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Is your future in the stars?

A number of years ago, in fact before HIV (who can remember that long ago?!), a work colleague with a bent for astrology offered to do my stars. He drew up an elaborate map of my life and fortunes from moment of birth.

A lot of his readings were fairly predictable. He told me that I would be somehow involved in writing as a career (he knew I was in publishing at the time), that I would never have children ( he knew I was gay so not hard to predict!) and that I would have a reasonably comfortable life (true enough) with no unexpected financial windfalls (unfortunately quite true!) He saved the "clanger" for the end of his report. His reading was that I would not have a particularly long life.

That, needless to say, was the bit that got to me. All the other statements could be reasonably easily guessed at by any amateur soothsayer but the death prediction was from way out in left field. I quizzed him relentlessly about what he thought this meant. What was a "long life"? Would I live for forty years, fifty years, what? Embarrassed he refused to discuss the matter further.

I've since found out that this person was quite homophobic and not particularly fond of me which might explain why he broke the accepted "ethics" of astrologers that they should not divulge bad news if they saw it.
I mention this incident because now, when his so-called prediction may (and I emphasise, may), come true for me, given HIV, I have less and less time for all matters superstitious, whether they be astrology charts, tarot, crystals or whatever. With such a focus coming from the world around us -- the media for instance -- that people with AIDS will die sooner rather than later, you have to fight to get the voodoo off your back anyway. As has been said before by AIDS activists, it's like having a bone pointed at you -- you're next sonny boy and don't you forget it!

Well I try daily to forget this superstitious thinking. When I was very sick with my first AIDS-defining illness, PCP, a number of years ago my brain was in a very vulnerable and fevered state. I thought I was dying and that I had to find a cure for my condition as soon as possible. I remember rummaging through medical books convinced I would stumble on a cure for AIDS myself! I took relatively normal incidents which happened in my daily life as signs or omens that I was being given clues and massages about my condition. I would not go anywhere without my good-luck crystal. It was all a bit of madness and insecurity which I'm a bit embarrassed about now but it taught me the sanity of looking in to your own psyche for answers about how to live your life rather than to look for magic cures or superstitious signs.

Fear of death is a difficult emotion for most of us to deal with but when the prospect is placed dramatically in front of you as with an AIDS diagnosis, it can lead to all sorts of desperate thinking. Some react with a wild, reckless, "let's binge-up on the good times while they last": lots of drugs, booze and partying because we're doomed anyway. It might be my last Mardi Gras anyway etc, etc. Others have spent an enormous amount of time and money searching the world for a magic bullet to beat this horrible virus. I think of friends who have pursued remedies such as ozone therapy, AL 721 (lethicin et al), apricot kernels, Vitamin C therapy. Some have helped for a while but have unfortunately not provided the answer to date. One day, maybe...

I have tried to not get hooked into either of these mental approaches. I have taken the view that I will try to live my life in as normal a way as possible compared to life before HIV. To try to develop a moderate middle-of-the-road approach to a potentially alarming dilemma without getting too carried away. Sometimes with a multitude of opportunistic infections it has been difficult to do. After each new infection I have tried to incorporate the new extra pills with a minimum of fuss and depression. Physical changes also have to be incorporated rather than highlighted in my thinking about myself. Self-pity and the melodrama of AIDS are the enemies to be avoided where possible.

Of course it doesn't always work. Attend a couple of funerals in a month and you realise you're in a pretty bizarre, almost surreal situation. The bone seems to pointed squarely in your direction as the coffin is carried down the aisle. There but for the grace of God (or whichever higher power you believe in at the moment --if any) go I.
After tears, reminisces and a few stiff Scotches, you might be able to dust off the horrible melancholy of the situation and get back to some sort of "normal life". Because, after all, who can really predict the future?
Oh and I have to confess I've told a lie. I recently succumbed to an irrational urge and had my tarot cards read at one of those sidewalk booths in St Kilda. The master, or whatever called himself, pulled out my first card: "Immune System," he said. "You should be taking lots more Vitamin C at the moment!" And his last card: the Death Card. "Oh but of course it doesn't mean your death, does it?"
"Listen mate, "I replied. "You're supposed to be telling my fortune, not me!" I think I'll give fortune-tellers a rest for a bit, somehow.

by David Menadue. Added to the site in 2000.


Previously Published in Positive Living (August), published by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations/National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

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