Everyone has vivid memories of times when life drastically forked for them – when they had to make a choice as to which road to take, college to attend, career to follow, social or political group to associate or disassociate with, passion to pursue, organization to work for, or lover to spend this particular time or hopefully their life with.
In 2004, my husband, Douglas, and I, on a trip to New York City, saw Hugh Jackman in The Boy From Oz. It was brilliant, touching, funny and, most of all, haunting. The Boy from Oz is a jukebox musical based on the multifaceted life of gay singer/songwriter Peter Allen and featuring songs written by him. Jackman won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. The opening song,“All The Lives of Me,” illustrates the many pathways, personalities and choices Allen took during his fascinating, albeit challenging and difficult life. The beginning lyrics go as follows:
Everywhere I go
I’m followed by a lot of people,
Such a lot of people
It’s almost a parade.
And if you could see all the people
They’re everyone I ever was,
And everyone I ever will be
All the lives of me.
Nothin’ left to hide
I come in many colors,
Assorted shapes and sizes
Can adapt to your demands.
And if you smile at someone
Then I’ll just become that one,
And throw in all the others for free
All the lives of me.
As I indicated in the opening column of The Queer Shift, I firmly believe in only two constants — change and choice. Please don’t misread that I’m advocating change-on-demand to please everyone you encounter in life, but rather find your authenticity, and let it guide you as you come upon the formidable forked pathways of life.
As a certified management/career/life coach, and aging gay man I’m always looking for the latest information regarding change and choice. A trusted person recently recommended Monday Morning Choices, 12 Powerful Ways to Go From Everyday to Extraordinary, by David Cottrell. Cottrell talks about three types of choices we all make in life. These choices are always at those tough forks in the road.
First, character choices that define the person we will be, deciding to not be the victim and to choose integrity and listen to our gut, even when it’s not the easiest thing to do. Second, action choices that lead to failure or success. Being persistent, doing something, takes us from perpetual wishing or dreaming to self love and happiness. Finally, investment choices, revolving around the people we spend time with and develop relationships with, removing ourselves from toxic people, houses, jobs, organizations, causes, and yes even lovers — which brings me to what the hell I want to share!
Doug and I (knock on a woody) are in our 11th year, having been legally married last Sept. 15 in New York City, sharing the moment with two dear lifetime lesbian couples, and many friends. We are always asked the illusive and important question: how do we keep the relationship together, alive, relevant, fresh, hot and stable? It all comes down to one of those gigantic forked pathways; I believe before you venture down either road you seriously examine compatibility – emotional, mental, spiritual, social, financial and sexual compatibility.
Some Real-life Rules I Have Learned About Compatibility & Relationships
1. You can only love people that you like
2. You have a choice to be alone or to be in a relationship
Love the person you see in the mirror first and foremost. Embrace the philosophy that you may be alone, but you will never be lonely. For then the combined laws of attraction and allowance can co-exist and you can truly be someone who can first own your happiness, and attract someone who operates from the same mindset. It all goes back to the old adage: Instead of looking for Mr. Right, be Mr. Right!
3. Some people are toxic, avoid them
This is a subtext of number one. In all relationships people can be either toxic or nourishing toward one another. There is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing when it comes to a possible relationship. Here is the test: Really spend some time with this person. At the end of the times together, observe whether you are more energized or less energized – tired or exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.
4. Love is not enough
Live together, experience together and grow together. Don’t let your fears prevent you from fully engaging and embracing the whole relationship. Whether you decide to marry, not marry, fight for gay marriage, in the end it doesn’t matter if you always talk about the big and little issues. Communicate often. Oh, and buy a new bed shortly after you begin living together, a bed that works for both of you; you spend a lot of time there, so it needs to be a high-priority item.
5. Just enough is more
Less is not necessarily more, nor is more necessarily less.
There has to be a vision and values match with each other, or collisions are on the horizon. Know what both of you want, and know that you are individually responsible for getting it. Also, know when it’s over; enabling, co-dependency, being roommates rather than a caring couple, can damage both of you.
6. Neither the head, the heart nor the groin are to be trusted all alone
Have at least two of them in combination at all times, hopefully all three if you are choosing to enter a relationship. Good sex is not love, don’t get the two confused.
7. Live your life with a positive energy that others notice and that is infectious
Again, such a huge part of attraction.
8. Be capable of soothing and being good to yourself, and to one another
Practice random acts of kindness to yourself, and do little things every day for one another.
Oh, and there’s this. In the end it’s about timing. Laughing together, crying together, changing and aging together. It should be easier than harder the majority of time. Remember the life lessons you’ve already learned, talk to people, other couples, find the sequencing and the commonalities.
Take time at the forks in the road, utilize everything and everyone you have to make the choice, and above all love yourself first, only then can you love any other choice you make. Here’s to all the lives of you!