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Charleston, SC, United States
"Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself." -ACIM

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hello? Are you there?

I spent a whole day circling around in my own mind this week. Meditating, thinking, writing short sentences, having ideas, and generally just listening to my own mind. When you stop to listen for that long of a period of time you start to wonder if you're really hearing things or  if you're just having your own thoughts that come to you from a deeper part of yourself. Don't let your mind get blown by that last sentence just yet...

I'm not here to write about meditation or the process of listening because that's not where I am right now. I am at a place where I'm stopping, listening and trying to hear what my own problems and issues are. I am at a place where I'm trying to forgive myself for the mistakes I've made and for even holding myself to some stupid standards that I've created for myself as well. Imagine a lazy perfectionist who is always down on themselves for not getting it right. 'Well, you're lazy. What did you expect?' Now I'm neither a perfectionist nor am I lazy, but that same oxymoronic struggle applies all the same.

We only live by the laws that we create for ourselves. I love that. You have to wear slacks when you go to a nice restaurant. Who says? I'm pretty sure I used to turn my nose at people in jeans and sandals if the place was "business casual." Now, Good for you! Your credit card will swipe as good as mine and shame on me for judging you for being comfortable enough to wear whatever you damn well please.
I don't feel that I'm giving you the best examples this morning of what I'm trying to express... writer reaches for coffee cup...

What I'm getting at here dear reader is this: Only you are going to find, experience, fear, fight, give into, forgive, and deal with your own shit in life. That's it. Nobody can do it for you. The only person in this life that can walk your road is you. How twisted, hilly, rocky or smooth that road is is up to you too.

The only help you can find in this life is in a mirror. I'm lucky enough to have one named CC who (God bless her) is willing to stick around long enough to watch, listen, and offer guidance when she can. She is a mirror in that I can (if I'm willing) ask her what she sees from me. She can then show me what she sees and that can really help to open up new parts my my Self that I was unaware of. I'm "lucky" enough to be in a relationship with my mirror. Sometimes that's not the best thing. In 'One Man's Path to Intimacy' that I'm exploring here, there are times when this relationship is not 'fun' or 'happy' in the 'normal' sense of those words. Even CC has questioned, 'Are you there? Is this the work you're doing? Is this who you really want to be?' At times she has not believed that I've been trying to grow and truly walk my own path to dealing with my own shit. She has seen signs, but not been convinced. And, I'm not here to convince her. I'm just here, working on my stuff the only way I know how.

I can only become the more intimate partner and more open person that our relationship needs and that I need as an individual by looking inside and asking, 'Hello? Are you there?'
Like dropping a rock down a well and listening for the splash at the bottom, I'm sitting and listening looking for signs that let me feel. I've been dropping pebbles and hearing ripples. This past week I dropped a stone and heard a splash. I've been smiling all week. Yes I'm afraid of things. Yes, I judge myself too harshly. Yes, I do hold on too tightly in life to ideas of control of ideas of  perfection. Yes, I do live by some pretty stupid rules that I've created for myself. Yes, I am emotionally withdrawn from a lot of people.

In the past if anyone in the street had come up to me and said those things, I think I would have immediately denied them. Like Judas I would have denied then hid. I think if someone said those things to me right now, I would listen and agree. Yeah, there are some things I'm not 'good' at right now. But that's today. Tomorrow I may be a bit better. I may not. Right now all I'm doing is listening to myself and observing the emotions that come to me and allowing those emotions to come to me.

I had a tendency to dismiss people and their ideas. You like hockey? Phssst. Hockey is dumb.
Why would I say hockey is dumb? Hockey isn't dumb. Hockey is a cool sport that I don't understand. By telling someone that what they like is 'dumb,' I'm expressing that I think they are 'dumb' and I am attacking them and their ideas. What I am not doing is allowing them to express their passion for something. I am not allowing them to share something with me. Think about the light you see pouring from an individual when you hear them describe something they love. It's amazing and you get to connect with them on that thing and experience their love along with them as they describe how much they truly love cross-stitched pillows with dogs on them. Sound silly?
Stop and think about someone doing that right now. An aunt or someone who loves dogs, cross-stitch and pillows. Lovely. And, after you embrace their passion for something, they are more likely to be interested in your passions and interests and that will lead to other ways in which to connect with one another. Do you think a hockey fan would be interested in hearing about my passion for baseball after I told him/her that hockey was dumb? Nope. More likely we would begin to attack one another and find more differences than commonality with one another. Ways to separate rather than connect. Never close a door before you see where it leads.

