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Riding Tahoe and other Adventures

ImageSo this weekend I rode my bicycle around Lake Tahoe. Yes. All the way around. Haha. It is fun to say, especially when people always ask me if I really did go all the way around the lake. It’s 72 miles of fantastic scenery and over 4,000 feet of climbing!

I have been training for a ride called the AIDS Lifecycle, which Imagetakes place on June 2nd. It is a 545 mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Yes, all on bicycle. 🙂 I can hardly believe it myself. In January I had practically no experience on a bicycle.

When I joined the South Bay Blaze cycling group, I was scared to even ride 20 miles.

They told me that if I did the weekly training rides, which went up approx. 5 miles each week, I would be ready for the Lifecycle. With each ride, I felt tired at the end of each ride. In fact, I was exhausted. But as the weeks went on I felt more confident in my riding. I began to learn the lingo, how to call out road hazards to my fellow cyclists, and how to properly eat and drink for the rides (I also learned the wonderful recovery benefits of chocolate milk!) Sure I was tired every Saturday, but I was getting stronger, taking on more hills with confidence. I was getting to know the other riders and forming friendships with them. We went through many experiences together – chilly breezes on Winter mornings, blazing heat in mid-afternoons, seemingly impossible climbs up hills, as well as potholes, bumps, zooming cars, flat-tires, glass, wind, odd tan lines, spontaneous rain, achy muscles, funky post-ride hair-do’s, challenges with spandex, bug swarms, long restroom lines, angry storeowners, rude drivers, and overwhelmed eateries across the bay area. But through it all it warms my heart to know that my buddies are there too. That they are going through everything with me, and I with them. This is not something I have ever considered before, and through the camaraderie, I have since forgotten how much I initially feared this whole experience.

And now it is May, and I have since ridden Imageover 1,000 miles on my bicycle. The approximate distance between San Jose, CA and Vancouver, BC!

I ride because I have HIV and I want to make sure everyone who is living with HIV/AIDS can get the services they need. I was blessed with amazing services in my community and hope others get the services they need wherever they live. For me, this ride is about love and community, about sticking together when we can very easily find ourselves too busy, too scared to continue the struggle to fight HIV/AIDS. The disease is still with us, despite great medical advances, and it is up to us to show up and let people know that there are so many people out there who have been affected by this virus. Even if they themselves are not HIV positive, they know someone who is, and has died of HIV, or is a child, lover, friend, co-worked, relative, acquaintance, neighbor who is still struggling with HIV.

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place, full of crystal blue waters, fertile land, crisp air and lovely vistas. But this weekend it was more. It was a place where I could let me soul find just a little bit of solace in the fact that the community I came here with was even more beautiful.

Thank you South Bay Blaze, Jamie Pereira and all our new friends for making this a weekend to remember!

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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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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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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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Paradigm Shifts (‘Tis the season!)

Paradigm Shifts (‘Tis the season!)

 

Hi Readers,

Before starting this post, be sure to check out this video below about Paradigm Shifts. It does a great job of showing what happens (quite frequently at times) when we start to TRY to understand what it is like for other people in times of frustration. I can’t speak to the actual intent of the creator of the video, but it’s a really heartwarming message.

So what is a paradigm shift? Quite simply, it is a change from one way of thinking to another (http://www.taketheleap.com/define.html) and is thought to be transformational in nature. I may be offering a mere cursory perspective on the subject, but I’m not here to give a lecture. I would simply like to posit that given a change of perspective, an amazing transformation can occur. For example, imagine you are in your car, driving to… wherever (the drug store, work, or the yarn barn), and you have planned the travel time pretty well (so you think). You are playing Adele at full blast as your scream out your own personal version of “Set Fire To the Rain.” You are thinking to yourself “My singing is pretty good! Maybe I can make a youtube video, get lots of hits, and may my way onto a talk show! I am sooo smart and cool…” As you merge onto the freeway, your focus quickly changes as traffic comes to a dead stop. “F*ck!” you say to yourself, either in your head or even out loud. You planned for traffic, but not this! This isn’t right. Where are all these *ssholes going anyway? Shouldn’t they be working, having brunch, making scarves or something? So you eek your way to your exit, and as you are about to take the offramp, you notice a car quickly sneaks into the lane, YOUR LANE, without waiting their turn with the rest of the folks. They do it so fast that it makes you hit your brakes rather abruptly. “How dare they?!” You want to give them the “I hate you look,” but as they are in front of you, you are S.O.L. (sh*t out of luck.) So you make sure to tailgate them so they know they did wrong. You notice something about them – anything really: their car make and model, any bumper stickers with stupid personal views and opinions, and indication of their age or gender. You want to hate them. You have good reason to. But what of it?

