“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”—Alice in Wonderland
I have never encountered something as simple and complex as the study of tap dance. I relate to it on the most basic, visceral levels, but also the most abstract. I experience so much of life through dance, from monumental epiphanies to small, quotidian occurrences, and I think all of it is beautiful.
I love the feeling of tap dance: how the impact on the floor and the sound waves bouncing off the walls resonate through my body. I love the sound of tap because I notice the rhythms that surround me: the number of steps leading to my office, the routine of phrases my grandpa and I exchange when we hang up the phone, the song of birds and the sounds of buses and eggs cooking. Creating music and movement simultaneously allows me to be equally logical and imaginative. That is why moving to music feels so good; moving in order to make music feels even better.
Dancing is a way for me to give substance to the time and space I inhabit. I challenge myself to commit fully to all dimensions of the present moment and fill it from within. Lately, with the other responsibilities in life, dance is the gift to myself of doing just one thing and doing it to my fullest potential.
I believe in the democracy of tap dance. From its inception in the mid-1800s in the Five Points district of downtown New York, tap continues to be sustained by democratic ideals. Both Irish immigrants and African Americans contributed to tap by sharing their percussive dance traditions in social settings. It is still an art form that embraces an incredible diversity coming from such widespread participation. There is room for everyone in tap dance regardless of age, shape, gender, or background. Everyone has a voice. In whatever small way that philosophy might affect the rest of the world, I want to be a part of it.
I am drawn to participatory cultures. I like to explore connections with others, the music, the earth, the present, history, and future. I look for ways to include—not exclude—others, and I can do that through tap. It is a culture that encourages self-expression but also values a larger sense of community.
Dance is a window through which to view the world. I use it to become a better person. My teacher and friend Lynn Schwab taught me that tap dance is like life. One is constantly learning how to balance, when to exert control and when to let it go, how to listen, how to share, how to adapt, and how to leave space for endless possibilities. Dance is an act of giving and reminds me to maintain a generous spirit.
The act of dancing is something we all own and can use however we wish. Dancing expresses any emotion and serves any purpose. It is spiritual, transgressive, meditative. Today, I am regarding dance as celebratory; I relish the joyful practice that it is. It makes me happy. I am dancing to imagine, I am dancing to give, I am dancing because I can. I am dancing because how better to express gratitude for this body, this time, this life?
then there would be no need to impress you. no need to want you. no need for loving you. no need for crying over over you. no need for heartbreak. no need for pain or tears. no need for forgotten promises. no need for rejected hugs. no need for crying myself to sleep. no need for acting like you cared. no need, for everything you have done to make me feel like absolutely nothing.
I am a chemist. I have synthesized, extracted and tried many drugs. My occupation gives me the perfect cover to pursue my long-time interest in drugs, and my knowledge of their dosages, effects, and dangers is thorough and well informed. The few times in my life when I have bought or bartered for a drug, I have analyzed it to ensure its identity and purity, and if it wasn’t 100% pure, I cleaned it up myself until it sparkled.
I don’t mention this because I want to show off, but rather to convey that I am not a careless person, and that I have always taken precautions to assure my safety. This is the story of a simple drug that has caused me to systematically dismantle my rationality and question my humanity.
As a teenager I had been prescribed Dexedrine (amphetamine) for attention deficit disorder, and experimented with crushing and snorting the tablets. It was amusing for a while, but eventually left me feeling irritable and dull. I assumed that methamphetamine would be similar to amphetamine, and so I never got the urge to try it.
Flash forward to my mid-20’s. As a graduate student, in organic chemistry, I had the opportunity to make all of the drugs that I wanted. I extracted pure cocaine from coca leaves and made the nicest crack I’ve ever seen. Lots of fun, leaves me feeling down for a day. I would smoke it and think occasionally about doing some more a couple of days afterwards, but never got the urge to binge non-stop. Opiates were very anti-addictive for me. I would take them and the thought wouldn’t cross my mind to do any more.
