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Posts Tagged ‘self-worth’

This is the presentation I made a week ago at the First Women Talk Fernie Conference.

Some of the jokes may not translate to the written word, I’ll apologise in advance for that.

All You Need Is Love

Good Afternoon;

My name is Andrea. I’d like you to turn to the person to your left and say “It’s wonderful to see you here today.” Now I’d like you to turn to the person to your right and say “It’s wonderful to see you here today.” For folks who are standing alone, just speak to yourself. We know you already do. 🙂

I’m here today to talk to you about love.
Before I get to that, I want to talk about “norms”.
For the record, “Normal” is not a societal standard, it’s a setting on the dryer…just sayin’.

What society says is “normal” and “acceptable” as a woman is to be between 18 and 25 years of age, naturally blonde, 125 lbs with a thigh gap. Now, as you can see I am naturally blonde :-), I’m twice 25 plus one. My left thigh is 100 lbs, my right is 100 lbs and when I stand straight, my legs touch to the knee. No thigh gap, but I reckon that makes me half way to a Mermaid…and who doesn’t want to be a Mermaid? 🙂

For society today, “normal” is measured through three lenses: straight, white and male.
I’m one of those…can you guess which one? 🙂

In my life I’ve come out five times about five different things…

I came out as a Vegetarian in my mid-20’s. My mother had the strongest reaction when I went home for Thanksgiving.

What are you going to eat?

What are you cooking?

Turkey.

And that’s all?

Well no, there’s two kinds of potatoes, three vegetables, bread, salad, etc.

Then I’ll eat everything but the turkey. And as you can see, I’ve never gone hungry.

I came out as a Follower of Jesus in my early 30’s when I’d gone back to Church after a decade or so lapse. Friends and co-workers would inquire to my weekend plans which always included Church. And for the most part they were supportive.

I came out as a Seminarian in my late 30’s after spending nearly two years in discernment. When I told my friends and co-workers they were not surprised. I can totally see you doing that! Great! Where were you two years ago when I started discerning?!? 🙂

I’ve known from a very young age that I was not straight. I wasn’t truly a lesbian, so I
wondered if it was possible to be attracted to both genders. What was it called? Was I the only one? Then I discovered MCC or Metropolitan Community Church. Also known as “The Gay Church” where everyone is truly welcome.

Throughout Seminary I attended service most Sunday evenings where I felt I was with good friends who became family. I brought my Mother to Church one Sunday night and afterwards I asked what she thought.

It was different.

In what way?

Well, everyone was dressed for Church.

My Mother made friends with several of my friends in the LGBTQ community, many of whom she is still in touch with today. One homosexual couple she refers to as “My Boys”. She can’t remember their names, so that’s how they’re known to her. And when they sign a birthday or Christmas Card for her they write “With Love from Joe and Tim, Mam’s Boys”.

When I told my Mam I was Queer she was her usual, clueless self.

There’s something I need to tell you.

Oh?

Yes, I wanted you to know that I’m Queer.

Oh Andrea, you’ve always been queer.

Um, not like that Mam. It means I like Women as well as Men.

Oh. Um. Oh. Okay. You’re not getting married are you?

Who me? Definitely not.

Good, because you’re not very good at it.

Thanks Mam.

Have you told your brother?

No, I sent him an email and haven’t yet heard back.

Well, I won’t say anything until I hear from him.

Thanks Mam.

Five minutes later she calls back.

Does this mean you like rainbows and unicorns now?

I’m sorry, what?

Well, as A Gay, doesn’t that mean you have to like rainbows and unicorns?

Um, well, I love rainbow, it’s my favourite colour, but I don’t like unicorns.

And you can still be a A Gay?

Mam, it’s not “A Gay”, it’s simply Gay. But I identify as Queer.

Oh, okay.

Five minutes later she calls back.

You’re not going to lose your job are you?

What?

You know, for being A Gay…no, I mean A Queer.

It’s Queer, and no Mam, that’s against the law. I told my Bishop and he’s supportive.

Oh, well that’s good. Because you don’t want to lose your job. It’s the only thing you’re any good at.

Thanks Mam.

To be honest, I’ve never really done a “coming out” as Queer. My closest friends knew and I really didn’t think it was a big deal. When I meet new people I tease out where or if to mention it in conversation. And that’s been great. Until September.

I got a phone call from the local newspaper asking if they could write an article about me and my ministry. I thought it strange that anyone would want to know about me, and was intrigued, so I said yes. We met at the Blessing of the Animals in early October then went over to the Church and chatted. Phil did a wonderful job, wrote a very thorough article.

