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Beyond Hoping

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Beyond Hoping

In her response to the book Leaving Church:  A Memoir of Faith, a blogger I am particularly fond of asked her readers to consider the question posed in the text:  “What is saving your life right now?”  I have yet to read the book; however, the question, and it’s greater implications, intrigue me.  Here’s my response, and I encourage you to post your own thoughts about what’s saving you this summer:

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This is what I think:  without hope, I’d drift aimlessly and sink eventually.  For me, hoping creates the foundation for saving, and saving moves me into believing.  What saves me are a few, simple things helping me breathe deeper, so I can find a reason to hope every day:

I work somewhere that values and fosters the contribution each person can make to make the world a little brighter. This makes it easy to go to the office.

My apartment is well-loved and decorated.  Home sweet home!

My new apartment is cozy, decorated, and well-loved.  Home Sweet Home!

Summertime means produce is plentiful and affordable on my student budget!

Summer break means I have time to do nothing-things like painting, napping, reading, and being. I forgot how lovely it is.

Recently, I spent a week with my best friend. She asked me all the right questions and, of course, danced with me to trashy pop. Oooh Payphone.

After how incredible 2011 was for new music, I was doubtful about 2012, but summer releases offer much promise.

Colorado’s beautiful these days, and this view is in my neighborhood. Or the one adjacent.

Reading the words of Henri Nouwen and Rainer Maria Rilke: a massage for my soul.

It comes down to simple, yet vibrant, beauties and small kindnesses.  In the mundane, more than the obvious or grandiose, I feel renewed, connected [again] to people, and able to hope.  In these things, life, and the Spirit, speak loudly, and I am quiet enough to hear.

May your heart be quieted and your soul rest in these final, summer days.  If you struggle getting there, I suggest a pitcher of homemade sangria.  Works like a charm!

All that Is Unresolved

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Frequently, I think about where life leads, or, more accurately, where the spirit of Christ leads.  I am half a year shy of 25, which is, all at once, exhilarating and frightening, leading me to ask questions such as:

“Social worker” is my title, and serving people is my “vocation,” but what, specifically, is my “calling?”  

Who do I want to share my life with?  (I forget, oftentimes, I can be selective about this one.  Hmm.)

Does how I live reflect my deepest values?

Who do I respect and look up to?  Who respects and looks up to me?  

Who do I lead?  Am I taking them somewhere worth going?

When I was 15, I thought life would look a whole lot different, on many levels, than it does. Am I disappointed?  No, maybe slightly disillusioned (or maybe just rationale) about particular things.  People like to tell me, “Now is your time!  You’re young and well educated!  The world is your oyster!”  Bullshit, this world is not an oyster.

I am, however, oddly hopeful, because I am at a point of accepting surrender.  For as long as I can remember, I have envisioned a crazy, wonderful life full of adventure and purpose yet had no vision for how to get there.  Of course, I had a plan involving airplanes, foreign romances, and wavy hair (yes, my hair is wavy in my fantasy world.), but involved no work.  No, I don’t have an oyster, and, yes, I have limitations, but committing to working hard and taking a few losses every once in awhile in hope of something better is well worth it, because I will live a life I envisioned and worked hard to get.

The questions above wait for an answer and a million more puzzle my brain and force me to sit with what is unresolved and listen.  It wants a whole lot of things, a whole lot of resolution, but the real, crux of it hinges on my ability to hang loose and hold on.

Thankfully, I have a lifetime and more to figure out how to do it, this whole surrendering thing.  Lord have mercy on my rough and rowdy ways…

Much and Little to Say

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Three.  This is the number of times I sat down this week to blog but ended up elsewhere.  It’s not that I have nothing to say; let’s be real, I have something to say always, but maybe it’s this context.  Certain things are not meant for the eyes and ears of the world, or those who Google, or maybe just those who are creeps.

One thing is certain, though, I miss writing and reading.  Grad school wiped away the pleasure factor of these activities, but, thankfully, it didn’t touch literature or poetry.  Case in point:  I walked to the post office the other day to purchase stamps, and as the attendant flipped through my options, I eyed the Twentieth Century Poets and about peed.  I selected that page immediately, and she asked me, “Oh, are you a writer?”  Immediately, I wished my answer was, “YES!” but stuck to the standard, “Well, no, but I studied English in college…”

[For the record, in my head, I hear Another One Bites the Dust.  Thank you, Queen.]

