Sometimes when you think you're on top, you're really just alone.
Having the entire electronic world under your fingertips can make you forget that there's a real world out there - a world in which people are having an increasingly hard time connecting with one another. We are more divided than ever before on topics of race, religion, gender and equality - squandering the capacity to learn more and faster than we ever have. It can make you despair for the whole human race, it can sour your faith in your fellow man. Can the good side of this sword make a cut that negates or balances its opposite edge? I don't know.
Title lyric from the song of the same name by Kansas.
Bless me, Blogger, for I have sinned.
It has been - oh, I could do the math, but let's just say it's been a long, long time since my last confession. Since then, I've... done stuff, you know.
My partner and I are doing better than I think we ever have in our relationship. In the rather stormy seas of circumstance which we are currently sailing, it's one one bright light, the one constant and true thing to which both of us can cling. Oh, we've had our setbacks, who hasn't? I think the current trough we're in has got to be our lowest, financially and materially, and it's worrying, but... Like he said to me just the other day, 'Even if we end up homeless I know I'll be okay if you're there with me.' Isn't he the greatest? I think I'd be dead a dozen times over if it weren't for him.
But that's not the kind of thing you want to hear, is it? Everybody wants the gory stuff nowadays, the stuff that used to make us horribly uncomfortable and now seems so exciting. So:
I have fallen into what is possibly the worst sin of all, I think: I have rejected the world and tried to exist without it, even though we're in it for such a short time. I've broken so, so many relationships without any real reason other than my angry pride and stiff neck. Plus I've made my partner shoulder more of the burden than he should have to carry when he was already carrying so many heavy weights of his own. I am living in an exile of my own choosing rather than fighting what I know in my heart is the only good fight left. Those are my sins, and I carry them like a stain on my face every day, a visible mark of Cain that turns every brother's hand against me.
Disappointing, you say? If I am to be honest, and I guess that's the point of this, I'd have to agree. Bitter, disillusioned? Like a teenager all over again. I was never very good at making the right choices, and lately I've just thrown up my hands and refused to choose at all. And no, it's really not working out for me.
I suppose I could try to justify myself; the arguments sound good to me, however bad they taste in my mouth. But I'm not going to do that. I didn't come here to get my feelings validated or be granted absolution. I don't believe in absolution. We're all guilty, every day, and me more than most.
I came here to tell you something instead.
In the depths of my despair, I've started writing again. It's been awhile, and what I'm writing is in all objective probability utter trash. But I'm doing it. I've written the whole first act, I'm into the second and I know sort of how I want it to end. I'm not going to tell you about it, not the slightest little bit. Like I said, it's most likely crap. I'm just going to keep on doing it. Maybe it will lead to another, and another, and each of them will get a little better. I don't know. What I hope - and I'll tell you this freely - is that someday it might lead to a place where you'd see my smiling face again, all time.
In the meantime, it's been good to be here. Good to think of you, out there, thinking of me. Most of modern life is a relentless shower of watery bullshit - because nobody even does real bullshit any more, they fake that too - but this internet thingy here, it can be really neat sometimes. Plus the porn's not bad, either - but I digress! I was trying to express my wry holiday wishes, even though the holidays are a moneygrab that profits nobody who deserves it. It's the feelings that count, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones. As long as I'm with my guy, I know I will too.
So, Goodbye and best wishes... For now.
There I am, standing at the elevator, just minding my business when my next door neighbor comes up to me. I've only ever met him once or twice before; he's a short little black guy, maybe in his mid to late fifties, one of those people who passes rapidly through the salt-and-pepper phase straight to pure white. Usually he studiously avoids eye contact, but this time he marched right into my personal space and started talking.
"You know the walls are pretty thin in this building," was how he started his story... Seems his wife, a nice lady I've only ever glimpsed in passing, never leaves the apartment anymore. He does all of the shopping, anything that requires going out. She hasn't been to so much as a doctor's appointment in two years. Agoraphobic I guess is the professional term. But she loves her TV shows... Or she did until cable got so expensive that they can only afford basic now. This man, my neighbor, was really worried about his wife when the cable went off: she got very depressed, withdrawn... Sometimes wouldn't even get out of bed. Until recently, that is.
