Sunday, September 16, 2007

Life and Lessons Learned

This first appeared as a blog entry on MySpace. Considering the subject I'm certain the blog will evolve. (There is simply too much material to cover in one sitting; mostly because my emotions prevent me from remaining objective for long enough periods of time to get it all down in one foul swoop.) I try not to write/dwell on this too much because it pains me that I was ever so blind to some of the events in my life. However, some of the tension I've observed between others on MySpace of recent have caused me to think back on the past thirteen years of my life and [sadly] this has resulted in some bad dreams of recent.

My dreams are a bit more vivid these days due to one of the drugs I am taking to assist my immune system. Something which would never have been necessary had I just listened to my gut feeling long ago. (You'll understand in time.)

Know this, I’m not writing because I’m sad, happy, angry or upset. I’m just putting into words some of the details of my own life in the hope it will help you understand me better and (perhaps more importantly) help others avoid some of the mistakes I myself have made since 1994. None of us is perfect; we all make mistakes and suffer the consequences — but as I’ve said before, none of us is an island unto ourselves. Others can learn from our mistakes and should, as we should learn from the mistakes of others. If my mistakes can help to make your life a bit easier by helping you to understand what to pay more attention to, as well as what you may be expending too much energy on, than read on and apply what you may.

I, as everybody, have personal goals and dreams. One of those has been to find my perfect match and settle in for a life-long relationship together. After all, isn’t that pretty much something everybody wants deep down? To be loved and to love in return? (Perhaps not but I think most people feel that way.) Of course, a “perfect” match is a bit much to ask for. LOL!!! (None of us is perfect, darlin’!) *laughs*

My first love was when I was but twenty-one (maybe 22, now that I think about it). He was a blonde-haired youth (of 21 himself) from PA who played the Sax and sang in church. We worked together at Electronic Date Systems (EDS), a data processing company founded by H. Ross Perot. I thought I loved Paul with all of my heart but over the course of time, it became clear we would never last. His family was very religious, as was he (that wasn’t the problem but it leads up to why we broke up). Paul felt his gift of song was one that would be taken away if he “gave in” to his feelings of attraction to men. He broke up with me and then began telling others at work that I’d pursued him, encouraging all sorts of rumors. I was heartbroken and kept silent for several weeks. (It was no secret to friends with whom I worked that I was, and am, gay. They didn’t have a problem with it then. They don’t have a problem with it today and one of them [presently] remains a very good friend, though we did go through a rough patch for a few years beginning in 2001/2002 - but that story, though related, is for a later post.)

Getting back to the point, Paul was having serious misgivings about “giving in” to his homosexual attractions and felt doing so went against everything he’d been raised to believe in, in the church. In order to “cope” he began to spread vicious lies and probably attracted more attention than he might have if he’d just kept quiet. (*laughs softly*) He was severely troubled by his sexuality, simply put. Sadly, that is something which still afflicts far too many today — trying to reconcile their own sexuality with the religious beliefs they are brought up with. Anyways, his lies made my life uncomfortable at work, to the point that, one day I simply pulled him aside in the hall and tersely told him, “if you’re going to continue lying about what has happened, we’re going up to the front office right now. If I’m to lose my job over your own sexual/religious hang-ups — which, I might add, you need to work out for yourself — than we’re BOTH going to lose our jobs!” After that, he agreed he’d quit spreading rumors. We never did get back together though I continued to love him for some time afterward.

(I still think back to memories of Paul and his soft voice today and I hope he is well. I hope he’s [finally] found some way to reconcile his [religious] beliefs with his sexuality and find a happy medium. In some way, he took root in a corner of my heart and will remain there forever. I don’t dwell on the loss - but it is a part of my history. Somebody who played a big part in my growing up and he was my first love. That said, this blog entry did not start out with the intention of replaying that bit of my past. /surprise to me/ —- The real drama is yet to come and that is what I want my friends here to read about but knowing about Paul may help you to understand why I was blind to what would become my future, leaving me with some of the consequences I live with today. Doing so can help you to avoid some lasting consequences of your own I hope.)

[Fast-forward past "Rodney" to "Greg"] ….I’ll talk about Rodney in a later post, as well. He, like Paul, is a part of my past that has helped make me into the man I am today. He’s probably the one great regret that I have (our going in our different directions, that is) for Rodney was one of the most sentimental, passionate men I have every really known. He deserves much more mention than just a “side note” in a blog entry that is [primarily] about “keeping your eyes open and paying attention” to what your gut is trying to tell you.

