Monday, June 29, 2015

My Take on the Gay/God Issue

I am sitting in a coffee shop surrounded by men. I call them all by that one name, but they are as different as they are the same. One wears something on his head. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I do know that it’s meant to represent his peace, love, and compassion, save-the-world sort of soul. Computer geek is in the corner, headphones on, pile of work at his side. There’s the guy with no hair on the top of his head but plenty of it on his chin. He looks like he could talk Socrates, Plato, Kant, Locke, and Nietzsche without ever once looking at his notes. Mr. GQ sits over by the window. He’s been on his cell phone since I sat down, chatting in a voice that’s smooth and inviting, looking like he just stepped out of a movie or a much-shared Facebook meme. Hey, girl. Then there’s the guy in the quiet area. He’s a farm boy student type, first generation if I had to guess. I would say he’s all about the books, respectful to his elders, and good to his family. Never misses a Sunday of church. If I could line each of these guys up side by side, it would be quite the delicious smorgasbord of maleness. Should I be asked to choose just one to represent the gender, I would be hard pressed to cast my vote.

You know that box of mixed chocolates so popular on Valentine’s Day? I LOVE THAT BOX!!!! It’s just so filled with all sorts of surprise. It never gets boring, never gets old. Some chocolates have that squishy cream in the middle. Some have fruit or nuts. Some you like and look for first, and some you remember to never choose again. But they all have something to contribute to the whole. I always feel sad for the person who gets the box where all the chocolates are the same.

And, yet.

I feel, as a culture, this is where we find ourselves wanting to be. We DEMAND that one representative type, that box of humans that are all the same. Historically, I believe, there is precedence for this. If I remember correctly, it did not end well.

I’m not even talking solely about the God worshippers here. I am equally disgusted by the Love Wins coalition waving their rainbow flags. Can we not just all get along and play nicely, for Pete’s sake? Instead of looking at variety as opportunity for growth, we raise our shields and ready for the joust.

To you Bible bangers out there: If indeed those who like to get it on with partners who share similar private parts are going to Hell, then let it be. Frankly, I don’t give a damn WHAT Jesus thinks. That’s HIS business, NOT mine. And it sure as heck isn’t YOURS. Let Jesus return, let the “sinners” rot, let the world end. But YOU trying to step into the role of omnipotent force is like ME donning black cape and gavel and playing judge for a day.

And to those of you in the Love Wins crowd: Really? Love wins and yet you fling such vile words? Or am I misunderstanding? Is that love only for those who associate with or support the status of LGBT? Clarify for me if I’m wrong. “C’mon,” as my mother used to say, “you’re bigger than this.” I get the whole oppressed/oppressor deal, but Fundamentalist Christians have hearts, too. You catch more flies with honey, that whole sort of thing.

I think where people are getting confused is that they feel this is a gay issue or a religious issue or a conservative issue or a liberal issue. This is neither a gay issue NOR a God issue, liberal OR conservative. THIS is a people issue. We run from what we fear. We fear that which is different.

What if, instead of fearing, we looked at different as Opportunity For Growth?

Let me tell you what I’ve learned and how I have benefitted from those who are different from me. Let me show you growth. I was granted my very existence by two racist homophobes, given my rich heritage by those who killed Jews. I was welcomed into the kingdom of God by one who, in no way, would have approved of men marrying men. I was taught love and compassion at the knee of one who murdered animals for sport, taught hatred, incidentally, by a soul very much like mine. I was educated by a man who had killed other men, saved from death by one who hated the poor. I stand in front of you today only because of those who represent everything I despise. I stand in front of you because, like those guys in the coffee shop, each person who has crossed my path has had some unique contribution to bring to the table of my life. I stand in front of you because, in the end, we all go by one name. We all are flesh. We all are human. Every one of us. Different. And the same.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Princes and Dragons

A few years ago, I set out in search of a mythical creature that many call Unconditional Love. I had never seen this creature in my life and was curious if I could tame it and live peacefully among it. I had heard stories of its existence, heard tales of its splendor, but had yet to see proof that any had witnessed its power. Legend, and psychological research, has it that this creature brings beauty and peace and happiness to any who touch it. Mortals become magical. They walk the road of who they were meant to be, their hearts grow to gigantic proportions, they emanate Unconditional Love to those around them. I had to know, Can I find this elusive creature and bring it into my life?

