I turn 46 in a few days. It’s not a milestone birthday, but it is something, I suppose.
I’m under a lot of pressure to keep after my business, and keep growing it as much as possible, and the daily work is starting to really pick up in speed. If you’d asked me last year at this time, I’d have told you I was VERY unsure about the success of my coaching, and would be under so much stress and pressure from my public transit gig that I’d probably have just slugged some coffee, shot you a dirty look, and headed out the door.
This year, in this pre-birthday space in time, I’m a much different person. I have a beautiful Boy in my bed. I have a burbling and flowing business that, while it’s a bit of a hustle, brings me utter joy the more I engage with it. I have my dog, faithful and steadfast. I have simplified my life by simply saying No and meaning it when I had to.
Things are better.
Things are vastly different from where I thought I’d be
When I started this site, I was attempting to play to my darker side. The sexy, slutty, experiment-in-body-positivity side that I had never nurtured before. I’d never felt so strong, so confident in my personhood. Today, that feeling has simmered into a fine, rich stew of life lessons and emotions. Having the support of the Boy, who sees me as a magical creature, beautiful in nearly every way, and who constantly has me on my heels, questioning every bit of self-doubt that still lingers in my body, has been transformative.
I have learned that I am not meant to manage everything, and that it’s okay to be humble and ask for help and forgiveness at times. I have an inner strength that has been so dormant and yet so persistent my whole life, and through my connection to him, and to the world around me, I’m able to foster more growth and compassion than ever before. When I stop putting in so much frustrated effort towards things that aren’t in my control or purview, I’m able to fully breathe and be myself, for the first time in my whole-ass life.
I turn 46, which is too damn close to 50 for my liking, but it also represents a beautiful moment to stop, take in the view, and spot the peaks and valleys I’ve already traversed.
I really am happy with the view from this vantage point.
Every year since 2010, I’ve had a cold dead rock of emotion inside me on Independence Day.
It was the day my first husband ended my first marriage. It was under the banner of fireworks and pyrotechnics on the banks of the Charles River in Boston, the most Freedom Day place in America on the most Freedom Day of the year.
I was given my freedom, indeed, but felt the cage of all of those demons, that I’d entrusted my marriage to keep me safe from, open wide, and start chewing on me again.
I hadn’t faced down my darkened childhood. I hadn’t take steps to come to terms with my busted first relationship, that had been full of violence and toxicity. I hadn’t even really faced down my own self-destructive nature around food and exercise. Instead, I’d put all of my focus into my marriage, and into being someone’s something, rather than being my anything, at all.
And I started running. For my life.
First, it was running back to Maine, tail between my legs. Then it was actual running – ten miles every other day or so. Then it was to the bar, and drowning out my anxious self, slipping into that time and space that has no feeling and all physicality. Then, it was running on the open road in my car, clear to Denver. I barely paused there, and found myself doing the same sort of running, only this time at altitude – where the air is thin and suffocating all at once.
I finally ran to Portland, and it’s been here where I’ve come to rest. Nearly ten years with Ray meant slowing down, taking stock, and finally, for the first time, pivoting to face the things I could not, physically or emotionally run away from any longer. Hitting forty years of age was the fulcrum point, and since then, nothing’s been the same.
I got my eating and exercise in order. I made steps to embrace my need for mental health help. Now, more recently, I’ve set myself free from a job I hated because it was killing me day by day. I’ve got a massive new love in my life who’s showing that he wants to be here, and be present, even though he’s also stumbling a bit as well.
Tomorrow is the 13th anniversary of my Independence Day.
I’m going to make it a simple and gentle as possible, and remain thankful for the freedom I have in my life now.
I’m a little more free of my past, my demons, my bad choices, and a lot more free to make better, stronger, healthier choices for myself going forward. I have a lot more freedom to love in a way that suits me, and not just for the appeasement of others. I am free to smile in the sunshine, or smile when the rains hit my bald head. I am more free in my spirit than I have been in my whole life.
It’s been about a year or so since I was told, “You’d make a great trainer” by my former coach and personal trainer.
