I Am Gay: Live Your Truth

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For so many reasons recently, I have been thinking about living my truth and how I got to this point.  First of all, my spiritual force, Oprah, has been talking a lot about living your truth.  Secondly, I just recently got married to *gasp* a man, my truth.  Thirdly, the motion picture Love, Simon was released nationwide last weekend.  Lastly, but I don’t promise to go in this order (the English teacher in me is disappointed but I need to just write) the new Queer Eye on Netflix has me crying like a baby each episode.  So for all of these reasons, I have just been thinking about my truth and my coming out and my years spent in the closet and how all of it might have been different if the media coverage today of gay men and women was out in the 90s or if the messages in movies and tv were what they are now.  Back in the 90s, a lot of my coming out would have been different, and much sooner, than the age of 26, that I know for sure.

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Let us begin with Mother Oprah, my force, my leader, my guide.  I love her.  The above quote is from her Golden Globes speech back in January 2018.  “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we have.”  Wow-yes it definitely is and recently I have been having conversations with some of my students about speaking their truth and because of those conversations I have given some long thought about my truth and how it came to be and why it came to be the way it did.  I also heard on a podcast today Oprah say, “Every person who comes to Earth has a responsibility to seek the truest, highest expression.  And the keyword is true…the responsibility is how do you not just speak the truth but how are you the truth?  The responsibility is to show up in that which is the most authentic truthful version of yourself.”  Wowza that is a lot, right? My teenage self wouldn’t have been able to digest that, but my 41-year-old self say hell yes and what I do with that is take on the responsibility to show up as the most authentic version of myself and share my story and live my truth.

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Let’s be truthful here, I love clothes and I love shoes and my closet is full of both.  Now THAT is a great closet.  But you know what isn’t a great closet?  The gay closet that I and so many people live or lived in for years.  People ask me when I knew I was gay and I always say that I knew I was different around 3rd Grade.  That was the first time I can place a feeling I had about a boy I knew.  It was a feeling of excitement in my tummy when I spent the night at his house, in his bedroom.  THIRD GRADE y’all!  Then in 6th Grade when I knew much more about what was going on with girls and boys, I knew that changing for PE meant getting down to our underwear to put on our shorts and t-shirt and I didn’t hate it.  Hahahah I didn’t hate it because it meant I got to see boys.  Now what I did with that information was suppress it down to the deepest place in my subconscious because I didn’t know what to do with that information.  There just weren’t examples for me to look up to or strive to be like or just to know that it is ok.  There was also a lot of hate.  In 7th Grade, minding my own business walking to class, someone for the first time in my life called me a faggot.  I can still see his face, clear as day, in my mind.  That reprehensible word has so much negativity and hate and for me, fear attached to it.  Now people were starting to notice I was different and they were calling me out and now I have to suppress my sexual orientation even more.  That was fear and not understanding and not knowing who or if I had anyone I could talk to about my feelings.  I remember telling my dad about that incident and he asked, “Where you walking really fast?”  Obviously he had some stereotypes in his head too, but he tried to help me make sense of it.

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In the new Queer Eye on Netflix in episode 4 a closeted gay man gets made over and comes out to his stepmom.  I sobbed like a baby, on the plane, over that moment.  But what one of the cast members said stuck with me when he talked about his coming out and having to climb over “the wall” of three words — I AM GAY.  Those three words were the hardest three words I have ever had to say.  It still gives me a feeling in my stomach thinking about the night I told my parents.  What I know now is that they love me no matter what and their reaction, staring at the wall, was out of fear; fear that my life would be harder and subject to discrimination and childless and partnerless and lonely.  None of that is true.  Maybe childless, but I chose that, and maybe I experienced a little discrimination or hate over the years, yes, but really, none of those fears came true.  But they all shadowed my life and why I kept things in the closet for so long.  One other thing I want to say here, about that night in 2002, is that I didn’t understand that sharing this piece of me wasn’t just about me.  Parents have to go on their own journey too because mostly out of fear, but also out of the need for a moment to digest things.  Wilson Cruz of My So Called Life fame recently said in a podcast, “They [parents] are really amazing now.  They had to go on their own journey and I needed to support them in that.  When we come out to people it’s not just about us, right?  Yes it’s our experience and we’re sharing our lives with people but I think we need to be generous in that moment, as well, to the people we’re coming out to and give them a minute to adjust and digest and then give them permission to show up for you.  But it’s not necessarily going to happen right away, and that’s ok.”  I wish I had handled my parents a little more gently.  I mean, I was surprised they were surprised considering all of my childhood interests, but they were nonetheless.  I started shoving it down their throats bringing up how hot Brad Pitt was and always wanting to talk about celebrity men, just to see their reaction.  Calm down and give them a minute, is what I wish I had done.  Regardless now of where I am or how I got here or how long I took to stay in the closet, I’m here now and I’m living my truth for the past 16 years.

