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That's A Lot Of Text

Last week I hit a small milestone. My blog turned seven years old.

I know everyone and their mother has one of these things now, and I also know it’s not news to have a Blogaversary, but as I was reading Sheila O’Malley’s beautiful and insightful post about her personal celebration and reanimation on the web, I began to think about my own.

I’ve always written. I started writing short stories when I was in the third grade. The first thing I remember writing was a short horror story about eight people trapped in a house and one by one each of them were murdered in very disturbing and very graphic ways. My teacher at the time was extrememly upset by this and wrote my mother a note about how I would most likely turn out to be a serial killer if she didn’t do something. My mother (being an English teacher since she graduated college) took immediate action. She bought me a typewriter and told me to put everything down in black and white. She thought the stories were imaginative and interesting.

It was the first thing I was ever encouraged to do.

Since then I’ve written plays, poems, kept several kinds of personal diaries, and wrote a one woman show and a musical version of “Dracula”, which was one of the worst things ever not produced in Chicago theatre.

Although Dracula’s mother had a heck of an eleven o’clock number.

(I played Dracula’s mother).

Eric McCool, was the one that really pushed me into this. He and Mitchell Fain, who has a direct, and life long connection to Sheila, put me on the path to creating my very first blog. I posted on November 6, 2003 and I wrote about Ronald Regan and the AIDS crisis. A TV movie had just come out and again skipped over the fact that it took almost 4 years for Ronnie to even utter the word in public.

About an hour ago, I went back and re-read it.

It’s terrible.

But I had found something I truly loved. I practiced telling stories and beefing up the boring parts. I then began to write about my life, which I still do from time to time, but with a bit more flair. A bit more pizzazz. A bit more oomph.

I lied.

So my blog was my life, but shall we say…colored here and there.

At one point, one of the essays I wrote included my manager who was slowly turning into my friend, and after reading the post which included the events from the previous night, he called me:

“Alex. None of this is true.” he said very kindly, but very firmly to me.

“Well…some of it is true.” I said in defense.

“The fact that I have hair is true, and that’s really about it.”

I was trying to keep people’s anonymity intact, but in doing so, I was simply making things up to make me sound more interesting.

Eventually, I decided to write down the truth, and as I began to do that, and began to let go of what I assumed was right and wrong, I found my voice. Slowly, I didn’t need to lie anymore, and in place of that, came a great big loud voice. I blogged about politics and then about how politics affected me. And along with my life, which let’s face it, even without the lies is pretty unbelievable sometimes, I blogged about movies, books, the universe, God, and started posting videos on Fridays and obsessing about them.

I’m an actor.

I’m Transgendered.

I married a woman.

I used to be a prostitute, a heroin and cocaine addict, and I was homeless for almost a year of my life and eating out of the Burger King dumpsters on the North side of Chicago,

I’m a teacher.

I’m a director.

I’m a singer.

I’m fascinated with old time Hollywood and the questions of the Universe and the infinite curiosity that surrounds it.

I wrote about all these things.

And then I went into a strange period of wanting to prove how much stuff I knew about stuff. I needed people to know I had a vast amount of knowledge. Blogging then became a chore for me. I’d angst over posts. Did I write about the President yesterday? Okay…now I should write about NASA. And then tomorrow, I’ll write about alligator heads. I was trying to please everyone except me. It stopped being fun. I had found my voice, but it was coming from my head and not my heart.

The funny thing is, I actually don’t know how many readers I have. Sometimes I’ll write something and get a big, batch of comments. Sometimes I’ll get nothing. But when I first started writing, I was writing for everyone else. I was writing for that teacher, to prove something to her, and to prove something to myself as well. Occasionally, someone will come up to me and tell me they read me all the time, they just don’t comment. I love hearing that. But the reason the lies stopped, the reason I now tell the absolute truth (unless a name is changed here and there, which does still happen) the reason I blog about how I feel about what’s happening around me, and happened to me 20 years ago, is because I write for myself now. I write to release. I write to let go. I write to move on.

I had a comment once a while ago who said:

“Your blog is getting boring.”

To which I wrote back:

“Here’s an idea: start one of your own. That way, you can take time and entertain the heck out of yourself. This isn’t the Carol Burnett Show. I don’t take requests from the audience.”

I love that you’re reading this right now. That you took time out of your day, or away from your work, or from the yowling kids in the back yard to actually sit down and read this post. But to be perfectly frank, it’s not for you. If I wrote for you I’d have to call you up every other day and ask how you felt about Sara Palin, or Albert Einstein, or the gays in San Francisco, and I just don’t have the time.

As I’m sure you don’t either.