This week has been a rough one. I've felt so good about finding so many things to work on. I've felt so frustrated with my tendencies to hold on so tightly to my 'rules to live by' and my want for control. I've felt so happy when I look on myself and other with so little judgment. I've felt so disconnected from those that I want most to connect with the most. I've felt less guilty. I've felt more alive.
I've felt; and that's saying something.

Stop. Listen. Do yourself a favor this week and just listen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What if that's me?

I grew up watching more than a few action films. John Wayne pictures and such. Real men, doing real things, acting real tough. Tough guys said tough things. Tough guys didn't take shit off nobody. Real men wore leather, had guns, knew how to throw a punch, and always looked around when they entered a room. They went to sleep with whisky on the bedside table and they never let anyone see them cry. They probably never cried anyway. Real men. Doing real shit! Hell yeah! I should write a screenplay. 

So of course I grew up wanting to be a member of the A-Team one day. I would be hangin' with Mr. T, He-Man, and Rambo all in the same weekend. I was going to be a tough guy! Genetics had a part in holding me back from the rippled muscles of my heroes but my environment or "the real world" did even more to destroy boyhood fantasies. What do you mean I can't wear a sword to work? Ugh. So being in the woods for months and shooting exploding arrows... not ok in the suburbs you say? Can I at least get in a fist fight on the weekends at the Roadhouse? You go to jail for that? This stinks! John Wayne would not like this at all. 

I know I had thought about writing about something else this post, but this week I came face to face with a strong dose of reality of what and where I am. I am not John Wayne. I do not (thankfully) have the ability to act tough and be tougher no matter what and never let anyone else know otherwise. I did however find that I have the ability to experience what CC characterized as nervous breakdown of sorts. My heart was beating abnormally, I was shivering, felt like things were closing in on me... some scary and powerful stuff. I felt like I was going to puke and pass out all at the same time. It was awful! 

The whole time it was starting and during the first part of "the episode" I just kept trying to fight it. And I do mean fighting it. This isn't who I am. This isn't me. This isn't something that I want. This is wrong. I can't feel this. I can't be the type of person who has this sort of thing happen to them! This. Isn't. Me.
Why not? Why can't it be? It sure looks like it is. Because there you are sitting there shivering and sweating and scared out of your mind. So it sure looks like you're "the type." 

Thankfully CC was there. She didn't rush to my aid with a cold compress and tell me everything was going to be ok, because she knew that's not what I needed. She did talk me through it a bit and help me realize what was going on in the moment by asking me some questions and letting me stream my thoughts a bit. She then told me to write it all down and see that happens. And, I did. I ended up going into our bedroom and writing a very short story based on the images that were streaming through my mind. (I won't be sharing that story here however. Sorry some things I keep to myself and CC). In the end, I wrote down some questions that I needed to ask myself and CC to see where I was and what was really going on with me. Those questions led to some tough truths and they also led me to an intimate conversation with my partner about where we are right now and how each of us sees certain things from both the past and present. 

Can I accept that I'm not one of the heroes that I grew up watching? Sounds silly doesn't it? But really even though you know that you can't leap tall buildings, you somewhere still believe that you're a tough guy. You don't feel emotional pain. You don't get nervous. You don't get panicked. But what if you do? What if you're not the hero but the guy who needs saving? I'm not trying to turn this into a Lifetime movie where the quiet dad is heroic because he gets up and goes to work here. What I'm getting at is that the heroic action may just be in acceptance. 

