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Living the Questions
Greetings lovely one,
December is a time of reflection for me. I’ve been thinking about all of the things I didn’t do, while my heart is pleading to pause and be grateful for what is right in front of me. This has been a rough year, ya’ll. Yet, it has also been … productive and full of movement. You’ve journeyed along since I started writing these letters in 2020 while in seminary. What I’m not sure you’re aware of is that writing these letters was kind of a lifeline in some ways. I felt inspired by my fellow seminarians, for sure, and being around their energy and passion reminded me of other passionate social workers, creatives, and healers-turned-activists that I had encountered over the years. I had also been introduced to the works of Rainer Maria Rilke, most notably Prayers of a Young Poet. All of this prompted me to write letters of encouragement … sort of like a prayer for the people who inspired me to continue the good fight, so to speak.
However, the letter writing didn’t follow my intent the way I thought it would. While starting inspired, I kept struggling with deep seated feelings of not belonging. Though not a new struggle, it felt more acute in an academic setting during the start of the pandemic. I often drifted into thoughts that maybe I misheard my ministry call, or maybe I was only there so everyone else could better see themselves since they couldn’t possibly be as ill-fitted as me. And when those thoughts arose, I thought: Well, if I can’t be an amazing changemaker like them, maybe I can be a cheerleader. Maybe I should step aside and let awesome people do awesome things. My counter argument would eventually kick in and stir up memories of my past since I couldn’t refute what already happened, and that past said that I was, among many other things, a social service worker. I worked for organizations because I thought they wanted to be the change — and I wanted to be it with them, and had the battle scars to prove it … literally scars that will remain on my body for the rest of my life from working in the field, in direct care. I carried those scars and took that crap pay because I cared. I still care, sometimes naively so. And yet still, I’ve grown, I’ve learned, and I’ve changed.
The more I remembered, the more I was able to convince myself that I belonged if only on the edges, with all the other edge-dwellers in our queer colors and expressions. On the edges where we do our best to reclaim our identities in an existence that no longer asks for permission nor seeks validation from the powers that be doing the most to snuff out our little light that persistently wants to shine and shine. I played tug-of-war with myself and wrote these letters as a way to catch the breath I felt like I was constantly holding in to keep from imploding. Encouragement became, maybe we all need a space like this. A space that acknowledges that life is not so black and white, and doesn’t pretend to know the “right” way to be in the world or doing this changemaking work. Maybe the words do a bit of encouraging, and maybe they don’t, maybe you will resonate and maybe you won’t … take what you need and leave the rest. But if you’re still here, know that you’ve seen me through to the finish line of this project when I graduated in May and received my Apprenticeship completion certification earlier this month. And your reading and your emails (I do read them all) became a love letter response back to me — and for that I thank you.
Now that I’ve completed formal seminary training (future education unknown) does that mean these letters will stop coming your way? Well, no, it doesn’t feel like closing time. I think by allowing the writing to take a life of its own they became the love letters I wanted to send out. Love letters that came from the heart and not my heady intentions. And because love is … it wasn’t too surprising that a meaningful piece of my seminary experience came back around as I pondered so many questions about how to live, where to go next, what projects need focus, what effort do I have the capacity to give to. How exactly do we offer love to the people close to us who press the right buttons that send us spiraling — let alone the work we hope will change the world when we struggle with the same human struggles as anyone else?
“Live the questions” … the words like a whisper, echoing in my mind and settling in my gut. Live the doubts, the insecurities, the wondering what’s next, the change of plans, the pivots, the WTFs, the whys and how comes without trying to force answers. Answers may come, but I’ve sat around enough elders to know that most of the time, more questions come, and sometimes (with a little guidance) those questions are better because they are more informed and shaped by experience.
I am currently on holiday vacation so I’ve been watching musicals (just finished Matilda, the Musical) and such. I stumbled across Falsettos while watching something else and enjoyed the acting and many of the songs (I watched snippets of the 2016 Broadway revival before finding another version of the whole show). There’s this one song that I can’t help but to play over and over called “What Would I Do?” where the main character, Marvin, is singing to the memory of his recently deceased lover, Whizzer. There are some verses that gave me all the feelz (stirred my emotions) … lyrics that asked questions about regret, questions about loving, and the choices we make. But the opening line, “What would I do if I had not met you. Who would I blame my life on?” cut me deep, for reasons I’m not quite sure I can articulate just yet. But I will say this much….
Living the questions for me looks like recognizing the places inside my heart that want to blame everything and everybody for not being the answer I wanted, and in some cases needed them to be, and finding meaning in the ways I take that recognition and move towards healing and reconciliation. It looks like making small choices every day and letting go of the need to know that it’s the most perfect, wise choice that would somehow lead me to whatever it is I feel I’m owed in this lifetime — “Easy Street,” maybe? (Yes, that’s another musical reference.) Living the questions gives me permission to see the impermanence of the things I want to cling to, but can never fully possess because they are not mine to have or to hold captive to my fear of uncertainty. Living the questions looks like accountability for the decisions I’ve made that have added up to drastic life changes for better or worse while taking account of the systems I am born into so that when I begin to project onto myself the myths of said systems, I can seek refuge in the questions that beg me to join with others who question the myths of the systems, and use our gifts of curiosity and creativity to do something about it.
Peace, Love, and Wellness,
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What’s the Buzz? Here’s what’s happening
Available now: I’m a contributing writer to the latest edition of Illuminate — the only Bible study curriculum written by Friends (Quakers). Faith groups and communities all over the US and some in other countries will be using this study guide in December, January, and February. So can you! You can purchase a print or digital copy of Illuminate here: 1, 2 Corinthians; 1, 2 Thessalonians; The Early Church.
Ongoing I’m co-creating stigma-crushing, mental health awareness merch for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Wear your support!
Click the image below to go to the store.
Community Member Kudos
Do you have something coming up that you’d like me to share next month (a new creative work, a new service or program, looking to hire for a new position, etc.)? Email me so I can give you Kudos. First come, first featured. (This opportunity is for email subscribers only.)
Tales from the blog keepers
While it’s not something we didn’t already know … studies show female patients and people of color are more likely to have their symptoms dismissed by medical providers. So women are calling out “Medical Gaslighting.”
Burnout is not something that can be solved with a holiday or a few well-aimed life hacks. Part of the problem is the modern culture of trying to optimise every single area for maximum productivity. Here’s why Burnout is more a cultural issue than strictly a mental health one.
Muse of the month
I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet
(H/t to Jacinta White for reminding me of this quote.)
Blerd’s the word
If you’re a fan of Clone Wars and The Mandalorian, then you may be excited to learn that Rosario Dawson (who happened to play Mimi in the 2005 film adaptation of the musical, Rent) is supposed to be reprising her role as Ahsoka Tano in an upcoming 2023 miniseries:
(that isn’t a trailer but a showcase of what’s coming up on Disney+).