In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
- Stephen Crane
Friday, May 30, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
Nothing was going my way and anger was rising in me. I fed it. Indignant. I was powerless over my thoughts and my feelings. Everything was wrong and everyone else was to blame. The phone, the laundry, the computer, the dog. I felt I had to fight for what I wanted. I just didn't know what that was. I knew it was something that I wasn't getting and I knew it wasn't my fault.
The tumult and emotional disturbance hit a trigger and finally, through no doing of my own, autopilot kicked in and I was brought back to the correct trajectory. I began to take actions instead of trying to manipulate outcomes. Almost separate from myself, I trudged through the dark labyrinth of my own anger and frustration till slowly the muscle memory of doing the next right thing took hold. I reached out to someone who I knew needed comforting.
From that moment my day changed. I abandoned my own idea of what I should be experiencing and allowed a new experience. I left the house with Zeke and we found ourselves at a picnic in the park by the water eating fresh fruit under a willow tree with a group of strangers who've bonded over rescuing dogs. My friend met me and we walked together, with Zeke, in this glorious day.
The day continued to unfold the way it was supposed to not the way I wanted it to and it was lovely. Why does it take me so long to remember that I need not suffer? How many times must I learn the same lesson over and over? When will I know instinctively to let go and accept what is rather than try to mold it into what it's not? The concept of surrender is a simple one yet to take that action continues to be difficult. As always, pain is the price of admission. Humility brings strength out of weakness and it is only through surrender that I am able to win.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I'm trying to keep my head up in the face of disappointment. I'm failing.
What is the limit one person can sustain before they break under the pressure of cumulative disenchantment? Perhaps everyone has a specific ration of hope and with every instance of disillusionment it gets chipped away. The piece I started out with has been carved into by unfortunate circumstances, mostly of my own making, gotten smaller and smaller and I find myself disconsolate.
I should know by now not to get my hopes up. I think: this time it's going to be different. And then it's not.
I understand that people are afraid. I'm afraid. I understand that feelings are uncomfortable. Yeah, I'm uncomfortable too. I don't understand why people feel they need to be dishonest.
I feel different and alone.
Today in church I was sitting next to a gay couple with a little girl. The girl was maybe about seven years old. She was dressed up in a cute little dress and sweater set with matching ribbons in her pigtails and her two daddies were holding hands and taking turns quietly caring for her when she got restless. They seemed so happy. How does someone get that?
What have I continued to do wrong? Can my situation be fixed or is it me who needs fixing? Am I too honest? Too much too soon? Too needy? Do I not have enough to offer or is it all just too late? Perhaps all I have to lean on is my experience of having been here before and knowing that no matter how uncomfortable I get - this is not going to kill me. Though it feels like it might.
I don't want to allow these continued unfulfilled expectations and frustrations to make me bitter and closed. I pray for an open mind and a new experience. I send love to all those who've caused me dolor. I surrender myself to God's will and thank Him for whatever He has in store for me. I need to be reminded that I am being protected, that when I get what I want I'm usually headed for mental and spiritual agitation.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
They went on to say,
“Plaintiffs are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandate directing the appropriate state officials to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling in this case so as to ensure that county clerks and other local officials throughout the state, in performing their duty to enforce the marriage statutes in their jurisdictions, apply those provisions in a manner consistent with the decision of this court.”It is official, California is now the second state in the country to recognize, not only the legal union of a couple of the same sex but actual marriage. Before today Massachusetts was the only state to allow gay marriage.
This is a great day for United States civil rights. This is a day, even a few years ago, I couldn't have imagined happening in my lifetime. I am that much closer to not being considered a second class citizen.
And yet there is an overwhelming sadness, for me, about this moment. A feeling that no matter what legislature says I still, somehow, drew the physiological short straw. Not because I am sexually attracted to and long for romantic intimacy with a member of my own gender, a fact that doesn't make me feel any less a man, but because I can't imagine my extended family traveling from distances to celebrate my love for another man. Not in my wildest dreams do I see family members asking if we're registered at Willams Sonoma or if we need a food processor. Though I don't believe they would begrudge me a loving relationship I also don't think that they would find, in my legal union with another man, the same reason for celebration as they would a heterosexual holy matrimony.
