Dreams Do Come True

Travel can be hard, tiring, and sometimes downright frustrating, but it is all so rewarding. It’s been two weeks abroad and I feel like it has been a lifetime already. I for sure think I have sweat all my body hair off. I didn’t really have a lot of arm or leg hair, but from what I can see it’s gone. So, I finally feel comfortable enough to compose something. My first accommodations, contracted through the school I am attending were sub par. It would have been fine if I hadn’t had my iPad stoled and was’t sleeping on egg crate and plywood. Another student, an older guy from the UK and I found a place further from the school, but has a pool on the roof and is super plush. Pics in a later blog.

The first week was fast and furious with travel. First, I went to Taiwan. When I mean dreams come true, they do. I have been an ESL teacher for 6 years. I have met some wonderful people from all over the world. Some of those people were the most gracious of students. Of course, they all say, “Come visit my country.”, “Tell me when you come.”, “I will show you everything.”, “I will show you traditional blah blah blah…” My students from Taiwan didn’t let me down.

One student hosted me in his apartment. 20258028_10212659381614513_2908390315955454039_nHe fed me in the morning and drove me around the country side. I ate stinky tofu. It stank, but tasted like tofu. It didn’t taste like the smell.

They took me to a baseball game.DSC00260

He also organized a small reunion of sorts and we ate a tremendous meal. After the meal we went to see some live music. 20292704_10214082459919468_7031791408513259374_nMy dream has been to get as many students as possible together and party.  Thanks Sean “Uncle” for making this happen!

Unfortunately, I was extremely jet lagged. There is so much more I need to see in Taipei, let alone the rest of the country. I also need to see more of my wonderful students. Honestly, Taiwan now rivals Korea as one of my favorite places. Watch out Taiwan. Next time, I will have an appetite.

Traveling from Taiwan to Thailand wasn’t so bad. I continued flying with EVA Air and then a small Thai boutique airline. I reached Chiang Mai wanting to do a lot of self care, like sleep. The hotel wasn’t really a hotel. It was more like a timeshare. DSC00399It had a pool and was very quiet. A friend recommended a place to stay, but honestly, from the pictures online it just looked like a big party…maybe next time.

The first day/night I didn’t leave the hotel room. Well, I didn’t after going to the market to grab some fruit to keep in the fridge. I slept, swam, and watched “Stranger”on Netflix. It’s a nice Korean mystery drama, starring Bae Doona from Sense8. The next day I walked around Chiang Mai old town taking pictures of Temples and checking out the sights.

I was really tired still so I didn’t do too much. I was glad on the other hand to use my new wide angle lens while photographing. Later that night I went to see Muay Thai boxing live. The ticket sales are heavily pushed on international fighters, so I had to negotiate and explain that I didn’t come to Thailand to see westerners fight.

They started young and light. There was even a fight with some tough females. I didn’t make it to the main event though. I was too tired. Come on, there are five rounds to each fight and they do a ritual before every fight, so…

Of course I made friends with the taxi driver from the airport. We had arranged that he pick me up and take me about the day after. Mongkol is his name. Super nice guy. He picked me up and drove me round in the air-conditioned taxi where ever I wanted to go. The first place was Soi du thep. This is a golden temple in the mountains. I walked up more than 300 steps. The drive up was cool. At the bottom, you think, such nice weather in the mountains, until you start climbing the steps. Sweating from effort, it never evaporates to cool you down. The breeze stopped and it was just sticky. Not oppressive, but you noticed.

From there we went to see the Karen people. Thais call them the”Long Necks”. This tribe is where the women adorn themselves with gold rings and it stretches their necks as they add rings. I wanted to take more photos, but felt very strange taking their picture. Other times I have taken pictures of people they ask for money. Here they didn’t ask, but I felt obligated to give it. DSC00642The village area we see is quite tattered. There isn’t much to it except for booths to sell souvenirs. Each booth has the same exact thing. If they see you buy one thing all of them try to pull you to their booth to buys something.

I picked up a small little bag to hold my money. After pulling sweaty money out of my pocket all day long, I thought they might appreciate getting dry money handed to them instead of soggy sweaty money. Actually, I’m sure they don’t care as it happens all the time. For me, it feels better giving people dry money.

