Maybe There’s Hope For Us After All

IMG_5153I believe we all basically want the same things, even if we don’t agree about how we might get them.  Trying to understand each other, giving each other simple respect as human beings, goes a long way.  We all have different experiences which inform how we’ve decided to live our lives.  There are many ways to happiness.  My way works for me, yours works for you, we can agree to disagree.  And if we can, if we can stop trying to tell each other what to do, how to live, if we can be forgiving and generous of spirit, we can be sympathetic, we can hope.

I’m not a religious person.  Spiritual, yes, religious no.  But even so, through my life I’ve been fascinated with organized religion.  I’ve taken classes, studied, and I’ve been exposed to religions of differing kinds through my family and friends.  I have seen people, in regards to their religion, be their best selves, and I’ve seen them be their not so best selves.

I never understood, growing up, why my Grandma on my father’s side played favorites with her children and her grandchildren.  Her choices seemed arbitrary, nonsensical.  There seemed to be no precipitating event or behavior that caused those choices.  I was, without a doubt, a favorite.  My brother was not.  When I was small I didn’t know this, or realize it, but then I grew.  I became aware of the behaviors of adults, of the kids around me.  I started to notice how my grandmother treated my brother.  It wasn’t good.  I was all cakes and smiles and praise and good cheer, he was insulted and degraded and made fun of.  When I noticed this, I started not wanting to go to grandma’s house anymore.  I loved my brother and I knew, innately, that my grandma’s behavior was cruel and mean and not at all acceptable.  I couldn’t get past how she could be so nice to me, buying me gifts, playing games, be so loving, and then be so awful to him.  He’d done nothing wrong, yet she acted as if his mere existence repulsed her.

My grandma was also very religious.  Religious as in talking in tongues, holy rollers, and tent revivals.  This never bothered me in and of itself, though it did scare me a lot when I went to church with her and the preacher was screaming and people were falling down in the aisles.  When I visited she would sometimes tell me stories from the bible, always choosing Revelations and emphasizing how if people weren’t good they would be branded and burn.  Scary stuff for a 7-year-old, but none of that really ever deterred me from seeing her, not even when she took me to a tent revival and had me saved by another screaming man.  I started not wanting to go see her on church days, but really I still loved seeing her.  Until, that is, I realized how she treated my brother.  Once that realization hit I instantly felt an incongruity.  I wasn’t more than 9 or 10, but I remember thinking how she was a person who espoused religious beliefs of love and faith and hope, but acted against them.  She was a hypocrite.  What I felt about religion told me it should be about love and understanding and compassion, not cruelty and judgement and disdain.

The other side of my family, my mom’s, wasn’t religious at all.  I found out later my mom’s mom had grown up in a religious household, but events happened that caused her to turn away from organized religion.  I think they all went to church as a family, for a time, but eventually that faded out for most of them.  When we visited my Mom’s parents religion was never discussed.  Instead we were taught to play chess and backgammon.  The arts were encouraged, books were encouraged, music was all around.  So was laughter and love and a very tight sense of family.

I grew up in a home with an atheist (my step-dad) and an agnostic (my mom).  We didn’t talk about religion much in our house, except when my step-dad mocked it, or my mom would explain that she thought, fundamentally, the tenants of organized religions were mostly good (do unto others, kindness, hope, love, compassion) but that organized religion, in the hands of some, seemed to be used to control, conquer, and judge people.  My mom, who treats people the best of anyone I’ve ever met, with respect and compassion and kindness, was and continues to be a great  role model for me about how to be a wonderful human.

Fast forward several years in my life.  I’d taken many courses on religion, read many religious books (large sections of the Bible, the Tao, Buddhist teachings, tenets of Hinduism, parts of the Koran, etc., etc.) and had formed what is the basis of my own spiritual thought.  No one religion encompasses what I think and feel, but they all actually have things in common, and have in their own way contributed to my philosophy.

I’ve had great experiences with people who are religious as well.  Being gay, this is a tough thing as many religious people condemn me for being who I am.  But, I have some wonderful people in my life, who are very religious, and have shown me, over and over, what love, truth, kindness, and understanding are.  Which is why I want to talk about my friend, Pat.  I met him a long time ago, 17 years or so.  We worked together, were office partners, and ended up loving each other like brother and sister.  He is a super religious guy.  Very much a man of his beliefs, very solid, very sure.  I respect him immensely for that.  As you can tell, I’m not a Christian person, and I’m gay, so our deep and abiding friendship was somewhat of a surprise to both of us.  And yet, it continues.  I have deep love for him, and I know he shares the same feelings for me.  He has been, at times, a youth pastor, a regular guest preacher, and very involved with whatever church he has belonged to over the years since I’ve known him.  He’s moved a bit so has had to change churches more than once, always finding a church home and always getting very involved with it when he does.  I also respect him for that.  He’s a man of faith, and his faith is strong.

