Wednesday, July 27, 2011

See me in the Morning

I remember up until a couple of months ago I would always tell anyone who wanted to hear that I was not a morning person, I was in fact a person of the night, an owl really, looking for fun, food and someone to "mate" with. The night was my zone, I knew all about it, I knew how to be and where to be, no matter where in the world it was.

I always felt terrible about the morning, I guess as a reflection from my childhood, because I remember having to wake up really early to be taken to my grandparents house as my parents had to leave for work, so my day always started at a very early 6am, at the most. I never got a break, it never stopped being like that, the mornings in fact only became more challenging, and so I developed a pattern, of dreading the mornings and being very lazy and/or angry about having to wake up, either to be dropped at my grandparents house, or to go to swimming classes, or school, or work; the morning had always been a huge pain. The evening however was always fun, the family would all be together, watch movies, eat around the dinner table and always have something to share, and as i grew up it continued to be better: parties with school mates, sleep overs, going to clubs, getting drunk and feeling on top of the world.

Well, I don't know if i have really become a grown up now, or if being a grown up actually has anything to do with it, but things have shifted a little bit. I no longer long for the night and dread the morning, I've been loving and admiring the morning just as much as I would the night. Living in New York particularly, I have realized that there is a certain time, usually around dawn in the winter and right after it in the summer when the city is particularly quiet and serene. I don't know how many people have taken the time and had the opportunity to do this, but follow my advice; take a stroll through New York between 6:30am and 7:30am; you will see and feel the city like never before.

Because night life pretty much dies at 4am and the day life usually starts after 8:30am, there is this window of time, where everything has been cleaned and rearranged for the next day, when the city is just waiting for the next day to begin, and everything is perfectly quiet and in place. Union Square feels like an empty movie set, impeccable, Madison Square Park and its beautiful foliage seems proud of existing, the streets of Greenwich Village have an inexplicable glow and midtown, more precisely Times Square, looks like a postcard picture, minus the people, the smell of garbage, street kebabs and the noisy traffic.

In fact, during the "limbo-hour", as i like to call it, the entire city probably lives its quieter moment in the day. All deliveries have been made, there are no trucks roaming around, all store fronts are still closed, people are still getting ready for work, and there are usually no work shifts beginning at this hour, so you will only see the occasional person going from point A to B because there is a place to be, or the occasional jogger. In the summer, limbo-hour is particularly special, the day has this beautiful natural light that almost seems fake, and the heat is gentle, followed by a warm-nearly-cool breeze that caresses the skin. Walking calmly and observing the scenery is not only a possibility but a true requirement at this time of day.

Don't get me wrong now, i haven't turned my back against the night, i still enjoy it very much, and i would say it's one of the most exciting and alive times for any city, especially New York, that's when everyone is out of work, meeting friends, having drinks, extending the happy hour into a night out at the clubs and maybe hitting two or three clubs in the same evening. At night is also a great time to walk around and see the city in a different light, you get to observe things that you usually wouldn't in the rush of day to day life, the lights are bright and beautiful and no matter what time of the year in New York, the nights are always festive. The holiday season though is when the New York night truly shines, the Christmas lights are out, the ice skating rinks are open and there is a happy glow wherever you look at, especially if the streets are white with snow.

So, what has happened to me i believe, is a simple shift in my heart, i started to admire and love the mornings just as much as i love the nights, and to find balance i have chosen to cut my nights short and add some hours to the morning; instead of sleeping in, i now wake up earlier, take a walk, read the newspaper and try to get to my day earlier, so that hopefully i can also have it finished earlier to enjoy more of the night. And it all comes full circle. It's a great trade off and i still get to stay away from the afternoons, and that is an entire different issue, but let's not get there just yet, i am still in my early love affair with the morning after all, i'm honey-mooning.

