all is calm, all is bright

“Remember hate is always foolish and love is always wise…Laugh hard, run fast, be kind.” ~ The Doctor, Christmas special 2017IMG_0228

Most years in Christmases past once I got into middle school, I looked forward to but also dreaded the holiday. The couple of weeks out of school were filled with freedom to to be sure…and were some of the most anxiety filled.

Thoughts like, “Will I have gotten or made gifts that won’t leave everyone disappointed in me?” were often running through my head. Often, I would end up feeling the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s was a time of penance and repentance for supposed wrongs toward my family (the word here meaning my parents).

I didn’t acknowledge quite how bad it was until I realized last year that was probably why I chose to come out around that time. There was some intense shame that came from it even though I knew I was simply being honest about who I was.

Let me tell you, this year was the most peaceful Christmas since before middle school.  Because I didn’t see my parents and I spent Christmas Eve and the days leading up to it with my chosen family–my church and my fiance. This year I chose my family and I chose to experience joy, hope, peace, and love.

Saturday before Christmas Eve was spent running trails–being in the middle of the woods with good people and good conversations. And also giving gifts to my sister for family members who think I’m an abomination. Not seeing them was more sad that they’re choosing “truth” over loving their child. I feel like I chose kindness but also self-care.

Christmas Eve was spent at church that morning to hear my pastor echo many things I’ve felt this Advent season–an intense longing for things to be made right and for peace. The candlelight evening service was one of my favorites. There’s something wonderful and breathtakingly beautiful about singing Silent Night acapella surrounded by people who genuinely love you.

Christmas Day I woke up next to the person I’m going to marry and we spent the day cooking and sharing meals together, resting on the couch watching Netflix, and eventually left the house to watch a movie. Overall, it was just calm and the only expectation was to be together.

2017 seems to be coming to a close with more joy than I could have ever dreamed possible, more hope than I had imagined, more peace than I’ve ever experienced, and more love than I ever thought I could contain. The world is a much better place with love and kindness in it. Here’s to fighting for that love in 2018 and beyond.

Last Christmas

“I heard the bells on Christmas day. Their old, familiar carols play. And wild and sweet their words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men…And in despair I bowed my head; There is no peace on earth, I said: For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I really don’t want to write this post because writing this post means acknowledging lots of hard feelings I have this holiday season. In a lot of ways it feels like recovering from a broken heart but instead of getting over an ex, I’m “breaking up with” my parents and the toxic, abusive relationships of the past. I know…Advent’s all about hope, love, joy. And I’m just not feeling it.

Last Christmas I had some serious doubts that I’d ever be where I am today. Let’s be really honest, last year I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the end of the year alive. Last year this time, I’d just come out to my parents and I hadn’t processed my feelings about my church effectively ex-communicating and shaming me out of the congregation. I’m still not sure I’ve processed that.

I feel like I’m pushing myself into an uncomfortable space where I have to acknowledge my parens are awful while also acknowledging human beings can be that terrible to other human beings. And I feel like I still need to be gracious even though I wrote several posts about how I’m just going to be in therapy for a while because of fucked up relationships with parents and church.

Why do I even still care how others feel when their actions and words have scarred me for life? I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t know how not to be kind to others. Except I think I’ve forgotten I also need to be kind to myself.

Here’s the reality: I’ve been socialized to let others be cruel to me in the name of Jesus. I’ve been taught that it’s ok for adults to be bullies, pedophiles, and manipulative monsters to their kids in the name of Jesus. In the name of God, I’ve been taught that you’re always obedient and don’t question authority.

In this world, the Kevin Spaceys, Roy Moores, Donald Trumps, Matt Lauers, etc get to do whatever the hell they want in the name of the patriarchy. It’s just that in my world, God gets all the credit for men being monsters. Everyone gets blamed except the men.

So on Sunday, I opened my Bible and I sat in church a week before Christmas, and I still feel anxiety. And I sit there and realize my soul is asking questions my lips haven’t formed yet. Because how am I supposed to find hope here? Hope where there’s always been abuse. Where is that peace on earth and good-will after all that? I’m feeling more despair and grief right now.

And I don’t feel like church or my friends know how to hold all that in tension and let me live in that space when we’re supposed to “have a holly jolly Christmas” and rejoice. I don’t know how to be both sad and happy.

