Me and My Bright Ideas!

I wrote two days ago that I was going to go to a coming out support group meeting tonight.  It seemed like a good idea.  After all, it’s pretty isolating being alone in this process as I feel like I am.  A support group will be filled with other people, like me, who are struggling with coming to terms with their identities in the face of a life time of obstacles.  It’s not like anyone there is going to judge  me for being who I am and wanting what I want.  Hopefully, over time I’ll make some new friends at this group and start to live my  life again (or for the first time).  This is a good thing for me to do.

I had forgotten all about it.

I’ve gotten through most of today without it crossing my mind that this was going to happen.  Only now I remember.  And I’m anxious.  I know I don’t really need to be.  I don’t really have anything to fear.  But this is a huge step for me; one of many for me  these days.  Like with so many things, I know that once I’m there, and have settled in it’ll be fine, but it’s the getting there that’s  tough.  I really, really wish I wasn’t this person.  But I am.  I’m just pushing the anxiety aside as best I can and barging straight ahead.

I completed my research and have made a selection for a gym.  I have an appointment at 10:00 tomorrow morning to go the 24-Hour  Fitness closest to my house and sign up.  Unfortunately, while making this a priority, I still do not have enough money to pay for the  personal trainer until next payday.  That frustrates me, but there’s nothing to be done.

I know how important this is for me to do, and I assume I’ll get over it, but right now, I’m feeling pretty anxious about this as well.  Oh well.  That’s just the way it is.

Wish me luck!  I need it!

More Than I Can Chew

I can’t help feeling like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.  Not so much because I really believe that it’s true, but because it’s in my nature to doubt myself and my thoughts and feelings.

In the week since writing my last post, I’ve continued to contemplate the idea of becoming a Paramedic (or Fire Fighter/Paramedic)  and no one is more surprised than I that the idea actually appeals to me.  And it is because I’m surprised that it appeals to me that I  then doubt the voracity of the idea and my ability to see it through.

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve grown weary of allowing my anxiety to get in the way of my life and I’ve been making a  concerted effort to wrest that control away from the beast and back into my own hands.  I’ve made some decisions that feel good, but in every case, I’m not fully up to speed with what’s required and therefore needed to do research or take other additional actions.

I decided that I needed to find and participate in a coming out support group, only, as I mentioned, they’re surprisingly difficult to  find.  I’ve looked more than once on-line for resources and haven’t found anything.   Deb has been looking and even admitted to me  at our last session that she was surprised to see how difficult it is to find them.  Then, through a random series of events I came across center called New Leaf Services.  They have a coming out support group listed on their website.  I e-mailed them to get more details  and that’s when I realized the center is in San Francisco, not in the East Bay where I live and work.  However, they kindly referred me to a different center in Berkeley, The Pacific Center.  I’ve looked at their website before and didn’t find what I was looking for, but as it turns out they offer a coming out support group on Friday nights from 6:30 to 8:30.

I’ve researched what it takes to become a Fire Fighter.  I’m not really sure when this went from being a Paramedic to being a Fire  Fighter but in all my thought processes, that’s what it’s always been.  The only thing I can say is that I know Fire Paramedics make  more money and work less thank Ambulance Paramedics, and naturally that appeals to me.  I don’t know if being a Fire Fighter is really in the cards for me, but there are a lot of opportunities on the way to becoming a Fire Fighter so who knows.  I also know that becoming a Fire Fighter may not really be an option for me, but why not investigate, right?

The Oakland Fire Department is not currently hiring, but there is information on their website about becoming a Fire Fighter  including references to a local community college and a Fire Science program.  Unfortunately, the community college website is not very well designed and has a lot of missing information.  As of this writing, I’ve been unable to determine if this is a 2 or 4 year degree program or if it’s a certification of some sort.  Clearly, I’m going to have to contact the school directly to get more information.

