My mate Sam has been having a rough time lately. A friend of hers passed away recently.
I had only met him a couple of times, but he struck me as a thoroughly decent guy. Talented, kind and with a good heart. But at only 25 he committed suicide.
Whenever there is a loss, it’s normal I think to question an afterlife, the reasons for this I believe are that in life all the best stories have a wise man showing the way, – largely because we, as humans would love to have someone there to tell us which way to go, Lord of the Rings has Gandalf, the Harry Potter series has Dumbledore and the Bible has God.
When there seems to be little justice in the world, when a young man like Stephen Sutton is robbed of life, or when a young man takes his own life, the idea that there is someone to guide us is comforting.
I will never use this blog as a platform for my religion or beliefs aside from saying that, yes, I do believe in a God. I don’t quite know which one, but I believe in something and it provides comfort too me, there are still times I question things and I believe in evolution, I don’t believe man suddenly appeared and that woman was created from a spare rib. I am a male feminist, I believe that women are better. Anyway, I’m drifting…
One of the things I liked when reading about Stephen Sutton, was the way he essentially stuck two fingers up as his cancer, as if to say “when I go, you go too”. – this is a view I have often held of my HIV. I am cautious and careful to ensure that I never pass it on so that I can say with confidence that my HIV will die with me. If I can emulate his courage in my last days, I’ll have done a good job.
I once said that my longest relationship will be with my virus but my boyfriend, Troy, told me that this was a mistake; “your longest relationship” he said, “is not going to be with the HIV, the longest relationship is with yourself”.
This is deep wisdom from a West Ham supporting Star Wars fan and he is, of course, perfectly correct. It has taken me a long time, but now at 28, I am finally starting to feel at home in my own skin.
After the funeral of Sam’s friend somebody recited a saying “you do not have a soul, you are a soul, you have a body”. This makes sense to me now in a way it never has before. I no longer define myself by my HIV, I do not allow myself to be defined by it either.
In the early stages of my relationship with Troy each of us took a bit of time to find our feet with the other and at one stage while still learning he used the term ‘HIV people’. – This was like a red rag to a bull and I snapped at him saying, “HIV people? Are we a different breed from regular people?” It is a mark of what a remarkable man he is that he took this in his stride and didn’t just give up on me as the irrational, fundamentally messed up man I am.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been living with my HIV for over eight years now, but I finally realised that it doesn’t matter what happens, the most important thing is to live your life the best you can, and to be happy with the choices you make
I have often wished before that there was a wise man to guide me, someone to take my hand and lead me through the dark of some of the challenges I have had to overcome but looking back, it’s those challenges and having to make my own way thought them have that have made me who and what I am.
There is a short poem by Minnie Louise Haskins which was once read by King George VI, an extract of which reads – “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown, and he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way”
Who knows, maybe there is a God, an afterlife and another chance, but in the absence of certainty, just live for the day, love well and enjoy the time you have because, to quote a wise man from a book, Gandalf in Lord of the Rings said “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
Life is of course, not a film, though it sometimes feels like a comedy or a tragedy. There are very few wise men who know all the answers, (though most taxi drivers I’ve met seem to have a go) so I suppose all we can hope for, given that none of us can know the end of our own personal script, is that we have people around us who can make the plot a bit more fun, and that’s what it’s all about. Now go be happy.
Steve – (@SteveOfTheMarch on twitter)