A Sense of One's Own Power at Solstice Time
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Dec. 21st, 2009 | 12:56 pm
A sense of my own power is my recurrent theme this Winter Break. It was in the 30's, stormy, and wet when I left Santa Cruz last Friday morning. My final final was scheduled for Thursday evening at 4:30 or 5:00 but I had it confused with my other final which occured at 7:00 p.m. I was sitting in my room going a little crazy with building anxiety. For some reason I ignored my rapid cognition telling me to double check the time or my school e-mail. So it wasn't till after 6 when I noticed two e-mails from my professor:
Thu, 10 Dec 2009 16:26
Where are you? We are in Baskin taking the final.
I received this e-mail because of the personal relationship I built with the professor. Sitting in the front row. Chatting after class and during office hours. E-mailing interesting things. And, mentoring 5 other students for the final. I flew down the trail in the pouring rain on my bike adrenaline coursing through my body so that holding a pen much less writing became an out of body experience. The professor and my TA both rushed out of the auditorium to greet me with great relief. I calmly told them about the time mistake and they immediately set me up with the profs laptop at the podium to begin the image ID portion of the exam. They both joked about the irony, me being the arguably most prepared for the material. I knew some of the upcoming images based on questions on the prompt even before they were shown on the tiny screen so I was able to finish this portion of the exam in under 20 minutes. As students thanked the prof for a great course and embarked on their winter breaks I collected my exam prepared to hand it in incomplete. The prof matter of factly and casually for that matter said, lets go to my office (at my college) to finish the exam. The mood in her office was jovial as TA's held stacks of exams in hand and brunch plans the following morning were made. I on the other hand was feeling the rain and cold in my lactic acid filled muscles and joints still aware that I had almost 90 minutes of exam to complete. The prof set me up again with her laptop in her office, admonishing me not to touch the buttons as the identification info was attached to each powerpoint slide. Then she left me as she spoke to someone on her mobile in perfect french. I could barely tune it out. I was simultaneously stressed to the maximum with the exam in front of me and charmed and intriugued by my teachers glamorous conversation. The last hour of the exam consisted of two essay questions, 30 min for each. My prof was hungry and told me she was going into town for greek food and that I should just close the laptop and begin the final portion when I was ready. She then closed the office door and left me alone for more than an hour.
I posted a status update about the experience and my former history professor and boss (when I was a TA) responded with this comment:
Torito...Your amazing integrity and engaging personality saved your butt! If you're anything like the student you were at SAC (and my guess is you're 10 times like that) no wonder your prof made the exception :)
Which brings everything full circle. The theme that keeps recurring to me. A sense of my own power. The relationships I build. Or put plainly my like-ability. It has been an asset throughout my adult life. Since finding my tribe in San Francisco I think, and learning how to "be," a better person.
Some other things occurred at school this quarter. I am amazed at how much I managed to accomplish. I'm not by nature a self starter. I just get bored or perhaps scared into action and while I'm in motion, unaware of how assertive I can be, I get shit done. Its not hard to do in the University. The quarter system accelerates everything. If you don't go home and push through your exhaustion and read 60-120 page for class the next day you get excoriated in front of the class and you feel like a loser. I connected with someone from my junior college. I knew him peripherally through a friend who was very active in student government and also helped me run the Gay Straight Alliance. He's at Berkeley now and doing remarkably well. So, I knew this guy peripherally but we were always cordial. I saw him at UCSC and we were immediately warm to one another. If for no other reason than it was remarkable and lovely to see another brown face among the sea of white ones. He got me gung ho on this program that pairs you with a faculty member to do your own research or theirs. UCSC being a UC school all professors have to be doing research and writing books. I lagged on everything and didn't even read the application till a week or less than the deadline. Which is why I went into a panic when I realized that I needed two recommendations from faculty and ideally I needed to identify a faculty to work with, though not necessary it would only help me and strengthen my application. So I did everything last minute. The application deadline was a Friday and I didn't have a meeting with my professor till the Tuesday following. Still the program coordinator was gung ho for me to be a part of this and aside from the heavy heavy coaching (again due to the lack of diversity on campus, the program she works with serves theses students) I reached out to the very few people I knew. I knew a fill in professor, a professor who was going on leave, and the History of Art and Visual Culture chair who I'd actually met with at the beginning of the quarter to do ed planning. That left only the chair to ask. As soon as I'd sent the e-mail I was filled with regret. I thought, what in the hell have I done. It would be like a receptionist asking a CEO to mentor them. So I was in shock when she agreed to meet with me and with little sleep at 9 a.m. and on auto-pilot I charmed her as I presented my case and simultaneously spoke about my love for art and picking things apart (analysis/deconstruction). I brought my statement of purpose and personal essays with me, which she actually took the time to read. I have a feeling those really sealed the deal. Even when writing for academic purposes I still manage to employ all those emotional hooks which I've learned from watching Disney films and observing cinematography in general. I do it unconsciously at this point but the papers had their own performative aspect to themselves. Thank you Mrs. Hallback from the hell that was 6th grade for developing my creative writing skills. (I say this as I sit in my step-fathers house across the street from the grade school I attended, age 10 and 11). So what does this mean in plain english? The department chair, a Yale grad, is really incredibly well connected in the art world. A boon no doubt. But, I have years of experience of self-actualization and a pedigree of sage teachers and experiences. I have a feeling while I'm helping her research her two upcoming books I'll be helping her in other ways. After all learning helps us to learn about ourselves. I only hope I can live up to expectations and standards.
