Exodus International: 2 Years Later… Can Survivors Rest in Peace?

bxg_Losing_Religion* Re-sharing June 2015 as TWO years later… same sentiment from last year still holds true*

If you are familiar with my writing or my blog in general, you know that I am a survivor. If you’ve read Enlightened-ish, then you know that my status as “survivor” extends beyond surviving religious fundamentalism and damage from conversion therapy efforts which organizations like Exodus International lied to the public about for decades. I am also a survivor of… life’s darker components such as bullying and sexual abuse. I speak about these things openly not because it is comfortable or even preferred, but because I believe that there is entirely too much fear of authenticity in our cultures of hashtags and half-assed spirituality. Thus, this post, 2 year laters reflects not only on the 2-year anniversary of Exodus International’s closing, but on the collective survivor movement that most of humanity is in, as we all go through an injustice, inequity, abuse, grief, or obstacle that lands us in the awareness of what it takes to thrive in a world that is often not always fair.

When I participated in the Our America piece in 2013, I had a feeling it would transform my understanding of activism and abuse. Recruiting survivors to be taped in front of their accuser: That’s “good TV” and appears at first, to be a motion of activism, but was it abusive as well? A group of survivors is invited to witness a respected journalist (with a net worth of $8.5 million) as she tries to remain neutral in the face of a man claiming to be apologetic about making a living selling lies about homosexuality’s “cure” through prayer and specialized suppression techniques. Are you familiar with the piece which aired a year ago? Here you go: Watch it again. Is it activism? Or is it abuse?

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0SZC3Azsqw”%5D

I personally can’t watch it anymore. Why? Because even in her “review” of her time with Our America, Lisa Ling continued to exalt Alan as a man who she believes was truly trying to attempt something good out of his efforts to apologize – Efforts which led to inequality, genocide, depression, death, and a mental health crisis among gay people, in addition to a spiritually divisive movement within Christianity. (See her respect for him in minute 4:25 of the link) This is tragic when I know from more than one source that Alan pitched yet another publicity stunt to Lisa, after the Our America piece aired. He continued to attempt to latch on the teat of her innocent assumption that behind it all, he was a good guy trying to do good things…

I don’t believe there are any segments at CNN planned, for her to take him on a trip to Africa where she can cover the story of his apology to the people of Uganda, but like I said… I know from more than one source, this guy has an ego the size of Africa – Or a guilt complex equally as large. Either way, any publicity on his face, or those like him, remains to their benefit because it actually reinforces the belief that ex-gay therapy does work. As long as anyone is still asking if the world is flat, there will be yahoos who believe it. Thus, to truly debunk a myth, perhaps we have to let the ignorant move down their paths of baseless beliefs and hopefully they die off like the plague that they are to the collective awakening to science, spirituality and common good.

But we can’t do that, can we?

I couldn’t.

In January of this 2014, when asked to participate in a hearing in Virginia, where lawmakers were given the power to prevent abuses to minors, they tabled the decision… but I went, I testified and I thought I was doing the “activist” thing. Here is the link to that drama/trauma and the consequent interview that I participated in for SkyNews.

Do I look like an activist?” I ask myself.

Or do I look like I am being abused by a system of journalism that continues to cater to the aggressor, rather than the survivor?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could stay involved with the survivor movement several times before in my experience… but after these incidents, I did step back a bit and begin to ask important questions about who “wins” when survivors speak up.

Ratings for the TV networks.

Listeners on the radio shows.

Blog hits for those who discuss us.

Opportunities to spread the lies, for those who actually still believe this stuff.

As I continued to evaluate my role, what I saw from all of this attention was how it perpetuated itself in online survivor communities. Suddenly I was being re-traumatized on a daily basis through my Facebook notifications and emails. Survivors have accused one another of not being “real” activists. Those who continue to teach/preach suppression accused fellow Christians of not being “real” Christians. Allies who are compassionate to the cause of equality are accused of not being “real” advocates. Trust levels were lowered and meanwhile, the actual story of surviving these injustices is lost in debate and stats like the following, ignored:

Q10Chart_Harm_Info

And so, for me… I have had to redefine what activism really is in my world. I can’t judge those who are making a career of chasing after evil and simultaneously trying to convince themselves it is not evil. I cannot discern the motives of anyone but me…

My motive has always been to make sure survivor stories are told… in all areas of our survival. In fact, that is why my career shift, towards early childhood education made so much sense in 2010… because if you truly want to stop victims from being victims, we have to empower our children not to become aggressors and to stand up for themselves when there are so many words and beliefs that can offend the soul.

