This morning I woke humming the tune “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. This song sounds sad, but if you listen to the lyrics it isn’t sad at all, it’s about being free.
When I was young my mother bought me this poem. Ever since, I have had it on a wall somewhere in my house. I moved it room to room as I moved out. From living in a garage apartment, to Savannah GA, to Atlanta GA, to North Adams MA, to Vancouver BC, and finally to Orlando FL… I have always had it. I carry it to remember never to give up on my dreams, no matter how distant they seem or how scary the path was to get there or how alone I feel as I chase them. I lost the small scroll in our house fire, but I haven’t lost the poem and I never will.
Follow Your Dreams
If while pursuing distant dreams
Your brightest hopes turn to gray.
Don’t wait for reassuring words
Or hands to lead the way.
For seldom will you find a soul
With dreams the same as yours.
Not often will another help you
Pass through untried doors.
If inner forces urge you
To take a course unknown,
Be ready to go all the way,
Yes, all the way alone.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t
Draw lessons from the best;
Just don’t depend on lauding words
To spur you on your quest.
Find confidence within your heart
And let it be your guide.
Strive ever harder toward your dreams
And they won’t be denied.
-Bruce B. Wilmer
I told my wife last night as we walked that “for the first time in my life, I realize I won’t be alone again”… Prepared for as long as I can remember that truly committing to my dreams could mean being alone… I now have a wife who would not only come along for the ride, but push me with her horns down (she is a double Taurus, and oh boy… is she a powerful one).
My father once said to me “Stop seeking my approval, you don’t need it”… I know reflecting on it that it only meant he would love me, success or failure. That he would support my dreams as he always has, as long as I chase them myself without the need for the approval of others. Today I know myself and I have pursued them with or without his approval. I recall his fear of me being a “starving artist” he would have to support my entire life. I haven’t asked him for money since I graduated from college.
From birth I stood in front of a mirror and noticed flaws… Starting from as young as I can remember, my red hair always stood out to me as something wrong with me… I was made fun of, bullied, left out in spite of all my skills and abilities. Called “Freak”, “Nerd”, “Geek”… As I aged the bullies aged too… Not growing out of bullying but growing into new glorious and creative ways to torture me. By high school I was very good at martial arts and the physical bullying turned to psychological. “Fag” was one of their favorites in spite of my identifying as 100% straight at the time… Since 8th grade they spread rumors that ensured I would never keep a girlfriend for long.
The things that made me different seemed to be immense flaws… The lines of my jaw being too long, the way the bottoms of my iris’ don’t touch the bottoms of my eyelids most of the time… The shape of my body, the size of my hands… Reflections of imperfections staring back at me in a form that somewhere inside I felt was beautiful yet others always convinced me were only flaws.
For years I reflected over my desires and found they were “wrong”… Ballet, Kung Fu, Buddhism, Gymnastics, Hip Hop Dance, Costumes. All things that made this pasty white ginger kid “Stand out”… Bullies like to hammer the nails that stick up.
For as long as I can remember. from an age “far too young” to be interested, I have obsessed over the mature female form. Made to be ashamed as a teen and an adult. Other aesthetics I found I loved wrong for a nerdy overweight white boy… Musical theater, singing, ballroom dance, swing dancing, stop motion animation, guitar, hip hop dance, fighting (in a boxing ring, “Sanshou”…the guy in the yellow I knew when I was training), skate boarding (I was quite the skate rat in the 90s when it wasn’t “cool” before the x-games came out). I played high school football for three years, and in spite of being a captain and being awarded MVP my Junior year of high school, I was still not good enough to be accepted by the team… The drama dork no one could punch or run over because holy shit… did I love to crush those bullies in my football pads dishing out a concussion or two as I channeled 16 years of rage directly into them at a full speed sprint. I chose to put all my physical efforts into Kung Fu and Sanshou my senior year, as I went to highschool until 11am and left to attend college classes at the local community college for the remainder of my day.
The things I loved, wrong…
The feeling of dancing to classical music in a leotard, doing martial arts before it was “cool” or “normal” or “mainstream” thanks to the UFC and the movies “blade” and “the matrix”… singing and wanting to be on stage acting… Called a “show off”… Told I was seeking affirmation, trying to steal a spotlight from the “popular kids”, as I befriended the varsity cheerleaders and played “Dungeons & Dragons” with the varsity football captains, being told never to tell a soul it’s what we did on our weekend… Having “Secret”, very “popular” girlfriend that was 2 years older than me… while another female cheerleader friend spent time trying to convince me I was gay. All the Reflections of imperfections that I found beautiful but was always being told by my peers I was wrong… Hammered into a round hole, my square edges shaved off with each blow… Held down in shame for the things I loved through life. One true friend, named Wenona. Who was so popular she could be my friend out in the open, without “ruining her reputation”. She was far too unique and powerful for anyone to pull her down. We danced together once at Homecoming, and the entire world stopped to see the “White boy who can dance”. I was tortured for years and almost killed for that brief moment in the spotlight truly showing what I could do on a dance floor. To this day, I still worry about going “all out” when I dance.
