BACK ON DISABILITY: SOME REFLECTIONS

I am going back on disability. I never wanted to say that sentence, much less write it. However, reality is a harsh master at times, and if there is one thing that has never been in the same room with bigotry, it’s reality.

Long ago, I learned that life happens to us whether we like it or not. What was it John Lennon wrote years ago? “Life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.” So true.

If memory serves, I was on disability from 1985 to 1992. In 1992, after my mother committed suicide, I threw my all into getting off the disability rolls and succeeded. Although, when I told Social Security I wanted my benefits to stop I threw them into such a tizzy I began to think I’d asked them to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity by mistake.

My focus now it to do my best to make sure certain things in my life remain stable and strong: first and foremost, my sobriety (without that, all else perishes); my ability to help others by bringing them a message of hope that is based on real truths with real strategies, not just the kind of pie in the sky bullshit; my writing; and my ability to advocate for anybody who is being denied the right to be who they are safely in the world we all live in.

Human rights covers everyone and equal rights belongs to everyone – and I mean everyone: people who are gay and lesbian; people who live with disabilities; people from every religion; people who are poor; people who are rich; blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, Israelis – everyone. Everyone.

You can rest assured I will keep writing too.

I am closing in on the end of my memoir and I am going to send it to some agents. If any of you can suggest a reputable one, let me know. I may well send it directly to some publishers. I’d be open to any suggestions on that front as well. I have two novels churning around and I recently decided to write a book about what it has been like to work in the field of brain injury for nearly 15 years.

I’ve gotten some interesting feedback on the book last mentioned. Some people are thrilled and some are, well, worried, and some are scared. All I can say is I have no targets. My intention is to write it honestly and, as the saying goes, let the chips fall where they may.

Like any field I suppose, the field of brain injury has some extraordinary people working in it. There are company owners and management folks who are great. There are , you may be surprised to hear, people in the government, in the regulatory agencies, who are also great.

However, there are those in the aforementioned categories that belong on the other side of the coin from great, the darker side, if you will. There are those driven by greed and the lust for power. There are others, too many others, who descend on a badly wounded population of people with the sole intent intent of controlling them and manipulating them, in some cases through intimidation, so they can keep them in their programs or in their facilities to make money off them. Sadly, many of our badly wounded in life brothers and sisters find themselves herded into socially-approved corrals where their vulnerabilities coupled with the design of these corrals makes it a near certainty their rights and dignity will be taken away. I have witnessed this and fought this and paid the price for doing so over the years. I am paying the price even today. But this is something I am willing to give my life for. And if that happens down the road, I’ll be in good company.

You need to know that while my pen fiercely abhors dishonesty and distortion, its loyalty to honesty and clarity is unflinching and ferocious. There are some in “high places” today who go through their days wedded to the sadly mistaken belief that they are invulnerable. Wrong. Remember what I said at the beginning of this essay? Reality can be a harsh master. Always it is a just master; it spares no one.

Over the years, we have all seen many of the so-called mighty toppled from toppled from their perches, their eyes glazed over with disbelief, their expressions seem to say, “How could this happen to me? I was in my impenetrable fortress?” We’ve all seen it. Their faces etches in bewilderment, shock and dismay, their tormented expressions crying out, “Poor me! Poor me!”… Oh well…

But for now, it is back onto disability for me. As time goes by the impact of the damage I live with from the shooting changes. However, there is one thing that will never change: my unflinching commitment to doing all I can to advocate for every person’s right to be who he or she is safely in the world in which we all live in.

FATHER MYCHAL, CHIEF JOSEPH AND A "TOUGH GUY"

Getting to a blank page can be like walking through a wall of granite. If I remind myself that all I want to do is write, allow whatever wants out to come out, the page, at times, can be a cozy and comfortable place.

There are several things on my mind as 2007 draws to a close.

— The similarity I experience between the writings of Richard Wright and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Both write with a simple direct clarity. The simplicity is deceiving though. A couple of strides into one of their pieces and you are too busy experiencing the story to think about the writing. This, of course, is why they are both great writers.

— I have been thinking about Father Mychal Judge. A Franciscan Monk and chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, Father Mychal was the first death officially recorded on 9/11. He was killed when a piece of falling debris from one of the 110-story towers struck him on the head. He had removed his helmet to offer last rites to a firefighter who had been mortally wounded by a falling body. Father Mychal was gay and he was a recovering alcoholic. He had celebrated 23 years of sobriety the day before he died.

There is a beautifully written essay on Father Mychal to be found in the White Crane Journal, a publication designed to explore gay men’s spirituality. I’ll place the link below.

I’d heard of Father Mychal in the rooms of a 12-step program I belong too. A couple of years ago I watched a documentary on him called, “The Saint of 9/11.” He was an extraordinary man. And when I say man, I mean, man. Far too many still think that if a man is gay his manhood is somehow abbreviated. Not so. Not even close. As a boy I was a ballet dancer and for awhile danced with the Joffrey Ballet. I knew many men who were gay. I made an interesting discovery. They are no different than anyone else. We are all equal despite ourselves, whether we like it or not.

Father Mychal’s prayer has been on my mind as well: His prayer goes like this.

“Lord, take me where you want me to go. Let me meet the people you want me to meet. Tell me what you want me to say. And keep me out of your way.”

http://www.whitecranejournal.com/wc_Father_Mychal_Judge.htm

— I have been mulling over a constellation of things that revolve around Chief Joseph’s famous quote, “I will fight no more forever”, and a year in which I’ve absorbed my fair share of betrayals, cruelty and nastiness.

A woman I was involved with for awhile playfully called me a “tough guy” once. At first, I disagreed. I associated being a “tough guy” with being a bully, and I’ve never been a bully. But what she meant was, if you’ll forgive the rather crass expression, I don’t take shit from people. And I don’t.

I struggle with absorbing a simple but, for me, difficult-to-digest truth. Not responding when someone takes a run at you does not mean you are letting them get away with it, although it sure as hell can feel that way. This is something I need to work on – and will.

I need to move into my day ,so will close this piece (for now). Before I do, there is something else I have been thinking about as this year comes to a close. I want to bring more love and kindness into the world, into my work, into my writing, into my life. This requires a steadfast commitment to humility on my part, which is not always easy, but that’s the way it is.