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.

I Am Woman

During Science of Mind Principles class, Dr. Chris invited us to make enough room inside of ourselves to consider that the impossible dream just might be possible. He was talking about that dream that you can’t shake no matter how much you despair of ever realizing it.

I knew exactly what dream he was talking about. Simply put, my dream is to help heal the divisions between people that keep us separated from each other around race, religious belief, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and gender expression. I also want to help heal the wounds we carry within that keep us isolated from others, that keep us from knowing the beautiful truth about ourselves.

So I gave it that little bit of breathing room Chris requested. I even shared it with a few of my friends. I actually opened to the possibility that it could indeed really happen–and I felt excited about it. Then I drifted back to the business of living my life, my dream still there breathing quietly, just not the center of my attention.

Our focus at CSL this year is on making change happen in “real life” through our spiritual practice. One of the women in our spiritual community was asked to give the talk at a Wednesday night Real Life service. Bruce Jenner had just done the interview on being transgendered with Diane Sawyer, and the CSL team wanted to start a conversation in our own community about what we could do to help make the world big enough to welcome people who are transgendered.

Madeline came and spoke about her journey to womanhood. The morning after she shared her story, I woke up filled with a new awareness (again) of the privilege the world affords me because I am a white woman whose body parts match up with the commonly held expectation for women. I was touched by Madeline’s story, by her openness, her deep presence, her hard-won self-acceptance. Her talk opened up a rich vein in me that I have been sifting through ever since.

One of the things that has surfaced is that I have realized that I, too, have struggled to embrace myself as a woman. I have not had to deal with having body parts that most people believe make you a man, but buried inside my struggle to accept myself as a lesbian, there has been this equal discomfort around embracing myself as a woman. I have stayed on the periphery, as if it would be presumptuous to include myself, as if being a lesbian disqualified me from participating in the larger tribe of women. When I really looked at it, I could see that I had been acting from a place of feeling that I needed to be granted permission (to whom do you even go to ask for that?) as if I were not already a woman.

And to claim my place within the circle without apology . . .?

Well, when I put it like that . . . (my whole face just smiled).

Ain’t I a woman?

Oh, yeah. Me and Madeline, too.

I’m Going to Get This

I just hit my phone. That hurt. I’m frustrated. My blog post sucks. My phone won’t clear the notification it just received. I hate having my phone hijacked by . . . whatever makes it not work like it’s supposed to work. Siri was not one bit helpful. Right at the center of all that turmoil is a text from a friend inviting me to her kid’s graduation – in four hours.

I immediately went into guilt, like I was bad or wrong for not rearranging everything to make room for this very important celebration. I felt stuck between one obligation and another. I’ve been working so hard to clear this pattern of mine to protect people from their own feelings–of inadequacy, disappointment, not mattering enough–as if it were essential to their well-being, as if my actions had that kind of power. With one little text, I was sucked back into trying to prevent feelings that I was presuming would be gnawing away at someone else.

As that first burst of “fix-it, dammit,” washed through me, I stopped for a moment and just let myself breathe. I felt what I was feeling and left off on the judgment. I realized I was disappointed for not being able to attend the celebration. In truth I realized that, in addition to judging my own reaction, I had judgment about my friend “putting me in this situation.” I also saw clearly how I do not automatically lead with what I am feeling; my initial awareness is of what other people “must” feel.

It occurred to me in that pause that I had options. I could continue to be upset about the conflict between attending the graduation and my previously scheduled plans or I could simply recognize that attending wasn’t a possibility and move on without getting all riled up. If I got really esoteric about it, I could even feel grateful that I was being provided an opportunity to gauge my progress–or the lack thereof–on my goal of creating a new pattern in my brain (and heart) for living my life. I could take it as a gift of awareness with the accompanying opportunity to renew my focus on making that change. Any of these options would be okay. But then, really, so would being a total whack job, blaming other people for my feelings, and punching my phone.

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.

Prayer Control Freak

It has occurred to me over the last couple of weeks that two seemingly disparate phenomena in my life at the moment significantly inform each other.

In last week’s post, I talked about my tendency to take on the emotional care of other people–like I know what they need. So I’m working through that (once again) at the same time that I am immersed in a series of classes at CSL that have me looking at God and prayer. It strikes me that I’m just a jumbled mess around both of these things–in basically the same way.

I have participated in too many relationships as if I were God Itself–the wound savior; the source for people’s happiness. Sometimes I have taken on people’s pain because I could feel them wanting something that, quite possibly, they were not even aware of wanting, and sometimes I have taken it on because I wanted something from them. This was the only way I knew to be worthy of a connection.

So here I am grappling with all this stop-caretaking-people stuff at the same time that I am studying prayer. Damned if I haven’t fallen into the same trap with prayer. I’ve been going at it like I am responsible for making the thing that people desire to experience manifest for them, instead of just getting to the heart of it and holding my knowing on the truth that it is theirs already, just waiting for them to choose it.

I still haven’t gotten this all figured out: caretaking/loving in regards to people; knowing/willing in regards to prayer. But it occurs to me that one of the obvious lines in regards to people is listening. Just listening, no fixing. It is time to trust the people I am engaging with to find their way (or to find somebody else who is happy to oblige them by doing the caretaking they are after). Finally, there is trusting that my own value has nothing to do with how well I take care of other people’s needs, with how well I anticipate them so they don’t even have to ask. The truth is that all I could ever be is the band-aid that keeps people from really seeking out the healing that is available to them from Source.

So here’s the deal. I am going to get to the heart of both of these issues, and when I do, I am going to suck in the biggest breath of freedom you ever saw, and laugh and laugh and laugh.