KINDRED #87

I’ve been feeling very adrift lately. I mustered so much passion to put into pre-promoting KINDRED and connecting with other agents involved in foster care. But I’m not ready to go back to it, it hurts too much. Instead of punishing myself for things not working out the way I had planned, I have to give myself credit for the awareness I raised and gratitude for the wonderful people I met in this preliminary process. It’s been an honor to listen to and embrace some of the bravest, best people I have ever met.

Due to a combination of factors, my body just feels beat up. I have very little energy and just getting into the shower or into the groove of the day seems arduous. These are classic symptoms of depression which I have already taken the steps to get help coping with. The thing is, I’m not a depressed person chemically, I’m an anxious neurotic. So my nervous system is totally confused. Internal conflict is a sign that I am actually working through the experience and not just numbing it. So that is actually a good thing.

An unexpected development occured during this haitus/mourning period. My teenage son also loves and studies film and theater. He’s taking advanced level courses in both including editing! Even proficient on my software, talk about a gift from the universe. An in house slave-labor editor! I mean he is 15 so I don’t expect all smooth sailing, but he loves showing off how much better he is at the technical aspects of the craft, so I’ll let him show me up all he wants. Besides, as his parent, holding the keys to his kingdom doesn’t hurt. He can be even more stubborn than I am, that’s saying a lot.

I’m working on several other projects while we give this time to settle in and decide how to proceed. I’m glad they are re-writes, it’s very hard to concentrate. Just relaxing is a challenge for now. I have to constantly bring myself back to the present moment and that’s really frustrating. My whole life, detachment has been a coping mechanism. Escapism, fantasy, acting…as long as I didn’t have to be me in the here and now. I now know that is a waste of my mental energy and a terrible short end of the stick for my loved ones. So I am practicing just being, experiencing whatever the moment brings. Even if it’s painful, it’s not the only thing happening in that moment and if I detach, I could miss something meant for me to see. So I am being as brave as I can and facing those moments too.

I’ve been more quiet on social media as well. If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Especially with your dander already roughed up. I found myself about to reply honestly but harshly to several things I saw posted but thought better of it. That’s not whom I choose to be. I want to use my natural ability to shoot my mouth off and be a pain in the ass for the causes I care about and not just to hear myself spout and vent. There’s enough of that in the world already. I want to be someone who makes a difference in a major way. I’m not sure of the path being so lost in unfamiliar territory. Ever since my muse, my inspiration died I’ve been in a fog. But I have faith that if I keep following my dreams and the sliver of guiding light he shines down on me, I’ll find my way to a place I never even imagined existed.

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KINDRED #86

During a recent meditation session, the elusive code, the combination of words, to try to explain how I feel came to me. It’s like my highhorse carrying my soapbox has been shoved up my ass. Splinters will be with me always. My muse changed my perception of life, realligned it. What has happened this year demolished one of the major support beams of my belief system. I adopted the philosophy that everything, including the bad things, happen for a reason. It may never be revealed but I was able to invest in having it to fall back on. Right now, it just feels disingenuine to put stock in. I have hope it will change which shows me that these events, like all the others, won’t break me. Not really. Being present to my posessing hope shows that at my core, I am a true believer.

It takes a true believer to even have conjured and attempted any of this in the first place. To believe that my words alone could influence people to care about a cause there is far too little attention payed to. It takes courage. Until you put your creative work out there to be vivisected by stranger that you understand how intimidating it really is. I honestly didn’t know what to expect of putting a campaign on the internet. But I had hope that people would read it and be moved if not to donate than to care and be aware. I checked everyday to see the slow trickel begin by friends and participants contributions. Then shit got real. The rest of the money all came in one morning and I felt absolutely reborn. After a year of prep research and sleepless nights over the graphic nature of reading profile and medical records, it was for something. The faith I had was seemingly rewarded. Do good things and good things happen.

