Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So THAT'S Why They Only Sell Them in Half-Pints

August 13, 2009

I got up early to go running today. There is a trail next to Chris’s house that leads to some empty fields. It wasn’t raining this morning, however it had rained overnight so the grass was moist and dewy and the air smelled clean and refreshed. I jogged through the fields, careful of where I was going as I don’t have a strong sense of direction. I thought about how grateful I was to be here and how far away from home it felt. I wondered how things would change over the next few years – if I would ever have this same kind of opportunity. I thought about how things were going with Cory and how I was happy that we weren’t running into any drama. I was excited about what the rest of the trip had to bring. I only stayed out for about 45 minutes and then strolled leisurely back to the house to start on the activities for the day.  

We went to Stonehenge today. I wasn’t really sure to expect – they say that Stonehenge has one of the highest energetic fields of any place on earth. Nick was telling me that every year, during the Summer solstice, they open the whole place up to everyone who wants to go near and touch the rocks. It sounds like a massive spiritual gathering, perhaps not unlike the Burning Man event that takes place out here in the desert. As I mentioned before, details of information don’t seem to stick with me and while I have always wanted to see Stonehenge, its history is so vague and, honestly, unimportant to me. I just want to be in a place where the energy level is high. This is the same reason why I feel compelled to attend church every now and then. I’m not much of a religious person and organized religions make me a little nervous – however, there is something very powerful about being in a space with so many people who are thinking and feeling the same thing. It’s… moving, to say the least.
I can’t really say that is exactly what I experienced at Stonehenge. While we were given an absolutely beautiful day to take in this amazing piece of art and history, I may have been able to enjoy it a little more if there was any way to have the place to myself or to have the opportunity to put my hand on one of the rocks and feel its vibration. Unfortunately, it’s one big tourist attraction now so it is difficult to absorb all of the energy that is being offered. As an onlooker, you must stay a certain distance away from the rocks and people are sort of herded around from one end to the other. The one good thing about the distance people must keep is that I was able to catch some wonderful photos of the rocks that made it appear as if no one was there.
It didn’t help that my company was completely uninterested in anything Stonehenge had to offer. I may have been able to get into a more meditative state if I wasn’t fully aware of the yawning and shifting of feet that Chris, Danni and Cory were doing behind me. It’s okay, though – I can understand how it may not be everyone’s cup of tea (pardon the English pun).


I can say that I did certainly feel something while I was there – even with the thousand people strewn about the grounds, there is a kind of peace and calmness in the area that I found to be soothing and rewarding. I think I would definitely like to travel back sometime and attend the Summer Solstice event where I could really be in a space of spiritual openness and awareness. I will be sure to make a mental note of that for the future.

Afterwards was absolutely wonderful as the four of us found a great little spot in a nearby field to enjoy a picnic that Chris had so graciously and meticulously prepared for us. We sat in a circle, laughed and ate our delicious meal like four friends who had known each other forever. It really brought the early afternoon full circle and diminished whatever feeling I was having that I might leave Stonehenge unfulfilled. The power of human connection is always stronger than I give it credit for.

 
  We are now heading back to Somerset and Bristol and have stopped off at a little pub called the Red Lion (I realize now that if I ever want to open a pub in England, I just have to spin two wheels – one with a bunch of colors and the other with a bunch of animals and whatever they land on, I can say I have a name for my pub –how about… the Green Panda?) which is basically infested with wasps, much to Danni’s dismay as she has a horrible fear of the buzzing little creatures. Therefore, our stay was short and we were back on the road.
 
We made a quick pit stop at a local mall where Danni and I ran around H&M picking up a few new pieces of clothing for our upcoming nights out. Danni is so pleasant to be around and I appreciate so much the fact that she is always up for a good time.  

We hit the Black Horse for a couple of pints before heading out on the town. Chris was very anxious to take us to a place called the Coronation Tap (or Cori Tap for short) where they have a particular cider that I think was called Exhibition?? Anyhow, they only serve it a half pint at a time because of the alcohol content but, of course, they’ll serve you as many as you want. Before that, however, Cory was insisting on eating and, almost as a cruel joke (because, as Dan says “eating is cheating”), the boys took him to this awful fast food joint where he ate some of the worst looking fish and chips I’d ever seen and I had a pasty that could easily have been removed from the bottom of someone’s shoe before they put in on my plate.
 
Finally, with “food” in belly, we headed over to the Cori Tap.
 
As most of the nights in England, the details get a little hazy after the pints of Exhibition and many other ciders that I can’t recall the names of. I did enjoy the Cori Tap very much – it has a lingering smell of woodchips and urine and, like so many places we visited, the service is pleasantly awful! For those who are unaware, the service staff in England does not receive tips. This is also good to know for those of you who are in the service industry in the states and get upset when those from the UK come to visit and leave you nothing. Sometimes, it’s because your service was terrible but more often than not, it’s simply because it’s not the way things roll over here. Unfortunately, because of this, you don’t get the same kind of effort at good service that you get in a lot of places in the US. It doesn’t matter to me though – as long as I have drink in hand and friends in tow, I’m pretty happy with whatever happens.