A very good start has been made. It is one thing, however, to change legislature - it is something quite different to change and open the hearts and minds of many who believe that those who are different are wrong or bad. Let us not forget how recently we have witnessed atrocities like the brutal death of Matthew Shepard and the blatant hate mongering of Fred Phelps. Just earlier this year there was the E.O. Green School shooting of fifteen year old junior high school student Lawrence King of Oxnard California. King publicly said that he was gay only to be harassed by a group of schoolmates and ultimately shot dead by a fourteen year old classmate who he had asked to be his valentine. Do an Internet search on any of these three incidents I've mentioned and see for yourself the ignorance and hatred that masquerade as religious righteousness and patriotism.
I don't mean to be the pooper at this party, I just know that already the closed minded and fearful are rallying together to fight this brave legislative move in the name of God and our great nation. I find it interesting that Governor Schwartzenegger now says he opposes any move to overturn today's Supreme court ruling, keeping in mind Schwartenegger vetoed a same sex-marriage bill twice in the last three years. Think back to the year 2000 when same-sex marriage was making big news in California courts. It became a divisive issue in the presidential race then and I suspect we can plan to see it bandied about in that arena again in the days to come. The timing of this monumental step forward in civil rights may be unfortunate and perhaps even suspicious. What happens this November will effect civil rights in this country, and ultimately the world, for years to come.
Who could have imagined that in our lifetimes we would see an African-American presidential candidate as well as legal same-sex marriage protected under the Constitution of the United States of America? We may, at last, be on our way to realizing the dream.
"I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
I suppose it's progress to be aware of these feelings and try to behave correctly rather than just bulldoze my way through the day like some storybook ogre oblivious to the effect my actions have on others. Several times today I had these vague out of body moments when I could almost see aggressive, overly gloomy and arrogant things come out my mouth but I just couldn't stop them. It was as if I was possessed by some evil tyrant who was playing me like a helpless marionette.
Luckily I know enough to limit my exposure to the outside world on days like this. I completed my tasks, came right home, ate and walked my dog. Now, with any luck, the evening will go by uneventfully and tomorrow the emotional disturbances of today will have passed.
I'm glad I get second chances. Tomorrow if someone hands me a lemon I'm going to insist I see a silver lining in it and if there happens to be a raincloud over my head I'm going to make lemonade.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Bishop Gene Robinson, of New Hampshire, has been uninvited to attend the Lambeth conference of the Anglican Church. Eight hundred of his esteemed colleagues from around the globe will be attending. The Anglican Church or The Church of England or, what we here in the United States call The Episcopal Church, have singled out Bishop Robinson because he is openly gay. The Lambeth conference happens once every ten years and even though Robinson has been asked to stay away he plans on going anyway.
“The table that God invites us to includes everyone, and the church is going to get it wrong sometimes. I think the Archbishop of Canterbury has gotten this wrong by not inviting everyone. I’m going to go and offer myself and talk with anyone who wants to talk to someone who is unashamedly gay and unashamedly Christian.”
Robinson gained public attention in 2003 when he was consecrated into his position as bishop. His consecration to bishop caused a rift in the Episcopal Church and about one hundred churches in this country have since split with the Episcopal Church and are now more aligned with the bishops of, the much more conservative, Anglican Church of Africa and South America. That's one hundred out of about eight thousand. Robinson wore a bullet proof vest under his vestments at his consecration in 2003 because of death threats he'd received.
Due to his refusal to stay away from the Lambeth conference the Most Reverend Robinson is once again receiving death threats. He has announced that he and Mark Andrew, his partner of twenty years, are planning a civil union. Robinson says they have chosen to do this now in the face of death threats so as to put into place the protections for Mr. Andrew and Robinson's two daughters, from a previous marriage, that are offered to those in a union under the law. This, I'm sure, is fanning the flames of the pyre already set by irate "Christians" who see Robinson and the church that appointed him as going against God's word.