An ounce of prevention, is all I can offer.

That is my activism now.

I look back at Christianity and how it is arguing with itself and it is sad to watch. I hear stories of progressives who don’t feel “progressive enough” and I see how the image of Jesus is crucified in blog posts and newsfeeds… I hear survivors who don’t feel “active enough” and pastors who can’t find churches that are “involved enough” in actual justice-seeking, mercy-leading communities and lives…

But I have to wonder about this meme that passed across my eyes not too long ago: exodus_year_later_1When I wrote my coming out memoir years ago, I recognize that there is “A Time to Yell…”

But what if there are activists who move within a very different world of advocacy?

What if we are quietly making a difference by creating positive change in the future, by investing in young lives today?

I’m not saying that the adult survivors don’t matter because, of course, I am one! We need community, compassion and environments where we can freely discuss our healing process. And the world needs justice-seekers, but doesn’t it also need peacemakers?

Do we need to continually share our stories in places that are designed to inflate egos or publicity?

Do we need to make ourselves vulnerable in order to increase ratings and if we do, how does that affect our own quality of life?

For me… I cannot engage in what former leaders are doing now, like it’s some VH-1 pop-up video of apologies, stats and E-True Hollywood banter. I’m over it.

Not over what they did and not over how much attention they still get for doing it…

But for me, being an activist now means being whole in my home, my heart, my health, and in my work.

My fiancee (2015 update: wife 😉 )  dreads this post because she knows that most of the time, when I post about this topic, the attention it brings literally causes me physical pain. But I have assured her, this “years later” post represents the highest intentions of doing what we all wish cult leaders and abusers would do after they have disbanded.

Rest. In. Peace.

Can survivors rest in peace too? Can they look at the places where hurtful words and beliefs left wounds and say, “I learned something and I am going to be okay?” Can they remember their trauma without shuddering? Can they learn to rebuild trust?

Can we… be at peace?

The answer is yes.

But the path to “yes” is different for each of us.

So today, on an anniversary of Exodus International’s shutting down, though it began a shit storm of rebuilding efforts by its leader and continues to be discussed in blog posts from people on both sides of the aisle, creating even deeper division within Christianity and families, I can say…

Happy Anniversary, Survivors.

To all survivors… for every year we make it to the next level, OUR next level, we can celebrate.

Let the media culture do what it needs to do to make a living… but let’s not contribute if it interferes with our own desires to make a life for ourselves.

You have survived much, my friends. I am honored to know your stories and be inspired by the tenacity of them… Thank you, for being… you.

Namaste.

~~

DSC_0821Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

 

3 Reasons to be Grateful for “Failed” Relationships

relationships_2When it comes to love, it is clear that society as a whole sees longevity as the ultimate goal in a relationship. Endurance and even stubborn tenacity are viewed as the signs of “success” or indicators of a quality partnership. In fact, for those of us who have had several long-term relationships throughout our adult lives, they have named us perpetrators of “serial monogamy.” It sounds like a crime or mortal sin, punishable by a lifetime of assumptions about instability and emotional baggage.

But what if those of us who have “tried, tried again” when it comes to love, know something special because of our ability to get back on that horse and chase after a different setting sun?

I have given this a lot of thought, as a person who survived two 4-year engagements and 1 clusterfuck of an 18-month rebound. Now, I recognize that I’m 36 years old and able to stand back and say, “You know, that was pretty ugly at times, but I’m grateful.” I look at my current fiancee and challenge myself about this rare feeling I have: It feels alien-like really… to envision an actual, sustainable, no-nonsense, adventurous, and aligned future with someone who doesn’t see me as a stepping stone to their healing, an obstacle to their goals, or a season in their ever-changing personal journey.

Can you see that so-called “baggage” coming through my words already? Go ahead… ask yourselves this: “Why was I ever with someone who saw me as a stepping stone, obstacle or season?”

The truth is, for those of us who are serial monogamists, we know the answer, but we’re afraid to tell you. If we tell you “why” we are susceptible to being a chapter in someone else’s love story, we may become victim to attracting a changing tide instead of the whole ocean of possibility that healthy love can offer.

