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D has blogged extensively regarding progress, hopefulness, and Imago Dei. In general, I feel that she does a much better job of conveying this “optimism-even-when-things-suck” thing. B also has blogged about pride and being a lesbian. Once again, it’s hard for me to muster up the optimism sometimes. Last week it became much, much easier to be optimistic.

800-1000 people gathered in WeHo.  Where\'s Waldo?

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Everyone’s recent writing activity has spurred me on (thanks B and D). Part of the reason I’ve been rather silent has to do with reflecting on the purpose of my blogging and the direction of my thoughts. While there is a lot of political/social stuff that ravages through my small brain, it took me a while to realize this isn’t the venue. I’ll stick to what I know – me. Ergo:

I was in a relationship for 4 months. It ended a few days ago and the free time that I’ve rediscovered is absolutely astounding! I didn’t realize how much (freely-given) time was given to that relationship! For the sake of the other I won’t go into details of how it was, what went wrong, etc. Suffice to say that A 2.0 (3.0? 4.0?) has arrived. And looking ahead it is going to be quite the ride. The semester is over in less than a month, and I just solidified my plans for the summer. My professional self is coming together, as is my adult self starting to get some feet. It looks as though I’ll have more blogging-time, too! Anyway, on to some notables.

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I told my parents.

With the same forceful energy that I have been using over the past six months or so to resist telling them, suddenly and without any particular catalyst or tangible reason, around this time last week I decided that I would do it. And then I did it.

That makes it sound a lot easier than it actually was, of course. But the truth is, the panic is fading, the details are blurring, and the only thing I can solidly wrap my mind around is that it is done, and I will never have to do it again. And I am remembering how to breathe.. or rather, not having to remember to breathe nearly so much lately.

On one hand, it has been a long time coming. But on the other hand, it happened in the exact moment in which the time had finally come. A few months ago, a friend of mine who had been through the same process told me that she didn’t come out to her parents until the very moment in which she could no longer breathe until she had told them. And I am sure there are easier ways in which to undertake the process of coming out to one’s parents, but for her and for me, this is exactly what we did. And for me, that time was inconveniently on Valentine’s Day (thankfully, my girlfriend and I had already celebrated the day before).

I had every intention of driving home to tell my parents on Friday, because I was under the impression that one should tell their parents these sorts of things in person. But then my girlfriend gently reminded me that I have been working really hard at eliminating the should’s as a driving force behind my decisions lately, and that it’s more important to consider what might be right for your own family, rather than what might be right for a how-to-guide on coming out. And so, when I told my mom on the phone about how I had acquired a tiny diamond piercing in my nose since she’d last seen me, as a sort of trial run for what was coming next, and her reaction was an alternating pattern of silence/anger/silence, I decided it was time to get practical about the whole business. I didn’t want to be anywhere where I could see her face when I told her, and I sure as hell didn’t want to have to drive back three hours if they kicked me out. I am pretty decent at multi-tasking, but driving while crying has never been my strong suite. So, with my girlfriend on her way over to pick up the pieces when I was done, I called my mother back post-nose-piercing-disclosure, and I told her, in the indirect, round-about sort of way that marks my family’s favorite communication style, that “I am not one of those girls who likes boys.”

And she already knew, as mothers will, but that did not soften the blow even one little bit.

It seems that I have not come to a place within myself, and perhaps I never will, where I am quite prepared to cast her words out into the void of blogland with the good conscience that I have done justice to a moment that I suspect will for quite a while, at least to a certain degree, define both my mother’s life and my own. But suffice to say, by the end of the conversation, it was decided that she didn’t want to see me that weekend, but she did want to see me again… and that she would be the one to tell my father.

What I do, however, feel confident putting into words is the way my girlfriend literally carried me in her arms when I collapsed after I hung up the phone, and didn’t just watch me cry but actually cried with me in the aftermath of what I hope will be one of the most difficult conversations I ever have to endure. And also the way my old friend, the one behind the counter at the coffee shop, came over too, and they both sat with me in the way-without-answers that I believe is one of the truest things we can do for one another in our most broken of moments.

And even more grace came flowing my way the next morning when I called my father, and he reacted in a most unexpected manner… in the way that we might all hope our parents would react to this kind of thing: with unshattered love and with a grief moderated by hope and compassion, leaving the faintest of impressions that this might be less of an end and more of a beginning.

It has been a lasting impression; that not only in my relationship with my father, but also in the way that I am able to interact genuinely and resiliently with a world that has generally not contained much space for girls who don’t like boys… this will be less of an end, and more of a beginning.

We threw a party yesterday, a “come one, come all” type of affair in honor of the great Martin Luther King Jr. For a holiday that isn’t particularly known for it’s parties, ours was, if I do say so myself, a bit of a success. Not just in the way where there was lots of laughter and plenty of food, but in the way where it brought together all the diverse and oh-so-different communities to which my girlfriend and I are honored to belong, and laid a tentative foundation for some sort of bridge between them. One of the highlights of these bridging moments took place while I was standing with my arm around my girlfriend in a circle of our friends, and a friend I hadn’t seen since I began the coming out process leaned forward and said contemplatively: “It seems so no natural, almost like you’ve always been a lesbian…” Indeed it does.

