you again

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Alternate title: please shut up. 

Alternate title: you’re still here?

Alternate title: this. bitch.

How did we get here? How did this all happen? Why am I posting every. damn. day?!? I’m not sure really. But after three posts in a row presented themselves to me, I decided this would be a thing. Like a thing where I post every day in April.  Don’t expect some clever goddamn name though. Trust me I tried. But “Blogpril,” “Spring Blogathon” and “April Blogtacular” all sounded really stupid/sad/like a fundraiser for some school program which would actually be weird since I don’t have kids. Anyway, here we are again. I thank you for being here and reading and subscribing to have this crazy ass shit sent to your email. I appreciate you. As far as me appreciating me goes, however, that’s more of a mixed bag.

As I have mentioned, my first nearly two months in my new place of residence, Portland, OR, will largely be spent alone. I’ve got six weeks to myself as my husband is off working. When telling friends of this before I left Denver, the response was usually, “Oh cool! You’ll have lots of me time!” Uh I dunno. I thought “me time” was like 45 minutes consisting of rubbing one out followed by a bath and Netflix. Not nearly two damn months. Nevertheless, I’m here with all this me time and it’s actually a lot of work. First of all, my friends are right. Me time for a black belt codependent like myself is a good thing. The ongoing lesson of learning how to be good company to myself is a valuable one. And it’s one I constantly need to tweak and work on.

When I first got sober I was also “suddenly single” (which sounds like the world’s most awful CW series). I had to learn to hang out with myself and take my self on dates without the whole idea sounding/feeling incredibly sad and horrible. I sort of loved it in the beginning. Like I could eat at places my ex would never want to go to, I could get up when I wanted and I could listen to Sean instead of trying to please someone else. But after a while it got lonely. Taking away a partner to obsess over from a codependent is like taking Gladys Knight away from the Pips. I was utterly lost and dismayed when the reality set in that I was all I had. This was all very unfortunate. Taking care of me was messy and boring and took ongoing work. When trying to control others, masked as caring for others, you get lost. Your self disappears and I loved that. Making me vanish is my purpose on this Earth and codependency does that seamlessly. Plus, there’s no hangover or overt side effects thus one could go on forever living for others while silently disappearing. No, that doesn’t sound fucking terrible at all.  So putting Sean front and center took a lot of work and I still occasionally struggle with it some eight years later.

All of this said, I’m happy to report I have been a good date to myself. Two weeks in, I’ve walked all over the city and hung out with new friends, seen some art and done the necessary trolling of neighborhood bookstores and libraries. Oh! And I’ve gone to lots and lots of meetings. Which helps with the other side of the coin. Too much “me” time for this drug addict and alcoholic ain’t pretty. Me time can morph into isolation and once I’m there, it’s pretty darn ugly. Plus? I’m exhausting. I need the occasional buffer of other people to drown out the noise coming from the party in my head. Trust me, at this point the cats have done all they can. You can almost hear the inner dialogue of, “She’s still here? I thought she was going out?” Hanging out with other humans like me a few times a week has helped tremendously and keeps that isolation beast at bay. When I first started working freelance and from home, my old sponsor said, “Just remember you’re working with somebody who tried to kill you” and those words still ring in my ear when I need to get out of the house and have human contact. So I’m walking the tightrope between nurturing my relationship with myself and not turning into the Pacific Northwest version of Melania Trump, trapped alone in a gold tower. I’ll let you know how all of this goes. I’ll let you know tomorrow, as a matter of fact.

What any of this has to do with the poster seen above from a movie wherein Shelley Long’s character chokes on a Chinese chicken ball, dies and comes back to life, I have no idea. But if you’d like to relate your current life experiences to the Touchstone comedies of the 1980’s and 90’s I would gladly engage with you on that level. I am here for you.  In a totally, non-codependent way, of course.

 

 

a new acceptance speech

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I guess it comes as no surprise that I’ve watched nearly every telecast of the Academy Awards since about 1982. But I’ve never seen anything like last night. A screw up of epic proportions befell poor old Bonnie and Clyde and the internet is unlikely to shut the hell up about anytime soon.  Nevertheless, Moonlight ending up winning and La La Land graciously danced off stage. But the real winner last night, believe it or not in a glitter covered affair oozing with self-congratulation, was humility.

