Sometimes I catch myself stuck in hypervigilance. What do I mean by that? I mean that whenever I interact with certain people, certain ideas, or go certain places I find myself on my guard, waiting to be attacked or offended.
Trauma theory suggests that this is due to some pretty tough issues in my past, which makes total sense to me as I look back. But I’m more concerned with the “what now” rather than the “how come?”.
I do this with Facebook. I get tense, on my guard just in case someone posts something rude or biased. I do this when I talk to my family sometimes. When I go back to Utah this happens a lot.
This also happens walking down the street with my boyfriend. Of course, sometimes being aware of your surroundings is a smart thing in the city, but I’m talking about being more obsessive than that.
Last week there were two occasions on which homophobic slurs were directed at us on the streets. I found myself baffled, wondering when I left one of the most queer-friendly cities in the nation. The implication that I was somehow less than them really stung. I am more than my sexuality.
I think what I also don’t like about this hypervigilance is the inherent assumption that I don’t get to decide my circumstances, my life, or my emotions. I don’t like feeling like my inner life has been hijacked. I want to be able to choose whether or not I let people’s judgment get to me.
Last month I listened to a 30-day program called Personal Power. It is slightly self-helpy, but it is all about discovering what you want, and structuring life to get it. As I listened to it every day and did the exercises I found my confidence rising, my life-satisfaction getting better, and my control over my life increasing. I did things each day because of one reason: I was choosing to do them.
Sometimes things come back and try to take that power away from me. I have to go through my exercises again, clear my head, and take it back, but that is difficult. Especially when those things trying to take power can seem like the reality of the world we live in.
For example, sometimes in the heartland of conservative Mormonism clergy and members alike wield cruel and false information like a sword of almighty truth. “This is the revealed word of God!” “This is the truth!” “We have no truth that actually helps you, only one that is oppressive and destructive to the soul, but it is the truth of our loving God, dammit!”
You can see the irony in that. If we believe this to be reality, as real as the laws of physics, then we’re gonna have a bad time. But it’s not. And the glorious thing about being autonomous human beings is that we can investigate and discover the world for ourselves. Through experience we can learn what is real, and whether or not the proclaimers of absolute truth have the clout they claim to have. We are not slaves to the words of anyone.
Standing up to people or cultures and taking our power back from them exposes us, however. As LGBT people we become a target for those who don’t like the way we are. Living in the reality we experience makes us vulnerable to criticism, to estrangement, and even to abuse. If we want to live authentically, free from a false reality, we must do it no matter the cost. We must step out, experience, and give our God-given consciences the chance to communicate reality to us, direct from the source. As for the resulting backlash from the haters, I turn to my muse Brene Brown and her book Daring Greatly.
First, “Don’t worry about the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer.”
And finally, a quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
“who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while Daring Greatly.”
That is a life well lived. I’d rather end up at the throne of God bruised, skinned knees, and dirt on my face, than pristine with a heart that never had the courage to step into the arena and fight for a life of glorious experience.
Here’s to life, and to Daring Greatly!