A Year Of Selfishness And Sadness

***I wrote this on May 28, 2017, but was unsure whether to publish. I’ve decided to do so now, to clear my conscience and attempt to move forward in my life.***
One year ago today, May 28th, I chose I to separate from my husband. The decision had been building for a few months prior, but today marks d-day. There were several factors that influenced my decision, and I’ve hinted at or sugar coated a few of them over the last year (though sporadically). But today, I’d like to set the record straight in order to clear my conscience and start to move on. 

I loved my husband dearly. I will always love him. I’ve stated numerous reasons why in past blogs, and those that know me personally have heard me speak highly of him over the years, and especially since his death in February. He was funny, kind, adventurous, creative, and loving. Not to mention, extremely intelligent and gorgeous. 

But, with that being said, no one is perfect and he had his flaws. Early in our relationship, he suffered, as the result of an accident, chronic pain in his back. It took a while, but he finally found a combination of meditation that allowed him to get through the day, though the pain never left. He managed well for several years through his pain, as well as his diabetes and insomnia. 

His downfall began in stages. First the insomnia started driving him a bit crazy. There were several nights he woke me up, because he had gotten to the point where if he wasn’t sleeping, no one else was either. He tried exercise and other forms of things to exhaust himself, even tried a few different sleep aids. Nothing really helped much. I strongly suspect that it was mostly mental, as he was never great at working through his issues, but I wasn’t in his head so I cannot say for sure. Eventually he turned to drinking before bed. Every. Night. He would drink and drink until, many times, I either had to carry him to bed or leave him wherever he passed out. As a recovering addict, I saw the warning signs that he was becoming dependent on the alcohol. I brought it up a few times, but the argument wasn’t worth it. I thought to myself, at least he’s drinking and not being a drug addict, laying in a gutter somewhere. 

After years of unfortunate events in Indiana, where we lived, we decided to move to the Cincinnati, Ohio area. Once we moved, his downward spiral went further. Until this point, though he was drinking, he wasn’t abusing the medications he was taking. The first few months, things seem to carry on as usual. But then I started noticing that he was being twitchy at times. I asked, he said he had run out of his pills. There were a myriad of excuses, hard day’s at work, helped move this or that for a friend, must have slept in a weird position, etc. The list of reasons he “needed” to up his own dosage went on and on. But the fact he wasn’t taking them as prescribed was a giant red flag for me. I expressed my concern, often and loudly. But I loved him, and I believed his excuses. I was thankful he was not buying illegal drugs, thankful he was only having a few days of withdrawal rather than turning to substances that could kill him. 

Then, the shadiness started. Missing money, periods he couldn’t give a reasonable explanation of his whereabouts, middle of the night calls or trips to “the gas station”, coming home from work and staying in the bathroom for an hour. I knew he was up to something, I just wasn’t sure what. I wasn’t sure if he had started doing something illegal, or if he was buying more of the pills he was prescribed, or what the issue was. By this time, I had argued with him enough. If I was going to confront this, I wanted definitive proof, so there was no possibility for excuses or lies. Every time he left the house, I would go through his things. I looked for pills, money hidden away, other drugs, any physical proof that he was an addict. Shy of the mountain of wine bottles and empty liquor bottles that made our trash clink. 

I found nothing. Actually nothing. I couldn’t even find the pills he was supposed to be taking, let alone anything extra. I found nothing but bills he was hiding from me. We were further in debt than I had ever imagined. At that point, I had had enough. I began making plans to rectify the financial crisis he had got us in and if that lead to me leaving, so be it. He absolutely refused to admit he was doing anything, and the excuses about the money were piling up so high he couldn’t keep up with his own lies about it. I took all the bill paying rights away from him, I took care of it, though every time I asked for money to help pay them he never seemed to have any money. It was always a bad day at work, or he gave the wrong change, or what he made went to gas and food (he waited tables and made tip money daily). So I went without personally, until I could get us in a better place. I legitimately went to work, came home and read books I already owned, and rarely ate anything but the food he brought home for both of us. Any bonuses from work and my tax refund money went to playing catch up. He was suspicious, told all of his friends and family that I was preparing to leave him. I was in a way, but that decision really lay with him. If he had cleaned himself up, I would have stayed. 

