Background: My name is Stash Serafin and I am a figure skater, I teach figure skating as well as a form of counseling called Comfort Coaching.
Faith: I am a retired Catholic, an RC, and now I am a Unitarian.
Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: My parents were very loving people and extremely spiritual, although I didn’t know it at the time. They just felt that loving one another, loving each other, was the way to do it and the ticket to get along in the world. So they taught me how to love myself and by following their example, I got a real blessing, learning how to love myself by looking at them and learning from them.
Do you feel included with your peers? Our Unitarian fellowship in Lower Bucks is really a prime example of inclusion. They don’t deal well with exclusion. It’s a small community but mighty in power and accepting each other from a place of comfort, of safety. Kids come out now, you know, in front of the whole congregation or whatever and just say, “oh wow, by the way, we’re gay” and it’s kind of cool or whatever, they come out with all kinds of stuff and it’s very accepting and they were great with me when my partner died a couple years ago. They decided that they would help me through it and walk me through the journey and they’re still doing it now and I’m helping them.
A time you felt included: Well, it happens all the time. I don’t know how this inclusion thing happens but I guess the biggest thing was when my partner Wayne died and my friend Priscila just took it upon herself to be with me with the process as he was dying, and walk me through it and I have a lot of friends that will do that and I’m not sure why, cause I’m not always the easiest person to get along with all the time, cause I can be pretty snarky when I’m in a bad mood and when things get to me. When the doubts are bigger than my desires it’s like crap, you know, but my poor friends deal with me and they love me anyway which I guess is a good thing. It feels good.
How did it affect you? Every time I feel included or accepted, it validates that something I already knew and just never kind of put in words. It’s hard to put into words. Something I feel in me is already whole and when anybody includes me and accepts me for whatever reason, it just enhances that sense of wholeness or that sense of safety, that sense of comfort. For me that’s where it all comes from, it’s a feel for me. Not just because I can’t see but it’s a different kind of feel, it’s like whatever we’re going through, you know, we’re just going to have the light on even if there’s cloud on, you know, we’re gonna see them both a little bit but honor them. Honor the clouds and honor the sunlight, or the light or whatever ‘cause that’s part of being human, learning to love, somewhat, the unlovable. It’s beyond tolerating, it’s like, you know, when you love it a little more, it works just a little better.
A time you felt excluded. Believe it or not I’ve never felt excluded because of my sexual preference or gender, I’ve had more exclusion because of being blind. It’s an expectation issue and I guess for me as soon as I decided to come out of the closet, although I don’t think I was ever really in it. But in 1982 I started, I told my mom and , you know, what I told her was, I said, “You know, um, I’m gay” and she kinda didn’t want to admit to it but she said, “I kinda thought so. Do you need a priest?”And I said, “yea, if he’s like 6’2, I could deal with him” and she’s like, “ok, I’m going to love you anyway” and I said, “well, I’m glad of that because if you were not approving I wouldn’t hang out with you much and we would talk a little, but not much.”
How did it affect you: Anytime I feel excluded it seems like at one level for me it’s a personal form, it’s like rejection, I don’t take well to rejection. I’m not happy with it and I don’t like it one bit, it’s friction for me. Now that I’m older, when I remember as soon as I feel excluded I can use that to figure out, well, how can I include myself more and I’m not sure if I can stop anybody from excluding me, but all I know is for me, my personal life experiences from being 61, it’s like the more I include myself in every part of life I’m included more by everybody around and the ones that don’t include me, well, do I really want to be with them anyway?
Overcoming exclusion: For me overcoming exclusion is just, you know, loving more and fearing a little bit less ‘cause I really believe everybody is equal and the light level, you know; we see the lights, we see the clouds and sometimes inequality looks really bleak and murky and dark and actually crap, actually, but it feels that way but then when the light goes on it’s like, you know, I mean, ever since time began we’ve been dealing with these issues in some way or another and the ones that deal with them with more dignity… and that’s a good one for me, I guess, tryin’ to deal with whatever I’m going through with dignity. I believe when each of us feels more equal, that’s how we overcome exclusion.
Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: There are times when I don’t feel accepted and how to overcome that? I’m not sure in somebody’s case but those times when I didn’t feel accepted, I didn’t feel very safe with myself and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing but as soon as I started to feel comfortable, and a little more safe with myself and a little more comfortable, what they did or didn’t do kinda on one level is irrelevant and it’s like, the things that I push against the most, if I push, they don’t seem to go away. They seem to get worse and they feel worse so for me it’s when I can look at them and not fight ‘em so much. I’m prone to use the phrase with my skaters, don’t fight with your blades, feel it. Feel for what’s right instead of fighting for it. And for me, I’m not sure if it’s being blind, I don’t think it’s being blind but I think, I feel, it’s an energy awareness of more softer energies the more we become equal with ourselves, you know. When we give everything an equal opportunity, no matter what emotion we’re feeling, to not judge it so much but to know, this is just what I’m feelin’, it’s a crap day. But part of me isn’t crap, and part of me is comfortable.
Advice to the people doing the excluding: Well, people that do excluding, from my personal experience it just feels like some of them just honest to gosh, don’t know any better or they would do better. Sometimes it’s absolute sheer ignorance and it’s sometimes not wanting to do anything with dignity and when somebody has their own agenda, exclusion is a real temptation. But then again, you know, hopefully by any of us who are doin’ what we’re doin’ from a heartfelt place, when it’s a loved place, it’s an example. We’re kinda like way-showers, and without doing a lot of mouth talk to it. We’re people that really listen. Sooner or later they really will listen. The thing that we gotta remember is, people that are generally wanting to include people more and love people more, to not give up on those people that don’t want to do it because sooner or later they will come around and maybe it’s not going to be all the time in my lifetime but I can’t really do a lot with somebody who doesn’t want to do anything but I can still have the hope that they will sooner or later realize that we’re all energy. When people get and feel that, it’s like why would you want to hurt anybody? Why would you hurt yourself or anyone else ‘cause at that level we’re all one.
One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: Whatever we do, do it with a little more dignity. Whatever we’re feeling, feel it with a little more dignity, kindness and gentleness which, in a roundabout way, says from my heart hopefully to yours; love a little more, fear a little less. Love more, fear less. When love takes ahold it does work because we mean it and when we come from a filling place of meaning, sooner or later things move.
“Something I feel in me is already whole and when anybody includes me and accepts me for whatever reason it just enhances that sense of wholeness or that sense of safety, that sense of comfort.”
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"human." is a culmination of the writing, photo, video and design work of Harrison Brink and Alisa Miller. It is meant to act as a forum where we show the vitality of the human spirit through the strife that people face and overcome. If you have any suggestions for the project, please contact us. All input is welcome.