Grief

This is a direct copy-paste from my off-line journal.  It’s fractious and broken.  I offer no apologies for this fact.

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I got a Facebook message from my brother’s wife, Charlotte.  She let me know that my grandmother Palmer had been moved to hospice care.  I knew just what that meant.  “Hospice” is a nice, padded, sanitary way to say that someone is dying and medical care is at its limit.  “Hospice” is where hope has gone to die, life is fading away like the last flames off a bed of white-hot coals.  “Hospice” was the word that punched me in the gut, caused the clench in my jaw, and I fired off a message to Raymond.

I came home to find Raymond on his laptop.  The airfare website he loves use was up in front of him on the screen.

“I found this,” he said, showing me a flight package.

Flying around the holidays is usually accompanied by Black Out dates on airlines.  This means you can’t use your rewards points, and you need to pay a premium – something that is in direct relation to the volume of people trying to access and take those flights.

Raymond had found a deal in a field of horrifically high numbers.  $400, round trip, from Portland, OR to Boston, MA.  I had told him that getting to Maine from Boston was not an issue – I’ve navigated those roads many, many times before.  The trick with the flight was the dates.  I was to land on a Tuesday, make my way to Maine, and see my grandmother for such a short period of time.  I also wanted to talk to my dad and my aunt, and my mother.  I then had to be up early on that following day, Wednesday, and make my way back to Boston for a 1p flight back to Portland, OR via Atlanta, GA.  In less than forty-eight hours, I needed to fling myself across the lower-forty-eight, and find a way to tell my dying grandmother just how much she means to me, just how influential she’s been in my life, and how much I wish her a sweet, peaceful crossing into the life beyond this one.

Less than forty-eight.

We booked the flight.  Anything else that would have given me more time would have costed double, if not triple.  Fuck you, Christmas.

The flight was at 11p that night.  I told Raymond to book it, and took a deep breath, feeling the rush of suddenly needing to pack and pull myself together wash over me.  It was an adrenaline rush. I’d spent the better part of that day in a state of excitement over the purchase of a new-to-me vehicle.  I’d finally bought the jeep I’ve always wanted, finally crossed a massive adulthood bridge.  I wanted to celebrate.  I wanted to mark the occasion.  Instead, I was trying to figure out how cold it was going to be in Maine in December.  I couldn’t decide, so I packed too much, in a huff and hurry.

Raymond grabbed my hand and helped me keep my cool.  We relaxed for a bit, napped, cuddled.  He held me while my mind raced.  Eventually, though, the clock struck that time, and we needed to get to the airport.  I had an overnight flight that had one plane change in Detroit, MI.  I knew I wasn’t going to sleep, but I assured Ray that I’d try.

I stood in the security line at Portland Airport and realized in full-detail that these lines were how the bad guys won.  I had so much anxiety about what was to greet me on the other end of the flight that to stand in security for thirty minutes, among a throng of holiday travelers who, like me, chose the overnight option as a means of saving money at the expense of sleep and/or sanity, was a herculean effort.

Eventually, I made it to the gate, to the plane, and into my middle-seat at the back of the plane.  I hate the middle seat.

I tried to sleep on the way to Detroit.  The turbulence wasn’t too awful, and the plane was mostly full of adults – no screaming children who hadn’t figured out how to pop their ears at altitude.  I listened to podcasts, music, attempted to play some video games – but what I was really doing was distracting my mind.  I didn’t want to think about death.  I didn’t want to feel grim.  Who wants that?

The plane landed in Detroit.  I took a deep breath and made my way into the terminal.  I flicked over the switch on my phone from airplane mode to normal mode, wanting to check in on social media to alert those that needed to know where I was.  A voicemail came through.

It was my father in what I can only describe as the grimmest voice I’ve ever heard him make.

“Your grandmother passed away around 5:30 this morning.  She doesn’t want a service, so you don’t really need to make the trip back here, if you don’t want to, or cant.”

I texted my friend Andy who works overnights and would be awake.

“She died.  I’m in Detroit and didn’t make it in time.”

