power ballad through it

1txyhkXCA8x-4KchjK67CoAWeird, weak and maybe wonderful things happen at the end of a long creative project. Maybe you hit a wall and decide, “Fuck it. It’s done.” Maybe something elusive shows up at the last second to save the whole thing. Maybe a last blast of steam moves you to turn the whole thing around like a goddamn creative action hero! Or maybe you just fall into a puddle of tears while blasting power ballads. The latter was exactly what happened to me over the summer as I finished my first collection of essays, Now That You’ve Stopped Dying.

All was not well on the ranch last July. Sure, everything on a cellular level around my home was fine. More than fine. It was great. But inside of me? Disaster. The thing that nobody ever tells you about bleeding funny, dark personal stories on the page is that it really takes a toll on you. I’d been editing tons of personal essays as well as creating new essays for months for this collection. Sure, I had more than enough previously published pieces to fill a few volumes but I wasn’t feeling it, dawg. I wanted them to make sense together. I wanted them to hit all the right notes. I wanted them to be a gift to people in recovery who had the same dark, funny fucked up thoughts that I did. But the catch was I had to dig up a bunch of new painful shit, throw glitter on them and be funny too. Trauma but make it fashion.

The new pieces got written and the old ones were spit shined but it came at a price. After so many months of listening to my own voice over and over again, I started to go mad. Not mad like a Sylvia Plath moment but certainly not acting like myself. For example, the last two days of writing, things had gotten really desperate. All I wanted, no, all I NEEDED to finish writing was Starbursts and a never-ending musical supply of power ballads. This is cause for alarm for a lot of reasons but primarily because I’m a strict chocolate, coffee and Stevie Nicks kind of guy when I’m on a deadline. Something about stirring up years of personal shit flicked a switch in my brain. It was Starburst in varieties of flavors and the chest thumping anthems of Celine Dion or this book was not happening.

Thus I did what I’ve done my whole life when a significant moment needed to be less painful, I made a soundtrack. Back in my teen years, my drawers were filled with sad mix tapes that charted every heartbreak and mistake. Today, my benchmark life moments, good or bad, get their own playlists and this moment certainly deserved one. Entitled “power ballad thru it” the playlist hit all the inspiring, dramatic and delightfully codependent notes you want with such a collection. It starts with “Alone” by Heart because it’s one of the best ever and I will refuse to hear anything different. Plus the sisters Wilson had previously helped me write my play The Singing Room so their musical magic couldn’t hurt. Checking more boxes were tracks like “Time After Time,” “Listen to Your Heart” and “Without You”-the Mariah version. Duh. These sometimes triumphant, usually heartbreaking songs were perfect for a project where I hopefully left it all on the page, emotionally, while somehow managing to be hilarious too. It’s  also really helpful for me to have something to sing along to and do expressive hand gestures to while editing. Hemingway and Faulkner did the same thing. Trust me- my fist bump during “Show Me Heaven” as Maria McKee sings “I’m not denyin’!” is a sight to behold. Plus, the overt theatrics of these songs helped me laugh at myself and take this whole bleeding on the page thing a little less seriously. Nothing like an epic lip sync of “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” by Celine Dion (who has two other gems on this playlist) to lighten the mood while editing a piece on PTSD.

The thing is, and this has happened with me finishing big projects before and will undoubtedly happen again, I was just ready to birth the damn thing. Months of tinkering on my own oh-so-humorous thoughts gets exhausting. That’s a fuck ton of time to spend inside my brain. I got tired of myself and of the essays. I lost all objectivity. Self-doubt slipped in more than once, that hateful bitch. She told me, “These essays suck. You’re not funny. Why are you even bothering?” Thankfully, I turned up the music and wondered why Laura Branigan is still so unappreciated instead of wondering if self-doubt was actually right. The day I promised it would be done by crept even closer and with that date approaching came another fear: I wasn’t going to finish. As a decades long flakey alcoholic and drug addict finishing anything other than a bottle or a baggie wasn’t really my strong point. But I wolfed down more Starbursts and didn’t listen to that one either. I’m not sure why other than I’ve grown up. The things that used to paralyze me don’t really anymore. Or they don’t for long, anyway.