Changes your perception, change the worldDo you want to hate them? Do you want to teach them a lesson? Do you want them to suffer? Do you want them to feel the anger that you feel being slighted? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. Only you can answer that. Chances are you feel compelled to see the other person in a negative light. But holding that negativity, with nowhere to go, may not be good for anyone. After all, long after they pull away and leave your sight, you will still have unresolved anger towards a person you might possibly never meet. Like holding on to a toxic poison. Another driver may piss you off, and probably will during the holidays, and that driver will get the wrath of the first driver. By the time you get home, who gets the wrath next? Your family? Your neighbors? Your pet parakeet Charlie? When you’re on edge everyone is annoying. And what’s worse, if you are alone, the only one to beat up is yourself. Nice. So instead of enjoying your reruns of NCIS, GLEE or Jersey Shore, you are marinating in stew of your own vitriolic hatred. Bravo!

So… where is this going? You can change. You can release the anger. You can change your perspective on things and release that which causes you discomfort. This is only my personal viewpoint here, so please take it as such. This has helped me deal with the anger I feel towards others, and I am simply showing you all how my mind works in such instances.

So here goes. Take this person. Hmmm. Her name is Laura Spaghetti. She drives a beat up Honda Civic 1998. On the bumper there is a faded blue sticker which reads “My child was student of the month at HoneyBees Elementary.” So they cut you off. They are horrible people. They deserve derision right? RIGHT? Well… what if they didn’t? Hear me out. What if they weren’t out to get you, weren’t doing it to get the better of you? What if they had a really good reason for doing their driving faux pas?

ImageNow here’s the fun part. What IS the reason? What COULD be the reason? Have you ever been so pressed for time you absolutely had no regard for the feelings of other drivers? Ever? I have. I have had some times where I have been seriously late for something very important. I have been in a hurry at times when I fear for the safety and well-being of a friend or a family member. I have had horrible days – truly dismal days, where I was so distraught I simply couldn’t get my sh*t together and where driving was even difficult. I have been nervous, distracted, in love, in jealousy, in hatred, beyond worry, and damn near hysterical. When it comes down to it, I have had times when I have driven like a jerk, and was grateful that the other person didn’t take it out on me, didn’t blame me, didn’t hurt me or make me feel worse than I already had been.

So I think of Miss Laura Spaghetti, and what she might be dealing with. I think that she might have a child but can’t afford a new car. I think that also that she might not truly like her job if she has little choice but to continue just to support her family. She could have just gotten fired and is wondering where to go to make sure she has food for the next week.

I think of these things not because I believe them wholeheartedly. Truth be told, she could be on her way to IKEA to buy some forks, and didn’t want to wait all day to get off the freeway. Hmmm… But… one way of thinking puts me in a bad mindset, and carries forth through my day. The other way of the thinking, where I try to understand the other point of view, allows me the freedom to truly rid myself of that poison.

The holidays can bring out the best in people and consequently the worst as well. I sometimes hate to try to see the other point of view, because it isn’t fair. But what’s less fair than that is having to argue with that stranger in my head all day long. I really don’t have the time, nor do I care to take on that task. I want to be happy.  I want to understand rather than judge.

I want to be free – and so I am.

-Jon

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I will be grateful for this day…

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Hello World!

Lately I have been feeling great. I am not sure why. Whether it is the world around me, or a change in attitude, I seem to be bouncing back from my daily swings into slight sadness. It’s not depression, mind you. I have been there, and this feels different. I have known folks who can’t get out of bed from their Depression (here’s the clinical definition: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001941/ ), and those too scared to even move through life. That is a road I have seen, and I have gratefully never followed for too long.

