10 Word Review – Truth

MV5BMzkxNjU2MzMzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTA3Mjg4NjE@._V1_UY268_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Blanchett. Cast. True. Mistakes. Rathergate. Cinematography. Politics. Interesting. Good. yes.

Words to Live By (Part 2)

In this second installment of the life lessons learned/what’s important to me at 50 I give you joy.  And many other things.

“There are random moments – tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms – when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead.” 
― Elizabeth BergThe Art of Mending

1935760_142466440801_985538_nJoy is such a hard thing to define.  Elation, delight, pleasure.  All those things, and something more, something intangible.  I live for moments of joy, mine and those of the people I love.  It’s where pure experience meets an overwhelming feeling of YES!  It’s the ultimate ah ha moment.  I’m always wishing the people I know, and actually even people I don’t know, could experience more joy.  There’s never enough.  Simple moments of overwhelming joy bring light and life.  Joy is the nexus of a meaningful human experience, of meaningful relationships with our fellow humans.  Joy radiates hope.  It’s electric.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” 
― W.B. Yeats

Magic is everywhere.  In smiles and light and the taste of a fresh strawberry.  It lives in music and the wings of a butterfly.  It flies on the wind and crashes with the waves.  Everything around us is a miracle, full of magic.  Most especially our family and friends, but also in the breath of our pups, and the swaying of a daisy, and the glint of the sun in a rain drop.  There are amazing things all around.  We just have to see them.

“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.” 
― Philip K. Dick

Perception is key.  We have opinions and ideas and see things with eyes that were formed from our own experiences.  When circumstances happen to us or around us we look at those circumstances with those same eyes.  We tend not to look outside of our own box of opinions and ideas.  This means we only look at things from one angle.  Our own.  But looking and seeing are two different things.  Perhaps it’s just a matter of perception.  If we can somehow change how we view a situation that situation changes entirely.  I’ve done this myself and been surprised by it.  There’s always another way to look at something.  We move around a beautiful sculpture to get a view from all sides if we truly want to see it.  We need to learn to do that in our own minds.  It would open us up to others, it would create connections where they might not have existed before.  We have to look with our best eyes.

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” 
― Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Brothers Karamazov

Truth can sometimes be so hard, but it’s as necessary as breathing. The more honest and open we try to be with ourselves, with others, about who we are, about what we think and feel, the freer we are. Lies constrict our lives. When we tell the truth, we can leave that moment behind without another thought. When we lie, we live with it, carry it with us, forever. Telling the truth is much less burdensome. Telling the truth opens us up, makes us vulnerable, it puts us out into the world fully, as we are. It says, here I am, take me, or don’t. Risky, but with so much reward. We honor ourselves when we tell our truth. We bring integrity into our lives. We also bring trust, from ourselves, and from those we love. Telling the truth, truly, sets us free.

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” 

― Norton JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth

Silence is golden.  I used to hear that a lot from my Mom.  One of those Mom sayings that stuck with me, and so true.  Quieting oneself, learning to enjoy and live in silence once in a while is wonderful.  It allows you to hear the world in a more profound way.  A few moments of silence can breathe life into a day filled with too much noise.  Listening to the quiet of the world around us helps us to find the quiet within ourselves.  Finding the quiet within ourselves helps us to center our minds, our souls, and our hearts.  Silence opens worlds to us we might otherwise miss.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 
― Shel Silverstein

Hope, remaining hopeful, is as necessary as breathing.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed with what is or has been or the worry about what could be.  We’re human, we struggle with this all the time.  But it’s so important to remember that anything can happen, and that anything can be good as much as it might be instead be frightening.  We focus too much on what’s not right, not enough on what is.  Hope is a big part of what’s right.    There’s always room for it, and it can be cultivated.  Trying to think positively, starting with one small thing that is right in your life, is good, can begin to grow a larger garden of positive ifs inside of you.   That’s where hope lives.  Hope leads to joy and laughter and an energy to get up and live life to the it’s fullest.

“Yes. We both have a bad feeling. Tonight we shall take our bad feelings and share them, and face them. We shall mourn. We shall drain the bitter dregs of mortality. Pain shared, my brother, is pain not doubled, but halved. No man is an island.” 
― Neil GaimanAnansi Boys

Sharing ourselves with others speaks to the essence of what life is about.  Expressing our feelings, our ideas, our hopes, our fears to another person, to other people, makes those hopes grander and those fears smaller.  Opening up our true self to someone else makes our world larger, grander, and fuller than we could imagine.  Letting someone know you, the real you, the whole you, is frightening and vulnerable, but also brave.  It’s an act of reaching out and of letting go.  It’s beautiful and fulfilling and it brings us closer, creates connections that last.

“It’s okay to be absurd, ridiculous, and downright irrational at times; silliness is sweet syrup that helps us swallow the bitter pills of life.” 
― Richelle E. Goodrich

Being silly, risking the ridiculous, is fun.  It’s enlivening, life affirming, corny, dorky, wonderful, and beautiful.  Not being afraid of being ridiculous and possibly absurd, while being out in the world, is a gift.  I say this because I’m a total dork, and can be totally ridiculous.  Singing in public places, dancing in the grocery store, putting on funny hats, doing a funny little walk because you’re trying to make yourself or someone else smile.  Those moments of totally letting go bring so much joy, so much fun to life.  And acting in a way that says we don’t care what other people think of us, only of what we feel like doing in the present, brings a strength and certainty in us down to our bones.  Silly can generate confidence, and confidence generates silliness.  It’s a beautiful relationship.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” 
― Lao Tzu

Love is everything, having and giving it.  Not just the love for your partner in life, but love for friends and family.  I can’t stress enough how very important it is to let the people in your life know you love them.  The most important thing in life is who we love and who loves us.  It brings meaning to everything.  Nothing else really matters.  Love is everything.  Breathing joy and hope and compassion into everything it touches.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
― Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Listening, and not talking, is central to having great relationships with people.  When you listen, actually listen without just trying to get your word in edgewise, you let people know what they have to say is important to you.  That they are important to you.  When you don’t really listen, when all you do is wait for the moment you can speak, you let them know that what you have to say is more important to you than actually hearing them.  Listening engenders trust, true companionship, and warmth.

Words to Live By (Part 1)

“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.” 
― Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan

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I’m 50 now.  The big 5-0.  It doesn’t freak me out, worry me, or make me feel like I’m old and getting older (though I am).  It has however made me reflect a bit on the life I’ve lived.  There are things I thought were important when I was younger, when I was more self-conscious and filled with angst.  Very dramatic.  I wrote a lot then.  Prose, poetry (some OK, mostly not), letters I never sent, some I did.  Now, at 50, I’m much more certain of myself, much more comfortable in my skin, not as self-conscious.  I’ve grown.  Most of us do.

Through the course of this time I’ve spent reflecting lately I’ve made a mental list of the things I think are important in life.  Obviously the people in our lives are the most important, but this list of things/ideals are what I believe make a life more fulfilled, the things that can actually make a life extraordinary.  I strive to put them into practice every day.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not.  But life is in the trying, and I try.

In honor of my turning the big 5-0 I’m going to throw the list out to the universe, as a gesture of good will and safe keeping.

I got a little carried away when I actually sat down to make the list (which is in no particular order by the way, just written as it came to me) so I’ve decided I will post it in parts.

Welcome to part 1….

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
― Mother Teresa

Compassion is paramount to living a fulling life, without it we are acting alone in the world, separate from our fellow humans.  We cannot pretend to know another persons story, or how they came to feel and think as they do, but we can honor them as human beings and wish the best for them.  We can be open to the fact that they have had different experiences than our own, not expecting them to then act and think as we do.  Compassion fills our hearts with love instead of animosity, it elevates us.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~ Dalai Lama

Kindness is the most important tenet, to me.  Above all things.  It’s so important to me that I have the above quote about kindness on every email I send out – you might have gotten one.  Kindness is always possible.  We have to be kind to others, and to ourselves.  I’ve learned a little kindness takes us everywhere we want to go.  It soothes souls, can make a persons day, and costs us nothing.  A smile, a kind word, a thank you, a simple acknowledgement of someone all work toward the common good, and good in ourselves.  It is beyond valuable, beyond priceless.  Kindness is key.

