Saturday, January 16, 2010

Exposed

It's been difficult for me to sit down and write. Not just my blogging; my writing. The funny thing is that it shouldn't be difficult for me to write; it seems to be the one constant in my entire forty five years. Other interests have come and gone as I've walked this road; but not writing. At various times in my life I have either wanted to be or have been an actor, a dancer, a musician (wanted to but couldn't seem to get that one going -- same as singing, just couldn't make it happen), a clothing designer (I actually saw a couple of my designs created and worn), a photographer, a chef, a trainer... not to mention all the other odd jobs I've had - everything from secretary to management, from janitor to personal assistant. All of these interests, all of these jobs, fell by the wayside.

All of them, except for writing.

From my earliest days I can remember my passion for the feel of a pencil in my hand and the scraping of the lead against fresh, crisp, clean white paper. I created stories in my mind; sometimes they landed on the paper, others, they died in the fall from my brain to the tablet. Once I realized that I didn't have a natural gift for fiction, I told the stories of my life and the stories that I witnessed. There were even times that my writing was confined to letters (in the days when people still wrote them) and lists. It would appear that what I am, at the core, is a storyteller.

One of the things (major things) that caused the end of each of my artistic careers was a failure to capture the attention of any kind of an audience and the extreme distaste of rejection. So, one by one, I walked away from each of my careers.

It didn't take long for me to give up on dance. After a summer of Estella Levy telling me I needed to take some weight off of my 18 year old 145 pound body and criticizing my dance technique, I (rapidly!) lost the passion. When Professor Ed DeLatte humiliated me by making fun of my singing in front of my entire musical theater class in college, I didn't open my mouth in song for two years. Once, a dear friend who ran a theater company in Dallas aggressively pursued me to audition for a show I didn't want to do; I gave one of the great auditions of my life and was cast in not even the smallest part - which didn't bother me. What bothered me was her inability to phone me and tell me and her reluctance to face me in our personal life. That is when I stopped acting. I published a photography book nobody bought and didn't pick up a camera for 18 months. I stopped catering when I stopped caring about preparing my own meals at home. Each career I attempted, eventually, brought me heartache.

As my friend Vince says: "when something stops bringing you pleasure, stop doing it."

I like that philosophy.

Writing still brings me pleasure. And, as a blogger, I don't have to worry about rejection - nobody is here to buy. Nobody is here to review. People either read or don't, what I write. I don't know the reaction to my writing and it is better that way. I can create something and send it out into the world and not have to worry about approval, either in the form of sales or verbal validation. Zip a dee doo dah, hip hip horray and fuck a doodle doo.

So why has it been so difficult for me to sit down and write?

Because I've been unhappy. That's no excuse because sometimes the best writing comes when a writer is unhappy. That has, certainly, been the case with me. Not this time, though, because my unhappiness has existed on a level so deep as to cripple, even paralyze me. Me; the gay guru of Hell's Kitchen, the Pollyana of the West Side, the optimist of midtown, paralyzed by unhappiness -- who'da thunk it? Not me, that's for sure; particularly since this avalanche of sadness came right after what was possibly the best Christmas season of my entire life. Nevertheless, we cannot control what feelings crop up in our lives, though I believe we can own them when they do turn up and, then, we can alter them.

I once knew a woman who was so filled with doom and gloom that people called her "crying girl" for awhile until someone took their cue from a popular novel and dubbed her "moaning Myrtle". AJ had given me a book called Happiness is a Choice and it changed my life by changing the way I look at the negative emotions we have and the way I deal with them. I gave her my copy and it served to help in absolutely no way at all. I made the choice to never, ever be a moaning Myrtle myself. To that end, a friend asked me (a couple of years ago) why I never talk to her about my problems and the answer was that I am actually more comfortable not doing so -- I don't like to. You know that saying 'discretion is the better part of valour?' -- I believe that. It is brave to keep your troubles to yourself and not go broadcasting them everywhere; but the extent of that bravery is that you have chosen to keep those concerns private, rather than ease your pain by sharing them with an uncomfortable audience. Until recently, I had a neighbour who, almost every time I passed (and spoke to) her, insisted on complaining about her life -- opting to share details about her failing marriage and misery over failed careers. It was so uncomfortable for me that I began crossing the street if I saw her coming or, rudely, simply waving as I passed. It is because of her and moaning Myrtle (and one or two other friends) that I began to clam up in my personal life, choosing to talk things out with only Pat, Hunter, Doctor Bowler and (occasionally) one or two other friends.

So why, then, have I chosen to write about this current wave of unhappiness on this public forum?

Because I believe (and have, for several years) that the greatest gift we can give the people in our lives is to let them know who we are, to allow them to see us. I know I have mentioned this philosophy several times over the years, that's how strongly I feel about this. It is one of the reasons I blog, in fact. After I have left this place, I want someone to know who I was, what I did, what I was about. This is the legacy we leave behind. It is why I ask so many questions. I want to know people. I want to see people.

For a long time I have said this to my loved ones: "I see you." Years. Imagine my shock and surprise when I went to see the film AVATAR yesterday, only to find that my personal philosophy and expression of love was a major part of this blockbuster film - and not in a slightly related way; it is exactly the context in which I have always used it. As a photographer who, first, picked up his camera at the age of 16, I have spent three decades looking through the lens. I see things differently than other people. I look through the lens in search of the truth and when I see it, I document it. It has become my nature to do the same, even after the lens is no longer in front of my eye. I see people, I see inside of them, I understand them. It has made some of my friends and associates crazy (really --CRAZY) but that cannot be helped. It has also made me crazy because of the number of times that I realized a person or people do not, cannot or choose not to see me; but as another of my philosophies has always led me -- don't worry about being loved; worry about loving - it's so much more important. So I always had to put away that regret over not being seen, to be dealt with on another day.

When you put away a regret for enough years, it's going to build up, build up, build up, until it cannot be contained any more. There have been a lot of regrets over the years, almost all of them put away, to be dealt with at a later date. Regrets over failed careers, regrets over mistakes made, regrets over disappointments and injuries at the hands of so called loved ones, regrets over things so personal that, to share them here, would be really regretable for the reader... and in spite of my wish to allow people to SEE me, to know me, I am still not ready to set aside my discretion and my valour. What I am willing to say, though, is this:

the dam burst, unhappiness followed suit, paralysis set in, and the ability to sit down and write became impossible.

You know what, though? As with everything, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. There are processes that must be followed. Tears, tantrums, anger, sadness, hatred, self-loathing, people loathing, stress eating, depression sleeping, revenge shopping, the trimming of the family tree and talk, talk, talking with Pat and my other pillars of stength... followed by an hour-long super hot shower, a good sea salt scrub, a close shave and a teeth scrubbing. Then this complicated and often exasperating person called Stephen emerges from a steam-filled room, ready to begin again, in a time of change. It should be called a time of change, too; after all, it is a new year, a new decade, a new day and it is a new mindset, a new outlook, a new ambition. I don't know who I am anymore or who I'm going to be when I'm done; but I do know this:

I am a Southern-born, Europe-educated, son of a Marine. I am a fighter, a survivor, a champion. I exercise discretion, embrace valour, seek truth, share myself and allow the chips to fall as they may, all the while, making my own choices and destiny.

My friend and family, Jason, often says "I love you", to which I reply "I know you do; but you don't see me." Until he saw AVATAR, he always asked "what does that MEAN?" Now he knows. I have dared him to see me.

I have shared these personal experiences, thoughts and feelings with anyone who has chosen to read this far. Now, I dare those readers.

See me.

1 Comments:

Blogger Deep Dish said...

Hey, Ste, I know we've only met once and I haven't seen Avatar, so I might not fully understand what you've been going through. But I am happy to see that you're writing again - and beautifully I might add. I always enjoy reading what you share with us about your life and what you believe in, and I hope you continue to do so. And I know who you are: you're a good friend to many people who care about you and want you to smile again. :)

6:54 PM  

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