choosing my battles

every once in a while at my internship there’s a comment in client groups about homosexuality that errupts into this acceptable-within-the-group type homophobia.  it has bothered me and i didn’t speak up the first few times because i really didn’t understand what it was about and i didn’t wanna run my mouth too quickly.  on the professional side of things, i have to weigh whether my personal views are applicable or helpful to the clients within this setting.  but it has bothered me too much and yesterday i had to speak up.

we were on the topic of honesty and whether to be honest with your children about your addictions.  somehow the subject turned to one man having to address homosexuality with his 10 year old child who had seen a tranny and was curious and asked his dad what that was about.  the client telling the story got really passionate about it (he’s a very passionate and zealful guy anyway), but began to go into this business about telling his child, no!  this is not something that you need to be asking about, this is wrong, an abomination, and at your age you do not need to know about this, period.  it’s not right and it’s not for you.  my cofacilitator has always taken opportunities like this to tie homophobia to racism and to challenge the clients to examine that and justify why they think some discrimination is ok.

things got hot.  he was soapbox preaching, i challenged him and was getting upset.  we took a break, and i ended up alone with this guy and tried to discuss why he got so worked up about it.  what it came down to was that this man was not going to let go of the teachings of the God of his understanding.   it was also about whether you believed homosexuality is a choice or something you are born with.  this man said he truly believes that in some cases, you are born with homosexual orientation…  but that if you want it bad enough and ask God to change you, He will.  vomit.

when we returned to group, i decided to share with them some of my personal stuff, how my life circumstances led me to feel discrimination on many different fronts and how i felt like an outsider for most of my life.  i talked about one of my best friends, a gay man and a member of my family, who would do anything for me.  i wanted them to know why this was sensitive for me.  it really turned into a processing of our argument, and evolved into a group therapy session, which was really cool.  but there was also some off the wall shit said.  most of the people who were very verbal about their homophobia were of the idea that it was a choice, or even worse, that it was misguided children playing with opposite gender toys and clothes and were not properly corrected by their parents.  they also seemed to use he-she interchangably with gay.  it was a mess.  i tried my best to offer the counterargument and make some corrections.

it bothers me a lot that people who experience crushing racism can turn around and discriminate against someone else.  many of the people think being gay is a choice and compare it more to being an addict than being black.  that troubles me a lot.  there’s also this acknowledgement in the room that lesbians are a lot more acceptable than gay men.  it’s a complex set of beliefs and justifications.

but when it comes down to it, you can’t challenge a person’s whole mindset about discrimination in an hour.  and it’s very difficult to change someone’s mind about what they believe about God and how they express their religious beliefs.  it’s personal, sacred, and heated.  plus, with my role as therapy intern, this is not the let me save you from your uninformed homophobia show.  i’m happy that i didn’t shut down or run away when my beliefs were challenged.  i stood my position during a time when it was appropriate.  i think that’s what’s important to me.  i don’t need to produce a presentation on healing homophobia to people who are there for treatment, but i can speak up when the topic comes up and ask people to think a little more about it.

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eternity medallion

the husband of a coworker at my internship died suddenly last week.  i missed the funeral but heard a little bit about it in group this morning.  evidently the man was a leader in the recovery community, very well known and respected.  when my co-facilitator described it, he said it was a “recovery funeral” and that he’d never been to one before, even though he has been sober for about 20 years, himself.  he went on to describe that the family was awarded the man’s Eternity Medallion.  i totally teared up.  i don’t subscribe to AA but i like that medallion business, and an Eternity Medallion is about the sweetest thing i’ve ever heard.

rest in peace, recovered man.

darkness

one of my very favorite professors used to talk about the light and dark in each person.  i had his class toward the beginning of my program, and i was still not quite accepting the idea that i wanted to be a shrink.  especially terrifying to me was the idea of being influenced by the darkness of others as we did therapy.  at that point i was really struggling with my empathy and boundaries.  i felt like my skin and my brain and my heart were a malleable wall, i felt the physical and emotional pain of others as they shared their stories with me, and i was afraid i wouldn’t be able to give that pain back… that it would stick to me and infect me and send me downward into my own scary places. 

we wrote short reflection papers at the end of each class and he would read and give us feedback.  one day i felt i had found my solution: if clients triggered me into darkness, i must trigger myself back into light with the little tricks to make myself happy.  he said such an amazing thing in response:  “why?  go with and use the flow of light and dark.” 

that was a square into a circle peg for me.  i could allow for darkness?  a person with a sometimes significant depression, someone who learned to please and predict needs for others, someone who no one should like unless she is smiling, happy, encouraging… someone like me could not only allow but accept and embrace a darkside?  does… not… compute…

he broke my brain open in a lot of ways.  in particular with this and direct communication.  i think basically he is my anti-people-pleaser serum.  and i’m so thankful for it.  i thought of this because yesterday i was in a funk when i got to work and i almost snapped (passive aggressively, of course) on my first table for not allowing me to script out my introductions and instead telling me what specifications to follow with their water orders.  when i walked away from that table i was cursing them out, then habitually telling myself i needed to go into kind-gracious-loving mode.  but then i remembered that darkness is ok and i went with the flow.  allowed a little rage and self-righteous indignation.  told myself it was allowed.  then began to laugh at myself.  eventually i got to kind-gracious-loving mode and by the end of the meal the table was all compliments and a 30% tip!  the difference was, i didn’t decide part of who i am (my darkness) was wrong and needed to be fixed.  i made room for it so it came and went. 

