Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Substitute For Love

The desire for deep human connection is common among us as a species. We have a desperate need to eradicate the undeniable sense of loneliness that fills us even in the midst of a crowded room. The truth is, no other person in this world can really share the unique experience that we live out in our minds. Our irrational thoughts, our inescapable fears, our paralyzing doubts, and the seemingly inescapable masochistic self-flagellation that we employ to remind ourselves how far below par we are; Our most intimate hopes, our silly but deeply sincere dreams, and our unquenchable craving for love and beauty— the extent and depth of these can never truly be known by any other human being. And yet, we try.

It seems the closest we can come to eradicating that sense of loneliness is to find a companion, a witness to our life, a deep and abiding love. The longer our person is by our side, the more experiences and life we share. Sean told me of a study that was conducted that showed that the body systems and regulations of couples who have slept next to each other for many decades begin to respond to each other. Their heartbeats, their breathing, the ebb and flow of blood running through their veins become synchronized. It is like a biological extension of how our daily routines become synchronized with our life companion. This, the study suggests, could explain why couples who have been married to one person for the majority of their lives often pass away within a short time of their spouse. Are we made to crave and desire love? Is love our best hope for extinguishing the innate sense of loneliness buried within us? 

Nonetheless, I’ve had to learn from an early age to stomp out love. Growing up gay in a world where being a homosexual was unacceptable, evil, and dangerous forced me to find a substitute. For some it is drugs, for others sex, fame, money or any combination of these and similar things. Mine was work. I worked hard. I worked hard at school. I worked hard to please the God I believed in. I filled my life with hard work, and I succeeded. It gave me a sense of validation to do well. A reparative therapist I once visited said, “perfectionists tend to have a problem with homosexual feelings.” I would argue that many gay people become perfectionists because they are trying desperately to find a substitute for love; To distract themselves from the gaping hole in their life. But it is in vain. 

Eventually, I found that it didn’t matter how many people complimented me or how much recognition I was given for my work, I never took that validation to heart. I knew that if those people really knew about the war raging inside my lonely, tortured mind, they would have nothing positive to say about me. I was a faggot. And so, my substitution for love failed me and rejecting praise became a pattern that still haunts me. It left me desperate to end the loneliness in the only final way I knew- stomp out the light of awareness of my existence. That was almost a year before I met Sean.

Sean loved me. He really, truly loved me. It was a love more incredible than I had ever previously imagined would be possible in my life. I found it almost unfathomable. Love? Me? Why? And for reasons I am still trying to comprehend, it didn’t work between us. Love can’t conquer all. There is some other gap in my being that I have yet to identify. Some chasm that the love of another cannot bridge. And so, for now— I look to my substitute. 

This time is different. This time around I am my authentic self- exposed for all to see. I am not ashamed that I am gay and I hope that hard work, (my substitute for love), will pay off. I hope that I can feel validated and successful and find meaning and purpose in the work I do as I try to identify and fill in the chasm that threatens to ensure that deep sense of loneliness is never pacified. I don't want to be forever alone, and like I learned in Sunday School in the book of Genesis as a child, "It is not good that man should be alone." Perhaps the bible got that part right.


  1. I am also browsing the thougt of Brené Brown, and has been useful to me. I notice you embraced your vulnerability and overcame the shame we sometimes feel not fulfilling the ideal the Superego imposes us. It's fantastic your identification with your authentic self and I hope you might son find meaning in your life and also the fulfillment the love could contribute. Of course the validation has to be found in ourselves, but when happens that somebody casually expresses something about me, it helps me so much. With my best wishes to your happiness.

  2. A person cannot experience you as you, but they can get awfully close if you let them. The rarity is finding someone who is pursuing those depths of you with as much fervor as your desire for capture. If I have a relationship with someone, it can be on fire for awhile, and then burn out.
    If I have a relationship with someone else, it can be on fire in ways that my previous relationship was not. It can endure longer than the fading sunset of the last one. It however too can fade. If I have yet another relationship with someone, it can be deeper than the other two combined, creating an experience of connection and intimacy that blew what I already thought was unimaginable in the past two relationships to whole new levels of out of this world proportions. At that depth there will not be a night that you suddenly awake and feel empty in his arms next to you. At that depth you lose yourself in each other. You are so at home that you no longer matter.

    You hunger and long for something deeper, something closer, something more fullfilling than what you had previously experienced. This doesn't mean what you had experienced wasn't real or wasn't deep. Several combinations can lead to flames burning out and is another topic all by itself. Sometimes the flames don't burn out at all and people still seek something deeper. We are built and hard-wired to be engulfed and on fire for another person's heart body mind and soul to the most rejuvenating life giving depths of our vessels. When the well goes dry, we experience a season of famine, times moves, and we feel like we are missing out.

    Escaping to pass times is not necessarily a negative thing. Work as a pass time is okay as long as a balance is maintained. People become unconscious of the tipping scales of that balance. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun if he comes home to a quiet room and goes to bed early? Life is not always about what you do or where you go. Maybe right now for you it is. You will find as echoing through out your post here that it really is about who you are with. A table for one gets very tired very quickly.