Fear of Success

So I haven’t been here in what seems like forever.  I wish I could tell you it’s because I’ve been SOOO busy doing SUUUCH exciting things, but then you’d be expecting me to write about it and well, it’s simply not true.

Truth is, I’ve been busy writing, which, I guess is sort of exciting.  It’s exciting to me.  It’s also frustrating and nerve-wracking and irritating and a whole hell of a lot of fun.  It just. Takes. So. Long!  I have a cheerleader who is desperate to read my book.  She’s read the first two chapters and the “mom” chapters I posted not too long ago.  She likes what she’s read and she’s chomping at the bit to read more.  Sorry!  You’ll just have to wait.

Anyway, I’ve been busy committing all my writing time to the book and I’m really happy with what’s coming out, even it is taking an eternity and a half to create but I’ve noticed that there’s a certain amount of fear that goes with it.  (It would be well to note that fear often has no basis in rational thinking, however…)

I’m fearful that this book is not as good as I think it is (despite significant evidence to the contrary.)

I’m fearful that just because a handful of people have read a small fraction of what I’ve written and liked it, a lot, that it will not be good in the eyes of a publishing company.

I’m fearful that because of the nature of its content, what I’m writing will never be accepted by mainstream publishing and even if it ever does get published, it won’t be by a mainstream house and may not be promoted or marketed enough to sell many copies.

I’m fearful that this is the only thing I’ll ever be able to write.  It took me 32 years to come up with an idea which actually formed into a complete story.  What if it takes another 32 years to come up with the next one?

While I’m enjoying the process and would be happy for any amount of success that might come from it, I have to admit that all of that is tempered with a fear that I might get exactly what I want; a fantastic book, well received by major publishing houses, huge promotion and significant compensation and an opportunity to do more…

I’ve grudgingly resigned myself to the idea that my family may never really know me; never know the full truth about me.  I don’t love this idea, but I’ve lived with it for a long time and it’s…familiar.  But, what if I get published.  What if this book I’m writing, a book all about a young man who comes to terms with his sexuality despite his conservative upbringing and judgmental mother, a book full of emotional turmoil and sexual revelation… and sex, get’s published and promoted and makes even a medium splash in the literary world?  My mother is a voracious reader.  I’m not sure if a book like mine could accidentally find its way into her hands, but the prospect is disconcerting, at least.

I wrote a scene just the other day between our lead character, Calvin and a would-be lover/pseudo mentor, Trip, in which Trip explains his less than blissful relationship with his own family.  Without getting too bogged down in details or giving away too much of my, as yet unpublished passion, Cal has been taken to an Atlanta emergency room after a relatively minor injury.  Trip accompanied Calvin and is waiting in a room with him.  Pay attention to the last line:

Another thought occurred to me that I was ashamed not to have realized earlier.  “Oh my God, Trip!”  I slapped my hand down on his arm which had been resting comfortably on the edge of my bed.  “I’ve done it again.  You missed your brother’s reception.  What was I thinking making you bring me here.”

“Those drugs they gave you must be really good,” he laughed.  “You’ll recall I didn’t give you a choice in the matter.”  He patted my hand still resting on his other arm.  “Don’t worry about the reception.  I was there for most of it.  I won’t have been missed, I’m sure.”

There was something sad in his tone and I wondered what his relationship with his family might really be like.  “I’m sure that’s not true,” I suggested.  “You’re brothers after all.”

Trip just looked at me for several long seconds and then he leaned forward in the chair, and whispered to me, conspiratorially.  “I’ll tell you a secret Cal.  What you saw last night?  The way Tommy acted when you and I were leavin’?  That was just the tip of the iceberg.  My family has really struggled since I came out.  Most of the time I think they’re happier when I’m not around.”  That revelation struck me hard.  What must it have been like for him to accept being gay, acknowledge it, and tell his family, knowing that his father was a Baptist Preacher and his family would not accept him?  I couldn’t imagine what his life must be like and I didn’t understand how he could come off as being so self assured when he had this burden weighing him down when he thought no one was paying attention.

And he wanted me to be in the same boat?  How could he expect anyone to follow in his footsteps and demolish whatever sense of a life they had?  I was about to ask him just that when the nurse walked in.

We ate in silence for a while, crunching on our fruits and vegetables.  In spite of my hunger, I couldn’t bear to eat the white bread bun so I pulled the turkey off the sandwich and ate it plain.  Finally, I gingerly turned my head to look at Trip directly and I said, “I’m sorry, Trip.  I’m really sorry.”

He was confused, “’Bout what?”

