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.

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The Words Will Come

Just start writing….  The words will come…  Just start writing…

That’s what the great and powerful “they” always say, right?  Just start writing, the words will come.  And the truth is, the great and powerful “they” are not wrong.  This strategy has worked for me many times before.  It’s just that, there’s a lot of stuff going on and swirling around in my brain, and I haven’t quite figured out how to sort it all out yet.  How much of it to share and how much of it to keep to myself.

Despite my best efforts I’m still inclined to worry a bit about what readers of this site will think of what I put here, and yet, I’m actually quite proud of my last post.  Yes, I discussed some “mature themes” and yes I admitted to some activities that, in the past, I would have completely kept to myself, as much out of embarrassment, as anything else, but I think it’s a good thing that I posted that.  I spend a lot of time in this sort of “in-between” stage of life where I feel like, I shouldn’t do anything I’m ashamed of and therefore I don’t do anything I’m ashamed of…  Yet I’m ashamed of things I really shouldn’t be, and therefore, this philosophy holds me back.

There is an excellent chance that I’m confusing shame with fear, or shame with unfounded guilt which causes fear, or some other tremendously deep and impressive introspection that I’m not quite clear about and obviously can’t manage to articulate…

I’ve come a long way in the last several years of blogging, and even before that.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, I’ve gained a considerable amount of emotional and mental independence (not to be confused with the physical and financial independence that I’ve had since I was 22).  But “a considerable amount” can be just a drop in the bucket when you’re coming from a place of such dependence…  Or co-dependence.  There are still a good many subjects and issues about which I can hear my mother’s voice, or more to the point, her judgmental, disappointed noises.  Tsking and groaning and sighing (oh my!).  And it’s not like she even needs to know about my behavior and my activities, but it doesn’t matter if the physical being knows anything because the non-corporial manifestation of her that exists in my subconscious is ever-present and equally judgmental.  And, of course, I think I’m inclined to project that judgement and condemnation onto other people both local and afar.  I imagine the gasps and the shaking heads of the people who might read my words, the disappointment that might come from having the image of me, which they have created, sullied by the revelation of the things I don’t dare say.

I am aware, as I write these words, that I’m creating a proverbial mountain out of what many would see as an equally proverbial mole hill.  I am also aware that, while I do value the regular readers of this blog and would hate to put anyone off, concealing things about myself and allowing the fears of other’s opinions to hold me back is not only destructive and hurts me more than it does anyone else, it is potentially more destructive and hurtful than not acting because of the fear.

I’m human.  I’m alive.  I’m male (stereotype).  And like everyone else, I have needs, both physical and emotional that need to be fulfilled, one way or another. The truth is, while I’m over here hiding from that fact, all of you are probably reading this blog and assuming it; assuming that I take measures to have my needs fulfilled (trust me, I do), you just don’t necessarily want to know what those measures are.  Certainly, there is a fine line between open and honest sharing, not leaving out pertinent details, and this turning into a very different kind of blog from what it has ever been before.  

Prior to the vague implications and poorly shrouded subliminal information in my last post, I believe I have discussed specific sexual activity on my part, exactly one time on this blog.  One time in five and a half years.  Meanwhile, any regular readers probably haven’t given my sexual endeavors much conscious thought, but have unconsciously assumed that I have not lived as a eunuch.  Society, as a whole, tends to frown on free and open discussions of sex, or so I have generally believed.  Yet as I write that I realize it happens far more frequently than I am comfortable with, and I have to question why that is.

Why am I so uncomfortable with it?  Why is it so hard for me to discuss it?

Certainly, it is, in part, due to my lack of experience and a fear that engaging in such conversations will result in any number of uncomfortable situations where I can not contribute as much to the conversation as people might expect me to; something I generally prefer to avoid.  But part of it is because of that non-corporial manifestation of my mother that exists in my subconscious, which is ever-present and tremendously judgmental.  It comes from a  damaged place within my psyche that is influenced by my mother’s constant over-vilification of sex during my childhood to the point that sex scares me.

There.  I’ve said it.  Sex scares me.  It doesn’t just make me nervous or uncomfortable because it’s “new”, it scares the ever-loving shit out of me in a way I don’t even know how to combat.

