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Cry Me an Ocean (in the Desert)

By Philip D.

May 5, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park

When I say that I've cried more in the past two and a half years than I have in the rest of my life combined, I'm not really exaggerating. Since my diagnosis, it seems almost anything can get me going. Though a funny thing happened on the way to the Kleenex box; I discovered that I'd actually been missing out on something that can be as relaxing as a massage, uplifting as Confession and doesn't cost a dime. I'm Philip D. and I love a good cry.

Lucky for me, my man is no stranger to criers. As a cognitive therapist, John has met his fair share but I have to admit, even he is amazed sometimes at what moves me to tears. Oh sure, lots of people let loose when they watch "Terms of Endearment" or "Beaches" and it's not so unusual to get misty at a lovely wedding, but how many people find themselves sobbing while watching "Extreme Home Makeovers" on a Sunday night? Okay, so maybe I did shed a tear or 2,000 at "The Blind Side," but just as often I'm moved because I'm overwhelmed by seeing something beautiful or witnessing a random act of kindness.

The first year there was so much "stuff" that required my immediate attention. Between finding a doctor/wingman, starting meds and becoming educated about my new life with HIV, I didn't have much time or energy to fully "feel" what was happening to me. So last May, I treated myself to five days of camping and yoga, with my friend Darren Main, surrounded by the serene beauty and harsh terrain of Joshua Tree National Park. It was my fourth time on this annual retreat so I was already looking forward to the healing power of the desert. For almost a week, I decided to forgo all the distractions and trappings of civilization (a phone, electricity, my bed, running water, etc.) and trade it for plenty of yoga, warm drinking water, healthy food, hiking and hanging out with some very chill yogis from all over.

Joshua Tree National Park
Late in the afternoon on our last day, we looked forward to clear night skies and a big, full moon. After several 100+ degree days and as many cool, not so quiet nights sleeping on the ground to relax/exhaust us, Darren led us away from our campsite and suggested we find shade, scatter our mats and lay down on our backs. We were encouraged to begin breathing with very large, full inhales and loud, audible exhales, just this side of hyperventilation. After several minutes of breathing this way, I began to lose track of time and space due to the dramatic increase of oxygen in my bloodstream. I could feel the gentle hot wind and could hear the breathing of the others going on around me but I also could feel myself slipping into a state that is difficult to describe.

One by one, every single inner wall that held all the anger, resentment, fear and shame that I had been accumulating, began to melt away and I started to cry like I have never cried before. In waves that varied greatly in intensity and in volume, all my emotions were being released through my eyes, running down my cheeks, and then dried away by the desert wind. Normally I would have backed off something so intense but instinctively I knew these toxic feelings had to be dispelled if I were ever to heal. Thankfully, I left all that "bad" in the desert that hot afternoon.

Joshua Tree National Park
There are countless opportunities to get teary; listening to a beautiful piece of music, a good/sad book, or even while going for a run just to name a few. But I've taken crying to a whole new level since contracting HIV. Maybe it's the meds, maybe it's the virus itself affecting my brain -- or maybe, just maybe, I've become more evolved. Weeping is seen as weak by some but I think it's the most enlightened members of the human race that "let it out" on a regular basis. Besides, next to an orgasm, what else feels as good alone as it does with a "friend"?

Sure, there are times when I think, "not this too, Philip" but then I figure, why not? It has no calories, no instructions, needs no assembly and you can't help but get better at it just through practice. You can do it in the morning or the evening, alone or with friends, at 30,000 feet or in the middle of the desert. It's completely legal, never becomes outdated and aside from the potential danger of dehydration, I can't come up with one single reason why I shouldn't.

Kleenex, anyone?

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See Also
More Personal Stories of Gay Men With HIV


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A Positive Spin

Philip D.

Philip D.

After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.

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