Closets Are for Clothes, and Maybe a Vacuum or a Tool Chest


My friend G used to have a completely huge, hideous, disgusting wart on his wrist. Actually it wasn't so much a wart as a cluster of warts, and it was in a place where you couldn't help but notice it. He used Compound-W to get rid of it; it came back, worse than before. He had it frozen off; it came back, worse than before.

Then he quit his job, which he had hated devoutly for about two years. Within ten days, the wart had gone away of its own accord.

My friend M developed a horrible case of eczema. It was ugly, and it hurt. Then he came out of the closet. Within six months, the eczema was gone, never to return.

My friend D wet the bed every single night from early childhood into adulthood. Then he came out of the closet, and the bedwetting stopped forever.

Me, I had horrible digestive problems, respiratory infections and very unsettling bouts of vertigo while I was a missionary. Then I finished my mission and came home. Right away, the respiratory infections cleared up and the vertigo ceased, and though the intestinal problems didn't go away entirely, they at least lessened.

A few months ago I encountered an online forum that functioned as sort of an ideological Stonewall Inn, a place for people to be "out" of the ideological closet they lived in most of the time. Mind you, while the comparison to Stonewall is my own, referring to oneself as "out" or "not out" was the language used by the group. Although a few of them were fully and entirely "out," most of them were "in the closet" to many if not most of the people they interacted with regularly in real life. Many of the discussions in the forum were about the challenges presented by this closet: how to make it as comfortable as possible; how to find satisfaction in staying in it; how to discover others who lived in similar closets; how to keep one's sanity when the closet just felt too damn close and confining.

There were conversations about why one couldn't come out of the closet: jobs would be lost; marriages would fail; parents and other family members would grieved; children would suffer.

Plus, people were used to their closets. They'd grown up in them. If they moved out of the closet and into a home big enough to accommodate their entire lives, they'd have to renegotiate all sorts of things, and that would be awkward and demanding--even more awkward and demanding, apparently, than shrinking their lives down to fit a closet and keeping all sorts of secrets if not flat-out lying about all sorts of aspects of their lives to all sorts of people.

Very few of the conversations were about the benefits of living an open, honest, authentic life as closely aligned as possible with one's basic ideas about how the world works, and with one's deepest sense of who one is.

So at some point, I suggested that there was a lot of value in pursuing such a life. The suggestion didn't go over too well. One reason is that it was probably somewhat obvious that I pitied many of these people. They could see that, but they didn't want to see something else that was obvious: living in a closet stunted them as human beings, made them narrow and secretive and mistrustful and hard to get to know, and not as rewarding or as fun to hang out with as they could be.

I know that there are real dangers in coming out of certain closets, particularly if you come out as something society as a whole is really uncomfortable with--say, transgendered. Jobs can be lost. Families can be destroyed. For that matter, people sometimes become the target of violence--some of it deadly--after coming out of certain closets.

But as Harvey Milk pointed out, you can't wait until it's safe before you come out whatever closet you're in--because it is only by coming out before it's safe that you make it safe to come out. Dangerous as it can be to come out as gay, it's not as dangerous as it once was--mostly because people like Milk just insisted on coming out.

And while there are risks, there are also rewards. Resorting to a mind/body split I don't fully embrace, I will point out that, as in the examples I open with, your body will often tell you when you're living in a way that harms your spirit. You will have more energy to take care of you and to be you when you aren't devoting energy to deceiving people (like my friends M or D did) or finding a way to tolerate a situation you find intolerable (my my mission or G's job).

If you've suddenly developed allergies or begun having trouble sleeping, it could be that your autoimmune system has finally reached some tipping point, or that you're going through hormonal changes. But it could also mean that you hate your life, and your body is anxious to see you do something about it.

to be continued.


This is beautifully written and spoken. I agree that so many things that we let out of our closets bring us health and, in the end, happiness. It's usually the first step out of that damn closet that keeps us locked in there so tightly. But just think--once you come out, you may realize you don't even like the HOUSE and you end up moving to Europe!

But just think--once you come out, you may realize you don't even like the HOUSE and you end up moving to Europe!

I should be so lucky, Stella!

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on April 23, 2010 4:16 PM.

An Order of Green Mayo, Please was the previous entry in this blog.

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