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Defining Pride and requesting dignity

For those will agree with the SCOTUS decision recently announced, I thank you.  Fortunately you are in the majority.

For those of you who do not agree I ask you to consider the human battle for dignity and the point behind the pride that is felt by a homosexual individual in a country that largely has condescended to our existence either by ignoring why we exist as we do, condemning our nature as abhorrent or evil, feigning tolerance where it is not needed or necessary, or fighting our basic human rights under a veil of oft-misinterpreted or spun religious jargon used as a weapon to protect you from your fears and misgivings about something you simply do not understand.

Or in some cases you DO understand and cannot accept (or admit about yourself) based on those same misinterpretations and calls for judgment.

What is pride but the need for us to build our own lives in a shape that shies away from the shame and inequality we have been surrounded by?  Pride allows me to remember I am equal in the eyes of God, even if your interpretation of a man-made text tells you otherwise.  I am thrilled to see that the levels of pride and inequality are shifting in my lifetime.  This and the tremendous growth in support over time have brought me to tears on numerous occasions.   My gratitude is immense.

The real question remains: why should my marriage effect anyone else?   Where is my marriage threatening any other marriage, individual freedom or right to live in equality or dignity within the frame of our constitution?  Where is my marriage a threat to your marriage or your life?  Do you feel we will be judged for how we were created, or perhaps you still believe the judgment will come from what you believe is something we’ve chosen?

You would deny love and the chance to share that love as an equal to every other citizen in this country you wave the flag for?  Without the equality in marriage a gay man or woman is not afforded the same rights.  How are these rights for us posing a danger to you?  Where do you lose anything tangible from this gain for us?

You say God and the bible speaks to the definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman,” and so condemn any other definition as unholy or untrue.  The bible, you will say, portrays homosexuality as a sin.  But the bible also goes on to say divorce is a sin.  In fact, it adds that in divorce the wife should be stoned.  How many of our politicians crying out this “one man and one woman” definition have themselves been divorced? Once? Twice? How is picking and choosing bible interpretations concrete justification for denying other human beings created by the same God you would stand behind as righteous and “real?”

And there are so many other proclamations of sin in the Bible.  How do they all fit into your life.  Are they not important simply because they don’t pertain to the need you’ve spun out of this interpretation?

Look at what you fear.  It is creating a false sense of power within your thinking.  That is allowing you to decide that you, as a mere human, are able to judge and point the finger at those who are different than yourself.  How does this stack up for what you believe to be judgment day?  Do you believe God created only one flavor and the rest is less important?  Do you feel there is a divine right to living and all those who do not fit that definition are patently wrong or less than by comparison?  Are you truly able to steadfastly assign yourself as “God” by defining a man-written book into something that would allow you to judge others… a decidedly UN-God like quality?

Take a closer look.  Without picking and choosing what fits your agenda or co-signs your fears, are you sure you completely fit the definition yourself? Do you fit every statement made in the Bible?  Are you, by chance, thinking you are actually God-like?

It would be hypocritical for me to condemn those who condemn me.  I do not live in your shoes.  I do not suffer your fears or deal with your demons.  I, as a homosexual man, have lived with my own and would not wish that upon any soul living in an already contentious world.  Believe what you will believe.  Be what you will be.  But please open your minds to basic human rights and dignities.  We are all created equal even IF you don’t want to believe it.  Even IF your fears require you separate you from those not like you to “keep you safe.”

Dignity. In the big picture, that is all being asked for.  That is all we have fought for.  That is all that was won in the recent Supreme Court decision.

All love is equal.  All lives should be as well.  That is all.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

On trusting in trust

One of the more difficult evolutions of my character and personality has been to trust.  The very idea has raised the hair on my neck over the years and the thought of it’s potential failure has set up fear alarms on many an occasion.

I admit I used to think it would probably be easier to assume nothing and nobody can be trusted.  The reality of this type of thinking resulted in living life looking over one’s shoulder and never truly understanding the core concept of relationships or peace as a result.