We all know that’s usually not the case, especially in this situation. I was sick therefor medicated and nobody, especially my partner, wanted to rush me around. In the future she will have the permission and direct instruction to ride me like Seabiscut if I don’t move fast enough. Then first her dad died, destroying her mom who had been with him since high school. I didn’t want to rush her, so I hung back. Then soon after dealing with that mess and moving her aide requiring mother to the west coast, she passed away as well.

Then shit getting real took on a whole, new definition. I never experienced such an unnatural loss before including the self-induced deaths of my parents. Yes, any manor of suicide is unnatural but in the order of things, in whatever way, parents are supposed to die first. With everything my subject had survived, to have peace for such a short period of time is one of the most unjust events I’ve ever even known about. There’s no way to reason it out. Having faith does not mean having blind faith, although some would argue that by definition, faith must be blind. Maybe. Still faith isn’t as huge as love. It incapacitates all of the senses and when the person we love the most is gone, it can hurt so much that you long for physical pain just to distract you from it. That I have total faith in that like clockwork as I can tell you. Pre-existing medical conditions and blinding, deafening, soul crushing loss go together like diet coke and mentos. I’m feeling it full tilt.

I can see where I made mistakes in the ramping up process. Some out of ignorance and some out of attitude, for both I’m sorry and won’t repeat them. I finally began to view my footage this morning. I watched snippit’s of different interviews, my little cousins one night I babysat in NYC, then I took a deep breath and clicked on the file with the young man’s footage. Immediately, my hand unconsciously covered my heart as if it could be shielded by anything. But I pressed play and heard him start to talk and I thought about how beautiful a child he actually was. I had forgotten how blue his eyes were and how bravely he owned his life. His sweet face as he walked the camera down the path of his journey. Now I’m crying remembering it. And thinking about it. All of the things I would say and do differently if I knew the time was running out.

Now, all I can do is slide from anger to hope and back and again. I hope I get the opportunity to finish this project. I hope people choose to help and get involved. I hope we all can heal and at least learn never to take our loved ones, most of all our children, for granted.

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KINDRED #85

Everything is totally off the rails. I can see it like I was watching the events in a film. Rachel doing whatever she can to stay standing and me still slightly in shock but mostly moved on to anger. The production is completely shut down, including raising more funds by re-writing and decorating our indiegogo campaign. Rachel explained that she needs her son to just be her son and not a story because it’s all she has left of him and wants to focus on celebrating the time he had with his forever family and not the events of his early life. I completely understand conceptually. Only another destroyed mother can truly understand what my life-long friend is going through.

This is really confusing to me. Mike inspired this entire project, and I’ve got uncut interviews with many people who shared some real insight and first hand experience about being in the child welfare system. They were all awesome and I promised each one that their time was not wasted and that what they tell me will be used to create something that raises awareness. That excavating their souls on camera won’t be for nothing. But without him, the passionate wind pushing my sails has died too. I’m not a foster care expert nor am I a foster or adoptive parent. I’m just the writer and creator of a film and book project. I’m only the messenger. Without Mike and for now Rachel to help me craft the message, I feel like I fraud doing it alone.

The circumstances of my life have me so overwhelmed I feel a bit frozen in fear still. For the first few weeks I was just numb. My personal life is at a huge crossroads and I’m so frustrated by it all, I’ve actually begun unconsciously beating myself up. I was clipping doorways and banging my hands and feet on things. The coup de gras was when I walked into my bedroom wall, not once but twice to make sure I really hurt myself. The second time gave me a black eye that I have right now. Finally I got the message. Since then, I’ve been trying to be good to myself and much more careful when I walk around. Took a pound of make up to just make it lighter, there is no covering it up. And I feel like a total jack-ass.

I’m having real trouble with sleep. I haven’t gotten a straight eight since that middle of the night call telling me that the person I found so heroic and liberated me from the lifetime of lies I told myself about abandonment was dead. I feel honored that in the devastation, my friend reached out to me. I’m blessed that I got to be a part of this precious kids establishment and life. I truly bore witness to his trauma, his happy period and his exit from this life. It all feels so unreal and I feel unworthy of his magnificence but am enlightened by it. And this was all in a four year period, that’s it.

