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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Distractions

Lately I notice I have a lot of distractions in my life. I guess in a whole I have let things distract me all my life. Mainly other people’s views and feelings of me or what I thought was so. Rather than use that distraction as fuel, I used it as a weight… to hold me down. While I am working on overcoming these challenges I have also noticed other distractions that keep me from doing what I was meant to do.

1. I watch way too much television. Recently I have thought about limiting my television time. Ground myself, literally.

2. My phone. I notice that I am attached to the hip with my android phone. When you go out to dinner with people do you ever notice how often/many people use their phones? It has become a way of life. When I don’t have my phone I feel lost. I hate to even admit that.

3. Food!!! This is a big distraction for me, especially if I am feeling down. If I have food around me I will eat it. I am an emotional eater so food plays too big of a role in my life. I need to learn the whole eat to live concept, rather than live to eat.

4. Gay social networking sites. Often times I find myself feeling less after using them. I often wonder why I keep these sites? Rarely do I make any meaningful connections from them. Often times I can’t even get anyone to talk back to me. Finding a friend, let alone a boyfriend, seems like finding a needle in a haystack. Plus it can also lead to the other distraction, sex… and that is never a good thing for me. Going down that road isn’t for me and won’t bring me what I need or want.

5. Facebook. I am sure many people probably could list this one. I rely too much on Facebook for connection, not that there isn’t anything wrong with that. I just think I should branch out to other methods for doing so. Again at times I find myself feeling down, especially if no one responds to something meaningful I posted. I take things way to personal.

6. My “negative” inner voice. This one can really drag me to the ground. The more depressed I feel the louder and stronger this voice is. As I start to heal and feel better, the harder it tries to pull me under. I am learning to strengthen my positive inner voice. Sometimes you just have to talk back to yourself and say it isn’t so. See talking yourself can be a good thing especially if you are giving yourself positive reinforcement! I am learning that I have the courage to stand up to all my negative thoughts.

7. Discomfort. I need to learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. I have to push through them. I have a tendency to feel discomfort and I quickly will try to fix it. Usually I go towards what is more comfortable but I have learned just because it is comfortable it doesn’t make it safe. I also need to learn to tolerate discomfort with trying to be more healthy. For example tolerating hunger pains and cravings to eat unhealthy. Same goes for my body as I try to get more active.

8. Personalizing everything. This is probably my tragic flaw, my biggest downfall in life. I take everything personal. Everything that anybody has ever said or done to me had something to do with me. Please I don’t have that much pull in the universe. Even if it has to do with me, so what? I have worked hard on overcoming this but still find myself personalizing things. I think in the past I personalized things as a way to cope. Like why did these bad things happen to me? I couldn’t think of a logical reason, so it must have been because I was a bad person. I am an adult now. Bad things happen because of bad people and it has no reflection on the person they hurt. Wow, I am not sure if I have ever said that out loud, or at least in type… As I work on this and tell myself to not personalize what ever I am trying to do, it really helps me to feel better.

9. My fears. Often times they cripple me. The keep me from being happy. They are the main reason I isolate because I am afraid of getting hurt. It is my light, not my darkness, that scares me the most because it is in the light where I am most visible. When I hide from the world, I am also hiding from myself.

10. I am my own distraction. My own worst critic. The real person standing in my way, is me. Sure other people have hurt me and caused me pain but I have kept myself in that world. I don’t allow the wounds to heal because I haven’t felt like I deserved them to. Well the time has come for my wounds to heal and I need to stop allowing myself to be cut back open. I am no longer that injured butterfly, my wings have been minded… it’s time to fly… I am my own protector. All this time I have been waiting for someone to come rescue me. I now realize that it is going to be me! Time to pack up my bags and take the first flight to paradise! I no longer have to live in that bad place, that is the past.

Well that is plenty.  I really need to work on limiting my distractions because they keep me from being more productive and ultimately keep me from my authentic self. Rather than watch tv for hours, I could be painting, writing, etc. It is one thing to just relax but another thing to numb out in these activities, which I have a tendency to do.

Does anybody else notice that they get distracted too easily or often? Has anyone made a conscious effort to overcome distractions?

For me it is about becoming more aware of my surroundings and what I allow into my world. Being conscious of what I digest by my mouth, eyes and ears. I am learning to embrace who I am. Breaking away from the mold of what others see me as, including myself.

This is my time to embrace the person I was born to be. A caring spiritual person filled full of creativity and love. I was meant to shine, not lack luster. So I am going to keep going… moving forward like that little engine that could.. Keep puffing up that mountain saying “I think I can” until I get to the top and then it will be smooth sailing from there out. Think will turn into know… know into believe… and nothing will be able to stop me then. I am not there yet but I will be soon enough.

What is love?

Tonight I started talking with a dear friend about love and my brain started to get into gear. I don’t always think about what is behind the many emotions I feel, love being one of them. I have lived my life with an open heart and that hasn’t always been met with appreciation. I feel first, think second… Usually my brain comes into play way after my heart has gotten involved… Then there has been times that I have ignored my brain and followed my heart, and that has lead me a stray.

I think the biggest thing I have learned about love and loss, is that you got to take the risk to get the reward.

So what is love?

My first thought was you can’t define love. It is just a force that just is. Like of like the universe. There is so much we can’t even see or feel. Love goes on and on…

I will be the first to admit that I have become very guarded with my heart these days. Some probably would call it being jaded. I try to put a more positive spin on it! 🙂 When I was young, like I am so old now, I was very naive about the world. When I graduated High School I had envisioned my life being a certain way. I am sure that is common. I never realized that with love came risk and with risk along came hurt and pain.

I had always known that I wanted to spend my life with one person, even before I realized I was gay. Well that certainly hasn’t worked out the way I expected. My first relationship was a love at first sight thing, well it might have been more of a lust thing but I was young. There was a huge spark between us, so much that when we first saw each other we both jumped. Well I mostly startled him while he was working as a night auditor at the hotel he worked at. He had his backed turned to me when I said hello. There was an instant spark and an instant boyfriend…

I feel for him quickly and deeply. Well two months later he dumped me in the most horrible way by telling me that he was never in love with me, nor was he attracted to me… and he had felt that from very early on. He also stated that he had been wanting to break up with me for weeks.

Honestly I thought this love was going to last forever. I believed in forever. After that night everything changed after my wings were clipped and I feel from the sky, crashing and burning… I had never been so devastated in my life. There was a hole in my chest and it ached deeply.