I’ve applied and been “accepted” to the school and can enroll anytime I like, however, I still have many questions about financial aid and how much time I can devote to school.  Realistically, I could afford to pay for books and tuition for one or two classes a semester.  However, my previous experience has taught me that working full time and going to school is incredibly difficult for me  and I do not want to do that.  I want to go to school full time and work as little as possible (preferably not at all) and finish the  education more quickly.

One of the things that I’ve realized in this process is that regardless of whether I become an EMT, a Paramedic, a Fire Paramedic or a  Personal Trainer (separate train of thought), I have to be in good health and be fit.  My health today is fine, but it’s only fine, and I’m  not fit.  Not even a little bit.  So I’ve got to make changes.  I’ve got to rearrange my priorities and I’ve got to get fit.  I simply and honestly do not know how to do that so I’ve got to have help.  I’ve decided that I need to join a gym and I need to hire a personal  trainer.  Unfortunately, this is expensive and I don’t have a lot of money for such things, but I’m going to have to make it a priority to do.  So I’ve researched a couple fitness centers on-line and 24-Hour Fitness is the clear frontrunner as far as price and available  amenities go.  Now I just have to go in and sign my life away—er, sign up.

In addition to joining the gym, I have to make sure I eat properly, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep and (and this one is hard  for me to admit to and write here, but I’m going to do it anyway), I’ve got to stop drinking.  Not just drink less, but stop drinking.

You may or may not have noticed a trend here.  I did research on-line to find a coming out support group.  I did research on-line to find out what’s involved in becoming a Fire Paramedic.  I did research on-line to investigate educational options and I’ve been doing  research, on-line, to investigate financial aid options.  I did research on-line to decide what gym to join.  Hell, I’ve even done  research, you guessed it, on-line to find out about AA meetings (don’t really think that’s going to happen but you never know).

What I have not done, is talk to a real live person about any of it.  I have not committed myself to anything.  I have not committed,  even in my mind, to any particular course of action with regard to career and education.  None of this is really real, yet.  I haven’t set foot, or even tried yet, in the coming out support group.  I haven’t registered for any classes, or made arrangements to fulfill any of  the prerequisites for the program.  I haven’t called the gym, or gone inside and spoken to anyone.  I sure as hell, haven’t gone near an AA meeting.  And I’m not saying I can’t or won’t do any of these things.  I’m really determined to see this stuff through, but this is  where the anxiety comes in.

I doubt myself on all these issues.  I doubt my resolve.  I doubt my ability.  I doubt my worth in other peoples’ eyes.  And I worry  about committing myself to something that isn’t really appropriate for me and failing miserably.  Naturally, if I don’t try, I can’t fail.  But then again, if I don’t try, I can’t succeed either.

Jillian Michaels, the other night on The Biggest Loser, said something that’s really stuck with me.  She told one of her contestants, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”  And those words are really true.  If I don’t try, I can’t fail, but if I don’t try, I can’t succeed.  So, simply put, I have to try.  I have to keep trying.

It’s frustrating to me, not to have things work out the way I want them to on the first try.  It’s frustrating to me that I do a search for  “become a Fire Fighter” and I don’t automatically have the first link come up as a step by step plan for my own personal success story.  And it’s in my nature (or at least it was) to give up when I don’t find what I’m looking for right away.  I spent a lot of time  on-line this week looking for information on these various topics.  I’ve run into a lot of road blocks and I’ve wanted, repeatedly, to  just give up.  And it’s in those moments, when I really wanted to just give up, that I’ve worked that much harder to find what I’m  looking for.  And that’s why you haven’t heard from me in almost a week.  Because I’ve been busy looking for the next steps in my  path; trying to find the answers to my questions so that I can enter the next phase of my life prepared

Sometimes I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.  And sometimes I feel like that’s just my fear and anxiety talking.  They’re telling me I can’t do this, anyway.  They’re telling me I’ll never make it, so why bother trying.  They’re telling me I’m just going to get  myself into trouble.

I’m telling them to shove it!

So, I’ll go to the coming out support group meeting on Friday.  I may wait until 7:00 to go in so I don’t have to talk to anybody right  off the bat, but I’ll go.  I’ll call the school and ask for more information about the Fire Science program and when I’ve got the proper  ducks in a row, I’ll make an appointment to go meet with a counselor or advisor and get the guidance I need to proceed.  I’ll follow up  he leads I’ve got for financial aid and see where that takes me.  And I’ll make an appointment to go to the gym and start my  membership and discuss personal training options.  And I’ll do it all, in spite of the fear, in spite of the anxiety because if I don’t try, I can’t succeed.

Odds and Ends

It’s been a busy week for me… Well, sort of.  There’s been a lot going on, and nothing going on, and I’ve just chosen to prioritize the “a lot” and “nothing” over writing on my blog this week.  My apologies to those of you who’ve been waiting with baited breath for my particular brand of crazy.  I’ll try to do better.

Part of why it’s sometimes so difficult to write a blog post is because it’s hard to make any kind of organized sense out of what’s going on in my head, but I’ll give it a shot…

You’d laugh if you were here, because no sooner did I type that last sentence but my brain went blank and I stared at my desktop for  a good twenty seconds trying to figure out where to start.

Actually, this feels rather a lot like many of my therapy sessions.  I walk in, sit down and stare at the wall (I have a hard time with  sustained, direct eye contact – particularly during uncomfortable silences) trying to figure out what to say.  In my head it goes  something like this:

“I could talk about this subject.”

“No, I’m not ready to get into that.”

“Oh, I know!  I could talk about this subject…”

“Nah, that’s stupid and not important.”

“Well, maybe I could discuss this…”

“But we’ve talked about that already and it’s just more of the same with no real purpose.  Move on already.”

Usually, the end result is, I end up talking about one of those things anyway, because even though I fear that they’re trivial, or  repetitive or embarrassing, they are the things that are weighing on my mind so they must need talking about.

So, here goes:

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Jesse and my reaction to seeing him again and following him on twitter and all that stuff  I talked about here and here and here.  I thought about what was behind my reaction and how to handle it.  I realized that one of the  things that attracted me to Jesse was his confidence and fearlessness.  I suppose this is what makes most Fire Fighters so attractive to people, even when they’re not that attractive.  Anyway, I realized that it’s something I aspire to be – confident, not a Fire Fighter…  necessarily.

I told Deb, my therapist, I’m tired of letting my fear and anxiety hold me back.  I’m striving to do better about that.  One of the things that Deb and I have discussed in the past is finding a coming out support group so that I can talk with other guys who are going  through similar experiences as I am…  I fantasize that I’d be the oldest guy in the room, but perhaps not… perhaps.  Ironically, coming out support groups in the San Francisco Bay Area are a lot harder than you’d think to find.  The idea of attending such a  group is vastly intimidating, but that’s all the more reason why I need to go.

Wednesday, I took a First Aid/CPR class at work.  It was an all day class so I never had to go into my office which made me happy.   This is the third time I’ve taken this class, but I always find it fascinating.  And now, I find myself wondering if I might have what it  takes to be a Paramedic?  And I’m wondering what’s really making me wonder that?  Is it that I’m fascinated by the science of it?  Is it that I really want to do something worthwhile that actually helps people?  Is it that Oakland Fire Fighters only work 8 days a month and make as much money as I do now?  Is it that Fire Fighters (and Fire Paramedics) are sexy?  And what about my previously stated desire to study kinesiology and nutrition?  I still want that too.  The thing is both of these subjects are so out of my comfort zone that I’m inclined to discount both as being whims or some sort of escapist wish.  But the fact that they’re outside my comfort zone isn’t a  good enough reason to discount them.  If anything, it’s probably good reason to look further at them.  Staying in my comfort zone hasn’t exactly accomplished much for me.

