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Drink to me only with thine eyes,
        And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
        And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
        Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
        I would not change for thine.
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Don't let the sadness grow
You're beautiful don't you know?
It's easy to dive into doubt
But harder to climb back out

When lies get a voice in your ear
And whisper your deepest fears
You can either believe
Or push past those empty things

So come hearts that are scared and alone
Let love give you warmth in the cold
Let faith and hope lead you on
Let joy be the theme of your song
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Things seem to be going really well with KW. He still keeps my interest, I have not grown bored yet, and I just barely feel like I am starting to relax and be comfortable around him. I think I moved through the phase of pushing him away, and now I want to find ways to make him happy. We do not have the same degree of natural understanding that I shared with, say, RBC, but we do seem uniquely compatible in so many ways and I can not imagine ever wanting to be with anyone else for the rest of my days.

We had a really nice time together last Sunday. Went to an "open barn" and visited some baby goats and chickens and then to a soccer game with KW's family. When we got back to his place it was late and I was tired but I went in for a while. Out of the blue he starts a conversation about the direction of our relationship, and proceeds to drop the bombshell that he thinks about breaking up with me sometimes. During the conversation, I gathered that this had stemmed from a stupid online quiz and a recent re-reading of a bunch of text messages from an old girlfriend. He does not feel as infatuated or attached to me as he did to her, and wonders if he will ever find that again. Not sure if it was the coconut rum and orange juice we drank all evening, or the unexpected news, but I almost threw up.

It was hard for me to understand where he is coming from, because I think infatuation is a sign of an immature relationship, which stems primarily from not knowing where you stand with a partner and wishing and hoping your feelings for them are returned. When I was younger I got involved with partners based on infatuation, but not now. But if having that feeling of infatuation is important to KW, then a relationship without it will never meet his expectations. I question whether he's ever felt a real sense of attachment to a partner. Back in the very beginning I asked him if he ever had his heart broken and he said NO, which may be a sign he never cared deeply for anyone. I've cared deeply, and had my heart broken many times. For me, love is not something that just happens upon you when you meet the "right person" and it certainly can't be foretold by some quiz on a pop psychology website. Love is a decision and commitment I make to accept, support, and care for another person. I think KW's conception of love is based on Hollywood fantasies, which will be tough to live up to.

While we were having this conversation and KW was wondering where our relationships was going, I felt disappointed but very calm and peaceful. Tears never came, even when I thought he was saying we should break up then and there, so I feel confident that I will be able to accept whatever comes, however this plays out. As I turned to leave, he did stop me and explain this was not his intention to break up and asked if we could keep dating. I will admit I was tremendously relieved and wished I would have spent the night because I felt pretty bad the whole next day. We went out Monday evening and he spent the night at my place, and we've had ongoing conversations about the state of things all week. (Mostly me asking for clarification and details about vague references and obtuse answers.) I feel slightly better, but still like I am on probation while he takes the time to evaluate whether I am a suitable long-term partner.

KW just got a good job with the city and I get the sense that he finally feels like he has something to offer a partner for the long term (and he focuses on marriage specifically). I have this theory about men that they end up settling down with whomever they happen to be dating at the time when they feel ready to settle down, not necessarily when they meet the woman they feel especially compatible with. Only time will tell where KW's thoughts are leading, but I get a strong sense we'll know in the next few months. He seems anxious.

As for me...I loved him from about the time of our second date. I feel anxious because things seem to be moving slowly despite my strong feelings. I hope he'll come around and feel the same way about me, but if he does not then I will be ok. I want him to be happy, and if I can not make him happy then he ought to find someone who will. Knowing him has been a wonderful, joyous experience that I will always treasure. It is definitely better to have loved and lost........
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It seems I fell out of the regular habit of reporting on my new relationship with KW, and right now it almost seems outside the realm of my powers of description. We have had a few bumps and misunderstandings, and I still struggle with feeling insecure then pushing him away, but I apologize and we make up and somehow he is still hanging around. I realize how lucky I am and vow to appreciate him and always show that I care.

Last Saturday night my downstairs neighbor, JMM, unexpectedly had three extra tickets to Drag Queen Bingo, so KW and I went to the Greek Food Fest then joined JMM and NC and a couple other ladies. It was KW's first time, we packed in Greek pastries and vodka-cran, and a good time was had by all. It had been several weeks since I visited my parents, but since it was Mother's Day I figured I should make the trip up to Butler and asked KW if he wanted to join. I told him I would like it if my Dad thought I was happy with him. So we went, and KW had nice conversations with my dad while I made drop biscuits for dinner, and then we went exploring the property next door and found some morel mushrooms.

My Dad was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer a couple months back and he and my Mom made the decision not to go through with chemotherapy. Instead he is taking some kind of green tea capsule and also some new age tea concoction from my holistic dentist uncle. I think it is ludicrous, but I do not say anything. I support whatever decisions my Dad makes regarding his own health, but it bothers me to think my Mom influenced this. He made a comment that the only thing that would save him is faith and prayer--just as ludicrous. Right after he got out of the hospital after the bile duct stent replacement, he had to take treatments for a blood infection and it seemed like he was not doing well so I visited frequently. Now he is doing ok, but having some pain and tiredness, so it does not seem as urgent to visit. When I do visit, it is hard for us to make the time meaningful. The prognosis is six months to a year, and I just do not know how to make the most of this time we have......
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Dear KW,

Every moment spent with you has been a wonderful and unexpected blessing in my life—more than you will ever know. I hope somehow that I will be able to give you as much joy as you have brought to me.


