i don’t know how it is for other bloggers coming up with posts. being new to all this, i guess i planned to treat it like any other “project”…organize it, come up with a list (I love lists!)…and start writing about each topic down the list.
for the last few days, i’ve been trying to decide which “item” on my list to write about next.
- my background?
- my religious upbringing?
- coming out?
- why do people want more Cowbell?
which would Jarred want to hear first? and of course this thot has ever been on the back of my mind: “what if I get tired of this.” hm.
but I’m discovering some advice Grace gave me after i finally let her convince me to take this plunge:
“just be yourself” and “let it happen.”
and as usual, she’s right.
ok so yesterday, i get a comment from someone whom i love as i would a daughter (if i had one). she wrote,
I miss you todd… the old you
the “old Todd.” wow. there’s a thought.
the old Todd. [shudder.]
and a post was born.
what strikes me most here is that to my knowledge, this dear young woman—who I know still cares for me greatly—hasn’t taken time to get to know the “new Todd.” the fact that I am gay and sleep with a man are not the only hallmarks of “new Todd” (just as “being gay” does not constitute the whole of my identity) and gee, there’s actually a lotta “old Todd” here too. (ok, ok good and bad 🙂 )
i think i know what she means, though. she, like many people in my life had a front-seat view and was an active participant in my life as she grew up. gosh there were some good times back then—even through all the hard times! and when she left for college and her “new life,” i missed her but always wished her well in whatever direction she was going, confident she would be true to herself and her dreams.
i guess, though, she, like many, never really asked herself if during all those years whether i was being true to my self. [unbeknownst to everyone, i certainly never had been!] beyond the anger and bitterness associated with abandoning Grace (which was really about me asking her to let me go to save my life not me just picking up one day and leaving her…but the whole thing just came out sideways in the worst possible way), the reactions i got included,
- “he is lost…”
- “…you’re welcome back here among us when you realize the error of your ways…”
- “…feels like a member of our family has died…”
- “…hope you don’t get AIDS…”
and my personal favorite,
- “there’s nothing sadder than an old gay.”
and pretty much overnight, the body of people I spent 95% of my time with outside of my family (who to their great credit stood by me through an awful lot) buried “old Todd.”
[gosh, there’s a whole post here about the isolation i have felt and losing my faith in religion…which is not such a bad thing…and how i feel like my particular religious upbringing indoctrinated me with the idea that to care for someone’s soul is to focus on their outward actions as proof of their faith/obedience/happiness instead of learning their hearts and loving them as they are along their journey.]
to my young friend’s credit, she has made effort where i have not to remain in touch— letting me know she graduated; that she found a great job as a teacher, a vocation I’ve always known she would excel at; and letting me know that she met the fortunate man she’s going to spend her life with—despite the pain and confusion it obviously still causes her.
it’s poignant how few, save one or two, have ever acted interested in the pain of the “old Todd” or even inquired of the “new Todd.”
[gosh, there’s a post here about the five men to whom, with great trepidation i would of my own volition finally confess my struggle with “same-sex attraction disorder” (the nice, clean name my therapist gave it), looking for support from them, and how once i “gave up the fight”, i’ve never again heard from four of them and only from the fifth during one day-long email dialogue.]
beyond Grace, there have been a few rare exceptions.
- the friend who immediately upon hearing what was happening texted me saying, “duh, you are the same person” and would later reassure me, “you can lean on us. we are a soft place to fall when everywhere else gets weird. we love you regardless of who you were trying to be, who you are, and who you are becoming….this is about being who God created, regardless if it does not fit in [the churches’] mold of perfection … a few of us loved you even when you wouldn’t.”
- one college-aged young man—whom I, as a youth leader, have had the pleasure of watching grow up and had a front seat as he tried to “find the calling of his heart”—was, like many, shocked and confused by my decision to come out; to his credit, though, he did take the time to not make it about “him” and sit down with me and ask me about my journey. to try, as hard as he possibly could, to wrap his mind around my choice. to ultimately remind me that even though he didn’t understand (or even really agree), that he loved me and prayed for me. And to frame his words with authenticity. [Oh and he is 19.]
- the loyal friend of 18 years who, despite some very real pains of “loss” as a consequence of the way my life has changed, has taken very deliberate steps to preserve our friendship, to try and keep a dialogue with my children (when the rest of the church completely abandoned them, yet another post), to even sit down and get to know my husband, assert a kind of love I imagine Jesus having.
but these few—and i am not exaggerating their infrequency—are the exceptions. most people who knew the “old Todd” have, from my perspective, chosen to act as though he is in a grave somewhere (literally and certainly spiritually). to act as though the new one—who is still in the same community, who dresses the same, who shops alongside them at the same wal-mart (I hate that place), who volunteers at the same school functions—does not exist. (yes, i know this is more about them than it is me…) i dunno. maybe they can’t let the memory of “how wonderful” the “old Todd” was (as imperfect as he was) in order to try and even begin to understand who the “new Todd” is (as imperfect as he remains).
but again: the “old Todd?” Ew.
i mean…sometimes, sure, i long for days gone by.
- do I wish my first wife had never left me and my sons? sure.
- do I miss the wonderful Christmases and gatherings in the old crooked house with Grace and our 4 kids? absolutely.
- do I miss some of the friends and relationships and sunday taco bueno and the princess and egg rolls and musicals and retreats? without a doubt.
“the old Todd” … not for a second!
i don’t want that life again, under those pretenses, with those requirements and expectations, with few willing to befriend my authentic self. me pretending to be who I wasn’t in order to be accepted only IF I WAS A CERTAIN WAY is a place I never want to visit again.
to be sure, i had to lose a lot to get where i am. but…what did I really lose? i guess that’s what I’m processing.
i know unequivocally that God loves me and that i don’t have to do “things” to receive his acceptance–or anyone else’s for that matter! i have a deeper, more honest relationship with Grace than I ever had while we were married. i model authenticity to my sons instead of wearing a mask of faux self-acceptance. i have a relationship with someone that beautifully suits my natural affections. i have received far greater acceptance and compassion from people outside “The (capital T) Church” than i had ever judged possible which has humbled me. and dangitt—for the first period in my life, i kinda like me!
the “old Todd” indeed!
and i think if people really knew me…if they really knew my heart, they wouldn’t begrudge me for being “a better Todd.” a “happier Todd.” a “healthier Todd.”
a Todd with a more genuine purpose.
and crap. a buttload of posts to write now.