The day my book was due, I didn’t work at my day job. I took the day to finish the damn thing, once and for all. The power ballads were at full volumes, the candy had been replenished and the coffee was non-stop. I got to the final essay. It was a rework of a pice that I wrote for urtheinspiration years ago. It meant something to me at the time because it talked about how I learned how to ask for help and to be honest with other alcoholics. Also? It was rich in Cher references. The new version was an expansion on those ideas but  now filled with reflections as a person with over nine years sober. Maybe the piece itself was emotional. Maybe it was me. Maybe I was tired. Or maybe all of those things are true. But as I wrote, tears fell down my face. I couldn’t help myself. I was a very Joan Wilder moment. Cher sang “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me Yet” in the background. The whole experience was way too much. Here was this drunk, coke whore actually finishing a book!?! It took time, candy, caffeine and power ballads but I finished the fucking thing.

And not just that. It was a book I was proud of. I wrote it for everybody who got sober and then thought, “Well, now what?” I wrote it for every queer person who struggled with self-esteem and addiction. I wrote it for every dark motherfucker who has a sense of humor about all of this stuff. I wrote it, finished it and now after months of life’s curve balls, I can’t wait for you to finally read it this spring!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

the best of me

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I mean, I clearly had an amazing burrito in San Francisco. 2017 couldn’t have been all bad, right? 

Look. I’m a sucker for a year end list. I know. They’re basic. I know. They’re a cop out and the kind of thing writers do when they can’t make something original.  I agree but I like them anyway and I’m the boss around these parts! Besides, I was thinking about 2017 and the truth about the year that was and you know what: it was incredible. No, really. I know it’s popular to shove an entire chunk into a “IT SUCKED” folder and move on. But I can’t honestly say that about 2017.

Sure, I had my challenges and my share of emotional pain. In fact, one of the more revealing things I wrote this year was about the moment that changed it all for me over the summer. I hit an emotional bottom over the summer and felt, for lack of a more poetic term, like shit. It was painful and frightening but it changed my whole life and program of recovery for the better. From there on out, my year got incredibly good. A new challenging career, new opportunities to be of service and a trip to Europe to boot! So I refuse to believe any year is entirely bad. Below, I’ve collected some of my most favorite and popular posts in no particular order to hopefully confirm that not all of last year was horrible.

Standard Bitch: The years most viewed post with one of my favorite titles. I’m a little befuddled why this piece was so popular but maybe y’all just like the poodles and the b word as much as I do and that’s good enough for me. It also features the phrase “turd salad’ and an Eyrkah Badu quote as well as reflecting on the trials and tribulations of being a sarcastic ass bitch. Please enjoy.

Handle With Care: A shipping metaphor meets a Traveling Wilburys cover is the title for this post inauguration essay which was my second most viewed piece of the year. I was depressed as fuck when I wrote this so I’m glad a lot of people got something out of it. Insert shruggie emoji here.

A Hot Mess, Now At Room Temperature: I wrote an essay a day in April and this little piece came out on the 23rd. The number 3 most popular post of the year is one I’m proud so many folks responded to. I wanted to convey how my sobriety and my life is better but still kind of a hot mess and judging by your response I think I did that. So yay.

Eventually, You’ll Think About Your Ass: Also from my April writing fest, this piece doesn’t crack the top ten as far as popularity goes but it’s hands down my favorite thing I wrote last year. To all of you who had lovely things to say about the piece, thank you. To all of you who had lovely things to say about my ass, thank you too.

At Least Theres Potatoes: Another from April, this piece personifies what’s actually important to me: potatoes and a good laugh. Michael was travelling for work during that time and I was new to Portland so I had a lot of time to battle the blues, cook and write and this post sums all of that up perfectly.

