slumber-kitty

Wintry Mix

It’s been a strange winter this year.  Warm temperatures in January had lulled me into a feeling like spring was going to come early up here in Portland, Oregon, but alas, I was duped.  The last two days have been full of ice and snow, and while it’s not going to last very long – daytime high temperatures are well above freezing – the mornings have been stunningly beautiful.  Clumps of fresh snow are captured in all of the branches, and little budding leaves, and line every thing that’s near-horizontal.  Not having to operate a bus in this weather has been lovely, and while I still have concern for the well-being of my coworkers, I’m taking great pleasure in being able to cozy up to this cup of coffee, a lazy puppy, and even lazier boyfriend, in our warm, dry home.  I’m very thankful.

It’s been a huge minute since I posted here.  I haven’t had much time to gather my thoughts, let alone put them down in any sort of fashion, because my work-life has been totally upended and changed.  I’m now a MAX Light Rail Vehicle Operator for TriMet.  I’m swinging the handle from stop to go on 200,000 pounds of steel and electricity, winding my way across the alignment that stretches from just about end-to-end of one county, and spills into two more.  Since the end of last year, this transition from operating a bus – something I’d been doing for the previous four years and getting better and better at doing – to something so vastly different and far more technical – has been an utter challenge.  I’ve had my share of panic attacks, anxiety, and worry, as well as a few moments of bliss and pure enjoyment, while at the handle of my rail vehicle.  I’ve gone home from work exhausted and frustrated, but also really happy with my decision to make this kind of move in my career.  It is a challenge that I accept and look forward to conquering, all the while learning and growing along the way.  I can and will be a good rail operator, someday.

Growth like this is good for the soul.  Sure, it might seem small and petty, highly-boring and certainly non-Instagramable, but for me, it’s precisely what I need to keep adding into my life.  Growth, change, questioning everything I’ve learned, over and over again, just to expand my thoughts and capabilities.  It’s a skill that I cherish, and one that I intend to build upon as I make my way through midlife.

_

Beyond that, things are going really well with Ray and me.  We’ve just celebrated four years of being together, of building a life together complete with our own cat and dog and warm, stable home.  We’ve both been taking on a lot of career challenges as of late, and it’s been rather amazing to have my boyfriend at my side to prop me up when I’ve been beaten down.  I’ve been trying to do the same for him, and more than once, he’s definitely expressed his appreciation for all that I do.  For me, this was the thing that had been missing in my past relationships.  Being appreciated, thanked, and acknowledged for giving a shit matters, even if it also makes me feel awkward and dismissive of the praise.  I thrive best when I matter, to myself and to others, and Raymond is really, really good at making sure I know I matter.

We are off to Mexico in a few weeks, finally taking a long-needed vacation away from both of our jobs.  I can’t wait to share a bunch of photos of us being goofy and sunburnt on the west Mexican coast.  We’ve never taken a trip abroad (apart from Canada) together, so this will be quite an adventure for us, and especially for me, given how little Spanish I know.  Thankfully, I’m not *that* American abroad, and can quietly respect when I don’t understand something or need to ask for help.  Humility and politeness are universal, and I intend on being as gracious as possible.  Where we are going is used to English-speaking tourists, so I’m happy about that, but I still look forward to the challenge.

_

I have a lot more I want to say, especially around the current politics of America, the mess we are in as a country, and more, but for now, as the snow clumps start to fall off the branches, as the grown warms up, as the birds sing, and as Steinbeck looks up from his slumber to inquire about getting breakfast, I think I’ll just keep to myself.   Morning time, peaceful and sweet, is something I need to treasure more and more.  It keeps me humble, thankful, and grounded.  I hope today brings good things to light, and casts out darkness in corners as needed.  Good morning, indeed.

full coffee mug

New Year’s Eve 2017

Scratch.

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

It’s 4:30am, December 31, 2017.  She’s hungry.

Scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch.

She’s also persistent.

That’s why I’m awake at this dark hour.  Our beloved Bailey-cat has set her little eyes upon mine, watching for any minute twitch or semblance of soon-to-be-awakeness.  When she does spot the difference between a deep sleep and the verging of being awake, she springs into action.  First, onto my chest, each paw pressing down as hard as feline-ly possible.  Then it’s the grinding of her face and head into my face and head.  Jump up and down off the bed.  A gentle mewl.  It’s breakfast time, damnit, and SHE MUST BE FED NOW.  So, she presses the door to the bedroom closed, and then uses it as an excuse to panic, to cry out, and start to scratch.  Incessantly.

