Sunday, August 21, 2011

Body Knowing

from The Surgery Diaries

Struggling as I have the past few days with the realization that I am living inside a post-surgery depression episode, I am also struggling from time to time with impatience and annoyance at the ostomy appliance. This morning, it’s coming loose, in a welter of itching and smells. I have been straining at its limits. Yesterday I tool the longest walk yet since the surgery, probably a mile total, in the hot afternoon. Between taking a shower, my own sweating, and my increased physical activity, of bending and walking and being more physical, I stress the adhesive to its limits, and this morning the appliance is coming off. Today is a scheduled day for changing it anyway, but it’s impatient.

So am I. I’m supposed to wait for the nursing staff to call me and show up to supervise, as I have decided to change it myself this morning, and in my impatience I’m only going to wait so long before I dive in. I’m also hungry, having slept deeply by not as long as usual, and waking up early before this dawn’s dramatic thunderstorm line rolled through. It’s been hours since I awoke, and I want to eat. But I want to change the appliance first, so that I am not excreting while trying to make the change. I’m hungry, and I’m also thinking about food, because I haven’t eaten yet, and also because today is Saturday, and I want to go down to the local farmer’s market, to buy some fresh vegetables and other goods. The best food I can make for myself, in my recovery, is made from good fresh organic produce. And I have to make an effort to go find it, on market days. So I don’t want to miss out of visiting the market, if the nurse takes too long to get here.

This morning I am reading another book about the theology of the body. That’s a recurring pattern in what I am interested to read, ever since last year’s near death experience of almost dying from anemia, the emergency blood transfusions, and the several close calls I have had since then. Five transfusions over the past year or so means that I feel gratitude to ten strangers, one stranger per bag of red blood cells that I was given, for saving my life. Literally. Some of those near approaches to dying I am still unsure how I fell about. My emotions are sometimes still numb, still uncertain, even while at other times I am flooded with emotions, grief, anger, rage, frustration, impatience, and the like, far in excess of the strength of the trigger. When I am triggered lately I overreact to an excessive degree. Another sign of depression. How I tend to manifest depression is these emotional mood swings, coupled with feelings of utility, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, and isolation. All of which have been strongly with me lately.

The book I am reading this morning is Melanie May’s A Body Knows: A Theopoetics of Death and Resurrection. The writing style, which the author herself admits comes from living too long in her head while an academic, even as her body put her through illnesses and near death experiences, to wake her up to the body’s attentive and aware reality, is discursive, and occasionally distracting. I like what May is saying throughout this book, but she is a little too fond of poetic alliteration, even in her prose sections. She does include her poems that reflect on her experience, which is wise, although they too are a bit too alliterative. Maybe that’s an unconscious Anglo-Saxon influence rising to the surface. Maybe it’s too many years being an academic wordsmith. Regardless, I overlook my small annoyance at her writing style to get at the meat of her argument, which is profound and good.

I am reading books like this because they reflect on my own ongoing experience of death and resurrection. I have died, been killed, been gutted, been stuffed, been changed, and brought back to life. Brought back to life in the full knowledge that I am going to be killed, regutted, restrung, knitted back together, and will face an even worse, more painful, more enduring recovery process. The second surgery is going to be worse than the first, I am promised. So I will die again, with no guarantee of being reborn that time. I sowed together my affairs as best I could before this first surgery, in case I did literally die; I will need to go through all that again.

Okay, the nurse is here. Pause for a change of bags, pause for chatting, pause for a meal, and for going to the farmer’s market.

In her book, Melanie May cites some other writers who have been through the forge of death and rebirth, and weaves some of their stories through the threads of her own.

I have to learn to love myself before I can love you or accept your loving. You have to learn to love yourself before you can love me or accept my loving. Know we are worthy of touch before we can reach out for each other.
—Audre Lorde

Worthy of touch. My own body often feels touch-deprived. When I receive a massage, or a backrub, or a loving touch, it is near ecstasy for me. There are reasons I feel touch-starved; chief among them is the dynamic balance between being a very sensual, physically erotic person, and being raised in a birth tribe that was touch-withholding.

