My life is an embarrassment of riches.
The only way to describe my experience is to compare it to a classroom. Sometimes I am the teacher but in all cases I am open to being taught. It is important to me that I remain open-minded because as soon as I have decided I know it all I will regress to places I have already been and know not to work.
Because I am in a classroom I am often available for allowing people to be whomever and whatever they need to be. This, for the most part, allows me to see as much authenticity in others as can be revealed, although the level is completely up to them. I know for myself, that my authenticity is imperative to achieve an honest result. But with it I will be in constant self-evaluation to make sure my intentions are correct for the situation at hand. Unfortunately this is not always understood, accepted or respected by those around me. Because I am trying I have often found myself being taken for granted or even, at times, taken advantage of… whether that is the intention on the part of the others or not. This is not the cry of a victim, however. I have put myself out there and can only be responsible for myself, not any reaction I receive as a result.
As a result of growing and changing both personally and professionally I have found some matters a bit more difficult than others. In this process I must continue to remain well-intentioned, patient and forgiving. In the same situations, however, I have learned not to set myself up as a doormat, and not to allow others to use an open nature as a means to establish their own power over me. More important that that is to remember I am not afraid of power, either as displayed by others or in my own positions in life. I honor and respect the power where it is established and because I have grown, respect it within myself as well.
Power does and should not have to hold a negative connotation.
This is also not to say that power should be an excuse for not continuing to be the most honorable that I can be. It does not say I am better, more capable or in any way further privileged at the expense of another human being. I would hate to become that person and my daily maintenance is built around reviewing my own behaviors and remembering that I am fallible and very, very human. But because I am willing to look at myself and honestly amend behaviors with others I have often been open to my personality or characteristics being labeled as wrong, weak, or less than.
That could not be further from the truth.
Who I am and what I have become in this life is a miracle. What I do with and for others is nothing less than astonishing in the grand scheme of the human playbook. How I have turned the willingness to grow into a canvas of achievements and accomplishments through practice and honoring mistakes is something I would put on my headstone as the best part of the human and personality I have created.
With my growth, however, comes moments where I must stop and remind those around me that I am not any more or less human than they. Each of us should look at our character and be proud of how we work with and for it. Each should learn to draw their lines and not allow anyone else to define them however true or honorable the intention. I am often not the person I will be defined as when someone does not like what I am doing. I look at the situation and correct what I can, but I have stopped feeling the need to please each and every one because of a false need for approval.
My lines are drawn and that is NOT a negative. It is, instead, a step in my path that takes me to higher places personally. NOT higher in the sense of prestige, role or finance.. but more so in the sense that I am evolving in my quest to do and be the best that I can in the world around me. I am, along with many others, accomplishing this goal. I am looking forward in earnest to my continued role with others as a result.
Progress, not perfection.
Stop. Smile. Breathe.
I came out at the age of 25. It was one of the scariest things I have done in my life because I knew absolutely everything in my world was about to change completely. In hindsight I can easily say it was one of the pivotal points of my personal growth. A place where honesty opened up avenues and, for the most part, the stress of lying started to shed its weight. It was where I began to understand the benefits of being an authentic human being.
But not without consequences.
On Friday night actress Ellen Page came out publicly. For many of us it is a representation of another layer of the onion being peeled. For others it was the object and focus of hate, ridicule or judgment.
“What’s the big deal,” some who don’t understand what this means would say. “It was obvious to me for a long time,” said others who felt it easier to belittle the experience than applaud it. Then, naturally, as is the case in a fear filled world, there were those who found yet another reason to condemn homosexuality while clinging tightly to their own perceptions of God’s word through a man-written and horribly misinterpreted book. Homosexuals are going to hell. Homosexuals are sinners. Homosexuals don’t deserve the rights afforded other human beings. We’re gross, we’re disgusting, we are perverts, we are monsters.
Is it any wonder it would be difficult to reveal the sort of honesty coming out does to the world?
I want to be angry at the “Christians” who cannot accept anyone other than what they believe themselves to be as worthy of God’s heaven or the rights of others here on Earth. I want to turn around and condemn them as they do me. Instead I have found myself questioning the motivation and wondering how it must be to let this sort of anger, fear and judgment cloud your true path to a clear and spiritual existence amongst other men and women who, on the inside are all exactly the same.
What are they afraid of? What is it that they think is going to happen to them personally? What is this definition of “Heaven” or “Hell” that paints such dire and difficult contrasts for interpretations of right and wrong? Is your world so perfect that it warrants the pedestal such judgment alludes to?
Coming out was painful because it opens our world up to this sort of judgment. To some degree it paints a target on our backs and allows those with weaker spiritual and personal character to point fingers and build up their own faux “moral” platform. It is easier to feel better about oneself by drawing the lines in the sand that exclude those who are different to help fortify the walls that “protect” from the deep, dark, and psychological fears that separate. Those who live within these walls will argue that but acceptance outside of parameters creates a painful and limited view of the full picture even the Bible writes about.
So I want to make sure I don’t do the same thing myself.
It is hard to come out because a lot of the world doesn’t get who we are. They honestly don’t know that we are created with the feelings and inclinations that we have. They don’t equate the attractions we experience as natural and the same as their own for whatever they desire. They don’t understand because they don’t experience, and thus, I should always remember that it is the same for me with them.
For those who rely on their religion as a means of separation and judgment I must understand that I am not able to know where you are coming from. I don’t feel that fear and I don’t hold that anger within me. But instead of looking at you as something I must condemn (whether it is righteous or self-righteous justification), I ask MY God to forgive you and help you to find the peace that I have found in self-acceptance and authenticity. I am happy, but not because I feel better than anyone. I know I am not.
Being who I am is my business. I am not doing so to please the world or to receive validation. I do so because one day at a time I want only to be happy and fulfilled in MY skin. I hope to be the most important one I truly can relate to (if possible) from here until the day I die.
Any time we set ourselves up to be judged it is difficult. But if being honest with myself and feeling the truest sense of wholeness and completeness possible is the cost of this risk I know it was the right (albeit not the easiest) decision to have made.
Congratulations, Ellen. You have done a justice for yourself and for many of us. Enjoy the freedom. Don’t take the judgement personally.
For those who will hate it we have no control over the dis-ease you are feeling about your own lives based on whatever decisions and standards you have set for yourself. I wish you peace. I wish you love. I wish for you what I have found for myself.
Stop. Smile. Breathe.
For a lot of my life it has either been inferred or told to me that I was going to hell.
I suppose there was a time where I felt I was being maligned or judged harshly by what can only be described as information based on fear pointed at others with a need to build an accuser’s own sense of who they are. After all, being told you are going to hell can be a bit of a buzz kill in a world so heavily bent on defining what is right and wrong based on the writings of Earthbound human beings and symbolic places where nobody has actually been.
Especially in “celebrity.”
Falling back on religion as a reason to publicly assign after-life lodgings on those who are different than you is pure and simple bigotry dressed up in theatrics and morality. It’s even more ironic (and hypocritical) when it is accompanied by the condescension of friendship and “understanding.” for those who you are condemning.
“Some of my best friends are gay,” they’ll say, “but my bible tells me they will go to hell.” And what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that we will burn? Is it merely an after-life segregation of the “chosen” judgmental “master race” from the rest of us? Is hell a place that doesn’t include the judgment of others who need to insinuate that if you are not what they choose to be, you are less of a human being?
I am fine with going wherever they are not.
If Hell is to include the people I have had the honor to have met, befriended, enjoyed, admired, loved and emulated I can only see a pretty amazing and creative place. Even if Hell were to be the evil, dark and negative destination so often parroted by the fearful throngs of believers I would tend to suggest that those who will attend would not only make the best of it, but decorate it beautifully, cater it with taste, entertain it with magnificence, educate with intention, feed the less fortunate amongst us, and heal those who may have encountered the judgment in life recently vacated.
The truth is Hell is a convenient theory. It is a tool used to insinuate “authority” within fear-based opinion about homosexuality. It is parroted endlessly by people who find it to be a righteous means to justify their narrow views and proclaim fellow humans as, essentially, unequal. I do not wish to condemn or judge those who identify with religion. We are all created the same and merely educated differently. I, like them, understand the need for faith. I myself have searched for and found it.
What I don’t understand is the requirement in some minds to use faith to judge and separate, when It IS a much more useful tool in providing the means for service and love through understanding and acceptance of others. Why would any religion’s God create man to be condemned?
Hell no longer frightens me because I don’t believe in judgment for the sake of self preservation. I have finally become comfortable in my own skin and I am pretty sure wherever I go after this life will reflect the true nature of my being and soul in the eyes of a God that I know could be nothing but loving and forgiving. And lest anyone who reads the bible forgets… we will all need to be forgiven in the end.
On that note I have learned to take what is dished out with a grain of salt and remember my favorite of the four agreements: Don’t take anything personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is just a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. (Thank you Don Miguel Ruiz)
Stop. Smile. Breathe.
Don’t forget to take your dose of spirituality before every helping of reality.
Especially on days when returning to heaps of the real world after a long term break from routine and responsibility. Or every Monday.
Emotional responses to the world around me are what tend to run how I act, react and will always be received. If I wake up on Monday morning and see the world as a dark and dreary burden in which I must toil endlessly without change and proper validation I am not only listening to the wrong voices, I am creating a fictional and very unnecessary waste of everyone’s time (especially my own.)
So let’s start there.
What do you do when you wake up for routine? What is it that makes your routine anything less than a continued opportunity for learning, growth, passion, happiness, accomplishment, service, fellowship and recovery? Whoa: wait…. recovery? You are probably wondering why this would pertain to anyone outside of those who require recovery from “something.” Let’s look at this with a twist of optimism and a dash of the positive: why does one need to be broken to enjoy the benefits of a spiritual recovery? I, for one, have a program of recovery for reasons that I can only (now) see as blessings that brought me to solutions and beautiful ways to live life rather than let life take you over. I have sat in meetings with others struck with the simplicity of my recovery and perplexed that what I have discovered (and will continue to learn) could not be as easy for someone who is just looking for some life tools to grasp as well. Sometimes the world around us is tough.. not always, but, let’s face it, life is sometimes an obstacle course. Why do we need to stumble and hurt ourselves (or others?) before we change the direction to a better one? I think everyone could use a bit of recovery no matter what the symptoms may be.
And what of service? I have lived long enough to know that working through my life for validation and reward, although not a sin, will tend to eventually stifle the quality of happiness even if the rewards are coming in. When I am doing something without the need or goal of reward I always (without fail) find myself in a much more spiritual, complacent and rewarding place. Granted, a job is arguably something that one does do for the goal of a paycheck, some benefits and a title… but if I lose sight that what I am doing IS a service, I am going to fall deep into a trap of discontentment and wake up on Monday (and most other) mornings wondering when I am going to get recognized, validated or paid a whole lot more. Again, these are not evil goals at all unless I am using them as my sole motivation for the job or my happiness.
Lastly there is passion for growth. Do I like what I am doing? If not, am I not forgetting that I have the choice to find something else to do? Sure… easier said than done in today’s reality where many are confronted with, but if reality is closing me in to tight spaces only based on my fear of what I will lose or what won’t be gained, or of people and economic security, I have to stop and examine how I can make the changes I crave to happen within myself rather than waiting for the things outside myself to change. When I do that I grow resentful and impatient because I am blaming everything outside of myself. This never works out well.
So how will I handle the shock of reality as it happens this week? I’ll hope to do it as I’ve done my best to handle everything else. Faith in the result, staying out of the need to control said result, hope in the future, remembering not to react and always be of service.
And perhaps if that doesn’t work when the alarm goes off at 5:25 am, I will say a prayer and then come in to this blog post and remind myself as many times as it takes. Or I could always:
Stop. Smile. Breathe.
Life can often be ironic.
After working an entire (very busy) year without a single sick day taken, I made it to my 17-day end-of-year holiday break and by the time I got half way through I was felled with a head cold and stomach virus that managed to stop me completely. The irony isn’t really all that profound if you think about it. My busy weekdays of 11-hour work days, meetings and fellowship, phone calls and my wonderful personal relationship kept the wheels turning endlessly. My weekends were equally jammed often starting too early on Saturday morning and ending too late on Sunday. Very rare was the occasion that I would be able to sleep more than the 5-6 hours a night, and often they were interrupted 3 or 4 times (I am in my 50′s and have a husband and three pets who sleep with me… need I say more?) It stands to reason that the high-wired, multi-tasking, over-achiever with a dash of perfectionism and a penchant for workaholism might succumb to something, nay ANYthing at the very moment I was able to transition out of the hamster wheel and into relaxation… along around day #10 of the break.
Yes… it took that long, but it was Christmas during the first part of the holiday. All the parties, the preparations, the holly jolly camaraderie and peace on Earth. I wasn’t really relaxing until after all that was put to rest. Very soon, before the New Years Eve festivities were coming towards us, I finally was breathing steadily in and out and settling in for that much anticipated uneventful and rejuvenating week of as little as possible… when all of a sudden it hit. It had waited. It pounced. It took hold.
And suddenly I got the extremely uneventful week that I had hoped for. Almost TOO uneventful. When we are warned to be careful what we wish for there is a reason.
But a strange thing can happen to a sober soul during an unplanned stay-in-bed or lay-on-the-couch period. The world becomes a bit more bleak and solitary (yes, even with the husband, pets, sponsees, friends and the entirety of Facebook.) The concepts of hope, optimism and faith can temporarily be shielded by a bit self-obsession, gloom and the doldrums. Acceptance seems just a bit out of reach and patience is experienced mostly during the many hours of sleep.
Have you ever noticed that when you are sick it feels like you will never, ever, ever be well again?
And with this phenomenon of manchild pouting (even in the most accepting of moments being sick can feel like an episode in neediness) comes the ultimate irony for me. Whereas I will spend so many of the hamster-on-the-wheel moments daydreaming about taking time off and lying around doing nothing, I get just that and find myself looking forward to getting right back on the wheel.
Did I say that out loud?
Here’s to the next chapter in my pretty darned amazing life. Here’s to 2014. Whatever you are doing don’t forget to:
Stop. Smile. Breathe.
There is a reason I decided to fashion this blog around the idea of stop, smile and breathe.
One of the most powerful evolutions of my personality has revolved around changing the habit of reaction. I lived for so long in a world of fear and defense. Around me were perceived threats and potential trouble and I, in the only way I knew how, had to do something to protect myself. I lived in a world of sarcasm and instant response. There was never any time taken to fully soak in whatever being presented to me. All requests, comments, conversations and even compliments were suspect before they were completed and, instead of really listening, I was, instead, building up the wall that was already stories high in order to make sure I was not going to be hurt by whatever it was you were offering.
I had a listening problem. I knew that whatever you were saying was undoubtedly going to take something away from me or cause me to have to do something I didn’t want to do. My life was in a perpetual state of protection and, as a result, my friends (who were often either in the same boat or at some point just didn’t bother with the conversation any longer) were weary and disappointed.
I have learned that listening is key. If I am going to be a part of anyone’s life I must understand what makes them tick. In order to do so I have to understand what they are saying. Some days there is an appropriate response (always based on simple support or personal experience.) But if I am busy preparing what I need to say to them, either in rebuttal, debate, or under the guise of “help,” I am not truly listening. It is in situations for service that the pause could be considered the most important, although, as I will detail further down, the pause is vital in all facets of my communication.
It was in the first year of a job that I have now been with for nearly 17 where I was afforded my epiphany about the way I reacted to people. I was working one morning when a co-worker, who I did not know all that well at this point, asked if I could handle some constructive criticism. My defense mechanism did not want to allow this. I knew that it meant I was going to be told something that was not “right” about me or my behavior and I was still somewhat raw in the areas of my personal growth. I was willing enough, however, to remember that even if this were to be something I did not want to hear, that did not mean that I shouldn’t hear it.
We sat in a conference room in the building where we worked and this woman looked into my eyes and simply stated: “I just wanted to let you know that you react to everything.” My head started to roar, but fortunately my ego screamed louder. I knew in that moment that I could NOT react to what she had told me because, very simply, if I did she would be exactly right.
Instead I thanked her and embarked on a personal project to change the habit of reaction in my life. I started with just making myself hyper aware of everything I said. This awareness became an irritant and an annoyance (personally), but it lead me down a path to change and growth that I could not have imagined possible in earlier years.
