I got a beautiful email from someone - a stranger, someone I have never met in person but who has been a loyal follower of my Youtube channel, ever since Pat started it ( confession: I can take no credit for the Youtube channel - Pat is the savvy genius who keeps it going.. I'm not educated in such areas of expertise and he is ). Still, over the time that I have been posting 30 second videos of healthier cooking tips and recipes, this lovely person has been a follower of both the Youtube channel and this blog. Now and then, will come a day where Pat says "there is an email in the Youtube in box from your fan" and it makes me feel happy and validated. One fan is all we need. One person to tell us that what we are doing matters to them. I really do believe that.
On a different (but similar) topic - a few months ago Brady asked me "what do you want to accomplish with your movie, MARRIED AND COUNTING?" and I replied "to change the world." Well, yes, he concurred; but (really) what do you want? (Really) what I want is to change things, even if it is just for one person. If that movie changes one young (or not so young) gay person's perspective on life, love, acceptance, relationships and self worth; if it changes one parent's feelings about their gay child, about gay marriage, about prejudice, I will feel that the entire film making process was worth while. It is, after all, how we change the world - one person at a time.
So every time someone says to me "I read your blog" or sends me an email in response to something I wrote or videotaped, I know that what I am doing is right and that I shouldn't stop.
So this latest email, the one from my Youtube fan, was one of the most beautiful emails I ever got. It was an email in support, due to the recent stories I've been writing about my struggles with diet and exercise, specifically, with an eating disorder and recovering from a busted back. It was a long email that, clearly, took a lot of time to write and a lot of feeling to send and it moved me - it got me thinking. It reminded me of a dear friend of mine who, were I living in an episode of Star Trek, I might call an empath. Each time things aren't absolutely perfect in my world, my friend sighs and says "I'm sorry." I love my friend's empathy. I love being the recipient of that sympathy. It would not be a lie, though, to say that I worry about misspent emotion directed my way. Why? Because it's ok. I'M ok. If I answer the question 'How are you?' with any of these truths "I have a little cold", "I blew my back out", "I'm worried about money", "I woke up cranky", "I'm SO irritated with my husband!" -- none of these comments, not one, is meant to solicit sympathy. No other honest comment or story that I tell is designed to obtain sympathy or attention. It is just me being honest. I love honesty. I try to always be honest when I write; sometimes it is difficult and I will either tell an outright lie to protect my dignity or I will commit a lie by omission. It doesn't happen often; but I am human and it happens. This is me being honest, again- to a fault. I have to.
I wasn't always this way. I went through a period of lie telling and attention grabbing. I was young and a drama queen. Also, it was the early 80s and I was a closeted gay man living in the Dallas Fort Worth golden triangle of Texas. I and the other like me, we wrote the book on lying so that we could stay in the closet, hidden away from the harsh realities, the derision, the bigotry and the physical violence that threatened gays of that era (I can only imagine how awful it was for the gay men and women who came before us, God bless them). So during my college days, this was me - liar, drama queen, attention seeker. I am blessed that the people I knew in those days have grown into adulthood, recognized what a mess I was, seen the man I have become, forgiven me and offered me their ongoing friendship. Their kindness has made it possible for me to do the same to others who have traversed my life and young people that I meet now, noticing the same tendencies within them and forgiving them, hoping to set an example by leading with dignity, integrity, honesty and a sense of whimsy and magic (it's a damned difficult combination to embody, let me tell you!).
I guess what I am trying to say is don't cry for me, argentina. Not the way Evita meant it. You can scream my name as much as you like; but don't feel sorry for me, dear readers. Don't feel the need to sigh and say "I'm sorry" and worry about me. Don't get me wrong - I love the empathy, I love the love, I love the validation; but I would never want anyone to use up valuable time or emotion worrying about me, simply because I told the truth in a story I wrote. I'm not hurt. I'm not in pain. I'm living. And I write these stories to share my experiences with people who might benefit from them. I don't keep a blog for attention. I don't keep a blog for a tiny degree of fame. I don't keep a blog to complain. I keep a blog because I love words, I love being a story teller (with words, a camera or a verbose story at a party). I keep a blog because I believe, I really do believe, that we can all help each other and learn from each other; and I have made some mistakes and learned some lessons and hope that, maybe, someone can learn or grow or feel from some experience that I've shared.
In the musical AVENUE Q, Princeton wonders what his purpose in life is. I imagine a lot of people do that (some lucky people never do that). During my lifetime, I have wondered what my purpose in life is. I do not wonder any more. I can say that I wish my purpose was to cure cancer or HIV (but I am not a scientist, so this is not going to happen). I can say that I wish my purpose was to shoot a photo that becomes as iconic as The Kiss (I happen to believe - in that place where you know things - that I am a talented photographer and that my time as an artist will never end, so that might still happen). I can say that I wish my purpose was to write something like The Great Gatsby (my favourite book, how cliche .. but I have lots of favourites that show how eclectic is my literary tastes - I feel a blog coming on!) that touches people and lasts forever (but that kind of luck doesn't happen every day and it doesn't happen to everyone). I can say that I wish my purpose was to help rid America, indeed the world, of bigotry and hatred toward gay people (I actually believe that is one of my purposes and you may tune in, from time to time, to see how THAT fight is going). Here, though, lies the truths in the question of my purpose on this planet.
A few years ago, when asked what my dream job was, I said "I wish I could be like Dudley in the film THE BISHOP'S WIFE and just go around helping people." Some time later, I was in the Westerly health food store and an elegant older lady asked me to help her find something (she sought pumpkin seeds), which I did. She asked "do you work here?" "No" said I. What did I do, she wanted to know. Unable to think of a proper answer, I said "I help people". This confused her. She said so. I told her "Every day, I encounter people who need help, of some sort; if they know they need help and have the wisdom to ask for it - if the person they ask for help happens to be me, I will give it to them. I figure if somebody has the strength to ask for help; I have the strength to give it to them." Her reply was concise and knowing: "Oh, I see. You're an angel."
In my life, I have shared stories about the suicide attempts of my youth - and people who heard those stories reached out to me for help when they were on their own ledge. I have shared stories of my troubles with addiction - and people have come to me for help during their own crises with their addictions. I have shared stories of my battle with depression - and people have come to me with their own sadness and unhappiness (I always tell my best friend: "the tighter you squeeze me, the more of my strength that pours into you; take all of it - take all my strength for yourself". I can and will do this for any of my loved ones because my strength comes from God and my mother, which makes it perpetually self-sustaining). I have shared stories of the unusual nature of my relationship with my husband - and people have come to me for relationship advice. The straight up is that, I have learned, through the sharing of my experiences, others can be helped.
Helping others. That is my purpose.
I don't want anyone to get a wrong impression of me or of what I think of myself. I'm not some puffed up egomaniac with a God complex. Quite the contrary. Much of the time, I don't want credit for what I do and I (shockingly) prefer to stay in the background, a little shy and self effacing. Just as much as I do not want people to worry about me, needlessly, over a story where I sound hurt (I'm not that hurt), I do not want people to consider me a Dr Phil type. I'm not. Please. Trust me. I'm not. I'm a guy. I'm incredibly flawed, I'm damaged and I'm fallible. But I'm trying to make me better; and as long as there is a chance of helping others with the stories of that journey, I'ma keep sharing the stories. I'ma keep writing and keep bloggin.