And so today, in the wake of all the festivities, it may seem a bit odd that I have spent the day reading about the Psalms of lament… the largely forgotten Psalms, if you will. These are the Psalms that are full of rage and confusion, anger and questioning. Despair. Senseless suffering. Tears. The authors of this book that I have been reading for one of my classes suggest that the church’s abandonment of the use of these Psalms of lament is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. Because it is only through the voicing of our pain, and through being able to do so within the context of a community, that new life pours forth from our tragedies, both personal and communal.

And it is only in retrospect, as I was reading all of this tonight that I began to notice how much some of my writing here on this blog has resembled the Psalms of lament… right down to the seemingly unconnected thread of hope that so often appears at the end of a long trail of angry-tearful-questioning. In a way, these words have been my lament psalms. My uncertainty. My anger. My questions, directed at a God that I have always been told to praise but not to question. My story and my pain, received into the arms of a community that built up around these stories; that poured into my life, breathing new life in the wake of loss.

And so, as certain as I am that even now, I am not yet done lamenting… may, in fact, never be done lamenting, I am also certain that I am not yet done praising… and that the two will continue to be inexplicable linked together; inseparable parts of my own participation in the mystery that is our faith and our God.

When I look back over the past few months, the one word that comes to mind is “progress.” When I started this blog, I hadn’t come out to anybody who hadn’t already come out to me at least ten times over… and now I can safely say that I’ve had “that conversation” with all of my closest straight friends, and they were overwhelming positive experiences across the board. I’ve told my best friend, my roommate, new friends from seminary and old friends from college, and out of the dozen or so people that I talked to, only one said the dreaded phrase that we all brace ourselves against: “I still love you, but…”

Mostly, what I heard instead went a bit like this:

“I don’t care, as long as you’re happy…” said my long term college friend, who once told me she was permanently boycotting IKEA after they showed a male couple with their arms around each other in a commercial for their furniture.

“You didn’t seriously think this would change things between us, did you? And don’t think this means you get off the hook either… whoever you date still has to be a Christian, you know” said my best friend of six years, and roommate all throughout college.

“Ok,…” said my current roommate, “But seriously, how cute is our dog?”

“Congratulations!” said one of my closest college friends “… but really, like I was saying, I honestly don’t know which of those three boys I should date.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised,” said another college friend, “but you can definitely call me whenever you want to talk about it…” as she proceeded to share with me several insightful connections between the challenges I will face in my relationship, and those she is already facing in her own biracial relationship.

And in some way or another, they all thanked me for sharing; for being vulnerable and honest… for the very things I had felt so saddened about omitting from my relationships this past year.

In short, these experiences were all varrying shades of beautiful. And so, I came home thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was ready for the one big step I have left to take… telling my parents.

My initial reaction, as soon as I arrived, was to chicken out entirely. I mean, things were going so well. And why would I want to screw up that? But then there is the little messy detail that I am actually dating someone now, and while I could justify not telling my parents the abstract idea that I had been questioning my sexuality, because abstract conversations are just not how we operate around here anyway, I am fairly certain they would want to know that I am in my first real relationship. I am fairly certain, given my complete lack of ability to hide things, that they will find out eventually anyway.

And so, I have been toying again with the idea of telling them, as my week here at home is wrapping up, and the amount of time that I would have to face them after the conversation is getting comfortably shorter.

But then, last night, the Grandchildren conversation suddenly popped up, and with absolutely no permission from my brain whatsoever, my mouth asked my parents: “If I had foster babies, or adopted, would you love them? Would you treat them like your own grandchildren?” Now, this is a conversation that the girl that I am dating and I have been having quite a bit lately, because a desire to go buy a house and fill it with the voices of children who have been forgotten by our society is what almost kept us each individually from coming to grad school in the first place, but it is certainly not a conversation that I meant to have with my parents.

“Sure, we would” said my mom, because she would, I know she would… just look at the way she squeals with joy every time she sees my dog, the same raggedy little lost puppy she told me firmly I couldn’t take in around this time last year.

My dad, though, my dad launched into a discussion of how said hypothetical-adopted-grandchild will almost certainly have antisocial personality disorder, or in layman’s terms, no conscience whatsoever, which is a leap in logic that I have never been able to convince him is lacking in several dimensions.

 A few minutes later, he is well into his famous “Speech on How You Have no Idea How Much Trouble Those Troubled-youth Can Be”… in which he always omits the fact that I have a fairly good idea indeed, having spent the past year working at a residential treatment center with aforementioned youth. When he is done with that speech, he is onto his all-time favorite: “You Would Be Much Better off to Pick a Nice Husband and Give Birth to Your Own Perfect Babies…”

At this point, I interrupt him: “but would you love them,” I ask… “If I did have foster babies, or adopt, would you still love them?”

