A Letter to My Closeted Brothers and Sisters

letter to my gay brothers and sistersHello My Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you doing well. I hope that the sun is shining on your face and the wind is always at your back, as the saying goes. First off, I wanted to congratulate you for all of the positive progress you have made so far on your coming out journey.

You may be thinking, “I haven’t made any progress yet. I’m still completely hidden inside of my closet.” To this I say, you are not giving yourself enough credit. At the very least, you are realizing that you are not happy and completely satisfied in your closet. This is a step. It may seem small, but self-awareness is no small feat. Many people live their entire lives ignoring their internal gut instincts.

Your knowing that you wish for change proves that you have a rebel and a dreamer inside of you. I bet if you let your mind wander you imagine a life for yourself where you are not closeted. Visualization is key. Performing this visualizing has the chance to create hope within you. Hope is a powerful thing, My Friend.

Please take time to congratulate yourself on working as hard as you do. It is hard work to be closeted and still function at your job, with family, and with friends. In many ways, you are working twice as hard as the others around you just to perform the same tasks and to stay calm and centered. And all the while you may be blaming yourself for being who you are and acting as you do.

Please let yourself off of the hook for any lies you may have told friends, family and co-workers to hide who you truly are. These things do not make you a bad person. You are merely surviving in the only way you can think to at the present moment. To some extent, everyone exists as two different people; the version of themselves they know to be true inside and the version of themselves which they share with everyone else. No one else ever knows who we completely are from our core to our outside.

Lies and secrets happen. One lesson I can share with you from my personal, coming out journey is that, when it is all said and done, none of that matters. Who cares? You can’t change the past. All you can control is what you are doing right at this moment. Let yourself off the hook for being so concerned with other people’s feelings. Let yourself off the hook for living your life more to please others than to please yourself. In actuality, it means you are a kind and good person. That, My Friend, is a positive thing.

If you have experienced negative responses from people who you have come out to, brush it off. In the end, pretending to be someone you are not, simply to serve the comfort level of someone narrow-minded and backwards, will never be a path to your personal happiness. Remember that these people’s reactions say more about them than they do about you. We are not meant to mesh well with everyone in this life. Don’t pressure yourself to be an exception from this reality.

I want you to give yourself credit for feeling fear. It may seem like a burden, but it has a place in this life. Fear can make us slow down, think about our moves carefully, and be an active, thoughtful driver behind the wheel of our life. Sticking with the car metaphor – remember that fear is a rear view mirror to help you consider your turns, but it is not the steering wheel by which you should actually make your moves. I will make the suggestion that Hope should be your steering wheel, or at least one of the ones that you use.

I wish I had words to better explain the moment where my internal light switch flipped for me and I suddenly cared more about my personal comfort level with my being gay than I did about everyone else’s feelings and reactions to it. I guess I shouldn’t describe it as a moment; it was really a long transition over several years and several instances of coming out to people. You will get there. One day you will look back at these internal monsters, which feel so huge and scary right now, and they will suddenly feel like tiny, non-threatening, stuffed animals.

Remember to give yourself time to become the person you are meant to be. We all start somewhere.

Remember to feel all the emotions that come with your journey: the fear, the joy, the sadness, and the satisfaction. When it is all said and done, the memories of these feelings will make you a better partner, when you find the love of your life, and simply a better person.

Remember to feel love for yourself. One day, you will see, you are doing just fine.

Chin Up. I have faith in you.

All My Love,

Adamfingers hug in support

Procrastination & Wanting to be Liked

procrastinate-now-and-panic-later

If I may speak frankly, I hate the word Procrastination. The act of procrastinating, putting off work that is necessary for me to complete, has filled me with anxiety and fear throughout my life. Lost in thought a few days ago I began wondering, like all tasks that are uncomfortable, did I procrastinate on coming out? Did mere avoidance play a part in not coming out until I was 29 years old? This lead me to further examine my relationship with procrastination and to unearth some old wounds.

In college, I was afraid of not being as good a student as my peers. I was afraid that I was not studying the correct major and that this was the reason I always felt so out of place. I was afraid that I was on the wrong path and that I would never find the right one. I was afraid that I had a concentration problem and that I would never be able to focus on my studies. I was afraid of being a bad student. I was afraid of letting myself down. I was afraid of letting my professors down. I was afraid that my friends would view me as weak and too fragile. I spent a lot of time feeling unsettled, like I was about to fail at every moment. I feared deadlines, papers, tests, and of course, finals.

Looking back on it, these feelings of dread have stayed with me even ten years after college has ended. I’ve never really let myself off the hook for having these feelings in college. I still have not let Adam, age 18 to 22, off the hook for being scared. God, I’ve been so mad at him because he was so scared.

Procrastination became a way to avoid these intense feelings of fear, inadequacy and sadness. I would avoid work by spending time hanging out with friends, talking, laughing, visiting stores to pass time, attending parties and simply walking around campus. Alone I would watch TV and movies, chat online, endlessly Google more entertaining topics and masturbate.

My sophomore year I started seeing a counselor to talk about, what at the time we labeled as, my anxiety caused by my procrastination. On top of everything else I was feeling I began to feel guilt for procrastinating. Obviously procrastinating was something I was doing which was leading me to have trouble in my classes and feel anxious.

