now this is not an unfamiliar place for me at all. it is very much my nature to instinctively hunker myself into a position which causes me to feel disadvantaged. i actually can feel the familiarity as a sightless person may understand braille- uber sensory. also aligned with my primal patterns is a tendency to cut my losses, vacate the premises, and try my damnedest to not look back. somehow i have always not only possessed this ability but i have been blessed enough to have had the where-with-all to begin again on several occasions. just like the song says- i have been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king.
as i walk this turn on the spiral of my life, i find myself at least more aware of my path. the pull of my instinct is embedded and strong. this cellular memory has kept me alive and safe throughout all the fails of my past. it would be foolish to deny its integral aspect of my soul. a shift though, is my resistance to bang the integral drum by fleeing.
i am opting to work on keeping my heart open and creating space for something good (and decidedly different) to come into play. i have witnessed what i might consider signs that this may be a very good decision for me. these tickles of hope just may scratch this veneer that has protected me this half century, and it might bring a new option for my story. i am also afraid- very afraid that i will have to endure the same feelings i always run from as they infiltrate my soul with the intensity of a tsunami. the emotional part of me swears that these feelings will destroy me. the more adult part knows very well that i have already survived – countless times.
i guess life is checking me and it’s time for me to consider my next move. maybe that move is not to move just yet. but let me catch up to my life instead of my life being ahead of me so often.
i included 2 musical selections today. one for my past and one for my future.
the really numbing aspect to this is its familiarity. i am hardly an ingenue and yet i seem to do-si-do myself into the same position emotionally over and over like a choreographed bit on a network tv show blah-blah. it’s a little bit flashy and interesting to watch for a minute, but the experience becomes empty and flat after a short time.
That’s life(That’s life)I tell you,
I can’t deny it
but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try
I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face
I just pick myself up and get back in the race
i don’t really know quite how to begin this post. so i guess i’m just gonna let her rip. just past midnight on thursday morning in a movie theater located in the outskirts of aurora colorado, a mysterious and angry gunman burst through the exit doors and starting blasting his automatics in the seats. panic ensued and the agitated one started using the fleeing audience members as target practice, like this killing 10 non-provoking movie-goers and injuring 70 others. bullets even pierced the walls of the theater and hit 2 or 3 persons in the next theater over.
many many coloradans have been shocked like this before at columbine. and most of the people i know who were around during the famous school massacre have had an ache reopened that was hoped had been buried forever. trauma may actually never go away though. as much as i hate it, i must acknowledge it exists. and it takes up space.
i am picking up this post a day later. there sure have been some things that have transpired since yesterday. i took my mother to see “to rome with love”. it was so forgettable and bland. but i did it to support her really. she had called me in the middle of the day on friday to talk about the shootings. i was busy and didn’t really feel like talking, but i shifted gears on purpose and made myself available to listen. it actually helped me a little i think to be available. and i decided to follow up with a film because she mentioned that she was leery of the theater experience now. we went, and i think she moved through something.
i shared today at a meeting about what i know now about myself. i grew up in a house where my mother drank too much way too often and had several dysfunctional, often turbulent, and sometimes violent relationships. i learned early on to turn a cheek to fear and terror in order to survive. otherwise i would have been over run by fear a good amount of the time.
my belief is that i am good to have around in a crisis because i have learned to surf the fear and the crazy pretty well. i fall apart when things are calm, but when there is an incident such as the shooting on thursday, i turn outward and don’t look in. that my first response.
after a few weeks, i saw my sponsor today. he has been very ill and is struggling with finding balance and emotional safety. i realized that my first response is handy, but is not what is needed in this situation. i need to be pushy, i need to be loving, and i need to be around him. this i think i can do. at least i hope so.
i have written once or twice on how busy i have kept myself and how confused i become about the direction in which i am traveling. all that continues to be. i am realizing that my expectations and my ego do get in the way of the work i am doing. i am trying to ignite culture change at my workplace, and i find that my intention gets muddied over credit and acknowledgement.
who’d have thought that i am just as human as the next guy? i guess that’s life. and honestly, i am blessed to be here. so i guess i’ll just keep moving forward.
the darkness that seems to have settled upon my life at the beginning of this year seems a bit less stifling today. although continuing to be out of sorts, i sense some hope- with regard to specifically what i am not so sure. there is a recurrence of old feelings that i haven’t yet pinpointed.
perhaps there is an innate sense of self-destruction that permeates my foundation. i know that i can’t sense directly what is not right, but with time, i can rewind until i forage the rough steps and the missteps until perhaps motivation emerged.
i now realize (after only 1 week this time) that some ancient feelings got triggered somehow. i reacted as i have trained myself to. i then paused, looked around, and remembered that my emotional responses are not my desired ones. the recoiling of the released ball of emotional yarn needs to happen. it is happening. staying in the moment is the last instinct.
meanwhile- the image i captured, although based in reality, is not at all a true image nor is the response a real response, but more i have just experienced a reflection of an old reaction.
it’s a lotta friggin work to heal sometimes..
