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Peace and Paradox in the Pandemonium

Monday, 25 July 2016 Written by // Don Short: life in transit Categories // Social Media, Gay Men, Don Short: life in transit, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces

"We are avoiding something when our energy is always directed outward," says Don Short

Peace and Paradox in the Pandemonium

You can feel it.

Chaos is accelerating in a broken world.

More often these days, people around me are becoming insular and shutting down. And why not? There’s so much to deal with. Family members become suddenly ill, employment struggles abound, political tensions are rising, and brutal hate in the world has been and is being unleashed in fury.

When everything seems out of our control, we spin. Thoughts of why and what’s next accelerate our worst fears. Often we dig deep to answer those fears and come up short. In those moments we have options. We can zone out, react from anger, or find peace in ourselves and comfort from others.

This pandemonium reminds me of my own struggle. HIV rocked my world ten years ago and I have fluctuated in my response. I have zoned out, reacted in anger and along with that, embraced my own personal sanctum.

There is much about the past ten years living with HIV that was beyond my control. Whether initial disclosures, glitches in medications, ongoing fatigue, AIDS sector politics, or isolation, all of these came along with my status without invitation. But over ten years, there were many things I could control – maintaining adherence to my medications, getting educated about the HIV virus and my health, and deciding to get through it, come hell or high water.

The true paradox today is in sifting through all the rhetoric and misinformation circulating on the web and social media platforms about where we are with HIV/AIDS. And while we ingest facts, truths, half-truths and lies, we have to utilize our own discretion and personal discernment. To be honest, I need to use information that is relevant and useful right now. What information/resources can I use that is not littered with placation and research outcomes? Back in the day, I used to have clarity about my HIV timeline, knowing some of the predictable markers. Not so anymore. I take my medications and wait…

Daily I can post my anger if I want to...I have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I can take on a label to feel part of any of the HIV community groups that have emerged since my diagnosis. I can focus on the advances of science and get into a dream-like trance about what it will be like to be cured. Nothing wrong with these options, but I need to pay more attention to my heart and soul.

Sometimes I think we get caught up in the pandemonium to mask our fears. We are avoiding something when our energy is always directed outward. Shout louder, shame-blame, get lost in the crowd, or align for acceptance. Even more alarming is how little of our true selves is expressed in person, in healthy dialogue, in one-on-one conversations.

Today, I grieve for all the chaos. It bothers me that people have to suffer. I know that in all of the pandemonium and paradox I have witnessed, as an HIV positive man, I can still climb inside my interior and grab hold of the good stuff – compassion, better choices, strength, resolve and determination.

I don’t always do that in practice or habit. I may get sidetracked by a hurtful posting on Facebook. I read an article making blanket statements about my lived experience or demographic that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have also insulated myself from the shell-shock of chaotic relationships, toxic work environments and downright mean people -again, all of these factors out of my control. That’s why I work on peace and respite.

As I age with HIV, I want to be sure to know myself and do the best I can do to feel fulfilled, validated and available for the people I love and care about. A tall order, maybe even a “big idea in a shrinking world”, but I am up for the challenge.