I tried to get the driver to take me to the arboretum, I’m so accustom to going to places like that with K. Plus, I have a new camera with a lens that can get so much area, I thought it would be a great chance to get some good photos. It was also heavily shaded. Instead, the driver took me to the Royal Garden. No shade.

I’m not so interested in flower gardens. I like things a little more natural and not so manicured. Also, the sun had come out. It was like fire walking in the sun. I grabbed a few photos and high tailed it out of there.

After Mongkol dropped me off, back at my hotel after lunch, I arranged for him to pick me up in the morning for my early flight to Ho Chi Minh City. That evening I met with a friend for dinner. She lives in Chiang Mai and recommended a really nice restaurant. There was a garden where we sat. It was just far enough from the band playing so we could have conversation and catch each other up on our lives.DSC00721

Chiang Mai is a wonderful little place. Like Taiwan, I need more time to explore it. I was glad to get a little taste though. I know I will go back.

I’ve learned a new term since being in Vietnam. “Idiot Tax”. I’ve paid my fair share so far.   So, I left Chiang Mai to HCMC. I had booked my flight through Air Asia. You can get a deal with this airline, if you travel light. I mean real light. I should have stuck to a larger airline, as they allowed my luggage to fly basically free. One bag was overweight and I paid about $30USD extra to get “Rolando”, my suitcase has a name, to Asia. Well, Air Asia thought that Rolando was worth a first class ticket to Thailand from SFO…$1082USD.

As I sat on the plane, which was no better than a Southwest airline seat, I thought I probably should have just bought another ticket all together. It bugged me the whole way to Bangkok and then HCMC. Damn you Zion! Pay attention! Having spent the money, sitting on an uncomfortable plane compared to EVA, and being tired, I just wanted to get to Saigon. I was really more embarrassed than anything. I brought my world with me and that’s what it cost.

As I mentioned before, my previous accommodations were not that great. I just didn’t do more on my laptop than watch Netflix. I hope that I will have an opportunity to catch you all up with what is happening in Vietnam. Tonight is my first night sleeping on a proper mattress and classes begin tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the next month.

 

 

21 Day update

It doesn’t matter how many times I’m asked “How are you doing?”, in reference to my big move, I just don’t know how to answer. In that moment alone I could be feeling three different emotions at once. The definition of each emotion is blurred with how fast they change inside of me. I risk being called moody. I’ve been called this all my life in such a negative way. I was told in such a way as if I was suppose to change how I related to the world. I can see how it made people feel uncomfortable.

At the risk of seeming moody I remain straight faced when answering. I answer the questions vaguely. I often try to led people to their own powers of empathy and let them try to grasp what I might be feeling…play the scenario…How would you feel…? Can you imagine the range of emotions from just the past year? (troubled marriage, separation and divorce, or from layoff to moving to South East Asia…crazy right?!) I mean, yeah, I’m still processing the past year and now the ever changing feelings.

In general, I am all over the place. Once I recognize which emotion it is I feel another has moved into its place. Considering that I am constantly trying to organize what I got going on in my mind it makes sense that my emotions would shift. Sometimes, I just go into autopilot and just do what is in front of me because it needs to get done. Other times I spend time ruminating on how it is my first time doing something alone or even doing something in a really long time, but not being able to share that with someone close.

At 21 days before leaving for my new life abroad, I am nervous and confident. I am dreamy, expectant and anxious. I’ve been nostalgic for old times, old San Francisco, and certain individuals. I’ve never lived in one place for as long as I have lived in the Bay Area. 19 years! A tremendous amount of life happens in 20 years. Some of it was really great and there were a few shitty things along the way. I can’t imagine my life happening anywhere else…but, what a weird fucking trip it all has been.

 

 

 

The Purge: Bits and Pieces…healing, letting go, and moving on

I keep returning to that snap back. It’s a painful reverb that has yet to be tempered. A ringing, not in my ears, but in my heart. I remember all too well the last time she told me, “You expect me to believe you?” Why wouldn’t you believe me when I say the cats are fine? SNAP! Reality…I had to get back to me. In the narcissistic (Abuse/Victim) cycle I had become very distant from my true sense of self. I got away from any sense. When your idea of love includes the feelings of anxiety, withdrawal and frustration it’s time to take a look at the situation.

