How Gay is my Marriage? #RebrandMarriage Series

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As my wife and I move through through our newlywed months, I’m beginning to wonder if the ideas I had about marriage aren’t particularly “gay” after all. There’s all this drama over what grown couples want to do – for what reason? Why did I ever believe that there was something “wrong” with my sexuality? I know the years of conversion therapy and the rhetoric from church leaders didn’t help. The Bible College folk were not any support either… of course there is small town mindedness and the government’s stand against equality up until the last 8 years…

But why – I mean REALLY, what is it about marriage equality that ever bothered people so much?

Is it particularly gay that I wake up every morning and feel grateful that all the steps that I took, no matter how painful or difficult, still led me to this beautiful woman?

Marriage_3Is it particularly gay that when we argue, I realize that being right is still not as important as making sure I know when to admit when I’m wrong?

Is it particularly gay that I love her family and getting to know them means the world to me, even though we have to deal with being across the globe from each other?

Is it particularly gay that our dinner conversations consist of questions about the dog, our schedules, laundry, a book one of us is reading, or what is going on in our friends’ lives?

Is it particularly gay that when she goes away on travel, our bed feels empty and I miss feeling her arms around me before I fall asleep?

Is it particularly gay that we look back on our time of dating and chuckle at how rigid I was to make sure that everything we wanted was for real before we “wasted time” on too many giddy “I love you’s?”

Is it particularly gay that I get incredibly inspired by her success in the world and celebrating her unique path is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done?

Is it particularly gay that we have dozens of inside jokes that would make other people roll their eyes and consider our intelligence lacking? 😉

Is it particularly gay that my wedding day is something I remember as the best day of my life so far?

Is it particularly gay that we believe that we can buy, make, or share things with each other that will keep our love interesting and magical?

Is it particularly gay that sometimes there’s nothing magical about cleaning, paying bills, making appointments, or discussing our differences?

Is it particularly gay that I’ve never met a woman who knows me so well and can welcome everything that no one else could understand?

Is it particularly gay when we look into each other’s eyes and see the person with whom we want to grow old? Marriage_quote_1

Is it particularly gay that I know this is the woman with whom I want to grieve any of life’s inevitably sad or tragic moments?

Is it particularly gay that I am a better person, a better citizen, a better employer, a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend, a better writer, and maybe even a better dog-owner… because she is in my life?

What do you think?

Perhaps the question isn’t “How Gay is my Marriage?,” but how much stronger would all marriages be if we were all… particularly open to a love like what my wife and I worked to find, labor to protect, and hope to cherish for years to come?

Maybe if this is gay marriage, everyone needs one!

And maybe that is the real threat – redefining marriage as particularly amazing...

Perhaps we are re-branding marriage after all…

#RebrandMarriage Series starts now… 😉 

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

 

When Abusers Speak for God: 5 Reasons I’ve Had Enough

survivor project unbreakableI’ve seen it in almost every church I’ve ever attended…

Emotional abusers who claim that “hardship” is what “God” intends for the faithful.

I’ve heard it in almost every church I’ve attended…

Sexual abusers who claim that “girls” should be “more careful” how they dress.

I’ve felt it in almost every church I’ve attended…

Physical abusers whose “humility to ask for forgiveness” allow them access to beat their wives repeatedly.

Aren’t we tired yet, of all of the abusers who claim to speak for God?

Let’s just come out and put it clearly in the words of Tori Amos:

God, sometimes you just don’t come through… do you need a woman to look after you?”

As a survivor of conversion therapy, I know all about leaders who speak for God. They spoke for “God” about the “miracle” of healing a person from homosexuality through shame-tactics and brainwashing techniques, sometimes combined with a few false memories and exaggerated gender-norming strategies.

But more than this, I know all about leaders who speak for God when it comes to innocent children…

It was leaders who “spoke for God” who told me at 12 years old, that I could be a good Christian “witness” (or example) to my abuser, if only I would pray more…

I just recently came forward publicly as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse – and a separate attack at age 15, from a “trusted adult” figure in the church. Why did I stay silent all these years, aside from writing about it in Enlightened-ish and a few obscure blog pieces?

The reasons have to do with how survivors stories sound out of the mouths of those who claim to speak for God.

Now with this week’s news of a religious-based TV show being taken off the air because of the scandal involving years of sexual abuse by a man who claims to be an authority on morality, would you think I am going to say anything that hasn’t been said?

Do you think after all I’ve experienced, I would want to shed some light on this for survivors?

You thought right… because if I’m going to lift myself out of this stink that is my newsfeed right now, I have to find my voice.

Overall, I picked “5” Reasons I’ve had enough because I disclosed to FIVE Christian adults that I was being abused by my neighbor… so in the memory of their failure to actually SPEAK UP FOR ME, I offer these reasons.

5 Reasons I’ve Had Enough of Abusers who Claim to Speak for God:

1. I’ve had enough because… abusers don’t get to “spiritualize” their psychological issues.

Child abusers abuse for lots of reasons, but “God” is not one of those reasons. I mean, if God “is” a reason, then that’s another piece. Let’s stop pretending that “God” has anything to do with the mental illness and lack of empathy that abusers have towards their victims.