Part of the real bitch of procrastination was the wedge it created between me and myself. All of the classes I missed, and all of the work I didn’t complete, became attacks I was personally performing against myself. I became an enemy to me. I was an obstacle between myself and happiness. What a horrible way to feel about yourself. How do you move forward with yourself if you think you are the enemy?

scary ticking clocksTime also became my enemy. Ticking clocks and passing hours brought me closer to failure. There never seemed to be enough time left in the day to finish a task, so why bother even starting it?

 Looking back, I was trying so hard in college. I just wanted people to like me. It felt so important that people like me. I just wanted to be interesting, funny and worth their time. Perhaps school work and classes played second fiddle to this need to be liked. But, in all honesty, does this really make me any different from every other college student in the world?

Now, I wish I could go back and give myself a hug. Tell myself that it will all be ok and let myself know that when it is all said and done college will be a bundle of happy memories. Tell myself that procrastination, and all the fear it covers up, will not define me. And that at the end of it all, what is most important is that I forgive myself for being afraid and being flawed and for deep down just wanting to be liked.

Moving forward, I try to remind myself to not give the word procrastination so much weight. It is, after all, just a word. Remember that it is possible to still be successful and accomplished with occasional procrastination. Give yourself permission to keep going and complete tasks at your pace in your own time. And remember to give yourself credit for the tasks you do complete, they are successes. And it is important to remind myself that everyone procrastinates, and the act of procrastination does not make us bad people or any less worthy of love.

In the end, Gentle Reader, it is important to not procrastinate on loving yourself. Give yourself as much time as it takes. That ticking clock is not judging us.

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Some related articles on Procrastination you may find interesting
Mind Tools: Overcoming Procrastination
Smithsonian.com: Why Procrastination is Good for You

In Search of a Gay Film Review – Weekend (2011)

weekend-movie-poster

Here it is, Gentle Reader, my first movie review. As a lover of movies and analysis, please, I welcome your feedback. So without further ado, today I would like to discuss the 2011 film Weekend. Weekend is a film about two gay men who find each other through a one night stand, but are soon surprised by their instant connection and by what this connection helps them learn about themselves.

The film is written, edited and directed by Andrew Haigh, who I am sure is about to become a lot more famous for his directing and writing on HBO’s series Looking. (If you are interested, you can find my review of the series Looking here) Weekend stars Tom Cullen as Russell and Chris New as Glen, each superb in their role. Weekend had its world premiere in March 2011 and has since gone on to acquire much critical acclaim, including several award nominations and wins for the film’s director and actors.

If you have not yet seen this film, I strongly recommend it. Its performances are wonderful, the plot is heartfelt and the emotion is relatable. It should be warned that this review does contain some spoilers so beware. Below are my thoughts, for better or worse.

weekend tapesSetting the Scene:

We begin the film by watching Russell bathe, dress and attend a party at his straight friend Jamie’s house. While at the party Russell appears to be disconnect and lonely; distracted and wanting to be somewhere else. He makes an excuse to leave early, ends up at a gay club and eventually meets Glen.

Jump to the next morning, where instead of awkwardly and quickly parting ways, like the end of many gay one night stands, the two men do something rather unusual: they talk about their hookup. Glen, an artist, is working on a project where he tape records people talking about sex, life, etc. and he begins to tape Russell. This rare, morning after reflection on the time they spent together leads both characters down a road of self-reflection that neither saw coming.

Sit Back and Observe:

This film has very few edited cuts within scenes. We, the audience, watch the characters talk, eat, walk and lie in bed for lengthy, uninterrupted shots. These lengthy shots place us as silent observers sitting in Russell’s apartment or the bar simply watching them interact across this three-day affair. All of this creates a calm, real-time feel to their interactions filled with dialogue that feels more like improvisation than pre-written words (It has been noted by the director in interviews that much of the film ended up being improvised by the two leads). The film doesn’t even have background music for setting tones and moods. The only music we ever hear is situational, like at the club.  

russellRussell – The Quiet One:

Russell is more of a watcher than a talker. Mostly he seems lonely, set apart from the world around him and a little sad. His world is quiet, boring and mundane. At one point I found myself wondering, “Do I have as much silence in my life as Russell does?”.

I enjoyed the insecurities he displayed because they were relatable. I could find myself in his awkwardness and shyness, especially in relation to his budding sexuality. He is not necessarily closeted, but he is still ‘trying on’ being gay, like a new suit. He’s still stiff and afraid that he’s not wearing it right. Straight people mostly surround him, and we can feel him longing for a gay outlet.

glenGlen – Not So Quiet:

Glen is the opposite of Russell. He is spontaneous and loud; very outspoken and confident in his sexuality.  Gay people surround him in his daily life, and although his gay friends can annoy him, he seems mostly happy to have the gay company. Glen, like Russell, is searching for meaning and something better in life.  He wants to escape his current location and has plans to move to Oregon in two days. Glen wants to create a new version of himself so he will feel free and not get stuck in ‘old friend concrete’.

