In the world of television- NBC’s Parenthood is perhaps the most underappreciated work of art out there. The reason I love this show so so so much is that it ditches the dramatic gimmicks utilized by so many other programs and takes the viewers down into a reality-based dumpster. Whereas on other shows, the problems the plague the normal are written off as BORRIINGG, Parenthood paints them in a way that resonates strongly with its viewers. It’s just so relatable. Which makes it so good.
Kristina has just found out she has cancer. As her and her husband Adam are thrust into this dark and challenging road before them, they find themselves almost always in a place of uncertainty. Uncertainty in their choice of doctor. Uncertainty in their choice of treatment. Uncertainty in who they tell. Uncertainty of when they tell their kids. Uncertainty in how they talk to one another and uncertainty in how they should feel.
Lying in bed Kristina takes a deep breath and refocuses on the now. And in the now, she stops trying to feel the way she “should” and instead embraces honesty.
The two of them had been getting ahead of themselves lately. They were furious and desperate to attack the tumor that was on the verge of ending her life. Adam, worrying that if his wife felt worried it would harm her chances of survival (kind of a mind over matter thing), refused to allow her to show any signs of surrender. He watched her carefully as she surfed the web, fearing she would find the survival rates. Every time he saw tears, he would reassure her that it was “normal” to feel scared, but to remember to stay strong.
As many of my brothers and sisters in the crosshairs of faith and sexuality will tell you, the aftermath of exiting the closet can be exhausting. My parents deferred the decision to me, asking me if I wanted to be gay. Quite honestly, I said no. More than anything I wanted to be free from my status as a freak. They never pressured me towards reparative therapy or required me to resist my feelings. They simply asked me what I wanted, and I told them.
Except I didn’t tell them I was scared. Each time I looked up ex gay stories I felt unnerved and unacceptable. I read up on suicide rates of those in therapy and the loneliness of those in celibacy. I needn’t look too far to find out what happened to men who tried to be straight- enough prominent pastors had shown how that went down.
At a crossroads I stood, and I hated every path. I hated the idea that I needed to fall into a category and move forward with a game plan. I hated that I hated these options. I wished things to be clearer.
During this period I started seeing an incredible therapist who listened through my tears as I talked about my options. There were pros here, cons there, and I wanted to hear what his opinion was. Mid-monologue he raised his hand and said, “stop.”
“Stop- please. Stop trying to paint a pretty picture when that isn’t what you feel. Stop with the talk of reparative therapy. Stop thinking you will be alone your whole life. Stop and accept the reality that this is very hard. Accept your fear; allow yourself more time to grieve. Your whole life you have had to watch straight siblings who are going to live a life free from judgment and condemnation and you can’t. You need to accept the gravity of this. Stop thinking you can move forward without embracing where you are now.”
That was a turning point for me. I stopped engaging in reparative therapy sessions. I stopped making five-year plans. I stopped thinking about getting a dog to fill my void of loneliness. I stopped the mental gymnastics. I stopped it all.
Instead I let myself mourn, kick and scream, and check out for a while.
I let myself lean in.
When I explained the session to my folks, they understood my feelings better. And in turn, I understood them more. I understood that their need to continue to affirm me and lift me up stemmed from their fear of my suicide. That when they told me “everything will be alright” they weren’t referencing my sexuality but my emotional stability.
Strange as it sounds, I could not regain perspective with positive reinforcement, or by sinking my nails into the slope I was slipping down. I couldn’t through self help books or praise and worship songs. I certainly couldn’t in reparative therapy.
No, I had to raise my hands up. Scream in terror at the drop. Feel the adrenaline filling my veins. Accept the uncertainty. Wait for the bottom hit.
Instead of running around like the little Dutch boy plugging holes in the dam, I had to relax and know the thing was gonna blow anyway.
I had to accept that my life prior to coming out was no more, and instead of trying to preserve any semblance of that charade, I had to build a new one from the core pieces of who I am. Until my feelings could be validated, I couldn’t move forward. By leaning in I let the whole thing collapse so I could rebuild my respect and find rationality in the chaos.
Leaning in was the best choice I could make. It threw me in the arms of my family, friends, and my savior. Only then did I understand who was in my corner. It made me recognize how little control I have over my future, and despite how scary that is, it doesn’t have to be.
It helped me realize that I couldn’t reach relief from the outside in. That’s backwards.
I had to let it burn and build again.