Free to Be. You and Me: 10 Lessons from Pride

We were fortunate enough to be in San Francisco for the Pride festivities this year. ‘SF’ (as the locals call it) is the birthplace of Pride for the LGBT community and as you can imagine, they do it up BIG. It seemed like the entire city was out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather, the endless festivities, and the freedom to just be. Here are some of the things I learned at Pride.

  1. Unicycles and stilts are super impressive.  It takes a lot of talent to be able to keep your balance in such an unbalanced situation. This community likely understands that more than most.
  2. IMG_6133Costumes are fun. It really doesn’t matter what the costume is or what the occasion, it’s fun to dress up in something you wouldn’t normally wear. Surprise people, impress them with your creativity, or maybe just confuse them….regardless, they are fun and we should all do it now and then.
  3. Dogs unify. They bring people together in ways that nothing else can and they teach us a lot about loving others in a truly unconditional way. What you wear, who you love, where you work, or how you talk doesn’t matter much to a dog. They love you and are happy to be with you and walk beside you, wherever you’ll take them. They’ll also help you make friends….they’ve reached ‘pro’ status at that.
  4. IMG_6096Amidst the chaos, stick together. Some situations feel out of control at times. Out of control can feel scary…a sea of chaos waiting to gobble you up. This can happen whether you’re among jubilant revelers or on any given Tuesday in your day-to-day life. Stay together. Hold on to each other if you need to. Connection to your loved ones makes all the difference.
  5. Skin. You can show off a lot of it and still not get arrested, especially if you keep the critical parts covered.
  6. IMG_6142Some people really know how to level up. It’s impressive, for sure. It doesn’t have to be anything you would do or anything you even understand to appreciate the level of thought, dedication, and spirit someone puts into what they’re doing.
  7. Find your tribe.  They’re out there, I promise. There is a lot of societal pressure to fit in with norms and standards. It’s hard to feel like an outsider and to think that no one understands you. Regardless of what you like to do, how you like to act, or who you are at your core, your people are out there somewhere. Find them. You need them and they need you.
  8. Variety is the spice of life. A varied diet of food and activity is good for the body. A varied diet of people is good for the mind. A varied diet of experiences is good for the soul. Seek variety.
  9. humanWe are all humans. We are all unique and different in spectacular ways. We spend so much time pointing out how different we are and, sometimes, fearing those differences; but, take a step back and look again. Underneath it all, we are basically the same. We want the same things: love, safety, encouragement, joy, accomplishment, value, freedom. Maya Angelou said it best: ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike’. This is from her poem Human Family and I encourage you to take a moment to take in her wise words.
  10. Freedom. This was the overarching gist of Pride. I felt it the whole time. People celebrating with joy this freedom of just being whoever they wanted to be in that moment. Maybe that’s something you are fortunate enough to experience everyday but please know and acknowledge that not everyone does. There are so many people who don’t show the world who they are for fear of rejection. For fear they will lose their families. For fear they will lose their friends. For fear they will lose their jobs. For fear they will lose their homes. The list of fears likely goes on as long as the list of people who battle them. I was honored to take part in celebrating freedom from fear. A song I had long since forgotten from my childhood kept running through my head: Margo Thomas’ “Free to Be…You and Me”. The song was originally written for children. The purpose was to discount common myths of the roles of men and women in society. It still applies today, in many different ways. Some of the lyrics:

Take my hand, come with me where the children are free

And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be you and me

You be you and I’ll be me. We’ve tried fear; it doesn’t work. Let’s try this and see what happens. Be you, always.

Happy Pride, friends.

Simple Abundance

Simple abundance seems to be a way of finding beauty, nourishment, and contentment from what you already have. Most people (especially in America but maybe other places also experience this) think we need way more than what we do. There is a pervasive, underlying understanding in our culture that acquisition is important….and something by which we should measure success. Acquisition of things is valued above many (most?) other things. So much so that we seem to lose the desire for something as soon as it’s obtained…..forgetting what we even have because we’ve stored it away.

