When my time in this life on this planet comes to an end, I want to be able to say to whoever greets me on the other side, “I’ve done everything I can to make the world better. I’ve used every ounce of talent. I ran with every opportunity. I mustered up the energy to keep going and I always tried to set an example. I used up everything that was given to me and I’m ready to rest a bit before doing it again, better than before.”
I’m not a religious person. I’m a confirmed member of the Methodist church. I was baptized when I was a baby by the minister of the church, who happened to be my great uncle. Rumor has it I peed when they sprinkled the water on me but I don’t know if I’m remembering that correctly or not. I was a baby so I don’t remember the incident but it sounds like something I would do.
My grandmother was the organist for the small Methodist church that we went to when I was a baby. I can barely remember her playing the organ and me waving at her; the church closed and combined with the slightly larger congregation in the village. My grandmother rarely went to that church as she believed the organist shouldn’t be paid to play for Sunday service and that organist was paid. She rarely talked about this but she mentioned it to me once when I was in my teens. That side of the family rarely talked about such matters but once in a while there’d be a small discussion. It’s like when my grandmother told me she could spot those “gay boys”, usually a waiter encountered during travels, and that was ok, she could just spot them. She knew what was up with her only red-headed grandchild. Like my grandmother, my dad never talked about these things either but he was adamant that his two children be confirmed by the church and that I sing in the choir when I was old enough to drive myself to choir practice. My dad rarely made demands of us (outside of the usual family stuff), but that was one of them. I’m happy about my time singing in the church choir and the couple of times that I filled in as director as a senior in high school.
With the constant barrage of news in today’s world of chaos, I sometimes think back to those times when things were calm and people didn’t throw around their beliefs like so much up chuck, much like I do when I spout opinions here, there, and everywhere. My it’s years of not talking about things that’s fueled my impulse to talk about these things to do. Silence wasn’t demanded, it was expected. The only time controversial topics were really banned from discussion is at the dinner table; apparently too many family meals my father attended as a child ended up in yelling and tears, and he wasn’t going to have the same thing at his family meal, so we’d just talk about school and work and various things like that. The only time the family dinner had any sort of turmoil is when my mom forgot to put in meat in the chili (don’t ask), or my father couldn’t fathom what to make of sloppy joes, or my mom plopped a grilled hamburger patty on top of spaghetti. My father would question, my mom would start to take it away and throw it in the trash and I’d eat it so that no one would cry.
What does this have to do with “Godspell” (as pictured above)? Well, “Godspell” is one of my favorite Broadway shows, and listening to the soundtrack helps me find my center. The simplicity of the performances, especially in the original Broadway cast album and the follow-up movie soundtrack, remind me of the simplicity of my youth. There’s no screaming to be found as performers try to “out run” each other with yodeling noises in place of notes or crazy embellishments. The simplicity of the music, and the heart in the performances, help me reconnect in my spiritual beliefs: do good things, work hard at what you do, and love. Make people smile. Be a light in the world.
As I was walking about the other day I was daydreaming and wondering why the louder Christians don’t talk about all the great passages in the Bible. During my grandmother’s funeral in 1996, the minister, a lovely woman named Betsy, began the service by loudly proclaiming Proverbs 6:6 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.” She said this with such a booming voice that to this day I’m convinced that even my grandmother jumped. That’s such a simple verse, though. Don’t be lazy, work hard at your task. God or the Goddess or the Universe, or whatever name you choose to use, if you choose at all, just asks that we work hard to be good people and to love one another. All of that other stuff about being gay and eating shellfish and mixing clothing fibers… that’s all a bunch of crap probably inserted by a crabby human and/or translator that felt they weren’t getting enough attention.
The truth of the matter is, my spiritual beliefs are not anyone’s business but my own. Your spiritual beliefs are none of my business. Just keep it simple. Do unto others as they would do unto you. Be a good person. Work hard. Give more to society than you take. Love.
Keep it simple. Day by day.
The sun was shining down upon my face. The air was bitterly cold, with a bit so well known in the Midwest in February. And yet I smiled as I walked the city streets because I am alive. There’s always a reason to smile. Find that reason and remember it. Keep it close. When you don’t feel like smiling, find that reason you stored away and remember it. And then you’ll smile again.