Something I had learned about myself is that lesson learning comes in threes. After two times of my ex telling me, a statement that still shakes me, “I don’t believe your feelings”, I understood it to be truth the third time she said it. She was using her words. This conflicted with what I had in my mind How could you not believe someone’s feelings? This conflicts with my idea of  avoiding conflicts , avoid conflicting ideas and feelings. Now, I know that feeling of being conflicted. It means something is wrong. I still can’t imagine not believing someone’s feelings, their truth.

It’s going to be many years and a lot of personal work to come back to romance.  I don’t even know what I am coming back to since my view of love is so screwed up. Being a late bloomer like I am, it is overwhelming to think of the prospect of the work I need to do on myself before even peeking into the possibility of dating and romance. I reflect on the therapy that has gotten me this far. The nine years of comfort, or better yet, complacency left me at a deficit, emotionally.

This deficit created a void deep in my core. It’s so deep I can feel the cavern inside of me. I don’t think I have ever felt this empty. At the same time, I am completely aware of what I might feel in any situation, but I just don’t. I definitely can sympathize, but my empathy is truly lacking. There was a time in my youth when I was bursting with affection. This wasn’t just the at the end of the night at the bar when taking last shots we entangle arms and shoulders and confess to our best buds how much they mean to us…I was prepared and waiting for love.

I have a bit of joy. I can experience joy. It’s just that I am almost completely depleted, exhausted. How can I ever look at pictures of us ever again? We were very different. They say opposites attract, but how do they stay together? How can I honesty look back and not be confused about the reality and nostalgia?  Memories reveal more that I can handle at times…What about her and that FB memories that pop up? Does she even look through them? Do any of these memories bring a smile? Does any image serve as a background for the moment? Is the moment the same as the person, can they be separated? Does the person in the picture make or break the moment? Will the whole picture taint the ‘snapshot’? Can it all be revised?

There have been a lot of comments and questions about what the hang up was in our divorce. We didn’t own property together. We had a tiny bit of debt on a credit card. In the end the issue was about money, my money. I received a monetary gift before leaving her. Without getting into the details of the dispute, I can honestly say this where I dug in. I felt conflicted because the first month after I left I went to divorce seminars, spoke casually to other divorced people. Divorce can get as crazy and expensive as YOU make it. I didn’t want it to be a difficult process, but I had to dig in.

I had to dig in because I make less than a third of what SF poverty level is. I had to dig in because I left a rent controlled apartment in the center of San Francisco,   to a market rate apartment in Berkeley near CAL, incurring an $8 dollar day commute. I had to dig in because I now had to pay for expensive Covered California, and insulin is outrageous. I got better coverage under Health SF. Reflection was never her strong point…but come one. She makes 40K not including bonuses more than I do.  I wish she had, you know counted her blessings before coming after something that was legally separately mine. In the end I settled for a fraction of what the court calculator determined to be fair. For me, I just wanted to leave. Her lack of reflection has made it difficult for me to let go, because when I reflect on all the times I did let things go, I have a lot of regret.

 

 

 

 

 

A Snap Shot…

Since leaving my ex, I have had to re-evaluate what is real for me. I had to rediscover tastes. Certain things didn’t have the flavor she claimed there to be. I had to re-evaluate things life the type of effort things actually took. Certain things were actually easier than she made them out to be. I had to re-evaluate the worth or value I put on things. Some of my things are worth way less than she told me. Each time I didn’t question reality I had a stomach ache. Something was upset in my core. I’ve been trying to really listen to my feelings. I have been working on putting my own value on my own thoughts and opinions. All of this is to regain that sense of self I had to attract people in the first place. People can’t see it, but there is a deep dark hole. The circumference isn’t the issue…it’s the depth.

For some reason this past weekend I started thinking about my ex. It wasn’t as loaded with hate as it once was. It was kind of nostalgic really. There is a particular photo I shot of her while she was watching the Vietnamese country side from out soft sleeper car. She appears to be in thought. She’s quiet and there is no cell phone in her hand. She is in wonder. This is the memory I have chosen to remind me of the good times. The woman in that photo caught in that particular moment is when I loved her the most. I didn’t believe I was going to have any good memories of her.

