Saturday, October 3, 2015

Comfort Zone

I recently stepped outside my comfort zone. Way outside. I mean, waaaaayy outside.

I got my first tattoo. 

No big deal, you might say. 

And for you, that might be true, but for me it was a huge step. And I mean, HUGE. I grew up with the image that tattoos were something drunken sailors did in strange ports-o'-call. Or drunken soldiers did on on leave. Or gang members did to identify themselves. Or people did to push social boundaries. 

And I am not any of those...

I see myself as clean cut, and socially conservative, and a bit afraid of what people might think of me...and I was like that until I decided to come out. And come out I did. Not giving a fuck what anyone thought. I wore what I wanted, and just lived my life... for a while.

And I wonder what happened to that nice young man who lived so authentically back then?

He became older and a bit too serious, too responsible, too worried about what others thought, especially his boyfriends. 

But, after some serious thought and some encouragement, he finally got inked.

At age 57.

But, first, let me also share this piece...

At age 90!
When I met my now-ex, he had two small tattoos, and I wasn't fond of them, even though he didn't fit the image I had of tatted people. He later had one of them covered with something larger, and quite expensive.  During our relationship, I'd begun mildly entertaining the idea of just maybe a small tribal band around a bicep, but never told anyone being too proud to admit I'd changed my stance about something so radical. But I gave that idea up, as my biceps aren't bulging enough for a band tattoo to look good, in my opinion. And I wasn't motivated enough to develop them just to get a tattoo. This feeling became motivation for a scene in my novel, Out of the Past.

One other very dear friend got several during the course of our friendship, yet it never changed my impression of her as she was always a bit of a rebel.

When the ex left, a new idea hit me, I would now get my tattoo, but to commemorate my new life without him and the transition of me and my new life into something bigger and better, I'd get one of a phoenix over my right pec. I even blogged about it, but one other friend pushed her way into my head, "No, don't! You'll get old and it will sag and look all saggy and wrinkly and gross!" And I listened to her. 

So, I put the idea out of my mind, until about five years later when I met someone special who has multiple tattoos. And, yes, he did push social boundaries, just a bit.

We'd talked about his, and I told him I had wanted to get one, but changed my mind, he asked why and I told him. He said I should do it if I wanted to, and for no other reason. And after a while the idea came back, but now I had a new design in mind; a four-sided Celtic knot, because I have Celtic heritage and one side each of the knot to remind me to nurture my mind, my body, my heart and my spirit. And he encouraged me to just consider it. After all, it was my body, my opinion, and no one else's, and  the tattoo would mean something special to me.

Then I started noticing several people my age with them, and seemingly respectable people too. And they looked good. Both the tats and the people.

I won't go this far
I began screwing up my courage; I found a nearby shop with positive reviews, and went in (with a friend for courage) with photos of what I wanted and was referred to an artist. We talked over my designs, he quoted me a price, and we parted, with me saying I needed to save the money. I got the money together and scheduled a final consultation and to leave the deposit, but nerves got the better of me, and I canceled. I later rescheduled and drove all the way down there refusing to let myself be swayed from driving on past the shop, once again. Deposit made, we scheduled a two hour session for both designs, with the artist saying it would save me money rather than booking separate sessions.

For days before the appointment, I could feel my heart racing, not only for the tattoo, but because of other changes I was considering in my life, some of which I've written about. All together it has been quite overwhelming. But, I digress. And the more I thought about it, did I want to sit through two hours and what if I can't handle the pain, the needles, the sitting there motionless? So, I suggested we do one at a time and start with the smaller one. And I'll worry about the money.

On tat day, I drove down, anticipating what was coming; the needles, the pain, the self-image post inking, the pain, the comments from others, the pain, the anxiety, the pain.

I survived it all...and the pain wasn't so bad; more annoying than painful, like someone repeatedly poking a small pin in me.

I think it looks great...and I'm very happy with it.

And then I faced reality as I had to go to work the next day. I deliberately showed a few co-workers my new tattoo as I'd discussed my thoughts with them. (And they have tats as well.) They were thrilled for me.

After that, I said nothing unless someone commented, and being the tattoo was on my inner left forearm, it wasn't that hard to miss since I wear short sleeve shirts to work in the Southern California heat. Those who did notice on their own were all very positive in their comments. One co-worker was surprised this was my first tattoo at all, as she suspected I was always a bit of a rebel and already had one, just not in a visible area. I'm not sure where she got that idea! Me being a rebel, not the non-visible tattoo. But, the most surprising comment I heard was that nearly every person mentioned they'd thought about getting one. Even the sweet, quiet ones. I guess still waters run deep.

Maybe I am a role model. Or indeed, a bit of a rebel.

But, for me the most interesting result was I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My doctor has asked me to monitor my blood pressure as it's borderline high. After I got the tattoo, it fell into the normal range. My resting heart rate dropped almost a full ten beats per minute and stayed that way for almost three days. My anxiety levels dropped to where I felt more at ease than I had in a long time. I didn't care what anyone said, or thought. I had my tattoo.

