Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Joy, sorrow and wonderful normalcy

I had dinner last night with Uncle D. He asked me how I was doing. My answer: "My life is wonderful, and my life sucks."

First, the sucks.

KK and the girls went to Utah in early August. They planned to stay for the month, then return to New Jersey so the girls--all three of them--could start school. E is in second grade this year. L starts Pre-K. And KK was to start her second semester of graduate school studies in social work. I was also going to establish my own residence rather than continuing to live in the attic and in the city with friends as I had been doing for the past few months.

But if I've learned nothing over the past year of my life, I've learned that things change. Life happens. And after spending a week or so in Salt Lake, KK made an important decision. She looked at her situation, considered her need to start over and the emotional support that a new beginning requires, and told me that she thought it might be better for her to stay in Utah and start the next phase of her life there. I was devastated. I imagine I feel very much the way KK felt last fall when I first came out to her and then told her I wanted to end our marriage. She didn't want that, but she accepted it and supported me as I emerged from the closet and began living as an openly gay man. And now she has made a decision that I don't really want, but which I accept because I love her and support her and trust that she is making the best decision for herself, which is ultimately best for our children and our family.

As I have struggled to accept this new reality over the past couple of weeks, I have battled feelings of guilt. The guilt exists on at least two levels. I feel guilty about starting the chain of events that has led us to this point of separation. And I feel guilty that my children will have to grow up in a way that, at least on the surface, looks like the way I grew up--divorced parents living in different states. I am still dealing with the fallout from that experience and at times it is unbearable to think that my children will have to deal with that as well. In my good moments, I am able to remind myself that I am not my father and Keri is not my mother and we do not feel the mutual animosity and ill will that my parents felt. In my bad moments, Keri is able to remind me of this.

Is this ideal? No. But it is our reality. And Keri and I have decided that we need not let the ideal be an enemy of the good. We'll make the best of it. And I am looking forward to this weekend, which I will spend in Salt Lake with Keri and the girls. I miss them. All three of them.

Second, the wonderful.

I feel more myself and more comfortable with the life I am living than I ever have before. I don't feel gay--and I certainly don't feel straight!--I simply feel... normal. Who knew that normal could feel so good?

In the midst of this wonderful normalcy, I have met someone. I have been reluctant to talk about him on my blog because the relationship is still new and I'm not always sure how to "come out" to people about it. I also don't want to expose this relationship to scorn and judgment from people who disapprove for whatever reason. But he is a source of joy for me, and I want to acknowledge that here where I have written so much about my changing life.

He has a Mormon background, so he understands that part of my experience. He is kind, caring, compassionate, funny, smart and terribly good looking. He shares my values and is respectful of my family and our unusual and evolving family structure. In short, he has become an important part of my life and I feel blessed to have him.

As my friend Leonard once wrote to me, life is wonderful even when it sucks.

15 comments:

santorio said...

though your new relationship adds a quantum leap of complexity, how much have you considered moving to utah just to be with your kids? i know the s-word is going to come up again [sacrifice] but a better word might be follow-through--finish what you've started from a parenting perspective.

Chris said...

santorio,

I don't want to get into a detailed discussion of what I have and have not considered doing to stay in close physical proximity to my children. Suffice it to stay that right now I'm doing everything I can short of moving there myself. And an eventual move is certainly not out of the question.

Let me also say this--I have every intention of "finishing" what I've started. The distance that I now find between my children and myself does not in any way relieve me of my parental responsibilities or my desire to be a meaningful presence in my children's lives.

Ian said...

How apt and wise your comment about "normal" is. Six years after coming out I can say I'm no longer just wishing I could simply "be" instead of thinking about it all the time. I now am. I'm not an identity, I'm me.

And a side benefit is my relationship with my kids. I know I'm easier to be around. They tell me. I'm happy and they can tell. And I believe they know that when I tell them how much I love them, I'm not acting, because I stopped acting a while ago.

Kids aren't dumb. They understand that there are things that can be more important than proximity. And at least with mine, the older they got the more they saw that sacrifice is often just a horrible self justification that gets held over their heads - sacrifice is too often all about you, not them. So congratulations on your moves. To my mind the best thing you can give a kid is a houseful of love, no matter where it is or who it is with.

Chris said...

