Therapy Homework: Manifestation, Pt. 2

Let the record show that I have not forsaken my therapy homework, something which I have been very prone toward, partly because some of the homework hasn’t felt that relevant to me, partly because it’s been too hard, and partly because I genuinely forgot about it.  I’m quite sure Melissa will be shocked to find that I’ve bothered.

I’ve continued to think about what she asked of me.  For a little while I thought maybe I was missing the point focussing on love and relationships and not the grander scheme of my life.  The fact is our entire conversation that day was about Alan’s disappearance from the last remaining vestige of connection we had…  (well, I had.  He’s forgotten all about me) and where I expect my so-called love life to go from here.  The last thing I expected my “homework” to be was to think about what I want to “manifest” in my life, following that conversation.

Look the fact is, I simply don’t believe in “manifesting” things in our lives.  Life happens to us.  We don’t have much control over it.  In fact, I think trying to exercise control over our lives is part of what makes most of us unhappy, and I’m as guilty as anyone of it.

Alan was everything I dreamt of.  Look where that got me.

I think the most we can hope for is simply to do our best in whatever situations we find ourselves and wait for the inevitable crushing blow that will remind us that we’re really not all that…  we’re not even the bag of chips.  The sooner it all ends, the better.  But since we apparently don’t even have much control over that, we just keep doing the best we can with what we’re given and wait for the next crushing blow.

I do not believe I will ever love again.  I do not believe I will ever find myself in another meaningful relationship again.  So, sure, I can try to picture an ideal scenario relationship and hope that somehow that will come to pass, but I don’t believe I can cause that to happen through “manifestation”.  And still, at this point that so called ideal scenario relationship is Alan, getting the help he needs, coming back to me and professing his love that he was too scared to accept and face when we were together, begging my forgiveness and willingly living up to the list of conditions that I have in place for the very unlikely event that he does come back to me.

(“Conditions” may be too strong a word.  In order for me to give him the second chance that I want so badly to give, he has to acknowledge his problem, sincerely apologize, go to therapy, prove he’s in therapy, stay in therapy, acknowledge how badly he hurt me, and accept that it s going to come up from time to time, not because I want to hold it against him but because I’m human and healing takes time.  And he doesn’t get to be angry or defensive when it comes up because it’s his fault.  He did this and he has to accept that.  He also has to agree to go to couples counseling separately from his own therapy.  For him to agree to any part of this, let alone all of it, would be a minor miracle.)

You see, I can’t conjure up an image of myself in love with anyone else.  It’s Alan or it’s no one, and since it’s clearly not going to be Alan, I guess we have our answer.

But setting that aside, for a moment, the next best scenario I can imagine, as I mentioned in a previous post, is a wealthy man, who has no compunctions about being with a very much not wealthy man and providing for my every need for the rest of my life.  He should be young, and handsome, and physically fit with a full head of hair.  He should have a great smile, and a fantastic sense of humor.  He should be filled with self-assurance without being arrogant or condescending to anyone.  Oh and he should NOT be a workaholic to accomplish and maintain said lifestyle.  And somehow in all of that should be some semblance of genuine love, though, again, I have no idea how that could happen.

I can’t get any more specific than that.  I don’t believe in going into relationships and situations with preconceived notions of what I think it should amount to and look like.  That’s a sure way to get hurt.

Since I don’t believe any of this is going to come to fruition, I started moving on, thinking about other aspects of life and what I want to “manifest” in it.  A year and a half ago, I made the decision to get out of the corporate world and go to school to learn to be a massage therapist.  I had equally altruistic and self-serving motivations for this…  Maybe not “equally”.  I have always wanted to do a job that I felt mattered, and made a difference in the lives of the people I serve.  I also wanted to stop making other people rich, stop working 60 plus hours a week, pursue other interests in my life, and make a decent living in the Bay Area.  I also wanted to stop working for and with other people and no longer have to deal with the inevitable personality conflicts and workplace frustrations that I have proven incapable of avoiding thus far.

I became a Certified Massage Therapist in January and started a massage job in February.  It’s a great opportunity that is genuinely more than I could have hoped for coming out of school.  The pay is the most I have heard for a payroll position and the location and clientele are excellent.  I work 24 hours a week for this place with no benefits, and then spend another 30-40 hours a week driving for Uber and Lyft to make ends meet in one of the most expensive economies in the country.  Not only am I not making someone else rich, I’m not making myself rich, either. I sure don’t have time to take care of myself, let alone pursue other interests.

I choose to believe that this is temporary.  I have begun working to build my own private practice and I do have a few clients, but it’s slow going and unsteady work, for now, so I keep working longer and harder hours than I ever have before to try to survive.

So what do I envision my future looking like?  What do I want to “manifest” in my life?  I want steady work, but not more than 25 hours a week.  I want reliable, consistent clients who pay my fee without batting an eye, and who when, on occasion I feel the need to raise my rates, will continue to come to me, and will pay those new rates, still without batting an eye.