“Tears are words that need to be written.” ― Paulo Coelho

Sadness happens to everyone in life, let yourself be sad when you are, but don’t live there, wallowing in it.  It’s a tough balance, but necessary.  You honor the feelings by letting yourself feel them.  You don’t let it take control of your life by remembering that there is more to life than just the thing that’s created your feeling of sadness.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 
― Maya AngelouLetter to My Daughter

Inhabiting yourself – feel your body, know your mind, feel your presence.  Things will happen to us in life.  Things we cannot control.  Things terrible and strange and lovely and warm and awful and on and on.  We get through it.  We get through it best when we know ourselves, when we feel our own presence and our own power.  That knowing helps us to understand that life will happen, but we can bear it, we can step through it. We can move beyond whatever it is that’s happened and into something new, something that could be wonderful in its own way.

“Beauty doesn’t have to be about anything. What’s a vase about? What’s a sunset or a flower about? What, for that matter, is Mozart’s Twenty-third Piano Concerto about?” 
― Douglas AdamsThe Salmon of Doubt

Beauty is everywhere, if you look for it.  Noticing the wind moving the trees, the sun glinting through a fence, the way the dogs have that little walk they have, a phrase, a painting, a blade of grass, my honey breaking into song, in light and love and kindness.  Beauty is everywhere.  We choose to see it, or not.  Life is so much better if you look for it.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” 
― Herman Melville

Connectedness  Connection is everything.  We are not islands unto ourselves.  Our actions effect those around us, just as the actions of others affects us.  It’s so important to remember that our ideas and ideals are ours and to dwell in the knowledge that other people, other creatures, have their own ideas, wants, needs.  What we do, every day; the words we use when speaking to others, the actions we take in kindness, to our fellows and to our planet, all ripple out.  One kindness generates another, one word of anger generates more anger, one positive thought spills out to create more positivity in the world, a negative thought spreads negativity.  Everything we do has a consequence for others in small, and sometimes not so small, ways.  Everything is connected.

“But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window–maybe rearrange all the furniture.” 
― Raymond CarverWhere I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories

Anxiety.  I have it.  Everyone experiences it.  It’s not always rational, but it’s a natural part of living, of caring about people, caring about the world, caring about yourself.  There is no getting rid of it entirely.  The question is, does the anxiety control you, or do you remember to breathe, look it in the face, and try to keep stepping forward.  Sometimes I succeed in that.  Sometimes I don’t.  That’s OK too.  We can all wish for a little less anxiety in life, but we have to be careful the wishing doesn’t just lead to more anxiety.  Acceptance, stepping into and through it, instead of constantly denying and fighting against it, helps.  We have to remember to breathe.

“No one needed to say it, but the room overflowed with that sort of blessing. The combination of loss and abundance. The abundance that has no guilt. The loss that has no fix. The simple tiredness that is not weary. The hope not built on blindness.” 
― Aimee BenderWillful Creatures

Temperament and trying to keep oneself on an even keel is important.  The energy we give out to the world matters.  Not that we should live for others, we shouldn’t, but it’s important to be aware of our impact on others.  That we do have an impact.  It’s not easy when you’re in a bad mood, but it’s so important to try to be your better self, to try to remember not to inflict that mood on everyone around you.  Conversely it’s important to remember that if someone you meet in your day is in a bad space, they may have had a terrible day, or be battling demons you don’t know or understand.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 
― Frank HerbertDune

Fear, or the lack of it, is one of those constants in life.  We are afraid of what is happening, or what could happen, or what did happen.  Fear eats at us and taunts us and reminds us that we have a lot in life we don’t want to lose.  Fear is.  I love the line in the quote above about letting it pass through.  That rings true to me.  We have to face the things we’re afraid of, as best we can, and then let that fear pass through us.  We have to let ourselves look at what we fear, look it in the eye.  Only then do we begin to take the reins back from it.  We can never live entirely without fear.  We love, we dream, we hope, and so, we fear.  It is a part of living.  A part of caring.  But we can try to keep it from taking control of us, we can try to be its master, instead of letting it be the master of us.

“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” 
― Louis C.K.

Empathy is central to living a full life.  Kindness, compassion, and love all come from a place of empathy.  We don’t have to know or have lived someone else’s circumstances to ache for them or to hope for them.  We tend to live in our own little worlds, sure of our ideas and opinions, secure in the thought that what we think, the way we think, is the right way.  Sometimes we even believe what we think is the only way.  We’re wrong.  We have no idea what another person’s experience is, where they came from, what they’ve seen, what they’ve lived through.  To have true empathy is to say that you might not understand someone, but you want to nourish their souls anyway.  It is to admit that you don’t know everything, and that you shouldn’t judge what you don’t understand.  To empathize is to step outside of your own set of rules and to say that you feel for another human, regardless of the presumptions you have about them.