But I found something I really love to do. I’m not much of a hobbyist. I obsess too much for that. I go into things in a large way, always have. And strangely, I can be very shy and retreat very quickly. Just last night, as I was waiting for my pals to have a little creative meeting at a local restaurant, I discovered I arrived about 30 minutes early. I texted everyone and told them I was there and that I was alone and that all the rapists in the neighborhood were on their way to my car. When my pal Sean arrived, he walked into the restaurant expecting to find me sitting alone at a table with a sad Coke and a wilted ham and cheese sandwich, when in fact, I was still sitting in my car across the street watching the front door like a confused hooker. I was too terrified to walk in by myself.

But this is part of who I am.

And for some unknown reason, I like to write about it. This is really the only hobby I have. This blog. And as much as I say I Don’t Care Who Reads Me, and that I write for myself alone, it wouldn’t be near as much fun if you weren’t at least half way interested. I still get excited when people comment, or e mail me, or contact me through Facebook. I try and answer as many as I can, but just the fact that ten people read me, makes me really happy.

I love that you can hear me. That means the world.

And I just need to thank Sheila. She was the very first blog I ever read on the interweb, and I made her my template. She also became one of my closest friends. We understand the need to Go. To not hold back. To be passionate about whatever it is we’re passionate about, and if people think we’re insane because at that particular moment, Judy Garland singing “The Man That Got Away” in “A Star is Born” is The Most Important Thing Ever, then that’s fine with both of us. It’s okay. No one else has to understand it. We understand it, and that’s the point. There’s never any judgment.

Ever.

And that’s what this Blog, this gift, has given me. A safe place. I didn’t have many of those growing up. I had very few friends and very few places to go where I wasn’t ridiculed or pushed or ignored or told to shut up or marked a potential serial killer. So… I am very grateful for you, too. Very.

This little blog has saved my sanity at times. And it’s a great place to go that’s mine and hopefully shared by people who not only hear me, but teach me as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten e mails that have changed me. That have taught me. That have given me something very precious and dear.

As a matter of fact, I’m currently in contact with a young mother and her son. Her son is beginning his transition from male to female. He’s 21 and she’s…well, not. They found me when I posted a speech about my own journey, and what it’s like living in this world as a Transgendered woman. I’m certainly no Transgender expert (I don’t know who is, really…although, I’d love to pick their brain, so if you know of any…), and I don’t pretend to be a psychiatrist, but I do know what it’s like to be Transgendered. So, we’re talking. And it’s the first time in my life I’m getting a chance to speak to a mother and hear her words, accept them, and truly receive them. I had no idea what my own mother was really going through until I began speaking to this woman. I now have a completely different relationship with a memory I thought was long gone. And it’s because of her.

So truly, thanks for reading this far. And thanks for caring enough and commenting and not commenting and arguing and spewing and laughing and reassuring me.

Now please… get back to work before you lose your job. I can’t afford to pay you to read me.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Nov. 23rd, 2010 06:55 am (UTC)
You can count me as one of those people who always reads your blog but doesn't comment. I'm 22 years old and I've been a fan and admirer of Katharine Hepburn since high school. Of course when I found your Katie's Corner videos on Youtube I was bowled over. My interest in your videos soon developed into an interest in you. "Who is this Alexandra Billings? She's brilliant!" Your blog came as a great treat and the stories you share are in a way comforting and reassuring. I could listen to you talk all day. May I also add that I am a great fan of your taste. Because of you I know who Dorothy Loudon is. Thank you for that!
abillings
Nov. 23rd, 2010 09:32 am (UTC)
Nice
You couldn't have said anything nicer to me.

My work here is done.

And thank you, Love.
Jackie Cannon
Nov. 23rd, 2010 10:52 am (UTC)
Happy Anniversary!
Yours was the first blog I ever read on the net and I cannot imagine the last few years without it. We have done a lot of text, you and me, on blog and off. To say that your writings have taught me so much and that I hope that it has been the least bit reciprocal is an understatement. You've made me laugh my ass off and cry my heart out. You've made me want to punch folks for you, hug you, shake you, support you, and always love you.
Alex, your blog was a special bound I had with my mom especially after she got ill. I couldn't walk in her house without it. "What's Alex talking about today?" It was the source of some good discussions and lots of laughter. Thank you.
When I told you I was nervously starting a blog, your excitement and encouragement gave me the courage to actually push the publish button. Thank you. My mom was very proud of my blog. She once said that she learned so much about me from reading it. I'll never forget how much she loved reading about the Gay Games here in Chicago and how she thought they were "wonderful." She gained a lot of insight from our blogs and made us closer. For that, I will always thank you, Alex.

Jackie
xoxoxox
(Anonymous)
Nov. 23rd, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
Hey, our blogs are almost the same age! I love you, Alex. so grateful - and so happy that our blogs (and Mitchell) basically brought us together. I cannot imagine my life without you.

This was fascinating to read. I didn't know a lot of this. Like, how you felt starting out. And how you felt the need to show your expertise in ... alligator heads?

Ah yes, the Alligator Head post. It was a high watermark in blogging as I recall.

