No, not Coca Cola. It’s been nearly 100 years since that slogan was introduced – and probably quite a while since it’s been used in an ad!
Rather, “The New NormL” (the site, not me personally) has been refreshed during a pause since my last post in September. It’s been two years since, a few weeks after I made the decision to retire, I decided to pay WordPress a very reasonable sum to start a blog. I of course had no experience or technical background – and like many goals, once I paid the fee, I thought about it now and then – but did nothing to post.
Until …. spring 2020, when circumstances gave me a LOT more free time. With our lives a little freer now, I have been doing a lot less writing – and I have missed it. My readers may not have noticed, but I felt it was time to reframe the website and figure out where to go from here.
Soon, I will upgrade my photo gallery page, and make a few other tweaks – but, since today marks my paying WordPress again a most reasonable fee for my little corner of the internet, I am finally ready to set off in new directions.
So – more to come, and little more frequently – my musings, insights, wishes, and sometimes wistful regrets. There will be the ongoing quirky histories of my family; my forays into San Francisco and parts hither; my own discoveries about life and the bumps along the way; and sharing more questions than answers about what matters most to me. Get ready for year 3 and beyond!!!
Thank you faithful readers, strangers and friends. I hope you enjoy stopping by a bit now and then, and I wish us all good things ahead.
In my last post, I committed to sharing with you the results of my renewed journey to fitness, post pandemic. I described my results as being better than I could have hoped for or imagined. But – the outcomes I want to share with you, the ones that matter – have nothing to do with the ones that I set out to achieve. In the process of chasing one goal, I am realizing the reward of my efforts may never show up on any weight scale, or in the mirror. What do I mean? It comes down to a question I was asked when I took those first, tentative and hopeful pandemic steps to focus on fitness, seriously. The question I was asked – and that we need to ask ourselves constantly – is what is my goal? What did I want to accomplish? Or, as I think of it now – what is “my” fit?
There are endless articles on how to get fit – some even talk about the dangers of being overly focused on exercise, muscle, body fat %, dysmorphia and addiction (yes, even healthy habits can become unhealthy obsessions!). And, there’s just as many personal definitions of what “fit” should be; just look at the endless parade of bodies on television, websites, media and advertising. There, it seems like the world is full of idealized bodies that few of us see on a daily basis around us; fewer of us still can say we approach those measures of physical beauty. Perhaps for you as well, those images influenced my own goals and expectations, and not always constructively. But before any of us can find the “how” that gets us the results we seek – perhaps we need to spend some serious time asking ourselves a little less about what changes we seek, and a little more about out why we want change.
If my goal is truly health, well – my doctor told me I have the heart of a teenage girl (now, she meant it in a nice way!). She didn’t know my history, which I mentioned in my last post; she wasn’t my doctor when I went through one of the most difficult periods of my life. About 3 years ago, at age 60, an intestinal parasite was attacking my body from the inside out – and no one knew it. Fact is, I was kind of happy I was losing weight – but other things seemed “off”, somehow. In January 2019 I was hospitalized, and when I got out, I weighed nearly 60 pounds less than six months prior; my muscle mass was lost to dehydration and other side effects. I had to retrain my legs to walk, and in time to drive. I remember sending a photo of me waving, to let my niece and nephew know I was doing better – and my brother told me they had cried when they saw it. When I looked in the mirror after my first shower at home – I almost cried myself. I have come a long way since that point – but still was fundamentally unhappy with where I was still.
About a year ago when I had my first opportunity to return to the gym – out of the house! – the only way to get “in” was to work with a professional trainer. They asked me what my goal was – and I said what I thought was the best answer – to “be my best”. The non-verbal reaction I got was, I think – this guy doesn’t know what he wants. On the contrary – I realized that I needed to just get better. Just get out, just get started. Essentially, I wanted to transform my body in a way that I never had been able to achieve, and I felt optimistic that this was the time, and training was the vehicle that was going to get me to the finish line – and beyond.
