fear

working through challenges

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“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~Unknown
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~Unknown

bird bag six pack tortoise belt

most of come into this world without flaw. for some of us though, life indiscriminately creates trauma, wounds us, cripples us, thwarts us, terrorizes us, and drops us unknowingly like a to-go bag tossed out the window. this often just starts the challenging part of our journey, as we have to carry on as though nothing has happened. the world around seems thoroughly unaware that the slower pace we have, the longer time we require to connect the dots, the lack of rebound we demonstrate in simple situation is often the direct result of changes to our hardwiring due to our path.

just as often, we seem just as unaware. we see life as hard, tedious, flat, low on hope mostly because we prefer not to feel any more loss. i’m not sure for other just when the mediocre fades and the light comes on. for me, the last 10 years have seemed like someone cut the plastic from my body, or rinsed the oil that clogged my pores.

i feel blessed to have survived and such great relief to have loosed a burden. that gratitude shall remain with me as long as i can use my brain.

part of that which crippled me was the self-doubt and self-judgement that arose from being one of the unfortunates. there was no thought or promise of good coming from that which scarred. the gift of time has revealed so much artistry in the process of survival.

i find myself now in the throes of old fears and doubts. my situation takes a new turn and i steep in ancient waters mostly with the direct thought that good things won’t last and if they happen to do just that it won’t be in tandem with me.

i found a post from tiny buddha, which spoke to my process right now. this was written by tess marshall….

The following tips will allow you to face fear and put it in its place.

1. Get comfortable with fear.

Invite fear into your life. When you fear something, move toward it.  Feel it, and breathe through it.

Do the things that frighten you. Action builds courage. Tell yourself, “This fear will pass.” Your world expands as your courage expands.

2. Make your dominant thoughts positive.

Fearful thoughts attract more fear. Positive thoughts attract success. Instead of expecting the worst, train your mind to expect the best. Make positive assumptions about your future.

3. Don’t give time, attention, or energy to fear.

Hold yourself accountable. Be consistent, be prepared, be dependable, and focus on solutions.

Be innovative, take the initiative, and go the extra mile. If you don’t take action despite your fear, opportunity will pass you by.

4. Never dwell on scarcity.

Learn to think, speak, and live as an abundant person. Turn off the news. Celebrate what you have. Be generous.

Focus your attention on being ready, willing, and prepared for the beauty, wonder, connections, good fortune, and favorable circumstances that are yours if you are willing to work and be open to it.

5. Revisit your victories.

Strengthen your belief in yourself by reflecting on the last three years of your life and every success you’ve experienced.

Close your eyes and feel the celebratory emotion of each one. Bring the same drive, persistence, and talent into now and allow it to inspire and motivate you.

6. Live vicariously through the victories of others.

Use the success stories of others. Read how the Brooklyn Bridge was built. Study the success of Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, and Oprah Winfrey. Take note of the courage they developed and follow their path to greatness.

7. Ask your family and friends for encouragement.

My family can see my strength when I forget I have it. At my request, they don’t hesitate to remind me of all trials and triumphs we have come through. They’re generous with praise and encouragement.  Ask your loved ones to do the same for you.

8. Create a support group of friends or colleagues.

Robert Fulghum said it best in his book, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: “When you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” Sticking together makes tough times easier and easier times more fun!

9. Plan to be great.

Step into your power and dream big. Follow it up with calculated risks and deliberate action steps. Have no doubt about your success. Your dreams are at stake here!

You have the power to do what it takes to break through any obstacles that stand in the way of yourself, your dreams, and your happiness.

progress… not perfection

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The present moment contains past and future. The secret of transformation, is in the way we handle this very moment. — Thich Nhat Hanh – Understanding Our Mind
The present moment
contains past and future.
The secret of transformation,
is in the way we handle this very moment.
— Thich Nhat Hanh – Understanding Our Mind

 

we only see as deeply as we look. even then, we have no guarantee that we will really see.

i certainly realize how easily it is to look past things that cause me discomfort because the fear of the unknown beneath that is more powerful. even when life seems so painful the way it is, there are many times i would rather endure than risk not knowing what’s next.

faith definitely helps with this, but it doesn’t erase it. lately i have been referring to the white lies i tell myself and other as “flash cards” that i have preprinted and hold up as answers sometimes when having a conversation about the truth i don’t feel ready to face.

a big part of the work in front of me is to become aware when i am using flash cards instead of being authentic. sounds easy i know, but lemme tell you it ain’t at all. i am an accomplished storyteller and faker.

