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

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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.

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.

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!”

Getting On With It

Once again, I’ve been sitting on a “post” that I wrote weeks ago and e-mailed to myself  but never posted.  And once again, I feel like I can’t move forward until it’s been posted.  Some of what’s here is no longer relevant.  That will be explained eventually.  Meanwhile, I must get this posted so that I can move forward…  somehow.

This was originally written on October 2, 2013.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The noise and the supply of bullshit seem to be unending.  It’s abundantly clear, now, that The Guy doesn’t care about me in the least.  I shouldn’t be surprised.  I shouldn’t even be hurt by it.  But I am.  He fed me this bullshit song and dance about talking to people about the disruption, but he remains just as guilty as the rest, and just as guilty as he’s always been.  Seems like utter hypocrisy to me.  He, the one person I’ve spoken to at length about this problem, doesn’t care to be cognizant of his contribution.  So why would he believe anyone else would.

He just walked by my desk and said good morning.  Why?  What’s the point?  He doesn’t talk to me at all, except to say hi and bye.  Sure it’s polite, but we are past polite.  I can’t stand the sound of his voice.  The sound of his laugh.  I hate seeing him.  I wish I could get out of here and NEVER COME BACK.  I can’t wait for that day.

Only it has to be under my own steam.  There’s no way I can survive being unemployed again now.  It’s just not possible.  Yet, my boss is threatening to fire me, when you boil it down, because I’m depressed.  She says I’m being unkind to people, but she can’t give me an example of it.  All she says is that it’s “a tone”, it’s “intangible”, but “it has to stop.”  I really do not know what she’s talking about, as I have made a concerted effort to be as neutral as I can manage with people.  I’m not happy and I don’t have the power within me to pretend to be.  Of course it’s not OK to be rude to people and it’s not my intent to be, but if I’m doing something wrong, I don’t know it, thus, the reason I need specific examples.  (Meanwhile, I’ve actually received several complements from my customers recently, telling me what a great job I’m doing and how invaluable I am to the organization.)

A big part, maybe the biggest part, of why I’m unhappy, depressed now, is because of him.  He is directly responsible for breaking me.  I’m not saying I don’t have any responsibility for my circumstances, of course I do, but he was reckless and irresponsible and he toyed with me and my emotions.  He created this situation and I’m the one left to deal with the aftermath.  I’m trying to do just that, I’m trying to deal with my issues.  I’m doing the best I can.  But these things take time and my boss is not interested.  And now she wants to extend my probation, like that helps anything.  We’re never going to see eye to eye.  We’re never going to agree on how things should work.  We’re never going to agree on what “this industry” is like, or what “good customer service” looks like.

It’s just hopeless.

I NEED TO GET OUT!

~~~~~~~~~

On Friday, October 18, 2013, five and one half months into my six months probation, I was informed that I was “a square peg trying to fit into a round hole”, (that’s an actual quote), and that I was being “released during probation”, which pretty much means they can terminate my employment without notice, without warning, and, apparently, without any documentation of a problem.

The meeting with my boss and the HR representative (someone I had spoken to multiple times about the issues I was having with my boss and my concerns for my well-being, and who never once offered any sort of supportive or encouraging advice) took place at 3:30 that Friday afternoon.  Just half an hour before everyone was to meet up at a local brewery for happy hour to celebrate The Guy’s birthday.  Two separate calendar invitations were sent out about the happy hour and two separate calendar invitations were declined by me.  I’m sure he didn’t expect me to attend, but I can’t help but imagine that some people were surprised I wasn’t there and must’ve asked about me.  Either way, I know that my boss sent out a terse e-mail the following Monday morning informing the entire staff that I was not longer working there and to come to her with any outstanding or new requests.

I’ve never seen or  heard from The Guy since that day.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  I can’t imagine what his response was to the news.  Probably relief, though he’d act like he was sad for anyone who’s paying attention.  I can’t imagine he acknowledges any sort of responsibility on the subject, even though he does hold some.  It’s just as well really.  I don’t know what I would have said or done if he had contact me.  I need to wash my hands of him, and this is the only way to do it, but it still makes me a bit angry.

(Ironically, as a direct result of conversations that took place around the difficulties at work, I’m taking an “anger management” class right now.  That’s a whole post in itself and I’ll discuss it further later, but one of the concepts in this class is that “anger isn’t real”.  They suggest that anger is just a mask for pain whether it’s physical or emotional.  That said, I wonder why I would be hurt that someone I don’t want to have anything further to do with wouldn’t bother to check on me after finding out I had been let go?)

Regardless, I am out of that situation, away from him, never have to see or speak to him again.  I can start to “wash that man right out of my hai–”  oh.  Well, you get the idea.  (I wonder if anyone will understand that reference without clicking the link.)  I no longer have to deal with the stress of a job that was never right for me in the first place.  I don’t have to deal with a boss who is chaotic and disorganized and disrespectful, and sexist.  I don’t have to deal with the film of grit and filth that was a permanent fixture on my beautiful new car, from the asphalt plant or sand factory, both of which were on the other side of the fence from the parking lot.

All of these are good things.  Nevertheless, I am still unemployed, living in one of the most expensive parts of the country, with a brand new car (and payment, gas and insurance to go with it) and not nearly the resources I had the last time this happened.  If I don’t figure something out pretty damn quickly, I’m going to have to make some drastic and very unpleasant changes, I’m just not sure I can face.

Anyway, my first priority these days is earning money and finding a new full time job, but I think about this space often.  Maybe now that I’ve gotten the last of these written-elsewhere-and-emailed-for-later-posting posts posted, I can come back here more frequently, even if it’s just to post short updates on the current goings on in my life…  like this:

First day with full-time glasses.

First day with full-time glasses.