Logically, I know it shouldn’t.  Intellectually, I know that sex is a perfectly natural, and healthy thing.  Through the power of study, meditation and independent thought, I have even arrived at the conclusion that I believe pre-marital sex is not only not wrong, it’s important and healthy.  Reasonable, not overly graphic discussions of sex in general, are not something to be afraid of and shy away from, particularly when they lay the groundwork for a further story…

Yet any discussion of my own sexuality (not my sexual orientation, but my sexuality) makes me very uncomfortable and self conscious.

…..

I have a date tomorrow night, and I have mixed feelings about it.  I think it’s a date.  I didn’t really think it was a date when it was discussed, but it seems that it is a date.

Everything I have said here that leads up to that revelation does not, in any way, mean I think there’s an expectation or obligation for sex tomorrow.  In fact quite to the contrary, I think it’s clearly understood that sex will not be happening.  Rather, it’s about how this date came about, and how my shame, prevented me from writing about it before now.

In this wonderful, 21st century world in which we live, there is an iPhone app for absolutely everything.  Seriously.  According to one source in October, 2013 there were approximately 1,000,000 apps in the Apple App Store and that number just keeps going up.  If you can realistically conceive of it, there is probably an app out there for it, already.  And society (and men – stereotype) being what it is, there is more than one app for on-line dating and people-meeting available that uses the GPS signal in phones to show you the profiles of any number of people within a certain distance of where you happen to be holding your phone and looking at that app’s screen.  The first time I ever heard of one of these apps, I downloaded it on my phone, because it was free, and I was curious to see how it worked.  I never had any delusions that I would use the app as it was intended.  I still don’t.  That’s not my style.  But because I have discovered that my, once thought to be impeccable, gaydar is, in actually, completely for shit, I thought it might be interesting to see the faces of other gay men in the area, see if there was anyone I recognized and might, therefore, meet organically and get to know, in real life.  Of course, I wasn’t about to post my own face, because I would be mortified if anyone knew I had even heard of the app, let alone actually downloaded it and look at it once in a while.  I rarely initiated conversations with anyone, and even more rarely did anyone initiate conversations with, or respond to, me.  When they did, it was, without exception, overtures toward having anonymous sex.

The block button is my friend.

Through all the bullshit that went down with The Guy this summer, one good thing did come out of it.  Well–  He doesn’t, by any means deserve all of the credit, it was the whole unfortunate experience with that short-lived job.  From the day I walked in the door, I was determined not to hide who I was or try to keep secret the details of my existence that have been so hard for me to freely share, verbally, in the past.  It was a fresh start in a new place, with a new group of people, and I was determined to start things on the right foot.  The Guy figured it out, or believed he did, from the very first day.  So, apparently, did my boss, though she couldn’t say so until I revealed it to her.  All she said was “I knew you were ‘family’.  Well, I was pretty sure, anyway.”  I learned to be more open about myself.  I learned not to fear people’s reactions.  (To this day, I have not had one person outside of my family react badly to learning that I am gay.)  I learned to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may, because these people were all new in my life and if they learned the truth up front and they didn’t like it, well, there was no loss.

Thanks to The Guy, I started to feel better about myself, physically.  Again, he doesn’t get all the credit.  Over the last two and a half years, I have lost approximately 70 pounds.  The man I see in the mirror today, is definitely not the man I saw back then.  That man’s clothes don’t fit me anymore.  I still have a long way to go, but I’ll gladly take what I can get.  I’ve learned to appreciate my body in its current form, to take control over the things I can, and not obsess over the things I can’t.  But at least for a little while there, I believed that, not only did someone find me attractive, but someone who I was attracted to, found me attractive.  Due to the nature and circumstances of our involvement and the end thereof, I temper any excitement at that fact with a healthy dose of he-was-full-of-shit, but at the very least, I learned what it feels like to appreciate having someone pursue me due to physical attraction.

I posted a face picture on the app, and filled in a simple profile telling people what I was about, and what I was and, more importantly, what I was not looking for.  I tried to put the hurt and shame of my experience with The Guy behind me and see what came next.  Suddenly, out of the blue, people started initiating chats with me.  Talking to me.  Having real conversations with me.  Much of the time, those conversations end with “so when can we hook up?”.

The block button is still my friend.

