Monday, January 25, 2010

Installment No. 3 - Coming Out Process

Hmmmm, I did not realize how long it had been since I posted last. To be honest, I had written this next installment weeks a go, but had some in trepidation about posting it. I have not figured out why, other then this is a personal story that impacts pepole that are very close to me and I am trying to be both honest and senstive at the same time ..................... here we go!

So here is where it gets a bit tricky. Tricky in the sense that over the past 4 years I have ended up in a place where I am the happiest I have every been, but it was hard getting here.

Whenever I tell someone my story, they always ask if it was hard. The answer of course is much more complicated then just simple yes or no. The older I get the more shades of grey I see and come to value in situations and this certainly is one of them.

Here is my attempt to explain what I mean. I had been through some life changes from a career perspective, my life slowed down significantly which gave me time to start questioning where I was in life and frankly if I was happy. The answers I kept getting back, when I was completely honest with myself, was that I was not happy (my daughter taught me a valuable lesson about being happy when she went off to college to play Div I volleyball and decided not to accept the scholarship and not attend that school. I think about that lesson often). I was not being honest or open to myself, my family and friends. I was turning 43 years old that year and I could not imagine being that unhappy for another 30 or 40 years ( I plan to live a long life :) ). Given that, it was time to make a change and deal with my feelings.

So I set out with the end in mind. I am a process guy at heart, and so I began to look at what was a head of me in methodical steps. Tasks that had to be completed before I was ready to speak to my wife, kids, mom, brothers/sister and friends. As you can imagine, trying to deal with this sort of situation in a task oriented way did not work out the way I had planned. My mind and emotions had their own plans.

What I had planned to do was after figuring out what I had been feeling for most of my life was real, in that I had my first experience with a man, was to get my life in order. My emotional, physical and financial life. I wanted to make sure I could support two households once I had come out to my wife and kids. I was not about to shirk my responsibilities to any of them.

From the financial aspect I began to prepare for the eventual separation and paid off cars, credit cards and looking for a much more secure job. I had, just a year earlier, opened up my own consulting company ( a life long dream of mine) but knew in order to meet my obligations to my wife and kids that I needed a steady pay check I could rely on vs weather I had paying clients or not. As luck would have it, I found a job in a few months that met our financial needs, so that task was done.

Next was how to tell my wife. I had no clue what so ever. So I looked around and found a therapist that specialzed in this sort of situation. I think it is important to understand that once I let myself deal with the fact that I am a gay man, I did not have an issue at all with that. I did not see the therapist to help me deal with that fact. Rather to help me explain that to my family. The biggest learning's I took away from my sessions with her was first to be honest and direct, and second, to give her time to catch up to me. I had months ( my whole life really) to deal with the fact that I am gay. She would have just moments to digest what I was about to tell her. That I needed to give her time to come to terms with the fact that her husband, after 22 years of marriage was telling her that he is gay and wants to move out of the house and live a different life. Man did that make sense to me. She needed time and it was not just all about me in this process. So after a few sessions I began to put a time line in place ( in my head ) of when to tell her. Again being the planning type I picked a date ( this all sounds so silly now to try to make this so formal a process ). The date was a few months away, it would take me that long to find the job, pay off bills etc. What I found however was that I was getting so anxious and nervous about telling her that I began to loose sleep. I had not slept a full night through in a few months. I think I got maybe two hours a night of sleep for almost 4 months. At the end of that time I was a basket case. I could not focus on work, the kids, nothing. One day, well before the date I had chosen to tell her, I lost it. I could not go on like this and I finally told her what was going on. ( unfortunately it was 3 days before our 23 wedding anniversary. I know, my timing sucked but there is never a good time to do this sort of thing) I was in tears before I even opened my mouth, and she was trying to figure out what could be wrong to cause me to be this upset. " I am gay", I said. As you can imagine she was shocked and was in disbelief. The conversation lasted a while that afternoon, we had many many more like that as she came to terms with the situation. Her first reaction was that I had found another women and using this as the reason, then the second was that she did not care and did not want to get a divorce and wanted to continue to be married to me. I was not about to agree to that............and not for the reason you most likely are thinking. I did not think that would be fair to her. She is a beautiful, smart intelligent women and staying in this situation over the long term would not give her the opportunity to find someone that would make her happy. These conversations continued for several weeks as we worked through the situation. We both went to visit the therapist to help. She needed a way to tell me what she was thinking and feeling, to express her anger, disappointment etc, and frankly I needed to hear that too. It was the right thing to do, as painfull as it was.

