Monday, September 28, 2015

Do It For You

A few years ago I learned a very important lesson, I don't know how this lesson applies to anyone else, all I know is that this one concept revolutionize my life, and helped me find peace, and greater harmony in my relationships with others.

The realization was simply this, when I lived my life simply trying to meet the expectations of others, I was miserable, and resentful. Feeling like I was sacrificing huge chunks of myself to make everyone else happy at the cost of my own made it so even when I did good things, there was an unspoken weight of expectation that neither I nor the other person could live up to. My reasons and motivations for my actions shifted the responsibility of my decisions and actions to others, and off of myself, and created an expectation in my head, that by so doing I deserved to have other people make the same sacrifices for my benefit. Only, nothing was ever enough.

One day I made the decision to stop doing this, to take full responsibility for my decisions and actions, and to do them, even if they weren't fun or easy, because it was my choice to do so, regardless of how anyone else might feel about those decisions.

The result was that I was empowered within my own life, my destiny was in my hands. My limitations were mine to work with, in the way I saw fit, and my moral compass was my responsibility to myself to follow.

I'm not perfect in doing this, sometimes I still bow my moral compass to other people's expectations. I think maybe that's part of living in a society, you sometimes have to compromise a little, but when I do that now, I make that comprise on my own terms, no one owes me anything for my sacrifice, I do it regardless of what other people will reward me for it, and there fore I do not resent others for not living up to an end of the bargin I imagined on their behalf.

Something is very important about this process. I think, because for me it has allowed me to be happy, to give deeper love to others, to not put myself in positions I feel are harmful to me, but also has allowed me to meet people where they are without judging them for not meeting my expectations. My expectations have become geared for what I expect of me, not what I expect of everyone else, and my choices are what I expect of me, not what is expected by everyone else.

This small change has been very freeing for me, and though I cannot prescribe that everyone else should do the same, I am so happy that a small change in thinking has allowed me to reach a higher potential for myself, and not constrain myself to artificial limits, but to recognize what my real limits are, what they arent, and to be more patient with myself and others in their journey of becoming.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Power Of Hugs

When Affirmation's current President, Randall Thacker, tried to urge me to attend this year's Affirmation International Conference he got a lot of eye rolls and the question of "what is the point of your stupid conference that all my friends are wasting so much time, money, and energy on?"  His answer was simple, come and see.

So after a lot of persuasion I came, I saw, I conquered. And I came to the conclusion that it was worth every effort that had been expended and more.  I don't know that my words could ever adequately explain the experience, could ever describe in a way that your heart could truly understand what difference that conference can mean to LGBTQAI+/ SSA Mormons, and their families and their allies.

It was spiritually, emotionally and mentally strengthening. But I think the power of such moments are best explained with the most powerful of such moments, a hug of friendship that reaches from one soul to another soul and makes you feel safe, loved and accepted as you are and where you are.

I got a lot of really good hugs from really good friends at this conference. Honestly that was my favorite part. New friends, old friends, I was surrounded by friends, and everyone showed their friendship in bear hugs, nothing held back. I also loved the groups we got to be in and discuss our experiences, and the testimony meeting.

Those were also very powerful, but a lot of psychological research had been done on how important hugs are for people, and how we do not get enough of them in our day to day life. They can be very strengthening and empowering, and were. They were strengthening and empowering.

And because of that take away, I came home ready, prepared, and far more capable to strengthen and empower others. My best friend just lost a brother. Earlier this week I went to the viewing. For the first time in my life, I went to such an occasion understanding that I had no words that could really help, but I did have something that I could give to lighten that burden, to strengthen and empower my friend in a very, very difficult time. So I took the power of the best hug I got at the Affirmation conference, and I passed it on to my grieving friend, and we both felt strengthened by it.

I guess the point of this blog post is two-fold, 1- Affirmation’s annual conference is extremely important. I have no doubt it actually saves lives of a very vulnerable community and provides an opportunity for people to be their whole self, including their faith, where ever they may be with that, from True Blue Mormon to atheist with Mormon roots, it's a big tent, all are welcome, and all are loved.  I echo Randall’s words to me, if you are LGBTQAI/SSA and Mormon, or family of such an individual, Go and see why this is a thing.  If you are in California, there is a regional one coming up.

2. This is for everyone. Go find someone (in an appropriate time and place) and give them a big, big hug. Just stay there for a moment. We humans need that. We need more hugs.

Happy Friday everyone, you are loved.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Facebook Power

 Over the years, my opinions of my Facebook page, and what I allow to stay on my Facebook page have changed dramatically. Even who I allow to be my Facebook friends have changed dramatically. I thought I would share some of my current ways and views  of dealing with Facebook that helps me keep a good and balanced mental health and outlook.

 In years past, I had a hard time moderating my Facebook page. If someone commented on one of my posts and said something that was hurtful or harmful to myself or others, that was controversial or would possibly stir up drama, I let the post stand. I would try to jump in and say something to mitigate the effects, but this almost always resulted in things spiraling out of control and getting heated and mean very quickly. I am a peace maker, and though I support people expressing and holding a variety of ideas and opinions, I don't like contention and disrespect. This took a great toll on my mental healthy, this internal debate of allowing freedom of expression on a thread on my Facebook wall. I like hearing a variety of perspectives, and being open to new thoughts, I don't like peoples thoughts being silenced just because they are different from mine or another persons. How do we grow if we are not willing to hear another point of view?  However, too often if I allowed people to post controversial and upsetting things it became a shouting match where no one heard anyone else, and I walked away feeling yucky.