He sighs dramatically. “I guess it would have to be on a case-by-case basis. If they were a lot of trouble, then no… but if they were really good kids, then yes, maybe we would.” My mom, still listening from the kitchen, nods her agreement to this case-by-case assessment. If they are good kids, if they behave themselves, then we will love them.

Now, rationally, I know that my parents are not talking about me… and this is not a fair way to assess how they will react to the news I am trying so hard to work up the nerve to tell them… but I can’t help but feel, at my very core, the implications of this message: if you are good, if you play by the rules, and continue to fit our standards of “the perfect child,” we will love you. Now, this is probably more my fault than it is their own, because I never fulfilled my teenage duty to test this assumption with a Class A Rebellion that would have proven to all of us, once and for all, that their love for me is not conditional…that they will still love me when they find out that my poster-child career is about to veer seriously away from the normal curve.

I know, deep within myself, that the time is coming. The time is coming for me to take a step of faith, and trust in the grace they hold deep within them… trust in the love we have been building up all these years now, just as I have already done with all the other people I hold close to my heart. But so far, that time is not quite here… not yet. I still have a little courage left to build… a little praying left to do.

But for now, in the pocket of time before I am ready to take this final major step in coming out to the people I hold dearest, I am content to sit in overwhelming gratitude for the grace that I have already been shown… for all the different ways my friends have shown me that I can step outside of their expectations without stepping outside of their love. I’d call that progress.

We had another one of our meetings, up in the attic of the little coffee shop we’ve all spent so much time in lately, and C was kind enough to share with us a little of her knowledge about the law, and how it relates to those of us in the LGBT community. I didn’t notice this, and I suppose it was because my own eyes had glazed over a bit themselves, but on our way out, the girl that I am dating mentioned how all of our faces got a sort of blank, glazed look on them about half way into the updates on marriage (we still can’t get married, and probably won’t be able to for some time now) and getting kicked out of our respective institutions (they still can kick us out, and probably will be able to for some time now).

Now don’t get me wrong, I am deeply grateful for the information C provided us with, because how can we even begin to hope to change situations if we don’t even know what the situations really are. But it was hard, because I forget. After having spent my entire life with most opportunities available to me (and my deep thanks go to the feminist movement for that), I keep forgetting that it is really not the case anymore. And it is incredibly hard to remember that I am supposed to be grateful now when people make some sort of response to me that indicates they are still going to recognize my humanity, even though I’m a lesbian. I forget that for them, recognizing my humanity is often a big and gracious step that they view as pretty radical, and all I seem to be able to remember is that I have been alive my entire life, and so my humanity does not seem all that radical to me.

And so sometimes, I get angry inside, even when they are trying their hardest to be kind and generous. Take, for example, my roommate the other night. Now, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude as how accepting she has been of me since I came out to her, and I really am truly, deeply grateful, but a couple of nights ago we were just joking around in the kitchen with my little dog, and I told her: “I really am glad it turned out that you like my dog, because it would have been really terrible if you didn’t!” And she laughed and replied: “yeah, but what you should be really grateful for is that I’m not a homophobe, that would have been terrible.” And she is right, and I am grateful… I just forget sometimes. Ok, I forget a lot of the times… because I am just not used to having my dignity be such a tenuous thing, up for debate at almost every turn.

As we were leaving the coffee shop after Sunday’s meeting, the girl that I am dating mentioned how the whole time we had all been sitting up there, looking a little defeated and numb around the edges, she’d had this song from Rent playing in her head… the one that goes, over and over again, “Will I lose my dignity, will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow, from this nightmare?” And so that song ran through my head the rest of the day, and the two of us have been singing it intermittently ever since, because I think on some level, that is the question we are all asking: Will we lose our dignity? And if and when that happens, will someone care? If I do decide to start a family one day, will it ever be recognized and protected by the law? What happens if my school decides that I no longer have a place at their table, and where will I go if they force me to leave? Will people ever understand the cutting potential of their careless words when they make assumptions about how my sexuality must necessarily mean that I have lost something of the innocence and potential they once saw in me?

The truth is that I think the answer is yes, at some point, we will all lose our dignity in ways that will be startlingly painful. And yet, we have shown that even in the midst of all if this, in the face of opposition and criticism and persecution, we will not lose our faith….and I have to believe that that is something. In fact, I really believe that it is everything.

It’s been a tough last few days for me. Shit, it has been a really tough semester for me. These last few days haven’t made it any easier. I don’t want to spend the time to explain what has been shitty, its nothing all that abnormal from my other experiences. Lets just say that there have been frustrating classroom discussions and depressing glimpses of reality…moments of breaking out in tears in the most embarrassing and unexpected places, feelings of deep hopelessness, in this season of advent, when I am supposed to be most hopeful.

I sat on my couch last night, in front of the fireplace, curled up in a ball, sobbing, clutching my stuffed gorilla Bummer, as I listened to this song play over and over and over again: Read the rest of this entry »