Living Ghost

There was once a time where everything I did felt good.

Now the things that once brought me joy chip away at my soul leaving me feeling like I am no longer a real person.

Imagine how scary it is becoming a ghost when you are still living.

Belief

I speak quite freely about my own personal beliefs to those who have the inclination to listen.

I don’t believe in preaching my beliefs though as they are intrinsically my own and would likely not be as applicable to others as they are to me. That of course is I suppose the nature of belief.

I believe in love, in tolerance, in forgiveness, in equity, in diversity, choice and freedom.

I champion these rights in others even when they do not give me the same in return because it is morally just.

I held the belief for a long time that because I knew I was right, it gave me the right to chastise others for being wrong. I learned that I gain nothing from this and distance myself from my interpretation of God by doing so. God is not a belief system, but a lifestyle.

By accepting all facets of myself and others I am more able to confidently accept my place in the world and rise above any form of intolerance which may come my way.

Tomorrow

So often in school we say,

“When’s the next holiday?”

While it is lovely having something to look forward to; I find myself thinking lately that if we continually pray for tomorrow to come, we end up losing the present.

I don’t want to wake up in ten years and pray for it to be yesterday, I want to wake up and think,

“Yesterday was good, but what is today going to bring.”

Stuck

Today I feel…I don’t even know.

Sometimes I tell people I am fine when really I am anything but. It is a lie but told for the right reasons. Other people don’t need to know that behind the smile, is a world of turmoil.

Sometimes I tell myself I am fine when really I am anything but. It is a lie, told to keep myself going. I want to cry, I want to scream, I want to shout and curse, and tell the world how unfair this thing called life is.

Inside my head is a vortex of emotion, in a constant state of flux. The battle between rational and irrational has long been fought and the war seems endless, hopeless.

Every minute feels like a chore, every hour a burden. Answers to questions long ignored swirl and vie for attention, yet are ignored for fear that acknowledging them will be the catalyst to my breaking again.

I came close. To the edge of the precipice. To the only decision that can’t be unmade. It almost broke me, it almost destroyed me, and I fear that rather than having overcome the darkness, all I have ever managed is to delay it.

Being the best version of yourself is difficult when you don’t know who you are. Trying to decide what to do next, when you don’t even know what to do now.

Wanting everything, and having nothing.

Existing but never living.

Doing nothing, doing nothing. Until it is no longer an option until you have no choice but to do something.

Stuck.

Never Play With Fire​

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Sitting quietly outside the doorway he was invisible.

Eyes the colour of earth, soaked with rain took in everything. Not the details of the room, nor the occupants; so enraptured in their conversation that the quiet boy went unnoticed, even as he shuffled closer to the door.

Upon arrival, the visiting adults had gushed over the artwork which the twins had brought home with them. From drawings and paintings to the hula hoops wrapped in crepe paper which hung ceremoniously at the bottom of the stairs. These props and pictures had been instrumental to the event the twins had attended earlier in the day. Now like all children’s crafts, they awaited their fate of either being discarded or moved into another room to be forgotten about for a while.

The twins often attended events like this and each time their parents marvelled at what they had created as if each project were a priceless work of art. Darren liked this, and getting to show off what he created to more grown-ups when his relatives visited was an added bonus.

The twins godparents came to dinner about once a fortnight. The routine always the same. Dinner, drinks and then hours of chatting and laughing together in the living room. The only variation came when a football match was on, and the men would slink off to the kitchen to watch, all the while shouting and cheering along so that everyone knew what they were doing.

After the first round of drinks, the twins godfather would take out his pipe and load it up. Darren loved watching his godfather smoke his pipe, from the way he tapped out the ashes, to the packing of the tobacco into the empty bowl with the edge of his thumb. The way he licked his lips before placing the pipe firmly between his teeth and taking a brief pause as he fished his gold-plated Zippo lighter out of his pocket.

This was Darren’s favorite part. The glint of golden metal as the lid flipped back, the spark which caught just as the smell of gas which came from the lighter became noticeable. The fire as it jumped to life, as if by magic, so brazen and free. Yet, contained as soon as the lid snapped shut and quelled the flickering flame.

Darren often watched quietly as his godfather smoked, and reveled in the moments he could watch this fascinating device be used.