Early this week, I crossed paths with a guy we’ll call “No. 1” (not for any reason you’re likely to think of, just go with it) who was deemed to be a “likely match” by some inexplicable algorithm the site uses to suggest people you might like, based on your reactions to their previous suggestions.  No. 1 had a very relatable profile, with a statement about relationships, fidelity, and where he stands on the subject that I happened to like quite a bit.  As it happened, he hit the little “like” button on my picture and I hit the little “like” button on his, and the app was kind enough to let us each know that the other “liked” us and suggested we chat.  So we did.  And he was a nice guy.  And he appealed to me.  And we exchanged phone numbers and I suggested that we should talk again.  I even considered asking him if we could meet for coffee or something sometime, but I decided against it.  The next morning, he sent me a text message and asked if I might be free on Saturday after he gets off work at 8:00.  I am and said as much, and we set up what I thought of as “meeting and getting to know each other better, face to face.”  I know. I know.  That’s pretty much what a date is.   Only, I didn’t think of it that way.  I didn’t think of it as a prelude to anything.  I thought of it as meeting a potentially nice person and getting to know him.  (Again, pretty much what a date is.)

My mind is reeling with this.  Really, it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if it is a date.  It wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if I enjoyed our date.  It’s just…  I admit it.  I’m terribly skittish.  And it pisses me off.  It’s not fair, that this one experience with this one, completely fucked up guy, has done such lasting damage in me.  I want to move past it.  I want to put it out of my head and forget about The Guy entirely.  I sure as shit don’t want to let him affect how I handle dating going forward.

But I’m so afraid of taking another chance.

I’m not sure I’m open to a relationship right now.  I’m not sure I’m ready to date right now.  When I agreed to meet No. 1 and we settled on a time and place, I thought, “Great!  That’s that.  I’ll see him on Saturday and we’ll have lots to talk about,” and I’m sure we will, only, he continued to text and talk to me after we settled the plans.  He has texted me every day since then, and I can’t quite explain why that bothers me.  It just does.  He has made some fairly innocent comments here and there that really have me on edge.  I’m probably reading too much into it, but he has made some comments which elude to the prospect of a relationship with me and I’m so not in that place.  I mean, we haven’t even met yet.

And all I can think is, “Oh my God!  I’m The Guy!”

In Which I Share TMI and Try To Draw an Analogy With Facing One’s Fears (And Try Really Hard Not To Mention The Guy — Oops!)

In planning this post I thought about a recounting of all the holes in my body…  Well, the holes God did not give me, anyway.

Do you care that I passed out cold when I got my left ear pierced in 1993?  Or that I was so nervous that it would happen again that when I got my right ear pierced in 2001, I sat on the piercing stool for at least five minutes after the job was done while Heather went to pay?  (It was her idea.  She said I needed to be “balanced out”, so she paid for it.)  I did not pass out, FYI.  Do you care that when I finally made up my mind to get my upper ear pierced, something I had wanted to do for years but had been too afraid, both of the pain and of my mother, that it didn’t actually happen until just four years ago, after going to Tulsa to take care of my mother, post surgery, and coming face to face with her disdain (which wasn’t as bad as I expected) for my then three tattoos (I now have four and have an appointment for my fifth on Tuesday), I was still anxious.  I felt liberated and able to do whatever I wanted so I went for it, but I was still nervous.  And, well, you Probably don’t want Any of the details of my fourth and most recent piercing; one very few people will ever see.

Then I thought about a post discussing the number of men not named “Riggledo” who have touched my favorite appendage (hint, the answer is three– no make that four.  I have to assume my father changed a diaper or two…  No… actually, that’s five – I just remembered a trip to the doctor…)  Anywhoo…  Only one of those five men was neither related to me, nor was he being Paid, And oh look we’re talking about The Guy and I’ve failed, again.  There’s no need at this stage of things to go into that story.  It was risky and stupid, and in the end, quite possibly the least pleasant of all the experiences, and that’s including the man who, just two days ago, touched it TO POKE A HOLE THROUGH IT….

So much for vague allusions…

But the simple truth is, all of these things do directly lead back to the idea of facing one’s fears.  You see, I was afraid to do any of these things, or write any of these posts.  In the end, I decided not to write the story of my most recent Piercing, And I decided not to write the story of the “special massage” I got a week ago, before which I was quite nervous though simultaneously tremendously excited.

