Sometimes I Wish I Was Gay

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I’ve always tried to be myself throughout my life.  Of course that wasn’t always easy due to that little word, “repression.”  But overall I think I have done a pretty good job at least surviving some of those milestones.  I survived elementary school expressing my love and devotion for Whitney.  I survived middle school.  Lawd, we ALL survived middle school.  I survived high school exploring my interests in musicals and band and hanging out with friends.  I survived college…..lawd sometimes I wonder how I survived college.  I did it mostly staying true to who I was or trying to figure it all out.  I unabashedly loved *NSync and Celine and still, Whitney.  I did it dancing at bars and making mixed tapes and reading Entertainment Weekly and kind of dating girls, but exploring affection for boys too.  And I’ve survived 15 years of adulthood here in Chicago exploring me and trying to figure it all out.

One of the greatest gifts I have given myself is allowing me to live my life.  Although society has certainly played a role in shaping who I am and trying to keep me a “man” by design, I was designed different and thank the LAWD for that.  Last weekend I was at my good friend’s birthday party.  It had a dance floor, 3 gays, and a lot of beautiful women.  There were a lot of moments, like free style dancing to Journey’s “Separate Ways”, two of us boys jumping into the windows during a rendition of “Out Tonight” from RENT(musical people, you get it), and just a lot of fancy, wild, FREEDOM of dance.  While we were all doing that, another friend was at a table and a guy there said, as he looked at the amazing time we were having on the dance floor, “Sometimes I wish I was gay.”  I wonder, is he saying that he wishes he was out there dancing up a storm because there are so many beautiful women?  Or is he saying that because we were just being wild and free and not caring what society says about it?  I tend to believe it is the latter.  Society really sucks sometimes when it teaches men how “real” men should act.  I feel lucky because I have almost always been able to be me.  I’ve always had friends and family who have allowed me to dance like a fool on the dance floor at a wedding or at the bar.  Last spring I was at a bar in Chicago and it was 80s/90s night and right when we walked in Whitney played, then Janet, then Mariah.  It was amazing and we were dancing like no one was watching. I’m pretty much always dancing like no one is watching.  It was SO fun and we were all sweaty fools.  I noticed some twenty somethings laughing, pointing, and taking photos.  Oh, youth! They only wish they could be as free as us thirty somethings who know how to Say YES to Life without feeling bad or ashamed.

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It just speaks to how our society sends messages to our youth.  I wish more men were able to watch some crazy fun gay guys and think, “man I wish I felt comfortable out there.”  More than anything else, I invite them to dance up a storm, get out there. Release a little of that “how a man is supposed to act” feeling and let loose on the dance floor men!  If you are raising boys, let them explore their interests.  Let them know, leading by example, that it’s ok to dance like no one is watching!

I’m clear.  I’m courageous.  I can.

Tonight in yoga my instructor started with an intention, “I’m clear.  I’m courageous.  I can.”  It really resonated with me as I pondered this blog post.  As I mentioned above, I have survived to age 38 fairly unscathed with society’s standards for men and how we should act.  Luckily as a kid, in 1987, my dad introduced the American Music Awards to me.  He saw it listed in the television guide in the paper.  We had just gotten our first VCR.  “You should tape this award show tonight.  You might like it.” It was the night Whitney won award after award after award, 5 total, for her Whitney Houston debut album.  That was the night I fell in love with her.  Of course there were times as a teen I wanted to scream, “I LOVE YOU JORDAN KNIGHT!” but instead I felt I couldn’t, rather I littered my bedroom walls with Paula Abdul BOP Magazine pictures.  There were times in college that I really wanted to cuddle with boys, instead I did what society taught and cuddled with girls(like a few times-don’t get crazy). What comes with age, hopefully, is wisdom and clarity. Finally around age 26 I had the clarity to accept my homosexuality.

Certainly throughout my life I faced challenges that prepared me for this life.  My mom taught me to be courageous at the young age of 8 when it was realized in 2nd grade that I did not know how to read.  Elementary school worked itself out, but when I hit sixth grade it took me hours nightly to complete my homework.  Due to my dad traveling heavily for work, my mother was home alone with my brother and me a lot.  I just remember her picking me up from home after working all day, racing across town to get my allergy shot.  Other nights she had to take my brother to various sports practices.  She always made dinner, cleaned up, and managed to keep my ADD in check as I would spend hours doing my homework, much of the time sitting by my side.  In my line of work I know so many parents who are not willing to take the time to be a PARENT.  Luckily for me, my mother did and through it all, taught me how to be courageous. That certainly has served me academically, professionally, and personally in my life.

I didn’t always feel like I could be myself growing up.  My parents did their best to support me and my varied interests without making me feel guilty or shame.  Though he teased me in many other ways, my brother never made me feel bad about my interests in watching hours of Star Search, award shows, pageants, or taping hours of Whitney Houston coverage on television. But still, I didn’t always feel that I could put my “shows” on in public or in our living room. I always knew I had a safe place at home, but even there I sometimes hid in the basement to create solo dance shows or other acting/performing shenanigans. What I learned growing up in my house, never through direct conversation, mostly just through experience, was that “I can.”  I can watch award shows and Miss Universe and it’s ok.  I can be successful and complete my academic work.  It might have taken me four hours a night, but I could do it.  “I’m clear.  I’m courageous.  I can.”

What I know now is that society has certain rules and standards and roles that it tries to get girls and boys to follow. Depending on where children are raised, how they are raised, and by whom they are raised has an incredible impact on who they are as an adult member of the same society that “raised” them.  It takes courageous parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, neighbors, and all the rest of society to allow our kids to explore their interests, out in the open, without judgement, ridicule, or expectation.

Learning to Love Yourself

I am profoundly grateful that I am gay.  It has allowed me to not follow the rules and to be different.  It has allowed me to not follow the norms set before my male peers.  Being gay has allowed me to buck society.  It hasn’t always been easy, but growing up isn’t for anyone.  It hasn’t always been accepted, but not everything a child does ever is.  Whether it was the family who raised me or the mostly kind people I grew up with or whether it came from within me, I think I turned out kind of alright. Luckily for me, I have never thought, “Sometimes I wish I was straight.”

Say YES to Life!                 

Be Daring

BeDaringIt’s 2015-Yes it is!  I try to take the opportunity every January to think about the upcoming year.  The hopes I have.  The dreams I have.  The opportunities I have.  I picked up this candle from Bath and Body Works over the holidays.  Three things drew me to it.  First, the scent of saffron and redwood.  Second, the glitter and sparkles.  Most importantly, the saying, “Be Daring.” How can I live my life in 2015 by being Daring?

Adventure seeker is certainly a proper description for me.  I’ve bungee jumped off a bridge in Zimbabwe.

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Is 2015 the year I skydive?

As I’ve been thinking about the upcoming year my focus has been more on daring to hope more, love more, and live more fully. I am blessed to live pretty large right now, but there has to be more.  I never really expected to start my blog in 2014, but it just sort of came together one fateful day in May.  Falling in love was not something I expected to happen in 2014, but I certainly hoped for it.  Running my fourth marathon in 2014 isn’t something I expected…ok, I did expect to do that.  But I didn’t expect to have the amazing cheer crew chasing me all 26.2 miles.  I certainly did not expect to participate in the Gay Games 9 in Cleveland, but I met a boy, he suggested I participate, so I did.  That was daring.  That was risky.  That was one of the best, unexpected times of 2014 and of my life.

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What unexpected things do you HOPE happen in 2015?  There is that word that I love so much.  HOPE.  There have been so many times in my life that hope got me through, but I had to dare to hope.  Granted, I’m typically a glass half full type of thinker, but there have moments and times when I’ve thought, “Screw hope, it doesn’t work.”  Yet, if that is my attitude, where does that get me?

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The past is behind you.  You cannot change that.  What are you going to hope for in 2015?

Dare to love more in 2015.  Can I tell you something?  Love is awesome.  Being in love is awesome.  Love can also suck, but when you find yourself in the sucky part of love, what I know for sure is that you’ve got to love more.  Promise me, if you haven’t found love in your heart, keep going; keep loving more until you do.  Share more love with your friends.  Share more love with your family.  And always, always love yourself more.  I dare to love waking up at 5:30 a.m.  Ok, that’s never going to happen, but one can always hope, right?

