Monthly Archives: August 2014

Let’s Light the Fuse

So today, I’m sipping coffee (again) in Berkeley (again) before my fasted run (again), and not complaining (at all).

And today, my uncle Tim is marrying the love of his life, his partner, Bennie. 

Today, I’m attending my first gay wedding. 

And today, I’m going to discuss what I never branch into discussing, because it’s such a hot-button topic: gay marriage. 

I grew up in an incredibly conservative, restrictive, cult-like Christian culture. Gratefully, my parents moved away from that when I was 18, and started their own church, which helped me break out of a lot of brainwashing, lies, bigotry, distortion of scripture, and self-righteous, fear-driven, extra-biblical “law”.

I also grew up in a culture which was composed of at least 75% broken, miserable, unhappy, abusive, chauvenistic, fucked up marriages, with the other 25% being purely beautiful, full of respect and love (my parents’ is one of the amazing ones). 

But even after we left, I still would have told you that gay marriage was “sinful” and “wrong”.

Fast-forward 8 years. 

Fast-forward through 7 years of chronic illness, 3 years of a broken, abusive, unbiblical “christian” marriage, rape, two years of motherhood, several moves, unemployment, and many broken moments of single motherhood; fast forward through a shit ton of life experiences, and you’ll find ME.

Me, learning to redefine my religion from a basis of LOVE, open-mindedness, and experience with the “God” I KNOW. 

The “God” I pray to, talk to, still believe exists, who held me together and helped me find my feet and myself and my way through illness, abuse, and recovery, he LOVES. 

There are several ways to approach this issue.

I could say that according to the Bible, God created marriage to be for a man and woman, but all of that was distorted and changed at “the fall”. Therefore, what matters is that these people, in this day and age, are loving and respectful of each other, and we shouldn’t expect everyone to have “straight” marriages anymore. 

I could say that biblical law is archaic, that banning gay marriage goes right up there with wondering if we should still stone people for adultery or lying. I could remind you that much of old testament and new testament scripture is ignored by church culture. 

I could point out the discrepancy between “christians” who get drunk, who have sex outside of marriage, who do many things you aren’t SUPPOSED to do, and still condemn another “sin” – the sin of gay marriage – despite their own transgressions. 

I could remind you that Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, so even if you don’t think gay people should be married, you have no right to condemn, abuse, malign, ostracize or disrespect them.

But what I find myself doing – as I struggle to pick up the pieces of a once seemingly rock-solid faith that was in truth completely untested by time, maturity, and the pain that life brings – is arguing simply and irrevocably from a position of LOVE. 

I have learned to love what I believe mirrors the characteristics of the God that I know. The Being that created a world that should’ve reflected love, respect, integrity, friendship, companionship, affection, joy, family, giving, community… “peace, patience, kindness, no record of wrongdoing, delighting not in evil, but rejoicing with truth”. 

Through all of the pain I have incurred, I have learned to simply and purely respect what is GOOD: what builds up and draws together and demonstrates LOVE, at it’s selfless, priceless, genuine essence, and to reject that which is EVIL: which pulls apart, which causes pain, which puts down and destroys, selfishly, fearfully, and without sincerity, full of hypocrisy. 

For this reason – because I love these two people, because they love each other, because I simply respect what they have built over many years with each other; the people they’ve drawn together, the community they’ve created, the respect and integrity they share – for this reason, I stand behind them today, and I delight in doing so. 

Happy wedding day, Tim and Bennie!

Thank you for unintentionally pushing me to grapple with yet another issue that leads me to a place of loving myself, and others. 

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“Go West, Young Man”.

The famous quote by Horace Greeley is on my mind this morning, as I sip a delicious cup of black coffee in sunny Berkeley, California. 

I first stepped off of the plane on the West Coast last fall, in October, a few days before my second bodybuilding competition. I took second place in LA, which was a notable achievement, but what was most amazing to me was the complete and utter happiness I felt in being so very far from where I grew up. I stepped off that plane, and I felt I was home. 

It could be a myriad of factors that contribute to this confidence I’ve found in knowing one day I’ll be living out here, far from the humidity and judgement and bigotry of the East Coast culture: it could be that it feels far away from the pain I incurred at the hands of several men where I grew up. It could be that it’s far from memories of rape and abuse and neglect and destructive emotional put-downs and self-righteous, arrogant religious hypocrites; judging my divorce, my openness about the pain I went through, my scandalous display of confidence in my body and sexuality in my competing and modeling. 

It could be that it’s far from all of the hospitals I was in for so long, from the familiar haunts of a gaunt 19 year old with no hope for the future. Far from PICC lines and seizures and bloodwork and broken dreams.

It could be that it’s so far removed from the places that used to fit me, which can no longer hold the things I’ve learned: “Roads that closed off to me while my back was turned”… away from lessons finished and places with nothing left to show me.

It could be the air out here, that is brighter, purer, less polluted, less heavy with memory and pain and darkness. 

It could be many of the people, and the way they encourage being different, non-conformist, non-judgmental, loving, open, unrushed, less anxious, less willing to walk all over anyone who stands in the way of twisted dreams and ambitions they concoct from a deep insecurity of self and an utter lack of empathy.

