Perspectives: HIV/AIDS

December 13, 2006 Print version       Other articles by this author

With the month of December always comes an anniversary of sorts for me, a neverending series of thoughts.
Triumphs, accomplishments, fears, happiness, blues, but above all else---
thoughts of joy, and affirmation of the fact that I am still here. This mainly because two years ago, I wasn't entirely sure I would even live this long.
December of 2004 brought along with it a new way of living for me. Being that I was diagnosed as HIV positive on November 30th 2004 (the last day of that month), the month of December that followed is always one that I will remember. It is from that place of reflection that I stem as I bring forth this piece.
Today is December 12, and this month I've already done two speaking engagements/performances during which I look back on the last two years of my life with HIV. I cannot help but to do a kind of rewind in my head when I really stop to think about everything that has happened in the last two years. Given the news I had just been supplied with around this time two years ago, there's no way I could have known that 2 years later I'd be at the head of my own thriving arts organization, which is largely in existence due to my current status as an HIV positive black gay male artist. I broke down each of those words for a reason.
With each one of them come an entire host of attachments, repercussions, conditions, stereotypes and TRUTHS.
At 32 years of age, it really feels as if I've scratched the surface and started to tap into the truth of all that I am.

The last two years went by like a flash of lightning, although I remember distinctly certain periods and points.
The waking up to nightmares one month into the positive diagnosis, with thoughts of my funeral, of death, of disappointment and fear looming over my head....Of having to literally pull myself out of those thoughts some two months later, gently reminding myself that "whatever I was focusing on would indeed grow". I remember the routine of going to one of a long line of jobs that I was overly qualified and underpaid for and absolutely unhappy with. I also remember having the blessing and opportunity to be reminded of one of the joys and talents that I've been given, in acting. I remember traveling to Kentucky to perform in a production of BrotherHOODS with Alan Sharpe and my fellow cast of family for a theatre festival. I recall thinking around that time alot about just how I could maximize that experience and move away from what it was I was doing 'full time' to pay the rent. I remember thinking about this and being stumped. I also remember not stressing about it, but feeling a sense of calm come over me gently reminding me that it all was working as it needed to. That is not to say that all was well with my life at the time. I remember returning from my trip and performance to the job I hated, and thinking..... "HOW CAN I GET OUT OF THIS?" I recall my father always telling me to "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it". So now in hindsight it should have been no surprise to me when the universe gave me an 'out' of the job and situation I was in. At that point [during the summer of 2005] I remember being faced with some hard decisions about whether I would take another job that provided the illusion of 'security' that so many of us think we have when we work a 'full time' job. It was that or take an ultimate leap of faith and go for an opportunity that afforded much more time to pursue artistic opportunities but far less concrete evidence as to HOW things would pan out.

Numerous books I had read around that time spoke of tapping into your true self and in turn creating opportunities to demonstrate such. I remember reading, and thinking....I KNOW THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING MORE, even more than the hustle and bustle of working, auditioning, and going the usual actor/performer route. Granted I had no clue what that something more consisted of, but my intuition had been whispering loud enough to me at that point for me to listen and HEAR that it was indeed possible. "whatever I was focusing on would indeed grow"... after taking that tremendous leap of faith into the world of unemployment, and no health insurance (8 months into living with HIV-mind you..) I pressed forward, feeling unsure at times about whether or not I'd just shot myself in the foot so to speak. But what I did do, which I had to force myself to do around January '05 when I started letting go of the doom and despair thoughts about HIV, was put one foot in front of the other and kept moving. Within a month's time, things started to fall into their own destined place and I started gaining more hope about everything in my life. I was approved for unemployment, working part time as much as I could and auditioning full throttle to create as many performance opportunities for myself as I could.

Around this same time I was slowly beginning to realize that my life (with HIV) was not that different than it was prior to my diagnosis. With the exception of a few 'situations' that came along that summer, I was starting to feel more comfortable in my skin with HIV. Some days I thought about it, and it would be on my mind all day long, and others I completely forgot about it and life went on as usual. There were however occassional mood swings and points of sadness along the way. I let them come, and they passed. My thoughts around this time also swirled around how I would tell my mother about my HIV status. I had gone from nightmares about the uncertainty of death to dreams during which I courageously informed my mother about this 'life change' that I had experienced almost a year earlier. One thing that I can honestly say now is that I can see that I had to walk away from the job I was working in order to free up myself for the next thing the universe had in store for me. Around this time [October 2005], I had gotten cast in not one, but two plays and was living the 'life' of a working artist.

During that time, the task of telling my mother of my HIV status was still awaiting me, which was proving to be the last bit of 'weight' on my shoulders. Once I had done that, things in my life seemed to clear up amazingly, and I was nearing the one year mark of life with HIV. Things in that first year I've recounted here mainly because it was that first year that was pivotal, and provided me with the depth that I would clearly need once this year and all that it held became clear to me. In february of this year, after wondering, pondering, and staying open about what 'it' was that I was meant to be doing, the idea, the inspiration hit me.

The rest, as they cliched as it sounds is indeed history. It is my history, and its marked by perserverance and willingness to experience more. I haven't the slightest idea exactly what the next two, three, four, 20, 40 years hold for me but I trust by now that it is indeed by design and it is awaiting my arrival and attention to detail each step of the way.

My current state of mind these days is one of taking things one moment, one day at a time, which in turn enables me to show up, be fully present, and enjoy everything I encounter and experience. That is easier said than done, but as my soul committed itself to surviving and living with HIV, so do I committ myself to living in the 'FULLNESS' of who I am.

I borrow those words [living in the FULLNESS] from a dear brother, friend and mentor I just met this past weekend, while on the Us Helping Us Noir Reflections retreat. This experience of bonding with other black gay men was one that I will cherish forever. I recall thinking many times over this weekend about the past two years and really being proud of where I've been, and even prouder of where I am. The retreat was a reflection of such and for that I am truly grateful.
It is my intention to call on this the next time something, someone other than my true, full self shows up to challenge me as it will surely do.
I breathe freely, clearly however knowing already that even this is by design, and so I welcome the wind(s) and whatever blows my way
....remembering that as the Rufus and Chaka Khan song "What Am I Missing" says...
"And lookin back on my life...deep though it has been....
I'll end up like a jack knife, STANDING IN THE WIND."