Kissing Ray's Ear

So Much

It’s been too long since I’ve posted here.

Way. Too. Long.

I’ve started school again, and am hip-deep into learning C-programming, as well as taking two survey courses about computers and computer science. On top of this, I’ve been attempting to churn out a better draft of my memoir with the help of my writing group. The ladies I’ve been working with are patient and amazing, but I fear I’m letting them down. I’ve also been in discussions with Ray about the future for him and I. Possibilities with work for him and work for me seem to be rattling around out there, and while we are both anxious to take a Big Leap Forward with our careers, life, and all of that – we are both feeling terribly overwhelmed by it all.

Too many plates spinning.

I’m on a quick layover at work, so I’ll have to cut this short for now, but I will be back later. I need to write stuff down and share it here.

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It’s now almost 10pm and I’m finally coming back to this entry.  See what I mean?  I’ve spent the last few hours doing homework and such, and totally forgot to come back and say my peace on here.

UGH.

Over the last few weeks, Ray and I have been getting pretty serious about our conversations regarding the future.  He’s got a number of options on the table.  I’ve got a few myself, but they’re mostly just threads that I could possibly pluck, depending on where he wants to go.  He, of course, would also follow my lead if I were to take one, but as I admitted to him last night, the last time I took the lead on anything like this, I lost the relationship I was in due to resentment and bitterness.  I don’t want to have any of that with him.  I also, however, don’t want to throw out any opportunities for myself in an act of just pleasing him.  Resentment goes two ways, I’ve learned.

For now, I’ve got Teach for America looming on my horizon.  They have placement schools in the Yakima River area, where Ray could possibly also find work in the wine industry out there.  There’s also the potential of going full-time at TriMet (with an extended possibility of becoming a Light Rail Operator).  The first option would be a huge shift in the way things are with Ray and I.  The second option would be more subtle, perhaps, but it would mean I’d need to give up on my dreams of getting back into the classroom, probably give up on school as well, and dive head-first into a job that I’m, to be honest, meh about.

I mean, I could make it work, and the money would be lovely.  I could be stupid-debt (credit card) free in a matter of months.  I could stash money aside for a downpayment on a home.  I could be the sole breadwinner for us while Ray figures out his own career and life.  But I could also do those things on a starting teacher salary in Washington State – especially if we were to live in an area that is very, very, VERY affordable.

So, yeah, right now, things feel like their spinning a lot, and I’m chasing back and forth to keep the plates up on the poles where they belong.  Ray can sense it, and is reacting accordingly – bouncing between “there, there, there, Thom” and “OMG GO AWAY.”  I get it.  I’m neurotic.  I’m also really, really hungry for change, and really want to put down some damned roots somewhere.  I’m almost forty years old.  It’s beyond time.

Control: Money

Any of you who know me personally, and have known me for quite some time, know that I’ve never, ever been good with money.  I usually am broke, and usually am struggling to make ends meet.  For years, especially during my twenties, I maxed out and over-extended myself time and time again in order to acquire things, and what I thought was status, among my peers.  I used money as a means of escape through spending way too much at the bars and clubs, or on clothing and dining out, in order to add meaning and value to my life.

When I was with Nathaniel, I basically turned over all of my income into his hands, and relied on him to pay the bills and tend to the responsibility of making on-time payments to all of our mutual debts, including rent and the utilities, along with groceries and everyday living costs.  I used to just ask him, “Can we afford it?” and he’d tell me yes or no.  I never questioned him or his judgement, but in doing so, I actively removed myself from any fiscal acuity in our relationship, and simply assumed everything was going along smoothly.  For the most part, it did, though I recognize that this meant I lost touch with the cost of things, and how much it really took to sustain a life that was worth living.

