What the F is cool anyway.

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Right handed.  Brown eyes. Uncool. As time goes on and I’ve seen my hair move from brown to ash, and I see these lines form across my forehead I’ve accepted certain things about myself there once were, that are not now.

It’s harder sometimes though to accept things that were not then, nor now, nor likely ever to be.  Cool is one of those things.

I suppose it’s hard to define, and I imagine most people believe they are not (cool). Some folks certainly do though. And, to a degree, they may be correct. Perhaps it’s an air one carries, or the ability to set a trend, or that mystic quality people are naturally drawn to – I possess none of those things.

It’s all right. I’m not in self-pity about it. Not entirely anyway. It’s probably a good indicator that if you’ve been striving to be cool, you probably aren’t. Much like the aforementioned disposition of right handed versus left, you either are or you aren’t. Ambidextrous assertions aside, cool is a state of being that is difficult to define. It has no precise measurement or characteristic. But, you know it when you see it.

Growing up with perpetually low self-esteem, one can find they always feel like they are on the outside looking in.  Even over the years, developing friends, associates and loved ones who bring a sense of worth and purpose, cool still remains elusive.

It bothers one less and less I suppose, until you experience a reversion. A step back into the painful memories of what it was like to be distinctly uncool.  Awkwardness, lankiness, sense of out of place is often left behind with adolescence. But, not always. Sometimes being in an atmosphere that harkens to those days can bring about all those feelings once again. It wasn’t fun the first time around; it’s no more so in succeeding times.

Sometimes in my dreams I would be at a high school dance, and noting that everyone was laughing at me. This was actually welcome to a small degree as it was a step up from them yelling or sneering. But, in the imagined scenario, I look down to see myself in a cotta over cassock, altar boy outfit. I feel like such a nerd, and outcast.

Growing up trying to be good – Catholic was what I imagined I was supposed to do. But it appears at times it was another reason to be segregated from others as weird or different. This was not my goal. Well, I suppose it’s no ones goal really. Even Goth kids in school or those professing the intentionally manufactured attempt to be different clearly displayed the hurt, which comes from being an outsider.

Sometimes going into a bar atmosphere, especially one where gear, leather or other garment accouterment are preferred, I feel like I’m in a cassock. I’ve not really embraced that subculture and as a result am excluded. The question becomes is it important to feel ‘included’? To what degree? At what cost? I’m pretty sure someone who is important to me has friends that don’t think I’m cool.

Service in recovery, much like service in the church from my earliest recollections of being an altar boy, and in the catholic youth organization has always made me feel good when I was doing it. It feels like what I am supposed to be doing., what God would have me do.

I think sometimes folks feel like do-gooders, aren’t cool.

So, I’ll pray about it. Maybe God thinks I’m cool. Maybe that’s really the ‘in crowd’.

 

On the Eve of a Milestone

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So, I’ve been contemplating entering another decade on this earth and what that means. As time goes on it’s inevitable that one starts to think about mortality and looking at that hour glass and trying to visualize how much sand remains. Even though we are vibrant and live longer than we ever used to, at what point does the quality of living start to decline?

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I hear people beyond my age complain about aches and pains and immobility which prevent them from doing the things that they used to do. I see people who are haunted by regret for either not completing things that they wanted, or living up to expectations that they placed on themselves.

  • Also too there’s a class of folks who, looking at that hour glass with more sand in the bottom, than the top – have regrets for spending so much time and energy focused on what others thought of them or living in fear of judgment of others.

Much of my life, through necessity, and through conscious choice has been spent in service to others. It’s brought me tremendous joy. I’m far from a saint, and I’ve had my share of selfish fits – fits that would certainly would rival anyone’s I know – but dedicating myself to opportunities and commitments in my life has kept me positive, has reenergized my spirit, has affirmed my humanity and has many times kept me sane.

As I move into a new decade, with my eye peering that hour glass I wonder though, if it might be time to find a new kind of balance. What do “I” want out of life? Where will I go with my physical, emotional and spiritual health that remains?