Well, friends, to be honest – I am not entirely happy with the physical progress I have made to this point. You might think looking at my photo in my previous entry that I am doing great; compared to a few years ago, yes, absolutely. I practice being grateful for what I have received since I was wheeled out the hospital in early 2019; I know every day is a gift I might not have had. But I am realizing that it isn’t enough to build muscle and lose fat; more and more, I think the fitness that I want to grasp, and to evidence on the outside, has to start on the inside – with how I think about myself, and others. As I waver between another cardio session or a box of chocolate caramels from Trader Joes – too often, the immediate self-satisfaction of something I should be avoiding has a stronger grip on my decisions than the awareness of its cost to me on this ongoing journey. For many of us, short term happiness comes at the expense of long-term dreams.
Over the past few months, as I have questioned my own focus and goals; looking outward on the gym members who more closely exemplify the physical perfection that I have never really even been close to achieving – I have asked myself why I haven’t gotten more results after all the efforts, the training, and yes, the whining. And I have begun to think of myself beyond just how I “measure up” in comparison to that longed for ideal. I don’t know how to explain it, or even describe it – but as I lift the barbell, and strain on the machine, as I grasp for just a few more second, really, on that cardio machine – I am aware that where I really need to focus is on my thinking. Thinking about my identity; who I am, really; and who I dream of becoming.
It is in our thoughts, not at the gym, that we first give birth to a vision of transformation; and it is in our thoughts, our practices, that we develop the habits that lead to true “success”, however we define it. I realize now my thoughts have been defeating me rather than setting the stage for results. My immature expectations of some miracle transformation, of being able to walk out post COVID and see people I have not met in a year or more and have them say – wow! I didn’t recognize you – you look amazing! – have not been met, and in a way, the dawning awareness of that truth is a greater achievement than being able to say my body fat is down x % and I can lift this much. Because the REAL growth that will help me move ahead is in adjusting my expectations and my focus on what I will, for the moment, believe are my key takeaways from this period to date. If I had simply transformed my body, I would never had realized that it was my mind, my spirit and my whole being that needed to “find my fit”.
I am absolutely still studying, learning, stumbling and rising again in my practices and workouts. I am not “giving up” – rather, supplementing or expanding the purpose of why I want to grow in strength, in self-discipline, and in character. The physical fitness will be a side effect of a renewed awareness and acceptance of not only myself – but extending that towards others; just as my weight loss after that first half marathon was a side effect of simply wanting to achieve a goal that I had never thought possible, by putting one foot in front of the other, step by step, day by day. In the process, there are some insights that I have gained that help me maintain balance – just as critical as tracking reps, and weights, and getting the calories counts on the elliptical. I offer you these lessons – obvious as though they may seem, yet oh so difficult to embrace and stand on – hoping perhaps they will help you refine your own vision and goals into something that is the rocket fuel for your quest to success.
Discover your “Flow” – Make time your ally, your friend, your secret weapon. You can’t get lasting results without being consistent – by “showing up” over time, regularly, and sticking with it. I look at it as every day I am planting seeds. It takes a long time for seeds to take root and grow, sometimes many years; I think of the old “Johnny Appleseed” cartoon from Disney, how this one man wandering through the emerging American states and giving seeds to others left a heritage that he never saw come to fruition. Whatever your age or physical shape, or “invisible” muscle fitness – change will only come if you move ahead. I try to remember to focus not on “where are the results” TODAY, but rather, did I take the action that I needed to today. I need to let taking the steps be my first priority – the results will come, whatever they are or are not. They certainly won’t come at all if I don’t keep on keeping on. Plant the seeds of the life you want tomorrow – many tomorrows away – each and every day.
Change your vocabulary – Reconsider what YOU consider to be success and failure – not someone else. Setting a standard for what you “should be” able to accomplish by looking at the people around you is POINTLESS and a WASTE OF TIME. Success is a process, not a destination; failure is our coach, not our nemesis. I need to be open to learning; to not assume what I am doing is right, but study, share, try the new; dare to stumble and look awkward because, hey, that’s just how it works. When we were children, it was easier – we didn’t have these facades of pride to maintain, we built those up and now they box us in – but if we break through, we can embrace the new, and discover, and create, something better. Failure happens; success without failure is a myth, move on knowing that the next step is what matters now. Embrace the rhythm and romance of the dance between striving, falling, and rising again, renewed.
