Leading with Love: Part 2

Last week I celebrated. This week I am looking at the more difficult things I encountered around the marriage equality decision. I find myself struggling to find the words to describe how it feels to see friends on Facebook express their dismay that marriage has been deemed a right for everyone. In my experience, the polite-acceptance-despite-this-being-an-abomination-to-god has caused more harm than the violence that comes at those of us who are gay or transgendered. It’s fairly easy to blow off the ugly venom from the likes of Fred Phelps. He’s an extremist that gives gay people a good name.

Far more damaging are the subtle silences and disapproval that come from those who love and like us as individuals. Very often their words are framed as “God’s word.” You all matter. Your quiet disapproval goes inside too easily, it carries too much weight. I know because have taken it in–until way to recently. I have agreed with you and wished I were worthy of your love–as if your love were more legitimate, more important than my own. You have the power to harm and you have used it–with or without understanding the impact you were having.

I haven’t always known how to hold my heart open and make room for those who do not see as I do. If I didn’t shut people out in righteous anger, I slipped silently away to protect myself from anticipated pain. I have struggled not judge those with whom I do not agree, to figure out how to share my experiences of how what they have expressed has impacted me. I have excised my voice to keep peace, to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

Writing my blog posts in the aloneness of my living room is my first step toward speaking instead of disappearing. If I can break my silence in silence, perhaps I will find the ability to speak directly to the people who posted the things that struck me in the heart.

So here’s what I believe. To say LGBTQ folks are unloved by God is harmful. Invoking “God’s judgment” when it is really just a person’s own, takes a huge toll on those of us who have felt the longing to be a part of God’s love. Being straight is not a choice. Neither is being gay or bi or trans. Embracing those who are–or refusing to–is. Many Christians and other people of faith have claimed that being gay and choosing to experience the beauty of the love and sexual expression that grow out of that is an abomination to God. Just as many people have seen LGBTQ people’s right to marry as coming into alignment with the love of God.

What I want is for the people who are comfortable in their belief that God has no room for the LGBTQ community to go within and struggle with their beliefs as we have struggled with ours. We had to create lives of meaning and joy in the face of being told nearly everywhere we turned that we had no value. Some of us couldn’t do it. We have lost so many precious lives to drugs and suicide; we have lost too much light to lives lived in the shadows. We need you to go within and really know that your beliefs have the power to devastate the lives of LGBTQ people. You have a choice. You can make a difference. Use your power for love.

The Porcupine of Truth

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015.

How could you not pick up a book called The Porcupine of Truth? The title led me to the inside flap — boy meets lesbian — which led me to the first chapter. There I found writing that engaged me just as much as the premise of the book.

A summer of exile from New York became an adventure on a number of levels for Carson Smith. Carson, facile of verbiage — except in the presence of beautiful young women — finally manages to speak to one. It turns out not exactly to be the adventure he was hoping for, but . . .

It all began with Aisha offering Carson a tour of the Billings, Montana zoo where his mother had just dropped him. She was headed to his father’s house to get things organized for their summer visit with the dying man. Neither of them had seen him in the 14 years since they left when Carson was 3.

Turns out that Aisha is not only a lesbian, she is newly homeless – kicked out by her father. She joins Carson in his basement room, and as the two of them are trying to bring some order to the space, they discover a carton of letters from his grandfather who had abandoned his own family when Carson’s father was 17. Most of the letters are unreadable due to water damage, but the one they can read leads them to believe that Carson’s grandfather may still be alive — and that the abandonment story in his father’s head may not be accurate. They grab the one clue available to them as to where he might have gone when he left Billings and they hit the road.

It isn’t long before the trip becomes three parallel journeys: the physical trek; an exploration of messy human relationships, how they form, and what they require those in them to become; and a journey into faith and spiritual meaning. I wasn’t expecting all that and was delighted to discover just how rich this story is.

