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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Look Up -------

We've got our smart phones but we're a very dumb people.  It's time for my life to take a different turn.  I'm not happy where it is today.  I find that evaluations of my life on a regular basis is essential.  To be sure I am on the right track.  The track I actually want to be on instead of a road that has simply evolved, one that has just occurred by happenstance instead of by a concerted choice of mine.  Today, I'm choosing differently.   I have to.  I really do.  Today I am choosing to look up, into the eyes of those around me more than down at a mobile screen.  Today I'm going to leave my mobile at home, or alone, for an hour....or more.  I may even turn it off.....and go to the gym, or take a walk, or read a book.  Who knows what may happen.

I am 52 years old.  And as much as I love technology, it is plain to see what negative effects it has had on our human world.  The world of connecting on a human, lifelike level.  Oh, we're connected on the screen, no doubt.  But that's where it ends.  It's like a life half lived.   I've got a husband who needs me now.  Today.  Right this minute.  Far more than my need to answer a text message.  I've got a life that needs creating -- into a peaceful, warm environment.  Far more than my need to see if I have any notifications or "likes".  So what is the value if someone "likes" you on Facebook but hates you in real life. 

In a recent writing, I shared of my irritation with life in past years.  And I shared that I don't like it.  Today is a day to do something different.  Anything! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where Did It Go?

Where did it go?  My ability to be happy more often than not.  My ability to not be irritated right from the get-go in the morning.  And my inability to allow what used to fuel my life to propel me into old age.  I always saw myself as the guy who would grow old beautifully, happily, gracefully and with a giant appreciation for the world around me. 

I walk outside on a perfectly beautiful morning and I'm instantly irritated.  The unthoughtful person who has tied their dog to the bike rack by our front door on private property pisses me off.  Rainier Beer cans tossed into the grass along our street makes me angry along with the speeding cars that careen their way down our 20-mile-per-hour section of neighborhood.  Drivers that don't keep up with the speed limit, hold up traffic, and have no idea where they are going send me to a place I don't care for.  And the list goes on. 

The clear blue morning sky no longer holds the attraction that it once did for me.  I miss the power that the plants, trees and grass used to hold over me.  The outdoors have always been my mainstay.  My rock.  And they used to be my focus.  But I've lost it.  And I recognize it.  I know very well that a separation has taken place.  I know instantly when I'm "there" and really need to be "over there" mentally, emotionally.....and even sometimes physically.  A Hawaii layover is just another place to spend the night.  My senses have been dulled.  It doesn't take more than a few minutes in a crowded mall with teenagers and families doing absolutely nothing to send me into deep longing to be back outside.  I find that my best times are in solace and quite peacefulness nowadays.  Having fun, being in public, going to big events and partying......bleh. 

Now I don't want you to think I've gone off the deep end.  Because I have not.  I just have found myself in a period of my life that I do not truly enjoy.  Content I don't struggle with.  I am very much content -- except for this one sort of "issue" hanging over me.  I  know it.  I recognize it.  And I don't like it.  I've started back to the gym thinking that forcing exercise and oxygen through my system can't be all bad.  Yoga, I've struggled getting back into.  I spend far too much time on the internet and my phone and laptop which keeps me from being elsewhere.  And it has all cropped up in the last, say, ten years or so.  Since age 40.  The cares of life just plain old seem to have a hold on me that they didn't used to.  The irritants that are constantly around all of us seem to rear their ugly head to a higher place in my mental capacity than they deserve.  Walking Mason does not bring much joy.  It's a chore, not an enjoyable short period of time when I'd like for it to be. 

So, that's it.  My persona of having it all together isn't quite as shiny and bright as it may appear.  I know it.  I see it.  And I struggle with it.  But that's good, right?  That I have that much going for me?  It's just the long-term solution that I seek. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Enema

Bless her heart.  Grandma is more than 90 years old.  She lived alone until just the last year or two.  By herself in a home where she'd lived for many years.  She drove an old car.....for years, the same old car.  And she'd come to the Oakland Hilton Airport hotel to pick up her granddaughter Nicole and whichever crew members wanted to go to grandma's house for the day.  Nicole is a crewmember with me.  And we've both been around for nearly 20 years.  Nicole is a conservative Christian woman.  And so is her grandmother.  Church-going, no drinking, no swearing.  And whoever wanted to go to grandma's house was welcome to on Oakland layovers.  Until she ended up in a retirement home recently.   Nicole visits her as often as she can.  She is a very good granddaughter. 

Nicole was visiting just two weeks ago when grandma broke the news.  The pipes were clogged up and she needed an enema.  Things weren't quite right.  "Oh wow, okay," Nicole said as she stood in the drug store in front of what seemed like 100 or more choices for enemas.  She had no idea......this was all new territory for her.  A first.  She selected what seemed like the appropriate bottle to plunge into grandma's bum.  She returned to grandma, rolled up her sleeves, donned her gloves, and prepared the enema for insertion into grandma's you-know-what.  "Okay grandma, time to drop your drawers."  Grandma obliged.  