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Live your best life in 2015.  It’s the beginning of a new year with new opportunities.  What does living life mean to you?  To me, most importantly, is to live my best life on a daily basis.  I think I’m typically successful which means getting up, working, working out, yoga, and spending time with my friends and my boyfriend over dinner, good wine, and conversation and laughs.  That is a full day and I am blessed to spend most of my days that way.  I dare to live more in 2015 and not wish away time.  Time is precious. Although here in Chicago winter is typically cold and snowy, I’m going to try not to wish away winter, and time, until Spring.  I dare to live more.  In 2014 my friend Sarah and I dared to live more by organizing monthly happy hours to get people out of their routines and neighborhoods.  Weekly slow cooker suppers with friends?  Dinner parties to get everyone out of the house in January, February, and March?  Game nights?  More Happy Hours?  TRAVEL!  I am blessed to travel as much as I can and I plan on exploring new places in 2015!  How are you going to dare to live more in 2015?

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So what is all of this hope, love, live, dare stuff?  It is all choice.  Man, each and every one of us has the opportunity each day to hope and love and live and dare to dream, all we have to do is make the choice to DO IT!  Get out there and seek something that is important to you, something that is new or maybe it’s something that you have longed for, just find the hope to continue your journey.

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I feel blessed that I can wake up each day and make the choice to make it a good day or a bad day.  Now as an adult, one of my favorite memories of growing up with my dad is when he used to drop me off at school in 6th – 8th grade.  He would always say, as I was getting out of the car, “Make it a good day, son.”  I would roll my eyes, slam the door and run into school.  What I know now, that I did not understand then, is that I do have a choice each day to make it a good day.  Sure, major unexpected things can happen like bad hair or minor, a stressful phone call, but how we choose to react is within our power.  So I try not to think in terms of “have a good day” rather, “make it a good day.”  And that, I guess, is what this life is all about.  Choosing to hope when you just can’t seem to find faith.  And choosing to love even though love has hurt you before.  Choosing to live each day even when it is zero degrees out and the alarm is blaring at 5:30 a.m.  And most of all, choosing to Be Daring when sometimes your mind thinks you’re foolish.  Get out there to Ride Your Wave In 2015 and seek what you dream of and what you hope for in life.  Be Daring and Say YES to Life!

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My List 2014

Every year at this time I sit down to reflect on the past year. It all started several years ago when I read about Joni Mitchell putting together a CD of songs she liked from the year and songs that meant something to her. Ever since I have done the same.

I just reread My List 2013. Wow, what a dark year 2013 was and what a dark place I was in one year ago.   2013 started off great and 2014 ended in a fantastic way.  The middle 12 months of 2013-2014 weren’t great, but the best news is that I survived!  My List 2013 was pretty much about the darkness I was experiencing at the time.  Songs like “Suitcase” by Emeli Sande-

“If you must kill me then please, please tell me why.” “I can’t stop my heart from leaving through the door.”

And every single lyric from Paloma Faith’s “New York”-

He left me for another lady. She stood so tall and she never slept. He left me for another lady.” “Her name was New York, New York. And she took his heart away oh my. She had poisoned his sweet mind.”

But there was light and release in Nina Simone’s gorgeous “Everything Must Change.

“Everything must change. Nothing stays the same. Everyone will change. No one, no one stays the same.”

 “There are not many things in life one can be sure of, except rain comes from the clouds, sun lights up the sky, hummingbirds fly. Winter turns to spring. A wounded heart will heal. Oh, but never much too soon. No one, and nothing goes unchanged.”

“Everything must change.”

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In 2014, so much did change. I lost the love of one of my best friends. I got back on my feet and felt the love of friends, old and new. I gained love like I have never known before from a man who says what he feels and means what he says. The love I have felt this year is like no other love I have felt in my life. He is generous and so kind, sassy and so fancy, loving beyond imagine. The second half of 2014 has certainly changed for the better; much much better!

Heaven – Beyoncé

“Heaven couldn’t wait for you, so go on, go home.”

On December 31, 2013 we lost one of the best souls I knew, a legend in our own time, my friend Lesley. Those who knew her can remember her laugh, snarky remarks followed by a cackle, her wit, her generosity, and her love. When you met Lesley you instantly felt her warmth and her care. Lesley was my weeknight dinner buddy, travel roomie, fellow Spartan, and one of my closest confidants. She is so dearly missed.

My favorite Webs story goes like this:

The Ladies (my girlfriends) were sitting around reflecting on weddings.  Pretty much everyone was married now except Lesley and me.  Lesley, “I have to say, I was pretty lucky in brides maid dresses.  You guys picked good ones.”

Amy:  Well Matty is left.

Lesley:  Matty would never make me wear ANYTHING ugly.

I miss you every day Lesley.  Love.

 Jealous – Beyoncé

I just love this song. That is all and that is why it made my list.

Oh and last winter SUCKED! The snow! The cold! The SNOW! There was one night in February that I went over to my friend Dennis’s condo and we intended to have a few drinks, order dinner, then head out to the bars. We had a few drinks. We ordered dinner. Then, we proceeded to sing and dance to Beyonce’s then new album until 2 a.m.  Yes, it was a blast!

“I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer….”

 

Questions – Jon McLaughlin

“She’s asking a question, oh how will it be, after this next one eventually leaves me? How can a man be all that they say? All that I know is that men run away. I think I lose a little bit of me in every man that I see.”

In February I met a guy I liked. We seemed to connect. As I started to date again I was very honest with guys, “If you have any plans of moving away from Chicago, don’t date me.” This particular guy, “Oh no, I just moved back here to be with my family.” When the topic of New York City came up, “Oh I lived there when I was 24. It was great, but I’ve done that.” Six weeks later he moved….to New York City.

April 27, 2014

I had dinner with a friend I met through my ex. She told me he had a new boyfriend. Enough. Enough!

Heart of the Matter – India.Arie

This is a stunning, stunning song.

“I got the call today I didn’t want to hear, but I knew that it would come. An old true friend of ours was talking on the phone. She said you found someone.”

“I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter but I think it’s about forgiveness….forgiveness….even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.

Right to Be Wrong – Joss Stone

Remember Joss Stone from around 2002? She was going to be huge, the first Adele, but she never quite caught on here in the States. This past year I rediscovered my love of Joss and her debut album, Mind, Body, & Soul.

“Got a right to be wrong, so just leave me alone. Got a right to be wrong. I’ve been held down too long. I’ve got to break free so I can finally breathe. Got a right to be wrong. Got to sing my own song. I might be singing out of key, but it sure feels good to me. Got a right to be wrong, so just leave me alone.”

 Grateful – Rita Ora

Life challenges us. We get up each day and realistically have no idea what may be put before us. What I know for sure is that through the last year and a half of learning from life, I’m grateful for the wisdom that has been bestowed on me by life. I would never wish emotional pain on anyone. It is awful and much more painful than physical trauma. At some of my darkest days the summer of 2013 I could barely get out of bed.

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Now on the other side I can see all the experiences in life that I have been afforded because my past didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. I’m in such a better place personally. I have learned so much about my own strength. I am grateful for the life experiences in 2014 for they made me a better ME; A stronger ME; A ME who understands his worth and is not willing to compromise it for anyone.

“But I had to fall, yeah, to rise above it all. I’m grateful for the star, made me appreciate the sun. I’m grateful for the wrong ones; made me appreciate the right ones. I’m grateful for the pain, for everything that made me break. I’m thankful for all my scars, ‘cause they only made my heart grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.”

 

Break Free (feat. Zedd) – Ariana Grande

This was the summer of Ariana. She’s been around over a year or so, but never broke into the pop arena like she did this past summer with “Break Free”, “Problems”, and “Bang Bang”. Is she the new pop diva?

“This is the part when I say I don’t wanna, I’m stronger than I’ve been before. This is the part when I break free cause I can’t resist it no more.”

Maps – Maroon 5

Last year’s List was filled with Maroon 5. They have a way of writing the perfect heartbreak anthem. This year I give you just one.

