happy laborless day

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I’m all for juggling, multitasking and running around but every once and awhile, I need to do nothing. Like grab a book and maybe read it or maybe just nap kinda nothing. That was goal numero uno this weekend. After closing our incredible playoffs show on Thursday, I needed to relax for a couple of days. Besides, that evening of theatrical goodness, wherein I spoke quite a bit, had left me physically feeling wiped out and sounding like Demi Moore. Granted, I had a couple of deadlines and some preparations I needed to attend to this weekend along with some secret ninja service work stuff. But taking it easy was on the top of the list.

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And so far, I’ve achieved it! Taking care of myself these days most of the times means knowing when to power down and chill out. Thankfully, one of the gifts of being positive is that my body lets me know pretty quickly when I need to lay the hell down. Overall, my health is better than the beginning of the summer which is an incredible gift.  It took me feeling really crap to realize that my self-care is a nonstop job and one I do better when I take the time to relax.

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So friends, I hope that you too have found some time this weekend to do a little nothing. Oh! But what you should do (look at me getting all bossy) is go do a Google Image search for Lazy Animals. It’s like a total cute explosion. Happy Labor Day!

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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.”

Resty McResterson

Rest-AreaI’m not great at following directions or heeding the advice of others. In fact, my inner child is constantly screaming, “Don’t tell me what to do! You’re not the boss of me!” Suffice it to say, this has made my four and half years sober a challenge. It’s not my nature to take direction; its my nature to tell you to go screw yourself and to mind your own damn business. Over the years, I have gotten better at this though. I figured out pretty quickly if I wanted to stay sober, I needed to listen to people who knew more than I did. I’ve learned to say “Thank you” or “That’s an interesting idea” or “I’ll have to try that sometime” when well-meaning/controlling people have a litany of ideas on how I could fix myself. I’ve even learned to ask for advice and for help when I’m really stuck. So when my doctor told me to get rest this weekend, I took it seriously.

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Stress and running myself ragged is something, like not taking direction, that also comes naturally to me. Unfortunately, given my HIV, its also the kind of behavior that can win me a first class ticket to the ER. Even though there were a ton of events and activities happening this weekend, I cleared the docket and chilled the hell out. I snuggled with my cat, I watched Hulu, I wrote a ton, I read and I napped in a manner that would make the aforementioned feline very proud. I cancelled a couple of things. I put off some work stuff until Monday. In short, I rested.  And guess what? I feel better! Taking 48-hours to relax has really helped. Last week was a whirlwind of stress, doctor appointments and running around like an idiot. Amid the uncertainty and general fear, it was imperative that I find a way to power down and take care of myself. I managed to do it and I’m so happy I did.

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Maybe its the heat. Or the fires. Or the stress from all these doctors appointments. But today, despite my best efforts, I was crabby. Maybe even a little bitchy. And sort of crazy.

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A telltale sign that old Sean isn’t his shiny happy self is when I start yelling at inanimate objects and muttering to myself like the guy outside the soup kitchen who looks like Famous Amos and mumbles about conspiracy theories. So earlier today when I cussed out an ice cube tray and yelled at my phone charger, I knew I wasn’t in the best shape. I actually started wandering around my apartment,  bitching at no one or nothing in particular. This was not cute.  I was a Nick Nolte beard and handmade sign away from being totally batshit. Luckily, no human beings were harmed in my momentary lapse in mental health.

Mainly, my patience is shot and I feel totally and utterly overwhelmed. I wanted to wallow and sleep all day. But thanks largely to the criminal lack of chocolate in my apartment and a simmering feeling that I needed to get outside of my crabby-ass self, I went to a meeting. For 60 minutes, my crap melted away and seeing people I love and who love me back–crabbiness and all- healed my stank attitude, even if it was only temporary. This works for me over and over again. Hearing others hope and strength and courage suddenly makes whatever crabbiness and self-pity I’m going through seem ridiculous. But today something else happened too. People in my meeting who know what I’m going through came up and hugged me and asked if I needed anything.I felt like regardless of how awful my mood was I was going to get thru it.