After her last bout of five or six straight days in bed he came home one afternoon from work and found her dressed, coiffed and perky. She couldn't stop talking about a fight she'd heard the neighbors having - which of course would be us - and some of the juicy details she'd overheard. Over the next few days she followed the progress of our rapprochement with careful, water glass to the wall attention. She'd been doing better ever since - and all because she'd found something to occupy her. Something to absorb her attention, something that interested and titillated and even scandalized her at times. A story she could follow almost every day with characters she felt she knew.
In short, my love life is my next door neighbor's new soap opera addiction.
Her husband told me this so earnestly that I was a little afraid he was going to ask if she could join in, but that's not the case. (*THANK JEBUS*) No - she'd heard us talking about moving when our lease is up and was just as indignant as any soap fan reading a cancellation notice for their favorite video histrionics. Not knowing what else to do, he approached me. I'm still a little stunned; in his shoes, I'd never have told the principal players, not EVER. I'd have just hoped for the best. I suppose, though, that watching your wife of over twenty years drift slowly into a depression from which you were afraid she might not emerge would be enough to make you want a little control over the situation. Still, would you walk up to a complete stranger and tell them that listening to their sex life through the bedroom wall had cured your spouse's agoraphobia? I'm not sure I'd have the balls. It was sort of nice to be complimented even in such a backhanded way though.
"You queers done saved my wife's mind, an' I hope you'll never move" is a phrase I think I'll treasure for a long time.
Now I definitely think we're gonna move, FYI.
Title lyric from "People Are Strange" as covered by Echo & The Bunnymen.
I feel so restless lately. Useless. Like I'm killing time that could be better spent.
I suppose it's at least in part due to my (very late) realization that I can probably look forward to about as many good years as I've already had... if I'm lucky. This makes me want to do something more with the time I've got left... But something for whom? I can't really see the logic in making the last thirty to forty years of my life into one big gesture aimed at someone else that would never be fully appreciated and which would probably be at least half misconstrued. So it only makes sense to make those years as comfortable as possible for old Numero Uno, right? Thing is that it makes me gag a little just to read the selfishness in those words, and even if that didn't repulse me (and it does!) I know it wouldn't work.
There are some truths that are transitory and some that are permanent, at least when it comes to people. My taste for Prince, however long it seemed during my adolescence and however horribly it scarred those around me, was transitory - and for that if I thought there was really a god I'd have to thank him emphatically. A more permanent truth is that I need someone to take care of if I'm going to make it. I don't really care enough about my own material wants and needs to cook and clean and pamper myself. This is not the same, I've learned, as saying that I don't care enough about myself. I do. I'm just too unmotivated by my own needs - contradictory as it sounds, it's true. I have to have someone that I feel responsible for (and to) in order to pay the bills on time and clean under the fridge once a month.
I have someone like that in my life. I suppose that since I have found him wanting in some regards I could get rid of him and try to find someone better. I know a lot of people would feel that they owe it to themselves to do just that if they found themselves in my shoes. I know that I could punish him; I've been in a relationship with someone who punished me because she found out who I really was, I know how that feels. I don't wanna do that. Not so much because I don't want to punish him (of course I do, I'm only human) but because I don't wanna be the punisher. I don't want to wear that hat and I certainly do not wanna internalize that whole vengeance thing into my world view. Who has time and energy for that? Obsessing over people who have wronged me feels like hiding in a dark closet and cutting myself - that sane and that likely to hurt anybody but me.
I just wish I knew what to do with the anger that bubbles up in my heart every time I think about it. I wish I knew how to turn those feelings of impotent rage and seething hatred into something positive. I hear that's possible... but then, every movie from 1930 to 1950 or so told us there'd be flying cars by now too and look how that turned out. The thing I'm really afraid of is that at some point those feelings will be present in the same physical space that he is, if that makes any sense. I'm afraid that I won't feel those things when I'm alone and not keeping myself constantly busy enough, but when I'm with him... I'm afraid that whatever pane of emotional glass I've managed to erect between those feelings and myself during the hours we're together every day will shatter. I don't ever want to so much as raise my voice in anger to him. I love him and I'm afraid of hurting him. I couldn't live with myself if I intentionally hurt him.
Those angry feelings, though, and that fear, those are the only really lasting scars of one dark chapter in what might be a long and varied story. I'm still reading along every day, just wild to see how it turns out... I just keep my fingers crossed in hopes of warding off cliffhangers.
Title lyric from "Time (Clock Of The Heart)" by Culture Club.
I've been reading back over a lot of my old stuff lately, the blogs I wrote and the short stories, the comments on other blogs and Facebook. A little digitally-assisted trip down memory lane if you will. It's always good to look back through the old words and rediscover yourself, like recognizing an old friend that you haven't seen in years. A little sad, too. For all that I try every day to be a better and more ideal person I really haven't changed much. Sometimes I wonder if anybody really does change their own essential personality sheerly through force of will... Or if, as that cheesy vampire novelist said somewhere, we're are like flowers unfolding: ever more truly and completely ourselves. Every change actually just a further realization of who we really are and always will be. Forgive me if I find that both distressing and soothing at the same time, will you? It would be nice to think that my lack of change is not only not my fault but out of my hands completely...
Just as it completely sucks to think that somebody you love can't change for the better and if you really love them you'd better just fucking choke down all the parts you don't like because they're permanent.
Giveth and taketh away, right?
Right now there is snow on the ground outside my window.
I know it's just temporary: a few days ago we were in the forest looking at the tender new shoots the melting snow had uncovered, and we were wearing only shirtsleeves and jeans. The temperature has dropped exactly fourteen degrees since then and will surely rebound even higher within the week. March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, that's what they taught me in kindergarten. After much abstinence and an unbelievable number of miles racked up on my pedometer I am STILL packing around 20 pounds of winter gut between my ribs and hips. I lift free weights, I climb three flights of stairs four times a day and still my metabolism won't let me catch a break. Now that clean living and a reasonable diet have failed me after just a few months I'm going to turn to steroids and artificial thyroid hormones. Screw it - better living through chemistry, right?
Anyway, I didn't sit down here to write anything in particular and once again I've more or less succeeded at that. As one final reflection, you can try to do your very best without making it even once but if you actually try to fail you'll at least come reasonably close each and every time. Clearly, it's all about adjusting your goals - if you succeed at failing then aren't you still a success?
Have a wonderful time. Do all that you can to be happy because I still believe that it's all that really counts. Until I post again here, all of my best to all of you.
We are just digging out from an unbelievable ice storm. The ground, buildings and trees are all pebbled with ice that froze as it hit; the power was out for hours, and as someone who heats with electricity these days I can tell you that it was a bit of a bother. As if this was not bad enough, the sages who predict these things tell me that the temperature will continue to bounce around the freezing point with guaranteed precipitation to add to the fun. I will reiterate what I've said so many times before: I want to move ever so far away from snow.
Things between HB and I are... Well honestly I don't think there's an English word for the state of deep and abiding love overlaid with constant turmoil and uncertainty outside the phrase "soap opera." I am, however, willing to bet there's a single word that comes close in German. In any event we remain together and neither of us has followed through on the occasional strangulation fantasy so I suppose there's a silver lining in there somewhere.
I think in all honesty that the best thing for me to do is not to try to constantly tinker with our relationship as if it's a classic car I'm trying to make road worthy. I feel as though I ought to be doing that for myself instead. I've traveled a lot of rough terrain recently and suffered a few undignified dings and dents. I think that I will benefit far more from working on the things that are holding me back from the goals I want to reach, and if things work out for the better in my relationship in the meantime so much the better.
Sorry to make this such a short post, but today I am late for my daily mile walk and if I don't do it now I'll be doing it in the dark. The river is very pretty in its shackles of ice right now and all the trees look like they're made of glass. It doesn't make up for it being winter but at least it's something to look at, right?
As always, all of my best to all of you. I'll be posting again soon.
It's almost funny in a macabre sort of way when you think about it.
I mean, back in the day I really honestly thought that, because I was so unhappy day in and out over living a live, once I came out I'd be happy as a clam from that day forward. Once I was in a relationship with a guy I really cared about? Twice that happy. By the time we'd been together for years? I was sure that we would spend our days in purely pastoral bliss, caring only to gaze upon each other's countenances the way cherubs are said to care only for gazing into the face of God. Of course, like cherubim and fairy tale endings my imaginary future was just that - imaginary. Turns out that no matter how much you think you've got things settled and all the problems knocked your only real way of holding on to supreme happiness is to drop dead the moment you feel it so nobody can take it away from you. Isn't it amazing just how horribly life sucks sometimes?
