Sunday, June 15, 2008


It's a strange and wonderful thing, having people comment on your blog. On the one hand, we obviously put it all out there for people to read, though cooler heads have questioned why we do it, and particularly why we aren't ashamed to do it...

After a few weeks [or months] of no response, it is always a pleasure to see responses crop up again, especially from people I used to be in touch with. I have, needless to say, never met Flip, the Möbius Stripper, but I do feel I know him from his postings, and from having skirmished with him by comment in my early days At Sea. Or Paul, the gentleman with the necktie, or the taste for gentlemen with neckties--you can never be too sure what people are up to. Paul is interesting because he keeps checking in on me even though he finds me rather obscure. I wouldn't, but then Paul might say that anything I find obscure is probably completely opaque. Both these comments got me to thinking.

First off, there is the problem that I often manage to leave out the information that motivated me to start a post in the first place--I am the Tangent Man [an attribute I clearly share with the Goat] and can move farther from the topic at hand, and faster, than most people can imagine. It makes conversation difficult, and this blog a bit of a game of hopskotch. [ADHD, much?] Be that as it may...

Flip wrote:

I've learned two things:

1) Lives are always authentic at the moment they are being lived. It is only when viewed in hindsight that they seem otherwise.

2) For many of us, the sense being true to one's self takes a lot of time, courage and self-restraint.

This post really spoke to me.

There is something satisfying in getting any response, let alone a response like this, and from an old BlogBrother, too. However, unless I misunderstand Flip, which is not a big "if," given our history, I'm not sure I agree with him. He has certainly learned a thing or two in the serious contemplation of his life; I would like to think I have, too, though of course that remains to be seen...

But I am not sure that lives are always authentic, though I see clearly that any event can change when viewed in hindsight--we always view our past through the experience, and above all, through the emotions, of the present moment. Plenty of people lie, especially to themselves, and that ought at least to call "authenticity" into question. For instance, I know that I have spent much of my life not focused on who I am, but on who I was not. That may not be inauthentic, but it is surely only half the picture. However, I think his comment means that a life lived in honesty, in mindfulness, is authentic, no matter what happens afterward. I'll buy that.

My beef is with the people on both sides of the street who have decided that my marriage was a sham. I think that is for Isis and me to decide, thank you. Or perhaps our children. In the meantime, we are besieged both by the weird sisters who claim to have known from the beginning that it would never work, and by the people who felt we, as a "perfect couple," had no right to separate. I would like to politely ask them all to consider taking a long walk off a short dock, and soon.

Flip says that being "true to yourself" takes time, courage, and self-restraint, and I know that he has earned the right to say that. The issue for me is this: if I made a moral choice not to continue living as I had, how can I square that with a moral decision not to continue the new life I initiated under that new management? Yes, some of it is that I have to consider every decision moral in order to live with myself--that is my story and my "cross." Believe me, I know that, and how "helpful" it's been. No need for anyone else to chime in to tell me.

I will say this. When I hoodwinked Isis into going to a career counselor, he told her that she had an unusual number of talents and interests, and that she would have to decide whether she wanted to find one job that drew on as many of them as possible, or whether she would tackle them one at a time and so make dramatic changes in what she did over time.

The irony, of course, is that most of my BlogBrothers, who by definition as gay and married men, have more than the usual number of "talents and interests," have generally taken the route of addressing as many of their needs as possible all at once. Not to put too fine a point on it, most of them have "acted out" while married. Perhaps not all, but I've read a number of blogs over the past years, and it seems a pretty wide-spread phenomenon.

I chose the second route: to address my different "talents and interests" one at a time in succession. Or so it would appear. This has often struck me as a delicious irony, but of course it is not one I can mention to the one person who would share the true appreciation of it, which is Isis. Not only has she told me in no uncertain terms that she wants to be left alone, but I doubt she would see the humor in it. It's rather black, even to me.

Humor aside, my decision not to cheat on my wife does not make me a better person than anyone else--it only means that I couldn't have lived with myself if I had, because of my insistence on viewing pretty much everything through a moral lens. The Naz famously said that the thought made you as guilty as the deed; it's a little bit like crime being crime whether or not you get caught. The issue is what you did--for the Naz, what you thought. So, I make no claim to moral--or any other form of--superiority.

What self are we being true to here?

I know that Flip is wrestling with himself, and mightily, in an effort to do the right thing. But what is the "right thing," and how do we tell? I am more convinced than ever that the answer to that question changes in every moment, and lies between the individual soul and God. There is no "knowing." There is only working out your own salvation in fear and trembling. An authentic life is a life in freedom, and it is terrifying.

Any important decision takes "time and courage." The "self-restraint" issue is the one I am chewing on. What does it mean that I have decided that my former self-restraint had become intolerable after thirty years? What does it mean if I cast it off--were those thirty years a wasteland of the soul? That seems to be the chorus from both sides of the street: both the outraged straight people and the oh-so-sympathetic gay people are agreed that my marriage could not have been one. Not only does it make me want to go get my Uzi, but it avoids the issue: I have always known that I was made of incompatible parts, and the truth of an assemblage of incompatible parts is that it still makes a "whole" that rises above them. But how do you express a truth that is "never simple and rarely pure"? I wish I knew. I do know that it is not done only in black-and-white.

Paul wrote:

I suspect that there's a great benefit being invited back to work in the land of big gigs -- and that is the sense of being valued! And that, is indeed worth more than the pennies.

Oops. Did I forget to say that this gig resurrected my sense of self-worth as a working professional? Yes, it has done that.

