Saturday, November 14, 2015


As I think of the term 'acceptance' I have come to appreciate the depths of meaning it has. Or better yet, the levels of acceptance there exist in one's life.

I see these different levels in the acceptance of:
  • gifts;
  • self;
  • the outcome of a situation;
And I am sure there are others, yet in my flu/cold rattled brain, and upended emotional state, these are the only ones I can think of at this time.

In terms of gifts, during my early developmental years I accepted gifts unquestionably. Especially when it was my birthday or a holiday. After all, I was the center of attention. But, when I started dating, accepting a gift often meant a string was attached. At least in my mind. And maybe his.

When I first came out, I wanted so much to meet men and date. I went out to bars, clubs and eventually tried the personal ads, both placing and responding. (This was in the stone age before dating apps were on your smartphone and the nearest hookup might only be 100 yards away and 30 minutes after your last one.) Via one ad, I attracted the attention of a French-Canadian doctor living in Southern California and we dated a few times. We weren't exclusive and he sometimes showed up with gifts and/or took me out for a nice meal. I was a starving student teacher at that point and meals that weren't necessarily instant or packaged in Styrofoam were a treat. Yes, I felt guilty for accepting his gifts/meals and we ended up being intimate. And I felt guilty afterwards because I didn't find him attractive. Understandably, my self-esteem suffered.

I have now learned that just because someone wants to buy me a nice meal, or give me some other extravagant gift, it doesn't mean he is entitled to have me as his dessert. I can merely say, "Thank you", accept the gift and let him ponder his next move.

I'm not going to elaborate on acceptance of self, as earlier posts in this blog have dealt with my self-acceptance on coming out and in other areas of life. But I do want to mention that part of acceptance of self, includes the acceptance of the parts we don't particularly like, our 'shadow' self. Our shadow self is that part of our self we may not identify with, i.e., negative traits. We may not think of ourselves as the jealous type, and repress those feelings, only to have them surface at a later time. Some psychologists believe the shadow self represents our primitive self, our deepest, darkest secrets/fantasies that we are afraid to name, or simply those negative traits/self-concepts/fears we are trying to avoid. The most important part of the shadow self is to simply accept that it exists so we may be aware of it when it arises. Accepting those unflattering traits we all possess is never easy. The shadow will arise, often at a most inopportune moment, possibly changing the course of your life and affecting that of others.

Accepting unexpected outcomes is never easy, in fact it can be quite painful; my divorce, for example.

I've blogged on how it was a shock, how it left me devastated, how it left me depressed-especially after sixteen years together-and how I've overcome all of that. I have now accepted the outcome of my divorce as a blessing and a period of exponential personal growth.

I recently found myself in a situation I never dreamed of. After swearing off dating and relationships, I found myself in a relationship with someone I never expected. He was almost the exact opposite of what I inscribed on my "list of needs" -not quite my age, not quite my contemporary-yet he possessed qualities and attributes I never dreamed were important to me. He awakened those needs in me, and I realized these recently discovered needs superseded those on my "list." And we grew closer, and I grew closer to him than I did to my ex-husband, which I understand is normal in post-divorce relationships, as we've now learned our lessons from the past. I grew to want this relationship to succeed in spite of; no, because of the differences between us. After all, a challenging relationship is never dull. We would continue to grow into ourselves as we faced and overcame the challenges, both individually and as a couple. And we both saw this. And we both wanted it to succeed. Yet, other forces brought challenges from outside the relationship adding to our own, causing us to take a good look at where we are.

I may have to eventually accept whatever direction this takes, even if it is not what I want. As will he, even if it's not what he wants.

