Secret Lives

In the summer of 2004, after a long relationship had ended, I wrote a secret journal that chronicled my depression and anxieties. In a move typical of that time, I published the journal online under a new name without any connection to my regular journal or network of friends. It was partially catharsis and partially a half-hearted attempt to form a new connection.

For me, the hardest thing about ending a long relationship is not the physical separation or loss of intimacy, but the loss of a confidant and counselor. It is that special person above all others who you turn to with problems and complaints, joys and victories, and above all, heartache. So it is quite inevitable that when that greatest loss comes, the sword is felt as strongly when striking as when it is pulled away, revealing the hole in its stead.

My first post addressed the confusion and loneliness I was feeling then. It was a pain that was not shareable, but not because there was any uniqueness to it. Most of my friends have felt it before and would certainly have sympathized with me, offering comfort and companionship. That very reaction, though, was why the feelings were not shareable for me. As I put it in that first post, “just let the damned compassion die away and give me someone who will wallow with me and tell me that they ‘empathize’ instead of ‘sympathize’. It can’t be that hard to find a person who would rather cry with me than console me.”

Of course, that was only the half-truth that I could cry out in the pain of the moment. In truth, the real reason I didn’t want a comforting friend was because of what it would mean for the relationship that had ended. To turn to another friend in that moment, away from the loving confidence of her in whom I had trusted for years, was as sure a sign of the end of things as anything could be. It was as simple as that. I wasn’t ready to let it go.

So the fifteen entries went by, each darker than the last, each one seeking some new me on the other side of grief. In the two months I wrote, new friends and commentors gathered. I shared with them, the strangers, what I couldn’t share with my friends. I poured out detail after detail, condemnation and prostration, and in the end I was empty. The pain was there, floating with me as fresh as ever, but the despair had moved on.

There was no goodbye message in my last post. It, just like the others, was an impassioned tirade on the fallacies of my actions and the entirety of sexuality in my being. But, in the last few words, there was a hint of a new beginning, or at least a new resolution as I continued the ongoing journey I had begun long before.

In those few months I lived a secret life. I survived on the empathy of strangers and the bitter resentment of my own weaknesses. In those last moments, I fittingly closed a dark chapter in my life with dark, harsh words. It was not a time I am proud of, but it did bring me to some helpful discoveries.

A very dear friend once told me that I am an excellent friend, but a terrible boyfriend. It was never so true as it was with that one relationship. I had all the possibilities one could hope for, and none of the integrity to fight for it. Looking at those times and my other relationships that have fallen for similar reasons, it is hard to dispute the truth.

Some of us are called to lives of companionship, of marriage and family. Some of us are called to remain single, unattached, and free for service.

Were I able to treat those intimate relationships with the same love and affection that I have for my close friends, my calling would be far more difficult. Perhaps it is just another example of how God calls us to good things even through our faults.