By James C. Glica-Hernandez
December 8, 2012
On the occasion of my granddaughter’s wedding
The heartbeat in my ear begins
Nearly imperceptibly in its inception.
My breathing more puffing and halting.
The miniature lake that develops
In the inner corner of my eye surprises me.
My years pass suddenly, shocking me.
I gaze upon a resplendent young woman,
A graduate from high school. A bride.
My heart recalls her grandmother described this way.
I recognize in her face her mother and father.
Perhaps her grandfather’s skin color appears.
My inability to tell time or date throws me.
Who are this woman’s ancestors?
Twelve congregated elders claim her as theirs.
My mind rumbles, “How is it possible that I am one of these?”
Our granddaughter is married today and
I joined her to her husband as their minister.
My spirit reels with joy and temporal confusion.
Time lies when I look in the mirror.
I am too young to be a grandfather of a married woman.
My realization is that I am the one lying today.
I was the first man to hold my delicate Littlebits.
I danced with her at her wedding today.
My truth is that she is old enough and I am old enough.
Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the end of the federal government’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. With DADT gone, anyone who otherwise qualifies to be in the military may now join any branch without concern regarding the enlistee’s sexuality. The United States of America has taken a step forward with the change, but I must admit, as happy as I am about this fact, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about the celebration.
Since the days when Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin was discharged for sodomy from the Continental Army in 1778, American military policy regarding gays has consistently banned homosexuality among its soldiers, but the structure of that disapproval has changed many times, most often in the 20th Century. During World War II, the psychiatric component of the military evaluation began, at which time homosexuality was considered a psychopathology. Thereafter, several categories of discharges were established, such as the blue discharge which was neither honorable nor dishonorable, although it held a stigma in society after the individual left the military. In 1942, if an individual was not found to have sexual contact prior to the court martial, they were given an undesirable discharge. A dishonorable discharge was given to those who had sexual contact with individuals of the same gender. General discharges were also offered to some servicemembers. Interestingly enough, the Crittendon Report in 1957 determined that gay people did not pose a security risk, but that the anit-gay policies should remain because homosexuality was “evil.”
When DADT began on December 21, 1993, there was a mix of hope and disappointment in President Bill Clinton’s choice to go this route. Although he promised to be the president for all American citizens, his initial attempt to eliminate the gay ban in the military was shot down by Congress. He was advised that full permission for gay and lesbian individuals to serve in the military was unthinkable. He chose to establish a policy of “ignorance is bliss” instead. I know many people were happy with this policy, but it seemed that any codified ignorance would not be a good thing. I mean, what did the policy really do?
Prior to DADT, a servicemember could not openly state that he or she was gay. The soldier could not openly date a partner, be seen in public holding hands with an individual of the same gender, and they could be asked whether he or she was gay. If the soldier answered, “Yes,” then court-martial proceedings ensued, after which the soldier was ceremoniously removed from the military.
After DADT, the same things could happen, except the military was not allowed to ask the question in the first place. If the soldier admitted to being homosexual, the same process began as before DADT. Ask many soldiers, such as Lt. Daniel Choi, if there was any difference. DADT was hailed as a step forward toward full equality for Americans, and I suppose at some level, it was.
Here’s my issue: I have known family and friends who served in the military who are gay; one of whom served during World War II. He was a decorated veteran and served honorably for several years overseas. The thought that had he served during DADT and it became known he was gay, the same thing that would have happened to him during WWII, would have happened to him during the 1990s as well if his superiors discovered he was homosexual. The only difference is that during DADT, no one would have asked in the first place. The bottom line is that gay folk were personae non grata in the military until yesterday.
Something has changed now, of course. Gay people can enlist in the military as they can in many western countries, such as England, Canada, Spain and Italy. They can serve beside their straight counterparts and all of them will be called soldiers… sort of. For a while, at least, we know that because we are neither gender blind nor sexuality blind, these soldiers will continue to be called gay soldiers and lesbian soldiers among the rank-and-file and in the country as a whole. The other salient thought is that married and registered domestic-partnered gay soldiers, will have no benefits for their spouses because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
We should call this event as it is: Another step forward. It is not the end of the journey for our service members who happen to be gay. A group of our soldiers will know they cannot support their spouses with health insurance, death benefits, or be ceremonially recognized if they should die as the spouses of straight soldiers are. They will give the same service, but not have the same benefits. This is not equality.
