What Are You Looking Forward To?

I’m again using some of the journal prompts from Rachel Grieg’s website in order to have some focus and organize my thoughts when I need a little nudge. Today’s prompt is “What are you looking forward to?” and I have several answers for that.

In my immediate future, I am looking forward to remaining sober, to knowing what is going on around me all of the time, and to experiencing things in a real way instead of the muted way I have spent experiencing things for most of my adult life. I use a sober tracker app on my phone to keep track of the days, 369, that I have gone without drinking. And, I learned that I saved almost $3000 this past year simply by not purchasing alcohol. Even if the money wouldn’t have been such a huge savings, I feel like I am able to just be so much more present for every moment that I have been for most of my adult life. People always laugh when I tell them that I didn’t drink until I was 21, but it’s true, and I think in many ways, that was God’s gift to me for getting me out of high school. If I had discovered how much I love drinking at a younger age, I may have remained trapped in my hometown with no high school diploma!

In the distant future, I hope to actually live with my wife again. Currently, and for the past five years, we’ve lived about 10 hours apart from each other, I in Indiana and she in Minnesota. We own some property on an island in Wisconsin, and we would really like to build a small house there to retire in. I honestly can’t wait until that comes to fruition, because I’d love for that to already be my life. I want to fall asleep with her, wake up to her, cook with her, eat with her, rest and play and learn with her, listen to the waves lapping at the shore as we lie there talking quietly with each other. I want to be able to do most of my commuting by bicycle, and with a little wagon, I want to be able to ride my bike to get groceries and everything. Basically, I am not getting any younger and neither is she, so I’d like for this goal to keep moving closer, but it feels right now like it’s moving further away.

I am looking forward to this Biblical journey I’m on, because I am excited to put the whole text into one story as it is meant to be thought about. My only concern is that a year is a long time to read a book, and what if it doesn’t feel more like a story to me than it does already? I suppose I can just make it a goal to read the whole Bible from beginning to end every year, until I can put it into my heart and mind the way I’d like for it to be. I’m also looking forward to inviting this text, the beauty and love of it, to change me into the person I want to be. I want to embody these words in a way that I maybe used to but haven’t for a long time.

I notice as I read back through this entry, that it says a lot of what I want. But perhaps it’s more of what I need. I need to be sober, I need to live with my wife. I need to embody Biblical ideals. So, I am looking forward to doing those things.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

The past year has been pretty hard, and I am counting maybe the past two years in this, because they kind of blend together. Maybe, I am even counting everything from March of 2020 as a year, because it has felt like one long, hard season where I have dragged myself from one thing to the next, like everyone else has too. Maybe that’s what pandemics do to people, make us not be able to sense time, because events just slide painfully from one into the other.

Even if something amazing happened in the past three years, for me, those beautiful things have been hidden by the drudgery of every day life, or by the bigger more prevalent things that have just been pain and suffering. But still I am grateful. Because all of these experiences make up who I am today.

Through all of the difficulties since 2020, I have learned a lot about who I am and who I want to be.

And, I have learned a lot about who I am, and who I don’t want to be.

Who I want to be moving into the second half of my life is a kinder person, a more easy going person, a person who I would want to be around. Since I live by myself, I get to spend a lot of time with myself, and sometimes I think that I would not want to spend much time with myself if I didn’t have to because I live within my body and I can’t avoid it. I have some goals for this year, which I have already enumerated, but I also have a guiding question for me for this year: would I want to be friends with me?

I don’t want to be the type of person who I would answer no to that question. I don’t want to spend the second half of my life being afraid that I won’t succeed, being paralyzed by the caparison game, worrying about whether or not I have what everyone else has or can do what everyone else can do, or trying to please people who will never be pleased no matter what I do. I’ve said it here before that I just want to live a life that makes me proud of who I am and what I can uniquely offer to this world.

I want to make choices that benefit as many people as possible. I want to see the good in the people around me. I want to trust people, even when they disappoint me. I want to jump in to help. I want to see the light where there isn’t much light. I want to be a hope bringer.

So, here’s to living love, peace, joy, and here’s to trying to bring light into this dark, dark world.

Don’t Be Concerned About Being Disloyal to Your Pain

Because of the season of year, you know, Advent and all of that, I am thinking forward to the new year and what it might hold. As always, I have some goals that may or may not be accomplished, but I am going to set them nonetheless. Here they are in no particular order of importance:

  1. Return to veganism. I decided in October that I would stop being vegan for a couple of months and just eat whatever I fancied until December 31, and while I have enjoyed eating some things I’d missed, I also feel an intense amount of guilt because I am behaving out of accordance with my beliefs. While I haven’t had any weird dreams about cows chasing me or having full-on verbal discussions with pigs in a stockyard semi trailer, I have been feeling a bit sad about killing other sentient beings, harming the environment, participating in a violent food chain, and just basically not living in line with my beliefs that all beings are sacred.
  2. Remain sober from alcohol and any other vices. I have enjoyed being alcohol free in 2022, so 2023 will remain the same. I make it sound like this is an easy choice, but if you know me, you know I have struggled some this year, and I will probably struggle some next year too. But, what I know is that I like my life without, more than I liked my life with, so I will make a mission to remain free for another 365 days. I may even work on caffeine and sugar, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
  3. Observe Sabbath. I’ve planned to do this before, but I want to make it a reality in 2023. My computer will remain in my backpack, my school email will be removed from my phone, and I will spend Sunday going to church, sewing, hanging out with friends and family, and reading books I choose. As another form of Sabbath, or maybe it’s a form of religious devotion but not really Sabbath, I plan to finish reading through the Bible. By reading three chapters a day, I’ve made it to Deuteronomy. I know it’s strange, since I’ve been a Christian from the age of 5 and been to seminary, but I have never read straight through the Bible. I am pretty sure I have read nearly all of the words in the Bible, but never read through it, like the storybook that it is.
  4. Move my body and love her. In the past, I have set some sort of parameters on this, but this next year, I just want to move her in any way I can. I want to dance, run, bike ride, swim, walk, hike, jump rope, lift weights, and basically just enjoy the skin I am in. Again, if you know me, you know my body and I have a tenuous relationship, and I have recently been a bit annoyed with her, because as I start into peri menopause, my body just wants to hold onto so many pounds. In fact, I think she may be manufacturing some each day. I guess, what I am trying to say is that we’ve recently been in a fight, but that I am ready to reconcile with her, if she’ll take me back.
  5. A book a month. If I am more diligent in grading and less diligent at TV watching, this goal should be an easy one, and I think I may even try to make it a fiction book a month, since I spend most of my free time reading books that most people only read by force. But I really like to know things, so I read a lot of nonfiction. Maybe this year, I will just set myself up for fun sometimes.