Today I watched several videos featuring Maya Angelou. Inspiration, you can find it anywhere. When you find it, share it. It’s the sharing of inspiration, positive energy, and smiles that will brighten the darkest, coldest day.
I have no doubt that there’s an “other side” when it comes to what happens when we die. I believe that we see only a small portion of the total picture of the Universe, that there are many stages of life, even before we are born and after we die, and this knowledge gives me peace. When it’s my time, I won’t be afraid.
Some religions want us to believe that there is judgement and that if we screw up our life we are sent to eternal damnation in hell and we are surrounded by flames and torture and screaming and the like. It’s hot. Eternity is a long time. Why would an all loving Deity do that to one of his creations? No, that sort of hell is a human construct perpetuated to keep us in line and to control our thinking. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
I remember asking my mom in the late 1970s about hell and her thoughts on the subject. She said that she thinks we don’t get damned to eternal torture but that maybe we come back and learn again. I asked her if that meant this was hell and she said, “maybe”. But it was a learning place, not a mean place.
Last night I had a family reunion in my sleep. A dream, a premonition, contact with the other side, I don’t know. My gut says it was more than a dream. Perhaps my dreams are just quite organized. But many of my relatives that have passed on were there and lending their comfort and support to address some things that have been bothering me of late. Now, I’m not troubled nor unhappy (quite the contrary), but my analytical ways have had me in hyper-evaluation mode over the past few days, especially surrounding my pilot career. This has happened once before, where I felt a little down about flying and the circumstances surrounding being able to fly as frequently as I’d like to. Like the last time, my Dad, a private pilot that passed away nearly six years ago in a crash of his second home built, came to me in a dream and gave me a pep talk. Last night the whole family was there. He said he liked flying “low and slow”. I asked him why he didn’t like flying the Tomahawk back in the day, he said it didn’t give him enough view and “it could be slippery”. “You need to fly the airplane you want to fly.” I asked him if he’d fly in the right seat in “the Cherokee” if I flew as PIC (Pilot In Command). In the dream or the vision or the premonition I had last night, he said “absolutely. Go buy one.” We talked about some other things that are too personal to share in a public forum. They were all right on the money. Things started making sense.
My godmother was also there. She told me she’d break the alarm clock so we could talk. We talked about some spiritual stuff and about some of the other things that have been bothering me a little bit and she said I needed to calm down. Stop analyzing. Get out of my head. “You have a good head on your shoulders, you’ll know when you’re really in trouble. Stop worrying.” Have fun. Enjoy life. Again, we talked about more personal things.
Dream? More? All I know is that it felt incredibly real and that I feel amazing this morning. My head feels clear. And when I awoke, my Amazon Echo Dot, which I use as my alarm clock, was flashing but not making any noise. Normally it’d be playing some soothing sounds to awake me, but not so much as a peep this morning. It was 6:17 and my alarm had been flashing for 17 minutes.
Those 17 minutes were worth it.
Earl and I had planned to spend four days driving around Lake Michigan, starting last Thursday, to celebrate our 6th legal anniversary. On Wednesday evening, the husband of one of my closest high school friends contacted me; my friend was approaching the final days of his battle with cancer. He had hoped he would make it to Christmas. I talked about the situation with Earl and we agreed to change our plans. We drove from Chicago to Boston in one day. I sat at my friend’s bedside in the wee hours of Friday morning. His breathing was ragged and labored. His heart rate was very high. He was surrounded by members of his family. He opened his eyes once or twice. It was obvious that the end was very near.
I shared memories of high school. I revealed that I believed I was the first one that he ever told that he was gay and his husband confirmed hearing that story. I mused over other memories of us discovering who we were in the latest years of our teens. I recalled camping trips we went on together. I smiled. I worried. I said good-bye.
Earl and I left and went to the hotel. Friday morning we decided that it was time for him to be with his family; we felt in the way. I was good with that. By late evening I received word that he had passed over. His battle with cancer was done. He was no longer in pain. Cancer sucks.
Scott had thought he had cancer beat once, only to be told, on his 50th birthday no less, that it had returned. It was much more aggressive this time. He is no longer suffering. I’m happy that I was able to say goodbye.
He was a year and some change older than me. We debated the merits of Betamax vs VHS back in the day (he was a Betamax guy). We discovered computers together, we listened to ABBA together, we decorated a teacher’s home for Christmas together (most students would have TP’d her house, we put up Christmas lights).
I’m going to miss knowing that he was there in Boston. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years. Careers, priorities, distance: it all leads to a certain disconnect at times. The most important thing is that our memories together make me smile. And he is no longer suffering.
For the month of June I have really been trying hard to have a positive attitude across all facets of my life. Work has thrown some curve balls. Home has been hectic as we plan our move to Chicago and with getting the house ready for sale. The state of the Republic is shaky at best with a complete circus of incompetence in the Oval Office, but I like to think that we will survive all of this.
I had to unfollow quite a few political commentators that I had been following on Twitter. The relentless barrage of retweets, tweets, speculation and downright lies as they pertain to the Trump administration finally overwhelmed me to the point that I just couldn’t take it anymore. Once I made that adjustment to my Twitter feed I was able to be more positive about the world in general. I don’t know if it’s a case of ignorance is bliss or just weeding out excessive noise, but whatever it is it has me headed in the right direction.
The other night I spewed out a bunch of tweets about Democrats and Republicans and the lack of competency across the board but then I calmed down and found my positive center again. Counting to five before reacting will help change bad habits. And it seems to be working.
Being the dork that I am I often ask myself, “what would a superhero, unable to change into their super self, do in this situation.” I then reach for glasses that I’m not wearing and ponder this for a moment, count to five and try to remain calm. It’s a tough habit to break, especially when there’s a lot of snark within earshot. Being snarky can be fun but it’s rarely productive. It’s not a positive contribution to help quell the noise, it’s just a way of letting of steam. Someone, maybe it was Maya Angelou, said, “people might not remember what you say but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”
I want people to feel happy around me. I want to be a light in the darkness (very pale Irish skin notwithstanding).
So when the going gets tough I might find myself a perch from which to observe and I’ll smile in a mischievous way and then try to bring some good into the situation. My goal is to be a shining example of how to be a positive force in the world. This 30 day challenge should go on for many years to come.
Some days, especially when it’s cold and rainy outside, I opt out of listening to music when I work and look for a TED Talk to watch or listen to as a source of inspiration for the task at hand. Today, I chose a TED Talk from 2013 by Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple since 2014. Prior to Apple she worked for Burberry.
A quote from the talk made me stop, rewind and listen again. Twice.
Trust, since the creation of man, is where we all derive our greatest strength and power. It’s like the exterior heart that all energy flows through.
-Angela Ahrendts, 2013
This quote, this statement really struck a chord within me today. The quote was surrounded by a discussion about turmoil in the world at that time. That was 2013 and quite frankly, 2013 has nothing on where we are today in 2017. It all suddenly clicked in my head: I’ve lost trust in the world. I don’t trust our government, I certainly don’t trust the president, I don’t really trust corporations and I’m finding it more and more difficult to trust that people will do the right thing. Without trust we have nothing. As Ms. Ahrendts stated, it’s the exterior heart that all energy flows through. Without trust, there’s no heart, there’s no energy flowing.
One of the most important things about our marriage and our little family is that I have absolute, unwavering trust in both Earl and Jamie. It’s the very foundation upon which my life has been built. We have no secrets from one another and I don’t think I could function if that changed. There may be hesitation for someone to share something but I trust that I will never be deceived and I will never, ever do anything to lose their trust. It’s bedrock. It’s what allows us to stand tall.
If we are truly going to Make America Great Again, we need to start with putting people we trust into positions of leadership. We need to trust our leaders and more importantly, we need to trust one another. There’s not a lot of trust going on in society today.
Here’s the entire TED Talk called “The Power of Human Energy”. Angela Ahrendts is one woman I’d like to meet in person, shake her hand and thank her for the inspiration.
God, I miss this show. CBS cancelled it when it was still in the Top 20 as far as ratings go because they wanted to put some other drama that was more dramatic on. The replacement show (I don’t even remember the name of it) tanked after 1 1/2 seasons. Then we moved into the “Two Broke Girls” era where idiocy is hilarious.
