My upcoming marriage… and the debate it’s stuck in

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing the word “yes” come from the lips of the person I adore most. There was nothing fancy that happened. We didn’t walk on the beach or sit in a public place. Instead it honored everything I love about her – a night of conversation, with our favorite wine, in our home. It wasn’t planned (in fact I was planning for a few months from then) but I just felt it in my heart. The moment I had been trying to organize was happening organically and I went with it.

I’ve known for most of our relationship I wanted to marry her. She is easily the best person I’ve ever met and she makes me better every single day. Ask our friends and family, who truly know us, and they would tell you we’ve been on this road for a long time. But in that moment, with that ring hidden behind my back, my voice shook and my hands started to sweat. I was also not prepared for how deeply emotional it would be for me to hear her say “yes”. It was a powerful night and we kept it to ourselves until the next morning.

The next day it was so exciting for us to tell those closest to us. Having them celebrate through calls, texts, and hysterical emoji’s was just a blast. Joy filled us. We were the center of the universe, or at least in our little universe, for that day. To say we were on cloud nine would be such a limited way to describe it.

Unlike so many of our friends and family, however, our upcoming wedding still continues to have a word put in front of it. We can’t just have a marriage. People still continue to call it a gay marriage. And while we are more than blessed with those who are excited for our pending nuptials, not everyone joined the celebration. For me to list those people I think might be as cruel as their responses – so I won’t. I do, however, bring this topic up on purpose: we aren’t the only ones dealing with this.

People have asked me what I think about the gay marriage debate. First, I want to say I am grateful for it. I am grateful we are revisiting translations made centuries ago. I am grateful we are taking the time to truly understand what the context of words, poetry, and verses actually mean (especially to the culture and civilization It was being spoken to), rather than just claiming it as truth because someone told us to. I am humbled by the millions of people saying “no” to outcasting the lgbt community in the biblical, “Christian” world. I am excited to see more and more states acknowledge that all are created equally and all deserve the same rights as their neighbors. You see right now there are still states (and churches) that believe gender is what creates a good marriage and I am quite worried we’ve created a skeleton out of the contents of what was once deemed so sacred. Every day marriages are happening, without question, not because these two people will uphold their marriage, but because they are attracted to the opposite sex.

I am honored to be part this movement of change, but if I were honest, I also can’t wait until it’s over. I cannot wait until there is no more gay marriage, but just marriage. I cannot wait until we, as a society, are calling a marriage good because of the character that marriage displays – not the gender of the spouses.

Because here’s the thing: I am not planning a gay wedding, but a wedding. And I’m not looking forward to a gay marriage, but a marriage. My marriage is going to be incredible, exciting, challenging, and loving. And it will be all of these things because two people have dedicated themselves to each other. Two people have chosen monogamy, trust, and devotion. My marriage is going to be amazing and the gender of my spouse will have nothing to do with it.

The marriages I look up to are those that are filled with kindness, love, joy, patience, graciousness, loads of laughter, adventures, and strength. These are the characteristics I find myself always noticing in marriages I am honored to be around. Most specifically these are the things I hope to bring into my marriage. Just like I try to bring them in our lives every day. Far before I put a ring on it we were already doing life together. Now mind you I have many places I can grow for her and for us. I have the patience of a small child. I am constantly having to work on that. There are days I feel I can be more kind or less lazy. Sometimes I could give more and take less.

There are a dozen ways I could improve and now with a simple “yes” I get a life time of learning with the person I love. That, to me, is what marriage is all about. Finding someone you can grow and learn through life with. I will not always be the best, but I will always try my best for her. I will not always get it right: there will be days I get annoyed and there will be days I am annoying. There will be days where she has to be patient for both of us and others where I move us into action. We will go through hard times, simple times, powerful times, exciting times, and just every day times. And that excites me because all I want is to spend all the time God gives me, on this earth, with her.