A couple of weeks later I was coming back for Sorrento where I’d been attending Clergy Conference and my cell phone was pinging like crazy…Congratulations on the article. You’re so brave. I’m so proud to know you. I had no idea, but I think it’s awesome.
When I got to a place with WiFi I looked online and found the article (unfold newspaper) GAY CLERGY CHALLENGES NORMS Oh, um Hi Everybody!

So on that Sunday morning I started worship with Welcomes and then asked “Did anyone read the paper this week?” There was some laughter and I continued “The headline is a bit sensational, but it is true. I’m actually not Gay, but Queer. And if you want to talk about that or the article itself, we can chat at coffee hour.

Our service begins on page 185 of the Green Book of Alternative Services –

Feedback was, and continues to be overwhelmingly positive.
I am who God created. For better or for worse, this is who I am.

1. Vegetarian 2. Follower of Jesus 3. Clergy 4. Queer

And now the last “coming out”. I struggle with Mental Illness. I have Depression and Anxiety, I have obtrusive thoughts and compulsive actions.
I am as far outside the lenses of “normal” as one can be.

Honestly? I like that.

Because I have learned through my life that God creates only from Love. And if we choose to begin with love we will always find a way through.

I have been told I am NOT a Christian because…

I am female – Women should NOT speak in Church, St. Paul says so

I am Queer – It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, let’s pray the Gay away

I am pierced – But technically, so was Jesus I am tattooed – If you want to throw down over the Book of Leviticus, let’s go!

I am Mentally Ill – If you think positive thoughts and pray to Jesus you will be healed.

True Story – A woman told me she was worried for my salvation because I am not a “true believer” and I do not know “the truth”. She said she prayed for me because I needed to give my repugnant lifestyle and give my life to Jesus. Or I would be condemned to hell. I asked her what, in her opinion, Hell looks like. It’s filled with people like you…those who don’t know the truth. And what’s Heaven look like? It’s filled with people like me…we know the truth and we are true Christian. [Pause] I really think you need to work on your threats. Because if what you say is true, Hell sounds like a helluva fun place. 🙂
So, what does this have to do with Love?

Love is the only way to survive in this mad world. In the Bible we were given 10 commandments, but they were complicated and too numerous to keep. So Jesus rolled them into two main commandments.

Love God Love your Neighbour as Yourself.
Simple, eh? No, not even a little bit.

When we are called to love someone, it means we have to accept them just as they are, not try to change them. It means we love them without fixing them. It means we enter into relationship with them. And relationships are difficult.

Anybody here married? You know EXACTLY what I mean…it’s hard.

When we stand as those on the outside, it’s easy to be isolated and feel “less than”. And that’s why love is so important.

I’m not talking about ooey, gooey romantic love. I’m talking about the down and dirty, imperfect, difficult love of relationships.

We are commanded to love, not to like. Which is a good thing because there are times when I will love you, but not stand the sight of you. And that’s okay.

For those who struggle with mental illness, love is absolutely necessary because for many of us, myself included, we feel unworthy of love.

They tell us at Seminary that we often preach the homilies we need to hear. I preach generally about one thing. Wanna guess what that is?
LOVE.

It’s not easy. It’s not light. It’s not breezy. It’s difficult, messy, ugly, uncoordinated, dangerous and exhausting.

So why do I do it? Because it’s worth it.

You may wonder why I’ve chosen now and why I’ve chosen this place to come out as Mentally Ill.

If one person here today can hear this story and it sound familiar, then this is worth it.
Am I taking a risk in sharing this with you? Most definitely.

And it’s most definitely worth it.

In mid-November I started feeling “not myself”. I was bursting into tears for no apparent reason, and those who know me, know, as a rule, I rarely cry. Usually only when I’m really angry.

I would burst into uncontrolled tears for hours at a time. And have no idea why. I went to see my family doctor and she listened to me…really listened to me. We decided to change out my antidepressant which I had been on for 9 years. The change over was a nightmare, and it began in mid-December. It took a good 6 weeks before I started feeling better and in that time I was also referred to Elk Valley Mental Health Services.

I saw an intake worker who did an assessment, and I was then referred to a counsellor at the Health Unit. She, too, is a rock star. On Thursday I finished a program in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that has been a life-changer for me. It’s equipped me with tools to counter negative thoughts and behaviour.

Does this mean I’m cured?

Oh HELL no. It means I have tools to help me not get into that dark place again. There will be good days and bad days. There will be highs and lows, and if I start to lurch towards great darkness, I know I can get help.

If you know someone who is Mentally ill, let me give you some advice. You might want a notebook and pen.
I’ll wait.
Ready?