A Path to the Rainbow’s End:  Listen, if someone wants to give me a few thousand dollars to write an entire book of essays about Stevie Nicks songs, I’ll gladly do it! And this essay about “Seven Wonders” by Fleetwood Mac would make an excellent addition to that book. I love using songs as a prompt and this one was fun and cathartic to write about.

I Die a Little: Speaking of posts that use a song as a prompt, here’s one that relies on the words of Cole Porter while processing the horror that was Charlottesville. I’m including it here not just because it personifies the state of the world in 2017 but because it also was an example of when writing here helped me a lot. Again, thank you for that.

Relieve Me of the Bondage of Selfie: The post with my actual favorite title of the year, chronicled my social media addiction and the subsequent short-lived detox from it. Suffice to say, the little break was helpful but it didn’t last and came back from it with an Instagram account and even more new obsessions. Sigh.

Sorry Bitches, But We Still Exist: Here’s one that also ran on Medium and did quite well over there. I’m rarely pissed off when I write but this one was an exception. As a reaction to the erasing of gay men in concentration camps in Chechnya, the piece cuts loose on bigotry against LGBTQ people while letting go of some serious anger.

God Probably Sounds a Lot Like Mavis Staples: I wrote about a lot of movies and tv shows last year and it was hard to pick a favorite out of those pieces but for some reason this one about a Mavis Staples documentary seemed worthy of another look. I hope you think so too.

That’s enough navel gazing and self-reflection for now. I’m back to publishing twice a week in 2018 with another daily essay fest sure to happen in the spring. Thanks again for reading, commenting, reblogging and generally being nice in 2017.

Happy New Year.

out of service

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It all started by a waterfall with cliff divers.  Okay and there was also a mariachi band and a large orange monkey. There was also magicians, an old drunk couple with guitars and the gloppy enchiladas that should probably be considered a hate crime against Mexico. Little red flags popped up and me and a bevy of other teenagers would magically appear with chips and salsa and sopapillas (this puffy, fired dough pillow creation best eaten at mouth scorching temperatures and drizzled with honey.) Later, they’d tear me away from all of this glamorous action and sequester me to a hot steamy kitchen where my loud thin Vietnamese manager Hong would yell at me, “Do something!” Suffice to say, I didn’t last very long.

Yep, it all started nearly 30 years ago when I was 15 and working at a ridiculous Mexican restaurant/theme park/Denver anomaly called Casa Bonita. The “it” in question is my almost 30 year on and off again career of waiting tables, working behind retail registers and dealing with the general public. These restaurant/retail gigs have always made for good money makers while I’ve persued drugs or writing or getting sober. Now at age 44, my time behind the counter and I’m sad to report by fake waterfalls with cliff divers has come to an end.

While I won’t say, “I’ll never go back!” to working in cafes, shops or restaurants, I will say for the time being it looks like that chapter of my life is officially done. On Saturday, I said goodbye to the part-time gig I’ve had since I moved to Portland at a culinary shop/cooking class hub. While aspects of it were fun, I did feel a little like the daytime stripper way past her prime. Bitter, slow and armed with one liners ripe for any possible thing that could come up, it became clear that my time in this arena had run its course. The fact that no one got stabbed and my sobriety remained in tact means my time there was success. My new adventure, working as a peer counselor for the State of Oregon will put in me in an entirely different realm of the word service but will certainly take me out of this weird wonderful, fucked up world that I have known since my teen years.

It’s an over-simplification of the highest order and a snap judgement anyone can and has made probably any time they’ve left their house, I can confirm that people are the worst. Entitled, rude, awkward, racist, homophobic, cheap, dishonest, mean-spirited and generally awful, people put it all out there when their shopping and eating out. I also happen to be people too so I know this is true for myself as well. We like to think “everyone’s doing the best they can” but I’d argue that when we’re shopping or eating out that we are often on autopilot and the first things to evaporate are our common sense, manners and general non-shittiness. Like we don’t go places with the intentions of being awful but we don’t exactly set out into the world with the opposite intention either. However, I will say after you’ve worked with the public long enough, you no longer flinch when cray-cray shit flies out of their mouths. Somewhere around Year 500 of me working with the public, I developed a protective shield, one that kept me free from reaction while also making everything and everyone seem funny, human and really not that bad. Naturally curious and nosey, I do actually like talking to people, the big weirdos. So as I took on these gigs in sobriety I was able to have fun with them and promptly forget them when I went home.

