Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Still Walking Alone

In 2013, "I Walk Alone" a song on Cher's Closer to the Truth CD inspired me to write a post based on events in my life back then. Many friends and colleagues back then kept telling me about a single gay guy they knew; a single gay guy I should meet. I understood what they were trying to do, but I knew I had personal issues to deal with before tackling the prospect of dating and meeting someone. It turns out I was right.

To read that original post, click here.

Four years later, I still walk alone, but now for a different reason. I’m still not interested in dating, perhaps even less so now. But, I’ve started, or was thrust on, this spiritual path and when I do share what’s going on, few of my friends can really truly understand. But, I can’t blame them. This is my journey. And spirituality is very personal.

I do want to give them credit as they try as hard as they can. I love them for listening and trying to understand. 
Most people fall into the "I believe it because I can see it" category, e.g., "I believe fire can burn because I've seen, or felt, it", "I believe in erosion because I see the effects on this rock." We need evidence. Some of us even believe in what experts tell us because the learned ones have the evidence, “I believe that all matter is made up of atoms because the scientists tell me so."

I, and other people on this path, see things because we believe them. That makes it very real to me. My closest friends listen when I try to share about the synchronicities in my life; the repeated numbers, words and patterns I frequently encounter. They often make statements or ask questions which show they are trying to understand, but it’s difficult for them. I get it.

"Haven't the numbers always been there?"
Yes, they have. The license plates and billboards have always been there because they’ve been manufactured. The fact they are in my location is what's changed. The ad on the billboard may have changed with a new set of numbers or words that might mean something to me at the time I need to see them.

The timing of their appearance is also part of the synchronicity. I've had doubts a few times, as many people have when making changes in their life. When I decided to retire earlier than I had planned, I had several doubts, as I am human; yet, several signs would appear affirming I was making the right decision for me at this time in my life. They gave me courage to follow through on my decision. 

"Why are you seeing them now, if they’ve always been there?"
Have you ever read a book or watched a movie a second or third time, and come across a detail you missed before which seemed to clarify something? Maybe you weren’t ready to see that detail. Maybe your focus is a little different this next time you’re reading the book or watching the movie and that once missed detail suddenly becomes apparent leading you to a deeper understanding of the book or movie.

Maybe it's simply my time to notice these messages. Perhaps the Universe is placing them where I can't avoid seeing them.

"It's just coincidence."
When two cars pass me, one right after the other, both their license plates ending with the same three numbers, I might consider that a coincidence. But, a third? Maybe a fourth? Within just a few minutes? Or, a number keeps showing up on a receipt-other than the last four digits of my credit card. Or the same number presents itself in various manners within moments of each other; I went to dinner with a friend recently, and my total came to $16.66. As I reached for my wallet to put the receipt away, I happened to glance out the window as a car passed by, it's license plate ending with 666. (Note: I see all numbers as a positive influence. Even this one.) Once, I counted the same combination of numbers, i.e., the same three digits, yet in different configurations, five times in less than one hour. That is one huge coincidence. 

"Signs can be wrong."
Absolutely. But signs usually have a tendency to occur singularly or in small numbers. Years ago, I met a nice guy who invited me to a party at his house. He lived over 50 miles away making it hard for me to attend and return home to feed the dogs and cat I had at that time. Out of the blue, my ex offered to take the dogs for the weekend freeing me up to attend the party without worry. I took it as a sign I was meant to go. 

But, I look at the sheer volume of the signs I see. One day, I counted over eighteen(!) triple or quadruple numbers in just over two hours, and not all of them were license plates; some were on receipts, in addresses, or on billboards. 

Plus, this has been happening to me for well over two and a half years now and shows no indication of slowing. That also says something.

"You're looking for them."
No, I’m not. But, I will admit to maybe looking more frequently at license plates than before. I've always enjoyed trying to decipher personalized plates because it takes the monotony out of driving. But, I set my intention-I'm not looking for the numbers, I'm checking in-if there’s a number there, great; if not, great. I’m not disappointed if there isn’t one there. To me, that makes the difference. Yet, I have a hard time admitting that I'm looking for them when they turn up in my caller ID screen, on a receipt, on an airline ticket, or I see them on a clock for three consecutive days first thing in the morning. I open my eyes, check the clock and bam! there they are-3:33, 4:44 or 5:55.