This concludes the personal narrative education recap portion. Now we delve into the more personal. Love and life and travails, er I mean travels.
I haven't written about the Lonnie situation for months now. I didn't want to write about till I had reached some resolution. Did I write about the big falling out? I can't imagine that I didn't. I was feeling all emotional at the time at the prospect of this friend not being in my life. (he used friend...) I said some things. I said anything to get him to talk to me. I said things he wanted to hear. About the middle of the fall quarter I began to feel that creeping annoyance that turns into resentment. I clearly chose school over anything else including maintaining a long distance friendship. The contact became less incessant. The chats died down. My bitchiness signaled for him to back off and give me some space. I get really short when I'm exhausted. Whereas there is some veneer of filter in my normally opinionated pronouncements there is absolutely none when I'm stretched thin. Still there was the pre-planned Thanksgiving visit, which was totally disruptive. While I am one to compartmentalize, when it comes to relationships I cannot just subjugate that stuff and act as if nothing is occurring inside. It quickly came to the surface. Lonnie being Lonnie, emotionally impulsive and childish, he had a tantrum. Thank goodness the campus was literally deserted. I was livid over the behavior. It all came to a head in a really loud, not on my part but still, fight in the upstairs bathroom. I took advantage of the outrageous situation to lay it all on the line. I told him I said the things I said for the wrong reasons. I told him that I had finally had a sense of ownership living on campus. I no longer felt like a visitor. I was cognizant that fulfilling my dream of going away to University came at the cost of Scott taking his life. That is neither here nor there. It just is. A flat fact. I told him that I had not missed him since moving away and that this was my life now. I wasn't coming back. Orange County, it even makes me shudder to type it, was a necessary punishment for the choices I made in my life. A stepping stone for my real life. Albeit I would not have met Scott had I not moved home and gone to community college but Northern California has and always will remain my true spiritual home. But I digress. It felt good to get this stuff out. Bluntness is the best way. Authenticity and honesty are the best way. All pretense ripped away we could move on. I was nonplussed with the episode and aside from spelling it all out I told Lonnie to, "pack his f**cking bags and leave." I understand that he's emotionally immature but to not be able to control your emotions in the context of a school residence hall where his actions could seriously f**k up my situation crossed a line. I have to admit on some level it also felt a relief to say this. It was like a reset button. I didn't mention that the reason we were in the bathroom/shower room was to get ready for a night out. The monthly gay mens gathering in town. I really meant what I said but I was also remaining calm. Maybe most people would have freaked out but I'm used to these kinds of explosive situations. This was pretty calm by comparison. No police were involved. No one bloodied themselves. No ones hands were set on fire. No one plunged their burning hands into the toilet to extinguish the flames. Yeah, I suppose this is not normal but I've not lead a normal life. Lonnie calmed down and apologized as he always does after these episodes. I flatly told him if it happened again there would be real consequences. I was pretty confident it wouldn't happen again. We went out with a friend who was also on campus. We drank and smoked way too much and had a nice evening. So nice that I lost the entire next day owing to being hung over. Disruption. Self fulfilling prophecy. Torturous 14 hours at the computer the next day writing papers.
