To get your week started off on the right foot, every Monday I’m going have a new tidbit of inspiration for you.

Motivation Monday: A Mantra

Motivation Monday: A Short History of Gay Pride

"Yesterday's struggle is today's inheritance."

When my friend Fred was a little boy in 1969 in Cincinnati, Ohio, his family got a brand new typewriter. After everybody tried it out, it was finally Fred’s turn, because he was the youngest. So he sat down to plunk out some words and typed a letter to his best friend, Billy.

“Dear Billy, I love you.”

His father, looking over his shoulder, pulled the paper out of the carriage and ripped it up, saying, “You can’t love another boy.”

At the exact same time in NYC, another police raid was occurring on a gay bar in Greenwich Village. In 1969, it was both illegal to serve alcohol to gay people and for gay people to dance with one another in public. At 1:20 in the morning on June 28, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police; but this time the gay patrons fought back. This became the lynchpin moment of the modern Gay Rights movement.

A year after Stonewall, the first Gay Pride March was held by the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee to commemorate the riots. I was seven years old and had my first crush on another boy.

For the 10-year anniversary of Stonewall, thousands of people attended the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. I was a gay teen trapped in my closet. I was different. I was alone, no longer invulnerable to the laughter and teasing of the bullies in my high school hallways.

In 1993, after a decade of AIDS awareness, the government had just passed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ At that time, I was a young man living with HIV, watching my boyfriend, Michael, die of AIDS. My family didn’t know about him. They didn’t ask. I didn’t tell.

In 2004, for the first time, same sex marriage laws were officially passed in the state of Massachusetts. I was 35 years old and already a public speaker, collecting the stories of other gay teens trapped inside their closets. In one particular email from a teenager named Eric, he described his fear of coming out: “My fingers are shaking as i type these words on my keyboard.” He used a small “i” to describe himself.

In 2008, in California, voters pass ballot initiative Proposition 8 making gay marriage illegal.

“Glee” became the biggest show on TV and Gay/Straight Alliances in high schools were becoming safe havens for teens to freely express themselves. Yet, in every GSA meeting in which I presented, there was always a gay teen in the high school still afraid to walk in the door.

In 2010, 4 more states recognized same sex marriage. At the same time, Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student, committed suicide after his sexual encounter with another man was videotaped and displayed.

Last year, Edie Windsor brought her fight against DOMA all the way to the US Supreme Court and won. The Federal Government now recognizes same-sex marriages in states where they are legal. I had the privilege of driving Edie home a few days later where she told me, “If I can’t have Thea (her partner) with me, I get to have the love of the entire community.” Yet many of my transgender friends tell me they still have fear every time they look for a public bathroom.

Today, 19 states plus DC (44% of Americans) have adopted full marriage equality. There has been a significant increase in corporate sponsorship and support from major companies at pride parades. And soon we hope to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which will provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

It’s been a time of unprecedented progress. Through the last 45 years, the LGBTQ community has remained visible and vigilant. But with every step forward, there have been many setbacks.

In order to achieve true equality, we must not only remember how far we’ve come, but also honor the lives of those along the way who stood – and are still standing – in the shadows.

This week, take a moment to type the words, “I love you.”

Share them with someone.

And as you do, pay attention to the struggle and the grace which gave you the freedom to type those very words.

As stories are unscrolled
And handed down to newer generations
Life presents itself to life

Even when life belies its true beauty
See its true beauty
Let no poetry of pride go unnoticed

Motivation Monday: Childhood Memories

Your only access to eternity is a single moment. Enjoy this surprising journey. Don’t settle for anything less.
– Tom Todoroff

The night before I sold my parent’s house, the place in which I grew up, I went from room to room to say goodbye. It felt odd at first, but I thanked each doorway for being a passageway to a bigger life. As I moved about the house, so many memories came flooding back: the place I first prayed to God, the backyard grass where I sat with my grandfather on late Sabbath afternoons, the corner of my big sister’s closet where I’d hide away to steal a peak at a picture of a shirtless guy inside one of her ‘Cosmo’ magazines.

Still, the sounds are what I miss the most. The gentle echo of the linen closet door as it shut and clicked into place. The creak of the rusty screen door opening onto the porch outside the kitchen, when my mother would put out the garbage at night. My father’s sock drawer sliding shut.

