One Down, Two to Go

Stop me if you’ve heard this. I thought I’d told this story but I’m not finding it in my archives.

When I was about seven years old, Scornful Mother asked her boss if she could do the Janitorial work for her office of about 35 people for extra income.  Now, for SM this amounted to coming straight home after work and picking up the three of us kids, taking us out to eat at our then favorite restaurant, Bill Knapp’s, and then taking us back to her office where she put us to work.   She sat at her desk at the front and did who knows what while we cleaned.  I won’t go into all the crap feelings that surround that topic, but what I want to say is that even from a young age, I have always felt like it was stupid that she took us out to eat before taking us to “her second job”, effectively canceling out the additional income with the additional expense.

Dead Beat Dad, who was raised by parents who did seem to think that how other people in their lives spent money was somehow their business never hesitated to express his own judgment at Scornful Mother’s penchant for taking us out to eat and then complaining about not having enough money.  It’s funny how, despite my own feelings on the subject, I have the inherent need to defend her.  “She was raising three kids on a secretaries salary.”  “She worked all day and had to feed three kids, at night.  Who wouldn’t rather go out to eat than have to come home and cook after that?”

There was a disconnect in the story for me.  I remember Scornful Mother taking us to the grocery store.  We had to walk around in a single file line behind her and not touch anything, including each other.  I remember the grocery cart being filled to the top.  What was happening to all this food if we were eating out all the time.

A couple years ago, I happened to be in the same place with Dead Beat Dad and CPA Sis, and somehow this topic came up.  CPA Sis told him, “What you don’t know is that she’d have panic attacks about writing such a big check, spending so much money all at once.  She’d get to the front with her full cart and she’d experience anxiety about it and have to leave the cart behind, without buying any of the groceries.”

I never knew this.  From a rational perspective this seems ridiculous to me.  I know it’s not good money management, and yet I can understand it…

credit-card-debtIt is my goal for 2009 to pay off my credit cards and have no debt aside from my car payment which I do want to pay ahead on and get completely out of debt ASAP.  I received a very large income tax refund this year.  Not enough to completely pay off my debt, but a large amount all the same.

I’ve already written a check to Green M&M to pay off all the money that I know I owe her.  (Over the years there have been lots of loans which will never be repaid.)  I’m just waiting for the check to go through the bank.  Part of my “new leaf” has meant keeping close track of my expenditures, how much I’ve spent, when I spent it and when it comes through, and how much I have left to spend.

I just went on to the website for the credit card with the highest balance (and interest).  The balance on the account was $887.05.  I knew I needed to pay it off.  I knew it was a financially sound decision.  I knew I had to do it… And still, my finger hovered over the mouse button for several seconds before I clicked “submit”, with thoughts going through my head like, “But this is 65% of the money I have to spend.”  and “I won’t have any money left after I pay these off.”  Suddenly, I had a flash of understanding about what it must have been like for Scornful Mother at the prospect of writing those “big” checks at the grocery store.

I’m proud to say, I clicked the submit button, and in that one move, I wiped out a third of my credit card debt!  Yay, me!

Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cuddle up in the corner and wait for my pulse to return to normal and cry it out!

Patience, Grasshopper

I guess when I was a kid, I wasn’t  very patient.  Scornful Mother used to tell me on a regular basis to have patience.

“Honey, you just have to have patience.”  She’d tell me.

“I have patience!” I’d reply exasperated.  “I’m a Pediatrician.  I have little patients.”

I’m sure it’ll come as a huge surprise to find out that Scornful Mother, didn’t find this particularly amusing.

Unfortunately, I’m really not much better now than I was back then.  I’ve learned that throwing a tantrum or heaving an exasperated sigh, usually won’t make things happen any faster.  And I’ve learned that, sometimes, things that are not within my control?  I just have to wait, no matter how much it sucks.  When I keep my wits about me and remind myself of this fact I usually do OK, but it’s easy to get really uptight about it and throw a tantrum (even if it’s only in my head.)

bbbsI’m in one of those situations right now.  A little over a year ago, I applied to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program.  At the time they were not able to accept me into the program because I have a DUI on my record that I got in January, 2004.  BBBS requires that you not have had a DUI within five years, and that you only have gotten one ever.  I reapplied late last year, knowing that it would take time to get the process done and that by the time it was all settled I’d probably have hit that 5 year anniversary.

It’s been a bit of a long haul.  The person with whom I’m dealing laid my application aside and forgot about it.  I waited nearly two months before I finally e-mailed her to find out where things stand and that’s when she realized what had happened and set me up with an interview.  I understand how something like that can happen, they’re a non-profit organization and they’re understaffed, I’m not really angry about it, it just adds to the level of stress I feel about it.

I had the interview and it went fairly well.  The coordinator told me then that it would take some time to find a suitable match for me.  As liberal and progressive as the bay area seems to be, she told me that a lot of parents and guardians do express a desire for their child not to be paired with a homosexual.  This is disappointing certainly, but not such a huge surprise, I guess.  She told me at the end of the interview that she would send out my reference checks the following week (It was a Thursday night) and then it would just be a matter of how quickly they came back.  She didn’t send the reference checks out for three weeks.  Again, they’re understaffed so I can understand how this can happen.

A couple months passed after she sent the reference checks out and I hadn’t heard anything, so finally, I checked in again with her, and it was at that point that I was informed that I had, indeed, been accepted as a Big Brother.  She informed me that there is an orientation/training session “late in February” and that she’d get back to me with more information.  I’m still waiting to hear about the training and I already know I’m going to have to follow up with her to get the information.

