Table of Contents
Watch the episode here:
The Simple Question That Will Lead You To Love
And The Story Of How I Became A Dad And Found Love
In this episode, I’m going to share a personal story about my own journey to find love and become a dad. I’m going to share a simple process that is life-changing in its beauty to help you deepen into your own intimacy journey. So stay tuned to the Deeper Dating Podcast.
Hello everybody, and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page – I’m a psychotherapist and a coach, the founder of the new way to meet online – called “Deeper Dating”, and the author of the book “Deeper Dating”.
Today, we’re going to talk about one question that you can ask yourself that will change the course of your entire intimacy journey. I’m going to tell a story about how that has been true for me. This week, and every week, I’m going to share with you the greatest skills that I know to help you find love, keep it flourishing, and heal your life in the process because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of intimacy. And if you’d like a transcript of this episode you can just go to DeeperDatingpodcast.com, and if you go there you’ll also get a number of free gifts from me if you decide to join my mailing list. I also just want to say that everything I’m going to share in this podcast is educational in nature. It’s not medical, psychiatric advice or treatment. Finally, if you like what you’re learning here, it would be a wonderful gift if you could subscribe on iTunes or elsewhere and leave me a review. Thank you so much for that and let’s dive in.
The Path Is Never Simple
The path to love is really almost never simple. When we decide to pursue our longing for love, we’re led to challenges and possibilities that we might never have dreamed of. For me, the decision to become a father as a 40-something, single, gay man in New York City is what changed everything for me. In this post, I’m going to tell that story. I’m also going to offer a really potent exercise for following your own call to love wherever it is that that leads you.
I saw this beautiful movie called “Infinitely Polar Bear” with Mark Ruffalo and Imogene Wolodarsky, who was incredibly brilliant. In this movie, Mark Ruffalo’s character suffered from very severe manic depression, but he was still able to build a life. It careened wildly but it somehow worked because he loved his children. It made me think about parenthood and how any deep love can turn us inside out. It asks us to change in ways that we might never otherwise have been pushed and forced to change and face ourselves, and forces our world to open up in ways that we never would have thought of or chosen on our own. That made me think a little bit about my story, which I’m going to tell you a little bit about.
I grew up and came of age as a gay man in the 80’s in New York City. I grew up gay in the ‘60’s and the ‘70’s. When I moved to New York, it was this giant theme park of recreational sex, dating conquests, and wild and insane dance marathons. I was on a desperate hunt for love. Usually, that hunt was a complete failure to me. I failed again and again. I never stopped trying and I never stopped hoping. I didn’t try in the wisest ways, but damn I tried.
In my early 30s, I hit bottom and I found myself doubled over with this terrible sense of emptiness. It had been growing inside me for all those years that I was pursuing my career, pursuing loves, and having tons of recreational sex. Searching for love in a way that was that was laid out for me by gay male culture in New York City, but completely wasn’t working for me. I realized at a certain point that I had spent all this time looking for love, but I was ignoring the process of building love in my life. That was a revelation and there were so many pieces to that revelation. So many, kinds of moments of painful awareness, many moments of, “I’m going to become someone who loves. I’m going to be someone who can have a pet.” That was big for me. That was a complete revelation that I could be someone who could take care of a pet. That was a big step for me.
I didn’t know what to do with this revelation when it came to my life. At this point, I had worked through a number of emotional issues. God knows there’s always more, but at that point I had worked through really big stuff. I built this cardboard box and I kept it in my room. It had a slot in it. I wrote something on the top, I wrote, “I can do whatever the fuck I want.” That was what the box said. Anytime I had a new idea about what might be exciting or important or next for me, I’d write on a piece of paper and I’d put it in the box. Finally, I stopped doing that because I had a million ideas but none of them called to me in that intense way that I was looking for.
Then in 1999, I saw another movie. I saw Almodóvar’s movie, “All About My Mother”. In this movie, the protagonist had something very painful happen to her. It was only through caring for other people that she found a through line out of her suffering. I saw this movie with a friend of mine. It touched me in this really deep way. I felt shaken somewhere deep inside in a way that I didn’t have words. I said to my friend, “I need a minute.” I went out and I found some quiet space. I was asking myself, “What is this, what is this feeling?” All these jumbled emotions resolved into an answer, I wanted to become a dad. Even though I was single, gay and 44, and nowhere near rich, all of a sudden I knew what I wanted to do. I was filled with excitement and terror and a sense of adventure.
