Saturday, March 18, 2017

R is for Round 15 (Bonus R)

15 years ago I started a new tradition of picking a "SONG OF THE YEAR" for my birthday. The song is a vision of where I have been and a glimpse into where I am heading ... the past years have been:

Precious Illusions - Alanis Morissette (2002)

Good Enough - Darren Hayes (2003)

Kinda Hard - Eric Himan (2004)

Farewell to the Old Me - Dar Williams (2005)

Whole- Casey Stratton (2006)

Phoenix Rising - Dan Paul (2007)

Lessons Learned - Carrie Underwood (2008)

32 Flavors - Ani DiFranco (2009)

Coming around - Christopher Dallman (2010)

Let the Rain - Sara Bareilles (2011)

Stronger - Kelly Clarkson (2012)

I'm Not Your Hero - Tegan & Sara (2013)

Fall Asleep – Jars of Clay (2014)

Elastic Heart – Sia (2015)

Rebel Heart - Madonna (2016)

This year I have started thinking about where I am and where I belong. I realize between work and personal life I have finally found a "Home". In a circular pattern that life is I am seeing Depeche Mode later this year. A friend said this song reminds them of me. So here is my 2017 song:

Depeche Mode - Home

Here is a song from the wrong side of town/ Where I'm bound to the ground by the loneliest sound

And it pounds from within and is pinning me down

Here is a page from the emptiest stage/ A cage or the heaviest cross ever made/ A gauge of the deadliest trap ever laid

And I thank you for bringing me here/ For showing me home/ For singing these tears/ Finally I've found that I belong here

The heat and the sickliest sweet smelling sheets/ That cling to the backs of my knees and my feet/ Well I'm drowning in time to a desperate beat

And I thank you for bringing me here/ For showing me home/ For singing these tears/ Finally I've found that I belong

Feels like home/ I should have known/ From my first breath

God send the only true friend I call mine/ Pretend that I'll make amends the next time/ Befriend the glorious end of the line

And I thank you for bringing me here/ For showing me home/ For singing these tears/ Finally I've found that I belong here

I have also set up a playlist on Spotify....

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Q is for Quiet

I get anxiety easily.

There is some part of me that, as I have aged, I continue to get anxiety at the most in opportune moments. It will strike when I wake up. when giving a presentation, even when going to a gathering.

The truth is I work through what is commonly known as imposter syndrome. For those not familiar imposter syndrome is "is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud." My anxiety has led me down a path of feeling less than and I tend to over compensate by being highly obnoxious and overly loud. It is my way of being outgoing but i struggle with balance.

I often put on my "game face" and seem super happy. Years of retail taught me how to put on this face. I am able to turn the volume on to 11. For those few out there that have never worked in retail there is a lot of smiling and "may I help you", "oh not a problem", "we can definitely help with that". I would suggest a lot of the art of being excellent with customer service has been lost since I worked retail.

Part of the willingness to assist people is truly how I am and how I feel. Though, I am normal volume 7-8 in those daily moments where in public I am that 11. I think I learned early on that if I was going to make myself feel important or feel acknowledged I had to be loud. I grew up in a family that I was not born into. A part of me needed to be loud to feel like I was being heard.

I remember my grandparents getting their first camcorder. I was in elementary school and it was a huge bulky thing that was connected to the TV by a cord. I would ham it up for the camera often. I even was given a tape from my Grandma years ago and I was showing off for the camera all the time. My brother was the opposite and would do all he could to hide under tables or around doorways. I was in third grade picked randomly to be in the school Christmas production as the MC. I hosted with a girl Michelle and she I hated each other. I think a lot of it was were competing for the spotlight.

Later in life with my first partner we had broken up, gotten back together and in the midst of a final break up he turned to me and said
"you know why you and I never work, right?"
I shook my head not honestly knowing.
"we both want the spotlight and that cannot work with two people wanting to be the stars"

I was in bands and sang in a karaoke bar a few times a week and even was dubbed the nickname :the songbird". The something changed. My anxiety got worse and I felt like I was faking my way through it all. Hell sometimes even blogging gives me that feeling. As if anything I have to say is unimportant and no one cares what I am writing, especially in a day where everyone has a blog (though I have been blogging back before it was cool).

Now I find that I spend time recovering from being "on". It is as if the energy I expend is so intense I need to have quiet. Lately, this quiet has made me reflect on where I want to be. I am not sure anymore where I feel my calling as it relates to my future. I miss being on stage whether it be singing or acting. I miss being the star sometimes. I just know the down side - the quiet- is sometimes very hard to find.

