'I may destroy me' - Compassionate self-exposure
as the path to personal freedom
Hello! Very few gay men seek out and then read articles about loneliness unless they’ve come to the realisation that they’re lonely. The stigma is real, and it takes a lot to engage with the subject.
I’m proud of you for opening this article. I recognise and admire your courage. Now that you’re here, let’s start getting you connected to yourself, those most important to you and to your community.
You've opened an especially awesome blog. I'm honoured to share with you the words, wisdom and insight from my friend Reno on the courage it takes to be our selves. Please, read and let his words and general awesomeness wash over you. You'll be inspired to be courageously you in the world.
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Sometimes I overthink things. Okay fiiiiiine. I overthink things A LOT. I'm a thinker. Case in point, this blog post, which Phil kindly encouraged me not to overthink. I had already written something, and I decided to delete it all. Mmmmm. Clean slate. "What wants to come through today? Now?"
I'm supposed to write a blog post about courage, and that's what this is. But, rather than tell you about courage, I'd rather embody it and show you what it looks like.
Often synonymous with and mistaken for confidence, as I see it; courage isn't the absence of fear, but the embodiment of nobility and humility in the face of fear.
I'm often mistaken for being confident, but the reality is that if there were a word for my life, and perhaps even my life's work, it would indeed be courage. It's what I inspire in my friends, my family, and my clients; they'll tell you I've inspired them, and that may be so, but what I've also done is encouraged them - usually because I've gone first.
In 2020 I flew to Costa Rica to facilitate a retreat, drove across Canada in a van with a woman I had only met less than a year prior, hiked/climbed a mountain (for 7.5 hours as a storm rolled in) in a Uniqlo tracksuit and Nike Air Max sneakers, and moved across Canada to Vancouver during a global pandemic because my soul wouldn't have it any other way.
Since being here, I've cold plunged in the ocean regularly, confessed my desire and love to a dear friend, shared some of the most shadowy parts of myself with people I'd hardly known, navigated the death of my niece and my godmother, submitted a paternity test to find out who my biological father is, and all of this while the protective shell around my heart and soul were being broken open.
Suddenly, I found myself moving through the world naked; like a raw piece of meat with none of the toppings; love spilling into and out of me each moment. A new kind of power had taken the place of the formerly protective power I thought I had; this was honest, humble, tender, strong, and sincere.
"If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you." - St. Thomas
Takes a deep breath.
I'll go first.
What I don't want you to know about me is that when I was in my early 20's, I would eat McDonald's after the club, and then throw up because I felt like shit for eating it, and wanted to stay thin.
What I don't want you to know about me is that sometimes it's hard to watch while others pair off, and I'm still the last man standing.
What I don't want you to know about me is that I feel like I should be more of an "adult" at 33 than I actually feel like I am.
What I don't want you to know about me is that while I want to make my own money in life, and a lot of it; I also dream about having a man come along and say to me "Don't worry about it; I've got you. Do whatever it is you want to do, and don't worry about money."
What I don't want you to know about me is that I've fantasized about having beautiful sexual experiences with men who are in relationships.
What I don't want you to know about me is that I sometimes feel like I'm faking my way through life; like I've somehow got myself and everyone fooled, and at any moment they're going to call me out.
What I don't want you to know about me is that as much as I give a fuck about the world's problems, and as compassionate and diplomatic as I am; sometimes I don't give a fuck, and I just want to tell people to fuck off, and to tell everyone (including friends and sometimes even clients) "Quit complaining, buck up, and get your shit together for fuck's sake. You know what you need to do and stop doing so quit the bullshit and let's get on with it!"
What I don't want you to know about me is that I'm still chipping away at debt, and I really enjoy spending the money I earn.
What I don't want you to know about me is that I enjoy the "Redneck", "Married", and "Daddy" porn genres, which some would take it upon themselves to diagnose as "issues".
What I don't want you to know about me is that I used to feel relief sometimes when I thought about the prospect of my mom dying (even though I knew it would inevitably crush me as well).
What I don't want you to know about me is that I think I might deal with some form of internalized racism, sometimes I hate my belly, and during the pandemic I've worn the same underwear three days in a row if they still smelled good.
