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The Gifts of Imperfection – Two-Minute Book Review

Sakes alive, it’s been ages since I officially reviewed a book! More than three years, actually.

Pourquoi? I started to explain, but I’ve decided it doesn’t matter! I do want to write about books, but I don’t have time to wax philosophical, and you may well not have time to read such blither-blather either.

Hence — The Two-Minute Book Review. I’m excited about this concept.

(I actually have no idea if this will take two minutes to read. We all read at different speeds, after all. And with widely varying levels of mental imagery – more on that later.)

First book that came to mind that I’ve read in the past three years is actually NOT from Book Club, but no matter.

AND GO.

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Title: The Gifts of Imperfection – Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Author: Brené Brown

Other works: Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and I Thought It Was Just Me, etc., as well as several TED Talks (my first exposure was this wonderful talk, which I looked up after reading about Brené on Momastery.

Genre: Self-improvement… Spirituality… Life journeys…

Recommended by: My hairdresser, who had just come to a place in her life where she was feeling truly happy with herself in her life. She glowed with it.

Main characters: Brené, her many unnamed research subjects, her family, and especially you, the reader.

Opinions: My hairdresser found it really helped her to be happy with herself and thus to move forward with her goals. She was hoping to convince her husband to read it, because he was feeling stuck in a place of insecurity on many fronts. (I’ll need to get a haircut for an update.) Personally, I found it to be an interesting, comforting, thought-provoking read. Not a difficult or jargon-y book whatsoever. Brené is a professional researcher, and she’s also a very human human.

A quotation I liked: “The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” I really, really relate to this statement.

What sticks with me: The concept of living “whole-heartedly,” with all the things you and your heart are together, including the painful parts and the vulnerability to let them be seen. Also the statistics that indicate that one of the factors associated with happiness and contentment is belief in something greater/larger than ourselves, whether it be God or love or global connectedness or something else altogether.

Recommended to: Anyone struggling with self-acceptance, anyone wishing to be forgiven, anyone beating themselves up about stuff too often.

To sum up: I liked The Gifts of Imperfection a lot. It didn’t change my life drastically, but I can see how it would for some. And I’d like to read ALL of Brené.

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8 Unromantic-Sounding Ways I Know We Will Last

two hearts making an effort

“How’s your relationship these days?” is not a question most of us ever ask people. I’ve probably only ever asked it of newlyweds (where it’s more like “How’s married life?” nudge-nudge) or of very close friends with whom I have a precedent of relationship discussions.

It is a bit odd, though. Among parents, there are the constant “how are your kids” conversations, and it’s expected that you’ll dish on the hard parts as well as the fun parts. But for some reason, even though Sean and I are at the age where the majority of our friends are in committed relationships, we rarely discuss that very important aspect of daily life. Somehow, it feels rude or intrusive to ask, even though we certainly care about the answer.

One result of this is that when friends have major relationship troubles or break up, it’s often a complete shock – sometimes even to close friends. You think, But they always seemed fine!

Obviously, the reasons to break up are as diverse and numerous as the couples who do it. For the couples who stay together, there are myriad reasons for that, too. Presumably, though, most couples who’ve had a long-term relationship – whatever its future – had a period of awesomeness at some point. A chapter, of whatever length, where the connection was uplifting and the chemistry was wild and both parties thought, “This could be IT!”

Setting aside the Big Bad Wolves of Relationship Destruction (infidelity, abuse, addiction, etc.), how else do those paths diverge, such that some couples stay together and some split up?

I can only speak for myself in this, of course. I’m no expert. If someone asked me, “How can you be sure you’ll be together forever?” I’d say, “I’m not. It’s impossible to be a hundred percent sure. But I am supremely confident.”

How, you ask, can I be supremely confident without blind faith? What’s the secret? And could it be helpful to anyone else?

Well, shucks, that’s why I’m writing this. So that you can all SOAK UP MY GLORIOUS WISDOMAlors, voilà: here is my carefully crafted counsel, based on my own untrained and entirely non-objective experience of thirteen years with the same person (9.5 of them married).

