A Letter to Myself. An Ode to Self-care.

 Dear Jamal,
First of all, calm down. What are you doing getting yourself all worked up about nothing? When things are out of your control, remember, they’re out of your control. Do your best in the moment to ground yourself, dig deep into self, and use that energy as fuel. If you don’t like something, change it. If a certain environment or group of people aren’t good for you, or helping you achieve your goals, cut them out!
You’re a stubborn Scorpio, so you think you have all the answers. There’s something you’re forgetting to do, though, in all this misery and darkness you’ve been hiding from the world… Take your own advice. MAKE A CHANGE. I mean, seriously, bro. What are you waiting for?! Be responsible in your decisions, of course, but you’re too young and full of inspiration to waste away in your current state. Go for it.
In the end, you have to remind yourself that you have a beyond supportive husband, family, and friends who would slay anyone who got in your way. Spend too much time pondering on the “what ifs” if you want, but you’ll only have yourself to blame if you stay here. You have a tendency to put others before yourself, but it is to your detriment most of the time.
You can’t be a man of the people if you’re not taking care of yourself. I charge you to make a change and to fight through these dark clouds you’ve been surfing. Look forward to brighter days, greater love, and more adventure than you can ever imagine. The time is now, Jamal. It’s your time.
With love,
Jamal
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What’s the Tarot Say?

A Cinderella reading for real! What do the cards have in store?

1.Past. The Nine of Swords. This card represents dark visions or a period of depression. Only now do I feel like I’m off the roller coaster. At least for a moment. I was fighting to breathe before.

2.Present. The Six of Pentacles. Growth, prosperity, generosity. S and I are both on a roll in career and personal life right now. This current moment in time is a humble reminder to keep working hard and not take advantage of any opportunities that come our way.

3.Future. The Four of Pentacles. Control, possession. This is fabulous news for the home and bank account. Be mindful, however, of becoming too controlling or possessive. Wealth is but a concept, so don’t let material foolishness drain your soul. Noted.

It’s Been 3 Years!

Gays in the Life turned three years old yesterday. Can you believe that? I was listening to one of my favorite podcast this week when I found myself triggered. You see, the conversation centered around how perfectionism could be the cause of procrastination or the reason some people never go after their goals. Needless to say, The Friend Zone podcast struck a chord and it got me thinking about what growing the Gays in the Life platform has taught me. I suffered some major writer’s block this summer and wasn’t as productive as I would have liked to be. Large part of that was due to me being unable to get out of my head. Here are a few items that have contributed to both the darkest and lightest lessons over the past few years (and especially the past few months):

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Productivity. When I started Gays in the Life I had more time and endless energy to put into ideas and content. Fast forward through a couple promotions, a busier work life, and time juggling personal projects and you’ll notice all that energy and time has gone out the window.

Today I’m slowly getting back into my groove and making time to fidget with the blog every couple days. If writer’s block is getting the best of me, I’m maintaining tasks for my side hustles or tweaking ideas to improve the GITL platform. The secret for me has been to remember the fun. Once the fun is gone, I’ll truly be doomed and none of you will see another blog post.

Next is my relationship; my marriage. Three years of diving into my marriage through the blogging medium most definitely shed some light on strengths and weaknesses – things we need to work on and things we can celebrate.  Gays in the Life has become an ever-changing blueprint for our relationship.

Going through old posts, we recognize opportunities to learn and grow beyond the lessons we’ve already shared on the site. We jump at any chance to improve below average scenarios and capitalize on shared victories. My heart dances because S and I have been able to share our experiences and paint a realistic view of what it takes to survive the early years of marriage.

Balance has been trying and tricky the last few years. I touched on it lightly at the top of the post when I mentioned having a busier work life and juggling personal projects.  Navigating my perceived lack of availability was exhausting and began to eat at my creative process. My life was evolving in other areas and keeping it all together and on track was a challenge.

Instead of getting caught up in the sludge of life I do my best to keep to the schedule and goals I set, and don’t beat myself up about missing any desired deadlines. Another helpful trick to keep your cool when you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, is to reflect on the things you did accomplish that day. A quick reminder that you aren’t completely worthless never hurt anyone – and remember, you have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyonce.

With all that being said, I’m happy and appreciative for how Gays in the Life continues to morph. From the early stages of focusing on content only and maintaining the basics of the site, to present day where I’m digging more into GITL social media analytics and elevated site design… I’m challenged, inspired, and feel the next phase of evolution on the horizon.

We’ve got some fun things coming your way on GaysintheLife.com and it only works with your support. So thank you all for hanging in there with us.

Cheers,

My Small, Grilled Victory.

I win. Want to know why? I successfully started a gas grill with no supervision! To be completely honest with all of you, I have this ridiculous fear that one day I would have been so clumsy to the point that I’d influenced complete devastation around everyone in closest proximity to me; like catastrophic levels.

