Swish Voices November 15, 2011

A Place Where I Belong

Lana Lauriano

I thought the words “it gets better” were something to keep me quiet so that no one else would have to feel my pain. For a long time, I was angry, quiet, and alone.

I had a hard enough time dealing with the death of my parents, let alone deal with being a lesbian. I was 17 when my father passed, so he never knew about my sexuality. What would the 6’5”, Italian Republican cop think? Would he have accepted me? Would he have still loved me? My mother, on the other hand, knew. Despite her cries of “what she did wrong” and her saying that her and my father’s divorce “caused this,” I knew she still loved me. If she actually accepted me or not…well, that was another story. When her cancer came back she had no choice but to deal with it and she gave me her blessing. But in my 21 year-old, heartbroken mind, my mother never accepted me.

Now, at 35 years old, I still find myself turning into that young girl craving her parent’s acceptance and unconditional love…wondering if my mother wasn’t terminally ill if she would have given me her blessing.  My strict, conservative, Italian, dysfunctional upbringing was laced with conditioned beliefs. I was supposed to get married, be a wife, be a mother, be on the PTA…but that wasn’t who I was. I began to rebel and express my hatred for marriage, knocking people that wanted a family. After all, I couldn’t have those things, and the pain and envy of that battled with the conditioned beliefs that had been instilled in me from a young age. I blamed my disdain for marriage on my parent’s inability to function as a couple and their ultimate divorce. I masked my confusion and pain with partying. Hell, I wasn’t meant to be married anyway. I wasn’t that type of girl. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be alone and to the kind of family that I knew I would have. After all, what kind of person am I? I was lost and felt like I belonged nowhere. I yearned for my parent’s love, a home, acceptance, but I was empty.

After years of internal torture and being my own worst enemy, I started to free myself of the shackles that my past put upon me. I am a good person, a good daughter, a good sister, and a good friend. I deserve happiness and nothing but the best. I do not want to die angry and bitter like my parents (who watched life fly by them). I deserve a chance at Happiness. I began a daunting journey of looking within myself and wanting to become a healthier, better person and I began to feel free. And when I started to feel free, I began to shine and open up my heart to others and to the possibility of love. Through this process, I became incredibly close with my sister who became my best friend.

And then I met the most incredibility beautiful, organic, gentle, amazing woman. She was unlike anyone I had ever met before. Her adorable, Midwestern, positive charm balanced out my New York cynicism. I began to smile and to see the beautiful things in life and in people. I inherited new additions to my family in Michigan, where she’s from, and in NYC, where we live now. I am so grateful to my partner for sharing all these wonderful people with me and for opening my eyes to new things. She has taught me to be proud, to never be ashamed of who I am, to never hide, and to know that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to. She has had a hand in helping me grow into the woman I want to be.

When she got down on one knee on the beach under the moonlight shining over Barbados and asked me to spend the rest of my life with her, I got lost in the happiness of her hazel eyes. Is this it? Is this what Happiness is? Me, the hard-ass, now stops and smiles at puppies, waves at babies, and notices the beautiful colors in the sky? My partner shattered the hardened shell around me that I’d spent years hiding in to protect myself from further pain. I allow myself to smile now, to laugh, to enjoy being madly in love with my beautiful fiancé, and to be free. Now I hear myself tell others, “It gets better. So much better. Just be patient and give it time.” I believe that I’ve done something right in my life to deserve all these wonderful gifts and to grow old with the woman I adore. I have found where I belong within myself and with her and I finally feel like I am at peace and truly happy.  Oh, and yes…this hard-ass now also has a wedding binder!