I was five years old, in India, when during nap time, I snuck out of the house and across the yard to the concrete washing area, where the servants would wash and beat wet clothing against the concrete, rinse clothes in the vat, and later hang them to dry on lines in the hot tropical sun, where they would dry quickly. I would sneak out during after nap time, and go out to the washing area, and take off all my clothes, so that I could feel the sunlight and air on my skin. I vividly remember how the hot sun felt on my skin, the smell of soap and water lingering on the concrete tubs, the quiet afternoon sounds coming from other parts of the compound off in the distance. That was the beginning of a lifetime of preferring to be naked rather than clothed. I still prefer to be nude, whenever possible. I make allowances for social niceties, of course, but most of my friends know that my home is clothing-optional, and nobody worries if they’re startled in the middle of the night by someone else up and going to the bathroom, naked.

Worthy of touch. That’s also about self-esteem: you have to feel that you’re worthy of being loved, that you deserve to be loved. That was a hard one for me to learn. My Norwegian immigrant relatives, emotionally reserved and touch-withholding, were never good about expressing true feelings. I was a sissy boy who cried easily, and that wasn’t always approved of. On those rare occasions when I decided it was worth it to put my foot down, and refuse to budge about something, no one could move me, or get past the infinite reserves of determination I could summon. I have memories from my teen years of occasionally refusing to do some form of expected participation during family gatherings, and the ripples of unrest that caused in the clan. But I would not be moved, once I set myself down. That was an early lesson in genuine self-esteem that I didn’t myself understand till much later in life, when I realized that my self-esteem was rock-solid when it really mattered, even though I felt tattered and wind-blown a lot of the rest of the time.

Worthy of touch. Another, more private aspect of that is the problematic fact that I was born with most of those psychic powers you hear about from folktales from my Celtic ancestry already switched on. Touching people meant reading their minds, and so touch was often unpleasant and uncomfortable for me. Touching objects often meant picking up impressions from them, which some people call psychometry, but which I called in my youth losing my mind to the influences of others. My sense of self was often a tattered flag blowing this way and that in every gust of external wind. Touching people caused me pain, even though I was a sensual person, and craved touch. Touching objects sometimes was just as bad. I learned to keep my hands to myself.

So there was a lot of opportunities for love that were lost in my youth. I really wanted to cuddle in my grandfather’s lap, but I didn’t always feel like I could. I really wanted to hug everybody I loved all the time, but I often held back. Few people were safe to touch.

Revealing one’s nakedness . . . is, really, our only human hope.
—James Baldwin

If you think this is some sort of repressed memory or fictionalized abuse scenario, you’re an idiot, and you can fuck off. I was never abused, never molested, I remember my childhood in amazing detail, and it was mostly a very good childhood. The difficulties I had were mostly internal, trying to reconcile my emotions and experiences against what other people told me could and could not be true. Grow up psychically sensitive in a materialistic culture and family that denies the mere existence of anything spiritual, except on an mostly intellectual level, and you’ll know what I mean. Even my parents’ church, which was a very rational brand of Lutheranism, believed that miracles did happen back in Biblical times, but such things couldn’t possibly happen now, in the rational, materially scientific, post-Enlightenment present day. One advantage my Catholic friends had growing up, despite the many dysfunctions of the Catholic church, is that Catholicism still recognized the possibility of mysticism and Mystery. That’s is Catholicism’s most positive example amongst the many sects of modern Christianity.

It is far easier, even now, for me, in the context of this culture I live in, to “come out” as gay, as sexually Other, as an androgynous male who can both lecture you about Italian opera, music history, and music theory, and also run a chainsaw, then it is to “come out” spiritually, psychically, energetically. It was only in my thirties that I began to meet other people who did not try to commit me to a mental institution when I talked about any of this stuff. At the present time, one of my most important spiritual directors and guides is a professional teacher and medical intuitive, and the other one is a professional counselor and clairvoyant. You cannot understand the meaning of the word “validation” until your deepest, most private, most innermost secret is accepted as nothing extraordinary by someone you respect and even love. Reveal your nakedness: it is the most frightening thing that you will ever do, to reveal your soul’s nakedness. Walking around the house nude is nothing by comparison. Because of my current medical situation, this death and rebirth and death and rebirth, most of my medical team, nurses, doctors, support family and friends, have seen parts of my body most people don’t who aren’t my lovers, out of medical necessity, out of medical need. But even most of them have never seen my this naked, the kind of nakedness that is revealed when I drop the inner veils.

