Courage

Couragemental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty” Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

I’ve had moments of courage. In Thailand when I lent my name to a protest against the Thai security guards “Task force 80” who were shooting refugees in the back for going out in the forest to collect firewood. My local CRS office chief Dick Hogan was incensed at my involvement, but I stuck to my guns along with Tom and a couple of others whose names escape me. Even at the risk of us losing our jobs and being deported. It turned out ok in the end. A major fire in the camp distracted everyone to more immediate needs; the UN lawyer met with us and heard our complaints. The soldiers kept their guns and weren’t brought up on charges. But no more refugees were shot at.

In 1991, after getting a nice cash settlement following a car accident, I weighed my options: stock portfolio or new lease on life. I opted for the new lease on life, I embarked on enrolling at CSULB’s MSW program in defiance (I guess you’d call it) of the Bishop since I had money to pay for the program. At least the Diocese carried my health insurance, for which I am eternally grateful given that I had by-pass surgery a year down the road. But, for twenty some years I toiled among the marginalized, the dying and the mentally ill of LA and Orange counties and felt that I truly belonged. Yes, my parents were bitterly disappointed. I had some terribly demoralizing years working in management both in Long Beach for Fen Rhodes and in Orange County for Jennifer Hudson. I re-read the blogs from those times and the pain still bleeds. It took courage, one day at a time, to get dressed and face the day.

One day, in 2005, after expressing a rather clear suicide plan, I spent 72 hours on hold. It took some courage to pull it together and muster up some sanity to get out.

But I was open and out as a gay man. Long Beach was so much of a home to me. Even going back several months later, I still marveled at how “at home” I felt. I suppose, given the circumstances of that time in 2015, the decision I made to sell the condo and return to Phoenix made sense. Now, financially, I’m potted here until my dying days.

I told my siblings about my HIV status. Better to be up front and to normalize it rather than for them to find out in a round about way and as if it’s a big shameful secret. Given my extensive health care crisis in the latter part of 2015, it was the better way for them to find out than to overhear  from a medical provider “giving report” to another. Awkward!

It took some courage to fly off to Tunisia (“where is that?” they asked) and to finally meet Ash, a young man with whom I’ve been connected with on-line for seven years. I asked him to marry me. He said yes. I had briefly courted two other men online. Both turned out to be completely undesirable. Money-grubbing scumbags would describe them I suppose. I filed a petition in November with Homeland Security. To date, I’ve received a case number and they’ve cashed the check. Otherwise, no word.

Now, courage is a daily, garden variety type. Depression weighs me down, that nasty old feeling of wanting to bury my head in the pillow and just stay in bed. No hope for the day, no joy of getting up to be useful and productive. I just want to die. I shudder to think what this would be like without Remeron or Topiramate. I’m not sure that I want the flip side of this disease called bi-polar — that manic bouncing can’t sleep talking a mile a minute spending money like crazy feeling. I have to make a personal decision to have courage to get out of bed, to get out of my seat and get the door for a client, to go to the clothes closet (again) to look for a bag.  I pray for courage to change what I can when it comes to biting my tongue in observing the workers at SJW who blithely show superior attitudes and avoid eye contact with the clients. Lots of Kali energy in that room!

Courage is not an absence of fear; it is action taken in the midst of fear, uncertainty, darkness and the unknown. All I ask, is the courage to change what I can — my head and my hands.

 

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