Repetition Leads to Change:

This film uses repetition, with slight variance, to display character arches.  Glen leaves Russell’s apartment three times in the film. Each time Russell stands at his window and watches Glen far below as he walks away. The first time Glen simply walks away. The second time Glen looks back as he walks, showing he is thinking about Russell. As Glen walks away the last time, he moves noticeably slower and at one point completely stops and turns around to look back at Russell’s window before he continues on. The variance is subtle but effective in conveying how the characters’ connection is growing.

One final act of repetition worth noting: At the beginning of the film Russell brings Glen coffee as he wakes up, then towards the end of the film, in an almost identically shot scene, Glen brings Russell coffee in bed. This may seem too slight, but it shows their time together has come full circle.

togetherGay in a Straight World:

Weekend opens an important discussion about what it is like to be a minority, homosexual man in a majority, heterosexual world. After their first night together, Glen and Russell hesitate and end up not hugging or kissing as they say goodbye in Russell’s hallway. A straight couple is hovering nearby and the two gays censor themselves because of this.

At several points in the film, Glen verbalizes his frustrations with gay censorship in a straight world. Below is one such expression…

Glen: “Gay people never talk about it ‘sex’ in public unless its just cheap innuendo. I think it’s cause they’re ashamed.”

Russell: “Maybe it’s just they’re a little bit embarrassed.”

Glen: “Isn’t that the same thing?”

This movie raises the question, “How much do straights repress gays and how much do we repress ourselves?”. Regardless, different people react differently in the face of repression. Glen responds by constantly yelling his gayness and individual rights at the world, trying to shock straight people with his voice. Conversely, Russell turns inward, becoming quiet and respectful, not wanting to make himself or straight people feel uncomfortable. At one point in the film, as Russell and Glen are walking around the city talking and flirting, I did find myself wishing they would hold hands.

My Favorite Moment:

After their second night together, Russell and Glen discuss the act of ‘coming out’ to parents. Russell keeps a journal dictating people’s coming out stories as told to him by various gay men he has come across. As an orphan Russell never came out to his biological parents, and Glen thinks that Russell collects other people’s ‘parent’ coming out stories since he does not have one of his own. In a moment that at first feels silly, Glen pretends to be Russell’s dad and Russell tells him he is gay. I was so moved by Glen’s reaction that I would rather show it to you than describe it.

Love Yourself First:

Perhaps this is Weekend’s real message. Russell and Glen seem perfect together, but neither seems completely ready to give themselves fully to someone else. Both characters need to learn to love and accept themselves more fully before they will ever be able to fully love and accept someone else. Love Yourself. A theme that keeps presenting itself in this blog, and I guess in life for anyone who is truly paying attention. Who knows, perhaps after a few years, Glen will return to Russell and they will finally be able to complete each other. We should all be so lucky.

weekend kiss

To learn more about Weekend please check out its page at IMDB or it’s spot at Wikipedia.

Love Yourself

Love Yourself

Love Yourself. Now that is an important message. When someone feels suffocated and trapped in the closet, remembering to love themselves can be much easier said than done. Today, I’m going to break my norm, construct a smaller post, and try to focus on some positive quotes and multimedia that I know anyone struggling at being closeted can benefit from. So, Gentle Reader, have you told yourself, “I love you.” today?

Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.
~William Shakespeare, Henry V.

I am currently on the difficult journey of learning to love myself more and more every day. This feat involves focusing on the present moment. While I am proud of what I have accomplished in my past, I need to remind myself to not dwell on the past or more importantly  on any mistakes I may have made there. See, I have a bad habit of beating myself up for past mistakes. Which is not helpful. Learn from your mistakes and move forward.

Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it.  ~Thaddeus Golas

Learning to love myself also involves making an active attempt to be nicer to myself in my head, and to try to stop the negative self talk. Now this is not a simple thing to do. Especially since I have been in the habit of internally and negatively bashing myself for quite some time now. I need to let myself off the hook for this as well, and move on. Each day now I am trying to give myself credit for all the positives I accomplished that day, while gently urging myself to always strive for better.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.  ~Buddha

I am constantly amazed at how film and television can remind me to practice self-love. I’m not sure if you are a fan of Glee, but I am. Though it can be flawed at times, overall the show makes me happy. I love watching people sing and dance, so Glee fulfills both of these personal interests quite nicely in every episode. I also have a slight crush on Jake Puckerman, played by the adorable Jacob Artist.

Below I have posted a YouTube video of one of my favorite Jake Puckerman performances. Its song, ‘Let Me Love You’, was originally sung by Ne-Yo, and it always gives me chills. I include it here because what a beautiful concept it addresses. It’s something we all want. Someone to love us until we learn to fully love ourselves. Truly Beautiful. (sorry about the Spanish subtitles)

I hope you found this post to be helpful. Especially if you find yourself attempting to come out of the closet. Please, take a moment right now to remember that your existence is important. You are important. There is literally no one else exactly like you on this planet. You bring a color and a life to this world that exists for a reason. You deserve love. You deserve to love yourself.

And with that, Gentle Reader, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes by a true genius: Dr. Seuss.

Be Well.

Love Yourself Dr. Seuss