For years I reflected over my talents, and my success… Only to be met with political competition, theft of my ideas, theft of credit, harsh criticism for how I “make others look less skilled”… Told to slow down, told to stop caring so much, told to stop pushing so hard, told to allow others to mess up and stop trying to rescue these people who report to me as a Director… even when their failures are my responsibility… These reflections of imperfections always things I found beautiful about myself that no one else could see…
I tried to improve my reflection… I worked tirelessly to change everything about myself… I hardened my body through rigorous research and exercise and diet with Ryan Reynolds as a hero and my aestheticaly ideal male form… I finally changed my clothing first to stand out but then to fit in… I changed my friends and my life and my heart… I dumbed down my mind with drugs and alcohol… I stopped caring about my work… I tortured my soul until I believed I was “plain”… “Normal”… All my edges flattened down like taking a sander to my skin until nothing stuck out anymore… With every unique piece of me removed there was still no peace to be found in the stranger who now stared at me in anger and despair… Denied the life he was here on this Earth to experience.
I reached a point when my reflection was so angry with me for hurting him… so ugly in the mirror that I simply stopped looking at it… Stopped caring about it… The man in the mirror’s smile faded, his shoulders slumped, his confidence shattered in front of me like broken glass as i screamed “what’s else could possibly be wrong with you!!!!” At him… But it was never his fault it was mine… For abandoning that boy, orphaned, his dreams lost.
Then one day I saw my reflection in the eyes of the woman who would become my wife… I saw the child who believed his hair was beautiful, I saw the child that worshipped the female form seeing it was beautiful, and though straight, wishing I could shine the way women do. I joked often “I am a lipstick lesbian stuck in a man’s body”. Somewhere in the dark shadows of the man in front of me, I saw the boy who danced. That boy actually moved with the grace of an angel. I saw the boy who loved to sing sounded beautiful when he did it loudly without shaky fear in his voice… I found every edge of every curve was something to be embraced not shaved off or crammed into a fitted box that didn’t suit my form… When I met my wife, I took it all back. All those beautiful pieces of me… reclaimed (as I wrote in my blog “Saved”)
Then I realized the reflection I was seeing was not just me when it was reflected in her eyes… It was her in my heart and in my soul and coursing through my blood… It’s the fact that she and I are one… One soul inhabiting 2 hearts and minds and meat machines we are forced to pilot alone… And I realized that the reason she loves me is that we are the same… our beautiful colors muted in a dark world of “normalcy” forced on us by the society that doesn’t embrace the bright and colorful. That shining is a sickness that needs a “cure” in the form of “antidepressants” or “anti anxiety medication” we may not actually need if the world was a padded room, a “safe space” to be who we are without a hammer nailing us back to “normal”.
She doesn’t question the beauty of the reflection she sees because she was the same child who loved what she saw and spent most of her life being told she was plain, when she is anything but. We were both ignored by those who should have embraced all of us as beautiful and perfect versions of ourselves… “I see you”… from the movie “Avatar” is the same as the word “Namaste” in the Hindu faith. It’s not that I see your surface, it’s that the light inside of me can see yours shining so brightly behind the body we often use to shield ourselves and hide from the world behind our armored and scarred flesh. I see this reflection in everyone I have ever loved… I see my mother’s heart in her chest, my sisters humor in her laugh, and I see the longing to be loved by me in her eyes… I see a girl that can’t wait to be allowed to play outside, but isn’t sure its safe yet. A longing that I saw in many before her whom I couldn’t offer this kind of love to because they only loved pieces of me they could allow to remain, and forced me to remove the rest as a condition of their love…
My wife loves me exactly as I am, and our worst fights are when she sees me hiding it from a crowd… When I dance hip hop half-assed and half speed for an hour with a full dancefloor… but then my favorite EDM song comes on and I go all out… clearing the dance floor in a circle around me. When that happened this past summer, I chose to leave the party at the resort. She was so angry with me for running away, that we fought until 2am… she doesn’t want a “mortal” man, she wants me to be her god in those moments and own my strength instead of hiding it. She was right. It was a few days later the professional dancer who worked at the resort asked me to teach him to “hit” and “glide” in the style of dance I do when I go hard called “animation dance”
In my wife’s reflection of me in her soul I see every intention… And in her reflection in me I hope she can see them too… We don’t doubt each other because we understand that her hands move when mine move… Her heart pulls where mine pulls… her mind travels where mine travels… We know this choreographed synchronicity as sure as our reflection in any mirror we have ever stepped in front of… That what we do the other does, how we feel the other feels, and that we will move as one whenever we choose to do so… Sometimes we separate unfortunately. We have different moods, especially in the morning (I am a morning person, she is not). But after coffee and some breakfast we tend to synchronize again when she is ready to smile and kiss me as gently as touching a cloud in heaven.