Thanks, Ian. I have said before that I feel like I'm a much better, more emotionally available father since coming out. That benefits not only my children, but their mother, my partner in parenting, as well. And my older daughter, who will be 8 this fall, frequently tells me that she's happy that I feel like I can be myself, and she often asks me about my new boyfriend. (Perhaps I'll write a post about telling her about him--it was a precious moment.)

I wish I wasn't so far away from them, but they know I love them--because I tell them several times every day and am making an effort to stay involved. Last night I was on the phone with my older daughter for 45 minutes while she read two Encyclopedia Brown stories to me. I can't remember when I last sat with her for that long and listened to her read.

Can't wait to see them this weekend.

Mike Kessler said...

Life goes on, the world continues to turn, and we keep moving forward. Two items of advice: First, airfares from the East Coast to SLC are relatively cheap and plentiful, so it's easy to visit often. Second, Buckley is far closer to his daughter now that he's come out than before. With the veil of secrecy lifted, he's much happier, and she's happier that he's happier. I think they talk and laugh more now than they did before.

One funny anecdote: Buckley and I were visiting his daughter and her mother one day a few years ago. When his daughter asked for an opinion on something, she got one from her mom, one from her dad and one from me. She said in exasperation, "Oh, great, now I have three parents!" But she still often calls me or writes to me to ask for my opinion or to chat, and we get along great. I feel like a father once-removed, but a proud father just the same.

santorio said...

having chosen a profession that frequently takes me out of town or least away from home days and nights, i am hardly in the position to cast aspersions on anyone's parenting style. but maybe it's just that choice that allows me to speak from experience. I have also experienced depression from time to time and know that i am not a particularly good father [or husband] when depressed. being gay and wanting to be a parent will always be difficult. the 'glass half full' side of it is that being aware of it is better than the dad who denies that professional or lifestyle choices are diminishing his role as a father.

Uncle D. said...

One thing I can certainly say: today, I'm tired of all the tirades, gay, straight, Mormon, non-Mormon, in, out — I'd just like to live my life, please. I'd like to go to Church for once and not think about the *issues* surrounding me, because I'm tired of thinking about them. Who's going to love me? Who's going to chastize me for sinning? I feel like I'm fighting a war, every day (now it's on the blogs) and I need to breathe a little bit and just live.

Your term "wonderful normalcy" is exactly right, and in my case, it seems as far away as ever.

Mike Kessler said...

Yes, D., "wonderful normalcy" is so right. Living without having a qualifier in front of your name. Chris, I know things are tough sometimes, but that's how life is anyway, no matter who or what you are. The greatest joy may be finding the wonderful normalcy of just being.

Chris said...

Mike: Chris, I know things are tough sometimes, but that's how life is anyway, no matter who or what you are.

I've been waiting for someone to say this. Very true.

cate said...

Chris, I am so sorry (for all of you) that you have to be so far apart physically. However, I am glad that you see that being emotionally more available is perhaps even more important. For some reason, I feel the need to thank you for being so supportive of her decision. That may have been one of the most difficult, heartbreaking decisions of her life so far and your support is a true sign of your love. She and the girls are lucky to have you!

A Troll At Sea said...

WeatherMan:

I am so glad that you have found someone. It makes me feel that there is hope, and every bit of hope helps me put one foot in front of the other.

Which sometimes seems hard.

T@C

Elbow said...

I am so proud of you. Things are hard and things are progressing, but you are still you and learning how to be the best that you can.

I know with out a doubt that you will make this work. You are going to be the best dad ever, and your kids will respect what you are doing becaue you are honest and caring, and most importantly...you are YOU!

Thanks for sharing. The distance sounds hard, but emotional distance...which is definately not an aspect now, would be even harder.

greenfrog said...

chris,

Your post reminds me of experiences that have come when I was in a strange kind of twist, seeking to conform myself to what I thought I ought.

At the time, it seemed to me that I wasn't twisting myself, but rather simply maintaining equilibrium. It took a long time for me to realize that perhaps the contortion was me and mine. And it took longer for me to conclude that I had the ability to release it. Being bone-headed, it took even longer for me to let go of it (when I could hold it no longer).

It was then that I realized how much peace there was in "wonderful normalcy."

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finding normalcy. Good luck with everything and thanks for sharing. Your wife sounds like a great person. I'm sure, with the two of you as parents, your girls will be fine.

MadHopkins said...

Congratulations on finding normalcy. What a wonderful discovery!

Good luck with everything.