The Season

I have never been a fan of the holiday season.  I love the holidays individually, but instead of being filled with cheer and joy in equal measure around me, I am filled with a deep consistence question of my value; a sense that at any moment everything will be discovered to be unearned.  A person becomes convinced that they have a pathetic unique ineptitude for life.  There is a screaming hyper awareness of flaws and errors.

I’m sorry I’m not taller

I’m sorry I’m not kinder

I’m sorry I’m secretly needy

I’m sorry I want to do it all

I’m sorry I don’t know how to share

I’m sorry that I don’t know how to slow down

When the gears shift it is never subtle, but is more akin to slamming on the breaks.  The opposite measure is less distracting because its immediate effects are the endorphins of shopping, great mood, and all around good-time making. Great stuff that gets outwardly rewarded by friends and coworkers, which mask the negative effects of spending sprees, inability to concentrate, or inflated self-esteem.

This does not come around once a year from November through January, but is a year-round cycle that only becomes heightened by The Season.  The Holiday Season itself comprises these two extremes on a national level.  There are those that shout proudly that they are grinches, and there are those that indulge in The Season beginning October 28.  Frenzied energy produced by the baking, obligatory parties, and shopping, fuels the self-destructive thinking and hopelessness.  I stay home, with hot chocolate and marshmallows, with Netflix, and quietly wait until after February.

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Superficiality

In homosexuality the superficiality of idolized physicality was not me – the queer geek who’s the interests, experiences, and beliefs existed on the peripheral of popular.  I liked dressing in big sweatshirts and sweaters with oversized jeans; everything I wore was about disappearing my differences.  The popular straight boys, who got all the attention, were pop-idols and porn stars who looked like Justin Timberlake in Abercrombie & Fitch.  Not me.

Abandonment became engrained in middle school when everyone began pairing-off to experimenting with relationship dynamics, leaving me feeling alone.  I couldn’t go to local gay youth groups because I wasn’t ready for an identity label, which was rooted in the denial that was needed in high school to survive.  The homosexual teenagers I conversed with through the internet seemed so much braver than myself because they had found and proclaimed their inner authenticity.  Their assured identity, confidence in their labels – which had already been presented to their parents – gave them the bravery to ask to meet immediately.  I was incapable of reading other homosexual teenagers’ eagerness to meet as a shared isolation, and so made excuses as to why that couldn’t happen.

A Fictional Playground

The fictional playground that I have created is the city-state Pentapolis of the Valley, a dark urban fantasy setting combination of: my reality of Upstate New York, and my fantasy life imagined in New York City, London, and San Francisco.

The world that Pentapolis exists in is a combination of my fears and aesthetics.  The social ills of Pentapolis are rooted in inequity and isolationism, dressed in Victorian and Gilded Age construction.

Pentapolis of the Valley is located on the eastern coast of the United States, in the Hudson River Valley.  Pentapolis is a conglomerate of five cities, whose combined varied economic and political resources to form a powerful city-state, after an ecological disaster: The Genesis Revolution.  During that time, a large monolith emerged from Uuru, disrupting the fragile electromagnetic s igniting a new apocalyptic religion

I populated Pentapolis with characters based upon friends, who were then mixed with celebrity and historical facts.  I constructed the aloof Dorian Iacchus, the person I pretended to be and dreamt I could present.

In Pentapolis of the Valley, I constructed a world where scenarios and ideas can become thought exercises, followed through to their conclusion.

Home Floor Plan

My bungalow is in a handsome u-shaped French Revival-style exterior face of brown brick, sandstone, and panels of terracotta details.  A geometric wrought iron fence encases the backyard’s coy pond and fountain.  The courtyard reaches inside flooding the loft, creating ever-changing shadows and accents.  The porch is pale glazed brick, ornamental cast iron, Mexican floor tiles, and polished wood.

Overlooking the coy pond, is a small writing office with a square wooden coffee table and loveseat.  Through floor to ceiling glass doors is a particularly large salon; curtains are red and gold cotton.  A fireplace juts out from the brick wall, linking the porch and salon.

Inside, above the fireplace is flanked by floor to ceiling built-in shelves filled with antique books and candles.  A slim HD-TV sits on a rolling table out of the way.  In the center of the room is a rug, on top of which is a couch, antique Byzantine conversation couch, and two chairs huddled around a coffee table.  Strewn about the coffee table are periodicals.  Between the couch and the fireplace is an eight-person dining table, with two wing back black chairs at the heads of the table; the remaining six are three pairs of Edwardian chairs.  The parallel wall is lined in tiers trailing many feet to the ceiling is a large art collection.