 

One more thing about growing up in the 90s and living in the closet.  I loved season three of The Real World San Fransisco.  Pedro Zamora was my first introduction to a mainstream gay person on television.  I watched the show religiously each week and each week I watched this gay man live his truth, with AIDS.  This was an extremely admirable thing that Pedro did and a gift that he gave to all of us.  Yet, as a 15-year-old, closeted gay boy in small town Michigan, it was also incredibly fear inducing.  HIV?  AIDS?  The only thing I knew about those letters was that it meant you were gay and it meant you were going to die.  Pedro did die.  I didn’t want to die.  I didn’t want to get HIV.  And there you have a huge reason why I suppressed my feelings and my true self for so many years.  I was uneducated and as much work as Pedro did on the show TO educate me, fear won out in my head for far too long.  Part of it was just the way of life back in the 90s and I think, what if I was a teenager now, would I still be scared?  Sure, I am positive there would still be fear, but all of the information and media coverage that we have now about HIV, it is a very different time.  So thank god for Pedro and for his education of us all, but with it came a cost, a fear for me.

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Now here we are in 2018 and there is a major motion picture out in theatres called Love, Simon.

“No matter what, announcing who you are to the world is

pretty terrifying, ’cause, what if the world doesn’t like you?”

***

“P.S. It doesn’t seem fair that only gay people

have to come out.  Why is straight the default?”

 

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What would it have meant to my 15-year-old self had this movie been out in the 90s?  What would it have meant to my parents at the time?  How would my life be different now?  I’m positive my life would be slightly different but not that much.  I’m here and I’m queer and I have a wonderful life.  I might have come out a lot younger.  My parents might have had a different experience the night I climbed over the “WALL” — I AM GAY.  But we all get to our truth when we are supposed to get to our truth.  We all, I hope, will eventually live our truth.  I hope that each person out there, gay teens, straight teens, people of all kinds, find the power in speaking their truth.

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Whether you’re lucky enough to be gay or not —

Find Your Truth.

Speak Your Truth.

Live Your Truth.     

 

 

Never the Same Love Twice

“When you least expect it, Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot. Just remember: I am here. Right now you may not want to feel anything. Perhaps you never wished to feel anything. And perhaps it’s not to me that you’ll want to speak about these things. But feel something you obviously did.

You had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, to pray that their sons land on their feet. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it. And if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out. Don’t be brutal with it. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster, that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything ― what a waste!” ~ Call Me By Your Name

The above is a monologue from the 2018 Academy Award nominated movie, Call Me By Your Name. It comes at the most heart-wrenching, pivotal part of the movie when the lead character, 17-year-old Elio is being comforted by his father. The monologue is given by father to son. The pure ache and at the same time the sweetness that it provides is so very real. Elio had a summer love with a male grad student who came to live with his family in Italy.  When summer was over, and time for Oliver to return to the United States, so was their romance. It was Elio’s first love, and for a 17-year-old boy, trying to figure out love and lust and sexuality, it was his most important coming of age moment. We all experience, at least I hope, coming of age, love, loss, and yes, even heartbreak. It changes who we are to the core, and if we do it right, it changes us for the better, for good.

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When the screenwriter for Call Me By Your Name won for Best Adapted Screenplay he moved me to tears in his speech when he said, “I hope we’ve all experienced first love and come out of it mostly intact.” Quotes like this, songs, moments, memories, have the ability to take me back to a time in my life that was really difficult.  In May of 2013 I had my heart broken.  You can read all about it in my blog post For Now. It goes without saying, I had a rough, rough time getting over him. I remember months later, after a lot of personal work, meditation, therapy, rosé, time with friends, more rosé, and really investing in meI came out of the darkness. I remember the moment with my friend Yuka having the realization that my ex was my first love and that I would never love in the same way again. It wasn’t a crushing thought; it was actually a freeing feeling. A few weeks later I met the man who would become my husband.