The truth is, even as I’m thinking these things, I’m also finding myself thinking, “There’s got to be a way to combine the two, right?  Somehow?”  I have to assume there is not.  How do you combine being a Personal Trainer with being a Paramedic?  Personal Trainers have to be CPR certified but other than that, I don’t see how to meld the two.

There’s something else, though.  When I was younger, I used to have issues with the sight (or idea) of blood.  More so, imaginary  blood (as in, on television or movies), but on more than one occasion I passed out because of it.  I now know, that it was anxiety (I  learned that in class on Wednesday) caused by me thinking too much about what the bleeding person was experiencing.  It has been a long time since I’ve had an issue, but it was a problem for awhile.  I’ve always felt that if faced with the real deal I’d be fine and I still  believe that, but how wise would it be to go to school to become a paramedic just to find out I can’t stomach it?

Also, Fire Paramedics make more money than Ambulance Paramedics do and work fewer hours, but they have to also be trained Fire Fighters and who’s to say that I’ve got that in me.  But that 8 days a month thing sounds really nice. They’re 24 hour days, but still…

I’m still trying to work it all out, and as much as I hate it, this has been a good lesson in patience for me.  I’m really interested in the  kinesiology and nutrition idea, but I’m also really interested in the Paramedic idea and I’m not really sure which direction to go, or  whether to rule either one out.  What I do know is, I’m tired of being unhappy and unfulfilled and I’ve decided to take control of my life and my time.  I have to be patient.  It’s just not going to be possible to jump into what I want to be doing, but I’m ready to make a move and I’ll do what I can when I can.  I’m suddenly reminded of the lyrics to a really great country song that relates to this.

I’ve got some other big things in the works, but this seems like a good place to stop for now.  This song is called Getting There (Sorry, no video this time) and it’s by Terri Clark:


Well the sun sets in the west
But as fast as you go, how would you know
You’re a busy boy, I guess
Who just wants the gold at the end of the road
Think of all you miss
Passing through like this

You want an answer as soon as you say a prayer
You want to land the moment you’re in the air
Baby the living is all in the getting there

Don’t be the first in every line
Now and then you can be at the end
‘Cause there’s only so much time
And you can’t get back every minute you spend
You’re not even sure
What you’re running for

You want an answer as soon as you say a prayer
You want to land the moment you’re in the air
Baby the living is all in the getting there

Think of all you miss
Passing through like this

You want an answer as soon as you say a prayer
You want to land the moment you’re in the air
Baby the living is all in the getting there

The living is all in the getting there
Getting there



Where The Wild Things Aren’t

In my check-in with Hadley last week we discussed the homework issue and determined that I’d spend an hour or so each week with Lil’B  working on his school work and I decided to ask his mother to look over his packets first and mark the pages she most needed me to help  him with so we could cover those first.  I told her I’d spend an hour or so each week on his school work but I wanted to be able to do other  things with him too and last week it took several hours to do his homework.

I also had a conversation with Lil’B about doing his work during the week.  I reminded him of the time we went to the Children’s Fairyland and how much fun it was.  And then I reminded him of the time we went Miniature Golfing and how much fun it was.  And then I reminded him how last week we just sat at my house and worked on his homework, and how that wasn’t as much fun.  I told him, “If you work on your school  work a little bit each day, then there won’t be as much for us to do on Sunday, right? And then we can do other stuff, right?”  He told me he’d work on his school work during the week and I reminded him, in front of his mother, when I was dropping him off.  I’m crafty like that.  (We’ll see if it works.)

