Oh my goodness, it has been two months since I last wrote and I’ve missed writing. Just a few days ago I was remembering one of my favorite blog posts from last year, Seasons Change, and it made me want to write. Luckily I have today off. As my Jewish friends celebrate Yom Kippur, I took the opportunity to run 20 miles for #marinecorp #marathon #training and to write a new blog post. It’s the first day of fall, so here we are again as seasons change. I got back to yoga last night too after three months off. It was so wonderful to find my mat once again. It’s that time of year to reflect and think about where you are in life and where you have come from. It’s also that time of year that you start putting #pumpkinspice #psl in your coffee and of course, start wearing your scarves again.
As I reread my blog Seasons Change from last year I was reminded of where I was then and even the year before that. Now September 2015 I’m in a very different place once again. I think we have to always keep in mind that years go by fast, days go by fast and things change. Over the past year my boyfriend and I have moved into a new apartment in Chicago. He still has his place in Cleveland and we’re still traveling back and forth. #stopasking who is moving, we are doing just fine like it is, thank you! Sidenote: Tyra Banks has a new talkshow and they were discussing this new hashtag, #stopasking, for people who are tired of other people nosing into their life and asking, “When are you having a baby?” “When are you moving in together?” “When are you getting married.” But I get it, that it comes from a positive and a well intended place. I’ll let you know when it happens, but for now #stopasking. I digress, it really is amazing to me that another year has gone by. I’m happy in my life and I find joy in the things I can do, the people I can share my time with, and the love I can share with my love.
Sitting here right now, I have my coffee with #pumpkinspice creamer in it and I’m looking outside at the wind move the tree branches and I’m completely ok, right now. A couple of years ago and even some last year, I struggled with being alone. I did not want to spend time by myself at all and I made sure that I was constantly busy. Recently I’ve noticed that I reserve a night or two to be home by myself. Is it that I’m in a relationship and therefore my mind allows me to be content staying home? Is it that I’m old and exhausted and need to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. in order to survive? What is it? For me, as I’ve reflected on this feeling, I know that when I was newly single and in the throes of emotion and last year when I had just gotten into a new relationship, my mind struggled with “alone time” as if it was the devil. What I know now is that I can be and am happy to be home alone some of the time. Now, my type of personality only needs a couple of hours a week by myself but I’m ok taking that time. Two years ago, forget about it, I would have been in a complete state of anxiety. So is it that my mind allows a sense of contentment when it’s satisfied with it’s life? What I hope I take from this recent reflection is that, I’m ok alone. I hope I don’t, but should I find myself alone again, I will fight my mind telling me I’m not ok alone. I will fight it because I know that I am ok and I can be happy at home on a Tuesday night. Alone time, happiness, pumpkin spice, happiness, whatever the case, alone, I’m ok.
Where do we go from here? One of the reasons I started this blog was to remark on my choice to “say yes to life” and experience the fun and joy that surrounds all of us, if we allow ourselves to “say yes.” In a few short weeks I will be running my fifth marathon, the Marine Corp in DC. #districtofcolumbia My body has been sort of a mess this training season. I’ve had a hamstring strain, soreness in my calves, the constant battle with my glute med, and the list goes on. My pace time has decreased majorly from the previous two seasons, but I’m still out there. I still ran my 20 mile training run today. I am still saying YES to Life and looking forward to running in DC. I hear it is a very cool race as we run all through the monuments and such. Maybe I can give a shout out to SCOTUS and the #lovewins ruling and get a “holla” from #rbg. That would be cool. Who knows how long this body can continue with these 26.2 mile races, but at least for now, I look forward to this next race.
So here we are again, it’s fall and the season is changing. I think just for fun and putting life in our years, we should all get a sassy new bob and a smokey eye and run through the streets as the leaves fall to the sidewalk.
Ok fine, that is television’s way of looking at fall, but for me, well, I’m going to haul out my scarves of many colors and start tszujing them around my neck until they are perfect. I’m going to run this fifth marathon and enjoy it. Of course I’m going to enjoy some #pumpkinspice #psl And most of all, I’m going to enjoy the time I spend with those I love and more conversations like this:
Conversation about the Bible with Sarah over dinner while Patrick shook his head figuring out the bill:
Sarah: Aren’t there animals in the Bible?
Matt: yeah isn’t there a horse/man?
S: Patrick is there a horseman?
M: Oh, the hyenas…no that’s the Lion King.
S: No that’s the Lion King, you’re confusing your stories. Patrick is there a horseman?
M: Flotsam and Jetsam….no that’s the Little Mermaid.
S: Who are the three singing ladies?