I went through my day giving this memory in my head, this photo, this snap shot in time good energy. I pushed down the many many negative things that came up as I held onto this image. I fought to keep it precious. I came home to find in my mail copies of the sign divorce paperwork that had been filed with the Court of the County of San Francisco. Another reminder of how real it is. A reminder of how sad it is. I remember that day. I felt so light. I remember how light I felt on the train. How can two totally different things brings such feelings?

I think another reason for the feelings is that I am returning to South East Asia, where we spent a lot of time traveling around together. I also spent a lot of time in S.E.Asia in 2011, when I first tried to work abroad. Facebook is also posting memories on my timeline about those times.

You know what though, even though there is a lot of energy and emotion surrounding this move, there is one thing I know for sure. I know I can get through anything. In the past year I did things for and by myself that hadn’t been done in 13 years or ever. I went camping at a music festival on my own. I went through the holidays on my own. I brought in the new year with friends and crashed and burned on Valentine’s Day…but, once I was freed on my birthday I just knew things can’t get in my way and I am stringer than I have been lead to believe.

So…I am moving out of the country. This is something I wanted to do before there was even the threat of Trump becoming president. First, it was for the adventure of being in another culture. Then, it became about the police indiscriminately shooting black people. Now, it’s about the economy and other sorts of civil liberties that are being taken away for fear of an equal country.

My initials plans are to travel to Taipei for a few days and visit with former students. I hope to eat until I pop. Afterwards, I will spend a few days in Chiang Mai. I’ve never been to this part of Thailand. I know a few people to visit with and I want to party in baby Bangkok. From there I will get to Ho Chi Minh City to settle in for five weeks in a CELTA program. I haven’t made any definite plans from that point. If I like it in Vietnam I will stay.

Healing, Letting Go, Moving on pt.2: The Narcissist’s: Words

The covert narcissist sets his victim up at home. They create triggers to set off their partner when in public knowing that the partner will not risk a scene. The victim clamps shut as the narcissist strokes each trigger tempting a scene.

  • Whatever.
  • You’re too sensitive.
  • I never said that.
  • I never did that.
  • You never said that.
  • You just think you said it.
  • You’re being dramatic.

As the narcissist is confronted about their behavior they begin to overtly manipulate or lash out when the manipulations no longer work. They will say things like.

  • Anyway.
  • You expect me to believe you?
  • I don’t believe your feelings.
  • I don’t want to change.

I didn’t realize how much I was isolating until I came out the other side of this divorce. It’s not uncommon for these situations to happen. In order to keep up appearances sometimes it meant that you don’t go out at all. I didn’t want to go out because of the eggshells I had to maneuver over and around. Measuring each sentence that came out of my mouth became too exhausting to deal with. I eventually retreated into puzzles and podcasts. I made excuses like, “I teach and talk all day with people. The last thing I wanted to was talk to more people.” That was actually her excuse for staying home and I just grabbed that line.

I thought that the past nine months of isolating would be healing, but, instead, it created a dome of anxiety and shaky footing. I did nothing to move on. I basically set myself up to hold on until the divorce decision was made. Now that the decision is in, I must steam ahead. I don’t know if I ever would have been able to use the nine months any more wisely than I did. The realizations of dynamics, friends and family, and work have been overwhelming in some instances.

Now I am stronger. I am stronger for doing it without anti-depressants. I’m stronger for getting back on the path to me. The words still echo in my head. I’v heard them and similar from more than one set of lips. The personalities that insist that these words hurt no one are feeling some kind of hurt themselves. Void of their own emotions and unable or unwilling to recognize this, they will insist they are the victims. Now I know I no longer have to languish under their words anymore.

 

Shit’s getting real…

Shit in my life is beginning to feel real. Things I’ve wanted to happen are becoming real in a way that is frightening, but that good frightening. I was caught in a dynamic that made me feel very fearful, but now I feel embolden to live. I am honoring my feelings and moving forward in my life without questioning myself.