Monday, January 16, 2017

P is for Politics

I am not one to talk openly about politics. The reason has always been that it is a heated topic and I do not want to be the one that says the wrong thing in the room and get the stare down. I wasn't super educated on the topic of politics honestly.

A lot of that changed in 2008. I was worried about the state of the world and where we were going. We walked out of a era of challenging times in the economic, political, and human based landscape. Then a man came out of the woodwork and entered the arena.

Barack Obama walked into the Oval Office with a sense of grace that I had not seen in my years of being alive. He had been raised with little money. He had a family that were accessible and down to earth. They were real people who understood what it was like to come from meager beginnings and build themselves a new life and world. I felt that when he made decisions that he really had the people best interests at heart.

I knew that a president doesn't get more than two terms but part of me could see having Obama stay our president for longer. Unfortunately, 2016 came and wooshed that all away. I am so challenged with our political landscape at this time.

The day of the elections, I watched as the number on the map slowly turned more and more red. Each red state crushed me a bit more inside. Then the announcement that Trump won made me numb. I could not believe what I was seeing and living. It was like watching a movie that I didn't subscribe.

I work in a non-profit organization. The weight of the election took a serious toll on our entire staff. I tried to stay quiet and be the support for everyone around me. I have always considered myself open minded and I can hear all sides of stories. I do not believe that every decision that Obama's administration made was the right move but at least during the previous 8 years I felt as I mattered and that I was being supported as a person.

In the previous administration I was able to get married to the man that I love, I was able to not be discriminated at any job I work at based in my sexual orientation or disabilities. I was able to know that if something ever happened to our insurance I would have a back up plan. I was able to see my Trans friends and coworkers have more rights and be able to seek care. I was able to live and not in fear.

I am now scared. We elected a man that has a reputation for being a bully, a chauvinist, and poor business man. He has stolen from the poor and gotten rich. I feel we have just taught young people that it is ok to be a bully and get ahead. I fear for people around me and their rights. I am already seeing the new administration running wild and people are already on the path to losing healthcare.

I feel like we elected someone that is so naive and that will give the people that run things more power to change things that will hurt the public.

All I can do is open my heart and be able to accept love and to work to keep and open mind and learn to speak out every chance I can when I see hate or injustices. I know the next 4 years will be so hard but I will keep my head up high and continue to learn what I can do in order to be the change I want to happen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

O is for Original

2016 has been replaced by 2017. There is a glimmer of new ideas and thought. Yet I am having a hard time letting go. I have been trying to wrap myself around why 2016 was so hard. Here is a few reasons:

George Michael:
When I was 13, I was perusing the local library and saw the cover of Rolling Stone. It was George Michael. I know the first few singles from Faith and was wanting to know more. I love this quote from him:"I really think that anyone who doesn't like anything on my new album has no right to say they like pop music," he says matter-of-factly. "If you can listen to this album and not like anything on it, then you do not like pop music."I took that as a challenge and saved up to buy Faith. I fell in love and realized I was a POP fan. Over the years he recorded a mass of Pop, Jazz, and Dance tunes. He was an original who never gave up on creating a sound uniquely him. Many tried to imitate his "blue eyed, white soul sound" and most failed. I worked hard in those years to imitate his style and vocal tricks. One of my favorite songs ever is Waiting (reprise) from his "listen without prejudice album". I spend hours singing this song and learning to hit each note. I will miss having him in this world. Thank you for the gift you brought to the world, 

Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds:
There have been countless posts about both of these. Debbie Reynolds was an original in Hollywood. An "It Girl" who weathered heartbreak, loss, and life lessons. Yet, maintained a sense of style and grace up until the end. Carrie Fisher was a my first "locker crush" (the celeb you put up in your school locker). I remember watching all the Star Wars movies on repeat. As much as I liked Luke Skywalker, I always had a place in my heart for Princess Leia. She was powerful and from the moment she was on the screen she never took flack from anyone. Through the years Carrie started to speak about her drug abuse, mental health challenges, and unique life with a candor that I admired. She never shied away from being a bit goofy in interviews and yet made each topic seem so relevant. Everyone should check out her Wishful Drinking HBO Special.
Thank you for all you brought to the world.

Alexis Arquette:
Most people recognized Alexis from their role in "The Wedding Singer". But more than that Alexis was one of the first openly Trans people in Hollywood. This is quite a statement considering they came from a very known family. The Arquette's though never publicly denied their sibling and was always supportive from all the media that I saw. Alexis hosted shows and played roles in film. They were a pioneer in the world of movies and LGBTQ+.

