Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day

Well, it's finally time for a three day weekend where I don't have to use a vacation day. I am, of course, heading to Denver for the extended weekend. As always, may thanks are due to the Rev for watching the puppies. And a shout out to my new lawn boy, Squid. (She's already the house boy, but agreed to take on additional responsibilities for a bump in pay. ;) The pool is due to open this weekend, and there are literally thousands of queers in Denver this weekend for tournaments, meetings, and conferences (oh, my!): volleyball, square dancing, rodeo, darts, and more! I've been looking forward to the start of pool season in Denver, as it signals the start of summer for me. Let the good times roll, as they say!

Memorial Day is also something more to me. For many, it's a time to remember the men and women who defend our country and keep us safe by serving in the military. A chance to remember those who have fallen. I do that today. I think about the many relatives (two uncles, my father, grandparents, cousins...) who have served with honor and distinction. I think about those in Iraq or Afghanistan, and hope they are safe. I mourn for every life lost...and not just American lives, for the record.

I also think about the men and women who are serving in silence because they are GLBT. I think about the almost 60 Arabic translators who've been fired recently because they were "caught" and "discovered" as queer. I think about C and Kate, who've given their whole lives to service. I think about Tim, who was prepared to do the same, but was discharged because of who he loves. And it angers me. There are thousands of GLBT Americans who are willing to put their lives on the line for this country and her citizens. Yet they are told "no" because they might disrupt "unit cohesion." It seems so pointless and discriminatory to me.

Memorial Day is also about remembering all those who have departed this spinning ball of rock. Mom. Matt. Uncle Ed. Each of them touched lives in their own way. They left their mark on the world, and certainly the people around them. I believe that so much of us is made up of our experiences and the people with whom we surround ourselves. They are all a part of me. Though they have passed, they are not gone by any stretch of the imagination. They live on in the stories we share about their lives. They live in the love we hold for them, and the space we will always keep for them in our hearts.

So today, I pause for a moment to simply remember. And say thank you to those who have gone before. Who have taught me. Changed me. Supported me. Inspired me. I say thank you to the Universe for bringing them into my life and teaching me that they will never truly leave my life. And thank you for the people who are still here with us today. May we learn even more and meet many more amazing people.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. - From a headstone in Ireland

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Farewell to Falwell

The Universe sent me a message today. Kristen needed a copy of her resume from her computer. When I opened her IE to send the email, her home page (MSNBC) popped up, and I read that Jerry Falwell had been found unconscious. I followed the story for the next hour, when I read this:

Well, a shortened version, as it was the very first report that he had, in fact, died. I didn't feel sad. But I also didn't feel glad. I just pretty much didn't feel anything. Other than a sense that this is very important news and I should tell people. A few text messages and IM's informed the folks I figured would know who he is and care enough to not to say "So why are you telling me?"

I had a few responses. Jerry. Greg. Linus. Nobody else seemed sad either. Odd that. And then Jess sent me this:

I freely admit I smirked. Then giggled. And I didn't feel guilty about it, either. I also read the first 6 pages of comments about the post. They were interesting, for certain. And it raised the question in my mind: Did it make me a bad person that I found a joke about someone's death amusing, if not funny? Jaded? Bitter? And I didn't have an answer. Surely it's not right to laugh at a person's death. I don't wish pain on him, and even as I write this I hope it was swift and peaceful. I've witnessed an ugly death, and don't have enough hate in my heart to wish that even on Phelps, whom I consider to be one of the most evil and foul people I've ever encountered. I was simple at loss for an answer.

But here's what I do know. I know he claimed the Anti-Christ was a male Jew who was already alive. (He later apologized for the remark...not the belief.) I know at one of the most painful times in our country's history, he had the gaul to call it God's wrath. And to blame "homosexuals and feminists" and "abortionists." For September 11th. (He later apologized. Again...for the remark.) I know queer people who were kicked out of their homes because of his words and actions. Their churches. I know of others who tried to kill themselves. And some who succeeded. I know how much pain he has caused, and some of it is my own.

I admit much of the pain was caused by him only indirectly. He didn't directly tell me to hate myself. But he told people who told people, and they told people, and so on. And someone told my mother. And my Pastor. And most of my teachers. And firends. I truly believe that much of it was unintentional. I do NOT believe that he WANTS us to kill ourselves. I don't believe he WANTS us to be homeless. I don't believe he WANTS us to be beaten. Or murdered. I think he just doesn't want us to BE. At the very least, he wants us to be something other than we are.

All I wanted for you in life was enlightenment, Jerry. My beliefs tell me that you now have that. So I forgive you. Now please do what you can to help us fix it. I'll keep trying too. Peace to you.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I hate goodbyes

The end of any semester will cause increased stress at a college or university. Final exams, papers, presentation, group projects... But the end of a Spring semester brings with it a special kind of bittersweet stress: the goodbye. Working at UW for the last umpteen years hasn't made it any easier.

I have watching people come and go. Countless friends have left town to begin their own "grown-up" lives. To start careers. To travel around the world. To join the Peace Corps. To get married. For whatever reason, people leave. It's the nature of the beast at institutions of higher learning. And it's always hard on people, myself included. This year is another tough one.

One of the biggest perks I enjoy is watching students grow and develop during their time here. Who knows...I may have even helped one or two of them do so. ;) They grow up right before my eyes. They find passion, they become involved, they learn, they speak up. I've watched Travis graduate twice now. He became a leader on campus, and helped secure the future of many groups on campus. Scotty used to look down his nose at "the rainbow queers" who were "in your face" and "pushy." Then he joined the Spectrum board, AIDS Walk, and is looking at a career helping AIDS patients. Keith was one of Travis' "straight" friends. Now he's come out to his parents and helped coordinate some amazing queer events on campus. But now it's time for Travis to become a lawyer, Scotty a personal trainer, and Keith a full-time nerd at the AHC. It's the way it needs to be. We all have to continue to "become."

They also become family. That's what really makes the leaving so difficult. I'll miss the random phone calls to meet someone for a martini at Tommy Jacks or a fishbowl at Mingles. I'll miss bottles of wine and our favorite TV show. I'll miss planning events and wondering how in the world we're gonna pull something off. I'll miss lunches at Sweet Melissa's or listening to a friend at Jefferey's. I'll miss seeing people on a regular basis. Miss the ability to get together randomly on a moment's notice when one of us has had a bad day...or needs to celebrate. Seeing Kristen at the Cowboy. Hearing Scotty's laugh in the office.

The logical part of my brain tells me that leaving doesn't always mean an end. Phones exist. Most folks aren't moving across the continent, but it sure as hell feels that way. I travel. They can travel too. Visits are possible. But I'm not sure I'm ready for things to change. AGAIN. And the logical part of my brain isn't really in control right now. It's my heart, which is once again aching at the thought of people drifting out of my life, even if it's slowly. There are so many who have left before, and we talk once or twice a year. We email once in a blue moon. When we do, we still feel that connection, that link. The family-ness. But it's different. Disconnected somehow, or at least strained. When we catch up, it's the guilt you feel for not knowing or being there when something bad happened. It's the disappointment for not being there to celebrate and share in the good times. For me, it's mostly about not having a part of my everyday life that I've come to depend on.

I don't have an answer for you all today, or even any sage wisdom. I'm feeling at a loss this time of year, as I always do. Amazing people moving on, and moving forward, is a good thing. But it still hurts. And then again, maybe that IS wisdom. Let it hurt a little. Be a little sad. Be a little worried. The pain and the fear of loss is a reminder to hold on to what you have. And a sign that you've been doing something right. Otherwise it wouldn't hurt so much when good people leave.

I love you with all my heart.