No. 11 – New Year, Know You
I was welcomed in to the New Year by the countryside in Vietnam. I planned this trip with a small group of my travel companions with the mission of being intentional and waking up on January 1st with a clear head, and a light heart. We arrived at our villa around 3pm on New Year’s Eve, quickly unpacked, then off we went to explore the rolling, heavy-green hills.
Ba Vi National Park is about an hour outside of Hanoi, which is my home base this month. The difference between the areas is staggering. The heavy bustle of Hanoi with it’s thousands of scooters honking, and even more thousands journeying down the crooked and narrow sidewalks is a chore. We traded that for the calm of cowbells and distant flutes being played. Our villa was tucked on a hill overlooking lush, foggy hills, saturated with clean air and stillness.
We hiked for hours. We traveled lightly exploring the curved damp paths, and increased our views with many steps to the tops of our hills. At one point, we found ourselves misplaced on what we thought was a path, but ended up being a driveway. As we walked away, the mother and clear matriarch of the home, waved for us to come to her. I was hesitant at first, but then decided I wanted whatever experience was being offered, even through the language barrier and mystery of this countryside. The three of us walked up to her porch, as she began speaking in fluent Vietnamese, and I began listening in fluent misunderstanding. We stood, smiled and after a quick glance, my friend asked me through smiling, gritted teeth, “Is that a real gun on that bike?” I looked over on the motorcycle to see a handgun lying on the edge of the seat, and decided that whatever beautiful moment I was looking for, would only be found if I hauled my happy and scared white ass, back down the driveway and got back to my hike. So, we did. We thanked her for her invitation, shook hands, smiled, and trusted that there was more to see in the hills, that did not include handguns or bullets.
Back to our path. Back to our fresh air. Back to our exploring as many steps necessary to find open spaces with views of the mountainside. There were views that drew out peace, and set the stage for a beautiful evening.
We found a clearing close to the villa and in perfect synchronization, all looked at one another and said “let’s sit.” We sat for hours and hours, and talked about much of our history and what is to come. We laughed a lot. We responded to the family of oxen when they appeared before us. We inhaled the fresh, clean air, and exhaled with hope for more connection. We laid in the damp clearing, and felt the sun go down around us before heading back to our villa.
After our dinner, we followed suit with our original plan. We met at the fire pit. With flames blazing, we sat and enjoyed each others company. We laughed more, shared more, and once again, there was a moment that hit us all. It was time to move to the next phase of our ringing in the new year.
We each took several minutes, and wrote down the very things that we felt held us back in 2018. We made them symbolic hindrances by tossing them in the fire. We wrote quickly, to preserve thought and intention. We knew we were in a safe place. We knew we were being heard. We knew the countryside had offered us beauty and peace all day, and that the offering was so sweet, because we all obliged more from each moment. Once again, we were taking in the experience with the same intent.
I wrestled a bit with my paper and pen. How honest do I want to be? Will this scare them? Will this make them uncomfortable? Then, I decided, I am not writing out the things I want to leave behind for others or their thoughts, but I am writing and speaking it so it can truly be a part of my history.
There were five of us. Five adults, all with enough experience to know life can be hard, but each still hungry for growth. We chose to read our scripts to one another, and trust that it was held sacred, and honored. As time went by, and word after word was spoken, through pain, through frustration, through growth…reverence was offered.
We had gone around the circle twice, and I was on my last piece of paper. I wrote several items there, but my stomach was swirling, letting me know that saying these things out loud was causing something in me to have a strong reaction. I have learned through writing my story, and sharing it publicly, that your trauma has a voice. There are pieces and parts of me, that I used to ignore, and identify as negative, but now pause and ask my trauma “What do I need to know?” “What is stirring that you need me to see?” This part of me had tremendous resistance, because I have put too much faith in bad habits and isolation. When I am learning to speak out, reach for help/growth, these parts of me that have worked so damn hard to preserve our secrets, and hurts, feel threatened and confused. I knew I needed to share. I knew it was necessary to be honest. I knew I wanted to hear myself say these words out loud. In this case, it was the vulnerability of saying these things out loud and feeling like I am the one who is too much or stepping out of the guidelines of the more general written goals.
I took a deep breath to slow my breathing, and through my inner dialogue said “I have this one. It will be fine. This is necessary.”