In many ways, The Porcupine of Truth reflects my own story. It is interesting to me how often books seem to find me when I need them. In this instance, I have been working through the whole concept of privilege, and how it is so ingrained in us that we don’t notice it when it’s our own. Ever since I went to hear the two talks at CSL last month about racism and transphobia, I’ve been roiling around in my mind about my own privilege and how I can make an impact for change around a world that is too small for too many of us to fit into. How do I balance not making myself smaller than I am — which I have done all my life — while recognizing that this world does try (really hard and viciously sometimes) to make a lot of people smaller than they are. How do I not take advantage of privilege I am afforded as a matter of course because I am white, petite, aligned in my gender expression (mostly anyway — a little androgynous, but definitely a female in a female-gendered body)?

Is that even the right question? Maybe it’s less about giving something up than it is ensuring that everyone else be afforded the same “privilege” . . . because they are perfect expressions of God, exactly as they are. I’m still working all that out, and Porcupine has given me more fodder for doing so.

I loved both the main characters in this story, and my heart was touched by the people they met along the way as well as the people they came home to. For all that I make it sound like an earnest book, in truth it is funny as well as heart warming and real. Carson is kind of an ass a good deal of the time. He doesn’t seem to get that it’s not all about him. Even his gesture of giving a gift to Aisha in the form of leading her to a group of gay kids morphs into a petulant fit on his part when she actually wants to hang out with them. Yet Aisha and Carson don’t toss each other out despite their very human reactions. The book is a lovely exploration of the developing of friendship, of the healing of painful family relations, and of the belief in something bigger to help make sense of it all.

The Gift

You may underestimate the intensity of your longing for continual transformation, but the universe doesn’t. That’s why it provides you with the boundless entertainment of your ever-shifting story. That’s why it is always revising the challenges it sends your way, providing your curious soul with a rich variety of unpredictable teachings.
From Rob Brezsny’s May 5, 2015 Astrology Newsletter

I have been played. By the Divine Trickster no less. I can’t stop laughing to myself as I tip my head. Namaster: The Trickster in me recognizes and honors the Trickster in you.

A couple of weeks ago, this woman I met awhile back stepped out of my peripheral vision and engaged me in conversation. New life sprang up inside me just like the primal bamboo in my back yard–not slowly pushing it’s way up through the resistant soil, but bam, here I am–knee high before you can blink your eye. (Please forgive the rhyme; that was not intentional.)

I was not expecting that. I mean seriously, I’m working on three goals, and I’ve got a waiting list five deep, with love and desire right at the tail end of those. So maybe a year or two and I’m ready.

But these feelings are lovely, and now I’m shuffling the stack to make room in my world to enjoy them. Who wouldn’t?

I know that these feelings are mine, and though they have been triggered by this particular woman, it doesn’t mean that she will have any interest in me, nor does it mean that she will be someone that I will want to share them with. I finally get that, and I love that I do. But why not take a step forward and see what there is to see?

When I have been attracted to someone in the past, my mind has tended to go blank, my tongue to tie itself in knots, and my feet to head me anywhere but in her direction. Nonetheless, I determine that the next time I see this woman, I will ask her if she’d be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee sometime. (I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve got my Virgo need for detail accuracy in check, and I have rehearsed this simple line used without qualm by normal people everywhere, until I can recite it in any blanked out state my brain might throw at me.)

As the next possible opportunity to see her approaches, I’m hearing Chris Michael’s voice from prayer class in my head–“people usually turn to prayer as a last resort”–so I accept the invitation and I claim the courage to speak this one measly line, the faith to know that my life is unfolding perfectly no matter what, and, well, what the hell.

The Universe, recognizing my keen ability to talk myself out of anything at the last moment, starts strumming leftover remnants of songs in my mind to help bolster my resolve: “What would I do if I were brave.” Then a whole brand new song: “You can’t touch the sky from inside yourself. You cannot fly until you break the shell.” Then comes the challenge from Mike Irwin, CSL’s spiritual co-director: “What would you do this year if you were brave?” Whatever on this year. What about today?

So next chance I had, I asked. It wasn’t even hard. The line came out almost smoothly. She accepted–but not for a specific sometime. I didn’t get the feeling that she was particularly interested in doing so.

