Friday, August 30, 2013

Just Be, part 2.

As I'm learning to just be in the moment of whatever moment I'm in at that particular time, I'm also trying to apply this knowledge to other areas of my life.

Some are easier than others.

Like teaching. I have to be in the moment when I'm teaching a lesson as I need to check for understanding with my students as the lesson progresses. I'd rather stop then and there and re-explain a smaller portion of the lesson, than have to back up and start over once the lesson is finished. I also have to be present for those others classroom situations that come up; a bloody nose, a loose tooth, a sick child, a fire drill, a shelter in place, a lockdown or the ever present California scenario, earthquake. Or the most amusing and my favorite, an unexpected answer to the question I just posed prompting a change in the direction of the lesson. If I'm not in the moment for each of those scenarios, things could take a serious turn.

Or, eating. Being present when eating often leads to weight loss. Taking the moment to be with each bite forces you to pay attention to your body and you may discover you're full sooner rather than later, if you are not distracted by email, television, or some other electronic device which could lead to overeating.

Driving is an area where it's kind of obvious you need to be present. If you are distracted, whether by something physical, a cell phone, changing a CD, shuffling an MP3 player or rather by some emotional turmoil/mental dilemma, serious consequences could result.

I'm also learning to be present with my finances, but here I see a paradox. How do you stay in the present without worrying about the future? It makes a lot of sense to save for the future; yet, one must also live for the present. So, how do you determine which is more important? Obviously by determining what you need for daily expenses, adding a cushion for unexpected necessities, and having a separate savings plan for vacations and future purchases and obligations; car, property taxes, home repairs, etc. In other words, a budget. Yet, even with budgeting determining priorities is tricky. I am in need of a new dishwasher, a new laptop and printer, and maybe soon, a newer car. I can live without a dishwasher for a while, and even a laptop. But, I will need them sometime soon. 

One place where I've found it difficult to be in the moment is when I'm home alone. I'm trying to catch up on my social media obligations; connecting and responding to friends on Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. Coming home, I try to decompress from the day by relaxing with a quick couple of online games, reading the news or streaming a few shows on the net. Or, I'm taking care of household chores. Yet, when I stop, my mind keeps going, and usually reliving past moments and thinking of something I should have (or shouldn't have) said/done, or reviewing a lesson that went wrong so I can fix it the next day before progressing to the next one. Okay, so the last one is an occupational hazard. But, reliving past scenarios won't change the present, but I can at least learn from them and take that forward into future situations.

Like dating, which is, perhaps, the most difficult place to be in the moment, for me anyway. What if someone catches my eye and my instinct tells me he's not husband material, but I am still drawn to him for some other reason? Is it right to pursue him? What if he wants more than what I can/am willing to offer? I can't get into his head and answer that. What if I start thinking there is more there than there really is only because he's paying attention to me? This is what I need to stop. Assuming he might be more attracted to me than he really is makes me sound conceited, and projecting more into a situation makes me sound desperate.

I've spent twenty-four of of the last twenty-seven years between two relationships. Am I ready to give up my new found independence, yet? My instinct says no. Am I ready to date for the sake of just dating? Maybe. I think. Perhaps. Am I ready to meet gay men to enlarge my social circle? Yes. I'm aware of past lessons I need to bear in mind as I move forward on my path, and one of them is to not settle for less than what I deserve. I deserve to go out and have some fun, that also

is true. As for settling down, no one says I have to, now. Or, ever. Only I get to say that. 

If I even want to.

I'll just see where I am moment by moment.
P.S. The reason for the pictures I chose? The ocean, the rocks, the buffalo and the bird; they all just are. They exist moment by moment.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Just Be

4/26/2003 We moved in that June.
When my ex and I bought our house, it was brand new and came without a yard. Just dirt. There was a slight rise in the yard which meant we needed a retaining wall. So, stone by stone, we constructed the wall to hold back the dirt from the incline.

On my new path, many people have lovingly suggested I need to learn to just be. 

Just be in the moment. 

Okay, here's the moment I'm in right now. 

I'm a middle-aged single gay man with severe trust issues. 

I find it hard to trust now because after thirteen years together my partner proposed to me, and just twenty-two months later proposed we divorce. Via email. While we were in the same room.

I find it hard to trust when you come to an agreement with someone who then later goes back on his word because it's not in the legal document. After having set precedent to work outside the legal document.

I find it hard to trust now because the first man I met after my divorce wanted to be supportive of me, wanted to be my friend, sent me romantic pictures of sunsets, and flowers. And then said we could never be more than friends when I confessed my love for him.

I find it hard to trust now because the next man I met wanted just a physical relationship. On his terms, nothing that I wanted to do. One-sided.

We began the project almost a year later.
I find it hard to trust now because friends who were very supportive of me during my divorce later told me they never supported marriage equality in the first place.

I find it hard to trust because the media carries stories of parents and politicians lambasting teachers for their children's failures when the parents are not involved with their child's education and the politicians have had no experience in education at all.

I find it hard to trust when stories of teachers molesting children are all over the news, some of them concocted by students or parents angry at the teacher over a grade or discipline.

I find it hard to trust when my best friend who has been by my side daily since the divorce dies and to console me someone sends me a documentary on the mistreatment of animals in American culture and calls me a hypocrite when I challenge the sensitivity of the timing of this 'gift.'

I realize these situations all revolve around individuals and taken singly are painful; yet, collectively, they build up. Each of those individuals is a stone in my wall. The collective distrust and hurt of their revelations has built into a huge stone wall around my heart.

And now.... 

We worked hard to make the pattern look random.
I'm finding it hard to trust myself not to repeat the same mistakes I've made in to not have learned my lessons from the past.

I'm finding it hard to trust myself not to listen to my instinct and walk away from a bad situation.

I'm finding it hard to trust myself and just be when this pain and hurt comes up.

I know it's all happening a reason, and I know I'll get through it and the stones will come down, in my own time and on my terms, no one else's. But, for now, I just need to be someone acknowledging his distrust of the world around him.
You can't begin to correct a problem, until you know what the problem is. And recognizing that you have a problem is the first step on a new journey.

I need to walk my journey at my pace.
For if I walk too fast, I may stumble and fall. If I stumble too many times, eventually I may not want to get up.
I wish the lawn looked this good now!
For a long time.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How Will I Know?

I think my gaydar is broken. Or maybe just rusty. After all, I haven't used it in over twenty-seven years.

I'm no longer sure how to tell if a guy is gay or not. I mean, I begin going to a gay bar, start talking to a nice bartender, who's kind of cute but a bit young, only to discover he has a live-in girlfriend (his words, not mine) with whom he is raising a child. Once, when I was there, he called her to bring him something from home he had forgotten. He kissed her when she brought it. I saw him.
A straight man tending bar in a gay establishment? Okay, maybe he's bi.

Or just very comfortable with himself.

So, even the supposedly sure-fire ways aren't always sure-fire.

And if I meet someone, and find out he is gay, how do I know he might be interested?

I had a confusing situation the other day. After my dog, Mufasa, passed away in June, I realized I had never bought an urn for my other dog, Simba, who had passed away and was cremated in December 2011. I began researching and found a style I liked, which came in different finishes. That way, my dogs could have similar urns. After all, they were related to each other and had similar markings. Makes sense to me.

