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.
today’s post is full of allegory. after the recent passing of a friend. i have come to a sort of secret compartment in my life. i was talking about how strange it was to have known someone on both a professional (counselor to client) level and as a fellow community member and volunteer. this caused me to pause for a while and consider the hidden cost of being an addictions counselor working with lgbt persons with addictions (who may or may not be hiv positive).
it is a complete recurrence that gay men (hiv + and hiv -) will appear when they need support and then disappear when they no longer feel the need for support (for a variety of reasons). as a professional there is an ongoing and undisclosed cost of knowing and caring for a person and then having them leave your life just as quickly as they appeared. and my experience is that when the “gay” factor, and the “hiv +” factor are combined, i have found that the boundaries have been a bit less distinctive. i might have cared a little more, or offered a little more support. and of course the disappearance of these folks from my practice has consistently left a deeper impression. but after they leave the treatment cocoon, they enter back into the community arena along with me and the rest of our world. because these individuals and i have engaged in a therapeutic relationship, returning to a friendly relationship is strained at best. i know more about them than they probably would like to admit. they have shared secrets with me. if they did not complete, nor were successful with treatment, then this usually means they won’t want to see me in person, nor see themselves in my eyes. this is perfectly understandable- almost expected. but it does have a price tag- especially in a smaller community. it is not a deal breaker at all. it is simply that i haven’t really looked at my own real needs in all this.
until this week, i have not looked at my own feelings about this whole brief therapy process. with bryan’s passing, i now understand that it has had a price. i have assumed that my skills as a practitioner are lacking at times. i have felt that i am too blunt for people too early. i have even felt that i am too old at times and out of touch with current lgbt culture.
although all of these are probable and appropriate, i have never considered that i might need some support around the loss this process brings. i now know that i have just hunkered down, trudged forward, cut my losses and tucked those feelings without processing or examining them with any concern. i don’t regret this after realizing this, but i do want to make some changes from here forward. and because of my childhood history of relationship and loss, i have had auto-responses of shutting down when i have become saddened. i have let go of friends because i honestly haven’t figured out yet how to do anything else quite yet.
to be less vague, i now understand that i have a primal feeling that i am not okay, so i assume that these losses are the price i am required to pay for being me-(conversely, there are many benefits to being me as well so i don’t think this as simply dark and morose).
since my work has recently shifted away from cultural specific clients, i have gained some distance and some perspective on all this. this reminds me yet again that situations and experiences in our lives shape, form, and mold who we are. and all the relationships, fabulous jobs, exciting or relaxing vacations, spas, makeovers, workouts, and new clothes in the world won’t really make me any different. i am required to do the work, look at my life and my part in it, feel my feelings, accept them, understand them, and make room for change if needed. and change is probably needed in this case.
i am posting from a quiet place of gratitude today. i hope your holiday brings even a small portion of the grace i feel today. happy thanksgiving.
i have become enamored with a monday night television show about the creation of a broadway musical about marilyn monroe. the name of this show is “smash”. here are 7 reasons i have become a glutton.
1) i am reminded weekly how very resilient and very vulnerable we all are
2) i get to remember that life and relationships are messy sometimes
3) i love broadway and musical theatre after all i am gay
4) debra messing works this role. she’s mesmerizing
5) the running marilyn theme charms the pants off me
6) angelica houston sipping martinis in an east village gay bar seems both highbrow and lowbrow at the same time. total camp… LOVE
7) katherine mcphee’s performances consistently create a good feeling in me. She’s damn good.
thank you my beautiful universe, for this unexpected joy. it certainly is a smash for me!!
this year has opened up the realization that i still have some anger issues. not just current ones, but some residual leftover justified and ancient pissed off. haven’t actually taken the time to figure out what the f**k i am angry about, but i have learned that it’s okay to move one step at a time.
as i do the work again with my sponsor i find that the revelations are more intimate. at the same time, my work grows in intensity- both quality and quantity- at the hospital. i am discovering just how primitive and how intricate working with others can be.
what i do know is that this hidden side of me- the angry side- has protected me for years. it has allowed me to operate “as if” when i most definitely could not have otherwise. this makes good sense to me, but i honestly had no clue that my rage and i had formed a symbiotic relationship. i’m not even sure i have a clue as to how not to be angry- that’s a scary statement.
now i am not talking about typical garden variety anger here. no, no, no. i am talking deep rooted thistle type anger that keeps coming back even after you pull it, burn it, dig it. that’s the kind of rage i think there is. rage so thick that it protected me from all the times i was used and discarded, all the names i was called growing up. anger that encircled me in denial for the 1st 12 years of being hiv positive- that double helix kept me alive and strong for over a decade as if i had an inner layer of titanium protecting me from the environment. i know it has been there since my childhood. and i know that it has been my soldier and hero. but i can definitely say it’s not serving that purpose in my life today.
this is probably the 1st post of at least a few to process and saute this issue. i pray that i am actually ready to let go of this no longer needed companion. i ask for the strength to trust life today. no doubt this will take time. and i’ve already been given more time than i had ever imagined.
and as an addendum, i am adding another tune. this one hails from clubland and which brings the post to the present. kaskade collaborates with skylar grey and the lyrics are a bit frothy and both music and words strike a chord with me. the add is to represent the daily reminder that i must give myself that i need to make room for happiness in my life and my heart.