When I was 13 years old, I took my younger brother’s skateboard for a ride. Not really having any skills, balance or business being on such a thing, I rode anyway. Slow and wobbly to start, I soon found my footing and picked up speed. As I curved around a park on a paved path, I remember thinking, “Hey! This isn’t so hard. Maybe I should do this more often. Maybe this should be my thing. I should skateboard.” I’m sure what followed next in my mind was visions of the cool skateboarding friends I’d make and, more importantly, the new awesome wardrobe that would come with such a hobby in 1985. Visions of Vans and Jams danced in my head or clearly something did as I hit a tree-lined section of the path lost control of the board and landed on the pavement squarely on my tailbone. The tailbone bruise is a special kind of hell that nothing can extinguish. I even used this bump on my backside as an excuse to get out of a myriad of unsavory tasks for years to come- “I’d love to take that geometry test but my tailbone has rendered me useless.” Anyway, I tell this story not to inspire you to fall on your tailbone and get back up again. No. I’m taking this bumpy trip down memory lane to remind myself that every time I start to believe I’ve got it down and don’t need help, I fall on my ass.
I’ve recently started a new gig which routinely places me in a line of fire of not knowing everything, asking questions and making a ton of fuck ups. Luckily, I’m not diffusing bombs or doing heart surgery. But still, it’s embarrassing. After years of working alone in my pajamas, I’m now expected to show up, play by somebody else’s rules and operate in a totally foreign environment. Yesterday, I just couldn’t get anything right. Even simple stuff and the more frustrated I got, the worse things became. And before I knew it, the afternoon and my work in it was a comedic hot mess.
This shit show of a shift came as a surprise as earlier in the day, I thought, “Hey! This isn’t so hard. They’ll probably want me to be in charge here.” And just like that, I was back on my tailbone. Ouch.com.
My first instinct is to beat myself for not being perfect which is ridiculous. I’ve only done said gig 4 times and sporadically. And I’m a human being. I screw up. It’s kind of what we do. Worse case scenario is these little errors really tick them off and they ask me not to come back. That would suck for sure but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. This is a highly unlikely outcome for my screw ups but if it happens so be it. Falling on my ass hurts the tailbone but for extreme narcissists like me it really bruises our gigantic egos. And thank god for that. I need a steady stream of messages in humility that say, “Slow down. It is okay if you don’t know everything.” Bruises don’t get better if I dwell on them, however. The best I can do is let myself fall, learn from my bruises and then finally pick myself up and do it all over again.
Why, hello! Fancy bumping into you here. I wish I had some incredible story to share as to why I haven’t been blogging as much. It seems like there should be an amazing trip to France or some fancy career thing happening but the truth is it’s just life happening. It’s gotten big and busy. Which I guess is a miracle enough. The fact that I have relationships, work and passions is incredible. I’m trying these days not to fall into the gross American habit of saying “busy” like it’s some handicap. Like having a life and being busy is something people should feel sorry for me about. Or being busy allows me to be a douche or gives me a free pass to be eternally cranky. The tricky thing about having a life, however, is staying focused and on track.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated his birthday by going to the Denver Botanic Gardens and the above sign was all over the place. Obviously, put in place so folks didn’t trample the pretty plants and flowers. The brazen bunnies and squirrels didn’t pay much attention to it but they live there so they kinda get go wherever they want, signs be damned. The message of the sign, although intended to prevent botanical homicide, resonated with me. Currently, I’m collaborating on a poetry anthology, co-producing a bi-monthly showcase of new works, editing two monologues to appear in said showcase, handling the PR and marketing for Horse & Cart’s new production, working on my third full-length play and contributing to 3 blogs. And an awesome part-time job that forces me to get dressed up and interact with humans. I also have two demanding manageable conditions that need treatment daily, a marriage to cherish and cultivate and relationships to nurture to the best of my ability. Oh– and I’m also moving into a cute little duplex in November. So yeah. Boo hoo. My life is awesome. But I’d be lying if I said I handled it all flawlessly in a uber organized manner. Kind of the opposite. It seems like I get an avalanche of projects, have few days of “Holy Shit!’ and then somehow or another it gets done. All of it. It helps when I remember that I’m a writer and that I’m not saving lives. I’m just creating stuff which hopefully people will enjoy and some of it even pays me!