And, if it's meant to be, it will find a way...someday...maybe...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In a Haze

In a recent post, I shared my interest in trying medical cannabis for a number of conditions:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Arthritis pain 
  • and above all, insomnia
And for a couple of reasons:
  • I'm tired of the big pharmaceutical companies price gouging us out of our medications;
  • I'd prefer to have tried something and regretted it, than regretting having never tried it.
But, I have a few logistical concerns to overcome:
  • In the state of California, it is possible for a credentialed teacher to lose his/her credential over a failed drug test as the State recognizes the benefits of medical cannabis, yet, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing still considers marijuana a Class I drug, per Federal Law, and as I understand, cannabis can remain in the user's system for up to 72 hours for a moderate user;
    • It is, however, unlikely I would put myself in such a position by smoking/using before going in to school;
  • And, I have discovered that a medical card would be tied to my driver's license and therefore any traffic stop might trigger a potentially tricky situation.
So, the general consensus is I shouldn't do anything while I have a valid credential, which expires in 2019, one year before my projected retirement. Yet, I still need to find a way to sleep within these next few years. And, Ambien has been recommended to me, as well as Benadryl, and I may look into them; but a dear friend tried to take his life with half a bottle of Ambien, and while I may not be of that mindset, the memories of that night are not pleasant. I'm very happy to say he is well and looking forward to a long and productive life. And Ambien can become chemically addictive, as can any medical sleeping aid. Taking Benadryl would medicate me for symptoms I don't have as it's used for mostly for anti-itch and allergies.

And one specific health concern I have already addressed in the aforementioned post is, because cannabis is a vasodilator, it does increase the heart rate of the smoker, and as I can suffer from a stress/anxiety-related elevated heart rate, this might not be my best choice as an alternative.Yet, I do enjoy a nice cup of coffee which also increases the heart rate, just not quite so much. Perhaps I should investigate other methods to reduce stress and achieve general relaxation, though my stress and anxiety seem to be much lessened as of late, and my blood pressure and heart rate are lower than they have been in years. Yet, I still can't sleep through the night.

I also need to get over seeing myself in the image of the stoner or pothead, that I grew up with which might not be easy, yet as I sat drinking a beer last night, I caught my reflection in a window, and realized if I can get over my own personal temperance/abstinence movement of my heavily Christian-influenced teenage years to where I can now enjoy a beer or glass of wine responsibly, then maybe I can do the same with pot. After all, I'm still the same wonderful. loving me after one (or two) glasses of a nice Shiraz.

All of that confusion has not stopped me from continuing my research on medical weed.

And I am lost in a fog...

First, I discovered there are two types of marijuana: indica and sativa, which are generally differentiated by the leaf of the plant. So, I'm thinking it's like wine, red and white, like the grapes.

Heck, no.

According to my research, indica produces a completely different type of high than sativa. I mean, to me, a red wine drunk isn't that different than a white wine drunk, except for the possible headache/migraine that reds can produce. So, these different types of highs led to my first cloud of confusion. As I understand, an indica high is much more mellow, producing a sense of relaxation and sleepiness while a sativa high is more of an energetic, creative, hallucinogenic high.

And as I understand there are even different strains within the indica and sativa varieties, all developed for different levels and types of high. Some strains are more/less potent than others and take more/less time to 'hit' and can hit harder, regardless of whether they are indica or sativa.

I also discovered there are two principal components of cannabis that contribute to its effect on us, tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC and cannabidiol, or CBD. Both THC and CBD have psychotropic properties, though CBD is believed to be the lesser of the two. It is CBD, in an oil or tincture form, that is being used with children in reducing epileptic and other seizures and is believed to provide more of the medicinal benefits than THC. It is also believed that CBD is responsible for countering some of the psychoactive effect of the THC in marijuana, so the higher the percentage of CBD, the less the effects of THC on the patient. And medical strains are being specifically developed to have more CBD than THC for those patients not looking for such a psychoactive experience.

And then there's the actual method of intake; smoking, liquid, topical or edible, all of which can also effect the high, but to a lesser extent than the strain itself. And with smoking there's the popular pipe, bong, and now vaporizers. One can even purchase just CBD oil to take sublingually. I've read of topical creams and ointments, as well as candies, cookies, brownies and even, teas.

CBD oil
Oh, and flavors.

Flavors? Of weed?

Yes, flavors.

Some strains are described as fruity, others as earthy, or piney.

Well, different wines of the same varietal can have slightly different flavors depending on the vintner. I tried a Pinot Grigio from one label that reminded me of turpentine, and another so wonderful, I wanted to buy a case of it. So, why can't marijuana be different depending on the developer?