I want to be able to afford my life without stressing over every little expenditure.  I want to be able to afford health insurance, and not just health insurance, but health insurance I can then afford to actually use.  I want to be able to set money aside for retirement, because I know I’m not going to be able to stay in this career until I die.  I want to be able to do my taxes each year without fear of how badly I’m going to get screwed by Uncle Sam.  I want to be able to afford to take time off a couple times a year to travel and reinvigorate myself.

Most of all, I want to be able to be happy.  But I don’t even know what happy looks like for me.  I never have been truly happy, except when I was with Alan, and even then, I wasn’t completely happy.  There was too much else going on in my life that was stressful and making me unhappy, but when I was with him, when I was in his presence…  Yeah.  I was happy.

So, no.  I do not know how to answer the question.  I do not know how to “manifest” anything in my life.  I do not know how to do anything more than wake up each morning (grudgingly) and slog my way through whatever shit I encounter until I can finally fall back into bed, drift off to sleep and wait until I have to do it all again.

Radio Silence

My family is weird.  We mostly communicate in writing, which frankly, is just fine with me.  I hate talking on the phone and I really don’t like being interrupted and condescended to when I have something to say.

When I came out to my mother years ago, I did so via e-mail.  That may seem like a cowardly approach, but, again, we communicate mostly in writing.  It gave me time to put my thoughts together in a coherent manner.

It took my mother two weeks to reply to the message.  When she did it was a multi-page email riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions which I dismantled one by one.

I don’t remember much of the email anymore, except for the part which said, “I’ll have nothing to do with anyone or anything that puts your name and the word homosexual in the same sentence.”

A loaded statement to be sure.

I responded with two salient comments.  “I am putting my name and the word homosexual in the same sentence.  Will you have nothing to do with me?  I’m prepared for that if that is your choice, but I will not be the one to walk away over this.”  Followed by, “Are you telling me that if I should find myself in love with someone with whom I want to share my life, I cannot bring him around to meet my family?  Do you really believe that given the same ultimatum, my sister would choose you over her husband and children?  I guarantee you she would not.”

It took another couple of weeks for her to reply to that message and all she had to say was, “I love you very much.”

Sounds sweet and touching, right?  We have never spoken of my sexual orientation since.  That was seven years ago.

When I made the decision to come out to her, knowing that she would not approve, knowing that she would judge and condemn, knowing that she would react pretty much exactly the way that she did, and knowing that I was choosing to disrespect myself, in order to “respect” her.  I made that choice willingly so that I could live my life more fully, more openly, and, I thought, more honestly.

 

Last year I met the love of my life.  I met a man who was everything I wanted in a boyfriend and future husband.  I fell hopelessly, desperately, completely in love.  Beyond that, I believed I had received a message from the God I used to believe in, telling me that this was THE man I would spend the rest of my life with.  I was over the moon.

I didn’t tell my mother about Alan, not because it was a secret, or because I was ashamed of anything, but because we don’t talk very much, we live 1800 miles apart and there was simply no opportunity in which it made sense to say anything.  We hadn’t discussed my sexual orientation in 7 years.  Hell, we hadn’t discussed my sexuality in 43 years.

Alan, turned out to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and ultimately, he destroyed me.  The end of our relationship was a tumultuous ride which I won’t get into today, but suffice it to say, I was strung along for months, and I bit, hook, line, and sinker.  He unraveled me to my very core, and in the end, he just dropped off the face of the earth, leaving me to try to pick up the pieces while refusing to give any answers or explanations or offering any sort of insights that could help me make sense of what happened.

The final, final blow came in early February, and I was a wreck.  My life fell apart around me.  Everything that had mattered, everything that had been good, was just an empty shell of vague relevance which I didn’t care to protect.  I wanted to die.  I couldn’t get through a single day without falling to pieces, and my eyes were in a perpetual state of bloodshot puffiness.  I cried, I thought, until there could be no more tears, and yet, as I write these words the tears are brimming.  I sat in therapy just yesterday and wept over his disappearance from the only source of connection that remained for me.

 

Within a few days of that final, final blow, my mother and I had a text conversation.  I don’t remember what it was about.  It was not especially relevant.  We finished the conversation and resolved whatever we were discussing, and then suddenly, she called me. On the telephone!

I steadied myself and answered.  “I just wanted to let you know I hadn’t forgotten about Christmas,” she said, after we exchanged the customary pleasantries, “I’ve just been really busy and haven’t had time to do anything about it.”  Her boss was writing a book, she told me, which basically means that he was scribbling notes long hand on legal pads, and she was writing a book. She’d been so swamped with deadlines and re-writes and all the other day to day stuff that already filled her life that she hadn’t had time to even think about the holidays, long passed.

I told her that she didn’t need to worry about it.  Since I made the decision to leave the corporate world and pursue an entirely different career path that is still in it’s infancy, I’ve been pretty broke and giving gifts was the farthest thing from my budget, let alone my mind.  I’ve never been comfortable receiving gifts when I’m not able, or inclined to return the favor.  It was just as well that she hadn’t done anything, and didn’t need to.