I can also avoid the “overwhelmed by enormously important business” trap if I remember what my path is. Staying sober, helping others and continuing to grow as a creative person seems like a simple enough path for me to follow. Everything else falls into place when I’m on that path. I recently ended a longtime stint as a copywriter and content creator. Naturally, more doors have opened with that out of the way. More opportunities to help people and do creative projects I want to do have presented themselves too. It all feels easy and not stressful. I have to remember to be grateful for my big full busy crazy life and it should be treated as a gift if I wanna hang onto it. And if I need to get off the path, not return some phone calls and just hang out in the shade for a few minutes like the little rulebreaker pictured above, that’s okay too.
Amgios y Amigas, how do you stay on path? What’s your path? And how do you avoid feeling overwhelmed? Share with me in the comments section below!
“All books about all revolutions begin with a chapter that describes the decay of tottering authority or the misery and sufferings of the people. They should begin with a psychological chapter — one that shows how a harassed, terrified man suddenly breaks his terror, stops being afraid. This unusual process — sometimes accomplished in an instant, like a shock — demands to be illustrated. Man gets rid of fear and feels free. Without that, there would be no revolution.” – Ryszard Kapuscinski
Every year on this day, I want to pull the covers over my head. I want to acknowledge the date and its significance by not acknowledging it. I want to hide. I know that’s not the patriotic response or something that inspires a “Never Forget” truck mudflap or Toby Keith country song. But that’s me. I find life to be ugly and hard and then I hide. Whether its September 11th or a random Thursday in March, fear of the world being real, sad or hard kept me under the covers (and in the bottle) for the better part of nearly two decades. While my drinking and drugging ended in 2009, fear still manages to slip in and cripple me. The above quote, however, got me thinking, what if the changes I seek in the world and in myself begin with finally telling fear to fuck off?
Seriously, fear. Suck it. I don’t think the lives lost are honored by me feeling afraid or by living in fear that it’ll happen again. Or by drowning my sorrows. The more I stare fear in the face, the closer my revolution gets to becoming a reality. My revolution starts by writing this blog. Not that I have any delusions that my pictures of ponies and quips about reality shows will save lives but facing my truth and telling my story helps kick fear right in the crotch. My revolution continues by spreading the message to gays, lesbian and transgendered folk that they don’t have to live in bars and hate themselves. It’s not Westboro Baptist Church or the Mormons or the GOP that’s killing us, its self-hate and an incredibly high rate of fatality due to drugs and alcohol. Also, my own private revolution is committed to not living in shame about being in recovery, being HIV positive or being gay. Yeah it’s not a worldwide peace treaty but it is what I can do from my dining room table to maybe help somebody else going through the same thing.
Finally, my revolution needs to be fueled by love. Theres nothing more fear hates than love. On a day where so many feel loss and heartache, actions motivated by love instead of fear are more powerful than any bumper sticker, flag or network TV report. Luckily, the incredibly human and flawed world I live in gives me ample opportunities to practice this. Again, the practice of love starts with this guy behind the keyboard. I’ve lived in fear about silly, stupid stuff lately and yesterday I had it. I was sick of making the conscious choice to feel afraid or doomed or that the planet was out to get me. It was as if I did as Kapuscinski said and got rid of my fear and felt free. I know this in an ongoing battle, this war against fear. And I know there will be times when fear wins. Nevertheless, it feels like a war I should keep fighting.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure your ass is in the chair and you buckle up. Put out your damn cigarettes and turn off your cellphone. Because you have no idea what kind of ride you’re in for,” so says the woman’s voice coming from the crackly open loudspeaker in my mind. Or maybe she’s from a dream. I’ve had a lot of weird dreams lately. Including one where a close friend was getting married to a person so tall you couldn’t see their face and they were having their ceremony in my grandmother’s backyard which was actually the first Mexican restaurant I worked at in LA. Anyway, wherever the voice came from, she is definitely telling the truth.
Twists, turns and loops. I’ve felt them all over the last few weeks. The things I had mapped out or knew the answers to have morphed into something bigger or more amazing or have painlessly fallen to the wayside. Most remarkably, I’m open to it. All of it. These thrill rides usually go down like this: first I get afraid, then I get crazy, then I let go and put my hands in the air and enjoy the ride. And that is certainly going on but it also feels like my perspective is different. Like I wound up in a strange, unrecognizable place and I was just okay with it.