I love your words about not really being a hobbyist - that you're too much of an obsessive for that. I SO RELATE to that although I had never really thought about it in those terms before. Once I clicked into the fact that I wanted my blog to be an outlet for my obsessions, I really "got" what I wanted to be doing on that little site of mine. It was the only reason to do it. The obsessions take over my life. And yes: no judgment.

I still think of us watching that documentary about 70s cinema and having to pause it every 5 seconds to have a half-hour conversation about it. I love that. It's so freeing to have a friend you can do that with.

I love you. You're an amazing writer. I love that your mother went out and bought you a typewriter in response to that teacher's "concern". Brilliant response.

Grateful every day for you.


sheila

abillings
Nov. 23rd, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
I love you
So funny...cuz you really started it for me. I remember when I first talking about writing and when I spoke to Mitchell and he said:

"You NEED to see Sheila's blog."

And you know what I remember??? Going to the Scientology museum and then coming home and watching almost 2 more hours of that brilliant interview. RIVETED!!!!

I love you and thank you for being in my life, Sheila. It's one of the friendships I cherish the most.
orlith
Nov. 23rd, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
I've been reading your blog ever since I saw your one woman show "Before I Disappear" here in Los Angeles with Steve Schalchlin. You've taught me a lot and given me the opportunity to think a lot about transgender issues and human stuff.

Color me a fan. :)

Travis
thequirkywoman
Nov. 23rd, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
Also a reader. This is Courtney from the CSULB Viewpoints class. It really invigorates me to read through your journey and watch you still struggle for your voice. It reminds me that it's okay to struggle and despair, because it means I'm living. And having you in class and reading the things you post has also enlightened me to another concept that I feel silly for not having realized before:

No matter how hard I try, I will never be someone else. Never. I will always be myself. Always. So I might as well be happy with myself.

Again, it seems like elementary logic, but it's taken 21 years for me to get to that thought and it'll probably take me another 21 years to actually live it. But I've finally discovered my joy in struggle and honesty and I've stopped being embarrassed about my rage and my passion. I've come to accept that my passion is one of the most attractive things about me and I revel in that. And although I still have fears about my mental health and uncertainties about having a soul or an essence, I know in my heart of hearts it's there.

You are such a blessing in my life and in the lives of everyone you touch. Thank you so much for being in this universe.
Joe Feliciano
Nov. 23rd, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
happy, HAPPY dear friend!
(Anonymous)
Nov. 23rd, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
Congrats! And I never miss a new blog-post!
I hardly ever comment, mostly because I don't think for a minute you need my "you're so right." If you ever post something that I really, really can't fathom or accept as your rightful personal opinion, after the heart-attack, I'll write you about it. From the hospital room. But just know that my partner and I use your blog for the spring-board to some of our more serious conversations. And we much prefer it to the evening news, trust me on that one. If this is your hobby, and I do see how you view it as such, I believe your hobby is healing more people than a lot of doctors who are making big bucks. Please keep on writing! -Aaron Hunt
neeroc
Nov. 23rd, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
Happy anniversary. I'm so glad to read this post, too often lately I've been seeing the death of some of my favorite blogs, people move on, get busy, change directions - and I love all your posts even the 'boring' ones *g*
mb2u
Nov. 23rd, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
I don't remember the first thing of yours I read. I do know that it made me want to read more, and that's the best compliment I can think of. Even when I've disagreed with you.

Onward.
eveofmusicnart
Nov. 23rd, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
You make me happy. Even when I want to weep in sympathy to some of your blogs, you make me happy. Even when I have nothing to say about the political ones. My little world is better for having you in it. I'm not as devoted a blogger as you, but I suspect I may not have as many important or interesting things to say. And, p.s., Your mother may have had some difficult moments understanding you, but one of her shining ones was her response to that silly teacher.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 23rd, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
thank you
Your blog actually saved my life. I don't know quite what I would have done if had not been for the insightful, hilarious, sad, beautiful and in-your-face thoughts and writings you have posted (not to mention the fabulous videos) over the years. I thank God for you Alex....you are a true source of light and inspiration for so many.

God bless
mort_83
Nov. 24th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)
Happy Anniversary!
I found your LJ from a friend who had posted a Katie's Corner video once and I almost wet myself with laughter. Then I found your blog and have read each one since. They often make me laugh, sometimes make me think hard, but they always make me thankful for this internet thing that allows people the chance to get to know one another. Thank you!
ruby_stevens
Nov. 24th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
Just another long time lurker stopping by to say congrats on the anniversary and that you are a wonderful writer. This is one of my favorite personal blogs I've found.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also….
(Anonymous)
Feb. 14th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
Great post. Can’t wait to read the next ones :)
(Anonymous)
Feb. 15th, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)
What a nice post. I really love reading these types or articles. I can?t wait to see what others have to say.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 19th, 2011 03:58 pm (UTC)
This really solved my problem, thank you!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )