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.

Summer’s Last Stand

It’s been a really interesting summer.  I went into it, with a very open work schedule, expecting to be able to get out and do a lot more than we have this year.  My knee injury earlier this year, coupled with Ray’s ongoing shoulder problem, has kept us a little closer to home than I had anticipated.  We haven’t gone camping as much as we did last summer, it seems, nor have we taken as many long-distant journeys around the Pacfic Northwest.  That all said, it’s not like it’s been a bad summer at all.  It’s been a lot more transformative than I expected.

We did get up to Canada, and celebrated Ray’s success at passing his Level 1 Sommelier exam.  This act underlines his abilities to suggest and serve wine, and demonstrates on his resume and at future job interviews, that his knowledge is real and verified.  It’s been a huge bump to his feeling of justification and personal security, and I’ve really seen a lot of worry and tension and depression start to wane in my boyfriend.  Because of this, we’ve started actively exploring our next step, looking at employment options, housing options, and having longer discussions about what happens after living here in Portland.  To that end, for myself, I’ve taken the steps to re-enroll in classes at the local community college in an attempt to learn new and different skills that can help me in my own job placement outside of Portland.  It’s caused me to reconsider getting back into the classroom, to start the process of obtaining a teaching license, and as of tomorrow, has me registering for introductory courses in Computer Science.  I’m starting to put more stock in the idea that Ray and I do, in fact, have a future that goes beyond the here and now, but I’m having these feelings and reacting to them in a way that isn’t going against Ray at all.  Instead, there’s a synergy, a parallel, between him and I that has really sparked a new level of connection between us both.

I’ve really enjoyed the summer of the Jeep, even though it’s been a bit bumpy as a car owner.  It has been broken into twice and has ended up back at the dealer twice now for repairs, but all in all, having that vehicle, my dream vehicle, with the top down and the tunes up, flying across the grasslands of central Oregon, or winding up through the mountains on either side of town, has brought me such joy and happiness.  I love the freedom, I love the ability to throw the top down and just feel the world around me, and I love what being able to afford this vehicle has done for my feelings toward myself.  Three years ago, I was an absolute fiscal mess.  I had no job.  I was stuck in a world that wasn’t of my design.  I had nothing and no one to really turn to, and was allowing someone else, outside forces, direct me.  Now, only a short while after, things have really changed for the better.

This summer has seen a real push with my writing, too.  Having joined the small writing group that I belong to has been a real blessing in my life.  Every other week, I now have a wonderful gaggle of people conversing with me about the book, about their own work, about the struggles we all face as we try to hone our craft.  It’s super supportive, super engaging, and really reminds me that there is more to me than my ability to drive a bus and do the laundry.  I’ve seen this sixth revision of a story I began back in 2011 really take some amazing shapes, and plumb a lot of depths that I was once too afraid to explore.  In doing so, I am constantly feeling the loosening grip of darkness and fear that has always plagued me from telling a story that was as authentic as possible.  This feeling of liberation has really expressed itself outward in my daily life, and I come back to the house, to my job, and to my boyfriend every other Wednesday night feeling renewed and resolved to go further and do better.

To that end, this summer has also been a lot about overcoming my insecurities with regards to my relationship and the faith I have in it.  Ray and I have come up against moments that have required trust and commitment, as well as honest (sometimes brutally so) conversations about fear and worry that we both have.  In being able to hold space for these kind of talks, though, and seeing the promises we’ve made to each other act out in real-time between us, has had the cumulative effect of really deepening the bond he and I share.  Every day, it seems, he’s reminding me just how unlike any other man I’ve ever been this close to he truly is.  I expect rebuke, I brace for antagonism, and a constant stream of doubt towards the choices and actions that I make for myself and the direction of my life.  Instead, I keep getting more support, more love, more optimism from Ray.  I had no idea that this is how a healthy relationship was supposed to work.  I’m still learning and man – it’s such a valuable lesson.

Summer might be coming to an end soon, but we’ve still got lots going on this year to look forward to.  I have school.  Ray’s doing more and building out his resume in ways that will really set the stage for us soon.  We’re also planning a joint adventure for our birthday that is shaping up to be a lot of fun and will bring us back to Denver, where I can reconnect with past friends and remind myself of where I’ve been.  There’s also the chance that one of his dear friends will be joining us for Thanksgiving this year, so I might have the opportunity to put on a full-on feast, which I adore doing.

 

Spring Renewal

Spring is definitely in the air out here in Portland, Oregon, and as is usual, this time of year has spurned a lot of changes and transformations outside and inside.  While I’m still trying to keep up with everything in my own head, I thought it would be a good idea to write some of it down.

I’ve had most of the month of February off, but not intentionally.

