What does it mean to leave the place you’ve lived longer than anywhere else?
It means you’re leaving HOME.
But . . .
What does it mean to move back to the place where your parents and sister live, where you went to high school?
It means you’re returning HOME.
I’m a Brat (Military, That Is)
My father served in the Army for two decades. We moved every few years, from Pueblo, Colorado => Augusta, Georgia => a Marshall Island in the Pacific => Glendale, Arizona => Salt Lake City => Baumholder and Fulda in Germany => Manhattan, Kansas => Las Vegas.
As an adult, I couldn’t shake the moving bug. I attended college in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and then moved to Boulder to Denver and back to Boulder again where I met Mike. We moved to Denver together, and then San Luis Obispo and Santa Margarita in California. Then off we went to Cerro, New Mexico, and most recently to Paonia, where we’ve lived for the past eight years.
I have never lived anywhere for eight years! So of course Paonia feels like home. I was born in Pueblo, and always had an affinity for Colorado. When Mike and I left New Mexico and came back to Colorado, it truly felt like coming home. I thought I’d be here forever . . . .
But life is funny.
Healing the Past
As my parents age, I find myself wanting to spend more time with them, helping out if they need. But I won’t be able to do that if I can’t be myself around them. I want to stop living the double life of the “real me” with friends and the “watered-down version of me” for my religious folks. (If you’ve seen my show, you know what I’m talking about.)
It’s an experiment. They may decide to disown me when I come clean as a godless humanist. They may get angry when I tell them what I’ve actually been up to the last few years — touring a comedy show that deconstructs my Christian upbringing and offers a new philosophy in its place, one I hope is more inclusive and loving.
It’s time to get all cliché on you and “walk my talk.”
I am afraid, nay, terrified, this won’t go well and instead of healing our relationship it will destroy it.
But I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t at least try.
Coming Home to Come Out
Some people have likened coming out secular with coming out LGBT. I’ve met several young men who have told their religious parents they are gay, but have not yet found a way to say they no longer believe in god.
That is just how divisive religion can be in a family. We fear losing each others’ love.
To me, any belief system that suggests a parent disown her own child for philosophical differences is inherently flawed. (And yes, I include atheism here as a belief system. I’ve seen it go both ways.)
I choose to give my parents the benefit of the doubt, idealistically, perhaps.
I worry, though. Can they love me unconditionally? More importantly, can I love them unconditionally?!
I want to be around them without apologizing for or justifying my beliefs. All these years I’ve made this about them — that it’s their fault I can’t be myself because they don’t approve of my “lifestyle” and they don’t get my art and they won’t love me anymore.
But it’s not about them. It’s about me growing up and stop basing my feelings of self-worth on what they say and do. Love, after all, is allowing others to own their feelings and the consequences of their behaviors. I don’t get to decide how mom and dad should feel or react! Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best:
“Why should my happiness depend on the
thoughts going on in someone else’s head?”
Meanwhile, I need to consider what a dear friend from high school said when I told her of my plan:
“I just hope you realize that you and your parents may not heal your relationship. You have to decide if just being there is enough because you and your parents have always been so different in some things. Neither of you will suddenly change your beliefs or feeling so you will have to come to an agreement of sorts.”
I know she’s right. This tug at my heart is a bit naive. And yet, my brain tells me it’s also the next logical step in my evolution. I’ll keep you posted because I know I’m not the only one who faces this dilemma.
Best Friend by My Side
I am lucky to have a partner who supports me on this journey. A man who loves the Colorado mountains and who will, for the second time in our 22-year relationship, be leaving behind his own family for one of my crazy moves.
Mike is my best friend. He was there when I wrote my show and dredged up painful memories. He was there when I got scared and wanted to give up. He simply said, “No. You have to do this.”
And he was right.
He believed in me years before I could muster any belief in myself. Mike is my family.
- He picks me up when I fall.
- He celebrates with me when I succeed.
- He holds me when I cry.
- He dusts me off, lends me his strength, and pushes me back into the ring.
- He sees my highest potential, and never lets me forget it, especially when I’ve lost my way.
- He loves me unconditionally
The other day a friend of ours told me, “Mike is a very perceptive and sensitive man. He’s a keeper.” Indeed!
Channeling Your Inner Mike
Even if you don’t have a “Mike” in your life, you have an inner strength, an innate goodness that will give you the courage and clarity to be yourself and reach for your dreams.
It is called Love.
Rely on it. Feel it for yourself and feel it for others.
Let Love be your touchstone.