Magic Pills

I just read a blog post that has really got me thinking.  It started with a tweet on Twitter.  Anita1956 said, “Would I take the straight pill? Here’s my answer.” with a link to her blog http://tinyurl.com/aa78mp.  Here’s what she said:


The Straight Pill

Date March 13, 2009

If there was a pill that could make me straight

…..Straight in body

…..Straight in mind

…..Straight in heart

…....I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would restore all my lost friendships

…..And regain my parents pride

…..And give back my families respect

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would return me to my former ministry

…..And the admiration of the congregation

…..And the loving welcome of the church

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would replace the love I have for my wife with an equal love for a man

…..And we could legally marry

…..And we would be granted full rights under the law without fighting for them

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would mean no one would reject me for being who I am

…..And for saying what I believe

…..And for standing boldly as one who follows Christ

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill could take the world back in time,

…..Before I came out of the closet,

…..Before I said I was gay

…..Before I knew I was gay

…..Before inequality touched me

…..Before hate revealed its ugliness to me

…..Before anyone rejected me

…..Before anything was lost to me

…..Before I ever questioned God’s love for me

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking that pill would make me straight

…..And famous

…..And wealthy

…..And talented

…..And adored

…..And beautiful

…..And thin

…....I would not take it.

…....I would not take it.

…....I. Would. Not. Take. It.

I would never take a pill that would make me straight because

…....I love being who I am

…....I love being whole and free

…….I love seeing the world from where I stand

…....I love knowing God from this place

…....I love feeling passion burning in me for equality

…....I love being part of a people who are courageous and relentless

…....I love being one in Spirit with every queer youth

…………..With every gay man and woman

……………With every bisexual man and woman

…………..With every transman and transwoman

……………With every ally and friend

……………With everyone who questions, doubts and searches

…….And I love being one in Spirit with you

……………Bound in hope, and faith, and love

……………Bound in God

If there was a pill I could take that would make you straight

………..And taking that pill would end all your confusion and anxiety

……….And remove your fear that God has rejected you

……………I would not take that pill even for you.

You are gay.

…..You are not wrong.

…..…..You are not sinful.

…..…..…..You are not evil or perverted.

…..…....…..You are not unworthy.

…..…..…..…..…..You are not a mistake.

…..…..…..…..…..…..You are not to be ashamed.

You are gay.

…..God loves you.

…..…..God holds you.

…..…..…..God stands with you.

…..…..…..…..God delights in you.

…..…..…..…..…..God calls you “My own.”

If there was a pill that could make me straight

…..And make you straight

…..And you

…..And you

…..And you

…....I would not take it.

…....I would not take it.

…....I. Would. Not. Take. It.

Before I even clicked the link to her blog I answered that question for myself.  “Yes!  I’d take that pill in a heartbeat!” Being gay is one of the biggest struggles I’ve ever dealt with in my life and most of the time I feel like if I could chose not to be gay, I would.

Growing up in a “Christian” home as a gay boy is an incredible challenge.  It is made abundantly clear to you from the beginning that homosexuality is wrong, that homosexuality is a perversion, and that homosexuals are damned for all eternity.  There is an incredible amount of fear that is driven into Christian children about hell and sin and damnation and we learn from a very young age that we want to do everything in our power to make sure we don’t go there.  This results in tremendous amounts of guilt and shame.

For me, the shame was too much to bear and I denied who I was for most of my life.  I chose to believe that I was not gay, that there were other, perfectly legitimate reasons why I was aroused by the images of the male models in the International Male and Undergear catalogues I subscribed to when I was a teenager.  I convinced myself that one day, when I met the woman God had in store for me, I would be physically attracted to her and I would feel normal and complete.

I finally began to admit to myself that I was gay and accept who I was about four years ago and I said it out loud for the first time when I told my therapist two years ago.  By this time, I had read the bible, The King James version, from cover to cover and learned that what I had been told my entire life was cut and dried, well, it really wasn’t.  I learned that there were a lot of discrepancies between the things I had been taught to believe and what I determined for myself in those pages.  I learned that while the Bible is an important resource that there is more research to be done and so I did.

I researched on-line the question of whether homosexuality is an immorality, whether it’s a sin and what it means to be gay and a Christian.  When it all started, I went in search of something definitive that would tell me what I was already sure must be true:  That Homosexuality is, in fact, an irrefutable sin.  What I found instead, was a whole lot of the same rhetoric, the same answers and explanations about why homosexuality is wrong, with all of the same holes that I had yet to explain away.  The same holes that made me question the accuracy, the validity of what I’d been taught.  These holes left me with questions and doubts.  The explanations didn’t sit well with me.  They didn’t feel… They didn’t feel true.  I believe that we all, each of us, possess a spirit that is to some extent or other, in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I started to realize that the reason these explanations didn’t feel or seem right to me is because my spirit knew they weren’t.  My spirit was hungry for the truth.

So I dug deeper and I found several resources with more information.  I found resources that did a better job of explaining what the various Biblical references which are used against us might have really meant.  I found scholarly authors who had a deeper understanding of what the times and the languages were like, and how the Bible might have been translated incorrectly over the generations and centuries that have passed.  And I found a reminder that the God I love and serve is a loving God who wants the best for me, who wants me to be happy.  I finally came to accept that the thoughts and feelings and urges that I was stifling for so many years, close to 30 of them, were normal and natural and a part of me, who I am, the way God made me.

I didn’t take this information lightly, and I didn’t set out to find justification for me to behave in a way that was not morally right.  Honestly, I set out to prove, once and for all, that what I was taught my whole life was absolute fact and that I had to continue to suffer until God saw fit change me and make me “normal”.  I resisted the things that I read that told me that I was OK as a gay man.  I resisted the urge to rejoice at the affirmations that I found because surely, as my mother would have told me were she involved, I was “possessed of the Devil”, I was “being deceived.”  Surely it wasn’t possible that I could, in fact, be gay and be acceptable in God’s sight.  But the evidence mounted, the case was made over and over again… and my spirit?  My spirit was at peace.  I stopped hurting.  I started healing.  I told my four closest friends.

I still struggle with the internalized homophobia that I was raised in.  I still struggle with accepting myself, but now, it’s because I’m programmed this way, not because I really believe that there’s anything wrong with whom I am.  I have to believe that as time moves on, I’ll struggle less and less and be more and more content in my life.

What I really struggle with, though, is the shame.  Not shame because I think there’s something wrong, but shame because I’m so sure everyone else will.  I get anxious when I write something like this because I’m sure that someone will read this and tell me that I can’t be both gay and a Christian.  (Of course I can.)  I’m afraid someone will read this and begin to scrutinize me and my behavior in a different way now that they know I call myself a Christian.  (I’m not living my life for those people, but no one likes to be judged.)  The truth is I hold myself up to the measure my mother has set out for me and I know I fail miserably.  Most days I’m OK with that.  I know I will never measure up to her expectations and I know that most of her expectations are unreasonably high anyway, but part of my internal programming is to see her expectations as those of all Christians and I assume I’ll be judged and condemned by all of them for one reason or another once they learn that I call myself one of them.  (I don’t really call myself one of them and I suspect that will make for another lengthy blog post in the future, but the terminology is the same even if the intent is different.)

The shame that I struggle with has crippled me with regard to coming out to my family.  Not a single member of my family knows that I’m gay while I have to believe some of them may suspect.  It is with this knowledge that as I bring this post nearer to its conclusion and prepare to press that “publish” button I am shaking and feeling genuine anxiety about putting this information out there for the world to see.  You see, my Twitter account updates my Facebook status.  My brother is my only immediate family member who is on Facebook.  I post links to my new blog posts on Twitter which means they’ll show up on Facebook as well.  It is not a stretch to think that my brother will actually see this post and because I am such a coward, this is how he’s going to learn the truth.  Will he say anything to me?  I don’t know.  Will he tell other members of my family?  He might.  Am I disappointed in myself that I can’t just say it to them?  Of course I am.

So if such a pill existed that could make me straight, would I take it?  I’m afraid that is not as simple a question as I first thought it was.  I’d be inclined to take it.  I’d never have to worry about telling my family the truth.  I’d never have to worry about facing the internalized doubts and fears that persist.  I’d never have to worry about having to tell people in my daily life.  And I’d never have to worry about trying to learn how to date as a gay man, or find someone that I could happily spend the rest of my life with.  Life would certainly be easier if I were straight.

On the other hand, maybe taking that pill would be like turning my back on everything that I learned in this process; that God did not make a mistake when he made me; that I am gay because that is how God intended it; that there is nothing wrong with me just because I’m gay; and that God loves me every bit as much today as he did the day I invited him into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior and the only thing that has really changed is, now, I know the truth.

If there was a pill that I could take that would make me straight, would I take it?  I’m sad to say that it would be a tough decision to make, but in the end, No, I would not take it.


———————————————————————————————

My special thanks to Anita, author of the blog that started this, first for writing the post to begin with and second, for granting me her blessing to re-post it here for all to see.

Mama Told Me Not To…

It almost seems like a cliche to me when people talk about that special teacher that changed their lives.  Maybe it’s because I was never on a bad path.  Hell, I was never on much of a path at all, to be honest.  I never knew what I wanted to do with my life because every time I suggested something it was shot down by Scornful Mother.  She always said I couldn’t do whatever that idea was and remain a solid, faithful Christian.  I don’t know if she was trying to get me to follow a particular path (ministry, maybe?) or if she just didn’t like the one, she felt I was on, but nothing ever measured up to her expectations, which is funny because she was an undereducated secretary my whole life.  Dead Beat Dad on the other hand was– Well, the moniker pretty well speaks for itself.

It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that he really made a showing of a home based business, and that was in the business of tree removal.  Let’s see, sun, bad weather, grass, leaves, saw dust, falling trees, debris to be picked up, not to mention power tools like chain saws, stump grinders and wood chippers.  Not a thing about that is appealing to this mid-western, mama’s boy, homo, who suffers from allergies year round and is so pale when you off the lights you can still see where I am for about 8 minutes.  I didn’t exactly have much in the way of an example to follow or a legacy to inherit.  No, I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life on my own.  (Sadly, I’m still trying to figure it out.)

So, I wasn’t on any path.  I wasn’t on course for a life of crime.  I wasn’t trying to make myself fit into an accounting mold, when I can’t balance my own checkbook.  On the other hand, I didn’t show any natural ability or throw myself whole heartedly into any particular program or task.  I was about to say that no intervention was ever needed for me, but the truth is, I really could have stood to have an intervention of a completely different variety.  I could really stood for someone to take a special interest in me and help me find my way in life.  Help to find the resources I needed to figure out what I wanted to do and to follow that path.

No I never felt like I had a particular teacher that made that sort of an impact in my life and so while there was always one teacher in particular who stood out for me as my favorite, I never thought of her as that teacher and in fact, I haven’t thought of her at all in quite some time.  So, it was quite surprising to me when I awoke the other morning and remembered my dream from the night before… Well, maybe not remembered the dream, I rarely do, but I remembered the subject.  I dreamed about this special teacher.

In 1987, Scornful Mother decided that she wished to attend Rhema Bible Training Center, in The Town Named for Damaged Naive American Weaponry, a smallish town just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I call TTNFDNAW “smallish”, because it had all the hallmarks of a small town (no highways, more stop signs than traffic signals, no malls, no public transportation, no noticeable government to speak of), and yet I graduated in a class of 868 people and it was the smallest class we’d had in five years.  We had been living in Edmond, a smallish town outside Oklahoma City for three years when she decided this.  While CPA Sis and I went to spend the summer with Dead Beat Dad in Ohio, Scornful Mother applied to and was accepted at Rhema Bible Training Center, or Rhema, for short, but had no idea how she was going to pay for it, or for the move.  She was trusting God that this was what she was supposed to do but she had no plan.

At the end of the summer, Dead Beat Dad brought CPA Sis and me back to Oklahoma so that we could start school.  The school year started in Edmond a week earlier than it did in The Town Named for Damaged Native American Weaponry and Scornful Mother allowed us to not attend that one week of school in Edmond.  I remember feeling so special because I didn’t have to go off to school when my best friend across the street did.  We made the move and got enrolled in schools three days after the year started in TTNFDNAW, but not with enough time to get class schedules or tours of the schools.  I was in the seventh grade and had never been “the new kid in school” before in my life.

It didn’t happen the way it does in the movies and on TV.  I showed up at the school twenty minutes before classes started.  I went into the school office and got my schedule, but there was no cool kid, no trouble maker, no first period office aid to be selected by the principle to show me around and keep me from feeling like a complete outsider.  They handed me my class schedule pointed in the general direction of the first room and sent me on my way.  No one even told me where the library or cafeteria were.

Somehow I made it through the first half of my first day OK, but I was late to almost every class.  Then, lunchtime came and I was lost.  I sort of followed the general crowd but wasn’t sure where I was going and at some point the crowd split and I didn’t know what to do.  It must have shown on my face because suddenly I heard a soft voice.

“Are you lost?  Do you need some help?”  It was an “older” woman, not much taller than my 12 year old self and quite rotund.  She had on large, square framed glasses and had wild curly hair and she had the most comforting, welcoming smile.

“Yes, please.  This is my first day and I don’t know where the cafeteria is,” I said, rather shyly.

She smiled, placed a reassuring hand on my back and pointed toward a single door just across and slightly down the hall from me.  “Well, there’re two choices.  We have what they call the slow food cafeteria which is right here.  That’s the side door for it.  There’s also the fast food cafeteria down there.”  With that she pointed down the hall.  I thanked her and walked into the door she’d pointed at.  I was on the “free lunch” (there really is such a thing as a free lunch) program and didn’t know if it applied to the fast food cafeteria.

I finished eating my lunch and put my tray away and pulled out my class schedule to find my next class, music.  I walked out the same door I had walked in and looked up at the first door I saw, just across and down the hall from where I was standing.  Lo and behold, it happened to be the same room I was looking for.  I walked into the room to find the teacher and show her my schedule so she could tell me where to sit and wouldn’t you know, it was the same kindly “older” lady who had helped me find my way to lunch.  Her name was Betty Griffith and she felt like my lifesaver.  She was so kind and inviting and made me feel like I was welcome and normal and had nothing to worry about.

Mrs. Griffith was, in a lot of ways, my best friend that year.  She helped me find my way around the school, quelled any fears and embarrassment I was feeling for being lost and feeling like a spectacle.  She welcomed me into the choir and made me feel like an important part of the group.

We had our ups and downs for sure.  Shortly after school started I asked if I could come to her classroom after school each day and help her clean up or whatever she needed.  (I don’t think I ever told her it was because Ex Con Older Brother was abusive and I didn’t want to go home and be around him)  After that I spent nearly every day after school for 45 minutes or so, straightening chairs, collecting music, cleaning the chalkboard, straightening papers and talking to Mrs. Griffith.  When it came time for the school play, she directed because the drama teacher was out on maternity leave.  androcles_logoI auditioned for the play, Androcles and the Lion, (deliberately showing up at the very end so no one else would be around to hear me) and then told her I’d rather be behind the scenes.  The first of many mistakes on my part regarding my interest in the theater.  I was the curtain puller and an unofficial part of the chorus, so I was always there for rehearsal.  She asked her husband who was an amateur thespian to come and help us.  He was always very serious and direct, coming across as mean and grumpy, I thought,  and I found it uncomfortable.  Somewhere in my adolescent 12 year old mind I thought it was a good idea to tell her this.  Not only did I tell her this but I told her at a  highly stressful time for her.

I was at my post, ready and waiting to pull the curtain (hand over hand so it’s not jerky) and she came bursting through looking for someone who was supposed to be on stage but wasn’t, when I stopped her and said, just as pleasantly as could be, “Mrs. Griffith, no offense, but, I really hate it when your husband is here.”  I think I was even smiling.  I’d heard “no offense” many times and knew it took all the sting out.

She, on the other hand was not smiling, “Well, you know,” she said rather tersely, “I really do take offense to that.”  And with that she stomped off in search of the missing cast member.

I felt like a shit and couldn’t believe that “no offense” hadn’t worked.  She taught me a valuable lesson that day.  You can’t just say whatever you want to a person and expect there to be no consequences.  The next day before class, I apologized to her and all was forgiven.

