Friendship and Marching Forward

I like puns. Marching forward in March. Seems appropriate for the month of March and to celebrate a new start. I am using the word celebrate, while also hoping that a positive new start will actually come true. Yesterday was the one year mark of my separation from my beloved wife. It’s been a hard year. And yet, during this year I’ve also been blessed to reconnect with friends across North Carolina and given the opportunity to make friends from other states and other countries even. It’s amazing how many different people come to Beech Mountain.  I always celebrate friendships!

 

It is through friendships that we can get through life. I know that I have been blessed with many friends who have helped me learn to accept myself and live my truth. As a lesbian, this has been pure gift to me in a world that did not accept me when I was younger and even still struggles with acceptance at times. When I was younger I didn’t understand the problem, can’t say I really understand now. I am at the point however, where I get it when people say, “It is what it is. Deal with it.”

 

When I was younger, I wanted to change the world. My hope was to change the world to be a more loving place. Yes, I was idealistic and I still have that tendency. I think it’s what gets me through life so I don’t want to give that up. At the same time, one does have to have a grasp on what is real and present in our time. Our times continue to bring forth good things even amidst the craziness of the world at large. But by being truthful and good people, we can empower others to be good and truthful people. We must never give up hope. That is when friends come in. Friends give us courage, wisdom, love, and often a shoulder to cry on.

 

Throughout life, I have been blessed with precious friends. Some of my deepest friendships have come from my undergraduate alma mater, Pfeiffer College. Pfeiffer is now a university. In my time, it was a growing college. Next week I have been asked to be a part of a forum to talk about the challenges of coming out. This will be a huge honor for me.

 

Pfeiffer was a great place to go to college. I still think it’s a great college even though it’s grown. I attended the small campus in Misenheimer, North Carolina. Misenheimer is on the edge of Stanly County. Halfway between Salisbury and Albemarle, it was a liberal arts college that  had an excellent choral program. It is also located in the county where I grew up. That’s not what attracted me however. It was the small classrooms and the excellence in music.

When I attended, it was during the days that it was both a Methodist campus and also an alcohol free campus. It was more conservative than UNCG which was the other choral program I considered. My first choice of all was App State, but they focused on band music. As much as I loved band, I knew that I wanted to focus on choral music. Singing was my first love, and Pfeiffer also had a Church Music program. As a missionary wannabe, Pfeiffer fit where I thought God was leading me at the time.

Looking back, I see Pfeiffer as an even more perfect fit, because I needed a liberal arts education. The liberal arts education helped me to broaden my horizon and broaden my knowledge. I liked the anonymity that the vast campus of UNCG offered because I knew that I was different. Knew that someday I would need to face the fact that I was a homosexual. Stanly County was a little too close to home to do that. I tried to date guys. Wasn’t ready to come out to others and very afraid to come out to my family. Like me, my family was religious.

What ended up happening is that at Pfeiffer I was able to begin to explore who I was as a human being. And in being human, God was there through the friends I made at Pfeiffer. No-one pressured me to give up on my faith. God provided an angel of a roommate who  put up with me for four years. We had a blast! She was more like my sister than anything. When I did begin to explore accepting myself as a lesbian, my roommate was the first person I could trust with the information. Slowly, I began to come out to a few other classmates.  Because Pfeiffer was a Methodist campus and I was focusing on Christian education as a minor, being able to come out in this atmosphere helped me better reconcile faith and who I was as a human being.

That doesn’t mean that I came out of Pfeiffer with my degree and a totally integrated sense of self.  If that were the case, life would be much easier. But even all these years later, I still turn to my friends from Pfeiffer when I need someone to talk to about music, God, or life. The friends I made in college have  been there as I came out, and became more fully who God created me to be.

