When Mom Gets Old

I’m getting to be that age, you hear it often around the office almost on a weekly basis, someone’s parent is ill or has suddenly passed away.   I’m very blessed because my mom is still around, about to have her 81st birthday.    My mom isn’t in the best of health, and I often worry about her and how’s she feeling.     It’s difficult for her to catch her breath and she’s constantly connected to a variety of oxygen machines, concentrators they call them, and they sustain her life.    When she walks out the door, the gentle hum of the machine she’s carrying can be heard underneath her words.   She’s a talker like me, that’s where I get it from, and I often have to stop her and say “breathe through your nose” so she can get some O2.   You can probably guess I love my mom very much and I don’t know what I’d do without her.

Mother’s Day With My Mom

When I was a kid, my sister and I used to watch Family Affair, and I’m not sure exactly why.   It was probably the saddest of all shows…a young brother and sister, sent to live with their rich uncle when their parents tragically died.    We watched that show with complete fear, it might as well have been a horror movie, for we were terrified of the day we would no longer have our parents around, especially our mom.    This fear was so strong, that we would often approach her while sleeping, carefully watching to see if she was breathing.    It sounds bizarre, and it totally was, and I’m not exactly where this fear originated from.   Maybe it was from the exact show we were constantly watching, or maybe it was because we loved her immensely and couldn’t image life without her.

My mom is a super mom.    Yeah she’s made mistakes and yeah we’re paying therapists now to deal with them, but there is something very special about my mom.    Our childhood wasn’t the easiest, our father wasn’t around much and my mom often had to play the part.    This took a toll on her and we knew it did, but there was one thing she was super good at…giving us hope.    She gave us hope when things weren’t going our way, when we were down in the dumps, when life seemed like it was out to get us…she always gave us hope.    Arguably, hope is probably the best thing anyone can give or have, because no matter how bad it gets, if you have hope, there’s always the possibility of something better.     My mom was amazing at that.    That was her super power and it is to this day.

I’m 47 now and I often try to prepare myself for the day when my mom isn’t around anymore.    My spiritual views help a lot…in my heart I believe we are all pure energy that just transforms from one state into another, death being only a transition just like the little short lady said in the movie Poltergeist.   However it only takes but a shitty cold, a night of no sleep, the slightest feeling of loneliness,  to make me miss my mom immensely and absolutely fear the day when I can’t pick up the phone and call her.   You might think I’m a “momma’s boy” and I would respond “guilty as charged...” you just can’t ever replace your mom.

Now some folks out there don’t have their mom and are already experiencing what I fear the most.    Perhaps they never had one to begin with, and to that I offer my sincere condolences.    Maybe they have a mom but she’s just not “mom like.”  Maybe they are a mom to someone else, not even blood related, or for that matter, not the same species.    Maybe they don’t miss not having a mom if they never experienced one… I just can’t understand this reality.   Yet.

I know the day I dread will eventually arrive and because of that I cherish every moment I get with my mom.   I love our lunches, our dinners, our time together visiting her doctor… our little adventures like riding out  Hurricane Irma on the floor of my division director’s office.   I love them all.    Every time I leave her house I thank God for the time I had with her, life being what it is, you never know if your last visit will be just that, the last.   I love the phone calls, the voice mails, the little things that can annoy some people… but are evidence of her presence in my life.

If you have a mom give her a huge hug.    Like my bud Vox said the other day, “give her one for me too.”    If you’re a mom to someone then give yourself a hug and realize how important you are to another human being on this planet, even if you don’t realize it.    There’s a part of us that loves our mom no matter what, no matter how bad things get, no matter how distant we may be.    Hang onto to that part, no matter how small.  Just like mom, it will help you through some serious shit.   If your mom isn’t around anymore, know that everything about you is a reflection of her, good or bad, and so she’s more present than you might realize.   The next time someone says “you’ve turned into your mom.” say “thank you for the compliment!” 

Lunch with Mom and Eric

We Are More Than A Party

When I first realized I was gay I was 17 years old and terrified.   Although I was sexually attracted to other men, I was frightened to become a part of the stereotype I saw on television and magazines.    Of course times were different and what you saw on television was exactly that, a stereotype.    As I began to meet other gay people I realized we were a diverse crowd of Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics and any other ethnic category you could find on a college application.   We celebrated our diversity because we needed to, our sites were set on fighting the AIDS epidemic, acceptance and equal rights.    I quickly realized the scary images I saw in my youth were no where near the Gays and Lesbians I had come to know.

As a young adult I began to explore the community, culture, and what it had to offer.   My first long term relationship of almost nine years ended in my late twenties and I was eager to experience a part of the gay world that was previously off limits… the club scene.  Still filled with enough crazy hormones to fuel lots of stupid mistakes, I was introduced to this sub-culture and its not so wonderful characteristics.    Only this seemed different because it felt somewhat threatening to me.   I was surrounded by groups of men that all wanted to fall in love, but didn’t seem to want any of the Ozzie and Harriet style of relationships their parents lived through.    In fact, I would say they completely rebelled against these established norms, I’m guessing because they experienced much judgement and hostility due to their sexuality from those that practiced them.  Fair enough.  If there’s any stereotype of the gay world that’s close to being true, it’s that we never do anything low key, so gay relationships became completely polar opposite to mom and dad’s.  However I really wanted that sense of normalcy, real or perceived, in my life. After all, that’s what I had told everyone around me…that I was normal and just like everyone else.

Scenarios from the “Blue Oyster Bar” depicted in the hit movie “Police Academy.” Examples of the extremely limited and often stereotypical views of the gay world I had access to as a teen.

Years went by and I started to become fairly bitter with the gay world.    The level of shallowness and self centered behavior I was seeing just seemed to be getting worse.  There were even websites that sprung up with the immense popularity of the Internet, which re-enforced these qualities.   We were now posting profiles on websites like bigmuscle.com, which contained statements like “looking only for other good looking muscled men to make friends and hang out with.”   Wow!  Seriously?  I didn’t want any part of that!

Until I did.

I started going on “all gay cruises” back in 2001 during a short lived relationship with someone that grew up surrounded by the party and gay scene.   The experience was utterly miserable for me and I swore I would never do it again.   I was completely immersed in gay music, gay television, campy gay comedy… gay everything for seven very long days.    I was force-fed gayness and I wanted to puke.   But then, a couple of years later, I was convinced to try it again by my partner that I would share almost 10 years of my life with.  Even my therapist thought it was a good idea.  It actually turned out completely different in every way and I enjoyed the solidarity immensely.    Gay rights was starting to be a huge deal, the Constitution of the United States was about to be modified to define marriage between a man and a woman, for the sole purpose of denying us rights and recognition.   We so needed the support of each other as a community!   What better way than to pack three thousand of us on a boat for a week!  Yay!  Not to mention that I was starting to bulk up with some serious muscle, and although we were monogamous at the time, I was getting lots of attention.   This was really fun!   Why didn’t I do this sooner?    It was even time for me to get my own profile on bigmuscle.com!   In retrospect, it’s very clear to me that I started to become assimilated into the very lifestyle I had such a distaste for… by the looming presence and fear of a shared threat.  I wanted to belong because I was scared.

Every day, twice a day,!! Atlantis passengers gather on deck, or below, to participate in one or more dance parties.

As years passed and more gay cruises came and went, the climate of the country completely changed.    Gays were only years away from being allowed to be married, many companies and local governments started enacting domestic partnership benefits, and there was this cool show on television called Glee.  Gay youth and teens now had a place in society and role models to look up to.    It was a pretty amazing time for Gays and Lesbians, but something else started to happen.    The cruises I loved so much started becoming less and less about community and more about the “party.”    With technology becoming more advanced and cruises becoming more and more popular, the ships got bigger and so did the on-board dances. As anything that keeps growing in size, there comes a time where critical mass comes into play and a good thing becomes unsustainable.  Gay cruises aren’t any exception and in 2011, on the largest gay cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world, the Allure of the Seas was raided by US Customs and passengers were arrested.   I remember seeing all the dogs and agents on-board and thinking something very serious was up.    A member of the Atlantis staff, the charter company that booked the cruise, lied completely and told a group of us that it was a case of mistaken identity with one of our fellow passengers.    We didn’t know the entire story until we got back home and saw the coverage on CNN and other media outlets.     It wasn’t really a surprise since multiple times a night we’d hear the call go out on the ship’s speakers, “alpha, alpha, alpha,” the maritime signal for a medical emergency.    For Atlantis passengers, it was code for drug overdose.    The stories of passengers collapsing and defecating on themselves during dances didn’t seem so far fetched after all.