I kept my composure, and boarded my next plane.  It was nearly empty, and boarding was quick.  In my row, all by myself, I stared out the window and felt the tremor of a wail surge through my body.  My grandmother Palmer was dead.  I could feel the tears.  I could sense the tremble in my lips.  I called Raymond, woke him up from a deep sleep, and told him.

I shut down my phone and wiped my eyes.  I didn’t want the airline people to see me upset.  I didn’t want to get ejected from the plane.  The bad guys win because we can’t be emotional on airplanes.  I had to keep it together.

I landed back in Boston, back in what used to be my hometown.  I went into complete autopilot for the rest of the journey.  I’d done it so many times before.  Concord Trailways from Logan Airport to the Portland (Maine) Transportation Center.  $29, one way.  Booked and boarded.  I found my seat, made myself as comfortable as possible, and drifted in and out of sleep.  I felt defeated.

My mother and her husband picked me up once I got to Portland.  I remained awake, like some automaton, keeping my voice level, keeping my spirits level.  I wasn’t here for me.  I was here for them, to be supportive, to show them that I can be an adult and be a part of the family at a time of need.

I got to my grandmother’s house.  My father was there.  My aunt was there.  My brother was there.  My mom and dad hugged.  My mom and aunt hugged.  I hugged.  When asked how I was doing, I only replied “fine,” just like my grandmother would have done.  Nobody needed to know just how lost and upset I was on the inside.  I needed to shove that aside and be the good oldest member of my generation.  I had responsibilities.  I had to show strength.

I visited with my dad and aunt and brother.  I recommitted to making more journeys home to see them.  I stayed over with my mom and her husband and their loving dog.  When asked how I was doing, I simply replied, “okay.”  I needed to be strong, be stalwart.

This is how the bad guys win.  We aren’t allowed to be emotional.  It’s a sign of weakness.

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I’ve carried this grief with me for nearly a week now.  It’ll be a week as of tomorrow.  I’m tired of keeping up the good face.  The fact is, it’s coming out of me, through the cracks.  I’m sad.  I’m really sad.  My grandmother, a pillar of my life, has passed away.

I wish I could have stayed in Maine for a bit longer.  I needed to sit in that house, among her things, for a little while longer.  I wish I could have said my goodbyes on that soil, standing on that ground.

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I loved you so much, Grammie.  I hope you know this.  I hope you knew this as you drew your last breath.  You made my life livable, and gave me shelter and support in the darkest parts.  You were a voice of reason and gravity when I needed it most.  You were an adventure buddy.  You were a champion of peace and calm.  You were a solid rock in our family.  I will not forget you, nor will I ever stop trying to make you proud.  I loved you.  I still love you.

A Little Catch Up

I don’t even know where to begin here.  There’s so much going on these days that it seems hardly possible to keep up with it all.  It has been a bit since I posted, but really I blame my friend Kevin for this.  He was able to crank out a post over at his site, so I thought I ought to do something similar.  Thanks, Kev. 😉

I’ve been quite successful with the non-smoking efforts here.  I had a moment, though, as I transitioned down from Step 1 to Step 2 of the Nicoderm patches, that pretty much underlined in as thick of a marker as you can find why I need to be done and over all of this malarky already.  I turned into a humongous monster towards Ray for about two days, being absolutely snarky, emotional, cranky, and all the rest, while my body adjusted to the new level of nicotine the patches were delivering to me.  I woke up mad for three days straight, and no matter what I did, nothing seemed to make me feel any better.  Well, except distraction, which, thankfully, Ray was able to help me find.  I couldn’t focus on anything for too long, but I could at least let my mind calm down for a minute and let my jaw relax.

It needs to be restated here:  I will never, ever, never go back to smoking again.  This quitting shit is for the birds.  I never, ever, never want to go through this again.

Now that some time has passed, and I’m about one week into my new level of drug delivery, I’ve been able to get on with my days.  Work is work, which is neither here nor there.  We start our Winter runs in a few weeks, and for me, that means I’ll be working a fixed schedule (Fri-Sat-Sun) for the first time in a number of months.  I’ll have “regulars” again, and I’ll have to get used to the quirks and needs of a set amount of people whose schedules align with my route.  It’ll be fine, if not a little boring on some level.  What it also means, though, is that I’m guaranteed set days off for twelve weeks straight, which are Mon-Thurs each week.  I can schedule workouts, writing, trips away from home, errand completion, and all of that, without needing to consult my calendar too much.