“Maps” is pure pop. Maroon 5 continues to write lyrics to speak to my life. There was a time I did not like them (“This Love” era), but that time is well over. They keep producing fantastic pop music. It’s just catchy and fun to sing!

“But I wonder where were you when I was at my worst, down on my knees.”

I Luh You Papi – Jennifer Lopez

As spring was turning to summer, my spirit had rebounded and this song was such a fun one to sing in the car. I have a co-worker whose maiden name was Pape (pronounced Pa-pi) so it was a fun June song to sing as we were getting ready for summer break and the adventures to be had in July and August.

Here It Comes (feat. Rick Smith) – Emeli Sandé

In late spring I got a Facebook message from a high school friend Dana, who I hadn’t seen in over 19 years. She was going to be in Chicago and wondered if I wanted to get together for a drink. I said of course. As I was riding the train downtown my friend Sarah texted me and said something along the lines of, “I can’t believe you are meeting up with Dana. You haven’t seen her in over 19 years.” My response, “I’m saying yes to life.” Right then and there my blog started in my head, www.sayyestolifeblog.com. I met with Dana and we both quickly went through 19 years of life. Then we settled in on relationships, the ups, the downs, the good , the bad, the joy, the sorrow, the clarity, the uncertainty. Dana encouraged me to turn my #100HappyDays Instagram posts into a blog. All in one 3-hour period of time on a May evening, my blog was started. From creating the title on the train ride down to meet Dana was the final encouragement that I needed. It all started then and there.

A week later Dana sent me this song, “Here It Comes”.

“Here it comes.” **DRUMS** Anthem! As I charge into my new life, a year after heartbreak, a new man emerges.

How Long Will I Love You – Ellie Goulding

Sometime in the spring this song was played as a cool down during yoga.   Yoga was such an inspiration to me in 2014. Each day I practiced brought me closer to understanding and finding peace in my heart. I fell in love with the lyrics and the message at the end of this song. When I started my blog, www.sayyestolifeblog.com, I knew what my description would be.

“How long will I love you?  How long will I need you?  As long as the seasons need to, follow their plan.”

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Summer 2014

Bang Bang(feat. Nicki Minaj & Ariana Grande) – Jessie J

The song of the summer? This song filled the radio stations all summer and fall. It is a trifecta of Jessie, Nicki, and Ariana. The “Moulin Rouge” of 2014!!

Jump (For My Love) – The Pointer Sisters

How could I forget to add this song to My List 2014.  The Pointer Sisters performed at the Opening Ceremonies of the Gay Games in Cleveland.  When “Jump(For My Love) came on the place went wild.  I had a sneaking suspicion that the guy I was standing next to would become the man I would “Jump” for his love.

Here is an excerpt from my August blog post I Beat the Fastest Woman in the 10K-Gay Games.

Cleveland, you rocked.  You accepted us.  You loved us.  You rocked with us.  Thank you.  Forevermore, Thank you!

I’ll remember the people I met along the way.  The German reporter who sat with me and interview me at a basketball game. The speedo clad, tatted up, nipple rings, overly tanned, slightly saggy older man in the swim competition.  Erik, the teacher from Montreal, I sat with on my way to the 10K start line.  We chatted about teaching and kids these days, and how Cleveland rocked the Gay Games.  And there were the two Germans I ran with during the half marathon, Fritz and Michael.  Once I realized they were in my age bracket, I left them in my dust.  Sorry guys, it was nice chatting with you.  There was the girl who waited on us for brunch following my race.  “Did you guys participate?  Did you win?”  My response, “He’s a sliver medalist in volleyball.  Mine is just a participation medal.”  Haha, it’s fine.  She said, “Oh cool.  This is all so cool,” with a huge smile on her face.  Finally, all of the guys I call my new friends.  You know who you are and you are pretty awesome.  It was a joy to participate with you and all the shenanigans.  Thanks for opening your arms so wide to me.

The only thing missing from their GG9 Opening Ceremonies performance was one Pointer Sister(R.I.P.) and those dresses.

I love at 3 minutes when the synthesizers take it up a notch and octave.  I get chills every time.

I Belong to You – Whitney Houston

There was a lot of talk about Whitney Houston in the later part of 2014 as a first ever Live album and an Angela Bassett directed biopic for Lifetime TV were being produced. I never need a reason to listen to Whitney, but I was also falling in love with a boy I met in July. For some reason I was drawn to the I’m Your Baby Tonight album, Whitney’s underrated and undersold third studio album released in November 1990. I listened mostly for “All the Man That I Need” but I rediscovered two fantastic R&B songs, “Lover For Life” and “I Belong to You.”

“All of my life I’ve longed for this, someone who makes me happy.”

“I’ve been to the bottom but I’m back on top. And I’m feelin’ the rhythm as we start to rock.”

What a wonderful feeling it is to love a guy who isn’t afraid to express his love. Bliss.

Didn’t We Almost Have It All – Whitney Houston

Throughout 2013 and 2014’s self-discovery for me, I realized what does NOT make a mutually fulfilling relationship and what DOES make a mutually fulfilling relationship. At the Gay Games in August my boyfriend and I were holding hands and laughing. A group of guys passed us and said, “Did you guys just meet?” Fake angry, we looked at each other and at them, “NO, we’ve known each other a LONG time….six weeks!” When you know, you know. He has brought such joy, fun, consistency, stability, and mutuality to my life. He also allows me to listen to Whitney, A LOT!

One song that we heard in the very early days of our meeting was “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, and we still listen to it often. It might be about a relationship that didn’t work, but the root of the song, the message, is “Once you know what love is, you’ll never let it end.”

 Listen to Whitney’s vibrato and purity. It’s a gift.

In September 1987, I remember waiting by the television in our family room for the live feed of Whitney in concert, singing her new single, “Didn’t we almost have it all. This Saratoga Springs footage became the official video for DWAHIA. Whitney starts out slow and gets to her soul roots at the end with, “Didn’t we, Didn’t we, Didn’t we almost have it all.”

“Cause once you know what love is, you’ll never let it end.”

Home(Live from The Merv Griffin Show) – Whitney Houston

In May 1983 Whitney Houston made her television debut on The Merv Griffin Show. She was 19 years old. This is an incredibly special performance. You can hear Whitney’s purity and undeveloped potential power. Two years later she would release her debut album, Whitney Houston, which went on to score award after award after award between 1985 and 1987.

This is another song played in yoga (to which I shed a few peaceful tears) this fall and I call it “going to church”. Yoga is my church and so is Whitney. Sunday mornings, whether in yoga or simply listening to Whitney, my boyfriend joins me, and I love it. That time is special.

“Time please be my friend and let me start again.”

“Living here in this brand new world might be a fantasy, but it’s taught me to love so it’s real to me.”

“And I’ve learned that we must look inside our hearts to find, yeah we gotta find, a world full of love, like yours like mine, like home.”

Fancy(feat. Charli XCX) – Iggy Azalea

Ok, I’m going to reference yoga again because it played such a huge role in my life in 2013 and 2014. There were nights that I did not want to be home alone so I would take two yoga classes after work. On the other side of that part of my life now, “Fancy” was a fun song played during yoga and a huge hit in 2014. It also describes my boyfriend, “fancy”. Recently at his work holiday party, “Fancy” was played as he made his way to the dance floor with his boss and his wife. “Fancy” is his song!

Night Changes – One Direction

Fine, yes, I still love a good boy band. Although One Direction has only been on my periphery, I saw them perform at the American Music Awards in November. It was so simple. I loved it.

Daily I think about my friend Lesley who passed away in January at age 38. I’m reminded that as we get older, the value of time with good friends and family should be cherished. It might be a special event or a special trip or just Sunday brunch, whatever it is, cherish the time because it can be fleeting.

“Having no regrets is all that she really wants.”

“We’re only getting older baby. And I’ve been thinking about you lately. Does it ever drive you crazy just how fast the night changes. Everything that you’ve ever dreamed of, disappearing when you wake up, but there’s nothing to be afraid of even when the night changes.  It will never change me and you.”

