Thursday, November 03, 2011

Catching up with Bobby...

I've seen bits and pieces of it, but never have I sat and watched the entire movie before now. I know, I know... I should have my MOHO membership card revoked for sure. But maybe I didn't feel ready for the emotions of "Prayers for Bobby", until now...

I was alone this past weekend and I really had so much work to get caught up on, but I felt so empty inside - I couldn't work. So, I took this "opportunity" and watched Bobby's suffering. Whether it was the exact time period represented of my high school and early college years that registered so deeply, whether it was the overwhelming self-righteousness, whether it was simply the loneliness of not being understood, even by oneself, or whatever, I came undone. I came completely undone.

I haven't allowed myself to cry like that for some time. I sobbed uncontrollably, (grateful that no one had seen me break down so terribly) shaking and blubbering to the point that it scared me. What was I crying for like this? I knew the storyline, and even the ending. I wasn't surprised by the portrayal of family misgivings, heart aches, and coming to terms with such deep tragedy, but I was surprised by being swallowed hole by the grief and angst within my own misunderstood soul.

I just let it come out... as if this grief and pain was coming up and expressing itself from within the secret depths of my being. Why was this happening? What is going on? Why do I feel so ashamed? What am I ashamed of? Am I ashamed of who I am as a confused gay man? Or am I more ashamed that I have allowed myself to refuse to express the emotions and feelings and anger of a hidden, frozen man - thus permitting life to happen instead of be lived.

Except for the fact that I would not permit myself to recognize these feelings of my high school self, this could have been me - the perfect, sensitive son of a "perfect all-American, religious" family, the son who could do no wrong, and desired nothing more than to please his parents and embrace their beliefs and make them proud and happy, to the point that forever, I would keep from them the longings of a grocery store stocker boy who drooled over the beautiful young men parading through the supermarket. The son who wanted to kiss a girl to prove to himself that he could, only to be found receiving a mission call never having kissed anyone (guy or girl) and a friend (who was a girl) who wanted to be sure I could honestly tell my companions that I had kissed a girl, laying a big fat one on me. The son who was the obedient, faithful missionary, who found out while serving at the end of his mission how fantastically amazing it was to kiss a man instead - and the amazing way it made this missionary son feel, until the time to return home and face the family - amazement being replaced by fear, guilt, shame.

Only once did I feel like taking my life, the despair and pain of "coming out" to my wife and the grief, frustration and hellacious agony it caused her to suffer... such suffering that made me realize it would be better for her , for our kids, for everyone, if I were to disappear from this life. I contemplated how to do it... it wasn't the freeway overpass in front of an 18-wheeler, but instead the leap from the hotel balcony window at the corner of 2nd South and West Temple. I parked my car across the street and contemplated how it would feel to jump and be free of this fear, guilt, and shame, and free those I loved from their agony over what I was, what I had become.

That was nearly seven years ago. Seven years! Seven years of suicidal thoughts. Seven years of driving my wife crazy with confusion, self-doubt and depression, sucking her into my closet, instead of opening up and coming out. Seven years of looking over my shoulder wondering what she is thinking or feeling as I might tough a guy or give him a hug beyond the 3-pat back slap priesthood quicky hug.
And so there is no relief. Coming out to her just complicated things. Yes, we are closer and understand each other better, and in some ways we are improving because of my coming out to her, yet, it has certainly complicated things.

Why didn't I jump? I guess, like always, I'm just as afraid to die as I am to live...

NOTE: there was a particular scene that struck me as funny. It was the one where the two religious leaders were sitting in hard-back chairs in front of the family on the sofa, trying to offer some condolences, but coming up short. One by one, family members left until the mother was left alone with the clergy. It made we think of home teaching and how often I felt like the clergy in the chair uncomfortable in being there and the family not really wanting me either. I chuckled a bit. There was another meaning, though, where I thought: What if those were their home teachers? What would they have said? Would they have been able to have compassion and offer sincere and meaningful hope of the unconditional Love God has for each of his children, including and maybe particularly for his gay children?

Would they? Could they? I hope so... Could I? Most definitely!


Ned said...

The contrasts and similarities in our lives are once again revealed in this excellent post about your alone time with Prayers for Bobby and other touching films.

I too have been on a cinematic journey: My Own Private Idaho, Big Eden, Eyes Wide Open, Role/Play, I Love Your Phillip Morris, Shelter, Six Degrees of Separation, Beautiful Thing and Maurice.