I’ve passed the five year “anniversary” of my DUI.  I’ve been accepted into the program and now I’m just waiting to be matched to a “little”  I do understand that these things take time and I’m not angry or upset about it, it’s just the waiting…

I hate waiting!  And I’m anxious about this.  I know it’s a good thing for me to do and I hold a lot of hope that I’ll be matched with someone with whom I can really connect and be a help.  I’m sure that once we’re settled into the relationship it’ll be great…  I’m just dreading the first meeting and I want to get it over with!

I hate waiting, but I’ll just have to have patience.

I have patience.  Wait– Let me say that again.  I have patience.  Give me a minute.  I’ll convince myself in a sec… I have patience!

Oh, LORD, give me patience!!!  And if you could hurry?  That’d be great!

Mama Told Me Not To…

It almost seems like a cliche to me when people talk about that special teacher that changed their lives.  Maybe it’s because I was never on a bad path.  Hell, I was never on much of a path at all, to be honest.  I never knew what I wanted to do with my life because every time I suggested something it was shot down by Scornful Mother.  She always said I couldn’t do whatever that idea was and remain a solid, faithful Christian.  I don’t know if she was trying to get me to follow a particular path (ministry, maybe?) or if she just didn’t like the one, she felt I was on, but nothing ever measured up to her expectations, which is funny because she was an undereducated secretary my whole life.  Dead Beat Dad on the other hand was– Well, the moniker pretty well speaks for itself.

It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that he really made a showing of a home based business, and that was in the business of tree removal.  Let’s see, sun, bad weather, grass, leaves, saw dust, falling trees, debris to be picked up, not to mention power tools like chain saws, stump grinders and wood chippers.  Not a thing about that is appealing to this mid-western, mama’s boy, homo, who suffers from allergies year round and is so pale when you off the lights you can still see where I am for about 8 minutes.  I didn’t exactly have much in the way of an example to follow or a legacy to inherit.  No, I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life on my own.  (Sadly, I’m still trying to figure it out.)

So, I wasn’t on any path.  I wasn’t on course for a life of crime.  I wasn’t trying to make myself fit into an accounting mold, when I can’t balance my own checkbook.  On the other hand, I didn’t show any natural ability or throw myself whole heartedly into any particular program or task.  I was about to say that no intervention was ever needed for me, but the truth is, I really could have stood to have an intervention of a completely different variety.  I could really stood for someone to take a special interest in me and help me find my way in life.  Help to find the resources I needed to figure out what I wanted to do and to follow that path.

No I never felt like I had a particular teacher that made that sort of an impact in my life and so while there was always one teacher in particular who stood out for me as my favorite, I never thought of her as that teacher and in fact, I haven’t thought of her at all in quite some time.  So, it was quite surprising to me when I awoke the other morning and remembered my dream from the night before… Well, maybe not remembered the dream, I rarely do, but I remembered the subject.  I dreamed about this special teacher.

In 1987, Scornful Mother decided that she wished to attend Rhema Bible Training Center, in The Town Named for Damaged Naive American Weaponry, a smallish town just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I call TTNFDNAW “smallish”, because it had all the hallmarks of a small town (no highways, more stop signs than traffic signals, no malls, no public transportation, no noticeable government to speak of), and yet I graduated in a class of 868 people and it was the smallest class we’d had in five years.  We had been living in Edmond, a smallish town outside Oklahoma City for three years when she decided this.  While CPA Sis and I went to spend the summer with Dead Beat Dad in Ohio, Scornful Mother applied to and was accepted at Rhema Bible Training Center, or Rhema, for short, but had no idea how she was going to pay for it, or for the move.  She was trusting God that this was what she was supposed to do but she had no plan.

At the end of the summer, Dead Beat Dad brought CPA Sis and me back to Oklahoma so that we could start school.  The school year started in Edmond a week earlier than it did in The Town Named for Damaged Native American Weaponry and Scornful Mother allowed us to not attend that one week of school in Edmond.  I remember feeling so special because I didn’t have to go off to school when my best friend across the street did.  We made the move and got enrolled in schools three days after the year started in TTNFDNAW, but not with enough time to get class schedules or tours of the schools.  I was in the seventh grade and had never been “the new kid in school” before in my life.

It didn’t happen the way it does in the movies and on TV.  I showed up at the school twenty minutes before classes started.  I went into the school office and got my schedule, but there was no cool kid, no trouble maker, no first period office aid to be selected by the principle to show me around and keep me from feeling like a complete outsider.  They handed me my class schedule pointed in the general direction of the first room and sent me on my way.  No one even told me where the library or cafeteria were.

Somehow I made it through the first half of my first day OK, but I was late to almost every class.  Then, lunchtime came and I was lost.  I sort of followed the general crowd but wasn’t sure where I was going and at some point the crowd split and I didn’t know what to do.  It must have shown on my face because suddenly I heard a soft voice.

“Are you lost?  Do you need some help?”  It was an “older” woman, not much taller than my 12 year old self and quite rotund.  She had on large, square framed glasses and had wild curly hair and she had the most comforting, welcoming smile.

“Yes, please.  This is my first day and I don’t know where the cafeteria is,” I said, rather shyly.

