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Friday, May 19, 2017

Love is a Circle, not a Transaction


Love in its genuine pure form was meant to free us, not chain us. Love exists to be mutually beneficial, it's not a transaction. We live in a culture that is focused on consumerism. We're forced to keep it together at work, sometimes putting up with abuse from customers, and not letting our guard down. How we act because of consumerism, and how we act at work, unfortunately gets translated into how we love at home.

Consumerism teaches us that with anything we want, we have to pay for. And anything we give, needs to be bought. When we translate this into love, it becomes a back and forth transaction, instead of a freeing energy of appreciation of the existence of the subject of our care. When recentered, love starts with a genuine enjoyment of time spent with a person, of appreciating their existence, of wanting to help, and make the object of our love smile. Then when any of our gifts are given, and received, the giver is given the gift of appreciation, as well as a gratefulness they could help the person of their care smile. Love becomes a mutually fulfilling circle, instead of a back and forth transaction. There are no expectations, and no yearning to be paid back.



Expectations are part of the work place and society as a whole. We are expected to be on time, do our work, keep it together no matter how hard it gets, and then we expect to be paid. When translated to how we love, it just becomes another thing to check off our list, another way to "gain favors," so we can get something back. We have turned love into a chain of expectations, instead of the freeing, understanding, flexible, and mutually beneficial force it naturally is. But because we're human, and live in this consumerist realm, balance is key. We can't love if we don't love ourselves.

In order to love, support, and serve others, we must learn how to do the same for ourselves. And accept the same from those who love us. No man is an island, and we need community to survive and thrive. Consumerism teaches us that we are on our own to get what we want, and this becomes a lonely; difficult state of mind when translated into how we love ourselves and others. It's now self centered. Then there are those who are used to nothing and give all they have in order to be loved. It takes really getting to know, and loving ourselves—without the entitled fallacy that we have a right to everything we "pay for"—to truly love freely without attachment or expectation. We have to be able to fully appreciate a person for exactly who they are, not who we want them to be for us. That is just another expectation that will always lead to disappointment and isolation.

"The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them." —Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

Love is a force that frees us, upholds us, encourages us to keep going, and never give up. It can never chain us, or make us feel afraid. Let's offer this to ourselves and each other, and be reminded of its power, its peace, its comfort, and its inspiration to keep living life to the fullest.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

What Divorce Taught Me About Platonic Intimacy

For the longest time after my divorce, I found myself feeling so depressed because I lost my "person," the person I depended on for everything. They shared all of my happiness, and all of my struggles. They were gone, and I believed I had no one. This past year however, I have finally accepted that I don't have to have a "person." Instead, I have a slew of beautiful friends, and a supportive; loving family to sustain me when I can't sustain myself. I have learned how fulfilling it is to be there for people, and to accept them being here for me. I finally embraced the beauty that is living in the moment, and letting go of the chains of expectations has freed me. Marriage didn't teach me that, but divorce did.

Marriage is funny. I have had so many conversations with my friends about how no one really prepares us for how hard it is. Nor how fulfilling it has the potential to be. But for it to be fulfilling, it takes so much emotional labor, honest open communication, and compromise. Not only that, but as humans who cannot thrive without community, it takes having a strong support system. Many of us sacrifice this because of our age's dependence on only the nuclear family. We have forgotten the importance of having our tribe. This includes the unfortunate erasure of the fulfillment that is platonic love.

Because of the plethora of movies that romanticize and provide an unrealistic picture that romantic love can fulfill us completely, many of us have lost the ability to connect, be vulnerable with, and holistically love—and be loved by—our friends. Society has a tendency to sexualize any intimate action, whether it's platonic or romantic. Thankfully I have many friends now who will hold my hand, kiss my face, and hold me close just because they care about me. It's beautiful, and hugs my heart in such a deep meaningful way. Because of our mutual love and respect for one another, supporting and encouraging each other becomes as easy, and life giving, as breathing. After I stopped focusing on myself and what I was missing, I found life again serving my loved ones when they needed it, as they did for me.