XOXO--

K

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My heart is full of thoughts and emotion and I do not know another way to relief except to write it down and put it outside myself. So much has happened I hardly know where to start. My father was hospitalized for several days with what may be liver or pancreatic cancer, but we will not know for at least a week or so. Had two separate psychological breakthrough moments while in conversation with friends--one with NC (psychologist by vocation) and the other with KW (benefited from regular therapy in the past). My grandmother is not doing that well. I have semi-resigned from my day job while trying to start my own funeral business, but I have experienced setbacks in getting it up and running that make me just want to crawl in bed and never get out. And another contributing factor to that depression is surely the cold and snowy weather.

While my father was in the hospital, my mother took ill with a stomach bug and was unable to be with him for two days, so I stepped in and went to be with him at the hospital. It was actually nice to spend time with him--he talked so much more than he ever does when I visit at their house. My father has always been one to dwell on the past and look backward rather than forward so I was not surprised by questions about college and old friends that I would rather not think about. My parents recently moved out of the house I grew up in to a newly constructed home in one of those nondescript modern housing plans, closer to their nearest small city, but just as far from me and the rest of mom's family in the big city. Everything is on one floor, but it is just as big if not bigger than the old house, and they spent over $300K which is way more money than I would ever spend on a dwelling with so little character. So during this conversation he also said it seems like I do not like their new house but did not really have anything to back that up other than the fact that I do not stay there. At first I explained that I do not stay there because I live only an hour away so it is not inconvenient for me to drive home when I am tired, and that I also like to sleep in my own bed and be in my own place. Perfectly reasonable. After giving it a bit more thought, I explained that it does not feel comfortable there because they are not unpacked and it does not feel very "homey". Most of Dad's stuff is in the unfinished basement, in boxes or displayed haphazardly on utility shelves. Mom's stuff is upstairs in the living area. One of the bedrooms has his gun cabinet and a chest and his computer on a small table in the center of the room with a dining chair next to it. In the other bedroom is a guest bed and huge dresser and my mom's computer on a little table with a dining chair next to it. Neither one of them seems happy or comfortable there, so in turn it does not feel relaxing or comfortable for me to go there. I explained this and indicated that I only wanted them both to be happy and comfortable in the house. I think Dad wishes they had not moved. I really have no idea why they did, except that after Dad's health scare (aortic aneurysm and stroke) two years ago, Mom was full of worry that he could not handle living on multiple levels so they needed one-level living. But I think they were just bored with each other and retirement and needed something to do.

Another question Dad asked me while were hanging out in the hospital was whether I am holding on to some "ancient" grudge against my mother (because apparently she thinks I am). I assured him that I am not, I have forgiven her for everything from the past, but she continues to do things in the present that hurt me deeply and this is what causes me to keep her at a distance. A year or so ago she wrote a letter to me asking if there was anything she did in the past that I had not forgiven her for, and if so would I please forgive her. I never responded. At the time, I did not know what to say, but over the last few months I think I am formulating a response. And I explained to Dad that her overzealous and judgmental religious fanaticism is one of the major wedges she drives between us. For example, on her Christmas card this year, she hand wrote something like "May you know the Peace and Joy of Christ Jesus this season and always", even though I have asked her *many* times not to throw her religion at me in such a way. She has also signed emails with tags like "A life without God is like an unsharpened pencil--pointless!" When I gently explained to her how offensive this is, she defended the quotation, refused to see things from my point of view, and never apologized or acknowledged my hurt feelings. So in the hospital, I explained to Dad how she has chosen her religion over her relationship with her family and he somewhat defended her by pointing out that this is what the Bible says is correct. I do not happen to believe it is the spirit of the law to judge anyone as damned or unworthy, especially family members. However, if she does believe this then she has chosen her path and is personally responsible for the distance between us. So heavenly-minded, she's no earthly good....

In conversation with NC, I came to realize how much influence my family history and parents have had on my whole outlook on life. I view my parents as mostly unhappy with each other and their situation, but resigned to accept it and get through it without changing anything. For example, my father speaks with regret about having missed out on a tenured position at DU when he was younger and then spent his career in private practice, which he never seemed very passionate about. He escaped to his basement man-cave, and for long hunting weekends to the mountains with his buddies, and took solo vacations to Colorado where he rode horses, camped out hunting elk, and lived like a cowboy. For some years he voraciously consumed old Western novels. My mother tells how she always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, but my father insisted she work, and she also wished to have a third child. They fought constantly and loudly with one another, then they would individually complain to me about all the things they disliked about the other. For years while Mother coached us through bedtime prayers, they were laden with entreaties for Dad to quit smoking. Their misery was pervasive and infectious.

NC helped me realize how this contributed to my developing a similar state of generalized unhappiness. I have viewed life as a hardship to be endured and "longed for the comfort of the grave" (as GU would say) from a very young age. I embraced the painful and bittersweet because I could not imagine that pure joy was a real possibility and had few, if any, life examples that could be characterized as simply sweet, without the bitter.

I don't think it has to be like this. I do believe I have the power to change my situation and make it exactly what I want it to be. I am not suggesting the possibility of a life without any pain, but I think there is something better than the way I have been living. I do not want to be resigned to the same sad destiny as my parents. I WANT TO BE HAPPY.
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I am despairing and I do not understand why. Could it be purely a chemical thing? Are emotions really so closely tied to the physical?

