The equinox – a balance of day and night
Summer is dwindling, a few hours left until our globe intersects with the sun and the light of day is in balance with the cloak of night. Do our souls sense this? Or is it just our awareness of the calendar, and knowing that it is just a little darker when we awake. Whatever the case, at last, I have been able to sit and write, and reflect, again.
Although my posts have been less current of late (goodness – 6 weeks!), I think about tidbits and wonderings all the time, and write down ideas – “to be explored”, like the pathways of an unfamiliar garden, rather than my mind, or history, or my city. In fact, I have been able to get out a little more, taking walking tours of neighborhoods that I have only driven through – you discover hidden sides of this city by walking. I do admit, though – it has been difficult to sit down and work on putting thoughts to screen (can’t say paper anymore!) What makes it difficult? Of course, my excuses are easy to reach for, when I remind myself that I want to work on writing – but one overrides all the rest. I am just not sure that I have something meaningful to say.
When I paid WordPress nearly two years ago now, in late 2019, for the name of my blog, storage, and more – we were all in a different place. I certainly was. As I have shared, I had come to the conclusion that it was time to end my career (or, end getting paid for it, at least), after a health crisis and many changes in my personal life. Friends had often said, kindly, that my periodic letters with news via email had meaning for them – and, having spent years trying to work through various issues, coming “out”, finding love, and leaving my southern California life behind to move to San Francisco – I thought, perhaps, there might be some value in sharing my experiences, lessons if you will, with strangers, and friends – that the price I had paid might benefit others to find courage and hope to move beyond, unlike me, before the parade passed by.
Some might be shocked to hear me say that phrase – it’s not that I do not have joy in my life, or that I have not continued to have amazing life experiences in the nearly 10 years since I made a decision to work towards finding a way to be happy in life as I was, instead of swimming in shame over who I wasn’t. I know I am very, very lucky – to be alive; to be loved; to be relatively stable and relatively healthy, especially in this era of constant uncertainty and shifting “truths” that drive our everyday behavior. So it is not that the parade is over – but the band is a little quieter, a little more distant – and I am coming to a kind of peace with accepting that I cannot catch up, nor could I ever have – only try to stay in step, and raise my banner in time.
But recently I was reminded that sometimes there are old boxes in the basements of our memory, dusty and filled with things we don’t need anymore, and they can pop open at the most unexpected times. For me, several came together at once, starting with a film I saw listed last month on Netflix, but have not yet viewed, about various leaders of the “ex gay” movement that was at its strongest in some ways during the years I was pulled into its relentless gravity – looking for freedom, healing, holiness, and all those other tasty promises that were held out by the cheery Willie Wonkas claiming to represent the will of God. I eagerly gobbled their candy, and sang the songs, and shouted my huzzahs and hallelujahs, but still knew only emptiness inside. I had thought after all that I had come through, and come towards, in the past decade, that the feelings associated with that era were vanquished; that I had only happiness to work towards now. So it was shocking to me that in just mentioning the existence of the documentary to a friend – one who, like most in my life, did not share that experience but knew that it had molded – nay, mangled – my heart – I felt a well burst open, of pain, and regret. I spent decades wearing masks, before Covid – those were deeply embedded in my face, so that when I looked in the mirror, even I could not see who I was underneath. And the boxes stayed, not fully forgotten.
I am certain you too have some buried wells, and although I will someday, soon probably, watch that documentary – and learn, and remember, and move on just a little more – it was not time, just now, to air out those old boxes. The geyser of feeling, and pain, had taken me by surprise – I thought I had put all that behind me. As some have told me, trauma never fully heals – but we learn to deal with it, and to balance the future and the gifts of the present against that past. I sometimes feel deep regret that the process for me, which continues, impacts the lives of others who love me but who cannot relate, cannot understand – only in part. This is a wounding of the soul, so deeply, for so long, that is perhaps blessedly only fully known by those of us who swam in that dark pool. My regrets cover me like layers of old blankets, sometimes they weigh a little less, but for whatever reason, I cannot leave them by the side of the road.
But I have been surrounded, carried and comforted by those few angels on earth, others who walked that path and who stand with me when I crumble. Along with the counselors whose words even know come back to me, encouraging me, letting me be in that pain and yet holding open a window to a blue sky that I might not otherwise remember is also ahead. A close friend has commented on some of my posts that they are therapy for me, and she is correct. But I hope somehow by sharing this journey, for which I have no map, and no truly identified endpoint – it lets others find hope too.
Oddly connected in ways that may not make sense to anyone but me, as my husband recently traveled out of state to see dear friends who had moved to a new home, I found myself looking for something to view in his absence – we share many tastes, but not all – and I settled on the Netflix reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House”. Of course, yes, it is a horror series – but under the narrative is a theme of a deeper horror than the whispers of ghosts – it is the seeping poison of secrets, and bitterness, and judgment that drives loved ones apart, leaving us on islands alone instead of together in our imperfections. Watching it, I realized I have my own ghosts – as does my husband, my friends and family – even this city, foggy, has spirits hovering in it, trapped in another time, which we do not see but whose legacies, not out of ill will or threat, still weave into our conscious and unconscious daily life.
I found myself thinking about what I really want to make the priorities of the uncertain amount of time I have left, here or wherever – what really matters. I respect deeply that for many the very notion of faith, or inspiration, or varying belief systems and religious practices, have left scars – and yet I still find comfort in seeing things through a prism of a larger reality beyond my ability to grasp, measure or comprehend. And I realized that the threads of faith which have been woven into so many of our lives, in confusing ways as well as creating little glimmers of hope, remain very much a part of how I process my experience – particularly in this age of bubbling chaos and the winds of rumors and fear that buffet us as we try to stay upright. And I know that even though I lack answers and will readily confess my own perspective does not necessarily hold any value for others – that I need to write about that, here, moving ahead.
Not just that, of course – but it colors my vision. We all have filters over our eyes, whether we are conscious of it – politics, values, memories, culture, stresses and wounds that over the years can fog our perceptions, closing our hearts and our intellects. I know for all that I think about love and forgiveness and hope, any words that I write could be easily held up against my daily actions toward others – those dusty boxes in my basement have voices of their own that I have listened to, silently, for over 60 years.
I also want to write about my family history – having the documents, photos, diaries and paraphernalia of so many ancestors piled into boxes and files – they have spoken to me over the years, like the other ghosts. Their lessons, their sacrifices and joys – they are like little tarnished forgotten jewels that only I can shine, polish, clean and present to those who will walk on after I am gone. If I do not take the time, no one will – and those images and voices will be gone forever. And I want to write about the little slices of life that we walk through, my husband and I, gradually getting out a little more, like so many others – realizing that what we did before COVID may not be how we really want to use our time and energy as we gingerly step out and gather. For many in my life, some of those may not have meaning at all – but I want to write about my new experiences and explorations, nevertheless. I am blessed to know wonderful people of all walks of life, many who have no connection to LGBTQ history or culture – some may not like all they see, or read – but where I see beauty and hope, I want to share it, even if for some it seems a contradiction.
And then there is the learning curve of technology, speeding past our ability to keep up. I am frustrated, intimidated and flummoxed by my lack of technical understanding of WordPress, how to lay things out, how to index and make them “discoverable”. When I began, I just thought posting and using keywords would be “enough” – now, I realize anyone visiting would have to randomly scan through to find anything of interest – and why, with billions of words being generated around the world daily on blogs and websites, would anyone take the time to do that? So, another goal will be to restructure this website – to make it easier to find similar posts. Will that be easy? Uh, no – but, just like exercise, that which is hard is usually that which is most worth doing. If I don’t take the time to learn how to use the tools, I cannot expect my work to be as potentially impactful – circling back to my uncertainty that the time and effort I put into writing these occasional posts has the appropriate “cost/benefit” relationship. “Partitioning” the nearly 40 previous posts; exploring the guts of WP mechanics; and refocusing what “The New NormL” is about – moving ahead – is a priority as fall begins to creep forth and the sun drops below the horizon a little earlier each evening.
So, in that moment coming soon, when the sun and earth balance the hours of night and the hours of day, we too try to find our balance. Think about it- for half the planet, spring is approaching – for “our” half, fall. But we all move on in our cycles, and my journey also continues toward authenticity – to fullness; healing; frustrations occasionally, but hope bouncing back eventually, round after round. My season is changing, and something new, and wonderful, is waiting to be discovered, shared, and celebrated. Here in San Francisco, most faces still remain under masks much of time, but the process of peeling those layers of old masks from my heart takes more than just permission from authorities. I have no idea how far the road stretches ahead but staying put is not an option. Yes, we still face many threats – political, social, health; economic, interpersonal, and weaving through all that, however you may put it – spiritual. That which is bigger than “us” or “me”, the mysterious stuff of time and timelessness, the longings of a deeper part of my being and, I dare say, yours as well – albeit on a different path.
I find myself frequently turning to music as a touchstone to my feelings and my longings. Today, the song that comes to mind was written by Hoagy Carmichael, whose work is remembered perhaps more than his name, but you can learn about him here. I think I first heard this reverie as the opening credits song for a film which was about memory, and longing – love, and joy, and forgiveness, and hope; all the things my heart is drawn to as I walk along my path, with time slowing my pace. The movie was “My Favorite Year”, with Peter O’Toole, and it retains its charm 40 years later. I guess in a way, even at my advanced age, I relate to the character of the young writer – a fictional blending of the experiences of writers like Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen, on 50’s variety television – working through life’s dreams and illusions to find the deeper, and more meaningful, reality at the heart, what we long to hold and to know. Perhaps my deeper discoveries lie ahead – I will do my best to share them with those few who find their way here. Until next time – stay safe as “the purple dusk of twilightime … steals across the meadows of your heart.”