Also Not a Failure?

Also Not a Failure?

Today’s word of the day: addlepated.

Someone at work today was asking if that was a real word. I was like, Oh yes. You know, it’s when your pate (head) is addled (all mushy like tapioca).

Like mine was tonight when I was driving home from Havana Sauna and the combination of head cold and hot water was making me think about random stuff like how I’m going to a Denver Women’s Chorus concert tomorrow, and what would happen if a man wanted to join the chorus? Would they let him? Why would he want to, anyway? Because he felt like some part of him was a woman?

And this made me think of a conversation I had back in college in rural Indiana, PA with my friend Jim who was telling me that it was a dream of his to someday be in a gay men’s chorus. (The very idea seemed impossibly metropolitan at the time.) And I was like, “Could I be in it too?” And he said no, because then it wouldn’t be a gay men’s chorus. But I sort of thought I belonged there anyway.

When I was in college I often referred to myself as “a feral lesbian, raised in the wild by fags.” I was super into our campus LGBT support/activist group and I was a hard core feminist. But I didn’t really have lesbian friends. I had straight women friends, and gay male friends. And I was trying to figure out who I was among that crowd.

I’ve written before about how part of the long slow process of self acceptance and self forgiveness and self love involves learning how to see aspects of my life story from a different angle — realizing I’ve been holding myself “on the hook” for a lot of things that were just part of my learning process. And that maybe got me where I needed to go after all.

And really I wanted to write this post because I was feeling very appreciative of and grateful to all the gay men who let me hang around with them like a fat duck in a flock of lithe young swans. They put up with at least some (who knows how much — a good portion of this time I don’t remember) whininess from me about not being able to go on guys’ nights with them at the Pittsburgh clubs. And I was thinking, I wonder what I can do to capture those feelings and express my appreciation? Well, at the very least I can say “thank you” in my blog.

I guess I’ve always beaten myself up for not knowing how to act with women, I’ve always thought I was pretty stupid in that regard. I always wanted to be very gallant and charming, but I always felt like I came across either too chaste or too needy (or too drunk). I imagined my style as more Oscar Wilde than Ani DiFranco, and I guess it still is.

I’d pretty much chalked “relating to lesbians in college” up to my list of failures, but now I’m learning to notice and investigate any uses of that word in my self-analysis and see if I can’t rewrite the story. It is only a story, after all, and it’s part of what made me who I am, so I might as well own it. For one thing, I have more compassion now for where I was on the inner plane — not well. For another, at this distance I can see that the beauty I saw then was real, and the life I have now, which is full of beauty, grew from that soil.

So, here’s to you all, people who put up with me in college and held the space while I floundered around with my identity. I won’t squander that gift. You all rocked, and in retrospect I felt truly accepted. If I couldn’t really take it in then, if I believed happiness was just beyond my reach, I understand that I still needed to learn that I have value, so I was always looking for it outside of myself. And I know now that even if the love is there, if I don’t believe I’m worthy, it can’t penetrate my heart.

The quality I chose to work on in 2015 is self love. I don’t even feel like it was a choice. This is just what’s been up for me. I’m being pushed to finally get rid of the poisonous beliefs about myself that keep me from living my full potential. Sometimes I think I’ll never be able to do it. Other times I think I can. So thanks to everyone who has helped me, who is helping me, whether you know it or not; thanks for your patience; thanks for your kindness; thanks for listening.

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Yay! Mosaic!

If you were in my choir — which is Mosaic Gospel Choir,¬†part of the Wesley Fellowship at CU in Boulder, CO — you would have gotten this awesome reminder from our choir director, Gary, yesterday:

Because God loves the shit out of you. And so do I.

And that is just one reason why I am so excited for our first rehearsal of the spring season, which is tonight!

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I joined this choir last fall with Sam and I’ll admit that at first I had, not a love-hate, but maybe a love-indifference relationship with the group, and until about two thirds of the way through the semester I was like “Yeah this is pretty fun, but I probably won’t do it next semester.” I think this was because I had to miss a few rehearsals and the rehearsals were already shorter than most choirs I’ve been in, so perhaps it took a little longer than average for me to be fully brainwashed, I mean absorbed into the juicy goodness of this choir.