I will even admit to playing with the Universe's sense of humor. One morning, I went to put something in the mailbox and I'd noticed a piece of mail on the ground. I picked it up and noted the address ended in --111. I take note and move on. I get my iPad later and it's 11:11. I smile again and move on. I leave to meet a friend for some shopping and lunch and see 222 on a license plate, followed by 333 a few moments later. I smile each time and move on. Then I ask the Universe, “Are you going to send me the rest of the numbers in sequential order; 4s next, then 5s, etc?”

Nope, the next set was 999. I chuckled.

"But what does it all mean?"
While many numerologists ascribe certain messages to individual numbers, and when you see a double, triple, or quadruple of that number, it's significance is magnified. I simply believe they are messages affirming I'm on the right path for my greater good. And I should simply keep walking, trusting in the now and surrendering to the what is. 

While it does get frustrating and lonely at times not having someone to share this with, a friend who understands precisely what I’m experiencing because they are going through it, too; a co-traveler on this path to discuss this with over a cup of coffee, it is still my individual journey, as is anyone's spirituality. I have found a couple of online groups of others on this particular path who have been there for me. Occasionally, an anti-lgbtq bias surfaces, but that individual is quickly shut down, usually by others coming to my defense. I am blessed and grateful.

I guess this is a part of my life I’ll need to keep more to myself.

And that’s okay.

Frustrating, but okay.

Friday, August 25, 2017

An Introvert's Nightmare

I pushed my boundaries this past week.

I pushed them quite far and almost paid the price.

I know I should get out and socialize more, especially now that I am retired. Maybe 'should' is too strong of a word. 'Could' might fit better, less obligatory, more opportunistic. 

Plus, I know I need to socialize more in order to..., um, to..., um, well, I just need to in order to manage my introversion. And avoid depression. And loneliness.

I’ve tried finding various social groups to join but was turned off by their admittance questionnaires. I found an LGBT social group and checked them out. The very second question on their required questionnaire was "Single or Taken?" If this is a social group, what difference does that make? I decided not to join or offer some smart ass remark, like 'none of your fucking business', or just 'unavailable' but that would invite far too many questions I wasn't prepared to answer. I believe I blogged about it a while back so I won’t rehash that here as I still think it’s ridiculous.

So, I waited until another one came along and checked them out. They had no such question. Yet, shortly after joining this newly formed group, I received a group email from the organizer saying he was elated at the level of interest in this group and asked for an indication of exactly how involved each of us intended to be as there were many people on the waiting list and some of us might be dropped to make room for those on the list. WTF? If this is a social group, why is membership limited to a certain number? I guess he didn’t want it to be too unwieldy. But, I can only be as involved as my schedule, budget and interest in the proposed activities allow. What more can I say?

Why not simply allow people to be who they are?

A third group caught my eye; a group of gay men meeting once a week for dinner at a cafe about ten miles from my house. Due to scheduling and other, ahem, conflicts, it took me about three weeks to finally go, but I did. There were about seven of us that night in a broad age range, mid-30s to mid-60s. I really didn’t get much of a chance to talk with three of the men, and the two I spoke with the most were both teachers with my district! Oh, the irony, being I just retired and here I am talking shop! Another man acted as organizer and made the introductions, as the actual organizer was absent that night due to a prior commitment. 

As I sat there engaged in an introvert’s nightmare of idle chit chat, small talk and prattle with total strangers, I could feel the anxiety creeping up. But, I told myself to breathe, (if only in my mind-the telling, not the breathing) as this was actually healthy for me and I continued talking in while eating my dinner. 

In all reality, I did prepare myself for this experience. I mean, I knew I would probably be the new guy and I expected that dreaded question, "So, what’s your story?" I mentally rehearsed a synopsis, "Retired teacher, living in North Hills, no pets, just plants." And the evening was only going to last two hours. I could do this.

In the end, it wasn’t all that painful, but the inevitable did happen. One very nice man invited me to join him and his partner in all the groups they belong to, in order to meet other people. I'd heard of some of the groups and had quite mixed reviews of them. Regardless, none of the groups were ones I'd be comfortable attending. 

Once the evening was over, I headed out to my car and back home to my sanctuary.

Due to the location of the cafe, I had wanted to tag an errand on to the beginning of the evening but that didn’t pan out, as I discovered the shop I wanted to go to closed earlier than I had anticipated. So, I put that off for the next day and treated myself to my favorite lunch from another restaurant in the area. While there, I noticed an attractive man having lunch with a friend. I saw no visible indication of gayness, so I drew the conclusion he was straight. I tried not to eavesdrop on their conversation but it was apparent they knew each other and some of their family or other associates. 

But, I began thinking. After my sojourn into the community the night before, if the handsome man, or someone else had asked me out on a date, how would I feel? Yes, I will admit, I am projecting. But, it is a potential bridge I need to keep in mind, because it is a potential reality. Maybe.

Well, it wasn’t pleasant. It was excruciating. The nightmare of last night just exploded into a dream full of terror today. Instead of idle chit chat, small talk and prattle in a group setting with strangers, it was now idle chit chat, small talk and prattle in a one-on-one face-to-face singular situation! Being that this was all an admitted projection, taking place all in my mind, I used it as kind of a self-check in.

It’s quite clear, I am not ready for dating. 

The hyperventilating and near-vomiting once I was back in my car was additional proof.

Yet, through it all, I survived.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Personal Preferences

A Facebook friend posted the above meme on his page and it resonated with me, and not in a good way. I noticed a rumbling deep in my gut. So, I sat for a while and thought it through. Why did it bother me so much? What was unnerving about it?

Plus, I found it interesting (synchronistic?) that this appeared shortly after I'd written the prior post. 

Why is it I prefer phone conversations to textversations even if I do identify as an introvert?

I mean, I do see the benefits of texting.

I recently had a writing date with a friend who was taking the bus to my house. She was able to text me her progress, or lack thereof, due to the bus' schedule or lack thereof.  I appreciated her letting me know what was going on so I wouldn’t be waiting hours for her at the bus stop. I can quickly set up lunch dates with friends via text or change plans on the fly. While working on this post, I was able to set up a home inspection visit to finish a project; two quick texts and it was arranged. 

I have some good friends who live quite a distance away. We manage to keep in touch through texting, when phone conversations are difficult (and expensive) to maintain due to multiple time zones and that pesky date line thingy. 

I can also see a touch of intimacy with it. Sending that special someone a text at random times during a busy work day can signify "I'm thinking of you." I once had a special friend where I'd send him the four leaf clover emoji to wish him luck on his fishing trip. And that's all I'd send. He'd reply with the 'thumbs up' emoji which I took to mean 'thank you.’ These mini-texts are a lot easier to read than having to access voicemail especially when you’re busy. 

But, texting can pose huge problems, at least for me. I can't count the number of times someone has misinterpreted a text message I've sent. "I sense a touch of sarcasm." No, I'm not being sarcastic, at least not this time. Then having to redirect the conversation to correct that misunderstanding which could have been avoided by talking in person in the first place wastes time. 

Having long drawn out, deep philosophical doctoral-level textversations is tiring, especially for people's thumbs. Well, mine at least, as I have tendonitis in both wrists which makes holding a small phone and texting painful. When I do engage in long textversations, I prefer my iPad which I can place flat on a table. And don't get me started on using voice to dictate texts due to the many, many errors I've had to go back and retype or try and decipher in the incoming message. Having taught for many years, I am pretty good at deciphering creative spelling however, I never expected to have to do that with people older than 12.

Texting also allows for multiple conversations to happen at once. Kind of like an orgy of chat. Or, at least a threesome. Yet, in that scenario people can inadvertently get forgotten, dropped or worse.

Juggling these orgiastic textversations is tricky. While I’m waiting for a response I often get distracted from the thread of the conversation I'm in, so I meander off and start something else, like preparing something to eat when I suddenly get the notification that someone replied which then distracts me from what I was doing. I've received messages meant for other people which makes me question why the texter can't simply reread the thread to see who they're texting and then reply accordingly? The most disturbing texting mistake I've received was when someone was texting me and (apparently) another person and sent me some porn, instead. And it wasn't any kind of porn I would ever be interested in. Believe me.

I do get that people don't like to call. They feel it's too invasive, like they're sending the message that the recipient needs to reply immediately. Yet, I wonder how is that so different from a text? "Hi Hon, what do you want for dinner? Tell me now, damnit, because I’m already at the store!" Doesn’t getting that notification of an incoming text also distract you from whatever you were doing? When I was teaching it was often hard to get my train of thought back to the interrupted lesson, whether I answered the text or not. So, both are somewhat invasive.

In doing some research for this post, I read one thread where a woman didn't like to call because of the sense of imperiousness that came with it. When others questioned what she meant, she clarified that she was the one who felt imperious; she was demanding to be heard. The consensus on this thread was that she just needed to get over herself.

I understand texting makes things easier, but it has created a huge detriment in interpersonal conversation. I grew very fond of someone and we did start our relationship via text. But, he couldn't bring himself to talk on the phone. Why? He didn't know how. I mean, he knew how to use one, but talking on it brought out his insecurity. He didn't know how to be himself. The keyboard offered him some courage, like alcohol does in a bar. 

I like calling because you can hear actual voice inflections thus avoiding tonal misunderstandings, e.g., sarcasm. It also shows a level of intimacy you can't get via texting, even if it's just between friends. “I respect you enough to focus our conversation just on us.” Just hearing someone’s voice can be intimate.

Many introverts fear phone conversations due to the prattling chit-chat and small talk. I find with my close friends we usually have a focus when we call. It’s the prattling chit-chat in social settings and dates that set me off. 

But that’s another post.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Words vs. Actions

I’m a very firm believer that actions speak much louder than actual words.

We live with multiple relationships-family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. We also try and find someone to share our lives with, hopefully for a very long time. We can use these relationships to learn about ourselves. And these relationships also tell us how important we are to them. We use phrases like, "I love you", "I appreciate you", "I'll be there for you." And so forth.

We live in an age of instant gratification. We can stream movies and TV programs via our multiple devices at the touch of a button, albeit not live broadcasts (except some news programs). We can read books within seconds of purchasing them for our e-readers. We can find out how close we are to a potential hookup simply by looking at our phone.

We also live in an age of instant communication. Gone are the days of the pony express, carrier pigeons, and sending messages with wandering strangers praying they deliver your message safely in a village far, far away. We now have texting, instant messaging, email, and yes, we still have the old fashioned telephone calls, including voicemail. 

And, yet, with all this wondrous, instantaneous communication, I still end up wondering if my texts, instant messages, emails or the occasional voicemail were safely delivered to a device far, far away.

I called someone a few years back to wish him a happy birthday. This person claimed I was special to him. But this time, I’m guessing he was busy, as the call went to voicemail so I left a message. A week went by with no acknowledgement of my call. Then a month, and finally I accepted the fact he wasn’t going to return my call because he probably got busier and eventually forgot about me. I felt snubbed. I tried to wish him a happy birthday again the following year, because I’m a nice guy. And the same thing happened; the call went to voicemail and I’m still waiting for an acknowledgment. Forgotten again. I have not called back since. Obviously, thanking me for the birthday wishes wasn’t a priority in spite of what he'd said.

Maybe I'm just too sensitive.

Or, maybe I wasn't the priority.

But, this does seem to be a trend today. A friend was sharing with me that late one night he was texting a guy he’d just started dating and the conversation suddenly ended; no “Good night!”, no explanation, no returned text, just an abrupt ending. One can assume that the date may have simply fallen asleep. Or maybe decided to ghost. It happens.

Besides not having phone calls of birthday wishes returned, this has happened to me as well. I’ve sent emails, texts, and instant messages only not to receive any answer within a reasonable amount of time. 

or text, or email...
But, what constitutes reasonable? I can accept up to 48 hours. After that, I would need an acceptable excuse. I want to be fair, and I do understand things come up, like falling asleep. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch because I know when I’m getting sleepy and out of courtesy, I let the other person know. Doesn’t everyone do that? Apparently not. I also have friends who have families-children, husbands, pets. I know that they come first, and that they can, and often do, interfere with an ongoing conversation. We’ve established the understanding that should they not reply in a reasonable amount of time, that something with their family came up.

What is an acceptable excuse? Death comes to mind. Or being comatose. Because both conditions make it difficult to simply hold a device to compose a text. Kidnapping is even acceptable-provided you are the victim. Death of an immediate family member is also acceptable, to an extent. Severe illness might qualify if hospitalization is necessary; but sick at home with a bad cold or flu, no.

Traveling also doesn't count, in my book. If you can afford a trip, and you are posting pictures while on your trip, you can reply.

Yet, my big overall question is how long does it take to compose a simple text? A few seconds? "I’m sorry, I’ve had a personal emergency. I’ll get back to you just as soon as I can." Why, you can even create a shortcut with a couple of keystrokes to automatically write out the entire text. And between the voice activated artificial intelligences on many devices you don't even need the device in your hand. Simply tell the device who you want to send the message to and what you want to say. This gets simpler by the second. 

A couple of years ago, I was texting with someone very special to me, and our conversations would often stop suddenly. He wouldn’t reply for a couple of days, and then with the excuse “I’m sorry. I fell asleep.” For a couple of days? Are you Rip Van Winkle, Jr? I thought.

"You’ve been asleep for a couple of days?" I’d reply. 

"No, but this is the first chance I’ve had to get back to you."

"Really? You couldn’t have texted while eating breakfast that morning?" Or any meal during those two days for that matter?

"I overslept and didn’t eat that morning."

"You couldn’t have texted while walking to the bathroom? Surely you went to the bathroom in the morning?" Most people do. Or once or twice in the days that followed.

People will find a way to do what is important to them. If it takes them too much time to reply, then your message wasn’t that important. Plus, it also shows a lack of respect because a few seconds’ of time is more important to them than returning that message.

I also believe this to be relative to the importance of the relationship in their life. The more important you are, or the better impression they want to make, the quicker they’ll reply. It also shows their level of responsibility-the more responsible they are, the quicker they will respond. 

There is one caveat. In a beginning dating situation, I understand that replying too quickly can suggest appearing too eager which can be a turnoff. But, taking too long can suggest disinterest as well. That is a fine line to walk for potential daters. But not among friends and family.

I also have a hard time with the excuse "I didn’t get/see the message." Really? Aren’t we are glued to our screens, whether phone or tablet, with all the little notification badges? So, how can you not see the fact you have a new message? Yet, I see the message in my device says 'Delivered' so I know you got it. I see the email in my sent folder, so I know it went out and the mailer demon didn't mark it as 'Undeliverable.' Some programs even leave unread messages in boldface to assist you in seeing messages you haven't read yet.

So, I don’t get it.

About a year ago, I messaged a very dear friend. I could see in my devices that he hadn’t read the message. It sat delivered, yet unread in his inbox for months. Even though it was a simple message-“Hi”-I was reaching out for help. I was in a deep state of despair and depression and nearing the end of my rope. I was considering something drastic. To be fair, he didn’t know that, but the fact that he didn’t even reply, nor read the message, spoke volumes. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself around and I no longer see myself in that state, or capable of anything drastic. But, what if I hadn’t turned myself around? What if that unread, unanswered text/email/instant message was someone reaching out to you for help? How would you feel if you found out you were their last hope?

Yes, I may be being a bit dramatic; I will own that, but I have been on both sides of this question. So, it does happen. I did receive a text from someone wanting to say good bye, permanently. I know I could not live with myself if I hadn’t answered and got help to him in time.

And, I will admit to not replying promptly. I am human. Yes, I get busy and forget. Yet, I also try and own up to it and apologize as quickly as I can. But, if I don't reply, then there must be a reason. Perhaps I got tired of waiting before, and am choosing not to wait any longer. Perhaps I am choosing to respect myself by communicating with those who respect me and my time.

This trend of not returning messages in a reasonable amount of time has taught me that I can only rely on myself. It also echoes a point in an earlier post-have no expectations. I am working on no longer expecting a reply.

And should I find myself wanting to date again, this will be one of the standards by which I determine his potentiality: do his actions match (or supersede) his words?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dreams, Hopes, Expectations and Goals

While I’ve been on this Twin Flame Journey, I’ve been reading many, many articles on what it is and how to walk it. I’ve researched it’s origins, and significance. I have blogged a bit about my findings.

This journey began when I met the man I believe to be my Twin. Many of the articles I’ve read tell me the journey is more about each of us discovering our True Authentic Self than it is about us together. Our initial meeting started us on this path of deep personal healing for an eventual reunion. The difficult part is not knowing when the reunion will take place. Or, if it will at all. 

One of the latest articles I read specifically for Twin Flames focused on letting go, a common theme for us. Usually the articles have encouraged us about letting go of our fears and control. But this one was different as it spoke of letting go of  our own expectations. Expectations of what, I wondered? But the article also strongly cautioned against giving up on the Twin or of dreams of the reunion.

So, let go of expectations, but hold on to my dreams? What the hell did that mean? And what exactly is the difference I thought? 

So, I sat down and thought about it all. And then I wondered how hopes and goals would fit in here as well, because I see them as somewhat related, yet different. Like cousins. 

To me, a dream is a ‘what if…’ or an ‘it would be nice to…’ There is some emotion involved.  "It would be nice to meet Cher." OMG, I would be ecstatic! See, an emotion. After all, isn’t a dream a wish your heart makes?

I see a hope as a bit stronger than a dream, perhaps triggering more action in order to see the dream fulfilled. Once many years ago when I was a Disney fanatic, I had a dream of going to what is now known as Disneyland Paris. So,I didn't just dream about it, I took it step further. I bought a poster of the Eiffel Tower (Disneyland Paris hadn’t been built yet) had it framed and hung it on a wall. I placed a five gallon water bottle under it and all my spare change went in it. I would even stop and pick up coins I would find on the ground, mostly pennies. My partner at the time, also a Disney fanatic, was a bit embarrassed by it, "Pennies for Paris,” I’d say. These actions made my dream more of a concrete hope. (Can hopes actually be concrete?)

An expectation is similar to a hope, but is dependent on someone else responding in a particular way, or a particular result of an action. "Barring aging, I expect my car to run well, as long as I keep it properly maintained." "I expect Cher to return my phone calls." (I never said expectations had to be reasonable. That’s another post for another time.) Because expectations are dependent on a desired outcome, they hardly ever turn out how we expect them to, therefore turning them into a planned disappointment. Or so a therapist once told me.

A goal is like a target, something to aim for. I have a goal to complete my current works in progress. Plus, a goal is usually measurable. As a teacher, I would set goals for my class-“I will reclassify x% of my English Learners by the end of the year.” Goals can also be personal-“I will return to London before 2022.” Goals usually have a timeframe which can be adjusted as interruptions and obstacles arise and goals don’t tend to carry as much emotional weight that dreams, hopes and expectations do. 

So, how does this all relate back to my journey with my Twin?

As I’d said earlier, our initial meeting set off a period of deep personal introspection and healing to lead to a possible eventual reunion. I say possible because we both need to work on our own healing, and if one of is isn’t, then reunion won’t take place. So, setting a goal for reunion isn’t the right thing to do. I can’t dictate a timeframe for him to finish healing. After all, he is his own man. Nor should I set a goal for me to complete mine, for something unexpected from my past could always come up.

Having expectations that the reunion will take place are also inappropriate as they depend on someone else’s actions. What if his healing is extremely deep and painful? He might take longer than I, or he may be afraid of the pain he’s confronting and just not want to confront it. Yet. Or, likewise, I may encounter something very painful and choose not to confront it.

I can hope for the reunion to take place, but take no steps to speed it up. I have to let go of control. I have to let go of my past hurts. I have to let go of my expectations that it will happen. I must simply live my life as I see fit. 

With no expectations.

But, I can still dream.