Category Archives: Catholic and Gay

Uprooted Tree

I am an English Catholic, a supporter of the benefits of a United Kingdom, but deeply respectful of the hopes and aspirations of my fellow citizens in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who crave for independence.

I have been drawn recently to the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011 and how that visit sought to draw a line under the hurt caused by passed centuries of not treating our neighbours as our freinds.

My catholicism, held strongly in my consciousness, originates in my Irish ancestry, but I am English, I am a unionist, I am gay.

I have been drawn this week to the tragic early death of the Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia at the age of 70. It has been a shock for the cathoilic commnity in Scotland as his death had not been anticpated by ill health or age.

I have been drawn to his funeral rites, the words of his brother Fr Gerard Tartaglia at the vigil Mass, expressing his disbelief that his brother had died, and at the words of Bishop Hugh Gilbert at the funeral Mass in which he compared the loss of the archbishop to the uprooting of a strong and solid tree in a storm.

This uprooting of strength, this uprooting of goodness causes pain and as with an oak felled in a storm, the roots once torn up from the earth cannot be replanted, but in the shadow of the felled branches, the earth stirs with saplings and new growth which lie in the fertile ground of the previous incumbent of that space.

I have struggled to keep my roots in the ground, they have been at risk in recent years of tearing themselves up with the vain hope of being replanted into another space.

I have learned that whatever I have been, whatever I am, whatever I aspire to be in the future is already to be found in the roots from which my life is sprung.

The catholic roots within me from beautiful Ireland, the unionist roots within me from remarkable England, the gay roots within me from the biological genes I carry are intertwined in the solid ground under my feet, and it is from there that the foliage grows and makes me into the complex being that I have become.

William Defoe

A Partial View

I have been feeling into how incomplete my perspective is on my place in the world, and how this can change one day to the next, or at times, it can feel immovable in a place from which my capacity to move on is limited.

For many years, I have sat in the same pew in church, singing with the other choir members from the tenor row at the back.

In recent weeks, due to coronavirus, there has been no singing and so I have sat in a variety of places which are in the main, very unfamiliar.

The pillars, obscure the view from my seat in some places of the altar, or the giant crucifix, an outstrecthed arm missing some weeks or the head, or perhaps it is the priests chair, or the lectern which I cannot see.

I have to adapt, to these changes in my view, by either accepting it, or leaning my head to either side to give myself for a few moments a glimpse of a wider reality than I have in my sedentary partial view.

I have been consumed for a number of years with the partial view of my identity, it has unfolded within me into an acceptance and at times into a longing which has brought with it the deepest of pains.

My wife, has a partial view of my truth, knowing it, but not accepting it, wanting to control it and manage it, and unable to free herself from the times when my behaviour has caused her pain.

I don’t think that either of us in a combined sense, have a full view of our situation.

If we were to find the courage to try to join our partial views, we’d still have to negotiate our understanding, obscured by the pillar which is the mystery of my sexuality, but if each of us could move our heads from side to side, to get a better view, then it stands to reason that our combined view of the whole would be increased, if we shared our insight to fill the gaps.

I have learned in my coaching experience, which has enriched my life, that I can never take the moods or actions of one day and define my life by them.

Tomorrow, does not forget yesterday, but instead it has the capacity to bring something new which will change a perspective, soften a stance, turn into something or turn away, always grappling to find sure ground, solid ground, grounded ground, from which to alter the partial view.

William Defoe

Hard Times

I have just finished reading the novel “Hard Times” written by Charles Dickens first published in 1854.

It is a reasonably short book, but perhaps I am slow reader, or the print was small, but for some reason in took me several weeks to read it.

I like to read every word, and try to understand the deeper sentiments in the novel, which in part, as in many of Dickens novels, are a critique on the social and econominc injustices of the times, touching in this novel on workers rights (or should I say lack of them), the harshness and controlling behaviours of early trade union leaders and mill owners, and the indissovibility of marriage.

As I had anticipated, I was moved very deeply by aspects of the intertwined tragedies of the chararcters in the novel, shedding a tear here and there, feeling overwhelmed, touched, hopeful, sad at different times in the script.