Because I am definitely happier this year than last year.  This year I’m looking forward to getting married next year to a person who lets me be myself and I tear up thinking about that on a daily basis. The happiness is there and so is the sadness. I think maybe this year has been the year I’ve learned to truly live my life and the first time maybe that I’ve allowed myself to truly feel things about myself and other people. I’ve opened up my heart and the truth is, I don’t have to let people into my life who have tried to destroy me. But I also can choose to have people in my life who make me happy.

I don’t know how to reconcile all of that. But this is what is, and it’s my life. I’m thankful for both the happiness and the sadness because life is better than I ever thought it could be. And maybe it’ll keep getting better. Maybe there’s some peace on earth and good-will after all.

“I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” ~ Charlie, Perks of Being a Wallflower

you brought the flames

“Well, you almost had me fooled
Told me that I was nothing without you
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become…” ~ Kesha, Praying

The following is a mostly satirical response to a letter my sister sent me in the mail. Yes, that’s right, folks. You get a bonus post this week because my sister is an asshole. My response is as they say, with zero chill:

My dear sister,

It has come to my attention that you haven’t changed at all and choose to believe everything our parents and church taught us without thinking for yourself or understanding how compassion works. I was deeply hurt to hear that you were deeply hurt. So much so that I laughed for a full five minutes after reading this letter.

YES! It is so true that I have as you state “struggle with sin.” Except my definition of sin is a little different. My definition of sin is causing someone else or myself harm in any way. For instance, when I don’t acknowledge my internalized racism or homophobia. Or say something that wounds someone else. OR when I ignore injustice right in front of me or give in to self-hatred because of what others think of my “lifestyle” and giving into oh, how did you put it? Ah yes, “temptation.” Big scary word for bullshit that our church and pastor made up so that we’d be afraid of literally everything including loving another person wholeheartedly.

I am very sorry and hurt to see the direction YOU have taken. I could preach at you, but I think you have no idea what the Bible says about that. Something about loving our neighbors as ourselves and speaking the truth of love. I’m sure you’re familiar but seem to have forgotten how the love part of that works. I do want YOU to know that I understand that people can be tempted and struggle in this area of sin (the sin being hatred of others simply because of a part of who they are; gosh I’m so gay, even my shoes are gay. SUE ME FOR LOVING SOMEONE). ANYWAY…continuing on…

IMG_20171206_105302917

Whether YOU believe this or not, dear sister, God is not a misogynistic megalomaniac waiting up in heaven to cause suffering to us just so our faith can be stronger. Or do you really think our dad molesting me as a kid for several years was for my own good? Or the sexual assault in college? Was that all for me to love God better? Seriously? Respectfully, fuck you. Oh oops. I swore–I’m so sorry if I offended you by using accurate language for this nonsense you sent me. Also, sorry about the stains on the letter–I spilled something on it because you’re an asshole. A well-meaning asshole–but a brainwashed asshole nonetheless.

I’m not blaming God. I’m putting the blame where it belongs–with people who seek to control my life and cause harm just to have others not question them. Those who seek the end of the world as they know it for an Armageddon where everyone who disagrees with them is destroyed! Where they can have all the political power and continue to be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic bastards for the sake of the “gospel.” Indeed, it is our sin and rebellion that brought evil into this world. And you are perpetuating it.

Misery! Oh…yes, that. I am not miserable or consumed with grief and sin, I promise! As a matter of fact, I’ve met the love of my life and she’s twice the person you’ll ever be if you stay on the path you’re on.

I love you and I’m writing this in love. This path of sin you’re on surely will lead you to continue being afraid of the outside world and never growing as a person who has compassion and kindness for others. I’ll never stop praying for you either. Looks like you need it. I can’t go where you’ve gone in writing me this letter because clearly, your goal was to guilt a response out of me for change. Change into where I once was–lost and brainwashed like you. I pray that you will one day realize the error of your ways. If you’re ever ready to see that God isn’t a God of hatred and bigotry, I’ll be there to help and to forgive.

Love your sister,

Holly

 

 

waiting for the light

 

I’m going to attempt to do a series for Advent Season. Not everyone celebrates, but hopefully it will be encouraging and challenging.