On a private midnight, look behind you
There are embers still glowing
Buried but breathing

They are the memories of childhood

Like rubble stuck in your shoes
The trappings of time are tapping at your ankles
They have stowed along for the ride

Like the pastel scene when the sun finally gives up the sky
Certain memories capture your attention
Leave behind a captivating color
And guide you into the darkest hours

They are the deep river currents
Directing your dreams

Whatever you have is what you give to the world
You can only offer what you yourself have lived
You can only recover when you respect your past

Look behind you
Your childhood memories are catching up
Gathering in
Finding home

Let them remind you who you used to be
Let them renew the promises you forgot to keep

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Monday Motivation: The Trust Bank

“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. What you put out energetically will return to you. Putting out love and gratitude perpetuates the same in the universe. The converse is also true.”

- Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements”


What is more important than keeping your word?

Money comes and money goes. Health increases and health declines. Love comes in, but that, too is something that we must ultimately give away. I’ve always believed the one thing we get to keep in this lifetime is our word.

When we keep our agreements the rewards are immediate. We stay in balance with ourselves and we create harmony with others. We have more vitality and self-worth. We know that we can be counted on and this enhances our relationships.

When we break our agreements, we inherit a debt. We are thrown out of balance and pay a price for our inaction. We might develop self-doubt, lessen our self-esteem and deteriorate our relationships with others. We lose another’s trust and shut ourselves off from feeling alive.

My friend David calls it a “Trust Bank.” We either deposit or withdraw from that trust bank account every time we keep or break an agreement. In his words “some people have even speculated that there’s a correlation between our ‘trust bank’ balance and our ‘real bank’ balance.” Think out about that one for a second!

Is your trust bank balance in deficit or is it overflowing?

Remember these points:

  • Keeping your word keeps you whole.
  • Integrity is an attractive quality; it brings healthy people into your life.
  • Make only those agreements you intend to keep.
  • Write down the agreements you make.
  • Renegotiate the agreement if you determine it will throw you out of balance.

What agreements can you keep this week that can increase your trust bank balance and add to your aliveness?

Motivation Monday: What does it mean to be sacred?

In my travels, I took a survey and gathered some answers from many of my students:
Being noticed by God
Being comfortable with yourself
Not trying to change yourself for anyone regardless of what others say
To be whatever you want to be
Living up to your expectations
Following your dreams
Thinking twice on who I am
Taking in all parts of life, not just the easy, but also the hard
To know that you exist with all that is inside of you,
the good and the not so good
Being true to yourself
The unchanging parts of yourself
I’m not too fond of the word but I do have lots of respect
for its meaning
Succinctly put, “I, myself, am more Divine than any I see.”

The opposite of sacredness is not disgrace.

It is not failure. It is not confusion. Just because we don’t feel sacred does not mean that we are not sacred. Sacredness is not political correctness. Nor is it being perfect, doing it the right way, living the life our parents would approve of or even believing in God. The part of you that is sacred is not the part that is consummate or pure. It is not about chastity or an ostensible sense of holiness. It has nothing to do with having an awesome basketball game, the straightest hair or the highest grade point average in your class. It is not measured by your driving record, your parent’s income or your body weight.

The part of you that is sacred is the part that is searching.

It is the part caught in the struggle to reclaim a holiness you think you have lost or given away or were never born with. The sacredness in you is the searching for connection to the sacredness in others who are searching for connection to the sacredness in others. It is an alliance of hope, a union with others who seek a common voice. It is part of the ground you walk upon and the air in your lungs.

To be sacred is to include the fear and the unknown into your experience of life. It is found in moments of woundedness as well as in times of achievement. It is becoming acquainted with the notion that you do not have to be put back together at all. Being broken, being confused, being a contradiction is normal. Sacredness is making room for acceptance of such doubt.
It is not up to you to decide whether or not you are sacred; it is up to you to accept, encompass and embrace that you are sacred.

A mother from Massachusetts once emailed me to say, “Casey held up her cell phone this morning and announced that she had deleted all the phone numbers of the guys who do not see her as sacred!”

Sacredness is the source of your true reality. It is the movement of spirit within a heart that is unanchored by loss. Yet it is also the unfolding of delight within and the lift you give to victory.

When it seems that life has been reckless with your dreams and you feel abandoned by God, you are still sacred. When you are confused and when you are victorious, you are still sacred. When you are in a state of negative self-judgment or positive self-approval, you are sacred. In your loneliness or sense of desolation, you are sacred. In your glory and resplendency, you are sacred.

I salute you – all that you stand for, struggle with and believe.

You are always sacred.

