The Evolution of a Survivor: Emotional Resilience

Darwin_ResilientI’ve been working on a new writing project which dives into survivor experiences, as a means of highlighting what we understand about resilience, grief, and the healing journey after trauma. As I partner with other survivors, advocates, and psychologists, I notice that there is a sense of “strength” in this work. I’m preparing to launch the project as an e-book and it will hopefully highlight our experiences, educate the media, and provide support to those who are finding their way through the healing process. The project has been called “brave” and “powerful” by those who have reviewed the outreach approach and the content… yet…

We need to be transparent about our emotional resilience and its source.

I’m not brave.

I am not even strong.

I just evolved under changing and traumatic circumstances.

When my father emotionally abused my family, I learned to be responsive to change.

Home isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my neighbor abused my body, I learned to be responsive to change.

My body isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my church abused my mind, I learned to be responsive to change.

Spirituality isn’t safe? I will evolve.

When my peers abused my spirit, I learned to be responsive to change.

Being me isn’t safe? I will evolve.

To all of us, who have evolved from every unsafe environment and emerged each time as a new species within our own emotional ecosystem, know that I see you.

Others may think we are on the top of the emotional food chain and can handle anything.

And we can… and we will.

But sometimes rather than being viewed as the person who will “always survive,” we koalaknow we want to be viewed as the small and cuddly chipmunk, lower on the food chain, but adorable and cute too. We want to be seen as the butterfly, magnificent in her transformation, but fragile in flight. Sometimes… we are just a koala… looking for a tree branch and a soft place to call home.

Pay close attention to why some people are so “strong.” It may be simply because a tragic evolution required them to learn to stand alone…

I am fortunate because I finally met a woman who could walk this journey with me – recently, when my wife read through the survivor project, she did the unthinkable as a response – she put down the pages, said nothing, and simply hugged me – for those moments, I didn’t have to explain anything.

I didn’t have to describe my writing process.

I didn’t have to rehash anything I wrote.

I didn’t have to outline my plan for publication or my next steps as a writer/survivor advocate.

Before the editing, feedback, questions, or encouragement in the project, there was only the hug.

The best hug ever, honestly.

Because without words, she told me, “I see your resilience is because you weren’t safe…

And with that, I knew…

I am safe now.

My home, my body, my spirituality – me.

It’s safe to be me.

Evolve well, my friends. We are not alone. Namaste.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose 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, Blue Mountain Arts, 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.

 

A Cyber-Sabbatical… The Freedom to Heal

When I first started For Gail So Loved the World, I was searching for community.

I was searching for my voice, as a writer, as a spiritual sojourner and as an activist.

I was searching… for healing through the written and spoken word.

I was actually, searching for Jesus, believe it or not.

When I look back over the 100+ posts and dozens of vlogs on YouTube, in the last two years, I realize that I have lived my life inside out.

Exposed.

Naked.

Open.

And I’ve somehow managed to remain respected as a professional in my “day job.” 😉

We get raw sometimes and have no place to take these feelings.

We get lost sometimes and have no idea where we can admit it.

We get real sometimes and feel like no one else is trying it.

My Facebook pages and these posts have been my external process, in hopes that the boundless love that I have for the world could bloom into a community of readers and folks who share light with one another.

And that community has certainly come into fruition in many ways!

Specifically, in the last year, my online community has shared endless memories with me and I have walked with them through many life changes as well.

For me, here are a few highlights of just 2013:

121014_003* I accepted a major promotion at my non-profit.

* I said goodbye to my fur baby, Dre, of 12 years.

* I traveled to LA in order to appear on Our America, face the leader of a deceptive organization by representing survivors of reparative therapy and Christian Fundamentalism.

* My family nursed my mom through a life-changing surgery.

* I published my second book, Enlightened-ish, which discusses the awakening that came through trauma in 2011-2012. (Only to later temporarily pull it from publication until AuthorSolutions could resolve their questionable approach regarding distribution and copyright.)