On February 1, I decided to lace up and go out for a run.  I’d been feeling a bit panicked, a bit anxious about the fact that the scale hadn’t shifted for me in a while, even while my measurements were going in the right direction otherwise – muscle growth, reduced waistline happening (slowly – but happening).  The sun was bright and the air was cool and damp.  It was a perfect day for a jog.  I set off with a basic idea of where I wanted to go, but because I wasn’t 100% sure I’d make a loop or just a straight line to a distant point and need the bus or light rail home, I stuck my bus pass in my pocket alongside my phone.

I stretched for a bit, and then took intentional time warming up with a little bit of brisk walking.  I wanted to activate all of the things needed inside.  My feet felt good, and as my breathing went up, I could feel that drive to move faster building, as it always does.  Soon I was doing a slow lope, kind of a fat-man-running movement that lives just above a walk, but not a full on jog, and about two or three steps beneath a full-out dash.  I am, after all, just getting back into the saddle of putting pavement under my feet again, and I don’t want to hurt myself.

I made a right turn, and proceeded up a street I hadn’t gone running on before.  I love taking side streets that I’ve not been on because it keeps my interest piqued – and keeps me from focusing too much on the pace of my breath or my body’s natural tendency to want to stop.  Up the street, there was a piece of sidewalk that was closed off to foot traffic – a very, very common occurrence here with all of the new construction and rebuilding that our housing market is fueling.  So, like I good pedestrian, I crossed the street, ran up the half of a block or so past the construction, and then went back to my side of the road.  As I hopped back up onto the curb and sidewalk, I also pivoted left.  In that moment, in that act of taking a step and then attempting to turn on the ball of my foot – something we all do unconsciously when we walk – a huge pop sounded off in my knee, followed by a flush of raw agony that spread down to my foot and up my thigh.  Immediately, I stopped, almost falling over.  “Shit!” was my first word.

I could bear a little weight on it, but something was really, really wrong.  I started to panic and called Ray, but I knew he was busy picking up our roommate from the airport.  I remembered my bus pass, thankful that I’d stuck that little jewel in my pocket, and set off towards the nearest bus stop.  About a half-hour later, I was home, on the couch, leg elevated along with my heartbeat and anxiety level, so damn mad at myself.

That started off the medical journey that culminated in yesterday’s arthroscopic surgery to remove a piece of torn cartilage in my knee – a corner of the medial meniscus – three weeks after the injury occurred.

In the down-time between the injury and the surgery, I’ve been plagued with frustration, a heightened sense of anxiety, shame, and rage all surrounding the way my body looks and how I still feel like such a blob in my own skin.  I had more than one moment with Ray, crying, admitting how mad I was at myself for pushing myself too hard because I’m so angry at getting so out of shape since he’s come into my life.  I’m mad at getting old.  I’m mad at my wrinkles, baldness, and waistline.  He, being the angel that he is, has more than once reminded me that he’s not with me just because of my looks, and while he still finds me exceedingly handsome, he knows that beneath this messy outside, I am a decent man within.  Him telling me this directly, and holding me close, really has done a number to soothe my nerves.

His support has also led me to using my downtime pretty effectively with regards to my writing.  I have been able to work my way through a redraft of about four chapters of my memoir.  This time around, it’s really up-close-and-personal, first-person, blow-by-blow.  My writing groupies have praised this massive turn around in my words, and I’ve even sent off a couple of query letters to possible agents regarding their interest in my story.  I haven’t felt this confident about any of my writing in a long time.  The words now are coming from an authentic, unhidden place.  I roar onto the page in very detailed and intimate flashbacks coming straight from my point of view.  The act of putting the reader right there, in that moment of time, has such power, and is *exactly* what I wanted to produce for a story.

Now that the surgery on my knee is over and I’m feeling like I can get back on both feet again, things will resume their normal course of events.  At least for a little while.

Ray and I have been also discussing the shifts in his life, especially with regards to his future job plans, and what that means in terms of our living situation.  Later this year, in July, he’s going to be taking his Level 1 Master Sommelier exam up in Victoria, BC.  It’s the kind of test and certification that will bump up his resume, especially as he also starts to transition away from table-side serving of food and wine as he currently does, and moves into tasting room/vineyard work out in wine country.  The Oregon wine industry is growing in leaps and bounds these days, and will continue to do so as the climate shifts and wine production done in central and southern California has to divest of cooler-climate grapes – grapes that will do extraordinarily well up here.  Ray wants in on it, as it is a huge passion of his.  He’s also working to incorporate his skills in design, with an eye to work on label and marketing material for vineyards throughout the Willamette region and around the Pacific Northwest.