Motivation Monday: Angels in Darth Vader Suits

“Remember that some day, the AIDS crisis will be over, and when that day has come and gone, there will be people…who hear that once there was a terrible disease, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought, and in some cases died, so others might live and be free. I’m proud to be with the people I love…and to be a part of that fight.”
-Vito Russo
On Monday nights, in 1988, I would sit in my HIV support group and listen to my friends share the lessons they were learning from living with – and dying from – AIDS.
I can recall at one particular meeting when I came in late, Benji motioned me to sit next to him and Phyllis. So I pulled up a chair, squeezed in between them and looked around the room. There were some new faces, but many old familiar ones, too. The white couch against the wall was filled with all my friends. I grabbed my notebook as Phyllis smiled and whispered, “You gotta take notes, right?”

It was always interesting sitting next to Phyllis at those meetings. She’d talk out loud and finish people’s sentences under her breath. I suppose for herself and not just for those sitting around her. She grabbed the journal out of my hand and wrote down these words:

“Now that HIV has happened to you, the goal is to learn how to live with a little more gratitude, a little more elegance!”

I wrote down many of my favorite shares from that meeting. Greg, from San Francisco said, “I feel like every cell in my body has a tear to shed.”

Curtis, who had just gotten out of the hospital, shared his experience of lying in bed, preparing to die. “It was just me and God,” he began. “That’s what did it for me. I prayed each night for Him to be with me. Just be with me. And give me peace. And take away all the pain. That’s all.”

Phyllis began to rock back and forth. “That’s all,” she repeated. “That’s all.”

Curtis continued. “It’s just life. We know that. And we all know so many people who have died. So what’s the big deal? I’ll just hang out with them for awhile. ” He paused a moment before he said, “…and, yeah I have fear. I’d lay there with all my fear and think: this is it. So this is it. And then I’d think, what is it? It’s just life.”

Once upon a time, most of my friends died of AIDS. But before they did, they would sit in those support groups and try to find the perfect words to describe their experience.

“I need to make peace with the word ‘AIDS,'” Robert shouted. He was in his angry phase; he had lost his ability to walk. “I want to find a new way to describe my disease. Instead of calling it the Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome, I’m gonna call it ‘Always in Divine Safety.'”

Just then, Ross leaned forward on the white couch. Ross, whose HIV had manifested as a brain tumor, had lost all of his blonde curls from months of chemotherapy and radiation. “I have another one,” he smiled. Ross was always smiling. “I’m gonna call AIDS – ‘Angels in Darth Vader Suits.'”

Curtis and Robert and Ross have died, along with almost everyone in that room that night.
Benji and Phyllis are still alive.
So am I.

It was a time of unexalted destinies. Yet, we still searched for safety and meaning and angels.

This week, if a faithful ache should arrive, think of my friends and try to see the situation as an angel in a Darth Vader suit.

How can you live with a little more gratitude?
How can you live with a little more elegance?

Motivation Monday: The Secret to a Perfect Bikini Body

Today’s Monday Motivation comes from my wise and wonderful friend, Jodi Rubin. She’s an expert on body image issues and self- empowerment. Take a moment to read her post. Her blog is an excellent resource on this and other related topics.

the secret to a perfect bikini body

The weather is getting warmer! Talk and anxieties of the perfect “bikini body” are in the air!
Do this exercise, spot train this area, don’t exercise this area, don’t eat this food, definitely eat this food, only eat these foods, blah, blah, blah.
I have a secret – I know how to get the perfect bikini body! Are you ready?

Motivation Monday: Who Are You?