I took the trouble to underline one sentence, which touched a place within me for which I write this blog, but which so often feels suppressed within my breast, and which is a lonely load to carry.

After divulging her unhappiness to her father, he sits up all night pondering on the heart-rendering circumstances of his beloved daughter’s unhappiness in which he has played a part, being a man awake to the needs of the head, but blind to the calls of the heart.

He says to her “when I consider what has been known to me for hours, has been concealed by you for years”

This reality touched a deep nerve within me, because I too have a lived experieince of living a suppressed life as a gay man in a heterosexual marriage.

I have in recent years, I found the courage to speak out, but except in the most exceptional confidences which I have entered into, which can be counted on one hand, there is now a constatnt feeling in my breast that my isolation and pain continues because my truth is still held to ransom by forces of reason which I adhere to within my own heart to keep it suppressed.

Hard Times indeed, for me, and perhaps Hard Times for you too, which keep out the light, to protect the myth which is played out in my family and community as my truth.

My truth, hidden within, is a thing of beauty, which is not fully formed into a resolution to dance in the streets, but finds its expression in a longing and a desire to be known, to be accepted, to be liberated.

I know from my own limited experience of the damage caused by living an experience which is not honest. I have spoken my truth, I have found pockets of support to see me through the hard times in which I live, it is my dearest wish dear reader, that you too will find a space to express who you were born to be.

William Defoe

Unhappy Ending

During my summer holiday, I persevered with a book* which at its climax had an unhappy ending (in my opinion).

I had sensed this would be the case as I continued to read through the hundreds of pages of print.

At the end a catalogue of unfortunate circumstances, which conspired to work against a happy climax, and yet I had this overwhelming sense that a re-write from 5 or 10 pages back from its end could have delivered what I had most hoped for.

I sense this in the daily management of my self and the longings of my heart which are tearing me apart.

I have worked so hard to be happy, and yet the deeply unfulfilled aspect of self and the consequences of holding this anguish in my heart for so long makes my strength to maintain and nurture everything else which is good in my life unbearable.

I want there to be a happy ending to my story, but I fear that to succumb to the needs of self, would deliver the exact opposite.

I am trapped in a situation where having done everything in my power to live my life for others, the alternative in living my life for my self would be totally incompatible with my desire to be happy.

My gay self competes in my heart, body, mind and soul for recognition and fulfillment alongside my strong desire to be a loving and faithful husband to my wife.

As with the book with the unhappy ending, the author has to make a choice over the destiny of its main protagonists, and so with a sense of loss and a deep awareness of the alternative, I must also maintain my choice to put the needs of others first.

Apparently, I am destined for a reward in the afterlife – an afterlife which I struggle to believe in, and yet, its promise has a hold upon me because it too has a place within the complex psyche of my thinking which refuses to dismiss aspects of thought which i do not fully understand.

My story is not at its end, it has few more chapters to run, my feelings ebb and flow like the incoming and outgoing tide which attended to me whilst I was reading. The ending is unknown, and like the author of the book, I ultimately will decide on the upcoming pages of my life.

William Defoe

*Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig

Held Upright by Water

On my recent holiday, the water in the shower came out at such a speed and force that if I directed the jets to my chest, I experienced a sensation of being physically held upright by the water.

It was quite a surprising and a wonderful sensation of support, quite intimate as I stood still and upright in my naked and vulnerable state.

The pressure of the water, holding me up, seemed to give my mind some space to be with itself as my body experienced an exhilaration of the sheer volume and intensity of the torrent.

I have long understood that physical support, such as eye contact or a hug or a voice of clarity, have provided my mind with an opportunity to develop and deepen its capacity to think more rationally and calmly about the mental challenges I face living as a gay man in a heterosexual life.

So often, I have experienced feelings of isolation, frustration and emotional pain and distress, and at these times my mind has not had the capacity or strength to rescue me from the inner turmoil of my soul.

The inner critic has at these time acted like some kind of foe, rather than the gentle and loving and kind spirit which has held me by its own strength and resolve for all these years.

