Speak for Everyone

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
~Pastor Martin Niemöller

Read a wonderful article today on TIME’s Person of the Year, Angela Merkel, whose rise to this hallowed spot in history in part is due to her acceptance of 1 million Syrian refugees within Deustchland’s borders. She was called a traitor and/or a whore by some of her people. Just the simple interaction here is a perfect metaphor for the current issues found all over our modern world, but the only question I’m still baffled at is why are people so mad at those willing to help the refugees?

If you had to leave your wartorn homeland with, in extremely lucky instances, a whole backpack full of possessions–note: lucky enough to have just a backpack–Americans would either go to Canada or Mexico (and we know how much of a shining review we get in our neighboring countries). Not knowing anyone or anything, I’d certainly need a little help to get on my feet, at least a week or two just to calm down and focus on living. I’d have to learn a whole new language, get used to different laws, find a community, start all over again. I’m guessing that scenario is the same for 75% of our country. So, for a moment, put yourself in their shoes:

There you are, knocking at the door of a stranger, praying they let you in and lock the door behind you before another missile hits or gunfire peppers the street you’re standing on, and give you a roof, four walls, and a pillow that’s not a landmine. Instead, the door cracks inward, a wary eye peers out at your haggard face and whispers, “Sorry, you could be one of them,” then slams it shut and throws the latch on you. Equally, I could understand their fear. It hypothetically would be the same fear coursing through my own veins, not knowing which of my fellow humans is so far gone that suicide and calculated acts of mass destruction come as easy as breathing. America was founded on freedom. What does it say to our political ancestors that we turned away the helpless in their time of need because we’re blaming the shackles of terror?

Reacting is how THEY win. Acting is how HUMANITY wins.

Angela Merkel gives me great heart: that someone born of a world where cultural and national walls were the norm can turn into a leader of strength, patience, and compassion. It reminded me of the IT mantra I was taught long ago: we’re not just fixing computers, we’re also fixing people. We can give people a working PC again, and they’ll be able to work for a day, but if we teach them how to fish–er, teach them how to fix their usage of the PC–they’ll be able to work for their lifetime. Taking action is resolving the situation so we don’t have refugees to react to in the first place. How do we go about fixing it? We teach people to be leaders in strength, patience, and compassion.

-Don’t teach stereotypes. Don’t even give them the time of day. This breeds the ignorance that every Christian/westerner thinks all Middle Easterners/Muslims are terrorists. All American southerners are backwards hicks, secretly planning for the Confederacy to rise again. All whites are privileged. All eastern Europeans are cold and unloving. I can’t believe more of us aren’t sick of this by now.
-Teach acceptance. Differing opinions and views don’t mean one is better than the other. So what if your god comes in bite-sized snacks and drinks on Sunday? So what if your god is an elephant man? So what if you’re not a guy or girl? So what if your skin is lighter? We can still get along and not impede on each other’s way of life.
-Take away the initial response of violence, ie what Merkel grew up in. Any alien race that looks at our world right now would laugh. “You’re telling me…that if one side kills more of their enemy than the other side does of them…that proves they’re right? Oh that’s rich–hand me the popcorn.” What differences are so great that killing is the only way we can reset to a better place?
-Grow perseverance within our personalities. Not everything is going to be cut and dried, tied up with a bow in a day, or even a week, or even a year. Wars have lasted for years. Why can’t discussions go on for years? Bullets cannot get delicate points across like words can. Weapons only convey fear and hate.

No, this doesn’t mean I sympathize with those who demoralize (insert social group), insult and hinder them, make their nonharmful way of life illegal. I’m saying there’s something deeper that needs attention. Before we safeguard against potential threats, we need to realize that rejecting the refugees is exactly what the terrorists want. WE ARE SPREADING TERROR FOR THEM. We need to quash their ideals before they even take spark, let alone spread like wildfire. We need to work against the core issues of how such a mindset starts, not just slap a bandaid on it by killing them all (ironic as that is).  You can kill a human, but you can’t kill an idea–you have to work with ideas to change them for the better, and therefore, we should also work with the human.

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Slavers of the 21st Century

“When a man moves away from nature, his heart becomes hard.” ~Lakota saying

Audiobooks have been a blessing of late, but my current physical incarnation of knowledge gathering is A Different Mirror by Ronald Takaki, which posits that slavery shaped a vast majority of our country’s personality today, and as a citizen of the Capitalist States of America, I couldn’t agree more. American colonials–yes, even the Founding Fathers–treated people based on their potential monetary value. They debased men, women, and children to profits and losses, selling futures and ripping pasts limb from limb. How many modern companies treat their employees as simple wage earners? What percentage of sales departments know their clients’ names before the amount of revenue they contribute? My previous job, despite being salaried, required me to record the amount of time it took to do each task of my work day, down to every individual account unlock request I took. Trust me, logging umpteen million tickets for five minutes each was far from the highlight of my day. My powers of Googling aren’t jiving well at the moment (need to go sacrifice another PC on altar…), so I can’t provide hard evidence of how many Americans have been treated like a number either as a client or employee. I bet, however, that it’s a fair amount.

But my point for today goes further. Takaki outlines that started with slaves turned into the Native Americans and their land. All the savages were doing was living in harmony with the earth, never taking more than they needed, replenishing where it was barren, wasting practically nothing from whatever they slaughtered or destroyed. Even after the whites came, never did they look at a forest and think, “Huh. Imagine how much money we could make by clearing this for a tobacco field!” Giving back to the Earth was ingrained in their teachings, religion, stories, every inch of their culture.

So of course, they’re going to put up resistance when a new culture invades under the pretense of peace and exploration and then starts raping their Mother.

Ok, so maybe that’s an extreme view. But think about it. They took something of great, crucial importance, against the will of its possessor (the Earth, not the Indians–they, at least, admitted no one can own the earth). With a human victim, it’s about power; with the Earth, it was about using precious metals or crops to earn money…which, in modern America, is the sad equivalent of power–if you don’t think so, please look at the lobbying industry and then get back to me. Takaki outlines that through strategic financial traps, blatantly breaking treaties and promises, or religious deception, the settlers took land away from the Natives for their own devices. In came a culture based on gold, from second and third sons who saw the frontier as the Land of Plenty. In came a religion that worshipped a miracle worker instead of what truly provided all; they valued the teachings of their Savior and his sacrifice above all else, while the natives valued the ground he walked on. Literally. As much as I would’ve loved to walk with my native ancestors, my heart would’ve suffered just as much as theirs to see their home and lifegiver obliterated and shamed.

But wait! There’s more!

Where have these practices gotten us? By losing the Native American respect for the earth, we don’t think twice about what effect we have on the planet (on the whole. I do accept that there are other individuals and some organization like myself that look to minimize our impact). We’re so wrapped up in money that every moving part on a machine usually has a danger warning, or dozens of people will face lawsuits. We need food warnings about a pack of peanuts containing peanuts. Plastic and cellophane waste is thrown out everyday, poisoning what was once so precious. Granted, these have also taken away almost completely the chance of dying from simple infections, but we’ve no need for Doritos, for plastic covers on bedsheet sets, for styrofoam take out containers, for bags to carry one item out of a store. Why bother worrying about the repercussions? All we have to do is put them in a trash can that gets taken away every week. Out of sight, out of mind.

Y’know what other group used that mantra? I’ll give you a hint: they forced their problems onto trains at gun point to be carted off to death camps and then be buried in mass graves.

Am I saying everything about Native Americans is perfect? Heck no. They took slaves of their own, from enemy tribes too. They used a bunch of medical practices that did more fatal harm than good. They probably wouldn’t have allowed the relationship with my fiancee to even get its start. However, the majesty of seeing vast mountains and gorgeous, untouched valleys inspires much more than anything I watch on a TV. Music I can hear from performers and instruments right in front of me is more appreciated than what comes out of plastic and rubber earbuds. The gift of a hawk feather bestows much more awe and humility than any income bonus I could imagine as a reward. Maybe a society that held these things in high regard wouldn’t be facing fuel resource crises, people who bring their laptops on campouts, hundreds of thousands of lives lost in oil wars, or severe drought and flooding.

