Why the U.S. Decision on Gay Marriage Affects Us All

 

Today is a historic day for everyone … and not just those of us who are gay. It’s for all of us who ever felt like we didn’t fit in.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across the country is a sea change that reflects a new direction for America. So it is a decision that affects us all.

In every corner of this world there are people who feel like they don’t fit in – perhaps because of race, or religion, or disability. Or maybe just because they are a little louder, or a little wilder, or a little more creative than others. I know because I was that kid throughout my childhood — the one who ate lunch alone and was seldom picked for Kickball. I decided early on that something was wrong with me. Because I didn’t fit in, I thought I was defective.

Yet, such separation is just an illusion. We, as a species, belong together in one diverse but still unified pack.

So today in America, we got the right to merge together just a bit more into this beautiful mosaic. Naturally, as a lesbian, I’m thrilled, especially for my many LGBT sisters and brothers who’ve had to hide their true identity.

Hiding who you are, gay, straight or otherwise, is never right. I know because I did this for nearly 30 years in my marriage to a man. I presented myself as a straight mom and wife because it simply didn’t feel safe to be who I truly am.

The entire time I kept a lid on my true desires, I hated the idea that I was actually, secretly gay. It was just one more affirmation of my own ‘apartness’. My lesbianism felt dangerous and strange … and yet, at the same time it felt undeniably real.

However, life always flows towards the truth. So the day came when I couldn’t keep on pretending. I changed my life and came out.

Thank you, U.S. Supreme Court, for voting to uphold the dignity of those of us who are just a little bit different. The weird kid in the corner is not only grateful … she is overcome with joy and relief.

13 Ways to Overcome Sleeplessness

38f7771For the last three years I have not slept … not really. I’ve seldom woken up with that “Ahhhhh, it’s great to be alive” feeling in the morning – which I attribute to both recovering from grief and the encroach of menopause. Instead, I’ve spent up to four hours hanging out in the middle of the night with nothing to do.

I’ve tried everything imaginable for treating insomnia, including sleeping pills which did not work for me. (Nor did I like having all those chemicals in my body.) So I turned to other cures … with some success.

While my insomnia is not entirely gone it’s improved a lot. Sleep, as it turns out, is our emotional clearing house –where we silently resolve all that is churning in our psyche. So if you’ve got stuff to work out, whether it’s grieving a death, starting a new relationship or letting go of a beloved career, the inner wheels must turn. Yet, help can still be found to sleep well.

Here are my top thirteen remedies and resources for getting a good night’s sleep. May they serve you well.

1. Neurotransmitter therapy. This is a program of balancing the serotonin and dopamine in your brain that get thrown out of whack by diet, stress, and menopause. To read more about this, I recommend The Kalish Method by Dan Kalish,a Bay Area naturopath whose work is currently being studied by Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic. This science helps the body overcome all of the imbalances by using supplements – and its helping me tremendously.

2. Regulate sleeping hours. I got great value from a book about getting back to sleep by Gregg D. Jacobs, Say Goodnight to Insomnia. One thing he really stresses is getting on a regular schedule that minimizes time in bed. The idea is to be asleep by 11PM, then up with the light as you naturally waken. No lounging in bed in the morning. This really makes a big impact on my sleeplessness.

3. No screens 90 minutes before bed. Lord almighty, how I resisted this! But … I succumbed and finally turned off Orange is the New Black a lot earlier than I used to. I started taking books out of the library instead of reading myself to sleep with my iPad. And I no longer look at my smart phone at night – all of that can wait. Cutting out that ambient screen light before bedtime seriously makes a difference.

4. Don’t eat sugar. Once I turned 50 and got deep into menopause, hot flashes and night sweats were a reality. But they ended when I took sugar largely out of my diet. And they come creeping back in when I indulge — even with palm sugar and other low glycemic sugars. (A little tofu or soy during the day helps as well.)

5. Regular exercise. I have tested this … and yep, it makes a difference. Consequently I got organized about my exercise, joined a gym and made a regular date at my yoga studio. Now I work out 5 days a week and everything is a lot better.

6. No coffee or tea. This was super hard for me – I live with someone who makes the best coffee on the planet – but I have prevailed. Even when I drink it in the AM it seems to impact my sleep. Now I drink decaf green tea instead most every day and allow myself a few cups of decaf coffee a week just for old time’s sake. It works.

7. No alcohol. This can be hard to give up .. but it’s a key to good sleep. Alcohol turns into a stimulant in the body that kicks in about six hours after the buzz wears off. For me, I occasionally indulge in a good glass of wine and find I can only drink about half of it at this point. I find as I value good sleep more and more, I’m losing my taste for it.