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“The people in walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine” ~ Isaiah 9:2

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” ~ John 1:5, 14

Hope. A word with so much weight to it. It’s a waiting–a longing for something you’re not sure will come to pass. The anticipation causes us to pace anxiously. Are we about to get what we’ve been hoping for? Or will we be disappointed once again?

Something is coming. A reckoning. A hope that all things will be set right. But it doesn’t feel like it right now.

Yesterday, I sat on my partner’s front porch trying to write some words that offer hope in the midst of waiting. We’re all waiting for something…whether it’s something good or perhaps something bad. Either anticipating the inevitable with joy or dread.

Sometimes I feel that dread for no reason at all. Or for every reason. I’m anxious about things that could happen but most likely never will. I’m not sure if it’s a waiting for something to come or waiting for something to end.

For there to be a reckoning–for justice for the oppressed. For those who speak out against injustice to be heard. I guess maybe that’s what I’m waiting for this Advent season. And the anticipation for good things to happen and suffering to end. For there to be an end to the pain that I have known for so long at the hands of abusers.

The past haunts me much like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Except it’s more what happened to me than what I have done. It also feels like now more than ever that hope for things to end will come true. I have gotten out. I am free–but chained to past memories and family members who won’t let go.

I am looking for the ending so that there can be new beginnings. I still get texts from a father who abused me and a mother who manipulates things to go her way I still feel threatened even though I’m safe for the first time in my life.

This past Saturday I got a suit for my wedding–my wedding that most of my family will not come to or be invited to. And there’s a sense of loss and grief there.

And yet…it feels like having walked through the darkness and seeing a blinding light. A hope and anticipation that I didn’t know I could experience.

Something is coming. A longing for more than the grief and pain that abuse brings. A longing for a God who came to be with us in the midst of pain on earth and to give us a new earth to look forward to. A God who promised love and peace and light amidst the backdrop of human suffering. A God who tells me I belong even when my family thinks I’ve turned from God. A God who turns to me and says, “child of God” instead.

This Advent Season, there are new memories and traditions to be made. Hope is here, and I’m holding onto the good things that are to come.

Ba Humbug

“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.” ~ Thomas Merton

(Content Note for discussion of sexual abuse and assault)

On the heels of celebrating engagement, the holidays are upon me. I am never ready but welcome to my holiday depression. This has happened to me every year since the beginning of college that I hit a bout of depression right around Thanksgiving that doesn’t let go until New Year’s. This is both related to processing trauma and because I came out around this time last year. If you’ve kept up with the blog for a while, you may remember when I wrote about my first boyfriend who sexually assaulted me. Well, fun fact: we started dating around Thanksgiving, and he was supposed to propose on Christmas. Thankfully, I broke up with him before that happened.

That being said, I have some things to vent about and leave here this time around because this year is different.

This year with the holidays I am loved for who I am–trauma and all–just not by the people who claim to love me more than anything. This year, though difficult as it may be, I’ll be spending Christmas without my parents. But this year, I’ll be spending my first Christmas of many more Christmases to come with my partner.

I am so very tired of losing my present to my past. I am so tired of all the moments stolen by trauma in my life. My mind sometimes doesn’t know how to move on. And sometimes it does, but my body doesn’t.

My parents keep texting me Bible verses but there’s no amount of Bible verses that can fix PTSD or make the past go away.

A little note to the haters this holiday season:

Respectfully, fuck you.

To the fundamentalist parents of queer kids: You say you love your kids and want God’s best for them. What if God’s best for them includes being away from you because you haven’t learned to love your kids for who they are.

How can you really love someone the way they should be loved–unconditionally–if you think something about them is broken?

Respectfully, fuck you.

To the homophobes sitting on the back pew in the middle section of the Baptist church I grew up in who “love me” but don’t think I should be able to get married:

Respectfully, fuck you.

To the pastors in conservative churches who preach love on Sundays and hate on Tuesdays when they vote to take LGBTQ+ folks’ rights away and hate to the gay daughter in the congregation whose family has been there for decades:

Respectfully, fuck you.

To the guy who said he thought it was “God’s will” that we be together but then sexually assaulted me and pretended nothing ever happened. You rode off into the sunset with a different girl a year after we broke up and studied at Cambridge:

Respectfully, fuck you.