Whatever angle you find yourself on – whether you have an upcoming wedding or a loved one has one or just a random person on Facebook you don’t really talk to has one – I just want to remind you of one thing. Gender has nothing to do with the success of a marriage. But love, joy, happiness, humility, graciousness, and kindness? Those do. And every human has the ability to bring or remove those things from the vows that they give.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Advice to those who are marrying (or married or dating) but are feeling some backlash: Be happy. This doesn’t mean every day will be easy. You deserve to be unconditionally loved and I am so sorry that someone has told you their love is conditional. I am so, so deeply sorry. That pain is not ok and that pain is not small. I understand that myself and I watch people I love go through that as well. Inside that, however, stay true to your core. Do not let that pain sway you into a world of darkness. Shadows are not your friends but just outlines of a life you shouldn’t have to fake. Stay true to you. Love who you love. This is your life. Be mindful who you invite into your marriage (ANY MARRIAGE) and who you allow to influence your decisions. You are amazing. You are beautiful (handsome) and wonderful. As you are. And you deserve to have the story of your dreams. Live it. It doesn’t matter who you are there will always be dragons to slay and now you have a partner to slay them with you. Lucky, lucky you. Cherish that. Nurture that.

Advice to those who may be part of the backlash: Your words matter – be careful. If what you are trying to do is understand while going through your own junk I first want to say thank you. So many of us are better off because of those who were willing to adjust their views – but your words still matter. Be wise and be willing to listen to actually hear what is being said… not just so you can talk again.

However if you are lashing out with cruel words and judgment please realize that isn’t going to help anyone. You will not only damage the person you supposedly love but you may also end up pushing them away or by default deleting them from your life. Demanding your own views onto someone else is a very unhappy way to live because in most cases it leaves you very, very alone. And I don’t want you alone just as much as I don’t want someone damaged by words. Be willing to step back and see if maybe it is you who needs to move not the other person.

Advice to those in between: Your words matter too. If you have a loved one where you don’t care who they love but others do… they need you. And they are sure as heck lucky to have you. The world is a kinder place for that person because you are in it. You allow them to be fully loved in your presence and if ever you’ve had that taken away from you… well… you know how precious such a feeling truly is. You are in a very unique position because your words may actually be the most influence of all. Not many people realize that, that those in the middle actually are often the ones moving mountains in the lives of those they love. I repeat: Your words matter. In the moments you wonder, “Should I say something?”, you probably should. Your support is everything and anything you can do to continue that will heal more than you know. In fact if I could say anything to you it would be… thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And please… please don’t stop being you.

Shake it off – It’s your story, not their story.

I broke the school record for Women’s Long Jump when I was 14 years old. I wish I could say I had been anticipating the moment or that I had trained hard for it. I didn’t. There wasn’t anything crazy that happened afterwards either.

I lined up at my spot during our conference tournament, took a deep breath, and just ran as fast as I could. The only thing I thought about was hitting the line and making the jump. It was just that simple. In long jump you get three jumps and with my first one I broke the record. My next jump fell just short and my third jump tied it again. Many told me it was clear to see I had a track career in my future – maybe if I trained hard enough a college scholarship.

When I broke the record I ran over to the fence that surrounded the track and hugged my mom. Because long jump was relatively early on in the track program meant she would have left work early to make sure to see me. The picture that was taken of her and I that day I still have, fourteen years later, in my nightstand. As a teen I liked the picture because I thought my mom looked pretty and my smile looked nice. As an adult I like the simplicity the photo represents – the life my mom worked so hard to make sure we had.

The next year I trained and to be honest I overthought. I never broke my own record and by Senior Year of High School I stopped running track all together. The girl who broke the record couldn’t even finish out her high school career. What used to be a place of freedom for me, where I could run wildly and fly into the sand, became a place of overthinking and self-consciousness.

Why does that happen so often?

Why does the transition from childhood to adulthood reflect the same thing my track “career” reflected?

Why does the glamour and glitter of a free spirit get replaced with the belief we must carry the burden of people’s opinions of us and call them truth?

