A Tough Year

This has been a tough year. At different times I have heard myself saying, “This has been the toughest year of my life.” And yet . . .

And yet here I am. Today I went for a hike and lost myself in the autumn colors and knew that life is good. Yes, it can be tough at times, but even when it is difficult, it is good.

It started out with all of us still in the throes of the pandemic. But like many others, that led to awakenings and reawakenings as I was able to spend more time with my partner in love and with myself. We shouldn’t need a pandemic for that, but it served its purpose.

In April I went to the hospital with severe abdominal pains and ended up staying for 34 days after they discovered I had colon cancer and the operation to remove part of my colon ended up with multiple complications. Still, I went for a hike today. I am a survivor and I am getting stronger every day.

Shortly after my hospitalization one of our pet birds died and shortly after getting released one of our pet cats passed away. Still, they lived good long lives under our care and we still have another bird and another cat, two dogs, and a gecko that we love, and we’re pretty sure they love us.

My car broke down just after I was able to start driving again, but I was able to get a loan from the credit union to get it repaired and can still drive where I need or want to go.

As part of the cancer operation I had an ileostomy put in and it has been in my body now for more than six months. But in just over two weeks I am scheduled for a reversal. There are many people who live with ostomies for their whole lives, but I am fortunate that mine gets to be reversed.

It has been a tough year, but it has also been a good year. I had poems accepted for publication, released two books, and am working on four more and a play. I was moved to a different position in my company, but was able to keep my job and slowly work my way back to full-time and just got a good review and a raise. I got in touch with myself and others in new ways and have had good quality time with those I love. I am still able to hike and connect with nature, which always centers me and brings me joy. Life is tough and good and I am happy to be alive.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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