Saturday, June 25, 2022

KNOWING MY PLACE

“Know your place, young man!”

I finally do.

My paternal grandmother used to use that phrase when she was angry with me. She applied it in multiple ways, none that felt helpful or hopeful. She forcefully spit it at me to put me in my place, or at least what she determined that to be.

For most of my life I haven’t really known what my place was. I did not feel like I fit in from my earliest recollections. I did not fit in with family, education, and religious structures, or even inside of myself. It left me feeling alone, frightened, and disconnected. I also had a vague notion that while I did not fit in, and was left with the subsequent troubling emotions, I also was not meant to fit in. I was not supposed to be a part of my surrounding structures. While it did not make sense, I was quite certain this was true. And so began a quest to find my place.

I of course first looked everywhere around me. I looked outside of me. I looked to other people, organizations, geographic locations. If I didn’t fit in here, I looked there. If I was not to be a part if this group, I would try that one. Wrong school? Transfer. Troubling relationships? Disconnect and find another. Painful interactions? Push away. Run. Flee. Unplug. Try the next.

Grandma, where in the hell IS my place? How can I know my place when I can’t find it?

Today I am sixty-five years and sixty-five days old. Grandma is long gone. While I spent many decades trying to find my place, today, I am finally certain of and content with where my place is.

My place is right here inside of my own heart.

I was never meant to fit in. Of that I am certain. There is a place of truth within me that knows I was born not to fit in but to stand out. I do not mean that in an arrogant way. I simply know that I was born a leader. I have never been a follower. I am an introvert for sure. Yet I have always been put in leadership roles from the playground to the boardroom. I spent far more time on the stage or platform than I did in the audience or congregation. I have never been a devotee. I have never had a guru. My inner being has always been my primary guidance system. I have repeatedly been called to live by Its dictates and directions. That has been my place to live in and from. Very few exceptions.

My internal realm is my place. My Sourced presence. That is my unwavering place of power. Finding that place has been central to my purpose. It is where I abide and from where I serve. I have never been clearer of that. And never more grateful to know it.

I have never had a lot of friends. I never felt the need for that. The place in which I dwell cannot be crowded. I need room to be and to breathe freely. I am clearer than ever that my definition of friend differs from most people around me. I am good with that. I need a lot of space. A lot of alone time. A lot of air. I have never felt lonely when I am alone. You see, in my place I am never alone. I have lots of company. My angels, masters, guides are prolific. They never tell me to “know my place.” They know I am always in it. And they are always available to me in my place.

I currently am leading a spiritual community. It is my primary form of service. I know that for now it is the place I am called to be. I am married, and I have a few friends who are quality individuals that share similar values. My life is simple. Unhurried and not particularly busy. I direct it that way, so that I do not lose connection with my place. I am surrounded by many acquaintances, which for me is the appropriate perspective. I am not too drawn to social media, though I use it as I feel called to uplift others. Those sites are not my place. Facebook “friends” are not really my people.

Two and a half years of much social distancing and working mostly from home has made my place clearer than it has ever been. My priorities are crystal clear. My sense of connection and places of belonging are now beyond question. My values and boundaries are solid and provide me with incredible strength and stability. I have never been less attached to approval and outer accolades. The more centered and authentic I am expressing the less outer feedback I obtain. I have a deep curiosity and appreciation of that fact. I find it fascinating rather than humiliating. The more authentic my posts feel the less “likes” I get. It makes my autonomy increasingly steadfast. While I pray to be helpful to others I am no longer navigated by outer approval.

I am not shaken from my place by what others think of or say about me. It is not that connection is not important. It is. Yet it is my own place of unwavering connection and belonging that is most vital. That is the connection that I most cultivate and attend to. That is where I know I am to live from.

That is what I have come to know as my place.

So, I am preparing to take a vacation and an extended sabbatical from public writing and social media. I am dedicating some time to really being in my place. I am giving added space to my work schedule. I will be resting and renewing by giving increased attention to my inner place of being. I exhale more fully even typing those words. I will not be running from place to place. I will be sitting, staring off and within, breathing deeply and attending vigilantly to my precious inner place.

And I am profoundly grateful to finally know where that is.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

PRIDE?

It is “Pride Month,” and I cannot say that I feel pride.

Please do read on.

