Making the Impossible, Possible: The Journey to Triumph

Re-Visions Event in NYC

Creating the Tree of Spectacle Triumph has been a journey from start to finish. Just like life creating the sculpture wasn’t easy by any means. Creating this beautiful tree tested my patience, stamina and will. I jumped through hoops and didn’t let roadblocks prevent me from pushing forward. That’s the message in my story is to persevere regardless of what is thrown at you.

This journeyEdit_IMGL3627 started last fall when I entered my rose sculpture in ArtPrize, an international art competition in Grand Rapids, MI. When registration started for ArtPrize I debated entering due to the registration fee. I kept getting messages that doors would open. The messages started off as a whisper but eventually turned into a roar. I really feel my Mom was behind the messages. Even after I registered I kept getting the same message. A month after ArtPrize ended I received an email about a possible commission for an eyewear manufacturer in New York using eyewear material in the piece.

treeoflifeupdatedWhen thinking about a proposal I thought about what I wanted to create. At first I struggled. Then I thought about this tree I first started to create over ten years ago. It started off as an oil painting where half the tree was alive and the other half was dead. It represented the best parts of ourselves and the pain that we endure. The living part was the phoenix that rose from the ashes. It’s taken me many years to realize that I’m not my pain or troubles. The Tree of Triumph is my best, true self.

The inspiration for the original tree was a lilac bush that grew next to my family home. It was my pride and joy. In the spring the sweet fragrance would float throughout my home. I loved that lilac bush. Next to the lilac bush was an old corncrib. One day my father decided he was going to tear the corncrib down. Not only did he tear it down he set it ablaze. The flame was so hot that it bubbled the paint on the siding of the house. You could feel the heat inside the house. The flames were higher than our house.

Once the flames had dissipated all that was left of the lilac bush was a charred out skeleton of what use to be a beautiful, vibrant living creature. I was devastated. My father on the other hand acted like it wasn’t a big deal. It was just a bush to him, not important. He just brushed off my tears like it was nothing.

I thought all was lost. Spring wasn’t the same without those purple, fragrant blooms. The blackened skeleton was a reminder of the hurt my father caused. What I couldn’t see were the roots deep within the ground. Years later they arose from the ashes and life had sprouted again. It took some time but eventually the lilac bush grew to four times the size of its former self. It took a big portion of my adult life to realize the moral of the story.

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You can destroy my branches. You can knock me to the ground but you’ll never reach my roots. The roots represented my heart, soul and spirit. It was the first time I regained the power that I allowed others to take. No amount of hurt or pain will reach my soul. So it’s significant that the heart of the tree is surrounded by the roots.

I submitted my proposal and patiently waited for an answer. The date given passed and still no word. I had started to think I wasn’t selected. Another few weeks went by and finally I received word that I was one of seven artists selected. I was beyond ecstatic. My sculpture was going to be displayed during an art show in New York City. It was a dream come true. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Creating a sculpture using unconventional materials is a complicated, challenging process. It was my first sculpture of this size. The final sculpture was over four feet tall and four feet long. The next six months pushed me to my limit and tested my will. Creating the bark was a very tedious process of hot gluing small piece of frame onto the skeleton which was pvc. This wasn’t your typical glue gun. It was a professional glue gun that carpenters use with temperatures going past 400 degrees. Due to the intricate aspect of the branches, the quick harden time of the glue and the small frame pieces I had to use my hands to attach the pieces. So you probably can guess what occurred fairly frequently. I’m surprised I still have feelings in my hands.

Creating sculptures out of unconventional materials is very physically demanding and the tree was no different. There were times that my hands, arms and legs were covered in burns, scratches and cuts. It looked like I had been a fight with a cat and lost. Towards the end I had so many cuts on my hand that it became very painful to use my hands but I pushed through. Reaching through the branches felt like I was reaching through a briar patch.branches

There were aspects to the tree that were very tedious. Creating the bark was a very lengthy process. At times it felt like I was never finish it. Imagine gluing small pieces of frame to a large area. It was so tedious that it gave me panic attacks. Creating the leaves were also very tedious process due to the number of lenses needed to fill the space. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would take over 3,000 lenses. Most of these were treated and hand painted. I then had to hang each one to the branches and that part took forever.

Creating the Tree of Triumph meant bringing my inner demons into the light. The tree represented my best self and the darkness was ruthless in trying to stop me. There were times I couldn’t even look at the sculpture because there were parts of me that still believed that I didn’t deserved it. I faced the darkness and once again pushed through.

The tough part of creating a sculpture out of unconventional material is that for a big portion of the time creating it there isn’t a clear defined picture of what the final picture will be. It’s not until the end that you start to see the picture. It wasn’t until I started to add the leaves that I was finally able to see what I had envisioned. It’s amazing how quickly the final picture comes to the surface. It’s like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

The art that I create is very time consuming. I like to create little biodomes. My specialty is creating creatures out of the unconventional materials. A part of the design included a little girl swinging from the tree which was based off my seven year old niece. I also included one of the creatures (the frog) from my rose sculpture. It was my way to honor where the tree came from. If it wasn’t for the rose I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity.

Connie 236The creation of the tree was a family event. My nieces and nephew helped me paint lenses. My seven year old niece was quite the helper. She would come down frequently asking if I needed any help. My sister was my sounding board. Many of the decisions like not painting the bark came from her.  My brother in law was my technical expert and made sure the sculpture was secure during the long trip in a Uhaul to NYC. I couldn’t have created the sculpture without their help so it was really important to make them a part of tree. I had them each sign a lense and put it on the tree. It was my way of honoring their contributions and support. While they couldn’t be there with me in NYC they were definitely there in spirit.

Original Sculpture

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During this whole experience I have felt a strong connection to my Mom to the point where I would turn around thinking she was there. She was one of the person I turned to as a sounding board and I found myself physically turning to her thinking she was there. I strongly believed she brought me this opportunity.

I thought that challenging aspect was done but boy was I ever wrong. Originally it was my understanding that the sculpture would be crated. With over 3,000 lenses the sculpture was extremely heavy, at least over 200 pounds. The shipper just wanted to bubble wrap it and cover it with a furniture pad, and throw it on the truck.

cocoontreeI had spent the past six months (over 1500 hours) in creating this beautiful creature and I wasn’t about to let it get broken. I put my heart and soul into this tree. It had became a part of me because the tree represented me. I became a part of this tree and it a part of me. When I had the idea of driving it to New York City it never dawned on me how rough of a ride a Uhaul moving van is. Thankfully my brother in law came up with a system that would keep the sculpture secure in the back of the Uhaul. He attached it to a pallet and then boxed it in between the wheel wells. Finally he secured it by attaching a 2×4 to each side.

The trip was only suppose to take 10.5 hours. The client wanted it at their location at 5pm. I made sure to leave enough time for stops, etc. I had tried to fall asleep the night before but with the nerves and excitement I wasn’t able to. So I left for NYC with only 4 hours of sleep in 48 hours. I left at 4am. About 5 hours into my trip I started to become very sleepy to the point where I struggled to keep my eyes open. I did everything possible to stay awake including blaring the music and turning the air on full blast. Anyone who’s driven on highway 80 through Pennsylvania knows that the terrain is very hilly and rough. Imagine driving on it when you’re majorly sleep deprived. On top of all the hills there are many drop offs. It got to the point where I couldn’t even look at them as they made me seasick.DSCF8390

Around the fifth hour I was pulled over by a cop. He said I had went over the white line and wanted to make sure I was okay. He ended up being really cool but it just added to the nerves of the trip. Anyone who has ever driven a Uhaul knows it’s like driving a boat.

I had downed a red bull, a Starbucks cold drink and several Mountain Dews in the hopes that it would keep me awake. About into the seventh hour I went into this sleep deprived state where I felt like everything around me was warped. It was like I was on this major trip. It felt like the mountains were coming at me both in fast forward and slow motion all at once.

Towards to what I thought was the end of the trip I started to count down the hours. I counted down the hours to help comfort me. The last two hours I started to become so tired I wasn’t sure I could make it but I knew they were expecting me and I couldn’t let them down. So I continued to push through.

Eye of the Tiger came on the radio and it helped give me the steam needed to finish the trip. I finally got to New Jersey during rush hour mind you. At this point I was so tired that I was wired. I continued to count down the time until Manhatten came into sight.

Finally I could see the city. I wasn’t ever so happy to see a city landscape. It was around 5pm when I drove into the city limits, so you can imagine how crazy it was. The traffic went from a slow pace to a crawl. I was stuck in a traffic jam. I was only 15 minutes away from my destination and only one mile from my next exit which was the Lincoln tunnel. What I didn’t know that there was an accident up ahead.lincoln+tunnel+traffic

It took over ten minutes to move .05 of a mile, if that. Anyone that’s driven in a major city knows that traffic jams are inevitable. About an hour into the traffic jam I started to lose hope in getting to my destination in a timely matter. I had already missed my time to drop off the sculpture. At this point I just wanted to get to the dinner that evening with all the artists but as the time crept by I realized there was no way I was going to make it. All of a sudden I hear this bang. Someone rear ended me. I was like great how can this day get any worse. Thankfully there was no damage to the Uhaul and the only damage to his vehicle was to his license plate which was bent in half on the ground. How does one hit a huge moving truck with the brake lights on and stopped???

Finally after four hours in the traffic jam I was back on track. At this point I thought the plan was for me to go to the hotel and drop off the sculpture in the morning but when I contacted the client I was told that it needed to be delivered tonight. I was told if it wasn’t delivered tonight it wouldn’t be in the show. The next thirty minutes I pretty much circled time square over and over in a Uhaul. I was starting to panic. Imagine driving a huge truck at 11pm at night in Time Square. I was sure I was going to hit something or someone. There were people all over. They crossed the streets in mobs like ants out of a ant hill. Eventually I said heck with it and started driving like a mad man.time-squares-at-night-wallpaper-2

I finally made it. I should have known the night wasn’t going to get any easier. Earlier I had a bad feeling. There was one point during the traffic jam where I almost turned around to head home. When I opened the back of the truck the first thing said was it’s not going to fit. I could also tell they really didn’t want to have to move the sculpture. I have always been upfront with them on the size and weight.

We get the sculpture into the main lobby and I’m dumbfounded when I see the elevator. The door was extremely narrow. I honestly never saw an elevator so small. There was some discussion about getting the sculpture into the elevator. Someone suggested leaving it in the lobby. I wish I had pushed for that. I was informed that they learned the day before that the freight elevator was broken.

My sculpture was at least four feet tall and four feet across. The elevator door couldn’t been bigger than three feet across. I suggested angling the sculpture into the elevator. They got the sculpture in the elevator but getting it out was another story. I couldn’t watch them try to get it out. I honestly was done with the whole situation so I sat in the conference room knowing something bad was going to happen. Never in my worst nightmare did I imagine what I would walk into…

Every branch was broken and lying at the base of the sculpture. They had tried to fix it by shoving branches into the wrong holes. They basically decapitated the tree. It was like they dropped it from the top of the building. I was in complete shock. In just a matter of minutes they had destroyed something that took 1500 hours to complete. Until you see the pictures of the demolished piece you can’t begin to understand how badly it was broken. In a sculpture that size a strong foundation and structure is crucial in securing the piece. Individually plastic lenses don’t weigh that much but when you use thousands of them they become very heavy.

Broken Sculpture

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On top of them destroying something I put my heart and soul into I wasn’t treated very well. One of the employees started to take his frustrations out on me, accusing me of lying about being stuck in the traffic jam. I was dumbfounded by the whole situation. If I wasn’t so out of it and delirious I would have never let them put it in that small elevator. After spending over twenty hours in a Uhaul my night ended with them doing the worst thing you can do to an artist. I was told that they could fix it. I didn’t have a lot of faith. We agreed to come back the next day which was the day of the event.

I didn’t get checked into my hotel until 1am. Thankfully my good friend lives in New York City and came over to my hotel. I don’t think anyone would have questioned if I did have a meltdown but I was surprisingly calm. I obviously was upset but I didn’t let it destroy me. Prior to my Mom passing away I would have totally turned into Chicken Little. I posted on Facebook that the breaking of my sculpture didn’t even make my top ten list of bad things that had happened to me. When my friend left I had accepted that my sculpture was destroyed. I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to show a broken piece.

After I had dropped the Uhaul off in the Bronx I headed to the office. I wasn’t sure what I was going to walk into. I had four hours to salvage my piece. The event started at 7pm. Thankfully one of the employees was experienced with construction and offered to help me put it back together. I had used pvc to build the structure. When they broke the piece they not only broke apart the branches they broke the connecting pieces. So you couldn’t just connect pieces anymore because there was big chunks missing.

Thankfully I had packed my glue gun and brought a lot of supplies just in case. If I hadn’t brought my glue gun I’m not sure we could have put it back together because we used the glue to connect the pieces together. After a few hours he was able to rebuild the structure the best he could. There were still three main branches that we couldn’t put back together which left a lot of holes. I had put a lot of effort in creating the shape of the tree.

When I finished the sculpture I was relieved to be done. I had very little energy left in me. I felt accomplished for finishing it but I was also relieved to not have to work on it again. So once again I was forced to give more than I had and rebuild something that took countless hours to create. I got on the floor and began to work my magic which again meant burning myself with that boiling hot glue.

I worked on the sculpture until the very last minute. I did what I could to rebuild it. Most everything on the sculpture had something wrong with it. The wire butterflies were bent out of shape. The iris was broken, so was the dragonfly and girl. Thankfully the damages to the creatures were minor and I was able to fix them.

We had done the impossible and was able to put back together the broken pieces. The salvaged sculpture was a lot more rough and exposed than before. The shape of the tree was also drastically altered. I was relieved to have a finished piece to show. There wasn’t anything else I could do.

Salvaged Sculpture

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The event was amazing. I met so many wonderful people, many who had no idea that earlier that day it was a broken mess. I wove the whole experience into the theme of the piece. It’s not coincidental that of all the pieces that were broken the roots weren’t touched. I was able to weave what happened into the story of the piece which many of the guests at the event were able to connect to. I talked to many people who themselves also had moments in their life when they felt broken. Without the sculpture breaking I’m not sure the impact would have been as strong.

It was very symbolic that the sculpture was broken. The theme of the piece is resiliency, rising above the difficult times in our lives. There have been times in my life that I have felt just like that broken sculpture. When something traumatic happens we are forced to pick up the broken pieces.brokentree14

While I wouldn’t want to relive this experience ever again there is a part of me that is glad that it happened. It was a major confidence boost. I could have given up. I could have thrown a fit. I could have went home with my tail between my legs but I didn’t. I pushed forward and didn’t let anyone stand in my way of getting what I wanted and deserved. There have been many times I have cowered down in defeat. This wasn’t one of those moments. This was my moment of triumph.

Like the tree I was strong. Stronger than anything that ever happened to me. You can cut my branches. You can cut my bark. You can even knock me to the ground. You’ll never reach my roots and I will always rise from the ashes.

I’m not alone. There are so many people out in the world who themselves feel broken. After my Mom died I wasn’t sure I could go on. It felt so broken that I didn’t believe I could be put back together. That’s why my sculpture breaking wasn’t really a big deal because I had already gone through something a million times worse. This was nothing. It was also out of my control. I couldn’t bring my Mom back, neither could I undo my sculpture breaking.

The sculpture breaking just added to the depth of the piece. It multiplied the strength of the piece exponentially. The Tree of Triumph is confirmation that the impossible is possible. We are never truly broken as our soul always remains in tact. No power or force will ever reach that. So say what you want to me, it won’t hurt or affect me.

So many people have been apart of this journey. This has been the best part of this experience. I have received so much love and support it’s lifted me up from depression and my troubles. It has proved that I deserve so much more. Losing sight of your dreams makes for a very dreary world. This journey has proved that our dreams can come true. Just keep moving forward. Even at a snail’s pace you’ll reach your destination. Our trials and tribulations make us into who we are today. I wouldn’t have been able to handle this journey if I walked down an easy road.

Check out my new artist website:  http://www.derekstephens.net

Progress Pictures

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My Guitar Rose showing at ArtPrize Grand Rapids, Mi

I’m very excited in two weeks I will have my first showing of a piece of art at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI Sept 24 – Oct 12!

My guitar rose took over four weeks to complete. I am in the process of adding to the piece by adding a guitar body as the base. I also am recreating the bug creatures because I put them with my Mom when she passed away two years ago. I’m also making a pedestal for the showing as well.

Please help make my dreams come true by helping me fund the finishing of this project. The funds raised will cover the supplies of all the additions, including any travel and installation costs. Below is the link to my kickstarter page, as well as the rewards for funding levels.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1704894032/guitar-rose-love-is-the-key

Rewards

$5- Postcard with a personal thank you!
$5- Postcard with a personal thank you!

 

$20 Professional quality 5x7 photo signed
$20 Professional quality 5×7 photo signed

 

$30- Ladybug from a guitar tuner key!
$30- Ladybug from a guitar tuner key!

 

$50- Your chose of butterfly or dragon fly replica.
$50- Your chose of butterfly or dragon fly replica.

 

$75- Paper rose (size of a real rose) with a wire/guitar string stem. Color of your chose!
$75- Paper rose (size of a real rose) with a wire/guitar string stem. Color of your chose!