In the beginning was definitely not the Word. . . . It is flesh that makes the words.
—Naomi Goldenberg

Melanie May includes her poetry in her book on what the body knows, because poetry was her first response to her medical and spiritual crises. The poetry came first, the academic thinking and theory and analysis came later. Flesh comes first, the body-knowing I’ve experienced myself, the wisdom of the flesh to tell you to stop and rest when in your mind you could keep going a little bit further, the intelligence of pain that warns you have gone too far already. First comes the body-knowing, and the body-prayer. The body prays in its own way; to the chattering mind, that usually looks like stillness, or emptiness. All too often we mislabel body-prayers as laziness. What the body is doing is stopping to breathe, to rest, to contemplate, to recharge. If we are wise, we listen, and go along with the body. Most people these days live in their heads, though, and don’t listen to body-wisdom or body-prayers.

Before my own first surgery, I was illuminated within to see the body-wisdom of a gay man who I know via the Internet pose nude while hiking, with a walking stick, his beautiful eyes looking out of the frame into you, his beautiful, sensual body resting while hiking outdoors—and an old, incredibly powerful scar running down his midline. Seeing his scar, which he lives with so well, nude, outdoors, loving and happy, gave me the courage to face acquiring surgical incision scars of my own. I feel a body-deep gratitude whenever I think of my friend and this portrait of his revealed and scarred beautiful nakedness.

Now, one thing the surgery has taught me is a deepening of my already-existing practice of listening to my body and its need and desires. Some days my body wants to run, is born to run, or these days at least walk fast. Other days all we want to do is lie in the sun, and let the lizard-brain achieve conscious dominance. And that’s enough.

After body-prayer comes, in order, poetry. The body precedes the words. The body exists before the words, and creates the Word. I am just enough of a classic Bard to know how the word must be rooted in the soul, and cloaked in music. You touch people through the music you drape the words in. Even the music comes before the words, and takes precedence. I feel sad for those writers so word-oriented they never experience the precedence of wordlessness and body-prayer; such folk live so thoroughly in their heads, I have noticed, that they don’t even realize they live in a gilded cage.

[Poetry is] . . . the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.
—Audre Lorde

We make poems so we can think things we never thought before. That’s certainly been true of the writing of some of my own poems, in particular those which were attempts to put into words visionary, sensual, and bodily experiences I have had. Some poems are nothing but reports of visionary experiences, shamanic, mystical, whatever label you wish to apply. We constantly have to make poems to make new words to understand the new ways of thinking and experiencing that evolve throughout our lives, if we are open to body-prayer and the poetics of existence.

Old words do not reach across the new gulfs.
—Amos Wilder

Language is fossil poetry.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first body of knowing is silent, is silence itself. The next body of knowing is the poetry that emerges from silence, and from hearing the wind within the walls of the world. The next body of knowing that emerges is the fossil poetry that becomes the language we use to describe, to explain, and to explain away and rationalize, what we have learned from the preceding and pre-verbal knowings.

[Note: I'm not posting all of these essays in order of composition, but in order of my momentary interest. This essays was written 8.20.2011.]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

All I Really Wanted

from The Surgery Diaries

This was originally written a month or two before my surgery, when I was thinking about matters. The surgery has had and will have an impact on my sexuality, as well as on my spirit, body, emotions, and other aspects of self. Last week I had several days of what can only be called, in retrospect, post-surgery depression. The surgical staff tells me that's normal, and so was everything else I was feeling last week, and asked them about. Lots of internal sensations that I questioned, all of which they were familiar with. It's actually good to know that I'm not unique, that I'm feeling things other people have felt. That gives me hope that I'll recover as well those other people have.

April/May 2011

I've enjoyed chatting with a gay friend on his blog thread about three-way sexual experiences, and the questions and issues surrounding them. As I said there, I've been involved with good three-ways a couple of times. But I was lucky to be involved with mature, stable people, who were willing to talk openly about what they wanted and expected, and were all respectful of each others' feelings. Communication being the most essential thing, as always. My experience may be the exception to the rule, I don't know, but I do feel lucky. A great discussion of the topic, regardless.

And it got me thinking.

I've posted a few personal ads in recent months, although nothing has happened. I've spent a fair bit of time thinking, therefore, about what I really want, sexually, right now—which doesn't mean forever, just right now—and I've spent a fair bit of time talking these things over with one or two of my closest gay male friends. Thinking it through out loud. Working it out by talking it through.

I cannot find it in me to judge anyone for undertaking any sexual experience that brings more love and joy into the world. Shared joy is always increased, just as shared pain is always diminished. Even those sexual practices that don't interest me, or downright turn me off, if they bring more joy and love into someone's world, I don't have it in me to judge them.

