Saturday, March 14, 2009

Raincoats and Empty Chairs


Tonight was supposed to be the group dinner for my 12-step group. All day I battled with myself about it. After all, Ashley* practically begged me to come. She said she was sure everyone else would still love me, just like she did. I am not so sure of that.

Mentally I scanned one face and then another. Either a green light would go on - indicating they would still be "for" me - or a red light would go on - indicating there was trouble and judgment behind the scowl. In all honesty, I don't have to tell anyone else, but then that defeats the purpose of a 12-step group in which we are supposed to share honestly, certain of the love and support of our group. The genie is out of the bottle, and she's not going back in. Even if they didn't know, I would know. I would always be censoring myself and trying not to say what my soul is dying to talk about.

So I dragged my husband out to the mall. He's still my husband, yes, of course, and I'll keep calling him that. In Maryland, we must be separated (living in different residences) for at least a year before a divorce would be granted. There is no rush (unless he wants to rush things, which he doesn't seem to), and it will be a long process. Mostly this has been about me becoming who I really am, not so much about kicking anyone out, you know.

So I took him to the mall. I needed to get out of the house. We ended up doing so much window-shopping that my feet and legs hurt, my back hurt! But I found two delectable t-shirts (on clearance), another pair of Levis 505s (my personal favorites) on sale, and a raincoat. It's the first "girly" raincoat I've had since I was a child (see photo), and I deserved it! Oh, and I found the cutest pair of green espadrilles to go along with my green mood. It was retail therapy at its finest.

But when we headed to the car, I looked at the missed call on my phone, the one from the group leader wondering where I was, undoubtedly, and my mood darkened. I suddenly felt so angry! So upset! All of these feelings started pouring from my mouth and then the angry tears came. I blubbered all the way home while he did what he does so well - he listened. I told him that I felt like a fool for believing these folks were any different than others I had encountered, that I knew he never wanted me to get so involved with them and it's like he knew I would get hurt. He just shook his head and said there's no way either of us could have known and that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I said, "How could anyone presume to decide for me and every tenth person you meet who we should love? I've been living a lie for most of my life. When do I get to just be me?"

Of course, the answer to that is that I've always been me, but I've had a double life. I've had the me inside and the me outside who panders to what people expect. Frequently that outside me tries to remake the inside me and the conflict begins. That's when the anxiety starts and the tears come and the depression sinks me into the blankets.

Still. There was a part of me that was so broken by knowing that the friends I've made over the last year were sitting down to dinner with an empty place where I should have been, most of them not knowing why I haven't been around. They may even be worried, but Ashley would never tell. She takes confidentiality seriously. I figure eventually they'll stop wondering where I've gone and will complete the 12th step without me.

My anger will fade, along with those strong emotions I've turned in on myself for so many years. And life will go on. It always does.

Meanwhile, I want to say thank you to all of you who have been so loving, supportive, and amazing to me during this turn of events. I'm a lucky girl. I may even find myself singing in the rain, you think?

Peace - D

* not her real name
[photo is of the Women's SunShower Raincoat at LandsEnd.com]
[photo credit, Van Gogh's Chair @ the National Gallery]

26 comments:

Mary Moore said...

I think you're wonderful just the way you are.

And I saw that very same coat today when I was out, and I almost bought it!!

Ms Hen said...

I live in one of the 5 boroughs of NYC... this would not be an issue at all.. about you 'coming out'.......

No one would bat an eye in any of my al-anon group........ except to be there for you to help you in the transition period if you needed anyone to share with; listen to you or offer you hugs.

You just GREW and that is what Al-Anon is about.. putting the focus on yourself and growing more spiritual and living the LIFE you were meant to live.

(((( a million hugs)))) ..

Betty Ann

septembermom said...

Your true self shines! Don't let anyone make you feel unwelcome. You are right where you need to be. It's nice that you and your husband have such a supportive, loving relationship.

Great coat by the way :)

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Hi D,
How I can truly relate to the conflicts you are feeling internally and externally!! Only when I finally got to tell all my friends and colleagues about myself did I finally feel free! - well actually that's a little bit of a lie as I still don't tell people who I don't really know so well of course. Like my dentist for example... at the moment she is bugging me with a story of setting me up with some girls that she knows... she feels that I really do need a woman in my life (God forbid) and that I should have children... (No thanks! Too much bloody work!) didn't anyone think to ask me what I want?! I can't stand these kind of people: the ones who try to organize your life for you! So I am seeing now that I am going to have to tell her that I am gay to avoid any problems...
I wonder if she will continue to treat my teeth as she is a highly religious woman, the kind of person who I know doesn't accept gay people, I can sense it...

Love the coat D! and I bet you look like a princess in it! It's so great to treat ourselves to something new when we aren't feeling so good eh?!
Keep your head held up high my dear friend! and remember that nobody is better than you in this life!
Love and Peace!
Donnie XX

Cloudia said...