All of this, for us as a couple, translates into moments of transition, possibly out of Portland, Oregon.  We both have dreamed about having our little spot somewhere, where we could raise a garden, chickens, and have a dog or two.  Right now, in the current state of Portland proper, those kinds of things are way out of our reach.  The average home price here is up in the $300k range, and rentals on single-bedroom spots (most without any outdoor access or pet options) is over $1500 for anything comfortable.   Given our love for the outdoors and access to the stars and trails and mountains and ocean, we are keeping our eyes out for spaces that would accommodate us both better without being too much of a burden on our wallets.  This year will see us both focusing on getting our credit card debts down, getting our finances in further order, and figuring out our next move forward, as a couple.

The fact that I have him in my life, to share in his exploration of self, watching as he comes into his adult form, is amazing.  I saw great potential in him when we first met, but now, two years in, it’s clear that we’re sliding into a far greater, stronger place as a couple.  His friends have started ribbing him about marriage, and it’s adorable to see him squirm about it a little.  I’m not driving that conversation at all, and have told him it’s all in his court – I’ve been there and done that and I know that if we do get married, it’s going to be unlike anything either of us has ever experience.  He’s making grown-up decisions about his career, and is deliberately seeking a balance between making the money to pay the bills and having a life that brings him joy daily, where he doesn’t always feel like he’s just feeding into a machine, but taking an active role in growing and shaping in cooperation with a team of like-minded people.

So, yeah.  2016 has started with a lot of shake-down, a lot of shifting away from the old and transitioning into the new.  While I loathe that I’m older and can’t beat up on my body like I always have, I know that this month to reflect and change gears has done me a lot of good.  Ray has also had to shake off some of his own doubts and fears and is making some earnest moves towards the life he envisions for himself.  The daffodils are blooming.  The crabapple trees are too.  Spring’s renewal is a welcome thing this time around.

Two Years

We have marked two years together as a couple, capped off by our most recent trip.  We met up in Phoenix, Arizona, where Raymond took me around to the places he grew up, and showed me the geography that shaped his childhood and younger years.

For weeks leading up to the trip, it was clear that he was going through some sort of transformation.  Ray got quiet, was doing a lot of hibernation and introspection, and like a turtle, he retreated into his shell, waiting for the clouds to pass and the way to be clear.  While I don’t know the exact measure and cadence of his thoughts in those weeks leading up to the trip back home, I could tell that he was in deliberation.

Two years is the longest relationship he’s ever been committed to.  Two years, while just a number, was of massive significance to him.

I met his mother.  I got to see the dead mining town where he grew up.  I got to spend some time in the little house, with the muddy yard and all of the animals, that shaped the Raymond that I’ve grown to love and adore.  I saw the skies overhead.  As the miles swept under us and out around us across the vastness of the desert, I found myself wondering what it was like to be eight or ten or twelve years old and having this be the only world you’ve ever known.  What did it mean to not have trees, apart from a few aged cottonwoods, to frame your view of nature?  What was summer like without running water, without a break from the heat?  How many billions of stars twinkled overhead in the deep blackness of unhindered space, and which one was the first that he saw and counted?

His childhood was so different than mine, if only by the way the landscape altered our imaginations.  Still, there are space where we overlap.  We both have a shared awe with the natural world around us.  We both can appreciate both being in the middle of an urban center and the madness that we escape the moment we get beyond the urban boundaries.  We both know how to find Polaris in the night sky.  We both close our eyes and inhale deeply when the ground is freshly dampened by a rain.  We both know how to let go and be honest with ourselves and with each other, holding honest conversations in the strangest of places.  We reach out instinctively for the other’s hand to squeeze when words can’t explain the feelings, or simply fall short.

Two years into this, and I love him even more.  Two years, and he’s coming back out of his shell.

“We’ve both put on a little weight together, and that’s not a bad thing, Thomas.  We’re just happy.  Stop being so worried about it all the time.”

He is right.  We are happy.

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Settling

The dust has started to settle with my move into Ray’s place.  We hit the grocery stores pretty hard yesterday, spending quite a bit of money to procure food for us both.  I’ve done a number of laundry loads so that, as of right now, we are all caught up (Ray is terrible with laundry upkeep).  My things have made their way out of the living room and into the bedroom, which was quite a feat, but there’s plenty of room to store my stuff, and room to still move around in the space, surprisingly.  I’ve paid my share of the rent, updated all of my addresses and such with all the various entities who need to know (thank you internet), and I’ve begun cooking my own food and adjusting to this new place.

It’s a lot quieter here, for some reason.  I think it’s because there are no pets.  I do miss Dougan and Punkass.  I miss my conversations with Bil throughout the day.

For some reason, I have a lot more time on my days off than before.  Maybe it’s the art of actually relaxing again, of not feeling like I’m in transition anymore, and not having to go-go-go in order to keep my nerves in check, that has suddenly opened up the feeling of more time in a day for me.

