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He who seeks beauty will find it…
I wanted to be the perfect boy.
A perfect boy would do exactly as asked.
A perfect boy would be loved by everyone around him because he was so perfect, but the journey to being loved had nothing to do with being that perfect boy…
I watched Mr. Hays work his way around our small classroom. Squinting and pointing, he would poise before each student. It was a technique of his I’d come to recognize after joining swing choir. When on the receiving end of that point it meant cease singing. By the time he stood in front of me the room was silent except for my voice. Mr. Hays was ‘hip’ – he had an aesthetic rarely seen around my town. Jet black shagged hair, ‘stash, and sideburns. Wide collared shirts, tight flared pants, and platform ankle boots. He walked with authority combined with a distinct swagger. His taste in music was just as hip, and to my naïve ears, borderline shocking. He introduced the class to Jesus Christ Superstar – a cataclysmic first for us. When I heard the name Jesus Christ set to music, I only had the Nazarene Church version in my head. This most certainly was not that. But it was beautiful.
“I want you to sing in the talent show.” His words brought me back to now. I’d finished my impromptu solo and was looking into his intense dark blue eyes. ”You have a really terrific voice which should be used, Eddie. Often.” Feeling my heart race and my palms sweat I began to explain I’d only sang solo at church but before I could finish, Mr. Hays cut me off. “I’ll accompany you on piano.” Well, that sealed the deal. One couldn’t, wouldn’t, and better not decline when Mr. Hays offered up his showman skills on the piano. Though I couldn’t even begin to mouth the word ‘no’, my head was already nodding YES.
Watching the student body fill the gymnasium was nothing less than terrifying. I’d made a terrible mistake agreeing to this. My prayers were playing over and over in my head. Everyone has their artistic ‘PROCESS’ and mine would be non-stop pacing and simultaneous praying: Oh, Dear Lord, Just let me get through this. And that’s it. I’ll never put myself in this position again…
I stopped pacing and praying just long enough to take another look at the assembly of students along the wooden benches. And that’s when I saw him. Micky Bishop. It was as though everything went star-filter and it was just Micky sitting on those bleachers. Could he see me watching him from across the gym? Of course he could. Micky Bishop was just one of those guys – the kind of guy that loved to pick on boys like me. Micky would somehow find me at lunch and with a couple of his buddies hoist me upside down and hang me from the stop sign on the corner across from the band rehearsal building. He’d tell me I couldn’t drop down until I counted to 10. I’d always count to 25 very slowly. This went on until Miss Dorsey happened by while I was hanging and asked what in the world was going on. I told her I was counting. She demanded I come down immediately. And though she never asked me why and I never said a word, she invited me along with a few other ‘misfits’ to eat lunch with her in an empty classroom for the remainder of that school year.
Once the talent show began and I started to breath a bit easier. The student body was giving great rounds of applause to the era’s amazing pop songs that we all heard over the airwaves. ‘Make Your Own Kind Of Music’ and ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ were sweetly received. I’d watch Little Jenny Burns making quick notes in her note pad while smiling big. Little Jenny Burns was curious about life and what made others tick. As I paced she paced next to me, writing away. Without saying a word to me, I knew she was making notes about my process. Panic attack anyone?
I was suddenly pulled back to talent show terror when the name of the next contestant was announced. It was Belinda. Everyone has probably known a Belinda. Timid, eccentric, completely misunderstood. The minute her name echoed across that gymnasium you could hear the dynamic shift. As I quickly began to pray again, this time for Belinda, she walked past me. She was wearing the coat with the fur collar… Kids can be cruel and that coat had been once passed around the classroom and everyone said it smelled like bacon. Only in the hottest months would you see Belinda without that coat. I’d long decided it was a defense tool that only she understood. A coat that looked like it belonged to someone’s grandmother. In her hand she was clutching a tambourine. I’d watched too many variety shows and thought, well. she’s perfect to be performing ‘Delta Dawn’ . Only it wasn’t ‘Delta Dawn’. It was her own composition. And standing in the middle of that gymnasium with head held high, eyes closed tight and banging that tambourine against her left leg, she started singing through that microphone “Put OUR WORLD back together again.” I’d love to say she had a beautiful voice, but she didn’t. And I’d also love to say the audience was gracious, but they weren’t. Through the whispers and giggles, Belinda kept right on slapping that tambourine. When someone threw loose change across the gymnasium floor I watched our principal, Mr. Briscoe, walk forcefully back and forth the opposite side of the gym. He was a wonderful man who had zero tolerance for anyone acting unkind. Decency is so underrated and he was a man who valued decency – kindness and decency. After she’d finished Belinda walked past me. I wanted to say “Good for you!” but the words wouldn’t come to me. I wished I’d said something. For years the expression on her face haunted me.
