Impulses? They weren’t impulses but directives, calls from within. I had heard them when I fell for Strayer. And how had I responded? Derided them as momentary distractions to be waved away with a toss of the head, discounted in the name of putting away childish things, boxed and stored in the basement of my life to grow dusty with age and recede into memory. I conned myself into thinking denial would buy me safety.
And it did. I had a nice life, a lovely home, three fabulous children, and a husband who showed up every day and did his best, who didn’t shrink from child-raising or household chores, who knew how to cook better than I did.
But I had disappeared. I had swallowed hard and succumbed to the dictum of my youth, to hide, hide, hide the messy, unacceptable truths that lay beneath my surface. Long before there was a Josh, or a Liala, a Gilder, a Max, or a Sierra, I buried myself.
All summer, I grabbed every secret moment I could to spend time with Lynn. We chose the most ordinary places for our trysts. She drove twelve miles from Shoreline to shop for groceries with me, with a pit stop by the Civil War cemetery to lie on the grass in the sunshine and nuzzle each other. A star-struck and rabid fan, I came to her tennis matches, tracked every point, and cheered for quick finishes, which gave us more time to make out in her convertible in random parking lots.
How can I live without this? I would despair as I lay in her arms.
The more time I spent with her, the more I longed for. I cried for the damage to my children if I left their father; I cried for the damage to myself if I stayed. I had landed in the middle of a zero-sum game where winning looked suspiciously like losing.
Josh didn’t want to break up, despite the facts. He would stay the course if given the chance. The choice was mine.
Nothing came easy. Stay married or leave Josh? Crush my kids or smother myself?
How could I be gay? Nights found me sleepless and anxious, unable to lie down beside the husband I commanded myself to honor. Days found me weeping at the idea of raising my children on a part-time basis. As I stumbled through my confusion and confronted the choices that lay before me, I realized the old wisdom that used to guide me was dead. Of course, it wasn’t wisdom, but fear — that familiar monster whose grip around my throat was stronger than my mother’s fingers. By any means necessary, no holds barred, fear got the job done, saved me from myself, and heaved me back on the straight and narrow.
But something new was at work now, a force that wasn’t to be messed with, one that wouldn’t take no for an answer. It ripped through me and snapped my tough-girl, buck-up and shut-up stance like so many twigs in a twister. All the fear that kept me down for so many decades proved no match for what I felt when I was with Lynn. I couldn’t resist her; I couldn’t resist myself. The scent of her hair, the feel of her warmth, the touch of her hand, the sound of her voice, the sparkle in those oh-so-very-blue eyes when they stared into mine; it was all impossible to deny. I wanted her in my life, every moment, every day, by my side in the most intimate of ways. I could not live without her sarcastic sense of humor, her matter-of-fact pragmatism, her calm counter to my up-and-down dramas, her affection, her interest, and her devotion to us.
The heart wants what the heart wants. Long suppressed, kept corralled in a safe and sensible harbor, mine finally broke free and grabbed the rudder to steer me into wild waters. There was no turning back.
GINNY GILDER is a two-time Olympian medalist in rowing and a present co-owner of the WNBA's Seattle Storm. Learn more about Ginny as well as her book Course Correction on her website. Excerpt from Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX (Beacon Press) © 2015 by Ginny Gilder.