(It was actually a really incredible experience which I can’t wait to repeat and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before – so much more… better.. than I imagined.  So incredible, in fact, that I had no inclination to try to recreate the experience on my own before going to the body piercing shop on Monday…  Something which, judging by the aching in my dangly bits, I should probably have planned out better…)

Even the simple act of writing this post, in place of the other two, was something I was afraid to do.  I’ve put it off for two days because I feared who might see it and how they might react.  But the simple fact is, we have to do what’s right for ourselves.  I’ve just finished a six week class I’ll probably write more about later.  It’s an “anger management” class, though most people who are acquainted with me and hear that, can’t imagine why I would take such a class.  The truth is, I felt very out of place, but I needed to be there and I did learn some things from the class, the most relevant of which, at this moment, is the importance of taking care of one’s self first and foremost.

The fact is, there are people who will read this who will wish they hadn’t.  (Some of those people are unwelcome here and should have stopped reading, should  have “unsubscribed” from the e-mails, as soon as they read Reclamation.  They lack either self respect, or a shred of human decency, or a combination of the two, and therefore, continue to receive and read these posts in their e-mails.  I can’t be bothered to concern myself with such people and their reactions.)  The fear which I had to face was the idea of someone who matters thinking less of me for what I’ve had to say.  The act of writing this post is me over-coming that fear.  It’s a step in the right direction.

And it’s a step that feels pretty good.

A Dark in the Light

I don’t like the dark.  I’m not afraid of the dark.  Not really anyway.  I just don’t like the dark.  It’s more of a “fear of the unknown” thing.  And it’s not really fear, exactly, I just don’t like it.  And since I don’t like the unknown, and there is a lot of “unknown” in the dark, I don’t like the dark.

But I should also say that I’m talking about utter darkness.  Complete darkness.  Can’t see my hand in front of my face darkness.  I don’t like that.

These days it’s not really something I often have to worry about.  And I’ll bet you don’t either.  Turn off all your lights and look around.  With modern technology being what it is, I bet you’d be hard pressed not to be able to see clearly enough to get around easily.  So many appliances and devices in our homes these days have some sort of light on them, even when they’re “turned off”.

In my living room, there are two lights on the front of my printer.  The modem which sits on top of my DVR on my TV stand has five lights lit or blinking at all times.  There’s a clock on top of my mantle that is back-lit with an orange glow.  Even my laptop, when completely powered down has a light next to the port the plug is in.

In my kitchen the stove, microwave and iPod dock all have illuminated clocks on their faces.  When the automatic timer has activated it, my Keurig machine has a back-lit LCD display that is quite bright.

In my bedroom, right now there are three separate alarm clocks, all with lit faces, not to mention the face of my iPhone which is often turned on and lit up.  There’s even still a VCR in there with a lit LED display.

There happens to be a nice soft, blue night-light in the hallway which was there when I moved in and I never bothered to unplug.

Add to all that, the street light right outside my front door which shines through the windows in the kitchen, living room and bedroom, even through the closed plantation shutters on all the windows.

I have ambient light, all the time.  Not enough to bother me, but enough to keep me comfortable in my surroundings.

I am also not a morning person.  I do not rise easily.  I do not spring out of bed at the first sound of the alarm clock and I am not raring to go with my day.  It takes time for me to be awake enough to get out of bed.  (This is the reason there are multiple alarm clocks  in my room.)  The clock on my night stand goes off at 6:30 and tunes to my favorite morning radio show.  The clock on the dresser across the room goes off at 7:00 with an obnoxious beep that gradually grows louder until it is acknowledged.  I throw the covers back and slowly push myself into an upright position before dragging my self just far enough out of the bed to reach across and snooze the clock.  Then I plop back down on the bed, pull the covers over my body and I’m out cold again in seconds.  Nine minutes later we repeat this process and I crawl back into bed slightly more awake than the last time.  Nine minutes after that we go through the whole thing again and nine minutes after that and nine minutes after that.  With each interval I am a little bit more awake.

At some point, I lie in bed, listening to the radio show, 75% awake and 25% not while I wait for the alarm to go off again and I debate whether this will be the time I get up and stay up.

And that’s were we were today, sometime in the second quarter of the seven o’clock hour, when suddenly the radio show went silent.  I opened one eye and reached out to turn the radio back on when I noticed that the clock face was blank.  That’s when I realized that when the radio went silent I had also heard a downward sliding groan of noise outside.