What I don't want you to know about me is that when I was about 4, I was responsible for accidentally killing a puppy.
*Takes deep breath*
That last one was heavy. I was scared you'd shame me for it. I can accept that. I shamed me too.
The one about telling people to buck up was edgy too; because professionals dare not be so honest, and what if nobody hires me because I’m “too real”? If the truth scares you away, or it's too much for you, you probably won't want me as a friend or a coach, and so my honesty is really a wonderful filter then. I only want to be honest. And, if I’m honest, I’m not even sure that’s always true.
And anyway, I wonder; are we truly living and living truly if we're treating this beautiful game of life like a game of Russian Roulette; strategically choosing each step so as to avoid being found out, put out, or shut out for daring to be who we really are? Are we truly living and living truly if we are choosing to leave half of ourselves and our hearts at home in the closet and out of the work we spend the majority of our lives engaged in everyday, and calling it maturity, professionalism, and practicality? Are we truly living, if we are harbouring the deep dis-ease of not allowing our whole selves to be seen, heard, felt, and loved, and our scars to be admired, kissed, cleaned, beheld, bandaged, and celebrated by others who hide hurts and scars of their own in the shadows? Are we truly living and living truly if our every move and action is measured by how safe and secure we are, and whether or not the world might finally discover how powerless and fucked up we actually feel/are?
Spoiler alert: We're all a little fucked up. Yes, even your life coach, therapist, energy healer, and guru. You can relax now.
The thing about fear is that it's very convincing, but how many of your worst nightmares have actually happened? How many of the things you feared would happen have happened? If they have happened, how many of those things have you survived? My guess is that if you're still here, you've done alright this far. Keep going.
The thing about courage, is that once you've found yourself in the habit and practice of it, it starts to feel good.
"Good" like hopping a plane to Bali on a one-way ticket, living in an 8-bedroom villa with a handful of other people for 6 months, building a dream business with your Australian crush, and then walking away from it all.
"Good" like starting your own personal styling business because you loved styling, and enough people asked you to help them.
"Good" like starting your own Spiritual Life and Business Coaching/Consulting business because someone coached you for the first time and your soul was all "Why didn't anyone tell me I could write, talk, converse, and change people's clothes and lives for a living, and get paid handsomely to do it?"
"Good" like the December and January mornings I've spent jogging down to the ocean, slowly remove my clothes, and calmly stroll into the ice-cold ocean for a morning dip. I feel alive, embodied, connected, grounded, strong and present; there's a real sense of being able to move through the day with a sort of dignity that perhaps wasn't as present prior to my polar plunge. Each time, it's a bit easier too, and you develop this sort of imperturbability (is that even a word), that carries on into the day, and life.
I remember telling my best friend I was gay. Then my mom. Then my siblings. Then my dad. Then inviting my close friends to a gay bar for my birthday, and announcing to them that night that I was gay. Then announcing it on Facebook and changing my status to "into men". You kinda start to get off on it, and a momentum builds, and suddenly you're "Reno, the confident, courageous, audacious, bold, stylish, guy." Their words AND mine.
There's a final scene in the movie "8 Mile" where Eminem steps up to engage in a rap battle with his arch nemesis. Instead of coming armed with lyrical bullets aimed at his opponent, he takes on himself; saying all of the nastiest things his opponent could say about him aloud to himself and the audience. His opponent is left speechless, and without ammunition; Eminem had, in essence, killed himself, and in doing so he was finally free. The crowd went wild. Of course they did; we all long to be so bold, so brave, so courageous.
Because that’s another thing about courage; not unlike the truth, it’ll set you free.
Your turn. <3
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I’m honestly speechless. Wasn’t that amazing? I’ve read these words numerous times and they leave me gasping each and every time. Luckily, I recover my ability to speak for the chat I recorded with Reno for Ep. 22 of my podcast for gay men ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’. Join us from Thursday 11 February 2021.
And you can find Reno here:
Where to now?
Connection is the antidote to loneliness, but it takes courage to connect. Join the community on my website by becoming a premium member (monthly charge – with the first month free!) or a basic member and let’s stay connected as we work to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men.
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Important notice: All views expressed above are my own and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Resources page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.