Accept where you are. If right now you're tired. Be tired. If you're angry. Be angry. If you're nervous and confused, figure it out but be ok with the fact that you're nervous and confused. I was angry all day today. Could not shake it. Woke up that way and just damn well didn't feel like getting over it. Now I have a massive head ache and probably know why. But I was just pissy today. 
The other night I needed to wake up to the fact that I can't fight off what's coming up from the depths of my psyche and surfacing in the physical. I need to be where I am in the moment and I need to find out what that moment is trying to teach me. It doesn't always have to be a bad experience if you're learning something from it. 

Be willing to question what you're holding onto. Are you being a tough guy because that's what you learned was the right thing to do? How has that worked for you? How has being emotionally withdrawn and closed off worked for you? You (me) are sitting on your couch shivering and afraid, so how's that working out for you? 

Are you willing to see things differently? I try to get CC to ask me that when I'm either being stubborn or being angry or being judgmental about something. 'Would you like to see that differently?' Sounds pretty shitty the first few times you hear it. But it really works. It works if you say 'yes I would' and then you are actually willing to listen. 
Being a tough guy is not something I aspire to be anymore. I don't want to be 'tough.' I want to be open to new thought processes, new ways of seeing things, and new emotions and ways to express them. I want to be honest and intimate with my partner and I want that to be part of my daily life. I want to learn from my experiences, not run from them or try to fight them off just because they aren't that pleasant. 

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at Midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday." -John Wayne

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kramer ain't walkin' through that door

Now just what the hell did I mean when I said that I would talk about walking through a door without it being awkward? It's not like every door I walk through is some kind of superhuman task for me that seems to confuse and befuddle. I don't just grab the doorknob and pray that everything will work out. I'm talking about entering environments that should be warm, welcoming and loving but somehow turn out to be awkward and strange for the first five minutes or so.

When I get home from work and find CC in the apartment sometimes I feel like I'm intruding on her. Like I've just interrupted her quiet alone time. She has told me that sometimes she 'doesn't know how to act' when I get home. What the hell is that!? We've been together for years now and it's still weird when I get home. As if we each need time to see what the other is feeling, what mood they're in, or where their energy level is.

I suppose some of this is natural and our desire to want to fall into place as soon as we occupy the same space may just be unrealistic. But I don't think it is. And, I don't believe CC thinks that way either. But why is it taking place? Why does it 'feel all weird' when either of us first get home and enter the space already occupied by the other?

My original theory was deference. I love to defer. Oh, whatever you like, or whatever you're feeling, I'll just match you or come to your level. But really my entrance issues boil down to the same thing most issues do... fear. But fear is easy to just say and explain away. After talking with CC I discovered that our issue in this circumstance was more along the lines of obligation,

Obligation comes from routine. Try waking up every morning for 20 years, making coffee, opening the door, grabbing the news paper, and putting that paper on the couch for your partner to read when they get up in the morning. Then say one morning you get up, make the coffee and then just go sit on the couch. Your partner comes in, looks around and says, "where's the newspaper?"
Was it your responsibility to get the newspaper? You probably just started doing it because it was 'nice' or 'it made your partner happy' and that turned into routine. Routine turns into obligation and obligation sucks. What do you mean I HAVE TO kiss you before I go to work? I HAVE TO be a certain way? I HAVE TO act a certain way? Whatever happened to being who I am in the moment and just being where I am? Could you see the look of utter disappointment and confusion on your partner's face after not seeing the newspaper on the couch that morning? How about the hurt on their face when you leave one day for work without saying I love you first? Sucks doesn't it? But guess what, you/he/she aren't obligated to do that stuff. You can be in a bad mood, you can be giddy, you can be frustrated when you get in the door in the afternoon. Don't perform. Be honest.

What happened with the door is simply this... neither of us knew how to act. That happened over a period of time and became a routine. An awkward routine. All we had to do was one of us had to call it awkward. Hey! This is weird! Is this weird to you? Yes! It's weird! Done.
Now there was a long talk about it and CC and I determined that there wasn't much more to that than "taking the lid off the jar" of the issue and letting it out there. Just let it out. Be honest. That was my lesson that day.