Life is filled with turning points (if we are lucky) and I have been truly blessed.  To believe in any form of sadness (whether intentional or not) as an easier path for living (hopefully) taking that person to an eventual point where it’s best to understand and perhaps redefine the word “easy.”

What is easy about believing nothing that means anything can work because you have built up a wall designed solely to “protect” you from being hurt, humiliated, shamed, disappointed or even embarrassed in the potential of failure?  Living inside that wall of protection can be perceived as a way to avoid the hurt and pain, but why would the unknown or unexperienced joys and successes not be worth the risk?

To trust in the best result, the right outcome or the success of a decision is the truest and most beautiful form of faith.  Isn’t trust just faith in the first place?  I put my trust in you or in anything and I am expressing an inward faith in the result (even if the obvious goal is a favorable outcome.)

But once I learned more about faith versus fear I began to understand the complex madness and beauty in simple trust and the issues began to melt away.  It isn’t necessarily smart to jump to the full opposite of the fear that built the walls.  I have learned to hone, listen to and heed my basic instincts and intuition.  When I know something is not to be trusted innately it is likely something I should steer away from.  But I finally learned things actually can be trusted and began to climb out of the hole I had voluntarily built.

The best way for me to learn how to trust was to trust (I know, that’s deep.)  Program tells me to take the leap and the net will appear.  In another conclusion I have learned to understand in some of my failures as possibly the best ways to lead me further towards my successes.  Making mistakes is not detrimental to my character or reputation.  I am stronger for each decision and it’s result, whatever that may end up being.  But in trusting I have become wiser and the result of the many, many times my trust and faith in a situation, place, person or thing has worked has opened my mind allowing me to grow and mature as a human doing (instead of just being.)

I once had a sponsor tell me there were no mistakes.  Yes, there are always consequences and results but we cannot be guaranteed they will be bad… and we cannot be sure even the bad result is not going to change our life in ways we may not have been able to experience otherwise.  Everything has it’s reason.  Everything has it’s purpose.  All my decisions were a basic part of the path I am on.  Even some of the things one could argue were NOT my decisions became part of the path based on my reactions to them.

But when I do not trust in the potential action taken:  the “yes,” the relationship, the decision, the experience… I risk not finding a truer, more vivid potential on the short trip on Earth.  I trust because I need the adventure.  I trust because I crave the change and I adore the growth.  I am teachable and trust helps me to learn. Where I don’t trust I am limiting my view, my potential and more than likely my mood about all things around me.  When I don’t trust I often end up in resentment and, as I have been taught, resentment is liking taking poison and expecting someone else to die.

Today I choose to trust in my future, my path, my relationships, my continued growth.  Faith is stronger than anything I could ever muster up on my own.  In it I am powerful.  It allows me the strength and happiness to enjoy life as I need to.  It really is happening for me and NOT to me.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

The cup is more than half full

I don’t think you can take too many stabs at optimism and gratitude.  Personally I believe the more I concentrate in these arenas, the more I am likely to experience what they provide.

Here is my bottom line:  I don’t like every day I am live.  I don’t enjoy every experience I am have.  I don’t enjoy or even like every person I encounter.  I am sometimes under false influences (such as lack of sleep, hunger, elements of emotion or fear and not at my best self.)  I am not a saint.  I am not everyone’s cup of tea.

I am human.

When I allow any of the above factors to steer me towards the potential negatives of anger, resentment, mistrust or selfishness, it is only I who (truly) suffers the moment.  I will lose no matter what or whomever else is involved. When the negatives have a stronghold I am subject to a waste of time, energy and spiritual progress.  If I am not experiencing my best day as a result of my own thinking it is tantamount to throwing away time and happiness in favor of opting for doubt, suspicion and sadness.

It is easy to create a problem that does not exist.

Sometimes I forget how short life really is.  Unfortunately I am reminded from time to time when I experience a loss both personally or simply by watching the news and seeing what is occurring in our world.  The thought of wasting precious time in negative places feels criminal.  I want to share the things I have learned, the talents I was born with or have honed through my life’s education.  I want to see the world, experience the people and enjoy the magnificence of art and science.  If I am in my head angry about a perceived slight, a potential loss or something not working either as it should or as I believe it should I am holding on to thoughts and patterns detrimental to the simple positives which are being pushed aside as a result.

