Saturday, August 22, 2015

Where am I?

It's been five years since I received a fateful email that would change my life. It was from my then-husband asking for a divorce. It seemed he loved me no longer as a husband, but more as a friend. We had only been married one year and ten months, but together nearly sixteen years. He had no rationale, other than his feelings had changed and he had been dealing with that change for over a year without talking to me.

But, I'm not here to dwell on the past, but to take stock in it. After all, it has been quite a journey these last five years, a veritable roller-coaster of emotions, successes and failures lessons learned. But, c'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?

He left me with a mortgage, two dogs and a cat, the last survivors of our furry family, as we'd lost two other cats along the way. I also had my personal debt. He left me at a very troubling time financially, as the economy was beginning to tank. My school district imposed furlough days for several years, meaning a salary cut, while my furry babies were aging. And yet, I pulled through. I figured out what I needed to do and took those steps. I survived financially.

I also sought professional help. Divorce, as well as other life-altering events, can send you into a tailspin of depression. Truth be told, I was already in the throes of depression before he left. Our lives had  become stagnant, we were not growing together, we were not socializing as much, we were caught up in our respective teaching careers and our new house. Yes, we were in a rut. But, now I'm talking about me.

Through my first therapist, I was able to uncover some of my past hurts, now fossilized in the sediment of my childhood. I am a child of divorce with abandonment issues, raised by an emotionally abusive stepfather, with layers of internalized homophobia and all the self-esteem issues that accompany that troika of emotional fodder. I later sought out another type of therapy-guided meditation-which led me to uncover some of my unrecognized and unhonored strengths and desires which I often had swept under the carpet as being too difficult for me to live up to.

Through these five years, things have changed. I published my first novel. My finances improved and I reclaimed the house by making it more reflective of who I am. I paid off my personal debt and refinanced the mortgage. The furlough days stopped occurring and I actually got a decent raise this year, retroactive to the last school year. Good things to come to those who wait.

Sadly, I also lost my dogs and cat to health issues. My physical ties to my ex were now (almost) completely severed.

I am a survivor. I have learned that whatever comes my way, I can make the sacrifices necessary to survive in the physical world.

Yet, emotionally, I feel I'm a different story. On one of the first guided meditations I attended, I was lead to a bridge, across which was my heart's true desire. I saw a man. To me he represented a future relationship. I knew the Universe had someone for me.

Now, I am not so convinced.

In the five years, I have met a few men I thought might be interesting and interested. I've blogged about them here before, so I won't go over them again. Two of them stood out as being very promising. I met the first one online about eight months after the email. The entire relationship-if that's what it indeed was-lasted only about five months and today we aren't even speaking. I'm not sure what exactly happened except for some possible miscommunication which lead to a definite misunderstanding. But I grew. And I learned a bit about what I want from a partner.

The second relationship of note, post-divorce, is still kind of happening, though it's in limbo. It has been going on for about four years. And I am not quite sure exactly what happened as it's implosion caught me off guard. There were some red flags from the beginning and yet, some very nice green ones. It is this relationship that has shown me so much more of what is important to me in any future relationship I might possibly decide to enter into. I'm just very sorry he's not ready to be the man in my life, right now.

As I look back over my post-divorce relationship history, each relationship, both these two and a few others, have taught me so much. The first man wanted to rescue me. He wanted to be only friends but kept sending me little messages to boost my self-esteem. Those little messages were very tender and endearing and led me to fall for him. When I expressed my feelings he insisted he had only wanted to be friends and his feelings wouldn't change. Not now, not ever.

The second man I met wanted to be more than friends at first, which I didn't. I made it very clear I didn't what a relationship. With anyone. Period. He accepted my position and we let the friendship grow. The friendship grew and evolved until one day I was finally forced to confront my feelings for him and admit I was in a relationship. We explored the possibility of this becoming more serious. But, it didn't work out. And I'm not sure why. Now he wants me in his life in whatever capacity suits us both, though I'm still recovering from the heartache of the sudden implosion which makes remaining friends extremely painful and therefore, quite difficult this soon.

But, because of him and through this relationship, I have learned so much more about myself. I learned I attach too quickly, and I also have a tendency to hang on to what I believe could have been. I have also learned that allowing the friendship to blossom first, is very important to me for a serious relationship to work. I've discovered I need someone as creative, as spiritual, and as open to communication, both expressive and receptive as he and I once were.

