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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Inspire me!

Inspire me!

Well, helloooooooo!

I have been blogging for over a year now, and have found it exceedingly fun. I actually got inspired by watching Julie and Julia (thank you to the late and great Nora Ephron). I do plan on reading the book eventually… lol220px-Julie_and_julia

I related a lot to Julie’s steps and missteps in life, trying to find a place where she felt loved, appreciated, and passionate. She found herself slipping in life, falling between the cracks of her peers, and struggling to find an identity. She found herself. It was not through meditation, rehab, or even a relationship, it was through cooking. Cooking Julia Child specifically. She decided to take on the task of cooking all the recipes in Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking. How she dealt with the ups and downs of cooking reflected how she handled her problems in her life. (check out the clip below – from the movie) Do you simply give up after a failure? Do you constantly have a need for approval? Can you simply try and love yourself for trying? I found the message to be truly heartwarming. The Julie character was human. She was imperfect, and beautiful. She tried at life. She went in not knowing what to expect. She had many setbacks, but eventually succeeded, not just by accomplishing what she set out to do, but every single time she picked herself up and kept at it, she was a success. I can relate.

All my life I have felt less than. I feel like everyone else is in competition, and that I will ultimately be the loser. I gain strength from the messages in this film. I found that I can be me, aIMG_6896nd that I am glorious already. It is time to shine. I am simply putting my thoughts into this blog. I am obviously not an expert, well, in anything really. But I like to think that I can love myself simply because I deserve love. Everyone does.

So enough with the heavy… I am still waiting to see what life this blog will take. I am trying to let it go in its own direction. I look to you now to inspire that direction. Please fill out the poll below and let me know what (if any) of the following would interest you. I really want to know! 🙂 If it’s not on the list, just let me know in the comment section.

Thank you for reading… And although I may not know all of you, I love you just the same.

XOXO

-Jon

 

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Negative Calories (aka Don’t drink the poison)

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Sometimes I can’t believe the shit people say… Sigh…

Is it right to be judgmental? Must everything be black or white? I like to think that there are many shades of gray. The critique I hear about musicians, actors, actresses, sports players, and even friends, and acquaintances can be so… well… mean. I get that we as humans like to make judgements. If we did not, we’d never sit on a chair, because we’d be forever considering and debating what a “chair” is, instead of saying “it has a flat surface, and four legs and a back support – it’s a chair – and then sit. Well, when it comes to others people, especially friends and acquaintances, I often feel pulled into opinions and critical judgments – as if I am supposed to not like certain people, to judge people harshly, to make them feel less than. As I grow and learn, I often see how hateful and mean people can be.

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“#*%$(@!?!” – some angry dude

Just this weekend I experienced the misplaced rage of a driver who shouted “get off the road you assholes” to me and my friends as we were out on a bike ride, and at a stoplight. I have recently read that Don Miguel Ruiz suggests not looking at the person doing the shouting, but instead at my reaction to the offense. Did we deserve to receive such hateful words? No. Were we being safe and respectful of others on the road? Yes. Did we do anything to warrant such anger from a stranger? Absolutely not. SO then why would I even be bothered by this? Human nature tells me that anyone in that situation would be bothered by being yelled at. Well, is that really true? Do all people feel such low self-esteem that a comment by some angry passerby really makes them re-evaluate their entire existence? I’d hate to think so. In fact, I bet a lot of people would tell me that they wouldn’t even be the least bit affected by that.

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Beware of the pizza dude (caveat emptor…)

Letting the anger and hate of others slide right off sounds easy enough, but what if you weren’t in a place to take that so easily? Should one blame themselves further for letting it happen? Well that certainly wouldn’t help matters.

So what is there to do? Avoid ever going outside? Stay away from any public setting for the rest of your life? Not an option. The answer again must come from within.

Don Miguel Ruiz speaks of a Magical Kitchen in which one has all they could ever eat – all the best food in the world. Someone shows up at your door one day, and offers you a pizza. There is a catch. If you take the pizza you have to obey that person. If you have all the food you could ever want, you wouldn’t think twice about giving up your freedom to a stranger with a pizza. You have what you need. You don’t feel any compulsion to give in.

Now imagine the same scenario without the advantage of having any food at all. You are starving, and the stranger offers you food. You take it. You need to. You are willing to do anything to get it. Even give up your freedom. You can’t help it. You are dependent on this handout.

