Love deserves to be celebrated in all its glorious manifestations.
My aunt, who came out as a lesbian in her forties, was over this weekend and she shared with me the story of my grandfather’s sister who lived with a woman but whom no one ever openly admitted was a lesbian. My great aunt’s sexuality was whispered about but never openly acknowledged. We talked about how times have changed and how the struggles my great aunt must have faced were most likely far more isolating and dangerous than the circumstances we experience.
It took me until my forties to openly identify as bisexual. I’ve always suspected I was attracted to both men and women (and when I’m totally honest and not scared to death of how people will treat me, I even admit the fact that I actually identify as pansexual) but identifying my sexuality has been strange for me because I’m in a happy monogamous heterosexual marriage. It’s obviously not the same kind of experience as it would have been had I been able to identify myself when I was younger but in the last few years it still feels important to me to communicate who I really am.
When I shared my sexual identity with my parents, my mom asked if I ever felt like I was missing out or if talking about my sexuality meant I had a secret longing to be in a relationship with a woman. I explained to her that for me it doesn’t. I LOVE my husband. I mean Love followed by a great big fat exclamation mark. We’ve shared years of memories, support, laughter and best friend magic. We have an amazing relationship! We really do. I feel so blessed to have him in my life. He is everything to me. I would fall into a deflated heap of grief the moment our relationship was not as close as it is now. I’m very happy and have no desire to be in relationship with anyone else but at the same time, it has felt so very important to locate myself. It feels important to define who I am. Not for anyone else. Just for me.
I spent most of my life lost and confused. I was so disconnected from my own feelings and emotional needs. I was so disconnected from my own opinions, preferences and desires. I remember asking my friends, even well into my thirties, “Do you think of women this way?” or “Do you think of men with makeup this way?” It was as if I was looking for permission. I was asking them if I was queer instead of asking myself and of course I never received an answer because it’s not a question anyone can answer but me.
For most of my life, I was stuck in a reality where I couldn’t express who I really was unless someone else related to what I was thinking or feeling. If they didn’t relate, then I shrugged my inner experience off and dismissed my own thoughts and feelings. It had heartbreaking consequences. I didn’t follow my own path in life. I lost opportunities to experience things I’ll never get back. I wore a mask and became a stranger to myself and existed in relationships and friendships that didn’t really align with my true values or needs.
A few years ago, I began to heal on a profound level. I was learning to care for my own emotional needs and the more I cared for my own needs, the more unhealthy relationships and habits in my life fell away. I endured a tremendous amount of grief. Shedding my old self wasn’t easy. I read once, that a caterpillar, before becoming a butterfly, actually transforms into a gooey liquid substance. That struck me as symbolic of what it feels like to transform and grow sometimes. I lose all semblance of my old reality and become a sticky goey mess inside. It hurts and I cry and feel broken but slowly, over time, my new self emerges and it feels so much closer to who I really am. The breaking down period of my life turned me into a sobbing mess of goo but ultimately, it led to a rebirth and who I see myself as now feels much more aligned with my Spirit. Living in a way that reflects my true Spirit is terrifying but also so damn liberating.
In the same year that I openly shared my true feelings around my sexuality, I also allowed my identity as a witch to be seen. I wore my cloak in public. I used the word witch to describe my spirituality and I even started using the word witch in my professional life.
Revealing my true self still leaves me feeling exposed and vulnerable. I sometimes want to crawl back in a hole and pretend I’m someone I’m not. I worry I’m not strong enough to handle rejection. I worry people will be insensitive and unkind. I worry my husband will leave me if I reveal too much. I worry people will talk behind my back. I worry I’ll embarrass my kid. I worry people will avoid me. I worry I’ll lose friends. I worry I’ll end up ostracized. And deep down, I worry I will be threatened or physically hurt or that everyone will turn against me and I will be attacked and hated for who I am. But I’ve lived the alternative and it’s not easy either. The alternative feels like hiding and being fake. It feels like tension and trying to fit my Spirit into a shape that slowly chokes my inner light. I did it for years. No one asked me to but I did it and it was so unhealthy.
I have another aunt who was one of my favorite aunts when I was a child. She committed suicide when I was a teenager and I think of her often. There were obviously complicated factors that led to her death but those who knew her well knew part of the factors contributing to her unhappiness was that she was living a life she didn’t want to because she was afraid to disappoint or hurt the people she loved. She couldn’t give herself permission to be her true self. I love her deeply but I don’t want to repeat that story so I find myself here, in my forties using words to identify myself that I was far too afraid to use in my twenties and thirties and allowing myself to be seen in ways that leave me feeling exposed and vulnerable. It may lead to people judging or rejecting me but at least I know I won’t be judging or rejecting myself and that feels more important to me. After all, there is no one I spend more time with than me. It’s been a lot more fun hanging out in my own mind now that I’ve learned to love myself no matter who I discover myself to be.
Valentine’s Day is coming up and I want to celebrate all the kinds of love that exist. In our mainstream culture, love tends to be represented in one way. My internal world of preferences and sexuality may exist outside of heteronormative norms but I’m also very aware that my external reality does not. I am a cisgender woman married to a cisgender man. My Valentine fits into mainstream culture’s idea of love. This is not the case for everyone. I’ll never have to face the fear of wondering whether or not it’s safe to hold my lover’s hand. There are a thousand issues I won’t have to deal with that my aunt will. I will never experience the same challenges as her because she is in a committed relationship with another woman but I want to be here to support her and the brave lovers like her nonetheless.
Our bodies, our nervous systems and our mental health can endure only so much before they become overwhelmed. If you identify as anything other than heterosexual and need a little mental or emotional relief this month for any reason, big or small, and you resonate with my work and my approach, I welcome you to book an introductory Intuitive Therapy session at a reduced rate (50% of my regular fee). Simply visit this link and use the code ‘loveislove‘ upon checkout. We can connect to the Spirit Guides and angels and see how they can support you or I can give you a MAP session and remove any subconscious blocks that may be causing unneeded anxiety or self-sabotaging behaviors that are working against your personal or professional goals. It’s not much but perhaps it’ll relieve more than we both anticipate (working with Spirit tends to do that).