After the Cori Tap (and maybe another pub or two? I can’t seem to recall), we ended up at a club in downtown Bristol and this is where the trip really started to get real for me. I was beginning to get really frustrated with Cory’s behavior. It really to me as if he was not only having just a mediocre time, but I felt that he was treating both Chris and Danni with an unreasonable amount of disregard given all they were doing for us while we were there.

I admit, I was also feeling sappy in my state of drunkenness and wondered why I wasn’t good enough for Cory to want to be with me. Certainly, our relationship couldn’t have been too serious in his eyes if he was so willing to let me talk him out of it. There was no fight for me, no consideration for trying something new, no willingness to discuss the issue about children further. He seemed almost… relieved to be out of the relationship and I was NOT taking this well at all.

I had just spent a year of my life trying to get to know Cory. I find him to be rather closed off with his emotions – even more so than the average guy – and I was upset that he wasn’t letting his guard down around our friends, enabling him to have a better time and really get to know these wonderful people on a different level. My experience with Cory so far is that he only lets people get so close and then he crosses his arms. I wanted to slap some vulnerability into him!
 
All of these emotions came out in a long, drunken weep as Chris and Danni tried to console me in an area of the club. Danni discussed her similar frustrations with me as she felt as if Cory was completely unappreciative of everything Chris had done for them throughout the trip so far. I discovered that the other night, when I thought she was just feeling tired, Danni was actually upset that Cory couldn’t bother to look up or even say thank you when Danni delivered his sandwich that Chris had made for him. In fact, all he could say was “this is way too much” which she found very offensive on behalf of her protective nature towards her boyfriend who was stressing every day to ensure our trip was perfect. 
This just made me feel more awful because of how much this trip meant to me and the level of appreciation I felt towards every little thing that was being done on our behalf. I sloppily tried to apologize for his behavior.

 
When I went to confront him, however, I found him leaning against a wall by himself and felt my chest drop. I didn’t see an unappreciative and rude man; I simply saw someone who didn’t have the same kind of relationship with the people we were visiting that I did. In that moment, I saw a little boy who was sad because he didn’t know how to act or how to behave. He probably saw this trip as just another overseas excursion while I saw it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand my connection with new friends as well as my own inner self. Why was I being so hard on him? I didn’t want him to have a bad vacation – certainly not because of my own weepiness and self-pity.

It is not his fault that we weren’t meant to be a couple. I had compromised what I wanted out of a relationship from the very start with him and it wasn’t fair for me to make him feel bad for not being what I wanted him to be or acting how I thought he should be acting. I knew right then that there wasn’t anything wrong with Cory at all – the only thing that was wrong were my unrealistic expectations. 

I let it go, collected myself and put my emotions in check. We all gathered ourselves together, got in a cab and headed back to the house. A good night’s sleep and a sober conversation in the morning should patch things right up. At least I hope so.

So much for no drama.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The First of Many English Breakfasts

August 12, 2009

One of my favorite parts about being on vacation is that I seem to be immune to getting sick or having hangovers. I’m sure it has something to do with my will to have a good time every single day, but I still find it amazing and am extremely grateful for it.

We had our first official English breakfast today at a great little place on the water in Portishead called the Marina Café. Cory loves his English breakfast and insisted on taking a picture of it before diving in.











Things are pretty comfortable with the two of us. We are sharing a bed as this whole trip was planned out and organized while we were still dating. When Chris first found out that we had broken up, he was a bit concerned about the accommodations but I assured him it was going to be okay and it seems that I was right. I think that Cory and I are both mature enough to deal with this like adults and both are more interested in having a nice time with friends than worrying about any of our personal drama. Plus, we didn’t have a dramatic breakup.

Cory has always wanted children. He comes from a very close family with one younger brother and two younger sisters. His parents, like mine, are still married after many, many years and his mom makes a very large effort to keep the family as close as possible with organized family events and so forth. I like being around the siblings of his family even though it sometimes makes me sad that I don’t have the same connection with my brother that he has with his. He and his brother are literally best friends and it is obvious that Cory takes his role as the “protector” very seriously. It’s one of his most admirable qualities.

There are many reasons why I’ve never wanted children. However, I have to admit, based on what people have always told me, I have always sort of expected to wake up one day and have changed my mind. Call it a biological clock or whatever, but I figured I would just want to have children of my own one day. As it turns out, I’m approaching 30 and only have more reasons not to have them. Even if I get to that point where I want to raise a child, it only makes sense to me to go through the adoption process as bringing another child into a world that is already overpopulated with unwanted children makes my head hurt. I don’t feel the need to “maintain a blood line” nor am I fascinated by the fact that my child should have a combination of mine and its father’s physical features. To me, all of this pales in comparison to the fact that because I’ve chosen to have my own child, another child must be forced into foster care or into an unloving or abusive household and may not know what it truly means to be loved and cared for unconditionally.

Don’t get me wrong, this is only how I feel for myself. I do not place judgment on others for wanting to have their own children. I can completely understand the desire to do so – it’s just not a desire that I share.

Cory has a different opinion about all of this and after dating for about six months, we discussed this detail of our relationship. Ever since then, it has seemed to be quite the “elephant in the room”, so to speak. Finally, a couple of months ago, I brought it up as a major issue, he agreed, and we decided that it would be better to break it off now than to become more attached and have a more painful breakup in the future. It all seems pretty logical to me, but then again, I’ve always been a fairly logical person.

