I’m tired about 3% of the time. And from years of teaching and counseling I recognize that by tired I mean sad or depressed. Not a heavy blanket of deep ennui but a film, a mild sadness at a host of things. I’ve noticed this in the past couple of years in relationship to my work, to the people I work with and to the outcomes from that work. For quite a few years I worked with MSM around relationships, sexuality, identity, and personal advancement. Now unfortunately there are issues, institutional systems, that affect MSM and pointedly people of color but ultimately, all people. The agencies I worked for are somewhere between handcuffed and willingly bonded to focusing on HIV funding, exclusively. Yet a lot of the issues---lack of education, unemployment, poverty, health related issues, psychological health issues and dealing with the social construct (the delusion) of race.
It can be tiring to experience these issues and it can also be exhausting to experience them as a facilitator/guide/teacher trying to get people to move along to the next level, whatever that might be for the individual. That’s where I come from, I want advancement for everyone without barriers. I think such simply that more fulfilled people would be happier and happier people would create a happier society. Yet I’ve had the work experience for years (totaling thousands of men) to see that MSM, particularly of color, are unhappy. And that unhappiness leads to destructive behavior, such as Barebacking, drug addiction, impoverishment, because we all want to feel better, however we define “happiness”. I watch so many good men, along a continuum of reasonably intelligent to brilliant, constantly absorbing the concept of oppression in their words, their actions and the, outcomes. I often listen to MSM talking about the conspiracies of what they can and cannot do; what the unexperienced world is like; attributing the actions of one (or a dozen) men to ALL men. God, what I’ve heard about ALL men when a few men have hurt the feelings of an MSM. They never consider that the Good Man that they pine for is often sitting (or online, viewing) their rant and upset about, dismissing them as the men to avoid. But because Good Men get to “goodness” by learning to avoid these upset men so the upset men never get the feedback of what isn’t working. The upset men then get left to only experience Not Good Men because they’ve given off the plague-smell. No one in their right mind wants to take a chance (or being trapped on a date, much less in a relationship) on this upset man.
I started The Kyle Phoenix Show online and cable TV to translate my workshops that I’d done with thousands of men (hopefully helping some of them) because I wanted to heal their upset. My workshops tend to fall into two major demographics: upset men and Good Men (which I went on and titled a book Good Men for Men) and helping them to navigate their lives, wants, desires and such, I’ll say pointedly, without the lessons that women directly and intimately teach men about relationships. (More of that in my forthcoming book He Is Not You.)
Personally though when people wonder why I’m a bit of an introvert or sporadically attend parties and events or send missives and cards but not show up all the time it’s because of the fact that I’m pretty happy. Like 97% of the time unless I see something pointedly sad, I’m pretty much having a red and gold balloon party in my head. That other 3%, which I believe is natural and levels of empathetic feelings and wistful memories, is rarely hardcore unhappy. Like when I eat, I tear up. No, really. Last night I wanted a small meal and not to cook so I stopped at 7-11 and bought a burrito and put some of the free salsa on it, got home about 10 minutes later and began chomping down on it and my eyes welled with tears. It was just the right level of warm (I’m not big on very hot food), it was shockingly spicy, it was soft, I could taste the beef and it struck me as a good thing. Earlier I’d had a big twelve ingredient salad and that too made me tear up. There’s a deep gratitude and pleasure in food for me. Ironically I don’t eat emotionally, by that I mean if I feel distressed (rarely) or upset, I don’t reach for food as a salve. I just like food. It doesn’t exactly make me happy as it supports my happiness with a gratitude at being a chewing, tasting human.
Here in NYC, on the trains, in the streets, particularly in Manhattan, I see various people in levels of distress, pain, homelessness and I make it a point to look at them full on, whether I’m going to give money or not. Because I believe people should be seen. IF you’re ever with me, and someone approaches asking, depending on a variety of reasons and observations (I’m somewhere between Detective Columbo and Dr. Cal Lightman of Lie to Me in reading people), I might tell them “No, thank you.” Particularly if they speak to me/ask for money. Because I believe that person is still a human being who should be eye to eye acknowledged, even if it’s a no and treated with courtesy. At the same time I believe that I have the self-human right to say yes or no to that which is presented to me to participate in or with. “No, thank you (I don’t want to participate in your energy. Why? Because I have the intrinsic right to decide the yeses and noes for this body and its’ resources.)”
