Perspectives: Relationships
Doing The Work

February 8, 2009 Print version       Other articles by this author

I'm complicated. I'm passionate. I'm long winded. I'm emotional. I'm guarded & defensive. I'm sensitive. I'm abrasive. I'm neurotic about lots of things. I'm compassionate. I wear my heart on my sleeve and love as hard as is humanly possible. I'm honest almost to a fault. Last but not least, I'm constantly thinking. Sometimes as of late, it seems as if thinking has overtaken my natural impulse to be such an emotionally engaged individual. The result of all of this is, I live inside my head and it's a pretty scary place to be sometimes. I come to the table complete with fears, wounds, battle scars, wisdom, passion, courage, determination, and a spiritual anchorage that has kept me afloat when life has threatened to take me under. Even with that, I waver. I know intuitively and literally how powerful thoughts are because I've seen them at work. In many instances, I've witnessed my thoughts become almost instant manifestations of reality. One would think that armed with this kind of knowledge, I would be in better shape emotionally than I usually am. THAT, HOWEVER IS NOT THE CASE

Considering the fact that I've lived the majority of my life as an island (alone), it makes perfect sense that I'm the way I am. It also could be one of reasons why I've experienced some challenges and (growing pains) when it comes to being in a relationship. It's been about a year since I've been involved with my partner and it's pretty safe to say, THE HONEYMOON IS OVER. I knew that relationships were work, but now I am truly experiencing just how much work it takes to maintain a healthy, loving, relationship. This is true for anybody, but for two black gay men it is even more of a challenge. Two black men loving and supporting one another the way we do is something that many oftentimes (black gay men included) cannot conceive, comprehend, or accept. I just turned 34 years of age about three months ago and I still realize that I have abandonment issues from childhood that plague me and have sometimes threatened to destroy one of the most rewarding, sacred, beautiful experiences of my life. There is no doubt in my mind that I am in love. As I tell him, I've experienced things with him and let him into my life in ways that I've never done before with anyone else.

Sometimes when I'm in the midst of my own shit, when life is just plain old kickin my ass and givin me a knock down drag out fight, the truth is I haven't always made the healthiest, wisest choices. Some of those times I've retreated deeper into my own isolation, honestly because that's all I've had and known for so long. This is where I find myself sometimes nowadays when I ask myself, "Why is he still here"? Trusting people is not something that comes easy to me. Like I've told him from the start, it's very awkward and challenging for me to be in the relationship with him because of how my past has unfolded. What I won't do is use that as a crutch or an excuse. I have to deal in the NOW, and realize that he is someone who is for me and in my corner. I know he loves me. The fact that he's stayed as long as he has and weathered all of the storms I've experienced as of late is proof that fact. I have to do everything in my power to remind myself of this whenever I start slipping back into my guarded, protective shell. That shell is all I've had to keep me safe for a long time, so it's not easy to let go of it. It further complicates things and times when I should feel as if I can turn to the arms of someone who has demonstrated their love for me, I've withheld and retreated. I realize how hard this makes things on my partner. None of this is to suggest that it's all one sided and that life with him is always wine and roses because it's not. Admittedly he can be equally complicated and difficult at times. The fact that we generally operate in, and react to situations in very different ways doesn't make matters easy most of the time either. There are those times when one of us can jokingly point out something about the fact that we're like oil and water and we both agree. Thus, we have good days and bad days. It's one of those age-old sayings and as is true with most of them, this is one of those things that can only truly be realized through experience. As I always say however, nothing can exist without its opposite and he is just that to me. We balance each other out.

Even though I'm quite the polished, professional, and talented actor, one thing I'm awful at is hiding my true feelings. To my own dismay, whatever I'm feeling tends to show up in my eyes, on my face and even in my voice. It is something that anyone who knows me very intimately can tell you. I'm quite literally incapable of phoning in my emotions most of the time. Whatever I feel, I feel 150%. Intense is the word that has oftentimes been used to describe how I can be. The long and short of what I'm getting at is that when I'm performing in any capacity as an artist, I'm prepared for eyes to be on me.
The same cannot be said when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of lifes challenges and hardships. I was not prepared for someone to show up (as he has) and to stay, even in the face of all my shit. What I'm in the process of remembering now, is that I don't always have to go through things alone. I have a beautiful, equally complicated, vibrant, ray of sunshine to help me get through the challenging times. Trust and communication are two elements that are PARAMOUNT to a healthy, functional, loving relationship. As he oftentimes tells me, he can't always read my mind so I have to be willing to trust that I can be my true, honest, complicated, authentic self and it won't be SO much that he'll flee. In fact, I imagine if that were the case he'd be long gone by now.

What I also have to remember is that it's ok for Monte to take care of Monte and take time for himself. Taking care of myself is imperative. How I relate to my partner, my family and friends, and the world all depend on how well I can treat myself. That is one of the ongoing, 'work-in-progress' kind of projects of life. Even though the focus of this writing is relationships, one thing I've realized by being involved in a relationship with someone for the last year is that my relationship to myself directly affects everything and everyone I come in contact with.
It's a great big jigsaw puzzle that I'm sitting in the middle of the floor trying to put together.
Sometimes I work best alone. This what I'm most comfortable with, and used to.
However, as I'm realizing with being in a relationship, LIFE BEGINS at the END of my comfort zone.
What a blessing in disguise that is...