1995: A Turning Point in My Life

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Part of me feels I should say I’m sorry but I’m not sorry.  A lot of shit has been going on in my life, and I’d like to hope most people would agree that real life takes precedence over a blog or keeping others entertained.

There’s a lot to write about, a lot I need to tell you, but I had a bit of an epiphany today, and I wanted to share it with you all.

Last night, I was feeling a bit nostalgic, very awake, and slightly under the influence of a few glasses of vino, so I rummaged through our cabinets below the bookcase with our DVDs and Blu-Rays in them to haul out my old photos from my pre-New Zealand days.

Some bring tears to my eyes.  Some make me long for yesterday and for those who are no longer with us.  Others make me smile.  Others again make me laugh heartily.

I found a photo of someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time, someone who, to be totally honest, hasn’t crossed my mind a lot lately.  He does once in a while, but with time marching on and a million other memories cramming their way into my head every month or three, and having seen each other last in 1995 when we were both totally different people, these thoughts grow fewer and farther the more distant that year becomes.

Read “1995: A Turning Point in My Life”

Rest in Peace, My Little Buddy

Rest in peace, Levi

14 February 1996 — 16 March 2014

Phoebe

I usually associate a song with a pet’s passing, but I think this time, I’m too emotionally numb right now to think of one.

Levi was an amazing little buddy. His tail was always wagging, usually so hard it was a blur, and he seemed to smile at us. As he grew older, and his vision and hearing started failing, he didn’t seem to smile as much, but his tail still wagged, especially for his chorizo or Schmacko, the former of which was the mode of delivery for his Vetmedin and diuretic pills and the latter of which was his most favourite treat of all time (not the brand name Schmacko, but he knew the word meant “treat” and we gave him Beggin Strips, which he loved).

Read “Rest in Peace, My Little Buddy”

Rest in Peace, My Little One

Rest in peace, Phoebe

7 November 2002 — 29 July 2013

Phoebe

“Goodnight my angel, now it’s time to sleep

And still so many things I want to say

Remember all the songs you sang for me

When we went sailing on an emerald bay

And like a boat out on the ocean

I’m rocking you to sleep

The water’s dark and deep, inside this ancient heart

You’ll always be a part of me”

— “Lullabye (Goodnight, my Angel)” by Billy Joel

Read “Rest in Peace, My Little One”

2 Years Ago Today, Our Lives Were Turned Upside Down… Again

Unit 8, Amuri Park, Christchurch, 13 June 2011I woke up in the middle of the night.  It was one of those half-awake, half-asleep moments, where you seem to be somewhere between dreaming and waking.  After the 22 February 2011 quake and subsequent aftershocks, I hadn’t been sleeping very well at night, so waking up several times a night was more normal than not waking up at all.

But at about 2 AM on 13 June 2011, waking up was something different.

Read 2 Years Ago Today, Our Lives Were Turned Upside Down… Again

Last Night, I Went to Bed a Freer Man; New Zealand Legalised Gay Marriage

I admit, I haven’t been losing sleep over our inability to get legally married.  Why?  New Zealand is a socially progressive, fair country, and if it didn’t happen now, it would happen in a few years.  As Motormouth Maybelle said in Hairspray, “A foot in the door, that’s all it is.  One toe at a time.”

I also have to admit, last night, watching the parliamentary debate of the third reading of the bill to legalise LGBTI marriage on TV, I knew we had it in the bag.  Deep down, something told me, “We’ll be equal in the eyes of the law now.”

New Zealand Parliament didn’t let us down.  They voted 77 to 44 to legalise same-sex and transgendered marriage.  We became the 13th country in the world to do so.

Suddenly, a young man in the gallery above Parliament stood up and started to sing Pokarekare Ana, a powerful Maori love song that makes me cry nearly every time I hear it.  Everyone else rose, even the politicians, even the politicians who had been against the bill, and joined in.  Only in New Zealand, eh?

It shows who New Zealanders are, deep down, as a people.  There is not that great gulf between conservatives and liberals here.  Sure, we may argue about ideology and how things are implemented, but deep down, those divides are not a chasm like they seem to be in the USA and other places.