Since I wanted to see the exact urn for its size and colors, I drove to the establishment and was being attended to by a very supportive gentleman. While I was taking care of business with salesman #1, another associate also offered his assistance since the urn was out of stock in the finish I wanted for Simba and therefore, had to be ordered. (I suspect he was the one who did the ordering which explains why he assisted salesman #1.) This second one was quite handsome with gorgeous, big blue eyes. Yes, I'm more partial to brown, but gorgeous eyes are gorgeous eyes. He was tall (+), dark haired (++), scruffily handsome (+++) but appeared to be in his early to mid-30s (-), a bit age inappropriate for me. He asked me if I'd brought the ashes along, that way he could place them in the urn for me. I told him no, as I knew I'd need to order the urn because I wanted it engraved; so, I didn't bring them. He then suggested I bring them when I came to collect the urn and he'd put them in for me as some people can be a bit squeamish in this regard. I thanked him, and explained it was part of my closure and it didn't bother me to do it. His compassionate and understanding nature was very touching, but the third time he offered, I began to wonder if he was actually offering for a different reason. Was he really this compassionate? I mean it is the nature of his business, or was he being overly attentive for another reason? I also began to suspect he might be interested in something more when he offered to rush the engraving for me once the urn had arrived. I thanked him and told him the rush was appreciated but not necessary. After all, Simba had passed almost two years ago. I could wait a couple extra days. The urn and engraving ordered and paid for, he then walked with me out of the store, making sure I knew his name, (which was sewn on a patch on his shirt). During this entire transaction, he also attended another customer who'd come in, and he didn't walk her out.

How do I know what he wants? He works in an industry where compassion and understanding are important qualities when assisting clients. And they're very attractive qualities in a person, overall.

Since I was so distracted by his sensitivity and gorgeous blue eyes, how do I stop myself from projecting more into what could just be an understanding, gentle man taking care of a delicate business transaction with a client?

I was not even picking up any indications he was gay. No secret handshake, and we shook them twice. There was no little "catch" of the other's eye, that secret little look of interest only other gay men can pick up on. But then, he was at his place of employment. Maybe he turns it off completely, so as not to seem to prey on his clients' vulnerability.

Quite a conundrum.

Time will tell. After all, I still have to pick up Simba's urn, and then order and pick up Mufasa's.

I think I'll play it all by ear.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I began this post after Independence Day, 2013 with the recent US Supreme Court rulings regarding marriage equality on my mind and then I stopped to think of my LGBTQI brothers and sisters who are not as fortunate as we are.

In Russia, various levels of government have passed some of the most draconian laws targeting LGBTQI people. The local Moscow government recently passed a law prohibiting any type of Pride march for the next one hundred years. Taking the lead from St. Petersburg, which had passed a similar law earlier, the Russian Federal Duma (Parliament) passed a law banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" which is as vague as the law itself, for there is no clear definition in the law as to what is meant by the term "propaganda." So that could mean anyone- a Russian or a tourist; a teacher, a counselor or even a parent; who is straight, gay, or perceived as gay who, in front of minors, may mention being gay is okay; or may simply be wearing or holding a rainbow flag, button or sticker, or some other pro-gay symbol; or may simply be holding hands with someone of the same sex- could be subject to arrest, fines or both and in the case of tourists, deportation. Russian President Vladimir Putin also signed a bill that prohibits adoption of Russian-born children by same-sex foreign couples, or by a single individual or an opposite-sex couple whose homeland recognizes marriage equality. Gays are allowed to live openly, yet there are no laws against discrimination and anti-gay acts of violence are on the rise though are rarely prosecuted, let alone even investigated, so many LGBTQI people live closeted lives. Seventy-four percent of Russian society believes homosexuality is always wrong. There is also a rumored law that would remove children from their own home if  the parents are gay, lesbian or suspected as such, and the law could apply to biological, as well as to adopted children. 

Yet, my brothers and sisters continue the fight risking everything; losing jobs, being attacked and even death. A young man was brutally beaten to death after coming out to his buddies.

With many Olympians out of the closet, this brings up quite a conundrum for the Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi, Russia in 2014. Will Russia hold the athletes to Russian law? First, they said, "Nyet!" and now they are saying, "Da! The law is the law!" The International Olympic Committee has spoken with Russian authorities who have assured the IOC that athletes, trainers, coaches or reporter will be respected. Whatever that means. We shall see.

