Thursday, May 19, 2011

Serenity

All my life I heard the Serenity Prayer. Although my father never really did recover from alcoholism he did spend some time in AA and I in Alateen. The prayer goes like this:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

That is the popular piece of that prayer that AA'ers and others quote during trying times. I wonder how many people realize that there are a few more lines from that prayer. They go like this:

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

I always wondered how being able to accept the things I cannot change would ever grant me serenity. That really always made me mad. Why can't I stop people from killing other people? Why do some people get sick, suffer, and die? Why are there starving children in this world? Why do hate crimes happen? Why do any bad things happen? How could accepting that I personally cannot change all of these things ever bring me peace? That seemed a little like giving up.

I put that prayer away never really understanding it and considered it some silly cliche' that I could always find on cheap Wal-Mart nic-nacs. Until recently. I visited the last half of that prayer again and I think I get it now.

Living one day at a time is so much less consuming than worrying about the future until I am sick with concern. What will be, will be. I will work with what I have.

I enjoy one moment at a time. I understand that a belly laugh is the most joyful thing I have ever experienced. My Grandfather Jaspring taught me that. He had a laugh (and a sneeze) that could shake the rafters. I loved that about him. He made me laugh loud too.

Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace? Well I take that to mean that as hard as things can get sometimes, they are usually only temporary and there is relief on the horizon. Keeping that in mind helps me get through tough times.

Taking this world as it is and not as I would have it by Jesus' example is still hard for me. I think it should be. If it becomes too easy to accept bad things as they are, I don't think we can be motivated to change them. Another part of that prayer. I think the trick is not to be consumed by hate for the bad things. Always keep in mind that we live in this world with other human beings with the same kinds of weaknesses. That is still hard for me, I admit. But I am learning to understand how.

Do I trust that God will make all things right if I surrender to his will? Is that really the caveat? Does God need me to surrender to his will to make things right? I guess the jury's still out on that one.

The next line is the one I identify with most. I am reasonably happy. Nothing's perfect. But I have amazing friends and family. I have love. I am loved and I love with all my might. I have joy. I have sorrow. But I have more joy than sorrow. I am reasonably happy I think.

Will I be happy with God and with my next life? Do I even think that possibility exists? The world is a buzz this week with the thought that the rapture could happen this Saturday like an event or a holiday written on the calendar. I have been glib and irreverent about that. I think there are some people who really believe that they are first in line for heaven and there are those of us who will be forgotten and left to die forever. That makes me mad. So I make fun of them. Is that the right thing to do? No.

What about serenity? I have come to realize that the weight of all the terrible things that happen in the world and to me personally are not on my shoulders. It is only my responsibility to love and be loved and to offer something of myself when it makes sense to do it. I have learned to cherish memories and love my friends and family as much as my heart and mind will let me. I am serene.

Thanks for the prayer Reinhold! Happy Rapture everyone! I hope we all have everlasting love whatever happens.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Just Checking In ...

I haven't posted anything in awhile. I guess everything is going well. You know me (or maybe you don't) I want everything I want right now. The nuances of patiently waiting escape me. I know there are great rewards for having patience and letting the cask ferment and age. Still and all sometimes you just want a quick glass of white zin out of the box.

That is what I am noticing in my life now. I must say I am doing rather well in my new job and I can tell that I am making changes that are affecting the buisness positively each day. Still I want a promotion and a raise already! I know I can do more and make even more positive changes. It is really exciting. If I can just remain patient. Story of my life.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Had to Tell You in a Song

This is a song I wrote not too long ago. I have a melody worked out in my head. Now to get it down on paper.

*************************************************************


I Had to Tell You in a Song

You’re not the love I dreamed of as a boy.
The fairytales did not include this fantasy.
It has never been my nature to play coy.
I can only be what makes me – me.

So here is what is on my mind.
People say it when they fall in love.
I’ll take a chance – it happens all the time.
So now I say to you, “I am in love.”
CHORUS
How I love you. God knows I do, right or wrong.
I guess I must have known it all along.
And I felt I had to tell you in a song.