Only us. That’s what I told Rachel last night. The two words that keep echoing in my head. The women I am close with all have had the craziest circumstances befall them as well. The stuff that makes you just shake your head. Anyway, it’s not fun and really draining to work with daily. I have to find a way to pull it together and watch what I filmed. But not rush myself into something that truly repels me momentarily. This really has me turned around. I stopped making plans with people to go out or offer myself up for school volunteering. I can’t commit to anything more than what I have to do right now. And I was only exposed to the mushroom cloud of the bomb that was dropped on my partner.

In the beginning of this series, I was gushing over how good things can fall out of the sky too. After getting $9000 in one day during fundraising, I was blown away. We were so lucky I thought. I’m going to prove that good can win and luck is on my side. This is the long awaited epiphany. The universe was aligning for a path to my goal. Mike will get to see how powerfully he impacted me and inspired me to help impact others.Wow. Now it sounds silly. Hubristic. My ice cream cone got turn upside down completely. Most of the time I feel lost. There’s no app that guides this journey.

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KINDRED #84

A Season of Living and Grieving

It’s a process unlike any I’ve ever experienced. My window into the world of losing a child, the worst case scenario imaginable. For anyone; much less if you only had the pleasure of your kid’s company for only three years and change. Mike’s death was the night before the Pulse shooting, so it was a fun weeekend here in sunny Orlando.

The loss has intrinsically changed Rachel and Tyson, how could it not? But they have pulled it together, been there for eachother and been the best partner possible. They are blessed to have found that kind of love, doubly blessed for having Mike as their son. He always will be. So I will let them be my guiding light and do my best to release my personal feelings about his death and focus on how he would me to be living my life.

He wouldn’t want me to allow myself to be consumed by rage, resentment or revenge. We had both suffered enough of that in this life. He would want me to be happy, always be there for his mom and properly memorialize his time in front of the camera and the time I spent pouring over his medical files, increasingly shocked by what I read. The depths so called professionals sank to try to break this chid’s spirit or sedate him almost to death are criminal.

This is nothing like I could have imagined and that’s an important lesson for me to take away from this entire experience. You never know. Nothing is assured. Do it while you can but don’t rush life. There are times to get in the current and swim faster, I ask for the wisdom to know the difference. Regardless of how I feel, it’s about how Rachel and Ty feel and what Mike would want. He wouldn’t want more self inflicted torture by judgement or self sabotage.

It’s been 90 days, three months, one season of time since he departed this life. I have no idea what to do with that. I’ve told his mom everything that I need to; mostly how proud of her I am. She is doing better than I would be in her position. When it comes to losing your baby, no matter how old, the fetal position is tempting not to leave. Crawling into a ball won’t help anyone heal and there is a tremendous amount of healing that needs to happen.

I’ve let capricious Amy out a few times to play over the past few months. It felt like being good and doing good count for nothing, so indulge. But they do, they really do. Mike helped teach me that. Knowing him made me a better person and want to be an even better person. I’ll never be perfect and have no intention of being called a saint; but I’m going to be an outspoken advocate for the cause whenever possible. Not give into the anger but use it as fuel to keep me moving forward, living each day like I’ve learned it should be…like anything can happen. It’s hard to be present to it as you are going about your routine, but it’s important to be mindful to. I find meditating at least once a day makes a huge difference.

That and I need to commit, in witness of Mike’s spirit, I need to be writing daily. There are so many stories I have going on concurrently. And I get frozen. I tend to over-react to my anxiety so, that’s another area I’ve done great work with but have a ways to go. It’s hard to overcome artistic self-doubt. Nobody ever said that art is easy. And I demand nothing less for Mike’s story and the other’s in KINDRED than to be in a piece of art that moves people beyond expected. Idealy moves them to get involved with foster care on local and national levels.