This self-consciousness and overbearing weight would walk with me most of my life. Let’s be serious it wasn’t just track – it was everything. In high school, if not sooner, you become acutely aware of what’s in, what’s out, and what you don’t want to be. Rather than keeping up with the Jones it’s more about not being THAT guy. You don’t need to be number one you just don’t want to be last.

“As long as I’m better than THAT person I’m ok.”

Most people survive it, get to college, and then begin to allow themselves to let go and learn who they really are outside the fences they grew up in.  Some people, however, don’t grow outside of that mindset. They set off to understand who “THAT” is and grow entire principles and theologies against them. Race Wars. LGBT Outcasting. Sexual Slander at women. Disgusting immigration malice. That part of the company against this part of the company. Fat Jokes.Them verses us. I don’t see it as color verses another color or straight verses gay or man verses woman or legal verses illegal. I see it as human verses human.

These are human beings, breaking down humans beings, to be better than “THAT” human being.

When I’ve said this before people think I’m being too simplistic. But strip back the speeches full of fluff and hate … and you find humans hurting other humans. So yes simple but in a raw, ugly, painful kind of way.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. The side I landed on. Those who carried around those opinions as if they were truth cemented as their identity. The one who could no longer jump freely because the heaviness of being wrong or broken or simply not enough felt overwhelming.

Isn’t that the meat of it all? We just want to be enough. We just want to know we matter. That our story is worth reading… to somebody. And not in the way that pages will be torn out and plastered for those to ridicule and snarl at. But in a way that maybe someone feels hope or inspiration or just… kindness towards us.

So the story that could have been written begins to type out in invisible ink. The fear of rejection, cruelty, and abandonment strips us of the author pen. I don’t mean to dismiss God – I know he’s out there and watching me every day. I also know that we are meant to be active participants in our stories and when we hand over our story for someone else to write we rob ourselves of the two things everyone was created to experience.

Happiness. Worthiness.

The critics aren’t going to go away. Where there are people still needing to be better than THAT guy and opinions who can only see so far, there will be ridicule. What I’m trying to say is living out your story, your TRUE STORY, isn’t easy. Most of the time it’s a series of hard choices, moments of doubt, and sometimes even guilt. Yes guilt. Guilt of removing the bondage of someone else’s opinion of us. Opinion isn’t fact and letting someone else decide who you are isn’t the way to live.To be pretty brutally honest even if you do live exactly how someone wants you to that doesn’t mean they won’t find the next thing to pick at. Critics will always be critics and to a lot of us that is  a scary thing.

With those scary moments, though, there is also freedom. A freedom I cannot give you in real words. A freedom that almost feels mystical because so many of us are so far from it.

Some people would rather live in the comfort of being hidden and less because it feels safer. Don’t be that person. Who you are matters. That is my daily, hourly, moment by moment mantra. It is tattooed on my heart and before I die I hope to tattoo it on the hearts of as many people as possible.

Be you. Be whole. Say no when no is appropriate. Stand up and push back with grace and humility when someone tells you that you are less. Break down hate with the reciprocation of compassion. When people throw punches it may bruise from time to time but don’t you dare let it scar. You are more than the opinions of others. You hold more value than the depths of their wounds.

Day by day we have to remove the weights wrapped around our ankles and stop drowning in the opinions of others. Critics are going to be critics. Haters are going to be haters. Or in the words of T. Swift “The Haters gonna hate, hate, hate… Shake it off, Shake it off.”

The fact of the matter is people are miserable out there – but you don’t have to be one of them. Changing takes courage. It takes the willingness to go against the current. Some days it will be liberating and other days it will be exhausting but it will always be a worthy cause because it’s your cause. Your life. Your story. We either go out there and write our story or we live the narrative someone else puts together for us.