Have a good day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Accepting Life

All my life i was in control. Or so i thought. The bills got paid on the 5th of each month, religiously; i had lists for everything that had to be done; i got late to work every day, but never more than fifteen minutes, because i knew i would get off work at least one hour late. I always had my schedule in order and even when i overbooked myself for dinner or lunch i would always find a way to graciously adjust and make everyone feel like they were the only ones in my schedule, even if that meant having dinner twice in one evening.

My family was kept in a shelf aside and in order, whatever issues needed to be addressed would be addressed and nothing would touch them and no one needed to be dragged into it, it just made it all more simple and organized, after all, all of them already have too many opinions about themselves, the last thing i needed was outsiders barging in with their own thoughts. My childhood friends always held a special wing of my heart and i had a very meticulous system for keeping in touch with all of them and making sure they were all in the loop of whatever was going on in  my life. My professional life went full throttle, and without stomping over anyone i managed to move up and move fast. My love life on the other hand didn't matter too much, even though i loved to think it did; but it was never a major focus of my day and didn't mean much, as i preferred to focus on other things, after all, who needs a commited relationship at twenty three years of age anyway? Time and fate would take care of that one thing for me eventually, as long as everything else was under control, love would find its way into my heart.

Well, the obsession with control was the only thing out of order, and i never relized that. My insistence on always keeping things organized and making lists and trying to not come off as if i were obsessing too much about everything, rather than just letting life carry its sweet course, started to drive me crazy. The minute one thing got done, it was then time to move on to the next, and to find all the answers to all the questions at once and immediately was a must. Well, it wasn't acceptable to me that i would start working on a project today and then have to wait another six months or a year to start seeing any results. No, results had to be immediate, and by the moment i touched something it had to turn into gold, otherwise it was rotten, or even worse, people could think i was rotten, and that i would absolutely not accept!

Well, here we are, in this fast-paced new millennium, and i am a product of all the technological advances and the quest to have more and be perfect. Well, guess what, the times may have changed, technology may have advanced, but there are some very simple and basic things that haven't. Instant gratification still isn't the answer to any of our problems, immediate results hardly ever exist and can never be trusted and anxiety only gets in the way. What's the point of rushing through life and trying to run away from the obstacles and the emotions if that is precisely what life is all about? Isn't that how we learn and evolve? When did the world stopped having twenty four hours that we can't even find the time to live on trial and error anymore?

While watching Woody Allen's new movie, "Midnight in Paris", i realized that the constant search for something different than what those characters had was also my own, and in those characters i saw myself for a moment, because i had finally realized a couple of weeks ago that i had to learn to accept my life as it is, with its ups and downs and all the feelings packed into it. Acceptance is key. Just like Owen Wilson's character learned that he had to embrace life instead of simply choosing the easiest path, i had realized the same thing a couple weeks back, and when i did it hit me like a bullet train.

I have now started to understand that we need to take it all in, the easy way around things is most of the times not the best way to go, because eventually it will come back to haunt us, as it always does. i don't know the answers to all the questions, but i know that with some patience and hard work i will be able to find the tools within myself to solve the puzzle and move on to some more complicated and bigger one. Being in control of life is impossible, because life is in control of me, and the more i try to make it change, the more it will hit me in the head to show me the fool that i am.

It's not like i have become the Dalai Lama all of a sudden, but to understand this tiny little thing has changed my perspective about it all and made me a much more relaxed person. To accept that life sometimes moves in mysterious - and at times annoying - ways has been the most liberating experience i have ever been through, and I hope it sticks with me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Normal State of Being

When i was in school i was bullied tremendously; i was called gay, fag and all other sorts of names that i was too young to understand. I didn't even used to understand what the whole gay thing was supposed to mean, but i knew that by the tone that it was being pronounced and the reactions it caused on others that it couldn't be a good thing. There it was, the beginning of the problem, and i couldn't even understand what the problem was , i didn't even know what that fuss was all about. Well; back then i had absolutely no idea what i liked: boys, girls or even myself. I was told that the normal thing to do was to like a girl. I didn't know there was the option to like a boy, i was a kid trying to get through school and play with my friends. When i finally realized what all of that meant i got really angry, after all, how could they know something about me that even i didn't know about? And i truly didn't, and i struggled with that for years, until i grew out of it and learned to dodge the attacks and turn them back against the attackers in a very fierce yet polite manner. But what i took from that first encounter with the gay world was that it was absurdly abnormal and wrong to be gay, and for many years that was the most solemn truth and being gay was absolutely unacceptable and a disease, but being straight and bullying whoever was different was the normal thing to do.

