Thursday, November 10, 2016

For Healing...

Last night, someone asked us about the status of Project: Next Step.  I had told them that we had received a little over 40% of our goal so far and that we were optimistically anticipating full funding by the end of December.

I didn't say though that the past few days, I haven't been feeling very optimistic at all.

For over half the population of this country, their hopes for a better tomorrow were crushed.  I've been going over and over in my head on how even though the election went one way, it doesn't mean that the fight for kindness, compassion, equality, and diversity is over.  I've been telling myself that now more than ever, we have to call on our better selves to be braver and love harder and be the force of change we wish to see in the world.  I've tried my very best to carry on, one step at a time, moving forward.

As the day progressed, I saw more messages of grieving.  I saw more anger and frustration.  I saw people steamroll over others and their shock and dismay, saying that they needed to get over it and that they were wrong to feel what they felt.  I saw reports of people being verbally and physically assaulted.  I saw hate messages sprayed across the sides of people's businesses and their cars and their very doorsteps of their homes while their children slept inside.  Some of these reports were from friends across the country that I know personally and not merely "things that happened to other people".  I was told that my friends were liars and spreading propaganda.  I was told that I was foolish for being afraid.  I was told that I was being melodramatic.  And a leaden feeling of dread weighed down in my stomach.  It seemed as though my light was draining away and the gray, lightless sky up above was a reflection of that helpless feeling.

And I remembered a time when I felt lost and alone and afraid.  While the circumstances were different, the darkness was remarkably the same.  I remembered that what got me through that terrible time was dreaming of a brighter tomorrow.  It was a blind faith that whatever came next would be better and that I could not give up.  I could not lose myself to darkly drift in mourning, existing in survival mode, and going through the motions of a stunted half-life.  As I look back, I can see now that my faith in better times ahead was rewarded.  I remembered when all things seemed impossible and how I faced the shadows and won.  And it gave me courage.  It gave me just a little.  The world was what it was after all, but that memory gave me something to hold on to, small comfort as it was.  It was hardly anything at all.  But it was enough.

That tiny seed of courage grew.

It grew in my heart the more I watered it with gratitude and positive thinking.  I nurtured that fragile seedling, growing deep roots in all my blessings and good intentions.  I fed it with my creativity.  And the flower that bloomed, was one of determination.  When there are those who would see you less than, be more than.  When your faith in humanity is challenged, challenge it back.  When your dreams are threatened, dream bigger and ever more passionately.

And in that soothing shade of defiant dreaming, there came healing.

Today, I see the light more clearly and am more determined to reach the goals we've set out to achieve.  This is no time to give up.  This is the time when dreamers are needed the most.  This is the time when we must strive harder for the world we wish to see and create.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Love It or Hate It...

Every Friday night, Margot Potter hosts, "The Lady Party".  (Even though I'm a man, I've been graciously invited to join in on the fun and as a feminist, I enjoy Margot's message and what she aims to do.)  The Lady Party usually takes the form of a Live Stream event on Margot's Facebook page and she talks about all different topics relating to being a woman, aging, kindness, and self-acceptance.  She tackles all the varying aspects of life as seen through her particular sparkly lens.  She recently started a blog to supplement the Live Stream events with essays and more in-depth content.  CLICK HERE to visit her new blog.

Last night's Lady Party included a two-part question for her audience... "what do you hate about yourself and what do you love about yourself"?

My response was that I have "diarrhea of the mouth".  It's something that my mom used to say about me and it's such a vivid and graphic description, that it has always stuck in my mind.  It's also a very apt description.  It's not that what I say is poop, but that sometimes I have a hard time of holding back and the words... errrhhhh.... flow freely and with great force.  It is something that I love and hate about myself.

For a most of my life, I've been marginalized and pushed aside.  Whether it was my mixed race, my sexuality, or my age... there was always someone trying to discredit me and tell me not to talk out of turn.  When I was young, I grew up in a household where my parents were both raised with the mottos that, "children should be seen and not heard" and "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all" and "don't speak unless you're spoken to".  While certainly there are virtues to all these old sayings and there are merits to learning manners, they also perpetuate a culture of silence.  We were taught from so very early on that our voices were not to be valued as beautiful and unique, but that they were sources of trouble.  And I got in trouble a lot.  I always questioned authority and got in trouble for talking back.  I guess this started when there were things that happened where I was forced to be quiet and called a liar and a troublemaker.  That little boy lives in my memories and is a reminder of the dangers of silence.

