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

Pre & Post Columbus 10k Notes

[Pre-Race]

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in central Ohio. While getting ready for the Columbus 10k and enjoying coffee with the balcony doors wide open I am watching my kitten chirp at the birds like cats do, no doubt, in order to lure them into false trust whereupon they would be ripped into tiny piles of meat with feathers everywhere.

I’m thinking of how lucky I am to be doing what I am about to do. Run. In a race. Of course my goal still remains one of completion and not of breaking any time records or doing a PR of any kind. I’m really just there to be there for the community aspect. The reminder that I have a chronic condition and that exercise, diet, right mind and open heart are the tools I wield to slow the progression of the condition.

After battling both depression and upper respiratory infections over the winter and spring I look at today like the start of the summer running season for me. I always enjoy taking a run in the early morning during the week and longer ones on the weekends in the sun and burning heat. It makes you feel so alive.

[The-Race]

I’m impressed with how strong I feel and kind of dancing to the music in my head while running with my arms and fingers. So many young kids doing great jobs! I really want to take my shirt off but my tattoo artist would give me stink eye when he saw the sun damage to the piece he’s building out on my back. Totally grateful to all the race volunteers. OK, this is getting tough with all these inclines but it still feels good. Wow this feels really good. I’m here today and that’s enough. So proud of my niece. Just heard there were over 1000 people in this race today … wow. That’s a lot of happy.

[Post-Race]

I ended up making a second best effort which is really amazing given the challenges I mentioned earlier. I had an opportunity to run with my niece and her speedy friend and hang out with my niece’s boyfriend. Saw a guy run his first race ever who happens to be a co-worker of mine with his friend in support tow – which was awesome. The race itself was totally energizing in the way only races are. It’s all about the mutual support and joy of simply being there.

The day rolled into laziness and food comas while Eddie and I switched gears and lazed around watching several movies on the sofas with the cats. All in all it was the perfect early June Sunday. Complete with surprise summer rain storm and vegan hot dogs.

Here’s to summer 2017. May it be one for the books.

Columbus-10k

Posted in uncategorized

Tattoos, haircuts & Buddhaphobia

Tattoos are not like haircuts & goddamn that fucking hurts!

So I embarked upon this journey in my heart at the beginning of the year. Instead of resolutions I challenged myself to do things this year that would scare the Hell out of me and intentionally break down some of the fierce type-A constructs I’ve built during my adult life. The goal is to open up as completely as I can while seeing things through different eyes as I turn the page on 50 next February.

The funny thing about this even more than running 5 half marathons and a lot of 5,10,15 k’s, post heart attack, is that it’s made me face some demons that I would normally dance into silence as I check off bullet points across 1000‘s of checklists I’ve built around myself in my professional life over three decades. I won’t lie either. There have been moments this year that brought me to my knees. It took acts of sheer will to get back up. My own strength, Eddie, friends, family and totally inspiring colleagues recharged my banks when the light went out. That’s exactly the point though. Being open means, well, being open. Being vulnerable. Making mistakes. Living.

I remember VagueBooking from ER two years ago. Something like “I am recently reminded that I am not invincible.” It’s the first time in my life that I saw death reflected back at me in Eddie’s eyes with his absolute fear of having almost lost me. It took me a good two years to get where I’m at now. And I still have a lot of work to do but the tattoo journey is exactly what I mean to express this through. My body as a canvass for this internal sea change which the grenade that went off in my chest two years ago caused. Life in the blast radius.

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I did my research and met with a handful of tattoo artists after talking with some heavily covered friends and colleagues. When I stopped at Long Street Collective I felt a good vibe. Yeah, I was the oldest guy there. A middle aged disaster of a free spirit. But I felt like I was among kindred folk.

So I proceeded to tell the artist, Andy, about my affiliation with Ganesha from my early 20‘s after having worked with a Tibetan Buddhist. You see, I want to take a pretty radical journey here.  One that will probably span three years now that I’m almost midway through the first third. I want to cover my back, chest and both arms with stories.

Ganesha

I’ve already documented the start of this and part of the meaning of the back piece in a separate post.

It was during this last session however where Andy was painting a poppy onto my back that our conversation lead to some strangely comfortable places. I told him I was gay and about my aunt Lora. About parts of my career. That I was raised Baptist which turned me off so violently that I outright rejected all forms of spirituality. I can’t stress that last part enough. Life is not black and white but many colors. I felt that as a teen and have dedicated all my life to that since. However it was when I was going through cardiac rehab when they talked about meditation as being an “incredibly valuable tool for a heart attack survivor” to adopt. I was like Hell no.

Yet while I was constantly wincing and tensing up for 3 & a half hours as the needles punctured my skin and brutalized my spine and shoulder blades, I’m not a tough guy and anxiety works against me, he mentioned that it was interesting when you think of homophobia and Buddhaphobia in the same moment. That’s when I felt like I did when I crested the peak with my buddy Doug in 2015 on Mt Hood. We were here and it was all incredibly beautiful. Looking out over the world with my best friend right then in that single moment.

The first Noble Truth is that life is suffering. The subsequent truths talk about how we create this suffering and how we can escape it given mindful, and very dedicated, efforts. This whole conversation on the tattoo table made a bell go off inside me that rang so deep and loud. I had come to him with the ideas of Ganesha for being the remover of obstacles and bringer of luck and that I felt like he wanted to be on my back as I moved forward through the very doors he opened for me post heart attack. The ones I had the strength to open for myself even though they scared the fuck out of me. I’d done this before. Coming out. Dropping out of forestry school. Creating a career in the wine business. Recreating a career in IT. Battling depression and anxiety without focus and then, finally, with mindful intent this year.

As with the Mt Hood hike in Portland in 2015 or during the half marathons and then the 20 mile race I did… there’s a series of points where you look back and measure your experience along. Kind of like some strange existential calculus you do using a slide rule. This last tattoo session really drove the point home, literally,  into me that this is a very real and physical journey I have chosen to undertake.

Andy’s words took me back to ideas that my aunt Lora used to open my closed teenage brain decades ago. Both left me with a feeling of gratitude for the expanded view outside myself. I was saying that my step dad was not perfect. She countered with the possibility that I might not be the perfect stepson. It was the slap in the face that I needed at the time. The Buddhaphobia comment in light of my aggressive meditation efforts seem to speak the same story as Ganesha slowly appears, very painfully, all over my back.

Maybe it’s time to embrace some part of the Greater Universe. I guess that’s part of what this tattoo journey is all about after all.

design first Poppy

Posted in personal

Forgiveness meditations & joy

I’ve been thinking about the various forms of forgiveness meditations this week as I look back over the last four weeks.

It’s been an abnormally busy spring for me. A career change and some really large scoped initiatives, a pretty solid upper respiratory infection, a trip to Cleveland to check out part of the community I’ve been away from for many years and a chance to see an old friend while making some new ones. Through all this I maintained my cadence but suffered from a loss of running for the past 3 to 4 weeks first because of the upper respiratory thing and then to changing gyms I guess. There were moments during the last four weeks where anxiety got the better of me and a good friend of mine gave me his shoulder and supported me through it. Really this post should actually speak about forgiveness, joy… and gratitude.

It was last week, however, while listening to a Jack Kronfield track about the principals of forgiveness that I was presented with the following ideas. He says you don’t have to be loyal to what happened to you. That the purpose of grief is the realization and acceptance of what happens to us. It’s always going to be something that happened, be it cancer, heart disease, divorce or deep loss. But we can bring it into our heart and forgive it along the way then let it go. Another thing I liked that he said was that joy is a moral obligation. I mean, I was like wow… that’s really the light that we have the power to make. In a world full of suffering we can share stories, food, warmth, do great work, be present, laugh, have sex, play and run. It’s in every act of love in life that we do our parts to light the way for ourselves and others around us.

Another forgiveness meditation guru I’ve been following has been Stephen Levine and his son Noah Levine. Both talk about a classic practice of asking forgiveness, giving forgiveness and then turning that energy back outwards and imagining sharing forgiveness. That last part though… they mean sharing it with the world. Again, it blew my mind a little when I started reading about these practices.

So it’s with a measure of self forgiveness that I set out my running shorts and shoes for tomorrow morning and made a really great spicy lentil, quinoa and black bean dish for lunches. Continuing my mindfulness and Yoga practices while looking inside a little more often to make sure I’m doing my part to share both forgiveness and hopefully all of my joy.

Lentil, quinoa and bean bake

Posted in general, personal, running

Activity

  • Morning Run
    On August 15, 2017 6:24 am rode 3.48 mi. during 00:36:07 hours climbing 117.13 ft.
  • Weight Training
    On August 14, 2017 4:58 pm rode 0.00 mi. during 00:30:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Weight Training
    On August 8, 2017 6:32 am rode 0.00 mi. during 00:20:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.
  • Afternoon Run
    On August 7, 2017 4:27 pm rode 4.07 mi. during 00:41:34 hours climbing 152.23 ft.
  • Lunch Run
    On July 26, 2017 11:31 am rode 3.37 mi. during 00:35:23 hours climbing 71.85 ft.
  • Yoga
    On July 25, 2017 7:30 pm rode 0.00 mi. during 01:30:00 hours climbing 0.00 ft.