Emotionally, it hurts. I really loved Cory. I’ve never attracted someone like him before. He doesn’t seem to have the same anger issues that I tend to attract in men nor is he too sentimental and emotional about things. He’s easy to talk to and even easier to be around. I think he is misunderstood at times because of his blunt and straightforward nature, but for someone like me, that quality is not only appreciated, but desperately craved. Sometimes, I admit, I think I was more into the relationship than he was and that could have potentially caused future problems down the road. I don’t know… but for all these reasons, it just seems easier to be friends.

Where was I… oh yes, breakfast. Dan is with us this morning as well – it doesn’t seem like I’m going to see Dan nearly as much as Chris during this trip even though he literally lives right across the street. Dan still has a lot of work to attend to which I completely understand. I only hope we do get to share some time together as I really adore him and am anxious to finally meet his longtime girlfriend, Renne, while we are here.

We are heading to another country today – Wales! It’s not too far away and Chris has so graciously agreed to be our cabbie during our trip. Off we go!

We are in a pub called The Goat Major in Cardiff, Wales and we are enjoying a half pint of cider. I am here with Danni, Chris and Cory. Cardiff is a nice little city – we are going to go check out Cardiff Castle which doesn’t look anything like the castles I’ve seen in pictures of Scotland and Ireland, but that I’m completely excited for nonetheless. Unfortunately, it mostly just appears tourist-y from the outside but I suppose that’s the way things have to be if we want to preserve their history. It’s just so strange – you have this crazy historic place that is years and years old, surrounded by a bustling city which, if you remove the tourists, is just people going about their daily lives. There is an interesting energy about the whole thing.

We did a pretty quick tour of the castle as, honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot to see. Cory was on camera-duty and did take some nice shots of the grounds.

















Being in the army for eight years, Cory took up traveling as one of his favorite hobbies. Plus, he is an absolute information junkie so he eats all of this up a lot more than I do. I love to look at things, but without the genuine interest in where it all came from, I just don’t retain the knowledge given as we walk around and learn about each site. I am here to enjoy being with my friends and soak up the culture a lot more than I am the sites.


After the castle tour, we hit a few gift shops and Cory got himself a Rugby jersey as I guess Cardiff is a pretty big rugby town. I think I’m going to save most of my souvenir shopping for London.











Now, we are sitting down to lunch at a nice little Italian place called Zizzi where I am going to fill my hungry belly with some ravioli before heading back to Bristol for the night.

Like I mentioned, I managed to pick up some weed my first day here so it’s perfect that we all decided to make night more of a “chill-out” night. We have a lot of exciting things planned and I want to get at least one morning run in while I’m here so one night without heavy drinking is sounding pretty good. We are sitting in the living room watching some football (I hope everyone realizes I mean soccer when I say football. English don’t care much for the NFL) and working out details for the next week and everything we want to get accomplished. Chris, the expert sandwich-maker, is making some food for us while Cory is checking the computer. Danni’s energy seems a bit off but perhaps she is just tired like the rest of us.

Tomorrow, we are heading to Stonehenge which is something I’ve been looking forward to ever since I first booked this trip. As for now, its bath and bed time for me – a perfect end to a peaceful day.

In England, They Call Them Your "Fringe"

August 11, 2009

The ride to Chris’s house from the airport was lovely (and as always, I find myself using more and more English terms the more I’m around my English friends). Chris is such a wonderful tour guide. I really feel like he deserves a double decker bus, loud speaker and a tip jar! He has been a world of information and while I know how much he loves coming to Las Vegas, it is clear that he holds Bristol in a very special place in his heart as he has taken so many mental notes over the years that are now extremely helpful and informative as we make the trek home from the airport. 

Already one of my favorite parts of this trip is the unbelievable accommodations put together for us by Chris’s mom (or mum). We are staying in a room in Chris’s perfectly quaint house in a small village outside of Somerset, I believe (I know Chris will be upset if I get details wrong – correct me whenever necessary, my friend!). I was very lucky to have already met Chris’s parents, Paul and Karen, when they came to Las Vegas so it was a comfortable welcoming from all angles. 


Danni is Chris’s girlfriend. I also had the pleasure of meeting her last year when she came to Las Vegas for her 21st birthday. She is also a hairdresser and agreed to upgrade my ‘do upon arrival. She laughed when I asked her to trim my “bangs” as they refer to them as “fringe” in England. I know forever that this will be a joke between the two of us. My hair looks beautiful – very modern British… whatever that means!! I am thrilled.
I love the boys, but it is certainly nice to have a female around here to talk to as well, especially with all of the thoughts going in and out of my head about Aaron. Once again, I am definitely here to enjoy this trip to the fullest, but I can’t help but have thoughts about what’s going on at home. During our “hair time”, I had the chance to open up to her briefly about what was going on and the different thoughts running through my head. She is a really good listener and seems to be genuinely interested. It will be nice to have an outlet during this trip as I am still having anxious feelings about how things are going to go once Cory finds out. I know and feel a lot closer to Chris simply because we’ve been acquainted for a longer period of time but I’m hoping Danni and I can build the same kind of friendship while I’m here. 

