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.