Now is Your Magical Motivational Moment!

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Hey you. You with the pensive thoughts and the scribbled in, beat up journal. You have no talent. Everybody else is a better writer than you. You have nothing to offer. Look at all the pageviews and forwards and likes and listens that all of these other writers have. Now look at yours’. Why are you even trying? – The Evil Voice in My Head

Thank you for those kind and inspiring words, dear Evil Voice In My Head. And thank you for saying them over and over again to the point where smashing a rusty railroad spike into my noggin sounds like a viable and hell even an enjoyable solution. And yet here I am writing despite this screeching demon voice. So there. Suck it, Evil Voice in My Head. Because the reality is creativity, even sub par, holy-cow-please-don’t-let-anyone-ever-read-that flavored creativity survives. My desire to make stuff slogs on despite a brain that says, “Maybe you should ditch it all and become a wino who travels by train with a knapsack on a stick.” This survival, the persistence to keep making things has less to do with me being courageous than it does with me being a complete stubborn pain in the ass. Sure, I wanna give up. Sure, I wanna stop. But I can’t. The thing is I’ve stopped before. My creative brain fell into a tequila and cocaine induced coma and struggled to pull itself out for years. Now that it’s back, I try to protect it, like baby hedgehog or something equally as adorable.

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Yet there are constant, evil forces at work trying to funk with my creative flow and not all of them in my brain. Take for example, the state of the world. The world is a sad ass, scary as hell, oh good Lord please make it stop kind of place right now. There is no such thing as good news or good people or good anything. From senseless animal killing to senseless people killing to senseless brain cell killing, ain’t nothing positive happenin’ up in this club, honey child. For me, all of this gets compacted every single time I get online. I click on trending topics that make me want to poke my eyes out. I read rants by friends who I used to think were normal, sensible people but who were actually Satan this whole time. I get flooded by threads spewing so much garbage, it almost starts to sound like a parody. But this ain’t the whole story. Beauty is pushing its way through the garbage and saying, “Aw hell no. I’m here too, bitches.” Progress is happening despite our best efforts. And lovely miracles are sprouting up all over. I had three such miracles, so sacred, so brilliant that I won’t share them here in order to keep them next to my heart but let’s just say I believe in life after yuck. Still, I have to do my part to fight negative forces from taking over and stopping this creativity choo choo. Enter the unicorns.

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A few weeks ago, Facebook was getting me down and I mean if Facebook doesn’t regularly depress the ever-loving shit out of you, than you probably aren’t on it very much and kudos to you. But yeah, it was bumming me out. Everything was negative and I felt negative reading it. Soon I wanted to leave combative and negative comments too which I know as someone who does social media management for a living, is a total no-no of the red flag and deal-breaker variety. Like when you start taking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or any of it personally, you are doing it wrong. Period and non-negotiable. They are tools and they are for entertainment, nothing more. So I knew I was in deep doo doo when I felt butt hurt while reading posts on everything from politics to entertainment to recovery and beyond. I started to act like, “Oh my god I disagree with you and it hurts my feelings so I need to cry all over my keyboard while shitting all over your newsfeed.” Fundamentally, I knew this was unacceptable. My first dramatic impulse was, “I’m quitting all social media but only after long rambling posts about why I’m quitting social media!”This is a fleeting thought always, however, as I mentioned I use it for work. (By the way, nobody gives a crap if you quit social media and we all quit for the same reason so how about we just quit and nobody is the wiser? Just an idea.) The only other option was to practice some boundaries and lean into it. How could I address the things that bother me but do it in a way that makes me laugh and keeps it light? Praise Merlin for Google Image search. Through this handy dandy tool, I started taking fantasy art and making little memes to joke about my malaise regarding social media and society in general. This little fella was my first:

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I laughed while doing it and was inspired to make more. A lot more.

email a unicorn.jpgDuring a recent inventory, my sponsor pointed out to me that being a smartass and making people laugh was a way that I was of service. I have a hard time taking compliments (said every addict ever) but I can see his point here. After all, I’m incredibly grateful for the sober people in my life who make me laugh(Maureen, Isaiah, Johnny, etc, etc) so I can see how that this is of value. And I’m naturally a one liner spewing, corny joke shooting machine so this is something I can easily do. Amazingly, other people have enjoyed my fantasy-filled Facebook follies. Through a series of posts, I’ve been able to laugh about the things that bother me on social media and while laughing at myself and with my friends. Success! This wasn’t about book deals or pageviews or likes or anything else. It was just about moving through something and doing it with humor.

unfollow ball.jpgAs regular readers know, I despise self-helpy, you could fix your life if you only did this stuff. I’m a learner and responder to real experiences. Therefore my real experience is this: maybe it takes a billion blog posts, maybe it takes trying new recipes, maybe it takes new meditation practices, maybe it’s new books or maybe it’s memes with unicorns. But whatever it takes, I need to carry on. And you need to carry on too. Yeah sometimes it feels like we’re pitching our hearts and souls down a dark well and nobody will respond but it juts doesn’t matter. Don’t buy the lie that in order to be creative you need certain stuff or need perfect situations or that it just isn’t the time. Right now is the time. Find yo’ own meme unicorn or crotchet project or romance novel and do it now. Because you need to carry on and I need you to, too.

be nice. dammit.

