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I am a Unitarian Universalist

 

Spirit of Life

“Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.”

Singing the Living Tradition Hymn #123

 

I consider myself to be a part of one of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations here in Phoenix, Arizona and plan to become more involved on a regular basis after I get settled in Tucson, Arizona when I move there this March. When I make mention to people inquiring what “church” I attend, and tell them I am a UU, the response is most often, “Oh yeah, sure; I’ve been to a Unity church before.”  Unity and Unitarian Universalism are not the same at all.

I was raised as a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and in 1979 when I came out to family, friends and my church community, it was made very clear that I was no longer welcome “In God’s house” by my minister.  Thus began a spiritual drought for me which lasted until 1984.  That is, until one of my employees and I became close; close enough to discuss religious affiliations and beliefs.  Upon sharing my experience with the Lutheran church, she said to me, “You need to check out one of the Unitarian Universalist churches.”  I did attend a UU congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Easter Sunday.  I was impressed by the sermon challenging the reality of the resurrection.  I have felt truly “at home” in any Unitarian Universalist Association congregation I have attended in the country.

The Unitarian Universalist Association


For many, it is helpful to understand that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a religious organization that combines two traditions: the Universalists, who organized in 1793, and the Unitarians, who organized in 1825. They consolidated into the UUA in 1961.

The UUA roots in North America go back to the independent, self-governing churches of colonial New England that made a covenant to help one another in times of need. In Europe, the UU heritage reaches back to religious and social reformers in England, Poland and Transylvania.

Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots. It has no creed. It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to give a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion. Use of “Universe” is seen as a non-judgmental, inclusive term; respecting the choice everyone makes as to his/her higher power.

UU Principles

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in UU congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within UU congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of the UU religious community.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to face powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires one’s ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Welcoming Congregation

As a gay man, one of the most important components of the UU congregation for me is the “Welcoming Congregation” program.  In 1987 the UUA established the Common Vision Planning Committee. This committee found many negative attitudes, deep prejudices, and profound ignorance about bisexual, gay, and lesbian people, which resulted in the exclusion of bisexual, gay, and lesbian people from their churches.  As a result, the Welcoming Congregation program was created to educate its members. Each congregation adapts the program to best meet its goals and each unique situation can bring positive changes to people and congregations.

The Welcoming Congregation Program is a completely volunteer program for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people. It consists of a series of workshops developed by the UUA. The goal of the workshops is to cut prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of different sexual orientations. Some of the workshop titles include: How Homophobia Hurts Heterosexuals; Connections to Other Forms of Oppression; Gender Socialization and Homophobia; and Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality. Many congregations offer the workshop series several consecutive times as an adult religious education curriculum open to all members and friends. In some congregations the workshop series (and later the entire program) is sponsored by a Welcoming Congregation Task Force/Committee created for just this purpose, while other congregations sponsor the workshop series through their Interweave chapters.

What it means to be a Welcoming Congregation

Congregations who publicly and successfully welcome bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people have the following qualities:

Includes and address the needs of b/g/l/t persons at every level of congregational life—in worship, in programs, in social occasions, and in rites of passage—welcoming not only their presence, but the gifts and particularities of their lives as well.

Assumes the presence of b/g/l/t people and celebrates this diversity by having inclusive language and content in their worship.

Fully incorporates the experiences of b/g/l/t persons throughout all programs, including religious education.

Includes an affirmation and nondiscrimination clause in UU by-laws and other official documents affecting all dimensions of congregational life, including membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.

Engages in outreach into the b/g/l/t community in its advertising and by actively supporting b/g/l/t affirmative groups.

Offers congregational and ministerial support for union and memorial services for b/g/l/t persons and for celebrations of…family definitions.

Celebrates the lives of all people and welcomes same-sex couples, recognizing their committed relationships, and equally affirms displays of caring and affections without regard to sexual orientation.

Seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and heterosexual persons and to create deeper trust and sharing.

Encourages the presence of a chapter of Interweave.

Affirms and celebrates b/g/l/t issues and history during the church year.

Attends to legislative developments and works to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society.

Speaks out when the rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people are at stake.

Celebrates the lives of all people and their ways of expressing their love for each other.

Confronting prejudices in a non-judgmental, non-threatening group allows the exploration of their origins and offers an opportunity to replace those prejudices with knowledge. Understanding prejudices leads to personal spiritual growth and congregational unity.

