Where to Start: Christianity or Medical Marijuana?!?

I’ve been pondering where to start with my “This I Believe” journey. Which topic or belief should I tackle first? Two that seemed timely in my life are my spiritual beliefs, and my thoughts on legalizing marijuana for medical use. At first, these might strike you as odd ones to bubble to the top. But, given my life story and key influencers or mentors along the way, these actually make a lot of sense to me. 


I grew up in what I suppose one would call a mainstream Christian family. Going to church every Sunday, participating in church youth groups and other activities was a big part of growing up. Looking back, I think my parents went through this ritual because it was a healthy social outlet for kids and exposed us to faith & spirituality in general. I can’t say we ever had deep spiritual conversations about our beliefs – nor did we ever actively talk about or explore other spiritual paths. So, while we weren’t evangelical Christians, there was clearly a gently bias towards what was probably considered “normal” in society at the time. Moving around quite a bit growing up, I can see how a church connection gave me some stability and social connections. In that sense, it was helpful. Beyond that, I’m not sure I consciously “chose” Christianity nor could really articulate what I believed.

Fast forward through being in a Christian cult at college and exploring the “ex-gay” movement, it took me a long time before I felt comfortable stepping foot in a church. Even when I did in my 30’s, it was more for that same social outlet – as a way of making friends and meeting people in my community. When I got into recovery for my addiction to meth and other substances in my 40’s, I found the concept of a Higher Power – or the Universe – to be a lot more acceptable and helpful. In the 12-step programs, we are encouraged to recognize and find a Higher Power “of our own choosing” – which, as a gay man, was a lot more inviting and helpful than some of the Christian dogma I faced throughout my life. In more recent years, as I’ve become exposed to the flow arts community with my fiancée, I’ve expanded my explorations into other spiritual belief systems and world views – probably for the first time in life. And, it’s been comforting, challenging, exciting, and scary. 

At this point, I don’t know that I can say what I believe. But, there are things I know I don’t believe. For example, I don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God – or that Christianity is any better or different than any other man-made religion. That’s the first time I’ve ever said that out loud – or in this case, shared with the world!  Kathunk….

Having said that, I can’t say what I’ve found – if anything – to replace that deep-rooted belief system. After 40+ years of blindly accepting something at face value, I’m only now beginning to question and explore. It’s only in the past 7 years that I’ve really begun to challenge my world view – so it’s just the start. And, I’m ok (for the first time in my life) not knowing what I believe for the most part.  I’m not sure I’m any better or worse off than before. I couldn’t say that I really believed anything – just blindly accepted it and didn’t make waves because – I’m a rule follower.  But, I’ve reached a point where that no longer works for me.  

What I do know is, I’m still learning and my beliefs around faith and spirituality are evolving. I believe we are spiritual beings, just as we are physical, emotional and intellectual beings. Each aspect is an integral part of who we are – and to ignore any one seems unhealthy to me.  But beyond that, I don’t know which parts of religion, spirituality and faith are important to discern. There is probably some subconscious clarity that I expect will begin to emerge as I write, discuss and explore further.

Medical Marijuana

For me, this is a relevant topic in my life for a variety of reasons. With the changing laws across America, it’s becoming a relevant social and political topic. At some point, I’ll probably live in a State where marijuana is legal for medical purposes, and possibly for recreational purposes. I’d like to know what I believe before that occurs – so here we go!

Having worked for a pharmaceutical company for 20 years, I’ve largely believed only in “FDA-approved” health solutions -mainly for the same reasons I called myself a Christian. It was the mainstream, socially acceptable position to take. But, like the sometimes blind and narrow-minded aspects of religion, I am finding that this narrow-minded, Western view of how the mind, body and spirit heal has also run its course for me. In the past, I would have discounted acupuncture, herbal medicine, yoga and other mindful practices that clearly have medical value – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – despite what the FDA or other “authorities” might currently say. So, why are they “right” about pot? Clearly, they’re not.  So, what do I believe?!

At this point, I also can’t say with certainty what I believe and why. There is a lot of rhetoric out there, and I know the 12-step community is pretty black and white on this topic.  But, I’ve also learned that life is not black and white. So, I’m trying to be open to other possibilities for my own physical and mental health. I’m determined to educate myself more on the health benefits of marijuana. Given the reality of corporate greed and politically lobbying, I’m less inclined to accept what the government or corporate America wants me to believe – and and more included to go learn for myself. So, I’ll be looking for books, articles, TedX and other talks on the changing tide towards accepting marijuana as having medicinal value.  

For me, this seems to be the proactive and responsible step to take – as and before the laws change around me. So, if you’re reading this, and have any suggestions on where to start, I’m open to research and studies that speak to the medicinal properties  marijuana!

So, for now, I’ll close.  This is a little bit of “This I Believe” – but more an acknowledgement of what I don’t know.  And, for now, I’m ok with that!

Thanks for listening!

This I Believe…

Several years ago, I was given a gift for my birthday. It was a CD collection titled “This I Believe.” It was a collection of stories taken from the NPR radio series by the same name. The stories were from people from all walks of life – some famous, some not so famous, older, younger, etc.. The individuals talked about their personal beliefs – and often, why they had come to have these beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs stemmed from the influence of a parent or grand-parent, or mentor, or friend. Sometimes, they came through personal experience – the ups and downs of life. It was a fascinating collection of stories – and was a joy to listen to on road trips.

Having recently turned 49, and facing a new milestone birthday in about 11 months, I’ve been giving a lot of thought, airtime and therapy time to better understanding my beliefs. I’ve learned about CBT (cognitive behavorial therapy) – a tool a friend of mine discovered through his own early recovery during a month-long in-patient program he checked himself into for his own mental health. I’ve realized how much my unconscious (and sometimes conscious) thoughts stem from deep-seated beliefs – and how those thoughts can drive my feelings. I used to think, quite honestly, that this “cause and effect” relationship was bullshit. I had probably been burned enough in my past about the role of feelings – or shall I say, never really came to understand what I believe about the role of feelings. Instead, I took what my “pastoral leaders” in a Christian cult said during my college years as “gospel.”  Well, that fucked me up for a long time! More recently, I spent time in a 12 step program, where feelings and their role in addiction was drilled into me for years. And, I’ll admit that they were probably closer to what I now have come to believe – but even there, I couldn’t fully embrace their way of thinking.  And, in my black and white mind, it was all or nothing – they were right, or they were wrong.

So, my world is little more grey these days.

And my world is a little less clear these days.

And my beliefs are a little more in flux these days.

And all of these statements are ok with me these days.  I’m ok with not knowing – or believing I know or understand – it will. Just writing that stands out as both arrogant, ignorant, and unrealistic.

What I believe is what I believe – and it seems to make more sense to figure that out for myself, rather than take someone else’s doctrine as “gospel.”

What I believe may also change – as I learn more information, have new experiences,  interact with other world views – and that seems to make more sense, than accepting some static, infallible set of beliefs.  Has my 49 years on this earth not shown that life is about change – that change is healthy – and that growth comes through experience, uncertainty and struggle.  It also comes through the loving support of others, and the insight and experience of others. But ultimately, I have one person to answer to – one image in the mirror looking back at me.  And for that understanding, I’m grateful.

So this is me reengaging with my blog, as I take pen to paper and tell more of my story.

This I believe…

Stay tuned for more!



Startup Lessons – Learning is Your New Reality #staystrong

from: Diary of a Portrait Photographer, Edition 1

At some point, I’ve been wanting to write down my reflections and intentions for the New Year. Deadlines usually work for me. Jan 1st or Three Kings Day (Jan 6th) would normally be my go-to deadlines. But not this year for some reason.

And therein is one of my key reflections for the New Year. Create space for both creativity and efficiency. As an Industrial Engineer, I understand process and project management. That’s a strength. So, for me, find balance – but err towards strengthening my more creative, unstructured, passionate self. So I missed a deadline – so what. But, I feel inspired now to write – so this was the right moment after all. So much for my perceived level of control…(mini-truth – serenity works!)

Which leads me to a deeper intention. I want to live more deeply in the grey. Everything in life is negotiable, except death and taxes. There is less right and wrong, less black and white. There are also times it’s worth taking a risk – whatever that means in the moment. So relax a little. I can choose to be right or be happy – I choose to be happy and to value relationships more than being right. (Easier said than done…but it’s a start!)

And I’m reminded of sayings from my past:

  • Never underestimate the power of a question
  • Never do for others what they can do themselves
  • Perfection is the enemy of “good enough”

Ok enough platitudes and bumper stickers…

As for 2016 and 2017? Last year was about starting the process, launching new ventures, and having the baby. This year, it’s about focus. And lots of growth, learning, hard work.

And learning seems to be my new reality.

I’ve struggled with this learning curve shit in the past year. I came to the realization that for 20+ years in corporate America, I had invested the time into a career, the results of which were knowledge, experience, peer recognition and advancement. (And money. And identity. And no soul).

Now, as I start my second career in two different areas, there’s been a lot of soul-searching, self-discovery and growth. I’m drawing on a lot of experience in technology, project management and photography…sure. But, doing this “on my own” is SO new to me! I’m facing a constant and daily learning curve. The devil is in the details, and it takes time to gain experience and to hone a skill, a proficiency into a professional and profitable business. And, for me, that’s been humbling, frustrating and fearful – and sometimes a barrier to my own progress.

For my own reasons and needs, I’m choosing to write this because I want to be able to look back on this in 5 years…and be able to reflect on how far I will have come by then. I want to see the growth – but always remember that there has been rough times getting there. Things have been scary, hard, overwhelming at times. I feel useless and stupid sometimes. I feel old and beaten. But, I’m living through those moments and gaining momentum. And it feels great. And sucks. At the same time. And, I’m also learning so much more about myself, my thoughts, my beliefs, and my strengths. And it is also bringing me joy, freedom, hope, inspiration and fulfillment. Ultimately, this road I’ve been on is finally reconnecting me with the real me – which is fancy way of saying even more learning!

So yes, learning is my new reality. But, if I can live through my fear, the journey brings life. There is no destination…which used to scare me, but now brings a sense of relief.

I’m tempted to write about the a-ha’s along the way. The conversations I’ve had that have moved me. The new insights, or tough lessons… But the details are less important. Just remember – stay strong. But, do remember what a lady in pink taught you… And remember the connections you made in your first shoot – how they shaped the lens through which you see yourself in the world. And remember that cancer sucks. Even a lot of it.

In closing, I share my “Stay Strong” playlist. When life gets me down. When a friend betrays me. When I betray a friend. When the waves come. When doubt enters the complex mind. These poems have been one of my anchors this past year.

Everybody’s Free (to wear suncreen)

Click for Apple Music Playlist