Recently, I was laid off of my teaching job. Listen folks, times are going to get rough for everyone and every industry. Something is either going to give or snap. It wasn’t quite the way I wanted to leave. I kind of slid out of there quietly. It was one of the hardest things I had to do. Leaving Stafford House and my coworkers was more difficult than deciding to get a divorce. I truly loved my work life.

THE TEACHER’S ROOM…this is a sacred spot. It was once expansive and difficult to connect with each one. The move to a smaller space, I think, brought us closer together. We were in each conversation, rant, critique, joke and resource giving. You know, it all was like my morning radio show. Certain personalities needed to walk into the room say their piece in order for me to have a complete day. We all noticed when someone was absent.

I had been planning to leave the country for a while, but of course I needed to finish that divorce stuff. Once that was done I wanted to clear up business and make my way out in my own style and fashion. The universe must have believed I was taking too long. I was hesitating. With the loss of my job I have had to switch those gears and speed up my process. Let’s get it done.

I’ve put in an application for a CELTA program in Vietnam. I love this country. I recently scheduled a SKYPE interview and I look forward to moving to Ho Chi Minh and living there while I complete the course. I decided that if I can feel comfortable on my own there then I will try to stay on and find a job. Otherwise, I will consider the other countries I have on my list…Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and even some Middle Eastern Countries like Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Healing, Letting Go, Moving On Pt.1: Words

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Looking back on my marriage, as I do often these days, I knew I had the words for it back then. I knew exactly how I felt. I had no problem expressing them. I was kind in the beginning, but toward the end…I couldn’t tolerate the total disregard any longer. To no avail…all the therapy, books, patience, and eventually isolation, did it solve how the dynamic, or rather cycle played itself out. It was the last time I was reminded of these words that the devastation rolled through anew. How could I forget. I played into it again. ‘Cause really, I just want to be a good person.

Within a month of the marriage something was seriously wrong. We went into couples counseling. I took away from it that we had different communication styles. I wanted to be a different type of guy and be able to be patient, be available, use my words, adjust my tone. She always reminded me of my tone especially when we were in public. It didn’t matter what we talked about tone was very important for her. I continued to do some work on myself. Sure, I need to soften some edges. About nine months into the marriage I picked up this book, The Gaslight Effect. I read it completely and saw my relationship with my mother play out on most of the pages. It was too familiar. A lot of the feelings I was having with my now ex-wife were playing out on the pages. I wasn’t sure if I was perpetrating it, but knowing how alike I am to my mother I became hyper aware of my actions from that point on.

I was five years into transition, intending to be a different kind of man. Have feelings, express them, be more patient than others, anticipate needs…I defaulted to her decisions. Well, I finished the book and then promptly gave it a friend in hopes it would help them.. We had stopped going to therapy because of the cost. And we would go through cycles. I would hold out longer and longer tolerating the emotional stuffing down and rebuffing when expressing the emotions. After reading the book I tried my hardest to not to create that dynamic over my ex. Why didn’t I recognize it was actually over me? Was it because I gave away the words?

As I walked out the door it was clear what was happening. I was appalled at my life at that moment. Weeks later I fell into old programming. I had to be careful. I was defending her. I lied to my parents about her claiming their gift to me. The process of divorce and the struggle withing that process is just so…I’m going to quote a friend’s message to me…

There is a splitting apart of the self when two people part ways because so much of yourself is wrapped around the other person – memories, experiences. It’s like trying to half a piece of caramel. You pull and all these stringy messy bits get all over the place. It’s a hot mess. But in the end, you’re holding piece of caramel in your hand and if you can get past the discomfort of it being messy, you realize the caramel is still delicious and you savor the taste of it even more.

In the end I just couldn’t do it her way, I had been doing it her way from the beginning. She couldn’t bear to compromise. The words came ringing back like a huge temple bell. Third time is a charm for me. I became more active…I found more words…Narcissistic Abuse.

On April 18, 2008, my ex-wife and I got our marriage license at city hall way too easily. We just showed our I.D. and signed a paper. I also celebrated my 35th birthday. On April 18, 2017, I signed a marriage settlement agreement and finalized my divorce in my head and my heart. I also celebrated my 44th birthday. It was an extraordinary gift to myself.

YOLO…’Treat yo ‘self’ 

 

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