I cannot find it in me to want to spend the energy it takes to meet the expectations of others, especially their unspoken and hidden expectations, when those expectations require me to be less than I am, or to change myself to meet their neuroses halfway. I ,i>will spend the effort to meet someone halfway who is being as honest and open with me as I am being with them. I will do my best to make sure that he has the best, most satisfying, most pleasurable playtime that I can give him: his joy is my joy, and I'm other-directed enough to want to be sure that anyone I am making love with gets off, too, even if I got off first.

So, what sort of sex play am I talking about here?

Honestly, most of my sex lately has been self-pleasure. I actually really enjoy a good wank, and I get very good orgasms. Sometimes I just ooze, some other times I spurt all the way to the ceiling. It depends on how turned on I am (and my physical energy level that day, which is dictated by my medical situation's effect on my daily energy budget). Sometimes I jerk off to pics I find online—I'm not into video porn very much, I prefer to linger over erotic still photographs, and besides most porn soundtracks are awful. I really don't own any porn. Almost as often, I just pleasure myself while using my imagination to conjure from memory or fantasy who I want to be with today. Solo sex can be very fulfilling sex. It's not a "substitute" for intercourse, nor is it "second best." In some ways, masturbation is the best sex I get, because, hey, I love who I'm with, and I know exactly how to please him. Seriously, there's no better way to learn about how a partner can give you pleasure (of course you have to tell them how) then by learning how to give pleasure to yourself.

With guys, I find myself these days mostly into cock and touch and play, rather than fucking. I find myself enjoying keeping it light, horny, even just mutual oral or sitting on the couch jerking off together while we both watch each other. I also like just hanging out nude, before and after, talking, having a cup of tea nude. Showering together after. I suppose for some this is all vanilla, but for now it suits me to keep it light and fun and mostly cock-oriented and with lots of rubbing. I really like frottage, for example. Pleasure rather than pain.

I've discovered real pleasure in something that isn't exactly a fetish, but is a little kinky: Masturbating his cock with my foot. (And vice versa.) I discovered how much pleasure that could give by accident, when I was playing around with a cute guy some years ago in San Francisco. He had a partial physical handicap, a twisted arm, a limp, a couple of other things; we were lying naked on his bed, facing each other, and I just sort of spontaneously moved my foot into his crotch, and he did reciprocated, and we both liked the sensations a lot.

I'm a very sensual person, anyway. I love lots of touch. I love being naked, hanging out nude at home, or out camping and hiking when far out in the wilds where no one can see us. I like nude hiking. I like being naked even when it isn't sexual! So this foot-play thing was a pretty cool discovery.

What do I want, right now?

Well, if anyone ever responded to one my personal ads, I would love to get naked together and play. I would say yes to a three-way, probably, if one materialized, if I felt the other guys were okay to both be with, and if we talked through our parameters beforehand. (The last triad I had was a cold winter night just over a year ago, and it was good. I was staying over at a friend's place to avoid having to drive home in a blizzard, between two consecutive concert nights. He and his old lover were both nudists, and the fireplace was warm. So it was very natural to move from mutual nakedness in the living room to mutual lovemaking in the bedroom, all three of us.)

My medical situation and my music-writing work right now make it unlikely I'll get into a long-term romantic relationship. So casual but loving sex is all I need. I don't need a 'relationship" just now (although I always keep that door open), but friends with benefits, getting together for mutual release and pleasure every so often, would be great.

I have to be at least a little bit in love with every man I have sex with. The emotional connection has to be there for me. In fact, casual sex only works for me if we connect on the energetic level, too. And casual sex with repeat sex would cement that, I think.

Otherwise, I'm perfectly content, just now, with everything else that's going on, to just have sex with myself. Once a day, on average lately; sometimes again before bedtime. Depending on the medical moment, and how it affects my day. Some days I ache, and am too tired.

You see, the thing is—and I know this will sound weird to some people—I like my cock. I always have. I like its size, I like shape, I know how to play it like a piano, and it gives me great pleasure. What more could a (gay) man ask for?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Affirming Previous Changes

(from The Surgery Diaries)

In talking about changes going on with my body, with my self, through this extended surgery and recovery cyclic process, I find myself impatient at times. I'm on that threshold where I feel better, sometimes very well, but it's at least partly an illusion. I'm not really ready to do the things I almost feel ready to do. There is a common wisdom in athletic injuries (in sports medicine) that when your previously ankle feels like it's fully healed, you still have several weeks to go. Because something newly-healed is still brittle, still weaker than it was. It might feel all right, but it still needs more time.

