Joe possessed an active persona. His lifestyle demanded that he juggle many balls. He seemed to thrive having as many things in the air as possible. Besides that, Joe showed signs of an anger edge. He was feisty and would fight for his way especially when he felt wronged. By education and training, Joe was an artist. He moved to Atlanta in the late 1970’s to pursue a career in graphic design. After setting in with a company he began working free lance. By the mid 1980’s he kept a finger in commercial art work along with buying and renovating distressed properties in neighborhoods that were revitalizing. Joe’s acquaintances came from the high powered professional commercial art world and the local community activist associations.
His most intimate connections also shared his disease. These connections were both a blessing and curse. Those facing sickness spent much effort trying to shore up each others spirits and maintain positive attitudes. In the meantime, reality would pervade whenever a member of the community succumbed. Death was an inescapable reality. When Joe was having good days he would joke and light heartedly refer to them as, “my final days.” But if he was not feeling well, he would slip into denial and talk about the possibility of a cure being found and somehow surviving. It seemed that positive thinking could not overcome bad feeling. It was only through medical interventions that Joe returned to upbeat feeling.
When he was feeling sunny, Joe could fully engage in doing the work necessary to maintain extensive rental properties. This included repair, renovation and remodeling of structures, dealing with city bureaucracies over matters of taxes, utilities, and licensing, and dealing with present or prospective tenants. But when Joe would slip down, he tended to stay in bed and spent most time on the phone. He used that tool both as an outlet and entertainment. For an outlet it served him as counselor and a place to expend bile that came from his inner rage. Woe to the clerk of an establishment that slighted him. Joe had an interest in railroads and spent hours calling railroad toll free lines and requesting information and schedules. He assembled quite a stash of railroad paraphernalia.
In the meantime, I had demons of my own to contend with. Living far away from a support system while being buffeted by all manner of negativity took it toll on my spirits. My mood could drift toward darkness that took on features of depression. I needed to figure out ways I could both offer support and find nurturance for myself. I found it difficult in this situation to build a local support community. I looked forward to being able to take a break and travel back home where I enjoyed many deep sustaining connections.