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It is SO not a sad thing that I didn’t marry my first love.  Holy Cow, what I learned about myself in my twenties and thirties was invaluable to leading me to the man who I married, the man who loves me unconditionally (RIGHT honey?) the man who makes me better and treats me like gold and is my true partner. I love him so much and I am so thankful that he wasn’t my first love. And honestly, well besides the depression and tears and anxiety and panic and weight loss… actually I’ll take the weight loss… I’m fucking glad I got my heartbroken because it made me do the personal work that I had never had the opportunity to do and it made me a much, much better partner and lover and husband. Heartbreak taught me that shitty things happen but life moves on.  Heartbreak taught me that friends can be your rock and show you so much love. Heartbreak helped me fall in love with rosé more than I already was. Heartbreak brought meditation, yoga, my fastest marathon time, new friends, Saturday morning brunch by myself dates, and so much more into my life. It was hard, really hard, but it taught me so much and had I not taken that time and learned those lessons about life and those things about myself, I wouldn’t have been ready to meet the man of my dreams; the man who brings so much love to my life and treats me better than anyone I know. So to the screenwriter and his quote, yes, I came out mostly intact.

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 I have so many different people in my life who are in so many different places with relationships. If I had a message I could send to them it would be the above. It would also be the opposite,  Choose HOPE when you can’t find the FAITH. Hope and faith.  Faith and hope. Two words, in my opinion, that work together. They both move in and out of our lives so when you are losing one of them, find the other. Don’t stay in something that isn’t meant to be, just to be in something. Don’t worry that when something ends, nothing will come. To the contrary, maybe by freeing yourself up, that is exactly the time that you will meet the man or woman who will be your rock and treat you like gold. Think about it, if the other relationship didn’t end, you wouldn’t be free for something better. In your times of singledom, find your joys, wrap yourself in the love of friends, travel, find the things that make each day better because those things are far more important than a dud of a person. My message for you is, open yourself up to true love and true joy, it might just be around the corner waiting for you.

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So this brings me back to the beauty that was Elio’s first love in Call Me By Your Name. The innocence, the wonder, the lust, the passion, the confusion, the sadness, the true emotions of life are what we feel when we fall in love. And if we never put ourselves out there to get hurt, can we ever really find the true love we are looking for? As Elio’s dad so wisely told him, “We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster, that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything ― what a waste!”

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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Let’s get this out of the way, Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday that we give so much power to, yet we’re all ok on February 15 whether we got a box of chocolates or a dozen roses or nothing at all.  The sun still rises and our lives go on.  Believe me, BELIEVE me, there have been times in my life where I was sad not to have a Valentine.  Let’s say for about 36 years I never had one, but I was ok.  I had the love of friends and when I became an adult I had the love of red wine.  Now I’m a married man and EVERYTHING has changed…..or not much at all.  I’m at home, alone, writing this blog.  My husband and I live in two different cities so being together is not possible.  And honestly, we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day much anyway because, remember, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow whether you have that dozen roses or not.  Just go get a glass of wine and sit back to read my blog.

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Like I said, for about 36 years I never had a Valentine and I dealt with it and I was fine.  Of course I wanted the chocolates and the roses and all of that.  I did.  Society has told me over the years that I need that to make myself whole, but in reality, I do not.  Then at age 37 I got them.  It was great.  I was excited.  I was fulfilled and everything was just perfect.  Then three months later my heart was broken and I was devastated as evidenced in my blog post “For Now”.  Then for the next year I did some really hard personal work.  I survived my next Valentine’s Day while dating a new guy, then a few weeks later that ended.  Was it wonderful to have these Valentines flowers and candies and candles?  Of course it was but what I learned was that someone can give you all that stuff and not truly love you and so then, what does it matter?

“Didn’t see it coming.  No kind of warning.  I can’t work out what I’ve done wrong.  His clothes are missing.  But his keys still here.  Please somebody tell me whats going on.”