Within seconds of La La Land being mistakenly announced, my twitter feed was filled with angry fans raging about “white mediocrity” and “rigged” awards shows while some even said they’d thrown their phones and turned off their televisions. We’re so used to feeling victimized by information, (or letting ourselves feel that way rather) that we swim in the reactionary pools of the times and join the angry mob chanting, “See? We Told you. Everything is fucked!” Being a person who is still not over Sissy Spacek not winning for her brilliant work in In the Bedroom, I understand this thinking. Films are passionate things and therefore bubble up volcanic responses. In 2017, after the most contentious political season ever, we’re now more prone to react and feel like we’re being taken advantage of. Yet within moments what we thought we knew, what we were ready to rage against, had completely changed. And what had emerged was humanity, a simple mistake. Talk about the ultimate plot twist! Maybe it isn’t always bad guys winning or terrible circumstances. Maybe we just fuck up. It’s a hilarious twist and the pitch perfect dose of humanness that even the most optimistic writer of musicals couldn’t come up with. By now, all the requisite apologies have been sent out and people are embarrassed. But I think it’s poetic. Maybe the most punk rock thing you can do in an era of a president who likes to incessantly toot his own horn is to admit that you screwed up. Certainly worked for Adele a few weeks ago at the Grammy’s. Certainly works in my own life too.

Anybody who’s gotten sober or had to ask for help at any point in their life has had to muster up a shitload of humility. My own journey in sobriety is a never-ending slew of moments of me saying, “I screwed up. Can you help me?” I’m honestly tired of how many times I have to apologize, ask for help and accept things I can’t change. I mean can’t somebody else do that shit for a change? Alas, no. And so I’m lucky to continue my spiritual growth (also known as “the fuck up and clean it up program”) with the hope that maybe I’m a tad better than I was yesterday. This tablespoon of humility and acceptance, although tough for an entitled diva like myself to swallow, sure makes day-to-day living a fuck ton easier and even enjoyable. I’m getting ready to move (I know. I know. I’ve mentioned it so many damn times that this blog is starting to feel like The Secret of NIMH for fucks sake) and it’s brought up a lot of fear and old behavior. In a fancy hotel room just a few days ago, I had to admit all of this to my beloved who quickly reassured that it was all going to be okay (and it was) but the point is I wouldn’t have felt better had I pretended I was okay even though I was freaking out on the inside. I’m a human and when I remember to act like one, crazy emotions, fears and mistakes included, I just feel better.

As I type this, trolls a plenty are bashing the Oscars for that one mistake, for being human. Which is too bad. There were so many other fantastic moments to focus on. From that moving Sara Bareilles tribute to that incredible Viola Davis speech I literally spent most of the night sobbing into my mozzarella sticks. I personally found the whole show to be beautiful, celebratory and inspiring. Look, nothing is perfect. Not even Moonlight, which in my film opinion suffers from a soggy second act, timid direction and an inability to really go balls out, since you asked.

But the point is beauty is still exists and it shows up when I accept things for the fabulous fucked up, imperfect way they are.

The Lady Of The House

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“Is this the lady of the house?”the anonymous droning voice of an early 2000’s telemarketer would often ask when I answered my landline. Now, I undoubtedly have what is commonly referred to as “gay voice” which I guess if you’re a cable company in 2004 sounds distinctly female. If I could go back in time, I would answer those calls and really play up the lady of the house routine and you know say stuff like, “Why yes it is! I apologize for taking so long answering the phone. I was making finger sandwiches for women’s auxiliary.” Alas, I never did and usually let the comments ruffle my feathers. More often than not, I would snap at the poor minimum wage worker on the other end of the line. My annoyance didn’t really make sense since my girly voice wasn’t exactly a news flash, as I’d been living with it my whole life. I would also get an occasional “ma’am” slid in on these calls too. Which I now think is hysterical given the fact that many of my legitimate female friends also in their forties aren’t huge fans of that moniker. Nevertheless, embracing my big gay voice wasn’t really something I did back then. When you’re waist-deep in a decades long hating yourself marathon, despising what you sound like is just part of the package.

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I was never one of those kids who could “pass” for straight or even remotely normal and of this earth. I’ve marched to my own pink glitter covered disco beat since I entered this world and that’s just the way it is. Being a special gayer-than-gay kid was, as you can imagine, not exactly comfortable in the 1970’s and 80’s. We didn’t have gay characters on TV. We didn’t know any queer neighbors. And side from folks like Boy George on MTV, we didn’t have  a whole lot of positive openly gay role models. Naturally, I was a failure at anything athletic. I had no interest in anything traditionally “boy.” I was simply an effeminate kid who liked imagination, reading, movies and being alone with my stuffed animals and dolls. The unfortunate thing was that I was labeled gay by other kids and adults even before sexuality had ever entered my mind. Therefore it was equated with something awful and shameful long, long before I’d even thought of kissing a boy. When I finally came out of the closet it was met with a chorus of “No duh” and light shaming that I had been so dishonest for so long. It was an impossible situation. So thank god for drugs and alcohol and hanging out in nightclubs. With lots of substances, I could be myself and hang out with other freaky people who didn’t care what sounded like or who I was attracted to. I was a long way off from liking myself but at least when I was high and with my people, I didn’t really notice it as much.

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It’s fucking bizarre how your own sexuality and journey to like yourself often becomes about other people and their reaction to it. Yet feeling less than and that people didn’t like who I was, as is, really messed with my mind and kept me loaded for many years. So when I finally got sober, I was faced with the daunting task of actually trying to like who I was. Big gay voice included. That first year of sobriety I took a speech class at Santa Monica College. When we had to do a 3 minute introduction speech, mine was what you’d expect: sassy, very gay and really self-effacing. As I spoke, it was met with a chorus of loud laughter and not the laughter of people making fun of me but people who enjoyed what I was saying. Likewise at meetings, sharing and speaking helped me be truthful and tell my story regardless if it was too weird or too queer.  Again, it was usually met with a lot of laughter and head nodding from people who could identify. The great thing about 12 Step programs is that the attendees are so mangled that the outside shell of person doesn’t matter and they are instead connected to the message and the shared experience.

Later on as a playwright, I was given the opportunity to use my voice further but this time speak through characters. I even did talk backs at the theater and hosted different events. The fact of the matter is I like talking and speaking in public and it’s something I’m pretty good at. Getting sober helped me find my way back to that. I even host my own podcast and have appeared on others and I can honestly say I no longer cringe while listening to my big gay voice.

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Writers and people in recovery alike often wax self-indulgently about the journey to find their voice, that years of dysfunction stood in their way of hearing who they really are. While it sounds like a load of self-help section manure, the struggle was indeed real for me. Turns out all I had to do was stop killing myself with booze and drugs, get brutally honest and embrace all of myself, big gay voice included. Being gay, funny, effeminate, weird, vulnerable, sensitive, sassy- it’s all just part of the package and one I happen to like very much.

So even though I no longer have landline (nor doesn’t anyone else under the age of 65) I would happily answer the question today, “Yes, this is the lady of the house. Who the hell is this?”

earrings off

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In my days working nightclubs in Hollywood, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (Trust. Those Triassic fools knew how to partaaay!) I’d every so often witness an urban legend come to life. One night drinking and doing blow, I mean “working”, at a hip hop night in Hollywood, I saw it.  The earrings came off. Girl B, who had been pushed by girl A, was ready to explode and she handed her earrings to her friend. Suddenly, this fight moved from pushing into Friday Night Smackdown territory in about two seconds. A co-worker and I immediately  grabbed security when the earrings came off and the girls were ushered out of the club in a hair pulling, screaming tornado in less than 3 minutes.

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In the 90’s, the widely spread idea of women taking their earrings off before getting a fist fight started somewhere. Could have actually happened and spread the old-fashioned( no. not through Twitter) from one mouth to the next. Things like this Jill Scott classic certainly helped bring the idea of being so pissed off and ready to kick so much ass that you had to take your earrings off before you beat someone’s ass.

There is a practical reason for this pre-fight ritual, mind you. The idea is you take your big ass hoops out before beating a bitch down to avoid getting your ears pulled off your face. But symbolically, the idea of being angry enough to say “Oh now. I’m really pissed off. Hold these while I kick some ass” is comedic and yet in this day and age oddly appropriate. Which is to say, things recently have annoyed me enough that even though I don’t have pierced ears, to remove the earrings and punch somebody in the neck.

