I was 24 years old when Diva was released. Right from the beginning, the music and lyrics connected with me in ways I did not always understand. One song had a special connection but I never quite understood why. The Gift is so fragile and so beautiful, and that in itself is enough to connect with. But two and a half years ago, it resonated with me in a deeply personal and touching way that will make it special all my life.
Darling don’t you understand I feel so ill at ease
The room is full of silence and it’s getting hard to breathe
I never really felt I belonged. I thought perhaps I was a freak, an accident, unworthy. All this despite trying to lead a life where I was kind and giving and respectful of others. I married, had a family. Everything should have been wonderful, and though there were wonderful times deep inside I never felt right. I worked hard, I excelled in my field. Whatever I did, I was unhappy deep down. I started to shut myself off from people, preferring loneliness over the possibility of rejection.
I was tormented by inner demons. No matter how much I tried to fight it, I could no longer fool myself. I was gay. It was becoming harder and harder to live my life and pretend to be straight. I had no connections to gay culture. I knew no one, nowhere to go. I felt alone and I despaired. I felt the weight of the world crushing down upon me. In the end I could barely breathe any more. Life was hell. In trying to do what was expected of me, what I thought was right, I had gotten myself and my loved ones into this situation. I despised myself for it.
I’d talked to my wife many years beforehand, about halfway through our marriage and explained I had some level of attraction to the same sex. Then I tried to bottle it up, I went from living in denial to living in repression. I thought that was it, I’d dealt with it and it was past. But my inner ghosts continued to haunt me, they never went away and I lived every moment in torment and shame.
Finally, it became too much. I couldn’t go on living this way. If I didn’t have children, I may have taken my life. I thought about it endlessly. But I knew I couldn’t do it for their sakes, and I realised I had to be authentic to myself. There was no other option. I found the courage to talk it through with my wife. Our conversations went on for weeks. We spoke more openly than we ever had before, and things seemed to be getting better. And then one day she said to me “Go and be who you are, who you have to be” and that was it. My marriage was over. I had no idea what the future held as I came out into the world.
Take this gilded cage of pain and set me free Take this overcoat of shame, it never did belong to me
As the weeks and months went by, I came to realise that the root of my pain was not something to be ashamed of, but something to embrace. I emerged from my pain with renewed confidence, realising I had nothing to be ashamed of. I’d carried this torment around for years, held it close, when it really never did belong to me. I need to go outside, I need to leave the smoke ‘Cause I can’t go on living in this same sick joke It seems our lives have taken on a different kind of twist Now that you have given me the perfect gift And that was it.
I was walking a new path, trying to do the right things – right for my (to-be) ex-wife, for my children, and for me. It was tough. At first I felt like I’d lost everything – my house, my children, my partner, my belongings and many of my friends. But despite it all, I kept going. One day at a time. And finally – I could breathe again. It was as if an elephant had stood up after sitting on my chest for years.
The crushing pain I carried, the short breaths finally left me. I started to see the positives in my life. Through it all I saw this wonderful gift I had been given by those who cared for me. The gift was acceptance of the real me. The one I’d hidden from myself and from others my whole adult life. Acceptance meant far more than many people could imagine. It really was, and remains the perfect gift.
And we have fallen from our shelves To face the truth about ourselves And we have tumbled from our trees Tumbled from our trees…
Facing the truth about myself was for me, the hardest thing I have done in my life by far. I fell, I stumbled, I faltered. Familiar words, but ever so true. Step by step, day by day, I found myself. I found acceptance from others, but more importantly, I found acceptance within myself. I came to realise I was blessed to be in the situation I was in. There was no more hiding; I was out to my ex-wife, to my kids, to my family and to my friends. Finally I could be authentic to myself, and from then on life started getting better. The possessions I lost, the home I lost – they are all just things. In the end things don’t matter. We easily forget how lucky we are when we should treasure what we have.
And I can almost… I can almost hear the rain falling Don’t you know it feels so good It feels so good… So let’s go out into the rain again Just like we said we always would
The Gift became my coming out song. It gave me strength and reassurance in uncertain times. It reminded me to be strong.
So here I am. A gay man. A gay parent. I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends near and far and a wonderful family. My children are well adjusted, beautiful kids. Three years ago I couldn’t imagine being this happy. Three years ago I couldn’t imagine being given The Gift.
If you can relate to anything Mark has written here, he is happy to talk to anyone who wishes to do so in complete confidence. if you would like the contact details, then you can email Mark here
And it seems appropraite for us to feature the video The Gift here which for so many people has different feelings and emotions attached.