As is…the story of an odd sock
As Is…the story of an odd sock.
I had a great privilege last night to watch a performance of As Is play written by William M. Hoffman in 80s. I was deeply touched by its delicate beauty, shy but loud scream and simplicity of its complexity.
Racing heart, teary eyes, sweaty palms but deep warm smile inside most of all. True tribute to past and a valid comment to present.
I had also a honour of meeting and listening to introduction by Andrew Keates, the director behind the play. He is a truly humble delicate soul with a great drive and passion, which creates explosive mixture. Deep understanding of the threat, angry voice within but the most human feelings saturated with fear and need for loving. For broad acceptance for need to talk and express what we all feel on a daily basis. Sometimes we mute our thoughts and simply plod on, sometimes we amp those feelings into almost madness stage where red covers our eyes, grey sadness envelopes our lives. Like some monster sits on our chest and we choke on hair balls of anxiety.
I remember being so scared I would block all the lights out of my room and cry, I would write letters to myself, paint walls black and project my fears onto that big canvas.
I had moments of fearing living scared of dying. They were deeply confusing emotions while you were at the fullest of life, loving it at the same time spiking it with self-hate, rejection when death seems only reasonable step to silence the madness.
I went like that for 20 years. Fearing, crying or being on hype of life celebration, appreciating every given moment of it. That journey taught me a lot about myself, about my limitless limits, my fragility but as well about strengths and how much we can take as human beings. Every experience and thought, beautiful or dirty and ugly allowed me to learn more and get new dimension…and no it was not lovely and easy…there was so much pain sometimes my heart trembled feeling it would split open, saturating my inner skin with thick blood. Blood that is all: life and death.
Last month all my fears, the real and abstract ones burst literally and I knew it was time to push myself into new path. After years fearing I knew there was no other way to go on but to test myself.
Suddenly I needed to comfort that boy who was 8 in hospital after being bullied and kicked so hard the threat was to loose one of the balls.
Boy who for longest week was inspected on hourly basis, touched in most intimate places, sucked out of blood, falling asleep in 80s
polish Communist hospital where cockroaches were starting their shift upon closing eyes. Changes started then.
Even if I made it without operation in my head I become bullied ball-less freak.
It started something that was out of my control then. It allowed being pushed around, kicked, spit on verbally and physically. I persisted being loving human being, refusing to grow bitter protection shell…even if so terrified I had pride and love in me I wanted to shine…that made things even more difficult as it maddened bullies more. And it made me sometimes so weak and passive, allowing to be threatened.
I still remember being in my late teens when I had knife on my back by a stranger but I almost did not care, paralysed with years of abuse it meant nothing.
Last year Cock in a Sock charity did a huge campaign about testicular cancer and I felt ready to participate. To undress, put a sock on my balls and snap a picture. Almost 30 years after loosing my mental balls it was time to claim it proudly back. Truly unnerving moment and the responses were overwhelming…from great encouragement onto people criticising me for showing off. But at that time I really could not give a damn. I was ready to heal some part of myself and could not care less what people thought of it. It was my own battle and I needed to complete it. In order to grow I had to go against pain and prejudice, my own fears and claim my body back.
What I learnt from it was most of the time people portray their own insecurities and fears on us trying to keep us only within their own limits. Otherwise you stick out of their comfort zone pointing their weaknesses. And that is their own battle and should never be projected on us. Life is hard as it is and I have learnt to be more respectful towards others.
That part of my life have been dealt with but still something even darker was hiding in my dreams.
For someone for who was bullied for being gay for years even before I knew what that meant it made a scare in my head, self-loathing myself at the same time fighting for goodness. Bloody hard and always verging on madness as I almost artificially created two personalities in order to exist. One that was truly me deep inside, soft delicate and fragile with big heart and endless love to give and receive and the angry passive side that allowed anything in my life and being. In a long term it confused the hell out of me and what followed everyone I come across in my life.
Self-hate grew stronger as I allowed it to happen. But how could I not if by being a victim I become a victim. And that was the moment when you allow others to treat yourself that way, never allowing too much of the goodness and warmth to enter your life and only expect the worse.
When few weeks ago I went to test myself for HIV for the first time in my life at 56 Dean Street all the thoughts, all past experiences, depressions, fears become alive again. As I sat with the nurse who was truly beautiful soul and as she was explaining the procedure I was sitting there hugging my 8years old self who was afraid of hospitals and blood, always fainting on sight or even smell of it, my 16years old self who was pushed around, laughed at, to my 33years old whose heart got broken deepening the void. I was turning 37 in a week and all those boys come into that tiny little room in a clinic using all the air, suffocating me. It was longest minutes in my life and when the nurse said negative I did not understand…I actually believe I was out of that room mentally…when the message reached me I cried, with the 8year old and with the 16yeal old and all others. It was time we said good bye.
It was not that easy…even after that there were lots sleepless nights…accepting my ‘all clear status’ was as hard as not knowing it…I was given something for most of my life I believed I did not deserve. But slowly the acceptance has started, allowing happiness into my life.
When I saw the As Is play last night it felt like the biggest circle in my life come to an end. I watched it mesmerised with the music reminding me of sleepless nights, observed cast portraying my own fears I had carried with me for such a long time.
Rejection. Pity. Sadness. Disillusion. Hope. Love.
The play had its first show 30years ago when AIDS only started its toll. People did not understand what was happening so the threat and placing the blame was too big. I realised that 30years on not much changed…we learnt its name and causes, we are able to test it fast and prevent it but still the stigma and ignorance persisted in us. We are still fed with stereotypes. We build mental ghettos as nothing really changed. Or on the contrary we reject it not taking care of ourselves. And I know it is so hard sometimes as we all struggle in our own ways. But we need to try and support each other.
I am blessed with the fact in that journey I found artistic ways to express my feelings filtering them into drawings, paintings or logos. Anything that people put their emotions into I respond with deep carrying passion.
This is The way I do it and I wish everyone who reads it to find and treasure their own ways.