Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Why Companion?

We shouldn't be looking for a happy ending. That's  folly, because the wedding day, the first kiss, the commitments- they are all a part of a story that won't end until death. And that story will have to move through loss and death to get to such an ominous ending.
I don't think I should be looking for a miracle or prince charming. I should be looking for someone who will face life with me. Together, we could extract ourselves from theory (daydreams), and accumulate experiences, the love resulting. Taking someone "in" as my companion is not a fairy tale. It is a decision that is made lightly and passively by, frankly, some I know. With that Someone, life will give us joyful serendipity and rough adversities. Therefore, I wonder why we'd only base courtship on just fun nights out or the most peppy versions of ourselves.
Those marriage vows- in sickness and in health. That's a big deal. Will I be able to look at a man and say (with or without marriage), "I respect your life, your inherent dignity, and what we share so much, that I will help you through that vulnerable, terrifying erosion of faculties?"
There are ups and downs, individuals/priorities change over the years, sex likely won't be consistent, events alter perceptions, and honesty is important. Shouldn't we be exploring a strong foundation, then, from the earliest stages? A foundation of unabashed truth and enriched discussion?
Plus- many people end relationships, they say, because they are not "fulfilled." I reckon they initially felt fulfilled by the companion... But that is an unfair expectation to place on anyone. Just like careers, projects, and homes, a person can only help us go so far- It's the active self-care that fulfills. If you cannot be alone with yourself (which, for some like me, I needed to learn through years), you will not at all know yourself. You will project self consciousness onto your partner, and look to them for every ounce of your identity. That is not a relationship, nor is it a spiritually and/or intellectually integrated collaboration. It lacks identity and clarity; it lacks decisiveness.
Here's a bullet version of what I am sketching out right now (sorry for some repetition):
  • On those first dates, you shouldn't be anyone but yourself, and no question should be answered embellished. That's because from the moment you don't lay a foundation from pure honesty, the house will be spoiled.
  • Face desperate loneliness square in the eye before you seek a partner. When we are looking for a partner to heal our loneliness, we are not collaborating with that partner; I believe that paints the partner as a "miraculous" object, not a person. Relationships are crippled when one or both the parties can't be on their own.
  • Love is a result, not the impulse, of a relationship. Often, we confuse love and lust. Let's get to the basic level- Time, intimacy, space, and activity result in the true revealing of the soul. I can say I'm loving all I want, but it's only when I can be loving through advice or action that I truly am so.
  • Every journey is different, but one thing the best relationships seem to have in common: Sex does not alone wield the relationship's cards. Sex dries up, it comes later, comes sooner, is frequent, or not (just like when you're single). There is a solace: sex is just one relationship element (and heck- of a person). That relationship can  have strengths in other intimacies, such as conversation, philosophy, and Netflix/snuggle fests. There is so much more to us, and reason to be with someone, than nights in the sheets.
  • The lust feeling, perpetuated as love, can confuse us from who our potential partner is at their most neutral level-the version of the person we are going to spend the most time with (let's be honest). When clouded with desire, even the most intelligent among us will say and do things that aren't truly honest. Lust goggles drive us to objectify our lover, perpetuating a relationship built on the moment we met in heat, rather than on the concept of growth and investment. We should see our love as who they are, not what we want them to do for us--- I'd hope we expect the same.
  • It's pretty clear from historical and literary records, that people do not like being told what to do. So, build a relationship as two individuals with concrete identities. Be whole, rather than one. Encourage and emulate the fact they have friends and hobbies outside the home. To go further, celebrate that they've had prior loves, successes and failures- all that has led them to the person who was eventually willing to take you in.
  • Understand there is no happy ending. Every time we decide to enter a relationship with someone, it is opening ourselves to both joyous and tragic possibilities. In other words: opening our heart to someone sets us on a path toward every potential human experience and expression that we may not yet have encountered. Very soon after marriage, my Someone could fall mortally ill, our child could have a chronic illness, our home could burn down, or one of us could lose a job. Since the realm of possibility is vast, I shouldn't just be looking for a prince or a miracle- I should be looking for someone who wants to experience life in all its highs and lows. Would I be able to hold their hand as they transition to death?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Why Baby?