 Another area of potential problem with Facebook was who I chose to have as friends. Sometimes we interact with people quite well in real life, but online relationships and friendships can be very damaging to our real life relationships, especially if there is some hot button issue people disagree on fiercely.  Some people I was friends with on Facebook because we had a real life connection, but I found that that Facebook friendship, rather than enhancing my relationship was destroying it.  There are other people, I have met on Facebook through common interest groups, In real life we may struggle a bit to be face to face friends, perhaps our communication breaks down vocally vs in writing. I am an introvert and I am much better at written communication than vocal communication, and some people are the same. So there is a balance. But a very hard lesson for me to learn is that Facebook friends don't always need to be real life friends, and real life friends don't always need to be Facebook friends, and it is OK to set boundaries.

 I became the moderator of my Facebook page following the recent SCOTUS decision. It took something incredibly divisive, and personal for me to step back, and see the importance of being not me the friend, coworker, family member, church member or anything else personal in the running of my Facebook space.  When I made allowances for people to troll posts, and say hurtful things to one side or the other because they had this or that personal meaning in my life, It hurt me, and it hurt others personally. So I decided that Facebook is not real life. Facebook is Facebook, it is an on line forum, my page is my online forum. It is my duty to control the mood, tempo, and tone of my page. It is my duty to decided what is OK to post there and what is not. It is my duty to decided who is appropriate to participate in that space and who is not. It is my duty on my news feed to decided which friends it is a good idea for me to follow, and which ones I need to unfollow, hide, or minimize their appearance on my feed. Which friends I need to see daily, and which ones its best if I just check in on manually from time to time. There were also a few friends, real life friends, that I had to decide for the good of me, our friendship in real life, and my broader online community I was bringing to my page, that it was best if we had no Facebook involvement. This was not a reflection on our real life friendship, but was in fact to save our real life friendship.  Some people, for the good of my sanity, and our real life friendships needed to be unfriended or sometimes even blocked. This was a very difficult and painful decision to make, but it was the right one, and when I felt it necessary I communicated and explained this directly to the person in question.

 Another result of this Facebook moderating view is that I am now much more selective in who I choose to add as a friend on Facebook. If you send me a friend request, and we are friends in real life, and I don't add you, just know that its not because I don't want to be your real life friend, but I have judged it best for our friendship if we just don't go there with Facebook.  I also have become more careful in what I share as a public post, vs a friends only post vs only to a select group of my most trusted close and personal friends. This is important because some things in my life, such as this blog, or my voices of hope video, essays I have written for Affirmation, etc,  have perpetuated me and my personal life to a small circle public figure status. This means, sometimes my personal life becomes everyone's business.  Although I love sharing some things with everyone, for everyone's mutual benefit and for my benefit of being open, it is important to have boundaries, and some things are just not everyone's business, not matter how public your life becomes.  using the options afforded by Facebook, I have empowered myself to be able to determine what information I want to be public, what I want to be just between friends,  and what I want to hold to a more private level. Alternating those positions is a very helpful thing to do.

 There is no such thing as freedom of speech for anyone except myself on my Facebook page. I am the moderator. I have limits as well- set by Facebook. But it is my duty to myself, my mental health, and to my relationships online and IRL to determine what can and can not stay there. Sometimes this requires me to lovingly delete a comment on a thread before things spiral out of control, or before damage is done to myself emotionally, or to my other friends. Sometimes this means I need to unfollow, or hide certain things from my news feed, so we can still be friends, but maybe less involved friends.  Sometimes this requires I limit who sees what I write, this is also OK to do.  I think its important that we all feel empowered to manage and moderate our Facebook page. Finding a space for hearing others opinions and ideas is important to do in life. Its important to not get a one sided view of the world, however, is Facebook the appropriate place to get that view? Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. We need to use our best judgement to determine when is a safe and appropriate time on Facebook to do that, and when that can be potentially harmful. And then, we need to manage our own pages, not each others accordingly.  That is the determination I have come to in the past months. I cant, don't , and shouldn't control what you do on your Facebook page, and you shouldn't control mine. But I can and should empower myself to take control of my own page, my own news feed, my own friend lists, my own threads and make sure that the things posted are in accordance with my own personal values, and moral code. I am the one who moderates my own facebook page, I determine the environment that it will be. If I like debate, then I can have that, If I don't I have the power to stop it.

 The TL;DR of this is basically, you have the power to make your Facebook a safe space for you. You have the power to make it a safe space for your friends, you have the power to determine what will or wont be on your Facebook, and it is OK to set the boundaries necessary to do so in the way you deem to be most effective.  You have the power to create a healthy Facebook experience for yourself. I think if we did more of this, we would need breaks from Facebook a lot less often. Though I think occasionally those are still a good thing to do for everyone.