Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Shovel

It seems I am in a deep blue funk again and I can't shake it. It began when I returned to work after the summer, so I have a feeling work is the catalyst in play here, though I feel it goes much deeper than that.

Yes, I am demoralized regarding my work, and I can only make the best of a horrendous situation, which is not easy, and the problems regarding being a public school teacher today would be a whole new blog. And many have blogged about them.

So, I'm not going to go there in this post.

I just celebrated four years post-divorce, if celebrated is indeed the right word, for these years have been a grand struggle. There have been losses: my marriage being the first loss that comes to mind; I also lost a somewhat freer social life where I could enjoy my life and be out on the town more often as I had my ex's income to help with expenses; I have also lost a sense of independence as I am now the only one to take care of the household chores and due to limited finances I can only enjoy myself so much while saving for house and car repairs and other necessities, while rebuilding my savings which I also lost.

Mufasa and Simba
There have also been the losses of those who were here for me every day; my two dogs and cat who kept me going when my ex moved out. There was also, most recently, the passing of my aunt who was a strong supporter of me throughout my life. 
Gabrielle and Xena

There has been the loss of sense of self as to who I thought I was throughout my marriage and losing that personality will be a blessing, as I'm trying to find out who I am again. Who I am is not who I thought I was. And until I know who I am, I wander a bit lost, dazed, and confused. I am single again, yet at a different stage of life. Single or not, I am also facing the loss of my youth and perhaps those values and perspectives, now that I'm at midlife.

There have been the losses of those men who might have become good friends, or something more.

And all of these losses have left me drowning.

Yet, In spite of all these losses, there have been gains. I kept the house and its accompanying mortgage, and have paid it dutifully on a single teacher's salary. I had to provide a place for my four-legged children, right? I have successfully refinanced the loan to give myself more financial freedom. I have also successfully paid down over eighty percent of my personal debt in these four years and should be debt-free in seven months. I have successfully published a novel and began a couple more, one of which could turn into a series. I have made some new friends along the way, yet none local enough to just hang out with. I have taken more steps to make the house more mine and less what-used-to-be-ours in the last couple of years.

Mi Casa
Why is it with all the positive, I focus on the negative? Am I such a negative person in general? Or is this just an overwhelming amount of loss and change to deal with all at once, however slowly I tackle it all? Or is it just safer to stay where I'm used to?

Or, is it that all these many years of negativity, including the emotionally abusive childhood and the struggle to accept myself as gay, I'm finding it all so hard to overcome despite the years of therapy?  Or am I getting down to the real core of who I am, by digging through all the bullshit I've piled and allowed to pile on me, and getting used to a new me is harder than I anticipated since I'm not used to being positive or recognizing my strengths due to years of being told I had none.

And believing it.

Well, whatever the reason, it's here and I need a shovel.

I better keep digging.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


The most innocuous item can spark a deep emotional thought-provoking soul search.

In this case, it was a pair of curtains.

A friend came by for breakfast today. She hadn't seen my house since my dogs and cat had passed; so, she hadn't seen the many, many changes I'd made to my house. Therefore, a tour was in order.

It was in my ex's ex-office that the innocuousity occurred. 

When my ex left, his office was a bright orange color. It's now my library/meditation room, painted an ash gray, with a cobalt blue trim and a difficult-to-describe brownish-red accent color on the doors. It's a very dark terracotta color called Mayan Red, if that helps any. 

When he left, I was determined to not keep anything that was his or connected to him. That later proved impractical as I'd have to replace quite a few items, including the house itself. Eventually, I moved my recliner upstairs to the new library (as the color matched), leaving his downstairs, which also matched the color scheme downstairs. When I looked at the curtains he had bought for his orange office, I realized the colors matched the trim and  accent colors I'd chosen to paint the room. I decided to keep them as the match was perfect and I couldn't afford new ones right then. 

I shared this story with my friend and her comment was that for some reason they were meant for my new room. Since his old curtains were a perfect match for my new room, there had to be some reason for it all just to be a coincidence.

Maybe the colors of the curtains imprinted themselves on my brain and when I chose the colors, I chose them to match the curtains. Or, that for whatever reason, the curtains ended up matching the new room so well, that I needed to look at the good in the relationship, as opposed to the negative space I'm in right now, especially regarding him and the entire relationship. And  that may be why I'm having a hard time moving forward. I haven't acknowledged what good I got from the relationship. In other words, if his old curtains ended up contributing to the overall peaceful feel of my new room, it's time I look at what he contributed to the relationship, instead of what he contributed to the divorce and the aftermath.

After; (yes, it is gray, it just goes lavender in some light)
After all, I chose to be with him for over fifteen years.

So, what did I get from him?

To start, I can name some of the tangible items:
  • He treated me to my dream cruise to Alaska for my 50th birthday.
  • He bought me several nice gifts; like some DVD sets of my favorite programs.
  • He wanted to get the two adorable kittens we raised, and later the first dog. (I wanted the second one.)
  • And perhaps the biggest item of all, my house. It was money from his mother's estate that allowed us to make the down payment.
or it goes blue.

As for the non-tangible items, I know I had his love and companionship for the time we were together. He was the one who proposed marriage, which means he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He was the one who initially pursued me, with a little encouragement from some mutual friends. He saw something of value in me to want to meet me in the first place. But, these mostly focus on what he saw and wanted. I'm still looking for what I got other than love and companionship.

Perhaps, all that happened between us then and now was part of my destiny to be where I am now; introspecting nearly every aspect of my life and coming to know my true authentic self as a single gay man at midlife, eying retirement and a possible new career as a writer, while examining my values of what it means to me to be gay and single at midlife at this time in the community with all the rights we have won and the advances in gay men's health.

Perhaps, I'm not ready to look at how I benefited during the relationship. Perhaps, I didn't benefit and don't want to acknowledge it. Perhaps, there's something deeper I need to learn about myself during the relationship that I need to examine. Perhaps the struggle I am going through now is all because of that relationship, it was the catalyst. Perhaps I have too many questions and not enough answers. And perhaps that's just how it's supposed to be.

All that from a pair of curtains.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

National Coming Out Day

It seems we never cease coming out.

To ourselves
To others and sometimes, as teachers
To our classes

I came out again this year. I hadn't thought about it. In fact, I was leaning against it. I came out to my class last year and it was no big deal. No parents complained either to me or to the principal, that she told me. Yet, at the end of the year one of my students who caused a lot of trouble for me said some of the others told her that was why they gave me the trouble they did, because I was gay. 


Did I want go through that again? No. My life is in a bit of a flux right now and I didn't need any more stress. And this group seems rougher; okay, just three of them do. And by rougher, I mean outright malicious. And, it's directed directly at me, they've openly said so. To my face and in front of the class.

And, they're only nine.

And yet, I did end up coming out. A colleague told me one of my students was calling some of her male students 'gay' because they were sitting next to another boy. She asked me to talk to him. After all, I'm his teacher of record and therefore a bit more responsible for him. I decided to address the entire class. I decided to use the "there are words that used appropriately are fine, but used inappropriately can cause someone to become upset" approach. 

In past years, I used the word 'bitch' for this lesson, but chose not to this year due to the maturity level of the class. I simply said that calling someone 'gay' when you don't know if he or she is, is inappropriate. One of my boys, a very challenging child, raised his hand and said, "People say you are gay." 

Without skipping a beat, I simply said, "I am." And gesturing to the next person, I took her question. I don't remember what it was.

In retrospect, I felt I had no choice but to answer as I did.

There was some tittering among the students. Some giggles. Some surprised looks. The boy who was calling the other students 'gay' offered this gem, "Gay has two meanings. It can also mean happy." 

"Yeah, and we don't use it that way much anymore." So, don't tell me you were telling those boys they were happy. Your argument is invalid.

Some of my students were impressed by my actions, "It's no big deal. You are who you are." "We all live our own life." 

My most difficult student challenged me, "What kind of gay are you? Are you happy or do you like a boy?" 

"I'm happy with my life."

"But you said you were gay."

"I am."

"Do you like a boy?"


"But you said you were gay."

"I am."

"Do you like a boy?"


This loop went on for a bit and I finally said, "There's no one in my life right now."

"Ah, so you do like a boy!"  She doesn't let things go.

I reminded the students my job was to teach them and that was what I was there to do. My personal life will remain at my house. 

Upon dismissal, I raced to my principal to forewarn her in case any parents call. She was very supportive and receptive to why I came out. Why would I lie and deny myself especially in front of any students who might be gay themselves, possibly sending a sense of shame about being gay? But, I wanted to talk with her as I do have some difficult parents this year. And possibly, one mother who came to Back to School Night with her girlfriend.

As I am moving through this new phase in my life, I am learning that what will be, will be. That every action happens for a purpose, a reason. Who knows what will come of this? At least any student who may struggle with his/her identity later on, will see I was not ashamed to be who I am.

While I didn't actually come out on National Coming Out Day, I did just two days after. So, does it still count?

Update: One funny anecdote out of this, my most challenging student made some comment about me and my girlfriend the day after my coming out. One other female student corrected her, "He's gay, he doesn't have a girlfriend, he has a boyfriend."

Bless her.