Personalized for Authenticity

Authenticity’s exposure is informed by expectations, the measurement ruler that experiences are held against.  Expectations color our how we present our authenticity, often diluting, covering up, or ignoring parts of myself that I would alienate me from those around me – the unique parts of an individual.  Conversations expressing authenticity are collaborative dialogues.  These interactions become cornerstones of authentic identity, informed by cooperative experiences.

Struggling with presenting authenticity is first, contradictorily, dealt with by creating facades that amplify the most acceptable of ourselves.  The parts, believed, that would force support networks away are believed to be shadows of our true place in the world.  Reinforcing social facades requires experiences go un-analyzed, unlived.

On the playground we are taught, as evolutionary survival, that it is important to be like everyone else, to find acceptance into the group dynamic.  From pre-historic to ancient-times, and beyond, avoiding being ostracized meant avoiding death.  This evolutionary hold-over is what pushes queer youth to hide our authenticity from others, keeping our interests, past-times, and loves from friends and families.

I grew up in a suburbia that was a nostalgic Mayberry: students walked to school, left campus to eat lunch in the village, and formed cliques based upon clothing labels; there was a dairy to buy milk fresh from the cow and boutiques that were hobbies for doctor wives.  The school district heavily focused on academic success and rigor, not grit or character; children were taught to be students and not to interact with educators.  We were academically prepared but street smarts were not taught between Great Expectations and chemistry.  The few gay boys that were known easily fit the mainstream suburbia of backyard pools, in ways I never could.  I sabotaged acceptance by defensively rejecting the labels and tokenism they appeared to willingly accept.  I deliberately kept to myself, denying myself a confidante, by refusing anyone I could divulge to because I was scared that if anyone knew my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, they’d not like me.

I retreated into books, making the characters my friends.  I found with Spyder from Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Silk, the characters of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Milkman from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and everyone in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, characters similar to myself – they struggled with authenticity in silence.  The characters modeled authenticity as being politely selfish by connecting through known shared hardships and joys.  Connecting through the simple failed-expectations of personal days deepening relationships with friends and family.  Personalizing shared experiences allowed façades to be dropped, deeper connections are formed, resulting in an increased quality of life.

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X-Men’s Bent Mirror

When I realized there really was no rhyme or reason to the comics on the spin-rack, so I expanded out by discovering Wizard Magazine.  Its pages were bursting with comic book news, art, and a back-issue price guide – giving me an inclination that comics lasted longer than three months before disappearing.  When this no longer kept me contained so mom could grocery shop in peace, my parents began taking me to local comic book shops that were found through the yellow pages.  It took a few weeks until we ventured to Empire Comics.  In this comic book shop, I found organized bookstore shelves filled with the most recent 6 months of each title, and long boxes filled with back issues.  Empire Comics treated a comic book shop as more than just a secret club, but treated comic books themselves as the escapism that they had become for me.  I scanned the shelves, intimidated by the independent comic books I had read about, and grabbed the issues to fill in the gaps in my new X-Men collection.

Growing in isolation as a gay teen, I came to grasp the larger social issues entrenched in the X-Men, becoming my original introduction to a subculture.  This was accomplished through their cartoon when it featured the Morlocks, mutants who lived in the sewers of New York City because their powers made them grotesquely disfigured. Their disfigurement and mutant-identity was analogous to my queerness that I actively kept a secret because I feared being further separated from my classmates and friends.  The Morlocks illustrate a key dimension of the mythos, the group that requires isolation through creating its own culture because society won’t accept it.  The Morlock Tunnels became an analogy for subculture and minority neighborhoods I discovered when I became 18 and went to college near NYC, and began going to gay clubs and Chelsea, I was enlightened to a world that was tailored to me.  In NYC’s clubs the drag- and nicknames used were similar to mutants’ code-names as their primary self-identity and opting out of their government birth names.  As my knowledge of queer history and culture grew the mutants’ outsider place took on greater meaning of social acceptance of uniqueness.

It Takes A Village

Being overwhelmed can have a physical effect on the body.  It doesn’t always need to be pressure, but an overriding omnipresent emotion or anxiety from a routinely occurring event.  Triggers can be wide ranging from job promotion to routinely being around negative human beings.  In the instance of myself it causes extreme stomach and back pain.  I begin feeling constant pain in my abdomen that doesn’t dissipate with consuming food.  Knots form under my shoulder blade or at the base of my skull as pressure becomes more consuming.

When the stress’ antecedent is removed, stamina must be regrown to fully participate and engage with life.  The road to mending is a slippery slope – anxiously re-entering the hamster wheel.  Life is a cyclical series of work, relax, work, relax.  At any moment during the early moments of recovery there is the nagging thought that the next quick cycle would be the trigger for another physical episode.