In writing this post I came across an early roadblock. I'm writing about one man's journey (this man) towards an intimate relationship with his partner. These post won't be scheduled, they won't be on a timetable because I have to do the work before I can write about it. Hard to talk about an issue and tell you what I learned if I haven't done it. What I learned this time around was a lot about just being open, honest and non obligatory. Don't place expectations on your partner and force obligations on them. Be honest about yourself and where you are in the moment. Don't put on an act.

Tune in next time when I talk about getting rid of blockers of intimacy and open relationships.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ignore the Exit Ramp!

I love a good Road Trip. I like "zoning out" on the open highway and just letting two lanes of asphalt zip under my car as I just relax into my seat. I have the ability to drive for hours without even listening to music or an audio book. Just drive man; just drive.
However, every now and then, I will get the urge to pee or need to eat. Then, I start looking for an exit ramp. Gas. Food. Clean restrooms. I have criteria for my exit choices because usually CC is with me and I want her to have those things. (I rarely succeed in the last criteria as if it's some kind of curse of the road and CC's bladder.) If it were just me then any place would do. Greasy food? Dr. Pepper? Peanut M&M's? Sold!

Is that how our relationships go too?
Oh wow this trip is long, my tolerance for this seat has reached it's max, I'm uncomfortable, we're having to talk to one another a lot, sure could use a break... oh look! A Dairy Queen! See ya!
Where I'm going with this is, our relationships may start off as an enjoyable trip with one another, but sometimes one or both of you will feel the need to take a break. Not like separation from one another or 'breaking up' but more of an emotional break. You'll kind of take your own exit and go do your own thing for a bit. You stop 'being' in the car. You take an emotional break. You cut off that path to intimacy by not sharing or not being open because... well, it's hard! Sure it's hard. But, the only way to get through that is to stay on the highway and get where you're going. You have to be your own strict parent and proclaim, 'There will be no stopping until we get there! So you best hold it!'

That road trip metaphor went on for a bit too long there. What I'm getting at here is this: We're all on a journey. Some of us have chosen to take this journey with a partner and we call that a relationship. And on this journey there will be times when there are opportunities to 'take a break' or an exit. You have to ignore those and stay on the journey. It may be hard to consistently stay on the road and keep your foot on the gas pressing forward. But that's the path you've chosen and there is no going back now. If you're making the commitment to intimacy then you have to be intimate. If your making the commitment to openness then you have to be open. If you know that honesty and  emotional expression are the keys to lead you to find yourself then that's where you have to go. No time for ice cream stops. No time for fireworks stands and peach cider. Fasten your seat belt and keep your eyes on the road!

"Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts." -Charles Dickens

I can count on one hand how many times I've cried in the past 5+ years. Over FIVE years that I can recall; less than a handful of times. Two of those were within the last week. People say it's fucking cathartic. I think the emotional release is great, but the tears... Dear God! What? My eyes burn, my chest hurts, I get all snotty. How is that at all a good thing?

A lot of tears could be saved if we all just communicated a bit better with one another. If we just understood one another more. If we were just more open and honest. So there. World problems solved. You can all go home now.

Imagine if you can a picture that you painted back in elementary school. You were 7. Now you're 30. You've looked at this picture that your parents framed and put on the wall your whole life. It looks a bit abstract, but you love it. You're so attached to it. It's always been there. You have it on the wall of your apartment and one day your girlfriend or boyfriend looks at it and goes, 'What the hell is that? I mean really, it looks so dumb. You made that? Really? God it looks so... dumb.'
Now,  you know that this art doesn't represent you but you created it. You've always had it and you've always loved it. It's been there for so long that you've grown to identify with it and then here comes this person whom you also love telling you that this thing sucks! What the hell man!?