And on top all of this, different strains are recommended for different medical conditions...some are recommended specifically for stress, pain, insomnia, nausea, etc., while others are recommended for depression, migraines, etc. Still others are recommended for social anxiety, motivation, relaxation, etc.

Oh, and the names of some strains...Blueberry Cheesecake, God's Gift, Afgoo, and my personal favorite (for a name, not necessarily a strain I'd want to try) Alaskan Thunder F*ck.

So, should a first time smoker decide to take that step, how does he find out what and where to buy if he has no local friends he knows who smoke?

Believe it or not, there's an app or two for that.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Comfort Zone

I recently stepped outside my comfort zone. Way outside. I mean, waaaaayy outside.

I got my first tattoo. 

No big deal, you might say. 

And for you, that might be true, but for me it was a huge step. And I mean, HUGE. I grew up with the image that tattoos were something drunken sailors did in strange ports-o'-call. Or drunken soldiers did on on leave. Or gang members did to identify themselves. Or people did to push social boundaries. 

And I am not any of those...

I see myself as clean cut, and socially conservative, and a bit afraid of what people might think of me...and I was like that until I decided to come out. And come out I did. Not giving a fuck what anyone thought. I wore what I wanted, and just lived my life... for a while.

And I wonder what happened to that nice young man who lived so authentically back then?

He became older and a bit too serious, too responsible, too worried about what others thought, especially his boyfriends. 

But, after some serious thought and some encouragement, he finally got inked.

At age 57.

But, first, let me also share this piece...

At age 90!
When I met my now-ex, he had two small tattoos, and I wasn't fond of them, even though he didn't fit the image I had of tatted people. He later had one of them covered with something larger, and quite expensive.  During our relationship, I'd begun mildly entertaining the idea of just maybe a small tribal band around a bicep, but never told anyone being too proud to admit I'd changed my stance about something so radical. But I gave that idea up, as my biceps aren't bulging enough for a band tattoo to look good, in my opinion. And I wasn't motivated enough to develop them just to get a tattoo. This feeling became motivation for a scene in my novel, Out of the Past.

One other very dear friend got several during the course of our friendship, yet it never changed my impression of her as she was always a bit of a rebel.

When the ex left, a new idea hit me, I would now get my tattoo, but to commemorate my new life without him and the transition of me and my new life into something bigger and better, I'd get one of a phoenix over my right pec. I even blogged about it, but one other friend pushed her way into my head, "No, don't! You'll get old and it will sag and look all saggy and wrinkly and gross!" And I listened to her. 

So, I put the idea out of my mind, until about five years later when I met someone special who has multiple tattoos. And, yes, he did push social boundaries, just a bit.

We'd talked about his, and I told him I had wanted to get one, but changed my mind, he asked why and I told him. He said I should do it if I wanted to, and for no other reason. And after a while the idea came back, but now I had a new design in mind; a four-sided Celtic knot, because I have Celtic heritage and one side each of the knot to remind me to nurture my mind, my body, my heart and my spirit. And he encouraged me to just consider it. After all, it was my body, my opinion, and no one else's, and  the tattoo would mean something special to me.

Then I started noticing several people my age with them, and seemingly respectable people too. And they looked good. Both the tats and the people.

I won't go this far
I began screwing up my courage; I found a nearby shop with positive reviews, and went in (with a friend for courage) with photos of what I wanted and was referred to an artist. We talked over my designs, he quoted me a price, and we parted, with me saying I needed to save the money. I got the money together and scheduled a final consultation and to leave the deposit, but nerves got the better of me, and I canceled. I later rescheduled and drove all the way down there refusing to let myself be swayed from driving on past the shop, once again. Deposit made, we scheduled a two hour session for both designs, with the artist saying it would save me money rather than booking separate sessions.

For days before the appointment, I could feel my heart racing, not only for the tattoo, but because of other changes I was considering in my life, some of which I've written about. All together it has been quite overwhelming. But, I digress. And the more I thought about it, did I want to sit through two hours and what if I can't handle the pain, the needles, the sitting there motionless? So, I suggested we do one at a time and start with the smaller one. And I'll worry about the money.

