Coming Out Later in Life - Letting Go of Fear - Becoming Unstuck
In my last post I talked about the inertia that comes over us when we get stuck in the in-between, or for some of us, Gethsemane. It is so very hard to create a new life when we are clinging to an old one. My most difficult time of transition was when I came out. Transition times are arduous for anyone. What do you do when you are feeling lost, scared, grieving or stuck?
I recently read a great book called Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes. It is subtitled Seven Blessing for Soulful Skeptics (And Other Wanderers) and written through a progressive Christian perspective. In this book the author write about the gifts received during dark times in our life. I do not consider my coming out as dark by any stretch of the imagination. However the slow accepting and acknowledging period leading up to the coming out stage I do consider questioning, confusing, and fear filled, or perhaps in other words, dark. I read this book right after the dark night of the soul was fading and I was beginning to feel authentic and whole. It provided an opportunity to reflect on everything I experienced with a different lenses and I found it helpful. As I move into the future I hope to use these lessons to help care for others in transition and perhaps it can help you.
Reconnect with all your dreams
What is your soul longing for?
When we feel lost it means that we are a crossroads in life, an expected or unexpected turn in our journey. Sometimes it is very challenging for us not to get stuck in that crossroad, often we need to remind ourselves that other possibilities, even transformation, can lie ahead. There are signs or guideposts that we can use to get out of this “stuckness”. I call this the working of the Spirit. Others describe it as the power of the universe or simply serendipity.
I found these in an online article "Seven Tips to Find Yourself When You are Feeling Lost" and added my own experiences and insights.
What do you love to do? If you have the energy, try to go and do what you love. Why? Doing something that brings you contentment or peace or happiness will help you to be receptive to new insight. I know this is a challenging one, when I was initially at my crossroads I could summon up little energy to do anythings besides my routine duties. So I decided to do just one thing. I am a spiritual person, church and yoga have brought comfort to me. I upped my church attendance (I already attended a gay friendly church), sometimes I literally had to drag myself there, it helped doing the roughest time of my journey. Oftentimes the message for the day would be exactly what I needed to hear. I did the same with my yoga classes, sometimes all I could do was gentle yoga or lie on the mat, but I least I was doing something I loved.
Go on an adventure - a day trip or going somewhere unexplored near you, a retreat, or travel to another place in the world will change your perspective and perhaps give you insight. My kayaking trips with my then girlfriend (and now partner) gave me glimpses of what my future could possibly hold.
Reconnect with all your dreams. What is your soul aching for? My soul ached for a holistic connection with a woman, a relationship that was emotional, physical and spiritual This I can say with hindsight, but in the dark night I was unable to name it in this way. I realized it when I found Hope, or more precisely, Hope found me. Read the next installment of my coming out story to see what I am talking about. Another dream was to write to share my story and use the wisdom I had accumulated in 54 years of living and working as a minister in hospitals and hospices. I was blessed with a tumultuous, twisty curvy, wonderful, breath-taking journey through life. It has taught me so much and starting this blog is the first step in achieving my writing dream.
Expand out of your comfort zone. It you are in the midst of coming out later in life it is vital that you find your tribe. What do I mean? LGBTQ people who understand what you are going though because they have come out themselves and they get it. Nowadays we can do this virtually online and that can be a life saver in the beginning. But as you grow more comfortable claiming who you are - go and find honest-to-god real people. Attend a LGBTQ meet up or a lesbian retreat or go to a gay bar or go to a LGBTQ church. My first step in expanding my in-person tribe was to go to a Metropolitan Community Church. This church was to far from my home to attend regularly, but it was an important first step for me. I went there identifying as a lesbian woman and was welcomed with open arms. One quick caveat to finding your tribe - a few queer people can be distrustful of those coming out later in life, for some good, and not-so-good reasons. If a member of the LGBTQ community says judgmental or demoralizing things to you or questions your later coming out story - MOVE ON - there are so many gay people who will be supportive of you.
Pay attention to signs, messages or guideposts. I realize that some people simply do not believe in signs. I have a story. When I was deciding to move to Nashville to live with my partner, people would mention this city, without my prompting, almost every day to me. Really. I also was working in hospice and I had a patient that was barely able to converse. I was visiting her for several months and I properly wanted to say good-bye. I told her that I was moving as the reason for my leaving and for the farewell. She asked me where I was moving? I was surprised that she could do this because she was so weak. I said, “To Nashville, TN.” She said - “I lived in Tennessee when I was a young married woman and I set up a library near Nashville. I absolutely loved Tennessee and so will you!. I always regretted moving away from there.” Did I mention she was the absolutely last hospice patient I saw in my seven year career in Connecticut. Sign? For me it was. My decision was already made to move, but this encounter gave me positive vibes and affirmation that it was the CORRECT decision.
Cultivate gratitude for all the experiences or people that are easy or helpful in your life. The best way to start is to admire the beauty around you. Every time you see something that is beautiful take the time to make a conscious note of and say a little prayer of gratefulness. “I am so lucky to have seen this beautiful______________ thank you for this opportunity.”
This should be a no brainer, but ask for help. Many of us loathe to ask for a help, it is part of American culture. This is a challenging life changing experience and we all need someone to listen. I would recommend a professional. Try to find a LGBTQ therapist or at the very least an LGBTQ ally. A good therapist is there to support you wherever you are on the journey. If you do not click with this therapist or they appear to have any trace of homophobia, find another, there are a lot of them out there. If you cannot afford a therapist, look for a LGBTQ center or community counseling center in your area and they may have free recommendations or support groups. Talking to old friends about coming out can be very tricky, because some people are supportive and others are not. How would I define supportive? If you tell a friend your gay (or soon to be friend) and they sincerely say to you, “Congratulations! I am so excited and happy for you! I am proud of you for coming out!” This wonderful person has given you a “full-embrace.” They are most likely will be safe and supportive of your journey. Beware of the “half-embrace” friend. That is the friend that will be weakly supportive or confused or dismissive and they immediately ask about your children or husband or parents, but they actually don’t ask about you at all. For now, and they may come around, do not seek help or listening from them.
Becoming unstuck sometimes takes a little work and small steps of bravery, but the reward outweighs the risks involved. Keep going courageous women, you got this! If you have any more suggestions to become "unstuck" please let me know and I will add them to this list.