I have an affliction: I am very skilled at purposely producing failure.
This is not a good thing. I suppose, above everything else, it’s best that I recognize it and accept it.
I suppose, also, it’s fitting for me to write this while I’m drinking. For good reason, I promise. Why? Well, I shouldn’t be drinking at all. Because I know better. No, no, it has nothing to do with alcoholism (though it runs in my DNA). But it does fit highly into my incessant need to seek failure rather than success.
Ah, where to begin. Drinking is my vice. My lovely mistress. I like alcohol, not because of the wonderful flavor, but also how it makes me feel – loose, carefree, and apparently a seer of all things the Universe has to offer. It’s interesting all the answers I can come up with when I have the benefit of beer and spirits.
I’m good at forgetting pain. I’m good at slicing my wrists and pretending it’s just a scratch. I’m a pro at jumping off a bridge and expecting to land on my feet. Because denial.
Recently I experienced ONE OF THE WORST instances of gout. I won’t even explain what gout is – look it up if you’re unfamiliar. It was…volcanic. Incendiary. Two weeks of being nearly incapacitated, missing work. Four more weeks waiting for it to slowly dissipate. A glacial pace. Pure torture.
Gout is exacerbated by several issues, two major culprits being alcohol and meat. My life’s blood, basically. But this past experience…I made promises to myself. I’d quit drinking forever. I’d cut out meat completely. And I did. For almost two months I let them go, waving as those two wonderful parts of my life bid farewell.
I drank almond milk smoothies for days. I ate vegetables like candy. I could swim in the amount of water I consumed. No meat, no booze. The gym became my new friend. Because of course I’d need to find an addiction to replace the booze, the horrible food. Just one more thing to dive into. I worked out, I lost weight. My skin glowed. I slept like a baby. I had the energy of an adolescent. I was, as they say, a new person.
But then, there it was, a glass of beer. Why not one? ONE can’t hurt. Maybe two? The gout flare-up had finally subsided. I could walk without a limp, do my job with ease and success. The gym had become as familiar as a comforting blanket. So what could ONE DRINK hurt?
Even as I write this I have a minor gout flare-up in my knee. What does it fucking take for me to learn? I can actually picture myself crawling to the bathroom because that last flare up was so bad. Yet I have no qualms about picking up another beer, simply because the pain – get this – has gone away. My skills of denial put even Donald Trump to shame.
The failures I inflict on myself are multiple. I work out, lose weight, and stop as soon as I see results. I write vigorously for weeks, pleased with what I’ve created, only to set it aside because I “need a break.” And this, the drinking. Will it take another massive flare up of horrific pain for me to realize the joke I’m making of myself?
I write this because I need to hold myself accountable. If no one reads this…at least I know it’s here. I knew, realistically, I’d have a drink again. I didn’t quit because I thought I couldn’t live without alcohol – I quit because of my health. But dammit, even all the benefits – great skin, sleeping well, losing weight, being happy, enjoying work – don’t seem to be ENOUGH for me to recognize the failure booze induces!
Let’s see what tomorrow brings because, even at this rate, I’m not entirely sure.
This is turning out to be one very contentious election. You have a buffoon in one corner, and polished liar in the other. And boy, those two are going to fight until the end.
Though I have several concerns regarding this particular election (don’t get me started on Mike Pence, Mr. Conversion Therapy himself), a deep concern is how I’m to handle those on my Facebook Friends List who support the Donald.
It’s challenging. During the last election, between Obama and Romney, I learned a friend of 20+ years is a Republican. I was honestly floored at the revelation. How I didn’t know this is beyond me. But she’s a good friend, and we figured if we were able to be friends for the 20 years prior, then why not now?
But still, there’s something that needles me regardless.
This election has brought out the worst in all of us. Democrats and Republicans alike. I’m to blame as well. I share and post anything and everything that displays what a complete asshat Donald Trump is, because DUH. And my Republican friends bag on Hillary, because Fox News. It’s just a giant shit show.