After he and I split, suddenly, I was left holding the reins to my own fiscal life.  I had no checking account.  I had no debit card or credit card.  I didn’t even have a phone.  I had a paycheck, but nowhere to put it.  At first, I turned to check-cashing store fronts to convert my income into a form of money accepted everywhere.  It turned out that I had some old bank accounts that had gone into overdraft years ago, and until those were paid off, I couldn’t open another account.  I managed to do that, and for the first time in years, marched my butt into a local bank and opened my first account.  It was a basic checking account.  I got my first debit card, set up my direct deposit from work, and suddenly found myself staring at the requirement to keep myself in check.  It was up to me to pay my own bills, buy my own groceries, keep a roof over my head, and obtain and activate a means of communication.  At the time, it felt like learning to ride a bike again.

Along those first few months, I had a few hiccups.  I overdrew a couple of checks due to my bad math, and quickly learned that $32 in fees per check added up quickly.  I had to come up with a means of organizing my finances that would work for me, and it was then that I first learned the art of creating a budget.  For me, after the debilitating crush of a destroyed relationship, a relocation, and having to find my feet again, gaining some sort of control over an aspect of my life back meant the world to me.  Once I’d set up a plan and could see both how my money was being spent, and how I should be spending it going forward, that rush of adrenaline from a surge of confidence became addictive.  I wasn’t perfect, but I made it work, and over time, it all became natural to me again.

When I moved to Denver, though, it all fell apart.  Suddenly, I was back to my old habits of spending too much on going out and keeping myself distracted, that bills began to pile up again.  I was borrowing – this time, from payday loan lenders – at a rate that was unsustainable.  I fell into the trap of having to borrow from one place to pay off the debts of another.  This went on for a few months, and all I can really recall from that period of my life was a never-ending surge of anxiety that wouldn’t go away.  While, at the time, I saw the necessity of having access to quick money to pay the rent so that I could have a roof over my head, the amount of time – some up to six months – it took to pay off that small debt, was insufferable.  It got to the point where I had to finally just stop, say no more, and reel myself back in.  Phone calls from collectors, setting up payment plans, and the like, was something that became a constant problem in my life, but eventually, I managed to find my way out of that hole, with a vow never to return.  It was ugly, and it was dark, and it was not how I wanted to define myself.

It was a move in with my bestie, Amanda, that helped me come to terms with a lot of that anxiousness.  With her, I was comfortable in the home we shared, and didn’t feel the pressures to go out as much and spend money I really didn’t have just to escape the darkness that was at my previous home.  I also got to have grown-up conversations with her about finances, and it was with her as a guide, that I managed to get back on a budget and get myself back in order.  My credit score had been obliterated, but I still had a bank account, I still had my cell phone, and I still had an income.  I had a means to move forward, and that is what I did.

Being jobless for eight months upon landing here in Portland, Oregon was almost a complete setback for me and my finances.  I’d cashed in a retirement plan from my previous employer, and even though it seemed like more than enough to sustain me, inevitably, it wasn’t.  This time, though, money wasn’t being spent on going out and being dumb.  It was spent on groceries, on home improvement projects that my ex-boyfriend and I were working on.  I bought a bike.  I spent money on some workout clothing.  I did take myself out from time to time for a drink, though rarely, and I did spent an inordinate amount of money on coffee in cafes as a means to not have to be tied to the house so much.  It was a slow drain that, by the time I landed my current job, had wiped me dry.  Somehow, and through the generosity of others around me, I managed to pay my bills, and keep up with most things.  Still, some things slipped, and once again, my credit score took a pummeling.

When I finally did start work again, and secured a very reasonable place to live with Bil and his partner Brandon, things finally were able to turn around again.  Though I was making very little to start (and had just met Ray at that same time), I still was able to pay the rent, and pay my student loans.  Slowly, and over time, I was able to start to feel those glowing embers of satisfaction one gets when stuff gets paid on time.  I relished making payments to my debts, and once again, was able to set up a budget that worked, and that I could see grow and change over time.  I secured a credit card in order to help me rebuild my credit, which has been helping immensely.  Occasionally, I can take Ray out on a date and drop a few coins in that fountain, but not often.  He, for his part, has been super supportive and really patient, as I get my finances back in order.  Now that I’m almost two years into my job, my pay has reached a level where the budget is really starting to look very rosy.