So, as we celebrate this movement forward, let us stay aware that until full equality is achieved, work still must be done to ensure our American soldiers… all our American soldiers… are treated equally.
When I was first hired as the vocal music teacher by Natomas Charter School in March 2001, I told the executive director that I would only commit to staying for five years at the most. I had other adventures ahead and believed that classroom teaching was not my passion. Then, I met the children.
In August 2001, I was introduced to the seventh graders who would become “my class,” the Class of 2007. I was assigned the role as their class advisor with the 7th grade English teacher. During our first discussion, they said they had heard rumors that most classes had class advisors come and go throughout their time in school, and how they hoped the two of us would stay until they graduated. Seeing their wide, hopeful eyes, and getting caught up in the emotion of the moment, I promised them that I would stay until they graduated. There went any hope of leaving after five years, because they would stay at Charter for six years. I had already completed my first school year, so this would mean I would be there at least seven years. And stay I did.
Through difficult, major events in my life, I stayed. Through challenges with my first line supervisor, I stayed. Through everything, I stayed until they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. I couldn’t have been more proud of our young people. The person who began the journey as class advisor with me left to start a family, so there were new faces along the way with whom I shared the responsibilities and joys of these fine young people.
The truth is, I don’t know if my contribution to this class was very dynamic, but if nothing else, I was there at every class meeting, at their senior prom, at every major event in which they participated. As their senior year came to a close, I was more than ready to leave my position, but was asked to stay another year, hoping things would get better. I reluctantly agreed. It was 2007, my children had graduated, and I thought my job was over. I stayed one more year, but by the end of 2008, I could not stay any longer. Things had changed so dramatically that I knew it was time for me to move onto another leg of my journey, so I resigned, and went into private practice as a vocal teacher.
My job with this class wasn’t over, though. Recently, I ran into two of my students who told me that they had gotten to know each other in their senior year and now, almost five years later, they were getting married. I was so happy for them because they are genuinely lovely individuals, and I knew they would make a marvelous couple; animated, but marvelous. Several weeks later, I got a message from them saying the minister they had originally engaged had flaked on them. They reflected to me that they were just as glad, because this person clearly had no appreciation for who they were as individuals. They said they remembered that I was an ordained minister and wondered if I would do the honors of marrying them, especially since I had known them for nearly half their lives. Needless to say, I was thrilled at the offer and jumped at the chance.
Today is their rehearsal for tomorrow’s wedding. I will be in the presence of not just two, but six of my students who will stand on the altar as bride, groom, maid of honor, best man, and two honor attendants from the NCS Class of 2007. Clearly, my job is not over. The history we built together has moved beyond the classroom to their adulthood. It seems as though I will continue to watch my young people grow up, get married, have children, perhaps even grandchildren if I live that long, remembering that first day in seventh grade when they sat looking at me with those big, hopeful eyes. Once again, I get to see two of them with big, hopeful eyes, only this time gazing at one another seeing their future together in one another.
My students have gone to prestigious universities, begun marvelous careers in their chosen fields, and started families. They are fully adults now at the age of 23 beginning their own adventures in life. I am so proud of them all and hope to watch as they have their precious moments grow in quality and quantity.
Today, June 24, 2011, New York became the sixth state in the republic to provide marriage equality whether a couple is heteroamorous or homoamorous when their State Senate voted 33-29 for the bill. Previous states that have provided marriage equality include Massachussets, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire. The District of Columbia and the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon also allow the same rights. The population of these original five states equals 15.63 million American citizens. New York adds another 19.3 million people, more than doubling the number of citizens who now have complete freedom to marry the partner of their choice.
It is a momentous day because New York has shown that men and women of conscience can come together in honest debate and negotiation to structure a plan that works for all its citizens. There were compromises on both sides of the equation, but the whole is what truly matters. The New York legislature was wise enough to ensure that this bill did not affect religious organizations and their ability to choose the couples they would join. This has nothing to do with religion. It is a state issue of equality. The small details of their compromises will barely be remembered, but the wedding day that joined Dad and Papa, or Mom and Mama, will be just as important to their children as my parents’ wedding pictures are to me.
When my mother died, I went through her photographs. As the family historian, it fell on me to maintain these photos that included my parent’s wedding pictures from November 1956. As I wandered through the pages of this vibrant couple’s memories, neither of whom were now here to remember them, I recognized this as the starting point toward our family.
