Deciding to Live

It’s time for everything to change. Again.
I’ve become complacent, undisciplined – and I need to come back.

I’ve read countless books on motivation, habits, procrastination, visualizing, raising energy, and anything that I thought would help. Some were crap, many got me inspired – for a couple days. I could never follow through like I used to. Something inside of me had broken, and I didn’t have the constant challenge to survive to inspire me.

That is, as strange as it sounds, what I think I miss the most. The fear. The adversity. It’s what inspired me to act on the first day I walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf alone, in full statue dress & makeup. It’s what inspired me to create an online magazine when I didn’t even know the first things about creating a website.
But it wasn’t just the adversity that inspired me. It was the love. The love I had for what I was doing, and the love of walking through the fear and feeling like I did something that mattered on the other side.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what it was that made me jump into things that I had no idea how to do, and when I realized the answer a few days ago, it was so simple it was absurd.

The one difference, the only thing that will ever create a lasting change in my life, and let me take my jewelry business from more or less a hobby to what I want it to become, the only thing that is different from those things and this is:
I made a decision to do them.
That’s it.

I could read thousands of books, watch hundreds of Ted talks, listen to podcasts until my ears bleed, but that is little more than mental masturbation – letting me feel like I’m doing something of value when nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just very clever procrastination.

Because I am afraid, and for some reason, I’m now letting that get in the way of doing what needs to be done. But that’s another something to look at and figure out another time.

I know that as much as I love making jewelry, there will be many times when I don’t. When I can’t find the right words for the “About” page, when I can’t think of what to write for a post on my site blog, and when I’m just not comfortable doing what needs to get done in order for this to grow. Without a solid, unwavering decision to do what it takes, I’ll never get to where I want. Never be who I want to be. Who I AM.

So it’s time for everything to change. Now.
It won’t be easy, not at first. I know that, and I’m expecting it – but eventually, as long as I show up and do the work, it will get easier. I just need to show up, and do the things that I need to, regardless of how uncomfortable I am with it or how afraid. I’ve been here before, and I know that, as long as I do what I need to, day after day, it WILL get easier.

And another thing I know: When I show up, so does the Universe – and doors that I’ve never even imagined will start opening to me.
They always have.

If you read this, please feel free to comment with what you think – and especially, call me out if you ever see me flagging.

Because there aren’t any excuses anymore. I’ll deal with the physical pain when it comes, and I’ll work through the fatigue. The time of floating is past, and it’s time to fly again.

I’ve made my decision.

 

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Dying tends to take a lot out of you, I guess.

Early morning, finally a night that ended before the sky started to glow with the morning light. It almost wasn’t by choice – after a week of no more than three hours of sleep a couple times a day, the weariness of my body and mind revolted and actually took over my brain, making me think that 8pm was a fine time to go to sleep for the night. Under the condition that it let me wake up at 4am, we came to a compromise.

It was nice to shut my mind down, I’ll admit. to stop thinking about why I love to make jewelry so much, what my goals are, who my ideal customer is, mu core values and my “why” – all things that I need to consider, as apparently “because I like it” isn’t enough.
Of course, it is a reason, but it’s a safe one, one that doesn’t make you dig deeper inside of yourself for all the smaller reasons that make me “like it” – and without those, without digging down to the core of why I do what I do, and why I am growing more towards a particular style, it would be like Picasso answering a question of why he painted his wacky faces with something like “Well, I thought it looked cool”.

But it’s been a long time since I’ve truly questioned things like that, the strange thoughts swimming around inside of me, and why I am who I am. It’s like the time in the hospice took something away. As if the years after it have been far too placid, and all I needed to do was float along, slowly disappearing with only the memories of who I was left to fade in the minds of others as my own existence, my heart and mind, and my dreams – were slowly consumed by the grey fog of an unchallenged, dispassionate life.

It would have been easy to succumb to if I hadn’t tasted the beauty in the chaos of my life before the hospice, but now I find myself as a bird born into the wild might after it was caught, clipped and caged – every day looking out to the sky, its beautiful colors fading as it longed to again stretch its wings…

This is all over the place, this writing – but it’s necessary. With the words I’ll remember who I was, remember the chaos and passion that is still inside of me but muzzled by my own complacency.

It’s time to create my self again. To give birth to a dancing star.

To ask why, and remember the warrior inside of me.

out from underneath

It’s all in my mind.
I keep telling myself that, doing my best to rip it away, rip it out and discard it like I did most of the memories of my childhood, but it’s tricky. I tend to hold onto things.