I’m terrible at spreadsheets, but being able to build one that helps me see into the future, including when things get paid off, how much my savings will be able to grow, and how a “snowball” payment plan towards the debts I do have is working, makes me feel insurmountable.  Confidence is oozing through the columns and rows, and for the first time in my life, really, I feel like I have this.  Like, totally, utterly, have this.  I’ve figured it out, and I’m making progress.  I recognize where I’m spending silly still, but I also know how to prioritize my spending in a way that at least ensures all of my obligations are tended to.  It feels good.  It feels grown-up.  It feels like I can trust myself to make the right decision and stick to a promise to myself (at least in the fiscal arena).  It feels like pride and increased self-worth. By the end of the year, my two credit cards will be paid off.  By the end of the year, I will have a savings account for us that should contain at least $1,500 (downpayment on a new apartment).  By the middle of next year, I should be sitting quite nicely on a sum of money that will help me buy something that I’ve always wanted (more on that later).  I’m really, really excited to see this all unfolding before me.

Summertime Scheming

The night before last, as I was getting ready for bed, I got some text messages from Ray as he finished up his shift.  They were the typical things we talk about after work, but then, he asked me when I was going to get my summer schedule figured out.  That doesn’t happen until early April, but for him, the penultimate planner, he cannot wait.  He has already started scheming for our Summer 2015 camping plans, and as he told me what he intended on doing, depending on my schedule, I just sat there and grinned.  I had one of those pauses, where I just looked up from my phone and smiled, realizing just what was going on.

We’ve been together now for about a year and four months.  Last summer, it was utterly clear to me that this man, my Raymond, came into my life at just the right moment.  I had all but given up on dating anyone.  I was prepared to go it alone for a while, especially after the struggle I’d had at the end of my last relationship, feeling very alone, very destitute, and doubting myself and my abilities to the core.  Finding a job, finding a new home, and then meeting Ray – well, it all seemed like too much of a good thing all at once.  Surely, one of those three things were going to come apart at the seams, and I needed to prepare myself for that.  I needed to constantly remind myself that I am my own person, undefined by another, and that I needed to be self-sufficient.  I needed to make peace with myself, as I was going to be by myself for a long time.  Just when I’d come to a sense of being, just when I felt like my old demon were in hiding or dead, that’s when this man, Raymond, appeared in my life.  For at least six months, I was very unsure about the longevity of us.  I forced myself to remain in the moment, and present, not making too many plans and hopes for the future because, as I’d always done before – up to and including marriage – it had blown up in my face.  Rather than pin my happiness on the future-tense, I remained as solidly in the moment as I could.

Whenever I strayed too much into the planning of my future, Raymond reminded me, subtly, that he was just feeling things out with us as well, and that things could change for him, or for me, and that we needed to keep ourselves grounded.  Time, though, has been the thing that has eased this pressure on us.  Patience with him, along with patience in and for myself, has allowed us to now start making real plans for the months and weeks ahead of us.  Now, it’s him who’s making plans four and six months out.  He knows my scheduled vacations.  He knows of my love of travel.  He knows that I’m committed to him, and to us, and that I want to continue on this shared path with him.  He trusts me.

If all goes as planned, I will land a schedule at work that will allow for some quality summertime adventures. One of the options given to part-time drivers is to work three 10-hour shifts a week.  Some of those include driving Saturday, Sunday, and Monday or Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – which would afford us four days off in a row every week for twelve weeks.  This schedule would work out great for him, as well, because he does the bulk of his shifts on the weekends too.  Ultimately, if I can land a Fri-Sat-Sun work week, he wants to go camping every other week for the entirety of our summer.  Four days away, every two weeks, for twelve whole weeks.  This is definitely something I want to do.  Given our experiences last summer, I know this will be amazing.

I still have a great place to call home.  I still have a job that allows me to have a life and pay my bills.  I still have this amazing man in my life who brings such sunshine and goodness that it’s almost too much to handle.

Loose Ends

I actively avoided writing this last night.

