It has been hard to focus and maintain momentum lately. I feel like I got lost a little bit from my path and frustrated and overwhelmed. A lot has been going on, and though I may seem like a "trooper" or whatever, I am still not immune to daily insecurities and fears about everything that I have been through and how far I still have to go. I wonder constantly what I will look like in the end, wonder if I will be truly able to live without pain, how long it will be before I can eat certain foods, if I am taking good enough care of the teeth I still have for the first time in my life or not. Above all, my only real answer I can ever grapple to find in the daily darkness of my thoughts is to trust in Rakhee and believe in myself and this crazy journey we are on and know that I am on the right path. I never thought it was going to be an easy one, after all. I guess my energy, positivity, inspiration and motivation waxes and wanes just like everything else...
I've had a hard time dealing with my inability to move forward fast enough. As of today, I am about $4,600 ahead of my actual appointments, (which is amazing!) but which after waiting for years in pain for an answer and a way out of all of this, upsets me to no end that I haven't been able to get as much time off of work as I need to heal. Having my first really terrible pain in a few months a couple of weeks ago certainly did not help matters any, and after 4 days straight on Vicodin due to sensitivity around teeth 3 and 4 (when for the record even after three extractions in a day I only ever took one or two Vicodin and was fine) I kinda started losing it and questioning everything. I wondered if I should try to switch to part-time or get a different job or move closer to Mesa and my dentists or all of the above. I wondered if my pain really ever would go away. I wondered if tooth 13 which is where I've been doing the majority of my chewing for weeks that isn't supported on either side is going to collapse while I continue to be stuck waiting weeks or months to fit my appointments in and to get a partial to support those upper teeth. I wonder now if I have somehow developed an infection since my previous Xrays a few months ago on tooth 3 and/or 4 and if I am going to need another root canal. I wonder how or why I can't somehow be granted some sort of extenuating circumstances medical leave for my appointments like if I had chemo or physical therapy or something for any OTHER sort of injury. I sorta began to feel like the "novelty" of all I have accomplished was wearing off or something, as I came home alone over and over to my crappy apartment on the west side of Downtown Phoenix that I have more than outgrown, yet am unable to find a better place suited to my needs right now that doesn't cost a fortune. I want to work on art and other things again, but simply don't have the workspace. But I also don't want to compromise all of my monthly savings to pay for one. It has been harder and harder to find a balance. I don't mean to sound like I am complaining, I am just sharing some of the long list of things that have been on my mind lately.
As my surge of blog activity after Roger Ebert's tweet has died down and in my absence from posting this past month, I have tried to refocus and continue to organize events and opportunities for fund-raising on a local level. I spent a lot of the that time organizing a benefit concert and dinner at my friend's record store this past weekend that went really well, that I will post a blog about very soon. I have a few more events in the works. I have been somewhat frustrated by my inability to get much local media coverage of any kind despite what I thought were some promising leads. It's a strange feeling to know that your words have been read in 80 countries but not even feel like they have been heard in your own city, especially when you see all the other crap that passes for news every day. If nothing else, and all Ego aside, I am at least for once a POSITIVE story about something happening in Phoenix. I for one, am sick to death, of all the negative ones.
This past weekend, one of our friends here in the Downtown Arts Community, Travis Allen, took his own life. This has been my second death to grapple with in only a few months after an eight-year hiatus of that big mortality question getting popped so loudly in a quiet corner of my subconscious. It was, however, a very different kind of death than my Grandmother's. It has been complicated to try and process, to restrain myself from feeling too "guilty" though I in a way think that all of us in his community are at least a little bit to blame. I know that we can never truly know anyone and what goes on inside of their heads throughout their days, be it even our lover, mother or best friends, nor can we ever be anything more than a blanket that helps them to find comfort in their own skin on cold nights. I also know that even a 100 blankets, when someone, if cold enough to hide a gun or a razor or pills underneath that warmth of their community of support, can never truly keep them warm enough. I wish I knew what could have.