Prince began his recording career at the age 17 but previous to that he was born with epilepsy and told his mom at 5 that angels told him he wouldn't have it anymore. He also could play at least 27 instruments ( some accounts say over 40) and basically played all the music on his first 5 albums by himself. In the 37 years that Prince recorded music he released a total of 39 studio albums, 5 Soundtracks, 5 Compilations, and 12 EPs. This doesn't include the 1000's of songs that are locked in his vault. He was a pioneer and showed the world a sound that was unlike anything we had known. It is hard to imagine a world where Prince isn't releasing an internet album or that he won't pop in a town and surprise everyone with a secret concert.

David Bowie:
Lastly I could not get through the recap of originals without pointing out David Bowie. In a career that spanned decades and many incarnations David Bowie recorded over 25 albums, 9 live albums and 6 EP's. In an era of unknown territory, musically, the man from Mars drifted into the music consciousness and created multiple personalities that spanned space and time. Before Madonna (Dita), Tori Amos (The American Doll Posse), Beyonce (Sasha Fierce), Prince (Camille), Garth Brooks (Chris Gaines), David Bowie birthed Ziggy Stardust and then killed him off. Then he created the Great White Duke, Aladdin Sane and Major Tom. An original genius. As a final chapter he detailed the end of David Bowie himself. The video for Lazarus is beautiful, devastating, and disturbing all at the same time.

There were more originals we lost in 2016. I would like to think as they passed that we all were able t to take some of that originality and genius and become part of that. I am sure that it was time to have a huge celestial party last year and that it will be an event for the ages.

I hope less losses happen in 2017 but for now I will still keep these originals close to my heart and learn from their example.

Monday, December 19, 2016

N is for Namesake

My name is Michael Lee Howard-Mayhew.

Legally it is Michael Lee Howard. I was named after my uncle. He passed away a couple of years before I was born. From what I have been told he and my father were very close.

My father was one of four boys (like me). Two of them, my uncles Patrick (more on that in a bit) and Gary, were apparently in out of trouble with the law throughout their lives. My father and Michael were the two "good kids". My paternal grandfather passed down this information when I met him at 19.

Finding my grandfather James Levi was all an accident. The first think I learned was my family is riddled with off colored-ness.  I was searching for any clue to my past. A picture of my father or mother, a sense of where I came from and what led me to be who I was at the time. I found information to the funeral home saw to my fathers affairs. I called and they remembered:
           "Oh I remember that one. It was a rough time. The wife was a mess. They had a baby. Just a                  little one. I also remember the father having to be escorted by Walla Walla State Penitentiary                   guards. It was a pretty odd funeral."
            "excuse me did you say escorted by guards?"

            "Yes the father was serving time"

That ladies and gentlemen is how I found my paternal family. After doing some tracking down I found out that my grandfather was released from prison a couple years before my search started and was living just a few miles from me. In a matter of a hours I showed up at his door and learned a whole history of my paternal family roots.

Fast forward an unmentioned amount of years and through a series of events I was telephonically re connected to my birth mom. It was a short period of time but happened nonetheless. I was not ready to talk with her so communication came through my newly found sister.

One day she texted me to say "mom wanted me to tell you that you are named after your uncle"
of course my reply was " I know Michael was my uncles name"
"she said it was your middle name Patrick"

That was when I learned that my given name was supposed to be Michael Lee Patrick Howard. Even writing that looks odd. Who has two middle names. Well apparently it never made it on paper but this guy does.

Maybe the Patrick will be used for a pseudonym or something of that sort.

On top of this my first 15 or so years in the world I started school under my stepdads last name of Wilson. So for years I thought my name was Michael Lee Wilson. After some issues with my Social security number I found out my name was never changed and no one ever told me.

The last name I have has been through social media after my marriage to my husband Jacob. I never made it legal because I am lazy and so to this day my legal name is Michael Lee Howard.

But you can call me Michael Lee Patrick Wilson Howard-Mayhew....

Nah just call me Michael. It is way easier.

Monday, November 21, 2016

M is for Music

Anyone who knows me know that I love music.

It is no surprise at all. I remember the first song as a child that left an impression with me. It was at a pizza place called " Pete's Pizza" (btw, it is still there) and the song "Dog and Butterfly" by Heart came over the jukebox. I am not sure what drew me to the song. Not sure if it was the imagery, the lyrics, the vocals, or the amazing musicianship. Something drew me in and I never let go of that spark.