From the doorway to the living room he watched as usual as the Zippo was freed from its pocket.  Produced with a flourish it opened and lit in one fluid movement. With his pipe already between his teeth, he puffed away happily until he was satisfied it was lit. While normally the lighter went straight back into the pocket it had come from; on this day it was instead placed on the floor, to the side of the chair his godfather occupied.

Darren paid no attention to the adults in the room, as they likewise did the same to him. Whether they were aware of him or not, Darren didn’t know. His eyes were fixed on the golden treasure before him. There was something alluring, adult and powerful and the draw to this power was too much for Darren to resist.

He stole into the room and without interjection lifted the lighter, before making a hasty retreat. After years of watching this giant of a man create fire from nothing; Darren now held this prized device in his hands.

The movements his godfather made to open the lighter were movements made with practiced hands. Practice Darren had never had. It took minutes to open the lighter, yet once open the magical flame did not erupt. Instead, Darren was left staring at sharp metals, contained within the metallic casing.

Growing more curious, and frustrated Darren retreated from his doorway hiding place to the sanctity of the stairway. The walls on either side giving him a little more privacy to fathom the secrets this metal mystery held uninterrupted.

Copying the motions made by his godfather, Darren was surprised when he finally managed to flip the lid properly causing the flame to appear, as a genie from a lamp. Ready to appear, but waiting to be released.

The flame itself was beautiful. The yellow, red and orange which danced in synchronicity around a core of black which lay at the heart of the flame. The longer Darren stared the more entranced he became.

If he’d paid attention, he may have noticed the body of the lighter heating up. Instead, it wasn’t until his hand released the hot metal that Darren realised his mistake. In his haste to create; he had given no thought to how he would destroy this rapidly growing beast.

After escaping his hand the lighter landed on the bottom step. Picking it up quickly and carefully, wary now of the hot metal Darren closed the lid.

The damage, however, was already done.

The flame having escaped the confines of its metallic prison was now trying to flee. It crawled along the carpet, slowly as if testing the limits of it’s new found freedom.

Self-presevation was the first instinct to kick in. Hastily entering to the living room Darren returned the lighter to the spot he had taken it from before moving back to the stairs. The fire on the bottom step still moved slowly, but as Darren looked on unsure how to tackle this beast he watched in horror as the flame moved towards the crepe paper, which dangled still from the hula hoops hanging on the end of the stairwell.

The paper exploded with heat. The walls, the carpet the very floor melted under the intense heat caused by this unexpected fuel source. As the hoops were engulfed so too were the stairs and Darren realised all too late that things were out of his control.

He thought of fire extinguisher in the kitchen. He thought of the adults who could better help, but he was so conflicted with the idea that he’d be in trouble he froze. Eyes locked on the growing inferno, tears escaped as finally, an alarm sounded.

At once all of the adults sprang to action. The men moving to extinguish the flame and the women moving to console the child frozen at the bottom of the burning stairway. They removed him from the house until the fire had been dealt with, and Darren learned a very important lesson.

Never play with fire.

Response to “When I’m Beside You”

Often I decide not to post things I have written on Forever Distracted by Life because they are too personal.

As I’ve worked on blogging lately I have begun to read more blogs. The more I read, the more I realise that successful content is generally the content which is raw, and real.

With that in mind I wrote ‘When I’m Beside You’. I truly wanted to reflect on a time which to me was most real, most difficult. I reflected on a memory that I still recall vividly, of a time just prior to me coming out to my family.

While I’ve never hid the fact that I’m gay. It’s not something I talk about unless other people bring it up. Until recently it was because I didn’t really feel that being gay was a label that I wanted to define myself by. However when working with my counselor recently I realised that it wasn’t just this fear of being labeled, it was a sense of shame which I’ve carried with me since coming out.

When I came out at first I was very supported, but it was also a very difficult process for me. Until I started counseling this year, I didn’t realise how much coming out when I did, and in the way that I did had affected me. However, with time to reflect and someone to guide me through this process, I see now the lasting impact this has had.

While I’ve never discussed this publicly, it actually feels good to be able to write about so freely. As sexuality was something I tried hard to repress while growing up, it’s incredibly liberating to so openly acknowledge something that is so innately a part of myself.

I am Darren, and I am an out and proud gay man.