M: That’s the Mandrell Sisters!
*laughter and snorting*
S: Who sings to Baby Jesus?
WOW-it’s been a year since I started my blog, Say Yes To Life! I really can’t believe that 365+ days have gone by and what a difference 365 days have made in my life. A year ago I was definitely starting to hit my stride again after a very difficult year. I was also about to meet someone who would change my life. What it all comes down to for me, is friendship. The way I got out of the darkness of loss is because of friends. The reason I started this blog is because of friends. The reason I met my love is because of friends. Friendships ebb and flow, but the real ones last forever.
I didn’t know much about Carole King except that she has written a ton of songs and people love her. My boyfriend and I went to the show without much expectation. It did win the star a Tony Award in the USA and the equivalent award in England was recently won by it’s “Carole”. After two hours I walked away having a greater sense of the massive amounts of hit songs Carole King wrote AND tear filled eyes. My boyfriend and I were standing on the corner of the street and I just started to sob. What moved me more than anything in the show was the power of friendship. Carole King and her husband were a writing team. Next door in the same music executive office was another writing team, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. This foursome became such amazing friends, which was reflected in the show. Everything about how they met and became friends and supported each other through life’s ups and downs, even though they were competing to get their songs picked up by the record company, was beautiful. I started to sob because I am so fortunate to have so many friends from over the years who have supported me in big and small ways. Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil represent the good and bad, happy and sad times in life that all need support. Friendship is about supporting each other and looking out for one another and truly, moving through life, together. The minute I left the theatre I knew I would write a blog about my friendships and what they mean to me. So here it is….
Friendship is about time. We are all so busy. No matter if your busy is picking the kids up after work and feeding them and putting them to bed or going to yoga, then dinner with friends, everyone is busy with their life. I am so fortunate to have friends who reach out and say, “Hey, let’s grab dinner. Let’s grab drinks.” Just last night I had dinner with a couple of my running friends. We haven’t seen each other in months, but it was great to catch up. Tonight I had a couple beers with a friend of 15 years. We met at a bar that we used to frequent back in our early teaching days. We both commented that, “it still smells the same it did in 2001.” Though I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like and our times aren’t as crazy as they used to be, we can always pick up where we left off. The point is, you have to make the effort to keep friendships going because when life is going well and you are “busy”, it can get away from you.
The reason this blog, SAY YES TO LIFE! started is because a high school friend I hadn’t seen since June 1995 reached out on Facebook and said, “Hey, I’m going to be in Chicago, I love your #100Happydays posts, and we should get a glass of wine.” We did and that hour of my life changed my life. She truly inspired me to share my story and share my life. What that meant a year ago was to share the pain of the previous year(completely cathartic). Now it means sharing what I’ve learned about life, by SAYing YES TO LIFE! And where I got the name of the blog was because a friend said, “I can’t believe you are going to meet up with Dana.” I said, “I’m saying yes to life!” Dana gave me her time, which was a true gift to me. I’m forever grateful
As I mentioned above, tonight I grabbed beers with my friend Amanda. I posted on Facebook that we were at our old watering hole reminiscing about 2001. Since I have been writing, the amount of “likes” on that post keeps going up and up from all of our old teaching friends. Many of those people I haven’t seen in years, but we shared something so special back then. We were all under 30 or right around there. We were all single. We were all fun people and boy did we have fun. What I have learned in life is that things change. No matter how hard you try to not let the changes happen, they do. However, what I can do is go back in my memory bank and remember those amazing, great times. What matters is that we all gave each other our time. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone. Time. Time is precious and now knowing how life gets so “busy” I truly value the time that my friends give me. Whether we are making dinner and drinking wine, crying on the phone over boys, laughing on Divvy bikes, dancing our fool heads off, or just chilling, we are giving one another time and that is valuable. Things can change at a moment’s notice, we all know too well, so give time to your friends. It’s really important.
Friendship is also about drinking. Face it, this is the truth! There have been different times in the last few years that I have tried to give up alcohol for a month, six weeks, whatever. What I have noticed is that I like to drink. I’ve also noticed that my friends are lushes too. So that is important! Ha, well, what it has shown me is that a lot of the time I spend with friends being social is centered around food and drinking. You know what? I’m ok with that. I should also note that my drinking has evolved over the years. Back in 2000 when I moved to Chicago it was Captain and Coke. Good God, if I even smell that these days I gag. I was also typically around a Flip Cup table. Now I am a refined drinker of rosé, or as it should be called, “Summer Water.” I like to do this on someone’s deck or on a patio in the summer. If drinking brings me together with my friends, so be it. What is important, again, is that we are spending time together, the true gift in life.