On tat day, I drove down, anticipating what was coming; the needles, the pain, the self-image post inking, the pain, the comments from others, the pain, the anxiety, the pain.

I survived it all...and the pain wasn't so bad; more annoying than painful, like someone repeatedly poking a small pin in me.

I think it looks great...and I'm very happy with it.

And then I faced reality as I had to go to work the next day. I deliberately showed a few co-workers my new tattoo as I'd discussed my thoughts with them. (And they have tats as well.) They were thrilled for me.

After that, I said nothing unless someone commented, and being the tattoo was on my inner left forearm, it wasn't that hard to miss since I wear short sleeve shirts to work in the Southern California heat. Those who did notice on their own were all very positive in their comments. One co-worker was surprised this was my first tattoo at all, as she suspected I was always a bit of a rebel and already had one, just not in a visible area. I'm not sure where she got that idea! Me being a rebel, not the non-visible tattoo. But, the most surprising comment I heard was that nearly every person mentioned they'd thought about getting one. Even the sweet, quiet ones. I guess still waters run deep.

Maybe I am a role model. Or indeed, a bit of a rebel.

But, for me the most interesting result was I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My doctor has asked me to monitor my blood pressure as it's borderline high. After I got the tattoo, it fell into the normal range. My resting heart rate dropped almost a full ten beats per minute and stayed that way for almost three days. My anxiety levels dropped to where I felt more at ease than I had in a long time. I didn't care what anyone said, or thought. I had my tattoo.

I'm looking forward to getting the phoenix. And then, that will be it. 

Well, maybe I'll consider the tribal band...
Mine, on day 2

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

In the years since my divorce and even a bit before, I've suffered bouts of anxiety and depression which in turn have lead me to periods of insomnia. With some cognitive behavioral therapy, and even some medications, I've learned to lessen my anxiety and depression, if only just a bit. Yet, the insomnia is still a frequent visitor. Especially when the anxiety and/or depression return. Or something else is running through my mind.

I've tried many remedies; lavender essential oil on my pillow, counting sheep or something else to distract my mind, focusing on my breath, white noise apps, Xanax, avoiding alcohol and caffeine at night, stretching, meditation, and Melatonin. I can fall asleep, but usually wake up anywhere from one to three hours later, and then can't get back to sleep.

Sometimes the remedies help and sometimes they don't. I'm not sure what brings it on and off, except maybe stress. A recent difficult period with a friend set it off, and when the friend and I stepped away from each other, the insomnia left. The friend has returned to my life, things have improved between us, yet a different type of stress has entered my life and the insomnia has returned.

My bedtime routine is this; around 8:30 I'm in my bed and texting with a special someone. Sometimes the television is on, sometimes not. Yes, I've heard all the research on electronics before bedtime and yes, I should quit the television, but I enjoy texting my friend. I've also read the research on reading, and maybe I should try that, (and as a writer I definitely should) but more the old-fashioned paper books, not the electronic kind. And I should read fiction as non-fiction requires too much thinking which then becomes a distraction.

But, I'm seriously considering another alternative...medical cannabis.  

I've been doing a LOT of research. Cannabis is actually healthier than alcohol and even caffeine. It is not chemically addictive, though one might argue it can become psychologically addictive depending on the individual. It is impossible to overdose on it. There are numerous medical benefits; it is being used to treat several types of pain-from arthritis to muscle spasms, reactions to chemotherapy, migraines, managing appetites for diabetics, anxiety, depression and, even insomnia. One of the chemical components in marijuana is even being used to treat seizures in children. Many indigenous cultures use it spiritually with the aid of a shaman to move some individuals beyond their emotional blockages.

There are some drawbacks; it is a vasodilator which ultimately increases your heart rate, similar to a cup of coffee. Pot has also been cited in possibly triggering heart attacks in some people. Depending on the strain involved, it can also increase anxiety and/or depression if the patient is already prone to either or both. Being I already have a slightly elevated heart rate, and am prone to both anxiety and depression, I would need to exercise caution.

Despite the benefits, I'm not ready to take this step. I grew up with seriously negative views of marijuana, due to the attitudes of the 1970s. It was the devil's weed, a gateway drug to harder stuff. The church and my conservative parents also looked down on anyone who used pot. The students I knew who smoked weed were troublemakers in school, and some of them I suspect were among those who bullied me.

In the early 80s, I discovered that a few close friends of mine smoked recreationally, yet they did not fit the image of marijuana users I grew up with. Did it change my opinion of them? No, they were still studious, hardworking and dear friends, but I also didn't necessarily change my opinion of the drug, as I saw weed back then. Plus, it was illegal, to boot. And with me being so afraid of doing anything wrong, I was not about to break the law.

And there's a couple of other things. 

Due to Federal Laws, the California Educational Code still considers marijuana to be a Class 1 drug, meaning a teacher found to be under the influence of it can have his or her credential revoked. As cannabis can remain in the system for several days after smoking or ingesting, should a teacher test positive that could mean the teacher would lose his or her job, even if the teacher hadn't partaken the day before. What is the likelihood the teacher would even be subjected to a drug test? Not very, unless said teacher was believed to be under the influence while on or near school grounds. Is it a chance I want to take? I'm working that out. And should I obtain a doctor's referral as a medical marijuana patient as defined by the State of California, would it hold up against any proceedings against me based on Federal laws? As Federal laws trump State laws, most likely not. But, it would all depend on the people conducting the hearing, should there be any, in the first place.

Secondly, can I see myself as a stoner, medically or otherwise? I realize, deep down, it won't change who I am as I see myself, but after years of having these feelings around weed, and  around those who used it and teaching drug education to my students, can I justify to myself this change of events and attitude, even for medical reasons? If only to sleep...perchance to dream...

One other reason I'm considering medical weed, I'm getting fed up with the big pharmaceutical companies raising prices of drugs to the point they are no longer affordable for those who are on a limited income. So, maybe I'm a bit of a social activist, as well.

Time will tell what I decide. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pride and Prejudices

Home ownership comes with pride, or is it the other way around? Home ownership also comes with responsibility.

I recently went through a big home improvement project. I had my yard professionally landscaped. 

Back yard
At the end of June, the landscape designer came to the house to see what the project entailed and what my ideas were. I found myself clearly articulating what I wanted (something I had not really learned to do before); I wanted mostly California native/drought tolerant plants and I had a couple specifics in mind, Kangaroo's Paws and a couple Manzanita bushes. Then I waited for his proposed plant list and costs.

Then I met with the installer who would actually oversee the other parts of the project; the pruning of my existing plants and the actual planting and development of the finished garden. All went well here, too. I told him what I wanted, he pointed out what he felt was necessary, and then left. A few days later I received his budget proposal. I eliminated what I couldn't afford at this time and we settled on the final costs.

Then the anxiety set in-could I truly afford this? When will it start? How long will it take and will I need to take time from work? And ultimately, will I like it?

After a few delays, mostly due to a few hard-to-find plants, I was notified when the planting would begin. And ultimately, G-day (Garden day) arrived. The delivery arrived unannounced prior to G-day, fortunately I was home! The crew arrived bright and early (7:00am!) two days later and I felt a bit of anxiety. 
Front, left

I am not a prejudiced man, yet the make-up of the crew gave rise to the anxiety; one Anglo and four Latinos. I'd met the Anglo before as he was the installer and owner of the company the Latinos worked for.  My anxiety came from my own homophobia and my perceived prejudices around Latinos and their views on homosexuality. 

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible to stay out of their way, yet intrigued by what was happening in my own yard, I kept wandering out to watch. I tried to eavesdrop on the conversations but the various Spanish accents I was hearing gave me a bit of trouble. I dropped a few common phrases here and there until, in order to make myself more understood, I said something completely in Spanish. The men looked at me puzzled looks on all of their faces, and one of them asked, "¿Habla Ud. Español?"

