I have been trying to find both the time and the desire to write something about this year - something that can exist outside of my private encrypted journal, and something more substantial than the book reviews and silly Skyrim travelogues.
There are several reasons why it hasn't happened yet. The first is, I've met someone, a person I adore, and when I get deeply connected to someone they tend to take the place of my public journal in my life. The second is, there has been some logistical upheaval. Early this year I moved across town to a new place, hauling my stuff over one van-load at a time in the evenings after work in a huge hurry because I wanted to be out of my old place as quickly as possible. Once I was moved, I acted like a hermit for a while, resting alone in front of a blazing fireplace, sipping tea, and reading books. I needed to de-stress.
My ex-housemate doesn't really know why I moved so suddenly. At the time, the less he knew, the better I felt about it. I didn't even want him to know where I was going, because I was so fed up with his presence that I didn't even want the possibility that he could show up unannounced, for any reason, no matter how altruistic. He had become an angry, unpredictable pain-in-the-ass. The last straw came when I invited the woman I was dating over to my house and he threatened her with physical violence. Not just a verbal threat - that had already occurred a while earlier - but actually kicking in the door she was behind, in order to, as he claimed, "emphasize a point". She declared that she would never set foot in my house again for as long as he lived there.
When I told him I was moving, he raised a huge stink about it, declaring that I had chosen the absolute worst possible time to "dump" this on him. I knew he was in dire economic straits (he had already failed to pay his share of the rent for one month, and I knew it was going to carry on that way) and I didn't want to be a catalyst to his financial ruin, so I promised him I would carry the rent for the next two months while he figured his shit out. Two months became three, and though I was no longer on the premises I paid the entire rent and all the utilities while he looked for a job and scrounged up enough for a deposit on a new apartment.
He's gone now - living in some other part of Oakland, on the west side; I don't know where. It cost me between three and four thousand dollars to give him that transition time. I was not inclined to pursue him to pay it back. It felt less daunting to re-earn the money, than to keep interacting with him.
I've been hesitant to write even this much about it, because doing so raises the possibility that he will come out of the woodwork again, feeling entitled to defend or absolve himself. "Why didn't you tell me about how upset she was?" he'd say. "You deprived me of the chance to do something about it!"
Yeah. I also deprived you of the chance to traumatize her and myself and my cat even more.
So, I settled into my new house, to de-stress.￼
It's a beautiful place. A free-standing single-family home with hardwood floors throughout, a formal dining room with french doors leading to a living room with a huge fireplace, plenty of windows, and a big solid front door. The owner lives in his own house in the back yard, and he's an attentive and even-handed landlord, and a cat lover and a gardener. Every afternoon the living room floor glows with sunbeams, and the cat lounges around blissfully in them, and sometimes I do too.
I ride my bike less than two miles to work, one mile to Bart, and less than two miles to Berkeley Bowl and three different farmer's markets. With a little effort I can live, work, and play entirely without using my car. This house has been my sanctuary for a while now, and my sweetie and I have had several fine dinner parties here, and we spend most of our weekends here too.
That leads me to another interesting thing: I didn't actually expect to meet someone like the woman I am now with. In fact, just before I met her, I declared that I was done with dating, and wanted to focus on being a bachelor for a while, and contentedly so. Bachelor life unrolled ahead of me like a red carpet and I was looking forward to it in a way I never had before in my life. In retrospect, it was that sense of peace, that sense of not being invested and not caring about the outcome, that put me in exactly the right whimsical frame of mind to stumble upon this fine woman.
Her name is Char. (Photo and name edited to keep her students from googling her. Hah!)
Char has an inner nature that is very unlike mine. She is a self-described border collie who lives to run, but also thrives when she has a safe place and a partner who can unwind and untangle her. Shortly after meeting her I realized that she felt familiar to me, or at least that part of her did - not as a mirror of some internal part of myself, but as a complement to it. She is enthusiastic, honest, observant, extremely intelligent, and good-hearted. She is experienced, but has not been beaten down by experience. She has fire inside her, but there is also a sturdy hearth built around it. Rather than wholly feminine, she is a mixture of masculine and feminine personality traits, which more successfully blends with my own.