It turns out, between the hours of 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning, the day before the start of another calendar year, is probably not the best time to dive head-long into a deep article about the state of things for Millennials and the overall American economy, especially before coffee.  While I can’t proclaim to be a Millennial, as I’m too old, nor can I call myself a GenX as I’m too young (someone coined the term Xennial and I just rolled my eyes and said “Sure, Jan” to it, but that’s kinda stuck), I can absolutely identify with the issues and struggles the article outlined (Article you say?  Oh, tell me more!). Succinctly put, and after shoveling some kitty kibble into the bowl for my Morning Menace, I feel like I’ve been gut punched.

How the hell did we end up with an economy and politics in such a state as it is today? How on earth was I ever okay with letting a full generation (and some, if you want to count early GenX) lay out this golden path toward a successful life for me, only to rip it away when it became suddenly inconvenient for them? I’m talking about the buy-in to mortgaging my brain on college, or on watching way too much HGTV that left me with a rabid-dog desire for a home, or even suddenly becoming a statistic directly reference in some article I read way before coffee – a well-trained, highly-educated soul who ‘settles’ for a bus driving gig because it’s steady pay with benefits.  I mean, when did I truly give up my life to the whims and needs of others and their scheming plans?

Honestly, I’m feeling like I’ve been played like a tattered old fiddle, and as I sit here, sipping the warmed-up remains of yesterday’s coffee (with a fresh pot brewing), I’m grinding my teeth.  I’m setting my jaw and resisting all of it.  I truly loathe fitting into someone’s demographic chart.  I hate being a subset, a factoid, a typical anything.  While it is comforting, in a twisted way, to know that I’m not the only one out there who’s caught at this massive generational crossroad, where, suddenly, the voice of my parents and grandparents is outnumbered by a younger, more vibrant, more diverse voice of a new crop of people who have the capability to be influential and policy-breaking/making, I still hate being lumped in with anything.  I want to choose and follow my own damn path, my own Road Not Taken, except, the longer I’m seeking that direction, the more I’m realizing most directions have already been trodden, most ways forward have already been discovered.  In short, I’m sitting here, frustrated, and highly decaffeinated.  At least I can fix one of these two situations immediately.

The other, however, will take some time.  Some resolution.

I guess this will be a New Year’s Resolution Post.  Ugh.  Another one.  One of a million-billion.

2017 hasn’t been all terrible, so it’s fairly easy for me to come up with some pretty decent things to reflect on.  I mean, Ray and I have our own space – our own overpriced piece of the Portland, Oregon pie – replete with shitty IKEA furniture and a total lack of decent space to house guests – but it is ours.  We are on the dotted line for it, and the rent is paid in full on time.

I’ve made a few thousand dollar dent in my car loan, and, as of now, haven’t missed a payment, so that’s a victory, in and of itself.  I’ve also definitely cashed in on the extended warranty I bought with the Jeep, having replaced a massively expensive electronic module and the entire transmission housing and clutch, which means, in theory, I should be good for a minute on that front.

I have, however, dug myself in deeper into stupid debt.  I was up on things until about September of last year, when I pulled out all the stops and took us on a massive adventure to see one of our favorite groups, Above & Beyond, at the Gorge Amphitheater.  While the debt remains, I will say this in my defense: How many times does a man turn forty years old?  And, while the trip was vastly overpriced in so many ways (like $2000 to spend the weekend in a “fancy” tent right on site, and only a few hundred feet from the actual amphitheater), it was utterly priceless to give my beloved a moment of time in a truly strenuous year where he could just exist and not think or worry about anything.  It was debt worth amassing, and I have no real regrets about that.

Still, the balances remain on my cards, and they need to not.  I know, for a fact, that I’m weighed down by this dumb debt.  In fact, another thing I really need to be grateful for is the fact that I am, actually, making more money than I ever have in my entire life.  My job – the one I’m highly over-qualified for and that, for years, was something I aspired to be better than – is actually quite stable and strong.  I’m a really good bus operator.  I get my job done, without much drama, and I can get home and provide for my family in ways I’ve only ever been able to dream about.  I need to dial back the stupid-debt, the money spent on credit cards that doesn’t need to be spent on a damned credit card for date nights, a quick lunch, a spur-of-the-moment ride into the mountains, and get myself back to a mostly cash-based life.  It would alleviate a lot of angst, most assuredly, and get me to a better fiscal spot for the actual life-goals I still have yet to achieve.