Friday was KW's birthday and I had so much anxiety leading up to it, which makes me frozen and unable to act. So I could not plan dinner, could not figure out a gift, could not even go to the Whole Foods and buy a cupcake. I feel terrible about it. We ended up going to V, a newish Mexican restaurant that KW had never been to, and then KW wanted to see this Hobbit movie. So at 10:25pm we sat down for a 3-hour movie in 3-D. I dozed most of the time, having no interest in the film. Back at my place I gave him a back massage and then we tried something new and I am not sure how he felt about it afterward. He never says much about his feelings and impressions, and I think not knowing where we stand is partially contributing to my anxiety.

Before we left for dinner I asked about his plans for Saturday night. I knew he was going to a birthday dinner with his family but had not invited me and I wondered why. Essentially his answer was that it just didn't cross his mind. He was going out with me on Friday, so he would go out with the family on Saturday. To me, it indicated he did not care to have me there at the family dinner, which is fine--I just wanted to hear that. I am still trying to figure out what it means to be his "girlfriend" because this can mean different things to different people...and clearly it does mean different things to us. After this conversation he invited me to go about 3 times, but I declined because I felt awkward like I had invited myself when I already knew he did not care if I was there or not.

Saturday he hung around my place until 4ish in the afternoon, which also felt awkward because I knew he had things to do. Today I know he is working on the house with his dad and he has not called me to stop over even though we talked about that on Friday. So I feel low. But much lower than I ought to. I am imagining things like never seeing him again and being alone again and trying to get over it and move on as a single person. And I just want to die. I imagine being paralyzed with sadness and depression and not wanting to move or go on. My "kiss the joy" mantra is not working. I need to find a way to renew that light mindset because it seemed so much happier and healthier than the darkness that has overtaken my thoughts on this cold, cloudy Sunday.........
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Judge not lest ye be judged.

Love God and love your neighbor.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Trust those who are seeking the truth, but doubt those who say they have found it.

What matters not is our personal salvation or damnation in the world to come, but that of our fellow men in the world that is.
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Well....the last few weeks have gotten away from me so I'll just have to post highlights. I spent Christmas Day home alone, which wasn't really my intention but just the way things ended up. My parents went to my brother's house in SC and I hate traveling on the holidays so I declined to join. I also declined to join the extended family in town for dinner on Christmas Day. Being with them is simply not relaxing. I probably had other options, but I didn't take anyone up on them and it was pretty cold to go for a hike, so I just stayed in and read books. I got to take my hike on New Year's Day. KW and I took a very long walk in FP and HC even though he was extremely hungover and sick from the night before. We went to a party of his friends close to my place in RS and drank essentially the same things throughout the evening, only he ended it with 4 glasses of wine and I had none of that. That is probably more than I needed to share. Anyway....in the evening we went to PM & NC's house for dinner but didn't stay very late.

In between Christmas and the New Year, KW's mom was in town and I was not sure I was going to meet her but then he invited me to join them and his sister's family at PC for the winter flower show. We went for Thai food beforehand. PC was packed, but it was nice. I enjoyed walking through the outdoor light displays while sipping some mulled wine. His mom was nice and we had a few things in common like antiquing. I was house-sitting at PM & NC's for the weekend, so Kyle came and spent the night with me since it is close to his place which is still essentially unlivable during the demolition.

The weekend after the New Year, I helped KW and his dad with the last of the wall demolition at his place. Saturday we worked then met up with SF & MS at PB, then went to a party in E at KW's friend, S's house, where KW offhandedly introduced me as his "girlfriend". What?! Later he asked me if that was OK, and I did not know how to react, but I was curious about what it meant to him. After giving it some thought, I did not mind it because it indicated his feelings about me in a way he has not vocalized. But it still seems odd that we have not had any conversations about the nature of the relationship, how we feel about each other, etc., and I feel like I have no clue.

On Sunday we met his dad at the house around noon to finish the demolition and clean the place. KW had spent most of the week with me, but we got his bed set up and I did the dishes and cleaned the black coal dust from his sink and tub so he could stay at his own place. I missed having him with me, which is a feeling I had nearly forgotten. I do have the sense that time apart is good, but maybe it is a lingering sense based on recent experiences with less suitable men whose company I did not enjoy so much. And absence makes the heart grow fonder, and some such.......

On Wed. 1/8/2014 KW invited me join him for early morning yoga class. This is something I would not normally say yes to because it is outside my comfort zone to go to a strange place with strange people and do a strange activity. I am not sure why I trust KW so much, but he has never disappointed me or let me down so far, so I knew it would be fine and I was excited for the new experience with him. I had even purchased some fancy expensive yoga pants so I would have something suitable to wear. I *loved* yoga. I loved the stretching and how I felt a little sore afterward and it was relaxing like I got a massage only nobody had to touch me (I do not like being touched by strangers). The lights were low and there was soft music and the teacher gave great instructions so I felt comfortable. Afterward we went to the B for coffee before KW had to go to work and sat in the corner on the same side of the table and had a lovely time with our Mexican hot chocolate. It was such a fantastic date that it feels like the peak already. I can not imagine a better date down the line--it was just that wonderful.

I still repeat my mantra often--"Kiss the joy"--to remind me to enjoy each moment in the moment for exactly what it is and nothing more or less. So far it is serving me well and I feel free to enjoy KW's company to the fullest every time we are together.
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I realize I have not said much about KW and what he is like, or what I like about him. Well...he is a year older than me, I think, over six feet tall, ~170 lbs., with brown hair and light eyes. He drives a Subaru with a roof rack, works for an environmental non-profit, and has a house on the NS that he paid cash for and is working to rehab while he lives there. The house was in pretty bad shape, so he is obviously a person who doesn't shy away from a challenge. He rides a bike to work, owns two kayaks, is a great dancer, does yoga, and is close to his family. He has got his own kinks, which may or may not complement mine. He keeps dates, holds doors open, and always walks on the street side of me. He is a great communicator, seems very honest, reliable, and reserved in some senses, but very outgoing in others. I really like his disposition.