Once she needed help posting something to a district owned marquee at a very busy intersection.  I of course volunteered to assist and to repay my efforts she took me to the local 7-11 and bought me a 1/2 pound bag of M&M’s.  The bag was still open and partially full, in my coat pocket the next day when I arrived at class and at some point I had gone to the front of the room and then dropped something on the floor.  I bent over to pick it up and M&M’s went flying all over the floor.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to have them in class and she was angry at me for making the mess and having them there.  I was all the more embarrassed because she had bought them for me.

When the year was drawing to a close and we had to select the classes we wanted to take the following year I had decided to take Drama.  The only problem was, you had to audition for the class.  I signed up to audition but I wimped out and did not go. When Mrs. Griffith found out about this she told me I had to audition and she would talk to the Drama teacher about giving me another shot.  For one reason or another, the boy who was playing Androcles in the play also had missed the audition and so he and I went before school one day to audition for the teacher.  We did a scene from the play where he played Androcles and I played his wife, Hermione.  (Go figure!)  I made the class and he did not.

In the 8th grade, I opted to be her student aide, instead of taking choir.  I wanted to have the best of both worlds.  I wanted to be in choir but I wanted to be special and she tried to accommodate me.  I was her first period student aide and I was late almost every day.  (Not unlike now!)  One day, I noticed that in her attendance book she had me marked as being tardy every day.  After eight tardies I was supposed to get detention.  When I mentioned to her how much I appreciated that she hadn’t given me detention, she said that she had to, and she would, she just hadn’t gotten around to it.  She never did and I don’t know if she just honestly didn’t get around to it, or if she only said that to “scare me straight” but after that I tried much harder to get to school on time.

When I moved on to the 9th grade and a new school, I tried to come back and visit her periodically but it was difficult to do and then she moved to another school.

I exchanged a few letters with her after I got engaged, and moved to live with Dead Beat Dad temporarily.  I told her of my engagement and of the young child I would to step-father.  She told me in a return letter that married men were adults and as an adult I was entitled to call her by her first name.  I don’t know if I ever did.  After six years of calling her Mrs. Griffith, I just couldn’t wrap my tongue around “Betty”.   Not long after that, we lost touch.  I think I was embarrassed to tell her that, what I suspected she thought all along, was true, that I was too young and immature to get married and it was obvious by the fact that my fiance had cheated on and dumped me.

I miss Mrs. Griff–  Betty.  She is a wonderful, sweet woman.  She may not have shaped me into the man I am today.  She may not have affected the path I would follow in my life, but she helped me, and she made me feel special and important and for that, I will always be grateful…

And I’m so excited because in the course of writing this post, and trying to find out if she’s even still a teacher, I found an e-mail address for her and tomorrow I’m going to send her my first correspondence in 15 years.  I hope she remembers me.

It’s Just Emotions Taking Me Over

big-edenLast night I watched another gay themed movie I recorded to my DVR, off the Logo Network, Big Eden.  I didn’t really know anything about it other than what I’d read in the very brief description on my DirecTV programming guide.

henry

Henry, Big Eden

sampa1

Sam, Big Eden

Big Eden is the story of Henry Hart an out artist living in New York City who is about to have a gallery opening when he receives a call from a friend in his hometown informing him that his Grandfather who raised him had suffered a stroke.  Henry abandons his opening to go back to see Sam, who he calls “Sampa”.

dean

Dean, Big Eden

Not long after arriving back in Big Eden Henry finds out that his childhood friend – and unrequited love – Dean has moved back to Big Eden after his divorce, with his two young sons so that his parents can help him raise his children.

pike

Pike, Big Eden

grace

Grace, Big Eden

Henry is introduced to Pike a Native American man who operates the local general store.  Pike is known to be very shy, but Grace, the friend who notified Henry of Sam’s stroke asks Pike to assist Sam and Henry by picking up meals from the local busy body widow and bringing them to Sam’s house for the men (apparently Henry can’t cook).

The movie has a rather predictable element to it; a love triangle between Dean, Henry and Pike and an unsurprising outcome with Henry and Pike falling in love.

There were several things about this movie that I was surprised at how I felt and reacted to them.  To start with, Henry has never told “Sampa” that he’s gay.  It’s never really explained why this is, it’s just clear that Henry is afraid.  It seems as if everyone knows the truth except for Sam, or does he?

Henry is asked at one point, “Do you really think he never figured it out?”  And that question is answered in a scene late in the film when Sam confronts Henry about what his plans are.  Henry came back to Big Eden to check on Sam after his stroke, and stayed for a year.  Sam tells Henry, he’ll be “joining” Henry’s Grandmother soon and he’ll need to know what to tell her.  After Henry attempts to avoid the conversation, Sam says to him, “You won’t tell me who you really are.  Why?  Is it shame?  Did I teach you to be ashamed?  ‘Cause if I did, I did a terrible thing.”  Henry responds by bursting into tears and laying his head in his grandfather’s lap, allowing the older man to comfort him.  After Sam dies, Henry says to Grace, “I never told him.” to which Grace replies, “Well.  He knows now.”  I was a little confused and maybe slightly annoyed that no one pointed out that clearly Sam already knew.

It is clear from the beginning that Pike is attracted to Henry and wants a relationship with him, but Pike has always been a very stoic and quiet man, easily rattled and embarrassed, unable to adequately express his thoughts and feelings.  For a time he seems almost to dislike Henry as he avoids contact.  Day after day, Sam and Henry invite Pike to join them in the meals that he brings and he declines.  Then one night, Henry is out and Sam invites Pike to stay.  Finally, Pike accepts.

After just a few days of delivering meals to the men which have been prepared by a local widow, it becomes clear that the meals are not very pleasant tasting.  Pike takes a book entitled “The Joy of Cooking” from his lending library and studies it.  The next day Pike prepares a delicious meal and delivers it to the men.  The regular invitations are extended, the usual declination given and Pike returns home where he himself eats the unenjoyable meal provided by the widow.

As the movie progresses it becomes clear that Pike has feelings for Henry which he does not know how to express.  Many of the peripheral characters begin to see what’s happening and attempt to help.  Eventually, Pike comes by with a meal for the men but Sam is asleep.  Henry invites Pike to join him and after a few attempts to escape, Pike finally agrees.  They have a very pleasant conversation and a friendship grows.  Naturally, as must happen in such a story, Henry does not see what’s happening.  Henry is learning more and seeing more of Pike but does not understand Pike’s feelings.

Midway through the movie, Sam has a medical episode and has to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.  Henry spends the night at the hospital with Sam, awake all night.  In the morning, Dean comes and takes Henry home.  It’s been clear that there is a relationship developing between the two but it’s slow and awkward.  Until this moment, you’re not really sure what is going on with Dean.  After returning to Sam’s house from the hospital, Dean offers to cook some eggs for Henry and while he is cooking there is a moment of vulnerability and tenderness when Henry places a hand and then his head on Dean’s shoulder and places his other arm around Dean.

dh-kissDean pushes the pan aside and turns toward Henry.  The two embrace and there is a brief kiss before Dean turns his face away and they hug.

“I can’t,” Dean says.

“I know,” is Henry’s reply.

“I want to.  I just can’t,” Dean repeats.

“I know,” Henry says again.

There are a few things about this movie that affected me.  The first is the relationship between Henry and his “Sampa”.  It is so clear to the viewer and to everyone else in Big Eden that Sam knows Henry is gay.  There’s even a scene when Henry is away at a town picnic so Pike stays and shares dinner with Sam.  After they eat, the two men go out by the lake outside Sam’s house to watch the fireworks.  They’re still outside when they hear Dean’s truck pull up to drop Henry off.  Pike and Sam observe what might be construed as a tender moment between Henry and Dean but but is in actuality more a push-me-pull-me exchange about the nature of their relationship.  Sam looks at Pike and says, “I’m sorry, son.”  He knows that Pike has feelings for Henry but they both assume there’s something there between Henry and Dean.