But I’ll take the risk, on behalf of us all… and I will tell you why we allow for this… after I walk you through the 3 Reasons we are learning to be grateful for these seasons of love that others call “failed” relationships:

Grateful Reason # 1: Resilience is our Middle Name

relationshpis_Luna_CaterpillarIt takes a lot to start dating again after a woman tells you that you are the love of her life and she has never met anyone who knows her the way you do… then she leaves you a week before your wedding invitations arrive from the print shop. It takes a lot to believe in love again after a lover tells you that you are the person who completes her and she cannot imagine her life without you… then she calls off her proposal of marriage. It takes a lot to believe in the goodness of relationships after a girlfriend tells you that your friendship means the world to her and she would never jeopardize it… then she cheats on you.

What women can do, to women, to men… to anyone – seems criminal. I can’t even begin to imagine being bisexual and feeling like both sexes are available for these emotional lawbreaking activities. Men equally do this to women – I have no doubt.

But ask the serial monogamist if they still believe in love and somewhere inside of theirrelationships_3_luna_moth broken hearts lie this regenerating caterpillar who still expects that love can remain hidden in a safe cocoon and emerge into this magnificent butterfly or moth. We can be shaken but we are built to last. We are the Energizer Bunnies of intimacy and we have no intention of letting someone ruin us for the one who matters… if you are lucky enough to fall in love with us, we are piece of coal that is living under the pressure of failed relationships and a judgmental society until you prove yourself worthy of our trust… then the shine begins to make its way to the surface.

We sparkle.

We cannot be broken.

And we know how to handle the pressure of disappointment better than those who have had love delivered to their doorsteps on silver platters of good timing and cosmic arrangements.

Grateful Reason # 2: Time is on our Side

dating-2Some of my favorite memories of time spent with my wife-to-be are the conversations around moonlight or candlelight, when I could tell she was falling in love with me but I was cautiously sitting back and waiting… not playing games, not sending mixed messages, but with a patience I was sure I had failed to execute before, with such precision, I waited for the dust of infatuation to settle. Meeting new people is like shaking up a snow globe of romance and at first, there is nothing but a flurry of meetings we call dates or hang-out encounters where we attempt to interview for the position of girlfriend, partner or lover. There is a real treasure in being with someone who will feel their fire of passion for you but not show it right away… because when the critic of romance sees that you are still there, still smitten and not nearly as naive as you let on, the critic becomes the biggest fan of dreaming. Idealism erupts like a geyser and not only has the foundation for trust been laid, there is once again, the belief that this “thing” called love, is going somewhere. We who have “failed” may not rush nearly as much… not because “this time, we want to be sure” (because duh, we always say that), but because there’s nowhere we need to be other than right here in the moment. It’s all we know to trust anymore and in life, not only is that resilient, is refreshing to be around, isn’t it? First dates with serial monogamists may not include sky-diving or sex-capades, but you’re going to be in the kind of experience that can lead to bricks and mortar-style intimacy. We know we are going to put in our time… and we are okay with that, most of the time. 😉

Grateful Reason # 3: There are no Eggs, There is no Basket.

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKn7XAMNV-g”%5D

The art of detachment is one which comes with many heartbreaks. It doesn’t mean we can’t commit and it doesn’t mean that with time and trust, we can’t show up for the joyful surrender that love can be in a committed partnership. (again) I admit that having been in 8+ years of relationships has left me with scars. I thank two partners and one girlfriend for those scars though… because now I do not put all my eggs in one basket, as they say. I do not expect my wife to “complete” any part of me that I cannot already heal on my own. I do not look to her to do for me what I cannot do for myself. I do not expect her to handle me with special care or do anything even similar to a parent or even a confidant. She is not my playmate and she will not become my pacifier. She is my… friend. My very dear, beautiful, sexy, mindful, brilliant… friend.

Rather than saying that “there’s no one like her,” or fill my or her head with platitudes of “meant to be,” I found myself agreeing with my mom who said, after meeting her, “I can see why you want her as a friend… for the rest of your life.”