Now, the children of LGBT couples will be able to have the same memories as straight couples do. It is as important to them as it is to me. My wedding pictures with my now ex-wife, Barbara, from 1977 are still as beautiful as the photos of my marriage to my husband, David, in 2006.
As we celebrate this victory for equal rights in our country, we must also ask ourselves who is next? Which state next will take the appropriate actions to ensure that 100% of American citizens will see in their lifetimes a nation that will not leave anyone behind regarding equality. Equality is not limited to marriage. Equality must be pervasive in every area of our lives. If one individual does not have equal rights in our country, then none of us have equal rights. As it stands, some people continue to be offered more freedom than others. This cannot be what we mean by the beginning of the second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence when the signateurs affirmed:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
~ The Declaration of Independence (USHistory.org, 1776)
Since May 17, 2004, when Massachussets became the first state in the Union to finally attain freedom for all regarding marriage, our country has been on a trek toward consistency. Eventually, marriage equality will become the law of the nation, and our descendants will raise their eyebrows when their history teachers tell them that at one time, gay people couldn’t get married. As I’ve seen firsthand as a classroom teacher, this same response occurs when the young people are told that at one time Blacks and Whites were not allowed to marry. We do not call marriage between mixed-race couples anything other than marriage. That is the way it will be in the years to come about marriage for same-sex couples. It will simply be marriage.
In many ways, our country is like a majestic redwood; no matter how much shade is in our way, we always stretch toward the light. Today, we have stretched a little bit higher toward that light.
“2010 Resident Population Data” (2010) U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved June 24, 2011 f
USHistory.org (1999) “The Declaration of Independence.” USHistory.org. Retrieved from http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.
As I listened to CNN report on the possibility of New York being the fifth state in the country to allow same-sex marriage, a question popped into my head: If one is fully an American citizen, why is it possible for him or her to have different rights than other American citizens? Should my status as an American supersede every other subgroup title I carry, including gay, Latino, Native American, European, dark-skinned, heavy-set, short, parent, grandfather, adoptee, or anything else? I suggest it should.
When I attended school as a child, I learned the Pledge of Allegiance. We said:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, [under God (added in 1954),] indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” ~ Francis Bellamy (1892)
I cannot imagine that when Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 that he, as a Baptist minister and christian socialist, would have imagined that this statement would mean Blacks, Asians, Latinos, women, gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals; however, it does. Bellamy did write, after all, that “[a] democracy like ours cannot afford to throw itself open to a world where every man is a lawmaker, every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth; where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another (Beato, 2010).” Much to what I’m certain would be Bellamy’s chagrin, we are merging into one distinct American society. So, why then are there different levels of citizenship in our republic?
Nothing is simpler than layering a group by status. The “haves” have more than the “have-nots.” Land owners had more power than the slaves. The European-based pioneers in the West decimated the indigenous people across the American territories. Experiences like these repeat themselves time and again because the status of one group is perceived as higher or lower than another. We face an issue of status today as gay couples are disallowed full marriage rights in the United States of America.
One issue I have with those who support equal marriage rights is that they perpetuate the current lexicon by claiming we are fighting for same-sex marriage rights. The discussion should be about making American citizenship the same for everyone by allowing every individual the right to marry whomever he or she chooses to marry. I understand the questions about relatives marrying, even though the current science does not support many of those arguments. I understand the age requirements for marriage. Children cannot make a healthy choice about marriage, and they should not be asked to be in that position. The paternalism of government has continued to encourage the placement of the gay and lesbian community within the same spectrum as children: the LGBT community apparently cannot make a healthy choice to marry any more than children can.
If one is an adult American citizen, one should be able to marry the person of his or her choice. That’s the whole concept in a nutshell. This is true marriage equality. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with region or history. An American anywhere in the United States may marry the person of his or her choice. Which individual or group has the right to deny anyone that right or any other right? Our only job as a country is to ensure that all rights are assured in every state of the union. That is freedom. When we assure everyone have the same rights, then we can sleep soundly knowing that we have the “liberty and justice for all” promised in our Pledge of Allegiance and our Constitution.
Beato, Greg, (2010, Dec. 16). Face the Flag, Reason
Bumper sticker (2011) “Love is gender blind.” Retrieved from http://middleagedqueers.com/?p=5575
As we continue having debates regarding rights, freedoms, and full citizenship for people in same-gender relationships, we may want to conserve our energy and make our discussions more efficient and accurately reflective of every type of relationship.