Be your own cheerleader. All the coaching and training or encouragement from others cannot supplant what we must provide for ourselves; beating yourself up for all the things you failed to do, to be, is kind of like being offered the “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly and saying “no, I think I would rather be unhappy”. You have to be 100 percent on your side – no books, no apps or trainer or videos or diet can replace your choice to believe in your own potential. I didn’t grow up in a family of cheerleaders – most of us did not – so, perhaps like Genie in Aladdin, we all need to just build an army of inner voices saying “Yes I can” to find that boost. So grab the pom poms and start your own squad! Be your own torch bearer in your daily Olympic opening ceremony – hear those trumpets, listen to the cheers, and rejoice in what you can do. Only you are the judges, you hold up those numbers on cards, and you hand out the medals.
See the dream, not the chasm. The gap between where you are and where you wish to be has a strong gravity, and an endless hunger; if you let it, it will suck you in, you will wallow in darkness and discouragement, and you will never be able to enjoy the progress you made to date – or to build on it and move ahead. It’s so easy to fall in; to see something you cannot get beyond. Instead, see the next step, and take it in faith. Let that step be enough! Some days just let it be enough to celebrate being where you are, knowing every day offers a new starting line, and holding on to certainty you can move ahead. Goals and dreams are wonderful but be realistic and celebrate every victory (just not with ice cream). If there was not a gap between where you are and where you want to be, we would never learn to stretch, to gain strength, to get up and keep going. The bridge between you and your destination is built one step at a time.
Find joy in yourself as you are today. No, this does not contradict the power of dreams; but yearning only for a different tomorrow robs you of celebrating the imperfection of today. Guess what? You are ALWAYS going to have something that isn’t what you wish it to be. And no matter how you grow or what you achieve, there will always be something beckoning beyond. Your dreams and goals should be a beacon for hope, inspiring you to reach forward – not a burden of guilt and shame that buries you in a bleak despair. Whatever “fit” means for you, this journey does not have a finish line; you are building a way of life, not to “arrive” but to travel on. This is not the Olympics, or even high school PE; there is no clock timer at the end of your run reporting “the final result”. We only, ever, have the now, blended from what we were given and that which we created; tomorrow offers the yield from those seeds we plant today; and yesterday is just an old photo album with memories, some good, some bad, but none as alive as the moment that we are in right NOW. Look for, discover, and share today’s joys.
Those are the lessons I am learning each day as I get in the car and drive to the gym, and struggle through my workout, going home exhausted. It’s funny, perhaps, and I have no idea how many other people might have felt this way – but I never really felt “at home” in my body. Surely not in those junior high PE classes; decades later, still, not in the gym where bodybuilders seemingly have achieved Adonis physiques and Hercules strength. I hate to admit it, but Olive Oil might beat me at arm wrestling! Still, somehow, this process of exercising has helped me sense a greater integration between body, mind and spirit. A weaving together as I accept the limits of who I am, while still reaching to achieve what I can. That scared, hurting little boy is finding new wings, and you can too.
I am still “finding my fit” – and I hope my wandering thoughts give you some encouragement to keep looking for your own. It’s worth the quest – even if at 63 I am beyond being able to achieve the outward results that my quest initially saw as the goal. It’s kind of exciting to realize the true treasures awaiting me will not be visible to the eye but will be of far greater value. I will talk about that a little bit more in my next post. In the meantime – I’ll be at the gym tomorrow, and many thereafter. Growing in mind, spirit, and body – together. Perhaps I will see you there – let’s give each other a boost. Keep on keeping on, friends.
I always wondered what happened to Rockwell. Back in 1984, Rockwell had this hit song at age 20 – “Somebody’s watching me”. You couldn’t escape it on the airwaves – especially since Michael Jackson (pre-fall) was singing backup. Remember?
Turns out Rockwell was actually the son of Berry Gordy, Motown president and starmaker. Supposedly he got the contract without his father’s knowledge ….. hmm. His other hit single which I don’t remember is “Obscene phone caller”, and according to Wikipedia, he was last in the news for beating an “associate” at the Hollywood Magic Castle in 2018. Ah, stardom.
But I do remember that song when I think about our world today, one he never imagined – maybe Arthur C. Clarke did, in a way, and Asimov, and other visionaries. Somebody is indeed watching me, and you, and us all – the question is, what are they doing with what they learn?