“It Takes A Lot To Know A Man”

It takes a lot to know a man
It takes a lot to understand
The warrior, the sage
The little boy enraged

It takes a lot to know a woman
A lot to understand what’s humming
The honeybee, the sting
The little girl with wings

It takes a lot to give, to ask for help
To be yourself, to know and love what you live with
It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel
The slow reveal of what another body needs

It takes a lot to know a man
A lot to know, to understand
The father and the son
The hunter and the gun

It takes a lot know a woman
A lot to comprehend what’s coming
The mother and the child
The muse and the beguiled

It takes a lot to give, to ask for help
To be yourself, to know and love what you live with
It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel
The slow reveal of what another body needs

It takes a lot to give, to ask for help
To be yourself, to know and love what you live with
It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel
The slow reveal of what another body needs

It takes a lot to live, to ask for help
To be yourself, to know and love what you live with
It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel
The slow reveal of what another body needs

What are you so afraid to lose?
What is it you’re thinking that will happen if you do?
What are you so afraid to lose?
(You wrote me to tell me you’re nervous and you’re sorry)
What is it you’re thinking that will happen if you do?
(Crying like a baby saying “this thing is killing me”)
What are you so afraid to lose?
(You wrote me to tell me you’re nervous and you’re sorry)
What is it you’re thinking that will happen if you do?
(Crying like a baby saying “this thing is killing me”)
You wrote me to tell me you’re nervous and you’re sorry
Crying like a baby saying “this thing is killing me”

epiphany

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Better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.
Better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things…Buddha

unless i’m mistaken, life has shown me a curious mental twist that i may inhabit. there is an underlying and primal urge to blow into the face of calm. this probably stems from a history of trauma and drama. mebbe i feel more at home with chaos than with serenity. this sounds insane. i understand however that this is a coping strategy. better to create chaos than fall into it while i am looking at the stars.

although depression is not the force majeur, i am now led to believe that it could be possible to rewrite the program. there is definitely an “ugh” beyond this “aha”. but beyond this “ugh” there is hope.

for this long term survivor, hope is not always in abundance. gratitude yes- hope- well not so much. the train has left the station is a mask i wear frequently. fear not here. there is no magic in this. i am naive, but not to the level that i might believe knowing a thing is the same at all as living and breathing a thing. i have to inhabit this idea of rewriting my emotional program now. for the last few years i have spent much time recognizing it- and some would say still working on it.

the break of dawn here is that moving forward may have opportunity. not just to recognize, but to galvanize and reappropriate and redistribute. hella lotta work. something worth working for, i’d say.

 

rewriting your emotional program (click here)

 

Well, I’m hiding my eyes from the morning sun
And I keep on working till the work is all done
But a voice in my head keeps ticking away
As the sweat’s hosed down from yet another day

Well, he works hard
And he lives hard
And he breaks his back without nothing to gain
While the boss man sits around and drinks champagne

All day
In life, there’s just one transition
All day
In life, there’s just one decision

Well, I’m peeling the blisters off a working hand
Is that what it takes to make you understand?
That it’s something you read, not something you meant
To be slaving away without a shred of integrity

He worked hard
Oh, and he lived hard
And he broke his back without nothing to say
While the man in control was just laughing away

All day
In life, there’s just one transition
All day
In life, there’s just one decision

In life, there’s just one transition

Was it something you read?
Was it something you meant?
Was it something you said?
Or was it Heaven sent?????