1. Let Your Inner Grub Out.

If you’re gonna be with someone for the long haul, they need to see the real you, and your real habits. Not dressed up, not scrubbed down. When Sean and I moved in together, cohabitation was our way to make sure that neither of us had habits that would be deal-breakers for the other. We are lucky to have very similar scores on the slob-to-neat-freak scale. If I forget to put the CDs back in their cases (yes, we’re sooo retro, we still have CDs), or if he forgets to put his nasal rinse packet in the garbage, we know we’re about even. We have also found we’re able to handle each other’s dirty laundry and live with each other’s stinkier sides, and we like each other even in comfy pants and scruffy hoodies.

2. Get Used To Non-Perfection.

Speaking of grubs, your personality-related grubbiness is gonna need airing out too. We all have our flaws. We all have at least one side that’s lazy or naggy or procrastinatey or judgey or grumpy or insensitive or whatever. (Fun game: guess which ones are mine!!) And if you join yourself with a person, you join yourself with their flaws. Those flaws are not going anywhere. And Sean and I are well aware of the less awesome parts of each other – and ourselves. Sometimes we drive each other a little bit bonkers with that. But even though we know we can’t change each other, we do support each other’s quests for self-improvement, which are constantly evolving.

3. Forget Sweet Talk. Try Straight Talk.

Speaking of imperfections, it’s good to know we can live with each other’s, but sometimes discussion is necessary. It’s amazing how easy it is to find yourself playing games, manipulating, expecting someone to read your mind if you’re feeling pouty. But that’s lame. If my husband is driving me bonkers in some way, and I never articulate it to him, then what chance is there to improve things? If he’s upset with me for something, I want him to tell me – even when it hurts to hear. (Contrary to some beliefs, it is NOT more respectful to say nothing in an attempt to spare someone’s feelings.) It usually hurts, although we also take pains to word things as plainly-but-tactfully as possible. Those moments are really hard, but bearable – and worth it – if they come from a place of caring. Leaving those unsaid things to fester, on the other hand, is a great way to drive spikes into the potential cracks in a relationship. (We consider that, true to our marriage vows, being irresponsible with spikes is not an option. We have invested; what we have is not disposable or replaceable; therefore, proper maintenance is necessary.)

4. Learn To Mess Up Properly.

Speaking of upsetting each other, Sean and I have learned, many times, that if you handle mistakes with honesty and sincerity, it works way better than denying or deflecting blame. THIS IS HARD, too. Admitting you’re wrong… I honestly think everyone struggles with it. True apology feels deeply vulnerable. But it’s also humbling, illuminating, disarming, and endearing. It allows a couple to be a team, with both members party to the resolution. And I’ve noticed that when a person can be candid about mistakes, those aforementioned flaws and foibles can sometimes even be… kinda cute.

5. Never Mind About That Honeymoon Phase.

Speaking of admitting things, let’s be frank: the exorbitant new-relationship ecstasy does not last forever. Sometimes Sean and I look back on how snuggly-wuggly and cutesie-wootsie we once were, and we think, Yeesh. Our friends must have been nauseated. That swooning stage is not sustainable, long-term. And to be even franker, in a long relationship, there are sometimes downright cool periods – times when you feel distant or annoyed or just not that attracted to each other, or even disconnected.

N.B.: DON’T PANIC. It doesn’t mean the spark is gone forever.

For me, those are usually the times when I’m feeling deflated about life in general. Fortunately, I’ve learned not to put stock in those times. I know that that’s just how I feel if I’m short on sleep, or not eating right, or stressed out about certain things. I wait it out. I know it will pass. It always does. If it needs a little nudge, some of that straight talk (see #3) comes in very handy. Invariably, the moment comes when I look at my husband and feel the affection/happiness/spark surge back in.

It’s also worth mentioning that, in my experience, the settled, solid, non-swooning phase is, in many ways, more sublime than its predecessor. And it still includes kisses that make me weak in the knees.