I'm looking forward to getting the phoenix. And then, that will be it. 

Well, maybe I'll consider the tribal band...
Mine, on day 2

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

In the years since my divorce and even a bit before, I've suffered bouts of anxiety and depression which in turn have lead me to periods of insomnia. With some cognitive behavioral therapy, and even some medications, I've learned to lessen my anxiety and depression, if only just a bit. Yet, the insomnia is still a frequent visitor. Especially when the anxiety and/or depression return. Or something else is running through my mind.

I've tried many remedies; lavender essential oil on my pillow, counting sheep or something else to distract my mind, focusing on my breath, white noise apps, Xanax, avoiding alcohol and caffeine at night, stretching, meditation, and Melatonin. I can fall asleep, but usually wake up anywhere from one to three hours later, and then can't get back to sleep.

Sometimes the remedies help and sometimes they don't. I'm not sure what brings it on and off, except maybe stress. A recent difficult period with a friend set it off, and when the friend and I stepped away from each other, the insomnia left. The friend has returned to my life, things have improved between us, yet a different type of stress has entered my life and the insomnia has returned.

My bedtime routine is this; around 8:30 I'm in my bed and texting with a special someone. Sometimes the television is on, sometimes not. Yes, I've heard all the research on electronics before bedtime and yes, I should quit the television, but I enjoy texting my friend. I've also read the research on reading, and maybe I should try that, (and as a writer I definitely should) but more the old-fashioned paper books, not the electronic kind. And I should read fiction as non-fiction requires too much thinking which then becomes a distraction.

But, I'm seriously considering another alternative...medical cannabis.  

I've been doing a LOT of research. Cannabis is actually healthier than alcohol and even caffeine. It is not chemically addictive, though one might argue it can become psychologically addictive depending on the individual. It is impossible to overdose on it. There are numerous medical benefits; it is being used to treat several types of pain-from arthritis to muscle spasms, reactions to chemotherapy, migraines, managing appetites for diabetics, anxiety, depression and, even insomnia. One of the chemical components in marijuana is even being used to treat seizures in children. Many indigenous cultures use it spiritually with the aid of a shaman to move some individuals beyond their emotional blockages.

There are some drawbacks; it is a vasodilator which ultimately increases your heart rate, similar to a cup of coffee. Pot has also been cited in possibly triggering heart attacks in some people. Depending on the strain involved, it can also increase anxiety and/or depression if the patient is already prone to either or both. Being I already have a slightly elevated heart rate, and am prone to both anxiety and depression, I would need to exercise caution.

Despite the benefits, I'm not ready to take this step. I grew up with seriously negative views of marijuana, due to the attitudes of the 1970s. It was the devil's weed, a gateway drug to harder stuff. The church and my conservative parents also looked down on anyone who used pot. The students I knew who smoked weed were troublemakers in school, and some of them I suspect were among those who bullied me.

In the early 80s, I discovered that a few close friends of mine smoked recreationally, yet they did not fit the image of marijuana users I grew up with. Did it change my opinion of them? No, they were still studious, hardworking and dear friends, but I also didn't necessarily change my opinion of the drug, as I saw weed back then. Plus, it was illegal, to boot. And with me being so afraid of doing anything wrong, I was not about to break the law.

And there's a couple of other things. 

Due to Federal Laws, the California Educational Code still considers marijuana to be a Class 1 drug, meaning a teacher found to be under the influence of it can have his or her credential revoked. As cannabis can remain in the system for several days after smoking or ingesting, should a teacher test positive that could mean the teacher would lose his or her job, even if the teacher hadn't partaken the day before. What is the likelihood the teacher would even be subjected to a drug test? Not very, unless said teacher was believed to be under the influence while on or near school grounds. Is it a chance I want to take? I'm working that out. And should I obtain a doctor's referral as a medical marijuana patient as defined by the State of California, would it hold up against any proceedings against me based on Federal laws? As Federal laws trump State laws, most likely not. But, it would all depend on the people conducting the hearing, should there be any, in the first place.

Secondly, can I see myself as a stoner, medically or otherwise? I realize, deep down, it won't change who I am as I see myself, but after years of having these feelings around weed, and  around those who used it and teaching drug education to my students, can I justify to myself this change of events and attitude, even for medical reasons? If only to sleep...perchance to dream...

One other reason I'm considering medical weed, I'm getting fed up with the big pharmaceutical companies raising prices of drugs to the point they are no longer affordable for those who are on a limited income. So, maybe I'm a bit of a social activist, as well.

Time will tell what I decide. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pride and Prejudices

Home ownership comes with pride, or is it the other way around? Home ownership also comes with responsibility.

I recently went through a big home improvement project. I had my yard professionally landscaped. 

Back yard
At the end of June, the landscape designer came to the house to see what the project entailed and what my ideas were. I found myself clearly articulating what I wanted (something I had not really learned to do before); I wanted mostly California native/drought tolerant plants and I had a couple specifics in mind, Kangaroo's Paws and a couple Manzanita bushes. Then I waited for his proposed plant list and costs.

