Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Few Painful Realizations

As most people know, if they've kept up with my online presence or work with me or know me in person, I am currently in a very dark, secluded place right now. There's almost no sunlight, but I'm trying to convince myself that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

The truth, though, (and I've just realized this today while Millie and I were in Muncie collecting my reserved copy of The Martian Chronicles) that there are some instances where the light at the end of the tunnel may have gone out, and you have a choice: you can sit in the dark and wait to die, or you can make your own light, be it a flashlight or a phone or a match burning down to your fingers. It's not a natural light, and it's not going to feel safe or right, but it will help navigate the darkness until the light at the end comes back.

This is very much my life. It's a statement that's become quite common in human society, to proclaim this drunk and half naked and hanging penniless from the sides of cruise ships, covered in ribbons of our own vomit, but I mean it in quite a new way.

I've been giving this a lot of thought, and Millie and I have had some very lengthy discussions about it, and I am never disappointed by how supportive she is.

Let me begin by saying that Millie and I help one another. We always have. When others turn away because they simply cannot stand our bad choices, or because we no longer serve their purpose, or because we've become simply too annoying to keep around, we keep one another around. She's stayed with me when my family turned me away, extended and immediate, and when all of my friends stopped talking to me, and I was with her for things that I won't discuss, because it's not my place to do so.

Millie and I are sharing an apartment in Anderson at the moment because Sybil and I went to go get her and, well, I suppose you could say that we rescued her from what we considered to be an unsuitable and unstable situation in Kentucky, and Millie and I are working toward some kind of medicated ability to deal with life in general.

This, you see, is part of the issue. Not taking care of things that Millie needs or anything like that. I don't mind that at all, because she's a good friend and she's done the same for just about every person in her life, even if they make fun of her while exploiting her, leave her suddenly for nuances and mistakes, decide that she's overwhelming, etc. I refuse to leave Millie in a bad situation.

However, there is growing inside me the realization that if I do not do something soon for myself, I will find myself coming to an end. My body will continue, my mind will function, but I will have no desire to be anything. I will have given up. I will stop writing and just be a sad bump working in a factory and hating life.

As I've said, Millie and I have discussed how this can be addressed. I've narrowed the issues down to three things.

First, I've decided that I hate my job, which shall not be named. I go into my job not knowing what my actual job is going to be that day, who my team lead will be, who my supervisor will be, or if my badge will suddenly not be active when I come back from lunch. The idea of being there makes me physically sick in ways that only a therapist could properly put into words. After three years, I am still a disposable position filler, and I am awaiting the gun to my head, so to speak.

Second, our combined cost of living, including the once manageable apartment rent, is beginning to drive me into a deep, dark depression as I think of all the things that I'll never pay off. We have both become severely depressed sloths, sleeping as late as our responsibilities allow, and even ignoring some of them. Our depression is mutual and codependent, and I have no access to or way to pay for therapy. Millie, while she has Medicaid, is being shuffled around like an afterthought on a schedule and has actually gotten worse because she's not being seen.

Then there's the question of what my family would think of my solutions. I think my Dad and Lisa would be so disappointed in me if I lost a job that they consider to be a good job, and especially if I left voluntarily. I don't think they'd stop talking to me or ex-communicate me or anything, but I already think they're not sure if they believe that I'm even in school, because my past is so shady, and because I once told my dad I'm a compulsive liar to explain something I had told him.

This brings me to the next part of how I may help myself. At some point, when Millie is better, or in a better situation, or able to function on her own (with meds), we will find a little place for her in Anderson or Muncie and I may end up moving to the Ritz apartments in Portland. I have my reasons, and I will explain them in a bit, but first, here's how I actually feel about moving back to Portland.

I feel dead. I feel defeated and stomped on and spit out by life, bloody and broken and gurgling when I breathe. I feel like life has beaten the shit out of me with a tire iron and thrown me onto a trash heap. Moving to Portland would simply be icing on the defeat cake.

Why, then would I move back?

I will begin with one simple reason: to live cheaply. The Ritz apartments are cheap, and the cost of living in Portland is third world low.

The next reason is educational. My job now and my location do not allow me to be a full time student and do it the way I'd like to. I have just enough time to throw assignments together before they're due, because if I want to work less than forty hours, I've been told it has to be approved, which will take longer than the semester allows. I will have already flunked out fighting the war of the schedules, and lost my job in the process.

The next reason is that as much as I tout my independence, I miss my family. I miss Dad and Lisa and Sydney more than I can even say in words, and I have no money for gas to see them most of the time. I can't go see my Mom's grave as often as I'd like, as a result of this. As far as extended family go, if I do make it to Portland, there's so little time before I have to be back and go to class or work that it's out of the question unless they work somewhere that I can catch them.

But one of the most important reasons is one that my family still does not acknowledge the full importance of, mostly because I think they've considered me to have resigned myself to live a small life followed by a small death and resulting in a cookie cutter headstone as the only sign that I ever existed, is that I have no time to write. I have to break promises and cancel plans to do it, and I want badly to write. Not being able to write is like not being able to breath. I'm being allowed to breath enough to stay alive, but my lungs hurt, and I'm starting to panic and fear suffocation.

In short, I have no life right now. My ambitions are free-floating, now, with no connection to the life I'm leading right now. I know that many of you would disagree with me when I say that this is not a life. I have enough money to live on, were I not depressed and eating everything on earth and impulse spending to make the angry and pain go away. I have a place to live that's paid up for at least another couple months, and I have income from student loans and a very normal, respectable job. Why, you ask, would I ever want to leave all of this?

That's a very good question. I think my reasons are self-explanatory. If any of you want the job I have, I assure you that they're hiring. I've been there three years, and I can tell you that three years is absolutely enough. I feel nothing now but an empty requirement to go into a building and sit and wait for the day to be over, keeping my metrics as far above average as I can to avoid the pink slip. It's no better than working a Burger King was. The amount of respect is the same, and there happens to be slightly less food in the building.

Another reason I want to go to Portland is the wide availability of mental health services.

I cannot breathe where I am. I do not want to live here any longer than I have to, and these choices, however angry the realizations make me, no matter how tearfully nostalgic Portland makes me, or how hurt and alone I feel wandering up and down Meridian Street, I will at least be able to live as a full time student with a part time job, who writes on the side and has a life worth living.

That, I assure you, no matter how selfish and ill-advised it may be, is the only way I will survive the next few years.

You may all rail against me, but when the time comes, which I will not reveal publicly until I'm sure, you will see a great improvement in my sense of self.

I have to do this for myself. As much as the idea makes me sick of moving back to Portland while approaching 30, a fiscal and romantic failure, dragging my entrails behind me, I have decided that Portland is where I will find safety and grow into the adult I should have been years ago, were I not so busy chasing idiot men and refusing to pay my bills.

Turns out, I need help. I've been saying it for years, and the only response I get from friends and family (some exceptions, of course) is that I'm fine and this is normal.

This. Is. Not. Normal.

I refuse to believe that this is normal, and I refuse to live this way. I am supposed to be an adult, and I am done rejecting reality so that I can avoid being inconvenient to everyone whose image is closely linked to my behavior. I've done some significant damage. I think some damage control is in order.

After that, we'll see how it goes.

Your opinion is not needed, especially if it is unhelpful, but if you know someone who is suffering from depression, don't be an asshole to them. Don't tell them to just cheer up and choose to be happy. Don't you think if we could we would you fucking idiot?

Lastly, Portland will always be my mother's home. It will always be where she was born and lived her life, singing late nights downtown and touching everyone she knew in some way. It will always be where she died and where I lost my way, and where the buildings she knew were bulldozed, the people she knew died and were buried, and new buildings and people came to be, replacing her entirely save for a gravestone in a cemetery in the middle of nowhere.

My mother did not want me to turn out this way.

Let this give you all something to ponder. What, I don't know. But ponder it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why I'm Still Not Going To Pride: A Form Letter Of Sorts

Every year around this time, Indy Pride takes over my entire circle of friends and sweeps most of them into Indianapolis for what usually amounts to an ironic hot dog eating contest colored with vague political leanings. I have already been asked by 5 people if I'm going.

Again, as always, the answer is no.

The parade itself is a good idea, yes, should any sense of community or obligation ever cross the minds of the people dancing about in bikinis with spray-on tan lines.

I will share with you the flaws in the system that we have.

I will begin with a revelation for members of my community: we aren't all just gay and straight. It's not us against them. There are so many different kinds of people that are excluded by this festival. Most prominently, my friend Millie is in no way represented. To top that off, even as a represented group, I feel out of place. I don't have a hot body to show off. I don't feel comfortable surrounded by a bunch of sweaty mostly-naked guys who have all met at one time or another on Adam4Adam. I do realize that this is not all that's there, believe me. I am not stupid. I am observant, but I do see that this is the majority. People like myself are not actively represented at pride because we do not belong there. Pride has become about how hard everyone can put their sexual orientation as priority one, and that simply does not work in my case.

I am not just gay. I am a writer first. And just so you know, putting my writing first is a creative choice that you don't have to agree with. You don't have to see it as a viable career or a worthwhile pursuit. You can passive-aggressively tell me that I'm missing opportunities or just ignore my accomplishments all you want, be you friends or family or total strangers.

My life is my life, and I choose not to throw my gender preference out at my only good card. I don't have to be a gay writer. Yes, my characters are gay, but I'm not writing for gays only. My stories are not soft-core porn unless I write them that way. I don't have to load them with sex scenes to prove that my characters are gay, or myself for that matter. My gender preference is sometimes the deciding factor in the gender preference of my main characters, but that mostly comes from the fact that I have little experience as a straight person or a bisexual person or a trans-gendered person or anyone other than a gay man, and even then only in the functional, occasional sense of the word.

I also don't write many female main characters, for the same reason. Everyone understands that reasoning, but I always get questions about why all my main characters are gay.

I've diverted from the topic. Refocus.

The people I see going to pride are usually shiny dirty gays and gay rights activists who mistakenly believe that their message is more effective when aimed at the gay community rather than their oppressors or the people who can do something about it.

Believe me, protesting unfair treatment of gays at a gay pride parade is not effective at all. To use a very old cliché, these people are preaching to the choir. It's like the members of my dad's church trying to save each other but never venturing outside the four walls of the church as an active Christian. (believe me, as an atheist, I would say that's a pretty fair and balanced comparison.)

I also feel that, as a gay man, I am expected to treat pride as a big hookup festival, and therefore I do, which is to say that I refuse to participate.

If you choose to go to pride, that's your business, and I suppose I support you getting your drink on and seeing lots of eye candy and eating your ironic hot dogs, but personally, I think I can make a bigger impact on this world if I don't assume that the gay card is the only one I have to play.

No, I shan't be going.

You can rail against me with your rainbow flags and say that I'm bitter and angry, and I'm not about to disagree with you. I won't go so far as to say you've all made me this way with your shallow dumping rituals and using me when I was younger, though that may be partially true. I am above all of that. What I will say is that I'm not protesting the community. I am protesting you. I don't dislike the community. I dislike you. After all, I am part of the community, whether I like it or not. I have my own corner of it, far from yours, and I would simply prefer not to step into your sparkly greased up photo booth of rainbow disease. I'll stay over here with my writing and my iced coffee, and I would prefer you show me some respect and stop trying to pull me out of it. I like it here.