As I watched Current TV, the channel developed by former vice-president Al Gore, and Illinois senator, Al Franken (D), I heard a woman say that these debates, especially those going toward the U.S. Supreme Court, are made more challenging because the word sex is involved. The word to which she was referring was, “Homosexuality.”
If it’s really an issue, why not use a different word? The Latin word, “homo,” means, “same.” “Hetero,” mean “different.” The Latin root, “amor,” means, “love.”
Homoamorous means two people of the same gender love one another.
Heteroamorous means two people of different genders love one another.
So, why not change the word. It’s not as though we’re using ancient or sacred words to describe our relationships. “Homosexuality” was coined on May 6, 1869 by Karoly Maria Benkert, a 19th Century Hungarian physician, who first broke with traditional thinking when he suggested that people are born homosexual and that it is unchangeable. With that belief as his guide, he fought the Prussian legal code against homosexuality that he described as having “repressive laws and harsh punishments (Conrad and Angel, 2004).”
One would suspect that Dr. Benkert would appreciate this change in lexicon so that we change our focus in this debate from sex to love. John and Frank are not two people in sex. They are two people in love. Deborah and Sheila are not two women who spend their lives sexing each other, they are two women loving each other. This is especially true because homosexuality has been demedicalized in so many ways.
If we’re going to have to have this debate in the first place, let’s speak accurately about the people involved. We are homoamorous people. We are two people of one gender who are in love. Those in opposite gender relationships are heteroamorous.
How complicated can that be? If I were to approach someone and ask them if they’d like a slice of bread, their first question is likely, “What kind is it?” As a people, we love clarity. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are simply not clear enough terms for the breadth of our relationship. Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are clear winners when it comes to describing the relationships with which I am most familiar.
Sexuality is an important, if not a terribly time consuming part of most marriage relationships. It helps motivate our interest in a particular person whose gender is consistent with what we prefer; however, that, too, is not always the case.
Is it unthinkable that two people can have a relationship that is purely emotional in form, without sex, who continue to love one another nonetheless? Ask many people who are of a certain age.
Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are not only options for the terms homosexuality and heterosexuality, they might even be the preferred forms given their more emotionally inclusive qualities.
My mother used to say, when trying to get the direct truth out of me, “Jim, call a spade a spade.” Although I never played bridge, from which this term comes, I knew what she meant. Name something as it is. I now get that message all the more clearly.
2010, Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/homosexuality/
Conrad, P., & Angell, A. (2004). HOMOSEXUALITY AND REMEDICALIZATION. Society, 41(5), 32-39. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
Oddly, I’ve been thinking recently that having someone else’s name is a strange thing to do. I write, “Oddly,” because I’ve had no fewer than six monikers in my life time. From earliest to most recent:
Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera (The name my mother would have bestowed upon me had she not given me up for adoption. Both names were after my paternal and maternal grandfathers.)
Herrera (The name on my very first birth certificate. This was Mom’s surname.)
Hal (The name given to me by Children’s Home Society before I got adopted. Look at my face to the right. Do I honestly look like a Hal to you?)
James Stanley Glica (My adoptive name, after my uncle who introduced my parents and my paternal grandfather.)
James Stanley Chávez-Glica (The name I chose to honor my mother and father.)
James Stanley Chávez Glica-Hernandez (My married name.)
Sometimes, I like to string them all together with my title and degree, just for effect:
Reverend James Stanley Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera Chávez Glica-Hernandez, D.Div.
Come on, say that five times fast. I dare you.
Anyhoo, after all these name changes, I’m starting to think that my name, which at its core has remained James Stanley Glica since 1959, was enough all along. I love my mother and the name Chávez for a million reasons, but Glica was the name she chose to use, as well. My children are all Glica. I didn’t take my ex-wife’s name when we got married. I have to admit that it’s because I might have become James Daw-Glica. Uh, no, thank you. Go ahead. Re-syllablize it yourself.
Did you have fun?
We could talk all about the sociological reasons why wives originally took their husband’s names. Yes, class, ownership is one reason. We could talk about the standardization of second class citizenship afforded women until relatively recently, even on a letter:
“Mrs. Herbert Smith”
Either this woman’s parents need a solid chastising, or this poor woman has lost her name. Thankfully, I, of course, would not be Mr. David Hernandez. That would be silly because my husband is Mr. David Hernandez. I’m Mr. James Glica-Hernandez. Yet, I digress.