i’m also really thankful that i’ll get to work with this professor once and maybe twice again before i finish school.  i wonder what else i will learn?

keep looking…

i was searching online for images of love, romance, happy couples, etc. for a love collage i want to do.  in particular i’m thinking of classic or vintage couples looking happy, caring, intimate but not overtly sexual.  what are you picturing so far?  remember that.

in my mind i’m hoping for at least a little diversity.  if you search any old bing or yahoo search engine for romantic couple, kissing, romance, love, etc., good luck on finding any black or biracial people.  or interracial couples.  or latinos, asians, natives… surprisingly you find a couple of east indians.  i scrolled down maybe 15 times before i found a black couple.  more asians than not were cartoons.  in good old standard regular love, there is no diversity.

searching by black gets you nowhere except black and white photos of white people and/or soft porn.  african american romantic gets you a few decent pictures, but by far you primarily get cartoons, book covers by terry mcmillan, and soft porn.  african american love?  super heavy on the cartoon porn.  what’s with the cartoons?  what does it say that i can more readily find a soft porn cartoon of sexy tribal black love than a normal black couple?  f’d up.

african american loving couple.  that’s where i finally found some images i could use.  and it took me all night, working my ass off like i’m playing catch phrase to get just the right combination of words to elicit live action relationships.  even then, wading through stock photos and cheesiness, it’s hard to find just a genuinely happy couple.

i’m not surprised, i’m just frustrated and disheartened.  along the same lines as my rant against the educational system in my earlier post. hidden colors, it’s demeaning to look up love, romance, happy couples – normal things, things we all strive for, and find no one that looks like me without inserting a pc identifier into my search.  if i want to see myself i have to be so specific that i’m forced to think about race when initially it wasn’t necessarily about race.  i just wanted to find some photos that i could relate to, wish on, mentally insert myself into.  (and let me tell you, forget about looking for biracial women in relationships, all you will find is hair beauty, mixed black/white couples, everybody’s favorite gorgeous babies, or sexualized biracial women.  thanks.  helpful.)

privilege is real and it lives in the small things, too.

shufflin

I never used shuffle on my ipod til today, there was so much garbage – old shit, recommendations, blech. I did a deep clean and now… Shuffle, where you been at?! I can’t count the number of times I’ve thrown back my head, eyes squeezed shut, angrily/painfully/joyfully screeching YES!!! Then jab cross jab.

sweaty monster

at the gym yesterday after a good, satisfying set of weights then cardio, i was stretching out on the mats.  i went to go get a paper towel to clean up and as i was wiping my face, this girl came up to get a paper towel, too.  i had my headphones on so i didn’t hear her right away but she said, “you’re sweating, that’s good, you were working hard!”  i told her it was kind of embarrassing to get so sweaty and she stopped to tell me, “don’t be embarrassed!  that’s what we’re here for, to work hard and get healthy.  be yourself!”  she was very sincere in taking that moment.

that was so kind.  i go to the gym and do my thing.  it was unexpected to get such a meaningful and life encompassing encouragement from a stranger.  be yourself.  yes.

and be kind to the sweaty monsters!  we’re working hard.

thoughtful skate

last night i had one of those thoughtful evenings at the skating rink.  this can be good or bad.  when it’s bad, i get too stuck in my head, i get self-conscious and too stiff to enjoy myself.  when it’s good, i’m relaxed and i can extract some little pearl of wisdom from my quiet observations.  there’s research i’m sure, but there’s something meditative about physical activity that inspires good thinking.  if you have to work something out in your mind, try moving your body with it.

last night was an overall good thoughtful skate, but it had all the trappings of going bad.  i started thinking about different insecurities and then i got that nasty feeling that it was going to overtake me, like a wave.  but then i remembered that my life does not happen to me, i’m in control of my life – i’m in control of my brain!  so i took in some deep breaths along to the beat of the music and just focused on that for a while.  that eased me through.  i allowed my thoughts to come, and just listened calmly.  what do you have to say?  old stuff.  old tapes.  nonsense that i still allow to hurt me when i’m not careful.  usually i panic prematurely when this stuff comes up because i believe it and then i react to it and i get self-conscious and scared and it was all just leftovers in my head in the first place.  it’s allowed to float around in there, but it’s not allowed to ruin my night.  i can’t isolate myself because of shame over old tapes!  stupid social phobia features.

and then the pearl:  i need to have more fun with others, find some new playmates (sidebar:  this was bothering me on the rink, too – isn’t there another word for playmates that doesn’t have a centerfold connotation?  i think that’s my word, but i don’t want that stink on it!), connect with old ones.  be more playful with others.  it’s the antidote to taking myself too seriously and getting caught up in old stuff.  don’t get me wrong, i have a good time in my own head, it’s a looooooooot of fun in here!  but that has to permeate outward.  organically.  easily.  yes!

so i’m thankful that i’ve learned to be inside my body well enough to see the cues when they come on, and that i’ve learned skills to calm myself down before it goes into thoughtful skate gone bad.