Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My So-Called Lifestyle

There has been quite a bit of talk about the gay agenda and the gay lifestyle lately and so, always being one to jump on a bandwagon, I decided to chime in. As I have a lot of friends who do not live a gay lifestyle, I am going to take a few minutes to describe mine, so they too can live one if they so choose. Since a lifestyle is a choice, I think it only fair that my straight friends have all the education they need to live a gay lifestyle. Pay attention, because this is a day in my gay lifestyle life. You may want to take notes to make sure you get it just right.

On weekdays, I wake up around 6:30am, shower and get ready for work. I get in my car, sit in traffic and sometimes mix it up by stopping at a Starbucks for a coffee. It’s usually something pretty gay, like a Pike Roast, but sometimes I go all straight like some of my friends and opt for an upside down Caramel Macchiato. When I get to work, it’s usually a fabulous day of emails, meetings, research, planning, reports, phone calls and facilitating the odd training class. I work on marketing strategies, business plans and advise existing and aspiring small business owners. Because I like to live on the edge, my lunches vary from smoothies to burgers and on occasion, I enter into a more international lifestyle by having Thai food or sushi. After lunch, it’s more of the same at work until I get back in my car and sit in traffic all the way home. Once there, I have to spend time with each of the three dogs before getting really crazy with a book or an episode of Big Bang Theory. If feeling particularly ambitious, I serve as the fourth judge on Chopped, often while laundry is going. My evenings usually include dinner, doing some dishes and feeding the dogs, maybe cleaning the bathroom, going to the gym, practicing my Spanish lesson or even dropping in on my sister and her family. Crazy, I know. Around 11pm, I tuck into bed where I sleep until about 6:30am and I start it all over again.

My weekends might include paying some bills, cleaning around the house, making breakfast at home, grocery shopping, taking the dogs to the park, spending time with family and/or friends, going to the gym or maybe just being lazy. Sometimes I like to go hiking, camping, or maybe taking a drive or walk around town to shoot some pictures. If I’m feeling really frisky, then a short road trip might be in order. In fact, if you want to know something really scandalous, I am thinking of going to Bryce in a couple of weeks to shoot some pictures while there’s snow in the canyon. 

John’s gay lifestyle is far more exciting than mine. He gets to pick up the dog poop in the backyard on a regular basis. I sometimes feel jealous, as though I am on the outside looking in on a life I may never have.

So that, folks, is a secret look into a gay lifestyle.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines lifestyle as “A particular way of living : the way a person lives or a group of people live." When I look at my “lifestyle”, I can say that my black friends live pretty much the same way. As do my straight friends. My single parent friends. My widowed step-mom. My sister. My Indian, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Mormon, Iraqi, Dutch and other friends.

Can we all please stop referring to the gay lifestyle? It doesn't exist. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Freedom of Speech

“With great power comes great responsibility” – Voltaire

Like so many people, I have been watching the news, horrified at the events in Paris. I watched the news reports, read the articles and opinion pieces while wondering what kind of world we live in in which these types of things seem to happen with frightening regularity. After the initial shock wore off, I started thinking about it a little bit different and now, after pondering the events along with others, I’m not exactly sure what my opinion is. As I often do, I decided to write about it, let my fingers do the thinking and see what comes out of it.

Everyone seems to have jumped on the idea of freedom of speech and how an attack like the one in Paris is an attack on that freedom. But is it? I was born in a country where I am guaranteed freedom of speech by the Constitution, a right I love and cherish. I also think that with a lot of things, we rarely take a step back and really reflect on what those words “freedom of speech” actually mean. I can say without a doubt that true freedom of speech does not exist and probably never has. In America, we certainly don’t have complete freedom of speech. Every day, some actor, business person or politician is apologizing for some remark they made, a word they used that offended someone. Paula Deen was asked if she ever – the key word being “ever” - used the N-word. She said she had, a long time ago. It almost cost her her career. Isaah Washington lost his job on Greys Anatomy due to something he said to a co-star. I know full well that if I were to stand out on the street and start firing off certain words, slurs or ideas, I would be met with anger that would most likely range from shouts to violence to police intervention. I could be arrested. I could be sued. I might even be killed. If my one of my nephews or my niece is at school and says the wrong thing to someone, they can be expelled for bullying. Clearly, freedom of speech has limits. As it should.