And now, in only the last few months, I’ve launched a new business in order to support self-published written and spoken word artists, prepared to see my mom relocate out of the area for the betterment of her health and walked a painful path with my body that is leading to at least one surgery…

We have shared… so much.

And the truth is that my vision for my life a few years ago was that I am nothing but a “conduit” for Light and Love. I trusted that no matter how much I was putting “out” there for the world, I would always have an endless supply of creativity, hope and encouragement for others.

Love would flow through me…

Light could move through me…

And as beautiful as this vision has been, I realize now…

I deserve to contain it sometimes, not simply facilitate it.

I am human and in all of my freedoms, what I rarely do is mindfully create some space for me to heal and just ‘be’ for more than a few days.

Now, the funny part is that even in taking a cyber-sabbatical, I will still be working on Teaching Memoirs and I will also be working hard at my non-profit, which fuels my soul in dozens of ways. I will be writing and connecting with anyone who comes across my path and yet, the silence on my blog (aside from events/happenings) will feel so strange. The silence on my Facebook page, even more foreign.

But, like I said in Enlightened-ish (which will be available again soon), self-love is a key ingredient in awakening. I have loved and cared for myself and my own life, but this year has brought me to an awareness of my limits.

And I believe now, that limitations teach us what truly matters.

I am more than a conduit for light and good things – I must also receive, contain and experience fully, in my own body and mind, the pleasure that comes from Love.

pain_body_1I don’t believe we create our dis-ease… but I do believe we must be response-able to it and not simply approach all illness as a mechanical/chemical and ultimately purely physical malfunction in an otherwise healthy existence. In short, I am not responsIBLE for the way my body has processed itself in light of years of good and “bad” stress, but I am response-ABLE to ensure that my limitations are honored.

It’s time I find the Freedom to Heal.

It’s interesting then, isn’t it, that when I first started blogging, I was in search of Jesus….

Why?

Why was I searching for a martyr? A savior-figure? A Healer?

Maybe what I was really searching for, was someone who could love, be loved and still… be human.

Perhaps that is the closet description of any savior figure who has any value at all…

1234469_666161776728688_80315677_nSo instead of Jesus, I found a thirty-something curly-haired, open-hearted activist/pre-school director who tread as gently as possible in the lives of those who engaged in her writings and poetry through an online forum until…

She looked at her cross and said, “Meh, that story is tired.”

And for a few months, she put down her burdens…

And picking up the pace on pleasure.

I will see you again, soon-ish. 😉

Until then, play Cups, listen to this… and know, you are loved, just as you are, without exception.

Namaste, yo

P.S. When you’re ready to Awaken Your Best-Teller and bring your lessons to the world… you can find me here. I’ll be taking a limited number of clients in 2014…

A New Way to Talk about the Ex… An Enlightened-ish Response to Breaking Up

Let’s talk about our exes… and try not to bash their inability to accept us as we are or love us the way we needed.

Let’s talk about what it is in us that welcomed them into our lives, even when we got signs that they didn’t value our differences or celebrate our unique ways of looking at the world.

Let’s talk about how they were intimidated by us but we allowed for it.

Let’s talk about how we knew we weren’t getting our needs met either, but we stayed out of a stubborn need to try harder.

Let’s talk about how, in the end, we didn’t love ourselves enough to choose better partners, lovers, spouses.

Let’s talk about exes… and realize that what was really lost was an outdated version of ourselves that we don’t want anymore anyway.

Relationship 2.0, 4.0, 8.0… it doesn’t matter, as long as you know that the updated version involves upgrades to your emotional and psychological hardware, then you are on a path that leads to wholeness.

On your temporary path of singleness or long journey towards marriage, let’s heal by talking about these 3 things:

Break-up-lines1. It’s Complicated. It ended because it was complicated. It’s always complicated. There are no easy break-ups, even when a couple tries to remain friends. There are as many reasons as there are excuses. If love wasn’t complicated, how would it know how to prepare your coffee but forget your anniversary? How would it know just what to say when you’re crying but constantly nag you about your clutter? How would it keep you warm on a cold night but sometimes give you the coldest stare mid-day? It was love. It didn’t last, but it was… love. Complicated love. Two words that are often times, synonymous.