I recently heard the song “Suitcase” by Emeli Sandé which was in heavy rotation the summer of 2013.  I had such a broken heart and I did everything possible not to be alone, ever. After work I would go to yoga practice two classes in a row and come home and go straight to bed.  But what saved me from myself were friends.  Friends are really incredible people.  No matter what, they love you.  Friends are there to go to dinner and talk and hate on the ex and just be there with you.  I have so many friends who helped pull me through.  I also did so much for myself like yoga and meditation and blogging and finding the little things in each day that made me happy with #100happydays.  I found the joy in a fresh, ripe avocado.  I found the joy in friendship.  I found the joy, as hard as it was, in being on my own.  Although I had lived so many years single, the year I spent in between my heartache and finding the love of my life was really hard.  I had a taste of what I longed for for so long, not being alone.  But in reality, what I know for sure, is that whether I’m alone or with someone, I’m going to be ok.

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The reality is that we all want to be loved by that special person.  We learn about it and see it growing up and we long for it as adults.  BUT, “somebody” can be family, friends, or YOURSELF, too!  How wonderful it is to find the love of yourself?  Let me tell you after a year of really hard personal work, it is wonderful.  Had I not done the hard, personal work after being dumped and having a broken heart, I would not have been ready to find the love I have with my husband now.

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“Even when the dark comes crashing through.  When you need a friend to carry you.
When you’re broken on the ground.  You will be found.”

Dear Evan Hansen the Tony Award winning Broadway sensation has a song “You Will Be Found” with the lyrics above.  What I can tell you about Valentine’s Days past and love and friendship is that you will be found because your friends will never let you crash down without picking you up and dusting you off and pushing you out there into life to live again.  Check out my post called “Waving Through A Window” and you will read about the joy that love has brought me.  However, had it not been for the love of friends and family, and a lot of personal work “Single Season” I would not have been ready for the love of my life.

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So whether you are single or partnered on this Valentine’s Day, find the joy in your life.  Look for the simple things that make you smile.  Look for your family and friends.  Look for the wine!  Whether you are alone or with someone right now, I can tell you that loving your life and taking a deep breath and just embracing it all is what you can do today.  And to all of you Valentine-less people out there, enjoy it.  You get to do what you want, when you want, and how you want.  There is something beautiful about that.

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My Most Magical Day

It goes without saying, I have lived so many incredible experiences in my life. Traveling the world and experiencing different people and different cultures–Amazing! Running five marathons in five years, four of which I ran under four hours–Thrilling! Living moment to moment on my wedding, with so many friends and family around, and saying “I do” to the man of my dreams–Absolutely Magical! Since September I have tried to sit down and write about our day, but it seemed too fresh and honestly, I think I was still in the euphoria.  Now a few months out and in a new year, it’s time to relish the moments and share the magic.il_fullxfull.685102515_l2jb_original

When you’re getting married everyone gives you advice and relives their wedding.  I really think people love love because it reminds them of their special day and the special time in your life that brings all of your closest friends and family together to celebrate. There was a time in my life, well most of my life, when I never thought I would have a wedding. It isn’t the same for guys as it is for girls, at least I don’t think so. I didn’t grow up dreaming about my wedding, I was wrestling with a few more issues that needed to be figured out before I could, I guess. But once I came out and marriage was legalized for gays in the USA, I did want something. Of course I wanted the celebration, the party to end all parties.  My husband was like, “Let’s just go to the courthouse and get it done, simply.” Those are his famous last words because our wedding was anything but simple. I told him, “No, I want acknowledgement of our love. I want our friends and family to witness our commitment. Too many gay couples never got to get married. Now I want to celebrate our joy and I want the love and the support of everyone around us.” Well, I got just that and it was just perfect.

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The above quote from George Michael struck me so hard the first time I heard it. He was so right that joy comes from being proud of something and for too many years I tried to hide my sexuality in order to “be like everybody else” and I tried to “make it work”, but that wasn’t my story.  My story was to love a man and to celebrate the wonderful joy that we bring to each other just as you do with your husband or wife. When I say our wedding day was pure magic, it just simply was and I think everyone in attendance could feel that magic and that love.

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The photo above is of my about to be husband and me watching guests arrive at our home for our wedding. We wanted a personal day that felt like a big dinner party and having the event at our house was the perfect way to make that happen. As guests arrived they were greeted with a glass of champagne or rosé, of course. We waited upstairs with anticipation.