Accelerated by the events on that last voyage, my love affair with gay cruises and the gay scene began to diminish rather quickly.  The sense of community I had once witnessed had become a complete mess and practically non-existent.   I went on a couple more cruises, even tried different brands like RSVP, but they weren’t much different.  The drugs weren’t as prevalent, but the campy gay comedy and stupid jokes every time the automated elevator voice with a British accent announced “deck 8″ were getting old.  I was tired of eating breakfast and hearing men discuss their conquests from the night before.  I guess that’s called “growing up.”

Today, I still enjoy cruising with my partner Eric, celebrating diversity once again, albeit with straight and fellow gay passengers alike.  Who knew that in all those prior years I had put myself into a social box, doing exactly what conservatives and the religious right wanted,  and at the same time fighting so hard against.

I look back at my journey in and out of the gay scene and realize it was a real learning experience, one that I shouldn’t regret or even deny.   The gay world is continually evolving, but I’m not sure in the right direction at the moment.   Pride events are becoming less of a celebration of unity, and more of a promoter’s opportunity to pull another all night party.   At least in the old days, I’m old enough to say that now, we had something we were focused on…a goal, a mission, which helped ground us and provided a type of social lighthouse when we went astray.    Much of the binding properties of the gay community are gone for the first time in our history.    Our friends aren’t dying of AIDS and we basically have the rights and recognition we wanted for generations.   Where we will go without the guiding principles that glued us all together?    What we will do with this new found freedom which carries with it new responsibility?

There’s a new sub-culture I see emerging with young gay men and it’s not a healthy one.   Unlike so many negative stereotypes, this one is very much encourage in pop culture and social media.    It’s evolving into a mindset, one of no-consequence and “go fuck yourself if you don’t like me.”  We’re being encouraged as a community to be as loud and as crazy as we want to be, since we’ve been restricted for so long and it obviously still makes straight people laugh.    The balance part of the equation seems to be left out though, and we’re not checking ourselves to see if we’re going too far.    Our community used to be so much more than a party, and now it seems so many gay men just live for it…or die.   I think it’s time to take inventory of what’s truly important, especially with recent events in our nation’s political climate.   Perhaps another shared threat is exactly what we need, a common cause to keep us focused on the individual lights in our community, and not the ones on the dance floor.

 

 

 

Experiencing Homophobia Overseas

Living in the United States can and will make you pretty spoiled.    You become accustomed to life as you know it, and take everyday occurrences completely for granted.    Many of us here in Miami are reminded of our abundance as a nation when we share the experience of someone that recently immigrated from Cuba, and see their reactions to to a well stocked produce section at the local grocery store.     It’s an all out emotional meltdown at times, something neither person is prepared for.    While economic prosperity is something that’s relatively easy to appreciate and witness, individual freedoms are not.    Most people vacation in areas of the world where they are welcomed with open arms, but even in the most beautiful and serene locations, the gay tourist has to be mindful of their destination in a different capacity… their personal safety.  There are many parts of the world where being homosexual is against the law, and I’m not referring to some distant land on the other side of the planet, I’m talking about enjoying the beauty and splendor of the Caribbean.   It was there that my partner Eric and I became very appreciative of the security and liberties we now enjoy in the United States.

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In The Hot Seat with Abraham Hicks

Spiritual journeys can take you more places than American Airlines, that’s probably why their called “journeys.”   They can transport you from a small church with a white steeple in the deep south, to mega-structures and re-purposed stadiums that accommodate tens of thousands of people in a single Sunday service.   The can bring you inwards, to take a deeper look into what makes you you, or they can take you outwards, quite literally, to the great outdoors where the Pagans celebrate the gifts and cycles that nature affords them.  Or they can take you to Orlando Florida to meet a lady that channels a group of ancient non-physical conscious beings that she refers to as “Abraham.”  The last reference, while sounding more science fiction than spirituality, is actually something Oprah Winfrey and I have in common… we both got to speak with Abraham Hicks and learn about the “Law Of Attraction.”  Not intended to replace your religious beliefs or spiritual practice, the concept of Law Of Attraction is a way of looking at the events in your life, how you react to them, and how you “attract” positive and negative experiences alike.

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Changing Perspective On Loss

This article was originally a post I wrote within a spiritual based online group called “The Lightworkers Lab.”