How do I know Chris? Yes, I suppose I should probably go ahead and cover that as well

A few times in my life, my promiscuity has benefited me very well and given me wonderful friends and for that, I am very, very grateful. In June of 2008, I met Brendan. Well, that’s not exactly accurate… I met Brendan a few times before, but one night, I was out with a friend here in Vegas and we ended up at this crappy little bar next to a gas station off of Las Vegas Boulevard not too far from where I was living at the time. We met up with another friend there who lived in the same apartment complex as Brendan and so he was there hanging out as well. I had already been drinking a little and sat there with Brendan, drank more with him and by the end of the night, found myself at his apartment.

Anyone who knows Brendan knows that it’s almost impossible not to have a good time around him. In fact, Brendan moved to Las Vegas for the good time and the good time alone. If anyone questions this, Brendan will simply bend over, pull down his pants, and show off his ass-tattoos that are a perfect summary of his time in Las Vegas. His intention was very clear and good times he had! I feel very lucky to have latched on to him and his silly, carefree energy for the last month he was in Las Vegas. The following month, he moved back to California to go to school and take himself a little more seriously – something all of us who know him have mixed feelings about due to the fact that when Brendan leaves a party, there is certainly a void.

I don’t remember much about that night, however the next morning, I remember waking up to Brendan getting texts that he told me were from some friends he had that were getting ready to visit from England. He said they would be there in a few days and that the “shit talking” had already begun on text. I asked what it was about and he mentioned a particular football game that would be on while they were here. He asked if I would be interested in going with him to meet them when they got here. I’m pretty much always down for anything and really enjoyed being around Brendan’s energy so I agreed.

A few days later, we walked in McMullan’s Irish Pub and I was introduced to Chris and Dan. I thought I was going to meet a couple of guys for a sporting event and then be on my merry way. Little did I know that I would be making a couple of the greatest friends I’ve had to date and that I would keep in my life for years to come. I ended up hanging out with all three of them for four drunken days of laughter and cider. In fact, I was even introduced to Cory over those days as he was working Security for Brendan, Chris and Dan’s favorite Irish pub in Las Vegas called the Nine Fine Irishmen at New York, New York Hotel and Casino; a place I would find myself at again and again in the years to follow.

For the time being however, I wasn’t at the Nine Fine Irishmen. I was in England with a beautiful new hairdo and a plan to take on the night!

While Danni finishes my hair, the boys have gone down to a very local pub within walking distance of the house called the White Heart.
When we were all done, we went down to get them so we could begin our evening. Here we are getting ready for our first night out together.

One of my new favorite places in the whole world is the Black Horse Tavern which is just a short drive away from Chris’s house. I guess it used to a jail at one point. It smells of cider, age and history and I love everything about it. There are tables set up outside and everyone just gathers around and shoots the shit about goings on in their lives. I like how everyone knows each other and if they don’t know you, it doesn’t take long before the introductions begin. In a rare twist of events, we ran into some Americans there that were in England for a friend’s wedding. One of them was even from Seattle! What a small, crazy world. 

We are here with Dan, Chris, Danni, Paul, Karen and Dan’s friend Nick, who is very sweet and friendly just like the boys. I feel so comfortable and content, as if I’m enjoying a refreshing beverage in someone’s countryside backyard. A few people even came by on horseback! We are all having so much fun together as we laugh about our jaunt over here in Chris’s little car – a little snug for all of us, therefore Chris was forced to sit in the boot (trunk like compartment for all you Americans). One thing I am noticing right away is that everything is smaller over here – either that, or we are simply as gluttonous as our stereotype indicates. 

I’m trying to keep track of all the ciders I’m drinking but we’ll see how long that lasts. I know I’ve already had Thatchers, Black Rat and Ashton Press and really enjoy tasting the very specific differences in each one. 

Chris and his dad have a cider press at home – it’s really fascinating as cider drinking is something that has not reached the level of popularity in America the way beer and wine has. It certainly has a following here! I think it would absolutely amazing to open a cider bar in Las Vegas – I wonder if it could gain the same kind of reputation in the states as it does here. It’s definitely something to consider. The alcohol content alone is enough to spark the interest of Las Vegas’ die-hard party crowd.

Paul and Karen went home after a few pints and the rest of us decided to go out and enjoy the remainder of our first evening together. I admit, things did get a little fuzzy after the Black Horse Tavern, which is why I made sure to bring a camera for documentation of everything that we did. I remember that we went to a place called the Plough for some pool and Natch - which Chris and Dan are NOT proud of.

Afterwards, we must’ve been out too late for a taxi because we ended up walking home and Danni and I, arm in arm, belted out covers of Alanis Morrisette and 4 Non Blondes that only the extremely hard of hearing could possibly enjoy.

And, of course, I was able to score weed my first night in a foreign country. This just proves my theory that like attracts like.

Overall, it was a very fun and successful first night – everyone is getting along just fine and I’m anxious for what the rest of the trip has to bring. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Year in The Making - My 2009 Vacation Journal

Well, now that the “Rules” are all in place, I am waiting to see what this next year brings as far as results, obstacles, breakdowns and breakthroughs. I am anxious and excited for this journey and everything to be discovered on the way.