I can almost trace it back to the exact time it started, this heart-hoarding. 1986. A call, telling me i would be dead within a year, or maybe a few months longer in excruciating pain if i wasn’t lucky. 19 years old, and all of the sudden all the time I thought I had wasn’t there anymore. I needed to remember it all. I needed a reason to die smiling.

Everyone else was doing what they should. I read the papers, heard about the vigils, and everyone else was behaving as expected, taking their last breaths in a timely manner.

A year passed, then two, then three, and every day for over a decade I would wake up and wonder if that was the day I finally got sick.

every single fucking day, when my mind was left to wander for even a few minutes, I remembered – I couldn’t forget – that every second mattered, and shouldn’t be forgotten.

It’s hard to break a habit like that, but I need to. I need to crawl out from underneath this shadow that has kept me from believing in any kind of future for myself.
Things need to change. need to change.

It’s all in my mind.

Flood Warning

It has been a long time.

The story resumes.

My story, searching endlessly for… for something. Peace of mind, success, purpose, recognition, validation – do we ever know exactly what it is? What would happen if we just stopped searching? If we just decided to be happy? Would our passion for life fade, or would it be made more solid?

Over these next few days this blog might not make much sense. There is a purge needed, a cleansing. I can’t move forward without letting go of the past, and, for me at least, the only way to do that is through writing – spelling it out, setting the thoughts down on paper or a screen is the only way to get them out of my head and move on.

For years I’ve noticed my thoughts – and as a result, my rare writing, has been growing increasingly unclear, like trying to look out at a familiar landscape through a train’s foggy window. I know it’s there, but I can’t see it clearly enough to follow – and the less I write, the thicker the fog gets, the less I see, the less I am clear enough to write the thoughts away.

I need to wipe the words out of my mind. I need to write, regardless of what comes out – and hopefully soon. Something might make a bit of sense again.

Writing has always been my best therapy, the only way that I’ve been able to take things down to their true meaning, find the real answers for what I need to do to move forward – and writing has always brought its own magick into my life, in one way or another.

Welcome to the purge. Should be interesting, if not fun – and if I do it right, if I’m able to rip away enough layers to get back to the way I *used* to write – it will probably piss a few people off.
And considering how completely fucking whiny the world has become due to so many people unable to take responsibility for their *own* issues, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll “offend” quite a few, as well.

I don’t give a fuck. If you’re offended, don’t read it – but don’t come moaning to me.

Moving Forward

Every morning I would wake up excited, the doors to infinite possibilities wide open & inviting me in. Decisions were sometimes made by careful deduction, but more often than not with little more than whim, the flip of a coin, direction of the wind, or the quiet, passionate desperation that endlessly seethes inside of me – the eternal need for the unknown, for adventure. To continually test myself with whatever blessing or adversity the Universe could conjure up to throw at me, and grow. And learn.

Plans to move to Boston fell through so I found myself in Austin volunteering for Katrina refugees in an artist’s forest. A new friend had never been to Burning Man so I promised her a ride from New Orleans, only being able to find a van to buy less than 10 days before we had scheduled to leave. I couldn’t find the magazine I wanted to read so I decided to create it, not having the first idea how I was going to, or even how to build a website – and four months after it launched was producing shows for the first time & winning awards.

Nothing could stand in my way. The world opened to whatever I sought or desired, and if it didn’t exist I created it. It felt like nothing could stop me, like this life I had shaped and formed and fashioned would keep storming ahead. I made my dreams so real, so beautiful, that they virtually fulfilled themselves…

…and then there was nothing. I felt like I was lying in the middle of a freeway, unable to move as life rushed by and all I could do was lay there, static in a world of action, decaying, decomposing, trying not to die.

And time passed. What was supposed to be a three month vacation turned into eighteen months of hell. People visited, some, I’m sure, expecting it to be the last time they saw me alive. I was good at reassuring them, I think, letting them believe I was fine, strong, getting better so that they would be more comfortable. I don’t think I ever expressed how terrified & unsure I was most of the time. I wouldn’t even let myself believe that. I couldn’t. Instead I focused on healing & what I would do when I walked out the door. When I could, I read feverishly. Studied quantum science, I taught myself to use my mind to heal my body.

It was easy to get to know the people in the hospice well, as it was only 14 rooms, 14 people at any time. You found out why they were there, created a familiar bond with them. Of the 15 who died in that time, I watched four with the exact same diseases and symptoms as I had give up and die – three of them younger with less severe symptoms. I’ll never know why. Was it the constant pain, or thinking there was nothing to live for? Had they forgotten their dreams?

