Monday, February 24, 2014

I'm Still Standing...s

I guess after nearly 18 months, it's time to play catch up. But first off, some may ask if I have any regrets about coming out as a gay man. Only one; that I didn't do it earlier in my life. Other than that, I have finally become comfortable in my own skin. Yes, sometimes it seems like I have much more "skin" than normal. Being more sedentary than  I am used to, I have put on some weight. I am learning however, that my biggest problem is serving portions. and that damn sweet-tooth. Over all, though I would say my life is pretty good-much better than it has been in years. I have a man in my life that I am truly in love with. I have a job that I look forward to going to. An ever =widening circle of friends here in the NOVA/DC area. I do miss the mountains and just being able to walk out of town and go for a week long hike or more.
Manassas, VA, February 2014

Because of some physical ailments, I may be able to go on a long walk again. Or it may just be, that a long walk is precisely what I need. In any case, nothing will be happening for a while. I am a couple of years away from being out from under debt. And Axel and I have decided to get married. No time has been set yet, as we are still working through the details. Amanda, my daughter, is getting married this August as well, and Axel is also planning a trip to Niagara Falls this summer.

So there is a potential for a busy year. I will try to keep things more up to date. Oh yeah...we finally got snow this winter in Manassas. We got about 8" in one day. I really want a foot or more. But we can save that for next year!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Love Is Never Easy

Axel and I along the Blue Ridge Parkway, July 2012.
Relationships are hard work! This summer I have been working on mine. Back in the spring, as I have mentioned previously, I fell in love again. At first, everything was fresh and it was all smiles and happy times. We wanted nothing more than to be in each others company and that was enough. We dreamed and made plans to do things together and some things actually happened. In July, Axel and I drove to Tennessee together and while it was mainly for a court appearance for child support, it became something of a mini-vacation for us. About a month ago, we drove to Connecticut to visit of friend of his and to take part is his god child's birthday. Although the trip itself had moments of stress, it was nonetheless enjoyable to get away from everything and just be together. It is the daily grind of everyday life though-dealing with work schedules, finances and free time-where things get tough and complicated.

While on our trip to Tennessee, Axel and I met up with my
 close friend and her daughter. Pictures, L to R: Autumn Hensley,
Axel, myself and Janet Hensley.
When we first met, we really didn't know each other but we knew there was something that attracted us to each other. I moved in believing it was best to be together as much as possible. I did not want to be apart from him anymore than I had to. Where a lot of people spend months or years dating and getting to know each other before taking that step, we took the plunge early on and now are discovering each others imperfections in much more intimate situations. I think we are both trying to make things work, but both of us are finding the adjustment more difficult than we expected.

Axel, enjoying a moment at a lake along
the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Axel had been in his previous relationship for 8 years before I came along and in fact, that relationship had just ended not too long before we met. His biggest challenge in our relationship has been trust. I, on the other hand, had lived by myself for 15 years and had become used to doing what I wanted, when I wanted with no explanation to anyone needed. My biggest challenge in our relationship has been communication. One thing we both agreed upon in the beginning was to have a monogamous relationship. With STD's still a real problem within the gay community, we were both clean and wanted to stay that way and the best method was to be committed to each other sexually. That was a particularly difficult commitment for me especially to make but I can honestly say that through all the stress of working out the knots in our relationship, neither one of us has strayed from that commitment.

My favorite photo of us together, and
one of the first!
We have been together for four months. We still don't know each other as well as we would like, but each day brings new discoveries, some good and some bad. It would be easy to throw the towel in and give up, walk away and move on. But that is the easy way out and doesn't really solve anything. We are working things out still and although we may not say it as often as we should, we love each other deeply. Relationships are never easy. True love. the kind that will last through the storms of life, is hard work.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Rest Of The Story

Since I'm really not positive how many people read my previous post from this blog, I would recommend starting with that post. Then this post, and the reasons behind it, will be a little bit better to understand. I'm sure with the last post, I generated some questions. Now I will provide the answers.

I've known I was gay since I was 8 years of age. As a child, it was more a matter of self-exploration, but as I entered my teens years, things  became a little muddled. I tried dating a couple of girls, although none ever got further than one or two dates. My first crush was a friend of mine; I had worked for his mother at my first job. He wasn't gay but was willing to play along. We were great friends, but because of the difference in our sexual orientations, I knew nothing serious could happen. Still, I knew I was attracted to guys more so than women.