2. It’s human. She’s not an asshole, even if she did cheat. He’s not a jerk, even if he didn’t Break_Up_Cardsupport you in your career. She’s not a cold bitch, even if she did lack emotional intelligence with you. He’s not obsessed with himself, even if he did spend more time with his friends than you. It was human… what did we expect? Take off the rose-colored glasses. We all played our human parts to the best of our abilities.

3. It’s over, but it left a mark. Her words left a scar. Good. You won’t ever let someone talk to you like that again. His dismissal was unforgivable. Good. You will never be in a thoughtless relationship again. You will never forget what it felt like to be alone in a relationship. Good…

breakups-repeatingWe know better how to do it right.

We know better what we need.

We know better who we are…

And we know what we’re talking about now.

All is well.

Namaste, broken-hearted. We bind our wounds when we know how to talk about our exes by empowering ourselves to make better choices, affirm stronger boundaries and celebrate that we are lovable.

To have and to hold… but never too closely, because Light is designed to move faster than Love…

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8eB64pXoGU”%5D

P.S. I dedicate this to my former partners and anyone who considers themselves an ex… truth be told, you never knew me, because I didn’t know me. If I did, I wouldn’t have stayed so long. May you feel love, knowing that what was meant to be, was… for as long as it was necessary for us to learn that we deserved better in a relationship. You deserve someone who would never let herself be treated the way I allowed you to treat me. Wishing you a love without fear, with affirming boundaries and… a life far, far away from mine Seriously. No regrets… just… no repeats either 😉

The “De-churched” – How to Talk to Us

Some people have found progressive communities of faith in which they feel comfortable, connected and cared for, while some of us have been so wounded by the leaders of organized Christianity, that we simply cannot and do not attend.

I’m a Bible College graduate. I was a youth minister for years and a pastor as well.

I know what they label us.

They call us the “de-churched.”

It’s always a hot topic really and the more a person surrenders their autonomy on their spiritual path, the more intense the discussion becomes! Those who have found comfort in remaining a part of Christianity or progressive faith communities celebrate that they feel comfortable in their congregations and they act as though they have stumbled upon a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

church_FireBut some of us have found that each effort to engage in Christianity ends with a slammed door, a crossed boundary or a judgmental word. I have found this each time I have attempted to rejoin Christianity and either I have really bad luck finding socially and emotionally intelligent Christian groups (or leaders) or I am just not destined to be a part of any organized Christian-based community. (Or a 3rd option I have yet to discover).

I share this not only because I think it’s hard for some of us to leave… but because what complicates our recovery is how some of those who “stay” treat those of us who left.

Sometimes they talk to us like we gave up.

Sometimes they try to recruit us to reform. (Does the analogy of a bad marriage help? Not everyone is called to stay with an abusive spouse and help them heal after every beating.)

Some of us leave because we don’t want to suffer anymore.

Some of us leave because it is well with our souls to do so.

Some of us have turned the cheek too many times and now have endless scars and can’t proceed with this form of faith.

Some of us still really dig Jesus, but have been shown over and over, that Christian does not = Christ-like.

It’s a sad reality, but it is our reality.

So, let us be.

Don’t tell us how awesome your church is – that’s your story.

Don’t tell us how to forgive – that’s your process.

Don’t tell us why it’s important to be in community – that’s your value.

Don’t tell us the church needs our unique voice – that’s your cause.

Tell us it doesn’t matter where we go Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights… because we are loved, just as we are and nothing about church membership or group-based spirituality will change that.

Tell us we matter.

And then walk with us…

walk_with_me_lhi_poster_1Like Jesus would.

And maybe that will lead some of us back to your churches…

Or maybe we will find that nature, the coffee shop, the movie theater and the community food bank feel more like church anyway…

So, in short, don’t talk to the de-churched…

Walk with the non-church goer.

Our stories are legitimate.

Our faith is real.

Our lives are whole.

