grief

sunday kind of love….. gil scott heron

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pouring polka

Grief is neither a disorder
nor a healing process;
it is a sign of health itself,
a whole and natural gesture of love.
Nor must we see grief
as a step towards something better.
No matter how much it hurts –
and it may be the greatest pain in life –
grief can be an end in itself,
a pure expression of love.

– Gerald May –

what a very sad day in america. the deaths of 50 souls in one sweep have been jettisoned to the next level at the hands of an angry citizen. the lgbt community is targeted and wounded during pride month in a southern state and the southern anti-lgbt rhetoric continues to pour out like a geyser in yellowstone.

 

 

one less

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“Things get bad for all of us, almost continually, and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are.”― Charles Bukowski
it’s been a sad couple of weeks for me. i somehow got turned around in my life and lost touch with the direction in which i was heading. it was confusing, it was humbling, and it was maddening. i interviewed for new jobs and have considered going rogue and once again living as a bohemian might-pursuing truth and joy with a devil-may-care attitude (emphasis right now on considered). in the midst of my melt-down came the news that sweetness bryan mckay had passed-prolly from an overdose of pain medication.
it seems bryan has been part of my world for many years now. so enmeshed is he that i struggle to remember when our paths first crossed. i am sure it was just after i started the strength in numbers gig. i do remember going on an impromptu hike just outside boulder with a few poz guys of whom bryan was included. 5 minutes into the hike, his seizure disorder kicked in, he collapsed on the trail and was chucking up liquid and trying to catch his breath. it was both frightening and frustrating as we all turned back to head home to make sure that bryan was safe.
this contrast of emotion i describe would become my emotional soundtrack when it came to bryan. he was the sweetest soul and so easy to be around. he volunteered at about 10 different community organizations around town and was always oozing with positivity and good will. he was likeable, thoughtful, and mostly uncomplicated. he watched soaps, award shows, and professional sports on tv. his taste in music was uber-ultra gay with the obligatory colorado country twist thrown in. there was not so much outwardly remarkable about him- other than his good looks- he was very much like a favorite pashmina. 
as i considered my life that was with bryan, i thought of james dean and montgomery clift for some reason.  i see both of those souls in very much the same way. they were extraordinarily charming and talented- completely memorable. they were well-loved, engaged, and all the while very fucked up deep down. this was my sense with bryan. 
i think he may have grown up with an overbearing parent. underneath he was very very anxiety ridden and was taking strong meds to address this. as is the case with so many, he overtook those meds with alarming frequency. i had met with him privately for several mandated sessions to discuss addiction and impulsive behavior and how it affects prescription medication. this was at the beginning of a time when the reins were being pulled in on his use. 
about this same time, his visits to emergency rooms seemed to escalate. he was visiting er’s with alarming frequency with vague symptoms and illnesses. it is assumed that there was drug seeking going on. he was appearing very often in clinics with symptoms that could not be verified or documented. and there had been talk of munchhausen syndrome which may have been an offshoot of his upbringing. my impression was that upon the passing of bryan’s mother he received a small inheritance. with this came several trips to cities like dallas and las vegas where i would notice posts on facebook which had him checking in from the emergency rooms in those cities as well. frankly, i felt quietly helpless and sad when i would read those.
i assume that friends of ours may read this post and get angry as i might seem to be airing bryan’s dirty laundry. i hope this is not my intention. i am saddened by bryan’s early passing. i was so very grateful for all the volunteering he did for our hiv organization as well as the lgbt community at large. i wish i could be as philanthropic as he. i genuinely liked bryan. 
at the same time, it was just as authentically heartbreaking to be so very aware of his internal and closted writhing that seemingly could only be quelled with meds (and sometimes not even then)- as often as they were procured by proxy. bryan certainly had physical complications in his life. they were accompanied by emotional pain that rarely saw the light of day. i mourn openly for bryan and all the wonderful attributes he shared with our world. and i mourn silently for the unrequited discomfort that he wore like an invisible undergarment. 
the yin-yang aspect of my feelings for bryan are intoxicating. it is like sitting on the edge of a canyon knowing i have to go in some direction, but too amazed at the view to find the where-with-all to make a move. there is some quality in this uncertainty which compels me to love my life. the not-knowing all of this gives me grist for the mill. 
thank you bryan for breezing through my world and clearing out some cobwebs on your way. i will always be grateful, i will always be smiling, and i will always wonder. 

