death

sunday kind of love….. gil scott heron

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pouring polka

Grief is neither a disorder
nor a healing process;
it is a sign of health itself,
a whole and natural gesture of love.
Nor must we see grief
as a step towards something better.
No matter how much it hurts –
and it may be the greatest pain in life –
grief can be an end in itself,
a pure expression of love.

– Gerald May –

what a very sad day in america. the deaths of 50 souls in one sweep have been jettisoned to the next level at the hands of an angry citizen. the lgbt community is targeted and wounded during pride month in a southern state and the southern anti-lgbt rhetoric continues to pour out like a geyser in yellowstone.

 

 

one less

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“Things get bad for all of us, almost continually, and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are.”― Charles Bukowski
it’s been a sad couple of weeks for me. i somehow got turned around in my life and lost touch with the direction in which i was heading. it was confusing, it was humbling, and it was maddening. i interviewed for new jobs and have considered going rogue and once again living as a bohemian might-pursuing truth and joy with a devil-may-care attitude (emphasis right now on considered). in the midst of my melt-down came the news that sweetness bryan mckay had passed-prolly from an overdose of pain medication.
it seems bryan has been part of my world for many years now. so enmeshed is he that i struggle to remember when our paths first crossed. i am sure it was just after i started the strength in numbers gig. i do remember going on an impromptu hike just outside boulder with a few poz guys of whom bryan was included. 5 minutes into the hike, his seizure disorder kicked in, he collapsed on the trail and was chucking up liquid and trying to catch his breath. it was both frightening and frustrating as we all turned back to head home to make sure that bryan was safe.
this contrast of emotion i describe would become my emotional soundtrack when it came to bryan. he was the sweetest soul and so easy to be around. he volunteered at about 10 different community organizations around town and was always oozing with positivity and good will. he was likeable, thoughtful, and mostly uncomplicated. he watched soaps, award shows, and professional sports on tv. his taste in music was uber-ultra gay with the obligatory colorado country twist thrown in. there was not so much outwardly remarkable about him- other than his good looks- he was very much like a favorite pashmina. 
as i considered my life that was with bryan, i thought of james dean and montgomery clift for some reason.  i see both of those souls in very much the same way. they were extraordinarily charming and talented- completely memorable. they were well-loved, engaged, and all the while very fucked up deep down. this was my sense with bryan. 
i think he may have grown up with an overbearing parent. underneath he was very very anxiety ridden and was taking strong meds to address this. as is the case with so many, he overtook those meds with alarming frequency. i had met with him privately for several mandated sessions to discuss addiction and impulsive behavior and how it affects prescription medication. this was at the beginning of a time when the reins were being pulled in on his use. 
about this same time, his visits to emergency rooms seemed to escalate. he was visiting er’s with alarming frequency with vague symptoms and illnesses. it is assumed that there was drug seeking going on. he was appearing very often in clinics with symptoms that could not be verified or documented. and there had been talk of munchhausen syndrome which may have been an offshoot of his upbringing. my impression was that upon the passing of bryan’s mother he received a small inheritance. with this came several trips to cities like dallas and las vegas where i would notice posts on facebook which had him checking in from the emergency rooms in those cities as well. frankly, i felt quietly helpless and sad when i would read those.
i assume that friends of ours may read this post and get angry as i might seem to be airing bryan’s dirty laundry. i hope this is not my intention. i am saddened by bryan’s early passing. i was so very grateful for all the volunteering he did for our hiv organization as well as the lgbt community at large. i wish i could be as philanthropic as he. i genuinely liked bryan. 
at the same time, it was just as authentically heartbreaking to be so very aware of his internal and closted writhing that seemingly could only be quelled with meds (and sometimes not even then)- as often as they were procured by proxy. bryan certainly had physical complications in his life. they were accompanied by emotional pain that rarely saw the light of day. i mourn openly for bryan and all the wonderful attributes he shared with our world. and i mourn silently for the unrequited discomfort that he wore like an invisible undergarment. 
the yin-yang aspect of my feelings for bryan are intoxicating. it is like sitting on the edge of a canyon knowing i have to go in some direction, but too amazed at the view to find the where-with-all to make a move. there is some quality in this uncertainty which compels me to love my life. the not-knowing all of this gives me grist for the mill. 
thank you bryan for breezing through my world and clearing out some cobwebs on your way. i will always be grateful, i will always be smiling, and i will always wonder. 

