The journey through my 40’s was one that I call my very own “coming of age story.”

I had already gone through a divorce and felt the judgment from people who knew me and those who didn’t. Both of which had me bending over backward, trying and make everyone happy. Everyone that is, except me.

Somewhere along the way, once I hit the magical 4-0, my tendency to be a people-pleaser started eroding and outside opinions began to matter less and less.  Despite what others thought or gave opinions on, I got remarried; I made choices to leave my career and start my own business, and yes, even to get a tattoo. I had come into my own and was increasingly comfortable with who I was and how I showed up in the world. I had begun living my truth.

This week’s guest on the Midlife Schmidlife podcast did the very same thing when she turned 43: Gretchen McNeely came out as a lesbian. For Gretchen, living her truth began when she embraced who she is…all of who she is.

Gretchen is a design and user experience strategist, a loving single mom to her two kids with a supportive ex-husband. She lives in central North Carolina where she is active in the standup comedy community. But I have to share that the label I would give to Gretchen is “courageous.”

Gretchen heard about the Midlife Schmidlife podcast through a mutual friend and reached out to me. She wanted to give voice and hope to others who may be going through her similar story. Gretchen has nothing to sell, no services to provide other than good humor and a caring heart.

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Living Your Truth With Gretchen McNeely on the Midlife Schmidlife Podcast

Before we started our interview, I mentioned to Gretchen that I was afraid of using words or phrases that would be offensive to her or others in the lesbian and gay community. It was a genuine concern, and I asked that she, please correct and to teach the Schmidlife listeners and me. The result was an honest conversation, on both sides and one that I hope will open the eyes and hearts of others, even if they don’t accept the LBGTQ community.

It’s easy to surround ourselves in circles that mirror our thoughts and beliefs but as a consequence, we rarely see the world outside of those boundaries. I wonder how our world could change if we were more open to learning from other sexual orientations, religions, cultures and races. Instead of looking for ways we are different, we looked for ways that we are similar. Political correctness wouldn’t be the goal as much as “caring correctness.” Schmidlifers, if there ever was a time that the world needs compassion and open dialogue, it’s now.

Our conversation during this episode is real and open, and Gretchen was respectful of all audiences with doses of humor thrown in. I feel very honored that Gretchen was willing to be vulnerable and share her journey with the Schmidlife community. I hope you will feel honored as well at her wanting to share her experiences with us.

Coach’s Notes

Gretchen shares her analogy of coming out similar to that of a butterfly needing to emerge from its chrysalis, or it will die. This “coming out” isn’t an act of wanting to show off its beautiful wings or transformation for attention: The butterfly’s emergence is a matter of survival.
Taking steps for a life-changing transformation often feel like this: to stay where you are is more painful than to move forward.
Personally, divorce and leaving my career held these feelings. The pain of waiting was so great there was no question that the decisions I was making were the right ones. Yes, it was hard and yes, like Gretchen mentions in the interview, it was like jumping off a cliff.
But these decisions pale in comparison to the new identity that Gretchen adopted.
Honesty with ourselves can be hard. It can have us question who we were in the past ago versus who we are now. And if can also hurt those we love. Neither of these makes it easy to step into our truth. But like the butterfly, often it’s the step toward our survival and our flourishing.

Links from the Show

Seeking Professional Help
Gretchen recommends seeking guidance from a trained professional if the question of your sexual orientation is coming up. She found her therapist on Psychology Today, which has a robust database and allows searching by zipcode as well as filters for therapists with experience in dealing with LBGTQ issues. Other resources could come from your insurance company and others in the LBGTQ community.