Finally, in early 2016, I had us in a decent place financially. I had gotten a raise, a few bonuses, and had gone without any luxuries of my own, but I did it. I think it was in January that I gave him “THE” ultimatum. Sober up, or I’m gone. I will give him an A for appearance, he rarely drank in front of me, he didn’t seem strung out, I noticed no calls or trips during odd hours. While I was sure he hadn’t just stopped all of the sudden, he was at least putting forth an effort I could live with. Our tenth anniversary was in February, and it was a fun day. He kept up appearances for most of the month. By mid March, however, he was starting to slip again. I noticed his money wasn’t adding up, or he’d bring home dollar menu stuff even though he’d been at work all day. He’d come home and immediately go to the bathroom for a half hour or more, he was very secretive about his shoulder bag (where he kept his insulin and other medications) and his car. He admitted to being in a pill swap with a lady he worked with, just because they were on the same thing and ran out at different times.  

I could see the problem. As a recovering addict, I know that no one is going to get help unless they want help. He didn’t feel he had a problem. I spent the remainder of March and April deciding what I should do. I loved him, I wanted the old him back, but was I prepared to stick to my word and leave? Every conversation I had with him about a possible dependency issue turned into an argument. I didn’t know his pain, I didn’t know what it was like, etc. But sadly, I did. I had beaten my demons long ago, I did understand the struggle, I did understand the fear of dealing with the issues. I reached out to his family and friends….help me with him, or I will leave. I didn’t want to make it about me, his issues had nothing to do with me other than I ignored them so long long that they had become bigger issues. I used the argument that if I left, he couldn’t make it on his own and they’d be dealing with the same issues that I had been for years. In hindsight, I probably should have used a different tact in my argument. I became the bad guy. Those closest to him hadn’t dealt with him on a day in, day out basis like I had and it was easier for him to hide his vices. It was easier for him to deceive them into believing his stories. 

On May 28, 2016 we got into a fight. I don’t even remember what about, but I told him I was done. I could not and would not watch him kill himself anymore. I loved him, but I couldn’t do it anymore. We were in a lease, but I was willing to finish it out without him, I was already paying all the bills anyway. He was free to go and do whatever he chose. He refused to leave, I wasn’t kicking him out of his own home. I said fine, you can’t afford to live here alone, so I guess we’ll be very uncomfortable roommates until August, when our lease was up. 

And uncomfortable is an understatement. I slept on the couch, he stayed in the bedroom 90% of the time. During those awkward months, he made me out to be the worst guy possible. That I left him because of our lack of a sex life, that I was just an asshole and not thinking of anyone but myself, and that I was being selfish. I was in a way, I didn’t want to watch him die due to drugs, the way many of my friends had. I guess I was selfish for not wanting to lose the man I loved to an addiction problem. I let him vilify me, I made no effort to stop it. If he wanted people to know that I was an asshole, so be it, whatever made him feel better while trying to cope. I didn’t expect to see any change in his addiction while we still lived together, and I didn’t. Though it may have gotten worse as I was no longer keeping tabs on him. I actually expected it to get worse, as it always does before it gets better. 

I got another apartment, in our complex. I wanted to stay in the area, and he liked it here. I really thought that living apart after ten years would be the shock he needed to say hey, I have a problem. I didn’t tell him, or anyone for that matter, why I was staying in the area. I didn’t want him holding on and having false hope that I was going to somehow be magically okay with his drug addiction. I wanted him clean and sober. So I moved two buildings away in late July. For about ten days or so, he lived in our apartment alone. While I was moving, we had several heated discussions about who got what. I fought him for nothing. The few things I had prior to meeting him, I kept. I made it clear that we had two tvs, and I was taking one, but I let him choose which. I took nothing he wanted, except the couch. He only conceded that because he couldn’t get it in his storage unit. He kept the bed, the bigger tv, most of the furniture, all but a few items of the cookware, the curtains, the wall decor, mostly everything. I didn’t fight for it because I assumed eventually, he’d be coming back. 