2. I’ve had enough because… bystanders don’t get to spiritualize our psychological trauma.

Abuse survivors need professional mental health support to recover from these experiences. Trying to “heal” through prayers is like trying to change a tire by drinking a latte. (No, it doesn’t make sense!) It’s time we emphasize the separation of church and… actual mental health support.

3. I’ve had enough because… God really doesn’t have a reputation for being emotionally sound.

Let’s stop pretending like God is actually love. Jesus and some of the other prophets and teachers along the path of spirituality seem to have some sound emotional awareness sometimes, but what we “know” about “God” based on sacred texts is that he/it is the kind of being who likes trauma. (i.e. wars, floods, plagues, human sacrifice, hell, apocalypse, etc.) Trauma survivors don’t need spiritual drama – they have enough actual drama with their healing process.

4. I’ve had enough because… if there is a God, she might not “forgive.”

Let’s pretend for a moment that no one actually believes in the “god” that is presented in sacred texts. Instead of an emotionally unstable bully with strange rules and a hang-up on sexuality, let’s say we believe in a “god” form who is full of sensibility and boundaries. Perhaps we believe in a “god” who balances out the shameful with peace or a “god” who makes wrongs right through justice. If this god exists, I wager she doesn’t simply “forgive” an abuser… she seeks justice and peace.

5. I’ve had enough because… God wasn’t actually there.

Did God “watch” as I was molested repeatedly, against my will, by an older man who knew I was uncomfortable and scared? Did God “watch” as I reached out to trusted religious adults who shamed me further for “allowing” these abusive events to happen? Did God “watch” when I was almost raped by another older boy who was “well-liked” by the church community?

No. Stop it. God wasn’t “there.”

I was there.

So above all, let’s remember the survivor who was actually there... and rather than speaking for a being that did nothing, let’s turn our attention towards the survivors who are finding their voices. Let’s lend our ears to the survivors who are doing SOMETHING, by speaking out, finding a reason to trust, a reason to believe, and a reason to live.

Let’s try that, folks. Because I’ve had enough of hearing from ANYONE who speaks for God.

How about you? Had enough yet?

Namaste, my friends. Tread lightly, walk gently… you know a survivor. It’s time to pay attention and if you speak for anyone, speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

~~

PS. For more information about sexual assault, please check out RAINN.

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Discussing Childhood Sexual Abuse… Because I Finally Can

Child_abuse_StatI am coming up on one of those strange “anniversaries” of a life event I used to think I would be more comfortable forgetting. However, after 25 years, it seems my natural response to this milestone is to speak out for a 12-year-old girl whose voice was ignored…

Briefly, I disclosed that I am a sexual abuse survivor when I entered into the Chapter called, “The Freedom to Survive,” in Enlightened-ish. As some of my readers know, one of my major concerns with AuthorHouse as a publisher was how they indiscriminately selected portions of my grief memoir as “previews.” Out of context, the story of my childhood molestation was shared as if it was central to the entire book, which violated my ability to tell my story, not to mention my rights as an author. Nonetheless, that triggering incident (unresolved legally), started to inform me of my healing steps when it comes to discussing childhood sexual trauma.

Specifically, the incident reminded me that under no circumstances does anyone have the right to tell my story out of context, let alone edit it, or sway me from my own healing journey.

So today, after taking a few weeks to decide if I was ready, I took another “step” in telling my story. I decided I would send in an application to a local support and advocacy network for sexual assault survivors. I don’t know where it will go, but as I shared the news of my steps to story-telling with a fellow survivor, I realized I had misspelled the name of the organization on my application to their program.

You guys know me… exactly how likely am I to miss something that important in any written communication? I mean really… gasp! Right?

I sat with the reality of my gaffe for about an hour, wondering if I should feel ashamed or embarrassed, then I recognized that it was the perfect mistake for someone trying to overcome shame! Why? Because what has always mattered in my writing is not WHERE I share what I have been through but THAT I SHARE AT ALL.

I am not sure yet what will come of having sought out a volunteer venue through which I can discuss my survivor story or advocate for communities to require their adults to do the ADULT thing and report perpetrators when sexual abuse is suspected…

But what I can do is sit here with pride and recognize that after all these years of passively walking on the eggshells laid out by society, family, friends, neighbors, or religious communities, I am actually quite proud of my story.

I am proud… because when he touched me, almost 25 years ago, and silenced a naive and trusting girl, he had no idea I would turn out so full of love and ready to shake up anyone comfortably denying the voices of our young people.

Abuse_Stat_Relationship_VictimI am proud… because when he told me, almost 25 years ago, that “no one would even believe I didn’t want it,” he had no idea that I would grow up and become so clear about what vibrant, whole, and mindful sexuality can be!

I am proud… because when he told me he was a “friend,” 25 years ago, he wasn’t able to forever destroy my definition of genuine friendship.

I am proud… because when the shame started, 25 years ago, there was an end to something – an end to my innocence.

