Saturday, March 10, 2018

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: Letting Go of What It's Supposed to Look Like

When I was a kid, I used to play dress up in my mom's old clothes.  I'd also play act various scenarios with my friends: cops & robbers, hide n seek, statues, etc.  With my female friends, we'd play that someone was getting married--which usually involved yanking flowers off the neighbor's beautiful flowering bush--or we'd play office or some other women/girl-centric scenario.

Never, though, did I imagine that I'd be this age in life and on my own.  It just seemed like everyone had a spouse and kids.  Even if parents were divorced, there was a step-parent in the picture, so the home was still fairly nuclear.  Keep in mind, the age that I'm referencing was still in single digits so it would be years before my own parents tore the family apart.

And here I am, 30 years after this play-acting took place...never been married; had kids but not a parent; pursuing an education that nobody in my immediate family--mom, dad, grandparents--did...or will, for that matter.  Both my brother and my dad have had multiple marriages.  My mom is still with the man that was "the straw" in a tall stack of hay for the camel that was my parent's marriage.  I think she stays with him because it's easier than learning to live on her own at 65.  THAT is a scary prospect when you've never lived on your own.

I've talked marriage with two men in my life; many, many years ago.  I'm thankful it didn't happen the last time because I'd be stuck in my hometown doing goodness knows what while he fished and hunted ALL.YEAR.ROUND.  I think that would be a more lonely existence than what I currently have; but I'm not sure.  We had a good relationship during the two years that we were together but I know I would have wanted more and I would have wanted out of Fresno.  Fresno is a hell-hole.

At nearly 42, I'm in love with two men.  They each do their best to show me but, I'm finding, that "best" doesn't always work for me.  On more than one occasion, I don't feel visible enough.  I need to be told that I'm missed, that I'm wanted, that I'm loved.  Hell, I need my texts and messages to be responded to in a timely manner.  Truly, not too much to want or need.  The hard part is when I realized that all the things that I do are not going to result in me getting the things that I need; and that I have to do something different if my needs are to be met.

The unfortunate thing is that I know what it is to regret a decision.  To give in to someone not wanting an aspect of the relationship and I let them go.  But...will I regret staying in this situation or will I regret letting it go?  I have to make the choice and, if the current situation isn't working and that's what the foreseeable future looks like, then I have to be the one to make the decision.

If I hear from them, I feel like I know they're thinking about me.  When you're involved with someone...when you love want to know that they think about you.  If you don't hear from them or otherwise have any indication, how can you know they're thinking about you?  I don't want to wonder any more.  Communication is more than a general sharing of memes on facebook.  It's more than liking a status or post.  It's conversation just between the two of you.  And it's initiated on either end; not just one.

I love you, guy, but I gotta let you go.  In this current state, we're not good for each other.  You're not giving me what I need and I'm going to always resent that.  I can't let that continue.  I want us to stay friends.  I don't want to reach a point where I think you're an asshole because you didn't give me what I need, even if it's just because you're don't have the capacity to do so right now.  Maybe our paths will cross again.  Who knows.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: I'm Lonely...Every Day

Had a conversation yesterday that prompted me to make an appointment with Behavioral Health.  The first one is tomorrow, Feb 8th.  I don't know if I can really outline all the reasons why I chose to pursue this.  I see them all much like that compilation of labels for this blog, down on the bottom of the right side-bar: just a cloud of many different things that, depending upon what is drawing the most energy, may have one or two items that are more prominent than most.  But one thing that is constant is loneliness.  I am lonely every day of my life.  Not all day but, yes, every day.  The only time this isn't true is when I'm not at home.  

Nobody visits me at my home.  Unless I'm hosting a chanting session for/with my Buddhism family for the month.  Other than that, the mailperson is the only person who steps on my porch.  I do have one friend who has come to visit but since I haven't yet replaced the soiled mattress in the spare room, they haven't been able to.  So, other than when I hosted in November, my house has seen no visitors since early October.  Last night would be another exception.  Someone who is new to my Buddhism family hung out for a few hours when they dropped me off and we gabbed for a good three hours.  THAT makes me optimistic.

I was told that being lonely is a choice and that being alone is also a kind of choice.  Yes, from a perspective, I do choose these things.  I choose them because I get tired of having to be the one to go to other people's houses.  I get tired of never being invited over.  I get tired of having to go to a person's workplace to visit with them because they never come to mine.  I get tired when I realize that maybe I'm trying to maintain one-sided endeavors.

I was also told that I purposely chose to get involved with men whom I can see only part-time so that I don't have to fully commit.  I don't know if that is true or to what extent it may be true.  I know that I don't want to become so involved with someone that I lose myself; that I, like so many friends I've seen, have no single friends, only associate with other couples, and don't know what to do with myself if my partner/spouse isn't there to do it with me.  I don't need someone to complete me.  I don't NEED anyone.  I would like someone who complements me...someone who compliments me is nice too.  I WANT, I don't NEED.

None of this awareness makes me any less lonely.  When things get really low, I reach out...or, as it was described, I lash out.  This is true.  This reach out comes from such a place of pain that it's all I can do.  It's much like a wounded animal who wants to heal but bites at the hand trying to help.  Being lonely is just all I know.  Like people who experience chronic pain, who don't know what it's like to be pain-free, except for those rare and extremely brief moments when a pain medication works just right.

For me to really feel not lonely for an extended period time, I have to travel 1000 miles or more to the places where my best friends and family live.  Some of my friends tease me because I plan my trips so far in advance.  If you knew that you'd have a reprieve from your chronic discomfort, wouldn't you plan those moments meticulously?  Plan them so that you can get the most out of being pain free?  That is why I count down to my vacations and school breaks.  Those are the times that I'm not lonely.

The conversation that I recently had also had to do with their breakdown.  To a large extent, all I can focus on is how it made me feel.  It's not right.  This person didn't purposely do anything to cause me pain but it happened.  And I can't seem to get passed it.  They were coming to visit me--which, I might have mentioned, nobody does--and this visit was going to make that time of not being lonely last that much longer because I was just returning from a visit with family.  Their breakdown prevented this from happening and I spiraled.  I had built the happiness of the visit up so high in my mind that I was devastated when it didn't happen.  I blamed them.  I was angry beyond measure.  And they were in the midst of their own mental health crisis.  What kind of monster does that make me?  Well, none, really, but I still feel immense guilt.  I'm still angry that they didn't visit and I still can't get passed it.  I'm trying though.

Many people thrive on living on their own.  I do very well at it BUT I still need people in my life.  They're not the potatoes of my french fries but they ARE a multitude of condiments and don't condiments, of all kinds, make french fries better?  Visits from friends are the condiments of life.

I've lived by myself for 19 years.  I don't enjoy it.  I enjoy having my own space, yes, but to not have had visitors for the majority of those 19 years is miserable.  I'm working to change this but I can't make anyone visit me.  And, frankly, it gets exhausting to have to be the one to travel 1000 miles to visit friends and family.

Along the lines of loneliness, is the underlying thoughts of suicide.  I first considered it in 2010.  Valentine's Day, by no coincidence.  Once again, I had to leave the house to be around people.  And that contributed to me not going through with it.  I will tell you, though, not a day goes by...correction...not a NIGHT goes by that I don't consider it.  I don't do it though.  My practical side speaks up before anything happens.  

"You won't be found for DAYS"
"The cats'll eat you by day three"
"Who's gonna have to fly out to take care of everything?"
"This will just bother other people who don't have time to clean up after you"

...are just a few things that go through my mind.  Completely logical shit.  My aunt died and wasn't found for a week.  I really don't want to be the actual cause of that kind of situation in my life...well, in someone else's life anyway.  I'd be dead.

So, that's where I am in my life.  And those are two main things that have me pursuing therapy.  I feel like this onion needs to be peeled back.  I just hope the layers under the surface aren't rotten.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: I Struggle

I think people outside my life might see a life of little complication.  And, to some extent, they'd be correct.  I don't have to worry about a spouse pissing me off for doing or thinking differently than me.  I don't have children that drive me up the wall with their crazy antics.  My cats are pretty easy going and are happy so long as they're fed and can lay next to me any time that I sit down.

But I struggle.  I struggle to balance the priorities in my life with maintaining the relationships that I do have.  I struggle to find friends who can deal with me in the ways that I've come to be.  Because of the things mentioned above, compromising is not something that I've had to do, really, ever in my adult life.  Everything has been done my way and, if not, well, I finagle it so that it will be done my way.  Or I don't do it.  Because, really, I am the center of my universe.  Why do anything that won't benefit me or that I don't want to do.

I'm not infallible though.  I do shit wrong all the time.  Especially communication.  With many, many years experience, I've learned how to phrase a question so that there is only one answer.  Honestly, this stems from the the annoyance that comes from asking someone a yes/no question and getting a freaking dissertation.  I don't need an explanation.  I just want the yes or no.  Unfortunately, I now use this technique often when I ask a question.

And, because I employed this technique numerous times, in order to get the answers that I wanted to hear, rather than what they were actually saying, I was called "a spoiled brat" and "petulant".  Unfortunately, not totally incorrect.  I've already said that things have to go my way and that I get pissy when they don't.  You know what, though, that's not all I am.  That's one part of me.  It's one part of me that tends to rear its head in the wee hours when I'm feeling like shit and missing people whom I love and wishing I was with them.

You can't control whom you love but you can control whom you allow to make you feel like shit when they get pissed off about something you said or did.  You teach people how to treat you and I've allowed this person to let me feel like shit because they get wounded with how we communicate when we're each feeling low.  I'm not dismissing the idea that I need to work on how I say things.  However, I won't be made to feel like shit by anyone, even someone whom I love.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: Off to a Good Start

Things definitely got better from the latter part of October 2017 to the present.  Those six weeks at the end of Summer were a challenge that took some time to get beyond.  Despite all the hurdles that came up during that time, I was able to maintain my grades to such a level that I made Dean's List for the Fall 2017 term.  I'm quite proud of that, especially considering that I missed numerous days throughout the 14 week term.

This term, I anticipate doing even better.  My focus was split in too many directions during the last one and, after spending a wonderful weekend with my fella in his part of the country, I was able to come back refocused; or, more specifically, just focused.  After reading an article that came across my facebook feed about digging deeper into the things that you already have on hand or have already started to learn--Go Deeper, Not Wider--I decided to stop trying new things.  I've started many new things in the 18 months since I retired but I haven't gotten good at any of them.  I've bought so many books with the intention of reading them yet I have numerous untouched books on the shelves already.

I'm going to read those books.  I'm going to dig into the things that I've already started yet am nowhere near having mastered.  I'm going to focus on what is already IN my life rather than dragging more into it, in hopes that those things somehow change it and make it better than what it already is.

I'm going to, not necessarily be more present, but work even more to not "Click" my way through the moments that are currently happening.  If you've seen the Adam Sandler movie you'll know what I'm talking about.  I don't want to rush through the unpleasant things just because they're unpleasant.  I will dig into them to discover WHY they're unpleasant or WHAT the lesson is to be taken away from the situation.  I did that with the situation with Dominique.  Why did I go through that?  What really prompted me to make that choice?  The conclusion was an interesting one that I won't soon forget.

So, on the days that I'm able, I make a list of the things that I want to accomplish that day and each evening, I check off what is done.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment AND helps me to keep the focus on the things that really matter and on the things that will bring value to my life as well as keep me continuing down that path that brings me the most joy and contentment in my life.

It's through finding our own joy that we're able to share that with others because we attract what we think.  I want only positive vibes in my universe.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: Six Weeks of Wretched

Earlier in the summer, I posted an ad to Craigslist, looking to rent out my spare room.  I know, I know!  I've had no trouble/issues in the past, though, and didn't anticipate any this time either.  Two people responded.  One said they had found a place, when I responded to their query.  The other, I made arrangements to have them come take a look.
During this first encounter, I didn't pick up any negative vibe.  I explained the things that I expected as a part of them living in my house.  Things like: don't smoke in the house (I don't smoke, he said), don't leave the toilet lid up 'cause my cats will get in the toilet, etc.  Nothing was crazy or unreasonable.  He shared that he needed to find a place as soon as possible 'cause he was living with his mom and it was driving him crazy.  I can understand that.  I love my parents but I wouldn't want to live with them again.  I let him know that he could move in after Labor Day.  He was fine with that when he left my house that day.

A few hours later, he texted me, saying that his mom was wanting him to move sooner and could he move in before then.  I relented (my first mistake) and he moved in the last weekend of August.  I was gone for Labor Day weekend, that very next weekend, leaving him to take care of my cats.  They were fine when I got back so I told him that whatever compensation he gave me could be reduced by what I would have paid for someone to take care of them.  He was very happy for that.  He said he needed to pay his phone bill and this would really help.  In hindsight, I have to wonder why his phone bill was an issue considering that his expenses were quite small.  He has no car and, so, no car expenses.  He made $10/hr and worked approximately 30 hrs/wk.  With what he gave me in exchange for him staying in the spare room, he would still have plenty left over because I had agreed to accept a portion from each paycheck rather than one lump sum.

Anyhow, during the first few days of his stay, he presumed to borrow my brand new Amazon Echo and relocate it to his room.  I discovered this when I came home on the day that this happened.  I texted him and gave him shit for borrowing my stuff.  He apologized and said he'd put it back; which he did.  The next day, though, the same thing.  I gave him shit again.  In conversation, he explained that he thought that since we had talked about it, that that meant he could use it again.  I told him "Never assume, especially with me."

He borrowed the Alexa (this is the wake word for it and so it's what the device came to be know as) with permission numerous times after that.  It's really embarrassing when you realize, after all is said and done, that the early behavior was just grooming you for shit down the road.

As time went by, there was other stuff.  He'd use my toothpaste or shower gel and then deny it when I called him on it.  He'd use the Alexa and then "forget" to disconnect it from his phone.  I quickly learned how to do that.  He'd have guests over and they'd be listening to loud music late at night when I had class the next day.  He'd ask me for a ride to work when, during the first time we met, he said it was because my house was so close to work that he could walk.

After about three weeks here, I really started to notice just how many DIFFERENT people were coming over to visit him.  This wasn't like my friends who have a lot of different friends who come over, to their house, and shoot the shit for a few hours and talk about SCA stuff.  This was different men who would come over, stay for a few hours, bed-squeaking would ensue, and then they'd leave.  I brought up to him that I was uncomfortable with the number of different folks coming over.  He tried to minimize my concerns by saying "Oh, so now I can't have hookups?"  "Dude, I could give two shits if you have hookups.  It's the sheer number of DIFFERENT people that are coming to my house, possibly casing my shit, that has me uncomfortable."

Mind you, it was within the first two weeks of him living here, that he disclosed to me that he was HIV positive.  I immediately asked him if he told his partners.  He said "No, they're just hookups."  I was flabbergasted.  He told me, someone who has no intimate contact with him, but he won't tell his partners?  That's just crazy.  Now, I can imagine just how scary that must be but DAMN! Is a nut really that much more important than telling folks what's the what?  On more than one occasion, after that, I'd bring to his attention the concept of "informed consent".  That fell on deaf ears.

One text exchange (all spelling, grammar, and punctuation is straight from the conversation):

Him: "Don't discredit me because we live two different lifestyles.  Because I don't do you like that one but when I can I can"
Me: "I don't discredit you for your lifestyle. I lost respect for you when you told me that you don't tell ANY of your partners about being positive because they're "just hookups." They're people who deserve the right to make an INFORMED decision about who they fuck and your are disrespecting their humanity by deliberately NOT telling them.  And you've further lost respect because you go to work not sober. Tough shit if you don't like what I'm saying. It's how it is.  If you don't want that judgement, you have choices that you can make."
Him: "U don't kow what I do"
Me: "You TOLD me that you don't tell them and you just TOLD me that you've gone to work tipsy for the last month."
Him: "Sometimes they sometimes they don't I'm not telling a person that I just met that gave someone if we just hooking up and it's safe"
Me: "Again...removing, from them, the opportunity to make an INFORMED decision about consent.  What part of INFORMED do you not understand?"

At that point, he'd been here just over four weeks.  And, in that time, he'd had a different guest over every other day, on average; and sometimes more than one in the same day.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I can give two shits about how often a person has sex or how many different people that it's with but that mindset is all kinds of different when it's MY home: and MY belongings, MY cats, and MY house are at risk of getting injured or stolen because of someone else's behavior.  And, seriously, I don't need to justify my feelings 'cause it's MY shit.

During all this, I was also dealing with him not putting the toilet lid down, not closing the bathroom closet door, him not closing the kitchen cabinets, him not closing the windows when the air was on.

Let's also throw in the fact that, he just happened to find a gutted, dead squirrel wrapped in twine, hanging from the front doorknob when he got home from work.  And then, a few days later, he found a dead scorpion, wrapped in twine, hanging from the front doorknob when he got home from work.  And then some sort of Death card a day or so after that.  He was the one who found the critters but I was the one who threw them away.  He said he thought I had put them there, trying to get him to leave.  "Dude, if I wanted you to leave, I'd let you know," I said.  I did end up filing a police report about them, just to have something on record in case anything else happened.

Two weeks ago, on Sept 27th, I'd had enough.  By this time, he'd also broken my internet modem--thank goodness I had an extra--and used copious amounts laundry detergent and toilet paper.  Now, you might be thinking "Why is that a problem?"  Who uses a WHOLE roll of toilet paper in ONE day???  He'd also thrown up in the bathroom sink at some point and plugged it up; as well as left his colon cleanse tool in the shower.  I couldn't deal with this any longer.

I sat him down and had a conversation.  I can't recall all that was said clearly enough to retell it but, suffice to say, I let him know that he needed to move out.  He tried to convince me to let him stay but I wasn't having it.  Needless to say, things didn't get better.  A week ago, on the 2nd, I discovered that he'd smoked in his room.  He wasn't at the house at the time and so the door happened to be open rather than in the closed state that it is when he's in the room.  Because the door was open, the smell was able to waft out.  This wasn't the first time.  I was pissed.  I cleared the room of everything of mine that he'd been using: blankets, sheets, pillows, a candle (did I mention that he'd left one burning on more than one occasion when he wasn't at the house?).  I even removed the modem--only one phone jack is wired for my DSL and it's in the spare room.  At 3am, that night, I wake to someone pounding on the front door.  It's him.  Apparently, he lost his house key.  I was having a WTF moment.  I damn near fall over when he then says "That's okay.  I'll have my mom bring over the spare tomorrow."  "What spare???" I ask.  "Oh, I made a spare the first week I was here."  When I give him a look, he says "It's my mom" like that's going to make it better.

We were barely cordial in the morning.

A day or so after that, I received the Sewer & Water bill.  I about had a heart attack.

This is my normal QUARTERLY usage:
This was the bill for the most recent quarter, in which he'd been here since Aug 26th:
Subtract my average usage and, in ONE month, he'd used three times the amount that I use in NINE months and tripled my bill.

This person couldn't leave soon enough.  I can't imagine how much it would cost if he lived here any longer.

This past Monday--just two days ago--was the beginning of the end.  Since Friday, he hadn't gone to work.  I don't know if they cut his hours or just cut him but he was at the house all weekend, with various guests throughout.  Hell, on one day, I think he even prostituted himself for a ride to the grocery store because a man showed up, they left for a bit (I was hoping he was going to look for a place to move), but came back just a few minutes later.  His guest was here for about twenty minutes, with unmistakable bed-creaking, and then he left.  Anyhow, Monday morning I left for work at 10:30am.  The air conditioner hadn't been on all weekend and the temp inside showed 80*.

At 8pm, I returned home and saw that all the downstairs windows were closed--they'd been open all weekend--and that the windows in his room were partially open.  I parked the Jeep and proceeded in the front door.  Once inside, I caught a whif of something unmistakable.  The asshole was smoking in my house again.  I headed up the stairs and, at the landing, I saw the temp read 72*.  Holy shit!!  When I clicked the controller to "On" to see what it was set at, it showed 69*.  Are you freaking kidding me?

He poked his head out of the room, while also on the phone with the pizza place.  "What's that smell?" I asked.  "Oh, it's weed but we weren't smoking inside.  It's just 'loud', if you know what that means," he responded.  He's obviously high and drunk, as evidenced by his heavily lidded eyes.  Then he popped his head back in the room and closed the door.  I took care of some things and then knocked on the bedroom door.  "Hold on, I have to get dressed!"  Dude, you were just talking to me.  How undressed did you get in the space of five minutes?  Mind you, this is totally rhetorical.  I'm well aware of the fact that they were actually making the air clear so that he could open the damn door.  He comes out, closes the door, and gives me attitude.  Now, before he had opened the door, while he was still in the room, I could hear a part of the conversation between him and his guest, Jamie.  "What does she want?  Why is she doing this?"  "I know she's doing it on purpose."  Which irked me even further.  Anyhow, when he comes out, he suggests we take the conversation downstairs.  Whatever dude.

I lay into him.  What's frustrating to me, is that, in his high and drunk state, he couldn't seem to understand how I could make any sort of connection between his smoking and the windows being open with the air conditioner on.  He tried to tell me that the air was on for only a couple hours.  Dude, I'm not stupid.  It takes more than a couple hours to cool a 200 year old house from 80+* to 72*.  He continued to deny smoking in the house.  Whatever, dude, I know what I know.  He went back upstairs.  Came down when the pizza arrived then headed back upstairs.  A few minutes later, Jamie comes downstairs and heads out the front door with the pizza and his stuff.  Dominique follows soon after, with his backpack on his shoulder.  He paused at the door which caused me to look up from what I was reading.

"Can you do me a favor?" he begins.
I look at him.
"Can you not go in my room?"
"Why?  You afraid I'm gonna find some weed?" I ask.
"No, I just don't want you to go in the room."
"It's my house," I rebutt.
"Yeah, but I have 30 days."
Dude, don't challenge me.  There is no lease.  There is no contract.  I just looked at him.
As soon as he left, I texted a friend:
"If weed isn't lit, would I smell it from the first floor, when I walk in the house, if he has it in the room he's in?" I asked her.  She confirmed what I already believed: You don't smell unlit weed.

I called her and discussed the situation with her.  I called another friend and discussed it with her too.  They each said, pretty much, the same thing about everything.

I changed the deadbolt when I got off the phone.  I then put on gloves and put all his stuff in bags and took it out to the back end of the driveway.  The parking area is behind my house and accessible but I knew that the stuff wouldn't get stolen from back there.  It'd be a different story if I put it on my porch.  Ten trash bags, a tv, and a dresser and its five drawers later, my spare room was empty save for the bed.

At 3am, they returned.  They were pounding on the door with such force that I ended up calling the police.  I wasn't going to deal with them.  I was not going to deal with two drunk/high men at 3am.  No, I was not.  The police came shortly thereafter--thank goodness for living in a small town.  The officer was here long enough to watch them transfer the tv from the collection of stuff to the car and then leave.  Then he knocked on the door.  He explained that when they came back to get the stuff, they had been told to ensure they had a police escort with them.  There was more conversation but that was the important part.

Yesterday, they came to get the rest of the stuff.  He knocked on the door but, again, I wasn't having the conversation.  I ignored the knock.  There was no police escort.  I called the cops and explained the situation.  They sent an officer.  He was here a few minutes later and stayed until they left.  They took everything except some trash that they purposely left, scattered, on the driveway and the dresser and its drawers.

This morning, it rained.  Who knows if they'll come back to get the dresser.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get back to myself.  It's funny how you don't realize how stressful a situation is until it's over.  I feel like I'm recovering from trauma.  Mental trauma.  This person took advantage of me and my generosity in letting him stay here.  He brought upwards of 30 strangers into my home.  He ran up my utilities--oh, I checked the electric website...the usage for Monday was super heavy from noon to 8pm...a "couple hours" my ass!!  He broke things.  He borrowed things and then denied it.  He smoked in my house despite me asking him not to.  He is not a nice or ethical person.  I can't be around that kind of person.

I can only work towards making my home mine again.  The room he was in currently smells like weed and other people.  It doesn't smell like my home.  I washed the linens that were in there.  I've arranged for a house cleaner to come early next week.  And I chant to help learn whatever lesson that this was supposed to teach me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: A Glimpse Into My Buddhist "Human Revolution"

I shared this experience with my District this past Sunday and I'm inspired by the events so much that I wanted to share them here too.

In early June, I added “Visit different culture centers for Kosen Rufu Gongyo” to my prayer list.  I did it as a way to help myself further improve my consistency in doing gongyo since it’s not yet a daily occurrence.  I also saw it as a way to meet new people, learn new perspectives, and hear new experiences.  Mainly, it’s because I’m excited to share this faith with other people, to continue on the journey to create world peace (Kosen Rufu).  Let me pause a moment and share something that Barb Clark reminded me of when I shared the first draft of this with her.  In December 2014, I went home for Christmas.  At that time, she suggested I might look up other Soka Gakkai members in the local area.  I’m pretty sure I acknowledged the suggestion but just brushed it off.  And, now, here I am, three years later, with this determination towards Kosen Rufu that I’m able to see the transforming moments in my life.  None of them are huge, on their own, but I can clearly see a distinct shift in my path each time they occur.

At the beginning of summer, I took a trip to the Midwest.  During that trip, on July 3rd, I attended Kosen Rufu Gongyo in East Central Iowa.  I took my best friend’s daughter and her good friend with me.  I know the seed of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was planted and their lives are changing incrementally and my determination towards Kosen Rufu increased.

In August, I flew to Albuquerque to visit a friend and to attend Kosen Rufu Gongyo there.  I met a number of wonderful people, three of whom I will see again when I attend the Veteran’s/Military Conference at the Florida Nature Culture Center in November.  I was also able to share about my faith even more deeply with the friend that I visited.  Shortly after my return, I learned that Middletown/Dover district would have four members attending the same conference.  I could feel my life expanding and changing when I realized how many more positive causes would be made when I introduce my Delaware Buddhist family to my Albuquerque Buddhist family.  What makes me most excited about attending the conference, besides being able to introduce all my family members to each other, is that I know we’re going to return from it with bolstered confidence that our Introductory meetings at Dover Air Force Base are going to touch that many more lives.

To end the summer of traveling, I went to Orlando, Florida to attend Kosen Rufu Gongyo over Labor Day weekend.  Everywhere that I stopped, shopped, and ate, I shared that I was in town to attend World Peace Prayer.  This often led to deeper conversations about Buddhism. 
At the end of August, I began the fall term at Wesley College.  I immediately sought out the faith leader at the school to discuss having a Buddhist Meet and Greet during the term.  She was (is) all for it.  On September 18th, there be a “tabling” event.  I’ll be handing out flyers and Nam Myoho Renge Kyo cards to those who might want to attend the Meet and Greet on Friday, September 22nd.  My determination is that this will springboard into Introductory Meetings at the college.

With these causes toward Kosen Rufu being made, I can see the expansion in other areas of my life.  I’m currently a Junior and have two years left to complete my Bachelor’s degree.  If you had asked me at the beginning of the spring term if I planned on pursuing a Master’s degree, I would have said no but that has changed.

I achieved Dean’s List at the completion of my spring term.  That accomplishment lead to me receiving an email from the Resource Center, asking if I would speak as a member of a student panel during Freshman orientation.  The informational meeting for the orientation led to me meeting the Resource Center Coordinator of Tutoring Programs.  I applied and was accepted as a Peer-Tutor, a paid position on the campus.  During my interview, which through no coincidence occurred on my third anniversary as a Soka Gakkai member, the Coordinator asked about my scholastic goals.  I mentioned how I was toying with the idea of staying at Wesley for Graduate School.  She then mentioned the possibility of me being a Graduate Assistant in the Resource Center, another compensated position: they pay for tuition while you attend.  After the interview, I mentioned the conversation to a friend and wondered aloud about overlapping classes for Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  That netted a response from my friend that there might be a hybrid program where you can finish one degree and start the other simultaneously.  I have an appointment to discuss that opportunity with my Advisor this coming Tuesday.