I have also learned each heartbreak heightens my trust issues, and with the depth of the connection we shared in this last relationship, my trust issues are even more severely tightened. And I believe, even more, that the best relationships do happen when you are not actively seeking one.

As I move forward on my life's journey, I don't know where I'm headed, what I'll encounter or who I'll meet. I just know I can handle it, somehow.

Even if it is painful.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Year's Eve Summer 2015

Another summer break has ended which means a New School Year is about to begin. As I find myself looking back at my summer, I reflect on all the plans I made at the end of the last school year as I anticipated my summer break-those plans I completed and those I didn't and I ask myself why didn't I complete them? I also see myself preparing for and anticipating the New School Year, and how to make it better than last year. Sort of like Teachers' Resolutions. Like on New Year's Eve.

I didn't actually make many concrete plans for the summer, as I just wanted to rest. And recuperate. And recover. I just had some small home decorating ideas to further make my mark on my house. Plus, I'd hoped to read more, write more, and maybe get out and shoot some photographs. I did read a little-I started "Game of Thrones" but am finding it overwhelming with its cast of gazillions. I did write a few short passages as I was feeling very stuck due to personal issues. I got out a time or two but didn't find much to shoot due to lack of inspiration as I've shot so many of the places nearby, and wasn't much in the mood to travel far.

One of the two pieces by Hector
I look forward into a New School Year, with a new group of students and a new grade level; third grade, which means a sort of new curriculum as I'd taught third grade for many years before, so I'm somewhat familiar with the curriculum, though the standards have changed somewhat.

The only real definite plan I'd made and followed through with was to visit my mother outside Atlanta, Georgia. It was a quick visit as I'm not fond of the south, due to its climate-both political and weather. Mom is fine, just not as active as she used to be so we really didn't get out and do much. We did celebrate her birthday, at the same place we celebrated last year.

I had been wanting to add to the decor of my house home for some time. So, I bought two pieces of art by a favorite artist of mine, Hector Silva. I finally decided on some Talavera tiles for the soffit in my kitchen which I painted last summer, and some other artwork for my dining room wall which has been unadorned since I moved in. I discovered a buy-one-get-one-free frame sale which then led to a mad dash to find someone who could enlarge black and white film so I could hang more of my photography in my house. And I did.
Two of my photographs
I also began a major improvement to my home which involves professionals and waiting on them to finish is trying my patience. But, it's a lesson to learn. I have no control over what their other schedules are. And I know it will get done. Eventually.

I did, however, spend a lot of time binge watching some television shows I'd missed out on. Thank the gods for Netflix and DVDs. 

One other positive thing I did was start taking yoga classes. I had been wanting to for some time, so I did. It gets me out of the house, gets me some physical activity and tries to teach me to focus my mind on what I should be focusing on (my breathing) and not what I am ruminating on. 

The Talavera Tiles
I didn't get out much for photography sessions due to lack of motivation as a relationship I had had high hopes for began to implode which left me a bit down. And I've covered it here in other posts, so I won't go there again. 

As the New School Year looms, I hope to pour more of my energy into it to distract my thoughts from the relationship's deterioration and prepare myself to maybe possibly consider any future relationship, though I'm not looking, holding my breath nor counting any chickens. 

I had a very challenging class last year, very challenging. While every class has its challenges, there just seemed to be an unusually high number of special personalities in that group. I don't anticipate as many this year, but as I've not met my new students yet, I have no idea exactly "who" will show up. Though I will be better prepared with more challenging lessons to keep them engaged and out of trouble.

One challenge I see is my own self. Over the years I've taught, I've come to realize I'm actually an upper grade teacher but have a hard time dealing with the age and challenges of pre-adolescents. I chose to move to a lower grade this year, from fourth to third, because I might encounter less attitude. But, there's no guarantee. I've seen second grade girls with more diva attitude than Miley and Brittany combined. 

One other reason I changed grades is the class size limit. In my district, the limit for kindergarten through third grade is 24, while fourth through sixth is 27. That's three less students and all their accumulated papers to grade and  record; three less parent conferences; three less report cards; three less profiles; three less cumulative records to fill out. And there's no guarantee I'll even have 24 students.

As I involve myself in my new class, maybe I can get beyond this newest loss, and focus more on just the present moment and more on me to further my personal growth. With less student work to grade and record, maybe I'll be spending less time with it at home, giving me some more free time to get out and socialize more.