Am I any less married if I were to use only Glica? No. Plenty of people are overwhelmed by their wedded bliss while still maintaining their names of birth or adoption. Look at my husband. It’s my guess that he thinks Glica is a strange name and not one he wants to carry around the rest of his life. Hernandez is simple. Sure it has three syllables, but everyone can spell it, knows where it’s from, and almost always knows someone else by that same name. I only know this because on some of my identifying information, I use, James C. Hernandez.
“Ooooooooohhh!,” the young, ebullient fellow behind the counter squeals, “I actually know two different James Hernandezes…ez…ezzzzzzzzzzz… [Author’s note: you must visualize here a young fellow with a face that I once heard comedian, Dov Davidov, describe as having smelled freshly-baked cookies]. Do you know either of them?”
For goodness sake. And, this coming from a boy named, Myke Johnson? (Do you see how that’s different? Kewl, huh?) Ugh!
What I’ve realized, though, is that these various incarnations of my name are like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs back into my gingerbread house of memory. As someone whose had two small strokes already and probably will have another one eventually, any tools that amplify my memory are good tools, indeed.
“Was that pre-Chavez or post-Chavez? When did we meet them, before- or after-Hernandez?” It’s worked a few times, quite honestly. The only thing is I’ve been a Chavez longer than I haven’t and I’ve wanted to be a Hernandez since nearly the time I first met my husband a dozen years ago. So, the muddiness continues.
After it’s all said and done, I guess I’m still Little Jimmy Glica from McCloud and Dunsmuir, California, no matter whose grandfather I’ve become in the last 50 years. I like it that way. I’m proud of my entire name of birth, adoption, and marriage, and the paths I’ve taken to receive these beautiful names; however, like at the core of my name, the core of my spirit remains the same: a happy, loving little boy who loves to see people smile, sing, and dance.
Some things, as it’s said, never change after all.
There are many people who have lived in the United States of America who have not had a voice. Those voiceless people were expected by those in power to sit silently as others made decisions for them.
The Native Americans were expected to stand aside as Europeans settled their sacred land.
African natives and their descendants were expected to work as slaves as European descendants built their livelihoods on these slaves’ sweat and blood.
The Chinese railroad workers were expected to accept what they received as they built the Transcontinental Railroad.
Mexicans were expected to work as farm laborers without adequate pay or human services while farmers earned their living.
The one thing each of these oppressed groups had in common was that they all spoke up. They fought back. Those wise enough and strong enough stepped up to demand that their message be heard. The voices of John Smith and Pocahontas in Jamestown, Virginia; the Chinese striking railroad workers on Donner Pass, in 1867; Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War; and Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta during the founding of the National Farmworkers Association, all resounded throughout the country as their messages of equality, health, safety, and full citizenship were heralded.
We are facing a federal court case in San Francisco that will assess whether the vote on California’s Proposition 8 was legal. Prop 8 passed in November 2008 and because it passed, the now enforceable California Marriage Protection Act added language to Section 7.5 of Article 1, of the California Constitution that stated, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in California.”
As we look toward the future of equal marriage rights and citizenship rights for the gay community, we are fortunate to have many voices calling for full citizenship in the United States. The tragic part is that the one voice that is more necessary than any others is falling eerily silent during this time of change.
Instead of standing tall for the freedom and voice of the gay community, President Barack Obama is peering from the sidelines. Rather than stating emphatically that the rights of one citizen of our country shall be granted, without hesitation or fear, to all citizens of our country, regardless of race, creed, economic status, disability, or sexual orientation, he simply waits quietly. Somehow, amazingly, President Obama appears to believe that we should allow this debate to continue as a people while hearing only a vacuum in the Oval Office.
From Presidents Bush, Reagan, Nixon, Ford, and others of their ilk, this philosophy of inequality is strangely understandable. Because they were reared in another social era, holding onto conservative beliefs, their frames of reference should be expected to be as they were.
With Presidents Carter and Clinton, the time had not yet arrived for this message of equality.
As for President Bush, Jr., our expectations of him had to be held very, very low because he was just not capable of anything more.
“And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more.” Luke 12:48 (Holy Bible)
Not only has President Obama been given the mantle of President, he has also been given a place in American history that not one other human being can ever have. He is the first African-American to hold this position. With that place in history, Americans have incredibly high expectations of him. We must remember, however, that he is not obligated to support all equal rights issues just because he holds this place in American history. He is simply a human being making human decisions.