My new job started two months after I came out to her and it was in Kansas City MO and we were still in St Louis. My son was entering his Sr. year in high school so we were not moving him. I commuted between KC and STL for that year. She did not want to tell our son what was happening, she did not want this to be his lasting memory of his final year in high school. I reluctantly agreed. I would travel home to STL and we both would pretend, in public, that nothing had changed. Our conversations, in private, would continue, emotions very high as we both worked through the process. Discussions went on about what we would do after my son graduated, would she move to KC etc. She wanted us to continue to live together after the move. I could live my "double life" but in a marriage. After a few visits back to STL, I finaly told her that when she did move to KC, I was not going to live with her, that she would be on her own. ( I am talking being single, not financially). I did not think that living this way would be fair to her or to me. This was hard for both of us, but harder for her.

OK, I think that is enough for this installment. I am still working through how to talk about the coming out process with the kids...............

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some Background

In thinking about how to approach writing this blog, I decided to start with some background on me and my family. ( at this point in time, any member of my family who is reading this is yelling at the top of their lungs.............Nooooo! Don't worry guys, I am not going into our life history, just mine).

Let me just say that my brothers and sister and I certainly had an interesting childhood. We travelled constantly when we were young, both in the U.S. and out of it. In fact most of my secondary education was not completed in the United States at all. I went to school in the old British Colony countries. Primary and secondary school ( that is elementary , middle and high school here in the U.S.) in Canada, England Australia and New Zealand. In fact for me, the longest I ever went to one school was in high school for my junior and senior years. As you can imagine, with 5 kids in total, all within 6 or 7 years or so of each other, that brought us close together as youngsters. Unfortunately that is not the case with all of us as adults.

I have vivid memories of endless first days at new schools, not knowing anyone, trying to make new friends, only to pick up and move yet again and starting over and over. I think that is why I am a "natural" introvert in my private adult life and why, in part, it took me so long to figure out who I am.

After graduating High School in a small town in 100 Mile House, British Columbia Canada, I moved to Las Vegas to join the rest of my family (My family moved to LV when I was going into my senior year of high school and I did not want to move, so stayed with my best friend and his family till I graduated) and attended the University of Nevada Las Vegas.... but I am getting ahead of myself, let me step back a few years...........

When I was 15, my father was diagnosed with cancer and not given long to live. It was a tumor in his neck that was wrapped around his carotid artery and potentially cutting off his blood supply. Well as you can imagine, this was a tuff thing to take as a kid. My brothers and I quit school and went to work full time to help support the family. I was working as a 7/11 ( convenience store) clerk at age 15 working the grave yard shift. I lied and said I was 21 years old to get the job. Even at 15 I was over 6' tall and looked much older then my actual age. I did that for a bit over a year until I could go back to school. We were living in Toronto, Ontario Canada at that time. We then picked up again and went to Daytona Beach FL. My father was recovering from radiation treatments, but the prognosis did not look good. He took matters in his own hands and decided to research homeopathic treatments. To make a long story short here, he survived and ended up making a business of his cure and survival, which is still thriving today and run by my older brother.

From Daytona Beach, my family went to Nassau Bahama's, that is where my dad operated his business from. I had just turned 16 years old, and was the proud owner of a brand new drivers license. The family car, an old green Buick La Saber was in Daytona Beach, but was registered as a Canadian car, so my dad gave me the keys, and a few dollars and off I went, driving the car, by myself, from Daytona Beach Fl across the country, into Western Canada up to a small town called Williams Lake in British Columbia where I was to live on my own, get a job ( going back to high school never entered my dads mind for me). Well that was quite an adventure as a 16 year old. Really unthinkable in today's world. Could you imagine the headlines if a 16 year old kid was stopped by the police driving across the country or even attempting to leave the country and enter Canada! At any rate, there were no jobs, so I went further North to Prince George where my sister lived. I stayed with her for a while until we all went to the Bahamas with the rest of my family.