“I’ve never served this much rosé in my life!” ~ Bar Tender

“Your wedding oozed love, organic, elegant, love-love-love just flowed.” ~ Sherine

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“OMG!!! So much fun and unforgettable wedding full of love and joy!!!!! ~ Joey

“I have such a big smile looking at these pics. So much love that day.” ~ Kristen

“Such a perfect commemoration of that perfect day. We were so happy to celebrate with you!” ~ Shannon

So, I think the love was felt by all. We sure felt it. And what everyone tells you is true, it goes by SO fast. If I could live that day over 100 times, I would. It is once in a lifetime that you gather your closest friends and family. To have it at our home made it even more special and intimate and magical. Speaking of feeling it, we recently met some neighbors at a holiday party and as we were talking one of them said, “Oh that was YOUR party we heard a half mile away. We were walking our dog and heard music. At first we thought it was a block party, but as we got closer we realized it had to be a gay party because that was one amazing playlist. The music was too good for any other party.” In fact, when Whitney Houston and Madonna came on during dinner, a dance party broke out at the tables!

“It was one for the ages…we’ll all remember…top notch all the way…you made US feel special on YOUR special day! Thanks for such an awesome event…we love you two.” ~ Kristen

 

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Now after almost four years together, traveling back and forth in two cities, my husband and I will be together in the same city in 2018!!

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What I know for sure is that I have never felt more loved than on my wedding day. I actually could feel the love oozing out of everyone. I have never felt more joy and honor than on my wedding day. Growing up I didn’t see gay people getting married. I didn’t have role models or ideas to look forward to. I didn’t have an image of the guy I would meet and fall in love with and eventually marry. None of that was even in my head. But the wait was so worth it.  Love is out there. Love is real. Go find it!

This sums up how I felt that day in September and pretty much anytime I think about our wedding and the love and magic.

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Waving Through a Window

“On the outside always looking in. Will I ever be more than I’ve always been? ‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass. I’m waving through a window.”

Two really important things, at least to me, are happening right now.  I’m planning a wedding with my fiancé AND the Dear Evan Hansen Original Broadway Cast Recording has been released to Spotify.  IMPORTANT THINGS I SAY! Over the last week, if I’m at my desk, the songs from Dear Evan Hansen are on repeat, over and over again. I’ve also been, like I said, planning a wedding so if anyone asks, I’ll talk about it. Planning a wedding was never something I ever really thought about as a kid. Do boys think about their wedding day? Do gay boys think about their wedding day? The answer for me is, no, I never really thought about a wedding. The perfect day and setting and person was never really something on my mind growing up.  Geez, my life was filled just trying to figure out if it was going to be a woman or a man for crying out loud. I didn’t have time to think about an actual wedding until recently.

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 So while I was figuring all of that stuff out my friends were dating and getting engaged and getting married. Oh did I attend a lot of weddings in my 20s and 30s. That was a lot of cake and alcohol and dancing. It was fun, so much fun. However, it wasn’t for me. Somehow I didn’t fit in that societal norm of finding someone, getting engaged and planning a wedding. I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about it, rather I went about my life and enjoyed those people around me who were in love and getting married and getting all those gifts and inviting all those people to celebrate with them. On June 26, 2015 our societal norm changed. The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in favor of equal dignity and marriage for all citizens of the United States. Then, lucky me, on June 26, 2016, exactly one year later the man of my dreams asked ME to marry HIM!

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Well now this whole marriage thing got really real and really fast. My fiancé said he would be fine just going to the courthouse and getting married.  I said, “Do you know who you just asked to marry you?”  Haha, wait, I hadn’t ever really thought about a wedding, that is true, but now that I have the chance, I’m taking it.  People have said, “You’ve gone to your share of weddings over the years, now it is time for those people to buy you gifts!” Sure, I guess that is part of the celebration, but that’s not all it is for me.  I told my fiancé that the reason I want a wedding is because as I sat at all those weddings in the past I thought to myself, “I wonder if it will ever be legal for me to get married?” “Sure we have ‘civil unions’ in my state but that isn’t the same. That isn’t equal.” The reason I want to have a wedding is to celebrate with those people who have loved me for me. It is now my time to step inside and stop “waving through a window.”

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That brings me back to Dear Evan Hansen the new musical on Broadway. It’s about a boy who watches life pass him by due to severe social anxiety.  But why, to me, isn’t he point. Have you ever spent a portion of your life “looking in from the outside?” That is why I connected to this music and that is why I want to celebrate my love and my marriage because after June 26, 2015 I no longer had to look in from the outside.