Turning off the water, whilst leaning in, I jerked forward and saved myself with my hand against the cubicle wall.

Saved from falling by the instruction from my brain, to my arm to hold me up as the outside support is cut off.

Knowing of course that I would not deliberately allow myself to fall, none of us would, but learning too that support is there in the wide world all the time as a continuous call to our existence, if only we can identify and utilize its all-giving power.

 William Defoe

Just Below The Surface

It has always been my intention to remain in my marriage despite knowing that I am gay, and telling my wife in 2012, after many years of holding it all to myself for many years.

Recently, I began to sense that my anguish in recent years has been connected to a fear of not being able to sustain my choice to be married, and a determination to really focus on what I risk losing should I walk away from it.

After a period of turmoil and confusion in 2018, when I tried to make social connections with the gay community, I lost my wife’s trust in me which has not been fully restored.

Occasionally, her feelings of anguish, at the consequences on her of my behaviour at that time, push through to the surface so that they are visible and raw. These times make me feel like I will never be able to re-wind the clock to a time when I enjoyed her respect for being gay and loving her, and her trust for being loyal to her.

In these summer weeks, I have experienced a period in which I felt that my efforts to repair the past have being fruitful. I felt a greater element of security and a reduced sense of anxiety around my fears that I risk losing something that I could never regain.

And then, the bubble burst at a rogue remark about me by a friend on a zoom call, during lock-down, opened up the fissure and all the recent good feeling seems to have ebbed away.

My wife has referred twice in recent days to how my actions have hurt her, and when I see that hurt, it seems to make all my attempts to repair and heal seem worthless.

Her commenting on my behaviour, unravels my own attempts to leave the past behind and it causes me intense emotional pain which feels like hopelessness and fatigue dragging me down and away from all my good intentions.

The reality of our situation is exposed for what it actually is, and that is all hovering just below the surface, like a thin crumbling crust on a festering pie.

William Defoe

 

 

Holding onto the Enormity of Being Me

A few weeks ago, near the start of the coronavirus lock down, here in the UK, I suffered some kind of mental trauma which resulted in me calling out for support, to those,whom I have in a small circle to help me.

In the depth of my feelings of isolation and despair and longing, I experienced a level of despair and real fear that I cannot ever recall experiencing in all the years I have held the truth of my gay sexuality alone.

In recent weeks, I have been generally calm and I have become very conscious of how I have managed to hold onto the enormity of being me, quite alone for this period of time.

I am not some kind of special case, but like others who are vulnerable and live a hidden life, the heavy load can feel overwhelming at times, and when it emerges into a space of anguish and fear, it touches on making life almost too hard to bear living.

Our complex minds are capable of so much, but I know that my own mind, depends on the rhythm of my physical body, to keep itself aligned and safe. When the two are out of sync, the body revolts and in my case, I suffer a rash or itchiness and fatigue which calls out for the soothing balm of pure water and oils to refresh and cleanse.

So it is no surprise that the mind too calls out for the soothing balm of sleep, of peace and beauty as seen in the natural world around us and in the elements, particularly its reaction to the warm sun on my skin.

I know that I am, like you, gifted and precious and that my life would ultimately be meaningless if I did not learn to love all aspects of holding onto the enormity of being me. 

William Defoe

Buttercrambe

Yesterday I had a drive out to the coast with my wife.

The sun was shining and the sky was blue and the fields were green, and the very trees begged to be noticed.

The quaint names of the villages as we drove through them provoked a deep awakening of summer glory, none more so than the name of Buttercrambe.

I exalt in the feeling deep in my soul, to recall the feelings of my childhood, when summer held for me a time of freedom,  a time of contentment, a time of happiness.

Those days seem very distant from my soul, and the simple pleasures of being a young boy seemed to be expressed in Buttercrambe, recalled in Buttercrambe and longed for in Buttercrambe.

I struggle to find a balance in my soul for an awakening of what it is like to be me, and the drive through Buttercrambe seemed to push me on, not just to the glory of the coast, but to a space to think, a space to rest, a space to watch and listen to the deep longings of my soul for peace.