I've gone though a lot over the past couple of years since returning to America from overseas. It hasn't been horrible by any means, but there has been a good bit of change for me. And over this time I've been anchored to one person, a loving partner whom I've grown to respect and appreciate for all that she does for me and for us. About two years ago I was going to bed one night and she was already asleep. I remember getting into bed and she woke up for just a second and I looked down and was just overwhelmed with gratitude that she was there. Overwhelmed. I looked down, smiled at her, gave her a quick kiss on the head and she went back to sleep. And, from that night until last night I have smiled at her every night before I go to bed and reminded myself how lucky I am that she's there. No matter what else is going on, no matter if I'm sick, tired, hurting, happy, or sad, she is there and I am so lucky.
Today, she told me that my smile before we go to bed is awkward, seemed forced, and out of place. Bang. Crash. Burn. Cue the tears.

Now, this happened because she had no idea why I was smiling at her. She would be going to bed either upset, thinking I was upset, feeling disconnected, feeling alone, feeling no intimacy and there's this guy looking over at her ginning like an idiot. So of course she would feel like it was forced (or fake) most of the time.  But MAN, when she said that, I thought my whole world had dropped out from under me. Wow. And then it opened up. I realized that I had been forcing that smile a lot of the time. Not that my gratitude for her being my partner was any less, but my true emotions in the moment weren't always there.  I didn't need to smile at her like some routine reaction to remind myself how lucky I am that she's in my life and sometimes I didn't need to be smiling at all. Maybe sometime I needed to acknowledge how I was feeling and go to bed sad, angry, upset or alone.

A lot of my problems with intimacy have come from ignoring or not acknowledging how I'm really feeling. 'It's not ok to be sad. It's not ok to be angry.' Um... yes it is. In fact, fuck you, I'm sad. There. Deal with it. I'm being honest. Part of my metaphor about the road trip from above comes back here. Be sad. Be angry. Be happy! Just be where you are, be honest about it and stick with that plan. Don't exit off to 'everything is ok' land. No it's not. Shit is fucked up! (Now if that last sentence doesn't win my a Pulitzer one day I don't know what will.)

Be honest with yourself. Start with that. Stick with that.

Tune in next time when we learn how to walk though a door without it being awkward.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jesus It's 2015!?

Good morning. I just woke up to the fact that it's 2015 and I haven't written a blog since the Blogtober experiment of 2014. For those of you that are reading the posting time and notice that this is well into the afternoon yet I started with good morning, then you'll be lost here. It'll take a certain type of mind to follow whats to come here on What's Next? in 2015.

You see dear reader I plan on taking you along with me in the search for answers this year. Also, fuck, yes I realize that's it's February and I'm talking like I'm making New Year's resolutions here. Just, relax and follow along. I've come to a simple conclusion that I can no longer think my way out of the problems that I face in life. Thinking is so 2014. What I've come to realize is that my feelings are what are going to wake me up this year. Feelings. Those gooey, sticky, yucky, slimy, feeling.

What is to come is what I'm calling:

How to be More Intimate: 
One Man's Journey from Emotional Barriers of Fear to Open Loving Relationships. 

So let me put a stamp down here and let you know that what follows on this blog is going to be sticky and gooey. Yucky and sometimes slimy. If you're not in for a whole lot of Truth and a good bit of answering of hard questions then you might want to unsubscribe. Mark it down. February 1st is the date that you'll need to reference back to when you log on one day and ask yourself, what the hell is all this? Don't worry dear reader, there will still be a lot of rambling, some sarcasm and my natural charm throughout this blog, but there will be times when this will get a bit ugly. For those of you that might want something else from my writing, I am starting a new blog as well about some of my hotel life stories and I hope to have that up and running soon. Think about my twitter posts and expand them into whole blog posts. What you're not on Twitter? Good for you. It's a waste of time. But if you are, seriously, follow me @HolyCityAndre Now, on with the next chapter of my life and this blog at What's Next?

So about three weeks ago as I was about to get into the shower I realized that my left testicle had swollen up to about twice its normal size. Oh, you thought I was fucking around when I said things were going to get real on this blog did you? Yeah, real real. Still with me? Ok...
So as I was getting in the shower I noticed this swollen ball and you can probably imagine the thoughts that were running through my head: Oh shit, this is it! I've gotten cancer, I'm going to die! Oh I'm so young and have some much more to live for! Oh whoa is me! I'm going to die in pain... Ridiculous right? Real Ridiculous.