To quote one of the wisest turtles I know, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift–that’s why it’s called the present. We need to learn from history and cherish this gift. We can no longer treat the Earth like a back-broken, callused handed, exhausted field worker who won’t amount to anything beyond a number in a blood-smeared, leather-bound ledger. We need to immediately and unwaveringly fight to make this great planet our Mother once again; to respect Her power, heal Her wounds, and rejoice in Her fierce and gentle beauty. Then, and only then, will survival in tomorrow’s world no longer be a mystery.

Afterthoughts

-YouTube – Instruments made from garbage dump items
-Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty – Reducing your carbon footprint

Dear Boy Scouts of America. Sincerely, Humanity.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/us/boy-scouts-president-calls-for-end-to-ban-on-gay-leaders.html?_r=0

I’ll go along with Scouts for Equality. This is a step. A small one, but a step.

Well, more like a toe. One toe forward.

Current BSA policy states that they don’t “grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.” And that adult applicants “must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and abide by the Scout Oath or Promise, and the Scout Law.” (http://www.scouting.org/MembershipStandards/KnowTheFacts/FAQs.aspx)

The first could imply a couple of things. One could be that because there’s an “or” in there, the two items are mutually exclusive. Meaning they don’t always assume homosexuals engage in distracting behavior. Which is very true, because we don’t. But even if that’s what they meant by “or”, then it really doesn’t give a reasoning why homosexuals can’t be in BSA. If it IS the case, that’s quite biased, because any distracting behavior they’d start would be also a possibility from heterosexuals. And believe me, I get that there are plenty of religious sects that believe homosexuality is a sin, but there are also plenty that don’t, and those that don’t turn us away from their membership. Acceptance seems to be the underlying tone of most holy books, stronger than the need to discriminate or turn anyone away.

Now, in BSA’s Declaration of Religious Principle, they don’t define exactly what they mean by “religion” or “god.” So effectively, atheists can be members because chaos and coincidence are their universe’s ruling forces. Their religion doesn’t require habitual practices, nor prayers, nor observances and/or ceremonies. But that is something they believe, and that fits BSA’s bill. Be they atheists or hard core Mormons, they’re welcomed, which means anyone of a religion that promotes homosexuality as good and a natural part of life doesn’t go against adult requirements. Moreover, there are even provisions to ensure Boy Scouts should never be forced to conform to a religion or the practices of others. The same goes for the Oath and Law, for there’s nothing explicitly saying a homosexual can’t perform all of the duties and assume all of the traits that they swear to, for good reason, because being homosexual alone has no pull on how good or evil of a human you are.

And before some of you argue, no, allowing homosexual leaders isn’t forcing religious beliefs on others. We’re not asking you to get with the times and see that diversity is the spice of life, that living with your fellow man is better than pushing them away, that you should use the reasoning that your god gave you and recognize that something devoted, pure, and consensual is good. We’re asking you to stop discrimination, which is what this BS policy implies.

Oops, I meant BSA policy. Honestly.

Back to the article and Gates’ words. Some of his reasoning saddens me.

“we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.” Back the popcorn truck up. What? Perhaps I was misled all these years in thinking that scouting organizations were cultivating future world leaders. IE those that lead by example. IE those who change the world. Yes, nondiscrimination is how we wish the world to be. Right? Am I alone in that hope? He also played the angle of lawsuits and Supreme Court decisions, that BSA could get in serious legal doodoo if they continued on this path. And then he pointed out the hundreds of thousands of members in troops sponsored by religious establishments. Why point out numbers of membership if you’re not trying to sway voters in regards to losing that membership? Better yet, I refer to my earlier statement: sexual orientation has no effect on the type of leader you can be. I actually put more faith in those of alternate orientations, because of the fights they’ve endured with grace, patience, and perseverance.

In the same breath, though, I ultimately stand behind Mr. Gates. CIA Director. Secretary of Defense. That’s right, an Eagle Scout. An Eagle Scout was in charge of two of the largest, most intricate and dedicated pieces of our government, seeking to uphold our freedoms and preserve it for future generations. That’s some tough stuff right there, if I were only to use small words. If Gates can be part of the impetus behind the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discrimination, then I can support this guy. And hope that the world as I wish it to be will soon be the world as it is.

The glee Era

Warning: obligatory spoiler alert. I couldn’t tell you which seasons at this point, so just proceed with caution.

As many know, the world grew a little darker on March 20th, exactly 10 days after my 31st birthday. The final episode of glee, “Dreams Come True,” aired on FOX, reaching just over 2.5 million viewers. It felt too hokey, honestly. I like happy endings, but at some point, it just gets thrown in your face and becomes unrealistic. A change as drastic as changing a high school to an all arts school takes more than a whim decision–YEARS of planning. But as some of my friends will propose, it was a stupendous example of how the writing in the most recent seasons has gone downhill.

But let’s be real. FOX cancelled also Firefly, with STUPENDOUS writing, after only a season. Way to frickin’ go.

glee seems completely out of the realm of shows that I’d follow. I can tell you that for certain. My scouts and athletes were obsessed over it, added some dramatics and typical teenager lingo that made me doubt it was “the best show ever.” When two of my best friends Amanda and Hannah recommended it, however, the skepticism lifted a little. I expected it to be a TV series version of the devastating “High School Musical” yet was pleasantly surprised. My subscription to stereotypes came back to bite me once again.

Of course, there were the eat or be eaten undertones, the social pyramid, the bullying, the typical sitcom form of problem solving. The show illustrated the personal connection people should have with music, how it opens us, heals, gives our hurt lyrics and beauty. No it’s not realistic to think they actually sang and danced in front of teachers and public parks and the streets of New York. It’s the feeling that called to the audience. It’s the songs that go through our heads when we encounter those things on a daily basis. It’s teaching music to a generation who’s maybe not familiar with disco, or the Beatles, or even the 80s, and the messages behind those eras.

And unlike the shows I watched growing up, there were no laugh tracks or live audiences to imply how a situation should make you feel. It was open to interpretation. Most importantly, glee had alternate sexualities, and actors who played the roles honestly instead of making fun of our lifestyle. The message from Kurt’s dad Burt in “Sexy” was the best explanation of the feelings involved with sex I’ve ever heard, either from an actor or in real life. I was still in the closet then–it was almost like returning to the childhood I should’ve had. They did a fantastic job of portraying a bully in Santana. She’d rip someone else down almost every scene of hers, as easily as breathing, one original insult after another, and they didn’t let us know what exactly was going on for a season or two, why she acted out. The core reason wasn’t revealed, I should say–doing it to stay “top dog” was the most obvious answer, while accepting herself as gay was her ongoing battle all along. Finn’s insightful attack in “The Mashup” laid it out on the table, as did her talk with her abuelita in the following “I Kissed a Girl.” I only dream about someday writing a character development as subtle and as powerful as hers.

There’s no denying that Brittany was my favorite character, though–yet another shocker, and stereotype broken. She wasn’t your typical ditz, just a huge blonde ball of random. With commentary including, “Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?” and “I took all my antibiotics at the same time, and now I can’t remember how to leave [the room].” Some of her most potent humor was actually improv from Ms. Heather Morris. Brilliance. Her story developed into being a genius that simply had different thought patterns, and it’s not a stretch to think that’s how Einstein must’ve appeared to his colleagues and classmates. Einstein wasn’t a cheerleader, of course, but the main concept is there. The whole situation made me really think about how I have treated former classmates like that.