I grew up with music playing at all times around our home. Usually left on as background noise the radio hummed with tunes from the oldies station. It wasn't until, like many people around my age, i received my first cassette tape - Michael Jackson's Thriller- that I start discovering my own music.

I remember trying to memorize each and every note, hiccup, musical instrument. Shortly after that I started to build my collection. It included a who's who of pop charts: Madonna, Heart, Starship and anyone else that was featured on Friday Night Videos. It was my first exposure to the medium of music videos and watching the tunes in my head come alive was amazing.

I continued loving the pop starts of the day until a girl at my high school named Brie came in and said "you need to listen to something good. Have you heard of A Flock of Seagulls". I shook my head no and she insisted "I Ran" was a classic. I tried to picture how a song about Iran could be any good. She handed me a cassette of A Flock of Seagulls Greatest Hits. The minute that synth started I was lost in a whole new world. I turned to my friends Anna, Cresta and Jen for suggestions... My world broke open with sounds of Depeche Mode, Information Society, Pet Shop Boys , The Cure (Still my fave all time band), et al.

These new bands sunk into my head and grabbed them as if to tell me I was not alone with feeling lost and depressed. I felt like I needed to share my angst and so I started one of many incarnations of high school bands. I had spent years writing my lyrics down and I was approached by a school mate named Brian to work on some songs. We wrote a handful of songs the ones that stick out are "The Damaged One" and another one about the environment. We even played the songs for a class in high school. (Trust me that was daring for me. People were not a fan of me in those years). Brian was a gifted guitarist that was in the style of Steve Vai. Me- a burgeoning singer songwriter in the style of Toad The Wet Sprocket. Needless to say we moved on.

I continued to write and try to find a project. A year after high school I answered an ad in the local paper and I found Rich and Rich. We quickly hit it off and formed what started out as HIS Band, progressed into Cement and then became Glass Eyed Glenda. We wrote a few dozen songs and even made a demo. We also had a list full of covers from the early 90's grunge movement. Bassist Rich left focus on work; guitarist Rich chose to drink and focus on not having an "effeminate singer". I resolved to look for newer projects.

I ended up finding  people I have collaborated with over the years. One was an ex of mine but my favorite collabs were with my friend Peter. We did some great covers of 80's alt classics. The one song though that seemed to stick was "Collide". I submitted Collide to a show that was supposed to have been a real world/american idol type show and even interviewed with a producer but the concept fell through (or so I was told).

Following a strange bout of life, I did work near a karaoke bar that my roommate/friend worked at as a host. I would stop by a couple of times a week and order up a pitcher of PBR (classy huh?). I would sing two or three songs a night. I even earned the nickname of "Songbird".

Since then I have attempted to find a band or group of people to play music with. The search has dried up but I still sing when I can and I still love music. I cannot imagine a day when I cannot listen to music. I am enjoying discovering new tunes and in an odd sense hearing the influences that I grew up listening to as well.

Living in the age that we do, digital music has made music more accessible then ever. It makes listening to music so easy but I sometimes still miss the days of opening up an album and reading all the liner notes, memorizing facts about producers and engineers and such.

Sometimes I still go back in time and listen to "Dog and Butterfly". That always makes life a bit better.

Friday, November 4, 2016

L is for Life Lessons

Getting older is hard.

It takes a certain finesse to navigate all the changes. Seasons change us all inside and out.

I am losing my hair. I miss my red wavy hair. I miss being skinny. I miss feeling youthful. I miss feeling overly hopeful about the dreams in my brain. I miss amazing music and better movies. I miss the chance to tell people I love that I love them.

 As I am writing this I am listening to the band October Project and feeling a bit reminiscent. One of my new favorite obsessions is re listening to music from when I was younger. Now that technology of Spotify exists I am able to listen to artists albums all over from the first album to current. Currently I am enjoying revisiting The Pet Shop Boys. I have listened to the catalogs of The Cure, Depeche Mode, Tori Amos, and other artists. I am three albums into the Pet Shop Boys and remember why I loved them so much.

 My cousin sent me via Facebook last week. I was 19 years old. I was about to marry a gal I had met through a music store in my hometown of Spokane, WA. I still remember when the picture was taken. I actually obsessed looking at the picture wondering what happened to that guy. I tried to emulate the smile and was not able to make it look the same as hard as I tried.

