Yeah know how when you grow up you tend to learn about people who are different than yourself, and tend to accept them as they are, and tend to treat them kindly —unlike the ways you use to bash your little brother (and anyone else) atop the head with whatever toy you had in your hand?
Well, I think I’m finally learning how to do that towards myself.
I’m still in that dreamy house in Maui. Still sitting on the side of that volcano, on that screened in patio with panoramic views of the ocean. Though tbh, right now my back is to the ocean. I’m sitting in a chair facing the house, behind a giant noise-blocking sliding glass door that is closed because I may be writing a blog post, but I am also responsible for watching two little boys. So they’re watching TV. And I’m behind the glass, watching them while pecking away at my computer.
So I’m in the dreamy, comfortable, perfect house surrounded by the scary pain jungle, that I’ve learned I need to, from time to time, trek through. If I live afraid of the jungle, the jungle will imprison me in the house. I won’t get anywhere. I won’t do the things I want to do. I won’t do the things I’m meant to do.
But I’m also learning that I need a place to build up energy for the jungle treks. I can't and you can’t just keep going back in and back in and back in to the jungle. We also can’t live there. We won’t survive it.
Here’s an example. I feel the way fear moves through my body in a way I don’t remember before. I feel anxious and I feel unsafe in the most absurd circumstances. Like imagining myself go down to the beach later today. I look down at the road and the beach and think “HECK NO. Can’t do it. I ain’t moving.” Even though I did that exact same beach adventure yesterday and there is nothing dangerous about getting me to there, I feel afraid of it. It’s like my body is afraid to move, afraid of any type of change.
I think part of this increased fear is that I am more aware of myself than I was three years ago. I simply wasn't aware I was afraid. I didn’t have the language. But I also think this increased fear is a bit of scarring, a bit of a limp that comes from lots of forest treks.
So today, on this final post of this Pride series, I want to orient your attention towards the house. I want to share with you the ways I find rest and renewal. I want to tell you about the house that I’ve built for myself inside of myself. And I want to encourage you to build whatever house you need for yourself. What I’ve found is that that home is an oasis, a place of safety and bounty and rest in a land that can be hostile.
I’m going to explain my house, my oasis, by breaking it into four sections: thought patterns, practices, spiritual life, and people.
Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield shared this on his Instagram yesterday: “The river of thoughts is not under your control. And these thoughts have very little honesty. They will tell you any kind of story, and be dedicated to many beliefs that are absurd. Much of the river is composed of reruns.”
I (like us all) am an expert in making up stories in my head that are based on no real life information and are instead, usually, just reruns of whatever I am afraid of. For me, that’s lots of the reruns about what I fear people think about me. This goes back to that rejection bit from posts 2 and 3. I think that if I can beat rejection or discomfort or pain to the punch, then I can outsmart it, outthink it and make it go away. But that’s a bunch of BS. Because what it really is is me just going around freaking out about things that probably won’t ever happen. And what people probably aren’t even thinking. And what even if people did think, doesn’t matter. Because my thoughts about me matter. Not anyone else’s.
In my oasis, I’m learning to cut these stories off at the base. I’m learning to drown them out with other stories. Stories that are kind and forgiving and compassionate and based on actual information. In the words of Brené Brown, I practice “minding the gap” in my story-telling. That means I accept where I am at despite where I wish to be. And I chose to be a friend to myself anyway.
I’ve found that beauty gives my mind rest. I can stare at a cloud dancing or light shining through trees or birds bouncing through air —and my mind becomes quiet. It’s as if my mind can’t hold anything in that moment except that remarkable bounty of beauty. In the words of Cheryl Strayed, I work real hard to put myself in the way of beauty.
This section always starts with the question, “What do I need right now?” and means that, within the means possible, I give myself that thing. Sometimes it’s alone time. Sometimes it’s friend time. Sometimes its a podcast, or rest, or sleep, or food. When I can’t give myself that thing, I tell myself I am deserving of it, but that it’s just not going to happen. And in my longing for what I don’t have, I get to join the rest of humanity.
Though when I am able to give myself what I need, I take full advantage.
I go through a pretty set routine in the mornings. It’s part of a personal practice that I’ve learned helps me go about whatever I need to accomplish that day. Without this, I get in a funk. I can tell that about myself.
