has anyone ever written anything for you?

First things first please, take a few minutes to listen to this song and story behind it and then I promise I’ll talk your ear off.

There’s a special kind of grace needed when you have a “chronic manageable disease” like HIV. See people will tell you that “Oh yeah. My neighbor has it and he’s fine”, “Oh I just read a thing about a girl in France who cured herself from it by going vegan” or “Maybe you should take more vitamins/take less vitamins/get new medication/stop medication/do yoga/do Pilates/meditate more.” Grace comes in handy when you can nod your head and say, “Okay.” But the thing is these poor, well-meaning folks are just trying to say something to make you feel less awkward and don’t really realize that we’ve pretty much tried everything if we’ve had a manageable disease for a few years. I’ve told this story on these pages before but its a funny one and worth repeating. When I was first diagnosed with HIV nearly 4 years ago in August, my nurse when trying to talk me off the ledge said, “HIV is a manageable condition like diabetes.” Oh in that case, sign me up. because diabetes always seemed like a trip to the tropics. Tahiti? No thanks! Who needs it when you have diabetes!

Also, let’s talk about this manageable word they like to throw around.Doctors are in essence are telling us that we are becoming managers of whatever our given affliction is. Correct me if I’m wrong but management seems like a lot of work. Whether you’re managing Mariah Carey or a McDonald’s, managers are some hardworking motherfuckers. As my own condition has recently caused me some health problems with a side order of fear ( I would have rather had onion rings, by the way), I have to get into gratitude. I am grateful that it’s treatable and that I have good doctors. I’m grateful for all the prayers and spiritual assistance. Yet I acknowledge that it sucks and that it’s hard. So here is where Stevie comes in.

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That song so beautifully talks about giving it away when you feel the absolute worst. I hope I can do that. I need to do that right now. Here’s my attempt to do so. If you have traumatic brain injury, manic depression, rheumatoid arthritis, bipolar disorder, suffered a stroke, are getting off drugs, have just lost a loved one, can’t get out of bed, tried to kill yourself, suffering from MS, learning to walk or speak again, trying to not pick upon a drink, living with HIV and yes diabetes; all I can say is I get it. As a bonus, I won’t tell  you what books to read or that my old English teach has whatever you’re dealing with.  All I can tell you is even if it is manageable, I know you hurt , that everyday is a battle to stay positive and healthy and that I am sorry. I hope you can laugh, I hope you do nice things for yourself and know that by fighting and managing everyday, you’re helping me and lot of other people. So has anybody ever written anything for you? I have.

And I hope you can do the same for someone else. As Stevie says, “If not for me, do it for the world.”

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the dig

One of the things I’ve grown to like the most about being a writer is research. My version of research is probably a little different considering the subject matter of my plays doesn’t require me meticulously recreating a 14th-Century courtyard or delving deep into the patterns of the human brain. No, when you write shows about Craigslist personal ads and karaoke bars, the research process is decidedly a little more lighthearted. Whatever I’m researching, however, the process of digging is one that excites me and since recovery its one I’m no longer afraid of.

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My past used to be like the attic of an old recluse. You had to be careful when you were digging around in there because you didn’t know what horrifying thing you might find. I had tucked away memories, thoughts, beliefs that I just knew were all too scary to deal with. I thought if these things were tucked away, they’d never hurt. And just to make sure, I dumped tequila and cocaine on them so they wouldn’t pop back up. Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t pan out the way I wanted. When I got sober, I had to unpack that attic.I had to look at all of the things I was hiding and drinking over. While uncomfortable and certainly not as fun as watching hours of karaoke videos on YouTube, it wasn’t terrible. It actually felt good. Not only did these ‘awful secrets’ from my past not kill me but a lot of them that I was convinced would kill me weren’t really that bad. I was miserable enough that I had to just trust that digging around would be okay. And it was. More than that, it saved my life.Digging-22

Several personal inventories, meetings, therapy sessions and years later, it doesn’t freak me out. My new show, Welcome to Ladyland, is in the research process right now. Since the show is maybe more autobiographical than my others, the digging here is more personal too. The show deals with relationships and as part of that I’m looking at my own behaviors and personality traits that maybe aren’t so great. Uncomfortable? Yeah. Ugly in parts? Uh huh. But I’m hoping by addressing these character flaws honestly, the work will also be really funny, human and uplifting too. The amazing thing about digging and being open to learning more about myself is that by welcoming it, nothing I find can ever hurt me, regardless of how deep its been buried.

Inspiration for August 13th: The Monster at the End of this Book

Hello, everybodeee!

Today’s inspiration comes straight out of my childhood. The Monster at the End of the Book is one of those seminal, influential and eternally memorable books for me. Published as a Little Golden Book in 1971, the simple story tells the tale of our buddy Grover, resident of Sesame Street, superhero, waiter and all around awesome guy, who goes to great lengths to prevent us readers from turning the page because of a fabled scary monster to be found at the end of the book.  According to the book’s history, Sesame Street wanted to come up with a compelling way to show the littlest of readers how to read a book from beginning to end. I did not pick up on that as a kid.  I just thought this book was brilliant. First off, Grover was talking directly to you and as a big fan of all things Muppets, that was the best thing ever. Secondly, it was easy storytelling but comically suspenseful. It gave you permission to break the rules and turn the page, despite Grover’s pleading. But the best thing about the book was the ending! Spoiler alert:

 

Turns out the monster in question was just good old Grover himself!

For kids of the 70s and 80s this book has a kind of cult following. Just check out the GoodReads page for further proof. Folks even ponder the meaning of “being the monster” and that we the readers are the monster and the thing we are most afraid of.  Hmm. I’m not sure lovable, furry old Grover is that esoteric or contemplative. But there could be something to this. I seem to have moments all the time where what I’m afraid of is something I’ve created in my mind and the truth is not all that scary. And like our fuzzy, blue friend, I too go to great lengths to avoid seeing what’s really lurking at the “end of the book.”

But not today. Nope. On August 13th 2012, I’m going to enjoy turning the pages and accept  whatever is around the corner. Like everybody else on the planet, I have a lot of uncertainty in my life right now but I’ll never know what happens if let fear paralyze me. So here’s to getting to the proverbial end of the book and to embracing our monsters!

You Can’t Handle the Tooth

First things first, my blogging and overall online communication has taken a dump this week and I hate it.  I’ve  really missed the exchange with readers, bloggers and fellow whackadoodles.  And it’s all the fault of one very angry tooth.

My teeth, like the grills of so many ex-drunks and junkies, tell the story of neglect and abuse. They have needed attending to for years and have become painful over the last few months. The past ten days, however, have been unbearably painful. It is abundantly clear that I must once again face the proverbial music and get down with my bad self. When  my face was throbbing this morning as if a rhino had done double dutch on my jaw, I was thinking to myself, “This is good.” I then laughed because this is far from good. I’m in a shitload of pain, don’t have insurance, and know this process will eat up money and time I do not have. But this is good. I know from experience that pain always brings about necessary and positive changes in my life. It would be nice if I could have taken preventative measures and taken action before it got to this point but that is not how I roll. I have a thick head and like doing things the hard way so big-time oral surgery and a full mouth makeover is how this is most likely going to play out.  I’ve already put my sister, who has been sober for seven years, on notice that she’ll have to police my meds after I get my work done. I was never really a pill popper but when it comes to me and addictive substances never say never. The money, the insurance, the particulars are all things I let the my HP take care of.  He’s more qualified for that stuff anyway.

In the end, I’m grateful I am sober and for being in a position where I can face something”scary” like an angry tooth. In yesterhaze gone by, I would have just drank until the pain went away (which would have never happened) or I would have cooked up a hair-brained scheme to rid myself of the tooth. I shudder at the thought. Again, life is good today and angry teeth can easily become happy teeth if I stay in a solution.