Tuesday, October 28, 2008

AIDS and "A Miracle of Love"

Some time ago I posted an email from a Minister Anthony J. Cox, in which he reveals that he contracted HIV and now has full blown AIDS. The letter has since spread like wildfire across the net.

I have searched for more information about the minister, but so far, I haven't found anything. I don't know if the man is real or made up. I don't know if the letter reveals truth or myth. But it's a cautionary tale for our times, so true or not, I made the decision to post on this blog. Given my focus on abstinence, I thought it was worth the space, and I still do.

Ironically, years ago I came across a story (one that I can vouch for) about another minister who contracted AIDS. My mother's pastor, JoAnn Long of New Covenant Life Church in Chicago, openly shares the sad tale of her husband contracting and dying of the disease. It's such an amazing story of love, forgiveness, and believe it or not, happy endings, that I just had to include it in my book, Black-Eyed Peas for the Soul. It's one of the most popular stories in the book.

So as I attempt to locate the elusive Minister Anthony J. Cox, I'd like to share an excerpt of Pastor Long's story, "A Miracle of Love." For the complete story and other great inspirational tales, buy a copy of Black-Eyed Peas for the Soul at Amazon.com!


A Miracle of Love
n Long

It was the 1980s and the AIDS virus discovery and exposure were yet new in our community and I was walking through my valley of the shadow of death and fearing the evil. Truthfully speaking, I felt more like I was crawling through it. Nevertheless, I was moving, determined to get through.

My husband, Tracy, was in the hospital fighting for his life and the doctor's report of his condition was resounding over and over again in my mind. It was not good: HIV positive and its possible/likely fatal outcome -- the statistics! The specialists in his field could not offer us any hope and expressed grave concern for me.

Hurting and angry, I questioned how I could be confronted with such a monumental situation which was bigger than life, an intrusion, an invasion of my private world, my home, marriage, and family. I thought, surely not my husband -- not me! Why me?

I was filled with shock and grief. I waited for something more to be said -- some explanation, perhaps. Something! It did not come. I was not really prepared for this, I thought. Then, as if someone had pushed a video replay button, I began to hear words of advice that had been spoken to my parents approximately 20 years ago as I was coming of age. It was a different time, a different setting, but those words began to replay in my mind even louder than the hopelessness of the doctor's words and the fear of the situation -- what I was feeling.

This is the wise counsel of that individual. She said that as my parents let go, I would develop and mature as a beautiful woman. She perceived that even as a child, I flourished under pressure best when I was not petted, pampered, or smothered with needless pity or sympathy. Through difficulties, I would draw from my own resources and make it.

As I remembered these words, I not only drew strength from within, but I discovered I had the courage to embrace my destiny. What I encountered, experienced, and lived through leaves me awestruck even to this day.

November 1986, Tracy LaMar Allen died. After his death, I experienced loneliness such as one could never even imagine. Our courtship and marriage was a sum total of twenty-five years filled with joys and trials; struggles and successes, good days and bad (so many of the bad days toward the end). He had chosen to live part of his life anonymously as a bisexual (functioning as both and with both: male and female). The confirmed news of this, as well as the consequences thereof was devastating to him, our families, and me.

My husband was a minister -- double jeopardy! After discovering the truth, learning of his life of anonymity during his illness, I acquiesced to his request not to share what was happening with family and others for the sake of the children and the church, and to avoid further embarrassment and ridicule. I loved him. I respected his individuality and privacy. He made a futile attempt to protect me and our children by choosing to die incognito, but the news got out and I was accused of not turning state's evidence and supporting him in a lifestyle that constituted double standards. I lost much physically, socially, materially. And, oh, the pain!

During that time of aloneness and loneliness, once again the video replay button was pushed and I remembered during meditation that prior to all of this happening, I had been given the assurances of marriage -- a good marriage. A whole marriage was part of my great destiny.

I was back and I was ready to make a comeback. The only way I knew to make a comeback was to go on. Slowly but surely, I began to accept speaking engagements, seminars, workshops, etc.

Then it happened! One Saturday afternoon in 1989 while speaking to the Midwest Clergy Association, I met the man I was to marry -- my future husband, though I did not know it at the time. He had observed and admired me, asking for an introduction. From our first meeting, which was so coincidental to me, and during the occasional times of our being together, I found myself filled with a whole succession of emotions -- amazement (more at myself than him), excitement, fear, joy, love.

We were married June 1990, and one of the most endearing gifts that John gave to me at our wedding ceremony was tears. His impassioned, genuine tears flowed unabashedly from his eyes and down his face as I walked down the aisle and into his arms at the altar as his bride. Later, in our honeymoon suite, he told me that his heart was overwhelmed with love and joy to find such a virtuous woman, that I was so beautiful as his bride, and how much he loved me.

Often I hear, "How did you meet him?" "You are married to such a good man." "Where did he come from?"

In the Gospel according to St. John, chapter one, verse six, you will read these words: "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sex toys at the club

Friends, I went out on a date last Friday, and for a woman practicing celibacy, it was quite an experience, let me tell you.

The guy was decent. He wasn't the problem. It was the culture of the club.

It's been a long time since I went to a club, much less to hear some comedy. I was actually looking forward to it.

While we were waiting for the show to begin, I noticed that on the table next to us, a vendor was selling her wares. So to kill time, I went over to look. Guess what...

Sex toys. Uh huh.

I had to laugh, but I was so embarrassed. My date said something like, "See anything over there you want?" I looked at him like he was crazy.

Then the comedy show began. Oh Lord. From the first comic to the last, it was all about sex. There was even a special needs guy with MS or MD or something. Anyway, he disclosed way too much information about bodily functions while in the bed with "normal" women. (Although the bit about inviting women to date him because he gets disability checks was funny in a sad way.)

I actually like a good sex joke, but it's got to have some intelligence to it. There's got to be more than just, well, sex. There's got to be some deep (but funny) philosophical insights about the way men and women relate.

The next day, my date called and asked what I thought. I was honest. I told him I had expected more from African American comics. I wanted Dave Chappelle or DL Hughley or Chris Rock. People are hurting from the economic mess. I wanted to laugh about that.

I need comics to help me put the bad stuff into perspective. In fact, I love a man with a good sense of humor, someone who can be deep and philosophical but crazy, too. Hey, that's going on my wish list. Is that too much to ask?

Celibacy brings freedom

My last post was about the power of celibacy. Today I feel compelled to write about freedom.

When I was younger, I'm not going to lie, I was a low self-esteem mess. I didn't believe in myself at all, and I surely didn't think I was lovable.

Well today I crossed a threshold, and I must credit my belief in God and my practice in celibacy for having the courage to do so.

There was a time when, if I didn't have a man, I felt completely ashamed. I grew up just when the minds of women where changing. Let's say, we were in transition. We were saying things like, "I'm an independent woman," but deep inside we were terrified to be caught at a restaurant or movie alone.

That fear caused us to make really bad decisions about our love lives. Word to the wise: never make a decision when you're feeling desperate. More accidental sex has occurred during moments of fear and desperation.

Anyway, I must be honest and admit to some residue angst about being alone. I think that residue motivated me to keep a certain man around. Or maybe it was because I needed my feminine ego to be stroked from time to time.

Whatever the reason, something snapped within me today. After just one too many attempts to seduce me despite my consistent declines, I'd had it. I forced him into a deeper conversation about the whole thing. I was rational. I didn't get too emotional. In fact, he was the one who got emotional.

Long story short, he hung up the phone on me. Now he'll probably say, "You know how cell phones are," but I won't believe that bull for a minute. He hung up on me.

And I'm so glad he did.

It's like we always tell our daughters. If the guy really loves you, he'll honor your decision to abstain from sex. I didn't take that advice. I kept trying to have rational discussions with the man about why I chose to abstain, but he'd keep trying to get me into bed. I think I felt flattered.

But not today. Enough was enough.

One day I'll say yes, but this guy wasn't the one.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The power of celibacy

More than once during my practice of celibacy I’ve thought, “Thank God for celibacy.” Reading Steve Pavlina’s new book, Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth, helped me clarify why not having sex can be so transformative.

First, let me say that Pavlina’s book is one of the most thoughtful, meditative self-help books I’ve ever read. That’s saying a lot given that I’ve read a ton of self-help books over the years. I’m usually disappointed by the lack of creativity and innovation that goes into most of these books. Mostly they just repeat what others have said before.

I want to read thoughts I’ve never thought before. I want my socks to be knocked off. I love reading books that open up totally new areas of interest in me. Have you ever had a thought that was so daring and new that you just knew it came from the mind of God? That’s what I’m looking for. Unfortunately, those types of books are rare.

However, Personal Development for Smart People comes close. As you read you find yourself having aha! moments along the way. Pavlina’s writing style is easy, but the book is dense with ideas. You can’t skim through this book because every sentence has something different to say. There’s no fluff.

So back to the power of celibacy. Pavlina frames the self development process with three main principles: truth, love, and power. There are more principles (oneness, intelligence, authority, and courage), but my bursts of insight came about when reading about the three principles, specifically power.

Not having sex is powerful because it enables us to reclaim our personal power. When I started having sex as a young woman, I got caught up in the man’s dreams, the man’s demands, the man’s time. I totally lost myself.

Sex is a powerful force, and at the time I couldn’t imagine my life without it. As a result, I made bad decisions around relationships. Because I couldn’t imagine life as a single woman, I settled for less on many occasions.

I remember as clear as day the moment I made the decision to stop the madness. I was in a relationship with a man who was actually decent, but there was too much distance emotionally (partly my fault) and we didn’t click sexually. Well, let’s say he clicked and I didn’t.

After one too many unsatisfying sexual encounters, I snapped. Why was I putting myself through this? I assessed the pros and cons of the relationship. I could only conclude that I was in it just to be with a man. Was that a good enough reason? Shouldn’t there be more?

I mean, I cared about him, but I wasn’t in love with him. We didn’t have children together. We weren’t married. He was chronically broke. He was a decent man, but was that enough?

In a flash I realized it wasn’t. Not only did I not want to be with him, I didn’t want to be with anyone if they couldn’t treat me the way I deserved to be treated. I decided then and there that I was going to practice celibacy until such time that I met a man who cherished me and complimented me.

This was a new and powerful thought for me, because up until then, I’d always allowed my emotions to dictate my relationships. Even just making the decision to practice celibacy opened the door to a long dormant part of me: Donna Marie, meet your personal power.

Since then, celibacy has been a tremendous force for good in my life. As Pavlina says, power is

“…your ability to consciously and deliberately create the world around you. When your power is weak, you can’t effectively satisfy your needs and desires, and you become a victim of your environment. When your power is strong, you successfully cultivate a life of your own choosing, and your environment reflects it.”

Whenever I practice celibacy, my power grows. When you’re in a sexual relationship, it's the power of 2 that dominates. That intimate communication with the other can take you over if you don’t have a clear sense of your own identity (power of 1). When you practice celibacy, you become really clear because you’re on your own.

Ultimately, personal power leads to a strong sense of identity. A strong sense of identity will empower you to have better relationships, more loving, more authentic, and definitely sexier -- and that's what we want, right?

Pavlina says that some of the blocks to personal power are timidity, cowardice, and negative conditioning. So true. This is why so many people end up having accidental sex and saying, “I don’t know what happened. It just happened! See, what had happened was…”

How to build power during celibacy? Pavlina suggests, among other things, mastering the first hour. I remember when I first started Weight Watchers, I created a habit of praying, eating a good breakfast, taking my vitamins, and exercising during the first part of the morning. It laid a good foundation for the rest of the day.

For people practicing celibacy, mastering the last hour might make more sense. For it’s bed time that’s the most challenging. When you’re in a sexual relationship, the bed is where all the action takes place. I’ll never forget in one of my workshops a woman asked, “But how do I deal with going to bed at night?” We all knew what she was talking about.

If you're not working with your inner power, it will be too tempting to make booty calls, calls of desperation. You'll be snacking on ice cream all night, or worse, drinking too much and/or doing drugs.

Dealing with loneliness and physical desire is challenging, but this is when your courage and self-discipline must kick in. There are no shortcuts to the process. To help you through it, read my book Sensual Celibacy and definitely Pavlina's Personal Development for Smart People. Put them on your nightstand.

Friday, October 10, 2008

For love or money?

We all know that 2 of the top reasons why couples split is because of sex and money.

We're seeing a similar split in our society, as reflected in the national campaign for president. Regardless of what the polls may say about who's in the lead, the reality is, the country is split on how to handle the economic mess.

So lately I've been thinking about what I would do if presented a choice between 2 men. Man #1 makes a decent living, and Man #2 is a multi-millionaire.

Let's say I like them both equally, more or less. What would be the deciding factor? Would I chose the multi-millionaire or the middle-class guy? Would it make a difference if I'm making my own money? Would I chose differently during better economic times?

An even better question: Not that I want to be single forever, but I kind of like my single life. Up until now, I've felt that unless a man can offer me a better life than my single one, what's the point?

Would I chose to marry because I was uncertain about my own economic future and I thought one of the men could provide more security and safety for myself and my children?

Is this a moral or practical issue? As a practical issue, can a woman make a decision about love and finances without feeling like a prostitute?

Don't men choose mates based on their belief that a woman will help them build their empire? What's the difference?

Whether wealthy, middle-class, or poor, in a capitalistic society, love and money are intertwined. Back in the day, a woman had few options. She married the man her father told her to marry. Today, we make our own decisions, but are we any smarter about how we go about choosing a mate?

Why is it wrong to consider financial issues along with love and romance? Does that make a woman a gold digger or just smart?

I just made 50 yesterday, and I guess in my older age I'm getting more and more practical, because in my 20's, I would have thought this line of reasoning was an abomination.

Today, I know better. I know how medical issues can make going it alone extremely difficult. Or how the loss of a job can devastate a family if there's no second income to rely on.

One of my suitors and I talked this morning, and he got perturbed because I'm adamant about 2 things in my older age: no sex until marriage (or at the very least a solid contract) and no more broke relationships. I know that sounds cold and calculating, but having married for love and having had sex for love in my younger years I learned that love (or what passes for it) doesn't guarantee that a couple will stay together. But if they have a nest egg and are united in their financial vision (plus love), they stand a good chance.

I wonder, with the economic mess reducing the cash values of pension plans and salaries, how couples will fare.

And I wonder if single women like me will, because of economic hard times, begin to change their approach to love in the future.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wayne Brady

I can't believe I'm actually writing these words, but Wayne Brady's new CD A Long Time Coming is, well, simply spectacular and aptly named.

I'm in shock because Wayne's public persona isn't all that soulful, but this CD lays to rest the idea that he doesn't have a brother bone in his body. It's there, and it has come out in full masculine R&B lusciousness in the songs on this CD.

There was a hint of the brother within, albeit a gangsta version, on the Dave Chappelle show, when he played a really bad guy. Even Dave was scared of him. It's the juxtaposition of that nerdy smile against the villain that grabbed you in that skit.

But in A Long Time Coming, Wayne is a good guy with a voice like butter. Sexy, but not trying to lick me up and down. Just really nice. The tunes have a smooth, retro R&B feel to them. Very musical, unlike most so-called, alleged "tunes" today. My favorite so far is the remake of Stevie Wonder's "All I Do." Makes me feel happy.

In my book Sensual Celibacy, I urge women to take care about the music they listen to when practicing celibacy. Music is a power. Seductive beats combined with sexually explicit lyrics have probably led to more accidental sex and babies than anything.

While this CD is definitely romantic, it's full of joy, something that's definitely lacking in most modern so-called "music."

Wayne, who knew you had it in you?

Monday, October 6, 2008

A highly effective cold shower

Friends, I don't know about you, but if I'm having panic attacks about money, sex is the farthest thing from my mind.

So if you're struggling with with your celibacy practice and need a stronger dose of sanity than even Sensual Celibacy can provide, try this bit of fearful Argentinian history.

Might Argentina have been the poor canary in the coal mine whose economic song took a decidedly Psycho (scary violins) turn and predicted things to come for the rest of the world?

Instead of worrying about sex today, let's pray.

In fact, have you noticed how, in reporting about the economic mess, the media increasingly uses words like "faith," "confidence," and "fear?" All those technical terms like "derivatives" etc. don't stand a chance against faith, confidence, and fear.

These words tell me that we're the economy. How things go depends on us.

So what will we choose: disaster or a brand new economy that has justice, forgiveness, and mercy baked in?

I began today's entry talking about panic attacks over money, but fear will only reduce the effectiveness of our decision making. More than ever, we need courage.

Just like celibacy must be a choice, we can choose to create a better economy because we are the economy.