6. Go Ahead And Take Love For Granted.

Speaking of sometimes-latent affection, one of the perks of being in a committed relationship is getting to take love for granted – in a way. It’s not that I take love in general for granted; it took me ages (years, even) to tell my high school/university boyfriend that I loved him, because I wanted to be absolutely sure I knew what I meant, and meant it well. But once you’ve taken that leap and decided that yes, this is love!, it’s your right – and responsibility – to trust that it’s there… even at times (see #5) when you feel crotchety and not-so-loving. My Hubbibi and I always end phone and text conversations with “I love you.” Especially if we’ve been exasperated with each other, or having a difficult conversation, we both know that by saying “I love you,” we’re affirming that we don’t take challenging moments as bad signs, that we both trust in the proof of our history. Unless one of us were to go through a fundamental change, we know: I’m me, and you’re you, and we love each other.

Furthermore, I really believe that the out-loud declaration of “I love you” is, for lack of a better analogy, like a valve that opens to let the love flow. The absence of “I love you,” on the other hand, is not just a silent moment; it’s a gaping hole through which the love can gradually – and painfully – drain out. I know couples have very different outlooks on when to say it, how often to say it, not wanting it to “mean nothing” if said too often. I see where they’re coming from, but I don’t think saving I love yous for special occasions makes sense. Love, with your life partner, is a gift – but not the diamond-bracelet kind of gift. It must be a practical, everyday gift, like a high-quality glue that can get kinda grungy but does not let go. Even if you say it dozens of times a day, it still means everything.

7. Love Is Not All You Need.

Speaking of love, it’s not the last word. It’s also really important to like each other. If you don’t enjoy each other’s company, all the good chemistry in the world won’t make up for it. I always smile when I see that quote on someone’s wedding program, “This day I will marry my best friend,” etc., because I think that’s the dream. What more could you want? Permanent sleepovers with your best friend! Always coming home to your favourite person! Once you cohabit, and more so once you have kids, it won’t always be “quality” time. There will be many humdrum household activities to share. Once in a while you might think, “Remember when we used to do FUN stuff together??” And you will again. But in the meantime, even if you don’t spend lots of time together (couples on opposite shifts, or with very different hobbies, for example), just sharing those run-of-the-mill activities can be lovely with a cherished friend.

8. Smarten Up And Be Grateful.

There are lots of couples out there who make their marriages function even though they’re not particularly happy or compatible together. Sean and I are fortunate in lots of ways some couples aren’t: we have very well-matched senses of humour; we enjoy the same simple ways to spend time together; we like the same music; we have similar nerdy and/or intellectual tendencies; we have harmonious politics; we genuinely love each other’s families.

We do, however, have differences that can be difficult. We aren’t passionate about all the same things; we don’t have the same style of communication; we have different instincts on a lot of minor issues; but all those things are surmountable with some conscious effort. And with the time we’ve already spent together, we owe each other that conscious effort. Who are we to let small things mess up our relationship when other couples have such larger hurdles?

Ignoring my good fortune seems spoiled to me – like living in such abundance that you feel entitled to waste perfectly good food – and I HATE wasting food. I’ve made a habit of intentionally appreciating the good things, so that when things don’t seem super-rosy, I never forget that I’m still an extremely lucky gal.

One more thing… A Note About Mental Illness.

As many of you know, my beloved Hubbibi is subject to chemical depression sometimes. It took a long time for both of us to understand that while depression can be triggered or catalyzed by circumstances, at its foundation it has nothing to do with how many things are good in one’s life. I have had to pull myself back from feeling like my failings were directly contributing to his depression.

The thing is, before our marriage, we did almost break up – several times – and I mostly blame the depression. It’s an illness that steals your mojo, takes the glow out of even your favourite people and things, makes you feel like stuff isn’t worth doing, saps your motivation to do even the things you know are good for you.

So again, speaking just from my own perspective… If your relationship seems lacklustre despite solid history, consider that mental health (or lack of it) could be an issue. Because there are ways to deal with that. We would never have gotten through those almost-breakups, not to mention having children, not to mention losing one child, without confronting those issues head-on. Being open about this, and being a united team where mental health is concerned, has saved us multiple times.

Just sayin’.

So, to sum up:

If someone were to ask me, “How did you know that Sean was THE ONE?” I’d say, “I didn’t. But I knew he was a super-special-awesome one.”

