Beauty in the World (Stop Outrage Culture)

Beauty in the World (Stop Outrage Culture)

I started this post in 2020 but left it hanging in the balance when I lost the purpose of this narrative.

Initially, I wanted to comment on cancel culture, asking, “Do we cancel out all art because it doesn’t reflect the oppressed? What do we do about nostalgia and romanticized images of the past? Do they no longer hold value because entire groups were oppressed or subjugated? Without context, how can we not continue to discuss certain works intelligently? How can these individuals not serve as lessons of evolving mores and ideologies? What does cancel culture do to those artists who helped realize a specific vision, particularly in the filmed arts?”

What prompted this post? I don’t even remember. I initially found inspiration from one of the final duets from War Paint, a 2017 musical with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. This ballad, sung by Tony-winning powerhouses Patti LuPone (as Helena Rubinstein) and Christine Ebersole (as Elizabeth Arden) as the legendary beauty complex magnates and fierce rivals, imagines a meeting between both women. The song “Beauty in the World” is a poignant lament on changing times as they see their life’s work and influence diminishing, perhaps even fading away. Following is a portion of the song’s lyrics:

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden (L) and Patti LuPone as Helena Rubinstein (R) in War Paint. Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Helena
Back when there was beauty in the world
Women had such elegance and grace
Fashion came and fashion went
Inner style was permanent
At least
When there was beauty in the world

Elizabeth
Long before the circus came to town
Every woman’s drama was her face
Eyes that glittered like a gem
The lovers we bewitched with them
Back then
When there was beauty in the world

Helena
Taste and poise
Were universal

Elizabeth
Now it’s noise

Helena
A dress rehearsal

Both
Gone the past
The age of everlasting beauty in the world

Deciding to flex my synapses this rainy day in March, I began thinking about this shelved post as I walked around my neighborhood, ignoring the light, steady drizzle. Three years ago, we went into lockdown mode as the COVID pandemic took over our lives. Three years later, we can never ignore the tally of one million American deaths as a result of the virus, a figure that includes my uncle, my mother’s last surviving relative in the United States.

Since the pandemic, our collective outrage has grown exponentially on all platforms. In addition to a wildly polarized voting population, our collective rage gave birth to “outage content,” further muddying the waters with a steady, roiling atmospheric river of toxicity and negativity.

In 2019, NPR featured this report, “How Outrage is Hijacking Our Culture and Our Minds.” Host Steve Inskeep said, “Anger draws Internet clicks, which is to say that many people now have a motive or even a business model for getting you mad.” We’re beyond the brush of rage now- thick into the woods without an exit plan beyond monetizing our anger and fear. It’s beyond cynical and reproach.

Instead, I will find new ground to build something more substantial and calmer.

As for the beauty in the world, if you’re on the same path to restoring mental wellness as I am, it is essential to first find the beauty in yourself. Step away from the platforms trading on outrage and vanity, which continue to cloud your sense of stability. Romanticizing the past is not the answer, but its glow can be therapeutic. Pick the parts that apply to our present reality. But we need to cancel the constant stream of outrage. We’re out of dress rehearsal time – the curtain is up. Make it count.

Photo: Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, V&A Museum, South Kensington, London, 2017

Ode to Ozempic (A Rant)

Ode to Ozempic (A Rant)

Here’s a rare sighting: A new Ozempic injectable pen.

I need this to help control my Type II diabetes. Yes, it is working. Yes, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight, just like the commercials are touting. No, it isn’t easy to obtain because some beauty and influencer communities continue to boast how wonderful it is to help get people ready for red-carpet events and the like.

We cannot let this be our reality anymore. 

This medication is not new, but it continues to gain headlines as being the “miracle” weight loss aid. It is so popular; my insurance is raising their co-pay by 50% this year. Of course, that is when I can get my prescription filled. 

We cannot let this be our reality anymore. 

I’ve been fighting the sugar battle for 13 years since being diagnosed. I’ve lost the same 60 lbs. on every diet plan that seemed “sensible,” only for the weight to come back, and always with friends. This last year proved a turning point for me. I don’t want to be another casualty like my uncles and aunts, who all succumbed to diabetes in some form. Some went blind, others lost parts of their feet or legs, and others died of strokes.  I’m not alone in this reality.