But I also pray for people. Sometimes the prayer is thanks when I see people who’ve had some hand---drugs, alcohol---in their bad circumstances---“But for the Grace of God go I. Thank you, God for my being this way instead of that way.” Other times it’s “Thank you, God for giving me the resources I have that I’m not in that situation and the reasoning capability to keep myself form that situation.” Then there’s: “Thank you, God for not putting me through that right there.” (Sometimes that’s someone with a handicap or an affliction---it can get a little Lord of the Rings make-up cast truck in the NYC subway system. Years ago, at least 10, Richard Gere on The Oprah Winfrey Show talked about a prayer taught to him by the Dali Lama that I’ve practiced regularly since, when looking at someone, anyone thinking to one’s self: “The Light of God within me, salutes and blesses the light of God within you.”
If you’ve read my blogs or books you know there’s been death, disappointment, abuse, pain, drama, foolishness, madness, racism, imprisonment, betrayal and bad customer service in my life so far. I expect there will be more…because that’s life. But when people are ragging on about the world, about the Them who are destroying every little corner of possible hope and happiness (yet amazingly people can recognize this vast conspiracy yet kind of standstill for the rape, I notice), I notice the lack of gratitude, generosity, and a new thing I learned, but had been practicing form the book The Presence, suspension.
I often suspend myself with you, others, the world. Like I’m not a big political person (no, I haven’t watched any of the debates; mainly because I see it all as theater. Grand theater. Political theater. But theater all the same.) I think it’s more important that I go somewhere and teach a class to immigrants or people in poverty or to geniuses in the evenings. Or that I volunteer to feed people or cook for a few hours for them. But I decided to listen/watch Dr. Ben Carson (I’d seen the biographical movie on him a few years back) on Charlie Rose. I like Charlie Rose (and Tavis Smiley) but I don’t watch TV (I own a giant flat screen but use it for expanding my pc/laptop monitor capacity so I can type without contacts or glasses on) so I watched his interview on Hulu. There were things I agreed with and disagreed with. Then I watched Peter Travers interview Michael Moore on his show Popcorn. Then I watched him interview George Miller (the first movie I’d seen in theaters in almost two years was Mad Max: Fury Road, so I was interested in the director. I didn’t know he used to be a medical director and had directed all the Mad Max films, Happy Feet and the Babe pictures! I saw Happy Feet in the theater as an animated lark and went out and bought the Earth, Wind and Fire collection right afterwards because of wanting their music after seeing the film.)
I thought of Dr. Carson and where he was at within the context of Clare Graves / Don Edward Beck’s Spiral Dynamics theory (whom I discovered through Dr. Ken Wilber’s Theory of Everything book) and then I thought about the Future Files by Friedman paralleling some of Carson’s thinking on foreign policy. Then I watched Shonda Rhimes on Charlie Rose.
While eating my lunch, fried chicken from Popeye’s (I try to limit it to once a month because my family are the not only the poster children but the graphic designers and delivery team for heart disease) and writing this piece up. Yes, I’ve meandered through things that make me happy and unhappy and no, I haven’t given you any magic serum for happiness because the truth is: it’s a choice. You either choose to be happy, to be optimistic, to think well of people (even the shitty, dumb acting ones) and to wish ugly, mean people well and to accept attitudes (I have a customer service feedback rant in me ready to spring out---but I’m going to channel it into a vocational book) and the literal unfairness of life. Because only children (and the juvenile minded) expect fairness from the universe---ask nature, beautifully embodied in the lion and the gazelle about the fairness of slaughter vs. starvation---and you’ll discover the truth. Happiness does not feel like a party all the time. Just 97% of the time. The rest, you’re a little saddened by stuff. But grateful to have had the experience because you know it could be worse or is worse for others.
Thank you for reading.
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