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.

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