I came out to my family all at once on the 22nd of June 2007. I didn’t intend to. But after attending the wedding of a close family friend together I was left feeling a little morose as I’d just recently went separate ways from the first person I’d ever been with.

While we were never officially together in any sense of the word, I was always closer to him than he was to me.

Being at the wedding made it all the more real that what I’d had with him, would never be anything more than that. Ultimately until I could accept what wanting him meant, I would never be happy.

Once he was out of my life, I had to deal with the fact that I was gay. The way I was raised, the society and culture which surrounded me growing up had left me ashamed whenever I tried to acknowledge this part of myself. I tried so hard to repress it, hoping it would go away, and hating myself whenever I failed and gave into my desires.

Being a young gay teenager, with no real role models I only had the negative stereotypes and hang-ups about homosexuality that had been instilled in me from a young age. The damage it does to a young mind, constantly hating themselves for something they have not control over is devastating and lasting. I’m not sure I will ever fully recover from the impact it has had on me.

Yet despite this, I had to come to terms with it. A few trusted friends were told prior to my family learning, but these people were few and far between.

After the wedding, I remember sitting in my bedroom. My mother on her way to bed always popped her head in the door to say goodnight. That night she saw the look on my face and wouldn’t leave me alone. She knew there was something important I was dealing with, but couldn’t figure it out.

I didn’t want to tell her; I wasn’t ready for it. But I did it anyway.

I’d always expected my mother to be fine with my sexuality. She’d proven herself open and accepting of so many other things in her life that I never really expected anything other than acceptance, then moving on as normal. The response I got was closer to shock and disbelief.

My mother listened for a while as I spoke. She took a long time to reply. Her eyes spilled over with tears, long before she was able to speak. She was dismissive and refused to believe what I was telling her. She cried openly, and stated boldly,

“It’s just a phase. You can’t tell anyone, don’t let anyone know. It could go away.”

She said a lot of other things, but really those are the only words that stuck with me. I was so ashamed of myself, and of the pain that I had caused her. Again, I blamed myself for the response that I got.

My mother sat with me for a long time before eventually going to bed. She made me promise not to tell my father before leaving me for the evening.

I didn’t sleep that night, instead, I lay awake wondering what would happen next. Feeling as though I had failed my parents and myself for being something terrible and unforgivable.

My older brother was the first to come to me the next day. My mother confided in him early, and he spent hours the next morning talking her through what she was dealing with. He came to me after in the way that he always does. With mirth in his eyes, and a playful smile on his face.

We joked a little, making light of how upset my mother was. She had cried for three days when PJ left home for the first time. Overreaction was just her way of processing we reasoned.

Yet I couldn’t face her that day at all. I couldn’t look her in the eye. Couldn’t see her crying still, hours into the next day without feeling guilt and shame.

My father was next to come to my room. I had stayed in there all day. Refusing to leave on the offchance that I be forced to talk to anyone. My dad brought me a coffee and carried a newspaper under his arm. He sat across from me and handed me the coffee.

“So eh, your mum eh…she told me.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just nodded.

Opening the newspaper to page three, he inclined his head at the picture of the topless model on the page and said,

“So she doesn’t do anything for you then?”

Again I couldn’t bring myself to speak out loud, but he took the quick shake of my head from left to right as a sign to continue as he closed the paper over, and stood up.

“Well, whatever makes you happy.”

He gave me a rare smile, then left.

For the first time that day, I was truly happy.

My father was very much a traditional man. A former soldier, his desire for routine is almost obsessive. I had half expected all of the worst reactions to coming out to come from my father. The simple and unquestioned acceptance I got from him gave me strength in my decision to boldly be who I wanted to be.

It took my mum a long time to come to terms with my sexuality. For a while, it made being open with her about my life difficult. I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about anything real. About the things, my brother had been able to go to her for.

With time though, came understanding and our relationship recovered. My family continues to support me, and I them.

While it is never spoken about, and it is difficult to acknowledge coming out was both the making and breaking of me. It made me stronger because I was able to embrace a part of myself that I had repressed for such a long time. Only by embracing that part was I ever able to start developing as a person.

But it left me with a lingering shame, guilt for a pain that I had caused. Coming out is something everyone should have the right to do safely and without fear of rebuke. But it should also be done at the right time, and in the right way. I can’t change the way it happened for me, but I’m glad it did.

