I, Larry Shoemaker, am healthy. Personally, that statement still feels a bit of a stretch at times in light of some of the things going on in my life. I’m sure you’ve heard the diagnoses before: Social anxiety, low-self esteem, a tendency to isolate- stemming from a pudgy, geeky, conservative, often tumultuous childhood and homophobic, uninformed American society-- all being items on the current self-work and advocacy agenda.
But I’ve realized personally, along with the help of my mentors and community (shout out to you LGBTI & Gay Health Summit folks!) that despite all of my flaws, I am Healthy. How so? Because deep down I know and have come to terms that I have an obligation to warmly embrace my existence in its entirety, to celebrate my strengths and attend diligently to my faults. So for the sake of keeping things short, sweet & simple, I’ll list some of my healthy strengths and how I’m attending to one of my biggest faults.
My first strengths lies in the knowledge and application of my personal and “intrinsic self-worth.” When push comes to shove and all the trials and tribulations of life come to heed- no matter the injustice or the judgement placed against me, for who I am or what I believe - I am unique, I am strong, I am good, I have much to offer and I will overcome. No one will ever take that away from me.
My second strengths lies in my power to listen. This of course, as an often stubborn headed young man, is not infallible, as my mentor Larry Bragg and other friends will attest. But I know and continue to learn that by listening and taking to heart and mind the advice, care and friendship others offer, I will become a better person and will quell the doubts and loneliness I face going forward. I have gained invaluable skills and tools over the past year by simply opening myself up to those who care about me. Things that will forever be with me include an HPV vaccination for example, a set of smarter Safer-Sex practices that better fit my needs and desires as a gay man, and the peace of mind that in this big world there will always be someone who will love me for who I am, just to name a few.
My final strength, for the sake of brevity, is my intelligence. I don’t claim to know everything or act rationally 100% of the time. But I have understood and cherished the power of knowledge from an early age, in broad terms of the betterment of humanity, for the opening of minds, or practically, in the formation of a new diet and exercise routine that boosted not only my physical healthiness but my self-esteem as well. Being able to approach an emotionally charged subject rationally, knowledgeably, and respectfully allows me to gain a clearer perspective on what is really the root cause or solution that I might not have otherwise been open to, and I’m healthier because of it. Of course, I plan to continue to tune and add to these skills for the rest of my life and look to Lifelube and others for continuing inspiration.
Now, to attend publicly to one of my faults, the issue of communicating outwardly. I should have my voice be heard! My presence known. My feelings validated! Contributing and engaging with all that I care for! I feel the energy and desire to do so, and have my moments of clarity, yet often I become paralyzed in fear and thought by what others think, fear of others “less then admirable intentions.” Perhaps it was growing up in a small town, being partially chemically “insane in the membrane”, alienation due my queer identity, moving between schools, or the absence of strong role models that I could respect.
Well, probably all of those things, but like I stated earlier, I am too smart, strong, and healthy to let these get in my way. So here I am reaching out to you wonderful people of the world-- writing my soul out for LifeLube (and soon my blog http://larbo.wordpress.com), going full force in my studies, becoming involved with the campus Queer Alliance, the Gay Mens and LGBTI Health Summits, putting myself out there, and of course eating my vegetables!
-- Larry Shoemaker
San Diego, California