“While I’m watch watch watching people pass I’m waving through a window, oh can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?”

Unlike Evan Hansen, I have never been socially isolated or lonely, luckily. But I have waved through the window while people who are accepted pass by. I’ve tried really hard not to get political in my blog, as far as this past election, but just briefly I have to. It really frustrates me when people say, “I support gay marriage and equal rights”, but that person voted for the Republican platform, one that does not promote equality. They might say, “Well gay marriage is a done deal.” Sure it is the law of the land, but depending on who the new Supreme Court justice is, that ruling could be overturned years down the road. Likely or unlikely, why chance it? And it isn’t all about equal marriage. It is about equal rights for all people. It is about accepting refugees and immigrants into our country. It is about accepting and loving others no matter their gender, sex, race, sexual orientation or other. Why make people in America wave through the window and hope that one day their difference will be just as accepted as someone else? Why? Why not share love and spread love and think about all those people who are waving through a window?

In this clip, Cynthia Erivo Tony Award winner from The Color Purple sings “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen.

Even when the dark comes crashing through/ When you need a friend to carry you /When you’re broken on the ground /You will be found

Why don’t we work on loving each other, all of us, and helping each other out. You are not alone I wish was the mantra of our country because far too many people don’t have the same power, privilege, and acceptance. Don’t wait until it is your time to suffer to “get it” and start thinking about others. Let’s help each other now.  Let’s share and care, just a little more. Let’s notice each other more. Let each other know, we all matter.

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So that brings me back to why I want to have a wedding; a celebration of our love, an acknowledgment that our love matters and our love is important too. It’s not about the gifts (but I’ll take them, I guess) it’s about being surrounded by the people who love us; the people who have lifted us up when we were down; the people who, no matter what, have been with us throughout life to say, “hey, hey you, you matter.” 

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An Ode to Jon

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Last week I got to meet my absolute favorite living artist and see him perform in concert twice. Of course you all know my unwavering love for Whitney Houston, but aside from her, Jon McLaughlin is the man! What he does with lyrics comes straight from the heart. He is so funny and down to earth and it was an honor to meet him.

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Here is a signed Polaroid of our moment

I have been following Jon’s career since 2007 when I saw him open for Kelly Clarkson at the Chicago Theatre.  Back in the spring I actually met him at House of Blues by his merch tale when he opened for Parachute.  It was a brief meeting and after it was over I was kicking myself for not telling him what his music means to me. In those brief star struck moments it’s hard to remember every emotion you have felt when listening to someone’s music.

This night I stood just feet from him as Jon introduced a new song.  He asked, “Is this good?  I figure you’re a safe crowd to ask.”  Yes Jon, yes it is good!

When an artist writes a song they have a certain story they are trying to tell. Every listener interprets the lyrics in a different way. I wanted to tell Jon how much his music has gotten me through the hard times and the happy, but he self-admittedly writes mostly about break-ups. All of you who have read my blog know that I love hard and deep and was really hurt a few years ago. At that time I really got into Jon’s music and pretty much downloaded everything I could get my hands on. When I had 60 seconds with Jon last week it was really important for me to tell him how a particular song, “Questions” had impacted me.

And how can a man/Be all that they say/When all that I know/Is men run away/I think I lose just a little bit of me/In every man that I see

I absolutely had to take this opportunity to tell Jon that his lyrics helped me get through the hardest emotional time of my life. I know that how I interpreted the song wasn’t exactly how he wrote the lyrics, but I told him, “I know the story you wrote wasn’t exactly mine, but your lyrics connected to me and helped me see the truth in my situation and the light at the end of the long emotional tunnel.” He thanked me and said, “Yeah, that is one of my oldest songs. I think that was about the fourth song I wrote years ago.  Thank you for telling me.”

I came for your questions/Of what you don’t know/But you can’t see the answers/Unless I go

When I listened to “Questions” back in 2013 I would just cry and cry and sing it at the top of my lungs while driving to work and driving home from work. Those were the hardest moments for me being alone in my car. What allowed me to cry was that he left me but what gave me strength was that he came for my questions and took the answers with him because he wasn’t going to be able to give me what I truly wanted out of life and deserved to have. Now I am happy in love and getting married to a guy who can answer my questions and can live the life that we want to live together. It meant a great deal for me to be able to have that moment with Jon and to let him know how his lyrics helped me heal.