Ok, so this is all metaphorical obviously. If you already have something in excess, you won’t be tempted to become dependent on it from another. Although in this example we use food. One could also apply the same logic to love. When I love myself in excess, the hateful words of another are meaningless to me. Not because I have a witty comeback, or because I am completely numb, but because I really have no place in my life for such negativity. It just doesn’t fit. It bounces off without effort.

That’s where I want to be. I want to exist in a place where the negativity of those around me doesn’t stick. I often hear half-compliments, things meant to be witty but are also seemingly hurtful. Maybe I am just way too sensitive. I see a lot of gay men do this to each other – talking about how they want to be accepted by society, while at the same time, they talk about each other like an enemy, like they hate them. They critique, judge, and make cutting remarks about looks, style, body, talents, social standing, class, and intelligence, to name a few. Sometimes I wonder why people who are still being treated like second-class citizens treat each other like they are less-than. I see racism and sexism too. Teasing people about the way they look or where they come from. It bothers me. Well, I must say that I choose to steer clear of it when I see it. It’s a deal-breaker for me. I guess it makes it hard to make friends sometimes. I feel like people like when other people feed into their hate and negativity. Since I try to avoid it, I often avoid the people who display these traits. Despite the challenges of finding good friends, who aren’t critical or judgmental, who aren’t racist or sexist, age-ist, or class-ist, there are good people out there. I value the friendships I have today for the fact that those in my life are positive influences. They are the best friends I could ever ask for, and I truly love them.

Society will never understand our love... :-)

Society will never understand our love… 🙂

P.S. – It is good to be happy.

Thanks for reading.

-Jon

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The cheapest therapy available…

The cheapest therapy available…
GIIIIRL!

GIIIIRL!

Dear readers,

Want a way to find cathartic relief? The answer may be closer than you think. Often attributed to teenage girls, the answer I have found to prove most effective is that which involves only mere introspection. What the hell am I talking about? Why writing in a diary of course!

Dear diary... Misty is such a whore.The simple act of putting one’s ideas to paper can offer immediate relief to someone have a rough day. I often find that after dealing with a lot of crap during the day, I tend to let all the worry and angst sit in my head. I revisit this worry over and over, and ruminate about my feelings, and my reactions to these feelings. “Why did that guy look at me funny?” Or “I really felt bad about what someone said about me on Facebook. It made me angry and sad.” What I tend to dwell on can vary from superficial to profound. In both cases, it is not important the stimulus. What is important is how I attach myself to the emotional reaction to the stimulus. After all, I have no control over the past. I can choose to keep it all inside and tell myself that I should feel the way I feel. That I am silly and petty. Egotistical. Dramatic. Emotional. A wimp. A sissy. An idiot. I can tell myself these things all day long and not even realize it. It is not the words I say to myself. It is merely the impulse to refuse myself the truth of my feelings. Yes, a superficial thought is superficial, but it may have a big impact on my emotional state, especially if the mere thougBad day...ht of it makes me feel like a fool. “How can I be so effected by something so unimportant? It’s silly! I’m silly! Well, well, well, look who is a fool yet again!”

Sorry, this book's private :-)

I say “therapist” as it seems to me that a lot of psychotherapy involves the patient merely coming to their own conclusions. The therapist is a guide, but the client is walking the path. It can be quite annoying to realize that despite spending hundreds of dollars on counseling, the bulk of the therapy work is often my own. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to the process of guiding one’s thought processes. After all, that is the whole problem in the first place. It is not the stimulus. It is the response. And the response is not based solely on the stimulus. It may be based on childhood experiences and past events or traumas. Merely the thought of an event, a trigger, may be enough to make me feel like that scared kid in pre-school all over again.

Rough day...So I am wired to react a certain way when I encounter challenges. I am conditioned like a dog to respond the way I always have. I can’t help it. I have become a master of my own belief system. (see my previous post – A cloak of invisibility (or fashion in times of Lent) http://wp.me/p1qguS-bs ). I have learned very well to react with negativity to that which scares the shit out of me. The answer is not to blame myself, or my station in life. I am not out to blame anyone. Life is. My life is what it is. No amount of blame will change the past. It is up to me to be a champion of my own future. A shepherd of my soul. I may not pave the road, but I choose to walk it. I am the captain of my ship, but not master of the seas. So what is there to do in times of trouble? Let it be. (Thank you Beatles…)

I choose to write it down in a journal. I find that this frees me of the residue of the day. I still need to practice mindfulness, and all that other good stuff, but when it comes to a quick release, nothing beats a nice journal sesh. Try it! You might be surprised at how great it feels. The more honest you are, the better it feels.