The Flaming Chalice


A flame within a chalice (a wide-lipped stemmed cup), like that which you can see at the top of this blog, is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith.  At the opening of Unitarian Universalist worship services, many congregations light a flame inside a chalice. This flaming chalice has become a well-known symbol of the denomination. It unites its members in worship and symbolizes the spirit of their work.

Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist, first brought together the chalice and the flame as a Unitarian symbol during his work with the Unitarian Service Committee during World War II.   To Deutsch, the image had connotations of sacrifice and love.  Unitarian Universalists today have many different interpretations of the image. To many, the cup represents religious community, while the flame represents ideas including the sacrificial flame, the flame of the spirit, and more.

The flaming chalice image has changed many times over the past 65 years.  There is no single interpretation of today’s flaming chalice symbol.  Modern chalice designs often join two overlapping circles which, for many people, represent our Unitarian and Universalist heritages.  Other images include added elements, some of which are merely decorative and others which are very meaningful.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the chalice in UU congregations please visit http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/2442.shtml

Spiritual Life

I began this blog with my favorite UU hymn, “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.  It is UU Doxology, or perhaps the UU “Amazing Grace.” Many congregations sing it every Sunday, or at least enough to know the words by heart. Sermons have been devoted to this one song.

In six short lines “Spirit of Life” touches so much that is central to our faith—compassion, justice, community, freedom, reverence for nature, and the mystery of life. It finds the common ground held by humanists and theists, pagans and Christians, Buddhists and Jews, gay and straight among us.

 

See That Storm Just Ahead? Confronting Issues

 

“Maybe you can’t see the storm that lies just ahead. But I can. Believe me, it’s there.”

Confronting issues openly and honestly can be difficult. Many, like me are afraid of the reaction they’ll get from the person they are confronting. With that fear firmly embedded in one’s psyche, looking the other way and acting like the problem isn’t there becomes the easy way out. Or so it seems. Looking the other way really doesn’t make matters easier at all. In fact, it makes them worse. Problems often just don’t go away without some action.

I haven’t faced some very big issues and challenges that have been in my life for too long now. But I see clearly that I can’t let these problems linger. In my situation the problems have grown and the result is more and more hurt to me. I feel fear of the reaction I expect to receive. My fears I know after giving it long thought are grounded in reality and not based on my imagination. To get myself beyond this fear, I will have to have the necessary support around me to protect me. With my support in place I will face my problems. I must remember that storms don’t last forever. Eventually the sun does shine again, and life was nourished by the rains. I will come out of this a better person.

 

Discovering Our Uniqueness

“The search for a new personality is futile; what is fruitful is the human interest the old personality can take in new activities.” — Cesare Tavese

Complete these sentences and if you’d like include your answers in my poll:

Hard, isn’t it?  It’s usually easier to come up with five awful things about ourselves.  Yet, knowing who we are and being able to state it is a good exercise in self-esteem.  It feels good to be able to make positive statements about ourselves and our uniqueness.  We get a new sense of identity, especially when we take the risk of telling someone else about ourselves (Feel free to take a look at my page titled “This Boy’s Life – All about Me” which is this exercise at a much more detailed and intimate level). It’s the small things, our preferences and idiosyncrasies that add color and substance to our personalities.

The longer we work on ourselves through personal growth, or recovery, the more we enjoy our unique combination of qualities.  We begin to feel “comfortable in our own skin.”  We can start by affirming them to ourselves often, “I am unique. There is only one person like me.  I am worthwhile, competent and lovable.”  We can focus on ourselves, not in grandiosity, or self-centered ways, but lovingly.  Getting to know ourselves is an adventure, one we can enjoy each day.

Make You Feel My Love – Adele

 

Make You Feel My Love

When the rain
Is blowing in your face
And the whole world
Is on your case
I could offer you
A warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows
And the stars appear
And there is no one there
To dry your tears
I could hold you
For a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you
Haven’t made
Your mind up yet
But I would never
Do you wrong
I’ve known it
From the moment
That we met
No doubt in my mind
Where you belong

I’d go hungry
I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling
Down the avenue
No, there’s nothing
That I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging
On the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
Though winds of change
Are throwing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing
Like me yet

I could make you happy
Make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends
Of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love

Sung by Adele – 19

Occasionally I enjoy sharing lyrics from songs which mean a great deal to me; poignant expressions of where I’m at in life. Adele’s new album “21″ will be available soon.

The Runes and Specific Star Signs – Leo and Gemini

“Every Beginning is a Consequence – Every Beginning Ends Something.” – Paul Valery

The ancient Viking Runes are a staple in our home for decision making and raising our awareness to the course of right action.  The personality profiles of our Astrological Signs have always intrigued us as well, as we often see so much of ourselves in some of what has been written.  Especially issues around compatibility between the two signs.  I have casually kept my own research up over the years and posted a blog, “Gemini v Leo.” I am a Gemini and I have a number of special people in my life who are Leo’s.

On a recent trip to Sedona, AZ I discovered an interesting way in which I can associate the connections between the Astrological Signs, Leo and Gemini, to the Rune associated with each.  Ansuz is the Rune associated with Leo; Dagaz is the Rune for Gemini.

Ansuz

Ansuz~ Ansur~ Mouth

Ansuz~ Ansur~ Mouth

Signals

Messenger Rune

The God Loki

The keynote here is receiving: messages, signals, gifts.  Even a most timely warning may be seen as a gift.  The message may be that of a new life unfolding.  New lives begin with new connections, surprising linkages that direct you onto new pathways. Take care now to be especially aware during meetings, visits, chance encounters, particularly with persons wiser than yourself.  When the Messenger Rune brings sacred knowledge, you are truly blessed.

Loki is that ancient trickster from the pantheon of the Norse Gods.  He is the heyeohkah of the Native Americans, a mocking shadow of the creator god, as well as the bringer of benefits to humankind. He is a reminder that even scoundrels and arch-thieves can be the bearers of wisdom.  When this Rune is drawn, expect the unexpected; the message is always a call, a call to a new life.

Ansuz is the first of the thirteen Runes that make up the Cycle of Initiation – Runes that focus directly upon the mechanism of self-change – and as such, addresses our need to integrate unconscious motive with conscious intent.

Drawing Ansuz indicates that a connection with the Divine is at hand.  It is a signal to explore the depths, the foundations of life, and to experience the inexhaustible wellspring of the Divine in one’s own nature.

At the same time, Ansuz reminds that one must first draw from the well to nourish and give to oneself.  Then, there will be more than enough to nourish others.  A new sense of family solidarity invests this Rune.

Ansuz also presents a different message when drawn in a reversed position: One may be concerned over what appears to be failed communication, lack of clarity or awareness either in one’s past history or in a present situation.  One may feel inhibited from accepting what is offered.  A sense of futility, of wasted motion, may overwhelm one’s self.  However, that is what is happening and is timely to one’s own process.  If the well is clogged, this is the moment for cleaning out the old.  Reversed, Ansuz is saying, “Consider the uses of adversity.”

I’m the Gemini with Dagaz as my Rune:

Dagaz

dagaz

Breakthrough

Transformation

Day

Dagaz is the final Rune belonging to the Cycle of Initiation.  Drawing Dagaz often signals a major shift or breakthrough in the process of self-change, a complete transformation in attitude, a 180-degree turn.  For some, the transition is so radical that they are no longer able to live the ordinary life in the ordinary way.

Because the timing is right, the outcome is assured although not, from the present vantage point, predictable.  In each life there comes at least one moment which, if recognized and seized, transforms the course of that life forever.  Rely, therefore on radical trust, even though the moment may call for one’s self to leap empty handed into the void.  With this Rune the Warrior Nature reveals itself.

If Dagaz is followed by the Blank Rune, the magnitude of the transformation might be so great as to portend a death, the successful conclusion of one’s passage.

I am only beginning to explore these messages, keeping myself open to what they may portend about myself, my relationships, family and friends.  In a way, the finding of these special symbols, the quiet reading of each in Sedona, made for deeper connections.  A new beginning for some, perhaps an end for some.

Gemini ~ Naturally Bipolar and Anxious

 

I am bipolar and within the last year or so, have begun to experience severe anxiety and panic. In late December I had meltdown of incredible proportions. The extreme anxiety disorder is new for me; haunting me for a little more than a year now. Anxiety so strong, and triggered by the actions of my partner. For several years, he has promulgated a new behavior, “Babe, I’m just running up to the 7 Eleven to get some cigarettes; I’ll be back in twenty-five minutes.” As he walks out the door I always say, “Take your cell phone with you,” which he already has in hand.

That promised “twenty-five minutes” turns out to be days that he is away from home, not answering his cell phone or even calling. I refer to it as my partner “going missing.” My reaction begins with worry. Then I may happen upon something on the computer exposing the person he would be meeting and what they would be doing. A friend of mine has a husband who has nearly same behavior. She calls this type a “player” explaining that these types of men want to still run the streets, cheat on their partners or spouses. The “player” behavior is incongruent with the committed relationship my partner and I have. This friend’s advice to me was to be proud that it is me he eventually comes home to, giving me parts of himself his hookups never see. To this I say, “bullshit.”

Player my ass. My worry then turns to anger. I can’t sleep. I start calling my partner’s phone over and over. He calls it “psycho dialing.” The anger then turns to tears. I cry as I wander through the house, “What did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong.” My speech becomes so slurred and difficult to understand that it has been described as though I had a stroke. Lately, I noticed a pain in my chest along with a rapid and what I describe as “fluttering” heart. Irritability for me is a sign that I am swinging toward the maniacal part of bipolar. Then deep depression, laced with that wicked anxiety and panic. I began taking a prescribed anti-anxiety medication called Ativan. I was eating it like candy.

This most recent December meltdown grew so out of control I felt as though the only way to be free of it would come through ending my life. I have been in this cold place before and placed a call to the behavioral health crisis line associated with my health insurance. I was referred to the Maricopa County Hospital. There I was checked out and cleared medically and it was suggested I sign myself in to St. Luke’s Behavioral Health. I’ve been there before too. St. Luke’s worked for me before. Back in 2005 I nearly ended my life with a mantra in my head, “I hate my life, I hate my life.” After two months they helped me see the world differently and I left there with a new mantra, “I love my life, I love my life!” I felt safe returning there.

I worked hard over the next three weeks, finding that each time I told my story, I felt more at ease and could see the flaws in my relationship. I realize the degree of my co-dependency and made a commitment to attend CODA (a twelve step group for co-dependents). I was placed under the care of the psychiatrist who followed me last admission. He wanted to take my treatment further than I agreed to last time. In my first admission, he suggested ECT (Electro Convulsive Treatment.) I refused it then because of the loss of one’s short-term memory as a side effect of the treatment. But this time felt different to me and I agreed to begin the treatment.

My Life’s Lessons, Not Yours Please!

 

cheating-life-lessons 

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us…” – Marcel Proust

Haven’t we all known some people new to recovery who enter a Twelve Step program only to encounter an enormous crisis or difficulty? I know I was one of “them.” It’s tempting at that point to question the mercurial nature of life, which sometimes inflicts blows when someone is already down. Difficulties do serve a purpose, however. It’s often in such moments of struggle that people become aware of the reality of their life and begin to make difficult choices. It’s also then that the fellowship of our recovery group shines, offering its collective experience, strength and hope to the addict in need.

 

Many of us have known someone who refused or was unable to hear the message being offered at our meetings. It takes wisdom, patience, and detachment to know when to reach out to someone, and how far to go. The respect we feel for that person’s recovery process as well as the faith we have in our Higher Power and the Twelve Step program can help us do our part and then let go…

 

Life is a learning experience. I can learn the lesson of my life, but not someone else’s.

That Slippery Land of Fantasy

“At the bottom of the modern man there is always a great thirst of  self-forgetfulness, self-distraction…and therefore he turns away from all those problems and abysses which might recall to him his own nothingness.” Henri Amiel (1821-1881), Swiss Philosopher and Poet

I am aware of the way I sometimes rush around or slide off into the land of fantasy to distract myself from looking at myself too closely. Am I afraid that what I might find is nothing but my own… nothingness? Are my addictions a misguided search for some kind of identity at any price?

I am discovering that identity is not something given, once and for all. Perhaps there is never a fixed point at which I can say, “I am that.” Life is a process, upheaval, reversal, change and a continuous process of becoming. If I can be brave enough to welcome change and the pains it can cause, I may never have to fear the vertigo of nothingness or the madness of distraction that becomes self-destruction.

 

From Depression to Love

Fear thrives on distractions. Love thrives on presence. — Alan Cohen

February 19, 2008 was the date of my last blog. So much has happened since then. Much of the time I felt depressed. There were days that would run into one another. Long, endless days. Days in which I simply couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of bed. There were many times of intense anxiety during which my mind played games with me, blinding me to see any beacon of hope. I truly couldn’t see any real possibility of coming through the stressors that I faced. I failed to see any good in life. When I wasn’t curled up in bed, I would be quickly sailing through one mood swing to another. Anyone in my way along this vacillation of moods was sure to be quickly cut down by some sarcastic remark I hurled at them. My mood swings triggered some very negative reactions in my partner as a result. Any thing wrong in my life, our life, or his life I quickly pointed the finger of blame right at him. It didn’t take long before I alienated myself from even his support. I felt so alone, yet continued to alienate myself from everyone.

Not that there were that many people to alienate myself from this past month. The past year has found my partner and I eliminating those individuals from our life that were negative, users, or involved in our life when using drugs. Unfortunately, some good people became casualties in this process. I can see how in my desire to avoid people, I put them into the same elimination process of dismissal. The loneliness that resulted only perpetuated and deepened my depression and mood swings.

Days and nights were spent sleeping, interrupted by periodic attacks of anxiety which would cause pain in my chest so severe and a loss of breath so tight in the chest that each time I thought that surely I would die. But death didn’t come, my problems grew around me, and I couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with them. I was afraid. Lost, alone and afraid.

The list of what I saw as problems, or challenges is so long and far too tedious for me to list here for you, but the main issues were of financial problems, putting my partner’s mother into her final resting place (she transitioned on January 23, 2008 and we didn’t have the money to pay the funeral home for her burial), relationship issues, a longing for the life I once had, guilt and a feeling that I was not adequately caring for our growing family of animals (now 3 dogs, 3 cats, and one parrot), our lack of health insurance, medical concerns and I’m sure there’s more that I could include if I gave it some more thought. But suffice it to say, my world felt heavy, unpleasant and sick.

I wish I could say that I am beyond this latest round of depression; that it’s behind me. But I can’t. Things look better to me. A number of what seemed to be huge, voluminous challenges, have turned out to be almost “non-issues” once they were faced. A big part of my problem was the way I wouldn’t deal with my fears. As my partner withdrew from me, I was no longer receivi9ng his support or help in solving issues which were jointly ours. The turning point came with the addition of another very, very large stressor.

One evening about four weeks ago, my partner got off the phone and said that a dear friend of his – someone who opened her home to him and supported him for nearly two years, was in trouble. She lost her home, and had no where to go along with her two Pit Bull mix female dogs. The primary friendship is between my partner and his friend, and knowing how indebted he has always felt toward her for that long period of love, nurturing and support, the decision to open our home to her and her two dogs came easily. Of course. We’d make it work somehow. This friend Linda’s dogs are Sadie and Sierra, two litter mates that are seven years old. These dogs have always been known to be protective, aggressive and have bitten a number of people during the course of their life. They are known to attack and kill smaller animals, like cats and small dogs. Great. We have three cats and three small dogs (the third dog, Rascal became part of our family after Christopher’s mother died. We gave Rascal to her for Christmas a few years ago). We set up residence for the cats in one bedroom, the dogs in another. Sadie and Sierra would have the living room. It seemed as though it would work just fine.

That first night, Christopher was going into the bedroom where the cats were being kept, and one of them got out, headed straight for Sadie and Sierra. He panicked, running to rescue the cat. Sadie and Sierra attacked Christopher, biting deep into the muscle of his right leg. The pain was severe, that I could tell. It was his shock and fear of the way in which the dogs turned on him that lingered and was difficult to shake. Linda wanted to pack up an leave that night. We weren’t going to let her do that. She had nowhere to go. Again, we’d make it work somehow.

We carefully made our way through the next two days, but in the evening of that third night, I opened the bedroom door and out ran our twenty-six year old cat, Cinder. He was lumbering right between the two growling and aggressive Sadie and Sierra. I panicked. I started screaming at them to get back! Stop! Now they weren’t going after the cat. It was me they were after. They started jumping up my back, biting at me as they lept. Their weight and strength caused me to slip and fall onto the tile floor in the living room. They wildly bit at my backside and both legs. I couldn’t get up! I felt as though I were moving in slow motion in a nightmare. I screamed so loud and at the same time looked back and could see the bared teeth of each dog biting into me. Linda wasn’t home. Christopher came running down the hallway screaming like a maniac scaring them off of me. By this time however, the attack caused so many bites to me, and the jeans I was wearing were nearly shredded from their teeth. While Christopher kept them away from me, I ran to the bedroom. All I could think to do was take a shower. I cried hysterically, and couldn’t get the fierce image of those dogs biting at me out of my mind. I still can’t shake that memory.

Christopher placed a call to Linda on her cell phone and she was back home within minutes. She took the dogs outside for what seemed to be hours. Again, she felt she should leave, and again we said “stay”. We’d make it work out. As strange as this may seem, it has worked out. Gradually, I have come to increase my trust of Sadie and Sierra, and we are all more cognizant of our movements in the house, as well as the placement of each animal. Most who hear this story can’t understand why any of this would be allowed to happen. That we’d bring this into our home, complicating life so dramatically, disrupting so much of what once was our routine. I say, this is our commitment to someone who has given so much of herself. She continues to give of herself, going beyond any expectation of reciprocity in a roommate type situation. Linda is quite easy to get along with as a roommate, as she pulls more than her share of responsibility. She has given me the motivation to move forward in life, and face my fears.

To me, Linda has been an incredible listener, gently asking if I am open to her feedback. She has seen the areas where my fear leads to inaction and ultimately becoming an even greater and more dangerous problem. In those situations, she has taken me by the hand and committed herself to helping me; being at my side, asking questions I may have missed, devising solutions, and ultimately resolving problems. This has been such a burden lifted from my shoulders. It’s the support and guidance I am in need of for now, all given without creating any codependency. It all feels so healthy to me. I’ll share more of this past month’s developments, and the progress we’re all making here in our home.

Where Is My Light?

 

bright-light

 

It seems as though my Light went out on or about the twenty-first of June, 2005. That was the day that my partner of 11years ended our relationship. From that day forward, and for many days thereafter, I could no longer stomach my life, or even my own existence. I wished I were dead. And with that thought in my head, a dull, constant pain in my heart began in my chest, My Light had gone out.  That bulb blew so hard, that I haven’t found a way to turn it back on again. Everything changed after my Light went out. No more jokes from me, and no more smiles either.  The way I look or the way that I live. I began hating myself so much, that all I wanted was to die. I wanted to be dead, or dying. One of the two. It didn’t matter. And then my wish came true. The first suicide attempt. Botched. The second attempt, failed. An admission to a psychiatric facility for management of my bi polar disorder and rehab for my addiction to crystal meth. I began faking my progress through treatment. I said all the right things that were expected of me by the staff at St. Luke’s.

And then I found out that I was not only HIV+, but in full-blown AIDS. At last, I was at least dying. My Light was really gone now. Everything I knew in my life began to fall apart and fell away from me. I couldn’t grasp anything that mattered to me. I couldn’t go back to the home Joel and I shared for ten years. Our pets were to be split up between us. Our furniture sent to be auctioned off. I would move in with my sister, apply for welfare assistance and hope for the day when I might be able to live independently once again. There was to be outpatient treatment, and twelve step groups. There would be no using of crystal meth, and no consuming of alcohol. I was watched as though I were an escapee from an asylum, someone on the verge of committing some terrible act of harm against society. Without my Light, I began feeling lost, alone, and afraid.

The only echoes of my previous life were those of the hurt, pain and suffering I inflicted upon those I claimed to have loved. There were dances in my head, of lies, deceit, cheating and manipulation. Without my Light, there was no life for me to love or for me to feel was worth living. How could Joel ever forgive me? I beat myself mentally until I felt that I was worthless, almost subhuman.

Then there were small sparks. An apartment. My independence. Welfare and food stamps. Friends to support me emotionally and to help me feel at least somewhat loved. A bigger spark still, I met my present partner, Christopher. Things moved quickly. We stated our love for one another the very first night that we met. He never left after that first night. We decided he would move in. This was my love at first sight experience. A glimmer of light. But not Light.

Something was wrong though with this relationship with Christopher. Our dreamy beginning suddenly turned cold and dark, as his temper flared, outbursts we eventually would call them. Physical harm. Hurtful, hateful words that still sting like a nerve pain. Without Light, life was in chaos. I couldn’t manage my life, Christopher couldn’t manage his, and neither of us could fully support the other. Our lights were shut off by the power company and for nearly three months we lived in darkness until we were evicted from that apartment. We lived in disarray. Whose fault was that? Why even bother to cast blame. Joel turned his Light upon me and I saw the way in which I was living, and it was not the way I have ever lived in the past. I could see it all, but only for a few moments. My ex-partner stretched out his arm and said he’d help me out this one time. This one time only.

A new apartment and a fresh start, but not the best choice. Close to the home I had with my ex-partner, and in my old neighborhood, but not safe. Still, life was not managed well. The car is lost, stolen, towed. Who really knows? We got caught driving it with a suspended registration and no insurance. I had to go before a judge and I still have not yet dealt with the fines. I should be filing for protection under bankruptcy. I can’t manage my money at all. And Christopher will spend it faster than I have ever imagined anyone spending money. My ex-partner remained by my side for a time, with ideas to make life manageable. He helped in many ways. His Light shining on me confused me then. I found myself fantasizing about being back in relationship with him. With every crisis in my life, I called him and was there. Shining some more of his Light so that I can see a little better than before. His shining Light revealed strange pathways of mine that appear when I make choices and decisions. I began to become aware that I wasn’t on the path that I should have been on.  Sadly, my ex-partner has completely severed all ties with Christopher and I, apparently having gotten in touch with some latent resentment and anger, for which he claims he will never be able to come to any form of forgiveness, the forgiveness from before, he says, wasn’t authentic.

Without my own Light, I feel that death is near. Surely without Light, my life shall end. I prepare for my own transition. Memorial service and the entirety of its music is selected, Last Will and Testament complete, disposition of the animals noted, Health Care Power of Attorney chosen. Now why won’t death just come? I’ve got to wait here in the dark? This isn’t even funny. I already feel so lost, alone and afraid. Christopher seems to be getting somewhat better though not really committing to taking his meds or going to therapy.

In my darkness I can’t see. Even my glasses are gone most of the time, worn by Christopher. I find a new area of discomfort in my gut. It’s vile and poisonous and comes through my darkness in the form of mean, hateful, hurtful behavior. Words that I know will cause equal pain and suffering to mine are hurled out against Christopher. And following these waves of anger grew despair and deep depression. A depression so deep that I can’t even move. Nothing looks good to me. I see no positive to my being here or my existence. My body feels as though each day, it is shutting down just a little more. I experience chest pain so severe that I have to stop and catch my breath and to rest until it subsides.

I take many, many pictures of myself. Christopher takes many as well. In these pictures I try to smile, as though I would be filled with Light, but each photo reveals a face that is contorted or in pain with each attempt. I look at these pictures and think to myself, “There is no Light living here”. I begin to edit each picture making each look even more gloomy, and dark.

With each day comes greater waves of anger and loss of self control. “I want Joel” I tell Christopher. “Joel will help me. He’ll rescue me. He always does. Joel is always there for me”. Christopher hears this many times over, and eventually begins to doubt my love for him. He believes it is Joel that I want. And if that’s the case I should go to him. But Joel has moved on. I have not. If I had my Light, maybe I could see my way clear, and move on from Joel. Or is that just an excuse to hang on to something familiar and someone who forgives and gives generously? My Light doesn’t even come on when I’m in the house we once owned together. It’s all so different and it doesn’t feel like my home any longer. All I hear are the echoes of the life we once lived there. Echoes of family gatherings and parties with friends. Of projects and crafts. And of course the things I did there that ruined the Light. Shameful, disrespectful, deceitful acts.

I miss the life that I had when I also had Light. Life was Spiritual. Life had a rhythm and a cadence. Life to me now, has a loud bullying voice that embarrasses me. Which of course I retaliate with my own viciousness that is sure to hurt. This life is filled with loss. The loss of things that was once dear and valued by me. Destroyed by someone who had no regard for their meaning and felt there would be a better use for them as an art project. The actual loss of a pet (Precious) and the impending loss of Cinder. I still grieve the loss of Pepper, Blue and CeCe. All of this is what I believe put out that once beautiful, shining, glorious Light that I had been filled with. Now, I have nothing. My writing this will certainly not please my partner. But it is the truth. I can’t go on living a life without Light. It doesn’t even matter how many days I may have left. Even if it’s just a few days of life yet to be lived, I would choose to have it filled with Light than all of this darkness.

I would like to know the steps I must take to reclaim my Light. How exactly do I get it back? Where do I begin? I wish to laugh again, and make jokes. I want a smile on my face to come naturally. I want to feel the love I have for another, and in turn the love one has for me. I want to turn to my God when I feel my Light begin to dim, to talk things out the way we used to. I want to enjoy the routine of life, and respect the entire world around me. I want to be responsible to the pets in my charge and give them the best care possible. I wish to cry less. I cry so hard that my Soul begins to hurt. And Souls aren’t supposed to hurt. I want my Light to return. It has taken much of my strength to cry out for help. But I did. I welcome feedback and feel assured that help will come. And so will my Light.


 

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