Monday, June 15, 2020

Authenticity? Can I Get A Do-Over?

Excited to get back to this blog. I am still wrestling with exactly what it will be for me now in this present context, but I think that is actually what the overall theme of this blog is. Who am I? What is it to be authentic? I’ve always been frustrated by the overly simplistic advice to, “Just be yourself.” Really? Is it that simple? Who is that? Who are you? Do any of us every really know. I think there are moments of clarity scattered through our lives wear the best path for us is crystal clear, and, sometimes, we still find ourselves following a different path.

The nickname of Culbs was given to be years ago by one of the sons of my former pastor. At that time, I was being incredible inauthentic. That was a chapter in my life where I was desperately trying to shed myself of my homosexuality, to be someone whom I thought I needed to be in order to be accepted by my family and by the larger world. When I started this blog, the focus the one what the experience of coming out and accepting myself as a gay man looked like. Was that being authentic? I think it was a step closer. 

The voice that drove me to try to reject such a deeply personal part of myself as my sexuality was, and is, still in there. It’s that part of myself that tells me that, if I don’t present myself in a way that they find pleasing, or at least acceptable, I will be rejected and placed upon the discard pile. I’ve spoke to other gay men around my age, and they often compare their experience of struggling to come out to mine. I do think there are many ways in which the journeys are similar. I also recognize that my experience of fully recognizing who I am and then not only deciding to actively engage in a campaign to “kill” a significant part of myself, enlisting allies in the effort to do so, was different.  I literally declared war on myself, and, now, even years later, I’m still wrestling with what it is to live with myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wrestling with whether or not it is okay for me to be gay, but I am wrestling with what it is to be in my mid-40s, overweight (Obesity Class 2 according to the online BMI calculator), single, and fairly new in a profession when many who are my biological contemporaries are decades into their lives and careers. Now, let’s throw in a pandemic, uprising over racial injustice, and a world economy on the brink of collapse. 

For someone who struggles to feel safe and secure when things are “normal,” whatever the hell that is, safety and security are difficult to find right now. Everything feels like it is resting on a rug and that I’m looking at some giant magician whom I can already see lifting the edge of it in preparation to give a swift and exaggerated tug. I’ve seen this trick before. The rug will get pulled out and everything will be fine, right? I mean I know that’s how it’s supposed to work, but I don’t ever remember seeing that trick and not having some anxiety that it won’t work this time to wondering if the magician will mess it up and everything will go tumbling. And, if I feel this way, how does this moment feel for those with less privilege and status than I have? I’m a cis white man who is has worked steadily with no interruption in my income since Covid-19 shut the world down. 

Also, my privilege and status being what they are, that doesn’t take away from the reality that I feel unstable and insecure most of the time. This is where I start to use my therapist voice inside my own head and remind myself that it is okay that I don’t feel okay. Sometimes I am able to hear those words, and sometimes they echo off the recesses of my mind in search of someone to receive them, even partially. This is what I think this blog is supposed to be about now. So many of the details of my life are already publicly available. I think this next step in my journey, the step that would be most helpful to me and would therefore allow me to be more present and available to others is for me to talk about the things that I don’t talk about. 

I’ll wrap up this post with a BrenĂ© Brown quote. Can’t go wrong with her, right? I think this sums up what I want to live (and write) into.

If you're reading this, thank you for being willing to walk with me on this journey.

Culbs, a.k.a. Josh