Sunday, May 19, 2013
Recently, a man, I have never met, wrote a letter to the Chico (CA) Board of Supervisors, stating and I quote: “Kelly Patterson is a transvestite prostitute with AIDS from West Virginia, the land of the wild and wonderful WHITES." For the record, I am from KENTUCKY! A close friend was brave enough to tell me she was worried she might get HIV from sharing nasal spray with me. And just today, someone who is not living with HIV said to me, “I feel for you having HIV.”All recent woeful reminders of the fear, ignorance, and stigma still around the topic of AIDS, in the United States, in 2013—Wow?! Are we STILL here, world?!!
Since the topic of HIV/AIDS has been coming up for me a lot recently, I decided to look at how living with HIV has benefited me for the past 20 years.
In my experience, there are many BIG gifts to living with HIV:
1. Since I was exposed to HIV, at the age of 19, by the same needles they used to treat me for malaria (while doing volunteer work in East Africa), and told I only had about 10 years to live, I did not get sucked into the “American Dream Trap”—you know, mortgages, $10K weddings, materialism, credit card debt, student loans, car loans, insurance plans, taxes, etc. Instead, I chose to bounce freely around the globe, pretty much doing whatever I wanted, trying to experience as much from life as possible—from working in foreign slums to climbing sacred ruins to participating in Ayahuasca ceremonies to living in an ashram and then some.
2. I have no fear of DEATH, which allows me to saunter into some of the most “dangerous” places on this planet and assist others less fortunate than I. It also allows me to gleefully cliff dive; do category 5 rapids; SCUBA dive; ski; couchsurf; travel/move to foreign countries alone; and other activities that some people label as “dangerous.”
3. I do not waste time, energy or words being bitter, angry, boring, critical, or unhappy. If I am unhappy, I change my perception of the situation, change the situation, or leave the situation entirely. *I have learned that if I allow myself to be depressed, self-piteous, or angry too long, it will ALWAYS show up as an illness in my body.
4. HIV reminds me to take care of myself. If I am neglecting myself in ANY way, my body will stop me in my tracks and remind me, “You need to take care of yourself right now!”
5. Gives me carte blanche to tell people to stop bitching about their illnesses, aches and pains because I can always pull out the, "Well, at least you don't have AIDS!" card. *It never fails to make people stop complaining. ;)
6. I have genuine empathy for the sick and the dying.
7. I know the men who have loved me over the years (including two husbands!) REALLY loved me! *Plus, disclosing your HIV status to a potential romantic partner INSTANTLY weeds out the people who just want to fuck you from the people who really want to get to know you. Priceless.
8. The shock factor alone is priceless! I know every time I share I am HIV+ with someone, I am educating that person and perhaps even breaking a stereotype he/she may have of people living with HIV/AIDS.
9. I confess, more than once I have used HIV as an excuse to get out of work or something I did not want to do. HIV makes saying NO to people, especially people you love, easier.
10. I am showing the world, through example, that not only can people live FULL, fun, adventurous, loving, happy lives with HIV/AIDS (anywhere in the world!) but you can do it for a long time, without taking medications!
Sometimes, I think I am the lucky one!
Kelly N Patterson (aka, the Goofy Guru)
Monday, May 13, 2013
By Kelly N Patterson
"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."
Hlabisa, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa (2001-ish)
Begiswe (my Gay Zulu bodyguard—who happened to be the most ferocious looking man in Hlabisa), arms crossed: “So, you are going to have tea with these people who are now trying to kill you?”
Me: “Well, yes. But they don’t know that I KNOW they are the ones planting poisonous snakes all over my house and office.”
Begiswe (frowning): “Is this a good idea?”
Me: “Well, how else am I going to find out WHY these people are trying to kill me, especially when I am just trying to prevent this ungrateful, violent tribe from extinction! Plus, we need their consent for the community job center. Are you coming with me?”
Begiswe (smiling): “Of course. I wouldn’t miss THIS for the world!”
A few hours later, Begiswe and I met with three local “Somebodies”—meaning local men of elite social, economic and political rank, for tea, under the guise of discussing the creation of a community job center which would not only provide marketable job skills training to local Zuluz, but serve as a venue for public health and life-skills classes, an artisan market, and community arts center.
Upon entering the meeting room, Begiswe (in a whisper): “So, are you going to drink the tea they offer you?”
Me: “Fuck yeah! And if it IS poisoned, then well…everyone will know who did it, no? And then no more problems for me! But you, don’t drink the tea, please.”
By the time tea was served, we were all in deep discussion about the proposed community job center and I completely forgot these people might have poisoned my tea; however, Begiswe did politely refrain from tea as suggested.
At some point, the business tone of the discussion changed, when one of the “Somebodies” stated: “So far, I see a lot of programs for the women, but what about the men? Actually, all I see coming from you and your Vusimpilo (the non-profit primary health care and rural development organization I was directing at the time) are programs and incentives for women. What about the men?”
This question caught me off-guard, “What do you mean?”
The “Somebodies” started to list ALL of “my” past and current initiatives, programs and projects, all in great detail: ranging from setting up women-managed pre-schools to starting women’s business co-operatives; from nutritional cooking classes to health classes ONLY for women; advocating “women’s groups”; issuing micro-loans and gardens to women; etc. *NOTE: As they were listing all the programs I created over the past year or so, I kept thinking smugly, “And where is MY Nobel prize?!!!”
“And now, you want to start Asian military training for women!”
Me: “Hold up! Studies, all over the world, show that women who take self-defense classes are more likely to prevent a violent assault! And I am sure YOU are aware of the distinctly FALSE Zulu belief that if you have sex with a virgin, it will eradicate HIV and everyone on this planet knows the rape and HIV statistics in this area!” (*For your knowledge, Hlabisa had a 42.6% HIV prevalence rate and at the time, 7 out of 10 women were victims of rape.)
Somebody: “The only reason the world knows of the HIV and rape statistics out here is because of people like YOU and all those other foreign doctors and media people. As far as we can see, you are preparing for war!”
Me (genuine shock): “Excuse me?!”
Different Somebody: “Yes, it is clear to us that you are preparing the women for war upon men, on every level--starting in the home, in the kitchen, and then in the bedroom! Now, women are hiding their money from their husbands and telling us we have to wear gloves on our penises! Some women now say if their husband ‘forces’ them to have sex, it is RAPE—it is their JOB! Telling the girls to stay in school when we need them at home…”
At some point, as these men listed all my “subversive” activities, which DID directly benefit local women and hopefully their children (boys and girls, I might add), all in the name of addressing “gender issues”, I had to ask myself, “Are you, Kelly, trying to start some kind of war?!”
Me: “Well, when you put it THAT way, it DOES look suspicious!”
I then attempted to tell elders of one of the oldest civilizations on this planet WHY it is critical to protect, respect and empower women. This, as you can guess, did not go well-- citing the Bible; referencing The UN Declaration of Human Rights as well as South African laws; basic compassion-- “What if it were YOUR daughter or wife?!” Nothing seemed to convince them to re-consider the value of women in their society. I was about to give up, when I got a brain-fart…
Me: “So, you know the G8 countries?”
Somebody: “You think we are ignorant?!”
Me: “Not at all, do you know what all G8 countries have in common?”
Now it was my turn to point out that no, it was not political system, religion, race, currency, language, or location that determined the wealthiest countries in the world, in fact, it is largely because in all the G8 countries women have the opportunity to earn just as much as men--the financial burden of the family is shared by husband and wife. And women CAN earn just as much as men in these countries because they are allowed equal opportunities to education, health, and jobs. “But don’t listen to me, do your own homework!”
By the end of this intense meeting, I acknowledged that yes, thank you for bringing it to my attention that I need to equally address men’s issues out here (because YES, they showed me how I was indeed perpetuating the whole “Men vs. Women” thinking.) Yes, men have to be included in all these conversations and their cooperation is indispensable to the well-being of the entire Zulu community. I asked them for suggestions as to how best to reach Zulu men of all ages…and that, folks, was the beginning of the Fakamandla Job Center. *And oh, I did not get murdered! ;)
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Almost every day, someone asks me, “So, what do you do?”
My response (usually said with Jazz Hands mudra): “Well, I am the Goofy Guru!”
|Goofy Guru demonstrating Jazz Hands Mudra|
*I have to confess, it is mildly entertaining to watch people try to digest this totally unexpected answer while waiting patiently for the next question, which is always along the lines of ,“What does that mean? What does a Goofy Guru DO?”
My response: “Well, I am kind of like a wholistic guide or therapist. Like a General Practitioner in the medical field, I am a General Practitioner in the whole mind-body-spirit field. People come to me when they are fed up with their lives and they WANT change (aka, “personal transformation”)-- basically when people want a NEW life and they want it NOW! And I, in return, “assess the overall situation” (listen to their “stories”, aches and pain resume), and then direct them to professional holistic practitioners, healers, energy workers, yogi’s, Burning Man, Ayahuasca ceremonies, cliff diving, whatever-- as well as introduce them to daily translation tools I believe they can relate to, in order for them to transform themselves. “
“But what does that look like?”
Me: “Well, it is a unique experience for each client. Each “Action and Non-Action plan” we create TOGETHER is based on the new life they wish to create for themselves, so a lot of this “work” is actually PLAY based on their passions and interests. For example, I am not going to dump Eastern and contemplative traditions (such as Transcendental Meditation), or systems theory, ecopsychology, ecofeminism, web-of-life theory, neopaganism, astrology, Goddess/Gaia worship, African Shamanism, Native American spirituality, etc. on a person who currently thinks of him or herself as “Christian”—it is too much, not to mention ineffective. Instead, I start with using as many Christian (or as I call “Christ Consciousness”) references I can find which are in direct alignment with self-actualization (and trust me, there are MANY!) In the end, the person decides/remembers who they are and how they want to live from NOW “on”.”
Disclaimer: Anyone who claims they can “transform” you is full of shit. The only person who can “transform” you is YOU. You are the writer, casting agent, director, editor, marketing department, and the critic! *My role is to simply introduce you to as many translation tools (vocabulary/concepts/symbols/rituals/healing modalities/life experiences YOU can relate to) and holistic professionals/organizations/philosophies as you want/need, in order for YOU to find what works best for you. And then when YOU are ready, you will “wake up” naturally and start creating/visualizing, making decisions, taking ACTIONs that will inevitably change your life as you know it!
For example, with my current client, “Bee”, after “talking” for a few days--all while eating at boutique Atlanta restaurants, sharing the GREEN MEDICINE (aka, “cannabis awesomeness”), over a pomegranate margarita, after some massage therapy, while taking her dogs to the Dog Park at Piedmont, while driving from Atlanta to Alabama, etc., once we got to her “country” home in Alabama, the first thing I did was take Bee FOOD MEDICINE shopping. Bee does not enjoy cooking and therefore, does not always eat consciously. However, lucky for me, she does have a “foodie” gene and fully appreciates organic, healthy food options—she just does not know how to prepare them for herself. So this is on our ACTION PLAN: Introduce Bee to a whole new yummy menu of FOOD MEDICINE options/meals that are easy and economical to make.
|Just a few of my favorite FOOD MEDICINE TOOLS, plus a whole fridge and pantry of yummy, mostly organic eats|
|The librarian, "You realize you checked out 42 items, right?"|
|Personally, I cannot wait to experience "Sweating in the Spirit"--basically, it is exercise to gospel music and sermon bits--THIS should be interesting!!!!|
Currently, Bee identifies herself with being “Christian”, however, she is aware enough to know that (1) she has “Awakened” (her own words), and (2) despite being a nurse all her life, and living over 20 years with HIV, HEP C and a whole assortment of “lesser” but usually more “annoying” illnesses/side effects like skin problems, allergies, asthma, etc. she has come to her own conclusion that our medical system is doing more harm than good and wants to be healthy without all the drugs, doctor visits, tests, outrageous bills, and “you know, general medical bullshit” (her words.)
*Not to mention the continued STIGMA of having AIDS—for the record, Bee was the 7th medical professional in US history to be exposed to HIV through an accidental needle-prick at work. NOTE: This was back in 1985, when AIDS was a “gay/heroin junkie/prostitute/African Disease”—so the fact she survived almost 3 decades of all that GLOBAL IGNORANCE, HATRED, INTOLERANCE, FEAR, SHAME, ISOLATION, DISCRIMINTATION, SELF-LOATHING and OSTRACIZATION from her family, well, it says a lot about Bee’s strength! She is actually a real HERO—but she doesn’t recognize that yet! ;)
So, together, Bee and I are taking on her health and whole mind-body-spirit well-being. And like everything else in this life, this is all a grand experiment and we are both in agreement, we plan to have a DAMN GOOD TIME while doing it!
Live your bliss,
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
It is already May and I find myself in Birmingham, Alabama. How did THAT happen?!
A Goofy Guru client, who happens to be an old friend, has called me to the deep South—perhaps I should not be so surprised to find myself in the setting of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic work? Most people here will blame the pollen for their inability to breathe, but I suspect people, including myself, are having difficulty breathing here because this PLACE has not fully healed from its recent turbulent history—the air is thick with sad and angry ghosts. I have to ask myself, “What am I REALLY taking on here?!”
As it turns out, my client has recently “awakened” and without the “spiritual” language/vocabulary or understanding of the concepts-du-jour, she is trying to INTEGRATE her new awareness into all aspects of her life. For the sake of privacy, I am going to refer to my client as “Bee.” I can already see Bee is trying to apply “Christ Consciousness” to all aspects of her life and therefore, I am having to adjust my language to what I call “Jesus Speak.”
I have also noticed that my health, which as of two weeks ago, was excellent-- has radically declined in the past two weeks. This is interesting because I just read that a Guru “swallows the karma of the student” and since Bee is living with two impressive dis-eases (HIV and Hep C!), we both suspect my health has “adjusted” in order that I can truly understand/FEEL what her life is like on a daily basis. Not accustomed to feeling low energy, fatigue, weird aches and pains, in combination with “allergies” and bi-polar weather—well, THIS is going to be an epic experiment!
The question for me, is how am I going to bring JOY, PLAY and LAUGHTER to this setting? It is going to take a lot more than mustaches ;)