We cannot let this be our reality anymore. 

While the struggle remains real for many of us, we endure because we need to be there for the people who depend on us, the people we love. That many people cannot get this medication because doctors are willing to give it to healthy folks looking to become a sample size is wrong. It only validates what I’ve finally come to realize: the health complex wants fat, sick, and stupid to allow them to get away with such flagrant abuses of greed and power. What’s worse, I’m part of a community that is a massive target for diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. (And yes, I possess this trifecta.)

We cannot let this be our reality anymore. 

This isn’t about vanity for many people coping with diabetes. It is about sticking to a healthy regimen that keeps us alive, sane, and empowered to fight for others who don’t have the will, support, access to information, or resources.

We need a “Hail Mary” of morality now more than ever before losing anybody else to an illness that is controllable to the point of remission for many. Stay strong, smart, and healthy, mi gente.  

“Sugar is the next tobacco, without a doubt, and that industry should be scared. It should be taxed just like tobacco and anything else that can, frankly, destroy lives.”

Jamie Oliver

Why I write.

Why I write.

I choose to write because I can’t always keep all these thoughts running roughshod in my head in one place.

Words on a page, or in this case, words on a screen, make these feelings seem natural and harmless, even though I know they can hurt me if I let them roam too freely. But they make greater sense when they appear in front of me, written by hand or typed into existence. I can order and re-order these feelings with a swift keystroke, adding or subtracting their intensity with decisiveness. Sometimes, my editing can make these words lie for me, pushing away my motivations or lessening them, so I don’t worry the reader about my state of mind. Yet, truth is constantly pulsing underneath, waiting for its turn to be seen and heard.

I write because the world I live in isn’t always the one I want to see. You can build a better place with the right words and frame of mind. I can create a more beautiful self or a happier persona, obfuscating the grey truth as to why I’m not who I should be or want to be as a 55-year-old man. I can build a world that seems limitless, one with bolts of vivid color and endless horizons that feel like hope and longer stretches of time to fill with avoidance, procrastination, and festering guilt as to level this foundation of excuses as to why I can’t seem to change or make myself better.

I write because this defiant means of self-expression cures my often paralyzing loneliness, knowing that these words mean I exist with two people in the room where these thoughts materialize and become corporeal. I see the person taking shape before me, knowing it reflects who I am at that moment. I can be a Dr. Frankenstein, choosing the bits of me that make a whole person, all brought to life with an impulsive jolt of creativity and insight. I am not a monster, though, although sometimes I feel monstrous in my hunger to be noticed and validated.

I write to stave off the noise of a world that feels hellbent on keeping boxed and labeled as unworthy.

I write because it is what makes sense in the nonsense that threatens to overwhelm me to the point of pushing me into a space that looks like oblivion, but I know it is so much worse.

I write because words matter, and I know I matter just as much.

I write because it feels so fucking good to let these feelings out.

I write because I fear I will cease to exist if I don’t.

I write because I know I’m not the only one who does this for all the same reasons.

“I would rather be a soul than a body. I would rather be fluid than frozen. This is why I share when I’m hurting. Because I am alive. And it is terrifying and brilliant. It is the most profound argument for love I have ever known.”

@Alokvmenon

Someone in the crowd.

Someone in the crowd.

Heading back from a blood panel appointment earlier this afternoon, I was idling on 8th Street in Koreatown while returning to the office when a track from the La La Land soundtrack began to play over my car stereo. Hearing the music, I instantly felt this need to smile, but that quickly gave way to tears when the lyrics took over.

Yes, I cry over certain songs in my car.

At times, it’s the beauty of the music that makes me respond with a case of advanced watery eyeballs. Words can do the same thing if used in a certain way. Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics are a given. Same for Sara Bareilles, whose power as a songwriter is unmatched today, in my humble opinion.

With music composed by Justin Hurwitz and lyrics written by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, “Someone in the Crowd” proved a highlight in Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning musical film La La Land (2016). I remember the huge wave of emotion I felt when this musical number hit the screen, the second big moment featured in the first act of the film.