So many of us are so worried about meeting our own needs, that we rarely find time to look after the needs of others. Don't get me wrong, self love and care are important. We cannot fully love and serve others without loving and serving ourselves. But this is a balance we can learn if find the will to do so. Then when we find it, giving can be as fulfilling as receiving. Instead of a pendulum of give and take, love turns into a beautiful circle of mutual satisfaction. This has the capacity to give us so much life, meaning, and fulfillment—if we let it. Especially if our love is given and received without expectation.

Expectation chains us. Without expectation, there would be no disappointment. However, this is balanced by the importance of respect. Which is then balanced by understanding. When we genuinely love and care for our tribe, we respect that we all have needs that may need to be met outside of ourselves. Because of how life works, we only have a certain time frame or resources to offer, and we offer what we can, when we can. Then if it doesn't work out because life is messy, we all understand. We can then seek what we need elsewhere in the tribe, and this is okay. When we embrace the beauty of vulnerability, we get to give our tribe the opportunity to love us, and fulfill what we need, with whomever is available and has the resources.

Love, in whatever form, is not a transaction. It's a life giving circle of care, respect, appreciation, and acceptance, that can be beautifully mutually beneficial. Sure, we'll all mess up. But that's where forgiveness, compassion, grace, and going with the flow can sustain our relationships. We thrive through our community, however we find it. May we seek out our tribe, and when we find it, embrace the beauty that is the circle of love.

Monday, December 12, 2016

So, You Think You Can Save Me?

Hey, come here, have a seat. I would like to have a conversation with you. My name is Trish. I'm a lesbian. I was also a Christian, but now I think of myself more as a Universalist. Church has become a place I fear. Why?

Here's my story.

In fifth grade, I held hands with a girl for the first time. I can remember feeling absolutely giddy about it. It felt right. I wanted her to be my best friend for life. I wanted to confess to her how people made fun of me, and it hurt my feelings. I wanted to share how happy I was that I actually won once in that appalling game that is dodge ball. I felt like I didn't fit in anywhere, but my friend made me feel like I fit in somewhere. Until she ignored me after our all night hand hold. I was confused...did I do something wrong? We're just friends, right?

It wasn't until I was fifteen, and watched Fast and Furious, the first one, (good god, did you know they're making another one? Ha!) that I knew I was a lesbian. That was the first time I fantasized about a woman, namely, Michelle Rodriguez. My fantasy you ask? Goodness, you're nosy, but I'll tell you. I fantasized that I was being mugged, she raced up in her bad ass car, beat the mugger up and then held me. She took me to her car, and held my hand on the way to wherever. That's it, my first lesbian fantasy. After said fantasy, I lived in absolute terror that anyone would find out. I'd been going to church since I was an infant. I was taught that being gay was next to murder in the sin hierarchy (this hierarchy doesn't actually exist, by the way). Fast forward some. I finally embraced myself as queer in college. It was so freeing! I finally loved myself! My whole self! But, it was then that my Christian friends seemed to think I was back in the "that poor sinner" pool of people they needed to save. Here is where I will take a break from story land. Exactly ten seconds ago, I just told you that I felt free because I embraced myself. Now, Christians are telling me that with enough Jesus and prayer, I can be saved from my sinful lifestyle. Either that, or they will think they're making me feel better by saying: "I mean, all sin is the same. I sin all the time! So I don't see the big deal about it." Meh. They both suck, to be honest. And I have to ask you, what exactly is so sinful about my lifestyle? No no, do not recite to me what Paul—or some unknown man way WAY back in the Old Testament—said in the patriarchial; man canonized Bible. (Did you know there's a Gospel of Mary that wasn't canonized into the Holy Bible? No?) Anyway, you tell me, in your own words, what is "sinful" about my longing to find the woman of my dreams, love her, hold hands with her, and live life with her? What's so sinful about sharing our goals, a home, and just struggling through life together—so we don't have to do it alone? Don't say it's just unnatural. We can't "naturally" make babies? I mean, come on, did you know that the number one pollutant right now is overpopulation?! If you're going to say that, I could easily say that we're helping the earth by being safely out and proud. And adopting. (We can actually make our babies with science now, but I don't want to digress too much...) So tell me, what is so sinful about my being a lesbian?