It could be the scenery, the layers of gorgeous landscape and the tantalizing wonder of being unable to see around a bend or over a rise. No flat, empty places.

It could be the fitness industry, which rages and thrives and grows out here, and the people in it, who have learned to care for mind and soul and body much more efficiently. 

It could be the coastline, the sky, the trees, the flowers, the farmer’s markets, the simplicity and beauty and rush of what is new, and untouched, and undiscovered, and unfamiliar. 

It could simply be that it is a beginning. The end of the old, starting over, breathing again, a deep inhale and an exhale in a rush of toxic release, letting go of what was, what was done, what has been, and welcoming what will be, can be, could be, might be. 

All of the promise of tomorrow, all of the newness of being and renewing, thousands of miles from what hurts, and stings, and breaks… landscape and people and climate and places that are scars on the mind and the subconscious, dragging you down, holding you back, restraining and wounding and slowing the healing. 

The very uncertainty of it is enthralling, and the complete unfamiliarity is exhilarating. Rich with hope. That is what it is, simply, it is hope. Hope of opportunity without fear.

This is home, and one day, it will be mine. 

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A Clash of Culture and Common Sense

I’m sitting here this morning, sipping on black coffee, baking egg whites in muffin tins and putting off my fasted run in 99% humidity, and I’m musing over some recent self-revelations that have been disturbing to me. 

I’m in a relationship now, with a wonderful man. A genuinely wonderful man. The honeymoon phase is over, and he’s still a wonderful, wonderful man. 

What has been so disturbing to me in recent days has been the self-revelation that happiness is unsettling. I don’t know what to do with it. I’m like a child, given a strange, new toy. It delights me, enthralls me, exhilarates me, contents me… but I’m surprised by it every time I look at it. I’m wondering when it will be taken away, because it is so very delightful. It seems to be logical that with how beautiful and strange and wonderful it is, it won’t last. 

Disturbing, isn’t it?

We live in a world where the altruism of youth is absolutely eclipsed by the hedonistic self-obsession of our society. As we age, we are taught more and more to pursue ambition, gratification – instant gratification – possessions, status symbols, achievements. The value of human relationships at their essence, has been lost to us. 

This culture seems to have accepted that what is best for us is what is best now, how we want it, when we want it. What we say, do, intend, think, believe, encourage, promote, value, and request in our relationships, both platonic and otherwise, is centered around what WE WANT. 

In addition, we live in a culture that has lost a sense of SELF-VALUE. There is a wild difference between SELFISHNESS and SELF-AWARENESS. Knowing WHO you are has been lost in a mad scramble to identify, to fit in, to make others happy, to self-gratify.

The very sad truth is, if you look at common sense, and you look at relationships, the ones that last are grounded in two very, very important things which fly in the face of current culture:

1. Selfish self-awareness

2. Selfless conduct

Those two seem mutually exclusive, do they not? Let me explain.

One of the most valuable lessons my destructive young marriage taught me was that without self-value, without self-awareness, you cannot be selfless. Without a true knowledge and love for who you are independently, autonomously, you will never be able to make the right kind of sacrifices in a relationship. 

Imagine for a moment a dragon (I love dragons… nerd moment alert), and a treasure trove. The dragon knows he lives in a cave, with his treasure trove, but he is blind. He doesn’t know what he has. He has a small sense of it, but he can’t see it, can hardly feel it. A stranger comes to his cave, and wants to take some treasure. The dragon has two recourses, because he doesn’t know what’s actually available to him. One: hoard, protect, fight for all of it. Two: sacrifice some of it, but without knowing which of the pieces are most valuable and important to him, because he cannot see them.

Corny illustration, I know. Best thing I could think of. Bear with me. 

So imagine now, yourself. You have very little self-awareness, very little security in who you are. A stranger comes into your life, wants to help themselves to some of YOU. You don’t know yourself, your values, your loves and hates and what parts of you are most important to you, so you cannot conduct yourself selflessly, effectively in that relationship, because you don’t know which parts of you are too important to sacrifice, and which parts you can freely give without incurring bitterness or resentment later for giving those things to someone else that you really wanted to keep for yourself.

In order to GIVE you have to know and value appropriately what you HAVE. 

In order to survive and thrive in a relationship you have to know how to be SELFISHLY SELF-AWARE so you can operate SELFLESSLY where you are able to. You have to know what you’re willing to give up, and what you’re going to fight to preserve.

THIS is the knowledge I come back to when I am disturbed by how confused I feel by how happy and content I have been with this man. From this last year of so much pain and frustration, I have fought for, won, and learned who I am, what I value, and what I am willing to give. 

And that has made all the difference, this time around. A beautiful, valuable, wonderful difference. 

Take the time to understand YOU, and make sure your partner does the same. 

Don’t let this selfish, insecure, image-driven, ignorant culture drive you to selfish, or selflessly UNaware relationships. Use common sense, and find yourself first, and give from that deep knowledge of who you are. 

“To say ‘I love you’, 

One must first know how

To say the ‘I'”.

-Ayn Rand

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