And if any of those consequences happen, people will agree that the consequences were deserved, that I or the other person should have known better. So, while it is not at all acceptable for me to refer to black people with the N-word or use other racially charged words at others, it seems it is perfectly acceptable to take something a large part of the world holds sacred and holy and treat it with not only a lack of respect, but in a way that is known – KNOWN – to be unacceptable and offensive. When we Americans see someone burning the American flag, we get outraged. We want retaliation. When someone hurts our feelings or does something we don’t like, we act out. Remember the smashing of French wines and the short-lived freedom fries? We were angry that someone dared defy us, have a difference of opinion. French people in America were attacked. French businesses are vandalized.

So why is it that if I make a slur towards someone, I deserve what consequences come my way, but if I offend a billion or so people by making fun of and even degrading something held sacred by them, they are being unreasonable and should just see it for what it is? They should laugh it off and stop acting like angry children.

I believe that just because we have a freedom to do something, doesn’t mean we should. I believe we need to put that freedom to better use. We need to be responsible and accountable for the consequences our speech brings. Does anyone really believe that the dialogues we are having are constructive? Will they bring us closer together? Will they help us understand and respect our differences? I don’t think so. It is so easy to offend and anger. It is much more difficult to talk, listen and learn. We can have freedom of speech and still be responsible. We can have that freedom and be respectful. We can use that freedom to build or to destroy and from what I see, we seem determined to do the latter.

Freedom of speech is a powerful thing and with great power comes great responsibility.  It’s time we think about what we say and do, think for moment about where it will get us, whether it will move us forward or not. We have to move away from the attitude that my opinion is the right one and everyone else is wrong. We do that in politics. We do that in religion. We do that when it comes to race. We do that in almost every type of conversation. I would even say they aren’t conversations, but monologues aimed at getting the other person to realize they are wrong, getting the other person to change and getting a victory for ourselves. I know it’s wishful thinking that we could become a society that is respectful towards the opinions and beliefs of others. But it is something I would like to see happen. I believe open conversations with the goal of learning and understanding are the only way any of this is going to change.

As Gandhi said, we need to be the change we wish to see in world. We can’t change others, only ourselves. But I have learned that by changing myself, I can have an impact on others.

 Just to be clear, I do not like or condone violence of any type and this is in no way meant to offer any justification to anyone who hurts other people regardless of the reason or provocation.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Relationships… Revisited

In November 2013, I wrote about relationships. I never showed this to anyone before now.
I have been spending a lot of time thinking about relationships. Well, my relationships at least. I am enjoying being single at the moment. It gives me the opportunity to focus on my family and spend a lot of time with my niece and nephews. A friend of mine pointed out that being single right now lets me give my undivided attention to my favorite children and I realize she is right. Of course that doesn’t stop me from wanting that one relationship, the one that goes beyond the others. Not one that completes me, as I don’t believe in that at all, but one that compliments my life. I guess my experience in relationships and love has left me feeling less than optimistic I will ever meet that person, but still, I hope and think of the things that I want from someone else.
 When I fall for someone, I fall for them completely. I will happily jump off the cliff as long as I know they are willing to jump with me. I want someone who wants to be with me to the point that they will stay when things get rough. I want someone who looks past my childlike insecurities and annoying habits and sees me, who I really am. I want someone who chooses to be with me even when they can easily have someone cuter, smarter, funnier or whatever. Someone who won’t judge, but will hold my hand while I navigate through life. I want a co-pilot to join me on my journeys and point out the way when I get lost. Someone to help me stabilize through the turbulence. Someone who will wait when I fall behind. I want to be with someone who by knowing me so well has the power to destroy me but who I can trust not to do so and who will never prove that my trust was misplaced. I don’t want to fuck around. I like being committed. I don’t want to waste my time speeding down a track only to discover there is a wall. I have done that before and it hurts! 
 I don’t expect and will never ask for promises of forever as that is something nobody has the power to give and I want someone who I can believe will choose me, in the now, in that moment and hopefully again in the next and maybe the one after that. Someone who, when they feel they love me, can tell me as many times as I need to hear it and then a few more times just because they want to. And who never tires of saying it. Someone who can sometimes say “I love you” without the “too” at the end of it. Someone who will tell me they love me not only when they think I am wonderful, but who will say it when I am at my ugliest and darkest. I want someone who will tell me everything is going to be all right and believe it as well, even if proof to the contrary is overwhelming.  I want someone who will take my hand because theirs feels empty without mine. I want to know that when things get smashed, they will be around to help pick up the pieces and make things even better. 
 There is a quote by George Bernard Shaw which reads “The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” So I guess in addition to that list, I want someone to listen, hear and take action as I will do the same. Someone who I can be silent with and yet speak volumes. I want someone who is not afraid to tell me how they feel or listen to what I have to say. Someone to whom I can tell my secrets without fear and who feels safe telling me theirs. There will be things about each other we may not like or even understand, but I want to always respect and be respected. I want someone who understands that a relationship is always a journey, a partnership and a constant choice, rather than a possession or something to be taken for granted. Someone who understands the road won’t always be smooth but who also believes it is worth traveling. And I want someone who not only says they want these things and more, but who says so by actions. Not someone to tell me they will never leave, I just want someone to stay. I don’t want someone to talk about growing old with me, I want someone who is actively growing with me. I want someone to bring out the best parts of me and help me discover things I didn’t even know I had in myself as I want to do the same with them. I guess most of all, I want to be with someone who feels that I am enough, just as I am and just as I will be. 
 Maybe all of this is a lot to ask. Maybe it is time I start asking for and expecting a lot. Maybe that person is out there. Maybe they are not. Maybe someone will want to be, maybe he won’t. Time will tell. And I guess until then, I will wait and try not to give up the hope of all these things.
A couple of months after I wrote that, and a year ago today, I met John. We had been chatting for a couple of weeks and decided to meet for lunch. I had no idea at that time, that I was taking the first steps toward a new life, toward all the things I wanted, many of which I didn’t write about. This morning, I re-read what I had written just over a year ago. I still want all those things and today I have them.

The difference now is that I can accept those things from someone. I tried before and I couldn’t truly accept them. I felt defective and ultimately that got in the way. Perhaps going through so much these past few years has changed that. Changed me. When I was in India, someone once told me that there were two great loves in my life. One that was in the past and one that was out there waiting for me, but that before I would be in the next one, I would go though things that would take me to edge and teach me all the things I needed to know so that I would be ready.

I used to wonder why I survived the first stroke, why so many things happened. Now as I get glimpse of the path before me, I am starting to understand. And I’m grateful for it all, even the things that haven’t happened yet.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two Lives

For the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about life, the things that happen in our lives and how we respond to them. This has really been ramped up in the past few weeks due to heated discussions with my mom and the subsequent letters she decided to write my sister and I. I have spent a lot of time wondering why my mom is the way she is and why I am not like that. We both had difficult childhoods. We both spent years living with her second husband. I had a lot of anger as a teenager and young adult.  And, like anyone else who has reached a certain point in life, we have each experienced both amazing and horrific things. It’s all part of being alive, part of being human.  But I wonder why I am not like her. I don’t remember a conscious decision to emotionally go in a different direction. I have tried to find that defining moment when I took a step off the path she laid out for me and I don’t know when it happened.

Maybe it never did. Maybe I was always on a different path. One thing I have noticed, is that when “good” or “bad” things happen, people tend to respond in two different ways. They either let those things define them, or they let those things guide them. I think that is where my mom and I are polemic extremes. My mom has cloaked herself in the “bad” things that have happened in her life and she keeps record of every “bad” thing anyone has ever done to her. If my sister or I told a lie, talked back, got a bad grade or anything else negative when we were children, she remembers it and she brings it up again and again. Every bad working experience, argument, questionable look from a stranger is taken as a judgment as well as confirmation that the world is against her. She is a modern day Job, with misery and despair being her chosen destiny.

I have always tried to approach things differently. I don’t always succeed, but I always try to see things for what they are and what I might learn. I try not to let the things that happen define me. I have made mistakes. I have been hurt. I’ve done the hurting. I’ve dealt and am dealing with two strokes, battled depression, had relationships that didn’t work, financial issues and more. But those things are not who I am, they are just things that have crossed my path. Or, like a friend of mine wrote me several months ago, they are the path I was meant to take.  A lot of my life has been amazing. I am very aware of how lucky I have been; the people I have met, the love, the travel, and the experiences. But those too, do not define who I am.

Somehow, my mom and I approach life differently, and yet, there is a fear. A fear that one day I will be as she is. My mom used to be fun. She used to laugh and enjoy life. She was a major practical joker. My friends loved her, thought she was cool. I don’t know where that person went or why she left. I sometimes fear I will become that person as well. I wish I wasn’t able to say it, but I look at my mom as everything I do not want to be. And I know that many times, we become the very thing we dislike the most. I’ve caught glimpses of her in my actions. When I was going through the depression, that is what scared me the most. When I hear myself being negative, I fear I am stepping onto her path and I don’t want that.

Maybe it is the upcoming holidays, but I find myself thinking about it a lot. I don’t understand how someone that has such easy access to some wonderful things in life, would choose to keep herself chained to misery and almost wear it with pride. I never want to be that person.