Lately, I have been writing a memoir. I don’t know if this is something I will ever publish but it has been a fun exercise. In writing about my life from an early age, I am also seeing more clearly the effect and damage years of being in the closet has had on my life.
When I write here about being in the closet, I do not mean just from the time I discovered my attraction to men. I also mean from a very early age of feeling different.
As a child, from a very early age, I felt I was different than the other boys. My difference had me feeling that I did not measure up to other boys, was not as good as they were, could not compete in sports, or horsing around like they could. Inside I felt less than they were. From a very young age, I felt like I was different, and that feeling was exacerbated when I was sent to an all-boys sports driven private school from third to sixth grade.
The differences I felt as a child, I have learned, were the hallmarks of a gay child. As I child I did not know that who I was made me different than the other boys and I tried to hide my difference. I kept quiet for fear the difference would come out. I was overweight and was ashamed that I was fat and flabby. I could not play sports and was constantly reminded in the all boys sports driven school how much of a misfit I was.
I have begun to see that from an early age I flattened and hid my emotions. I did not want the other boys to see how hurt I was as I stood outside their social circle, unable to enter the conversation or even talk with them. I ignored the sporty boys just as they ignored me. This took an even more dramatic turn as I discovered my attraction to men at age fourteen and had some really big things to hide. For years, beginning in my teenage years, the battle raged between who I was and who I wanted to be.
I did not see a way, beginning in the early 1970s, to have the person I felt inside be integrated with the person I presented on the outside. I locked down my sisssyness. I locked down my feminine mannerisms. I held my emotions in check, working hard to keep them from swirling out of control. I was scared by the constant anxiety and inner turmoil I felt as a teenager and in my twenties, afraid it would overtake me.
I am seeing that from childhood on the constant effort I made to make sure that the gay was not showing, even before I knew what the gay was, took its toll. It became harder to have big emotions. I flattened my feelings and damaged that capacity to feel great highs and lows. I worked to be steady, even keel.
In business I was known for my even temper and steady demenor. When crisis hit I was at my calmest, steadied by the turmoil swirling around me. As an IT professional my steadiness and calmness were positive qualities to have, but as a human being they were deadening.
So I wonder at this point of self discovery, how does one go about having big emotions again? How, after years of keeping the lid on things, do I let lose a little? How does one shake the tree of emotions to begin to feel more?