While we can, thankfully, rule out psychotropic drugs or falling down a rabbit hole, I’m not really sure what this change can be attributed to. Not to beat the metaphor to death but I feel at peace and protected even when I’m about to fly out of my seat as the ride turns upside down. My desire to fight everything is dissipating too. I am grateful for this because by nature I am one fightin’ bitch. The struggle to be on top or to be right doesn’t excite me right now. This is not to say the sun is shining out of my behind and I’m dancing around without a care. But today I’ve leaned into them and surrendered to something bigger.
This is all swirling in my mind currently because on Tuesday, with bills to pay, deadlines to meet and obligations I didnt know how I was going to fufill, I walked down the street smiling. I felt ridiculously happy. This wasn’t Oz or Wonderland. It was just my normally complicated life with potholes and fuck-ups aplenty. But it felt like magic and something I was blessed to experience. Terrific. I’m rolling with that, buckling up and appreciating the ride for exactly what it is.
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?
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.
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:
There’s a line in recovery literature which says, “we are people who normally would not mix.” There’s also references to folks in recovery being like survivors of a disaster.
From my experience, both statements happen to be true. I’ve been to meetings with high-powered attorneys, Hollywood stars, hipsters, homeless people, all gays, mixed and everything in between. I can’t be sure how this is possible but when all you want to do is stop trying drinking or using, all prejudices fly out the window. For the most part, considering they’ve all come back from the brink of death, this assorted group of nuts is usually a pretty happy and welcoming bunch no matter what meeting you go to. I’ve been thinking about the people I’ve fought this battle with lately. And the book I juts finished reading 90 Days talks about the power of these people too. The people who I was lucky enough to have save my ass on several occasions and in a couple of different States (both mental and geographic). It took a village to lift my glitter covered self out of the gutter. By just showing up and saying, “Hey I feel like shit over here and I need some help” they helped me. Or by sharing that their life was really challenging and they felt like drinking and using. Or whenever I just heard someone say “I’m _______ and I’m an alcoholic.” I felt less freakish and less alone. I felt like I had the support of these people who were nothing like me. And I wanted to help them too.
These misfits, these people who I wouldn’t normally mix with are the people I like being around the most. They get me. We speak the same crazy language and have the same fucked-up thoughts. And we’ve fought the same battles. As a result of this recovery deal, my life has gotten amazing and wonderful and big. The odd thing is that sometimes this life makes it hard for me to get to meetings and spend time with my fellow warriors.This week was really busy and I only went to one meeting. Well, by today I was pretty much a complete lunatic. I think I actually floated to my meeting that’s much I needed to go there. As soon as I sat down and exhaled, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was home– again.
That’s what’s so incredible about this blog too. “My People” read this too and I read their blogs and so on and so on. This experience with UrtheInspiration has been so powerful and so much fun I figured why not make it even bigger? So I’m happy to announce that I am finally fast-tracking the book proposal for a book based on this blog and I’ll be featuring guest bloggers, this fall too. But more on that later. For now, thanks for being my people. I couldn’t do this without you.
The small child on the left is my younger brother while the child in the dress getting arrested is none other than yours truly. The bearded guy behind us is Jesus. Although my policeman dad did rock a similar beard when he worked in vice, which by the way, was not the inspiration for this game we’re playing in the picture. At least as far as I can remember. These kind of crossdressing shenanigans were just sort of the norm in my childhood. I mean, when you wear a plastic Wonder Woman outfit in kindergarten for Halloween, its all a downhill trot in mom’s Candies platforms from there on out. I never knew why I loved award shows, old movies, Barbies and the Miss USA pageant. I just did.
Over the years as I’ve listened to transgendered friends share about feeling like they were trapped in the wrong body, my heart breaks for them. Living with that sort of inner-turmoil must be a real challenge especially in childhood. While my attraction to sparkly things was hard to explain or accept for straight kids in Denver in the 70’s and 80’s ,I never went through anything as difficult and heroic as that. I was just a kid who liked fur coats and Jaclyn Smith. Girls, in my mind, were more glamourous than boys. A vagina? No, thanks. Glamour is actually what I wanted. Obsessed with celebrities and magazines, I daydreamed about growing up and being fabulous. I had no idea what I’d be or how I’d get there but my life had to be glamorous. I remember looking at Enquirer when I was a kid and there was picture of Elizabeth Taylor getting out of car in a fur coat and it said, “Liz Back from Rehab!’ and I thought whatever she was doing looked pretty glamorous. At age 10, I didn’t know she was a drug addict and an alcoholic. Turns out old Liz and I had more in common than I thought.