And that's exactly where I am right now. I need more time. I still need to take it easy. Impatience can be a whip.

My surgical incision is healing well, but it was a deep cut, a deep interior wound, and so I am still restricted in how I can strain the incision. I am not allowed to bend over too much, or to lift too much weight. I can feel the inner wound when I lie on my side in bed, in just a slightly bad position: shooting lines of sensation, not quite pain but not quite neutral, travel from my belly through to the root of my groin. One side is easier to lie on than the other. After awhile, the discomfort becomes too much, and I have to shift. I'm trying to not take any more pain pills, except at absolute worst need, but I've been glad one or two recent nights that I still had some left. Sometimes falling asleep is really difficult, because of the body's discomfort.

People tell me they're impressed with my positive attitude, but I don't feel very positive very often on the inside: I feel necessity, perhaps desire, most definitely determination. Some days this is mostly grim determination; and not at all some clich├ęd sports-biography inspirational-movie overcoming-obstacles-and-setbacks sort of guff. My attitude only seems positive sometimes. I can and do make grim jokes, gross jokes, at times, to help stay sane: the well-known black humor or gallows humor that existential hospital humor. I can make jokes about things that I find too disgusting to contemplate, those mornings when I'm tired from not sleeping well.

Some days it's really challenging to find any sense of humor at all. Even grim hospital humor.

Some mornings I would give almost anything for all this to be over and done with already. It's really hard to endure.

And I must give the negative feelings their due; it's important to get them out of your system, so they don't fester or linger or become toxic. But when you do get them out of your system, indeed they don't get stuck and toxic, they don't fester, and that's all to the good.

What I find myself increasingly impatient with, perhaps to the point of offending some folks, is those milestones I've already reached, when I bump into someone who has not.

First let me say that I do know that I'm not the most patient person in the world. Impatience has always been a vice, for me. I use the word "vice" deliberately, because it can become like an addiction, a psychology-altering habit: skewing your perception of reality in ways not dissimilar from those addicted to gambling or similar "vices."

I try to be polite, when the impatience is up, but I admit a few times I've snapped. And needed to apologize. Being my mother's son, I also sometimes have a bad habit of apologizing too often, even for things I don't need to apologize for; so I have to watch out for that, too. I know that both of these tendencies—impatience, and the compulsion to over-apologize—are rooted in my birth tribe's expectations of perfect behavior. I know that both of these tendencies are part of being a recovering perfectionist. I know I mostly slip into them when I'm vulnerable, tired out emotionally and/or physically, and my resistance is down. Mostly they're manageable, and sometimes they're not.

I think you can say "Sorry" too often. But I don't think you can ever say "Thank you" often enough.

Saying "Thank you" serves us well, on so many levels, from the social to the medical to the spiritual. I'm grateful to be alive. I'm grateful to have the energy, this otherwise blah morning, to be able to write down my whining complaints. I'm grateful to have come through this first surgery alive and relatively intact. I'm grateful to still be here. Period.

On a fundamental, daily, ordinary as well as extraordinary level, I feel that saying "Thank you" is the core of anything I might call spiritual. One of my favorite sayings (on the level of a slogan for contemplation or meditation) is a saying from the great Medieval mystic Meister Eckhart: If the only prayer you ever said was "Thank You," that would suffice. I believe that on every level, and I have done my best to practice that. (Which is why every year I write Gratitudes instead of New Year's Resolutions.)

As I write, my surgery was happening exactly three weeks ago this hour. The doctors and nurses, and everyone else, keep saying to me that I doing very well, that I'm ahead of the curve. For example, the surgical staples came out a week ago, which is considered a week early, for most cases. I've been healing more rapidly then expected. I have to take their word for all this, because it's all new to me. This is my body, not some theoretical story, and there are times when I listen and absorb what they're saying to me about how well I'm doing, but I don't feel it. I still feel like crap. This is my body, and it's a new experience, and I have nothing in my past experience to compare it to. I do listen to the tales of other patients that I am told, and some of those are comforting, even affirming. They remind me that there is still healing to be done, and miles to go before I sleep. They also validate that the goal of being able to go back to a regular life is possible, and going to happen, sooner or later. This period I'm in right now, which breeds impatience, is turbulent in part because I want to be there already, and I'm not.