lost

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lost at sea by cory g via deviant art
“A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ” 

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (Corinthians 13:4-7)


my friend’s ashes were blessed, reminisces shared, tears shed today at the small catholic church in englewood. i comforted friends from my past and was comforted by my friends of today. i sat quietly while others shared their history and insight. his longtime friend read the famous passage on love and i understood it more intimately than i could ever imagine. i ceremoniously put to rest any idea that i could head backwards.

i need to set a new course. i am unsure. it is not frightening, but i am reticent. i can’t intuit how to move forward. i can’t feel my feet. i can feel the wind and hear the pounding surf. i feel cold. i am waiting and trying my damnedest to lean into the unknowing.

there are (as always) many opinions for me to choose from. not my usual style though. internal wisdom tells me if i don’t know what to do, then do nothing. life is just like playing poker sometimes. good bye my dear friend. safe journey. you will be missed.

and as for me, i am still. i am not a body. i am free. for i am still…… as god created me.

The wilderness is not just a desert through which we wandered for forty years. It is a way of being. A place that demands being open to the flow of life around you. A place that demands being honest with yourself without regard to the cost in personal anxiety. A place that demands being present with all of yourself.

In the wilderness your possessions cannot surround you. Your preconceptions cannot protect you. Your logic cannot promise you the future. Your guilt can no longer place you safely in the past. You are left alone each day with an immediacy that astonishes, chastens and exults. You see the world as if for the first time.
-Lawrence Kushner

tears in heaven

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In Memoriam- Paul Jelaco
Let me come in where you are weeping, friend, 
And let me take your hand. 
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours, 
Can understand.
Let me come in — I would be very still 
Beside you in your grief; 
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend, 
Tears can bring relief.Let me come in — I would only breathe a prayer, 
And hold your hand, 
For I have known a sorrow such as yours, 
And understand….
Grace Noll Crowell 

i have posted a few times about my sponsor and his diagnosis of stage IV liver cancer earlier this year. i called his home 2 days ago and was informed by a voice i didn’t know that he had been moved to hospice. and i just received a call from that same voice letting me know that he passed this morning in his sleep. i was concerned about his mother. i asked the mysterious voice to please give my number to his mother. his mom called me 10 minutes later. i have been filled with a bittersweet sadness since. there is drama with his mama and it may be forever unresolved. it’s not my drama, but i am privy to it none-the-less.

paul was my sponsor, but more importantly he was my friend and mentor. when i met him he was attending 12 step meetings and always quoting from “the big book”. it usually annoyed me greatly when people did that, but for some reason, his gentle demeanor dissolved my disdain. i didn’t need an aggressive sponsor. paul fit that bill. he taught me the concept of “god doesn’t create junk” and repeated it over and over. here is a post from my 1st blog which captures a sense of just how integrated his words are into my process. the post was titled “house of flying daggers”

when paul was diagnosed, he started to shut down- both emotionally and physically, and the experience of losing him began at that time for me. i spoke with him weekly at least, but didn’t see him more than 10 times or so. each time i did see him, and many times on the phone, he would well up with tears. he struggled with his feelings about his health and i am sure with his own sense of loss, fear, and probably his sense of failure with his battle with cancer as well.

what i am resisting here is conveying the emptiness and melancholy that winds through me like the highline canal meanders through our fair city. friends like paul do not appear in my life everyday. i am a flawed friend. i carry much baggage. those who can accept and withstand me are very few and far between. i have conveyed these feelings to him, but it never seemed enough- especially now.

he used to call me “cosmo”. he felt pride and respect for the work i did. he was always supportive of my work in the hiv community and in the recovery community. he understood that i strangely live a sober life filled with synchronicity and opportunity. he also reminded me that i might just be doing the work i was meant to do. i have had a cheerleader like no other and will probably never experience that level of  trust and support again. i hope i didn’t take it for granted nor have it in vain. and i certainly hope i was able to be even a fraction of this for him.

i am not at all aware of where i go from here. the more dramatic part of me sees myself almost as jill clayburgh sitting on the floor of that empty apartment at the end of “an unmarried woman”. drama aside, a cornerstone of my foundation seems to have vanished. no doubt i’ll get to that, but this damn wind that i have to deal with until then…..