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In a poetic moment the other day, as I walked down my lush tree-lined alley, feeling a cool breeze on my face, I had an idea. The next time I sat down to my blog I was going to write about spirituality. Because, as you might have guessed, I’m one spiritually enlightened muthafucka. I have all sorts of tips and ideas on how you can live a more enlightened and peaceful life. This was my idea, to share with you my knowledge of spirituality simply out of the goodness of my heart. This morning, however, I woke up and laughed. Part of my laughter had to do with a series of insane dialogue heavy dreams (even when I’m asleep I talk too much) and part of it had to do with feeling ridiculous. Ridiculous because I actually know nothing about spirituality or the secrets of the universe.

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And actually not knowing shit and being open, is the closest thing I feel to be connected to something bigger than myself. That sort of concludes my spiritual advice, if we’re being honest here. Meditation looks like me being quiet and listening. Prayer looks like me thanking, acknowledging and asking. And that is sort of the whole spiritual kit and kaboodle. That’s right. I said kit and kaboodle. See. I told you this was a serious spiritual discussion. But is that it? Does spirituality only happen when incense is burning and people are chanting?

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My guess is no. In fact, some of the biggest examples of spirituality and otherworldly juju happen in the big bad outside world and usually from strangers. Proof that goodness exists comes in lines at the grocery store, airports, Starbucks and other unlikely and decided non-spiritual places. I know, I know. The idea of people being nice all the time and friendly and helpful sounds like something out of a 50’s musical and is totally unrealistic. Yet a little goes a long way. I think even surface level, “trying not strangle someone but I’m still pleasant” is acceptable, admirable even. This is all on my mind because two nights ago I rattled off a Twitter letter of sorts to straight men .

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As I’ve mentioned before, my non-writing-thanks-for-the-great-benefits day job happens to be at an arts non-profit where in I deal with the general public. Since I basically can strike up a conversation with a handbag, I’m good at this sort of thing. I’m also inherently nosey so talking to people is self-serving on some level. Yet the other night’s mini-tweet rant was spurned by a gnarlier part of being big sparkly gay me and working with the public. The fact of the matter is I can be a lot. I know this. I’m a professional for god’s sake and know that I can’t belt out Cher songs and throw glitter on every person I meet. But I’m gleefully, gayfully me and getting sober and learning to love myself means I care less about what people think about me. 

This being said there are times when particularly straight men of a certain age (read also: bitter old dudes) just don’t respond to me and more than that are downright rude. I mean whatever. I waited tables for 5,000 years so human behavior doesn’t surprise on in any level anymore. But I do feel like it’s 2016 and in order to survive we should just be nice to each other. Like even if it makes us sick or irritates us. We should suck it up and be nice. And by the way, I no longer buy the “That’s just how he is” excuse when regarding assholes. No. They’re just an asshole and it isn’t cool. Also? Being unfriendly is not macho or cool. It just sucks. But such is the life of working with the public. I know women in the service industry sometimes experience it from other women. Men like to buy jewelry from women. Women like to buy shoes from men. These are broad assumptions about gender and character to be sure but when you work with the public the patterns are obvious enough that you pick up on it. So I’ve picked up the fact that me and every old guy aren’t going to be BFFs and this is okay.  But in the span of a week, I had three men in a row with their wives who came in who were let’s just say it: assholes. And it gets tiresome. I want to say, “Look Wilford Brimley. I don’t want to make out with you and you won’t turn gay by smiling at me so let’s all calm the fuck down, okay?” But what I do say instead is, “You two have a wonderful day.” I shake it off and move on and know that most people who come into my beautiful day job are in general, pleasant and happy. Yet all of this uber awareness of niceness has done something really unfortunate: it makes me realize that sometimes I’m the asshole in question.

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I started to write this piece yesterday morning but had to put it on hold to get the aforementioned day job. You would think that having niceness on the brain would have made me try extra hard to not be sort of a jerk. Uh yeah. Not so much. In my defense, I was low on caffeine and sort of hungry for the first part of my day so much of my snippy attitude can be attributed to that. But, yes, I was kind of annoyed and cranky a few hours and I didn’t love it. Nor did the other people around, I’m sure. After taking a break and talking to a friend going through a hard time, I realized much of the kindness I demand from the world, I don’t always give away. Oopsie. Thankfully, I spent the rest of day laughing. Laughing with my coworkers. Laughing with visitors. And laughing at myself. Through this, I was able to be nice again and treat people how I want to be treated. Easy kindergarten stuff but it felt like Jedi mind tricks when I was caught up in my shitty attitude. When I left and walked home, whatever had crawled up my butt had apparently crawled out and I was in a good mood. Happy, even.

Alas, some 1,100 words later, we get back to the title. Just be nice. Dammit. is niceness the only path to spirituality? Probably not but it can’t exactly hurt. After all, studies from Yale say that we’re all inherently nice despite our best efforts to behave otherwise. I guess the trick is remembering to lean into that. And the bigger trick? Getting to a place of compassion for those crusty old rude guys. Trying to remember, maybe Wilford Brimley needs a sandwich too. Maybe he needs a nap. Or maybe we’re all just humans trying and failing and trying again to be as nice as we possibly can. Dammit.

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83

83. 83 days. 83 freaking days! That’s all have we left. In 84 days, we will be crying or celebrating or at least shutting the fuck up about who is the president of the United States. Insert every happy dance/whew/hallelujah gif ever. It’s been a long and arduous pain in the ass. Yet it’s also been incredibly revealing. The friends of mine with a sense of humor and an ability to keep their head up have floated to the top. The ones who need to yell or think there’s a global conspiracy about everything? It’s been a tough year for them, to say the least. Bless (and unfollow) their crazy ass hearts.Nevertheless, here we are just 83 days away. Just 83 days left of this nonsense and we can all go back to talking about ourselves. It may seem like a long time away but for those of us who have gotten sober, we see a number like 83 days and we think, “I got this.”

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When you’re counting days in early recovery, it can be a long,long time. 30 days without drinking is a huge deal. 90? Even bigger. A year?!? Get the hell out of here. These milestones seem unachievable, mythical even. Yet if you’ve got the right support and you’re really ready, they can happen. So in later sobriety, I’ve been amazed what I can do for days in a row. I’ve quit meat for 6 months. I quit Facebook for 3. I quit smoking. Period. This structure I used to quit drinking and used to change my life has since been used to change all kinds of things. I recently decided when I launched this website that I would publish three times a week until the end of the year. I have tried to be divorced from the results, the page views, the comments and just write and publish 3 times a week. And this, my friends, is how we ended up here at my 32nd post. 32.jpg

Truth? I’ve had some stumbles along the way. I haven’t always wanted to write nor have I been crazy about everything I’ve published. There’s been pieces I really liked that no one has read and pieces I’m indifferent about that people respond to. Such is life. But the point is a little 60 days later, I’ve kept going. I’ve kept a promise to myself. So woo hoo for that.

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And while we’re throwing glitter and celebrating days passing, why not dive into the Seanologues Greatest Hits? Sure 32 posts might seem a little premature to put out a greatest hits but I disagree. I mean. If Stacey Q can have a greatest hits than gosh darn it I can too!

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So here are some of your favorites and some of mine too:

1.) I Won’t Ruin Your Barbecue: This was hands down the most read and most reposted. Thank you so much for that. I’m glad my exploits as the world’s worst drunken barbecue disaster resonated with so many people.

2.)Your Permission Slip: Well, holy shit. Just thinking about this post puts a lump in my throat. I’m just glad people read it and it struck a chord with them. I wrote it after being devastated and sad after Orlando. And I wrote it for myself. So that fact that you responded to it is overwhelming.

3.)Angry Anymore: Gosh. I loved writing this, even if it dealt with a less than savory part of myself. Turns out lots of you hate the angry bastard lurking inside too and you left some amazing comments.

4.) I Walk Alone: Walking is kind of the closest thing I have to a regular spiritual practice and writing about it felt good.

5.) Hey Ninety: Ditto writing about the amazing older people in my life. Plus, a Steely Dan song!

6.) I See You On The Street & You Walk On By: My very first Redditted work which is so millenial for a post about a 30 year old Madonna album. Nevertheless, I’m glad people read it as it was one that I worked on for a while and was very close to my Material Girl loving heart.

7.) the bullshit of busy: Another one I wrote to call myself out for bad behavior that readers gave me a big, “Amen, sistah” to. Writing this, as a matter of fact, has helped me change “busy” as my go to answer so thank you for that.

8.) Long Train Running (or not): Sometimes, I like to write to capture a moment in my life so I won’t forget it. This post about a train trip with the husband did that and bonus–you guys liked it and read it.

9.) Flight or Fight (or Write): This post makes the Greatest Hits for two reasons- 1.) I really enjoy writing about writing and 2.) people who I respect who also write got something out of it too. Win!

10.) new victors: Well every greatest hits has that new song on the end that maybe you’re not crazy about but maybe you’ll grow to love.  Enter “new victors.” I published it yesterday and it came from a scattered place but it felt oddly cathartic writing it so there ya go.

Yet, in the end, navel gazing at the past or freaking out about the future don’t really matter. All we have is one day: right now. In this the glorious right now, I just want to tell you thank you for reading, for helping me as a writer, for making me laugh my face off and for being the greatest.

 

new victors

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One month ago, I was a normal Netflix bingeing, Great British Baking Show watching homosexual man in his 40’s. I seek out, I binge and I move on. This is my philosophy for  television in the modern era. I have my things I love, the shows I’m on the fence about and the things that I know are crappy but I keep watching anyway. It all works for me that is until something throws my whole machine out of whack. The something we’re talking about here is the Olympics.