No, today I am simply feeling blue. This is okay and perfectly normal. After a period of joy, it seems logical and reasonable that one would experience a slight letdown. So yeah. I am. Crestfallen, or whatever. So I felt compelled to take stock in the things in my life which already produce happiness. I just need a little change in perspective and attitude. Whenever I find myself a little bit blue like this, I find that doing a gratitude list really puts me back on the path to joy.

So here goes:

I AM GRATEFUL (see gratitude: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratitude )

I am grateful for my carpet: Because I remember a time when I had cold, hardwood floors, and a tremendous heating bill.

I am grateful for my computer: Because I remember a time when all I had was a word processor. I feel lucky and privileged to own such an advanced piece of equipment.

I am grateful for my family: Because I remember a time when I lost my mother to heart disease, and the toll it took on my brother and father.

I am grateful for my friends: Because I recall the lonely times when they were the only ones around still speaking with me. I have the best friends in the world because I know that despite having wonderful lives on their own, I know I can always depend on them when I am in need.

I am grateful for my Netflix: Because I remember when I had no choice of what to watch on TV, and only had a few channels to choose between.

I am grateful for my job: Because I remember a time when I didn’t think enough of myself to try hard.

I am grateful for my money (and lack thereof): Because I realize that the freedom to spend is a choice I make, and that it affords me wonderful luxuries. (ok, moderate luxuries, but luxuries nonetheless)

I am grateful for my food: Because I have seen how a lot of the world lives in poverty, and how significant it is to have all this wonderful food at my disposal. With Farmer’s Markets, Supermarkets, Food Trucks, Michelin Restaurants, and varieties of food from all over the world, one never finds a lack of things to eat in the Silicon Valley.

I am grateful for my healthcare: BecauImagese I remember when I was sick and had no one to turn to. I had been so used to having a health plan that the prospect of not having one frightened me. It was incredibly confusing and nerve-wracking trying to figure out how to get services. Eventually, I was offered help by wonderful Enrollment Specialists and Case Managers, but I never forgot that feeling of not being able to just run over and get some antibiotics for that pesky bronchitis I tend to get… I have Kaiser now and I love it. There may be problems, but there are usually a host of benefits that heavily outweigh the challenges these days.

I am grateful for my mood: For I remember being so scared to sleep that I would shake, so afraid to speak up that I would stay silent, so scared to joke that I would only cry.

I am grateful for the weather: Even on its worst day, Silicon Valley still has pretty tame weather. I have seen houses ruined and people die from storms both at home and abroad. A little rain here and there is no big deal.

I am grateful for my freedom: Because I have seen those who don’t have the power of choice.

I am grateful for my mentors and those who help inspire me everyday: Because I remember when I didn’t even think enough of myself to write a blog. This is for you. 🙂

Ok, I feel better… 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Feel free to comment and share your own gratitude.

-Jon

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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You gotta fight ’til your dying day! (Or “The test begins… NOW!!!!”)

You gotta fight ’til your dying day! (Or “The test begins… NOW!!!!”)

Nothing guarantees happiness. Every day can present problems which can knock you down. The true test of character comes not from what you are given, but what you create with what you have. Ben Kweller’s “Fight” illustrates the truly vital nature of sticking to one’s guns. All of the struggles I have dealt with growing up gay and coming out of the closet have made me a little bit stronger, but not invincible. Coming to terms with growing up in my twenties, and dealing with major illnesses have also made me realize how precious life is, but those experiences, as wonderfully trans-formative as they are, do not make me permanently positive, upbeat and happy. And throughout my life, I have struggled with anxiety, depression and the loss of my mother at an early age. Life can give you a big F-U without a moments notice. There are no memos, no Facebook invites, no Evites, no text messages. Life shows up. Some days big time. I can wake up feeling great, getting a head start on things, with a positive outlook, and BAMN – car accident! Or I can be on Vacation, loving life, and rewarding myself for all my struggles, and WHAM – come down with Food Poisoning. What happens next really depends on your attitude. Do you give up? Do you whine in misery? Do you lament your station in life and the fact that you were born under a bad sign? Well you could! You could blame all your problems on the world. Go ahead. It won’t help. The crap of the world is always a’brewin and will eventually make it’s way to you. There ain’t shit you can do about it. The universe doesn’t operate on your whim and fancy.

