Tattoo Session 4 & a crisis in the UK

Complicated weekend with my fourth session today completing the pattern for my entire back piece. The design work is done and a Metraton Cube is permanently drawn upon my back along with Ganesha by Andy at Long Street Collective. It’s funny too because I began the day coaching a person in the UK regarding cardiac anxiety as she was desperately reaching out the to the group of us. This is where a Sense 8 situation would be really awesome in real life. Some live stream way to grab the help of someone you are connected with to support you through one of your darkest hours while gripped by the very real fear of death. Unfortunately for her, she got hers through the FaceBook based group we are private members of… and then, sadly, beat herself up for having had a weak moment. All I could tell her is that I understand. I understand your breakdown completely. I go to the same dark places. More than I’d like.

But not today. And I don’t care how damn much tattooing or marathon training hurts. Both are awesome and exactly where I want to be. Living.

It’s really the very meaning of my back tattoo. The doors that were opened for me and the gratitude of having had a chance to step across so many thresholds. The lady I was talking with earlier was a part of the Cardiac Athletes group based in the UK. However most of my experience is with the AHA Support Network as a volunteer moderator and peer emotional mentor in the heart attack community. These folks are my family. They are triumphant, sometimes afraid yet overall grateful, just as I am, to have another day to wake up and make new choices and connections with the amazing diversity that surrounds us all. What makes us whole? What constitutes a day? If this was your last year on earth, and you knew it, what would you change? How would you choose to live?

So far, for me, that’s meant a fire that raged through the City of my old life. Everything burned. To the ground. But from the confusion I found things that were gold. Little bits of metal that shone among the ashes. Even as my own friends began to check out from natural causes. Kanik, Ted, Tom, Rob, Chuck, among so many others. Grateful to be on this tattoo artists table with two women on the other tables in the shop with a chance to hire a professional to paint a story on our bodies that interpret what we were able to communicate between two people as client/canvas and artist.

It reminds me of this lady though this morning. She was absolutely desperate and flailing out to anyone who would respond. Panicked. In the hospital. Being monitored for a heart incident and afraid that every minute would be her last. I get it. I’ve been there with Eddie. My blood pressure was in the neighborhood of 200+/150+ during my heart attack. So what did I do? I called my friends. I called Lisa, Nick, Doug and my parents with Eddie constantly by my side. And to everyone in the same situation I’d like to say that I would love nothing more than to at least validate what you are experiencing. The map I’m having drawn on my body, over the next two years, will hopefully represent this in some form. I understand and I wish I could be with you just as I wish you could be with me when I need it too.

Instead we live very separate lives. Connected yes. But here we are. One big beautiful community of billions on a the big blue ball that I visualize when the tattoo artist does shading on my back, which hurts like a motherfucker, and gets my mind to let go of the pain and accept the moment a little easier. Just like I told the lady in the UK this morning. Try to change you focus to 5 minute increments. For each one that passes say to yourself “I’m OK.”

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

session4

Posted in personal

Pushing boulders, & harsh emails, up mountains

There is a person I used to know who was not one of my favorites. I saw him again last week in a meeting where he seemingly experienced a blood pressure spike after learning about a growing threat to two of his projects.

The teams were doing great, self organizing, planning, working the cards they had scheduled already. All except for one of the most critical work streams that just happened to traverse both projects with a very real potential of cutting into actual project time even as executive leadership was talking about cutting the project time lines.

This guy listens, builds the picture, scopes the issues, identifies the members and then delivers the harsh truth with as little bias as possible because these kinds of messages are always difficult. He knows that these are people and it’s going to hurt to hear someone tell them that they have a problem delivering or even prioritizing their work. But the two multi million dollar projects were at stake and, well, it was his job to raise a flag.

It’s funny that after all the meditation, running and breathing exercises that I’ve come to practice over the last two years I still find myself reverting back to my old Dallas self and feeling the emotional cost of it for days. One of my old Texas AS400 buddies used to call me a “smart ass” because I would not hold back or back down from an argument with a colleague. Hell, sometimes I would instigate them just to try and push an idea forward. When you are in tech for as long as I have been you visit many quasi “religious arguments.” Yet that person I used to be reminds me of the Greek myth about the guy who was cursed with pushing a boulder up a mountain forever. Anger and conflict are like the boulder. Having to be the guy that delivers this kind of information, even momentarily as with last week, just wears me the fuck out. Saps all my balance and inner strength.