 

Ever since I was a kid I’ve had the roughest time with accomplishing any task without getting hurt in some form or fashion.  Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. The last handful of posts probably have some reference to my shoulder injury I’ve been dealing with all summer. It’s just turning fall in Indiana and I’m JUST now able to hit the weights again. I feel so behind, but what can you do? Always listen to your body…

 

…it’s a kind of intuition, right?! Well, my intuition has always told me “stay the hell away from that explosive-ass’d propane tank! Are you crazy?!” S has shown me at least twice how to turn the gas on and off and how to ignite the grill. Growing up with charcoal grill skills in Alaska, I have a way different set of grilling knowledge – we never let snow stop us from throwing down on the grill. Slay, I say! So when the time came for me to fire up the monstrosity on my own… I had to take a few deep breaths and tell myself “maybe this isn’t the end.”

 

I open the hatch exposing the propane tank resting undisturbed in its home under the burners. “Here goes” I think to myself as I reach for the knob. “Turn counterclockwise…” I close my eyes as I perform the simple action. “Alright, we’re in the clear.” I quickly close the hatch as if to race a bomb, seconds away from reaching zero. Turning the knobs and pressing the ignite switch was way less stressful. My neighbors have already seen me do hot yoga on the patio, have the occasional cigar and bourbon in nothing but short-shorts and a tank, and now, probably the gayest-victory-dance ever invoked by the lighting of a grill.

 
I’m most proud that I didn’t need to wait for S to get home, out of fear of burning down my home. Let’s face it… there’s always a glass of vodka or bourbon not too far away from me when I get home, so I’m sure that would help fuel the fire that inadvertently would have started. My husband has taught me a lot in the almost five years of being with him – more than I can write about, for sure. Starting a gas grill without help proves to me that fear with S is non-existent.

And Don’t Forget the Hot Sauce…

Pork shoulders fried in bacon grease has become one of our favorite ketogenic meals. Not only is it easy and quick to cook, it’s delicious and filling. I couldn’t wait to tear into this glorious piece of meat after snapping this photo. Paired with spinach (tossed in spicy guacamole), this keto treat will keep me full until lunchtime tomorrow.

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We’re More Than Friends from School. We’re Married.

The four of us sat in a group at the front of the funeral hall. It was visitation for my husband’s late grandmother, Mae, who’d passed peacefully at her nursing home a few days earlier. The mood was somber, tense, and was haunted by all the happy memories Grandma Mae had left behind. I’d only met her a couple of times, but those moments were enough. “…and this is my husband, Jamal.” There was a power in that introduction, and because of it, I’ll never forget those first few minutes of meeting Grandma Mae. My husband and I had been together almost four years, and I’d never heard anyone from his side of the family refer to me as “husband.”

Time and small talk took a moment, as my husband’s mother and father approached.  “Come meet the kids! You remember David, and his wife Alice…” His mother continued with a smile. “…and our youngest, Stanley, and his friend from school, Jamal.” I smiled, gave a polite nod to the cheerful strangers, and felt phantom burning around my wedding band. I’d come to expect this introduction in any situation that involved meeting friends of my parent-in-laws. In the past I’d let it slide – chalking it up to their old school ways, and not really knowing how to introduce their son’s husband to familiar faces – but this time, the word “friend” really got me thinking.


I wondered why being referred to as “friend” was bothering me now. To villainize my in-laws is not my intention. The number of favors and help they’ve provided my husband and I, is beyond anything I could ever imagine for us in any time of need. Was I being introduced this way as some subtle form of protection? Is the term “husband” one that is uncomfortable for them in uncharted social territory? I still don’t have the answer to those questions, and they’ve haunted my curiosity ever since.

That Thing You Do…

Looking into warm, honey-toasted eyes, I witness an endless scrolling of scenes from our relationship in movie montage form. I’m not sure if he notices when I drift away in my thoughts; stealing every little moment he presents at any given moment. I devour each morsel with subtle excitement. If only he could see himself, and enjoy his “isms” with me. “What?” He’s caught me looking and privately chuckling.   “Oh, nothing…” I skip past the television, doing my best not to interrupt his round of whatever he’s playing on the Xbox One. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. He always finds a way to catch my attention, and keeps me on my toes; even when he is unaware or doesn’t mean to do so. It’s the rage he conjures when a video game isn’t going his way. It’s the look on his face when he’s paying attention to every word coming out of my mouth. It’s his curiosity when he asks me if the outfit he put together looks good, and if the shoes he selected will match. I’m often reminded of, or discover, the ingredients that make up S. Like a good gumbo, these ingredients may change or vary, and like a good gumbo, the recipe only gets better and better as the time passes.