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This all metaphoric, mind you. I’m far too lazy and delightfully fay to ever physically harm anyone. Violence falls under one of those gross, basic things I don’t take part in. This isn’t to say, I don’t get annoyed. 2016 is undoubtedly the year all of my emotions showed up the party at the same damn time and Mr. Bitchy is one of the emotions on the guest list. I’m currently experiencing what you’d call a dull, humming annoyance. Like terrible background music at a grocery store or an itch on the bottom of your foot you can’t get to because you’re wearing boots. My feeling of agitation is not unique, I realize this. But in the interest of not ending up on a roof top of a Wal-Mart in a showdown with police, I think it’s important to let it out and take the earrings off, so to speak.

Not to minimize a subject here nor waste 500 words on something 800,000 people have already wrote about but intolerance is number one on my annoyance list. I guess you could say I’m intolerant of intolerance. Yeah I’m not 5 years old and I don’t think we’re all going to get along. But Jeez Louise (that’s right I said “Jeez Louise.” I told you I was pissed off.) do people have to fight and be racist and generally horrible online at all times of the day? Like can’t we all call out sick from that crap for like ever? Even the simple pleasures, like hashtag games on Twitter, are hijacked by crazy people talking shit about women or gays or minorities. Like hello. You’re ruining the internet. Stop it. This is all entertainment. So if you’re being preachy or bigoted or posting in all caps, you are doing it wrong. Please throw your laptop out the window and go to the library to read books until we’ve decided you’ve learned your lesson and can come back to social media.

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Not being able to tolerate intolerance is undoubtedly a good thing. It sounds ridiculous that we even have to raise our hand and say, “Hi. Just so you know, I’m not with that racist gang of homophobic, xenophobic, sexist assholes.” Yet here we are. People aren’t pinning safety pins to their sweaters, to their jackets, to their faces just to be bleeding heart liberals. They’re also doing it so we can spot one another. So we can nod accordingly at like-minded folk who don’t suck. Yet I realize the irony here. If I want tolerance, I have to practice it even among people I find intolerable. Ugh. Admittedly, that’s some level 8 spiritual ninja shit I have yet to master.

In the spirit of honesty, I will say that I am also currently also annoyed by people in denial, people who walk with their dogs without leashes, people who don’t know how to stand in line, people who don’t return a”hello” when given one, people who drive while high (#DenverProblems), dishonest people and finally, most people who aren’t my cats. Listen, I don’t want to hate humanity right now. I really don’t but they’re making it hard for me to love them, okay?

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Yet an odd shift has happened in 2016, I’ve discovered that I can be pissed off, I can be heartbroken, I can be elated but none of these emotions has to sink the ship. Back when I was drinking and using drugs, emotions were either totally numbed and stuffed down or dialed up to an eleven. There was no in between. It’s an erratic and exhausting way to live. I found myself fighting with a lot of people too. There was always a falling out with someone happening or about to happen back then. I can happily say that today, although I might not a lot of people, I’m not fighting anyone. In fact, if I am in conflict with people, I take it as a warning sign that spiritually I’m pretty fucked up.

There’s a promise in that program I do which says, “And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol.” I take that as serious as a heart attack. I really want that promise. In fact, I chase that shit. Sure, I can be pissed off and hate everybody (current status) but I really want to live a life free of beating someone’s ass or having a list of people I actively despise. So I end up here. Laughing at myself, telling on myself and blathering on for some 1,100 words about how bitchy I am. My day, if I’m lucky, will move along with ease, without accessories coming off or any faces having to be punched. And for right now, in November 2016, that’s pretty spectacular.

 

I’m Gonna Be Festive. Dammit.

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It might not happen today. It might not happen next week. It might be a minute, as in the kind of minute that could take a month and not just 60 seconds. But it will happen. I’m going to be happy and I’m going celebrate. For fuck’s sake.

Moving into my first holiday season* sober back in 2009, I was petrified. What if multiple listens of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” caused me to relapse? (This is a legitimate concern, by the way. Turn on Judy Garland’s version and try not to wash down a bottle of Xanax with a tumbler of Jim Beam.) What if I was horribly miserable during the most wonderful time of the year? What if my first set of sober holidays were like everything else that first year–miraculous but really difficult? I voiced these concerns to my first sponsor to which he replied, “Boo, you need to worry about Tuesday.” His point was I was just as likely to relapse on any random day of the week than I was on the holidays. Fair enough. After all, I never needed a calendar holiday to justify being a hot wasted mess. He also said, I might as well find joy in the holidays and make them my own. In other words, embrace them or get crushed by them. I am also what’s been diagnosed as a “massive depressive” which means I even have to do depression more over the top and more dramatic than the average bear and therefore this is a good strategy. To say that holidays can be triggering for us residents of Depression Island (best. reality. show. ever.) is an understatement of the “maybe the planet is kind of getting hotter” variety. I have found that if I do fun things, watch ridiculous holiday movies, eat copious amounts of bake goods and hang out with people I love, the whole depressing holiday stigma melts away.

