For her Birthday my friend Ann asked that we spend some time loving someone who is difficult for us to love. She said we didn’t have to forgive or hang out with them – she just wanted us to think loving thoughts and humanize someone we dislike for whatever reason.  She ended her request by saying: “Nothing would make me happier than imagining a bunch of you spending even 5 minutes focusing real love, compassion and understanding on an enemy.”

Somehow I believe it would have been easier to just send her flowers!

However, I respect this friend so very much so I decided to focus my energies on someone who betrayed my trust over 20 years ago. Someone I believed was a friend – someone I loved as a sister – someone I trusted with the deepest secret I had.

In a moment of bearing my soul – I told this friend I was gay. I told her how I have struggled to live a “normal” life but I wasn’t happy. I told her I had always known I was gay but also knew that I could never talk with my family – well because where I come from – being gay is simply not done.  I told her that as much as I cared about my husband – I just couldn’t love him. Certainly not the way he deserved to be loved – I was trying – I just couldn’t do it. I was struggling on what to do – and how to do it.

My “friend” decided that her loyalties were really with my husband – and she told him everything I had told her.  She outed me to my husband – my father – my little community where I grew up.

My life exploded – and I ran away.  From my husband – from my hometown – from my family – from my friend. I’ve never seen or spoken to her since the explosion.

It wasn’t her place – It wasn’t her life – It wasn’t her secret…

Life didn’t end – but for a long time it was hard and hurtful as many people who I thought loved me – apparently didn’t love the gay Barb – they wanted me to be who they wanted me to be and anything other than that person wasn’t welcome in their world.

I have heard through the hometown grapevine that this person’s life the past 20 some years hasn’t been easy.  Her husband divorced her and she’s had to start over.  Every time I heard something bad about her life – I thought that she deserved everything bad that has come her way.

I thought that way until Saturday when I was sitting silent and thinking of her.  In was in those moments of quiet clarity that I understood that this person did betray me in the worst way – but in another way – her betrayal was a gift.  For all the running that I did lead me to where I am at this very moment in time. It lead me to this complete happiness – to this life I only dreamed existed.

So – I thought of her with kindness and released my anger and felt gratitude for this life I have – for the friends that I have – for the love which surrounds me and fills my life.

In my moments of quiet clarity, I also thanked my friend for wanting us all to find some peace and love on her Birthday. In my mind I sang Happy Birthday to her and was happy I could give her what she asked for.  It was a gift for her – but really – it was more of a gift for myself.  Happy Birthday, Annie – and Thank You. ♥

Those of you expecting a celebration sort of post from me about the death of the “God Hates Fags” Fred Phelps – will be disappointed.

Perhaps it’s because I spent so many years being angry and running from my lesbian self that I just can’t muster up any ill-will for his death. Also, those of us who have lost our Fathers – no matter what sort of man they may have been – we still grieve. Fred Phelps leaves children and grandchildren to clean up his mess – and this – many of us can also understand.

He was an angry, hateful man, who spent his entire life not knowing what peace and happiness was.  I don’t know what happened in his life that filled him with so much hate – but I find myself feeling sorry that he never got to experience pure joy. It’s sad to me that his life was built on the hatred he had for people he didn’t even know.

The thing is – I don’t believe he planned on his hatred uniting so many, and bringing more love and understanding and acceptance of those “fags” that he hated so very much. In some sick way – I feel like I need to thank him.

As far as his resting in peace – I believe he has a whole lot of ‘splaining to do before he finds any sort of peace – no matter where his soul has gone.

Live your life – celebrate who you are – be happy – feel joy – show love…

This morning I found myself reading a poem call “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke.  I not only read it – I read it over and over and over.

… I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

I learn by going where I have to go.”

… “I learn by going where I have to go.”  Think about this for just a moment.  To me this is saying that you can’t learn before you set out on any journey – You have to set out on the road that is your journey and learn as you go where it is you are supposed to be going.

So many times the journey’s we take in our lives are not ours.  They are our parent’s journey or our spouse’s journey or our children’s journey.  We believe we are happy and yet there is that nagging feeling in the back of our mind and that little ache in our heart that maybe – just maybe there is something more.

Of course there is more – more for us to learn because we haven’t gone where it is we have to go. There’s more for us because we haven’t done what it is we have to do – we haven’t lived our life – we haven’t walked our path. As long as we have breath in us – it’s never too late to begin the journey.

Some of you might be thinking – but Barb, I have no idea what it is I want to be doing… I don’t agree – I believe you do know.  I just believe you’ve spent so many years telling yourself you can’t do whatever it is – that you have chosen to not listen to that voice in your head and that aching in your heart.

I understand that Mothers want and need to raise their children and any thought of doing something for yourself is not even on your radar – but one day – those children will be gone and you will be wondering what it is you’re supposed to be doing. At some point your children will need to stand on their own and learn how to survive in the world and they will learn by going where they have to go and learn along the way.