We aren’t broken just because it doesn’t work for us to be in church.

And you aren’t whole because it works for you…

We become whole when we allow for differences, celebrate individuality and find cooperative ways to love mercy, do justly and walk… humbly.

Understanding the “Other”

Much of my professional and personal life revolves around supporting others (and myself) different_1through a discussion of social/emotional intelligence and spiritual awakening. The convergence of these topics has quickly become one of my greatest joys because it requires me to look at the “other” as a part of me. Rather than assuming someone else is less than or even better than, I consider that I am both autonomous and somehow an integration of all things…

Why yes, this does sound like a hippie way to live. (And no, I’m not old enough to receive official hippie status. Darn 😉 ).

However, it is more than hippie talk. I call it “homospirituality” (same-spirit attraction) and truly believe that there is a way for us to engage in community and conflict without infringing upon an individual’s personal journey. (For recent footage of my vulnerable and somewhat “revealing” ownership of this process, see this post. Man, that heart of mine belly-flopped, didn’t it? Doh). My utopia is a bit frustrating, since most of the time I feel like an alien. But, I recognize that this incessant and quite adolescent need to be “different” has drawn us to degrees of separation that burn away the ability to connect deeply, meaningfully and with a level of passion and commitment that inspires.

So today, I pose the following list of “others” that we think exist in our world… consider this list while embracing your individuality while seeking to understand the “other:”

The fatherless child doesn’t understand the other child whose Dad is always there.

The Dad who is always there doesn’t understand the other child who feels suffocated by his father’s constant presence.

The childless woman doesn’t understand the other woman who grieves the birth of a sick baby.

The mother of a sick baby doesn’t understand the other woman who grieves the inability to adopt.

The infertile man doesn’t understand the other dad who yells at his son on a camping trip.

The angry father doesn’t understand the other man because he personally never wanted a family.

The working family doesn’t understand the other family who spends more on vacations than it can afford because that is the only time they see one another.

The single income family who doesn’t understand the other family who spends more on childcare than it can afford because they trust the village to raise the child.

The married couple doesn’t understand the other person whose singleness leaves them lonely.

The single person doesn’t understand the other person whose marriage leaves them lonely.

The believer doesn’t understand the other believer who doesn’t seek a savior to feel whole.

The other believer doesn’t understand… the other believer… who doesn’t believe that there is the other…

Confused yet?

Good… because the other… understands what it feels like to be outsider.

The other… understands what it feels like to be misunderstood.

And that, is what we have in common.

We. Are. The other.

And thus… understanding the other begins, when we realize, there is no other.

Separation is illusion, yet the magic is in our unique story.

Go figure. 😉

Namaste.

different_2

Homospiritual Meditation for the Week: Nature’s Mirror

I’m sharing the weekly meditation early. Also I have an announcement about a local book signing appearance at the bottom of the post. Good times, yo 🙂

“What if I told you that you are perfect, like the sunrise?
What if I told you that you are stable, like the oak tree?
What if I told you that you are angry, like lightning?
What if I told you that you are powerful, like thunder?
What if I told you that you are nourishing, like rain?
What if I told you that you are… able to know these things without my telling you?
That is the self-guided journey.

That is the call of our souls.

Nature mirrors for us what to accept about ourselves.

Look around.

You. Are. Creation.

Beautiful.”

~ Gail Dickert, author, activist and reluctant musician

For more about my recent release, Enlightened-ish, please follow the links to read reviews and leave your own comment if you’ve read it and are ready to share your experience.

Namaste, my friends.

~~

Are you in the DC Area? Gail will host her release party/book signing at Grounded Coffee on June 1st, starting at 2 pm. Meet Gail, purchase signed copies, enjoy a fabulous local coffee shop. (Note: This is my only local appearance until the Fall.) Facebook event here. Also, stay tuned to Our America with Lisa Ling in June, for more about Gail’s journey and the journey of others surviving fundamentalist religion.

