Friday, June 17, 2005
My girls at my elder daughter's wedding--the bride is on the left.
I’ve become a very different person in the last decade from the man I was earlier. I came out of my childhood, adolescence and early closeted years with a lot of anger and defensiveness. The change began with raising my daughters, which I still consider to be the great central act of my life. Getting to be the nurturer I had always thought I was meant to be started a process of reexamining everything I believed in, everything I had thought I was. Some months ago I wrote “being gay saved me.” Finally coming out to myself in my mid-30s and beginning to explore the gay world properly might never have happened without those two.
Writing this story comes from a conversation I had with Fritz earlier this evening. Our trip in July is being planned by a woman who does a lot of the travel arrangements for various MIT departments. As I work at the Institute, I get to use her services and any discounts for which MIT might be eligible. It also means that I, as a small client, sometimes get sidetracked as she takes care of the big groups or rush arrangements required by an internationally-known institution. Fritz, normally very laid back, has been concerned at some points that things weren’t being done as quickly as they should, and while I’ve been pushing her to make sure things don’t fall by the wayside, I haven’t panicked or gotten angry. “Either I’ve gained some wisdom and calmed down a lot from being loved by you,” I told him, “or I’ve suffered a catastrophic loss of testosterone—my behavior last weekend notwithstanding.”
I can see it in myself at work and in my personal life—the hair trigger is gone. When there are crises at MIT or something unpleasant happens in my private life, I stop to think before reacting. I’ve come to realize that a lot of sound and fury just isn’t worth it. The turn-around came in the fall of 1996 when I did a weekend program by the Body Electric School. I heard about their work in November, a month too late to do the Boston-area event—at which time I would have met Fritz eight months earlier than I actually did, since Body Electric works out of his center. Instead, I traveled to Philadelphia in December and had an extraordinary experience. Matters of sexuality and spirituality are central to Body Electric work. But in the middle of the weekend at a crucial moment, the message I heard forcefully in my head and heart was that if I were to get anywhere in the rest of my life, I’d have to get rid of the residual anger and resentment I had stored within me.
I never expected anything like that—it came in from left field but was very powerful and started me on the last leg of a journey I seriously needed to take.