Now grandma has one of those walkers that seem to be all the rage nowadays.  All of the cool kids have one.   The kind with the comfortable sitting bench built into it.  So you can sit down if necessary.  Grandma bent over the walker and held on with her hands to the top handrails.   "Bend over as far as you can, grandma," Nicole instructed.  And grandma did.  Trousers dropped, bum bared, gloved hands ushering the enema bottle into grandma's, ummmm, rectum.  And no sooner had things begun, grandma uttered the words that began a rapidly disintegrating situation.  "Nicole!  I'm not so sure how long my hands can hold on....I feel like they're going to give way!"   And they did. 

Grandma's old hands could not hold on any longer and let go of the top handrails which dropped her bent-over head to the sitting bench on the walker.  Bang!  Her head hit the bench seat and slipped backwards in the walker wedging her head in between the seat and the metal rails on the walker.  She was stuck.  Ass up.  Nicole administering the goods.  And grandma, for the very first time in her life, uttered the words that no one was even aware that grandma knew:  "Oh shit."  Nicole dropped the enema bottle and helped grandma dislodge her head from the walker.  Grandma stood up semi-straight as the enema apparently began to do some sort of good.   And grandma repeated her earlier swear words -- only this time with further embellishment:  "Oh shit, I'm standing in my shit!"  And she was.

I don't think I've laughed as hard as I did when Nicole shared grandma's story with me.  Tears were running down my face.  I think the funniest part is that it happened to Nicole and her grandmother -- the conservative, Bible-toting, straight-laced women that they are.

Apparently grandma has learned a few new words in the retirement home.  Oh and for the record, grandma is back to normal.  Things are functioning properly now.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"I Hate No One"

"I hate no one."  Those stinging words are included in one of my latest Facebook messages from a nice guy that I traveled with far back in 1982.  We traveled the entirety of the United States from Los Angeles to New York and back.  We ventured to England, The Netherlands, Belgium and what was then West Germany (any youngsters here have no idea what West Germany is?).  You may remember my traveling and singing days with a Christian group called The Continental Singers.  And this guy was one of our sound or lighting technicians on my very first tour. 

As my life has continued to mature and evolve, I have indeed received friend requests from a variety of folks over the years.  It is always those from my church past that concern me.  I've been defriended.  I have defriended some.  I've had messages and chats, I've had emails.  And without a doubt they always include some version of the "I don't hate you even though I may disagree with your choices" phrase.  It is the new buzz phrase of the very old and tired, "I hate the sin but love the sinner" phrase. 

And so yesterday it wasn't all that much of a surprise to hear from.   I always send a message back first before approving the friend request just to double check and be positive sure that they know what they are getting in to.  I want them fully aware of my politics, my beliefs, and my inability to keep my mouth shut if they get going on silliness or idiotic comments or thoughts.  I simply won't listen to antiquated 1975 thoughts in the year 2014.  I want them fully on board with my marriage.  And I certainly don't want them to be my friend "Even though I may disagree with your choices."  Ummm, no thanks.  That was in a prior life. 

So here is his response to my disclaimer

"........ let me give you a little background on me. I hate no one and even though we may disagree on some big and important things it doesn't mean we can't still be friends. I married my wife 2 years ago and let me describe my "modern family". Her ex left her after 20 years of marriage and 2 sons because he decided that he loved a young man 20 years younger than him more than the family he created with her. _____ and _____ have now adopted a 3 year old and _____ and I are the God parents. We celebrate birthdays and holidays together and while I don't agree with the choices they make it doesn't keep us from being what we are, a family.   A long time ago for a very intense short time we walked, talked and lived with 35 others and experienced many wonderful times. I probably don't agree with you on many things and you won't agree with me on some things but I hope that we can agree that friendships formed in our life's journeys deserve to be respected and cherished. No hate ever here. Disagree at times, probably but that doesn't make me disrespect you as a person any more than I hope it doesn't make you disrespect me. Thanks for listening to my rambles as well!!"

And my response to him:

"..... And you see ___, I want you to agree on the "big and important things." The rest of it is crap. But it's the big and important things like admiring and affirming and 100% agreeing with my choice to marry my husband of 17 years that I require you to be on board with. I don't care what choice you make for your ice cream or color of car. But if you don't join me in my marriage and relationship and friendship to my husband, then I'm afraid that you're not on board at all. How would you like it if I told you I wanted to be your friend but I'm not on board with your choice to marry a female. It would put quite a damper on things, right? I have quite clearly learned that there are many folks from my past who make it quite clear that they don't "hate" me. They tell me that they "tolerate" me. My wisdom has proved that the difference between tolerance and hatred is nothing more than a thin, wobbly thread. I don't want to be tolerated. In fact, I refuse to be. I'm worth far more than that. I love your family's story. I love that it has taken a turn that you probably could not have ever dreamed up. I love that. I hope you're open to your story changing even more. Thanks for listening."