Gail Author Photo

Straight Supremacist Warning

Portion of "The Rescue" my unfinished painting

Best $11 movie ticket ever. Last night I saw the movie, “The Help.” I laughed. I cried. I cheered. Best thing wasn’t the colorful (pun intended) and brilliantly written dialogue but the beautiful pauses and well-delivered punch lines exchanged among the characters. I don’t do movie reviews but this flick has me itching to pull an Ebert-move and toss up two thumbs to show my approval! So well done and so… well…

Easy to apply to my blog! (I think my friend leaned over at least 2x and said, “This is going to lead a blog post, isn’t it?”)

So, what was I thinking about my blog while enjoying this destined-to-be-Academy-Award-winning new movie?

I was thinking, “What really is the difference between white supremacy and the ex-gay movement?”

Both seek to hinder the progress of the people who are not like them.

Both seek to recruit young white people to their cause.

Both use unethical and sometimes violent tactics to evoke fear and oppress the people who are not like them.

Rather than making a plethora of comparisons, I thought I would simply take the statement that is on the KKK’s website, and replace words related to race with words related to sexual orientation and add “straight” and “gay” a few places. After reading it over, I suggest that Alan Chambers of Exodus International, Michele Bachmann and Ann Coulter get together to approve this new statement as their straight agenda. Let’s be real here… if you are emulating the KKK so why not own up to it and officially connect yourselves to the Klan? Maybe there’s a tax benefit in it for you.

Read it for yourself and tell me if this doesn’t this sound like something out of Michele’s mouth? Hasn’t Alan played a victim when reasonable people have taken a stand against the genocide of Exodus International? (Remember the Apple App?) Doesn’t Ann repeatedly try to usher in support by cheering on her “moral” majority and claiming the gay people have an agenda?

“There is a war against straights. But our people – my straight brothers and sisters – will stay committed to a non-violent resolution. That resolution must consist of solidarity in straight communities around the world. The hatred for our children and their future is growing and is being fueled every single day. Stay firm in your convictions. Keep loving your straight heritage and keep witnessing to others that there is a better straight way than a war torn, violent, wicked, socialist, new gay world order. That way is the straight Christian way – law and order – love of heterosexual family – love of nation. These are the principles of western Christian civilization. There is a war to destroy these things. Pray that our straight people see the error of their ways and regain a sense of loyalty. Repent America! Be faithful my fellow straight believers. ” (Paraphrasing of statement from National Director of the Knights, Pastor Thomas Robb)

So, to be clear… let this post serve as a warning that those who seek to deny rights or create “separate but equal” space for the LGBTQ community in the workplace, churches, homes or communities are no different from the white supremacists who insisted that African-Americans should piss in a different toilet, drink from a different fountain, or proverbially sit in the back of the spiritual bus that is en route to blessing and full inclusion!

We must refuse to call the ex-gay movement an “alternative perspective” or suggest that it is merely a “controversial” discussion (Shame on you, NPR!)

Call it what it is…

The ex-gay movement is no different from the White Supremacy Movement.

It is…

Hate.

~~

Furthermore, nothing should light a fire under true believers in Jesus more than knowing that in the name of your savior, they are proclaiming this hate. Many kudos to organizations such as Believe Out Loud and Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists who are Christians standing on the side of love! Please visit their pages below:

www.facebook.com/believeoutloud

www.facebook.com/pages/Association-of-Welcoming-and-Affirming-Baptists/207481543481

The Church as Oppressor

Let’s tap into the wisdom of this online community of which we are all becoming a part. Since I started opening up more about what the Fundamentalists did to my sense of identity/community, specifically through the soul-raping techniques of those who believe in “reparative” therapy, I’ve received dozens of emails and read heart-wrenching stories from others who were also in the same sinking boat that we now call “Christianity.”

That is one conclusion…

Christianity is a sinking ship, full of cargo that represents cancerous lies about grace and hell. A ship without a captain and with a crew that is drunk on “righteousness” and “holiness” as it heads for the inevitable iceberg of Humility where its Titanic “We’re Bigger than God and We are the Only Ship in this Ocean” philosophies will come to a tragic but perhaps necessary end.