“It sounds terrible,” I answered, clearing nothing up.  “I can’t imagine facing my parents and knowing that they don’t approve of me.”  Even as I said it I realized, I already knew how that felt.  I was all too familiar with the look of disdain my mother was so adept at displaying at the merest mention of pretty much any new idea I’d ever had.  I knew that if I were to tell her I was gay that would be the end for us.  The look she would give me, her reaction to that news would be impossible to get past.  “It must be just awful to be faced with that every day.”

Trip’s expression darkened.  “It’s not easy,” he said, his voice was thick with grief.  “My parents had such high hopes for me when I was growin’ up,” he continued.  “They wanted me to be a pastor like my father and like his father and his father before him.  Our family has been leading The First Baptist Church of Savannah for three generations.  Daddy is pretty well respected in the community.”  He paused and as his eyes glistened he gulped hard, holding his feelings in.  “Well anyway, he was.  And then about eight months ago I was caught on film coming out of a club called The Cockpit.  There was a local news crew doing a remote spot outside the club.  I didn’t even notice them at the time and I have no idea what the story was about let alone that I was on film but before I knew it, someone had seen me on the news and it got back to the Convention – The Southern Baptist Convention – and they talked to my dad about it.

“And then a couple months ago Janelle got pregnant and she and Tommy had to have this shotgun wedding.  Which is a sham, as far as I’m concerned and I just know they’re not going to last and I can’t help but think that’ll be even worse for my father’s reputation.  But you know…  At least they’re doin’ the honorable thing in the face of their shame.  There’s nothin’ I can do to make this right in their eyes.  And now, daddy’s reputation is damaged and the Convention is talkin’ about replacing him at the church.  It’s all a big ugly mess and not the way I would have wanted it to be, at all.

“I dreaded comin’ out to my parents and I put it off way too long…  I sure as hell didn’t want them to find out from someone else.  Let alone the whole community.”  Tears crept down his face now and he lowered his head, staring at the blanket that covered me.  “Talkin’ to my parents about being gay was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I owed it to them to be the one to tell them, and I didn’t do it.”

It seems like a long shot at best but I would hate for this book to be the way my family finds out that I’m gay and yet having that conversation is something I’m unable to imagine.    But the flip side of that is, what happens if this book actually gets published?  What if it actually is a moderate (or bigger) hit and I make a nice chunk of change from it?  What if I need to go on some sort of book tour because of it?  What if this turns out to be a really big deal…  And I can’t share it with my family, because to share it with them I’d have to tell them the hardest thing I could imagine ever having to tell them?  And what if I have to go through the rest of my life watching what I say, careful never to give any inclination about any of the experiences that I’ve had as a result of writing this book, just as I have to be careful now, never to mention anything that might reveal the identity that is Riggledo (blog, twitter, e-mail, etc.)

I realize I’m putting the cart before the horse, as I’m prone to do, and I’m not allowing these fears to stop me writing the book, but I can’t help fearing all these things.

Ten Thoughts to Ponder

Number 10
Life is sexually transmitted.

Number 9
Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

Number 8
Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny.
If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich ..

Number 7
Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day,
teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks.

Number 6
Some people are like a Slinky . . . not really good for anything, but you
still can’t help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

Number 5
Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals, dying of nothing.

Number 4
All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

Number 3
Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200.00, and a substantial tax cut saves you $30.00?

Number 2
In the 60’s, people took acid to make the world weird.
Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

And The Number 1 Thought
Life is like a jar of Jalapeno peppers;
what you do today, might burn your ass tomorrow.

Zombie Power

K:  According to the Internet Bertha is Dead.

Me:  Awesome!  Let’s have a party!

K:  Because there is no one else in the world with her name… Apparently.

[I glance at Bertha’s computer screen and see she is on Ancestry.com]

Me:  And what does that have to do with her job exactly?

[The irony of that statement is not lost on me.]

K:  I’m not sure, but if she is dead then it would be hard for her to do her job.

Me:  She makes an awful lot of noise for a dead person.

K:  Zombies don’t have a really good attention span.  Hmmmm, maybe she is dead.

Me:  What are you talking about?  Zombies are hightly focused… On brains.

K:  Yes, but they are easily distracted.

Me:  Do you read The Bloggess‘s Blog?

K:  Sometimes.

Me:  I didn’t watch the video, but apparently she gave an entire presentation/drill about the Zombie Apocalypse…  to a bunch of mormons.

WITH THEIR BLESSING!

K:  Oh I saw that when Wil Wheaton tweeted about it.  It was awesome.

