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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Human Rights: Choosing Love Over Hate

Hate reared its ugly head this past week in my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.
Scrawled in ugly graffitti, a slur against gays and the suggestion to "kill them".
Here in 2015?
Kill them? Excuse me?
This is wrong and never acceptable, and I want to make sure that everyone I know understands that this kind of behavior is deplorable and that I, Erica Robinson, will speak out and actively move against this kind of hate-mongering to prevent it from happening, or spreading, in my town. Count me as one of them, for I will not be treated, nor treat anyone differently than I should want to be treated. No one should ever have to fear for their life, or their safety, based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. No one. Threatening, or treating as an inferior, another human being because they are different than you -- or because you disagree with their choices-- is wrong behavior on your/our part. It is unacceptable. We all get to make choices: that is a part of being free.  No kid (or adult) should be kicked out of their home or humiliated/bullied at school or elsewhere.
Everyone deserves equal respect as a basic human right. Ignoring or "pretending it isn't happening" when you/we see or bear witness to bigoted actions, such a bullying or shaming, makes you/me complicit in those actions, whether we agree with the person or not. For me, as of today, I will be a person brave enough to say, "No" when an insult or joke or hate-filled slur is made. It is someone's life. Someone's dignity. They matter, just like you matter. Like I matter.
This week, we see the world reacting in horror to the case of Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes (and has had the first portion of his punishment already meted out in public). Amnesty International has taken up his cause, and the U.N. commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid Al-Hussein calls the sentence "cruel and inhuman punishment". ISIS and other terrorists routinely use "KILL THEM" as a way to control and breed fear. Bullying, beatings, discrimination, murders, intolerance: those things get there start from hateful words.
Those hateful words must stop.
We are Mississippians. Americans.
I choose love over hate in all my thoughts and actions. Love conquers hate.
Be brave enough to stand up, like me, against hateful behavior.
Today, I signed the "Equality is our Business Pledge" on the Human Rights Campaign's website. I may not have been here in Jackson for the Civil Rights Movement back in the 1960s, but baby, I am here now: this is my town and hate is unwelcome here. Let's get some buckets of paint and head down to Lemon Street.
As ever,
~e


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Do You Really Mean It? Thoughts on God.

Love is all flame

Recently, someone asked me if the reason I was so nice and kind was because I did the Steps. She wanted to know if I was saying what I really meant, or if, deep down, I really felt and believed something else and was just saying what I was "supposed to" say as a good person.

Fair question, though, of course, I wanted her to believe me, simply because I had said it.

Generally, folks know me as a person who says what she means.
Or holds my tongue to not say anything. Especially, if it is unkind or cruel.
Rashness is not a part of my history. True, in my past, I have been guilty, at times, of saying things to make someone else happy. To please them or to not hurt their feelings. There was; however, a long time when I parroted what I felt was the right thing to say: what other people told me was the right or proper or correct thing to say and believe. It certainly made it easy, when I was a mimic. And I'm smart, so that made it even better, because I'm intelligent and have a bit of a lawyer streak in me. Since I am also a religious person, I had "God" on my side. Oh, that's comforting, right? All those opinions; all right and proper and tidy. Smug is a word that comes to mind. Smug and self-righteous. Even if well-intentioned.

If I was afraid or hurt or angry, I'd just stuff it down with food or shopping or gossiping...or all the the above. There was, for many years, this big huge lump inside of me that was my anger with myself for not knowing myself and not knowing my own mind and opinion about things. It created this huge fog that filled and surrounded me. Even larger was this other huge lump inside me that was convinced that God was going to smite me and those I loved, because that was what I deserved. Like Thor, but without Chris Hemsworth's looks. A "bring down the hammer god" who likes to smash, destroy, and obliterate: world desolation and fire and death and havoc! Now, supposedly this same God was also all loving and kind; long suffering, full of great mercy and forgiveness. Mind yourself though, Erica, -- God was justifiably quixotic and one wrong thing or going too far over the patience meter and ka-boom! Smite time!