In response to the recent death threats Robinson calmly said "We are told in Scripture that it will always be costly to follow in God's way."
I really can't imagine what kind of emotional state I would be in if I announced I was going to do something I believed to be correct and in response to that was told I might very well be assassinated. I may decide to postpone or even change my plans. Gene Robinson, however, is courageously going ahead with what he feels is right.
This is a brave man.
“When your life is at stake, you learn that there are things in life that are much worse than death. Not living your life — that’s worse than death. And if something were to happen to me, I would know that I am doing what I discern God is calling me to do.”
This is a Holy man.
Robinson stands as a role model for all who call themselves people of faith. A true example of what it means to walk with God. He continues to stand firm in the face of danger and difficulty. He remains determined and committed to do the right thing regardless of personal consequence. I urge every minister, preacher, rabbi, imam, priest, nun and chaplain to take a long look at the resolve of this worthy prelate and pray to have the courage that this one man continues to show for his faith, for what he believes is good and right and for those who will follow after he is gone. I believe time will prove him a hero and a pioneer.
“I’ve come to understand that this is a particular historic role that God is calling me to play at this moment. God has seemed so palpably close in this, there’s no way I could regret this. My job as a bishop of the church is to exhibit God’s love for all of God’s people, especially my enemies.”
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The wedding is taking place somewhere in North Carolina that everybody has to travel to get to. I'm sure it's very pretty there. Everyone is arriving the day before the wedding and staying in hotels and going to a big pre-wedding dinner the night before. It will be an all weekend affair. I can't afford to travel to a destination wedding right now. I don't know how everyone else is managing it especially now as the country is entering a recession.
My sister Nicole just called me from the road. She and her boyfriend, Ivan, are on their way to my mother's house before the wedding to cook dinner for my mother and her husband, Don, for their birthdays. Today, two days before the wedding, just happens to be their birthday. My mother and Don both share the same birthday. I'm not an astrologist but marrying someone with the same birthday as you can't be a wise move.
I pick up the phone and Nicole says: "I'm on my way to Mommy's and she wants me to cook shrimp scampi like you do. How do I do that?"
Nicole is becoming a rather good cook and has a bunch of dishes that she can pull off with no problem but it's oh-so like my mother to ask her to cook something I cook well and that Nicole has no idea how to cook. This is one of the underhanded, passive ways my mother plays her children against each other but we've come to expect this behavior and accept it as a standard mom move. There's a third child too, the youngest sister, she probably suffers from mom's maneuvers the most.
I tell Nicole how to cook the shrimp like I do and we start talking about the upcoming wedding weekend. How much it's costing to go, who is expected, how our five year old cousin has gotten fitted for a tuxedo, stuff like that.
I make her promise to call me and tell me all about the bridesmaid's dresses. Bridesmaid's dresses, as you probably know, are notoriously horrible. The big problem with them is that they're usually in some awful color that nobody looks good in and they're usually frilly or sparkly and they have to be affordable because the girls are expected to pay for them themselves. Consequently they're usually made from cheap fabric. All of this usually adds up to a horror show.
Nicole has to ask me again about the shrimp because we've been hooting loudly about this sure-to-be bridesmaid nightmare. And then we start talking about our sister Danielle.
Danielle is a beautiful girl but she presents herself, how can I say this? It's like when you see Mariah Carey and you think: "Wow, with all that money and success you would think she wouldn't choose to dress like a Hoochie mama. But she does." It's kind of the same thing for our sister Danielle minus the money and pop star thing. Nicole and I scheme about nabbing one of the bridesmaid's dresses in a super small size and lowering the neck line and raising the hem line for Danielle and we're being mean and hateful siblings and even though we love our little sister we're howling with laughter as the phone connection starts to break up.
"What?" I shout into my phone through laughter.
"We're driving through Bum-fuck Nowhere and I'm gonna loose you!"
