Coming Out of the Closet

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Closets are for more than just hiding from the world who we choose to love. They are about how we choose to keep secret a thought, idea, feeling, wish and belief from the world, for fear of disapproval. It is where we hide, until something or someone cracks open the door. We may decide in life to no longer play a sport we have been driven to play our whole lives. Perhaps we desire to engage in an alternate profession, dissolve a marriage, or worship in a different sanctuary. Maybe, we can see “dead” people or communicate with animals, and we worry that people will think we are crazy. We may be wanting to act, think and feel differently than we were taught, but be afraid to say, hey world, this is me. And yet when we have the courage to push open the closet door, we say I love myself enough to shout it out to the worldTo be true to who I am now, or maybe who I have always been. 

Some of us have elaborate walk in closets with tons of stuff hidden that we haven’t put on in years.  Others, have simple shelves, open for everyone to see. Regardless of what is in our closets, it feels so good to open the door and clear the shelves of old clothes that are no longer us; shoes with holes, and those damn wire hangers from the dry cleaners that always sneak in when we are not looking. All this stuff that has gathered in our closets is just taking up space. It is simply fear and doubt that we have gathered over the years; denial and the need for approval, collecting dust.

One morning, a few weeks ago, my son wanted to go off to school with his nails polished. HIs sisters did him the honor of painting his nails, each a different color. He also had his hair slicked up into the greatest Mohawk I have ever seen, and put on his best button down collared shirt and khaki pants. He was so proud of how he looked, and so was I. For him, there are no closets, as is the truth for many children. For they do not see labels, only what is on the inside.

It was not to long ago, my daughter was able to choose any doll she wanted from the shelves at the toy store for her fifth birthday. There were hundreds of dolls to choose from.  It took her awhile, and then she chose the doll she wanted.  She chose the only African American doll on the shelves. Our of curiosity, I asked her if she noticed anything different about the doll.  Her reply was that the doll was really cute and the other dolls, not so much. It brought tears to my eyes, how innocent and loving children can be, how they view the world with love, not appearances. Our children have so much to teach us.

Yet, somewhere along the way, when children grow, labels become more  important, insecurities emerge and there is a desire to fit into a box instead of being different, being themselves. Yet, is it not how we learn, how our world has become more beautiful, when we are able to be ourselves, love who we are unconditionally?  It is the true key to happiness and life where our hearts are open, our days fulfilled.

I would be lying if I said we were not worried the morning, that our son went off to school with polished nails; concerned he would be made fun of, laughed at. But he did not think twice.  Off he went with an air of confidence you always want for your child. When my son came home that afternoon, nothing really came of his wearing nail polish.  For this, I must thank those  brave souls who had once been able to open their closet door, be themselves, love themselves, and honor  themselves. To say, I know this is different from what you see, but it is not wrong. It is me. Perhaps one day there will be no more closets, no more labels.

It is never too late! The next time one of your closet doors becomes unhinged, take a leap of faith.  Remember what matters most is that we honor and we love ourselves for who we are.  We can believe whatever we choose, simply because it is what we believe. We can decide who to love today, regardless of who we loved yesterday. And perhaps, someday, instead of defending our religious and political beliefs with bloodshed, we can simply choose in that moment, what to believe and where to worship. We will be free to be you and me.

Since that morning, the polish has faded, along with Drew’s interest in it. Maybe it will return, maybe not.  Perhaps things become more of a big deal, when we make it that way. We judge others, put labels and attack those that are different, until they have no choice but to rally, fight back, or sneak back into their closet. If we accept everyone as they are, whether they dress differently, pray differently, speak differently, look differently, perhaps nobody will need to come out of the closet.  There will be no doors shut around them, no labels needed to talk about who they are.  We will not be Muslim, Jewish, smart, poor, overweight. We will just be human.

What’s in your closet? What words are you hiding beneath that old suit? What idea is hanging beside one of those old bridesmaid dresses? What creation is tucked away behind that box of old pictures?

When we come out of the closet, we are taking a step not only down the road less travelled, but but a giant leap for humanity. We need to ask ourselves, in the end, does it really matter what other people think?

I will end with a quote from the amazing, Bruce Springsteen.  The boss sings praises in one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all times, Rosalita:

Windows are for cheaters, chimneys for the poor
Oh, closets are for hangers, winners use the door
So use it Rosie, that’s what it’s there for

Let’s all begin to use the door.  That’s what it’s there for.