I’m Gay

Yep.  It’s true.

I have never written a serious blog post about being gay.  I mean, it’s part of who I am, but it isn’t all there is to me and I am not defined or labeled by it.  To me it’s sort of like talking about what color eyes I have.   My eyes are there, but I don’t spend hardly any time thinking about them, let alone talking about them.  But…  I am gay.  It’s not all that I am, but I am, and I have something to say about it now.  I think it’s time.

For years I had no idea I was gay.  I dated guys in high school and into my first year of college.  Had a serious boyfriend during most of that time.  I didn’t know anyone who was gay, never saw anyone on TV or in the movies who was gay besides the occasional annoying totally stereotyped male, and even those guys were few and far between.  In my home when those characters showed up on TV derogatory comments were made by my step dad.  Though he didn’t have that sole role.  When kids at school happened to talk about someone who was gay, or someone they thought was gay, that person was called queer.  Most of the time the person being called queer wasn’t even gay.  The term was just used to put someone down.  I heard it a lot in the halls, never in reference to me, but I heard it a lot.  I never liked it, or it’s use, just as I’ve never liked any derogatory term said to anyone in pretty much any context.  Even still, when I heard it I didn’t think it might pertain to me.  Had no clue.  When you don’t even really know of a thing how can you know you are that.  It wasn’t even in my realm of possibility.  Then… suddenly and unexpectedly I met someone in college.  And even still, even then, I didn’t know.  I just thought I liked that particular person.  You know, I’m straight, it’s just that I happen to unexpectedly fall in love with a woman.  I even lied to my Mom when she asked me about it when I was 18.  I lied because I hadn’t even really asked myself that question.  Had no clue about myself.  That lie was the first in a long line of lies.  Lies to myself.  Lies to family and friends and pretty much everyone I loved.  I didn’t really know, or look at that part of my life seriously until I was into my 30’s. Am I or am I not.  I finally realized I was.  Had always been.  That realization made a lot of things from my life make sense, fall into place.  A sort of ah ha.  And yet, still I lied, at least for a time I did.  But let’s go back a bit… back to the younger confused me.  Those lies took their toll.

Let me tell you why a gay person lies.  We lie because we are sure no one will love us if we tell the truth.  We don’t love ourselves very much some of the time during the early years of knowing we are gay because we, frankly, don’t want to be, so the thought process goes that certainly no one else will love us either.  Especially when society, and my time was the 80’s and 90’s, was still not welcoming, open, accepting.  My step dad didn’t have the monopoly on bigotry and the atmosphere during the 80’s (when the AIDS epidemic hit) and 90’s was not kind to gay people.  So not only was I afraid people in my life wouldn’t love me, that they would reject me just for being me, but that I could also be hurt, physically.  Not by family or friends or people I knew, but by the mysterious and threatening other people.  Those people out there somewhere who, if they found out, would hurt me.  There was always a fear.  Fear of so many things.  And a total wish that I wasn’t gay.  Believe me, when people say it’s a choice, I get angry.  If the people who say that would think for a second, they should realize something important, and that is why would anyone choose to be gay.  It’s harder.  It’s sometimes unsafe.  And frankly, having to live your life looking over your shoulder some of the time, not being able to hold hands, or look too gay in public in some places, is hard.  It can wear a person down.  Having to actually think about things like those, things like safety or being found out, things like I hope no one in this particular setting realizes I’m a big ol’ gay.  (That just made me laugh, but seriously… we think about it.  We have to.)  And when I say we all go through periods where we think to ourselves we don’t want to be gay, usually early in our lives or the process of knowing we are gay, it’s that we don’t want to be different.  When you’re young, and even not so young, the last thing you want to be is different than your peers, your family, your community, your culture.  Young people, and old alike I guess, all want to fit in.  Want a place.  Knowing your gay, when faced with so much obvious hate in the media, in communities, in our own towns and neighborhoods is a thing no one wants to face.  When I realized I was gay a bit of sadness happened for me.  I didn’t want to be different.  I wanted to be like everyone else.   And I knew life would be a tad more difficult… sometimes a lot more difficult.  So at first most of us lie.  Mostly to ourselves I think, out of a weird self protection and denial, then because we are panicked that if the people we love know they will stop loving us, and we lie in certain situations, still, because if we are openly gay in some places we could die.  No joke.  That’s part of the out and out vitriol that’s out there for gay people in some places.  It’s part of the culture that has jailed and beaten and ridiculed and cast out gay people for decades.  And before someone says you can feel you are gay, but you could choose not to be by just living a “normal” straight life, here’s what that would be like just a bit.  Say you are single and someone introduces you to a person they feel is right for you.  You have no connection with them at all.  You feel they are nice enough, and that maybe you could even be friends, but you have no interest in dating them.  Or you might even detest them.  Then say that you are told that’s the person you have to be with.  You have no feelings of love for them at all, but you have to be with them in order to be accepted by your family, your friends, your community.  Take a second to imagine what it would feel like to be living that lie.  To be living a completely inauthentic life.  Trapped.  Forced into something you feel isn’t right with every part of your being.  Now magnify that feeling of being forced to be with someone you don’t care for by about 1000 times.  That doesn’t even come close to it.  Being forced to be anything other than we are is soul crushing.