I got off the train, and walked home in the perpetual rain we’ve been having lately, and pondered on the day I’d just had with Ray and Yoni. It was a wander through downtown Portland, doing a little retail therapy, looking at really expensive home furnishings and such with the two of them. Coffee, and a hangover, had put me in a definite reflective frame of mind. Ray and I had spent the morning have some of the most amazing sex, and both of us were in a different space as we meandered in and out of the shops. What struck me, though, was that Ray was actively seeking out things to include in our home, in our life. We went into one of his favorite paper goods stores, and I saw him picking out paper and envelopes for potential wedding invitations.

Lately, he and I have been talking more about taking that leap. We still need to move in together. We still have a lot of bridges to cross before making that kind of promise to each other, but right now, all signs point to this being a thing for both of us – marriage. Of course, though, for me, that means actually finalizing the divorce from Nathaniel.

I’ve been sitting on the paperwork since early November. I’ve got an envelope full of signatures and notarizations, but haven’t brought them to the courthouse here in Portland. There is a $300 filing fee, and I have struggled to come up with that kind of money all at once to pay. Perhaps, though, part of me simply avoided it. It is easier to take Ray out for dinner, to pay a little more towards my credit cards, to buy one more sandwich, coffee, pack of cigarettes than pay to end this mistake in my life. I finally admitted to Ray last night that I’m scared to do this thing.

I hated my parents when they got a divorce. I felt like I had been torn apart, punctured and sliced and flayed, with a burning agony that has lasted, and has left me a little disfigured, a little burled knot that has taken years to heal over. There are few moments in my life that have been so excruciating, actually. It meant not talking to either parent, on any level that mattered, for years. I ripped them both apart, too, using my words, my emotions, and my silence, to judge them and to keep them away from me. I held onto that resentment for a very, very long time. They had failed me. They had broken my family. They had ruined my idea of what love meant, what marriage meant, and what it meant to have a home.

When Nathaniel and I got married, it was in an attempt to fix the things that had divided us. It was, in my mind, a means of repairing damage, and of making a promise to each other to be there, through it all, and make what we had work. I never told him the weight of my decision to agree to marry him, though, and in the end, when he told me it was over, he did not know just how much rage and pain and sorrow he’d opened up in me by breaking this covenant between us. Again, I experienced the renting, the disembowelment of the power of my words, my agreements, my vows. We hadn’t redefined marriage – it was still simply words you could take back when they no longer proved useful. It had all gone stale and wrong and dark between us, and the life and energy of what marriage is had been killed off.

That was when I really started running. I redoubled my efforts to distance myself from the pain. I bounced from man to man, from town to town, from mountaintop to mountaintop, just to not have to face it all. The moment I learned the word ‘no,’ on that dusty slope just west of Denver, was the moment it all started to turn for me, but I still had so many more miles to run. Using Caleb as a means to get out of the high, thin air of Colorado, was part of that. Testing the waters of being open and honest with him, though embarrassing and painful in its own way, was just me really learning to stand on my own two feet. It was okay that he and I ended. It was okay that things shifted between us, and that I was not the man for him. I had still made the leap to Portland, and once I started working, along with getting a chance to move out here where I am now, it felt like I was actually living again, on my own terms. Of course, in that moment is when I met Ray, and why, now, as I stand here, holding this stack of papers that put a legal end to a life-promise I’d made to another, I’m filled with dread and regret.

I don’t want to be a promise-breaker. I don’t want to be a divorced man. I don’t want marriage to always be something that can be thrown away. I refuse to enter into that kind of agreement with anyone again if they aren’t willing to stick by their own words through it all – darkness and light. I don’t want Ray to see me as some sort of man who makes these kind of covenants on a whim, and just as easily ends them. He reassured me last night, as I told him these things over a text message, but still, I worry.