She smiled, placed a reassuring hand on my back and pointed toward a single door just across and slightly down the hall from me.  “Well, there’re two choices.  We have what they call the slow food cafeteria which is right here.  That’s the side door for it.  There’s also the fast food cafeteria down there.”  With that she pointed down the hall.  I thanked her and walked into the door she’d pointed at.  I was on the “free lunch” (there really is such a thing as a free lunch) program and didn’t know if it applied to the fast food cafeteria.

I finished eating my lunch and put my tray away and pulled out my class schedule to find my next class, music.  I walked out the same door I had walked in and looked up at the first door I saw, just across and down the hall from where I was standing.  Lo and behold, it happened to be the same room I was looking for.  I walked into the room to find the teacher and show her my schedule so she could tell me where to sit and wouldn’t you know, it was the same kindly “older” lady who had helped me find my way to lunch.  Her name was Betty Griffith and she felt like my lifesaver.  She was so kind and inviting and made me feel like I was welcome and normal and had nothing to worry about.

Mrs. Griffith was, in a lot of ways, my best friend that year.  She helped me find my way around the school, quelled any fears and embarrassment I was feeling for being lost and feeling like a spectacle.  She welcomed me into the choir and made me feel like an important part of the group.

We had our ups and downs for sure.  Shortly after school started I asked if I could come to her classroom after school each day and help her clean up or whatever she needed.  (I don’t think I ever told her it was because Ex Con Older Brother was abusive and I didn’t want to go home and be around him)  After that I spent nearly every day after school for 45 minutes or so, straightening chairs, collecting music, cleaning the chalkboard, straightening papers and talking to Mrs. Griffith.  When it came time for the school play, she directed because the drama teacher was out on maternity leave.  androcles_logoI auditioned for the play, Androcles and the Lion, (deliberately showing up at the very end so no one else would be around to hear me) and then told her I’d rather be behind the scenes.  The first of many mistakes on my part regarding my interest in the theater.  I was the curtain puller and an unofficial part of the chorus, so I was always there for rehearsal.  She asked her husband who was an amateur thespian to come and help us.  He was always very serious and direct, coming across as mean and grumpy, I thought,  and I found it uncomfortable.  Somewhere in my adolescent 12 year old mind I thought it was a good idea to tell her this.  Not only did I tell her this but I told her at a  highly stressful time for her.

I was at my post, ready and waiting to pull the curtain (hand over hand so it’s not jerky) and she came bursting through looking for someone who was supposed to be on stage but wasn’t, when I stopped her and said, just as pleasantly as could be, “Mrs. Griffith, no offense, but, I really hate it when your husband is here.”  I think I was even smiling.  I’d heard “no offense” many times and knew it took all the sting out.

She, on the other hand was not smiling, “Well, you know,” she said rather tersely, “I really do take offense to that.”  And with that she stomped off in search of the missing cast member.

I felt like a shit and couldn’t believe that “no offense” hadn’t worked.  She taught me a valuable lesson that day.  You can’t just say whatever you want to a person and expect there to be no consequences.  The next day before class, I apologized to her and all was forgiven.

Once she needed help posting something to a district owned marquee at a very busy intersection.  I of course volunteered to assist and to repay my efforts she took me to the local 7-11 and bought me a 1/2 pound bag of M&M’s.  The bag was still open and partially full, in my coat pocket the next day when I arrived at class and at some point I had gone to the front of the room and then dropped something on the floor.  I bent over to pick it up and M&M’s went flying all over the floor.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to have them in class and she was angry at me for making the mess and having them there.  I was all the more embarrassed because she had bought them for me.

When the year was drawing to a close and we had to select the classes we wanted to take the following year I had decided to take Drama.  The only problem was, you had to audition for the class.  I signed up to audition but I wimped out and did not go. When Mrs. Griffith found out about this she told me I had to audition and she would talk to the Drama teacher about giving me another shot.  For one reason or another, the boy who was playing Androcles in the play also had missed the audition and so he and I went before school one day to audition for the teacher.  We did a scene from the play where he played Androcles and I played his wife, Hermione.  (Go figure!)  I made the class and he did not.

In the 8th grade, I opted to be her student aide, instead of taking choir.  I wanted to have the best of both worlds.  I wanted to be in choir but I wanted to be special and she tried to accommodate me.  I was her first period student aide and I was late almost every day.  (Not unlike now!)  One day, I noticed that in her attendance book she had me marked as being tardy every day.  After eight tardies I was supposed to get detention.  When I mentioned to her how much I appreciated that she hadn’t given me detention, she said that she had to, and she would, she just hadn’t gotten around to it.  She never did and I don’t know if she just honestly didn’t get around to it, or if she only said that to “scare me straight” but after that I tried much harder to get to school on time.

When I moved on to the 9th grade and a new school, I tried to come back and visit her periodically but it was difficult to do and then she moved to another school.

I exchanged a few letters with her after I got engaged, and moved to live with Dead Beat Dad temporarily.  I told her of my engagement and of the young child I would to step-father.  She told me in a return letter that married men were adults and as an adult I was entitled to call her by her first name.  I don’t know if I ever did.  After six years of calling her Mrs. Griffith, I just couldn’t wrap my tongue around “Betty”.   Not long after that, we lost touch.  I think I was embarrassed to tell her that, what I suspected she thought all along, was true, that I was too young and immature to get married and it was obvious by the fact that my fiance had cheated on and dumped me.