After a trip to the local clinic and $800+ in medical bills, my doctor determined that I had epididymitis. Now, there are several causes of epididymitis, and a few of them point to STDs. However, I figured out quickly that I had no fear of that and more likely my condition was caused from a bacterial infection. Ok, here you go, have two weeks of antibiotics and call us if it doesn't clear up. Two weeks go by, the pain and swelling go away and I figure I'm in the clear right? Wrong. A few days after I came off the antibiotics, the swelling and some of the pain returned. Uh oh.

So what I, along with my girlfriend, decided to do was what I should have done to start with and that is do some research and find more home remedies and herbs to combat this infection and cure it the more natural way. Also, what I had failed to look at is how it was that I got this infection brought into my life to start with. Why did I need to experience this and what was it that I had to learn from this experience? One of the things the infection has done is it has taken away my ability to have sex. Not my sexual desire, or physical ability, just the practicality and actual 'ability'. Nobody wants to spread infections to their partner. Gross. What I didn't consider was what all that leaves behind...

Think about your closest partner that you've ever been sexually active with. If you took away the sex from your relationship, what was left there? You both liked video games? Cool. You both liked movies? Awesome. You both enjoyed long walks on the beach at sunset? Nice. Those are activities, hobbies, and interests. What they are not is intimacy, closeness and honesty. Having an open honest conversations with your partner in life is not an easy thing to do at first. It takes practice. Being truly close to your partner is not always comfortable. Feeling their moods, their pain, their worry, their joy, their ups and downs is not always the funnest thing to be around. However, it is what leads to the meat of any relationship and that is... intimacy. Not sexual intimacy. Just intimacy.

Intimacy: Closely personal, A close familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person. Typically develops after a certain level of trust has been reached and personal bonds have been established. 

So if there isn't sex to distract there isn't warmth to comfort and there isn't open honest communication, then there isn't a relationship anymore unless you have real intimacy in the relationship. So maybe my ball swelling was there to take some of those things away from me and force me to look at what was left. Forget the scare of cancer to death. Forget the pain and swelling. What was there for me to lean? Oh, that just leaves... um... you mean I need to talk about my feelings? How this makes me feel. Well I feel...

And that is where this has led us dear reader. I've taught myself through the years that I'm not allowed to express my real emotions. "There's no crying in baseball." I'm not allowed to do this, or I can't feel that because that would mean ________. If I can't allow myself to feel those things (anger, sadness, separation, love, fear) then how can I share them with my partner? How can I understand when she tries to share them with me? What's the point of having a relationship if you aren't sharing those things with one another?

So why haven't I been sharing things like this all along? Well there were the rules that I had to follow and... the fear. That's right I was afraid. Still am to be honest. I'm afraid of a lot of things when it comes to opening up my emotions to the world outside of my own mind. What if I can't control them? What if other people see them (read about them in a blog) and then judge me for that? Oh no! Oh well. The time for that is over. The time for me to start examining how to express myself and how to love myself and my ability to be intimate is now. I can't afford to have another ball swell up, another kidney stone, another pain in my ass from some pain in my ass. I'm done with that. Sorry it had to come to that for me to realize that my emotional repressions were causing my physical pain and preventing me from having the type of intimate relationships that I (and all of us really) want in my life.

As I sit now, by ball is still a little swollen, my body is still cleaning itself out, and my mind is still trying to take over an emotional task. I can't think my way out of all of this. I can only allow myself to feel my way out of it and into something so much better. I can't promise you anything here other than as I come across an emotion, it's going to appear on here and you're going to experience this journey with me. Like it or not.

A Course in Miracles: "Here is the perfect statement of my freedom. I am under no laws but God's. I am constantly tempted to make up other laws and give them power over me. I suffer only because I believe in them." W-188.