When these two characters got together, though, I don’t think I could’ve been happier. Brittany was way too innocent for Santana to hurt like she did others (ok, she did in a couple instances–they are best friends, after all, and that sometimes happens). And Santana had other sides that only Britt saw. Their ups and downs affected me, because their survival as a couple, like Frodo wanting to save Gollum, would mean I had a chance at making it too. Britt helped solidify some of my views on the debate of religion vs. homosexuality with her confrontation of Tana’s abuelita, before their wedding ceremony. Fiction writers may only tell us lies, but there’s no doubt glee’s lies revealed unalterable truths to me, which will stay with me until I die.

So, glee, your legacy has been maintained. You have altered a generation, mostly for the better, I feel, and revived generations of music that may have otherwise been lost. There aren’t sufficient words to account for everything I have become since I first laid eyes on you, for all the lessons I’ve learned and ignored, for all the cliques and segments of our society I now understand with a kinder vantage point. Yet, if there’s anything I do know, the best place to start is the manners we should’ve been taught to do since we were little. I say it not only to convey my feelings, but also in hopes that your absence is only temporary, that we will see you again someday:

Thank you, glee, and good night.

“Love Us Back”

So in response to the plethora of strictly heterosexual tones that country music has had for the past decades (most of its existence, really), and in part due to Melody Williamson’s brilliant “There’s No Country Here,” I’ve written and composed a song to hopefully be the change I want to see in the world. Here are the lyrics, and a link to the video will be in the first edit.

I grew up with Country deep in my bones,
And our music taught me hard work, and love, and what was Home,
So I’d cherished every season, storms of snow and rain,
And I learned it’s only half a life without pain.

So I stand inside the fire, like Garth told me to,
And I follow my dreams like The River flows in hopes that they’d come true.
But when it comes to love, something I feel is strong,
Though my hands and heart and words are true,
I’m told they don’t belong.

chorus
And I never cherished coffee until my Grampa died,
Sunsets always give me pause, and fiddles make me cry.
But I’m in love with a woman, and I was born like that.
Yes, I’m Country ‘til the day I die, but Country won’t love me back.

When I first heard Vassar sing Bobbi With an I,
I thought finally my first love was changing its style.
But that was not the message when I watched the video,
It made fun of how some people live and crushed my hope

Now, Miranda and Chely Wright will always speak to me,
It takes the work from All Kinds of Kinds to set us truly free.
And I may not be a Christian, but I know what isn’t just.
Can’t you treat me like your neighbor? I hear that that’s enough.

chorus

The hits tell me to shake it for a guy, and drink ‘til I forget,
And it’s ok to wake up on the beach with someone I just met.
But the 600 miles we’ve conquered, and how we’ve changed the world
Through smiles, laughs, and selflessness is wrong ‘cause we’re both girls.

When you change, I’ll cherish that moment, and let it never die.
No matter the thing that gives you pause, I know that I’ll still cry.
Someday I’ll marry this woman, and I know that’s a fact,
And you’d make another dream come true if you just loved me back.

We hope someday you see that it’s ok to love us back.

 

Fighting Yourself

As the title implies, this musing examines a personal obstacle, which probably applies to every breathing soul on this Earth, regardless of what you’re fighting yourself about. Here’s fair warning that comparing this to the severity of others’ struggles or pointing out my accomplishments relative to my self-perceived flaws will do no good. In Mrs. Clark’s immortal lyrics, let me be mad for a while.

Last fall, I began the long haul of trying to resume running on a regular basis, and MER is it hard! Used to be that I’d log 9-12 miles each week in barefeet and bike in between. On the first run after months off, I couldn’t make it a mile without needing a rest. Three times after that, I barely made it without stopping. My feet dragged, and there was a voice in my head chanting with every footstep “Stop.” I was consumed with frustrated tears at the end. I didn’t even want to talk, because that telltale well of pain in my throat would’ve choked out my words. My girlfriend, bless her soul, was supportive all through, shrugging off my negativity like prairie flowers handle a breeze. I remember specifically plotting out the goal after one such run to not cry after the next, and fatefully I was able to meet that. Only a mile and a half early morning run, chilly temps and a bitter drizzle, nearly strictly uphill for the first half of the course.

The hardest realization that hit me late one October night was that I’ve become the very thing against which I so passionately speak. I was afraid to try or push myself because of failure. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get back into shape, but I just wanted it to be easy. I’d talk about what I used to do, the “good ol’ days,” and not what I was currently doing or aiming for. The admission was so strong that I couldn’t voice it that evening. Personal disappointment hounded me, and on top, the disappointment of those who take from my example. Too much. I was just a sham, and I couldn’t handle it.

Truth be told, it may have been that inevitable time of the month that heightened the emotions, yet I couldn’t deny I was out of shape, and here was stone cold evidence I had once again strayed from my goals and preferred lifestyle. I remembered the dozens of repetitions in my journals, exact same situation: make goals, conceive a plan, falter, get frustrated, deliver some well written inspiring crap, repeat. I have trouble holding myself accountable, have since highschool. And here I am—great friends, good work, stress-relieving hobbies, incredible girlfriend. Could I honestly blame anything else? What’s my core issue?

I am. I’m fighting myself. And it’s merring hard. Anyone knows that. Why? Because you know what excuses you can get away with. You’re familiar with your shortcuts, and with your greatest temptations. I’m my own worst enemy. And hey, just because it’s cliché doesn’t imply it’s not true.

One of the first things everyone suggests about getting in shape is doing it with a buddy, a partner. But holy cats, that’s just as difficult. Watching them do better, angry that I can’t keep up, flashing back to what I used to be able to do. In the same breath, though, I can’t knock it, because I ultimately began to question the true reasoning behind anytime I wanted to say no when she asked me to go running. Was I making an excuse? Was it a legitimate reason? Was I simply afraid of failure?

Now back up and see that this covers more than physical fitness. The more recent forays into my thoughts uncovered the fight within my writing. I’ve gotten tons of rejections, and little criticism on my works. What if I really don’t have what it takes to be a writer? In Dagorhir, I’m a mediocre fighter, a somewhat dedicated leader figure, and possess years-old cloth and materials for “someday” projects. Why am I not progressing? In scouts, I chaperone events, comment at meetings, help my mom move stuff, but what changes do I instill to make the ship more efficient? Prepare these girls for the real world? For coaching, how much are my two weekly practices and meets benefiting the team? Do jokes and asking about their lives help our athletes improve their times and distances?

When one thing goes wrong with my plan, in whatever facet that could apply, I let EVERYTHING pile up, and think about the mountain of things I can’t do. And it’s thick enough to blot out the accomplishments I’m proud of, and the baby steps I’ve made. Welcome to the Worst Enemy side of me. It’s not really daunting until you walk in my shoes (watch out, the left ankle is weak), but y’all are here to hear my resolution, right? Who’d honestly want to read an entire musing of non-constructive complaining?

Well, sadly, a lot of people DO read rants. And those do it too often don’t sit for long in my social circles.

It reached a boiling point this past week. A couple of jobs I had were mostly completed, and true to custom, I focused on the 15% of the task I didn’t/couldn’t finish, or the times I needed help, or couldn’t resolve it in the way the client wanted, instead of what I did correctly. Missing my girlfriend hit me staggeringly hard, plus the uncertainty of the future, another two agency rejections, and coming back to the house, wanting to get distracted and be lazy and not deal with anything. Yesterday’s run was to be a major turning point, the first three mile route I had run since last summer. I even kept up a better pace than the shorter course I took earlier in the week.

Two and a quarter miles in, I slip on some ice, roll my ankle, and tumble to the street. Warned you it was weak, didn’t I?

I yelled. OH did I yell! The majority of it was pain, and then 10 seconds later it was frustration. Yet. Again. I knew this would set me back in progress, from what I was already showing fragile promise in accomplishing. My throbbing tendons was one more thing that life seemed to shove in my face that I can’t change. The limp back to the house was my umpteenth round of angry tears, and wanting to give up altogether on getting my drive back. Obviously we know not to make permanent, important decisions when overcome with emotion. Still, the road out of this cycle seemed bleak.

