your heart is a radio

Wait. We need this before we can start talking.

Okay now that I’ve gotten Donna Summer out of my system(for now), I’m excited to share that my new play “Your Heart is a Radio” is getting ready for staged readings! It’s been a year in conception and writing so it feels good. Did I say excited? I meant terrified. After all, it’s not really theatre unless you’re scared shitless, right? The crazy thing about this show is how personal it got during the writing process. Like split open my insides, put lights around them and throw them inside-kind of personal. But before we go any further, I need to tell a Fleetwood Mac story.

On the morning of my 26th birthday in Los Angeles, I loaded up my beautiful but hyper dog and took him for a hike. It was one of those perfect beautiful LA days and my drinking felt like it was under control (ha ha ha) and my relationship hadn’t gotten terrible so that morning was pretty fantastic. On the way up the canyon, I listened to one of LA’s classic rock stations. Before playing the above song, the dj, one of those guys with a gravely voice and endless rock knowledge, told the heartbreaking story of how “Sara” by Fleetwood Mac was written. At the time,  Stevie Nicks claimed the song was about a friend she had loved and lost (It would later be revealed that Sara was about a baby she had with Don Henley and lost making the story even sadder.) The dj’s story was impactful to me for some reason as I parked the car. I then just sat there and listened to the song and felt incredibly moved.To this day I cannot hear that song and not think of that morning, that birthday, that moment.

Flash forward 16 years later, at age 42 my husband and I were having a conversation about writing and he said, “Music has such a profound impact on you. You should write a show about it.” He’s one of my most succinct collaborators and as a director he has an insight into theatre that I don’t. At the time, I thought, Hmm that could be interesting but didn’t know how or what I’d do exactly. This lead to thinking about the moments and the songs I’ll never forget, like “Sara” on my birthday or the time I was blaring Tom Petty and again with Stevie Nicks and got into a car accident with my sister

Or listening to the Promise by When In Rome on repeat and pining for a douchey, hipster goth guy.

Or dancing to “Thinking of You” high on ecstasy as the sun came up.

Turns out my life was filled with these moments and I suspected other people’s were too. Like Donna Summer, my life, my loves everything could be heard on the radio. So I took to Facebook and asked,”What’s that song the immediately takes you back to a place or memory?” Suffice it say, my suspicions were right. Over 100 people responded with touching, funny, bizarre stories.  It was then I knew I was onto something.This wasn’t about the best song or your favorite song it was about music impacting your life and your life happening while music was on. The responses were genuine and really inspiring. I started really writing the show, with the help of my writing group, in January. Piece by piece the show came together as s series of monologues that I starting calling Your Heat is a Radio, a monologue mixtape”. As my own memories of songs shaped the monologues, the show got really personal. And scary. Like I said at the beginning of this post, terrifying. Putting that much of your soul out there is freaking intense and I clutched onto the script and didn’t want to let it go. Until this week.

My plan was to have the show up in October. Pneumonia had other plans, however, forcing the show–and all writing into hibernation. Feeling better and ready to finally birth this darn thing, I got the courage and opened the document. Turned out, it was in excellent shape. (I mean aside from needing an ending and having whole portions rewritten or tossed out completely. Aah theatre.) I dove back in this week and it felt good. Of course I had the requisite, “Oh my God. This is horrible and it should never see the light of day” but that’s art for you. Being sober has taught me to not pay too much attention to the voices of fear. I can hear them and acknowledge they’re in the room wreaking havoc, give them the finger and keep going. My story, this story has merit and deserves a life so fear can suck it. I’m now planning on a staged reading in spring and submitting it to some festivals. The cool thing about theatre is once it gets in front of people it stops being about me. The audience gets their own relationship with it and takes it somewhere else. And I love that. At the end of the day, I’m proud of it and I’m proud of me and that’s fucking huge.

 

 

the skinny

I don’t think I believe in a God who over the course of a week made this whole world like a big Play-Doh playset. But if I did, it would tick me off that he went to all the trouble to create walking, talking thinking humans who all in some small way or the other hate their bodies. Whether it’s our noses, our asses or our feet everybody has some issue with the way they look. Mine recently has been my weight.