But then one day I was going through some emotional crap and I found myself singing one of our songs over and over again, and then even doing what the song said:

There’s power when you call His name,
With faith to believe why He came.
Even with the faith of a mustard seed,
Just call His name when you’re in need …

(As you say that in your head, make sure to put in lots of bad-ass triplets and syncopation.)

Then the call-and-response,

Call Him — Jesus — Call Him — Jesus —
Call Him ———

(that’s where you hold it out really dramatically)

So that’s what I started doing. Just speaking the Name, and letting all of the pain and struggle and need pour out through the voice. And what do you know? Emotional crap gone!

God literally loves the shit out of me.

Of course the shit comes back. Because you know, we give our problems to God but we obsessively grab them back again. And we give them up again. And we take them back again. But throughout this process nothing has been more comforting to me than singing the Name.

So … Thank you, Mosaic Gospel Choir, for bringing me back into conversation with Jesus! I appreciate it soooooo much!

And not only that but, it’s the kind of gospel choir that talks to Krishna too. One of the first songs we learned was George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”! And you don’t have to pretend that you’re committed to any particular Christian denomination. And you can be as “out there” as you are, in any way that you are. All you have to do is want to sing and share the love in your heart with a bunch of other awesome people and with God.

And, astoundingly, when I am singing in this choir, my body feels like the exactly most perfect vehicle for the expression of my unique praise. What drew me to gospel music in the first place was that what I do when I worship — stand up, raise my hands, move my hips and my head and my feet — isn’t weird. And this group does me one better: if my belly sticks out between my shirt and my pants when I do stretches — it almost feels ok.

And if all that wasn’t enough, it meets in this funky blue chapel that looks like a chalet:

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And that’s why I’m coming back for another season.

Yay!

The Thirty-Fivesies

Alert readers¬†will notice that I have not posted to this blog since I got my new job this summer. I actually got hired on my birthday, and haven’t really had time to update this blog since then. (Apologies to all of the people who read that post and have since asked “how’s the new job going?” It’s going great, and thank you for asking!)

But since it has been so long and since it is now sort of the New Year (I mean, it’s definitely 2015, but it would be a bit stretch to say it’s still, like, part of the New Years holiday) I kind of feel inclined to look at how my life has changed since last New Year, sort of like those holiday letters that my more organized friends send, only more about the inner plane. And I sense it is going to be a long ass post, so if you get bored and quit reading I won’t be offended. In a sense I’m drawn to write as much for my own integration of the past year as for anything else. With so much head-spinning busyness over the past six months I have been in need of a reassessment: where am I right now? How did I get here? And where the hell am I going?

Well, here’s where I am in time: 35 years old. According to the calligraphy sign hanging above me at the Mean Bean coffee shop right now:

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I don’t know if either of those statements is exactly true for me — I wouldn’t say my head is together and my body isn’t quite falling apart yet (though when it does, there will at least be plenty of cushioning to soften the impact). But I did coin a term to describe this phase of life that I find myself in:

The Thirty-Fivesies.

Sounds cute, doesn’t it? Well, that’s deceptive. It’s an ass-kicker, but somehow a happy one.

For me, at least, the Thirty-Fivesies refers to a change point, and a kind of progression from one set of lessons to the next. Sort of like an elementary school graduation. Like, it’s not like I know everything or anything, but I’m going to a new school now and the desks are bigger and the hallways are taller and longer and I can pretty much trust that the multiplication tables are committed to memory so I don’t have to keep quizzing myself on them. Oh yeah, and since I’m moving to a whole new school I kind of have a new identity, or part of one.

To use a different metaphor, the Pagan perspective tends to view a woman’s life cycle as a progression through the three stages of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. It can be hard for those of us who don’t have actual children to know when we have moved into the Mother stage, but it’s associated with a general sense of competence, of being able to tend to the community’s needs, of being someone who basically knows what she is doing and is empowered to use her creative capacity in a variety of ways — to create her own life, to create that which she wants to see in the world.

It’s hard for me to say “yes, this is me” because of my long-trained terror of speaking well of myself — one of the strongest lessons I took away from my childhood was that bragging was one of the most “sinful”, possibly most dangerous things I could do — so I am almost pathologically incapable today of saying to anyone besides my partner, “Yes, I did a good job.” But here’s the thing: that’s part of what the Thirty-Fivesies and the Mother stage and the elementary school graduation are about for me: completing that lesson, and other lessons, that I’ve been working in since kid-hood, and getting to move on to something new.