As of this morning, I've heard nothing.  Nada.  Not a word.  I refuse to be tolerated.  I refuse to be friends with those who don't like me because I've married a man.  Those are no friends at all.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

20 Years -- Time Flies By

Twenty years tomorrow.  I know I'm getting old because I find myself saying, "Wow, time sure flies by" frequently.  That's a sure-fire way to know you're gettin' up there. 

My father passed away twenty years ago tomorrow.....on March 19, 1994.  You know those things in your life that seem as alive and fresh today as they were in your distant past?    This is one of them.  The struggle, the decisions, the horribleness of Lou Gehrig's Disease.  And learned lessons.  He was most certainly one of a kind in many respects.  He was uneducated and didn't graduate high school.  He worked for more than twenty years without taking a single sick day.  His life was shaped by his love for the mountains of Idaho and by a fairly rough and sort of small-town way about him.  He didn't demand money, jewelry, stocks, fame or fortune.  He knew none of that.  But he loved.  He loved everyone and would do anything necessary to make someone else's life an easier place to be.  He gave of himself at home, work, church and anywhere else that he spotted a need.  To a fault sometimes.  He loved his family and being around kids brought an instant spark to his face.  And he never knew me as a gay man.  And he never made it past 62 years of age.  I could go on and on.  But I'd rather you spent a few minutes reading about his life.  I promise you inspiration from the words that I bring to you.  Take the time if you would.  Learn something today from the pages of this man's life.  Oh and one more thing, he was kind.  People tell me from time to time that I'm a lot like him.  And perhaps I am in some respects.  But I know myself better than anyone.  And I can assure you that I have a long way to go on the journey.  I am frequently reminded of the impact he made on others.  I'm still working on it.  (Read the series below in order.) 

Part 1 -- Impact of Childhood Lessons -- "He took us camping nearly every weekend all summer long. We had nothing fancy like a trailer. But we had a huge old sheepherder’s tent."

Part 2 -- It's a Great Day -- "I told him how much I loved him and what a good time I was having on my concert tour. I told him that I missed him. And, of course, I said “Happy Birthday.” All I could hear was his grunting….trying his best to formulate a word or two. But, it didn’t happen….ever again."

Part 3 -- Finale, The Curtain Must Close --  "My heart was broken already, I knew what message was waiting."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Back to The Mat.

Regret.  Ever had it?  Quite honestly, I haven't had too much of it.  I'm just not that kind of guy.  If I choose to do something, or not to do something, I typically do it after a well-thought-out planning session in my head.  First born.  Type A.  I do it with intention knowing full well that I may, or may not, wish I hadn't later on.  I know it ahead of time.  I don't usually look backwards except with fond memories and points of learning.  I rarely look back and say, "I wish I had......" 

Except there is this one little thing.  The gym.  Yoga.  And I'm clearly not alone.  I don't know what it is in our heads and hearts that allows us to ignore what is good for us.  I don't think I suffer from a lack of education or knowing precisely what is the best choice.  It is simply the act of making it happen.  It's not like I'm not paying for it every single month already.  Or that it is a three-day trip from my house to get to it -- it's less than a mile.  It's not that I don't like it once I get there because I do.  And there is no doubt at all that the endorphins created by being there make my life a decidedly better place to be.  Motivation is a strange bedfellow indeed. 

I went to yoga for several years.  And enjoyed every minute of it (well, nearly every minute, truth be told).  Gained flexibility.  Allowing my physical body to do things that it had never done before.  Learning something new that I knew nothing about before.  Exploring thoughts that I hadn't before.  Examining my own mind and heart and the good and bad that lies within.  Challenging myself to not look at that damned clock that they have up on the wall in the room -- but rather make my mind focus, demand that it retain certain thoughts and rid itself of others.  The yoga mat I have today is my original one.  And it lies in the far back reaches of the Kia Sportage.  Not really hidden.  But ignored.  At least I think it is still there. 

Last week, I received an issue of Yoga Journal in the mail.  By accident.  I've read the magazine before but really have no idea why this one particular issue arrived in the mailbox.  And the headline on the front could not have been more appropriate:  "10 Tips to Get You Back On Your Mat."  How did they know!  If you have practiced yoga, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you haven't, you should. 

And so, today, after a more than one-year hiatus, I do believe that I'm going back to the mat.  I'm expecting a hour of pushing things in my body to places they haven't been in a while.  The health concerns of my last year are in the forefront of my mind -- I'll need to skip any neck extensions or poses -- but you see, that is how yoga works.....it allows you to honor your own body and do what is right for you, today.  And that is enough.