 

 

 

 

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Pin The Tail on the Donkey

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The year is 1976. I am eight years old. It is my birthday party. Back then, kids birthday parties were easier, and much cheaper.  We are gathered in my basement, crepe paper streaming across the unfinished ceiling. My friends rushing through the never out of fashion birthday song so we can all indulge in the delicacy of home made cupcakes.

Now it is game time.  Always a crowd favorite, we begin to play, Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  For me, it was always more fun to watch others than to be the one who was blindfolded.  I tend to like to know what is in front of me. Yet, everyone gets a turn, and soon enough, the blindfold is tied securely behind my head. I am spun around, three maybe four times. Just enough to mix me up as to where I am going, but not too much that I fall down and crack my head on the cement wall.  “Okay,” someone shouts.  “Go.”

I walk forward, cautiously, my arms outreached in front of me, my fingers tightly gripping the tail with the sticker. I feel my way towards the picture of the unassuming donkey.  Finally, after what feels like an eternity, I reach the wall, relieved that I feel the paper and have not veered off course facing an exposed water pipe or worse gone in the total opposite way about to trip on the staircase. If you are the least bit perceptive, the laughter always helped with this issue, anyway.  The louder the laugher, the more you are heading in the wrong direction.

Touching the wall, I clumsily feel my way, hoping to  get it right; the exact spot where the tail is supposed to go.  “You cannot feel,” someone shouts.  “That is cheating.”  I want to shout back that I am the birthday girl and I can cheat if I want to, but I know that is not really a thing.  So I go for it. I press the tail firmly down upon the paper.  Laughter erupts as I lift my blindfold.  Both disappointment and a smile emerge simultaneously as I am the one who feels like an ass, but see it all seems funny, so it is ok.  I see that I have pinned the tail on the donkey’s head, and I shrug and hand the blindfold to the next lucky contestant on “this is a foreshadowing of the reality of life,” game.

Soon enough our birthday parties become teenage parties. And then we leave home. We set out on our journey, our hopes and dreams spinning around in our hearts and mind, and we are off.  It is our turn, each and every day we arise.  We make plans, we mark our calendars and we go about our days, filling our lives with dates, jobs, weddings, babies, and funerals. Sooner or later, we get spun around.  Traffic emerges, a love one passes away, infertility hits, a call comes from the school principal, or mother nature erupts dumping life upon us like a tornado. And there we are, our hands outstretched in front of us trying to find our way back, to the perfect spot.

That never happens.

Life is a game, and everyone gets a turn. Some people seem to take their turns slowly, with caution, and life feels hard, each and every breath, labored. And those that feel challenged look at others who have it easier .Why is life so easy for her? Why is he so successful and I struggle each and every day?  Do the ones who have it easy, simply have better inner ear equilibrium, thus spinning does not effect them as much?  Or perhaps they cheat, peering above the blindfold when nobody is looking, for their success is more important than anything else.  Maybe, they are just lucky in life.  Maybe not.  Maybe we just think some have it good, but while they are alone, when everyone has left the party, their world is anything, but easy.

Truth is, whether we move to the front or lurk behind in back, we all have moments where life is easy, and life is hard. And the less we hear the laughter from those around us, the harder life feels.  For regardless of what happens in our lives, it is not where we put the tail, but how we react to our efforts; how we feel when we take off our blindfold.

There is no reward for pinning it exactly as it is supposed to be, anyway.  Our reward does not arise from being perfect, but allowing ourselves to fumble and miss the mark.  Can we laugh?  Let ourselves off the hook?  Realizing that deep down life is all just a really intricate amazing game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and we are all doing the best we can, enables us all to breathe a bit easier. After all, just playing the game of life is courageous. Sometimes we get dizzy and fall down.  Other times, we nail it.  And still, there are the times when we think we are going in the right direction, and knock our heads against the wall. What then? We grab some ice, rest, and wait till we feel better to move on, to try again.

We know as children what it is like to laugh at our mistakes, forgive and move on.  Unfortunately, too often, when we grow, so does our judgement.  This judgment is what often keeps us locked in those chains, never trying again. We are all way too hard, both on ourselves, and each other.

For we all have bad moments, days, even lives.  Let’s take off our blindfolds, open our eyes and laugh at our mistakes.  We are far less likely to stay off course if we lighten up.  And if we start with ourselves – love ourselves, forgive ourselves, laugh at ourselves – we may just realize what a big game life is, and agree to have a bit more fun.

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Most children no longer play, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but all childhood games are just practice for the game of life. Like the old saying goes, “It is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”

Let’s play the game of loving ourselves deeply, showering others with compassion, and laughing out loud as often as possible, especially when we veer off course.

We are all invited to the party, so let’s play.