He moved in with an “old friend” (that I hadn’t heard of in the ten years I’d lived with him), and I had hoped he would move in with his family. I wanted them to see how bad he had gotten. I had told them of course, but it’s wholly different to see it for oneself. He only lasted at this friends house for a few months. He lost his job and started working in a bar. He was getting worse from the few reports I was getting from his best friend, Stacee. By the end of the year, he was living with her. She had secretly reached out to me to ask how to deal with him. The concerns I had, she now had. She was finally seeing first hand what I had been trying to say for a very long time. She was concerned he was doing more and more illegal drugs than he was admitting to. She reported to me instances of blackouts, missing money, and several other things I had been experiencing while I still lived with him. I feared for him. My “plan” to shock him sober wasn’t working. Though he and I had spoken a few times, nicely at that, he wanted no part of me. I was just the dickhead that broke his heart. 

On new year’s eve, Stacee called me. She was having a party at her house, and Tim was supposed to be working. He had called her and said his car was stuck in a ditch and he couldn’t get out, could she come get him, he was close to home (her house). Her and her brother went to get him. He was utterly fucked up. He had somehow nosedived his car into a ravine, didn’t know where he was, had lost his teeth (he had dentures), and couldn’t even make a coherent sentence. Stacee reached her breaking point and kicked him out. She called his dad to come get him and she left all his stuff on the porch, telling him to stay in her car, since it was cold. She went to check on things a bit later and he was in someone else’s car, not hers, and he didn’t even know it. He said he was looking for a cigarette. When his dad showed up to get him, he was laying on the cold concrete of her porch. She helped get him, his stuff, and the cat in the car with his dad and brother. I thought FINALLY, he’s going to be in an environment where he can get some help. Surely his dad will get him the help he needs. 

His car had been towed out of the ravine, his dad got that back and his teeth were found in the ravine. I don’t know much about his time at his parent’s house, but apparently he had turned a new leaf. He had started a job he liked, was cooking and cleaning up after himself, and was seeming to be ok. But his parents are over the road truck drivers and they left him alone to go on a run. They weren’t gone all that long when they had a little accident of their own and had to come home on February 1st to find him dead in the bathroom. 

The worst thing in the world had happened. The man I loved was dead. There were heroin packets near his body. He had gotten into very lethal drugs. This is exactly what I was so afraid of. I can’t even imagine what his dad went through that night, or will go through forever. I felt like a coward. This is exactly what I was running from. I didn’t want to be the one who found him. That’s why I tried pushing him away, to jolt him into realizing he had a problem. But he lost his battle with his demons. 

I’ve posted several blogs about Tim, both good memories and of how I feel about his death, so I won’t go into that here. But this day will always be sad for me, as it is the day I gave up. Would the circumstances be different had I chose not to leave? I don’t know, I think he was spiraling out of control and this may have happened anyway. I’ll never know if my decision had any effect on his life, but the guilt of not knowing may forever haunt me. I have a blog from a long time ago stating I had no regrets about my life, that the decisions I’ve made made me who I am today. But now, I have one. I regret not doing more to save my love. I honestly don’t know what, if anything, I could have done, but I do know that I could have tried harder. The decision to do drugs was his alone, but the decision to let it go for so long lies with me. 

My guilt over my decision may never go away. The anger I have at him for getting that bad may never go away. The loneliness I feel from his family that were so comforting in the wake of his death, but are just quiet people I once knew may never go away. The emptiness I have by not having him or his things here with me may never be filled. The love I once shared may never be obtained again. But these are all things I have to deal with and adjust to. My life goes on, though be it guiltier, angrier, lonelier, and emptier. I will find a way back to myself. 

Hold your loved ones tight, and help them fight their battles. Do not let them get swept under the rug. Fight hard to keep them in your life, for you never know when they will lose theirs. 