These feelings of “kumbaya” faded after a phone call from my clinic which began, “I don’t mean to freak you out but…” Really? Who does that? Just FYI healthcare people of planet Earth: just by saying I don’t mean to freak you out, you’ve already done so. It wasn’t too big of a deal however and I’m going back in for a treatment that should help until I get my new meds. It just all seems like a lot right now. Oh crap. Suddenly, I’ve blogged myself from crabby to whiny.

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Before this turns into a therapy session, I’ll wrap it up. This is what I do know: I’m going to be fine. And not being happy all the time and pretending like everything is okay is actually pretty healthy for a chronic people pleaser like myself. Nobody promised me that if I got sober I’d never have another problem ever again. What they did promise me is that I’d have a life beyond my wildest dreams, that I’d never have to drink again and that amazing people would be part of my fellowship.  Crabby attitude and stressed out self aside, I know this to be true and the meeting I went to earlier confirmed it. In the meantime, I’ll work on my attitude.

 

prayers for the terminally self-involved (who are trying to be less so)

Prayer is an interesting topic. It’s a little like cooking a chicken. There’s a billion ways to do it and everybody has their favorite. I guess now would be the time to note that this is a spirituality post and not one about religion. Or cooking chicken for that matter. Although I could ramble about the latter for at least 10,00o words. (Book idea: Eat, Pray, Fry Chicken) Prayer or talking to God or communicating with the universe or whatever you wanna call it is an essential part fo me being less crazy. In the beginning of my sobriety, my prayers were of the “Please help me not drink” or “God, help me make it through today” variety. Today, it varies. I try to take 30 minutes to just hang out and be grateful and pray for people who need help. And most days I pray short little prayers all day long like:

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“God please help me always remember between looking younger and looking scary.”

and

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“God give me the wisdom to delete bitchy or crazy emails/text messages BEFORE I send them.”

also…

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“God help me be less judgmental. Even to myself.”

or one of my favorites is

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“God, help me help other people. Even I ones that make me crazy. Especially them.”

And lastly, this one works all day and rocks for its simplicity.

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After two decades of being a self-involved drunken drug addict, I need all the help I can get. Right now, I’ve got a lot of uncertainty going on with my health stuff and it is scary. But thanks to having a spiritual life, I’m totally okay. Yes, I’m scared. Yes, I feel crappy. But am I going to be alright? Totally. Time has proven that I can get through everything thanks to my version of God and some awesome people in my life.

Listen, I don’t know how this prayer things works and frankly I don’t need to know. I just know that it does. So, readers, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll throw some your way if your throw some my way and we’ll get through whatever together?

thank you nice people. keep up the good work.

Not much to report here on day five. I ran a bunch of errands, did some writing and oh just had my faith in humanity restored. Scratch that. Turns out it was a bigger news day than I  initially thought.

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I guess I should clear up my dramatic statement since I sort of sounded like everyone on planet Earth has been yelling at me and throwing things at me for the last forty years until this random stranger was nice to me today. No, I do actually believe that if I’m kind and friendly to people, I’ll get it back. Time after time, this theory usually delivers. Today it just happened to deliver at my new HIV healthcare providers, a place I so desperately needed it. Being as I work freelance, the offices of Sean INC. don’t exactly provide CEO-type of healthcare and I have to rely on the cheap/free stuff. Thankfully, Denver takes great care of HIV positive peeps wtih its system.  After some chronic fatigue and blood sugar level funkiness for the last six months, I finally kicked myself in the ass, made phone calls and sought new medical help. Yeah, HIV is a manageable condition that doesn’t kill us anymore but you still have to, like, actually manage it. Nevertheless, the minute I don’t feel well I still naturally think I’m headed for this inevitable future:

or this

I told you I was dramatic. Once I calmed the hell down and talked to other positive friends, I was able to get into action and get into a clinic. Today was first appointment of the drop off paper work variety and my case worker turned out to be angel. I mean really. Terrific guy, super friendly, organized, compassionate and even gave me a hug and said, “We’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on. Don’t worry.”Wow! I bet they don’t do that in CEO-type of doctor’s offices! I suddenly was able to exhale and already physically felt a little better knowing I had someone this awesome working for me. It was 15 minutes that truly changed my day. It made me realize how just being compassionate and kind and authentic can really transform the lives of others. So nice people everywhere, thanks for just being your nice selves and keep doing your thang. And I’ll try to return the favor whenever I can.