The one thing that is really exciting me in this moment is how much I am enjoying writing. So, I thought I’d start another writing project. Almost exactly one year ago, my ex-boyfriend, Cory and I went to England. I brought a travel journal with me and took over 800 photos on that trip. I wanted to come home and immediately put together an online journal of my entire experience but did not make it a priority. It seems quite appropriate now as I think of all that has changed since then as well as the changes that continue to occur for me spiritually and energetically. It was an incredible trip and I learned a lot more about myself and my relationships than I ever thought I could. Now that I have found a forum that I enjoy, it seems as if the timing is absolutely perfect for a reflection on this trip.

Quick side note as a friend of mine has asked me a couple of times… I haven’t yet felt the need to change the names of anyone I write about. If anyone disagrees and would like me to not include their name, please email me at tverdexk8@yahoo.com or on my Facebook account. My goal is to turn this blogging project into a book at some point and I would never, ever want anyone to feel uncomfortable by being mentioned in my writings. At the same time, my intention with everything I share is to bring candid, honest and genuine experiences out into the open and I do hope that the people in my life are comfortable enough to know that I have nothing but good, clean intentions with every story I tell.

With that, let the reflections begin…

Somewhere between August 10 – 11, 2009 (not sure which time zone I was in at this exact moment)

It’s a strange feeling looking at the map that is in front of me on airplane. I am watching as the little plane icon makes its quiet trip across the Atlantic.

I was born in Denver, Colorado but grew up on the West Coast in Washington State and spent my early adult years in Southern California. The only time I ever saw the Atlantic in person was from a little marina restaurant in Northern Massachusetts when I was vacationing in New England. Now, I’m hopping the entire thing.

I’m not exactly sure what day or time it is; all I know is that I’m at the beginning of a very new and exciting kind of trip. I’ve always loved to travel. That was definitely the main highlight of my time as a hotel Sales Manager. In fact, the travel was the only thing I ever felt to be rewarding about that job. However, even then, there is something very… standard about traveling around the states compared to the feeling I have in my stomach about stepping into a foreign country. No matter how different the culture may be in St. Louis versus Chicago or Tulsa versus Cambridge, we are still listening to the same news, using the same electrical outlets and driving on the same side of the road. It definitely feels a lot different to be traveling so far away from all of that.

I am starting this trip with a lot of different emotions. So much has changed in the last month - the most drastically in the last two days – and I find myself no longer on a romantic overseas excursion with my yearlong boyfriend. Now I find myself sitting comfortably and happily next to a friend, and in the meantime, conflicted about what might be waiting for me at home.

Two nights ago was UFC fight night. I am such a sucker for a good UFC fight – Cory and I used to get together with his friends and watch the fights either at a casino or at one of his friends’ house. One of Cory’s friends, Aaron, is always down for a UFC fight and usually comes with us.

Cory and I broke up a few months ago, after we had already planned this trip. It was a cordial break up, both of us deciding that our belief systems and what we wanted for the future were very different and that we should probably just remain friends instead of continue heading down a path that was sure to lead to a breakup ultimately anyway. We both still wanted to take this trip, of course and so our travel plans did not change.

Knowing that I was about to spend ten days with him, I really didn’t want to ask him to see the fight with me. Besides, I think he was probably working that night, if I remember correctly. So, I sent a message to Aaron. He agreed to meet me at the Santa Fe Station to watch the fight.

Shortly after he arrived, he asked me where Cory was and why we weren’t watching the fight together. As I had to do with all of our friends, I told Aaron that Cory and I had broken up. Aaron couldn’t contain a smile as he surprisingly asked what had happened. I gave him the brief story and then we settled in to watch the fight. I remember it being a rather boring card that night; however I was having a great time with Aaron. Afterwards, it was obvious neither one of us wanted to go home, so we went bowling. I think we bowled two or three games, laughing the whole time. He made sweet comments about how I drag my foot on the approach and told me how adorable it was. I was starting to see Aaron in a whole different light. I’d always found him attractive, but suddenly there was some sexual energy growing between the two of us and the butterflies began.

Once we finished bowling, it was still clear neither one of us wanted to leave. One of my favorite parts about Las Vegas is the fact that no matter where you are, there is always something to do. So, we went from one side of the casino where the bowling alley was to the other side, where the club was. We paid our outrageous cover charges, got our stamps and went in. We proceeded to have a few beers, laugh, dance and be silly for another couple of hours. At one point, I was dancing like no one was watching, feeling carefree and beautiful when Aaron stopped, walked up to me, put his hands on my face and kissed me right there on the dance floor. My stomach fell to the floor.

We spent the next few hours talking, laughing, kissing and slowly starting to stress about what was happening. He walked me to my car where we continued this behavior until the sky went from black to purple to red to orange and the first rays of the sun started to peek over the mountains. We talked about what we were going to do with Cory, how we were going to handle trying to have a relationship when our mutual connection was my ex-boyfriend. Then we kissed some more and he told me that he and Cory weren’t all that close anyway. I knew that I was getting myself into a mess but I when I looked at him and his adoring smile; the way his eyes gazed into mine and the sweet nothings he whispered about what an idiot Cory was to let me go, I couldn’t help but wonder if everything about Cory was supposed to lead to this. I loved the way his hands felt on my stomach, the strength of his forearms as his hands gently caressed my face. His loving and caring touches were what I was missing so much. Even at our most loving point, Cory never touched me with that kind of sensitivity and care.

