Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Strong Whale Vibes

So, I did my regular daily three card reading the other morning. I used The Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini; Power Animals Oracle Cards by Steven Farmer, Ph.D. and The Universe Has My Back by Gabrielle Bernstein.

I've started using the Aquarian Tarot because, well, I'm an Aquarian, and I love the artwork on the cards. There's an art deco feel to the images which has always been an art style that has interested me.

The three cards I pulled for the reading were respectively Strength, Whale and 'My vibes speak louder than my words.'

As I sat and mulled over how to connect them, my instinct went first to the Whale card. The whale card signifies that I am to follow my soul's path, honoring my soul's purpose. So, I'm taking this as the focal point of the reading, the apex if you will.

Whale suggests that I dive into the deepest truth of who I am, past my ego and pay attention not to what I think others think of me, but to the path that calms my soul. I am reminded to also focus on my sense of self as I align with my path, maintaining the faith and courage to dive deeply into myself.

Strength came up to remind me that I indeed have it even if I might not believe I possess the strength (and therefore the courage) to follow through with my purpose. But, it's there. Somewhere. I will admit, there are times I wonder where it is. Looking at that card, the image/energy/feeling of a samurai warrior comes to me even if the art style, the armor nor the facial features are reminiscent of such a person. Call it reader's intuition.

One of the other associations with the Strength card is patience, which is another form of strength as it takes patience to develop one's physical strength, mental fortitude or to even train a dog, which is depicted in the lower right corner of the card. The dog also suggests that I am not alone on my path as the dog would serve as companion to the warrior and watching his back by often alerting him to dangers the warrior might not sense. Just like the Universe watches mine.

As for the vibes card, I interpret that two ways. First, that if I live my truth, that if I follow my path as I see it, even if it goes against the mainstream, my energy-my vibes-will speak louder than if I try to persuade others to see my way of thinking. I should live by example, if you will.

The second example would be my writing. My novels, which have sat ignored for a while now, have started to demand my attention. I think this is part of my soul's purpose, to write my journey through my characters. Plus, the message of my journey will live louder through these characters and long after I have moved into the next phase of my existence. Maybe that's the point, after all. My legacy.

I am also interpreting the strength card to suggest I have the strength to write my characters as I see them and not be swayed to make them more "mainstream." Because they aren't.

They are aspects of me and I don't consider myself mainstream.

Now, I just have to find the strength, hang on to it and dive deep to get past the ego.

And to start writing.



(Note: I am not an Art Historian, Art Major or very knowledgeable about different art styles. According to Mr. Palladini's bio [link below], he illustrated the Aquarian Tarot deck in an Art Nouveau style. So, I stand corrected, and I learned something. Now to investigate the differences. But, it was definitely the art style [as well as the name] that drew me to his version of the tarot.)

All three decks are available from Amazon and other retailers.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Anxious about Anxiety

The trouble with anxiety is that it can come out of nowhere for no good reason, triggered by who-knows-what. Often you can be in the middle of something enjoyable when wham! you are suddenly experiencing an attack complete with many of the physical symptoms-increased heart rate, raised blood pressure, dizziness, fatigue, etc.

It’s been happening a lot lately.

And I’m not sure why.

One of my most recent episodes happened when I went to prepare dinner last week and the meat smelled slightly iffy. I live by the rule “when in doubt throw it out.” I was, so I did.

Now, I follow safe food handling guidelines. I had bought the meat, ground turkey, around the first of the month and immediately put it in the freezer upon returning home directly from the store. Then about two weeks later, I placed it in the refrigerator to defrost for about 3 days before I was intending to use it. I had purchased it before the "sell by" date which was now two weeks prior to the date I was intending to cook it. So, for all practical purposes, it still should have been safe to cook. But, 'tis better to be safe than sorry... 

Then realized I had nothing I could prepare for dinner.

So, I quickly stepped out for a bite to eat, which I hadn’t planned on doing. Upon returning home, and beginning to eat my dinner, the attack began. I recognized the increased heart rate, the slight dizziness, an overwhelming feeling of dread. But, over what? I couldn't pinpoint any particular cause. Maybe it was buying a dinner that I hadn't planned on because I wanted to save money. Or, maybe because I'd left the house again. (I’d already left earlier that afternoon to run an errand and sometimes I prefer just staying home once I’ve completed my to-do-list.) 