If someone were to ask me, “How do you know Sean IS the one?” I’d say something annoying like, “He is… because he is.”

I don’t necessarily believe there’s only one human in the world I could possibly make a life with. But Sean is the person I’ve chosen, who has also chosen me, with whom to build something special and interesting and beautiful. He is the only person with whom I can have THIS life, and this life is the one I want.

***

P.S.: To read more about mental health struggles and successes, please click here.


 

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100 Happy Days – Day 36: Smiles

“See my new smile??” they ask. (And this picture reveals a love for three oranges! Well, clementines. AB was making an orange snowperson with them.)

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100 Happy Days – Day 25: Black Lentils

I’ll be honest. This day was a hectic, somewhat crappy day. One of those days when my kids are simultaneously screaming before 8:30 a.m.; also, one of those days when I asked myself, “Why did I become a teacher again?” Sigh.

BUT.

There was this bag of mysterious legumes I’d accidentally bought months ago, thinking they were black beans. This was the morning I’d finally Googled “black matpe” and realized they’re just lentils.

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Which was important because A) lentils are my FRIENDS, and B) curried black lentil soup (usually called Tarka Dal) is one of my top three things to order at an Indian restaurant.

So I easily found this slow-cooker recipe for Black Lentils, and put them on to cook during the workday.

Sean got home before I did that day and actually texted me: “What smells like delicious in here?!” He was the one who cooked up some basmati rice for us.

When I came home, I had the same lovely feeling of walking into a warm house that smells like delicious – and dinner’s basically ready to go. And here’s what my not-so-mysterious lentils looked like: THE REAL DEAL. They cooked up creamy and flavourful with minimal effort.

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As it happens, I didn’t have chiles, cilantro, or mustard oil, and I used canned coconut milk/cream instead of whipping cream, but… IT WAS SOOOO YUMMY. And so easy. Not to mention vegan and gluten-free.

Happy.

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Remembering What We’re Built To Do

sunshine through the trees
Image from http://www.ForestWander.com

When I was 18, a boy at Camp wrote a poem for me. Although I didn’t requite his crush, I still consider his poem one of the most romantic things I’ve ever received, because of its candour. The second line was “She’s just like sunshine through the trees,” and to this day I still feel kinda thrilled about that. Sunshine through the trees is one of my favourite things in the whole world.

A while back, I heard on CBC about a study showing that spending time in green space improves our mental health. Apparently, being in the presence of leafy trees actually makes us happier.

I think most of us can vouch for this. At the end of a long, white winter, I’m sure I am not alone in feeling an almost physical thirst for those luscious green leaves. It’s nice to get this confirmation: we are built to feel that way.

Family Camp at NeeKauNis last month was full of reminders of the things we are built to do and enjoy.

Here we are, in the age of modern medicine, where Westerners rarely worry about diseases that used to kill us in great numbers – smallpox and tuberculosis, for example – and we’ve handily encouraged a phalanx of new maladies all by ourselves.

We eat packaged food so far removed from its sources that we don’t even recognize the ingredients; then we wonder why we have troubles with our various organs and our energy levels.

We’ve surrounded ourselves with harmful chemicals in our food, clothes, grass, household products, and everything plastic; then we are devastated when opportunistic cancers have a field day.

We spend hours a day sitting, hunched over some screen or other, often sacrificing sleep for addictive overstimulation; then we realize – too late, sometimes – that our heart or lungs or joints or brains don’t work properly anymore.

We live in our container-homes, put in our earbuds so no live people can distract us, and avoid eye contact with the humans who serve us coffee or check out our groceries; then we shake our heads at the rise of prescription anti-depressant use.

I’m not speaking in self-righteousness. I do most of these things too. I’m not condemning modern medicine either, or technology in general. I really appreciate the benefits of ultra-portable computers, affordable antibiotics, high-speed transportation, laparoscopic surgery, and the wondrous capacity of the internet. I like Cheetos and Toaster Strudel, I watch TV on Netflix, I love Facebook, and as I’ve mentioned, I am very grateful for the existence of prescription anti-depressants.

But when I’m in a restaurant and see a family of four at the next table, not speaking, each absorbed in a separate hand-held device, my husband and I look at each other and quietly vow: That will never be us.

