Chicken, Yoga, Fear, And Love
I’m supposed to write about it but I haven’t a clue where to begin. Much has happened — both in my life and the world around me — and all of it is remarkably intertwined. I haven’t written regularly for a few weeks and I suspect it will take me months to unpack all that’s happened. Today though, strangely, I feel like chicken, yoga, fear, and love is where I need to begin.
Not writing is what I do when there is so much going on inside my world that I cannot grab ahold of any one thing long enough to share it. That’s where I’ve been lately, flailing around in an ocean of absolute chaos, fearful that if I stopped thrashing, I might drown in the heartache.
I write when I’m ready to feel, and lately, I couldn’t bear it. The chaos is a nice cover story and there’s been plenty of it, but the truth is that every time I think about writing the stories that need to be told, tears fill my eyes and pour down my cheeks — just as they are now — and I haven’t been ready to face them.
Every tear you never cried is waiting for you… and they are heavy.
That’s what I tell my clients when they are experiencing life in a way that resurrects all of the old, untended heartaches. They are supposed to allow the emotions to come and wash over them, like those huge black rocks I found living a few hundred feet out from the beach near Santa Monica pier.
When we first arrived, I could see the top couple of feet of those rocks. The waves would come from behind and split to go around them. Occasionally, one would come that was hearty enough to smash against the rocks producing a fine, white spray that I imagined as quite refreshing, given that the sun never seems to take a break out there.
In the time it took for my wife to bury my left foot in sand, receive a birthday call from home, and for us to agree that we had no idea what to do with the epic decision that had to be made the next day, the waves had closed half of the gap between us. And when I looked back out at those rocks, they were almost overcome by the shift in tide. I could just barely see the tops of the tallest rocks, and the largest waves covered them with ease.
Beneath the chaos, of course, those rocks were standing as strong and solid as ever, even as the earth rocked and rolled around them. But I couldn’t see that. To me, it looked like they were drowning in the storm. To me, it looked like they would run to higher ground, if they could, to avoid being overcome by the waves. To me, it looked like a battle for survival, and it happens every single day.
I’m in the middle of a high tide in my life, and I haven’t written because writing makes me a rock. It makes me feel anchored in place as the earth rocks and rolls around me. It makes me just sit here and feel whatever comes up, wave after wave after wave… and what I’d really rather do is scramble to higher ground until all of this passes.
But it won’t pass. It may recede if I can distract myself with whatever dysfunction I choose (probably cake), but it always comes back, usually with a vengeance.
So here I am, writing about it.
America is embroiled in a chicken scandal. No, it’s not about disease or animal cruelty or even calories. The chicken scandal is about gay marriage. The finer details have been reported far and wide, but to recap, Chick-fil-A recently reaffirmed that it is still against gay marriage. Marriage equality advocates reacted strongly to this not-remotely-new news, and people on the other side of the issue reacted strongly to the reaction. It got ugly, fast, all across the land of the free and the home of the brave. On August 1st, those who wished to support the chicken people’s right to free speech were to go there to eat, and a great many showed up. Also, a great many showed up to show their opposition to this celebration.
While I have gone to great lengths to cultivate a loving and supportive community for myself and the three people who make up my gay family — or as we prefer to be called, a family — events like this inevitably allow me to see sides of people that previously slipped under my radar. In my Facebook newsfeed on the day in question, I read, “The line to order is out the door, it took 25 mins to get my meal, but it’s worth it. Thanks be to God for Chick Fil A!!!” I was stunned and hurt and sad because someone I’d let into my virtual space stood in line for twenty-five minutes to show support for the chicken people’s position against gay marriage. I was full-on mortified when I realized that the woman is someone who attends my Kundalini Yoga studio in Nashville, Tennessee.
Did you know that the word “yoga” means “to unify” or “to yoke”? I felt as if I’d discovered someone who played nice to get into my world, just so they could turn around and burn my happy place down. Finding that studio rocked my world. It is sacred to me. The healing I’ve received and witnessed within those walls changed my life forever. I feel safe there, and powerful, and realizing it was also the source of my connection to the proud chicken-eating woman left my heart aching.
I want to write about how she must be driven by fear to behave in this way, but I cannot. I do not understand her position, nor am I willing to expose my achy heart enough to ask her to explain it. I’m left only to examine my own fear. I fear that my feelings around all of this mean that I am out of my integrity. I fear that I’ll never be healthy enough to not react in fear. I fear that my sexual orientation will always be used by others to justify treating me differently, sometimes even badly. And perhaps most powerfully, I fear that experiences like this make my wife and children feel the way I feel right now.
During the week that the chicken scandal climaxed, my wife and I celebrated five years since we met and fell in love, and the second anniversary of our legal marriage in Washington, DC. It was her forty-fourth birthday. It also marked the beginning of the year during which she will live away from the children and me while she begins law school. Yes, a year. After a summer of excruciatingly tender preparation, emotional and otherwise, she and I had driven across the country and set her up in a tiny apartment in the heart of Los Angeles. It was time for me to fly back to our house in Nashville.
On the very day that countless Americans stood in line to show their support of the chicken people’s significant financial contribution to the war against my marriage, Kristin and I were simply being married. Still hopeful that she would be plucked from the wait list for a last-minute admission, we woke up early to prepare for an interview at her law school of choice. While she showered, I ran next door to fetch her a coffee. I ironed while she gathered the paperwork for round six with the parking permit people. We drove mostly in silence, and I waited in the courtyard, and when the interview was finished, she found me on a bench surrounded by rose bushes and told me every detail.
Afterward, we secured the permit, picked up a chair, found snacks, and made our way to the ocean. I could feel that every single breath pulled us closer to my flight early the next afternoon. These were the final hours of the most beautiful goodbye, one that started almost three months ago when they announced her at graduation. This summer has been breathtaking and heart-wrenching, and those last forty-eight hours broke both of our hearts wide open, all because we love one another completely.
Even still, I can’t conceive of how those two things — our love and a protest against love like ours — can exist in the same space. Our relationship is quite simply the most loving thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing, let alone being a part of. We are raising two remarkable young people and are both deeply committed to doing our part to heal the world — me doing this and her doing whatever is on the other side of law school — even if that means spending our third year of legal marriage apart.
This love, this partnership, this commitment to forever (and the reasonable expectation for all of the legal perks that accompany such a commitment) is what people ate chicken to protest. I do not understand the threat but I hope that somehow, by writing this down, we will all find the courage to be still, to stand strong and solid, when the emotions threaten to overtake us. May we allow the beliefs, words, and actions of others to swirl around us without fleeing for the security of the sand.
We all use whatever we use to numb or distract ourselves from the surge. All too often, we choose to take action driven by fear. Fear tempts us to behave badly, but we can live in our integrity. Fear tempts us to run away, but we can stay. Fear tempts us to shrink back from opportunities like the ones being gifted to my family right now, but we can dig deep and find the courage to let the waves crash about us… without turning us into something less.
The antidote to fear is always love. Love heals. Love changes us and allows us to grow. Love will cultivate the lives we dream about when the tide is low and gentle, and it will carry us through the intensity of the inevitable storm. It’s really quite simple. Hundreds of times each day we get to make decisions about the way we are going to be with ourselves, with other people, and with the planet. I’m asking you to choose love. Every single time, choose love.
(This is what love looks like, Wild Ones. Let’s celebrate.)