 

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have dear friends outside of college. Yet, because of the friends I had in college, I became brave enough to talk to the friends outside of college and realized those people love me too. During college, everyone is struggling to become. We don’t know what we’re trying to become, but some of the struggles are the same even though in different fields. If you’re in the area of Pfeiffer University next Monday night please join us at the Coming Out Forum at 7 o’clock. We will talk from different aspects of life about the challenges of coming out and especially coming out in a small rural community.

http://www.pfeiffer.edu/events/coming-out-forum-coming-out-all-over

Monday, 3/26/18 – 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Misenheimer
Stokes Community Room (Stokes 207)

 

I am thankful beyond measure for friends and family who still love me and who see the good in me. It is because of good people who are  kind and loving that our world has hope.

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Robin Whitley has an undergraduate in music (A.B.) from Pfeiffer University. Her Masters Degree (M.Div.) comes from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina

 

 

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Not Dead Yet – The Disabled Hiker

 

Start of the trail to Crab Orchard Falls.

I wave at the girl coming down the path to assure that she saw my dog, Birdie. While Birdie won’t pull me down, the large dog with her could easily pull her off the path and down the steep hill. She nods an acknowledgement. I ask her if the path is the one to the water falls. She ignores me. I see she has ear buds in so it could be she didn’t hear me. It saddens me that she missed out on the beautiful sounds of nature while she hikes.

I decide that me and Birdie will follow that path anyway. It is the likely correct path to the Crab Orchard Falls. There are signs but they are pointed in strange directions. Perhaps some prank by a youth walking by, perhaps some animal brushed against it for a scratch. There are bears and deer in the area. A sign would make a good scratcher

Birdie is being a pill today and pulling harder than ever. She woke up on the bossy side of the bed. At first I hooked her to my bag so she would have a longer leash. We didn’t walk far before it was clear that she would need to be tied around my hips so she would know who was really in charge. Also, maybe she would help me walk farther. I used an old ski pole to stay balanced. Once everything is hooked safely, we start up the hill.

Immediately I had to turn to take a photo of the fields below us. The snow had kept the skies so gray. Then the rain kept it grayer still and the fog thicker than pea soup. It was nice to have a clear day. Streisand was right, that on a clear day you can see forever. At least, the beauty of this day reaches beyond the ordinary.

Below me is the Valle Crucis Conference Center

 

When I first began having problems with balance and pain management, I was discouraged that I would have to give up hiking. I love to hike and always have. I learned how to hike with asthma and did fine for years. When my marriage broke up because of my disability I argued that “I am not dead yet!” Now that I’ve had to move and the air is cooler, that turns into a motto of sorts. Whenever I get down, I remind myself that I am not dead yet and change my attitude.

Discovering that there are tons of trails on Beech Mountain and also near my church, I’ve made up my mind that I will find a way to hike. At least if I die on a trail, I will die happy!

That being said, my goal is always to stay well. I’m learning these helpful things.