And an end of innocence is actually the most useful tool a survivor has – with the end of our of innocence eventually comes the powerful command of the reality that can heal us all.

I’m proud of my reality.

My reality now is that I am survivor of childhood sexual abuse and in that reality, I am equipped to say that there are ways we can protect ourselves and our children.

I am equipped to say that there is healing for those who do the work of forgiving themselves for NOT HAVING THE POWER that they deserved to have all along.

I am equipped to write that there is justice for those who wonder how heavy the burden of memory will be for the rest of their lives.

I’m ready to discuss childhood sexual abuse… because I finally can… without shame.

And even when I miss a step, it happens because I’m not frozen in the past – I’m taking steps.

Because I’m finally able to focus on the voice, not the venue or the audience around me…

Report_Abuse_MemeThe true audience is the 12-year-old girl from Pennsylvania, who lacked an adult ally who could do the adult thing, and report her perpetrator.

She is listening as I write for her…

One step at a time – all is well.

Walk gently, my lovelies.

Namaste, to all who cannot forget what it’s like to always remember their stories. I see you and we’re all moving through it together at whatever pace feels natural.

~~

PS. For more information about sexual assault, please check out RAINN.

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

How Gay is my Marriage? #RebrandMarriage Series – Part 2

empathy_1Empathy begins when we make attempts not just to “understand” the world through someone else’s eyes, but to feel it. For me, poetry is that art that urges feelings to reign over thoughts, giving the colorless, race-less, gender-less, ageless, HEART a voice. Poetry is a bridge to empathy.

When people ask me about gay marriage, my eyes do not see the word gay… I hear it, but I do not even know what it means as I used to, because marriage, to me, is all about Eyes Forward.

I’ve written a short series of poems below, called Eyes Forward. May these words serve as a bridge to empathy and add to the conversation of Rebranding Marriage.

Maybe the evolution of “gay” marriage can draw us all into a deeper appreciation of coupledom and spousal connections. Marriage has, for too long, been about property, achievement, reproduction, or religious-based institutions.

Maybe it truly needs to be rebranded by those who seek it for love… with eyes forward, let empathy begin to give sight to the hearts blinded by fear and hate.

Namaste, yo. #RebrandMarriage

~

Eyes Forward I

Set your gaze upon her soul
until the sound of her breath
gives you the chills that wake you up
from the fever
that has locked you away
from the passionate heart
that once saw her and said,
“Can she be a reason to believe in the One?”

~~

Eyes Forward II

Her head doesn’t turn.
The noise of other lovers fades faster than the buzz of a honey bee.
Her walk is fixed
Unless there is a crawl towards our marriage bed,
Where yield and surrender
crash gently upon the waves of confidence and permanence.

 

Her head doesn’t turn.
The sweetness of other lives turns sour upon the reality of now.
Her stance solid
Unless there is a swing of her hips towards our dance,
Where rhythm and sense
Move freely within the confines of blessing and strength.

~~

Eyes Forward III

We don’t blink to hide, but to rest.
We shift to learn, not to avoid.
We roll to release, not to mock.
We don’t stare to reject, but to appreciate.

 

We don’t sleep to flee, but to discover.
We glance to inform, not to judge.
We wink to flirt, not to trick.
We don’t see to define, but to find clear vision.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

A Conversion Therapy Survivor Responds to Her President

Born_Perfect_ObamaAs many of you know, I’ve taken a step back from doing interviews in reference to my survival story from conversion therapy…

But I found myself drawn to “give voice,” to my experience of hearing that our President is tuned into the needs of survivors, their families, and specifically, our vulnerable young people. This is a very tender moment in my healing journey and I recorded it as a means of responding to our President’s call to ban conversion therapy. I invite you to give attention to this voice, in honor of all those who have yet to find the courage…

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

~~

2ND_6541Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

Gay in America: A Meditation for the Soul of our Nation

 

“The truth is that I owe years of dysfunctional relationships, shame, sickness, and even mental health misdiagnosis to the efforts of Conversion Therapy. At what point do we stop trying to change what we don’t understand about another person’s sexuality? At what point do we accept that we are all whole and born perfect? If you think that the anti-gay legislation has nothing to do with harmful Conversion Therapy, you are missing the point – being gay is NOT A CHOICE and it’s the belief that it can be changed that continues to plague our global reputation and taint our interpersonal relationships.

pride_american“We live in the land of the free, a place where many come to discover who they are professionally and personally, and yet we tolerate this bigotry in the name of “faith?” This hatred is not what our founding fathers had in mind… not why soldiers fight and die… not why we pay taxes… not an American value and when it is practiced, it send ripples of discontent to the true heart of our national spirit.

eagle_flag“So there is a rising, deep in the soul of our nation that I believe is ready to speak up and be heard, stand out and set a new standard, innovate peace and resist bigotry… I still believe in my country even though its present is as tainted as its past… because even if being gay were a choice, I live in a land where choices would matter too. Today, I choose to hope for an awakening…”

~ Turtle Whisperer, Gail Dickert ~

~~

Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

An Ode to Change: We’re not THAT Awesome… Yet

Change_Shaw
We hear too much that we should “never change.” Are we signing yearbooks or walking through adulthood together?