I had such seething hatred on the brain, years of it crammed down and compressed in this moment, a span of three minutes while the pain was calming down enough so I could manage to shuffle the last three quarters of a mile. I had truly, utterly had it. I hated always getting knocked down, by myself or the uncontrollable. I couldn’t win. Why keep going when there seems to be something at EVERY turn that’s pushing against me?

As the storm passed and my pessimism began to recede, a story I had read the previous night solidified in the void of total exhaustion left behind. Where a borderline narcissistic highschooler had asked an elderly librarian point blank about his gut. “At what age do men just give up?” No, I’m not superficial, and no, I’m not even a small fan of what she values. But, her question felt like it was directed at me. I don’t want to grow up, no matter how old I get. Even scientific studies show people who don’t act their age stand to gain immense, unseen health benefits (except regarding pranks—those are usually seen). Giving in bit by bit like I have been doesn’t hurt. It’s the cumulative realization of what I’ve become that would be the hardest fall to handle. THE hardest. That image of willingly being without spirit, or youthful zeal, or not loving being active in the outdoors is a much harder future to accept, than one where I have four hundred more obstacles to conquer, is far worse. Killing my determination to me is the exact symbolic equivalent of killing my body, one of the paths I’ve sworn never to go down.

Unlike some of my other works, there’s no definitive happy conclusion to this, maybe even not a conclusion. I’m still frustrated that I can’t strengthen my ankle, that it’s always freak accidents that bring it around—seriously, at 2.25 miles when I had run on TONS of other ice patches, both up and downhill? I still don’t want to fail and disappoint those who look to me. I’m working toward improvement, but I’ve no idea if it’ll come out right. The only thing that’s gotten me through battling myself and my doubts is having sunk to what I consider the mental and emotional bottom of my mind, and finding the one hope to which I will always cling.

I don’t want to be a quitter. I want to be the person that I know will never give in. I feel like I have at times, and I hate myself for it, yet that just proves I’m giving it another go. It’s probably a poor mindset, granted. At least I know I will stand up every time I fall. The fact that I’m essentially shaming myself into continuing the fight will be enough to get me through, until I eventually enjoy the challenge again. Maybe this is the iron resolve I’ve always wanted. It seems so fragile to me—-I seem so fragile to me—-and still I persist, because the alternative is a much darker cage.

To those who are in the same situation, you find that one thing that you will never let go of, and hold tight for all you’re worth. Remind yourself of it every time you start to give way to your Worst Enemy. Repeat it over and over in your head, say it out loud, shout it. Keep it around you as often and as strongly as you need to for those times that you fall. Because if you play it smart and return to a level head, I can safely say three days and as many ice baths later, you’ll be on your way back to standing.

Seventeen Years of a Beautiful Life

Note: yes, this is a story, but also a conversation. I can’t guarantee 100% interest on your part, maybe not even 80%. It has been 17 years in the making, and not much in here should be taken lightly. That being said, I’d recommend your favorite non-alcoholic drink or a bowl of popcorn to accompany you on my journey.

If you’re not a fan of popcorn, make a bowl anyway. I’ll take it.

Note the second: this is a coming out story. Involves mention and description of several types of sexual orientation. If you’re fairly young or don’t feel comfortable reading it, I recommend you skip over certain parts. Otherwise, you’re going in informed.

As of a couple days ago, I had never planned on writing this up to share. Coming out as lesbian was really just a personal thing. A huge step for me, of course, but coming out in 2012 is a far cry from coming out in the US 15 years ago, or even ten. A grand majority of my friends and peers had already known or heavily suspected. My hometown is small, but I’m mostly associated with Rockford now, where it’s no big deal to be of an alternate orientation. What would it matter my reasons for hiding? Better yet, why bother telling what happened when there were a plethora of more trying stories out there? Let’s start that investigation at a good place to start.

The beginning.

I had grown up identifying most closely with my older brothers. They helped foster my love of rough housing, climbing trees, playing capture the flag in the woods, being the scrappy basketball and soccer player. Most days after my homework was done, I was writing stories on the blank pages disguised as seven and a half acres of woodland, or conjuring up adventures in the backyard treehouse. I never took to Barbies like my sister did, and whenever we played Dress Up, I’d usually have some sort of natural element in it, like a fashionable feather hat. I’d find out much later that she had always wanted to be able to help a little sister with clothes and makeup and hair. Instead I was solving mazes and figuring out computer games and learning Dungeons & Dragons from our other two siblings, and I couldn’t be happier.

Until I had to go back to school, that is. Because I was smart, athletic, goofy, and an all-around good person, that made me a target for bullies. I didn’t want to be considered a teacher’s pet, but most of them seemed like really cool people, so why not help them out, pay attention in class, and make their lives a little easier? I had a close group of friends of the same mindset, and we ended up in Girl Scouts together. We liked the outdoors and camping and playing Tag with a passion at recess. I made friends through soccer too, and had overnights sometimes with one family at their pond. The moments of reprieve outside of my small town school were like heaven.

As we got older and became more individual, the ridicule just got worse. Sometimes I’d cry myself to sleep at night, and I started hanging out with girls and boys in the younger grades because they accepted me more easily. Many days I didn’t even want to go to school. I look back at pictures now and think that maybe some of my friends saw something different about me. In my journals, I wrote about feeling overprotective, very defensive of my girl friends, and I think that’s where my coming out originally started. In movies and books and stories, I wanted to be the hero, the one that got the girl. I was well aware about lesbians through stories and fan fiction on the internet, something I obviously hid well from my family. My first exposure was the story Accidental Love by BL Miller, and I reasoned because I skipped over the explicit parts that I really wasn’t lesbian, that falling asleep with the woman (or man, I was unsure yet—I did crush on some of my male classmates) of my dreams was the most I would ever want out of life. It was my early way of justifying that I wasn’t a lesbian, because I was more interested in the companionship and emotions, the intellectual challenge, and the comfort of physical contact.

Religion was a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. I didn’t see the point in church, thought it was utterly boring, and while I got through confirmation classes by treating them like just another school subject, I really wasn’t behind the ideology and giving up hours of my Sunday. Sermons bored me, and I had to wear skirts sometimes (I point you to the opening paragraphs on why that requirement would turn me away from church). ELCA Lutheran doesn’t have an opinion being homosexual, but at the time, I thought all Christians followed the Bible word for word, and that spoke against what I thought I might be. I went through the motions for my mom’s benefit, never truly standing behind the beliefs or stories that the good book insists happened thousands of years ago. If dragons were fantasy, how do we know a man actually came back from the dead? The things that spoke loudest to me were the traditions and art—getting up before dawn Easter morning, midnight Christmas Eve service, or the lofty, stone carvings on cathedrals, incredibly beautiful stained glass.

Yet outside of all those feelings (or maybe because of them, who knows), along comes one of the strongest bonds my sister and I ever had. Before I got to middle school, I’d see her come home crying because of bullies—the same reasons I was. Sure she was a cheerleader, but far from the airhead that most of her teammates were, and she was a rough and tumble club soccer player just the same. I didn’t realize then what was waiting for me. By the time I was in her shoes, it was hard to remember that she had ever been in the same position, and “clearly” her advice that it’d get better, to turn the other cheek, to stick to my guns just wasn’t going to work. My mom didn’t know anything about it either. Nope. I was without a doubt the only person who had gone through this.

The light at the end of the tunnel ended up being my sister’s Girl Scout troop, or a Mariner Ship. For the unaware, mariners was a nautical high adventure type of Girl Scouts back in the 60s. They’re no longer official now, but that’s what my sister’s troop called themselves anyway. She came back from events in the summer with all these stories and ribbons, and those same friends gave her a shield in high school against the idiotic classmates. Her life was grand, and I thought the ship could help me too. I just had to make it through a couple years, and I was home free.

