Coming out of the Closet on this Glorious Day

Really? I have to “come out of the closet” again? Well, yes, I do…. fortunately I do have some practice in this area.

First I just want to say…. GRATEFUL! It is 50-degrees outside and most of the snow has now melted from my ground — I can see the tips of Spring bulbs coming up in my garden (about a month late……). Most importantly for today — Mario and I just had a WONDEREFUL walk around Fellsmere Pond near my house…. I often think of it as a meditation — a practice in striving to be really present and aware during the whole walk. This morning we just had so much fun. I notice the duck families scurrying around on the water — they made me happy and reminded me of the farm where i grew up. Today I had Mario backing up tree-trunks with his hind legs which is great practice for body-awareness and has the added advantage of making passers-by smile and laugh….. and the highlight was that FINALLY on the way back the ball-field was at last free from snow and dry enough to have a rigorous round of “Chase the Tennis Ball” — (I stand still and throw… Mario runs, chases and retrieves) — which is the MOST FUN GAME EVER.

And so, at one point I just hugged Mario and shed a few tears of sheer joy and noticed how amazingly fu#*($gly grateful I am for THIS DAY. It reminded me of the work of Brother David Steindl-Rast on gratefulness and the video…. which I have watched at least 500 times, titled A GOOD DAY. Please check it out here…..

http://www.gratefulness.org/

(just scroll down and you will find the video)…

I want to share some important information with you, my reader my friend perhaps my family member or my loved-one. I have thought long and hard about this….. should I? Why? What is my motivation here? Is this coming from and about my Ego? Who is served?   Am I looking for attention?    Sometimes I just loathe facebook and similar things, and yet it is how I am connected to you….

Well, I just don’t know the answers to these questions — what I know is that it is time to come out of this particular closet because I can feel that I am now not being fully honest and authentic…. I am hiding. I am a stand for honesty and authenticity and being real. I am a stand for allowing vulnerability as part of that… and am so very reluctantly but truly a stand for allowing others to hold me… that is most challenging of all.

I have shared my process of undergoing double-bypass surgery in January — and I have just passed the 12-week mark since that procedure… (Halle-freakin`- luya….. it has been a rough ride). So, my coronary condition is greatly improved from where it was prior to the surgery.

This (the coronary arteries) needed to be handled before I could tackle and navigate a more serious health issue that I am facing.

OK, this is the hard part. So, here are the facts and then my perspective on it.

Last October I was diagnosed with a lung condition called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis or IPF. This is a progressive lung disease of unknown cause in which the capacity to breathe and to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream diminishes over time. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition, nor any treatment which improves or reverses its progression. The one possible treatment in some cases is a lung transplant. There is also one medication which was newly approved by the FDA last year which may slow down the progression of the disease somewhat. (For those of you who have done the Leadership Program, it may make you chuckle to know that as I write this, in my head, I want to now write…. “These are the facts of the situation and will not change….. You now will have one minute to speak to your ship-mates…..” Hmm….. I notice that I give this hard information and then move into making a joke…. so, I pause a moment, to let it sink in that I have just come out of the closet to you, and to know that you are now sitting with this information.

That’s the thing about Coming Out — as soon as you do, you put the other in a sort of Closet of their own. It has an impact. I remember 35 years ago when I told my Father that I was gay, and then realized that I had put him in the closet — he needed time to adjust and understand and grapple and be angry and mourn.

So, I realize that for some who read this, it has a big impact. As I write this, and I think of you reading this and reacting to this — I feel you, and I feel your love and concern.   I am so sorry to be giving you this information.

I don’t want to go into the details of the disease here — you can google it and get the synopsis. Transplant option aside, it is a terminal condition that will progress at some rate of speed in the years ahead.   I have begun taking the new medication, and am working with my Pulmonologist to prepare a case for a lung transplant (it is a long shot but not out of the question).