Dear Straight Men: A Pride Month Information Guide

Every year, June is Pride Month. This is for all my LGBTQ  (and any other letters) brethren. The theme is always the same, equality for all. I can personally only speak for the “G” part of the letters, and not all gay men would agree with me, but that’s kind of the point. We are all different, but equal. But I’ll step down off that soapbox, that’s not the point today. 

I’d like to speak to my straight male readers. Now, granted, I know not everyone of you are homophobic idiots (if you actually read my blog, I’ll assume you arent, as I post a lot of “gay” content), but I’m going to speak in generalities, as this may reach a few newcomers or people that may not know what I’m all about. 

I know a lot of people don’t understand Pride, or why we feel we need to have a celebration thereof every year. It’s a month of celebrating who we are as fellow human beings, we can be who we are, raise awareness for causes that directly affect us, and mostly celebrate how far we’ve come in our struggle for equality. But the fact that we NEED a pride month only illuminates how much further we have to go. 

I get asked every year, “Why do you have to have a Pride Month, there’s no straight pride?” There are two great answers to this question. One, be thankful you don’t need to celebrate your pride. Two, EVERY month is straight pride. Straight people have never been attacked, persecuted, harassed, discriminated against, or even killed for being who they are. There is no need to celebrate something that is expected of you, or that is the cultural norm. 

The common statistic is the 1 out of 10 people identify as LGBTQ, though I’m not sure if this is accurate. For the sake of argument, well say it is. But that means one tenth of the world’s population is not straight. We are talking millions and millions of people. It is not wrong, it is not perverse, it just isn’t like you. If everyone was the same, the world would be an extremely boring place. 

Diversity is the key to life. Just like some of you straight guys are into different things, some of you prefer blondes, others brunettes. Some only like women of your race, others prefer another ethnicity. Some like skinny girls, others a thicker girl. Large boobs versus small boobs, etc. Not everyone looks the same, and not everyone likes the same thing. Simple as that. 

But let me tell you a few things you should keep in mind. 

-Most importantly (and I cannot stress this enough), just because I’m gay and you are a man doesn’t mean I want to have sex with you…you are not all “my type” or even in my sexual radar. 

-Even if you are accepting of the LGBTQ community, saying things like “people like you”, “you gays”, or ANY derogatory term concerning our community is highly offensive. 

-Your homophobia (should you have it) is probably caused by the fear gay men will objectify you and treat you the way you treat women. 

-If a gay man is friendly to you, or even flirts with you, it’s because he feels comfortable being around you. We can’t thank you enough for that, and we don’t actually expect anything in return…just knowing we are accepted is enough. 

-If you are one of those guys that is narcissistic and vain and just want people to tell you how hot you are all the time, there’s a gay out there for you (it isn’t me). 

-Realizing we are just people and have the same issues you do is the best thing you can ever do. 

-(piggybacking off my previous point) We are normal people, who or what we do in the bedroom is none of your business. It does not define who we are. 

There are, of course, exceptions to these points. I cannot speak for 100% of gay people, only myself. I have many straight friends, and my relationship with each of them is different. I know who I can joke with, who I can speak freely in front of, and who I have to edit myself with. I have straight male friends I can flirt with (and know that it’s solely stroking their ego, not an actual come on), and some I cannot mention anything sexual in nature in front of. Gay men are good at reading a situation, and we will act accordingly. 

No one wants to be treated differently. But Pride is a time we can celebrate openly who are. A time to gather together with people that are like minded and do not discriminate although we are different. A time to embrace our diversity. A time to raise awareness for issues specific to our community. A time to show our presence to those that would have us stay quietly in the background. 

Until there is actual equality for all, there will be a Pride Month. 

Nudity

We are all born naked…every single one of us. Millions of years ago, our prehistoric ancestors didn’t wear clothes. They didn’t even have clothes. We often see the depictions of them in animal hides intricately placed together to resemble “modern” clothing, but the reality is, the walked around naked. Sure there were probably some innovative clans in colder regions that came up with some type of outerwear for warmth, but way back then, they didn’t have the skills to make the clothing as depicted. 