let me go

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image credit.. samuel hodge

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

the tide is high

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image credit… dmitri theocharis

i had a long day at work catching up on paperwork and trying to regain my emotional balance somehow. i just feel wonky. change has moved into our department like the santa ana winds, and i am stirred deeply by the gales.

i volunteered for the foundation at a fundraiser for the adolescent psychiatric program. a young black woman named madeline spoke about her experiences with mental health issues in her own neighborhood. the simplicity of her stories of her neighbors and friends, gutted by mental health issues, just like hooks thrown by invisible fishing lines had me teary. i remembered my own adolescence usurped by imbalance which set a course of living on the edge which lasted decades more than appropriate. mental illness is very real and very closeted. i need to work more to illuminate this.

today i spoke with my friend. he spent his final day at work and was cagey and passive aggressive as he talked around it. he talked about hooking up with home health care with hospice to follow. it was matter of fact and chilled both of us as it was discussed. months pass very quickly while time can move slowly in the same life. i wonder if that will be the case here.

i couldn’t sleep this morning. longtime companion was running on cable, so i watched it again. the film still moves\ me deeply, but the effects are not as acute at all. i have moved past the pain and fear of that time, but find i continue to deal with loss and the inability to change life and death. luckily, i have become adept at learning not to run.

this seems to be rambling. it is very late and i should sleep.

auto pilot

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image credit…. marina ambromovic

i have come to understand yet another layer of how i operate in my part of the world. maybe i knew this before, but with the latest turn in the road, my nature drifts yet again from the mists. i feel gratitude for this renewed awareness, but i would trade this gift for one of unknowing- sadly even if for only a short while. but the decades have rescinded my right to deny.

the previous paragraph seems so vague, but it is crystal clear to me. one of my best friends (and my sponsor of 7 years)  was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer this week. he underwent esophageal surgery a couple of years ago with the intention of eradicating an aggressive cancer which had him out of commission for several months. it seems the cellular anomalies have survived, relocated, and set up shop in another part of his body. the oncologist advised to get papers in order with a half year. 
his behavior has seemed somewhat erratic lately. i have come to understand that he has been getting sicker for awhile. he has been moody. he has withdrawn a bit. he has not seemed happy-probably due mostly to not feeling very well. as he has shared this news with me he has wavered between pushing me away and struggling to find words between breath drawing tears.  
he holds his right to his feelings close to his chest. he has partitioned himself from his family right now because their questions and their concerns are too loud for him now. he needs to distill his own position before he can be okay letting others in. i find myself considering my words and my intention with intensity, which is more reserved than i usually am.
i find i have a natural caregiver response to crisis. i think i developed this growing up with a single young parent who binge drank heavily. there were many crises that arose over the years and i found that parenting that parent and taking care of her drama was the quickest way not to disappear in it. this posture became second nature and continued with some of my besties in the 80’s when aids swept through our lives and still remains intact with me today in my work and in my search for validation.
i find myself reviewing this part of my nature right now. i want to be “there” for someone i love, but i don’t want to be on auto pilot- even though that’s where i always go first and that is the place i find myself now.  its hard to believe,  but i don’t really want this to be about me. i am working to make it about someone i care very much about. and how to remain available while our lives unfurl. 
You and I have been through many things.
I’ll hold on to your heart.
I wouldn’t cry for anything,
But don’t go tearing your life apart.

I have seen fear. I have seen faith.
Seen the look of anger on your face.
And if you want to talk about what will be,
Come and sit with me, and cry on my shoulder,
I’m a friend.
And if you want to talk about it anymore,
Lie here on the floor and cry on my shoulder,
Once again.
Cry on my shoulder, I’m a friend.

here’s to life

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No complaints and no regrets.
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets.
But i have learned that all you give is all you get, so give it all you got.
I had my share, i drank my fill, and even though i’m satisfied i’m hungry still
To see what’s down another road, beyond a hill and do it all again.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life the dreamers and their dreams.
Funny how the time just flies.
How love can turn from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
And leave you with the memories you’ve memorized
To keep your winters warm.
There’s no yes in yesterday.
And who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away.
As long as i’m still in the game i want to play
For laughs, for life, for love.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life, the dreamers and their dreams.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.

i wrote about an encounter with someone who was deeply lost in his drinking last week. 4 days later he had died. i was very saddened by it all. feeling quite helpless and ineffective is just a fraction of the things that i have tried on. it’s better today. i am accepting and letting go. it is a process though.