I miss Mrs. Griff–  Betty.  She is a wonderful, sweet woman.  She may not have shaped me into the man I am today.  She may not have affected the path I would follow in my life, but she helped me, and she made me feel special and important and for that, I will always be grateful…

And I’m so excited because in the course of writing this post, and trying to find out if she’s even still a teacher, I found an e-mail address for her and tomorrow I’m going to send her my first correspondence in 15 years.  I hope she remembers me.

It’s Just Emotions Taking Me Over

big-edenLast night I watched another gay themed movie I recorded to my DVR, off the Logo Network, Big Eden.  I didn’t really know anything about it other than what I’d read in the very brief description on my DirecTV programming guide.

henry

Henry, Big Eden

sampa1

Sam, Big Eden

Big Eden is the story of Henry Hart an out artist living in New York City who is about to have a gallery opening when he receives a call from a friend in his hometown informing him that his Grandfather who raised him had suffered a stroke.  Henry abandons his opening to go back to see Sam, who he calls “Sampa”.

dean

Dean, Big Eden

Not long after arriving back in Big Eden Henry finds out that his childhood friend – and unrequited love – Dean has moved back to Big Eden after his divorce, with his two young sons so that his parents can help him raise his children.

pike

Pike, Big Eden

grace

Grace, Big Eden

Henry is introduced to Pike a Native American man who operates the local general store.  Pike is known to be very shy, but Grace, the friend who notified Henry of Sam’s stroke asks Pike to assist Sam and Henry by picking up meals from the local busy body widow and bringing them to Sam’s house for the men (apparently Henry can’t cook).

The movie has a rather predictable element to it; a love triangle between Dean, Henry and Pike and an unsurprising outcome with Henry and Pike falling in love.

There were several things about this movie that I was surprised at how I felt and reacted to them.  To start with, Henry has never told “Sampa” that he’s gay.  It’s never really explained why this is, it’s just clear that Henry is afraid.  It seems as if everyone knows the truth except for Sam, or does he?

Henry is asked at one point, “Do you really think he never figured it out?”  And that question is answered in a scene late in the film when Sam confronts Henry about what his plans are.  Henry came back to Big Eden to check on Sam after his stroke, and stayed for a year.  Sam tells Henry, he’ll be “joining” Henry’s Grandmother soon and he’ll need to know what to tell her.  After Henry attempts to avoid the conversation, Sam says to him, “You won’t tell me who you really are.  Why?  Is it shame?  Did I teach you to be ashamed?  ‘Cause if I did, I did a terrible thing.”  Henry responds by bursting into tears and laying his head in his grandfather’s lap, allowing the older man to comfort him.  After Sam dies, Henry says to Grace, “I never told him.” to which Grace replies, “Well.  He knows now.”  I was a little confused and maybe slightly annoyed that no one pointed out that clearly Sam already knew.

It is clear from the beginning that Pike is attracted to Henry and wants a relationship with him, but Pike has always been a very stoic and quiet man, easily rattled and embarrassed, unable to adequately express his thoughts and feelings.  For a time he seems almost to dislike Henry as he avoids contact.  Day after day, Sam and Henry invite Pike to join them in the meals that he brings and he declines.  Then one night, Henry is out and Sam invites Pike to stay.  Finally, Pike accepts.

After just a few days of delivering meals to the men which have been prepared by a local widow, it becomes clear that the meals are not very pleasant tasting.  Pike takes a book entitled “The Joy of Cooking” from his lending library and studies it.  The next day Pike prepares a delicious meal and delivers it to the men.  The regular invitations are extended, the usual declination given and Pike returns home where he himself eats the unenjoyable meal provided by the widow.

As the movie progresses it becomes clear that Pike has feelings for Henry which he does not know how to express.  Many of the peripheral characters begin to see what’s happening and attempt to help.  Eventually, Pike comes by with a meal for the men but Sam is asleep.  Henry invites Pike to join him and after a few attempts to escape, Pike finally agrees.  They have a very pleasant conversation and a friendship grows.  Naturally, as must happen in such a story, Henry does not see what’s happening.  Henry is learning more and seeing more of Pike but does not understand Pike’s feelings.

Midway through the movie, Sam has a medical episode and has to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.  Henry spends the night at the hospital with Sam, awake all night.  In the morning, Dean comes and takes Henry home.  It’s been clear that there is a relationship developing between the two but it’s slow and awkward.  Until this moment, you’re not really sure what is going on with Dean.  After returning to Sam’s house from the hospital, Dean offers to cook some eggs for Henry and while he is cooking there is a moment of vulnerability and tenderness when Henry places a hand and then his head on Dean’s shoulder and places his other arm around Dean.

dh-kissDean pushes the pan aside and turns toward Henry.  The two embrace and there is a brief kiss before Dean turns his face away and they hug.

“I can’t,” Dean says.

“I know,” is Henry’s reply.

“I want to.  I just can’t,” Dean repeats.

“I know,” Henry says again.

There are a few things about this movie that affected me.  The first is the relationship between Henry and his “Sampa”.  It is so clear to the viewer and to everyone else in Big Eden that Sam knows Henry is gay.  There’s even a scene when Henry is away at a town picnic so Pike stays and shares dinner with Sam.  After they eat, the two men go out by the lake outside Sam’s house to watch the fireworks.  They’re still outside when they hear Dean’s truck pull up to drop Henry off.  Pike and Sam observe what might be construed as a tender moment between Henry and Dean but but is in actuality more a push-me-pull-me exchange about the nature of their relationship.  Sam looks at Pike and says, “I’m sorry, son.”  He knows that Pike has feelings for Henry but they both assume there’s something there between Henry and Dean.

I struggle on an almost daily basis with the idea of what it would be like to tell my family that I’m gay.  The situations are different.  Henry was just afraid with no real explanation as to the reason why.  I come from an extremely conservative fundamentalist Christian family which believes that homosexuality is a sin and to be gay is to be damned.  I do not share in their sentiments and do not have any guilt about my orientation, but being able to tell them the truth and to explain my beliefs to them is a far more difficult proposition with very unpredictable outcomes.  I watched this movie, and particularly the exchange between Sam and Henry about seeing “Grandma” and I thought, “Just tell him!  It’s clear he already knows and it’s obvious he will accept you!  What have you got to be afraid of?  Do you know what a precious gift this is?!?

I imagined what it would be like to be in a position of knowing that what I have to tell would be graciously and lovingly received without any judgment or condemnation, to know that I could be open and completely truthful about myself and my life with the people who are supposed to matter the most.  Unfortunately, I live with the knowledge that very much the opposite is true.

The real irony is that I suspect that most if not all of my family knows, or at least suspects that I am gay, so it would not come as a surprise to them, yet I’m certain they’re also hoping that I’ll never accept it, that I’ll never act on these feelings.  I’m sure they think that as long as I never act on the feelings and I never say “I’m gay” to anyone (including myself – too late), then it won’t really be true and I won’t be damned.

The second thing about this movie that affected me was the general existence of the character, Pike.  I could relate to him, in a lot of ways.  In the real world, I also tend to be very shy and socially awkward.  I don’t really know how to talk to people I don’t know very well.  I’m very awkward with my feelings and don’t really know how to communicate them effectively or productively.

The third thing about this movie that affected me, which actually relates to the second, is the scene I described between Dean and Henry.  When it’s finally clear to everyone that there is an attraction and feelings between the two, when they finally kiss, and then Dean backs away, saying, “I can’t,” a part of me screamed, “Why not!?!  What are you so afraid of?  Do you know how lucky you are to be loved?  Why be so afraid of your feelings?

And then I began to think about myself.  I began to think how I can’t relate to him after all.  I can’t think of a time when I have felt a powerful attraction to a person.  I can’t think of a time when I was just so overcome by passion that I wanted to rip our clothes off and make love, right then and there.  I can’t think of a time when I was so distraught, or was with someone else who was so distraught and in need of comfort, that the most logical course of action seemed to be sex.  I can’t think of a time when physicality was —

Well… I can’t think of a time when physicality was not a terrifying prospect.  I can imagine that, assuming I somehow found myself in a situation like Dean did, that I’d react very much the same way he did, assuming we even got as far as a kiss.  I can imagine I’d be just as afraid to act on my feelings.  And it makes me angry.  Why should I be so afraid to act on my feelings.

But the thing is, I’m inclined to say I don’t have feelings.  I’ve only been “in love” once and it turned out not to be real.  It fell apart at the first sign of trouble.  And I haven’t dated much in the 15 years since.  I’ve thought a bit lately about the relationships in my life and how I’d feel if they ended.  With the exception of my friend Eve, I don’t really imagine being terribly upset about the end of a relationship and I already know that relationship is going to end so I have time to prepare myself… I hope.

I’ve thought about what my reaction would be if one of my parents died.  I don’t think I’d have much of one.  I don’t think I’d be terribly upset.  I think I’d be relieved in a lot of ways.  I’ve thought how I’d feel if one of my siblings died.  I don’t expect I’d feel much differently.  I’d be a little more upset if CPA Sis died because she’s the only one I’m really all that close to.  But if Ex Con Older Brother died, I wouldn’t even feel like I’d lost anything.

What I’ve determined is that I don’t feel strongly enough about anyone, or anything, to have a strong reaction.  “I don’t feel anything” I thought.  “But wait.  I can be very emotional and passionate when I feel like I’m being mistreated or abused… So I’m only capable of experiencing negative emotions strongly?  That sucks.  And it doesn’t help my case any.  I’d like to date.  I’d like to fall in love and share my life with someone.  How do I do that if I don’t feel positive emotions?

You know, I was beginning to wonder how I was going to bring this post back around and this is it:

I don’t feel positive emotions.  I don’t feel attraction or affection and certainly not love.  So if I somehow found myself in a situation where I was so affected by and attracted to a person (male or female) as Dean was in this movie…  I’d have to be all over it.  I hope that I would not let that moment pass by.

Everything Ends Eventually

radioactive-happiness-face

It was my plan to write today about happiness.  How sometimes, happiness is a choice and one that can be very hard to make and how frustrating it is to have to make that choice over and over again.  That was my plan.

I just got some news that upset that plan and, of course, me.

I’ve written in the past about my dear friend, who for these purposes I call “Eve”.  I met Eve when I worked in retail 12 years ago.  I liked her and enjoyed our friendship but some things happened along the way that for a time we weren’t as close as we once had been.  When I moved to California, I assumed I’d never see her again, indeed, I never thought I’d speak to her gain.  I don’t think I realized then, that her grandparents live in the bay area and she has a long-standing tradition to come to the bay area to visit her grandparents the week of Thanksgiving and when the time came for her to come visit the first year I was here, she contacted me and invited me to come hang out.

