See Paris First

One of the first of many literary aids that I was encouraged to study by my coach was the poem “See Paris First” by M Truman Cooper. which is written out in full below. Please read it and then re-read it after my observations below:-

See Paris First
by M. Truman Cooper

Suppose that what you fear
could be trapped,
and held in Paris.
Then you would have
the courage to go
everywhere in the world.
All the directions of the compass
open to you,
except the degrees east or west
of true north
that lead to Paris.
Still, you wouldn’t dare
put your toes
smack dab on the city limit line.
You’re not really willing
to stand on a mountainside
miles away
and watch the Paris lights
come up at night.
Just to be on the safe side
you decide to stay completely
out of France.
But then danger
seems too close
even to those boundaries,
and you feel
the timid part of you
covering the whole globe again.
You need the kind of friend
who learns your secret and says,
“See Paris first.”

As I have related in my earlier posts, I have spent most of my adult life rejecting my gay sexuality which I feared because to reveal it would most certainly have lead to the break up of my marriage and the potential loss of my children. I also felt that my attraction to men was in direct conflict with my deeply held values and Roman Catholic faith. I was pretty much wrong on all points.

My coach, in asking me to internalise this poem, was asking me to consider the possibility of acceptance of my sexuality and to do so within my marriage and within my faith if that was possible – it might not have been, but I was encouraged to look at the problem and dilemma that I had rejected and feared for over twenty years.

At this time I had told my wife of the anguish I had suffered through almost every year of our 25 years of marriage and she had accepted my pain with sincerity mostly as a result of the fact that I had struggled through and I had not had any extra-marital relationships.

I decided to look at the issue of my sexuality and face it head on. I had never had any contact with another man except in the daily torment of my feelings towards men and so I decided to look at pornographic material. I felt that to see the physical contact between two men would be facing what I most feared in the most direct way that I could imagine (short of getting out there to meet a man) .

In looking at this material, and with my wife’s knowledge and support (to a point), I had to overcome massive feelings of judgement – not about the act of homosexuality, but about how it had always been in conflict with my deeply held values and faith. In other words I had to overcome the judge – the inner critic – that was telling me that this was wrong.

I was not repulsed – I was aroused – and for a while I was quite hooked by this material until it had served it’s purpose along this part of my journey and I took steps to stop viewing it.

A second approach of “Seeing Paris First” was to look back at my own journey. How long had I been aware of being gay – certainly early on in my marriage, but my wife wanted to know if I had married her knowing that I was gay. I had not, however, in looking at the issue I know that in fact I was gay most likely from the start of my life – a biological reality and I was able to reflect on feelings that I had not understood or given sufficient space to understand whilst in my adolescent years.

I looked into my upbringing – the weight of expectation in terms of what I was expected to be – albeit from a position of kindness  and with my best interests at heart no doubt, but which turned out to be immensely damaging and the cause of the greatest pain I could imagine having to carry everyday of my life.

My new understanding translated into an acceptance that I had not matured either sexually or emotionally until I was married with two children – I was committed and we went on to have a third child. I don’t remember the day on which I knew I was gay but I felt it to be a long time ago.

So what is it like for me in Paris – I’ve been here metaphorically for two years – I am gay – I am married – I am a deeply committed Catholic – my sexuality is not a sin – if I have hurt those close to me through my deep frustrations, I am sorry, but I have done my penance – all I can do now is try to be open about my sexuality to myself and to those in my close circle who know my story.

I cannot assume that my acceptance of my gay sexuality will necessarily mean that my marriage will be sustainable – we have to take each day as it comes and journey together – some days are better than others – I have mood swings and feel anxious – but the best action I can take at these times is to face towards “Paris” and spend time in deep reflection and calm and prayer.

So, if like me you live in fear – go to Paris!

My next blog will be       –        Past; Present and Future Thoughts

William Defoe

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