I packed my bag with smiles and hugs and positive words, words like “You’ve totally got this,” “I believe in you,” and “Have a great day.” I took along some optimism, gratitude, and sprinklings of grit. I was educated, armed, and ready for the hunt. I followed the advice of muses, angels, and overzealous motivational speakers. I repeated silently the mantra, “Do everything in love. Do everything in love.” See the good in the evil, the kind in the unkind, the me in the other. Don’t just LOOK for love, BE love.

And this is when I met with the first of my nemeses.

In true fairytales, dragons are big and scary and breathe flames that can destroy even the very best hair day. They live in castles, or visit castles, or, I don’t know, they’ve got something to do with castles. When you flip the page and see the picture, you know that a dragon is on its way. In real life, dragons drink smoothies, wear yoga pants, and constantly check their Facebook. They have pretty hair and smile a lot and confuse you into thinking that maybe they are a princess or a good fairy or at least a really nice narrator. In real life when you flip the page, you never say to yourself, “Whoa, look at that scary yoga pants-wearing dragon.” No. You just continue with the tale completely unaware of the upcoming plot twist.

Once I recognized my good fairies and princesses for the dragons they were, I was too afraid to fight them for fear of looking ungrateful, unloving, or full of disrespect. My dragons, you see, are key players in my life. Main characters. Critical to the story. This “Do everything in love” business was confusing, complicated, and, unexpectedly self-defeating.

Plot twist number two.

I am in the middle of living my story. It is going along just fine. And then in pops a character from another book. I am completely taken off guard. This character causes thought bubbles to appear above my head filled with words such as encouragement, support, joy, and concern. I wasn’t aware these words were missing from my life. I wasn’t aware I cared that they were missing from my life. This character had not read my story and yet he understood, he knew, he felt. I mentally wrote him in as Leading Lady’s BFF. A little presumptuous, I know, but I’m a writer, and I can do that.

Just being honest, if we were reading a different story, he easily could have been the prince. But we weren’t. And he wasn’t.

And then, on page four hundred and twenty-two, he decided he no longer wanted to be in the tale. That was it. The END. He wrote himself out. (He’s a writer. He can do that.) I was a mess. I drank, and I sobbed, and I poured my heart onto page. I drank, and I sobbed, and I poured my heart onto page for a YEAR AND A HALF. Ok, maybe longer. Maybe I stalked his Facebook wall until he blocked me. Maybe I stalked his Twitter and his blog until he deleted or changed them. Maybe I GoogleMapsed him (but I NEVER drove by his house). Maybe I learned that if I ever decide to stop teaching, I would make a damn good detective. I should just inject here that there is nothing more pathetic than a princess who can’t get her shit together. But finally I did. And I did because of those muses and angels and overzealous motivational speakers.

I woke one day, and the spell had been broken. It occurred to me that while I had been approaching my dragons with love and had been handing over my happiness to my self-created BFF-not-a-prince, I had been neglecting the well being of one pretty important chick. I looked in the mirror that day and turned the magical phrase toward myself. “Do everything in love.” In my effort to shower others with smiles and hugs and positive words, with “You’ve totally got this,” “I believe in you,” and “Have a great day,” I had forgotten to do the same with myself. There are those who feel that love of self is selfish, arrogant, the stuff of which narcissists are made. I understand now, though, that love of self is necessary, caring, the ultimate form of respect. I understand that I count as a person, and that I am worthy of receiving love as much as I am of giving it.

So, here I am, waking myself from the sleep induced by the poisoned apple of Self-Love-as-Conceit, riding off into the sunset of Unconditional Love, and looking forward to the many adventures to come.