That’s when it hit me that God in It’s infinite wisdom was playing me just the way It needed to–getting me to open up, to release some of my old stuff and to really get clear on what I want–and that I want for that matter. And the real gift for me in this (besides these dreamy feelings) is that I get to see that I have become a woman equal to the lover, and the lover experience, that I want to have.

Surrendering to the Pissoff Within

Don’t ask what the world needs–do what makes you come alive.
​​​​​​​​-Howard Thurman

I sometimes have to get really out of sorts before I realize I need to change something about the way I meet the world. A few weeks ago, I dropped into a pretty big funk before I realized how much I pattern my life around tending to what I perceive are the needs of others. I’ve run into this pattern repeatedly and I’ve done a lot of work to create a different one. Yet the old pattern snaps back into place like a stretched rubber band when it is let go.

Last week in our Science of Mind Principles class, I created a prayer to stop feeling responsible for other people’s emotional wounds, to stop responding to the pull I feel in my body when I sense someone wanting something of me that I don’t want to give. This is a messy process. I have to feel that people do not matter to me so that I can cut myself free from these patterns. I have to get all righteous about how I’m being invaded, how no one sees me (waa fucking waa) so that I can turn my focus to what I want. I have to get people off me psychically so I can breathe.

I pulled friends, colleagues and family into this movie even though they had no idea of the supporting roles they had been cast in. It didn’t matter if they fit their roles perfectly. It didn’t matter if they were speaking completely different lines than the ones I was feeding them. What mattered is that I surrendered to the chaos and anger swirling inside me; that I breathed through the shame, embarrassment and guilt that I felt; that I chose me; and that I made a change that needed making. For me.

Truth is I’m still walking through this, trying to sort it all out, figure out where the lines are between loving and care taking in any given situation. I’m determined to get free from this. Maybe someday I can do it more gracefully. I would love that. For now, I am grateful to my supporting actors. I hope you do not know who you are. After all, it ain’t about you.

Cruise to Nowhere Takes Me Back Home

The texts started at 5:30 a.m. informing us that our cruise was delayed–for the second day. Lying in our beds in the dark after the buzzing had subsided, Julianne and I ended up moving into a deeper conversation than I’m used to having at that hour. 

At one point, Julianne said to me that it bothered her that my family didn’t have an adult relationship with me, that they didn’t have room for me as a lesbian. I was immediately awash in a sea of possible meanings (which is as close as I ended up to an actual ocean that trip as it turns out). I wondered if it had played into the ending of our dating relationship. Was a family that welcomed her (as her family did me) important to her? Then I wondered if it was not about my family but about me not including her with them. It made sense to me, and still does, that a thing like that can have a damaging impact on a relationship, though I had never felt like it was a big issue for her. After a moment of spinning through possibilities, I finally just asked what she had meant. Julianne replied that she wished that my family welcomed all of me, that there was so much of my life lost once all the editing is done. 

She wanted that relationship for me. She knows me like that, knows how I enjoy my family but that it starts to wear on me the longer I hold pieces of myself out–or in–when I spend time with them. 

She had named something so elemental. I know because I felt the grief well up in me; the grief that comes from being seen by someone who loves you and wants more for you than you have decided to settle for; who sees all the pieces of you.

As we lay there quietly in the dark, I thought about how I have contributed to the silence in my family about my complete self. Whether or not it had any impact on my relationship with Julianne, it struck me that my silence with my family can take a toll on my relationships with other people who matter to me, because it absolutely takes a toll on me. I’m starting to open to the idea that my silence about the fullness of who I am just might be detrimental to my family, even though they might want that silence.

I have journeyed so far and for so long, determined to find a place for myself in the world. I am determined to let go of the belief that has dogged my heels since I was a child that there is not enough room here for me. As I lay there, I silently celebrated how far I have come, how many ideas about myself I have released–ideas that formed the foundation of my decision to not “impose” the truth about me on my family. It occurred to me, lying in that gentle silence with my beloved friend, that the only place left to travel is back where I came from.