A lot of people fought for this right for us.  Noel and I had fought for equal rights in immigration, and, to be honest, I kinda felt we did our bit for gay rights.  As I said before, I knew that eventually, one day, we would have full equal rights.

When we went to bed, I think I stared at the ceiling for a while as the sheer weight of now being totally and unequivocally an equal with any of my straight friends, family, or co-workers in the eyes of the law pressed down on me.  It came to me that this was the feeling women had when they got the right to vote or right to make their own reproductive choices.  This was the feeling people who had been enslaved but were now free had upon their freedom.  This was the feeling people who were denied marrying the person they loved on the basis of, first, religious beliefs, then skin colour, felt when they suddenly had the right to marry that person they loved.

I was at the end of a journey, the end of a fight to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.  It had started the day I was born (and we still have a long way to go in the USA and socially, I admit) and here it was, 17 April 2013, and the journey to complete legal freedom ended successfully at the age of 39.

I stared up at the ceiling, tears in my eyes, and a smile creeping along my face.

I felt utterly and completely free.

The Two of Me

Sorry for the delay in publishing anything lately.  I’ve been dealing with a lot of internal stuff, and when that happens lately, I seem to shut down and focus on… well, internal things.

Two weeks ago, I was at home (as I usually am on a Thursday) and I went through the normal routine.  Get up, play some games on the computer while eating breakfast, think about any work I can do for the day, and then, after putting my dish in the dishwasher, I walk into the garage and let Levi out of his pen.

(For those of you not in the know, Levi is our chihuahua.  He sleeps in a fenced-in area in our garage where he has access to a luxurious futon, a litter box, food, and water.)

The normal routine has Levi bolt out of bed, go running to the back door, doing his toilet business in the back yard, and coming back in for a little cuddle before settling onto his big cushion in front of the fireplace for a good part of the morning.  And he does it at 120 times the speed a normal 16 year old dog should do it (being a chihuahua and all).

This all went to plan, except when Levi got to his big cushion, he made a hacking noise twice (this is a normal noise he makes after he’s eaten grass or has a hairball) and then fainted.

All I remember is rushing to the cushion as quickly as I could and shaking him slightly as I made a prayer aloud to God.  Within seconds, he came to, and seemed fine (although a bit dazed).  He has been fine ever since.

He had been ill earlier in the week, so I wasn’t sure if it was the aftermath of that (just got up too quickly and that was that) or if his heart murmur was at that stage where it would make him pass out.

Noel tends to be a bit more laid back about these sorts of things: Levi fainted once, he had been sick a few days before, it probably is nothing.  The “exterior” me thinks, he’s probably right; I’m just overreacting.  All the time, the “interior” me is worried beyond belief, the voice within screaming, “Take him to the vet! Take him to the vet! Take him to the vet!”

Yesterday, I finally caved in to the “interior” me and took him to the vet, despite nothing else seemingly wrong.

Chantal (our vet) found that Levi’s heart murmur has grown worse from when he had a chest x-ray 9 months ago while his teeth were being cleaned.  The x-ray had found nothing out of the ordinary, but now, instead of her hearing a dum-dum rhythm when listening to his heart, all she could hear was a wooshing noise.

Despite this, he seems fine and has no other symptoms of congestive heart failure.

The words and phrases “quality of life”, “comfortable”, “we’ve had this talk before about Jenah“, “contraindications”, “congestive heart failure”, “this is the best we can try” came out.  It’s not Chantal’s fault, but the “exterior” me smiled slightly and nodded and asked questions.  The “interior” me died a little more.

The “interior” me noticed we were in the same consultation room Jenah was put to sleep in.  That me thought how small the room looked compared to what I remembered it to be when she drew her last breath and finally slumped into what looked like a peaceful sleep.

When Levi collapsed two weeks ago and I rushed to his side, the “interior” me came out, praying aloud to God to not do this to us.  “I’m barely over Jenah’s death and quakes and all that shit, I don’t need him to die on me.  Please, God, let him be okay.”