Still, there’s an underlying issue that makes me question everything. Strike me and my fabulousness dead for saying it, but….
…it’s the gay thing.
At what point does “Let’s agree to disagree” become “You are completely spitting on who I am as a human being”? The America that Trump and Pence hope to concoct don’t include people like me. And that’s fucking frightening. What does it say about my friends if they support a man who doesn’t think my partner and I deserve equality? The right to marry? What does it say if they agree that there should be more conservative judges in the Supreme Court, making decisions to halt the equality the LGBT community deserves? It bothers me.
I’m reminded of the many people I’ve known over the years who have said, “Sean, I don’t agree with the homosexual lifestyle…but you’re okay!” I’ve let go of several people in my life who have felt this way. I recently unfriended a former colleague who I worked with in the education system. She fit the description of the person I just described, “accepting” me for who I am because, well, I’m SEAN. Every day, though, her posts were becoming thoroughly political, backing Trump 100 percent. It unnerved me.
“You understand that supporting Trump means you don’t support who I am as a gay individual?” I asked her through messenger.
“I only agree with most of what Trump has to say. He wants to change America! Hillary will ruin it.”
“And what would you do,” I started, “if Trump was, in some way, able to reverse the same-sex marriage decision? Or if everything the LGBT community has worked for was taken back 20 years because of Trump?”
“Sean,” she said, “I don’t want to argue. I hate Hillary for about as many reasons you hate Trump. But if you don’t like what I have to say, you can unfriend me.”
So I did. And I felt better because of it. It was amazing the difference it made not to see her posts. But was I being unfair? Didn’t she have a point? Granted, I’m not 100% Hillary, but didn’t my unfriended friend have just as much a right to feel about Hillary the way I do about Trump?
But still, I feel like I’m disregarded as the friend of a Trump supporter simply because of what Trump stands for when it comes to the LGBT community.
After writing this, I still don’t know how to answer my own question. Do I accept the fact that we all have different ideas, different beliefs? Is it possible these friends agree with only most of what Trump purports, but not necessarily the LGBT issue? Sure, it’s easy for them to feel that way, they’re straight, after all. Straight people don’t have to worry about his or her rights being tossed away like trash.
Am I being a hypocrite? Here I am judging friends for being able to support who they damn well please during this election. What does that say about me?
So, until the election is over, I suppose I’ll have to tread water before I make any unfriending decisions. Mind you, unfriending someone doesn’t mean I no longer like that individual. Basically it means I’m making a decision to avoid ugliness, in all capacities.
Until November 8th.
“So…who are you voting for??”
I’ve been asked this question so many times over the past year. And, honestly, it’s a legitimate, community-binding question. Right?
Often I would like to ask, in return, “I’m not sure yet, but let me ask, how many blow jobs did you give last year?!?” I don’t, of course, because I have decorum, dammit. But still. It would certainly raise a few eyebrows.
Politics is a polarizing issue. People love to talk about it! My Facebook page is rife with opinions (many wrong), thoughts (many stupid), and ideas (some worth while). Politics, though, truly is one of those subjects that gets even the most benign individuals to open up. Politics and religion. And sex. And the whole LGBT thing. And “Game of Thrones,” for some reason. Whatever.
I’m not a political person. I have peripheral knowledge, information I’ve gathered from the internet, billboards, news reports, and opinionated customers at work (because retail). I’m a Democrat – there, I said it. And that’s no secret. I am perched deftly on the Left Wing because, well, the Right Wing is all mangled and shit. But that’s just my opinion. I know about Hillary’s email scandal, but the details escape me. I know Bernie wants free education for everyone. I know Trump has small hands or some shit like that. And a trampy wife, but money can pretty much buy you anything.