This world would like to tell us who to love.
They tell us how to love as well.
They don’t know that you are all I’m dreaming of.
I love you more than they could ever tell.

So let’s not let them tell us how to love.
Take my hand – I’ll hold you close to me.
Let’s show them what our love is made of.
Together we will fly in love so free.

CHORUS (X2) (key change up on 2nd time?)

How I love you. God knows I do, right or wrong.
I guess I must have known it all along.
And I felt I had to tell you in a song.

And I felt I had to tell you … in a song.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight!

This was an introduction that I wrote for a song in one of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus Concerts I sang in a couple years ago. I thought the content was worthy of revisiting.

********************************************

Fighting the Good Fight!

I remember spending time with my Grandfather when I was a kid. He was man of formidable size, tall and large, much like I am today. When I was small I thought he was a giant. He was an honored army veteran and well liked at church and in the neighborhood. When people walked by and saw him working in the yard as he often was they would wave and ask, “How you doin’ Eldon?” He would always say, “Fightin’ the good fight!”

As a kid I took that to mean that he was doing well and trying to do all the right things. I believed that was true, he was doing the right things. He was the father to me that my own father never was, and I loved him. He was also a very prejudiced man. I knew the kind man that he could be and I didn’t realize as a child how unkind prejudice really is. He was as he was raised.

Grandpa always had an off-color racist joke on demand, and gay people were those guys that “walked funny.” I think he suspected I may be one of those guys, because I heard about them often enough when I became a teenager. I didn’t come out to him before he died. Some things are better left unsaid, I guess. I could never bear his disappointment.

What is fighting the good fight? What does that really mean? There are people all over the world who have faith based beliefs that they think are so right that they are willing to fight to say their beliefs are the most correct in their own God’s eyes. They are even willing to kill over it. There are soldiers fighting for peace as we speak. Fighting for peace? What does that mean?

There are children killing children in schools today. There were the Columbine shootings several years ago and other school shootings since then. I was a graduate from Columbine High School in 1986. I would never have believed that something like that could happen in school.

As recently as last month a young person of 14 years old by the name of Lawrence King was shot in his middle-school classroom -- allegedly for being gay. He was harassed by bullies for wearing make-up and jewelry and telling other students he was gay. It was one of these bullies that tried him and sentenced him to death. That young man was also just 14 years old. He is being charged with murder and a hate crime.

What possesses a 14 year old child to murder another 14 year old child? Did he believe he was “Fighting the good fight?” Who taught him that this was the fight and this was the method in which to do battle?

This happens all too often. Remember Matthew Sheppard left to die hanging on a fence in Wyoming. Remember Kyle Skyock beaten unconscious in Rifle, Colorado -- he survived – but remains scarred for life. Remember Fred Martinez Jr. a gay, transgendered, Navajo, 16 year old, killed in Cortez, Colorado. Remember Gwen Araujo, a 17 year old transgendered teen killed in California. Brave young people are singing for their lives in our new Mosaic Youth Chorus right here in Denver, banding together to raise their voices against this hate and bigotry. They hope to educate and create understanding. In this way, as does the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus, they “Fight the good fight.”

There was a candle light vigil in Civic Park (Friday night) to remember the life of Lawrence King. Please take a moment in silence with us to remember Lawrence and his family and all those who have fallen at the hands of those who thought they were “fighting the good fight.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Para-“Abnormal” Ability

Ever had one of those unexplained, eerie, and possibly paranormal experiences? You know the kind that makes you question the existence of the paranormal? Even if it wasn’t your experience personally I think most people have had to question the possibility of something more than what we are completely aware of in reality. Several years ago something like this happened to me.

This particular afternoon around happy hour after work, I stopped into this little dive bar in Tampa called The Northside Lounge. The place was a wreck! We affectionately nicknamed it “The Doublewide.” Even though it was a dump we made it our “home, crap, home. “ After all, it isn’t necessarily about the building but more about those who occupy it.

