“This is a very sad story,” Adrianna, my new psychologist, said, after I’d outlined my journey from cancer diagnosis in December 2010 to the present day. I’d covered everything, I thought, including the debacle with Conyers Thompson, about which she was appropriately shocked.
“But you seem like a powerful and strong person,” she added, “To have gone through all that and still be here.”
I don’t feel so strong in the mornings when my first temptation, at hearing the alarm and remembering what I have to do that day, is to roll over and go back to sleep. I’ve done that enough times to know that I’m sometimes weak, too. But there’s no one there to pull me out of bed or chide me, so I usually do what needs to be done.
Still, it felt good to hear someone tell me that, even if it’s a stranger.
Adrianna not only seems capable of comforting empathy, she also seems insightful, intuiting very quickly some of my core values.
“So, freedom, and, uh…legacy? Is that the word? Seem to be your core values, at least based on what you’ve told me,” she said.
I’d never thought about that precisely, but it seemed right. I told her that I had made many decisions in my life, and chosen paths, that seemed crazy to everyone else around me. But that I was comfortable with most of them, and that freedom was more important to me than making money. I’ve also paid for that value, and I’m still paying for it now.
Legacy? That’s something I’ve only recently understood as being a driving force behind what I do and how I live.
Adrianna and I talked about my freelancing writing “career” and how I never felt satisfied writing about things that mostly interested other people. I only really became a “writer” in Prague, when I began documenting my crazy decisions with discipline and some art, I hope. I’ve written over 500,000 words about that incredible time period and attained some notoriety doing so among a small group of people. It looks like that body of work will never be seen by more than a few hundred, but I know I told an interesting story and often did it powerfully and always honestly.(If you’re interested, 1/10 of that can be bought here.) I might have to get it translated into French or German, or at least get it published in Europe as Bruce Benderson had to do, before anyone will pay much attention, however. (I remember a time when the world seemed to be full of risky writing. If anyone can point the way to an example of that now, please do. I haven’t found any lately.) At any rate, it would be a big job and time is running out.
So, I’m working on a fantasy novella to be illustrated by a wildly talented Argentine guy named Fernando. I’m a bit intimidated because, although I like my writing and think it’s good, Fernando is amazing. I’m hoping to start a Kickstarter project to help fund it, and me, as we guide it to self-publication. I’m worried, though, like so many of my projects in the past, that I’m either writing outside of folk’s comfort zones, or I’m writing something that can’t be immediately understood. it’s never been easy for me to figure out what people like and I’m often baffled when I read what they do. I’m even thinking of marketing it under a pseudonym in hopes of bypassing whatever baggage my own name carries with it. Regardless, I’m excited by it.
Joel Richards and i have also begun a photography project tentatively called Caretakers. We shot the first, experimental round two days ago with me and Gabriela Schevach. The idea is to shoot couples, one being a person fighting cancer, and the other one of his or her caretakers. I regularly see patients in Marie Curie who are accompanied by the same person every time — often an older person is attended by a much younger person, even a teenager, and I’m interested in capturing that caring relationship somehow, shot in each family’s home.
First though, I’m shooting — or rather, Joel is shooting — photos of me with the people who have helped me along the way. I’ll be posting the test shots in a couple days, but here’s a teaser:
I’m also working on my film criticism, making Notes Toward a Gay Film Canon here. I don’t think I’ll have time for that book, either.
Of course, I’m continuing writing here on this blog. Should we call it Letters From Cancer? I don’t think that works.
In other words, I seem to be entering a hopefully fruitful creative period, working on my legacy, indulging my freedom.