Thursday, November 4, 2010

50 and thankful

The big day is here. I am 50. As the day has approached, I have spent a lot of time in reflection on what it means to turn 50. One thing that has changed is that I take a moment every morning when I wake up to give thanks for another day. I realize that nothing should be taken for granted. It is just a moment but that moment is an important way to start each day. Most days after that moment, I go run.

A few weeks ago, I ran 4.5 miles. It might not seem like much to some but that was the longest distance I had ever run outside. I did that when I was 49 years old and just weeks from 50.

As I was running, I began to understand the significance of that run.

A few years ago, I was alive but not really living. I remember telling some friends that I realized that this was my life. I would go to work, hang out with friends, maybe take a vacation every now and then. I saw that as the path for the remainder of my life however long that might be.

I stopped having hopes and dreams. I no longer thought I could write the next great novel or screenplay as I once thought I might. I gained weight, stopped working out, and just existed.

As I hit the 3 mile mark on this run, it occured to me that I was at 49 plus going to hit a personal best. I thought back on the last 6 months when I had lost 20 pounds and taken better care of myself than in years. I had a great job, an amazing family and friends who enriched my life every day. I realized that at almost 50, I had a pretty damn good life.

I decided that not only was I going to run 4.5 miles but I was going to finish strong. I picked up the pace and began to think not about the past but the future.

The symbolism of this run was not lost on me. I could still write a great screenplay. I could still change careers if I wanted. I thought about Estelle Getty who reached great fame later in life first on Broadway and then on television as Sophia Petrillo on the Golden Girls. Of course, leave it to me to run and think about the Golden Girls at the same time.

I continued to pick up the pace as I was determined to run this in under 50 minutes (yet more symbolism). The baggage of the past years seemed to peel away with each step. As I approached the front door of my loft, I ran even faster. I thought of the symbolism of reaching the end of my run but running faster than I had yet.

I ended the run and looked at my watch and saw 48 minutes plus and I smiled. I had completed a first and it woke in me the idea that there were many more to be done.

We do not have to be 50 to think our life has lost its meaning and just go through the motions. Plenty of 20 somethings get there. Too many young gay kids give up and take their life.

In these days where many have filmed "It gets better" videos, I can say with certainty, that it does get better. However, it does not get better without our effort and desire. Happiness and fulfillment in life is not one of those guaranteed rights. We have to work at it and work at it every day.

If you are in a rut, do something. Go run. Write. Take a road trip. Just do something.

So as I start life at 50, I am at a place that I did not think I would be. I am full of hope and wonder of life. I still see possibilities. The fact is that I may not write the next great screenplay. Then again, I might. The option is there.

At the end of the run, it occurred to me that life is best when we are working toward something. For some, it may be raising children. For others it might be starting a business. It might be losing weight or getting healthy. Maybe it is writing a great piece of work. The key is to be always moving forward.

So far I like 50. The wisdom is just flowing but even more so is the curiosity of what comes next. I know if I work at it and keep moving forward that it will just keep getting better and better.

So I am 50. And I am thankful.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I am gay and I shopped at Target

True confession. I shopped at Target. I will shop at Target again.

To make this even more scandalous, I was campaign manager for a gay marriage campaign in Tennessee. I am a liberal Democrat.

If you have been living under a rock and have missed this "controversy," let me catch you up. In 2010, the Supreme Court overruled a law which banned corporations from giving money to candidates. Target gave $150,000 to a group which is supporting Tom Emmer, a candidate for Governor of Minnesota who has a bad record of support for issues of great importance to the gay community. The CEO of Target apologized to his employees. He stated that the donation was intended as one for a pro business position. He promised to set up a better procedure for any future contributions to political campaigns. He reiterated his support for the issues of great importance to the gay community. Best Buy, another company with strong support of the gay community, gave $100,000 to the same group.

So seems like we are done. Friend makes a mistake, friend apologizes, friend promises to not let it happen again. However, we cannot be done because HRC has not entered into the debate. Of course, no issue is complete without HRC deciding it is done. An apology would not be good enough to make amends. To get back in the good graces of HRC, Target must donate $150,000 to candidates who support those very important gay issues.

Protests begin around the country. You can go to youtube and see demonstrations in Target stores. The message is clear - good gays don't shop at Target - a store with a 100% score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index. Translation of the Index - Target has been a good friend of the gay community. We are friends.