Friendship is about taking their hand, walking with them side by side, and letting them know that it is going to be ok. There are so many different times in life that are dark. Breakups, death, loss…. When I was in that dark place, I had friends who would be with me in a moment’s notice, who would cook dinner, who would be there to take my call in the morning and at night and at noon and at….you get the point. I had friends who would get drinks with me just so I didn’t have to be alone. I’m forever grateful for all of my friends who took time out of their busy life to walk by my side and let me know that I would be ok. I am ok. I’m SO ok now and a much better person because of the struggle. But the best thing that came of that darkness is that I was able to spend time with some amazing people in my life. Look, we’re all trying to make it through this life day by day. Some days are better than others, but I truly believe that friendships help us in those dark times but also in the good times to remind us always that we have a really damn good life. Be a good friend and notice when someone needs you. Whether it is a shoulder to cry on or a drinking buddy they need, be there, by their side.
Life is not a race-but indeed a journey. Be honest. Work hard. Be choosy. Say “thank you”. “I love you”, and “great job” to someone each day. Take time for prayer. Be thankful. Love your life and what you’ve been given, it is not accidental. Search for your purpose and do it as best you can. Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you aspire to be. Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free. Do not worry. Forgive, it frees the soul. Take time for yourself. Plan for longevity. Recognize the special people you’ve been blessed to know. Live for today, enjoy the moment. — Bonnie Mohr
So to all of my friends, THANK YOU FOR BEING A FRIEND. It’s no secret that gay men and single women often talk about having a “Golden Girls” house when we get older. I mean, we’re going to have to take care of each other, right? Each group of friends has a Rose and a Blanche, a Dorothy and a Sophia. We all have a Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte too. Friendship is special. Friendships evolve over time. Some are more significant than others and some last longer than others too. What I think is special is that people come into our lives for different reasons and for different lengths of time. But the most significant thing is to realize how each person who has crossed your life, from your first friend at age three to your most recent friend, has impacted you. How have they shared their time with you? How have you shared your time with them. Tomorrow you might not wake up or your friend might not come home from work again. Take the time to reach out and show the love you have for your friends. Spend time with those people who make you happy and who help to make you a better person. Spend your precious time smiling and laughing and enjoying good food and drinks. Life is short so get out there and enjoy it. Life is also beautiful when youstop for a moment and enjoy your friendships.
“The strength of a man isn’t seen in the power of his arms. It’s seen in the love with which he embraces you.”
This past weekend I ran my fourth marathon(3rd Chicago)in three years. Each and every marathon I have completed has been a different experience. This past weekend I felt very much wrapped in love. The marathon route can be so fast and so looooong at times, but it is never a place I feel alone. The strength of a “man” as in “mankind” is shown with love and the embrace of people you know, people you love and who love you, training partners, and total strangers.
A post about love and embracing cannot go on without acknowledging those who could not necessarily come out to cheer me on, rather they supported me by donating to the Team to End AIDS/T2/AIDS Foundation of Chicago. WOW! At last count, I raised $2522.41. All of those people showed love and support by digging into their pockets and making a donation. I promise while I was running knowing that I had support all over the country did mean the world to me.
Look what your donations help do:
It’s not too late to make a donation either. Reach into your pocket and help support. Help change the story!
“You’re lookin’ strong Matty and the hair still looks great too.”
I had a moment with a total stranger. It was a five second friendship, but he totally understood me. He got me and my hair!! Seriously, the fan support for the Chicago Marathon is next to none. Of course there are 1.7 million spectators out there, most of whom are looking for their loved one, their friend, their co-worker, but there are also people who are just out to cheer and support. It is incredible the love and support for humankind that I feel while running the marathon. I always put my name on my shirt and it never fails that hundreds of people will shout it out, “Good work Matty!” “Way to go Matty.” “Looking good Matty.” People ask, “What do you do/think about for almost four hours? I watch the joy on spectator’s faces when they see their loved one. I get chills when I see runners turn around to give a hug to his friends. I listen for shrieks of elation as kids see their mom running strong. I look for the love that is shared for 26.2 miles. There are very few times in life that love is just shared without expectation. Running the marathon time and time again proves to me that it is possible. It is possible that humans will come out and support other humans, just because. Just because running 26.2 miles is f***ing amazing and hard and deserves to be cheered on. But also just because it feels good to support other humans doing something they love or running in honor of someone or something, or just supporting people who get this crazy idea that they are going to beat Oprah’s time(4:29:15).