Time:Friends

I Wish You Would – Taylor Swift

You are witnessing history here. Yes, I am putting a T Swizz song on My List 2014. This is the very first time she has appeared on any of my lists. She drives me nuts. Her winning awards drives me nuts. However, her new pop album, 1989, is classic pop perfection.   She writes catchy, can’t get out of my head songs. “I Wish You Would” is probably my favorite song from 1989. It’s pure pop and a throwback to music of the time, 1989!

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You and Me – You+Me

Alecia Moore, yes, Pink, has gotten together with some guy to create You+Me. “You and Me” was a free song at Starbucks in November. I got it. I liked it. Here it is.

“You and me were always with each other. Before we knew the other was even there. You and me, we belong together, just like the breath needs the air.”

Chandelier – Sia

SONG OF THE YEAR! (for me anyway). I love this song. There were times during marathon training on long Saturday morning runs I’d sing it to my friend JP. There were times in my car this fall that I would sing it at the top of my lungs as a release and empowerment anthem. There were times I would sing it at the top of my lungs just to sing at the top of my lungs(my vocal strength-the top of my lungs). Needless to say, it is a sing at the top of your lungs song. I even created in my head what I thought were the lyrics and to this day, my lyrics mean more to me and I sing them rather than the real thing.

My lyrics:

“I’m gonna fly like a miracle tonight. Fill my dreams in this life. I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier.”

Actual lyrics:

“I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night. Feel my tears till they dry. I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier.”

Other meaningful lyrics to me, a guy who finds strength and perseverance through song lyrics.   There were times in early 2014 that I was still desperate to let go of something that wasn’t meant to be. There was still holdover from my breakup. But I so desperately wanted to move on. I wanted to find the strength but some nights I couldn’t.

“’Cause I’m just holding on for tonight, help me I’m holding on for tonight. On for tonight.”

But Chandelier is also an anthem of power for life. “I’m gonna swing from a chandelier.” Yes, yes I am and yes I will. Surely, the second half of 2014, finding love and living life with my love has been truly joyful. For anyone who has been in love before you know the feeling. It just makes your lens on life a little bit better, a feeling of swinging on a chandelier. Joy. Happiness. Love.

So I’m going to swing from that chandelier and I’m going to “fly like a miracle tonight” and I’m going to “live my dreams in this life.”

Wrapped In Love

“The strength of a man isn’t seen in the power of his arms.  It’s seen in the love with which he embraces you.”

This past weekend I ran my fourth marathon(3rd Chicago)in three years.  Each and every marathon I have completed has been a different experience.  This past weekend I felt very much wrapped in love.  The marathon route can be so fast and so looooong at times, but it is never a place I feel alone.  The strength of a “man” as in “mankind” is shown with love and the embrace of people you know, people you love and who love you, training partners, and total strangers.

A post about love and embracing cannot go on without acknowledging those who could not necessarily come out to cheer me on, rather they supported me by donating to the Team to End AIDS/T2/AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  WOW!  At last count, I raised $2522.41.  All of those people showed love and support by digging into their pockets and making a donation.  I promise while I was running knowing that I had support all over the country did mean the world to me.

Look what your donations help do:

It’s not too late to make a donation either.  Reach into your pocket and help support.  Help change the story!

http://events.aidschicago.org/site/TR/T2/T2?px=1132260&pg=personal&fr_id=1132

“You’re lookin’ strong Matty and the hair still looks great too.”

Chicago Marathon 2014

I had a moment with a total stranger.  It was a five second friendship, but he totally understood me.  He got me and my hair!!  Seriously, the fan support for the Chicago Marathon is next to none.  Of course there are 1.7 million spectators out there, most of whom are looking for their loved one, their friend, their co-worker, but there are also people who are just out to cheer and support.  It is incredible the love and support for humankind that I feel while running the marathon.  I always put my name on my shirt and it never fails that hundreds of people will shout it out, “Good work Matty!”  “Way to go Matty.” “Looking good Matty.”  People ask, “What do you do/think about for almost four hours?  I watch the joy on spectator’s faces when they see their loved one.  I get chills when I see runners turn around to give a hug to his friends.  I listen for shrieks of elation as kids see their mom running strong.  I look for the love that is shared for 26.2 miles.  There are very few times in life that love is just shared without expectation.  Running the marathon time and time again proves to me that it is possible.  It is possible that humans will come out and support other humans, just because.  Just because running 26.2 miles is f***ing amazing and hard and deserves to be cheered on.  But also just because it feels good to support other humans doing something they love or running in honor of someone or something, or just supporting people who get this crazy idea that they are going to beat Oprah’s time(4:29:15).

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I continue to run because it is the single thing in life that has brought me to a place of understanding what it feels like to be part of the team.  Growing up I wasn’t an athlete.  I wasn’t part of a team.  Sure, I marched in band and sang in musicals, but nothing ever felt like a team until I started running.  After my first marathon I began to get that feeling.  Running on the Lake Shore path in Chicago I’d get a head nod here or a smile there from other runners.  They understood what I was doing and I understood them, especially on those super hot days or cold days or rainy days when only us crazy runners go out.  But not until last year did I truly understand what it is like to be part of a team.  I joined the Team to Ends AIDS purely for two reasons:  1.  To get a BIB for the New York City marathon and 2. To focus my energies on something good in midst of a break-up.  Saturday after Saturday I would get up at 5 a.m. and head to the lake for a run.  I’d meet my teammates, chitchat, and get to running.  Week after week I would run with about the same crew as we were the same pace. Week after week we would chat about work, weekend plans, pains of running, fundraising, etc.  Then, one Saturday as we got ready to run, one of my pace group leaders stood to give a talk.  He raised his hand high with a green wristband acknowledging (+) his positive status.  Then a few more guys came up and got wristbands.  As I looked around, five of my 9 pace group running mates were HIV positive.  No longer did I just join T2 to get into the NYC marathon, I was part of something much bigger.  I was raising money and raising awareness for the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  From that moment on, when I would go out running with my T2 shirt on and I’d hear other people on the path, “Go T2”, “Looking good T2,” I finally felt what it is like to be part of a team.  I finally had that feeling that I so longed to have, that camaraderie that teammates share.  I was part of a team that was raising money to help some of the very men I was running with week after week.

I run because it reminds me that I’m alive and that we don’t always know what the person next to us is going through on a daily basis, but they keep going, and I keep going because it brings me to life.

This past Sunday marked my second best time in a marathon, 3 hours, 50 minutes, 38 seconds.  It’s an incredible time for me, not my best, but substantial nonetheless.  When I tell people I was disappointed in my time, their mouths drop.  Fine, fine, it is sub four hours and I will take it.  What is more powerful than anything else is that I finished the race and kept that time.  Everything was set-up to be perfect.  The weather was in the low 50s, I trained since May, I took in fluids like I normally do and nutrition like normal too.  At 13.1 miles I was at an 8:01 pace.  At mile 15 I was at and 8:11 pace.  For the first 17 miles I was well under my goal pace of 8:22/mile.  After 18 miles, my legs started to get tired.  Mile 19, my least favorite, I was sore.  At mile 22 I saw the Team to End AIDS cheer bus.  That gave me umph to keep going.  Coach Chris caught up to me at mile 23.  This is when my legs started to feel really tired and crampy, though nothing significant.  With Coach Chris’s encouragement I kept running.  When I’d try to stop and walk, he’d give encouragement.  I made it to 40K where I saw all of my cheer crew together screaming, waving signs.  I blew them a kiss.

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There is no way I could move to the side of the road at that point.  I had to keep moving forward.  What seemed like an hour was really just a few minutes.  I just wanted to be done.  I crossed the finish line.  DONE!

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I didn’t meet my goal of under 3 hour 40 minutes, but it was still my second best race.  Just a minute after finishing my legs seized up at the same time.  The worst charlie horses I have ever experience hit my calves.  My legs went into rigamortis.  I screamed for Coach Chris.  He finally heard me and came back.  He dumped salt into my hand.  I downed that and a banana.  Along with a medic, he helped me hobble a little.  Five minutes later the cramps subsided.  Five minutes after that the right leg seized again.  Three minutes after that the left leg seized.  Finally after limping for 30 minutes I was at a bench surrounded by Gatorade, water, bananas and Coach Chris.  He stuck with me when I know he wanted to greet others who had finished.  He walked with me for another 20 minutes until we found my boyfriend.  Coach Chris is my hero!  I certainly would have finished the race, but not under four hours if he had not stuck with me.  I choked back tears as he helped me, not because of the severe pain, but because he was there helping me and caring about me as a fellow runner and human.