Fast forward to a few thousand years ago, nudity wasn’t a shameful thing. We often see paintings and sculptures of the ancient Greeks and Romans (etc.), they are either nude or scantily dressed. Being nude wasn’t something to be ashamed of, but rather a way of life. 

It wasn’t until after these long ago times that nudity and the beauty of the human body became something to hide. Puritanical religious views made nudity to be sin, something to never be seen. It also instilled the idea that nudity is inherently sexual. While being naked, it is true that all sexual organs and orifices are able to be seen, but that doesn’t make them sexual. 

As a nudist, I’m not sexually attracted to every naked person I see. The same way gay men aren’t attracted to every man on earth, every woman isn’t automatically attracted to every man. Yes, there are men I find attractive, but just the mere fact of interacting with them without our clothes on doesn’t mean I am constantly turned on. I can carry on a conversation without my clothes and it would be like any other conversation. 

The fact that there is such a negativity towards nudism astounds me. It’s just freeing. I hate wearing clothes. Shirts feel like they are choking me, pants (and underwear) make my lower half feel like I’m in a sauna. Being naked in no way turns me on or makes me feel sexual. It just makes me feel normal, like my body can breathe. 

I don’t know many other nudists. But the few I do know, I’ve never slept with. We sit and talk, or watch tv, or just hang out. They are the rare individuals that don’t see nudity as a precursor to sex, but just life as it was intended. 

Naked. 

F**k The Haters

Sunday I lost my cool. I was treated poorly, via Facebook. It was implied (though not actually said) that I should have died instead of my husband. I was in a tailspin all day. I went from sad, to angry, to depressed, to suicidal, to just plain pissed. It was a roller coaster for sure! 

Needless to say, that person (and others like her) are now blocked. Blocked, deleted, and as far as I’m concerned, no longer existent in this world. 

NO ONE deserves to be treated poorly, regardless of how hurt you may be. If someone tells you something isn’t your business, it ain’t your business, end of story. Just cause you are a nosy bitch, doesn’t give you free reign to be nasty to people. 

I woke up Monday morning with a new lease on life. I will not be held back, I will not be brought down, and I will not be responsible for others’ feelings. I am going to be happy, I am going to take care of myself, and I will move on with my life…though shy a few people. 

I’m not a fan, but T-Swizzle (Taylor Swift) had it right, haters gonna hate, hate, hate, but you gotta shake it off. 

Crossroads

Life often comes to the proverbial crossroads. Sometimes even literal ones. At times, we see them coming, others we don’t realize it until we’ve made our “turn” and we reflect on what could have been different by taking the other path. We all come to that point in our lives. Be it the small decisions or life altering ones, the choices we make every day are the decisions that shape our lives. 

I find myself coming upon one of these theoretical crossroads. With the death of my husband (as previously promised, this blog is not about him, just my circumstances after the fact), I find things have changed significantly for me. Something inside me is broken. I’m not sure if it is my spirit, my will, or just my desire to carry on, but something is different. I’m smart enough to realize it, but not so smart that I know how to mend the brokenness. 

My lease on my apartment is coming up in July, should I renew, my rent increases but I know I’ll have shelter for another year. I could find someplace cheaper, as my rent is towards the high end of the scale for what I’m getting. But, as I don’t drive, the location is ideal. It’s close enough to walk where I need to go or should I need something. However, the only reason I live in this complex is because Tim loved it here, and by staying it is a constant reminder of him. Not that I have any bad feelings or memories about the place, I just constantly expect him to come home at some point and I know he never will. The thought of moving fills me with dread. I HATE moving, all the packing and unpacking, and the manual labor involved is exhausting. My gut is telling me to not only move, but to completely leave the area, perhaps the state. To move far away and start over where no one knows my personal tragedy, and I’m not treated like a leper of sorts. But that means not only moving, but either transferring jobs or finding a new one all together. So, it leaves me with the conundrum, should I stay or should I go?