“Don’t be concerned about being disloyal to your pain by being joyous.” — Hazrat Inayat Khan

My last goal is to simply be joyful, not necessarily to be happy all the time, because that is disingenuous, but to have an underlying current of joy. In the past year, I have moved from a place of almost constant sorrow and despair, into a place where I can name my emotions, acknowledge them, and then act appropriately on them. I am not a prisoner to my own sadness. So, my biggest goal for this year is to simply live joyfully, to move through life with a love for myself and for others.

Here’s to all of it. Cheers.


Today’s journal prompt is a weird one, but I am going to go with it anyway: “What was an improvement?”

As I was watching the sunset tonight, I was thinking about how I’ve had three very good days in a row, three days of joy, three days of being affirmed, three days of love and fellowship. Beginning with Indy Pride parade on Saturday right up through the most beautiful sunset this evening, I’ve experienced so much joy the past few days, that I have nearly had to pinch myself to make sure I am still living this life.

On Sunday, as I sat in church with my brother and one of my best friends, I heard a sermon that I needed to hear 27 years ago when I first came out of the closet. If you know me, you know I have a lot of things that I need to work on my life, and one of the biggest things I’ve been working on is self-love in regards to my queerness. So, on Sunday when the priest spoke about his experience at the Pride parade on Saturday, I couldn’t help but tear up a little when I heard these words:

“Within the parade, in the gauntlet between the barricades, I saw a constant movement of people, back and forth, to and fro. People darting out from the crowd to hug people they knew. We were walking in joy. But not walking for us. Walking for them. For all those people whose faces were bright with smiles or shiny with tears…and all because they heard someone say, ‘God loves you. No exceptions.’”

We all need to hear these words: “God loves you. No exceptions.” Because God does love you, no exceptions.

I have to think that three days of joy in a row is a vast improvement over the past few months where I’ve found myself not being able to see the good in this world, and the past few months have been a vast improvement over the past few years where I found myself not wanting to live to see the sunset each night. In fact, for so many days each week, just trying to find the energy to live, to leave the house, to make it through the day was a struggle.

In this past week, I have learned some pretty gut wrenching news, and I was able to work through intense anger, sadness, betrayal, disgust, and other emotions. After wrangling with God for a few hours while I meditated and prayed next to a lake, I was able to reach deep inside and extend compassion to the person who I perceived had wronged me. I was able to put myself in her shoes and think about how I would have handled the situation in a different scenario, and I was able to have my heartbroken and repaired and broken and repaired, until I was able to give grace.

The great improvement for me, right now, is being able to live in joy, recognizing all of the other emotions as they show up, feeling them, then moving through, and not dwelling in them. In short, I don’t feel like I am drowning every day, and I will take that as improvement every day of the week.

Three in One

In the interest of catching back up with the prompts, I am offering you a three-in-one exercise. Because I tend to be rather wordy in my responses to these prompts, I am going to answer three of them to catch back up to today’s prompt, but I am allowing myself only one concise paragraph for each prompt. Let’s see what happens!

“What Good Are You Doing for Yourself or Others?”

I try to live every day better than the last one, which is really difficult sometimes. I try to listen well to those around me, and I try to help when I can, and simply listen when I can’t help. Currently, I am working on trying to allow others to help me and to listen to me. So, I think the good I am doing is putting kindness and love and grace out into the world for others, and I am trying to accept kindness, love, and grace back in return. The first comes pretty naturally for me, because at the end of the day, I perceive my calling as a Christian to be to love others and to give them the grace that I have been given. The second does not come naturally for me, because I have a hard time accepting others into my world more than superficially. By working on the second part, letting people into me, I am finding that the first part, helping others, is becoming easier.

“A Thing Your Life Has in Excess”

Right now my life has an excess of absurdity and an abundance of women (and my brother) who love me. Like I feel like I am inside a simulation, particularly this week. My week went from having a colleague be a passive-aggressive monster at a meeting, to having an old friend completely shun me, to having someone I barely know tell me his whole life with every sordid detail in the matter of 15 minutes, to having my whole world turned inside out by one piece on information, to my dog being bitten in the face by an off-leash neighborhood dog, to being able to share all of the most painful and strange parts of my life with the women (and my brother) who are closest to me.

“What Is A Top Priority This Month?”

My top priority this summer is to work through all of the things of my life, or at least to get a good start on it, before school starts again in the fall. My top priority is to go vacation with my love and our children and our grandchildren and to have the best time I’ve had in a long time, to go with an open heart, and an open agenda, and an open mind and to just shower them with love and grace and kindness. My top priority is to be free.