But I’m not a writer.  I’m a social worker.  Interacting with people, being a part of social movements, and partnering with others more passionate than myself invigorates and fulfills me in ways I never thought a vocation could; however, a tiny part of me longs to hide away, wearing my grandpa sweater in a nook with a legal pad and a bottle of whiskey.  The whiskey is for iconic effect more than consumption.  Let’s be real; I’m not competent, let alone literate and articulate, while shooting liquor or guns.

And as quickly as the glamor of the writing life encompasses me, swooning my heart, I glance toward the oven and snap into reality.  Rest in peace, Slyvia Plath, rest in peace.

For now I’ll stick with people, and maybe if I stick with them long enough, I’ll come across stories worth telling, compiling tangible material to make into something write-worthy.  I’d like that, I think.

La Casa Nueva

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This is the first post in my new, tiny home, which I adore.  Thanks to those close to me for pushing me to try living alone.  For the first four days, it’s been lovely.  I have a little courtyard, where I intend to drink my morning coffee, until the bitter cold sets in.  Also, this neighborhood is alive, which I love.  So far, I have witnessed lots of kisses on corners, public urination, friends coming and going, crowds decked out for PRIDE, and a plethora of puppies.  One can never be around too many puppies.

I am in love with my little apartment.  Everything is unpacked, but the walls are naked.  I must fix that tomorrow.

Come visit!

Cheating On Autumn

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I am what people call Type A.  I like things planned, because I like to be prepared.  People make fun of me for my orderly nature, but I can be flexible as necessary and enjoy spontaneity in the form of last-minute road trips, friends stopping by with a bottle of wine, cheap tickets to an unanticipated weeknight show, etc.  Even though it’s easy to poke fun at me, and I make fun of myself, people appreciate my dependability, and I am not ashamed to admit I like the consistency.

My A-ness reflects my love of autumn, I think.  Since childhood I’ve had a love-affair with the fall leaves, apple cider, and crisp, chilly air.  Wisdom and growth in myself and others are more obvious to me.  It’s the time I look back on where I come from, who I am, and anticipate what might lie ahead.  Really, I do this year-round, because I’m the contemplative, romantic type, and autumn falls into my rhythm naturally.

But these gloriously-long days temp me to cheat with summer…

You see, during the month of May, lots of things changed suddenly, and it sort of threw my plan into a tizzy.  I started running again.  I said goodbye to several people I care about.  I quit a job before I started.  I decided not to work 60 hour weeks anymore.  I cut my caffeine consumption in half.  I accepted a part-time, low-paying summer job that compensates with awesome experience.  I signed a lease to my own apartment.  I changed my social work practice emphasis from community organizing to therapy.  I started seeing a therapist to learn how to be a better one for my clients.  And I made some new friends.  Some changes came more easily than others, but all were good and needed.

For the first time in a long time, I don’t have a plan, and it feels great.  Of course, I have a direction and vision, but it is less distracted with “what ifs” and more open to possibilities.  This is what my summer is for, I think.  Slowing down, resting, and rejuvenating my soul, so I can bring my full self to my work and relationships.  But, mostly, I am vulnerable, taking a step back to allow for room to change and pondering intentionally about ideas and directions stirring inside.  I am trying to wonder more.

So far, it is working.  I am sleeping better and eating more produce.  It is nice.  Also, I love the plentiful lemonade, which is sort of essential to summer.  May this summer be as pleasant for you as it is for me.  Cheers.

Outing Straight Privilege

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Last night I finished one of the most challenging and rewarding classes, “Disrupting Privilege through Anti-Oppressive Practice,” of my academic career.  It is difficult to describe, but the gist of anti-oppressive practice is this:

Privileges means I have something valuable based on my belonging to a group that is perceived (generally) as normal or better.  Privilege affords me unearned advantages, as I receive it based not my action or inaction.  Having privilege does not determine my life completely, but it does mean that whatever positive traits or abilities I possess will be noticed and accepted more readily.  In contrast, people experience oppression, because they belong to groups perceived as abnormal, inadequate, or morally deficient.  Oppressed individuals experience marginalization, which excludes them from social, political, religious, and relational benefits afforded to privileged groups.  In order to bring my whole self to my work, I must be aware of how my personal privileges restrict me from authentic relationships with individuals who belong to marginalized groups.