Saturday 12/21/2013 -- I promised to help KW do some demolition in the final room of his house to be gutted. We worked for a couple of hours along with another friend of his, and got completely filthy. He had a housewarming party to go to that evening and invited me along so I took a shower at his place. The party was small, and we were some of the only straight people there, but we met some interesting people and ate some good cheese and wine. Toward the end he made some rather bold comments to me, and I said "You are all talk, KW". Maybe he took this as some sort of challenge, because we made out more than usual when we got back to my place and he spent the night. Had a long conversation in bed the next morning, which is my absolute favorite thing, then made him breakfast and dropped him off at his place before heading out for a Hash. I have been running more regularly and just joined a gym for the winter months. Another sign that KW is something special is that I actually care what I look like around him. So I am working to shape up.

The next evening, Monday 12/23/2013, we made plans to go to a party at one of my friends' place and beforehand we stopped by SF & MS's house for a couple of beers and just to visit because they have been wanting to hang out. I really like SF & MS. They are one of those couples that give you hope of finding a match because they are so perfect for each other. Afterward at KDM's party, we had some food and drinks and I think we even danced a bit. Kyle spent the night with me and the next day he had Christmas shopping to do so I tagged along to SSW where we went to REI and Sur la Table and then spent some time looking for any place that was open for lunch before finding the Irish place, C, was open. Had a couple of beers and food and sat in the corner on the same side of the table and there was a *lot* of PDA but we were fairly hidden from view so I let it slide. It was a great day. KW is sweet to me...and I don't even mind.
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Friday 12/13/2013 -- KW came over for dinner at my place. It was slightly awkward when he first arrived and he made a comment that a week was too long between visits (even though it had only been 5 days). I explained how it takes me a little while to re-acclimate after not seeing a person for a while, and I think he agreed on that, but I am really not sure what he meant. We checked out the City Paper and talked about going out, but in the end we just sat on the sofa and talked and then he stayed over but had to leave kind of early for a meeting.

The next day he invited me to join him at a Las Vegas themed birthday party, but I had to work the retail job so I could  not.

Sunday 12/15/2013 -- KW invited me to join him and his sister's family for their Christmas celebration with their father and step-mother. A lot of people might think this meant something serious, but I got the impression he brings friends home a lot. Maybe they had the tickets for a while because he'd been dating someone else? Who knows. It did seem way early to meet his family, but it was a nice invitation so I accepted. First everyone went to a show at the CT and then back to his sister's house for dinner, drinks, and festivities. His family was really great--super nice, relaxed, funny, interesting, and also very attractive people. His step-mother gave me gifts--a scarf and a pair of slippers--and I had a wonderful time with everyone. KW brought me home and spent the night at my place, but had to leave early in the morning for work.

Tuesday 12/17/2013 -- KW invited me to go on a full moon hike with some friends in NP. It didn't start until 8:00 and one girl was late so we stood around for half an hour and it was really cold. I was annoyed with myself for saying yes (I hate the cold) and then as we were about to leave for the hike the trip leader says we will cover about 6 miles and it will take 2+ hours! I wanted to cry as we walked out of the parking lot. Luckily, KW had packed some whiskey and I said give me some now! I decided it was a great opportunity for a hike in the snow under the moonlight and I do love the woods so I made the best of it, though I was exhausted by the end. KW made it great by singing songs and entertaining me all along the way. Afterward we all went for a beer. Back at KW's place, he suggested I stay over and I declined, which was difficult because of course I wanted to stay with him. It just seems like too much...I still need to maintain some distance so I don't get too caught up. Honestly, it feels like we're moving into some kind of friend zone since we have not slept together. In my experience, when a guy does not push for sex it means he is either getting it somewhere else or he doesn't have much drive. Something is going on there. Not sure what, but I am definitely curious.

Now KW's mom is in town and he's taking 10 days off work, plus Christmas is next week, so I am not sure how much to stay in touch. My flight instincts are kicking in big time.
 
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KW and I have been on some wonderful dates so far, and I want to write it down so I don't forget. First, we happened to run into each other at a Day of the Dead event where we were both working. Toward the end of the evening we left our station and checked out some of the other exhibits, then he asked if I'd like to get something to eat afterward and we went to J Street Pub on the NS near his place. Talked about family and religion some. Exchanged numbers on the sidewalk.

Didn't hear from him for a couple weeks, then I wondered if I'd see him at a networking event we'd both gone to in the past. He said no, but asked if I'd like to see a documentary film on Wed. 11/20/2013 called "Idle Threat: Man on Emission" about a man crusading to enforce anti-idling laws in NYC. We made plans for dinner beforehand at PAF Co., but it was closed so we went to a bar called W in MS. Sat on the second floor near the windows--I'd love to go back in summer and sit on the balcony. Good beer and decent food. The movie was just ok. I sat next to the filmmaker and he hosted a reception afterward. KW had ridden his bike, and when it was late and dark and cold, I offered to drive him home and went in for a bit, but did not stay.

