I am whole, I am whole, I am whole

Last Wednesday was my 26th birthday. Or, as I’ve been saying for the past few months, the Officially-Kicked-Off-My-Parents’-Health-Insurance-Day.

This birthday feels a bit different. It’s a pretty big milestone in many ways. As I remove my family Aetna card from my wallet, I feel a tinge of fear. The final safety net, my final tie to my parents financially, has been removed. Is that freedom shaking my fingers? Or just the throbbing paper cut from opening up another explanation of benefits letter?

Maybe this is the age when I’m finally a self-sufficient adult. Maybe this next year will be the one when I figure out not only the answer to my questions about deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance, but also to my questions of sexuality and faith, and whether I can have one, the other, neither, or both. Maybe this is the age where I’ll discover the Perfect Answer to all of the struggles that began when I was too young to fully process what they meant.

Whether the heel-toe of the day-to-day, or a jump into a new experience, each step of this past year made me more aware of the path I was walking.

When I reflect on the last year and the steps I made, I realize that some were leaps, others were stumbles, and a rare few were skips. I started my first full-time job and visited three emergency rooms (two for humans, one for animals). I lost my grandmother and traveled to Ohio for her funeral. I got down on one knee amidst a busy crowd in Central Park to propose to a man that I love.

Whether the heel-toe of the day-to-day, or a jump into a new experience, each step of this past year made me more aware of the path I was walking and the character of that path. As I go back further and look at what I’ve experienced since I first moved to NYC over three years ago, I’m drawn to this blog and the previous posts I made with my thoughts on sexuality and faith. My writing can act as a time capsule.

This is the first post on my blog since November 2017. Looking back on my older posts, a pattern seems to emerge. I tend to only post in the second half of the calendar year and mostly in the autumn season. Something about this time of year gets me to pondering, I guess. Comparing my posts from the first year of the blog, 2016, versus 2017, there is a clear difference in subject matter and tone.

A theme that runs through the first year of my posts is an apologist sensibility—I was offering arguments in defense of something controversial, the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. I was reading a lot about sexuality and trying to make the case that I could be gay and still live a more traditional life (religion, marriage, etc.). This makes sense, since I had important people in my life who did not accept that part of myself and disagreed with my “lifestyle.”

My blogs in 2016 start off pretty awkward, since I tended to write like I speak. I had just graduated college and finally felt the power to speak about my experiences as a queer person. While I came out to friends in high school, coming out to family members was still new. I tried on many different labels to see how they felt. I was “Type A,” I was “Evangelical.” As I read what I wrote then, I see a person really trying to figure out his roots and tendencies and attempting to make sense of it all.

I had perceived an either-or choice between being gay or identifying as a Christian, and I was becoming exhausted by that fake dichotomy.

There are undercurrents of desperation in this writing, but mostly inspiration from what I was reading and the ideas I was discovering for myself. I think I believed that if I wrote out these ideas I was learning, they would offer an irrefutable argument, that they would create an impenetrable wall against which naysayers could hold no ground. I wanted the Perfect Answer that would solve all my problems; the Answer that would make those people in my life with who I was in conflict finally understand and force them to agree with me. The thrust of my writing and thinking at this point was all in pursuit of this Perfect Answer.

I stopped blogging for about eight months, and then picked things back up the following August (as autumn approaches, the impulse to blog apparently does, too). One thing is clear from my hiatus-breaking entries: I finally discovered how to download free stock photos and feature them at the top of my posts.

These 2017 blogs had a markedly different focus than the previous ones. I was thinking more about my spirituality and the religion of my upbringing. It was becoming clear to me that I was longing for more than the hustle and bustle of daily life. I walked by churches and couldn’t help peeking in. I sat and stared at stained glass windows. I heard hymns from a nearby congregation waft through the alley outside my bedroom. It was starting to seem that I had abandoned something essential in my journey towards acceptance of my sexuality.

I had perceived an either-or choice between being gay or identifying as a Christian, and I was becoming exhausted by that fake dichotomy. I realized that I had a tendency to think my way out of big conflicts and came to the conclusion that thinking alone was insufficient; it wouldn’t give me the answers I sought. I began to toy with the idea of returning to church. Organized religion wasn’t life-giving to me in the past, but maybe I would give it another try. Maybe I could have everything I wanted, maybe a new Perfect Answer: a church that accepts and validates my spiritual and sexual identities.

The twenty-three months that have elapsed since I’ve written my last blog post yielded some progress. Together, Nick and I found a church that we loved, and a community that accepted us. Our time there was wonderfully fulfilling. Unfortunately, it ended too soon—the church shut its doors in 2018. I’ve since been involved with LGBTQ+ Christian events where I’ve met new people and now also attend a new church. While I’m happy to have had many life-giving opportunities and connections with these communities over the past two years, I’ve still felt that something was missing, some answer I was seeking still out of reach.