I was really glad she did, and with the trappings of our previous work relationship, and with all the rumor and hushed conversations of others out of the way we had the opportunity to really grow in our friendship and our love for each other.

Earlier today, I logged on to Facebook (evil site that it is) and found that I had been “tagged” in a note by Eve.  I looked at it to find that it was one of those “25 random things about me” lists.  (Random thing about me #1:  I’ve been dreading being asked to complete one of those!)  As I read her list, I noticed that number 15 said this, “My mother and I have an amazing relationship, I die a little inside knowing I have less than 12 months to spend with her before she moves to the west coast.

“Awesome” I thought, “Now maybe she’ll make more trips out here and I’ll get to spend more time with her.”

Eve told me years ago that her mother was planning to retire to the Bay Area so she could be close to her parents.  I always secretly hoped that Eve would move with them, or shortly after them, and we could be close again.  A few years ago Eve’s mother took a huge hit when the stock market faltered and she lost a significant amount of money.  Apparently, that’s when they decided to move west, but some place a little less expensive.  So today, I asked Eve about this:

Self:  So I didn’t realize your parents were going to move here so soon. Where are they going to live?

Eve:  In Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA.

Self:  Oh. I thought they were moving here.

Eve:  No.  And, my Grandparents are even moving up to Portland or Vancouver, too.  So this Thanksgiving will be the last time I head out that way

Self: Oh, no.

Eve: Yup.  So I’ll get to see you in Feb and in Nov and that’s that for awhile

Self: Well, you’ve just totally bummed my day!

brokenheartThis is tragic!  My heart is absolutely breaking!  I don’t know what my life would have been like without her in it.  I don’t know if she had any real impact on my existence, other than to have been the one person I knew I could come out to and know there’d be no negative repercussions.  But I know that these brief, and few and far between, visits that we’ve shared over the last 11 years have meant the world to me, and they’ve been the life’s blood of our friendship.

I feel like our relationship is ending.  Is that silly?  I mean, in this day and age with Instant Messengers, and Facebook and iPhones with text messaging, is that silly?  The problem is, I’m doing what I always do.  I’m thinking about this a few steps ahead.  Yes, I’ll see her, however briefly, when she comes out to visit next month, and I’ll see her again very briefly in November.  The visits will be fun, but they’ll go much too fast, and there will be a cloud over them.  And in November, when she walks me to my car (if she walks me to my car) and hugs me and says good-bye.  It will be for the last time.

I haven’t been to Tulsa in five years.  My sister and her family have moved to New York.  I’ve lost touch with all of my other friends besides Eve.  I love Scornful Mother, but I can’t stand to be around her for long.  Going back to Tulsa, really isn’t in the cards.

Ultimately, I’m only a very small part of Eve’s life and I don’t fit into the rest of it.  I’ve met her boyfriend twice, but I don’t know him, I’m not completely comfortable with him and I don’t think he’s completely comfortable with me.  I’ve never met his two children but I know they’re troublesome and I don’t really feel like I should be involved in that.  And despite the way I speak of Eve, we don’t really have the kind of deep connection where I would be welcome and convenient as a part of her every day life, however briefly.  Therefore, going to Tulsa, with the purpose of visiting her doesn’t seem likely.  And even if I did, I couldn’t get away with being there and not seeing/visiting/staying with my mother.

So, I’m doing what I alwasy do.  I’m thinking about this a few steps ahead and what I see happening is, our interaction will dwindle.  Eve is never on Instant Messenger any more.  Occasionally, I talk to her via the chat function of Facebook, but it’s not very convenient and it’s very infrequent.  We exchange one line comments and topics on Facebook but it’s all very superficial.  We don’t spend much time on the telephone.  And text messeging is no way to carry on a conversation.  Soon it’ll be nothing but comments on each other’s Facebook activity.  I don’t imagine I’ll ever see her again.

funny-pictures-sad-cat-blackandwhiteIt is at a moment like this, when I’m faced with difficulties and sad things that are not within my control, which really aren’t about me, that I remember just how much of an effort it is, how much hard work it takes to be happy and at this moment, I can’t put forth the effort it requires.

Will You Marry Me?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a hater of television commercials.  I mean, sure, there were some good ones out there that were worth watching.  I’ve always been kind of partial to the Christmas time Coca-Cola commercials with the CGI Polar Bears.  And there have been plenty of commercials that were clever when they first came out and then just work your last nerve after they’ve been aired a few hundred times.

Green M&M has been really enjoying the M&M commercials of late with the Green M&M playing the sex kitten with the boy M&Ms melting…  Wait–  Green M&M loves the Green M&M…  Hmmmmm….  Go figure.

Anyway, for the most part television commercials have just been an annoyance to me.  I remember being younger and watching TV with Scornful Mother, who always had to have the remote control and when the commercials came on she’d start flipping through the channels.  It always annoyed me because she’d change the channel and then the show we were watching would come back on and she’d be slow to get back to it so when we did come back to it we would have missed part of the show and be lost.  That always bothered me because I don’t watch TV shows just for the sake of filling up time.  I watch them because I enjoy them and I become “invested” in them.  So to take it so lightly and miss parts of the show you actually did set out to watch bothered me.

