Challenges,  Communication

Coming Out at 37: A Short Story

I stared down at my coffee, swirled it a bit to mix the cream in with the coffee, and sank into my chair at the hip coffee house. It took me a whole minute before I could look up at my new friend and answer the question he just lobbed across the table to me.

To anyone paying attention to our conversation, it might have looked like an innocent exchange. Yet, to me, it rocked me at my core. I kept thinking about his question over and over again in my head – “Shannon, you sound like you’re deeply in love with her. Have you told her how you feel?”

My brain was basically on overload at that moment. I was stumbling and mumbling. How could this guy, who I have only known for a couple of weeks, really get me at more core?

OMG, I couldn’t believe he was right. I’m actually in love with her… Oh hell, now what am I supposed to do with this?!

Sitting in the coffee shop that day with my new friend, he had basically blown my mind. It wasn’t until he pointed it out that I realized I was truly in love with my best friend. From that moment on, I knew I had to tell her. But how?

This brought up so many complications. The main one was I was terrified. I had been married to a man for 10 years, we had separated, and I moved out just 6 months before.

My best friend had been a rock by my side, helping me move and set up my new place. She was also in a relationship where she would tell me how miserable she was and wished she had the courage as I had had to leave her.

Plus, everyone in my life thinks I’m straight, so now what? Because I’m in love with a woman, who happens to be my gay best friend, does this mean I’m gay? What if she’s not in love with me? Does this mean I could love another woman, or maybe I’m not gay? I’m just in love with her?

My mind was like a hamster on a spinning wheel, out of control.
After much journaling and meditation, I finally decided that I was going to tell her this week. I couldn’t keep it in any longer. We talked on the phone constantly and saw each other whenever she was in town, which was often.

And if this went horribly wrong, my life would be upended, yet I had to go through with it. I couldn’t wait any longer.

She was in town for a meeting and stayed at a hotel near my new office, which was much closer than my house. We decided to hang out and have dinner and share a hotel room as friends do with 2 beds.

I was in agony the whole time while staring at the ceiling, and I chickened out.  The next morning, while she was in the shower, I decided to write her a letter and invited her to my house for dinner that night.

I left it on the bedside table. And as she was getting ready, I told her I had to get to work and that I’d left her a note. I won’t even tell you the anxiety I had at work all day.

And I finally wrestled with myself that it was now or never. I couldn’t chicken out.

After dinner at my house, we both went into the living room. She was on the couch, and I was in a chair facing her.

I stammered a bit, and then I finally just blurted it out. Finally, I had told her, and it was terrifying, and yet I felt some relief. After what seemed like an eternity, she smiled at me and said she loved me too.

And I went over to the couch to sit next to her, and we hugged for a long time.

Yet, it was complicated. She wasn’t available and was still in her long term relationship.  So it was somewhat anticlimactic. I was elated she loved me too, yet the impossibility of us ever being together was so small.

Sadly, after much anguish, after a year, there wasn’t a happily ever after. 

Coming out that day to my best friend was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, second to coming out to my Dad.

What happened afterward was I felt like I finally woke up and had this realization of how I’ve lied to myself my whole life about who I was.

The reality was that up until now; I was basically sleepwalking through my life, thinking I had to be married to a man and couldn’t acknowledge my deep love of women. 

That day started my long journey of a deep and profound change of coming out that led to so much more love in my life in ways that I could have never even imagined.

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