult to take that thought a bit further.  Your statement suggests that in the unlikely event I actually pull myself out of my dysfunction and insecurity enough to actually meet someone and fall in love and want to share the rest of my life with, you don’t want to know anything about it.  You don’t want him in your life.  So, you propose that I should pretend to be single forever as far as you’re concerned and not bring a significant other into your life.  Setting aside that you don’t agree with my choices, do you really think that’s a fair and reasonable thing to ask?  Do you suppose Erin would comply with that if you told her never to mention David or bring him around your house?  Do you really think if you forced Erin to choose between you and David, she would choose you?  I don’t.

So, you told me how it’s going to go down; now let me tell you.  As I said in my previous e-mail, I’m telling you that I’m gay, because I love you and I want you to know me.  I’m not going to pretend it isn’t true.  I’m not going to pretend I didn’t tell you and I’m not going to censor myself for you.  I’m also not going to try and convince you, or push you to change your ways.  And I’m not going to be belittled and condemned for something I know to be right.  I don’t know what the future holds or what opportunities will present themselves.  I’m sure there will be times when you will be reminded that I’m gay.  How you’re going to handle that is your choice.

I’m not going to be forced into having to choose to turn my back on you.  If that’s what you want, you’re going to have to be the one to do it.  I hope you won’t, but I’m prepared if you do.

I  love you.

I certainly didn’t want to initiate another back and forth with her.  I didn’t want to be insulting or instigate anger with her, but I wasn’t going to roll over either.  I was no longer willing to be the dutiful son and just play nice.  I was determined to establish my own boundaries.  But I had no way of knowing how she would react either.

It took her another week, and as the time passed, I really began to anticipate another less than concise but nonetheless preachy response.

Instead, I got this:

I love you very much.  As I used to tell you when you were growing up, you’re my favorite Kevin in the whole wide world.

Ironically, I have no memory whatsoever, of her having ever said that.  I’ll take her word for it.

I realize now though, that’s the only response that she’s going to send.  I’m choosing to interpret it, and in fact, really believe that it means she’s going to back off.  Certainly she’s displeased.  Certainly she wishes I wasn’t gay and that I would never ever mention it to her or say anything that even sort of brings it to light, but I think, after reading my letter and seeing where I stand, she’s decided to keep her feelings and opinions to herself.

I can’t ask for much more than that.

The Hardest (And Most Important) Thing I’ve Ever Done

Have you seen this?

Karin and I talked about it the other day.  She said it brought a tear to her eye.

I said, “hmmmm.”

“Didn’t do anything to you?” she asked.

It didn’t.  As we know, I’m not quick to emotional reactions to things.

But I admit, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  And I watched it again, that day.

And again the next day.  And several times since then.  I don’t really know how to explain how the video affected me, but it did affect me.

On Sunday, I sent the following e-mail to my sister:

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to you to know that when I think about our family, you are the person who means the most to me (well, you and your kids.)  You are the ones that I care the most about.  And you are the ones that I would most hate to lose.

Because of this, I have felt for some time that if I was ever going to share what I am about to share, you would be the one I needed to tell first.

I hope that what I’m going to tell you won’t change things (though I imagine it will), but for the last two years, ever since I asked you if you and David had a guardianship decision in place for your children, I have felt like it was only right for you to know this…

In the next few days I’m going to send the following e-mail to mom.  For the most part, though, I wanted to say all the same things to you… just… first.  Here goes…

There is something I have wanted to tell you for a long time, but I’ve been too afraid of how you would react.

It has seemed like it’s been more important not to upset or offend you, than it has been to be honest with you.  But now, somehow that seems wrong; it doesn’t seem fair to you and it is certainly not fair to me.

I want you to know that I love you very much, and it is because I love you that it has been so hard for me to tell you that I am gay.

I’m not going to drag this out.  I know you don’t approve.  I know you think it’s wrong and all I can say to that is that I did a lot of soul-searching, research and praying in the process of coming to terms with this for myself and I did not arrive at this conclusion easily or take it lightly.  I believe that I am right with God.  I do not believe that to be gay is a sin, an “abomination”, or that he will condemn me for it.  While I know you strongly believe that your perspective is the right one, I strongly believe that mine is and I’ve finally reached a point where I’m ready to accept that we will disagree on that.

I know that you are disappointed.  You’re hurt and you’re probably angry.  I’m sorry for that.  I know that this is something that you’re going to need some time to get used to.  I wish this were easier for both of us.  I only hope that you can still love me and show me that love, in spite of this disappointment.  That will be for you to decide, though.