Coming to terms with the effect that coming out had on me was different. Trying to pretend it hadn’t hurt me meant that I could never move past that negativity I felt. But owning it, acknowledging it has made it much easier for me to just be me. It’s also freed me because I recognise that the shame and guilt I felt were only there because I allowed them to be.

Being comfortable with yourself is the first step towards being happy. The road is a long one, but once again I find myself aware of where I am, rather than where I have been or where I am going. Where I am now is a place of contentment, and hopefully a path to a happier future.

When I’m Beside You

His chest rose and fell in slow repetition. His skin was marble; it clung to his slender frame. Moonlight bathed him in a cold embrace. The light was eerie, yet made his every detail visible.

He wore little. The blanket which had at first maintained his modesty, lay abandoned. Leaving his body exposed, save for the thin cotton briefs which clung to his narrow hips.

The erotic vision before him did nothing to quell the unease which lay in Darren’s stomach.

The sensual rise and fall of Kaz’s chest, the occasional flicker of his eyes as he dreamed. For Kaz sleep came almost as quickly as he did. Darren had never been as lucky. When Kaz abandoned him after every encounter Darren would lie conflicted, shamed and guilty. Unable to sleep. Unable to turn off the thoughts which plagued him on a cyclical loop within his head.

At first, it was a game. They were young after all. It didn’t have to mean anything. As they approached the end of their teens, the game was abandoned. All that was left was the sex, pure and simple. Except it wasn’t pure. It wasn’t simple.

For years they had played this game. When alone, they were together. No kissing, no talking about it. Just sex. It isn’t gay if you don’t talk about it. Right?

Around others, neither acknowledged the other as anything other than friends. Best friends. Perhaps at one time.

Kaz was confident and brash. Darren timid and mindful. Darren hid, where Kaz would jest and jibe. Darren wasn’t attracted to the person. He revered the personality. The ease with which Kaz could be around other people.

Yet Kaz kept Darren in the loop. The few friends Darren had he had because of Kaz. Or at least that’s how Darren saw it. The naivety of youth had yet to leave him.

Even as Darren’s eyes gazed upon Kaz’s body he promised himself he wouldn’t let Kaz talk him into this again. Not while he was seeing her. Darren was jealous, he wanted Kaz to himself but wouldn’t break the unspoken rule.

‘We do not speak about it.’

However well intended the promise may have been; the thought of loneliness was all it took to break it.

But their time together was marred by greater and greater periods of time apart. The closer to adulthood they got, the less they could return to their game. Kaz had stopped looking Darren in the eyes long before their last day together.

Their last day together wasn’t significant, other than it being the last. But neither knew it at the time.

Letter To Your Teenage Self

Write  a letter to your teenage self:

Darren,

There are so many things that will challenge you in life, and challenge will push you to learn things that you really should never have had to know.

Sickness, emotional hurt, death. You know all of these things early, yet I’m not sure anyone ever tries to explain them to you properly. Instead you take everything in, and you understand it as best you can.

Help will always be there when you need it. If you need it. But it will take you a long time to be okay with asking, and even longer to actually accept it.

You spend years, trying to repress any part of yourself that makes you different. That makes you stand out. After realising you’ll never fit in, you try to change yourself, to make it less obvious that you are different. You try so hard to make yourself invisible.

You will repress every part of you that makes you unique, for fear that other people will judge you. But all the while, you will desperately seek some form of acceptance. First from adults, because as far as you are concerned they are right, and know what is best for you.

Some will see you, really see you, but their influence will be fleeting. Most will side with the masses. Most will tell you to be like those that make it hardest to be yourself. People will tell you to change, and because you can’t you will tell yourself you have failed them. That you have failed yourself. I need you to know that isn’t the case.

Darren I wish I could tell you that the loneliness goes away. I wish I could tell you that the love you so desperately wanted to feel is something you will have in abundance.

Perhaps never in the way you wanted. But you are loved. Your family’s needs will drain you, but they also love you. You have real friends, friends who you have absolute trust in and who love you. Not a pretend version of yourself, not a facade, not even the version of yourself you portray to the world to make it seem like you’re confident. They love all of you, with no parameters.