Poker Face: A Mini Monologue

I miss being just far enough away from my team to embrace any zen moment that presented itself. You see, when I moved departments, I was sitting away from the nucleus of my team. When you’re a team lead, staying in the know is important, but sitting away from the chaos (that is the majority of team) is relaxing when you deal with customers the majority of your day. When I was tucked away in a far corner – away from constant interruption of whatever media I may’ve been consuming at the time – I was able to interact at my leisure. It’s been about two weeks since the move to my new cubicle, and I wonder what kind of facial expressions I’ve unconsciously delivered to those who around me. I’m a nice guy, but do you have to hang over my cube wall to talk to me? Do you really need to be sharing that NSFW story at audible and very clear levels, mister supervisor? I put on a cheery face, listen, and interact, but I’m sure I’ve thrown some shade with my tone or lack of responses. I don’t care, though. Some days you just don’t want to be bothered.

A Leak, Five Stitches, and A Pending Remodel.

Life can be a soggy mess sometimes, and when it comes to the past week, we’ve managed to just keep swimming. Now, don’t be alarmed. S and I are fine, but the Universe decided to test us as homeowners, and deal us the annoying task of dealing with an internal leak between our kitchen and living room. You may be thinking “that leak has nothing to do with why you didn’t post a new entry last week, Jamal,” and that’s fair.

I wasn’t able to post a new entry last week due to an emergency room visit, and five stitches being placed in my middle finger – on my writing hand, of course, because the joke is on me. I’m barely typing with my right hand at work, and I’m finally feeling like I can power-peck through some form of writing this week, so expect a number of short posts while I get back on my weekly writing schedule.

I’m looking forward to getting full use of my hand back, now that my general discontent and handicapped state is fading. In the meantime, we’ll be hanging out in our floorless condo, waiting on contractors, and planning a full floor remodel. There will be plenty of inspiration for future Gays in the Life entries, I’m sure.

Thank you for your patience,

J.

P.S. Did I mention this all happened during our relationship anniversary week? Friday, October 23rd, marked four years of S and I being together. Despite everything that has happened recently, I’m still feeling like the happiest dude, and love everything about who we are as husbands.

Our Father’s Anger, Our Lessons.

The men in our lives can shape us in ways we never realize. The recognition, and understanding, of the lessons their most honest energy projects, can strike as sharp as a burn to the finger. As a child you’re too young to recognize any damage adulthood has inflicted upon your father. As a teenager, you’re not allowed to comment on anything that is said between two adults. “Be seen, and not heard… Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to…” were regular instructions throughout my upbringing, and little did I know the effects of these instructions would only sharpen my understanding of my father’s unshared emotions.

In the world of adulthood, you tend to catch comments, expressions, and reactions of older members within the family; especially those of fathers.  My dad was an Army man with a tough exterior, social superpowers, and a strict confidence that ruled our household. He knew how to have fun, and we felt his love, even though we never really used the “love” word growing up. At the age of sixteen I watched him morph into another being. Divorce had blackened his insides, and bitterness flowed infinitely. Not knowing how to fully process this new man – a poisoned shadow that danced inside my father’s body – or his reasoning, I was forced to grow up and assumed that he was just setting a negative example for my siblings and I. We’re on good terms now, but it took us a while to get back to a settled place where we could begin to understand each other; although I still don’t get him all the time.

S’s father is a warm, honest, and gentle soul. I tried to offer him some of my hippy-dippy zen advice – after hearing enough complaints about something he and my mother-in-law had been left out of by his family – only to receive a sharp, and deeply planted response. “I don’t care to get over it.” My advice was to find a way to get over the issues he had with the family, for his own health. “Well, everyone handles things differently, I suppose. It definitely doesn’t help if no one is communicating” was my exit from the conversation. I know my boundaries, respect my S’s parents, and realize that you can’t help everyone, so I stopped responding to any opportunity to share my little bit of wisdom.  I still don’t have full details about what happened, but what was it that was causing him to hold on to that dark energy?

My dad is fifty years old, and S’s father is in his sixties. What I’ve learned from these two, completely different men, is more than I can fit into any closing paragraph. I’m only twenty-eight years old, and I know there are people out there that will say that I’m too young, and that I haven’t truly experienced life. Everyone has dark days, grey moments, and pitch-black thoughts in life at some point, and in mine, I’ve learned to let go. I search for the lesson in all of life’s curveballs and strikes, and try to move forward as positive as possible. Harnessing anger only turned me into someone I didn’t want to accept lived inside of me. The feeling was that of being stuck in quicksand with a speeding semi truck seconds away from barreling right through me; fear, uncertainty, and uncomfortable welcome. These gentlemen are a reminder to try. Try to accept, grow, and move forward. If happiness is faint, reward yourself in that happiness, and challenge yourself to gain more.