For the record, I still want to be your children’s designated guardian, but I realize I’ve just made it a much tougher decision…

I love you.

~~~~~

I sent the e-mail to my sister around 6:00 yesterday evening hoping she would e-mail a response.  I put the computer down and went about doing some household chores.  About 30 minutes later, she called me, but I didn’t answer the phone.

I hoped she would send a response via e-mail since I didn’t answer the phone, but she did not.

Around 10:30 last night, when it was clear I would get no response from my sister that night and before I could change my mind and wimp out, I sent the e-mail to my mother.  I knew she wouldn’t see it before this morning and while I hoped she, too, would e-mail a response and not telephone me, as of now, I’ve not heard from her at all.  While I realized it’s possible she simply hasn’t seen the e-mail, the much more likely answer (and what I should have anticipated to start with) is that she won’t acknowledge it for a couple of days while she “mulls over” the “correct response.”

Erin called me again this morning, first my cell phone, then my work number.  She finally left a message on my work phone in which she said she wasnt’s sure she still had right numbers for me since she hadn’t reached me, that she had received my e-mail and that she wanted to “visit” with me so I should give her a call when I had time.

I sent her a text message and said, “Call me a wimp, but for the moment, I would rather have you say what you have to say in writing.  I don’t regret telling you, but you can’t begin to imagine how difficult this is for me.”

Her response was, “So does that mean you are ignoring my calls?”  😎

“Some of them.  Others I wasn’t around for,” I said.

To which she replied, “Wimp!   OK, I’ll e-mail you as soon as I can.”

~~~~~

The tone of her texts suggests playfulness (trust me, this is her being playful), but her message on voice mail was less than comforting.  She didn’t say anything about loving me, or not being particularly surprised, or anything remotely encouraging or supportive.

I have to believe that this is not a surprise to either of them, though maybe not what they wanted to hear.  But I also know that, whether they accept it or not, this was the right thing to do.  I’m pretty wrecked over the whole thing right now, but I know that once the initial storm blows over, I’ll feel much better for having done it…

Blow storm, blow!

Fear of Success

So I haven’t been here in what seems like forever.  I wish I could tell you it’s because I’ve been SOOO busy doing SUUUCH exciting things, but then you’d be expecting me to write about it and well, it’s simply not true.

Truth is, I’ve been busy writing, which, I guess is sort of exciting.  It’s exciting to me.  It’s also frustrating and nerve-wracking and irritating and a whole hell of a lot of fun.  It just. Takes. So. Long!  I have a cheerleader who is desperate to read my book.  She’s read the first two chapters and the “mom” chapters I posted not too long ago.  She likes what she’s read and she’s chomping at the bit to read more.  Sorry!  You’ll just have to wait.

Anyway, I’ve been busy committing all my writing time to the book and I’m really happy with what’s coming out, even it is taking an eternity and a half to create but I’ve noticed that there’s a certain amount of fear that goes with it.  (It would be well to note that fear often has no basis in rational thinking, however…)

I’m fearful that this book is not as good as I think it is (despite significant evidence to the contrary.)

I’m fearful that just because a handful of people have read a small fraction of what I’ve written and liked it, a lot, that it will not be good in the eyes of a publishing company.

I’m fearful that because of the nature of its content, what I’m writing will never be accepted by mainstream publishing and even if it ever does get published, it won’t be by a mainstream house and may not be promoted or marketed enough to sell many copies.

I’m fearful that this is the only thing I’ll ever be able to write.  It took me 32 years to come up with an idea which actually formed into a complete story.  What if it takes another 32 years to come up with the next one?

While I’m enjoying the process and would be happy for any amount of success that might come from it, I have to admit that all of that is tempered with a fear that I might get exactly what I want; a fantastic book, well received by major publishing houses, huge promotion and significant compensation and an opportunity to do more…

I’ve grudgingly resigned myself to the idea that my family may never really know me; never know the full truth about me.  I don’t love this idea, but I’ve lived with it for a long time and it’s…familiar.  But, what if I get published.  What if this book I’m writing, a book all about a young man who comes to terms with his sexuality despite his conservative upbringing and judgmental mother, a book full of emotional turmoil and sexual revelation… and sex, get’s published and promoted and makes even a medium splash in the literary world?  My mother is a voracious reader.  I’m not sure if a book like mine could accidentally find its way into her hands, but the prospect is disconcerting, at least.

I wrote a scene just the other day between our lead character, Calvin and a would-be lover/pseudo mentor, Trip, in which Trip explains his less than blissful relationship with his own family.  Without getting too bogged down in details or giving away too much of my, as yet unpublished passion, Cal has been taken to an Atlanta emergency room after a relatively minor injury.  Trip accompanied Calvin and is waiting in a room with him.  Pay attention to the last line:

Another thought occurred to me that I was ashamed not to have realized earlier.  “Oh my God, Trip!”  I slapped my hand down on his arm which had been resting comfortably on the edge of my bed.  “I’ve done it again.  You missed your brother’s reception.  What was I thinking making you bring me here.”

