It’s been over a month since I last posted here. It’s been a hot, heavy, brutal summer, though, and one I truly can’t wait to see the end of. Things have changed, some for the better, some for the worse, and I could use with a minute to decompress. Grab a seat, if you’re curious for a catch up. Continue reading
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.
Oy, it’s been a really long time since I had a minute to sit down and write a post here! There’s a valid reason for this: moving.
A little under a month ago, Ray and I signed a lease on a new space, our first space alone as a couple. Since then, I’ve been here, at the new place, holding down the fort, while Ray and the former roommate undergo the process of disentangling their lives back at the old spot. This has meant, mostly for Ray, but with me included when possible, a lot of back-and-forth from there to here, a lot of packing, decision-making, and general exhaustion between us both. Nerves have remained steady for the most part, and all of it has been fueled by way too much coffee.
Still, Ray has been making thoughtful and determined decisions about what he wants to bring here, and what he wants to shed from his life, and it’s been a fascinating observation to make. Though our current living room is full of boxes and projects to be completed, I’ve been learning to put more trust in his decisions about how to lay out our new home, and for the most part, he’s been really, really good at including me in these choices. Unlike partners in the past, I have a say in the matter here, and rather than defaulting to my standard “whatever you want, dear” line, I’m taking an active role in the process. It’s been empowering, to say the least.
We’ve also, somehow, adopted a cat.
I know, I know – I’ve said time and time again just how much of a dog person I am, but for now, while our schedules are as they are, having a dog just wouldn’t be fair to the dog, and the cat that has come into our lives is, well, pretty damned easy. She’s a six-year-old tabby named Bailey and she’s pretty awesome. Most of her day is spent lounging on the back of the couch, or on the bed, but on occasion, she’s been known to wind herself up and chase whatever suits her fancy around the place. Her head-butts are epic, and she’s super-cuddly when it comes time for bed. She’s also really adaptable to the changes we’re making here as the move-in process continues.
I’ve also been away from the keyboard here because I’m also finishing off two classes at Portland Community College. I signed up for these two classes with the weird idea that working forty-seven hours a week at my job would still afford me time to have a life and get my schoolwork done. HAHAHAHAH!!! It’s been a struggle, to say the least, and so I’m really, really looking forward to getting all of my work done and moving into my summer. Next fall, if all goes right, I’ll be enrolled in classes at Oregon State University, but only taking one course a semester, which, hopefully, I can manage to fit into my life. I do like taking the classes I’m taking, and I am learning a TON about programming and such. We’ve been playing around with C++ and Python this semester, and I’m finally beginning to wrap my head around the idea of object-oriented programing, and what that really means. Since I started a few semesters ago, things have become weirdly repetitive with each iteration of classes I take. Programming languages have built off each other time and time again, so noticing the overlaps and such has made things much more smooth as time has progressed. Eventually, I’ll be able to list out a few programming languages that I have experience with, and can start to really dive deep into software development and bug-finding, which is where I think I want to take all of this gained knowledge. For now, the roll continues, and I just need to lurch through the next couple of weeks as my courses wrap up. I can do this. More coffee!!
I’m really, really enjoying the feeling of having my name on a lease, of having a set of keys that are mine, and a new home of my own that I get to share with the man I love. Once the dust settles, and we are into a rhythm here, I have a feeling things are going to get much better between Ray and myself. Not that they’re bad now – not at all. I just know that his mind and time is completely filled with the move and transitions and all of that, all while the summer season is ramping up at his job, along with the many other plates he needs to keep spinning.
Anyway, enough from me for now. I need to get back to my homework and polish off this cup of coffee. Thanks for dropping in and checking in on me today!
As of today, I’ve gone for three small runs.
It’s about one exact year since the surgery on my right knee, done to repair torn cartilage after taking a wrong left turn.
