Cross My Heart and Hope to Write


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We Often Cross The Lines We Draw

Short film based on the poem of the same name.
Directed and edited by Andrew DesGaines.
The trials of self-injury can be devastating and difficult to face. The story describes one man’s struggle to overcome his addiction. There is a fine line between control and self-destruction. You can overcome.

25 Things I've Learned In 25 Years

1. Life is filled with irony, dichotomy, and incredulity. 
2. Nothing will ever turn out exactly the way you expect. 
3. Finding yourself, embracing your identity, requires letting go of people’s opinions, normalcy, becoming comfortable with judgement, and not having everyone understand. 
4. Hurt people hurt people. 
5. Learning to forgive, and maintaining an air of detachment and indifference, can save you a lot of time and heartache. In the face of hurt, forgive. Try to understand your transgressors. 
6. Anger, hatred, resentment, envy, and jealousy are self-destructive. If you water their seeds (and they prefer tears over water) their roots will grow strong and deep. It is a weed, once cultivated, that is incredibly difficult to winnow out. Forgive. 
7. It is far easier to be cruel than to be kind. If you choose to be kind, realize that it will mean having to endure more, having to fight more, having to feel more and think harder. It is not easy, but life rewards those who are kind. 
8. There won’t always be a “right thing to do” in every situation. Search within yourself for what you feel is right for you, and do what it best for your heart and mind. 
9. To love someone else, you have to love yourself. It is ok to say, “I love you, but I love myself more.” Sometimes you have to let go. Sometimes being selfless means being selfish. 
10. Empathize with people. Try to see how they see the world. Try to teach them how to love themselves, but know that you can’t be the one to fix them. 
12. It is ok to fear some things, but not to let fear hold you back.
11. Mistakes are wonderful things. Flaws are wonderful things. Regret is the monster that makes them seem terrible. Don’t regret. Reflect, accept, and learn. 
13. We are never perfect.
14. That makes us perfect. 
15. Everyone is a work in progress. Never stagnate - constantly work towards an unachievable ideal. A human being is the only piece of art that is never finished. The art is the artist. The artist is the art. 
16. Beauty is everywhere. Try to see the beauty in things and in people. It will teach you how to appreciate. There is always a silver lining. 
17. Slllllooooooowwww dooooowwwwwwn. Embrace every moment. Make time to do nothing. Spend time with friends, and family, and strangers, and music, and sound, and smiles, and food, and air. Cherish everything. Savor the in between. 
18. Challenge yourself. Push yourself. Experience as much as you can. Take risks. Throw yourself into strange situations. Have faith. Be free. 
19. Actions do speak louder than words, but words can work wonders if they’re used properly.
20. You always have a voice and a choice. 
21. Love is not something you wait for. It’s something you create, employ, and bring to every table you sit it. If you love openly, and passionately, and unabridged, it will confuse people. It will make intimate relationships difficult to manage. But it will also make them more intriguing, dynamic, and passionate. Communicate. Be vulnerable. Leave the heart open. Tear your walls down. 
22. Anything worth dying for is worth living for. And fighting for.
23. Happiness is perspective. With age comes perspective. Even the memories that make you sad, the choices you’ve made that cause you pain, can be transformed into goodness. Your faculties make your reality. Choice is the greatest power you have. There is nothing that can’t be fixed. You are in control. You are never a helpless victim. 
24. Anything and everything that can’t possibly go wrong will. 
25. Never stop learning. There are no new endings, only old beginnings.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Being Vulnerable

Many people know me on the Long Island and NYC poetry and spoken word circuit as a calm, confident, and outgoing performer. I've been described as bubbly, charismatic, and extroverted; I love meeting new people and jumping right into fresh, novel situations. I try to maintain an air of positivity and humbleness... and to smile. Most people would consider me a happy person, which I most certainly am, and a bit of a joker.

This is by no means a farce. In all sincerity, I am a very happy person. I look around me and find that I am surrounded by so many beautiful people, by so many beautiful things. I feel loved and show love to as many people as I can, stranger or friend. I feel so blessed in my day to day life, and it creates such a wonderful space to be creative in. I strive to put forth ideas of good, right, openness, and beneficence - to exemplify the best of humanity.

What most people - friends, acquaintances, family, lovers - probably don't know is that I struggle.

Each and every day.

Although I may give off an air of stoic positivity, unshakable confidence, and childlike joy, I often feel incredibly alone. I feel utterly broken.

Again, the positivity and happiness people perceive in me is not at all synthetic. It is not a mask or a suit I put on when I'm out in the open, when I'm behind a mic. What you see is what you get. I am an open and honest person, and that is one of the reasons why I am writing this.

There is a risk you run when you choose to love people selflessly. (The original title of this blog was "Agápē Bodhisattva." The Greek word for "unconditional love," Agápē is something I take quite seriously.) It can be exhaustive and nonreciprocal. It can be taken advantage of and be misinterpreted. Riskier still, in intimate relationships, it can create friction, misunderstanding, and lead to obsessive behavior. I obsess. I have to resist the urge to stalk. These are some of the things I struggle with.

I do a lot of work in the field of mental illness, particularly in suicide prevention and depression. This may be partly motivated by this looming sense of incompleteness that follows me around, like a shadow of my shadow. There have been times in my life where I have reflected on the thought of ending my life, sometimes for days on end. Just meditating on it. Stewing in it.

Sometimes the anxiety is too much to bear.

Honestly, poetry readings, open mics, and performances help me to manage my endlessly reeling mind, stopping it from thinking of the past and fretting over the future. Being surrounded by people who enjoy what this fucked up brain of mine cooks up amidst fighting with a heart that is growing infinity bigger than it could ever hope to become has probably kept me alive. I feel broken. I feel lonesome. But I don't let that conquer me.

I'm here to tell you that no matter what you feel inside, no matter how broken, useless, hopeless, ugly, lonesome, listless, longing, brokenhearted, damaged, and otherwise undeserving you feel, things do get better. Although the moments of goodness and beauty seem few and far between, live for those moments, look for them, because they will help you to realize that there is so much more than hurt. We're all a little bit selfish - that's ok. We all feel worthless - you're not.

It's not about what we deserve, it's about what we're worth to ourselves.

I'm broken. I'm lonesome. But I'm alive. And being alive is the only excuse you need to say that things get better. Being alive makes you more blessed than you could comprehend. Happiness is possible. There is a moment out there waiting for you, to help you realize what really matters.

Don't let your darkness take your light. Do let it make you see it. They are one.    

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mara Netto

This is my great-great-aunt, Anna Schwiebert. Her maiden name was Otten, born in Germany. She, like myself, was a writer of poetry and fiction. She wrote under the pen name "Mara Netto." My family has kept many copies of her original work, mostly unpublished, but several years ago my grandmother (her niece) from Oceanside, NY mistakenly sold several of her manuscripts at a garage sale. 

As a writer, losing something you have created is like losing a piece of yourself. These manuscripts not only represent Anna's life work, but her memory. I never met her, but her genes are a part of me, so I feel like I have also lost a piece of myself. I want to get these manuscripts back. For Anna. 

Let's see how far this goes. I ask that you please SHARE this post with others. Maybe the person who has these manuscripts or knows the person will see it and return them to my family. 

They will be typewritten, either bound or paper-clipped and slipped into manila folders, with the title and the author's name typed on the front, with the page count in the top-right corner. Most were written in the 1930's. 

Anyone with information can either email me at OR call me at (631) 587-9195. My name is Steven. 

Thank you so very much. As an artist and a writer, this truly means everything to me.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

(The Secrets We Keep)

I have a secret.
One that I think a lot of people walk around with, but are afraid to admit. Especially men. 
I’m heartbroken. 
Not the atypical, storybook kind of heartbroken. The “pit of your stomach, anxiety for breakfast, spend all day thinking about them, and go to sleep with a sigh” kind of heartbroken. The kind that consumes every waking moment (and sometimes sleeping). 
But that’s not my secret. 
My secret is… that I love it. 
I’ve spent years in this state. Finding every thought somehow connected to a face, a feeling, a moment. To a pair of lips, and eyes, to a smile, to a laugh, to a list of memories. To a girl I told I loved.
She is in every breath, every neuron that fires, every smile flashed. Every fleeting moment of my life, she is there. I can’t stand it, but I can’t let it go. I love her too much.   
We live in a culture where not being able to get over someone is seen as a crutch, a flaw, something that somehow makes you weak. You’re not allowed to be heartbroken because that means you’re too sensitive, too emotional, too soft. 
But what if that feeling is supposed to be there? What if that feeling is right? Nothing worth fighting for in life is easy, right? Why are we so swift to snuff something just because it hurts so much? Maybe it hurts so much for a reason. Maybe its real. 
We were together once. Me and the girl I love. We had a falling out. The worst kind. I won’t go into details, but it was (and is) beyond my heart and mind’s ability to comprehend. The situation that followed.
I spent so much time trying to resolve it, trying to fix it, to make sense of it, and it became so exhausting that my heart and my mind seemed to make a truce that there was nothing they could do about it. So they let it be, hoping it would solve itself.
But it didn’t. It just became a part of life, a part of the day to day. And I know there are others out there who have one of their own. Who have tried to wrap their brain around it, but can’t, so they just swallow it down and let it become a part of them.
I tried to snuff it. The love I had admitted to her. The promise I had made to her. The promise to always love her. But when I made that promise, I made it to myself too. And I have to keep it. I want to keep it. For her. 
The more I strip away the sense, the logic, the reason, the what I deserve, the “right,” the stronger the feeling gets. It can’t be just something ingrained in my psyche. It can’t be just emotional leftovers. It’s beyond that, beyond me; it’s pure. 
It’s a choice. All of this is a choice. I refuse to break that promise, the promise I made to her, the promise I made to myself, to always love her. I refuse to be the one to give up on it. It’s not a selfish choice made “for the sake of keeping a promise.” It’s not a selfish choice made for the sake of setting an example to the world, to say I’m somehow better. Because I’m not. 
I believe in this feeling. I believe it is real. I know it is. As distant as we are from each other, this feeling is still so strong. No matter what has happened, across time and space, I will always love her. And as painful as it is sometimes, I love that I love her. 
I have a secret, but I don’t want it to be a secret anymore. I want people to know that what I feel is real, that love is real, that no matter what they’re going through, no matter the pain, that it’s ok to be heartbroken. It’s ok to keep a promise. It’s ok to hold onto love.
I know there are other people out there who are sitting on something. Something they don’t know what to do with. Something they love more than anything, as much as it hurts. I know there are others like me that believe in the power of a promise, who know that love is not a choice, it’s a responsibility.  
I wonder how many people are walking around out there heartbroken… 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sorry, not Sorry

I don’t typically share personal subjects publicly on the internet, but I feel it important that this be said. I find it unnecessary that it has to be confronted, but I feel I currently don’t have a choice. I must address this as a point of empowerment, not only for myself, but for others. 
I am not gay. I am NOT a homosexual. I am a straight, heterosexual, biological male who goes by the personal pronoun of he. (There will be some who read this and still doubt; I cannot speak for them).
Recently, I have had to explain my sexual orientation more often than I see necessary. I don’t understand why it is so imperative to some that it needs to be clarified verbally (while others no doubt stay silent and choose rather to speculate in their own heads than confront me). Why is it so important? Why is it always, “Are you gay?” and not, “Are you straight?” As if one is more unacceptable than the other. I think it reflects something jarring about our culture in general. But rather than lecture you all on what I feel is ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ I will apologize instead:
I’m sorry my demeanor does not conform to your general standards of masculinity; I’m sorry I choose not to treat a woman’s body like an object; I’m sorry I think more with my heart and my mind than my dick; I’m sorry I speak to people with respect, affection, and in proper English; I’m sorry I’d rather wait for someone I think is worthy of me than settle for something less; I’m sorry I love myself.
I’m thin, but I’m not weak; I value intellect and compassion over wealth and reputation; I have a big heart and I’m not afraid to express it; I strive to preserve my inner child and not overlook the opportunity to respect another’s perspective. 
These may not conform to your standards of hetero-masculinity, but they certainly do not disqualify me from my God-given integrity. I speak for anyone who has struggled, knowing who they are, what they want, and are happy inside their skin, but constantly seem to be challenged by a humanity that wants to throw it into question. I am a straight man, who is proud to support the LGBTQ community, because, however miniscule, I have been subject to the stigma, solely because of the person I am.
I choose to rage against the standards, the norms, the misplaced morality, the ignorance. I stand in earnest solidarity and ask: What the fuck does my Godamn orientation have to do the air you breathe?!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autism As A Kind of Selflessness: The Human Condition

This past Friday, I had a wonderful conversation with my colleague Maria Iliou as she hosted the blogtalkradio program “KEYS 4 The Human Condition” (sort of an ironic coincidence to appear on this blog), which, along with her other program “Human Potential,” deals with autism advocacy, the autistic experience, and autistic rights. Friday’s program dealt mainly with the needs of autistic individuals in the American school system. Also on the show that evening was Rose Guedes - who has recently released a chapbook called “Heart of a Womanchild” - who made me aware of something worth noting about autistic experiences.

I was speaking on behalf of my own experiences with PDD, when Rose (herself an outspoken “Aspee”) began to talk about how autistic individuals (and I speak generally and invite others to share their thoughts) often experience situations and moments objectively, reserving subjectivity for later or not at all. This was reflected in my own experiences and was mirrored in conversations I have had with others, who talk often of “hypersensitivity” to social interactions, images, emotions, every day experiences, or moments. This would also explain the unique abilities of savants who seem to be able to reproduce or grasp concepts in their entirety, as if they naturally capture the world in an objective sense, like a photograph. This, to me, seemed precisely reversed to how most of us approach the world: We project subjective opinions, perceptions, emotions, understandings, etc. onto situations and can only perceive things objectively as an afterthought, with the aide of things like logic, reason, and perspective (which, once more, reminds me of the Local Gems anthology “Perspectives: Poetry Concerning Autism and Other Disabilities”). This revelation sparked a conversation between myself, Rose, and Maria that, for me, seemed to illustrate something that can better how all of us approach the world.
We’re not all savants, and we’re certainly not all autistic, but the autistic experience of the world does seem to reveal a lot about how humanity as a whole approaches life day to day. We judge each other and the world around us almost constantly, projecting ourselves onto the things we perceive. Of course, prejudice, racism, sexism, oppression, and ostracization are naturally not objective. Indeed, they are quite the opposite. Yet, they exist, they are prevalent, and they are subtle. Though we may not outrightly express it - as prejudice and the like have become culturally damned - the thoughts still persist, changing from overt to covert properties of society. Such judgements are subjective and do not represent the reality of things. Ironically, it seems, reality is constantly tainted by warped fantasy.
Is it possible to learn to see things, to see one another and our world, objectively? Is it possible to pause our precognitive judgements, our subconscious evaluations and authentications about reality, to see the beauty in things, the uniqueness in things, to experience things as they are? Can we see ourselves for who we are and not what we want each other to be or not be? In a kind of grand irony, autism - a term developed from the Greek ‘autos,’ which means ‘self’ - seems to create a natural selflessness, an ability to see that transcends the eye or the “I” it is a part of.
Your challenge: For one day, try to halt your judgements, refrain from opinions, step back, and see everything for what it is; try to lose yourself in the process; challenge yourself to find the purest kind of acceptance. Report back what you uncover about yourself and the world around you.