I was learning to STOP when I was spoken to and soak in whatever it was. Whatever had scared me so much in the past was now revealing itself as something that was not going to hurt me unless I allowed it to do so. This pause in my behavior and response began to set up an entirely different facet of my personality and, as a result, my life and ability to work amongst and communicate with others started to flourish, little by little.
The pause is effective. We in program have all heard about the restraint of tongue and pen. It is an absolute blessing to stop and allow time and better judgement to become more effective tools for better communication and decisions. I am responsible for my behavior today and it has become so much easier to be the man I want to be (and be perceived as) if I am able to avoid jumping to conclusions or reacting out of fear. A life filled with regret and amends is nowhere near as healthy and fulfilling as the one that I have willingly been taught and built out of habit since the moment I was struck with the spiritual lightning.
The pause is my miracle. I use it in every day activity. I use it to meditate, to pray, to listen, to evaluate, to be more credible, to be a better friend and sponsor, it has turned me into a better person and allowed me to grown into someone I learned to love. Within pause is gratitude and hope, faith and promise. Within pause is a far more clear sight of my path ahead and a better ability to work with my God to not need to control what that path is from beginning to end. I am happy in the pause. I am stronger in the pause. I am smarter in the pause. But I will always remember I am not perfect with the pause. All I know is that it is always better if I…
Stop. Smile. Breathe.
Do you have faith?
This is a question I must ask myself at times when I feel that things are not necessarily going the way I feel they should or could be going. In other words… the times when I am playing God and of the mind that my way is the only way to go. There is a saying in the program that reminds me that my best thinking brought me to a program that continually teaches me a better way to live and think (or in some cases NOT think.) Where that may sound like a good choice, it wasn’t necessarily a choice I made for myself. My best thinking had other results in mind. My plans were not designed to end me up in any type of program. I just got lucky that where this thinking took me is actually the better bet. I am grateful that I became willing to listen and learn, and was able to change (pretty much) everything as a result.
Patience is not my strong suit. But as I am attempting to point out in the paragraph above, it is usually through impatience that I will find myself creating any issue rather than opening my mind to a solution which would undoubtedly be the better fit (even if I don’t necessarily see this reality from the onset.) When I am not in patience of a process it is an illustration of not living in the moment. It is a solid example of future tripping, where I am not able to see what may be right for me through my ego’s attempt to control all outcomes and direct the show and all its players.
After all, what is impatience if not simply the fear of not getting what you want or possibly losing what you have?
The logical answer for believing change is necessary (and needed) is in remembering the FAITH that my God has a plan in store for me. I would likely not see this result in my time simply because it’s unveiling has not yet happened. I am not to that point in the path. But how does one understand faith while being impatient? The two concepts seem unable to make an appearance in my spiritual program at the same time. In fact, one could say, the impatience is a mask that blocks me from the sunlight of the spirit and places my head back in charge.
That’s never good.
While in impatience I find myself agitated and frustrated that the outcome is not happening the way it should. It’s easy to justify why my ideas and thinking are better suited to the result I am trying to force. I am likely not seeing my path clearly or attempting to take the deep breath I need in order to bring me back to my center and pull God back in, taking me back off the detour I have been on.
I trust my path. The greatest percentage of the time I am on it and very satisfied. I find the changes it brings exciting, challenging and meaningful. I learn lessons and accept outcomes because I know it is necessary to remember the choices the world offers are often clean slates and opportunities for my spiritual nature to continue to its outstanding growth process. Unfortunately my best thinking (without being in line with my faith) is only going to stunt my progress and provide me one of a thousand (invariably necessary) lessons I have either previously experienced or simply needed to be in touch with.
My impatience is a default. I cannot blame myself for being human. I know that once the God awareness sets back in and I will aligned with my spiritual program once again. I will jump back into the moment and allow for the path to take the direction (and time) required to move me to the next steps and adventures. I accept that I am going to need to be reminded. I accept that I am often going to fight the spiritual side because of old behavior. I am grateful that I have learned to be patient with patience and I remember that the result is always, without fail, exactly what I need, even IF it may not “seem” to be something I would have wanted based on my own thinking.
If I am impatient it is OK as long as I am strong enough to grab on to the awareness and use the tools I have learned.
Stop. Smile. Breathe.