Back when I was waiting tables, a friend once optimistically chirped, “But as a writer waiting tables must be a great insight into people, right?”  I’m sure I agreed and muddled sure, sure, sure then followed it up by some insightful, funny story about customers. Yet now I’m not so sure. After all, it’s a micro-glimpse into their lives and not really who they are. Yet I will say as a person who loves to write dialogue, working with the public has been invaluable. Plus, people are really vulnerable(read: insane) when they’re eating and shopping so you get to see them in a heightened state which is great for dramatic purposes. Yet for all the drama and all the years waiting tables only a few good stories remain and they are simplistic at best. Here are a few of the most memorable:

That time I waited on Isabella Rossellini. For obvious reasons– duh!

That time I watched a sleazy guy cut his girlfriend’s steak for her. Despite watching people vomit or get in fights, this sticks in my brain as one of the grossest and oddest things I ever saw waiting tables. I don’t know why but it’s forever lodged in my conscience.

That time I got to escort Harrison Ford backstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. Harrison. Goddamn. Ford.

That time a customer posted a negative Yelp review of the place I worked at and singled out my shitty, snotty attitude. She wasn’t wrong.

That time I got to send clothes to Cher’s house for her to try on and she in turn sent me a signed cd.

That time I helped Roseanne pick out body glitter and punk rock records.

That time a couple had sex in the changing room at a boutique I worked at.

That time Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks sang Happy Birthday to her friend at the restaurant I worked at.

That time Rene Russo ate in our restaurant while her kids ate Domino’s in her car.

That time I got hit on by a customer at lunch and later hooked up with him in between shifts.

That time a D-List actor rudely yapped on his cell phone and ignored his 4 year-old kid while dining at my work. He even left the kid(!!) alone while he went to the ATM and he didn’t tip.

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That time, despite being really high/drunk I actually made a lot of money. Okay. That was most of the time.

Did I mention Isabella Rossellini already? The point is the fodder isn’t nearly as juicy as you might think. And without the celebrity sightings the cache of my illustrious customer service career completely bombs. I’ve mainly learned that people want to be heard, people want to be noticed and people shouldn’t be fucked with if they’re hungry. Also, this makeshift career of helping other people has oddly opened the door for me to want to help them even more, beyond bringing dessert menus or helping them pick out body glitter.

Service, as fate would have it, is a necessary part of my recovery. At nearly 9 years into this jam, I am constantly on the hunt for new ways to be of service. They say helping others keeps people like me out of our heads and I am all for that. Thus my new career and even writing have pushed me into a life less about Sean. Or at least that’s my hope. Plus, if all else fails I can return to this old wacky world. That’s the thing. Once you’ve conquered it you can do it anywhere and at anytime.

Meet me by the waterfall and I’ll bring you some menus.

 

enough of never enough

7372321_14564273372092_rId10.jpgWhen did it start? How did it happen? Was it childhood? Doesn’t it always come back to childhood? Surely, that was it. Although, maybe not. After all, I never went to bed hungry. I always got everything on my birthday list. The lights were never out and the house was always warm. By those standards, I always was taken care and had enough. A deeper, no-nonsense part of my brain that maybe I don’t want to listen to right now on my first cup of coffee says, “But did you have enough love?” Damn, girl.  I don’t know. Probably not. But whatever it is, I have a brain that tells me I don’t have enough.

