Special Edition

This blog is getting an extra post today so that I may express some of my thoughts about yesterday’s ruling on marriage equality. I welcome all respectful comments.

For me, the day was odd. While everyone else was celebrating marriage equality, I had yet to learn of this historic decision, becasue I was watching SkyNews which was focused on the terrorist attack in Tunisia. It wasn’t easy to make the switch to joy when there was so much pain going on elsewhere.

Then when I pulled up Facebook, it was as if a rainbow had exploded everywhere. However, having come from a conservative Christian home and area, there were many FB friends who were conspicuously silent. I celebrated, but kept my response tempered. I didn’t change my profile picture, or post the White House in rainbow colors. I didn’t want this to be a rub-it-in-your-face moment, because I knew the blowback would start shortly. So I posted a couple of mild things, and liked my friend’s posts like crazy.

Having grown up with those beliefs, I understand some of the pain those silent friends are in now.

So let’s talk about that pain.

First, some of this pain comes from the belief that America is a Christian nation, favored by God above all others. They see America as the new Israel. Throughout the old testament, when Israel turns away from God, He turns away from them, and they fall into ruin. So, there is fear in their anger, that God will now turn away from America. However, there have been many times America has had policies that surely broke God’s heart – murdering, kidnapping, beating, torturing, enslaving, and raping Africans was perfectly legal within the United States, and the Bible was used to justify these practices. God did not turn from America and bring it to ruin for that. Instead, the very economic foundation of our nation was built and flourished on slavery. Are two people of the same sex who love each other so much they want to commit their lives to each other, somehow worse than the evil of slavery?

We went straight from slavery to genocide. We tried to wipe out the people who lived on this land for thousands of years. Yet God allowed that, the nation’s borders expanded, and we flourished. Are two people of the same sex in a committed, loving relationship more heinous to God than genocide?

As for the argument that this is a Christian nation, that’s an easy one to deal with. The fact that the nation was founded with the concept of “freedom of religion” at its core seems to say we’re not. Some would argue that those Puritans were being persecuted by other Christians, thus “freedom of religion” really applies to practicing one’s Christian faith freely from the limitations of other Christian faiths. So, going with that, yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling would still be acceptable, because there are many different views on the interpretation of the Bible. Since the government can not establish an official religion, or favor any denomination, then “I believe” is not a strong enough argument to deny someone a basic human right.

Whether you like it or not, the Bible doesn’t have one clear meaning. It was written down years after events, translated many times into many different languages, and you can find highly qualified Christian scholars who, when going back to the oldest texts available, find meanings that are not taught from the pulpit. The Old Testament is STILL being argued about in Jewish temples across the globe, yet the average American Christian is firmly convinced they know the mind and will of God. They believe that what they were taught, is the truth, and what everyone else was taught is a lie from Hell. See the problem here? Because the government isn’t in a position to pick the “right” denomination, they must leave all faith-based opinions out of the decision, and make the one that ensures that all people are treated equally.

You may see homosexuality as a sin. That’s YOUR belief. It’s not mine, or millions of other people’s belief. Why should yours win out? If you answer, “Because I believe it” then move on. You’ve lost the argument.

Let’s take another angle:

When did you decide to be straight (if you are)? If I asked nicely, and assured you it wasn’t a sin, could you change who you are attracted to? What if I legislated that you could only get married if you are homosexual. Would that get you to change that little flutter you feel in your stomach when you see someone you are attracted to? No? Hmmm.

If God doesn’t make mistakes, and millions of people (and even animals) have an innate attraction to the same sex, then it must not be a mistake.

Some argue that they should deny their attractions, get married to someone of the opposite sex, and live in the sanctity of a holy union. Yeah, well, do you want to be the person who marries someone who isn’t attracted to you and longs to be with someone else? I don’t. I want to be with someone who is as passionate about our relationship as I am. An empty, going-through-the-motions kind of marriage, is not the kind of marriage I see written about in the Bible.

Or perhaps they should stay celibate and not engage in sexual behavior their entire life. Yeah, that’s realistic.

Or perhaps we should follow other laws of the Bible and stone them.

Or we could just shame them so much they kill themselves. We’ve been doing that for years.

I’m guessing that those who are so angry, fearful, and hurt by this ruling don’t know any gay people personally. Oh, they may say they do… after all, that checkout guy is pretty flaming, and their hairdresser may be gay and they still go to him… so yes, they DO know gay people. But it’s not the same as caring about someone in your inner circle. It’s amazing (not really) how many politicians change their minds about being gay when their child tearfully comes out. Suddenly they are face to face with the pain their beliefs have caused. Suddenly someone whose heart is intertwined with theirs is in anguish. Suddenly they feel the same pain. When you have friends or family who you’ve watched spend their lives together in a more committed relationship that many straight couples, yet don’t have visitation rights in the hospital, or legal rights after death, and maybe even keep who they are, secret from their judgmental friends and family, it changes your heart. Legislating against gay people doesn’t stop them from being gay, but it does stop them from living full and open lives.

