i am starting this post the morning after i saw the film “how to survive a plague”. it brought back so many remembrances of just how terrifying the 80’s became for us. the uncertainty was palpable and in larger cities the anger was like a cloak that kept the gay community warm. i am humbly amazed at how synchronicity encircles my life.
i called a friend from sin(strength in numbers) and asked him to go with me. we ended up with 10 people going to see it- many of whom i hadn’t seen really for a year or more.there is a scene in the film where mark carrington on doing a film diary and is making a big deal about lighting a cigarette and looking cool. the filmmaker at the time tells him to forget the cigarette after he blows his line and he seems non-plussed because his cool stogie lighting bit won’t be included. the guys i was with laughed out loud in unison at the vanity of it all. it was even funnier because we all laughed and no one else in the theater did- actually we laughed at several bits in the film without accompaniment.
the shots of aids patients of that time are still haunting and rang in that personal nightmare without fanfare or fuss. actually i found the documentary experience utilitarian and cathartic. it gave me the opportunity to reframe some of my terror and uncertainty into something less fearful and maybe even hopeful. to really experience the effects of high-pitched fear and anger that were focused and targeted changed my landscape. it is sad that it took 20 years for me to catch up with peter staley, larry kramer, mark carrington, and the rest of the bunch. but i am very grateful i have had the opportunity to understand.
before this, i knew well that the actions of actup coalesced in a change of the systems we live with. the medical system, the research protocol, and the fda approval process. what i didn’t know what how well planned and well executed the strategies for change were by this rogue band of frightened and angry men and women.
and just like these lgbt heroes from the film. maybe the change can be for the good. all our lives have been touched and tweaked by the demands of those brave and angry individuals. patient-centered care, fast tracked new drugs, open nih board meetings, peer representatives are just a few of the improvements we’ve seen in our healthcare world. absolutely nowhere in my mind is there doubt that the actions taken haven’t saved lives. i know they saved mine. just how many they have touched may never really be known.
i continue to be completely mad for peter staley. it is an unrequited crush that i will carry to my end of days. he did all that was documented in this film, plus he shape shifted the consciousness of nyc gay culture around crystal meth in the early 21 century. he grappled with the drug himself, which was no doubt a side effect of living with the terror of looming death for so long. it was mentioned that there were/are issues for many of the long-term survivors. this is part of my experience, too, and is a blessing (albeit very mixed). to survive is a gift even if it has a costly price tag.
currently i have found myself very angry in my life. my sponsor/friend has passed and i spent many hours volunteering for a friends organization and have walked away feeling empty and burnt. i have removed myself from the fray which has turned down the heat abundantly, but i still have work to do in this arena. this film has lovingly reminded me that my anger can be of good use to me if i allow it to do so. i share in a meeting today that anger is really a signal that something needs work and i might look at anger as an opportunity to change. change takes time and almost everything changes with time. or so i pray.
the thing about autumn in colorado is that it comes a couple of weeks earlier than the rest of the nation. because of the altitude, the aspens are already changing color and will probably be done by the beginning of october. native coloradans always make their fall treks to the hills in september because that’ when nature’s paintbursh is in high tide.
on the drive up highway 40 on thursday evening, i almost cried as the sunset was so amazing as i was about to enter winter park. a distinct yet pale pink orange sky was the backdrop for the gold and rust hues of the aspen leaves that speckled the hills on the westward drive. as is usually the case, words can’t seem to even echo nature’s wonder.
autumn is always a powerful time for my heart. i have come to realize that major changes happen in me at this time of the year. it’s as if some hard shell on my exterior cracks and out from the inside comes the beginning of a stronger creature. i feel as if my heart is opening to a level i have never really known. i am allowing myself to feel anger when i used to deny it. and in this allowing comes a grace i never knew existed. because the receding of anger brings with it a calm and a release. something that stifling that feeling never revealed. and just as the tide uncovers new patterns and artifacts left on the sand as it rolls back to its ocean home, so does the absence of anger reveal so much in its wake. this is a true gift for me this september.
i don’t remember if i mentioned watching irina bettencourt on oprah this week. she had been held captive in the mountains of ecuador for 6 1/2 years, but managed to stay alive. the interview was compelling to me as she didn’t come across angry or bitter, even after all her trials and tribulations. she somehow had gotten to a place of acceptance and forgiveness. some of her fellow captives had even done interviews vehemently claiming that she was the worst person on the earth and yet she was blanketed in kindness and warmth. for me, it was remarkable and inspirational. i believe that i want to live in this light. many miles left to travel, but i know there is a direction in which to go. gratitude, peace, love, and light.
i have finished the autumn issue of the TEN newsletter. You can read it on the “On The Ten” blog. Each edition seems to evolve and even get perhaps more grown up- definitely more inclusive. i do find myself feeling pride with regard to how far it has come in the last 3 years. if you are interested, you can see the history of the issues at OnTheTen
a friend from work burned a copy of the new santana cd “guitar heaven” for me. i love, love, love it.. this is definitely one of the standouts for me…. high school, led zeppelin, and head banging… baby…