Scarcity feels like a shameful and dramatic word for an American like me to use. Like here we are in the land of endless crap with more people than ever. How could we possibly feel scarcity? Google news search “scarcity” and you’ll come up with some places that deserve that word.  Places in India with water scarcity or inner city areas facing a teacher scarcity. That’s some real shit. My buried deep inside of me scarcity, and I know this already, comes solely from me. My scarcity exists because I let it. If I am not hysterical and if I am willing to see the truth I know for a fact that I have house, food to eat, regular income, medical care, etc. Still, as an addict, who lived so long waiting for the next high, re-wiring my brain out of scarcity mode is fucking hard.

I promised last year when I started this conversation with you that I would talk about everything. Thus here we are talking about finances, careers, jobs and other sorts of things that make me feel icky. Which is funny because I have no problem blurting out 700 words about doing meth or feeling insane but talking about this stuff feels particularly vulnerable. I don’t know why. I guess because I have this notion that as a person my age should have their shit together financially. My ego wants you to think I’m some baller or that the very least a person who doesn’t have single digits in their bank account. Yet the real truth is I’ve always been pretty terrible in the financial department. Naturally, as an addict I have the myriad of overdrawn accounts, evictions and bad checks in my past. But now 8.5 years sober, I still struggle to balance my finances and currently making enough money.

Since moving, my employment status has been all over the place. Piecing together freelance writing gigs and side job shenanigans has been harder than I thought it would be. Sure, some of it, as my husband reminds me, is the new city deal. I moved here, unlike him whose job brought him here, without a job. Therefore, he assures me, it’s normal that I’d have a period of readjusting. And he’s right. Plus, it isn’t like I’ve had zero opportunities and no money coming in. Just not enough to really cover my bills. I’ve been proactive in the meantime, however. I’ve applied for tons of other jobs, submitted writing to all kinds of places and I’ve signed up for every depressing and bleak job website and their respective (and equally terrible) email newsletters. In general, I’ve run around like a crazy person to make it click, to make this click, to make me click into a place where I feel like I’m contributing and where I don’t have to worry. And the result? Nada.

So many “no”, “no thank you” and plain old no response answers have beaten me into a place of submission. I’ve even readjusted the goals, widened the net and tried different things. And the answer has universally still been the same. Sigh like for two hours sigh. Yesterday, I had a moment. It was a hard moment but a good moment. In this little moment of mine, it hit me. It wasn’t that there isn’t enough jobs or enough money or that the city of Portland is conspiring against me from financially succeeding. It was me. It was this broken brain hell-bent on scarcity that was causing the issues. Damn, girl: the sequel. “Things” were not going to change unless I changed my thinking.

Oh goody. Another opportunity for painful spiritual growth. I’m thrilled. Yet it feels like the only way. The external is not budging and doing what I want it to do, the hateful bastard. So it’s up to me. And to be completely honest I am not even sure what this will look like. More meditation, more faith, more gratitude all seem like the place to start.  Changing my bitch ass attitude about the jobs I do have and about the money I do have coming in is another thing I can do too. But the rest of? Honeychild, I really don’t know. But what I know is this: I’m hitting a bottom around this lie of scarcity and this fraud that I don’t have enough or that I am not enough. And from what I know about hitting bottom, it’s an excellent place to start and the only way from here is up.

 

 

blow shit up

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From about May 1st through September 1st, my old neighborhood of Echo Park would explode. Most of my neighbors participated in ongoing illegal firework marathons from sun down to sun up. I’d say it was a Latino thing but it also just felt like an Echo Park thing. Everybody made stuff explode and even if you weren’t into it, you got use to it and learned to ignore it. Even our Echo Park ice cream man sold actual bombs hidden in with the Bomb Pops. I was too busy with the 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job of imploding my own life to ever really light fireworks, aside from a few sparklers. Even a drunken disaster like myself knew that literally playing with fire while inebriated was a terrible idea. But there’s one thing I did love during Fourth of July in my old hood: the fireworks at Dodger’s stadium.

Perfectly visible from out balcony, the fireworks at Dodger’s stadium lasted a few nights on or around The Fourth, depending on the game schedule. Here was a beautiful, big budget, house shaking display of fireworks practically in our house.  It was a front row to all things festive without ever having to leave home. This was key since the Fourth like everything else centered around getting loaded. The problem (or one of the problems, anyway) was that since the fireworks lasted all week, the partying was usually kicked up into a higher gear too. Naturally, when you drink like a lost Barrymore, celebrating the Fourth of July soon becomes not so fun and kind of a hot mess nightmare like the other 364 days of the year. In fact, the holiday is so associated with blackouts and drunken brawls in my mind that I can barely hear the words “Fourth of July” without shuddering.

Flash forward to a 8 and half years sober and in Portland, thousands of miles away mentally and physically from my old LA holidays, I feel more inspired than ever to blow shit up. True, you still won’t catch with matches next to a pile of explosives but the desire the explode is strong in 2017. After two decades of being self-destructive, the way I blow things up has thankfully changed. But it’s certainly still there. I mean so far this year, I’ve moved to a different state, had job changes and a major creative shift. Plus I have a big trip to Europe coming up in the fall and a few more plans to shake things up before the years ends.

Creatively is where I’m feeling this the most these days. I have so many pursuits I’m interested in(more podcasting, more public speaking, more food writing) and things I’m excited to work on (my book!!!) that I’m a little like a kid trying to pick out a toy– EVERYTHING LOOKS COOL AND I CAN’T MAKE UP MY MIND!!!! This kind of excitement is good, in my opinion.When I stay here and focus on the joy of storytelling and making stuff for me and not for some premeditated result then it all feels really cool and fun. These days, I have an overwhelming feeling with creative endeavors of, “Why the fuck not?” Like why not go after things that excite me? Why not try new stuff? Why not make as many cool things as I can? Thus far I haven’t found a good answer.

The only thing that stops me here is fear. Fear tells me I have no talent. Fear tells me I have no time. Fear tells me why bother because there’s already a million people doing what I’m doing. Ugh. Fuck fear. And fear should be the first thing we blow up. Without it, shaking things up, making big life changes and blowing shit up doesn’t seem scary. After all, we need a little smoke, fire and debris when we blow stuff up. It’s part of the process. Nothing changes unless there’s an explosion first. This very planet that you read this here blog on is proof of that. Sure, there is uncertainty after an explosion and sure there are some things that won’t ever be the same. But this is good. To be honest, I think America, on the day where its citizens are all blowing stuff up, is currently blowing up too. And it isn’t cute. But the more things evolve, I think it’s necessary. Lots of times when things explode it’s because the current way of operating is no longer working. I know that was definitely true when my own life erupted in 2009. Each time a personal shakeup has happened, regardless of how painful its felt in the moment, I’ve desperately needed it. And even thoguh my life is good, I need to keep blowing up the stuff, the ideas, the behaviors that no longer works and let new stuff in. And maybe you need it right now too?

So Happy Independence Day. Here’s to blowing shit up. I’ll bring the matches.

 

use your delusion

gato leon.jpgThere once was a kid who ran a hotel managed by stuffed bears.

There once was kid who drew pictures of Snoopy for hours and hours.

There once was a kid who created intricate dramas for Strawberry Shortcake and her friends.

There once was a kid who questioned if the Muppets were just puppets like everyone said they were and wondered if they could be real.

More than that, he wondered if there was a way that everything he imagined could be real and not just for a few hours but forever. Because this kid, you know me, didn’t belong here. This pink glitter crayon trying to fit in the standard 64 Crayola box then pursued a lifetime of escape. Well, midway through my fourth decade on this planet, I have figured out a way to be here and to be present and to face this thing called reality. Whoopee.

