Tuesday, September 2, 2014

LEAGUE SUSPENSION

I think you’re out of my league.

Well, here’s a role reversal. A guy online thinking he’s not good enough for me.

My response: “Silly man. That whole ‘league’ thing is a dating myth.”

Even if there are leagues, I quit. I don’t need that kind of organization. None of us do. There is no caste system in gay dating.

Just be.

Chat. Meet. See for yourself.

That’s always made perfect sense to me, especially when someone else initiates the league talk. In this moment, I am living it. No fear. Put things out there, see what happens. Or doesn’t.

Gotta try. Gotta live.

It’s intimidating communicating with you. You’re a Greek god and so well-rounded. I’m just me.

Oh, I know that negative self-talk--lifting someone up while assuming one's place in quicksand. Who is he talking about anyway? Maybe he’s mixing up the online profiles. Silly man, indeed.

I’m tired of talking myself out of possibilities. Sure, Doubt still festers within me, but I’ve been catching him and cutting him off. It’s working so far. No doubt, he thinks I will lose my resolve. He’ll have my ear again and he’ll unleash all he’s been storing up. And another thing…!

But if I cling to profanity, I can hold him off. “Fuck it” sounds crass but it’s working for me. Doubt and Hesitation don’t know how to respond. As they take time to regroup, I move on. Let’s see who prevails after the next bad coffee date.

But I’m not anticipating a bad date. I plan to meet that silly man, referred to above. I’m confident that I will make my best possible impression. And I hope he’ll be ready to do the same.

No more league, no more rules. Time to navigate a wholly original course.

Ready.

Set.

Go.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

MY PRISON FANTASY

Until three weeks ago, I did not have a prison fantasy. I can’t get past the idea of an open toilet in a cell. There’s nothing sexual about that. Not for me, at least. I hold onto my soap. Tightly.

But then on one of my flights in August, I came across an airline magazine article about swim vacations. Not the bake-by-the-pool-and-drink-bottomless-margaritas sort. Can’t do that. I get antsy. And I burn. Sitting by the pool is not swimming. Neither is taking a quick dip—don’t mess the hair!—and reapplying baby oil. No, this article featured ocean swim tours. And, suddenly from 30,000 feet in the sky, I wanted to take the plunge. Well, in due time.

Alcatraz offers the prison element. There are monthly swims from Alcatraz to shore. 1.25 miles. Piece of cake, I thought. My regular swim exceeds that at 3K and I’ve been swimming 4-5K all summer. This is the kind of unique travel adventure that I must do. We don’t actually tour the prison, we might not even touch foot on the island. I think we just jump out of a boat and make our getaway. Good enough. I want to say, “I escaped from Alcatraz.” Yeah, I’d throw away thirty bucks on the silly t-shirt, maybe buy a license plate frame with that phrase just to put the Mounties on alert. (I may have a police officer fantasy. Oh, who am I kidding? My big fantasy involves the pizza boy. He delivers the pizza and leaves. I don’t like sharing. Not even the crust.)

The next Alcatraz swim is in two weeks. Just do it, my mind says. Otherwise, it may never happen. My brain knows how sidetracked I get. (E.g., See above paragraph.) And so, to increase the likelihood of going, I mentioned the idea to a colleague of mine, Nora.

Everyone needs a Nora. She’s a sixty-year-old go-getter. Mention something and she’ll see that it is done. “You must go!” she enthused. And that’s when I found myself backtracking. I’ve never done an ocean swim. Sure, a little body surfing in Malibu, but I stopped that after getting all that sand in my shorts. And I have a fear of sharks. I’ve never seen a certain movie. Just knowing it’s out there is enough. Forget the “no sharks in these waters” reassurances. Great white sharks can wander off course, can’t they? Heck, it’s not just sharks. I’m afraid of seaweed. That kelp can wrap around you and drown you, right?  Maybe I’m not an ocean swimmer at all. And didn’t a lot of people die trying to escape from Alcatraz?!