I continue to run because it is the single thing in life that has brought me to a place of understanding what it feels like to be part of the team. Growing up I wasn’t an athlete. I wasn’t part of a team. Sure, I marched in band and sang in musicals, but nothing ever felt like a team until I started running. After my first marathon I began to get that feeling. Running on the Lake Shore path in Chicago I’d get a head nod here or a smile there from other runners. They understood what I was doing and I understood them, especially on those super hot days or cold days or rainy days when only us crazy runners go out. But not until last year did I truly understand what it is like to be part of a team. I joined the Team to Ends AIDS purely for two reasons: 1. To get a BIB for the New York City marathon and 2. To focus my energies on something good in midst of a break-up. Saturday after Saturday I would get up at 5 a.m. and head to the lake for a run. I’d meet my teammates, chitchat, and get to running. Week after week I would run with about the same crew as we were the same pace. Week after week we would chat about work, weekend plans, pains of running, fundraising, etc. Then, one Saturday as we got ready to run, one of my pace group leaders stood to give a talk. He raised his hand high with a green wristband acknowledging (+) his positive status. Then a few more guys came up and got wristbands. As I looked around, five of my 9 pace group running mates were HIV positive. No longer did I just join T2 to get into the NYC marathon, I was part of something much bigger. I was raising money and raising awareness for the HIV/AIDS epidemic. From that moment on, when I would go out running with my T2 shirt on and I’d hear other people on the path, “Go T2”, “Looking good T2,” I finally felt what it is like to be part of a team. I finally had that feeling that I so longed to have, that camaraderie that teammates share. I was part of a team that was raising money to help some of the very men I was running with week after week.
I run because it reminds me that I’m alive and that we don’t always know what the person next to us is going through on a daily basis, but they keep going, and I keep going because it brings me to life.
This past Sunday marked my second best time in a marathon, 3 hours, 50 minutes, 38 seconds. It’s an incredible time for me, not my best, but substantial nonetheless. When I tell people I was disappointed in my time, their mouths drop. Fine, fine, it is sub four hours and I will take it. What is more powerful than anything else is that I finished the race and kept that time. Everything was set-up to be perfect. The weather was in the low 50s, I trained since May, I took in fluids like I normally do and nutrition like normal too. At 13.1 miles I was at an 8:01 pace. At mile 15 I was at and 8:11 pace. For the first 17 miles I was well under my goal pace of 8:22/mile. After 18 miles, my legs started to get tired. Mile 19, my least favorite, I was sore. At mile 22 I saw the Team to End AIDS cheer bus. That gave me umph to keep going. Coach Chris caught up to me at mile 23. This is when my legs started to feel really tired and crampy, though nothing significant. With Coach Chris’s encouragement I kept running. When I’d try to stop and walk, he’d give encouragement. I made it to 40K where I saw all of my cheer crew together screaming, waving signs. I blew them a kiss.
There is no way I could move to the side of the road at that point. I had to keep moving forward. What seemed like an hour was really just a few minutes. I just wanted to be done. I crossed the finish line. DONE!
I didn’t meet my goal of under 3 hour 40 minutes, but it was still my second best race. Just a minute after finishing my legs seized up at the same time. The worst charlie horses I have ever experience hit my calves. My legs went into rigamortis. I screamed for Coach Chris. He finally heard me and came back. He dumped salt into my hand. I downed that and a banana. Along with a medic, he helped me hobble a little. Five minutes later the cramps subsided. Five minutes after that the right leg seized again. Three minutes after that the left leg seized. Finally after limping for 30 minutes I was at a bench surrounded by Gatorade, water, bananas and Coach Chris. He stuck with me when I know he wanted to greet others who had finished. He walked with me for another 20 minutes until we found my boyfriend. Coach Chris is my hero! I certainly would have finished the race, but not under four hours if he had not stuck with me. I choked back tears as he helped me, not because of the severe pain, but because he was there helping me and caring about me as a fellow runner and human.
Who wouldn’t keep running to see what signs would be pulled out next? I honestly had the best cheer crew ever. They chased me on bike and in car. Sarah and Patrick made the funniest signs and hustled to three different locations on the marathon route. Two of my favorites:
“If marathons were easy they’d be called your mother.”
“It may be long and hard but Matty can take it!”
My friend Dave drove Kurt, Matt, and Artur around to two different locations. When I woke up marathon morning, I saw this sign on the table, Love and Whitney.
