because it’s in the music

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Yup. That’s me with the headphones. I am happy to report that most days over the past year, you could still find me with headphones. Luckily for the city of Portland and humanity at large, I am also happy to report I now usually have pants on when I rock headphones. Usually. Sadly, a Donald Duck shirt hasn’t worked its way back into my wardrobe. Edgy, fashion choices notwithstanding the picture captures something deeply about who I am: I’ve always loved music.

A former record store employee and a sort of DJ for a hot minute, music has always been a constant. On a deeper less dance around your room in your diaper kind of way, music also provided an escape from a childhood and an early life that was complicated at best. Like any relationship, however, my love affair with music has been full of ups and downs. So tied in with drug use and my destruction, music wasn’t just an escape but sometimes an enabler. Then when I first got sober, music was my therapist tasked with making me crying or feel supported (thank you forever, Dolly Parton and Jenny Lewis). Even a few years into sobriety, I had a hard time going to concerts or clubs because it still felt triggering and like we needed to reinvent what we meant to one another. We hadn’t broken up but we were strained. Like 2011 Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. But I’m happy to report that 2018 saw my relationship with music back in full bloom and we’ve never been happier.

I kicked off 2019 by renewing my Spotify and that was the game changer. With a long commute, I needed something to fill the void. Spotify not only scratched that itch, it reawakened the music lover in me. I wasn’t only just returning to old favorite artist but searching out new ones. Thank god for whatever mind reading analytics that control Spotify because I was able to discover tons of amazing artists. I basically anything that sounds like 1980’s synth pop had sex with a candy store and birth some new weird Euro baby and guess what? Spotify has lots of artist that check that box! My work in the world of mental health and addiction is challenging at best so fizzy but thoughtful pop worked wonders after intense work days. The complete ear cupcakes that are the entire Kim Petras catalogue came just in time. Petras, for those who don’t know, is a world-famous German trans pop sensation who makes the catchiest songs in the galaxy. Ditto the respective confections for Troye Sivan and Arian Grande were just the sweet treats I needed. Added bonus? They even have a stellar duet with each other that has an amazing video!  

But it wasn’t all bubblegum and unicorns in my headphones. Your boy likes it thoughtful and edgy too. Take for example, “Nobody” by Mitski. Maybe the smartest song to capture the isolation of our era with an unforgettable beat, the song is the rare pop beast that is emotionally intelligent and undeniably memorable. Someone on the internet off the cuff described it as the “Creep” by Radiohead for this generation and it’s hard to argue with that. It’s that good of a song.  My favorite record of the year So Sad, So Sexy by Lyyke Li does the impossible: it takes the dark subjects of grief, loss and heartbreak and puts it to 90’s trap R&B. The record is a complete thought and one that feels timely.

Yet if I was to pick an artist whose work reflected my romance and return to music it would be Robyn. 8 years on the making, Honey by the Swedish is so lovingly crafted and deep, that it feels like she wrote it just for the listener. And in fact she did. Robyn has said in several interviews how she took her absence seriously and wanted to make a record for her fans. With Honey’s beautiful beats and thoughtful lyrics, it shows. One track in particular, “Because it’s in the Music”  gets me on the deepest of levels. The track is all about hearing a song that takes you back to a person and moment that was devastating but how you need the song and love it anyway. Goddamn can I identify with that.

My work as a writer has always been deeply inspired by music and the sounds of 2018 pushed it to another level. Not only did music help me finish my book (an odd playlist of power ballads helped me cross the finish line when I was legit losing my shit) but it’s serving as the basis for my new project. A few years ago I wrote a play of monologues called “Your Heart is a Radio” all based on songs. It was structured like a mixtape. It was a solid idea and I’m still in love with that title but something was missing. That something was me and my personal connection music. Long story really short, with the help of my husband, that play is becoming an essay collection in 2019 and I couldn’t be more excited.  But I’m equally excited to keep listening and to keep falling in love with music.

Below find my favorite songs and albums of 2018 and feel free to check out my full playlist of favorite songs of the year on Spotify! Also? Please tell me what you listened to and loved in 2018.