We finally parted and I spent the whole next day thinking about him. I would catch myself smiling a silly grin when I thought about all the fun we had and the connection I felt when he looked at me. My stomach would get that wonderful dipping feeling, as if I just reached the top of the climb on a rollercoaster and was heading down for the ride of my life. I was nervous about leaving for ten days and wondered what would happen.

I went to his house that night, laid in his arms on the couch, exhausted from being up the whole night before and knowing that I had to be on a plane the next morning, but wanted to soak up every ounce of his energy before I left. I told him about the things I enjoyed doing and he told me about his love of music. We spent time cuddling in silence and more time talking about the things that excited us about life. I wanted to sleep with him that night but it was clear he didn’t want to. I could already tell that his brain had started working on what was actually going on.

When I left the next morning, I gave him my email address so that we could communicate while I was in England. I told him that we had a mess to deal with when I got back. He smiled, kissed me and told me to go, have a good trip, and we’d deal with everything in ten days.

So here I am, on that plane with Cory sleeping silently next to me. I know this trip is important for many reasons and the one thing I do not want to do is spend this whole trip with my head and my heart back in Las Vegas. So, while I will happily allow myself moments of reflection into that brief but remarkably intense and intimate interaction, I want to remain as focused as possible on this trip and all there is to absorb while I’m in England.

As I take another look at the map in front of me, I see so many other places I want to visit. And now, I no longer need to tell the lie that I am not interested in foreign travel; something I used to tell people that actually translated to “there is no way I could actually make that happen”. It’s been such a gift to finally find a bit of my own gusto. I’m excited about setting and conquering a whole new set of goals and aspirations. Traveling is, for sure, the biggest thing missing from my life. It’s good – no… it’s wonderfully amazing and thrilling to be feeling this again. It will certainly contribute to an unforgettable trip.

Pictures of me and Cory at the Denver Airport

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex

Rule #5
Sex: For the next year, I will not engage in the act of sexual intercourse with another person. I am still free to socialize and date and will allow myself the freedom of kissing whomever I wish, however even in the act of kissing, there must be some connection with the other person and they must know about my intentions to remain celibate before any physical interaction can occur.

I broke this rule two weeks after I made it.

Some of my friends thought it was pretty funny that I couldn’t make it two weeks without having sex. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about this – the fact that my friends think it’s funny, not that I had sex. I know why I had sex.

My friend the chiropractor said it best, as he usually does. I told him the next morning through text that I was weak. He told me that I wasn’t weak but that I had made a weak declaration. I knew instantly he was right and started thinking about why I made this rule to begin with.

This particular rule was the jumping off point for all the changes I wanted to make in the next year. The previous four rules I had added after the fact and yet, those ones I remain true to. Even as I read the rule above which is written exactly as it is in my journal, I know that there is a lot more to it than simply cutting myself off sexually. In fact, simply saying I’m no longer going to have sex is my own way of not actually looking at my relationship with sex and what is has meant for me in the past, what it means to me now and what I would like it to mean in the future. Celibacy is almost a cowardly way for me not to deal with my own sexual intentions and beliefs.

Therefore, I’m trying something a little new with this rule that I hardly ever do. I’m asking for help.

I was at work the other day discussing my blogging project with a few of the other servers and one server said she had been catching up on her blogs the other day. I asked if she had read mine and she said yes. I asked her what she thought and she said “I thought you said not to tell you!” I found this very amusing – yes, I requested little to no feedback when I first started writing for a couple of reasons. First off, I didn’t want to be discouraged right away if people thought it was garbage and second (and most important for me), I didn’t want people to tell me what I wanted to hear. I have been getting that my whole life and because I so deeply crave real human connections based on honestly and vulnerability, I didn’t want to be fed any more crap sandwiches.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that now that I’m getting deeper into this project, any feedback that one might find valuable or helpful or anything that someone feels compelled to share is more than welcome. Once again, and I’ll say this a lot, I believe it’s through authentic and genuine sharing that we see we are not all that different after all.

On all of my rules but this rule in particular, I am looking to my peers for guidance and support as my intention for the next year is as I wrote in my journal:

My intention with these “Rules” for the next year is to create a stronger, healthier, aware and confident version of myself. Through this, I will change my energy to attract positive energy into my space. I will attract meaningful relationships and connect with my existing relationships on a different level of vulnerability and authenticity. I will attract prosperity, wealth and opportunity through my actions to become a big contributor to life and all it has to offer. I will sail into my 31st birthday feeling proud of my accomplishments, new relationships in tow and with a completely refreshed view on my life and what I have to give.

So, let’s get into a little history here…

When I was around the age of 6 or 7, I first learned how to “get the feeling” if I rubbed up against something just right. I didn’t have any idea what it meant until I met a girl that named Kristy that showed me a few different ways to achieve this happy feeling. She and I used to masturbate together after we’d play. We wouldn’t touch each other, just be in the same room. She had a mother who had a very open relationship with sex and had many books with illustrations that we would look at. Kristy told me that she had walked in on her mom having sex with her boyfriend a few times and described it to me in fascination. I remember hearing my mom and dad having sex at night and thinking that I wished they would stop. It made me really uncomfortable to hear the sounds they would make. Looking back, and even now, I don’t find my parents to have a very affectionate relationship outside of the bedroom so it didn’t make much sense to me what they were doing behind closed doors. I even remember shouting out a few times from my bedroom for them to stop.

