Second Life

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.

Dad’s State of Mind

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.

The Second Weekender

Ray could not go with me. Medical reasons were keeping him home, and our hearts were broken for a while, as the fact of the matter at hand sank in. As he processed and let go of all of the anticipation he’d been hanging onto with regards to this trip to the Gorge, I had to ask him one question:

What do I do with your ticket?

He suggested I sell the ticket, but that didn’t set well inside me. I wanted to do something…else. Something more. Something, possibly transformative for another human being. I set my sights on finding someone to give it away to. It came with caveats, though.

The person who I gave my armband to would also need to be someone who I’d be comfortable camping with at the venue. That limited the possibilities quite dramatically, and I started by asking men that I already knew. Most had plans, or work, or simply thanked me for the offer. It was about three days before the trip was to begin, while at work on a layover, that I opened up my Twitter and started to scroll.

Cody posted something, which caught my attention. He decided to voice some of his personal issues on Twitter in a thread that included his mental health status. From what I’d read, it seemed he was in a darker spot than he wanted to be, and put some energy out into the Twittersphere as both a means of saying “I’m here, but things are shit, and I want someone else to know that they’re not alone in the dark” and, as far as I could tell, a way to ask for some help.

I reached out to him via direct message, after briefly glancing at his profile and noting that he also enjoyed Anjunabeats music, and started the conversation.

What transpired over the time between our first direct message and the day I was taking off on the journey to the Gorge was nothing short of miraculous. He and I connected via messages on Twitter, and then shortly over to text messages. We swapped pics, thoughts, and soon found ourselves scheming flight information and schedules. Before I knew it, it was set that I’d pick him up at an airport in Pasco, WA.

Tri-Cities Airport is the *cutest* airport I’ve ever seen.

From there, we drove back east, to the cabin near Yakima that I’d booked months prior for Ray and I to stay at. It was an AirBnB listing, and while I wasn’t sure how this beautiful man flying up from Arizona, who’d grown up in SoCal would manage a rough cabin with an outdoor shower, the drive to the destination assuaged all of my concerns. We were in an adventure together, and would manage whatever the universe put out for us.

It was the tiny frog that greeted us at the cabin, hiding in the shade on the patio, that sealed the deal for me. Cody was excited by the presence of such a creature, and from there, I knew I was going to be okay with a total stranger.

I also decided that night to break my sobriety.

I’d been contemplating how that would make me feel for a bit of my journey to Cody, and simply decided that the whole weekend was a very special event, that I wanted to feel and be in a certain mindset, and that I was in control of my consumption of alcohol in a way that I’d not been before. I wanted to test myself, especially prior to getting to the Gorge, where I knew I’d be surrounded by people in altered states of mind and being, and see where I stood. My decision to imbibe also brought Cody a sense of relief, as he was unsure what my sobriety would mean for his experience. He was nothing but graceful and gracious about it, though, and we discussed our feelings surrounding intoxicants broadly. He admitted he wanted to take a break from his usual consumption, and wanted to also practice keeping control over himself in this manner. We set that intention for both of us. It was to be the first of many shared intentions over the coming days.

He and I bonded physically on that first night, the cuddles and affection and closeness felt right. We laughed and talked and shared more and more about who we were and where we were coming from on the lead-up to the show. Late into the night, we chatted, and as the conversation progressed, it was clear that I had broken a wall, a dam, inside of my psyche, and was at complete ease with sharing my life-story with a total stranger. This was met, in return, with a total stranger sharing his story with me as well.

I’m still processing all that occurred over the next few days, but suffice to say, I was transformed. Cody and I became inseparable, even after offering each other many ways to break our time together. Neither one of us really wanted to be without the other at his side. The conversation had become so intense and meaningful for both of us, that breaking the spell seemed illogical and irrational. We both knew how short our time together was, and instead of going through the event on our own, in our own minds and in our own ways, we both spotted the heightened experience of having someone there to share each moment with.

The first night melted into the next morning, and the gathering of people at the Gorge swelled. Some people I knew from beyond were coming, and I had a chance to visit with them briefly, checking in, saying hello. Cody and I took our time getting to the Gorge itself, both of us having been to the site before, and simply just took in the people and energy of the situation, breath by breath. This carried on into Day Two and Three, as well. Our rhythm was set, and swayed with the deep bass leaving the larger-than-life monitors at the main stage.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected agreements between him and I was that we wanted to remain on a semi-periphery to the crowds and people gathered for the music. Having another wallflower with me meant that we could both be present and removed at the same time. We developed an understanding that when one of us was needing a break, some time away from the throngs and energy of the show itself, that we would simply indicate as much, and go with the other to catch collective breath. I could sense when he was reaching a limit, as he could with me, and it became almost second-nature, with us both reaching our limits at the same time. That shared-state brain action was phenomenal in many ways, but it really helped me to both keep in touch with my actual body and how I was feeling, and let me express those needs to someone who actually understood what I was going through.

In the end, the Weekender of 2022 wasn’t about the music for me. It turns out, it was about the feeling of camaraderie. I had opened up myself to the universe, seeking a way to give the gift of this weekend to someone who needed the experience. I had simply put out my intention into the ether, and was given Cody, an extraordinary and lovely creature of Light and Love, to share my abundance with.

I could not have asked for a better partner, navigator, and connection.

We both left the weekend transformed in so many ways, most of which will have to be left for future posts and thoughts, but suffice to say, this was one of the best experiences of my life.

On the Mountain

I cleared my own calendar on Wednesday.

Things at home, and at work, had been demanding so much space, so much energy, that I could feel myself spinning out of control. I needed grounding and stability, and a break from it all. I needed to get out of signal, out of touch, and find myself a good pace among trees and rocks and flowers.

I needed the mountain. She was calling to me.

Mount Hood stands prominent in my life as a person who lives in Portland, Oregon. The distant stratovolcano is a sense of place and vulnerability to me, where at any moment, she could blow her top, but at the same time, beckons me with every glance I take towards her, to come and be among her crags and rocks and trails and paths. I love it up there, on her various outcroppings and vista points. I love the smell, the sound, the feel of the ground beneath my feet on her slopes.

The hike was exactly what I needed to find my footing. Decisions about my current situation, my future steps, and how I feel about the direction of my life, were made. The shape of my heart, who occupies it, the level of energy I devote to them, and to myself, were all brought into balance for a while. I shed some tears as my mind relaxed and my body was in motion, and it felt like a much-needed release.

I have some major changes to make in my life, especially with regards to how I earn my living, and how I interact with those around me, and I need to be brave enough to believe in myself. It’s the same bravery I engage every time I tackle a trail up there, with loose stone and steep cliffs, and opportunities to become injured or killed at every juncture. If I can tackle these trails with confidence and agility, surely I can face down the challenges in my life ahead of me that require the same skills.