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I swam up-stream with everyone else into NBC’s river of self-congratulatory Go America Olympic Bullshit last week and my carefully curated television viewing habits have been thrown down the toilet. Instead of perusing PBS for documentaries about British castles, I now finding myself saying shit like,”I wonder what time badminton is on.” And it’s actually a lot of fun. I’m a sucker for person-against -all-odds storylines and the Olympics is overstuffed with them. I’ve cried like a baby when the women’s gymnastics team and Simone Manuel both took home gold medals last week. I’ve held my breath while watching incredibly tense beach volleyball matches. I’ve cheered as countries who’ve never medal suddenly walked home with the gold. It’s cool to see athletes and women and people from far-flung nations get recognition in primetime, an era usually devoted to men’s only sports.  While NBC’s abominable coverage could perhaps be bested by the all-stoner audio/visual club at my high school, the only real part of the Olympics that’s left a sour taste in my mouth is the bully narrative. Look to Kim/Kanye/Taylor. Look to that orange buffoon currently running for president. Look in the comments of any Gawker post. Bullies run the world and they are distinctly American in flavor. Sadly, our gnarly gift to humanity can be seen at the Olympics too. For every awe-inspiring female athlete, there was a Lilly King or a Hope Solo to remind the planet that no one does piss-poor competitor like Americans. U-S-A! U-S-A!

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All of this, in addition to a witnessing what a televised week-long Michael Phelps boner looks like, made me start thinking about what really makes a winner in 2016. While I have zero opinion about the participation ribbon generation currently cultivated on the kids’ soccer fields of the country, I do think our idea of a winner should probably change. If you frequent the halls of recovery or spend time with survivors of abuse or have lived through horrific natural disasters, it’s hard to stand up and cheer for entitled white kids from Ivy League schools. Winners, as it were, are actually all around us. A friend of mine who has been watching her husband fight for his life in a hospital for over a week sure looks like someone who deserves a medal to me. Ditto another friend who recently picked up a six month chip after several relapses and false starts. In every American neighborhood in every town, people are overcoming some badass shit and doing so with grace. Yet because of some dusty old stigmas we are still reluctant to talk about these sorts of victories. Hence maybe why during the 150 hour Phelps-fest his battle with alcohol was only mentioned once and only in voiceover by the announcer. His camp, as a matter of fact, doesn’t really mention it at all, as pointed out in this excellent Sports Illustrated piece. Which is too bad given what an openness around it by an athlete of his stature could do for the stigma of alcoholism. Unsurprising, to be sure, but none of it affects the winning going on everywhere, all of the time.

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What I’ve witnessed is that winning happens and not just every four years. Winning happens even without an inspiring Katy Perry ballad. Winning happens without the low emotional intelligence which requires making someone else a villain. Watching the Brazilian men’s team emotionally explode last night as they won their country’s first men’s gymnastics medals, I was reminded the feeling of victory,however, is pretty much the same. They held their breath, they cried, they couldn’t believe it was happening. I felt the same way when I picked up my one year chip after not thinking I could ever stay sober that long. And this, I suppose, is what still makes the Olympics great. We like to see one another win. We identify with overcoming the odds. We hang onto the hope that maybe we can win too. But, it should be pointed out, if you’ve finally gotten out of bed after a long depression, if you left a toxic relationship or if you’ve somehow manged to stay sober another day, you deserve a goddamn medal too.

 

doubt, fired.

“Holy shit. Not another fucking Robin Williams meeting.”

I remember thinking that a little over two years ago today. I was thinking this and fuming as I sat in one of those rooms where people who have what I have talk about trying not to drink, do drugs or kill themselves. It was a horrible thought to have, granted. But since his passing a week earlier, I had literally been to 7 meetings where the topic was how fucking sad people were that Robin Williams had died. I mean, I got it. I got that he was a special part of people’s childhoods. I got that for this dark and sad group of people, his comedy probably provided a lot of joy to folks who normally didn’t have any. I got that he was an addict like ourselves and whenever one of our own passes, its horribly heartbreaking, whether they’re famous or not. I got all of this and I was still annoyed. I’m gay and alcoholic so in truth me being annoyed probably didn’t have anything to do with Robin Williams. Annoyed is just sometimes my old crusty default setting. I was probably just irritated that we weren’t talking about me in these meetings and that we were obsessed with the celestial being that was Robin Williams.

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As you may have picked up on, I am a movie snob and a half. Therefore, the later half of Williams’ career is something I resolutely turned my nose up at. Basically,1998’s Patch Adams and everything that followed it can be filed in Sean’s NMKOM (Not My Kind of Movie) file. Fluffy family stuff and flatulence based comedies are not my jam so the charms of films like Old Dogs, World’s Greatest Dad and License to Wed would most likely be lost on me. Still, as a performer his power was impossible to deny. I liked him best on stage and unhinged. Like most addicts, he was at his best when he was outrageous and honest. Like here when he talks about alcoholism.

When he died, before hearing sober people yammer about him for a week, I remembered my own Robin Williams moment from 2006. He came into the restaurant on Sunset Blvd where I used to work. It was one of those locals-and-cool-people-only places tucked away in and he was with a regular customer, Bobcat Goldthwait. They had just come from a meeting, Williams told us. His battles with drugs and alcohol were well-chronicled so he clearly embraced this part of this personality and seemed open about it. Seeing as it was a crowded Saturday night and the place was tiny, Williams and Goldthwait were undoubtedly in a fishbowl. It struck me how good-natured and sweet he was for a guy who was clearly being gawked at and watched. By this time he’d been famous for decades and overcome a lot of demons so he handled that dining room and everything with the kind of charm you’d expect from a star like Robin Williams. I was far, far, far from sober in 2006 therefore the triumphs in his personal life, like much of his film resume, were also lost on me. Suffice to say, two years after his death, I actually get it.