So yeah, that was me. My teams and leadership thanked me for the effort, I heard back from the individual and that leadership branch and then backed away as the gears began to spin. Hopefully in a direction that will be beneficial to all players involved. But, last week, I felt sick afterwards, literally, from the stress I internalized over the incident. It’s why I have always suspected that, while I can definitely step up to the management place, I’m not necessarily cut out for it. I think way too much about how the other person is going to feel, react and actualize the feedback. Truth be told I’m a much better coach and mentor than I am a manager. And that’s OK. We all have our strengths these are just two of my personality components I guess.

That’s where the lesson comes in for me. Given the above, I think I will try to delegate the formulation of these kinds of messages to other leaders. Provide the same level of detail and remediation advice but bow out on being the person responsible for ruining someone else’s week before a Holiday. Another thing to remember is to use the techniques we see in meditation and breathing so that we can more objectively observe a chain of events. Even ones that spell disaster, missed deadlines and budget blow outs. Just observe, reflect and report. That’s all.

Back to the tattoo shop this afternoon feeling a little reflective about the week still but looking forward to the rest of the weekend and then my first camping trip at the end of the month. In the mean time I have begun a course of study consisting of something that has always challenged me. Front end web development. I figure I need to make a technology jump and learn more modern ways to write HTML, CSS and JavaScript in addition to all the really great tools that people are using these days.

Next week? I plan to remain calm, observe and push where I can but not so hard that it hurts again.

Sisyphus

Posted in personal, professional

Independence Day in Trump’s America

My husband came home tonight and told me a story of being at a convenience store with around six people in line earlier today. An African American man was managing the shop. While in line Eddie saw the manager approach one of the white male customers in a very direct manner taking an item from his hand and telling him to “get out.” Evidently there was some previous infraction which caused this reaction. Eddie frequents this spot on a regular basis as it’s in the orbit of where he works. I should note the most shocking part here, this was in Clintonville.

The white male customer of course protested. Lobbing some of the worst racial insults possible at the store manager. Yet the thing that stuck with Eddie & I most was that the white guy yelled back that the manager that he should be more careful because he was in “Trump’s America now!!” As a direct threat. A clear reference to personal harm.

Meanwhile I learned that a close family member confided in my mother in law her hopes for the day when economists, scientists and general industry trends would magically reverse to 150 years ago when coal was an industry in America. That Trump would be, somehow, proven right when coal came back in roaring force in the United States. As if to spite any advancement that could further our competitive edge on a global renewable energy market giving us a chance to show that innovative spirit we once commanded during the Space Race of the 1960’s. Or the Internet explosion of the 1990’s. No, she’s perfectly hoping that we turn our back on all that in favor of pure spite and the populist message that she, and so many other of Trump’s Americans, are consuming en mass thanks to Fox News and Brietbart not to mention scores of other anti Democracy, or worse, conspiracy theorist outlets.

It’s stark to think that we have come to such a sharp split between educated thinkers and, at best, misguided populists, at worst … outright sociopaths distrustful of their own shadows clinging to guns while standing with backs to the walls in public spaces.

My thoughts dwell on Independence Day tonight. I have to wonder. Are we?

We_want_white_tenants

Posted in general

One for the books

The Pets Without Parents 5k was amazing, and as a no kill shelter $10k is a huge thing. I likened being at the starting line with all the other people this morning to “being surrounded by happy.” The thought that went through my head was that I have never been happier doing physical activities, outside of sex, than when I was running with other people. Everyone with her/his own story and motivation for being there with the rest of us. Come to think of it, in the short two years now that I’ve been a runner, I’ve only been unhappy when the running stopped. I guess that’s why I’m doing the heavy research into Buddhism right now. I’m looking for meaning without deities or religion.

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I went from the 5k, to running another 3.4 miles, to the shower & then directly to the kitchen to make breakfast since I was hungry after running the 5k twice. Yeah, I did that. After wolfing that down with iced coffee I fell into bed with the cats for a really deep nap before the tattoo session.

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When I got there I was more comfortable with what was about to happen than I have been so far through the beginning of this painful journey. Today was all about line-work and conversations. It was singularly one of the best Saturday afternoons I’ve experienced in a long long time. It’s an interesting thing offering your body up as a canvas for an artist to paint something permanent that connects your story to his interpretation of you. There’s a good deal of trust involved. And, I dare say, respect.

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I met my artist’s beautiful wife today. Both free spirits with vision and purpose. They both remind me of my husband Eddie. And, oddly enough, a chef I once knew named Bruce Hildreth who ran and owned a restaurant called Tapa Tio which helped push the Short North closer to what we now know. These are people with vision.

