Monday, June 29, 2009

Babylon

When I was going to therapy, one thing my therapist suggested is that I'm going through a mourning process - I'm mourning a life I'll never have - a life I won't let myself live - a life with the man of my dreams.

It's an interesting notion and one that I've thought some about. Truth is, my dreams at night are often "what if" sort of dreams - dreams where I go back to my younger days and make different decisions than the ones that I made. Not that the choices I made were necessarily bad - they seemed like the right decisions at the time.

If I knew and accepted then what I know and accept now, I most certainly wouldn't have chosen to join the LDS church. I doubt I would have chosen to marry, a girl. But, there would have been consequences. That was in the days before AIDS was understood - I could have chosen to live a lifestyle that led to my early demise. Alcoholism runs in my family, were I not a teetotaler, I might have become an alcoholic (as two of my siblings are). Had I not married (a girl), I wouldn't have experienced fatherhood. So, while I do not regret the choices I made - I find myself wondering what it would be like had I made different choices in my life, longing for a life where I made different choices.

But, all of that is water under the bridge. I made the choices that I did and now I must abide by those choices. The choices I made have provided me with a good life and a family that loves me. And yet, even knowing that, I still continue to mourn for a life that was not meant to be.

How do I get past this? How do I accept the choices I made and move forward?

There are some who would say that I'll never find happiness as long as I've got one foot in babylon. Maybe they're right - but I've spent most of my life rejecting Babylon and trying to be the good mormon boy.

Truth is, once I accepted my own homosexuality, I began to view Babylon in a different light; and, I discovered that Babylon isn't the evil I always believed it was. There is actually a lot of beauty in Babylon. While there is an element of Babylon that I am not comfortable with, it is also full of good, honorable, decent people. While there is certainly a dark side to Bablylon, things that are virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy can also be found there.

Perhaps most unexpected is that I feel at home when I'm with the people of Babylon. They are the family I never knew I had. They are the only ones who have an inkling of what I'm going through. They are those who've made choices that I sometimes wish I had made.

But, I can't turn the clock back - time marches forward.

Is it possible to find happiness with one foot in Babylon? Or is it all or nothing? Must I totally reject it or fully embrace it before I can find peace? I tried, unsuccessfully, for much of my life to fully reject Babylon - so is that even an valid option?

8 comments:

Philip said...

Abelard,

I don't know what you mean by Babylon but I am assuming what you are looking for is not necessarily happiness but to be at peace.

The only way I have found to be at peace with myself is to accept my sexuality as much as possible.

I, however, have decided to stay married so I find myself having to balance accepting myself with safeguarding my marriage. How one safeguards their marriage has a lot to do with what is threatening and non-threatening to the spouse.

In other words, I compromise; striking a balance between doing what is good for me and what is good for my marriage.

And I measure how well I have struck that balance by how at peace I am not just with myself but with my life in general.

It's an ongoing process that gets easier with time but has never been easy and there are ebbs and flows.

I'm not sure I am answering the question you asked.

Regards,
Philip

Philip said...

Abelard,

I would like to talk about strategies.

I think what strategy works best for you has a lot to do with your sexuality.

I think the first strategy most gay/bi married man start off with is working on their marriage.

However, in general, I think bisexual married men reap a greater benefit from working on their marriages than gay married men do.

I think it's pretty obvious why once you think about it.

I think gay and bisexual married men benefit from increasing awareness/acceptance of their sexuality but that gay married men, in general, reap a greater benefit than bisexual married men.

My thinking is that gay married men reap a greater benefit in the area of self-awareness and understanding by contrast because the benefit from working on the marriage was not as great.

Conversely, bisexual men, in general, do not give increased self-awareness and understanding of their sexuality as much weight because the benefit from working on the marriage was so significant.

So I think what you will find is that, in general, bisexual men focus less on increasing self-awareness and understanding than gay men.

But both strategies reap benefits just not to the same degree for everyone involved.

