Dating: What are we really looking for?
By Jeremy Woody
In the past year, I have spent a lot of time in self-discovery. I have also dated quite a bit. Attempting these at the same time wasn't necessarily the best idea, but it happened. In fact, dating became a useful tool in self-discovery. That being said, I wouldn't recommend it as a tool as it can be a roller coaster of emotions. But what dating did for me, is help me realize that many of my ideas of relationships and what they should look like were society driven ideals and not my own. In fact, many ideas of friendship and what it is to be a gay man were the same. I thought I would share some about my experience in hopes that someone may be able to relate and not feel alone in this journey.
Who am I?
If I have learned anything, it's that self-discovery has no real destination. It is organic and dynamic. This evolutionary process can be a bit of a roller coaster, but its not a bad ride. I started by shedding old ideas that didn't resonate with me internally. From things as simple as clothing and decor to more complex things such as spiritual ideals and politics. I started asking myself the question "If no one else would have any input on this or I truly didn't care what they thought, would I do this?" This has grounded me and helped me to be a bit more authentic. The idea that we don't care about what people think AT ALL, is really atypical as it is a human trait to be a part of something. The desire to be a part of something sometimes leads us into the trap of thinking of reactions rather than what we really think or want. It's a daily struggle for me but I try my best to remain authentic and focus on what my gut says about situations and decisions.
What I learned is that I don't like the typical. But not just to not like typical things but because its just not my taste. I did things in the past "because that's what gay men do" or "because someone said all gay men do it." Well, screw that! I want to do something because I want to. Not because someone says I should. So I started on the outside, I went to my closet and threw out everything that I didn't feel like really represented me on the inside. For example, I learned quickly that color is nice in the world but that I didn't want it on me. So, I started over. I continued to do this in all areas of my life. I am still working on it as it can be costly but not as costly as living someone else's life. In time, I will look around me and know that I have changed my environment to look more like how I feel.
What am I looking for?
During the self-discovery process, I started dating. Although this can be a difficult combination, it actually served me well. Without any negative feelings about those that I had dating "fails" with, I learned often what I wasn't looking for. Sometimes, we don't always know what we are looking for until we learn what we don't want. I am someone that goes with the flow and is on a constant adventure. So, I don't always have a clear vision of what I want. As I tell everyone, "I am open to everything, but not looking for anything." So, ruling out what I don't want is a better tool for me.
What I learned is that I don't want a picket fence with 2 dogs and 1.5 kids. I have a daughter that I love more than anything. I have a dog that I love dearly but will be my last. I don't want that. I have had the picket fence and it breaks a lot, has to be painted all the time, and takes money away from my adventures. Dating reinforced all of this. I sometimes caught myself saying what people waned to hear not what I wanted to say. I mean, there is a time for tact, but never a time for lies. Lies are selfish and serve no one well. So, brutal honesty is something I work on. I am human and I fail sometimes. But, most of my "less than truths" are just me not wanting to hurt someone or not wanting to hear someone tell me the truth about how my actions are detrimental. That is the brutal honesty of it. I challenge everyone to get brutally honest with themselves so that they can be the same with others. It makes life much less complex and keeps everyone "in the know."
Ultimately, what I found is that my statement rings true. I am not really looking for anything in particular. Well, except what we all want...happiness. I am no longer concerned with what it looks like, just as long as I can feel it and not just for a Facebook post. I want to truly be happy in all that I do. So far, I am lucky to feel truly happy. When I am happy, negative comments about me don't hurt as bad. Judgment matters very little to me. Cliques are no longer important. People pleasing disappears. I learn more about me and am better to my daughter. I am better to most. Again, I fail often, but ultimately I try again.
Be good to you...
So, where am I after 12 months of dating? Nowhere, really, other than I know a LOT more about me. More importantly, I have learned how to treat myself better. I spent years in relationships that I tried hard to take care of others and ended up broken myself. I can't help anyone if I am broken. I can't have a good job if I am broken. I can't be a good dad if I am broken. So, I work hard at taking care of me. It's not being selfish, it's being responsible. It's the first step in finding someone to share my adventures. More importantly, it puts me in a place that if I never find "the one" that I will be happy regardless. Being OK is important, as you are the only person you can truly depend on.
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
By Jeremy Woody
Sometimes in life, we are handed things that we may or may not be ready for. One of these things is drastic change. It comes in many forms. My recent change was a break-up. I have experienced this twice now. One was after coming out to my family and moving on past a long-term marriage. The other was after a five-and-a-half-year relationship post-coming out. I wanted to share my experience, strength, and hope so that it might help others during a difficult time such as this.