Surprisingly, unlike so many other things in my life, that’s how it happened. My friends in scouts had other friends, and soon I had a bigger circle that were music geeks, female athletes, honors students, and even “work hard, play hard” girls who liked everything about me that the bullies hated. From the moment I entered my freshman year, high school was leaps and bounds better than what I had endured, and I was beyond ecstatic. But, and this is a big but, I had come to the conclusion that I was in fact not straight. I realized those feelings I had were romantic feelings, and while it never really manifested in a physical way, I was more than certain guys wouldn’t cut it for me. I had bargained my way into another step: I wasn’t a lesbian because I wasn’t big into sex, and I was still kind of normal because I did feel attractions for  guys. So that was still better than being lesbian.

What was I supposed to do? This great group of girls had just saved me from the nightmares of middle school. How was I going to further ostracize myself from them by admitting that I liked girls? They wouldn’t understand I wasn’t attracted to them, nor want them in a sexual way. I knew I was in our Girl Scout ship for life, and I looked forward to the years I’d have ahead of me. Those older girls, my sister included, were mentors and peers, and friends. If I told anyone this, they wouldn’t trust me anymore. I’d have to shower at different times, and sleep in a tent by myself, and no one would want to hug me, and everyone would second guess any intention I had of being supportive because I might try to kiss them, or worse. I was already crushing on a female classmate, and there’s no way I’d be able to escape lapsing back into being made fun of again. This wasn’t something I could ever change.

So I didn’t change anything, and did all the stereotypical things. I tried to ignore it. I told myself if I find the right guy, it’ll go away and I won’t have to ever worry about it again. Readers that’ve been in my shoes right now are thinking, “HA! Like THAT works.” I was a fairly closeted girl socially, outside of my own circle of Geeks. I was “the only one of my kind,” I thought, so how was I supposed to know differently? I’d get really emotional at times, and visualize myself dating a girl, sweeping her off her feet with romantic gestures and words. Though always, ALWAYS I repeated in my head, to the point of deafening my deeper feelings, that it was ok ‘cause I didn’t want to escalate it to sex. To be honest, I was only romantically attracted to maybe two or three girls throughout all of high school. Not really physically either, because going there would not only cheapen the genuine feelings I had, but also meant I was a lesbian. I was even incredibly nervous in the locker room, or watching movies or commercials with scantily clad women, convinced that someone would figure me out. I’d read more stories and daydream when feelings got too strong, but never showed anything in public.

One desperate night, when I was so frustrated with the past couple years, I made an internet search for lack of sexual attraction. Thus I found AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, where I found asexuality was EXACTLY WHAT I HAD BEEN THINKING. I was home. It was such a relief to find that there WAS a definition for me, and most importantly, that I wasn’t alone. That this thing in my head and heart was supposed to be there, that I wasn’t making excuses against not wanting sex. It topped the feeling of getting to high school and away from the jerks that made so many years a living hell. I began to read others’ stories in the background, because signing up on their forums would leave a trail that someone would find someday, and then my friends and family would question everything I ever did or said or wrote.

If you haven’t caught on yet, paranoia is a frequent mistress of people who don’t want to come out. Due to this musing being partly stream of consciousness, it’ll undoubtedly continue to crop up from time to time. Apologies if it annoys the readers, though it gives a much more accurate idea of what my head was like through this period of my life. But I digress…

Despite being the only internet savvy one in our house, I was convinced that somehow, some way, a random person would find out, and news would spread. That’s how it always happened in the movies, and I was far from lucky with my life thus far, so undoubtedly, such would come to pass. When I built my own PC just before going off to college, I was a little better, in that I could customize and no one else would be on it. A small step for my head noise.

I went to a small liberal arts university, miles more liberal than what I had grown up in, much more like I felt the world should be. Unfortunately, that got me more exposure to other identities and orientations, and while I was undoubtedly supportive and happy for my friends in their relationships, I was a little jealous that they were able to accomplish that. What held me back was still Girl Scouts. I had planned on returning after college, and to someday lead the ship, and who would want to join a troop where the main leader was gay? I looked at all the adults, parents, girls, and alumnae volunteers who came and went, and was confused at why I was the only one who wanted to stick around to give back. If the ship was to survive, then my happiness had to take a back seat.

To most, that seems like an invalid argument. “It’s Girl Scouts, how important or rewarding could a volunteer position ACTUALLY be?” And I get it. Not many who live outside of our ship understand. In fact, that’s one of the first comments all the newbies make every year at our rededication ceremony, or even our veterans giving their first impression of joining. Deep down, one of my greatest wishes is to help make this world better, to not be forgotten after I’m dead or gone, to have a legacy like Washington or Caesar or the Dhali Lama that would last through the ages. The US has congresswomen, judges, police officers, FBI agents, ambassadors who’ve been through Girl Scouts. Our ship can DO that! It teaches invaluable life lessons that are passed over in high school, and we get to help facilitate that. Heck, the girls themselves help facilitate that.

So, I pose that idea again. How would YOU like to have a front row seat to see the start of the movie called, “Changing the World One Girl at a Time”? I’m truly honored and humbled that I get to be a part of these girls’ formative years. There are many times I think they teach me more than I do them.

I had some romantic thoughts for a couple women during college—eventually told one of them after coming out, but otherwise never acted on any of it. Just stayed the same, trapped in my head. Over that period of time, I concluded I leaned heavily, if not completely, toward being attracted to women. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t as simple as few sentences. Mind you, this was FOUR YEARS of self-imposed single status, living in fear and yet hoping some for a miracle, thinking that this was all I could ever do. And this was not only on top of the four years of high school, but these were in a liberal environment, where I encountered people living the life I wanted to several times every day. I dated one man, a genuine, honest, romantic, but I just couldn’t reciprocate the level of emotion he was feeling after such a short time. I once worked tech crew for our annual drag show, and the Emcee made several comments while I was out adjusting speakers and lights on stage, calling me “butch.” She invited me to the after party—specifically interrupted her own conversation to do so. I was incredibly tempted, toying with this idea that maybe I could come out. Right then and there.

Nope. Chickened out and went back to my dorm. Life stayed the same.

I started a chapter of Dagorhir, a fantasy-medieval reenactment group as a freshman, had a blast with my friends, and got to attend our national weeklong event Ragnarok the summer before senior year. And wow, was that a whole new world. Now, I’m a huge fantasy geek. Read The Hobbit as a kid, watched Flight of Dragons and Redwall: the Animated Series incessantly, loved Terry Brooks, went to all the midnight premieres of Lord of the Rings. But to walk through a valley in my homemade garb, cloak casting shadows in the full moon light, falling asleep to drum rhythms in my ears and firelight dancing on my tent walls, passing an evening listening to bards by torchlight. I WAS the character I wanted to be. Sadly, there was a bit more chauvinism than I hoped, but my fighting, characterization, and toughness sure turned heads during my first year. Overall, it was much more liberal than our campus, which made me happier to see grown men and women in homosexual relationships, and sad that that was still out of range for me.

Not much changed after graduation. I moved back to my hometown, dated a couple guys, really felt I could make it work with one of them, but taking that next step in our relationship was something I knew I couldn’t do. And still, every summer at Ragnarok (or really, at every Dag event), I would live for every second of every day in bliss, getting enough exposure and close enough to a world where I knew I would be unbelievably happy and accepted. Many times I dreamed about what it would be like. That would always make me smile. Seven years ago, I would see my now girlfriend for the very first time, and feel myself go speechless. Thankfully that year we solidified our alliance with her chapter by helping them through the monstrous floods, meaning I had plenty of excuses to come by their camp.