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Given the reaction I got when I walked into a room after getting out of the hospital last month, I knew I was skinny. Like Calista Flockhart in the 90’s skinny. Like human Pez machine skinny. Like someone call Feed the Children skinny. My clothes were a lot baggier. My wedding ring looser. My ribs poking out like they were thinking about leaving to go fulfil their destiny at Chili’s. But I was sort of focused on not feeling like hell so being skinny wasn’t too much of a concern. Until other people started talking about it and asking me about it. Look, if I drive my narrative car over into the whiny lane during this post, I apologize. That’s not really my intention. The issue, my issue–on newsstands now!– is how weird people are about weight loss. Clearly it wasn’t a “Wow! You look great!” comment I was garnering. It was a “Oh my god, are you okay?” comment. Which is fine and appreciated. We’re nosy creatures so mainly the ballsy folks who asked about my weight wanted to know the why, how and what’s going on of my dramatic weight loss. How dramatic, you ask(you nosy thing you) ? I’m a skinny dude without my pal pneumonia so I didn’t have much to give to the weight contribution basket to begin with. So  me losing around 15-20 pounds was admittedly shocking to folks. Some random neighbors who don’t always say hi to me wondered if I was okay. Weird people I don’t really know at my day job asked me how much weight I had lost. Folks who I maybe don’t bond with usually in “The Rooms” suddenly were interested in why I looked the way I looked. It made me surprisingly self-conscious and made me long for the days when white people would be concerned but do the polite thing and talk about behind your back.

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When they’d ask, I’d tell them an abridged version of my pneumonia battle, they’d say they were glad I was feeling better, I would thank them and take my emaciated ass out of the situation as fast as I could. It was awkward and I tried to be gracious but on days where I felt like shit answering questions about my weight really pissed me off. Like we don’t do that when people gain weight, right? As I struggled with sizes the other day at H&M, it hit me what a fucking drag body issues are. While trying to decide if was too fat for a small or too tiny for a medium, anxiety swept over me. Now, I am lucky that I’m not a person who’s struggled with anorexia or bulimia or body dysmorphia but in that moment I felt pretty shitty. It could have had a little something to do with the bad techno and my heavy coat which was making me hot. But I felt like I was too skinny, too old and too sick looking to buy the sweaters I wanted so why was I even bothering?  What happened there in the mall, however, was something bigger. I remembered I’m a human being who is not always going to love himself or how he looks, regardless of how many affirmations he’s got posted to his mirror. I grabbed two smalls without trying them on, had a nice conversation with the sweet supermodel behind the register and left.

When I got home, I took a deep breath and tried on my sweaters which fit fabulously. My temporary mall-induced fears of not being enough had passed. I have realized in the days since that the road to loving myself-fat, skinny or whatever– is a long one and handled one day at a time like everything else. And just for today, I’ll try to love myself with my giant head and tiny body and that’ll be enough. Because I’m enough.

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Bjork, Nachos & God

When I used to fall into a tricky little hole called depression or the neighboring, less threatening hole named sadness, the tool I used to get out was my old pal liquor. Liquor, I thought, could make a ladder to help pull me out. What it did, though, every single time was fill the hole with more chaos until I was not only stuck in a hole but also drowning. Recently, the ladders I had to use to pull me out were of a different variety to say the least.

bjork

Sometimes pop music transcends pop music and while listening to “All is Full of Love” by Bjork, I finally heard something I have needed to hear for weeks. Like a lot of incredible songs in my life, this one showed up in my headphones and out of nowhere it told me the truth.

You’ll be given love
You’ll be taken care of
You’ll be given love
You have to trust it

Maybe not from the sources
You have poured yours
Maybe not from the directions
You are staring at

Twist your head around
It’s all around you
All is full of love
All around you

I’ve  heard this song a million times but it wasn’t until now that it really shook me to the core. After a difficult month involving a creative breakup, some financial uncertainty and a batch of sad news, I had fallen down a hole. I knew it too. My first instinct was to panic and freak out and try to frantically dig my way out. I’m sober and I always thought feeling sad or being depressed was who I was and not who I am. But the truth is, I am a human and sometimes my life is sucky or hard or fucking sad. And this last month was one of those times. What I did know is that I needed to go through it, no matter how long it took. I have been relying on meetings, bad TV and nachos to pull me out. But mainly, and not to sound like some horrible coffee mug that you’d get at an inspirational bookstore, I’ve needed God as my ladder. (Country song idea #51: God is My Ladder) The fact is that all of this seemed to heavy or too overwhelming and too fucking much.I kept up my prayer and mediation practice even when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I knew that this was going to eventually pass but I needed some supernatural non-human aid of the higher powered variety to help it along.

And just like that it did. After a month of pushing on and feeling my feelings, it happened. I was lifted out of that hole that seemed too deep and too scary and neverending just a few weeks ago.  As this lovely song, now added to my “Play it at the Funeral” playlist, filled me with gratitude. It made me realize that my life, holes and rough patches included, is good. That I am taken care of.  It is full of love and it is all around me. Even when I can’t see it. Especially then, I think.

Don’t Give Up

What if I’ve been given lemons but I don’t want fucking lemonade? What if I can’t figure out how to ‘keep my head up’ while burying it under my pillows? And sure, ‘this too shall pass’ but can you give me an exact time for this much-talked about passing? These and other sunny, optimistic thoughts have been on my mind all week. See, your old pal Sean had his car breakdown in FuckIt Town a few days ago and the walk back to positivity has a been a long, painful one.