Facing the truth of a situation is difficult. We sometimes find ourselves avoiding the truth because we know there will be pain associated with facing it. We accommodate the faux existence so that this pain doesn't have to manifest in our lives. The unfortunate thing about this is that the truth doesn't stay away forever. We are eventually required to face it. Facing something allows us to conquer it. Ignoring it just postpones it.
Once I realized that my relationship was over, I enlisted a group of close friends to be my support. I tried to find those that had been through a break-up before so that they would have first-hand experience. More importantly, I found people that had not only been through the break up but also had learned from the experience and grown from it. I didn't speak to anyone that I thought was still hanging on, as I wanted to move on and be free from the pain. The advice and guidance I received from these people made my process much more bearable and allowed me to grow through the process rather than just go through the process.
I was advised that I needed to allow myself to feel the emotions and not suppress them, so as not to delay the inevitable grieving process. I didn't understand this advice in the beginning, but as I worked through the break-up, it become clear to me. I would try to hide my emotions, to demonstrate that I was "over" my ex or "not bothered by it." Both of these actions just delayed the process. So, I made a conscious decision to no longer act happy when I was sad or act like everything was OK. It wasn't. I was in a dark place. I was overwhelmingly sad. I was mourning the dreams that we had together. I was mourning the fact that I wouldn't grow old with him. These are all valid feelings regardless of why the relationship ended. No matter what that person did to you or you did to them, you still had shared hopes and dreams that you no longer will have. So, I felt the pain. I felt the anger. Eventually, I felt the peace that comes with accepting that there is nothing in your power to change the situation. Once you reach that point, moving on becomes much easier.
After accepting that I was now single, I started compiling a list of experiences that I had sacrificed during the relationship in order to put the relationship first. I became determined to start doing these things. I wanted to travel, see my friends more, work less, and most importantly, spend more time with my daughter. These new ambitions became the focus I needed to no longer think about what I had lost. I was now thinking about what I was gaining. I realized that I had sacrificed my dreams in order to make a failing relationship work. This is never a good idea for me. It leaves me resentful, and that is a recipe for disaster in a relationship.
As with all relationships, there are always two. No matter what someone did to you to end the relationship, there is always something that you can learn about what you may have done wrong that contributed to the demise. I have used this time in my life to reflect on these things. I don't want to repeat these behaviors if I decide to once again be in a relationship. So, I have started writing these down as well and looking at my part in the situation. This has been a valuable tool in deciding what I want and don't want in future relationships.
I would advise anyone going through this to seek counseling as there are things that, even with reflection, we might not see. There may be things that need to be addressed that you haven't even realized. Anything that you can do to help you grow will benefit you in the future. It helps to avoid cycles of bad behavior and can help you to achieve a healthier and happier outlook on life.
Thoughts on Kim Davis
By Jordan Ruud
County Clerk Kim Davis's behavior has been called "civil disobedience" by various loud voices in the media and in politics. Davis's own lawyer has compared her actions to those of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Granted, to make comparisons like this is to degrade the very idea of bravely standing up for one's own rights.
But that aside, the intense focus on Davis as an individual — Republican presidential candidates falling all over themselves to praise her; rallies, complete with unlicensed recordings of "Eye of the Tiger," celebrating her release from jail; image macros poking fun at her multiple marriages and sack-like Misery dress — takes the focus off the larger currents influencing what she's doing. Acting as though she's a single individual, bravely (or not) standing up in the face of a state that would make her behave against her conscience, overlooks the larger forces leading into her behavior.
Davis is defended by the Liberty Counsel, a conservative law agency which has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay group. Journalist Mark Joseph Stern accurately identified the Liberty Counsel's filings on Davis's behalf as "rambling, impudent briefs that attack the Supreme Court's decision instead of working around it," and the agency has a long history of anti-gay legal activism which includes involvement with the infamous Lawrence v. Texas case and opposition to "conversion therapy" bans.
It's unpleasant to think of an agenda-driven legal agency using an unwitting individual as a pawn in its own version of the culture wars, advising steadfastness even in the face of being jailed (without a prayer, as it were, of winning her case). But that may be exactly what's happening in the case of Kim Davis, one woman being drawn into the eye of a controversy perhaps beyond anything she can really grasp.
If the Liberty Counsel is driving this car, one has to assume that there'll be other similar cases of individuals trying desperately to force the misguided ways of their consciences on others and being defended every step of the way by agencies disingenuously convincing them that there's some way around duty and the law. As Davis herself might say, though, we ought to hate the sin and not the sinner. Ridiculing and maligning individual clerks who try to push their own versions of morality on others might be satisfying, but it barely scratches the surface of the real problem — large agencies inserting themselves into legal battles with neither the good of the public nor that of their clients in mind.
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