And at Family Camp, I remember that when those contemporary facets of life drop away for a few days, it does good to every layer of our selves.

It helps that there are children of all ages there. They’re all over the things that humans are meant to do. Just watching and listening to them is therapy.

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Children run and jump and climb and slide. They laugh their heads off, and cry hard when they need to. They sing and dance with joy. They build and knock down. They splash and spin. They scrunch their fingers and toes in the sand. They get dirty with real dirt. They want stories, hugs, their own little space, and their own accomplishments.

I want those things, too.

When I think about what really, actually makes me feel good, it’s mostly simple things. The things I’m built to do. The same things humans have been doing for centuries – or longer.

Dancing until I am out of breath.

Cooking for someone I love.

Making art.

Getting lost in a great book.

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Sitting in dappled shade. (Sunshine through the trees.)

Hugging.

Plunging into cool water on a hot day.

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Sipping a hot drink on a cold day.

Listening to music I love – or better yet, making some.

Hearing breezes, birds, crickets, rivers, waves.

Writing.

Looking closely at something beautiful.

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Reading to my kids.

Going to bed when I’m really tired.

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Walking in fresh air.

Laughing.

Eating something truly delicious.

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Sharing thoughts and feelings with a friend.

Doing a job well.

Having an adventure.

I know, they read like clichés, worthy of a curlicued garden tile. But there are reasons the inspirational-message market is so successful. Mostly, it’s because

1) It really IS good for us to dance as if nobody’s watching, sing like nobody’s listening, etc., because we’re built to.

And

2) We busy humans are remarkably good at forgetting the value of those seemingly easy things.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the thousand little jobs you have to do on a daily basis. I could easily spend all of every day doing small, necessary, basically mindless tasks. Which is not satisfying at all.

For me, I know, I need to think of those good-for-my-soul things as medicine. Taking my medicine is my responsibility, something I must do for my health. And in order to take it, I have to notice it. I have to be truly mindful and present.

That way, any time I can grab a bit of dappled shade or kid snuggles or good conversation, they will heal what ails me.

What precious things are you built to do?

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International Day of Happiness

Hey there, lovely Di-hards,

Will you help me write a blog post?

Today is International Day of Happiness, as decided by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012.

I have to admit, when I heard this mentioned on the radio yesterday, in the same newscast as Malaysia Airlines, Crimea, and the winter that just won’t end, it felt… awkward. It brought to mind my eternal conundrum:

Look at all the misery in the world – what right have I to be happy? AND,

Look at all the misery in the world – what right have I EVER to be unhappy, when I am so fortunate?

Then I read the Secretary General’s message on the topic, which includes these words:

Happiness is neither a frivolity nor a luxury.  It is a deep-seated yearning shared by all members of the human family.  It should be denied to no-one and available to all.  This aspiration is implicit in the pledge of the United Nations Charter to promote peace, justice, human rights, social progress and improved standards of life.”

Kinda beautiful, n’est-ce pas?

So apparently, today, we are charged with pondering REAL happiness. New shoes, pretty gadgets, and video-game dopamine aside, what makes us REALLY happy?

So here are your three questions, to be answered in the comments with a handful of words each… Don’t overthink it, don’t try for a complete list, don’t worry about being fair or super-deep or organized or original. It’s okay if it’s cheesy or seemingly silly or someone already said it. Just write something that comes to mind. We know that family and friends make you happy – you don’t have to cover them all for this (unless you want to). Just be REAL.

1. What gives you a giddy rush of joy?

2. What gives you the glow of true satisfaction?

3. What makes you so happy that words don’t begin to cover it?

Please consider commenting if you have time. You know, just so I don’t look like a total loser for asking the question. 🙂

{Here are my answers, if you’re interested. 1. Dancing alone to a wicked song in my living room, seeing my son get off the school bus, a kiss that makes me dizzy. 2. Clicking “Publish”, laughing with my students, coming offstage knowing I’ve danced well. 3. Making music as part of a group, my wedding day, the moment of live birth. And my kids’ cheeks when they smile, of course.}

What are your thoughts?

smiles

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Why The Rainbow Rocks My Socks

rainbow-flow
Rainbow Flow by colorcompany.ca

I grew up in the kind of household I wish all gay kids could grow up in: one where I always knew, without ever having to ask, that my parents would accept me. Well, not quite – if I’d been a Conservative/Republican, that might not have gone over well. But I never doubted that my sexual orientation was a non-issue. In fact, I don’t even remember learning what gay meant, which probably means there was a conversation so matter-of-fact, and so early on, that I never thought much about it.

