How long has this life been brewing? How long have I been percolating, waiting? My oils and aroma rising to the surface, the dregs of memory sinking. Never sunk.

How long have I been in love with someone who refused to take up the cup and drink?

I came out on social media the other day. I didn’t plan it—didn’t even think coming out was necessary for me. Yes, I’d been closeted. All of my thirty-some years. And yes there were people in my life who didn’t know me fully… But a declaration? A Capital-L-Line-in-the-Sand bona fide announcement?

I am gay, the announcement read, in spite of my hesitation. There were more words around it about standing in the face of fear.

I had never really understood the coming out process. From a distance I saw it as a somewhat contrived rite of passage, a marking of a part of the self, a limitation. After all, we are each so much more than our sexuality, yes? No matter how identified we might be with the LGBTQ community, who we choose to love is but one aspect of ourselves.

And yet—

The weight people gave to coming out, the heft of it. I couldn’t grasp it. Others talked about this event in their lives as of a birth. A presentation. New. Naked. Whole. Their stories involved family members or schoolmates, or awkward moments in diners when the crack in the marbled tabletop becomes suddenly Svengali-like in its power to absorb.

For me coming out was both a birth and reclamation. It is as if my soul knows this life already—has already lived it in a sense. And also my experience of today is new. Unfamiliar. I am gay, and I am so much more. But the so much more does not discount this detail, this person who could not emerge without looking at the whole of herself. The gay of herself. Her passion, her longing. Her missed steps.

Hello, I seem to say to myself these days. Hello love, and how are you?

The answer is that I am well, and in a way I am unchanged. My habits remain. I drink lemon water in the morning and show up at the neighborhood yoga studio most of the days I intend to. My mat still looks like children with untrimmed nails have been picking at it, and I still don’t shave my legs as often as I could. I will never get my leg behind my head.

Also I am out. And this is profoundly different.

I know now that I wasn’t ready to emerge before. To declare beyond myself who I am. The thing about declaration is that it requires an audience. An audience of more than me. This is the reason I have long valued formal confession, though I am not a practicing Catholic, nor do I seek a priest to hear me out. I see the value in confession as more than an unburdening. It is the courage to stand (or sit) exactly as we are and to speak. The speaking is an entreaty to be heard, and a supplication to receive the listening. It is the confluence of the two into love.

Coming out was important precisely because it made coming out important.

To come out was its own weight, and it took the telling of it to reveal the story to me. This story so many years in the making was of a human in denial. A denial that could not be compartmentalized. I could not live mostly as myself—I could either be wholly myself or I could be a shadow. A scrim in front of the one who shone if only I would look at her.

So, I looked. I gazed, ogled, bowed, embraced, appraised, accepted, and drank in every last drop of this human. One day, and over a series of many days, I took myself into me and fell in love for the first time in my life. I fell in love with my desires, and my preferences, and with the gifts I have been given to share. They are new gifts, and yet I have been carrying them all these years. I am familiar with their shape, if not with their particular contents.

Perhaps it isn’t so much a birth as it is an unwrapping—

I am here, swaddled and now sung.