So every morning, I wake up and drink coffee (which reincarnates me in to human form.) Then I do some type of physical activity. I have to get outside and get moving and leave whatever building I woke up in. I go on a walk (often with coffee in hand) or if I have the time, I’ll go on a run. Every couple days I make time to go on that run because without it, I get anxious and don’t do well. I also give myself quiet time in the morning, whether 10 minutes or 3 hours. The more the merrier for my introverted self.
Now this morning routine has been pretty easy for me since not working a traditional job, but even before I think back and I did this almost every morning. I’d wake up at 5am so that I could run through this set of activities and be in the office by 8am. For me, I’ve learned it’s a non-negiotiable.
As much as I like think of myself as a flexible person, I’m finding that routine and rhythm taste like a sweet Maui mango. My body loves predictable things. I need some element of sameness in my life too. Particularly with all the change I’ve experienced in the past three years.
One way I’ve found sameness despite my life on the road is that I go to Costco. I go to Costco so freakin’ much. And it works because, at least throughout the US, they are everywhere. I fill up with gas (because it’s always reliably cheap), I get food (also reliably cheap), I walk around and get samples (exercise + reliably free), I go to the bathroom (reliably clean), and I fill my bottle with my favorite treat, sparkling water (also reliably free, I think?). No matter where I am gallivanting around in the US, I can find a Costco, go inside, and know exactly what to expect, exactly what I will be able to experience. I need stuff like that.
The last practice that is important to me is messiness. I have to have a little bit of physical messiness in my life or I go crazy. I think I need it because it gives permission to myself to be messy too, to be imperfect.
This used to be church and Bible and lots of head down, eyes closed, hands clasped prayer. I don’t do much of those things anymore. I hope to do more of them in the future. And I wonder if that hope is just me wanting to go back to the past, to what was.
Regardless, this is what spiritual life is like for me now:
It is taking time to be quiet, to be present. It is intentional time doing nothing. Sitting, or walking, or looking up and down and around. It is focus on breath.
It is spending a lot of time in nature. I learn a lot from plants, as if they are our truest truth-tellers. They grow and persist and don’t ask questions. They just grow grow grow towards the light. They grow in remarkable places, like in the branches of other trees or in cracks in the pavement. When hacked down, they come back stronger. They go through seasons and are alive even when they look like death. They grow fruits for others to enjoy. They start their life in little little tiny seeds, seeds whose coming to life demand its breaking apart.
My spiritual life also consists of being around, and learning from, and listening to people who inspire me. Whether in person, or in a podcast, or in an audio book, or in a paper book. Being in community with people who understand, and walk towards and through the connectedness of us all is holy to me.
I don’t spend much time with people who aren’t fully affirming of me anymore. That means who aren’t jumping up and down celebrating my gayness. Or in the least who have proven to me that all of my gayness is safe with them. I’ve been told that that’s bad, that it’s important to be around people who think differently than me. And that’s true. But this is different.
It’s important that I am around people who make me feel whole and human and okay. People who I feel like I can be myself around and that their being there is not dependent on what I say or what I do. That their being there is because we’ve chosen each other, we trust each other, we see and are seen by each other, we’re real above all else.
I’m learning that someone can have the best of intentions, but still hurt me. I’m learning that I can do all that to someone else. And I’m learning that not letting someone in my house is not a statement of my lack of love for them or their lack of love for me. It’s a statement of whether they are good for me right now. And I get to decide that.
I’m learning that in practice letting people into my house involves time spent with that person and the stories I share with them. People outside my house don’t get my stories, not my really good ones or my really bad ones —both of which are equally vulnerable and personal and me.
This bit is really hard and really sucks. But I’m learning.
The important thing about my house is that its a house I have created. It’s not one of those modular homes or cookie-cutter suburbs that I am handed and just walk in. The oasis demands that you build the rooms, you determine what gets in and gets out, and that you have the power to tear down walls and erect new ones at any time.
The oasis I’ve described may be a series of practices and personal rules that operate in my external world, but the important thing is that the oasis exists within me. These practices are just means to get there, things I’ve learned help me get there and stay there. But the oasis is in and with me always. I may let other people in, but it remains untouchable to them. It has to be a place where my worth and my divine reside, where the Divine and I come to know each other.
Thank you to everyone who has read along his month, both to those who have sent me wonderful, kind, uplifting messages, and to those who have followed along more quietly. Whoever you are, may you feel love and life. May you know you deserve whatever you can dream of.
Happy Pride! 🏳️🌈