Of course there was nothing I could pursue, I told myself, and yet despite that, I kept playing through instances where a relationship might just happen between us. Maybe I was hoping something would force me to come out, so it wouldn’t be a choice (OH the wordplay there!) and my family wouldn’t be as harsh. On our last night, thankfully a clear one so all our gear could dry out, I stayed late at their campfire with another friend of mine in order to “socialize.” Which, honestly, all of them were  and are truly good people, and a riot around a fire, laughing and joking, making fun of each other like any siblings would. That being the reason was far from unbelievable.

Though, my wanting to stay past the droopy eyelid stage had nothing to do with this girl giving out back massages, and the fact that my shoulders were sore. Nope, not at all.

Fast forward through the non-milestone bearing years to December 2011, when I attended a Pathways event. Pathways is an organization looking to better the world by helping people achieve growth. We as humans can only do that by facing our challenges, which are represented as risks—the bigger the risk, the greater the challenge, the more powerful you become. I attended their Basic session and was energized by this new way of thinking. I signed up for their Advanced session, an in-depth, 24 hour a day, five day experience that pushed you to your limits. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, all of the –ly’s you can think of. And the ones you can’t imagine.

Part way through our time there, I looked at my writings and thought, “What am I really getting out of this? How can I be part of this team when I’m holding this back?” And the next day, I came out by telling just a few of our peers. Part of me feared being challenged by the staff and attendees, mainly in the ways that I had doubted myself in my youth. “Are you sure? How can you know if you’ve never tried?” I had to be confident in my answers. Inevitably, I’m sure my nervousness seemed like I was still hiding part of the truth. But of COURSE I was nervous! The only, ONLY time I had ever even admitted to this aloud was in empty rooms, late at night or early mornings, when I was empty, hiccupping from crying, easily toasting half a tissue box in effort to try to save some dignity and shirt sleeves.

Then came the final day. It was supposed to be joyous, uplifting, freeing that this ordeal would soon be over, and we’d have to test our newfound selves in the real world, where all our temptations, limitations, and monsters would come rushing back. My chances to face this level ten out of ten risk were dwindling fast. One last opportunity, and I strode up to the front of the room, before all these people I had cried and grieved and celebrated with, people with whom I shared and learned things never known before in the light of day. Humans who had far more to lose than I did, who knew deeper hurt, who conquered greater obstacles and longer shadows. How could I say that THIS was my ten? How would they ever trust me again? After I came into this saying I’d give my all and then tell everyone, “Oh yeah, by the way, I was lying to you all this time”? In a rush of words, a voice shaking with the fear compiled on a single, tiny human girl, after 15 years of putting my happiness second—

I came out as asexual on March 18th, 2012.

That’s when everything changed. I didn’t lose anyone’s trust. I ended up in a group hug that involved the entire room. THEY were figuratively and literally supporting me. I couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t stand on my own, but I didn’t care. I had absolutely no freaking clue what lay ahead, and I. Didn’t. Care. I finally returned the world to Atlas’ shoulders and was ready to move on. I had nothing to hide any more. I danced like no one was watching. I laughed and joked and listened and hugged all night long. I drove back to my house and was calling my closest friends (it’s ok—hands free wasn’t a law then). I got two hours of sleep than night, and the next day I was tireless, on top of the world. Nothing could touch me. The last secret I had ever wanted to keep from anyone was finally out. I lived like I had nothing to lose, because I didn’t. Never had I known a freedom like this.

Why? Because I wouldn’t have to compromise when it came to love. And that, like all the Bohemians before me, was the most important thing one could ever bring into their life.

And yes, I realize I wrote asexual, not lesbian as initially stated. That is the second ‘nother kettle of fish yet to be tasted.

I had ups and downs when it came to coming out, probably easier to handle than most. I had no fear coming out to my friends, or any of Dagorhir. One of my friends (and I don’t think they were joking) had several bets going on my true orientation, and allegedly won some money, at which they reveled after congratulating me. I drove straight to the house of two of my best friends since high school to tell them in person. Of course they were elated, and that was the general reaction for the rest of the week. Then the rest of the month. All of the happy!

Family was quite the array. After telling my mom, her tone to me was a combination of, “It’s a phase,” “You’re just confused,” and “I don’t accept this” without directly saying those words. I expected a little difficulty with her, to be honest. I still bristle a bit whenever she uses the word “choice” and try to kindly correct her, though sadly I lose my cool more often than I’d like. Suffice to say she’s come a long way since then, and my temper is better. One of my brothers was fine, said he accepted me for who I was, didn’t judge or think it wrong either way, and wanted to know when I was visiting them next. My other brother has given me the strangest reaction to date. His first response was, “Why are you telling me this?” and a callback that seemed to me like he thought I had been brainwashed at Pathways. He’s told me that his religion says it’s wrong, but that he’s also taught to hate the sin and love the sinner (check earlier in my blog for my view on that mantra), though he asked about my girlfriend and how she was doing at our last get together. I told my sister later that week over sushi. She was happy, supportive, and also excited that she’d still get to help plan my wedding. My dad and I had a bit lengthier discussion on it, in which he considered my sexuality a choice, in that it was my choice to follow these inherent feelings. I’m still stumbling over that, but he loves me, and we make great memories together at movies and the Ren Faire and cooking out. Isn’t that what ultimately counts?

The story doesn’t end there, amigos, though you may feel free to get up and refill your popcorn bowls if you wish. When I spoke with my mom, I promised I wouldn’t say anything to the ship yet, which was sadly a huge step back in my mind, since there was no way I’d be able to keep being involved with these girls and skirt those questions for years to come. I had jumped through millions of tiny hoops for over half my life only to be stopped by this. I had heard the current generation talk about social issues, and their views rode shotgun right along with mine, in more beyond just gay rights. The thought sprouted in my head that maybe I could do this, maybe they would accept me. A handful of my peers felt my view of their reactions was romanticized, and I should be fully prepared for backlash if they found out. Could that be true? I reasoned that there was no way these outsiders were right. They didn’t know the ship like I did.

Welcome *pauses for dramatic music* to the hardest part of my story. If you think yourself weak of heart, I’d suggest skipping down a bit past this section. Starting with coming out to her the previous summer and going mostly through the year all the way ‘til Ragnarok 2013, I talked more and more online with my current girlfriend. My roommates accompanied me to a local drag show and gay bar, and I went on a couple dates with a girl from an online site. Nothing really panned out. I was still wanting this relationship with her that I didn’t think could happen. Our topics ranged deeper into real life stuff, personal history and philosophies and future hopes and all that—we had so much in common that it was almost scary at times. When it came to fully imagining the future, I delved deeper into my own thoughts, questioning why I was asexual and not lesbian.

The truth of the matter is I’ve never seen myself as physically attractive. One of my best friends has always given me “that look” whenever I make comments like this, though really all it did was keep me from mentioning that thought less. My mindset didn’t meet its nemesis with the umpteen million times I’ve been hit on, nor all the comments made about The List of Dagorhirrim I could have with a simple look and a, ”You’ll do.” Those weren’t me at all. Not only did I avoid admitting sexual attraction out of fear of cheapening my relationships, but out of fear of rejection. I didn’t see that part of me, so how could anyone else?

For a girl used to grass stained jeans and climbing trees as easily as she breathed, revealing glee as one of my decision making helpers might be as big a shock to y’all as the entirety of this musing. All of the cheese, over acted dramatics, and ridiculousness still can’t knock the metaphors that teach real life lessons better than most of this generation’s supposed role models. In this episode, the female characters were talking about their first times (which if you don’t know to what I’m referring at this point, return to 8th grade science class), and one in particular told how hers was beautiful, with someone whom she truly loved. And boom! I realized quite quickly that attraction shouldn’t be about guarding against rejection, like I was doing, but rather about love and trust. Was I truly not attracted to anyone? Or was that a defense mechanism against humiliation? During the spring of 2013, I slowly came to terms with the fact that it might be the latter.