And just like that, the attack was over.


Maybe it was a delayed reaction to an earlier phone conversation with a friend who shared her recent anxiety attack and I often rely on her when I get stuck, or anxious, along my journey as she is one of the very few who truly understands me. So, if she’s feeling anxious, things must really be falling apart.

Or maybe it was the fact I had just messaged another friend that I wanted to share something I was somewhat unfamiliar with. But, I knew she’d understand that I wasn’t an expert and she wouldn’t care.

Or maybe it was the approaching full moon.

Or maybe it was something in the air as several friends have reported similar experiences and not simply over having to suddenly go get dinner. Six of the eight planets are currently retrograde along with the full moon, so that must be it!

Or maybe I’m facing the realities of getting older.

Or maybe it’s the current state of my country. 

Or just maybe it was a little of all of the above.

The lesson here is how to deal with it.

I am currently reading the book, The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. He describes the power of remaining in the Now and not attaching to the emotion-or to any emotion, actually-which is very difficult to do because we want to understand why we're feeling the way we are. In other words, he suggests we acknowledge the feeling but don’t try to understand it because sometimes with emotions like anxiety, you may not realize what is causing it which could be subconscious and this in turn creates more anxiety because now you’re trying to figure out what caused the anxiety in the first place which you may never figure out which only continues this vicious circle. It’s like realizing the argument you are having with your partner or friend isn’t actually about what just took place but a build up of a lot of other little things that you can’t recall but obviously your friend or partner does. And they won’t tell you because you should already know what set them off. But, this anxiety argument is with yourself.

Or at least that’s how I interpret his book. (Full disclosure, I’m only about halfway through at this point, so I’m not sure how to put this all into practice. Yet.)

But, what I have learned, so far, is that remaining in the Now is very difficult to master.

The next chapter is how to avoid those mind traps that keep us from being in the Now.

So, I guess I’d better get back to reading. 


 The Power of Now is available on Amazon and other fine booksellers.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Old Habits


Old habits die hard. I think that rings a bell. Maybe I’ve heard it a couple of times or at least written about it.

I was recently invited to the retirement lunch of two former colleagues who decided to follow my lead. Both are very kind, sweet women.

One of which has been the subject of a post or three here.

I wanted to go, if only to impart my recent wisdom on surviving retirement. Well, surviving the first year of it anyway.

I was also excited to see my former colleagues, especially those who had retired years before who, like I, were coming to this retirement to wish these two new ones a hearty congratulations.

Yet, I kind of dreaded seeing one of retirees because I knew one of the first things she’d ask me when we found ourselves alone. So, I girded myself for the inevitable, because I knew I couldn't avoid her completely. She was one of the guests of honor.
 
Because these two teachers wanted nothing fancy but a simple lunch in the auditorium, I drove to the school which felt wrong since I had avoided the area for almost a year. I must also admit it felt odd being back there on the campus after all this time.

As it was also the last day of their school year, other announcements and goodbyes were said, and the afternoon came to a close. As I prepared to say my farewells and drive back home, I went to each of the retirees individually saving the “special" one for last, anticipating what was coming.

I gave each one my advice:
  • Take some time for yourself before finding something to occupy your time;
  • It’s okay to watch television and/or read all day long;
  • It’s okay to have absolutely nothing pressing, in fact, I revel in that fact;
  • It's even okay to sit and watch the paint dry or the grass grow; and most importantly,
  • SLEEP! RELAX!
As I spoke with that one particular retiree, she did ask that inevitable question, “Have you met anyone yet?”

I groaned. At least internally.

I told her no.

She asked where was I looking?

I told her I had given up looking online as that seems to suggest a hookup only. (She is quite naive, especially when it comes to the gay male community, so I said it in a more ‘delicate’ way, “Online seems to suggest sex only.”)