Speaking of the calendar, we’ve got a few things coming up that are pretty exciting.  First, we are starting the new year with a trip to Arizona together.  I’m meeting his mother and step-father in Prescott, AZ, and we are also taking time to explore his home state.  He’s going to show me some of the highlights, as well as some of the places he always wanted to visit as a kid, but either didn’t, or didn’t appreciate enough in his younger days.  Tucson, Flagstaff, and Sedona are all on the list, and maybe a view of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, depending on things.

After that trip, we are also planning a little adventure back east, with plans on seeing Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston, and of course, Maine.  It’ll be my turn to show him where I’m from, what I grew up in and around, and explore the courses of my life when I was younger.  I’m not as nervous about doing this with him – I’ve done this before with other boyfriends, so I’ve had practice – but I am interested to hear his thoughts about New England specifically.  He’s never been there, and while it’s going to be a really, really cold time of year to visit, he will certainly have a better understanding of the kinds of things that shaped me.  Especially in the cold and dark of early March.  My only hope is that winter this year isn’t as awful as it was last year.  If it’s looking like another wallop of snow for the east/northeast, we will have to re-align our plans some.  Still, it’s important to show him where I’m from, especially as he and I get closer.

Creatively, I’m really, really enjoying my new writing group.  After being cyber-introduced by my good friend Ren to this cadre of other writers here in Portland, I’ve met up with them a few times now, and am actually redrafting that damn memoir again.  It’s taken on a lot more life, gotten a lot more colorful and engaging as the editing has been happening.  The feedback has been really, really good, and it feels good to be putting down words that matter again.  I also get to read their work, and critique and edit their stories, which has also kept my brain moving in the right wavelengths.  It’s amazing how much I missed the interactivity that Goddard gave me with other writers.

Life is still pretty good here in Portland, OR for me, and I am truly thankful for it all. The beard is bushy, the rain has returned, and I’m finally feeling like my life is spinning in the right direction.  I’m ready for the demands of the holidays.  I’m ready to tuck in for a nice, dark winter, sink my teeth further into more books, and enjoy breathing.

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.

Another Step

As of July 1, 2015, I will no longer be living where I currently am.

Since the beginning of last year, I’ve been renting a room from Bil and Brandon, a couple who I got to know in my early days here in Portland.  Bil and I had become connected in Denver, and went hiking and hung out a few times, prior to my departure from there to here, and then their subsequent move to Portland shortly after.  When things blew up between Caleb and myself, and I was stuck in a precarious living situation, Bil and Brandon opened up their home to me for a very reasonable rental rate, and gave me shelter and a place to call home while I got back on my feet and began my job as a bus operator.  Immediately following my move-in, I met Raymond, and for the last year and a half, I’ve been splitting my time between the place with all of my stuff and at Raymond’s house. It has been a truly wonderful period in my life, with lots of personal growth, a better understanding of what it means to be in love with another man, and lots of roots have been planted here in Portland.  Due to circumstances out of their control for the boys, and the shift in plans about turning their basement into a full-fledged apartment for me to rent, the time has come for me to find another place to hang my hat.

Raymond, being the angel that he is, immediately told me, upon my need to shift addresses, “We will figure it out.”  What I didn’t know was that, also immediately, he had sent word to his current roommate that I was looking for a new address, and that if I moved in with them for a while, we could all save money and find a larger place to share in the very near future.  The two of them are currently not on a lease, and are living month-to-month where they are.  While it’s a little apartment with almost no back yard or an allowance for pets such as the dog we both want, it does have a proximity to the MAX line and major bus lines that is super convenient.  Having spent a great deal of time there, I’ve come to learn the quirks of their apartment, including the way that the neighbors are, what his roommate is like, and their living habits.  While it’s not ideal, as the space will be tight, I accepted their offer to come live with them.

For the first time, in a long time, I am going to be living with my boyfriend.