To return to the point, finally, I find myself impatient with those same things I have already let go of, that others have not, when I encounter them. Some milestones are ones you need to learn more than once, till they sink in. Others are not.

What I want to do is affirm that some of the changes I had already made, before surgery, before the current changes in my life, I would do all over again. They were the right choices.

The choice to strike off on my own artistically, and not give much time to workshop situations anymore, where many of the same beginner-level lessons continuously cycle and recycle, and where the personal drama can often sink any interest in the arts.

The realization, which became a conscious choice, that making art is the best way to cope with whatever it is that is bothering me. Whether that is medical, personal, or psychological, making art is the best way I know to stay with it, and stay sane,

The decision to cease second-guessing the creative process. I can't direct it or guide it, and I choose not to. I follow the intuition and imagination wherever they want to go. I make art by listening to those inner intuitive voices, not by pre-planning an engineering scaffold.

The dietary changes I made some time ago, including the decision to go gluten free, that have affected my health positively, and supported my health through the worst of recent times. Some of these dietary needs might no longer be necessary, now that I no longer have an ailing colon; but some will be permanent changes.

The list could go on, but that's enough to make the point. I'm still searching, still exploring, still figuring what my body is like, now, still looking for the "new normal," whatever it turns out to be.

My impatient may indeed be a vice. I try not to let it dominate my discourse, but I do confess that when I am suffering, sometimes the impatience leaks into my discourse as a sharp-edged tone that suffers fools poorly. I suppose I've offended some folks lately. I make no apologies, though, whenever it becomes clear that their choice to take offense had nothing really to do with me, and everything to do with their own neuroses.

And that's another change: To not spend any of my energy accommodating the neuroses of others. It's not my problem if your life sucks. It's also not my fault. I have more than enough to deal with, just managing my own life, for now. I have no time for personal drama generated by people who have the luxury of wasting their time and energy on such things. I have enough real drama, of late, in my own life, that I have neither need nor desire to take on any more, be it yours or mine. It's nice that you have the spare life-force to burn, it's great that you have the luxury of burning your life-force in personal drama; I don't. And even if I did have the energy to burn, what I have learned from chronic illness, major surgery, and recovery, is that I would never choose to waste my life-force, ever again, on that kind of meaningless waste of time and energy. Life is too short to spend it on such inconsequential matters.

I make no judgments when I say that. I am speaking purely tactically and logistically, with no blaming or shaming involved. This is the big lesson from when you are forced to confront your own mortality: Life is precious. Life is short. Life is limited. Don't waste a moment of your life on anything that doesn't really matter.

I've given up blaming, and I've given up victimology; I've given up both of these in favor of a radical acceptance. First and always, to move forward, you have to simply accept things as being the way they are. You can't do anything to change them if you live in denial that anything might need changing. Acceptance precedes action. Just as self-esteem is the fundamental power of selfhood, far more important any other; because self-esteem is what makes all the rest possible. including genuine love. Toxic love, you will observe, always goes hand in hand with poor self-esteem; genuine love always is comfortable in its own skin, and need not possess the other, nor control.

Peace. Be still. Thank you.

Previous entry: Changes

Monday, August 1, 2011

Open Up the Windows

Because of recent powerful, life-changing events—my illness, first surgery, and recovery, principally—I've been thinking over again what I want to do here. I've decided that I'm going to continue to publish my LGBT related materials here, for the most part, although with a few other goodies, but I'm going to drop my reticence. I'm going to open up the windows and doors and let in all the fresh air and sunlight that I can.

I'm going to be more explicit here, and more personal. I need a place to organize some more personal writings, even some sexually explicit ones, both old and new. More precisely, some personal writings that do not censor themselves with regard to sexual and psychological and spiritual matters. I have a need, at this time, to write through my present life, with nothing held back.

For me sexuality and spirituality are deeply intertwined, and always have been. I want to write more openly and publicly about these, now. I have things to say, some of it no doubt radical and controversial, especially the spiritual materials, which are always more controversial than the sexual, but they need to be said, if only for my own benefit. This process of illness, surgery and recovery has profoundly (and predictably) affected me on many levels, and is in the midst of permanently transforming my life. That process is still ongoing, although I've already sorted out a few things that are really important to me from those that no longer seem so important. Modesty and self-censorship don't nearly as important as they used to; I don't believe I've suddenly become more courageous as a writer, rather I've become less willing to spend any effort on editing myself so as to not offend family and friends.

