It’s 9 pm on another Saturday evening. As pusual, I’m emptying my backpack with an assortment of cut-off shirts, shorts, my runners, and shaker cups and water bottle.
My bathtub is merely a clothing rack of the previous week’s work wear all in states of “drying” or piled in one corner of the tub. Since I am at multiple gyms every day, this particular shower only gets used the one day, Sunday, after I shift all of these clothes to the laundry hamper. It’s also the one day where I reward myself and have called one of my two favourite take-out places for my usual. Typically high in protein and food I love.
My kitchen counter is also a collection of shaker cups in states of washing and my kitchen table covered in protein-powder dust with vitamin and supplement bottles and containers stacked on one side of it. It looks like I’ve built my own tiny drug lab of pills and containers.
On my desk sits my schoolwork – notes and textbooks I’m reading for my night school university classes, usually feeling like I am so far behind. Sometimes I wonder how this happened, this year more than others. Why? This is the 40yh year of my life.
When I was 21yrs old and contracted HIV I, like many others, felt the death sentence. And although I was relieved to be around, I honestly did not think I’d make it past 27, let alone to some crazy far off number like 40. Many of the life-saving medications hadn’t been invented yet or were not on the market.
Mostly though, I was so in the closet and ashamed of my reality, I welcomed this idea of a shortened life. When I did eventually progress to AIDS, I figured that was pretty much the end. And right on time too as I was 27 at the time. Surprisingly, I lived through it. I fought back. But real life and true living didn’t start for me until my 30's.
"It’s challenging to set aside prejudice and misgivings and open up and allow one’s self to be vulnerable to life again, to actually stand up and live."
The face of HIV has changed. And people’s reaction and ideas to it are changing. Some are still hurt and dismayed through the years of fear and mistrust. It’s hard not to forget the days of rejection. It’s challenging to set aside prejudice and misgivings and open up and allow one’s self to be vulnerable to life again, to actually stand up and live.
I have often thought “I need a hero.” I need someone to stand up and either save me or show me how to do this. There aren’t exactly any modern day HIV champions. In most of the gay 90s movie, the HIV person is going to die somewhere near the middle or end of the movie. They just help move the plot along for the “hero” of the movie but they themselves were just another tragic tale. But as gay characters and roles got stronger – characters like Agron on Spartacus, it suddenly felt that perhaps I don’t need a hero, someone to come and save me, that maybe I need to be my own hero.
Teaching yoga has been a passion of mine since I started. There are some days, very few though, where I don’t want to go to work. Almost every day it’s a great joy for me. The faces of students new and familiar warm my heart. The physical demands of work and my practice have always been present on my mind and through that I have looked at many avenues for food and nutrition to sustain my life and health as well as stay at the top of my field and profession physically.
Almost a year ago I started lifting weights more seriously. Now it seems I do this five times a week. And although I was already a rather large and muscled guy, I have packed on an additional 30lbs of muscle and with it part of my own identity - how I see myself. I was never that physical or fit before. And as life paths go, IF I ever thought I would live to this age, this is not the direction I would have picked or chose for me, and yet here I am.
I teach about 15 classes a week. I practice yoga two to three times a week. I definitely do a few inversions every day and at the very least take seated stillness for a few minutes. I lift weights about five times a week. I am also still in nightschool and go to class once a week plus take one on-line course as well and studying “in my free time” to get those done.
I also date and “date” often. I am single and enjoy that side of my life. Many of the guys I have gone out with over the past six months are HIV-negative and know my status either prior to meeting or very shortly into it and I haven’t been rejected fully based on that in a long while.
My bills are paid and I am on time with everything. I could stand to clean more and and I definitely live like the bachelor I am.
I am also 18 to 19 years being HIV-positive
Sometimes I do not know if my soreness somewhere has something to do with HIV, or meds, or work or workouts or just getting older or some crazy combination of them all. And it doesn’t matter to me. I also try to live in moderation. I take time off often. I rest. Although I am absolutely an extrovert, I spend much time at home in quiet stillness. The balance is required for me.
"I do not endeavour to be an inspiring person or live some sort of inspiring life. "
So this is what 40 looks like for me now. The phrase that has been going through my head in meditation often these past few weeks is “I have nothing to prove.” It’s quite simple. And in many ways, it’s a relief. I do not endeavour to be an inspiring person or live some sort of inspiring life. Beautiful orbs of wisdom and truth do not flow from me as dew drops from the Universe. Sometimes, I barely know what I am doing. I show up. I love my life. I love that this old past of mine is mine.
In July 2008, I found this post-it note on a subway. (I may have mentioned this before in another article.) It was in a moment when I was questioning teaching yoga or not. I knew it would be a challenge to surrender and I was looking for an answer. I paused and uttered in my mind a call out to the Universe for an answer and when I opened my eyes, the post-it note was right there. I offer you the wisdom it offered me: “The possibilities before you are INFINITE.”