I was sitting at the bar quietly enjoying my adult beverage when I noticed this older dude checking me out. Now when I say older, I mean he was easily in his seventies. I was in my mid to late twenties. EGADS! Just my luck, either no action or action from another era passed. I ignored him. I am sure he noticed that I was not interested by the look I could not have helped having on my face. Nonetheless he insisted on peering over at me with a creepy look on his face. I shuddered.

Finally he broke the silence. DAMN! Why couldn’t he just leave me alone? He glanced over at me and said, “You are going on a trip soon. I see the letter C. You are going to California? West, you are going west.” The fact was that the next day I was flying to Denver, Colorado to visit my family. I was a little disconcerted. I chalked it up to conversation with the bar tender. That had to be it. I must have mentioned it to Joey the bartender, although I could not remember doing so. I had been pretty quiet sitting there drinking my beer.

Some more time had passed and the man continued to glance over at me occasionally with an inquiring look. Still feeling creeped out by this guy, I continued to ignore him. I didn’t want to say anything to him that might instigate conversation. I just wasn’t interested. Once again he looked over and could not contain his comments. He said, “You are going to travel soon and someone around you is sick or injured. Don’t worry though; I see flowers which means they will be alright. It means convalescence. Flowers mean convalescence.” I didn’t know what to make of this. I just thought he was really trying to get in my pants and was pulling out all the stops. I had to hand it to the guy. His age did not curb his persistence.

A bit later the man introduced himself to me. He said, “My name is Lucien. I read you easily because you are a little bit psychic too.” I freaked inside. This little old dude no longer seemed to be hitting on me but genuinely was trying to make a connection – a psychic connection. He chatted with me about mundane things the rest of the time we sat there at the bar together. He seemed less threatening now and even a little nice. Yes, I decidedly liked him. Once again I learned a lesson about prejudice.

I finished my beer and bid everyone a good evening, including Lucien. I went home to get ready for my flight to Colorado the next day. I had never confirmed to Lucien that I was going west to Colorado. I just left it to coincidence and forgot about it – until I got home.

When I got home I went to the phone to check my messages. My sister from Colorado had called. At the exact time my sister called I was sitting at the bar with Lucien who was predicting someone near me had been sick or injured but would be OK. My sister’s message was tell me that my mother had just fallen down her basement stairs and broken her shoulder. She had to have emergency surgery to repair it, but she was going to be fine. She would pick me up at the airport at the scheduled time. Is the hair on the back of your neck standing? Mine still does when I think of that story.

Several weeks later after my trip I was sitting at the bar at Northside again. In walked Lucien who smiled and waved hello. He sat near me again. Again he gave me a knowing look and I knew a prophecy was about to be told. “I see boxes,” he said. “You are moving soon.” I smiled. I didn’t identify the story this time. I had no plans to move.

I got to talking with Joey the bartender about the previous episode with Lucien. I asked Joey if he knew Lucien and what he thought about him. Joe asked me, “Did Lu blow your mind? He does that all the time.” I was talking with Lucien again later that evening and he again prophesized a move in my future. I asked Lucien if he saw any hope for a love in my near future, a typical question of a psychic and rather gauche I know. He didn’t have a response for that, another correct prediction.

Not a week later, a friend of mine had a room for rent in his home that was cheaper for me and closer to work. It was deal I could not pass up. I was moving. Lucien knew it even before I considered it a possibility. Lucien and I didn’t cross paths again after that. By now I fear he may have passed. Because of Lucien I have to think that there is something more than meets the eye when it comes to the sixth sense. I hope you are happy wherever you are Lucien my friend.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Mother - Blue Blood or Blue Collar?

My relationship with my mother is a little strained, to say the least. It is August 3, 2010, and we have not spoken since long before the 2008 election and then only by email. I attribute this to our inability to find common ground. This has been going on for my whole life. She and I are equally headstrong people and don’t move easily off our stances. We may be more alike than I care to admit.

