It's been a while since I wrote anything for my poz family and for the folks at TheBody.com. This evening, as I was waiting for the pizza from Two Boots to arrive, I decided to check out the information on StatCounter about my main blog, myfeetonlywalkforward.blogspot.com, and I came across a link to a site called Nurse Tips. Nurse Tips has listed "Queer, Poz, and Colored: The Essentials," as one of their top 50 blogs about HIV/AIDS.
When I saw this, I was immediately overwhelmed by conflicting feelings.
The most immediate feeling was feeling honored to be listed amongst some fairly amazing blogs by some folks that have been doing this work for a very long time. The other feeling was one that I have experienced quite often lately, and that is one of feeling a bit like a fraud. Let me explain.
While I have come leaps and bounds in terms of my comfortability concerning talking about living with HIV/AIDS, it is still a struggle from time to time. In comparison to the rest of my life, where I am out about everything from my queerness to being a survivor of child abuse to being a hot mess from time to time, the way I speak about being positive remains timid in comparison. One of the survival strategies of growing up with intense physical abuse is a fluidity (read: lack) of boundaries, which is one of the reasons that I am able to write as openly about some of my experiences as I can (it is both a gift and a curse). How that translates is that I am often given much more credit for the ways in which I interact with my serostatus than I deserve.
In fact, since beginning to write for TheBody.com last summer, I have received emails and Facebook messages from folks all over the world thanking me for the things I have written here. Each person's message has been heartfelt, supportive, and caring, and each time I have read the note, I have thought to myself that the person writing is much more brave than I am. When I was first diagnosed, I ran away from the diagnosis in almost every way. As a former HIV educator, I knew what I needed to know in terms of the biomechanics of HIV. I went to my doctor, and I watched my numbers. But I did none of the work that these amazing individuals are doing: the work of finding a way to live with HIV. I didn't read blogs, I didn't seek out other poz people to find support and community, I didn't face the fears, pain, and worries, and I sure as hell didn't talk openly about it to anyone for the first three years.
As I have written before, I developed an addiction to crystal meth as a way to deal with not dealing, and it is an addiction with which I continue to struggle. Add to that living with a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the overachieving mixed with perfectionism with a dash of self-sabotage thrown into the mix, perhaps you can understand why it is hard for me to take in praise while finding it quite easy to play old easy tapes that reinforce an image of self that, in general, I fight hard to put to rest.
In addiction, I recently had a string of relapses. Though my relapses now are accompanied with an open honesty about my HIV status, I have found it hard to forgive myself and to own my humanness that could lead to a relapse (it's progress not perfection), and, so, to receive recognition and praise while repeating old patterns creates an internal conflict that is sometimes paralyzing. Hence the lack of writing for TheBody.com, and my blog here.
In reality, while my relapse was intense, it was short lived, and I am in a good place right now. In January, I finished the first draft of my novel, which will be out this summer. This week, I fly to Minneapolis to keynote a conference for queer high school youth, and, while I am currently unemployed, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes on my back, and a tremendous community of friends and family that have given me love, energy, and peace as I shake off this blip in my life and continue moving forward.
I don't really have anything to complain about.
We all live at crossroads of contradictions. My life has been lived in a pop culture, Cold War, post-Cold War, Republican Revolution, Obama Hope, Obama disappointment, post-Civil Rights, New Civil Rights, Human Rights, the Hell if I know what's right era that is portrayed as severely black and white all the while expanding the gray area to meet the needs of whatever power that happens to be. The truth is that all of that conflict and the ways in which it triggers my own internal issues is the tragically beautiful experience that is life. The fact that I remain here to pour out these conflicting feelings to you means that I have done the work of surviving, which is a key element (though not the only ingredient) to living and for that feat alone, I am going to give myself a pat on the back.
For having a chance to live with dignity and forgiveness, I am going to give a standing ovation to all of you, near and far, that have taken a moment to write a note, share a thought, emote an experience, and share the love. It's all ya'll that help me see the inherent virtue and the purpose that lives at the exact intersection of our contradictions.
Send Brandon an e-mail.