Greg, I met in October of 1994. He was an engineer. Very technical minded and very shrewd. (He was also, I’m sad to say, a person who could tell you a bald-faced lie so convincingly you would take it at face value. He was able to do so, I believe, because I think he believed his own lies himself.)

Greg and I first met on America Online (AOL), a service similar to others of its time that is still alive today. Some of you have accounts there I think. AOL had a chat area and at the time I was, let’s see, thirty years old. Greg and I began to chat there for long hours at a time and [eventually] met up and went out on some dates. It had been five years since Rodney and I had split up and though I had been dating a lot, what I really wanted was to settle down with somebody and build a life for the both of us together. I didn’t want to be the “caretaker” any longer; I wanted to find somebody who was successful in their own right, who could pull their own weight. I had a job with EDS and could pay my own bills but I didn’t really want to have to baby-sit somebody else. (Oh, now that I think of it — there was another person who came into my life between Rodney and Greg. HE was the reason I was adamant that the person I settle down with have the ability to pay their own way. His name was Charles —- more on Charles later but basically, he was a big “user” of people. He was a liar and a cheater (there isn’t any better way of putting it) —- but he wasn’t as adept at using people without their knowledge as, as time would show, Greg was. Charles and Greg are both reasons why I am VERY selective with who I allow into my inner circle of friends today.) Greg has, however, made the biggest impact on my life to date in the form of “what NOT to allow to happen.” (*sigh* and *laugh* at the same time)

So. Greg and I meet. We, all too quickly, get heavily involved and he moves in with me. (WARNING!) We are “in love” (but somewhere, deep down, my gut is telling me something is very wrong here). We begin to make plans for the future and, in time, I leave my job of [almost] twelve years with EDS to form a company with Greg. Much of our life is about “image” *shudder* and it becomes clear to me that I have most likely made a VERY BIG mistake. But I feel trapped. I’ve left my job. I’m emotionally drained. I feel there’s no way I can get out and rebuild my own life at this point. If I leave, will I be able to pay my bills and take care of my pet cocker-spaniel, Cassie, who has always been there for me (since the summer after I had turned 21)? (I don’t have a dog today but I grew up with pets and I’ve had some [dogs] who were GREAT! I love dogs. They’re so trusting and stand by you, even when the chips are down. Of course, I imagine some cats are the same way — but I have known few cats that I had as good an experience with, as I have with dogs. I’m, I guess, a “dog” person. *laughs*)

Back to story. I’m feeling “trapped” and I stay in the relationship. More of Greg’s lies become obvious to me over time. More emotional and mental abuse. (He never hit me, though in truth, that would have been much easier to rebound from than the mental/emotional abuse I would later find myself recovering from. Now I know why wives who are physically abused stay with their abusers. Because there is a level of emotional abuse, as well, and they don’t feel as though they even CAN get out.) It was terrible … and yet I stayed … UNTIL!

One day, 6.5 years into our [abusive] relationship (Cassie had had to be put to sleep a year earlier when her body began shutting down from the effects of old age), I realized just how angry a person I was becoming myself. I would look at Greg in our home and think, “oh, HOW easy it would be to take this damn iron skillet and hit him over the head - to STOP the abuser from ever abusing me again!” I realized that if I didn’t get out and get out quickly, I was going to [further] turn into a person I abhorred. The abuser himself. I also knew that if I acted on my feelings of rage over the abuse I had been feeling, I was going to end up in jail.

I began to make plans for the next three months. I needed to figure out where I would live. HOW I would live didn’t matter much, at this point; only that I had a place to go to and began to rebuild my life.

We had property together (an $80000 motor home and a Grand Cherokee jeep that was in my name — because I’d taken a loan out for us to live on after the business began to fail, due to our increased fighting and lack of attention to our work). I had a lot of credit card debt because we’d been LIVING on credit. The IRS was breathing down my back because they couldn’t find evidence of a tax deposit Greg was supposed to have made for me, for my taxes from a couple of years earlier. To put it simply, my life was sh&t and I had a lot to deal with. I was suicidal, after having attempted suicide a couple of years earlier. I made it through this period of my life ONLY because I was determined to not let my abuser win and be the reason for a complete downfall! I put one foot in front of the other and began to live, one day at a time.