There’s a key difference between genuine self-change versus the self-hating conversion to becoming someone who isn’t aligned with our natural, whole self.

We must CHANGE our beliefs.

We must CHANGE our approach.

And yes, even sometimes, we must CHANGE our course of action in order to break patterns.

As someone who has benefited greatly from powerful change, I know that there is a path of change that is actually filled with the reality of one’s own truth.

It’s not the same as adhering to another person’s path, though it may resemble one.

It isn’t a path of compromise, though some concessions are wise.

It isn’t a path that is absolute, but rather, a path that embraces the need to edit oneself from year to year.

change-thoughtsIf what you’ve always done isn’t working, you can’t blame the system forever. The opportunity is here – what will YOU do differently?

We are all victims of something, but the survivor spirit in us all recognizes the need for CHANGE when we see it.

In the last decade, I have changed my career several times, my home, my sense of place, my religion, my relationships, and my goals. In fact, four years ago today, I watched a man die from a suicide and that CHANGED me. (It helped make me “Enlightened-ish” actually.)

But I’m still Gail. In fact, I’m more Gail than I was a year ago, two years ago, three years ago. That is the point – a year from now, to be more of myself, through the process of CHANGING what keeps me from being me.

We’re good people and we are worthy of love and respect, just as we are… but let’s pay attention – We’re not THAT awesome yet! Let’s welcome the chance to see how amazing we can really be, if we consciously move towards change, rather than away from it.

Change_PathThe biggest disservice we do to ourselves is getting caught between “That’s how it will always be” and “That’s who I am.” These are rocks, with hard places that no one will want to be around after too long because it isn’t human. It isn’t HUMAN to declare oneself stagnant and unable to grow, learn, discover, or transform.

I personally know how hard it is to accept ourselves, but perhaps the serenity of it all is in knowing what CAN be changed. Without that wisdom, to know the difference, we become enablers… enabling ourselves namely, to be the kid we were in high school, trapped in a small, naive, and even more simpler life. (Or a broken, trapped, fearful one!)

Let’s grow old together, my friends…

But before we get old, let’s just grow.

What do you say?

Can you make up your mind to CHANGE the way you view change?

Can we find the balance between needing to affirm who we are in this moment without digging in our heels and isolating ourselves from the experience of transforming experiences?

I wish you so much love, light, hope, peace… and change, on the journey.

Namaste, yo.

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Reminder to the Perfectionist: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know…

turtle-smartThere are too many times when people suffer emotionally or psychologically because they have an idea of what they “should” do or what they “should” know and yet life happens at such a pace that something new is always on the docket.

This internal perfectionism is useless – believe me. It isn’t supportive in relationships, it interferes with work performance, it alienates you from your friends/family, and sends the wrong message to your children.

I was reminded of how important it is to “not know” something as I spent the last few weeks “babysitting” a pair of 16-year-old red-eared slider turtles. The whole story of how my wife and I inherited this situation is directly linked to my day-job – being the Executive Director of a nature-based pre-school which focuses on creating socially and emotionally intelligent learning environments in a nature-based classroom leads to many unique and entertaining stories. Most of these stories serve as constant real-time folklore about balance, trust, animal wisdom, kid-humor, and community spirit. This latest story though – it’s about perfectionism.

I would have to admit that I am a bit of a perfectionist myself – but agreeing to foster the aquatic turtles took me for a wild ride (especially as someone dubbed Turtle Whisperer, by her elders! 😉 )

I will shorten the details of the story in whatever ways I can, but suffice to say, it is a very long story that is difficult to make short! The bottom line, as you read this story is to remember this – I didn’t know what I didn’t know… until I knew it.

I didn’t know that turtles needed access to direct sunlight. I had been told that bulbs and human-designed structures could replicate a suitable habitat. Not really true.

I didn’t know that two turtles of this size need at least a 75 gallon tank for optimal living/health.

I didn’t know that turtles needed temperature-controlled water… and I also didn’t know that they like to break glass thermometers, which of course, upon shattering in their tank, requires a full cleaning of above-mentioned crazy big tank!

So, the lack of knowledge above led to some very frustrating trips to the pet store and several gallons of water wasted in effort to save and restore the health of two beloved rescued sliders…

But the last obstacle that came from this turtle-foster situation is based on something I actually DO know.

Water… is heavy.

I know this. Of course water is heavy.

Why would I “forget” that water is heavy?

Who forgets something that simple?

More importantly, I “know” that 50 gallons of water, in a 140 pound glass tank… is REALLY heavy.

Yet, it wasn’t until Sunday night at about midnight, when I was doing a healing meditation with a new stone that my sister got me for my birthday… that it occurred to me that the habitat was resting on two tables from Ikea.

And we all know that as much as Ikea is great… there’s no way two $10 side tables are going withstand the weight of 50 gallons of water in a 140 pound glass tank!

