Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prop 8 Shoulds (Part Two)

Last week I began writing a piece on staying “should-less” and choosing happiness even in the midst of being denied the legal right to marry, as California did with Proposition 8. But how is this possible when you live in a state or an area that doesn’t support your fundamental human rights?

I promise you it is possible if you keep the following in mind:

1. You always have the right to choose to be happy in ANY situation. No matter what anyone else is saying to you or about you, you can choose not to buy into their insanity or their cruelty. No one has the power to take your humanity unless you give it to them. Don’t believe me? Try reading Victor Frankl’s, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” or Tina Turner’s, “I, Tina.” These individuals make strong testaments in favor of determining your own emotional/spiritual path, even in the face of personal and political oppression.

2. Choosing to act the victim role plays into the oppressor’s hands. If you choose to live your life at the effect of other people’s choices, you will be letting them win. Anytime you compromise your mental, physical, or spiritual wellness because of another person’s ignorance, you are giving them what they want. By asserting your right to be happy and proud in all areas of your life, you are diminishing their ability to hurt you and the people you love.

3. You cannot control what other people think or do. You can control how your react to what others think or do. In my own experience, expending energy on what others think and do will leave me tired, exhausted, angry, and burnt out. This hardly puts me in a position to be an effective activist, or inspire others to change. However, I can have an impact and an affect on what others think or do if I have chosen peace and happiness within myself first. It is only through doing your own work that you can motivate others to change.

4. Nobody opens their minds or hearts when they are being judged or condescended to. Nobody. So if you’re out there yelling at people that they “should” support you, it really won’t help. People may change their minds when they feel they are being listened to and respected. Throwing bottles or vandalizing churches hardly encourages anyone to change their political views.

5. “To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” Nelson Mandela. Are you behaving in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others? Are you respecting that partner you want to marry? I can’t tell you how many activists I have known who stand up for human rights in the world, then ignore or abuse their loved ones at home, or are cruel to their co-workers. By demonstrating compassion and love for people you know, you are in fact making a powerful political statement about the rights of others.

Please consider these ideas as you go forward in your work this week. It’s easy to choose suffering. It’s harder to make the most radical choice of all: Happiness.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My appearance on "Up Close and Personal"

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have been a guest on Bonnie D. Graham's wonderful show, "Up Close and Personal" back on November 7th. If you'd like to hear it, follow the link below.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Prop 8 Shoulds

Like so many others, I am frustrated and saddened by the passing of Proposition 8 in my homestate of California. It is sickening that the majority of adults voted in favor of banning legal same-sex marriage, and illuminates some deeply entrenched distortions in many people’s thinking.

But I am also aware that any time I am feeling upset or angry, I can choose to feel peace and acceptance. IF I am willing. I am also painfully aware that many activists perceive themselves as needing to remain in a constant state of anger and victimization in order to feel productive. They are often unwilling to consider that happiness is always an option—even without legal validation of same sex relationships. By challenging “shoulds” I have learned it is possible to be politically active, and feel peace at the same time.

Here’s how this works with my should, “Gays and Lesbians Should Be Allowed To Legally Marry.”

Q: How did I learn this “should?”
A: I learned it from my friends and clients over the years, particularly those that went through traumatizing legal issues after their same sex partner died. Without legal protections, people I know and love have lost their homes, their savings, even their children.

Q: How do you feel when you think this “should?”
A: I feel hurt, angry, like I want to strike back at one of these political or religious organizations that want to take away people’s rights. Then eventually I feel achey and tired.

Q: And who profits off your “should”?
A: Anyone who voted in favor of the marriage ban profits off my “should.” Because when I get angry, my body reacts. My muscles hurt, my head aches, my blood pressure goes up, my stomach thumps, and I don’t sleep well. This makes me a lot less effective in being active or outspoken about the injustices around me.
The conservative power base who want to deny me legal rights have a lot at stake in my being miserable. If they want me to be unhappy and stressed out, then I make their job a lot easier when I make MYSELF miserable with my thoughts.

Q: Who would you be without this “should”
A: I would be a person who could be happy and fulfilled, even when half the state of California doesn’t want to me to be. I would be someone who feels personally and emotionally empowered, despite what the law tells me about myself.

Q: Replace it.
A: I would prefer that same-sex couples have equal legal rights in ALL states. It would be legally and emotionally advantageous for everyone to be able to have their relationship validated. But either way no one has the power to determine how I feel about my partner or anyone else...unless I give it to them.

From doing this “should-less” questioning, I am feeling more hopeful, and more peaceful. And it is from this place of acceptance that I know I am more effective in my actions and communications with others. Over the next few weeks I plan to write more tips about ways to engage in “should-less” protesting. Please come back and share with me your responses.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Book Is Out!

I just have to say it is astounding and amazing to see the book is out there now. I can't thank everyone enough who has been reading this blog, giving me feedback, and considering how great a world without "shoulds" can really be.

The book is now available on most internet outlets, including Amazon, Tower, Barnes & Noble.

If you've read it, please let me know what you think. Even if you think it stinks!