Whoa!

Is that where I see Christianity’s story going?

Well, probably not, but after having read and responded to some of your emails, I thought I would call upon the church-goers of our community and ask you explain why you attend church. For those of us who still struggle to engage in the Christian community, inquiring minds want to know…

How has being a part of church set you free?

And this can go for any religion, Christian or otherwise because at this point in my journey, and after drinking Bill Maher’s Kool-Aid by watching “Religulous,” I’m thirsty for some words of freedom from anyone who is going to church.

The floor is yours… tell us…

Is it just us or is “Church” destined to lead to social, emotional, spiritual or even financial oppression?

Note: I will approve all comments on this post so you guys see exactly what I see. Let’s be kind and honest and allow Love and Light to draw us closer. Namaste!

Also, for those writing in, please continue to do so! You are soul food. gail_dickert@yahoo.com.

 

Why Gay Pride Matters

In the spirit of equality, togetherness and reaching out to any first-timers in this month’s Pride celebration, I’ve carved out some time in my Pride Weekend to write a letter to an anonymous friend who is valiantly working through her coming out experience. I think that knowing me makes it a little difficult at times because I’m so very comfortable with who I am but I remember when I wasn’t… so this is dedicated to my dear friend but also to anyone who is coming out… and to all of us, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender or queer, who know what it’s like to feel small in this big, big world.

~~

Welcome out of the closet ~

The closet was certainly a comfortable place so let’s start by acknowledging that it was somewhere known and a place where you could predict your own behavior and your interactions with others. You knew your “wardrobe” and what you enjoyed wearing in this world and while you were trapped in the semi-darkness, darkness can be soothing when light is blinding. So, an affinity for being hidden is natural…

But that isn’t your story anymore. All of these rainbow flags and colorful people can be overwhelming! I remember my first gay pride parade and how uncomfortable it was to see so many “proud” people, holding hands, kissing one another, laughing loudly, dressing wildly. I thought, “Wow! They are so pretty” but I was frightened at the same time. I felt like the whole crowd could sense that it was my first time and like a pride virgin, I was shy and reserved, confused and my stomach was in knots. So many people… celebrating what? Themselves? Their sexuality? Their friendships? Love? Their leather chaps and feather boas? What the?!

I saw more SKIN at a pride parade than I thought was legal. I thought, “Is this what Woodstock looked like?” and I wondered how on earth I would fit into this “freak” show. But that was the first year…

Over the years, I’ve learned that Gay Pride matters not because we get to wave our freak flags but because we become part of a community that sticks up for one another and agrees that only in diversity can the oneness of creation truly be manifest on earth. Does it sound hyper-spiritual? Well, I guess that’s what I call “homospiritual.” Gay Pride is this one month in the year and sometimes only a few hours when people identify with one cause: Equality. The events aren’t really about sexuality at all.

It’s about equality and how there’s room for everyone in this big, big world!

So this year, as you participate in some of the wacky events that make up the culture of gay pride, I hope that you can take a deep breath and realize that no one is asking you to become like them, full of flamboyant traits or over-the-top expressions of your sexuality. Rather, find YOURSELF in the crowd… not by literally looking around in the crowd and identifying with anyone, but realizing that in this crowd, you matter. Just as you are…

And whether you come out entirely, to your family and every friend, co-workers and acquaintance you ever meet, the point of this month and this weekend is that you fully come out to the crowd and realize your unique, intrinsic worth in a community.

And recognition of oneself, in the midst of a crowd… that’s not a gay pride matter, that’s a human matter. We have the gay pride phenomenon to thank for reminding us all that we are worthy of a celebration, because of who we are, not because of who we love or what we do.

So enjoy yourself this month and this weekend. The rainbow love and light that awaits you out of the closet is exciting but it is a hard adjustment when you’ve been told that you don’t matter and sameness has been worshipped rather than diversity. Be gentle with yourself and know that in time, you will know like I do that being a lesbian doesn’t make me special… but being myself does.

I love you.

Gail