I struggle on an almost daily basis with the idea of what it would be like to tell my family that I’m gay.  The situations are different.  Henry was just afraid with no real explanation as to the reason why.  I come from an extremely conservative fundamentalist Christian family which believes that homosexuality is a sin and to be gay is to be damned.  I do not share in their sentiments and do not have any guilt about my orientation, but being able to tell them the truth and to explain my beliefs to them is a far more difficult proposition with very unpredictable outcomes.  I watched this movie, and particularly the exchange between Sam and Henry about seeing “Grandma” and I thought, “Just tell him!  It’s clear he already knows and it’s obvious he will accept you!  What have you got to be afraid of?  Do you know what a precious gift this is?!?

I imagined what it would be like to be in a position of knowing that what I have to tell would be graciously and lovingly received without any judgment or condemnation, to know that I could be open and completely truthful about myself and my life with the people who are supposed to matter the most.  Unfortunately, I live with the knowledge that very much the opposite is true.

The real irony is that I suspect that most if not all of my family knows, or at least suspects that I am gay, so it would not come as a surprise to them, yet I’m certain they’re also hoping that I’ll never accept it, that I’ll never act on these feelings.  I’m sure they think that as long as I never act on the feelings and I never say “I’m gay” to anyone (including myself – too late), then it won’t really be true and I won’t be damned.

The second thing about this movie that affected me was the general existence of the character, Pike.  I could relate to him, in a lot of ways.  In the real world, I also tend to be very shy and socially awkward.  I don’t really know how to talk to people I don’t know very well.  I’m very awkward with my feelings and don’t really know how to communicate them effectively or productively.

The third thing about this movie that affected me, which actually relates to the second, is the scene I described between Dean and Henry.  When it’s finally clear to everyone that there is an attraction and feelings between the two, when they finally kiss, and then Dean backs away, saying, “I can’t,” a part of me screamed, “Why not!?!  What are you so afraid of?  Do you know how lucky you are to be loved?  Why be so afraid of your feelings?

And then I began to think about myself.  I began to think how I can’t relate to him after all.  I can’t think of a time when I have felt a powerful attraction to a person.  I can’t think of a time when I was just so overcome by passion that I wanted to rip our clothes off and make love, right then and there.  I can’t think of a time when I was so distraught, or was with someone else who was so distraught and in need of comfort, that the most logical course of action seemed to be sex.  I can’t think of a time when physicality was —

Well… I can’t think of a time when physicality was not a terrifying prospect.  I can imagine that, assuming I somehow found myself in a situation like Dean did, that I’d react very much the same way he did, assuming we even got as far as a kiss.  I can imagine I’d be just as afraid to act on my feelings.  And it makes me angry.  Why should I be so afraid to act on my feelings.

But the thing is, I’m inclined to say I don’t have feelings.  I’ve only been “in love” once and it turned out not to be real.  It fell apart at the first sign of trouble.  And I haven’t dated much in the 15 years since.  I’ve thought a bit lately about the relationships in my life and how I’d feel if they ended.  With the exception of my friend Eve, I don’t really imagine being terribly upset about the end of a relationship and I already know that relationship is going to end so I have time to prepare myself… I hope.

I’ve thought about what my reaction would be if one of my parents died.  I don’t think I’d have much of one.  I don’t think I’d be terribly upset.  I think I’d be relieved in a lot of ways.  I’ve thought how I’d feel if one of my siblings died.  I don’t expect I’d feel much differently.  I’d be a little more upset if CPA Sis died because she’s the only one I’m really all that close to.  But if Ex Con Older Brother died, I wouldn’t even feel like I’d lost anything.

What I’ve determined is that I don’t feel strongly enough about anyone, or anything, to have a strong reaction.  “I don’t feel anything” I thought.  “But wait.  I can be very emotional and passionate when I feel like I’m being mistreated or abused… So I’m only capable of experiencing negative emotions strongly?  That sucks.  And it doesn’t help my case any.  I’d like to date.  I’d like to fall in love and share my life with someone.  How do I do that if I don’t feel positive emotions?

You know, I was beginning to wonder how I was going to bring this post back around and this is it:

I don’t feel positive emotions.  I don’t feel attraction or affection and certainly not love.  So if I somehow found myself in a situation where I was so affected by and attracted to a person (male or female) as Dean was in this movie…  I’d have to be all over it.  I hope that I would not let that moment pass by.

Man, Will I Be Glad When This Day Is Over

I hate Thanksgiving.  I always have.  I have virtually nothing but bad memories of Thanksgivings past.  I do not eat traditional Thanksgiving food for the most part, and I grew up in a Christian (Read: NO BOOZE) family so there was nothing to “numb the senses” or “dull the pain.”

I rarely spent Thanksgiving with Dead Beat Dad, and I was never really unhappy about that because the traditional meal at his house was something he learned about when he was a boy and Papa was working for Billy Graham and traveling the world.  I don’t actually know if it’s the official name for it but Dead Beat Dad always referred to it as African Chop but looks nothing like this. No, African Chop in the Dead Beat Dad house is some strange concoction of foods that amounts to a plate of white rice with a thick gravy composed of shredded chicken, chicken stock and peanut butter (yes you read that right) poured over it.  there was also a sickening array of items to top the plate off.  Everything from chopped, raw fresh fruits and vegetables to multiple kinds of nuts and toasted or raw shredded coconut.  Honest to God, I feel like I could barf just describing it and I don’t think I’ve had it in over 20 years.

Thanksgiving at Scornful Mother‘s house wasn’t a whole hell of a lot better.  She always thought that Thanksgiving should be the traditional meal, which I understand but since I don’t really care for any of the food it wasn’t really all that much better.  What it was, for me at least, was an extended week-end of concentrated time with an unhappy family.  Even Ex Con Older Brother who pretty much lived in his bedroom and hated the rest of us would “come out and play”, which to him, usually meant tormenting me.  There would be little or no food to be had for most of the day while Scornful Mother “slaved away” in the kitchen for the big meal which would come around 4:00.

This was a really brilliant strategy on Scornful Mother‘s part as the tradition always started with Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast…and only Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  So she’d feed us sugary carbs for breakfast and then expect us to not complain about being hungry and not fight amongst ourselves while she cooked all day and didn’t feed us for six to eight hours.  Then she’d feed us Turkey with Stuffing.  I don’t like Turkey, but I love stuffing (More straight carbs.)  There would be jellied Cranberries out of a can, yuck, yams, double yuck; green bean casserole, yuck and yuck (I don’t like green beans, on their own or in a casserole); and rolls or cornbread, I enjoy those, but again, carbs.  The only thing that I consistently love about Thanksgiving is the Pumpkin Pie.  And if you’re like me, you like a little bit of pumpkin pie with your Cool Whip.  And then as if all this weren’t bad enough, Scornful Mother always used the enormous amount of left overs as an excuse to not make real meals for the rest of the week-end.

The only part of this day that has ever held any kind of appeal to me, beisdes the pumpkin pie, is the cinnamon roll breakfast and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  So you can imagine my surprise, this morning, when I was sitting in my cold apartment, with my blanket over me watching the parade and eating my pan of cinnamon rolls, when I suddenly found myself fighting back tears.  I can’t really explain what happened other than to say that I’m going through a lot of changes in my life and my emotions are starting to rise to the surface a bit more.  It’s not really that I miss my family because I really don’t.  I wish I was able to spend a little more time with CPA Sis and her family, but I’m not really that bothered that about it either.  I do not miss spending time with Dead Beat Dad or Scornful Mother and I know that spending time with any of them on occasions such as this only serve to make family relations more tense.  I definitely do not miss those events.

I guess the tears came from the rush of familiarity.  For a moment I could imagine myself, nine years old, sitting on the floor in front of the television watching the parade and knowing the cinnamon rolls were in the oven.  I could smell them baking and I could imagine what they were going to taste like, and since the only time Scornful Mother ever made them was Thanksgiving and Christmas days, it was special to me.  I used to love to get up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I don’t know why.  It’s cheesy and the hosts, always the Today Show hosts as I recall, delivered line after corn-ball line about the floats and acts in the parade.  I don’t know what I thought was going to happen but I always watched with excitement and expectation, of what, I do not know.  No one else ever had an interest in the parade but Scornful Mother always made CPA Sis and Ex Con Older Brother leave me alone and let me watch it.  I was still young and naive enough to think that this was going to be a special day, but in reality, I only had until noon, when the parade was over, before the hellishness would really set in.