I also said that many of the men I meet seem to have an upper age limit, meaning they don’t date anyone past a certain age, which I surpass by a few years or even a decade or two. It seems that the older we get the more baggage we have to unpack and no one likes unpacking, let alone someone else’s dirty laundry. That she understood. Finally, after several conversations over the last few years.

And yet, this time, as I drove home I realized I didn’t resent her asking, contrary to what I’ve said in prior posts here. Maybe it was because I had anticipated her question, and knew she was (and always had been) coming from a place of concern and caring. I also knew this might be the last time I’d see her. So, why get my knickers in a twist?

So, maybe some old habits do die hard, while others simply die off.

Or, maybe I’ve changed over this past year. 









Friday, June 22, 2018

A Solitary Life?


Spiritual journeys are often very lonely. 

I like the word ‘solitary' better. 

‘Lonely’ carries some emotional weight, whereas I don’t feel that with 'solitary.’

In a recent chat with a friend regarding relationships, I asked him if he’d met or knew any other gay men who he felt were as spiritual as I. Sadly, he shook his head. I asked, “Then why should I pursue a potential relationship with a probable someone who possibly might not even exist?”

He shrugged.

Where I see things as orchestrated by the Universe, operating on the Universe's timetable and not mine, the majority of the people I know see things differently. As an example, if that elusive relationship really does exist, I believe it will happen at the right moment, rather than by my going on this elusive hunt from bars to clubs to apps to organizations to grocery stores to wherever hoping to meet that certain someone over a margarita, a screen profile or a vegetable bin. This makes it hard to share certain parts of my life because of these different perspectives which can often lead to misunderstandings and even hurt feelings.

Especially when that human/ego/mortal side of me slips up and tries to assert his needs and wants leading me into doubts and confusion.

And I share those moments with my friends. 

These dear friends reply as they see the situation through their ‘human’ eyes or from their ‘human’ perspective and not as a part of a spiritual journey and when that differing interpretation arises, it hurts, reminding me I am alone on this journey, at least among my circle of friends. And due to a texting misunderstanding earlier this week, I was painfully reminded of this, even as the misunderstanding has now been cleared up.

Yet, is this solitary life a result of my journey? Or could it be something bigger?

As I have dived deeper into my studies of the Tarot, I’ve found some interesting applications other than the standard readings. 

With astrology, there are many ways of looking at natal charts other than simple personality traits based on the Sun sign. One way of looking at the Tarot, according to Mary K. Greer, author of Who Are You in the Tarot?, is to determine your Soul and Personality cards using your birthdate.

My Soul card calculated to be the Hermit. Seems fitting. 

In a reading, the Hermit suggests spending time alone for deep introspection, searching for inner understanding, and needing or offering guidance. As a Soul card, the Hermit would suggest the same, yet this isolation also carries an inner strength that comes from facing the unknown alone. The Hermit teaches best by example and by living what he believes in, though he can have a tendency to hold others to the same standard. At the same time, the Hermit learns best by observing what others do rather than what they say and pays special attention to the actions of his role models.

On one hand, the Hermit appears to be logical and fact oriented, but on the other, is open to abilities that seem contradictory to logic and factual evidence. Yet, all of the above plays into the Hermit’s quest for inner understanding.

The Hermit’s solitude can have drawbacks, as it can lead to becoming overcautious, not taking risks and needing to know the outcome prior to taking that first step. (Note to self: this is something to work on.)

My Personality card turned out to be the Moon. 

The Moon can suggest a fear, or an illusion in the situation being read. The Moon also has a shadow side, that dark side we never see; therefore, in the reading it can also suggest there is something being hidden or kept from the questioner. As a Personality card, the Moon suggests strong intuition and working with the unconscious, being fascinated by the unseen and unknown-the "hidden." This unseen and unknown is the inner sense that the Hermit must learn to trust. And like the phases of the Moon, there are cycles of opening up and trusting, then fears of being deceived by his own experiences. 

The Moon has always been connected to magic and mystery, as many indigenous cultures and earth based religions follow the cycle of the moon for performing rituals and ceremonies. Its shadow side suggests a deep, hidden side of a person, a side rarely shown to others. The Moon also relates to the use of intuitional experiences vs. rational ones, i.e., “gut” instinct over “head” logic.

Seems accurate so far. Almost too accurate, and therefore somewhat unsettling, though intriguing at the same time. 

Is this part of my journey, and therefore my life, a mere coincidence, or has it been in the cards since my birth?

Inquiring minds want to know...
                                                   or, maybe I should just trust my instincts...
                                                                                                                       and journey onward...
letting the cards fall where they may...



Friday, June 15, 2018

Boundaries



Boundaries are so hard to enforce, sometimes.

Especially when someone else doesn’t honor them.

Hitler didn’t honor Poland’s or any other country's boundaries when he invaded. Nor did Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait, for that matter.

Nor did my roommate in the Great Roommate Experiment.

I realized that setting and enforcing boundaries was a lesson I needed to learn, and that was part of this experiment. Another part, I suspect, was learning to have someone in my home, and with that, learning to trust. (And that may be another post for another day.) Due to this experiment, I think the Universe has something up its sleeve. Time will tell…

My roommate and I did have an earlier connection-teacher/student-and now that we had reconnected on a more mature level, I could understand her wanting to get to know me on a different level.

Yet, I am a private person. Well, somewhat of a private person. I mean I do share a bit here on this blog, but there are limits as to what I will share. And what I won’t. The same goes with friends and other human beings as well.

My roommate tried to cross that line. I made it quite clear certain topics were not up for discussion, period. At all. Ever.



I think she saw that as a challenge.

So, she continued to press for information on such topics as:
  • Why I don’t date;
  • Why I don’t rent out my rooms;
  • Why I don’t at least list my guest room on AirBNB, at least for a week at a time;
  • Why I don’t repaint/rearrange my house/garden;
  • And assorted aspects about my sex life.
I gave my answer to the first question: I don’t want to.

For the next two: I don’t want anyone else in my house.

For the next one: It’s my house and this is how I like it.

For the last one: You have now crossed a line, and I left the room.

A few days later, she might bring up one of the first four again. I think I made my case on the last one. I tried very hard on the other four. I tried turning the tables and asked her why she needed to know the information: “I'm just curious. Geez.”

As for the redecoration questions, she resorted to “It’s just my opinion. I have the right to express it.” 

I’d reply, “Yes, you do. But, you’re coming off like a know-it-all. Or that you are suggesting my taste is bad.” 

"Well, you misunderstood me.” (No, I didn't, especially if you're suggesting different furniture arrangements and paint colors.)

For the renting out statements, I first tried the tactic of “Thank you. I’ll take it into consideration” thinking that would stop it. Nope.

I called her out on it and she replied, “I like to keep watering the idea.” 

But if you overwater a plant, you kill it. (I wish I'd thought of this at that time, but hindsight is always perfect.)

I stated that most people understand that “I’ll take it into consideration” also means the topic is off the table. Now.

Nope, she needs to hear the exact words, “I don’t want to talk about it, anymore.” She’s very literal. So, I said them.

She understood, but she later added the phrases “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but...” Or “This is just my opinion and you don’t have to do it, but...”

The more I said I wasn't interested in renting out my spare rooms, for she had now moved onto all my "spare" rooms, the more she watered that idea. She even suggested a friend of hers who was studying at the university down the road and was in need of a place. The more I said no, the more she said "I know you will" with a smug look on her face.

I realized that no matter how I tried to reinforce my boundaries she was determined to weasel her way in. 

So, I tried a new tactic. I simply replied, “I'm not answering the question.” And stood firm.

She even tried to overstep that, “I have a right to ask.” 

“Yes, you do. But you don’t have a right to know the answer. Only I have the right to determine who has a right to the answer.” 

My first partner had a way for dealing with questions like these, though he often came off like a smartass in his delivery.

If someone asked a personal question, he’d retort: “Are you writing a book on me?” 

If they said, “No,” which they usually did, he’d reply “Then you don’t need to know.”

If they said, “Yes,” trying to mess with him, then he’d answer, “Then leave this chapter out.” 

He thought he was being funny, I thought he was being rude, but he got his point across.

Maybe I’ll try that next time, but only if someone doesn’t get the hint the first couple of times. 

Perhaps the biggest lesson I had to learn was that I don't like not being heard. I would express myself to her and she would not listen to what I said. I don't know how many times I would tell her I'd already made up my mind, but she kept pushing which frustrated me. That is what I need to work on; letting people have their say and letting it roll off me like water off a duck's back. 

Not an easy lesson to learn, but a necessary one.
Especially for maintaining your sanity.



FYI: The GRE has come to an end as she has moved on to her next adventure. I have my guest room back!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Guidance and Goodbye


Saying goodbye when a relationship comes to an end is never easy, and all relationships do come to an end one way or another. Things happen; changes occur, frequently due to age. Death is often an ending of a relationship. Therefore, goodbyes are an integral part of life.

I had to say goodbye this week. I knew it was coming one day, but didn’t expect it so soon.

This relationship was 12 years in the making. I had begun to realize the time would be coming when I felt the aging process beginning to take its toll and the dependability beginning to slip. It was an emotional moment when I realized what was happening and that I had to act. And sooner rather than later.

I had started the mental process to distance myself, but the emotional distancing was a bit harder. This makes sense because we can rationalize why we should end relationships yet still fail to act on them, sometimes. Yet, this ending came upon me so unexpectedly that I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. But, it is over and done, and I’m moving forward. As best I can.

I sold my car last week. Well, actually just four days ago.

My car was a 2006 GMC Envoy with nearly 160,000 miles. Eleven years of a 70 mile a day commute add up to some great memories, as well as a physical toll. Everything was working well, considering, up until a couple of weeks before. There were small cosmetic things I could live with. Yet, when the transmission began slipping I knew I had to begin the process. But, could I afford a new car on a new retiree’s pension? And what could I afford? I took the car into the mechanic to investigate exactly what was wrong with the transmission and the verdict came back. It was indeed showing wear. The service rep said it would be about $3,000 to rebuild the transmission. And a couple of other potentially expensive repairs were beginning show their face also. Well, that’s also a down payment for a new car. My roommate suggested finding a cheaper mechanic. But, that would only postpone the inevitable, I countered. But better to be fully prepared, she replied. Valid points all, I thought. 

So, I began my search for something. Now I will say, I am a loyal shopper. I’ve had good luck with my last two vehicles from General Motors. There are certain features I wanted to have in my car, some of which are only available on certain GM models. That limits my shopping choices. I also wanted to be more fuel efficient, and I knew the hybrids were all out of my price range.

I decided on what I wanted to see. I headed to the dealer not intending to buy, but to test drive a couple of models. The young salesman was very attentive, listened to my concerns, my history, my questions. If he didn’t have the answer, he told me so, then he got it. Immediately. An honest car salesman! There were a couple of things that caught my attention about him. He started to get the key for a test drive, but quickly returned for my drivers’ license, a sheepish grin on his face. Hmmmm, a newbie? Well, he was quite young, after all. We all start somewhere.

We headed out on the test drive and I was really feeling the car. It handled well for a smaller version of what I was maybe trading in. The salesman turned to me and confessed, “I’m a bit new at this.”

“I sensed that,” I said. “And I appreciate your honesty. It doesn’t matter to me that you’re new, as long as you continue your honesty.” It turned out he had been there only two weeks!

At that precise moment, I glanced at the license plate on the car to my left, 222. Immediately in front of it was 333. Seriously? Even on a test drive the synchronicities show up! Twos indicate to keep the faith and threes are a reminder that the universe is on my side. I guess this was a sign, or a pair of them, to go forward with the car. I pointed these plates out to the salesman whose jaw hit the floor. “That can’t be a coincidence,” he says.

“Ya think,” I think in my head. “I don’t think it was,” I said, “Oh, look.” I said pointing at a third plate in a matter of seconds, “777.”

We return to the dealership and I’m now seriously considering buying the car. But, I had seen one particular model in the dealership’s online inventory I wanted to check out. I had also wanted to test drive another larger car, for comparison’s sake. I did and wasn’t impressed. Plus, it would have been way out of my budget. After this second test drive, I inquired on the actual vehicle I wanted to check out. I gave the salesman the stock number and we find out it happened to have been parked next to the one we originally test drove. Um, another sign?