I started thinking though:
What life lessons have I learned from that time. I think about what I would tell that 19 year old kid. I would tell him a lot, here are a few things:

Hey Michael,
You will find yourself. You will morph and change and be reborn so many times you will be exhausted. You will lose your faith and gain it back more than you thought imaginable. You will find your birth family and your roots. You will find that you were placed in the best home you could imagine. You will not lose your wonderment of the world. No matter what anyone tells you, jaded views won't be part of your fate. People will find you funny. You will meet some of the most amazing people and some of them you will lose. You will learn that therapy works. You will find that you are very resilient and it will serve you well. You will struggle to find love and will find someone who makes you feel safe and makes you feel at home. You will lose your hair and gain many wrinkles. You will struggle to find work that you love but it will happen. You won't stop singing. most importantly you will be ok. You will find a peace in life and enjoy moments big and small. You will learn some lessons but you will also maintain a strength you did not know you even had. You will love and be loved,

I may not have life perfected but I think that is a good thing. Sometimes a little self reflection can make us better. I am excited to see what life lessons are ahead for me.

Monday, October 10, 2016

K is for Kindness

Sorry for the delay but K is the hardest letter to write about as I could not find a good K word that I could relate too. Then I was listening to a song (surprise, surprise) and it hit me- kindness.

According to Friedrich Nietzsche kindness and love are “the most curative herbs and agents in the human intercourse”. Take a moment and ingest that. How powerful are these words? Everybody has a heartbeat and everyone has a heart. We as humans get caught up in all the small things. We wake up, think of all the things we have to accomplish, and head out on our mission of daily tasks. We get in line and wait impatiently for our daily Starbucks, our bus ride, our standstill traffic. Walk into work with our tasks already backed up and hope we can get caught up before he head out for the day and zoom home. Then is the dinners, catching up with friends, kid time, pup walks, exercise, a few moments of downtime before bed time.

I grew up believing that most people are kind and good. I had a hard time believing that anyone had ill intentions. I feel that this type of philosophy kept me sane during stages of my early childhood. I see that my parents (all of them) did the things they did, right or wrong, based on good (albeit selfish in some cases) intentions. I have been told throughout my life that I am a too kind, give people around me too many chances, and that I need to learn to build a tougher skin. When I lived in Spokane and I had first come out I was told by a lot of the older gay men that I hung around that “you will learn to be bitter. Kindness gets you nowhere in this life except being walked on.” Well I say to life BRING IT ON!

I have waited years to become bitter. Still hasn’t happened. Trust me I have plenty of reasons to be bitter at this point in my life. The truth is that I have grown and changed. The human that I have become still believes that kindness is the way to peace and joy. I fall and sometimes I lose my kindness, like any human being, but I work hard to find kindness in any given situation that challenges me in life.

It is not easy in today’s world, one that binges on the negatives that society has to offer. One person pointing to another with blame on their tongue. It is easier to pass the buck. Easier to forget we are all fighting a battle inside our heads.

I read the “Art of Happiness” by his Highness the Dalai Lama about 10 years ago. The Dalai Lama was asked repeatedly how he was able to stay so calm, be happy and not get angry. He stated many times kindness and compassion were the key.

I know that I sometimes get criticized for my taste in music. I do know that some of the artists I listen to can lean towards the poppy end. But I make no excuses. Sometimes hearing Howard Jones sing about the positives in life are better than any angry album I listen to. His lyrics purvey a kindness at the core. He is practicing Buddhist and it shows through all his tunes. I, of course, have my angry N.I.N moments and that will never change. On the whole though, I am much more inclined to find the perky positives songs my favorites.

Kindness is hard. It takes practice and taking moments to appreciate what is around us and not perceived. The perceived outcomes can make any good hearted thoughts spin on their edge and smash you hard in the head. It is easier to be kind than unkind. The results get you further as well. In most cases people will recognize kindness with kindness. Being unkind comes with more repercussions. There is hate, anger, violence, pain, you get the idea.

I will continue to choose kindness as often as possible. It is part of my wiring. I hope when I day it will part of my contributions to the world.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

J is for Journaling

I hate journaling!!!!!

It’s true. I find it tedious and time consuming. I feel as if no one is reading any of the words I put out in the universe.

I started to write when I was around 9 years old. I had started public school after a couple formative years at St. Aloysius School. In the world of Private school I had a number of friends.  I excelled in schooling. Then my family moved to a different part of the city. That meant a new school and public school at that.

I was bullied from the moment I walked in the doors of Westview Elementary. I was called nerdy (not a good thing at that time) for being smarter than most the kids. I was told I was odd, a sissy boy, strange. I needed an escape. I turned to music. From there writing took over.
Writing was always my escape.