For the last month or so, while I’ve been wrapping my head around this upcoming movement, I’ve been paying particular attention to Raymond’s emotional status about it all.  He’s never lived with a boyfriend before.  He doesn’t know what it’s going to be like having his beau in his bed every night.  Already I’m aware that I’ll need to be vigilant about giving him his own space and time, even within the small confines of what will be our little home.  I’m worried about being a burden on him, and that we will have some inevitable friction from time to time because of the space.  Given our track record, though – only one major fight in the year and a half we’ve been together – I think we will be able to manage.  As long as he’s honest with me about how he’s feeling, and I am reciprocating, we should be okay.  I mean, who knows, it could work out really, really well.

I’m also really apprehensive because of my past.  Once again, my past experiences are dictating my emotions about a current situation, and I need to recognize that.  I gave up my life and lived with Thomas.  I gave up my life and lived with Nathaniel.  I’ve always been a roommate, and only very infrequently lived on my own. I was a roommate in Lakewood, CO.  I was a roommate in Denver, CO.  I was a live-in lover and houseboy when I first moved here to Portland, OR.  I have been a housemate in a tiny two-bedroom home for the last year and a half.  Now, I’m going to be, once again, sharing space with two other people.  While I’m very okay with being a roommate, I’m also keenly aware that this is not how a typical 37-year-old lives.  I mean, maybe it’s the new age and new economy that we are in, but at this point, I should have at least my own apartment, my own set of keys, my own utility bills.  Because of circumstance and life choices, though, I do not have these things, and I’ve been trying to find a way to resolve these emotions inside myself.

I’ve also been deeply worried about my past repeating itself in terms of relationships going awry when we live together.  This has happened every time I’ve lived with the man who held my heart, and I do not want it to happen with Raymond.  I need to be reminded that my past is not my present or future, and a recent adventure that he and I took helped to underscore this for me.

This past week, Ray and I flew back to Denver together.  I had wanted to take him on a trip to the Mile High City with me after we got back from Hawaii last January.  I wanted to show him my old haunts and introduce him to some of my old friends up there.  We ended up staying with my friend Amanda, a dear friend of mine that I’ve known for nearly thirty years.  She is my age, and while our paths have been shared quite a few times over the course of three decades, she seemingly has her life more together than I do.  She has a home of her own.  She has a decent credit score.  She owns her car.  She has a stable, normal, adult life, with stable, normal, adult issues (though she’d never attest to that fact).  I am envious of her for these things, and while she sees what Ray and I have as relationship goals for herself, I see her life and her world and think that, perhaps, I truly am a mess and need to get myself together and grow up along those same lines.

It was good to show him where I had lived, and the places that I had hung out when I lived in Denver.  Truth be told, I kept peeking around corners to see if I’d run into any old ghosts, old emotions, and old regrets while we were there.  I had been thinner, a little more crazy, and a lot more loose and fast with myself and the fellas I’d hung out with when I lived there.  At that point in my life,  I was still very much running from my past.  I’d slingshot myself into Denver in a mad and furious drive across the country from Maine, trying to escape the depression and anxiety that my life back there had dealt me.  I was not facing down the darkness of my early gay years.  I was not facing the implosion that my marriage to Nathaniel had become.  I was not facing the fears of growing older, of being in control of my life, or of taking responsibility for my actions.  I simply kept running.  Denver, with its explosive nighttime thunderstorms, dry and oppressive heat, and hundreds of miles of mountain trails to disappear on, gave me ample spaces and corners to avoid being Thomas as much as I wanted to.

I didn’t really run into any of the shadows that I was expecting on this last trip.  What I did find, however, was a group of friends and acquaintances that I’d drawn close to in my time in Denver who not only were very happy to see me again, but were also quick to point out just how happy I was.  They all loved Ray, as I thought they might, but what truly stuck with me was how much they simply wanted to know I was okay.  I was moved by their excitement for us, especially when we talked about this upcoming shared living experience.  Every single one of my friends who I got to see were genuinely happy for me, and thought that Ray and I made a really great couple.  I found myself full of pride in both Raymond and my decision to let him into my life.