I, however, am open to other ideas. I will change my mind when the facts presented to me are conclusive. My mother, on the other hand, will change her mind when she has no choice. But instead of conceding that the facts support a new view, she rationalizes why she changed her mind so as to keep control of her decision. She does not bend. She merely changes her mind for her own reasons.

For example, she is a “would be” American car manufacturer devotee. Forget the fact that she knows very little about cars at all. She will defend the American motor car industry to the death. Now I am a patriot and I do own an American made vehicle, so I am not denouncing the industry, let that be said. It is no unknown secret that Japanese cars are tough and reliable not to mention gas conservative. If I were to buy said Japanese car (and I have), the rationale for which in my mother’s mind would be not that the Japanese car was a better car than many American made cars. It would be that it was better to buy a Japanese car than to line the Middle East’s pockets with oil money. Save the gas, starve the Middle East. It couldn’t be just because it was a great car and a good buy. That would be to admit that the Japanese make cars as good as Americans.

That is a very tame example of the way my mother’s mind works. The hurdles she and I trip over are much more complex and you would need to have been around us a long time before you would even recognize there is an issue. Not to mention the fact that she denies her involvement in any tension between us. It is all in my head, and I bring it all on myself. I have heard those words from her a thousand times throughout my life.

She vehemently ignores the part of me that is gay. All parts. I do not expect to discuss my sex life with my mother. What a ghastly thought. But there are other aspects of my personality that can be attributed to my gayness.

I will give you an example of what happens when she is forced to acknowledge my sexuality. Once when I was about twelve years old, she caught me trying on one of her dresses. Now I am not transsexual. I do not dress in women’s clothes or wish to be a woman. I respect and appreciate those who are, but I am not. I am glad to be male. I was merely curious. She had a long, lacy, black, formal gown that reminded me a lot of the costumes Samantha wore on “Bewitched.” I tried it on. (And I looked fabulous!) She found out. I can remember her screaming at the top of her lungs, “Do you know how sick that is?” I was so ashamed, hurt, and I am still scarred to this day. I wince at the memory of that because I have known ever since that she thinks I am sick.

But somehow it is very important to me that she acknowledge my friends and relationships. It is also important that she respect my political opinions and yes even adopt some of them. I could do with a little more support in the things that are important to me.

I am a singer and I sing in choruses. It is a favorite pass time. She has never made it to a show even when she could. She was available for a Sunday matinee once and decidedly couldn’t make it to my show because she had a hair appointment. She has rarely made any effort to be involved in anything that has interested me. She was certainly no PTA mom.

A few years ago my Grandmother, her mother, turned eighty years old. It was just after the motion picture “Broke Back Mountain” came out. I invited all of my relatives to Denver to celebrate her birthday. We had big plans for a week long birthday celebration.

The first night my Aunt started right in with her usual busy body, opinionated, judgmental ravings. She complained about my cousins and how they had dirty mouths, and drank too much, and “danced like lesbians.” She talked trash about their breast augmentations and may as well have called them sluts. I just sat quietly and listened. I never mentioned that it was her daughter that had the shot gun wedding. My uncle had to talk smack about a lesbian woman who was doing some electrical work for him. I don’t know why I needed to know that she was a lesbian. It was not integral to the story about her lack luster performance as an electrician. They continued with their “judginess” the rest of the evening while I sat there quietly and listened.

The next night we all got together again for dinner at Grandma’s house. This time my sister and her husband were there. Her husband and I have a very strained relationship which I attribute to his bad behavior, but that is for another blog. So my brother-in-law decides to start on a tirade about how ridiculous he thinks a story about two gay cowboys is, referring to “Broke Back Mountain.” I was sitting in the living room at the time while they were all around the kitchen table. It was not long before the gay jokes started to fly. He brought this topic up to piss me off, no doubt about it. He is an ass and would definitely do something exactly like that.

The inappropriate conversation when on for a minute or two before my mother spoke up and said, -- (and I quote) “I don’t want to see that movie either, but Michael is gay and I don’t want to offend him.” The statement would have seemed to some like she was coming to my rescue. This is where you would have to know the intricacies and dynamics of our relationship to understand my discord.