Critics will always be critics. It’s not your job to change them because it’s not your choice – it’s theirs. You want a chance at improving people’s perceptions? Go out and live a life that makes them watch (even if they don’t want admit it). A life of Wholeness. Happiness. Worthiness. Grace for others and yourself. Take a risk on yourself.  Surround yourself with a few really great people who actually want you happy and lean on their advice. Don’t depend on the advice of those who are only around or positive when it’s about meeting their needs. Remember false guilt should never be a motivator. Stop chasing past expectations and start dreaming of new horizons. Let it scare you a little – that means it matters. Be proud of who you are even if that means you are a work in progress.

Want to know how to get started? Be you… and see where that takes you. I bet it’s pretty freaking amazing.

Rae

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/DesiraeSchneider

Wounds are like shadows on our spirits

“You know, your hands can tell people if you are gay or straight”

It was a conversation started at the lunch table. I tucked my hands tightly under my legs pretending I was a bit chilled. I had no idea what she was going to say next, but I did not want my hands to be on display while she said it. Some of the girls didn’t believe her, some asked what she was going to say, and as a person always desiring to be the center of attention, she continued with or without the interest of the whole table.

“Let me show you,” she said.

She asked one of our friends to simply look at her own nails. Apparently, it was decided based on how you look at your nails; whether you turned your hand inward and curled your fingers OR you turned your hand outward and flat, determined your sexuality. The logic of fourteen year olds…

Regardless of how painfully silly such a comment and thought could be, it was just another reason I felt myself confused in an environment unwilling to be anything but small town, conservative USA. I was so grateful I wasn’t asked because I would have failed. I never cared about nails and furthermore, I shamefully chew them (even now) when I am nervous or thinking. So had I been asked, I would have curled my fingers toward me and looked at them.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe my sexuality was determined by this irrational “logic” of how I looked at my nails as a fourteen year old. But it walked with me. I actually went home and began practicing looking at my nails the so-called “correct” way. I’d never do it wrong again in public. Despite how irrational it was, it was my reality. It was my world. It was my new wound.

I think a lot of us look at thoughts or emotions and believe they don’t matter because they are as irrational as my fear of looking at my nails incorrectly. But if they are how you feel, regardless if it’s rational or not, they do matter. You can be utterly understanding of the irrationality you are feeling and still be fully loved inside that irrationality. Having feelings to process is never the problem. Never. Do you hear me? Your emotions are never a problem. The problem is when we take that irrationality out on those that care for us, or project them onto someone like they are guilty of a crime they never committed. That’s when it gets out of hand.

Never believe your emotions aren’t ok.

Never let someone say your value is less because your vision is unclear.

Part of finding ourselves and coming into our own is going through all emotions – the good, the bad, and yes, maybe even the crazy. I truly believe part of the reason my journey has been emotionally hard is because I felt like I was not allowed to feel. I felt like I had to be perfectly put together and empty of emotions. When I experienced jealously over my friends so easily falling for guys or when it was physically taxing for me to pretend, I had convinced myself I wasn’t allowed to hurt. I told myself I was being irrational. I believed feeling those things was acknowledging I was weak and that I was incapable of taking care of myself.  I punished myself by creating a void inside me. I called myself strong, but really I was just barren.

There are a hundred different ways people do this to themselves (and others) every day. Some people carry a wound so deeply everywhere they go, it affects every word that comes from inside their mouth. I believe, more than I can express in words, that we often carry wounds far longer than we should because we never allowed ourselves to actually feel them. We say the hurt, or the mistake, or the break up, or the abuse, or the cruelty, or the bad joke, or the shitty comment towards us was our fault, our bad karma, or something we had coming to us.

That is so not the case.

And even if there was a small chance you helped create the hurt that took a swing at your heart, it never ever means you aren’t allowed to feel it.  In fact, in many ways, you are feeding that evil or hurt by allowing it to fester. Wounds are like shadows on our spirits. If you don’t pour light on them, if you don’t expose them, and feel them, and allow them to heal they will remain…lurking… always threatening to invade beautiful moments.

