Dear ___, Great to see you last week. Thanks for opening up about how hard this last year’s been for you. Trying to keep a small nonprofit afloat while foundations are cutting grants is one hell of a grind. And having to keep on smiling and looking fabulous through it all – well, damn. It can jack up your blood pressure, I know. I was telling you about this queerfit thing we do on Saturday mornings. We’d love to have you join us. It’s really hard, but nobody there will ask to see your audited financial statements or a logic model of your strategic plan. Hope you can make.

Dear __, What’s good with your bad ass stud self?! Remember that convo we started having last summer about how putting on weight was a way to ward off sexual abuse as a child, and how that extra weight then turned into an expression of masculinity? We got interrupted by a hot mama who walked by and made us forgot what we were talking about. I’ve been thinking about that convo a lot since Ria Pell died last week at the age of 45. There are lots of people calling her “larger than life,” which is how I think about you. Just wanted to say I’m cheering you on in your trying to quit smoking and get healthy. You’re a genius and a visionary, and we need you to stay on this here earth to share your many gifts.

Dear __, Quick note to wish you luck with you petition for custody of your grandkids. I hope the judge will be able to wrap her head around you being trans and do what’s best for those kids. You must be stressed the f*ck out with all that going on. Wanted to let you know I think you’re awesome for everything you’ve changed in your life this past year. Keep on keeping on, friend. I know that getting to queerfit is a haul for you, but it’s a big boost for us when you’re part of the group – losing 100 pounds is no joke, and it’s a total inspiration to work out with you. Would love to see you Saturday.

Dear __, I thought of you yesterday when my water heater started making weird noises. The last time you were at queerfit was three months ago, which if I’m not mistaken was about when you moved into your new spot with the broke down everything. Sorry if I’m off base, but you seemed way depressed when I lent you my truck to deal with your broke down water heater, and no one’s seen you around for a while. I think it might cheer you up to come back to queerfit; it certainly cheers me up whenever you’re there yelling obscenities at the overhead squats.

Dear ___, I hear you want to stop drinking. I don’t know what it’s like to have to fight an addiction but I do know that while your liver may be a little worse for wear, your bullhead remains bull-headed as ever. So if you’ve decided to quit drinking, you will. I believe in you completely.  I’m glad queerfit helps, and hope that you keep coming.  To paraphrase Mary Oliver,* the only lives we can save are our own.

Dear Queerfitters, Tomorrow morning is on for a special post-Thanksgiving workout. We start at 10:00 at the green space just north of Inman Park MARTA station, and we’ll be done in time for you to get properly dressed for Ria Pell’s funeral at Westview Cemetery, and/or the post-funeral wake at Ria’s Bluebird. Bring something heavy – dumbbell, punching bag, tree limb – if you have it. if you have a friend who’s been looking for us, bring them too.

* The Journey
Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.