My views on true love were deeply impacted. Jump to fifteen years later I have come to realize as wonderful love at first sight feels it isn’t always meant to be, nor is the kind of love I want. True love like that is fine and dandy if both parties are okay with it but I have found that usually isn’t the case for me. Now I see true love like that for the movies, like a fairy tail. I know it exists but it sees too unreal and unobtainable.

I have learned that when you rush into love, that you don’t always get to see the whole picture and often times you miss out crucial pieces that could end up hurting you. Plus it is easy to mix lust and love together. When you rush there is a much higher level of risk. I no longer can take that big of a risk.

I am finally at a place in love when I want to take my time and experience all love has to offer. When you rush not only do miss red flags but you miss out the important beginning stages of love. Like the butterfly moments. The not knowings, as tough as they can be at times have their own wonderfulness as well.

The love I want and need is the love that grows over time. Love is very much like a tree, starting out in the purest form of a seed. With the right amount of rain, sunshine and weeding your love will only blossom in time. If you give it too much of one thing it will surely stunt the growth, or even kill it.

With love comes many different layers and types.

There is the general love of mankind. The way we think about the world around us. A sense of care towards those around us.

Then there is love you have for a child, in my case my two nieces and nephew. Prior to them being before I thought I knew what love was but I had only scratched upon the surface of what love was all about. I couldn’t imagine a world with out these three angels. For some 26 years I lived on this earth with out knowing that there were three little souls out there that would change my life forever. Love to a child is pure. They don’t know hate. They come to you with open arms. They are the true definition of unconditional love, well until they start to hit the teenager years then they aren’t as open with that love. 🙂

I think about that time and I didn’t have a clue of what love really was. The birth of my niece Paige in 2002 opened my world to something so pure and wonderful. I got just as much from them, if not more, than the love they got from me. During some of my darkest days they were my lighthouses beaconing me to shore from a very dark and dangerous sea.

After the death of my beautiful Mother I realized the depth of my love for her. There is something so pure about the love between a Mother and her child. It is a bond that no one can break, not even death. While the past three months have been very torturous I still feel my Mama’s love.

There is the love between two siblings. A sense of protection comes from that love. This kind of relationship is another bond that is unbreakable. A special connection between two souls that go through similar situations forever bonded together. I can remember from an early age feeling the need to always protect my sister, no matter what. I still find myself doing that. She will always be my baby sister.

My Mom, Sister and I were the three musketeers. During the tough times we formed this close bond out of protection, it is what kept us safe and sane. We didn’t have much but we had each other. That is love. As adults we may have traveled on our own journeys but that bond will always be there.

There is the kind of love where you imprint on the person. This can be both platonic and romantic. This an ultra special connection between souls. A depth that surpasses anything this world has to offer. Certain people I have felt from the start like I have known them before, like we have met in another lifetime. Though I don’t quite know what I believe in when it comes to all of that???

One thing that we talked about tonight was a level of love where you would go to the ends of the earth for… His response that he didn’t get statements like that because the earth is round… and I go, well that is the point. For someone I deeply loved I would go around and around and around and around and around the earth if it meant keeping the person I love safe. I would keep running around in circles forever if it meant my loved one was okay.

It is this idea that you would do anything to protect the person or persons you love, even if it meant you dying in the process. Where you put someone else’s life before your own.

I felt that way when I learned that my Mama was diagnosed with Cancer. My sister and I were willing to do whatever it took to take care of our Mother. Even if it meant driving all over the country to do so. I would have gone to Sweden if it meant healing her. Granted we didn’t get the results we had hoped for but she was cured of Cancer. It didn’t bring her down.

I have found this kind of love can be rather intimidating and down right scary to some people, especially if they have never really experienced it. The few guys I tried to offer that kind of love to felt they weren’t worthy of that level of love and ran far away from it. At the time I took it personal, like it was a reflection of who I was inside. I now realize it really had nothing to do with me.

Like I said before with love comes risk. Even the ones who love you are going to hurt you. We as humans are not perfect. We say things we don’t mean, we do things that we regret later and sometimes we push the ones we love because we know we can. Of all the hurt and pain I have endured from loving others, my Mama and Sister have always been there for me. That is what family is for. That is love, being able to look past the hurt and being there for the person you love.

I have also learned that sometimes you have to love certain people from afar, even family members. I have had to do this with my father. I would love to have a relationship with him but it would always be on his terms and there is too much risk for getting hurt for me to attempt to salvage a relationship with him. Some people are just too toxic, all they do is such the life-force out of you. I don’t believe in that whole philosophy of they are your parent and you have to respect them. You can respect them for giving you life but that is it. Respect is earned and it doesn’t mean you have to keep hurtful negative people in your life.

One thing I have learned about love is that we might not can chose the families we are born into but we can chose the families we grow into. Sometimes you have to love and respect yourself enough to know that you deserve better. Family isn’t always biological, it is what you make it. I haven’t always gotten the acceptance and love from parts of my extended biological family that I needed but have come to realize that I can get that from others. When I lived in Chicago in 2004 I learned this first hand. During my time in this wonderful city I meant so many caring people who saw me for who I was, many in which I am still friends with. These are bonds that even though we don’t always talk that when we do talk it is like we have been talking all these years.

My years in Chicago were two of the best and worst years of my life. It meant coming to terms with the sexual and spiritual abuse. I embodied what I talked about in a previous post about vulnerability, that it can be the birthplace of both negative and bad. Opening up my closet and letting other’s skeletons out meant being hospitalized a few times.

During difficult times it is natural to connect with others who are going through similar feelings, emotions and pain. I was blessed to be in a city that had a gay mental health ward to their mental hospital. As frightening of a time that was being there and all the feelings that surfaced, I am forever changed for the souls I met during the three weeks there. I will always remember the special bond we all shared, as well as the struggles as well.

A part of love comes loss. Another thing I have learned about life is that not everyone we encounter is meant to walk the same path forever. Sometimes we are only meant to cross paths briefly, like ships in the night. Early on I became very disenchanted by this, especially if the bond the great. I finally was able to realize that we each have our own journey, to keep someone on your path only takes away from theirs. Sometimes you just have to let someone go and hope that one day you will see each other again.

My therapist during my time in Chicago was one example. I saw my therapist for about a year and a half. I strongly feel that she was brought into my life. It was apart of the plan. I can remember going to meet her not for individual therapy but because she ran a men’s group for sexual abuse survivors. Instantly upon meeting her I knew that it was meant for me to see her for therapy. I didn’t end up joining the men’s group until six months later.

