Michael E. Holtby, LCSW, BCD
Journey to Authenticity
Originally published in Colorado's AIDS Newsletter, Resolute! , June, 1995
A TRIBUTE TO THE LIFE OF:
10/4/50 to 12/25/94
The first three months Marty was in one of my HIV psychotherapy groups he
avoided talking about his work. He wanted to be accepted as just one of the
guys. The rest of the group was taken quite by surprise to finally learn that
Marty was a Catholic Priest, living in a community of Franciscan Friars. The
fact that Marty was gay, and that he was a religious were fractured
parts of himself at the time. That was in 1990. Father Marty underwent an
amazing metamorphosis. He shed his shame, and embraced the two Marty's as one.
The result is that he found his true ministry as a role model and celebrity
within Denver's gay community, and as a comfort and friend to many others with
AIDS. Many will remember the cover story about Marty in The Catholic
Register, in which he came out as a gay Catholic priest with AIDS. Many
will also remember Marty as the keynote speaker at a nondenominational service
on World AIDS Day (1993) at MCC Church.
Marty and other group members wrote their own eulogies as an exercise to
reflect upon their lives. Marty summed up his own life in this way: "Through
this group, the Friars and my family I have found the strength to come out more
publicly, not only in the church but in the city too, and that's where I found
the healing. That desire to be authentic has always been part of me, and as a
result, I have found a deeper peace. You know the 12-Step saying, "You're as
sick as your secrets." I've discovered that to be true. I don't have secrets
anymore and that feels very good. That was part of the journey
of my life and I believe that is what we're all called to: to embrace what Carl
Jung calls our shadow, not to kill it, to embrace it and say that is who I am
too. For me that has brought life, and inner peace and a freedom. I don't have
to spend energy protecting secrets anymore. I believe my life's journey was a
journey to authenticity." (6/28/94)
Marty had more to teach us, than just to come out of the closet. Marty worked
very hard to be in touch with what he felt, and to communicate those feelings.
He talked about the days he would get angry, not being able to really name what
he felt, and realizing only six months later what had provoked him. Marty worked
in a 12-Step Program in which his sponsor had him write down his feelings hourly
from a list of possibilities. By the time he died Marty was considered an
emotional leader within our group: the first to cry, the first to perceive the
hidden feelings of others, the first to give an emotional response.
We live in a society of conspiracy to hide feelings, and not be who we really
are. This goes well beyond issues of sexuality. Consider your telling your
mother that you are afraid of dying with HIV, and her response is, "Oh don't be
silly. You'll live a long time." Or your father saying, "Just don't dwell on
it." Or the New Age Negative Nazis who tell you that kind of thinking will
surely send you to an early grave. So sad that we cannot share our feelings with
each other. Too bad that we cannot be real, or what Marty called
authentic, even with those closest to us.
So many times when I see clients for any length of time I find I know them better than their own lovers, or family members. I often say, "Why don't you tell him that?" I get a list of reasons:
"If he really knew me he wouldn't like me."
"He couldn't accept that about me."
"He won't want to hear it."
"I 'm afraid of his anger."
"Best not to make waves."
"I'd feel too vulnerable."
"It would hurt him."
"He won't listen."
But this is at a great cost. Every time you withhold what you feel, what you
want, what you need, who you are; you whittle away at your own integrity, self
esteem. This is especially true with those you consider "close". You compromise
the level of intimacy between you and them. You are no longer authentic, you are
molded into a chameleon, a shell with a good paint job to be what others want
you to be.
Shakespeare said, "To thine own self be true -- and as day follows night,
be false to no man." Be false to no man in terms of what your real truth
is. Within the context of AIDS, you can hide behind your shame; but to what end?
You are punishing yourself. Maybe that is one reason why PWA's kill themselves
three times more often than people with cancer. You could see HIV as an
opportunity. What do you have to lose? Its likely everyone will end up knowing
you have AIDS. You don't have time to waste on more secrets, on a double life.
Nor do you have time to waste on superficial relationships restricted to
discussions of your work, or the weather, and trying to be butch and pretend you
have an interest in the Broncos. What we hide doesn't make us more lovable. It
makes us more dishonest and more distant. Be yourself! If you are a flaming
queen, be a good one! Go girl! The unlikable parts in people are their
walls, their personas, their defenses. When they show what makes them a unique,
one-of-a-kind person; when they show their hearts, they become someone many
people want to be around.
Marty was one of these unique individuals, and he will be greatly missed by a very large part of the gay and HIV communities. May we live his legacy!
Last messed with November 15, 2001
Copyright(c) 2001 Michael E. Holtby, LCSW. All rights reserved.