It's hard to live with a God like that. Even if you don't get "smited". Every bad thing feels like a doomsday premonition, "This is just the beginning of what is about to unfold." Granted, I grew up in a home that still fixates on that kind of stuff. Still looks for another rendition of the Flood (but with Fire) or a massive, world-wide replay of what happened to Sodom and Gomorreh. This godview affects your everyday worldview. It becomes your filter of how you see things. Influences your parenting style and how you relate to everything around you, from your spouse, to your friends, and even your dog. I don't know what your view of God or a Higher Power is, but that was mine until the Fall of 2013.

Though I didn't realize it, that was the first big thing that doing my step work taught me: God is bigger and more than I can understand. Allowing God to be that (massively more), for me, gave me the freedom to let God be. Let God be what God is, not what I've made, or supposed, God to be.

God is love. This much is what I know and believe. And it is enough.

The second profound thing through that initial process that I learned was that I am not God. I came to realize that I played "god" a lot. Or at least play the version of god I had created in my head: controlling, judgmental, quixotic, capricious, justified. Oh, sure, some days I could be a gracious and loving god, but more than likely, you were going to screw it up, exhaust my patience meter, and then I could be justifiably angry at you and call down lightening bolts from heaven to smite you, or at the very least, judge you. Hmmm. That was an unexpected bit of uncomfortable self-knowledge, similar to an over-sized hairball. So, I began to practice tolerance and letting God be God and letting me be a real human, whatever that is. I began to let go of the things that I can't control or change and leave that to God as well. Finally, if it wasn't love, I wasn't going to chalk it up to God either, because, for me, first and foremost, God is love.

Thirdly, it became very clear to me that I did not have to have an opinion or a judgment about everything. Could actually choose not to form an opinion. Can let that opinion be "in God's hands" and not mine. Ever. And that was o.k. Talk about freedom! Earth-shakingly profound is what that is to me.

God is love. And if I want to be like God, then I become love as well:
Every action.
Every word.
Every thought.

It is clear that I am not God. What I am is a real human, who loves God and is learning to love her fellow creatures here on this beautiful, abundant world. Maybe one day that love will completely fill me, and I will become infused with pure, divine love, and so then become, as one holy man put it, "all flame". And that holy fire, is perhaps the fire, that shall renew both us and the world. To answer my friend's honest question: these days what you see is what you get with me-- no more masks, not even deep down. That is my deepest hope.
Ever yours,
~e


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Don't Just Sit There: Start Rowing!


This is me, talking to myself.
Talking to myself about the goals and dreams that don't seem to be materializing the way I thought they would. Apparently, I am doing all the right things. At least, I think I am, in that loosey-goosey way I have of normally thinking, without putting any effort into it.
But then, when I sit still and actually think, really think, "What am I doing to get from A to B?" and "What can I do differently or more of to get there?" I see room for improvement within myself.
My life right now seems like this finely crafted sailing ship, with pretty paint and wide sails for catching the winds of opportunity. Except right now, there doesn't appear to be any wind.
Flat.
Empty.
Bleak even.
And I've been sitting here wondering, "What is going on here?" (or rather, "Why is stuff NOT going on here?"). So, yesterday, I took out my oars and started rowing in the direction I wanted to go. I contacted some folks. Today, I did it again and even more. I rowed. And I will keep rowing.

Eventually, the wind will catch again and I will be clipping along in a fine breeze.
In the meantime, I will row.
Set my course and head there. I will stop waiting on a magical breeze or fairy/angel or opportunity to teleport me there, because that isn't going to happen. At least not to me: to get where I'm heading requires some serious effort on my part. My experience has taught, and continues to teach, me that.

So, if you find yourself, like me: with your life in the doldrums, set your course and start rowing.
You know what I mean: those 15 minute things you can do to move just a step or two closer to your goals. Every day. Several times a day.

Stop waiting for the wind. In this moment, the wind is your breath, and your breath, your life is enough force to move your ship forward. Here's a rowboat heroine, who shows you don't need the wind like you think you do.  If you need to get motivated, Roz Savage is a good place to start.

Yours ever,
~e