Don’t try to fix them. Write that down. Don’t try to fix them. There’s no pithy aphorism that can snap a person out of depression or anxiety. They have to do the work themselves. And sometimes, before we can get to that work, we have to sit in the dark.
And that’s okay. Showing love to a person who is struggling mentally often means not saying one damn word. Sitting with, in the dark, holding space with them.

Think of it as a mental blanket fort. In some circumstances, it may be an actual blanket fort, and that’s good. Bring blankets, pillows, comfy pjs and snacks.
Loving your neighbour means loving all of them, as you are loved. In your perfect imperfection as the one God created.

The most loving thing you can do for someone who is struggling is to love them through the tough time. And loving them through it means taking the horrible with the not so horrible. It means risking being vulnerable to let them know you care.

People tell me they don’t believe I’m depressed. When I’m out and about I look bubbly, give hugs and seem to be in perfect health.

The thing is, us Depressives are great actors and when we are not well, we will stay home unless we absolutely have to go out and then we will lie to your face to hide how dark we are feeling. It’s true.

We all wear masks and when you struggle with Depression and/or Anxiety, the masks get thicker and may be more than one. While we’re out saying hello and looking completely “normal” it took us two hours to get out of bed and another two hours to work up having a shower. When we get home we get back into pjs and back into bed.

I’m delighted to tell you that today is a good day. And this week has been pretty good as well.

So, if you call or text me and I don’t answer you straight away, it probably means I’m away from my phone, or I’m in the middle of something else and I will get back to you. If it’s a few days and I’ve not responded it may mean I’m in the darkness and I’m trying to fight my way back.

Be patient with me. I’ll get there.

I’d like you to stand up and take the hands of people on either side of you. In just a moment, we’re going to sing….

In the immortal words of the Prophet Paul McCartney
There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known

Nothing you can see that isn’t shown

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be It’s easy
[everybody]
All you need is love [Da da da da daaaaa]

All you need is love [Da da da da daaaaa]

All you need is love, love Love is all you need.
[AGAIN]
All you need is love [Da da da da daaaa]

All you need is love [Da da da da daaaa]

All you need is love, love Love is all you need.

Thank you.

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This year, 2019 has brought loads of emotions and energies that need addressing.  Each year for the past few years I’ve chosen a word that has been my focus for the year.  Last year it was balance…and that didn’t work out so well.  🙂  This year the word is change.

There are many things that I need to work on in myself.  Many things that need to change and I’m the only one that can change them.  I need to put myself as a much higher priority in my life.

Over the past few months I’ve realised that I don’t care for myself as well as I care for others.  I’ve come to the realisation that I’ve not properly cared for myself, I’ve not properly prioritised myself.  And this year, 2019, that will change.

I need to be gentler with myself.  I want to be healthier in myself.  I must guard my free time and time off better than I have been doing.  And these are things that only I can do.

I am eating healthier.  I am keeping a journal.  I am working with my doctor and a small team of support folks to hold me accountable.  To make sure I rest, I eat, I mediate, I exercise, and most importantly, that I laugh.

I will learn to say no and not feel guilt.  I will be more discerning to that which I say yes. I will learn to fall in love with myself…because really, I’m a pretty neat person.

This year will be the year I dig deep, turn myself inside out, and remind myself of who I truly am.  I will be a priority in my life.  I will learn to love myself…to truly love everything about me, including my many flaws.  My goal will be to see me as God sees me.  And that’s going to take a LONG time.  But hey, time I have.

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It’s the last day of 2016.  Today was a whirlwind of activity including a funeral for a 91 year old lady.  The cemetery was freezing cold, the wind was bitter and yet it was only -2C.

What I said struck a chord with many who were present and I received many positive comments about the comfort my words brought.  I was asked what my plans were for tonight and I replied I was going to clean my house, fill my car with gas, have a hot bath and go to bed early.

I don’t make a big deal about New Year’s Eve.  It’s never been a big part of my life.  As a child my parents would wish me Happy Near Year at 7:00 pm, which was midnight in England.  Then they would go out and enjoy either a house party or a dance somewhere.  As my brother and I grew up, it was us who would call our parents at 7:00 pm to wish them Happy New Year as we headed out to whatever activity was offered.

I’m not a great fan of house parties.  Mostly because I’m not a great fan of small talk.  I don’t make resolutions.  I don’t expect the drop of a big silvery ball or a special kiss at midnight to change my life.  I’m too much of a skeptic for that.

And yet I find myself drawn into the frenetic activity of Top Ten lists and favourite memories.  I keep reading how 2016 has been a terrible year.  Many famous people died.  And so did many ordinary people…like the 91 year old I buried today.  There were atrocities in the world, and also great hope.  There was a Presidential election that was arguably one of the shadiest ever in history, and yet the Earth keeps spinning.