I've also laughed and cried. And remembered first kisses and hugs. The pain my wife and I felt when I came out to her. My own bout with suicidal depression a decade ago.

Like you, sometimes I feel very much alone even though I am surrounded by wonderful family and supportive friends.

Our heavenly and earthy parents, our ancestors and progeny, our wives and extended families, our church and professional and face-to-face and online communities support us. We are loved, cherished. And we love and cherish many. We function. Sometimes just barely and sometimes exceptionally well.

So why do we still feel so alone?

Beck said...

Thank you for your inspiration encouraging my cinematic journey. I hope you find it as therapeutic as I do.

It is interesting that one can be surrounded by those who love and support and cherish one and still feel so alone. For me it has everything to do with connections.

I do feel connected to my wife, to my family, to my extended family, my neighbors and friends, my ward, my work and clients, and I feel loved and supported and cherished. But, I am still lonely because there isn't that full "understood" spirit-to-spirit / body-to-body connection. Those times are rare, but it is those times that I finally don't feel so alone.

Beck said...

NED: P.S. Thanks for your specific encouragement to watch a certain film... that review and personal impressions and impact are pending in the next post! (FWIW)

Alex said...

Beck, I've been reading your blog for a while but rarely comment. Your honesty and sincerity always touch me.
I watched Prayers for Bobby 6 months ago. I had a similar reaction as you, I just started crying and crying, expressing my lonenliness and pain and grief, pain over my divorce, pain over being rejected by my family, pain at trying so hard to change, pray away my same sex attraction. Grieving my failures in marriage.
But most of all, I could sympathize with Bobby. I knew exactly why he jumped, what he was feeling. I've never tried to kill myself, but I've been on the threshold, and it scared me. When I watched it, it dawned on me that my Mom would probably never change. She is too set in her belief. And I grieved the loss of that acceptance, that connection of having them be part of my life in a significant way. I know we're not in the same situation, I never had kids, but I know what's it's like to be married and come out, to face the pain of that. I admire you and can appreciate at least some of the difficulty of your situation. But I also know that you have received gifts and blessings that I can't help but envy. You're a good man, and I appreciate your honest blog and your great post.

I think I'm starting after months to come out of that darkness. That depression, that pain, that sadness. There have been many days where I've been there, trying to hold on but not knowing if I should, until finally I realized that killing myself over trying to please others and fit their expectations was wrong, was foolish, and hard as it is, I had to change.
Thanks again for your honest post. I look forward to your future film reviews.

Beck said...

Dear ALEX: I am so glad you commented - please come back more frequently. I am always impressed that there are readers out there who have found something worthwhile in following my story. I try to be as honest and sincere as possible in the blog because in my real life it isn't as honest, or at least, my feelings are kept in their own compartment under lock-n-key.

I'm so sorry to know about your pain, depression, darkness but I sincerely see hope on the horizon.


I can't imagine the pain of family rejection and divorce you've endured. So far my wife and two of my four kids "know" of my attractions and are still accepting of me (that is they accept me in that they love me for who I am, but, for good or bad, want me to stay within the world we've already created).

Life has its challenges, that's for sure, but I'm glad I didn't rent that hotel room and jump from that balcony... but because I wanted to so much at that time, it is so hard, yet so easy to understand why Bobby did it.

Keep hoping!

Freddie said...

I too recognized that I am contemporary to Bobby. Unlike Bobby, I left everyone and everything I knew and went as far away from Mormondom as I could without leaving the US. My new life was filled with terror, and I have never been a particularly courageous guy. But now, after 16 years sharing the love of a beautiful man, Bobby's story makes me wail as much as any of you. No matter where we are on a spectrum of self expression, seeing agony so close to our own experience reminds us of our own pain whether past or present.

For me, the climax was Mary's speech to the town council. I realized how important is is to never let the ugly words be the last that young people (and some older) hear. It became urgent within me when I learned my 17 year old nephew is also gay. Now I know I need to be there to counteract the hate that comes from his father.

Beck said...

FREDDIE: Thank you for sharing some of your story. Congrats on your 16 year relationship with a beautiful man. How happy that makes me feel to write those words.

I still ponder why "Bobby" made me cry so much, breaking down uncontrollably. I have come to the same conclusion - I (we) feel the pain in a very personal way, even if I wasn't in his exact situation - it still hits home in a very real way, so "close to our own paint whether past or present".

I'd like to know more of your story and how you were able to be so courageous.