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Who wouldn’t keep running to see what signs would be pulled out next?  I honestly had the best cheer crew ever.  They chased me on bike and in car.  Sarah and Patrick made the funniest signs and hustled to three different locations on the marathon route.  Two of my favorites:

“If marathons were easy they’d be called your mother.”

“It may be long and hard but Matty can take it!”

My friend Dave drove Kurt, Matt, and Artur around to two different locations.  When I woke up marathon morning, I saw this sign on the table, Love and Whitney.

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It takes a special boyfriend who cares to spend hours making a sign with Whitney Houston lyrics on it.   I feel loved.  I feel wrapped in love by my boyfriend, my cheer crew, my coaches, my family, and all of the people who have donated to the Team to End AIDS/AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  On the marathon path it can get long out there but my cheer crew gave me such strength and energy, especially at 40K when I was tiiiiiirrrrrrrrrreeedd and just wanted to be done.  Their love of me gave the extra gusto I needed to make it to the end.  The cheering crowds up Michigan Ave. and rounding the corner at Roosevelt gave me the push I needed to step foot across the line.  26.2 miles, yes that is an accomplishment and with dedication I have trained my body to complete it.  But I feel most accomplished in life because I am able to surround myself with some of the most amazing and loving people.  Some I know from high school and some I’ve more recently met.  What made me feel better than anything else on Sunday was that I felt wrapped in love by people I know and by total strangers.  When you find love, whether of a friend or lover, cherish it.  It keeps us going.

“‘Cause once you know what love is, you’ll never let it end.”

Back in 2011 I set out to run a marathon for one of my milestone birthdays and to check that off my bucket list.  Little did I know, I would be up to four marathons (3 under 4 hours) and more than anything, that I would inspire others to run.

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Back in high school I hated running.  Hated it!  I could barely run a mile, or more so, had little desire.  After my first marathon in 2011, I wanted to do it again and again and again.  Last year I ran Chicago and two weeks later New York City.  Since all of this running, several people from my past have messaged me to let me know that I inspired them to start running.  Some have kept to the 5 K race while another, Leah, reached out to me and I encouraged her to train and run one.  Just as it got me through a rough spot in my life, it did her too.  Now she is set to run TWO marathons within 2 or 3 weeks this fall. I commend her and honor her here.  She is inspirational.  And she’s a running rockstar mom.  Go get that course and run your heart out Leah!!  I am with you in spirit.  If you want a few signs, I have some great ones you can borrow!!

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So what is this long blog post all about?  Running?  No.  The marathon?  Not really.  Signs of encouragement?  So awesome, but no. It’s about l-o-v-e.  It’s about humans supporting humans; strangers supporting strangers.  This blog post is about getting out there in life and keeping going even when it’s hard.  It’s about putting one foot in front of the other and why you do that is because of love.  You do it because people love you and YOU LOVE YOURSELF.  You are important to a lover, or a friend, or a niece or nephew or family member.  If you’re really lucky you have all of the above and even if you don’t, just know that somewhere out there, whether it’s on a marathon course or just walking the streets of your town, someone you don’t know, a total stranger, supports you.  And, if you are very lucky in life, you are surrounded by love always.  Look around, it is there.  Wrap yourself in love.

“All Dressed In Love” Sex and the City: The Movie

Seasons Change

Let me take you back, it’s February 10, 2002 and you are watching the final episode of the best Sex and the City season, Season 4.  Carrie and Aiden broke up again, Big left again, but Carrie has a new, sassy haircut and dark smokey eyes.  It’s Fall, change is upon Carrie, not only with men, but Miranda, her bestie just had a baby.  It’s Fall, the change of a season, leaves are falling from the sky and a lot in Carrie’s life has changed.

Today is a crisp day in Chicago and I sense the change of season is upon us.  As I drove home from yoga I couldn’t help but notice the leaves are changing colors.  Thirty minutes earlier I was at the end of my yoga practice, in shavasana.  I was feeling great.  Many of my favorite teachers have left, but this new one, Lauren, captured me.  As I laid there I reflected on the place I was a year ago.  Although I was working so hard on getting past a breakup, I was still very much hurting on a daily basis.  I’d say to myself, “You can do this.  You aren’t where you want to be but you are so far from the pain you felt in May and June and July.”  As soon as I felt strong, it seemed I felt weak again.  Each day was still a struggle, but I was making it.  I was making each day the best I could make it.  I was heavy into marathon training and into yoga practice.  However, today, as I lay there on my mat I felt completely different.  A year later I feel completely different.  I’m energized like myself.  I feel a release of energy that is so true to my being.  A year ago my intention in practice was healing, today my intention was love.   I just had this feeling on my mat today of AHHHHHH, changes have occurred and actually, I’m a far happier person because of those changes.  I’m in a far better place because of those changes.  Gosh it was a long journey, through many seasons, but I made it to the other side.  On a daily basis I did not see where I was headed, but what I know for sure, is that each day of the past 365 days, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  And right now, September 11, 2014, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

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I would never wish upon anyone to go through heartbreak.  It sucks!  But now, very far from it, with clear eyes and a full heart, I can clearly see the changes that the past 16 months have afforded me.  What should be known is that each day isn’t easy.  You have to make an effort to move forward and let go.  My god did I struggle with letting go.  But once I did, doors opened.  New people came into my life and because of those new people, other people came into my life.  I started this blog because I finally let go.  I participated in the Gay Games in Cleveland because I finally let go.  I have a different energy in my life now because I let go.  And honestly, I’ve packed on 10 lbs. because I LET GO!  Let’s be honest, crying daily and not eating and training for a marathon can take you down to 168 lbs., but sitting at 178 lbs., a year later, I’m a much happier, energized person.

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I remember back in July last year, I was sitting at my doctor’s office with a broken heart and broken hand.  She said, “Wow, you’re really going through a season, but don’t worry, it will get better.  Everything changes, you just have to hold on for a little bit before you see it.  Your hand will mend, and so will your heart.”  I of course was sobbing, but she was right.  My hand did heal and so did my heart.  I had to fucking tape that shit back together somedays, but with each stick of new tape and each step of the day, it all got better.  With friends’ help, oh friends’ help, I made it to my yoga mat today where I realized how far my journey has taken me and how far I have come.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, just hold on.  Surround yourself by loving friends and get a whole mess of tape because it could take a lot of mending before it all sticks back together.  But you have to believe that one day, your heart will stick all back together.  It may never feel the same way, but I believe that is ok.  It’s not meant to feel the same way.  Your heart changes too, just as you do.  You will always love again, just in a different way.  Thank your journey for teaching you all kinds of ways to love.  And remember this, seasons are going to happen, some of them good, some of them not so good.  You will make it to the other side.

You're not the same person

Oh, no truer words have been written, no truer words.  A year ago I was just starting to take longer steps in a forward progression to letting go.  As I reflect, I realize that I needed ALL of that time to learn about myself and heal and tape my heart up and tape again and accept the changes and SEE how wonderful the experiences I’ve lived this year have been.  A month ago I was coming off the greatest 10 days at the Gay Games in Cleveland.  Had I still been living my life of 2012-2013, I would never have experienced the love, joy, and excitement of being a competitive athlete at the Gay Games.  CHANGE, I don’t love it, but it brings us to where we need to be.  It forces us to veer off course and perhaps make our fate.  If things in my life hadn’t changed, I would not be sitting here today typing and sharing my writing.  So many parts of my life, right now, wouldn’t be as they are had things not changed.  Am I going to say it?  Change, change is good.

As seasons come and go, often fall, is a time of reflection as spring is a time of new hope, new adventures.  Winter is a time for, well, winter sucks, but summer, summer is a time for fun and joy.  My hope for you, as autumn seems to be upon us, is that you had a wonderful summer filled with more joy and love than you could ever imagine.  I hope that new people have brought joy and love to your life, as they have to mine, and I hope your dearest friends have remained that consistent joyful reminder of happiness and how far you have come on this journey.  I hope that autumn brings you a time of reflection, a nice new sweater and good changes.