I don't know how you operate but when a friend makes a mistake, apologizes, and tells me that he will do better, that is good enough for me. It is even more so when I know that I probably have done similar things to what my friend did.

I am sure many of us have issues which are at the front of who we vote for. They may very well be a candidate's position on gay issues. I am sure there are candidates I support who cast votes I strongly disagree with. Most of us have a major litmus test on issues most important to us. For Target, it was a pro business philosophy. For many of us, it is gay issues. Nothing like a little hypocrisy to lose us credibility in a National debate.

At its core, Target operates in the heartland of America. They are not centered in the larger cities where gay rights have been further advanced. They build their stores in areas where it was not always popular to get that 100% rating from HRC. However, on principle, they had non discrimination policies, supported LGBT groups, and gave money to Pride celebrations. Target is a friend of the community who made a mistake and apologized. What are we going to do to corporations who do not have supportive policies and give money to such candidates? Blow up their buildings? It seems to me we need some proportion in response here.

And to HRC. In the political world, $150,000 is nothing. It means nothing and truthfully will have little impact. It was all about symbolism to require donating money to candidates who support gay issues. How about this approach? How about asking the folks at Target to talk with Mr. Emmer about his views? How about having someone on the inside talk to him about the importance of ENDA or marriage equality? I assure you that it would go much further than $150,000. The whole notion seems junior high to me. I will be your friend if you (check the box) do things just like I say and say you like me. Friendships are two way streets in my world and I do not get to set the exact terms of them.

So I am out of the closet as a Target shopper. I will not wear disguises. I will shop at a store that has a long history of support, made a mistake, apologized and reiterated support to the causes I hold dear.

There are so many issues out there we should be more concerned with. If we in the gay community want to protest something, how about Sarah Palin? That could be a full time job.

I understand why people are upset. It's fair. However, it is time to step back and look at this in a reasonable way. Target is not our enemy and we gain nothing from making them one. I accept the apology and take them at their word that this will not happen again. If it does, I will lead the protest. Until then, I will shop at Target. As for Best Buy, I hardly ever shopped there anyway so someone else can defend them!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Journey Begins

In a little under 4 months, I turn 50. That's half a century. When I was born, John Kennedy was just elected President. There were no computers, cell phones, or most of the other items that we now use every day. Rock and roll was still young. There were no CD's or DVD's. In fact, 8 tracks had not even been invented.

I have been thinking about turning 50 for several months now. In fact, everything has been considered in the context of turning 50. I had to watch the Winter Olympics because since they are only every 4 years, I pondered how many I might have left. I ponder the significance of holidays more. I marvel at technology but find myself nostalgic for simpler times. Also, I like to consider myself far more wise though others might contest that.

In that wisdom I realized a few months ago that I was also nearing 50 in some areas that were not good. On bad days, my blood pressure was not far from 50 with a 100 in front of it. My weight kept creeping more and more toward 50 with a 200 in front of it. My waist size (the one measured, not the one used by stores) was dangerously close to just plain old 50.

I knew that I had to make some changes so thus the idea came for a personal campaign, "Fit by 50." I recommitted to the gym, hired a trainer (there will be many discussions about him to come), and changed what I ate. That was around the end of April.

The results have started and I am happy to say that the waist size is down a few inches and the blood pressure is back to normal. The weight loss is slow and steady (like it's supposed to be "Biggest Loser" fans).

However this blog will be about more than my waist size or blood pressure. Being "Fit by 50" is far more reaching than just physical. It is about continuing the journey to know myself, to understand what i believe, and to try to match that belief system in how I live.

As I turn 50, I realize I need to not let all of this wisdom go to waste. I have so much I want to write about: gay life, growing older gay, politics, music, Nashville, and much more. If others read and like it, that is great but honestly, it is mainly for me.

So I start the journey to 50. I choose to embrace it. As I near 50, I have the same thoughts that I had at 30 and 40. I can even turn 50 or I can't. Given those two options, I much prefer 50.

I am planning a huge celebration the weekend after my birthday. I want to connect my birthday with one of my favorite events, Nashville's "Artrageous." It will be a weekend of celebrating life, family, friends, memories, and giving. More to come on that but for now, join me in this journey. I am excited about it and hope that along the way, something I write makes you reflect or enlightens you, challenges you, or just makes you laugh.

The journey begins. I hope you will be a part of it and enjoy it with me. Until next time.....