I don’t know. I would just wake up and their room was empty, sterile, as if they had never been there.
I couldn’t let their deaths affect me. I couldn’t give in to the pain or the constant terror or the stench of my own flesh rotting. Up until the moment I walked into the hospice – those years had been the happiest of my adult life. I wanted them back.
I had to keep fighting.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I walked out of the hospice just a little over six years ago.
All that time I have carried what happened, what I went through, on my shoulders & in my heart – and deep inside of it, I have also carried my sickness. Using it as a crutch, the only thing special about my present is my past – that I’m simply here. Alive, but not living. My life no longer moving forward the way it had been before it all went to shit, and I was left with nothing to hold onto but what I “had” done, instead of what I am doing.

I learned a lot about mind/body healing while in the hospice. I have absolutely no doubt that, as impossible as it was sometimes, if I hadn’t *known* I would live, I would have ended up just like those I watched while there – another sterile, empty room, my body carted out on a gurney behind the curtain of night.

But I still had work to do. Until I let go of that part of my past, I would always consider myself “sick”, and therefore never be able to be *truly* healthy, perfectly healthy – but it had turned into my identity. “The guy who didn’t die” was all I felt I was anymore.

At least until recently.

It feels, now, like I have a future, something to look forward to, and something that I’ve been looking *for* since the moment I walked out. Though it’s not close to enough to satisfy me fully – I still need a vehicle to get the fuck out on the road & just *drive* for days on end and find myself nowhere I’ve been before, I am creating again – I am frequently challenged, always learning, and I love designing & constructing my jewelry. And I have something to look *forward* to. I can let go of who I *was*.

The warrior awakens. There are new battles to win.

And you better fucking believe I will.

 

 

Wherever The Roads Take Me

“You’ve never been to Burning Man? Darlin’, you belong there. I wasn’t sure if I was going this year, wasn’t even planning on it – but now, I guess I am. I’ll give you a ride.”

New Orleans, 2006. I had recently moved there about five months before, the first time I had ever stepped foot in the city. Though I had seen it on the news a lot recently, nothing prepared me for what I was in person, stepping on the ground, smelling the decay and rot – but still, underneath that, there was something else it took me a while to put my finger on, a feeling… and then I realized what it was. There was a strength to the city, a spirit that even The Storm couldn’t take away. I fell in love with it instantly.

It was a strange path that led me there. My work with The Dresden Dolls had ended in Colorado, and with it the move to Boston. In thinking back all of these years later, I think it may have been a combination of a couple of things that prompted the email from Amanda. The first two were that The DD were going a slightly different direction, and also – I think The Brigade – what we called, and still call ourselves, were perhaps getting too big, too strong, especially the Boston chapter. Hell, we were even working on making it into its own entity, looking into becoming a 501(c)(3) performance group, renting a building where we could inspire & teach others.
And without question, one was my drinking. Though my work with them had never faltered for it, I was again trying to escape something dark & wrong inside of me by numbing it however I could. Still, I helped inspire hundreds of young people across the world to reach beyond themselves, to walk through their fears, to realize how beautiful they are. It was the first time I had ever, in my life, actually felt needed, felt appreciated. The first time I had ever felt loved.
Then everything I loved was ripped away from me.
Such is life. The Universe had other plans. I needed to pick myself up, to try to find the strength to keep moving forward.
In Colorado I found a good place to busk, saving up money I would need for gas. I would listen to the radio in my van at night, stretching out as much as I could in the back seat with Bean, my beautiful dog, caressing her as she rested her head on my chest and hoping sleep would come soon. It was then that I heard about Katrina and the devastation it left in its wake. It was September 5th, my birthday. I was alone with Bean, in our van, crying.

The next morning I started emailing people, and I connected with an old lover who was now living in New Orleans with her family, asking if there was anything I could do to help them. They were fine; she was safe with her family and out of the city. I asked if there was anywhere or anyone she knew of that needed help, and she gave me the contact information to a place in Austin.
“We need people. Show up anytime.”
I smiled for the first time in a week. Within the hour Bean and I were back on The Road.

Going through Kansas & Oklahoma, driving hard, Bean asleep on the throne I had built for her in the back seat. In the black of night there was nothing but the hypnotizing dashed lines on the highway, as if nothing else existed after the reach of my headlights. No signs, no horizon, no hills or turns. Only every few hours would another vehicle pass going the opposite way. 80mph and I would close my eyes, seeing how long I could keep them shut before opening them again in sheer panic. The rapid pumping of my heart helped keep me awake. I knew how stupid I was being, but only when I thought of Bean did I decide to pull over to the side of the road and rest for a bit. The morning brought sunshine and a beautiful view that stretched for an eternity.

19 hours later I was finally in Austin.

It was an amazing place. The “Austin Enchanted Forest”, a private 3 acre wild forest in the middle of Austin, art everywhere. They had set it up with donated tents, blankets, and everything else people who had to leave their home with next to nothing might need. I was “in charge” of welcoming people, showing them around, making sure they had everything they needed.
Bean was in absolute heaven. She had an entire forest to run around in and sniff, other dogs to play with, and every night she would sleep just outside of my tent. In the morning she would poke her head inside the flap if she thought I was sleeping too late and do this kind of “rrrroooowwrr?” thing, a cross between a growl, bark, and asking me to get the hell out of bed because it was time to play, to go on our morning walk in The Forest.

I lived there for four months in a 10’x10’ tent, going from volunteering for a couple months to helping set up and performing for their yearly “Austin Haunted Forest” through the month of October. The time I spent in Austin is another story, though.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I’ll give you a ride.”

Burning Man was coming up fast. Raven, the kickass woman I had promised a ride to and I started preparing. We bought our tickets, figured out the route – there was just one thing we needed.
A van.
The van I drove there in had only made it that far because I needed it to, and it had done its job. Shortly after I got to NOLA when I needed to move it for parking and found that it had a flat tire and no spare, I decided it was time to let it go to the city. Considering that it was breathing its dying breaths, I wouldn’t have felt right selling her to someone who might depend on it. The next day it was gone.

My work was busking, doing street performance as a Living Statue. I was making good money, saving every penny I could for a van to get Raven & I the 2,200 miles to the Black Rock Desert. Once I had saved $800, I started looking…

Coming from the West Coast where vans & large vehicles are plentiful and cheap, I was surprised at how few there were for sale here, and how expensive even the crappy ones were. I couldn’t figure it out – and then it hit me. I understood.
This is hurricane country. People here need to regularly throw everything they can grab into a car and bug-out, and the bigger the vehicle, the more space for family & things.
I hadn’t thought of that. Time was getting close to our planned departure.

Shit.

I worked extra hours, every day forcing my body to the limits of what it could stand, standing perfectly still. I took the suggestion that a nurse whispered to me one day and started taking aspirin to hopefully prevent blood clots from forming. At night I would look on craigslist for a van, widening the search, increasing the amount I could pay by working the extra hours.

It was grueling, painful, exhausting, but I had given her my word. I wasn’t going to let her down. Far too many people are so full of empty fucking promises, and I won’t be one of them. Hell, if I couldn’t find a van I was ready to buy her a flight to Reno – but hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.

Every night as I laid in bed and every morning, I would do a manifestation meditation. I would picture Raven & I driving up the road to the front gate of Burning Man, blasting music and singing along in a plain white van. In the visualization my window would be down all the way, arm resting on the door as we laughed triumphantly.

The days continued. Still no van. I refused to worry, and just *know* that it would work out.
Well, maybe I worried a little bit. I mean, c’mon, I’m at least *somewhat* human.

Then, finally. Less than a week before we were planning to leave, I found a van for sale in Baton Rouge, at just a tiny bit under what I had saved – and get this: It was the exact van I saw in my mind; white, plain, even a Ford. And it didn’t have a driver’s side window at all. I guess that when I saw it in my mind, every time with the window all the way down – maybe I should have visualized at least a little of the window there. Still, the Universe had given me *exactly* what I was asking for. It likes having fun with me, I’ve found over the years.

The van wouldn’t idle, the driver’s seat felt like it was one of those things in kids’ playgrounds – the animals with the big springs under then that you sat on and leaned every which way, then sprung back up headed in the opposite direction. It felt like the seat was trying to throw me out the window with every right turn I took.
I managed, with the help of a friend following me, to limp the thing home, then spent the next three days making it not only stay running, but idle smooth and strong. I ripped out the driver’s seat and fixed the base of it, checked lights, brakes, tires, fluids, everything. It would get us there. We had a van. It didn’t have a license plate, so I made one out of cardboard that looked almost real, if you didn’t look *too* close.

Then, something unexpected. An email from the seller, a nice lady when I met her. She told me of her uncle – Conrad, or “Uncle Connie”. He had lived as a homeless drunk in New Orleans, and after most of his life spent that way had finally gotten sober. He had bought the van to fulfill a dream he had – of driving West to see the ocean for the first time. Unfortunately, he had died before he could make the trip. Before he could make this dream of his – his only dream – come true.