8. Sleepy supplements. I take mood enhancer 5 HTP (part of the neurotransmitter therapy mentioned above), plus Melatonin – good for resetting sleep patterns. Also I take Inositol, which just plain knocks me out. I won’t take these forever but the track I’m on finds these useful.

9. Meditation before bed. Whenever I can get myself to do this … it works. And hey, I’m not hanging out on the screens so why not?

10. The relaxation response. You know that moment when you rise up from your insomnia, throw in the towel and decide to go do some paperwork? Don’t do it. Instead, try using this fun free document, Herbert Benson’s Steps for the Relaxation Response instead. I find this works remarkably well if I get it at just the right moment – before my mind goes into total overdrive

11. Good earplugs. Not enough can be said about sleep environment. Me? I am a light sleeper so the dog scratches and I wake up. Or the blind gently taps the window frame on a breeze. Silicone ear plugs have made all the difference. They can be found in any drugstore or on Amazon.

12. Don’t work in bed. Turns out there’s a whole body of information around ‘sleep hygiene‘, or how you keep your sleep habits, environment, etc. One key principle is to keep all emailing, phoning, planning, writing, etc. out of the bedroom. Experts say use the bed only for sleep and sex. And I have to say, it helps!

13. Read Buddha, Emerson or something else relaxing. Experts advise getting up and doing this no more than 30 minutes after you wake up in the middle of the night. However, I find if I wait a bit longer in bed, then rise to read I only have to read a few minutes before I get sleepy … then it’s right back to sleep. Note: I find it not only comforting, I get to learn cool stuff, too.

I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions about how you’ve dealt with sleeplessness. Won’t you share in a comment below?

‘Night!

 

 

 

The Value of an Excruciating Relationship

love_for_music__by_this_is_the_life2905-d3g1hwhOnce, for sixteen months, I marched straight into the desert but somehow couldn’t extricate myself.

I fell so deeply in love that I couldn’t see how bullied I was … or what a gelatinous ball of mush I had become.  I got to see graphically, up close and personal, exactly how far I could go for love and acceptance.

In this relationship, I chose the role of victim and spent night after night on the couch crying my eyes out … yet still I couldn’t leave.

Today I regard this woman as a profound teacher. Because after I walked away licking my wounds, I began the most intense personal growth of my life.

But then desperation can do that for you.

We choose the role of victim because we know it intimately.

Oddly, it’s comfortable. We choose our abusers because we know them somehow, too. Meeting this particular girlfriend was a landmark event for me. I was immediately captivated by her charm, her smile, her wit, her intelligence. In my eyes she had it all.

Yet in the months that followed I disappeared emotionally as she became more and more controlling. We had this deep soul connection, a shared humor that wouldn’t quit, and a true appreciation for each other. Yet at the same time, we also had endless drama, manipulation, and torment. We were in lock-step with each other, creating our suffering together through some silent, mutual pact.

By the end I was pretty much inert and would do anything she suggested. I had lost myself completely and began making crazy choices. When April came I even considered not paying my taxes for the first time in my life. I had chosen an unstable person to be with because I, myself, was unstable as well.

What I see now is that I was needy.

My marriage of 25 years had just ended and I was grieving. The trouble was I didn’t know how to grieve. Instead of holing up and giving myself time to go through the process, I decided to pretend it wasn’t happening. Little did I realize how vulnerable this would make me.

Exploitation is what often happens to needy people — or sensitive, creative, talented people who are trained from young childhood to perform for others, as I was. I was reminded of this by the new Brian Wilson biopic, Love & Mercy. In it, Wilson, a true sensitive genius, was prey to an abusive, vindictive father, and then an equally abusive, seriously crazy psychoanalyst, Dr. Eugene Landy.

Wilson was both terrified of Landy and yet unable to leave. I can relate to that. I convinced myself that leaving my girlfriend would prove my undoing. I believed there would never be another onr like her, and that I was supremely lucky to have her in my life at all. When it ended, I felt both anguished and relieved.

This is how growth happens, in painful splats and weary staggers forward.

Three years later, I have emerged whole. I no longer need people in my life who disrespect or use me. And I’ve found a love that is right, whole and complete. What is really remarkable about my current relationship is that there is no drama. It simply doesn’t exist. Instead, there is deep acceptance, deep listening and a truly profound joy.

Turns out that’s what real love is all about.

By simply listening to myself and allowing myself to let go and grieve, I became whole. I stopped dating for the better part of two years and progressively became more accepting of myself. I started to trust my own capability, and forgive my mistakes. I found satisfaction in a quiet life, and fulfillment in the process of grieving.

