by Melissa Anderson
Last fall, I discovered that I am sexually attracted to women.
Let me tell you, it came as a bit of a shock to me. I am 28 years old. I have been serious about dating men since I was 17. I have been in stable, loving, long-term relationships with 3 amazing men. I had never so much as checked a girl out before October of last year. And not only am I attracted to women, but powerfully so. There’s no mistaking it. Seriously, I’m like a teenage boy.
How did this discovery happen? Not because I fell in love with a woman. Not because a woman came on to me or tried to kiss me. It came to me while I was alone, eyes closed, seated on my meditation bench, trying to be as present and aware as possible.
I realize now that there were some pretty big clues in the months leading up to this discovery. The most obvious was that I had a serious crush on, and physical attraction to, Starbuck (from Battlestar Galactica).
My transformation this year has been much bigger than the discovery of my sexuality, though that has been a profoundly important part of it. I sincerely believe that my meditation practice has been the key to this transformation. And it is the reason the changes have not been limited to who I sleep with. So how do I express in words the amazing changes this year has brought to my life?
Except for this year, I have been anxious and depressed since I was 11 years old. At times I was keenly aware of my unhappiness. At other times I was able to numb myself using television and movies, computer games, food, and relationships. At all times, however, I lived in a constant state of fear and stress.
What happened when I was 11? I realized I was different from the other girls. For one, I was confident and happy. I was a high achiever in school. I was “teacher’s pet” in every class in elementary school. I was creative and talented, musically and artistically. Also, I was a “tomboy.” I cut my hair short in Grade 6. I liked boyish clothes. I excelled in sports. I was really nerdy too, maybe as a result of all these things. Even my Grade 6 teacher made fun of my sweat pants (they were white with blue and purple tie-die swirls. No joke!).
On Valentines Day in Grade 5, a cute boy in my class asked me out. I didn’t want him in “that” way, but I thought, why not? He was nice enough. We dated until the following winter, which is to say, we would hold hands at recess and we went to a movie together, once. We never kissed. He wanted to. I didn’t. I was deemed, by our classmates, to be a “freeze”. When we broke up, I decided to throw a party. I assumed, wrongly, that all the popular kids who had befriended me while we were dating were still my friends. I found out, the day of the party, that the girls had decided to “boycott” the party, and so none of the boys were coming either.
It hurt, and I took it very personally. I was angry with myself for being the overachiever, the tomboy, for being enthusiastic and nerdy, for not wanting to kiss my boyfriend: for being “uncool.”
Two things happened after that. First, I withdrew into myself. Every day of high school, lunch hour, afternoons, and evenings, I would go home and watch television by myself. I never again spoke to a teacher unless it was absolutely necessary. I never telephoned a girlfriend and invited her over. I never threw another party. In fact I still haven’t!
Second, eventually, I learned to project a “cool”, non-threatening image of myself to others. I wasn’t any good at this for a long time – until about Grade 12. Then I started dating boys again and was able to have friendships with girls who were willing to do all the work (because God knows I wasn’t going to take any risks ever again).
Basically, I rejected myself. And it wasn’t until this year that I finally discovered, or re-discovered, who that person is and how vitally important it is for me to know her. In order to deny who I was I had to deny almost every feeling I had. The negative feelings grew into a massive ball of anxiety that I have carried with me for the last 17 years. And when you get so out of touch with yourself, you lose the ability to fully feel anything positive.
As part of my meditation practice, I have made a point of having encounters with those deeply buried emotions. There is a heck of a lot of grief in there, as well as anger and frustration. I don’t think about them. I don’t analyze. I just feel, and when I do, there is a release of energy that happens. I believe the release makes space for good feelings to grow in me: love, kindness, compassion. And believe me they have.
Another part of my meditation practice is trying to cultivate those positive feelings, for myself especially. It is stunning, the amount of self-hatred and shame we can carry around.
I’m also learning how to love and care for others, and the sheer happiness that it brings. I actually get a “high” when I do loving kindness meditation. No joke. The way I practice is to say:
May you be well.
May you be at peace.
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you know the love of your own heart.
I make a point now of giving “secret” blessings to friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, children, dogs, pretty much anybody, because it makes me feel so good.
And you wouldn’t believe the effect it has. It’s not that they know I’m silently wishing them well. But somehow they sense that they are safe with me, that it’s okay to smile, to say hi, to open themselves a little.
A new friend told me that she likes being around me because I have such a calming presence. She said it’s like an aura. This was the best compliment I’ve ever received. It is also a good indication of how far I’ve come this year.
Don’t get me wrong, discovering you like women, after all this time, is a downright scary thing. And making peace with myself, after all this time, hasn’t been easy. It takes a whole lot of love and patience. But I’m learning. And most importantly, I’m finally happy again. I feel so good some days I want to go singing and skipping down the street. Sometimes I do, though never both at once.
There are words I didn’t understand the meaning of until now. I had no idea what it meant to “swoon” over someone. I didn’t really understand what “joyous” meant. Now I can tell you, with confidence, that I get it, and I am extraordinarily thankful.
It has nothing to do with being in love with a girl (I’m not). It has nothing to do with loving my job (trust me). It has everything to do with simply accepting myself (and others) as I am. And what a beautiful thing that has been.
-(Share your story with us!)