My mom walked in on me and Kristy masturbating one time but we quickly stopped and later, when she tried to talk to me about it, I lied and said that we were pretending our stuffed animals were having sex (we used toys sometimes to “get the feeling”) and she left it at that. I’m sure she didn’t buy it, but it wasn’t discussed more than that. I remember a few years later, Mom sat down with me and gave me a book to read on what sex was and sat there while I uncomfortably read about things that I already knew about through television, school and the erotic books I found under my mom’s bed. Plus, I had been masturbating for a few years at that point so I mostly felt as if I was going through the motions. My family hasn’t always been great at talking things out. I can’t really blame her though; it is a rather uncomfortable subject and she probably thought she wouldn’t have to explain it to me at such a young age.

In high school, I had one of the best teachers a $25,000 salary could buy – her name was Mrs. Campbell and she was open, honest, funny, pure and taught Sexual Education straight from the heart. I learned everything I needed to know about how things worked, sexually transmitted diseases, the importance of protection and also that it wasn’t as “taboo” as I felt it was. I felt normal finally after having felt weird for being an avid masturbator all those years.

I lost my virginity when I was 14 years old to my high school sweetheart who was also a virgin. We had already been “going steady” for almost a year and a half when we finally decided to take the plunge (pardon the pun). We dated for another couple of years and even talked marriage. Very often, I think about what my life would’ve been like if I would’ve stayed with him and been with only one man for my whole life. However, at 17 years old, with high school graduation upon us and boys starting to hit on me, I got nervous that I wouldn’t be content unless I had different experiences before I decided to settle down. It broke his heart. It breaks mine only now when I think about all of the damaged relationships I’ve been in since then and all the men I’ve allowed to treat me and my body with disrespect. I have yet to meet someone who has loved me the way my sweetie did all those years ago. But alas, I must have faith in the fact that everything is happening as it should and that the path I have chosen and continue to choose must lead to something bigger.

I did a little project over the last few days in preparation for this blog. A numbers project, if you will… since 14 years old, I have been sexually active with approximately 45 men and have engaged in sexual acts with closer to 60. I have slept with two married men, two men with serious girlfriends, had one threesome with a husband and wife, agreed to sex with at least five men that I did not want to sleep with, pressured at least two men to have sex with me who didn’t want to, had a yearlong sexual relationship with a man over twice my age, had roughly ten one-night stands and can’t remember the names of at least six men that I have been sexual with. In my little studio apartment in Long Beach, after breaking up with Eric, I slept with four different men in one week, none of which knew about any of the others. I cheated on a serious boyfriend two times and let a handful of other men think that they were the only person I was sleeping with when that wasn’t the truth. I’ve even made out secretly with other men while on a date with someone. Twice. Of all the men I slept with, I can honestly say that I felt truly in love with only five of them.

A friend who knows a portion of this history asked me once if I had been sexually molested as a child. I said no and yet, he continued pressing the issue – so much so, that I actually took some time to reflect and see if I had locked away a memory that I wasn’t willing to be honest about. However, after much reflecting, I can’t remember anything of the sort. And, as you can see from earlier, I remember my sexual memories all the way back to six years old. Besides, I don’t think someone needs to be sexual molested to have an unhealthy relationship with sex. I think it really just takes having an unhealthy relationship with one’s soul or simply being confused about what sex is all about.

My other speculation is that I was/am constantly seeking affection because I come from an unaffectionate and somewhat disconnected family. We are, by no means, dysfunctional in my opinion at all. It’s just that if you look at my family’s history, it explains a lot. My mom’s family didn’t want anything to do with her and my dad, being the oldest of 11 children in a strict catholic family, didn’t really have time to deal with affection because it was always about taking care of the younger siblings while his own father was away working. To this day, even though there is a clear and apparent love between all four of us, when I hug my mom, dad or brother, it’s as if I’m hugging a stranger. We’ve never been belly-to-belly huggers, rarely holding on for more than a few seconds at a time.

There are people I hug at work with more affection than this.

That’s a pretty good recap of Tina’s sexual issues, part A. Part B is as follows…

About 3 ½ years ago, I dated someone I met online for a few months. I was still taking birth control pills at that time and he wasn’t a fan of condoms so we were having regular, unprotected sex.

After we broke up, I received a phone call about two weeks later that he had discovered a red bump in his nether regions and wanted to know if I had something that I didn’t tell him about. We didn’t have a pretty break up so the conversation was not nearly as cordial as I’m making it sound. I told him that I had never tested positive for anything and that I regularly got exams. This is the truth – I may have made some mistakes in my past, but I was always adamant about getting annual exams and stayed on birth control pills for over ten years. Unfortunately, I was mostly concerned about not getting pregnant and put way too much stock in the idea that I’m not the kind of girl who would get a sexually transmitted disease.

My ex called me back a few days later to tell me that he had gone to the doctor and they told him that the bump tested positive for HPV, which stands for the human papillomavirus. HPV is a collection of viruses that cause warts on the hands, feet, and genitals. Some HPVs are sexually transmitted and can also cause cervical cancer. While there is no actual cure for HPV, typically the body can build up immunity, especially in men, and while a person may test positive one year, in a few years they may no longer have traces of HPV in their system. For women, it’s a little more complicated because high risk HPV can lead to forms of cervical cancer.