Sat. 11/23/2013 -- Went to the SS, walked around for a bit trying to find a table and eventually found a spot in the bar area of an upscale place called T. Had nice drinks and nice food and good conversation. Stopped by SLM where there was supposed to be a DJ, but it was quiet and there were a few people playing and singing together. Didn't stay long, but went down the street to a dueling piano bar, CM's, where I would probably *never* normally go, but I had a great time. Learned that KW used to sing in a choir. I was taken aback by his ongoing PDA both in the bar and on the street, but chalked it up to "that's just the way he is, it doesn't really mean anything". Drove back to his place where I completely expected him to invite me in, was shocked when he didn't, and told him so. Then he told me to come in, but at the door he said something like he wouldn't be a good host and sometimes you just want to be alone, which I *completely* understand so then I felt absolutely horrible for inviting myself in. Plenty of people have overstayed their welcome at my place when I just wanted them to leave, so I *know* what it feels like. But he convinced me to stay for a bit, then I went home. I'm still not sure what that whole episode was about.

Tues. 11/26/2013 -- Invited him to my place for hot toddies and soup. After dinner, we sat on the sofa and talked some about what happened last time. Came to some sort of understanding that having sex too fast is a bad idea and he told me how he sometimes "scuttles" relationships. He probably would have stayed over if I had invited him, but I did not so he went home and I was glad. I told him it is too intimate. I feel empowered somehow by not sleeping with him and not spending the night.

He was away over Thanksgiving, and we didn't talk/text much, but we did set up plans for Fri. 12/7/2013 and then hung out nearly the entire weekend. Started at WW before an AT performance at the PO. Talked about games and competitiveness and avoided talking about moral relativity and Christmas. After the show, we went to the H&F where there was a comedian playing acoustic guitar and we had perfect tall seats in the bar area. Learned KW took ice-skating lessons. I think I following him back to his place and went inside for a bit, but did not stay. I had a very full schedule the next day, but while we were at the H&F I had invited him to join me and PM and NC at the PHCDC Christmas Party. There was a great band and plenty of wine and during the second set there was *dancing*. Gah. I kicked myself for inviting him to a place with dancing because of *course* he is a great dancer, and of course I do not dance and never have. He was amazing and got me out on the floor at the tail end of the evening. We ended up back at my place where it seemed early so I put on a movie and promptly fell asleep. Then he stayed the night...in my plaid flannel pants. So much for empowerment. It was nice, though...better than I expected. In the morning we lounged around in bed talking and I was reminded how much I love that. I made banana pancakes, eggs, and bacon then around noon we went to his place where I helped him move some furniture. Learned KW speaks Spanish and likes to dress up.


I told him it was ok that he stayed over because I like him and I am attracted to him and I don't feel like I am compromising my values. I appreciate that we set plans days in advance because I like looking forward to them, and so far he keeps dates and calls when he says he will. I am loving the slow pace of things and getting to know him bit by bit. He seems more and more out of my league, and he may not see it yet but he will eventually. So every time we have a date I tell myself over and again to not get caught up, just have fun, and "kiss the joy" (some words to live by from one of my favorite poets. I even heard this quote in a song by John Gorka the other day--the Universe is with me!)

As I touched on in the last entry, this dalliance with KW has certainly put my past relationships in perspective, and I am so relieved and glad I never committed to any lesser relationship. When this is over, I am determined to be single and quit wishing or hoping that life will be any other way. Loneliness is more comforting to me than the company of strangers. Usually ;)
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It's been ages. I don't know why I haven't written...maybe felt less introspective. Not for lack of drama. And I hate that  what prompts me to write is usually a boy.

I've dated a handful of guys over the last couple of years. Two started out well, and then after a while I lost interest in the dating part and just wanted to be friends, and then they ended in bad falling outs. Another guy I haven't dated per se, but he tells me he loves me and says he wants to marry me and though I barely feel attracted to him there are some days I consider it just so I can develop a family of some sort and I won't be alone.

And then I start dating KW. We have been casual acquaintances for a few years, and recently went out a couple of times. I know it's early, but from what I know so far we seem more compatible than just about anyone. I have never felt well-matched with anyone, but maybe I only think that in hindsight based on KW. Anyway, I think he's a little bit out of my league, which actually makes me feel free to just enjoy his company for whatever duration of time it lasts. And it also puts those other less compatible relationships in perspective. Now I know I could have never been happy with those guys, and I ought to just stay single unless I find someone worth falling for head over heels. And I know this means I will probably just be single because it's so rare and difficult for me to feel connected.

So I feel pain and peace at the same time, and comfort in the bittersweet love and strife that I have always known and always will........
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I've never been so depressed in my life and I just don't know how to shake it off. Part if it is just winter time blues, and part may be some weird chemical imbalance from more physical activity than I'm used to. Plus, I have been spending all my time alone, and that does not help because I just retreat into my dark and brooding thoughts and spiral into this negative oblivion where I don't want to see anybody or do anything and all I really want is for death to come quickly.

It's no secret I am not happy in life. My dad even asked me a few months back if I was happy. Can't really remember the context, but it did kind of come out of no where and I was caught off guard. I got evasive, of course, and didn't directly answer, but said something like, "I work 10 hours a week in a job I hate. How happy can I be?" I feel like I let him down by being unhappy. I don't think Dad has ever been that happy, due to both internal disposition and external circumstances, and parents all want something better for their children so it seems logical that he's especially disappointed I have followed him on this path.

