This week has been an exercise in coming out. Yes, there have been some of the traditional “coming out experiences,” but mostly it was an exercise in coming out of myself. As in, getting out of my selfish, internal world that I’ve been protectively isolating myself in, and realizing that I might not be the only one here in this seminary who has shit going on. God, with an infinitely creative sense of humor, does not usually settle for giving me nice, mild lessons. Or maybe, on the other hand, God does send plenty of nice, mild ones, and I just miss them altogether, and consequently call for drastic measures, which is actually probably the case.

So anyway, how this all began was in my clinical skills group, which happens really early in the morning, when I am usually at my crankiest and least mentally prepared to face a table full of budding psychologists, and our group leader was going around in a circle, having us each say which of Roger’s three main areas we really need to work on- congruency, empathy, or unconditional positive regard. Everyone was giving pretty standard, run of the mill answers until M broke the general classroom trend of using a whole lot of syllables to say basically nothing at all, to say instead that she needs to work on congruency because she’s been acting like she’s fine, but really her whole world is falling apart because she just got diagnosed with a neurological disorder, and can’t quite feel her legs, or really walk very well much at all lately. Well, you can’t follow something like that with some bullshit about how you need to work on empathy because you aren’t sure you’ll be able to empathize with some hypothetical child molester client one day, now can you? So I came next and said something like, “I need to work on congruency too. Because I haven’t been… at all. Congruent that is. Not here, anyway.” So our group leader, budding psychologist that she is, leaned forward and asked: “what is a practical way that you might do that?” And I laughed, like you do when you are trying not to cry, and said: “Well, I guess I could let at least somebody in our cohort get to know me even just a little bit. That might be a start.”

And it has been one hell of a start. Because all this time that I have been stomping around campus with my arms crossed, ranting in my head about how I don’t want to let anyone know me because they would just reject me, and insisting that I am too busy to care about anybody else when I am just learning, maybe for the first time, how to care for myself- all of myself, even the hidden, hurt, closeted parts, M has been walking around wondering if she is going to be able to get out of bed tomorrow, or how she will walk to class next week. And the really ironic part about all of this is that I thought I had the upper hand, putting in my order to God for “no more friends please, because I don’t want to have to take care of anyone else, or let anybody here really see me at all,” and so God just laughs at my stubborn directing of “the world according to D,” and then proceeds to move along exactly as planned… which is rarely what I had in mind. But then again, the most beautiful things that enter our lives are so rarely what we had in mind.

And so far, having M around has been beautiful in that really painful way that life has of being. I finally came out of myself long enough to see somebody else, and to maybe, just a little bit, really let them see me. And what I found, first of all, was that its absolutely ridiculous to be blind to the needs of others because you are too busy sulking around and feeling like you have a monopoly on being the outcast of society. And second of all, that maybe, just maybe, not everyone here will reject me like I always assumed they would.

I came out to M today, up in the second floor of the little coffee shop where I’ve been going to hide from the world, and it was not quite so painful as I had imagined it would be. I had been planning to do it all day, because it seems kind of cruel not to be authentic when someone has been authentic enough with you to share their own terrifying fears about things like not being able to do anymore the most basic things they always took for granted. Still, I had almost managed to talk myself out of it anyway when the barrista, an old friend who is one of the few people in town who remotely understands where I am coming from and comes from a similar place herself, casually dropped into our conversation a line about her own girlfriend, just to test the waters for me, and to see how M would react. And I can’t quite explain it, but this was one of those moments when you just feel at peace with the world, like maybe you wouldn’t take back any of the shit at all, not even the really, really, shitty parts, just because it has brought you to exactly where you are. And in all the ways I might have imagined my life playing out, I am pretty sure that I never, ever, would have imagined myself at 23, standing in a coffee shop, profoundly grateful for the grace of a moment where an old friend still knows me well enough to sense that I need her to test the waters for me, so I can get up my courage to tell my new found seminary friend that I’d be willing to be the one to help her with all these basic tasks, if it comes to that, and also that I am going to need a bit of help myself, because I am maybe, probably, in all likelihood a lesbian… and that is not an easy thing to be in this culture, or particularly in this seminary. No, these are not the kinds of moments you have in mind when you think of how your life will be beautiful. And yet, that doesn’t take away from their beauty.

So all that to say that I am taking baby steps- towards coming out, and towards coming out of myself and stepping back into the messiness that is human relationship, in all its broken splendor. I’d call that progress.