The concept of radical acceptance felt like conceding when I was initially told by my therapist that would be the game changer for healing. How could I accept debilitating anxiety? How could I accept the disruption my mental health was causing to myself, my wife, and family? The idea was a very confusing concept for me when she suggested it. Wasn’t the whole point of therapy for me to continue to fight this battle I was in? The thought of abandoning control and just accepting things for what they were in each moment felt so foreign. I entered therapy with the mindset that I needed to be saved and fixed. I was inherently broken in some way. How could just letting things be do anything? I had a lot of questions that were slowly answered over the course of each session we’ve had.
I fought the concept initially. I am a fixer by nature so none of this made sense. While they continued to explain this to me further they also recommended Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of A Buddha by Dr. Tara Branch. The first few chapters into the book gave me a lot of anxiety. The author made this all seem too easy to do. Was I missing something? Was there some sort of skill set I wasn’t mastering? The shame and fear grew larger. The idea that accepting all of the parts of myself that I found inconvenient or wrong or “too much” would make all of the heaviness of anxiety and mental turmoil go away felt counterproductive. I was in therapy to rid myself of this, not embrace what it did to me. However, once I stopped obsessing over doing everything the therapist and the book told me to do in a perfect way, the change happened on its own.
Action took the lead and I stopped myself from overthinking every step that I was given. I told myself that it’s time to stop beating myself up for being anxious about things not everyone may be anxious about, it’s time to stop labeling myself the resident “chicken shit” of any room I walk into, it’s time to experience big emotions and fully even when it makes me feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. It’s time to accept that I am a human with complex emotions and thoughts just like anyone else. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to mold myself to fit the needs and wants of other people. Life as a people-pleaser will give you that fate but everyday I try and make the conscious choice to allow myself the full spectrum of the human condition with condemning myself for it.
Is Radical Acceptance easy to do? Absolutely not. It is the hardest thing I’ve been challenged to do in therapy but it has been the most helpful. I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life living in the shame of my mental health, shouldering the burden, and not giving myself the freedom to be me even when it was hard. It’s a process that I still struggle with because of my learned patterns in my 32 years on earth. The journey for acceptance will be never ending, it’ll always be a new challenge to endure and push myself into but I am determined to love myself with the same reckless abandon that I love others with. It’s so needed and deserved.
To anyone who struggles with anxiety like I do, I see you and I feel for you. But, know that you are not alone in any way. Everything you think is annoying or inconvenient isn’t nearly as bad as your mind makes it out to be. I challenge anyone with anxiety to try for acceptance. As much as you may want to control your situation because it feels like its spiraling, I promise you there is a freedom in the ability to let go and face things as they come. There’s a freedom in being present and not allowing your anxiety to be your sole focus. You deserve to be your whole self, without the label of good or bad and just being.
When Covid hit, New York gradually started to shut down some of the biggest staples that kept the heart beating in our Big Apple. Landmark after landmark went down, but when Broadway went dark I knew that this pandemic was serious. I took the loss of the great white way harder than I wanted to admit. Theater was a part of the magic that my younger self found in New York City. It was my own oasis of a glittery escape in my own backyard. I pictured the normally lit signs dim as the streets lay deserted with no usual foot traffic and life to pound the pavement. Sad wasn’t the word, I was devastated with no control of what was to come and it was the scariest feeling to watch my city slowly go dim.
I know we aren’t out of the woods yet. The threat still remains real but we are figuring out every day a little more pieces to the puzzle. Science is working double time and the lights are coming back to my beautiful hometown.
The last time we saw a show was November 25, 2019. Katharine McPhee was back on Broadway reprising her role as Jenna Hunterson in Waitress. We’d seen the show twice by then but couldn’t resist going back to see our girl tear the roof off the place again. We were 13 days into our new marriage already kicked in the teeth by the thoroughs of life. We needed an escape desperately and Waitress more than delivered. Our mutual love for the arts is one of the many things my wife and I share and this show was no different. Life was good in that evening, there was no reality, no stress, we were having a date we both needed.
Today after 650 days since our last show and 555 days into the Covid-19 pandemic in New York, I can happily and gratefully say that we made our return to Broadway and back to the diner. I felt like a kid on Christmas. A bundle of nerves being exposed to crowds again (we were all masked and vaccinated or tested) but excited to be back in the theater. It’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve seen Times Square and today I took it all in like I was seeing it for the first time. Waitress was revived and brought to the Barrymore Theatre directly across the street from its original home at Brook Atkinsons. I’ve dreamed about this day, I’ve mourned the idea that lights would never come on again and I cannot explain how happy I am to have spent time inside of a Broadway show again. The world has a ways to go but these gifts of what was once reminds me to never take advantage of what you have in front of you because it can be gone in an instant. I am thankful, humbled. Thanks for taking to me to the moon, Waitress. I’ve missed you and I’ve missed my city more than I could explain.
Last year feels like it’s blended into this present year but there’s been some vast differences in my Summers. Last year, we spent vigilant and on guard. There was little to no eating out, no going places indoors, and nothing was truly certain. Truthfully, I was miserable if I’m honest. I’ve always thrived being near people and being in the thick of mental health struggles, I needed people more than ever. However, despite the struggle I was in best shape of my life. It is amazing when you’re limited with things to do just how creative someone can become. I spent more time outside, I walked the poor stumps off of my dog and I was more connected to nature (or as connected as I could be in a city) than ever before. There was a few silver linings that came out of the quarantine and my time outside was a massive one. I was able to find some sort of comfort in moving my body and embracing any fresh air I could get my hands on. It was a quiet time of learning and finding out just how creative one could get in hard times.
This year the world is waking back up again. While the Delta variant is still a danger, I find myself getting to do much more than I did last year. I’m able to see people in most settings, I’m able to go to dinner like we used to, I’m still working from home which sucks and makes the days really long but the weekends are filled with busy activities again. The world feels more awake and normal but I find myself lethargic at times. I miss being forced to do things that made me move more, I miss being outside on a constant basis. I know all of that is still attainable but the distractions are back and I’m struggling to find that necessary balance for both. Covid Summer gave me a lot to realize and I’m glad I did and this Summer gave me my time with family and friends back, who I missed more than ever.
I’ve been writing since I can spell. For as long as I can remember, writing was an emotional outlet that allowed to express myself in ways I didn’t know were possible to do. As a child, I wrote elaborate handwritten birthday cards expressing how I felt for loved ones because it was one of my favorite ways to say it without appearing too repetitive or not acting my age. As a teenager into my early 20s, I created an entire world in written roleplay on MySpace with my character as a way to experience life on my own terms and meet others who were doing the same. It was the ultimate escape and what would lead me to find the love of my life in the real world outside of the pages of writing. Writing has always fit somewhere into my identity in an obvious way and I’ve never questioned my place in it until now.
As an adult, life gets in the way. Anxiety flares up, I’m living experiences in real time and sometimes so swept away by it all I’m exhausted. However, the ember is still flickering inside of me and a craving for self-expression. I still consider myself a writer but I find myself getting lost in the comparison to others. I’m surrounded by such an insane amount of talent in the Twitter world and my tiny NaNoWriMo platform and it’s been a daunting task to try and keep up. Am I an author exclusively or can I be a blogger too? Am I up for the challenge of consistent publishing and marketing? Can I stick to a deadline? I’ve found I’ve had a lot of difficulty with self-trust and I want to be able to keep a promise to myself in one of the safest places in my world; my writing.
I’ve tried series on here and always somehow embarrassed myself along the way with some sort of excuse as to why or how I couldn’t continue. I want to make the change and train myself with Blogtember. I’ve decided to do this now versus December because as of this month, my life is going to pick up to a level of pre-Covid speeds. Am I crazy for trying this during that? Probably. But, I am eager to build this stamina in my writing. It’s who I am, it’s one of my gifts and I want to use it as a wisely as I can. I’m going to be creating a table of contents below that can be used to enjoy the entire 30 days of this journey. I’ve had some topics I’ve wanted to discuss and some personal journeys I want to document. All of these will contain links as each article becomes published so you can use this to follow along.
It makes me sad that so many people in our community walk away from their faith because they feel like there is no other choice for them. It is incredibly isolating and sad to have such a familiar environment turn on the drop of a dime.
I see you and you are valid for any choice you make to handle these types of matters. For so many years, I found myself sneaking into the back of churches for an Ash Wednesday or wondering if anyone would notice if I was gay in a religious crowd. I was terrified that somehow God was watching me commit this “sin” despite how much love was coursing through my veins as I lived my truth in my true identity and eventually in my current marriage to my wife.
From a very early age, I found a strong connection to God. Religion was always a comfort for me, a moral high ground that I used to justify the right from wrong as I navigated my years of growing up. I was baptized a Lutheran because the Catholic Church didn’t consider my parents’ marriage valid because they got married in City Hall and not a church. I was eventually converted to Catholicism in the 5th grade because my dad’s “Catholic guilt” got the better of him. However, my profession to Catholicism only furthered my connection to God and my bonds to family. Coming out brought great conflict in my spirituality. No matter how much I prayed or did the right thing, I was sinful because I found romantic attraction to both men AND women.
I didn’t know how to process the fact that one part of myself would cancel out the other. The idea of putting my true self and my religious convictions felt impossible.
As much as 2020 broke me, it also presented great change. Organized religion had always made me feel dirty and unwanted because I was the big old oxymoron bi-sexual Catholic girl. None of it could ever mesh together, or could it? My first therapist sent me out on the hunt for LGBTQIA+ affirming churches. My homework was to find one that had a mass that I could attend virtually. I wasn’t convinced that this would end well. The only other time I had saw a stroke of religious representation and LGBTQIA+ mesh together was a Pride float in NYC. This float resembled what looked like a club for ostracized Catholics like myself which was comforting but also horrifying at the same time. I began the search with little to no expectations and was blown away by what I found. I came across gaychurch.org which presented an entire database of churches from all faiths that welcomed LGBTQIA+ people. I cautiously searched Catholic and was blown away but what I saw. I found at least a dozen churches in NYC that welcomed our community. I went to every church website for the proverbial proof in the pudding and saw some mention on some sites but nothing that stuck out. It wasn’t until I saw St. Ignatius Loyola that I was sold that religion and my bi-sexuality could mesh together. There was an entire ministry of people made up of people like me and allies in this Catholic church. I was blown away by this and quickly joined their Facebook group and began to watch their interactions from afar. I was painfully shy and wanted to wait before I made myself known. After listening to a few sermons that impressed me and watching the Facebook group, I eventually attended their Zoom meeting and felt like I was home.
The marriage of these parts of my life has given me more comfort than I can explain. For years I felt like I was being tugged in two different directions and felt like I had no choice but to choose. I know that my story isn’t always the happy ending for everyone but I hope to provide some hope for anyone who wants to have a relationship with God in a church setting and still be their truest selves. It is very possible to do if it’s something you want to pursue. It is also perfectly okay to maintain a private spiritual relationship with whatever God you believe in. The choice is yours and whatever you choose is valid and great.