One of the last times I saw Trav for any great length of time was after I first returned to Phoenix from the bike tour and had told him about how I had came out to my facebook community of friends about my secret and was finally finding the courage and commitment to move forward and try to heal myself. Hell, the whole damn point more than anything, if there even is one to be had from reading my blog, is that there is absolutely nothing shameful about asking for help. It is that I am striving every day as best as I can, with all my own problems and issues and distractions and frustrations, to show the world one example, of how one crazy person finally, finally tried to find a creative way out, to overcome his shit, and find mental and physical health and happiness. I know more than anyone, that (life) "it is not THAT easy" -- this did, after all, take me nearly 20 years. It is hard however, knowing how moved Travis was and how truly happy he was for me in that moment to see how far I had come as a person in the four years he had sort of known me, to feel like it still didn't empower him to know that he could have called me, and "asked for help" in his own darkest hours. It is sad, for me...because I know wholeheartedly what it is like to feel powerless to change your situation, but as I have explained to other friends I have loved with suicidal thoughts, that for me, personally, there has always still been so much else I could find to live for. Even on days of my worst toothaches ever, and trust me, there have been a lot of them in my life, I have never once contemplated blowing my brains out. But I know, unfortunately, that we are not all wired the same, and I don't "blame" or judge him, because I don't for a second know what a single moment of life was like to walk in his shoes. Mostly, I am just sad, and I miss him.
One of my favorite memories of Travis that I will always remember that was something bizarre he started doing when I barely had only just met him, was whenever we would run into each other, both sweating in the sun from biking or rollerskating usually, he would run up to me and yell "Gimme your pepper!" and stick his fingers into my sweaty armpits like he was He-Man holding his sword aloft and it somehow gave him "the POWER!" He would chase me around and dramatically smell his hands afterward like that character Mary Catherine Gallagher on SNL. He did this so regularly over the course of several weeks and random visits that I actually had like, a mini "intervention" with him politely asking him to stop because well, it was just a little bit TOO weird sometimes! Nonetheless, he certainly always made me laugh. I did not see him often, but whenever I did, he was one of the few people in Phoenix during the peak of my love/hate relationship with it back in those days that I was always grateful to randomly bump into and get to spend time with. I always knew that when we spoke, I had his full attention, and he genuinely was interested in me as a person. He just had that way about him, how his kind blue eyes could pierce right through you. He always seemed more concerned at how everyone else was doing than himself, and would give his last dollar to anyone in need, I think more often than not, putting others before himself. I think that for him, like my grandmother, his generosity was one of his greatest sources of joy. One of the first times I saw him back when I was selling stencil art at Willow House he had just got payed and offered me $50 for some tshirts, and though I usually always sold them sliding scale and would have made him like TEN shirts for that price or practically any art that I wanted, I knew that he was someone that, when it came to helping out a friend, if he could, he would not take no for an answer. He gave me a beat up old Nishiki bike he himself was hanging onto hoping to fix when my own got stolen, and even though I never did find the correct parts to fix it (although I think Vav did when I left it at Firehouse after I had moved out) I know that it never seemed hard at all for him to part with any of his belongings if he felt that one of his friends needed them more than he did. I hope to always be reminded of him, like my Grandmother, during my own acts of kindness, generosity and compassion, so that they may always live on through me and all of us who knew them, and all who continue to live in the endearing, positive ways that they did.
I will miss you, dude. I hope that you have finally found peace, and/or whatever it is you were looking for that day when you decided to leave us without saying goodbye, to take such a long vacation into all of our memories. I hope that you know that you don't have to worry anymore, and know that we have also packed little pieces of you to take with us everywhere we go as well, silly notes and doodles scrawled on crumpled up pieces of paper by the pocketful, always falling out wherever we go to be picked up by strangers who will no doubt also smile as we all do when we think of you. I hope that my particular mind continues to never find itself in quite so dark of a tunnel that there seems no other form of escape as many of my loved ones have periodically seemed trapped in. I also hope, that any of you reading this in Phoenix or elsewhere, know that I am here for you, in any way that I can be, to try and help you through whatever your troubles might be. But neither I nor anyone else necessarily know, if you don't ask. Asking is one of the hardest parts, but I promise things can get easier after that first step. I hope that if you are reading this, and it has conjured any thoughts of fellow friends that may be suffering, that you will perhaps call them and reach out, and simply ask them how they are today. Or even if you run across a stranger during the course of your day who looks down, perhaps you will take a moment to ask them, "How are you?" We can all help each other take those awkward, uncomfortable first steps towards connection together, and perhaps one day live in a world where we all can feel just a little bit less alone. I hope so...
Because asking will never hurt anyone, and NOT asking will certainly never help them.
Because all of the greatest friends and lovers you will ever have in this lifetime, started out as "strangers."
Because the biggest obstacle in the way of friendship, is a single word: "Hello."
Hi everyone. You might not have ever met me before, but I was a friend of Trav's. My name is Paul. How can I help you?
|Travis and his son, Kai|