So… as my wife and I shot out of bed, grabbed a flashlight, and head outside to dig through a pile of cement blocks and bring them inside to reinforce these tables, you can be sure my inner-perfectionist was saying some scathing things!

You KNOW water is heavy. What the hell were you thinking? Why weren’t you thinking? Why have half a dozen people looked at this habitat and not mentioned the insufficient structure under this massive weight?

turtle-snapperI berated myself for hours honestly – looking through forums online, raging within my own mind, doing the math several times like I was Santa checking my list… 1 gallon of water = about 8 pounds X 50 = NAUGHTY NAUGHTY NAUGHTY. “You idiot, that’s over 400 lbs on tables that can support maybe 100 lbs combined!”

I refused to be nice to myself about this mishap until early Monday morning when I could barely move my neck in any direction, my shoulder as hardened as 4 cinder blocks…

It took me about 24 hours to get it right, folks.

I’m here today, to tell you and to tell myself – You don’t know what you don’t know… until you know it.

Life is full of new experiences and most likely, our brain states at any given time are not at the highest level – i.e. frontal lobe processing, for optimal performance. On the contrary, we are probably in fight/flight mode all too often, or in some emotional space where we need validation, control, or influence.

So – let yourself off the hook!

Sometimes you just need to look at your situation and say, “Well, if I could do it differently, I would. I learned something… and that’s enough.”

I didn’t learn that water is heavy… but I did learn that when I’m in rescue mode, I overlook a few key factors of basic knowledge. This interferes with my inner perfectionist quite a bit, but it’s also a chance to look at that personality trait and say, “Hey, go take a nap, I don’t need you harping at me.” 😉

IMG_4375 For now, I’ll go watch some grateful teenage turtles… and they will look back and see this mutant adult who is about to turn 37 years old, but is still exploring reality like a 3-year-old sometimes…

A mantra for your month – “I don’t know what I don’t know… until I know it.”

 

Much love, my friends!

~ Turtle Whisperer, Gail Dickert

snapping turtle in color

~~

IMG_4376Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Power of Community: 4 Reasons We Don’t Fit In (Part 4)

In my final post in the “Rejection Reflection” Series, I look to each of you to consider a new perspective on rejection. Throughout the blog discussion, I’ve known that the topic is heavy and considerably intense for those of us who have done all we know to do in order that we might “fit in” when it comes to collective community groups. We know that there are places of faith where people gather and somehow they all flock together under the head of a pastoral figure or committee without ever feeling uninvited in the way that we have felt. Whether you have found yourself on the outside of a party, social group, or church, you and I both know it wasn’t just a bad fit. There is something different about you and you’ve been waiting years for someone to explain it, rectify it, heal it, or help you ignore it!

Today, I’m writing about how we can simply do better than all of the analysis. We’ve dug deep and we’ve looked at what common denominators have existed in each of our twisted stories of community lost. There is anger, forgiveness, betrayal, confusion, lies, distortions, and sometimes just passive surrender associated with our stories.

We don’t belong.

We keep trying, but it’s clear that we do not.

In this, part 4 of Rejection Reflection, allow me to offer you 4 possible personal traits as to why you’ve continued to leave groups that are organized by a figure head. Here are 4 Reasons You Don’t Fit In… once and for all, perhaps we can accept these inalienable rights of our unique views on the world:

You don’t fit in because…

#1. You Evolve.

IMG_4198You have never wanted to sit on your brain when it comes to new ideas. Your inner world is like a mental gymnastics routine and the flips, turns, twists, and stretches that you make wouldn’t serve well in any organization or community that requires you to pledge allegiance to an unchanging status quo. You move through the world like water, flexible and flowing. At the same time, you carry water, bearing it so others may grow and plant and quench. You accept and release and then accept again, only to assume you will release. There is no question in your mind that what you “hold true” today will be held up against you by your own evolution when you are 4 years older than you are in this moment. It’s not that you don’t have convictions – on the contrary, you have the highest regard for intellectualizing, exploring, welcoming, and intuitively doubting. And that doubt? That never fairs well in community settings where evolution stands in direct contradiction to the way things have been always done. Your scientific mind has never fit in. Why would it fit in where group think is required in order to maintain the comfort level of those who do not wish to evolve any more than a turtle wants to come out of its own shell? When we leave those communities, we leave them because they become stagnant… to us. Leave them to refuse a wider evolution. It’s fine. Do not stay and insist that they join YOUR revolution against THEIR status quo. It will only cause your heart to fail you, your body to ache, and more… your mind to become more focused on pleasing the opiated masses… Some of us truly evolve at a faster pace. Let them go – not because their pace is slow or wrong, but because butterflies don’t hang out with caterpillars.

#2. You Require Equity in all Things.

