Turn About

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A quick Internet search on the matter will find any number of relatively recent news instances of businesses and business owners facing a lot of self-inflicted hell for mistakenly believing it’s appropriate for them to pick and choose who they serve, in their public businesses, based solely on religious views.

Most recently, because of a ruling by the Supreme Court, county clerks are resisting their obligation to serve the public by refusing to issue marriage licenses to two people of the same gender. To some, it might be arguable that a business owned by a private citizen should operate under whatever that citizen / business owner understands to be morally correct. Truly it’s not arguable. In short, there’s nothing inherently moral or immoral about baking a cake (period!) for a paying customer. If you’re selling something to the public then anyone who is a member of the public and can pay you for what you offer shouldn’t be refused – so long as they aren’t being disruptive to business or other customers, etc… And in the instance of employees of public / government institutions, this shouldn’t even be on the table for discussion. The government is a non-religious entity and is funded by everyone who pays taxes and so if you have employment in that sector, it is literally your job to serve the entire public, within the confines of your job description – as mandated by your boss, the government. The clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses to gays because it goes against his / her personal religious convictions are off their damned rockers thinking they have any legit ground to stand on while they behave so delinquently and with so much insubordination.

All that aside, I think I’m experiencing what might could be the flip side of this dumb mess.

One of my brothers currently lives in the fucked up state of Kansas. He and his family will be changing this situation soon enough, but before that happens he and the fam’ will be coming to Indiana for a week-long vacation. During their visit, as part of a request from my mom, we’re all getting together for family photos – something we’ve not formally done in quite some time.

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I was talking to my mom recently on the phone and she was pretty thrilled at having located a photographer for our photos. It seemed especially novel to my mom because the photographer she has her eye on is a high school senior – a recent graduate, I believe. I now forget how she said she found this young lady (if she even told me), but she gave me the gal’s “business” Facebook page and told me to check her out.

Of course I did that – and the girl seems as talented as any photographer I’ve seen. So… here’s where things start getting uncomfortable, though. While I did start off on her “business” page, it was quite easy from there to access her personal page, the settings to which are not very private at all. So, out of natural curiosity, I clicked my way onto her personal Facebook page and started to electronically wander around. There were three things I recall noticing immediately, and I’ll share them in the order they came to my mind…

1) She’s gorgeous.

2) All of the most recent posts to her timeline were of a very “Christian” nature and specifically related to the recent Supreme Court decision.

3) She has a boyfriend who is just about as gorgeous as she is.

Obviously, #2 weighed quite heavily on me and has since caused some thoughts and questions to come into my head. She’s so young (I well remember being her age) – is this going to mean acceptance of me and my husband or rejection? She’s so Christian – is this going to mean acceptance of me and my husband or rejection? And due to her youth and Christian faith, even if she doesn’t throw a fit about me and my husband (and I seriously doubt she will) will there be that usual, awkward, judgment-y vibe coming from her? Will she rush through or half-ass the photos taken of me and my husband? If Christians don’t want to bake a cake for me and my husband and are willing to risk going out of business to “take a stand” for their beliefs, will she feel convicted enough in her “heart of hearts” to refuse what we’ll be asking of her professional self?

There were other questions that came to mind also and I can admit that one of my first knee-jerk reactions was the thought that I should call my mom up and strongly request that she find a different photographer. If Christians don’t want to bake a cake for gays (sell to, do business with, etc…), then why should gays (me!) at all want to give our money to them in the first place? For about a day I was uncomfortable and grew very unsettled. A number of times I really and truly came close to calling my mom to discuss this.

I think the truth of the matter is that our session with her will almost certainly come and go without hitch – and may even be fun. But part of that truth is knowing that she’s a young (likely naive) Christian person from a very small town – there’s about as much reason for concern as there is reason to not worry at all.

When all the hubbub is cycling through the media, there are always people saying, “If they hate you, just don’t give them your money.” And there are just as many people who, on a regular basis, find one reason or another for boycotting a place or product. For example, my husband and I never eat at Chik-Fil-A and we never shop at Wal-Mart. Ever. We don’t like the way one treats its employees and the other is a Christian terrorist organization that actively funds anti-gay efforts. That much makes sense.