I usually keep that “interior” me in check.  It’s a sign of weakness, my embattled psyche thinks, to let the “exterior” me crack and let the “interior” me show.

This is the lesson I learned from being picked on for being gay and smart in grade school.  This is the struggle I’ve been playing out my entire life.  The “exterior” is what I show the world because the “interior” is too fragile and too feeling to expose to the harshness of reality.  The “interior” me found out that crying or responding or letting those picking on me (I loathe the word “bully” as it’s overused these days) would only bait them to continue, so the “exterior” me grew out, like a hardened shell, around the “interior” me.

I think of it like the “exterior” being the friend or big brother who stood up to all the bullies because the “interior” didn’t have the strength, courage, or energy to do it himself.  I never had the luxury of someone to stand up to the bullies when I was growing up.  Hell, I didn’t even have a lot of friends because I was a nerd and gay, and gay was different, and nerd was different, and different was not good.  So I learned (finally) that I had to rely on myself to defend myself.  It’s something I do to this day (because if you don’t do it, maybe no one will).

The “exterior” me is the one who makes ’em laugh, smiles, makes it look like nothing is wrong, or conveniently shields the “interior” me from the hurtful comments or snide remarks or condescending tone someone’s made about me.  The “exterior” me appears not to be hurt when a friendship seems to fade despite all the work I’ve put into it, or when a friend makes plans with me, only to have me wait around all day to be absolutely positively blown off.  The “interior” me just wonders: “What have I done wrong?”

(By the way, the bullies never go away in your life; they just take a different form.  I believe, for example, that some Government departments have several of the bullies and the bullied-turned-bullies working for them, trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole.  “You will conform.”)

Before I go to bed, every night, I use the toilet and wash my face and brush my teeth.  No, not all at the same time.  Last night, thinking back on the day’s events and Levi’s diagnosis, the “interior” me shoved his way out.  My mind’s eye saw Jenah suddenly fade away in that room at the vet; it then turned to wondering if Levi would go the same way in the same room.

And then I broke down crying.  Not just normal crying.  Sobbing crying.  That deep well of tears bubbling forth from somewhere deep within the core of me.

This morning, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to all of this, and I realise that the “interior” me is showing more and more each day.  The “interior” me is tired and worn-out.

He’s tired of being in a room full of people and still feeling alone.  He’s worn-out from always being the outsider, trying to push his way in but almost always rejected.  He’s burnt out from fighting endless battles against bureaucrats and autocrats and people in general who don’t think or even care how their actions affect others, and when you disagree with them, they try to bully you and twist your words to something you haven’t said instead of admitting they were wrong.  He’s had enough of feeling hurt at the actions of others, even if those others don’t know their actions have impacted him that way.

He’s weary of trusting new people.  He’s suspicious of the motives of others.  He’s at the point where he believes half of what some other people say.  He’s always scanning for other’s ulterior motives.  He’s tired of some other people not saying what they mean, or saying one thing and doing another.  He’s frustrated with people not paying attention to what he says, or even worse, listening to what he says but doing what they want anyway, then crawling back to him to ask him to help them fix it.  He combats this by speaking a bit louder and talking over people, just so he can get his point across.

He’s worn-out from caring too much.  He’s sick of the cycle of trust-trust-be-hurt-trust-trust-be-hurt.  He’s bitter from losing some of the ones he’s loved.  He misses the ones he’s loved and lost.  He’s homesick for the familiar, whatever that might be these days.  He’s torn between too many worlds, none of which he truly feels he belongs in.  He’s growing numbly comfortable with the “new normal”.

He’s tired of the rhetoric and dogma and clichés.  He’s frustrated with being treated like a second-class citizen because of how he was made and who he’s hard-wired to love.  He’s overwhelmed with not knowing what he wants out of life and struggling to help others out where he can.  He’s confused about religion.

He’s scared because time seems flying by yet he feels he’s done nothing with his life.  He’s tired of always second-guessing himself and his decisions.

He’s over fighting for every last square inch of his rights and his patch.  He’s always fighting the urge to look back and losing, like Lot’s Wife.  He’s tired of being so worried about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present.  He’s deflated at sometimes not making the most of “this moment”.