Eventually, she stopped doing this and began muting the television on the commercials (Why do they have to be so loud anyway?) This was better because at least you could see when the show came back on, but the problem was, she’d mute the TV, put down the remote control and pick up her crossword puzzles.  She wouldn’t always notice the show came back on till I said something and then she had to put down the puzzle and pick up the remote, still dragging on the time when part of the show would be missed.

When I moved out on my own, this was one of the things I most enjoyed was the fact that I had control of the remote and didn’t have to miss out on my TV shows any longer.  Even better though was when I got my first VCR and could record my TV shows and not have to watch the commercials AND not have to wait for them to end.  This was of course only trumped by the acquisition of my first TiVo.

Today I have a DVR with two inputs so I can record two shows at once.  This, of course means I watch more TV shows because I don’t have to chose only one show per time slot.  It also means I have more to watch and always have a little bit of a backlog.  Therefore, I never watch live TV, and I’m always a day behind everyone else.  For the most part I don’t care if I’m behind.  sometimes things get spoiled for me because of it but mostly I don’t care.

All this is to say that I was a day behind the times to watch the series finale of Boston Legal, and thanks to some random blog hopping yesterday, I already found out that Denny Crane and Alan Shore got married.  I was a little caught off guard in reading this.  I have watched this show since the first episode and wile I know that these two characters have had a unique reliationship (referred to on the spoling blog as a “bromance”) and that they have professed their “love” for each other on many occasions, they are not, in fact, gay characters.  So I was prepared to be offended and annoyed by the final episode.

I will say that since my first introduction to David E Kelley in 1997 with Ally McBeal and The Practice I  have been impressed with his work and really enjoyed most of his shows.  He’s very creative and his shows are often topical.  What I’ve noticed however is that he may be cutting off his own nose to spite his face when it comes to writing about political issues during election years.  It seems like more than once one of his shows has been cancelled during a major election season.  I don’t know if Mr. Kelley would say it’s worth it to get out whatever message he’s trying to convey, or if it would be called a coincidence or what, but personally, I would have liked for some of his shows to last longer than they have even if it meant he had to tone down the messages during the times that the American People are at their most sensitive.

That being said, when I found out that Denny and Alan were going to get married on the series finale I was prepared to find the entire thing offensive.  Denny Crane is nothing if not a caricature of a real human being, and I was afraid it would turn out to be some sort of jab at those of us who are outraged at the passage of Proposition 8 in California.  And so, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the motivation behind Denny’s marriage proposal in the episode was because he didn’t want to die alone.  He didn’t want to deteriorate into dementia (Denny was in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease) without someone he loved and trusted by his side to see him through it.  Alan had long since committed to Denny to be there for him and to look after him.  And when Alan announced his desire to do some thing more philanthropic with his life Denny was only too happy to commit his considerable wealth to the cause (something that heretofore has been completely out of character for Denny.)  He wished to grant his money to Alan and his philanthropy in its entirety, instead of having a considerable portion taken away by a government that has proven it can’t handle the money effectively, through either gift or inheritance taxes.

What I feared would be an insult to the justice that is marriage equality, in fact, turned out to be an excellent argument in its favor.  The scene in the court room when the gay attorney is trying to get an injunction to prevent our heroes from marrying was an excellent commentary on the state of affairs in this country, and a great juxtaposition of the generally proffered argument against same-sex marriage.

Mr, Kelley, I offer my apologies for doubting your intentions.  Certainly I should have known better.  And I offer my gratitude for another job well done.  I look forward to our next meeting in the airwaves and in the interim — Denny Crane!

Man, Will I Be Glad When This Day Is Over

I hate Thanksgiving.  I always have.  I have virtually nothing but bad memories of Thanksgivings past.  I do not eat traditional Thanksgiving food for the most part, and I grew up in a Christian (Read: NO BOOZE) family so there was nothing to “numb the senses” or “dull the pain.”

I rarely spent Thanksgiving with Dead Beat Dad, and I was never really unhappy about that because the traditional meal at his house was something he learned about when he was a boy and Papa was working for Billy Graham and traveling the world.  I don’t actually know if it’s the official name for it but Dead Beat Dad always referred to it as African Chop but looks nothing like this. No, African Chop in the Dead Beat Dad house is some strange concoction of foods that amounts to a plate of white rice with a thick gravy composed of shredded chicken, chicken stock and peanut butter (yes you read that right) poured over it.  there was also a sickening array of items to top the plate off.  Everything from chopped, raw fresh fruits and vegetables to multiple kinds of nuts and toasted or raw shredded coconut.  Honest to God, I feel like I could barf just describing it and I don’t think I’ve had it in over 20 years.

Thanksgiving at Scornful Mother‘s house wasn’t a whole hell of a lot better.  She always thought that Thanksgiving should be the traditional meal, which I understand but since I don’t really care for any of the food it wasn’t really all that much better.  What it was, for me at least, was an extended week-end of concentrated time with an unhappy family.  Even Ex Con Older Brother who pretty much lived in his bedroom and hated the rest of us would “come out and play”, which to him, usually meant tormenting me.  There would be little or no food to be had for most of the day while Scornful Mother “slaved away” in the kitchen for the big meal which would come around 4:00.