Later in life, there were always other people who tried to suppress my voice.  I was always shocked by how there were so many people able to do bad things, because no one wanted to say anything.  Over the years, I've met several individuals who repeatedly mistreated others, threatened people, stole ideas, damaged businesses, and manipulated people... but got away with it because no one wanted to name them.  I discovered that this was called, "professionalism".  You didn't rock the boat.  You didn't name names.  If you accused someone openly, you became Enemy Number One.  If you had problems, you were told to keep it behind closed doors or that it needed to be swept under the rug.  Often times these guilty culprits got away with wrongdoings on more than one occasion, because they would browbeat others into submission and silence.  They used that silence as a shield to protect them and their misdeeds.  Fortunately for them, we are a culture of silence and raised on sayings that reinforce the idea of maintaining the semblance of peace at any cost.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, that need for maintaining the status quo allows great horrors to take place and we are shown by example how it will continue.

When we were asked what we love and what we hate about ourselves, my mouth is what came to mind first.

I love that I am willing to speak up for what I feel is right.  If I've determined that what I have to say is honest and true, I'll shout it from the rooftops.  It gets me in trouble sometimes.  I've lost friends.  I've lost business.  I've lost credibility in some people's eyes.  Once from behind the curtain at a trade show I overheard someone say, "Be careful what you say around him, because he'll repeat it."  It's not that I'm not trustworthy or can't keep a secret or that I'm an insufferable gossip, it's that if you say or do something wrong, I believe you should be held accountable for it.  I hold myself to this standard.  I would never say or do anything that I would not stand behind.  Sure... there are some things that are private and I'm not going to openly go into graphic details about them, but if I were compelled by a good enough reason and if the relevancy of those detail were crucial, of course I would tell them.

What I hate about this is that it isn't easy.  It ruffles feathers and can stir things up.  There's part of me that seeks tranquility and peacefulness and sometimes when you speak your mind, it's anything but peaceful or tranquil.  I also hate that because of my mouth, sometimes those around me are hurt.  I am more than willing to accept the consequences of my actions, but I feel bad that sometimes those consequences are felt by others as well.  I'm lucky though that I am surrounded by people who know and understand me and trust that if I charge into battle, I don't do so frivolously or without thought.  I'm lucky to have people around me that trust me to be honest, genuine, and that I'll always fight for what I think is right and good.  If I see something, I'll say something.

In the end, love it or hate it, it is all a part of me.  They are all aspects of the same being and while I may have conflicting feelings about it, I've come to know peace by accepting that they are intrinsic to my nature.  I can try to fight it, or I can try to acknowledge it and move forward, knowing what I know and trying to lessen the aspects that give me grief or anxiety – for all things are can be both blessings and curses, and it takes us and our good judgement to decide which it'll be.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Something Out of Nothing...

When William and I left the hustle and bustle of the City behind, we had a lot of good reasons.  We traded one view for another and when I look back over the years, I know that we made the right decision.

But... I wasn't always so convinced.

When we first moved to Pennsylvania, I didn't really know what to expect.  William had his family and his childhood friends, but me... I didn't know anyone.  I was a stranger in a new place.  For me, New York was the place that I really became an adult and forged life-long friendships.  Even in a city filled with millions and millions of people, New York had become my familiar stomping grounds, my neighborhood, my small town in the Big City.  If I needed something to do, there was always something going on and someone to go with me.  If I needed a friend, all I had to do was pick up my phone or send an email and a little while later, there would be someone to tell an inside joke or raise a cheerful toast.

Although I had loved New York and my friends that lived there, in my heart, I had been ready to depart.  A breeze was blowing at my back, urging me to go forward.

The first few weeks were spent unpacking and setting up home.  William had been called back to New York to train his replacement and I was all alone.  The days were incredibly full with just trying to reclaim a sense of normalcy and routine.  And then, when that was done, a sense of loneliness started to set in and I started to get homesick.  Winter had started in earnest and I was trapped inside the house, looking out on an empty landscape of cold white... a mirror into my own heart.  Eventually I fled to warmer climates and stayed with friends and family to avoid the brunt of winter's icy grip.  When it warmed up, I returned and I filled my days with walks in the woods and dreaming up dreams.  I spent my days looking at plants and the big sky and trying to feel not so adrift.  Life was good, but I couldn't shake my sadness.

I had a dream of a place where people would gather and make things.  I had a wish for a place with beads and art and all the things that interested me.  I had wanted a place filled with little sparks of magic and friendship and camaraderie.  I wanted this place, but it didn't exist.

So, as a maker of things, I made it.

When you open yourself up to possibility and give yourself permission to believe in your dream, the Universe has an amazing way of conspiring to help you.  Now, don't get me wrong.  It wasn't always easy and I had a lot of help and at times I questioned why I put myself out there at all, but then there are moments when you look at your life and see how amazing it is.  You see that the dream you dreamed on cold winter days, all alone, and sitting in an empty room, and you see it alive and real.  You survived the tests and marvel at how something came out of nothing... something that was only an idea now inhabits physical space and exists not just in your mind, but is shared by others and is a place that they can go too.  It is something for someone else too.

It's humbling and it makes you appreciate what you have.  And most of all, it bolsters your spirit and speaks to your heart.  It says, "Anything is possible.  Dream as big as you want to dream.  If you will it, you can make it so."