Living from crisis to crisis doesn’t lead to stability, but creates a system of management only.  Management sustains a depressing homeostasis, which is as imprisoning as the pain itself.  Activities are missed; isolation ensues.  Regardless of the cycle that a person endures, breaking and starting on a new path is difficult to do.  The body and mind have reflexes driving actions towards knowable patterns – again the cycle repeats.  Friends and inter-personal relationships assist with driving the new path, constantly grabbing the brakes by injecting day-to-day with vulnerable relatable stories.  While they are not trained cognitive therapists, friends and co-workers offer opportunities to relate anxieties, failures, and successes.  They provide conversations where automatic thoughts, which distort reality, can be challenged.  Then the automatic thoughts can be worked through and dispelled with a professional.

It takes a village.

A Beginning Path to Balance

I have dawdled and diddled to put the new home together.  The furniture is in place, the dishes are away, and the closet is full of clothes.  My walls though seem extra-ordinarily empty and sparse.  I have yet to achieve a home that is centering.  Calming, yes.  Centering, no.

Centering requires balance, but that is still on the “Working On” list.  My mind is constantly five steps ahead of where I need to be, which is evident by my home – piles of “To Do” are everywhere; and each seems as though it never shrinks.

I am constantly bogged down in the planning and minute of life.  The big picture is in the plan, but the trees are too enticing.  It takes all my strength and energy to stay focused and not become distracted by gears in the clock.  As I focus on the patterns, designs, clashing, and mixing I lose the trail through the woods.

Goals center a being.  They keep everything in perspective, allowing balance to be the dictator of motivation.  The goals of my life morph but have always been rooted in the idea of creating equity.  The tool I have always wanted to use is writing.  Life is at times hacking away with the tools to see the path.

Over time I have learned that it is okay to feel lost and drift from day to day, ignorant of balance.  I began doing this by actively choosing to go through the two boxes of print outs and read, which allowed me to see how much of my fictional cosmology has been told.  I began reserving weekends to take inventory of what I have produced.  I learned that days do not need to be a constant rush towards the goal line, but can be relaxed and taking inventory.  It is on those days, taking stock of what has been accomplished, one can be humbled by the steps that have been taken; we can pat ourselves on our own back.

X-Men’s Legacy Virus

X-Men's Legacy VirusI annoyingly tagged along on my mother’s weekly grocery trips, using them to routinely see if the magazine spinner rack contained a new super-hero adventure.  As a youth, I connected with every aspect of the superhero genre: the ordinary persona was a cover for the true fascinating life away from restrictions.  The grocery store’s spinner rack held many A-list superheroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Captain America, but was overwhelmingly mostly C-list, Ex-Mutants or SleepWalker; others were B-list or cult heroes like the growing Dark Horse line, Ghost or X.  I flipped through each title, sitting on the ground, sampling their plots and characters, but their struggles felt too distant from my own.  It took months for me to find the title that was my life, that reflected everything that I was feeling – the X-Men.  These were heroes that instinctually understood me and I them.  Their world was my world.  I was a mutant and that’s why I didn’t fit in!

The X-Men family of titles when I discovered them were polybagged because they were amid the “X-Cutioner’s Song” storyline, and each issue contained a trading card.  The X-Men’s founder and mentor Professor X had been shot.  Searching for the would-be assassin the X-Men discover the attacker was a clone of Cable, time travelling son from the future of founding member Cyclops.  Before being defeated Cable’s clone, Stryfe, gave a mysterious canister of mutant DNA to the X-Men’s enemy Mr. Sinister, who opened the container to discover it open.  Rather than receiving the genetic code to Cyclops and Jean Grey, another founding X-Men member, Mr. Sinister released the Legacy Virus, a disease created by Stryfe that targeted mutants and disrupted their necessary RNA replication, making the body incapable of creating healthy cells, which resulted in the mutant’s death.  In the final moments of life, the Legacy Virus caused a mutant’s power to flare violently, in effect turning the mutant’s ability – what made them unique amongst other mutants – into the cause of their own destruction.

Underneath the garish early 1990s costumes the X-Men had pathos.  The Avengers and Fantastic Four were friendly clubs occupied by those who found being a super-hero an adventure.  The characters were chums and friends who spent their down time around a pool or squabbling over used condiments.  The X-Men were a found family because there were no other heroes that understood their position in society.  The X-Men didn’t want to save the world, they wanted to live and be left alone.  The villains of other teams wanted their opponents subdued so that victory could be achieved.   Down time for the X-Men was spent training to control their powers, running through numerous survival scenarios because their antagonists were actively attempting to kill and commit genocide.  Still the X-Men believed in showing compassion and empathy to their opponents, believing in finding a common ground to move forward.  The X-Men taught me that exposure to similar experiences has the potential to bring about understanding.