When I finally decided to be free, to embrace who I was, I decided to tell people in my life.  I did not want to hide.  I wanted what everyone wants, a partner in life, to be a family with someone.  I wanted that and I didn’t want to lie to anyone anymore, I couldn’t.  They would either love me, because seriously, I was the same person, or they wouldn’t, but I had to be in my truth, as the saying goes.  There were some obstacles to my telling people when I originally wanted to, circumstances beyond my control, but I eventually just had to tell.  Had to be honest and open.  Plus, by the time I told everyone I had already met someone.  I didn’t want to have another secret relationship, changing pronouns, talking vaguely about how I went out with a friend, etc., etc., etc.  Hiding.  I didn’t want to hide.  So I started the process of telling people, of coming out.

First I told Mom, who cried not because I was gay, but because I hadn’t felt like I could tell her earlier in life.  She hugged me, asked if the person I was with was Karen (they had already met when I’d brought my “friend” to an art show we attended together), and then said she’d liked her a lot.  I then had dinner with Kev, my brother, at a Thai place.  I told him and he said, uh… yes, of course you are and I love you.  My being gay didn’t change anything for them, but my telling them changed everything for me.  And all the people I told in the next month or so changed everything as well.  I was suddenly free and gaining momentum.  It was like the sun was shining on me for the first time in my life.  I felt truly connected, grounded, real.  I felt honest and true.  I continued by telling everyone at my job (all of whom were my friends as well), and the domino effect happened.  Within a couple of months everyone in my life knew.  My Mom, right after I told her, insisted on calling many of the relatives and telling them herself.  She asked me beforehand of course, but she was adamant that she make some of the calls.  I loved this because she wanted to be the one to call so she could let them know that she was OK with it and that they should be too.  She ran interference.  Mom rocks, just sayin’.   My grandparents, my Mom’s parents, were awesome.  My grandma’s quote as relayed by my Mom, “It’s about time”.  I love that.  After the tidal wave of talks and chats and dinners a weird thing happened… everyone, with only one exception, accepted me.  They all loved me, and they didn’t care.  And even if some were a tad weirded out in the beginning, they quickly came to the realization that I was the same person, Tam.  Just because I was also now gay Tam didn’t mean I had somehow fundamentally changed who I was.  Not every gay person is lucky like I have been.  Some tell their truth and find rejection and hostility from their families.  My heart aches for them.  It’s the very thing each gay person fears when they come out and for some it’s a startling reality.

I think it’s easy to say that something you don’t understand is wrong.  I think it’s easy for people who don’t know anyone who is gay, or at least they don’t think they do, to judge, be angry, or even be frightened.  Especially when they might be taught that fear by their parents or their communities or their places of faith.  I think we hardly ever see the boogeyman, and that’s what makes him scary.  In my experience people change when they have more knowledge.  They change when they have a better understanding.  They change when they are around the things they think they hate and then find they maybe don’t hate them as much as they thought they did and more than that, maybe they don’t hate them at all.  We do better when we know better.  I believe this.  Karen I usually find that when people meet us, as a couple, and maybe at first are cautious or unsettled by the fact that we are gay, they soon come around.  We’re pretty likable.  On a good day we can even be a tad charming.  We make a good team.  Plus we are genuine and nice and compassionate and open.  When people are around us we may start out as gay Tam and Karen, but we always end up just being Tam and Karen.  Not a gay couple, just a couple.  And when that shift happens for people gay becomes less scary, less evil, and less threatening.  It becomes not quite such a big deal as it once might have been.