And I'll focus more on my breathing as I go from pose to pose further directing my thoughts on where they're more productive and not on something less so.

For more on Hector's art, click here.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Comments and Consequences

Innocent comments can often have unintended consequences.

As I climb out of the rubble of what might have been a possible serious relationship for me, I am left with a shattered heart and crushed spirit. My trust issues are also severely heightened. I acknowledge I did take the risk and explore this very unconventional relationship, especially when I wasn't looking and actually avoiding any potential possibility of meeting someone. In this relationship, I grew personally in leaps and bounds, and I will be eternally grateful to him for his love and encouragement and also to the Universe for this experience. I also came to feel a deep love for another man after many years of believing I might never again. I also began to look forward to experience the adventure of getting to know someone very intimately once more, when I had all but given up. And now that it is imploding, I am at a loss to understand exactly where and why it veered off, though i have my theories. 

Finding myself literally- and later, metaphorically- in the middle of this relationship took me totally by a pleasant surprise, and showed me more of what I want in a partner; so, now the bar has been set even higher for Mr. Whomever, should I ever find myself ever possibly considering a relationship again, which right now is very unlikely. Yet, I said that going into just chatting with this young man online

As a different friend was consoling me over the impending implosion, he very innocently said something which added to my emotional state, as it was on a subject that has always been very sensitive to me. As I was already hurting from the relationship's collapse, and the already sensitive nature of the comment, the unintended pain of this particular compliment plunged me even deeper into the post-relationship abyss. Yes, I know he didn't intend to hurt me, as he and I have never talked about this particular topic. Yet, I'm dealing with the aftermath, which is all in my head. And very much in my heart.

And being as I'm already reeling from the pain of the failing relationship, and the fear of encountering myself in a similar position again, let alone just entering the gay male community to establish a social circle, I'm convinced now more than ever I will never be seen for who I completely am.

Gay men can be very superficial. And bitter. And shallow, or am I being superfluous? While this relationship is floundering and may not survive- okay, probably won't survive- I find myself retreating deeper into my own shell to armor myself further against the superficiality of many of my gay brethren. 

Many gay men have a "type" that they'll date, or just hook up with. They're looking for a certain body type, ethnicity, age, or fetish. And that's where they stop. They look no further. They seem to focus more on the external rather than the entire package, the wrapping rather than the contents.

While I agree a physical attraction to a partner is enjoyable, and adds to the entirety of the relationship, the other components of the individual are also key to a strong relationship. A keen mind, a kind heart, and a beautiful soul are also important, as well as how the two individuals relate to each other- kindness, respect, priority... and often all of those together add a great deal more to the relationship especially when the partner isn't quite "the right type," which is what I experienced in this most recent one.

I'm not in an emotional frame of mind/spirit to meet anyone new just now, but as I continue on this journey forward into my life, I know I will encounter other gay men who will see in me what they want to see. That I can't control. 

I can only control my response.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Interesting Encounters

I think I've mentioned I pay attention to signs from the Universe, or what I perceive to be signs.

I recently had two encounters that have left me kind of bewildered, confused, amazed and somewhat humbled.

I recently traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to spend time with my mother. The first leg of my flight home to Burbank, California was delayed over three hours in Atlanta due to weather. We eventually landed in Phoenix, Arizona just as the last flight of the day to Burbank was taking off. With moments to spare, I was re-routed to Los Angeles International Airport, a large and bustling airport, some distance from my house, unlike the quiet, local airport in Burbank.

Once on the plane, I sat next to a friendly woman who asked a favor of me as we began to push back from the gate. It seems she gets a bit anxious at times, and that if she did show signs of anxiety, she asked me to simply have her put her hands above her head, and to remind her to breathe while telling her, "You will be fine." She also asked me to lay my hand across her upper back, while calming her down. She asked if I minded doing a dry run, before the plane actually left the ground to familiarize myself with the procedure.

And so we did.

She thanked me and assured me she would be fine during the rest of the flight.

She then asked me, "Are you a healer?"

"You mean as a doctor?"

"Not necessarily, your hands, as soon as your hand was on my back, I felt a strong calming energy coming from them. Do you practice Reiki?"

I told her I did not practice Reiki, but was on a Shamanic path, (which admittedly, I haven't done much with, lately).

The rest of the trip passed uneventfully; after all, it's barely a one hour flight, which gives little time for events to unfold. We talked of our spiritual journeys, she's into Reiki and yoga. And I explained a bit more about Shamanism. We talked of our families, our jobs and prepared our seat backs and tray tables for our final approach into Los Angeles.