In that time, I’ve secured a certification as a nutrition coach and personal trainer, started my own virtual coaching platform, joined forces with my former trainer as an assistant coach on his platform, and, as of this week, I’m officially a personal trainer at a local health club here in the Portland, Oregon metro area.
This is *surreal* to me.
About five years ago, I was not the man I am today.
In fact, I was about seventy pounds heavier, a heavy smoker, and every-night drinker. I was spiraling, at best, trying to manage my stressful public transit job, a relationship that was wavering around in the wind, and not quite sure what to make of myself. I’d had a shitty doctor’s visit, with the warning that I needed to shape up, or get on the pills I’d need to keep my blood pressure, cholesterol, and such all in alignment with the living.
I was a mess. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was running away from my past traumas, trying to drown out the ever-increasing anxiety about the state of my life, and the way my past kept knocking at my door. I was determined to out run all of it, and in the end, had blown out my knee in the process.
When I turned 40, I made a choice. I chose to defy the statistics, and lean into something my doctor had been telling me, off-hand, for a while.
Eat right and Exercise.
And that’s what I did.
And when that started to work, when I started to feel control over my body, my choices, my world, I started to flex the same skill in other areas of my life.
I got some help with my mental health. I faced down my fears of being on meds, of needing therapy, of having to say out loud the things that were scaring me, keeping me up at night, and all the rest. I found lovers who saw me through the fog of my anxiety and alcohol abuse, and told me that I was worth of love and affection.
Now, as I start on this next new journey in my life, I’ve peeled away the people who have been resistant to my new-found use of the word “no.” I’m starting to value myself, my time, and my energy, in a brand new way.
I’ve stepped away from my job in public transit, a job where my anxiety was crushing me, the pressures on me to perform at 100% every day were mounting, and where a deep lack of respect for my humanhood was a constant daily challenge.
I’ve taken on the challenge of helping others find their inner drive, spark, and motivation. I’ve decided that helping others achieve their goals is a big enough passion of mine, that I can dedicate my life and livelihood to it.
I get to teach, something I’ve been born to do, in a way that also incorporates showing others how to love themselves a little bit more, how to make good, small choices daily that will have long-lasting impacts on their overall wellbeing, and how to show up for themselves first. I am leading not only through knowledge and expertise, but by example, as I’m also an open book to anyone who cares to know more.
There’s so much more ahead for me in this next, new journey, and I can’t wait to share it. Day by day, I will be improving my life and the lives of those around me in fundamental ways that I don’t even know how to measure as of yet.
The Boy has given me a date of departure. He will be out of here, and out of Oregon, by June 3, 2023.
He’s been existing in the spare room in the apartment, and for a solid month or so, we’ve been mired in a strange interaction that has been full of both friendship and peace, as well as fraught emotions and pointed arguments. Back and forth, sparring over stupid details, and both of us just in a constant state of heightened emotional being. We are both exhausted by it.
He gave his notice to the job he landed here, a job which he loves, yesterday. His realization that his current income means he won’t get approval for an apartment anytime soon on his own, plus his heart strings being pulled to the Rockies, has been a thing to watch him wrestle. From my vantage point, he’s simply following another guy, and uprooting himself again for another person, without the real effort it takes to put down roots anywhere. I see this in him because, like him, I did the same thing around his age. I get it. Perhaps he’s seeking redemption like I was, a savior, someone to hold him captive long enough to settle him down, much like I was. Perhaps it’s something more. I don’t know. The part that stings the most, for me, is that I was hoping to be that man for him.
Part of me still longs for it, if I’m totally honest. I have offered him a second chance with me, but he simply refuses to entertain the idea. He’s as stubborn as ever (and as me), and is just charging forward with everything. So, we part ways in a few days, and I don’t know if I’ll ever hear from him again. I can only hope that we at least part on good terms.
His departure isn’t the only thing I’m wrestling with either.
I’ve asked my husband, a partner of mine for nearly a decade, to end our marriage. Along with the Boy and I going our separate ways, so too are myself and the man I married a few short years ago. He too is also still in this two-bedroom apartment, with the both of us swapping out nights on the terrible sofa in the living room and the comfy bed we no longer can share.
