Try to type “affirmations” without sounding like a d-bag. Go ahead, try.
The first week of 2016 has been full of affirmations. I’ve been encountering the word everywhere –in print, on signs, in casual conversation. Even my friend Damian referred to his liking a photo I posted on Facebook as “affirming the photo.”
But before I go into detail about any more of the instances, I need to acknowledge how silly I feel writing about affirmations. Yes, I’m a silly, self-centered man for foisting my New Year’s affirmation encounters upon you, but it’s deeper than that… I feel silly even typing “affirmations.” I wish there was a font that adequately conveyed the voice I feel I need to use to whenever I say the word “affirmations.” My normal voice will not suffice, mainly because it feels weird to hear “affirmations” in my own voice, in my own head, thru the bones in my face. I feel that “affirmations” is best said in a voice and timbre similar to that which I use for the outgoing message on my phone –the voice that’s acutely aware it had to go thru speech therapy in the fifth grade along with all the other boys who couldn’t throw a ball.
Affirmations: I say it deeper, but more out of the body. Like there’s a speaker playing a self-help cassette an inch in front of my face. And I’ve taken a couple Quaaludes.
First of all, I started with a new talk therapist this past week. He works at an outfit called, you guessed it, Affirmations. Affirmations: A Center for Psychotherapy & Growth to be exact. I took everything I had not to mock the name in front of the poor therapist’s face. After all, the guy came up with the name. But c’mon… “Affirmations” are those things bendy people chant when greeting the sun on an overcast day. “Affirmations” are what Stuart Smalley would recite into the mirror on old SNLs; “Because I’m good enough…” “Affirmations” sounds like something well people who have convinced themselves that they are unwell do to make themselves feel well again.
But Affirmations is a well-regarded LGBT-centered practice, and after my previous experiences with providers here in Columbus who were threateningly religious or just plain threatening, it was nice to feel listened to. This first hour wasn’t spent with him reading questions off of a form. He asked me basically all the standard questions, but was able to do so from memory –or even genuine concern. At the end, after I had finished relating various troubles with bipolar, bullying, belated comings-out, etc., he said, “Well, I certainly can see that you’ve had certain barriers.” Then he proceeded to tick off everything I had just mentioned.
That was powerfully affirming –just to hear someone acknowledge your troubles. I cannot overstate how important this is as someone with a mental illness. Too often people want to sweep mental illness under the rug. It makes people uncomfortable. Sometimes the best tonic is hearing someone else tell you matter-of-factly that you are fucked up.
I started out the week with the wild hair of a notion that I would attend the Texas Bear Round Up in Dallas in March, piggy-backing it on a trip to go see friends down in Austin. To the uninitiated the TBRU is an event where they lock a bunch of hairy, overweight gays in hotel, make them drink, then stand back and watch the furniture break in ever more interesting ways. As an overweight, hairy gay myself, I have been missing the company of others of my ilk since I moved to Columbus. Not that there’s no bears here, it’s that I’m shy, and the Columbus bears are kind of shy, too. People in Texas are not shy, if I remember correctly. So, I booked a room.
I began telling friends back in NYC of my plans:
Humberto said, “I didn’t love it.”
Alex said, “You will hate it. All there is to do is drink and fuck in hotel rooms.”
“But I’ll have my car with me, so I’ll be able to go to museums.”
“I guess so.”
I asked Damian about the whole endeavor. “Would you be there by yourself?” he asked, knowing that I have a tendency to go into my own head.
“Well, Doug’s also going,” I said, referring to a mutual friend of ours. “But, he’s got his own ‘agenda.’”
“I think it would be fun if you were going specifically with Doug.”
“Yeah, Doug’s a bit more social than me.”
“Honey, EV-ERY-ONE’S more social than you!”
It is so affirming to know that people exist out there to save you from your intentions by looking out for you and pointing out your true nature when you need it pointed out.
Still going to Austin though. Still going to enjoy myself.
On Thursday, I hit up the lanes to get a little practice bowling in because my bowling still sucks, even though my average has gone from a 103 to a 104. I feel there is still some room for improvement. I like going in the after noon because the lanes are usually nearly empty. However, this afternoon there was a high school match going on between St. Charles and a team organized by the Lions Club. The only room for me was right next to the match.
There were actually people there to watch the match, so many so that an overflow table of them set up behind my lane. It quickly became apparent that they were there to see a young ginger haired phenom. I’m gonna call him a phenom because he picked up the 7-10 split, and I’ve never seen anyone ever do that before.
After I started bowling, I began to imagine that they were cheering for me. “Way to go!” when I’d fail to pick up a split. “Yeah, boy!” they’d shout when I’d knock down three. But also applause for when I got the remaining seven down for a spare.
It’s very affirming to have a personal cheering section that’s happy no matter what you do.
And when I finished my second game and walked back to hit the bathroom, an elderly gentleman in the cheering section said, “Nice job in the tenth there.”
Affirmations. Still sounds weird, but I’m gonna look for them more this year.