And isn’t that what we all must do – mustn’t we all go where we have to go and learn along the way?

I lived almost 50 years of my life going where I was most certainly not supposed to be going. I was going where I knew my parents wanted me to go – it was the path that was expected of me and the only thing I learned was how to lie and cheat and be grossly unhappy. I hurt people, I hurt myself. I was most certainly a lost soul.

The moment I started going where I had to go – everything in my life changed. I’m still learning – but I’m learning as I go where it is I have to go.

No one – absolutely no one – deserves a life filled with anger, hate, despair, angst and no love. It’s not where anyone is supposed to go. You may believe there is no way out – but as long as you breathe – there is always – always a way to happiness. You have to believe you deserve it – you have to believe it’s yours for the taking – and then you have to take it.

… “You learn by going where you have to go.”

Any of you ever struggled with an addiction?  Tobacco, alcohol, pills, food, sex, drugs, caffeine, sugar?

Any of you know anyone who has struggled with an addiction?

If your answer is yes, then you should understand how addiction affects families, friends, and friends of friends. It’s far-reaching and the damage slides down the hill quickly and lasts a very long time.

You should also know that stopping the addiction is not as simple as saying:  “just stop doing it.” It’s so not that simple. So not that simple.

Any of you ever been abused? Sexually, emotionally, physically, verbally, financially, mentally?

Any of you know anyone who has been abused?

If your answer to either or both of those questions is yes – then you should understand the struggle – the fear – the shame – the damage.

You should also know that there is no time limit on how long one will struggle and to tell someone to: “just get over it” and “move on” is so not the answer.

I don’t understand the level of ignorance and hate that have come along with Dylan Farrow and her letter about Woody Allen and the drug induced death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

I don’t understand the lack of thought process that goes into the people who have written comments and blogs calling these two people any name they can think of.

Dylan Farrow is a human being trying her best to live in a world that has treated her unkindly and a man who abused her on many levels – and continues to abuse her on many levels. If you have been abused – you understand and you would never comment. If you haven’t been abused – then quite honestly you have no right to judge her or speak ill of her.  None of us really have that right for none of us know what happened when she was 7 – or what is happening now.  Woody Allen isn’t beyond reproach – not then – and not now. 

Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose.  The demons in his head won the battle – and Phillip Seymour Hoffman lost his life.  If you’ve ever been addicted to anything – you know of what I’m speaking of when I speak of the demons and you probably would not make any comments. You are probably sitting quietly nodding your head in mournful understanding thanking whoever and whatever you believe in that it wasn’t you dead in that bathroom with the syringe in your arm – or a bottle in your hand – or pills – or whatever…

For those of you who are perfect and have no vices and have lived a life that has not involved a struggle of any sort – I ask you to have compassion and understanding.  Practice the whole “cast the first stone” thing and when you have the desire to write or comment on anything – do so with kindness.  You don’t know how or why a person is where they are in their life. You don’t know their journey – you don’t know what they have been through.

We don’t practice enough kindness. We like to cast those stones and throw those comments and blast the lives of people we don’t even know. 

Look in the mirror and then decide whether or not you really should speak.

Friday, October 11, 2013 is National Coming Out Day in the United States of America.

You may be thinking: Who Cares? Or you might be saying to yourself: why does this even matter? Allow me a few moments of your time to tell you why this matters.

Please understand that I can only speak for myself on this matter; as everyone who has ever come out has had to walk their own path, and inevitably has their own story to tell.

I didn’t come out until I was 50.  In those 50 years I lied, cheated on a husband, denied who I was and tried desperately to be the daughter, sister, wife, cousin, friend that I was expected to be.

It didn’t work – it never works – and those who believe that to be gay is a choice we make; well, they will never, ever understand the struggle that takes place within most of our souls.

Truthfully – most people believe that just saying the words I’m gay means you’ve come out – in a sense it does – however – the real coming out, in my opinion, is when you look at that reflection you see in the mirror and say “I’m Gay” and you don’t look away in shame – that’s when you’ve come out.

When you can accept yourself and love who you are and understand that the world can be cold and lonely and ignorant and intolerant – and you can still smile at your own reflection – you’ve come out.

Don’t for one moment allow yourself to be bullied into coming out. It’s your life, your journey. No one – and I mean no one – has the right to tell you when and how and why you have to come out. Again – it’s your life – your path to walk.

For me – the more I was told I had to come out – the more I insisted I would not.

You have to be ready to face the world and not care about the consequences. You have to be ready to say: “I’m gay” and let the chips fall wherever they fall, and know that your life won’t end if people walk away from you or spew hateful rhetoric at you.

You have to be able to wear words like pervert, deviant, fag, dyke and anything else certain people may throw at you like badges of honor and you have to know that these words do not define who you are. The people who spew them are merely specks of dirt, not worthy of your time or energy.