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Now, it should be mentioned again that I have no religious affiliation attached to the holidays and use them instead to celebrate peace on Earth and practice kindness. It’s also a nice time of year to breathe and enjoy beauty. This year, 2016 the year wherein Bowie, Prince and Cohen said, “You’re on your own, bitches!” it’s more vital and more challenging than ever to deck the halls. Don’t think I haven’t considered trying to operate the rest of 2016 as well as the holidays underneath a pile of cats and blankets (best. Christmas. special. ever). After all, it’s just 49 days. I think if I hid for 49 days people wouldn’t even be concerned. I mean Olivia Newton-John’s boyfriend disappeared like 10 years ago and we’re still not that worried about it.

What happened on Tuesday–which I won’t refer to by name for the sanctity of the internet and out of respect for you the reader– would be reason enough to zip up my massive depressive bodysuit and just linger there until further notice. Granted that event and the person at the center of that event are fucking terrifying and depressing. As stated at the top of the post, it will take a while for me to get over the shock and despair which has been sprinkled over humanity like sugar cookie decorations. There’s no time limit on sadness, by the way. I’ve read these horse shit posts over the last few days that are all, “Oh. Maybe it won’t be so bad. And now we can all breathe.” (By the way, STFU Oprah) Um. No. Fuck you. Maybe we’re not ready to breathe. Maybe we’re not ready to hop into action and fight the power either. Maybe we just need to eat Chinese food and watch a show about Queen Elizabeth. Okay? Stop telling me to fucking getting over it or to galvanize, Internet. I need to be still, hug my husband and my cats and not move too much until further notice.

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I will most likely move from wanting to slap everyone to wanting to hug everyone on Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday. There’s no gifts. There’s no out of whack expectations. Just pie and gratitude. I adore cooking and eating with my favorite people so Thanksgiving is kind of like my version of the Super Bowl. Last year was magical as we ate dinner and watched the snow fall. We had my grandma over along with other beloved family members. This year, grandma is no longer here and the group will be tiny. But the truth is I actually have a lot to be grateful for. I took several amazing trips to different parts of the world. I saw some amazing art and read incredible stuff. I got on the other side of pneumonia that nearly killed me and now feel better than ever. Creatively, I’ve had a complete overhaul and renaissance that can only be described as whoa. And I’ve been lucky enough to stay sober and present through some heavy, heartbreaking shit. Basically, I have a lot of gratitude to be expressed this Thanksgiving and will eat the amount of pie proportional to said gratitude.

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Right after that, it’ll be Christmas. The thing I like about Christmas is that it gives me a moment to be quiet and be still. Snowmen, twinkling lights and yes, even some of that sad ass music in the background are all things I look forward to. As suggested, I’ve grown into making the holidays my own. Every year, my husband and I along with a bunch of old Jewish couples go to the movies on Christmas Day. We eat brunch. We do gifts and then we sit in the dark and watch a movie. It’s heaven and I can’t wait to do it again. The thing is: no person, no event, no election can rob beauty from my life. No political climate can negate the truth that my life is beautiful and should be celebrated as such. Combatting the external shittiness of the world starts with me having joy. In fact, it feels more important than ever right now. And when the time is right and I feel less fragile, look the hell out.

 

*Read more about my first holiday sober in a Tough Cookie Christmas available here! 

hey! shut up.

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It’s the same canned music at my day job, day after day. You know, that innocuous steady bum-bum-bum in the background that plays at every store, airport, cultural destination. Inoffensive enough if you’re just visiting an establishment. Truthfully? You might even not notice it. You might just stroll around and be none the wiser to the sounds that populate my days. You might wonder if music was even playing at all. You might, if you’re not a person like me. I’ve always paid attention to the song in the background for some reason because who knows? Maybe a great song has been paired by the universe to particularly match the moment of what’s going on. Or if by chance its a really awful, wildly inappropriate song for the moment, even better. Sometimes, it’s just a lyric or an idea from the random song picked out of a hat by the digital music gods, droning on the background that inexplicably matches the moment. Like, “Hey! Shut up”, for example.