 … Al Jourgensen

 

sunsets, nostalgia, and the promise of a new day

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“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.”  ― Ray Bradbury
“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.”
― Ray Bradbury

as a result of my recent resignation from the workplace, an ask of direction as well as intention seems a good next step. one could wonder if perhaps i might have benefitted from taking the time to do this seriously prior to stepping through the next appearing doorway. but that particular hindsight may have no influence here.

this blog falls under the purview of this next step. started blogging during my 3rd year of recovery about 2006. it was fun then taking on a new hobby. it felt clunky and i didn’t have a road map. there were online communities and instructions, but that is not how i have ever learned a skill (this trait still holds true). i remember when i got my first comment on my blog from a fellow blogger from idaho who was struggling with some similar issues as well as  struggling with his life choices. it is an instant recall to muster the excitement and validation i felt when some unknown soul from outside my own personal universe connected with my journey. i was hooked and soon i had fashioned a support network of seekers from around the globe which was less demanding and intimate than my friends in real life. it extended my outreach and influence, while at the same time i stunted my emotional growth experience.

but as my recovery journey emanated beyond the blog-o-sphere  and co-mingled with my career path my inspiration and artistic freedom shrank. although blogging remains a vital spiritual practice for me, the profile of this practice has diminished these 8 years. the output is restricted to internal struggles, the organically embedded love of music woven through me, and reposted images and graphics. many times, i find myself sitting in front of the keyboard engaging in a sort of improvisational blogging, drawing inspiration from a found jpg or png, or a swirling few tidbits of a newly discovered or recently remembered melody or lyric. it is mostly rote and completely routine providing more reassurance to me than release. i am more connected with the process than i am with the content. it has become more objectively introspective than externally exploration and  provides the sustenance of a snack now than the meal it served up at the start of it all. i now possess a sense of ownership rather than the inspiration i once knew.

i long for a rekindling of my spiritual connectedness to this process. i continue to resonate with a life built upon shame based trauma. it is a reflection of my own story, but i don’t seem to have gained insight by a continued stream of internal review.

just as it became appropriate to transition from journalling about addiction, treatment, hiv, meth, and rogue sexual ideology to the more reflective topic of long-term recovery, it  now seems time to channel a new muse.

i am unsure if i am too weathered to begin all over. i long to use personally generated graphics and images at least as a philosophy and a cornerstone of my product. it seems imperative to extend my view outward and process my experience from an evolved vantage point.

 

when it doubt ….. try backtracking

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“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”
“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”

selkie as metaphor

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One particularly frightening and prevalent legend of the merrow tells the tale of male merrows who capture the drowned souls of sailors and put them into pots. These pots stay at the bottom of the sea, never to release the poor sailors' souls...unless a willing human being were to release them. The male merrows were said to be downright malevolent and awfully ugly. Perhaps this is why we have stories of female merrows seducing human men. The females would seduce sailors and other young men by singing to them (similar to the Greek sirens), and then drag them under the waves to the bottom of the sea. No one knows what happened to these men, though some believed they stayed alive in a state of enchantment. Others believed they were drowned and killed. One particularly interesting aspect of these Gaelic legends is that the merrows were only able to swim underwater with the aid of magic - a magical red "cap" to be exact. If a person was to steal this cap and not return it to the merrow, the merrow would then be unable to return to his/her home under water. In one legend, an Irish man is granted use of the red cap so that he can visit a male merrow's home under the sea.
One particularly frightening and prevalent legend of the merrow tells the tale of male merrows who capture the drowned souls of sailors and put them into pots. These pots stay at the bottom of the sea, never to release the poor sailors’ souls…unless a willing human being were to release them. The male merrows were said to be downright malevolent and awfully ugly. Perhaps this is why we have stories of female merrows seducing human men. The females would seduce sailors and other young men by singing to them (similar to the Greek sirens), and then drag them under the waves to the bottom of the sea. No one knows what happened to these men, though some believed they stayed alive in a state of enchantment. Others believed they were drowned and killed.
One particularly interesting aspect of these Gaelic legends is that the merrows were only able to swim underwater with the aid of magic – a magical red “cap” to be exact. If a person was to steal this cap and not return it to the merrow, the merrow would then be unable to return to his/her home under water. In one legend, an Irish man is granted use of the red cap so that he can visit a male merrow’s home under the sea.