A reluctant – yet entrancing – Emma Stone is convinced by her roommates to join them at a party in the Hollywood hills, which is where her love story with the equally charming Ryan Gosling has its formal start. That eager joy of “the possible” permeates the song, even during its melancholy bridge, opening and closing with the flourish of a “bright, Broadway beat.” I’ve long adored this movie and soundtrack, but it’s been a minute since I’ve given the songs a chance to live and breathe. Today was a good day to welcome them back.

It hasn’t been the best week, to be honest. A lot of static in my head is robbing me of my creativity and peace. Money should not be the trigger, but it is. It’s hard NOT to feel like a failure when those old demons come back to play with your brain, especially when you’re finally experiencing better physical health. But I know things will improve at some point; I just have to weather these turbulent seas a bit longer.

Still, that nagging desire to be “someone ready to be found” is also a powerful trigger point. I don’t mind being part of a crowd like I did as a kid, terrified of being ignored or looked over. I know I’m “seen” in the sense of being appreciated and loved by people. I’m ready to be involved with someone who is a worthy partner and eager to share in the adventure. That would be a lovely bit of evolution to experience in this era of swiping left and app-fueled apprehension to even be honest with people you’d consider asking out for coffee.

Ugh.

I sound like a teenager’s hidden diary post! Hahaha. Oh well, Janis Ian still resonates with folks. Feeling lonely never goes out of style. Until then, I’m going to keep on singing and crying in my CR-V with gusto because, dammit, it just feels good to feel it all.

You got the invitation
You got the right address
You need some medication?
The answer’s always yes


A little chance encounter
Could be the one you’ve waited for
Just squeeze a bit more


Tonight we’re on a mission
Tonight’s the casting call
If this is the real audition
Oh, God, help us all
You make the right impression
Then ev’rybody knows your name
We’re in the fast lane


Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know
The one to finally lift you off the ground
Someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go
If you’re the someone ready to be found
you’re the someone ready to be found


Do what you need to do
‘Til they discover you
And make you more than who
You’re seeing now
So with the stars aligned
I think I’ll stay behind


You’ve got to go and find
That someone in the crowd
That someone in the crowd


Is someone in the crowd the only thing you really see?
Watching while the world keeps spinning ’round?
Somewhere there’s a place where I find who I’m gonna be
A somewhere that’s just waiting to be found
Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know
The someone who could lift you off the ground


Someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go
Someone in the crowd could make you
Someone in the crowd could take you
Flying off the ground
If you’re the someone ready to be found

“Someone in the Crowd” from La La Land

And now, for some really bad break-up writing!

And now, for some really bad break-up writing!

Oooh. Here’s a deep cut!

When I broke up with my last ex-BF about 12 years ago, it took me a long ass time to get over him. I don’t think I really am; it’s just a feeling I’ve learned to put into a different compartment. But, the concussive effects of that first wave of emotion were very new to me. I never understood why people would lose their shit after a breakup, but I learned quickly. My friend John sent me a mix CD labeled “Music for a Bottle of Merlot and a Razor Blade,” featuring such sad singleton hits as “Alone,” “All By Myself,” “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” etc. We laughed, but I found myself spiraling out of control shortly after.

I kept this little Moleskin notebook during those first months, which I hid a few years later. It reappeared during my Pandemic-induced decluttering of my home when we shut our office doors until further notice. That was about two years ago. (We’ve reopened them since, by the way.) Finding it was like the surprise you feel when you run into an old school friend’s mother during a Target run where you’re not looking your best, gussied up in chanclas and a chorizo-stained hoodie. Reading and revisiting the version of yourself that penned each entry was like being hit by a car driven by a deranged doctor’s wife from Texas seeking revenge. How do we all turn into Janis Ian or Phoebe Snow when boys break out hearts? I was surprised I even was capable of such maudlin displays in the first place, but how could I not? After years of favoring telenovelas and Douglas Sirk films, turning into Natalie Wood in “Splendor in the Grass” shouldn’t be a stretch, right?

So, I am willing to share one choice bit of writing, appropriately titled “Alone.” Put on your favorite heartbreak ballad, wrap yourself up in that warm comforter known as nostalgia, and see if this hits a few emotional notes you recognize!