Dads, pelicans & the people who pull you through

When walking trainwrecks like myself suddenly emerge from the decades of chaos looking like normal human beings, it’s no small thing. I would love to say that I pulled myself up from own bootstraps. Sadly, I cannot. The truth is, as attractive as they sound, I’ve never owned boots with straps. But the real truth is it took a thousand hands to pull me back up.  My dad and my grandfather were two of the dozens of people who did just that.

To really know this situation and where I’m coming from I better explain myself. I was prompted to spill this out on the page because of Father’s Day and the 15th anniversary of my grandfather’s death which is on the 18th. I know, I know. I’ve only been sober for 3 and a half years so how in the hell could my grandfather have helped me?  Believe it or not, it was his spirit and life example that really kept me going. Back in 2009, it had been 12 years since he died. I never really gotten over it and numbing myself with drugs and alcohol for years had insured that I never would. So naturally when I got sober all of that stuff I never dealt with was just siting there saying, “Helloooo! Remember us?” like little orphans I’d given up, now back to live with me forever.

On the anniversary of his death, I was walking around Marina Del Rey and looking at the water. I talked to my mom earlier on the phone and she reminded me what day it was and she said my grandfather would be so proud of me. Naturally, at five months sober this made me burst into tears but so did that ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan and poems about Paul Cezanne. My grandpa died of a heart attack while fishing with one of his best friends so being by the water and watching pelicans grab fish out of the ocean was the perfect place for me to be on that day. I remember feeling the breeze and praying to him, whispering “thank you” then “please help me” followed by “I love you.” My grandfather was as close to a saint as one could get so I knew if anybody could hear this messge-chant-prayer, it was him. Ironically (or not), it was my grandfather who helped my dad get sober and get to AA. Like I said, even if he wasn’t alive I was  absolutely talking to the right guy.

My dad, the police officer for 25 years, pulled me through in a way that was only he could. With less than 90 days sober, he impressed upon me that I was going to be screwed if I didn’t change everything about my life. He didn’t do it subtly or with kid gloves and he seriously annoyed me. But I received the message. This was a guy, after all, who had to get sober while in a highly stressful job on the police force while raising four kids. He knew what he was talking about. further  on in my journey, my dad was a total rock. I didn’t know what to do when I found out that I was HIV positive and my dad said, “Don’t worry. We’re going to make sure you’ll be okay” even though he himself was worried and saddened by the news. Part of his job for so many years on the force was saving lives. I can tell you firsthand, he’s really good at it.

Later that year, I took a marine biology class and learned something about the pelican I watched that teary day on the pier. The California Brown Pelican was nearly wiped because of ingesting poisonous chemicals but thanks to thousands of concerned people, he had come back. Now, the pelican is thriving with numbers  near 750,000. This bounce back from near extinction was something I totally related to. I guess the pelican-filled memory laden point I’m trying to make is just this: thank you Dad, grandpa Bob, and everybody else who in some way shape or form said, “You are going to be okay.” You were right. And I couldn’t do any of this without you.

Jamar Rogers of ‘The Voice’ is My Kind of Hero

By now, readers of this blog have picked up on the fact that I’m kind of a reality TV whore. And by kind of I mean a  total reality television junkie. I’m especially into things that are competitions. Chopped, Top Chef and Amazing Race are among my favs. After years of watching American Idol and drunkenly yelling at the TV when the wrong person won, I thought I gave up on singing reality competitions. But last year, The Voice roped me in with the mere promise of Cee Lo Green’s funktacular presence and the program enticed me yet again this season. Unlike last year however, I’m really invested in the outcome this time around. Because this time around The Voice has a contestant who’s an awful lot like me.