I really do wish I were going to the wedding this weekend. I don't spend enough time with my sisters, or the rest of my family for that matter, and even though the thought of spending money foolishly on a destination wedding when times are the way they are doesn't sit right with me I know I'd have a blast. Imagine the pictures I could take.
"FLAT LEAF PARSLEY FOR THE SHRIMP RIGHT?!"
Saturday, May 3, 2008
- May First 2008 - Radio City Music Hall - Dolly Parton -
I was not prepared for what a moving experience I was to have seeing this Country Music and American Pop icon. I don't know what I was expecting, perhaps some glitz, some old show biz tricks and an aging voice in that tiny cartoon body that we all know, but what I was present for was something quite different indeed.
Of course there were the spangles and the rhinestones, lots of them. Certainly there was the cartoon body and those famous boobies. Yes, there was the expected cheering and adoration of a musical personality who's been present with us through the many changes of our lives. But what I wasn't prepared for was the authenticity, the vulnerability, the honesty, the gratitude and the humble right sizing of a woman born into the most modest of circumstances who has somehow managed to rise above the stereotypes of what she could have been and created for herself a distinct and respected role in the world. It's easy to be blinded by all the sparkle and gloss and forget that this woman has received A Living Legend Medal from the U.S. Library of Congress and a National Medal of the Arts.
Pattering on about her poor rural beginnings she talked about her "Daddy" who couldn't read or write but worked hard to support his twelve children. How he was the inspiration for the launching of her Imagination Library, a non-profit foundation that fosters the love of reading in pre-school children by providing a book a month to every child regardless of their family's income. Dolly's Imagination Library started by providing books to children of lower income families in Eastern Tennessee and is now available in forty three states, Canada and has just started in The United Kingdom. This, Dolly said, made her "Daddy" more proud than any superstar status she's achieved.
What most surprised and moved me was the voice. At sixty two you'd expect some of that high, sweet, innocent tone to falter. You might at least expect some of the familiar songs of her early career to be taken down a bit. But Dolly sat down, picked at a dulcimer and sang "Coat of Many Colors" and the tone rang high, pure and free without affectation or apology. And the nostalgic sweetness of a little girl proudly dressed in rags soared as pretty as when it first hit the airwaves thirty seven years ago.
The personal lesson I gleaned from this experience is that I shouldn't think that I know the limits of what anybody has to offer. Whatever their category of style, form or content, if someone is true to themselves and authentic in what they do then there is worth in it. Like Dolly sang herself in her new song "Backwoods Barbie" :
"I've always been misunderstood because of how I look.
Don't judge me by my cover 'cause I'm a real good book".
Point taken Dolly.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
He said "Tell me what's been going on with you?"
Twenty seven years!!!
I am astounded by the thought.
In the last twenty seven years I've buried lovers and friends. I've survived diseases and suffered incomprehensible demoralization. I've lost nearly all and returned to my childhood home to lick my wounds and start over. Basically I've been through hell and have been brought back to find myself with a blank slate. Despite all the humiliation I've endured I am healing and I am hopeful. I am on a search for spiritual enlightenment and am eager to begin a new life of service and ministry. How do I tell someone that?
I share these things all the time. I share my story with others often so that they may, hopefully, benefit from my experience. But I haven't necessarily shared my story with successful people from my past with businesses and children and stock portfolios and summer homes. With all the work that I've done, the self searching and moral inventories I continue to take on a daily basis, I find I am still paralyzed by fear, envy and pride.
So how can I be rid of these amorphous hostile adversaries? I might begin by pin-pointing the precise location of my emotional discomfort and from there I might be able to see exactly what it is that's at stake. Here I find it is my self esteem and emotional security that are threatened. By entertaining fear, envy and pride I'm nurturing a monster that actually has the power to kill me. I realize that I am one hundred percent responsible for my own experience. How can I access an antidote to this agonizing condition?
Divine Breath of the Universe:
Please allow me to walk honestly through whatever fear I have as I realize it is only through truth that I may discover freedom.
And please let me always remember that there can never be a material solution for a spiritual problem.