Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Gifts

I have a light little anecdote to share. I realize my posts have been a bit heavy lately.

I finally treated myself to something I'd wanted a while back, yet allowed myself to be talked out of; the tattoo I'd designed after my husband divorced me five years ago. It was my Christmas gift to myself.

I drove down to the studio for my 3:00 PM appointment, signed the papers concerning all the legalities while the artist set up his workstation and dealt with a couple of other things. We then finalized the design, and after about forty minutes altogether, I finally settled myself in his chair for a long session as we'd booked two hours for it. I was ready for it, even if I hadn't been feeling well lately due to a minor illness and major emotional upheaval.

About an hour into the session, I was dying. Not because of the pain, although there were moments and I had forgotten to take something beforehand, but for a cup of coffee as it was now close to 5:00 PM, way past my afternoon coffee/tea time.

As luck would have it, one of the other artists announced he was headed to the Starbucks across the street as he was between clients.

My ears perked up! Starbucks??!! I really wanted to ask him to bring me something, but dare I? I understand that if you don't ask for what you want the answer is always no, and I do feel uncomfortable asking complete strangers for even a simple favor. He did ask the other artists, some of whom put in orders. And I hoped he would ask me, but as I'm a customer and he didn't know me, would he?

He did indeed ask if I wanted something. 

Hallelujah! Praise the arabicas!

I asked for a tall cup of coffee with cream as I wasn't about to trouble him for my usual afternoon beverage from Starbucks; a venti, extra hot, no foam, no whip coconut milk mocha. And I thanked him.

He soon returned precariously carrying the assorted orders and I gratefully accepted mine, took a sip and felt the warmth of the coffee fill my soul and I began to zen out for a moment even while the needle was preventing me from doing so completely. 

Then came my real dilemma. As my arm was still occupied with the needle, I couldn't reach my wallet to  pay him, but I assumed he understood my situation.

What I find interesting about me here is how I entertained the thought of what he might think of me for not offering to pay him just a few dollars for a simple cup of coffee. While I was not having anxiety over it, it still bothered me, as I was brought up to at least offer to pay for something someone does for you. It's the right thing to do. And I hadn't been able to do that.


Soon after, he got ready to leave, as his last appointment of the day failed to show up. As he was walking past my chair-it was the one closest to the door-I thanked him again for the coffee and said I'd leave the money with my artist as I couldn't reach my wallet.

He said not to worry about it as it was only a couple of bucks. I replied I didn't want him to think I'd forgotten or was skipping out on paying him, and he said it never entered his mind.

I again realized that I think too much about the most trivial of things.

I also learned that sometimes a nice gesture is just's simply a nice gesture.
The finished tattoo

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Settling, Waiting, Or...?

It's strange what comes to your mind early in the morning when you've had a restless sleep the night before during a period of deep emotional upheaval.

I woke to the lyrics of a song prancing around in my head that I hadn't heard, much less thought of, since I last heard it when it was first released in 1970;

Love the One You're With, by Stephen Stills

Perhaps this early morning earworm was triggered by an article I'd read before but recently stumbled on again; The Pain of Being in Love with Someone You Can Never Have

The article describes the pain and suffering of being in love with someone where the differences far outnumber and outweigh the benefits. For example, some of the differences might be:
  • lifestyle differences
    • neat vs sloppy
    • spendthrift vs thrifty
    • Cher vs Madonna
  • lifestyle choices
    • wanderlust vs couch potato 
    • omnivore vs vegetarian/vegan
  • backgrounds/upbringing
    • religious
    • familial
  • goals
  • life stage
  • political views 
  • age 
Sometimes these challenges can get in the way of any couple's relationship in spite of how much in love they are, and therefore cause the couple to journey onward, yet separately...

Love is not always a happy ending, and yes, sometimes it does mean having to say you're sorry...

To read the article click here.

The song suggests that if that is indeed the case, just move the one you are with. Stop pining over the lost one: 
Don't be angry, don't be sad
Don't sit crying over good times you've had....

And if you can't be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you're with 

It ain't that bleeding easy.

I pay attention for and to signs from the Universe, except when they seem to be contradictory or confusing...leaving both my head and heart spinning mercilessly out of which case I throw my hands up and just flail about...

I had a lot of hope in a recent relationship that came to a downright halt after a bit of sputtering. There were many benefits to this relationship, for both of us, yet quite a number of challenges, and I've blogged about them here before.

I consider myself a spiritual person when I'm more connected to my Self, which I haven't been lately. Due to the numerous deep connections we shared, I'd come to believe this man was intended for me as a possible long term relationship, but on a level much, much deeper than a mere soulmate. He mirrored my shadow self, those negative qualities I'd like to quietly ignore but was now being confronted by, and I faced them with his help. I learned more about myself in this relationship than in all the other relationships I'd had, combined.

And he encouraged me to grow. And I did encourage him, as well. We both came a long way, individually and jointly.

On a spiritual level, this kind of deep, connected relationship is called a Twin Flame, which I've written about before here. Part of the characteristics of this type of relationship is the confrontation (with your Twin's help) of your inner demons, your inner challenges, your own dark side. (I'm not talking evil here, just fears, and negative attitudes/behaviors, e.g., rejection, tardiness, etc.) And this confrontation of your shadow self can lead to tremendous personal and spiritual growth, causing this relationship to be very intense, frightening, overwhelming and powerful. Because of the intensity of this relationship, it can be characterized by a breaking-up/coming-back-together cycle (which can be maddening to the human mind and heart) until the souls are ready to move forward in unity, i.e., the souls are ready to face their demons.

So, in short, we may be destined for each other, but maybe not now. And as souls may go through a few incarnations, it might not even be this incarnation when we eventually unite.

The timing of both the article reappearing and the long-forgotten song lyric crawling into my head as this relationship came to an end is very interesting. Perhaps it's a sign? But, of what?

So, believing what I do, do I move on as the song would suggest? Do I allow myself to be open to other relationships while believing this one was/is something special and very unique and might not be replicated? And if I do meet someone, would he live up to the standard now set by this past relationship? And if he doesn't but I choose to stay, would I be settling for someone less than what I believe my Twin Flame could have offered, had he been ready? And would it be fair to non-Twin Flame? Would I have one eye constantly over my shoulder, wondering what if Twin Flame comes back? Or do I just wait it out? Or do I even want to deal with another relationship at all?

Too many questions...

But, isn't that what life is about....?

I guess I'll just mosey along and see what happens...

...because sometimes the most difficult journeys lead to the most beautiful destinations...

Thursday, December 3, 2015


I recently faced an emotionally difficult decision. 

I had to walk away from a relationship I felt held great potential but wasn't moving as forward as well as I would have liked, leaving both of us very frustrated and hurt. While he now realizes he's not ready for something serious and wants to remain just friends for now (his words), and as I would like to see the relationship continue to develop, I believe the standoff would continue to leave us both confused and frustrated knowing that what he wants, I can't give and vice versa. So, I chose to say goodbye to my best friend. I believe we both are heartbroken, empty and feeling quite a loss. I know I am.

And I miss him.

But the tears haven't come.

I have not been able to cry.

This was a most unconventional relationship, one I never expected to be in, caught totally by surprise that I had feelings this deep for someone so different than I am; 

feelings this deep for someone who supported me wholeheartedly in so many levels of my life;

feelings this deep for someone who helped me learn more about myself in the four short years of this relationship than in the combined twenty-four years of my other long-term relationships;

feelings this deep for someone who challenged and encouraged me to think differently, and step outside my comfort zone;

feelings this deep for someone who encouraged me to be myself, no matter who that might be;

feelings this deep for someone who didn't quite fit "the list" I had written post-divorce putting out to the Universe what I wanted in my next partner;

feelings this deep when I had given up hope of meeting someone;

feelings this deep for someone thirty-some years younger than I and over one thousand miles away.

And I miss him badly.

But still the tears can't come.

Does this mean I had already accepted it was over but couldn't face ending it myself? I don't know, I was miserable in the last years of my marriage but couldn't fathom taking that step to end it. 

Does this mean I had hoped things would continue to change even when evidence began pointing to the fact they no longer were? This is hard for me to accept because, for a while, I had seen the changes I had hoped to see, along with the incredible and sincere effort he was making to effect those changes.

Was I reluctant to acknowledge it really wouldn't work because of the differences between us despite all of the amazing green flags that I saw? I don't know.

And I miss him terribly.

But still the tears don't come.

Is this a sign I haven't quite given up hope it will eventually work itself out? We connected creatively. We connected spiritually. We connected first as friends, which grew into deeper feelings that we both wanted to explore; both of us wanting to build the friendship into something bigger, deeper. We both acknowledged this was a relationship unlike any other we had ever had which both frightened and excited us. We had always told each other that his happiness was more important-that whatever made the other happy far superseded our own pain at losing the romance while trying to maintain the friendship.

We could talk openly to each other about anything. We talked openly about the challenges we saw in the relationship. We talked openly about how we felt that together we could conquer the challenges. We talked openly of our fears and helped reassure the other. We talked openly to each other when we were upset and how we could compromise to avoid such issues in the future. We talked openly of our hopes for the relationship, for ourselves and also for each other. We talked openly of our own personal bad days and supported each other in helping him through it. We talked openly of our grief when we lost someone important to us. 

We saw each other as friend, boyfriend or possible partner and we floated between the roles with the ease of a knife sliding through soft butter. I could talk to him as my friend or flirt with him as my boyfriend. I could imagine him sitting next to me in my car; reading a book next to me on my sofa; writing lyrics while I finished a chapter in my novel; lying next to me in my bed cuddling during a rare California rainstorm. It all felt so natural to this jaded old man.

And now it's all gone. I miss it all.

And I miss him so very much.

And still the tears won't come.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Well, the food is put away, the dishes are soaking, maybe I'll do them tomorrow, or not. I live alone, so I can do them whenever, even next Tuesday. This just means my favorite holiday has again come and gone. I'm not sure why Thanksgiving is my favorite: it's not the overeating as Weight Watchers taught me how to eat well without overindulging; it's not the feeling of gratitude as I practice that daily, at least I try to, and not just on one day of the year; it's not the getting together with friends as I've spent several of the last Thanksgivings at a table of one.

This year feels different and not in a good way. I'm used to being alone on holidays. Divorce can do that to you. But, I feel really alone this year. I spent most of the week home sick with bronchitis and with a broken heart missing my best friend. All this makes it tough to feel grateful for what I do have. But I am indeed grateful for the traditional "what-I-haves": house, job, car, (generally good) health, mobility, etc. 

I suppose I should be grateful for the heartache as it proves I'm only human. But, I miss my best friend terribly because of the heartache, so I don't know if I should be grateful or not. Perhaps I should just be grateful for the experience and let time take its course. Even though I'm saying this to myself, it still sounds so goddamn effingly trite, like I'm merely placating myself. Maybe I am.

Time. What an interesting concept. It nonchalantly marches on while simultaneously healing wounds. I remember wanting it to stop when my first partner died. It didn't. The bitch. And still I moved forward into my life and eventually into a relationship, albeit a very dysfunctional one.

Relationships are hard, and this last one came with its own unique set of challenges; our ages, our pasts, the distance between us. Not to mention our own insecurities. For a while we both did our effing best to help the relationship grow. And we felt excited about the prospect. We felt we could make it despite the challenges, and we so wanted to keep it moving forward. And then it imploded a second time and we sadly had to accept that, in spite of the deep and unique connection and tremendous affection we both felt, it just wasn't meant to be. At least for now. 

Time is a funny concept. We never know just what it will bring.

We just never know.

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.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Year's Eve Summer 2015

Another summer break has ended which means a New School Year is about to begin. As I find myself looking back at my summer, I reflect on all the plans I made at the end of the last school year as I anticipated my summer break-those plans I completed and those I didn't and I ask myself why didn't I complete them? I also see myself preparing for and anticipating the New School Year, and how to make it better than last year. Sort of like Teachers' Resolutions. Like on New Year's Eve.

I didn't actually make many concrete plans for the summer, as I just wanted to rest. And recuperate. And recover. I just had some small home decorating ideas to further make my mark on my house. Plus, I'd hoped to read more, write more, and maybe get out and shoot some photographs. I did read a little-I started "Game of Thrones" but am finding it overwhelming with its cast of gazillions. I did write a few short passages as I was feeling very stuck due to personal issues. I got out a time or two but didn't find much to shoot due to lack of inspiration as I've shot so many of the places nearby, and wasn't much in the mood to travel far.

One of the two pieces by Hector
I look forward into a New School Year, with a new group of students and a new grade level; third grade, which means a sort of new curriculum as I'd taught third grade for many years before, so I'm somewhat familiar with the curriculum, though the standards have changed somewhat.

The only real definite plan I'd made and followed through with was to visit my mother outside Atlanta, Georgia. It was a quick visit as I'm not fond of the south, due to its climate-both political and weather. Mom is fine, just not as active as she used to be so we really didn't get out and do much. We did celebrate her birthday, at the same place we celebrated last year.

I had been wanting to add to the decor of my house home for some time. So, I bought two pieces of art by a favorite artist of mine, Hector Silva. I finally decided on some Talavera tiles for the soffit in my kitchen which I painted last summer, and some other artwork for my dining room wall which has been unadorned since I moved in. I discovered a buy-one-get-one-free frame sale which then led to a mad dash to find someone who could enlarge black and white film so I could hang more of my photography in my house. And I did.
Two of my photographs
I also began a major improvement to my home which involves professionals and waiting on them to finish is trying my patience. But, it's a lesson to learn. I have no control over what their other schedules are. And I know it will get done. Eventually.

I did, however, spend a lot of time binge watching some television shows I'd missed out on. Thank the gods for Netflix and DVDs. 

One other positive thing I did was start taking yoga classes. I had been wanting to for some time, so I did. It gets me out of the house, gets me some physical activity and tries to teach me to focus my mind on what I should be focusing on (my breathing) and not what I am ruminating on. 

The Talavera Tiles
I didn't get out much for photography sessions due to lack of motivation as a relationship I had had high hopes for began to implode which left me a bit down. And I've covered it here in other posts, so I won't go there again. 

As the New School Year looms, I hope to pour more of my energy into it to distract my thoughts from the relationship's deterioration and prepare myself to maybe possibly consider any future relationship, though I'm not looking, holding my breath nor counting any chickens. 

I had a very challenging class last year, very challenging. While every class has its challenges, there just seemed to be an unusually high number of special personalities in that group. I don't anticipate as many this year, but as I've not met my new students yet, I have no idea exactly "who" will show up. Though I will be better prepared with more challenging lessons to keep them engaged and out of trouble.

One challenge I see is my own self. Over the years I've taught, I've come to realize I'm actually an upper grade teacher but have a hard time dealing with the age and challenges of pre-adolescents. I chose to move to a lower grade this year, from fourth to third, because I might encounter less attitude. But, there's no guarantee. I've seen second grade girls with more diva attitude than Miley and Brittany combined. 

One other reason I changed grades is the class size limit. In my district, the limit for kindergarten through third grade is 24, while fourth through sixth is 27. That's three less students and all their accumulated papers to grade and  record; three less parent conferences; three less report cards; three less profiles; three less cumulative records to fill out. And there's no guarantee I'll even have 24 students.

As I involve myself in my new class, maybe I can get beyond this newest loss, and focus more on just the present moment and more on me to further my personal growth. With less student work to grade and record, maybe I'll be spending less time with it at home, giving me some more free time to get out and socialize more.

And I'll focus more on my breathing as I go from pose to pose further directing my thoughts on where they're more productive and not on something less so.

For more on Hector's art, click here.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Comments and Consequences

Innocent comments can often have unintended consequences.

As I climb out of the rubble of what might have been a possible serious relationship for me, I am left with a shattered heart and crushed spirit. My trust issues are also severely heightened. I acknowledge I did take the risk and explore this very unconventional relationship, especially when I wasn't looking and actually avoiding any potential possibility of meeting someone. In this relationship, I grew personally in leaps and bounds, and I will be eternally grateful to him for his love and encouragement and also to the Universe for this experience. I also came to feel a deep love for another man after many years of believing I might never again. I also began to look forward to experience the adventure of getting to know someone very intimately once more, when I had all but given up. And now that it is imploding, I am at a loss to understand exactly where and why it veered off, though i have my theories. 

Finding myself literally- and later, metaphorically- in the middle of this relationship took me totally by a pleasant surprise, and showed me more of what I want in a partner; so, now the bar has been set even higher for Mr. Whomever, should I ever find myself ever possibly considering a relationship again, which right now is very unlikely. Yet, I said that going into just chatting with this young man online

As a different friend was consoling me over the impending implosion, he very innocently said something which added to my emotional state, as it was on a subject that has always been very sensitive to me. As I was already hurting from the relationship's collapse, and the already sensitive nature of the comment, the unintended pain of this particular compliment plunged me even deeper into the post-relationship abyss. Yes, I know he didn't intend to hurt me, as he and I have never talked about this particular topic. Yet, I'm dealing with the aftermath, which is all in my head. And very much in my heart.

And being as I'm already reeling from the pain of the failing relationship, and the fear of encountering myself in a similar position again, let alone just entering the gay male community to establish a social circle, I'm convinced now more than ever I will never be seen for who I completely am.

Gay men can be very superficial. And bitter. And shallow, or am I being superfluous? While this relationship is floundering and may not survive- okay, probably won't survive- I find myself retreating deeper into my own shell to armor myself further against the superficiality of many of my gay brethren. 

Many gay men have a "type" that they'll date, or just hook up with. They're looking for a certain body type, ethnicity, age, or fetish. And that's where they stop. They look no further. They seem to focus more on the external rather than the entire package, the wrapping rather than the contents.

While I agree a physical attraction to a partner is enjoyable, and adds to the entirety of the relationship, the other components of the individual are also key to a strong relationship. A keen mind, a kind heart, and a beautiful soul are also important, as well as how the two individuals relate to each other- kindness, respect, priority... and often all of those together add a great deal more to the relationship especially when the partner isn't quite "the right type," which is what I experienced in this most recent one.

I'm not in an emotional frame of mind/spirit to meet anyone new just now, but as I continue on this journey forward into my life, I know I will encounter other gay men who will see in me what they want to see. That I can't control. 

I can only control my response.