So, as I write, seated on my porch in the Florida night, being consumed by insects, I choose to let go of the resentment. I choose to hold onto the love that he inspired in me, brought into his family and the lives of almost everyone who met him. He is a ray of pure light and that is how I picture him. And the best homage is living my life well, finding my true happy and doing it with the style he would want me to have.

We love you Mike. You changed so many lives. I am thankful for you having intersected with mine. You were my prince charming. You broke the spell of the story of abandonment by my parents I told myself. Then broke the curse and brought me to gratitude. The best I can do is spend everyday trying to live in that gratitude and my gratitude for you, kiddo.

 

 

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KINDRED #83

I made my aquaintence with death at a very young age. 21 months old to be exact. Then several other times, the force went whizzing past me so fast, I was caught in momentary, cyclonic off-shoots. I played double dutch with that line for years. I now understand, I invited it. I wanted to be on the edge of danger. My dad was dead and that was the only way I could concieve of him coming to my aide is if my life was in danger. I get it; it’s twisted and sick; but indicative of the despertion of a child, even inner, to subsciously try to force the lost parent back into being. Perfectly understandable. Then, after my mother died, for a few years between that and the birth of my son, I sabotaged everything around me. My lifelong friendships, my marriage, my sanity, as far as I was concerned they were remnants of the fire that burned down my life. It all happened around the time of the death of my mother at 51.

That was a surrealistic nightmare some of which I’ll probably never talk about. It’s confetti compared to what Mike’s loss has meant to the heart broken for my friends; both the one who died and the one who must survive that, and my own. It’s a completely seperate process and not a contest. His mother is priority to my own feelings in every way and have acted accordingly even since. Mike’s death was like a bomb going off in our lives. Mine very much included. In my mind, shrapnel went everywhere. I’ve spent a lifetime processing death but this wasn’t in the plan, any plan. This felt like a mistake and I’m little miss “it was their time”. No. Not this one. I got mad and felt like such an idiot for not having gotten further faster. There’s no question Mike is now an angel, but I can’t say if I believe that there is a benevolent God. Hell, excuse me, if you go by my ancenstors version of events; God is not only not benevolent but a petty enemy at times. It’s God, Pharoh didn’t have to agree. He could have just Darth Vadered him and you know, so let it be written, so let it be done.

But I’m still just really pissed. I feel privildged every single day I knew Mike and that he chose to put his faith in me on film. My footage, Mike’s official testimony to history about his experience in foster care, pre and post to it as well. That was the most intense thing at times that I will even bare witness to. The camera can never do it justice. Not only were the details what SVU is made of, but it was this miraculous release like he was taking off a chain link suit of armor. No longer was anything being held as his fault and we told him so when he slipped back into saying, “I guess I must have been bad,” Rachel and I corrected him about being abused. That nothing was his fault. Even when he did act out, it was the only way anyone paid him any attention. It’s taking more than I have to accept this as the way it’s supposd to be.

There’s nothing to gain from my current perspective, I understand that. I don’t want to feel this way, yet I really, really do. I can’t pray and when I have it’s been to the universes and energies, not a diety. None of this makes any sense. Yes he found his real family and got to spend three years with them after a complete roller coaster of a process of gaining custody. All that just to die at 19. Whatever God thought that was just was one that I didn’t agree with. He deserved more of the better he got a taste of with Rachel and Ty. I rememeber I told him to youtube Wish You Were Here by Floyd and he fell in love with it. The slightly circular nature of the musicality. The two lost souls. He understood that as intimately as anyone did.

I’m under no illusion this has anything to do with anyone but myself. It’s how I’m taking it. Mike was my hero, he truly was. If this amazing child could have his soul in tact then there was hope for me repairing mine. The slices put into it want to heal, but there is something familiar to that agony and therefore, comforting. I have to move myself to move away from the darkness. But it took my hero this time. His resiliance astonished me. In my mind, he was immortal and everyday without him feels like a page from the wrong story. But it’s not. It’s the person behind the story that has me floored and aching, forever changed and wondering how best to move forward.