Your progress is difficult but so worth it. See how many support the Real You!! I sure do- Aloha

Jules~ said...

I am sorry I am not able to be around to read every post and know all that is going on but......I say you are pretty special just the way you are.
I LOVE the coat too!

Jules~ said...

And by the way, I noticed you have a new profile picture up. Very nice. Smiles and blessings to you.

J said...

I love that raincoat...I wonder if I can get something similar in China...
I hope that you can find a supportive church/12 step group...I find the intolerance and outright bigotry in some parts of the church sad/infuriating/disturbing, and unfortunately it often seems to be a geographical thing.
As a random aside the word verification is very nearly my surname. Weird.

SOUL: said...

did it rain? did you sing?

their only people. unfortunately-- i could write a book on the twelve step (People). hell, the need a twelve step meeting for the twelve steps of how to recover from the 12 steppers who screwed you over with their hypocrisy.

just stick with the ones that you know love you as you are--
cuz you know that room is full of step thumpers-- few are true to who they are-- or what thay SAY.

same thing-- other circumstances happened to us here. obviously. they love you til they don't have the perfect words.
i guess that's what i say--- but then i realize-- nobody has the perfect words--so why go there to look for them.
only to be let down.
don't hunt down the comfort you need-- it will find you.

oh hell, at least i guess it will. i do know that you will be ok.
i don't think i have known anyone with such support from their family--and that is a great start-
time. k. just don't rush things.

hope you're sleepin.
ttyl
goo-byeeeeeeee

Maggie May said...

It is a pity that you felt that you couldn't go but I do understand why.
I am a bit against these meeting where you have to bare your soul to others....... I find something always seems to go wrong after that.

The coat is brilliant!

Keep chugging away. You are who you are, and that is a lovely person who cares for others.

the walking man said...

First off an nod to the old man...*nod* you're alright dude.

Second off Doris, while I am not sure all of my thoughts have coalesced I am wondering if you just need time to settle into this new pattern of thinking about yourself?

You seem to be questioning the judgment of others before you KNOW what the judgment is. You assume that most members of the group will be accusatory or behind the hand whisperers, it may be; but you don't know...you are not allowing them closest to you to prove themselves. Are you a mind reader?

Go back to the group. And then decide if they are deserving of your love and compassion. Don't just think because you think you know what they will think that your own thinking is not skewered in the trepidation of your thoughts. :-}

Yea...you may get hurt, but in the end you may also get healed and then be able to move further away from the was to the will be.

Mental P Mama said...

I think that you and your husband are amazing people. And I wouldn't be so sure about the group. You are in very good company, and I think we humans have a great capacity for love and inclusion. I am holding you in my thoughts.

Akelamalu said...

Love the raincoat it's very springlike!

It's fantastic that you have your husband's support. To thine own self be true - be you. xx

Woman in a Window said...

I think there's never a one door solution. (Not that I need to say that here.) There's a lot of work to come but you know what, you're living it.

Jay said...

Doris - first a *hug*

Then I have to agree with the Walking Man. I do so understand why you felt you couldn't face the group, but, my dear, you have judged them in their absence. It's true that you may be right and some will turn their backs, but you may also be wrong. It is possible that they will all be just fine.

Now, since you're getting yourself all upset about it anyway, what have you got to lose by taking the risk, and going along with your lovely and loyal friend Ashley by your side for support, and opening up?

It could be that you've been right all along - you may have to face the red lights among the green.

But consider this: firstly, you will not have lost anything if you then decide to leave the group after that. Secondly, if there are people showing you the red light, well, that's people for you. You are going to come across this from time to time, just as we ALL do for various reasons. And always remember, it is their problem, not yours!

Yes, you might have to deal with some pain, but - as Walking Man says, you will be able to deal with it and move on.

Having said all that, it will take enormous courage to speak to this group and open up in front of them, and I would not blame you one bit if you couldn't do it.

Thank heavens for your husband. He sounds like a lovely man.

The Things We Carried said...

I am watching your journey as you record it. My mother was a lesbian who took her own life in the late 1970s.

I am fascinated by the fact you and your husband will travel this road together.

There is, of course, no words I can offer, but that I wish my mother would have held on. Held on tightly to whatever hope she had that slipped away so far it could not be retrieved. So I write to you, as I wish someone could have written to her, hold on until you find your way.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Hey D. I have to say I am also with Walking Man and Jay. It is easy to get worked up and argue in our heads before the scene plays out (sadly, I have WAY too much experience in this area). But, you also have to recognize that this is a bit of a defense mechanism. You've basically told them to fuck off before they had the chance to do it to you. Whether they actually would have or not? You aren't putting yourself out there to see. You know I will support anything you decide to do, but slapping before you get slapped only continues the pain and isn't a smooth road to healing. XXOO

Moannie said...