I’m feeling a lot more in control of my own life, and functioning at a level akin to where I was when I first moved here.  I did things and put energy into making a home and a space in Caleb’s house, and felt more invested, more connected.  My time with the fellas, after Caleb and I split, was really an interlude.  I felt comfortable there, and they were so instrumental in helping me find a center of gravity that was sorely missed after things with Caleb and I fell apart.  Having moved beyond that now, though, I do feel different.  It’s not better or worse, just different.  More engaged.  More aware.  More myself, perhaps?

I’m glad I took Ray up on his offer to live with him.  I’m having those quiet moments in my head when I realize I’m doing the things I have done before with other boyfriends that I’ve lived with, except this time around, he’s an active participant in them.  Cooking, cleaning, organizing, planning, scheming, conversing, loving – all of these rudiments of daily life I can now, once again, share with someone who matters to me.  I draw great fulfillment from this.

Shared Space Anxiety: An Understanding

Tomorrow, I begin the process of bringing stuff to my next address.  I will be officially moving in with Ray, and as of July 1, 2015, we will begin sharing a habitation together.  I have to say, though, the last month or so has been fraught with emotions, and I’ve not been able to pin down just why, until today.

I was out on a walk, a seven-mile journey around my side of town.  Over the last week, I’ve taken multiple multi-mile walks, and used the time both as a means to focus on myself and my body in motion, but also to avoid the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and nerves that this upcoming move has brought up in me.  It’s been nice to feel my muscles flex, to feel blood rushing through my veins and arteries, to focus on my breath, my pulse, my footfalls.  It’s been nice to take some of the mental machinations and let them flow through the rest of my body.  I’m built to deal with anxiety by taking out on the entirety of my body. It’s what I’ve always done. Still, I had no idea why I have been feeling so damned uptight. Moving in with my boyfriend has never been this hard.

As I shot a text to a friend, though, after I’d explained how I had a meltdown last night, and a little disagreement with Ray, and a few tears, it all came into focus. The reason I am so wound up about this new chapter in my life, and in my life with Ray, is because, for the first time ever, I’m able to do this kind of thing without compromising myself in the process.  What I mean is that, unlike every other time I’ve given up my independence and moved in under the same roof as the man who held my heart, this time I don’t have to give up a thing.  Ray has never, and will never, ask me to compromise myself for the sake of him or our relationship.  This was a foundational element when he and I started dating over a year ago, and in that time, it’s been underscored and underlined over and over again by him. He’s never required me to stop behaving in a certain way, or doing the things I like to do, or talking to the people I care for. He’s never required me to live in his shadows. Because of this, I get to walk into this new living arrangement with my eyes wide open. I get to experience this not just as an attachment and accessory to Ray’s life, but as moment in my own life, under my own steam, and in my own way. I get to feel and be and see thing through my own emotions and eyes unlike ever before.

My mother warned me, as she scooped me up out of Boston and brought me back to Maine after Nathaniel and I split, that, like her, I have a tendency to lose myself in the relationships I make. Whenever I’ve given over my heart to anyone, it came at a price – my identity. Suddenly, my needs and desires and thoughts took second place, or remained completely off-stage. I did this out of my own free will because it always meant that, as an exchange for my love and support, the person I was giving it up to would be in my life for as long as I could imagine. Or, so I thought. In every moment when this happened, when this dark and wordless exchange of self for something else occurred, I spent so much time and energy and effort justifying it. It was as if I knew what I was giving up, but had no words to express it.  Perhaps I found the entire idea of subjugating myself to the whims and needs of another so abhorrent that I flat-out refused to believe it was actually happening. In the end, with Thomas, Nathaniel, and Caleb, I always ended up on the losing end of things. Whenever I would step up and use my voice, or express a thing that would identify me as Thom and not just whoever’s boyfriend, I would be scolded, told to leave, and ended up hurt.  Every damned time.

Part of me is terrified of this happening again with regards to Ray, even though he has been adamant and forceful about me remaining the man he fell for, and not changing who I am to meet his needs.  Being who I am right now, and who I might change into in the future as a result of my own choices and activities, is exactly the man he wants me to be.  He’s never intoned or suggested otherwise.  When I feel frozen with fear about this next phase of my life, I need to remember this covenant between him and I that defines the kinds of boundaries we both require.  It is possible to remain true to who I am and still have infinite love for Ray – how he was when I met him, how he is today, and who he will become in the future.

I want to think that this anxiety, shared by both him and I, has come about because we are both present and accounted for while it’s occurring. It also, for me, gives a certain amount of gravity and weight to the entire process – something that never was there before. It’s intense, for certain, but perhaps that also comes from the fact that this is actually one of the most important choices we’ve made as a couple.  I have to respect that, all the while taking care of myself, and still remaining open to Ray’s needs and anxieties as well.  He’s never done this before, and I’ve always had a rotten experience when I’ve undertaken the act of sharing space. This time, though, is so much better, so much more energizing, so much more fulfilling.

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.