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Both sides now


I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,

from up and down, and still somehow,

it’s cloud illusions I recall.

I really don’t know clouds at all.

Clouds. And illusions of clouds. That’s where I used to live.

The Joni Mitchell classic, Both Sides Now, has always been one of my faves – from the days of my melancholy adolescence right up to this, more liberated, minute. Actually, I prefer Judy Collins’ rendition to Joni’s, but no matter, I have both and I still play them. The words retain their punch even though I no longer get weepy when I hear them. I see the world through different eyes now.

Many of us who took a long time coming out to ourselves – even those who always knew, but couldn’t acknowledge it publicly – have harbored illusions about who we are and where we belong.

Illusions: I’m straight. I’m “normal.” I’m a family man.  “See – I have a wife and 2.5 kids and two cars in the garage. One of which is a minivan.”

It’s a nice picture. And a nice way to live – as long as it’s real. But for me – for us – it’s not real. No matter how badly we may want it to be otherwise, we aren’t straight. The family man part can be real for those of us who want it and work hard enough to have it, but we aren’t straight.

Eventually, I came to the point where the illusions no longer worked and I had to move on. This involved loss. Big time! It was difficult and very sad. But, as the song says, something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day. The interesting thing is this: now that I’ve gone through the changes I needed to make, I no longer get sad when I hear the song. I love the tune, and, even though they sound a bit cynical to me now, I love the words. But they no longer make me sad – in fact, quite the opposite. I think this is because I’m no longer trapped in my illusions – and at the very deepest level, I always knew that I was.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now,

from give and take, and still somehow,

it’s life’s illusions I recall.

I really don’t know life at all.

Like Joni and Judy, I recall life’s illusions. But the illusions no longer rule my life.

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