I stopped being the scooped out artist who waited for others to define her and give her value. I started speaking up for myself and became my own fierce advocate – which was incredibly uncomfortable at first but then, remarkably, became fun.

And I did not do this alone.

I found all kinds of groups to guide me through this process – grief groups, 12-Step groups, friends, family, mentors, coaches and a good therapist. It turned out there is no valor in forging a difficult path alone. And there is great wisdom to be gained from a group conscience.

Now I have dissolved back to joy, for that is how it feels. The brittle, artificial structure that propped me up for so many years is gone, no longer needed. I am clean, whole and strong once more.

This is the value of hitting an emotional rock bottom and enduring the pain of finally, sadly telling the truth. For then there’s only one way to go.

If you’re paying attention, that way will be up.

 

 

How I Gave Up My Home and Found Freedom

woman at sunny window.FB.I just moved again. Only this time … I’ve finally come home.

Since my daughter died and my one-time life fell apart in 2012, my undulating path has led me ever forward.

Again and again I’ve been called to up-level who I am, what I do … and even where I live. Challenges have abounded. Wild waters have had to be crossed. Yet I have persisted. And now, finally, I am thriving.

Oddly, I followed the path that Teal, herself, followed just before her death. Here’s how it went.

A few months prior to Teal’s death I gave up my apartment in San Francisco and moved in with a lover. The relationship ended shortly after I arrived … and so I found myself without a home. A nester by nature, I always held having no home as certain death – this was literally my worst fear as a small child.

Yet somehow, this time I rose above it and did something radical.

I dumped my stuff in storage, packed a few lean bags and went off to find myself.

“Nice,” said Teal approvingly. She, herself, had just landed in an apartment after six months of couch surfing with friends, preceded by six months of backpacking around the world. “I don’t really need a home,” she explained lightly.

At the time I didn’t get it, but now I do. Completely.

Home is our tether to who we are – which for me was a rigid identity, forged in the crucible of a dysfunctional childhood. But now I was being called to let go and head for the unknown. In fact, I was searching for the supreme ideal that formed every moment of Teal’s life: freedom.

So I wandered here and there.

I spent a memorable month sleeping under the stars at a hot springs filled with gentle, naked Californians. I visited friends and traveled here and there. I was subletting at a small lesbian commune in the wine country when Teal died.

With her death came a new level of surrender. Having a real home now suddenly seemed out of the question. I wanted nothing more than to drift. So I found my way to a small, safe cocoon – a sunny bedroom in a sweet little town north of San Francisco. My housemates were funny, quirky, and forgiving of my frequent need to disappear and cry.

My identity continued to disintegrate.

Now I was no longer capable of doing the business coaching that had sustained me for the last decade. Really all I could do was drink tea and write, with a long-haired cat tucked by my side. Then my aging, infirm mother died and so I received a modest inheritance.

This time I packed up and moved to Paris for two months. Here I could let go of the last vestiges of the compressed, anxious high achiever I’d become. A room for a mere 20 euros a night landed in my lap. So I walked through Paris every day for hours. I made friends, bought groceries among the Parisians and practiced my French with everyone who would let me. And when I came home, I was relaxed, centered, newly grounded. Just as Teal was when she returned from her own travels in Europe and Asia.

By now it had been sixteen months since Teal died. I was ready to emerge … somewhat. But only in the safest, tenderest of ways. It was at this moment that a kind, loving old friend invited me to live with her. Now I found myself in a new town – one known for its hippie bus mindset and chill vibe. Here I found my yogi, an ethereal soul who began to introduce me to another of Teal’s loves: goddess spirituality.

Every time I went to her studio and practiced the gentle, healing yoga she taught, I felt another part of my heart open and let go. It was here that I became fully, completely surrendered on the path. I rented a small office and created an altar, which I lit with electric candles and strewed with rose petals. Regularly, Teal and the goddesses would drop in and advise me.

For another sixteen months I dissolved back to a new layer of calm, and simple Me-ness. I gave up trying to make money and within a few months a paying gig writing novels came my way. Everything I needed simply kept showing up, again and again.

During this time I stopped striving and as I did, the best thing of all happened: I fell in love.

Now I live with my love, and slowly the foundation of our new life is being built. My storage unit is getting emptier and emptier as I let go of no-longer-needed pieces of my past. And each day we knit ourselves together on the soul path we agreed to an eternity ago.

In my new life, I am finally free. My self-imposed prison is gone – the need to suffer has lifted. The relentless perfectionist has been silenced, and the little girl who lives inside of me has been liberated.

So I find myself with a new and gleaming path ahead – every inch of it informed by three years of wandering and living like Teal did …

In wonder, grace and curiosity, simply waiting to see what would happen next.