“I’m outrigging Saturday morning,” Nora said. “You come. We’ll paddle out and then you jump out and swim. We’ll be your escort. How long you want to be in the water?”

Uh, well, umm…

Nora was already texting her paddle mates. Done.

I tossed and turned the night before. (Incidentally, I sleep in freestyle formation, on my stomach, arms and legs shifting from side to side, stroke to stroke. Guess I was a born swimmer.) I was so excited about the inaugural ocean swim. But also worried. What if I freaked out? What if I’d overdone my Friday night exercise? (The 24K bike ride got cut in half when I turned around and the tires gave out. I’d had to hide the bicycle in the blackberry bushes, jog home and retrieve it with my car. So much for fresh legs.) If there weren’t any sharks, what about crocodiles? Piranhas? And that seaweed?!

The outrigging voyage was wonderful. This is enough, right? It’s unseasonably chilly. Why not stay in the boat? But I knew Nora would have told other colleagues what we were doing. Expectations were set. And no one would accept a bunch of gibberish about restless sleeps and piranhas.




Once we cleared the point of the nearest island, Nora, Inga and Diana stopped paddling. “Jump in.”

“Is this it?” Aloud, it sounded innocuous, but in my head it came off as ominous. Is this IT?

No answer. The only satisfactory response had to come through action. I took the plunge.

Wow. While the water had felt fine—even warm—each time I’d dipped my hand in while paddling, it proved far colder as a full-body experience. I’d thought I’d immediately start swimming, but my body was startled, if not shocked. I waded around, wondering if I should say, “I made a mistake.”

But they stared at me. Three hardy women, each with that look of anticipation and expectation. It was a good kind of pressure. What I needed. I swam under the boat, readjusted my goggles and swam. And swam. And swam. No freaky, prehistoric creatures approached my face. No sharks. No crocs or piranhas. No seaweed. Just one piece of flotsam, a teensy piece of bark.

The outrigger escort proved essential. Due to the currents, I apparently kept swimming out to sea. The boat presented a visual block to right my course. We reached the turn-around for my 1.5 mile swim in twenty-three minutes. But then Diana decided to jump out and take a dip. Apparently, she does this at least once every month of the year. Silly woman.

I had to wait.

I’m not good at stopping during any kind of workout. It throws my rhythm. It makes me think I’m done. And I don’t like the idea of my toes dangling in one place as fish food. “Your lips are blue,” Inga said. “Really blue.” I’d suspected as much. I was shivering, too. I grew colder waiting.

Finally, I spoke up. Must swim now. Too cold to wait. They summoned Diana back in the outrigger and I resumed the swim. I only got in another fifteen minutes, but due to the change in the current, I covered more distance. (Huge difference!) I stopped and, swallowing my pride along with a mouthful of salt water, declared an end to the day’s swim. I am no Diana Nyad.

The ocean swim was exhilarating, yet humbling. No fatigue, no cramps, just menacing chills. I raced home for a hot shower and a full pot of coffee. Once recovered, I wondered if open water swimming was for more foolhardy folks. Why did I need a prison fantasy anyway? Couldn’t I just order a pizza?

But I am undeterred. I must make my jailbreak. Today, I headed to Vancouver and bought a wetsuit. It looks like I may just do this.

Alcatraz awaits.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

MEANT TO BE

One final post-dump post. But this one isn’t about Tim at all. It’s bigger than that. And it’s all me.

When dating starts out so promising, it’s hard to contain the exhilaration. It’s that shout-from-the-rooftops feeling. Only if I climbed the ladder, I just know I’d slip and break my leg. And hobbling around on crutches again would have quickly lost its endearing quality. Even with a compassionate hot guy. So I stayed on the ground. I didn’t even strain my vocal cords. But I told people.

“It’s good,” I’d say. “Really good.” My face would redden. I’d beam while looking at the ground. (I can be Bashful even amongst friends. I’m not used to openly gushing.)

