starting here, starting now

Something occurred to when I was sitting in a meeting. Well, two things actually. First of all, I’m craving waffles. Like plain old crispy, buttery waffles with the perfect amount of syrup. But not like fancy vegan gluten-free waffles. Because those don’t sound delicious. They just sound sad. And while I am a proponent of the waffle sandwich, earlier I just wanted a regular waffle. The second thing, and I promise it’s more thought-provoking, is this idea of things getting better. While I am a walking, talking show tune-singing testament to things getting better and I say this to people who are suffering all the time because I also believe it to be true, I think there’s more to it. What if things were already better? What if this mythical time when stuff improved was actually now?

AwQ5147c267cb8bc

First of all, everyday that I don’t wake up with a head-pounding hangover and nasal passages clogged with blow is a good one. So if we’re talking comparatively, things are a billion times better. Period. I don’t want to die. I’m not getting kicked out of another apartment and I no longer throw items at the people I love. Success all the way around. This does not mean I’m not allowed to be ambitious or get disappointed or occasionally want to bitch slap someone. What it simply means is that if I’m happy with this moment or at least accepting the moment and grateful for what I do have, the rest of this existence is easier to deal with.

201373051455360_sbig

Then I started realizing, while still not totally paying attention to the meeting but having moved passed the waffle obsession, that ‘it’ getting better isn’t the issue here. I’m the issue! Life, planet Earth, the nature of addiction, the fucked up state of our government- these are all things I cannot change. As much as I’d like our planet to be custom tailored to fit my crazy ass, it isn’t going to happen. I have to get better. More than that I can’t delay happiness or gratitude because things aren’t perfect. Pardon my French but fuck that. Waiting for the non-stop bus to Joy is a waste of time. I’ll walk there my damn self, thank you very much. There’s no reason why I can’t choose happiness right now.

How boring and small-minded to think that my happiness is so fragile that I have to portion in out for moments that are perfect. It’s not stuff or people or life that “makes” me happy or sad. I’m the only one who can embrace happiness and I’m also the only one who can tell it to go screw itself. Things are good. Life is good. And it has been all along. Whether I can see it and enjoy it, that’s up to me. So if you are struggling, feel free to punch me when I sincerely say, “It’ll get better.” And by “it” please know that I mean, you. You will get better.

Advertisements

love is still the boss

Today was undoubtedly a victory for gay rights and marriage equality! As a gay man who is married my heart exploded. Yet as I read the “DOMA defeated!” headlines this morning on my phone on my way to my meeting, I knew there wasn’t any winners here. It was a matter of human rights and the Supreme Court did the right thing. But if there is a winner that winner is love. As always, love, not me, is the boss.

image 75

When I look at something like gay marriage and inequality, it’s hard not to feel like it’s personal. It’s even harder to not wish harm on the folks who worked overtime to create things like Prop 8. After all, the LGBT community are the victims here and Mormons, Westboro Baptist and all the other bigots deserve the hatred they’ve so happily dished out, right? Uh. Maybe not.  Belonging to a fellowship like I do which has ‘love and tolerance’ as the code, retribution is something I can’t get behind. After all, it’s not “love and tolerance of only those who think like I do.” It’s of everybody. Dammit. The annoying lady at the grocery store. The screaming guy on the corner. The people who don’t believe in recycling. Love and tolerance for all of them. Period. There isn’t a loophole for douchebags. This doesn’t mean I have to agree with them or give them all hugs but it does mean I can’t tear them down for thinking differently than I do, regardless of how batshit it is. It struck me not that long ago that trashing religious people who are perceived as anti-gay,while easy and kinda fun, in my mind, is just as bigoted and shows little or none of the compassion so many of us have been demanding from the world at large. This revelation blew my mind. Maybe I was just as bad as they were? It also drained the victimization out of discrimination. I could no longer hid behind the thought that the straight world was out to destroy me while wallowing in a self-pity jacuzzi. As love is a two-way street so is intolerance and I’ve been guilty of my own prejudices born out of fear or misunderstanding.

Let_Love_Rule

The good news is this though, love trumps my personal idiocy. Love still solves problems that feel personal or too big to ever get fixed. Love prevails even when my own wisdom does not. Love, even when the most loving thing is to walk away or shut the hell up, knows what it’s doing. Love, not clever rainbow memes or links to headlines or Kim Zolciak with tape over her mouth, made DOMA a thing of the past.  Yeah, love won bigtime today. But then again, it always does.

Anything Could Happen

The funny thing about optimism is that even though its something I whole heartedly believe in, it can vanish the minute the waters get rocky. Like it’s incredibly easy for me to preach, “Don’t worry. This too shall pass” to other people but practicing in my own life? That’s another story. I’m sort of on-paper, in theory kind of optimist but will flip-flop back to pessimist land in the blink of an eye.  You know, kind of  like the friend of your’s from college who went vegan but still ate chicken sandwiches when no one was around. So knowing this about myself as I do now, I sort of have to work overtime to keep optimism and faith alive.

04ef799b8304b3

 

 

Staying out my pre-programmed Irish thinking of “This world’s going to hell in a handbasket!” can be accomplished if I do things that make me feel good. I was once told that I could slowly achieve self-esteem if I practiced estimable acts. Once someone explained to me what estimable acts actually were (by the way gossiping and buying cocaine did not make the list. Go figure.), I’ve been able to live by this. Mainly, it boils down to thinking of others. If I’m wrapped up in my own garbage, my day is usually garbage. But if I’m busy doing things that make me feel good like helping my fellow-man, my day usually gets better. Sometimes, Its texting somebody I know is having a rough time. Sometimes, its making coffee for a meeting. Sometimes its letting my husband sleep in. And in a pinch, holding the door open for somebody or picking up some thrash can be lifesavers too.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that after a few weeks where I honestly felt crappy and felt like things weren’t ever going to get better, they have. This is largely in part because I kept doing stuff that helped others and myself. Even when it drove me nuts. On this Sunday evening, I am actually optimistic. I’m working on some great projects. My relationships are good. I have some fun events this summer. The amazing thing about being sober is that I have seen my life and other people’s lives change. I beleive that my life is only getting more incredible as the days pass, even if I can’t see exactly it at the time. The song is right– anything could happen. And more than that,  I think it already is happening.

 

Never. Forever. Whatever

I’d like to be able to pinpoint and then appropriately blame whatever television show or movie or crappy book that I swallowed whole as a child that infiltrated my mind and tricked me into believing that everything needed to be forever. Jobs, relationships,dreams- all had to be forever. More than that it all needed to be happy and pretty forever. People always blame Disney for these kinds of notions. I don’t think Walt’s totally to blame in my case though. I mean I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when Disney movies sucked and were kind of weird and/or depressing. Like thank god I never wanted my relationships to be like the Fox and the Hound or The Black Hole (although I certainly could accurately apply either title to different periods of my life). No, my  warped sense of forever and never most likely comes from my lifelong distorted sense of reality made worse by ingesting boatloads of chemicals.

When you’re high and drunk for years, forever isn’t too hard to imagine. Time stops and achieving an infinite sameness is something that happens accidentally.  After ten years of daily drinking, I remember feeling like I lived in a rerun. My life was in syndication and on any given day you could catch the episode where I got drunk, did something idiotic and created some bullshit to get myself out of it. I know. We’ve all seen that one.  But in this pursuit of keeping life the same way forever and evah, the rest of my life rotted. My bills, my relationships,my teeth, my soul. After a while, I craved change but was paranoid of what would happen if this corroded museum exhibit I was living was exposed to sunlight and people saw it for the hot mess it really was. Forever horrible or daily uncertainty became my options and neither were things I wanted. Never was a big ole cup o’ crazy all its own. “I’m never drinking like that again!” or” I’m never buying drugs again”. The ‘nevers’ were never-ending and never panned out either.

Admittedly, I still lean on never and forever. The hot tempered Irish person in me likes to hurl absolutism gauntlets whenever life is tricky or difficult or even exuberantly joyful. I”ll never talk to whatsherface again, me and whatshisname are gonna be together forever, I’m never eating whatever that skinny celebrity gave up ever again. I have to laugh when I starting spouting off this nonsense. I mean I’ve stared at “One Day at a Time” posters in church basements for nearly 4 years! You’d think I would have figured out that I’m not allowed to live in “Never” or “Forever”. The whole luxury of one day at a time is being able to cross of these absolutisms off the list and simply focus on the here and now.

Nothing helps me let go of never and forever like rewriting and editing. All the jokes and clever characters and witty one liners that you were sure would go down in literary history get slashed, thrown out and killed in the blink of an eye. While currently editing my new play and tinkering with my book, I’m humbly faced with the reality that there’s a lot I need to let go of and a lot I still need to learn. And this is a fabulous place to be, honestly.

It’s better for me to get to a place of “whatever.” Not whatever in a bitchy teen girl kind of way. But more in the Doris Day “whatever will be will be” spirit. Gay sera sera, if you will.  Seriously, if I’m in a gleeful state of being open to “whatever” my days seem to be more fluid and happier in general. Whatever amazing idea, whatever cool person to collaborate with, whatever spiritual concept, whatever piece of knowledge I didn’t have before. Whatever!

So here’s to a Monday where I can live here in the right now, not worry about forever and embrace whatever comes my way. May whatever comes your way be fabulous too!

The Happy Hostage

Sing Hallelujah, come on get happy!  And smiles, everyone, smiles! And happy, happy joy joy. And don’t worry be happy! And happy days are here again! Except for one tiny detail. I was never actually happy.

I certainly played the part of Mr. Happy. I smiled all the time and told people I was “Fine! Fabulous! Couldn’t be better!’ I could even convince myself for long periods  that I was happy. However, it never really occurred to me that genuinely happy folks didn’t have to drink themselves blind seven days a week just to deal with their lives.  I thought if I simply acted like I was happy, I would become happy. Like those girls who hang up pictures of the perfect supermodel bodies on their inspiration boards but never actually go to the gym. Whats more is that I couldn’t stand people who were unhappy and who had the unmitigated gall to say how miserable they were. Those poor suckers who bemoaned about having a bad day or cried about how hard their lives were, I usually brushed off as “negative.” I mean how dare they have real emotions? I didn’t want to be bothered with facing the reality that some times life is shitty. People going through rough times or experiencing long bouts of sadness didn’t really have a place in my world. When you’re living in a delusion it’s best to keep out individuals and situations that are ‘real’. I mean you wouldn’t let suicidal sadsacks run Disneyland now would you? The unfortunate thing was that reality would always find it’s way in regardless of how much I drank or what drugs I took or who I had sex with. When reality did reappear it was usually ten times worse than I remembered. The bills I never paid were out of control, the people I never called back were now really pissed and reality itself was angrier and more chaotic. There was no hiding from reality.  After all, even Eeyore hangs out at Disneyland.

Once I got sober, happiness didn’t come skipping back into my life. The opposite. I cried daily for the first five months. I felt horribly alone. Once I whined to my sponsor, “I think everybody’s having more fun than I am” to which he replied, “That’s because they are.” Upon my clinic’s suggestion, I went to a psychiatrist at 9 months sober. I was going to meetings and seeing a doctor since I was newly diagnosed as HIV positive. Things were pretty rough but I was hanging in there, still going to school and not getting loaded. This tiny little man with itty bitty glasses, kid hands and a basement office in a clinic in Venice brought new meaning to the term “shrink’. He had me answer questions about my past, about my drug use, about how I was feeling about my diagnosis, about my recovery program, etc. He sat there for a few minutes and then said, “Well despite your best efforts, you’re still pretty miserable.” Miserable? Nobody had ever called me miserable! I was the smiley guy who everybody loved, right? The word knocked the wind out of me. Sure, he might of had a point but I was newly divorced, newly sober and just found out that I was HIV positive.Was I supposed to come tap dancing into his office singing “Who Could Ask For Anything More?” I thought it was impressive that I hadn’t thrown myself in front of a speeding train and then this little guy calls me miserable? He wanted me on Wellbutrin which I didn’t take and wanted me to come back which I did once but it was really out of spite to show him how great I was doing and that I wasn’t miserable. He,in turn, gave me the card of a therapist who dealt with depression and addiction. Sigh.

Today, real happiness isn’t a thing or an event. I usually feel it when I’m walking down the street and I realize how good my life is. Generally, when I’m sad I let myself feel that too. I also realize that the happiness and unhappiness of others isn’t my business. I can let my husband, friends and family feel their lives too and everything will be okay without me manufacturing happiness for them. When Michael Jackson died, the media mentioned over and over how “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin was his favorite song. Such an addict. I mean those lyrics- “You smile through your pain and sorrow. Smile and maybe tomorrow, You’ll see the sun come shining through.” Smiling through his pain and self-medicating didn’t really go so well for MJ.  And one of Judy Garland’s signature songs was “Come on Get Happy!” and we all know how great things turned out for her too. The point is, I don’t need slogans or upbeat jingles to convince the world I’m happy. I do consider myself a happy person but it ain’t always sunshine and lollipops. A lot of times, it’s a total disaster. But the truth today is all of it is just fine the way it is.

Enjoy! (That’s an Order)

I hate blogs that start with some rambling explanation about why the blogger hasn’t written so long. Like who cares? As if the blog reading public was wringing its hands while I slept in and spent my days making cupcakes and going to the library.I barely give a crap so I’ll keep the explanations to a minimum. I’ll only say that for the last ten days while I haven’t been blogging or really pounding away on my other projects with dwindling deadlines, I’ve been doing this weird thing I could never quite manage while I was loaded: I’m really enjoying my life.

Last week my niece had her “continuation” which is basically a nice way of saying “Congratulations on surviving middle school, now run like hell and don’t ever look back!” The whole affair was lovely as was the dinner that followed it even though my sister’s favorite sparring partner, her ex-husband, was in attendance. Everybody got along and my niece was really happy. Other events included the opening of our new theater space, the increase of paid work, trips to the movies and even a few rides on some roller coasters with my nephew. As we’ve talked about before, I truly believe in order to offer anything as a writer that I really need to try to the best of my ability to go experience my life. This can be a tricky task for someone who’s very nature wants to get high and vanish off the face of the Earth. Nevertheless, I’ve needed it.

Things have been really busy around here since January and even though I snuck off to the desert in March, I found myself feeling drained and uninspired. So I stumbled upon a “staycation” of sorts as projects for clients were done remarkably and uncharacteristically early. This allowed me time to read, research my new show, and hang out with my niece and nephew. I was also able to show up for some people in my life who needed the support so that felt good too. The real miracle here (and for non-addicts I realize how stupid this sounds) is that by just being open and available my life has been really fun and lovely. I no longer spend days wanting to drink or get high. I have a spiritual life and love in my life and blah blah blah. What’s incredible is that I don’t wake up in panic or constant calamity everyday. For years, there was always some impending doom or shitstorm brewing. And most of the drama in my life was handcrafted by your’s truly. Right before I quit drinking, I remember laying in my hallway crying and having a hard time breathing.  My stomach was tied in knots and I was in bad shape. Things had gotten really jacked up and I was feeling like my life was about to be over. Turns out I was right! And thank God. Now a few years later, I can actually be present and have fun and sleep well at night. It’s so crazy to be able to feel and experience every part of my life. The good, the bad and the glittery.

So friends and inspirations, what have you been doing to enjoy and savor your life so far this summer? And what’s that little activity or gift from the universe that never fails to put a smile on your face? Fill my comments section with happiness and joy. That’s an order!

Spot it, You Got it

I hate when people post about politics on Facebook. I hate when I read things by so-called experts that are clear opposition of the right way of thinking, you know my way. I hate that hating everything is clearly a symptom of me not being good to myself and mainly I hate that what I don’t like in others, is what drives me crazy about myself. Sigh.

After an incredible two weeks wherein my play opened, my mom came to town, another exciting creative project was born and generally the sky was blue and the world broke into a happy musical number, I crashed. See, the thing about this HIV gig is that going non-stop can really wear a body out. Sure, I received the messages like “Hello, we need to lay down” and “Excuse me can we get a freaking vitamin up in here!?!” But I didn’t listen. I’ve been busy and things are fantastic so why should I take time out to take care of myself? Well the short answer is even though I’m healthy and I live with a “chronic manageable disease”, I simply can’t burn the candle at both ends. When I first got diagnosed, my doctor told me “Listen, you and stress are over. Nothing wreaks more havoc on a compromised immune system than stress and pushing yourself too hard.”  This sage advice has rung in my ears over the past 3 years of living with this condition. Until recently. In November stress wound me up in the hospital. So through the not so subtle head cold and body ache I got over the weekend, I finally paid attention.

Here’s where I get back to that open paragraph. I know about freaking time. This morning, I don’t feel great physically so as I peruse Facebook or read articles online I get more and more bitchtacular and before I know it I’m in a foul mood. My sick puppy brain tells me that not feeling great gives me a hall pass to act like a cynical jerkface. But then a miracle happened as I was reading this study that really pissed me off, I’m not angry. I don’t hate everything. And I can stop feeling emotionally bad even when my body feels like it got hit by a bus. Mainly, I’m annoyed by behaviors that I don’t like in myself. As usual, the person out to get me and make me feel shitty is the dude in the mirror. Being preachy or entitled or always right or stubborn or judgmental are character defects that still pop up in me . Naturally spotting them in others is something I am very good at. The missing ingredient here that lead to morning of crabbiness was meditation and prayer. I had an old sponsor who told me to pray before I turned on my computer or looked at my phone everyday. Again more advice that I don’t always follow. Obviously.

But the good news is this, nobody got hurt. I didn’t fire off a bunch of “Go screw yourself” emails. I didn’t cuss out my husband. I didn’t open a beer because the world was out to get me. I saw it happening. I prayed. I stopped and flipped the script. I laughed at how terrible I was being. And that little but revolutionary change right there is reason enough to smile even though I’m sneezing.

And now you’re back from outer space

Sometimes you haven’t blogged in awhile. And sometimes you wanna use part of a Gloria Gaynor song as your title when you finally do blog again. And sometimes you just want to post a disco ball version of the Death Star because late at night it seems to make sense. This, my friends, is one of those times.

First off, I feel like I’ve been in outer space. My mom came to town, my play opened and social obligations exploded. All blessings and quality problems. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was, I am exhausted. My chronic manageable condition, HIV, really takes a whooping on long stretches where my life is go, go go. I feel like a car that’s run out of gas on the freeway and waiting for Triple A.  And yet being really busy keeps me happy and out of trouble. For the most part. My other manageable condition, alcoholism, needs treatment too. I haven’t been to a meeting in almost a week and it’s time. I started to act like a bratty bitchy teenager with my mom earlier and had to check myself. It wasn’t her. It was me. Bitch just needs to get to a meeting. So that’s what I’m doing before I hang out with the family in the afternoon. The extreme highs and pressure of opening a play and putting myself out there have kinda kicked my butt. But I’m so happy! And it went so well and I’m so proud of the work.

Overall, I’m thrilled with finishing something and not letting fear cripple another creative project. But more on all of that later next week. I also want to blog about songs that save my ass, talk about poor Demi Moore and my own Nitrous experiences, and other sparkly, scary, life affirming stuff. In the meantime, do me a favor. Turn up some dance music and shake your booty all by yourself. Or sing loudly and horribly your favorite song, preferably a guilty pleasure like the one referenced in the title. Or just be nice to yourself for a whole day. You deserve it. Dammit.