Simple abundance reminds us to look around…..realize that you likely already have what you need; to focus your energy on enjoying what you have, instead of what you don’t have. Find the value and enjoyment in what is around you: things, people, nature, time, activities, aromas, sounds, feels, etc. When you bring your awareness to all the abundance of what you already get to experience every single day (even sometimes the sucky stuff), you won’t have as much time to think about what is missing from your life.

There are times in your life when you have a car that works, and times when you don’t. Times when your house shelters and protects you, and times when it does not. Times when you’re on a strict spending budget, and times when you have a little wiggle room. Times when you have the love of friends and family surrounding you, and times when you feel secluded. Times when you love your work, and times when you despise it. Times of too much busy-ness, and times of too much quiet. There are times when you feel your cup runneth over, and times when you experience deep loss. Times when everything is stable, and all seems right in your world, and times when your world gets rocked. Times when you have it all covered, and times when you need help from your tribe.

It is the ebb and flow of life. In any given time, for most of us, one thing that is consistent is ABUNDANCE. It’s there if you look for it.

Stop. Notice. Soak it all in.

My God Box

A few years ago, I read a lot by author Anne Lamott. She is a lovely human who has had many struggles over the years and who bravely, comically, and candidly shares her heart and her experiences through her writings. She shared that she has a God Box – something she turns to when she has no idea what to do with a situation in her life. When she’s done all she can to fix or help or soften and she hasn’t got where or what she wants, she writes the problem down on a piece of paper and puts it in her God Box.  It’s her way of turning it over to someone or something that can handle it when she no longer can. It allows her worry to lessen or disappear and it recognizes, in a very physical way, that there are many things (all things?) that are very much so out of our own control. Not everything in life can be fixed to your own liking solely through hard work and perseverance. Some things need divine intervention and even then won’t always have the outcome you hoped for. It’s a lessen that is learned more easily in theory, in our minds, in our logical thinking….but much harder to embody when it’s something that is close to our hearts.

Over the past few years, I’ve turned to my God Box (GB) so many times.  My GB is a beautiful stained glass box that one of the kids, or maybe even one of their friends, made in high school. Often, it was through tears that I wrote my concerns down, folded them up, held them in prayer, and then put them in the box. As it did for Lamott, this ritual allowed me to let go…the physical act of turning my problem over to a power that is beyond my comprehension allowed me to release being consumed with concern. It didn’t mean that I stopped caring…just that I had turned my concern into faith. I had blatantly made the statement that I recognized I didn’t have control of the outcome and put my energy toward having faith that it would work out. It took the power away from the concern…it took power away from the fear. It freed my energy up for the work that I could have impact on…the things I did have a plan for. The things that actually needed my energy at the time.

The 8-limbed path of yoga has a practice called Isvara Pranidhana. That is a Sanskrit phrase or term that translates to surrender and devotion to a higher power. Deborah Adele writes “Isvara Pranidhana, the jewel of surrender, presupposes that there is a divine force at work in our lives.” As in the ancient yogic principles, we see this faith in many (all?) formal religions. Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  We do not know our paths or have the control we think we do and there is a peace that comes with that recognition.

fullsizerender-6-editedToday, I opened my GB and one by one, I read the concerns I had deposited. As I read them, I relived them for a moment, and then burned them symbolizing their passing as a concern of mine. Most of what was in there has worked itself out in one way or the other. Not always in the manner I would have wanted….not always without hardship and heartbreak. But one way or the other, the concerns have passed. We have come out on the other side of them and we are fine. Perhaps there were important lessons learned because of the heartbreak…perhaps the result of the situation was just what someone else needed or needed to learn. I continue to have faith, even when I don’t understand. This ritual of burning my worries and concerns was a great reminder of the life I’ve lived over the past several months. It was a reminder that I’ve been blessed with people, situations, struggles, joys of which I cared deeply. I’m honored to have had these gifts to pour my heart and soul into. I continue to pray and have faith for those things that are still working themselves out. I’m encouraged that what remains of my concern is just a small pile of ash and that my GB sits empty for now. I take all of this with me into the new year.fullsizerender-5

My wish for you in the new year is that you find your own ways of cultivating your faith. May you be reminded of that which you cared most deeply about. May you more quickly recognize when to surrender. May you find peace in the surrender.

~~Namaste – the light-love-divinity that is within me is also in you~~