"I made a promise to myself;
Locked it away deep down inside.
Told my heart we'd wait it out.
Swore we'd never compromise.
Oh, I'd rather be alone,
Like I am tonight,
Then settle for the kind of love
That fades before the morning light.
Silence stared me in the face.
And I finally heard its voice.
It seemed to softly say,
That in love you have a choice.
Today I got the answer,
And there's a world of truth behind it:
Love is out there waiting somewhere,
You just have to go and find it.
I believe in love, I believe in love:
A love that's real, love that's strong,
Love that lives on and on.
Yes I believe in love!
Yes I believe in love!"
"I Believe In Love" by the Dixie Chicks
I was in love for 4,595 days.
My "life" before then can be best be summed up by that trite little phrase, "a living hell." Until love found me, I had built a fortress of solitude around my heart that even Superman would have envied...except there was nothing enviable about what passed for my so-called "life" back then. I was so "successful" at keeping the world out, that I couldn't even find myself.
My father had a wandering spirit, and our family (my two brothers, two sisters, my mom, my dad and I) moved all around the country, never remaining in one place for longer than a couple of years, but most of my life we lived in the rural South. Even at a young age, I came to understand that I could not keep making friends and then leave them without even getting to say good-bye most of the time; it simply hurt too much. I grew up in poverty during the 60s and 70s, and when I look back at those years, it's not the dearth of "stuff" I remember, it was the lack of roots. We always had lots of places to live, but we never had a home...a REAL home.
All those experiences as a child, making our way to destinations unknown & dragging as many of our few meager worldly possessions along with us as our rickety old car would hold could fill a big, sad book, but--on top of all that--I was also hiding a not-so-little secret about myself: my homosexuality.
From my earliest memories, I knew I was different, and I knew that that difference was not a good thing...not then...not when I believed I was the only one in the world like "that". Instinctively, I learned to hide that part of who I was/am. I guess, in an awful, heart-breaking way, closing down my heart helped to overkill two sick birds with one giant boulder. I kept myself in the darkest corners of life, so as to minimize any contact with human beings...those who had the luxury of living in the light of day, and being whatever-in-the-world they were. They looked like me; they spoke like me; they breathed the same air I did, but I felt no connection to "them". I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, close enough to watch how they all interacted, but far enough away emotionally, that they could easily overlook me, and they did.
I endured this poor imitation of a life until I was in my early 30s, but--to turn that old saw upside down--all bad things must come to an end. I moved away from the small-town South to the Big City (well, "big" for me, anyway, considering from whence I came) of Orlando, Florida. I came to The City Beautiful with little more than a few hundred dollars and a hope that refused to die of salvation from the ruinous despair that had become my world. I really had no reason to think things would be better with a mere change in venue, but I knew I had to start somewhere, or risk giving up on living all together. I still wasn't ready for that.
Shortly after arriving in Orlando, I found a place to live & a job I still have all these years later. I began my trip to the other side of the closet, and to love, slowly--very slowly--but surely. With the advent of the Internet in my life (in the middle-to-late 1990's), I was finally able to find a someone to love...and who loved me. To this day, I still don't know what it was he saw in me that made him want to share his life with me. All I knew is that I loved him from the moment we first spoke on the phone...even before I saw him...and he loved me.
As unlikely as it seems, we moved in together on January 1, 1997 (his lease where he was leaving was ending, and I was just living month to month at my place), after having known each other for less than month, and we were together for nearly 13 years. As you may guess, I am a big believer in the power of the World Wide Web to bring love to almost anyone genuinely seeking it.
On April 4 of this year, 2 days after the birthday of the man I thought of as my husband (not legally, of course, but spiritually & in every other way), my love told me that he didn't feel like we were a couple any more. He said that we were "too different" (his exact words...as you may imagine, those words are burned into my memory forever). At first I couldn't really understand what he meant. I think I was just in shock, and then I started crying, and I cried or was on the verge of tears for 3 days. I couldn't speak to anyone, and I could barely keep a thought in my head. My ex (I hate writing that word, even now) had told me that we would stay together until our lease ran out at the end of July. As I was still trying to understand what was going on in my life, and still hurting & confused, he helped me to find a new place to live, while he moved in with some mutual friends of ours. He told me that he didn't feel romantic love for me anymore, but that he didn't hate me or wish me ill; he loved me, but as a friend. He had told me that he thought I was a victim of depression & that he hoped I would get help. Turns out he was right.
I went to my doctor, who recommended I see a counselor, and--through the Employee Assistance Program at work--I was able to start seeing a psychologist. My psychologist, in concert with my general practitioner, diagnosed me with "sub-clinical" depression...I still don't know the difference between "sub-clinical" & "clinical" depression, but with a combination of medications & counseling, I was able to finally begin to see through the haze of confusion, loneliness & pain, and see the slightest glimmer of a new day dawning, and that is where I am right now.
I'm not "fixed" yet, and I know that I have a lot of issues I still need to resolve, but--for the first time in a very, very, very long time--I feel like I have the desire & the ability to face my own demons, and my own self-hatred and shame, and fashion something that at least somewhat resembles a real life. I know it won't be easy: almost nothing of value in our lives ever comes easily. The only thing more difficult would be to stay mired in the status quo, and I simply will not do that.
That being said, I still miss my ex, and I still miss love, and--though I don't like it--I am coming to finally accept that our time together is done. As much as it hurts & as much as I wish I didn't have to, I know that I must close that chapter in my life, and move on...for my own peace of mind, and for my poor, bruised heart. My ex is making his new life, and I truly wish him nothing but the very best. I wanted to be the one who loved him forever, but just because it can't be me doesn't mean that he doesn't deserve a "forever love"; he does...and so do I.
I have always loved the Dixie Chicks, besides their beautiful voices, I have long admired their commitment to what they believe...even when it wasn't popular. I was listening to their song, I Believe in Love, and though I'd heard it many times before, today, one of the lines really got stuck in my head: "Love is out there waiting somewhere, You just have to go and find it," and I realized that I may have lost my first love, but that I'm not ready to give up on love completely.
I don't know when I will be ready for love again, or just exactly how I'll go about it, or even whom I'll be looking for, but I know that I want to love again. To be honest, as much as this whole experience of breaking up has has very nearly destroyed me, and as unsure as I am about when I'll take my next leap of faith into love's open arms, I know how fortunate & how blessed I am to have known real love.
For someone who started out believing that he didn't deserve even one day of love, getting to enjoy 4,595 days of it is simply a miracle. That fact has made all the other ugly, painful stuff more-than-worth it for me.