NEON/ECN – Lost Children outline

After the Seven Year War, when the Terrain System first came in contact with another sentient life form, was the Great Devastation, when Terrains were forced into solation – behind the Devastation Wall – there was widespread inter-planetary post-apocalyptic chaos: The Central Government Council is impotent by the cost of a failed expansionist war; science crimes have sky-rocketed; and inflation runs unchecked.  To investigate and stop those that would exploit the cracks in society is counter-terrorist and anti-crime wetworks ECN: Emergency Chevalier Network.

Chevaliers are genetically grown soldiers that are hybrids of carbonite, plants, and human DNA.  The chevaliers Misty Bleu and Felix, among other agents, are assigned with investigating and dismantle a blackmarket Aeolya synthesis network.  As the chevaliers dig deeper into the network of illegal science their own Twentieth Century and Aeolya origins become apparent to them.  Taking point in the investigation Misty and Felix journey to the Outer Planets, where they discover the source of the Aeolya synthesis is a Sacred Garden of The Pantheon around the orbit of Saturn.  The ECN’s discovery of a new Sacred Garden triggers the implosion of The Devastation Wall, which slowly compresses the energy of the Terrain System.  This brings about an explosion that births the evolution of the next universe.

Verve – Joey Looked Good on Paper

For the longest time Joey as the elusive ideal cast a long specter over everyone that came into my life.  He was the one ex that all potential suitors were measured against.  Physically, Joey was wondrous.  He was tall with broad shoulders.  A great chest; a nice set of strong thick legs; beautiful chest hair.  Joey had kissable lips.  I loved his devilish cackle of a laugh, and the glint in his eye.  Joey was never the emotionally warmest person, in my recollections, but I never found it a problem.  He did share though, he talked about his day and how events affected him.  Joey brought a person in.  I never felt alone with him. I was always an embarrassed 13-year-old around him.

Conversely, Joey looked good on paper, but fed the deepest insecurity about being valued.  Joey had the habit of vehemently disagreeing with something I had said, which could’ve been an explanation or clarification of a fact.  These were not exactly ideological differences.  We’d part for work, and then return to each other that evening.  As we discussed our day Joey would drop comments synthesizing his morning’s statement with what I had said.  This change of mind arose because Joey had talked with his co-workers, who had informed him of why I was correct.  That was the typical routine of a typical disagreement.  Over time, I began asking myself, Why does Joey never just have faith that I’d know something or be correct, or respect that my stance has validity?  Joey respected only his friends and their opinions, and not mine.

Verve – Tales of the City & Sense8

Sense8 [I Am We] (Tales of the City & Sense8)Tales of the City series offered a worldview where groups do not exist in isolation.  Rather, they exist shoulder to shoulder, helping and loving, other groups.  Tales of the City celebrates the connectedness of humanity.  My first found family was Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City, the second in the series, when I read it in high school.  More Tales of the City embedded in me the values and worldview that made the Netflix series ‘Sense8’, by the Wachowski Siblings and J. Michael Straczynski.

In ‘Sense8’ there is a parallel species called homosensate, where a group (‘cluster’) is mentally and emotionally linked across the world.  The show emphasizes the shared humanity amongst the diverse characters, while using their differences to unite and save one another.  The members of a cluster did not know one another, due to global distance, prior to being activated, and find in one another a family.  While happy in each other lives, they are isolated from those around them either because of a secret or just feeling misunderstood, but a cluster’s connections allows members to share experiences and memories, granting them innate understanding of who one another are.

The found family concept was introduced in More Tales of the City, which was taken to a global level by the wonderful ‘Sense8’.  The Netflix series acted as a macrocosm to San Francisco in Tales of the City, applying the US melting pot to the entire world.

Why Writing

Today, I began a new journal.  A new journal is an opportunity to take stock and re-map goals.  I decided on calling the blog VERVE because I wanted to capture the energy and spirit of life, create a public journal of essays, reviews, and articles.  The reason that I began writing VERVE has been to give my life a narrative.  It has helped me to turn writing from fantasy to routine.   When I began VERVE, I saw writing as a laborious art to explore and explain myself to that world.  To make a living as a writer has always been a goal, but unrealistic; statistically or accessibly.  The number of writers able to make a living at fiction writing is small.  Accessibility because I prefer writing shorter fiction, and fiction magazines are no longer popular nor widely circulated; magazines rarely publish short fiction anymore.

What attracts me to writing is what attracts me to reading: changing perspective.  Now and growing up, I enjoy reading’s ability to expose me to life experiences I hadn’t known or would know.  Words affect the physical world, re-shaping personal experiences and perspective through investigation.  Essays and stories help make sense of an increasingly complex world through exposure to another’s personal moments and reactions to the same world.  Writing is a pure reaction to create and build upon the physical world, re-conceptualizing experiences.