Monday, March 28, 2011

Too Many Ribbons

I came of age in the early 1980s and just as I began my life as an out gay man, there was a disease rapidly spreading through the gay community.  It started as "the gay cancer" and eventually was named AIDS.  Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.  Over the course of the next fifteen years, it killed many of my new friends. 

People ran scared.  Some doctors and nurses refused to treat patients with AIDS, cemeteries refused to bury people with AIDS and  family members refused to touch or love people with AIDS.  It was a horrible time, but we were brought together as a gay community with one enemy in mind: AIDS.  People like Elizabeth Taylor gave us a voice, when we had a president who wouldn't publicly acknowledge the disease. Celebrities like Rock Hudson had to die before we knew it could touch anyone.  

In my personal life, AIDS touched me many times.  I helped take care of two close friends who both died.  I sat by their bedside, gave them sponge-baths, read to them when they could no longer see, and held their hands as they struggled to take final breaths.  I even briefly entertained the idea of assisting one as he wanted to commit suicide because the pain was so great. 

The low point was the week I went to three memorial services in a course of four days. Death was all around us and we never got a reprieve.  Eventually all the infected friends were gone, except for a few who are miraculously still healthy today. Life went on and I thought I was done. 

Fast forward to now.  I'm a man in my mid forties and I have a new enemy.  Cancer.  I have lost too many of my friends now over the past few years to cancer.  Same insidiousness as before, just a different colored ribbon to wear on my lapel.  

Yesterday I found out that an acquaintance, a couple of years younger than me, has been diagnosed with cancer now.  This is after the grandparents, the police sergeant, the acting teacher and mentor, the volunteers, the retired stage hand, the friend's mom, and other friends have already gone.  

How many tears do I have left?  How much scar tissue can the heart take? 

When I'm really positive, I can take all this in and learn lessons from it.  We must live each day to it's fullest and we should never let a day go by without telling the ones we love that we love them and that I'm lucky to have known such wonderful people.

On the days where I'm exhausted and can't seem to get out of bed, I pick up my feet, roll out of bed anyway and keep moving.  It's all I can do to fake it.

Maybe today is the day someone learns how to beat cancer's ass!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lazy Sundays

Frankie's needs are simple.  A spot in the sun for a nap. 
I love Sundays.  I think I always have.  They have a different vibe to them than other days.  Saturdays try, but they're too quick paced for me.  Saturdays require getting the things done you've been waiting for the weekend to do.  Grocery shopping. Laundry. Gardening. The chores.

Sundays are slow, gentle and easy. Aside from the Christian principle of Sunday being a day of rest, it seems like a slower day.  Which is why I have no problem napping a Sunday away. :-)

I wake up on a Sunday to cup of coffee and CBS Sunday Morning.  I never watch CBS in the morning except for Sunday.  I'm usually a Today Show kinda guy.  I have a secret crush on Ann Curry.

The morning is sometimes followed by brunch with friends or just my partner and me going out for something delicious.  Some days like today, I'm still in my pajamas at 4 p.m..  I love that.

Days of rest are needed in this fast paced world we live in.  Sunday is the day we somehow have permission to stop and smell the flowers, or taste the coffeecake.   This is also the kind of day that works for me most when it comes to creativity.  I do my best story plotting when my mind is relaxed and I can consider the possibilities.  It's not the kind of day for me to do line edits.  I'd find myself napping if I attempted that.  Sundays are also my favorite day for taking my camera out into the world and capturing it's beauty.  In a few weeks, when Spring is really here, that's what I'll be doing.  Today I'm writing.

I've begun working on revisions of my first novel and it's nice to know what's "wrong" in my piece.  "Wrong" is too strong of a word.  "What could be improved" is probably better.   It's nice knowing those things, but now comes the fixing it, or making it shine.  The possibilities are endless.  I thought revisions would be tedious and I'd be tired of my novel by now, but instead the opposite is true.  I have a whole new energy about it.  I sit back and realize this really has possibility.

As I consider all my options before moving forward, I'll need to mull them over during a nap.  My character speak to me then.   Really.  It's not just an excuse to nap......  Well, maybe a little.

Happy Sunday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bullying: A National Cause

I wrote this as a note on my Facebook page, but wanted to share it here as well.

After several media spotlighted suicides over the past several months, many because those who committed suicide were gay, the White House has announced an Anti-Bullying Conference tomorrow.  Groups such as the Trevor Project, I'm sure have been very instrumental in bringing this to our collective conscious.  I salute them and their work.  Many celebrities have made heart-felt videos telling us that it gets better.  I've even shared my own story with some and can say truly that it does get better, however, it doesn't go away. 

Teenage bullying is only the tip of the iceberg.  Remember that children model the behavior they're taught and bullying is all around us.  Look at any reality show and chances are the game is won by bullying.  Bullying is defined as one person asserting his will aggressively or through intimidation.  This can be done through threats, alliances, and manipulations.  I just described Big Brother, Survivor, The Bachelor, and The Biggest Loser.

So, that's reality television, we say.  It's entertainment.  It's also teaching our kids that bullying works.  If it didn't there wouldn't be a problem.

We are bullied all the time. We're bullied by the guy in the giant SUV who speeds up behind you on the highway and stays on your tail until you succumb to his will and change lanes or speed up.  The workplace is full of bullies.  Bosses who get away with outrageous and inappropriate behavior because everyone is afraid to report them.  Besides, aren't we just lucky to have a job?  Don't want to rock that boat.  

At our churches, we're bullied into giving a percentage of our income, or we face eternal damnation, while the Reverand is adding a wing to his home, or building a giant Jesus statue.   Politians bully us all the time.  They scare and manipulate us into electing them and then they bully us into giving up our civil liberties.  

So, you see, bullies are everywhere.  Does it get better, or do we learn to eat so much shit in our lifetimes that we accept it as the norm?  We tell ourselves that we're powerless.

Maybe the real answer lies in each of us.  Bullying doesn't go away, but we grow stronger and learn that we can stop giving the bullies the power over us.  

Here's what I want to say to anyone who feels bullied.  "It does get better, because you get better.  You learn what you are willing to accept and what you're not.  A bully doesn't win if you just say NO."