Mark had been very secretive with his musical selection. As he passed me, I saw he was carrying a wooden podium. I could sense artistic greatness. As it was announced Mark would be performing a medley from Godspell- ‘Day By Day’ and ‘Save the People’ a hush fell across the auditorium. The sweetness and purity of Marks voice! “To see thee more clearly…Love thee more dearly…Follow thee more nearly… “ It was suddenly replaced with frantic wailing…. And as Mark kicked over the podium, wood on wood cracked loudly, echoing through every inch of that gymnasium. ‘GOD SAVE THE PEOPLE!’ My eyes met with Little Jenny Burns. She had finally stopped writing in her note pad.
Then it was me. I followed Mr. Hays onto the floor and took my place in front of the microphone. I squinted from the brightness caused by the mid-afternoon sun. Great beams of golden light were shooting across the gym floor from the large windows above the heads of the assembled students. On a normal day, I would enjoy this beautiful filtered effect. This however was not a normal day. No matter how hard I squinted I could still see Micky Bishop pointing, laughing, slapping his buddies across their backs. I felt the heat rising from my cheeks, and once again I repeated my silent prayer: “ God, get me through this just one time and I’ll never do it again!” Maybe if I’d had a podium in front of me. Not to kick over the way Mark did, but to use as a shield. Why did I pick a girl song? ‘Rainy Days and Mondays was my current favorite and made complete sense at the time. But now I wasn’t sure. Like an out-of-body experience, I could hear Mr. Hays playing my introduction. “Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old… Sometimes I’d like to quit… Nothin’ ever seems to fit… “ These lyrics were tailor made for me. This boy that wanted desperately to be perfect but was a hopeless failure. I don’t know where my voice came from in that moment but the first lines of that song filled the gymnasium, and then suddenly it was over. It’s blurred when the song ended and the applause began. This loud manic applause, echoing off the beams and hard wood floor. Everyone was standing! EVERYONE!!! Micky Bishop thrust both fists straight up over his head and smiled. I thanked God. Maybe I would do this again after all….
Nothing more magical than fresh falling snow in NYC…
A few things I’ve figured out:
Perfection is a myth.
A secret life is a lonely life.
Being authentic, embracing who we are and born to be is essential for inner peace, growth, and happiness.
Stand tall in your truth.
Limited thinking in a limitless universe is dismal.
Stretch your world open. Pull it inside out and examine every angle.
Think and rethink.
Keep your mind open and it will stay younger and more alive.
Never let others define your personal relationship with God. It is yours to uncover and discover.
You deserve to stand in the light.
Adapting to change or difference can push us far outside our comfort level. It can sometimes cause anger, disappointment and great heartache. But be patient – with yourself and with others. Give people – especially those we love – time to process and adjust. But remember that not everyone has the ability to reflect love. When we have to walk away, do so firmly but respectfully. Tolerance is for toothaches. You deserve to be celebrated.
Don’t let anyone tell you what your capable of achieving. Labels are for jars, show the world what your made of.
Nothing matches unconditional love. The only real love is unconditional love. It exists. I’ve experienced it, and its power has enabled me to give it in return.
Yes, I believe animals go to heaven.
Real men laugh, cry and love. Real men sometimes wear capes, skirts, and marry the man of their dreams.
All that you hope to achieve can come to you. Think and talk about it. Write it down. Keep putting it out there.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘I Love You’.
You’re never to old to Toss Glitter’. The world needs it.
Marina ‘Tossing Glitter’ with Loretta and Dolly…
Accepting the fact you can’t change the past…
Asking for forgiveness can be terrifying. You don’t believe your deserving but crave it nonetheless. Having access to every thought and deed combined with the weight of regret from a past action. It haunts you. Hurting others, especially those whose only crime- Was simply loving.
You hoped to hear the words and when you finally do the relief is like no other. With that relief being willing to make the next step.
Forgiveness is a choice…
You hear your inner-voice “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone” there was no support because no one understood.