This was a really brilliant strategy on Scornful Mother‘s part as the tradition always started with Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast…and only Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  So she’d feed us sugary carbs for breakfast and then expect us to not complain about being hungry and not fight amongst ourselves while she cooked all day and didn’t feed us for six to eight hours.  Then she’d feed us Turkey with Stuffing.  I don’t like Turkey, but I love stuffing (More straight carbs.)  There would be jellied Cranberries out of a can, yuck, yams, double yuck; green bean casserole, yuck and yuck (I don’t like green beans, on their own or in a casserole); and rolls or cornbread, I enjoy those, but again, carbs.  The only thing that I consistently love about Thanksgiving is the Pumpkin Pie.  And if you’re like me, you like a little bit of pumpkin pie with your Cool Whip.  And then as if all this weren’t bad enough, Scornful Mother always used the enormous amount of left overs as an excuse to not make real meals for the rest of the week-end.

The only part of this day that has ever held any kind of appeal to me, beisdes the pumpkin pie, is the cinnamon roll breakfast and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  So you can imagine my surprise, this morning, when I was sitting in my cold apartment, with my blanket over me watching the parade and eating my pan of cinnamon rolls, when I suddenly found myself fighting back tears.  I can’t really explain what happened other than to say that I’m going through a lot of changes in my life and my emotions are starting to rise to the surface a bit more.  It’s not really that I miss my family because I really don’t.  I wish I was able to spend a little more time with CPA Sis and her family, but I’m not really that bothered that about it either.  I do not miss spending time with Dead Beat Dad or Scornful Mother and I know that spending time with any of them on occasions such as this only serve to make family relations more tense.  I definitely do not miss those events.

I guess the tears came from the rush of familiarity.  For a moment I could imagine myself, nine years old, sitting on the floor in front of the television watching the parade and knowing the cinnamon rolls were in the oven.  I could smell them baking and I could imagine what they were going to taste like, and since the only time Scornful Mother ever made them was Thanksgiving and Christmas days, it was special to me.  I used to love to get up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I don’t know why.  It’s cheesy and the hosts, always the Today Show hosts as I recall, delivered line after corn-ball line about the floats and acts in the parade.  I don’t know what I thought was going to happen but I always watched with excitement and expectation, of what, I do not know.  No one else ever had an interest in the parade but Scornful Mother always made CPA Sis and Ex Con Older Brother leave me alone and let me watch it.  I was still young and naive enough to think that this was going to be a special day, but in reality, I only had until noon, when the parade was over, before the hellishness would really set in.

Watching the parade this morning I realized what ludicrous propagandizing it really is.  It really amounts to a three hour sales pitch for TV shows, and musicians new CDs, etc., interspersed with poorly written comic lines delivered by decidedly unfunny MCs.    Soon I was in sugar shock (living alone there was no one to help eat the cinnamon rolls), over the nostalgia of the moment and the tears were gone.  Gone, but not forgotten.

CPA Sis, Mr. Fixit and Precious Nieces #1 & #2, are visiting Scornful Mother for the holiday and while Mr. Fixit does some more renovations of Scornful Mother‘s house.  Last night I received an e-mail from CPA Sis:

Tomorrow should be interesting.  I had a nice little fight with Scornful Mother this evening.  It’s a fairly long story.  Suffice it to say that Scornful Mother thinks we don’t communicate well enough with her and Mr. Fixit thinks she is judgmental and ungrateful and incapable of accepting any responsibility for problems and I think they both are being difficult and intolerant children. Mr. Fixit is ready to leave and never come back.  I am not far from the same position, but where would we go?  We can’t all stay at Mr. Fixit‘s parents’ apartment for the next 5 or 6 days.  Not to mention the fact that that leaves her with a house that still is unfinished-not that she has the money to finish it.  I really hate feeling like I have to be responsible!

Anyway, I need to get back to Precious Nieces #1 & #2.  I just needed to vent for a few minutes.

Man am I glad I’m not there.  Scornful Mother asked me to come back for Thanksgiving and I declined.  Definitely the right choice.

Despite my lack of desire to spend this time with my family, I can’t help but remember that it is a holiday on which families come together.  It’s a Thursday on which I feel perfectly healthy and I’m not at work, reminds me it’s a holiday.  It’s a Thursday and my otherwise bustling and noisy neighborhood is virtually silent, reminding me that all the people who are normally outside my house making the noise, have gone away or gathered in-doors, to celebrate the day and spend time together.

I receive only one invitation, each year, and it’s to join Green M&M and her family.  When I first moved to California, I accepted this invitation a few times, but I never really enjoyed myself.  It’s a noisy and chaotic environment which I really do not enjoy, and I don’t particularly care for a number of the family members that gather, so now I decline the offer.  Come to think of it, the offer wasn’t even extended this year.  Green M&M knows I’ll decline, so I guess she figures, why bother?

At times like these, I often think about the TV show Friends.  I loved that show.  Six individuals who are friends, with no readily accessible family to speak of (except of course for Ross and Monica) who make a family of themselves and spending the holiday together.  I, of course, would be the Chandler of the group, (doesn’t like thanksgiving food…  oh, and gay) but I would really like to have a handful of close knit friends who view each other as family and who actually enjoy spending these times together.  I’d like to have somewhere to go on days like today where I don’t have to feel like I’m intruding on some other families day, and where I’m not burdened by my own family.  At the vary least, I’d like to be able to feel like I’m alone today, because I chose to be, not because I have to be.

I’ll be glad when this day is over, largely so I won’t have to deal with all of this any more, but even more so because there is one, truly wonderful thing, that I absolutely love about Thanksgiving.  If today is Thanksgiving, then tomorrow is the day I get to spend with Eve, and that, dear blog readers, is what I am the most thankful for!