There is always so much to be grateful for.  Sometimes it is forgotten and taken for granted.  Sometimes it is perceived not to be enough.  But if my gratitude is front and center the rest has a chance to be pushed out of mind.  Nothing I experience in a day, no matter how intense or overwhelming should have the power to negate the beauty of my life.  The gifts, the opportunities, the people, the places the experiences are ALL so much larger and more amazing than any negative I encounter.  It seems ironic to think this simple fact might be a struggle to maintain.

Anger can be comfortable.  Entitlement can be addictive.  Expectations can be killers.

For me the biggest truth is to remember life is not happening TO me, it is happening FOR me.  To not see it as the gift it truly is must only be my own responsibility.  It is up to me to see the glass as more than half full and know whatever tempts me to defend myself against or move towards victimization or martyrdom is my devil.  These thoughts are not real (at least enough to cause me the harm I may think they are going to cause.)

Each morning I look at my fear.  I write it down and I respond to it with my best solution.  More than often the fear is not real.  Likely addressing it as I do allows me to take away the power it can hold.  This does not stop it from coming, I understand, but as with most areas of my world in my cumulative life education, it is never about my fear in the first place…. it is about my reaction to it.  It is I who holds the power over the fear, not vice-versa.  This is a daily challenge and always an evolving lesson.  Although I will never conquer fear, I have learned how to temper the reaction:

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

All the news that’s fit

There is an old saying which tells us “no news is good news.”

The implied meaning of the above saying would indicate not hearing anything at all is actually a positive because you aren’t hearing anything is wrong.  I get that. There is always a good case to avoiding news to not receive information you may not want to hear, (although in most cases it could be said those waiting for this news would obviously prefer hearing something positive.)

And while there is merit to the above line of thinking, where nothing could still mean it’s all good, it is also important to remember how programmed and conditioned we have become as a people to news being something to shock, sensationalize or sell… thus the idea that bad news has become (in the eyes of mass media) very good news for the ratings, the business and the bottom line, it still does not mean we want to hear about it and would not prefer the good over the bad every time.

Of course we want good news.

But not all news has to be bad, right?  I guess that would depend on to whom you are speaking.  News that speaks volumes in the decline of our civilization in my eyes could very well be the very answer another person has been waiting for.  If I were to receive news that a job I’d interviewed for was being offered, I can only imagine there would be one, two or more others learning soon after that the same position was not going to be theirs.  That might not be good news for them.

News is relative.  News is subjective.  News can literally be defined as anything one hears that has not been known already.   If news is simply information, then does it not make sense that it is really not about what that information IS, as much as the way we react to it?  Does it incite? Depress? Anger?  Is it disgusting or does it perpetuate fear?  Will the news change my life or barely go noticed?

When I watch television news I am often stunned by the seemingly unceasing flow of anger, hatred, disease, issues, pointing fingers and senseless suffering.  It never ceases to amaze me how much bad news we can create in our world in the name of religion, greed, politics and fear.   What is wrong is what often leads a newscast, a headline or the top of the page.  We have become conditioned to seeing and feeling the world in a wicked and scary way.  Why, we might ask, do people do these things? can’t everyone think like we do?  What is wrong with those people?

Perhaps the people we are questioning are thinking the same thing of us.

So what is the solution?  It is very easy to turn off the news on my television.  It is vital for me to keep myself informed through different and trusted sources.  It is important to remember not to bury my head in the sand simply to avoid some of the real harsh realities, but it is more advisable to remember I do not have to be the sum or result of the negatives that may (or may not) exist around the world.  To understand that these negatives exist is essential to understanding the world.  Shit happens.  To hold from judgement of others whose lives, backgrounds or beliefs may be somehow associated to what I might see as negatives is a task that is often very difficult to process, and very easy to succumb to.