Tag, you’re it.

 

 

Are You Willing to Die for What you Believe?

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Are you willing to die for what you believe?

I attended a funeral yesterday of Uncle Murray.  He lived a long life.  As a WW II veteran, he put his life on the line many years ago.  And he had always been proud of his time served.  Proud and willing to die for what he believed.

Are not all those who defend our country willing to die for what they believe?  While we cannot all enlist in the Military for obvious reasons, nor do we all feel called to serve in this way, we all have the choice to serve what is in our hearts, each and every day.  We all have our beliefs, how we feel about our lives, our professions, our families.  Yet, how many of us are willing to die for what we believe?

I came across a story this morning about a man who was diagnosed with the same brain cancer as Brittany Maynard, the young woman who chose to end her life by assisted suicide at the age of 29.  J.J. Hanson, a Marine with stage four glioblastoma multiform, has chosen to fight, against the doctor’s wishes. He is now in remission.  In light of his success story, people have begun to make arguments against assisted suicide.  Yet, why do we argue?  We cannot know what is right for another. Even if J.J. had not been successful in his fight, he was determined to follow through with what he believed.  He was willing to die painfully, for what he believed.  Brittany was also willing to die for what she believed. Neither are wrong.

Too often, it is not until we come across something dire – a loss of a job, an illness, a senseless shooting, a divorce, the death of a loved one – that we question our beliefs, and we begin to live the life we are meant to live. The key is to find out what we truly believe before life makes us find this out the hard way, before our backs are up against the wall.

Do you become persuaded easily?  Do you care what others think?  Does standing up for what you believe in the face of opposition create heart palpitations, sweats and fear?

Sometimes it is not easy to decipher what we believe.  We have grown up listening to what our parents, our teachers and our friends believe.  We have become accustomed to taking in at face value what the news reports, what the studies show, what others who seem to have more authority, say to us.  Standing up for what we believe, especially when it goes against the norm, is always met with opposition.  Yet those who have the courage and strength to speak out, those that have been able to look beyond societal norms, to stand up for what they believe no matter what others shout, say, think and feel, are the ones who change history. These are ones who have been courageous and honoring of who they are. It is no coincidence that this is where miracles happen, hearts are opened, and courage is revered. It is why we are touched when movies show us this truth. when the unlikely hero prevails. The ones that take a stand and say no. These are the people that make a difference in their own lives, as well as others. These are the ones who are willing to die for their truth.

We all have this power to change history and alter our lives.  There is a Nelson Mandela, or an Erin Brockovich inside of each of us.  There is a war hero in each of us, and yet our truth is all we need to stand up for. Some of us will lead a nation with our truth, and others will lead a life worth living, one based on truth, passion and love. We all have the ability to ask ourselves what we truly feel, what we would be willing to die for, and follow through, even in the face of opposition and fear.

I challenge you today, to sit and feel and seek out what it is you believe.  When you are moments away from death, will you look back on your choices and know in your heart you chose what was the truth for you?  Or will you just coast, not wanting to rock the boat.

At Uncle Murray’s funeral, the Rabbi said, “We never know how much time we have on this earth. It is not the number of years that is important, but how we choose to live those years.”

I say live with courage, follow your heart, love yourself fearlessly, beyond judgements,  and always do what feels right for you.  Nobody ever said in the final moments before their death, I wish I hadn’t been willing to die for what I believed.  But many have said, I wish I did things differently, and didn’t care so much what others thought.

 

Endless Moments, Endless Chances

 

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As I sit here on a Sunday morning, the rain falling mindlessly outside, I think about this moment.  There are so many moments in our lives, and what we choose to do with them determines the path we take, our next adventure, even the happiness or suffering, we may feel.

In this moment, we can become angry at the insensitivity of an ignorant politician, remembering his hateful words that hurt, like darts to our hearts.  Or we can even make it more personal.  We can become lost in our head about something that happened yesterday, last year, or twenty years ago.  Dwelling in the unfairness of the situation or blaming another for the pain we were caused.  We can even worry about the future, allowing the unknown to stall within depths of our motor, throwing obsessions at us for free.

We have all done all of these scenarios.  We know how to do them.  It is a habit. We know how to get lost in another time, another feeling, but we do not quite know how to stay in the moment, how to just be. We become anxious, fearful, angry or depressed. We have become so caught up in our lives – doing, achieving, acting – that we do not know why we are here, or care to find out. We do not know how to create peace in our lives and the world around us.