the flip side of course, is that the struggling soul- my friend- is struggling no more. he doesn’t have to hate his hiv and his hep-c any longer. he doesn’t have to deny that he doesn’t feel his best.any more. he doesn’t need to imbibe till the blackness rolls in any longer. and he doesn’t have to hide who he is and how he is. he is free.

this space i now find myself in is part of my reality. strangely, it has been for half my life-in one way or another. in the 80’s and 90’s it was the virus that was taking out many of my contemporaries. drugs and alcohol took out a few too, but it was mostly aids. now i find the opposite to be true. working within the hiv field, the virus takes out a few, but more than anything else, i see multiple earth departures fueled by substances.

i am practicing staying grounded as i continue to remember that people die. this death is not an isolated incident. thankfully, it is not a daily one, but it happens more than i would like. i am thankful i am able to available for others. the 80’s found me numbing out myself. today i am listening.  i honestly am changing. one day at a time.

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” 

requiem

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sad news yesterday came my way. kenny-a friend who has been in the hospital for several months with multiple complications from lymphoma had passed over. not sad for him, as he had been in a coma for 3 of those months, his body riddled with shingles, he acquired a viral pneumonia that wasn’t responding to treatment, and the multitude of meds he was taking were taking their own toll.

i met kenny about 6 years ago with his wife Susan at a 12 step meeting on a Saturday morning. His wife was a colorful and eccentric woman who wore leopard print and brightly colored eyeglasses with contrasting shoes and bags. he had just decided to get clean about  a year before i did. it turned out that we had the same person for a sponsor and would share breakfast together after meetings with sponsees or with each other. his soul was of the kindest ilk. he looked to the good things in people, where i could never say that is my first stop. he exuded caring and shared openly and honestly about the chasms he had traversed.

susan passed about 2 years ago, in february i think. she had contracted cancer as well, and had mental health issues that compounded with her illness and with chemo. he had contract lymphoma 2 years prior to that, but had aced a rocky venture with his chemo and seemed to be thriving. and he hunkered down and became caretaker for his ailing wife with more dignity and grace than hallmark can put in a month of programming. and he mourned openly and lovingly for several months after her passing.

kenny taught me about acceptance in a surprising way. he always greeted me with a positive tone and an air of inclusivity that astonished me. during several years of our friendship, i found myself riddled with ptsd and untreated mental health issues which encased me in standoffishness and aloofness bound by self judgement. he would always act as if none of that were visible, even though i had pushed so many others away. every encounter left me feeling as if i were one of the boys. boy did i need that, too.

i will miss him and i will miss the possibility of seeing him again. but i smile everytime i have thought of him these last few months. not for his pain, but for his life and what his spirit brought into mine.

fun loving criminals

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so it has been a bit since the last post. my laptop crashed and there was some drama getting it up and running again. 4 weeks of frustration and jones-ing later, i am returning and happy to report that life continues. i find the joy of living expanding these days as i have begun to revisit some of my spiritual practices and beliefs. the spiritual side to my life is the part that enlarges my life. and as i review this last year, i think that envisioning a larger life is what is perhaps the most needed.

i have felt my heart opening with my work. the opportunity to discover compassion is feeding my soul and stretching my understanding. accompanying my growth is some fear, some challenge, and some wonder…. and some big inner smiles.

i have been working the catering jobs quite frequently for my schedule. it has been fun and it has reconfirmed that i thrive around diversity in my days. and i profit financially, too.

with regard to my previous post, i have been feeling a bit of remorse as it seems a bitchy entry. i suppose it was. i have been close to someone who began to withdraw months ago and i have been in my own denial about both this and my connection to it. naturally, i have wanted to make my friends drama and pain about me. this is a mistake. i am affected, but really it is about him. it is sad, it is painful no doubt, and it will require work to return to the sunlight of spirit. with regard to my self-centered moments, i am with regret. but i understand, at the same time.

a person i know passed over and it was a complete surprise. there was opiate abuse involved and there were both depression and lies. sadly, the partner has been feeling the effects more directly. the non-disclosure of an HIV status causes the situation to be more confusing and painful for the person left behind. sometimes life just ain’t pretty.

all for now, but i’ll update soon. i have missed writing.