It was also exponentially clear to me just how much I’d changed since I’d left Denver.  I have grown up, and I have come into myself in ways that I would have never thought possible when I was there.  Portland has been transformative for me, and continues to be.  While I am still a little apprehensive about this next step that Ray and I are taking, I do remain optimistic.  I’ve learned how to speak with a truth and power that I’ve never had before now.  I am thankful and full of gratitude in ways that resonate deep within me.  I remain humbled and awestruck by the ways that this relationship with Raymond keeps redefining what it means to be in Love.

On a Break

Today, I attempted to sign up for my summer schedule. It didn’t go as I’d hoped, but I still have a chance at mapping out a summer that will allow for loads of time off. Like last summer, Ray and I want to do so much camping and adventuring. There’s still so much of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest that we both want to see, and as I am able to align my schedule with his, we should be able to scheme and plot and plan to go just about anywhere.

I just competed a book called Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty by Jennifer M. Silva. This book, a read I highly recommend, touched on so many things that are relevant to my life and experiences. From avoiding adulthood through constant education, realizing my degrees aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, having to reconcile my past with my present, and redefining stages of adulthood that are unlike any measurements that generations before me have ever used, this book really got my head spinning.

I’ve been struggling to accept that I’m a blue-collar worker. I know that sounds classist, but the fact is, I was led to believe that a degree (or two) would be my pathway to living a class better than my parents. I mortgaged my brain with student loans, but have not been able to reap the expected benefits of doing so. While I don’t regret the college and graduate school experiences I’ve had, I still feel as though I’ve been slighted. All of this has come into even stronger relief as I watch Ray go through the same adjustment in his life. While he managed to skirt around taking out too many student loans, and is a little better off than I am, fiscally-speaking, he still feels like his life was short-changed because of forces outside of his control, namely the 2008 recession and its prolonged drag on the creative economy he once belonged to. For him, it’s become clear that to be a member of the creative class means having fiscal support from a benefactor, whether it’s a parent paying rent, or a partner with deep pockets. It’s frustrating not being able to provide enough for both of us in a way that would enable him to achieve his goals, and given my current station in life, I’m not sure it will ever be possible.

While we are leading a pretty amazing life as a couple, and as individuals, money and such seems to be a constant worry and concern. I only hope it can improve. I want him to find a path forward that appeases him and leaves him feeling good at the end of the day. I want to be able to share in this sense of happiness knowing I’ve done my part to support him. I’m not certain, though, that this will ever materialize.

We will persevere. It’s going to be a series of conversations and concessions on both our parts to make this all work out. As touched upon in the book, our relationship isn’t a matter of set roles and expectations that have been mapped out for us. Instead, it’s a situation that is constantly in flux, and remembering to remain flexible is at the heart of what keeps us going strong. It’s not always easy, and it does require work, but it is fulfilling. So long as we remain open and honest with our individual needs and keep making incremental progress towards shared and individual goals, we will last.

 

 

 

Over Eggs and Bacon

It is a *perfect* day here.  After a stormy evening last night, the air is fresh, the grass is damp, and after the morning mist burned off, the sun is shining in a brilliant sky of blue overhead.  I started my day with some affections with Ray, and after he took off for work, I set to prepping my bedroom for my mom’s visit.  She’ll be taking my bed, and I’m going to set up shop in the basement guest room.  After a bit of cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming, my room feels like a pristine respite from the world.  I decided, while I started another load of laundry, to take myself out for a plate of eggs and bacon and fruit at the Country Cat Cafe, a local hot spot in my neighborhood.

As I was finishing my breakfast and sipping the remainder of my coffee, two women sat down at the bar with me.  After a few pleasantries, we got into a discussion.  One of the women is a social studies teacher for a local middle school.  The conversation led into teaching and such, and I revealed to them that I had aspired to be a high school English teacher not too long ago.  I still have all of the credentials, and could still step foot in a classroom today and teach a lesson.  As we talked, though, it dawned on me, in a way, that perhaps I am happier doing the work I’m doing now than I would be in a classroom.