"That explains it," she commented. She also saw teachers as healers as we help heal our students since we nurture them while in our classes.

We deplaned and wished each other well as we went on our separate journeys.

And I thought nothing more of it. Except to recall that two of my totems are representative of healing. The Bear with its ability to hibernate to look inside for its own answers to questions, for self-healing. The Snake, a symbol of caduceus-the medical staff, sheds its skin to reveal a new entity underneath, a transformation. And then filed the encounter away as an interesting anecdote on this trip.

This summer, I finally decided to do something to get out of the house and get healthier; at least, physically, which in turn, might help emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I started taking yoga classes. I tried evening classes which might fit into my schedule once I start back to school in August. However, one particular day I had to take a morning class as I had scheduled something in the evening.

I must say, I do not do morning classes, if I can help it. When school is not in session, I love my long, luxurious mornings at home, I have my rituals after all, and this class was at 9:15 in the morning, with at least 30 minutes to drive, park, check in, change, gather the props and begin to center myself for the class. I kept debating on going or not. I mean, I could always do some Sun Salutations here at home. Yet, getting out of the house was also a nice idea. But, to leave at 8:45 having showered and eaten at least two hours before class... Oy! As I naturally wake by 5:30, it wasn't impossible, but I still wanted to lounge around the house until I decided to get started on my day.

But, I pushed myself...and went anyway.

I arrived at the studio, checked in, staked out my spot, unrolled my mat, and placed my water bottle and towel to the side.

"Have you taken this class before?" asked a tall, slender woman, approximately my age, who was setting up her spot near me. "I don't know what props to get."

"No, I haven't, but I just get everything. Like the Boy Scouts say, 'Be Prepared.' Or the Girl Scouts, 'It's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it'," I said as I walked to the prop area.

"Ah, good advice. Were you a boy scout? What about a girl scout?" She laughed jovially as she followed me. "How did you learn that?"

"No, just a Cub Scout. And I picked it up somewhere, I forget." Some more conversation went on as we gently stretched, and brought ourselves into the moment and into the room.

A few moments later, the instructor entered and began introducing herself to the new members in her class, and privately inquiring about any injuries or health considerations she should be aware of so she could modify the poses as we went.

When she came to me, I mentioned I suffered occasionally from vertigo and always from arthritis. After some discussion (No, I don't get dizzy in Downward Facing Dog) she offered me some suggestions on the vertigo- keep a focal point when you are steady, and move your head slowly possibly keeping your eyes closed as you move into different poses.
Downward Facing Dog

As the instructor went on to the few other class members, my neighbor offered her insight on my vertigo. She suggested finding a chiropractor who specialized in a certain treatment for vertigo, as one particular nerve in my neck could be pinched and causing the vertigo, especially if I've been in a car accident which I have, twice.

She also said something which threw me for a loop "You're also a Highly Sensitive Person. That can have a lot to do with it. You see, I'm also an HSP and have dealt with vertigo for years."

How'd she know? It's not tattooed on my forehead...

Coincidentally, I've been reading many articles on Highly Sensitive Persons and identifying with the definitions...

Highly Sensitive Persons tend to
  • avoid strong stimuli- bright lights, strong sounds, strong smells, coarse fabrics.
  • get rattled when we have a lot to do in a short amount of time.
  • make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows.
  • withdraw for a period of time on very busy days.
  • enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds or art.
  • feel emotions more deeply.
  • have been labeled as shy or sensitive by parents or teachers during our childhood.
This list is incomplete, and not necessarily all of the attributes of an HSP. And like most personality definitions, there is a spectrum corresponding to the different attributes.

As far as the list and I go, I don't necessarily avoid bright lights or strong sounds, okay, maybe that's why I don't go to bars and clubs, much. I will admit to not being fond of burlap, but don't avoid it. It depends on the strong smell- if it's more odoriferous than fragrant, I might avoid it, but I burn scented candles daily which addresses the fifth point. Teaching has taken care of the second point, and I will avoid violent movies and programs. I could go on, but the one thing I do avoid is crowds. Not because of a fear, but too much energy around it. Being around that many people can be exhausting.

And yes, I feel my emotions more deeply, both the positive and negative ones leaving me overwhelmed at times.

And, yes, my teachers did label me as sensitive and shy as a child. I was actually in a "Special" class one year, which was designed for "sensitive and quiet" children. I was never actually assessed, it was simply a question on the application for the school. My mother checked the 'sensitive/shy' box and I was placed in this class.

What does this all mean? Well, evidently I'm a highly sensitive healer. Maybe my life is getting ready for a new direction. After all, retirement is only a few years away...

Hmmm, a yoga instructor?

Yet, there is a quiet unease about this; after all, shamans are healers in their respective cultures. And as I met my different totems, and realized their different meanings, I grew uneasy. Bear and Snake are quite powerful totems in the Shamanic world; as are a few of my others; Swan- a symbol of spiritual awakening, Lion- courage and strength. Ferret is quite rare as a totem, and symbolizes keen attention to details, also a trait of an HSP.

Spiritual paths are difficult to walk, especially if one is new at it and if the path is very different from one's current, or previous, understandings. (I grew up in a conservative Christian home.) Receiving signs, suggestions and teachings from Animal Spirits doesn't fit into the traditional Western mindset very easily.

Besides, change is never easy.

One of my therapists and I are working on one simple goal:

To trust in the process...

So, it's not so simple for someone who has to have answers. And have them NOW!

But, I need to work on it...

Baby steps...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Turning Points

I believe I've mentioned once or twice before I don't believe in coincidences. Things happen for a reason. And at the time they're supposed to happen.

April 2015 has become a turning point for me. As did September 2010 when my husband emailed me his decision wanting a divorce. Thus began a long healing process for me.

Three things occurred this month.

After years of stating I wasn't looking, not wanting a relationship, suddenly I find myself already in one. I think. It's still unclear where we're headed, but we're exploring whatever may lie ahead. And that has caused me to stop, take a breath and wonder when did it happen?

But, the two biggest events that happened this month are somewhat related. Okay, very related.

When my ex left, I kept the house, the furbabies, and my personal debt. I knew I had to keep the house for the sake of the furbabies, but I couldn't manage my debt and keep the house and furbabies. So, I turned to a debt management company who did just that. They took over my debt and managed it. They negotiated with my creditors to come up with a payment plan, and I sent my first payment in November 2010 with the plan to be debt free within five years.

Over the last five years, I witnessed my progress of paying down my debt and eventually watching my various accounts being paid off. With my final payment approaching, I arranged to send the payment a week earlier than scheduled. Why not? I mean, the money was already in my budget and I was getting antsy. I wanted this done. And, what's more, this final payment to this final creditor was now actually less than my regular monthly payment due to the rollover process- as creditors were paid off, their portion of the monthly payment was rolled into another account, thus accelerating the pay off. So, I arranged to send the payment to the management company on a Tuesday, and when I checked my account on Thursday, I saw the payment had posted and had been sent to the creditor.With this last payment to the management company, they were saying I was now debt free, and my dashboard on the website was changed to read "Next Payment Amount: n/a". Yet, we were still waiting to hear from the actual creditor, once the payment posted on my account with them.

On arriving at home that afternoon, I found a check in the mail from an insurance company who claimed I had been paying for a portion of a premium they had canceled a few years before. They discovered this error when auditing their books. The refund check even exceeded the final payment amount I had just sent to the management company! I felt like the Universe was saying, "Congratulations! You've done a great job, the last payment is on me and here's a little extra!"

The second major event to occur, coincidentally deals with financial issues. My school district and union have been negotiating a new contract as we've been without one for over eight years. Things had been escalating, to the point of strike talk. It's all posturing, I know, but that's the reality of labor negotiations. Having taught for thirty-two years, I've been through many negotiations, and only once did it lead to an actual strike.

The week after the final payment posted to the management account, I got an official email saying they considered me to be debt free as, according to their records, I had paid off my accounts, though we were still waiting for that final word from the final creditor, which we then got the next day, and that last credit account was finally marked 'inactive.' On Friday, the very same week, the district and union came to a tentative agreement which includes a salary raise higher than the union's last demand. And  a portion of the increase is retroactive to the beginning of this school year!

I find the timing of the two financial events to be somewhat interesting, coincidental, freaky. I get an official notice that I have paid off all my personal debt and no longer will be making payments to the management company, and the very next day my district and union settle for the first decent raise teachers in my district have seen in over eight years, after having had to endure pay cuts. It seems my finances are really turning around.

Perhaps the Universe is simply rewarding me for the struggles I've been through. And now, I can truly move forward.