My favorite Songs of 2018
1. So Sad, So Sexy- Lykke Li
2. Nobody- Mitski
3. Ever Again- Robyn
4. Took Awhile- NEIL FRANCES
5. Picture- Little Boots
6. Breathin- Ariana Grande
7. Lucky Strike- Troye
8. The Drugs- Uffie
9. Heart to Break- Kim Petras
10. Give Yourself a Try- The 1975
Favorite Albums of 2018
1.) So Sad, So Sexy- Lykke Li
2.) Honey- Robyn
3.) Bloom- Troye Sivan
4.) Dirty Computer- Janelle Monae
5.) No Shame-Lily Allen

 

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The One With Another 2018 list

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Remember that extreme ADHD era of the internet before every goddamn person wrote a goddamn essay and everything we read was basically a list? Oh those were the days. The early Buzzfeed days when you could feel like you really learned something when you read about the 35 People Who Just Learned Seth MacFarlane is Hot. The list was so popular that it appeared as if we would soon move to a list only form of communication. This would have been fine for me. I could send emails to people titled “The 10 Things You Would Won’t Believe You Did to Piss Me Off!” or start in person conversations by saying “Here’s 16 Crazy Reasons Why I Showed Up Late To Coffee- Again!” Yet it wasn’t meant to be. So folks like myself write goddamn essays and I’m happy about that too.

Nevertheless, I still can’t resist a year-end list. Lucikly, I’m not the only one making lists at this time of year. There’s something meaningful about looking back on the year we had, the year we survived or the year that flew by. Or maybe year-end lists just appeal to my entitled narcissism. Who knows! And lots of things can be true at the same time. Anyway, here are, in no particular order (because that would be like ranking my children!), 12 of my favorite goddamn essays that I wrote in 2018 and that I genuinely love.

The One About Gay AA : I try to write myself into a place of gratitude with a lot of my essays to help combat my natural default setting of negative bitch. This piece I hope does just that while paying homage to the queer sober people who save my life.

The One With Special Guest Star Ariana Grande: My most read piece on Medium ever was one with the most surprising emotional impact for me as a writer and one you can dance to!

The One That Made People Angry: Another one that got a lot of reads along with a lot of opinions! Read it and get your own!

The One About My HIV Anniversary: This one might be my personal favorite of the year and one that got an incredible amount of support and love. I’d thank you but I’m trying not to weep just thinking about it.

The One With A Swimming Pool: This makes the list because style wise it’s a departure and because one of my favorite muses really liked it.

The One Where You Act Like Everything Is Okay: I wanted to write this forever and the time never felt right. So thank god for Pride Month 2018 when I published it on Medium and where it got the reads and life it deserved.  I wrote it for me and other gay men like me and it felt really special.

The One About My Bottom: You wish this was about my butt! Or maybe it is! Read it and find out!

The One About Therapy: Fresh from the frontlines of my own mental health, this pice for Genius Recovery shows it takes a village to keep my ship afloat.

The One Where Someone Overdoses: Sometimes when something fucked up happens, you need to write about it right away. This was one of those times.

The One Where A Celebrity Relapses: Not just about Demi Lovato and relapse, I hope this was actually an essay about compassion.

The One With Bros: Dude. Bro. Buddy. Brah. Bruh. A little something about my complicated relationships with straight men.

The One With Joni Mitchell: An essay about a song which will pave way for a new collection in 2019!

Whew. What a year. I wrote a book, I bought a condo, I travelled but mainly I tried to grow more as a persona and artist. 2019 will see me returning to podcasting, returning to a weekly publishing schedule and collaborating on new things! Stay tuned, m’kay?

Thank you for reading and supporting me and even telling me I suck or that I’m wrong in 2018. I’m an approval whore and any interaction is good interaction. Thank you Genius Recovery and Anna David for publishing my work. Thank you, Medium for growing my readership. Thank you, Paul Fuhr for publishing my book which I swear will be out in 2019!  Thank you Spotify for providing the soundtrack for me to bleed on the page to. Thank you to my husband and cats who leave me alone(mostly) and let me write at ridiculously early hours of the day. Happy New year, kids.

