Well it's been a few weeks since the Queer Spirit Retreat out in Utah and I've just now had a chance to take a moment and decompress the jumble of thoughts in my head.
The retreat was an amazingly positive experience for me and completely opposite of what the LDS religion could ever offer. And in a sense, because it was in September, it marked the two year reunion of my personal crisis that led me down the road of confusion, despair, apostasy, awakening, renewal, joy and peace. Now, two years later, it marks the beginning of a new and happier chapter of my life.
I'm rather amazed at just how little drama my life has anymore. It used to be that so much of my life, every little detail, every little thought, decision, action, expectation, and desire was weighted down with anxiety. Because every little thing had to be scrutinized for its value good or bad, I had to have certainty where something was going to lead me, heaven or hell, and most of the time I just couldn't get it. No longer do I feel the need to do that anymore. Now every so often when I meditate on my life, I amaze myself at just how uncomplicated it all really is when we let go of the things that we have no control over. Letting go. Letting go of beliefs that do not work for us. Letting go of needing to be right. Letting go of ego. And in letting go, what is left is pure authenticity. Honesty.
Oh, the lies we tell and believe. I look back at my life and see the trend as I was spiraling down to my own personal depths of becoming homophobic and how I didn't recognize the irrationality. My world view and personal identity was defined by lies. And those lies covered the pain. My ego was in control of my life, protecting me with lies. The ego is stupid. It doesn't know what a lie is but it wants to protect it no matter what. The ego can't know if what it's protecting is causing more harm. It just protects it with whatever we give it. And what I always gave it were lies.
When I came out to myself and finally accepted my sexuality, I found myself craving absolute honesty. I was no longer going to deceive myself or other people to protect my beliefs or theirs. And if the truth hurt, the honesty hurt, I knew I had to let go of my ego.
When I think about what it takes to be honest I still find myself struggling with it. Growing up in a religious culture that required me to deny the reality of my surroundings so that it would conform to a belief, a lie, has given me this horrible, habitual, dishonest, thinking pattern that I fight with all of the time. So many things where never to be thought, spoken, or acted upon. It all builds up and permeates other aspects of life.
We have to hide our fears and pretend to be happy. We don't want people to think the religion is making us depressed. We don't want to make the church look bad. We certainly don't want to admit to ourselves that we have compromised the things we know to be true so that we can belong to the "one true religion" in order to receive all the blessings from a god that we hope exists. We even convince ourselves that we know that "He" really does exist. Lie after lie after lie. After awhile I didn't know what was true anymore. I didn't even understand how I really felt about things. I couldn't at any moment in my life make a decision without consulting an authority. My thinking was done for me. And yet my life was in shambles.
The world terrified me. Meeting new people terrified me. I would have so much anxiety I could never look at anyone. I could never actually speak honestly. I was so ashamed of myself that I would lie or divert attention to someone else just so people wouldn't pay attention to me. I judged people. The judgments were all lies I told to myself. All lies I believed. It all lead to my own personal crisis two years ago in September where my entire world turned upside down and I spent months dancing on the edge of suicide.
But I finally came to some closure early Saturday morning at the retreat as I noticed two individuals off in the distance standing on the stairway to the upper floor of the 2nd ranch house as I waited to watch the sunrise. I knew they saw me. But I didn't have the courage to talk to them. I still wasn't quite free of my judgmental thinking and how it had ruled my life to the point of mental breakdown. Always judging people by what I think they would be thinking about me, always afraid that they would hate me for my sexuality, queerness and just general social awkwardness. Again, all lies.
But I knew their story from the night before and I was in empathy with them. I had only faced early death as a choice. They were facing it as an inevitability. I had no right to judge anyone, especially myself. Still, that morning, I just stood there for about an hour and cried. Mostly to mourn the loss of my old life, the life that I wanted but never had or will ever have. But in the end, whether I talked to them or not, just their mere presence that morning was a major healing experience for me. And had I spoken to them that day I would have known that they would reciprocate that empathy.
After all these years, looking for my place in the world I didn't realize that I didn't need to leave Utah to find it. Well, actually, I DID need to leave Utah to discover that I didn't need to leave Utah. My community wasn't where I was located; it was the people with whom I associate with. But I was always waiting for someone to come knocking at my door to invite me. Ironically when they did I would judge them too harshly and push them away. I've gotten to that point now where I realize that if I don't go knocking I will never know what it's like to live. And if I'm going to accept someone else's effort to reach out to me I must be able to reach back and be ready to do it blindly. But most importantly, I have to stop judging people. I will never know what others are truly thinking about me anyway and in the end it doesn't matter what they think.
Two years ago I would never have even thought about doing something like this retreat. But here I am. It's really strange to admit this, but after 40 years on this planet, I finally feel like I've grown up a little.
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