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Before we get started with today's newsletter I gotta tell you that I woke up cranky yesterday morning. And that shouldn’t have been the case. The night before, I’d gone to a showing of the documentary “Saint of 9/11”, which was about Father Mychal Judge, the gay New York City Fire Department Chaplain who was the first confirmed death when the World Trade Center collapsed. The film focused on Father Mychal, rather than 9/11, and seemed like one of those gifts of synchronicity because it paralleled what I had been thinking I wanted to write about this week.  

Then I went home and fired up the DVR so I could hear President Obama’s speech. Sigh…… 

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, after all, I lived in the state that sent George Bush to the White House. I lived in the district that repeatedly elected Tom Delay. And, much as I try to forget, I have to confess that I lived in the Louisiana parish that actually put David Duke in Congress. So when that disgusting outburst came from the Republican side of the chamber I just had a feeling….  

 Sure enough. That “You lie!” reverberating through the National Statutory Hall and broadcast to the world, came from the Congressman from South Carolina, my brand new home state. Ugh!  

 

I was willing to overlook the peccadilloes of Governor Sanford. Haven’t we all made some choices because of love (or lust, whichever the case may be) that, in retrospect, we wish we had spent a little more time thinking through? I was even considering buying one of those t-shirts I’ve been seeing - “My Governor went to Argentina but all I got was this lousy t-shirt”. But this was different. It was symptomatic of a much deeper issue. My crankiness was because I knew I was going to have to write about it.

 

But then I had one of those wonderful “light bulb” moments! Maybe I don’t have to --- maybe someone else has already done a far better job than I ever could. Oh, yes! By the time I finished reading “A Buttload of Moolah” I wasn’t even cranky anymore.

 

Of course, my returning good humor might have also had something to do with the fact that according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Joe Wilson's Democratic opponent received roughly $100,000 in campaign contributions in the eight hours following the presidential address and last count it was over $400,000. 

 

Perhaps we should encourage our Republican friends to speak up!

Karen

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Conversations With an Old Friend

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?

By: Karen J. Allen
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon
 

It’s interesting what defines a generation. As children of the Depression, our parents worshipped at the altar of security and as the conquering heroes of Midway and Normandy they believed the world now belonged to them. We, in turn, rebelled at the notion that our primary goal was to get a good steady job or marry someone with a stable financial future. The thought of war was unthinkable and we didn’t want to rule the world --- we just wanted to hang out in the park. So we let our hair grow, wore funny clothes, burned draft cards and flags and looked for meaning in drugs, sex and rock and roll.  

Despite our infatuation with “free love” and Timothy Leary’s exhortation to “tune in, turn on, drop out”, we knew, on some level, that there had to be more. I often wonder what might have happened, how we might have shaped the world, if Nixon hadn’t been Commander in Chief that spring day in 1970. But paranoia reigned and the events at Kent State changed everything. We’ll never know what might have been but what we do know is that we folded up our bellbottoms and tie-dyed t-shirts and became our parents. Security and financial success at any price became our mantra. We donned the mantle of entitlement and treated the rest of the planet as if it belonged to us.     

 

But the world isn’t ours to do with as we see fit and it’s gotten testy at our treating it that way. Success at any cost hasn’t made us happy. I’m not sure that where we were headed in the 60’s would have either but I’ve never liked this detour we’ve been on for the past several decades. And I’m feeling like we’re ready for another shift.  

 

It was more than 40 years ago that Dionne Warwick first sang “what’s it all about, Alfie” but it resonated at a level that not only caught our attention but it has burrowed into our consciousness. It pokes us from time to time whenever we stop long enough to try and get our bearings.   

 

I spend a lot of time asking what it’s all about. What’s the point? Why? It’s a consequence of loss and grief. Or maybe it’s a gift. Depends on what day you ask me, I suppose.   

 

Just yesterday, I was having lunch with someone who used the phrase “what’s it all about” in a conversation about putting your life back together after a major upset. We all start out in life asking that same question. About everything. Driving our parents crazy with our incessant efforts to know what everything is and does and means. Most of us soon learn to stop asking about the meaning part. Maybe because we get such conflicting versions. Maybe because we think we’ve found the answer in a religion or occupation or person, only to be disappointed, time after time.  

 

We’ve all had “Peggy Lee moments”. (And if you don’t know what that means you’re really too young to be reading a newsletter for gay baby boomers. But, I hate to lose readers, so Google it and come on back. We’ll wait.)  Up to this point we’ve done just what the song said --- when we start questioning whether our lives have meaning, “is that all there is?”, we simply “keep dancing”.  As we get older, though, the distraction of the dance becomes less and less effective. Sooner or later, we wind down and find ourselves left with the same questions we came into the world with --- “what is it all about?” 

 

It is my belief that questions about purpose and happiness and fulfillment can only be answered by venturing into the spiritual arena, a place many of us adamantly resist. Spiritual issues are difficult for everyone but they are far more so for gay folks. In a recent speech, gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson said "Religion in general still presents the greatest obstacles we face in full equality. Ninety-five percent of the oppression that we know in our lives comes from the religious community." 

 

I’d be curious to know how he arrived at the ninety-five percent figure, but it feels pretty accurate to me. Fortunately, religion is not at all what I’m talking about, although it is what scares most of us away from exploring our spiritual selves. Religion is about rules and control. It teaches that which is not only incomprehensible but also totally contradictory. Organized religion offends my intelligence and sense of fairness and is just about the least loving institution that I can think of. So, we won’t be wasting time on religion. 

 

Spirituality, on the other hand, is about getting in touch with that which is greater than our physical selves. It’s what pulls us up short and demands “is this all there is?” It’s what’s missing when we have the house on the lake, an overflowing bank account, every award our profession can bestow, the love of our life sitting next to us and we realize that we still aren’t happy. Years after publishing his “Hierarchy of Needs”, Abraham Maslov came back and revealed that he believed there was another level above self-actualization, the level where one reached maximum human potential and possibilities. This other level he labeled as “self-transcendence” and described it as a state of “unitive consciousness”.     

 

When we acknowledge the uncomfortable fact that we have everything we ever wanted and it still isn’t enough, we have a choice. It’s one of those crossroad moments. We can always just keep dancing --- renew our membership in the “he, who dies with the most toys, wins” club.   

 

Or.....  Or what?  

That’s the tricky part. And it’s not the same for everyone. For me, it’s a totally different way of looking at the world and what we’re doing here. I can honestly tell you that I doubt that I would have survived the death of my partner without it. Some people find meaning in nature, some in meditation and many in giving back by helping others in any number of ways. Some, despite what I said earlier, find it in their religion. But the key, I think, is in the search --- the recognition that we are more than what our basic senses report. The realization that we are connected in some, as yet unfathomable, way. That there truly is no “other”.      

 

As gay baby boomers, just like our straight counterparts, we are increasingly faced with the task of assessing not only what it has taken to get us to where we are today but also with the question of what do we want now. We spend a lot of time talking about the goals of the gay community and rightly so. But I think it’s just as important, especially as we enter this next stage of our journey, to spend some time with our old friend, Alfie.  

 

What is it all about?

 

 

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You Don't Have to Live with Back Pain

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon
 

Does your back hurt?

Align your Spine!  Do some yoga.  We finally have a rigorous medical study that makes a real connection between Yoga and spine health! 

Researchers at the University of West Virginia reported in the September 2009 issue of Spine (published by the North American Spine Society) that "after 24 weeks, the yoga group reported greater improvements in pain and disability, on average, than the comparison group.  And while none of the study participants had major depression, the yoga group's scores on a standard measure of depression symptoms improved to a greater degree than the comparison group's."

Keep in mind that this study had participants take 6 months of twice/week Iyengar-style yoga classes.  Iyengar is a form of yoga that emphasizes proper body alignment and uses "props," such as blocks, blankets and the wall, to help support people in the various yoga postures. And the certified Iyengar yoga instructors in this study had experience using yoga therapy for back pain.

Yoga is at its heart a way to connect you to your spirit.  But in physical terms, it's a balancing of opposition.  Most poses create a strengthening of one part of the body, while stretching another.  And the slow movements are very safe.  Meditation can be the bonus, but even if you can't quiet your mind, you will still do your body a world of good.

If you'd like to try yoga, first, find this type of yoga: Iyengar.  Second, check your instructor's credentials--did he/she get their certification on-line (it's possible) or through a rigorous training program that requires hands-on apprenticing and re-certification every 2 years?  Third, talk to the instructor before you begin the classes and explain that you have back pain, so the instructor can provide you with modifications until your muscles catch up with the poses.

And remember...these people took 6 months of yoga--not 6 sessions.  But gradually, without the use of pain medication or surgery, they found relief.

You can, too.  One pose at a time.

 

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