Sometimes really bad things happen to us in life and we don’t understand why. We beat ourselves up, we’re angry at God, we ask “why?” in complete agony over what just occurred. People will say “everything happens for a reason” and we want to scream because the pain is unbearable. The answers aren’t always immediate and sometimes it takes years or even decades to see the light behind the darkest times in our lives.

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I Know Things

I was driving back from lunch this afternoon and parked the car, when I was suddenly blessed with this little poem in my head.

I know things

I know things that most let pass by.
I know the bird that soars, across the morning sky.

I know the child that’s ignored by their kin,
Laughing still, because of love within.

I know the lost dog, searching for a home.
Wanting someone to hold them and say they’re not alone.

I know the serpent, hiding in the grass.
Just wanting to live, waiting for a meal to pass.

I know the man, with bitter and anger on his face.
His life suddenly gone, not leaving but a trace.

I know the woman, weeping in her hands.
Trying so hard to keep it together, and dealing with life’s demands.

I know the world, that’s crying for change.
Wondering when the balance of power, will finally rearrange.

I know these things and I keep it to myself.
All of them inside, on a tiny little shelf.

Michael Robert

North Pole Data Breach Affects Billions

November 22nd, 2017 – 1:56 PM North Pole

Turns out no one is immune to the sting of cyber crimes according to representatives from the North Pole who reported a massive data breach on Tuesday. Hackers have reportedly stolen personal information from over 1.5 billion children around the world in what elves described as “naughty” behavior. The attack, thought to have originated in China, sought to gain marketing information obtained from millions of letters to Santa, regarding children’s preferences on a variety of toys, most of which are made there. “It’s very disturbing” said Mrs. Claus, before offering reporters hot chocolate and cookies, “children have a right to privacy also.”

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The Need To Control

I was looking for parking the other day at the local grocery store and immediately located a middle aged man, with just a few groceries, loading his vehicle.    This was probably the most simple and mundane of tasks, not requiring much effort since the amount of plastic bags he had in his cart was probably fewer than twelve.   Yet he seemed to relish in the idea that I was anxiously waiting for him to finish and leave so I could park my car.    Clearly he was in control and he milked the opportunity… so much so that another person came, loaded their vehicle and left before this guy finished.    I ended up taking that spot instead, with some level of satisfaction that the guy with control issues never got to achieve a power-play orgasm.   Clearly he would have climaxed while backing out ever so slowly, suddenly stopping for traffic that wasn’t there.  Still, I was completely pissed off at this obvious and pathetic need to control.

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Why Are Gay Men So Damn Needy?

I’m sure it’s happened to you before.   You get home after a nice date with a handsome guy, he looked just like his pics online, so that’s a plus right out of the gate.    Sex was pretty much a slam dunk so he’s definitely getting a second try and you’re actually looking forward to it.   You get the usual text message accompanied by some cute emoji…

tonight was really great, thanks for being so cool.”   

 You smile and drift off to sleep as you contemplate how dating really isn’t that bad after all.

The next morning you wake to the familiar routine of shutting off the alarm on your phone, oversleeping, and suddenly realizing you’re late for work.    As you rush to get yourself together and out the door, you notice you have a text message on your phone which must be from the office reminding you of a meeting you’re late for.  In what has become a very automatic set of movements for your fingers, you navigate immediately to your texts and retrieve the poorly timed piece of information…

“thinking of you.”

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Journeys: How Winn-Dixie Changed My Life

Life wasn’t easy when I was in my late teens.   I was 17 and completely lost.  I was sleeping all day and awake only at night, a soon to be high-school dropout fighting depression and the realization that I was gay.   Therapy was gradually helping me out, but there were many days when the thought of living life as gay man would churn my stomach.   Those days were extra dark, mostly spent staring at the ceiling, contemplating the best way to end my life.  Sometimes I’d be on the phone well into the night and early morning, talking to one of the few friends I had. Unfortunately, she was also suicidal and shared a very dark place.  Instead of lifting each other up, we’d compare notes on the best and least painful ways of making it all go away.   My mom picked up the phone once and overheard the conversation.  Unable to process what was going on in my life, she started yelling at me… screaming… words of desperation… saying I was “sick” and then she broke down crying.   Mom was fighting her own demons, trying the best to raise us without our father around, while her youngest son, her baby, was slipping through her fingers before her eyes.

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