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But this situation somehow feels different. I know without even asking her that nowhere in my mom’s brain is the idea that she should even consider this young photographer’s religious background. After all, we’re not hiring her to be a priestess or nun or … anything religious. So her religion doesn’t factor in – AT ALL. In my mom’s brain and heart, you treat people the way you want to be treated and everything usually works out. And she’s right – usually.

But I’m almost 35 years old and for 34.75 of those years I’ve been – quite literally – a second class citizen. There have been a number of times when people actually took effort to make sure I understood this. Do you know what that feels like, dear reader? If you’ve never been kicked out of a church for being gay, been denied the right to marry, felt your safety threatened, worried about whether you came off as “too gay” in a job interview, or been hissed at (by a human!) just because you were walking through your neighborhood, then you may not know what I mean. And even with the Supreme Court in my back pocket, I can still be discriminated against and harassed in many areas of normal life and I can still be fired from my job – just for being me.

That kind of life can really leave a taste in one’s mouth and when one consistently experiences the same or similar taste from one kind of food, it quickly becomes tough not to develop an aversion to that food. Makes sense, right?

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I’m not going to ask my mom to find a different photographer because our selection of the right professional for our need shouldn’t in any way be based on that individual’s personal and private religious choices – in the same way that the decision to sell a cake to someone shouldn’t at all be influenced by the sexual orientation of the buyers.

Some would have you believe that turn about is fair play. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? I think often what’s good for the goose is, indeed, good for the gander – but never out of spite. It isn’t my place to decide… Karma takes care of that for me. If Christians want to jeopardize their own livelihood because of misguided and mistaken religious conviction, then they will certainly have the chance to sleep in the bed which they’ve made. My family, though? We just want a good, talented photographer.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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Hurry Up and Wait

My life is a relatively busy one. I use the word relative because I know of people whose lives are far busier than mine – either because they want that busy-ness or because they need to be doing everything they do just to live. Usually, the busy I deal with is a mix – stuff related to school or work, or both, and things I want to do. I’m fortunate enough that, for the most part, regardless of what’s on my To-Do list, I have a lot of say in what I choose to do. That’s an excellent thing to have in life, but one I forget about too often.

I’ve written here before that 2014 was THE year from hell. In discussions of various types with various people I’ve revealed just how dark 2014 was and the reasons for why it isn’t allowed to repeat itself are just as dark. But a part of why 2014 was so miserable is that I felt like I had too much on my plate that had to be dealt with. School felt very demanding. Work was, indeed, the most demanding I’ve ever known and very stressful. My birth mother’s body died (BTW, today is the 55th anniversary of when that human body was birthed). I bought a house and all the wonder that comes with that kind of thing. Then also other usual stuff almost everyone else faces like trying to see family and friends as much as is wanted or needed, trying not to be a burden on others’ lives, stress from the holiday season, … y’know, the usual.

Throughout all of that, I’m sad to report, my meditation practice waned a bit. To be clear: I never stopped meditating. Sahaj Marg is an important force in my life. But I don’t recall having any sittings in 2014. I rarely went to satsanghs either. I read a lot of our masters’ books (mostly Chariji’s, since he has been the most prolific writer out of the last 3 masters) and I did keep up with my practice at home. But I still felt out of touch. When the rest of your world seems to be spinning out of control, a meditation practice that is meant for “human integration” can be vital.

We’re now wrapping up the sixth month of 2015, and it’s been entirely different. I’ll spare you all the details of exactly how life is different, but it is. It’s different enough that I’m nowhere near the dark place I was this time a year ago.

But still, there are days when I feel overwhelmed by the householder (grhasta) dharma. It’s Sunday morning as I’m writing this and I’ve slept in later than usual, although I didn’t have a late Saturday night. I’ve been physically awake for an hour right now and all I’ve done is hit the bathroom, open all the blinds in my house to let in gorgeous sunlight (something rare lately in Indiana with all our rain!), let the dogs out, made some coffee for myself, and nest here in front of the laptop in my loft to write these words in English.