In her email, she said that when we were talking and I was telling her my plans with the van, she felt something in me that reminded her of her Uncle Connie. She said he had a wonderful heart, a warmth and kindness to him – and she told me how much she had adored him, feeling so fortunate that they at least had a little time to spend together after he got sober. He would have loved something like Burning Man, she said, after I explained it as best as I could to her.

“This is going to sound really strange, but… would you mind helping him realize his dream? Would you take his ashes with you? Take him to the Ocean?”

As Raven & I made our way across the country, we took the time to enjoy it, pulling off to sit in silence and look out over beautiful, expansive views – and I would leave some of Connie there. In kitschy tourist spots, I would leave Connie. Native American craft shops, roadside diners, places that felt, in their way, sacred. Connie was on the road with us, living his dream.

Well, not really “living” it, being as dehydrated as he was – but at least doing it.

That year at the Temple of Hope, I left two silk bags of ashes – and then finally, on a cold overcast afternoon in San Francisco, I again poured two different piles of ashes on the sand, just a little bit below the tide line.

One, of course, was Uncle Connie’s. The other ashes were of the best friend I have ever had.

I stood there for a while, alone and holding my coat tight around me and silently crying, as I watched Bean’s ashes being taken out into the heart of the Sea.
She had always loved running in the ocean.

Somehow, 50

I felt the blood drain from my face, my mind. It’s a strange feeling, like submersing your head in a pool of nearly frozen water, but not as cold.

“What?”

Now I was finding it difficult to stand. There wasn’t anything to sit on so I leaned against the racks of VHS videos behind the counter.
The voice on the other end of the line repeated what it said, a little slower, each point a sentence like he was trying to teach a five year old quantum physics.

“This is Dr. Thomas. Your test results have come back. You have tested positive. For the HIV antibody. The virus that causes AIDS.

  1. I was 19 years old, and a single two minute call was all it took rip away everything I thought I knew.

I had run away from home at 17 for the third and final time, and after living with my meth dealer for a while, *not* sleeping in his unfurnished living room on the floor, I decided to leave, go somewhere besides San Diego. I didn’t know a single person in the Bay Area. It seemed like good a place as any to try and figure out who I was.

When I was finally able to think, I realized that I must have been tested on a recent trip to visit my adopted parents. They asked if I wanted a physical while I was there, and I agreed. I wanted to show them I was fine, healthy. That there was no reason to worry about me. That I didn’t need them. I figured out that they had also requested an HIV test from the doctor, and getting my approval wasn’t important. The call on that day was kind of a shock.

I had never used needles, had slept with maybe five men. I was exempt from AIDS, I was mostly straight and I was safe. I guess all it took was one of those men being positive, and everything working just right to infect me. Talk about rotten luck.

But that didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered. Across the Bay the City was dying, the plague was killing people and no one had any answers. I’d heard the treatments they had weren’t that much better than the disease.
That’s all I knew. That’s all I chose to know.

I figured I had about 18 months, maybe two years left to live if I was lucky, but much of that time would be spent in horrible pain, my body shutting down, my own shit and blood and fluids pouring out of me. All the sudden my self-imposed rule of never using needles for recreational drugs and never using heroin went to shit. When I started to get sick, I would handle it my own way. I wasn’t going to be a burden on anyone – just slide away and disappear.

Time passed. A year, two, five, and the sickness never came. Still, bordering the line between conscious and subconscious, I kept waiting for the day everything turned around. I knew it was coming.

As much as I wanted to go back to school, to learn something I could use, I couldn’t commit to the time. I didn’t have a future.

 

 

I destroyed the best relationships & deepest loves I have ever known, selfishly afraid to ever force anyone to feel like they needed to be loyal, faithful, as they stood by, helpless, watching me die. For the same reason I never allowed myself to have what I perhaps wanted more than anything in life – a child.

I took each day as it came, tried to make the best out of it. I studied myself and my beliefs, did all I could to learn about me and what life was. I taught myself to see the beauty in everything, every day. I tried to help, I learned from others, I read & continue to read feverishly, so at least I might have some wisdom, some inspiration, something to offer another. Maybe something clever & profound to say in my final breath. Only up until the past 15 or so years, every moment of my life has been spent expecting to die. It’s the only thing I’ve known.

It sure did fuck up my credit score.

Now, somehow, I’m only a few weeks away from 50 years old, and wondering how it is that I got here. I’ve spent years looking for an answer as to why. Why, of all people, me?

I’ve only been able to come up with one answer that makes any sense at all.