I would sit down and write what I would call songs. I walked through the wooded area by our house alone and figured out the melodies of songs in my head to match the journal writings that I would emit from deep inside me. To this day I still think my first writing “A Bit of Wolf” was destined to be a #1 hit.

I would read about how to write the perfect lyrics. Finding anything at the library (these were pre internet days) I could on how song structure worked.  Verse A-- Chorus -- Verse B – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus out was the most popular though. I would write about 10-12 “songs” and put them together as an album, I even created very crude drawings for a “cover”.

I truly never stopped writing, it has continued in many incarnations. In Jr High I started to write my first novel. It was a science fiction epic that I had so detailed out that I had designed ships, societies, and political structures. I remember Mrs. Berkey would help me after school to work on draft after draft. I look back at that and think how patient of a soul she was to have done that. The hours she spent on a story that never made it past the third chapter was pivotal in my development of art and the written word.

High school brought epic poems, inspired by the likes of Poe, Emily Dickinson, and of course Robert Smith of The Cure. I remember writing a piece I called “The Pool” that was dark and makes me wonder if it would have sent me to the principal’s office this day and age. It was nothing violent just very morose.

Then the world changed and a new form of writing came out: Blogging. The early days of blogging introduced me to the online world of writing and deep thoughts that I could share with people all around me. I was signed up to a site that I needed a code to called LiveJournal. It became a social network for writers. I met so many amazing people and am still friends with many of them still.
The advent of social networking took off and soon everyone was blogging. My words tapered and I kept writing in some aspect. As I grew so did my writing. I keep saying I will go back and read all those old journals and songs. I also feel I am not ready to look back at them yet. I know someday I will sit down and write more and more and get the words I have imbedded in me out. I have stories and I have thoughts.

Truth is, until recently, I did not think anyone would care to read them and then it hit me….Who Cares?

The more I write and create the better my soul feels. The more at piece I am. The more I learn about myself.

OK so maybe I do not hate journaling. I think that it is more I hate deep diving into my soul. But as the –poem The Blessed Unrest by Martha Graham goes:

It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased

Truth is that…

I will never be pleased!!!!!!!  

Monday, July 18, 2016

I is for Identity

What is an identity?

Well the dictionary states:

Condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that distinguish or identify a person or thing:

Identity seems like a simple thing. You are X, Y, or Z. In reality this is oversimplification. The issue with Identity is that parts of our being are not obvious. People in our day to day world make assumptions about who we are and what makes us tick. The fallout of these assumptions is damaging. In essence, you discount the character, as well as, struggles a person has had to overcome to get the place the current you see them standing.

In light of the several factors that have occurred recently in my life I have been frustrated by assumptions of my own identity. It goes to show that we should never think we know about a person’s identity; what is even deeper in our soul and not just skin deep.

In most cases, we are all truly fighting a battle most don’t know. I recently learned that almost 19% of people suffer some form of mental illness. How staggering is this? It surprises me that it I grew up thinking that it was a rarity.

Here are few parts of my identity:

I am Michael Lee Howard:

I am a husband

I was born male and Identify as a queer person (some options only list gay but I feel that is too constrictive)

I feel that I can relate as a male and female. I feel at home with both sexes and feel that I can support and be open to learning all sides of the coin of gender.

I am HIV positive and have been since 2005

I believe in a Higher Power and the power of spiritual energy. I call myself a spiritual Christian and believe that both can exists simultaneously.

I am a son to many parents (3 fathers and 2 mothers) and a brother to 3 brothers and 2 sisters

I am a highly sensitive person and feel very deeply. I can sense energy around me.

I have suffered with depression all my life and recently diagnosed with borderline bipolar disorder.

I try to always find the good in people.

I am a people pleaser and a recovering co-dependent.

I have body issues and struggle to be ok with my body and the way it looks.

I have suffered and working through trauma that has existed in various aspects of my life.

I am introverted extrovert.

I am a musician and actor at heart that never realized my dream. It is still hard to not wish I was on stage at concerts.

I talk too much when nervous and then question if I made myself seem a fool

I love superheroes and the idea that we all could have superhuman powers.

I love to laugh.

I am middle age now and the fact that I am losing my hair makes me feel ugly

I am an adventurer, I love to try something new I even started running because of it.

I look like my grandfather, who was gay and had HIV

I am overweight and can’t seem to lose these last 15-20 pounds

I feel lost often

I know in my heart of heart life is good.

These are core parts of me and who I am and do not questions these parts of me.