There’s a strange void in my heart as I look out the window from an empty house. I feel the start of a dream, always the day you first came into my life. I came to you first, though, searching for a gentle man.

You were that dream come true, and I was your saving grace. How did we get to this place?

The first years were unlike any happiness I’d known, yet in the last months, we’ve become strangers, barely able to see face to face. How did we get to this place?

This isn’t about fault. You loved me, then loved another. I can’t believe I’d be so easily replaced. How did we get to this place?

We can count the memories, but that’s just wasted sentiment. We can count our blessings, but that’s just wasted destiny. What I would give to make this day turn a different way. They say time heals everything, but I still can’t stand the thought of losing you.

I didn’t want to tell you how I felt or what I thought I should do. But that won’t stop me from crying an emotion or two.

You walked out the door for the last time. I hope he treats you fine. It isn’t the loss that hurts so much. It’s the silence of this space. How did I get to this place they call “being alone.”

Reading it back now, I think it is safe to say Taylor Swift has nothing to worry about here. (Cue laughter.) But I’m not ashamed about displaying my red scarf in this context. (Swifties will know what I mean by that reference.). If anything, I’m proud of what that experience taught me. I stopped romanticizing the past, choosing to live in the present while respecting the lessons learned from being in a relationship. Whenever that miracle happens again, I’ll be ready.

Don’t dream it, be it in 2023.

Don’t dream it, be it in 2023.

At last, the end of 2023. While it would be too much to hope we begin as a society to pivot away from infamy, manipulation, greed, and gaslighting as being our principal motivators, we can aspire to at least be better people in our own spheres of life.

Until we return to the center of logic, patience, and intelligence again, I turn to the music of Richard O’Brien’s THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW and “Don’t Dream It, Be It” from its legendary finale. There you will find my mood board for 2023.

“Whatever happened to Fay Wray?
That delicate satin draped frame
As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry
Cause I wanted to be dressed just the same

Give yourself over to absolute pleasure
Swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh
Erotic nightmares beyond any measure
And sensual daydreams to treasure forever
Can’t you just see it?

[Chorus]
Don’t dream it, be it
Don’t dream it, be it
Don’t dream it, be it
Don’t dream it, be it


Ach! We’ve got to get out of this trap
Before this decadence saps our will
I’ve gotta be strong and try to hang on
Or my mind may well snap
Und my life will be lived for the thrills.”

Time to find the thrill in living for a better self, a better world again.

Happy new year, mi gente.

Brains, heart, and courage.

Brains, heart, and courage.

Being short-tempered with total strangers must be symptomatic of our pandemic reality. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. Throwing a strop because I didn’t notice PreChek was not part of my boarding pass is no one’s fault but my own for not stopping to notice it was missing, assuming my entitled traveler’s privilege was blissfully intact. It wasn’t, choosing smug indignation instead of calm acceptance with the TSA agents when they pointed it out.

Walking away, I started to think. “Fuck, bitch. You are being an asshole. Stop for a moment. Breathe. Be aware of how you’re responding to the outside world. They aren’t to blame for your being sloppy and careless.”

To be honest, everything sets me off. I’ve done more eye-rolling this week than I care to admit, practically a ballet in terms of its poetic flow and technique. Being reactive and not proactive will not serve anyone for the better.

I’ve been hearing people constantly calling out others for their bad behavior, of having the last word to stake the moral high ground. Will anyone take indignation and a finger-wagging, “Don’t do this to me or anyone else ever again!” to heart? Can it make us feel better spelling out such emotions in an era of selfishness and arrogance? If everyone is only out for themselves, is it cowardice to want to just let the shit go, opting to focus on your own peace of mind and wellness?

I’ve been hearing people constantly calling out others for their bad behavior, of having the last word to stake the moral high ground. Will anyone take indignation and a finger-wagging, “Don’t do this to me or anyone else ever again!” to heart? Can it make us feel better spelling out such emotions in an era of selfishness and arrogance? If everyone is only out for themselves, is it cowardice to want to just let the shit go, opting to focus on your own peace of mind and wellness?