I just tried to imagine what could possibly make me happy at this point in my life, and could not come up with much. I've decided what I want to do with my life--be a funeral director and help people get through the worst day of their life. But it is just not working out. I suppose it could if I was willing to relocate and learn to embalm. So in that sense I take full responsibility for the state of my life. I am fully aware that I alone have complete control over my own destiny and happiness. It feels even worse knowing this is my own fault.

The other conspicuous void in my life is a partner. My mother sent me an email several months back asking if I had "given up on male companionship in my life". I did not respond to the inflammatory topic. I do not hope for a husband, but the relationship I envision is something more like a teammate, or a mutually beneficial partnership. It doesn't even have to be lifelong. So the absence of these two things--a rewarding vocation and a meaningful relationship--would seem to be the greatest sources of my unhappiness. However, when I just imagined life in different circumstances, if I were able to have fulfilling employment and domestic partnership, I was still miserable....which points to a notion I have long suspected: I will never be happy. As if it is not possible. As if my disposition and Fate and history have all combined to create this unique unfortunate destiny to which I am bound. Either that, or this is what true depression feels like--no ability to see light at the end of the tunnel, or believe that it will get better, or that life could evolve into anything other than what it is now. 
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Ha ha...it takes more than a little honesty and openness to scare me away. What you said there was really interesting--about offering details about your life to make new friends over and over again. I recognize that's how it's done, but I have somehow never been good at sharing those details and I think that's part of the reason my friendships come and go. I am just not that open. But anyway....

I haven't heard anything about TCS or JLD lately, but I should ask my mom. She's a huge gossip and bound to know something. Several years ago I saw JLD's dad some place and I think he said JLD was working as an electrician at AGH here in the city, but he didn't live in the city. I really don't remember, but I'll ask my mom. I don't go home to C much, and I don't know why my parents still live there. They are both retired now. I think they are waiting for either me or my brother to settle down and have kids. ARH is a lot closer to it than me. He lives in S C with his wife and they are planning to buy a house there soon.

It's great that you have a good relationship with your mom, though it does surprise me a little because I don't remember you two being especially close. However, maybe that was just typical parent/teenager relationship strain that I recall. I honestly don't know how I turned out to be such a different person than my parents. My mother and I have nothing in common and I just don't like her very much as a person, so I think it is awesome that you have such respect and admiration for yours. I am envious. I talked to your mom quite a bit at that 4th of July party, but I don't really remember what we talked about. Such a bad memory!!

Quaker services have always intrigued me. In Boston, the meetinghouse was directly across from the LDS chapel, so I walked by it every Sunday after parking and I was always curious. The sense of community that you described really appeals to me, but I suppose it would only work if I opened myself up to it. Regarding St. P's, I think your experience there was probably somewhat different than mine in that I never talked to anybody about anything. Yeah, it would seem that talking to your youth leader about something bothering you was the natural thing to do, but I never had any conversations like that. I remember distinctly when I stopped believing--it was October when I was 15. I looked around at all those people I had known my whole life and I just knew in my heart that what they believed and their way of life was not the absolute truth. But I never told a soul. 

I am also glad to hear you love your job as a 4th grade teacher. Life leads us on crazy paths, huh? Yes, I became an undertaker. People ask me why, and I never really know what to say. Guess it was just a calling. It's not working out so great, though. Tough to find a job unless you have family in the business, and I'd like to start my own place but it's risky and overwhelming. I don't want to start a business, I just want to help people get through the worst day of their life. When I went to mortuary school, and even when I graduated, I was interested in embalming and human anatomy still intrigues me, but I never really had the opportunity to learn embalming for various reasons. And then I got involved with a non-profit group called GBP and now I don't really care to learn embalming. It is a very invasive process and the chemicals are known carcinogens that burn my nose and throat and I really don't want to be around them. I am interested in doing green funerals and home funerals--the way it was done for thousands of years prior to the advent of embalming. I am involved with the group that opened PA's first green cemetery and I was able to assist with a home funeral for the first burial at the cemetery. But I have been struggling for years to make ends meet as a funeral director. Since November I have been interviewing with FI and they have offered me a job contingent upon getting my insurance license. I am halfway through the licensing process. A career in sales is something I never considered, and insurance is about the most boring thing in the world, but the stability is appealing to me, as well as a steady income, so I think I am going to do it. I feel like a total sell-out, but it will be beneficial in some ways. I will have the opportunity to meet more people and be more outgoing and more involved in the community, which is something I always liked about funeral service. Training starts in March.

I thought of those Penelope letters right away when we got back in touch, because I think that was happening right before our split. I honestly felt kind of ashamed about writing them. But I always took everything way too seriously. On hearing your take, I guess I can chalk it up to youthful games and whimsy.

Happy New Year! I am off to gym with plenty of food for thought while I run on the treadmill.......