Becoming A Dad
For the next year, I thought this through. I careened between, “I am going to do this,” to the other side which was, “Am I out of my goddamn mind?” I had a hard time making a decision because I didn’t want to make a stupid decision. I wanted to make a wise decision. I didn’t want to do it based on fear but I didn’t want to do it without an awareness of what this would do to my life. I went through this. I tortured my friends and my parents. They were wonderful, glorious and supportive. They let me struggle with this. My dad who I’ve spoken about in another episode called Losing Love and Finding It Again. He was a Holocaust survivor. He was completely silent through this whole thing. He did not want to influence my decision.
At one point, after about a year, he broke his silence that he had managed to keep. He asked me, “Ken, do you really want a child?” I thought about that question like I had thought about it a million times before and my answer was still the same. I said, “Yes.” My dad’s response was stark and simple. He said, “Then you have to jump.” We were on top of the Queensboro Bridge at that time. The city lights were like jewels and the height was dizzying. His words were what I needed to hear. After that internal answer, I began the process that led me to my son. Nine months later, the day that I left for Cambodia, I had my last visit with my grandmother. She died while I was returning home with my son, and my sister who came with me. Her very last words to me were, “Children bring joy.” She had a picture of my son that I had gotten from the orphanage. She would kiss it and say that. She was about 100 at that time.
She was right. My life has definitely been complicated and challenging in ways that I couldn’t have dreamt of in being a dad. There is one part of my heart that has felt full in a different way and that has never changed. Not that it hasn’t been complicated with having a son who’s a teenager, but still and all that has been true. With all of the challenges, I’m still floored by the privilege of being someone’s dad. So this huge detour from my dating life, because this is what I was focused on during this time, which was listening to the call of love for me, leading me to some place I hadn’t dreamt of. This giant detour from my dating life is what led me to my husband. I’ve talked about this before, but the story is that Provincetown Family Week is an annual event for LGBTQ families. I had never gone because I just felt like it was going to be too depressing to be surrounded by all these happy coupled parents.
Two of my closest friends actually were aggressive with me and they cornered me. One literally cornered me and pressed me up against a screen door. She said, “You are going.” She had never done anything like that to me before and I thought, “This gal means it.” Someone else did the same thing a little less aggressively but very clearly, “You’ve got to go, Ken.” I decided I was going to go. I felt I had no choice in the matter. It was not what I was feeling like love was calling me to do. It was what people who loved me and knew me were calling me to do. That was close enough. In the face of their passion, I listened. It was there that I met my husband, Greg, who was the father of two children. We have been a blended family since that day, I guess it’s going to be 12 years ago, very shortly.
Sometimes love calls us into worlds that we never thought we have to enter. When it calls us, our challenge and our adventure is to say, “Yes.” This might be something you want to think about, even right now. How’s love calling you? My friend, Conner Middelmann-Whitney, who’s the author of Zest For Life: The Mediterranean Anti-Cancer Diet, a wonderful book. She told me a beautiful story. At her wedding, it was a Quaker wedding, this elderly woman stood up and she shared this simple question that she said is what guided her. It was like the lighthouse for her through a long and good marriage. She said that at any point in her relationship with her husband, at any point of bewilderment, crossroads, difficult choice or challenge in her relationship with her husband, she would ask herself this, it’s such a beautiful question, “What is love asking of me?” That question was a wedding gift for Conner and her new husband. This is a wonderful question.
What Is Love Asking Of Me?
I encourage you as we move toward the closing of this episode to try this exercise right now. Don’t wait for the right moment, do it right now. Take a minute and ask yourself, “What is love asking of me right now in my life?” It might be a quick and easy thing. It might be a huge epic thing. It might be a little internal shift. It might be an action that’s hard or scary. Whatever it is, this is our mastery path, is asking ourself that question and then inching up to a yes and living that. That is how we become strong, resilient and loving human beings. That’s how we learn to love and respect ourselves. When we do this, worlds open up for us, just like worlds opened up for me. If you even want to take a minute to think about this, feel free to do that. Whatever you came up with, that’s your guiding insight.
Asking that question is a way of righting ourselves and guiding ourselves in the world. It becomes our fabulous next. When it does and we say yes to it, we become people who love better. This is a path to joy. Our answer is going to define the next intimacy adventure in our life. Saying yes will lead us to a future that might be less safe but will be more filled with the love that we desire, and will help us move into a place where more and more we feel comfortable and empowered in our bodies and our hearts. This is a fabulous and simple micro-meditation. A question that you can take with you and live to become more the person that you dream of being and desire to be. Thanks so much for listening. Please feel free to visit DeeperDatingPodcast.com or our new website, DeeperDating.com. I look forward to seeing you on the next episode.