And this, my lovelies, is how we learn to re-frame the past in order to find a new sound, a new wave, and maybe even a new heart. It helps that when this lover says she loves me, she says it in Spanish sometimes… because the words, “I love you,” are well beyond over-used…

In the end, our baggage is our baggage, but we are grateful because we aren’t committed to our expectations anymore. (Well, except that expectation of loss that creeps in when we are too happy, but that’s why there are counselors 😉 ) By now, we have dated/married or committed to people of various incomes, education, spiritual background, ethnicity, sexual expression or even gender identity. The serial monogamist has seen it all! (And believe me, if you want to really learn something, ask the polyamorous!) I know that couples who married someone at 20 years old and stayed together until their 70’s know things we don’t know, but it’s time we stop selling ourselves short for “failing.”

In fact, isn’t that why we fail?

Let’s get to that point, as promised…

What about our “baggage” and this “pattern” of being in relationships that don’t work out? What is the achilles heel of the man or woman who seems to attracts lessons out of lovers?

The answer is that we are a vulnerable hot mess. The reason that we were willing to be with people who see us as stepping stones, obstacles, or seasons is because we have been unable/unwilling to truly love ourselves and the outcomes we seek.

Shit, it’s out there now, isn’t it?

The problem is we love our lovers more than our goals.

We love our partners even, more than our problems.

We love our would-be-spouses more than the self in the mirror.

But together, as we learn to see the value in these “failed” relationships, we begin to apply principles of self-love and eventually I believe we will attract the type of person we actually can spend more than four years with as a couple…

I’m banking on it, actually.

Because if 8+ years of “failed relationships” provided me with anything, it’s success at being myself. This is a priceless gift that many never figure out…

Succeed at being you.

Mr. or Ms. Right may do better than sweep you off your feet… this person will beautifully support you in keeping both feet on the ground when you need it or walk patiently through the muddy and sometimes unfamiliar path of partnership. Be grateful for their past as they are ever-so grateful for you, in their present.

Namaste, my friends… and to my lovely wife-to-be… please continue to mirror that beautiful hope that I remember so well, the first and second times around… third time is more than my lucky charm. It’s the pot of gold at the end of a double rainbow filled with butterflies, endless cliches, and so much pink glitter, we can hardly stand it. Te amo…

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Our Dead Dads… An Enlightened-ish Father’s Day Post

IMG_1786.jpg

Dad’s last sunset rainbow

The raw reality gets us to the point, doesn’t it? Death does that for the living.

I don’t like death, but I appreciate it for how it slaps us on the back of the head, especially when we are busy worrying about petty disagreements, financial distractions, or self-image obsessions that have nothing to do with “real” life or death. I’m not saying everything between the first breath and the last is all nonsense. All I’m saying is that once you’ve had an encounter with grief, you are more likely to be the kind of person whose healthy cynicism distances you from blind or lazy paths of “success.”

Anyway, this year is not my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I wrote about the first though, in Enlightened-ish. I have decided that the best way to remind myself that my dad still matters is to share that complicated, but important chapter from my grief memoir. After you read this chapter, you will understand why our dead dads matter. When we work through our grief, we we snap back into seeing what is important and learn how to free ourselves from burdens and imperfections. For some of us, our dead dads teach us more from the grave… and we miss them dearly not because they were perfect, but because grief is an awful, albeit powerful, teacher.

Allow me to add some context for this chapter – It touches on several themes that came up through the writing of “Enlightened-ish.” There are portions where I discuss what it felt like to leave the Christian Church *again* and also how I learned to let go of heart wounds that came through two relationships. This is the kind of stuff that I dealt with, alone, on my first Father’s Day without Dad – so many layers of grief, thus, so many layers of healing.

In short, healing begins with us, forgiving ourselves, for failing to accept the raw reality and the blunt self-awareness that can set us all free… namaste my friends. Happy Father’s Day, Dad… RIP.

~~

Chapter 12: The Freedom to Forgive and Forget

Enlightened-ishby Gail Dickert.

Feel free to share with permission if linked to the original post.

Copyright, Gail Dickert 2013.

“Father’s Day 2012 – the first when I did not have a phone call to make or a card to send.

I’m surrounded by some of the most thoughtful people that walk this great Earth yet, not one single friend reached out to ask how I was doing on that day.

No texts saying, “Hey, just in case you’re having a hard time, I’m thinking of you.”

No phone calls asking, “What are you doing to remember your dad today?”

No emails or notes suggesting, “The first one is always the hardest but you’re not alone.”