The closer friends know about April. That’s what we call it now. It’s so much softer than My Hospitalization or When I Was Suicidal. Yep, “April”. Showers, indeed. There was a direct chain of events from “April” to dating Tim. Immediately after being released from St. Paul’s, I went to the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. And there I ran into my first Vancouver friend whom I met twenty-two years ago on my first visit to the city. We hadn’t had a falling out, but our lives hadn’t intersected much in the last decade. He asked the standard, “How are you?” and I skipped the “Fine.” I gave him the real answer. I’d been through hell. F*#k the façade.

We connected and reconnected over the next two months before he headed out to spend the next year seeing the world. We commiserated on being single and old(er). (He’s hitting sixty, me fifty.) I showed him Tim’s profile and mentioned wanting to send a message. “Do it. He’s single, too. I see him wandering around the West End on his own all the time.” I shook my head. Too risky. “Stop stopping yourself. F*#k that.”

Profanity has its place. And so I f*#cked that. Message sent. Cue exhilaration.

From “April” to Tim. So good to feel again. And not just anything—joy. Astonishing.

My friends gathered up their pompoms. “Wow! It’s meant to be!”

True enough. At the time, I was thinking—they were thinking—true love. A Destiny sort of thing.

But we know how that turned out. Meant to be turned out to be bigger than Tim. It was all about me. I am meant to be. And I didn’t feel an ounce of that back in April. I was done. I was desperately trying to hang on, trying to buy some time to find something. Anything.

Tim?

Nope.

I needed that temporary glee. It affirmed there were positive things out there. It filled that tenuous period between April and L.A. I always knew if I could last until Los Angeles (aka “July”), I’d be all right. At least for the summer. I’m not at the point where I can look too far ahead.

I reached out to friends. I had things to share—and not all doom and gloom. We smiled, we laughed. I thought I’d lost that mindset. The glee helped me bulldoze through the darkness. I allowed positive thought. And not just with safe, familiar long-established friends. I was a magnet of sorts in Los Angeles. People I’d just met wanted to hang with me. Again and again. They said, “You’re such a sweet man.” Again and again. I’d stopped containing myself. F*#k that.

Even the dumping seems to have been necessary. Once I’d pulled myself through, I needed a big test. Was it all just Tim? Would I crash? Would “April” return? That was certainly the fear. It reflected back to me in friends’ faces and in family emails. I wallowed, sure, but it was the garden variety going-to-the-garden-to-eat-worms sort. When someone you really really like rejects you, it stings. But it never got darker. And that is empowering. I felt it this week as I went for my counselling session—a remnant from April. I felt strong. I tried not to beam. (My employer-covered sessions are about to end again and I need more in order to work through some bigger issues. That only happens if my psychologist makes a case for an acute need. Goofy smiles and epiphanies negate the acuteness.)

We were not meant to be. Okay. Got it.

I am meant to be. For the next while, at least. Still can’t look too far ahead. That is as good as it gets—and far better than I’d have imagined.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WORTH IT?

Okay, so my latest relationship didn’t even get through summer. I invested lots of time and thought in it. The result is nothing to cheer about. At face value, it’s a failure. So was it worth the bother?

Yes.

I purposely posted the Poor, Poor Pitiful Me pieces because those of us still involved with the dating scene know the process of working through the rejection. It includes a generous wallop of wallowing before we get so fed up with our woeful state that we decide it’s best to move on. And I’m almost there.

It was worth it to go out with Tim. Eighteen years ago, when I first saw him, I’d have never had the guts to ask him out. (Online dating sites weren’t a standard form of interaction back then. Admittedly, sending a message is easier, but I’d have never done that. I wouldn’t have done it six months ago.) On our first date, Tim said that the people we seek reflect our own self-worth. I found myself nodding. It’s probably why I stayed in a relationship with an alcoholic and followed that up with an abusive man. I didn’t feel good about myself. But I also found myself smiling. I’ve come a long way. The past is not my present. I viewed Tim highly and I knew I was worthy. I stand by that, even if there are a few ego bruises that I need to attend to. In short, my initiating a relationship with Tim reflected a more positive sense of self. I am fully confident of the qualities I have to offer. I know I am right up there with the best of them. That’s something I wouldn’t say before—not without a self-deprecating side remark. I am a quality guy. No asterisk.

I discovered early on—okay, there wasn’t technically a later on—that I could communicate clearly with Tim. I was expressive and complimentary, speaking without filters. I gained a sense of empowerment. Any failure would not be the result of things I left unsaid.

I also got a glimpse of what I want in a relationship. The playful banter between us proved to be the most electric part of the dating experience. It was natural and my part in it came from a confidence I didn’t realize I could draw upon at an early stage. My robust laugh triggered on the first date and never waned. I acted myself without a multi-date warm-up. That’s huge progress.

Where did I falter? I continue to lack confidence with my exterior. I have overplayed the Bashful card. Tim said he’s never met a shyer person regarding physical interaction. My knees shook on our first kiss and several after that. Yes, literally. My head glanced at the ground, pre- and post-kiss. That takes away from the chemistry that comes from looking in each other’s eyes. Surely, his face was more interesting than my shoelaces. I must conquer this quirk.

Body image has been a struggle for forty years. I still need work. The difference now is that I no longer think the work needs to come from working out. As a new friend and I made dinner this weekend, I said that my body wasn’t perfect but it was exemplary. I’ve never said anything so positive about my looks. And I didn’t water it down. I think the situation is like an obese person who sheds a hundred or more pounds: it takes time to grow into our new bodies. We have perceived ourselves in a particular way for so long that the adjustment into a new image requires some work as well. Yes, this is really me.

I am getting there. While dating Tim, I had no hesitation in wearing shirts that showed off my physique. (Normally, I’d wear something baggy and just focus on matching the shirt with my eyes.) Tim noticed—and squeezed—my “guns”. (No one was ever linked guns and me in the same sentence! But he was not the only one to comment on my biceps this summer.) He mentioned my chest, he talked of imagining what my abs looked like under my shirt. I accepted the compliments instead of reverting to my lifelong habit of brushing off any flattering remark. I am coming closer to seeing what others see. Not entirely there, but closer represents astonishing progress. Only four months ago, despair and low self-esteem sent me to hospital.

All this talk about the physical me is, in itself, superficial. Oh, how I know that! Yes, indeed it’s what’s inside that counts. I’ve noted that I am quite content with that inside. My feelings about my appearance created a barrier. I am not worthy. I am the guy who used to drive out of his way so as not to swim in a pool where I might run into an acquaintance—gay or straight. Must not be seen in a swimsuit! And now I am okay. I am comfortable, even proud of how I look.

Never ever thought I’d get there.

I have regained a confidence and a commitment to going through the dating process. An hour before my first date with Tim, I was wrapping up a session with my psychologist. “I’d be surprised if anything happens,” I said, recalling another classic cartoon character, Eeyore. “He’s way above me. He’s never even noticed me.” She stopped me and asked why I would even bother meeting up with him. Why bother, indeed! Together, we shifted my thinking. It may be a sign of weakness but I did need some validation. I rode with it instead of dismissing it. I walked into the café determined to put my best foot forward, (semi) convinced that I deserved to share a table with Tim. His warm hello hug certainly helped but we clicked from the first sentence. I realized that dates over the past year in particular had gone flat. I’d gone flat. I was content to sit down to an interview instead of putting myself into a genuine conversation. I think I can carry forth from this point. I look forward to testing this out.

It is hokey but I need to start thinking about some daily affirmations. It makes me think of those silly Stuart Smalley affirmations on “Saturday Night Live”, but that’s okay because, by golly, I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me! I can find the process amusing even as I go through it, knowing it is necessary, knowing that I need to consciously and consistently think positively in order for such thoughts to sink in.

Have I grown from this? Absolutely. I realize that I am worthy of a good man. I am worth it. And I’d say that makes a washed-out summer and a few days of wallowing entirely worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TIME OUT

We’ve all been around someone who was in the midst of processing a breakup. These people are not fun. They’re insufferable. The exit doors seem so far out of reach. Being as I live in a rural area, cut off from most social contacts, I had three full days on my own to work things out before unloading my I’ve Been Dumped sentiments on someone else. I succinctly responded to a few text messages and emails from friends and relatives who wanted updates on my getting reacquainted with Tim but I wisely refrained from phoning anyone. (Unfortunately, blog readers were not spared but they had that handy Back button as a handy exit door. So close, so easy to press!)

Sweaty & exhilarated.                                            
My mind needed to find its own exit. Despair is best in small doses. I found many healthy forms of escape. On Friday, Dumping Day, I had one of the best runs of my life. So much energy! I had to force myself at some points to slow down for fear that I’d wear myself out and have to hobble home in darkness. But I remained the Energizer Bunny the entire way. I smiled through the sweat and amassed a photo essay as I stopped at various locations to snap shots of pristine scenery. For the first time all summer, my sneakers even had mercy. No new blisters. Bonus!

I swam 5K on Saturday, 3K on Sunday. Nonstop. Why take a break? I needed to swim. I wanted to swim. Nothing to do but rote stroke work. Some people are lulled by counting sheep; I count laps.

I bought hundreds of dollars of plants to restore my neglected back deck. I yanked a summer’s worth of invasive vines. I picked blackberries from the backyard and then set out on a short road trip to pick more over a span of ninety minutes. Sorry, bears. Cobbler calls. And I made that blackberry cobbler, serving it up with a few scoops of Haagen-Dazs limoncello gelato. (Oh, what a combination!)

When I finally met up with a friend, it was to shop for and create a vegan meal together. Sure, we talked some about my disappointment, but his news was far more interesting. He’d just met a guy online from Sausalito and they plan to meet next week in Seattle. So many uncanny coincidences and life parallels between them. I got goosebumps listening to his optimism, his certainty that this was, as he put it, his next “forever love.” I truly hope all his intuition proves accurate. The camaraderie ended the weekend on a high note.

The distractions were most welcome. By the time I woke up Monday morning, I was done with disappointment. Sometimes the quickest healing occurs when we smack a bandage on the open wound and get on with life.

Monday, August 25, 2014

WHAT NOW?

This all comes as a surprise. Suddenly I have blog fodder. Not that I want it.

I had decided not to write anything more about my relationship with Tim. First dates—awesome ones at that—made for a welcome, happier tone in my posts. I felt there was also a unique story to be told in having a budding romance put on hold by a pre-planned six-week escape from my rural home. Returning to British Columbia, I wanted to keep the rest of the relationship private. Let it grow and blossom in private.

But then he snipped that beautiful blossom, stomped on it, picked it up and yanked off each colorful petal, all the way down to He loves me not. Some of the most stunning flowers have tragically short growing seasons. Getting dumped sucks.

It so I’m back to blogging. My site has a long track record of chronicling isolation and dating woes. Aren’t you tired of it? Have you really ogled every cat video on YouTube? (If so, may I suggest this clip with talking nachos? It garnered repeated viewings and hearty laughter from my cousins at the cottage last week. But then, my aunt was generously refilling everyone’s wine glasses.)

I could be hateful. I’ll leave that to my comrades on Twitter. They’ve endearingly shown their support by referring to Tim as a douche, an a**hole and a cognitively and visually challenged bat. Dan made me laugh out loud—no, I will never opt for the overused, now meaningless “LOL”—when he tweeted, “I say we destroy him.” We need people like that. I think of Elizabeth Perkins and Jim Belushi in “About Last Night”. (The original movie, adapted from what is likely a superior David Mamet play.) Removed from the immediacy of the situation, they diffuse things and ensure that negativity doesn’t fester within. If things take a comical bent, all the better.

Truth is, I don’t have a drop of anger for Tim. I am deeply frustrated, disappointed, disheartened and just plain sad. (Sorry, anger. There’s no room for you!) Dumping happens. I get that. I am not immune. (I never get a flu shot as I have a faint-inducing aversion to needles, but if someone created a dumping shot, I’d be first in line. Both arms for safe measure. Let me just lie here on the floor first.) Before I left for the summer, Tim and I could not have had better dates. Even this week, Tim talked about the second date that didn’t seem to end. He referred to us being in a bubble. He talked of the sparks from the date before I headed to L.A. It was not a one-sided feeling. I had every reason to believe in our potential.

Had I stuck around this summer, I doubt I’d be blogging about Tim. The momentum would not have been interrupted. But I had made a commitment to be in Los Angeles for five weeks. I served as dogsitter/housesitter for a very close friend. And, really, before Tim popped up, there was nothing I needed more than a long vacation in La-la Land. After my darkest spring ever, I needed the summer retreat.

L.A. served me well, but it created too much distance much too soon. We never got back on track. Our last date showed glimmers of what we’d had. The conversation was inquisitive, an exchange of sharing our perspectives which continued to feel in sync. It was playful, punctuated by at least one long, glorious laugh. I never thought a nudging conversation about progressing physically would kill it all.

The disappointing end to something that had such a promising start leaves me where I was pre-Tim. I am profoundly bewildered. After getting a glimpse at something great, the state of bewilderment is even greater. Didn’t think that was possible.

When people don’t go the “He’s a douche” route, they show support with empty, hopeful statements.

“He wasn’t the one.”

“The right guy will come when you least expect it.”

“You will find love. Be open and he will come.”

Fortune cookie sentiments. How do I remain hopeful after nine years of hopelessness? If he is out there, what the hell is he waiting for? Where is he hiding? And why is he hiding? It is cruel to continue to dangle the thought of him in front of me all this time. This is the slowest form of torture.

This one did not work out. He was not The One. Fine. His quick exit affirms that. Okay. But I need something more substantial than a fortune cookie for sustenance. (Does anybody even eat those dang things?) I need real hope. I need a sign. Hell, I need The One. Sooner rather than later. This week would be dandy. Next week will do.

Please let the waiting be over.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

DENIAL & DELUSION

Day after the dumping. Time for denial and delusion.

I’ve checked my phone and Facebook—oh, let’s leave just say too many times. I anticipate his message. He needs to talk. Yep. He realizes he’s made a mistake. Biggest of his life, no doubt.

And in that odd little fantasy, I suddenly have power. So I spend chunks of the day thinking what I will say. How much should he have to beg? And, with me in control, what will I decide? It’s the same kind of imagined conversation you have when you plan to confront your boss or a difficult neighbor. Or even that person ahead of you in the Express checkout line at the grocery store who thinks nothing of unloading thirty items…and running back to grab a carton of milk.

These talks never happen.

We play them out perhaps as a form of release and maybe to affirm how ultimately wimpy we are.

I don’t want power over Tim. I just want to talk. And, yes, convince him that I am worth it. We are worth it. Still delusional.

If nothing else, I do have a few things to say. I delayed hanging up after Tim indicated he was done with me. I wanted to think things through. Make sure I said and asked what I needed to. Get that closure. But there are always thoughts and questions that only arise after the conversation. It’s hard to think clearly when someone you’re smitten with says he’s not sexually attracted to you. What about all the messages that opened with “Hey, handsome”? What about those wanting looks? What about all the flirtation? What about the comments about my body? What about the kisses and the commanding hugs?

Without closure, I’m left to draw my own conclusions. I don’t believe him. I think I scared him. That’s far more plausible. I like to know where I’m going. I ask. It’s not meant to be intimidating. I don’t understand how it can be interpreted that way. Tim said he waited more than a day to get back to me because he wanted to reflect. He acknowledged he has a tendency to be reactive. And yet I don’t think anything changed with the extra time. I think he stuck with the same reactive thought: Run.

But what do I know? Nothing really. Except it is over. And that message from Tim won’t come. I have to move on. To what, I wonder. Again, what do I know? Again, nothing really.

I bought some Häagen-Dazs. The real stuff, not the Half the Fat option. It’s that kind of night.