In the back of my head (and in the front of it) know the various “wants” and “needs” I should address today include: meditation / puja, mowing my yards (before more rain and house guests arrive!) and trimming, laundry, school work, yoga / jogging, going to my in-laws to pick up things needed for later this week, some minor gardening, and probably sixty other things that will creep in as the day passes.

The list of things to do isn’t very big right? Seems like it should be easily managed through the course of the day. But even a list like the one above hits me and is somewhat debilitating. I find myself mentally listing what should be accomplished today and with each new item thought of I’m a little more paralyzed. There’s a need within myself to ferret out the most productive way to do everything. The idea of inefficiency is stressful. Entire days have gone “wasted” because my To-Do list felt too immense to productively manage – so I did nothing! NOTHING. Well, not absolutely nothing: I’d find the effort within me somewhere to feed myself a few times, to maybe put some porn in front of my eyeballs, and to maybe also do a small amount of laundry (probably only because I could nap or otherwise be unproductive while the loads were going through their cycles). By virtually every standard, the day would go wasted – all because I started off wanting not to waste the day.

Another friend or two has expressed feeling similarly. It’s madness. Dysfunctional, right? Why are people immobilized by thoughts of doing things? I’m guessing the cause of this debilitation is multi-layered. Components include things like depression, feelings of being overwhelmed, inability to properly prioritize… those kinds of things seem like good culprits.

In a strong effort to make sure 2014 doesn’t repeat itself, I’ve really tried to approach a lot of life differently for 2015. A month or two ago, the local abhyasi community was studying the concept of cheerful acceptance. I missed some of the group study where this was covered, but I’ve done my best to read up about it on my own. That concept, as well as a few others in Sahaj Marg (many having to do with our 10 Maxims – I am about to start writing a series on each Maxim, actually), are part of the difference 2015 holds.

I still have a horrifying, terrible, paralyzing To-Do list for today. And as of the typing of these words, I still don’t know how any of those things will be accomplished or even how today will go. But I’m able to recognize and accept that regardless of how many things are on the list for today – or the nature of those things (how big they seem) – the day will be far bigger than the list as a whole.

I might get all of the list completed. I might complete less than half of it. That doesn’t really matter. What currently seems to matter more is feeling life in my days. People talk about “living life to the fullest,” but I’ve found that people who use that phrase often don’t seem to know what it means. It rarely means you have to go sky diving or eating fried scorpions in a Chinese street market – although those things can qualify. You could be repotting a philodendron in your back yard and live life to the fullest while you do that.

Half way through 2015 I’m able to say that the aforementioned paralysis isn’t as total as it has been in the past. Coming up to the loft this morning with my coffee in-hand and the To-Do list swirling around in the space between my ears I still felt a moment of anxiety: SHIT there’s so much to do. But it passed almost entirely, and quickly, too.

As I wrap up this post, that debilitating fear continues to leave me. I’m thankful that my personal evolution, my integration (my heartfulness practice), has afforded me a greater capacity to live more fully now instead of the way I lived before. The likely result is that I’m about to go live the shit outta mowing my yard. Then I’m going to live the shit outta doing some laundry while I finish up some gardening (living the shit outta that, too). With any luck, I’ll finish those tasks before yoga starts in the early afternoon. And if not, then I’ll live the shit outta life while doing some other things.

Have a good Sunday, reader, wherever you are. And whatever you’re doing in life today, do the shit out of it.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

Good Bye

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I’m generally a realistic optimist, but I’m going to just say it: 2014 was the worst year of my current physical manifestation.

For me, 2014 started in early December of 2013 when my department lost a few people and I was swept into a new role. I don’t regret that move, technically, but it set the stage for a lot of other things that haven’t been super pleasant. So I took the new position at work in early December 2013. Then, my lead at work was a woman named Tracey. She had a few admirable qualities but was mostly grade A bitch material. She reminded me far too much of my birth mother. So work got REAL crazy. Very stressful. Tracey was fired in May of 2014. (7 years later than she should have been fired!)

It was in early 2014 that I began suffering symptoms of anxiety and depression. And by only February I began to really struggle with these issues.