Last year, I was swatted away by a mortgage officer at my bank.  I was told, by a Baby Boomer no less, that I was too far into student loan debt to even think about affording a house on my own, let alone qualify for my own mortgage regardless of size.  In that moment, it was as if an entire generation had looked at me, judged me for following their explicit instructions, and when their scheme hadn’t worked out as directed, simply wiped their hands of the matter and showed me the door.  Maybe that’s hyperbolic in a way, but as I sat there, gripping the vinyl arms of the shitty bank chair, mad as hell, it absolutely felt like I’d been betrayed.  It set my jawline tight.  More resistance.  More rejection of the word ‘no.’  While I sat in the jeep with Ray after leaving the bank, weeping in rage, I knew that whatever that grey-haired man in the grey suit under the violent fluorescent lights had said, his was not the last word.  It couldn’t possibly be.  I’m defiant like that, if I must be honest.  I really, really can’t take no for an answer at first.  It takes me a while to let it sink in.

This upcoming year, I want to defy the odds on that front.  I want to secure a space for us to live, with Ray at my side.  I want to give our lovely dog Steinbeck his own back yard.  I want the cat to have space to chill the hell out, where she can claw at a door to her heart’s content without bothering the hell out of me at 4:30 in the damned morning.  So, that’s one resolution, I guess?  I don’t know if I can keep it, but I can keep at it.

Overall, though, I think 2018 will be the year I start to truly un-define myself.  I don’t want to be labeled or categorized at the whim of anyone else.  I want to give those who need to interact with me a reason to push deeper, to ask more questions, and to reframe their initial assumptions about me.  I don’t know exactly how that’s going to happen, or what shape it will take, but it’s my 40th trip around the sun and, goddess knows, I’m done with being mediocre.  I’m done with falling in between anything.  I don’t care what people think of me, truly, anymore, but I do care about how I see and present myself.  Freeing myself of stupid-debt, getting my house in order, and taking on the massive physical challenge of getting into some form of muscular shape will be the things I focus on primarily over the next twelve months or so.  I mean, my own personal new year started back in October, so I’ve had a couple of months to get up on this horse of mine, which I have on some fronts.  I’ve already got my budget lined up for the next year, I’ve signed onto a decent fitness program that I’d walked away from (more like limped – I had to quit it back when my knee gave out a couple of years ago) in the past, and I have my jaw set, defiantly.

2018 will be the year of Defiance, Resistance, Persistence, and Dis-categorization.

One More Month

Well, it’s coming.That big-ass birthday I’ve been moaning about for the last five years. As of October 1, 2017, I will be a 40-year-old man.

It seem really, really appropriate to do a post in this section of my website, Fit by Forty, because so many of the things I’ve set out to accomplish by the age of two score have changed, adapted, and been altered from where I started out.

Continue reading

Settling Into

We are slowly – *very slowly* – turning our little apartment into a home.  The initial rush of getting all of the things from the old place to here has happened, and along the way, we’ve also been dealing with getting our cat, Bailey, up to snuff with her medical needs.  Cats aren’t cheap – no pets are – but because of that, most of the setup has had to slow to a crawl.  We are still on the hunt for a decent bookshelf system, and Ray’s not totally sold on the living room the way it is now, but it’s coming.  Slowly.  Settling into a new pattern takes time, right?

Ray’s also started making the transition he’s been dreaming of.  He’s taken a post over at a winery not too far from Portland, working a couple of days in their tasting room.  He’s also brought with him a lot of marketing and design experience (which you can check out here) which the owners of the winery have already taken notice of and want to put to use.  It’s a blending of his love for wine and design that’s coming to fruition, and I am so damn proud of him.

What this has all meant, though, is that we are now devoting far more energy to our future, rather than remaining focused on the present.  We began this journey together staying very-much-present in our interactions with each other.  It was tough, for me, especially since I’m really quick to want to settle into a long-term arrangement, being the nester that I am, so for years, Ray was always gently pushing back whenever I’d make noises about what our future together might look like.  Nowadays, though, we’re having lots of talks about what the next six months, the next few years, might look like.

