Happiness is a Choice…

Joel Osteen. I know. I’ll bet I just brought tons of traffic over here from folks that are going to shrivel and die a little when they read about the fact that I almost had to get an ultrasound during my period. I might have said that just to give a few folks (including myself) heart palpitations but it was just a horrible misunderstanding thank god. Speaking of which…

My mother sent a cryptic email earlier this month to my sisters and I: “I sent you a kindle book that you’ll get on the 31st. No judgement!” You know what, anytime someone, especially my mother, cheerily says “no judgement!” I’m pretty sure what comes next is going to be offensive. But I’m easy going enough not to jump to any outright conclusions and so when the following click-to-accept-gift note comes:

“This is a challenge. Read one a day for the month of August. I sent same to sisters. There is a caveat….if there are references to organized religion, you should know I ignored them. :-). That said the core is my philosophy and I wanted to share!”

I think, I’m so glad my mom sent me a gift. Even if it is self-help related and/or religious (as is her wont). I’m so lucky. Until I SAW the book. I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life by Joel Osteen. I’m not linking to that. I don’t want you to buy it. Seriously. Please don’t buy it. My mother bought FOUR copies and I will be happy to loan you mine.

Let’s be clear for a moment, religion is a hard subject for folks to speak politely about, myself included. This post is not about religion. It’s not even really about the way Joel Osteen presents religion. It’s about my relationship with my mother. Comments, as always, are moderated the first time and approved every time thereafter on a sanity basis (my own). I’m not a journalist and I delete things I don’t like. I’m super fun that way! Speaking of…

I wish I could delete the part of my mother that thinks it would be okay to send her gay, non-religious daughter a copy of this book. Clearly she thinks the most egregious thing about the book is that there may be a reference to organized religion which, mom…it’s Joel Osteen. Of course there will be. That isn’t a problem at all! There are perfectly good viewpoints within and outside of organized religion and I’m not opposed to hearing them. Joel and I, we’ve spent some Sunday mornings together. That guy is charismatic as hell.

My mom completely missed that fact that, charismatic or no, he thinks I’m a sinner. He routinely conveys to one of the largest congregations on the planet that I am wrong. An abomination. A sin. That I choose this path of sin. He says worse than that actually, if you do any research, and he’s allowed to preach that even if I think he’s wrong and an asshole. But for MY OWN MOTHER to buy and then give to me a copy of his book shows, at best, a poor understanding of who I am and the challenges I face on a day-to-day basis and, at worst, is actively sending a hostile message of change and rebuke. I’m assuming she is naive to the discrimination we face and that she is ignorant of the way it feels to be actively oppressed.

I am assuming the best. I’m also repeating that to myself. A lot. She mentions her philosophy and it’s true that this book reflects it (yes, I’ve begun it). Her philosophy was shoved into every potential emotional leak I had as hard and as deep as possible. Happiness is a choice, she would trill, misery is an option! There was no room to mourn, grieve, stumble, hiccup, ponder, reassess, or fall. The only acceptable emotion was to haul yourself up (shame on you for getting to that point) and paste a grin on.

I’m with her on the concept. You can choose to be happy. I do. I choose to find the right way for me. The best path. The brightest angle to consider a challenge. I make choices that preserve serenity and bring joy. But you know what? I can still be sad. Be miserable. Be heartbroken. Be blocked. Need a damn hug. For a second. Joel and my mom are on the same wavelength and god bless them both. But I don’t need to understand her philosophy if it means financially supporting a person who preaches hate.

You’re right, this post was about religion and I’m sorry for it. I’ll loan you my book. Remember, you can choose to be happy about this.

14 Responses

  1. Oh, religion. Religion and parents. Parents of gay people. Grandparents of children raised by gay parents. Oh, the complexities of our lives. I feel for you, miss lady! Damn if I wish you didn’t have to feel the way you do right now. I know the feeling all too well and it’s not a fun place to be. ((HUGS))

  2. I feel you. That is all. If we were sitting over a drink, we could swap some stories.

  3. Ever since I came out, although not quite as frequently since my wife and I got married 3 years ago, I’ve gotten the same kind of message from my parents through birthday cards, Christmas gifts and the occasional Focus on the Family email forward. I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my family and understand that I’m not likely to change their minds, so I try to ignore it. As much as I’ve decided to accept these little jabs, it still smarts a little every time. I guess I’m trying to say that I know the feeling and it sucks.

  4. UGH.
    (I chose that feeling, btw.)

  5. ARRG. I’m so sorry your mother is obtuse, and sent you a book by such a… a… I can’t even put a word on it. I’m also sorry there are so many horrible organized religions. I’m embarrassed how hard I had to search to find my congregation, though I’m extremely proud of how welcoming my church family is to EVERYONE. One fellow member, a lesbian mom of two, was discussing the pushback she feels from the gay community about her faith, and from the world’s religious communities about her life. I’m so, so sorry that your mother shoved you right between that rock and a hard place. Perhaps she is entirely oblivious, and merely wishes you to be happy. It is sad she went about it in such an offensive way.

    I know you’re not religious, but I am, and I apparently can’t help myself from telling you: God made you perfect, and he loves you just the way you are!

    Also, of COURSE you should feel sad sometimes! You are totally allowed to feel the full range of your emotions, religious jerk be damned. The bad stuff makes the happiness sweeter.

    Here is a link to a short article on a curch in Australia, that is the antithesis of Joel Osteen. I hope it makes you smile.


    • *church in Australia. Bah for typing on an iPad.

    • Thanks for the link! The signs are terrific! The thing is, even though I’m not religious, I can still see the message and I can (and do!) appreciate sentiments like yours. I generally like them to be tempered with common sense, which I recognize is inconsistent with the idea of blind faith the book is so vocal about.

  6. Wow. Wow.

    I recently unearthed a copy of Sappho is a Right On Woman. You’re welcome to it, if you want to recommend it for the next Meridith family book club.

    • You are on track with suggestions from a friend of mine to bring another book to the table. Interestingly, there has been nothing but silence from my mom all week. Who knows what she’s up to over there!

  7. On behalf of mothers everywhere, I apologize. And feel your pain.

    • Ah, but you are probably the sort of mother who doesn’t need to apologize. After all, you make pickles. I mean, come on!

  8. Ugh. I’m sorry. I once, out of horrified curiosity, picked up one of his books. I flipped through until I found a story about a guy who developed type II diabetes, NOT because he had a strong genetic predisposition and certain environmental/behavioral risk factors, but because he allowed negative thoughts in his life and didn’t have sufficient faith in the Lord. Needless to say, I put the book down with a shudder.

    I’m guessing your mother is clueless about the homophobia, but seriously. You would think that by now, she would have picked up a little bit of an idea… I’m sorry.

    And I agree that you can deliberately work to have a generally positive outlook on life, and still experience negative emotions. My general approach is that it’s better to let yourself experience them and then let them pass than to try to pretend like they’re not there. Because they are, and sooner or later they’ll come back to bite you if you don’t address them appropriately. But you know, I haven’t made a bazillion dollars telling people this, so clearly it may not be worth much. Or something.

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