I turned out to be straight. That was fine too.

The first person I knew who was for sure gay was a lifeguard at Camp when I was thirteen. What I knew about him was that he was incredibly friendly to everyone, and sang out-of-tune camp songs with contagious enthusiasm. And he liked guys, I guess.

The year I lived in France, one of my best friends was Matt from Idaho. We got to be close over the Toussaint holiday, spending a week tracing a southward line through some towns famous for châteaux and vineyards. He was a great travelling companion.

I remember a conversation, over a restaurant dinner at the beginning of our trip, where he told me about himself – how he’d had difficulties with his parents and had battled depression. He had gotten into some pretty hard drugs for a while.

It wasn’t until almost the end of our trip that he actually told me he was gay – but I’d basically figured it out by then. Looking back, I can see that he had tested me – probably many times – to make sure I’d be okay with it first. (For instance, I remember him commenting on a rainbow bus and waiting for a reaction.) I don’t blame him; how was he to know I was different from those who’d mistreated him in the past?

In teachers’ college, I once participated in a seminar put on by some of my queer classmates, addressing how to deal with homophobic bullying in the classroom. One was a guy who had grown up with a single hippie mom who had always accepted him for exactly who he was. But the one whose story stuck with us the most was a guy from Central America (El Salvador, I think) whose family had moved to Toronto when he was a kid. He told us about the pain he’d gone through when he began to realize he was gay, understanding that those horrible gay-bashing words kids used now meant him. Knowing that his parents would be outraged and heartbroken if they knew – he wasn’t even sure they’d still want him as a son.

He lied about it for as long as he could. He kept secret his attendance at a queer youth support group, until one day his parents found his pamphlets. He told us that it was awful – they didn’t take it well – but that eventually, with lots of time and discussion, they came around. Sadly, I know there are parents who don’t.

I have two Aunties who live together in a big house overlooking the river. It is full of personality, with one scarlet bathroom, many decorative frogs, and “stairs that go up and up and up”, as E puts it. They both went through a lot before finding each other, including heterosexual marriages that produced wonderful progeny but also brought many struggles. They have both been professional storytellers, and their relationship reminds me of their tandem storytelling: they are a beautifully complementary, synchronized team. They work together, sing together, fit together. Seeing them interact, it is clear that they make each other truly happy. They’re adorable. It’s the kind of partnership I think all married couples should aspire to.

You already know I’m uncomfortable with gender stereotypes. You can probably tell that I support gay marriage as well.

I also love rainbows. I am one of those people who compulsively puts the markers back in the box in rainbow order. I always drew rainbows on my colouring pages, and I still like to colour rainbows on things with my son’s crayons – the more subtle the gradations, the better.

My son also loves rainbows, and has excellent colour acuity. We have a really good time together, arranging his cars in rainbow order.

rainbow cars

I was already an adult when I found out that the rainbow is a symbol of the LGBT community. I admit that I felt a bit territorial: Wait a sec! Why do gay people get to have the rainbow? *I* love rainbows the most. What if I want a rainbow to represent me even though I’m straight? And now, I have a rainbow baby. I’m even more invested.

I had a bit of the same feeling when I realized that the gay pride celebrations are just called “Pride”. The words “gay” and “queer” are already theirs. So, like, LGBT people now have the market cornered on being proud, or what?

But whatever. It’s not an issue that ever kept me up at night.

Then recently, I had a bit of an epiphany. I had occasion to buy some soup at a deli counter with a poster on the door advertising a concert by our local LGBT (and allies) choir. I smiled when I saw the poster, because I’ve been to many a Rainbow Chorus concert, and while I’ve seen other choirs with more technical skill, you will never find a more feel-good show than theirs. (Except possibly Singing OUT!‘s.) Singing, dancing, costumes, props, and more heart than you could shake a flag at. I’ve laughed and cried and cheered at their concerts.