Then I met with the installer who would actually oversee the other parts of the project; the pruning of my existing plants and the actual planting and development of the finished garden. All went well here, too. I told him what I wanted, he pointed out what he felt was necessary, and then left. A few days later I received his budget proposal. I eliminated what I couldn't afford at this time and we settled on the final costs.

Then the anxiety set in-could I truly afford this? When will it start? How long will it take and will I need to take time from work? And ultimately, will I like it?

After a few delays, mostly due to a few hard-to-find plants, I was notified when the planting would begin. And ultimately, G-day (Garden day) arrived. The delivery arrived unannounced prior to G-day, fortunately I was home! The crew arrived bright and early (7:00am!) two days later and I felt a bit of anxiety. 
Front, left

I am not a prejudiced man, yet the make-up of the crew gave rise to the anxiety; one Anglo and four Latinos. I'd met the Anglo before as he was the installer and owner of the company the Latinos worked for.  My anxiety came from my own homophobia and my perceived prejudices around Latinos and their views on homosexuality. 

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible to stay out of their way, yet intrigued by what was happening in my own yard, I kept wandering out to watch. I tried to eavesdrop on the conversations but the various Spanish accents I was hearing gave me a bit of trouble. I dropped a few common phrases here and there until, in order to make myself more understood, I said something completely in Spanish. The men looked at me puzzled looks on all of their faces, and one of them asked, "¿Habla Ud. Español?"

"Sí," I replied and suddenly we were best friends, almost. As it turns out they were more intrigued by how this gringo learned to speak Spanish so clearly, so I explained that I had studied for a few years before spending part of my Junior year of High School in Mexico as an exchange student living with two different families.

"Muy impresionante," they said.
Front, right side
On the second day as I was talking with the crew chief, a bearish man in his mid-40s, he started telling me about his uncles. And I couldn't figure out why. His wife had uncles, too. Oh, and an aunt. And it hit me when he said, "And we all knew, but no one said anything." He was opening up to me. He was telling me these relatives were gay, but closeted.

In his gentle-mannered way, he hit every stereotype, "I love watching you guys dance!", "Whatever you do, you do it with such energy, to the best you can.", and "I love the colors of your flag!" He gestured towards the rainbow windsock hanging behind me from the eaves of my house.

But, my favorite comment was when he asked, "What do you guys like to be called?" 

"Gay," I said. 

"Bueno," he said. 

It was very relieving to me to be talking this calmly with a stranger about what once used to be, though sometimes still is, a taboo subject. I never heard any derogatory words from the rest of the crew, either day. It wasn't until later it hit me, I had been the one with the prejudices. They may have had their prejudices, but they were nothing but professional with me. 

And that's as it should be.

I just have something to work on.


Back yard

Monday, September 14, 2015

Time and Space

They say time and space form a continuum. 

I'm not even sure I know what that means. I appreciate I can exist in both time and space. I mean I know I exist in this moment in time and now in this moment, and now this next one. And I exist in this space-the chair where I'm writing this post- and I also exist in this other space I've since moved to, the sofa on the other side of the room. Time and space exist and are continuous, and we exist simultaneously in both, but what exactly is a continuum?
But, I'm digressing from the original intent of  this post...
I may not know exactly how time and space form a continuum, but I do know they often give us some perspective.

Sometimes we need to distance ourselves from a situation in order to gain some insight to finding a solution, an answer or even just some clarity. 

My grandfather loved solving word problems while eating his breakfast and occasionally he'd get stuck. He'd put the problem aside and come back to it later in the morning. Sometimes that little bit of time and space would be enough and sometimes not. Sometimes the answer would come to him after his afternoon nap. And sometimes the next morning.

I've blogged of a possible romantic relationship I suddenly found myself in the middle of; one that has so much going for it-beginning organically in a friendship, we shared a deep connection on multiple levels, we had open and honest communication; yet this relationship has so many challenges for us to work through-we have a large age gap and come from quite different backgrounds, not to mention the 1,180 miles from my front door to his. And our own fears and baggage played into this mix. Ultimately, something got to us and we realized the romance might not work but we tried to save the friendship which, at times, also seemed to be floundering. To help deal with the pain of the loss of the romance and to adjust my thinking of the relationship as more of a friendship, I asked for some time and space.

He reluctantly agreed, leaving me to message him when I wanted and was able. 

We recently resumed chatting online and the time and space seem to have done us both some good. We've opened up to each other even more deeply than before. We've accepted where we might have miscommunicated in the past in order to improve the communication in the future. We acknowledged our fears and that they played a part in the distancing.

It's so hard to explain but even the energy between us feels different, much more positive. Perhaps we needed the time and space to move out of where we were in our personal lives, to regain some focus on ourselves first, then on each other and finally on what we wanted between us.

The past is gone but serves as a lesson, the future is uncertain, so all we have is the present. 

I'll take this present. And unwrap it slowly...

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.