I need to keep writing the poems, notes, essays, and other pieces that fall under the umbrella of what I am now calling The Surgery Diaries. Last year I began with The Anemia Diaries, but these writings about my medical journey have now become a much deeper, more engaging project. i intend to include here writings and artworks all pertaining to my medical journey, the long chronic illness, the surgery process which I am not done with, and my recovery. I need to write these things for my self first. Not all of it will be pretty, but all of it will be honest. I know I don't have many followers here, yet I do want feedback on this, of whatever kind becomes manifest. I will be posting here more frequently than I have before, no doubt.

As for honesty and explicitness, it really comes from having lost any sense of privacy or personal modesty already. I've previously been a very private person, although I've never been that personally modest.

Consider this scenario: You're in your hospital room the days after surgery, wearing one of those gowns that open in the back. The surgeons and nurses all left up your hem to look at your wound, to change your dressing, occasionally to give you a sponge bath, or check your epidural. You're not wearing anything under the gown. Lots of people see you naked, scarred, vulnerable, and exposed. And you're far from the only patient the nurses and doctors see naked and wounded every hour of every day. There's no point in even trying to be body-shy. You need all your energy for your healing, so wasting energy on inconsequentials drops right off the radar.

I've never been that body-shy anyway, though. As an adult man, I've always had more of a "Body by Buddha" than "Body by Charles Atlas" thing going for me; I'm nothing special, so I don't worry about it. But even as a small boy, I'd never been all that modest about nudity, full or partial. There were summers in my early teens when the only item of clothing I wore for days on end, for as long as I could get away with it, was gym shorts and sneakers. I rarely wear clothes around the house, especially when on my own. With some of my closest friends, my apartments and homes have been a clothing-optional zone for years, anyway.

When I was first home from the hospital, and the home-visit nurses were first getting to know me, one asked me if I wanted privacy for showering, which I do during the process of changing the ostomy bag, which I couldn't do by myself at first. I laughed and said, Look, this is a process in which privacy and body modesty have already gone by the wayside, and as for dignity, well that was pretty much a lost cause right now, too. We all laughed, I dropped my shorts, took a shower, dried off, put my shorts back on, and we proceeded with changing the ostomy bag. At this point, they've all seen me nearly of fully naked anyway, so there's no point in pretending to be shy.

The process of illness and healing has re-sorted my attitudes and priorities. I'm far more likely to answer the door nude than I ever have before, although I do keep clothes on hand. I'm nothing special to look at, as I know only too well, especially now that I have to wear an ostomy bag all the time, and I don't inflict myself on the unprepared. But in truth I don't care anymore: I'm just being polite. If it were an urgent medical matter, I wouldn't bother putting the shorts on first, I'd just answer the door. It's all about priorities.

One major life-lesson that has come out of this process is that what really matters in life is who you love, how you love them, and how you live your life. Everything else is pretty much unimportant by contrast, and not worth spending much energy on.

So I plan to go back through the random notes and jottings I've been writing here and there, from last year's near-death experience from anemia, from the time right before my surgery, up to the present. A lot of these are going to be more like diary or journal entries than I've ever posted before; but I want to organize and edit and present them in an organized manner, mostly so I can keep a log of the changes I am going through. I want to collect and compile what I'm going through, for no other reason than to gather it all in one place.

I used to use my long-standing Road Journal and Road Journal podcast archives for this purpose, but I realize now that the way I write and present this material has changed. My approach has changed. I don't feel like I've abandoned the Road Journal, although I'm way behind on updating it. That's an ongoing memoir project that still has value to me. At some point I still intend to bring it up to the present date. But even the Road Journal left some things out. I was always aware that it was a public forum, with a fairly large following, so I didn't talk too personally about some topics. That's all changed now. I don't feel the need to avoid any topic, for the duration of my illness and recovery.

Still, I find myself regarding The Surgery Diaries as a separate writing project, like a chapbook of poems on one theme, separated out from the general run of writing. That's my approach, here and now. And I intend to be more honest and explicit than ever before, regarding both the good and the bad in my life. I need to do this, as I said, as a way of tracking my own progress as I go through this extended healing process. I want to be able to sort things out in my own mind, and writing about them, and making art about them, remains one of the best tools I have for that.