Here’s the deal… I’m living my life.  Just like everyone else.  We go to the grocery store, have barbecues with our friends and family, go to our grandsons little gym graduations, take him swimming at the Y, work during the day and watch the same televisions shows as a lot of other people at night.  We take our dogs for walks, are preparing for retirement as best we can, we go to the movies, support our local university teams at games, plan dinners, drink coffee, and make contributions to charities.  We fill the bird feeders at our house, water our neighbors plants when they go out of town, take out the garbage every Sunday night, and when we each got sick we took care of each other.  We are a family, together.  And our being a family is no threat to anyone else.  We are living our lives.  We are nice people, treat people well, and we love to laugh.

We also pay taxes, more than other couples in fact because we can’t file as married.  We pay into social security but can’t get the same benefit of getting each other’s social security in the future if we wanted to.  We pay property taxes and state tax and gas tax and on and on.  We pay everything we’re supposed to, and trust me our tax bill is big every year, and yet we are not afforded the same rights and privileges for the money we pay.  Not exactly fair.  But it’s our life, and it goes on.  It went on even when we each got really sick, separately, and had to provide all kinds of paperwork, faxed by our attorney, to the hospital so the hospital would have it on file in the event we had to make decisions for each other.  Legally married couples don’t have to do that.  They say they’re married, that’s good enough.  They don’t have to stop in the middle of all the intensity of just being with their partner in the hospital to deal with making sure they have all the proper paperwork that proves they can be there.  Trust me, in a time of crisis the last thing you want to have to do is call the attorney to get paperwork so you can talk to your spouse’s doctor and not be asked to leave the room.  I stayed with Karen for a week when she had terrible pneumonia.  She was in critical condition.  I slept and ate at the hospital and I didn’t leave her side.  I helped her in and out of bed, talked to her nurses, discussed her situation with her doctor, cared for her.   She stayed with me for that first month I was in the hospital, leaving me for only one night during that entire time, and every week I had to go back after, without a thought that she would do anything else.  She actually worked from the hospital while at the same time caring for me, talking to my doctors and nurses, and trying to sleep every night on a small air mattress on a tiny bed in my room.  The hospital staff, on each of those separate floors, knew us by name, treated us well, and were very kind.  But we had to get our paperwork in order first, not so they would be nice, luckily I think all of those people would’ve been nice to us without the paperwork, but it was what the hospital wanted for same sex couples.  And luckily we already had the paperwork done.  I can’t imagine not already having it and having to get it done during those times.  What a nightmare.  We were, like any couple who loves each other, frightened and a bit lost each of those times.  Having to get all that extra paperwork didn’t help.

It’s strange to me how, just because of who I love, I can be seen as wrong or bad or somehow really different.  Our lives are so normal and regular, and believe me, that’s what we want, and what most gay people want, to have a regular life.  In fact our lives are so regular that in our day to day it doesn’t much occur to us that we are gay.  You know, we don’t go around saying to ourselves we’re gay.  In fact Karen and I joke with each other once in awhile… we’re gay?, really?  We are of course, but the point is that we don’t define ourselves like that.  We see ourselves as any other family.  Our families and friends see us just like all the other families that make up our larger group.  I’m Karen’s sister’s and brother’s sister-in-law, her parents daughter-in-law, she is my Mom’s daughter-in-law and my siblings sister-in-law, not the gay sister-in-law.  Everyone we meet and get to know eventually sees us as just another couple they know, not a gay couple, a couple.  So it’s strange and awkward for me to think there are people out there who don’t like me for just loving who I love.  People who don’t want me to be able to marry.  Honestly, why do they care?