Over the weekend, I was holding a high school friend's second baby, aged 11 months. At one point, when her older brother was instructed to "grab a grown up's hand" (meaning us), I said jokingly, "Do you know what mistakes I made last night?" A significant part of myself is thrilled that whilst I have changed, I still feel connected to my childhood self. That is some good continuity.
But this baby- I was holding her. My best friend Martha said, "Babies look good on you, David." She meant it as more than an accessory. Every time I engage with a young child, I sense that my root-self, a gentle person, is allowed practice.
I'm a single, 26-years-old gay man. Therefore, single and childless, there are elements of myself which are currently impossible to practice. It's a certain tenderness that I can't quite have with just my best friends (though we are very close, thank goodness). Instead, it can be practiced in only small, but meaningful doses. Holding my Grammy's hand, snuggling with a family dog, holding my best friends in my arms. Even being very actively present with whomever I am on a date with.
But my desire to raise a child should be larger and more important than simply, "I want a reflection of myself," or, "to feel good."  Over the past year as I have healed, I have considered some simultaneous aspects child rearing addresses. These aren't comprehensive; they are essentially sketches.
  • Raising a child is a humanitarian perpetuation from within the self. Our troubled world is rotted fruit, not bad seeds, as Charlotte Perkins Gillman once put it. For any baby, we believe they deserve respect, love, intimacy, opportunity, and enlightenment. By actively doing such, the hope is that the child will be instilled, later going forth into the world perpetuating it toward society.
  • Starting from there, I theorize I should recognize my child as a human being, autonomous from me, just at that initial stage vulnerable and impressionable. My duty to our entire social organism is to assist this human being in becoming as cared for, enlightened, and respectful as common sense would hope.
  • The challenge of parenthood is the self-drive to, along with one's partner, draw out our intrinsic humanity, especially in a society that denies that exact concept. I will have to navigate myself as a humanitarian toward my child and also my eventual partner (our actions will also result in teaching the sponge-minded child). This will require a constant practice of listening, letting go, reflection, and transparency.
Indeed, this will be tricky. Balancing intrinsic goodness with societal distractions and past adversity is a courageous task. It means that I must live my pre-parent life setting myself  and eventual child for success. That means choosing potential partners thoughtfully, and coming to love them, exercising habitually, and feeding my mind and experiences years beyond formal schooling. Clearly, I can not teach my eventual child to be an enlightened, loving human if I myself don't work toward being just that. I cannot allow myself to disillusion and believe that a child will imbue purpose onto myself, their parent. I have been faced with that burden in life; it is rocky, relentless, and unhelpful. Instead, my purpose comes beforehand. My self-care and partner relationship will teach just as much (if not more so) than my parental care.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Moment in NYC

With Pam Bradley and Nick Demos at Yum Yum, June 2016.
Last April, after 16 months in New York City, I left. I had been partying with celebrities, working front-of-house on Broadway, and assisting a beautiful soul named Nick Demos. But all that to say, I felt caught up in being the assistant and the usher. There was nothing wrong with these jobs, but the need to have a multi-faceted identity was really gnawing at me. I love assisting, but my creative brain wasn't able to find any of its own outlets at the time. I wanted to be seen as a creator, as well.

NYC is like that friend who loves to party with you. You like, it, too. But she doesn't bathe too often and smokes in your face. And sometimes you get tired of that. I took a breather the week after Cabaret closed, where I'd spent a whole year of my life telling people where to sit and begging them to respect others. During that respite in quieter environments, I thought to myself how important it was to be grounded. New York City is a storm, and you can't build a strong ship in a storm. The ship must be built in calmer weather before embarking through the rage.

Danny Burstein is a kind, generous man who happens to also be a generous actor. I got to watch him work as Herr Schultz in Cabaret roughly 380 times during our year there. Through what seemed like little effort, he shook hands, nodded hellos, and had a serenity about him. Everyone in the building was worth his time. Some of our bosses, some other "celebs" in the business, are not this way. They are a part of the storm. But someone like Danny is a ship in the storm. Being like that might take time, but it's time I'm willing to put in. And that long-term investment has led him to portray a stunning version of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof at the Broadway Theatre. His sense of self and generosity translated on stage with impact. The character and the man both had something to share and explore about humanity. The ship had docked.