What’s even more fun – reading your old journal entries every time you make a new one. You discover some interesting patterns along the way. These are not bad, but merely facets of your personality. And awareness can bring about transformation over time should you wish to change.

Thanks for reading.

-Jon

Jon Book 2

 

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A cloak of invisibility (or fashion in times of Lent)

ImageOccasionally I freak out. Not like in a outwardly crazy sense, but more in the way that one usually keeps hidden. At times I feel like I am simply a child “acting” like an adult. Navigating each day like a dream where there are no rules, nothing is certain, and danger potentially lurks behind each dark corner. Ok, so most of the time I can keep it together, maintaining a good exterior facade and putting on a game face which says “I’m okay… got everything under control. I got this… Really… I got this.” This is certainly not how I feel on this inside. Under this mask, I am worried. I am concerned about the future. I worry. A lot.

ImageI suppose this all comes from worries I’ve held since I was young. Don Miguel Ruiz posits that we inherit a belief system growing up, which we cling to ad infinitum. Being scared, we react with anger, we transfer our “poison” to another, and we feel better. We become such wonderful masters at doing this that it becomes second nature. It is now part of who we are. Becoming less divorced from our surroundings, we now inherit those traits which have been taught to us unconsciously by society. Well, I suppose we have to be good at something! I just would have wished that something to be a positive aspect of human relations. It feels like control, this reactionary existence. It feels empowering to know that we can rid ourselves of potentially negative feelings simply by transferring them to another. But do we ever “really” get rid of these unwanted and often uncomfortable emotions? I think not. It almost seems like a game of tennis – hitting a ball back and forth, the final “receiver” of the ball is the loser. But wait for the next round. That goddamn ball is heading right back for ya! And not only is it on its way, its more powerful than before. You “opponent” is seriously pissed off, and wants you to lose. Seems so petty, this struggle. Where’s the love?! Where’s the humanity?! Why even play the game at all? Well, we are taught that we must play the game from a very early age. Just try to quit, you might see a bit of resistance from your fellows. A “Carlos Castaneda” sort of way of dealing with the world. Image

One wonders whether there are shades of gray as far as judgement and perceptions of one’s connectedness to social norms. Are you drinking enough of the “Kool Aid”? Certainly the Kool Aid drinkers want you to join in. You must text back immediately, you must email withing 24 hours, you must attend a gathering you committed to, you must work during the day, and sleep at night. Eggs are for breakfast, and cake is for dessert. You must answer your phone. You must have a cell phone, an email, a facebook, and so on…

Ok, so not to indulge too much or get too “out there,” I will try to bring it back to my original topic – worry.

So let’s say I have been pretty much trained like a dog to react to certain stimuli with fear, anger, and a compulsion to release any uncomfortable feelings. It certainly seems plausible. Ok, so if that’s true… what to do?

I don’t want to release any “poison” to those around me simply to relieve my own tension and anxiety. I love my friends and family, and the world around me. I don’t want to be in conflict with the world. The world/universe is my god, and I want to be at peace with my god. Therefore the answers must come from inside. An undoing. A willingness to suffer a little discomfort. To finally let a part of me die so that another part of me can live – Wait, wasn’t that the premise to Harry Potter? Hmmm… I digress.

Anyway! So, upon this Lenten season, I see this as an arbitrary opportunity to let part of me die. To finally let the waves of discomfort subside. What does not kill me makes me stronger (said the great and wise Kelly Clarkson). So I need not be afraid. Lent is a time for transformation. I look to those who have survived the Holocaust, both physically and mentally. How did these folks find freedom in such an oppressive environment? By seeking freedom from a sacred place – a place within. A place that no one, no matter how strong or cruel, could ever desecrate. But transformation is not easy. As my mentor and friend David Bruner says “Practice makes permanent.” I must find a new belief system, and guide myself through everything I do with my new beliefs. I need not seek the approval of the outside world, for I know that I am loved, and that I will come out stronger on the other side.

Happy Ash Wednesday folks. And may the odds be ever in your favor! 🙂

Thanks for reading.