There was this absolutely touching moment when a couple and their son came in while I was waiting for Andy. And goddamn … when did I become the person who shows up early to appointments? Oh right, that was Dallas. I need to work on that a little bit and deprogram some of that out of my habits sometime. But back to this kid and his parents.

They were here from Indiana on, what seemed like an annual trip, to participate in a group memorial down by COSI to honor the loss of a child. These two had lost a daughter. They were here as walk ins to get a tattoo on both the father and mothers body of their daughters name. With as good as the son behaved and took things in stride I could not help but feel a well of respect for their skills as parents raising another human being with morals and an open mind because they both seemed in possession of both. It was really great to be in the presence of that kind of energy wile I was being templated with a super complex back piece at the end of which Ganesha would finally, and permanently, appear on my back.

Somewhere during the course of the afternoon, as the oldest guy in most rooms these days, I was appreciative of hearing straight guys talk about their emotions to girlfriend stress. Amazing adventures they were embarking on together to go to Burning Man as husband and wife. The 33 year old art student who thinks he’s “old.” Well, it reminded me of how I felt on the starting line during this mornings race. I was surrounded by happy. Real joy. Good spirits. It made me understand that as damn uncomfortable, and possibly embarrassing as this may be, some of my contacts have cited that this must be a midlife crisis, it’s the exact spot where I need to be right now and I feel like I belong in some strange Prince Alphabet St kind of way. That we are all interconnected. Just as when the dad who I mentioned earlier, complimented a gay guy for the tattoo work on his back and more deservedly his tattoo artist on the work he’s doing. It really made my head spin full circle around the idea of what the phrase “our better angels” really means.

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The people I spent my Saturday with are the best angels. With loss, struggles, joy, aspirations and dreams. So after all this I did the most sensible thing I could think of. I made black bean tacos for my husband tonight while he treated us to a long lost film titled “Madam X” from 1966. The tacos were fantastic. I’m in love with the book “A Modern Way to Eat” by Anna Jones right now. Love her writing style and the simplicity with which she makes vegetarian food creative and enjoyable.

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After that I guess I started rolling up the entire day on top of the gifts of last week at work that made this an exceptionally great 6 days. All while listening to Macy Gray and remembering a moment from last weekend where I braved a fear of mine and went out to AWOL for a bear underwear dance theme. I almost danced. That would have been the first time in two decades for me I was that happy. Maybe it was the laser lights, fog machine and great DJ. Maybe it was all the other men out there together during gay pride weekend together taking a moment to just take a deep breath, shake their asses and smile together. Which of course reminds me of a song by Macy Gray with the line “They said he shook himself to death. I want to dance till my last breath.” I kind of want to do exactly that after having been stationary for far too many years focused on lists, directives and agendas.

2017 is all about facing fears for me. Even at 49 years old. One heart attack down. Two failed marathon training attempts. Early onset of osteoarthritis. Lots of bad choices. Still, I realize, that’s life. It’s what we make it. No, that’s partly right. Real life is the couple I ran into this afternoon memorializing their daughter and giving their son a chance to take away some memories of “that day we were in Columbus , Ohio while I played with my dinosaur toy while you got my dead sisters name inked onto you both.” I also saw it this morning when I ran with all those people for Pet’s Without Parents and the guy who approached me afterwards and told me “thank you” because he paced on me and told me it challenged him. I had to smile because, well, my borrowed post heart attack motto is “I run because someday I might not be able to, but today is not that day.”

Today was one for the book… and I’m grateful for every minute.

Posted in general, personal

The space between Friday & the weekend

Its pizza night on a rainy Friday Ohio evening. I love going to Dante’s Pizza in Clintonville where Eddie and I used to live in the late part of the 2000’s. It’s a family run hole in the wall with, arguably, the best pizza in town. And even though I limit the amount of cheese I eat to once on a very rare occasion and then only in small amounts I still get a flavor of what I used to order.

I love this hour. The moment in between Friday and the weekend. When you start to realize that you have a 5k to run for a local no kill shelter in the early morning. A long tattoo session in the afternoon. Dinner and relaxation in the evening with your spouse. Brunch with an old colleague and his partner on Sunday and then dinner with your best friend who is visiting from Portland Oregon to check in on his aging parents.

While writing this I’m spending that pre weekend transition moment waiting for a friend at a new coffee shop for me on Long St. I’m reminded of what an awesome City Columbus, Ohio has become. Every moment I can I pause and acknowledge this lately. Feeling mostly grateful for the opportunity to be where I am, doing the things I do with the people I love. I think that’s living well. It’s all I could ever ask for really.

