I’m on a journey. I have no idea where I’m going, exactly. That’s because for the first time in my life, I’m simply on a journey to myself.
It’s the craziest thing. You would think having already clawed my way through the coming out process many years ago, complete with surviving the anti-gay policies of the US military and the watershed moment of telling my own mother she’d have to leave my home if she couldn’t respect my life partner, that I’d finished this work. But, here I am.
Today’s inner journey seems even more meaningful somehow. A scroll through last year’s reading selections reveals the focus of my attempt at growth and self discovery. Based upon the selections, I’ve been pre-occupied with recognizing and addressing my own inner bias and finding new strength through authenticity and offering grace.
The authors whose works I’ve read this year have enriched my mind and more importantly, my soul. Their work has touched me in ways deep and profound. I am grateful for the lessons my heart has received. They are works I will return to again and again for more wisdom and solace.
In Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Parker J. Palmer wrote, “I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about—quite apart from what I would like it to be about—or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.”
Palmer’s work is all about authenticity and understanding one’s truest self in a way that sheds all pretense of living anything but the life we must live. This was a hard lesson because I’d always thought accepting my sexuality was the end of my journey to loving myself. Turns out, it was essential to begin my truest journey. I realized that I could only fulfill my life potential if I understood and accepted my lesbian identity as part of the process of who I am truly meant to be.
Ann Lamott’s Hallelujah, Anyway, was another series of revelations I hadn’t expected. Lamont says real peace means having the strength to offer grace to our flawed, unworthy selves and everyone around us—which is the really hard and scary part.
“Mercy is radical kindness,” Lamott writes. It’s the permission you give others—and yourself—to forgive a debt, to absolve the unabsolvable, to let go of the judgment and pain that make life so difficult. Most of us, growing up Queer have lost count of the instances of hurt inflicted intentionally, but the deepest pain for me was always the unintentional wounds. Family, friends, co-workers and the world in general can be quite painful to marginalized people. Those are the the hardest to get past. We carry them around, often without realizing their damage fully, and until we can summon the radical kindness and grace to absolve and let it go, we can never be free.
That’s what I’m working on. Radical kindness and mercy. This journey has moved me to reflect on the ways I failed at this in my life. When I worked as a police officer, it was easy to fall into the judgmental stance and forget that we were given authority to enforce law, we weren’t the law. There is a huge difference. Humility is the key. We could truly fix much of the divide that drives the hostility between cops and minority communities with a healthy dose of humility and radical kindness.
This week, we reflect on the life and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, fifty years after his assassination. I’m reading Strength to Love as I embark on my latest calling. Dr. King speaks of radical kindness as well, but also warns us against extending altruism only to our own group.
Dr. King’s life was radical kindness in action, the kind we so desperately need today. Dr. King said, “Too often, we fail to see people in their true humaness.” I confess I struggle with that. The degree of difficulty in seeing every person’s humanity is tough to overcome, but I’m working on it. I remind myself folks who act on homophobia, racism, or sexism mostly dehumanize to justify their hate. So, I keep trying because my humanity depends on learning to look for their humanity. King said, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
I’m looking for light these days and finding the journey filled with unexpected rewards and found in unexpected places. Inspirational writings are opening my mind and heart to new possibilities. Growth requires that we challenge our soul to change. With each new discovery I feel more whole. I wish you all progress on your journey to inner peace.
What authors inspire you to be your best self? I’d love to add to my list.