"Sí," I replied and suddenly we were best friends, almost. As it turns out they were more intrigued by how this gringo learned to speak Spanish so clearly, so I explained that I had studied for a few years before spending part of my Junior year of High School in Mexico as an exchange student living with two different families.

"Muy impresionante," they said.
Front, right side
On the second day as I was talking with the crew chief, a bearish man in his mid-40s, he started telling me about his uncles. And I couldn't figure out why. His wife had uncles, too. Oh, and an aunt. And it hit me when he said, "And we all knew, but no one said anything." He was opening up to me. He was telling me these relatives were gay, but closeted.

In his gentle-mannered way, he hit every stereotype, "I love watching you guys dance!", "Whatever you do, you do it with such energy, to the best you can.", and "I love the colors of your flag!" He gestured towards the rainbow windsock hanging behind me from the eaves of my house.

But, my favorite comment was when he asked, "What do you guys like to be called?" 

"Gay," I said. 

"Bueno," he said. 

It was very relieving to me to be talking this calmly with a stranger about what once used to be, though sometimes still is, a taboo subject. I never heard any derogatory words from the rest of the crew, either day. It wasn't until later it hit me, I had been the one with the prejudices. They may have had their prejudices, but they were nothing but professional with me. 

And that's as it should be.

I just have something to work on.


Back yard

Monday, September 14, 2015

Time and Space

They say time and space form a continuum. 

I'm not even sure I know what that means. I appreciate I can exist in both time and space. I mean I know I exist in this moment in time and now in this moment, and now this next one. And I exist in this space-the chair where I'm writing this post- and I also exist in this other space I've since moved to, the sofa on the other side of the room. Time and space exist and are continuous, and we exist simultaneously in both, but what exactly is a continuum?
But, I'm digressing from the original intent of  this post...
I may not know exactly how time and space form a continuum, but I do know they often give us some perspective.

Sometimes we need to distance ourselves from a situation in order to gain some insight to finding a solution, an answer or even just some clarity. 

My grandfather loved solving word problems while eating his breakfast and occasionally he'd get stuck. He'd put the problem aside and come back to it later in the morning. Sometimes that little bit of time and space would be enough and sometimes not. Sometimes the answer would come to him after his afternoon nap. And sometimes the next morning.

I've blogged of a possible romantic relationship I suddenly found myself in the middle of; one that has so much going for it-beginning organically in a friendship, we shared a deep connection on multiple levels, we had open and honest communication; yet this relationship has so many challenges for us to work through-we have a large age gap and come from quite different backgrounds, not to mention the 1,180 miles from my front door to his. And our own fears and baggage played into this mix. Ultimately, something got to us and we realized the romance might not work but we tried to save the friendship which, at times, also seemed to be floundering. To help deal with the pain of the loss of the romance and to adjust my thinking of the relationship as more of a friendship, I asked for some time and space.

He reluctantly agreed, leaving me to message him when I wanted and was able. 

We recently resumed chatting online and the time and space seem to have done us both some good. We've opened up to each other even more deeply than before. We've accepted where we might have miscommunicated in the past in order to improve the communication in the future. We acknowledged our fears and that they played a part in the distancing.

It's so hard to explain but even the energy between us feels different, much more positive. Perhaps we needed the time and space to move out of where we were in our personal lives, to regain some focus on ourselves first, then on each other and finally on what we wanted between us.

The past is gone but serves as a lesson, the future is uncertain, so all we have is the present. 

I'll take this present. And unwrap it slowly...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Where am I?

It's been five years since I received a fateful email that would change my life. It was from my then-husband asking for a divorce. It seemed he loved me no longer as a husband, but more as a friend. We had only been married one year and ten months, but together nearly sixteen years. He had no rationale, other than his feelings had changed and he had been dealing with that change for over a year without talking to me.

But, I'm not here to dwell on the past, but to take stock in it. After all, it has been quite a journey these last five years, a veritable roller-coaster of emotions, successes and failures lessons learned. But, c'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?