Another choice I am facing is at work. The company as a whole is changing. In the past few years they have upped the pay and benefits, which was great for the employees, but now the expectations have become almost unreasonable. Yes, I make nearly twice what I made when I started, but that doesn’t provide any extra time in which to perform the duties assigned to me. It’s still an eight hour day, a forty hour week. Just because I earn more money, doesn’t mean I magically have more time in which to do the things to earn it. After Tim’s death, I threw myself into work as a distraction, but I’ve had to step back since then and deal with my loss. I get the feeling from my superiors that they do not care about me or my loss, only the output of my work. It’s become all about the level of productivity, not caring about the associates at all. That is not how my company used to be. So I find myself wondering whether to stay, transfer, or find something better suited to the realistic expectations of what can be done. 

I no longer speak to my family. I am a recovering drug addict, and I don’t want them around me. My brother is an addict, my other brother is following in our alcoholic father’s footsteps, and my mother coddles them. Not to mention, she deserted me in my hour of need during Tim’s memorial to tend to my brothers addiction and her husband’s daughter’s legal issues with drugs. Something inside me will not let me forgive her for that. I was a fool and held hope that Tim would stop using and abusing drugs, but that did not turn out to be the case. Now that I’ve had that eye opening experience, and have spent many an hour remembering my own struggle with drugs, I’ve made the life choice not to have an addict in my life. Not one, nor the people that enable them. While I am confident in that decision, and there is no more choice to be made, a different choice arises. I no longer have a family, so the starting over with my life fills me with dread. Do I have the strength to do it alone? Can I find the will power to find new people I want in my life, that I can rely on and have that closeness that is now lacking in my life? Where does one even start that journey?

There are stories about crossroads. That if you go to a literal crossroads and (the stories vary) either bury something personal, or pray, or just call out, that the devil or a demon will come and make a deal with you. Whatever you desire most for a period of time in exchange for your soul. I don’t believe in the devil, nor God, nor any aspect of religion, but the idea has become fascinating to me. What would I ask for? Peace? An end to drugs? The return of people I have lost? I’m not sure exactly. I’d probably ask for the ability to accept changes and still have my happiness. But this is a superstition and not a reality. 

There are no easy answers in life and we must make the choices we feel best for us. We also must deal with the outcomes of those decisions. I don’t regret my choices, I’ve always had that mindset, the decisions I’ve made in the past shaped who I am now and I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not made them. But I find myself feeling incapable of making the choices I need to make now. Fear is stopping me for some reason. Fear of failure, fear of being alone, and a fear of losing what little I have left. As I will turn 40 this fall, I am unsure if I have it in me to start over as a middle-aged man, when I was younger, I would not have had any problems making that choice. But yet I am at this crossroad in my life. I must choose where I go from here, and be strong enough to accept the consequences of my decision. 

Civil Rights

I’ve recently been reading a trilogy of novels by author Greg Iles. Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree, and Mississippi Blood. While I have not yet finished Mississippi Blood, the first two have got me thinking. 

This series of books is a fictional account of some all true events in our nation’s past. Civil rights. The sixties were a troubled time in the history of our country, and while I was not alive yet at the time (I wasn’t born until 1977), I’ve always found the sheer nonsense of this time to be morbidly fascinating. Not in a way that I agree with it, but like an accident you can’t look away from. It was a horrible time in our past, when the racial divide was at the forefront of our nation. 

In the books, a black nurse, who had fled from Mississippi in the late sixties after the disappearance of her civil rights activist brother, comes back to Mississippi in 2005 to die after a long bought with cancer. Her sudden reappearance and the very unfortunate circumstances of her death, bring the hate crimes of forty years ago back into the light. In the late sixties, she was kidnapped, raped, and beaten by an offset group of the KKK to lure her brother, a prominent civil rights activist, out of hiding. She barely got out alive, and with the help of the white doctor she worked for, she escaped north to Chicago. By her coming home to die, the doctor and his family are plunged back into dealing with the terrible history that made her flee in the first place. 