The battle cry that is heard universally, once one reaches adulthood anyway, is that there isn’t enough time. Each day I can hear myself saying this as I run through the list of accomplishments for the last 24 hours, which inevitably leads to the list of matters that I didn’t attend to (usually a substantially longer list – because, well – there isn’t enough time). So, what would my life look like if I treated time like the precious commodity it is? What would I step up? What would I cut out? What would be rearranged in my list of life’s priorities?

 

Certainly Rob and my family remain at the top; those are not likely to move. But looking at other matters my commitments to service, friends, social functions, etc. What must stay, what can go?

Moving forward, I’m still not sure – but, there is a sense that some things could change. One at the top of the list is letting go of what others think. This is a character defect that has vastly improved over the last 20 years. But, there’s room for improvement still. At a recent spiritual panel discussion I attended I was heartened to hear some specific things in that forum. It was a panel made up of people over 60, some over 70 and there were about 5 or so on the panel. Men and women who had been friends for years, some for decades. I so appreciated their perspective.

One of the things they universally agreed upon when asked what was their favorite age. All of them said that their decade in their 50’s were there best years. Their physical vitality remained and they had established themselves already in their careers and relationships. They had a vision that began to shift about what life might look like in retirement (or what they wanted it to look like) and accordingly became invigorated by laying out plans for that. They began to care less about things like clothing labels, material accomplishment, appearances such as going grey in their hair, or gaining a new wrinkle in their skin. They saw life with a new clarity that can come only from spending a half of a century on earth. And, the new vision incorporated how to make use of that life-experience without being condescending. How to balance humility and God’s gifts with lessons that one can now help teach as well as continue to learn. They discovered in that period of their life, that they were happier than they’d ever been. Because there is a freedom which comes from letting go of such trivial matters of social standing, material acquisition, and seeking approval of others. I was energized by attending that workshop.

My own vision is in flux.

I don’t have a clear vision of what I’m heading towards. But, then again, when it comes to matters of God’s will, I rarely do. I more often get a vision of what it’s ‘not’. The things that used to be acceptable become less so, Behaviors which I had once approached with a cavalier attitude, take on new significance. So, if you notice a change in me – don’t be surprised. Nor alarmed.

It’s me – molting.

It starts this morning with a new head of hair. That sounds trivial doesn’t it? I don’t care if you think that. Ha.

I sat in the chair of my favorite hair salon last evening and I said we’re doing something different. “How different” Stacey asks. She can hardly contain her excitement in matters of hair-experimentation. Very different. “Let’s go blond”.

“Really?”

“Really”.

Why? Because I’ve always wondered how’d it be and why not today. Of the times it’s crossed my mind the immediate second thought was a dismissal. I branded it as a ridiculous notion. And, what would people say? They’d likely laugh. Maybe pay me a tongue in cheek compliment, or maybe shake their heads. Maybe they wouldn’t notice at all. Each of those reactions carries a consequence for the person consumed about what other people think. But, because I’m entering a decade of change, I’m going to let that go.

The hair is just a silly symbol. It’s an act for me, for myself to announce to the world, that I’m doing this for me. It’s just a small inconsequential thing that represents the larger steps I may take for myself. It may last only a week, it will likely be back to being dark in a month, but I’m doing it to mark this moment in my life. So, when I see a picture of myself, years from now I’ll recall how I felt at this moment in my life. How much possibility and hope lay ahead for me. Will I go to school? Will I embark on a career change? Will I learn to play a musical instrument? Will I write a book?

It all remains a question mark, but the possibility is there.

If God’s will for me is to be happy, joyous and free, I am that today. I enter the decade where all things are possible as long as I trust in the infinite and have faith that I’ll be OK if I cease relying on the finite.

Right now however, in this moment, I will smirk as I barrel down the Mopac in Austin Texas, top down on the truck, with my ridiculous golden fake locks of inconsequential symbol waving in the wind. How does it look? Wait. That’s right. In this instance, your opinion is not necessary. Thanks for having or not having one though.

Watching Time Pass. Watching Years Pass. Watching Friends Pass.

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I’ve been having lessons in acceptance throughout my life. Much of it, has been a struggle. Mostly because somewhere along the way I adopted a confused thought. (This is not uncommon. I have many confused thoughts).

  • Acceptance does not = Liking.

