Saturday, January 9, 2010

Year(s) in Review

It’s the beginning of a new year, and the beginning of a new blog, so it seems fitting to review the trials and triumphs of the previous year.

The beginning of 2009 found me in a suburban town called Kirkland, Washington, living with my dear friend Randy and our recently adopted black bundle of fuzz, Slinky. I continued working from home as a book editor and amateur webmaster for my boss, and I was still spending my spare time volunteering with Seattle Atheists. I’d landed in Randy’s house in April ’07 after a complicated mess of falling in love with a woman (who was engaged to a mutual friend of ours), coming out as a lesbian, and divorcing my high school sweetheart (yes, in that order). Kirkland wasn’t the place I imagined I’d be living after coming out, but it seemed fine as a temporary solution while my girlfriend (same woman) got a place of her own for a while to sort out her head. That in and of itself should have been a red flag, but I had my own issues, too, and I desperately held out hope for that relationship for another nine months.

Without delving further into that bit of drama, let’s just say it didn’t end as I wanted (at the time), and I got stuck in Kirkland for a little longer than I’d imagined. Despite the heartache, I still (rather unbelievably) scored my very first real date with a girl by the end of January ’08, thus starting my belated, yet premature journey into the dating world. After half a year of dating women who were all flavors of wrong for me, I decided to slam on the brakes and take a break from the madness. I still had some healing to do.

So that’s where I was as I brought in the new year. Single, working from home, lamenting my residence in an unremarkable (and rather hetero) suburb, and spending my spare time on the board of an atheist nonprofit. And honestly, I have no complaints about any of it. Fifteen minutes before the ball dropped, I was reviewing my list of resolutions for 2009 and decided to get a head start by writing to a black-sheep (i.e., interesting) relative of mine who I’ve never met before and complimenting him on his book of poetry. I’m not sure if that was really Resolution-worthy, especially since I’ve failed to keep in touch with him, but it felt like a good way to transition into the new year.

January brought a HUGE surprise that knocked me to the floor: I finally found – and contacted – my birth mother. I had always known I was adopted, and I always wanted to uncover my biological history, but I didn’t find the motivation to begin my search until my own life was upended in Seattle. So I’d been searching for her off and on since 2006, and just when I was losing hope, I got a call from the wonderful woman who was helping me with my search, saying she was almost certain she found a match. (I couldn’t have done it without you, Trish!) It was a bit surreal to suddenly find myself connected to my biological family, and though I haven’t been able to afford to fly to Pennsylvania and meet my mother (and brothers!) in person, I’m thankful that we’ve been able to talk and email each another.

So I had to admit that things were going well, despite my itch to move back into the city (you know, where gay people supposedly live). Even months before the big reunion, I’d stumbled upon a little epiphany that had me literally crying with joy. I finally understood that happiness was a choice, that it came from within, and I approached 2009 with this simple, precious knowledge and the determination to bring more optimism into my life. Granted, it’s an epiphany that will be tested like all others, but I planted the seed, and it’s been growing ever since (and in ways I never expected). Moreover, it’s kept my depression-prone mind from falling into the dark abyss, as it’s wont to do under stress and transition, and I felt for the first time in my life like a whole person.

Ahem. Getting back to 2009, I had discovered a new meetup through a friend and fellow Kirkland-hater that was all about women going through transitions. Jobs, moving, sexuality, injuries, new relationships, divorce – whatever you were going through, it was a place to tell your story and find support, and to my delight, the organizer held the meeting in my (well, Randy’s) basement. It was a healing and fun experience, and I befriended a bunch of wonderful women . . . on the Eastside, of course. The very place I was trying to escape. But that’s usually how Life works, eh?

After many weekends of racquetball and Women in Transition and Kirkland-bashing and even a trip to Portland, said friend proposed that we get out of Kirkland together, and while I was distraught over the idea of leaving Randy and Slinky, I knew I should seize the opportunity to move on. The friend first proposed Bellevue (a city, granted, but still on the Eastside), though thankfully I convinced her to look across the water. I met a friend of hers (Decia), and the three of us decided to try to find a house to rent in Seattle. My first choice, of course, was the Capitol Hill area, and as it turned out, we found a cute little bungalow about a mile away from the Hill. Decia and I moved in a little early (April, exactly two years after my divorce and moving *away* from Seattle), and we hit it off well, despite a three-decade-plus age gap. It was a bonus that her 11-year-old black cat came along with us. Gomez is no Slinky, but it was good to have a feline in the house, especially considering that our downstairs housemate had two dogs.

Then a little drama ensued, because an easy move wouldn’t have been any fun. A week after Decia and I moved in, the washing machine broke and flooded the basement, so I had a wonderful, back-breaking time sucking up water and trying to negotiate with a landlord who was new to the landlording business (and none too keen about dealing with an immediate crisis after his brand-new tenants arrived). Unbelievably, we managed to take care of everything before the third housemate moved in, so that was a relief . . . but not for long. Two weeks after moving in, said housemate (you know, the one who essentially organized this whole move and *wanted* housemates) decided to move out, so Decia and I had a month to find someone to fill the basement suite, else we’d never be able to afford the rent. This brings us to May/June, the same time that I was working on building a Flying Spaghetti Monster in our garage with my friends Megan and Kyle.

Ah yes, the FSM. Seattle Atheists decided to build a bigger and better float this year for the Fremont and Gay Pride parades, and the three of us were its main constructors, with preliminary help from Randy and the Heydemanns in Kirkland. There was a lot of work to be done, and even though it seemed like we could use some extra help, we figured it would be easier to do everything ourselves without having to manage other bodies. And as it turned out, it was a good thing that Basement Housemate moved out, since it gave us the entire bottom floor to sew our gigantic noodles. We sure gave our sewing machines a workout.

June was intense. I was trying to juggle moving in, finishing the FSM, finding a new housemate, participating in said parades, and squeezing in enough work to pay most of my bills. June was also my birthday month, and I had originally hoped to make it my month. I wanted to come out of my year-long dating hiatus, and I had planned to end the month with a bang at Pride. However, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

The good news is that we found a housemate – two, in fact. A young married couple eager to find a good location in Madrona Park. What a relief! Jeremy works at the Seattle Young People’s Project – a mere two blocks from our house – and Glendi teaches Spanish at home. We couldn’t have asked for better housemates.

The bad news is that I completely burned out on the FSM and Seattle Atheists in general. Don’t get me wrong – loved working on this project, and it brought me so much joy to see how excited people got as they saw our creation rolling down the street – but my emotions were strained for a number of reasons. After the Pride Parade, I tried to enjoy the rest of the festival, and goodness knows Kyle did his best to cheer me up, but I wasn’t feeling it. I stared at the people dancing their hearts out in the fountain, laughing and having a blast, but even after all my revelations about happiness, I still felt like an outsider around them. Even with the support of my friends, coming out wasn’t easy, and connecting with the gay community had been a serious challenge for me (I won’t even go into Pride ’08). I was disappointed that I couldn’t get into the spirit, and the exhaustion I felt from the FSM didn’t help. Eventually I decided to leave early and drive to Tacoma with Kyle to drop off the float in a board member’s garage.

I was absolutely beat, and even a little angry. I had wanted to be selfish in June, especially with my purposely neglected love life. I felt ready to move on. I did have a date set up in the middle of the month, but I was essentially stood up (she called hours later and asked me if I wanted to still meet up, but I told her no thanks). And anyway, what was I even thinking when I agreed, yet again, to go out on a date with another married poly girl? I have absolutely nothing against married poly girls, but I know from experience that they’re not something I want to get romantically involved with. As strained as my emotions were by the end of the month, I was ready to throw my dating hopes out the window and extend my celibacy contract another year. Honestly, I was so worn out that I didn’t even want to think about it. I had figured by this point I’d be spending several nights a week living it up on Capitol Hill, but that wasn’t happening, either. I didn’t have the energy. Maybe the timing just wasn’t right.

But transitions were on the horizon. I went through a little funk, but July was a brand-new month with brand-new opportunities. I decided to do something crazy and join a choir. It had been nearly a decade since I last sang in a choir, so I decided to put in my audition at the last possible minute . . . with the Center for Spiritual Living. A little odd for an active atheist, you might think, and I’m sure I’ll discuss my reasons in greater detail later, but suffice it to say it’s been a good experience thus far. I’m glad to be singing again.

As of July 1, it seemed that I was suddenly on the dating map, and something happened that honestly freaked me out a bit: women were contacting me. When I started dating, I had just accepted that I would always be in the “pursuer” role, but the tables turned last summer. Love always comes when you least expect it, right? Maybe so. In retrospect I hate to even mention that, since there was a woman who was very focused on me, and I was still trying to recover from my first few months of Seattle Part II while also trying to figure out how I wanted to treat this whole dating thing again. It made me disappear a lot.

Well, after a few dates and subsequent disappearances (not to mention driving Kai nuts), I finally lowered my defenses and gave it a chance. During a notorious three-week absence, I went camping for the first time, and that helped to put things in perspective for me. Yes, I was afraid, and I was even more afraid of hurting someone else. But I knew I liked her – a lot – and it was time to stop chickening on my own happiness.

Now, six months later, she’s a wonderful, cherished part of my life. It’s the kind of relationship that keeps getting better every time we’re around each other. We share many of the same interests, and our differences only add to that bond. Being with her feels healthy. I can actually see a bright future with this woman, which is something I’ve never felt before. I can grow with her, and . . . goodness, I’m gushing.

There have been growing hardships in my life. The separation of home life and love life is becoming difficult to bear. I find myself in a situation where one of my housemates is particularly dependent on the use of my car to get around, to the point where she wouldn’t be able to live in this location without a vehicle, and that makes me nervous. We’re friends and I want to help her out as much as possible, but without financial help on the car payments and/or insurance, I’m having a hard time carrying this responsibility. Times are tough enough as it is, and then business slowed down to practically nothing in October and November, so I really had to be creative with my bill-paying (i.e., going into debt to pay my debt). On top of my normal financial burdens, I also got a painful pinched nerve in October, and a trip to the chiropractor made it clear that I needed to pay some serious attention to my spine. So I’ve been stretching and trying to be more conscious of my posture and getting regular chiropractic appointments, which have made a noticeable improvement, though I still wince when I think about how I had to put the payments on my credit card.

Kai and I spent two intense weeks in December crafting up a storm for the holidays. We decided to make gift bags of goodies for our friends and family. Jarred soup and drink mixes, candles made from recycled wax, sewed catnip toys, cookies, candied citrus peels, home-made bread, hand-made cards. On Solstice and the day after, we drove around and played Santa. It was exhausting, but very satisfying! I felt reinvigorated, ready to bring more creativity into my life again. We ended the year with a trip to the symphony, and at midnight celebrated our six-month anniversary with good music and lots of dancing.

All in all, what an amazing year! My feelings on Thanksgiving Day sum it up pretty well.

Gratitudes: Finding love rather unexpectedly; falling for that love more every day (Kai, you rock my world); reuniting (electronically, at least) with my birth family; my life in Kirkland; moving to Seattle and ALL the ups and downs that followed; my wonderful housemates; being an active part of Seattle Atheists for the past four years; singing in a choir for the first time in the nearly a decade; all my amazing, supportive friends; having the courage and support to say yes more; the people who’ve hurt me; having suffered more financially than I ever have; being able to find gratitude in hardship.

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