Then in my early 20's and continuing to my mid 30's, a strange time in my life occurred. I became heavily involved in a pentecostal church and was convinced that homosexuality was a sin, and that I had to bring that part of my life into submission. I played the good church boy role as much as possible, although I still found my heart and eyes drawn to members of the same sex. I don't recall if I ever acted out on any of those desires, but they were very present still in my life despite all the promises of God's deliverance. Then in 1987, something happened that I thought would change everything. I married. Yes, a woman.

Still the marriage did nothing to abate the desires I felt inside. It was as if I was torn in two, between being who people expected me to be, and being true to who I knew I really was. I did have several one night stands, cheating on my wife with other men, during the ten years I was married. The only thing that changed that was the birth of our daughter. I felt a tremendous responsibility was placed on me, but even that could not undo the damage done by years of mistrust and anger during our ten years of marriage. Even though the divorce was not finalized for another ten years, our marriage effectively ended in 1997.

With my marriage over and no longer tied to a church, I decided to try to figure out who I really was for the first time on my life. I took on a new career in the outdoor industry as a trail builder, and would work out my personal life internally. During that time, I have only let a few close friends in on the secret I had harbored, but to most, the question of my sexual orientation went without discussion. My private life became off limits. The reason for this was two fold. First, I did not want to be judged as a person based on one facet of my life. I've never been a flamer and most people assume I am straight as a nail. Second,and probably more important to me, was the need for friendship and the fear of rejection. I was afraid that if I opened up too much to others, I would be rejected as a person and possibly lose a friendship. So I became one person to most of my friends and another person, the REAL me, to that close circle of friends. And that lasted for nearly 15 years until last week when I made the decision to come clean to everyone.

The response I have received has been one of support and for that I thank you. For the first time, I feel happy as a person with nothing to hide. My friends list on Facebook does not seem to have diminished any, but it no longer matters. I have found love. I have found acceptance. I am still the same Jim Davis that many of you know. It's just that now you know....

...the rest of the story.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Recovering A Sense Of Self-Worth

Over the past 20 years or so, my self esteem has taken a gradual nosedive. As I've gotten older, I have realized that I no longer look like I did when I was in my 20's or even 30's, for that matter. I'm a little broader around the midsection so much so that I closely resemble a pear with legs. My hairline has receded to the top of my neck. There are wrinkles around my eyes and my skin just seems to hang a little looser than it used to. I have bad teeth. My eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be. Let's not even talk about my hearing. In other words, I've aged, and at times, not very gracefully. I've made some bad choices in life and have hurt those who at one time were close to me. Career wise, I'm not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. But something has happened in my life recently that has started to change how I look at myself.

A little over a month ago, I met someone that I fell in love with. Sure, I've been in love before and was married for ten years. Somehow, though, this seems a little different. Because for the first time, I'm in a relationship where I'm being true, not only to the one I love, but to myself as well. I've kept the "true me" hidden from most of my friends, family, and associates and have only let a half dozen or so ever get to really know who I am. Most people agree that I am good at keeping secrets and that's because I have had quite a bit of practice. I don't run around blabbing my business or anyone else's to others. The time has come, though, for me to let the cat out of the bag.

I'm gay.

There I said it. And the man who I have fallen in love with accepts me, warts and all. He makes me feel special. He makes an overweight, middle aged man, with a  balding head, bad teeth, and poor eyesight, feel, well, sexy. He has helped me rediscover my self worth as a person. So often in society, we place value on people who are physically ideal. Look at today's celebrities and you will see that society celebrates youth and beauty. certain groups would say that I am flawed or even diseased. and some might say possessed, simply because I am attracted to a member of the same sex. I am who I am and have been who I am for 51 years. For 43 of those years, I've known I liked men. I just spent a great amount of time convincing others, and at times myself, that it wasn't so.

Hate me. Love me. Curse me. Walk beside me. I am the same person that I have always been. I have value and self worth as a person. And for the first time in my life, I will be true to myself and to those I call my friends. I will choose to love.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Connections With The Hereafter

An unopened bottle of Corona. A tin of Copenhagen. A dead squirrel. Various medals. Flowers. Cards. Letters. These are among some of the things that I have noticed people have left on the graves of their loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery. Most of the things left behind are left on the graves of the recently departed, mainly within the past ten years. The section that holds the heroes killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars is probably the most heart wrenching. These were the sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers to those left behind who try and cope with their loss. So they visit the grave of their beloved and leave a memento, a treasure, a trinket, some object that helps to give closure to the living.While to most people, those objects might simply appear to be trash, to those who have left them behind it forms a connection with the one no longer among the living. It helps keep their memory and spirit alive.