Honestly, and I have said this before and will probably say it again because I believe it to be true, I think reality is overrated. I was tough-loved in early sobriety with statements like, “You’ll need to deal with reality at some point.” But do I though? Really? Are we sure? Because I know lots of people wandering around LA who think it’s still 1999 who are living the same life they’ve lived for decades and they’ve never really dealt with reality. Oh sure, they’re fucking nuts and have hollow shells of lives but the point is they did it. They never faced reality. Which at times sounds pretty fantastic. I mean, have you seen reality lately? Reality in 2017 is like if that term “coyote ugly” was an entire year. You know, we took 2017 home for a night of fun and woke up next to something that resembles a hideous mythological she-beast. Each day brings a new batch of global horrors, blood curdling headlines and brain rotting stupidity. With no respite in sight, things like a gorilla dancing to a song from Flashdance feel like a bottle of ice-cold water in the middle of the desert. Basically, I’ve found myself clinging to anything that doesn’t feel real but also isn’t a chemical because I don’t do that anymore.

See, as a sober person I “get to” be present today. In case you didn’t know, “Get to” is this little two-word combo me and my people say in front of pain in the ass tasks we probably don’t want to do but we “get to” do because we are present and accounted for in our own lives. We “get to” be sober for straight people’s weddings. We “get to” show up to events we would have previously been too loaded or self-involved to care about. We “get to” be present even when we’d rather not. So here, in The Year of Our Lord Have Mercy 2017, we all get to watch the shit show of humanity in realtime. Lucky us. To misquote Airplane!, looks like we picked the wrong year to quit sniffing glue. 

Even though I’m doing this whole reality thing now, I haven’t let go of imagination or even delusion. It’s actually come in handy. Sure, I’m no longer playing with dolls (yet. It’s only June) but my imagination feels fired and ready to take on all kinds of creative endeavors. Meditation helps a lot with this and my practice when not entirely missing in action is spotty at best. But when I do it (like this morning) my brain is relaxed and ready to make stuff. I’ve always had an active imagination and once I stopped using my brain as a storage locker for cocaine and tequila, it has slowly reverted back to its old self. This turns out to be amazing news for someone like me who fancies himself a writer. As long as I’m not using imagination instead of like paying my bills or dealing with the real world then I feel like it’s gift and I can spread it around.

Delusion, on the other hand, is trickier. I was delusional for a very long time in the worst way possible. When you think drinking seven nights a week and not paying your bills is normal, delusion is kind of an issue. So much of an issue in that we I first saw the word mentioned in the Big Book, I bristled. It felt like a very personal dig and something I didn’t want to admit that I was. But the longer I stayed sober and the more aware of my delusion I was, the funnier it got and I realized that delusion is not without its merits. I think in order to succeed on some level we have to a have a tablespoon of delusion. Like we need a tiny bump of the stuff to convince ourselves that we’re talented enough for a job that maybe we don’t have the on paper qualifications for. A sprinkle of delusion helps too when choosing to see the sunnier side of situations and people who could otherwise be perceived as a hellish. Delusion could even be something that helps erase parts of our past.

Take, for example, dear Axl Rose. Lovingly referenced in the title of this here post, Mr. Rose had a long and storied slip into big time delusion about nearly everything. His career, his music, his popularity, his face. Yet like a rock phoenix in jeans two sizes too small, Axl is back on tour with Guns N’ Roses and even sings with AC/DC occasionally. Though big career bellyflops, legendary wack-job behavior and the music industry going in the toilet had left Axl and his music in the dust, his personal delusion that he was still the rock god of yesteryear put him back in the spotlight. Sure, nostalgia has a lot to do with that but Axl being one of those deluded people I mentioned who thinks 1999 never end doesn’t hurt either.

As a both a writer and a sober person, I can have it both ways. I get to show up and I get to be honest about being an addict and alcoholic. Also? I’m not delusional about my past and now think it’s all sort of amazing in a harrowing, awful but fabulously funny sort of way. In a second act twist I couldn’t have ever written, I’m now even more creative and imaginative than I ever was on drugs or while drinking. Despite being lost, I found my way back to telling stories and being creative. I’m sure the little kid who ran the hotel managed by stuffed bears is thrilled that I did.