I moved to New York City from Ohio in the mid-80’s. It was in New York that I first directly experienced an LBGTQ+ event. Back then it was simply called Gay Pride. There was a parade and a festival. It was all very, well, gay. A bit overwhelming for an Ohio boy. I admit that some of the displays of “pride” behavior made me feel very uncomfortable. I knew that they were in the name of freedom. And I felt that the demonstrations were more alienating than they were harmonizing with the larger population. In a spirit of transparency, I still grapple with that. While I refuse to fit in and hide as a result of societal norms, I also question sabotaging connection for the sake of what can feel outrageous.

I “came out” at nineteen. Back then it was a courageous act that cost me family members, friends, and a felt degree of safety. Things were changing, but slowly and even dangerously. In retrospect I left the closet incrementally and with caution. I stepped out, and at times ran back in. People would declare their acceptance, and then betray that with side comments and thinly veiled homophobia. I exposed my authenticity only to have it trampled upon many times. It truly was a process with many hurts and many gains. And I freely admit that the same back and forth was happening inside of me. About me.

I did not grow up with any real experience of pride in general. My parents never once told me that they were proud of me. I never heard it from teachers or clergy. I just do not ever recall hearing it. I have no internal Velcro for it. I have never accomplished anything for which I felt pride. Never. It just isn’t a part of my wiring.

I do not know pride.

So, when I attended my first Gay Pride event, I really did not understand it, I did not feel pride internally, and I could not connect to the pride of the throngs of people parading, dancing, drinking, outrageously behaving. I suspected there was something wrong with me that I did not feel such jubilation. I felt added freedom. I felt like the door to the closet had been ripped from the hinges.I felt comradery with many if not all of my fellow LGBTQ+ expresses. I just had no sense of pride.

I also did not feel the same level of oppressive shame. I did feel as if there was power in numbers and in authenticity. In New York I could be my full self and really feel a sense of coming out. From my perspective, Ohio was the closet and New York was the land of freedom. There was some naivete in that for sure. Yet I felt a true sense of liberation even if it did not equate to pride.

The shedding of shame was also a process. There were layers of grief, fear, anger, and shame to feel my way through. There was a heavy armor to be removed. It has taken decades. I am certain I will never be completely clear. I have done enormous work. Courageous work if I may say. Tenacious work. And there will always be work to be done. I was told as a child that what I secretly knew I was, was an abomination. A violation against God. That was shattering to this being who always felt a deep and profound call to the sacred. There was no place for me at that table. I was relegated to back ally bars and once a year festivals.

So, with all that work that I did I wish I could say I was proud.

At sixty-five I have long left Pride parades and festivals behind. I simply feel no need or draw to them. Maybe its age. And maybe it is the enormous amount of internal work I have personally paraded through. I now leave to younger generations the events, festivities, and deliberate activism. I know that they get to express as freely as they do because of my work and the work of my and even older generations. I know there is still danger. Hardly gained rights are even now being threatened once again. My activism now is being true to my full expression. I am a gay man married to another man. I minister without a hint of hiding. I give kudos to the organization that hired me. It was a risk, even in a more liberal spiritual environment. They were brave. And so am I.

I have come a long way. Yet I still do not feel pride. I cannot honestly say I am proud to be a gay man. It simply feels like a part of my total being. It is an important part. Yet it is a part. As is gender. As is height and weight. Hair and eye color. I am a complex being comprised of so many aspects and parts. I am first and foremost a Spiritual being. I am here to be fully human and freely Divine. Being gay is an important part of my Soul adventure, of that I am clear. I have come to embrace it. It has come with many challenges and hurts. I could not honestly say I would choose it if I had the conscious choice. I never understand people who say it is a choice we make. I do not remember a time when my orientation was anything other than homosexual. I also know it is integral to my unfolding here in this incarnation. I accept and embrace it as such.

I just would call it pride.

I write this for those who do celebrate June as Pride month, and who genuinely feel their own sense of pride. It does not dismay me that I do not. I will relish and celebrate my sense of acceptance, freedom, transparency, liberation. That fills my heart. It fills me that I am writing this and will gladly and freely take the risk of sharing it with a world in which I am still not universally accepted. I do not feel the need to be. I get to live in my own sense of acceptance and even self-celebration. It has taken a lot to get to this. A lot.

I almost feel proud.