  1. It’s okay to go slow no matter what the dog says (or the humans who might hike with you). When I walk too fast my arthritis complains more. It can also trigger asthma.
  2. Stop and rest along the way. Each time I stop, I also look back the way I came to ask if I think I could make it back. When I first tried to hike with my current disabilities, I always forgot the hike back. There were times I was in so much pain or my asthma was scary because I forgot this vital piece of information – do a health check to make sure you can go back the way you came. If you are unsure, it is better to turn back and go home. The trail will be there for another day. At least you showed up! That is the first step to getting back on the trail.
  3. Be okay with people passing you. Yes, it is awkward at times. When I first hiked Waterrock Knob in Waynesville, I had to sit down on the rocks and sometime the very path where I had to walk. This meant for people in a hurry to go up or down the path, they had to watch me struggle to get up and out of the way. Yes, it was awkward for us both, but that day I knew I had to make the hike. It was the first time I tried to hike and the first Father’s Day without my dad. There were some sixth graders who passed me and were rather rude. They were sixth graders. Who cares if they laugh or make eyes? They are the sixth graders, and not us. It’s okay to let people pass you or see you sitting.
  4. This actually should be #1 on this list. I leave it in this section because it goes with today’s hike. Don’t forget your water! My meds make my mouth dry. No, I don’t want to have to take a leak while on the trail, but you don’t want to be parched either. Besides, your dog might also need a sip. Today Birdie and I were both too thirsty to keep hiking.
  5. Enjoy the close up, detailed view. We don’t know how much we miss by simply hiking up to a view and then back down to our busy lives. By stopping and sitting, catching my breath, doing a health check up, I have been amazed at the beauty that the fast hikers are missing. Slowing down and having to stop every so often has not lessened the pleasure of hiking, but heightened and deepened the joy. Don’t miss the beauty at hand.
  6. It’s okay if you don’t reach the destination. Yes, it may be disappointing, but the goal is to remain active and still get to hike. Today I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to the waterfall. Although the path evened out for a time, it turned rocky and started uphill again. I stopped, looked behind me and asked if I could easily make it down. Then I looked up the hill and knew I couldn’t go on. Also, by stopping, I could feel the pain in my feet throbbing. By pausing, I could feel how labored my breathing was and realized it was too hot for me to go further without having an asthma attack. So I turned and started back down.
  7. Focus on what you DID do rather than what you couldn’t do.
  8. Remember that life is about being on a journey and that at the top is just another view. There is a view before your eyes that you can appreciate. Lichen, rocks, trees, all have interesting colors and patterns. Have you ever really looked at that beauty before? Have you ever seen so many shades of green or brown?
  9. When you get back to the start of the trail, DO congratulate yourself because the hike was hard if you had to turn back. You got the full effect for your health. AND now you know what you need to do in order to prepare to hike further the next time.
Even the start of the trail has a beautiful view.

I asked a new friend to hike some this summer on some of the trails here on Beech Mountain. I would love to hike Linville and Grandfather Mountain and I know I could not hike safely alone in those places. I make sure to tell people that I hike slowly and often have to stop. That way they are free to say no while we are not on the trail.

Hiking is about being out in nature for me more than it is about finding a view. I love views of course, but more than anything I love the sound of water flowing, birds singing, the rustle of leaves in the wind. Nature is good for the soul. Get out and hike, the distance doesn’t matter! Be good to your soul and get out!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”  ~ John Muir, Our National Parks

 

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A friend of mine who also battles arthritis and fibromyalgia reminded me of her cool walker that helps her still be able to hike. Check out the Trionic Walkers on FB if you need more than a cane.

 

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Check out my Podcast Page

Podcasts on Robin’s Radio

As a musician, I am interested in sound. My podcast page, Robin’s Radio, is a project where I am interviewing musicians as well as posting audiobook excerpts from my writing. Check it out when you have time.

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Random Thoughts on a February Morning

Tree at Beech Moutain’s Bark Park

Random Thoughts 2/2/2018

Just because a person misspeaks once, doesn’t mean the person is all-bad or all-wrong. As humans, we are prone to error. What makes us think another is in the wrong because of a mistake? What makes us think we are totally in the right because the mistake is obvious to us?

 

As I was washing dishes this morning, I rinsed out the small tub I use in my kitchen sink. There’s no dishwasher here but me. When I was drying it off, its white plastic not one I would choose, I thought of my Grandma Whitley. She always had a white plastic container she would put in her old porcelain sink to wash dishes. When the huge Whitley family gathered for meals, I always volunteered to do dishes. It’s something I never minded. It was also a way I could be around the women of my Southern family in a way that didn’t make me so nervous. I could listen and look out the window. They could talk.

We think we humans know how to love. It seems we only know how to create illusions of love. Then, when life gets tough, we take a pin to pop the bubble or the balloon of the illusion and think love is over when in fact, it may only have just begun.

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Sometimes the audio picked up the sound of Birdie swallowing or making a sound in her sleep. The sound is NOT my stomach growling. LOL

 

“The soul often speaks through longing.” ~Sue Monk Kidd

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