I picked Lil’B up on Sunday at 11:00.  I had told his mother, we would go somewhere and work on his school work for an hour or so before we  did anything else.  When I arrived I asked him to get his homework and he didn’t know where it was.  He checked his backpack and his  mother’s car and his bedroom and he couldn’t find it.  Turns out his mother lost it! There are many reasons why this concerns me, but for the purposes of this post the significance is that with no homework packet to take with us, we were off the hook for the school work. Pumpkin faceHowever, I was going to take Lil’B to Half Moon Bay for the Pumpkin Festival and I knew it would be a bit of a drive.  I also know that he’s supposed to do a certain amount of reading every day so I told him to grab a couple books and he could read them to me in the car.  (I don’t know what a traditional second grade reading level is, but Lil’B is a really good reader!)

We went to McDonald’s to get some lunch (and so I could get some Monopoly game pieces) and he ordered the chicken nuggets happy meal.  The woman behind the counter asked what  he wanted to drink and I looked at him.  He was quiet for a second and then he looked at me and said, “Coca?”

“You want Coke?!?” I asked.  “You never have that.  Are you sure?”  He nodded so I nodded to he cashier.  While the cashier was filling our order I leaned down to him and asked him if he was supposed to have Coke?  I can’t remember if his mother told me anything about that or not.  I just know he’s not supposed to have very much candy.  He nodded yes to the question and I asked him why he wanted it.  He shrugged.  And then it hit me.  “Did you order that because you see me drinking it all the time?”

He nodded and said, “Yes.”

“I guess I need to set a better example for you then, don’t I?” I said.  I have a definite addiction to Diet Pepsi, but the thing is it is diet.  I don’t even like the taste of regular soda.  I pointed out to him that I don’t drink sugary drinks but I think the point was lost on him.  Instead I made a point of how I don’t like regular Coke.  How it’s yucky and nasty and he only drank about a third of the small cup he had.  Mission Accomplished… perhaps.  I’ll have to work on not drinking so much soda around him.  I’m also not going to let him order it again.

We finished our lunch and headed out to the festival 30 miles away.  Things went fairly smoothly for awhile.  We crossed the San Mateo Bridge, my least favorite bridge because it’s the longest, and most of it is really low to the water… But I digress.

Just as we were approaching the highway 92, highway 280 interchange (I’m sorry, I know this means nothing to those of you not local) traffic  came to a complete standstill.  I decided to take a risk and I switched over to 280.  I went nearly 10 miles north out of my way, before switching over to the beautifully scenic California State Route 1 along the coast line.  The risk paid off and even though I went 20 miles out of  my way, we got there much faster.

Pumpkin Carving Finally we arrived at the Pumpkin Festival and we began making our way through the  crowd.  The Pumpkin festival was along several blocks of Half Moon Bay’s Main  Street.  There were tons of booths all along the street, and I told Lil’B to let me know  if he saw something he was interested in.  He headed straight down the street, ducking between people and around crowds.  That boy’s legs are half the length of  mine and I have a hard time keeping up with him sometimes…  Of course he is a  seven year old boy so he has, like, six times the energy I do, but still!  It was all I  could do to keep up with him.  He stopped a couple times to look at various things  but never wanted to do any of them.

We spent about ninety minutes there, had made it all the way up the street and back again and he was ready to go.  However, we still had three hours before I was supposed to take him home, so we decided to go see Where the Wild Things are at a theater in San Francisco.

When I first moved to the Bay Area there was an entertainment complex called The Metreon that had just opened.  The Metreon used to be an impressive place with multiple restaurants and stores, and a movie theater.  It is much less now.  On the top floor of the building at the time was an entire exhibit and store based on the book Where the Wild Things Are.  When my mother and sister came to visit, we went to The  Metreon and my mother was very interested to see the exhibit.  She seemed to be familiar with the story.  I don’t know if she read the book to me when I was a kid or not, but I have no memory of the story.

I took Lil’B to see this movie at his request, feeling like it was safe for his age, even though I didn’t know the story.  I’m sorry to say that I  failed to see the value in this movie.  I do not understand the message it was trying to convey.  When the movie was over and we got in the  car, I asked Lil’B what he thought of the movie.  He was silent for a long few seconds until I said, “It was kinda weird wasn’t it?”