At the coast, I gloried in the sunshine on my skin, rubbing in the oils to protect and nurture it from the burning rays which caressed my aging body and the grey hairs on my head.

I want so much to find within me the healing which would come from being able to be happy, like a young boy, like Buttercrambe, like the feeling I get from the sun on my skin.

I live a complicated life, at worst indecisive, at best courageous, loyal and true to those whom I love before all else, and at a great personal cost.

Perhaps, I hear them say, more often than I like to hear, that my reward will be in heaven – well maybe, but oh what I would give to be happy , just like you know… just like still wondering… just like I felt as I left Buttercrambe behind.

William Defoe

Uncut Hair

In recent years, I have visited a local salon on a four-weekly basis to keep my hair cut short.

In these times of lock-down I have not had an opportunity to have it cut, and it has grown to such an extent that the top of my head looks healthy with a wavy head of hair which is dark grey on the top of my head and light grey around the edges and at the back.

My wife made me laugh when she said it looked great, and that she actually preferred the longer style on me, however, she also told me that I looked like a badger!.

I have made it my mission to leave my hair uncut until the salon opens. I have overcome the temptation to acquire a set of clippers and cut it myself, so that my hair will be a physical representation of the restriction under which we are living in the days of the coronavirus.

To select a longer style, in stark contrast to my preference, is a challenging discipline to endure. To choose a longer style, in direct conflict to my preference for much shorter hair is an opportunity to harness my capacity to be different in the world.

To display a thick and colourful grey head of hair opens up an opportunity for me to be expansive, to tolerate the intolerable, to embrace the opposing ideals and ideas which are constantly raging within my soul.

Choices are difficult, because they inevitably forgo the alternative, and my choice to be married whilst innately being gay is a constant challenge which has seemed to get heavier with increasing age.

Exercises which help me to grow my mind and my spirit, help me to see the good I am trying to do, despite my own difficulties which causes me great suffering, I am able to see the wider intention to keep the promise which I made to my wife all those years ago.

Displaying one way, and longing for another has been the undulating rhythm of my life and now my uncut hair has for me become a physical representation of all that I have tried to be.

William Defoe

 

Union Jack

To mark the 75th anniversary of V.E. Day (Victory In Europe) which was celebrated in the UK on Friday 8th May 2020, I attached a new and vivid Union Jack flag to the front of my stone built barbecue in my garden.

It is held down by stones and in the unseasonably warm weather which we had over this Bank Holiday weekend, it stayed fixed in place as a mark of patriotism and gratitude to the men and women who died in World War 2 and to those who served and lived throughout those dark years which I was not born into.

Today, the weather is cooler and I noticed a light and blustery breeze lifting the flag and wafting it up into the air, occasionally landing back straight where I had placed it, but oft times pushing it back to land on the grill of the barbecue.

It seems to me that the flag needed a weight to hold it down, but perhaps it is best left to flutter and feel the force of the elements and be free to display its sharp and vivid colours of red, white and blue.

The fluttering flag in the breeze and the freedom which it signifies, from tyranny yes, but I am thinking more about the freedom to be blown about in the tumultuous air, made me ponder on my emotional life, which in any case I often do.

I seem to strive for a state of mind and a resolve which is fixed, and I feel disappointed when periods of calm seem to come to an end as abruptly as they started. Once again I am in a vortex of inner strife and fear which renders me with feelings of hurt, feelings of fear and a sense of failure for being so changeable in my mood.

Perhaps the flag, which I contemplated weighting down to suppress its glorious freedom, is a similar response to my emotional journey.

I think to myself, as I write to you in this post, that “Is it so bad after all to be carried into the air by the elements, to be flipped and turned and dropped back to the original starting point, only to be carried high on another wave of the breeze a few moments later?

To weigh myself down, to avoid the range of feelings and the sense of hopelessness in my feelings of anxiousness and occasional despair are parts of me which are as valid and true as those feelings I have when I am calm and content.

A drug might suppress them, or a permanent change in the direction of my life might have an impact to suppress the longings of my heart, but to numb the pain would be to deny myself the capacity to connect with the very essence of being me, and being me is the best I can ever hope to be.

William Defoe