Tag Archives: poverty

How my Strength caused My Paralysis.

We all want to be strong. Right? Am I right for thinking this way?

quote-strength-persistIt seems that we all have a desire to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually strong.  Most of us anyway.  For me, it has always been important to “have a good head on my shoulders”.  I have modeled my life around being as diplomatic to situations as I can possibly be…sharing multiple points of views and relating to many sides of the story.  I grew up this way. I was the first born child in my household and had a very strongly opinionated and hard working mother. It became necessary to understand that there were more sides than just 2 to any given story at any given time. I had to take on the task of being “momma” while Momma was at work and also act as liaison and advocate for my siblings once Momma came home because ultimately she was the final authority in all things.

Momma taught us that we were leaders. Momma taught us that we were strong.

What happens when it all backfires?

I’ve shared before that we were exceptionally poor. Growing up in a house that had only one room…just a box that we played in, slept in, and ate in. No electricity or running water.  I know that all we wanted was to escape.  For a couple of my siblings, their escape was writing.  For me, my escape was physical and the moment that I met someone who told me I could do it…I did it.  I left.

I was ushered into a life of travel and I LOVED it.  I also loved the idea of helping people. I had already “roughed it” most of my life so to travel to 3rd world countries to help build sewer systems or water towers to help others seemed like a dream.  I was introduced to an organization that honed in on my eagerness to lead and my desire for traveling.  At this point, I knew what it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  What I didn’t know was the power that had tapped into me.

It was January of 1993. I had been groomed to attend what was called a Discipleship Training School.  To most Christians, the title of the school seems harmless enough and looking back on most of my training, it was really an amazing school.  We learned about diplomacy, public speaking, travel, working and living communally. We learned about humility and patience…it was a very hippy-esque school but I liked it and this lifestyle liked me too.

Here’s the rub.  See, in all of this, we were getting ingrained to learn a school of thought about chain of command. I had already gotten a good grasp of this while living at home but here at the school, I was one of the younger and newest recruits.  I had MANY people to answer to and many voices to obey.

Head down...don't ask questions.

Head down…don’t ask questions.

It’s so weird to type this out.  My memories of this time in my life carry a desperation and it’s hard to know that I was so easily paralyzed.

We lived a very strict life.  We couldn’t do much without the consent of our leaders. We couldn’t go home to visit family, we couldn’t choose the jobs we wanted, we couldn’t date, we really couldn’t do much of anything…unless we had the approval of our leadership. To this day, it’s still hard for me to see that this WASN’T ok.

I was considered one of the “rebellious” ones. Not so much because I rebelled but because I followed questionable orders with a grimace on my face.  Trust me, I get protocol.  I get the need for a chain of command.  However, I didn’t understand why I needed to be told what to wear, how to wear my hair, who I could date, what I could do with my leisure time, who I could and couldn’t be friends with, when or if I could leave the base to visit my family…and on and on and on.

We weren’t a military base.  We were a Christian organization of missionaries and our leadership had overstepped it’s boundaries from leading to controlling and I had been brainwashed.

I had been brainwashed.  I had been brainwashed.  I had been brainwashed.

Here’s the deal.  Before I left for missionary school, I had been treated for homosexuality.  That’s right, I was gay and had been put through a gay to straight program.  I was told that in order to fulfill my “life calling” I could never act on my homosexual tendencies and in order to learn to be straight, I had to listen to and do everything I was told or I WOULD FAIL.  I would fail at life, fail my family, fail my God, fail at being a leader, fail at being strong.  So… I did what I was told.  I obeyed.

After living in this cult type atmosphere I started to test the waters. I had climbed the ranks in the organization, so to speak, and decided to act on an attraction I had towards another girl in the organization. After a few weeks, our relationship was exposed to the leadership and after 2 years of blindly following their every dictation, including a humiliating “outing” to the entire organization, we were sent home packing.

Photo Credit: Yannick Bouchard

Buried Alive…what it feels like to be paralyzed by fear and control.

Have you ever witnessed someone experiencing drug withdrawals or someone grieving?  Writhing in pain, unable to think, unable to breathe, unable to sleep, unable to bear being alive.  This is what it was like for me.  Everything that I had built my life around and for was taken away.  And it was easy for them to do so.  I thought at this moment that I had forever ended the life I was meant to live.  I was back to square one.

The very thing that I had strived to leave behind…the very thing I had desired to escape became me, once again. I was an outcast.

And still I longed for the escape. I longed to travel and to help people and I longed for the only way that I had learned to do so.

After being relieved of my position, I agreed to complete another gay to straight program in fear that I would never fulfill the purpose God had for my life.  And really, when you’re in that situation, your only thought is do what you’re told or give up living all together.

So…I did it again. I obeyed.

It’s been over 20 years since that journey began.  And since then, I have battled the resentment, the failures, the damage, the brokeness.  Sadly, it wasn’t until today that I realized how much of my life has been affected by what happened during that time in my life.  I still struggle with confidence and standing up for myself.  How do I recover when the desire to be strong backfires? How do you trust yourself to have the ability to make good decisions?  How do you trust yourself to trust the right people?