the idea of the selkie seems universal to me. even kafka eluded to the creature living out of it element and comfort zone withing the story of gregor samsa in “metamorphosis”. and my new favorite comparison to that image of samsa writhing on his bed after becoming a cockroach as he struggled to recognize who he had become is beautifully rendered in the film “12 years a slave” with a scene of the main character chained to a cellar floor, stripped of the physical connections to his identity, pulling and writhing in the dark, almost blindly trying to figure out where he was and who he had been before now. david byrne (and talking heads) wrote “where is that beautiful house, where is my beautiful wife, how did i get here?”

it has been part of my journey to find myself feeling captured and/or washed ashore. weak from the effects of the foreign elements around me, i have struggled trying to remember just who i am and where i came from and more importantly where i am going. i felt fearful of almost everything. fearful of the current routines, fearful of the stories i hear, fearful of my own instincts, because my sense of grounding is so obliterated.

as ernie larsen discusses so eloquently in his writings about emotional sobriety, it is a wondrous and often mesmerizing task to unveil the truth about who we are and how we are. i am humbled during this process. i never imagined that my agenda could be so self-involved. yet it is. i am embarrassed at my own immaturity as well as the magnitude of my ego.

my buddhist readings teach me to lean into these uncomfortable positions in life. so damn hard to do when every fiber in my being wants to fill the void with my ego and my fear.  so i continue to find myself writhing around trying to remember who i am and where i am. thank heaven it is called spirtual practice. that’s exactly what i need more of- practice.

But what fascinated me most were the stories of selkies — seals who could shed their skins and take human form. “The seas around Orkney and Shetland harbor the shy Selkies or Seal-Faeries (known as the Roane in Ireland). A female Selkie is able to discard her seal skin and come ashore as a beautiful maiden. If a human can capture His skin, the selkie can be forced to become a fine, if wistful, wife. However, should she ever find her skin she immediately returns to the sea, leaving the husband to pine and die. The males raise storms and upturn boats to avenge the indicriminate slaughter of the seals.” — Brian Froud and Alan Lee, “Faeries”

forget me not

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“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.” ― Marcel Proust
“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of
life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they
continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It
is as though they were traveling abroad.”
― Marcel Proust

 

memorial day weekend 2014, hbo brought us ryan murphy’s film adaptation of larry kramer’s play “the normal heart”.  memorial day indeed.

1981 heralded in what is the most prolific alarm of my lifetime; a mysterious gay cancer that was leveling the souls of a once small number of gay men in american urban meccas with the voracity of weed whacker on a summer day on cul-du-sac. the real difference however was that the force behind the whacking seemed at once mercurial, invisible, and personal. and as hiv machete(d) a path through our lives those early years, it left deep and cavernous scar tissue that remains tender now and will remain so most likely to our end of days.

the first in our circle that i can really recall was john bennet. and i behaved like a complete ass towards him. he was a friend of blue’s and he was whispering in a loud darkened corner of the manhole about his diagnosis. i remember reacting to the news with complete and caustic judgement. how dare he pick such a place to disclose? so inappropriate. john slipped away within weeks. i saw him a couple more times and silently screamed at the horror of his weight loss and the onset of a death mask that became so damn common in our circles.

the biggest trauma for me was twofold. my bestie paul had moved to nyc to attend columbia. he was such a cutie-pie; handsome, intelligent, funny, awkward, and loving. he was buff and beautiful. he was ready for the 80’s. 2 years later he moved back to chicago having lost 1/3 of his body weight while learning to cope with constant diarrhea and thrush. we had become friends through restaurant work and soon moved on to food nerds and wine snobs as well. i remember upon his return going to dinner at a new tapas restaurant on halsted and witnessing his tears as the food we shared seared into his über delicate tongue like a branding iron.