This lyric, featured in what’s sort of a love song from 1989 by Bonnie Raitt entitled “Have a Heart,” slaps a smirk on my face each time it comes on. For one thing, it’s the very first thing we hear Raitt say at the tip-top of the song. It’s a funny and sassy on-brand way to start a Bonnie Raitt song. Though tiny in demeanor, Raitt’s been to hell and back so if she playfully tells you, “Hey! Shut up” you might wanna consider it. Not only do I find this a hilarious way to start a song, it’s advice I pretty much need to hear all day long.

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A beloved friend I got sober with, who met me when I was whirling dervish of emotions and a category 5 hot mess, once described me as “wonderfully verbal.” Although too much of a saint to admit it, I’m sure he was trying to say I talked too much. This is something I’ve known for decades. “Blurt it out and clean it up later”is how we roll around these parts. As frank and fun as that can be, it’s also frequently insensitive and just stupid. As I’ve aged, however, I’ve tried to run things through a filter BEFORE they blast out of my mouth and for the most part there has been some improvement in this department. My husband, who just last weekend shook his head and tried to get me to stop blabbing my big dumb opinions around friends who may be offended by said opinions, might argue about my progress. Nevertheless, I am at the very least aware that I need to pause before things fly out of my mouth. What I still struggle with is shutting up entirely. Particularly when there are dynamics that have NOTHING to do with me or where my opinion isn’t really necessary. If I’m really real here (which isn’t that the bare minimum that we expect from people who never shut up?) I’ll tell you that I had this lyric in mind and wanted to give you sparkling before and after look at how someone who needed to shut up and finally did. You’d marvel at how my life had changed and soon you’d do the same thing. Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do but just yesterday more garbage flew out of my mouth at the speed of light. Sigh.

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Without getting into the particulars and blathering even more, let’s just say I participated in a bitchfest, some gossiping, a little character assassination and general asshole-bigmouth shenanigans. It was at the end of my day too. I’d made it several hours without running my mouth and for nothing. 3 minutes of yammering shot it all to hell. I was really disappointed in myself too. Look, I’m 43 and what was cute in the cafeteria at 17 or delightfully vicious in the club at 25, is just plain ugly now. Earlier this week as my sponsor and i talked about my character defects (because we’re at that joyful and not uncomfortable at all stage of our work. Please stab me.), I fessed up to gossip being a big problem for me. What was fun, now feels icky. He pointed out that maybe it feels gross now because it no longer works. I wholeheartedly agreed and assumed that was that. It doesn’t feel good therefore it will go away and I shall never do it again. Roll the credits and cue the triumphant music!  What I neglected to consider is that in order to not feel icky I have to stop the behavior entirely. Double sigh.

As a writer, communicator and lifelong bigmouth, on a cellular level I know the benefits of editing. I know that I need to organize my thoughts for them to make sense. I know that sometimes being quiet and listening is more called for and even for valuable than talking just to hear myself talk. I also know that thinking about what I’m going to say can before I say can often save me from embarrassing or confusing statements.

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Yet here we are at the top of a new day. With more opportunities to say stupid shit and clean them up later. Sadly, I am clearly in no position to give you advice on how to shut up and how it might change your life. What I can tell you is this : noticing the music in the background, being great at conversation, even having frank funny and unpopular thoughts that get you unfollowed on Twitter are actually character assets.

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The other stuff? It’s a work in progress, as cliche as that might sound. I’m taking the fact that I feel terrible when I engage in this behavior as a step in the right direction. Following through and changing is the tough part and it always has been. It’s the part that separates the men from the boys and one where I really have to buckle down and change. Therfore, I wouldn’t be surprised if a post entitled “Oops. I did it again” shows up in your newsfeed soon. But until then I can try, I can listen and I can attempt to shut up.

cat hugs, drag queens & everything in between

Today’s question: If a sad tree weeps in the forest do the other trees go and get chocolate?sad tree.jpg