It takes a special boyfriend who cares to spend hours making a sign with Whitney Houston lyrics on it. I feel loved. I feel wrapped in love by my boyfriend, my cheer crew, my coaches, my family, and all of the people who have donated to the Team to End AIDS/AIDS Foundation of Chicago. On the marathon path it can get long out there but my cheer crew gave me such strength and energy, especially at 40K when I was tiiiiiirrrrrrrrrreeedd and just wanted to be done. Their love of me gave the extra gusto I needed to make it to the end. The cheering crowds up Michigan Ave. and rounding the corner at Roosevelt gave me the push I needed to step foot across the line. 26.2 miles, yes that is an accomplishment and with dedication I have trained my body to complete it. But I feel most accomplished in life because I am able to surround myself with some of the most amazing and loving people. Some I know from high school and some I’ve more recently met. What made me feel better than anything else on Sunday was that I felt wrapped in love by people I know and by total strangers. When you find love, whether of a friend or lover, cherish it. It keeps us going.
“‘Cause once you know what love is, you’ll never let it end.”
Back in 2011 I set out to run a marathon for one of my milestone birthdays and to check that off my bucket list. Little did I know, I would be up to four marathons (3 under 4 hours) and more than anything, that I would inspire others to run.
Back in high school I hated running. Hated it! I could barely run a mile, or more so, had little desire. After my first marathon in 2011, I wanted to do it again and again and again. Last year I ran Chicago and two weeks later New York City. Since all of this running, several people from my past have messaged me to let me know that I inspired them to start running. Some have kept to the 5 K race while another, Leah, reached out to me and I encouraged her to train and run one. Just as it got me through a rough spot in my life, it did her too. Now she is set to run TWO marathons within 2 or 3 weeks this fall. I commend her and honor her here. She is inspirational. And she’s a running rockstar mom. Go get that course and run your heart out Leah!! I am with you in spirit. If you want a few signs, I have some great ones you can borrow!!
So what is this long blog post all about? Running? No. The marathon? Not really. Signs of encouragement? So awesome, but no. It’s about l-o-v-e. It’s about humans supporting humans; strangers supporting strangers. This blog post is about getting out there in life and keeping going even when it’s hard. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other and why you do that is because of love. You do it because people love you and YOU LOVE YOURSELF. You are important to a lover, or a friend, or a niece or nephew or family member. If you’re really lucky you have all of the above and even if you don’t, just know that somewhere out there, whether it’s on a marathon course or just walking the streets of your town, someone you don’t know, a total stranger, supports you. And, if you are very lucky in life, you are surrounded by love always. Look around, it is there. Wrap yourself in love.
Let me take you back, it’s February 10, 2002 and you are watching the final episode of the best Sex and the City season, Season 4. Carrie and Aiden broke up again, Big left again, but Carrie has a new, sassy haircut and dark smokey eyes. It’s Fall, change is upon Carrie, not only with men, but Miranda, her bestie just had a baby. It’s Fall, the change of a season, leaves are falling from the sky and a lot in Carrie’s life has changed.
Today is a crisp day in Chicago and I sense the change of season is upon us. As I drove home from yoga I couldn’t help but notice the leaves are changing colors. Thirty minutes earlier I was at the end of my yoga practice, in shavasana. I was feeling great. Many of my favorite teachers have left, but this new one, Lauren, captured me. As I laid there I reflected on the place I was a year ago. Although I was working so hard on getting past a breakup, I was still very much hurting on a daily basis. I’d say to myself, “You can do this. You aren’t where you want to be but you are so far from the pain you felt in May and June and July.” As soon as I felt strong, it seemed I felt weak again. Each day was still a struggle, but I was making it. I was making each day the best I could make it. I was heavy into marathon training and into yoga practice. However, today, as I lay there on my mat I felt completely different. A year later I feel completely different. I’m energized like myself. I feel a release of energy that is so true to my being. A year ago my intention in practice was healing, today my intention was love. I just had this feeling on my mat today of AHHHHHH, changes have occurred and actually, I’m a far happier person because of those changes. I’m in a far better place because of those changes. Gosh it was a long journey, through many seasons, but I made it to the other side. On a daily basis I did not see where I was headed, but what I know for sure, is that each day of the past 365 days, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. And right now, September 11, 2014, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I would never wish upon anyone to go through heartbreak. It sucks! But now, very far from it, with clear eyes and a full heart, I can clearly see the changes that the past 16 months have afforded me. What should be known is that each day isn’t easy. You have to make an effort to move forward and let go. My god did I struggle with letting go. But once I did, doors opened. New people came into my life and because of those new people, other people came into my life. I started this blog because I finally let go. I participated in the Gay Games in Cleveland because I finally let go. I have a different energy in my life now because I let go. And honestly, I’ve packed on 10 lbs. because I LET GO! Let’s be honest, crying daily and not eating and training for a marathon can take you down to 168 lbs., but sitting at 178 lbs., a year later, I’m a much happier, energized person.