I couldn’t have a political conversation/argument/debate to save my life. The last time my mother was here she started rambling on about Obama and what a mess he’s made of the country. I just nodded. If Obama has ruined the country, I haven’t noticed. At least no major buildings were pummeled by hijacked planes on his watch, but that’s a different story. All I know is I’m as well versed in politics as Ann Coulter is in shutting the fuck up.
Admitting to being a Democrat might give away which I’m leaning in the voting booth. But it’s still none of anyone’s business. It feels so personal, doesn’t it? Someone recently asked me, quite seriously, “You’re voting for Bernie, right?” It’s as if someone was asking if I’ve seen “Office Space.” Apparently an amazing film, but admitting to not seeing it is akin to not knowing men have walked on the moon. “How can you not have seen that movie??”
Easy. I haven’t seen it. There, done.
I’m being ornery, I know. If you know me, that’s my sassiness shining through. The truth is, though, I’m not letting a single soul know who I’m actually voting for. Okay, I will not be voting for Donald Trump (should he get the nomination, but as of this writing…duh). Maybe I won’t vote at all. Okay, that’s silly, but still. Maybe I won’t. (seriously, I’m kidding.)
Whatever the case, it’s often just voting for the lesser of two evils, isn’t it? Politics might be polarizing, but we can all agree on that. That, and Ann Coulter needs to shut the fuck up. Honestly, who invited her to the party? She doesn’t even go here.
Well here I am, two cocktails in to an otherwise uneventful evening. Am I drunk? No, not by a long shot. Am I feeling like I could spill a secret if a national terrorist organization demanded it of me? I’d lean toward yes.
So, here goes:
Have I told you my father left my family when I was eight years old? Up and gone. Poof!
Well, not quite so simple. I wish it were.
What do I tell you? Do I tell you about the day I begged and begged my mother for a dollar so I could go to the grocery store and buy a soda, knowing very well we didn’t have the money? A dollar. Can you imagine? We didn’t have a dollar, yet I asked for it. I should be ashamed of that, but I was eight years old. Eight years old. Isn’t that the age you start to truly remember things? Embrace them as part of your life?
Do I admit to you that feeling of shame, leaving the store, knowing I was enjoying a sweet beverage when that dollar could have gone toward something as substantial as food? A dollar in 1983 was a lot of money. Again, how could I possibly know, at such a young age??
Do I tell you about my father, coming toward me along the dirt path that led to the store, looking stern and serious? Do I tell you about how I froze, and wondered what he might say? Or, worse, do? He was in a rush, walking quickly, coming toward me like he knew I’d done something wrong. I was petrified. I can see him now: dressed simply, slacks and a t-shirt, his hair thick and shiny, his mustache threatening and rust-colored. “He was such a handsome man,” family members have told me, years later. I could swear he was clenching his fists.
“Don’t tell your mother you saw me,” my father said. Seven words, the last I’d hear. He might as well have dropped dead right there. But he didn’t.
Instead, he swept past me as if I were nothing more than an afterthought. His son. The child he had a hand in creating. Abandoned, a pair of old socks you toss in the trash. A cigarette smoked to the nub, flicked into the gutter. An empty beer bottle you chuck in the garbage. I turned back to look at him – I remember this clearly – and he didn’t turn back once. Not once.
I said nothing to no one. Even when we were forced to pack up and move, because my father, as manager, had stolen all the rent money to go gambling. I told my mother about the incident years later. She understood why I’d said nothing. What good would it have done? I think, even at eight years old, I knew my father’s departure was coming. I can’t imagine how, but I did. His involvement in my life was peripheral, at best. Showing up at Christmas one year. Patting me on the head at dinner. Jokes, laughing, being a Part Of Everything.
I don’t remember much of him. I have a few pictures, nothing substantial. I feel nothing but hate for him. Resentment. There will never be forgiveness, the way they teach you on Oprah or Dr. Phil. “To forgive is to let go, and to move on with your life.” Fuck that. If there is a hell, I hope he’s burning in it. Why? I’ll tell you why.
I know very well my life is better for not having had my father in it. Had he stuck around, who knows what kind of train wreck our family would have become. But what I do know is that he took away the choice. He took it upon himself to disappear, because it was easy. Is this my consensus? No. My family agrees with this completely. My father was a coward, always had been. I can’t begin to imagine any redeeming quality about the man. NONE. “Try, Sean, there must be something.” There is nothing. I see him as I would see a mannequin – hollow, useless, nothing more than a stand-in.
There are blessings, I suppose. I am who I am because my father did not stick around. I think if he had, I’d have killed him. A knife to the chest, or a gun to the temple. Quick, simple, clean.
And it would have felt wonderful.
If he is dead – and I hope he is – I can only wish I’d some hand in it. Maybe I did. I pray he was crippled with the decision to leave. I pray he thought about me, my sister, my mother, at least once a day. And I hope it hurt. If there is a god, then it hurt. A lot.
Ok, I’ll admit it, I cried a little when Prince died. Not like a baby – just a few sniffles. I purchased a copy of the “Purple Rain” soundtrack on iTunes. I’ve listened to it several times since. I’ve looked him up on Wikipedia to learn more about his career. I even sang “When Doves Cry” at karaoke not too long ago.
I am not obsessed with Prince. There’s more to it than that.
In 1984, when “Purple Rain” was released, I was 9 years old. That album, as you know, is some heavy stuff. For me, though, 9 and 10 years old is that age where music really starts to shape our formative years. Madonna was a Boy Toy. George Michael was all pop and white teeth. Duran Duran had us wondering what in the hell “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” meant. Cyndi Lauper, well, she was just so unusual.
It was a big deal when Prince died because it felt like a part of my childhood had been taken from me. I’d lost enough as it were: did the universe really need more? But people die all the time. It just…happens. So why the shock?
Our connection with music, I know, is inimitable. It is intrinsic to our being. I don’t even really need to ask why we’re upset when a musician dies because, ultimately, they’ve left a huge mark on our lives. We don’t think they have until they’re actually gone, and that’s why we’re left with a slice in our soul.
My point is this: when Prince died I was immediately drawn back to 1984. My dad had left the year prior. My mother, my sister and I lived in a small apartment not too far from where I live now. We didn’t have a lot of money. My friends Chris, Christine and Jimmy, all who lived downstairs and across the lawn, were my best friends, my escape. We thrived on Transformer cartoons. I stayed the night at Chris’s apartment more than my own. We watched too much MTV, ate horrible food. School was on the other end of town and I had to take the city bus, or walk if my mother didn’t have the 50 cents needed for the fare. It was a dark time, looking back, but I was just a kid so I didn’t know any different. It was bad, but it was also good. The music, all of it, helped ease that burden. Prince’s passing brought me back there all over again.
It’s like the song, “Purple Rain,” I guess. I read somewhere, during my newfound interest in Prince, that the title held a certain meaning. Something I hadn’t known. Even as a kid I always wondered what it meant: “Purple Rain.” It was such a clear yet devastatingly visceral reason: when the sky rains blood, blue and red make purple. Purple rain.
It sort of gets you a little bit, doesn’t it? The bad and the good – the red and the blue – still wind up making something beautiful.
I’ll tell you, though, I’m all about nostalgia, but when Madonna goes, I’ll be revisiting more than just 1984, and it will be overwhelming.
The recent series of Life Lessons I have experienced have been sobering. First, turning 40 was a more pleasant surprise than I’d anticipated. Then, sadly, my “career” with Starbucks took a disappointing turn. Of course, losing my car – and potentially my life – completely opened my eyes. It’s like these experiences were all ear-marked especially for me.
I don’t generally like to wax philosophical, but I am at a point in my life where I can say this and truly mean it: I believe things happen for a reason.
Let me explain.