To the folks who glare at same-sex couples when they’re eating at a restaurant on a date or holding hands in the mall parking lot:

Respectfully, fuck you.

To my mother who passive aggressively sends me Bible verses and devotional books but won’t look me in the eyes anymore because I’m happily engaged to the woman I love:

Respectfully, fuck you.

To my father who told me in a conversation earlier this year he “would rather die than see me with another woman” but who sexually abused me as a kid:

RESPECTFULLY, FUCK. YOU.

As for everyone else out there who is struggling this holiday season to find love and acceptance, to everyone who is grieving loved ones and spending holidays without them for perhaps the first time, to everyone who has ever been told they are not good enough or deserving of love:

Respectfully, you are loved and deserve a world of happiness. Everyone else who pours out hate instead of love can get the hell out. Don’t let anyone steal your joy and do not give anyone the power to suck the life out of you. No one owns you or has a right to tell you that you don’t belong in this world.

I genuinely wish you Happy Holidays. Treat yourself to some Starbuck’s or whatever little thing it is that makes you happy when times are tough. Life’s too short not to enjoy things or show love to those you care about.

Dear Life

“Dear Life, what’s your plan? Is where I’m supposed to be right where I am? If it is, then I’m not leavin’. If it ain’t, then I’ll keep dreaming. Dear life, what’s your plan.” ~ Dear Life, High Valley

Hello, my friends new and old, today I have a story to tell you that follows last week’s journey of meeting my partner.

November 11, 2017, my partner completed her first marathon and watching her cross that finish line was one of the best moments of my life.

Then…back in our hotel room, she asked me to marry her. So of course, I asked her to marry me back. We’re so much alike we had planned to propose on the same day and who knew life could be this good. I guess you could say 2017 is shaping up to be a pretty good year.

It still doesn’t feel quite real but when you walk into a room full of running friends and they celebrate your engagement with you when your family does not…it starts to feel real.

I am feeling joy–pure joy that I never thought I could feel. In one of the happiest moments of my life, those who are most important to me are celebrating with me. In one of the happiest moments of my life, not everyone I want to celebrate with me will. But nothing steals this joy. This joy that perhaps a lot of us have been told we’re not allowed to experience or undeserving of experiencing.

Let me tell you this: Life is not a bed of roses. But it is beautifully chaotic and wonderful.

It’s a life spent enjoying long walks watching sunsets even when we’re both exhausted.

It’s a life spent crying when the pain gets too much but having someone to hold you when you cry.

It’s a life spent waiting for the love of your life to cross the finish line and knowing you’ll one day call her wife.

It’s a life spent living so loud that your forever echoes in the dark.

“I wanna leave my mark
Love til it breaks my heart
Live so loud that my forever
Echoes in the dark 
I wanna leave my mark
Love til it breaks my heart 
Live so loud that my forever
Echoes in the dark”

I Lived

“I did it all. I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places. The things that I did…with every broken bone, I swear I lived.” ~ I Lived, One Republic

My Dear Partner and Friend, I dedicate this post to you.

I used to think that life was just going to be filled with pain and trauma because that’s most of what I’ve experienced in life. I thought that perhaps my life would never be joyous and beautiful.

Then I met you.

The first time I met you, our pastor introduced us at an Ash Wednesday service…and you were talking about running. I remember your smile–how you looked at me. How you had trouble standing still and your mind seemed so busy.

But your eyes were kind and gentle, and I wanted to know more about you.

My first impression was that you’d been through so much in life but you refused to let that break you.

You choose to live life to the fullest even when it’s painful. You have found beauty and joy in this life and I’ve never loved someone as much as I love you.

When you hug me, I feel safe. When you kiss me, all the chaos in my head stops for just a moment. You hold my hand, and I feel like we can conquer anything that comes our way. Love is such a strange thing. I don’t know if I’m losing my mind, but for once in my life I feel like everything is going to be ok.

You have taught me that in a world marred by continuous heart break, trauma, and mass shootings, there is love.

In a world filled with people who betray you, moments that break you, and a world that’s all turned upside down, there is love. So don’t you dare stop living your life with all you’ve got.

My dear, you have taught me how to live. And I can’t wait to see what the rest of life holds…

On Saturday, November 11, 2017, you will run your first marathon. And I’ll be there to cheer you on. Yes, I’ll probably be crying.