i tested positive the same year paul died. the war front atmosphere of life for this gay man became too much to even pretend to handle. cocaine and vodka acted like a key to the door of my cellar of ignorance and i went there as often as i could. please don’t read this as “oh woe is me”.  i don’t know many gay men and women who don’t still carry trauma from those years. it was much like that movie inception where the world starts to fold up on itself like a fold up chess board but with us as the pieces still remaining in play.  that sort of experience takes time to comprehend, let alone move beyond.

i found the  hbo production to be a beautiful gift. i think it is enormously thoughtful and detailed. it captures the essence of that time for me. i remember viewing actup the same way i reacted to john bennet. with judgement and avoidance. frankly, i don’t do conflict well. i learned early on that tuning out was my drug of choice and so faced with these hard realities, i did the only thing i knew.

but thank goodness for larry kramer, actup, and the revolution. i am so indebted to their ability to be present in that amazing crisis. i cared for people who needed it, but to have the where-with-all to scream at injustice like a scene from “invasion of the body snatchers” seems prolific and monument-worthy. as a culture, we were not prepared for any of this. we snapped and bitched at each other out of terror. it took years to find common ground and resolve. it took thousands of memorial services, funerals, and volunteer hours.

it was a complete loss of innocence for our people. there was a very short and immensely beautiful adolescence before we were thrust into adulthood. then there is ptsd, chemo-like medication, survivor’s guilt, repressed anger, and aging.  don’t get me wrong. i love my life today. i love being sober. i love my vocation and being able to offer support to others. but i do still miss those days and those beautiful souls. and i would step back for a minute. even knowing what was coming.

Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols… Thomas Mann

thank you larry kramer. thank you peter staley. thanks to so many of you for guiding the ship while i threw up over the side. i honestly regret not seeing your inner light back then. i needed you. we needed you and never were able to recognize it, let alone appreciate how important expressing our anger would be and how far that would help us travel. and we helped our community and our world step into a new century with insight and understanding beyond imagination.

 

 

under pressure

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On the other hand, what I like my music to do to me is awaken the ghosts inside of me. Not the demons, you understand, but the ghosts. David Bowie
On the other hand, what I like my music to do to me is awaken the ghosts inside of me. Not the demons, you understand, but the ghosts.
David Bowie

 

i think i may have reached a turning point in my career. at this juncture, i have encountered something which seems new and also defeatist. that something is fear.

i am not sure what exactly i am afraid of which might actually make this whole situation seem worse. i might be afraid of failure which is possible. i might be afraid of losing my security which has sensible attributes. i might actually be afraid  that my colleagues and supervisors may judge me although i have no doubt that they already engage in activities like that. but as i said, i am not sure what i might fearful of.

and being fearful is what is unusual for me. until now, i have just moved forward with ideas and creating processes and programs mostly because i was in the position to do so and i could channel the capability. as i stand on the threshold of doing more and creating more, i feel the winds of second thoughts and reticence and the whole thing has me a bit spooked.

experience tells me that creating processes and programs comes with a price tag. i have given up friends, i have let go of support mechanisms that were dear, and  i have walked through old trauma as it was triggered by a rival. i have played politics among frenemies as if it were a poker tournament for dollars and control.

this gambling and wagering and jockeying for the win happen to be my least favorite of all this. i would just prefer to have the freedom to create things and i definitely would prefer that all the processes and ideas i have would be wonderful and win accolades. sadly tho, that is fantastical rubbish. there are many players who have similar ideas and hold similar hopes.

maybe i just don’t want the competition. maybe i just don’t like to lose. i do like challenges. i don’t however like to walk precarious paths in order to rise above those challenges at least not while being scrutinized by rivals.

it seems that the turning point i speak of has to do with coming in off this ledge i seemed to have wandered onto. i have to make a decision to try something more (or not).  i guess we’ll see how this all turns out.

 

Turned away from it all like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn
Why, why, why?

Love

Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?..