Watching the parade this morning I realized what ludicrous propagandizing it really is.  It really amounts to a three hour sales pitch for TV shows, and musicians new CDs, etc., interspersed with poorly written comic lines delivered by decidedly unfunny MCs.    Soon I was in sugar shock (living alone there was no one to help eat the cinnamon rolls), over the nostalgia of the moment and the tears were gone.  Gone, but not forgotten.

CPA Sis, Mr. Fixit and Precious Nieces #1 & #2, are visiting Scornful Mother for the holiday and while Mr. Fixit does some more renovations of Scornful Mother‘s house.  Last night I received an e-mail from CPA Sis:

Tomorrow should be interesting.  I had a nice little fight with Scornful Mother this evening.  It’s a fairly long story.  Suffice it to say that Scornful Mother thinks we don’t communicate well enough with her and Mr. Fixit thinks she is judgmental and ungrateful and incapable of accepting any responsibility for problems and I think they both are being difficult and intolerant children. Mr. Fixit is ready to leave and never come back.  I am not far from the same position, but where would we go?  We can’t all stay at Mr. Fixit‘s parents’ apartment for the next 5 or 6 days.  Not to mention the fact that that leaves her with a house that still is unfinished-not that she has the money to finish it.  I really hate feeling like I have to be responsible!

Anyway, I need to get back to Precious Nieces #1 & #2.  I just needed to vent for a few minutes.

Man am I glad I’m not there.  Scornful Mother asked me to come back for Thanksgiving and I declined.  Definitely the right choice.

Despite my lack of desire to spend this time with my family, I can’t help but remember that it is a holiday on which families come together.  It’s a Thursday on which I feel perfectly healthy and I’m not at work, reminds me it’s a holiday.  It’s a Thursday and my otherwise bustling and noisy neighborhood is virtually silent, reminding me that all the people who are normally outside my house making the noise, have gone away or gathered in-doors, to celebrate the day and spend time together.

I receive only one invitation, each year, and it’s to join Green M&M and her family.  When I first moved to California, I accepted this invitation a few times, but I never really enjoyed myself.  It’s a noisy and chaotic environment which I really do not enjoy, and I don’t particularly care for a number of the family members that gather, so now I decline the offer.  Come to think of it, the offer wasn’t even extended this year.  Green M&M knows I’ll decline, so I guess she figures, why bother?

At times like these, I often think about the TV show Friends.  I loved that show.  Six individuals who are friends, with no readily accessible family to speak of (except of course for Ross and Monica) who make a family of themselves and spending the holiday together.  I, of course, would be the Chandler of the group, (doesn’t like thanksgiving food…  oh, and gay) but I would really like to have a handful of close knit friends who view each other as family and who actually enjoy spending these times together.  I’d like to have somewhere to go on days like today where I don’t have to feel like I’m intruding on some other families day, and where I’m not burdened by my own family.  At the vary least, I’d like to be able to feel like I’m alone today, because I chose to be, not because I have to be.

I’ll be glad when this day is over, largely so I won’t have to deal with all of this any more, but even more so because there is one, truly wonderful thing, that I absolutely love about Thanksgiving.  If today is Thanksgiving, then tomorrow is the day I get to spend with Eve, and that, dear blog readers, is what I am the most thankful for!

Getting “In The Game”

I was a painfully lonely child.  Even while most kids with siblings have built in best friends, my sibs hardly wanted anything to do with me as a child.  I desperately needed for someone to love me and want me around.  Ex Con Older Brother and CPA Sis are only two years apart and always had more in common with each other than either had with me.  For reasons I may never be able to understand, I wasn’t really ever able to make friends with people my own age, and so I spent a lot of time after school and on the week-ends being alone.

“Mommy,” I used to say to Vengeful Mother, “I’m bored.”

“So find yourself something to do,” she would respond.  “It’s not my responsibility to entertain you.”  Even Vengeful Mother didn’t want to spend time with me.

I rarely ever considered the idea of having a little brother or sister.  I couldn’t remember when my parents were married and so for me to have a little brother or sister would require someone to have sex outside of marriage and, well, that of course was out of the question!  So while, from time to time, I wished for a built in best friend like my siblings had in each other, I never really seriously considered the desire.  So I was painfully lonely.

I used to overhear ECOB And CPA Sis talk about “The Game”, and I had no idea what they were talking about.  Finally one day I learned that they had an imaginary world, known simply as “The Game”, wherein they pretended to be other people, with other lives.  Generally older than they really were, with spouses and families and friends that didn’t really exist.  And I wanted in.  They, of course wouldn’t allow it, so as usual I was out in the cold to play my own game.  So, play my game I did.

richardsimmonsI used to have great fun playing my game.  As a very young child I was completely enamored with Wonder Woman, but of course I was a boy and I knew I was not permitted to want to be a girl.  (In truth, I didn’t really want to be a girl, I just didn’t have a lot of imagination.)  So I pretended I was Wonder Man.  (I never knew there really was a Wonder Man character.) I imagined I had the little red boots with the white stripe and the slight heel.  As to the rest of my costume, well, as I just said, I didn’t have much of an imagination but I had to “masculinize” Wonder Woman’s costume for myself…  So imagine, Richard Simmons… feeling very patriotic…  That’s pretty much what my imaginary Wonder Man costume looked like, complete with the golden lasso, bullet proof cuffs and boomerang crown naturally!  Of course if I’d known then, what I know now…  I might’ve imagined myself looking a little more like this:

wondermanI used to run around the yard outside our after school care ladies house kicking my heels into my butt cheeks (because that was how Wonder Woman ran so fast, dontchaknow) and making the ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch sound whenever I’d “jump great distances.”  This, by the way was the same sound I made while “performing great feats of strength”, when I pretended I was The Six Million Dollar Man.  ECOB and CPA Sis pretended not to know me.

I used to love MacGyver.  I hadn’t taken any significant science classes at that point (and come to find out I’d suck big harry nuts at science) but I thought he was the shiz.  Plus, he was blond.  Something I always wanted to be but never was… Not naturally anyway.  He was attractive.  I could tell because CPA Sis and Vengeful Mother both really liked him.  I always got a happy feeling when I’d see him on the screen.  So at one point I wanted to be MacGyver.  (As a side bar:  With the resurgence of “old time” TV shows lately (Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, 90210) they should totally make a new MacGyver.  I’m thinking Ryan Reynolds or maybe that guy from Brittney Spears’ “Womanizer” video (shirtless at all times of course.) I’d do ‘im– er, watch him.)

I always liked The Facts of Life, and, go figure, Jo Polniaczek was my favorite girl.  I knew I was supposed to like girls and of the options, she was the least girlie, black or fat.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I always liked Jo, for real, but if I was supposed to like a girl, she was the one.  And at the time I thought I was sincere.

So for a while there, “in the game” I was MacGyver and I was married to Jo Polniaczek, living in Mrs. G’s house and sharing the household responsibilities with the other girls and their husbands (Yes.  The four of them all still lived in the house.)

For a brief period of time in 1988 I even pretended I was Mario Van Peebles, a la “Sonny Spoon” and I was married to Olympic Figure Skater Debi Thomas.  I know they say that “Once you go black, you never go back”, but this phase didn’t last very long and when it was over, it was all white guys from then on, for me.

Eventually, Ex Con Older Brother outgrew “The Game”, and CPA Sis wasn’t ready to call it quits, so suddenly, I was old enough to play.  I still remember, from time to time, whenever one of us would learn something new about someone, or find a new celebrity or character we liked, we’d change “The Game”.  At one point CPA Sis and I were both infatuated with MacGyver at the same time.

“In the game, I’m MacGyver,” I said.

“You can’t be.  I want to be married to him,” was her reply.

“Hmmm.  Ok.  Then….  I’m his twin brother GyMacver.”  I replied.  (I don’t think I really fucked with the name like that, but who knows.

On other occasions:

“In the game, MacGyver is sitting right here next to me with his arm around me helping me with my homework.”  Guess which of us said that.