“Well,” she said, “I’m your mother.  It doesn’t matter if you give anything in return.  Besides, if that’s how things are right now, it sounds like the best thing I can do is just  send you some money.”  It’s worth noting that she never did.

She continued, “Other than that, how is everything?”

There was a moment of deafening silence as I tried in vain to put my thoughts in order and figure out how to reply.  How could I respond to the woman who told me she’d have nothing to do with my sexual orientation when the only thing that mattered in the world was that my heart had just been ripped out of my chest, hurled to the ground, danced upon and set on fire by the MAN I loved.  How could I tell her that every breath is a struggle, climbing out of bed every morning is like climbing Mt. Everest, and every smile I fake for the sake of my clients and coworkers cuts a little deeper and makes me feel a little more dead inside.

In that split second of deafening silence, I opened my mouth to speak the truth, and the only thing that came out was a sob.

“Oooh.  Loaded question,” she said.

“Yes…  And not one that you want to hear the answer to.”

Without missing a beat she said, “Okay.  Talk to you later.  Bye!” and hung up the phone.

We haven’t spoken since.

 

Recently, I found out that in the only conversation they’ve had about me since my life fell apart, my mother told my sister that she (my mother) seems to have “fallen off of [my] ‘acceptable people list'”, an ironic choice of words, I think.  There have been a few half-hearted attempts on my mother’s part over the months to contact me, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to respond or engage.  Naturally, my mother, who I have come to realize has some narcissistic tendencies of her own assumes that for some reason I’m mad at her and giving her the silent treatment.  I suppose she’s not entirely wrong.  I am mad at her.  I’m mad that in the most critical moment of our relationship, she couldn’t find it in her to set aside her bigotry and judgment and just be there for me.

But that’s not what the silence is really about.

It’s been almost ten months since my world stopped moving.  My earth is standing still on it’s axis and I am on the dark side of the planet during a new moon.  There is a power outage. The clouds are heavy and the fog is so thick, I can see no stars.

Nothing matters.  I still struggle to take every breath.  I climb the highest peek every morning I have the misfortune of waking up again.  My body aches, my heart hurts, my mind reels and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to make it stop.

What I do know is that only I can.  And she definitely cannot help me.

The silence is me trying to figure out how to take care of myself.  Trying to figure out how to heal and come out of this anguish better than I went in.  The person I was before is gone, never to return.  And thank god for that, because that guy was a loser who was easily manipulated and taken advantage of, as evidenced by the fact that Alan was not the first emotionally deficient man with a personality disorder to get his hooks into that guy.  No, that guy cannot be allowed to return and I have to figure out how to destroy him for good.  One thing I know for sure is that I won’t heal and I won’t come out of this better than I was by focusing on making other people feel better.

I spent my entire life trying to be what other people want me to be, to the point that I don’t even know who I actually am.  This is the time to find out.  I don’t know how I’m going to do that.  I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I know that I don’t yet know how not to be that same simpering, pathetic loser I was before, so I steer clear of situations that invite him to resurface.

And that includes talking to my mother.

So for now, I stay radio silent

Short and Sweet

Bwahahahaha!  Yeah, right!  If you’ve been reading this blog long, you know “short and sweet” isn’t really my thing.  But I’ll try.  I don’t have a whole lot of time for this.  (You like how I waste precious moments of my time, explaining how I don’t have much time?)  Anywhoo…

I’ve been so busy, and there are so many things to catch up on that I hardly knew/know where to begin, and with limited time for writing, I’ve been unsure of what to say to convey my current circumstances with brevity.  Things are pretty stressful right now and I’ve needed to spend just about every available computer time minute looking for and applying to jobs.  I’m still not working full-time, nine months since I was unceremoniously “released” from my previous full-time job.  I can’t say that the nine months haven’t been nice, ’cause they have!  I’ve loved having so much free time to do whatever I wanted.  I’ve loved being able to go about my day free from pressure to keep a certain schedule, or satisfy someone else’s demands.  I’m starting to see why self employment might be so attractive to so many people, though, in many ways self-employed people work a lot harder than the rest of the employed population. But the fact is, my money is running out and if something doesn’t come together pretty damn quickly, I’m going to be forced into some really difficult choices, none of which are pleasant.  By the end of August, if I don’t have a new full-time job, I’m going to have no choice but to move out of my apartment.  On September 1, I will have lived here for seven years.  I’m ready for a change and I do actually want to move, but I want to move someplace of my own choosing, under my own steam and without pressure.

If I’m not gainfully employed by the end of August, I’ll have no choice but to either move in with a friend (my options are extremely limited) or move out-of-state and live with a family member.  And again, my options are limited and very unattractive.  Moving away from my current life is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me right now (or very nearly – God forbid I should be accused of exaggeration…).  I have a lot to lose right now, if I have to move away.

Next month will mark the fifth anniversary of my match/friendship with L’il B.  He is 12 years old now and things are getting really interesting.  We had a conversation earlier this week in which he learned that Big Brothers and Big Sisters only serves kids from 6 to 16 years old.  He asked me, “So when I’m 16 you won’t be my Big Brother any more?”  I said, “I told you a long time ago, I will be your Big Brother for as long as you will let me.  But no, we won’t be supported by the program any more.  We’ll just be friends.”  It was just a little “throwaway” question from him, but it was clear that our relationship means a lot to him and he was bothered by the thought of losing it.  This is one of the reasons that I do not want to move away right now. I made a commitment to this kid and I want, no, I NEED to see it through.  Yes, moving away because of financial ruin, is a far cry from just dropping him from my life, but it still matters to me.

 

I’ve met a really great guy.  We’ve been dating for about seven weeks now, and while it’s still new and I don’t know what’s happening, or going to happen, we’ve been having a really nice time getting to know each other and spending time together.  He seems to be really sweet and kind.  He’s very intelligent and independent.  He has strong morals and isn’t afraid to share and stand by them.  Oh, and he’s really attractive.  🙂

Realistically speaking, it has only been seven weeks.  If our relationship were to end now, it would not be devastating.  I would survive and move on with my life.  BUT, I really like him a lot.  He seems to like me as well.  I have no sense of dishonesty in him.  Whether this relationship will turn to love remains to be seen, and it very well may not.  I could write a whole separate, rambling post about what love is, what it means to be in love, and how one knows when they are experiencing love.  I might sometime.  But for now, it’s enough to acknowledge that we are not in love, we just like each other, and are attracted to each other, and we’re each interested enough to continue to see each other and find out where that takes us.  The point, though, is that I’m interested enough, and like him enough, that I really do not want to have to move away and end this relationship right now.

 

I have been interacting with a representative from a local staffing agency which I have worked with before and I am hopeful that sometime next week I’ll hear from that representative to either send me on some interviews, or set me up with an assignment (preferably long-term, temp-to-hire, or even direct hire) to do some customer service work.  It’s not exactly in my wheelhouse, and probably won’t pay as well as I’ve been hoping, but it is more than nothing, and more than unemployment which is pretty much all I have going on right now.  Things will be tight, but at least it would keep me afloat, and at this moment, that’s what’s most important.

What else?  What else?

Oh yeah!  There’s also this guy!

IMG_0054

Swimming in the Deep End

There were two significant events in my young life that lead to my fear of swimming.  Oddly, I only have specific memories of one, though I know the other to be true as well.

When I was in the neighborhood of three years old, my father and his wife took the three of us, my brother, sister and me, on a trip to the Northeast.  I can’t honestly say for certain now, whether we were in New York City or Atlantic City.  I feel as though we went to both places on this trip.  No matter.  I remember, surprisingly vividly, walking along the beach one evening.  It was dark, or nearly so.  We all had our shoes off and we walked in the surf, feeling the cold Atlantic waters pressing against our legs as they washed over our feet and rolled back out again.  I was small, as we tend to be at that age.  The waters came a little bit higher on me than on everyone else, and I remember feeling in equal amounts fear from the pounding pressure that knocked against me, pushing me out of my steps, and joy at the experience of being at the beach, near the ocean, wet feet squishing into the sand as we walked.  Given that I was smaller than everyone else, it was no surprise when the unexpectedly large wave came along and knocked me right to the ground.  Nor was it a surprise when the wave washed fully over me and began to drag me back out as it made its hasty retreat.  It seemed like an eternity passed to my young, scared, oxygen deprived mind.  But before I knew it, I felt a strong hand on my back followed by the force against my body as the waves continued to pull and the drenched t-shirt I was wearing became the handle by which my father pulled me back to shore, out of the water, and to safety.  Immediately, I was in tears and I was coughing and sputtering as I sobbed the words, “The ocean tried to kill me.”  (Yes, I’ve been prone to over-dramatization since I was a wee young lad.)  Of course there was some truth that claim.  As we all know, tides are unpredictable, and if my father hadn’t pulled me out of the waves when he did, I could easily have been dragged out to sea and might never have been seen alive again.

At some point probably not long after that experience, I was at my father’s apartment complex during one of our week-end visits.  Apparently, we were out by the pool in his complex (when I say “we” I’m not certain what that really means.  I do not know if my siblings were around.  I do not know if my father’s wife was around.  I do not even know why we were near the pool.), and somehow I fell into the water.  I could not have been more than four or five years old.  Once again, my father was right there, and immediately pulled me to safety.

