I’m sorry I let you down…but please speak up and don’t assume intent…


I live my life in the moment, but try my best to be considerate of others.  But at the end of the day, I can’t take the world’s perspective into account or I would never be able to experience this moment fully.  I could second guess every step, every move and miss the opportunity of being fully present.

Unfortunately, this sometimes means that others may feel excluded because I don’t reach out “in the moment” to share the experience.  As a “recovering people pleaser,” I’m trying to find that balance between connecting considerately and being fully present in the moment, being more fully aware of my needs.  Sometimes I “get it right” for all parties; sometimes I worry too much what others think, feel or want and “miss me;” and unfortunately,  I sometimes inadvertently overlook others’ needs and upset or hurt them.

If I’m lucky in the latter case, the other person will express their feelings to me in a straightforward manner that allows me to understand the impact I had on them. It doesn’t lessen their pain or change their feelings, but it allows me to be aware, to apologize and hopefully strike a better balance the next time.  Sometimes, I get an emotionally charged response, which is really a lose-lose situation because I’m left feeling manipulated, or hurt with spiteful attacks…and it still doesn’t lessen their pain or change their feelings.  Instead we are both left hurt, simply because the other person “lashes out” or lets their past hurts, issues or unmet needs be perceived as as a personal attack (which for me, is rarely the case…). And then, sadly, there are those times when the other doesn’t voice anything…which for me is the worst of all situations, because their pain is still real and I’m left without the opportunity to be aware, seek forgiveness and (hopefully) act differently next time.

I share this in the hopes of raising awareness of a couple key points. First, like most people, I’m trying my best, with good intentions – but am imperfect and will fall short sometimes.  Second, at least for me, I rarely intentionally hurt others – so please don’t assume intention, but express your unmet needs and valid feelings in an objective manner that allows me to hear and receive your feedback. And finally, silence is by far the worst of all choices.  Passive-aggressive behavior I can work through; silence robs us both of a growth experience and an ability to connect.

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Flipped again! Seeing the wisdom of my BFF’s word of advice…


I love my church…I love the way I’m challenged, encouraged, supported, and inspired.

For this gay man, that’s a pretty powerful statement to make.  Like many LGBTQ folks, my history with “organized religion” has led me into some uncomfortable places, as I’ve blogged about before.  I’ve belonged to a conservative “Christian cult,” (in my terms…), attended Homosexuals Anonymous (yep! there is actually a 12-step program to “make you straight), and skirted with Exodus Ministries and Sy Rogers, hosting him at the University of Michigan at a “launch event” for an ex-gay outreach I started my Senior year.

With that history, it’s no wonder it took a LONG time before I felt comfortable setting foot in a church, let alone one with strong ties to its middle-of-the-road-but-slightly-conservative mainstream denomination. But, growing up going to church, attending Sunday school and a high school youth group, I always knew that deep inside, some (healthier) spiritual life was important to me.  I’ve always believed we are physical, emotional, intellectual and yes – spiritual beings.  It’s just taken some grieving and courage to face the “demons” from my past that caused me to avoid church altogether.

Looking back on my journey, which has included 9+ years attending Broadway United Methodist Church, and several years finding my “own voice” and path forward in my recovery, which includes some powerful experiences, insightful readings and sharing in the “rooms” of several 12 step programs.  As I’ve written before, while I don’t attend any meetings regularly now, those early days of recovery were critical in my “flip” – my re- acceptance of an active spiritual life.

So last year, when we worked through a creative Lenten experience together at Broadway, facing our own personal shame…I embarked on a personal spiritual journey to better deal and face my own shame in a somewhat unconventional way….picketing a local bakery whose story “hit the social media fan” right around the start of Lent, because of their refusal to make a cake for a gay couple.

Final week of protest...HAPPY EASTER!
Final week of protest…HAPPY EASTER!

Probably the single wisest move I made “taking that on” for Lent was from a suggestion from someone I consider to be my “BFF” / friend much more than I do my “Pastor.”  Mike Mather has been an important part of my life journey in community.   His coaching was to go in and talk with the owners first, before I showed up to picket their bakery.