It has been suggested to boycott Russian products; specifically, Stolichnaya Vodka, and even so far as to boycott the Olympics. Boycotts don't always produce the desired results and often hurt innocent people in the meantime. Yet, the symbolism of the boycott draws attention to the cause. Seeing as I rarely buy Russian products, and I don't drink vodka anymore (not after a night with cheap vodka, cheap orange juice and cake), it's a boycott I can easily honor. But, will I have any effect? Nyet. I am not an Olympian, nor do I have the money to travel to Sochi to attend. So, again, what can I do? I can bring light to the cause. I can put pressure on my elected officials to try and do something.

I also would like to say that boycotting the Olympics may draw attention to the cause, but will it change anything? Who knows? But, it will disappoint and/or anger the athletes who have trained so hard for this opportunity. Many athletes spoke against the US boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow over the then-Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan which in turn prompted the Soviet Union to boycott the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, California resulting in nothing but a large case of You-boycott-mine-I'll-boycott-yours. Nothing was achieved by either boycott, though the Soviets did eventually withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989. The US is there, now. Okay, so some things do change.

While these anti-LGBTQI atrocities are indeed heinous, anti-LGBTQI attitudes, hatred, and violence are not limited to Russia.

Eric Lembembe
In June of this year, the very first Gay Pride Parade was held in the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro. Forty marchers paraded down the street protected by policemen from about 200 protesters who threw rocks and bottles at the marchers and policemen. Only minor injuries were reported and some protestors were arrested.

Also this year, Eric Ohena Lembembe, a prominent Cameroonian gay rights activist was found murdered in his own home, his body bearing signs of torture.

In November 2012, the speaker of the Parliament of Uganda promised to enact a revised anti-homosexuality bill, providing for harsher penalties against suspected LGBT people and anyone who fails to report them to authorities. Punishments could include long-term imprisonment and the death penalty for what the law terms "repeat offenders". This bill has even targeted people who know or suspect someone is gay and hasn't turned them in, family members included. What makes this situation worse, if anything could, is that US Evangelical leaders have allegedly been linked to this bill, according to sources.

Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, has called for the decapitation of gay men if they can't produce children. "If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads," according to Zimbabwe's NewsDay

Seeing and hearing this makes me feel helpless. It also hurts. I can't stand to see any kind of discrimination. Recently, I read two articles about same-sex couples who were discriminated against for being affectionate. One case involved a kiss and the other, merely hand holding. A lesbian couple was being affectionate in a taxi when the driver threw them out of his cab along a dark stretch of an interstate highway. The other case involved  two men who were holding hands in an airport shuttle bus and were asked to move to the back. When a fellow passenger told the driver she thought his behavior was disgusting, he allegedly said, "Want to know what's disgusting?" and he pointed at the men saying, "Them." These cases were in Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico, respectively.

While I don't mean to minimize the pain or the loss of life my brothers and sisters around the world have felt; but I ask, please take comfort in one word:


I know. It doesn't necessarily help right now.

Laws can help protect against discrimination and both couples above have filed lawsuits. Yet, laws can only go so far. It's hard to change people's attitudes. It also takes time. Only by living openly, honestly and authentically can others see us as we truly are; human beings who have the same feelings, dreams, needs and desires as they do.

В знак солидарности с моими братьями и сестрами.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Losses and Gains

Newton's third law of physics, roughly translated from the scientific jargon, says that "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

So, for every loss there is a gain.

For every ended relationship there is a new one out there?

What if you don't want one?

Don't look for it.

Xena, about two years old! She's a big girl!
In the last twenty-seven years of my life, I have been in two relationships with two different men for twenty-four of those years. In the last twenty-seven years of my life, I have had loving relationships with three cats and two dogs and for a brief four months with all five of them together. I am now down to my one cat, Xena.