in memoriam

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i met hunter through another friend bill. bill and hunter had been partners for about 7 years and had called it quits in the 90’s sometime. but they remained friends and confidants until the end. hunter had begun working for frontier and owned a home on the edge of broadway terrace. when i was first trying to clean up, i painted hunter’s house to help him and give me something to do. hunter and i worked catering gigs together. we shared meals once in awhile and saw each other at the holidays. he was effervescent, he was inspired, and he will always be loved.
i am sad for me, but extremely sad for bill. he has this loss on the heels of losing another of his best friends in february to a heart attack. 2 posse members in the space of a year is an incredible blow – for anyone. there is not a clear path for comfort here. suit up and show up is the only thing that comes to mind. 

lost

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lost at sea by cory g via deviant art
“A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ” 

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (Corinthians 13:4-7)


my friend’s ashes were blessed, reminisces shared, tears shed today at the small catholic church in englewood. i comforted friends from my past and was comforted by my friends of today. i sat quietly while others shared their history and insight. his longtime friend read the famous passage on love and i understood it more intimately than i could ever imagine. i ceremoniously put to rest any idea that i could head backwards.

i need to set a new course. i am unsure. it is not frightening, but i am reticent. i can’t intuit how to move forward. i can’t feel my feet. i can feel the wind and hear the pounding surf. i feel cold. i am waiting and trying my damnedest to lean into the unknowing.

there are (as always) many opinions for me to choose from. not my usual style though. internal wisdom tells me if i don’t know what to do, then do nothing. life is just like playing poker sometimes. good bye my dear friend. safe journey. you will be missed.

and as for me, i am still. i am not a body. i am free. for i am still…… as god created me.

The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. A place that demands being open to the flow of life around you. A place that demands being honest with yourself without regard to the cost in personal anxiety. A place that demands being present with all of yourself.

In the wilderness your possessions cannot surround you. Your preconceptions cannot protect you. Your logic cannot promise you the future. Your guilt can no longer place you safely in the past. You are left alone each day with an immediacy that astonishes, chastens and exults. You see the world as if for the first time.
-Lawrence Kushner

requiem

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sad news yesterday came my way. kenny-a friend who has been in the hospital for several months with multiple complications from lymphoma had passed over. not sad for him, as he had been in a coma for 3 of those months, his body riddled with shingles, he acquired a viral pneumonia that wasn’t responding to treatment, and the multitude of meds he was taking were taking their own toll.

i met kenny about 6 years ago with his wife Susan at a 12 step meeting on a Saturday morning. His wife was a colorful and eccentric woman who wore leopard print and brightly colored eyeglasses with contrasting shoes and bags. he had just decided to get clean about  a year before i did. it turned out that we had the same person for a sponsor and would share breakfast together after meetings with sponsees or with each other. his soul was of the kindest ilk. he looked to the good things in people, where i could never say that is my first stop. he exuded caring and shared openly and honestly about the chasms he had traversed.

susan passed about 2 years ago, in february i think. she had contracted cancer as well, and had mental health issues that compounded with her illness and with chemo. he had contract lymphoma 2 years prior to that, but had aced a rocky venture with his chemo and seemed to be thriving. and he hunkered down and became caretaker for his ailing wife with more dignity and grace than hallmark can put in a month of programming. and he mourned openly and lovingly for several months after her passing.

kenny taught me about acceptance in a surprising way. he always greeted me with a positive tone and an air of inclusivity that astonished me. during several years of our friendship, i found myself riddled with ptsd and untreated mental health issues which encased me in standoffishness and aloofness bound by self judgement. he would always act as if none of that were visible, even though i had pushed so many others away. every encounter left me feeling as if i were one of the boys. boy did i need that, too.

i will miss him and i will miss the possibility of seeing him again. but i smile everytime i have thought of him these last few months. not for his pain, but for his life and what his spirit brought into mine.