For his part, Ray is happy with us.  I check in with him now and again, making sure that our ship is still on a course that suits him.  He reassures me that things are fine, even though I know he’s also missing our more care-free times, when we could just chuck our stuff into the car and take off on a whim.  While it’s not worrisome that those moments are really few and far between, all of this is a total flashback to my previous relationships, especially my marriage – the one that failed – and I’m having to check and double-check that I’m not retreading on ground I already know.  I also, and this is key, need to remember that Ray is not my ex-husband, and to be judged or critiqued based on my own prior experiences in a relationship.  You’d think after three and a half years, I’d finally stop making comparisons between what has happened in my past and what is happening now, but for some damn reason, I cannot.  I always catch myself doing this, knowing full-well that it’s unfair to both Ray and myself.  I need to do better.

_

I don’t know what the future holds for him and I.  I don’t know where we’ll be in a year, five years, a decade.  I guess this doesn’t frighten me too much, because for now, I’m still holding his hand.  While we might not be making any majestic waves or taking off on any stellar adventures these days, we are still making our home, still building our family, still settling into a life of our own.  For this, I am thankful.  These small moments will keep me present and accounted for in the here and now, while everything else seems to be pointed at the future.

Eleven

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve managed to hit the gym eleven times.  That’s eleven more times than I went all summer long (apart from the one-off from time to time) and eleven more than I was expecting.  While I realize that I still have a long way to go with regards to my fitness, I have been finding myself gaining back lost strength since the last time I was hitting the weights regularly.  I feel my legs and arms swelling, growing muscles yet again.  It feels good.

I’ve also noticed that my body is definitely aging.  I’ve got a creaking right shoulder, stiff neck, and other parts of me that aren’t functioning as they once did.  I am definitely noticing the effects of my sit-down/stress-laden job of bus driving.  I have been reading over and over again just how bad my job is on a person’s body, with repetitive motion injury, stress, constant high levels of cortisol and the like.  The gym, much as it always has been, is a proving ground for all of these things, and also an antidote to it, I hope.  I hope it’s not too late for me to regain what I’d given up the moment my right knee gave out just under a year ago.  I hope I can continue with this streak of going-and-doing the exercise that my body definitely needs.

Movement, as it always has been for me, is a method to sorting out my thoughts.  I still don’t fully understand the chemistry or biology of it all, but I know that once I start putting my body into motion, suddenly, I can feel my thoughts stretching out into palatable lines of comprehension, rather than remaining a lint-ball of cross-purposes within me.  I can take one idea and follow it to a logical and reasonable conclusion.  I can ask myself the questions and do the reasoning that fully thinking something through requires, all while walking a fifteen-minute-mile on the treadmill, or bench pressing a few sets.  I think it’s this dual purpose of exercise – not only to gain strength and stamina, but to also help process my thoughts with an added level of clarity – that keeps me going back.  Sure, I’d like to once again be the skinny pretty man that I have been from time to time, but that might need to just be a by-product of it all, rather than the sole purpose.

It’s nice to be back there, back at the gym, back staring at the weight racks and noticing the fellas around me with the massive chests and multi-faceted arms and legs.  It’s nice to feel my own personal power growing again, to allow myself the surge of endorphins that comes from a set well done.  I’ve already got my eye set on the conditions outside so that I might make a return to running.  I do need to purchase a couple of new pairs of sneakers – one for the gym, one for running outside – so hopefully I can find some good deals once the holidays are over.  I want to get myself some new gym clothes too.  It feels good to have something to focus on that I have complete control over, all while the political world that I find myself now inhabiting seems to be burning down around me.  The gym is a respite from all of that, and I’m realizing that fact more and more these days.

 

 

I Need

The world seems to be on fire, or drowning, or both.  The recent election, the slew of horror-story memes, contradictions, opposite-land cabinet picks, and the direction that my country is going to be heading over at least the next four years, have all carved away at my eternal optimism to a point where I don’t know how to be anymore.  This lack of hope, lack of light, and lack of focus has me grasping at any and everything that might be construed as positive, but time and time again, those things that bring me moments of joy are elusive and slip through my fingers.  So, I’m back to this space, this darkness.

I took off to the snow and evergreens a little while ago, and for a moment, I found respite.

Tomorrow, I want to go back, back up there, back to where the snow crunches, the air is perfumed with fir and spruce, and the sounds around me are muffled by the blanket of winter that covers every surface that faces the sky.

I need a retreat from this world.