It means I’m moving from practicing self-abnegation to practicing self-value. It means that when it comes to creating my life, I’m moving from “What’s the crappiest thing I can stand?” to “What’s the best thing I can imagine?”

And without all the self-hate and self-limiting and convictions of unworthiness, who am I now?

I think it’s no coincidence that I got the new job right on my birthday. It was the first evidence of my valuing myself on an inner level, and starting to believe that the work that I do is worthy of compensation. This has only grown since then. And this is part of the graduation feeling; it’s like I’m not stressing about or pushing for it any more — I’m just creating it. On some level I’ve actually taught myself to believe in my value, at least economically. That’s shocking to me. And it tells me I’ve actually finally learned something.

So maybe there is something to that catch phrase in the picture — maybe I AM starting to get my head together.

But then there’s my heart, and gosh, I feel like all year it’s been getting tenderized — like a piece of steak getting beaten with a mallet. Though not necessarily in a bad way. Tender is good, for hearts. Open is good.

And sometimes to open something, you have to smash it.

I have this heart-and-wings pendant that one of my Sufi friends in Missouri gave me on my 30th birthday. At one point this year I thought I had lost it and felt sad. Then it came back to me unexpectedly — but with a little dent.

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Man, I should have considered myself warned.

If you know me, you know I’ve always been kind of an anti-romantic — even cynical about love. When characters in books or movies fell in love, I was of the opinion that they were just spoiling a perfectly great friendship. As a kid, I never imagined my wedding day, but I had elaborate fantasies about my adventures post-divorce. (Some of these involved moving to Texas on a motorcycle with two Shelties in the saddlebags.) Even when I did get married I was very cautious about what exactly I was promising.

This year I realized how much I have kept my heart in check.

I realized that I had developed such an over-reliance on my brain as the “go-to” source of information, insight, ideas, dreams, plans, analysis, etc. that it was hard for me to even sense my heart at all. And if I couldn’t sense my own heart, it stood to reason that the people and organizations that I loved — probably didn’t know that I loved them.

I realized that because of my fears about letting love in (or out), I’ve tried to fill the spaces with all kinds of other things, not always to my benefit. I’ve refrained from putting my whole self into things. I’ve believed myself to be unworthy or incapable of experiencing all the love that is out there, constantly surrounding me and pouring over me and waiting with endless patience for me to become willing to receive it.

So I’ve started trying to change that. I started trying to pass my communications through my heart instead of my brain. (Or at least, through both. Darn, brain, where is that off switch???)

Here’s what happened:

I asked for Divine help in opening my heart. The whisper said, ask the Angels to help you open the door. And they did. And I was overwhelmed by the feeling of light pouring in … and out.

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I started calling it the energy of the Open Door Heart. Suddenly I started WANTING. And haven’t stopped.

I started allowing the true desires of my heart to guide what I am seeking for in life. And it is changing me.

It means I’m more sensitive. It means that I’m less guarded. It means that since I’m allowing myself to want, I’m more vulnerable to disappointment.

I’m trying to bring my full heart to my relationships and I’m finding that this too makes me want more. I want deeper friendships, I want family bonds, I want more-than-friendships. I want to expand …

And that challenges me to, well, get out of my comfort zone.

It’s chilly in my comfort zone. It’s restrained and controlled and there is not a lot of sizzle or surprise.

But as soon as I try to stick a toe out of the bubble I realize I have none of the skills needed to create something different, and I don’t know if I am brave enough to try. I guess that’s the definition of a comfort zone. Going out of it is like — graduating from elementary school and feeling lost among all the big kids in junior high.

And knowing that at some point I’m gonna get stuffed into my own locker because I’m such a darn dork. (That never actually happened to me in middle school so I know I’m overdue.)

But what the hey. Once you graduate, you’re stuck with the new school and the new curriculum. You can’t just keep doing the same lessons over and over again just because they’re easy and it makes you feel smart. You have to reach for something new.

Last year’s theme was “Year of Art.” This year it’s going to be “Year of the Heart.” We’ll see where it takes me.