He smiled and nodded, and then he said, “My favorite part was when he stood on the counter and said ‘Feed me Woman!’ and then ‘I’ll eat you up, Roaaar!’”  I told him I strongly recommended he not try that with his mother.

The movie is only an hour and thirty-four minutes long and the show time was 4:30.  There must have been more previews than I expected  because the movie didn’t let out until about 6:25.  I had told his mother I’d bring him back between 6:00 and 6:30 depending on traffic.  I gave her a call as soon as we got to the car and fortunately, she was fine with our being late.  I felt badly though.  I’ve been his Big Brother for  seven weeks already and we have a pretty good rapport going, but it has been only seven weeks and his mother and I don’t really know each other very well.  It wouldn’t be hard for me to imagine that she was worried or upset so I was glad that she was not.

Next week we’re going to see Astroboy.  Hopefully this one will be more entertaining for both of us.  I told him and his mother I’d pick him up at 1:00 so we had time to work on his school work first (or after – depending on show times)

I think I’m getting the hang of this!

What Is The Harm?

Her comment said, “If he is the one you followed, really, what is the harm?”  Man the question threw me for a loop.  What is the  harm?  Why did I get so worked up about the events yesterday?  What’s the worst thing that could happen?  The question really had  me thinking.  What was I so afraid of?  Did I really have a reason to be scared?  Well, yes and no.

My reaction was, in no small part, an instinctive reaction based on historical data.  As a child, particularly one who is not popular  among your peers, expressing feelings for someone who doesn’t reciprocate can be quite detrimental.  The likely outcome is that the person will treat you differently.  The worst case scenario is much worse.  I grew up in a family, a culture, a time where vulnerability  was not considered admirable.  I couldn’t begin to list the number of times that my own vulnerability has gotten me hurt rather than  serve some better purpose.

Because I’m discovering myself at a more advanced age than most, I’m going through a process that most people my age have  already experienced; learning to be comfortable and confident with who I am and not to worry what other people think of that.  I went home last night and thought about the events of yesterday, and the question that was posed to me, “What is the harm?”  It  seemed like a ludicrous question when I first read it (sorry Jody) and yet, I didn’t have an answer for it.

I was scared.  I guess that’s about as obvious as the rather large nose on my face, but it’s true.  I was scared.  I am scared.  I am scared for people who do not understand and accept me the way I am to know the truth.  I’m scared that I always pick the wrong  guys, guys who are straight and don’t know how to simply accept it as a compliment.  I’m scared that I’ll pick the right guy and actually have to fully come face to face with who I am and I’m scared that I won’t ever actually get the chance.

I’m afraid of being hurt, not just emotionally, though that, too, is a real fear, but I’m afraid of being hurt physically.

A thousand possibilities ran through my head yesterday when I realized that it was possible Jesse was reading what I’d written about  him.  I imagined him sending me a hateful message on Twitter, or leaving a nasty comment on my blog.  I imagined him calling my  boss and telling him what he’s seen, or asking to be put through to me before unleashing a hell storm of vitriol against me.  I imagined him making threats and making good on them…

I imagined him sitting around his computer at the fire house talking about me with the other guys, pulling up my blog again and again  and reading the highlights (whatever they may be), pointing and laughing.

Not that I had any reason to think, based on what I’d seen of his personality, that he would do any of these things, but you see, I had  broken the seal on my safety zone.  No longer was I hiding in my corner juggling my thoughts and feelings like so many balls, hoping no one would notice.

But I went home last night and I realized something.  I live in a culture and a time when the likelihood is, if my Fire Fighter did see my blog and discover what I was thinking?  And if we presume that it does not go both ways?  Well, the chances are much greater in this  culture and in this time that his reaction would be to simply say that he appreciates the compliment, but does not reciprocate my  feelings.  And that really would be OK.