By then the damage was done.  For many years, I was afraid of water.  Period.  I was even afraid of the water in the bathtub.  After some time, and some forced bathing requirements, my fears began to subside somewhat.  I stopped fearing the water entirely.  I came into possession of a life support vest and I spent some time in swimming pools.  Always with he life vest on.  Always staying on the shallow end.  I learned to like the water, the sensation of the liquid surrounding the body, offering some support, cooling the skin on a hot day.  But still, I always felt I was missing out on something.  Everyone else felt free to roam the pool.  They swam to the deep end.  They played games and ducked under the water.  They enjoyed themselves.  And all I could do was hang out in the shallow end, with my life vest giving me a wasted sense of security, and watch as everyone else had fun.

Over the years in my adult life, I’ve had conversations with people which have eventually lead to a revelation that I did not know how to swim.  People were always surprised and astounded that at my ripe old age of (whatever age it was at the time) I did not know how to swim.  Repeatedly, I’ve been told that I “need” to learn how to swim.  Yes, I live in California, and yes the beach is only a few miles away, but I don’t live there.  I live on dry ground.  Why did I need to learn to swim?  But they were right.

Image found here:http://www.listal.com/list/comedy-villains
Image found here:http://www.listal.com/list/comedy-villains

Last summer, I spent the Fourth of July at the house of a friend who lives in the central valley of Northern California.  The average temperature in the summer where he lives is about one meelleeon degrees (should be read in Doctor Evil’s voice with a pinky at the corner of your lips).  Pools are common back yard fixtures and welcomed!

It was while we were all hanging out in the pool, most of us sitting on the expansive steps, but a few lounging on floats, that I had a turning point.  I won’t bore you with too many unnecessary details (first time for everything) but at one point I made my way from the steps to one of the people on a float.  Just as I was reaching her location, I felt my right foot slide over the edge where the pool floor began its downward slant to the “deep end”, which I have since learned is only six feet.

I contained my anxiety and acted like everything was normal, but the truth is, as my foot slid over that edge, I felt my heart rate speed up and my chest tightened to the point of restricting my breath.  I was over come with fear at the prospect of getting into a section of the water in which I could not control my circumstances.  I finished my business and casually made my way back to the step where I stayed seated until we were ready to leave the pool and go inside.  I decided that weekend, it was time to do something about my weakness.

I couldn’t do it on my own though. I needed help.  I needed a guiding hand.  I needed someone who already knew how to swim, to help me learn to swim as well.  I perused the local community college course catalog and I found a beginning swimming class for adults.  Somewhat unexpectedly, I even recruited a friend to take the class with me.  It was nerve-wracking to be sure, but I learned to swim.  Of course the pool was only 4’6″ in the “deep end”, so it was comforting to know that anytime I was in trouble all I had to do was put my feet down and stand up…  Until the last week of the class when our instructor informed us that the pool we had been using for months was closed and we would be having class in what we all referred to as “the big pool”.  The big pool is where all the experienced swimmers swam.  The big pool is split into twelve lanes, not three.  The big pool is 6’9″ ON THE SHALLOW END.  It wasn’t easy climbing into that pool the first time, but I did it.  On the last night of class, our “final exam” was to jump from the diving board (roughly three feet from the surface of the water) into the pool, and swim to the side.  Once I was in and able to tread water and swim the length of the lane, it was not so bad.  I even jumped from the diving board…  once.  But getting into that water felt like I might as well be hurling myself off of a cliff.  For the first time in my life, I was in water I could not stand up in…  And I lived to tell the tale.

As children we have innumerable experiences that shape our lives.  We learn many lessons, both spoken and unspoken, deliberate and incidental.  In general, I feel that people do not give enough consideration to that fact, and because they don’t, children learn and internalize many things they would be better off never learning.

A while back, I wrote a post in which I admitted to a significant fear.  The fear was, in large part, due to lessons I learned as a young boy and on through my teenage years.  It’s the kind of fear that just compounds the longer it’s allowed to go unaddressed.  It’s the kind of thing which, if discussed with other people, would result in exclamations of “You’re 38 years old and you’ve never…”  “You need to…”  And I did need to.  But I lacked the skills and the resources to resolve the situation and over come the fear.  There were no courses in the community college course catalog for that particular skill.  I needed to be a bit more creative.  More recently, I wrote another, very cryptic post in which I alluded to seeking guidance and assistance in over-coming my fear.  And then I’ve been virtually silent since as I pondered my actions and deliberated the likely responses I would get in sharing those actions.  It was all I could think about, really.  What should I share?  How much should I share?  How specific should I be?  And as all those thoughts went round and round in my head over and over again, my fingers fell silent.  The blog was quiet.

For various reasons, I’ve decided not to share the details of my experience, at least not at this time.  Somethings might slip in here and there along the way.  I may come completely clean at some point in the future.  I may keep it all to myself for the rest of time.  But for now, all you need to know is that I found an instructor.  I went to class.  I over-came my fear of the water, and swam the length of the lanes.  I even jumped off the diving board and swam in the big pool…  And I lived to tell the tale.