Here's the thing though. Back in the day I didn't set out to live a lie, it just sorta happened that way. I told my ex-wife the day I met her that I was gay. She said it didn't matter, we could just be the best of friends. But then she said, "I think I can change you," and even though I laughed and said, "I don't think so," I stood right there and let her go ahead and take a whack at it. So to speak, anyway. I let myself be led into a lie without ever actually telling one. This time it's different: I think this time I've really gone and told a lie because I didn't want to admit that I didn't really know how I actually felt.
He asked me to stay with him. Every day he tells me that he loves me. He comes home on every break from work, he calls frequently and he constantly makes some very poesy gestures and protestations of love. He tells me whenever I express a doubt to him that he wants to show me that things are different. I don't think they are different. I don't believe for a minute that all of the romantic gestures and syrupy compliments in the universe can be taken as the true measure of someone's intentions. I've said so. He rather heatedly disagrees, and asked me the other night point blank exactly when I thought he could be doing ANYTHING I didn't know about as he rarely has more than fifteen minutes in any given day during which he can't independently verify his whereabouts. I didn't tell him that he had to be on my leash all of the time. I don't personally believe you can prove a negative. I also don't think one person can ever earn another person's trust back again. Do you? If you do, then please tell me how in the comments and don't be brief. At this point I'm willing to do just about anything.
What I can say for certain - as much today as ever - is that I love him. Really love him, the kind of love that makes you rush into burning buildings and sign your life away without a second thought. I don't think you get to decide who you're going to fall in love with. I only know what happened to me that very first time I saw him: I said "Oh, it's you!" even though I'd never met him. My life would have been so much less without him in it. I want to hold him in my arms at night. I want to tell him every day that I love him, that I forgive him, that I finally believe that in a real way it isn't his fault, it's his father's, his mother's, society's fault... But then I hear in my head how false that last part rings and I never say it. I don't really believe it. No matter what happened to you as a child there's got to be a time when you can finally put it behind you as an adult. I can accept that he's not there yet but I won't accept that he may never be.
I love him. Truly, honestly, deeply. From the deepest part of my own heart his face looks out at me. I just wish this wasn't so very damned hard. But like I said with my opening line, it's funny when you look at it right.
I always knew this about him, right from one of the very first nights we spent together. But what really did I know? That he had a dark cloud over his past, that something had happened to him when he was very young, that it had been traumatic and consequently was something he'd only hint at and never really address. He's always been a quiet person; like my grandma always said, 'still waters run deep.' Not really knowing much about what had happened, though, and being the complacent idiot that I've always been, I didn't really pry. Not until it started to get bad.
His father - his real, actual, biological father - had been content to stay in the background until about four months into our move to this city. Then an email arrived from him, and a few Facebook posts, and suddenly HB was exhibiting all the classic signs of someone with a pretty serious anxiety disorder. I've seen that before, I've heard some of the medical school lectures where they introduce the topic and how to medicate it, and I've always felt the drive to prove that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So I tried to talk to him. It didn't go very well at first... And then suddenly he woke up from a nightmare and cried in my arms as he told me for the first time some of the really horrible things his father had done. Now, I don't know about you, but my first reaction was that he needed some sort of professional counseling. So, in my very best I-know-what's-good-for-you manner I made him go to a counselor at a neighborhood center who was probably even less prepared than I was. She referred him quite quickly to someone who worked in rape crisis - and who had never had a male patient in her life.
What followed was a dark time for him. I was only partially aware of this; even now, I would have to admit that some of my ignorance was his doing but some of it was mine too. I didn't want to know that when he woke up and spent an hour in the bathroom he was hurting himself, I didn't want to know where he was when he didn't come home... So I enabled him, I suppose. Until I couldn't possibly fail to see it, anyway, and confronted him about it.
I won't pretend that a single confrontation like that fixed everything either. Anyway, there wasn't just one. But I was willing to do things to help that no therapist would, and I suppose that someday soon I'll write a post about that too. I suppose you could call them trust-building exercises... But as different in degree from the silly things they have you do at company retreats as putting a man on the moon was different from kids playing spaceships in the sandbox. I won't say that things really even are fixed, not yet, but some of those exercises we did together plus the fact that I am much more aware of his whereabouts and actions during each and every minute do seem to be helping. Or maybe I'm kidding myself, I don't know.
