Love > Hate

written by Irina Gallagher

black-stripe-pride-flag It has been a devastating week in Central Florida after a senseless act of hatred claimed 49 lives and left 53 people injured – some still fighting for their lives. Of course, as a community, we have mourned previous mass shootings. We have shed tears for the victims and families of cities around the country and around the world. We have held our babies closer after all of these tragic events. We have dealt with the heavy hearts. We have tried to put ourselves in the shoes of the affected communities. We have listened to Obama give the aftermath speech time and time again. But this was different. This was right in our backyard, an hour away. The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. An hour away from home. In Orlando, where my (now) husband and I used to go when we skipped school (sorry, parents); where I went to college and got lost in parking garages searching for my car on an all-too-regular basis; where my husband commutes for work daily; where we take our kids on weekend trips. This time, it was our community.

This was the first time that there was no way to shelter our 7-year-old daughter from tragedy. While the week was spent trying to avoid the news in the company of our kids and trying to stay informed by quietly reading the Orlando updates; there was no way to shield this. My girl and I had to have a conversation about hate, about how someone could possibly inflict such carnage by singling out a specific demographic. We had to talk about the LGBTQ community as a safe haven and why we need to support something that should just be a given. We had to talk about how we would feel if her aunts were targeted simply because they loved one another. And with this talk, I had to erase a part of my daughter’s innocence.

The following day, we were preparing to go to a local candlelight vigil for the victims of Pulse. My daughter asked if we knew anyone who had died there. I responded that while we didn’t know the victims personally, we were going to show our support, to show unity, “We are going because,” and she finished my sentence “we care.” Yes, we were going because we care. We bought candles and spent time drawing rainbows and hearts on the wax catchers. When we arrived at the vigil, we saw unity. We saw people come together in support of the fallen, but also in support of love and equality. On the way home that evening I asked my daughter if she was able to hear all of the speakers during the ceremony. She answered yes. But what stuck with her most was one line: “We are one.” She was referring to the most powerful speaker of the night, Pastor Glenn Dames of St. James AME Church, who proclaimed “We will not be divided. We will stand together. And we will not allow some cowardly terrorist to pull us apart. We will cry together. We will rise together. We will laugh together. And we will be one.”

Vigil

There were tears this week over the horrendous act of hatred in Orlando, for the lives lost all too soon, for the state of our world in which a massacre like this can occur. But more tears were shed over the community’s reaction – the thousands upon thousands of people who waited hours in line to donate blood (shout out to my mama); the donations pouring in from all over the world in support of victims’ families; the companies, corporations, and sports teams who have offered support to Orlando in numerous ways; the strangers who have gone out of their way to show various acts of kindness, because they wanted to do something; the vigils drawing hundreds, thousands of people in communities far and wide; and countless stories of love and support. The unity that we have witnessed since last Sunday has been tremendous and I know that not only Orlando feels the love, but the collective LGBTQ community as well. This week showed, above all, that love is greater than hate. Every time.

“What divides us pales in comparison to what unites us” – Edward Kennedy
Orlando vigil

Resolution: Make Room for Magic

Written by Irina Gallagher

Happy New Year!New Year’s Eve, people! New. Year’s. Eve! December 31 is always a complete mixture of emotions for me. There is excitement about prospects of the new year – new opportunities, new beginnings, new adventures. But there is a simultaneous twinge of sadness. I have always been terrible with goodbyes. Saying a farewell to a whole year of time is very difficult. All of a sudden, after mostly not giving much thought to the passing of each individual day, week, or month, time feels fleeting and the goodbye is conclusive and nostalgic. The touching moments from the year quickly stream through my memory as I squeeze my family tight knowing that this year, this beautiful year, is something that will not ever repeat itself. I find myself stubbornly wishing the ball would drop slower while eagerly anticipating the mark of January 1. Inevitably, time moves forward and then excitement strikes.

The elation of the new year lies in the new, untarnished possibilities and in the hopes and resolutions to better ourselves, our families, our lives. It’s difficult to find this same level of urgency for personal revolution at any other time unless you’re having a mortality check moment. This need for renewal certainly never happens en masse as is it does during this two-day transition from old to new year. I love hearing my loved ones’ hopes, upcoming plans, and decisions to make changes both big and small. So far, I haven’t heard anyone resolve to buy more superfluous stuff, consume more crap, spend less time focusing on people they care about, read less, yell more, take life for granted, and be less present. We perpetually strive to simplify our avalanche of clutter – both mental and physical – during this wake-up call of a new year and any of the aforementioned resolutions would be a contradiction to that sentiment of simplification and personal growth.

My biggest resolution for 2016 encompasses the quintessential new year’s hopes to be present, rid myself of excess, not take things or moments for granted. All of these hopes diverge into one main resolution to believe, just believe, and allow myself to be engulfed in magic. This thought came to me a few weeks ago when my daughter was giving a living room ballet performance while my son accompanied the dancing with a dramatized, operatic version of his own making. The dancer illustrated every detail of her costume and the set scenery as she twirled across the carpet nearly missing the coffee table. And then she said four simple words that struck me profoundly; “I’m wearing pointe shoes.”

Here I was sitting in the same spot for at least the hundredth time attentively watching the performance as always when I realized that I’m continuously being invited to believe in and reach a magical realm which I subconsciously choose not to enter. I sit on the periphery and lovingly watch the happenings inside, but I never fully enter. Yes, I play along. Yes, I pretend. Yes, I pay attention. But never have I really watched the dance while truly visualizing everything laid out before me. Never have I distanced myself from all of my mental distractions to see the pointe shoes on my barefooted dancer.

It’s not just about pretending with children. I have my ballet en pointe performance with operatic accompaniment and you have your own magic waiting – perhaps, it’s a new adventure unfolding, a new path in life, or a seemingly unattainable move. No matter the magic, 2016 is the year to start believing. The admission to this magical realm is free, but there is one stipulation for attendance; you must believe. Really, truly believe.

As the ball drops a year from now and I squeeze my people close, I want to close my eyes and see the magical moments which engulfed me and I hope you can close your eyes and witness the magic which you have created, too. Happy new year!