I’m not going to recount the entire series of events of the novels, it is a thrilling read and I highly recommend checking them out. Instead I’d like to talk about the actual reality of this terrible tragedy in the past. 

Though the “race war” in the 1960s did not start then, it has been an ongoing struggle since the first blacks were brought to this country as slaves, it has been (in my opinion) a terrible blight in our history. Black people were brought over from Africa as slaves into a country ran by white men. No minority group (black, Latino, Asian, women, native American, the poor, etc.) were ever given equal rights. Rich white men ran the country and decided it’s fate, always in their favor. These men owned black men and women as slaves. They worked them to the bone, beat them, raped the women, killed them if they didn’t do as they were told, and delivered many other horrible punishments upon them. They were property, they had no rights, no say, and no benefits. They were lucky to be given enough food, water, and shelter to survive. 

Just prior to the civil war, a shift occurred. The northern states (for the most part) no longer treated black people as slaves, though they still had little to no rights. The south however, still held onto the owning and mistreatment of any person of color. Throughout the country, there were different classes of colored people (the term of the time, not mine), as many of the white slave owners had had illegitimate children with their black mistresses, spawning mulatto children who were a step above a slave, but still not treated equally. 

After slavery was abolished, blacks were still not equal. They spent another hundred years treated as second class citizens. Little rights were afforded to them. They were free, yes, but they were not equal. They had manual labor jobs, regardless of any skill they may have. The were paid less than their white counterparts. They were more or less herded into only living in certain areas, away from the white areas. Segregation was horrible. Blacks and whites had to have separate entries to buildings, different drinking fountains, different everything. Partly because the white leaders of the time feared what could happen if they were equal, but mostly these instances of segregation were to remind the black citizens of their place in the scheme of things in America at that time. 

The civil rights movement in the 1960s changed everything, and not always for the best, but it was a step in the right direction. We have all heard of the obvious voices of this movement, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks but there were countless people working to end the fight. People working to get black Americans to register to vote, to fight for equal pay, to go to public schools and institutions the same as whites, etc. We may not recognize all of their names, but every single step they took was a step in the right direction. 

Unfortunately, for every step a black man or woman took to ensure their equality, there was a white man or woman doing something to stop them or counteract their progress. We’ve all heard of the KKK, but there were people not in the Klan that felt the same. The white men leading our country at the time were not for progress, still aren’t in my opinion, but that’s another blog. There were a few that were for it, but the majority were not. A popular theory (a subplot in the books) was that president John F. Kennedy was active in ending segregation and was killed as a result….as was his brother Bobby. 

Here we are over 50 years later, and while segregation is no longer openly discussed, it still exists. Black Americans are not paid equally, are still profiled as drug dealers and criminals, still have trouble acquiring homes in better neighborhoods, and many other things. It is just not openly talked about. Black Americans have trouble getting health care, approval for housing, assistance for education, and even government assistance if they should need it. While white Americans do not have the same issues. 

Recent events in our country have proven that the struggle goes on. Most notably, the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course they should matter, ALL lives should matter. The color of the skin surrounding that life should be irrelevant. My personal belief is the media and government of our nation have told you what they think you need to hear, in order to keep up their low key racism. If you pay attention to the news, they spend a lot of time telling you about black criminals and white do-gooders, but very rarely the other way around. I’m not saying there are no black criminals, but there are an equal amount of white ones. And most of the black people I know would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. The public perception is being guided by the media. 

Why does this bother me so much, you may ask? True, I am a middle aged white man, I shouldn’t have an issue, right? Wrong. Besides it being utterly, ridiculously wrong, it is an issue I do have to deal with as a gay man. The discrimination may be a bit different, but it’s still there. The white men who are still in power, after all these centuries, are using discrimination to help themselves. Against blacks, against gays, against immigrants, against different religions. The struggles are different in some ways, but at their core they are the same. We are discriminated against because we are different than a straight white man in public office. 