French doors to the right of the salon lead to the bedroom, whose three walls are painted different shades of cement grey, with a fourth for the trim; the fourth wall is the large bubble glass that faced the courtyard.  A large Ottoman stained glass room divider obscured the bed from the glass.  A curtain rod ran across the ceiling with green and watermelon sheer curtains that could be drawn.  There is a Victorian fainting couch next to the French doors.  In the corner is a large mirror.  There are four armoires in the room: one against the wall to the side of the mirror, and the other three lined the parallel wall.  The wrought iron bed, with antique white European country chairs acting as side tables, are in the center of the room, with a black rug underneath.

Opposite the bubble glass is the bathroom, which is black and white art deco with subway tile, and accented with green and bamboo.  The free-standing sink, toilet and claw footed bathtub, are porcelain; the rainforest shower and fixtures are nickel.  There’s a small door across the bathroom entry that lead to a laundry room.

The kitchen is French rustic with plenty of work space that run along the walls, with a rolling island that allows the room to retain an open feeling.  There is light filling the white and natural wood filled room from a window that is over the in-counter brass country sink.  Storage and the pantry are beneath the counter space on display in glass containers.  The appliances are warm red and teal, designed to appear country and antique.  Eighteen inches from the ceiling runs a shelf around the kitchen that holds knick-knacks, which provide character that anchor the décor in a whimsical domestic fantasy.

The Forest’s Trees

Knowing the minutiae of events, the details needed to plan a day, and the trees of the forest become the goal of every day.  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.  Too much focus on patterns, designs, clashing, and mixing loses the trail through the woods.   To exist between the moment, focused on details, creates a life of managed crisis and devoid of stability.  Management sustains an imprisoning homeostasis, wherein activities are missed; and then isolation ensues.

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.  The body and mind have reflexes driving actions towards knowable patterns – again the cycle repeats.  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.  Regardless of the cycle that a person endures, breaking and starting on a new path is difficult to do.

Over time I have learned that it is okay to feel comfort in drifting within day to day.  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.

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.

Fiction is My Playground

Fiction is the playground where authenticity can be developed.  Reading and writing fiction pushes a participant to go through the world as experienced by another.  Fiction can legitimately present the inner-world of characters, letting outsiders experience the turmoil of daily interactions. Authenticity is rooted in a deep understanding of the world and the place that one holds in it, which fiction safely allows to occur.

Toni Morrison, Armistead Maupin, Carson McCullers, and Caitlin R. Kieran brought readers into their and their characters’ worlds.  Each author presented the inner-life of a marginalized group; Morrison revealed the psychological scars of slavery on African-Americans; Maupin showed the normalcy of LGBTQ+ community; McCullers and Kiernan gave representation to mental illness’ isolating ability.

Fiction explores these identities to form connections to understand an increasingly diverse world.  Stories expose radically different cultures, not Americanized variations, where presupposed rules can’t be applied, and are unable to change the culture. Authors create narratives that demonstrates blanket-solutions can’t be applied to every problem and expected to work.  Instead, fiction demonstrates that solutions must be unique to problem and culture, requiring imagination in examine the setting’s effect on characters and interactions.

Writing’s Joys

Writing is meditation, providing the sign-posts to authenticity, displaying baggage unedited on the page.  In un-arguable black and white words exist a story; words for which only context and definition exist, otherwise they have no other agenda than to communicate intent and emotion.  Words communicate clarity just as a painter’s brush strokes.

There is no higher participation than recording the human story.  Fiction, sculptor, journalist, painter, etc.  all the arts keep for the future, life experience as it is now.  Fiction, essays, and articles bring currents to depths, re-contextualizing the world and experiences.  A work’s message may not be presently obvious, but the future’s ability to decontextualize reframes evidence to speak.  Art carries a voice between generations, giving validity to future generations’ movements.

The writing process involves digging deeper into the root of a scenarios disagreements and complicities.  A writer’s imagination redevelops the world to a more agreeable inclusivity.   What is presented to the audience is the statement that cannot be tapped down.  As scenes are developed with details – evidence – around characters for complexity, makes them more relatable and appealing.  A character’s shared interests, experiences, and details with audiences extends empathy to the newly complex character, which is often Other to observer.

Writing is recording the present while creating the future – keeping the story going.

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.