Sunday, March 25, 2012

Born this Way

Most of you probably associate the phrase “born this way” with Lady Gaga’s song. One of the things I love about Lady Gaga is she so unabashedly loves and accepts herself and she encourages others to do the same. Her song, and subsequent foundation, center primarily on LGBTQ youth but there are another sect who were “born this way.” Addicts. I’ve been tip-toeing around this for years, but I’m finally going to say it: I’m an addict. I just broke a bunch of rules by announcing that to the world, so before I go further, please know I don’t speak on behalf of anyone, I’m not representative of any organization. I can only tell you about me and my experience.

It may surprise some of you to hear I’m an addict considering I don’t drink or do drugs, there are no track lines on my arms. From the outside I look pretty “normal.” But I very much am an addict. In my post from a few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve been crying off and on now that my book Just a Girl from Kansas has been sent to friends and family members. After talking with a good friend, I realized it’s because I’ve felt deeply ashamed. I’ve felt ashamed of revealing to the entire world my private thoughts and behaviors. I’ve been ashamed to let people know I’m an addict. That’s probably because there’s still a stigma attached to addicts. They’re often portrayed in the media as engaging in risky behavior or otherwise self-destructing. There are very few positive role models for addicts. I think it’s because there is an air of secrecy, of anonymity. And the anonymity can breed shame because if you don’t tell people, if they’re not supposed to know, isn’t like you have a dirty little secret?

I’m writing this post because I’ve heard so many people this week talk about how ashamed they feel of being an addict, myself included. How it’s a terrible, awful thing that no one but other addicts can know about. The disease becomes a moral issue, makes me a “bad” person. I’m writing this post for other addicts, and for anyone else who thinks they have to be ashamed of who they are. I’m here to tell you the person who smokes pot, the person who pays for sex, the person who drowns themselves in alcohol, or gambles away their life savings is not a bad person. They’re a person in pain. None of those people, myself included, chose to be this way. Nobody likes the fact they feel compelled to do something like pull food from the garbage can and eat it. Nobody wants to admit to that. We were born this way.

I am not a bad person. I’m a very good person. My creator made me this way so how can I say it’s something to be ashamed of. Do you tell a lily to be ashamed it smells the way it does? Do you tell a cat to be ashamed it likes to chase mice? So why should I be ashamed of the way that I am? I really can’t help it. Instead of wasting so much time and energy “hiding” my secret or berating myself for who I am, I’d rather practice love and acceptance. I’d rather say, this is who I am, and who I am is just fine. Because it is. Because I was born this way.

I dream of a world where we all feel loved and accepted for who we are. A world where we know we were all born the way we are and there’s no need to feel ashamed of it. A world where we treat everyone with compassion because behind their words and actions probably lies a person in a lot of pain. A person who wants to know it’s safe for me them to be themselves. I dream of a world where that person knows that it is safe to be who they are because who they are is beautiful. Because they were born that way. Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Go with Grace

Wow. Things are happening so quickly in my life it’s making my head spin and bringing up a bit of fear, to be honest. This time last week I was in Italy, which is why I didn’t blog, and the Sunday before that I was in Austria. My whole trip was an experience of grace, of being showered with love from above, and that’s what I want to share with you – how life can be so sweet it can make your heart burst.

The whole trip started off on a good note because I found out my favorite painting, Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” would be exhibiting in Vienna in honor of Klimt’s 150th birthday:
When I got to the airport the airline crew told me they could only get me to Germany and not to Vienna because there was a strike in Germany at the time. When I asked what they could do for me, they suggested a later flight connecting through London. On that flight I had an entire row all to myself so I’d say it worked out in my favor.

I was in Vienna primarily for work but I had many sweet moments, like getting a bit turned around and someone coming up to me and saying in German, “Do you need help?” to which I responded in English, “Yes, I’m lost.” The woman walked me to my street before we determined my location was too far away and I’d gotten off the Ubahn (subway) one stop too early.

Also, on my last day in Vienna I finally made it to the Belvedere, which was housing “The Kiss.” I got sooo lost getting to the museum because I walked through a construction zone but it’s a good thing I did because I passed by a store that sold pay-as-you-go phones, a necessary purchase I had been unable to buy until that moment. If I hadn’t gotten lost I wouldn’t have walked by the store. It’s the little moments of grace that really get to me. Like the time I rushed to catch my train to Venice, thinking I’d be late, but instead the train was delayed by 5 minutes. When I heard that announcement I smiled to myself because it’s as if the train had been late for me.

There were also grander examples of grace, like when I was in Rome. I checked facebook the Friday evening I arrived and a monk from the States announced, “I’m in Rome.” I messaged him and said “I’m in Rome!” He told me of a group meditation the next day, and how to get there via the train. I walked on the second to last train car and sitting at the end, in a seat facing me, was a friend of mine. The monk told me I’d see my friend but I didn’t anticipate running into him on the train. I squealed in delight and my friend was surprised to say the least. We ended up spending the day together on Sunday – touring the Colosseum, the church containing Michelangelo's Moses with the horns, and more. It was an especially sweet encounter because Friday night I felt sad anticipating the friend I’d been traveling with had to go back to France. My heart sunk as I thought about walking around in a strange city by myself, and instead I hung out with my friend and two friends of his. I couldn’t ask for any more grace.

The cap the trip off, on Tuesday morning I slept through my alarm, woke up 10 minutes after my cab arrived, and still managed to catch my flight with time to spare. I don’t know how it happened but it did.

That brings us to today. I found out the day after I came back from Europe I need to move out of my current house – not because my housemates hate me or anything, it’s because they have a really good friend moving to the city. Today I looked at Craigslist just for kicks although I wasn’t prepared to move out until April 21st – everybody is posting things available now or for April 1st – when I stumbled across a listing that sounded perfect. I e-mailed the guy today, looked at the apartment today, and told him today I wanted it. Nothing is confirmed but it’s quite possible I’ll be moving out in a few weeks into an apartment that’s bigger than my old one for less money. The grace I’m experiencing is staggering.

I mention all this not to brag about what’s going on in my life but rather to illustrate anything is possible. To showcase how the universe can conspire to grace us. To give us everything we asked for and more. To demonstrate what it means to be in the universal flow.

I dream of a world where we all experience untold sweetness. A world where go with the grace being bestowed upon us. A world where we take advantage of what comes our way. A world where we live in wonder as we watch the magic unfolding in our lives.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.