 

 

 

a river I could skate away on

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In case you forgot to watch it, The Very Sean Paul Mahoney Christmas Special from 2017 featured, as all great holiday specials do, a lot of crying in the shower and the music of Joni Mitchell. It wasn’t exactly Bing Crosby in a fucking sweater singing with “A Christmas Song” but it’s where we were. All of that said, I think I should warn you this isn’t about to be one of those fuck Christmas essays. Despite not being Christian at all, I happen love Christmas. It’s a magical holiday that somehow marries my intense love of cookies, glitter and bone-crushing melancholy. It’s also a day that seems to be 1000 times more quiet than other days. Like I love going to a downtown area on Christmas day and seeing all the closed restaurants and shops. The world finally gets sick of hearing itself talk and shuts the hell up on Christmas Day. I guess that’s what they mean by Peace On Earth? I had that moment, that moment that’s so quiet and beautiful it could only happen on Christmas Day, last year and after the month I had, I felt like I earned it.

While I don’t hate Christmas, one thing is for certain, I detest unsolicited advice. I work actively to not to be that guy who says shit like, “Well, you know what I would do…” or  worse “What you need to do is …” Ain’t nobody wanna hear advice from me that they didn’t ask for. But I will hand out this nugget for free: maybe don’t start therapy for long simmering PTSD around the holidays. Take my word on this one, kids. No, Burl Ives. There was nothing holly or jolly about my mood leading up to the holidays last year. (By the way, Christmas is the only time of year we take a moment to pause and  honor the vast talents of Burl so that’s another thing to love about the holiday.) But it all needed to happen. Revisiting old physically violent parts of my past just so they’d finally make sense sounded like a horrible idea. Frankly it sounded scary and hard and like the reason why I drank and used drugs for 20 years. Yet I was ready. I’d been sober almost 9 years, I felt loved and protected by the people in my life and I had bad ass health insurance.

Still the timing was undeniably sucky so thank god for Joni Mitchell. While I couldn’t convince Joni to go to therapy for me (she’s a frail woman, people! I’m sure she would if she could!) she at least provided a soundtrack that made my Christmas life livable. I guess this could have also been an essay about how “River” by Joni Mitchell is the best Christmas song ever. I have at least 800 compelling words to argue that point. Yet that would mean I couldn’t write about myself and that would be unacceptable. Anyway, last year that song came on at the wrong time (or the right time) just a few days before the holidays. By this point, I had been in therapy a few weeks. We had already unearthed some of the hardest, most brutal parts of my past. It was a rough but cathartic journey which resulted in a lot of tears. Insert several of the aforementioned cries in the shower here.  I wasn’t crying because I was still afraid. I wasn’t crying because the wounds were fresh. I was crying for poor, old Sean of the past. I was crying for all the things he went through and all the years he avoided feeling anything at all. I was mourning a life that was broken and that never felt like it deserved a chance to get fixed until 2009. It was all appropriate but it hurt like a motherfucker. So when Joni sang, ” I wish I had a river I could skate away on” I was like “Yeah, bitch! Me too!” Per her request it need to a be so long that it could teach my feet to fly. I needed to fly far away from this shit.

But that’s the thing,  I couldn’t. The beast of an examined life of accountability (which sounds awful when you put it that way, tbh) is that I get to walk through the fire head on, regardless of how hard an unsavory it is.  There’s no skating away or moving around it. When you listen to “River” its clear Joni had done fucked up at that point in her life and she wanted to skate away from all of it. A renowned wine drinker and cigarette smoker, I’m sure La Mitchell used the same ways to “skate away” that I did.  Drugs and alcohol were terrific for that. A few shots, a few lines and the things that I put off feeling for years were put on hold indefinitely. Yet despite all odds there I was: a person who hates facing shit doing precisely that. “River” contains a riff of a deconstructed jingle bells beneath it’s heart wrenching lyrics which fits that moment perfectly too. Here it was Christmas, a time I love with people I love and my heart was imploding. “Jingle Bells” but make it devastating.