There was a momentary resurgence of power and then the downward sliding groan again and everything was silent.  The power in the entire neighborhood had gone out.  I called PG&E to be sure and they were already aware of it.

At 7:20 in the morning it is not exactly dark around here.  The sunlight pierced the louvers of the shutters and the house was sufficiently illuminated.  And yet, with out all the random ambient lights and without all the soft hums of electronic components, it seemed oddly dark.

Not spooky.

Not scary.

Just… Dark.

A Resurgence

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to arrive at Lil’B’s house around the same time that his younger sister’s Big Sister arrived.  Neither of us had a hard and fast idea of what we wanted to do with our respective Little’s that day.  It was unseasonably warm – I was actually wearing shorts – and so neither of us wanted to be cooped up inside if we didn’t have to be.  We ended up taking Lil’B and his brother (10 months older) and sister (16 months younger) to play miniature golf as a group.

Months ago when I took Lil’B there alone, we encountered a small Mexican family that we spent some time talking to because the course was crowded.  At one point one of the little boys comment that, “Your son is pretty good.”  That was, by no means, the first time I had thought about people thinking Lil’B was my son when we are out together, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite clear we do not share any genes.

The Big Sister is of Mexican decent and seven months pregnant.  There we were three Mexican children under twelve years old, a very pregnant Mexican woman and a pasty white guy all playing miniature golf together.  I couldn’t help thinking, “people think we’re a couple, I’m the step-dad, and these are her kids.”  Obviously, if I were Lil’B’s “father” there would have to be a “step-” in front of it.

I had a first that day.  After we completed the course we were on, we went to the “19th hole” to return our balls and clubs and I got a hole in one.  Go figure.  I received a coupon for one complimentary round of miniature golf, which expires one month from the day we were there.  So when it was time to plan the next outing with Lil’B, I was inclined to go miniature golfing again.  We both enjoy it and it would be silly to waste a free game.

It was raining like mad yesterday.  Without a back up plan, I went out on a limb.  I took Lil’B to see Beauty and the Beast, recently re-released in 3-D.  I’ll be honest.  I wanted to see it and I don’t have anyone else to go with.  I wasn’t sure it would be up his alley, but the only other kid-friendly movie out there was The Adventures of Tintin and I really don’t want to see that if I can help it.  I told him as we were driving there, that I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about this movie, but that it was something I really wanted us to see.  I told him it came out originally when I was young and that it might be a little dated, but I thought he would enjoy it anyway.  He said he was fine with it. When it was over, I asked him what he thought.  He nodded and said, “It was cool.”  Normally, that question is met with “It was awesome!”, but I’m taking him at his word that “cool” is an honest reaction.  I told him I knew it wasn’t really our usual style, but it was still fun.

Watching this movie with Lil’B, was a kind of surreal experience, though, when I realized how long before he was born this movie had come out.

I told him this movie came out “when I was young”, but I didn’t say how young.  It was only as we were actually watching the movie, when memories of the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in theaters came flooding back, that I realized just how young I had been.  I saw the movie for the first time, as the beginning of what would turn out to be a tragic failure of a Valentine’s Day date – the only one I’ve ever had.  I was sixteen years old.  The girl I was dating, Cindy, had all sorts of romantic notions.  During the opening number, “Belle”, when the “Gaston Groupies” sing:

Via Disney Wiki

“Look there he goes, isn’t he dreamy? Monsieur Gaston, oh he’s so cute!
Be still my heart, I’m hardly breathing. He’s such a tall, dark, strong and handsome brute”

she thought it was “adorably provincial.”

Via Disney Wiki

In 1991, Beauty and the Beast was on the cutting edge of animation technology.  Everything looked so crisp and clean, the scene when Belle and The Beast dance in the ballroom already looked nearly 3-D and that was before 3-D movies made any sort of resurgence.  The characters, at least the human ones, seamed pretty realistic with fairly natural movements.  The wisp of hair that is forever falling down into Belle’s eye, struck Cindy as being the coolest thing ever.  She saw so much meaning and subtext in this movie that went over my head; to tell the truth, it still goes over my head.  But Cindy saw it, and I wanted to see Cindy so I saw it too.  (Hey.  I was sixteen.  Give me a break.)