“Those drugs they gave you must be really good,” he laughed.  “You’ll recall I didn’t give you a choice in the matter.”  He patted my hand still resting on his other arm.  “Don’t worry about the reception.  I was there for most of it.  I won’t have been missed, I’m sure.”

There was something sad in his tone and I wondered what his relationship with his family might really be like.  “I’m sure that’s not true,” I suggested.  “You’re brothers after all.”

Trip just looked at me for several long seconds and then he leaned forward in the chair, and whispered to me, conspiratorially.  “I’ll tell you a secret Cal.  What you saw last night?  The way Tommy acted when you and I were leavin’?  That was just the tip of the iceberg.  My family has really struggled since I came out.  Most of the time I think they’re happier when I’m not around.”  That revelation struck me hard.  What must it have been like for him to accept being gay, acknowledge it, and tell his family, knowing that his father was a Baptist Preacher and his family would not accept him?  I couldn’t imagine what his life must be like and I didn’t understand how he could come off as being so self assured when he had this burden weighing him down when he thought no one was paying attention.

And he wanted me to be in the same boat?  How could he expect anyone to follow in his footsteps and demolish whatever sense of a life they had?  I was about to ask him just that when the nurse walked in.

We ate in silence for a while, crunching on our fruits and vegetables.  In spite of my hunger, I couldn’t bear to eat the white bread bun so I pulled the turkey off the sandwich and ate it plain.  Finally, I gingerly turned my head to look at Trip directly and I said, “I’m sorry, Trip.  I’m really sorry.”

He was confused, “’Bout what?”

“It sounds terrible,” I answered, clearing nothing up.  “I can’t imagine facing my parents and knowing that they don’t approve of me.”  Even as I said it I realized, I already knew how that felt.  I was all too familiar with the look of disdain my mother was so adept at displaying at the merest mention of pretty much any new idea I’d ever had.  I knew that if I were to tell her I was gay that would be the end for us.  The look she would give me, her reaction to that news would be impossible to get past.  “It must be just awful to be faced with that every day.”

Trip’s expression darkened.  “It’s not easy,” he said, his voice was thick with grief.  “My parents had such high hopes for me when I was growin’ up,” he continued.  “They wanted me to be a pastor like my father and like his father and his father before him.  Our family has been leading The First Baptist Church of Savannah for three generations.  Daddy is pretty well respected in the community.”  He paused and as his eyes glistened he gulped hard, holding his feelings in.  “Well anyway, he was.  And then about eight months ago I was caught on film coming out of a club called The Cockpit.  There was a local news crew doing a remote spot outside the club.  I didn’t even notice them at the time and I have no idea what the story was about let alone that I was on film but before I knew it, someone had seen me on the news and it got back to the Convention – The Southern Baptist Convention – and they talked to my dad about it.

“And then a couple months ago Janelle got pregnant and she and Tommy had to have this shotgun wedding.  Which is a sham, as far as I’m concerned and I just know they’re not going to last and I can’t help but think that’ll be even worse for my father’s reputation.  But you know…  At least they’re doin’ the honorable thing in the face of their shame.  There’s nothin’ I can do to make this right in their eyes.  And now, daddy’s reputation is damaged and the Convention is talkin’ about replacing him at the church.  It’s all a big ugly mess and not the way I would have wanted it to be, at all.

“I dreaded comin’ out to my parents and I put it off way too long…  I sure as hell didn’t want them to find out from someone else.  Let alone the whole community.”  Tears crept down his face now and he lowered his head, staring at the blanket that covered me.  “Talkin’ to my parents about being gay was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I owed it to them to be the one to tell them, and I didn’t do it.”

It seems like a long shot at best but I would hate for this book to be the way my family finds out that I’m gay and yet having that conversation is something I’m unable to imagine.    But the flip side of that is, what happens if this book actually gets published?  What if it actually is a moderate (or bigger) hit and I make a nice chunk of change from it?  What if I need to go on some sort of book tour because of it?  What if this turns out to be a really big deal…  And I can’t share it with my family, because to share it with them I’d have to tell them the hardest thing I could imagine ever having to tell them?  And what if I have to go through the rest of my life watching what I say, careful never to give any inclination about any of the experiences that I’ve had as a result of writing this book, just as I have to be careful now, never to mention anything that might reveal the identity that is Riggledo (blog, twitter, e-mail, etc.)

I realize I’m putting the cart before the horse, as I’m prone to do, and I’m not allowing these fears to stop me writing the book, but I can’t help fearing all these things.