...

Whatever happened to love your neighbor as yourself? Do not translate this to: judge your neighbor by your own standards. Please stop doing that. It hurts, and makes me angry, and so so sad. It also makes me feel more alone than ever. I don't mean to, but then I put up a curtain between us—or even a wall. This makes love harder to be felt or given.
The Bible is hard for me to read now. I've been beaten by its words for too long. I miss it's comfort, and the comfort of church. But it's hard now. I have to ask every church if they'll accept me — a lesbian. Most will accept me as a visitor, but not as a member. Because of an essential part of my nature, I am not allowed to go any deeper than the outer circle of a minimal acceptance. Can you not see how painful this is? I'm tired of being segregated in that way.

Sigh, I hope you can understand a little better why it's hard for me to claim Christianity, and go to church. I'm tired of being told that how I love is sinful. I'm sick of hearing that I'm somehow broken and need to be saved. I'm growing and learning just as everyone else is. It may be differently than you are. And you know what? That's totally OK. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Dealing With Divorce During the Holidays

Well, it's that time again. The holidays. For some of us, this is the first time. For others it's the second, or tenth, since our divorce. The time when we get to watch our friends and family get all cute and romantic with their partners, while we wonder how the hell we got here. We tend to listen to a ton of lies during this time. Please don't listen to them. We are NOT failures, and we are NOT unlovable. Yes, we're hurting, mourning, moving through the pain that we're "alone", and that's OK. It's part of the natural grieving process. We don't need to just get over it—we need to move through it. We are still incredible people who are living each day just trying to be the best we can be. Not only that, but there are people in our lives who deeply care about us, and long for our happiness. Sometimes it's hard to see during the holidays, because we are so blinded by our negative feelings—but it's there friends. Maybe not romantically or sexually, and that's OK. The love of friendship and family has the capacity to be so deep when we give it the chance. Intimacy doesn't have to be shared with just a lover or spouse. There are 8 definitions for intimacy on dictionary.com Only one describes it as sexual intercourse. Other descriptions include: closeness, fondness, affection, familiarity, comfortable, and warm. I'm grateful to have friends and family who are willing to share this kind of intimacy with me. I hope you have it, or are willing to look for it. There are many memories, feelings and attachments to sort through. That's OK. Cry if you need to cry, talk if you need to talk, and yell into a pillow if it helps. Please don't isolate yourself, and subject yourself to a pit of endless sludgy sadness. Accept invitations to parties, gatherings and conversation. Live in the moment with those who care for you, and take time to care deeply for your awesome self. Balance is key. Seek it. Own it. Having a relationship with ourselves can be just as arduous (and fulfilling) as a marriage. Pamper yourself, tell yourself ten things you love about yourself, and buy yourself flowers. You're entirely worth it.
Cheers!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Grieve Your Own Way

   Grieving death is a unique experience. Some may eat a galleon of ice cream, drink a bottle of wine, and look at photos of their loved one while crying hysterically. Others may gather together with close friends and family, eat tons of food, listen to beautiful music, and remember the good times. No matter how we grieve, it's important to know that it is never acceptable to shame the way others grieve. We all experience the world differently, even if we are part of the same culture. How we deal with, and process, experiences varies from person to person. And there is nothing wrong with that. 
Death of a loved one causes great sorrow and emotional pain. There is no book titled How To Deal With Death for Dummies; nor is there a Guide to the Rules of Funerals for Idiots. I honestly wish there were, but at the same time, I'm fine with dealing with death and loss my own way. 