KLH
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I started sleeping with this new guy. I want to approach it in a healthy way...embrace the experience for exactly what it is without wishing or hoping that it will turn into something that it is not. I am trying hard not to get too emotionally entangled, I don't call him more than every couple of weeks, and I constantly examine my feelings to make sure I'm not getting off track or wrapped up. It's a battle. I still think about him all the time and wish he was around. It's a catch-22 because I am trying to not get attached or develop any expectations, and at the same time I recognize that I probably wouldn't keep sleeping with him if I didn't like him and feel some connection to him. I am sure it's cliche for a woman, but what I enjoy about sex is the (perceived) emotional intimacy. I realized a few months back that the only way I experience feeling close with someone is though physical intimacy, and this inappropriately blurs the lines of emotional, mental, and spiritual connection. For example, some of my friends are very physically affectionate with each other and this is difficult for me to grasp. Why would you cuddle with someone while there was no intention to have sex with them? When I realized this about myself, I felt really broken. I am sure it is based in my conservative religious upbringing and the idea that all physical intimacy ought to be reserved for that one special relationship with your life partner (husband). And since my family is not close I never learned how to develop closeness and intimacy of a non-sexual nature. So broken.............
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I have been casually thinking about a New Year's resolution. I usually make one...but at the moment I am having trouble remembering what they were for the past few years. Usually I evaluate the direction of my life and come up with a general change I would like to make--just something to be more aware of in the coming year. This year everything I come up with is more specific, like "exercise more" and "don't waste so much time surfing the internet". I have developed a little shopping problem, and I would like to get outside more, and travel more, and just quit being such a lump. I used to love going for a run in the park, a hike in the woods, or a bike ride just about anywhere, and I loved thrift shopping and antique stores, and road trips exploring the countryside and taking photos with my Holga. I don't do any of that anymore, and I think part of the problem is the lack of routine in my life. I find it very difficult to make any plans when I have nothing in my schedule around which to make such plans. Sounds kind of crazy when I put it like that, but it's true. The other thing that holds me back is being very alone in the world. I miss having a partner to do fun things with, and it's hard to get motivated to do those same activities by myself that I used to do with someone I cared about. I just don't have that much fun alone. Relationships are the most important part of life, and without them I am kind of lost.

Regarding clothing, I would like to focus on making more utilitarian choices. I've acquired a ridiculous number of whimsical little blouses from Anthropologie, which I love, but they don't really fit my lifestyle. I miss thrifting, though it is harder now because my standards are a lot higher so the gems are fewer and farther between. I have also discovered leather shoes and boots and anything not leather just seems cheap and unappealing to me. But it is an expense I feel is justified if the footwear is utilitarian and will last many years. I am done buying lots of cheap shoes and I value comfortable and versatile high quality footwear. I got these at full price--



--and I love them because they look like shoes a 10-year-old boy would have worn in 1910. After I made this purchase, I discovered this company--http://www.vintageshoecompany.com/-- and I love the designs and the fact that they are made locally right in Pennsylvania! I will be saving my money for these.

On the employment front, I have been interviewing with a large insurance company since November, I believe. I kind of randomly posted my resume on www.monster.com, and the recruiter, DS, called me up and offered me an interview, had me jump through some hoops, and offered me the job, contingent upon my getting licensed, of course. I passed the Property & Casualty portion so far, and I am about to start studying for the Life & Health part. If I accept the position, I will work out of the corporate office for a year to build my "book of business" and then open up an independent agency somewhere in the community. I never considered a career in sales, and insurance seems like the most boring thing imaginable, but the stability is appealing to me and so is the steady income. I feel like a total sell-out, but I think I am going to do it.

I also want to read more this year. I've been trying to get through some Jane Austen for the past few months, but I am just not that into it. I like the language, but the plots revolve around getting daughters married off to the best suitors, and not much more. Also in the pile next to my bed at the moment are some self-help books--"How to Win Friends and Influence People" and "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living", both by Dale Carnegie, as well as "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey. I think these will help me in my future corporate life. I am also looking forward to reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan and "Sacred Economics" by Charles Eisenstein. I discovered this last title when I came across this short film--



I've watched it at least a dozen times. I love the video because Eisenstein crystalizes the underlying issue of so many of the problems of our society, as well as the Occupy movement (which I have supported locally up until recently, but not been directly involved with). I am excited to read his book.

Finally, I am trying to get in shape. I miss running, and just being outside more. It's tough in the winter, so I got a month free at a local gym. I went today for the first time, and it felt really good to get moving again. There are, like, 5 gyms within walking distance of my new apartment, but joining up for a whole year doesn't make sense for me since I prefer running outside in the nice weather and would never use a gym membership in the summer. Looking forward to running outside in the spring.
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I am so glad my last response didn't scare you away.  I thought I might been a little too open and forthcoming after so many years of silence, but traveling so much has made me need to offer details about my life so that it is easier to make new friends again and again and again and again... you get the picture...

I do not keep in touch with TCS, much to my dismay.  I really did love him when we were dating and even thought he might be "the one" after all of our history together, but then after seeing his mom's hatred for me and how he didn't defend me I knew I had made most of the 'love feeling' up in my head.  I heard he married a girl from around the WS area about a year after we broke up, and I saw him once (before his marriage) at a KCHS graduation I was obligated to attend because it was for Amber Musgrave's sister (who just happened to be in the same class as TCS's little brother.)  I assume he is happily married with like 4 kids now or something like that.

Do you ever hear about JLD? I never have had an update on him, ever.

I also experimented a lot with different religions while in college. I attended a UU church for awhile, and kinda liked it. But the best
one for me was when I was a Quaker for about a year.  They just hold meetings that no one leads and then sit around and speak about their week, thank people for good deeds, and socialize.  It was so different from anything else I've experienced. I only quit going once I started dating this guy Keith and sorta picked up on his love of pills.  That was the long term relationship I had before TCS.  I regret letting the pills get in the way of me being a part of the Quaker community, but I still think about "God" being "The Universe" because of what I learned from them.  I think Jesus was an awesome guy. He was such a rebel in his time.  I still use his teachings, combined with other good moral values, as a road map for how to live. If all Christians lived and believed like my mum does then I would be 100% on that boat, but she is definitely in the minority.  My mum is truly an amazing woman and
my biggest inspiration to live life in a good way and show love by living love... if that makes any sense.