“Please forgive me. This post strains two metaphors and doesn’t do it very artfully. One, the camera obscura, represents, literally, the “dark room” in which many developers find themselves when working with a non-standards-based SOA development platform. The second, “through a glass darkly” represents the transition, indeed, the revolution, that developers need to accept in order to get SOA applications widely deployed”…. an idea lifted from another blogger
today someone told me a secret about their life. they clearly didn’t want to talk about it, but at the same time they really really did want to talk about it, too. i let them make up their own mind without asking. and i didn’t press for details.
it was painful for me to watch and listen. it wasn’t my pain, but it was full of pain none-the-less. it wasn’t a pretty story. nor was it happy. it didn’t have a happy ending and it’s doubtful it ever will. there is much shame and guilt around it. there were first pleasures and lost boundaries. and left on the floor are broken thoughts and jagged memories.
i watched tears roll softly and pointedly as the details unfurled. the teller kept reminding me how okay they were with everything- which couldn’t be further from how it seems. what seems more likely is that the teller has become accustomed to the twisted feelings and somehow thinks (as survivors do) that this is how it always is.
i inquired about whether this wounded one had ever considered self-forgiveness. i was answered with a seesaw response of “i have forgiven myself” followed quickly and painfully by”i don’t know how”. from what i could surmise, both are true, with the latter overshadowing the former in accuracy.
today, i am reminded once more that the bullshit i ran away from in my childhood, used anything and everything i could heavily to drown out reminders, and then uncovered very clumsily in early sobriety has been transformed. i no longer lead with shame and self-degradation as my calling card. though they are definitely still there, they have been recessed to a back shelf where they provide backbone for empathy and and echo chamber to help me listen when working with others.
i understood today’s fractured fairy tale quite well. i felt blessed that i could be with someone as they allowed themselves to remove some of their armor and feel.
i am not the man i had mostly planned to be. thank god. i am just the guy i have become. it truly seems a gift.
here i am on wednesday evening after finalizing the agreement to list my townhouse for sale. it has become embarrassingly evident that the loss of 28 percent of my annual income has taken a toll. i am a mixed bag of emotion- shame, sadness, worry to name a few, and have been scattered and detached for awhile. once i came to the decision that i did, i have felt myself pulling back into the present.
i have changed my job duties, my job title, and the department i work for and now am beginning a transition for my residence and my financial life. i have been in the middle of a storm of sorts in my life and by the grace of a power greater than myself, i have managed to maintain a spiritual life. sometimes the ordinary can appear so very extraordinary.
it is sad to think of leaving my comfort zone. i have been here for 4 years and have grown up quite a bit emotionally here. i first truly came to feel and recognize how stunted my emotional life had been before sobriety. i never understood how toxic shame really is until i found an ancient seed germinating after reliving a drama. it has taken almost 4 years for me to learn how to begin to soothe myself when someone i trust does not continue to be trustworthy. and it does continue to happen. and i am sure i trust much less easily.
with all this in mind, perhaps this residence shift is a metaphor telling me it is time to move on. moving on is not the easiest task for people with trauma. my experience is that i am much more comfortable when terrorized than i am when things are unknown. and today, i feel confident that moving on will reap some rewards and offer me new insight and a new focus for my future.
my friend jim chandler passed away this week. he had been staying at a hotel in ohio (on kaiser’s dime) waiting for a liver transplant. something went awry and he was in icu for 21 days and the whispered away. jim was a minister at the denver church of religious science. he contributed fairly regularly to the newsletter we publish. jim was always wearing a positive message with spiritual undertones.
i remember when my friends and i wanted to start a gay men’s 12 step meeting that focused on meth, he offered space at the church. there were already other meetings there, however my understanding is that many board members did not want tweakers roaming free in the building in the evening. jim advocated for the meeting, citing the outrageously high number of gay men who had meth issues, as well as the hiv transmission rates that involved meth. he never boasted about this, he just did it quietly- and potently.