I ask because on Friday, I was a sad tree. Maybe sad is the wrong word. There’s some legitimately sad people in this world who have earned their sadness. On the Syrian orphan scale of sadness, I didn’t even register. No, I was just kind of ‘blah.’ I woke up blah. The things around me felt blah. Projects I’d been ticking away on suddenly felt blah. I just felt down which morphed into being vaguely (okay, totally) annoyed with most things and people around me. In other words, I was a delight. I have,however, acquired enough emotional intelligence to know that when I feel like this, I’m usually just tired and I need to go away. Like far away from human contact where I won’t say or do horrible things I need to clean up later. It had been a weird Friday and my tiredness was squishing it all up and making it even more irritating. Earlier in the day, I had gotten “one of those phone calls.” See, if you’re in recovery and around addicts and alcoholics, you get to see people whose lives were in shambles and now have totally transformed. But other times, you get “one of those phone calls.”These calls usually involve someone who has relapsed or died because of the disease of alcohol or addiction. On Friday, I got one of these phone calls. It was a relative of someone in my sober family and it sucked. And it always sucks. It never stops sucking, as a matter of fact. You’re heartbroken but also really grateful that you are not in that place and that you have tools to keep you out of that place. But that takes awhile. And the feeling of devastation never really goes away. Compacted with the general blahness that my Friday was already flavored with, I was pretty over it. It was days like this that reminded me that I should maybe start seeing a therapist again. But given the late hour in the day, I was lucky to at least have this goofball waiting at home.

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Look, my love for my cats and for Larry in particular is well chronicled on the internet. And I straight up don’t care. You don’t have to search far to find oodles of studies that say living with an animal can help with mild depression and as person with mild or sometimes  even spicy depression, I can attest to this. Animals are just a fuck ton cooler than people. They don’t want to hear your life story. They aren’t judging the crazy outfit you put together. They just want to hang out. Now, being the big animal weirdo that I am, I’m convinced they know when you aren’t okay. Like last year when I had the 10 week party known as pneumonia, our two little muffins, Maeby and Larry followed me around the house like doting nurses. Promptly showing up for every nap time and popping by for soup and terrible daytime tv on the sofa. So like clockwork on Friday, these two were there. During my “Thank God It’s Over” Friday afternoon nap, Larry stretched his lanky long legs across my belly while resting his head on my chest. True, he probably just thought I looked like a good pillow but I like to think of these as cat hugs. I refuse to see it any other way, actually. It feels deliberate and intentional or that is how my crazy ass has interpreted it, and so it’s a cat hug. End of discussion. He purred melodically and wouldn’t let me roll over and I leaned into it. Moreover, I needed it.

Post nap time, I watched some weird ass PBS news thing, as dictated more by my status as an older, liberal gay man than an actual desire. I grilled some amazing eggplant, ate said eggplant along with roasted red peppers and couscous and watched more unmemorable television. Soon, however, the husband showed up. He was at a post-work drinks kind of thing and didn’t get home until much later. But it wasn’t too late for drag queens. Like clockwork and like my cats, the television oeuvre of RuPaul was here to save the day.

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As the planet of pop culture knows already, RuPaul and several seasons of drag queen television fierceness have made the world a better place. Endlessly creative, completely glamorous, instantly quotable and hilarious, surprisingly inclusive and highly addictive, RuPaul’s Drag Race is, as the Washington Post recently said, not just a tv show but a movement.  The latest incarnation of the show, All Stars 2 pits former season favorites against one another for a shot at $100,000 while camping it up, posing and lip synching along the way. RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered the year I got sober so it’s always been a touchstone of joy and inspiration for me.  It’s one of the handful of television shows that always lifts me up (even the seasons that aren’t so good, cough, cough season 7, cough,cough.) This latest drag queen battle royale doesn’t disappoint. Filled with big twists, big lips and bigger personalities, it’s all the things you want to order off the Drag Race menu in one place.

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Also incredibly helpful? Marrying someone who cares when you feel blah. It’s a whole new grown up world for me to be married and say, “Today I felt like shit” and to have that person genuinely say, “I’m sorry.” Sounds simple, I suppose but for an emotional kindergartener like myself, it’s major. In fact, just being present for blah days is major. Not that long ago, the minute something felt real or sad or blah, I’d douse it in alcohol so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

All of this brings us back to the random question at the top of the post and the answer is maybe. Maybe other people will bring you chocolate when you feel blah or maybe not. Maybe you gotta get yo own damn chocolate. Or maybe if you’re like me, you just get to go home. You get to lay down and feel embraced, by felines or friends or family or drag queens or maybe even something you can’t see. Because the real gift is you get to feel terrible, know it’ll pass and know that you’ll have help along the way.

 

Psst! If you’re looking for something to cheer you up, why not try the newest epsiode of Sloshed Cinema here?

 

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.