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First off, if I wanted to live a life where I never felt rejected, frustrated or discouraged maybe I should have bypassed the whole writer as my passion and chosen profession thing. So that inherently exists as part of my reality and most of the time it doesn’t rattle my cage. However, this week has been chockfull of “No thanks”, “We regret to inform you” “this doesn’t work for us at this time” on the professional front.What I naturally hear when these words are flung my way is, “You suck and you have no talent. ” Just keeping going and not retreating to my bed with a bucket of fried chicken and a season of some reality show has been a major accomplishment. Add to the feel-sorry-for-yourself stew a heaping tablespoon of unwanted 3rd party criticism, and we have a real recipe for a delicious pity party. It’s the discouraging words and haterade of others that really steams me. Mainly because those are the things I have no control of and  yet have total control over how I react to them. After a few days of this, I’ve limped toward Thursday and the crap storm actually got worse.

Luckily, a real storm happened too. Last night a legitimate blizzard finally dumped down on Denver and what a relief. White dudes in fuchsia thermal vests and cargo shorts walking around in 60 degree weather in February in Colorado is just fucking wrong. It’s a winter wonderland and going outside sucks. It’s kind of like Mother Nature was like, “Bitch, don’t go nowhere. Just relax and take care of yourself.” Yeah, Mother Nature talks to me like that. We have a complicated relationship. Anyway, I spent my morning praying, my afternoon brunching, took a Top Chef break, followed by a nap. Now at 351pm MST I am at last ready to write, work and handle some stuff. After a few days riding the punching bag express, do I currently feel shiny and ready to burst into a Julie Andrews number?

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No. But its passing. The word ‘discouraged’ seems to sum up what I’ve been feeling this week. So naturally, every meeting I’ve been to over the last couple of days has been about, wait for it, the courage to change! Courage is the opposite of discouraged so it makes sense that this is the message I need to hear. Sadly, I didn’t get to just get sober and never have to change anything else about me ever again. In fact, it seems like I have to be in constant change to not feel discouraged. Its been hard for me this week to give myself that pick yourself up by your booth straps talk and get back in the saddle. I am sure I’m pissing on cowboy metaphors there but you get the idea.

Most of the time, courage isn’t something I can get on my own. I have to rely on my friends, my family (regular and sober) and my higher power. So if you’re feeling like roadkill and you’ve been nibbling on the discouragement buffet recently, all I can tell you is I get it. And it won’t suck forever. Hang in there. Don’t give up and I promise to do the same.

the squirrely show

“Squirrely.” That’s the word I’ve heard alcoholics use when they describe how they feel before a sober birthday. It’s a pretty accurate description too. The frantic hopping around from tree to tree, the dodging of speeding cars and the general, jumpy squirreliness of the little critters mirrors the moments before a sobriety milestone. Maybe not for every sober person but with my bellybutton birthday happening this Friday and my 4-year sobriety birthday on January 2nd, squirrely is something I can relate to. In fact, I can safely say I currently fall somewhere in between Squirrely Temple and Squirrely MacLaine.

squirrel gone wild

The combination of future tripping, anticipation, anxiety, perfectionism and the holidays thrown in there for good measure has created a perfect storm of cray-cray. I’m also busier than I’ve been all year and taking on new projects almost weekly. Yesterday, I was so squirrely and, not to over use the metaphor, nuts that I was on the verge of cancelling my birthday party and erupting like some emotional volcano.  I used to judge a friend of mine who was eternally stressed out and the only way she could handle life was by snorting Vicodin. I know. Me the former hardcore coke whore judging.  Needless to say, it’s in tense moments like this I completely understand. Luckily for my nostrils’ sake, however, I calmed the fuck down this morning.

Being squirrely for squirrels makes sense. All the leaping and running and squirreling around is what they do. It’s how they survive. For a nearly 40-year-old gay man who doesn’t even like running or wearing fur, squirreliness makes zero sense. (Sidebar: my nature observation writing is pretty incredible. “Being squirrely for squirrels makes sense” You’re welcome Discovery channel.) Futilely spinning my wheels and getting freaked out about stuff is a waste of emotional dollars. After some prayer and meditation this morning, I realized a couple of things: a.) I’m lucky to have the problems I have today. Just making it to 40 is a freaking miracle for this premiere passenger on Self-Destruction Airways so even if it’s just cake with some friends, I deserve to celebrate. and b.) it happens all the time. By “it”, I mean, all of it. People turn 40 all the time. People celebrate sobriety milestones all the time. People do the work and have generally amazing lives all the time. Thankfully, I’m one of those people.

 

And people get squirrely all the time. Big deal. My moments of hot messiness make me human and I no longer have to drown these moments out with drugs or alcohol. I now deal with them by writing about them and dragging my fluffy-tailed ass to a meeting.