We went in to run some numbers to see what I could afford and what I might get for my trade in, still nothing was set in stone.

As we were sitting in the cubicle running the numbers, a strange feeling of “just trust that it will all work out” came over me. And I am not one to ignore signs, though sometimes that ego gets in the way. But, this time I felt I needed to follow my instinct.

We finished the sales papers and I was waiting for the finance department to be ready. Once there, the salesman came in to check on the progress, and to let me know that they were ready to deliver my new car to me, as it had been washed, cleaned and brought to the front. The finance rep then congratulated the salesman on his very first sale! What a day for both of us! I get a new car, and he gets his first sale!

As we were going over the features of the car, I got out my phone to pair it to the bluetooth of the car. The time was 4:44!

I showed the salesman, he shook his head in disbelief. My fourth set of triple numbers in a matter of hours!

I guess it was all meant to be.

For both of us.
2018 Chevrolet Trax

Friday, May 11, 2018

Introversion

I recently posted on Facebook about having a typical introvert day. A few friends ‘liked’ my post with two even giving me a sad face reaction. Knowing them, I’m sure it was more because they felt bad I had a bad experience rather than being sad because I’m an introvert. In reality, the day was just exhausting, neither good nor bad, just exhausting.

Here is my post:
  • You know you’re becoming more and more introverted when socializing with people you choose to socialize with in an activity you choose to participate in is still so damn exhausting all you want to do is get home and sleep for days. #introvertproblems
One of the above friends very lovingly expressed his concern that I might be going through depression. I assured him I wasn’t, thanked him for his concern and then began wondering what exactly is the difference?

According to multiple sources, the difference is huge. As in Grand Canyon huge. Introversion is considered more of a trait, a part of one’s personality; while depression is a condition that can be treated, often with medication and/or therapy. Few people consult therapists to overcome their introversion; but introversion is often discovered while in therapy for other reasons.

Depression worries about the past while it’s twin, anxiety, worries about the future. But, introversion is about the now, sort of. But not in a worry kind of way. Depression can weigh on you, while introversion is part of you.

However, severe cases of introversion can lead to depression.

As I look back at my post, I see another key difference. Twice. The word, ‘choose’. I chose to socialize with that group of people. I chose to participate in that  activity. I made the choice full well knowing it might have this effect on me. Many people suffering from severe depression don’t make that choice; they might choose to avoid social situations altogether. An introvert usually does want to step out more, while someone with depression usually doesn’t. And when we do step out, it drains our energy so much, we need time to ourselves to recharge.


Disclaimer: not all people with introversion, depression, or anxiety react the same way. I am writing with large generalizations in mind. I know many introverts who prefer texting over phone calls to avoid the chit-chat. I am the opposite. With my good friends, I want to hear their voice; I want to hear the nuances of the tone in their voice not have to judge it in a text, often incorrectly. I want to know they will make and take the time to spend with me, instead of relegating a reply to a text when they can make time for it, often hours or days later. I’ve written so much about texting vs. calling, so I won’t go there again.

As I sit here drafting this post, I am aware that I have two back-to-back social events beginning this afternoon into the evening. The mere thought of them is already exhausting me.

And then to come home to a roommate, who can be somewhat needy, is enough to push me over the edge, already, and it’s still morning as I write this.

My therapist struggled with a diagnosis for me. This was shortly after my divorce, and yes, I was depressed. But, I went about my regular routine. I got up, got myself ready for work, did what was required of me, then carried out the rest of my day. I did it all again, the next day. And the next. So, I was functioning. Many people with heavier forms of depression often struggle just to get out of bed. They can struggle in their daily life. They may turn to substances. In the end, she decided on an adjustment disorder as I was having difficulty adjusting to this new stage in my life, but was managing to carry on, as best I could. But, we also did discover I have some mild form of social anxiety particularly as it relates to the gay community.

There is no cure for introversion. We simply learn to live with it. 

So, please never tell an introvert, to “Get over it!”

We can’t. Nor, do we have to.

P.S. I did make it through both social events but was exhausted by the end of the evening, only to come home to the roommate and all her drama. Oy, what a post that would be.