The Little Death

Litany Against Fear


There is real death, and then there is what I think of as, the little death. When I use this term I do not mean what people describe as, la petite more, a term that is tied to the feelings at the point of orgasm. I always think of, the little death, as it was described in the book Dune, by Frank Herbert.  He writes in the Litany Against Fear: “I have no fear, for fear is the little death that kills me over and over. Without fear, I die but once.” 

The full litany is as follows: 

“I must not fear. 
Fear is the mind-killer. 
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

I married my wife twenty three years ago with a love in my heart for her and the hope that I could create the kind of life I had longed for.  But as I look back now, I knew from the beginning that there was a deep, overpowering physical attraction to her that was missing. I enjoyed sex with her but only up to a point. In the beginning of our marriage I felt we had a physical intimacy, but it quickly faded in the following years.  In that first year of marriage it became clear to me that my attraction to men, which I had felt was behind me, (for more on this topic see my earlier posts), was just as strong as ever. 

As the years went on I began to feel increasingly like I was dying, not physically but emotionally. I was in this picture perfect marriage with a wonderful woman.  But secretly I kept a hidden box, containing my gay self, held together by sheer force of will. Being gay is NOT only about who I have sex with, it is something much deeper and organic.  Being gay is who I am, and who I was died a little more every day I stayed in my marriage. What was the physical and emotional cost of those years?

As I approached my 50th birthday with worsening BPH, (enlarged prostate making it difficult to pee), I also began to have difficulty reaching orgasm, and when I finally did reach orgasm, felt decreasing pleasure. I wondered if these physical problems were the cost of holding who I was, under tremendous pressure, in a small confined internal box. Was this the physical death that accompanied the emotional death I increasingly felt?  

I sometimes used the term, little death, to describe to myself what was happening to me.  The place I clearly saw this death at the time was because I felt increasingly numb, isolated, lonely, depressed, burrowing ever deeper inside myself.  Between my suburban married life and what I saw as the world of out, gay men, was a chasm of fear, deeper and wider than I thought I could cross.  But as a certain point, as “total obliteration” neared, there was no other path for me but to come out.  When I made up my mind to come out, I determined to come out fully, guns a blazing.  Not just dip my toe in the water but make up for all the lost years as quickly as I could. I am not talking about sex here, but rather the full exploration of gay life, gay culture and being out in all parts of my life. 

For a long time I have not wanted to consider that the physical issues I have described about my sexual functioning were caused by my emotional state.  I have had diabetes since my mid thirties.  When I have gone to doctors about these physical issues and they see I have diabetes, they quickly say, “Well of course, this must be diabetes related.  I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do.”  No tests.  No analysis.  Just conclusions. 

Today I go for my first Accupunture session to specifically see if Accupunture can help these physical problems tided to bound up emotional energy.  We shall see.  In three weeks I begin divorce mediation.  As the mediation gets closer, these issues come more into focus.  I think of the Litany Against Fear and say, I will face my fear head on, walk through it, and then look back and see it for what it really was.





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