i watched part of the 2011 vma award show and particularly liked russel brand’s tribute to amy winehouse. he pointed out succinctly and lovingly that although amy lived with a very evident drug and alcohol issue, that there indeed is a solution for this. and he wanted to remind all the patrons of the show that a solutions did exist.
i have remarkably come to believe that living with an active faith is far more prudent than not. i love my atheist friends, but i am more enamored with the safety net that faith provides. i never wanted to have to rely on anything like faith when i was young. it seemed so weak. but as the gray antiques my temples, i realize that i struggled with relying on anything because i didn’t grow up with a lot of that around. i believed then that a rolling stone was less prone to heartbreak and i lived much of my life that way.
and here i am on the move again.
i shared in a meeting today about something very personal. i have blogged about it before, but it was a very different experience to speak it out loud in front of people, some of whom i don’t even know and who are new to the recovery experience. part of my truth is that i rarely feel as if anything i do is appropriate. it’s a habit i have developed since i was young, and in my mind i first go to the belief that my truth is not a good truth, and i have stepped over a line somewhere and have really offended people.
when i was in the 5th grade or so, i had a sexual encounter with some older boys in my small town. i had thought that it was a private and personal experience, but the boys talked and laughed about it and i became a joke and it hurt a lot. it is a moment that defined me as a person. i couldn’t tell anyone because it was too disgusting and i couldn’t let them know that it bothered me. i just had to stuff it and do the best that i could. my behaviors replicated and getting high became an easy way to blot out any pain and focus on the pleasure.
when i was 3 or 4 years sober, i had a very similar experience with an employer. i had trusted him with some personal information, something private, and somehow it was used in an anonymous letter that was sent out to colleagues. again, i had trusted someone and they had spit out that trust like milk gone bad. and i found myself as hurt and as angry as i had 35 years earlier in my life. i was stuck.
miraculously, i didn’t revert back to using. the only reason was that working the 12 steps had afforded me a process to deal with emotions that run over. it worked, too. it wasn’t perfect, but it did help me see my part in all this. and it did offer me sanctuary when i truly needed it most.
this is something i have lived with my whole life, although i never really took a look at it until these last few years. it takes some times for the blinders to really come off and to start to get a picture of how i actually am in the world. not just how i see myself, nor how i want to be, but how i am.
i say i have lived with this all my life because as i sit here at 4 in the morning blogging about a truth i spoke 16 hours earlier, i recognize very well the self-judgement imposed when i am honest. and in retrospect, i realize i won’t give myself a break and describe what i shared as appropriate. but i will acquiesce that it did no harm. that the world can stand that i didn’t do it perfectly. that i can be forgiven down the road for lack of forethought.
i believe that the emotional mask is starting to come off. i have been under enormous financial stress because i made some poor decisions over the last couple of years. mostly it was about deciding by impulse instead of thinking things through, and now i am required to live with those decisions. it has been uncomfortable and it has been an opportunity for me to do some very long overdue growing up.
but the stress of it has no doubt stolen some joy. and here is sit, tapping into some of the darker realities in my life. luckily, i have been here before, and i have been here sober, so i know i probably won’t crumble. i also know that i have to pull the shit out of the corners and shake it out. otherwise i run the risk of doing damage.
today i spent some time planting some new shrubs along the front walk. we have been working on this part of the yard for a couple of years now. i find i avoid getting started, but when i do get out there and start pulling weeds, or watering, i get caught up in the process and love doing the work. i equally appreciate the end result. the landscape has improved. it looks better. it feels cared for. and it is healthier. i usually get sweaty and dirty while i am working on it, but the payoff is real.
“Everyone is always going through tough things, the irony in it is that everyone thinks what they’re going through is just as hard as what you are. Life isn’t about surviving this, it’s about understanding this. ”
at my age, it seems frivolous to be clumsy when it comes to love. i only wish that i had more field experience. but as is the case with trauma, i dug myself into a dark hole when it came to matters of my heart and i just remained there about 30 years.
at a certain juncture in this life, i was free-spirited, open, experimental, inclusive, and curious. or at least i think i was. maybe i had already begun to travel down a dark path looking for something i didn’t believe i was worthy of, and landing myself in situations that would confirm just that. i made friends easily. i had a circle of acquaintances and confidants that both satisfied me and engaged me in growing in new directions. i had relationships aplenty until about 1996.
somewhere along the way, this grimm fairytale ended. the disney-like qualities and the naivete of my late teens and early twenties collided with a tsunami of fear and death and my personal story slipped into step with something that seemed otherworldly. the self-judgement and lack of grounding that can subterfuge a child that has been molested is not just a temporary thing. it can affect a lifetime. add to this, the double punch that society can add to a homosexuals life, and there you will find a recipe for substance abuse, sexual addiction, and self-sabotage. and i wore these garments as if the next decades were catwalks.
