Friday, December 28, 2012

Resolutions 2013

One of my all-time favorite series of books is Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. In the second book of the series, More Tales of the City, Michael Tolliver, the lead gay character, (or is he the gay lead character?) makes a list of Valentine Resolutions he calls his "Dirty Thirty." And yes, there are thirty, and yes, they are for Valentine's Day, so there is an air of love/sex/romance about them, albeit from a young, single, gay male perspective; e.g. "3. I will stop expecting to meet Jan-Michael Vincent at the tubs." Or another example, "11. I will not cruise at Grace Cathedral," or my personal favorite, "22. I will not fantasize about firemen."  I don't see a problem with that one, but evindently Michael did. 

I have never been one to keep resolutions, because to me the words 'resolution' and 'resolve' are so definitive about solving a problem; as opposed to changing a habit which, to me, is not necessarily a problem with a definitive solution. Therefore, many of us make resolutions we could never keep, so we are guaranteed to fail whiccan then trigger a feeling of failure leading to lowered self-esteem, often becoming an endless cycle. Therefore, I resolved to stop making resolutions, and even that one, I haven't been able to keep. Because, during my weight loss period, I resolved to continue to eat better, to attempt to exercise more, and to focus more on just being healthier. By putting those modifiers in, I could count myself successful as long as I felt I was continuing, attempting, and doing more than what I had been doing in the past. Until recently, I was at least attempting to eat better. But, when life throws you curve balls, survival mode kicks in, whether it's physical, emotional or financial survival and you do what you need to do. My weight is up a bit due to emotional eating, so it's time to get back on the wagon, or at least the scale, monitor my eating habits and attempt to exercise more.

As this is also the time of year to reflect on the past one, I first want to show my gratitude for the blessings I have received;
  • my health is good;
  • my friends have stood beside me;
  •  my first novel, Out of the Past, was published and seems to be selling well;
  • my mortgage was refinanced, so my finances will improve, and I'm not in danger of losing my home;
  • my dog and cat are relatively healthy in spite of their ages;
  • my house is now mine; financially, and physically, though it could still use some of MY artistic touches;
  • my job is secure;
  • I'm counting down to retirement, a projected 7 years, 183 days as of this writing!;
  • the election provided needed revenue to California schools, so I won't take a pay cut for the first time in over three years.
While I am still struggling with some personal issues, and a few professional ones as well, I am hopeful 2013 will continue on in a positive mood. And with that, and Michael Tolliver in mind,  I would like to propose my "Dirty Dozen" for 2013.
  1. I will work on being more positive this next year (and beyond).
  2. I will work on marketing my book and therefore myself.
  3. I will work on finding myself acceptable just as I am (to quote the old Baptist hymn).
  4. I will work on not worrying about what others think of me.
  5. I will work on making time to read more (by limiting my time on the social media).
  6. I will work on making time to write more (by limiting my time on the social media).
  7. I will work on decluttering my house by getting rid of fifty or more items over the year.
  8. I will work on decluttering my emotional house by letting go of past hurts.
  9. I will work on not being afraid of meeting someone.
  10. I will work on not letting people take me for granted.
  11. I will continue to work on my weight, and my emotional, physical and mental health.
  12. I will take time for me.
And if by some chance, I do meet some nice guy, I will attempt to leave judgements behind and just see where the journey takes us. And I will not freak out.

And if this journey brings us closer, I will attempt to let my guard down and let him see the real me. And I will not freak out.

The hell I will. 

But then, I can work on that.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Me-Date No. 2

From a mural in West Hollywood
I take it as a bad date when you come home with a headache.

But, what if the date you have is a date with yourself and you still come home with a headache? That can't be good.

It started out with a massage. I booked it at a massage salon in a strip mall, one I had been to before, and $39.00 for a full hour is not a bad price. Now, this wasn't a spa, but it had done the trick before. I had requested a combo of Swedish and some deep tissue work, due to the painting and stress I had been under. The masseuse had barely touched me when she noticed how tight I was and offered a full deep tissue, really deep, for only $10.00 more. I agreed. She climbed up on the table, and began using her heels to dig into my back. She walked up and down my back digging into spots near my spine, and shoulders, all the while commenting how strong and tight I was. (I know, this is beginning to sound like a bad porn novel.) After a while, she switched from her heels to her knees and eventually to her elbows. She eventually finished with a light Swedish and the hour was up. While on one hand, I did feel some relief from the tension I'd been carrying, I knew I wasn't completely relaxed.

From a mural in West Hollywood
I then drove to my favorite vegetarian fast food place, Veggie Grill. I took along a notebook to do some writing, either for one of a few ideas for novels or for jotting ideas for my blogs. I am not vegetarian, but occasionally feel the need to be more healthy. I also chose Veggie Grill because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next and it wasn't in the Valley. Perhaps I would take a stroll around Hollywood, West Hollywood, or head east into Downtown L.A., or even to another favorite place for me to go and meditate, Greystone Park in Beverly Hills, all are just a short drive from Veggie Grill. I placed my order; a veggie burger with added Portobello Mushroom, and sweet potato fries with Chipotle dipping sauce. Finding a table wasn't difficult as the place was nearly empty and I sat down and jotted notes for a blogpost. Yet, there was some unease still around me. My muscles in my back and shoulders were still sore from the deep tissue work, and a faint headache was beginning.