 

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KINDRED # 82

My partner Rachel (Rayray) is pulling some of the the most profound insights on her blog on one of the, no the worst, thing you have to live through. I’m listeneing to Eminem, like Mike loved and I listened to everyday as I worked out two years when this all got into motion. Especially the song Without Me, which the chorus, despite it’s sometimes homophobic lyrics, drove me on. It said well this looks like a job for me, so everybody just follow me, ’cause we need some controversy, ’cause it would be so empty without me.

That made me think of me and Mike and our at the time frequent conversations. I was another anchor for him to his new life. A talisman to remind him that his new family was his his real family and his place was cemented. They would never let go of him voluntarily. Plus, aside from acting when I was 17, there was never anything that swept me off my feet as a job for me. As the job for me. But this ocean of children in limbo did. There were many fewer in happy arrangemens than were in living hell or on psychotropics. And it felt like an ocean by the sheer magnitude of the number of kids involved that, lowballed 400,000 of them that for some inexplicable reason, weren’t being discussed nearly as say, dog rescue.

Sadly, it’s not inexplicable. There’s a trickle down on this topic just like all the ugly ones we don’t want to admit are happening. Most people in America aren’t prepared to become parents. There’s no licence where they have to recite baby care facts and be explained to what having a child costs; not just monetarily but in your heart. For example, do not have a child unless you are willing to give it a part of your soul and become your responsibility forever. I’ve often written about the parent/child bond that occurs and exists beyond death. But I never had a window into the loss of a child side before, so intimately connected to me. Something that I knew had nothing to do with me and everything about his parents, especially his mom from my side. Never the less, today I realized that I’m still in shock.

Deep shock. So much so it’s covered with my imagined acceptance of his death. That’s life, right? It can suck so badly that there isn’t a word for the suffering you feel when you lose the person that you love the most. For Rachel and Tyson, her partner, that was Mike. I was in awe of the instantaneous unconditionality of their feelings for him. Before he was ever in their arms, he was in their hearts. I was on the phone with Rachel almost daily, learning the story. Hearing the roller coater of emotions when there were challenges in getting him into their custody. It was pure love. I know the feeling from when my infant son was placed in my arms, but this was just the purest thing I ever witnessed and I prayed every night, giving gratitude for them getting him, for me getting the money to document his and other stories. For a change I was actually happy. Just woke up happy. I kept imagining dancing with Mike at a premeire party. And here comes the shock.

I believe that there is power in speaking things into existence. Short of the ability to speak him back to life, even though there is a ton of work between here and there, I want to win an Indie Spirit for him, the most independant spirit I have ever known. Once he was at him real home and allowed to explore himself, he loved glam and sometimes drag queening. I would have loved to escort that fierce side of him to accept and speak about the subject from a first hand viewpoint. I’m pretty iffy on the whole singular higher being thing right now, but I believe in physics and energy. I want to walk out onto that stage with Rachel and the spirit of a drag queen, loud and proud to be the inspiration of the inception of KINDRED and the projects that will spring forth from it. I believe in that.

I believed in him. And I told him every time I had the opportunity. His lifeforce was so strong that it survived being buried in jagged gravel his entire existence. He held on beneath the emotional and physical rubble and was in tact when he reached his parents embrace. The idea that he could die so soon after his life began never touched my spidey-senses. It was a bigger risk for me than for him I thought. It would betray everything I believed in as doing good in the world if he died in a freak accident at 19. That was like saying water could turn to wine. I didnt believe it when I heard it from a friend as a child and this was that unthinkable. And I think more, than, almost anybody I know. Way too much, more than my own good. It’s just the way I am wired so I have to do things like meditate to slow things down to a sedate level.

I’ve been on twice the number of sedatives in the past three months since his passing. Just as I woke in the night to learn the news, I still wake in the night. My getting a solid 8 is a distant memory. I know he would not want me to be messing myself up, and I say it to myself when I think of him. He loved, trusted and appreciated me; what an amazing gift. How painful and precious to carry with me. I know that one day, it wont be painful but comforting and joyful; I just cant see there from here. Memories of my mom still bring a confluence of emotion but they are treasured. Just as my ones of Mike. I actually have the footage of him to watch at my leisure on this computer. But I can’t. Not yet. I’m afraid.

That must be true because I felt it in my gut, excpetions made, when I wrote it. I’m even afraid to write. As a writer, only a writer can understand that and that the only way to break the spell is to write. So it’s what I’m doing; not like a warrior but a wounded child. I have no insght on this one. There have been a great many losses in my life but this is one I’m grateful not to empathize, as much as I sympathize. So here it went. I wrote. And soon I’ll tie all the good blogs together into book that, when Rachel revises and is ready, we will release as a part of the project. And that day, I hope drag queen Mike is there to whisper work it girl. I’m with you all Amy, always.

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KINDRED #81

What do I say when I have no idea what to say, save a long list of expletives. I have multiple stress related disorders and Mike dying, while it wasn’t and insn’t about me at all, hit me so personally it made me sick. This was not me using my illnesss to take a strong drug vaca from reality nor did I torment myself. I was very good about being present in a situation that every amygdala impule told me to run from.

Now that I have faced as much as I can face, I’m compelled to do something NOW! My imagination and spirit will be restless until I do. I wanted to follow through on the one sheets to the various editorial mainstays but when the time came, I physically couldn’t. So I still need to get on that. I have to be brave. None of my work will visible until my partner deems it and herself ready. Work on tying the blogs together doesn’t do anything public, editing the filth and fluff, and get it ready try to market.

Of course, a healthy part of it will be the introduction, so large I think it deserves it’s own heading, explaining the circumstances when we started, what happened and how we are now. If that sounds familiar, yes I spent my time in the rooms. I was one of the lucky ones given percocet and darvocet at 13 and weed at 15 by mom. She had the best of itentions, too. But nobody has the right to point fingers. Nobody does, except me and Rachel and our subjects about this subject. And we are pointing at something that should be so glaringly obvious, it’s redundant that we and many other have to work so hard to generate the energy to draw attention to the subject.  

Micheal used to call me just to chat. Not as much as when he hit his tennage freedom. But he knew that if his mama Rachel said I was safe, I was safe. There were many poolside conversations I had to end due to my overheating Iphone. He shared everything with me. Before and after the shoot, but before there was something especially sacred between us. We were establishig trust. I got to hear about how he saw the world. And whenever he needed, reassured him that he was home. That these people will never walk away from him. He is as unique as he is, but that’s why it was perfect. Plus in my small exposure to Portland, it seemed very anything goes. The kind of place where he would have the space and acceptance to flourish.

I used to think that there was nothing that could shock me or my close friends. We’ve all had such crazy lives, you have to be able to not just sympathise but empathize with each other. I could do that on almost anything. I’ll never tempt fate like that again. I don’t want to see anything more. Just like I don’t want people putting themselves in my place. It’s impossible. I don’t want anyone imagining my pain and my losses. My parents seem like they’re losses seem light as air in comparison to losing a child. As Rachel said to me, that I have said to others so many times; don’t imagine it. All I experienced was painfully deep, but I was not his parent. I thought I was his guardian angel and I got it in reverse. Even though my father paid the ‘iron price’ for my life, I’ve always believed there are several spirits I’m connected to. Now Micheal is one of them.

I wanted to do an exit interview with flourishing, collegiate Michael but it’s not going to happen. That makes me very sad and as a control freak, pisses me off that I didn’t get it done when I could have. Or had Rachel shoot it. We never thought to be in a rush. After fighting so hard to get him placed in this home, we thought the traumas were over. There is no point beating myself up for what could have been. The best I can do is to be present to the current needs. I also want everyone to squeeze their kid extra hard and think about saying good-bye for the last time. What do they need to know? What are those possible last words? That’s what I ask myself before my  15 year old son Ty cuts out with friends. But his buddy that usually drives is a Marine ROTC and a lesbian. No action to be had there. Thank the universe for small favors.

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