Perhaps because of the powerful Black leaders of the past, including Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and General Colin Powell, we’ve hoped that President Obama would join their ranks in fearless defense of all citizens of our country. That simply may not be the case. He may just wait for others to do the work before he steps up to say, “Well done.”
The hardest part for many people in this country is to imagine that President Obama will blandly meld into the lineage of so many other American presidents by turning what could have been a dynamic era in U.S. history into a watered down revisitation of other administrations. Perhaps he will lean more toward his European heritage and become the politician that so many U.S. presidents have become instead of the noble statesman he has the capacity to become.
The truth is, Americans do expect more from President Obama. At a certain level, he is the first of his culture to leap the White House in a single bound. He is, I suppose, perceived as our Captain America. He shouldn’t be. He’s just a person like the rest of us.
After all his promises of change, the only real change we may see through him is his ethnic background. He may prove to disbelievers that there really is no difference between the races or cultures in America. Any person in the White House can be just as afraid of disapproval as any other person, and in that fear, remain silent when there are people who need vocal and active leadership.
Today, I was diagnosed with an early cataract in my left eye. A cataract, according to the WebMD Cataract Health Center, is a, “painless, cloudy area in the lens of the eye that blocks the passage of light to the retina. The retina is the nerve layer at the back of the eye. The nerve cells in the retina detect light entering the eye and send nerve signals to the brain about what the eye sees. Because cataracts block this light, they can cause vision problems.”
Apparently, they afflict mainly older people, those with sun damage or an eye injury. I’ve had neither sun damage nor eye injury. I refuse to believe that I’m one of the “older people,” at fifty-years-old. My mother, at 75-years-old, had cataract surgery.
Louise L. Hay, in her book, You Can Heal Your Life, writes that cataracts are a physical expression of one’s “inability to see ahead with joy. Dark future.”
Can you imagine? Me not being able to see ahead with joy? Anyone who knows me would laugh out loud at this thought.
What if it’s true, though? Has my outlook changed so dramatically over the years that all I can see ahead is dread and sadness? It is possible that I’m afraid there is no light ahead for me?
My hope is that, according to Ms. Hay, cataracts can be alleviated by developing a new thought pattern, utilizing the phrase, “Life is eternal and filled with joy. I look forward to every moment.”
And, there it is. There may be some truth to what she wrote, because after I wrote that phrase, my first thought was, “How?”
There is a part of me that frets about the future and what it will bring. Both at home and with my work, these phrases evoke images of struggle, drudgery, and dissatisfaction. What I don’t understand is why that is?
I love my husband, even though marriage can sometimes ask more of me than I think I can give. I am thrilled to be doing the work I am, even though the financial situation it creates is challenging, at best.
I suppose, somehow, I’m going to have to change my perception. It will be interesting to see how I eventually do that.
Wish me luck!
Hay, Louise L., You Can Heal Yourself, Carlsbad, CA., Hay House, Inc., 1999
Photo of cataract: http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/cataracts/cataracts-topic-overview
For plain people, communication can be challenging. Even with whatever moderate skills I possess in public speaking and writing, apparently, within the boundaries of a personal relationship, I am one of those plain people.
Too many assumptions, a desire for peace, or the emergence of protective narcissism can keep two people in a relationship from speaking their minds and their hearts. What many of us don’t realize is that the level of communication in an intimate relationship is the glucometer of that pairing’s well-being. Insidious silence can create a hypoglycemic stupor that can be fatal to what might otherwise be a healthy partnership.
Often, we look to the other person with whom we are involved to do the work of opening their mouths. The irony is that what we delusionally want is for our significant other to speak when we are the ones who actually have something to say. It’s like expecting the stove to put the vegetables in the pan. It can’t happen. If we have something to say, then we must take the responsibility of saying it.
What keeps us from opening our mouths? The reasons vary from the erroneous to the dangerous.
We can be afraid of not being heard or understood. There may be a concern that what we have to say may dramatically jeopardize our relationship. At the extreme end, we are afraid that we could risk our very safety by addressing our upset.
Let it be clearly stated that if we are truly afraid for our health and safety if we were to discuss a challenge in our relationship, then we should immediately call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It should never be a physical risk to maintain a relationship or speak one’s mind or heart. One must get out immediately. There are always other options.
For the rest of us, even at the brink of divorce or separation, there are a few things we can remember that will help us to get to the crux of the issue while still being respectful and honoring our partner’s free will and separate adulthood.