David McNeely, Sr., (aka, "Pops") c. 1940

Monday, May 2, 2016

What It's Like Dating in Bible Belt Lesbian Land

   Here is just an FYI for anyone who is curious about dating in Bible Belt Lesbian land...It's fucking hard. There are so many obstacles facing the battlefield that already exists having to be forced to challenge every evangelical ass hole who tries to change me into a "Bible living" human being, that dating, as an almost 30 year old, just adds to the list of reasons why I would NEVER CHOOSE THIS LIFE if I could live it any differently.
   As most of you who know me or follow my blog know, I have been divorced for about 2 and a half years now. I am a deeply loving and caring person. I always see the good in people, and I long for a deep, loving connection. Therefore, I have indeed tried to date. However, I wish you could understand how infinitely hard the dating game can be for someone like me, living in this incredibly frustrating and limiting Bible Belt Society.
   First, where on earth am I supposed to find women who are Lesbian, and who have similar values as I?  I cannot take the luxury of going to a bar alone with my hair down, make up on, wearing something tastefully flirty and be expected to be hit on by someone who actually matters or that I would be interested in. Also, it's not as if I could see a beautiful lady and tactfully or tastefully casually ask, "oh hey, what's your name? Are you gay or straight?" No, my longing is to have a future partner find me, or vice versa, organically. But alas, the nature of what Bible thumpers call my "affliction," and what I know in my heart is true to call "my nature" keeps me from this.
   Therefore, I have tried online dating. This playing field is ridiculously complex. I have to sift through the heterosexual couples who would want a threesome. I have to whittle through the ones who want a one night stand. I have to include at least three complex words (most recently, my enjoyment of irony, dichotomy, and duality) to weed out the idiots. Then, via Tinder, I right or left swipe the 20 women that are within my age, and distance range. This takes me literally 5 minutes, and then I patiently (or not so patiently) wait for a response. It's annoyingly exhasuting. While I'm broadening my horizons to include bisexual women, my odds of success have been horrendous or regretfully unfulfilling.
   What I find the most frustrating about being with women who have been with men, and are also attracted to men while living or growing up in the Bible Belt, is that they cannot get over their neccessity of comparing me to them. I have been forced back into the closet because I am not a man, left out to dry because they went back to their ex boyfriend, deemed not good enough because I seemingly couldn't fulfill the masculine role of father or caregiver, and/or seemingly not good enough in bed becasue I do not have a dick. If it were not because of my great support system of freinds and my twin sister who love me unconditionally, I may have suffered from an incurable ego complex. But alas, during my time of being single, before I started enduring this proposterous game, I have found a strength in me that surpasses the idiocy that is Bible Belt Lesbian dating. However, no matter what, it is ridiculously hard and annoyingly...oh so annoyingly repetitive. I keep going though the same cycle, because of my unconditionally loving nature, to fall very hard, and very fast. Then I find my heart crushed, and fall gratefully into the arms of my friends and sweet sister. Without them, I am afraid of where I would be left. But with them, and the love and acceptance of my Creator, I can get up, dust myself off, and try again to experience the same comfort, love, and benefits (physical, sexual, financial, medical, etc) that my heterosexual brothers and sisters get to enjoy. That is all I want. I am different than them in sexual peference, but I do want to be loved romantically like they do. Wish me luck. It's not easy, but I'm still convinced it's worth it.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Importance of Loving Holistically

I believe that we as God's children are in a constant state of spiritual and emotional growth. Actually, our growth is quite holistic, but our spirit and our emotions are two we tend to neglect in this world where intelligence and money/gain are the most important. Most of our young lives, we grow our minds though school. While some subjects can challenge the expansion of our emotions and spirits, it's usually not intentional. I believe God uses certain circumstances and/or people to expand our minds, emotions, and/or our spirits in order to help us grow in our ability to love holistically. We are conditioned through church, school, and sometimes through our parents to love depending on a set of rules, or morals. We segment parts of a person, or even a whole person or group of people, solely because they don't believe the same version of morality as we do. When we do this we may be barring ourselves from a chance to fully love, grow, or expand our minds to become more like Jesus. When did "agree to disagree" become insignificant or somehow unholy? Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, and he cared about them just as much as his disciples. If he ever corrected anyone - and please let us remember that it was mostly leaders of his same religion - it was a tactful challenge to expand their hearts and minds because their dogma was blinding them to truth and love. People float into and out of our lives because we have something significant and potentially life changing to offer one another. Let's choose to embrace this reality, and open our hearts to love the way Jesus showed us: holistically without judgement.