Nothing. Nada. No one.

Were it not for the short texts with my sisters, my mother and the friend I was visiting (who only contacted me because I was visiting her from out of town), I would have been all on my own to reflect, sob and search for solace.

            What I longed for most, aside from the freedom to call my dad, was a friend who would take note of his death.

~~

            When I took a summer getaway to Massachusetts before Father’s Day weekend, I discovered the Freedom to Forgive and Forget. Specifically, while sitting quietly in a secluded sandy beach at Cape Cod, I thought about my entire week away and all of the activities planned. I knew this retreat would be significant but I didn’t know exactly how the awakenings would present.

            It was hard to believe that this freedom would come from anger.

            Being angry at my friends is like punching flowers for not blooming upon my command. It’s hardly reasonable. My friends are brilliant. They consist of people who are globally recognized spiritual leaders and highly educated, mature, energetic, giving, creative, faithful people. I have the most enlightened-ish friends in the world.

            Yet, while I sat near the ocean, watching the waves predictably toss shells, rocks and sand towards my dry spot on this remote beach, I lamented, “This bunch collectively forgot to call me? C’mon Universe! What could I possibly learn from more isolation?”

            The Universe spared no expense on this freedom. There are three concepts to the Freedom to Forgive and Forget. I named them The Three Calls. (That’s three more than I received from my friends.) The Calls I did receive made it clearer for me to see through the fog of forgiveness and land at a place of acceptance and mental freedom. I didn’t know it was possible. Not only is it possible, but it’s also available to anyone with the ability to reframe the concept of impossible.

            There are people who teach that all things are possible, when we align ourselves with God. There are others who teach that all things are within reach, when we focus our thoughts on positive energy. On the contrary, we hear plenty of teaching about what is not possible. We can’t make someone love, we can’t force someone to change, and we can’t know what people are thinking.

           What I experienced on Father’s Day weekend, aside from the lack of calls from my tribe, was the opportunity to attend a mind-blowing, gravity-defying performance from the talented and innovative people of Cirque Du Soleil’s “Totem.” While on the beach, I remembered what I felt while watching their latest traveling revolutionary show.  (If you’ve never been to a Cirque Du Soleil show, I sum it up like this: Extraordinary acrobatic contortionists presenting their unique, artistic skills while defying gravity and reason before an audience whose jaws never leave the floor for 90 minutes.)

            Each show I’ve seen has been better than the one before. Totem was no exception.

            It was significant that the plot resembled my personal journey. The theme of Totem is to explore what happens as creation awakens to the beautiful spark that is “life.” It is deeply rooted in Native American traditions and viewing Mother Earth as a Turtle. (Turtle is my animal totem.) Beyond the theme, it was the tricks, stunts and interconnected costumes, music and physical tenacity of the entire event that allowed me to receive The Three Calls.

            As I watched the professionals deliver a breath-taking performance, I envisioned what my life would be like if I could use my mental faculties to free myself from the past the way they used their physical bodies to free themselves from the ordinary.

            Examining each performer’s acts of courage and bravery, I began the formation of this freedom. This all came to me during the show but it passed before I had the time and mental fortitude and capture it in writing. Little did I know that the same dedication and training it took for a man to balance on his head, on top of a 100-foot pole that rests on the bridge of another man’s nose, is the same mental capacity I can use to rewire my brain into a powerful tool for accessing the Freedom to Forgive and Forget.

~ The First Call: Recognize the Timing ~

            A single collision on the Cirque stage could send any one of the acrobats to the hospital. Bad timing could also injure an unsuspecting audience member too. Likewise, forgiveness is an issue of timing.

          “Forgive and forget” is good in theory. It is similar to the lofty and spontaneous ideas that Cirque producers have about their acrobats soaring through the air. As like the performance, the actual execution of forgiveness requires exact timing.

Forgiveness is often viewed as the climactic event around which all other spiritual decisions find their meaning but this is not the case. Forgiveness is simply one flip in the trapeze act, one step on the tightrope, or one ball to be juggled on the path of healing. “Trusting the timing” means moving through this part of our awakening with attention to detail.

            When the timing was right for forgiving my exes or the people in my Christian community, I had a lot to consider. At best, I could say their combined actions were unintentional. At worst, I could perceive that all involved needed to be held accountable.   (Enlightened-ish living has less to do with what others have done or not done and more to do with our own choices.)

