Still Sick!

16 days. That’s how long this upper respiratory infection has been going on. A steroid zpack suppress the symptoms the first week, but they came back full force when I finished the pack.

Yesterday, I finished ten days of an antibiotic. I’m convinced taking them produces its own side effects, so I’m glad to be finished. I’m better, but I still have congestion, a nagging cough, and body aches. I’m starting to wonder if this has more to do with being old than with being sick. Most likely it’s a combination of the two.

It snowed on Friday and the office was closed. I’m also off from Martin Luther King Jr Day Monday. That gives me a four-day weekend to continue to recover. I’m thinking it would do me some good to bundle up and go for a walk, rather then lie around the house like I did all day yesterday.

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What about Sister Ann?

I, Sister Ann Wenita Morelove, am alive and well. I’m entering my fifth year? sixth year? (which is it, Sister Faegala?) as a Music City Sister of Perpetual Indulgence.

I’m eager to see what a new year of ministry will hold. For me, this past year has been one of expansion. I’ve found myself among LGBTQ folk with whom I’ve had little interaction. Specifically, I’m referring to the Black LGBT community.

I’ve found that so many people on the LGBTQ community are happy with the status quo, which is often segregated and even racist. It would be hypothetical of me to take a position of judgment about that, given that I’ve spent a large part of my life in the same boat. But I’m here to tell you, stepping out of the boat is a lot of fun!

Here’s to 2018. May joy abound! And may your makeup be on point (or at least entertaining).

Sick!

I went into the New Year weekend on steroids prescribed for a viral upper respiratory infection. A test ruled out the flu, but I don’t see any difference. As I took the last pill on Tuesday, my symptoms came back threefold, with the addition of fever. I never made it to work this week and brief trips out of bed to the bathroom or the kitchen left me weak and breathing rapidly. I’ve been free of fever since Thursday but still—up until this morning I have had no energy and I have felt rotten.

Three amazing women cared for me: daughter, sister, and mother. Ruth shoulder the bulk of it as she was physically here in the house on her last days of winter break. Sissy stepped up with text message check-ins and a delicious, ready to cook meal. Mom is driving up today.

Several friends called or messaged to wish me a speedy recovery. For both family and friends, I feel the support, I feel humble, and above all, I am grateful.

Here are some things being sick has taught me or perhaps reminded me:

  • In general, friends hope you get well soon. Close friends check in with you regularly. Family knows what you need and does it, whether it’s attention (or to be left alone), food, or some task (like cleaning out the litter box or picking up more kleenex). Both friends and family are a blessing.
  • When I’m sick for any length of time, I start questioning my self worth. Unable to work, I begin thinking they’ll realize they can get along quite well without me and I’m going to lose my job. Socially, folks are meeting up for coffees, drinks, dinners, Sisters are bar crawling and going about their ministry, and even the birds that I’ve fed without fail are finding other feeders full of seed. Who needs me?
  • Pets, especially Fred the cat, are a great comfort. He has stayed by my side. My cough might briefly send him off the bed to the floor, but it doesn’t take long for him to come back, sometimes napping on my arm, sometimes sleeping at my feet as he’s is now.

  • It’s hard to be single and be sick. This is the first time I’ve experienced it and the topic deserves its own blog post.
  • I start to wonder if this is forever and if it is, what will that mean? I realize that for many people, sickness is their reality. It stirs compassion within me, and causes me to resolve to be more like family than friend (see above) if I have the choice.

I feel better this morning. I’ll enjoy Mom’s company today and stay home. I’ll shower, dress, and tackle putting Christmas away (but slowly). Monday, I’ll go back to work and step back into that reality.

However, those bullet points raise subjects worth exploring: How do I define my worth? At age fifty-three, I’m single for the first time in my adult life. How am I dealing with that? What kind of friend am I?

Spending time answering these questions may be my New Year resolutions.

Be well.

Happy New Year

Hi, y’all. I’m still here! It is the last day of the year and I’m taking stock, as is customary.