She showed me so much love and kindness during a time where I struggled the most. I not only saw her as my therapist but as a mentor. She opened my eyes and my heart in regards to my spirituality, my heart and so much more…

I got scared I ran from her, all my friends, my great job and the wonderful life I had built. All because I didn’t think I deserved all of the wonderfulness and happiness. I didn’t realize until it was too late that I was self destructing. Granted my leaving her was of my own doing, I have felt so much regret in leaving that bond we shared.

Thankfully it was meant for our paths to cross again. About four years ago her and her family moved to a city about an hour away from where my sister lives. At the time I lived in Ohio and I found it ironic that she would move to an area that I grew up in. I had dreamed of being able to rekindle the bond that we once had shared, though I never thought it would be over the death of my beautiful Mother.

Again I am deeply blessed and grateful that God has brought her back into my life. She has brought so much comfort and help during a great time of need. She has reminded me that we are worthy of second chances.

The one thing that I have learned about the death of my Mom… (I try to not say lost or lose because I am trying to retrain my way of thinking) Is that when a person dies that they truly never leave us, especially if that bond is deep and strong. They are always with us, even after death. Both inside our hearts and spiritually all around us. The same can be said for those who go their separate ways not by any wrong doing but by individuals going on different paths. Regardless where they travel and the new paths they take they will always remain deep within our paths. Realizing that we don’t need the person to hold our hand for them to be right beside us is a huge gift.

I am trying to remember this with my beautiful Mama, just is tough. I still want to be able to hold her hand again.

I think true love is when another soul is able to look past all your baggage, skin, pain, thoughts and emotions, and into your heart. They see you for who you are, not for who the world might see you as. Sometimes they see more in you, that you see in yourself. That is love. That is unconditional. In the world we live in this is rare. When you find someone who is able to do this hold them closely in your heart. They are truly a gift, a blessing from up above.

It is so easy to get all your connectors filled full of junk. Sometimes it your own junk, while other times it is other peoples trash. If you don’t learn to pick up the trash you can very easy turn into a gigantic landfill. What once was a endless beautiful nature preserve is now a place for piles and piles of endless trash. The world is filled full of jagged edges that if you aren’t careful will cut you open, leaving you exposed. Often it is an event that happens at an early age. Many times we can’t help but get hurt. It is the whole bad things happen to good people scenario. I don’t understand why it happens, it just does. Like why do children get sick and die? Make no sense to me.

If you are someone who is heart centered it is very easy to have the love you possess change. Even after years after you have been cut, you walk around life with this giant wound. You learn that you aren’t worthy of the same love you give to others. You begin to give love to everyone but yourself. It starts out small and snowballs out of control. Usually it isn’t until you are in desperate search for your nature preserve and all you can see trash. You dig and remove the trash but you never seem to find the bottom. Plus people keep throwing their trash at you because you have made it clear that you are just one big ole trash can.

I have always been great at dispensing the medicine but often find it difficult to take my own advice. I have found in order to heal I must look deep within to feel and eventually see all the beauty I have inside. Plus I need to pick apart my landfill to see what baggage was mine and the trash that belongs to others. Learning to not personalize things instantly disintegrated a lot of the trash pilled upon me. After all of that I still had a lot of my own trash to sift through and throw away. Healing is another process that has a lot of layers and depths. Healing is just like a onion, you have to peel away the layers and eventually you will get to the core.

While I still have some more layers to work through I am closer than ever to my core. Now comes the real work and progress. Loving yourself I think is the one of the most parts to love. If you don’t take care of yourself eventually it will catch up to you and you will no longer before to care for anyone else. This happened to me. My friend said that maybe that was the only true love… loving yourself and I think he is on to something.

I will admit I struggle with loving myself, it is a daily battle. My depression certainly hinders me with everything. If you have lived most of your life not loving yourself it has a way of affecting everything from your health, how you interact with other people and the choices you make. Through the years of hurt I have become very much like a hermit, so afraid to get hurt that I have hid from the world. My solitude became my prison. I was miserable and very unhappy. Just like in the movie The Village no amount of protection from the outside world can prevent hurt from happening. It will always find a way in. As in the case of the death of my mother. In the end, my protection ended up doing the opposite and kept me from everything good and deserved.

Hurt is inevitable. As is death. “A Life Lived in Fear is a Life HalfLived

Love changes everything. It imprints us, planting millions of seeds deep within us. As they blossom and we grow, we are able to share that love with others. When someone has a deep impact on us we change for the good. I am who I am today because of my Mama and the love she gave me. I wouldn’t be the same person today without her.

As much as I am frightened in getting hurt again romantically I know that I must put myself out there in order to grow. The key for me is loving myself enough to protect myself. Allow myself to enjoy the moment and not rush the experience. As with healing this works for love as well… As my therapist says, you can’t attach a cocoon to a stick and whip it around, expecting the butterfly to come flying out… All that will do will harm the life growing inside the cocoon. Again it is not allowing the vulnerability of the moment to swallow you whole, remembering that it is that fearful place where happiness, joy and love blossoms from.

Having fears is natural. Keeping them bottled up is not. Nor is allowing that fear control you. Talking about it is key for me. When you face your fears you take away their power. Learning to build up your toolbox with coping skills is also very important. As well a not listening to the negative voices in your head and replacing them with positive messages of love, encouragement and acceptance.

Love is universal. Love is eternal. Love has no barrier or walls.

We are all worthy and deserving of love. You don’t have to believe in God to know what love is because love is universal. While two people who speak different languages might not can understand the word love, no words are needed when a hug or an act of love will do. While we might argue and disagree with each others religious and spiritual beliefs the one thing that remains constant is love. For me that is truly what God is, love…

Love many different things to many different people. It is a parent taking care of their child when they are sick. It is a man buying a homeless man a pair of boots in the winter. Love is pitching in and helping out your neighbor in a time of need. Love means calling making sure someone got home safe after a long trip. You don’t have to know a person to love them, nor do you need to say a word. Though hearing I love you is three of the most enjoyable and meaningful words ever spoken.

Love is defending the person you care about and standing by their side through the good times and the bad. Love is saying I’m sorry when you know you have done something wrong or hurtful. Love is giving enough to others but always making sure you have something left for yourself. Love is in the giggle of a child. Love is the thought that counts, the effort behind the act and not the act itself.

Love is not proud, nor is it selfish. Love is free, flowing like a river touching everything in its path.

This world we live in certainly could use a whole lot more love. It is how we treat each other. Words can sting and words can hurt. Bones can break and eventually heal but words are silent killers getting deep underneath the skin. Their wounds are silent and unseen. They linger like a disease slowly infecting everything…

But we all can make a difference. A smile is can do a world of good. Life is so short before we know it’s over. In this fast paced world it is so easy to take for-granted the love and relationships we share. Reach out to others, they might not have the strength to ask for help. Say to others what you feel, you will regret it when they are gone. For being only three words saying I love you isn’t always as easy as it should be.

Tell people in your life that you love them, often. Hugg them frequently. Make an effort to see the people you love especially if you haven’t seen them in a while, even if you don’t feel like it because you will regret it when they are gone. Forgive yourself, life isn’t perfect but love is.

Be gentle to yourself. Do nice things for yourself. Take a bubble bath. Go for a walk. Watch your favorite funny feel good movie. Laugh. Cry. Be silly. Go out into the rain without an umbrella and dance in all the mud puddles. Embrace your inner child be kind to him and her. Buy a helium balloon and suck in the air. Dance in your living room, dance in public. Dance like you don’t care.

Let go of what others think of you. Go to see a movie by yourself. Do what you love, even if people think you are crazy. Make funny faces in the mirror. Talk to yourself, who cares if strangers think you are crazy. If you could see into their worlds you could see how crazy they really are! 🙂 When traveling long distances make an effort to enjoy the ride, stop and have lunch at the local restaurant. Not only will you have a good home cooked meal but you will have a memory that will last a lifetime.

Plant a garden, even if you don’t like veggies. Sleep in. Post funny pictures to your facebook  because you never know whose day you might brighten up. My Mom use to love looking at the funny pictures that were posted to her wall. Volunteer in a children’s hospital. You will not only learn how resilient children are but you will realize your problems aren’t as bad. Write a hand written letter to an old friend or even a new friend. Buy lunch for someone homeless.

Dress up for Halloween. Bring a friend some soup when they are sick or even NyQuil. Everyone loves NyQuil right? 🙂 Rather than buying a gift for someone take the money and make them something. Glitter goes with everything. Using the excuse that you aren’t creative or crafty isn’t valid because that doesn’t stop a child, nor should it you! 🙂

Wake up early and cook a big breakfast for everyone in your family. During the various seasons and holidays you can cut out designs using cookie cutters to make special pancakes. I learned the hard way to cook the pancake first then cut out the design. Learn from my mistake. 🙂

Get on the ground with the children in your life. Let them climb over you like a jungle gym. Let them dress you up, put make up on you and brush your hair. Build a fort out of blankets and chairs. Put on a puppet show. Go outside with them. Push them on the swing set. Take them to the park. Make a gigantic wave storm in the pool with them. Take them to the beach and go into the water with them, even if it is cold! 🙂 Dance with them. Hugg them often. Tell them they are beautiful often. Make funny faces with them. Let them help you bake. My niece love to stir and pour in the ingredients. Cherish every moment you have with them because they grow up very fast.

Go for your dreams. If you have lost them, go searching for them again. Put out a search party if you have to. They are important and are of value to you. A life without dreams makes for a very dreary unhappy place. Keep reaching for them. Never give up. Follow your heart. Trust your instincts.

Keep moving forward. It is never too late. If you get knocked down, get back up. There is never a point in your life where you can’t try again, and start a new. Just because you have passed up opportunity it doesn’t mean there aren’t others out there waiting for you. You are worthy.

These are all reminders to myself as well…

Love doesn’t end when a person dies, it goes on and on. Death will never be able to touch true love. Love is pure light and stronger than anything seen and unseen there ever was and is…

With love anything is possible. I am possible because the people who love me.

Love will always overcome and conquer hate and fear. They don’t stand a chance because you can’t hide in the light.

Love is pure. Love is all around us.

I am who I am today because of love. It is who I am through and through.

My Mama gave me her heart, in order for me to give it to the world and that is what I will continue to do…

Vulnerability and Shame

Shame isn’t a new topic for me. As a sexual abuse survivor it is a feeling that I am all too familiar with. For many years I felt an immense amount of shame over what had happened to me, as if I were some how responsible for the action. I worked hard to no longer feel the same level of shame as I once did though I am sure I still have remnants left deep down inside.

I hadn’t really thought about shame until I watched a motivational speech by Brenè Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

One of the messages in her speech was this idea that shame was the unspoken reason behind people not connecting to others. Brown had extensively studied shame by interviewing hundreds of people. She found a distinctive difference between those who had as strong sense of love and belonging, and those who struggled with it. The only variable she found was that those who have a strong sense of love and belonging, believe they are worthy of love and belonging.

She goes on to say that the fear of not being worthy of connection, keeps us from connecting to others. That if others see or know our vulnerabilities and imperfections deep inside us then we won’t be worthy of connection.

Those who fully embrace vulnerability are the ones who able to live their lives more whole heatedly.

The group that Dr. Brown studied that lived their lives with a sense of belonging had three main attributes; Courage, Compassion and Connection.

They had the courage to tell their story of who they are with their whole heart. They had the courage to be imperfect. They also had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, then to others next. Finally they had connection. They are able to connect due in part to their own authenticity.  They have been able to let go who they think they should be and be their authentic selves.

Brenè Brown also stated that vulnerability is at the core of shame, fear and struggle for worthiness… As well as the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity and love…

Those try to deflect the vulnerability do so by numbing out the feelings, which is something I am very familiar with. She went on to say that when you numb all the unwanted feelings and vulnerability, you also numb out all the good feelings like joy, happiness, love, etc. You can’t selectively numb feelings. Eventually numbing out vulnerability turns into a very dangerous cycle.

During her speech she talks about finding out why and how we numb?

She also talked about the persistent need to make everything that is uncertain certain. Another thing I can relate to. The unknown has always scared me. Rather than face it head on, I usually avoid it like the plague. I pretend that it does not exist. Almost always the avoidance comes back to haunt me, even bigger and scarier than ever before. To the point where I don’t have a choice but to deal with it.

I have repeated the same cycle so many times that my the wheels on my stationary bike have blown, causing me to catapult off the stand and crash into the nearby wall. You can only repeat the same thing over so many times before even you get tired of the repetitiveness.

Hearing Brenè Brown speak really resonated with me deeply on many different levels and issues. So much that millions of little light bulbs kept igniting as I watch her speech on my phone and ever since then my mind has been in gear thinking deeply about shame, vulnerability  being seen and everything else in between.

All of these topics are core issues that I have dealt with most of my life, certainly all my adult life. Connection is something I yearn for but it is also something that I am most fearful of.

There was a time when I didn’t believe that I was worthy of love and belonging. These feelings were so deep and torturous that the negativity seeped out into my personal life. Probably the happiest I have ever been was when I lived in Chicago from 2004-2oo5. All my life I had been searching for deep connection and I finally found it.

It was also the first time I started look at the core of the sexual and spiritual abuse. These two years were some of the best and worst times in my life.

I finally had the group of friends that I was able to connect with on a spiritual level. I had the most friends I had ever had. I was living the life I had always dreamed of.  I also had a great job with the most wonderful boss ever. Someone who saw me for who I was and the strengths I possessed. On top of that I had an amazing therapist who was more like a mentor to me. I was able to see a glimpse of happiness and who I was meant to be but it was all too much.

I let fear and shame take a hold of me causing me to run. I ran like the wind, fast and far. Ever since then I would take small steps into the light to only get scared back into the dark. I couldn’t handle the vulnerability because I didn’t realize that they were actually my strengths.

All this time I believed the opposite of what was true. The biggest lie was that I didn’t deserve love or happiness. I internalized the abuse and took it on, and became it. I thought there was a reason why someone like me who had a pure heart would get abused/hurt. In my head I had convinced myself that someone who is good/pure wouldn’t be abused. That only bad children are sexually and spiritually abused. I didn’t realize that bad things happen to good children all the time. Early on I developed this belief that I wasn’t worthy of love, care or belonging. All I was worthy of was abuse, pain and hate.

Vulnerability scares me, frightens me to the core. Getting hurt leaves you very vulnerable. When you have it happen a number of times you start to fear vulnerability. You do everything you can to avoid getting hurt, even if it means not finding happiness. It is better to go without, then potentially get hurt right? That is what I thought for years. For years I lived in fear. Stayed in isolation over the fear of getting hurt again. It felt like one more heart break would send me over the edge. What I didn’t realize that living a life without risk also kept me from the one thing I needed, and that being love.

So granted I wasn’t getting hurt anymore but I found myself just as miserable, if not even more.

The problem is that I have been running for over 18 years from city to city. I have stopped running but I am left with very little. I have very little to my name. I have friends all over the country and over 300 Facebook friends but very few that I see frequently in person. I miss the connection.

Losing my Mama has taught me how fragile life is and not to take anything for-granted. I still am fearful and isolating but I want to change. A dear friend of mine who I met during my Mom’s struggle with Cancer recently was hospitalized. I found myself in this frozen fearful state. I was so afraid of losing her.

Other than my close immediate family I haven’t gotten close to many people because I am so afraid of losing them. I still fear that, especially after my Mama dying. I now realize that staying away for that reason only leaves you with regret when something does happen and they are physically taken away by death.

I am learning to embrace vulnerability and am coming to realize that its apart of life. I am also realizing that vulnerability will not kill me like I previously had felt. Vulnerability is also something that can’t be controlled.

Sharing my story on this blog makes me feel very vulnerable but I know that it is important to share my heart with the world. I know what it is like to experience what I have and to feel you are alone. I know that there are so many who continue to go through what I have. I can bring something good to my bad experiences. Being my authentic self will help liberate others by having the courage to do so as well.

Like Brown says, vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity and love…

It really is. I have lived over twenty years of not being the real me. I can’t do it anymore. I have to let my wings out and fly free. I finally realize that I have a bright light within, that was meant to shine… not hide in a box buried deep within…

I recently formed this friendship with this wonderful caring man. He has brought me great joy the past few months of getting to know him. He intellectually stimulates me deeply. It has been very refreshing to have someone of the same sex find you interesting and not have it related to sex at all… I know that he sees me for who I am on the inside, and not the outside. I wonder if he realize how much a gift that is to me? For someone who is a sexual abuse survivor it is huge to have a man that sees my heart… It has also been really nice to form a deep friendship with someone and not have my mind go right to sex. When we are together we can talk for hours. Whenever he leaves, I have this feeling that I don’t want him to leave… That is how much I enjoy his company. I can’t remember the last time a man made me feel this way.

Yes, this new friendship has brought up a lot of vulnerabilities. A few we have actually talked about. I was for sure that he would run for the hills but he didn’t.

I am learning to just live in the moment and enjoy my time with him.

That is another thing I have learned by losing my Mama. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff… That is why the grieving process has been so difficult because I want nothing to go out into the world and live life… but I still find myself so frozen in fear.

The difference is I am allowing myself to feel the vulnerable. I am trying hard to not numb out my feelings. Granted I do still occasionally do so with food but I am learning to overcome even that. I keep moving forward, even if it is one small step at a time.

I am letting people in. I am also reaching out to people as well. I am allowing myself to be seen. These are just a few of the recent changes for me.

Being a sexual abuse survivor being seen can be quite the terrifying experience. Dissociating from difficult situations became a coping skill early on and I find myself dissociating from difficult situations in the present. There have been times that I needed to be seen but felt invisible… and then times I wanted to be invisible when I had no place to hide. As an adult I need to realize that I am no longer in that unhealthy situation. I no longer have to hide. I think part of the reason why I hide in the darkness because it was when I was in the light that I was hurt so deeply.

It is very easy to get chained down by your past. No matter how hard you try to out run it or hide, it always seems to find you. I haven’t been able to move on because I haven’t allowed my time to process it. I just kept on running. I finally have realized that my problems always follow me wherever I go. I didn’t allow my wounds to heal, I just covered them up with a bunch of weight. I must open my wounds back up, and allow the pain to seep out. Only then will I be able to finally heal and move on. I have to stick around and bear the uncomfortable, and all the vulnerable feelings that surface. Granted there are days I just want to run, I realize that I have to stick it out…

Which is what I am doing with the grieving process. While the past two months have been filled full of crippling grief, I still have hope.

During our time in Nashville we encountered so many amazing people. My eyes were opened up to see that there are caring people left in this world. I have a place in this world.

For the longest time I didn’t feel I could show people my gifts and abilities, over the fear they would be scared. I also have stopped believing that my strengths are weaknesses.

Yes in life there is a lot of things that are uncertain. Losing my Mama didn’t help with that but I realize these are things that I can’t control. There are no guarantees in life, so we have no other choice but to live our lives to the fullest.

I am learning to do that one moment at a time while embracing the many vulnerabilities and imperfections that life has to offer.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

I have played small due to the insecurities of others around me, and have learned the hard way that it doesn’t serve anyone. Ms. Williamson is correct that it is my light that frightens me the most. We are all children of God. We are all meant to shine. I have been liberated by others who let their lights shine so courageously. Who are you not to be fabulous, talented, brilliant, gorgeous and everything wonderful that life has to offer?

And as Walt Disney said:

I am going to (We) keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Finding Your Place

It seems that the last two nights two shows have inspired me to write in my blog. Yesterday it was Salvation from watching American Horror Story and tonight it is Finding Your Place from Glee.

In tonight’s episode of Glee the character “Unique” (for the life of me I can’t remember her boy name) wanted to part of Rizzo in the musical Grease. When Finn offered the part of Rizzo to Unique, she talked about how she had never really felt she had a place or something similiar… That she didn’t feel in place in the boys locker room and that she certainly couldn’t go into the girls locker room, and that she couldn’t go around wearing women’s clothing all the time. That by getting the part of Rizzo she found her place.

Which reminded me of my own life. All my life I have struggled to fit in. At the age of 36 I still haven’t quite found my place. It has been a struggle because unlike Rachel my destiny hasn’t fallen right in my lap. Some people know exactly who they are and who they want to be when they grow up, and I am not sure if I ever did. Sure I had dreams of being on broadway but even theatre I didn’t feel like I fit in.

I certainly have struggled finding my place in the gay world. I have bounced from one labeled segment to another, and every time I find myself feeling less because I am not quite like them… nor am I accepted.

It is the age old question “Who Am I?”

I certainly have figured out who I am not… but I haven’t quite yet found my place in the world, and that has been a little unsettling.

When you think about fitting in, it is this idea that you have to conform to the group… and when I dig deep down I don’t really want to fit in…

I also don’t fit in easily. I stick out like a sore thumb… but not in a bad way…. Though there has been times I feel that it is, and I still catch myself feeling that. Even last night I started to go back into that whole trap.

Being a “fat” guy in the gay world hasn’t been easy. I certainly didn’t fit into the typical gay social scene. I can remember back in the day when Gay.com chat rooms were popular and some gay guys would have the nerve to out of the blue cut me down for my size. They just picked me out of the crowd (where I was staying silent) and they tried to tear me down… When ever I see anyone do that now, it shakes me to my core… Even in tonight’s episode there is this character who does the same thing. She picks the girl who is pure and insecure, and she tries to rip her to shreds.

It is this whole false idea of what beauty is and for some reason some thing they have the true definition of it. For the longest time I believed their lies. I am learning to overcome those beliefs.

So in that segment I wasn’t welcomed… So I searched out for acceptance in other groups. Naturally being a big person, the bear community seemed like the perfect fit… and for a time I was able to blend in… Increasingly I would find myself again feeling less and it wasn’t until someone pointed out that here you found a community but all people were seeing you for was your outside appearance and now who you were inside…

As I started to begin to accept the whole me, and embraced both the masculine and feminine parts of myself I began to identify less and less with the bear label. Again I found myself feeling an outcast. I had the physical characteristics of a bear but my personality wasn’t masculine enough… Then it would start that vicious cycle of feeling less about myself.

Plus as the popularity of the bear world has sky rocketed it has become more main stream and I find myself more and more not even fitting in physically anymore… Which only makes me feel less… Anyone else seeing a trend here? 🙂

When I first joined the social app Growlr I was torn on how much of myself to show and I am not talking about skin… I ended up just putting it all out there, showing the real me. Even on Bear411 my username is notyouravgbear… and no one really has understood what it truely means. If masculinity is your thing, that is fine and dandy but that isn’t me. I am not defined by one quality. You would be surprised how many profiles you find that say masculine only, or no fems… I especially love “straight acting.”

I am also on the other mainstream gay sites like Scruff, Jack’d and Grindr… Now talking about feeling invisible. I send off messages to guys and nine times out of ten I never get a response… and I am always friendly… I am not like oh your hot, I want to have sex with you… or even something more vulgar… but yet I never hear anything back. Even profiles that say that they are looking for friendship, I rarely hear back. Is it my age? my size? and what does it matter when it comes to friendship???

Tonight I liberated myself from Scruff, Jack’d and Grindr… and it felt good. It became obvious I wasn’t going to find any authentic connections there and it was only making me feel less. Even though my luck with Growlr is not very good, I at least occasionally have meaningful conversations there… Just recently I have sparked a wonderful friendship with this very nice guy from the Netherlands…

Plus I have had a decent amount of guys reach out to me to tell me how much my profile touched them. Not only does that confirm that I made the right choice to be me but I am also making an impact. Granted most of the interactions aren’t lasting but it is still meaningful.

I keep searching out for a group to accept me and I end up failing big time.

I’ve dabbled in gay activism…

I’ve spent some time in the drag community…

Every time I just repeated the same old worn out horrible feelings… and every time I would go running back into hiding.

I think the key was that I who I am is sometimes intimidating for certain people. When you show your authentic self to thsoe who haven’t been able to embrace it themselves it can bring out the claws in some people. Take the chacacter Kitty in Glee tonight. She feels insecure and less, and how she feels better is that she puts others down… If you don’t have a thick skin, when you are faced with that kind of heat it will always send you packing… Always feeling less.

What I have learned about all these experiences in the various segments of the gay community is that I won’t find acceptance in the outside world. Acceptance is something you find inward. Going through the experience of various people feeling they needed to drag me down has only made me stronger. I have come to learn it was never me. It was all them. All these battles was my training in the school of the hard knocks.

Every time I would get knocked down… I would always get back up. ALWAYS… I learned that from my beautiful Mother.

Most of my life I have hide who I am because of others insecurities. I shrunk down in size to make everyone else happy. To fit in. To find my place. In the process I have become very unhappy. I shrunk so small that I got to a point where I couldn’t even find the real me.

Rediscovering myself hasn’t been an easy or quick process but it has been a very important part of my journey.

I am also realizing overall the internet will not bring my authentic connections. It is not to say that it can’t happen but I have to venture out into the world. I can’t stay hidden behind a computer screen because it is the safe way out. That is also not my place either. It is not say that I don’t have a place on the interwebs but it isn’t my only place to be and reach out to others.

We live in a world where we are constantly inundated with messages of fitting in. It is fine if you find your place but if you don’t you end up feeling left out. Just like the island of the misfit toys…

Individuality isn’t the social norm, nor it is taught as being acceptable. The media tells us that we have to conform to the masses. Just look at how beauty is pictured in our culture. If I see one more girl toy with a skinny waist I swear I am going to go crazy. The same goes for gender, sexuality and everything in between.

Labels are helpful if you are product on the shelf but as a human being labeled often just makes you feel horrible about yourself.

In the straight world our culture tells us what is and isn’t socially acceptable for a man and a woman… This ideology also has creeped its way into the gay world telling us what is and isn’t socially acceptable being a gay man. Many have conformed to the socially acceptable view of a gay man. There is a stigma for being too gay. I say being fabulous is what makes being gay so wonderful and fun. Just be yourself, even if that means flaming out as they say!!! Being on fire, isn’t always a bad thing! 🙂

Be yourself, now there is a motto. That is the place to be. Sure not everyone will get you and many will turn your nose at them but in the end you will be much more happier… and you will finally meet the people who will see you for who you really are…

So I haven’t quite found my place in this world but I am getting there. I certainly am getting to see a glimpse of where I am going. I just have to have faith that the universe will provide an outlet that I can share myself my authentic self with. This blog is a start. My light was meant to shine, not hide deep inside of dark cave. I have a voice and a message that the world needs to hear. That is my place…

Bullying… It won’t stop until adults stop doing it!

So I have a love/hate relationship with RuPaul’s Drag Race…  I love all things Drag but after watching the first episode of  the All Star edition it reminded me of all the things about the show I dislike… I know it is TV but I find myself asking myself, REALLY???

If I personally hadn’t dabbled in drag for about six months I wouldn’t have the insight that I do about many things. In that short time I learned A LOT about the Drag community. Honestly the show is very much real life. You have the heathers (the ones who think they are better than everyone else)… You have the clowns (the comedy/camp queens), the ones that everyone makes fun… You have the beauty queens (the pageant queens). The misfits (Sharon Needles, Tammie Brown, etc). I mean it all just like High School, even with teachers who also do their own bullying… SANTINO!!!

This week episode confirms quite a few things about the show and the queens in it…  It reminded me how as adults we bully each other just as much as kids bully other kids, if not more… Where do you think they learn it from? Their family, friends, media, etc… I know that drag has a level of reading, but there is a line.

I think many of the queens miss out on the real prize and it isn’t the $100,000 grand prize or the fame. It is the experience they have and what they learn from it. RuPaul is notorious for saying “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” This goes both ways and it isn’t just for romantic love. An ego can be confused for love as well.

During the Untucked episode (which is all the behind the scene footage)  most of the drags (over 10) bullied one of the drag queens, some very viciously. I know it is tv, and it makes for good television but what message are you sending the world? For me, it takes away not only the illusion but the art of drag itself.

What I see is a bunch of broken individuals who feel the only way they can get the spotlight is by extinguishing someone else’s light. I found this own during my own time as Puddin Pie. Some drag queens were so desperate to get into the spotlight they didn’t care whoever they walked all over. All they wanted was the fame and attention.

Another problem I have had with RPDR in general is this idea of what real drag is. Anyone who has watched the show can see it is obvious what they feel is acceptable and normal. I am honestly shocked ( well maybe not really) that Sharon Needles won… but again she wasn’t a comedy/camp queen either. That is the genre of drag that I feel they really stick their noses down at. Just look at any critiques, especially from Santino… I am sorry but the whole stick with a comedy queen is not high fashion, that is not who they are… Again Santino was knocking Pandora Boxx down for her clothing. People go to see these queens not for what they where, they go for their personalities and what they present on stage. Honestly I think people are intimidated by comedy queens because it takes a lot of nerve and talent to do what they do. They don’t just rely on pretty, and honestly with makeup… ANYBODY CAN BE PRETTY!!!

Not everyone can be funny.

Even how they gave Pandora and Mimi their group name “Mandora” set them up…

The other thing I have found interesting about RPDR is that they judge a lot of the show on superficial things. The only time you see them perform is when they lip sync for their lives. Rarely do you get to see them perform live. Isn’t stage presence an important part of being a drag queen? But this isn’t really what my blog post is about…

Sure RuPaul is probably one of the most famous drag queens but she is about the only one of her genre of drag who was famous, other than comedy queens prior to RPDR. What do Varla, Lady Bunny, Jackie Beat, Lily Savage, Coco, Dame Edna, and Divine all have in common? Comedy… They became famous for their acts not for being on some reality competition.

Watching that show last night made me angry, I am still fuming!!!

Even during Mimi’s lip sync versus Chad Michaels, Chad didn’t even compare. Mimi out performed Chad hands down, she even changed outfits during the number. She gave personality that I didn’t see with Chad. Yet her and Pandora was the one sent home. I mean did I miss something? I believe it boils down to styles of drag, and it is obvious they don’t like Pandora or Mimi’s style. The biggest question why have them on there??? Like RuPaul says she has the ultimate say… I have to wonder how big of an ego RuPaul has… That is another topic for another day…

Even the queens I had come to love like Latrice, JuJu, Pandora, etc I was disgusted with. Sure some weren’t as vocal in the bullying but they certainly didn’t stand up. All they appeared to me to be were a bunch of children preying on the weakest link. Not to mention Pandora’s attitude being paired with Mimi…

I left the show not caring to ever watch it again. I have also unliked all these so called queens facebook pages.

I find it ironic that what they were berating Mimi for, was the exact same thing they were doing. I also love this whole we are sisters crap, yeah maybe wicked step sisters like Cinderella had. You can’t pick and chose the parts of family you believe in. Let’s be clear most of them see it as a competition and will do WHATEVER it takes to win. Even if it means making someone cry.

Which reminds me of the season of the HEATHERS. Which embodies this whole nose turning down thing. How low do you have to feel to be like this? Anyone who is in drag knows of the term booger queen. What makes anyone the ultimate queen of what is and isn’t acceptable drag??? Plus everyone starts somewhere. If you look at a lot of these polished queens they weren’t always like that. Rather than constantly beat others down, why don’t we try to build them up???

I guess watching RPDR really turns me off towards drag, and that is a shame. I know I am not alone. I almost think there RuPaul is her own genre… She/he doesn’t speak for everyone, nor is he the end all of Drag… I just think with all the bullying going on and the teenagers killing themselves over it we have a responsibility as the gay peers of the community. Whether they want it or not, they are in the limelight and they could do so much good for the world, yet they choose not to. They are totally missing the mark…

Even drag queens like Latrice Royale who spent time in prison didn’t treat Mimi with the same kind of compassion. I wonder how that is? If anyone should know what it is like to overcome a bad choice it should be him!!! People make mistakes, it is apart of life. Sure Mimi picking up her competitor during their lip sync for their life was wrong but she got kicked off for it. A lot of the queens were like Mimi shouldn’t be here… yada, yada, yada…. What is it to them? They are their and if they believe that she isn’t on their level, it just means one less spot to the 100k! The only reason they point it out, is for face. Just to cause drama.

