Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

What your “No” campaign really says to a Queer Christian

I didn’t think this plebiscite (postal vote) would bother me personally. I didn’t think it’d hit me emotionally in a personal way. I’ve been (and am) so fearful for those who are closeted, or unsupported, or children, or people of faith… Why?

All the lies and unrelated anti-Queer campaign material aside, do you know what your “Support Traditional Marriage” signs and message say to a queer person? Especially a Christian one?

From this side they read:

  • “You are not okay” and
  • “You are not welcome here.”

They say “there is something wrong with you”, they say “you are a threat to our society”, they say “you are a danger to our children”, and they also say “you are going to hell.”

Some in the “no” camp believe all of the above. Others literally just want to protect their understanding of “traditional” marriage.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter to the Queer person reading it or hearing it – to us they all say “you are not okay.”

If it is a kick in the guts and a trigger for shame to me – an accepted, supported, out and loved Queer person – what impact is it having on that closeted Queer fifteen year old in your congregation?

Being queer is hard. Being Christian can be hard. Being a Queer Christian or person of faith? That can be a NIGHTMARE.

Careful with your words. 

Have your vote, vote as you see fit, but please, for the love of all that will see or hear them, please be careful with your words.

And for those who are Queer and a person of faith? You are okay. You are loved. You are not a threat to society, and you are not going to hell. Your existence is as natural and acceptable as any non-Queer person, and you should be allowed to marry one day should you so desire. Despite what’s being said, Christians (nor Jews) invented marriage and they do not have sole ownership over such unions or covenants. 

Peace be with you all.

Johansen X

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Taking control (social media)

I’ve written about paring down on social media previously, but I’m finding that it is something that periodically needs re-visiting.

Since starting to use “Facebook without friends” (enjoying articles and select pages, but not using it for connecting with friends) about 10 months ago, things have been much better. I have no regrets, despite the decrease in the number of people I communicate with regularly. Quality over quantity and all that, along with the fact that it is exhausting attempting to maintain so many connections and the constant influx of information was incredibly overwhelming. Unlike many others, I’m not a twitter or Instagram (what else is there? Are there others now?) person. I had less to detach from.

After removing the web browser from my phone (with discomfort but a profound sense of freedom) as well as “work” related e-mails, I did slip back somewhat. The browser crept back, the e-mail crept back in. Checking and searching slowly increased again, even if I didn’t actually spend much time at all when checking. My small amount of online shopping also became less contained in regards to when and where I did it. In addition, I also stopped putting my phone “away” (out of site in a special box where I could still hear it if desired), which increased compulsive checking of… the weather (what else was left?)

So, after running myself into the ground with various work things which in turn crossed over into phone use and e-mail checking and the like (it makes it all so much easier!), I stopped to re-evaluate. I needed, for the sake of my sanity, to take stock again.

This time I enabled restrictions on my phone, disabling all web browsers, the ability to download new applications (I.E. web browsers) and also inhibiting my ability to make any further paring down very difficult to undo (deleting my work related e-mail access.)

A trusted party has my restrictions pin number, and I don’t see her for at least a week, if not two. I have too much pride to contact her prior to the scheduled time. I doubt I’ll re-install after a week, but removing the ability to give into temptation in the first couple of weeks makes it much easier to stick to.

Again, there has been a combination of feelings – a profound sense of lightness and freedom, but also that slight discomfort. It is odd not to be able to google the answer to any question at any time. It’s difficult to not pick up my phone and compulsively check… the weather… but it gets easier by the hour. I put my phone away more and do word searches (on paper!) when watching TV to occupy my hands. I play Tetris on my 23 year old Gameboy. I am left to wonder about the answer of what ever I’m wondering about at any particular time; I’ve discovered (again) that it can actually be nice to not always find the answer… there is a nice feeling of mystery just being left to wonder.

Things are more peaceful. My mind is calmer. I am starting to find my feet again.

I still have access to all of these applications on my laptop, which I keep out of my main living area. I can still look things up or tend to e-mails or do work that I want or need to, but it is easier to enforce the needed time away from these things without them in the palm of my hand. If I really want or need to know something, I’ll go look it up. If I’m away from home or in bed at the time, I leave it, and if I care enough or it matters enough, then I’ll remember to look it up later; it’s amazing how rarely I do remember or care enough.

So, that’s my experience. Take something from it or don’t, but either way, it’s working for me.

Johansen X

 

New Year ‘Focus Areas’

Around this time of year there is a lot of talk about resolutions and goals. To set them or not to set them? To aim high or keep them more achievable? Measurable or general?

I prefer choose some focus areas for the year and then explore both now and then explore, over time, what these areas mean to me and what they look like when put into play.

I find that my focus areas often overlap with the ones of the previous years and are generally based very much around my core values and things that are positive for my own and others’ well-being – physical, mental, spiritual, social.

This year’s focus areas are:

Community: continuing to build, strengthen and develop local community. To help create a local environment that helps to meet my needs for local connection and feelings of belonging, as well as to foster the same for others.

Health: continue to undertake activities that are essential to my health and wellbeing. These include things like playing my music, nourishing my body with good food and moderate and enjoyable exercise, a balance of activity and down time that works with my energy levels and volunteering at a local organisation.

Family: continuing to negotiate and develop relationships with different members of my family so that we all benefit from our interactions and connections.

These are my main three. There will be more, but most of them come back to these core ones. There are strategies for each, but I won’t list them here, and they really do evolve as everything is in life does. Change is one thing that I think we can all rely on, whether it is comfortable or not.

This is just the way that I have found that allows me to move into the new year with both something to aim for but with a gentleness that allows me to be both specific but flexible.

I hope you can find your own way to move forward.

J X

A Worthy Story

“For all the talk of ‘telling your story to inspire people,’ no one wants to hear the story, until you’ve fully transcended your illness and stand there a hero…” (Violinist, quoted in The Broken Musician, H. O’Donnell, 2016)

This particular quote stuck a cord for me, for I feel strongly that it is not just in the realm of music and injury or disability that this rings true. People like stories of overcoming, of success, of beating the odds, of triumph, of happy endings. Thousands of books and blogs are published and interviews given by people who have overcome their struggles and recovered from mental health difficulties. The vast majority of stories presented to us are ones of full recovery – of great triumph and freedom after a very challenging journey. Everyone loves and inspiring story, everyone loves a story of hope. But what does this mean for those of us whose journey continues without a pretty bow and a nice, neat ending?

What happens when the literary form of “beginning, middle, end” is lacking a clear “end”? Can we still tell our stories? Can we still learn from and be inspired by such stories?

I would argue, yes.

For me, living with chronic health challenges that fluctuate, improve, regress and change, but never seem to have an end point, I’ve come to actually find those neat recovery stories irritating at best. I feel happy for the person who has achieved that measure of recovery, and glad that their journeys are able to inspire others, but on a personal level they can trigger feelings of failure, jealousy and resentment; they don’t reflect my own experience and that of many others I know.

I think that one of the problems is that for those of us who continue to struggle so significantly, we find it difficult to believe that our stories are worth telling. Maybe our successes over the years don’t feel big enough? Maybe our lack of a clear ending (or new beginning) has us feeling that our story is incomplete? Despite this, one thing I have learned from my own life and those of others around me is that regardless of what struggles are still had and challenges are still faced, the effort, the energy and the courage of those still struggling is no less of those who have overcome or recovered. It’s easy to feel as though we’ve done something wrong or just not tried hard enough (I mean, if we had, wouldn’t we, too, be telling a story of “triumph over”?) But I sit and reflect on the struggles, the courage, the daily slog, the never-giving-up, the constant falling down and getting up… and these stories without an ending are just as full of courage, triumph and personal success as those that look a little shinier. Merely surviving can be an awesome triumph. Creating a life worth fighting for in the face of such challenges (internal or external) is a feat to behold. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t undersell us.

Our stories may not feel as inspiring or hopeful, but they are definitely worth telling, and for those who can relate in some way, can often feel more inspiring in their “realness” than those that feel so distant. They can help encourage others to keep working to build a life they feel worth living, even when the difficulties, challenges, illness or disability are still present.

I wish for all to be able to completely “overcome” and have that nice neat bow to tie it up with. But more so, I wish everyone a life that is rich and meaningful enough to make enduring the toughest of roughest times worth the fight.

Your story is important. Your story still has the power to inspire. Your story is worth telling. Our story is worth listening to. You may not have a nice neat bow, but I’m sure if you look, you’ll be able to find countless specks of glitter.

Copyright, JohansenWords.com, 2016

It’s just an experiment

When so many things seem so scary

and fear has you paralyzed

in the world of “I can’t”,

how about an experiment?

Start with a table, four columns (nice and neat):

  1. Date (that’s easy)
  2. The thing you’re scared of doing (naming it is okay)
  3. Rating the fear of the task out of 10 (that can be tricky)
  4. Reflecting on how doing the scary thing actually went (eh?)

That’s right, four columns, but five points…

Pity you can’t just sit at your laptop and columnize the missing task (that would be too easy).

Nope, the missing task you have to choose to do so that you can come back and fill our column four.

With column four already made and waiting for you, you have a reason to do the missing task.

You are a researcher;

you are setting out to discover the reality of column two

(glasses and note pad at the ready!)

Some times something will end up being as scary or as difficult as you imagined.

Some times it will start off scary but then end up being fun or worthwhile.

Some times it will be scary and then fun or relaxing and then scary again.

Some times you will wonder why you were scared at all.

Whatever the outcome, if you make it back to fill out column four,

then you have real life evidence that you survived and maybe even evidence that it is something worth going through the hard stuff to do again.

May you conduct many experiments and discover more things worth being scared for than not. If anyone asks you what you do for a living, just tell them you’re a researcher.

 

Copyright, Johansenwords.com, 2016

 

Faith VS Hope

When you can’t find hope, choose to have faith.

Faith is belief in things not seen.

Hope may come later.

The Rubble

Where once a life stood

she sits among the rubble

scared to place one stone upon another

for fear they’ll fall (again).

She spots a daisy

that has worked its way through

and she marvels.

In her depleted state

she believes the stones will be too heavy;

that she wont be able to lift them,

to place them,

to risk their fall.

The sun radiates down,

casting a golden warmth

and she marvels.

Memories of great shelters

that once shaded.

Recollections of walls walked upon

that lifted her up high,

that let her see so far.

Laneways once skipped down,

the cobble stones still in place.

“Breathe,” she thinks.

“Believe,” she tells herself;

“I can create something new here.”

Small stones to build her strength,

daisies in her hair to remind her to have faith,

and the sun illuminating her efforts,

she picks up her first pebble.

 

Copyright, JohansenWords.com, 2016