Regards,
Philip

J G-W said...

I have wondered "what if" at times too. "What if" instead of pressuring me to marry when I was a member back in the 1980s, Church leaders had instead been more understanding of same-sex attraction and had been able to support me in a life of celibacy as is increasingly the practice today? Would I still be a member of the Church?

But then I think of Stuart Matis. He got precisely that kind of support, and he committed suicide. I almost committed suicide too. If I had chosen to remain in the Church and continued to struggle, would I have continued to spiral deeper into depression and followed the path that Stuart Matis and far too many other gay Mormons have taken?

Maybe we each make the choices and take the path that we each, and no one else, has to take.

Ned said...

Great discusssion!

For what it's worth, I would identify myself as a bisexual man, who is heterosexually married, but homo-emotionally supported by both straight and gay friendships.

The frustration and the peace I experience flow from several sources. My family, friends, work, hobbies and religion all contribute both positives and negatives.

Eight years ago I experienced clinical depression that left me plotting suicide as the only way to end the pain. Fortunately I slowly discovered alternatives. Had I not had family and friends who were counting on me, I don't know that I could have resisted the temptation to end it all and endured the long months of darkness that only, very gradually gave way to light and a return to rational thought.

But from that experience I gained some knowledge and coping skills that have improved my life a great deal. I don't take my mental or physical health for granted. I'm more sensitve to when I get out of balance and take steps to correct my course. I'm not as skilled at this as I'd like to be, but I'm certainly more capable than I was eight years ago. So I relate to questions about balance and maintaining relationships.

About Babylon: If I accept a broad definition of Babylon as "any oppressive political and economic power structure" then it seems the church I claim memebership in has some Babylonian tendencies. It's not really Babylon, of course, it just behaves that way sometimes.

:)

Bravone said...

Really good post and comments.

I relate to your post a bit more than I am actually comfortable with. I alternate between feeling peace in my struggle and mourning because of the struggle.

I totally relate with your thoughts about seeing beauty and meeting wonderful people in Babylon. Spending time in Babylon, softened my heart towards others, made me less judgmental, more aware of the goodness around me. So in that regard, I am grateful for the experience and hope it never leaves me.

There are probably other ways to discover the same things. I think J G-W probably sums it up well with his closing line, "Maybe we each make the choices and take the path that we each, and no one else, has to take."

Anonymous said...

Isn't Babylon the "Natural Man", and if so aren't we all trying to come to terms with and overcome that "Natural Man" whatever his preferences might be?
Isn't our real goal in life to find out what God wants for each one of us individually and try to be that person to the best of our ability? I don't know - just some thoughts I had as I pondered your discussion.

Alan said...

Abe, with all due respect, I kinda don't like the "Babylon" thing. Its Scriptural connotations are inherently negative and corrupt and sinful. I don't accept the premise that being gay is any of that. So I'm going to disagree with your premise.

I too have thought about what life might have been like for me if it'd been safer to come out a little earlier. I too probably wouldn't have married and thus I wouldn't have the world's most wonderful kids. Sometimes I wonder if before coming here I was given a choice between having those kids and being able to live my whole life out and happy. If so, obviously I chose the kids. There's nothing easy about that choice and I don't spend time worrying about it. I have what I have and am forever grateful. And I also can't help wondering if it's still possible to have the kind of relationship I dream of. I don't think of that as Babylon. I think of it as honesty with myself and the normal desire everyone has for a loving relationship that will make them happiest.

TGD said...

Great post. When you wrote about the dark side to Babylon, I couldn't help but think of the antithisis that is also the dark side of religion.

When you really think about it, the idea of Babylon is really just that, an idea. Someone somewhere, way in the past, made it up. Probably as an object lesson to teach something, and it has been taken way too literally ever sense.

I really love that your therapist talked about the mourning process. Morning the lost opportunities or the loss of old beliefs was a very important concept for me when I came out.