The decision to ask for a change in our marital status came as a shock to him, but was something I’d been chewing over for quite some time. Lots of things are factors in this move on my part, but most of all is the disconnect between us. His job took so much out of him, leaving very little for me and for us, and the resentment of having to carry the house, the relationship, and all the rest, simply became too much for me. I reached a breaking point, and when I realized that love could feel better than it did, that I could, in fact, be with a person who fosters an alignment between my mind, heart, and full body, and not just pieces of me now and again (something the Boy taught me), I needed a change.
He’s changed jobs, thankfully. He’s also verging on moving out very soon as well, having been on a voracious hunt for a new place to live, one that will accommodate visits with our dog, and give him access to his job and the nightlife he likes. The apartment hunt has been super tedious for him, but last I knew, he’d found a place that would work. His housing decision, it should be noted, was all self-driven. I never asked him to move out. He has opted to flee this apartment we’ve shared, citing access to work as his real reason, and I’ve let him run with it. I’ve also secured the apartment here as mine alone, qualifying to be on the lease as the sole occupant, which was a bedrock stability moment for me, as well. He knows where I live, and is always welcome to come for a visit. He remains a friend, though I don’t know how much our paths will cross as he dives into this new direction in his life.
I will be living the single, solo life in a very short amount of time.
I have not lived by myself, on purpose, ever. I’ve always either been seeking a partner to join me in living, or been living with a partner or roommate for all of my adult life. This shift represents something quite massive for me, and I’m both nervous and excited for it. After losing two major relationships back-to-back, I know I need some time to heal and pull myself together. I want to explore the ways that I give out so much energy to others, and how to keep healthy boundaries for myself, so as not to give away so much in the future. I need to settle into love with myself, and find that deep-core self that is a more true version of me for others to get to know, and possibly love.
I have so much to do for myself in the coming weeks and months. I am going to dive deep into my personal training, stepping away from my transit job in good time, so as to be available for coaching at any time during my day. I’m ramping up at a fancy health club nearby that signed me on as a trainer, and still running my own virtual training website, AND working with a second coach on his virtual training program as well. I’ve got my eyes on mid-July as the moment I hang up my keys and turn in my uniform, but it all depends.
I’m also taking this pivot-point in my life to do some deep financial restructuring, and getting my fiscal feet under me in a way that’s far more solid. I spent years trying to buy the happiness that I was missing in my life, and have since learned that it is impossible to do that. You cannot fill in that void with things, no matter how much you try, and in the end, it just adds to the pile of stress and worry, and that moment of joy become obscured in interest rates and credit scores. It’s far past time to reckon with this in a fundamental way.
Throwing a stick of dynamite into one’s own life is a scary fucking proposition, but I do know, in the end, I will emerge a better, stronger, purer version of myself. I didn’t know I could light my own phoenix fire, but here I am, holding the recently-lit matchstick in my fingers.
Over the last week or so, the Boy and I have been in regular communication. In fact, we’ve seen each other, in person, two times in the last forty-eight hours. Both times have been deeply reaffirming for both of us, and have led us to understand that there is, in fact, a bond between us that exists, possibly outside of normal labels and nomenclature.
For now, we are exploring things without the weight of title or expectation. We are embracing the moments we share together without distraction and in full-view honesty with each other. It’s been utterly refreshing to show him the side of me that he once fell in love with. The joyful, unpressurized, full-on person that I can be, with my goofy personality and a bit askew takes on how I view the world around me, all gets to take a seat in the space he and I share, and I think it’s been really good for him to both get to know me that way, again, and for me to let go of the expectations I thought he had for me.
Things aren’t moving in any sort of way with him and I. They just…are. This energy? It’s just existing. Simply. In the present-tense.
And it’s feeling so joyous and closer to perfection that I ever thought possible.
The concept of a Break Up is just as important to explore as Falling In Love, to be honest. What does it mean to “break up” with someone? How does one reconcile the space between one and another who, in a literal previous moment, held a different place in our hearts? Does it undo all that came before, like an existential erase-and-rewind, or is it possible to integrate those memories into a better future? What choices need to be made, in that one moment, to ensure that both people are left feeling both informed and supported, even through what feels like the darkest of dark moments?
