Best of Thought Theater is a new feature. Since Thought Theater is a relatively new blog, much of the older content didn't get a lot of exposure and I decided to bring back some of my favorite postings for new readers. Much like a television program, if you miss the early episodes, it can be difficult to get a feel for the program and the characters. Hoepfully, these postings will fill in the blanks for newer visitors.
My apologies to those who may have already read these postings.
The subject line read “blast from the past". It was an old high school friend who I hadn’t spoken to in twenty-three years. It was last Thursday and at the time I took it in stride. I instinctively responded and we traded emails to fill in the gap. However, by Sunday night my anxiety was palpable…not because I didn’t want to communicate with my friend…but because all the emotions that I had neatly packed away came racing to the surface.
Truthfully, I can’t recall the specifics aside from the emotions. They remain vivid like so many others from that period of my life. You see…it was when I announced that I was gay. I think a lot of gay people talk amongst themselves about their coming out experiences but I don’t think many of us talk about it with the straight people in our lives. Sometimes I think we’re protecting ourselves and at other times I think we are protecting them. It’s probably some of both.
My friend told me he had run across my name on the internet and after checking out Thought Theater he concluded that it was me. In his third email, he broached the subject of our last conversation. He mentioned that he had hesitated to email because he wasn’t sure what to say to me or what I might say to him given that last uncomfortable discussion. In retrospect, the words hit me like a ton of bricks but I ignored them and simply responded to the rest of his email.
I went to bed around 11:00 Sunday night but I couldn’t sleep. I lay there for probably fifteen minutes before I just suddenly started to cry. At first, I wasn’t even sure what was happening or the source of my emotions. My mind started to race and I suddenly found myself returned to that period of my life some twenty-three years prior. My brain locked in on one thought and I actually started to repeat the thought aloud over and over. The words were these…"one by one, I lost them all…one by one, I lost them all."
As the tears subsided, I was able to return to the present and look back and see me as that person in that place that I had tucked away for all these years. Strangely, my first observation was that I didn’t know how I had survived it all. How can a person walk into a new identity in an instant, leaving behind an entire lifetime’s identity? What could ever be so compelling? Anyone who is gay knows the answer to that question.
One by one, everybody I had ever cared about let me go when what I needed most was to know that I was worth enough for someone to keep holding on. I remember feeling like I was being pushed out of one world and pulled into another. The people I was leaving knew me but didn’t understand me. The people I was running to understood me but didn’t know me. In a matter months, everything and everyone I knew and loved was gone.
The whole of me that had been divided all my life came together for an instant as I began to cross from one world into the other. Sadly, it became apparent that once again I could only hold onto half. I wondered if the whole of me would ever exist.
My friend shared one other piece of news. One of our high school classmates died a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that fact. Twenty-three years are gone…one is lost and one is found. Something is received and something is taken away. Much as I’ve come to believe, this life we live is shared with death. At some point we pass from one half to the other. It all seems to fit so well and yet I still don’t know if the pieces can ever be connected.
Few people know this, but one of my favorite movies is Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s funny and its sad; its silly and its serious. On the surface the movie is about two people who fall in love and then fall apart. It is actually far more complex. In reality, the movie is about only one person who is struggling to find the second half of him. I have lived a life of halves as well. My life has been filled with dichotomies…more of necessity than choice…but then I tend to think the world is ordered accordingly. Through it all, though none may know, whether on this side or on that side, whether this piece of me or that piece of me…I loved them all with with the whole of my heart.
I wrote the following poem that I call Pieces while I was traveling around the world. It captures this idea of life being made up of different parts.
Life is made of pieces
The pictures incomplete
The paint slips off the canvas
While tears fall at your feet
Has the picture already met the screen?
Can you erase what you haven’t seen?
The search is on to find what’s gone
And yet it’s impossible to know what belongs
Soldier of love in the house of the heart
Tell us our purpose, who to defeat
Does victory ever bring us relief?
Life is a tightrope, its balance we need
Poles on each end, yet the center we seek
Is the puzzle solved when the spirit leaves?
Or is the spirits resolve what makes us complete?
With brush in hand and colors lucid
The image forms, the walls obtrusive
Building blocks just block your view
Tear it down, you’ll be renewed
It doesn’t matter what you can’t see
Each piece is a part of your destiny
Life is made of picture frames
No two are quite the same