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Adult Work Is Life Work

This weekend I spent several hours completing some Continuing Education Units (CEU), so that I can renew my license. I’m at the point in the process where I’ve done the required courses and can now attend to the exploration of new things. This is where the fun of learning comes in. This time around, my focus on deepening learning took me to learning something I know something but not enough about: LGBTQ2s or LGBTQIA+, the choice is yours. 

I have friends and know people who claim identity in this community. I work with those who claim residency in the LGBTQ2s community. The weekend of learning was helpful, and I learned some things I didn’t know from an instructor who really knows his stuff. It was time well spent. 

All of this got me thinking about the process of coming out to oneself, and to others. Coming out isn’t a one-time event: it is a constant. There is risk in uttering the sentence that includes the words “I’m lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer.” The person speaking those words in a conversation of one or one hundred is putting themself out there in a way that you might never have to, or need to, do. It’s a risk. Then I got to thinking about my own truths. 

I’ve been a part of the disabled community all my life. How much do those I work with and associate with really understand about my daily life and what it takes to do what I do? 

I’ve made mention here that I have a spiritual life. I don’t talk about it; it’s private. We’re in a time of Lent, and this season I felt the need to add to the process rather than fast from something. I added in the need to interact more, and in many ways come out fully as the disabled person that I am. My faith community accepts everyone. LGBTQ2s, the person of color, and the disabled. At times it challenges us to have some difficult conversations. Last night, after a month of services around service and giving, and bringing in the voices of my sisters who are disabled and a part of this community, I came out. 

Speaking my truth was soul wrenching. It took six takes to produce a video that I could share—a video where the tears weren’t streaming down my cheeks. A video in which I let anger, but not rage, show. A video where I could speak my heart and soul, and let the words stand. It was raw. I’ve done raw before, and this was raw. 

Most of the time, when the disabled explain their disability, we tend to work up a pleasant presentation that informs and instructs. This wasn’t that type of pitch. This caused me to really think about what I wanted to say, and not say. Still, at the end of the service, I found myself sitting with the tears streaming down my cheeks. I’m still raw. 

Coming out is about sharing, embracing, and being embraced. Coming out is also about risking something new, and discovering where the support in your village resides: who will stay, who might need to leave. And leaving the village has to be an option for safety reasons. At some point, the former resident may do the work needed to return as a productive village member. Hold the option of leaving and returning, and the hard conversations around that as a possibility: it happens. 

If coming out is a process, it is also seasonal. We mourn in different ways throughout our lives; we reframe, rethink, and return to explore places we thought had been completely explored and thought through. In our exploring we discover new ways of being, and new places to dig deeper. The work of life is not done until the last breath is taken. 

If the work of life is never completed, if coming out to ourselves and to others is always a work in progress, what options do we have to get on with the work in all of its wonderfulness? How do we embrace the joyous, work through the difficulties, resolve, rediscover, and then move forward?

There are two ways that I will talk about. Both versions of self-discovery are useful. Both can lead to the same outcome. Both are lifelong. The first is to find a therapist who does long-term growth or insight work. This is about depth, and not running from your personal truth. It is about putting someone on your payroll who will walk with you as you discover the places in your life that you need to move to. It has nothing to do with behavior and everything to do with relationships. The greatest area of focus will become the relationship you’ve built with yourself. 

The second option centers around spiritual direction. Spiritual directors, like therapists, have various areas of focus. As our spirituality is as individual as we are, so is the direction. This isn’t about an authoritarian person telling you what to do: this is about you discovering how spirituality is working in your life, and where you are feeling pulled, led, or, for some people, called. It works the same way as therapy in that we sit and talk. Maybe I light a candle, ring a sound bowl, or offer a prayer, if that is what the person desires. Sometimes we both sit in silence and reflect on what has been said. The sessions usually happen once per month, last an hour, or sometimes longer. SD is a place that is well suited to come out to yourself on multiple issues. If you need to do some therapy around something, you’ll be told to seek out a good therapist to do that portion of the work. 

Both therapy and direction can focus on the spiritual if the therapist has the ability to do spiritual work. SD, on the other hand, doesn’t touch that type of change or “fixing.” Directors don’t look to fix. 

I now realize that my life would have been deeply enriched by spiritual direction. I’m glad I know of it and can offer direction as part of what I do. 

At the end of this writing session, I sigh, breathe deeply, scan my body to see where I’ve gone, and how I feel. Not so raw, and somewhere else. Where have I moved? I don’t know. There will be more to come on this, I’m sure.  

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