A miracle came at Ragnarok when my girlfriend and I started dating, and I decided I was, in fact, lesbian on June 24th. We agreed “miracle” was probably the truth about our relationship when you consider all the factors of our situation. We had 650 miles between us, she was living as much of a No Impact lifestyle as possible, I had almost no vacation days left that year, but we still ran in. I slowly realized that I wanted her to be around the ship, that the feeling of sisterhood would be like the supportive family that got me through my high school years. And there was no way I could lie to these girls about everything she meant, was, is, and would be to me.

Which meant I had to come out fully, in all realms of my life.

I at first spoke with my sister from a legal standpoint, seeing if there was anything I should be wary of, and she said I was in the clear. What I should be prepared for, both as a scout leader and assistant track coach, is the reactions of the parents and the effect it’d have on each group. I emailed a brief story to one of the assistant track coaches first, to whom I was closest, and he was incredibly supportive, reaffirming my sister’s words. The support from the rest of the staff was reassuring too, in that they’d much rather fight for me and not worry about the griping parents if there was any conflict.

I revisited the subject with my mom before our high adventure trip, but she told me no. I brought up the fact that I’d have to lie up front to these girls, all the physical evidence that I’d blatantly have to ignore. It made no sense. I wanted to do it at our rededication ceremony, and was again denied. I told her it’d be the perfect opportunity, with all the emotions and sharing of ourselves, it would mean the world to me, and explaining myself in such a heavy atmosphere might be better to get the seriousness of this step to come across. She countered that I shouldn’t, that the ceremony was about what scouting means to us, not about who we are. Again, made no sense. Who we are is EXACTLY what our ship is about—the strengths we bring to the table, the times we need support, the maps we give out when a sister is lost. We’re all human, after all. Why wouldn’t this be appropriate? When emotions are at their highest and good vibes wrap everyone in a warm blanket that smells like campfire and a summer breeze. That’s the PERFECT time to do this.

Don’t get me wrong. My mom helped raise us four kids to be stupendous contributions to our country, and is an incredibly selfless creature. She stays up through all hours of the night to make sure our events run smoothly, dedicates hours of her week to the betterment of the ship, gives up a lot of her livelihood for its future. I know she was acting in what she thought were the ship’s best interest. To me, it was like faith in a god without using a little bit of intelligence—didn’t make sense.

We agreed, in the long run, that consulting council was the best idea. But that would wait until after the trip. In the meantime, I could only participate in a week of the roundabout drive to Montana for horseback riding. I detoured down to Missouri, hiked through wonderfully ancient rock formations, dove into 10 hours of driving across Kansas, went several hours speechless at the skyscape, detoured to Baker Street in Lawrence (yeAAAAAH Supernatural fangirl!), and finally arrived home late that night at my aunt’s church. Stories and humorous moments and smiling faces whirred about me, reminding my wanderer’s heart what family was all about and how to lose “loneliness” from my dictionary. One of the trends the rest of the week was the Question Game: one person asks a question, everyone answers, then the next person in line asks. Could be anything from silly (what bug would you be for a day?) to serious (what historical event would you change?). Luckily I had two of the most mature girls in my car, a graduating senior and a sophomore who had really stepped up her responsibility in the past year.

Several hours into the Question Game, my insides were all tied up in knots. I’m a great believer in Fate, so when the questions ranged into the realm of revealing what I told my mom I’d hide, I hated it. I was being slapped in the face, hearing everything around me say, “You need to be YOU with these girls!” Five days at the horse ranch of sharing and experiencing and teaching and learning, then another ride with these same two. The sophomore asked what our greatest accomplishment was. Instantly I knew it was coming out, yet I stalled thinking of something else that could compare, hoping the senior would give her explanation first.

What came to mind instead were all the signs, hounding me yet again. Not a half hour earlier, the question had been what character trait we wished we had, and the sophomore’s answer was the confidence she had seen in the upperclassmen, and also me, in how I didn’t care what other people thought about me, that I could be myself and hold my head high. Well geeze. If there had ever been a more direct sign, I’m sure that literally would’ve knocked me senseless and left a red handprint on my cheek.

So here it was again, raising a hand toward my face like I had lost a bet on How I Met Your Mother. And I came out, again. And I was surrounded by happy, proud faces, again. And I was speechless, again. All the warnings that people had given me were so far off. These girls had astounded me, though a part of me had always known they would be accepting. My instincts were put on the line, and pulled through.

To get a better idea of the organizational ramifications, I set up a time to talk with several council reps, saying that I’d like to tell our troop, and sent out an email to some of our most involved parents. Most all of them were on board. One said they weren’t in agreement with my lifestyle, but loved what I did with the girls and appreciated all the time I volunteered and everything I was teaching them. We’re still on speaking terms, and their daughter still attends, so I guess I can’t argue. It’s quite a feat to combine two conflicting philosophies in one head and agree with both. One of my best friends, little sister, and alumnae was able to swing the meeting (pun intended), and the reps phrased it that while GSUSA supports GLBT (and all of the above) without batting an eye, they can’t promote one lifestyle over the other, so I shouldn’t come out at this ceremony. Devastatingly disheartened. Here was an organization that lauded itself about accepting the beauty of diversity, yet there they went, putting limits on it. I had such high hopes after the whole BSA debacle (yes, I did have to quit as a leader for our Sea Scout Ship, but told everyone the reason was that I couldn’t support bigotry disguised as good morals).

Spoiler alert: later after describing the ceremony (again) to one of the staff whom with we had that meeting, she apologized for not understanding all that we did there, and said it would’ve been perfectly fine to do so. Yup, angry eyebrows.

I had already written up a song for our ship, to the tune of Ireland, with a specific verse about what our ship can teach the world. It was meant to accompany my coming out story, to give a different perspective on what the ship was truly about, beyond the ribbons and trophies and sometimes sassy cat fights.

“We are forty against millions who don’t know how it’s meant to be.
They cannot accept her lessons that lead us to our destiny:
We’re all sisters and brothers, whose happiness should be enough
To celebrate all Her diversity, and do all things out of love.”

After the ceremony concluded, I gathered our graduating seniors and alumnae in attendance, and told them. I had no inner debate about it, since they weren’t part of our ship, it was no concern of council. I heard so many gasps of excitement and witnessed the firelight reflecting off their smiles that I was incredibly touched. They were all stoked to meet my girlfriend, stalking her on Facebook before she even knew their names. She helped chaperone our Halloween camping event, where the Mariners latched onto her humor and playfulness and wilderness lore and mad hooping skills. As far as coming out goes, it seems generally like I actually got a fairy tale ending.

And all of that, ladies and jellyspoons, led to telling my story at this year’s ceremony. That same little sister came back as my support, for which I cannot thank her enough, and have no words for how I’ve seen her grow at each stage of life since I’ve known her. It started with a shaky voice, and ended with each set of eyes brimming with love. Out of everything that had happened, all the imagery and phrases I had planned for that weighty speech, what rang out truest was the absolutely beautiful perfection that Fate had lain on my path.

The ship, my original reason for caging my happiness, was the same thing that set it free.

So THAT is the reason why my story deserves telling. Out of tribute to each inconvenience and pain and agonizingly long lonely night and empty answer to each unspoken question, I tell my story. In hopes that a closed mind finds understanding. In the promise of giving another closeted person guidance. In the attempt to leave a legacy that’s more than my local community. As any writer knows, especially Atrus of Myst, the ending to life can never truly be written, but as I’ve seen for the better part and best parts of my life, having a hand in writing the climactic chapter can be the most trying and rewarding experience of all.

Now…pass me that popcorn.

Jesus Wasn’t Pope ‘Cause He Didn’t Have a Hat

It’s truth. Look at all the pictures you see of Jesus. Did he have a hat? No.