Do not despair. There is hope. Here it is. Acknowledge what you can change, and what you can’t. Sound familiar? It should. It’s part of a prayer commonly known as the “Serenity Prayer.”

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

So knowing what you can and cannot change afford you the opportunity to focus only on what’s in front of you. Some may consider suicide an option, or maybe other harmful behaviors – gambling, sleeping around, excessive drinking, using street drugs, robbery, domestic violence, or even just shutting down. As the Flaming Lips would say “To fight is to defend.” To push through pain sometimes we must fight. Sometimes pain is constant. For some the pain of depression, addiction, or other physical or mental illnesses can be a daily struggle. To merely wake up can be a challenge. One can challenge one’s lot. One can fight. For those whose struggle come on a daily basis, one must fight every day.

It’s not always easy, and it’s not always pretty. You can fight and fall flat on your ass. There’s no use in pretending. Another line Ben uses in his song “Fight” is one of my favorites “Some days are Aces, some days are Faces, some days are Twos and Threes.” (@ 2:25). Just because a day don’t get you to feel ecstasy doesn’t mean it wasn’t a success. Sometime just suiting up and showing up can show that you passed the fight test. Hell, sometimes just getting out of bed is good enough. Fight on and never give up. The test begins. NOWWWWWWWWW!

And as Shakira would say “Every day there’s a war to fight, and if I win or lose never mind.” You have to fight every day no matter what. 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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This is me… Bulleted

This is me… Bulleted

Hi Readers!

Although I feel like I have much in common with many people, I also notice that I have some quirks which make me unique… Well maybe you do these too! Hmm. Well we shall see. Here are some parts of me that I’d like to share with you today. I’d like to hear your quirks too. Please comment. 🙂

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Vesper drowning in Casino Royale

  • When I am watching a movie or TV show and the person is underwater (for whatever reason), I tend to hold my breath. Ok, not sure why, seeing as the impending doom of the actor on the screen has little to do with my environment. It is a knee-jerk reaction. I suppose I overly sympathize with the character’s situation.
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    Blastin’ that super bass. Gangsta!

    When pulling up to a car at a stoplight, or passing a car, I always look to see if their window is open. I like to play my music with the windows down sometimes (depends on what I’m playing). For some reason I always hope they will have their windows down so they can hear the music. I guess on some level I hope that they will recognize the music I play. I like some alternative and indie artists. I suppose it is my effort to make a unique connection with someone.

     

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    Lord of the Rings again? Omg I’m so stoked.

    I like to watch movies over and over… When I find a movie that makes me feel good,usually epic or sci-fi, I buy it on DVD and watch it multiple times. I feel like this may be different than a lot of people, as many of my friends decline watching and/or renting a movie they’ve already seen. Well, not me!

     

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    And then he… uh… died. I guess.
    Whatever. I do know he was shirtless at
    some point though! 🙂

    I have a hard time remembering the ending of movies… Despite my affinity towards watching movies multiple times, my brain tunes out the endings. It certainly makes it worth it to watch the movie again, to remind myself of how it ends. It also prevents me from inadvertently giving away the ending and ruining the movie for someone else. But it is a bit troubling to have that certain inability to remember…

     

  • I love colored plastic, gems, and neon lights. Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday, as there is something special about the abundance of lights. I feel safe, loved and protected. I always have to resist the temptation to put up my Christmas lights too early.

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  • My favorite song is classical choral music. I have a particular love of this song as I remember singing it when I was in the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. The Miserere Mei by Gregorio Allegri circa 1630.

So that is a part of me… bullet-ed. If you can relate, wonderful! I have found a kindred spirit out there. 🙂 If not, I’d love to hear about your unique quirks, habits, and joys.

Thanks for reading. Comments always welcome.

-Jon

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Habits and Hobbies, Music, Uncategorized

 

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