- Writers Retreat
- OUR SUPPORTERS
Do you have problems with your love life? Do you hate your job? Is your social life lacking a certain zing? All of these questions and more can be answered through literature—or maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here at the Lambda Literary Review have started our very own advice column called “Reader Meet Author.” Think of the column as a sort of a “Dear Abby” for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send “Reader Meet Author” questions for publication to ReaderMeetAuthor@lambdaliterary.org.
This month’s author is Kevin Sessums. Sessums is the author of the New York Times best seller Mississippi Sissy and the recently released memoir I Left It On The Mountain. He was previously a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Allure. Sessums is currently the Editor-at-Large at the Curran Theatre. His work has appeared in Elle, Travel + Leisure, Playboy, Out, and Show People. He lives in San Francisco, California.
I’m a 37 year old gay man from the North, and though I had a rough time coming out, though my biological family is rather non-existent, and though these last twenty years have been a little rough–first seeking out my dream to be a musician, then realizing that I didn’t actually want that, and now trying to make it as a writer–I feel settled in my own skin. And I’ve never thought of myself as disempowered until listening to Sarah Hepola discussing her book, Blackout, with Terry Gross on NPR the other day. She was talking about empowerment and defined it as knowing what you want in life and the ability to go out in the world to get it. I have never felt empowered, not because I don’t know how to go get it–I’m good at the getting part–but because I have the hardest time figuring out what I want. I talked to my partner of about ten years about it, and he seemed to think this was not news. I realize now that the biggest challenge in my life was having a genuine sense of the specific things, circumstances, and people I want in my life. Do you have any suggestions for how I can overcome this? How do people get in touch with the authentic part of themselves to figure out what they want? What if you don’t get what you want? Do you give up and search for something else? How and when do you know?
Dear Disempowered Downer,
First of all, I guess I’d tell you to rename your avatar here. Naming something is the first step in creating our own reality. Drop the “dis” and stop dissing yourself. Empower yourself as The Searcher and The Pilgrim you seem to be if this letter is to be my guide.
Because you mention both music and writing I also assume you have the soul of an artist–which is not always the best coupling for ambition, i.e. getting what you want. I have always thought of myself as a writer because that is what I always did: I wrote. I write. I am writing this response to you right now. I will write something else tomorrow. I didn’t wait for someone else to confirm the knowledge that I already had. I gave no one else the power to name me before I named myself. I stepped out into the world as a writer already. Be it. Don’t become it.
And also own the blessings that you have and build upon those. You write you have a partner of ten years with whom you discussed this. That, in itself, is a great achievement–having someone you love in whom you can confide. That’s something I don’t have. I read that and wondered how you achieved that in your life. It’s all about perspective.
Now look at that blank piece of paper–or the empty computer screen–and, confiding in that, write. Don’t worry about making it so much. Do the work. There is joy in filling up a page. That alone is what I set out to accomplish each day. A few good paragraphs are empowering.
Finally, don’t fight with yourself so much. You will always win that fight. But you will also lose it.
What is the best way to fall out of love with someone? Like a love-sick fool, I fell for my best-friend. I sheepishly confessed my feelings to her, and needless to say they are not reciprocal. She is only interested in me as a friend. Now I am heart-stricken. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I am depressed and despondent. I am a wreck! Do you have any suggestions to alleviate this emotional pain?
We all just have to trudge through our own pain with as much grace as we can.
I have always been fascinated by friendships that turn to love in the LGBT community. It is a fine line we often must traverse.
I think what we have to be careful about is substituting the heartbreak and the warped passion it elicits in us for the love that caused that heartbreak to begin with. We must not have a romantic notion about our pain. The pain can be a way of staying connected in an emotional way to that other person. We begin to have an attachment to the pain that replaces the attachment we felt to that person.
I have a friend who was devastated and heartbroken by a longtime lover who broke her heart. She went through two or three years of immense pain and would often break down and cry when the subject was brought up. Recently she met a new love, someone who is making her happier than she has ever felt before. But she had to go through the crucible of that pain to get to the place where she can now feel this joy. If the other woman had not broken up with her, she would not have met this new love of her life. Sometimes we can’t see the greater plan for our lives. The pain we feel might just be our cleaning away the emotional underbrush of our lives as we set out on a new and more fulfilling path. That is what I wish for you. Good luck.