The worst was when I was spending the night at my friends house (we’ll call him the Pickle) once and I thought it would be cool to let him in on the fun.  I told him about the game and that in the game I was MacGyver and I was married to The Bionic Woman, and then pretended to kiss her.  The Pickle and I were lying on the floor in his parents room playing a board game, (Life, I think) and when I finished kissing Jamie Sommers and looked back at him, he looked at me like I had three heads.  Fortunately, about three seconds later, he forgot all about my game.

He’d been playing with an electrical cord with his toes while we were playing the board game and suddenly his mother’s iron came crashing down on his head, point first.  As the blood gushed forth and down over his forehead, no longer was the stupidity of my imaginary game at hand, and never was it mentioned again!

There was a point in the late 80s where I also fantasized that I was Officer Tom Hansen as played by Johnny Depp.  This one worked particularly well, because I could go to my school and learn my lessons while pretending to be this cool, older, sexier guy that girls swooned over.  There’s one episode of 21 Jump Street that has always stood out for me.  Tom decided to become a Big Brother as in Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, but he was ultimately rejected.  It turned out that Doug Penhall had discouraged the BBBS from accepting Tom, for one reason or another…  Hey!  I was 12.  I can’t be expected to remember ALL of the details.

In late 1988 or early 1989, I had become enamored of the “Patch and Kayla” story on Days of our Lives (which I’d been introduced to by CPA Sis.)  I didn’t especially think much of Steve, but I thought Kayla (Mary Beth Evans) was awesome.  Since I had no imagination, I decided I wanted to be Steve so I could be with Kayla.  I knew CPA Sis wouldn’t be impressed with that so I didn’t tell her.  I continued to pretend I was pretending to be MacGyver because that was acceptable to her, but really I was pretending I was Patch.  (I guess this was the beginning of my career pretending to be something acceptable to my family.)  I remember the day in the late ’80s when I realized that something was not right.  CPA Sis was 16 or 17 years old and her heart hadn’t really seemed into it when I’d talk about “The Game.”  One day I said, “You don’t really want to play ‘The Game’ anymore, do you?”

“Not really,” she said.  “I’m kinda too old for it.”

And that was the end of “The Game”…  Or was it?

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I continued to play “The Game” alone, well into my 20s.  When Party of Five came out, I was head over heals for Scott Wolf/Bailey Salinger.  I wanted to be him.  God only knows why he was the preferred character for me.  I was certainly closer in age to Charlie Salinger, but it was all about Bailey.  I had a whole fantasy worked out.  I was Bailey Salinger, and (as was often the case in those days) I had an infant child which was the product of a one night stand with a girl I met at a party.  She had died during child birth (as they always did, ’cause who needs the girl around) and I was raising my child on my own (the only way I’d want to.)

When I moved to California, and had my first job with The Soul Crushing Telecom Company for whom Green M&M still works, I met a guy.  His name was Scott and he was beautiful.  I wanted him, but mostly I just wanted to be friends with him.  My fantasy  was that Scott and I (Bailey Salinger) were such good friends that we hung out together all of the time.

One day Scott didn’t come to work.  I found out that he had always wanted to ride his motor cycle to LA and back and so he took a Friday off to do this.  In my imagination, I came home from work to find him in my apartment.  He’d gotten halfway to LA and realized he wasn’t having any fun ’cause I wasn’t there, and he turned around and came back.  He couldn’t wait to tell me all this and how much he wanted to be with me.  That was the first night I allowed myself to unabashedly fantasize about having sex with a man.

To this day, when I’m feeling particularly lonely, or when I’ve got something on my mind that I need to hash out with someone, or when I’m horny and I need a boyfriend…  I find myself leaning toward “The Game.”  I’ve found it to be like an addiction.  I have a physical need for it.  Honestly!  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m the only person in the house and that I can talk to myself all I want, I’m just talking to myself.  No one is going to answer me.  It’s not that I have to pretend I’ve got this whole alternate life going on anymore.  But sometimes I imagine both sides of the conversation/encounter and play it out.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with this, it’s just that it’d be real easy for me to slip back into “The Game” if I let myself and I don’t want to do that.  I want real relationships.

So, yeah.  I was lonely a lot growing up, and despite my knowledge that getting a little brother would mean “unacceptable” behavior on my mother’s part I always wanted someone I could be close with.  I finally got my “little brother in 2000, when CPA Sis married Mr. Fixit who is three years my junior.  Unfortunately, my “little brother” was going to be living 1800 miles away (3000 miles now) and is nearly six inches taller than I.  Very funny God!  You’ve finally answered my prayers and my “little brother” is bigger than I.

—————————————————————————————-

About a year ago, I grew very tired of being lonely and set about looking for ways to find and make new friends.  The ancestral version of this blog was part of that plan, but that didn’t come until later and when it did, it didn’t work out the way I had intended.  I decided that I could make an effort toward meeting people, and perhaps make myself feel a little bit better by finding some sort of volunteer work I could do.  I looked into Habitat for Humanity.  I really enjoy things that have tangible results to show and what better way to have tangible results than to build something, but their needs and my availability didn’t really seem to match up.

I found myself low on further ideas for additional opportunities so I did an internet search and came across a website called Volunteer Match and I found a number of listings for mentoring.  Nothing sounded familiar to me and I felt like that was too big of a deal to enter into lightly, but it reminded me of the episode of 21 Jump Street.  I remember watching that episode in silence while secretly being tremendously affected by it.  Of course part of it was, how could I not want Johnny Depp to pay attention to me?  But mostly it was just my secret longing for anyone to really care about and pay attention to me.  To make me the center of their universe, even if it was only for a few hours a week.  I was hurting while I watched it because I was thinking, I could really use someone like that in my life.  But I couldn’t ask for it.

And while I was remembering that it hit me.  I could be a Big Brother.  I could do for some kid or kids what no one ever did for me.  I could be a positive influence in their lives.  So I went to their website and I applied.  It wasn’t meant to be at that time.  There was an obstacle that I had to over come before I could be a Big Brother, but it was a blessing in disguise.  It gave me a year to think it over and make sure, was this really something I wanted to do?  Yes!  Am I really ready to handle this?  Fuck if I know, but I imagine it’s a little like parenthood.  You’re never ready, you just do it.

Today, I had my first interview with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Bay Area.  It was nerve racking, though not as much so as I thought it would be.  The match specialist was fabulous and made me feel very much at ease.  She seemed very non-judgmental and more than once expressed her appreciation of my candor.  It was actually easier than I thought it would be to tell her I’m gay, but I thought it was important to establish that up front.

Now begins the arduous wait while they go through their process.  Tomorrow, she’ll send her reference checks to CPA Sis, Green M&M, Eve and Douche Bag.  I would have just as soon not included him, but as I recall the application asks for your immediate supervisor as one of the references.  The good thing is that DB doesn’t do confrontation, so I can rest relatively assured that he’ll say good things about me and not hurt my chances.  I don’t know what he would possibly have based this statement on but when I told him I would be leaving early today for the interview he said, “That’s great!  You’d make a great Big Brother.”  While it’s nice to hear, I don’t feel particularly like that’s praise worth it’s salt coming from him.  Anyway, while they wait for the references to be sent back, they’ll run my background check.  The only thing they’ll find is the DUI I received on January 18, 2003 and they’re already aware of that.  (This is the obstacle from a year ago.)  They can’t officially match me with a “Little” until after it’s been five years, so I have a couple months to wait.  I was informed that being gay, it will take longer to match me, anyway.  Apparently, there are a lot of parent/guardians out there who are ignorant and fearful of homosexuality and have specified that they do not want their children paired up with a homosexual.  It’s unfortunate, as it’s the “Little” that they’re hurting, but it is their prerogative.  I can’t say I’m surprised by the likely delay, but it’s still sad to hear.  Meanwhile, if I’m accepted (God, I hope I’m accepted.  What would it say about me if I’m not ‘good enough’ to work with underprivileged children) they do offer some training for me to take which will help prepare me to be a “Big”.

I’ll be honest.  I’m terrified.  My stomach is in knots and my heart is in my throat, just writing about it.  But it is important to me.  I can’t wait to be able to have a positive impact on some boy’s life.  To teach him that there are people out there who want nothing more than his health, safety and happiness.  To teach him that no matter what shit he’s going through there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel.  And, God forbid, if he’s been through some serious problems (i.e. molestation, physical abuse) to teach him that not everyone wants to treat him like that.  That there is good in the world and that he deserves to experience it.