Me:  So apparently two things that are worth their endorsement:

  1. Crazy woman who thinks Zombie Apocalypse is something that will happen.
  2. And prevent gay people from getting married.

K:  Well, they are related you know.

Me:  Well, that would certainly explain…  nothing.

K:  If gay marriage is allowed there will be a Zombie Apocalypse.

Me:  I see.  🙂

K:  Yes, everything is gay marriage fault.

Me:  It’s good to be powerful.

El Diablo

I’ve been trying to think about how to write this.  I actually started a post earlier and got to about 1000 words before realizing it really wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.

I had an experience this week-end I feel the need to write about, and yet I’m not sure of the best way to do it….

I was faced with an opportunity, of sorts, this weekend.  An opportunity to confront ignorance and, I would even argue, homophobia, head on and I didn’t back down.

I went to a barbecue at Michelle’s sister, Monique’s house.  Based on my decision-making avoidance strategy, or D-MAS, of wearing whatever’s next in line (as long as it coordinates), I ended up wearing this t-shirt:

This picture is not me. I'm much more booby-licious than this.

Among other people, one person in attendance was someone who has been a friend of Monique’s for years, but whom I have only met a handful of times.  His name is Damien, which for anyone who cares, is in some circles thought to be a name for the Devil.  Just thought I’d share that.

Anyway, through the course of the afternoon and evening Damien made a number of comments that were very insensitive and ignorant and instead of sitting by silently and letting it pass, I spoke up.

Michelle told a story about the guy she had been “training” for the last two weeks while in Tulsa.  The purpose of the story was to illustrate how “lame” this guy’s personality is.  She was asked to go there for two weeks to act as a Subject Matter Expert, or in Project Management parlance, a SME (pronounced smee).  On one particular occasion, the gentlemen she was working with (who is really kind of a dud as far as the job goes, but that’s none of my concern) had need of input from Michelle and another “SME” and upon completing the conversation, said, “We just had a smeeting!”

Now understand, I think that’s hysterical!  Michelle on the other hand thinks it’s a terrible joke.  Michelle’s friend Suzanne who was also at the barbecue and sitting next to me during this conversation and I both burst out laughing.  Damien on the other hand, rolled his eyes and said, “That’s gay!”.  I turned and looked directly at him, and while never removing the smile from my face and without taking on an angry tone, I told him, “Excuse me, but, that is not OK.”  It took Damien a second to register what I meant.  I continued, “What makes it ‘gay’?”

He acknowledged what I had said, and apologized.  While I’m not convinced of the depth of his sincerity, I accepted his apology.

At another point the subject of Gay Pride came up.  Suzanne asked Damien if he’d ever been to pride.  His vehement response was “Fuck no!”  I pointed out that his reaction was disproportionate to the question.  If Suzanne had asked me that question, I would have said, “No.  I never have been” and that really that would have been a sufficient answer from Damien.   He went on to say that his ex-wife had wanted him to come to Pride (her company was a sponsor and she had to work) and he said the only way he would ever go was if she bought a pair of handcuffs and he could handcuff himself to her for the duration of the event so that all the gay guys would know he was straight and taken.

Later, he brought up the subject of same-sex marriage and prejudice against homosexuals.   Damien is half black and half Puerto Rican.  I only know this because he told us so.  I had no idea before he said so.  He doesn’t look black in the least and I’m not the least bit surprised that he hasn’t experienced much discrimination in his lifetime (something he also told us.)  He told those of us involved in the conversation, “I don’t think there’s any difference between being discriminated against because you’re gay or because you’re black.”

I spoke up.  “Woah!  Hold on just a minute now.  I don’t, for one second dispute the fact that prejudice still exists in this country and I’m sure that just about every black person alive has experienced some extent of discrimination.  But you can’t tell me that it’s the same thing.  First of all, in this nation today, we have institutionalized discrimination against homosexuals who want to get married, or visit their partners in the hospital and more than 1000 other ways.  And while it’s true that there are still bigots in this world who will treat black people badly just because they’re black, I don’t think too many of those people are going to be any nicer to a homosexual.  Meanwhile there are laws on the books outlawing discrimination against black people. There are specific laws on the books that make it legal for a mixed race couples to marry while there are also laws that prevent two people of the same gender who love each other from marrying.

“Plus!  You’re born black, and from the day you’re born there’s no question to anyone who sees you that you are black.  On the other hand, most gay people don’t realize they’re gay until well into their teen years if not longer.  You can’t always tell a person is gay just by looking at them.  So while it sucks that black people still get discriminated against, you’re not exactly unprepared for it.