He’s sick and tired of worrying about “what-ifs” and thinking about what the next disaster around the corner will be.

He’s had enough of pain, or not being able to breathe, and his clumsiness.  He’s tired of dieting and working out and doing everything in his power to lose weight for it all to come back (and then some).  He’s angry at himself for putting off things until tomorrow: always tomorrow.

He wishes he was good at a few things instead of being mediocre at many things.  He wants to punch the next person who says they are “passionate” about something (when, in reality, most of us are not passionate about anything), just like he feels like slapping someone who throws the “love” word around so carelessly (someone who has never felt love and doesn’t understand what it means).  He wants to follow his dreams… if he could just figure out which one when, and how to follow them… and had the courage to do it.

He feels he’s not good enough.  He wonders why people tell him he is good at things when he feel he’s mediocre, at best.

He wants the critic in his head to shut up sometimes.  He’s frustrated because he has all these ideas in his head but he can’t seem to translate them onto paper, or into words, or into any media but the film reel in his head.  And even if he could translate them, he’s afraid that the critics will pick apart those aspects of his life and himself he’s put out there for the whole wide world to see.

He wants to be wanted and to be loved unconditionally.

He needs a break.

Despite saying all these things, there are good things to the “interior” me too.

When he says things like “thank you” and “I love you”, he means it when he says it.

He’s a loyal friend, brother, son, cousin, nephew, grandson, husband and companion.  His family, friends, husband, and pets love him overwhelmingly in return, warts and all, and know how to say the right words at the right time to make him feel better when he’s blue (which, for a while there, was quite a bit of the time).

He cares about how his actions impact others.  He cares about others.

He wants the best for those he loves.  He tries to help when and where he can.

He takes care of his friends, family, and loved ones who need it.

He tries to be positive, and when he feels happy or positive or one of those feelings, he genuinely feels them.

He’s learning a moment is a moment, and if it’s bad, it will pass.

He tries his hardest for his work and sometimes goes above and beyond his job description.

He genuinely likes most of his students and all of his work colleagues.

He’s learning to live in the now, instead of looking back to the past or worrying about the future.

He’s trying to find the edges of who he is.

He gives freely and expects nothing in return.

He stands up against what he sees as injustice and tries to fight against bullies and tyranny.

He tries to see the good in everyone.

Maybe the “exterior” me and “interior” me will find some sort of peaceful coexistence, like they had previously.  After quakes, and the stress associated with them and the fall-out, Jenah’s death, and Levi’s prognosis, the two have become out of whack.

But I have faith that the balance will return.  With time.  With time and healing.

Photo Blog: Sumner and Sign of the Kiwi

Continuing with the photos from Jeremy and my Mom’s visit in 2009, here are a few photos of the Sumner (on the Pacific Ocean) and Sign of the Kiwi (in the Port Hills).  It just shows how diverse the landscape around Christchurch really is!

Sumner Beach and the Pacific Ocean
Sumner Beach and the Pacific Ocean
Looking out at Sumner and the Port Hills from a cave in Cave Rock
Looking out at Sumner and the Port Hills from a cave in Cave Rock
Top of Cave Rock on Sumner Beach in Sumner
Top of Cave Rock on Sumner Beach in Sumner
Jeremy, Mom, and Noel looking out over the Avon Heathcote Estuary and the Brighton Spit from Redcliffs
Jeremy, Mom, and Noel looking out over the Avon Heathcote Estuary and the Brighton Spit from Redcliffs
Sign of the Kiwi on Dyers Pass between Governors Bay and Christchurch
Sign of the Kiwi on Dyers Pass between Governors Bay and Christchurch
Noel and Mom talking about something at the Sign of the Kiwi.  In the background, Sugarloaf
Noel and Mom talking about something at the Sign of the Kiwi. In the background, Sugarloaf
Looking over Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains from the Sign of the Kiwi
Looking over Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains from the Sign of the Kiwi
Jeremy looking out at Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains
Jeremy looking out at Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains