Good morning and happy Wednesday,
This weekend was busy for us as no doubt for you as many of us prepare for Christmas fast approaching. Saturday we got to go to an annual party at our friend Elizabeth Marlowe's. It's the latke party. Elizabeth is Jewish and part of her celebration of Chanukah is a yearly party where she serves some traditional Jewish dishes, the main dish being latkes. Ten days that women prepares latkes for her over 30 guests....delicious! What a wonderful time enjoying the fruits of her labor and sharing dishes we all brought. The best part was the chance to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones. It's what I love most about the holidays. Thank you Elizabeth.
I wanted to write this time about something I've been thinking a lot about lately. I'm warning you now this is a bit of a read. It'll take you more than 3 1/2 minutes like listening to one of my songs but I ask you to bear with me because it might be worth it....
I woke up early one day last week and was lying in bed in that state between dreaming and waking, going over things. I hadn't convinced myself that my warm hoodie and my slippers were just 3 feet away and that being out from under my covers wouldn't be so bad.
So I just laid there. I don't know what brought me to it but I was thinking about how I feel about the world in general. Lately it feels scary to me. Although I encounter kind caring people daily, I can't help but feel there is a lot of indifference, rudeness and misunderstanding among us. I'm sometimes astounded by the way we talk to each other on Facebook, Twitter etc., the things I read in news reports, video clips and television shows I see. I fear for my country and the world. I think a simple trip to run an errand is a microcosm of the state of our society. Before I go on, I must say that I am sometimes a participant in some of the car stuff I'm about to write about.
I think a car trip is a microcosm of our cultural attitude. I see people in their cars cutting each other off, racing to beat one another to an exit, texting while they drive, wandering in and out of their lane at 60+ miles an hour and frankly, you should hear some of things that come out of my mouth that are directed at other drivers....They are things I would never say to someone if we were face to face. It's very sailor-like. Put us all in our safe little bubble with 4 wheels and we can do and say whatever we like and be unaccountable. It strikes me that therein lies the rub. When we don't have to face someone, to be accountable to them, the potential for being at our worst may be greatest. When we don't have to look someone in the eyes, we don't have to regard them, we can think only of ourselves and forget the rest of everyone around us.
That's when I remembered something from long ago...
When I was a college student at Miami University in Oxford Ohio, I began to come into myself. That's part of what going from home is about. Thank goodness for the wisdom of my mother who simply looked at me one day as we were talking about my future and whether college was the choice or not and said, "you're going.". She knew I needed to step away from my small and lovely town of Avon Lake Ohio to find my wings.
So it was there at my wonderful school amid wonderful teachers and wonderful classmates that I discovered that I was gay. This is never a small deal and it certainly wasn't for me, the 1983 Homecoming Queen, good girl, tomboy from Avon Lake. Now I had to navigate a departure from a life otherwise pretty straight forward (no pun intended). I would never walk down the aisle in a white dress, never experience the excitement of an engagement with my family and friends, never have a wedding shower, never complete the all-American girl picture already framed for me. Keep in mind there was no marriage equality at this time, there was no "Will and Grace", there weren't many Pride events and LGBTQ organizations were in their infancy as far as any widespread presence. In my experience, there were just "those two ladies that lived across the street" or your friend's uncle's "friend" when it came to "gay". Things regarding gay/lesbian were largely unspoken. Consequently, no real advice was available to me except from some of the other gay/lesbian people I met at school and thank God for them (thank you my lovely friends, Michelle Felgar and Tracy Miller). There was no context, no "way" to be. My liberal college of Interdisciplinary Studies within the more conservative, Miami, made the transition much better than it could have been. Still, I wrestled with things that might be every day to a 19 year old in today's culture. Boys liked me, not as many as got Mowgli-eyed over my beautiful roommate Elizabeth or Sally down the hall, but some really cute nice boys still liked me. I had no idea how to explain myself to these sweet boys or avoid finding myself on a date I didn't really want to be on. I tried. I liked boys. I always have. But once things got past friendship, I was ultimately uninterested and uncomfortable. I'm not telling you all this as catharsis. I've dealt with who I am, and here I am happy and healthy. I'm telling you because I'd like you to know what I learned from my experience and why I think it might be valuable today, in a culture that I think is becoming less and less compassionate.
Remember the car analogy above? Well I think the same characteristics that apply to that apply to my personal experience in college. It goes back (or forward in this case) to, If you have look someone in the eye, regard them, doesn't it make it more difficult for you to be indifferent toward them?
Based on that, something I knew instinctively, here's what I did about my "predicament". I chose not to tell most people I was gay. I thought it put me unfairly in a compromised position. My brother and sisters didn't have to tell my mom and dad they were straight. My friends didn't need to tell anyone they were straight. Why should I have to tell anyone what I was? I knew there was so much more to me than my sexuality. The straight people around me simply existed and liked one another or not based on who they were as people. (Whether they liked someone or not based on color, creed or otherwise is another story all together.) That's what I wanted and thought I deserved. I thought it unfair that I should have to say anything. So I didn't.
Thinking back I can see that at the bottom of all of this was fear...fear that someone wouldn't like me. I was afraid I would be rejected. I wasn't as strong as some others I knew who were open and out and took on lots of hate. I wasn't willing to do that. Even now, after all these years, the thought that some people reading this might hit "unsubscribe" bothers me a little. But I choose not to fear and I know lots of you love me. But back in those early years I thought, well, I won't say anything about my sexuality. I'll just let people get to know ME and by the time they do, they won't be able not to like me simply because they find out I'm gay. That may be naive but I guess I believed in human relationships and that they can transcend prejudice, bigotry and racism. I still believe it. There are so many stories about peoples' minds being changed about race, sexuality, religion and on and on, simply because they love someone. They've looked someone in the eye, they've shared part of life with someone, they've seen that there is nothing to fear about someone, they've raised someone....they've loved someone. All those years ago, I was counting on love to change peoples' minds about gays/lesbians, specifically, me. I'm sure some people walked quietly away from me, I'm sure they still do but for the most part, people continue to love me. I was never a victim of outward hate and for those of you who have been I am sorry and please remember that I love you.
So earlier this week while lying in bed, it occurred to me that the thing separating so many of us is that we don't know each other. We are actually physically separated and that separates us in so many other ways. Think of your neighborhood. How many African Americans live in it? How many Mexicans? How many Muslims? How many white people? How many Jewish people? How many people who make far less money or far more money than you do? How many of people from each of these groups do you know? I'm sure that some of you live in truly integrated places but for the most part we don't. I think there's something in Genesis about this...about the the scattering of people and the universal language being destroyed so we could no longer communicate with one another. I'm not a fundamentalist but I do find sense in this. Separate us and we won't know each other and if we don't know each other we can, and probably will, just make up things about each other, usually not good things.
What would happen if we went out of our way to know people who are not like us? What would happen if we went out of our way to better know people who are like us? It sounds pithy maybe but really what would happen? How often do we get answers to questions we have about people, their religion, their culture, their sexuality? It takes energy, courage and intention to do this. But I think we should try. I know many of you already do this but based on what I'm seeing, I think more of us should.
So in this season when many of us celebrate the Prince of Peace, The One who came to show us how to live, The Light, I was thinking about the way I want to live. From what I have learned about Jesus he really wanted us to love each other. I heard an interview on NPR a few days ago with author and religious historian, Karen Armstrong, known for her books on comparative religion. Karen has written over 20 books that focus on commonalities of the major religions, such as the importance of compassion and the Golden Rule. In the interview she explained that in her studies of religion, she has found that the common thread that runs through all of them, the thing that is stated as a top priority in all of them is compassion. Her new book is, 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life. Here are the steps:
The First Step: Learn About Compassion
The Second Step: Look at Your Own World
The Third Step: Compassion for Yourself
The Fourth Step: Empathy
The Fifth Step: Mindfulness
The Sixth Step: Action
The Seventh Step: How Little We Know
The Eighth Step: How Should We Speak to One Another?
The Ninth Step: Concern for Everybody
The Tenth Step: Knowledge
The Eleventh Step: Recognition
The Twelfth Step: Love Your Enemies
I ordered the book immediately. The author said that living a compassionate life is a life long endeavor...no kidding....I'm hoping it will change the way I drive!!!!!!
I wish you all a holiday filled with joy, hope, love, compassion and peace and I hope I'll see you at one of my upcoming shows and we can all enjoy being together.
Shows follow. Mailing list members, use the link below the Nov. 7th show listing to save on your tickets to my Music Box Supper Club full band show. This is an exclusive offer to AED mailing list members.
Tues., Dec. 20th @ 9pm - The Listing Loon
4124 Hamilton Ave.45223
Cincinnati, OH, US
Solo/acoustic performance, No Cover
Wed., Dec. 21 @ 7pm - Sarah's Vineyard
1204 W. Steels Corners RoadCuyahoga Falls, OH
Come and enjoy the rustic and relaxed atmosphere of Sarah's. Make dinner plans and enjoy a scrumptious wood fired pizza, a glass of wine (or 4!) and enjoy the music.
Thurs., Dec. 22 @ 8pm - Jilly's
111 N Main St. Akron OH 44308
Acoustic duo with Anne E. and Pete. 8pm Show, No Cover.
One of Akron Music Scene's bright lights, Jilly's. Great food, great drinks, great music.
Reservations are strongly recommended.
Call (330) 576-5960
Sat. Jan. 7 @ 8pm - Music Box Supper Club
1148 Main Ave. Cleveland, OH, 44118
A brand new full band show at one of the best music venues in Cleveland. Come and enjoy a wonderful dinner with views of the Cuyahoga River and downtown Cleveland then settle in for a fantastic night of music, including new songs, some you haven't heard in a while plus a washboard, keyboard, glockenspiel, a ukulele and a slide whistle.
$18 advance tickets, $20 day of show
Mailing list members, get your discounted tickets here (If you sign up for the AED Mailing List, you will receive discounts like this one, visit www.anneedechant.com to sign up)
A note that my holiday sale is still on. I've discounted tons of items. Get a AED Hoodie on sale, an AED Gift Card (great stocking stuffer) or one of my Christmas CDs for just $5.99! Sale ends Dec. 17th.
Visit the AED Store and start shopping.