Something else to consider:

If God is in control, he allowed a conservately packed court to make this decision.

Or:

If homosexuality is such a major issue to God, why did Jesus never mention it even once? And why are there 300 verses dealing with caring for the poor, yet the church isn’t screaming out about the immorality of an unregulated capitalist system that creates poverty. Well, one guy in a funny hat is, though it’s pretty bizarre how suddenly he went from the infallible voice of God to a dangerous man who is to be ignored.

Despite my understanding of the beliefs, this is one thing that is a mystery to me. Why is today’s American church so obsessed with homosexuality? Is it because the majority of them find it easy to not be guilty of it. I mean, gluttony is also a sin, but you’d be hard pressed to find a church where everyone has repented of their fatness and takes excellent care of their bodies/temples. Those unrepentant obese Christians are not denied the right to marry or consider themselves Christians. That sin is overlooked, most likely because if the church made a stink about that, there’d be no one left in the pews.

Anyone can believe anything they want. This ruling does not change that. If you sincerely believe homosexuality is a sin, you are still allowed to believe that. Live by your beliefs and do not commit what you consider to be a sin. Nobody’s asking you to get gay married. You might have to face conflict when you don’t attend a homosexual family member’s marriage, but that’s no reason to deny someone their basic rights.

Nobody can say it better than Justice Kennedy:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

This week America took another step towards living up to its ideals. That should make you happy, no matter what your personal religious beliefs.

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At Last!

Yes, I know I missed a week. I was tired of writing about things that were impending. If I had posted last Wednesday, I still would have had to talk about what was to come. But finally on Thursday, the house sold. Then there was a flurry of paying bills and buying a car. For the past two years I had been working hard to finish up my college degree, and on Monday, all those loans got paid off. Feels great! I have a degree, but no debt. Now life settles into normalcy and I am so looking forward to that. It was a little frightening to have made my leap and not have the safety net in place. Glad it’s there now.

I joined a local a cappella group. It is a bit more of a time commitment than I had expected. The music is very challenging and requires a lot of rehearsal at home as well as the 3 1/2 hour weekly rehearsal together. However, standing on those risers and hearing the voices blend together into beauty makes it worth it. I’ll give it a few months and if it is taking too much time from writing, I may try to find a less intense group to join. There are some interesting personalities, one type I’ve had recent experience with, and it makes me a bit leery of joining. Basically it’s the kind of person who puts on a smiling face and seems like the nicest, most helpful person in the world while consistently placing the dagger between your ribs. Lots of passive-aggressiveness. I’ll do my best to avoid them, but if I can’t, there are definitely other choirs to join. Life is too short.

Now that I’m settling in, I’m a little worried I will lose my attitude of gratitude. The honeymoon phase will eventually end. I can thank that honeymoon phase on my miserable life in LA. Pixar came out with a movie recently called “Inside Out” which I thoroughly enjoyed when I wasn’t dozing off because of exhaustion. The American culture is one that only allows for happiness. If you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you. Stop complaining. Only be happy, happy, happy, happy, happy! And if you’re not happy, happy, happy, happy, then go away! But the truth is, we are bio-chemical machines and those other emotions play a role. “Inside Out” reminded people that sometimes sadness or anger is not only necessary, it’s useful. The misery I had in the last few years of living in Los Angeles did not feel nice, and I didn’t always react well to it, but it was necessary to spur me to change.

Even futher, the misery there in contrast to life here, has unleashed much of the joy and happiness that is required to be an American. Every little things floods me with gratitutde. The short commute. The civil drivers. Quiet movie theaters (I’m part of a movie group and now go see movies regularly, somthing I rarely did in LA). Ample parking. Friendly, helpful people. Fully being a part of the team at work. Using my intelligence and talents creatively at work – designing flyers, social media posts, and working on new ways to bring in more clients. Flexibility at work that allows for a social life. No entitled celebrities. No more entitled people who think they’re special because they work in TV. Car insurance at half the price. Long showers. Green! Thunder. Lightning. The ease of running to the store and it not taking an hour or more. Shorter lines. Lack of competitiveness – because there’s enough for everyone. Watching a guy play with his dog in the park across the street (which I’m doing right now.) Not hearing a Harley at 5:20 a.m. every day as it idles at the stoplight by my old house and then roars off, being audible for well over a mile away. The new definition of rush hour – when an older couple pedaled past my house on their bikes, followed by a pickup truck a minute later. Living on one level instead of having to climb stairs every day. Old growth trees in a big yard. Activities that are easily accessible. Feeling safe. Feeling supported.

The list could go on and on and on. As I said, I feel gratitude for every little thing simply because of the contrast of what I just went through. However, I know human nature, and that contrast will eventually fade. People here complain about traffic. They have no idea, but eventually I will probably complain too. Despite loving rain, after several weeks of it, I was ready for some sun. Just too bad it also comes with humidity. See, there’s a little complaint sneaking in. But, thankfully now that I’m heading in the gratitude direction, it will be harder to turn the ship back around. It will be easier to keep the heading, as long as I am aware, and stay present at the wheel. That’s my goal. Remember where I am, compared to where I was. As long as I do that, it’s so easy to be grateful!