Anyway, I felt glad to be patronizing this LGBT-friendly place. And then, I had a strong hunch that two of the people (or maybe more) serving that day were queer. It didn’t surprise me when they were super-nice, and sincerely helpful when I needed directions. I always try to use my best courtesy, but that day I found myself making a special effort to be nice enough to somehow convey to them my acceptance: Hey, I’m on your team, even if I don’t bat for it!

After I’d left, I wondered to myself: why did I want to impress those servers? Why did I assume, just because this place was LGBT(-friendly), that the people working there were generally awesome? Was I really thinking that gay people are better than straight people?

I’ve thought a lot about it since then, and my answer is… actually, yeah, kinda.

Here’s what I’ve figured. If you are openly LGBT, you have undoubtedly already come up against the backlash. No matter how supportive your family or city or neighbourhood might be, there is enough ignorance and homophobia and meanness out there to find you.

It’s not that being persecuted makes you a better person. But let’s remember that many minorities don’t have closets. If you’ve made the choice to come out – which, the more I think about it, must be damn scary – you probably have to do it over and over. Every time you change jobs or cities, every time you enter a new circle, you have to re-tell your truth. So, if you’re openly LGBT, you are choosing to live life with courage. You’ve decided that being true to yourself and the LGBT(TIQQ2SA) community is more important than whatever fallout may occur.

I’m not saying that every gay person is a paragon of integrity. We’re all human. But most of us straight folk never have to make a choice between going unharassed… and being ourselves. Living that life would teach a person a thing or two about compassion and acceptance.

The same is true of LGBT celebrities, who have to come out not just to their friends and families, but to millions of people who don’t know them personally but feel entitled to judge them. And is it just me, or are the openly gay artists the ones who most often manage to be insanely talented, hilarious, imaginative, AND seem like lovely people? I mean, I guess it’s possible they’re all SOBs in person, but I know the world is a better place for the awesomeness of people like Ellen Degeneres, Neil Patrick Harris, Rosie O’Donnell, Elton John, Jane Lynch, William Finn, Indigo Girls, David Sedaris, Evalyn Parry, Victor Garber, Melissa Etheridge, David Hyde Pierce, and k.d. lang (among others). And seriously, who but LGBT+allies would come up with Prop 8 – The Musical?

Happily, it seems that if you come out, you’re joining an amazing crowd. If the celebrities and the LGBT choirs are any indication, gay people as a group are just nicer and more fun.

But perhaps we should consider statistics. Mathematically, don’t there have to be the same proportion of jerky gay people as straight people?

I assume so, but my guess is – and I think George Takei would back me up on this – many of the people with same-sex tendencies AND trouble showing compassion are the ones still in the closet. (That would sway the percentages.) And it must be pretty dark and uncomfortable in that closet. I’d probably be bitchy too.

We know that LGBT youth are often subject to cruel torment. We know that homophobes use reprehensible tactics to try to hold off the wave of marriage equality and make gay people feel bad about themselves. It’s not an admirable facet of humanity.

But how does the LGBT community publicly react and fight back to this malevolence? Not with rage or self-pity, even though God knows they must feel some, and they’d be entitled to it. Nope – this is a community that reacts with gaiety. With humour and creativity. With effervescent joy and love. With fashion and passion and Rainbows. And with friggin’ awe-inspiring Pride.

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Pride parade photo from cbc.ca

They say, BE YOU. Who you are MATTERS. We should all live like that.

Obviously, this is a community that’s earned the word gay, and the word pride, and the best rainbows we’ve got.

Congratulations – to all of us – on the defeat of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act this past week. Even though there’s still much work to be done, those walls are coming down. Maybe someday there won’t be any closets left, and mentioning your same-sex partner will be like mentioning your Portuguese roots or whatever. Just one more cool part of what makes you who you are.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy those rainbows wherever I see them, and be inspired to live more truly.

Happy Pride, everybody.

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Photo credit

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