What I do know is that when he tells me he loves me I believe that he means it, no matter what the concept of love actually means to him. And I love him. I don't want to even try to imagine my life without him. He helped me through something that almost killed me and I want to do the same for him. I just wish I was sure that it's possible for me to help him... Or that helping him won't kill me for that matter. But you know what they say: wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up first. I hate that I don't know even deep in my heart if I'm doing the right thing.
But I'm still doing it.
Title lyric from "That's What Love Is For" by Amy Grant.
The snowy sky outside my window is so misty and grey that there is no doubting winter. This is usually my dark time of year both physically and mentally; even my best winters have been long, moody and introspective seasons. This one is especially so even though I try to make light of it. I want to over-eat, I want to cry, I want to boohoo in my beer about how hard and unfair my life is. I literally feel stupid sometimes, like I can feel the machinery for thinking in its accustomed place but I can't get it to function properly. Caffeine either has no effect or makes me sleepy and irritable. The only thing that makes me feel even a little better is a large meal of heavy pasta - which for some reason does make me feel rather peppy after I wake up from the marinara coma- but my waistline get quickly bowed out of shape by that kind of indulgence. I am all at loose ends, as my grandmother used to say. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever shape up.
For all that I'm a mess I can at least say that I see some personal signs of progress in the issues we're currently battling. I will admit that, in the wake of some of the recent relationship turbulence we've experienced, I mentally tried on blaming HB for my current state of mind and body the way you might mentally try on a hat in a clothing store with no mirror handy. It was an ill-fitting and unbecoming garment at best. I'm not going to blame him - not because I'm such a noble and forgiving person but more because he's not really to blame in the first place. Sure, some of the revelations he's made to me lately about his past and how my role in his life has played into that trauma have really shaken me. I love him - no if's, and's, but's or though's - and I literally get frightened for both of us when I think of what it might be like not to have him in my life. He needs me and he knows it. I need him and I know it. If we're not in the healthiest place now it's because we're crossing over from a good place to a better one and the only way is through involves dealing with this in some part. That's the best I can do right now, and I don't think it's so shabby.
I did count one victory this week - I sold my first spoon on E-Bay. Here's a picture:
I got thirty-five smackeroos for that baby, and I don't mind bragging that I only paid TEN CENTS for it. I have around another twenty spoons like it - antique, sterling collectibles - and the most I've paid yet was fifty cents for one of them. I look forward to selling each and every one of them - along with anything else I think'll sell - from my new E-Bay store. Since I feel no remorse for asking you guys to wish me luck, I'll ask you here again - after all, E-Bay can be a harsh mistress. Still, it's kinda fun and it keeps me off the street.
So that's where I'm at today, kids. Things could change completely tomorrow. In fact, I'm pretty sure they will in some way. But isn't that what tomorrow's for? Maybe it will be a good change. I hope so.
Title lyric from "Oh No!" by Marina & The Diamonds.
My days are anything but emotionally peaceful lately.
When I hear about something I'm unfamiliar with, my first impulse is to study up on it. While this has given me a wide (if generalized) knowledge base and a very interesting set of life skills along with the ability to work what I've learned into a conversation, what I'm learning recently hasn't been to my overall benefit. I've read things like this which, despite reading like a college essay done the night before is far more accurate about his behavior than his horoscope. I've read things like this, and then awakened in the middle of the night to creep into the bathroom to vomit and cry about it. The things I've learned lately have robbed me of my sleep, my peace of mind and my ability to take him in my arms and have satisfying sex with him. It haunts my every waking thought. What it hasn't done is the one thing I did all of this study for: it hasn't shown me what to do.
I've actually made up my mind to leave him. Not just once, either; a dozen times, a hundred. I have some really excellent reasons. He has put not just my sanity but my physical health at risk, he has lied to me so thoroughly and so expertly that even now the only facts I really believe are the ones I've established through my own detective work - pretty grim facts at that. He has actually made me question my own motives in loving him and that's not just a pretty good trick, that's damn near magic. There's only one thing he hasn't been able to shake me from, and that's the basic fact that I DO love him. I can't stop no matter how hard I try. I think sometimes that I am actually more concerned with his welfare and happiness than I could ever be with my own. So how could I ever leave him?
All through our relationship I've seen its parallels to my relationship with my ex wife, D. Every time though, our roles have been reversed. This instance is no exception. She struggled to love me because I was gay. I told her a million times that I could not help it, had never chosen or decided to be gay and just had to deal with it. She could never accept the idea that I could no more bury my attractions to men than I could change my eye color through force of will. Here I find myself in the mirror situation, where he has this burden he has to carry and certainly never chose. He tells me - as much of the literature on this subject tells me - that he can't always choose how it affects him or even control his own behavior. I get that he didn't pick this horrible mark on his soul, and I get that it's going to be there like a shadow over him. I've accepted that. What I'm not sure I can accept is that he can't control his behavior. After all, I subverted as deep and integral a part of myself as my own sexuality for almost two decades. He doesn't have to face anger and rejection if he tells his partner that he feels these urges to hurt himself or act out. I don't know if I can accept that he's going to lie to me. Much as I hate to admit it, I just don't know if I'm that strong.
Thing is, I don't know if I have to be that strong. At every other point in my life where I could have taken a stand and made a real difference I've been too cowardly and self-loathing to do it. This time, it could be - I hope so very much that it IS - that the love I can't deny I feel for him, the love that won't die in the face of all this ongoing struggle - will be strong when I can't be. Maybe this is one of those times they write cheap songs about, when love will see us through. If I believed there was a god, I'd pray for it.
It's hard to love someone who's been hurt so badly that the marks are permanent. Nobody wants to think of themselves as damaged goods. Nobody wants to love someone who has big, ugly scars - even when they're the kind of scars that you can't see. Love should be blind, as my grandma used to tell me, but not stupid. Trouble is, you don't always get to pick who you love, sometimes love picks for you. I don't want you to think that I'm crying in my beer for having made a bad choice, either; just as I will make no apologies for loving a man, I'll make no excuses for which man I love. It is only that this has been a weight on my heart for some time now, and the only way I know to ease that weight is to share it.
When I met him, I didn't know this about him, I hadn't seen his secret face. His isn't the kind of trauma that you can see, it doesn't manifest itself in facial tics or mumbling aloud like a cartoon schizophrenic. It's something that he carries inside in a way that warps the way he sees the world. The language of trust draws him, but it's foreign; when he tries to speak it, all that comes out are lies. Like the victim of a fire or a terrible accident he can be ugly. But also just like them, he didn't ask for this, and just like them, sometimes the beauty shines out of him. He didn't ask for the fears and constant anxiety, he didn't ask for the impulsive behaviors that hold him back and make loving him so very difficult, and he certainly didn't ask for his parent to be a tormentor instead. I loved him before I knew, but when he told me and I had that moment of clarity during which - however short - we make most of our life's snap decisions, I knew that it wasn't enough, not nearly enough, to break the bond of my love for him. I just love him so very much, you see.
To further that analogy a little, however, most chains that are strong enough not to snap under even the greatest of sudden pulls will wear out under constant stress. The rope that holds a thousand pounds the day after it's woven will snap under fifty pounds of stress if you use it every day and leave it in the wind and rain for a year. Lately, there have been these little moments when I have to wonder how much strength there still is in our bond and how much has been worn away. I love him still, deeply and truly, and I try every day to recognize and appreciate a different way that he makes me happy. I just think... Forgive me for saying this, but I just think I might find my stresses lessened if I were not the only rope anchoring him. A true friend, a counselor, someone to help. The trouble is that talking about what happened to him guarantees that he'll act out, usually in some quite unpleasant way.
So I find myself here, tied by chains of love and commitment to someone whose burden is so much larger than mine, tell you (all!) about it. Does that make me so different from the rest of us? After all, life is a fatal condition with symptoms that begin early and accelerate with time. I know that each of you carries a burden as I do, and to compare them and say 'mine is more than his' is the height of stupidity. I try hard to 'sing in my chains like the sea' as Dylan says. But sometimes, if you don't mind, I'd like to bring them here and share them with you. If you share your load it's easier to carry even if it's no lighter, right?
All of my best, as always, to all of you. Thank you for being who you are. Bless you for who you are becoming. Always be close.