You have always had a problem with authority. Why? Because authority by definition refers to the person with the power to “give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.” There are too many communities of faith where this sense of authority is misappropriated as being from an even more supreme “authority” and that complicates your style even more than you know how to describe. Perhaps you have been accused of being too utopian in your ideals about community, but equity among a group of people doesn’t mean there isn’t conflict and it certainly doesn’t mean conflict isn’t resolved. It is simply resolved through non-violent communications that lack ultimatums. Remember the first time you were given an ultimatum by a pastoral figure. “This is the Word of God and I am God’s Messenger,” he said to you. You know that wasn’t accurate. Recall the last time an “authority figure” squirmed underneath your apparently unwelcomed feet, under the biggest toe of their ego – “I am the person who runs this group and I will defend it because it is mine. I will not allow you to challenge the way I run it.”

Jesus taught that we should “shake the dust” off of our feet when we were unwelcomed. There is also scripture that supports us from walking away from the goads that prod us like dictator-led cattle, rather kicking against them. Yet it is the very people who study scripture that mindlessly lead us into these scenarios – either we shake the dust, leaving even the smallest remnant of our time with them behind… or we stay and kick against the painful, sharp comments about how unruly we are and how we interfere with the spirit of community.

Interfere? Yes, if the spirit of community is defined as unhinged allegiance to a leader… we will interfere with this because it doesn’t include equity in its formula. You never fit in when authority was used against free thought. This isn’t new. You are the same when it comes to medicine, politics, employment – you simply won’t be subordinate, will you? Good. Stop trying to change your stripes. You can respect the rules, but that doesn’t mean you have to worship the rule-maker.

#3. Your Hurt Informs your Inner Guardian

Your least favorite part of this entire blog series is how many people still remind you of how “their church” is different and you should try “this group” or “that event.” You know for a fact that regardless of what new group you try to connect with, you will remember the past. You will recall the friends you lost and how losing them challenged your very definition of the word friend. You will grieve again, before you’ve even engaged. You will take baby steps and move at a pace that makes it awkward for others who have not suffered the way you have – they will call you introverted, distrusting, or simply afraid of others. You may even receive a handful of psychological diagnoses regarding your anxiety about public places or larger groups. You will be ostracized and even if it isn’t spoken, you will feel it before each effort to connect with a new group. This is because you have an Inner Guardian who will not allow you to get hurt again. This Inner Guardian will not disarm and will not let you down. I personally envision mine as a sort of Warrior Princess.

She knows better than me sometimes. She’s not hyper-vigilant but she’s not stupid. As soon as a group pattern starts to determine how people engage… as soon as individuals are overrun by the way something has always been done… she will draw her sword and point it directly into my face. “Do you see this?” she asks. “Are you going to have to censor yourself here?” she accuses.

She is my most active force when it comes to inner voices – do not ask her to stand down and grab a donut while you force yourself into something that doesn’t fit… again. She knows better. Trust her. That glass slipper of community will not fit if you cut off your heel.  Remember how this series started with my memories of Into the Woods and the group think that destroyed my connection to drama club?

The glass slipper of community – It will not fit if you cut off your toe. It wasn’t made for you. You are not Cinderella and you are not a wicked step sister…

You’re the witch. And that’s okay. Be comfortable knowing your Inner Guardian sees the magic in you and would rather you see it in yourself too than fall under the foot of the giant because of a few egomaniacs are running around in discontent.

IMG_4240#4. You Never Did Fit In.

You have to face this simple fact. This isn’t a news flash. You didn’t start reading this series because you had one or two collective rejections. You didn’t go through one bad break-up – you’ve had several. You didn’t leave one faith – you aren’t even sure if a belief in God is useful most days. And even if you are still in a faith-based community, you know you do it as your Inner Guardian waves a sword, reminding you that you are magic and you do not deserve to be hurt again.

No matter what you’ve done, you’ve always been a little “different.” You have always known that there was something about you that others didn’t understand and now that you are connecting with the world wide web of weirdo-ville via our global internet connections, let yourself acknowledge, “I don’t fit in and that’s okay!”

These 4 reasons may not be the meditation technique you were hoping for when it comes to healing your rejections. I have been spending the last few years trying to influence the prevalent thought about self-healing and I will spend the next few years even more focused on that end because one thing that has to stop is the incessant need to un-emote ourselves. Un-emote: I am coining that term for every person who has ever been told that their emotion is a sign of weakness. I am saying once and for all that if you feel uninvited, it is natural to feel sad. If you are rejected, for various reasons, including the 4 I outlined above, it is hurtful. Beyond the hurt though, is the difficulty that comes with accepting your misfit status.

We are the fringe…

Always have been and eventually, once you accept it as an “always will be,” you will come to appreciate it.

Let me be the first and hopefully one of the last to say to you that your rejection reflection shall not leave you with wanting! We have not traveled this far through these memories simply to wash it all away with affirmations and 10-step programs for self-healing. Most likely your biggest problem now when it comes to community will be learning how to ask for help when you actually need it and finding people who don’t ask for memberships before offering assistance.

In closing, let me remind you that these utopian ideals that we have…

They are worth having.

As many of you know, part 2 of this series was affected by a reminder of the song “Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette. Like many of us individually, her music has evolved from the necessary rages of “You Oughta Know,” through the tedious self-sharing of “Would Not Come,” as she groped towards inner peace. In about the same range of time as my own evolution, I’ve watched Alanis from a far, as she’s become the woman who doesn’t need to fit in… her song, “Utopia,” while not a chart-topper, confirms for us all that such a place exists in our minds…

And therefore, it exists.

Hold onto that thought and perhaps we will find a way to get there together.

And when we do… let’s make it clear that our spiritual land of misfit souls doesn’t require authority.

Thank you for joining me for this series. It’s meant a lot to me to get public postings and private messages about its effects on you as readers and friends. For me, this series has allowed me an opportunity to fully verbalize a redefinition of “community.” Together, we have moved away from “collective” communities with rules, dogma, and authorities and into a flow of connection that cannot always be defined. This ethereal tribe, however limited by vernacular, is limitless when it comes to building friendship and feeling accepted. For those of us with those utopian ideals, perhaps our once a year brunch meet-ups or quarterly movie nights with friends from all over the globe are as close as we will come to “safe community” while in the human condition.

All I know is that I feel like a member of a non-descript and hopeful community of equals when I engage with my readers. So… thank you. We’ve accomplished something by opening our hearts across the distances of time and space.

In the spirit of all things connected, join me in sharing what we’ve all benefited from here as I quote the above song, Utopia, by Alanis Morissette.

May we be a group of people, however separated by geography, who rises up “post-obstacle more defined… more grateful…” May be we “unstoppable” as we “hold close and let go and know when to do which.” May all of these words we’ve shared help us “to release and disarm…

“and stand up and feel safe.

Namaste, my dear friends.

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Power of Community: When Collective Rejection Becomes the Norm (Part 3)

In my last piece, I connected how collective rejection can become much more socially and emotionally disturbing than individual rejection and concluded that perhaps, after systematically experiencing rejection from a diverse group of communities, I can no longer personally identify the value community. Specifically, what I cannot conclude is that the return on investment is worth it…

Community: Is it too high risk after systematically experiencing rejection?

That’s a very harsh reality for some to hear, because they assume first, that I am just unwilling to “try again.” Another common question/assumption is that the places where I have in fact “tried again” were just not the right fit.

So I have to sit back now and unravel the larger question of what makes the “right fit” for those who have experienced collective rejection, repeated specifically through communities of faith. If the problem isn’t me, how do I interpret and reconcile the following experiences?

~~

Bible College: The place where I invested my college education, grew to love the free and responsible search for truth, and transformed into the adult I am – engaged in questions of faith, open to all experiences, and comfortable with diverse communities. I didn’t exactly receive an education that encouraged inclusive dialogue, but it is what I took away from my time there. This is still the place that disowns its connection to me. After graduation, several professors refused to even look me in the eye, acknowledge my requests to speak further, or address that the collective response to homosexuality was harmful, let alone short-sighted for the community of faith. I was shut out, uninvited and collectively ignored. It was even brought to my attention in the years that followed that this is the same school that discontinued its womens’ basketball program one year because there were allegations of “lesbian activity” on the team. When a community decides to instill collective “head in the sand” responses to conflict (conflict = an opportunity to be inclusive to new ideas), what is the gain? How do I learn to trust that communities can be inclusive to dialogue, knowing this example proves otherwise?

Presbyterian Church Youth Minister: A place where I was free to be “out” and “Christian” didn’t lead to an inclusive experience… my time there, while equally shaping my adult experiences, as well as enhancing my understanding and compassion for the human condition, left me in the cold when my “supervisors” did not approve of my style of youth ministry – bringing diverse young people together in various home-settings instead of inside the walls of the church… what the hell was I thinking? “Yes, but are they going to come to Sunday School too?” I was asked. “Yes, it’s nice that some of the Jewish kids are coming to the group too, but what is the point?” I knew that if these questions had to be asked, I was once again, in the wrong community. How do I learn to trust that communities can be inclusive, knowing this example proves otherwise?

Gay-Affirming Church Minister: Here, I served in the role of a
“Teaching Pastor” at a church plant that partnered with a gay-affirming United Methodist Church. We engaged in basic Christian Church-type stuff – worship, preaching, tithing/offering, outreach… so when I invited the board to allow for me to do a pulpit swap with our host church and they asked, “Why would you need to go to the straight UMC church? They don’t believe what we believe?” you can imagine this was yet another strike against the value of community. When this board also found itself arguing over whether we should go on a mission trip with the “straight church,” my resignation took form in my head. Goodbye “gay-affirming” church… that wouldn’t include straight people… how do I learn to trust that communities can be inclusive, knowing this example proves otherwise?