-Jon

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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Putting myself “out there…”

Putting myself “out there…”
No shame campaign

No shame campaign

 

Hello Readers,

So last week I posted a story on facebook. Not just any story. A story about myself. Well, more than just a story. More like a “tell all.” A coming out if you will. Only this one didn’t have to do with being gay, It had to do with having HIV. So…. Yeah. Here we go.

I really didn’t know what to expect. This all came about because of several things. First, I work for a non-profit and do fundraising for people with HIV. I thought that by showing people that I wasn’t ashamed to be HIV positive, that others would feel less stigma as a result. After all, I see a lot of things which are supposed to reduce stigma, but despite all the media out there, I found it hard to find a role model I could relate to. Most folks are celebrities or part of a different generation. I don’t really see a lot of guys my age just out and proud. I felt like it was time to have someone out there with a voice. So I decided to “be the change” I wanted to see. (thank you Mohandas Gandhi) I wrote a story (not a perfect one, but one from the heart). I wrote it once, and let it be. It was true. It was real. I wasn’t looking to get published. I just wanted so desperately to get my truth out there and my voice heard. And heard it was.

The other reason was that I am doing the AIDS Lifecycle – a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Without any previous experience riding a bike or without owning any gear (or a bike for that matter) I have been training with an awesome group of people who gave me all I need to succeed in this great endeavor. I felt that doing this trans-formative ride was just the spark I needed to set my heart on fire. I have been trying to raise $10,000 for these two causes, and I must say – it is hard! I mean, really hard. I am not wealthy, nor do I have many wealthy friends. I went into this with good intentions but not really knowing what was going to happen. I am seeing that my friends and family don’t hesitate to help when asked. My parents have been more than generous. Supporting my ride by even providing me with a new bike to get me to LA safely. I only hope to make them  proud of the work I am doing, and that I make a real difference in the lives of people in the HIV/AIDS community. I still wanted to do more. I recorded a PSA at work where I again “come out” about my status. I am considering even promoting my efforts at the gym with a sign which reads “Help me fight HIV/AIDS. Ask me how.” I have no clue how others will react. After all, I don’t live in San Francisco’s Castro district. I may get pushback, in fact I’m pretty sure of it. But no matter. I’m not going to stop until I reach my goals. And if it makes the life of LGBT youth a little better growing up in the South Bay, then it was worth it. I often see that once people get to know me, they don’t have a problem with me being gay. It is often those who don’t know me that tend to be confrontational and intolerant. So I guess I am just trying to put it out there more. Get people to realize that HIV affects more people than they know. People like me.

So here is what I wrote. I posted it to Facebook so it is now FOREVER in cyberspace. I suppose it belongs to the universe now. Haha. No matter. I have been quiet all my life. I am sick of it and I’m ready to speak out. There is rampant intolerance even here in the US. I am seeing the past generations lead the way, but I am not sure what my role is in this generation. I want to make a difference – that is all.

Thank you for reading. (and if you can make a small donation via the links below, that would be lovely.)-Jon

Here is the story/post:

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Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I have been an active supporter of HIV related causes for a while now. Although it is quite rewarding work in and of itself, I must admit I have my personal reasons.I am a 30 year-old man, and since 2006, I have been diagnosed as being HIV positive. This had been quite a shock for me, as I was only 24 at the time. I never thought that anything like this would happen to me. I still felt young, I still felt innocent. I was still finding out who I was in the world. Had this diagnosis been made in the 1980’s or even 1990’s, I might not be here today. Despite the information out there, at first I was very scared. I had no idea what it meant to be positive. I had heard stories from growing up of HIV positive people who had lost their loved one’s to the virus. As a teenager, I had read the names of people on the AIDS Quilt in commemoration of those who had passed. My first thought was “I might soon join them.” I felt guilty for having HIV and blamed myself constantly. I had always regarded myself with understanding and love, but at that moment, I really knew what it meant to be ashamed. I thought, for some reason, I would no longer be loved. I have found that nothing could be further from the truth.When I told my family, not only were they understanding and supportive, they made sure to ask me how my health was on a regular basis. My friends rallied by my side, and even help me find books and resources to help me figure out what to do next. The community even had a seminar in which I received support from a loving community and lots of useful information. With the love and support of friends, family and the community, I felt a renewed sense of love and compassion for myself. I felt like I had been given an opportunity to turn this illness into a reason to fight for better health. The constant blood draws, the doctor visits, and the medications were scary at first, but again the support of those around me allowed me to continue to forge ahead. Now 30 years old, I am now healthier than I have ever been (according to my doctor). At first, I thought my HIV would take over my life – Instead, it has afforded me the opportunity to look at my life, really look at how precious it all is, and how grateful I am to be living in a community that cares about me, no matter what illness I have.I can’t help but think of how things could have been if I had been infected ten, fifteen or twenty years prior. After all, things were not always so great for people like me. In the 80’s and 90’s there were few options for people with HIV, and the options that were available were certainly not ideal. With countless side-effects including facial wasting and lipodystrophy, I can’t imagine the hell that the first group of HIV positive individuals had to endure to pave the way for the medications available today. I would not be here if it weren’t for them. I quite literally owe them my life. Although it isn’t always easy when you have HIV, but it is certainly good enough that I can pay forward that which was given so generously to me. I am certainly glad to be alive.

