Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Spiritual Stretch - Just Married!

Yesterday was an emotional day for me.  At 10:07 am I got a text from my wife, Becky, that announced to me that the Supreme Court ruled to remove all bans on gay marriage.  Although on some intellectual level, I completely expected it, on an emotional level I was rocked to my core.  A very long journey had taken a sudden and sharp turn.

At age 19, in my college dorm room, I finally labeled the feelings I had been having throughout my childhood. I admitted to myself that I was gay and on some level, I was devastated.  Two things about my future as a lesbian, that I thought were inevitable, broke my heart.  The first was that I would never be able to get married.  I had always dreamed of a wedding, a lifelong companion, someone to grow old with and now, as a lesbian, I would never have that dream come true.  The second was that I would never be a mother, never hold a baby of my own.  I thought at the time that the second dream would be the hardest one to attain.  But, I joyfully hurdled the barrier to being a mother through the process of donor insemination, and my beloved daughter was born in 1995.   

The first dream of being married proved to be far more challenging and heart breaking.  Through the years with my partners, we tried everything available to us to have a close facsimile of the real thing – we exchanged symbolic rings, ate symbolic cakes, had commitment ceremonies, registered as domestic partners at city halls and in HR departments, and created official legal documents of protection.  Marriage eluded me until October 2011, when Becky and I, on our 5th anniversary, traveled to Vermont and got legally married in the eyes of the laws in that state.  It was exciting, but we returned home to Georgia and were still not married.  We triumphantly filed a joint federal tax return, then slumped backward to file separate state tax returns. 

A month or so ago, while creating my medical record at a new physician’s office, I was asked if I was married by the receptionist at the front desk.  I hesitated.  Was this a social question or a legal question?  If a legal question, who was asking – a representative of the federal government or the state government?  Is insurance a federal thing or a state thing?  The woman stared at me, waiting for my answer.  Finally, I just said – “Well, I am married, but not in Georgia.”  She smiled and replied, “Honey, always just say yes!” 

Yesterday, as I watched television coverage of the Supreme Court ruling and scrolled through social media, I found myself wiping my wet cheeks.  There were so many leftover tears I had never cried that needed to spill out in joy and relief.   Years and years of pent up frustration and sadness melted away.  Yesterday, my first dream finally came true.  I began to seek a spiritual perspective on my feelings.

Love. Joy. Connection.  These words describe our inherent nature as divine, spiritual beings.  We are naturally drawn to these qualities in life and to experiences that provide intense moments that are filled with these qualities.  Human relationships give us opportunities to learn about cultivating these qualities as we journey together on this physical realm.  Marriage provides the most intense experience as we learn to find love, joy and connection through many lessons in gratitude, forgiveness, and loyalty with our spouse.  These spiritual qualities are of God and know no gender, no barriers, and no sexual orientation.  

So, what did it really mean to me?  I changed my Facebook status to “married”.  I hugged my wife a little tighter when she got home.  I embraced and celebrated with a group of friends last night.  I prayed a prayer of deepest gratitude.  Nothing big changed in the external world of my personal life.  But something tremendous changed in my mind and in my heart with the overwhelming feeling of validation and acceptance settling into every cell of my being.  I felt a greater sense of Oneness with all human beings.  I felt love, joy and connection.

And, from now on, I will always be able to “just say yes!”

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Spiritual Stretch – Becoming a Lioness

As I sit in my office writing, I am aware of a nest of fluttering baby birds outside my window. Today is flying lesson number one.  I have been watching the parent birds come and go for a few weeks, but today I finally get to see the babies!  The adult birds are chirping encouragement and instruction as the little ones flap about from branch to branch.  I imagine that tomorrow they will all be gone to begin a new chapter in their life – suddenly all adults.

I recently celebrated my 50th birthday and I was surrounded by a large group of friends who are around the same age.  Most of us are enjoying successful careers, many of us are parenting growing children and we are in the prime of our lives.  Some of my friends are also facing the reality of aging parents, and shifting responsibilities related to their parents.  Like the birds, we too have begun a new chapter in our lifelong relationship with mom or dad, or both.

If we survive childhood, and our parents survive it too, we must renegotiate that relationship many times throughout our adulthood.  Often, it is this reason that brings a client in for coaching because either the parent or the adult child has difficulty accepting a shift in this particular relationship.  I remember just such a client from several years ago, whom I will call Gretchen.

Gretchen sought spiritual coaching because her career had lost its luster.  She was restless and seeking her purpose in life.   We quickly uncovered that she had always wanted to teach, however her father was a businessman who devalued the teaching profession and would only pay for college if Gretchen majored in business.   Since he refused to entertain the possibility of Gretchen becoming a teacher, she dutifully entered the world of business, working her way up the corporate ladder into her current position which she found boring.  She was able to realize that her entire career was built to please her father and live up to his expectations.

This is a common spiritual lesson for many of us.   We come into this human plane to evolve and to grow and the relationship with our parents often sets up some of our biggest life lessons.  Learning to love ourselves and honor our inner wisdom is a universal lesson, and when we find that we are unique and different from our parents, we are especially challenged to love ourselves!  But, that is what we must do.  We can learn about this lesson by looking at nature.

Human beings are one of the few species in the Universe that continue the parental relationship beyond weaning.  Animals in nature quickly develop either a peer or competitive relationship with their parents once they no longer need them for sustenance or protection.  Animals do not expect their offspring to act a certain way, nor their parents to behave toward them in a special way because of the parental relationship. 
Human beings, however, often place great demands on these relationships and use the parent/child bond to manipulate each other.  Grown children are expected to do certain things for their parents, and they also expect certain things from their parents culturally.

When I pointed this fact out to Gretchen, we worked together to develop her self-identity and to become her own “lioness”.  If she could view her father as the head of his own kingdom, and honor him for sustaining and protecting her as she grew up, she could now release his grip on her life and make her own choices.   She could allow him to rule his life fully, but declare her own life as being under her rule, not his.

We determined that he was no longer financially supporting her and that she didn’t need him to play any role in her life other than grandfather to her children and loving father figure to her.  Renegotiating a boundary would be a long process, but she was willing to embark on it to free herself from the need for his approval.

Once she could stand on her own two feet as a grown-up separate from her parents’ expectations, she could re-evaluate her career choices and make a fresh decision to either consciously stay in the business career or get retraining to follow her original passion into teaching.  Her physical survival no longer depended upon having her father in the protector/provider role, and her emotional survival depended on her freeing herself from her father’s rule.  

Stepping into your identity as a grown lioness or lion is a part of becoming a fully evolved adult.  It is so important to know your place in the bigger picture of life, and your place is not to play small and please the people who raised you.  Maintaining a mutually loving and respectful relationship with your parents is a goal, but not to the detriment of your own life.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary is an expert on spiritual parenting.  She says – “The parenting journey holds the potential to be a spiritually regenerative experience for both parent and child, where every moment is a meeting of spirits, and both parent and child appreciate that each dances on a spiritual path that’s unique, holding hands and yet alone.”  

Spiritually, every human relationship is valuable and a part of our process of evolving.   The divine energy that lives in us and through us always seeks to relate to itself through relationship.  Our purpose is to show up as the love in every interaction, fully allowing another to show up as the love as well.   Our challenge is to make the parent/child relationship a spiritual one no matter how old we are.

Love yourself the most – always!