I guess I repressed so many memories of St. P's because of how ashamed I was made to feel for being me.  I have a lot of issues with my father and how he acted one way at church and then changed into a completely different person as soon as we were in the van on the way home.  I told CK one time how conflicted I was (because she was the youth group leader at the time) and she basically told me I was crazy and full of lies. She said my dad was a good guy and I was just trying to get attention (which I did do a lot of back then... hahaha).  I can't blame her for not wanting to get involved, but it was a serious problem for me at the time, and it would have been nice to be taken seriously.  There are so many other things, too, but those will have to wait for another email because my students just started arriving and I have a hundred things to do with the holidays around the corner and all. (Can you believe that I am a 4th grade teacher??!!??!!?? People actually trust me to teach their little ones and I actually really LOVE it! NEVER saw that one coming...)

Just one more thing, I heard that you had become a mortician. Is that true? If so, I have so many questions.  I thought about doing that myself, or being a midwife, but then went to Korea to teach English because the money was awesome and it didn't require me to spend a bunch of money being trained when I was already drowning in student debt. A Degree in English Lit and Women's Studies is actually an asset there!  It increased my pay, too!  hahaha, silly Koreans... just because you can speak and read English does NOT mean you can teach it. I ended up just mimicking my mom and being pretty darn good at it, if I must say so myself...  LOL.

It has been great catching up with you, and long over due.  Do you remember the Penelope letters we used to type on those crazy Friday nights?  That still brings a smile to my face!  :D

More later,
R

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I don't know if I blame the church for fucking us all up (though I am incredibly socially awkward, as you mentioned). Mostly I hold my own parents responsible. I have kind of a bad memory, so maybe I have forgotten a lot of the weird stuff that happened at St. P's. Out of curiosity, to what are you referring? And how do you remember it being handled by the adults?

Funny that you mention giving up your problems to the "Universe"--I frequently refer to the Universe in the place of God, to my mother's dismay. I think there is some kind of higher power, but I don't know what it is and I kind of think it is beyond human understanding. I believe in the inter-connectedness of all beings as a power greater than our own...but I really don't think much about it. I was Mormon for a while, which was very comfortable for me following the conservative Christian upbringing, and in a lot of ways I am sorry that did not work out for me. It is a very family-oriented theology, so as a single person with no other family in that church it was too difficult to go it alone. I go to Unitarian church every now and then, but I don't really feel any connection to it. And I can relate to what you said about steering clear of church-goers. There is so much hatred and hypocrisy tied up with American Christianity, that I don't even want to associate myself with it, even though I do believe in the philosophy of Jesus Christ. That is, love God & love your neighbor.

I may have known you dated TCS for a while, but I didn't know about  his mother's little breakdown. Very strange. And I am not surprised to hear of his sex addiction in light of his upbringing, and I think I have some of those tendencies, maybe manifested a little differently. A few years back I read a book called The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti that kind of put things in perspective for me. But all that is still a struggle. Do you keep in touch with TCS? Do you know what he's up to these days?

Thank you for the kind words regarding our past friendship. I think trying to be different was the natural response to such a stifling religious upbringing, and I don't remember being conscious of it at the time but I do have a bad memory. I think that is also what drew me to you back then, and I really did like your company and value your friendship. Mostly what I remember is hanging out at your house on Friday nights during the adults' home group, in the woods and in your room. Remembering that now makes me even more sorry that our friendship ended back then. But such is life.

Thanks for writing back, and I am glad to be back in touch.

Regards,

K
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Hey K,

I actually wrote you because I was trying to weed out friends on facebook and anyone who didn't respond within two months got erased. I have thought about over the years and wondered how you were getting along.  When my mum said she saw you I thought it was a good time to see how you had been after all this time. I only erased you because of my "rule." I only want close friends stalking me on fb...  :D


St. P's really fucked us all up, huh?  I have actually blocked most of it from my memory because of all the weird stuff that happened and, more importantly, how things were handled by the adults... oh, well, water under the bridge now, right?  The past should stay in the past and all that. I am not a believer anymore- nor am I an atheist, but I definitely go out of my way to avoid people who go to church regularly.  I give up my problems to 'The Universe" and only deal with things I actually have control over. Life has been really great to me so far, so it must work... at least I'm happy.

Did you know that I dated TCS for about 5 or 6 months after I graduated from college?  It was a strange relationship because he was working as a trucker (who had an incredible addiction to sex) and I was getting over a slight substance abuse problem and a very long term relationship. Oh, and his Mom had a mental breakdown at the C Mall when she found out we were dating, and he never defended me to her. Seriously, crying hysterically and falling to her knees like her world was over.  I never thought I was that horrible a person, we all have problems, but what an over reaction...  I wish him all the best, but I really chalk it all up to the black hole of St. P's for making us all socially awkward.

Well, I have a ton of work to do, so I best be off.  Quickly in regards to your last paragraph, I got to shake Hillary's personal security guards' hand last Friday!! and I live right around the corner from "The Lady." Life in Burma is amazing. So much better than Korea. I would like to keep in touch.  I have had the privilege of maintaining a lot of friends from every stage in life, and you were one of the first truly unique people I had met who WANTED to be different. You inspired me at a young age, and I still think of you when someone brings up "My So-Called life." :)

Hope this wasn't a huge over kill as a response. You know I could never hold a grudge- still can't.
Hope to hear from you soon. It is so much easier for me to get on gmail bc fb is mostly blocked by big brother here.
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