When I moved to San Jose, I lost my health insurance. I had what they call a “Pre-existing condition.” Basically, no health provider would enroll me. I was now on a list. For the first time in my life, I had no one to go to for my care or medications. I was scared of what would happen to me. I felt like I was being punished for being sick. What a horrible feeling that was. Through a miracle, I spoke with a friend who referred me to The Health Trust, a non-profit in San Jose that helps people with HIV get connected to services. My social worker helped me with all the paperwork and referrals. He not only helped me find medical services and medicine, he also helped me understand the services available to me in the San Jose area. I left that appointment at The Health Trust in tears and feeling truly grateful. Never before had I gone from a place of utter despair to true serenity in so brief a time. I was going to be okay. I was going to get all I needed to get my health back in order. I was then seen at the PACE Clinic, by the best medical team I have ever encountered. The understanding and support they gave me not only got my viral levels down, and my white blood cell count up, but made me want to do more for the community that made it all possible.

Although now I have Health Insurance through my employer, I have never forgotten what it felt like to feel alone, scared, and in fear of dying. I don’t ever think I can fully repay for the services I have received. But what I can do is help. And so I have dedicated my life to making sure others have the same great services in this community as I have had. I see every day how much of a struggle it is to keep these programs running. Many folks have forgotten that HIV is still with us, and continuing to infect more youth every day. And so I feel it my duty to continue to fight, not only for my own health, but for the health of others – those who are aging, those who are newly diagnosed, and those who still are too afraid to get tested. I do it for them, and for those who have fought so bravely for the services we have today. I will fight until my last day, which thanks to the struggles of generations past, is hopefully not for a long time.

Through my work at The Health Trust, I help fundraise for HIV services. I am truly blessed to be able to give back to the community that has helped me.

This year I have dedicated myself to two causes that are very much important to me:

Inline image 1The Health Trust AIDS Services – The organization that helped me get my Health Care back when no other Healthcare plan would have me. They are the largest non-medical provider in Santa Clara County (my home). This organization is very near and dear to me and needs help to continue to provide HIV services in the San Jose area. Please consider helping my community to better health and help me reach my $5,000 goal to help folks down here in San Jose: http://www.razoo.com/story/Dining-Out-For-Life-Silicon-Valley-A-Benefit-For-Hiv-Aids?referral_code=share

Inline image 2AIDS Lifecycle – This year I have decided to join the AIDS Lifecycle, riding 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles on bike to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS. (I have never done this before, and haven’t ridden since I was 10. haha… But I am training every week and won’t stop til I reach Los Angeles.) I need a minimum of $3,000 to ride. It would mean so much to have your support. You can help support me in my ride by clicking here: http://www.tofighthiv.org/site/TR/AIDSLIFECYCLE12/AIDSLifeCycleCenter?px=2738564&pg=personal&fr_id=1550

I have made it my goal to raise $10,000 between these two causes, so no one will have to be scared like I was. I don’t make too much money (as I work for a non-profit… lol) but would like to see if any of my friends and family would be willing to help out in any way they can. (even a dollar would be great.) 🙂

If you aren’t able to give, it would really great if you could please forward this email to your contacts. It would mean a lot to me.

Thank you for reading.

With gratitude,

-Jon Jeremy Breen

(PLEASE FEEL FREE TO FORWARD THIS EMAIL)

 

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