Pride, Sobriety and the Power of Friends

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I am suffering from some form of post-Pride emotion. I am not sad – far from it.  It is more like solemn feeling stemming from the cessation of days and days of immense joy.  Actually, I keep contemplating this word “Joy,” probably because I am feeling so much of it lately.  I feel happy much of the week, but joy is a whole other level, nearly off the charts.
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This week I am quite reflective of all that I just experienced and feeling a lot of gratitude for it all.  This Pride that just quickly past us by has been my favourite of all of the Prides I have experienced. Why?
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Pride, Sobriety and the Power of Friends.

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Pride
I have it. Feeling ashamed of who I am was so tiresome and I no longer want to feel that. Hiding who I am is toxic to my soul. As the years go on, I settle more deeply into my authentic self.  I continue to mature emotionally, intellectually and physically – hell, I own these grey whiskers and wear them proudly.
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I wore stilettos this weekend to the Davie Street block party; my toenails were painted to complete the look.  I remember a day when the thought of doing it was frightening for some reason, like I would be judged. Unpacking why we believe that clothing is gendered is a whole other blog post, but, simply put, a person should be able to wear whatever they want and feel confident in (so long as we aren’t breaking any laws ((unless those laws are oppressive and need to be addressed)) ). Let me tell you, I felt incredibly confident – not to mention sexy – in those heels.  I am proud that I was able to realize my wish to dance my face off in heels and to feel comfortable (emotionally!) while doing it.  And let me tell you, I can seriously bust a move in those puppies.
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heels Heels 2
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It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today – to feel confident being me.  It’s fun to continue to get to know myself and to explore things that make me happy. I like Chad today, and I certainly used to not like Chad very much at all.  I used to look at myself in the mirror and say, “I hate you, why do you have to be gay?” Today I love myself and that is something of which to be proud. Yes, I have more growing and learning to do and I look forward to it. If the future is a better version of how I feel now, I am eager to get there.
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I’m gay, and I’m proud as fuck about that.  So many people still live lives of closetted shame.  Our country is becoming less oppressive when it comes to people within the LGBTQ community, but we still face certain ridicule and violence.  Part of my pride and joy I felt this weekend stemmed from holding an awareness that so many of our brothers and sisters around the world may never experience such a weekend, lest they be persecuted or beheaded.  I am grateful and do not disregard the injustices faced by thousands of others internationally.   I feel proud that I can experience Pride not merely as an onslaught of parties, but as a reminder of my privilege.  This reignites the fire inside me to continue to work towards international LGBT rights.   A lot of work still needs to be done.
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Pride
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Sobriety
In January, I will be 5 years clean and sober.  Something else I feel highly proud about.  Furthermore, I feel proud that I can enjoy such a weekend without illicit substances.
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One of the things that I found particularly enjoyable this Pride was being able to tell people, “actually I am sober.”  I was asked, “what are you on?” and “do you want some K?” or “would you like some of my beer?”  When I reply that I am sober and that I do not drink or do drugs, people are often surprised – their faces and reactions are memorable.  I got down and dirty this weekend, dancing holes in the floor everywhere I went.  Surely I must have looked doped up on some speedy E, but I wasn’t.  The closest I came to being “high” was the energy kick from a Redbull.  I thrashed, stayed up until sunrise, and danced like a mad man… as most do; however, there was one obvious difference:  I had a smile bolted on my face where as a majority of others looked rather miserable.  Of course, this isn’t to say that all those who “party” look like goblins, no, it is just that, as a sober person who used to consume huge amounts of drugs and alcohol, it is very evident to me when people’s faces are drug-driven.  As the night progresses, it is common that the partygoers look haggard and frowny, with mouths that move as if by some force beyond their control.