I remember back in July last year, I was sitting at my doctor’s office with a broken heart and broken hand. She said, “Wow, you’re really going through a season, but don’t worry, it will get better. Everything changes, you just have to hold on for a little bit before you see it. Your hand will mend, and so will your heart.” I of course was sobbing, but she was right. My hand did heal and so did my heart. I had to fucking tape that shit back together somedays, but with each stick of new tape and each step of the day, it all got better. With friends’ help, oh friends’ help, I made it to my yoga mat today where I realized how far my journey has taken me and how far I have come. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just hold on. Surround yourself by loving friends and get a whole mess of tape because it could take a lot of mending before it all sticks back together. But you have to believe that one day, your heart will stick all back together. It may never feel the same way, but I believe that is ok. It’s not meant to feel the same way. Your heart changes too, just as you do. You will always love again, just in a different way. Thank your journey for teaching you all kinds of ways to love. And remember this, seasons are going to happen, some of them good, some of them not so good. You will make it to the other side.
Oh, no truer words have been written, no truer words. A year ago I was just starting to take longer steps in a forward progression to letting go. As I reflect, I realize that I needed ALL of that time to learn about myself and heal and tape my heart up and tape again and accept the changes and SEE how wonderful the experiences I’ve lived this year have been. A month ago I was coming off the greatest 10 days at the Gay Games in Cleveland. Had I still been living my life of 2012-2013, I would never have experienced the love, joy, and excitement of being a competitive athlete at the Gay Games. CHANGE, I don’t love it, but it brings us to where we need to be. It forces us to veer off course and perhaps make our fate. If things in my life hadn’t changed, I would not be sitting here today typing and sharing my writing. So many parts of my life, right now, wouldn’t be as they are had things not changed. Am I going to say it? Change, change is good.
As seasons come and go, often fall, is a time of reflection as spring is a time of new hope, new adventures. Winter is a time for, well, winter sucks, but summer, summer is a time for fun and joy. My hope for you, as autumn seems to be upon us, is that you had a wonderful summer filled with more joy and love than you could ever imagine. I hope that new people have brought joy and love to your life, as they have to mine, and I hope your dearest friends have remained that consistent joyful reminder of happiness and how far you have come on this journey. I hope that autumn brings you a time of reflection, a nice new sweater and good changes.
I recently read this amazing blog post by #ShaunaNiequist called “You Are Significant With or Without a Significant Other.” Over the last couple of weeks I have talked about this blog with friends and acquaintances. Many of them have said, “Oh, I’ve heard about this.” It is well worth a read, so take a few minutes now if you haven’t already. What she writes about is worth sharing. We as single people may not be where we want to be in our lives, or where we envisioned ourselves, but we have it pretty good. We have some freedoms that married folk don’t. We have some freedoms that parents don’t. Rather than looking at it as a burden to be single, or something to be sad about, let’s choose to look at it as an opportunity to Say YES to Life! and live the hell out of this season.
I’ve lived the better part of my 37 years being single. Granted, 26 of those years were spent trying to figure out who the hell I wanted to date. Good Lord! Once that got all settled, I spent the next nine years living it up, going to bars with friends, dating, getting graduate degrees, traveling, thinking it would be awesome to have a kid, realizing it would not be awesome to have a kid, and then finally finding that guy, the one I would call “boyfriend.” Those years were fun, but certainly not what I was looking for, for the rest of my life. The year plus with my ex was amazing and I thought it was everything I wanted out of life. AT LONG LAST, I wasn’t SINGLE. Honestly, in my head, just not being single and having a “boyfriend” was probably more significant than the actual relationship. He couldn’t give me his heart. He couldn’t say, “I love you.” That is what I’m looking for, a guy who can accept emotion from me and give it back to me.
“You’ve been so unavailable/Now sadly I know why/Your heart is unobtainable/Even though Lord knows you kept mine.”
–Sam Smith, “I’m Not The Only One” from In the Lonely Hour
(Check out Sam Smith’s album, In the Lonely Hour, and be amazed. Not since Adele have lyrics been so real.)
Before my ex, I had convinced myself that I was content being single. How many times did I tell myself, “I’d rather be single than with the wrong guy.” I can tell you, hundreds of times that phrase went through my head. And yes, if I’m single the rest of my life, I will be okay. However, after experiencing a consistent, fun, and worthwhile dating relationship, the reality is that I want to be with a partner. I do not want to be single. Who does? As is written in “You Are Significant With or Without a Significant Other,” being single does not mean that we have to wait to be partnered before we can start our lives. This is a season. We may not be where we want to be, but this is an opportunity to live our lives freely until or if a partner should ever join us.