Except I’m NOT! I’ve done that before and I’m not convinced year-end evaluations are the healthiest of activities. Specifically, how does retrospection mesh with living in the now?

I have two friends (not the same friends described below) who challenge me to live in the now, sometimes with patience and sometimes with exasperation. I confess I find it difficult.

How about, in lieu of an end-of-year evaluation, I describe what is happening right now?

Let me begin:

“The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel just queued up from a playlist of similar songs. My mood is mellow and enhanced by a fourth-day dose of steroids intended to relieve the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection.

I sit comfortably at a kitchen table sipping my second cup of coffee. I’m full after having eaten a breakfast of two fried eggs, a biscuit with sausage gravy, bacon, and pan-braised Brussel spouts. The table belongs to a friend/lover. His friend/lover is in the other room (also my friend)—and now I hesitate as I struggle to describe not the people themselves but my relationship to them. Why the hesitation? Perhaps I’ll reemphasize how I started this paragraph and restate: I sit comfortably ….

My friend smiles and I interpret it as a question: What are you doing? I read aloud what I’ve written and the conversation between the three of us quickly deepens, touching on topics such as truth, honesty, tmi, perceptions, and, most importantly, the definition and pursuit of happiness.

I write this post via my phone and for a considerable amount of time I stare at the screen, searching for the point. I think the point for now is: comfort and happiness intersect. Right now—in this moment—I am deeply comfortable; right now—in this moment—I am deeply happy.

Happy New Year.

A Young Man Died of AIDS Last Week

My name is Doug Hagler, and I am HIV positive.

My first post on icanhasgrace was on May 16, 2009. That was 9 years and a few months after my HIV diagnosis. I have known my HIV status for over 17 years. It has taken me this long to share my status on this blog for one reason: Stigma.

I started icanhasgrace for many reasons. The blog has meant a great deal to me, even though its place in my life has waxed and wained. But for all these years, I have denied, suppressed, and hidden, the main reason I started blogging: I wanted to claim grace—unconditional love—over the fact that I am HIV positive. Why didn’t I do that until now?: Stigma.

When I was diagnosed, I immediately started treatment. At my first appointment, the nurse who cared for me said, “Be careful who you tell. It will change the way they think of you.” Why this warning?: Stigma.

I am ok. I have my problems, but HIV isn’t one of them. After 17 years, through medical advancements and by the grace of God, I have figured that shit out. I have amazing support from family, friends, and from the medical community. Seriously, HIV as a disease is not an issue for me now and it hasn’t been for quite some time. Concern about my health is not why I am disclosing my HIV status. Stigma is why I am disclosing my status.

A young man died of AIDS last week. I want to share his age. I want to disclose his location. I want to say his name. But I cannot. Why? Why can’t I honor him with the details of his life?: Stigma.

So what I wrote is wrong: This young man did not die of AIDS; he died of stigma.

Even though we have all we need to not only treat this virus, but also to prevent new infections, stigma infected him, and stigma kept him from getting the treatment he needed.

In the gay community (HIV is not a gay disease), stigma comes from families who, in overt and subtle ways, tell their children it is shameful to be gay, and shameful to get infected with this disease. Stigma comes from churches that write into polity phrases like, “Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Stigma comes from a gay community that is too lazy and self-absorbed to educated itself about the virus. Stigma comes from a society that would rather live in fearful denial than in light-bringing truth.

I suspect (for I can only speculate regarding his experience) some or all of the sources of stigma coalesced on this young man and froze him in fear. I remember that fear. I can name the time, the place, the state of the weather, the first person I called when I found out I was positive. The paralysis was overwhelming, but only for a time. That paralyzing, stigma-based fear didn’t let this young man go.

I never met him, but I know he was black. I hesitate now because my ignorance warns me to remain silent. But I know it is a fact that “blacks are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV in the United States.” It is a fact that 1 in 2 black men who have sex with men will get this disease. It is a fact that resources meant to combat HIV are more easily available to white folks than to black folks. Now we’re talking about racism in addition to stigma, which itself is magnified in the black community.