In my twenties, my crossdressing morphed mainly into clubwear in the 90’s but I’d occasionally take get gussied up with my best friend and hit the bars in drag. Connie Lingus was my alter ego. I know. Subtle. That’s how I roll. And chasing the glamour bus was something I did for years and years in Los Angeles fueled by endless supplies of liquor and drugs. It was glamorous for a little while. But addiction and alcoholism were anything but glamorous for me in the end. It was just sad, repetitive and really fucking lonely.
I guess I’m thinking about this today for a few reasons but mainly because of the photo at the top of the page. My niece sent it to me and it made me laugh hysterically. We were such imaginative kids who routinely escaped into fabulous worlds. The more I stay sober, the more my creativity slowly returns to that state I had back then. There’s a fearlessness and strength in my childhood imagination and love of glamour that I want to channel in a healthy way into my work today. I smile when I look at myself in that photo. And I’m so proud of that crossdressing misfit who no matter what was always his own person, even if that person was wearing mom’s high heels.
In a misty Santa Monica park, on top of a green hill, with the sound of fog warnings coming from the beach and dogs barking, there’s a rec center. In addition to what sounded like some pretty spicy dance classes, this center also has meetings of the 12 step variety. Meetings I needed very much when I first moved to the beach in 2009 in hopes of turning my shipwreck of a life around. My first time there I peered in the window and saw all these happy smiling people. Well, this certainly couldn’t be a meeting for drunks and drug addicts. Where was the crying? Where were the hobos with the red bandana knapsacks and pork pie hats? Where were the junkies in wheelchairs on death’s door? Being convinced I was in the wrong place, I quickly got out of there before anybody noticed me. What I didn’t I know was that was the right place and I would be spending a lot of time there in the months to come.
12 step meetings are crazy ass places. Drama. Laughter. Breakdowns. Breakthroughs. Bunnies. No, really, there was an actress from the 80’s who used to bring her pet rabbit to the meeting. Maybe the bunny had a drinking problem. It’s all the stuff people watch reality tv for but without the commercials. Unlike those televised travesties, meetings actually save people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure how but people who go all the time usually stop doing drugs, drinking, gambling screwing everything in sight or whatever else might ail them. Again, this magical juju is beyond my comprehension. Sure I can tell you the names of the kids on Full House or the order of the singles released on Madonna’s True Blue record, but mysteries of the universe are beyond my comprehension. What I did notice about these gatherings is the folks who shared about their struggles and the solutions to said struggles and did so on a regular basis managed to stay sober. One day after a gathering of these brave people, my heart was full. I left the meeting and as I walked down the fog covered hill, this song started came from the SUV of one of the people leaving the meeting:
I started laughing. Not only because of the song’s goofy jingly-jangly intro or the lyrical parallels to attendees of the meeting, but because it’s Cher. Diva, icon and former spouse to someone who used drugs and alcohol like I did, Cher is everything. I love Cher for the camp factor, for her music and because as a gay man in his forties, it’s the law. Cher is also the ultimate symbol of survival. Ain’t no Equal commercial or bad movie gonna keep her down! Just when we think she’s done, she comes back. With a few months sober and back from the brink of self-destruction, I could kind of relate. I could go on with the Cher metaphor (“I was once a ‘Dark Lady’ and now I ‘Believe”) but I won’t. What people like Cher, Madonna Cyndi Lauper and Boy George represented to me as a kid was individuality and strength, things I so desperately wanted. Meetings were the first place I felt like I could be myself. The real version. I could say, “hey, I’m not feeling good.” or “I need help” without giving a crap about what people thought. I soon began to find my life but bigger than that I learned I didn’t have to do any of this alone. And thankfully, my road to individuality and being able to share my problems was one that didn’t require headdresses or assless pants.
Weathering the non-stop, roaring rapids of information can really wear me out.There are only so many tweets about Kate Middleton’s baby, only so many Facebook posts about some politician I’ve never heard of and only so many unimportant emails I can handle before my brain feels like it’s about to collapse. I’ve come to believe that perhaps its better that I don’t know all the details of a divorce currently being shared by someone from middle school whom I barely remember? Maybe its okay if I never see pictures from your spleen removal surgery? I just think I liked people better when I knew less about them. Says the guy who routinely talks about his drug use and once sent a tweet about his anal pap. But what I do is art, so it’s different.