For now, my functioning is somewhat diminished but I am able to do the things that I love the most. I am able to do my work — in fact I am finding a new degree of “full permission” amidst my Leadership groups (so, watch out….) that I have never experienced before. I am cutting back on the amount of work and travel that I am doing – but I do want for everyone to know that I am not and have not retired!

My most joyful practice is being outside doing just about anything with Mario. This has created a profound sense of gratitude for the most simple moments of everyday.   My walks are shorter and inclines are tough to do, but I can still do them…  (I use a fitbit and walk about 11,000 paces each day with Mario).

My most cherished blessing is my time with my husband John. This has presented us with the most challenging times we have every faced — and most difficult conversations we have ever had. We are sharing a very deep sorrow together and separately that we never anticipated we would be experiencing. And, we dive into a depth of intimacy and tender closeness now that I never knew was possible. I am so very blessed to have him sharing my life.   We are also seizing the moments that we have NOW — our most fun project at the moment is wildly decorating the little condo that we purchased in Rockport to enjoy this summer….

I go up and down…. it is easy as I write this to sound like I am navigating this so well and so thoughtfully — as I write this I am in a reflective space, and I imagine you my friend here with me. What you don’t see is the moment that I feel exhausted and hugely cranky and I snap at an innocent store clerk who did absolutely nothing wrong. I have not (yet) written about how I fall into a feeling sorry for myself and feeling angry at the world place. These moments are every bit as true as the moments of being in touch with my gratitude.

For this, I must do an added salute to John — I know he is proud of me and in some moments I inspire him — but he also more than anyone else experiences the brunt of my most foul and nasty moments. He is a hero.

And so, my friends, there you have it —- I am breathing a bit freer having come out of this closet — and with that know that I perhaps have now placed a burden onto you that you did not have. It matters to me that I be able to be honest with you. If my life has been committed to one thing always, it has been learning and growth and being conscious. And so with this, too, I aspire to learn and to grow and to be conscious.

In our Leadership Program we talk a lot about the idea of “recovery” — of being about to become quickly aware when we have lost ourselves or our connection and to RECOVER. And so, I want to learn about a whole new sort of recovery. I think that in the difficult moments when I feel that I am suffering, I have lost touch with WHO I MOST TRULY AM. Those moments of suffering are moments of confusion when I think that I am my body or my disease, or my professional role or my physical ability or  any of the many other things I think about my identity….. and none of those are who I truly am. Recovery is about returning and recovering back to the very essential nature of WHO I AM and WHO YOU ARE. If I can become just a little bit better at that sort of recovery I will be a very satisfied and grateful man.

I am wondering if there is an “ask” here of some sort….  hmmm….  well, I ask that you not shy away from this or from me even if it makes you uncomfortable.    I have noticed that for some friends and family it is difficult to be with such difficult information, and some have virtually disappeared from my life.    I ask that you hold me as whole and unbroken, which is the case…. and not hold me as a victim.    What is happening to me is not exceptional — it is part of being human.  It is far worse than many experience, and far more easy that many others experience.  I need to be able to both acknowledge that this REALLY SUCKS and also how profoundly grateful and lucky I am at the exact same time.   Now, there is a paradox.

With love,

Art

~ by Art on April 3, 2015.

7 Responses to “Coming out of the Closet on this Glorious Day”

  1. My first reaction when I googled IPF was oh sh*t and I just didn’t know what to say. Then I finished reading your post and even though I still don’t know what to say, I’m here, witnessing you. And I will be thinking of you and sending love and good energy your way. There’s a lot more in my heart and mind and I’ll stay with that. It’s not a burden at all and I learn much from your way of communicating and opening your heart to us. Much love, Tia.

  2. Dear Art, As I read your entry, I find my own breathing getting short and just about the same time feeling this immense gratitude and joy for the moments you experience with Mario and John, which ignites your true being, who is resilient, compassionate, authentic. You are someone who leads with heart, Art, and I am so grateful for you. There is a lot more to say but I don’t know how to say it. I will repeat Okokonudo’s beautiful words,”innoho uyo”. I hold you whole dear one.