How do we reach the point of keeping calm and carrying on without losing our integrity or mental stability? These are the questions I’m looking to answer for myself. Until then, I must remind myself to take a beat before reacting. My point of detonation has nothing to do with the situation; it’s a reaction to my frustration of knowing it is time to find a new path away from past mistakes and erasing my false selves holding me back from becoming a better, healthier person.

Two things come to mind that might work well within the themes of this post. First up, reading Rutanya Alda’s diary on the making of the infamous Joan Crawford biopic Mommie Dearest makes for an entertaining way to spend a flight. Within the juicy diary entries, Alda compiled into “The Mommie Dearest Diary: Carol Ann Tells All,” I found this gem of a quote about her estimation of Faye Dunaway, who submarined her career playing Crawford. Alda, featured in the infamous film as Carol Ann, Joan’s loyal secretary, secretly kept a vigilant eye and ear on the proceedings involving the production of the film. Towards the end of the book, it is clear Alda felt no real love for Dunaway, who distanced herself from the film upon its release and its eventual rise as a camp classic. Alda wrote this section in reaction to La Dunaway’s abusive treatment of the cast and crew during the making of the film:

“A perfectionist ought to be someone who sees perfection and finds perfection around them,” Alda stated. “It’s the imperfectionists like Faye and Barbra (Streisand) who keep looking for the imperfection until they find it, for what we focus on, we will find. Why demand perfection if you can’t offer it?”

Given my current state of mind, Alda’s quote resonated strongly. It became part of a double whammy thanks to watching The Wizard of Oz on the flight, my first viewing in several years. The Cowardly Lion says at one point he’s a “victim of disorganized thinking.”  Oh, that hit home, hard and fast. I am aware of my faults and know they’ve been the biggest obstacles in my journey to straighten up and fly right. But I refuse to allow my sentimentality and desire to “keep the peace” to be viewed as either or a crime or a sign of weakness.  The world is fighting for bragging rights, last words, and the power of being “right.” Fuck that jazz. I want to live.

As I put these final words down, my playlist du jour is bringing Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” to my ears. I agree with her, too  It is exhausting rooting for the antihero, especially when you recognize the problem is yourself. Shut out the noise of people telling you what’s wrong and what you should do to fix yourself. I know it comes from caring, but only you know what it will take to be aware and “healed.” Until then, I offer this bolt of positivity: “You got this, kid.” Don’t lose sight of the prize, which is self-control and contentment on your terms. Engage your brains, heart, and courage. Until then, stop punishing yourself and the people in your orbit. They have their own journeys to reconcile.

I know you’re broken, but can you hurry up and fix yourself?

I know you’re broken, but can you hurry up and fix yourself?

Addressing issues of mental wellness cannot follow a timetable. Each person’s process is different for a reason. Addressing your problems is a huge win, but healing is not a sprint. Instead, it is a marathon covering an undetermined amount of distance. The closer you get to no longer fearing your issues, a finish line can appear on the horizon. But I don’t see the finish line yet, which doesn’t worry me. I see a lot of fog ahead as I wind through this unpredictable terrain.

What I don’t need to hear now is that I need to get to that point of healing faster to appease someone else’s timetable. You can’t will people into loving you, so why would you demand anything different when they’re working hard at addressing years of shitty motivations and behaviors?

I don’t know how I feel about making “getting your shit together” a group activity, especially in an office environment. I’m not sabotaging my health now with poor dietary choices. My new meds are working, despite issues of “waning” in diabetes. Not having access to Ozempic right now pisses me off since it was working, but some asshole is promoting its weight-loss capabilities, and now there’s a run on these injectable pens! But I digress. My A1C number is down from the awful high of 11.1 and into single digits again. To give you an idea as to why this number matters: An A1C above 9% increases the risk of long-term diabetes complications like blindness, nerve damage, and kidney failure. Under 7% is considered reasonable diabetes control. I’m currently at 6.8%

Chasing the food dragon is my biggest addiction worry, but I feel good about this progress. The last time I hit that single-digit A1C level, I acted like, “The war is over! Back to Casa Garcia for some ultimate nachos! Extra cheese and sour cream!” Or, “Let’s hit the pasta bar again!” Yeah, that won’t be happening for a long while, if at all. This struggle during the time of COVID nearly wiped out my resolve entirely. My goal is to be under 5.6% when I retest in three months, which is considered normal. (Provided the other tests involving my liver, kidneys, and pancreas do not reveal some hidden complication, of course.)