As I've grown older, but not up, I've thought quite a bit about death. I agree it is a somewhat morbid topic to contemplate, but like it or not, every person alive today will have to deal with death at some point. The death rate among the living is 100%. Everybody dies. What is done with my body at death really doesn't concern me. At that point, things are a little bit out of my control. Bury me. Burn me. Throw me out to sea. I do not care what happens to my body when I die. I've got enough to worry about before I die without stressing over the things that happen afterwards. But one thing does give me a reason to stop and reflect. What will people leave at my grave when I"m gone?

There's quite a few things that I think could be left. Some of these, although not necessarily practical, could include a backpack, a pair of boots, some object pertaining to the US Air Force, a pulaski, a grip hoist, an unopened bottle of Pepsi Max, a chocolate bar or two, a winning lottery ticket (something I never saw in life and would find utterly useless in death, but whatever) a camera, or a map. Any of these items could be left but I doubt anyone will leave one of them. Still, I would like to know what others would remember me for. I hope that, after I die but before I pass into the Great Beyond, I'm allowed to listen to my eulogy. Just to be able to hear what people think. Not that any of them would be telling the truth, but just to hear what they say. I would also like to visit my grave after a couple of years just to see what people have left on my tombstone.

There's a really nice compass I've had my eye on for a couple of years......

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lessons From The Slow Lane

As I've aged, I have found less interest in going through life at a  fast pace. Whenever I am out for a hike, I find it much more enjoyable to do less miles and take more time soaking in the sights, sounds and smells of nature. I'm one of those people that everyone passes on the trail. Usually, I'm hunched over my hiking poles trying to catch my breath and cursing the person who just had to take this trail straight up the mountain without even a thought given to throwing in a switchback or two. Typically, as well, I wind up in close proximity to everyone has passed me during the day. It just took me a little longer to reach my destination.

My biggest accomplishment this week hasn't been surviving my first full week of work. The thing I am most proud of is that I haven't been run over by a BMW or a Nissan Xterra in the process of getting to and from work. Rush hour traffic is something I had expected. What I didn't expect is that the people who are passing me in the fast lane and those just simply going from one lane to the next and back in hopes of catching a break in the traffic. You see, I drive the same way I hike. Yes, I am becoming one of those people who just sort of meanders to and from work. I pick out my lane and stick to it, never changing lanes unless I just have to pass someone. I know which lane leads directly to work and which lane will carry me home in the evening. And despite the fact that others out there are passing me, we seem to arrive at the same place at the same time. I've seen people after leaving work that move across the lanes trying to find a faster one. They are usually not more than one or two car lengths away  from when I take my exit off of I-95 some 16 miles later.

So I will continue to take the slow lane. I'll leave plenty of space between me and the next guy in front of me so we don't crowd each other out. I'll stick to the speed limit, if possible, but you can usually find me along with everyone else, stuck in traffic. I'll enjoy my drive in the mornings and use the afternoon commute to wind down from work. And, if this week is any indicastion, I'll get there about the same time as everyone else.

Unless, of course, someone plows me over.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Back To Work

When I first started this blog, I had just recently become unemployed after being terminated from my position with the National Park Service. Although I am not pleased with how things came to an end, I can honestly say that I am not disappointed. Fifteen years of building trail tends to wear a body down rather quickly and it rapidly became evident last year that I was not as young as I once was. So trying to fin a new job and "selling myself" became my full time occupation. i submitted over 50 applications during that time and had a half dozen interviews. This week, I returned to full time employment. I had to move closer to Washington DC, but I can now say that I am working for Greenleaf Services. In particular, I will be part of a team that has responsibility for the grounds maintenance at Arlington National Cemetery. Yes, that one.

This will be the first time in a while that I have lived in a major metropolitan area, and also the first time in nearly twenty years that I haven't lived in close proximity to the mountains. As much as I will miss looking out my window at the Shenandoahs, I have other priorities in my life that must take precedent right now. One day I will return, but for now I will have to be satisfied driving an hour or so to get there.

The past three months have not been easy. Unemployment only provided me with $358.00 per week and child support took half. By the time rent and other bills were paid, there was not much money left over. Had I chosen not to look towards DC for a position, there is no doubt I would still be unemployed. Sometimes, in order to accomplish the things in our life that we need to, a drastic change is asked of us. It could be pursuing a career change, or it could be a change in location. Being unemployed is as difficult as becoming employed, but there are jobs out there. It took a concerted effort on my part, doing the things I knew I needed to do, and leaning on close friends for encouragement in order to find this position I now have. Hopefully, my body doesn't give out any time soon. I guess there is always MacDonald's!

Now, excuse me while I go lie down and recover from a hard day of work.