I'll simply take it, and not say anything.

Except "Thank you."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

An Unexpected Teacher

If you look into the heart and soul of any relationship- be it a friend, a family member, or a potential romance- you might find yourself. Or, at the very least, you might discover pieces of yourself.

Sometimes, you may discover those pieces slowly over time, over the duration of the relationship.

Or, BAM! They may hit you upside the head like a two-by-four.

And that two-by-four hurts. Badly.

I’m still smarting from it; yet, very grateful for the encounter…

…and for the relationship itself that led to the encounter with the two-by-four.

... and to the young man on the other end of this relationship.

About four years ago, shortly after my divorce, I joined a few gay social (okay, hookup) apps to try and make some friends. I wasn’t trying to hookup and when I realized what was going on, I ended my memberships. I’d met a couple of men via them, some of them decent, nice guys. But, most of them were after one thing only, even if I said I wasn’t.

A young man messaged me on the last app I was on and we began chatting. At first, I was a bit resistant; as he was very young and my gut reaction was he was looking for a daddy, if not a sugar daddy. I thought he was cute, but wondered why he wanted all those facial piercings and stretched ears. As I didn’t want to be a daddy in the biological or gay senses of the word, I was guarded, but interested in what he had to say. After all, just chatting can’t hurt, can it? So, we kept chatting. Soon, he made his move and suggested fooling around. As there was over 1,000 miles between us, I didn’t see how that was possible, nor was I interested, so I politely declined. And he respected my wishes, and he never brought it up again. So, we continued to just chat.

Further on, he shared an intimate secret with me. He had a substance problem. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay, yet something held me back, something wouldn’t let me leave. After all, I reasoned, he was so far away and I could end it anytime I wanted. After all, just chatting can’t hurt, can it?

As we continued chatting, now almost nightly over the first year, I began to look forward to them. They helped ease the loneliness. Sometimes the chats would be superficial, about our days at work, or sometimes he shared his escapades with me. I kept asking myself, “Why is he telling me this? We don’t know each other, it doesn’t matter to me what he does.” Then it hit me, he was hurting, reaching out for help, whether he knew it or not. I offered what support I could not being a trained drug counselor, and I felt I did my best, if not more than I should have. He tried to go clean, but shared each relapse.

I took each relapse hard, I was very hurt. I had failed him; I wasn’t doing enough to help him solve his problems. He had rejected me. I told myself to leave each time, but still I couldn’t. And still, I couldn’t understand why. What kept me tethered to this young man who was causing me such pain?

As we chatted over the years, he shared with me some of the lyrics he wrote. I saw something in them. I saw glimmers of hope. Then I saw it, deep down he wanted to come clean. And maybe the Universe brought us together for me to help him get clean, to help get him to his destination, to help him continue his journey. This was either a grave responsibility laid on me, or would be merely a byproduct of our friendship. Either way, it was very humbling if that’s what the Universe saw in me.

At one point, he was arrested, and put in a drug treatment program. He went because he was forced to, being court ordered and because he didn’t want to go to jail. I tried to keep him upbeat about it as we celebrated his 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, and six month progresses

We also shared moments in our personal lives. He shared dates he went on, I shared about my divorce and the emotional and financial aftermath. I would share the few dates I went on (if they indeed were dates) and he shared his breakups. We talked about our coming out, our dysfunctional families, how and why he turned to drugs, and why I never did. We talked about the suicide of a potential boyfriend of his, the death of his baby brother, and the passing of my beloved dog and cat. We were there for each other.

He graduated his treatment program one year ago, and has remained clean since. We have continued chatting, and we both have enjoyed discovering who he is becoming; a talented young man, full of strength and creativity.

Yet, through it all, I was discovering someone else.

I was discovering me.

I have discovered, and come to accept, I am not responsible for his, or anyone else’s, actions. If he chooses to throw it all away and use again, it will be his choice, and as long as I know I helped as much as I could; I could (and would, this time) walk away with my head held high. Though I would greatly miss the dear friend he has become.

I have discovered that if, in the middle of a chat session, he suddenly disappears and I don’t hear back the same day, it doesn’t mean he’s discovered someone better than me who may want to fool around. His phone simply may have died, or he simply fell asleep. I’m learning not to take things personally nor make assumptions.