Today’s confession is:I used to be a walking example of festering wounds and broken promises. I used to believe I could fix myself by voiding myself of real emotion and dodging the ability to get hurt. In many ways, this is a participant in what created the commit-a-phobia that lurks around the outskirts of my heart. I used to believe the absence of feelings was rational, but I realize it is arrogant. I was arrogant to believe I was bigger and better than that. Eventually it caught up to me. I broke. And that break was the best thing that could have happened to me. That break saved me.

You don’t have to walk through this alone; you don’t have to pretend you don’t feel. Write poetry, find a journal, grab a friend, or seek a counselor. Do whatever you need to do, but please don’t create a void that will take years to heal. I promise it’s not worth it.

 

Book Post Confession #17 – Order your copy today! http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/DesiraeSchneider

“How can you justify being a lesbian to God?”

Book Confession #5

 

When I realized I was attracted to another female for the first time, I was scared out of my mind. I was also young enough to be intrigued and somehow even gutsy enough to make a move, but in the light of day and in the movements of my daily existence, the “natural” response I had was to lie; to put on a mask and pretend that intense feeling in the gut of my stomach didn’t exist.

And this “natural” response grew and matured as life aged me. My ability to play make believe only excelled as I grew older. While others grew out of it and grew into the life they were meant to live, my fantasy world was “real” life. My expressions and emotions became as plastic as they were practiced. I was numb on the outside because I told myself I wasn’t allowed to feel on the inside.

I have this question plaguing my thoughts,

“Why was it easier to lie?”

It was easier to lie because the family consequences were great. It was easier to lie because frankly that’s how I was going to survive. Even in the mid-90’s when I hit puberty and found myself to be another casualty of the middle-school awkward phase, I knew that the secret planted deep inside me could not take root and flourish. I had to continue to keep it in check by trimming away feelings and expression in order to remain as barren as possible. It would be the only way I would blend in and survive.

This is the message of my childhood and adolescence years that I’ve carried into adulthood… that life is about surviving. No wonder I’ve gone through deep waves of depression in adulthood. No wonder I have times where I have no idea who I am, or what I’m doing, or where I’m going. I’ve been living as a shell of a human being, depriving myself of real emotion and connection.

I got a DM on twitter the other day wondering (very kindly I might add) how I could justify being a lesbian to God. And I’d love to answer that here today. There are hundreds of misconceptions about Christians – some created outside the faith, but most created inside. There is this blind assumption that once we are Christians struggle and hardship deplete – that’s just not the case. But what is the case for me and hundreds out there like me, is that in the midst of my struggle I had a rock to hold onto.

God pours His grace on me hourly every day and calls me loved regardless of anything and everything. It is in that understanding of love and grace (that I have not earned, yet am loved without limit anyway) that has allowed me to be more open with who I am. And that’s how I justify being a lesbian to God…. I simply don’t have to justify it at all. God doesn’t call me to be perfect, straight, plastic, and without free will. God calls me to be me and He calls me His, regardless of my criteria.

I think it was easier for me to lie, and it’s easier for so many of us to lie, because that’s what we believe we have to do to belong. We want to be included. We want to have worth. We want to be seen. And if whatever we say could damage that, could take away our belonging, or value, or whatever it is, it terrifies us. And we protect this “belonging” no matter how broken it may be.

What I’ve come to realize (and my faith has deeply helped me in this) is that I want to belong in a real way. I want to have real worth and real value, and I want to be seen and heard for who I really am. I don’t want to be a half person and I don’t want to belong by the standards of other people. That’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m growing a voice.

Today’s confession is: my entire life I’ve merely just survived and called it “belonging”. I’ve fought my whole life to be accepted as a half person. I’ve worked myself into depression, exhaustion, and heartache in order to belong to something that rejects most of my secrets. I want my life message to change. I want my worth to come from who I am fully, not what part I can play well. I no longer want to survive a plastic belonging, but I want to find and even help create a belonging that is whole and real. Everyone deserves to belong…

———————————-
Order the book today! http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/DesiraeSchneider

Please like my author Facebook page. Each like helps get the message out. That everyone matters – and their story essential. No one is alone. http://www.facebook.com/mysilenthalfproject