In her seminal book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott offers the observation: “The evidence is in, and you are the verdict.”
Regardless of where you live in this crazy beautiful world, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s been a BIG year.
Today, I want to acknowledge that you are here and I am here and we are here.
We’re just… HERE.
That feels like a BIG DEAL.
Thirty years. Thirty years, four months, and a few days I’ve been on this planet now. And yes, this one has been a big year.
I’ve written a book! I’ve taken ownership of the book to the extent that I’m prepared to put it out into the world under my own name and propulsion. I’ve let go of the need for other people’s approval; I’ve given up on waiting for other people to give me permission.
After several years of thinking that I was pretty much OK with my sexuality, I’ve found a whole lot more snarls, and have disentangled them.
I’ve let go of the idea that I ought to have always known, and the guilt that went with it. I’ve met other people who didn’t always know, who didn’t know for far longer than me. Together, we’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps it’s not our fault for not knowing; it’s just a different story from the one that the rest of the world expects. We’re going to claim our own identities anyway, damn it.
Relatedly, I’ve stopped feeling guilty about being in a heterosexual relationship while claiming my queer identity. And I’ve stopped apologising for the people who disgrace my religion.
I worried a lot about what other people were thinking about who I was, about why they kept apologising for swearing in front of me, and couldn’t work out why it upset me so much. Then it occurred to me that I was terrified that I actually would turn out to be that person: the prissy, mealy-mouthed killjoy who was far more offended by a ‘fuck’ or a ‘shit’ than by, you know, dishonesty, untruth, cruelty – the things that matter.
I examined myself through this lens and found that, while I really wasn’t bothered by swearing, I’d done a pretty thorough job of suppressing the parts of myself that didn’t seem respectable. Keeping quiet, trying not to take up space, and, for heaven’s sake, if I had to insist on being bisexual, then not doing it where it might be getting in the way of people with real problems.
It was as if, every time I went to church, I left half of myself outside the door. There’s a line in one of the Collects: ‘forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid…’ That’s how it felt; except it turned out that very few of those things turned out to need forgiving. What really needed forgiveness was the fear, which had for years stopped me looking at myself properly, had stopped me accepting myself.
The other line that felt extremely relevant was from 1 Corinthians 13:
‘Then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.’
The implication of this verse only dawned on me a few months ago: that nobody could possibly expect us to know ourselves fully now; that there is always going to be more to find out. That I could stop feeling guilty for not having always known, and that I could trust that, some day, I would.
Today, is of course, not that day. Today I’m slightly closer to St Paul’s unspecified ‘then’ than I was this time last year, but there, of course, is a very long way to go.
All the same, I’m here. And here seems like a very good place to be, for now.