When the movie was over and Lil’B and I were heading back out into the rain, we had a little math lesson.  I told him, “Remember I said I saw this movie when I was young?”  he said he did.  I told him, “I saw it when I was sixteen years old.  How old does that make this movie?”  Somehow I hadn’t put it all together before we were in the theater.  I didn’t realize that this movie was 20 years old.  In fact, strictly speaking, with an original release date of  November 22, 1991, it’s older.

“I saw this movie when I was sixteen,” I told him.  “In fact, I think I saw it on Valentine’s day.”  That statement went right past him, but it stopped me short.  It stopped me short because that’s all I said.  I didn’t say, “I saw it on Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend”, I just said, “I saw it on Valentine’s Day.”  I told myself that I didn’t elaborate because I didn’t want to confuse him, but it continues to nag at me.

Lil’B and I have never discussed my sexual orientation.  If he’s even aware of what it means to be gay, he may already have figured it out or assumed it, but we’ve never discussed it and I’ve never confirmed or denied it.  If he is aware of it and I told him I went with my girlfriend, maybe that would be confusing to him.  Then again, if I said I went with my girlfriend and didn’t explain that I don’t date girls now, that seems dishonest.  It continues to nag at me though, because by withholding additional information, I missed an opportunity to open dialogue between us.

When I signed up with Big Brothers and Big Sisters I told the Match Specialist, Jenny,  that I’m gay.  It was important to me to be honest and not keep a secret from the family I was trying to build trust with.  Jenny asked me if I wanted to be open about that with the family and I said I did.  In fact, me being gay prevented me from being matched with the first little boy they selected for me.  In that instance, Jenny told me about the kid before telling the family I am gay and when it didn’t work out, she felt badly.  When she called me about Lil’B, I asked if the mother knew I was gay.  She said that she had told Lil’B’s mother right up front because she didn’t want to have another situation like with the previous family.  But the mother and I have never talked about it either.  I assume she remembers, but I don’t know and I don’t know if she told Lil’B.

When I was matched with Lil’B, he was only seven and I felt like he was too young to have that conversation.  Now that it’s been nearly two and a half years, it’s difficult to bring up.  Admittedly, I’m concerned how he’ll react.  And strangely, I’m afraid of being rejected by a ten year-old.

And just when I thought I had put this fear behind me…

What’s the Opposite of Clinical Depression?

The last month and a half or so have been surprisingly good.  I mentioned some time ago that I’m doing okay emotionally speaking.  It’s weird for me.  I’m used to being dissatisfied and unhappy about the way things are.  I’m used to this underlying current of…. well…  depression.  That’s what it is, so why am I looking for another word to convey it?

I am, by no means, implying that I’m “cured”, and I am afraid that it’s not going to last, but, something has changed.  Things are different now.  I’m not quite sure what did it.  Maybe it’s not having the secret of my sexuality hanging over my head.  Maybe it’s the fact that I finished my book and I’m taking the next steps in that process.  Maybe it’s just that 36 1/2 years was long enough and those depressive neural pathways have shorted out.  Somehow I doubt that it’s that last one.

Admittedly, it was easier to feel good about life when I was on vacation and therefore could sleep late and do whatever I wanted with my day while still having the guarantee of a pay check every other Friday.  Now I’m back at work and really nothing has changed about work.  I’m finding it really hard to go there.  Not because I’m dreading going to work specifically, just because it’s really hard to get up and get moving in the mornings.  And my brain seems to want to believe that I’m still on vacation even though I know it’s not true.  I’ve been staying up way too late, which makes getting up early for work very difficult.  I’ve got to change that behavior, post-haste.

That is not to say that I don’t dread coming to work… Or more specifically, it’s not to say that I look forward to coming to work.  But I’ve really begun to see what an easy gig I’ve got, and how little is required of me for the money I make.  In that respect, at least, I’m really, very lucky.

As I mentioned before, I’m very much aware of how little value I add to the operation around the office and knowing that leaves me unfulfilled.  I want to do a job that I feel like matters and/or that leaves me fulfilled with the outcome.  It seems like that would be one and the same, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been dragging my feet a bit on the EMT thing and if most people asked me why, I would tell them it’s because there aren’t really any jobs to be had, and that’s true.  And I’d tell them that I haven’t figured out a way to do that job and still make a living wage, and that’s also true… though my definition of “a living wage” may or may not be accurate in most peoples eyes.

The reality is, though, I’m scared.  I’m scared of taking a huge risk and finding out that I’m not happy doing that job.  I’m scared of finding that I’m not really very good at it.  I’m questioning whether it’s really right for me.  And I don’t know if that questioning is because my spirit is trying to tell me something my brain doesn’t want to know, or if that questioning is my fear trying to hold me back.  We’ve all heard the old saying, “…those who can’t, teach.”  What if that’s all I am is a teacher?  (And before anyone says it, I can’t be a teacher either, not before I have some practical experience to fall back on.)

So it’s true that I’m dragging my feet for practical concerns but that’s not the only reason.  Still, I put a lot of effort and energy into that training and there’s a part of me that feels like to give up on it would be wasting something valuable.  What I’ve been thinking about for the last several months, though, is that I can’t make enough money to support my current lifestyle working full-time as an EMT.  And then I realized, I’ve fallen back into an all-or-nothing way of thinking.  IF I can find a part-time job as an EMT, I have the option to go part-time in my current job as well.  I’d still take a cut in pay, but not nearly as much.

A recent comment on my blog reminded me of something that, oddly enough, I’ve forgotten:  I love to write and would really like to get paid to do it.  Actually, for some reason it seems important to make the distinction that, more so than wanting to be paid to write, I want to be paid for my writing.  I see a difference between the two and for me that difference is this: when a person get’s paid to write, they are compensated for the act of writing.  When a person is paid for their writing someone has purchased the words, placed value on the information or opinion or story that is created and ideally it’s a residual income for the product rather than a one time check for your time.  I suppose I’m splitting hairs and I certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to be paid to write, but I’d really like to be paid for my writing.

Yesterday, I discussed my position with Deb: Ten years in a job I don’t love with no idea of where to go from here, but knowing there will be no more advancement in my current position.  A desire to make use of my training.  A desire to write for profit.  We talked about figuring out what it is I want to do and then how to pursue it.  I told her, “That’s kind of my problem.  I want three things: 1) to make use of my EMT Training, 2) to write and 3) to make at least $XX,XXX a year.” (Obviously, those X’s were real numbers, but I’m wondering if it’s tacky to talk dollar amounts here…)

Deb said, “But don’t you make pretty close to $XX,XXX already?”

“Including my bonus, I made $XX,XXX and change last year,” I told her.  (those first two X’s were the same numbers in all three instances.)

She said, “Okay!  So you’ve already achieved one of those things.”

Part of what I’ve been struggling with is the money.  I think we know by now that I grew up in a poor family and I suffered a lot of lack.  The pain of that manifest itself in my own relationship with money and how I handled it when I started earning my own.  It took me a long time to understand that and learn to be more responsible, and I would by no means say that I’ve learned everything I need to in that regard but for the first time I feel financially secure.  I make a nice income and can afford all my bills.  Recently, I’ve even been able to afford a little bit of a social life, though admittedly that’s due, at least in part, to the insurance reimbursement for my therapy bills.  Still, I’m understandably hesitant to make a change that will reduce my income.

So it’s difficult for me to not see things in a limited capacity.  Either I accept that what I have here and now is the only way for me to make a livable income and I stay here for thirteen more years (the company has some odd equation having to do with your age and the number of years of service for when you can retire with benefits), or I quit and pursue some of my other interests which will, at least in the short-term, leave me extremely lacking.  It might be noble to “do what you love, even for less money”, but for me, the money is part of the equation.  If I’m not making a satisfactory income, I doubt that I’ll be happy doing what I’m doing…  I know that’s not all there is, it’s just that, for now, I can’t see anything else.

Deb said, “You’ve already accomplished one of those things.  You already make $XX,XXX a year.”

I told her, “Yes, but I didn’t say I want to work as an EMT, get paid to write OR make $XX,XXX.  I said I want to work as an EMT, get paid to write AND make $XX,XXX, or more.  The problem is, I haven’t figure out a way to make those three things happen.”

There was a brief pause and just as Deb opened her mouth to say something, I said, “And yes, I realized the end of all of those sentences is, ‘At least not yet.'”