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On Sunday night at Rapture, one of the many final Pride parties, I came to a place of sheer joy.  Every so often I get caught up in a DJ set to such a degree that my body seems to move on its own accord – to me it is a spiritual experience.  I smile, and sometimes I even laugh because I feel such joy – it’s just so bloody awesome.  I used to only experience this if I were at a party somewhere all hopped up on “molly.” However, today I can feel this ecstasy in sobriety and to me that is one of the greatest gifts ever.
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“You are fun” and “You have such a good energy about you” are a couple examples of the comments I received this past weekend.  I love to hear them… having fun in sobriety is exactly what needs to happen for me.  There is this belief that as soon as drugs and alcohol are no longer a part of the story, the story becomes boring.  That is so far from the truth.  My life has become evermore enjoyable since making the decision to commit to sobriety.   You never know, maybe the people who I crossed paths with and chatted with about sobriety, for however brief, heard or saw exactly what they needed to hear or see.  If I can live by example and show others that sober living is actually WAY FREAKIN’ BETTER then my life purpose has expanded.
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I was in the hottub tonight and was hearing a couple of guys talk about Pride, and that the jacuzzi was exactly what was needed to help replenish their serotonin that was disintegrated by ecstasy consumption.  I have heard comments from others about their hangovers and their “recovery week.”  I am SO happy that I never have to have a hangover again, god willing, and that my serotonin levels are stabilized naturally through self-care, fitness, and seeking the things in life that bring me and others pleasure.   My only sense of “recovery” from this weekend was normalizing my sleeping routine.  5:30 am bedtimes certainly throw me off!
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The cherry on top: I remember everything I did, and not a single aspect of what I did is embarrassing or displeasing.  No blasted blackouts or mornings of shame and regret.  Fuck yaaaasss!
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sober
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Power of Friends
This is the first Pride where I really truly felt as if I were part of a friend circle.  We spent a lot of time together, and it was amazing.  Of course, years past I had people to hang out with and to celebrate with, people I cherish and care about deeply, but this year was different.  I am blessed with a group of friends who support me, love me, and enjoy whole-heartedly my presence – I can feel it.  I feel comfortable, welcomed, and “part of” more than “apart from.”  It is not uncommon for me to go out and celebrate Pride on my own.  In fact, I have attended several parties solo, something else of which I am proud.  I went solo not because I had no friends, but because my friends and I were not tuned into the same wavelength.  These friends that I am so grateful to have are friends who either do not drink or drink very little; they are friends who can party hard and party clean!  They know about my sobriety and support it, which is clearly the most important part of any of my current relationships in this world.
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As my confidence level grows, and my life in sobriety expands, I am meeting more and more people who ride wavelengths similar to my own, people beyond the friend circle just mentioned.  Periodically this weekend I crossed paths with many of these people, and we enriched each other’s lives if only for that moment.  It is really quite powerful to have these kinds of friendly connections.  It is becoming clearer to me that if my friends fail to enrich my life or bring me joy, and vice versa, and bring me struggle and strife instead, than these people are not supposed to be in my life – joy is too easy to lose and life is too short.
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What I love about this friend circle is that it is incredibly diverse and thrives on welcoming new and interesting people. Vancouver social circles are very challenging to penetrate, they seem to have a clique shellac that leaves no room for new additions.  Many of the people visiting Vancouver often say to me that it is “difficult to make friends here” and that the people are not friendly.  And, I get it.  I do not disagree.  Why is that?  What is it about Vancouver gays that makes intergroup socializing such a ghastly idea?  Anyways, that is, again, a topic with enough juice for an entirely separate blog.  What I mean to express is that I am happy to have spent this Pride with such a kind-hearted and welcoming group of people who have allowed me to feel nothing but love and acceptance.
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Holy crap did we ever have some fun together!  Like, serious joy.   I look forward to future adventures.
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Friends
Friends 2
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Coming home from the gym tonight I just felt struck by the urge to share these thoughts.  Sometimes this happens…
Thanks for taking the time to ready them.
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#LoveYourselfie