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Next Week

Next week, next week, next week. Next week things will be in place. Next week we’ll have an answer. Next week we’ll have a closing date. Next week we’ll close. Except none of those next weeks ever really seems to pan out. For months I have been living with the dangling carrot of next week. Perhaps I did not learn enough about patience in 20 years of going nowhere. Apparently I have to have a little more beaten into me.

My soul’s desire right now is to go out into a field and just scream until my throat is raw. That is the level of my frustration. Once again, I’m waiting for next week. After the buyer dealt with 3 different lenders, each one re-setting the clock, things are finally in place, the paperwork is ready to be signed… except the buyer decided this was an ideal time to take a vacation, and now we can’t close until… you guessed it… next week.

My bank account is dwindling, my credit card balances are ballooning, I’ve been trapped in a one room hotel suite with 3 cats for 3 1/2 weeks. I’m missing a family camping trip because of this woman’s delays. My boss has been generous enough to lend me a vehicle, but I no longer feel comfortable using it after this long. It’s likely back to a rental in a few days. More money out of my pocket. My body aches from the hotel bed. My mind aches from lack of sleep. But hey, you just jet off and have a fabulous and restful vacation. I have a vague memory of how fun those are from the last one I took 11 years ago.

Yeah, I’m just a wee bit frustrated and angry.

But there is good news too. Despite barely having any money left to pay for it, I have been approved to rent a home. It’s ideal because it provides me that large field to go scream my bloody head off. Smack dab in the middle of town, just 10 minutes from work, I have a house that looks out onto an empty field. It’s the backside of a park that doesn’t appear to be used for anything other than lovely green space. That means there is no one across the street. The view from my office will be of this field. I can’t think of a more lovely place to write at the moment. The house itself is terribly outdated. Rugs and linoleum. Vinyl countertops in hideous colors (baby blue and snot green). Weird chandeliers. The kitchen is tiny with almost no counter space. But I intend to have a little fun with it and make it quirky and bring out its character. The backyard is bigger than anything I could have dreamed of in L.A.. with two huge, old-growth trees. Another huge selling point is the screened-in sun porch. Tomorrow I will sign the paperwork and write out a check. Friday I will finally leave this hotel room and sleep in my own tempurpedic bed. What a relief that will be. I will have access to my belongings for the first time in a month. There have been so many times I’ve wished I had something that is packed away. I can begin to settle in and perhaps, if I’m lucky enough, next week will finally arrive, and I can begin to sleep better and build this new life with some peace of mind.

I’ll let you know all about it… next week.

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Breaking Hab(ituation)

Habituation is mostly a good thing. We are able to live our lives because of habituation. If we didn’t, we’d be like infants that gasp with wonder every time they see something move. When things become predictable, we stop being awed, and just interact with them. There’s a fascinating show called Brain Games that explores the tricks this feature of our brain can play on us. For instance look at this picture:

It’s obvious this is a picture of a a dark gray rectangle above a white rectangle. Would you believe it if I told you both rectangles are exactly the same color? Our brains see what they see because over years of seeing shadows and light, and having them behave in a predictable way, our brain becomes habituated, and cease to react in any way other than to interpret what it sees based on past experience… that there is a gray box and a white box.

Now, take your finger, or a piece of paper, or a ruler would be perfect, and place it across the dividing lines of the two rectangles. What colors do you see now?

Amazing, isn’t it?

That habituation of my brain is something I have been fighting for the past three weeks. Over the past 25 years of life in Los Angeles, I have become habituated into knowing that things work a certain way. Despite being in a new location, my brain just continues along familiar pathways. I do things the way I have done them, because it doesn’t occur to me that things may be different here. I see black and white, when all around me it’s actually gray.

This is where being present can really help. Rather than skimming along the surface of life, letting thoughts distract us and giving the habituated mind free rein, when we are present we fully explore each experience. I have to admit that my meditation practice has been almost non-existant since the move, and that has to change. It will likely help me break out of my ruts and help me adapt more quickly. That’s good because once I wake up and stop doing things out of habit, I find the way to do things here, in a smaller community, definitely makes life easier.

As for the car…

Yep, the Honda dealer blew Toyota (Dealer 1) and Subaru (Dealer 2) out of the water. I liked the handling of the CR-V better than the Rav-4, though I think the Rav-4 may have had a slightly better interior design. I look forward to having the money to finally have a car of my own again.

And speaking of having some money…

There has been movement on the house, and though I’ve said this many times before, by next week, this should be wrapped up or at the worst wrapping up. There’s one small detail left, and then a whole lot of signatures. However, I won’t sleep any easier until the deal is done. After 20 years of feeling stuck, it hasn’t been a pleasant experience to once again feel  like I can’t escape. I want this over. I want to move on. I want my new life. I’m trying my very hardest to be patient and positive. It has not been easy. Yet another habit to break.

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