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Here in 2016, the battle to overcome mental illness and addiction is still very real. Sadly, maybe even worse than it was then. With an exploding heroin epidemic and a healthcare system stacked against mental illness, Williams’ effort to simply stay afloat is nothing short of heroic. We know now that Williams’ committed suicide in 2014, something more than one of us on this journey has certainly thought about. Personally, a shocking relapse in my inner-circle of early recovery has my own head spinning today. Someone I love with years of recovery is no longer sober. It’s as simple and heartbreaking as that. So I guess what I need to tell myself on August 11th while thinking about Robin Williams and my dear friend is that I need to stay. I need to keep going and keep fighting. More than that, I want to. When doubt creeps in and tells me it’s too hard, I need to tell it to kindly fuck off and keep moving. Because, as a movie snob and a half, I know in my heart that a tragic ending is not the only way for this to end.

wide awake

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8:30pm on a Sunday and there he was. Light brown skin dotted with black stubble. Black hair parted, perfectly framing his face. Apricot pants. A crisp white shirt. Perfectly posed. And perfectly asleep. Like frozen in time asleep. Like Brothers Grimm by way of Disney asleep. Passed out on an incline on the cement steps to one of those charming early 1900’s houses that my neighborhood has in spades. As if he was delivered there in state of slumber, like some human newspaper you’d leave on the steps. Naturally, I am walking. Walking and wondering. How did he get here? Does he live there? Wait. Didn’t that house recently go up for sale? I wondered if I should call someone. I wondered if he’d freak the hell out of you tried to wake him up (Not like I was gonna do it. No way. I knew better. Not waking up sleeping strangers is just one of those City 101 things you never do along with feeding injured squirrels and talking to people with religious pamphlets). I wondered if he was a brunch refugee who had too many mimosas followed by after brunch beers and decided that this set of steps right here looked as good of place as any to sleep it off for a few minutes. This was just one of a dozen scenarios I’d created in the 45 seconds I strolled by this mysterious sleeping prince. My line of thinking could be perceived as nosy but I like to think of it as inquisitive. Besides, this wasn’t like my old neighborhood in LA where the world was your sleeping bag. People rarely passed out in corners over here so I couldn’t help but be curious. Also, I couldn’t help but think about all of what he was missing right here in my cozy neighborhood at 830pm on a Sunday.

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Prior to running into him, I have to admit I was awestruck. It was a dense and kind of foggy warm night. The streets are lined with lush lavender and swaying Rudbeckia. There were noisy crows cawing in the background and crickets singing their own song loudly as if determined not to be upstaged by those black feathered big mouths. And then there were bats. Tons of them. In fact, my neighborhood must have been having a bat convention over the weekend because the little guys had been partying in the air above our streets for several nights in a row. And on Sunday they were out in full force. Swooping through tree branches. Soaring in the moonlight and diving back into the darkness again. The walk already felt like a fairytale and this was all before I ran into the sleeping dude.

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However, these things–swooping bats, glittering moonlight and what-have-you are not new, hot off the shelf items. They’ve been here the whole time. It’s just that I myself have not been here the whole time. As best as I can tell and seeing that it is only August, 2016 has been about an emotional awakening. People will tell you when you first get sober that, “More will be revealed.” This, from my experience, has been true. When I stopped being a human booze and cocaine dumpster, I started to notice all kinds of shit about myself. Some of it was not very pretty. But what they don’t tell you is the longer you’re not a drunken disaster, that even more stuff reveals itself to you. Thus how I ended up feeling like my normal little Denver neighborhood was something from the mind of Hans Christen Andersen. See, Even though I’ve been sober over seven and a half years, I’m still waking up. This is a marvelous thing. The people and stuff around me are more beautiful. Moments with others feel more genuine. Happiness more tangible. Basically, everything I wanted to feel by taking drugs, I’m feeling now stone cold sober. Irony alert.

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I got home on that Sunday night and I was buzzing with excitement. Not because something big had happened or because something was about to happen or like so many nights in the past, because of drugs of alcohol. But because I loved what was happening right then in that moment. The bats, the flowers, the sleeping prince, that walk home in the moonlight. All of it ordinary. All of it run of the mill. But all of it magical and something to cherish too.

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The steps sans sleeping prince

Epilogue: I walked down that same street the following Monday morning. The steps were still there but the sleeping guy was gone. Gone also were the bats and the moonlight. The feeling that my life, faults and all, was perfect just the way it is? Still here and very much awake. 

Brobia

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Dudes. Buddies. Bros. However you identify them, this eternal flip-flop wearing, high-fiving, beer drinking generation of men is so easy to make fun of but even harder to love. Truth is groups of white guys with cargo shorts and backwards baseball caps were my torturers back in my day. Screw gang members or terrorists. I was deathly afraid of large flocks of white guys wherein one or more was named Todd or Chad. With persistence and precision, these first class a-holes made things like walking down the hall or speaking in class a total nightmare. They relentlessly made fun of my big gay teenage self. Although, it should be mentioned I’m pretty sure I hung out with way more girls than they did and they, as meathead mutant jocks, most certainly saw a ton more naked teenage boys than I ever did. Thanks to the combination of getting as old as fuck and getting sober, I’ve forgiven that pack of suburban dickheads (and I say dickhead from a place of love and spirituality, of course). Nevertheless, big groups of loud straight guys still scared the crap out of me for a really long time

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We’ll call what I had “brobia”. I suffered from an acute fear of groups of bros. By the way, what do you call a group of bros? A gaggle? A herd? A pile? Please discuss. Anyway, my suffering around this group was pretty real. I went to meet my husband in a very bro-centric neighborhood (which in Denver could be all of them but more on that in a minute). It was dark. I was alone but then I wasn’t. A large group of white guys who were loud and presumably wasted (Again, Denver. We just know these things.) I all of a sudden was panic-stricken and my heart raced. I crossed the street, kept my head down and did whatever you call a version of walk-running for people who despise running. It was in that moment that I realized that my brobia was real. Call it asshole-induced PTSD. Call it brobia. But whatever I had I needed to get over and fast. After all, I lived in Denver now and these dudes were everywhere.

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Nicknamed by some blogger somewhere, “Menver” is chockfull of bros. If Colorado was to have a state type of person, it would be bros. Denver is called the Napa Valley of Beer therefore it’s the Holy Land for bros. Add in an overtly fanatic sports culture coupled with several man-filled colleges and universities and you’ve got yourself a bronado. So bros were unavoidable (unavoidabro? yeah. I’ll stop with those puns now) It would be like having a fear of spiders and moving to the Amazon. You better learn to live with them or perish. Thankfully, not only had I changed, the little city I left fifteen years earlier had changed too. Yes there were now more bros than ever thanks in large to a pot-induced population explosion. But this generation of bros was little more gay friendly or maybe just more self-involved enough so that I wasn’t on the radar. Still, I was a tad cagey around these types. Two miraculous things happened, though. Theatre & recovery.

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When my husband and I were running a theatre company we worked with straight guys all of the time. No really! A lot of actors are straight. Crazy right? More than that they were really cool. I soon ended up with a bunch of goofy type A personality brothers who were very talented and extremely loveable.Soon big groups of these guys were ones I was happy to see and not ones that sent me running across the street. Another set of straight guys that helped me ( and continue to on the daily, btw) are the ones I met in recovery. At 2 years of sobriety when I moved back, my exposure to sober straight guys was limited. See, I got sober in Los Angeles where they have like a billion gay meetings a week and even the “straight Meetings” weren’t all that straight. And the cool thing about recovery is that you’re immediately bonded together with other people who tried unsuccessfully to kill themselves with drugs and alcohol so it doesn’t matter if they’re gay, straight or whatever. (Lots of people who fall into the whatever category in recovery, by the way.)  In Denver, though, recovery was decidedly more heterosexual and more male. Still, it wasn’t long until I found my people and many of them straight men. We speak the same language so much so that the externals of who we are and where we come from just melt away.

This new place and new age in recovery also helped me see some not cute things about myself too. It has been pointed out to me more than once (slowlearner.com) that I can’t really bitch about intolerance and prejudice if I myself practice those same things. Fucking ow but true. This meant all the religious groups and groups of people (bros included) whom I thought wronged me needed to be let off the hook, forgiven and released if I wanted to live free of resentment and not like a big, annoying asshole. Ugh.Tall goddamn order but by now I’m willing to give anything a shot to hang onto my sobriety. The other thing that’s come up doing the work? I, Sean Paul Mahoney, have a major seeking the approval of straight men issue. Granted, I pretty much seek approval from everything from potted plants to anonymous coffee shop waitresses but when it comes to getting men to like me, it’s problematic. From falling in love with unavailable straight men in my early 20’s to doing drugs with hideous dudes who I just wanted to be friends with, the issues are deep, honey child. Oh! And it turns out, my issues don’t have anything to do with groups of straight men!

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The issues are mine and mine alone. Thus this love boat of dysfunction turns right back around and docks in the harbor of forgiveness (we’ve moved on from bro puns and segued right into nautical metaphors. be excited.) Sure, there’s a lot of guys who said and did shitty things to me in high school. And yes I’ve been harassed by straight guys out in the world. It sucks but does it give me a free pass to fear and hate a whole group of people? Hell to the no. Plus hanging on to old shit is kind of the worst thing ever that an alcoholic can do, so I’ve had to let a lot of things go. Now does this mean I’ve abandoned making fun of bros? Absolutely not. As I mentioned, it’s too easy and they’re everywhere and most importantly it’s still funny. But I am working on loving them (in a non-sexual, non-creepy way), one bro at a time.

tbh

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A few years ago when millennial girls all decided to start every sentence with, “To be honest” I could feel my eye twitch and my brain start to sizzle. I mean, I had already accepted the overuses of literally I cannot change, the courage to change the literallys I can and the wisdom to literally know the difference. I already embraced the new teeth gnashing existence of bruh. I swallowed the linguistic pills of bae, fam and everything in between. How much more is a 40-something gay book nerd supposed to endure? Besides, there was always something so redundant and awkward about “to be honest” or “tbh” as we say online. Like unless you clarify with “to be honest” we are to assume the rest of the time you are full of shit? Or is it like “to be honest” as in I’m gonna get real. I’m gonna let you have it. I’m going to tell it like it is.

As with many internet speak phrases that drive me nuts, however, I surrendered and started using it too. I found ways to drop a “tbh” in funny places, no big deal. You know ironic, smart-assy. You know. How I say basically everything. In case you didn’t realize this, I watched old movies as a kid with the sassy, salty sidekick and assumed it was a tutorial on how I should behave as an adult. This, for the most part, has been a disastrous assumption. Sarcasm doesn’t work too well with doctors , bill collectors, strangers, religious fanatics, people sensitive to jokes about being a drug addict, people on Facebook from high school who I don’t actually remember but now wish I never followed, etc. But in the world of online banter? It’s a hit. Or if it’s not, I stream of consciousness vomit out so many posts that at least one is bound to land. As long as we’re being honest here, the real reason the phrase probably makes me uncomfortable is that being honest is something I still sort of bristle at. After nearly of 8 years of having people tell me I needed to get honest, I’m still sort of holding out for fantasy to pay off. I’m still waiting for a magical story in my mind to become real life.

The urge to be dishonest remains pretty powerful. Without busting out the sad silent movie violin solo, I’ll tell you that I learned to bullshit at an early age as a way to cope, to divert attention and to handle the craziness around me. The BS fest went from white lies to full on delusion somewhere around the age of 30. I’d lied to myself and everyone else for so long that the truth felt horrifying and more than that, totally unattainable. Thus the mere idea of getting real about everything when I got sober sounded insane. And it felt like one I could probably bullshit my way through. Honesty, schmonesty. There just had to be a way to skate through that part of being sober.

After all, I thought I already was honest. I had no problem telling you what was wrong with you, how fucked up your life was and what you needed to do to change it. Too bad in order to stop killing myself I had to be honest about myself. Well, fuck. That I was horrible at. I mean really bad. I tried to nap car accidents away. I tried to drink angry landlords into oblivion. I tried to snort so much cocaine that bad relationships would vanish. All to no avail. So here I was, me, the guy who thought I told it like it is, I had to tell on myself, I had to stop lying and I had to do it all of the time, darling.

Honesty, thank freaking glitter unicorn goddess in the sky, is a practice. I didn’t get all super fucking honest all at once. It has taken time. A lot of time. And just as I think I’ve embraced all the gnarly parts of my past and of my personality, more crap will show up in a flaming bag on the doorstep of my mind. Terrific. On good days, I face these things and rely on new ways of thinking. On bad days, I blurt out lies knowing I’ll have to clean it up eventually. Such is life. C’est lie vie, as it were.

So if I’m honest, if I’m telling it like it is, if I’m being real right in this moment, what would that look like? I guess I would say I spent much of this summer feeling disillusioned and very sad but now I actually feel better. I guess I would say that after nearly six years, I am very much still in love with my husband despite misplacing my wedding ring during a homemade salsa making session. I’d also say that some days I wake up thinking everything is really fucked, only to be inevitably proven wrong by some kind person or miracle of nature. I would tell you too that the juggling of the ongoing care of two diseases that could kill me wears me the fuck out and I still slip into a fantasy where I don’t have these things. I would also say that I have a lot of thoughts that are toxic but I have just as many resources to help me combat them. But mainly I would say despite daily bouts of “why the fuck did I lie about that” I know that I am more honest than I used to be. I wake up without panic and without being suffocated by lies and insanity and this is something special. My life is real, messy and,for the most part, fantasy-free and I wouldn’t have it any other way, to be honest.

 

BoJack Horseman: 2016’s Spirit Animal

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The urge to wade around in the pool of collective disenchantment of the times is certainly a strong one. “We’re all going to hell and everything sucks” is the underlying tone of nearly every social media post, newspaper article and talk radio monologue. The validity and truthfulness of this sentiment could be debated until our heads explode but one thing is clear it takes real humor, honesty and creativity to tackle the malaise of our times head on. Netflix’s BoJack Horseman does just that. Season three of “the animals living as humans acting like humans” in Hollywood sitcom premiered last week and cemented the show as one of the best on television.

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The show, if you’re unfamiliar, centers around a washed up 90’s sitcom star, BoJack Horseman(voiced with the ninja-like jerkiness by Will Arnett we’ve come to expect from the actor who should really win an award simply for playing an asshole better than anyone else on the planet), who is literally a horse and a man. BoJack for the first two seasons teeter tottered back and forth between comeback kid and full-blown train wreck. In season three, he gets to be both. Like many of us real humans, BoJack has a hard time with reality. He’d rather drink than be a good friend. He’d rather have one night stands than real relationships. He’d rather flee uncomfortable situations than face them head on. Needless to say, for this alcoholic in recovery who is not a horse but certainly a human in progress, I can identify. And that is the magic of this little sitcom. Even though it’s a Hollywood populated with animals, we see ourselves in these characters. we’ve all been a couch crasher like Todd or an optimist on the verge of delusion like Mister Peanutbutter or a workaholic who feels empty inside like Princess Caroline.  Season three ups the emotional ante not just for BoJack, who is busy working the awards seasons for his film Secretariat, but everyone around him. The people( and animal people) who populate BoJack’s universe are all disenchanted yet hopeful on some level and they’re all really, really funny.This all because of great writing and some terrific casting. From series regulars like Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris and Alison Brie to brilliant guest stars like Angela Bassett, Maria Bamford, JK Simmons and Candice Bergen each performance in this funny/sad universe is pitch perfect.  screen-shot-2015-02-27-at-2-20-15-am.png

Yet what really makes season three a knockout is the boldness. The show has found its footing and knows who it is. Therefore it can say and do whatever it wants. And it’s a glorious thing. For example, an honest and jaw-dropping episode about Diane, BoJack’s cynical yet loveable writer friend, getting an abortion is the television conversation we’ve always wanted on this topic but somehow could never figure out. The aforementioned Bergen stars in the sublimely ridiculous yet profound episode “Stop The Presses” wherein BoJack tries to cancel his newspaper subscription but winds up getting a free therapy session. Oh and how can we not mention what the internet is calling the “underwater episode.” Episode 4, “Fish Out of Water” is so darn creative and good that every site from Vulture to AV Club and beyond has already sung its praises. Done with nearly no dialogue while invoking Lost in Translation and Charlie Chaplin films, the episode deserves every inch of blog real estate that it currently occupies. 21-bojack-04.w750.h560.2x.jpg

BoJack Horseman might be a brightly colored animated world where the line between humans and animals gets gleefully blurred (the show has a really good time playing with animal sensibilities in human environments like a car filled with sardines in business suits) but the emotional terrain is meaty enough to keep you captivated. Great sitcoms (like the Mary Tyler Moore Show or Seinfeld or Golden Girls) have always had an ensemble facing the challenges of their personalities while trying to make the most of whatever life throws at them. BoJack Horseman does that for sure but it also is a truthful mirror of our times. The universal feelings of “less than” and “fuck it” are widespread right now and it helps BoJack resonate even louder. Will its addicted, dysfunctional characters stand on their own in a less cynical, post-Trumpism era? It’s hard to say. But for the time being, there isn’t a better group of people, or animal-people to hang out and commiserate with.

On Assignment

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When it comes to covering the hard-hitting issues, look .. somewhere else. Yet coming this August, I am going on assignment. Not on the campaign trail. I mean how basic do you think I am? Not press junkets. Not breaking news stories. No, your buddy Sean is launching Sean on Assignment. For this weekly feature for August, I’ll be reporting on the random, the seemingly boring and quirky things happening in my town. That’s right. Yours truly is putting on his reporter hat. Although I fear it’s not as jaunty as Kermit’s. Or Lois Lane’s.

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This urge to take the seanologues on the road was cooked up in my brain a couple of weeks ago. Initially, I thought it would be fun to cover weird things around my ‘hood just to mix up the style of writing seen here. Turns out I have something of a journalistic past. ‘Tis true! Between an Andrea Zuckerman-like stint on my high school newspaper to writing for indie newspapers and magazines in Los Angeles, I’ve always dabbled in journalism. I would have even finished a journalism degree in my youth had my double major in Electronic Music and Drug Consuming (with a double minor in Drinking and Lying, thank you very much!)  not eaten away most of my time. I also thought it would also be fun to flex my observational muscle writing wise. Try writing about other people than myself for a change. I know! There’s a crazy idea. One so crazy, it just might work! But as I plotted out what I was going to write about, it hit me. There was another reason. I wanted to play Johnny reporter in my own life.

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A while back when I was feeling particularly beaten up by negative headlines, bombastic opinions and toxic Facebook posts(which I mean aren’t they all, even a little?) a light came on and a new personal mantra presented itself to me, “I am not the victim to information.” I’d been looking for clarity and wondering how I kept getting knocked over by all of the thoughts and ideas that whip by us at the speed of light and there it was. In the end, it wasn’t up to CNN or Twitter or even Facebook to change the information they churned out, it was up to me. I could deactivate accounts. I could take apps off my phone. I could read from actual pages instead of from screens. All things I’ve done for various lengths of time and with various degrees of success. It was up to me to handle what’s being served at the 24 hour information buffet. Period. It’s a delicate line to walk, however. As pop culture fanatic and knowledge junkie and not to mention an addict, it’s hard for me to know when to say when. Don’t think the irony of finally getting sober only to spend my time being an iPhone’s bitch is lost on me. I get it. So most of the time it looks a lot like keeping myself in check. Shutting the phone off. Walking without looking at my screen. Just listen to my husband without listening and tweeting or listening and reading crap on the internet. But I felt like there was still more that I could do.

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By writing what I want to read, by contributing stuff I think is funny or informative or ridiculous, I’m making a drop in the swirling black hole of internet negativity. It’s not much but it isn’t about changing the world’s mind. It’s just about shifting my own narrative in the only way I know how– writing. Now, now, I realize this is all starting to sound like one of those”Post pictures of puppies instead of talking about politics” threads on Facebook. But it’s not. After all, amazing people like my friend Paul or my friend Mark or my buddy Claire or Daniel or Chris and countless brilliant others are all doing it too– contributing something good instead of just soaking a shit jacuzzi. So me going on goofy assignments is a part of this. Maybe writing weird, uplifting and funny features on little slices of life will provide some levity for a few readers or maybe I’ll just entertain myself. Either way, it’s a win. With or without the jaunty hat.

Sean On Assignment premiers right here on August 4th!