Enter… gay-affirming, other faith-affirming Unitarian Universalist Congregation: It would be highly expected that as a Director of Religious Education, I could both give and receive in a community of beloved souls. Here, I would learn early on though, that the pastor’s approach for passively letting the committees lead without challenge would derail any attempts I would make of including a unique style to how the youth were encouraged to grown in their faith experiences. Repeatedly I was instructed to uphold the “status quo” of a particular brand of exclusive practices geared at appeasing misplaced egos. I watched as my wavering faith in community was ripped from my eager hands… I would resign in a year, my heart beaten and bruised by the very place I thought would reconcile for me that fear of communities and group think as inherently dangerous was unfounded. Still, a key experience here was how a congregation could collaborate with external organizations and host the only gay-affirming prom for teenagers for 5 years in a row! I served in a volunteer role, where no one single person made any decisions about how this event went. I learned to appreciate what could be gained from networking with other communities, without staying loyal to only one… still, I was left with the question though of how I could be a part of an inclusive community, knowing this example proved otherwise. It was close… but not inclusive enough.

Rejection_Quotes_3For good measure, enter one more last ditch effort at Christianity – A mediocre version of a “gay-affirming” Baptist congregation where creativity was embraced: I can only say that I landed back in a Christian-based community of faith for two reasons – The first reason is that I was as broken as I had ever been, after a break-up with my partner of 4 years. Joining this community and all that those 18 months there entailed was the epitome of a rebound relationship. The second reason, however, was a reason that I still cherish… this community focused on the power of artistic expression. A spiritually-based group of self-avowed artists seemed safe enough, specifically since I knew that the artistic mind is usually inclusive by nature. It wasn’t long until I saw that unless I also followed the status quo of never questioning the pastoral leadership, I was going to find myself on the outside of these walls, once again. Requesting closure and a mutual understanding only left me more broken… but also certain that with all these examples how trusting communities to be inclusive only led to an example that proves otherwise… I left knowing that I may never bother trusting community again…

~~

So what we have here is a repeated experience where the outsider isn’t “let in” entirely, but continues to be perhaps tolerated, maybe even trusted temporarily, but eventually becomes uninvited to the community, forever and ever, amen. No closure. No exit strategy. No common ground. No mutual respect. No understanding. Only silence… or worse, only rumors.

I’m left with the belief that it is assumed that I’m just another person who left because I didn’t fit in and that the groups involved “tried all they could” to embrace me or learn something from someone different and new.

Did they?

Did they try all they could or was their allegiance to a status quo much more important?

And does “status quo” exist in personal relationships the way it does in communities? Does the question of “How has it always been done?” even matter outside of the four walls of an organization?

Rejection_QuotesOver and over, we hear how businesses thrive from allowing themselves to be in diverse environments, asking hard and new questions, challenging themselves with new ideas and growing from revisiting topics they had previously determined were set in stone.

Still, in every community I have ever attempted to engage in, I eventually find myself walking away (or being chased away) because the door is not open… the walls are too high… and the authorities are white-knuckling their sense of power like it is in fact, all they have in this world.

So what is there to conclude from my experiences of collective rejection?

This Rejection Reflection informs us of three things:

  1. Telling someone to “try again” is not always helpful. It’s not our place and sometimes, it may be more hurtful than helpful.
  2. Organizations can do powerful things if they are part of a consortium of influences and larger community.
  3. The most valuable asset to your communities are the people who leave them. Why? Because they know why others consider it and they were brave enough to take the personal risk. They were willing to break their own hearts rather than give any more sense of allegiance to your cause… that says something powerful about your “cause”, doesn’t it?

I may never get an opportunity to put any perspective to the situations I’ve seen in the above-mentioned communities. I want to explain my own broken attempts, what baggage I was bringing to the table, and own my part of the processes as much as I hope others could do the same… but that also threatens the establishment and I know it… so…

The search for closure for these experiences is just as futile as the search for closure from events that I spoke about in parts 1 and 2.

This is the new crossroads…

Not seeking closure, but seeking openness… a community , in fact, without walls.

Does it exist?

I wager this is why our social media connections have become so valuable. I feel more connected to people I’ve never met and faces I’ve never seen live. Screen-based personalities have spoken into my fears of loneliness and awareness of rejection in ways that only a beloved community truly can…

And their words and compassion have prevented the rejection from taking over…

Their connections free me to take responsibility for any role I played in making it more difficult to “be invited,” but they also assure me that those who put up hoops and obstacles are not the people I want to share community with anyway…

I have my friends, dear people scattered across the globe and also dear friends locally. I have my family… and I have my wife… I have my work and I have my natural world, where I am most connected. I even have my global sense of tribe.

But do I have community? Is there value in it?

Here’s what I have in that regard: I have Facebook.

For better or for worse, I am becoming convinced it is where the uninvited go…

Think about this the next time you “Friend” or “Un-friend” someone. For some, it isn’t “just social media.” It’s social everything. This is both fortunate and unfortunate!

So let’s walk gently and remember that those who value it will cherish you as part of their communities, cyber and wall-less as they are. There is also no authority head or committee who can override us so… onward and upward with your postings of your lunch routine, your rants, your selfies, and your weekend plans. Why not?

If we are community, let’s show ‘em how it’s done – people… being… people.

Stay tuned for the 4th and final part of the Rejection Reflection series, where I will discuss techniques for healing ourselves from the well-established and reasonable fear of… others… and discovering how acceptance can become the new normal

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose recent book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.