For the first time in over three months I went for a walk. Outside. I know, you can lift your chins now – I was equally shocked (this isn’t the Life Lesson I’m alluding to, but it was unexpected nevertheless). I woke up, felt annoyed with myself for not having exercised in months, and decided to put on some sneakers, a long sleeve shirt, a hat, and my Fuck It attitude. So I did it. I took a nice, brisk walk around an old, familiar route I used to jog (when my knees weren’t the screaming bitches that they are now).
As I neared the end of my walk, something happened. Looking back, it was fateful. It had to be. There, scurrying across the busy four-lane street, was an animal. Tiny, quick-footed, the size of a grey purse. It came right at me. I stopped dead in my tracks: a kitten, frail, looking haggard and weary, coming straight for me. It jumped the curb, ran past my feet, and leapt into the ice plants that grew along the rise in the grass.
Savior Mode kicked in. From where I stood I could she she was malnourished. She was so young!! If I had to guess, I’d say a month old, six weeks at most. I carefully crossed the grass – clicking my tongue, patting my hands together, trying to soothe her. She wouldn’t budge. She was panting furiously, her eyes large and cautious. Despite her condition, she was beautiful. I wanted to pick her up and take her home. I stepped closer, putting out my hand…
…then, what I had mistaken for meowing had actually been hissing. Fierce hissing. She was feral, of course, what else should I have expected? She batted her paw at me, quick as a rattlesnake. That poor creature. I sat down, trying to satiate the tiny kitten, speaking to her the way cat owners do. She was unfazed. Her eyes, I could see, were clouded over. Her mouth, too, was covered in sores and drool. I texted my good friend, Martha, an equal Lover of Animals, and she suggested the kitten might have distemper.
Food, I thought. I’ll get her some food!
I got home as quickly as I could. I grabbed a can of cat food, got in my car, and went back to her. Fifteen minutes had passed. Astonishingly, she was still there, looking relaxed yet still panting heavily. I cracked open the can and used the lid as a spoon. I tried to feed her. She could smell the food, and I could see that she wanted it, but nothing. I was able to get a small amount of it on her mouth, her tongue – but she didn’t even try. She wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t even swallow what I’d given her.
Then I saw the ants. Crawling on her, near her mouth, her eyes. Every time I tried to get close, she’d hiss at me. I knew then she was exhausted merely because of my presence. I could call the Humane Society…but their priorities wouldn’t have let them get to me – or the kitten – in time. What in the hell was I supposed to do?!?
Something painful yet profound occurred to me at that very moment. It was like a needle to my skin – quick, seething, impossible to ignore. I cried because of it. I sobbed. The moment was surreal yet intrinsic. It was a very, very hard pill to swallow because, frankly, I hadn’t thought it was something I was capable of. There was a difficult decision to be made:
I had to walk away.
There I was, in my sweaty shirt and sneakers, hovering over a tiny, broken creature, realizing with a sense more jarring than mortality, that there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t be a savior. I couldn’t move mountains, as much as I wanted. I stood there, stunned, absorbing the very moment I realized that sometimes we MUST walk away. Sometimes there are issues Beyond Our Control. No matter how much it hurt, I could not be the person to save this animal. Not this time. I’d done it before, and it was hard – VERY hard. It was a strange sensation, to have this puzzle piece snap into place, allowing to both forgive myself AND walk away.
And I prayed, I did. I’m not a religious man, but I prayed. I prayed for that poor little soul. I prayed for myself. I also took stock. I took stock in my life, in my experiences, in my personal growth. I understood the shame I felt was normal, it was okay, and even then there is nothing to be done except feel the feelings – and move on.
I got home and briefly shared with Keith what had happened. I was brief on purpose, not giving him too many details. Seemingly unconnected, I thought of my new job starting next month. I looked outside at my new car. I even looked at my 40 year-old face in the mirror – the lines, the wrinkles, the gray in my beard. I recalled my father leaving when I was 8. I thought of that first car accident, when I was 19, and what a Life-Changer that was.