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“I’m Gay”

“I’m Gay” …

the two hardest words that have ever left my lips, but what was even more difficult was getting to the point of saying those words.  People often ask, “Did you know you were gay?”  My response often, “Did you know you were straight?”  Growing up in a straight world; a society that celebrates being straight, “normal” and all that goes with being how your parents envision your life to be.  My parents have always been accepting of my gayness(I don’t like “lifestyle”, “homosexuality” sounds so scientific, and I hope we can put to rest the idea of “choice”.)  But, what they said to me when I told them, “I’m gay” is that it was never a life they envisioned for their child because of the difficulty.  I also believe that parents have hopes and dreams for their children based on the straight society in which we are raised.  Kids are born, they play, they learn, they grow, they leave home, they marry, they have kids…..that is what our society celebrates.  That, I believe, is what parents hope for their children.  My journey has been different.  What I know for sure is that my family may not totally understand my journey, but they have always been supportive and most of all, proud of who I have become.  I’ve lived 38 years, but I’ve lived my truth the past 12 years.

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So back to that age old question gay men are asked, “Did you know you were gay?”  No.  I grew up in a time that there were not gay role models.  Gays were not very present, if at all, on television.  The gays in the media were Liberace or Elton John, certainly two men I never identified with.  So though I knew I felt different, I never really knew why.  I played with the boys in the neighborhood, rode bikes in the woods, went swimming, played with WWF wrestling figures, but around 6th grade, when they were playing football in the backyard, I started to find that I would rather lay in front of my stereo at home and listen to Wilson Phillips and Tiffany.  Hahaha.  Honestly, I laugh now.  I loved Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters when I was five and would put on weekly shows while watching their Saturday night variety show on NBC.  I loved and will always love, Whitney Houston.  I laid in front of my stereo every Sunday morning for four hours and listened to Rick Dee’s and the Weekly Top 40.  I watched Star Search on Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. and then watched the same repeat episode on Sunday at 4 p.m.  Did I know I was gay?  No.  Did I know I had very different interests than the fellas on the street?  Yes.  That was basically how I lived my life from age 12 to 18.  I did not necessarily shy away from being me, but I was aware that I needed to hide some of my interests as not to be made fun of and always in my head hoping, “this is just a phase.  I’ll grow out of it.”

Funny, I never “grew out of it.”  I went to college and still repressed any feelings I had toward boys.  What was wonderful in college is that I met my friends Herb and Cary.  Though none of us were out at that time, we connected on a level that was better for me.  Cary had Entertainment Weekly too and openly loved Mariah just as much as I loved Whitney.  Herb loved Celine Dion and wanted to watch “Deep End of the Ocean” with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford.  Glory Glory Hallelujah, finally people like me.  Again, all of us were struggling with the same acceptance of ourselves, but at least I felt more comfortable knowing that I wasn’t the only guy with interests other than the “norm.”

It wasn’t until eight years later, when I was 26, that I finally, FINALLY, was able to say, “I’m Gay!”  I told my friend Dennis after his “coming out” party.  He’d recently moved in with a new roommate.  It was the first party I ever went to with all gay men.  The party blew my mind.  I met so many people and sat with a guy named Paul and talked about General Hospital for about two hours.  Haha, Heaven!  What is this easy NOT uneasy feeling in my stomach?  Why does this feel so “right?”  Dennis walked me out to grab a cab and my life changed forever, “I’m gay Dennis.”

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For the past 12 years I have been living my life “through.”  It has not always been easy.  Telling my mom and dad was excruciatingly painful.  Feeling I had to keep my gayness a secret from work was increasingly more difficult as I wanted to involve my friends in my entire life, but I lived a double, smoke and mirrors life for several years.  What I know now that I didn’t know then, is that everyone has been accepting and loving of me and my gayness.  The fear of being rejected never came true.  The fear of work friends caring never came true.  I never felt that people did not “know” rather, I just had not “told” them.  A funny story is the time I was at recess with a few of my 5th grade students.  The conversation between four girls happened right in front of me, yet I was not part of the conversation, I simply heard it.  “My parents say that if Mr. T is gay that is fine because he’s a great teacher.”  “Yeah, I asked my mom if he is gay and she said probably but that it didn’t matter because he’s a really nice guy.”  Hilarious!  What that moment taught me is that errrrrrrrbody “knows” I’m gay, I just haven’t “told” everybody.  So now, 12 years later, my life just IS.  I’m gay.  It’s not a big dramatic thing.  I don’t hide my life from anyone.  I used to feel it had to be this big announcement; a planned event.  Telling my family and my friends at first was such a big deal.  I had to keep it a secret from this person but not that person.  If I was dating I could only tell this person or that person.  When I would go to gay bars I would only tell this person but not that person.  I distinctly remember the first or second night I ever went out to Boystown bars.  I was sitting in the chair at my computer on Magnolia Ave.  I was on the computer checking email before I left.  My body was convulsing.  I was shaking so bad with nerves that my muscles seized up and I couldn’t move.  Somehow I calmed myself down and got out of the house.  That night I walked into Sidetrack and said to myself, with a sigh of relief, “Oh, this is what it is supposed to feel like to go to a bar.  This is what is normal for me.”  I walked into the bar with ALL men.  It was amazing and wonderful.  I was finally living my truth.

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

So here I am, 12 years later, at the Gay Games getting ready to run the 10K today.  For many reasons this is an incredible experience.  In high school I never had the confidence to join the swimming team, even when I was asked to do so by the coach.  “I’m not an athlete” I would think.  Now I’m an athlete participating in one of the biggest sporting events of 2014.  12 years ago I wasn’t comfortable just being myself, now I’m a confident man, dancing in the streets last night with other men from around the world.  I’m posting to social media telling my story because I can.  It’s my truth and it is who I am and who I was born to be.  “To thine own self be true.”  August 5th is when I celebrate my birth.  August 10th is when I celebrate my life.  Say YES to Life!

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What Chicago Means to Me

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Heading into 15 years living, learning, and loving in Chicago.  I moved to Chicago July 19, 2000, what?  Where did time go?  What have the last 14 years meant to me?  When I graduated from Michigan State it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I was moving here.  Though I did not know anyone in the city, my parents helped me pack up the van and leave 10330 Lloy St. for the last time.  What I know for sure is that I was raised in Portage, Michigan, but I GREW UP in Chicago.

I can only imagine the horror my mother, in particular, must have felt dropping me off at my apartment on Kenmore and Montrose, in “North” Wrigleyville as I called it.  I’ve been mocked for years about that one, but who wanted to live in Uptown?  I was a 24-year-old, Wrigleyville should have been my home.  Haha.  Though the neighborhood is way more cleaned up now, it still needs more and back then, it needed a lot.  There were homeless guys lying around and certainly the Target, et al. were not there to spruce up the streets.  I didn’t want to display my fear, so I stayed as strong as a 24-year-old boy could, shaking in his boots.  I knew no one and I didn’t know what to do with my time.  My second day some drugged up woman got into my building and came to my door asking for money or drugs.  I had to shove her out and lock the door.  I stayed for 4 days and called my mom crying.  She told me to come home for a few days, which turned into two or three weeks.  What I know now, 14 years later, is that I could have gone to a bar and sat there for dinner and drinks.  I could have gotten out of the apartment and gone for a roller blade down the lake(yes, I still had roller blades then).  However, I didn’t have the confidence.  What do you do when you are alone, in a city where you know no one, and you have four weeks until work starts?  Ah, to do it all over again, I would have stayed.  Speaking of staying, I told my mother I would stay in Chicago for a year and see how things go.  I have a sneaking suspicion she knew I wouldn’t return to Michigan.  The big city is for me.  Chicago is where I grew up!

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Here’s to 15 years in Chicago with 15 classic, not necessarily classy, times.

TOBs (The OB’s) sorority we created and follow-up initiation ceremony of our ‘Lils.

THE Friendsgiving at Amanda, Jess and Shayna’s – making friends, losing friends, and Sure-Thing Schuering’s bedroom conversations – oh you remember, THAT one!

“Youhoo” dinner at Lucia’s with 15+ bottles of wine, Cary, Charlie, Carrie, Diane and Patty.  “Youhoo” who’s taking me home tonight?”

Leaving Starlight Express at intermission to race home to Lesley’s apartment for the show Paradise Hotel.  “Yahtzee game on!”

The “Pretty Woman” moment waking up in a hotel room downtown, by myself, opening the curtains and realizing I was at the Swissotel.

TheView (Forever known as “The View” photo.)

Wicked Keggers dancing out of closets (and from under tables) to “Last Dance”, keg stands, and flip cup!

The NSync concert and stalking Joey Fatone –  I think I lived in my new Lincoln Park apartment for only a few days.  I’d just met my roommate Laura. The night started by going to Soldier Field for the NSync concert with Amanda, Jess, and Deana.  Following, we got “word” where the boys would be hanging out.  One of the places, Kustom Night Club, was mere feet away from our apartment.  We (Laura, neighbor Julie, and I)loaded into Julie’s car and we went on a hunt.  Zipping through the streets, on Armitage, off Armitage.  On Clybourn, off, Clybourn.  We parked the car, then drove again.  We sat in an ally until we saw the black SUV pull up.  This is it!  It seemed after all the twists, turns, and alleys that we were a distance away from our apartment.  Julie parked the car again and we hustled to the club.  It’s weird to me that we got right in, but we did.  We got drinks and waited, waited some more, ordered more drinks and waited longer.  Finally, AHHHHHHHHHHH, they arrived, at least that was the buzz in the bar.  “OMG, I’m going to meet Justin.  OMG!”   Imagine all of our dismay when Joey Fatone walked by to the VIP lounge and brushed up against Laura arm.  She was sort of excited and pissed at the same time.  “OMG, he graced my arm.  Why did it have to be Joey?  Who likes Joey?”  As we left, someone said, “I feel like we are right around the corner from our apartment.”  Shortly thereafter, we got to the car and drove approximately 1000 feet back to our apartment.

Market Days 2009 positioning ourselves at Mini Bar both Saturday and Sunday (wash, rinse, repeat) for hours drinking vodka lemonades, meeting the boys from Atlanta, and yes, dancing the night away at Charlie’s.

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My Hollywood Night!  The Scene:  August night, post kickball game, Kit Kat Club, “Dreamgirls” playing, drag queen performing – Dennis and me in our super cute “After School Specials” short red shorts uniforms and a few martinis deep….we enter Kit Kat and as if the spotlight of a Broadway show turned to us we immediately go into Dreamgirls performance mode.  We sashayed up and down the bar, full crowd cheering us on as the drag queen was in the back room performing her heart out.  The song ends, Dennis and I take a Dreamgirls pose (I’m obviously Beyoncé), and the crowd of people at the tables roar with cheers, they are on their feet yelling and screaming and clapping.  The drag queen is on her way back up to the front ready to claw our eyes out.  The bartender jumps over the bar and pushed Dennis and me out of the bar, “Get outta here, SHE PISSED!”  Best, best, best moment EVER!

My 30th Birthday/Coming Out Party!  The amazing, “Is It Gay In Here or Is It Just Me?” night ended with Dennis and me trying to find Charlie’s dance club, which we had been to countless times.  “Dennis?”

“Yes, Matty.”

“Are we at Lake Shore Drive?”

“Yes Matty, we are.  How did that happen?”

This Night!

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The Running of the Bulls Halloween!  Hands down, the best!

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My first night ever out in Boystown, the “ah ha” moment of being in a bar with all men-what a “right” feeling and what a debaucherous night.

Completing my first Chicago Marathon in 2011.  Truly the best day of my life!

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Hitting on myself at Charlie’s at 4 a.m.  I blame the sangria from Ba Ba Reeba.  So what happened is that we  had to wait close to two hours for our table.  As we proceeded to drink more and more, the night got fuzzy.  Some of us ended up at Charlie’s dance club around 2 a.m.  In hindsight I should have left with my friends, but I stayed.  Good thing I did because I met a guy that night.  The scene:  hot sultry August night, smoky dance floor, 4 a.m., boys sweating and dancing everywhere, and I saw him.  We made eye contact from across the dance floor, through the smoke, and started to approach each other in slow motion.  As I got closer to him, he got closer to me.  As I smiled, he smiled.  “This is it,” I thought.  As I reached for his hand, he reached for me……then I ran into the mirror!  I RAN INTO THE FUCKING MIRROR!  I hit on MYSELF!  MYSELF!!!!

What I Know For Sure

The last 14 years have flown by like a flash and mostly been one hell of a ride.  When I moved to Chicago at age 24 to start my career, I did not know what to expect, and actually thought I might move back to Michigan.  Right!  After meeting friends of a lifetime, living into the gay man I am, falling in love with this city, and growing up, I now call Chicago home.  What I know for sure is that life is a roller coaster, friends come and go, but they are always in my heart. Relationships start and end and new ones begin, but if we make it to the end of each day, “The Sun will rise tomorrow.”  We are all dealing with our own stuff on a daily basis, but as friends and humans, we are here to support each other.  Some days are great and some not as great, but when I sit back and reflect, I know, I have a damn good life filled with amazing accomplishments, amazing adventures, and amazing relationships.  In this moment, right now, 15 years after moving to Chicago, I couldn’t be happier.  Thank you Chicago for helping me grow up and Say YES to LIFE!

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For Now

“Well, I guess this is it….for now.”

That was how June 4, 2013 went down.  It was the final time I saw my ex.  Though he told me three weeks prior that he was taking the job in NYC, we tried to get together and in his words, “cherish” our time.  It was far too emotionally taxing on me to continue seeing him.  Finally on June 4th I had enough balls to say, enough.  Enough of this pretending like you didn’t make a unilateral decision to leave Chicago and “us” for a job in NYC.  And so we went on a walk along the lake.  The first words out of his mouth, “Well, I guess this is it, for now.”   My response, “No, that’s not fair.  You decided to move.  Don’t string me along.”  What is this “for now” business?  What it is, is a mind fuck.  A way for a guy to keep you right there, just stand over there while I go do what I want to do and if I come back, maybe we can be together.  WTF?  It was like he was Kanye to my Taylor.  “Yo Matty, you’re awesome and all but NYC is way better and I’m going to go live there.  You just wait here because ‘for now’ I gotta do this.”  Go fuck yourself is what I should have said.  Go.  Fuck.  Yourself.  What is this “for now” bullshit?  Unfortunately it did keep me under a spell of hope that he would change his mind and see the ill of his ways and he would come back.  Since he’s moved on to a new relationship, I don’t see that happening, “for now.”  And boys and girls, that Hollywood story is in Hollywood, not real life.  People make decisions every day that impact them, their lives and the people around them.  So over the last year I’ve been on a journey trying to grapple with defining “for now.”

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As I’ve journeyed through the last 12 months, many people in my life have helped me move along.  Take my co-worker, for example, who is getting married soon.  “Nothing lasts forever.  I’m getting married, but that could end.  Just because we’re married doesn’t mean it can’t end.”  Or take someone else I know whose long-term relationship ended because of different goals each of them had in life.  I guess I struggle because I grew up in white picket fence Portage, MI where all of my friends’ parents were still married and everything was how it is supposed to be.  My parents are going to celebrate their 44th anniversary this coming summer.  It’s just what I grew up seeing and knowing to be how it is supposed to be.  You fall in love, you get married, you live happily ever after.  Right?  So what is the “for now” business?  Is our generation so afraid of commitment that we now allow ourselves to say, “Well this is dandy for now, and since it’s just for now, I don’t have to get totally invested.”  Is the next best thing the way we are now living our lives?  God damn, I sure hope not.  Is falling in love and finding a partner who you long to wake up to each morning a thing of the past?

I’m 37 years old and have been looking for love for 12 years, give or take some sowing of the oats.  I found a man I loved, but “for now” he can’t do it.  So I’m journeying again and finding a lot of great, wonderful people, but if commitment is a thing of the past, shame on me for trying.  If, say, my next relationship last 3 years and he leaves, I have to do this all over again?  Yes, Matt, you do, because as I’ve learned, nothing lasts forever.  But the thought of that makes me want to vomit and pack my suit case for my retirement home in Miami with my Golden Girls–NOW!