I’ve come to discover that everything takes the time that it needs to, and as a painfully limited mortal being, there’s only so much that’s within my power to control.

During this time Nick and I also became engaged, and many of these issues of religion and sexuality have come to the forefront because of it. While our engagement is a happy time in our lives, it has been marred with the difficulty of not being able to include important family members, who have disagreements over queer marriage. There’s been several moments of intense fear, anger, and grief in this process.

Overall, this almost two-year period has not been fruitful in a typically “productive” way. My writing habits in particular have been lackluster. Where this time has been fruitful is in something I don’t usually view too highly (nor our culture)—rest. I’ve spent many hours as of late doing absolutely nothing. I watch a lot of TV now or see plays (when I can afford them). I spend more time with Nick. I play with Calcifer, our kitty, and attempt to do my usual dose of reading. I meet up more with friends and try to be less socially aloof. I attempt to find what quiet moments I can while living in this busy city and claim those moments for my own.

Through rest, I’ve been afforded unfocused time where I do not ruminate on a Perfect Answer to the conflicts and ideological pulls in my life. I do not make myself feel guilty for not sitting down and blogging or writing the play I’ve been working on for ~4 years (although I really do need to get on that). I simply let myself slip into the flow of life. I’ve come to discover that everything takes the time that it needs to, and as a painfully limited mortal being, there’s only so much that’s within my power to control.

I do not need to be perfect; perfection is an illusion that only fools believe they can reach.

Sometimes I feel lost in this seemingly endless stroll of life, my day-to-day activities with work and home life often blending together. It can feel monotonous, with high and low points. I realize I’m on a path with choices made and opportunities missed. A path that’s sometimes lonely, sometimes scary, sometimes joyful. It’s a path of many repetitions, but thankfully with some outliers. This daily walk often seems like it will go on forever, even though I know that it won’t.

In the moments when I truly feel the indescribable reality and uniqueness and impermanence of my life, something inside me whispers: you do not need to do anything to be whole.

 “You are created, wonderfully made, just as you are,” the voice says softly in my ear. “You do not need to ‘solve’ the ostensibly impossible struggles of religious theologies against individual freedoms. You do not need to prove yourself to others. You are only responsible for walking the path that has been laid out for you, and to make choices that will align you with the will of God. Your path is not the path of others.”

“You are whole, you are whole, you are whole,” it coos. “Repeat.”

I am whole, I am whole, I am whole.
I am whole, I am whole, I am whole.
I am whole, I am whole, I am whole.

Through this mantra, I think I’m finding peace. It heals my mind from years of torturous answer-seeking and bottling up feelings of hate, jealousy, and doubt. (Oh, doubt. Glorious doubt. I’ve learned it’s not always a dirty word.) It assures me that regardless of my sexuality, I am good. It tells me that I am not lacking at my core, at my most essential self. It caresses me, holding me close, and says to me that I am not broken.

I believe I’ve come to know that the Perfect Answer is not of this world and that none of its inhabitants can claim it.

I do not need to hold all the answers; no created being possibly can. I do not need to be perfect; perfection is an illusion that only fools believe they can reach. And I should not be jaded because of this, but rather empowered. Empowered by the potentialities of my life, the gifts given to me that I receive with grateful, open hands cupped together. It may be a cliché notion at this point, but life truly is a gift. A gift we do not deserve.

I am whole, I am whole, I am whole.
Thank you for making me whole.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And looking forward to this next year, my 26th, I’m wondering if it may indeed be the one when I’m finally self-sufficient by the end. The family insurance card is gone and hopefully I don’t trip and break my head open before I get my new one in the mail. Maybe by next October I’ll fully understand deductibles and co-pays, and heck, maybe retirement, too (but I probably shouldn’t get ahead of myself).

Something I definitely won’t be able to accomplish in my 26th year, or in any of the proceeding ones until my last happy moment on Earth (which by the grace of God, won’t be for another fifty), is finding an indestructible, irrefutable Perfect Answer that fully explains everything I long to know and make sense of. I believe I’ve come to know that this Answer is not of this world and that none of its inhabitants can claim it. It belongs only in the realm of the heavens.

In the meantime, while I’ve been gifted time to live and breathe, I’ll focus on what I know I can do, which the full extent of I’m discovering each day. I’ll surround myself with friends and family who will accept the unknown alongside me, and who will love and support me in all the ways I raise the bar or come up short.

The one thing in my wheelhouse that I know I can do is easy and also extremely hard. It’s super-super cheesy, but I think it’s true: I have a full capacity to love. I will love to the best of the ability I have. I will love myself, saying my mantra. And I will change my mantra as needed, to love others.

I am whole, I am whole, I am whole.
You are whole, you are whole, you are whole.
We are whole, we are whole, we are whole.

Thank you for making us whole.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Amen.

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