To get outside of myself, I baked an obscene amount of cookies.  I mailed tins filled with treats to family around the country. I took cookies to work. I brought cookies to AA meetings. Maybe Mrs. Fields went through PTSD therapy too and thus her business was born? The point was I got through it and I would even say really enjoyed my holidays.  The tears still came but I talked to a network of people who got what I was going through. My sister reminded me that by looking at this difficult stuff and finally healing, I was giving myself the Christmas present of freedom. Sigh. I had really wanted a waffle iron but I knew she was right.

When Christmas 2017 finally showed up, so did the perfect light dusting of snow, just like it does on the holiday specials. My husband and I walked to a movie, like we do every year and there it was: the quiet. We were in downtown Portland but it felt like nobody else was. It was beautiful. I had more work on this journey I needed to do but in that moment everything was okay. “Peace on Earth” means something in moments like that when you’re not exactly at peace yourself.

Today, I am happy to report that while it is decidedly still coming on Christmas and they are still cutting down tress, my feet are firmly planted. Skates hung up and face forward, I don’t have the desire to skate away. I will still bake excessively. I will listen to Joni Mitchell. I will still probably cry at some point. But maybe this year, I can remind somebody else struggling of the gift of freedom, too.

but I’m already so tired

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If we hang out together more than once, you’ll undoubtedly hear me sigh, “My phone’s about to die.” If I work all day- “My phone’s about to die.” If you’re about to launch into a really good story- “My phone’s about to die.” How have you been? “My phone’s about to die.” What’s my go-to order at Popeyes? “My phone’s about to die.” It’s not personal. It’s just now at the every fabric of who I am.  Due to obsessive compulsive tweeting, general forgetfulness and a blissful laissez-faire that can’t be bothered to learn how to run fewer apps, my phone is always on the brink of near death. It’s so perpetually in low power mode, I often wonder if there’s a setting that can just alert me when it is actually charged instead of wasting its breath to always tell me that my phone’s days are numbered. Yet as with those phony tweets announcing Betty White’s death, my phone is alive and well. Just in a perpetual state of low energy. My phone battery, myself. Neither me or my phone is actually about to die but we’re certainly usually not running on full power.

Being gifted with an immune system that behaves like a dainty Southern belle who fans herself while her suitors fetch her lemonades means my baseline is just sort of exhausted. Like not exhausted in a way that actually dying people with hardcore active illnesses are but in a way that I’m certainly not gonna hustle just to prove that I can. Much like that phone battery, I gotta conserve my energy. When it comes to HIV and the meds they give you to handle it, exhaustion is a puzzle.  Like is it the HIV that makes you exhausted or is it the meds or is it the still stupid societal prejudice and misunderstanding of the disease that makes us positive people exhausted? Who knows and I’m too tired to even Google any of this. Truthfully, it’s probably all those things but what I know is that I’m not the only tired bitch with HIV roaming the Earth. This is comforting. We the people with teeny tiny immune systems march forward with coffees in hand and we’re too tired to put up with your bullshit. This right here is the ultimate gift of being tired all the time. “Tired All The Time” is the sequel to Eddie Murphy’s hit song “Party All The Time” but he was too tired to release it.  

When you have a smaller bandwidth, you have to be selective about the things you let ruffle your feathers. Admittedly, in an era with overt racism, contestant nuclear threat, sexual predators in positions of power and every known system collapsing, ruffling feathers seems like a delicate way to put it. Feathers ruffled feels like something we could easily get over. Most of this shit? I’m not too sure about that.  More accurately described as world in decline as per my talisman in black eyeliner Chrissie Hynde, society today could really flatten you if you let it all get to you. Therefore, I’m grateful that my rage, disgust and depression has to be selective. It’s express lane outrage, 9 items or less. The reality for me is that a lot of it is going to bother me and get me down. Congratulations to those folks who tell you any chance they get that they’ve stopped reading everything and that their lives are so much better and that you should really try it. I’m happy for them. But I am not them. The world bugs me and that feels healthy for me. After all, what would I write about if I didn’t sort of low-key hate everyone/everything? So I pick and choose what to angry about. Likewise, I get to pick who and what I put energy into.