The food arrived, and I ate and wrote, glancing around me at the patrons nearby. A couple to my right, I think he was gay, and she his best girlfriend; two women on my left, one with an accent and the other was speaking too softly to hear. A trio was eating at the table in front of me, two young men, very gay, and a woman- all eating salads. As I was writing, something was gnawing at me, and I couldn't discern what. A pent up emotion, but what? Frustration over a toilet I was having difficulty repairing at home, general malaise at the encroaching holiday, or a surprise shock from an unexpected email, stirring up old wounds and bittersweet memories? A bit of all three, perhaps, with the latter being the heavyweight.

Back to my me-date, I finished eating, (the food is always good at Veggie Grill) and was feeling a bit guilty taking up space at a table while not eating. Now, the place was not hurting for tables, there was no line out the door.  But, the headache was building and I thought some exercise might do me some good. And I must admit, the call to fix the toilet was deafening, as was the sister call to finish touching up the recent paint jobs. So, I left to continue my me-date, resisting the urge to rush home and keep working.

Trilingual signs in West Hollywood
I ended up driving into West Hollywood wanting to get in touch with my gayself. I found cheap, decent parking, a post-Apocalyptic/Holiday miracle in itself. I paid for two hours of parking and walked up to Santa Monica Blvd. Now, I had been there just a few months before, so nothing new was happening for me to take pictures of. But, I tried. Maybe it was the general mood I was in; the pain of the massage, the paint jobs calling me, the toilet dripping on the floor (well, I did know how to turn it off at least). But, the idea of leaving something unfinished was irksome, especially after I'd tried to fix the toilet and having no success.

I wandered around Santa Monica Blvd for a while. Feeling no particular pull, except for coffee, I headed to the one and only Starbucks I knew of in WeHo. I got my order and walked back to my car and drove home, running errands on the way. All in all it was an okay me-date. I mean, I'd still do it again, but I think I'd pay better attention to my moods. Though, I think getting out did me some good, if only for the benefits of walking, of seeing something other than my house and neighborhood, of breathing fresher air outside, of breaking my routine. 

While getting out of the house was, and is, a good thing, it doesn't necessarily take my mind off all the things I need to do either for my job, my house, my kids, or myself. It does serve as a temporary reprieve from the boredom of coming home and constantly working, or surfing the internet. All work and no play makes Jeff a dull, gay old man.

And who knows? I might meet a handsome, hunky barista who knows exactly how hot to make my latte.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

To You

I cannot tell you how sorry I am neither of us got what we wanted from each other, or wanted to give the other. I know how much you wanted us to be friends and be there for me. I wanted that too, and to be there for you, however I could. But, I was also open to the possibility of more.

Perhaps, we misunderstood each other. Perhaps, we misunderstood ourselves. And here we are today, unable to be anything to or for each other.

Except a memory.

And a lesson learned.

We must let go.

We must move on.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Parable of the Old Man

Once there was an old man with a kind, gentle spirit. He would put food out for the wild animals who lived near him; he often helped his neighbors when they were in need. He expected nothing in return, the joy in their faces was enough for him. When shopping in the village, he greeted everyone he encountered with a smile. Some returned his smile, some looked at the old man questioningly. He was respected by all those who knew him.

One evening, a handsome young stranger appeared in the old man's village. The old man, tending his garden, greeted the handsome stranger and inquired as to the younger man's business. 
"I am just passing through your fair village on my journey further south to attend to business." 
"If you wish, you may lodge here in my home for the night," offered the old man.
"I'm sorry, but I must decline your kind offer, as I am in a hurry to see my business concluded." A note of wariness in his voice, for the young man was also of a gentle spirit, but had grown wary of strangers, often wanting more from him in repayment for their kindness toward him. 
"Suit yourself, but every traveler must rest, and it isn't often safe outside at night around here. Are you sure you wish to carry on? You are safe in my house, I pose no threat." 
"Yes, I wish to go on for I am young, strong and can take care of myself." He replied, his wariness growing. 
"Fare thee well, then!"
"I shall, old man. Be well, yourself." And with that the young man turned walked away into the night, never to be heard from again. Whether he arrived safely is not known. 
The old man entered his home, bolting the door behind him for the night. Shaking his head, he asked himself what it was about him that some people seemed not to trust. Was it his age? Did he appear too eager to help at times? Too nice to be real?
A Leopard can't change its spots!
He vowed to try and appear less eager next time, more guarded.

That might be difficult, for it was in his nature to be kind. Though, sometimes he was too kind. 
And one's nature can't be changed.
Not easily.
And not without price.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On One Hand

I have been so overwhelmed lately. And I'm not sure what it is that's overwhelming me.

My house overwhelms me.

On one hand, it is my security. I have a home to come to after a long day teaching, I have a place to come in out of the storm, literally and figuratively. If the housing market ever rebounds, I will have some financial security.

On the other hand, it takes a lot of work, time and money to maintain. And the weight of the responsibility can be daunting, and I'm not always sure I know what I'm doing in terms of the minor repairs or exactly how I want to decorate. And I am the only one to take care of it.

My dog overwhelms me.

On one hand, he is very loving and sweet. He is sitting in my lap as I am writing. We have to have family time every night before we turn in to sleep. I love sitting on my bed reading a book, playing on my iPad, or watching a DVD with him lying next to me, after his compulsory hand licking.

On the other hand, he is very needy. He is sitting in my lap as I am writing wanting to lick my hand in order to satisfy his compulsion. He may have developed this need because of the divorce, I don't know. He also gets nervous easily. Few people come over but when someone does, he wants to be held and reassured he will be safe. He is also aging, which requires medication and a strict diet. And I am the only one to take care of all his needs.

My cat overwhelms me.

On one hand, she is very loving. Sometimes. After all, she is a cat. She gives kisses when SHE wants to.

On the other hand, she is very demanding. After all, she is a cat. She wants attention when SHE wants it. She sometimes joins me and my dog for family time and then tries to come between me and my book or my iPad or even between me and the dog. She is also aging, is allergic to chicken and fish (just try and find a cat food without chicken and fish by-products in it!) and she also requires medications, and attention to her litter box, which is not always pleasant due to her bowel problems. I know, gross. And I am the only one to take care of her.

My job overwhelms me.

On one hand, I enjoy interacting with the students. I like hearing their stories, I love seeing their progress, I love watching them learn HOW to think. I appreciate it when they confide in me. I am also the Gifted Coordinator because gifted students are very often a misunderstood and oft overlooked sub-population of schools and advocating for them is a cause very close to my heart.

On the other hand, I dislike hearing from the students, like when one student described how she found out last summer that the man she thought was her father really wasn't. Or I hate it when the students describe how a relative was gunned down right in front of them. I hate being the strict disciplinarian when the students act out and interrupt my lessons. While I get an extra stipend for the coordinatorship, it is not enough for the amount of time and energy in addition to my regular teaching that I put in in order to advocate for this group. And the current trend in public opinion toward teachers, especially those of us in public education, is very dispiriting.

Life overwhelms me.

On one hand, I am learning to be me again after so many years of surrendering myself to my two former partners. I'm not sure who I am and what I want or need from people, especially from a husband, or even from myself.

On the other hand, I am enjoying what I am discovering about myself even if it is painful. I am learning to let go of the past. I am discovering I am stronger than I believed myself to be. Had I known my ex would leave me and with all he left me with, would I have believed I would survive? Probably not. But, I have and I am. And I will. And I am the only one who can make the journey for me.

The thought of a roommate overwhelms me.

On one hand, it would be nice to have someone other than my dog and cat to talk to. It would be nice to go out with a friend who lives closer than 25 miles away, to just go to Starbucks for a cup of coffee. It would be nice to have someone help me ease my way back into the gay community. It would be nice having a little extra money coming in to add to my new budget. It would be nice knowing someone is in the house if I needed assistance.

On the other hand, it is nice having my house to myself where I can listen to the music I want when I want at the volume I want. I don't have to worry if my dog barks at 6:30 in the morning when I leave for work or take out the trash at 7:30 at night. I just turned my guest room into a meditation room and don't want to have wasted the time and money for nothing. And knowing that I have twice fallen for the wrong man just because he was convenient makes me a bit nervous.

The thought of a relationship overwhelms me.

On one hand, it would be nice to lean back against his chest, sip some wine while watching a DVD together while sitting on the sofa. It would be nice to walk hand in hand on a beach. It would be nice to know he would be there if I needed help. It would be nice knowing I am loved.

On the other hand, it can be a pain having someone underfoot all the time. It can be emotionally taxing trying to negotiate household chores, decorating and sex. I'm tired of compromising. I've compromised myself too much for far too long. I refuse to be taken for granted, AGAIN.

The thought of dating overwhelms me.

On one hand, the idea of meeting new people intrigues me. I like people. I enjoy learning their stories, their histories. I could always use new friends.

On the other hand, I have great fears of dating. I am extremely guarded right now, I don't trust men easily. I hate trying to figure out what he is trying to tell me with those secret coded messages he sends. Grow a pair, cut the crap and just effing tell me you want to get to know me better! With everything else I am trying to sort out and take care of, do I even have the time and energy to get to know another man while getting reacquainted with myself? And knowing that I have twice fallen for the wrong man just because he was pleasant and said the right things at the right time makes me very fearful.

Sometimes I want to throw both hands up and just scream.

And sometimes I just fold both hands together, take a deep breath and try to let it all go.