1. Remember that you are speaking to someone whom you love or have loved. Often, we get caught treating our partner as though they are the enemy. At one time, at least, we were both on the same page about the direction we wanted to go in our life together. If our desire is to get back to that point, we must speak with love always, even when we disagree.
2. Find one thing positive to say before you start complaining. It happens to all of us that the first thing out of our mouths is anger, frustration, hurt, or some other ugliness. If we take the time to find one loving thing to say before we express the rest of it, the benefits are two-fold: we assist ourselves in focusing on the positive and loving, and subsequently, we open the door to their hearts, so the likelihood of them hearing us is more effective.
3. Think about what is truly bothering you. We must be sure to think through what we are truly trying to say before we blurt out purposefully or accidentally hurtful things just so that we can vomit out our frustrations. We are often not angry at the event that triggered our diatribe. It goes to an underlying cause that is our responsibility to identify to the listener.
4. Keep it down to a dull roar. Screaming is a slamming door for everyone. Physiologically, our ears can take only so much intensity in sound. The moment we begin screaming at one another, the other person stops hearing us. It is a natural protective device. There is nothing wrong with using intense inflections in our voices to get our point across, but if we remember that we love this other person and that we have a goal in this conversation, then our rational minds will help us communicate more effectively.
5. Remember that you are speaking to an adult. If the person across from was was smart enough to marry us, then clearly they are intelligent enough to understand what we have to say. We must assume their intellect and adulthood. It brings a level of respect into the conversation that may disappear on a day-to-day basis. Respect will go a long way toward connecting two people at polar ends of a discussion.
6. Say what you have to say and then ask a specific question. If we request from our partner out loud that they simply listen and then respond after we are done, we have agreed to rules that will create an environment for constructive resolution. “… and that’s how I’ve been feeling. How are you feeling about what I’ve said?” With that last question, we have opened a directed conversation about what is important to us. Remember that we have invited this conversation. If, at some point, our partners in this venture have some issues they would like to discuss, they can say so. Question marks invite conversation. Periods end a thought. Angry exclamation points can end a conversation.
7. State your case clearly. If we haven’t thought out what it is we want to say, how are we going to be able to communicate it effectively? Freedom to communicate between two people in a relationship is important, but emitting voluminous vitriol just become we can is not going to be effective. No one understands rambling. No one. The important thing is to take some time to get our thoughts together and then speak the words that get our point across.
8. When you have fully communicated your thoughts and feelings, give the other person an opportunity to respond. It’s important that both people in an environment be focused toward resolution, as well as information provision. The only way to accomplish these goals is to have both of us in the conversation free to express our thoughts.
9. Allow enough time to contemplate what has been said. Often, when we do get up the nerve to communicate, we expect an immediate response from our partner. It doesn’t always work that way, especially if our partner does not have a facility with language. They may need time to contemplate what they’ve heard and respond later. Getting a commitment for them to return to us in a reasonable time, even the next day, so that we can hear their thoughts on the subject, is a constructive and supportive listening technique.
10. Commit to continuing the conversation until both parties have come to an understanding. Although it is not always possible for both people to be happy with the outcome, there is always a way to come to an understanding of the situation and alternatives for resolution. If both people are listening attentively, responding lovingly, and sharing a desired goal of unified action, then eventually we can get to the peaceful, loving result for which we are both ultimately hoping.
11. Let your word be your bond. If, and when, at the end of the conversation we have come to a mutual understanding and developed a plan of action with our partners, stand by your word. Nothing will build trust faster between two people than seeing that our words and actions match.
These eleven suggestions can help us all in improving our relationships with our partners, and others, as well.
At the most spiritual level, those around us are simply reflecting our lives as we see them and are experiencing them. We are all desirous of joy, peace, love, creativity, and construction. We can find all those things through communication of truth, trust, and triumph over fear.
The real question is, “What priority does my partnership hold in my overall life scheme?”
If the answer is anything other than top priority, our partners are going to know. Why would anyone want to work as hard as we must in a relationship if we are only going to take second billing to work, extended family, friends, hobbies, pets, or even children.
When we get on a plane, the flight attendants remind us that in case of emergency, we must put the oxygen masks on ourselves first, then we can help others. It’s like that in a marriage or partnership of any kind. We must tell ourselves the truth of the situation, make healthy choices, and take immediate action to resolve the problems.
Only then can we feel satisfied with the outcome.