In the last year, I’ve put on over 45 pounds, and subsequently lost about 30 of that through diet, but still find myself pudgy and soft around the edges – and not the man that Raymond met three years ago. I have such a journey ahead of me to regain a shape and form that suits me, but, of course, it’s important for me to stop and reflect about the things I’m discovering and learning about myself along the way.
First, there’s the weird anxiety that floods my circulatory system every time I start to head out the door to run. I sip on a mug of coffee, or chug it, and spend a great deal of time psyching myself up to put on my running gear. I listen to EDM, at volume, and pace around in some sort of weird dancing swagger as I let the beats and rhythm build inside me. What I’m doing, essentially, is trying to build up the courage to get out there. What could I possibly be afraid of, though?
Injury, for one, is a thing – I’ve been there, done that, and it sucked a lot. It sent me into a pretty steep depression last year at this time as I was prepping for surgery on my knee, and I don’t want to go back to that headspace again. Ever. I know, I know…we are a biological creature and aging means breaking down and facing injury on a daily basis. Still.
Then, there’s the idea of me in running gear. To be honest, I look foolish. Lycra, day-glo attire, hell, even the sneakers themselves – all of these things look really weird on my plump and curvy body. I’m no Usain Bolt. I’m not lithe, or muscular, or lanky, or even attractively shapely in anything other than baggy jeans and loose tee shirts. But, running in jeans would look even more stupid, so here I am. Dressed like a fool. I know this is super-duper basic of me to be even commenting on, let alone admitting to, but I hate, hate, *hate* wearing clothing that makes me stand out in some fashion. This shit? This gear? Yeah, no. Thankfully, most of it’s a light grey color, which means I’ll blend into the fog and drear that is Oregon’s signature weather pattern. And that day-glo shirt goes well under the grey hoodie, with only a few bits of it showing.
Beyond looking stupid and not wanting to rip a muscle, what else is this fear coming from?
Well, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s all related to my past experience with weight and body and eating. I’m still, and will forever be, a recovering anorexic/bulimic. For over two years, I spent a great deal of energy and effort to expunge my body of everything and anything, exerting exquisite control over my daily caloric intake like it was my reason to even live. Exerting that kind of control over my body, my physicality, has been my default go-to response whenever I’m feeling like the world I inhabit and everything around me has gone off the rails. I know how far I am capable of pushing myself in order to feel like I’m in control. That, right there – the levels of mania, the willpower, the stubbornness, the monster within me that I’ve turned loose on myself a number of times – that’s the thing that arrests me whenever I lace up my sneakers. I am afraid of the level of harm I am capable of doing to myself in order to feel like I’m in control of something.
Then, there is the feedback loop that one gets when they get into shape. People do notice. Interactions with others become different. Every single time I’ve dropped a lot of weight, there’s the inevitable compliments that come in from various people I interact with. Their praise and notice feeds into my ego, feeds into the desire to keep pushing myself further, and that, in and of itself, is highly addictive. I love praise. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t, right? The thing is – and especially with my history of eating disorders and body dysmorphia – every compliment I ever got when I was at my thinnest was made to a person who had put on the skin of confidence and power, when on the inside, he knew it was all one great lie. I don’t know if that makes any sense, so let me try explaining it another way.
If you’d seen me at my thinnest – and you probably did because I kept posting photos of myself along the way as a means of stroking my own ego and getting validation for what I was doing – you’d see a guy who looked great and gave off a sexy and confident vibe that was quite attractive. You’d have no idea, though, what kind of turmoil was going on underneath that outer self. Under that skinnier, sexier exterior, was a man-boy who was broken. If you had questioned me, even just a little, as to how I was doing – especially if you’d given me a gin and tonic first – it would have soon become quite apparent that my exterior was really just a facade and that things in my world were quite broken. The first time I “got skinny” I wasn’t eating but maybe 500 calories a day, was failing in a few college classes, couldn’t pay my car payments or keep insurance on my car, and had a whole host of other issues going on up to and including an identity crisis that eventually led me out of the closet. The next time I “got skinny” was about the time my marriage was failing and I was facing down the reality that I’d made a real cock-up of things related to my education, career, and finances. Oh, and I was lonely as fuck. The most recent time I again “got skinny,” I was living in the spare bedroom of an ex-boyfriend’s house, had no job and no prospects for one, had been called – to my face – fat and unattractive, had zero friends, and went day-to-day wondering just how I was going to eat enough food to curb the growl in my stomach yet not get yelled at by the ex-boyfriend for being a leech.
It doesn’t need to be like this. It doesn’t need to feel this way. I don’t need to be afraid of myself. I know this. I *know* this. I’ve spent most of my life waging this inner battle with myself. I’m tired of it. I’m not in a place of desperation. I’ve got a stable roof over my head, a job that pays quite well with pretty damn good benefits. I have a magical and wonderful man who still enjoys curling up around me at night and holding me tight. I have a lot of great things going for me and I feel like I’m in total control of my life.
So, really, I need to get over myself and just get out there. I’m dressed in these horrible running clothes right now anyway. This doesn’t need to be like every other time I’ve decided to go running.
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.
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.
Since November 9, 2016:
- I’ve been to the gym. I know this sound like a trivial detail, but having not gone persistently for months on end, the requirement to have a strong body, coupled with the clarity and surge of energy and endorphins that the gym provides, is now more necessary than ever.
- I keep writing. I keep putting down words of frustration, of sadness, of confusion onto pages and papers as an attempt to make sense of it all.
- I keep going to work. Not only do I need to just pay my bills, but I also need the distraction. Sitting here, quietly, staring at whatever is in front of me, only leads to more jaw-clenching and rage. The act of getting out on the road, and driving around Portland, Oregon allows me to interact with others, even on the most basic of levels, and reminds me that I’m not alone.
- I keep reminding Ray that I love him, more than ever. We’ve drawn quite close over the past few weeks since November 9th, and I feel more connected to him than I ever have. We both have had to face down some real truths about where we came from, and what has been holding us back. Now, in this current political upheaval, we have each other, and not a whole lot more.
- I keep looking for things to do, meetings to attend, groups to join, so that I don’t just sit here and idle my way through this mess.
There’s a direct and sincere feeling of having to come to terms with the life I have been leading. I have actively bought into the New Liberalism that has marked the last few decades here in America. I have sought the refuge of ever-more liberal cities in order to find a space to exist with limited fears, even when the act of doing so cost the connections I once had to my very-blue-collar past. I have bought into the idea of higher education as a means to overcoming social injustices. I have fed into the very machine that voters from places I’ve always been afraid of (middle America, “fly-over,” redneck, etc) have denounced and ridiculed, and now claim victory over. I gave over my rural identity and politics the day I decided to come out of the closet, it seems. I allowed myself to succumb to the audacity and optimism of living in and among a class of liberal urbanites who never expressed any connection to the world beyond their cities (other than to liken trips to the rural spaces as something akin to safari, or a trip to the zoo), all under the banner of being able to safely exist as my true self. I’m not sure about these choices anymore.
Today, I’m finding myself questioning this move, and why I didn’t have the strength to be who I am while retaining my rural roots and connections. What kind of impact could I have made if I had simply gone back home after college? Is this regret? Is this me internalizing a lot of doubts I now am holding about the country I live in? I’m not certain. I do know this, though – I moved away at the time because of fear. I chose not to live among those who held deep-seated hatred and bigotry against me, who I was and am, and those like me. For many like me, I’m pretty certain this is a similar refrain.
I’m also now, more than I have ever been, questioning the words and language used by those of us who live in these urban/liberal-elite spaces. How have we glossed over, or even promulgated, the challenges of race and racism, along with bigotry and xenophobia, by not actively engaging in the methods and actions needed to come to terms with these problems? Simply put, I don’t know what to trust any longer, internally or externally. I need to figure this out.