So, ask yourself: Are you on a path of continuous personal growth?  My answer is an emphatic YES!  Since having been appointed as a Group Leader in June, I determine that a consistent morning and evening gongyo is a way of life in order that I can find my best path and have the power of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo behind me as I contend with any challenges that come my way.  I will not be defeated!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wednesdays at Forty-Something: I See A Whole Spectrum Of Color And None Are The Wrong One

To say that I'm not appalled, disgusted, amazed, disbelieving and a whole litany of similar emotions would be an understatement.

It's been in only the last few months that I've really seen the extent of the privilege that I live with.  As well as the extent of racism that very much exists in this nation.  And I draw some parallels between the racism directed towards POC and the sexual harassment and assault that I know to be very much present in the military.  It's not that either are increasing.  It's that our awareness of it has increased to such an extent that we--well, most of us--can no longer ignore that it exists.

As a woman who spent 20 years in the military, sexual bias, harassment, and (to a much lesser degree) assault was something that I fought and called out on a fairly regular basis.  I experienced it, in various forms--from subtle to obvious--on an almost daily basis.  I would venture to bet that most of my straight, male coworkers would be amazed at the many different manifestations in which it existed.  And that is where I draw a (very faint) parallel.

I, as a fair-skinned woman of European descent, would probably be amazed at the many different manifestations in which racism exist and are exhibited towards people of color.  Hell, I'm amazed at the manifestations that I *do* see.  And this is why, with what I've tried to educate myself about and get educated about, I have said that I will do what I can, when I can, to not be a bigot.  It's not easy.

Please, bear with me here.  Many behaviors and thought processes are ingrained from childhood.  It's the presence of both of my grandfathers who thought nothing about using terms like "nigger" and "spik" and "camel-jockey" on a regular basis.  It's the mostly white elementary school that I went to.  It's the childhood friends who all were white.  It wasn't, really, until I joined the military that I interacted with and worked with a larger percentage of people who truly looked different from me.

I can only hope that we can remove this cancer from our midst.  It's my hope that those, like me, who have an unearned privilege, use it to help those who don't.  Maybe I can't defeat the racists in the country but I sure as hell can beat down any mental training from my childhood that is racist in nature.  I can treat people as human and be wary of them only if they've truly done something worth being wary of.

To veer from general stuff to a more personal side...

One of the men I love is black.  I don't love him any less or any more because he's black.  My attraction to him isn't determined by the fact that he has darker skin than me but, really, I guess that isn't true.  I love him because of the person he is and his skin being darker has made him have to deal with stuff differently than I've had to so, maybe, I do love him because of his skin color.  It's a true statement considering that I love him for who he is and who he wants to be and who is working to be in the future.

The other aspect that makes this a little more personal or, at least, brings the point home regarding the level of crap that has to be dealt with by those who have darker skin than me is: children.  I have many friends who are people of color.  Many of them have children.  I cannot imagine...or I didn't realize how much more they worry about their kids solely because of skin tone.  I mean, every parent that I know, worries about their kids...getting hurt, getting bullied, all the stuff that remember going through as a kid.  BUT...there is that extra level of concern because their skin is "the wrong color" for many others in this country.  I can't imagine being afraid that a child won't come home simply because they were "walking while black" or "driving while black".  I didn't even know that was a thing.  I didn't know there was "the talk" that people of color have with their kids.  My neighbor is white.  Her husband is black.  Their two kids are a cafe au lait color.  The oldest is off to college, in a big city, in the next week or so.  I can't imagine the myriad emotions that she is going through: all the "regular" emotions plus the addition of being the mother of a "black" child.

Again, I see my unearned privilege and I will use it to work towards a more inclusive environment.  I can affect only my immediate surroundings but, maybe, my actions will influence others around me who share similar privilege.  I'll start small and go from there.  Even something as simple and trite as not using the term "nude" to describe a color of shoes because *my* nude isn't the same as everyone else's.

I will do my best to obliterate racism and racial bias in myself.