I Don’t Know Sh*t

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In the seaside town where I got sober, there was a different gay meeting every night of the week at various church basements, rec centers and the like. When I say it’s a ‘gay’ meeting I mean for LGBT folks but everybody was welcome. They didn’t check your musical theater knowledge at the door or anything, Typically, the same group of folks floated from meeting to meeting every week. During my first year, I went to all of those meetings almost weekly and that’s where I made some of my best friends on the planet. One member of our little nomadic gay sober tribe would share, week after week,”I don’t know shit!” First off, to be thrilled about not knowing anything was a weird concept to me. I always thought of myself as the slower, less brilliant member of the bunch so proudly saying it out loud was something I wouldn’t do. Secondly, I knew some things, didn’t I?

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Sure the basics I knew: name, age, where I was born. I won’t include height and weight because I lied about those things for so long it wasn’t until my first doctor’s appointment in sobriety that I knew the true numbers. Which were both disappointing and nowhere near what I had been telling people, by the way. But how to have healthy relationships? How to go to brunch without drinking? How to show up on time for things? How be honest? What I wanted to do with my life? All mysteries. So maybe my friend from the rooms whose drug combo platter of choice was “Crack & Jack” was right! Maybe I don’t know shit.

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There could be something to this not knowing thing. After all,  Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” And he didn’t even go to a 12 step program or, to my knowledge, smoke crack.  Maybe being open to not knowing makes me willing to learn more? Or at the very least plants a seed of humility that perhaps I don’t have all the answers. How little I actually know was pounded into my head several times this week. I was certain I needed to do all of this stuff to get what I thought I needed. What I got instead was a series of “No, thank you”s. Turns out i didn’t know what I actually needed or wanted. These ‘nos’ became yeses. So this part-time job thing turned me down. It was a bummer.  Or was it? See, I also this week I got word that I’m teaching a series of workshops on creativity and writing! Wait, talking about what I love, helping other people get inspired and making a little money? Sign me up! This opportunity would have been hard to wrangle had I gotten the part-time gig.

So yeah. The moral of the story is I don’t know. I don’t the future. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what’s best for other people.  I don’t what’s gonna happen. And it’s fabulous. I trust the universe/God/something bigger than me has already set the best possible thing for me in motion. What’ll come next, how will everything turn out and what’s going to happen five years from now? Well, I’ll let magic 8 ball answer that:

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At Seventeen

I remember at 17 thinking that maybe I finally figured myself out. For the first time ever, it felt like I might even survive my childhood years. After an arrest on alcohol related misdemeanor at 15– big surprise, right? and seriously thinking about killing myself at 16, this was a welcome change. Drugs and liquor were kept at bay(temporarily), I had shed the friends who didn’t care about me and I started hang out at gay clubs and kiss boys. Yes, there were wine coolers. Yes, that’s the year I met my old pal cocaine, but this is me were talking about. No tale of my childhood would be complete without the proper party favors. Besides, they hadn’t turned on me yet and I still had everything under control. Well as much as a 17-year-old can have everything under control. I had also finally found ways not to piss my parents off and was generally pretty happy. Don’t get me wrong, life was nowhere near perfect. There was still a lot of homophobia at my redneck high school.  The nicest thing I can say about the place is that at least “faggot” was properly spelled when it was scratched into the outside of my locker. I was never going to fit in. I was never going to be the most popular person in school.  But for some reason, all of it didn’t matter. I remember walking down the hallway, days before the year ended with sun on my face, thinking to myself, “Nobody here matters. My life will be so much bigger.” I had hope for the first time in a long time. It was something I wanted to hang onto. So the next few years, I chased hope and happiness onto the floors of discos and raves, throughout Europe and across the country far away from vandalized lockers and people who didn’t matter.

I don’t know why on this summer day at age 40 I’m thinking about that 17 year-old. Perhaps because it’s the 17th day of blogging. Maybe because this time of year reminds me of a lot of teenage high jinks. But I think if he could see me now, he’d be happy.  See despite everything that’s happened over the last 23 years, hope has survived. In fact, I’d like to thank him for showing me how to have it in the first place.