Every once in a while, when the chemistry that I am *supposed* to be doing isn’t going well, I cheer myself up with an easy ‘extracurricular’ project. A friend had given me a big bottle of pure pseudoephedrine, hoping that some day I would get around to converting it to methamphetamine and give him part of the product. I am kind of a drug elitist, and methamphetamine never really piqued my interest.
One lazy weekend I made about 25 g of pristine methamphetamine HCl, gave half to my friend (who had been waiting patiently the whole time), and put my half into a jar and forgot about it for almost a year.
My wife and I had been married for almost five years, and as far as I can remember we were happy. We planned on starting a family and living the typical domestic dream as soon as I finished my degree and got a job. Things were looking up, and I was close to finishing and moving into an exciting new phase of our life together.
Then for some unknown reason, I decided to pull that jar off of the shelf. Maybe just to look at the pretty pearlescent crystals, but as soon as I saw it, I felt strangely drawn to it. I weighed 20 mg out and ground it into a fine powder, and casually blew a line of it, revelling in the ‘ghettoness’ of doing meth. A friend of mine had plunged deeply into meth addiction — hallucinations, paranoia, bugs under his skin and all, but I was a responsible person! I had tempted fate with all kinds of other drugs that were supposedly highly addictive and dangerous, and emerged without a scratch.
As the wave of energy coursed through me for the first time, I felt awakened and alive. I jogged around the block, euphoric and motivated. Work seemed to happen effortlessly, which for me was a great sensation. This stuff seemed to be much more effective than Dexedrine at keeping my focus, and it made me happy and sharp rather than irritable and dull like Dexedrine or Ritalin always did.
And then a couple of hours later a strange new feeling came over me. The jar of crystals seemed to be beckoning me, urging me to take some more. I was still high from the first hit, but I felt compelled to do some more. So I did. I blew another line, ignoring the nasty alkaloid drip in the back of my throat. I still remember thinking that such behavior was uncharacteristic for me. When trying something new, I liked to give it a solid mid-range dose, and then ride it out completely before trying it again. But something was different this time, and not 5 minutes after blowing my second line, I did a third. My heart raced and my eyes widened, but I was still feeling invincible and invigorated. That night, I didn’t get to sleep until 5 AM, and only then after taking a couple Ambien to knock myself out for a couple of hours.
The next morning, I still felt amped, and the only thing I could think of was getting back to my little miracle jar. I generally prefer to snort drugs rather than smoke them, but I knew that smoking meth was much more effective than insufflation, and so my second day as a fearless tweaker I weighed 15 mg into a test tube and vaporized it over a bunsen burner. I drew the smoke deeply into my lungs and held it there for about ten seconds. The flavor wasn’t nearly as nasty as I imagined it would be, and the vapor was pleasantly cool. As I exhaled the pretty white smoke, a pulse of electricity passed through me. This time, the energy was focused and I could feel the gush of dopamine and serotonin switching on every neuron in a way that even crack hadn’t before.
I told my friends nonchalantly about my newfound hobby, and they gave me funny looks, but didn’t express any concern as I had always demonstrated good judgment before. At the end of my first week, I tallied up my use, and found that every day I had taken one or two hits more than the day before. My libido was still going strong, and in fact I found that my sexual performance was better than usual. I wasn’t getting the same rush from smoking that I did the first few times, but I didn’t care because I still felt good, and I was getting more work done than I had ever before in my life.
Weeks later, I would talk to my wife and realize that I wasn’t really listening to her. I was amped and productive, but I lost the ability to think clearly. When asked for my opinion on something, I couldn’t come up with one. I stopped telling jokes and making smalltalk with my friends and coworkers. When somebody would ask me if I was okay, I would get defensive and find myself resenting them for poking their nose into my business. Once I realized that my use was eliciting concern, I hid it, sneaking off to the bathroom or the janitor’s closet every half hour to take a hit or three.
The pattern of my smoking developed into a cycle of 3 days of near sleeplessness followed by 12 hours of crashing during the day. Soon I was up to around 10-15 hits a day, with each hit less effective than the last. I was lucky to eat a bowl of cereal or a glass of juice each day, and my low fluid intake made my urine turn dark orange. In my first month I lost 25 lbs, and I was beginning to experience auditory and visual hallucinations. My sex drive vanished and I was incapable of getting an erection.
After a couple of months carrying on like this, my emotions were in ruins. I no longer cared what anybody thought, and I acted without regard for the feelings or wellbeing of anybody including my wife. The meth now only barely kept me above abject depression, and when I eventually had to crash due to physical exhaustion, the only thought in my mind was that a hit was exactly what I needed to feel better again.
Rather than accept the help of the people around me who love me, I pushed them away, resenting them for questioning my ability to take care of myself, and for getting between me and my false source of comfort. When my wife was brought to tears by her not understanding the change that had come over me, I questioned my love for her. In several months, methamphetamine had replaced the love that I had built over five years. Eventually, when she gave me an ultimatum, rightfully asking that I start demonstrating my love, or at least explain myself, in my atrophied mind I decided that I must not really love her anymore and told her as much.
I had completely lost control over myself, and decided that a chemical was more important to me than the love of my life, all in less than four months. I am still separated from her, and as a testament to the influence meth still has over me, I am incapable of remembering the happy times that we shared, and even as I write this today I am coming down from the three hits that I took this morning. My supply is dwindling, and I pray that I have the strength to resist making more.
It’s easy to think that I am untouchable and that no drug can allow me to lose control, but at least in my case, no amount of knowledge or good intentions could have saved me once I found the perfect drug to monopolize my life. Methamphetamine turned me into a pathetic, heartless, lying monster and the saddest and most amazing thing is that I wasn’t even aware that it was happening until it was too late.
“It’s when I’m standing six feet away from you and not being able to find the words to tell you how much I love you and how much I miss you that I want to just scream to the whole room that I’m still in love with you. It’s when I’m sitting alone with the phone in my hand dialing your number and hanging up that I would trade a thousand tomorrows for just one yesterday. Then I could just call you to tell you goodnight. It’s when I am really sad about something and need someone to talk to that I realize you’re the only one who really knew me at all. It’s when I cry myself to sleep at night and it hits me how much I would give to hold you at that very moment. It’s when I think about you that I realize no one else in the world is meant for me.”—
His courageous struggle to reconnect with the god he loves, yet struggles with and against, has profoundly affected me. Perhaps Sam and I could not be more different than one another, but many times when I read what he has to say, I find that I really connect with it.
I don’t presume to understand how difficult it must be for a person to accept and embrace their homosexuality in a society that all too often rejects those who do not fit their idea of what is "permissible". (I pray often and with fervor for the day when Christians and non-Christians alike will find it in their hearts to love, accept, and lift up people of all sexual orientations). Yet, though God did not give Sam and I the same journey to walk in that regard, when I read what he writes about losing, seeking, and sometimes finding God, it feels familiar. I respect and admire Sam for having the confidence and foresight to write about his journey towards self-acceptance and his journey with God. More than once, his words have served as a reminder of the simple fact that I am not alone. There are others who struggle with God, with believing, with following, with understanding why God’s “followers” all too often are hateful and cruel. And that’s a comfort to me, as strange as it sounds.
…All this leads me to my purpose(s) for writing. I really wanted to let Sam know that I have been thinking of and praying for him. In some of my low moments lately, remembering that I am not alone in my questions and struggles with God has been a real comfort and I thought, perhaps, that it would comfort Sam in some small way to know that his words had an impact.
Like his sister, brother, and parents, Sam is a courageous follower of Christ…a believer who insists on seeking his Savior’s face even in the pit of humanity’s most harrowing struggles. Your family is such an testimony to God, and I want Sam to know that his questions about and struggles with God do not make him an exception to that Weeks tradition but, rather, further solidifies him as part of it.
Being a Christian—struggling, trying, succeeding, failing, falling, getting back up, trying again—is a terribly messy business. I am more sure of that than ever these days. But we are in this together…us, God, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. That assures me. In some small way, on my hardest days, that assures me.
If you could, please pass this (or whatever parts of it you feel are ok) along to Sam. Let him know that I thank God for him often, and I know I am far from the only one who does :)