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.