  3. Sitting here feeling grateful for Okokon’s words to you, knowing that his words carry a world of friendship and connection to you, sensing that he leads and is part of a very large tribe of humans whom you’ve led and influenced hugely, that he speaks not only of his deep love for you but also for others who feel so much for you. For this,”Innoho uyo.” Speaking for myself, I am so thankful that you used the terms “coming out of the closet,” which I also used in letting people in my old spiritual network know. It feels so much connected with that urge to be honest, authentic, transparent, and vulnerable, regardless of what the “issue” might be. It also feels as if, for various reasons, this whole issue of illness is difficult for many of us to “stay” with, and so I am blessed by your invitation to others to hold you as whole as well as to face the facts with you. I am so well-served by your courage and tenacity, your commitments, and–well–just who you are (even on the grumpy days). Thank you for stepping into this space. Much, much love to you, John, and Mario.

  4. Dear Art,
    I haven’t felt very close to you during our Leadership Programme however I want you to know that : I swallowed all your words and some are still resonating in my head. Specially your special way of introducing an important point by saying “here is the thing…”.
    When I hear those words I see you back in Sitges and it makes me smile!
    This is what I want you to know that you have impacted my Life (and big time when you spoke to me in R1 after the beam experience that has been a transformative one).
    And now I also want you to know that NO this is not a burden you put on me when you share your condition. It is a new mystery of Life : how is the body talking to our Soul? Who are we truly? And thank you for sharing this new experience with us. Your words about YOURSELF are powerful.
    What it inspires me right now?
    Lungs = Breath….
    I am Breathing Life in and out WITH YOU.
    And feel the gratefulness consciously to be able to do that.
    This is how close to you I feel Now….
    With Love,
    Caroline – Dove

  5. Dear Art, i haven’t felt very close to you during our Leadership Programme however I want you to know that : I swallowed all your words and some are still resonating in my head. Specially your special way of introducing an important point by saying “here is the thing…”.
    When I hear those words I see you back in Sitges and it makes me smile!
    This is what I want you to know that you have impacted my Life (and big time when you spoke to me in R1 after the beam experience that has been a transformative one).
    And now I also want you to know that NO this is not a burden you put on me. It is a new mystery of Life : how is the body talking to our Soul? Who are we truly? And thank you for sharing this new experience with us. Your words about YOURSELF are powerful.
    What it inspires me right now?
    Lungs = Breath….
    I am Breathing Life in and out WITH YOU.
    And feel the gratefulness consciously to be able to do that.
    This is how close to you I feel Now….
    With Love,
    Caroline – Dove

  6. Art-you continue to inspire and model so many qualities and attributes that I strive to build within myself, Thank You! I’m unable at this time to communicate all that is in my heart after reading your words. For now, I’m giving you a big and loving hug. Please know that I am fully there for you in ANY way that I can. I love you my friend, and I’m so grateful to have you in my life. Shalom, Dori

  7. Hey buddy, thanks for coming out of the closet, again. And, for your honesty and vulnerability. Thanks for modeling what it means to be fully transparent. When a story like yours is told and experiences like yours is had, it is typical for elders in my Ibibio culture to simply say “innoho uyo”. Literally translated it means I have no words. No words to thank you for who you are and the amazing dear friend and partner you are. No words to acknowledge how much I learn about love and intimacy from the example of your partnership with John and Mario. No words to thank you for daring to come out of the closet, again. No words to acknowledge you for how powerfully you hold us all in the midst of putting us in the closet. No words to tell you how much I love you and that I will be here, sourcing, praying, invoking magic. No words to thank you for the way you fight for participants who cross your path in the context of play we call work. No words to thank you for your commitment and faithfulness to us your friends. With that I say, innoho uyo. Love you to the moon and back.

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