You see she was not coming to my rescue. She was trying to head off a scene at the pass (Broke Back pun loosely intended). She knew that by now I was sitting in the living room boiling mad. In my past I would have walked into that kitchen and told them all off. She did not give me credit for being able to control myself. She also talked about me in tone that made me sound like an unfortunate family secret. If the family didn’t know by now that I was gay, there was certainly no doubt about it now.

It was not her place to “out” me. And if she were going to, I would have expected a little more support and less disdain in her tone. She could have said, “I haven’t seen the movie yet. I believe two men can fall in love. Michael is gay and I hope he finds love and happiness. I will reserve my opinion for when I see the movie.” That would have been a rescue. I just left quietly and stayed away to let them have their week. I have vowed that I would never let anyone make me feel that kind of shame again. I have had little to no communication with the family since.

I think my mother sees herself in a matriarchal position. I don’t think she owns her “blue collar-ness.” I think she has always thought of herself as a “blue-blood.” I hate to rob her of her royalty, but I am the queen in the family. (Just kidding.) It is not a bad thing to visualize oneself in a positive light. I applaud her for wanting to rise above her circumstances and wanting to be more. I am just tired of being the secret anchor that keeps her down. I am tired of her making me feel that way.

I have worked hard in my life to become who and what I am. I have done well -- better than most under the circumstances. I have put myself through college and purchased my own homes without any help from anyone else. I would like her to acknowledge that. And I would like some respect for who I am. I am worthy of that. Would it kill her to come her us sing – just once?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Acedia and the Profane “I Love You”

Why do I set myself up the way I do? In my earlier post (Ambient Life) I mentioned that I seem to always go for the most impossible relationships. I hate being the type of guy that can only fall for relationships that were never meant to be. There always seems to be the flirt that knows just how to push my buttons. He knows just how to make me feel needed and wanted, but really doesn’t need or want me. Not the way I want to be needed and wanted anyway. Oh I am needed, but just for my knowledge or money or other opportunity yielding qualities. I am never needed for my heart let alone wanted for anything else really.

This latest person of interest has got that certain ability just about perfected. That is the ability to get people to do just what he wants for him. He wields around words like, “you’re awesome” and “thanks to you” to make you feel like you might actually mean something to him. And then he uses pet names for you like “cutie-pie” and “sweetie” that make one think that there is some affection there stronger than mere friendship. He even used the words “I love you.” These three words are profane when used inappropriately and hurt the heart like daggers.

It’s ok to tell your friends, “I love you.” It usually doesn’t happen until it is well established that you are as close as friends can be. That kind of vulnerability comes slowly and only as trust is built. When that time comes, when you tell a friend “I love you,” and both of you know just what that means, you have cemented a very special bond, probably for a lifetime. It is not ok to use this relationship or these words lightly. For me they are deep and meaningful. I don’t say “I love you” unless it is true. And if I tell someone I love them, I hope they know that I have reserved a special place in my heart just for them and that they have changed me in a special way. They have added their own special piece to the puzzle that is my life and they have helped me see that picture a little clearer.

So continuing with the puzzle analogy, when someone has used the words “I love you” inappropriately it is like trying to make the wrong puzzle piece fit where it doesn’t belong. It just damages the edges and is obviously out of place. When they continue to force the piece, it just becomes more damaged, maybe until it is ruined and never looks quite right when it manages to finally find the place where it belongs.

I don’t think all is lost. I did feel younger and a little more hopeful. I can choose to take this with me or succumb to acedia. There is no sense in living a life without joy. No one wants that. And even though this young man has been irresponsible with his actions, I still believe there is hope for him. I believe he will one day understand how his actions are louder than his words. I believe he will be tremendous for someone someday.

My heart has been hurt before and it will make it through again. Each time it is a little more scarred and a little tougher too. That is good and bad. I continue to stand tall on my own. I fear it will take even longer next time to feel love’s possibilities.