It was also around the times of those first encounters that i first knew of a disease that was so powerful that i couldn't even share a glass of water with an infected person. Or so they said. It was extremely frightening to be a little boy and not even be able to come near another human being for fear of dying. I remember not being able to understand that, not being able to understand how it was possible for anyone to die from being near another person? It was an extremely sad time and i hadn't thought too much of it until this year, and i hadn't even gone back to that feeling until tonight, after seeing the masterpiece by Larry Kramer, "The Normal Heart", that will say its goodbye to Broadway this July 10th.

This year of 2011 has been of profound investigation, about myself, about the world that surrounds me and about how some of our actions have irreversible consequences. I have met people and lived situations that never before had i even considered possible and all of those little things were really hard to digest and even understand, they made me once again feel like that little boy facing the unknown. And these "things" came from all sides too, so, it is only normal that i had to go see this play. Earlier this year i read a surprising article on New York Magazine and wrote about it in this blog, i was baffled by the lack of space, time and attention the world was giving to the first man to ever be cured of HIV. Not Aids, HIV. These are two different things;  and this too was also a new realization for me; i had never given this evil disease a minute of my day to properly read about it, i mean, why should I? My life was so beautiful and fabulous on the outside, who needs to know about such things when they are so distant from us? Well, they are not distant, and what was true decades ago, continues to be very true today, and even with all the technological and medical advances on improving the quality of life for HIV patients, people continue to get infected and to die daily. We still have no cure, and no one seems to be giving the time of day to the one man who lives among us with a possible key to the cure of this malign disease.

Ellen Barkin did it perfectly, she showed us with every shade of emotion what it is to be in the front line of this war, and how frustrating and nerve-racking it is to be screaming for help and still not be heard. Ellen Barkin was so perfect in her role that she made me cry copiously every time she appeared on stage; her passion and her emotions were not an act, they were real and very much alive. The entire cast was tremendous and absolutely impeccable, but Elle Barkin, oh, she made us all want to get up and throw some paper on some politicians faces, just like her character did, she made us all want to stand up for human rights, yes, human rights, the most basic ones, not just gay rights, or women's rights, but basic human rights. What was done to all those people in the early eighties was one of the most unfair things ever done by men to its own kind, and that brutality was very alive on that stage, and every visceral performance was like a punch in my soul and it shook me up and made me once again wake up and pay attention and spread the word even further.

Today, with internet, twitter, Facebook, television, newspapers, magazines and even still the radio, it's hard to believe that there are so many people getting sick, and that alone is to me the most saddening part. We are all very much aware, this disease has been a shadow over our lives for the past three decades, it is literally like a huge grey cloud above our heads, at least a couple of entire generations grew up with it in their vocabularies, and still, to this day, there are people who insist on pretending the cloud is not there. Well, guess what? Every now and then it rains from this cloud, and it doesn't just drizzle, it pours, and every time it pours it's another family that is shattered, another relationship that is broken and another life that is taken. It's past the time to take action, it's time to be responsible, each and every one of us all need to be responsible, because action is being taken, daily, but it doesn't seem to be enough, so let's do it like Larry Kramer said, lets start teaching it in schools, lets teach it at home, lets show our kids all the colors of the rainbow, let's tell them what it means to love others like we should also love ourselves, lets teach our kids the gift of acceptance and awareness and let's teach them about what it is like to be a proper human being, so that maybe then one day there won't have to be talks about what is the normal heart.

See clips of The Normal Heart below:

You Tube Channel HERE