Conquering Fears

The only way to get over fear is to face it head on.  Easier said than done, to be sure.  With determination comes strength and courage.  Often, a controlled environment makes facing one’s fears more tenable.  Controlled environments can be like a stepping stone between a position of abject fear, and facing that of which one is afraid completely head-on.  It can be a process, but one which is well worth the struggle and the discomfort one faces along the way.

Sometimes, however, determination is not enough.  A helping hand is required.  A guide.  A mentor.  Someone who has already faced the things of which one is afraid.  Someone with whom one can build trust and therefore begin to face and experience the very things one has spent so many years fearing.

The world is full of surprises.  When one makes oneself available to be surprised, amazing, unexpected things can happen and when one takes a leap and asks (God, the universe, Craig, whatever the case may be) for a helping hand, a guide, a mentor, one just might get exactly what they needed, but more than they dared hope for.

In the end, when one is open, patient, and persistent, determination, a controlled environment, and the aid of a guide will ultimately lead to success.

I’m Cheating and It Happens Every Day

Okay, so the title isn’t entirely a statement of fact, and it is definitely a play on words, but it helps accomplish two goals for today.

The Fat Mum Slim Photo-a-Day prompt for today is “Happens Everyday”.  As I tried to think of something to photograph that fits this description I realized that, while I could think of dozens of things that happen everyday, brushing teeth, taking a shower, using the toilet, preparing and eating meals, getting out of bed, getting into bed, playing on Facebook, reading, writing, ‘rithmetic– Oh…  not that one, not if I can help it…  I realized, that there wasn’t anything particularly exciting, and more importantly, not maybe just a little inappropriate to share on this forum, to photograph and share with the world.  Then it hit me.  There is something that I do everyday, something that I could share with the world, but more importantly something that leads into a story I’m supposed to tell and have not yet done.  Every day I put lotion on my tattoos, particularly the newest one, to moisturize the skin where they have been implanted and to bring out the color that is otherwise masked by the paleness of dried out skin.  While in the strictest of terms, I’m not sharing any photographs that were taken today, what I am sharing is all original photography, either taken by me, or taken of me, and with my camera.  That will make sense in a minute, but suffice it to say that it would’ve been really difficult for me to have taken all of the pictures that will be shared here.  With that said, here is the not so long-awaited story, as promised, of my fourth tattoo; the one with the sentimentality to surpass all others (on my body at least).

In October of 2012, I went one Sunday afternoon to pick up Lil’B from his house for our regular outing.  Lil’B and I had been matched for a little over three years at that point.  We had grown close.  The days of yesteryear, with the long silences and the uncertainty of our connection were past and I was confident, indeed certain of our closeness.  On this particular Sunday afternoon in early October, Lil’B presented me with a drawing that he had done for me.  Lil’B has always been a good artist and it’s something he enjoys.  In fact, our very first get together, I came over and we hung out in his bedroom as he showed me his toys and games and got to know what hanging out with me would be like in the relative comfort and safety of his own home, with his mother in the next room.  After showing me his toys and games and playing with them for a little while, he pulled out his art supplies and we began to draw pictures.  His pictures were much better than mine.  As I said, he’s always been a good artist.  Me?  Not so much.  I still have the drawings he did for me that day hanging on my refrigerator.  Unfortunately, in the present state of financial lack the state of California has been experiencing, arts classes of all kinds have been the first to go in the curriculum, in the interest of saving money.  It’s a tragedy in my mind that the powers that be, don’t see the value in exercising that part of a child’s mind and in fact the detriment that such deprivation inflicts on a child’s education.  Nonetheless, art classes are a thing of the past in Lil’B’s schools and the fact that he drew this picture for me was particularly special and moving for me, because he was not prompted by anyone to do it.  It was entirely of his own volition and on his own time that he drew this picture that so clearly, at least to me, depicts the meaning our relationship holds for him, but just as importantly illustrates that he is paying attention when we interact and he knows me and what I like (at least as much as is reasonable for a then 10-year-old to know.)

Lil’B drew this picture for me, purely because he was thinking of me, and he wanted to do it.

Drawing from Lil'B, Depicting Some Super Things
Drawing from Lil’B, Depicting Some Super Things

For the sake of his privacy I have covered up our names on the drawing, but you can see in the top right corner, he drew himself and me.  He also drew a picture of Superman and a Superman logo.  Then, though his spelling is wrong, he drew a “Supermisha logo” and a picture of Supermischa, a grey cat in Superman costume.  I thought it was adorable, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Sleeping Beauty.  Mischa Asleep on my lap... Just where he believed he belonged.
Sleeping Beauty. Mischa Asleep on my lap… Just where he believed he belonged.

Purely by chance, Lil’B gave me this drawing approximately two weeks before my little buddy, Mischa fell too seriously ill to go on and I had to make the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.  Mischa wandered into my life when he was just about ten weeks old and with the exception of a few months here and there when I lived in places he couldn’t, he was with me for his entire life, which in the end, was a few months longer than 20 years.  He had a long and good life, being well protected and taken care of and when his time came, he went peacefully, in my arms, and knowing that he was loved to the very end.  It was, without a doubt, the worst day of my life.  I still miss him terribly.

Anyway, with Mischa gone, Lil’B’s picture became that much more special to me.  As these things go, I began to formulate an idea.  As with tattoo number 5, the idea morphed and grew and began to take shape.  In June of 2013, after several months of contemplation and communication with my tattoo artist, I finally had a plan and an appointment.

While the idea for the tattoo was, in no small part directly inspired by Lil’B’s drawing, it was still a ten-year-old’s art work.  As special as Lil’B is, and as important as he is to me, I did not want the artwork of a ten-year-old permanently affixed to my body.  I made it clear to Lil’B that he had inspired the design and that it was special to me for that reason.  I don’t think he really got it until he saw the finished product, but he seemed to really like it once he saw it and he understood the significance of the components.

There are three components that make up the significance of this tattoo, the obvious component is the part that memorializes Mischa’s life and his place in my heart.  This component is inspired by Lil’B’s drawing, though it is significantly cleaned up and made into something I would be happy to have as a permanent part of my body.

Supermischa, without the yellow filled in on the belt and logo.
Supermischa, without the yellow filled in on the belt and logo.

The next component Is actually the Superman logo as used in the 1993 television series, Lois and Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman. While I had seen and enjoyed the Christopher Reeve Superman movies when I was a kid, it really wasn’t until Lois and Clark came along that I became a big fan of Superman.  It may or may not have had something to do with my attraction to Asian men and the fact that Dean Cain is half Japanese.  Regardless, I became a fan of the character and what he stands for while enjoying that series.

Superman Logo as it appeared in the 1993-1997 series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Superman Logo as it appeared in the 1993-1997 series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

The third component of the tattoo is the logo from the 2006 movie Superman Returns.  Lil’B was born in 2001 but the last movie before Superman Returns came out in 1987.  The image here is distorted due to location and the angle of the original, unedited photograph.

Distorted view of Superman logo as seen in 2006 movie, Superman Returns.
Distorted view of Superman logo as seen in 2006 movie, Superman Returns.

Admittedly, this is a tiny bit of a stretch in terms of matching up dates, but the idea is that component number one represents Mischa, component number two represents me, component number three represents Lil’B.  When put together to form the completed tattoo, it both memorializes Mischa and commemorates my relationship with Lil’B, both by representing him with the newer logo and by incorporating the artwork he inspired into the piece.  He thinks it’s pretty cool.

It’s a subtle detail, but the components are arranged in the finished tattoo, in birth order with my logo at the top, Mischa in the middle, and Lil’B’s logo at the bottom.

Here we see a selection of “in progress” photos taken by my good friend and tattoo guru, K (with my camera), to show the progress of the tattoo from beginning to end.

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By the way, you might have noticed the “6/13” at the bottom of Lil’B’s logo.  This was my fourth tattoo.  On countless occasions, I have had people ask, of the first three, “How long have you had that?” and I never knew the answer.  As I was preparing to have this tattoo done, I looked back through various records (*cough* paper journals *cough*) and found out the month and year that I had each of the previous three tattoos done and as part of the process for tattoo number four, I had dates added to each of my tattoos so that when people asked me how long I’ve had them, I could refer to the date on the artwork and answer the question.  If you refer back to the pictures of tattoo number five, you’ll see that there is a date added to that tattoo as well.  This will be something I will keep up with going forward as I continue to get more tattoos…  And I will be getting more tattoos.

So there you have it.  Two birds, one stone.  It happens everyday that I put lotion on my tattoos including tattoo number four, the previously untold tattoo…  heh!

By the way, tomorrow’s photo-a-day prompt is “upside down”.  I’m not the least bit sure how I’m going to manage a picture for that, that is not just using editing tools to turn a right side up picture, upside down.  The recommendation on Fat Mum Slim’s list is, if nothing else, “turn your phone upside down” to take a picture.  Apparently Chantelle doesn’t have an iPhone, or she’d know that turning the phone upside down does no good.  The accelerometer in the phone just turns the picture right side up for you…  I suppose that’s not any less cheating than using editing tools to turn something upside down.  We’ll have to see what I can come up with.

Words To Live By

A couple of years ago, I began reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books.  For those who don’t know, the earliest of this series started out as a recurring installment in the San Francisco Chronicle, the local news paper.  I imagine it was sort of like reading a soap opera.  The books take place in San Francisco and center around a young gay man, Michael, and his naive, mid-western suburbia transplant neighbor turned best friend, Mary Ann.

One night, while reading one of the early volumes, a reference was made to an actor by the name of Tab Hunter.  The first thought that popped into my head was that “Tab Hunter” sounds like a made up name (it is) of a porn star (it is not), yet, in spite of not being a connoisseur of pornography, the name seemed vaguely familiar to me.  I never did find out why, but in my investigation I pulled up his IMDb page to see if I would recognize him, or might have seen him in anything.  While I’m sure to have seen him in some of his late career television guest roles, nothing jumped out at me, but as luck would have it, he had starred in a film adaptation of Damn Yankees!, a play I had the opportunity to see in the mid ’90s and very much enjoyed.  It also happened to have significant relevance to my, as yet unpublished (in fact, still unedited) novel I was writing at the time.