Pat and I once had a very long very heartfelt conversation about my being gay, what he thought of it, and what he thinks the bible thinks of it as well.  At the time we had this conversation, which was several years ago now, he was not pro gay marriage.  He is a religious guy and he felt (and probably still feels) that a traditional marriage ceremony is inherently a religious ceremony.  I, who am now legally married to my partner of over 13 years, obviously disagrees with him on this point, but that’s OK, he doesn’t argue it with me.  We agree to disagree, which is OK too.  What he said to me that day, about my being gay, was beautiful.  He said that nowhere in his bible (and he knows it exceptionally well) does he interpret that people should be judged by anyone but God.  He said God teaches judge not lest ye be judged.  Judging, in and of itself, is a sin as great as any other.  He said it wasn’t his place to judge me.  He said it’s his place to love me, be kind to me, be accepting, and let God do what he will.  He believes that man is not God, and therefore shouldn’t think that he/she has the right to act as if they are acting for God.  I love Pat.  His beliefs are strong, and they don’t allow him to condemn me.  He would never do that.  He has often said he wants to bring me to his church and talk to the congregation about love, about our relationship, about how two very different people can form beautiful bonds with each other and how that’s what it should be all about.

This country, that I happen to love, was formed largely by people fleeing religious persecution.  People who weren’t able to worship and believe as they wished without consequence from their government, fled to a place where they could worship and believe as they wished.  We’ve somehow forgotten that.  If a person is not a Christian, in my experience, many Christians now seem to believe they have the right to tell that non-christian person they are somehow less than, and that they should, in essence, be cast out.  When did it become OK to judge?  When did it become OK to feel that because you believe a certain way you have the right to tell everyone else how to believe, how to be, what to do?  When did it become OK, with total arrogance, to feel that condemnation was a right anyone could have.  I don’t tell anyone what they should believe.  My feeling is that what works for you, as a person, as far as your belief system goes, is yours.  Your relationship with God, however you see him/her, is your business, your right.  I will not interfere with that, and I expect not to be interfered with.

I also expect that your religious beliefs, whatever they are, stay out of my government.  There was a reason for separation of church and state.  It was meant to protect us from any one group, who might gain power, from asserting its beliefs and wishes on to the rest of us, who could be in danger of experiencing consequences for not going along.

I know a lot of Christians now believe they are being persecuted.  I don’t see that, but I’m not them.  For all I know, it could be happening.  But here’s the thing, persecution because of religion has been going on for centuries. Since the beginning of religion.  Perpetuated both by and against people of varying religious beliefs.  I don’t think any one group, whoever you are, has the right to tell another group what to believe, how to live based on those beliefs.  Nobody should be discriminated against because of their beliefs, whatever they are.  If you have a set of rules, morals, tenants you live by based on your religion, more power to you.  I have mine, and they are no less real or valuable than yours.  As long as your beliefs aren’t hurting anyone, believe what you will.  We fear what we don’t understand.  When we fear we sometimes strike out.  When we fear we don’t always act as our better selves.  When we fear we create division and anger and hopelessness.  All things contrary to what I believe is the most important part of any religion and/or belief system… love.

I know there’s no answer, and I know some people will disagree with me, may even become incensed or angered by something I’ve said here.  And I guess that’s OK.  You are entitled to your opinion, to your feelings.  As I am.  But if you do get angry, remember this… I’m not angry with you.  I just want us to talk to each other.  To realize we are all just trying to get through it the best we can, with the most dignity, compassion, and love in our lives as possible.  I think, ultimately, most of us want the same things.  To be respected as human beings, to be allowed to believe as we wish without repercussions from our government or our fellow humans, and to live the happiest of lives possible.  If we can just meet at that place, with that realization, maybe there’s hope for us after all.

When the Right One Comes Along

Canyon FeetToday is our anniversary. Number 13. I’ve been sitting here staring at the screen for several minutes now trying to form a coherent thought in an attempt to describe my love and my relationship. The only things that keep coming are rushes of words… tender, grateful, peace, safety, rock-solid, trust, truth, faith, honesty, center, love, and love, and love. It’s been going on like that in my head, in my heart.

I have often tried to explain to people what it felt like when we met. I’d had a sketchy path to her. I’d not picked well for myself up to then and somehow I’d always felt like I was scrambling, reaching out for something that wasn’t really there, and couldn’t be, no matter where I tried to look. I spent quite a lot of time soul searching before her. Had vowed not to be in a relationship again until I knew myself better, until I felt like I would and could pick someone better for me. I say often it took a long time for me to come to myself so that I could eventually come to her.

In truth, I don’t know how I got so lucky. It was a fluke, a chance encounter, a brush with fate. You could call it all of those. It was my first day on a dating site, and her last. She had been at it awhile, not finding what she was looking for, coming to the conclusion she needed to take a break. And, even when she saw my profile she contacted me not to date me (she thought I was too young), but to tell me she liked my profile, that it was great, and to wish me luck. I responded by saying something funny about how my “Real Age” score said I was older than my actual age so maybe I wasn’t too young after all. We laughed. We started emailing.

Our emails to each other in those early days were not filled with love or lust or anything other than ourselves. We told each other about our lives, about the music and poetry we loved, about the things that were important to us. I wrote to her about my step-dad’s illness and she wrote to me about her kids. And somehow, over the course of those two months of just writing to each other, we started to fall in love.

She is a person who has a great amount of confidence and she’s very secure with who she is. She’s sure. I have always admired that in her and did from the start. When she started asking to meet me in person, I put her off, and put her off. I kept avoiding it, afraid of I don’t know what, and of everything. She took it all with humor and never gave up on me, she was sure. When we finally talked on the phone, starting only a week before we actually met, it was as if we’d known each other much longer than just the two months we’d been emailing. We talked every day that week, for hours each day. We laughed a lot and even though I had butterflies about the whole thing, I never felt awkward or strange. The whole thing felt right somehow, easy.

The day we finally met I was nervous as hell. I called a friend on the way to the meeting and tried to talk myself out of going, even though I knew I’d go. I had to go. By then I was starting to fall in love, without having ever met her in person. Crazy, but true. I got to the pub first and waited at an outside table. Then there she was, walking around the corner and striding toward me in her jeans and black boots and cool shirt. She walked with the confidence I’d always read in her emails and then heard in her voice. She looked free. I could barely breathe.

We started to talk, ordered salads, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I told her, showed her my shaking hands. I felt I could because she instilled a sense of safety in me. That no matter what I told her, who I was, she would be OK with that, with me. I felt I could be myself, completely, and she would embrace that. We talked for hours that evening. Moving to an inside table when the sun went down and the weather got cool.

There was, for me, a feeling of everything in my life clicking into place that night. An almost audible sound. Everything that came before rushing toward that moment, and there we were. Right, finally whole and complete.

Since the beginning we have said we are each others split-apart. Two halves, at one time separated by space and time, finally reunited. We make sense, and together we are home.

So here we are, 13 years later, and I feel that even more strongly than I did at the beginning. Life has brought us some scary stuff, some sadness, and all kinds of wonder and beauty and joy. I can’t imagine my life without her in it. I can’t imagine facing what’s come and what will, good and bad, without her.

We met, and I knew. So did she. You do, when the right one comes along.

“But if you love…”


“But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise on your lips.”
— Kahlil Gibran

“I do not love you as if you were salt – …”

“Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep. ”
— Pablo Neruda

The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man. ~ Charles Darwin

Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope

Landing on a Cloud

Our Beautiful Souls


IMG_3123When something shocking happens in life our world shrinks down.  Everything we know somehow narrows, magnifying the thing in the center that is our pain, our sorrow, our grief, our fear, our shame.  Suddenly we do not see, cannot see, anything outside of what we feel.  We begin a sort of sleep walk.  Moving around, going about the necessities of life, unaware of anything outside of our immediate place in time.  We see ourselves putting on shoes, getting something to eat, talking to friends, paying our bills.  Yet, we are disconnected from all of it.  Suddenly apart from the world, in a cocoon of emotion we can’t even begin to know how to escape.  Everything feels like a dream, as if there is a veil between us and the rest of the world.

Slowly though, the world returns to us.  We start to wake up.  We notice the rain, or a bird, we are aware of the smile of a friend.  We begin to find interest in things we’d forgotten we used to love, and still do.  We look up, and out.  We feel the warmth of the sun and feel the rhythm of the world.  We learn that life moves on, moves forward, one small moment at a time.  Until, finally, we are mostly ourselves again.  A piece of us utterly changed by our experience, but still, ourselves.

The whole of this experience, though usually terribly painful, is beautiful.  The feeling of it, the pulling away, the return, all bring a deeper meaning to our lives.  It can, if we let it, help us to find a peace and a grace we didn’t know before.  It can help us to see more deeply into things.

Life is a gift.  Our friends and family are gifts.  We are lucky, even with the pain and sorrow that inevitably come.  After all, pain and sorrow only come because we were brave enough and our souls beautiful enough to love someone or something.

“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet)I want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”
― E.E. Cummings



“… it grows perhaps the greater.”

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring