The face of change

So there I was, having written several lengthy paragraphs of a new post when all of a sudden, my browser, of its own accord, began to navigate away from the page I was writing on and, wouldn’t you know it, refused to retrieve my saved post when it finally decided to cooperate again. I HATE mercurial retrograde.

Life here in the state o’ peaches continues, and as it does, I continue to adjust. Random note: for clarification for those of you who are native Southerners: every state north of the Mason Dixon Line is NOT automatically a part of New England. I felt the need to share that since I keep running across the term ‘New England Yankee’ in my text books.

Grad school is…something else. I find myself fluctuating between feeling encouraged and capable to feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed. I caught up on 10 chapters of reading this past weekend, and I’m praying that I don’t actually really need to have all of this learned right now.

More than anything else that’s been on my mind is the nature of critical thinking and development, thanks to a rather uncomfortable class last week whose sole purpose is to focus on multiculturalism and begin to make us aware of our own values, biases, and prejudices so that we don’t unknowingly take them out on innocent clients some day in the form of judgments and impositions. The topic was ‘what does it mean to be GLBTQI?’ For those of you who, like me up until several weeks ago, are unsure of what those last couple letters stand for, it’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning, and Intersexed (the relatively new term for those individuals who possess reproductive organs of both sexes). At the beginning of the class, we were asked to share the ideas we had recorded in our journal entries for the day on this particular topic. I had been looking for a means to come out as a Pagan in the class, and since I wrote about the similarities in discrimination that I’ve recently noticed people who are GLBTQI and those who are Pagan face, it seemed like an opportune time to depart from my broom closet. There was no significant reaction to what I’d shared, though I was a bit more uneasy than I’d been in previous classes because of the vibes I’d been picking up from some people since the semester had started.

As is common when discussing homosexuality (and no, I am not labeling people who would fall into the Q and I categories as homosexual), religion came into the discussion. I can understand and appreciate this occurrence, as many people determine what they think and believe about homosexuality based on what their religion espouses. Sadly, in this case, religion began to take on the personality of an overbearing alcoholic – unpredictable and with a tendency for (violent) outbursts, lumbering around the room and making more noise than sense.

While there were members of the class who appeared more tolerant and open-minded than others, it felt like discussing some who vocalized their views on homosexuality used their religious affiliation almost as an excuse to get out of thinking critically about the values that had been ingrained in them from childhood. And while it made me uncomfortable to hear people sharing such opinions, I also identified with it. After all, it was only about 13 yrs ago I told my sister she was going to hell because she hadn’t accepted Jesus as her Savior. And it was only about 3-4 yrs ago that I got the nerve to really confront the beliefs with which I’d been raised enough to admit to myself that they no longer made sense to me and began to explore alternative spiritual paths. So I spoke up after one girl said that she had been raised to believe that certain things were right and wrong. I told the class about the difficulty I underwent in confronting those values with which I’d been raised, but that the time had come for me to critically think about whether or not they made sense to me anymore.

I honestly wanted to leave about halfway through the class. The following day, I decided to write an email to my professor to tell her how uncomfortable and divisive that class had felt to me. I ended up meeting with her today, and we had a wonderful discussion, for which I am very grateful. The discussion was not only me sharing my concerns, but it involved mutual planning for our class coming up in the next 2 wks that will focus solely on religion and spirituality so as to avoid a reprise of the same tension and division.

One of the things that I have loved so far about my classes is that they are confronting me about what I believe, what I think, what I value, what I know, and what I don’t (which is a great deal). The confrontation forces me to really step back and explain myself to myself. Not to anyone else. I think that because I started to really do this several years ago, I might be having an easier time with what we’re doing in class than others. I remember how terrifying confronting myself was initially because true confrontation of this kind frequently leads to growth, and what is growth but change? And change is almost always frightening because the end result is unknown.

That being said, last week some time, I became overwhelmed with the feeling of growing and changing. I could feel myself fighting it (my system usually turns somatic in times like these, and the vehicle of this fight was the incipient stages of an allergy attack – i.e., a fight between me and my environment), and I consciously stopped and settled down. I told myself that whatever it was that I would grow into was something with which I could deal, and that, more than likely, it would benefit me. Renewing my faith and strength in myself, I resolved to be open to whatever this change would be. I sat with my eyes closed, my breathing controlled, and my heart rate slowing, and then I opened my eyes. I do not know what this change will be or what I will become, but I will face it, and I will not be afraid.

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