Needless to say, I was mortified and devastated. I made an appointment right away, got tested and found that sure enough, I was positive as well.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it – how did this happen? Wasn’t I mostly careful? Yes, actually, mostly I was. Apparently, mostly wasn’t enough. And while the statistics stated that one in five women tested positive for this virus, it didn’t make me feel any better. How come I couldn’t be one of the four? Well, maybe if I hadn’t been so irresponsibly promiscuous, I could be.

A few months later, I decided that even though I was scared to death, it was time to do the full service check-up and went in to get blood work done, HIV tests included. The week before my results came back was one of the longest of my life. I wondered what I had done to myself and my poor body. I went into self-attack mode, hating myself for the decisions I made and realizing that none of it was worth it. Even after all of those sexual encounters, here I was, almost 27 years old, still single, feeling worthless and useless, without anyone really close I could turn to.

I was sitting at Buffalo Wild Wings with some people from work having a beer when I got the call. My blood test came back and it had tested positive for Herpes type 2. My world fell apart. I was officially damaged goods – who in their right mind would want me now?

I spent months feeling sorry for myself, angry for the choices I made, allowing myself to be a victim and thinking of the thoughtless sex I had, like that doctor in Orlando I slept with that I hardly remember due to a very large amount of alcohol consumption. He took me back to the hotel room and I remember bits and pieces of having unprotected sex with him. To this day, I can’t even remember what he looks like.

I thought about the fact that I would have to have a conversation now every single time I wanted to sleep with someone and risk the likely rejection again and again. I thought about the fact that while I have never wanted kids, if I did decide to one day, it was unlikely that I could have them naturally which is the only way I believe a child should be delivered.

Basically, all I could think about was how I just went and fucked everything up.

After the initial shock work off and I shared my condition with my family, I went into a sort of denial for a few years. I thought maybe if I just ignored everything, it wouldn’t actually exist. Besides, I hadn’t experienced the kind of breakouts that I remember in Mrs. Campbell’s health class all those years ago and maybe they didn’t know what they were talking about after all. I don’t really believe doctors know as much as they claim to anyway given all of the medical mistakes we hear about every single day. Still, I was honest with every person I slept with after that and surprisingly, while a few men flipped out and wanted nothing to do with me, a couple others, including my most recent ex-boyfriend of 1 ½ years were very sympathetic and we were just sure to be extra careful.

I hadn’t seen a doctor since that phone call at Buffalo Wild Wings but recently, since I had started this new mission of getting my energy back on track, I thought it would be a good thing to check out the latest in my condition. Also, I had experienced breakout-type symptoms more regularly in the last year and wanted to make sure there was nothing further that was wrong with me.

Yesterday morning, I finally found a doctor in town that I feel I can trust. He answered all my questions, understood my request to stay off medication as much as possible and in discussing my history and my recent symptoms, he told me that he couldn’t be sure that what I was experiencing was a herpetic outbreak at all. He told me that he didn’t think blood tests were conclusive in testing for the disease and the only real thing you can do is have a culture done on the actual breakout. In his opinion and without seeing a breakout first hand, it sounded a little more consistent with HPV than it did with Herpes. He even said that many people test positive for traces of Herpes 2 in their blood but never have symptoms and aren’t even true “carriers” of the disease.

Finally, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds. So, I have hope that maybe I’m not as damaged as I think I am – however, regardless of the outcome, I know that everything is as it should be and I take 100% responsibility for the toils I have put my body through.

Now that you know the full story, perhaps you can understand more why this rule was so important to me – and also why I may have made it hastily without setting a clear intention.

So last week, I had a friend in town for his birthday – I have slept with him before and he knows my medical past. We are very comfortable with each other, we know exactly the place we stand in each other’s lives and the sex has always been amazing. He is respectful of me and my beliefs and we genuinely just love each other as friends and people. I spent the first night denying him and the second night torturing myself by wanting to sleep with him and making myself feel bad about it. I finally gave in the morning he left and not only did we have great sex, I was completely pissed off at myself for not giving myself the gratification of being with him the previous two nights.

Yes, I want to have sex and have it mean something. Yes, ideally, I would love to have monogamous sex with the man that I am in love with and working towards creating a future with. Yes, I want to have sex for the right reasons and not for so many reasons I listed above when describing my sexual past. Yes, there are times when sex with a particular person that I know and have been with before helps me feel fulfilled. For all these reasons, I’m just not sure the rule that I set forth is really helping me achieve a greater sense of well being. I’m not sure where that leaves me as this is the only rule that I can’t seem to get ironed out properly.

I think sex is a wonderful thing, as long as it’s being done with only good intentions. So, for now, I think that’s what I’m going to hold on to. As I said before, this is the rule that I am definitely open to discuss with anyone who might have some insight.

There they are – my boundaries for the next year. Thank you to all those who have shown an interest so far. My plans are to continue blogging throughout the next year with different breakthroughs and discoveries that I have. Once again, it is my belief that through sharing comes connection. And if it is truly a genuine human connection that I have been seeking my whole life, I fear I have been going at it the wrong way, through manipulation and telling people what they want to hear and doing what they want me to do. It’s time to break the mold.

I am Tina. Hear me roar.