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Somewhere along the way, I confused acceptance with “liking” something.

There is war. There is poverty. Crime and harm done others. While I don’t like any of these, I accept that they are the reality. As sad as they make me. As cruel as they come across. Injustice perpetuated by others is not something any of use will ever like. And, by acceptance, I’m not resigned to inaction. I can become an advocate for any cause. No, acceptance merely equates to my acknowledgement that it exists. It’s true. Even if it’s horrible – or stupid.

It’s like I think that the my realization of the truth somehow equates to my condoning. This is a typical un-humble thought. I’m full of those. (This idea that somehow my endorsement of something is a requirement  before something becomes truth).

Simple = Good

I have been thinking on the topic of this late after the passing of my friend, self-proclaimed ding-a-ling and always-laughing Tom Delgado. Or, as I knew him.. simply.. Marissa-Endora-Carol-La Luna-Tome. (So named for the string of drag numbers and icons, no less memorable than Tom himself).

I don’t know if it was because we were the same age. Or, that I just saw him on my last trip to California – or that it happened so fast. One day he was with us. The next day he was not with us.

I’ve experienced death of those I love. You can’t have been on earth as long as I have and not have this as part of your experience. But, it never gets easier.

  • To the contrary – I suspect it will get much harder.

It’s an inverse equation. Although I’ve had a long enough time on earth to get used to the idea of death, it’s also because I’ve had these folks in my life for an extended period that it hurts that much harder.

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Of course, all this reminds me of the subject no one ever really wants to talk about. The idea that my own mortality is finite. That none of us really knows that if we go to bed this evening if we’ll wake to greet the morning. And for the last few evenings, those have been my thoughts as I drift off to sleep. What if this were the last time I moved the puppy Ganso because he’s hogging my pillow and snoring in my ear? What if this were the last time I’d reach over and grab Rob’s hand only to have him grunt, roll over and mention how hot the room is? Have I done all that I hoped to do by now? Are my affairs in order? What about that proverbial ‘bucket list’?

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No. Acceptance in this instance is that I will NEVER have my affairs in “order”. I will NEVER have completed all that I hoped to accomplish. I will never have an empty bucket list. These are as futile at this moment while I lay in bed typing as Ganso no longer keeping my pillow from me. Some things just are.

Tom showed me that rather striving to seek an enlightened approach, perhaps it was just as good to seek the simplest one – because often times they are one in the same. Many times in meditation and spiritual conversation we often wax on about big concepts, and complex notions. But the truth often is, simple is best.

It’s like a conversation I had with Ms. Delgado right after she was sprung from jail for hitting a pedestrian (to be fair, the pedestrian ‘refused’ to move, and Ms. Delgado warned her). It seemed to be the peak of Tom’s streak of rage. And, we talked openly how we hoped that this was the cherry on his anger cake and that he could find peace through God and letting go.

Tom devised his own approach to anger management. He decided that whenever he got angry, he would sing a song. Any song. (He knew lots, he was a music trivia and karaoke master!). But, he favored show tunes and anything Ethel Merman might sing. Because his simple thought was you cannot hang on to anger, AND sing a show tune at the same time. It just wasn’t possible. And prior to that conversation I hadn’t thought of that simple idea. Tom described it as ding-a-ling. I would say inspired.

So sing that song. Anger is anger. Injustice is injustice. Pain is pain. Accept it. Move on, or get into action to change it. But until it’s changed – it just ‘is’.

Spending the 4th of July Weekend… At a Demonstration

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Hunting Crabs in the Sand, Duck, North Carolina, July 2012

Hunting Crabs in the Sand, Duck, North Carolina, July 2012

We find ourselves in North Carolina a week after the U.S. Supreme Court decision to dismantle DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). While some of our friends have migrated to City Hall’s across either coast to either confirm their commitment or celelebrate in colorful parade, we are here enjoying a quiet (well, as quiet as it can be with two pre-teen nephews running amok) time with family in North Carolina. After spending a few days in California with the other side of the family. While we would have loved to drop things and run to the coasts to formalize and legalize a ceremony that was already held years ago, we don’t imagine there’s much reason to rush.