We’ve chosen to explore a world beyond those boundaries and demarcations. We’ve decided to let go of all those frameworks, foisted upon us by outside forces, and just let whatever shape this energy between us decides to form simply exist as it wants to, without restraint or guidance or containment. If it changes through time – which all relationships do, all the time – then so be it. I know he’s seeking something different than what I can provide, perhaps, but then I might also change my focus as well. We are two bodies in close-orbit with each other, but each with their own surface temperatures, textures, and storms. We can co-exist as separate entities and entities that share a bond. Recognizing this as a reality, not only in my relationship with the Boy, but with regards to all of the relationships in my whole life, is a fucking SPIN on the HEAD of everything I’ve ever been taught about Love in all of its various forms.
The fact is, my whole body does react to him. Hell, even typing all of this out is sending a relaxing vibe through my body, blood to all of my extremities, and a warm fuzzy feeling in my mind. I can’t deny that part of our connection, nor do I want to. Last night, over a delightful dinner and time spent being personal with each other, we both remained vulnerable and in the moment in a way that was such a positive experience. It’s hard to put it into words. You just had to be there, I guess.
This is how I love.
This is my path.
And the more I spend time on this rocky trail, I realize that it’s the closest I’ve ever been to being my authentic, true self. It’s wild that it’s taken me till 45 years of age to get here, but sometimes time just doesn’t matter. Not in the formation of the human psyche or mind space. I am my own vessel on my own journey, and I don’t need to live in shame for how I interface with the world around me. It works for me, and that’s all that matters. Open-hearted, willing to explore those threads of connectivity, and let the energy flow where it wants…more please. Much more of this, in fact.
Today is Imbolc, the half-way holiday between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
Around here, that means there’s daylight in the sky (barely) until 6p and that brings me joy. This winter has been a mix of joy and light, but also darkness and brooding.
The Boy has been decompressing from his move here back in October, and the slide down from that initial excitement and engagement with a new life in a new place has transitioned into a darker depression than I think neither him, nor I, were ready for. Lots of questions about the longevity of our connection have emerged, and there’s lots of worry from both of us about the path forward.
Along with all of this, I’ve been working with a new therapist and psychologist to get my meds right and my therapy on the track it needs to be on. So far, the meds are still wobbly (but working), and the therapy is about to take a deep-dive into an old place of sadness and pain that I’ve been avoiding for the better part of twenty-five years. It’s not going to be easy, and on the flip, it runs the risk of making me emotionally unavailable to him, and to other people in my life who count on me to be their support. I *know* they all know this is how it sometimes goes, but I really do loathe not being strong enough to carry all the weight.
I am Dad, after all.
Still, there are buds on the trees. The daffodils in protected corners are reaching for the heavens, even when the sky remains mostly cloudy and grey. The moments the sun is out are fortuitous and warm. There is a sparkle of optimism and hope that is alive in every peep and cheep from the hummingbirds and chickadees that surround our apartment complex. Life is continuing and moving onward, and the sun is returning. Not all is lost.
David and I had a lovely date yesterday, having had lunch at a food cart pod, and then visiting a really great comic book store. After returning home, we had a very lovely intimate session in his room. Deep in embrace, I admitted I was scared of losing him. He admitted he was scared of losing me too. Putting those fears out on the table, however, I think has reduced the amount of space and energy they take up in our brains, and we recommitted to putting more effort in wherever we could to make this work. We deeply, deeply love each other, and are a team when it comes to facing down the adversities we share. While I can’t totally remedy the roadblocks ahead of him, nor can he mine, we can be there for each other, in ways that extend beyond just a hug, or a fuck, or even a hand-hold.
I also know that, in the end, his life is vast and has many more curves and pathways ahead for him. While I might not always be in his life physically, I am resolute in the belief I will be in his life, somehow, until the end of my days here. Nothing can shake that from me, ever.