I have recently stepped back into my career of public speaking. It has been nearly 10 years since I stood in front of a crowd and shared my heart.  I was all but banished from the arena of public speaking in the way that I have always known it. But today, I refuse to count myself out.  I refuse to give up my dreams.  I refuse to be told that I am broken.  I refuse to believe that I have nothing to offer.  My story may not line up with yours. You may not give two cents about anyone who is gay or their journey.  You may have never been so low in your life that you allowed someone from the outside to paralyze you.  I don’t know. But what I do know is that there is someone out there who needs to hear that someone else knows what they are going through.

I will be your someone else.

I have decided that I will be vulnerable by my own volition. I will share my heart again and I will help people again.

I speak on these very topics of Shame, Guilt, Vulnerability, Poverty, and Overcoming Gay Reparative Therapy.  If you have an event that would benefit from these talks or an event that would welcome these discussions, please contact me at Angel Adams Media Services.  And please share this with others…My heart is that no one be paralyzed by someone else’s doing.  We are supposed to be free. We are supposed to be different.  We are supposed to be strong.

You are welcome to follow Angel on this journey.

You are welcome to follow Angel on this journey.

Be strong, my friends.

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Sure, I’ll jump off this cliff…and hope I make it.

Yes.

Allow me to define it for you.

yes – adv. : It is so; as you say or ask. Used to express affirmation, agreement, positive confirmation, or consent.

1. An affirmative or consenting reply. 2. An affirmative vote or voter. tr.v. yessed, yes·sing, yes·es  To give an affirmative reply to. interj. Used to express great satisfaction, approval, or happiness.


Here’s my thought:  I’ve been knocking around the idea of new ventures for years now but I’ve become quite complacent with my job and content with the security that comes with it.  Back in the day, I thought that I was a super hero of sorts and because of that, took on adventure after adventure without ever having blinked an eye.  I thrived on adrenaline and the “sport” of travel.  Before I was 25, I had discovered 13 countries for myself and lapped up every cultural morsel the world had to offer.

Here I am at 19, traveling on a train somewhere between Minsk, Belarus and Moscow, Russia…some 5600 miles or so from home.

After returning to America, I took on my first dream job and worked as a minister for 4 years (I know, I know…I was a Rev. and some of you are giggling).  After realizing that I didn’t fit into the ministry culture, I resigned that position to work at my next dream job…graphic designer.  Here’s the dealio, I’ve been doing graphic art for 12 years and moved into an Art Director position 8 years ago.  I freaking love it.  In the midst of doing this graphic design stuff, I became a member of an indie rock band called Eric and the Adams. That was four years of adventure, travel and creativity all wrapped into one.  Crazy town.

The last 6 years of my life, I have become happily engaged, bought a home, was the drummer in a rock band, had a child, raised money (not because I’m amazing but because my friends are) for a solo album, worked on tour with a phenomenal musician – learning the hard work of a stage hand, and now….

Well.  Now what?

The message of what I’m trying to convey is that all these humbling opportunities came to me and I had to make a decision.  What do I say?

“Angel, would you like to travel all over the world?”

“Angel,  would you like to come work for me as a graphic artist?”

“Angel, would you like to be the drummer in my new band?”

“Angel, will you record your music?”

“Angel, will you marry me?”

YES!  I said, “Yes.”
Things have been a little strapped because of the way the economy has fallen and I have found myself scrambling to make ends meet.  With that and the very real fact that I mentioned earlier that I just don’t fit the culture of where I am. I realize more everyday that I don’t fit into the traditional role that a patriarchal socially structured environment would want me.  I need to redirect my path.

I have been looking for a way to open doors for myself so that I can step into a new phase of life.

Not too long ago, I was given an opportunity to take a class at a community college here in Tulsa.  It was a radio class.  The class was paid for…all I would have to do is enroll and show up.  If any of you have known me for long, you know that I really enjoy entertaining (when I was younger, I would practice my award speeches out in the yard – I’ve accepted countless Emmys, Tonys, Oscars, and Grammys).  Here’s the sad part…I got wrapped up with too many things that don’t matter, instead of focusing on the stuff that will get me on track.  I didn’t say, “Yes”.  This class would have gotten me on track.  It was my next step and I missed it.  Have you ever done that before…a few weeks later you wish you could go back in time and slap yourself out of your slumber?  Things change for me when I say yes.  No more missed opportunities…

SO, I’m in full preparation of a new chapter…a new “dream job”.  I’ll work diligently at my 9-5er until I can fully step out on my own but let me tell you this…it is not without fear, anxiety, adrenaline, and hope.

photo credit: Stuart Anthony

My partner and I have a running joke from a familiar cliché.

The cliché?  “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”.  Our variation?  “We’ll jump off that bridge when we come to it.”

I’m lucky to have a partner who supports my ever growing need to push the boundary, break the glass ceiling, smash socioeconomic class, and jar the mindset of poverty.  I’ll happily jump off this cliff.  I’ve jumped off of so many and it has taken me to places I’ve never dreamed.  My way of opening doors for myself is to say, “Yes”.

SO, I say yes to the things ahead.

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