            As I sat with a mental list of supposed transgressions, I had an image of the Cirque performers, spinning and twisting in their artistic displays of interdependence. I thought, “If one of them fell, would they immediately blame one another?” Using the Freedom to Imagine, I scripted a dialogue between me and the “performers” whose behavior had caused injury to my heart and soul.

            “You missed the catch!” I said to a trapeze partner at the church.

            “I know,” she sighed. “It’s just that you reminded me of someone else for a second and, well I don’t know what happened.”

            “Stay focused!” I barked at the knife thrower in the home.

            “I am sorry,” she replied. “I have so much on my mind, I haven’t slept in days and my head is throbbing.”

Suddenly the call was clear.

Bad timing cannot be underestimated.

            I did not recognize that I was rehearsing with people who were not fully present or able to perform. But with a broken arm and a knife in my foot, I had to take responsibility for my part in the collision.

            My spiritual community was not ready for a progressive person of faith. In fact, they were still recovering from being hurt by other people. No amount of artistic passion, friendship or prayer was going to hurry them along in their evolution.

            My ex wasn’t ready for a relationship. In fact, she had not yet recovered from abuses in her family or the disappointment of her divorce. No amount of nurture, love and prayer was going to hurry along her evolution.

I, however, was ready to fly and take calculated risks.

With a reframed awareness of timing, I could focus my efforts not on their behavior but my own.

I received the call to forgive myself for colliding with bad timing.

I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to force a situation to be what it is not ready to be.

~ The Second Call: Be the Source ~

           The twists and turns of a Cirque show require the performers to use their own body’s inertia and weight in order to create the movement that is desired. At some point, while the beauty is in the timing, the power is in propelling oneself.

            This is equally the case in awakening. Each twist is necessary but I was challenged to keep the momentum going entirely on my own. I set out on this freedom but also the entire book to complete an ethereal To Do list:

To give voice to the grief of my father’s death.

To tell the truth of how it felt to leave a spiritual home.

To imagine healing for my body.

To release myself from the karma Bright brought into my life.

To share the story of one man’s fateful day and my irreversible response.

That was one ambitious set of tasks!

Finding the momentum to proceed when I didn’t have a publisher or agent required a lot of stretching and expanding. Motivation would have to come from somewhere. I didn’t have a book advance and yet I maintained a full-time job while writing.

I had to become my own Source.

This Call came through loud and clear was when I realized that after all of my experiences of 2011-2012, what I was still hanging onto was the break-up with my partner of 4 years, in late 2009. (Before I reveal the details of this partnership, I need to finally give her a name. I will call her Beloved.)

The reason I am still in touch with Beloved is quite complicated and enough to make a therapist tilt their head in wonder. It isn’t necessarily a negative thing.

The Freedom to Forgive and Forget would not have been so powerful were it not for the day we debated about how she ended our engagement, leaving me with the deepest level of disappointment I had felt since…

Well, since my father had abandoned me as a child.

Granted, I had been left by a partner in 2006, but the level of trust that I had for Beloved was adult. This was “grown-up love.”

For better or worse love. (The kind of love I had hoped my father had for his family.)

As we had this awkward and heated discussion, I finally confessed to Beloved and myself that after almost three years, I was still angry that she walked away. I was angry not just because she left but because I never would have done that to her. She did not love me with the same for better or worse love with which I loved her.

She was “my beloved” and no other before woman had convinced me that they could love me with the same acceptance for our differences. When she proposed in 2007, I embraced every gesture like it was a marriage in that private, beautiful moment on a chilly but beautiful day in February.

While on my drive home, after this flashback of a fight, I imagined myself again as a Cirque performer. I thought of this wild task list and how I was editing the most bizarre book I’ve yet to write. I thought of the previous three years and how I hadn’t even come close to forgiving Beloved.

Suddenly the call was clear.

I am my own Source.

I was looking for her to be the source of the compassion I needed.

I was looking for her to be the source of the understanding I sought.

With a reframed awareness of Source, I could focus my efforts not on her behavior but my own.

            I received the call to forgive myself for seeking momentum outside of me.

            I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to be abandoned.