I recently spent a lot of time chasing someone. Not romantically, mind you and certainly not literally as in running, dear god, no. But I was trying to a get friend to hang out with me, to spend time with me, hell to even call me back. It was an exhausting place to be. Like what the fuck was I doing? I’m already so tired and now I’m spending time running after a friend who clearly doesn’t want to spend time with me? Girl. What is this? Seventh grade? I eventually released this friend without a bunch of conversations or drama(shit I’m really way too tired to do). One way relationships of any kind fall firmly into the “I’m too tired for this shit” folder and I have to remember to keep them there. Also in that folder:

* people who dominate conversations

* late people

*flaky people

*standing in line for lame events

*entitled people

*arguing with people

*people in general. Kidding. Sort of.

Writing this list, it doesn’t escape me that most of these things that make me more tired are things that I myself am guilty of. Whomp, whomp. Naturally, the bullshit that I am the most sick of and that makes me the most tired is my own. Oh self-awareness. Way to fuck things up once again. Nevertheless, it’s true. I am very tired of my own flakiness, my own entitlement, my impulse to argue with people even when I know better. While the president, the people of planet earth and basically any time I have to go to a store like Home Depot can make me exhausted, it’s my own stuff that really gets tiresome.

Of course, it’s also the stuff that’s easiest to change. Like, Sean, maybe not argue ? Maybe not open your mouth for five minutes? Maybe let someone go ahead of you in line? While my phone is currently at 53%, my energy is considerably less than that. Yet I’m actually okay. Maybe running on half a battery provides me the reflection that I can be less horrible and conserve personal energy. It certainly can’t hurt. I can take the focus of my own exhaustion and try to mediate on being a spiritual being that doesn’t make other people tired.  I need to be the enlightened, tired being I want to see in the world!

But I’ll take a nap first.

Written in summer 2018, this essay, along with other brand new works, will appear in the collection Now That You’ve Stopped Dying, available soon!

to all the bros I loved before

Justin Bieber goes for a jog with his PosseWhy is it that the people who push you around, the ones who beat you up and the guys you don’t wanna run into are also the ones you wanna impress the most? Okay, not you. You’re probably pretty healthy. I’m sorry to put this shit on you. I meant me. Why am I like this? Why do I know in the pit of my soul that these men are garbage fires of individuals but I want them to approve of me anyway? Child. This is a deep thing that I’ve been paying a professional to talk about for over a year. There’s binder full of notes somewhere and a large conspiracy theory type of wall map that we could pull together to try to unravel this. The short answer is that my self-esteem was nonexistent for most of my life so I just wanted these dudes, these bros, theses assholes to like me. They usually never did and what’s more guys like this are the kind of guys who bullied me in school, pushed me in the hallway, threw things at me and mocked me. Painful? Sure, but not impossible to overcome. For the ones who hurt me when I was young, through the hours of work, therapy and 12-Step Meetings I’ve been able to reach a place of “Fuck ‘Em” in the most spiritual way possible.

I’m thinking about all of this right now for lots of reasons but chief among them being because asshole dudes who get away with whatever they want are kind of in fashion. We want to put them in power. We still want to give them things. We want to look the other way at the sheer fact of how much they suck. And here I do mean we.  You are guilty too. I listened to that weird dude cry, sniffle and yell during a job interview for a position on the highest court in the land, all the while knowing that even his inherent shittiness wouldn’t sink him from getting the job. Jerks like him always win. Life isn’t an 80’s movie. Wimpy Ralph Macchio in a headband won’t save us. The Biffs, the Johnnies, the Chads– they run this world and we don’t get a redemption storyline. Just ask Anita HIll or anybody bullied by guys like this. The victims of guys like this get to say their piece and put their necks on the line, only to have their lives ruined all over again. There’s no prom or trophies. Yet what we do get to walk away with is a rebuilt version of ourselves that’s stronger and capable of amazing things like even being able to love these jerks, these dudes, these bros.