Here’s the thing about marriage…. which I guess was my point in talking about all of this to begin with.  If an individual is a religious person, I get that maybe according to their interpretation of the bible they may feel marriage isn’t OK for gay people.  Church rules, personal interpretations of the bible, or whatever it may be.  But if that’s the case then simply don’t let gay people get married in their churches.  What’s wrong with letting other churches decide differently?  What’s wrong with letting other pastors decide that marrying gay people in their churches is OK?  Also, if someone feels like by letting gay people marry the world would go to hell, well frankly, that isn’t your call.  If they would read the bible there’s an important tenet that says judge not lest ye be judged.  Meaning do not judge others, that’s for God, not them.  If they really feel like I’m going to hell because I’m gay, which I don’t believe by the way, then I don’t think that’s supposed to be their call either.  I think God is supposed to decide, be the ultimate decision maker.  I believe it’s also a part of the rules that you should not act as if you know God’s heart and mind.   That would be presumptuous and vain, right?   It’s a sin to think you can speak for God, make decisions that are supposed to be God’s decisions.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.  Love they neighbor and all.  Right?  How can love be wrong?  And what does my loving someone have to do with anyone else?  So why should it matter if I can marry the person I love?  Who does it hurt?  Why does that matter to anyone but me?  Me and my family that is.  I think my Mom would love to attend my wedding.  She would love to walk me down the aisle.  And if she did, why would that matter to anyone else?  What does it hurt?  I, for the life of me, don’t get it.  And before someone says wait just one second, if we allow gay marriage then it will spread throughout the land, everyone will start doing it.  C’mon, that’s ridiculous.  Straight daughters or sons are not suddenly going to marry someone of the same sex just because they can.  It’s absurd to think so.  Maybe a gay daughter or son will, but legalizing marriage for gay people will not spur on a rash of non-gay people marrying same sex persons.  That thought just makes me laugh.

I don’t know why social politics have become such a part of the national landscape in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Separation of church and state anyone?  Not legislating things that should be personal.  We’re supposed to be a world leader, forward thinking, on the right side of what is just and civil and, well… right.  What happened to that?  It would be so refreshing to look at the candidates in any  race and not have to wade through who is for or against me.  Because, believe me, that’s what I’m doing right now.  I’m looking at the candidates and saying to myself, they are either for me or against me.  I see people I know supporting the candidate who is totally against letting me get married and I think to myself why?  It makes me sad.  I’m sorry, but it does.  I know there are differences in belief about economics and education and how this country should be run, I get that and respect differing opinions, but to me this is personal.  Very.  Because trust me, on this side of things it looks exactly like the same old things… anger, hate, and fear.  It looks like exclusion.  It feels like discrimination.  It feels like I’m being treated as “them”.  You know “them”.  They have worn different faces throughout history, but they have been very much the same.  Regular people that for some reason have been considered less than, not equal, not worthy of laws to protect them, of laws that include them.  So yes, for me it’s personal.  I can’t legally marry the woman I love, which hurts no one by the way, because someone somewhere thinks I’m not worthy of that.  It disgusts me, as all discrimination has and does disgust me.  Because you know what, I am the same as everyone else, and no one should have the right to dictate who I love and who I can marry.  My mind boggles at the sheer amount of money spent on stopping me from being able to marry.  It’s unbelievable really.  All the money that could be spent on other things… education, the environment, revamping some of our systems that are actually broken.  I’m not broken, don’t try to fix me, or put the fix on me.  Stop trying to legislate my life.  I want to ask the people who keep putting forward these bills who they think they are?  How arrogant to think you know what’s best for everyone else.  How completely egotistic and pompous.  Why not spend those millions and millions of dollars on something really important huh?  We aren’t going away.  You can’t wish it or legislate it or control it.  As the saying goes, you can’t hold back the tide.  Though some are still trying to.  Let’s get out of the business of social politics as talking points and parts of agendas and let’s get back to working on the real problems.  I, in my little life, am not one of them.

Ideally I want to live in a world of acceptance and love.  I want for all the hate and fear and hard feelings to fall away, on both sides.  I want to not have to worry about holding Karen’s hand when we walk down the street in some places.  I want for us to pay the same taxes as everyone else.  I want to not be the subject of so much discussion.  I want to legally marry the woman I love, family and friends present, and I want for my wedding to be a regular everyday thing.  Not a gay wedding, just a wedding.  Because in the end, I am gay, but really I’m just the same old Tam.