That single act has made my “spiritual journey” and then Lenten decision much more powerful and personal.  My Higher Power (God, The Universe, whatever works for you) has also taken my act of faith, and made more connections, insights and “knock on effects” than I could have ever fathomed.  For that, I’m truly grateful.

So, I’ll close this piece with some recent follow-up articles that explain how this all has come full circle.  I thank Randy McGrath for his courage to be honest and authentic; I appreciate Will Higgins ability to see deeper into the story being told between Randy and me over the course of weeks and months; and I will use the experience to look for more ways to engage in personal dialogue and curiosity.

As my one friend Stewart Huff says, “we are all scared, curious poets.”  It’s powerful to admit “I don’t know” to certain questions, leading to the possibility of being “Flipped” — of seeing the world through a new pair of glasses.  So, I’ll also close this piece with some cross-references to some other “scared, curious poets” who Flipped! my worldview…

Sawubona

Other Flips! in my journey:

 

Where am I? Foster kids and TCK’s share some commonality…


A friend of mine who is a teacher sent me the following devotion, written by a foster child.  “It relates to many of my students,” he added.

I’m a TCK – “third culture kid” – “Exxon brat” – child of an ex-pat.  Although my sister “had it worse,” going to three different schools in two different countries for High School, the three of us grew up moving around.  And, I’ll be honest – there are many strengths / benefits I have grown up with as a result…so I’m don’t regret my upbringing (perhaps in that way, we are different from foster children…).  I learned a foreign language early on, and am fluent in French even today because of that early education.  I’m able to adjust to new surroundings more quickly, and make new friends.  I’m perhaps more aware of and more resilient to change (though it can still be hard!) because of my changing circumstances.  I followed in my dad’s footsteps, and was an ex-pat myself, moving every 3-4 years during my career, living in different countries and States.  I was a foreign exchange student after High School, the willingness to go, I attribute largely to my upbringing. So, there are many “pluses.”

But “Google” TCK / third culture kid, and you’ll learn more about the effects of this experience.  I have experienced loss and change at a young age, which I’ve later learned has affected me emotionally when it comes to grief, commitment, and feelings.  I’ve done a lot of work to understand and grow from those insights as an adult.  So, there are many “minuses” too.

“A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture.”

Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem coined the term “Third Culture Kids” after spending a year on two separate occasions in India with her three children, in the early fifties. Initially they used the term “third culture” to refer to the process of learning how to relate to another culture; in time they started to refer to children who accompany their parents into a different culture as “Third Culture Kids.” Useem used the term “Third Culture Kids” because TCKs integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique “third culture”

 

I’ll let your searching bring further enlightenment into this experience.

I’ll close with my friend’s devotional.

And then, maybe I’ll go write a friend a letter…

WHERE AM I?

I hate moving. When I was a kid, my family moved every year or two, and the whole time the U-Haul was being loaded it always made me sick. Hugging the toilet sick. I didn’t really get any pleasure out of seeing my new bedroom or exploring a new neighborhood. Mostly I spent the first few days worrying. Wondering if anyone knew where I was. Would I be able to get on the right bus at school? And off at the right stop? I didn’t even know my address – how would the bus driver? Would my grandparents be able to find us for my birthday party? And how would Santa know where we were?

Those nerves could be largely settled by one simple thing – getting mail. Not mail for my parents, mail for ME. Mail meant that someone knew where I meant that someone knew where I was. Mail meant I wasn’t lost. Mail meant I was thought of. And, if I was lucky and it was from my grandparents, it usually included stuff – stickers, toys, activity books, crayons – you get the picture. Foster kids move a lot too – an average of 4 times in 20 months, and among kids who age out of foster care at 18, a third moved more than 8 times while they were in custody. Each move means a new house, new neighborhood, new school. Each move means you lose stuff that matters to you – stuff like pictures and drawings and stories you have written and favorite CD’s. Each move means new rules – new bedtimes, new chores, new ways to fold the towels and make your bed. And, they wonder if anyone knows where they are.

GOD, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going.  This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139:1-6)