And, this morning, as my coffee swirls under the light of a shitty overhead apartment fixture, I feel secure in at least where my heart lies.
I’m ready to do this work ahead of me, so that I might be an even better lover to David, to my husband, and to my other partners who do lean and rely on me to be there for them, as much as they’ve been there for me.
I grew up in a world where mental health concerns were the stuff of humor and ridicule. Mental health hospitals were deemed terms like “looney bin” and “psycho ward” and the like. Conversations about people with mental health issues included terms like “bat-shit crazy” and “psychotic” in ways that indicated derision and a derogatory tone. Mental health issues were a shameful thing, best dealt with quietly, in the darkness, and out of sight. Nobody admitted they were on pills to cope. Ever.
For years, I cast off any suggestion that I had depression, or needed therapy, or any help at all. I denounced all mental health meds as just “crutches for the weak” (again, ableist as fuck) and denied myself the care I clearly needed because of the stigma around not being normal.
That stopped, fully, last year, when I started down a path towards my own mental health improvement. My anxiety and depression had gotten so bad that it was affecting how I interacted with the people I love. I was sleeping maybe 4-5 hours a night, my insides were always in a knot, and my drinking had grown exponentially. I needed to come to terms with my old ways of thinking, and admit that I needed help.
Thankfully, I had (and still have) a wonderful support network around me to lean on when shit hits the fan. Dad’s not as strong as he’d like to be, but then again, the definition of “strength” is malleable. I’m learning a lot about the bullshit I carried around for years. I’m working through it. Part of that journey meant coming to terms with my needs at work. I finally applied for an intermittent medical leave, a protected right under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, which will help me both keep my job, and work even harder on my mental health needs and growth.
Today, I finally took advantage of this protection for the first time.
I woke up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, and as I looked at my scheduled day – 12 hours at the handle of my train – and felt myself already mentally crushing under the weight of that. I made a choice. Today is a self-care day. I have been running hard for a few days straight now, and I’ve hit a wall. Mentally and physically. I lost track of myself yesterday, forgot my meds, and started to grind my own self down.
This decision runs smack against everything I’ve ever been taught about work and reliability and all of that. I still struggle with these old ways of thinking, still refer to myself as “broken” when that’s not fully accurate. Perhaps, today, as I recover and pull myself together again, I will ruminate on the way I talk about my own mental health and wellbeing.
It’s really hitting that I need some massive changes in my life. My job in public transit is steady and even, in terms of pay and such, but man, it’s taking the life right out of my body at pretty steady flow. It has been for a number of years now, and I’m fed up with it.
Over the last six months or so, I’ve taken up with something that was suggested to me by my old fitness coach, and gone and got myself certified as a personal trainer and nutrition coach.
Turns out, I fucking love it.
I’ve got a couple of paying clients, with more on the way (if we are a match), and I find myself really enjoying the interactions with people who want to make changes in their lives with regards to food and fitness.
Who the hell knew this Certified Fat Kid from Maine would ever find himself *happy at a gym,* let alone THRILLED to be helping others find happiness at the gym, or even in the kitchen?
Certainly not me.
What this has caused in my life, though, has been a cascade of changes that I’m ready to make, even at this later stage of things.
I applied for a job with the US Forest Service yesterday, as a person who would work in a visitor’s center helping people with information and pass purchases as they entered our nation’s national forests. The pay isn’t much, but it is government work, and it’s in a field that I’ve always loved and wanted to be part of – outdoor recreation and conservation – and would more than likely bring me joy.
I plan on seeking out other opportunities and applying for them as well, in any number of areas of work. I have literally nothing to lose by sticking my hat in a variety of rings, and probably a lot more to gain by seeing where it all takes me.
Yes, even at 45, I feel like I have so much more I could be doing with my time that would be more beneficial to the world, and to myself, in terms of mental health and supporting Joy and Goodness in my life. Why I feel like I’m tied to a job that is literally running me into the ground is beyond me, and I refuse to believe that this is all I’m capable of. I know, for a fact, that I could be doing so much more with my time.