Who are you?
There are moments in every life when true change occurs
Moments when the road winds
When battle lines are crossed
When the heart breaks
Moments when you realize that life is not what you expected it was going to be
When you’re no longer able to maintain the facade you’ve created
When inside of you, the vulnerable and the authentic
Accidentally intersect
Many of you who have been to my lectures have heard me ask the question, “Who are you?”
If you had permission to be who you truly are
What would you look like?
Who are you when you lay down your weapons?
Who are you when no one is watching?
Who are you in the unguarded moments?
If you’ve ever wondered about all the different and possible answers that exist, here’s something interesting. It’s a string of pearls fished out of the Denver Public Library by Freddy Bosco. This list is made up entirely of book titles taken from the card catalog…book titles that begin with the word “You.”
Happy reading!
You all want something. You Americans. You among the stars.
You are as young as your spine. You are born to victory. You are earnestly requested to meet.
You are extraordinary. You are happy. You are my friends.
You are never alone. You are not the target. You are what you eat.
You are younger than you think. You be the judge. You broke my dream.
You can always tell a fisherman. You can be a better cook than mama ever was. You can be a plumber.
You can be happily married. You can be healed. You can become the person you want to be.
You can build your own sailboat. You can change the world. You can communicate with the unseen world.
You can conquer. You can cope. You can die laughing.
You can do anything with crepes. You can do it. You can do it from a wheelchair.
You can fight for your life. You can find God. You can fix it.
You can get there from here. You can get what you want if you find it within yourself. You can have what you say.
You can learn to fly. You can live cheaply in the Canaries. You can live longer than you think.
You can make your own gloves. You can master life. You can own a business.
You can see a lot standing under a flare in the Republic of Vietnam. You can start all over. You can stop.
You can survive any financial disaster. You can train your cat. You can vote.
You can win. You can win a scholarship. You can wreck it.
You can’t be an immigrant twice. You can’t beat the hours. You can’t catch me.
You can’t do business with Hitler. You can’t eat magnolias. You can’t eat peanuts in church.
You can’t have your kayak and heat it. You can’t make me if I don’t want to. You can’t pet a possum.
You can’t steal first base. You can’t tell a man by the song he sings. You can’t turn the clock back.
You come, too. You could live if they let you. You could look it up.
You go your way. You got to live. You got to stay happy.
You know I can’t hear you when the water’s running. You learn by living. You live as you breathe.
You may cross examine. You may safely graze. You must break out sometimes.
You must relax. You must see Canada. You mustn’t weep, it’s Yom Tov.
You need help, Charlie Brown. You need never walk alone. You never can tell.
You only live twice. You read to me, I’ll read to you. You rolling river.
You shall be as gods. You should start sooner. You still can’t eat Mt. Rainier.
You, the jury. You, the person you want to be. You, too, are a believer.
You touched me. You wore the big shoe. You were the princess last time.
You will go to the moon. You will live under the sea. You will never be the same.
You will survive your death.
Who are you?

Motivation Monday: The Things I Learn From People on Airplanes

Paper Plane

Days are scrolls: write on them what you want to be remembered.

-Bahya ibn Pakuda Hovot HaLevavot

One of these days, I’m going to write that new book entitled, “Things I Learn From People on Airplanes.” Some of the deepest and most salient sentences I’ve ever heard have been stated by someone buckled into a seat next to me at 32,000 feet above the earth.One seat mate told me, “Children don’t lie to their parents because they want to lie. They lie because they want to protect their parents or protect themselves from upsetting their parents.”
Another said, “God provides food for everyone. WE get to distribute it.”
And a third instructed, “If you’re gonna have a mistress, just make sure she’s on another continent.”
But perhaps my favorite quote in the sky came from an attorney who conducts trials in Geneva for war-crime tribunals. He looked over my shoulder and out the window over Vancouver as he said, “We write our histories with war.”
I thought to myself: “He’s got a point!”
But then again, if days are like scrolls, how else can we we write the story of our lives?
How do we want to be remembered?
By collecting other peoples prayers and promises…
By noticing the quality of your days…
By facing your fears…
With good deeds…
With forgiveness…
With song…
Courtesy, Kindess, Justice and Love
This week, if you could write your history, which words would you choose?

Motivation Monday: Secrets and Acceptance

One evening after I had given a lecture a parent approached, weeping. It was her son who, in the middle of my talk, asked about my thoughts on death. She shared that her brother recently died. “He opened up his heart to us and it helped him.” She wiped her tears behind her eyeglasses. “If we could just learn to open up our hearts to others,” she continued, “it might just buy us a little more time because we’d be feeling the love of all the people who want us to live.”
So much of our lives are wrapped up in the secrets we hide away. When I tell you mine, you tell me yours. Somehow this brings comfort. The stories we tell will become the scripture we read and wish for others to read. They will be written upon the pages that form the Book of our Lives. Our histories are holy.
Often I think our pocketful of secrets is more like a moving tabernacle. We carry it with us on our evolutionary exodus, our journey through life. Other times I think of it as transportable closet. Some of the most interesting things about us are actually hidden in our closets, stashed away on a shelf. A box of photographs. A wedding dress. The blanket in which we were wrapped as an infant. So too are the hidden things in our figurative closets. Our unmanifested potential. Our talent. Our greatness.
In order to find ourselves we must first sometimes lose ourselves. In order to move forward in life we must learn to build a lasting peace with our losses, with the changes in our lives. What if we lingered awhile with acceptance and a sense of belonging? What if we were to empty our pockets, open our closets and actually dance with our secrets?
In the words of that mother, “it might just buy us a little more time.”