Whoever is the head writer for the primetime drama that is my life deserves an Emmy because they can really come up with a plot twist. Little did I know that when I got sober in 2009 that my life would be filled with straight guys, ones that even looked like my tormenters from the past. For years, groups of white men would give me a panic attack and now here I was sitting next to them in meetings. The amazing thing about being in a room of addicts and alcoholics is that whoever you were or where you come from doesn’t matter. There have been too many times to count where I see someone who does not look or sound like me start to open their mouths and I think, “Oh this is gonna put me to sleep” only to have my brain blown open and my heart melted because they said exactly how I felt. I now considered myself blessed to have a network of straight men friends who are sober and who I can count on. Oh and it goes deeper than that.

In my professional world I work with a lot of guys right from jail, from rural and not exactly gay friendly neighborhoods and basically guys who in a different time and place who would kick my ass. Yet meeting them addict-to-addict and from a place of support, where we come from really doesn’t matter. I’ve had burly dudes that people might even describe as scary tell me they love me. Not only do I believe them but I love them too. It’s oddly profound and perfect that the types of guys I thought I hated and who hated and tortured me are the very ones I get to help and get the honor of being a person they can lean on. See? I told you it was a good plot twist. If this was a movie from the creators of This Is Us, you’d be crying right now.

The last reason these bros are on my mind is because one that I loved who didn’t love me back recently left this realm. I got news the other day a guy I used to hang out with was killed in an accident. We were friends when I was 20. It’s a gay story as old as time. We met on ecstasy, went to raves, hung out constantly, I fell in love with him but he didn’t love me back becuase he liked vaginas and I don’t have one of those, he fucked my best girlfriend, I did more drugs and cut them both out of my life. You know. These things just happened in the 1990’s. The impact of this non-romance was powerful though. We were never the same as friends, although the meth might have had something to do with that. Nevertheless, we drifted and over the years I wondered about him. I would see posts from mutual friends on Facebook or hear news of him when I’d return home to Denver over the holidays. By not loving me the way I wanted him to he taught me something too: he taught me I deserve more. He taught me that I shouldn’t chase things that aren’t meant for me. He taught me that I could be loveable. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. I mourned him because he was actually one of the good ones. I also mourned for that 20-year-old drug addict version of myself with the painfully low self-esteem.

Sadly, this will be one of those essays that maybe doesn’t answer the questions posed at the top. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know why we loves these dudes, these jerks, these bros. I don’t know why we love people who hurt us or push us around or who are simply unvailable. And I sure the fuck don’t know why our culture is obsessed with rewarding bullies, rapists and misogynists. This also will not end with me saying that we should try to love and understand straight white males more. God no. Eww. I mean, yes they are not all rapist, bully assholes but that’s the best you’ll get out of me right now.

What I do know is this: the men who’ve hurt me, the ones who’ve bullied me and the ones who couldn’t love me back have only made me tougher, more compassionate and even able to love more. For that alone, I’m grateful for their bro asses.

float

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11-year-old me would be pretty damn excited to learn that one day he would live downtown, in a condo with two cats and someone who loves him. But he’d actually be the most excited that said condo has a swimming pool. 11-year-old me, although a boy from unquestionably landlocked Colorado, was actually a mermaid. This was confirmed when he saw Splash with Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah. Hannah’s character Madison, a once cool for mermaids only name that has been appropriated by suburban moms (When will the horror of mermaid appropriation end, honestly?), was immediately identifiable. For those who don’t remember, Madison comes ashore to New York City and is forced to acclimate fast to a weird, harsh world that she didn’t belong in. I mean as a gay child that was literally my experience everywhere I went–from baseball games to camping trips and beyond. The one place this mermaid child felt at home was in water. Pool, beach, river didn’t matter. I came alive when I could just bounce in the water. My favorite was swimming underwater. It was quiet and I could hold my breath for a long time so it was just me and water and not the other things in daily life that seemed hard and alien.  Like Madison, I didn’t stay underwater and I  always returned to an awkward life landlocked.

Some 34 years later, this mermaid-merman has learned how to live among non-merfolk. Sort of. I mean I don’t know if I’ll ever pass as someone who gets this whole life thing but I’ve found some ways to make it feel less painful and less alien. I should stop using alien in a negative way. Misunderstood mystical beings from other places should be cherished. (Oh when will our stigmatizing of aliens ever end?) The point is I’ve accepted and even begun to love merself. Even when hanging out at my condo pool.  On one of those Sweet-Jesus-Is-It-Possible-To-Die-From-Summer-Exhaustion days where the air is stifling and hot, I trotted out to the pool after work. Just a quick dip, a little float to help rinse off my day. Naturally, the bonus for pool situations for nosey people like myself is to spy on other swimmers. What are they wearing? What’s the group dynamic? Which one of those blonde girls in the denim cutoffs and bikini top is named Lauren? Why is that guy fixing his hair obsessively and taking selfies? There’s a lot to unpack at the condo pool and I’m ready for it. On this day, I was grateful that the omnipresent group of drunk people wasn’t there.

The last time my husband and I went out together, we were bombarded by a group of boozy forty somethings (or thirtysomethings who drank enough to look a decade older). They were day drinking, which was always a favorite pastime of mine, and swimming. The longer we hung out at the pool, the faster we could see them deteriorate. A woman in pigtails on a rainbow raft kept barking at us to push her to the other end of the pool. A large, loud man pounded cocktails from big plastic tumblers and stumbled in and out of the water. The other friends who hadn’t drunk as much packed their things and scooted off before they got messy, an ability I myself never possessed. As for the husband and I, we laughed and paddled to other, more sober parts of the pool. We causally looked at the booze fueled train wreck but didn’t make direct eye contact, for fear of more slurry speech interaction. It’s always enlightening to see drunk people in broad daylight.  Like now it feels so weird and out of place. My daytime hours are so dull and on such an autopilot, I forget that I used to live my whole life like those people at the pool. Yet the minute I wanna get super judgey about daytime drunks, I have to remember that I once drank and took ecstasy on a Tuesday afternoon just for something to do. It’s just a different life now and a sort of return to that mermaid existence where I am again a creature not doing what everybody else is doing.

Th large, loud and now certainly most hammered guy in the group soon was organizing where they all would drink and play pool one they left. In no shape whatsoever to drink more but had enough wits about him to get together a plan for more alcohol was a mission I certainly identified with. How can you enjoy a drunken daytime moment when you have to figure out how and where you can keep drinking? Anyway, we shuffled off to the hot tub as they left the pool in a wet huddle of swerving, yelling disarray. It was amusing from a distance. It was deserving of a few one-liners and eye rolls. But it certainly didn’t wreck our moment at the pool.

As we hopped back in the water, shivering from the temperature shock, the now silent area felt more like those waters where this merchild first floated. Just me and the water and my merhusband. When we went to the Caribbean a few years ago, I remember this amazing smile on his face as we jumped in the warm waves. That same smile comes back sometimes even when we’re in the pool. He doesn’t always fit in on this earth either. He doesn’t like what everybody else likes. But he loves the water and me so we can float through all of this together.

POZiversary

30420-birthday-candles1 2.jpgWell, that’ll do it. Nobody will love me ever again.

It was an overly dramatic train of thought to be sure but don’t blame me. I didn’t come up with it. As far back as forever, people have been saying they’d never fall in love again(Dionne Warwick) or that they were unloveable (Morrissey) or that they’d never love this way again (Dionne Warwick redux, just sub Burt Bacharach for Barry Manilow). These poor saps usually made these statements after having a broken heart. But people are whores so I’m sure Dionne, Morrissey and countless others indeed did fall in love again. My problem was different. Nobody would love ever again because I was broken. Love just wasn’t something my life would be full of because nine years ago today I found that I was HIV Positive.