I can hardly wait!

Cold Turkey

Yesterday, I confessed to an addiction.  Today, I’ll tell you about another.

I’ve been a drug addict for six years.  It’s true.  Every single day for the last six years, I have taken mood altering substances that my body very quickly became dependent upon and without which I turned into an unrecognizable monster oddly reminiscent of an enormous ass, but one that would sooner kill you then feel like you’ve let him down or disappointed him in anyway.

I’m not talking about anything you’d snort or inject, in fact, I’d have to check with Ex Con Older Brother to be sure, but I don’t think you could even buy these drugs on the street.  The internet?  Sure.  But not the street.  No, the drugs I’m talking about are the Doctor sanctioned, Government approved, Pharmaceutical Company foisted kind.  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve been taking Anti-Depressants for the last six years.

Today, however, marks the last day of this addictive behavior.  No longer will I assault my synaptic pathways with artificial fortification.  No longer will I ingest these foreign substances to do what they will with my psyche.

[ Gosh, I feel a little like I should be standing barefoot on a couch after an overnight drinking party shouting at my friends about our flaccid penises (peni?) and making deals about losing our virginity by prom night.  And if you don’t get that reference – American Pie – then I don’t want to be your friend anyway.]

Today I am taking back control of my emotional well being.  It isn’t actually, really cold turkey  I made this decision back in April when I was taking 300 Milligrams of Welbutrin and 40 milligrams of Celexa on a daily basis.  I felt like I was in a haze all the time.  I felt like I wasn’t able to access my feelings.  Like I wasn’t having a genuine experience.  And I felt like this ride was never going to end unless I stepped on the breaks and got out of the car.  So I did.

This whole ordeal started a little over six years ago–  Well, really it started 33 years ago with my childhood and my genetics and my divorced parents and my general state of misery, but I don’t have all day to write and you don’t have all day to read and if I tried to put it all in here, WordPress very well might explode, but not before you found me boring and hit that nifty little arrow in the upper right corner to take you to the next random post!  So with that being said…

We’ll pick up this ordeal six years ago.  I had been working for about four months for The Company that Created the HMO and wasn’t really loving it (I was an Administrative Assistant for fuck’s sake) but it followed a nine month period of unemployment where I could barely pay for my car with the unemployment checks I received ever other week, let alone rent and utilities, or assisting Green M&M, who graciously allowed me to move in with her, with expenses.  I had been drinking a lot, and feeling really dejected because I wasn’t able to find another job and I was at a really low point in my emotional cycle.  So when the opportunity with The Company came along, I really had not choice but to take it.

One day I had had a blow up with a co-worker and I didn’t know what to do about it so I made an appointment with the Employee Assistance Program Counselor, ostensibly to talk about work relations and how I could deal with this person.  I sat for an hour with this Counselor who talked to me for five minutes about my coworker problem and then asked me all kinds of questions about my life, my childhood, how I live now, etc., etc., etc.  Then she said, “You sound depressed to me.  Here.  The Company that Created the HMO offers all these classes and they’re bound to fix you.”

OK, so that last part may not have come out quite like that, but all these years later, that’s how I feel about it.  The counselor referred me to the Oakland Adult Psychiatry department of The Company that Created the HMO where I was pared up with a Psychologist that I would get to see once every six weeks (whether I needed it or not, I guess.)  They never did offer me any assistance with the coworker and we continued to have conflict until the day she went on maternity leave and then decided not to come back.

Once every six weeks, I’d go to this appointment with this woman who looked strangely like a Yahoo Messenger avatar making the “angry” face and who always made me feel inferior and pathetic.  She kept urging me to go to this Depression Overview Class that was offered.  It was supposed to give me a better understanding of what I’m dealing with and was a precursor to the eight week Depression Management Class she also wanted me to take.  I resisted it for some time but it was obvious to me that I was not going to get what I needed from attending these sessions with Avatar Face and something had to give so I went.

Up to that point, I had been determined that I was not going to take medication and I did not want anyone else to know what I was going through.  I resisted the class because then people would know.  I gave in and attended the class and one of the things they focused on in this class (not even 2 hours) was the idea of medication, how it works, and why I should take it.  I will acknowledge that it has been six years.  I will acknowledge that I was uncomfortable in the situation and wanted to go home.  And I will acknowledge that I was desperate for someone, somehow to make me better and take all this pain away.

All those acknowledgments being put out there, do not change the fact that what I remember the instructor of this overview class saying was that I’d take meds for two to three years and that while I was taking them, not only would the stabilize my neurotransmitters but it would correct the problem in my brain that causes the imbalance in the first place.  So, OK.  Two or three years…  I can accept that.  Especially if I’ll be all better after.

I set an appointment with a Psychiatrist at The Company and got a prescription from her for Paxil.  The prescription was, take 10 milligrams a day for the first week and then bump it up to 20.  About this time I inquired with Ex Con Older Brother who I knew was also taking Paxil and he informed me that it worked, for him, like flipping a switch.  That he started taking it and almost instantly things changed.  I really wanted that for myself so within six weeks, with the Psychiatrist’s approval I increased my dosage twice, first to 30 milligrams and then to 40.

It took a little while for it to completely kick in but once it did, I felt great.  Best I’ve ever felt.  I had confidence, I enjoyed people, I was in great emotional shape.  It was around this time that Green M&M and I decided that neither of us had anything to lose and so we decided to give a “friends with benefits” scenario a try.  This was when I found out that some of those side effects they tell you about were going to be a problem.  I was having serious sexual side effects and couldn’t’ get past them.

I asked my doctor to help me out with this problem and her solution was to take me off the Paxil and put me on Welbutrin.  Her instructions were to taper off the Paxil over the course of 10 days.  Which I did.  Which is when the aforementioned unrecognizable, enormous ass, monster appeared.

I crack jokes and be obnoxious about this because it’s easier to face, but the truth is, it was an emotionally excruciating, hold on for dear life, MY GOD HE’S GONNA BLOW, volatile two weeks and I really didn’t think I was going to make it.  It’s easier to laugh now.  I’m reminded of a Saturday Night Live commercial parody not too long ago about a Birth Control Pill that would make a woman have her period only once a year.  In the fast talking, fine print they talk about how during that one week-end out of the year you better hold on to your hat ’cause your gonna lose your shit, etc., etc., etc.  It says that you should alert your law enforcement officials as they may wish to lock you up as a preemptive measure.  That’s how I felt.

When I think about these times I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude toward Green as well as some shame over the way I acted.  In truth her actions set me off on more than one occasion but my reactions were out of control excessive and she put up with a lot of vitriol from me during that period of time.  It would probably have been easier for her to just walk away, but she didn’t.  She stood by me and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

Anyway, once the psychotic episode passed and I was back to “normal” whatever that is, I was on just the 300 Miligrams of Welbutrin.  It’s the only Anti-Depressant with little or now sexual side effects.  What I’ve learned in the recent past is that it’s also commonly know to increase anxiety in those who are prone to it (I am.)

I took Welbutrin by itself for nearly four years, never really feeling like it was doing me any good, but afraid to say anything for fear of what they’d recommend next.  But when the time came that I couldn’t stand it anymore, this image approximates what I was feeling.  I felt like I was standing right down there at the bottom of this mammoth wall of rock, knowing that on the other side of this structure was millions of gallons of water just waiting to burst through and destroy me.  I felt like I was standing at the bottom of that wall looking up at the top, and just watching as the wall slowly crumbled knowing that at any moment the water could break through and all would be lost.

At that point my Psychiatrist recommended adding the Celexa to the mix, and while I’ll admit that it did seem to help for a time, it really just put me on top of the dam.  No longer was the wall crumbling.  No longer did I fear that it would all come crashing down on me.  Instead, I was standing on the road, looking out at all the water, all the feelings and emotions, knowing that disaster lay before me, but then again so did the potential for good.  But either way, I couldn’t get to it.  It was inaccessible.  And if I tried, I just might drown.

It’s strange, but knowing that all that was there, and that I couldn’t get to it had a two fold effect on me.  First it sent me into a deep despair.  On the advice of my therapist I took a leave of absence from work and went into an outpatient treatment program that is offered by The Company that Created the HMO.  I don’t particularly feel like the program itself offered me anything of value, other than time away from work to regroup and collect my thoughts.  But six weeks later when I was back at work full time and I was more in control again, I realized something else.

In a very real way, the meds have been that dam for six long years.  The only reason those millions of gallons of water are back there waiting to crush me, is because I built the dam and backed it up, rather than making an effort to tread it as it flowed through.

I never wanted the drugs.  I never should have taken the drugs.  I will never again take the drugs.  What I needed was therapy.  I needed steady care from someone who could help me to come to terms with my issues and help me to find that I’d be OK all the same.  I needed a life vest and a kayak, and an oar (am I over-doing the metaphor?)

I took the drugs because I heard “You’ll take them for two years and you’ll be fixed.”  I took the drugs because The Company that Created the HMO isn’t interested in dealing with life long problems, they want to send you to a class that amounts to them saying “Suck it up.  You’ll be fine.”  I took the drugs because once I started them, I was afraid to stop, lest I end up in that puddle of anger and tears and desperation on the floor in my closet that I had been during the Paxil/Welbutrin transition.  I took the drugs because I didn’t know how not to.

But I finally made a decision.  The best decision I’ve made for myself in a long time.  I will not take the drugs anymore.  I started this process in April.  I was taking two tablets of each medication.  So starting on May 1st, I took one and three quarters.  On June 1st, I reduced it to one and one half, etc., until today, Friday, October 31, 2008.  THE last day, I will take my drugs.  Starting tomorrow, I will be drug free.  Starting tomorrow the last brick will have been removed from that dam.  The waters will flow freely and I will wade through them until I’ve learned to swim peacefully from shore to shore.  It may be a struggle sometimes.  Some days will surely be worse than others, but so far I’m strong and steady.  The current isn’t that bad.

A Moment of Clarity; My Mom Manifesto

The time is Christmas, 2003.  The place is Vengeful Mother’s living room.  The players are CPA Sis, Mr. Fixit, Precious Niece #1, Myself and Vengeful Mother. 

Allow me to set the stage for you.  Vengeful Mother lived in a two bedroom duplex, in a town in Oklahoma named for damaged Indian weaponry, for 17 years.  The duplex was small and cluttered, full of odds and ends of all sorts that she’d collected over time.  What she had not collected, unfortunately, was much at all in the way of functional furniture.  VM‘s living room “suit” was made up of a splintered and wobbly, wood framed day bed; a book shelf made of bricks and planks and an entertainment center she’d inherited when friends of Ex Con Older Brother’s stored some items in her house over a Christmas break from college in 1989, only to be killed in a tragic traffic accident driving back from home in Mexico.  The same 19 inch television that had been the “Family Christmas Gift” in 1987 still sat on that entertainment center.   

Within this scene all the players were expected to sit comfortably to watch that small screen and enjoy each other’s company.  While this is plenty enough furniture for Vengeful Mother on any given night, it’s not a comfortable setting for the entire brood.  More often than not, when I would visit VM I ended up sitting on the left end of the day bed, propped up against a mound of pillows and blankets, while VM would sprawl herself out on the rest of the day bed.  Usually, it wouldn’t take long for her to slide her ice cold feet under my precariously positioned legs and when I’d object, I’d be told to be quiet.

Vengeful Mother had waited only a beat or two, before turning the second bedroom of her duplex into an office, after, I, her third and final child, had made my escape.  Fortunately, this meant she also had a rolling task chair which provided an additional seating area.  CPA Sis tends to experience back problems, and, as we had just discovered earlier on that fateful day, was carrying within her Precious Niece #2, so this office chair made for the most appropriate seating option for CPA Sis

Precious Niece #1 was, at this time, about 13 1/2 months old.  She was off of bottles, but unfortuantely, CPA Sis and Mr. Fixit had failed to pack a “sippy-cup” for her before making the trek to Vengeful Mother’s abode.  It became popular opinion that PN1 was thirsty and VM only had bottles in her house.  So, while Mr. Fixit went into the kitchen to prepare a bottle with water, I sat down, temporarily to be sure, on the right end of the day bed, and VM sat in the middle.  CPA Sis was already seated in the office chair and PN1 was standing next to her trying somewhat to get the attention she needed, to get the assistance she needed to alight to her mother’s lap. 

Amidst the various conversation, movement and other chaos that was happening, Mr. Fixit returned to the living room with the bottle of water, walked up behind CPA Sis, placed the bottle against the front of her shoulder, released it, and allowed it to slide down her front to her lap.  The bottle stopped it’s trek when it arrived at her thigh and, naturally, landed on it’s side.  Vengeful Mother, ever the caring nurturer, said, “Oh, honey.  Pick that bottle up before it leaks on you and gets you wet.”  CPA Sis then picked up the bottle and held it out to Precious Niece #1 who showed no interest in it (although everyone was sure she’d been thirsty). 

When Precious Niece #1 rejected the proffered sustenance, CPA Sis reached over and set the bottle down on the daybed, on the left end, where I normally sat.  Now, you’ll recall that I described this day bed as “wobbly”.  It is also a plain, twin sized mattress, that had a 5’4″ 200+ lb woman sitting in the middle of it.  Naturally, the bottle fell over almost immediately…  And, no one seemed to care.  Finally, I said, “Could someone please set that bottle up?”  CPA Sis set it up, but she left it in the same spot, so it immediately fell over again.  I said, “Could someone please move that bottle before it gets the day bed wet?”  This is where this long story, finally gets “interesting”.

Vengeful Mother turned around and looked at me and said, “Just, quit complaining!” 

I said, (Or started to say), “I’m not complaining, but that bottle keeps falling over, and as you already pointed out it’s going to leak, and it’s going to get the day bed wet over there where I always end up sitting.”  I never got it all out though because by the time I got to “…but that bottle…” Vengeful Mother had wheeled around with…  well…  with vengefullness, in her eyes and put her hand up in front of my face.

Now, I’m not saying she was going to hit me.  I really don’t know, ’cause I wasn’t about to giver her the chance.  I pulled my head back and with hatred in my eyes and vicious anger in my voice I said, “DON’T, YOU, DARE!”  Now, you would think this would get her attention and make her think about her behavior in the situation.  You would think… But you’d be wrong.  Vengeful Mother simply squinted her eyes at me in a disdainful look and said, “Well, then, just stop.”  Part of me wishes she had actually hit me, because I do believe that would have been the straw that broke the camels back for me.  And part of me wishes I had said more anyway, but you see…  As I said, “You would think this would get her attention…”  It didn’t get her attention.  What it did do was get Precious Niece #1‘s attention and she looked at me with utter shock and confusion in such a way that broke my heart, and I never want to see again.

Now, this is just the beginning of a much bigger story, one which I’ll happily tell in future posts (lucky you), but the reason this event was “A Moment of Clarity” is this…  When it was over, and I had returned home to sunny California and had some time to think about it, I wrote a Manifesto, of sorts…At least as it applies to Vengeful Mother.  Here it is:

  1. I will not stay with her ever again.
  2. I won’t come to visit again unless I have someplace to stay (i.e. with Mr. Fixit and CPA Sis, another friend’s house, or a hotel) AND a car to drive completely at my disposal while I’m in town, whether it be a retnal or a loaner. (This is somewhat more complicated now, as Mr. Fixit & CPA Sis moved to New York last December.)
  3. I will not be ordered around.
  4. I will not be reprimanded.
  5. I will argue as needed.
  6. I will NOT argue in front of the children.
  7. I will not have a curfew or feel bad for disturbing those who wait up for me.
  8. I will be me and I will not be judged or condemed for my choices or my behavior.
  9. I WILL NOT BE JUDGED, COMDEMED OR STEREO TYPED JUST BECAUSE I’M A MAN!!!
  10. Pursuant to numbers 1-5, 6 (especially) and 9, I will walk out at whatever stage of any arguement or discussion that I see fit.

I realize now, that number 7 probably would not be an issue based on number 1, however it’s been such an issue over the years that it seems wise to keep it in there.