Actually Doris, I was thinking along the lines of the walking man, no knowing who or what the 'twelve steps' were all about I thoght that perhaps you were prejudging them, after all, if they are in a meeting to help that do...what...learn about themselves? then perhaps you shold give them the chance to find out whether they ARE hypocrital bigots. They ould just surprise you and themselves...we all have secrets...bet they have a few whoppers.

Hugs, of course.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I don't know for sure but I would say most of us have an inner and outer character which we hide from people. I certainly do.

And shopping is so good for the soul. It may only be a temporary thing but it can certainly lift your spirits.

CJ xx

RiverPoet said...

I can tell you all something for certain -- I have some wonderful and insightful readers. Now...

MaryM - It's a great coat, isn't it??

Betty Ann - My group may turn out to be more understanding than I gave them credit for. I'm going to give them a chance, and I hope I don't get hurt.

September - I'm shining! :-) And I love my new coat.

Donnie - Oh, I do hope you don't have to find a new dentist! It's so hard for me to find one I trust. People make oodles of assumptions, don't they? Many hugs, my friend ...

Cloudia - And I'm so happy to no longer be censoring myself...

Jules - I haven't been able to read and comment as much as I used to. I have 81 blogs on my reader (and growing). With school, I can't read them all, so I scan. I don't fault my readers for having to do the same.

J - The raincoat is available online, though I don't know if you can get it shipped to China. You could always make arrangements with me to get you one if you really want it!

SOUL - It's very kind of you to say all of that. I believe comfort will find me, too. It may take awhile, but I'm ok with me!

Mark - You are a very wise man. I thank you for saying all of this, and I know it's what I needed to hear. I've had a very bad lifelong habit of putting thoughts into people's head and words into their mouths. It's a very bad thing to do, and I agree with you that I need to give them a chance. Yes, I may get hurt, but yes, I may get healed. Thank you.

MPM - All I can say to that is thank you. Thanks for being here.

Akela - The raincoat practically screamed my name! I had to have it. It helped that it was 30% off!

WinaW - There are so many considerations, especially because in the past I have had one foot out the door and one foot in. It is taking all my courage to start to live out loud.

Jay - I loved that you said, "Now, since you're getting yourself all upset about it anyway, what have you got to lose by taking the risk, and going along with your lovely and loyal friend Ashley by your side for support, and opening up?" You're right. As long as I'm worked up about it anyhow, what have I got to lose? Maybe it will be as anti-climactic as when I came out on this blog. People will just say, "Okay, and?"

Meredith - Oh my God, I am so incredibly sorry for what happened with your mother. (((hugs))) It was so much harder to be gay back then. It was actually classified as a mental illness requiring hospitalization in an asylum! I wish your mother had hung on, too, but honey, I'm not going anywhere.

NATUI - You are absolutely right, and I've decided I'm going to go next week, just for the first hour (because I have a prior commitment I have to get to after that). I'll brace myself, but hopefully it will be for naught.

Moannie - You're right. And as Ashley said to me yesterday, "How do you know someone else isn't dealing with the same thing?" Wow. That one stopped me in my tracks.

Peace - D

Sandi McBride said...

Don't you know that we're all someone else inside of us? We're all trying to please someone else, we seldom please ourselves for fear of being called selfish...I suppose that is what makes us human, that desire to please...I think you've discovered just who you are, you should be proud of that...
hugs to you
Sandi

Daryl said...

Your husband is a terrific man, a good solid friend .. if he's in no hurry, you should maybe consider being roommates ....

And try to stop worrying about others reactions .. the only one that matters is your own. xo

Syd said...

I'm glad for you and that your husband is still your friend. That's a really good thing. What other's think is not a concern of mine. I couldn't change their mind if I wanted. It's up to me to think highly of myself. And that's what I work on.

Deb said...

I feel like I wrote this post myself. I totally relate and sometimes I feel like such an outcast at these meetings and that everyone in there are all fake. But in reality, we're all the same, in the aspects of being in the same position and wanting a better life for us. But it's no different yet in the real world, because people develop opinions and regardless of "a loving group", we are all judged. I'm sorry you're sad. I hope that you're able to sing again. :)
Hang in there!

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

You are an amazing woman. And I know you'll make it.

It always amazes me that most of these counseling/12-step programs are faith-based. Why do they have to be faith-based? Why do we have to look to God to "cure" our ills? Why can't it come from within? Why not train ourselves to take account for our actions? Because if we allow God to cure our depression/alcoholism/chocolate addiction, then can't we also just as easily blame God for our less-attractive actions?

OK. Stepping off the soapbox now. Glad you found the gorgeous raincoat, hon!

Lavinia said...

Hi Riverpoet. I may have missed something...I have to catch up here....separation? divorce? Say it isn't so....