I have a confession to make.  I take selfies… a lot of them.  #selfieaddict

It is wild how much flack I get for doing it… be it a fun and casual flacking or heavily weighted in judgment and opinion.  There is this presumption that, just because I selfie like there is no tomorrow, I am narcissistic, insecure, and on the hunt for “like”-based increases in self esteem.  Are these presumptions really the only possibility around why people take selfies??  #really?

Feeling attractive is new to me.  I grew up feeling ugly, awkward, and unlikable; I certainly wasn’t beautiful or cool, whatever “cool” was at that time.   Today, after a lot of self-care, fitness, and weightlifting I have come to find some confidence, and I fucking love it.  I like that I can now look at myself in the mirror, or in the front-facing camera of my iphone, and like what I see.  I do not poison myself, hate myself or call myself ugly anymore, nor do I wish that I were something or someone I am not.  Today, I am who I am, I look how I look. I own it.  I have come to love myself, and not in an overbearing I-cant-love-anyone-else kind of way… No.  I love myself in a way that helps me move through my day with a jovial grace; a way that elicits comfort in conversation; a way that encourages me to continue caring for my body and treating it with kindness.  #selfcare

Am I insecure because I take selfies?  Or are you insecure because you can’t, don’t or won’t? #perspective

Do “likes” and Followers excite me?  Yes, they do.  I love that little orange notification bubble. It proves contact, an interaction with a fellow human being who is going about her or his day within the social media interspace. It tells me that this someone, somewhere else, has connected to me, if even just momentarily through a string of kilobytes, and finds something about me likeable.  Is my self-esteem contingent on these “likes” and Followers??  No, but they certainly help.  #like

Self expression has been part of human culture for millennia.  Whether we tattoo our flesh, insert shards of bone into our ears, or weave a feather into our hair, we are taking advantage of the gift of expression.  I feel privileged that I have the freedom to do so. Today’s selfie is simply another platform of expression and an unexpecting tool of self-discovery.  #individuality

For me, as someone who used to hate himself, being able to post a picture of me, taken by me, and just how I like it, is an incredible feat.  It is telling of my growth as an individual and it is telling of my growing confidence.  It certainly isn’t symbolic of some insecure feature of my personality that needs your judgment and pity. #thatsforsure

In a recent Body Image Study, it was revealed that 65 percent of selfie takers said seeing their selfies on social media actually boosts their confidence  (Dahl, Today Health, 2014).  In my opinion, this is great! We need more confidence in this world, today more than ever. I like the thought that people’s confidence is being boosted by the creativity of her or his own hand.  Power to you.  #selfieconfidence

Instead of judging people who take selfies perhaps it is time to take a look at the reasons why you aren’t taking them.  With all do respect, I think that it is time to #loveyourselfie

It is almost #selfietime, so… unapologetically, I leave you with my thoughts.

See you seeing me seeing you soon…

Chad Walters… #selfieaddict

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Too Close

Lip Dub vid to Alex Clare’s “Too Close”. Made with a Fujifilm Finepix camera and a chest tripod.

Inspired by a difficult decision to leave a relationship and all the inner turmoil and indecision that it brings. Trying to empower courage to walk forward from this challenge. It is made in high contrast as a representation of the challenge regarding fighting with the “should I or shouldnt I” emotions. Tough stuff, let me tell you.

In a Flash of Lightning

…An excerpt from my Travelogue Enjoy The Journey

        Last night there was a very large storm, a monsoon I believe them to be called over here. The lightening lit up the whole sky in a way that I have never seen before.  I was fascinated, and frightened.  I was away from Him at this point and spending time with the friend from Vancouver.  She and I thought that it would be a brilliant idea to go down to the seashore and really feel the storm.  Her inner unease had talked her out of the plan, and, as it started to rain, she made her way back to her guesthouse right next to mine. I went to drop off my camera and important goods, and then off into the weather went.

     This storm did not take time to get fierce. Almost instantly the rain was surging from the black skies.  Never before have I seen or felt rain so strong, nor so warm, it was harder and thicker than any bathroom shower.  I ran and I ran and I ran.  I was soaked in seconds.  My heart was pounding and I could not ignore the rush of intensity pulsing through my body.  The thunder clapped to an earth shaking degree.  Light filled the sky for seconds, strike after strike the surroundings came into view.  As I arrived to the shore I began to realize how scared I actually was.  I saw Thai women hiding against cement beams that were holding up huts. I copied their procedure and ran to the nearest shelter.  I found myself hiding behind this cement structure, crouching and hugging it for warmth as it was still radiating from the day’s sun.  Wind was whipping past me, causing rain to ride the wind, making its way into my shelter.  The street lights were light sensitive so with every lightning strike, they would blink off.  I was inside a monstrous, wet strobe; the world was flashing before me.   I could see bolts of lightening striking the sea, or what I hoped was the sea.  I looked up into the sky and into a mass of clouds, and at that moment the lightning flashed.  I could see the shape of a face in the clouds, seemingly looking at me.

       I have had dreams in the past, of lightning, and of its immense power, and I felt blessed and touched by that power that night.  I know that this sounds far-fetched and ‘Hollywood’ and that a face in the clouds seems hallucinogenic, but if you were where I stood, seeing what I saw at that moment, feeling what I felt at that moment, you would understand the power of that face. I knew, at that moment, that I do have the power within me to survive this.  The power surrounds me.  I felt totally liberated.

      I am on my own today.  That storm last night filled me with so much strength and empowerment that I was able to say goodbye and stay behind as He and the friend went to another island, in another place away from where I would be.  I am on my own; I am not alone.  I had been anxious about that moment of separation for a while now, but when the moment arrived, after the previous night’s power, it was as simple as wishing it.   They packed their bags and we shared a breakfast.  I hugged His friend, who has now became mine, not knowing if I am to ever see her again. I hugged Him, knowing that it was going to be the last.  I watched them walk away.

      I did it.  My journey begins

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photo from: http://www.wsi.com/industries-lightning.htm