Yet, the rubble representing my past excesses remains quite a disaster zone. That’s causing me additional worries, which I won’t divulge since it is none of your business. If I seem like a ghost of late, it is because I see the damage in a new light, and it fucking haunts me. I hate what I see lurking, and my self-control still abandons me when I’m emotional or frustrated.

Someone asked me where my imagination lies these days. I didn’t have an answer. I can’t see what I want for my life once I clear this health hurdle. I know what I have now isn’t enough to piece back together this unmoored sense of body and mind. It is why I’ve traded comfort media to replace my using comfort food as a soul-soothing remedy. I bristle at the command, “To get my shit together already.” I am, dammit. But I am digging my way out on my schedule. Why can’t some people understand? Why does it also have to be about them? Is it selfish to expect patience and care, not receive tough love and a “hurry up already?” It makes me want. to scream, “I’m sorry if my effort to heal is proving a drag and inconvenience to you!”

Treading water at the shoals is not fun. I’d rather be on solid ground, and sooner or later, I will be standing on terra firma. I’m tired of endlessly finding soft places to land because it is easier. I acknowledge that self-destruction is not a solo reality because it does create collateral damage. That well of care and support does run dry with some people, and I’m sorry for pushing the limits of their concern to such unnecessary extremes. It ruined one of my closest friendships, which I miss every day. And I’m sorry to make people worry, but I am not doing this without professional help. I am listening.

I knew this process would be complex once I took it seriously. Change is not for the weak, but it can lead to incredible new freedoms and modes of creative expression if you hold on to your well-being with a firm grasp. I’m not alone in living in a mixed-up world. But as Sophie Ellis-Bextor sings in Mixed Up World:

So when you’re feeling kind of mixed up
Just remember, it’s a mixed-up world
And when you’re feeling life is just too tough
Just remember you’re a real tough girl

Trust you’re tougher than you know when you feel your weakest. It will pull you through.

Then again, maybe I will.

Then again, maybe I will.

Think about who you were before you discovered socialization. That steady beat of your self-appointed drummer defined you once. I never needed my parents’ validation, as I had three other siblings vying for their attention. I found a willing audience of one, amassing a tribe of books from the library, magazines spinning tales of the city of New York. Between memorizing the lyrics to Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” listening to rhapsodies colored blue, and mimicking the moves of girl groups supreme, who cared about the outside world of an aspirational bedroom community that was Pico Rivera.

Once you enter the Thunderdome of public school life, you learn quickly what the kids will or won’t accept in the schoolyard. Waxing lyrical over drum solos on rock stations KMET or KLOS was okay, but telling your Little League teammates that the drum hit in “Perón’s Latest Flame” from Evita was not okay.

I chose to hide, seeking approval by adopting their likes. It wasn’t me, choosing instead to encase myself in an armored suit of fat and fur to shield myself from standing out from the crowd too much. Amazing what the portly and jovial trope can do for you once you know the right words for people to hear. You become huggable, adorable, non-threatening, always brandishing a quip, and never the one who gets kissed in the rain. I would stay in that lane for a long fucking time, too long.

As I make my way over the hill of my mid-50s, I am revisiting the books that marked my pre-teen and early teen life, books written by Paula Danziger and Judy Blume. Their combined insights into what it was like being an adolescent in the 1970s and 1980s spoke to me quite loudly. Danziger’s “The Cat Ate My Gym Shorts” and, especially, Blume’s “Blubber” and “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret” helped me feel understood by someone close to me. It bugged me that most of the books of this genre focused on the social and gender problems endured by girls. What about the boys? (While Blume did pen “Then Again, Maybe I Won’t” as an answer to the success of “Are You There God…,” it didn’t quite fit the bill enough.)