Love is hard for you Darren. It’s not something that comes easy for you. Even now the most important person who could love you, needs to remind himself every day that it’s okay to do so.

I’m so sorry for the damage I’ve done to you over the years. I’m sorry for punishing you, when you had worked your hardest. I’m sorry for not understanding what you gained, when you walked away from a path which seemed important. I’m sorry for pushing you to be something you are not. I’m sorry for blaming you, for the things in your life that you never had control over. I’m sorry Darren, for never trusting you to make decisions, for hiding and playing it safe, when I could have instead let you live. Truly live.

Worst of all Darren I am so sorry for not loving you. You are wonderful. You won’t always feel like that, but it is no less true.

What you overcome in life, is truly outstanding. You judge yourself against the worth and the attainment of others. You push yourself to grow and develop. But everything you do is done with, passion, dedication, and a sense of purpose and commitment which I cannot begin to commend enough. You can turn your hand to anything and make it work for you.

You’re flighty. You are easily distracted, but you always get done what needs to be done.

You have so much love in your heart, and you willingly invest it in others before you invest it in yourself. You push yourself to make life better for others and in so doing make it harder for yourself. You struggle to get by. You push to be better. And if those around you aren’t flourishing you will do anything you can to help them, or blame yourself if you can’t.

It’s both the best and worst thing about you Darren, and it will take you far in life, but the one thing that will evade you is your own sense of self. Your own purpose. Your own happiness.

But help is always there. Eventually you’ll ask for it. Eventually you’ll accept it. Where you go after that is up to you. But know that wherever you go Darren. You have my love, my support and for once your best interests at heart.

One day I may feel like I have found ‘my purpose’. But until I do, I would like to make you a promise: to keep trying, to enjoy what I’m doing, and to take care of myself. To live a life I am proud of, and one which allows you to be as happy as you possibly can be.

Smile

Make a list of 30 things that make you smile.