So I was in the Nassau for several months, still not back at school, and then my Mom and Dad took my youngest brother and they moved to England and my Oldest brother Raymond and I got an apt in Nassau, ran the family business from there.

The two strongest memories I have of that time are. First I was "picked up" by a much older women who was on vacation, today she would be called a cougar, and that scared the hell out of me. Nothing happened between the two of us, I was much to young and naive, and really not that interested. The second thing I remember is that I lost my virginity in the Bahamas, to a twenty something girl (again I was 16). I really did not enjoy that experience at all. I was in my room with her and one of my brothers was in the living room with either her sister or girl friend, I really cant remember. I do remember cooking a great meal for them

OK, so from Nassau I hoped a flight to England to again join my parents. We were not there very long and we moved back to Canada, eventually to 100 Mile House where I went back to school and graduated..........barely! After graduation, my brother Steven and I drove from Canada down to Las Vegas to live with the family and I enrolled in college.

Back to the present for a few minutes. I think now it would be good to elaborate on the emotional aspect of this journey that I mentioned in my initial post. You have some background on my upbringing, which I think lends some color to why I waited so long to allow myself to be who I really am; to myself, my children, my now ex wife and of course the rest of my family and friends. Of course I am talking about being Gay! Yes, at age 43 I dealt with feelings I had experienced my entire life and I made the decision that I did not want to continue to be unhappy with my life, who I was, how I looked and most importantly that my son and daughter did not really know who their father was, in that I was living a lie. And in that lie I was not being truthful to them.

So lets get the questions out in the open that most folks have asked me when I tell them my story and I am sure some of you ( if there are any of "you" out there) are asking.

1. How long did you know? In thinking back now, I have know all my life. I just never acted on it.

2. Why did you wait so long? That is a hard question to answer. I got married when I was still in college at the age of 22, had my daughter when I was 23 and my son came a few years after that. Life moves on, you get in a routine and you start living the life you have built. Fulfilling your responsibilities as a father, husband etc. I lead the life I was expected to live.

3. Did you act on your feelings before you were married or after? Of course I had thoughts, fantasies etc, but I did not act on them until much later in life.

4. Was the coming out process hard? Yes and no, but I will leave that for a later post.

OK, I think that is going to be it for this installment.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why I am blogging

I have been asked by several friends to think about telling my story, well my journey really, of self discovery, honesty, and physical and emotional transformation to who I am today. I am not sure if anyone will find this of value or interesting, but I decided to do this as a way of documenting my continued journey for myself and if this helps anyone out there, all the better.

Let me share with you two pictures, a before and after shot. I think this will help in understanding why I call this a transformation. I will shed some light on the emotional self discovery reference later.

304lbs - 2006 190lbs 2009

Yes, that is me 114 lbs lighter and a hell of a lot happier as your can imagine. As of today, I have completed my first season as a Triathlete and have competed in three events. The first was the Kansas City Triathlon in May of 2009 - a sprint event of 800M swim, 20 K bike and 5 K run; the second was the Kansas Ultramax 50 - a 1 mile swim, 40 mile bike and 10 mile run; and finallay the Chicago Triathlon - a 1.2 mile swim, 40 K bike and 10 K run. In December of 2009 I ran in my first 1/2 Marathon - the Rock'n Roll Las Vegas Marathon. I ran the 13.1 mile event in 2:05:14 which beat my goal time by 5 min.
I just set my schedule for 2010, I will be doing several triathlons including the Chicago Tri again as I qualified ( i did the swim in under 30 min) to compete with the EAC wave in 2010. My "A" race will be a 70.3 Iron Man in 2010. I have started training for that now. My ultimate goal will be to compete in a full Iron Man event in 2011. With the help of my coach, support of my friends and a lot of hard work. I plan on getting there!
OK, enough for now. I will share more of my story soon.