And sometimes, you just have to grieve and let it out.
Time for another long post as I try to sort out some of what’s going on in my head. Once again, you’ll have to bear with me as this is going to come out stream of consciousness. You’ll all be glad to know that I am doing some traveling next week so I’ll be picking up the travelogue again for a few days and that will give some spine/order to my musing. It’s not a long trip – just Wednesday through Sunday but it’s my first time away for some months. I deliberately kept myself close to home to get used to domestic rhythms without Tommy these last few months. I don’t know if that was a good idea or not, it just seemed like the thing I should do.
Last week was a low point, especially Thursday night. It wasn’t any one thing in particular, just a lot of things converging. First off, one of my friends unexpectedly lost his husband. He’s not someone I know well as he only recently came into my life and I knew his late husband barely at all but any time I hear of one of my peers being widowed, I take it to heart as I know exactly what that means. Losing Steve nearly 20 years ago first sharpened my senses and my empathy to loss of partner. The hard part isn’t the grieving, the hard part is the later emptiness when the person who completes you, who knows all the private jokes and moments, who just fills up your life, is no longer there. I’ve done all sorts of both formal and informal peer counseling regarding widowhood and grieving over the years and I do it well and it may be at least part of my calling in life, but every time I hear such news, it takes a piece of my soul with it. It’s especially true when it’s a gay couple. It’s so damned hard in gay society to find a compatible mate and build a relationship as most of that energy has to come from within the two of you due to a lack of external social supports and then to be cheated out of the rewards of a long and happy life together just feels so unfair.
That got added on top of some work shiz that made me feel inadequate to my job. I’ve always had a strong dose of impostor syndrome. That feeling that you have no idea what you’re actually doing and if anyone else really knew you, they’d know you were faking it and send you packing. Now I’ve been a doctor for over thirty years and I know intellectually I’m a darned good one, but it doesn’t take much for the self deprecation and the self doubt to start creeping over me. I’m also in the process of losing one of my favorite patients. I took care of her husband first, and he was one of my first patients on moving to Alabama; I then picked her up and have had her for nearly 20 years. She’s dying at the age of 93 after a life well lived and it’s a right and good thing but I’m still feeling a bit bummed out by it.
Then there was post show let down. Show weeks usually run Thursday – Sunday and there I was on a Thursday night and for the first time in eight weeks, I had neither a rehearsal or a performance so my rhythms were feeling off. My psyche and body wanted to be in performance mode and there was no where to place that energy. I suppose I could have lip synced the score of Dreamgirls for the cats but I don’t think they would have been interested. Unless I opened a can of Fancy Feast in the middle of ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’.
The last major factor was going to see Tick… Tick… Boom at Birmingham Southern College on Thursday night. I’ve seen the show before but didn’t remember a whole lot about it. The last part of the show, where Jon has to confront the mortality of his best friend, hit me in the solar plexus as it dredged up a lot of memories from my life in the late 80s during the HIV crisis when I had to deal with death, dying and loss on both a personal and a professional level. I think every gay man of my generation carries a lot of things locked away for self protection – painful memories, rage against society, survivor’s guilt – but every once in a while something slips through the cracks and unlocks that chamber just a bit.
Needless to say, Thursday night, I sat in the dark in my living room staring at the ceiling and trying not to feel. This of course, never actually works. As much as you try to avoid emotion, and I am the past master at it, it will come out one way or another and if you don’t let it out mentally, it comes out in physical form and that can be very destructive to the body. I eventually dragged myself upstairs and into bed, got some sleep, and felt much better the next morning. I made it through my Friday work stuff without major incident and actually feeling somewhat competent at my job and headed into the weekend in an OK, if somewhat subdued place. I trust I was decent company at the dinner party I went to Saturday night and I felt good enough to take myself to the movies on Sunday afternoon and write a column about it afterwards.
Two steps forward, one step back. Get up, face the world, meet your obligations… in the words of Voltaire, ‘after all, we must cultivate our garden.’