27 year-old Jamar Rogers is an addict in recovery who also happens to be HIV positive. He rocked his blind auditions with a rollicking cover of the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.”  As I watched his interview and his triumphant ass-kicking performance, my eyes welled up. Here was this cool kid with mad amounts of talent saying to America “Look you can recover from drugs and alcohol and be HIV positive and still rock out.”  His dream came true that night when  the aforementioned Cee Lo picked him for his team. Last week, Rogers secured a place in the finals after defeating his friend Jamie Lono in the battle rounds. Again, more tears were had both by Rogers on stage and by me at home. Jamar’s story has moved me from moment one not just because of how similar it is to my own but because of how The Voice has embraced him as a modern hero and an inspiration. And if you think about it, us ex-drunks and recovering junkies are heroes. In an era where musical legends are routinely taken out by addiction and alcoholism without so much of a raising of the eyebrow, stories like ours are rare and heroic indeed. We’ve honestly tackled our addictions and gone after the lives we want.

Well,except for that reality TV addiction. I’m not giving that up anytime soon. Not at least until I get to see Jamar Rogers win The Voice. I’ll be, unabashedly, clapping and crying the whole way.

The lies our hearts tell

When my nearly 13 year relationship crumbled as I got sober in 2009, my heart and my brain conspired to tell me a series of convincing but damaging lies. “You weren’t meant to be in love” they whispered. “No gay man in his right mind is going to want a sober, HIV positive partner” they told me. And of course my favorite lie was the one that played on repeat whenever I felt utterly alone, “You won’t ever know real love.” Naturally, it was all bullshit and thankfully I stopped believing it.

When I first crawled into the AA meetings in Santa Monica, I would see handsome, single, interesting, non-trainwreck gay men and think “Wow. They do exist.” This thought was usually followed by a head shake that would remind me that I was in no condition whatsoever to date anyone. Ever. Or for at least awhile. Besides, who would date me? The recently single, barely sober, life in shambles me was not exactly a candidate for The Bachelor or anything. My heart was smashed open so to protect itself, it told me little lies and truths to protect me. I was not open to the idea of love nor did I think I would ever have anything to offer anyone else. Nevertheless, little changes happened the longer I stayed sober and my life got bigger, so did my ideas about what I could or could not achieve. Soon my heart started saying things like “Maybe I could write professionally and not go back to waiting tables?”

At almost exactly a year sober that is what happened. I started writing copy for an agency. Other mind-boggling things started to happen too. Mainly, I began to like myself. I mean like really be okay with myself and by myself. I spent a summer meditating, writing and taking care of some chickens. I don’t know if the preceding sentence is a guaranteed recipe for successful self-love but it freaking worked for me. Maybe I’ll open a rehab with writing classes and chicken coops. Or not. The point is those lies were no longer being listened to or even transmitted. There was a new set of programming that repeatedly told me, day and night, that I deserve love. Moreover, that I already had love in my life. I might have been single but there was love coming from people everywhere and I was open and lucky to receive it. At one year, seven months and six days of continuous sobriety, I met the man I’m married to today. He wasn’t who I thought he would be meaning who I thought the guy I would marry would be. He was even better. He’s an artist, he’s hilarious, he’s brilliant and he isn’t nuts. And thank god. This family only has room for one crazy person and I fit the bill nicely.

So the deal is this: I am writing this to tell you the truth even if your heart won’t. You deserve love. You are already loved. Despite what you did or didn’t do while you drank or used drugs somebody loves you and somebody will love you like you never knew was possible. I know this all sounds corny but it’s Valentine’s Day so fucking indulge me. Love isn’t for just pretty people or rich people or sane people (clearly). Love is for people who know they are worthy of it and who give it away without condition and even a lying heart would agree with me on that one.

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.