I guess the phrase “Stay Tuned” is applicable here. Dad’s not done finding his way, it seems.
Things started getting really tricky for me back towards the end of the first year of the Pandemic We All Hate (COVID-19). I’d managed to open up my heart, and love in a way that’s true to who I am, but because of lockdowns and such, forming a stronger bond with those who were far away became next to impossible. I found myself constrained and contained, much like the rest of the world, and stuck in an inside-space, with all of the inside-thoughts that come with that.
Things at work had also taken a turn. No longer were my transit vehicles full of commuters and people just getting around the metro area for one reason or another. Suddenly, it was empty vehicles, or vehicles that became rolling shelters for those without homes, and just as suddenly, I was in a place of damage mitigation and social support for those in need. None of which, I might add, I was trained to handle. I was raw-dogging my way through things, just like everyone else was.
Two COVID infections myself, one short-term relationship with a fellow who decided he preferred a monogamous match rather than being part of a polyamorous situation, and myself left with a broken heart in a broken world, 2021 was shaping up to be one of the most challenging years of my life to date.
Amazingly, though, in that year, I met David the DJ, and Dylan, both of whom quickly became solid supporters of me and my mental health. Both of them had begun the journey of getting a handle on their own mind matters, and it was while learning from them that I began to take steps for myself. Panic attacks at work, along with a severe lack of sleep, and running into anxiety walls while working out all had me back on my heels, worried about what was going on in my head. It was, in fact, a lack of boners, that sent me to the doctors. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d been missing sex a LOT and suddenly, the machinery that I’ve been depending on for all of my post-pubescent years just wasn’t operational. It was a real problem, for sure.
Since starting therapy, and going down my own mental health wellness path, I’ve been making some pretty decent progress. I’ve recognized where loads of my old trauma responses come from. I’ve begun the process of sifting and sorting and healing from old wounds I wasn’t even aware I was carrying. I’ve started to really make new mental connections to the concepts of love and desire and want and validity. Truly, over the last eight months, I’ve made some real growth.
But, as was the case today, there are still moments of opportunity for me. Today was a challenge of a day.
I’ve fallen in with two beautiful men as of late. One, Cody, lives in Tucson and I met him over my trip to see Above & Beyond at the Gorge Amphitheater a little over a month ago. He and I formed a strange and beautiful bond that’s persisting and thriving, in ways I was not expecting. Then, there’s another David, a young man I met online who was living in Philadelphia, who has recently moved to Salt Lake City, and who, for some reason I have as of yet to fully ascertain, has opened up his heart and world to me. Both of these wonderful connections have so much potential for Joy and Goodness and all the things that relationships can include. It’s a damn Good Thing, and I’m super-duper lucky.
Except that I don’t feel worthy of it. Not fully. Like, I don’t know if I deserve their affections and attentions. Today, as I asked myself “are you worthy” while at the gym, my mind went into chaos-mode, and a panic attack unlike I’d ever felt before, really reared up. I called out of work, knowing full well I’d be unsafe to operate a vehicle in this state of mind, and then made a bee-line, with the dog, to the forest for a respite.
I quieted myself next to the Clackamas River, while Steinbeck kept watch. I let him swim and take a deep drink of the cold mountain water, and as we drove, he leaned in on me more than once, as though to check on me, and tell me I’m worthy of his love. We passed a lone cyclist, who was riding towards the forest, who just reached high and gave us an excited wave, which I returned in kind. He also saw me as worthy, it would seem. I got home, turned back on my connectivity to the world by taking my phone out of Do Not Disturb mode, and caught a message from young David, and DJ David, and Cody, all of whom were checking in on me. All of whom, it would appear, see me as worthy.
I had a vulnerable moment in a video chat with young David, and told him of my struggles. His response has been one of love and gratitude for my allowing him to see this side of me. A text message chain with Cody brought similar results.
Today, I learned that I am worthy of the love I’ve been shown. It was coming at me from all directions, though not from my own inside-self.
I need to continue the work on building up my own sense of self-worth, and not need to rely on external topping off of such things as much. That, for me, is the state of play in my mind these days. I know there’s much more work to do.