There are those who will say it’s easier to come out now then it was in the 1960’s. In the ways of the world – maybe it is – but… in the dynamics of families – there is still pain, hurt, rejection and intolerance that one must suffer.

I could tell you “it gets better” but the truth is – sometimes it doesn’t get better – sometimes families just disappear or worse – they stick around and make sure you know what a disappointment and embarrassment you are.

What I can tell you from experience is this: Family isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Your life won’t end if you don’t have these hateful, judgmental people in your life. You will surround yourself with people who will love you for who you are. People who will encourage you to grow and be and live the life that is yours to live. These people will become your strength – your support – your family.

There is nothing in my life I’m more proud of then that moment – under the 600ft flag at my first gay pride parade – when I knew I could no longer live a lie; 50 years was long enough.  I was more than ready to face whatever the world could throw at me. With tears streaming down my face and a smile so big it hurt my face – finally – finally I was free.

I’ve discovered that along with my freedom has come responsibility. To help, to guide, to listen, to advocate, to write so that others know and understand they are never alone. We are all responsible for one another.

On this day – this “Coming Out “day – if you’re ready – your “family” is waiting for you.



A Promise Kept

It’s been two years today since my father passed away.  I’m wondering exactly where those two years went – and more to the point – I’m wondering if I have kept the promises I made to myself as I sat staring at his casket on that warm July afternoon.

I promised myself I would take care of Mother the best I could. I would make sure she got the care she needed and I would try to be there emotionally for her as much as possible.

Mother has since passed – but I did my best to fulfill that promise to myself to take care of her. She lived in a wonderful home that I wish everyone with dementia could experience. Her level of care was extraordinary, and more than I could have ever, ever given her, and she died peaceful and in no pain.

I also promised myself I would try to find a way to make peace with my brother and somehow get him into my life. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that – but he was really all I had left as far as immediate family and I was determined on that July afternoon I was going to find a way.

My father died not speaking to my brother – as did my mother – and I was not going to let that be the end of my family. I don’t really know their story –for our family never did communicate. I only know there was no closure for any of them.

A great many things have happened in those two years since I sat staring at my father’s casket. Mother has passed, friends have passed, the world has gotten a little warmer, and politics continue to divide a nation as we all struggle to find our way. There have been floods and tornadoes and storms which have taken homes and schools and hospitals. There have been shootings and bombings and Wars which have taken the lives of way too many Americans. One life is too many – at least this is how I feel.

There have also been in those two years sweet little babies born and towns rebuilt and families reunited from the end of one war. Freedom to marry has come to same-sex couples; a new heir to the British Throne has been born to continue that unbroken line for longer than I will ever see.  Life most surely goes on – this much I have learned.

As I sat staring at the casket which held the remains of my mother – my brother was by my side. I put my head on his shoulder and he squeezed me a little harder. He was kind and thoughtful and strong and supportive. He was everything a sister would want her big brother to be.

I can pick up the phone and dial his number – and he’s there, the sound of his voice comforts me – makes me feel so not alone on days when “family” seems so much a thing of my youth.

I like it when I make a promise to myself – and keep it…

I have a brother…

I’ve been asked numerous times why it is that “you gay people” need a parade.  One person suspected that it was merely a chance for me to “prance around in your underwear.”  Let me be clear – I have never pranced around in my underwear in public – ever.

My first Pride Parade changed my life. It was the first time in my then 50 years that I allowed myself to acknowledge in public that I was gay. When I saw that 300 ft flag and my sweet Susan insisted that I go and grab hold of it – It was the first time I openly wept and accepted who I was, and it was the first time ever that I understood I was not alone.

For some of us Pride is a life-changing, life-affirming event that changes how we look at the world from that moment on. There are those that like to focus on the drinking and partying but if you were to ask my friends – they will tell you that Pride is really about – Pride.

For as long as I can remember being gay in a straight world has been a struggle. Prejudice, ignorance and intolerance tend to make the environment in which we live unhealthy and unsafe. We were dragged behind trucks, beaten unmercifully, spat upon, and killed for nothing more than having the courage to live our lives as who we are.

Pride was the one time it felt safe to stand on the street and be your gay self. It was a day to refuel and brace yourself for the coming year – for the struggles and battles that were looming. It was a day of celebration – our day of jubilee.

Pride has a whole new meaning this year. There is less hiding and more celebrating as laws change along with the hearts and minds of the American people.

I won’t be in San Diego this year when that 300 ft. flag comes down Sixth Avenue. I won’t be able to walk out onto the street and grab hold of that flag that changed my life 11 years ago, and gather strength and courage from the thousands who are walking under and around this beautiful flag.

I may not be there in person – but my heart will be under that flag and with all of you as we celebrate the wonderfulness of Pride.

San Diego PrideHappy Pride…


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