Then I think of the concept of the All Stars being paired with another queen for the rest of the show, and both being kicked off. If they were in pursuit of the best All Star they would never do this. For one, each queen has their different style and two if one queen doesn’t perform to par the other goes down with the ship. Lets be real, you knew that none of those queens would have picked Mimi or Pandora… Okay!!!! So they might as well set them up… If RuPaul was all about lifting people up, why would he set them up to fail??? There are flaws there… cracks in her makeup if you might say…

Even queens like JuJu who wasn’t the most fashion forward or popular to the judges the first time around, now all of a sudden was best friends with Raven? Raven isn’t known for her niceness. It reminds me of in high school when those who team up with the bullies in order to not get bullied themselves.

With all the bullying and teen suicides happening don’t we as a community have a responsibility to them? Kids learn what they see and not just from their family. RuPaul and her show has put a famous face to the gay community. I guess this whole philosophy that Ru has doesn’t fit into line with the concept of the show because a lot of what goes on has nothing to do with love. It is about tearing down someone else.

I am angry, FUCKING angry. I think partially because it reminds me of my own experience and how others in the past have made me feel for being different. So now when I see injustices I just want to SCREAM!!! I want to say wake the fuck up people.

I think what if a gay youth happens to see the show? What will they think??? I don’t think they will feel good about their own personal experiences.

If they really want to be true superstars not only do they have to have talent and charisma but they have to have heart. Honestly I don’t see much of that on RPDR. Just a bunch of mimi-rupaul wannabes… and those feeling left out because they don’t fit into that mold…

That is when you step out of that mold and realize that you will never fit into their realities because not only is it built for them but often times it is skewed.

And during that whole incident with Mimi, not one person stood up and said enough is enough… Not one person!!! Which reminds me of what happens when a kid is bullied, that happens all the time. All it takes is one person to step up, just one… Kids have an excuse, they are young and impressionable. Adults on the other hand, DO NOT!!!

I will not be watching another episode of All Stars and I am considering not watching the new season of the regular edition. It has become to difficult to stomach. So I will take a stand and say enough is enough. The only shade I find comforting is under a big old tree during a hot sunny day.

A star is a light that is meant to shine brightly. It is meant to bring light to the world, not burn those they encounter…

Death is inevitable

No matter how hard we try to fight it or ignore the topic, it creeps up on us like a thief in the night.

The death of my beautiful mother, has shaken me to my core. It feels like the earth has been yanked right from under me. My fears have consumed me and I have gone into hiding…

I could handle death easier if I had a better grasp on the afterlife. Granted I have made some strides the past few months, they haven’t been enough to combat the fears of the past.

The biggest fear that has surfaced since Mama passed is that I will never get to see her again.

I know others have told me that isn’t true and there is a part of my head that thinks it too… but my heart is a different story…

For so long I was brainwashed into believing various things about myself and my spirituality, that they imprinted on me… You get told you are going to hell enough times it starts to seep into your consciousness… I guess that is what happened, I allowed others to set up shop in my brain… I mean I was only a small child, I could have stopped it…

As an adult, I coped with it the best way possible. I created an alternative where I didn’t go to hell, and because I believed what others told me (that I wasn’t worthy of God or heaven), I started believing when I died I would end… I would not pass go (heaven), I would not go to jail (hell), I would go straight into the earth and that would be it…

So you can see how losing the one good thing in my life would send me into orbit!

It feels like I am broken up into various parts. One part of me (the small child) holds onto the truth about myself and my spirituality. Another is composed of fear (those who abused me). Finally my adult-self fits somewhere in between it all. I feel so disconnected to the real me. The fears are holding me back and keeping me from my mothers love…

Which reminds me of something… All this time I didn’t think I was worthy of God’s love… which will keep me from my Mother… I guess in a way they are both the same.

The difference now is that even though I am in complete turmoil, I know that God is still there. I just haven’t been able to connect the two… I still hold onto others evils… I wish it was as easy as letting it go, turning a switch or taking a pill. The one thing that this whole experience has taught me is that I can’t do this alone. I have to seek help, which I am in the process of doing.

The only thing I am holding onto is my faith, though I don’t understand any of it… I am holding onto the hope that my higher power will see me through this.

As tough as this is, I know that I am not alone. My experience is a reminder of the damage that religious persecution causes, especially when it happens at an early age. There is nothing more sacred that ones spirituality and afterlife. To go after that, is immoral and a total injustice.

I have to wonder how many of my gay brothers and sisters have gone through this?

How many have succumb to it? I am not going to lie… I have thought about suicide.

(I talk about his in the hopes that it might help others and not to scare my loved ones)

The pain is so intense and feels so unbearable, that it feels like a natural option. I will also admit that I am frightened to die. I guess I really never wanted my life to end, just the pain… You experience enough of it and it feels like it is a life sentence. I am glad that there are programs out there for youth like the Trevor Project. It just makes me wonder what about gay adults who didn’t get the help they needed as a child?

There are a few things that stops me from using this option.

1. I know what it would do to my family both emotionally and financially. As painful as this is, I could’t burden them like that. I know it would do to them. They couldn’t take another loss like this.

2. There is no guarantee that I would get to see my mother again. So not only would I not have my Mama but my nieces, nephew, sister, brother in law, etc…. I am miserable but at least I get to see my family…

3. Mama wouldn’t want this for me. She was my biggest fan. She believed in me.

I know some people don’t get why others blog, etc. Especially when it is something like this. I guess for me this is therapeutic. I don’t always feel I can reach out to others, and this way I can indirectly… Though I know it isn’t the same…

I hope this reassures those who know me, that might freak out about this admission… Losing my Mom, isn’t the first time I have thought about dying. I just haven’t been so public about it. If not, I have emailed my old therapist about working together again. I just haven’t heard back…

I don’t understand any of this. What I do understand, is that part of my purpose is tied to my experiences and helping others with theirs… I may not be at a place to help anyone directly but I know my story will do the same thing. So that is why I am sharing it.

Lastly, anyone who tries to deny God’s love in his/her name is doing so with no connection to a higher power. There is nothing godly about that.

I know this is all apart of the journey, and once I get to a healthier spot it will be my goal to make sure others like me can see the love that is available to them… God’s love is for all… not just a few select who believe in a certain way of thinking…

We are all worthy, if not we wouldn’t be here…