“Choose HOPE when you can’t find faith.”

Ok, I’m back!  Back on my feet.  It took me some time, but I’m here.  Nothing does last forever.  I can still have my Hollywood story and maybe that is a dream, but I do hope that I find a man who won’t leave because he wants to spend the rest of his days waking up next to me.  I’m not going to lose hope, even on the days I don’t have faith.

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So here I am, writing a blog post about what “for now” means.  It can be a cowardly way of not totally wanting to cut ties, end things, and be a dick, or it can mean living in the moment, cherishing what you have now because in a minute, an hour, or a day, it could all be different.  For now, I’m dating and enjoying it.  It could all feel different tomorrow.  Like Carrie Bradshaw, I do want to find that real, inconvenient love, but for now I’m meeting men, enjoying the moments we are sharing, and seeing where things go.  I told my friend Sarah last night, “I’m kind of overwhelmed being in text/email contact and going on dates with 7 men.”  She wrote back, rightly so, “I don’t want to hear anymore pessimistic ‘I’m going to be alone’ dating stories.  Overwhelmed=I don’t feel sorry for you.”  Right on sister!  *smile*  She’s absolutely right.  In those dark days, you can’t see the light.  The only thing that gets you through are friends, like Sarah, who shine a light when you can only see darkness.  Then, when the light is shining so bright and you share your overwhelmed thoughts, she bitch slaps you and says “buy a pair of sunglasses dude.”

It’s summer and it’s raining men!  Listen, it feels nice to have attention, we all know that, and I feel hopeful that maybe one of these guys is the one, at least for now.  I kid, because I am looking for a committed and consistent relationship, but my goal is forever, not for now.  Yet, the reality remains, in a couple of weeks I could be dateless and continuing this journey because these guys decide that I’m not the one for them.  And that is fine but for now, for these moments, I’m going to enjoy getting to know them and enjoy their company, and hell, enjoy the attention!  

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This brings me to June 4, 2014, one year later.  I was on a date with a very handsome, super fun guy.  We ate sushi and had fancy cocktails.  Dinner conversation was so great we had to Uber 5 blocks just to make it to the show Avenue Q, which he planned upon my suggestion that it is playing in town.  We made it just in time.  The only cause for concern was that I motorboated a muppet just hours after only my second nose bleed in my life.  Luckily for me her breasts were made of foam!  Anyway, the show was great, the company I kept, better.  The show ended with a song, coincidentally titled, “For Now.”

For now… Nothing lasts, Life goes on, Full of surprises. You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes.  You’re going to have to make a few compromises…

For now… 

For now we’re healthy.  For now we’re employed.  For now we’re happy… If not overjoyed.

And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid, for now…

Don’t stress, Relax, Let life roll off your backs.  Except for death and paying taxes, Everything in life is only for now!

Each time you smile…Only for now.  It’ll only last a while…Only for now.  Life may be scary…Only for now.  But it’s only temporary…

Everything in life is only for now.

So the last two June 4ths were very different.  I’m different.  I’m more honest and accepting of this journey.  I don’t like it all the time, but for now, today, it’s all ok.

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Shoop Shoop Be Doop

This week marks one year since my ex boyfriend told me he was taking a job in NYC.  My heart was shattered into a million different pieces that day.  The subsequent months were filled with tears, sadness, and despair.  I fell into the darkest period of my life.  Had it not been for amazing friends, who kept me busy and got me out of my apartment, co-workers who cared to ask how I was doing and people I pretty much just met who listened, I would not be standing here today, the pieced back together and much stronger man that I am.  In there too was an amazing trip to Africa, which would come to be the last with my wonderful friend and travel companion, Lesley, along with Cary and Charlie, who experienced with me the transformative experience in the wilds of Africa.  Along with all of those things, what I know now is that people you don’t expect, come out of the woodwork to support you, that new friendships have blossomed, and that my own strength and courage helped me put one foot in front of the other each day.  I have experienced physical pain, remember the collarbone/blood clot incident of 2006 or the broken hand this past July?  What I learned through this experience is that physical pain ain’t got nothin’ on emotional trauma.  A pill can take away physical pain, but difficult, emotional work, and time,  must be the only thing that makes us better and helps us through emotional pain.   I recognize that I am not the first broken hearted man, listen to most music and you’ll see, but it’s people who have been heart broken who shine through like beacons of light during the darkest times.  What this experience has afforded me is the strength to move on, to grow, to learn, to be, to feel, to experience, all the lows and highs of life.  If we never experience sadness or disappointment, can we truly know how happiness feels?  If we never experience a broken heart, can we truly know what love is supposed to feel like?  I will never love in the same way again, he was my first love,  but I will love again, in a much different way.  That, I know for sure.

“and maybe a happy ending doesn’t include a guy, maybe it’s you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself up for something better in the future.  Maybe the happy ending is just moving on.”

I have struggled with moving on and letting go.  Not even the stellar song by Adela Dazeem (Idena Menzel) “Let It Go” from Frozen could get me out of my funk.  I recently read a post from http://www.Tinybudda.com called “Finally Letting Go of the Pain and Moving on from the Break-up” by JR Hughes.  In it was a description of how I’ve felt for the past year, “For the year after the break-up I got on okay with life, but the shine had gone. A veil hung between me and true engagement with the world. I could smile but the smile never went to my eyes.”  Oh my god, that is me, I thought, or sang rather, “The past is in the past.  Let it go.  Let it go.”  It is time to lift the veil and bring my smile back to my eyes.  It is time to move the  F on.  I’m an amazing, wonderful man with so many great talents and passions to share.  I’m missing out on finding a new, great, wonderful man to share many adventures with, and my love.  I need to Say YES to Life!  I have to make the decision that this is over.  This is done. And I have done that.

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When I recently found out my ex has moved on, like leaving me for a job in NYC wasn’t enough to tell me he moved on Matt, I found out he is dating someone new.  The news hit hard, for a day or two, then I was fine.  Last week I was completing the final days of Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s 21-Day meditation free series.  That particular day, 51 weeks after the break-up, was themed, “Expressing Wisdom.”  I WILL buy this series, if only for Day 20 and Oprah’s 2 minute message at the beginning.  It is no secret that I think Oprah is pretty amazing.  What she says rang so, SO true to me today.

 “I call it my sunrise faith, because as long as we’re on this planet, the sun always rises.  That is a truth we can count on, regardless how many shifts and twists and turns we experience in our lives, The Sun will rise tomorrow.  The true nature of the Universe is just like the sunrise.  It is always there.  It is always True, with a capital T.  We too are each in our truest selves, a part of the greater capital T, Truth.  What I know for sure, is the more closely we connect to the Source, capital S, of every truth, the more wondrous and full our life experience will be.  What is our true self?  We feel it when we’re lost in moments of doing something we love, or connecting with someone we love, or in those Ah Ha moments of light and insight.  We feel it in the essence of connection.  We feel it in the quiet, steady power of the sunrise.”

What I know for sure (thank you Oprah) is that, no matter how dark the days were over the past 365 days, the sun always rose.  No matter how many twists, turns, and shifts my journey took in the past 365 days, the sun always rose.  No matter what happens in a day, good or bad, as long as we make it to the end of that day, the sun is going to rise tomorrow.  With this realization and acceptance came power for me.  It is the power of choice.  #100happydays http://www.100happydays.com allowed me to learn that happiness some days is a choice.  Some days I am just happy, I feel good, but others it is a conscious effort.  And those are the days that I get to the end, crawl into bed and say, “whew, I made it.  The sun will rise tomorrow.”
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When people leave you, it just means they weren’t the right one to stay.  You just have to sing, “Shoop, shoop, be doop” from Waiting to Exhale, by my beloved Whitney.  “Everyone falls in love sometime.  Sometimes it’s wrong, sometimes it’s right.  For every win, someone must fail.  But there comes a point when, when we exhale.  Yeah yeah yeah, say Shoop shoop shoop shoop be doop.”  It’s the Universe’s way of saying, he isn’t right for you, I’m throwing a curve in the plan and steering you in a different direction.  I’ve learned to take that curve, accept it, and am choosing to Say YES to Life!