“Now imagine for just a minute, that you’re the most average man in the world. White skin, blond hair, blue eyes, couldn’t be more average.  For the first 30 years of your life you experience absolutely no prejudice or discrimination whatsoever and then you wake up one day and you finally realize you’re gay and for the first time in your life you have to face the reality that people will hate you.  Your own mother will hate you.  That you can be fired from your job in many places because you prefer men over women.  That the nation as a whole says you are not worthy, that you don’t deserve to live and have the same happiness that they have.

“Imagine that for one minute.  There is no way you can tell me there’s no difference in the kind of prejudice that gay people and black people experience.”

Damien started to argue the point, but can I just tell you…  Everyone else in the conversation actually, literally cheered.

~~~~~

Let it be said that as a whole, the barbecue was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed myself quite a bit and I didn’t allow Damien’s ignorance or commentary to negatively impact me or ruin my experience.

Let it also be said that it seemed incredibly clear to me that Damien is struggling with some issues.  I think it likely that he himself is in fact gay and he’s struggling with accepting it.  And after he left and I expressed as much to Monique and Michelle, Monique said, “Oh yeah!  I’ve thought that for years.”  So on that front, I hope he figures things out for himself.  I hope he does it soon and I hope he doesn’t ever have to encounter the kind of ignorance that he was spouting on Sunday.

~~~~~

So, uh…  How was your holiday week-end?

Fuddy. Duddy.

I love a good fireworks display.  I really do.  Always have.  The kinds of displays put on by professional pyrotechnicians have never ceased to thrill me.  I love the power of the concussive force as the cartridges explode in a myriad of colors and patterns in the sky.  When I was a kid I loved the Fourth of July and could not wait for one or the other of my parents to take me to a fireworks display.

These days, my love of professional pyrotechnics is confined to New Year’s Eve, when I’d sooner suck on a salt lick than sit at home alone, missing the celebrations!  Why a salt lick?   I don’t know.  It’s just the first thing that came to mind.  So many of the professional Fourth of July fireworks shows that I once loved have been called off due to expense and the ones that are still in effect are a lot of trouble to get to for a 20 minute display followed by a 90 minute trip home because of the amount of traffic (on a school night, no less.)

As I write this, I’m sitting naked in my non-air conditioned apartment with the doors and windows open, because it’s been too hot to have the place closed up, and I imagine what it might have been like to live in any number of places in “The Gulf” during our many attacks on the “bad guys”, which is to say that on this night, every year, I feel as though I’m living in a war zone.  It starts in the early afternoon and will continue until well after I go to bed; a constant bombardment of explosions and sizzles and bangs.  Noises that, only because of what day it is, are brushed off (mostly) as the sounds of some unwise, amateur pyrofile getting his (or her) jolly’s, but on any other day would prompt me to pause the television and wait for the sounds of the sirens that one would expect to follow gunfire in the neighborhood.

I hate this, immensely.

Maybe it’s because I remember watching my father holding roman candles IN HIS HANDS while they shot off their seven or eight colored orbs into the night sky.  Maybe it’s because I never got over the fear of being burned while holding a thin wire with sparks shooting off of it in my own hands (what sense does that make, I ask you?)

Maybe it’s because I live in what some might consider the Murder Capital of the United States (certainly of California) and the sound of gunshots is neither uncommon, or comforting, and it can be difficult to differentiate between a hand gun and rampart.

Maybe it’s because I live in a place where most of the time, everything is so dry that it will catch fire if you look at it sideways.  Maybe it’s because I watch the news and hear the stories that are inescapable of the various types of injuries and even deaths that take place every year as unqualified and unintelligent people operate fireworks IN MY FRONT YARD (figuratively.  I don’t have a yard, just a driveway and a crowded street.)

Maybe it’s because I’ve learned enough in my EMT training to not be cavalier about the possibilities on a night like this (and fully expect that if ever I get a job as an EMT I’ll never have the Fourth of July off work again).

Maybe it’s because I’m an egalitarian and amateur fireworks within city limits are simply illegal.

Whatever the reason, I’ve grown to hate this night, in which I will get no sleep (this raucous will continue until the wee hours of the morning) and I will have to fight hard against my nature to become angry because hundreds of people, who I do not know, have decided to take it upon themselves to take away my choice, my freedom (on Independence Day no less) to have a good nights sleep, free of noise polluted disruption, free of fear at whom might be dying from gunshot wounds (the sound of which might be mistaken for fireworks), free of fear that my house might randomly catch fire from a stray, or misdirected rocket, well into the early morning hours.

This  is not what Francis Scott Key had in mind when he wrote “The rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night…”