Give it to yourself now…
Forgiving ourselves allows us to celebrate what we’ve learned and who we’ve become – A person who would make a kinder decision. The gift of forgiving opens the door to forgiving ourselves. And finally you breathe easy…
Christmas had become a long ago and far away memory. As a child it had seemed magical. There was so much to love — Mom’s baking, Ma-Maw and I tossing glitter, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer… The annual animation special had become that once-a-year-event in much the same way as the Wizard of Oz had. And that Island of Misfit Toys always seemed strangely familiar.
Ma-Maw would give me money. My budget was a dollar for each family member, and a dollar went a long way back then. I’d walk up and down the isles at the Dime Store and carefully select the perfect gifts for each person. Then I would immediately rush back to Ma-Maw’s wrapping my purchases in the most glorious red and gold foil paper.
Months of rehearsals for our cantata at church paid off as I stood, breathless, listening to Mary Ann Elliott sing ‘ O Holy Night’. Her alto was pitch perfect, and when paired with her long dark hair, milky skin, and a midnight blue velvet dress the sense of ceremony came full circle. As the story of baby Jesus unfolded it seemed you were hearing it for the very first time.
I loved Christmas.
But there was never a greater sense of belonging and love than years spent with my wife and family during Christmas. And as the walls began to fall around the shame and denial, and I began to understand who I was, I feared the Christmas I loved would no longer exist. I feared the Authentic Eddie would never again experience that special beauty and joy that Christmas brings.
Coming Out Of Indiana, and declaring who I really was, did hurt many people. Christmas seemed to be something I was going to have to give up. Without even realizing it I left that sense of holiday ceremony behind. I became busy carving out a new life for myself, which was both exhilarating and terrifying. The memories of my previous life – even the good ones – seemed to have no place in the new world I was discovering and the new life I was building.
I’d been independent for nearly five years when I met Jeff. He had a beautiful and infectious smile. A take-charge personality. And the first time he kissed me he had to stand on his tiptoes, making me suddenly aware I was attracted to shorter men. Our second week dating he took me to a beautiful rooftop restaurant. It was an extremely windy night, and being true to the kind of man I would soon learn he was, he insisted on taking the more exposed seat. Throughout dinner, as the wind lifted his hair up and down, I couldn’t help but notice that he was losing his hair. And throughout that entire dinner, though clearly unnerved, he continued to smile that beautiful smile. Sitting across from him in that very moment, I knew this would be the man I’d spend the rest of my life with.
There are so many hurdles to get through when you give up your independence and begin a new life with someone – the two of you together. I had just turned thirty and was inconsolable; foolishly thinking my youth was over. But when you commit yourself to someone, life renews itself. The world really does feel young, and you feel young with it. Ready to try new things and give up old fears. And even change some of your ways.
Along with Jeff, came Chelsea, his beloved Springer spaniel. Though I’d always loved animals and had dogs, coming from the country they were kept outside. I had never lived with one indoors, in my own space. It wasn’t as easy for me as it might sound. Chelsea simply walked through the room leaving a trail of hair. My OCD and obsession with cleaning peaked at an all time high. But I was learning what it really meant to share.
Then came Christmas. Jeff loved Christmas, and was excited about our first one together. I pretended I didn’t hear him every time it came up, but he kept talking about it.
Oh no….I don’t do Christmas.
I explained how I’d worked two jobs nearly every Christmas since I’d come out of Indiana, and that I hadn’t celebrated Christmas in years. Jeff just handed me my coat and I followed him out the door. Walking down the street, I asked Jeff ‘Where are we going? The Christmas market? What do you mean a real tree? I don’t do real trees. What about the needles? The mess?’ But before I knew it, there we were, with Jeff meticulously eyeing each tree. Is it high enough? Full enough? I just shook my head but couldn’t help but notice the intoxicating smell of pine and wood and winter.
Heading back home, we each carried an end. Though I wouldn’t utter a word, I suddenly felt this surge of energy, like a new adventure….
When it came time to decorate, we found ourselves in the most extravagant Christmas boutique eyeing the most expensive and beautiful ribbon I’d ever seen. It was outrageously gorgeous and just as expensive. We walked away, determined to be sensible, but went back to that ribbon a half dozen times. Finally, we decided if we used cheap lights, pine cones, and didn’t eat out for at least four months we could swing it. A few hours later, watching Jeff wrap that beautiful, beautiful ribbon around our first tree together, I basked in the beauty of the season, my new life, and most of all, in Jeff. With Chelsea in my lap, lights blinking in the windows. I breathed easy. Christmas was back…