Seeing Danny Burstein triumph as Tevye
in June 2016.
Like him, and many others I respect, I want to be a ship in the storm.

I may have been back in NYC for just 3 days, which is different from living the grind full time, but I felt at least like a sturdy tug boat. Every goal I'd set for myself in leaving the city has been met, even if it was short lived or the result was unexpected. I acted in a play last summer to good notices, I was hired as a manager (though resigned due to policy differences), wrote a new play, and leaned up my body. I also dated... I overcame some mental anguish that was truly fogging my self care abilities.

It's not rejuvenation. That sounds temporary. Rather, it is a revelation. A tectonic plate moved within me, and it's settled into a new terrain. It's what made the Pacific Northwest and now me. There is always another earthquake possible, but that's not something we can dwell upon. Let's enjoy and take precautions in what is made from failure and growth, and have good building codes with relationships and our faith in the self and the greater good.

New ventures are on the horizon. And it's going to be good.

Thanks, NYC, for not changing. It helped me see how much I have changed.

I don't need you, anymore. Instead, I want you.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Heartache Burger

So. This is what I call the Heartache Burger. It's a burger I bought on April 11th during a creative team meeting for an upcoming May project. I announced to the table that it was the Heartache Burger. Rightfully, it was medium rare and had an over-easy egg on top. Duh.

Notice, I requested a side salad, rather than FRIES. I have limits when it comes to comfort food. I must. I have a figure to attempt maintaining.

I'll be fine. The Heartache Burger is over someone I have not actually been dating, but rather someone I have, in my usual way, just naturally built the strongest of feelings toward (openly made apparent, mind). Is there something wrong with affinity building? I'm not so sure there is...But that might be my past life as a Victorian heir talking... Just call me David Wuthering Heights Marian Halcombe Nando Emily Dickinson Jane Eyre Bronte Rodgers.

You know, I like to think I have "standards." And I do- for relationships. Yes, I've been a naughty guttersnipe from time-to-time when reactionary loneliness feelings settle in. But, oh, do those quick fixes feel empty, and shallow. They feel great in an instant, like a cheap bandaid from the Dollar Tree that slides off the moment you take a shower. These are without rapport and love and kindness; they are not integrated within my whole self, though I acknowledge they are a part of myself. The whole self actually aches for collaboration and revelation, and that takes certain types of folks.

My body is like a can. It's an aluminium can, softened by the elements, and it peels open over my heart, my stomach (specifically on my left side), and my eyes. These areas are portals to emotions held inside areas of the body. I remember five years ago around this date was the first time I experienced true heart break (though unfortunately embellished with self worthlessness, which wasn't that boy's fault). The day after the inciting incident, I was so open, I could not handle a single sentence or breathed utterance in my direction. Thoughts were things, and those "things" swam within my body, compulsively torturing me and wishing to fall out like a flood, my intestines and soul in their hands. It's as if my soul had bold, Arial font words explaining my deepest secrets. Obviously this isn't something one can rationalize from a solely human way of thinking. I am humble enough to believe that there are things about our nature truly more mysterious, powerful, and downright spiritual than we can ever hope to comprehend.

My ex-best friend, who became increasingly distant and unable to communicate as the years pressed on, once articulated to me over the phone, "It's very difficult for people to want to hang out with you. Not because you are mean or cruel. Actually, many people like you. But you expect so much honesty and forthrightness from yourself and others, that they can't help but be afraid of processing those feelings when in your presence." She fell victim to this fear she herself had defined in others. Not necessarily because of me. It was another example of a relationship I should have ended sooner, but, because I had seen her, I refused for too long to write her off (lacking a better term, here).

Years later from the heartbreaks, this quote defines my search in life for peace. It's what I believe to be a key ingredient of the most successful friendships and partnerships-
"Beyond your challenges, beyond your successes, beyond the events with which life has molded your spirit, there is a placeless place within you. It is a place of peace. It is a place of freedom. It is the place where the Self you have been seeking resides." -Barbara De Angelis, PhD
It's not that I lack self-love (that's something I worked on for FIVE years), but it's the maddening effect of not collaborating with someone on this enlightenment that dampens me. I seek and ponder and downright pray for guidance as a single person. I don't know if I can accept, like some Catholic leaders I knew in high school purported about themselves, that I am "called to a single life." What does that mean? And what does it entail? Is it a life of sacrifice? And why such a sacrifice? I don't have the answers. Perhaps I should embrace that mystery...

But this self awareness doesn't make me perfect. In fact, it implicates my fault for being placed in heartaching situations. And my self-awareness is off-putting to many, as noted above. However, at the same time, is an unexamined life worth living? And is a life without risk or attempts of particular interest?

I grew up in a family of absolutes, and, generally, what I perceived at the time to be conditional love. Some children copy their parents, others try to be the total opposite. At this point in my young adult life, I have attempted to be the polar opposite. The problem is that I embrace the gray of the human spirit too intensely, too patiently, and to the detriment of my own self respect and sanity. I cling to the exquisite potential in a man, and, because I want to practice patience and be intentional, I have yet to draw a clear line as to when enough is enough and to understand he's just. not. it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2015 Reflection

I conquered some demons. I celebrated
with the Simpsons last week...
Folks- 2015 was a weird year. I lived in 3 places, in perfect-calendar-year-thirds. NYC, RI, and now MN. My life has changed so drastically since ushering at Cabaret and assisting Nick Demos​. I've felt hopelessly unemployed for nearly six months, had artistic fulfillment at OUT LOUD Theatre​ over the the summer, simultaneously worked TWO full time jobs at a hotel and the Guthrie Theater​, and then finally got hired in my first salaried managerial position. Life wise, I was able to overcome some INTENSE demons from my past, that have allowed some relationships in my family to blossom more wholesomely, and to uncover what I am truly looking for in a potential husband. I've even dropped the shame of being gay, and no longer use the euphemistic "dating a 'gent' or a 'fellow.'" I am dating a 'man'...That means something I can't verbalize, yet it's empowering to not apologetically speak the truth.

The scared, skinny boy who got his BFA in Acting is still there, but he's a lot stronger and more confident. I reconnected with people I thought I would never be able to speak to, again, and learned how to say, "I'm sorry." I also learned that it is okay to say, "I don't know." I'm also working at not assuming things any more, and not looking for validation from dates, jobs, graduate schools, et cetera. I'm embracing the fact that artistic life ebbs and flows. There is no rush to be in The Phantom of the Opera, for example. I'm trying to find stability and ways to save money, but that will come. Balance, balance, balance.

I still struggle with mental illness (OCD can grate me, and does make dating hard), and some days are very, very dark. But the sunshine I thought was ripped from me permanently in 2011 has found itself in my heart, again. As a result, those dark days with OCD are tempered with self-forgiveness and an ability to seek friends and activities that set me back on the path.

I won't be surprised the next time I have immense heartbreak or professional disappointment. I am sure it'll hurt just as much as last time. But I hope that the next time it happens I lose less hair (haha), I recover faster, and don't let the hurt deflect into self-pity. There is a great deal of worth in recognizing our humility. Humility is, truly, what makes us successful spiritually and emotionally. It is also what can save us from death, literally and figuratively.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Date Night Preparation

I was bubbling inside

Barbra Streisand and Ruthie Henshall tag teamed,
emanating from their souls the words I felt in my heart.

3 minutes on repeat for 90.

My hands, filled with oil and creams, slid across
my face,
my arms,
my chest,
my stomach...
All the places I felt pain and worry.
Inside and outside, the pain, the wear, the tear.
I could see it- I still see it.

I went over my lines,
critiquing my reflection.

I read about God, and Buddha, and mindfulness out loud-
I recalled the Globe stage
and my life's sage
beside me,
guiding my eyes and voice through each page.