Tonight I filled my car with gas.  Yesterday I got groceries.  My house is clean.  My homily is almost finished for tomorrow.  My sugar bowl is full as is my milk jug.  There is money in my wallet, soon there will be food in my belly.  I live in a warm house with a freshly made bed.  I had a luxurious hot bath and soaked until my fingers turned to prunes.

When I moved West I made myself a promise that I would be the best Andrea I can be.  I fell deeply in love with someone I’ve been wanting to know for a long time.  Me.

I am kinder to myself.  I take better care of myself.  I medicate and feed and water and exercise and laugh and cry and love.  I can honestly say that I love myself.  There will never be this moment again in my life.  In 2017 I will turn 50.  And just as Canada is going to be celebrating it’s sesquicentennial for months, I will be celebrating my special year as well.

I will be kinder to myself.  I will laugh more.  I will go exploring.  I will not be afraid.  I will try new things.  I will write and sing and dance.  I will take risks and be successful.  I will take risks and be unsuccessful.  I will continue to fall deeper in love with myself.

I am spending New Year’s Eve alone this year.  I had a few invitations.  I turned them all down.  Yes, there is someone I would like to kiss at midnight, but we cannot be together tonight.  And frankly, I’ll be fast asleep by then. 🙂

2016 was a good year for me.  2017 will also be a good year for me.  I anticipate many adventures and many more shenanigans.  I will be happy with who I am right now.  As opposed to who I’d be 50 lbs lighter, or longer hair, or healthier, or happier.  I’m pretty damn good as I am now.

My promise for 2017 is to love myself more.  And in turn, to love those around me.  Who will, in turn, love those around them.  We can start a revolution of love.  We can choose to love first.  Without condition.  As we are meant to be loved.  With abundance.  Carefree.  Bountifully.  Beautifully.  Eternally.

As the poet and prophet Lin-Manuel Miranda said “Love is love is love”.  Amen.

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One of the challenges with moving provinces is re-establishing health care.  The first health care provider I procured was a Chiropractor, followed by a Registered Massage Therapist.  Next was the Pharmacist, and today I saw my new Family Doctor.  I had a list nearly as long as my arm with things to discuss with her.  She listened and acknowledged; she’s young and has a wonderfully warm demeanor.  I enjoyed sharing my list of concerns with her and she has started the referral process for many of the ailments I now have.  For the record; aging is NOT for the faint of heart…

One of the questions she asked was my form of birth control, to which I answered “my face”.  She blinked and looked blankly at me, then started laughing uncontrollably.  I think Dr. B and I will be getting along well.  She gave me a requisition for blood work, a number to call to schedule a mammogram, a referral in process for a gynecologist, a renewal for my prescription antidepressants and I see her again in a month for a physical.  Phew.  All that was discussed in 10 minutes.

Another of the things on my “to do” list is putting together the paperwork for separation and divorce.  I spoke recently with A and we agreed on a separation date and we’ve already separated our assets and liabilities.  For all intents and purposes, it should be an “easy” divorce…well, as far as administration goes.  Emotionally, it is an ending.  And although we both agreed that this was “for the best”, there is still a process of grieving.  The end of something that we once promised would last forever.

As I reflect on the end of our marriage and the rebirth of myself, I realise, once again, that sometimes love is not enough.  I love him as a person.  I love him as a friend.  But I am no longer in love with him, and if I were honest, I haven’t been for a long time.  Too many things unsaid, too many broken promises.  Too many times when one thing was said and another done.  Too many times when it was simply too much effort to work at our relationship.  The precedent scares me…unfortunately I’ve been down this road before.

And while I have said that I will never love another again…is it really fair of me to close my heart off from the world?  I don’t know…I suspect God does…

For now, the wall around my heart remains firmly in place.  I will mourn and grieve the loss of something that once meant the world to me.  I will survive.  I will come through the other side stronger then ever…knowing myself more than I ever have…and learning to love again.  Beginning with myself.  As a wise friend recently said “I’m worth it”.

And you know what?  I believe that to be true.

So while I mourn the ending of a marriage/relationship/partnership, I rejoice in the knowledge that I am coming back to life…I am experiencing my own re-birth.  I revel in the sounds of birdsong, of the gentle and often not-so-gentle winds that blow through my life.  I revel in the smells of Spring flowers, of walking around the village where I live and breathing in the fresh mountain air.  As I reflected to a parishioner at the induction service last week “I am home”.  In so many ways, British Columbia has become my home.

And in this home I find my heart, my soul and my life.  Thanks be to God.

 

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