We've been spending time together since my return to Orange County. I've had to redefine boundaries and its been a negotiation. I don't want to shit on anyone's Xmas and I don't want to be alone. It's been trying. Lonnie had another fit but it was pretty minor. No real yelling. A few harsh words but resulting in a real hard line resolution this time. These things take time and I've been a willing participant. I am not a cruel person after all and our friendship underneath all of this is genunie. Everyone is looking for love it seems. Except for me. I've closed that part of myself off a long time ago. I'm happier. As I've said ad nauseum its not something I have any control over, why expend the spent wasted energy. Still I have been conscious of missing Scott quite a bit lately. Maybe its the holiday time or being with friends outside the context of the maddening pace of school. Speaking of which. I spent the first night here in So Cal in a dirty seedy club reconnecting with an old coworker from my mad End Up days. He was head bartender and I was doorman. We've both come along way. We've had a few falling outs and a few patch ups. I now have a place to visit in NY. The following day I was dragging. I forgot to mention Forrest. My teenage friend. Forrest was with me. I always love seeing him. We had such a long stretch without one another in each others lives. We had a lot of stuff to work out before we could come together. When I was younger I was so afraid of being alone that I clung to our friendship. Even as I had this feeling of him being torn away from me as he entered into several long term relationships. I was not aware of the enduring love affair I would have with Capricorns and the powerful relationship the two signs have when they come together. Forrest was my first and Scott was my last but there have been many. Each and every one engaging and oh so fulfilling. When I was in SF last weekend I ran into an old friend, one of the lost children we took into our Haight St home. He remarked over lunch, "you were Forrest's case manager weren't you?" I never framed it in those terms before. I never thought that when I called his doctor or social worker and pretended to be him because it was just easier to get shit done that I was doing that. I guess I took care of everyone in my life at that time, like a big mother. I love(d) those days/daze. It's always emotional for me to connect with Forrest now. I see the effect of being a long term survivor has had on him. Though nowdays these things are chronic and manageable. Maybe its age that I'm seeing. I see that he and other friends have not coped as well. I want us all to grow together and to grow older gracefully and beautifully. It gives me a sense of mortality seeing these friends that I've known for 10 and 20 years, like my parents who aged visibly every time I visited with them. We spent the day in Disneyland. A whole blissful wonderful day together with some friends from school. A 19 and a 20 year old but they're nerds like me so we connect and age does not appear to be an issue, though I am always and constantly filtering what I say based on my own different experience. At the end of our day riding rides and running around I forced everyone to stop and view the spectacular fireworks show. I am a sucker for these things. They narrate and score them for maximum emotional impact and it works like a charm on me every-time. I have known that familiar soothing storybook teller voice since I was a little tiny boy and it still holds the same power to render me childlike even now. I attempted to film the experience. As is my desire to convey these sorts of things with others. I found myself filming Forrest experiencing the show. I was very conscious of what I was doing. Scott accused me of what he called engaging in meals remembered. That is, not being in the moment. Incessantly wanting to record and capture these poignant experiences instead of experiencing them. He was right. I did want to record this moment for future use and I was wholly aware that while I was observing the moment I was cherishing the idea that I'd be able to experience it again and again like my favorite tear jerker film. I've always done these things but more so now after having lost so many friends and having lost Scott. It's perverse but its a kind of perversion I can live with. Our technology allows us to mediate these things. I may as well mediate something for myself while we're all busy uploading, posting, and micro-blogging. Therein lies the power of the self. In a meta way I am mediating my own experiences but also cataloging them for my own use. Maybe I watched scanners one too many times.
I hadn't intended to write so much. I should also mention my weekender in San Francisco. It was lovely and grey and wet and perfect. I got to spend three glorious days reconnecting with my ate dexter. It worked out perfectly that we were out with friends and then home in the wee hours to have a nightcap and conversation. It really did feel like staying up late with my brothers or sisters, chatting away into the wee hours as we drifted off to sleep with one another. I really value and appreciate having him in my life. Our relationship is one of those fluid ones where we pick up where we left off no matter the distance or time. A true friendship. Which reminds me. I met with my old roommate and best friend Paul at the Eagle for beer bust. He kept introducing me as his dogs mother. Awwww. We raised this beatiful pit ridgeback mix together and she still lives with him. Bodhi. Bodhi was/is an emotional healer and she saw me thru some bad times, as did Paul for that matter. So it was really lovely to come together, older and with stability in one anothers lives. I think of all the beerbusts when I worried about my ensemble and stressed about where I would position myself not wanting to be alone without friends. All the Sundays of my youth. From the minute I walked up the Eagle and ran into Paul and friends outside I had this sense of well being. I was very happy to go here and there, even alone at times saying hello and speaking to strangers. I had a sense of my own power. I felt beautiful and attractive and charming and in my own element. The bar could have been anywhere or anyplace. The important thing was it was a backdrop for old friends to reconnect and have fun. I stayed out much later than I had planned. I drank more than I planned. I kissed a very attractive man, also unplanned. Then I had a lovely walk back to Dexter's. A San Francisco walk through my old neighborhoods past the bars I tended and the shops I worked and the old flats I lived in. But, this time I had a sense that I was ok and that everything and everyone was ok.
So now here I sit in my step-dad's living room typing away furiously. The sky is cloudy and its cold and the Solstice is upon us. I adore this kind of weather! This atypical So Cal weather, this Nor Cal weather. I don't have a longing sense for Xmas nor do I have a dread about it. I attended my old Survivors of Suicide group yesterday at the Crystal Cathedral. It happened to be the end of year group that precedes the candlelight service on the 13th floor, lol. The tower of hope where we meet has a 13th floor! It was a very loose unstructured group and people streamed in late. We actually managed to get through each persons story. We all adhered to the 3 minute rule, though it seemed like less. I myself told an abbreviated version of my story and punctuated it with, it was very lovely to come back to this group where I spent a year of my life, to find some continuity and continuation, to meet a family who was only a month into their grieving who had found the group a great salvation. I also shared that a year of bereavement group and SOS group and a year and half of life since May 15th, 2008, and I was now at a point where I could reflect on my own experience and help others. This is a good feeling. Feeling whole. Feeling wiser. Feeling ready to resume being a formless field of benefaction. Feeling ready to resume being a part of life. Happy Solstice and Yule everyone.