The other day, Ray admitted to me that he’s waiting to see if I actually go forward with the divorce.  It matters a lot to him, he said.  He wants to fully commit to us, to let go of any lingering loose ends and doubts he might have about us, but it means I need to do this thing and make myself fully and legally available to him.  Going through with the divorce, to him, means I’m serious about what him and I have begun to build.  In his mind, my marriage status hasn’t been a massive roadblock, but over time, it’s become a thing that should be dealt with if he’s going to actually feel comfortable about making long-term dreams into realities with me.  As I sit here and write this, I’m finding myself filled with pride in him for admitting this, for taking his own emotions as seriously as this, and calling me to make my own stand.  He wants me happy, and he wants unfettered access to all of me.  He knows this darkness has been hanging over me for too long, and he wants me to put an end to it, and by taking myself seriously, demonstrate just how committed I am to being a fully-realized version of myself for whatever lies ahead for us.  In no way is it an ultimatum, however.  He’s a patient man.  He just wants me happy, and I know this, no matter how much hearing these words from him did put me back on my heels.  He is right, as have been all of my friends and people who’ve met me since Nathaniel and I ended.  This divorce is a that that needs to legally happen if I’m ever going to find a path forward again in my life.

Today, as it’s Sunday and the courthouse is closed, I’m going to buy myself a new pair of running shoes. I started this journey by running away, and now it’s time to run back. I need to run back to the starting line. Ray deserves a man who’s willing to at least come back from the journey, with all of this knowledge, insight, and maturity. I need to complete this chapter, this phase, this movement in my life. I need to file the papers, sign the receipt, and let go of the broken promises of my past. They cannot have this much power over my present and future. I need to square all of this and get my life back in order.

Progress?

I weighed myself yesterday.

And yes, before you even start, I can see your eyes roll, and I can hear the words “SCALES ARE AWFUL YOU SAID SO YOURSELF I CAN’T EVEN UGH” coming out of your mouth.  Believe me.  I can hear you.

Over the past year, I’ve put on a hefty amount of weight.  I mean, I’m about twenty pounds less than my most pudgy ever.  Or, at least I was before I started this little walking routine.  It’s only been a week, and I’ve also been incorporating a decent amount of fiber into my diet (read: the volume of ‘waste’ I’m producing is up), but when all is said and done, I apparently lost five pounds.

Five.

In my first week.

Of course, I also know that, with any bump in exercise, or change in diet for the better, the first bit often reveals a lot of weight loss.  Water weight, or whatever, tends to dump quickly.  As the body adjusts, according to what I’ve read, I need to keep changing it up in order to maintain a state of flux (and weight loss/muscle gain) about every couple of weeks or so.  I know that five pounds is a lot to lose in just one week, but just for a minute, I’m going to revel in this.

Please, let me.  Don’t be a Debbie-downer.  Or, better yet, be one, but know I’m sticking my fingers in my ears and ignoring you.

I LOST FIVE GOD DAMNED POUNDS AND IT FEELS SO DAMN GOOD.

This week, I’m paying more attention to the sugars and starches, and while I’m certainly not zero-carb at all, even just being aware and making dietary choices that limit the sugar I do intake seems to be helping.  I managed to get through yesterday without too many bumps in the road – though I did learn that the yoghurt that I like has about 45g of sugar per serving (one cup), so that’s a little shocking.  I also have limited myself with the sugar in my coffee, and I’m trying to navigate lunch in a way that doesn’t involve a sandwich.  Yesterday, I will admit, was tough.  Work was super-stressful, but now that I know my runs for this week, hopefully today will go better.  I can plan better.  I can pack a few pieces of fruit to get me through my six-hour shift of bringing people to a mall at Christmas.

This morning’s walk had me daydreaming about my mother’s visit in March.  I am looking forward to her arrival, and am curious as to what we are going to get up to.  I know she’s a cyclist, so we might rent bikes for the week and get out and about in Portland that way.  I also want to take her to the coast, possibly for a hike.  I really think she’s going to love it here, but I need to get physically fit enough to keep up with her.  She’s super-duper active.  I’ve got three months and a few miles of walking ahead of me, so I think I’ll be alright.  We shall see.  In all, the daydreaming while walking is great.  I can feel my thoughts bubbling up to the surface.  I can wrestle a thought while putting one foot in front of the other, and simply let my mind float.  This was something I loved to do while I was running last year, but those thoughts were often dark and angry.  I’m not dark or angry any more.

I’m loving the newness of all of this.  I love this different aspect of my life.  It is something both old and fresh at the same time.  I’m optimistic, as always, and can’t wait to see where I end up with all of this come this time next year.

Finding Footing

I’m in the last few days before I begin work.  I have six days, to be exact, and it’s this last push, this last week or so, that I’m finding myself clawing at the doors of this house, this life.  I want out.  I want to be on my own, and in my own space, doing the things for me that I want to do for me.  I want to be on my own bed.  I want to start making my own paths, setting up the world around me in my fashion.

I have already begun the process of making a social network around me.  With each connection, more and more roots are being put down beneath me.  I can feel it.  When I’m walking back to this place of temporary shelter after a night of laughter and carousing with these fellas I’ve met, I can feel this wave of peace come over me time and time again, complete with a smile of satisfaction and, finally, feeling like I belong somewhere.  These guys have been nothing short of angelic to me.  Their generosity has blown me away at every turn.  When I start to feel badly and make mention of how I need to make it up to them somehow, every single one of them brushes it off and tells me not to worry.  They are making an investment in a friendship, in me, and that means so damn much to me, especially now, when I am going out of my mind with the wait.

I will say, I wanted this in Denver.  I wanted to have a walk home in the middle of the night where I felt like I had a place, had my feet beneath me, and was where I needed to be.  The fact is, I never had that there.  I never allowed myself to slow down enough there, or make the kinds of connections I needed to make in order to enable more growth.  By the time I did finally start to make any connections of merit, my heart and mind had checked out of Denver, with an eye towards the Pacific Northwest.  I have no regrets for moving here, apart from missing those whom I grew close to back at 5280′.

I have started planning out what my next three months might look like.  So far, it’s a loose sketch of budgets and plans and all of those little details that need to start falling into place once I start working.  I won’t be able to move into my own place right off the bat, and that was a big pill to swallow, but I can and will find a quality roommate.  I’ve had a couple offers made already, which means the world to me, as they are from people who simply want me to be happy and in a place that I feel comfortable in.  Still, I need to fine-tune things, set dates on calendars once I know what my pay schedule will be like, and focus on getting settled in at my job first.  Once that’s up and running, I can manage the move, manage the logistics of getting my few items from point A to point B, and really, finally taking a step forward again.

 

Transitioning

Today, I got up and took a run.  It’s slow getting back out there because of My Damn Toe, but today I managed to do a good 6.4 miles.  It felt good.  The weather was overcast and there was a little breeze.  Just perfect, actually.

What really caught me today, though, was my reflection in the windows I ran past.

I noticed, for the first time, that my shape has started to change.  The belly I once had is diminished somewhat.  Yes, I still have a soft chest, but it’s not as pronounced.  I look slimmer.  I look like a person I haven’t ever seen.  When I was a sophomore in college, I had starved myself to get down to about 155 pounds.  Even at that size, though, I didn’t look like this.  At that point in my life, I looked like a sack of saggy skin tossed over a frame of bones.  It wasn’t pretty.  Today, though, I can see muscles popping out in places I’ve never seen them before.  I can feel a tautness building.  I also feel lighter on my feet.  I’m not feeling the same fatigue on my knees and ankles that I once was.

It dawned on me that I’m in transition.  I’m going from a person of substantially overweight stature into something else. I don’t know what I weigh anymore, and frankly I don’t care.  I know how my clothes are fitting, and even still, that’s neither here nor there.  What matters to me at this point is how my self feels in my skin.  Today, as I ran, I noticed that it felt pretty good to be in my skin, and I can’t really recall a time when that has happened before, even at my skinniest.

I still have a ways to go.  I still have a few more phases of fitness ahead of me, and I have a feeling when I get to one phase, a new one will unfold before me.  I am relishing this challenge.  I’m loving how this is helping me deal with the stresses my life is full of now.  Running and exercising is beating back the demons of depression and self-loathing with a giant knobby club.  These things, this movement, are my defenses against a lot right now, and I’m so thankful I’ve discovered them and am using them as much as I can.