 

$125- Oil painting of Rose
$125- Oil painting of Rose

 

$250- A smaller replica of the rose sculpture with two bug creatures of your choosing in a small flower pot!
$250- A smaller replica of the rose sculpture with two bug creatures of your choosing in a small flower pot!
  • Good Enough

    I started to title this post, not good enough… then I changed it to good enough because I am learning to fight these negative feelings deep within that tell me that I’m not good enough. Today I woke up with those feelings deep inside the middle of my chest, this aching dull roar that won’t go away.

    Typically whenever I get these feelings I try to push them away, not think about them but lately I have been forcing myself to face things that made me uncomfortable. Push through the fear. I am realizing that by not dealing with these uncomfortable feelings I am only closing the door to that fear and not letting it out.

    I wonder what causes me to feel that I’m not good enough? Probably from various people in my life who have rejected me. Let’s face it, reject sucks… BIG TIME!!! If you have it happen to you on a regular basis it’s easy to get a complex. So yeah got a complex and it’s difficult to shake.

    I think one of the difficult types of rejection is romantic and one that I’ve never got use to.

    When it comes to romantic rejection I deal with a double sided sword. One sided is my personality where I feel like guys don’t like me because that I care too much and the other side has to do with my size. I’m not sure which one is worse?

    When you have someone run away because of the capacity of your love, it’s easy to wonder if you should hide who you are the next time around. I have had so many guys run that I have come to expect it. I’ve had guys try to make me feel like my gifts were a weakness to, try to tell me I acted like a woman, etc… Try to put me down for my size… Yada, Yada, Yada…

    Well I’m damn tired of it. Tired of putting up with other peoples insecurities, fears and projections. Tired of chasing after guys that aren’t worth it.

    It might have taken a long time but I’m realizing that I’m good enough but the biggest realization I’m having is they are good enough for me…

    A Heavy Heart

    So tonight I have a heavy heart, as I am reminded that there are many sad and lonely people in this world… many of them who are dealing with their pain with various addictions such as drugs, alcohol, etc.

    Some may wonder what causes a person to turn to suicide or overdosing?  Often times there are warning signs that people either ignore, don’t see or just play off as nothing to serious. Some people don’t want to get involved or just feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say or do…

    What causes people to not take a stand for the people they love? Why has our society gotten away from taking care of each other? Out of sight, out of mind…

    Asking for help is just a luxury that many people don’t have the ability to do. It is like drowning in water and not being able to reach for the life preserver because it’s too far away. The same implies to reaching out for support. You either feel you don’t deserve the help, feel like you will be judged or just don’t have the courage to ask for help. The deeper you are in that hole, the less likely you will get help.

    I was there four months ago. I knew I needed help and was tired of feeling miserable but didn’t have the resources to get the help… I was also deeply depressed which altered my thinking and rationale. I’m thankful that I have never picked up additions to alcohol or drugs because those who do struggle even more. That’s not to say that I don’t self medicate because I do but my drug is food… and sometimes even sex… Thankfully you can’t overdose on food or sex, though you can find yourself in a dangerous situation with both addictions.

    In research it’s been shown that gay men are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with their pain, as well as suicide… All it takes is growing up in a non-supportive family for you to grow up feeling less. You constantly find yourself trying to run away from it all but you never are successful from shaking off the pain. So you learn to turn to anything you can to drown out the pain.

    Personally for me, it’s never that I want to die… I just want the suffering to stop… and when you don’t think that it ever will end, that’s when you start to become reckless with your thoughts and actions… Whenever I hear about someone committing suicide or dying from an overdose, I wonder could they been saved? Sure there is the thought that if someone wants to die, there is nothing that you can do… but what about before they hit rock bottom? People don’t become suicidal overnight, there are many things that lead up to them killing themselves.

    As someone whose dealt with depression most of my life, when you need and want help often times there is a lot of red tape and barriers to getting the help you need and deserve… Being gay can certainly add to those barriers. Unless you live in a big city, there are few options for getting help if you are gay including if you find yourself homeless. Sure if you have insurance and money then it’s easier to get the help but many people who are struggling have neither. It’s sad we live in a world where health and well being are associated with money. I believe it shouldn’t cost a dime to stay alive.

    If you see someone struggling, in trouble, don’t wait for them to reach up for a helping hand… by then it may be too late… reach down and help them up… Be their rock. Give them the support they need. Show them love, care and compassion. There are so many people out there that still can be reached. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of this world and we often lose sight of what’s important.

    I think the more we try to better ourselves with technology, education, etc we become less human… Individualism is important but so is community. There are so many people in this world who are hurting and feel so alone. Do you stand by and let them hurt/die alone… or will you take action and be there for them when they need someone the most. You may be the difference between someone living and someone dying.

    This world needs love… and lots of it…

    When Somebody Loved Me

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    When somebody loved me,

    Everything was beautiful

    Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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    And when I was sad,

    She was there to dry my tears

    And when I was happy,

    So was she

    When she loved me

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    Through the summer and the fall

    We had each other, that was all

    Just she and I together,

    Like it was meant to be

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    And when I was lonely,

    She was there to comfort me

    And I knew that she loved me

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    So the years went by

    I stayed the same

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    She began to drift away

    I felt alone

    Still I wait for the day

    When she’ll say I will always love you

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    Lonely and forgotten,

    I’d never thought she’d go away

    Wishing she would smile at me and hold me just like she used to do

    Like she loved me

    When she loved me

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    When somebody loved me

    Everything was beautiful

    Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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    Upcoming 1yr Anniversary of My Mom’s Death

    I just realized today that it’s been almost a year since we drove down to Nashville for my Mom’s surgery to remove her carcinoid tumor. Since my birthday (July 3rd) I have been in this depressive fog and I had no clue as to what was causing it, until today.

    I didn’t realize that the one year anniversary was fast approaching. It’s really unfathomable that it’s already been a year since my Mom died??? It feels like she just died. Where has the time gone? Have I been sleeping all this time???

    Your mind can trick you into believing that a person hasn’t really died. It’s easy to put things out of your mind by telling yourself it can’t be true. They are just on vacation but as time goes by it forces you to face the reality that they are dead. My birthday was a slap in my face because it forced me to come to terms with my Mom’s death. There was no way for me to come up with a reasonable explanation for my Mom not being with me on my birthday.

    As more time goes by the truth sinks deeper and I realize she’s not coming back.

    This year has been hell. I’m learning to cope with living in this life without my Mother. It’s the toughest lesson I will ever learn. My Mom was the closest person in my life and one of the few bright spots. She was my biggest champion and was there for me during a time when I had no one. It’s been difficult because I can’t reach out to her for comfort like before. She was my best friend, we were very much like Dorothy and Sophia from The Golden Girls. I had envisioned us growing old together like Dorothy and Sophia but that wasn’t in the cards.

    I feel very alone.

    My life hasn’t unfolded like I had envisioned and I am learning to adjust to it the best I can. As painful as this year has been I wouldn’t want want the alternative for my Mom to be here in pain and if she would have survived she would have been miserable. There is comfort in knowing that she is no longer in any pain and in a better place.

    I always wanted the best for her and now she has it. She also wanted the best for me and I am working on building a life I deserve… it just takes time.

    My Mom was the strongest person I have ever known. She had a heart of gold. Her family was very important to her. I miss her so very deeply… and I hope I get to see her again.

    Love you Mama, thanks for giving me life and your love. Huggs

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    Waiting for a Man to Love Me

    When I came out of the closet in 1995 I had this idealistic view on relationships and love. I had my life all planned out. Many guys go through a phase of not wanting a relationship but not me. I knew early on that I wanted to spend my life with one person, even before I knew I was gay. It never dawned on me that I would have such a difficult time finding that one person.

    When you are gay you’re already start off with a disadvantage in regards to love but add to the mix your weight it makes it even more difficult. I remember when I first started to date I would lie about my weight, as I didn’t feel anyone would want to meet me if they knew the truth. It never occured me as to what would happen when we actually met. It only took one disaster of a date for me to stop lying about my weight.

    I can remember early on in the days of gay.com chat rooms others feeling the need to berate me because my size. They would private message me and say horrible things to me, all unprovoked. I was already insecure and that only made things worse.

    I’ve gone all my life thinking that there had to be a reason why men didn’t like me or love me. It all started with my father. I grew up believing there was something missing inside of me that made my father treat me the way he did. As an adult guys that I have dated have only mirrored that.

    I have attached myself to guys that are emotionally unavailable because I believe that is what I deserve. I haven’t realized that when guys reject me they aren’t really rejecting who I am but it is hard to see that when your heart is breaking. The more a guy is distant, the more I try to get him to like me… like I have to convince him.  I have even looked past red flags that I realize afterwards that I shouldn’t have. All because I didn’t think I was worthy of more.

    I didn’t realize I was finding myself around other people who were like me in the sense that they felt they were broken or even worse they didn’t realize it but still lived their life as such. I couldn’t see that they too had their own baggage, all I could see they didn’t want me and it was all my fault. I think the problem was that I’ve lived life thinking I was broken and that is what I showed the world. I grew tolerating bad situations because I had to and it sunk into my conscious. I thought that was what love was.

    Being an emotional person I have had my fair share of scaring guys away. I took it all personally. Many times I wished I could be like everyone else and turn off my feelings but I learned quickly that wasn’t an option for me.

    Every heart break… Every rejection was like I was setting up a domino, one guy at a time. When one domino falls, they all fall and I relive each past hurt all at once. You have enough dominoes fall and you become very gun shy… to the point where you just give up. Loneliness usually would get me to venture outside my cave but every time I would get hurt and run back into seclusion.

    Each time I meet someone I really like, which isn’t that often, I have this little spark in my mind and think is he the one… then I wait… patiently… I’m always so afraid of scaring the guy away I tend to walk on eggshells. I have often wondered when will I ever be enough for someone? When will someone see my gifts as strengths, and not as weaknesses?

    I recently found myself being very fond of a guy I was getting to know. He was unlike most other guys I have met. He was charming, sweet and shy. It was the first time (in a very long time) that a guy didn’t make me feel like an object. I knew that he wasn’t ready for a relationship but that didn’t stop me from liking him in that way. I mean how could I not, he is a wonderful guy.

    In the past, I haven’t asked for what I wanted… I usually let it slip away, so I let him know how I felt and of course feelings weren’t mutual. It hurt, deeply but I was willing to work through those horribly feelings to keep the friendship. Though it caused him to distance himself, to the point where I barely heard from him. Of course I took it personal. It was one thing to not want to be my boyfriend but another thing to not want to be my friend.

    Five months passed and we started talking again. I found out that he was dating someone and again a domino fell. I started to think what about me didn’t he like. I knew I was his physical type because he liked bigger guys but other than that it was unknown… I even asked him about it and he couldn’t give me an answer. He said he hadn’t saw me in that light, which really hurt. It is hard to not think things like I am not good enough. If I was only that and this… and so on.

    I catch myself falling into old habits of taking everything personal. I learned early that I can’t make people love me but that certainly doesn’t stop me from trying and waiting… I’m tired of waiting. Tired of feeling that I’m not good enough because I am. When you surround yourself with pain and hurt, that is all you can see. It stops you from looking into another’s world to realize that they have their own issues, baggage and drama.

    My biggest fear is that I am going to grow old alone. Why should I expect anyone else to fight for me, when I won’t fight for me? Every man has kept me at a distance not because of something I lacked but something I possessed… and that being a big heart. People have come to question love and have to find a motive for it. Many people feel they don’t deserve such a degree of love.

    I’m learning to adapt to a world that doesn’t crumble with the idea of being single. Just watch a few movies on the Hallmark Channel and you will have yourself convinced that you can’t live without someone else but in reality we can… and often it happens. I also have to realize when you date that each person brings their own baggage to the table, whether they want to admit it or not.

    I have waited so long for a man to love me and in the process I stopped loving myself. It all chipped away at my heart and ruined my self worth and self esteem. Loving myself is very tough, especially when their are still parts of me that believe I don’t deserve it but I am going to keep at it. The good thing about being treated poorly is you realize what you don’t want or deserve, sometimes it takes breaking that record.

    Prisoner in My Own Body

    I’ve discovered recently how deep my self worth (or lack thereof) runs and how it connects to everything I touch. I have known for years that I suffer from poor self esteem and self worth but I didn’t realize how much of an impact it had on my life.

    With depression and PTSD, for me, there comes this crippling isolation. The more depressed or triggered I am the more I crawl into my cave. This isn’t a new concept for me as I have been doing this for year. The closest people in my life become strangers, and strangers become monsters. It is a scary place to me. I lose all sense of reality and often I don’t even recognize myself.

    I woke up early this morning (which is rare for me) and instantly felt the need to cleanse myself, as in take a shower. It will have been almost a week since my last shower. I wish I could say that was the longest I have been without bathing but it comes with the territory. The more worthless I feel the less likely I am going to care about staying clean. For most taking a showering is a no brainer but when I am in the low place it becomes like Mount Everest.

    Every time I shower, especially if it has been a good while since my last one, I feel so clean and fresh. Pure. That doesn’t last very long, usually less than an hour.

    Every time I was sexually abused I tried to wash off the dirty with soap but no matter how long or hard I scrubbed it wouldn’t wash away. My outside would be clean but the soap couldn’t touch or reach the dirty deep inside. So it makes sense when I feel the most worthless I allow my body to stay dirty because this is how I feel inside.

    When I am depressed everything goes to hell from my personal hygiene to my eating habits, and everything else in between. You should have seen some of the apartments I have lived in, you would have thought it was a disaster zone. I would leave dishes in the sinks for months to the point where I would have to throw everything away. I haven’t gotten better about that but I still allow my living area to go out of whack. Whenever I would have anyone come over, I would go into a panic trying to clean everything. I couldn’t let anyone know the chaos my life was in. I had to give the appearance that everything was okay.

    Today I realized that my body is a prison cell. I started to think my mind was the prison but in reality it is my whole body that is the prison. Certainly my mind has it’s own great big, dark cell but everything is contained inside the walls of my prison body.

    I desperately want to break free from this cell but I have struggled for years doing so. I have been off my diet since my birthday (july 3) and I have struggled since to get back on track. I use to really struggle with compulsive overeating. There would be times that I would try to medicate my bad feelings with food. I would eat myself into oblivion until all I noticed was sickness from being full. Sweets and soda were my fair weather friends. This week I have noticed myself pigging out to the point where I just don’t care.

    The more worthless I feel the more the need to make the horribleness go away, anyway I can. I become very compulsive and I have noticed an increase in my compulsion recently. Food and sex were two ways I used to compensate for my self worth, both always lead me down a dark road.

    Sex has also been a struggle for me. I saw myself as an object for many years and gave the people what they wanted. It wasn’t always that way. I grew up believing I could find someone who loved and accepted me. I had dreams of having a family and spending my life with that one person. When that didn’t happen, I took what I thought was the next best thing… not realizing the damage it would cause. When I am triggered my mind tries to go down that road again.

    I have been celibate since April 2012, which is the longest I have ever gone without sex. It is one of the few things that I am proud of. I have taken back my body in regards to sex. For me it’s a reminder that not all of me thinks I am worthless. Now that’s not to say that I haven’t had temptation or have had moments where I have tried to look for sex but thankfully I quickly snap out of it. I have caught myself thinking what the heck am I doing??? I don’t want to give my body up for one night of pleasure. I realize not only will I lose all that time of purity but afterwards I will feel like crap.

    I went through a period of heavy sexual compulsion. I didn’t care about the risk, I just wanted to feel good but every time I would feel dirty… just like after the abuse. Every time I would run to the shower and try to wash the dirt away and every time I would fail miserably. Usually it would end in my feeling suicidal. With acting out sexually, I’m not proud to admit, I engaged in some very risky behavior. I was playing russian roulette with my health, body and life. I am thankful that to this day I am hiv negative, so many others haven’t been so fortunate.

    I’ve thought long and hard about why I didn’t care about the risks of having unprotected sex. Obviously it’s connected to how I feel about myself. When I couldn’t find a man to love me, I gave up and resorted to taking any kind of attention I could find. I didn’t feel I was worthy of love, care and attention so I gave men what they wanted. I learned very early on that a mans needs came before my own. The abuse taught me that my needs aren’t important. Obviously my mind knows that isn’t true but it’s something I still struggle with daily.

    It’s amazing the lies your brain believes. Like you deserve AIDS. I didn’t go out looking to become positive but I certainly didn’t turn it away… nor did I want it. Every time I would get tested for HIV I would go into this panic. You would think that being tested negative would scare me straight but that only lasted so long before I started acting out again. I think in part having risky sex was my psyche trying to commit suicide, it certainly was extremely self destructive. I have often wondered why I wanted HIV. Maybe I thought it was the only way for someone to love me and show me attention? Was I so desperate to lose the weight to think having HIV was the only way to do so? Did I really want to die? I certainly wasn’t a bug chaser (someone who actively wants to become hiv positive) but indirectly I had to be trying.

    The only correlation to all of this was when I came out of the closet in 1995. One of the many hurtful things my father told me that I was going to get AIDS and that all my friends wouldn’t be there when I was dying alone in the hospital. He also told me that I had always wanted to lose weight and that getting AIDS that would finally come true. Am I still holding on to the hope that my father will love me in the way I need, to the point where dying from AIDS he’d come to my rescue??? It’s been eighteen years since I heard my father spew his hatred towards me and it still feels like he just said them to me. I’m just thankful I have turned down another road but I fear when I get these urges that I will turn back around down that road…

    Even recently I have started to walk down that road. I even created a couple of sex accounts, which I quickly deleted… I know that that road is a slippery slide to some dangerous behavior. Thankfully I have realized that is not the life for me, nor the one I want. That is the struggle with being single and feeling lonely. I miss human contact, intimacy. I watched a movie recently about this gay couple and I watched in awe as they made love to each other, as this is something I have always dreamed of but have never obtained. I’m realizing that something isn’t better than nothing. Nothing is better than something that will hurt me, it’s just learning to cope with the indifference.

    While I have been able to fend off the sexual compulsion, I haven’t been so lucky when it comes to food. Food is my biggest battle and my biggest addiction. Food has been my biggest friend and defense. I have built this physical blubber of a wall to protect myself and it’s killing me. It makes sense to me that I have been struggling lately with eating healthy. This is really the first time since January that I have struggled this long. I believe in part is that I am getting to the core of all these bad feelings and untruths about myself. All this time I have seen it as digging a tunnel to my core, when I have been digging my escape route to expose it all. They say it gets worse before it gets better. This is the first time in my life that I have been actively working on my body. I am facing the truth in my own time, doing what I need to do to heal… going to therapy, taking my medicine, etc. I might not be moving as quickly as some feel and want me to but I am moving at my own pace… and I will get there. The road to taking care of myself is bound to be bumpy. I have to realize that occasionally I will fall off track, sometimes I will even take the wrong road but the key is to always get back on track… regardless how long it has been.

    I’ve been living in darkness so long, that it’s only natural the dark force will try to pull me under. I have been living so unhealthy for so many years, so I must realize the road to healing isn’t going to be perfect. I will fall. I will get scratched. The difference I am no longer in that hurtful place, it is all an illusion. A way to keep me from what I deserve, which is love and happiness.

    So I am going to keep moving forward and as a little fishy once told me… I am going to just keep swimming.

    Obstacles The LGBTQ Community Must Jump

    Recently George Takei commented on his facebook page about how many people on his page were sick of people talking about gay issues and it brought up something that I have been thinking of for the last few weeks.

    Many on this page have commented that they are “sick” of people talking about gay issues, or simply “don’t care” if someone is gay and would rather they would kept it to themselves. I find this disheartening. There may come a day when we need not come out of the closet, and need not remind others of the terrible violence, inequity, and ostracism that LGBT people face daily simply because of who we are and who we love. But that day is not here, and more importantly will never get here, unless people continue to step forward and offer themselves as examples, often at great personal cost. I am called “faggot,” “degenerate,” “queer” and “homo” by misguided people every day of my life, even on my own page, but this does not discourage me. It only reminds me of how far we have to go. Once upon a time I was called a “Jap” and put into a prison for four years with my entire family, for no reason other than who we were and who we looked like. It is my life’s mission to fight against the dark forces of fear and intolerance that could ever lead again to such an injustice. Thank you for taking the time to listen. The next time you feel fatigue from hearing about LGBT issues, ask yourself this: Do we live yet in the kind of society where violence, hate and prejudice is not an issue? Until we do, be part of the solution, and stand always for justice and equality for all people.

    As far as we have come, it is a realization that we have a lot further to go. I often wonder why do so many have such a problem with homosexuality? In the end I believe it is the unknown that scares people the most. We live in a world where we feel we must conform to something and for many that is religion. If we are told something, then it must be so. Passed down from one generation to the next.

    I was watching The Golden Girls, my nightly tradition, and I was kind of taken aback by the fact that even Blanche didn’t quite understand what being gay meant. I mean dimwitted Rose is a given. Then I started to think what was being gay like before the Internet. I have to think that the Internet helped kick start the gay revolution. It is still hard for me to believe that people back then didn’t have any concept of homosexuality.

    I think that is the main problem today. Those who spout off about gay people keeping quiet probably don’t even know anyone who is gay or if they do they are themselves are triggered to face the facts. Once you get to know someone who is gay with an open heart, how could you take away their love and happiness???

    People get caught up in the argument that it is a choice. I often wonder how many would chose a life filled full of hate, discrimination and the potential for great harm. Even those who chose to live the straight life, usually end up so miserable they have no choice but to come out of the closet. People would much rather please their own beliefs even if it means making someone living a lie and when that happens it usually hurts everyone around them.

    Being gay, you have to give up a lot. Not only do you have to live in fear of being discriminated against but it’s always in the back of your head what if the one time you show your true colors and someone goes ballistic on you. You see it on the news often enough to make you fear that outcome. When I go to a new area I find myself cringing and holding who I am in. Granted I am a big guy but if you have a group of people come at you, I don’t stand the chance. If you don’t think that is possible, look at the recent outbreak of hate crimes in New York City.

    Thankfully nowadays many teenagers are coming out at an early age but even now they are faced with reticule and hate. Look at how many of these children are killing themselves. How many others face bullying on a daily basis even if it isn’t extreme. Words can do a lot of damage. They are like little stones, that do their damage one little crack at a time. If you throw enough of them, they will shatter your self esteem into a million pieces.

    It is bad enough when we have to face this kind of hate from the world but another thing when it comes from within our own families. You don’t have to be told that you are going to hell that many times before it wears you down. You might can handle hatred from your peers and strangers, and even your own family but God is another story. If that is all you have ever known, how do you know there is anything else out there in this world.

    I recently discovered how much I wanted a family of my own and what a great loss that I am almost 37 and am without a family of my own. For years I had convinced myself that I didn’t want or need children, figured it just wasn’t meant to be. I gave up on the idea, especially after I have struggled in finding a mate to settle down with. I have become accustomed to having things taken away from me and what it boils down to is love.

    I grew up hiding who I was. People during my time weren’t out in High School and they certainly didn’t take their same sex to the prom. I didn’t get to do the whole dating thing, nor did I get to do the whole bringing my boyfriend home to meet my parents. Holding who you are in, is like keeping a fire within a confined area… all it does is damage. That flame is meant to shine.

    Another thing that many try to take away from gay people is our spirituality. Whether you have any personal experience with spiritual abuse, all you have to do is watch the media to see the damage church going people cause. Sure not everyone is as extreme and hateful as the Westboro Church but it all causes harm. At least they are upfront and honest with their hate. So many others do it in silence or sit back and don’t do anything when they are faced with that same hate.

    While 12 states plus Washington DC have legalized gay marriage, we still have 38 states to go. Plus with DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) so far in tact, without federal recognition we still will lose out on many rights. Not to mention that in many states gay people can be fired from their jobs and lose their housing all because of their sexual orientation.

    With the hate crimes that have been committed recently in Columbus and New York City it also goes to show you how many have had their own security and well being put at risk. Imagine going through life having to watch your back and live in worry that someone might try something.

    What it all boils down to is human rights and the lack thereof.

    Many gay people lose their biological families for being gay. They are kicked out and treated less all due to the gender they love. To expect someone to change something that is so tied to who they are inside is like telling someone to change the color of their skin, it is impossible. Sure people can hide and repress the feelings but eventually it will come out… usually in an explosive way.

    Look at how many teens kill themselves over being gay, as well how many homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. For many the discrimination and hate follows them all the way to home. Everyone has the human right to feel safe but often that is the first thing that gay people lose.

    Some will try to say that being gay is abomination, a curse and a sin. While being gay doesn’t always make your life easy, I wouldn’t change it at all. Being gay is a gift from God and those who don’t see that are delusional! They don’t see the true meaning and message of this world. While many of us weren’t born into families that validate and accept us, I have learned that it doesn’t mean we can’t have the families we need. For many gay people they have had to go outside of their biological family for the support and love they need. Their friends have become their family and support system.

    Some will try to take away things that aren’t theirs to take, like spirituality and God. These are things they don’t even have the power to take, yet that doesn’t stop them from trying. The key is for us all to stick together and stand up, as a solitude front. They might not listen to one voice or try to drown us out but when that voice gets amplified it will knock them to the ground.

    The time has come for us to take back what is our for the keeping and that includes our safety, spirituality and families.

    Aren’t We All Just Warm Bodies?

    WarmBodies-OneSht21Tonight I went with my sister and a friend to see Warm Bodies, and it got me thinking about a few things. I wonder if I was the only person in the movie theatre to see the deep metaphors hidden behind the story-line of the movie?

    The big message I took from the movie is that love can save the world. Hey if a zombie and a human can fall in love, anything is possible right? For me this theme of love conquering all hit me very deeply. Love is the spark that can jump start any dead heart. Obviously life isn’t that literal but it really hits to where our world is at these days.

    Sure the zombie Apocalypse is not here but we definitely are in need of some rescuing, mostly from ourselves. We accept things as they are, unwilling to step outside of our comfort zones to change. We go by what we are told and not by what we personally feel. If someone tells us something it must be the truth, well that isn’t always the case.

    The other theme that was evident to me was this idea of change, becoming something better. Surely humans don’t eat other humans but so many of them are zombies. They don’t eat brains but they walk in drones looking to feed. They are so unaware of what is around them. Zombies do not communicate, they do not have feelings. They just look for their next meal, digital connection. Personally I have fallen in and out of zombism a big chunk of my life. I would say we don’t know better but I think most of us do. The thirst and hunger to numb out outweighed any consequences that resulted from our kill. As in the movie, not all zombies are bad and even zombies can change. That’s if you want to.

    The biggest fears is turning into bonies, creatures who have lost all signs of humanity. There are even modern day bonies in the world we live in today. People so out of touch with reality, so void of love that they go around sucking the life forces out of anyone they can prey on.

    I guess the movie also plays on this idea of good versus evil, and shows that the lines sometimes are often blurred. Just as in life nothing is as cut and dry as we think they are. In the post apocalyptic world in Warm Bodies there is no hope for the zombies to ever change. Life has turned into a kill or be killed place for survival. Thankfully as horrible of a world they live in, there are still a few souls who hold onto hope… Those who believe in the power of love. They take a stand and end up saving the world.

    Sure our world isn’t in as horrible of shape as in Warm Bodies but we certainly need some healing. There are people who are seen as lost causes or the unimportant. Those who get left behind. If we lose sight of humanity, what kind of world is it worth saving? If you only look in saving and caring for yourself at all costs, even if it means stepping over someone else, how much of a life is that?

    People talk about the end of the world. If and when that were ever to come, we would be the cause of it. Just look at the world around us between how we treat the earth and our neighbors. We pollute the earth, bomb our enemies and often don’t think about the consequences of those actions. All we care about is bettering our lives and protecting what we believe is ours. Just watch turn on the news or read your facebook feed, and you will see there is a lot of hate in this world.

    That is why it is important that those of us who believe in love, stand up and show the world the strength and power that love has. There is another way. They say be the change you wish to see in the world and that really is true. Change starts with just one heart beat. That is all it takes for a ripple to multiple and touch other people. One faint heart beat turns into two, as the heart begins to beat louder and faster. Until eventually you are brought back to life.

    For if you love someone or something, you are willing to risk all to save it. That goes for anything in this life. If you care about the world around you, you are more willing to protect it. If you care, you are more likely to take better care of the person, place or thing. I notice that with myself as I start to love myself. The more I love myself, the more I want to take better care of myself. As I tend to my own garden, the rewards will only multiple… extending far beyond my garden.

    I am glad to be a warm body with a strong heart. Someone who see’s the good in people and believes in the power of love. There are some things in this world that are unknown and often times we feel lost. I am confident in the end that love will always find a way.