It was around Mother’s Day that my mother came into the picture. She’s always been “hands off” in her approach to mothering except when it came to slapping us around our touching me she wasn’t married to. She and my father divorced when I was a toddler and while I saw her off and on while I grew up, at one time a full 50% of my current life was spent with no contact from her (from just before I got my driver’s license until I was nearly 30 years old – not a word from her). Then this year she throws herself on the radar with a number of grave health concerns. I did my best to fill the role of doting first-born son, but mostly in service to the rest of my mother’s family and to my siblings who aren’t local. I also wanted to support my sister – she lives locally and was quite close to our mother. I felt simultaneously humbled and honored that so many members of my family turned to me in trust to understand everything said by the specialists and then to regurgitate it in a manner others can understand as I reported back. But it was stressful and something, quite frankly, I didn’t care to even do. My mother’s health problems would turn out to be something that would suck up more than the fair share of PTO and be something that would add to my general misery.

As the spring came to a close and summer progressed I found myself spread too thin between work, school, and family stuff. Around the end of summer, my Beloved came to take issue with one of our neighbors (we inhabited a towne home at the time and one of our neighbors – a very ghetto young man who fancied himself a composer – had become a noise nuisance) and so we decided to begin the home shopping process. When it comes to things like this, my Beloved and I are definitely “all or nothing” kind of guys. We don’t hang around deliberating on our decisions. We approach our goals with everything well-defined and thought out, and then when the approach is complete – we act. And it’s done.

Our home shopping process was no different. We put our home on the market briefly before coming to an arrangement with one of my friends where we would unlist the property and instead make it into an investment property and he would rent from us with the goal of eventual purchase. While all of this was being ironed out, we not only found but purchased a home more than twice the size of the towne home. Of course, while we weren’t in a rush, we wasted no time relocating our lives to the new address.

This actually brings us to November. In the weeks that passed during the home buying process, more nonsense with my mother and school and work all seemed to compound and the load became nearly unbearable for me. I’ve known many dark and wondrous things and moments in my life, but this period was dark only.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving this year (11/22/2014) my mother passed away. She was unmarried but living with a man. In Indiana, the oldest child is the nextest of kin for someone like my mother. Lucky me. Of course, all my siblings are technically “equal” to me when it comes to everything like this, but ultimately it all rests on my shoulders. Of course, my mother’s own siblings and her mother (her only surviving parent) seem to be under the impression that their sentiments and ideas are what should be supreme. So far, nothing has gotten particularly ugly but there have been times when I’ve needed to exert some authority. There have also been times when assistance from my siblings was necessary. At this point, we’ve only to decide what’s done with her ashes and go through a storage unit that is holding almost all of her possessions. The bulk of opportunities for familiar strife have passed, but we’re not out of the so-called woods yet. Hopefully, by the beginning of 2015 we’ll only have her ashes to deal with. I’ve some other posts planned for Sthapati dealing specifically with the wonder that is / was my birth mother.

Most recently, my own spiritual guide left his body. I’ve written about that already so I’ll not do it again here. Just what I needed, though.

The year hasn’t been a total blow, though. Earlier in the year I was able to spent a lovely long weekend in a part of the USA I’d never been to with my Beloved as we visited a friend I knew only from Facebook but who has been an incredible addition to my life. There was a week or so where I thought he’d left the planet and it distressed me immensely – but, however close a call it might have been, it was ultimately a false alarm. This year also brought not only my 10 year anniversary with my Beloved, but the legal recognition of our relationship by our state, Indiana. We were among the first couples in our county to marry after it was legalized. And while it was something carried on my shoulders during an already terribly stressful time of my life, my new home is a wonderful blessing. There were, of course, other highlights and good things that happened throughout the year – but these few things are only some that stand out to me.

All in all, this year needs to finish itself – and 2015 needs to more than make up for it. I don’t typically set resolutions that start in January (I usually use, instead, my birthday which is truly my body’s calendar start date), but I’m mulling over a few – a preemptive and hopefully proactive attempt at having a deliberately active hand in guiding the direction of my life in the coming year. I’m not likely to write about them here, but they’ll serve as pinpoints of focus that I can redirect my compass to as needed so that 2014 doesn’t repeat itself.

It can’t repeat itself.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha

Aum Shanti