He left me with a mortgage, two dogs and a cat, the last survivors of our furry family, as we'd lost two other cats along the way. I also had my personal debt. He left me at a very troubling time financially, as the economy was beginning to tank. My school district imposed furlough days for several years, meaning a salary cut, while my furry babies were aging. And yet, I pulled through. I figured out what I needed to do and took those steps. I survived financially.

I also sought professional help. Divorce, as well as other life-altering events, can send you into a tailspin of depression. Truth be told, I was already in the throes of depression before he left. Our lives had  become stagnant, we were not growing together, we were not socializing as much, we were caught up in our respective teaching careers and our new house. Yes, we were in a rut. But, now I'm talking about me.

Through my first therapist, I was able to uncover some of my past hurts, now fossilized in the sediment of my childhood. I am a child of divorce with abandonment issues, raised by an emotionally abusive stepfather, with layers of internalized homophobia and all the self-esteem issues that accompany that troika of emotional fodder. I later sought out another type of therapy-guided meditation-which led me to uncover some of my unrecognized and unhonored strengths and desires which I often had swept under the carpet as being too difficult for me to live up to.

Through these five years, things have changed. I published my first novel. My finances improved and I reclaimed the house by making it more reflective of who I am. I paid off my personal debt and refinanced the mortgage. The furlough days stopped occurring and I actually got a decent raise this year, retroactive to the last school year. Good things to come to those who wait.

Sadly, I also lost my dogs and cat to health issues. My physical ties to my ex were now (almost) completely severed.

I am a survivor. I have learned that whatever comes my way, I can make the sacrifices necessary to survive in the physical world.

Yet, emotionally, I feel I'm a different story. On one of the first guided meditations I attended, I was lead to a bridge, across which was my heart's true desire. I saw a man. To me he represented a future relationship. I knew the Universe had someone for me.

Now, I am not so convinced.

In the five years, I have met a few men I thought might be interesting and interested. I've blogged about them here before, so I won't go over them again. Two of them stood out as being very promising. I met the first one online about eight months after the email. The entire relationship-if that's what it indeed was-lasted only about five months and today we aren't even speaking. I'm not sure what exactly happened except for some possible miscommunication which lead to a definite misunderstanding. But I grew. And I learned a bit about what I want from a partner.

The second relationship of note, post-divorce, is still kind of happening, though it's in limbo. It has been going on for about four years. And I am not quite sure exactly what happened as it's implosion caught me off guard. There were some red flags from the beginning and yet, some very nice green ones. It is this relationship that has shown me so much more of what is important to me in any future relationship I might possibly decide to enter into. I'm just very sorry he's not ready to be the man in my life, right now.

As I look back over my post-divorce relationship history, each relationship, both these two and a few others, have taught me so much. The first man wanted to rescue me. He wanted to be only friends but kept sending me little messages to boost my self-esteem. Those little messages were very tender and endearing and led me to fall for him. When I expressed my feelings he insisted he had only wanted to be friends and his feelings wouldn't change. Not now, not ever.

The second man I met wanted to be more than friends at first, which I didn't. I made it very clear I didn't what a relationship. With anyone. Period. He accepted my position and we let the friendship grow. The friendship grew and evolved until one day I was finally forced to confront my feelings for him and admit I was in a relationship. We explored the possibility of this becoming more serious. But, it didn't work out. And I'm not sure why. Now he wants me in his life in whatever capacity suits us both, though I'm still recovering from the heartache of the sudden implosion which makes remaining friends extremely painful and therefore, quite difficult this soon.

But, because of him and through this relationship, I have learned so much more about myself. I learned I attach too quickly, and I also have a tendency to hang on to what I believe could have been. I have also learned that allowing the friendship to blossom first, is very important to me for a serious relationship to work. I've discovered I need someone as creative, as spiritual, and as open to communication, both expressive and receptive as he and I once were.

I have also learned each heartbreak heightens my trust issues, and with the depth of the connection we shared in this last relationship, my trust issues are even more severely tightened. And I believe, even more, that the best relationships do happen when you are not actively seeking one.

As I move forward on my life's journey, I don't know where I'm headed, what I'll encounter or who I'll meet. I just know I can handle it, somehow.

Even if it is painful.