Who Invited You?
A new year has arrived. It's 1997. Another year, my twelfth to be exact living with an uninvited guest, Ms. HIV. Since I haven't a clue as to what life would be without this long-term visitor, I can't say much about how it has or hasn't changed my life. There are some things about which I can be certain - things that have happened and are currently happening.
Life with HIV is probably not unlike life is with any unwanted guest. At times it's just irritating while at other times it's downright infuriating. Now about some of the major stuff that has transpired in the past decade plus two.
I began by salvaging the pieces of me that weren't left somewhere out there on the landscape of a life I'd lived thus far. For me most of my life was not all that happy. I do remember having a wild imagination as a little girl. And dreams as vivid as the most colorful Disney tales. The truth is, until I was about twelve I believed with all my heart in miracles of the grandest proportions. I really thought I could be the most talented ballerina, the most powerful president and the finest film star ever to grace the silver screen. I had no doubt. No doubt at all. UNTIL . . .
Drugs Swallowed My Twenties; AIDS Devoured My Thirties
I lived in my head and my heart, worlds away from the cruel and self-centered worlds of a daddy who worshipped money and a mother's mind being destroyed by his desperate need to rule her and her IQ of 192. None of that mattered to me as a 12-year-old kid with a heart full of hope and a mind filled with dreams. Somehow, and I don't know why, it started to matter somewhere around the age of fifteen. It was then that all the sadness I'd ever witnessed washed over me like a flooding river. And then there were the drugs to dam the river. And they did the job for a while. It's an old story that doesn't need to be told again. Drugs, and work stole my teens and my twenties.
AIDS devoured my thirties; swallowed them whole. It takes a full decade, if the virus grants you that much time, to have even a clue about the impact it makes on your life. And I'm a fast learner; I'm no slouch in the brains or energy department. But AIDS is a painfully slow experience to process, no matter who the hell you think you are. But like AIDS, life is a process and the process matters. Contrary to popular belief the results don't count for much. It's the way we live, (the how and the why in our life) not what we accumulate, that tells our stories and defines who we are. We take the way we lived, the how and the why with us, not what we accumulated. No, all that bullshit stays behind to gather dust and create fights.
When I got past the "I should be thankful for the AIDS-as-a-wake-up-call" part and returned to honor my rage, grief, sadness, and the feelings of loss and being cheated, first came a sigh of relief. Then came the real work, back where I'd started a long time ago, with the questions I've had all my life. Who am I? Why am I here? What's humanity's purpose? What's mine? Is life worth living? . . . wondering how people can be so indifferent to each other's suffering. No longer contemplating why I ran all my life. Very simply, I had never figured out a way not to care, to ignore the pain and suffering of so many. I still haven't. I just feel the rage and the sadness and I do my small part. And I pray that I might see the goodness in others. I pray that we become a more compassionate and humane humanity. I'll never give up the fight for justice. I guess that's one of my purposes.
In Search Of A Humane Humanity
Today I try my best to transform my anger into passion and productivity. But I will not put my blinders back on and excuse everyone's self-centered pursuits in a world full of people who are suffering because of that selfishness. I am not a coward. I am not a hypocrite. And I might die an outraged activist, but one with both a clear vision and a clear conscience.
How can the world worry about how big its entry gates are when tiny children will die today in their own backyards? Knowing that men and women in their twenties, thirties, and forties will never realize their dreams and that today they too will be buried, many with no parent in attendance. It twists my insides.
I'm still clueless here in 1997. In 1986 I had great hope for AIDS to be the divine equalizer. Unfortunately I remain disillusioned. AIDS has divided where it should have united. It has invoked greed where compassion is far more appropriate; it has given new energy to the old vendettas of the perpetually self-centered. It has given birth to a new breed of opportunists capitalizing on the suffering and vulnerability of the dead and dying. It has given new meaning to incompetence in the workplace known as the AIDS industry. It has given countless exploitive capitalists permission to steal AIDS funding when pure greed or a personal agenda is their objective motivated by race, sexual, or substance user's causes. It has manifested the ugliest in human nature, even though it was an invitation to all of us to go to a higher place. Most of us haven't. But we still can.
So 1997 looks like it will be a year of letting go for me. Yes, I'm sick and tired of PWAs being exploited. But infinite wisdom tells me this is not my battle alone. Though I will not retreat in apathy I will do my work quietly.
I have made 1997 the Year of the Dream. The year to believe in me and my dreams. To trust myself. To be my soul. To let my spirit guide me. To be totally vulnerable, stripped of the armor I have carried for so many years. Nineteen ninety-seven will be the year I let my heart run free again.
Back to the February 1997 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.