~ The Third Call: Breathe More, Think Less ~

            Sitting close to the stage at a Cirque show allows the audience to see deep into the process of each maneuver. As my friend of 20 years held her breath for each wide leap or fast spin, I looked closely at the rising and falling chests of each acrobat.  All performers were 100% focused on their breathing.

            I watched as two acrobats lifted the ends of a rubber balance beam upon which a smaller acrobat would soon be leaping. With intensity, they inhaled deeply, kneeling down and then exhaled forcefully as they stood up, and moved the beam from the ground to their shoulders. This image, of calculated and timed breathing resonated with my experience of grief.

            Grief has a way of making even good memories painful. This is the sad reality of the emotional unraveling that comes after the loss of a loved one. I noticed this one afternoon when I was talking with one of my teachers at the pre-school. She was sharing some of her thoughts about classroom management, nature-based learning and child-led activities and suddenly I started to remember that her first day at the school was the day my father died.

            Then my mind started to snowball.

September 16th.

The date of my father’s death happened to be the same as the birthday of an ex girlfriend. The woman responsible for so much of her pain and thus, our collective pain in the relationship, was born on the same day of the year that my father died. Death and birth are hardly distinguishable sometimes.

September 16th.

It hasn’t even been a year yet.

I was thinking so much, I couldn’t breathe!

After the teacher walked away, I went outside to catch my breath.

            Once again, grief had taken my breath away. One minute we were just chatting and the next, I was standing under the expansive arms of an oak tree hoping to calm myself down. I thought of the Cirque performers, lifting and shifting and doing it all, one breath at a time.  I longed to be as graceful in my awakening as they but anger within me began to boil. I thought of how death had been used to bring me to life. I resented it. Loss and grief had conspired against me since March 2011 and there I stood, angry at my father for dying, angry at an ex for lying, and angry at the “Universe” for not trying to make my life simpler.

Most of all, I was angry at myself… for crying.

Under that great oak, I knew that it was time to Forgive and Forget and make the ultimate acrobatic move regarding the many losses in my life.

It was time to stop thinking so much about the behavior of others. It was time to stop holding my breath, waiting for the ex to apologize for her lies or for Beloved to apologize for leaving me. I couldn’t be angry anymore at my friends for not calling or my father for not living. My mind was running the show.

            With a reframed awareness to breathe more and think less, I got the call to never forgive and forget anyone, ever again!

            I received the call to forgive myself for holding my breath for anyone or anything.

            I called upon myself to forget what it felt like to over-analyze that which cannot be explained.

~~

After my parents separated, my dad had a saying about how he was always thinking of his daughters.

“When the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me.”

This abstract thought wasn’t very comforting for a grade-schooler who hoped to hear her father’s voice on a daily basis. By high school, I started to understand that for some reason, he didn’t know how to be a non-custodial father. He arguably wasn’t the best father before the separation but it was my impression that at least he was present.

            It was that day on the beach at Cape Cod, when I sat with my silent phone and thought, “Dad, is that you?” that tears began to flow – the taste of these tears, so bitter and the anger, so tangible.

How dare he abandon his children in such fashion! How dare he not prove that he was thinking of me and behave in a manner that matched this so-called thought he had for my well-being!

            As I stared at my silent phone I debated between two options.

I could keep waiting for it to ring – berating my friends for being forgetful while I simultaneously remembered the wound of abandonment.

           I could turn it off –  forgetting what it felt like to wait for a call to forgive while I simultaneously remembered that I didn’t do anything wrong by having expectations that my father would be there for me.

            It was in that moment that this freedom turned me into a great contortionist!  I forgave myself for needing a call, turned off my phone and took a two hour nap on the beach. Surrounded by sacred stones and no other voice than the one inside of me, I was assured that this freedom was a call I could receive.

~~

Forgiving my friends for forgetting to call on Father’s Day was a natural act but forgiving me and forgetting what it’s like to live in impossible situations was an act of artistry of Cirque De Soleil proportions.

The Three Calls highlighted that I now have the capacity not to force a situation regardless of bad timing, not to seek external affirmation, and not over-analyze. With the Freedom to Forgive and Forget, I barely remember what it felt like to be bound.

All I can think about is what it feels like to be free!”

~~

To purchase Enlightened-ish and learn more about how grief can lead to spiritual awakening, click on the links within this post or here, to see reviews/commentary.

458190_254963957940988_1997742215_oGail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.