A quote I always read back in the day

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So when the show started we were sitting a mere 5 feet from Jon.

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“Anybody Else”

He opened the show with one of my favorite songs, “Anybody Else”. I always imagined this song if I ever ran into my ex again. Basically that I was waiting around for him to change his mind. I did this for far, far too long.  I think in those moments of despair you cling to anything, any hope that it might not be over.  So again this was one of those emotional songs I used to sing and cry to in my car.

How long has it been?/I think about you every now and then/It’s good to see you doing so well/Oh no, right now I’m not with anybody else

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And I’ve got oceans of time/Oceans of time to sink/And I’ve got oceans of memories

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Sometimes a word or a line from a song/Can send me back to when we had it all/But in the end, you play the cards you’re dealt/And I’m not ending up with anybody else

I thought my life was over because he left me. In those moments, days, weeks after he left I never thought I’d find anybody else. That didn’t happened and luckily so for me since I met and fell in love with such a wonderful, kind, and loving man. But more than anything now-a-days, it is just one of Jon’s most beautiful songs. He really is such an amazing lyricist. Take a listen to this song below — the harmony, the lyrics, Jon’s emotion.  It is just the best. And I love how the song ends so soft. It’s a wonderful 5 minutes of emotion.

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“Human”

Three songs in Jon sang “Human”, a song off his first album Indiana. The best part of this is when he sang “Fast Car” in the middle of the song. It is one of my all time favorite songs. Admittedly, I went to see both of Jon’s shows, so I knew the second night that my fiancé was going to be overjoyed when he heard “Fast Car” and he was. I just wish Jon sang more of it. Maybe one day he’ll do a cover for an album. Maybe he’ll do a duet with Tracey Chapman. Now that would be amazing.

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“Before You”

Screaming at the top of my lungs/Finally I found someone/Never knew what love could do/Before you

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Guns out blazing/My heart is racing/And even the ordinaries amazing

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Blasts of color bounce off each other/And you’re the reason why I’m/Screaming at the top of my lungs/Finally I found someone/Never knew what love could do/Before you

“Before You” is the opening song off Jon’s latest album Like Us and it is one of my absolute favorites.  It speaks to the love and excitement I have for my fiancé.  I’ve certainly dated men in the past who I really liked, but honestly, the ease of loving my fiancé is something I never felt before.  There have never been those insecure wonderings if he liked me or if he was interested or if he would stick around or if he … You know what I’m talking about.  From the get go it has just been easy and consistent and loving and all the things that for years I longed for from other people.  Now I have it from him and I’ll “scream at the top of my lungs” about it!

“You & I”

This is our song.

I got a funny feeling everything’s going to be okay/All of my worries suddenly fading away/And I just can’t stop smiling/Ever since I heard the news/That you love me and I love you

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But one thing’s for certain/I’m one happy, lucky fool/’Cause you love me, and I … I love you

You already know I went to see both of Jon’s shows at City Winery last week.  The first night my fiancé was not with me and Jon did not play this song.  When I met Jon I meant to tell him the full story, that “Questions” was my breakup, get over it song and “You & I” is now my song with my fiancé.  We’re thinking it will be our first dance together when we get married.  It is all full circle JON!  The second night he played “You & I”.  At the first chords of the song my fiancé and I looked at each other with joy.

So this is my Ode to Jon.  I first heard him open for Kelly and I knew he was special.  Then one of his biggest successes was singing “So Close” from the movie Enchanted.  I too love that song, but Jon is so much more than that(and he didn’t actually write that song).  He is a singer/songwriter and a master at writing lyrics.  For a lover of sappy songs, Jon’s my guy.  He loves to write a good breakup song or a good healing song.  He loves to jam on the piano.  In a way I’m happy he is still playing places like City Winery because it means we get to have those intimate venue vibes.  It means that he’s still super accessible to his fans.  Jon really has been with me on a journey.  His lyrics have helped to mend a broken heart and to heal and to see the light again.  Thank you Jon.  Thank you.

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Celebrating 40: Friendship, Love, and All That Makes Me Happy

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The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of love and excitement. As we were all saying goodbye after five amazing days together, I was so sad. But I had to remind myself to “Smile because it happened.” For over a year I had planned for a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to celebrate my upcoming 40th birthday. When I started planning in June 2015 I said to myself, “I want 5 days with some of the most important people in my life.” I was blown away when 15 people said, “YES!” I know that it is no small order to plan for childcare and to put down the money for such a trip.  Just to celebrate me? Everyone is busy with life, whatever “busy” is to us, we are all busy. I have learned over my 40 years that the best gift you can give someone is the gift of your time. We are not guaranteed tomorrow so choosing to spend time with those you love is a blessing, and I am very blessed.