No Pope title for you, sir!

Above is the second best memory I took from a conversation I had at our spaghetti dinner tonight, call it Track Team Religious Studies. I snuck over to joke about two vastly different looking girls on our team (who call themselves twins), and ended up talking about books versus their movie adaptations. From there, quips about God thinking homosexuality was a sin (aka “gayness” in their terms) butted in, and the two girls and I were immediately drawn in.

See, this is where a lot of people don’t give teenagers enough credit. They have voices and well formed opinions and smart heads on their shoulders. Like most institutions, the group is condemned because of the actions of a few. Both my track team and ship are strong evidence that there’s hope for the future leaders of our world. But I digress.

For anyone who hasn’t read anything written, typed, tweeted, or status-lassoed in the past year, their arguments for and against the verdict were much the same. How can it be wrong if it’s not hurting anyone? But it’s right there in the Bible! Isn’t God all about love? God loves sinners, not the sin. I’ve gotta hand it to the one devout Lutheran in our ranks that kept her cool and defended her beliefs with consistency. Chopstick (her code name, as auto corrected on my phone) is actually one of the first of her generation I’ve heard speak out against it. Moving on, though, I elaborated on one of my theories that you can replace “God” in the Bible with “love.” “Love so loved the world that it gave up its only son,” “I believe in love, the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth,” for example, and Chopstick agreed with me.

Of course it was all on my mind driving back to the house. In particular, the thought that I treat the Bible as metaphor, a good guide for living mixed in with a little bit of history and interpretation. No, I don’t believe there was a flood that lasted 40 days and nights, but I do believe whatever made this world told us that starting anew is sometimes necessary, no matter how much you’ve sacrificed, bled, and sweated to create something as big as a universe. The interpretation part of it came in when I found out the Bible was written and passed down by human religious leaders. People are the same now as they were then. The leaders are going to want to shape their generation “properly,” and what better backing to have than God’s. Thus, in went the “no homosexuality” clause(s). I attributed it to human pettiness, but tonight, that changed. The mention of the Love Replacement theory pointed me toward “man shall not lie with man” as a metaphor for untrue emotion, and the example they used–the WORST one–was false love. Lying to someone or several someones through emotions is just as bad as lying with words, many times more damaging.

“But Becca, there are plenty of times they say flat out that being gay is bad. Why would they use both metaphor and ‘clear cut’ diction for the same idea?”

Solid argument, since there’s no overlap or repetition in the Bible. Ever.

All things considered, I’m human. I don’t have it all hammered out yet, probably never will. What I do know is there’s a purpose for everything, and tonight I found one only 20 minutes after the incident. Since it didn’t stretch out to several years, or cause me major strife until I settled on the grand scheme of my  conversations tonight, I’d call that a win.

And in case you’re wondering, no, I’m still not backing down on the “No Hat, No Pope” deal. True that.

FatBodyPolitics.com

http://fatbodypolitics.com/

Saw an interview with this young woman today on CNN.com, about her site where she–when it comes down to it–is bringing “fat” back. Being concerned for the health of my country, peers, and families, I was a little wary of it, but thankfully listened and read before I made judgments. And I just gotta say, good on ya, Amanda!

I appreciate her humor and snark, as I do in everyone, and realize her movement ties in with some of my ideals. No one’s getting criticized and publicly humiliated for calling someone a warrior when they’re not, nor are they passed over for a job if they refer to a house as a home. But I can certainly agree and support the negative connotation of “fat,” and I would certainly be interested on more research with its origins.

Am I being a hypocrite? Hell no, and if you think so, you’re not understanding my point. I fully support healthy lifestyles, practices, and body types. Fat, like she mentions, should just be a normal word and not indicative of negativity. Fat people certainly lead full healthy lives, and THAT is what I feel strongly about. My friends, family, and readers should know by now that beauty for me certainly has nothing to do with outward appearance. Beauty is everywhere and in everything. It’s in how present your true passions, whether you are fully present in the moment or all that you truly are. Neither fat nor thin imply “beautiful” to me, nor should they be synonymous with “ugly.” Let’s just neutralize it, people!

She’s got a hard fight ahead of her. It sounds like she’s ready for it, and I’m behind her. What about everyone else? Where do you stand?

Altur’Rang Upgrades to Nesram

Took a walk in Kinnickinnick FP during what others might call a dreary autumn morning. That’s a little one-sided: this time of year past the great tree transition is known for being overcast and heavy rain drops and muted colors. Regardless, it’s no secret that I love nature, and every part. The night sky is breathtaking beyond anything conceived in a mortal mind, I need all four seasons in my life, and I could never call weather ‘bad.’ It’s just weather, beautiful for reasons disguised as random or chaotic. On this particular journey, I went without music, and let the rise and sway of the wind dictate a melody for my first instrumental piece. I came away happy and content, that my muse had once again been heard.

The day after, I took an extra long ride, on a tight calf, in clothes that I felt initially would be too light, against a wind that forced me to pedal downhill. I did it anyway, squeezed in a moderate loop in Rock Cut too. Maybe it was all the factors nibbling away at my inhibitions and expectations that I finally found this realization. Usually I depend on music to drown out the wind’s static–who can hear birds or crickets in the twilight symphony when that racket is whipping past you?–and no  different this time, though for safety I only keep one earbud in. Right about the time I lent my attention to a car engine hum, Ron Pope’s Make It Home sang to me about a New York dream and blinding Broadway lights, and my preexisting hate for city life threatened to kidnap my good mood. Which isn’t far fetched. Growing up in rural Roscoe and on a green campus at Lawrence, the alleys and littered streets of downtown and west Rockford strangled the country girl in me. Not to mention, of course, apathy and an underlying narcissism as accomplices. The previous day’s songwriting from nothing but autumn’s exhausted breath was case and point why Nature is better.

My mind focused on the fact that I noticed the car, and another purring along Perryville, and then another, which showed me that there is a rhythm to the city, if you keep looking. And when it comes down to it, Nature didn’t give us the yearn of the violin, or a guitar’s excitement and versatility. The conclusion became that if I could get tunes from both the primitive and the ‘developed,’ Nature the city aren’t that different after all. Pope’s lyrics further coaxed me out of my pinpointed focus: I could enjoy the city if I figured out what light to cast it in. The scum-ridden city I had equated with Altur’Rang of the Sword of Truth novels now becomes a slightly more likeable Nesram, in all its wonder from Pahmoten.

Fate wasn’t finished with my lesson quite yet. Moments later, glee’s version of One Love (People Get Ready) tiptoed into my brain. Normally I’d just bob my head in the quirky way encouraged by the reggae beat. On my current mind path, though, my displeasure with urbanization transferred to the citizens and my coworkers. I tend to judge them straight up how they appear and act at work. They’re human just like me, imperfect just like me, probably judging me unfairly just like I do them. They are full of stories and scars that I tend to ignore. So I’ve got to back off and accept that there’s one true heart between every individual on Earth, the truth I so vehemently in my deism rant in The Idea of a God. I sink among those who hurt their fellow man by thought, when ultimately that hurts me too.

Rereading my relating of these self-evident truths, I acknowledge that when you step back for the grand view, they’re simple things that would evoke a, “No duh, Becca. I could’ve told you that five years ago.” Lessons mean absolutely nothing until you accept them yourself. No matter what preachers or conartists, parents or peers beat into you, through kindness or kicks or years of shoving literature in your face. They are extremely humbling moments, ones we hope come at times when others are understanding enough to forgive our stubbornness and shortsightedness.

And I understand this musing isn’t breaking ground. They’re age-old reiterations that’ve worked their way into this existence. My only hope for my writing them, as it has always been for all my works, is that simple act will give people not the correct answers, but the right questions. To show them a path, to change one’s mind or will. And maybe, with all the determination that I and all my inspiration and muses can muster, that these people change this world for the better.