Angels, Austria, Blogging, Community, Faith, Family, Fate, Fitness, Friendship, Fulbright Program, Gay marriage, Gay parenting, Gratitude, Growing up gay, Marathon training and running, Middle Age, Quakerism, Suicide, Tennis, The '80s, Writing
My last post, this past Wednesday, was a tribute to my fellow bloggers, two of whom I feel have become friends even though I have never met them in person! Their writing is inspiring. One blogger usually writes about food; the other about many topics, including her successful battle to like eating again.
I received permission from BeautyBeyondBones to “draft” off her recent post about “10 Things I’d Say to 15-Year-Old Me”: https://beautybeyondbones.com/2018/06/05/10-things-id-say-to-15-year-old-me
Her posts often speak to me, as if we are sharing a good meal and conversation about how we’ve overcome life’s challenges. Her writing is fun, relevant, honest, purposeful and imbued with faith but not preachy.
I left myself time for the weekend to draft off BeautyBeyondBones’ theme of looking back on her life and what she wishes she could have said to herself when she was younger and struggling with her eating disorder.
Some of my own followers have thanked me for writing about growing up and fearing I was probably gay but making it through that dark tunnel that took decades to navigate and finding Light at the other side.
Then Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide this week.
My drafting theme for this post has changed a bit. Rather than write about staying true to oneself, it may be more relevant for me today to write about staying alive.
I’ve tried twice to commit suicide.
The first time, I was barely 18, a sophomore at college who had a good eight years of daily verbal and physical blows sent my way because I was gay.
At that time, it seemed to me the whole world was ready to make that proclamation.
But I wasn’t.
I endured. Until one night, hungry, I went to the large cafeteria in my dorm hall. All I wanted was to eat and mind my own business. I sat down at the end of a table alone. People at the other end started passing notes and snickering. I waited them out. Eventually, they left. I read the notes. On one of them I saw the words, “Better be careful not to breathe the same air as the faggot at the end of the table.”
Devastated, I left and walked upstairs past a lounge on my way to my dorm room. Beautiful, healthy college students engaged in lively conversation stopped speaking when I walked past. As soon as I did, they started laughing about “the skinny faggot.”
I made it to my dorm room. A message had been taped to the door: “Watch out for the faggot who lives here.”
In a trance, I walked to a classroom building known as the Hall of Languages. I entered an unlocked room, moved a desk near a rope holding a map of the world, tied the rope around my neck, and jumped.
The world was dark until found myself staring at the section of the map and the country in front of my eyes: Austria.
The rope had broken.
I thought at the time, “If I want to succeed and receive my degree early, I better go back and study.”
A few years later, I received a Fulbright Scholarship to study and live in Austria.
The wonderful Fulbright Commission in Austria extended my scholarship a second year so I could write poetry in German, English, and French and teach in a secondary school.
In my second year in Austria, a man who lived near me began a friendship. We were both 23. We went to movies, played tennis. After a few months, he said he wanted a relationship.
I had never had a relationship with a man. In high school, I dated two wonderful young women, and in college, I fell in love with a woman from Japan. Years later, I realized I had also fallen in love with a man. But actually having an intimate relationship with a man, something for which was very clear to me would make me an outcast in a straight world that was the only world I had known, where I hadn’t been welcomed as a teenager, and had even been beaten up physically, not to mention verbally taunted relentlessly, was not in my life plan. I didn’t think I had the courage to dive off the deep end into a same-sex relationship.
But I tried in my young 20s in Austria.
The man and I became intimate. (And thank goodness in a safe way.)
And then he dumped me and never explained why.
And at age 23, I poured myself a warm bath, ate a good meal, sat in the tub, and threw in a radio so I would be electrocuted.
I was literally so shocked I jumped out of the bathtub!!
Unlike the first attempt, I let my parents know. Back then, people didn’t write emails. I called them and heard the desperation in their voices. A week later, I received cards from both my mother and father, both telling me how much they loved me, both imploring me never to try again to take my own life.
And I never have.
Many years and one failed marriage to a woman later, I found the man of my dreams. We have been together 16 years, 8 of them legally married. We have a stunning daughter. I live for them and for me.
Since my two suicide attempts, I have had a successful career, finished 21 marathons, successfully coached tennis teams, had poetry published, have found friends all over the world, have found my dream home in Hawaii.
And had good counselors who have helped me look at the dark tunnel of doubt and loneliness and pain and see all the Light that surrounded me and the people who have loved me and whom I have loved.
I’m so grateful that decades ago I failed at my two suicide attempts. I was lucky.
I must have had a few angels at my side who guided me through my 20s and 30s and 40s.
And a desire to run another mile no matter what happens.
My prayers go out to the families of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and to any family or friend of someone who has attempted or succeeded at suicide.
Please, whoever is reading this post, if you ever have a thought of ending your life, please reach out to others. Talk with them, cry with them, whatever it takes. Share a meal, many laughs. As my mother once wrote me after my second attempt so many years ago, “Please go to a place where you can hear a child’s laughter and see people who love each other and know that life is good.”