Practice Authenticity, Truth, and Compassion

I’m exhausted. I feel like I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me. This week has been tough. It started on the highest of highs and ended on a heartbreaking low. So much happened in such a small amount of time. The crazy thing is that everything had to do with each other. This week was one huge lesson in living.

It all started on Sunday when I watched the woman who changed my life stand with her ensemble and accept a Golden Globe for their incredible TV show Transparent. This wasn’t a win for only Alex, it was a win for the LGBTQ community and anyone who has ever been afraid to live truthfully. Alex is larger than life. She has changed thousands of lives with her spirit, her truth, and her art. Watching her moment in the spotlight was one of the happiest moments of my life. My phone lit up with thousands of text messages from friends who were jumping on couches and screaming from rooftops. Facebook exploded. We watched someone finally rewarded and recognized for something they’ve deserved their entire life.

Photo courtesy of Alex via twiter @  AlexSBillings

Photo courtesy of Alex via twiter @AlexSBillings

I met Alexandra Billings a few months after my brother passed away. When Scott died it was like a gun went off at the start of the biggest race of my life. I was sprinting, running as fast as I could away from what was happening. I threw myself into my art, desperate to feel something and to make sense of my loss. A few weeks after his passing, I started a summer intensive with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. In a way, I feel like my brother sent Alex to me.

Being with Alex is terrifying, exciting, revealing, and chaotic. You never know what to expect when you walk into the room. There are no rules, she only asks that you look around with wonder, challenge yourself, and remain honest and truthful. We used to call class with Alex Angel Boot Camp. She taught me how to be authentic. She showed me how to appreciate every single moment and to be grateful. To be grateful that I am alive, that I have a voice, and to be grateful to have had my brother for as long as I did. She taught me how to look in the mirror and see my flaws as beauty, to let go of my fears, and to say yes to myself. It took years. I wouldn’t be who I am without her and to see her stand on stage, beaming, exuding gratitude with her groundbreaking ensemble just reminded me how important it is to be authentic. (There was an amazing interview done with Alex a few weeks ago that if you have a minute you should definitely read. CLICK HERE for more.)

An average day at angel boot camp.

Then my friend passed away. It was a terrifying reminder how fragile life can be. It’s hard to understand how quickly life actually can be taken from you. How tomorrow really isn’t promised. Anything can happen. That day we found out I stood with my friend and co-worker trying to make sense of it all.  We talked about our lives, goals, family, and friends. We talked about what we would do differently if we knew we were to die tomorrow. Death has a funny way of forcing you to re-evaluate your world. My friend told me that if something were to happen to them that they don’t want to be remembered for living a lie. You see, they are gay and though they are out to all of their friends, their parent’s and family don’t know.

It’s heartbreaking. Here we are about to bury one of our friends who was about to begin a huge part of her life. She had just given birth a week ago. She’s a Mother who was unwillingly taken from their husband, family, and newborn. I have a mother who actually unwillingly lost a son and I can’t understand how a parent can turn their back and willingly lose a child due to their sexual orientation. It’s inhuman. Last night I woke up to a text from my friend telling me that they had decided to come out to their parents. I wish their parents would have just told them, “we know” or “we still love you.” But they are upset. And though it doesn’t make any sense to me, I hope that they will step up to the cliff, challenge whatever it is that’s making them feel shame, and leap. To accept their child because here’s the kicker, nothing’s changed. Nothing.

I am fiercely proud of my friend for finally stepping into the light. For choosing not to live their life terrified that their family won’t love and accept them. You don’t get to see what you want to see, that’s not how life works. Everyone must step into the light, courageously choosing authenticity.

Alex wrote this last week on January 8, 2015 and I think it speaks volumes:

We must live with respect and honor. We must be with each other in a way that is truthful and bold. We cannot turn away and we cannot run from what makes us unique and individual. There is a Divine spirit that is generations old that fills us all and moves us all and thrives in the center of who we are as a people, that must be fed, not fought. We must take time to hold on to each other and to comfort each other and to make each other laugh and soar through the cracks of humankind. There are many songs where we live, let us take the time to learn them all. We are allowed to follow the path most likely designed to give us the most peril and the greatest joys. Let us do that in a way that brings our neighbors closer together, not farther apart.

There is no religious war between us. There is only spiritual separation from ourselves.

We must find peace and we must birth compassion; that is the only way for us all to live in the same house.
— Alexandra Billings

Hug your people. Be compassionate and truthful. Say yes. Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.