So on to the weekend!

joseph wood hill park castle

Posted in general

A revolution of love

June always reminds me of the protest that my fathers, decked out in drag, had the courage to bring to the public. A collection of “queers” written off by the world as a group of freaks and deviants. Living between the margins and eking out mostly non upwardly mobile lives. The ones who were accepted were the best of the liars among us and could hide in places like corporations or public office and pass themselves off as straight with an unloved wife, possibly kids and then tricks and boyfriends in the shadows. My respect always aligned with the freaks who had the self respect and fire to show their true faces to the world.

Every anniversary of the Stonewall Riots gives me pause to think about all of the challenges we’ve faced as a collection of sub-cultures. I believe that it is the sheer diversity of the GLBTQ communities and all of the variations that we bring with us that makes us truly beautiful. It’s funny. I’ve been that obtuse guy arguing among gay male friends. The topic became “just because you can have a sex change does not mean that you should.” I argued that it was, on the surface no different than the identity that we shared which compelled us to come out as homosexuals. That for a trans person gender identity was just a real as our sexual identity. They were annoyed but I held to my argument.

Toxic masculinity and stereotypes pop up in all sorts of places. As I said before the GLBTQ community is, historically, a collection of sub-cultures. We had to be. With our allies in the straight community we’ve made great progress toward equal rights. I’m not just talking the homo-normative marriage equality either.

While that’s great we have a mountain of work yet to accomplish. We need to be OK with the woman transitioning to become a male as a coworker peeing beside us in a stupid bathroom as that is what his gender role demands. We need to support GLBTQ at risk youth who are still being expelled from families because of who they are and then finding themselves on the streets or in self destructive circles. We need to be able to allow for the sexual and personal exploration without shame or ridicule simply because it’s not guy on guy missionary position. We need equal protections. We share some of this with women and people of color as seen with their own battles and we should support those parallel fights at every chance we get. It’s one of the places where the Civil Rights Movement failed. We are stronger together. We are weaker when we stand alone or become divisive from within.

When I came out my father totally accepted me and, in a surprise move, physically embraced me. We weren’t really close. I think it was the sharing of something personal with him from across the divide that had been built that moved him to do this. That and love for his adopted son. Mom struggled a bit with the revelation. And that’s OK, I understand that it’s sometimes difficult to overcome prejudice especially when it comes in the form of your oldest son. Truth be told, I struggled with it too and was only able to find the courage to come out gradually between the years of 17 and 21. In fact the very first person I told, was a straight guy named Ernie back in High School while we were in Cleveland for a journalism conference. How he handled it gave me the emotional building blocks I needed to begin to stand on my own and choose a life that did not involve lies. I’m truly indebted to him for how he treated me as a friend both before and after I came out.

I thought of this post while reading a local not for profit groups blog last night. All of the posts were about GLBTQ children.  It made me think about the group of men that disappeared from the face of the earth as part of the AIDS epidemic. These guys would have been my mentors had they survived. They didn’t. It made me think about my responsibility to our youth not as a father but as someone who could offer some sort of positive reinforcement in the form of a monthly donation to support the efforts of the Kaleidoscope Youth Center.

This year, 2017, when I think about how Columbus Ohio celebrates what has become known as “Pride Month,” rather than the celebration of the Stonewall Riot, I put all my hopes in all of us as the same collection of rich and diverse subcultures who are not afraid to be who we are in the face of rejection, judgment, shaming, loss of income and sometimes violence.  Columbus is a great City and we have a strong presence in the red State of Ohio. Ohio… She’s not usually a leader given all the rural and post industrial pockets who long for a return to it’s glory days. People who need re education and career training not empty promises of a return to steel and coal. These folks are hurting and they are angry and afraid. They need help and compassion. Especially now since they are under the spell of a populist liar in head office who sings them Pied Piper style songs.

Together we can help become the leaders that Ohio needs. Together as drag queens, trans men/women/and many classifications along the arc of gender identity, leather folks, the manimal ilk including bears/otters and any number of character analogies, lesbians and the rich culture they have developed, bisexual men and women, pansexuals, all the hanky codes, Queers and all sorts of truly creative expressions of human life out there like stars hanging in the night sky together burning brightly and casting our light as if to guide human culture to new and better ways to live.

June reminds me, most of all, that we have and always will be a revolution of Love because of our diversity and ability to shatter norms together.

stonewallii

Posted in personal

Friends & teachers

The weekend was planned out loosely and packed with really cool stuff to do in Washington DC for the Pride March. That’s what they remained though, unrealized plans. Life presented itself with a deeply personal issue that caused me to make a decision to stay home to address that rather than leave it untended. I was disappointed, yes, but seeing all my buddies pictures in DC made me feel bolstered that I had made the right decision and that I was represented by some great folks at the same time.

Last night’s meditation reminded me of coping with my tendency to want to manage the moment instead of letting things go however. Especially the part about meeting each moment as if it were “invited.” We could all do better during our various day-to-day interactions by turning a more welcoming gaze to the 100′s of things that come our way seemingly at random sometimes. It’s part of life. It’s also why I’m working as hard as I can to change how I view things. Not as long term but scoped to today, right now, this choice and so on. This is no easy task for anyone to do either.

So now it’s onto planning for Seattle & Portland for a visit with friends, then Orlando for the Microsoft Ignite Conference and possibly Italy, if we can swing it, in mid Autumn with Eddie to wrap up what will hopefully be an amazing year.

There I go again though… actually, it already has been an amazing year… tomorrow will just be another gift to realize upon the giving.

meditation-cap

Posted in general, personal

“Whisker fatigue?”

It’s a well established fact that cats fuel the internet. Without them there would be no soul or purpose to our collective online experience. Given that I’ve had two sets of cats over the past three decades, I was surprised to learn something new about these amazing little serial killers and inter-species facial hair.

I’ve always lived in an urban area and felt like cats were a great compromise over dogs as they can stay mostly indoors, are relatively independent and when trained well, are pretty good home companions. Funny thing though while reading the rest of the Sunday Times this morning though was coming across an article about “Whisker Fatigue.” A condition that manifests by the continual over-stimulation of a cat’s whiskers. With all my cat wisdom I have to admit I didn’t know they functioned like antenna for all the things they can pick up from these special types of hairs. Such as air displacement, distance to objects, predators and prey. After reading that I was grateful that beard hair was not similarly aware of the world around it… that would be torture.

The article goes on to recommend some brands of food and water bowls that can be found on Amazon. Laughing at myself, I’ve usually fed my cats from old China sets or 1940′s cocktail glasses. Little did I know that this could have been a little easier for my little furry companions.

Here’s to something you learn everyday.

cat-whiskers

 

Posted in general

Tattoo inspiration

I had some time to stop by a bookstore yesterday and found a couple interesting tattoo books. Now that the back piece is getting serious I’m sort of thinking ahead to the chest and arms I want to work on next. I liked these two images a lot however for the pattern on the arms I’m thinking of a series of interconnected mandalas down the arms and originating from the heart. For the chest I’m of course thinking about some metaphorical representation of both the fragility and amazing power source that beats in our chests every single minute of our lives.

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Posted in general, personal

Summer Sundays

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I spend my energy lately. How and where I plug into the throbbing noise that are the billions of data points generated seemingly per minute on the digital landscape. In fact a colleague of mine were talking about what we used to call work life balance back in the early part of last decade. I told him about my decision not to put corporate email or chat tools on my smartphone. That I was the kind of person that needed this separation. To be honest though, it’s probably that I know I’d fail at turning it off and instead always being on and ready to respond. I did some thinking over the weekend too about social media. I turned it all off for once. I have to say, it’s been nice. And while I can’t say that I’ll leave it off, I think it’s given me a moment to myself that I sorely needed.

In fact it was this morning when I came across an article in the Sunday New York Times titled “Prozac Nation Is Now the United States of Xanax” by Alex Williams. The author makes several cross decade/century and generational observations that made me think about my own relationship with anxiety as a disorder. What’s interesting though is that he likens it to a shared experience. A social condition rather than merely bounded by our own tiny individual mental/emotional universes. It made me think back on the past few social media free days and think that maybe he’s right. Are we whipping each other into such a frenzy that even the folks who don’t struggle with anxiety and the physiological responses baked into our genetics are getting some sort of weird emotional tan from the exposure to all the static radiation?

So I did something for myself. I went outside and picked some of the lavender that Eddie is growing this year in our urban garden. Just for me.

lavendar

Posted in general, personal

Activity

  • Yoga
    On October 17, 2017 8:40 pm rode 0.00 mi. during 01:00:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Afternoon walk
    On October 17, 2017 3:21 pm rode 1.10 mi. during 00:20:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Afternoon Walk
    On October 10, 2017 4:31 pm rode 1.10 mi. during 00:23:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Lunch Run
    On October 10, 2017 12:02 pm rode 3.30 mi. during 00:34:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Walk
    On October 9, 2017 4:30 pm rode 1.20 mi. during 00:22:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Walk
    On October 8, 2017 4:18 pm rode 1.00 mi. during 00:22:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.