Anyway, I stumbled upon this clip from “Judging Amy”. I needed to see it. I wish this show would come back or at the very least, come out on DVD because the message of this excellent show needs to be broadcast far and wide.
Inspiration from the great Maya Angelou.
Somewhere in the “Operating Instructions for the American Gay Adult”, there’s probably a section on age 48 and how you should be comfortable with yourself way before then and therefore be doing something worthwhile like leading UNICEF drives or bringing bags of Mighty Taco to starving children in Zuzumbia as Madonna shops for her children. These are all very worthy causes and during this past year I have remarked to Earl on several occasions that I need to contribute more to the world. I’ve also suggested several times that we go to Mighty Taco but we’d most likely eat it before delivering it.
Here’s the thing, the problem is that I just sort of skimmed “Operating Instructions for the American Gay Adult” and I’m still working on that self-image and self-confidence part. I’ve put myself through several batteries of tests. I know that I’m an INFJ. I know that on a scale of 1 to 50 I’m a solid 39 (I’ll let the reader figure out what that scale is for). I’ve checked my IQ on both long and short tests, from Facebook quizzes to Mensa exams to sitting down and actually taking a real test in a real IQ testing setting and it’s a surprisingly good number. People tell me I’m a warm, sensitive guy that just lacks a dollop of confidence. The truth of the matter is that I’m the nachos without a dollop of Daisy on top. I have some zest, I have some spice, I’m crunchy and inviting but my lettuce is a little wilted.
The thing is that I have a really good memory. I might ask Earl the same question three times in the span of five minutes but by god I can tell you that sales tax was department 94 at Westons Department Store back in 1975. I have a very-accurate catalog of every insult, off-handed remark and snide comment that has been hurled in my direction over the last 48 years and every once in a while my internal Viewmaster likes to click through those little nuggets and relive things that have made me feel bad. I have no idea why I do this, I’d rather watch my old “Electrawoman and DynaGirl” Viewmaster slides but they’re long gone. I don’t remember where they are.
“I can’t be seen at the mall with you because you’re too flamey”. A chestnut from my first boyfriend in 1987.
“You could be cute if you tried”. A little nugget of wisdom from the end of my first gay date ever when I was in college in 1986. I never accurately concluded if I was a charity case or not.
“I don’t want to play with him because he’s just too weird”. Whining in 1979 from a sixth grade classmate who had some nifty electronic game that everyone else got to play but I couldn’t because in all actuality I was wicked good at it and she didn’t like being pushed from her perch from the weird boy.
Add these little excerpts of gray matter belches to the fact that my 48 year old body is starting to need some new parts, has a couple of decades of extra pounds and the intermittent but persistent stream of Internet comments such as, “You had such a great beard, why don’t you grow some facial hair again?”, and my warm, sensitive self with a wicked good memory starts to question its image in the world.
The fact of the matter is that it’s all hooey. All of it. The comments, the creaks and groans from my body, the replacement parts, all of it is just a bunch of hooey with big spitting motions. I’m better than this. I’m better than that. My rational mind knows this. And it’s time to start listening to the rational mind.
In 2017 I have just one resolution. One goal. And that is, to feel like *I* am worthy of a slow-motion entrance.
I want to make an entrance, comfortable in my clothes, determined in my walk, confident in myself. I want to drop the shlep. Yes, I need to get some parts fixed up on this old bod. I will shed some pounds (again!). And, as my loving family reminds me, I will just embrace who I am and just go with it. Yep, I’m eccentric. I can easily turn that weirdness I’m known for into a big bucket of zany (I originally typed “weirdness into zaniness” but I don’t know if ‘zaniness’ is a word. It looks like a New Age name to me.) I have lots of digits and letters that work in my favor and it’s time to start using them as powers for good.
I’m not going to be fine. I’m going to be awesome. Friggin’ awesome.
Sharing the details of this goal would be over demonstrative and there’s already too much over demonstrativeness in the world. I’m worthy of attention but not of pity. I have lists with dates but I’ll keep them to myself. This is a personal journey for 2017.
I will, however, share the video of my Slow Motion Entrance when I feel I’m ready for it. Getting ready for my Close-Up.