“Being single is an opportunity, even if it’s not one you choose. Spend it.” I love this quote from the blog post by #ShaunaNiequist. Yes, thank you for acknowledging that this is not what I chose. I don’t like it, but I can take this time and opportunity and “spend it.” And this too, “don’t wish away this season just because it doesn’t look the way you thought it would.” What a constant reminder that I have a good life. I am doing things with my singledom that are pretty amazing.
What has this Single Season afforded me?
Sarah, Dave, Michael, Patrick, Ronald, to name a few, have come in, or back into my life during this season. This is like my Oscar speech because there are SO many more people who the above have introduced me to who have become amazing parts of my life too. I probably could name about 50 new or returning people to my life during the past year. If anything has come of this time, I know that I am blessed to have these friends in my life. These are the people who reach out and ask, “Want to go grab a beer?” “Want to grab brunch?” “Want to go to a movie?” “Want to go for a run?” This season may not be where any of us want to be, but we have the freedom and choice to do whatever we want, when we want, and how we want. That’s pretty cool.
I have not written off my married friends, though most of them have fled to the burbs with kids. That’s not to say we can’t still hang out. As is written in the blog post, “You Are Significant With or Without a Significant Other,” single people can still add significance to married people and vice versa. “Don’t miss out on friendships with amazing people because they’re single and their rhythm of life is different from yours. And don’t assume that because someone’s single, they don’t want to hang out with married people, or people with kids.” This is true. I love my married friends and I love their kids. The best part of hanging out is that I get to see my friends, play with their kids, and the kids stay with them and I get to go back to the city. I joke, but some of the friends I have who are married have been the longest friendships here in Chicago. Though our lives have changed since we were all 24, single and living in the city, I love them all and wish I could see them more. So yes, my single friends from 14 years ago are mostly married with children and though our lives are admittedly different, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be involved with them. They add significance to my life too.
Finally, after a year of being sad, I made it through the fog and found my voice. I’m only 5 posts (almost 6) into this adventure of blogging, but it feels good. It feels good to write and create and express my emotions. This blog is about taking my power back. Taking back the power to be happy. It is a choice and I’m choosing to find the good things in life, whether I’m single or not.
Being single may not be where any of us want to be right now, but we have a choice to be cheerful and happy and free to do whatever we want. I recently said to my friend Patrick, who is headed on his first solo trip, that traveling alone is amazing because it opens us up to new experiences we would not often open ourselves up to in the comforts of our own world. On my solo trips in Thailand and Peru I met so many people I would have otherwise not, because I was single. When we’re alone we are more willing to approach people and they more willing to approach us. In Peru I had one of the best conversations about world travel with an older single woman who saw I was alone and asked to eat dinner with me. That took balls, but you know what, if I was with someone, she and I would never have had that conversation. We would have never shared our stories of the majesty that is Machu Picchu. On the flip side, there were a few times in Thailand that I was staying at fantastic hotels and I wished I had a partner with me to experience the grandeur. During this conversation with friends Patrick and Sarah I said, “I really want to go to Greece, but I think it is a trip to do with a partner. Maybe a honeymoon trip?” Wisely Sarah said, “You could die tomorrow. If you want to go, go. If you want to go next summer, start planning. If you want to go for your 40th, do it. Invite friends and the people who can and want to come will come. Don’t wait for a honeymoon or a boyfriend. Life could end tomorrow. We are single now and we can go now.” YES! This is about Saying YES to LIFE! Whatever makes you happy, do it. If it is owning a nice knife, buy it now. Do not wait for a wedding. If it is travel, do not wait around for someone else. Do it now. Do it for yourself because you are fabulous, free, and ready to live your life, NOW! Forty is just over two years away. Start saving your money because we are headed to Greece, ya’ll!
“Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.”
To my single friends: Hold on for the ride. Embrace your singledom and live your life. Remember, “Single is not a status, it is a word that describes a person who is strong enough to live and enjoy life without depending on others.”
I have a love/hate relationship with this quote. ALL I have to do is FORGET what I feel? Really? I wish it was that easy. For some people, perhaps it is, but for me being the emotionally invested and aware guy that I am, it isn’t that easy. However, the sentiment behind the quote has merit. It makes sense and is the basis of this idea of “Investing In Me.”