The lead characters of the Blume and Danziger canons found their strength in family and friends by the final pages, reaching a plane of understanding, evolving just enough to support the life lessons of these often compelling and universal narratives. (Even being a first-generation-born Latino in the suburbs east of Los Angeles did not exclude me from these books. Oh, the feelings I found validated by Blume and Danziger’s prose still give me goosebumps today.)

Much has changed in how we deal with social Thunderdomes today, and much remains woefully the same. We still bully, a phenomenon that hangs just as poorly on adults as it does on kids. (Maybe it feels even more savage today, given the speed of how quickly we post our negative comments against one another.) As I stumble through my ennui with the world, I feel perhaps it is time to revisit that younger me and give him a different context.

Perhaps the full circle moment I’ve been looking for is to start at the beginning of a creative life shaped by the books and stories that ultimately helped refine my voice. When in doubt about yourself and the world, perhaps that is when you must create something and express yourself.

I’ve been listening to this one track from Sara Bareilles quite a bit. It’s called “Little Voice,” and its chorus felt like lightning bolts of truth to me:

It’s just a little voice
And if you’re listening
Sometimes a little voice
Can say the biggest things
It’s just my little voice that I’ve been missing

Big or small, I can’t wait to start this journey.

What if…?

What if…?

I have to write this down, or else I will embark on a downward spiral of epic freaking out. I was working, sitting at my desk while minding my business when what appeared to be a spam call logged into my phone. Nothing unusual there, not even seeing that a message was left. I was about to delete it when I read the text, and it seemed to be about a medical referral. Not Spectrum, not an unauthorized Amazon purchase needing approval, which is usually the case these days. No, the folks at City of Hope needed me to schedule an MRI and a consultation with a gastrointestinologist to review the results. I called back without a moment’s haste.


Mind you, I had an ultrasound earlier this week to check the elasticity of my liver. The tech, who seemed to spend a long time on one section of my abdomen during the examination, asked if it hurt when she pressed into said area, and I said, “No.” I didn’t register any cause for alarm, but after speaking with the hospital this AM, I feel a bit freaked. I returned the call to schedule the appointments. Neither order was listed as “urgent,” so a mid-December date was decided and locked in. “Merry fucking Christmas,” I thought to myself.

Did the ultrasound trigger this need for an MRI? Maybe, but I haven’t heard from my endocrinologist yet. I entered the lightning round of the “What If?” game when every fear about medical procedures became a question.

“What if it’s a tumor?”

“What if it’s cancer?”

“What if it is something horrible?”

Sigh.

Seriously, how many more of Mom/Dad’s health gifts am I going to get?! Hahaha. Can I still return them without a receipt? Since my infamous blood panel in July, I’ve minded my diet and health choices with extra care. No, what’s happening is the collateral damage of years gone by catching up with me.

I have a new blood panel scheduled this week, as it is time for a new A1c. I think it is going to be a lot better than July. The next Lipid panel isn’t happening until late December. I see this entire situation as a reality check, by being inconsistent with my diet/health choices, I merely slowed down the damage, not stopped it.


Cue Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Tiiiiimmmeeee.”

Remarking “aging sucks” isn’t going to cut it now. What sucks is being so willfully ignorant about what my body can and cannot is gnawing at my brain now. I’ve known since 2010 that I developed type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol issues, the Latino Medical Trifecta. At least I’m not dealing with being 274lbs, which remains the heaviest I’ve ever been. I can’t imagine dealing with that on top of everything else. I’m exhausted by feeling nervous and unsettled. I finally reached a point of acceptance that these health issues are a part of my daily life. I opted for making room for better choices as a daily routine. I acknowledged their presence as being here to stay. I decided not to give them too much attention, to not dominate me or become an obsession. It isn’t just about losing weight and looking amazing. It is about longevity and being responsible for a better, healthier self. Now I’m nervous and unsettled again.

I told a friend I had no choice over the next steps. But, in reality, I do. I can remain willfully ignorant and enjoy the fuck out of my life as so many men have done in my family. Several are no longer with us, taken from us early by the conditions I am fighting now. This war for my health and sanity will not claim me, dammit. I’m the progeny of survivors. Let that show me the way to whatever is next.