I no longer fear losing her though… Because she will always be my perfect reflection of what I find beautiful in myself… She will always love the entire man and never ask me to strip pieces off… In fact she will demand of me that I don’t. Just as she can love her own reflection without worrying how I feel about her I hope…
We can all love our own reflection without wanting something from it in return… almlst no one asks that our reflection love us back, even if that is the goal of life in my belief.
You can work on yourself to give your reflection (your “temple” as Hindu and Buddhists call our body) the ability to look and be as beautiful as you know it can be… Sculpt your body with focused effort and discipline into whomever you find most beautiful… Find a hero like Ruby Rose who is gender fluid, and no one even cares if she is gay, straight, bi, pansexual… No labels required… she is unique and shines like a beacon for any lost or “confused” kids. She can look like a beautiful man one moment and a beautiful woman the next… Every child on this planet knows the song their soul is singing… the only problem is that most of them lose their religion, and their innocence along with their ability to just be the exact pilot their meat machine wants, and turn their temple into a beautiful home for their soul to breathe the air of freedom with deep cleansing breath.
But there will never be anything demanded of of our reflection, that would be ridiculous. We know our reflection is us… what we fail to see is that every person we see is a self reflecting mirror as we cast our emotions (usually incorrectly) out onto them as if they are feeling what we feel… We never question if our reflection in a mirror is feeling the way we feel. Yet so often we accept the judgement of others and make the mistake of judging them as well. Why do we do this to another autonomous person? Perhaps because we are not allowed to be who we choose?
Work on your reflection first… What does it need to be loved by you. Think of that person in the mirror as someone you care for more than anything in the world and love it unconditionally. If you think of it that way, as “not you, but the person you wish you were”… what would you like to see in that reflection? What clothes would that beautiful creature wear? What costume suits it if it was a godlike super-hero? What shape do you want that body to be when it stands there (for me Ryan Reynolds with my face). I have gotten close over the years (good enough to come in second in a best body contest at Hedonism)… and as I age into my 40s without taking steroids (which I choose not to do) I lose that peak but remember fondly when I was there. I still exercise and work on being the best 42 year old version of me I can be.
With your reflection, what will show you that it loves you because you are looking at it with loving eyes? Why not just allow it to dress how it wants, wear anything that you wish it could wear, love who you wish it could love, talk and walk like you wish it could, dance and sing like you wish it could. That reflection is crying out to you to allow it to be who you “know you are”, remember this… “Scio te ipsum” – the way to find a keyhole to happiness is Latin for “know thyself”.
Your reflection will understand you only when you offer it pure truth… You can’t lie to that person, so don’t. Allow it… allow it even if it takes 5 years of working out 4 days a week… If it takes coming out of the closet and standing on a roof shouting your true name! The name you would take if you could name yourself…
For me that is standing proud and shouting “I am Sun Wu Kong, I am the Monkey King, the Armor of the gods, the weapon of Karma and fate, who has learned to put down his staff and his armor, and greet all enemies or adversaries as a friend”… Your reflection is the one person you can’t lie to… What do you need to see him or her smile? Do exactly that… Stand there looking at your reflection and ask it “what’s your name”… Let it answer…. Ask it “what do you need to give me a smile?” … Let it answer. Then promise that person, you will chase those dreams for him or her.
You will only know how to do that when you know yourself and aren’t afraid to stop denying who you are. Which hero are you… I am “deadpool”… Who are you? Lady Deathstrike, hurt so much that she heals instantly? Black Widow (do you truly have her horrible past as an assassin and her warriors guilt)? Maybe you are Rogue? who spent her life unable to be touched by another because she is too powerful. Maybe you are Rae in star wars, lost and alone on a desolate planet all on her own… waiting for a family that is never coming to rescue her, and she discovers her own path to power.
When my wife looks at me… She can see all of me, because for the first time I choose to be all of me thanks to her. What I see in her eyes is pure love of the man in front of her… Which has allowed me to look at my own reflection, in an unbroken mirror… For the first time… And see nothing but her beautiful, colorful, talented husband staring back at me. Today… that man smiles and for the first time, I see the beauty of him. He is happy, he is complete, he is safe and he is home.
Keep the Faith.