She loves to get her hands dirty in the garden. She sings joyous showtunes in the shower and the car. We connect very strongly, but we also have room for personal pursuits - we are not joined at the hip. She has a career that she thrives in, and an essential part of that thriving is the knowledge that her work does concrete good in the world. (She's a middle-school teacher. Apparently I have a "thing" for teachers.) I adore her, and I adore her family and friends too. One of my favorite things in the world is when Char leaps up into my arms, wraps her legs around my waist, and smooches the hell out of me.
We also have incredible sex, and lots of it. I'd be lying if I claimed that wasn't a very important thing to me. I suffered - and made someone else suffer - for a long time to learn that lesson, and I'm never going to forget it.
As I continue to explore her, and learn who she is in context, I am discovering old ambitions and ideas surfacing in my mind, and appearing as new. I am feeling a desire to build and evolve, a motivating force within myself to live up to the promise I made three years ago that I would never again stagnate the way that I had. Despite the recent hardship with my ex-housemate, I feel like I have finally caught my breath and it's time to try something really new and challenging. That feeling is inspired in part by the fact of Char - the fact of her presence.
I feel a need to be careful with my words here: It's not exactly that she inspires me - that would imply that my motivating force is external - being generated by her and somehow transmitted into me. It's not like that. I've spent some time pondering it, and the best way I can describe it is by metaphor:
Picture yourself as a mountain climber. You're very experienced, and after a lot of climbing adventures, you've learned that your success on any given mountain is based on how well you work with the partner who wants to climb it with you. There are some really challenging mountains out there that tempt you, but you've never felt confident enough with your skills or your partner to attempt them. Nevertheless, you've had a good time. All the lower peaks are old-hat for you now, so you've hung up your crampons and your carabiners and set to trying other sports.
Then, by chance, you meet someone that's doing the same thing. You share climbing stories and realize she's very experienced. You play a bunch of sports and observe that you work well together, in good times and bad times. Without even realizing it, the two of you start walking together towards an enormous mountain range, almost casually hiking up through foothills and switchbacks. Pretty soon you start talking about what you're doing, and you're amazed to find that you are both feeling the same sense of confidence. Even the highest peaks feel accessible now. Where will you go? You begin rising above the treeline, into mysterious new territory. What will you find?
That's what it's like. And the territory truly is new.
For example: I am now the proud owner of a house in North Oakland, at the edge of the Temescal area! Bam!!￼
Escrow closes in two weeks. It's been very restful living where I am, but the rent is quite high for one person to carry alone, and after a lot of exploration and energetic assistance from Char I found a place that meets my high standards but also promises a mortgage lower than my current rent. The transition is complicated and chaotic, but it feels like a step in the right direction. It improves my finances, giving me more leeway to try and help Char improve hers. Not that she needs help, mind you - she's got a better head for numbers than I do. But the more often I can visit her in Livermore and give her an all-over body massage and read her poetry and tuck her in, the happier she'll be as she charges through her work week. I love that woman.
I've also found myself open to the idea of more extensive travel, or even to the idea of pulling up stakes and moving. The house can be rented out pretty easily, and the cash flow works in my favor once the mortgage insurance is paid off. (I wouldn't have bought it otherwise.) I've got a good thing going in the East Bay, and the city has felt like home in a way no other has, but now I feel the sense of home also flowing out of Char, and she is much more portable than an entire city! So I find myself idly wondering what it would be like to live in Seattle, or Boston, or even Sydney or Dublin. My tech skills have always been transferable, and my resume has only enhanced that.
Oh the possibilities!
I would write more, but it's nearly six in the morning, and there's a bunch of stuff I need to attend to with my loan officer after what is sure to be too little sleep.