loss

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

let me go

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image credit.. samuel hodge

“A star falls from the sky and into your hands. Then it seeps through your veins and swims inside your blood and becomes every part of you. And then you have to put it back into the sky. And it’s the most painful thing you’ll ever have to do and that you’ve ever done. But what’s yours is yours. Whether it’s up in the sky or here in your hands. And one day, it’ll fall from the sky and hit you in the head real hard and that time, you won’t have to put it back in the sky again.” 


i am completely without words to describe just how helpless i feel. my good friend was diagnosed with 4th stage liver cancer recently. it has metastasized in 4 places on his liver and it is beyond treatment. i can’t fix it and i can’t make it go away.

at first he presented with a distinct sense of defeat. this had concerned me greatly. he resigned from his job and set up an at home hospice situation. it all seemed so fast and surreal. then he began to talk about things like healthy living, diet and nutrition, and chinese medicine. this gave me some sense of relief. and hope.

but recently, there has been a shift. i get the sense that he is avoiding my calls and isolating. i hope i am wrong, but i have been down a road similar to this on several occasions and it sucks. it is painful. it feels hopeless. i am not at all eager to do again.

on the other hand, i do love my friend. just as i loved my friends before. my experience taught me that when people get physically ill, they turn inward emotionally.. it’s so much effort to communicate. and it’s hard to see oneself (sick) in another persons eyes. it’s as if they are saying “let me go” without any words.

today, at a meeting, after another person shared, i came to understand that i haven’t wanted to deal with this situation. at all. so i have been making myself crazy trying to avoid it. i have been defensive. i have been boastful. i have instigated not-so-good things. i have worn a victim silhouette.

but as i grow towards what i hope is the light, i have to accept where i am at. and i have to understand it and i have to be willing to let it go. i posted a quote today that suggested opening one’s heart means showing the scars that are there.  simple set of words with a much more significant process to make happen. but i’m gonna try. even if it makes me cry. and i know it is gonna.

naked

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image credit …. zach russo


“A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which,
if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink
and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.”

1. Surrender. (Capitulation to hopelessness.)
2. Hope. (Step 2 is the mirror image or opposite of step 1. In step 1 we admit that alcohol is our higher power, and that our lives are unmanageable. In step 2, we find a different Higher Power who we hope will bring about a return to sanity in management of our lives.)
3. Commitment. (The key word in step 3 is decision.)
4. Honesty. (An inventory of self.)
5. Truth. (Candid confession to God and another human being.)
6. Willingness. (Choosing to abandon defects of character.)
7. Humility. (Standing naked before God, with nothing to hide, and asking that our flawsin His eyesbe removed.)
8. Reflection. (Who have we harmed? Are we ready to amend?)
9. Amendment. (Making direct amends/restitution/correction, etc..)
10. Vigilance. (Exercising self-discovery, honesty, abandonment, humility, reflection and amendment on a momentary, daily, and periodic basis.)
11. Attunement. (Becoming as one with our Father.)
12. Service. (Awakening into sober usefulness.)

another week has flown by and it seems fairly full. my friend lost her battle with parkinson’s on wednesday and made her transition. there is mostly relief in my heart. it has been an experience to really absorb that i am available to offer support to strangers every day, but i was not able to do the same thing for someone i cared for deeply. character defect? most definitely. and i have to find a way to make peace with it. i understand that there will be a service in late april sometime. the family and her direct caregivers must be exhausted.

the hep-c support group is finally approved by the powers that be at the hospital and the first monthly group will start on 2/14. a licensed social worker will be facilitating and this is sponsored and supported by the hep-c connection. since we have a methadone clinic and an hiv clinic on campus we already have about 1000 patients who are hep-c positive. this is probably a good idea.

i will be flying to chicago for a memorial service of a family friend. she passed over the holidays, but cremation allows a less hurried planning process and a more intentioned attendance. i will only be there for a couple of days. probably not long enough. along the same lines, i was considering going to london with a chicago friend in june, but am leaning away from that idea right now.

i have applied for a part time position at a small counseling agency to work with clients on parole. i think it might be great experience and add a niche on my resume. the owner of the agency has recently been diagnosed with 4th stage pancreatic cancer and his wife will need support. this is the best way i am able to offer it.

as i read over the principles of the 12 step program, i am reminded that there is a responsibility with the gift of sobriety. i am guaranteed a life without the plague of obsession and chaos, but this does have requirements to keep healthy. this is a good place for me to begin my weekend.

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.