These facts overwhelm me, but they killed this young man.

I struggle with my thoughts and words because I want this post to be about him. Instead, it keeps coming back to me. I feel the need to reaffirm and strengthen the promise I made at my baptism “to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” The only way I know to do that is to combat the evil, injustice, and oppression of HIV stigma with the faith, the hope, and the joy of grace, of unconditional love.

I want to proclaim grace—unconditional love—to this young man. I want to proclaim grace—unconditional love—to anyone who is paralyzed by stigma, but especially to those who are disproportionally affected by it. But first, I have to renounce the last remaining hold that stigma has on me and claim the grace—the unconditional love—already given.

So on this day, while this young man’s family and friends gather to mourn and to celebrate his life, I claim the grace he now knows in full, as I sever stigma’s hold on me and declare: My name is Doug Hagler, and I am HIV positive.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Grant [this young man] eternal rest, Lord, and let perpetual light shine on [him].
Amen.

(UPDATE: For more information about racial disparities relating to HIV treatment and prevention, see this article at nytimes.com.)

Mood

With a smile, he said, “Lift your head up.”
I smiled back as I replied, “I’m almost there.”

I assume he thought I meant we were almost at the end of our collective work days and, it being Friday, our work weeks. Once off work, we would be free to enjoy our weekends. But my words were a deflection. He had caught me in an unguarded moment. He saw more than I intended for him to see.

This is the interwebs, and this blog is not anonymous. I’m not going to list the issues that weigh on me. Suffice it to say that if I did, that list, while not long, would be major. Several goings on are hitting all three aspects of what make up a person: mental, physical, spiritual. These issues are targeting me simultaneously.

Someone who knows me well recently asked if I thought I needed prescription antidepressants to help me through. Lovely. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t discount the drugs. However, my experience in the past has been that the side-effects of medications were worse than the depression itself.

It doesn’t help that I’m due for a testosterone shot. I have to remind myself that my mood always winds down into a funk just before a scheduled dose. (I took care of that this morning. It should take effect in a day or two.)

It doesn’t help that the circumstances bothering me seem to be forever open-ended with no resolution. (I know they are not. The reality is I am not in control of the endings, neither the when nor the what in most cases, and that lack of control messes with me.)

It doesn’t help that it’s raining. (The sun will come out tomorrow.)

What. To. Do. ?. Inevitably, I simply must follow my colleague’s advice. I have to lift my head up.

But wait: Did I mention I have a pinched nerve? Yep. I’ve been dealing with that for over a month. When I hold my neck straight and back, it fires off. It runs down my shoulder and continues all the way to my fingers, making my arm and hand go numb. So if my head isn’t all the way up, that’s why. I’ll deal with that nerve as soon as I get some of these other things moved a little further along.

Even so, when “soon” comes it will bring it’s own set of problems. Mood, my mood, is my choice. Despite the numbing, I choose to hold my head UP.

10 Things That Happen in Your 50s

  1. You wake up at the same time every morning no matter what time you went to bed and no matter what you have planned for the day. 
  2. Your skin loses its elasticity. Under your chin, above and around your eyes, the creases of your elbows, the sides around your stomach, your butt, your ankles.
  3. You care more about some things, and care less about others. 
  4. Your happiness increases, or your bitterness does. 
  5. You have to find this middle ground regarding clothes. You don’t want to get stuck wearing what you wore when you were in your 20s, but wearing what 20-year-olds wear now makes you look like you’re trying too hard. The same thing applies to how you cut your hair. 
  6. You spend more time in doctors’ offices. 
  7. You begin to look at material processions differently. 
  8. You have to form new relationships with your adult children if you have them. 
  9. You lose track of how many mid-life crisises you’ve had,  and you realize the words “mid-life” no longer apply. 
  10. You write about being in your 50s.