While I perused Tab Hunter’s IMDb page I noticed that he was quite a handsome man in his youth, though, to be fair, he’s not a bad looking man now, considering his advanced years.  Anyway, I became curious about him.  Along with adding several of his appearances to my Netflix queue, I also checked out a copy of his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential, from the library.  It was there that I learned a lot of interesting things about Tab Hunter.  Most notable to me, especially at the time, is the fact that he is gay, and while Hollywood (and society) would not allow its leading men to come out publicly, in that day and age, Tab never really made much effort to hide the fact either.  In fact, he claims, in his book, that he never really gave it much thought, never questioned whether it was who he really was or what he was supposed to do or be, and he never felt the need to make a declaration about the subject either.  It was just who he was, and he never gave it a second thought.  Too me, that seems like some pretty forward and progressive thinking, even by today’s standards, not to mention in the 1940s and 1950s!  Tab Hunter Confidential is Tab’s life story beginning with his birth on July 11, 1931, in New York City, as Arthur Andrew Kelm (later Arthur Galeen) and ending with his quiet life on a secluded ranch near Santa Barbara, California where he still lives with his “partner” (I hate that word in this context) of 30 years and their many animals.

In the final pages of the autobiography, Tab describes being at his mother’s bedside as she lay dying.  His mother had been a hard and difficult woman who never quite accepted who he was, choosing instead to ignore that part of his life and never discuss or confront the situation.  His description of the woman reminded me quite a bit of my own mother and her general reaction to the news when I came out to her, and so when he describes reading a poem to her on her deathbed, a poem that I felt was very poignant, I found it quite moving:

A powerful poem I discovered while reading Tab Hunter Confidential, an autobiography.
A powerful poem I discovered while reading Tab Hunter Confidential, an autobiography.

I felt that this poem was a powerful message, and words to live by.  It became the foundation of an idea; an idea which began to shift and grow in my mind.  Over time, it began to take shape until it became something real.

I hadn’t planned to write about this, or share any pictures, until all the touch ups and augmentations were complete and it was completely healed, but circumstances intervened, and here we are.

Today’s prompt (and it actually still is today, as I’m writing this.  Go me!) is Words To Live By.  While I originally thought to find a way to photograph my favorite quote, “Stop laughing!  You can’t fix stupid!”, I decided to try for something that is hopefully a bit more uplifting.  So instead, I now present, in all it’s imperfect, incomplete glory, my fifth tattoo.  The largest, most elaborate tattoo I’ve gotten so far, and certainly the one with the most meaning and significance behind it.  (Not to be confused with the most sentimentality, which is still tattoo number four, all the way!  Which, as it turns out, I don’t think I wrote about here…  Hmm…).

I gave my basic concept to the tattoo artist who created a more elaborate, and better than I could have imagined, design.  The poem, I think, is pretty self explanatory.  The rest represents baring oneself before God, concealing nothing, and basking in the knowledge of God’s grace, mercy and love.  With this tattoo, I proudly demonstrate the certain knowledge that I am a child of God, loved and blessed, free of judgement and condemnation, and that it is not a contradiction to be gay and a Christian.

The finished product is not perfect, however.  As you can see in the third image, the first line at the top, “If I relax” the I and the r are too close together.  The artist assures me that he can fix that and I certainly hope he can.  It was definitely a disappointment when I took the bandage off after I got home and realized that the letters were so close together that it looks like an h “If helax”.  The sun rays, in the colors of the pride flag, need to extend further onto my shoulder, chest and back than they do, and they definitely need to be filled in more.  He told me as he was doing the tattoo that they would need to be touched up.  Blocks of solid color that large rarely heal perfectly on the first pass.  It is also my preference, and he says he can do it, for the colors to be a little more bold and primary, as they appear on the pride flag.

Pride Flag
Pride Flag – Photo credit not mine.

Finally, only after I’d had the tattoo for a few days and had looked at it regularly did I realize, it just doesn’t quite look complete to me.  I have an appointment for this coming Wednesday to have the touch-ups and corrections done and at the same time, I’m going to have him do some augmentation to frame the tattoo in a little better.  I’m thinking more flourishes, similar to what’s at the bottom of the poem along the sides and around my arm, meeting on the inside.  That should be quite an exciting experience since the skin there is quite tender and soft.  It does not go through a lot of abuse, being on the inside of the arm and, therefore, it will be much more sensitive than the outside of my arm was during the original application.

I’ve written about my first three tattoos previously, here, so I won’t get into them now.  If you’re curious, check that post out.  I had intended to link to the story of tattoo number four as well, but it seems that story hasn’t been written…  yet.  I will.  I promise.  It’s a good one.