  • Family isn’t determined by a certificate. Family is created through love and dedication.

Those that we are enjoying this time with already consider us family in a manner that no additional adjudication from a court, church, civil act or even legislation could determine. I guess that is why I have not gotten as riled up as some of my contemporaries around the subject of marriage. I mean ‘gay’ marriage, although I suspect in another decade or so, that may become an unnecessary qualifying term. It’s because I fully expect in this lifetime I will see a simple civil ceremony (we already had the big-to-do-one) with Rob and I, perhaps with just family and close friends to confirm what we’ve already established long ago. That we love one another. That we plan to support one another through good times and bad. And, that we are a family unit.

Denouncing your family does nothing to lift my family up. And, is that really the values i’d like my family to establish?

So looking out on the beach and watching my husband Rob, stand and look out over the Atlantic with his brother Ted, while nephew brothers Ryley and Grady sit off a short distance looking for crabs and at the ocean – I see multi-generations of love. I am confounded why others, who have different political or religious, or inhuman beliefs are incapable of seeing the same thing I do on this lovely sunny sand-filled day. But on a day like today none of that matters I suppose. Life is simply too short for each day to be a battle. Today my e-mails are piling up (I see them out of the corner of my eye). My text messages are mostly going unanswered, there’s no TV on – only the distant sound of Aretha Franklin singing in the background next to my cold lemonade, sunblock, sun glasses and favorite magazine. My legs are drying because Ryley just splashed me in a tempt to rile me. I feigned being shocked by the welcome cold water.

  • These moments cannot be recaptured. There’s flight. There’s fight. There’s .. enjoy

So today, while groups argue about the state or non-state of matrimony – the nation mourns the tragic passing of 19 firefighters in Arizona, and friends ponder why I’m not marching somewhere this fourth of July weekend. I’m here, where I want to be, where it’s most important to be. Talking about family, and the hierarchy of life that I often espouse, isn’t just believing in a concept about the value of family. Like the oft cited phrase, “faith without works is dead” – having a value is meaningless without action. Which is to say, if we say family is important, it’s necessary to follow that up with demonstration. So – with that – I am at my own demonstration of sorts. Not a political one. Not one in the streets with rainbow flags and flashy revelers – but a practical one. Spending time with family isdemonstration of life, love, and commitment to family – in it’s most basic form.

Being Married

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October will mark Rob and my 24th Anniversary together as a couple. As time goes on, we find others who seek our guidance or suggestion on how to find a partner, be in a partnership, and ultimately keep a partnership.

These are difficult questions to be sure. We all are so different, we want different things. We have different values and place greater importance on some values over others. Thus, we are left with no quid pro quo, no ‘formula’ for finding your soul-mate and no guarantee step-by-step to keeping it once you’ve found it.

I can tell you several things that have helped me along the way. Maybe some of these may help you.

  • Don’t be convinced that you must outline what you’re looking for, before you find it.

Ok. Certainly some values are non-negotiable. Honesty, Integrity, Fidelity. But when one gets into the nitty-gritty such as… I like surfing… so he has to like surfing too. It begins a slippery slope. A slope wherein what I’m saying unconsciously is I want “me”. Other attributes too such as he must be taller than me, or have blue eyes – are just missing the point of finding a good and honest human being qualified of being a good partner.

Finding someone precisely like me who I can share my interests with is nice, yes – but, I consider that a bonus, rather than a must-have. The truth is, Rob and I had very little in common when we met. So much so, that with my limited vision, I could not see compatibility. He liked visiting art museums (ugh). I liked car shows. He was trying to perfect his water color brush strokes, I was trying to perfect the timing on breaking down my rifle and qualifying as a marksman. He was a democrat, I was not. Truth was at each turn of our conversation we found we could discuss little with regards to mutual interest. But, here’s what I found exciting. When he talked about museum art pieces, his passion exuded in his voice and eyes. He was excited about life and art. You could see he really loved art, and that passion was somewhat contagious. Today I will accompany him to a museum, because it makes him happy – and I get to see him enjoying life. And, he will even go to the occasional car show with me. His special job is to rate the cup-holders J

 Once you do find him – don’t freak out.

