For some reason — I don’t remember why — same-sex marriage had been in the news around June of 2012. That Sunday night, as I grappled with what my own coming out story would be, we talked about it at a family dinner. Someone in my family said that they didn’t understand it. They didn’t understand why “they” needed to be married. Someone else said it would be easier if “they” just stayed in the closet.
My family wouldn’t know for another two months that they were talking about me.
I came out that night to my husband. I came out for the first of what has seemed like a thousand times since. In a conversation that seemed to stretch on for hours, I finally told the truth about myself. And I used that dinner conversation about same-sex marriage — and the deep hurt it caused me as I sat there quietly stirring my tea — as the door. The door to a conversation about the truth of my identity that I had known for some time was going to be inevitable.
I remember that night in roughly the same way I remember the moment the funeral director opened the door to the room where my oldest brother lay in his casket in the fall of 1996. I was floating somewhere above myself. Watching a movie unfolding below me.
The fear that welled up in me that night felt physical. My skin was electric with it. It was thick in the back of my throat. I remember fighting so hard to shine the light of words upon it.
This thing that’s been inside and hidden deep is getting bigger and bigger and stronger and threatening to show itself. And I want to stop it. And also I don’t. And I don’t know if I’m ready but I think maybe I need what’s inside turned outside. Maybe I want everything out in the open. My secret laid out for everyone to see. I wonder what that would look like. I wonder what kind of mess it will make. I wonder if you can ever really be ready for the part of you that you’ve been hiding to finally come out. Who will I lose forever because of who I am?
In the minutes before I said the words, it seemed that I simultaneously thought and wondered all of these things. And so many others.
And then, all my efforts to engineer keeping this part of myself in the dark just crumbled away.
I said the words.
I told the truth.
I broke my own heart.
I had a front row seat to the breaking of every heart I have ever loved.
And I set myself free.
Not from a marriage. Or the life and family we’d built together.
But from myself.
My pretend prison was over.
But I just traded one prison for another.
Secrecy for guilt.
I didn’t know it then but, I was the hardest thing I was ever going to have to overcome.
Two months ago or so, we started The MeaningMaker Podcast, which, in Episode 4, tells a less detailed version of this coming out story and how it intertwines with another similar story. The podcast, which is named after the blog, is our story — not just mine. We were two small-town hockey moms whose lives were forever changed by a closet. The podcast is an effort to make some meaning of the mess and the beauty this part of our story has brought to us. We hope you’ll listen.