This realization truly hit home the other day, when I walked into the nail salon and there was a girl in a wheel chair, living out her life with a physical disability. She was having a conversation with a woman about how she felt.  She was loud, without a care as to who heard.  I smiled.  Her words were muffled as her mouth did not quite work as efficiently as ours, but we all got her point. While she was trapped in a body that did not work as well as most other humans, she was free to be who she was, acknowledge how she felt at any given moment without regret, fear of judgement or guilt.

These examples are all around us.  Each week that I bring my son Drew to child therapy, there is a boy who is always there.  After Drew goes inside the playroom, the boy looks up and says, “You always go shopping.” The first time, I was taken aback, but looked at him, and replied, “Yes, I do.”  The boy continued, “Why do you always leave?”  I told him that there are stores nearby and it is a good time to do my shopping.  He smiled.  I smiled.  And now my heart melts a little more each time I see this boy.  He does not care that I am a stranger. Most special needs children have this wonderful gift of forgoing small talk. They have their own way of being, and it is more than refreshing, we can learn a great deal from them.  They live from their hearts, often with no filter.  They say what is on their minds, cutting through the chains we so often place on ourselves. They live in the moment.

We have so much to learn from those who are not like us.  We can often feel sorry for those who are different, but they have so much to teach us.  How to love without fear, speak without lies, and live each and every moment just as we feel.We see others who have a disability or special needs, as a liability, yet it feels as though, we are the ones trapped in a world with rules that often stuff the truth, choke the spontaneousness right out of us, cause us to live anywhere other than right here in this moment.

Yet, we do not need a disability, nor a developmental diagnoses to live in the moment.  We can take back our hearts from our minds that so often leads us so often away from the moment.  We can do this by becoming aware when we are anywhere but the moment.  We can spend time in nature, walking, observing, breathing.

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And with practice, we gain back our power.  We are no longer reacting to life, but living consciously.  We can begin to choose each and every moment to be in the moment.  We only need to remember to breathe, and just be.  We can see when we are off in another place, and gently bring ourselves back to the moment.  For it is in the moment, that we find who we are and why we are here.

In the moment, it does not matter what we do – sit alone or find company, cry or laugh, dance or sing.  It only matters that we open our hearts, and honor ourselves in every moment.

And when we do this, something magical happens.  For it is in the moment that the fear disappears, the blame evaporates and the truth emerges.  It is here that we find peace, forgiveness, forgo addictions, release hate, and find compassion for who we are, as we would a child.  We begin to stop caring what others say or think, for loving ourselves, outweighs another’s judgement, a million to one.

If we want something out of our life, whether it be happiness, peace, a soul mate, even greater financial abundance, then the way to receive everything you desire, is to go back to the moment.  Everything we want, every question we have, every emotion we feel is right there, inside of us, ready to be loved.

All we really need, is this moment.  Lucky for us, our lives are made up of endless moments, endless chances. So if you miss one, remember, there will always be another, waiting just for you.

 

I am black. I am white. So What?

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I am you.

I am black.  I am white.

I am Muslim.

So what?

I am ugly.  I am tall. I am dumb.  I am old.  I am fat. I am young.

So what?

I am Republican. I am rich. I am cold. I am deaf. I am afraid. I am tired.

I am weird.  I am disabled. I am scared. I am pale. I am happy. I am lonely.

So what?

I have stolen.  I have lied.  I have lived.  I have died.  I have hungered. I have lusted.  I have bullied.  I have inhaled. I have listened.

I have lingered too long.  I have left too soon. I have bragged. I have cheated. I have hidden. I have longed. I have loved. I have lost. I have cried. I have laughed. I have used. I have learned. I have smiled.

So what?

I am black.  I am white.

I am muslim.

I am human.

I am not words.

I am not actions.

I am love.

I am you.

 

 

For Neda.

 

 

A Whole New World

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What if when you woke up this morning, you found a whole new world?  What if the magic carpet ride with unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings was real, and you could climb aboard anytime.  Would you come along?

What if your dreams are guiding you as to how to see this whole new world?  People you run into unexpectedly, street signs, weird thoughts that pop into your head are all messages on how to reach this brand new world?

What if in this new world, you find magic and miracles.  The flowers blooming in colors so vibrant, you almost need to shield your eyes, and the brilliant skies make you stop and stare in awe.

What if it is only your beliefs and limits you place on yourself that keep you from seeing this world?  We have the power to see this whole new world now, to feel the truth of how we are all capable of loving beyond borders, to understand that everyone we meet, we are to help in some way.

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I can see this whole new world, now.

I can feel the care we take in treating our animals with respect and dignity, the cleanliness and wholeness of our foods, the honor of our natural wonders – the oceans, forests and the sacredness of our land.

I see a place where cooperation and compliments replaces competition; where love replaces fear.  In this space, we love ourselves and each other so deeply, that our addictions have nothing more to teach us.  That we give ourselves everything we never received, instead of looking for it from another.  That the one who was abused, neglected, judged and taken advantage of, is loved so deeply, there is no space left for blame.

A place where all our children are raised equally, fed and clothed.  One is not viewed as being better, for being stronger or smarter.  That we look at all of our children with how we can help them have the best experience they can, for they are the ones who are already living in this brand new world, and are here to help us see it for ourselves.

In this whole new world, we know that each time tragedy and terrorism strike, we look for the helpers.  And we keep our hearts open, so there is no more need for these atrocities as a reminder to love one another with reckless abandon.  We send love to everyone, even those we feel have wronged us.  We open our hearts to the person we see crying beside their car because her mother is dying.  To the child being bullied because of how he is different.  To the person in front of us in line at the post office because we have no idea of the suffering they have endured.

In this new world, the colors are brighter, the laughter is abundant.  We trust ourselves because we know that what we used to see out there – the hatred, lies, bigotry, racism – all the labels we used to place on ourselves and others, but have no place in our brand new world. We celebrate our differences.  We love our bodies, our minds and our hearts no matter what.

Will you take the first step within yourselves, your families and communities? Is it not time to come aboard this magic carpet ride? This is your invitation.

One one heart, one light, one person at a time.

This whole new world is already here.  We just need to open our eyes, and follow our hearts.

 

 

 

The Light of Darkness

How easy is it to love and feel good about a random act of kindness?  But what about extending our hearts to those that want to do us harm?  Those who open fire on innocent victims? Those that abuse, rape, and display actions of bigotry and hatred?  It is not easy to open our hearts in these times on our earth, but that is what is asked of us as human beings.  To love those that seem unloveable.  And if we start with our own hearts, our own transgressions, love ourselves no matter what, we can begin to change the world.

Loving our own hearts is like lighting a candle.   At first, we are all walking around in the dark, fumbling because we cannot see.   We hold our unlit candle tightly in our fist, gripping it with all we have.  For some of us, the wick is not visible and we need to peel back some layers of the candle. This takes patience.  When we have the candle with a wick, we need to find a match, a spark.  We need to seek out what inspires our passion, lights the fire in our bellies. We need to find the light in the darkness. In our search for a match, we somehow stumble upon the dimmest light at the other end of the darkened room.  While this may seem like a coincidence, it is our destiny dressed up as a random occurrence.

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Now, we are faced with a choice.  We can welcome another into our world, whose candle has already been lit. This is the quickest and most direct path in finding a way to light our own, or we can judge and turn away.  When we choose the help of another, we form a bond of unity that is stronger than each of us as individuals.

Now our candle is lit, yet, the room, feels dark still because the light of two candles does not illuminate such a vast space.  So we wander with our lit candle, often bumping into things and others whose candles are not lit.  We ask others if they want their candle lit, and when they say no, we continue on, sometimes wondering why we are carrying a lit candle at all.  We continue to bump and stumble and there is a tendency to give up, but then we suddenly are asked for a light.  We share our candle as we share our love.  And the more we help others light their candle, the more we notice that the room looks a bit brighter. For everyone whose candle is lit is sharing their light. Soon, if we are patient, the room begins to fully illuminate. Even those that did not want their candle lit, cannot resist the brightness, and ask for a light.  The more candles that are lit, the more we see the unlit ones still milling around in the dark. Yet it is hard to stay in the darkness with so much light surrounding us.  Those that candles are not yet lit will eventually ask for help, or leave the room.  Both is fine.  Both is divine.  Both is perfect.  This is how we find the light of darkness.

We have a choice everyday to turn away from those who need our love the most.  We have all come here to light our candles.  And to help others who cannot find theirs.  When we see an act of violence, do we want to retaliate?  Do we want to meet hatred with hatred, darkness with darkness?  Or do we offer our light to anyone who needs it?  Do we scorn those who are in such fear and pain or do we offer another way?  When we offer guidance without judgement, we light another’s candle.  When we help an elderly person across the street, we light their candle.  And yes, when we send compassion and love to those that hate, we light their candle.  Whether or not they accept it, their hatred fades, if only for a moment.

When faced with adversity, as what is happening across our planet, our light may flicker, and we may even wonder if it will burn out.  But it is not adversity that blows out our candles, it is the closing of our hearts.  An open heart will always shine brightly.