And she is ill. She has numerous health concerns, though none fatal at this point in time. She has had inflammatory bowel disease since she was a kitten which flares up from time to time. She has hyperthyroidism- a condition very common in senior cats, which may be affecting her kidneys and liver. She also has arthritis and I suspect she is beginning to lose her hearing.  Xena is a senior citizen at age 16 which roughly correlates to the human age of 84, and for all her health problems, she's one tough ol' girl.

When my dog, Mufasa, died in June of this year, people asked me if I was going to get another dog. I immediately and emphatically answered, "No!" I needed my time to grieve him, to honor him, to let go of him. He has left some indelible paw prints on my heart as have all of my furchildren who have crossed over.

Maynard came into my life through my first partner's sister. Sister had come to California to visit friends and her brother and was going to smuggle this barely six week old kitten home on the airplane by sticking her in a coat pocket. (Yes, Maynard is a female, the aforementioned sister and friends thought Maynard was a male and named her as such. It's a good thing animals don't attach connotations to names.) Maynard was a very loving cat; I remember trying to read or do counted cross stitch with her sitting in my lap! She slept, not on my bed, but on me, almost nightly, for nearly eighteen years. I would complain, but I loved it. Stomach cancer eventually took her, as she, too, suffered from hyperthyroidism, same as Xena.
Maynard, 1986-2004
Gabrielle, 1997-2008, (l) joins Xena at the door.
Xena, and her sister, Gabrielle, (yes, the names were deliberately taken from the TV show, Xena: Warrior Princess) came to us in 1997. My ex had come home and asked if we could get a kitten since I'd had my own cat. In truth, he took (almost) just as good care of Maynard as I did. But, as I'd had more time with her, she was now ten years old!, she and I had the closer bond. One of his coworkers was looking for a home for two kittens. We went to look at them and, thinking they would entertain each other and leave Maynard alone, we brought them both back with us. They were a delight and quickly adapted to our house. While Gabrielle tried to win over Maynard with overt displays of submission, Xena tried to assert her dominance and Maynard did not want anything to do with either of them. Fortunately, she still loved me. Gabrielle passed prematurely at the age of eleven, after running downstairs to greet me after I'd been out for a while, she collapsed at my feet in a sudden seizure. She was gone before my ex got downstairs to help get her to the vet.

Simba was my ex's idea. His own mother had passed suddenly at age 52. He then began his list of things he wanted to accomplish before his death. Owning a Pomeranian was on his list. Once he decided on a black-and-tan Pom, he began investigating and through a series of events, Simba came home with us the night we met him. He was a sweet, loving dog, and I have chronicled his life here in another post, "A Poem to a Pom, Dec. 2011." He passed in December 2011, the day before his eleventh birthday.
Simba, 2000-2011
I have written about Mufasa barely a month ago, "A Second Poem to a Second Pom, June 2013," and where Simba was a big couch potato, Mufasa was very hyper and intelligent. I'm not saying Simba wasn't, he just wasn't as prone to figuring things out. Mufasa was the investigator, Simba the observer.
Mufasa, 2003-2013
Xena is hanging on. She is my one remaining furchild from this period of my life. She is doing well, for someone her age. Yet, she is going through a change of temperament. Until her sister's death, she only graced us with her presence when she wanted food. Then she'd retire back to whatever room she came from. Lately, she's been nearby, wanting more than food. I think she realizes now she doesn't have to compete for my attention. Yet, like a typical cat, she wants attention on her terms, which is new for me to see in her. Maynard and Gabrielle both would wait until I was watching television or not on the computer, and come sit on my lap, or next to me. Sometimes they'd both be there; Maynard on my lap, Gabrielle lying next to me, lightly resting her paw on my leg, with just enough contact to let me know she was there. Now, when I sit or lie down, Xena jumps on the couch or my bed, and will walk back and forth across my lap, instead of settling down.

I'll get another dog and maybe a cat. But, later. I don't want to bring another animal into the house and put Xena through any additional stress.

I figure pets are like boyfriends.

Or, are boyfriends like pets?

Either way, the right one will come along at the right time.