I thought of Keith, our relationship, despite its downs and ups. I thought of family, friends, work, and money. I thought, of course, about that kitten. And how I walked away. I’m not totally heartless – two hours later I drove past that spot…and she was gone.
And I thought, blessedly, how some things simply happen for a reason. Sometimes things happen and, no matter what, we’re meant to simply walk away. And that’s okay.
Last night, as I neared sleep, I had started to sink into self-misery. My life has been taking turns I haven’t necessarily been pleased with. But as I lay there, a mental reflex kicked in, something I truly believe I wouldn’t have experienced twenty, ten, even five years ago. My mind made a pleasant yet surprising leap. “Just chill, Sean, it’ll work out,” my mind told me. I was pleased with this. And i slept.
This was a mental reflex based on age and experience. I acknowledged that, at 40, I was able to do this. In fact, every age really teaches us something, doesn’t it? I felt I needed to reflect on this, for no reason other than self-confirmation.
AGE FIVE: What can I say about five? Here we have the three C’s: cartoons, candy, and carefree. What else, really, is there?
AGE TEN: Ah, ten. This was the first instance of understanding the struggle my mother went through for my sister and I. Money, I learned, didn’t grow on trees. That year I begged, and begged, and begged for my mother to buy me a Transformer toy. Bumblebee, I’ll never forget it. “I’m sorry, Sean, I just don’t have the money.” She had to tell me this several times. It took a while to sink in. Her tone, finally, drove the point home; harsh, insistent, near tears. I’ll never forget it. Ever.
AGE FIFTEEN: My father had been gone for some time. My mother had remarried, and I hated it. My stepfather, I believed, was a tyrant. A military man. Despite the vitriol in my veins, I saw that my mother needed someone, just as my sister and I needed her. I acquiesced, and managed to be civil, because I recognized my mother’s need for love. It was the first time I understood how painful it could be to be alone in this world.
AGE TWENTY: Life is responsibility. Life is working for what you want. Life is a struggle. Twenty was a year after a horrific, life-changing car accident. I realized, at twenty, that the universe is unforgiving. It’s a merciless thing. The universe works with you if you work with it. Nothing was going to be handed to me. EVER.
AGE TWENTY-FIVE: I deserved love. I deserved to be an openly gay man in a world that might not ever accept that. I could be myself and never apologize for it. There was nothing easy about this, accepting love; it was a mountain to be moved, a lion to be tamed. I met the Love of My Life at 25 – Keith – and I’m still learning about it to this day.
AGE THIRTY: I was thrilled that my twenties were over. Despite the learning curve, my twenties were claustrophobic and unyielding. I felt like it was one lesson after another. Thirty helped me embrace freedom. Freedom from judgment. Freedom from simply throwing up my hands and giving in. At 30, I began to understand it was important to think for myself, and not what others expected from me.
AGE THIRTY-FIVE: Life offers zero apologies. ZERO. There are no expectations, because no matter what I thought should happen, or might happen, the complete and utter opposite is what did happen. And this is fine. The distinction here isn’t that the unexpected happened, it’s that I was able to deal with it. Not happily, mind you, but dealt with nonetheless.
AGE FORTY: Life will change on a dime, and this is ok. Delilah came in to my life when I was 37, and by 40 she has made me understand that I will forever be facing challenges. I lost my car. I have several health problems that, at 20, I never would have anticipated. The career with Starbucks I thought was going to work in my favor turned out to be a joke. My interpreting career didn’t take a back seat, but I opened the passenger door and kicked its ass into oncoming traffic. Friends and family have questioned my choices, my decisions. I find myself stressing when I shouldn’t be. And you know what: IT’S MY LIFE AND NO ONE ELSE’S. That’s what 40 has taught me.
…and, if I’m lucky, I’ll be learning a LOT more in the oncoming years.