I’m gonna go ahead and stop you from writing a comment that includes phrases like, “my cousin’s neighbor is positive and he plays on a softball team and is really happy!” or “they have great drugs for that now and so it’s not really a huge deal anymore!” These things are all true and really great but it’s hard not to feel broken in a zillion pieces when you get that kind of news. It’s fucking weird that since HIV still has the “well, you did it to yourself!” stigma attached to it that we don’t let people feel grief around it. We don’t let people have a journey of acceptance around it because it no longer kills millions of people. We do in fact have wonder drugs that keep people alive so let’s not talk about the difficulty those people still might have and just move on, shall we? So yeah I went through it in August 2009 when I got the news. I felt ripped in half. I felt like it was yet another shitty thing I had to “learn to live with.” But mainly I felt like the timing was really bad.

See, I was only 7 months sober at the time and was using everything short of Scotch tape to just hold my shit together at the time. This kind of news was really inconvenient. The same people who would write those comments are the same ones who would tell you when you get this kind of news, “God never gives you more than you can handle!” Well fuck those people because I could barely as handle being sober and I was given another ball to juggle.  Besides, how does God know what I can handle? I think handling things is overrated anyway. I never signed up for this life gig to “handle shit”. Anyway, there we were and it was something I could accept or drink over. How I didn’t drink over it is anyone’s guess seeing as I drank over (and over drank) everything. So I stayed sober and it was people who helped me, not Scotch tape, keep it together. Still, there was a nagging feeling that love was something that might not ever be in the cards.

But as with all the best parts of my life, I was wrong. Completely wrong on every level and ain’t that a wonderful thing? No, seriously.  In boastful, bullshitter times, there’s something wonderfully, punk rock about being totally, fucking wrong. Because once I’ve shut up and stop being convinced that I know what the outcome on every thing is, magic can happen. And magic did happen. I met a guy who didn’t care about me being HIV positive. Beyond this something else happened- love. Love not just from my beautiful husband but love from family members (even the ones who said shit like, “Well you knew this might happen when you decided to be gay” oy fucking vey). Love happened from other addicts and alcoholics who told they were sorry I was going through a tough time. They gave me permission to cry, they brought me burritos, they took me to meetings and they told me not to drink or use no matter what.  Even more amazing, love happened from other people with HIV.

Other people who maybe felt like they’d never feel loved again too, loved me, no questions asked. I shared about it and they showed up for me. They drove me home from meetings and told me it was gonna be okay and I believed them because they were like me. Even more amazingly, the universe put brave beautiful people with HIV in my life without me ever having to say a word. At four years sober, I met somebody days after being in a coma who I got to watch sobriety change his whole world. He turned out to be HIV positive too. We didn’t know this when we met each other but it was just one of a zillion things that latched our hearts together. But it wasn’t just him. Over the years there’s been lots of “him.” People I loved immediately would later share that they were positive too.  Again, we never planned on meeting. Something bigger just put us together and aren’t we lucky? That happened to me just the other day with a new friend who I instantly adored but who got even closer once we knew what we had in common. We exhaled when we shared it with each other. I feel less alone, less damaged, more lovable the more this happens. The thing is we’re able to fill in the blank spaces that the world, society and our broken selves tell us won’t ever be filled with love.

It’s even happened recently at my day job where I get to help other addicts and alcoholics. Again, it’s unplanned and not manipulated but I have certainly come out to my coworkers as HIV positive. In my field, this is an asset. When patients come in with HIV they know that I’ve been there and they can lean on me, no questions asked. Recently, a patient shared his rage that he felt discriminated against at his treatment center when a fellow patient said people like him shouldn’t be allowed in there. I told him that would have pissed me off too. I also offered to come down there and drag this asshole out of the rehab by the hair. We laughed and he said the staff was on his side and the drama subsided. My offer, however, still stands.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that nine years later, the news I got on August 11th 2009, the news that I thought would ruin my existence or make me go out and use again, turned out to be the news that changed my life. Now, when I think about the day and all of the days since, the only thing I can think of is love.