As a teacher, when I was in England, it was two years (my first two years of teaching) that was spent fully immersed in my job.  I spent upwards of eighty hours a week in work mode.  Grading, planning, prepping, parent meetings, IEPs, teacher workshops, student well-being – all of these things consumed my life.  Then, it was a source of joy, for the most part, but I was young to the profession, and younger as a person.  I was thrilled to have a career, even though I didn’t have much of a life.

Today, while I still am capable of teaching, I am not.  I’m driving a bus for the local public transit company.  I work around thirty hours a week, and after a few months of scrimping by, I’m now making enough money to support myself and my life.  Because of the nature of my job, when I park that bus at the end of my day, I get to simply leave it all there and walk away.  I don’t take any of it home.  The most work I do outside of my actual job that still pertains to my job is make sure my schedule is posted on a shared calendar between Ray and I so that he and I can scheme and plan what we’re going to do outside of our work hours.  In this job, I have a life.  I have a balance in my life that I didn’t have in my early teaching years.  Sure, if I’d stuck with it, not only would I be years into my career, but I’d also have the rhythms and patterns down.  I’d have a reference library full of lesson plans and modifications to meet the needs of my students.  I would have a stockpile of things to fall back on, and would probably, just at this point, start having a life outside of work.

It hit me, over eggs and bacon and fruit and coffee, that maybe I’m contented with what I do to sustain my life.  Sure, it’s not glamorous, but it is a job.  It pays enough to keep me happy (and my creditors happy).  I don’t have the things that other near-forty-year-olds have (house, car, plenty saved for retirement), but I do have a smile on my face.  I had no idea that I’d be driving a bus at this point in my life, but then I didn’t know that being contented might take the shape that it has in my life.

After a Stroll

I was out on my walk this morning, struggling a bit after consuming two double bourbons last night, but set to right after a slug of coffee from my local favorite cafe in my neighborhood.  While putting one foot in front of the other in succession without stumbling, my mind began to drift a bit, as it tends to once I set my body into a rhythmic motion.  In the downpour (Oregon snow, I’m calling it), I started to wonder about the state of things in my life, especially creatively.

The truth is, I haven’t written anything of significance in a while now.  I’ve been caught up/bogged down with work and the cycle of my schedule, that I haven’t allowed myself to sit at my keyboard and do much more than journaling (yes, just like this).  I have been centered on getting up, getting dressed, getting to work, getting through my shift, getting home, getting some food, getting to bed.  All this arriving, movement, and focus on the next step has limited my insights into the moment of now, the here, and the present, which is where most of my writing actually comes from.  It’s true, though, I’ve written a lot in the past- and future-tenses, but it’s always seemed to come up short.  Instead, as my life has begun to teach me, my words are a bit stronger when I write as a snapshot, rather than casting my narrative behind or before me.

It’s with this in mind that I’m looking towards our trip to Hawaii for some moments of pause and to catch up with myself.  In just over a week, Ray and I will be boarding a plane for eight days in Oahu.  It’s my work vacation, plus a few extra days that I’ve finagled with my schedule, and it’s time off with him as well.  Our plans include parking our asses on the beach, swimming in the Pacific ocean when we feel like it, and taking a few hikes, as well as a few car trips around the island.  I have nothing else on my agenda, nothing demanded of me, no pressures.  Much like the adventures he and I shared over the summer, when I could take out my journal and capture some of my momental thoughts and ideas, I plan on being very present, and very accounted for, each day that we are away.  I need this.  I need to take stock, reassess, and allow myself to just enjoy a few days of being alive without constraint or a pull in one direction or the other.  Ray, for similar reasons, is going to do just the same.

I can feel my creative self wilting a bit.  I can feel my vision becoming more tunneled, and a lot more jaded as of late.  It’s as if I’m calcifying slowly, and I need to pour more water, more fluid, back into my world so as to keep myself limber and flexible enough to shape a thought, expression, or idea into something that matters and has purpose.

I realize that this is me, pinning my life on a future thing, which goes against everything I have come to understand about how I live my life where I’ve gone wrong in the past.  I will be spending the holidays with a man whom I truly love and am proud to call my companion, and I hope to be as present in the upcoming days as possible.  I’m sure, together, he and I will daydream about the pending escape from this mundanity, though, and for that, I am already thankful.