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I wrote in my blog post Thank You For Being a Friend in May 2015, “The way I got out of the darkness of loss is because of friends. The reason I started this blog is because of friends. The reason I met my love is because of friends. Friendships ebb and flow, but the real ones last forever.” I often think about how people come in and out of our lives sometimes for just a season, but there is always a reason. When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta it definitely felt special.  These are the ones who are in my life for more than a season. Some I have known for more than 20 years and some for just about two years, but the time of friendship didn’t matter, this was a special trip. I knew that everyone there could hang and chat in the pool or on the lounge chairs, of course with a cocktail in hand. These are the people who love me so they will all love each other. I was pretty spot-on.

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It is so important to wrap yourself in love, as I wrote about in October 2014, Wrapped In Love. We all go through times of happiness and pain, but surrounding yourself with love is the only way I see out of those painful times and we find that love in the happy times. I am blessed to have a huge support network.  Frankly I’m not sure why so many of them have stuck around so long, haha, but I’m thankful that they have and I’m thankful they chose to spend time with me to celebrate my birthday milestone. I am also grateful to my #squad, did I just write that, for helping me through confusing and painful times in my life. They held my hand and walked with me. I did the personal emotional work and they walked with me.  Had that not happened, my heart would not have been open to let someone great into my life.

Cause once you know what love is, you never let it end.

So I’m feeling all this love celebrating with my friends. See the love and fun!

On this trip, business ventures were created, phone apps were created, caftans were worn, #swan became a friend of all, water was splashed, champagne bottles popped every 15 minutes, and such amazing times were had by all of us. Seriously, just as one drink was finished another one was in your hand and just as the thought of, “man I could use some guac” came across your mind, there was a plate full with accompanying quesadillas poolside! What a dream come true to spend such a special and amazing time with my favorite people in the world!

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What happened at the White Party was probably the most special moment of my life. To celebrate Amanda’s actual birthday and my upcoming one, I thought a White Party was in order.  Everyone came through like rock stars!  I am fortunate that everyone played along with my request, even the husbands!  Thank you. All of a sudden people were dancing and my family was on the computer.  The words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” were displayed by all of my friends. I leaned down to say something to my family on Skype and then I heard the opening notes of Whitney Houston’s “All the Man That I Need” and I thought, “Here we go.” As I turned to face my friends, many were crying as they flipped the signs to now read, “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” and holding the question mark at the end of the line was the love of my life.  YES, YES OF COURSE I’LL MARRY YOU!!!

WOW, what a night of love and celebration! My fianceé outdid himself and my friends are one of a kind for keeping the secret and helping him execute the most special memory I have. Turning around to see the words “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” held by my best friends, some of them crying with joy(they’ve been on this journey of life with me), my family on Skype, my boyfriend holding the ? and the ring, and Whitney Houston playing in the background…..what could be better? I will get chills thinking of that moment forever.

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We must Be In Love With Our Life. Sometimes that is easier said than done. What I know for sure is that wherever we are and whatever we are doing, its a gift to be here. There are sad times and happy times but those sad ones are meant to lead us down the road to discovering something more happy. Over my almost 40 years I have learned a lot about life and people. These people who just spent five days celebrating with me are so special and so wonderful. As Heather Headley(AIDA fame, now in The Color Purple on Broadway) sings in her song “My Wish”, “I wish you rainy days so you can see the beauty of the clear blue sky…. I pray you’ll always see the forest through the trees…. and I wish you nights of love and days of joy and shoulders when you cry. And just enough hellos to get you through goodbye.”  These are the wishes of friends over the years whose eyes were just a bit clearer than mine. What a gift!

It has been a life’s journey so far and I am lucky to have been on it with so many wonderful and caring people.  Thank you for journeying with me and taking the time to be part of this special trip and our special day. And now, as we do, “Happy birthday day to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Amanda. Happy birthday to you!” (This will bring smiles to 15 people’s faces I know for sure!) Memories to last a lifetime, that I know for sure!

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