I have been on a little break from writing here, in many ways because of the ongoing challenges in my life, our life together, and our community. But, something did change, or at least move towards change, since my last post – our election was held, the ballots counted and disputed, the name calling and finger pointing continues but there is movement. Where it leads, I doubt anyone can fully predict; certainly the polls and the surveys again did not capture all that our country feels or believes, and many sense that even now a full understanding of our collective temperature is difficult to grasp. Why does anyone even listen to surveys anymore? Speaking of which …
So I have been waiting for that process to end, because I was one of probably a very large number of people invited to participate in a kind of political experiment, perhaps – one I don’t fully understand, and whose results will not be known for several months. Data from that experiment is being processed and analyzed by those who specialize in that kind of thing – they may or may not have an “agenda” that will spin it towards a predetermined result, but from my little observation point as a participant, I found it – intriguing.
If you take a glance at this story from USA today way way back around Labor Day in early September, it describes the project as a joint study between various think tank institutions to determine how Facebook and Instagram affect the 2020 election. Somehow, by surveying users who opt out of those services for several weeks, through the election – 200,000 to 400,000 participants. Well, I was invited to join them. Here are some photos of the messages I received – and I accepted. Leaving Facebook during the election seemed like a godsend!
I received instructions about how to temporarily disable my Facebook account, posted my plans (to varying degrees of disinterest) and awaited the first survey. I took photos of some of those pages, as shown here on September 15 (before I provided my responses, naturally). Note, this is just a few of the screens, not all – they wanted to know my attitude about various issues, groups, and more – plus, an exciting offer to get even more “Gift card” payments by participating in “additional studies” by allowing them to somehow monitor ALL my internet activity for the period through the election.
I declined. I may like gift cards, but I am sure that Google, Facebook, and heck probably even Disney know more about my web usage than I can imagine. That’s the price of today’s technology – information about us is being sold to direct marketing, campaigns, and more. I can live with that – but, sorry, not going to make my internet browsing history public!! Would you??
About a month later, on October 10, the second more extensive survey arrived (again, these are just selected screen shots, not the full survey). Of course I expected to be asked about my thoughts on candidates and issues. But I found the choice of other questions to be fascinating – what are they trying to determine with these questions? More importantly, why these questions and not others? Note the last shot, a question more than a month before the election as to whether violence would be justified if one candidate refuses to accept the outcome … hmmm..
The final survey received in early November, just prior to the election, had some interesting questions as well. I particularly enjoyed the “fake news” questions asking whether certain statements were factual or otherwise – I thought I would be certain in every case, but there were stories there that I hadn’t heard. We certainly live in a time when just about anyone can write just about anything and it takes off, and the “disproving” doesn’t always get the same attention as the assertion. And, of course, there were questions about my emotional state, how COVID was being addressed, Black Lives Matter, and more.
A day or two after the election, I was “released” from Facebook isolation – I signed in, and scrolled through what I had “missed” with family and friends. I did, initially, really feel “left out” of knowing what was going on without my FB fix – I realized that in some ways I was addicted. But the question that I still can’t come up with a good answer for is – why was I off FB (and other services, although I don’t use those). Was there a “still on” control group that they compare our answers to? If not, how can they determine what impact “leaving” had on anyone? Perhaps when, probably in 2021, some report comes out proclaiming the amazing truths that were learned from this study, I will understand – or, perhaps I will at least be in a better position to question than most how those conclusions could possibly have been reached.
We need one another so much now – Facebook, other services, are a mixed blessing. I didn’t miss the vitriol, name calling – I did feel a little more alone, asking Bob who commented on some pictures he posted of a little outing we took one Sunday, whose birthday I missed, etc. But online connecting can’t replace real life touching, hugging, laughter (and yes, the forbidden singing). For now, I will take what I can get – we all just are doing what we can to “get through this” (whatever “this” includes for you, but right now, COVID and the election continue to hammer at our consciousness).
So if you see me on Facebook, well, now you know why I was invisible. A week from now, many around the world, but especially here in the USA, will sit down and give thanks – I will write about that next time – but without being able to be near the loved ones, or strangers, that normally fill our lives. I think, in the days ahead, I have some phone calls to make – or, zooms, facetimes, whatever. More than texts; certainly more than Facebook posts. Reach out, reach out and hold someone’s hand, if only virtually – to remind one another, we will meet again.
Hey folks – don’t miss out on this limited holiday offer – free subscriptions!
Hello, readers – especially to you followers I do not know, who have somehow found my little corner and signed up to tag along. This post is just for you! Well, everyone else too – but, I want to play tour guide this week. I have no idea where you live – perhaps you know San Francisco, perhaps not – but this week’s exploration is a chance for you to visit a corner of my world. Come stroll with me through a neighborhood like perhaps your own, and yet, unlike any other – world changing, in a way, at least at one time – and still revered and treasured, though at the moment a little tattered and bruised. And still shining through that shadow of COVID.
The Castro has a long history of being home to various ethnic and cultural groups – at one point, it was known as “Little Scandanavia”, and was not the original core area for San Francisco’s emerging gay/lesbian population. But, in the 70’s, with a variety of factors contributing, bars and their patrons began moving from the Polk Street area to the Castro, and it became known as the “gay capital” in many ways, particularly after Harvey Milk began his campaign for political office from his camera shop. There are many wonderful documentaries and websites for you to learn about that heritage – it is somewhat less vibrant today, again for many reasons even before COVID. But, my stroll this week to buy a birthday gift for family gave me a chance to see how this once, and still, magical few blocks is changing – like us all.
Today the Castro is revered in the LGBTQ community world wide as an early refuge, a symbol of freedom and standing for rights long denied. Now, Harvey’s old camera shop is a retail and community center for the Human Rights campaign (although some were aghast at that idea, it has proven to be a reminder of his presence); it would be rare to see anything other than a Democratic campaign event here or anywhere in SF. Harvey’s restaurant, formerly the “Elephant Bar”, displays posters for the upcoming presidential election; victory parties are already planned ….
Like all of San Francisco, politics are fervently expressed in the Castro everyday.
Nightlife and retail are the lifeblood of many urban communities, even more so here. The bars are limited to serving alcohol outdoors, with food – so the restaurants, with a slightly increased capacity now that SF has moved into the “least restrictive” color coded compliance zone, partner with bars as well as serving their own customers. By building “parklets” in the streets – some more extravagant than others – in theory, visitors can comply with mask and distancing rules. We do not attend these locations – to us, it is not important – but they are well populated, and probably going to be around for quite a while – their version of the new normal. But the shops still carry unique products that even reflect the current COVID focus that casts its long shadow over all. The heads in one window display made in SF pride masks.
There are businesses that are closed forever – one long time, ahem, adult shop among others; but new businesses waiting to open, oddly enough a second ice cream shop, near the famed “Hot Cookie” bakery, where a wall of photos of customers wearing the namesake briefs welcomes visitors to buy a “butch bar” or a more than suggestively shaped cookie to enjoy.
Cliff’s variety store is exactly that – a little bit of everything, plus some you never knew about! It’s a mainstay of the neighborhood, with a long history of its own – customers line up to enter now, but on this early morning access was easy. I kept my visit to enjoying the Halloween display, featuring some very creative garden gnomes.
Speaking of creative, this local small independent gym was one who adopted the “outdoor training” approach when all else was still verboten – I was impressed with their logistics to providing a complete workout experience. We used to go to the chain gym down the street, which is now reopened indoors – but, we have modified our attendance to another, non-Castro location which the chain opened, featuring an outdoor tent filled with equipment. Business owners are struggling to stay open, daily, weekly – following restrictions, hoping customers will be faithful, and adapting – while they can.
The term currently in use may be different – I think recently it was “un housed” – or something similar. Perhaps there is another term this couple might use for their classification, but, for the moment, on this weekday morning, they find shelter in a nook of the entry to the GLBT Historical society museum, up the street between “Harvey’s” restaurant and two of the remaining gay bars. This museum, small but well curated, would normally be a spot I would recommend visiting – but for us, for now, we are content with our virtual visits, and supporting the society and other causes financially until, one day, we feel the reward of a visit outweighs the risks.
Our “gayborhood” represents more than business – in some ways, it is a Mecca. I recall my first visit as an out gay man in 2012 – I rode my Indian motorcycle up specifically to be in the Castro. Among the traditions – the memorial to lost loved ones, which began during the AIDS crisis early years by posting pictures and other tributes on the walls of the Hibernia Bank (long gone, but this corner still referred to as “Hibernia Beach”). And, not far away, the community “bulletin board” – empty, but formerly filled with event flyers and posters for all kinds of things that you don’t find in Kansas city. The “angels” above still circle, waiting for those days to return.
Yummy treats at Giddy Candy – imports from around the world, always fun!
Once upon a time, Halloween in the Castro was a major street party, but that ended before my arrival and long before COVID, due to public safety concerns – the costumes were, of course, fabulous in their day. Some may appear this week ….
From years past – Halloween in the Castro – no social distancing back then!
Our last stop, for now. The famed Castro Theater, which I referenced in my column last week about the slow return of films to our cultural menu, is completely walled off – the organ, presumably heard occasionally but only by a few, was in the process of being replaced by a new, sophisticated model. It almost doesn’t matter what the first movie to be shown when those doors open is – it will be crowded, and those in attendance will gladly sing along with the traditional “San Francisco, Open your golden gates” introduced by Jeannette MacDonald in that MGM epic of 1936. Of course, that depicted a city torn by earthquakes and fire – and then, rebuilt. Ours is facing a different onslaught – but renewal can come, as it did more than a century ago. What will that look like – and who will take up the challenge?
Our world will look different a year from now. The future is something we can create – you, me, all of us – can build it. Your neighborhood may have seen changes already, as well. The Castro may look very different in a decade; this is just a moment in a stream of constant energy and life. For many of us, our local places, whether routine or world famous, are still – sacred, in a way. A part of our hearts lives there, even after we move on. But what gives our communities life is the spirit of those who are there today (and tomorrow), building, creating, celebrating, sharing, loving – giving. You may not have a drag queen on your main street USA, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shine. Let our hope shine. The shadows will pass, others will come – we must hold on, to one another, and build, today. And we will.
Now some may consider that to be a philosophical statement; and, I guess, like any statement, you can find a way to insert something you already believe to be true into that space and make it fit. For me, that phrase was a throwaway line in the initially obscure, now somewhat cult film “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the Eigthh Dimension”. It was a flop when released in the 80’s, with a great cast and wild storyline full of what now would be called “geeky” “easter eggs”. I think it was making fun of a lot of cultural sacred cows, but … what do I know?
Still, the phrase comes to mind now that fall is here. When this blog was conceived, it was winter; spring when it burst forth, now two seasons later and six months into a still strange world that I continue to resist embracing as the familiar. My goal when I began was to share elements of my life, and ongoing journey of discovery, in the hopes that it might have meaning for others – certainly more than it would just being kept in my own head. I didn’t have a destination in mind – I just knew I wanted to write about those things that were key to a lot of personal transformation in my life, knowing that process still continues.
But there were goals I set during this period, that I put effort into; some have been achieved, others not. There are those nights I wake up frustrated wondering what I am doing wrong; why I am not seeing more progress on things that I claim are priorities to me, but to which I devote little time, while eagerly chasing some diversion that requires less effort, devotion and discipline. Days go by that seem wasted, and I think … wow, I am now more than halfway to my next birthday. My last birthday was the first weekend of shelter in place; will my next birthday be all that different?
One of the ways I dealt with my frustration at feeling cooped up, trapped, cut off from so much of what I enjoyed in life and buried under a constant avalanche of dire, doom and gloom news – was to exercise. I was fortunate to have some personal fitness equipment. Some of you who have known me wayyyy back when know that I was at one time over 250 pounds, a consequence of seeking comfort from food or other sources that could never provide it, and the mindsets that kept me trapped in self rejection and hatred. Hopefully, some of what I have shared here of my journey away from that point have helped some readers look at their own caves and realize that they need to get out, and there is a way out, but it takes time and effort. Well, I figured I could finally transform my body into the ideal I have held it up against for 45 years, or at least get closer. People were going to gasp in awe and amazement at my transformed magnificence! (well, something like that).