But to remember I am not required to have an opinion or reaction to every piece of what seems to be a negative in the world is the ultimate goal.  I am not going to ever be sheltered completely from what I will see as “bad” news, but my reaction to it, whether my news or someone else’s… is what is going to help me stay in the best frame of mind possible.

My frame of mind is what helps me to work through each day and all of what that day offers with the most productive and positive outlook and result.  Nothing has to be worse if I do not react to it.  So it may be appropriate to state that no news is good news, but it might be more accurate to remember the news will only be as bad as I allow it to be.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

The vicious Cycle: understanding the need for change

In Alcoholics Anonymous the definition of Insanity is described as repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting different results.  I have often described my own spiritual breakthroughs as being of ‘the brick wall’ variety:  where I will repeatedly hit my head upon a brick wall until it is bloodied enough to finally elicit a psychic change or breakthrough.

No, I am not literally hitting my head on a brick wall.  This is a metaphor.  But the insanity thing could hold merit in some of my behaviors and, most definitely, as examples or instances where I would seem not to be either capable or willing to surrender a particular line of thinking, habit or reaction.  This tends to happen when faced with a person, place or thing I am experiencing some form of resentment with.

Resentment is not always obvious to me.  It can be a blatant disregard for fact, my ego wrapped in an entitlement or retaliation, a conscious wall I have set up to separate myself from the situation or an unconscious fear of whatever it is I believe I am potentially not getting or standing to lose.

Unfortunately resentment is not something I can curtail or stop completely within the way I think.  It happens.  The sooner I accept it is a part of the fabric of my thought-process, the better.  The trick to this understanding is in an awareness of the process and my willingness to stand armed and fight resentment with better, more powerful and productive tools and thoughts.  Combating the negative with the positive and “right-sizing” my thinking will help to achieve a better, healthier, more spiritual end result.

Of course, that is easier said than done.

It sometimes seems the realistic view of my thought process will always set the default to defense.  It can feel I am here on Earth, one could say, to protect myself and make sure that I am going to get the things I deserve and am owed.  Very few people are different by this nature.  It is actually quite natural to want and need to protect one’s best interests.  What tends to be different is how, and to what lengths, this default setting might take people.  In my head it can be dangerous, but in the end that danger is never real to anyone but me.

I am aware that doesn’t necessarily make me sound at all spiritual, but please read on.

Fortunately the “default” I have described no longer has a long shelf life.  Often it doesn’t come up for air at all.  With a created habit of better thinking (a filtering process so to speak) and it’s results from the associated different actions,  I have been able to learn this change in thinking.  It is the result of being around people who want to enjoy life, with no tendency to feel everything and everyone owes them something for simply being who they are, that I am slowly eliminating the vicious cycles of the closed mind and embracing the changes which spark the adventure and growth I seem to always crave.

But the changes must always start with me.

Where I have a tendency to get stuck I might not realize I am actually repeating the wrong behaviors.  It has traditionally been easier for me to blame things around me… be it within the situation, the person in charge, the personality, the rule, the timing, the differences in moral thought or tastes…. it really doesn’t matter.  When I am unhappy it is likely because I am trying to control an outcome.  It is because I feel (often mistakenly) that I possess the best answer to whatever it is I am afraid someone else might be trying to do to or for me (often, if not always, with a different point of view.)  I have the potential to become an antagonist in a situation because forget I don’t have the power to know the future and often don’t completely know what is right for me or the situation at hand.

As a result I have experienced the phenomena of repeating situations over and over and finding myself confused and frustrated that I can’t seem to step out of the lesson with a resolution and continue down whatever path I am on (have you ever felt stuck?)  Repeated behavior means I did not learn what was supposed to have been learned from the experience in the previous time(s) it occurred.  I am doomed to repeat aspects of my life, experiences and relationships until I check myself and change whatever reactions and responses I know don’t work.

The change in me and my thinking is precisely the recipe to allow the results I believe I need in my world.  The fact still remains, however, I will not know what the best thing for me is going to be until it happens.  I can no more control an outcome (completely) than I can predict the future and how any outcome will pan out.

I have learned the key to this is in seizing the moments that are negative and remembering even my thinking is a choice.  If it doesn’t work I can change it and find something more positive that will.  If it doesn’t work I can learn surrender.  As with everything else it has to be about the reaction (or, in many cases, the non-reaction.)  By changing this thought process I am realizing and admitting it is time to end the vicious cycle.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Picking up the puzzle pieces on the path.

Sometimes it helps me to compare a puzzle piece and how it should fit perfectly to connect to the master puzzle, and my relationship with surrender and the second and third steps in Alcoholics Anonymous.  Although there is a goal to gradually put together the puzzle, obtain the full “picture” or complete the project, it can sometimes be forced or perhaps even rushed out of impatience or by forgetting to experience the full process of what each piece really could mean.

If a puzzle is done correctly each individual piece has a meaning and a purpose.  Each should play a part in the destiny of it’s total and the significance or result of the whole it represents.  Puzzles can be seen as a game (which is often how life is described,) but are very much a tool for practicing patience, intellect, creativity and can even be how we relate or react to situations or others (should the puzzle be worked upon with another soul.)

They can also be equated to the path I often speak of when referring to the many stages, or chapters of the life I live.  Where did it start?  What has happened along the way?  Where is it going?  What does each piece, chapter, lesson or experience mean both to the moment and as a part of the bigger, fuller question or picture?

And in the end:  what does that picture show?   Will I ever really know what the point of my puzzle is?  Does or should there be a point to my puzzle OR my life?

I would like to think so.  I am a thinker (perhaps an over-thinker.)  When I embark on a project, take on challenges, learn lessons, make decisions, and start or finish a part of my life experience, I tend to feel it is a vital part of the bigger picture.  It is, as this blog entry would like to suggest, a piece to the much bigger puzzle that represents me and my path towards fulfillment, answers or, very simply, the end.

Perhaps each piece doesn’t hold a notable “clue” to the life I am living and path I proceed upon.  I do not necessarily prescribe to the idea that everything holds an indicator and there is some grand answer to be solved.  On the other hand I do subscribe to the notion that pieces, people, situations, and places within my world can and often are interconnected.  Meeting this person, taking this job, going on this vacation or selecting this home to live in each offer the results of circumstance and experience that provide flavor and pavement on my path.  If I hadn’t met him I wouldn’t have gone there.  If I hadn’t taken this job I wouldn’t have encountered her and learned this, which lead to my being that.

I will never stop believing that it all happens for a reason.  Perhaps the analogy of the puzzle is my way to begin attempting to understand what those reasons might be.

Sometimes I labor with puzzle pieces.  I look at them and try to fit them into all the different scenarios I can think of in order to achieve the satisfaction of knowing that I have accomplished the goal I am trying to achieve.   Often they will not fit, and as a result there will be frustration, confusion, anxiety or even anger.  When there is impatience to know the answers I am likely to force the issue (take control over the decisions and attempt to blindly fit the puzzle piece somewhere that is not going to work or “fit,” resulting in the need to do whatever it is I am trying to force over again in another, hopefully less self-centered manner.

This is what is known as my will.  Although it is always good to enjoy free will I have learned that often when not in surrender (thinking I need something or someone wholly based on the fears of not having or losing what I’ve got) I am making decisions for the wrong reasons and the puzzle pieces never fit correctly.

My best bet is to take the process all the way through.  I have a challenge and I must be patient and loving towards finding where it takes me.  Like steps two and three my best answers come from surrender, hope, faith, trust and willingness.  If I believe that time will deliver the proper answer and my patience allows me to work through the proper process to locate whatever that answer is, I am going to find the place where the puzzle piece belongs. Once it is safely settled I might be able to find my answer through what it reveals.  It is also very possible that the piece may provide a step towards an eventual answer, only revealing a small amount of help towards the goal at the time it is placed.

Each piece always means something.  As I grow older I can see a larger picture starting to show me what my life may mean.  Is it an answer to all of my questions?  Never (since I remain perpetually looking for more.)  For me the puzzle, like the chapters in the book of my life I often refer to, is large and ever growing.  Just when I believe I see the full picture displayed in front of me I am given a piece that shows me there is more to be revealed.  Fortunately the puzzle I use as an analogy does not come from a box with a display of the full finished puzzle emblazoned upon it.  One of the best parts of working with the puzzle and walking on my path is the thrill of adventure, of learning and of not knowing what could or possibly will be around the next corner or on the next puzzle piece.

It is likely I may never really completely understand what my full puzzle reveals… but the patience I have learned by coming to believe and discover my willingness is one of the best and brightest reveals I have discovered while examining each piece, each moment and each potential meaning.

I have lived with a puzzle piece for a very long time.  Trying to put it here and there and feeling each time I had found the right answer.  Patience has come and gone but the answer will only come when it is supposed to.  While I wait I soak in the experience and remember my best reaction to that process is to remember to be only where I am.  I am here.  It is now.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Conversations with my ego

It never fails: when ego appears I am invariably disassociated from my best thinking and the necessary humility which results in the best possible end result to any situation.

This isn’t to say ego is always a bad thing.  There are times when I know my ego is important to my evolution in how I both view the world (and the world views me.)  As an example, without the strengthening of my ego I might not have been able to overcome the adversities confronting me as a younger man.  Without a healthy ego I would not have been able to slowly grow towards learning how to love myself, embrace my defects and hone what I would learn were my many assets towards a better understanding for how to navigate this planet successfully.

Without the positive elements of ego I am not likely to believe in myself, the things I am able to do and the person I am learning to be.  It instills confidence and applies my ability to walk through the walls holding me back from being the best man possible.  My ego pushes me through fear, as well as all the little and colossal challenges I confront on a daily basis.

When the conversation with my ego becomes necessary is when my it decides to run the show, telling me what I deserve and what I am not getting.  Fear has the potential to run my world.  Ego is often a defense mechanism or shield there to “protect” me from what would appear (my perception) as a problem, a barrier or a person, place and thing I must prove something to.  Invariably, the correct likelihood will be there is nothing at all which needs proving, my ego created the whole scenario in the first place.  For me this becomes one of the definitions of a vicious cycle. This is where it becomes a danger to dwell, or think too much about the way the world is and how I am “treated” within it.

Last week I wrote about creating my own problems.  Ego is often a culprit when this happens (along with the ever-lurking ISM tied to both my fears and the thought-based ego in-between my ears.)  When I am unhappy in any situation I have undoubtedly started to believe I am not being taken care of or not getting what I deserve.  I have removed myself from the basic tenants of service and selflessness and placed myself in a starring role where the need for validation or reward is highly unnecessary and often unwarranted.  Although I could not possibly speak to every situation (there will be times when thoughts of change or recognition provide a healthy and/or justified means to an end,) it is more probable that whatever is perceived when involved with my ISM is more a product of resentment and fear.

So how does this conversation go?  When I am fortunate enough to become aware my ego is steering me into unhealthy or unproductive pathways, I have found ways to (what’s the name of this blog?) halt the thought processes and prospective behaviors that could result.  This is no easy task even with awareness when you are in the throws of “where is mine” and “what have you done for me lately?”  It is very difficult to sidestep fear when the over-active imagination is tarnished with learned or practiced behavior that can default to the negative (for many this is a comfortable place.)  “What if” tends to be a far easier go to than any positive alternative.  Hope and faith appear to work far better in situations of comfort and safety, as opposed to the places where the threat (real or imagined) of loss or pain (emotional or physical) block the view.

This is where my ego is dangerous.  When I am not in the more powerful spiritual mindsets I have been fortunate enough to learn and understand,  I am in danger of thinking incorrectly without awareness or memory of the tools which have saved me (and helped me grow continuously in the past.)  My ego is good, my ego is bad… but the most important thing I must know is my ego is manageable and better for me when used for the right reasons.  It is all about the awareness and the resulting conversation.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

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