And my gratitude for it was meant to surface somewhere, along with the wallowing in worry about the outcome. Believe me there was a long period of Stage 1 [Wild Enthusiasm] before Stage 2 [Complete Disillusionment] and Stage 3 [Utter Panic] kicked in. If it were going to last longer [it is only the next two months of my now rather complicated life] it might resurrect my sense of self-worth more thoroughly, or with more lasting effect. My former boss has made it quite clear that there isn't anything else coming from his corner any time soon, and unless the Great God Client suddenly proves to be a more active force in things, which he also shown no sign of doing in the last five or ten years, there is no hope there, either. Not that it matters. I do have my eye on the prize; it's the bird in the hand.

I am taking this as a reminder that twenty years of work does not disappear over night, no matter whether anyone else remembers it, and no matter how much you come to feel you have spent your life spitting into the wind. Yes, it's lovely to have an ego boost, though the Goat has been taking care of that for a year or so, and I can't help wishing this boost had come back when it seemed there was nothing in my life that had a future. But that's not the way life works; it's always either feast or famine. You would think that thirty years of free-lance work would have taught me that by now...

The pennies are in fact the thing that makes the biggest difference at this point, but let me not be ungrateful for a vote of confidence in my abilities. There is nothing wrong in working as an office temp, glorified or otherwise, but it does rather erode your sense of what other people think of you.

So, here's to "all you wonderful people out there in the dark." I'm not sure why commenters come and go, but it's wonderful when you come, and when you go, we hope you will return. All you lurkers are welcome, too, but one never really knows how many of there are, or what you make of it all. Statcounter does provide the numbers: 8,141 "unique" visitors a year [how "unique" can they be if they are all reading this drivel?], and 1,562 people who returned for more of it, but that only means so much. [And it raises as many issues as it settles: why were there suddenly 1,200 readers in April alone?]

Oh, well, if I had a Facebook profile, I could say I had 1,562 friends., but I'm not so dim as all that. I'll settle for having 1,562 companions on my journey.

That's not such a bad place to be at all.

Hang in there, everybody.
Summer's here, and winter's on the way.



  1. Hi Troll,

    I mean this in a good way...sometimes commenting on your blog is like tossing a penny in a wishing well and being splashed by a tsunami.

    After reading this post I was making a valiant attempt to even begin to start fixin' to get ready to craft a reply (the difficulty being figuring out what in the world I even meant when I typed the comment - although it seemed pithy at the time), when I looked to the right side of the screen and read your "About Me" description right there next to your picture.

    I think that's going to help me figure out what I was trying to say. But it's lunchtime now, so it will have to wait.

    Out of fairness I should point out that some things have changed in my life since I last posted - but nothing that huge. I'm still married. Maybe I should post an update before dropping further comment bombs on old friends' blogs.

    More later.



    PS In my prior comment I did mean to type "the sense OF being true..." I always regret when I click on "publish" instead of previewing what I wrote. It's that same impulsive / compulsive feeling I get when I "act out" although much less satisfyingly shame inducing...

  2. Hope you had a happy Father's Day, Troll!

  3. And you can never have enough friends, whether they're long-distance, online or otherwise. They say you learn a lot by blogging, but much of my learning comes mostly from commenters and their "two-centes" worth. ;-)

  4. thought I left you a comment yesterday....may be losing my mind.


  5. There's nothing like being called out in front of the class by the teacher to make a student stop, pay attention, and think.

    So I went back and reread Forgot to Mention....

    And then I read it again, along with your commentary here. What an incredible collection of thoughts, Troll. There is so much here that's made me stop and think.

    We are all defined by the events that shape our lives. And I honestly believe that most people have little control over what they face. I know that personally, I did what I did because I was on "auto-pilot." It was what was expected. But it was also what I wanted. I'm "risk adverse," a "rule follower."

    I have no regrets. But I also know that if I was 20 years younger, things would likely have been different.

    I'm a student of behavior (20+ years, formal training). Patterns of outcomes I'm quick to notice. I hope that it doesn't appear that I judge. Because I want to be accepting; as I -- as well as my choices and my life -- need to be accepted, too.

    Without even knowing (m)any of the specifics, I suspect your marriage was richly rewarding. To you, and to your wife and children. I can't imagine the loss to have given it up.

    Sometime, I'd love to be able to sit down with you over beers for a discussion. And I'd love for The Goat to come along, too. I know I'd learn a lot. Blogland is so tough to navigate as an interactive media.


    I have a closet full of suits and ties. But unfortunately, they're now only a reminder of a past life.

    Maybe again. Hopefully soon.


    Gosh, it's great to hear from Flip!

  6. Then there are those of us who do double-duty by commenting and lurking. ;-)

    A nice reminder about the seasons in your closing statement. ACK!

  7. Troll,

    1) Self-restraint in my comment means not unilaterally ending my marriage before exploring all avenues for keeping us together - something that is still going on.

    2) Regarding "acting out" (aka committing adultery): You ask the question, "What self are we being true to here?"

    When I, Flip, commit adultery I am being true to the selfish self.

    In your "About Me" profile you say, "Once you give up on the idea of black and white rules, how do you know what's right and what's wrong? You don't. You can't." I'm assuming you mean this within the strict moral structure that is Troll's. But without that assumption I am left with the impression that you might be just another garden-variety acter-outer trying to self-justify his selfish behavior.

    Regardless, this adulterer knows that when I hurt other people, it is wrong. "Acting out" hurts my wife (whether or not she is aware of it) therefore it is easily categorized as "wrong."

    3) Regarding an authentic life: I don't know where to start. Authentic meaning what? 100% honest? 100% true to one's self?

    I am much more honest with myself and those around me right now. I am living a more honest life, but is it more authentic than the life I lived 5 or 10 years ago? I can't honestly answer "yes" to that question. I was living as authentically as I knew how to back then, given the situation I was in and the level of maturity I had acheived.

    Perhaps this will further muddy the water.