Louise L Hay
” I find it hard to believe that the vast, incredible Intelligence that created this entire Universe is only and old man sitting on a cloud above the Planet Earth….watching my genitals! Yet so many of us were taught this concept as a child. It is vital that we release foolish, outmoded ideas that do not support us and nourish us. I feel strongly that even our concept of God needs to be one that is for us, not against us. There are so many different religions to choose from. If you have one now that tells you, you are a sinner and a lowly worm, get another one.”
“When we remove sexual guilt from people and teach them to love and respect themselves, then they will automatically treat themselves and others in ways that are for their highest good and greatest joy.”
of course, these are internal struggles and issues. the visible side of my life didn’t take such a dark turn always. it was, however, interacting with the interior goings-on at many many turns. and luckily, i have been able to rebound professionally somewhat, even though my emotional life is still rather stunted. but this inner life is where most of my focus goes now.
i find that i now examine my relationships with a more critical eye. i don’t feel natural in my reactions to life. it feels protracted often. i love my friends- dearly. i am grateful that they have seen me at my worst and my best and have decided i am worth continuing to know. there is no amount of forgiveness that i haven’t been given and it is the test for me to give the same in return.
being my age and afraid to feel hurt seems whacked. understanding that the hurt that comes along in my life will fade takes perspective. i still want to go back into that dark hole where i don’t have to encounter anything when hurt comes my way. and sometimes i still do but remembering that dark doesn’t contain light, and light is needed in my life- as often as possible.
so for today, i am remembering that being angry and afraid is not how i have to live my life. i have options. i have choices. i can take a chance and let go of this anger and fear. i can realize that maybe you don’t know how i feel. maybe you don’t connect your stance with where i am at. i have seen the movie from this seat before and i didn’t like the view. but instead of getting angry, i can just find a new seat in the theatre.
after hearing tyler clementi’s tragic story, i have been wrestling with the idea that i might need to be doing more to reach out to young gay people. i understand only too well, the challenges of being different coupled with guilt and self-loathing that many of these young gay men and women must work through. it is a dark dark journey that on some days takes all one can muster just to make it through a day. the internalized shame is completely toxic.
at the root of all of this is homophobia. people make fun of the characteristics of others because they are different and people are afraid. and this fear of gay people oftentimes is rooted in the perpetrators’ own self loathing.
but to have one’s initial sexplorations secretly videotaped and then posted online amid a small cloistered community like a college likens itself in my mind to torture. hazing, taunting, and torture. certainly the culprits did not intend for tyler’s reaction. no, they probably didn’t see it as an option. and that is the high crime here. that something could be funny takes priority over someone getting hurt is negligent, self-involved, and criminal.
i do have to admit that this does not seem far out of character for those in their late teens and early twenties. the dark possibilities in life have not yet reared their ugly heads to young persons in that age group. they (as did i) have a tendency to live in a safe bubble and still hold a belief that nothing will hurt us. but as the experience of actual living reveals to us, that we do get hurt. really hurt, seriously and permanently hurt sometimes.
my experience shows me that much of this early adult trauma that is both felt and perpetrated morphs into a life of heavy substance abuse and addiction, self abuse, and hiv infections. there may be an internal self-hating that never really goes away if it is not addressed. it can lay dormant for long periods and then resurface when life situations take a southerly direction. and life does go south now and again and when it does, the roots of shame can return as an infection, a virus, and a bacteria all rolled into one. we can find ourselves feeling as unprotected, vulnerable, and weak as we were when we were 17.
dan savage, dave navarro, ellen degeneres and many others are stepping up and beginning what should be an ongoing quest. how do we make the world a better place than when we got here? how do we squelch this force of hatred and separation that confronts so many lgbtq youth?
i don’t have the answer. i don’t know that i am sure where to begin. but i will become kinder. i can make an effort to reach backwards and become more inclusive. and i can make sure i don’t forget. i got work to do…