Six months later … I have not been transformed. I spent hours on the back patio, with the bench, clumsily following video guidance, listening to music for that upbeat energy. Recently, our city leaders allowed outdoor training at the gym to return, so I spent a significant chunk of money for me on a training package a little more than a month ago; in the weeks since, the doors opened a little more, first with a tent filled with equipment in the gym parking lot, then with one hour appointment only blocks indoors, masked, with various other restrictions. I will say my trainer knows his stuff – but so do all the well-toned muscular men (and some women!) I see surrounding me with much heavier weights, and, well, all the rest. Are gay men necessarily more obsessed with fitness than others? I cannot say, but there are a lot in this gym who have reaped the rewards of years of devotion. I fight depression when I leave, knowing I might as well be planning a trip to Mars.
Grieving this apparent lack of results and vowing that the next six months will not be a repeat – I began thinking about what I need to make more of a priority in my life, and what I need to drop. Being forced to reflect a little more on what exactly I want to achieve, how to structure my day to be effective, and what else to set aside – I am coming to realize another surprising truth about my inner compass. I seem to be driven by some deeply buried but unachievable desire to accomplish change; to become more like the ideal that has always haunted me, taunted me, whether it was a matter of character, maturity, personal skill or interpersonal success – I never seem to be ok with where I am. I was never “good enough”. After all the work I had done with those who helped me to get somewhat beyond the shame I had embraced over some of the deepest parts of my identity, I still was trying to get to some place that I simply could not reach.
And this song came to mind …
Written as instrumental by Vince Guaraldi as part of an album related to the film “Black Orpheus”, in time lyrics were added and “Cast your fate to the wind” was covered by many artists, as well as convincing the production team behind “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to commission the trio for that soundtrack that forever will remind of us of Charlie, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy. But why was this song coming to mind?
I have always longed for a map. Whether in my youth it was the teachings of the church, or the grades on my report card telling me I had gotten it “Right” – I sought absolutes. I remember only half-jokingly telling friends after I came out that I needed to find “The Big Book of Gay” to figure it all out. I never found that book, and although I read many, many others on life, happiness, spiritual principles and personal growth – I remained deeply unsatisfied with myself. It’s not a pleasant place to be – surely you don’t blame me for wanting to get out of it!
But those quests, although worthwhile, did not bring me to the place I sought. Quietly, slowly, my awareness is opening to a new possibility. I am beginning to think that the challenge is not how to become someone I am not – that idealization physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually and intellectually that I hold myself up to. Rather … I need to not necessarily just accept where I am as where I am going to end up – but to, for now, “own” where I am. Who I am, my flaws and my little shiny spots, my cold empty corners and my hallways of the heart filled with light and music – all of them.
Could it be that one cannot leave a place until one has made it their own? I do not recommend casting my fate (or yours) to the wind – but the reality is that much of what comes our way is completely unexpected and out of control, and to pretend we can somehow take the reins and maneuver all those forces to get us to some specific point is in itself a fine madness. When a friend says “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” …. Maybe it’s both? I try every day to do something that when it is over I can say – I reached out. I touched someone else I care about in a way that made a difference to them, however small. To not go to bed without having made that day, somehow, matter.
I am not giving up on my quest; in fact, as I write today, I admit I haven’t really determined what it is I am still questing for. Does your heart long for something more than what you hold today? Can you feel that, or have you tried to quench it – to say, shut up, heart, I don’t want to try anymore – I just need to get by. It’s not for me to say which perspective is healthy, but I guess what I am realizing is that until I make peace with who I am today – my whole person – I will be forever trying to cut off something that I will always be carrying with me, wasting time on trying to be someone who I am not instead of finding ways to let the person I am do what I am able while still here. Wherever I go, they will be coming along – might as well love them!
To live each day as though what we do matters, because it does; to see each person we encounter as a little piece of the wonderous something that brought all this into existence, because they are; and to simply let our hands be open in case a butterfly decides to drop by for a visit, even though they never have. We awaken each morning to a day filled with the unknown, promise, possibilities and dangers – we are here, now. Take a deep breath, enjoy it – and onward, friends.
Thank you, followers – I always love hearing from you (well, almost always!)