Recently, I’ve discovered in lieu of forcing the entire internet to change (I mean, I asked. But I haven’t heard back), I had to change myself. Wait. That sounds like I’m wearing adult diapers. You know what I mean. My endless bitching about the Internet and adding crap to a conversation online or otherwise is something I can change. Maybe it wasn’t the planet’s never-ending onslaught of negative communication that was the problem but my own. Duh. My problems, much like a Scooby-Doo episode, always end up the same way. The person behind the mask causing all of the haunted shenanigans isn’t a ghost or a demon but me. And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.
Anyway, over the last week I’ve been trying to practice filtering my conversations, emails and thoughts before I vomit them out. I’ve been trying to write about resentments and get my thoughts clear before going to others and wreaking havoc. I’ve been trying to pause before I indulge in the critical buffet and trying to say, “No, thank you” when they pass around the tray of invites to the shit-talkers VIP lounge. This a communication revolution to be sure. But I use the words “trying” and “practice” because this is some difficult stuff. immediately, the narcissist in me says, “I don’t NEED to filter myself! I speak the truth!” This is usually said with a lot of finger waving, by the way.
What I’m discovering especially when it comes to my writing and my relationships I don’t have to share everything in order to be myself. This doesn’t mean I have to repress my sparkle, however. In fact, filtering out the inner-crazy or negativity has let my actual personality come out. And there are Non-Ninja things I can do to make communication more positive like turn off my instant chat or listening instead of talking. Or not answering emails from lunatics.Or not commenting on every thread that annoys me. Or simply thinking of others and reconsidering my wording before I hit send.
It sounds ridiculous but it feels like a genuine start. Staying true to my personality while running it through the filter takes some considerable faith and skill.These are not easy habits to shatter. But I’m going to keep practicing it. Otherwise, I’ll be back to haunting old amusement parks and tweeting about the toenail that’s about to fall off.
At the risk of writing the most boring blog post ever created by man, I can’t find my keys. I know. Call the Miss Marple. Who needs CNN when you’ve got me breaking these kind of headlines? But really I can’t find them. While this nonemergency is annoying, it brought up an old feeling of panic; one that I haven’t felt in a while.
Back when I drank and used, I was a loser. Not only in “so why don’t you kill me (go crazy with the Cheez Whiz)” sort of way but in the way I’d get drunk and lose things. Phones, wallets, keys– you name it. In general, if I could find all of my belongings after a night of drinking than clearly I didn’t drink enough. I never once lost drugs, though. Priorities, people. Priorities. Sometimes these losses were items temporarily misplaced like your standard cellphone in the refrigerator kind of thing. Other times, these items would fall into the great abyss and presumed gone forever. Although, I did find a few phones in fucked up places in my old apartment long after the service and the chicness of the Motorola Razr had both worn off. I joke but waking up and not knowing if your personal belongings are still with you is a horrible feeling. Even worse is waking up and not knowing where you yourself is. Losing a wallet is one thing but misplacing a drunken gay man in his 30’s is just unacceptable. This lifestyle of calamity, of not knowing where anything is, is awful. I’d crawl out of bed and make sure my wallet was where I left it and then I’d check my phone to make sure I didn’t text anything too awful. Investigating the nightly crime scene of my own drunken existence every morning was an exhausting task. Towards the end, my daily terror wasn’t caused by the things I lost but by the parts of mind that were starting to go missing. I drank to sleep. I drank before, during and after work. I was either riddled with intense anxiety in those final months or living in a delusion that everything would magically get better on its own. Like I said, I was losing my mind and it sucked.
So this dumb, current misplacing of my keys momentarily brought up that panic and terror that I lived in. I tore through my apartment; overturning couch cushions and pulling open drawers. And still nothing. This frantic looking for my keys started to feel all too familiar and it had to stop. So I had some cookies, watched Community and went to bed. After meditation this morning, I looked for them again and still nothing. I’ll call the coffee shop and see if they wound up there. Follow me on Twitter for more late breaking developments on this important story. I’m laughing about all of this because in comparison to losing my mind and my sanity, keys are no big deal. They can be replaced. My sanity? Well, I’m gonna do whatever I can to hold on to that just so it doesn’t go the way of the Motorola Razr again.