Over the ten weeks, the 21 of us developed a community of sorts, pushing beyond comfort and challenging one another to disrupt privilege.  Even though I have many forms of privilege, I dug deep into my heterosexual privilege, considering how being straight advantaged me over gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer people.  It was hhaarrdd, and, at multiple points through the course, I stared straight into my own resistance, wanting to stay in the comfort of my privilege and run away from the unjust reality of how LGBQ experience the world.  Instead of a paper or a project, each of us discussed what it was like to take this class and what we learned.  I share it here not to teach you but to challenge and hold myself accountable to the commitment I have made to be a better ally and a more just and compassionate person.  If you have questions or thoughts, I’d love to talk with you.  Thanks for reading:

            When I started the social work program in the fall, the illusion of social justice work being sexy unraveled quickly, as I became aware of the dynamics of privilege and oppression.  I knew I had privilege but didn’t internalize it as anything more than a concept.  Ten weeks ago, I said (and believed) things like, “Privilege keeps me from being fully human” but knew authenticity in this work required more depth, introspection, and action, so taking this class seemed like a good place to begin.

            In order to move forward as an ally, I needed to go backward into the origins of my straight privilege, which meant admitting that my past included homophobia and shame.  Instead, I wanted to start in the present, as my progressive, social-justice oriented self, doing, saying, and standing up for the right thing.

            In one of the early weeks, our caucus facilitator asked us to think about when we learned what it meant to be gay.  Something about this question resonated with me.  As I thought about how and what I learned about LGBQ people growing up, I heard homophobic messages and bigoted stereotypes.  I saw anti-gay protests initiated by other Christians.  I heard a thousand, small cuts undermining the legitimacy and intimacy of LGB relationships.  The guilt and shame I wanted so badly to avoid surfaced, forcing me to sit with it.

            Later that week an advocacy group approached my undergraduate university to facilitate a conversation about the political and religious oppression LGBTQ people experience, and the administration denied the group access to the campus.  Several students posted articles about it on Facebook without questioning the administration’s decision.  Discussing it with students reiterated my anger, guilt, and shame, and I realized that, regardless of how differently I thought about LGBQ individuals and advocated for their rights, others in my faith community believe differently at the expense and oppression of LGBQ people, and I was inextricably aligned to these people.

            Reading and listening to reactions to campus situation and the recent legislative decision to kill the civil unions bill impressed the great need for me, as someone who is aware of my straight privilege and an ally to the LGB community, to be an advocate first to those in my own faith community.  Now I understand that dialoguing with people about the marginalization of LGBQ people in faith communities (and society at large) is an opportunity afforded to me because of my straight and Christian privilege.  More than a discussion about values, opinions, and theological interpretations, I view this work as helping others like me think through the same question, discovering the origins of their beliefs about LGBQ people, discerning the real messages, and reframing perspectives based in the grace and compassion central to our shared faith. 

            I benefit from the religious exclusion and oppression of LGB people.  I am straight, and this means I have privilege.

The Summer Musts

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I hate the term “Bucket List.”  It is corny, and I feel millions of words and phrases capture my desires better, so, alas:  my summer musts.

1.  Tour New Belgium Brewery (never ever been!).

2.  Camping [in the mountains not my backyard].

3.  Solo Travel in Chicago.

4.  Grow something.

5.  Lazy River.

6.  Master the Firefly and Crane poses [yoga, People,  yoga].

7.  Mountain kayaking.

8.  Roadtrip.

9.  Pick berries -> Make jam.

10.  Portland.

11.  Experience sunset to sunrise in one spot.

12.  Be a winemaker like we said we would.

13.  Take more pictures.

14.  Meatless Mondays.

15.  Ouray.

16.  Sand Dunes.

17.  Watch The Goonies.

18.  Dinner party in the new house.

19.  Bicycle more.

20.  Heritage Square’s alpine slide.

21.  Tour Grand Junction wineries.

22.  Make homemade pesto and salsa verde!

23.  Meet a stranger in a coffeehouse.  Have a chat on the porch.

24.  Floss everyday (I sometimes forget!).

25.  Read War & Peace.

26.  [Because I like to end on even numbers]  Run a 10k.

 

I love me some summer.  Join!