There is an invisible line. It’s different for everyone. 6-months, 9-months, someday – you wake up and realize. Holy shit! – I’m in a relationship! Panic ensues and all manner of irritability comes forth. That’s sort of our natural defenses warning of us of ‘intruder alert’ – someone getting close to the heart. These may flare up several times during the course of the first year and maybe even into the second year.

For us, it was a microwave. We bought one together because we were living together and well… we needed one. But this singular purchase represented a milestone. Because it was no longer your stuff and my stuff. OMG – if we break up, WHO GET’S THE MICROWAVE? This subversive mentality is constantly running in the back of my mind, because I want the other person to be as committed as I am. And, how do you really know? You can ask them, but if they say ‘yes’, isn’t that what  person who wants you to think they are committed – but isn’t really, would say?

On that day, after an argument ensued, the best suggestion Rob received from his close spiritual advisor was “Do you love him today?” – “Yes, but…” “NO BUTS. Stop. Enjoy the day with the one you love today. Wake up tomorrow – ask yourself the same question. On the day your inquiry comes back with a question mark, seek counseling. The morning  your question comes back “no”, then there’s a problem – until then – no problem. Let go, let God. Trying to run my own life, even in the areas of relationships has always had disastrous consequences. Here, more than anywhere else I need a spiritual advisor and a friend who will have coffee with me at a moment’s notice and just listen.

  • Commitment = Departure is not an option.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Gays not being able to be married is that it’s so easy to break up. There’s no formality in our coming together, and the departure can be just as informal. You can see why we are already inherently insecure about committing to a relationship where there’s no obligation really on either of our parts to stick with it.

Thus I had to approach this like my sobriety. This, is to say, drinking is not an option.  No matter how bad my day is, or what tragedy may befall me, lost jobs, lost cars, and lost finances. No reason at all. Truth is there are a million excuses to drink and not one good reason. Applying this thinking to my marriage was key to providing me the security to become the person my potential promised. So, leaving the relationship is not an option. Now granted, there are some instances where this rule would not work. Such as an abusive relationship, etc.

But, I am a delicate creature. One who has had a history of taking anything, or furthermore EVERTYHING personally. So, keeping in mind that my previous experience with relationships was just to resort to the FYIDNY nuclear option (Fuck You I Don’t Need You) and leave – this relationship would be have to be handled differently. Rob and I are committed to discussing each and every disagreement we have. In 24 years, there have been many. Some small – but others we each walked away from our discussion shaking our heads wondering how we’d get through this one. But you do. If you remember that departure is just not an option. Commitment for a lifetime means just that. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re frustrated. Even when you don’t want to be in the same room with the one you love. It all blows over.

Once I read in a blue book “we have in inability to form a true partnership with another human being”. I took that as a condemning sentence that I’d never have a relationship. What it really spoke to is because of my inherent and consuming selfishness and self-centeredness it is not likely I’d be able to realize that true partnership that comes from putting another first. I practice this as often as I can in my relationship with Rob. Sometimes I fall short. I’m now glad he tells me when I’m falling short rather than holding resentment over it. It allows me to correct my course. He “IS” the primary relationship in my life. This means if other relationships are creeping in before him, I have to reassess my priorities. That’s part of my commitment to keeping my relationship happy and healthy.

None of us do this perfect. I certainly do not.

We sat the other day reminiscing about something or other from back in the early 90s and it occurred to us that each of us has spent nearly half our lives with each other. If you’d asked us in the beginning what was one of our greatest fears it likely would have been – growing old. Doing that with each other has turned out to be the biggest gifts I never saw coming.

Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible Pick Up Trucks

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This is a group on Flickr. It is a place where you’ll find pictures of the rare Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible Pick Up Truck. I encourage you to join and place your own photos! Most of them now are mine but I suspect there’ll be a greater diversity of pictures once more folks join the group. Enjoy.

Solis R. of Austin Texas: Lakeshore Retreat, Olympia Washington

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Lakeshore Retreat, Olympia WashingtonAttending the Lakeshore Retreat was such a great time. Met some new folks and had a great time meeting new folks. But, of course, catching up with my friends from Seattle and Vancouver is always a delight.

Solis R. of Austin Texas

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