What resonated with me is the idea that my generation of gay men are now “nomadic.” There isn’t anything necessarily tying us down, like kids, and most people change jobs as often as every few years. So, why not move to a different city? Absolutely, go do that, but I’ve worked 14 years here in Chicago and my life is here. I’m not necessarily looking to move. According to the article by Jerry Plaza, “We want to move away, travel and achieve big dreams. Not that there’s anything wrong with the idea, but it sure does put a damper on anyone who might see a future with you.” Right, you want a future with me? Stay in Chicago or make millions so I don’t have to work! Boom! But in all honesty, if you want to be in a committed relationship, you need to be congruent with each other and for me that means you probably need to stay here, with me.
Natalie Lue from http://www.baggagereclaim.com would call this establishing dating boundaries. My dating boundary is that I live in Chicago and don’t plan to move anytime soon. As I worked through the heartbreak of my ex moving to NYC for a job, over looking for one in Chicago and choosing to stay with me, I realized I needed to listen to him. In March of last year he told me, “I can’t give you what you want.” For so many reasons I just wanted it to work. At the time, I would have done anything to stay with him.
“I’m looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.”
I’m looking for a guy who will choose to stay with me because he values me and loves me. My ex could not love me like this. His friends, I think, probably convinced him that he should stay with me. Why not, right? I do know that I have my shit together and the guy who I end up with will be lucky. So we worked things out and two months later he was gone. I should have “listened” to him. In Natalie Lue’s Handy List of Commitment and Availability Issues List of Phrases, the FIRST phrase is “I can’t give you what you want.” Listen to him! If you learn one thing only from this post, please, LISTEN TO HIM! It doesn’t matter if you beg him to reconsider, beg him to stay, or if his friends think you are fabulous and tell him he’s a fool to leave you, LISTEN TO HIM!
And just when you think listening is enough, now listen and set your boundary. Take your head with your heart-Invest In Yourself.
As I began dating again I made a commitment to myself to be authentic to my life and my life goals. I was not going to shy away from speaking MY truth and MY desire to find love and commitment here in Chicago. The first guy I dated I met running. I loved that about him. We had a ton of fun and he was super cute and energetic. The first mention of not liking his job and “maybe I’ll move”, see ya buddy! “My ex did that and I’m not doing that again.” We’re friends and he is great, but “maybe” I took seriously and that is not congruent with my life. Then a few months later I met THE next ONE. He’d recently moved back to Chicago to be close to family. Not having a job, he was seeking. On our second date he mentioned the dreaded three words in my world, New York City. I told him my ex moved there for a job over me and that if he wanted to look for jobs there he should, but that this would be our last date. “Oh the draw of New York. Everyone wants to live in New York. I lived there in my 20’s. It was great but I moved back here to be close to my family.” My response was very direct and clear, “That’s great, but if you do seek jobs there, don’t date me.” It could have been the cold and snow of this past January and February in Chicago, and loving a warm body next to me, but I fell head over heals for this guy. We dated for 7 weeks filled with laughter, hours of YouTube watching Whitney clips(he loved her too!), flowers at the door and ice cream in bed and rainbows and glitter(ok, no rainbows and glitter), and just an amazing time. After 7 weeks, he moved to New York City, for a job.
So here I am, now in June, after taking a few months away from dating, Saying YES to Life!, I’m back dating again. I’ve met some really great guys, however, I continue to find these nomadic gay men. Why do the guys I date think “I might live in NYC one day.” I’ve pondered this for the past week or so since I met a really handsome, fun guy. Is it that I’m attracted to younger thirty year olds? Perhaps. Or is it that my generation of gay men aren’t settled and don’t plan on settling down? Has the instant-ness of hook-up/dating apps changed the type of guys we are meeting? Or are we changing? Are jobs so fluid now that staying put in a city and working at a job for more than a few years a thing of the past? Perhaps. With these changes, can men dating now find love? A quote from the Broadway play and recent HBO movie, The Normal Heart, struck me. “Men do not naturally not love. They learn not to.” Are we learning not to love in order to keep our hearts at a distance and not settle down into commitment?
For me, however, I have to choose to “Invest In Me” and not only be upfront with these guys and my intention to stay, but say goodbye when they mention the idea of “one day” living somewhere else. Short of sounding bitter, because I’m not, I hesitate to believe that “Love Conquers All.” No matter how great I am, if a guy wants to live in say, New York City, he’s going to do it. All I have control over is my life and my desires and running the other way, fast, when the mention of living elsewhere is brought up. So I’m working on it. I’m not perfect, and this very handsome guy who’ve I’ve recently met is worth getting to know. But, I’m going to listen to him and I’m going to take my head along with my heart.
It is just about summer break around here. Last summer sucked the life out of me, but this summer I’m Saying YES to Life! and “Investing In Me.”