Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Embracing Life on Your Own Terms

Embrace your life.

It’s my personal slogan for 2024. Each year I adopt a slogan rather than make New Year’s resolutions, which can get so complex and numerous they become onerous simply to remember and too easy to forget. I call upon my slogan in my mind’s self-talk as needed to keep myself on track. Sometimes I say it out loud when I especially need reminding.

I am fond of saying that the longest journey in life is our search to find our true home, the place where we are fully accepted and loved just as we are. I’m equally fond of pointing out that our search, if it’s fruitful, leads us to the realization that our true home actually lies within ourselves. You can be at home wherever you are when you embrace what the late poet Mary Oliver called “your one wild and precious life.”

How Do You Want to Live Your Life?
The reality is that you can’t live every life. You have to choose one, stick with it and live it as best you can. Ideally, the one you choose will emerge from your understanding of who you are in your own heart, what you love and value, where you come from and wish to go, when you want to accomplish the goals you set for yourself, why you believe as you do, and how you want to spend the allocated and very finite amount of time you are given to live your life.

Like all gay men I have known, my journey toward finally embracing my life was a painful one. It included years of hiding the attraction I felt toward other males, even trying to hide it from myself by believing something so fundamental about myself would change, that the “phase” would pass.

Fortunately, my journey also included a pivotal moment, a before and after, when I finally knew that being gay was OK, that what truly matters is the choices I make about who I will be and how I will live. For me, choosing to “come out” and embrace my sexual orientation as a fact of my life had a great deal to do with how highly I value authenticity and integrity. Further along in my journey, I realized that my sexuality is only one facet of myself, that being gay is only one of my identities, which also include son, brother, uncle, author, and New Englander. Understanding and accepting that each is only part of the whole, I embrace the life that has flowed out of their unique blend.

What Embracing Your Life Looks Like
Embracing your life means being willing to stand out from others and being true to yourself. It means risking others’ disapproval or rejection of you because you choose to act according to your own judgment and values rather than those that may have been prescribed without your consent, perhaps even before you were born.

“This above all: to thine own self be true,” goes Polonius’ oft-repeated advice to Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play. “And it must follow,” he adds, “as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

When you embrace your life, when you are at home within yourself, you will be as authentic with others as you are with yourself. You won’t feel a need to apologize for not being the person someone else might wish you were. You won’t pretend to be anyone, or anything, but will instead enjoy being who and what you are. You will know that is all you need—and it’s enough for one life, yours.

Embracing your life means accepting where you are on your life’s journey, not measuring your progress by anyone else’s standards but those you set for yourself. Only you can truly judge how far you have come because only you know where you began your journey, the obstacles that have stood in your way, and the suffering you have endured, between then and now.

Poetic Wisdom for Embracing Your Life
In his poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost describes a choice made at a fork in the road in a forest—or, we might say, in life’s road. A choice must be made: to take one road rather than the other, to live life one way rather than the other.

The poet fancies he can one day return to the fork in the road. “Yet,” he says, “knowing how way leads on to way/I doubted if I should ever come back.” He predicts that, “ages and ages hence,” he will describe his encounter with that fork, and the choice he made. “Two roads diverged in a wood,” he concludes, “and I—I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.”

Embrace your life and you will find the safest, most accepting home—within your own heart. That will make all the difference.



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