But, the biggest discovery of all, was that I had to go through the pain of his relapses. I had been reading a book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, by Pema Chödrön, ©2012, Shambhala Pubs., when the two-by-four hit.  Pema Chödrön, an American born Buddhist nun, writes in this book that, according to Buddhism, we have a fixed-identity where we see ourselves as either good or bad, worthy or unworthy, this way or that way. People show up in our lives and they either just help us along, i.e., our friends, or they challenge us in how we see ourselves, i.e., our ‘enemies’. I never saw this young man as an enemy; yet, he has challenged me on how I see myself. In fact, he has challenged me more than anyone else. I came to see I was a caretaker, a fixer of people. Yet, I could not take care of myself. And that was why I couldn’t let go of him, he wasn’t fixed yet. However, it was I who wasn’t quite fixed. In learning to not take care of him, I was learning to take care of myself. And if I didn’t learn this lesson, I would be stuck in that emotional logjam until I did, if ever. And that was why he was brought into my life, for me to learn this about myself through our relationship.

And the beauty of this is; we have talked about this. I have shared this lesson with him and he lets me know when I’m either taking care of him or not taking care of me.

I have also shared with him I was no longer hurting when I thought he might be tempted, but was now afraid for him that he’d start using. The pain of my help being rejected had now turned to fear he’d start using again. He suggested that I be afraid, that I own the fear, that I let it dissipate over time, not to rush it. And that he learned that lesson from me. It stings a little when your words come back to you.

It seems we both are learning to communicate with each other.

Needless to say, we have grown quite attached to each other. Facing emotions he has masked with drugs for so long is very frightening for him yet, he is taking that step. I’m proud of him. I am facing emotions I have masked with fear, yet I am trying to take that step. He says he is proud of me.

We believe we were brought together for a reason, or two. Where life will take us, we are not sure.

People come into our lives for a reason. Some stay for a day, others for a lifetime. Yet, some stay for only a season.  I hope we continue this journey together for a long, long time.

I’m very proud to call this 22 year old man in recovery my friend, and I’m very grateful to have learned this valuable lesson about myself because of him as well.

And I’m grateful we can continue to help each other on our respective journeys and that the Universe has brought us together.

After all, just chatting didn't hurt, did it?

Friday, February 27, 2015

My Albatross

They say seeing is believing.

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a sailor kills a friendly albatross, and as punishment, is forced to wear the carcass around his neck. This gave rise to the phrase of 'an albatross around the neck' being used as a metaphor representing psychological or emotional burdens often seen as overbearing, or as a curse.

I've had such an albatross hanging around my neck these last few months, though at times it felt more like an anchor weighing me down. The value of my house went up this last year, and with that, so did the property taxes. In fact, the taxes are the highest they've been since I bought my house eleven years ago. I've been cutting out any unnecessary expenses as I've been trying to save every penny to be able to pay the new taxes. I've also been concerned about whether my income tax refund would be enough to help with the property taxes, and if it would come in time to avoid penalties.

Come tax time, I gathered all my documents, scheduled an appointment with my tax preparer and waited anxiously for the (hopefully) good news. In the end, I was getting a decent refund, meaning I'd get enough for my taxes and have some left over. Now, all I had to do was wait for the actual money to be deposited into my bank account, so I could actually write the check to the county tax collector.

Within a week (!) of my preparer filing my forms with both the state and federal governments, the refunds from both sources were deposited, the check was written and mailed off. Now, like an anxious child waiting for Christmas, I'm waiting to see that the check has cleared the bank, and the tax collector has certified my account as 'current.'

While in my head I know I have paid my taxes, and I realize it's just a matter of time for the system to catch up and I know my other financial situations are improving, I just can't let go of this dead weight that has been hanging around my spirit weighing me down.

How do you let go of something like this? I know my situation is changing, and yet, I'm not in a place to accept it, to feel the impact it will have on my life; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

I've even created a spreadsheet of what my monthly finances will look like once my debt management plan is over. It looks wonderful. So, wonderful in fact, I'm beginning to make plans on what to do with the increase in my budget. It's hard to imagine that I will be in that position, soon.

Maybe it's because I haven't seen it yet. I haven't seen the evidence my check has cleared the bank. I haven't seen the evidence on the tax collector's website that my account has been stamped 'current.' I haven't seen the evidence that my payment to my debt management company has been stopped. I haven't seen the evidence that my bank account is growing.

But, I know I will. Maybe that's when I can let go of this heaviness.

 And then I can feel that my albatross is finally gone.