But before I left on my birthday in 2001, I had decided I needed just ONE piece of good news. Since I felt, in my deepest of places, that my physical health had not been affected by all of the abuse of those past 6.5 years, I decided to go get some blood drawn for an HIV test. I’d always been very good about getting tested regularly before Greg and I had met in 1994. I knew, from a test taken just before we’d met that October, that I was still HIV-negative and —for whatever my reasons— felt that had not changed in the 6.5 years since. However, I just wanted to see it in print in front of me. ONE piece of good news! I’d had my blood drawn the Wednesday before my 38th birthday (2001). I had planned on leaving ON my birthday, that following Monday. The results of my HIV test would be available two days later, on Wednesday. I went in and the young man said, “let’s go to the back and talk about your results.” (BAM!) THAT wasn’t the way this had always gone, back before I’d met my [now] ex and been regularly tested. The news had always been good and they’d been willing to give it right up front. Sh&t!

Thus began another chapter in my life. I realized then that my unwillingness to pay attention to my gut feelings so many years before — combined with my resistance to leave an abusive relationship until so many years later — bore consequences I would have to live with for the rest of my life. This was the day I would find out I had been infected with the HIV virus. I was dumbstruck.

From there, I went to the county health agency to apply for assistance and get some counseling. (Good story to tell about that— Will write about it in another entry though.) I called some friends of mine that I was temporarily staying with, to tell them what was going on and see if anybody had called for me. They said that Greg was calling them [constantly] and I should call him. I did. I told the @sshole where I was, WHY I was there — and he said, “are you blaming me?” I think I’ll save you from having to read what my response was at that time. LOL! (I was PISSED! Very, VERY piss&d off and very, very angry!)

I was angry with him because I was certain (and still am to date) that he had lied to me about his own HIV status. I was more angry with myself for having ignored my intuition; for not listening to my gut when, deep down, it was telling me danger lay ahead (back in 1994). I was VERY angry with myself for having taken Greg at face value when he had told me he was HIV-negative in ‘94 and allowed myself to begin having unprotected sex with him. (The latter is what made me the angriest; my disappointment in myself and the anger I felt toward myself.)

This may come as a shock but through all of this, I still had some feeling of love toward my abusive [ex] partner. I even prayed whatever would come of my having been infected with HIV, that the effects would be felt only by myself. That Greg would enjoy good health and suffer no consequences. Yes, I know. That’s probably stupid. I’m not a mental health worker so can’t say with definitive certainty but I imagine somebody, somewhere, has labeled this kind of reaction. Given what I’ve read of Stockholm’s Syndrome and the abuse I felt I had just (survived?), maybe it qualifies as that. I don’t know.)

I have to take a break from this for a while. I’d like to enjoy “some” of my Sunday. However, I did want to put some of this down for my friends here to read. In hopes they will have a better understanding of where I’ve been, what I’ve survived and what has helped to form me into the person I am today. Some of you knew I was (and continue to be) HIV-positive, as a result of my relationship with Greg. Many or most of you know that I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer) late last year and took four (4) months off from work while undergoing chemotherapy. Still, some of you did not know that the cancer was, as the doctor’s believe, the result of my having been infected with the HIV virus (because it had suppressed my immune system and made it “convenient” for the cancer to manifest within my body).

That said, it is not my wish to scare my young friends here with a story that seems to be predominantly, at this point, about health. I want you to know how important it is to “trust” yourself and to be “honest” with others. To place “respect” for yourself and for all others above whatever personal desires and feelings of “need” you may have.

I love my friends. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t relive this and go to all the trouble to write it down for each of you to read (and it takes a LOT of space, I know — I apologize for the wordiness of the entry — and it’s not even finished). *shocked look on face*

You are each important to me for different reasons. I see in you the future of mankind. The chance that the world can change for the better. Some of you have proven to me time and again that you have a far better grasp on what is important than others; than even myself. One of the most recent adds to my list of friends has experienced, I suspect, his own version of hell over the past six years. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better; not because I want somebody to commiserate with (I don’t dwell on my past as much as this entry might lend you to believe — it is what it is; I’ve moved on, I think) but because he’s got an interesting insight into life, himself.

So, until my next entry may God bless each one of you and just know I hold you dear to my heart. I love my friends and send each of you hugs from Dallas.

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