I faced the fire. I stared at the flames, shifted my body, and spoke these words: “So, this is my last piece of paper. I think the biggest thing that I want to see change, may sound generic, but it’s…love. Over the past few months, through sharing my story, I have received a lot of praise and people telling me my story is helping them heal. Hundreds of people have reached out and also shared their stories. In my attempt to help them heal, I have offered up the best advice I could regarding their value, their care, their immediate need to know how much they matter. I meant the advice. I meant it completely, and still do, but I feel like I can’t apply it to me. So, I have been doing some soul searching. The issue I keep facing is believing I can not be compared as a “whole” man….if I am gay. I have believed that people love the part of my story that helps them, but felt there is an underlining pity about my being gay. I still have such shame in me. So much pressure to present my whole self, and still the temptation to apologize for that one piece. So, I want to leave the shame and all the messages I have learned about being gay here. I want to burn this message, and I want to move forward not celebrating that I am gay, but celebrating that I am whole, as I am.”
I tossed the paper in the fire. I exhaled. I felt an immediate shift. There was no shame involved in sharing these details with these friends, but relief of saying the real issue out loud and giving myself room to bring the messages in my head, down to my heart…to give them life.
Over the next few days, I returned to Hanoi, but the “releasing shift” remained. More than the impact of neglecting to love my whole self, has been the intense freedom of recognizing that sharing the internal secret dialogues I have, can heal them, or, at a minimum, launch me to a new place mentally and emotionally.
I began to hear others speak of their resolutions, and see different lists pop up on social media and the like. I see so many weight loss goals, how many books they will read, the amount of time they will spend doing the things that will make them healthier or happier.
I used to have the same lists. They were very well thought out. Each year, new resolutions. Each year, the hope that this would be the year. The anticipation, that if I could accomplish this list, things would be better. But, what things? And what human could ever accomplish this list? The details were extreme, and on my 41st year, I can say “I have never reached my goals.”
I was falling asleep one night this week, and the combination of my old lists, and this newly found, honest freedom started to clash and two parts of my story began to collide with a wild fury. The fury turned to thought, and the thought turned into a profound epiphany.
Every year: MY SHAME WROTE MY LIST! Every year, my shame had a long list of requirements that would need to take place for me to not to feel like a shameful person. Each year, I started strong and the list became more intricate and harder. It was a maze. It was a puzzle. It was a list….to become lovable. It was a dialogue to help me erase the feelings I have about not feeling worthy of love, or enough as a human.
So, because I threw my shame in the fire, the shame came back kicking, screaming, yelling at me to pay attention. I have allowed it to have such a significant role in the life I have lived. I even allowed it to write out my directions to a dead end path, while convincing me I won’t be at peace until I get there.
This week has been intense with navigating a new city, and adjusting to yet, another culture. I continue to aim at exploring internally more than anywhere else, and through that journey have found continued moments like this. I still have so many questions, fears, and areas that I am exploring. And I will never stop doing that. Not when I return to the US, or when I stop traveling, or when some super wonderful, dark haired, brown eyed man comes along and joins me here (Are you listening, God/Universe?!)
I…will…not…stop exploring. I have had over 20 years of therapy. At a minimum, it was weekly. Yet, being in the countryside with friends, and a safe invitation was enough for me to unload an old piece of me, that needed to be released.
I have to question what else I am believing that needs to change in order for me experience more love. Not, because there is more love for me to go grab, but because the love is already there, and I am not tapping into it.
What if we began to say out loud the very things that keep us silent, and isolate us from believing anyone else is having the same issues. While being silent, we are drinking in shames poison, and power. While isolating the beliefs, we are allowing them to grow from moanings to monsters that tell us we are not lovable. By sitting beside them, and not tossing them in the fire, we are continually treating our minds, our bodies, and our souls with cruel hands and critical intent.
There is no one who can love you more than you, and there is no better invitation than now to begin saying the things you think separate you from experiencing the love you long to embrace. We all build lives that “fit” where we are. One year ago, I was stressed out beyond measure. I had just finished the year as the #1 real estate broker for Sotheby’s in Denver. It was a time that was supposed to unveil a new inner dialogue that told me how great I am. It fell short. It felt empty. It was part of shames workmanship. I am so thankful I walked away. I left on top and trusted that while walking away from security, it was NOT giving me the tools necessary to find the freedom I was desperate for.
Please trust, if you choose to move forward and heal, share, grow, your life WILL change. Your relationships will shift. Your hunger/longings will come on stronger. Everything you need to move toward these things is inside you now. You don’t have to seek out more of it, you just have to begin to pursue it and trust that it’s path will be the calm your storm has craved, and the peace your pain has needed.
I continue to look at the many ways I delayed my healing for so long. I still do. It is terrifying to see how much pain you are in, and question if you have the tools necessary to address it, but, again…. If you can release the truth of what you are carrying, your load becomes lighter and your strength will intensify. You will move closer to your own self, seeing/knowing what you need and next year in 2020, celebrate: “New Year, Know You.”
Be well! I am fighting for each of you…
Connect with Nate