  1. Books
    1. Walking into a library, or an old bookshop. Perusing the shelves. Finding the book that calls to you. Coming home and reading it. All of it. Re-reading it. Cherishing the book that holds the story you love. Re-reading again. Finding it on your nightstand remembering not only the story it contains, but the story of the book itself.
  2. Walking on the beach at sunrise.
    1. Boxing day. 2010. Early rise to get back home to work. Snow on the sand. Coffee in a mug. Cold but beautiful. Heavy cardigan, hot coffee. Short walk along the sand. Sheets of ice snap underfoot, before melting onto the surface of the sand leaving perfect imprints of our feet behind in the snow white surface, out of reach of the receding tide.
  3. Writing
    1. Journaling is my way of processing thoughts that otherwise become stuck in a loop, as I tend to overthink everything to minute level of detail, to the detriment of the original task.
    2. I write fiction, a vast array of grand concepts and short stories. A core belief that all creative output be tied to the laws of a single universe. It’s mostly in the form of handwritten notes, which I have been writing in journals for the past ten years. I recently started transcribing these notes, reviewing concepts and developing new ideas. My greatest ambition is to write, if not professionally, then often.
  4. Drag Queen’s and Sassy Bitches
    1. Drag as a culture, drag as hobby and outlet. Sassy throwbacks, a community of love, support and protection. Pride, and confidence in self expressive freedom. Power and inner strength.
  5. Helping Someone
    1. Knowing that you can improve upon a person’s life in the smallest of ways, yet that small thing can be truly significant for both parties.
  6. Learning new things
    1. Learning, not to be the best, but to know. To have an insight into as much as possible and try to understand things from many angles. To know, truly know something and to make it a part of yourself and have that knowledge change you as a person.
  7. Sharing Knowledge
    1. Learning is cool, knowing is satisfying. But passing on knowledge, real genuine knowledge that can improve a person’s life. It is this that marks a learned man as someone who truly understands.
  8. Being around my cats
    1. Either feeling overwhelmingly loved, or completely indifferent to you. Cats have their own agenda and their own lives, they literally only want to do their own thing, and some times they choose to involve you in that. You feel genuinely wanted when a cat chooses to spend time with you, rather than sleeping in a cereal box that they knocked on the floor (to get all of the cereal out so that they could get in the box;) only to jump out when you try to pick up the box, making you jump back in shock and awe, and covering yourself in coco pops in the process. True Story.
  9. Funny People
    1. Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Rikki Fulton, David Jason, Bill Bailey, Tim Minchin, Matt Smith, JP Tremblay, Robb Wells, Billy Connolly, Dorothy Paul, Kevin Smith.
  10. Being around loved ones
    1. Knowing you are loved, and having a complete trust. Freedom to be yourself. Supporting them, and being supported in return. Knowing you would do anything for them.
  11. Exercise
    1. Endorphins racing, body resisting, mind overcoming, body developing, improving. Powerful, accomplished, ready for anything. Alive.
  12. Talking for hours about nothing
    1. Conversations which go on for hours, when it starts in daylight, and ends in the small hours of the morning. Talking about, anything, everything and nothing.
  13. Video Games
    1. Hours, days so many storylines, so many challenges, so many things to collect. Content, persevering, frustration, and then finally success.
  14. Staring into the eyes of a lover
    1. A most intimate expression. A smile of trust, of connection and of being content.
  15. Flowers
    1. Roses, red and white. Lillies, although allergic. Anything purple, anything white, all beautiful. Unpicked, growing wild, stopping only for a moment to appreciate their beauty before moving on. Watching them wilt, retaining their beauty in death, succumbing to the end, colour stripped out, but still there.
  16. Purple
    1. My first real pay check. Spent on paint. White walls, forever white, as long as I’d known them. Finally concealed, with a Spectral and Regal elegance.
    2. Purple flowers, with white roses.
  17. Slankets
    1. They sap will, and are the harbingers of long naps. Best worn as a robe.
  18. Painting
    1. Creating. Colour. Shape. Developing. Painting passion. Painting emotion. Watching a canvas evolve adding as necessary, building up, slowly changing coming together, many elements blending together, becoming one.
  19. Being Creative
    1. Crochet, knitting, sewing, writing, drawing, building, sculpting, singing. Living. Life is a canvas of possibility, so many outlets and each creating a unique living work of art.
  20. Reading for hours at a time
    1. Lying by a swimming pool, in the sun, reading until dark. Sitting by a fire, in the middle of winter in a small cottage with a blanket and a single malt. Getting lost in a story, finishing a book at 3am and driving to a 24hr store to buy the rest of the series so that you can start the next one when you wake up next.
  21. Swimming
    1. Counting laps, and adding more each time you go. Pushing yourself, and working every muscle as you go. Feeling and looking amazing when it becomes a regular routine.
  22. Lying in the sun
    1. Knowing you have nothing else to do, being content to do nothing. Soaking in the light, and being content to do little else. Occasionally walking into a pool or the ocean to cool down, before lying down again to dry off and relax.
  23. Breaking Down Furniture
    1. Hammers, screwdrivers, axes, crowbars. Tearing down walls, or carefully packing large furniture. Watching as something that was, is reduced to the components which made it what it was.
  24. Long Lies on Weekdays
    1. Knowing that others are working and you are not. Knowing you would normally be awake, and that you don’t have to be. Lying awake, yet still resisting the urge to get up. Having no agenda, other than to relax. Sleeping to dream.
  25. Travelling
    1. Going somewhere new, seeing it for the first time, revisiting time after time and watching changes slowly occur. Exploring new places, knowing you’ll unlikely see them again. Enjoying the journey as you go, rather than just wishing to get there.
  26. Singing
    1. Uninhibited, solo or in groups, singing for fun and for pleasure.
  27. Classic Disney
    1. Hours of my youth singing along, watching rewatching, memorising and falling and falling in love with. Being enamoured with the stories, and inspired to tell my own.
  28. Remembering Dreams
    1. Waking from a vivid, and detailed dream. Writing it down, and thinking on it further. Using it to create your own unique tales. Being filled with excitement when it suddenly connect with other ideas and characters.
  29. Lists
    1. Making them, checking them to ensure that everything is on it. Adding things when you realise you forgot them. Checking things off as you do them. Feeling accomplished with each thing you score off.
  30. Tasty Food
    1. Eating food you enjoy, comfortable, familiar, wholesome, junk. Regardless enjoyable. Exploring new foods, trying new things, experimenting with flavours and combinations, finding great recipes and going with the ones that don’t quite work.

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