I don’t have a solution to end this discrimination and racism. I wish I did. But I hope that it will end. I doubt it will happen anytime soon, but someday. When our children are our age, and have children of their own. When the racists are no longer around to instill their hate into their own children, when we can elect officials with a more open mind to actually bettering the country and not just their wallets. When we as a society can concentrate on important issues like global warming and not being able to live off a minimum wage job…then and only then can we step away from the horrific events of the past. When children can learn about civil rights in history class and see that it was a horrible blight in our history, but feel proud they live in a country that can live up to the motto All Men Are Created Equal. 

All By Myself

Alone. 

The word itself strikes fear for so many people. So many people I know, or know of, just cannot be alone. They have to have someone else in their presence at all times, they do not know the joy that comes with time spent by their self. 

Admittedly, I used to be one of those people. Many years ago, prior to becoming sober, I needed people around. I couldn’t stand the silence, had to have someone else there to talk to, listen to, interact with. The thought of having to spend any amount of time alone just made me seek out the company of people I may not have even liked. Of course the drugs I was doing at the time dulled the annoyance of said people, just so I could get the fix of some type of closeness. 

When I was 21, that changed. I don’t remember the exact day, but I do remember that it was summertime and raining. I had my heart broken (I touch on this in the blog titled If I Knew Then…Part 2), and that event changed me forever. In so many ways. 

I found solace in being alone, in music with my headphones on that only I could hear, in watching a thunderstorm that somehow reflected my mood perfectly. I even remember I was listening to Garbage’s Version 2.0. 

That night a shift in my social life changed my outlook forever. I’ve had trouble being social since then. No longer did I want to be around others. I didn’t feel the need to go out. The fewer people in my circle, the happier I was. My trust in people had been shattered. I learned in one evening that the only person that could make me happy was myself. Me and me alone. 

Fast forward about 6 years, and Tim moved in with me. He had broken down several of the walls I spent so many years (felt like a lifetime) reinforcing. While I never again became as social in public as he was, or would have liked for me to be, I let him in. He was my social circle. 

There were a few close friends and family members that I let in also, but mostly it was Tim. I still enjoyed my alone time, but I grew to crave his company. I lived with him for over 10 years. A decade of my life spent with him. During that long time, I did learn to open back up, selectively expanding my circle to allow others in. 

Though we haven’t lived together since July, I’ve operated the past 8 months as if we did. I allowed friends and family into my heart, mind, and personal space. But I also thought we’d end up living together again. 

Since his death, another shift has occurred. I don’t want people near me again. I’ve spent the majority of my time alone, and that’s probably the best thing I can do right now. I still feel like being close to someone from time to time, but if I’m being honest with myself, it’s only his company I crave. Other people get on my nerves quickly. 

I’ve attempted to make new friends, as the existing ones seem to only want to talk about Tim, and that’s not something I am ready to talk about yet. It’s been nice to talk about other things with people who did not know him, but somehow it just doesn’t feel right. The distraction level I’ve sought isn’t there. 

So I’ve decided to try the alone thing again. Some time for self reflection and self healing. I intend to read more, write more, and of course listen to some great music. Hopefully, I won’t become a shut in, but maybe that’s what I need to heal my heart. 

I want to get myself to a place where taking a chance on others doesn’t feel like a betrayal, to a place where I don’t feel like others want to talk to me to just be nosey about my loss, and to a place where I feel safe to break down a wall. 

It’s been nearly half my life ago that I first learned to be my own best friend. I never imagined that I would be doing it again. But here I sit, contemplating just that. I’m considering moving far away when my lease is up, just to find the peace I feel I deserve. 

I don’t want to ever forget the circumstances that put me in these situations, as they have made me a stronger person in the long run, but I also don’t want a constant reminder of times I cannot have again. 

I plan on spending all my free time listening to music, reading, and doing things (alone) that make me happy. I’ll still work, as I need food and shelter, but not planning on doing much else. If it ever warms up and stops raining, going hiking in nature to clear my head. 

I do not fear the path of being alone. It’s a road I’ve journeyed before, and I’m looking forward to having a positive impact on my future self. 

All by myself, alone.