Eff It Forty

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Seven months into being 40-years-old, something extraordinary has happened: I don’t give a crap. Not in a screw the world, I hate everybody kind of way. But I’m really done with sweating the small stuff, worrying about what people think of me and wasting my time on relationships that are dead ends. The great Laura Hayes, one of the original Queens of Comedy, describes this attitude as ‘Fuck it Forty’. This feels accurate. The things I used to stress out about, the people I used to coddle, the petty garbage that would pollute my mind and waste my time- fuck it. This is an incredible freedom and like a major milestone. They should really tell more people about this when they turn forty. Like they should print cards that say, “Happy 40th birthday! Please enjoy not giving a flying fuck!”

During my last play, the effects of “Fuck it Forty” really reared its liberating head. Flaky friends kept calling, emailing and sending text messages promising they’d be coming to my show. Them not showing up or canceling or making a big deal about getting there    soon became as dramatic as anything we put on stage. And then when they don’t come there’s all these crazy ass apologies and lame excuses. And people always think you’re going to be mad at them, but here’s the thing, thanks to being forty, I don’t care.

Yes, I love them. Yes, I’d like them to see my shows. But really I don’t care. First of all, there will always be another show. Second of all, we sold out most of our run and had lots of people come, so a few flaky friends who couldn’t get their crap together didn’t sink our production. I love the people I know and want to see them but if they don’t show up, it’s no longer a big deal.I no longer hold stuff against them or try to make them pay for not doing exactly what I want them to do.  For a person who spent most of his life worried that you were mad at him or that you hated him or that you were going to leave him, this is indeed an incredible transformation. Maybe its not ‘fuck it’ at all. Maybe its more that after four decades on this planet, the things that are important (my recovery, my relationship, my family, my spiritual life) have risen to the top and the other stuff just isn’t as pressing. Whatever it is, its a welcome shift and worth the number that comes along with it.

The Twain of My Existence

As friends were sharing the other night about the legendary icons that they share their birthdays with, I pulled a Debbie Downer and said, “Nobody cool has my birthday. Except Billy Idol.” In addition to requiring the “wah-wah-wah” music necessary for such a moment, it was an out-and-out lie. First off, last time I checked Billy Idol was still awesome. Secondly, how could I forget that I share the same birthday as Mark Muthafuckin’ Twain?

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Aside from rocking epic moustaches that would make a modern-day hipster weep into his craft beer, Twain is the original American satirist badass whose take no prisoners style of writing and speaking his mind have turned him into a literary icon. Although my dad had the requisite massive volume of Twain’s collected works and I was forced to read Huck Finn at a young age, Twain’s genius didn’t hit me until much later. The dude was a one-man quote factory, pumping out brilliant thoughts on every topic during the duration of his lifetime. Just think of something- anything, and I’m sure Twain had something to say about it. And it’s usually brilliant and hilarious. His musings on aging have helped me over the last few days. Like this one:

“When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it’s a sure sign you’re getting old. ”

or this one…

“I was young and foolish then; now I am old and foolisher. ”

or my favorite..

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

I usually try to read some Twain around our birthday. I say “our birthday” like we get together every year, decked out in fancy suits while we trade quips and drink bourbon. But for some reason this quote has never popped up on my radar:

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Of all the Twain I read, this resonated with me the most–go figure! Not the old man part, mind you. I’m not quite ready to own ‘old man’ yet. I’m still trying to swallow the lie of a cocktail called “Forty & Fabulous.” But having “a great many troubles”, most of which never happened, now that I can identify with. In fact, that’s kind of the thesis statement of this blog. Leave it to Twain to nail in a few short words. After a ‘tough’ week where most of my misery was cooked up by your’s truly, he comes along and puts it all into perspective.

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So Happy Birthday, Mark Twain. Thanks for 177 years of knowing just what to say. I’m honored to have you as a birthday mate. And Billy, you’re not so bad either.